Sunday, October 10, 2021

Early Sunday, Early Fall


37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.” 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” 53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. 

Thought for the Day

What was in the Pharisee’s mind when he invited Jesus to dinner? Did he expect some reflected glory from this amazing local preacher and healer, or maybe he wanted to show off his home, or perhaps he wanted to get one up on the others he invited? Perhaps he expected Jesus would be a well-manner guest and turn a blind eye to anything that riled him. If that was his expectation he had read Jesus wrongly. The Pharisees and their fellow travelers had finickity rules and regulations when it came to religious cleanliness – especially at mealtimes. He watched all these cleansing rituals going on around him, perhaps getting cold looks because his involvement was merely cursory, then he launched out with a series of woes to the Pharisees and the scribes gathered there. Matthew records that he said to folks like these You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matt. 23:24), and what he saw happening at that dinner table was precisely this – at the very least, majoring on the minors, but a lot of it that had degenerated into a religious and spiritual kind of one upmanship. Put simply, they were hypocrites – a word which is Greek can be directly translated as play acting. They used rituals and seemingly spiritual actions to gloss over what was really beneath the surface of their lives. It was a ‘look at me, can’t you see that I am more spiritual than you?’ What Jesus said to the Pharisees he says also to us today – which is one of the reasons this incident is recorded in Scripture! 

Thanksgiving and Intercession for the Day 

We praise God for spiritual disciplines, and pray for grace to use them appropriately. 

Collect for the Day 

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for Fridays found in Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer 1979)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday: Finally Calming, Clearing Waters All Around


Please take a few minutes to reflect and pray on these verses from Paul's letter to the Ephesians: 

Ephesians 4: 17-24 - "With the Lord's authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don't care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed. But that isn't what you were taught when you learned about Christ. Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness--righteous, holy, and true."

Monday, September 20, 2021

Another Deluge, High Waters, Fallen Trees and No Power

THE MOON just came up as rain clouds went away for the time being. 

Temperatures are cooling toward fall.... And our flag is still least for now.....

Jesse Watters Chronicles the Horrific History of the FBI's Cover-Ups and Abuse and How It Failed America

ONE OF BEST REVIEWS OF FBI abuse of its power and mandate to protect the American people I've ever seen. Jesse Watters in this edition of Watters' Words hits the ball outta the park. Well worth listening to. We ignore at our greater peril.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Phil Robertson Gives Today's Scripture Reading and Sermon

Psalm 1,  King James Version 

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Sunday, Pastor Mike Atkins Preaches @ Community Bible Church in Highlands, NC, On the Second Half of Grace


AFTER YEARS OF PASTORING IN JACKSON, WYOMING at River Crossing, Mike and Patty Atkins have moved to Cashiers, NC. I'm so glad they are closer to Tennessee so we can continue our special fellowship and friendships. Mike preaches here from 1 John 2:


 2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 

 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 

3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 

 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 

 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 

6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. 

7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 

 8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. 

9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 

10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 

11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. 

12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 

13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 

 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. 

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. 

18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 

20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 

22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 

25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 

28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 

29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

What Made the Waverly Flood A Catastrophic Fresh Water Tsunami?

NO ONE DENIES THAT 15-17 INCHES OF RAIN falling in 6-8 hours over a big area, some of it 300' higher than than the town of Waverly, would be devastating to anyone or anything on or near the little creek that runs through the town.   

Still, Waverly, Tennessee was established on the floodplain of little Trace Creek in the early 19th century and has endured many flash floods over the years. It's always managed to bounce back. But the nearest complete washout of the town almost two weeks ago was of such  magnitude, it may never come back completely to its former glory.

I've heard a number of residents who lost family members, friends, homes,  possessions say they want to relocate and never rebuild in Waverly. Who could blame them?

What could have possibly  made this flood so much worse than all the others? 

First,  the raised railroad bed running alongside the little creek acted as a levee---with few, if any large culverts to release the growing water pressure--- which held back the rapidly  rising rainfall on Trace Creek for miles upstream as it dropped some 300' from McEwen, TN.  

Then there a railroad bridge downstream with  bridge abutment that got so clogged with debris that it became a  Hoover-like dam for water held in by the railroad levee.  

The railroad bridge 'dam' held the humongous rising water heroically until  pressure built up so exponentially that it  finally exploded in a violent wall of water descending like a ticking time bomb on the town of Waverly.  Some of the raises railroad bed finally  exploded under the train tracks, letting the wild water through and destroying the tracks above.

Downstream in Waverly, anyone or anything not already on higher ground was doomed for destruction in a matter of minutes as the wall if water raced down the now unimpeded creek.

I'll be back later with a few more thoughts.  Meanwhile,  this town and its people need all the prayers and help it can get.

(Below is  a photo of the raised railroad bed upstream near McEwen  with little Trace Creek on the right beneath the railroad, and the highway to the left.) What could possibly go wrong?   

