Let Worship Drown Out Fear

stormThe conclusion to the Book of Habakkuk focuses on the mindset that God’s people must have when feeling overwhelmed with the seeming success and exaltation of wickedness in our world and culture.

Habakkuk: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You ‘Violence!’ and You will not save? Why do You make me see iniquity, and why do You idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

The LORD: “If you think it is bad now in your country, you have no idea how much worse it is going to get for you once I send the terrorists of Babylon to bring merciless judgment on your people and on your land because of your consistent sinfulness against Me. You can not even imagine how bad it is going to get in the near future.” (Habakkuk 1:5-11 paraphrased).

Habakkuk: “But, LORD, how can You still be righteous while allowing the obedient in our country to go through times of judgement and oppression while letting the overtly wicked–even the terrorizing enemies of Babylon–to prosper and grow in strength? How can you do this to us, God?!” (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1 paraphrased)

The LORD: “The righteous must live (and will live) by faith. Just as sure as I will raise up Babylon to judge your country for your idolatry, I will surely annihilate the Babylonians one day for their idolatry and wickedness. I am still in absolute control–I haven’t moved any although your country has moved away from Me. Keep trusting Me, obeying Me and worshiping Me” (Habakkuk 2:2-20 paraphrased).

Habakkuk: “Our God has not changed any throughout history. He is still our Creator, He is the One Who sustains us, He is our Protector, our Warrior-Deliverer and the Righteous Judge” (Habakkuk 3:1-15 paraphrased).

“I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:16-19).

One of the overwhelming messages of Habakkuk’s interaction with Jehovah is for God’s people to learn to let worship drown out fear. This requires us to think correctly about God and to live correctly in this world. Correct theology (“right thinking”) produces correct worship (“right living”) that is seen through correctly trusting and obeying God, even when evil appears to be rejoicing and triumphing over righteousness.

Jesus Christ did not promise that the world would get better but He did say that our Light must shine brighter as the world grows darker (Matthew 5:16). He will give us the grace to let our worship of our eternally sovereign Lord drown out the very real yet temporary fears we face as His children who have been commissioned to share Light in a dark and dangerous world that is gladly not our final home.

God’s Truth Reigns

Redefining absolute truth may seem to legally afford a totally depraved human race the liberty to wantonly and openly abandon themselves to indulging in all of the base pleasures and dark fantasies that their sinful nature can imagine or entertain. However, nothing opens the gates of Hell wider and summons the impending wrath of the holy Creator more deliberately than attempting to redefine and declare “inadequate” the gracious, timeless and absolute truths given by their Maker.

imageOnly God’s undiluted truth can conquer the blatant suppression of truth within fallen humanity’s cultures. That is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ shines brighter when it appears to be surrounded by increasing darkness. This is why the Church is still present on this terminally ill  and condemned earth.

The Church is not called to please or coddle the fantasies of their culture. The Church is called to create and equip worshippers of God within a culture that is Hell-bent on self-worship and self-gratification. How does the Church hope to do this? By tenaciously adhering to God’s truth while speaking that same life-changing truth openly in love, all the while depending fully on the grace of God that transformed them from pagan idolaters into children of God. No matter how wide the gates of Hell are thrown open, they will never prevail or successfully defend against the true Church of God’s devastating destruction of Satan’s strongholds. Jesus Christ is continuing to build and advance His Church, whether the darkness approves of it or not. God’s truth reigns and because of that, God’s Church wins in the end.

“I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

“I have given them your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. As You have sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they may also be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)

“For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

 

Regeneration

O God of the highest Heaven, occupy the throne of my heart, take full possession and reign supreme, lay low every rebel lust, let no vile passion resist Thy holy war; manifest Thy mighty power, and make me Thine for ever.

Thou art worthy to be praised with my every breath, loved with my every faculty of soul, served with my every act of life.

Thou has loved me, received me, purchased, washed, favoured, clothed, adorned me, when I was worthless, vile, soiled, polluted.

I was dead in iniquities, having no eyes to see Thee, no ears to hear Thee, no taste to relish Thy joys, no intelligence to know Thee;

But thy Spirit has quickened me, has brought me into a new world as a new creature, has given me spiritual perception, has opened to me Thy Word as light, guide, solace, joy.

