The Cross and the Hill Difficulty

We are told in Romans 8, I Peter 4 & 5, and James 1 to patiently endure the suffering that God wills for us with joy. That is a high calling. This reminds me of one of my favorite stories, Pilgrims Progress. Below is a section of Christian at the Cross and the Hill Difficulty.

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which CHRISTIAN was to go was fenced on either side with a wall; and that wall was called “Salvation”.

“In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” Isaiah 26:1 

Up this way, therefore, did burdened CHRISTIAN run; but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as CHRISTIAN came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was CHRISTIAN glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart,

“He hath given me rest by his sorrow,
And life by his death.”

Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10 

Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three shining ones came to him, and saluted him with, “Peace be to thee!” so the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”;  

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Mark 2:5 

the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment;

“And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” Zechariah 3:4 

the third also set a mark in his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it,

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” Ephesians 1:13

which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the Celestial Gate: so they went their way. Then CHRISTIAN gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing:

“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss!
Must here the burden fall from off my back!
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack!
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!”

THE HILL DIFFICULTY

I beheld, then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill “Difficulty,” at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate; one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill: but the narrow way lay right up the hill (and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty). CHRISTIAN now went to the spring, and drank thereof to refresh himself;

“They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” Isaiah 49:10 

and then began to go up the hill, saying:

“This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend,
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up, heart, let’s neither faint nor fear!
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”

I Peter 2:21, For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

I Peter 1:3-5, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Fields and Signs

Growing up in the George household meant that whenever we took a trip of any kind a history lesson was inevitably going to happen. We stopped at what seemed like every historical marker, road sign, marker or plot of ground where something historically significant had taken place. You would not believe how many empty fields I’ve had to look at in my upbringing! Our trips to Colorado took forever because of this tradition. Looking back on it now I’m thankful for the energy my parents spent in teaching us the past. Each of my brothers and I now have an interest and respect for history and its significance. Case in point, my brother Luke is raising goats and their names are all of great explorers through the ages. And if you know the nature of goats, it quite appropriate.

Church history is a trail of signs and markers that are an invaluable guide to help us in the present day church. The history of the church is a beacon for us today. It guides us in orthodoxy and sound doctrine, keeps us from heresy, and is the record of God’s outworking in providence and the visible work of his Spirit in the lives of his people.

The Reformation and the figures that we are familiar with have impacted all of us is some form or fashion: John Hus, John Wycliff, Martin Luther, Phillip Melanchthon, William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, Martin Bucer and many more. It reminds me in part of Gods faithfulness in Romans 11:4,

“I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

This is in reference to Elijah crying out to God at the lack of faithful worshipers of the God of Hosts in I Kings 19.

During the Reformation in the stagnant condition of the Roman church the Spirit of God moved in a way that has similarities of the apostolic age. The Lord upholds his people. The Lord keeps those who are his and in his providence he gave to his church men understanding and love of his word.

Looking back to the history of the church can help keep us from heterodoxy and being flattered by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4). All through the ages there are visible sign posts of what the Spirit of God has done to keep his church progressing forward.

He is active and faithful and we are a part of that history.

Then and Now

The Bible is written in a variety of literary forms. It contains narrative, poetry, parables, prophecy, apocalyptic writings, epistles and more. An example of Hebrew poetry is Job. It is primarily a book of poetry with a few chapters of prose at the beginning and end of the book.

During this week at Sangre de Cristo Seminary we have focused on God’s method of revelation of himself to us through the means of Hebrew Poetry. Job is probably most well know for his testing by God. I’ll forgo a discussion on God’s sovereignty, suffering, or the role of satan in our lives but it’s clear the book of Job helps us understand these significant issues biblically. If a theology of suffering is something you’re grappling with, the book of Job is a great place to start. What I do want to highlight is Job’s faith in his Redeemer.

The first observation is that Job is not a Jew. His three not-so-helpful friends were also not Jews. Interestingly, Elihu is the only Jewish name mentioned in the book of Job. However, somewhere along the way, Job learned of God, knew God’s Law, feared God and was a blameless, upright and righteous man (Job 1). I find it interesting that here in the middle of the Old Testament we have an example of God fearing belief outside the covenant community. It is a testament to the outward movement and expansion of God’s redemptive plan.

Secondly, Job looks forward to the day of his Redeemer.