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday---Oldies But Goodies As Worship Music

AT A LITTLE BAPTIST CHURCH IN BURNS TONIGHT THIS FABULOUS COUNTRY/GOSPEL MUSICIAN PLAYED IT AS WORSHIP MUIC AND BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN. It's been a long and harrowing week and after a more serious service today at a big church in Nashville, I loved, loved it! Lots more where that came from. May God have mercy on people stranded with nothing in Waverly, TN now awaiting more massive rain and flooding from hurricane IDA, and our people awaiting rescue in Afghanistan. Only You, Lord, and You alone can make the darkness bright....

Friday, August 27, 2021

An Idea : Get a Guranteed Noise Maker and Start Honking!


 I HUMBLY SUGGEST THAT EACH OF US CONSERVATIVES WHO ARE APPALLED at the Biden 'administration's' botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and mayhem at the border organize and participate in a weeks long horn-honking protest in each state capital and on Capitol Hill in Washington. It's to get Biden and his pathetic enablers out of office sooner rather than later. It should be pushback advocating state enumerated powers be taken back from the insulin-resistant obese federal government. We can no longer tolerate the power grab by executive orders, dark bureaucratic shennigans and amending gargantuan budget bills in the middle of the night. It's dark, unconstitutional and won't be tolerated any longer. Starting at the White House and going up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, it should be loud, persistent and ongoing. Bring your earplugs and start honking. This is a fitting tribute to the late Phil Valentine who stopped Tennessee from having a state income tax with a honking protest at the Tennessee capital. IN ADDITION, why not bring trumphets to the party as in The Battle of Jericho. Horns with trumphets---what mayhem! Fighting mayhem with mayhem. We will not, we can not be silent any longer. Stop messing around and complaining and start honking! Be creative.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How To Help Victims Of The Waverly Flash Flood/Tsunami


AT LEAST 18 people -many of them children - were killed when a flash flood/tsunami tore through Humphreys, Hickman, Houston and Dickson Counties early Saturday morning. The city of Waverly was the hardest hit as 17'' of rain fell in the area in several hours. An unknown number of people were killed or are still missing. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed or totally vanished from the town in the rushing water. Hundreds of people have lost everything, including homes and businesses. 

These people and the town need our ongoing prayers.  There has been a huge outpouring of donations of food, clothing, and supplies of all kinds given to several churches in Waverly and spokespeople are saying they simply can't handle anymore at this time.  Volunteers are needed to help with the cleanup.  Bring your bulldozers and come on!  Food trucks have come in from Nashville, and THP,  National Guard and TWRA officers, some from Memphis, are serving round-the-clock in town to guard what's left from looting.

Right now,  I would say contributing money to the organizations below for starters is the most urgent and appreciated support most all of us can do. Outpourings of help on all levels has been overwhelming,  heartwarming and miraculous. There will be more ways to donate in the weeks to come.  I personally am donating through a local church.


  • The Humphreys County Sheriff's Office said anyone who would like to donate items to those displaced from their homes can go to the National Guard Armory in Waverly. It is located at 1421 US-70.

Gifts made to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund will help families impacted by the severe storms and flooding. Grants will be made to nonprofits providing vital services both immediate and long-term. CFMT’s work helps free nonprofits up to concentrate on delivering services while the organization “connects generosity with need” and our community sets out to rebuild lives.

Again,  I would donate money to a cause that will use it on the recovery of people's shelter and lives.

May God have mercy on these hurting people and towns.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sunday, Exhuberant Psalm 27 With Commentary

UPDATE:  Thank you  to friends from all over for checking in today to see if I was still on dry land.  Indeed, I live on high ground in Burns, a village 24 miles west of Nashville.  However, 29 miles due west of me is Waverly near the Tennessee and Duck  Rivers and the people there and surrounding towns in that watershed are desperate for our prayers and relief of all kinds in the aftermath of devastating flash floods.  It's hard to fathom 17'' of rain falling in several hours.  These are low-lying wetland areas to begin with, prone to flooding easily.  The area's devastation  is epic. Please pray for them....

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM  READ THE BIBLE, A Daily Devotional With Commentary For August 20:

 27:1   The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
  The LORD is the stronghold2 of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
  When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
  my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.
  Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
  though war arise against me,
    yet3 I will be confident.
  One thing have I asked of the LORD,
    that will I seek after:
  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    all the days of my life,
  to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
    and to inquire4 in his temple.
  For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.
  And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
  and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
  I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
  Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
  You have said, “Seek5 my face.”
  My heart says to you,
    “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”6
    Hide not your face from me.
  Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
  Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10   For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the LORD will take me in.
11   Teach me your way, O LORD,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12   Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.
13   I believe that I shall look7 upon the goodness of the LORD
    in the land of the living!
14   Wait for the LORD;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the LORD!