Thy presence is to me a treasure of unending peace; no provocation can part me from Thy sympathy, for Thou has drawn me with cords of love, and dost forgive me daily, hourly.

O help me then to walk worthy of Thy love, of my hopes, and my vocation.

Keep me, for I cannot keep myself; protect me that no evil befall me; let me lay aside every sin admired of many; help me to walk by thy side, lean on Thy arm, hold converse with Thee, that henceforth I may be salt of the earth and a blessing to all.

(“Regeneration” from The Valley of Vision, pages 84-85)

John Bunyan’s Allegory of a Sinner’s Conversion

pilgrims progress_crossNow I saw in the dream, That the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. 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 with 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 a while to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of this 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. 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; the second stript him of his rags, and cloathed him with Change of Raiment; the third also set a Mark on his forehead, and gave him a Roll, with a Seal upon it, which he bid 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 ought 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 Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan)

pilgrims progress_bunyan family“When God releases us of our Guilt and Burden we are as those that leap for Joy. A Christian can sing, tho’ alone, when God doth give him the Joy of his Heart.” [John Bunyan’s notes in the margin of this excerpt from The Pilgrim’s Progress, which he began writing while imprisoned for 12 years (1660-1672) in the Bedford County jail for refusing to cease his public preaching of the Gospel without a state-approved license.]

Misplaced Confidence: An Unnecessary Cycle

tightrope niagraConfidence is important. It can be the difference between life and death. Consider the number of tightrope world records set by Nik Wallenda. Confidence can drive people to do some pretty amazing things, such as tightrope between Canada and the US over Niagara Falls. And yet, misplaced confidence can cause some people to do some amazingly stupid things. For instance, read the account of northern civilians picnicking at the Battle of First Manassas during the early days of the American Civil War. Their overconfident picnic turned to all-out panic due to their misplaced confidence in their army’s leadership.

I find it humorous and yet disappointing to see so many Christians placing their confidence in a sinful human being to deliver the hope and change they believe is needed in their government or culture. They wouldn’t readily admit to it but their actions, which always speak louder than their words, betray their misplaced confidence. Ironically these same Christians scoffed at the majority of American voters who voted with an eager desire to get a juicy bite of the elusive carrot of “Hope and Change” that dangled from the proverbial stick of inflated pre-election campaign promises.

Many politically conservative Christians have openly celebrated and ridiculed the well-calculated decision by a pompous NYC billionaire to remove himself from a public debate between presidential hopefuls. And yet, in the end, these Christians succeeded in giving their despised pompous billionaire the attention he so desperately craved by ironically proving his point that his physical presence was not required to overshadow the conversation of the debate. These Christians scoff at the idea of electing such a “sinful man” to the office of POTUS as if they were electing a pastor to shepherd their local congregation rather than a president to govern a nation. Again, ironically, many of these evangelical Christians who are currently adamant against voting for this “un-Christian womanizing billionaire” had no problem voting in the last presidential election for an overconfident and hesitantly conservative Mormon millionaire.

Many Christians continue to posture the bold and outspoken opinion that a professing Christian senator from Texas is, “God’s man for the hour,” although this man of seeming commendable Christian character and integrity has not yet procured by any stretch of the imagination the republican nomination for POTUS. One wonders what will happen if he does not get the nod for republican nominee—and there is no reason to definitively expect that he will simply because of his Christian testimony and morals. These credentials alone will not impress the current leadership of the RNC. And these Christians know this but don’t want to admit it. Instead, they have hastily run to Scripture to find passages and verses to bolster their theories concerning their desired nominee.

Many are holding out hope that a calm and professing Christian neurosurgeon will somehow race to the front of the race or at the least get a nod for the VP nomination. Others believe wholeheartedly that a fiery senator of Cuban heritage is the best choice pragmatically because of his inclusive stances on immigration. Still others hold out hope that a bold and brash senator from Kentucky will be nominated for his “thinking outside of the box” constitutional politics and tax reforms. And the list goes on and on of potential nominees. If one could be confident in anything at this point, it would be to confidently believe that nothing is settled by far for the Republican (or Democrat) nomination for POTUS.