Job 19:25-26 says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has thus been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

Job trusts that the Redeemer will come and will one day stand on the earth. My impression is that Job is referring to Christ’s second coming since the next verse points to the resurrection of the body and implies the promise of the new heavens and the new earth. If however Job is referring to the coming of Jesus in the incarnation, he is still accurate since we are now in the last days that Jesus ushered in and looks forward to the resurrection of the body.

We worship the same God and Redeemer of our souls and bodies. The Redeemer, Jesus Christ, just as Job and his fallible friends understood then and that we know now, will come again at the last and renew all things to the Glory of God alone.

Liberation!

This week at seminary has been great. Its been worshipful, spiritually challenging, intellectually stimulating, and rewarding. Information comes so fast during the week but the Lord is good in that he ministers even in the hustle and bustle of school.

Pneumatology was this weeks area of focus, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We covered the Holy Spirit’s role in creation, the Old Testament, Christ’s birth, Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ time in the wilderness, his three years of ministry, his death, resurrection, regeneration, faith, inspiration of scripture etc etc. It really has been such a fun week and so wonderful to see the Spirit’s activity all throughout scripture.

For my paper I focused on Regeneration and specifically Effectual Calling. This issue has been of great interest to me throughout my life. Specifically the role of the ‘will’. There is enough space and time to study the will in a blog post right?!! Briefly, here are a few observations, questions and conclusions.

So here are a few questions I considered this week. What does enslavement mean (Rom 6)? What was I enslaved to by nature prior to conversion? What is the condition of my will prior to conversion? And who frees me from enslavement. The Apostle Paul says I am enslaved. In Romans Paul says I am a slave to sin (Rom 6:16) and even dead in sin (Eph 2:1). If I am enslaved and even dead spiritually what then can my will ‘will’? Biblically I don’t see the idea of personal autonomy being affirmed. What I do see presented are these two options, being slaves to sin or slaves of God.

This is where the wonderful and beautiful doctrine of Effectual Calling takes shape. The Holy Spirit draws us (John 6:44) and renews us and washes us clean(Titus 3:5). The work of the Holy Spirit in his drawing and renewing is fundamentally a work of liberation. The Holy Spirit liberates me. He liberates my will. The Holy Spirit liberates my will from enslavement to sin to ‘will’ anew. He does not force me, coerce me or drag me to repentance. He re-creates and causes re-birth (John 3) and I ‘will’ freely and willingly to come to faith and repentance.

Ok, there it is. We made it in just two paragraphs! I know that’s fast but if you want to study a bit more I’ll point to: John chapters 1-3, 6 & 12, Romans 1-3 and 6, Titus 3, I Peter 1, Ezekiel 37, The Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 10, The Westminster Larger Catechism question 67, ‘The Holy Spirit’ by Gordon H. Clark, and ‘The Holy Spirit’ by Sinclair Ferguson especially chapter six. Many thanks to Sinclair Ferguson!

If you have any questions feel free to ask, however, I reserve the right to say, I don’t now! Thank you for all your prayers for me and our family here in Colorado. We are grateful for them. Grace and Peace

Jesus And His Elders

We had an odd little hat in our home growing up that had two bills on it. It didn’t make any sense to wear it, or was it comfortable to wear. But, on the front of it it said, I’m their leader, which way did they go?! It made a good point in a fun way.

Leaders are all around us. I think it’s impossible to go somewhere and not encounter a leader or an entity that is being lead. It’s more likely noticed if it has poor leadership is it not? We recognize good leadership, have you ever been to Chick-fil-a at lunch time?

It’s no different in your church. To a large degree churches are successful or not on account of their leadership. This has been our area of focus this week in class, Church leadership.

There are three basic forms of church leadership.
First is Congregational / Independent. This would be a majority of Baptist, Bible or Non- denominational churches. It may have a board or group of deacons or elders that help make decisions but it’s main characteristic would be that it’s guided by a form of CEO pastor leadership.
Secondly, is Episcopalian. This would be the Roman Catholic, Methodist and Anglican type churches. These churches likely have a hierarchal structure.
Finally, Presbyterian. This is a form of government that is run by elders. It is representative in nature. The Elders are equal in power and make decisions for the church as a group. Presbyterianism has had great influence in our country. It is not coincidental that our American government is a representative form of government!
The word ‘presbyterian’ comes from the greek word ‘Presbuteroi’ found in 1Timothy 3:1. This refers to the ‘office’ or ‘position’. ‘Episcopi’ is the greek word translated ‘Overseer or Pastor’.