Psalm 27 shares some themes with its nearest neighbors (Pss. 26, 28) but is more exuberant than either.

(1) The Lord is my light (Ps. 27:1–3). Light is an evocative figure for almost everything good: truth, knowledge, joy, moral purity, revelation, and more. Here the word is linked with “salvation” and “stronghold” (Ps. 27:1); light is associated with security. David faces enemies who attack him like a pack of wolves, but if the Lord is his light and salvation, David will not be afraid. With a God this sovereign, this good, this self-revealing, this delightful, how will he not also be our security?

(2) The Lord is my sanctuary (Ps. 27:4–6)—in the double sense that the word has in English. On the one hand, the theme of the first three verses continues: God is David’s sanctuary in the sense that he is David’s protection, his stronghold: “in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling” (Ps. 27:5). But on the other hand, this “sanctuary” spells infinitely more than mere political security: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life” (Ps. 27:4). This does not mean that David entertains a secret, impossible desire to become a Levite. Rather, he has a profound passion to live his life in the presence of the living God. That is the locus of security.

(3) The Lord is my direction (Ps. 27:7–12). David does not envisage his relation with God as something static, but as his lifelong pursuit. Moreover, he understands that this pursuit simultaneously shapes him. If he seeks God’s face as he ought (Ps. 27:8), if he begs for mercy so that God will deal with him in compassion and not in wrath (Ps. 27:9–10), then he will also learn God’s ways and walk in a straight path (Ps. 27:11). This cannot be said too strongly or too often: to claim that one is pursuing God without concomitant reformation of life and growing conformity to the ways of God is wicked and dangerous nonsense.

(4) The Lord is my hope (Ps. 27:13–14). However true it is that God is the believer’s refuge, sometimes in this broken and fallen world it does not feel like it at the moment. The truth is that God’s timetable is rarely the same as ours. Often he demands that we wait patiently for him: his timing is perfect. His vindication of his people often takes place in history (Ps. 27:13), but rarely as soon as we want; nevertheless his ultimate vindication is priceless. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).



Saturday, August 21, 2021

Saturday Sadness: Our Friend Phil Valentine Has Died


 UPDATE: CATASTROPIC FLOODING 25 MILES TO THE WEST. Please pray for the people in these low-lying lands in the Tennessee River drainage which have so much destruction and loss of lives. 

IT'S AN INCREDIBLY DREARY DAY IN MIDDLE TENNESSEE. RAINING CATS AND DOGS. And as thunder booms and lightning streaks across the afternoon skies, flash flood warnings scream on my phone. Then the sad, sad news of Phil Valentine's death earlier today spreads like lightning. Phil's long 37-day fight with COVID in Williamson County hospital finally has ended. Thousands have been praying for Phil and his family. Now a pall of sadness descends on all those family and friends who loved and knew the conservative talk show host on and off WTN SuperTalk Radio. He was husband to Susan, father to boys and friend to many. He will be greatly missed. The heavy rain on the roof accentuates the sadness. It's raining in our hearts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Few Words About the Pathetic, Chaotic, Impotent Biden Administration's Desperate Turn Tail From Afghanistan


EVEN THOUGH I've taken time off the blog clock recently to spend a few smoky weeks in hot, dry Wyoming as well as to enjoy time with my children and grandchildren recently moved to Tennessee from Texas, I, like every sentient being, haven't been able to escape the non-stop bombardment of news from our southern border and from the frenzied US military drawdown in Afghanistan---both compliments of the Biden administration's laissez faire incompetence and wishful thinking.

 Mark me appalled, but not surprised after watching the growing chaos at our southern border. 

Regarding unfolding tragic events in Afghanistan, I listened carefully to president Biden's speech Monday in which he reiterated his determination to stand by his decision to leave Afghanistan lock, stock and barrel by golly---blah, blah, blah. But all Biden's faux tough-guy rhetoric was really meant to deflect our attention from the REAL issue at hand which is HOW to accomplish this in a calm and focused way that saves thousands of American and Afghani lives and billions of dollars of US equipment?  Instead we saw the desperate shocked and panicked reality from the Taliban's rapid takeover of the country over the weekend and the frantic reality that the US had no exit strategy whatsoever to deal with the widespread terror of the Afghan people.  So everyone ran like hell to the exits.. 

This reality is truly shameful. But the optics were completely devastating:  streets clogged with cars and panicked people,  desperate men clinging to transport jets taking off in a last ditch effort to escape death and execution at the hands of the Taliban and then falling to their deaths after being blown off the behemoth jets.  This was an eerie reminder  of the horrific deaths of  people falling from the World Trade Center during 9-11 almost 20 years ago.

