Archive for August, 2019

“Choosing the ‘better portion'”: meditation on Luke 10:41-42

August 26, 2019

Luke 10:41-42: But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

Contrary to popular preaching, I don’t believe Mary and Martha represent two different personality types: Martha, the driven, results-oriented extrovert—a Type A; Mary, the quiet, contemplative introvert—a Type B. “Marys” are idealistic, if naive. “Marthas” are practical, if brusque. Both are good and necessary for a church.

No, I believe they represent two different kinds of disciples: those who are faithful to Jesus and those who aren’t.

So I’m mostly a “Martha.” How about you?

But notice Jesus’ words in v. 42: Mary’s choice to sit at Jesus’ feet listening to his word represents the “one thing necessary,” the “better portion” (a footnote in the CSB: “the right meal”). These words remind me of Jesus’ telling his startled disciples in John 4 that he has “food to eat that you do not know about”—because his “food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:32, 34).

Give me this food, Lord Jesus! Or enable me to acquire the taste for the food you’re already giving me (Psalm 34:8). If only you’ll satisfy my heart’s deepest longings (Psalm 37:4), I can live on peanut butter sandwiches. #ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling

“God would be unjust to revoke my forgiveness”: meditation on Psalm 94:1-2

August 19, 2019

Psalm 94:1-2: “O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!”

When I read this stern appeal to God’s justice I’m tempted to feel one of two things: fear or doubt. First, I’m tempted to feel afraid: O Lord, if you’re avenging, judging, and “repaying the proud,” who am I that you would make an exception in my case? After all, is anyone as proud as I am? But if I’m not afraid, should I then doubt God’s Word? After all, the Bible seems to teach that God’s commitment to justice is absolute—that it’s part of his nature, that for God to deny justice is to deny himself.

So… can the Bible be trusted?

But here’s where the cross of Christ comes in: It reveals both God’s perfect love (Romans 5:8) and his perfect justice (Romans 3:26). In other words, on the cross, God did not choose love over justice; rather, the cross vindicates justice. The penalty for all my sins—past, present, and future—was paid (Colossians 2:13-14). My sins are “forgiven and forgotten” (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

So this startling good news follows: God is just when he forgives me! Indeed, it would now be unjust for God to revoke his forgiveness and find me guilty—or else he would punish my sins twice.

Why have I never considered this before? Am I only just now understanding the objective substitutionary atonement that I’ve professed to believe for years? 🤷‍♂️

Better late than never! #ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling

“When our feelings betray us”: meditation on Genesis 32:9, 12

August 14, 2019

Genesis 32:9, 12: And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good’… But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'”

Jacob is preparing to meet his brother, Esau, twenty years after Jacob robbed him of both his birthright and his father’s blessing. Esau vowed to murder him back then. Will he still be angry? Jacob assumes the worst. Most of Genesis 32 recounts Jacob’s plan to appease his brother with generous gifts of livestock. “After that,” he thinks, “I can face him, and perhaps he will forgive me” (v. 20).

In the midst of his fear, Jacob prays a prayer in which he reminds God of his promises to protect him, prosper him, and do right by him.

Of course, if God’s promises are true, why is Jacob afraid? Doesn’t he know that he will be invincible—literally un-killable—until God brings him safely home? Even if Esau were still angry (which he isn’t), he would be unable to harm his brother.

But I know why Jacob is afraid in spite of God’s promises—because I know my own heart. In his moment of greatest fear, Jacob’s feelings have betrayed him, as feelings often do. Jacob’s only defense against his feelings—and our only defense—is the word of God: “The Lord who said to me…” “You have said…”

My point is, contrary to that great REO Speedwagon power ballad, we can fight our feelings—at least our feelings of fear, doubt, and despair—with the objective truth of God’s Word.

So let’s start fighting!

“The power is in Jesus’ word, not my faith in that word”: meditation on Luke 5:4-5

August 12, 2019

Luke 5:4-5: And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Everything in Peter’s experience, including fruitless hours of fishing the night before, told him that Jesus’ word would fail. If the fish weren’t biting at night, they wouldn’t be biting in the daylight. Besides, Jesus is no fisherman: he had made his living as a carpenter. “Stay in your lane, Jesus!”

But notice: Peter’s lack of faith doesn’t prevent Jesus from working the miracle.

What a relief—the power is in Jesus’ word, not my faith in that word! In other words, my faith is in Jesus; my faith is not in my faith in Jesus.

Here’s how this helps me: To say the least, I often don’t feel as if I’m a highly favored “son” of God in whom my Father is well pleased; I often don’t feel as if all my sins are forgiven; I often don’t feel as if the Father could love me as much as he loves his only begotten Son Jesus. My experience often tells me that God’s promises can’t be true.

But in what or whom will I trust? My feelings, my experience, my intuitions? Or Jesus?

Given my bent toward self-deception, who’s more likely to be telling the truth—Jesus or me? I choose to believe Jesus.

#ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling

“For as many days as you have afflicted us”: meditation on Psalm 90:15

August 9, 2019

Psalm 90:15: Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.

Pastor Tim Keller, in his sermon on Psalm 88, perhaps the bleakest chapter in scripture, said that even that psalm “whispers God’s grace” to us. Otherwise, apart from grace, why would God—in his “living and abiding word” (1 Peter 1:25) no less—risk having his character impugned like this?

Psalm 90, meanwhile, is only slightly more hopeful: the psalmist (Moses, in this case) at least hopes that something good awaits him and his people on the other side of their suffering. But I appreciate the psalm’s candor: “You, God, have afflicted us; you, Lord, are responsible for the evil that has come our way.”

Many of us modern-day Christians are so anxious to protect God’s character (“My God would never cause suffering!”) that we end up impugning his power: “By all means, God hates that this is happening to you, but what can he do about it?” A few pastors and theologians appeal to Satan and spiritual warfare, as if that solves the problem: “The devil causes suffering, not God.” (Yes, but, who created the devil and permits him to have power over us?)

No, the Bible affirms this difficult truth: When God afflicts us, he does so for our good—indeed, for our ultimate happiness. Besides, if this is true, at least you’ll know who to blame!

I like the way C.S. Lewis, with typical English understatement, puts it: “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”[1]

1. C.S. Lewis, “Money Trouble” in The C.S. Lewis Bible, NRSV (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 1123.