Through out the New Testament we see the apostle Paul giving instruction to appoint elders in the new churches that are being planted. Timothy himself was appointed to his ministry by a council of elders in 1 Tim 4:14. In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives to Timothy a rather lengthy list of qualifications for a man ‘who aspires to the office of overseer’. In Titus 1 there is another list of qualifications for elders. Paul tells Titus to ‘put what remained into order and appoint elders in every town’. Paul directs him to appoint Godly mature men to help these new churches grow.

Advice for these elders can be found in Acts 20:28. Paul exhorts the overseers or pastors, ‘Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained by his Blood.

The Church belongs to Christ. It is his body (Col 1:18). He appointed twelve to go and preach, make disciples and plant churches. They in turn appointed men to care for and to protect Christ’s Church. Let’s pray more and more that churches will look to Scripture for an effective way to lead and care for God’s flock.

Lastly, notice that it is the Holy Spirit that has made these men overseers. God is establishing his church by His Spirit. Let us not despise the leaders of our Churches but pray for them, after all, the Holy Spirit has seen fit to put them there for our good.

What about the Dragon?

Week one is over and the sprint through eschatology is complete. What a great first week of class! Eschatology is the study of last things. Issues that are considered include the millennial reign of Christ, The Kingdom of God vs. the Kingdom of Heaven, the Second Coming, Hermeneutics, Figurative language, and a host of other topics.

The bulk of time this week has been spent continuing to understand the main four views of Eschatology. These views are commonly referred to as Historic Premillennialism, Dispensational Premillennialism, Post Millennialism and Amillennialism. I’ll forgo all the in and outs of these views but what is in common between them all is that at some time in the future Christ will return, there will be a resurrection, he will judge the living and the dead, he will defeat death, and he will reign over the new heavens and the new earth for eternity.

It is such a pleasure to sit under and learn from my Uncle, Dr. Dwight Zeller. There is no one like him! A student that comes to Sangre de Cristo will be taught the scriptures and have opportunities to flesh the difficult aspects of doctrine that are hard to understand but what I find to be the real gems are the comments in-between our lectures, either about his career as a Navel Chaplin or pastoral comments that come from a lifetime of ministry. They are rich and wise, kind but firm, gentle but forceful, belly achingly funny but sensitively serious and unshakably rooted in the truth of the Word.

So what about the dragon? Revelation 1:1 begins with, ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place’. When you think about the book of Revelation, what comes to mind? Perhaps trumpets, seals, bowls of wrath, strange creatures? Are these the point of Revelation? Is the 1000 years the point? Is the intermediate state the point? Is the tribulation the point? Is the dragon the point? NO! It is the revelation of someone, it is the revelation about someone, it is the revelation OF Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the point. It is about a victory that he wins over sin and death. It gives us a hope that we can be sure of, something that we as believers can be certain of, it is something that gives us solid, concrete, joyous hope!

That little word, of. Don’t look over the small words. They help direct us. Let us pray that we not lose sight of who is important.

Coram Deo

It’s Always Good

From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. Psalm 104:13

I love weather. The view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains from where I sit writing is glorious. The clouds have quickly rolled in and a beautiful spring snow is currently dusting the Seminary. It’s a chilly 50 degrees here, but snowing! The Sangres have been blessed with a lot of snow this year and the landscape is alive and bursting with colors as spring creeps in and overtakes winter. The kids have especially loved the deer and hummingbirds that have welcomed us to our new home and in all this, I’m reminded of God’s great kindness in his creation.

Psalm 104 is a psalm of Gods great power and majesty in creation. All people are recipients of the world he has made and he has given it to us to enjoy. The earth is blessed by the fruit of his work.

It’s not uncommon however to hear a comment on a rainy day that the weather is bad or that it’s nasty outside. Quite a few years back I heard a guy respond to my comment about the inclement weather and he said, ‘It’s always perfect’. It did get me to thinking, God brings the rain to water the earth for us and for his glory. I’ve had to reform my view of rainy days, and happily so. God in his wisdom waters the earth for our benefit and to display his handiwork.

The psalmist says here in 104 that he displays his majesty and splendor in creation. Verse 13 says that the earth is satisfied by the rain that the Lord sends. He makes the springs pour forth and he waters the mountains.

It is a beautiful sight to see the snow, and the rain that water the mountains. And when it rains, remember it is because of the Lord’s graciousness that the rain falls and waters the earth.

As I gear up for class on monday I am thankful to be able to study in such a special place and to behold the beauty of Gods creation. Thank you all for your prayers as we made our trip west and as I start my studies. Elena and I are truly grateful.

Peace