Biden tore up President Trump's strategic plan for withdrawal and took terrible advice from his feckless generals in the military..  Trump was one of the first to criticize Biden for his incompetence:

Trump’s knock on Biden’s speech comes after he called for the current president’s resignation, accusing him of running “out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him.”: Joe Biden gets it wrong every time on foreign policy, and many other issues. Everyone knew he couldn’t handle the pressure. Even Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said as much. He ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him — a plan that protected our people and our property, and ensured the Taliban would never dream of taking our Embassy or providing a base for new attacks against America. The withdrawal would be guided by facts on the ground. After I took out ISIS, I established a credible deterrent. That deterrent is now gone. The Taliban no longer has fear or respect for America, or America’s power. What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul. This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.
Additionally, Don Surber weighs in brilliantly:
Thanks to Joe Biden, the Taliban returns to power stronger, more secure, and well-equipped to wreak havoc on anyone in the world of their choosing. He turned over military bases and the records of those who helped the CIA and the USA, which now allows the Taliban to collect and torture thousands of those who foolishly trusted Biden and the USA. It did not have to end this way. President Trump gave Biden a plan to evacuate Afghanistan, saving lives and dignity, while not arming the Taliban with the best equipment in the world. He learned from the Fall of Saigon, which happened on Biden's watch as a senator. America left behind equipment and people who helped us. Worse, we left behind our own children, the GI babies who were ostracized by society. Donald Trump was determined not to do that again. Biden did it anyway. President Trump told Miranda Devine of the New York Post what his plan was. He said, "We were going to not let people get slaughtered. I wanted to get out. But you have to get out safely and you have to get out with respect." His plan was an American one in which women and children leave first. He said, "All civilians were going to come out before the military. Everyone should have been out before they took our military out." Amen. The richest men on the Titanic went down with the ship. That is how honorable men behave. Our soldiers are honorable. They would have been the last to leave. And they would have left no equipment or base behind. President Trump said, "I was going to close this ridiculous embassy they spent a billion dollars on and move everybody out." He also said, "I was going to blow up every military base [before we left]. I was going to take out every single piece of equipment. I said, ‘I don’t want anything left [apart from] leave each soldier a gun." But it was Trump's plan and Biden is a Washington lifer. And they are all little mean girls like Nancy Pelosi, who tore up President Trump's State of the Union address.DC is a huge echo chamber. In the early 1970s, they let Saigon fall. Nearly a half century later, they let Kabul fall. Dear world: Never trust America again. We are run by petty little girls who raise wastrels who have a charity pay for their weddings (Chelsea) and do coke, meth, and hookers (Hunter). Biden gave an incoherent speech to defend withdrawing from Afghanistan. That is not the issue. We know it had to end. The issue is how he withdrew. He left behind billions of dollars of equipment, thousands of Afghanis who helped us, and some of the best military bases in the world.

Way to tell it like it is, Don. Biden  had no plan except to tear up Trump's strategic plan. Worst of all, he has no honor He has no leadership.  And he hasn't a clue.  How much worse can it get? In the eyes of the world America is weakened and up the creek, rudderless without a paddle.  Dark days ahead.

But never fear,  Biden has empathy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Piper Again: Living the Mysterious Paradox of Joy In Suffering

BELOW IS HARD, adult wisdom.  But isn't following Christ letting His spirit live in us and and mature us to the maximum beyond tantrums and self-pity?  Isn't it all for our ultimate, eternal joy? Yes, easier said than done.

Here's the link and listen:

IN THE FALL of 2012, Bethlehem Baptist Church hosted a very powerful and memorable conference on disability. It was titled “The Works of God Conference: God’s Good Design in Disability.” The entire event was God-centered and inspiring and faith-building. I encourage you to watch it all. But in that conference, there was one particular bit from John Piper’s contribution that really stood out to a podcast listener who sent us the clip to feature on APJ. Here in this section, Pastor John is applying the testimony of the apostle Paul, when Paul said of his life that he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — it’s a paradox and a miracle and a mystery. And it needs to be applied to our lives, as Pastor John does here.

I’ve got a concluding statement and five brief applications. The conclusion goes like this: God is so sovereign over the disasters and the disappointments of our lives, that he is able to make every one of them serve our everlasting joy. He is so sovereign over all the disasters, all the disappointments of our lives, that he is able to take all of them and make all of them serve our everlasting joy.

This sovereign grace is the ground of your joy in sorrows — not after sorrows, but in the sorrows of deep disappointment. So, the Christian Hedonist does not merely pursue joy after sorrow; he pursues joy in sorrow, in disappointment. The watchword of your life then becomes “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

Sorrowful Yet Rejoicing

Now, here are five implications or applications of this. And it really is quite profound what happens in a church when this takes hold, and what happens in you and your family.

1. You will be free from pretending.

If you experience this paradox of emotions — sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — you will never have to pretend again. Your sorrow will be real. Your joy will be real. You won’t ever have to be ashamed of saying, “I am very sad,” because your sadness will not contradict or exclude being very glad.

