"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Month: December 2011

What Child is this?

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38)

“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him”—that is the Apostle John’s commentary on the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. Do you think you would have recognized Jesus for who He was? What if He showed up (physically) this Sunday at church, would you recognize Him? The aged Anna looked upon the 40 day old Jesus and recognized Him as the promised Messiah. What does it take to live a life that recognizes Jesus?

Anna shows us that the one that recognizes Jesus is someone who is keeping life in perspective (vv.36-37a). Whether she was 84 years old (as most of our modern translations take it) or lived for 84 years after she was widowed (which would really qualify her for an AARP discount!), Anna was elderly. In the span of those years her nation and the land of Israel has seen many tumultuous changes. She had obviously survived some personal tragedies, not the least of which was the death of her husband. Yet in the midst of all that chaos and personal pain God enabled her to maintain a personal perspective on what really matters—a perspective that readied her eyes to see Christ when He came.

Anna also show us that the one who recognizes Jesus is someone who has put God in preeminence. “She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers” (v.37b). Is your heart consumed with the things that are upon God’s heart? Do you hurt over what hurts Him and rejoice over what brings Him joy? Anna determined to be in constant communication with God. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). That doesn’t mean you need to constantly be in church, but you do need to be in constant, conscious communion with Him.

Anna also shows us that the one who recognizes Jesus is someone through whom Christ is proclaimed. She “began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v.38b). After all she had survived as a citizen, after all she had experienced as a wife and widow, after all she had endured as a worshiper of God—meeting Jesus was enough to produce gratitude in her heart. Not a momentary “thanks,” but a continual bubbling fountain of gratitude that compelled her to tell others of Jesus.

“What Child Is This?”
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come, peasant, king, to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high, The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!

It’s Time

“Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains down righteousness upon you.” —Hosea 10:12

It’s time. It’s about time. It’s high time. It’s past time. “… it is time to seek the Lord.”

That is what Hosea told the people of Israel in His day.

Its not that they weren’t religious. Oh, they were. It’s not that they weren’t in attendance at religious services. They had that down pat. They prayed, offered sacrifices, observed the festivals and kept the commandments. They had this religion-thing down.

But, said the prophet, “… it is time to seek the Lord.”

“What do you mean?,” we might ask, as I’m sure they did as well. “I thought we were seeking the Lord!  We’re doing everything we’ve been told to do!”

How? The command was simple: “Break up your fallow ground.”

Fallow ground is unplowed ground. It is ground that has been made hard by a long winter of neglect. It is ground hardened by cold, dark days of inattentiveness, packed solid by ice, snow and wind. It has been beat into a pavement-hard path by much traffic. The patter of feet, simply by traveling this way repeatedly, have rendered it incapable of producing or sustaining life. Fallow ground is hard, impenetrable, firm and confirmed in its ways.

What makes for fallow ground in my heart or in the heart of a church? Many things, but among them would be pride, presumption, past, preferences, prejudice, tradition, and opinion.

These must be turned over. The ground must be exposed. We must do more than scratch the surface, the spade must be plunged into the heart of the earth. The blade of the plow has to cut deep. It is frightening. It is painful. Most avoid it for those very reasons.

But it is full of hope! The sun is beginning to rise higher in the sky as winter passes and spring hastens. The ground having been turned and the soil having been exposed is embraced by the warmth of the sun and its life-giving rays. This is hope. There may yet be life! Life again. Life renewed. Revival.

How does one “turn over” this fallow ground? Again, the forms may be numerous. But surely it would include the sharp edge of tools such as repentance, confession of sin (to God and one another), brokenness, tears, remorse, contrition, restitution, and specific acts of humbling self before God and others.

When these things happen it might seem to be such a fresh move of God that we will want to just stay there. But we do well to remember that this would only be the beginning. This breaking up of the fallow ground only readies the soil for the seed of the Word to be planted (“He comes”). It only prepares the soil for the waters to come (“till righteousness rains down on you”). All this is so that the soil of our hearts might again bring forth life.

There is more. More than this. It can be better than this.

We must realize, “It is time to seek the Lord.”

It is time. It is about time. It is high time. It is past time. The time has come … to seek the Lord. Even at the cost of breaking up our fallow ground.

Huge Sale!

During the month of December Kress Biblical Resources is offering a whopping 75% discount on my commentary The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors.

This would make a great gift for your pastor or for anyone you know who is a careful student of the Bible. At just $10 a copy (plus shipping and handling) you’ll really bless him.

To get your discount simply select the book and move toward checkout. There you will use the code BR60833557256 and the result will be that you will get your 75% discount.

Kress is offering this discount on three other books as well:

In Pursuit of Prodigals by Stephen Davey

The Book of James–A New Perspective by William Varner

The Discipline of Mercy: Seeking God in the Wake of Sin’s Misery by Eric Kress and Paul Tautges


Spiritual Disciplines

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

(1 Timothy 4:7)

Prayer — God molding me.

  • NOT getting my way with God.
  • BUT God conforming my heart to His own.

Solitude — God quieting me.

  • NOT simply resting from my activities.
  • BUT God stilling my soul.

Fasting — God focusing me.

  • NOT manipulating God.
  • BUT God removing distractions from my life.

Scripture — God speaking to me.

  • NOT hearing what I want God to say.
  • BUT God sharing His mind with me.

Writing — God clarifying me.

  • NOT writing down my ideas.
  • BUT God revealing what He is doing.

Fellowship — God touching me.

  • NOT expecting others to meet my needs.
  • BUT God channeling His life through me.

Obedience — God delighting in me.

  • NOT doing what I must.
  • BUT joining God in what He is doing.

Suffering — God refining me.

  • NOT simply enduring pain.
  • BUT God forging character in me.


Where are We Headed?

“Every stream of human history is being divinely drawn to a culminating confluence of triumph in which the majesty of his authority and the universal demonstration of his glory will thunder forth forever.” (Embracing Authority, p.211)

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