And yet the American voter must be confident. And the Christian voter in America must be confident that they are voting for the best individual in their mind whose principles do not violate the limits of their conscience. This is the beauty of the freedom that Americans currently possess. However, the seeming cult-worship mentality that many Christians have for their political hero of the hour—whoever it may be—just needs to stop—or at the very least, needs to be greatly tempered.

hamsterIf Christians do not scale back their platitudes and hopes for any of the proposed candidates for POTUS, they are just continuing to join in the unnecessary cycle of Americans putting their trust in men and joining the throng of proverbial hamsters running in a never ending wheel of uncertainty, misplaced hope and unfulfilled expectations. I admit that I ran in this “wheel of hope” earlier when a Texan governor served as POTUS for two terms. He did not “turn American around.” He never could have on his own—and no POTUS ever will possess such a power.

Of all the legally registered American voters, Christians in America should be using this upcoming election as an opportunity to demonstrate a humble living out of the truth of Psalm 118:8-9—“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” Actions speak louder than words. Actions of confidence in man speak louder than words of confidence in God. The stench of hope in man is beginning to fill the airwaves as election day draws closer. Such should be expected as normative for the majority of Americans yet should be filtered out of the conversation and actions of the Church.

At this point in the political bantering between nominee hopefuls, I would not be disappointed if a certain Texan senator would be heard quoting the oath of office next January 20th. But even if he does take that oath once or twice, nothing he can complete or sign into law will “turn this country around” in the way most evangelical Christians desire. Only God can do that—and God is just as capable to do such a work of grace through (or in spite of) an outspokenly brash New York billionaire, a 3-year Texas senator, or any other individual in America as He is capable of working His will through a 3-year Illinois senator who has been POTUS for nearly 2 terms. Why? Well, first because it’s His call, it always has been and it always will be. Second, because the only way America will be truly transformed is through the Gospel—and this Gospel is not dependent on a Democrat, Republican or even an “Independent” POTUS. God’s Gospel is only dependent on the working of the Holy Spirit as He breaks hearts of stone and transforms them into altars of worship through grace.

Perhaps it’s time for a number of Christians to remind themselves Who their ultimate Commander in Chief is, how He operates and where He resides (i.e. not in the White House). Thankfully His term is never up and His sovereign plan is never thwarted or dependent on fallible American presidents or voters. In other words, if the Church truly prays, “Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done, just as it is in Heaven, so let it be upon Earth,” then God will truly answer their prayers. May the Church in America trust and obey as we see God’s “will be done” before our eyes–and may some within the Church in America stop assuming that any of the candidates for POTUS possess the wherewithal and high calling to be called, “God’s candidate.” God has already chosen His Candidate and He is the One we look to for ultimate hope and change. He is awaiting the elected time of His Father to return to this entire earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords (i.e. President of presidents) to rule with perfect grace and true peace, hope and change over His creation.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

ThankfulnessO my God, Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves Thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before Thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with Thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless Thee for the soul Thou hast created, for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil; for the body Thou has given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do Thy bidding; for Thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a table full and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing Thee clearly.

I love Thee above the powers of language to express, for what Thou art to Thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

The Valley of Vision, “Praise and Thanksgiving.”

God is Praying for You

John 17.9Why do those “who are the called according to God’s purpose know that all things work together for good?” (Romans 8:28)

Here’s why: God is praying for them. 

(1) The Spirit of God, Who is indwelling every child of God, is continuously interceding to the Father for them. (8:26-27)

(2) The Son of God, Who died for them, rose again for them, and is at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, is continuously interceding to His Father for them. (8:34)

(3) Therefore, every Person of the Triune Godhead is continuously involved in coordinated prayer for them.

This reality should do 3 things for children of the King:

(1) It should cause their finite minds to be wonderfully exhausted with the magnitude and infinite grandeur of God’s unmatched knowledge, power, wisdom and communication.

(2) It should cause their fearful and anxious hearts to be warmed and comforted with the reality of God’s amazing  ministry of grace and tender care for His children.

(3) It should motivate them to fully worship the Triune God as He continues His amazing and ongoing ministry of mercy, grace, and love by praying within Himself for them.

If you are in Christ, God is praying for you right now.

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)