2. You will survive under the heaviest suffering.

If you experience this paradox of emotions — sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — you will be able to bear the weight of sorrow that is inevitable in this world of sin and brokenness. The joy you know in the very moment of heavy sorrow will keep the sorrow from crushing you. It doesn’t make the sorrow less weighty. By strength, it makes the sorrow less destructive. So, the second one is this: this experience, without minimizing the sorrow, prevents it from destroying you.

3. You will enter others’ sorrows and joys.

If you experience this paradox of emotions — sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — your sorrow will not ruin the joy of others, and your joy will not offend the sorrow of others. This is delicate. This is the way we want to be, right? You want to walk through life in and out of relationships that are either sorrowing or rejoicing, and you don’t want to ruin them. You don’t want to hurt anyone. You don’t want to offend the sorrowing. You don’t want to rain on the parade....

Your joy will be deep, with its roots in the springs of God’s grace, the very same grace that sorrowing souls need. Your joy will be rooted down in grace, and it will understand grace as what people need, and you’ll have discernment as to how to bless them. Your sorrow will not be morose, gloomy, self-pitying. I’m speaking to myself mainly here. This is my battle. I am defending sorrow in this message. I’m not defending moroseness; I’m not defending gloominess; I’m not defending self-pity — I’m hating those in myself.

This sorrow that you have will have real love in it, and love cares for the good of others, so that you don’t ruin their party. I just think there’s a huge amount of selfishness in sorrow that walks into a happy room and says, “Y’all wouldn’t be happy if you knew what I knew about me.” And you just ruin it. You just spread your gloominess everywhere. So, you’re the center of the universe here? Get a life. You don’t have to ruin this party. Jesus can sustain you for an hour tonight. He can put a smile on your face. He can have you play some of the games. And then you go home and cry some more. That’s not hypocrisy — that’s love, because it’s different.

The sorrow that is being sustained by interpenetrated, simultaneous joy is of a different kind than worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow has so much selfishness in it. And godly sorrow is real sorrow, but it’s just been changed, profoundly changed by this underpinning of peace and contentment and satisfaction and joy in a sovereign God, so that when you walk into a broken situation, your sorrow enables you to sweetly empathize, and when you walk into a happy situation, your joy rises to enable you to be a part of it.

And people will watch over the long haul. They won’t miss your pain if you’re real. If you’re walking in a church’s life and you’re just living a normal life, week in and week out, they’ll know your situation, and they will love you for not raining on the party, and not being glib and silly at the funeral.

4. You will worship with the aroma of Christ.

If you experience this paradox of emotions — sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — the ministries of your church, from the worship service, to the youth group, to the ministry of disability, will be free from silliness and trifling, and will have the aroma of Christ with his wonderful paradoxes. Your ministries will have the aroma of Christ, who wept over Jerusalem like this: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). And yet he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21). He wept and he rejoiced over the same city because of the same condition. What a strange Savior.

We need people like that in the world who are inexplicable in worldly categories. We need church services that people walk into and there is joy here, but it’s quite serious. But the seriousness is not heavy. It makes people say, “I can’t figure this out here. This is different.” And many, many thousands of our churches are throwing this away in the name of being cute or clever or slapstick or like the latest TV show or movies or anything to make it feel like something familiar. You don’t want them to feel familiar. You want them to be stunned, as if God had showed up from another world and created something new on planet Earth — not the latest movie or the latest comedy or the latest talk-show host. Why would you want to have the people feel at home with that? You want them to taste something so stunningly strange.

“If you experience this paradox of emotions — sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — you will never have to pretend again.”

So, that’s what I’m trying to do: just talk about the strangeness of the Christian life. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — what does that feel like on Sunday morning? What does a youth ministry feel like? What does a disability ministry feel like when that paradox, that strange miracle, has taken hold? The spirit that will pervade your church will be joyful seriousness and serious joyfulness. It won’t be morose. It won’t be miserable. It won’t be self-pitying. It will have a profound gladness about it.

I don’t do many welcomes anymore because of my present transition, but I used to stand right here, and at the downtown campus, and welcome the people every Sunday. I loved it. I loved to have that little informal moment, because in the pulpit I’m “Mr. Authority,” and down here I’m Daddy in the living room. And I was so profoundly aware: I’m going to welcome these people in such a way that those who are coming out of the funeral and out of the wedding feel good about this moment.

That’s impossible. Isn’t that wonderful, to have an impossible job? You know what it makes you do? Pray. It makes you desperate, makes you want miracles to happen. “Let me have a demeanor down here so that the hurting can say, ‘He knows,’ and the ecstatic can say, ‘He knows; he gets it,’ and everybody knows they have a Daddy in heaven who gets it.” If you catch the paradox of these emotions, it will affect your whole church.

5. You will look like Jesus.

And the last one is this: if you experience this paradox of emotions — sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — the beauty and the worth of Christ will be exalted, because he is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.

And if you’re always rejoicing, there’s always some flavor of his excellency in your life, some flavor of his worth and his value and his beauty. There’s something about you that means you’re loving Jesus, you’re valuing Jesus. He’s precious to you right now, with all the tears flowing down.

And on the other hand, the tears that are flowing and the genuineness and the authenticity of your sadness show you’re not out of touch with the ugliness of sin in this world and the horrors of its effects in human life. You’re not out of touch. You’re not glib. You’re not silly. You’re not superficial. You’re not blind. You’re not naive. When you get that in one person, the joy reflecting the infinite worth of Jesus and the sorrow reflecting the ugliness and the horrors of sin, you meet somebody more like Jesus, and you want to be like them.

Show Us More, Lord

So, we end. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing — may the Lord work this paradox, this miracle. And please don’t over-read this man. I speak as one trying to understand and do this as a dad, as a husband, as a pastor right now. I’m speaking over my head. I’m saying words that I wish were more true for me.

Don’t walk out of here and say, “Well, I guess some people have got that wrapped up.” Nobody’s got this wrapped up. I’m lifting up a possibility that we’re all looking at and saying, “Really, Lord? Really? Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing? Oh, show me, show me what that would be like in my life!”



Sunday, August 1, 2021

John Piper On John Newton----Arguing With Patient Tenderness, Like a Calvinist

In this contentious time we're now living in, this is easier said than done. But oh so necessary. Audio Transcript

There’s much to learn from eighteenth-century pastor and hymn writer John Newton. Newton’s autobiography was a bestselling hit. And we sing his hymns today. His whole life is a testament to God’s sovereign grace in saving a wretched sinner, a story captured well in his most famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” And we celebrate John Newton’s birthday today. So, the day has me thinking about him, his hymns, and his living legacy. It’s a rich legacy he left behind. I was honored to write a whole book on his pastoral counsel, and that gave me the chance to soak in his pastoral letters for about three years. He wrote amazing letters to people in need. And Pastor John has a wonderful biographical message looking at the life of Newton, titled “John Newton: The Tough Roots of His Habitual Tenderness.” Particularly, Newton has a lot to teach us on the topic of controversy, and how to argue like a Calvinist. Here’s Pastor John in that 2001 biographical message, talking about John Newton’s approach to controversy. Speaking to a room full of pastors, here’s what he said.

Now, maybe the most illuminating way to get at this man’s pattern of tenderness is to talk about the way he handled his Calvinism and his doctrine and controversies of his day and so on. This is something I’m very, very interested in for us and for myself in particular. At this point, we’re going to see the root bearing fruit in tenderness — the root of truth bearing fruit in tenderness, called love. I think his patience and his perception guided him between a doctrinaire intellectualism on the one side, and a doctrinal indifference and carelessness on the other.

Patient Passion

Let’s talk for a minute about his patience and tenderness as it relates to his doctrine. I’ve been at Bethlehem Baptist for twenty years now, so I’m starting to feel old, and people are starting to treat me that way. And so, I get asked a lot about, What did you do at this point, and this point, and this point? Here’s what Newton says:

I have been thirty years forming my own views; and, in the course of this time, some of my hills have sunk, and some of my valleys have risen: but, how unreasonable within me to expect all this should take place in another person; and that, in the course of a year or two. (The Works of John Newton, 1:101)

“The embrace of many glorious, precious truths requires supernatural, spiritual illumination from God.”

Some of you have been on your way theologically for twenty, thirty, or forty years, and you might have a thing or two figured out, and you start preaching and teaching as though this class should have fixed the atonement for these people. “Predestination — we’ve got this now. You’ve been to two of my classes.” But it took you twenty years to settle in on where you are. So, Newton is calling for us with tenderness and patience to realize that that’s the case. It’s not going to happen for our people any faster than it did for us — and for some slower.

Yes, he had a passion for propagating the truth, the whole Reformed vision of God as he saw it. But he did not believe controversy served the purpose. Here’s what he said: “I see the unprofitableness of controversy in the case of Job and his friends: for, if God had not interposed, had they lived to this day they would have continued the dispute” (Works, 1:106).

So, he labored to avoid controversy and replaced it with positive demonstrations of truth. Here’s what he said: “My principal method of defeating heresy is by establishing truth. One proposes to fill a bushel with tares: now, if I can fill it first with wheat, I shall defy his attempts” (Works, 1:100).

He knew, given his Calvinism, that the embrace of many glorious, precious truths required supernatural, spiritual illumination from God on the inside. And therefore, he made his approach patient and unobtrusive. Here’s the way he said it:

I am a friend of peace; and being deeply convinced that no one can profitably understand the great truths and doctrines of the gospel any farther than he is taught of God, I have not a wish to obtrude my own tenets upon others, in a way of controversy; yet I do not think myself bound to conceal them. (Works, 3:303)

He said in the introduction to the Olney Hymns,

The views I have received of the doctrines of grace [Calvinism] are essential to my peace; I could not live comfortably a day, or an hour, without them. I likewise believe . . . them to be friendly to holiness, and to have a direct influence in producing and maintaining a gospel conversation; and therefore I must not be ashamed of them. (Works, 3:303)

Habitual Tenderness

But he also believed

that the cause of truth itself may be discredited by an improper management. . . . The Scripture, which . . . teaches us what we are to say, is equally explicit as to the temper and Spirit in which we are to speak. Though I had knowledge of all mysteries, and the tongue of an angel to declare them, I could hope for little acceptance or usefulness, unless I was to speak “in love.” (Works, 5:131)

Listen to this. He says,

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. . . . The Scriptural maximum, that “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service to the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. (Works, 1:271)

He noticed one of the most Calvinistic texts in the New Testament calls for patient tenderness. Do you know which one I’m thinking about? One of the most Calvinistic texts in the New Testament is 2 Timothy 2:24–26. Notice what Paul brings together here. Newton noticed it, and it had a huge impact on him.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

“Prayer is asking God to do what only God can do. Man can’t do it. God has to do it.”

Wow. That’s a very powerful text. God brings repentance. God brings people to know the truth. So, what’s our part? Not quarrelsome, being kind to everyone, being able to teach, patiently enduring, correcting in gentleness: There’s the Calvinistic agenda. Isn’t that amazing what he puts together there? Newton saw it. Have you seen it? Do you do it?

What Only God Can Do

And given that Calvinistic truth — that God’s the one who grants repentance; God’s the one who opens the eyes of the blind to see the truth — prayer became utterly crucial for him. Prayer is asking God to do what only God can do. Man can’t do it. God has to do it. You preach to people on Sunday. You’re not going to change anybody in an evangelical, deep, heartfelt way. God’s got to do that. You have your role; it’s described right there. But God’s got to do it. So, if you don’t bathe that thing in prayer, you’re missing one of the great means of grace that God has appointed for you.

And this is what Newton said about prayer and controversy. He writes to a friend,

As to your opponent, I wish that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . . [If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. (Works, 1:269)

Namely, not you. You didn’t make you to differ. God made you to differ (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Prayers for Phil Valentine

Phil Valentine, conservative talk radio host, is a true friend to conservatives, and to me and my conservative women friends, in the greater Nashville area.  He is very sick with covid and in intensive care in Franklin.

Today he chose to go on a ventilator to ease his exhaustion.  We are all praying for Phil's recovery and his family's comfort.

May God have mercy on him and us all.  

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Sunday-- James 4:1-10, Our Struggle With Worldliness

Warning Against Worldliness

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions1 are yat war within you?2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask zwrongly, to spend it on your passions. aYou adulterous people!3 Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? bTherefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit cthat he has made to dwell in us”? But dhe gives more grace. Therefore it says, e“God opposes the proud but dgives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. fResist the devil, and he will flee from you. gDraw near to God, and he will draw near to you. hCleanse your hands, you sinners, and ipurify your hearts, jyou double-minded. kBe wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 lHumble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

John 3:16, From The Chosen, Season 1, Episode 7


Monday, July 5, 2021

Jonathan Turley on Biden's Current Attack on Georgia's New Voting Law with Short Review of Black Emancipation and Old Jim Crow Laws

PRESIDENT BIDEN AND STACY ABRAMS, Georgia's failed gubernatorial candidate, are running away with a voting narrative which has nothing to do with reality. It says that Georgia's new voting law---making it easier to vote legally but harder to cheat---is going to bring back Jim Crow on steroids, or Jim Crow 2.0.  Really? Have these people forgotten history, or is this all a willful act to take advantage of gullible, uneducated or easily manipulated or frightened voters for their political gain? It's a rhetorical question.

History bears repeating that the Republican party was founded by Horace Greeley and others in 1854 for the express purpose of preventing the spread of slavery into free states and outlying territories. In 1857, Roger Taney, a Jacksonian Democrat, handed down the infamous and highly controversial Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court saying slaves or freed slaves were in essence sub-human and could neither be free citizens of our country nor have standing to redress in any U.S. court of law.  Subsequently, Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican candidate, was elected president in 1860 and soon after, southern Democratic states commenced to secede from the Union.  In 1863, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation which effectively freed slaves in the Confederate states and charted the course for freeing all slaves in the embattled United States.

After the surrender of the Confederacy in 1865 and the horrific assassination of President Lincoln by a racist Confederate sympathizer, Reconstruction began tepidly under the ineffective and unpopular President Andrew Johnson, another Jacksonian Democrat. 

But in 1869, President Ulysses S Grant, a Republican, was elected and began in earnest Reconstruction----to redress the horrific inequities of slavery and to admit slave states back into the Union.  Grant's mission was an uphill battle,  thwarted at every turn by southern racist Democrats.

To wit:

Reconstruction took precedence during Grant's two terms of office. But the Democratic Ku Klux Klan caused widespread violence throughout the South against African Americans. By 1870, all former Confederate states had been readmitted into the United States and were represented in Congress. However Democrats, or former slave owners, violently refused to accept that freedmen were citizens, who were granted suffrage by the Fifteenth Amendment. By 1871 Klan activity was becoming out of control, while Grant and Congress created the Department of Justice and had passed three Force Acts. Grant and his Attorney General Amos T. Akerman began a crackdown on Klan in the South, starting in South Carolina, making arrests and convictions, causing the Klan to demobilize and ensuring a fair election for 1872..... Then came the Jim Crow laws, again enacted by southern Democrats who refused to accept that blacks were free, could vote and had equal protection under the law. Over the next 20 years, blacks would lose almost all they had gained.

Worse, denial of their rights and freedoms would be made legal by a series of racist statutes, the Jim Crow laws. “Jim Crow” was a derisive slang term for a black man. It came to mean any state law passed in the South that established different rules for blacks and whites. Jim Crow laws were based on the theory of white supremacy and were a reaction to Reconstruction. In the depression-racked 1890s, racism appealed to whites who feared losing their jobs to blacks. Politicians abused blacks to win the votes of poor white “crackers.” Newspapers fed the bias of white readers by playing up (sometimes even making up) black crimes. In 1890, in spite of its 16 black members, the Louisiana General Assembly passed a law to prevent black and white people from riding together on railroads. Plessy v. Ferguson, a case challenging the law, reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. Upholding the law, the court said that public facilities for blacks and whites could be “separate but equal.” Soon, throughout the South, they had to be separate. Two years later, the court seemed to seal the fate of black Americans when it upheld a Mississippi law designed to deny black men the vote. Given the green light, Southern states began to limit the voting right to those who owned property or could read well, to those whose grandfathers had been able to vote, to those with “good characters,” to those who paid poll taxes. In 1896, Louisiana had 130,334 registered black voters. Eight years later, only 1,342, 1 percent, could pass the state’s new rules. Jim Crow laws touched every part of life. In South Carolina, black and white textile workers could not work in the same room, enter through the same door, or gaze out of the same window. Many industries wouldn’t hire blacks: Many unions passed rules to exclude them......

To recap, while the Republican Party of old has historically fought to free slaves and give them equal rights under the law, Democrats have opposed this tooth and nail. And even with this, Democrats have been allowed to promulgate a false narrative that they are the party that is looking out for blacks. That is only true is you consider infantilizing them, getting them hooked on government assistance and telling them what to think and do counts as 'help.'

 Now today President Biden and Stacy Abrams insult blacks by calling new voting laws Jim Crow 2.0 with a straight face. Scandalous. Ineffective. And won't work..... 

Which brings us back to Jonathan Turley's most recent column:

Jonathan Turley: Justice or Just Deserts? Trump, Cosby and Georgia Cases Show Rising Cost of Political Litigation

Below is my (Turley's) column in the Hill on a series of cases that appear propelled by political rather than legal considerations. The costs to the legal system, the public, or victims in such cases are often overlooked but they are considerable.....

Skipping ahead to the Justice Department's lawsuit against the ill advised new Georgia Voting law, Turley writes:

The Georgia lawsuit Last week, the Biden administration surprised many observers by filing a civil rights action against the state of Georgia over its recent election reforms. The lawsuit was less surprising than its timing: It was filed just days before the release of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, an Arizona case in which the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the very statutory provision (Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act) being used as the basis in the Georgia challenge. The Biden administration has made opposition to Georgia’s law into a rallying cry for its stalled legislative efforts to federalize state election laws. The problem is that President Biden has been long on rhetoric and short on facts in denouncing the law as “Jim Crow on steroids.” The Washington Post awarded him four “Pinocchios” for his characterization of the law, including the false claim that it reduces the hours for voting; the law actually does the opposite. Likewise, Biden falsely claimed Georgia’s law prevents voters in line at polling places from getting water. Georgia was responding to complaints that campaigns circumvent rules barring politicking around polling places by giving food and drinks to voters in line; the law allows “self-service water from an unattended receptacle.” On these and other provisions, Georgia’s law has considerable overlap with provisions in other states. In its 6-3 decision upholding Arizona’s election rules, including a bar on vote “harvesting,” the Supreme Court rejected presumptions of racial discrimination due to partisan objectives. Justice Samuel Alito declared “partisan motives are not the same as racial motives.” The ruling builds on earlier cases limiting the reach and meaning of the Voting Rights Act. The new Georgia challenge takes a considerable risk of magnifying these losses in court. The legal cost of this ill-considered move could be immense. Important questions are being raised about the impact of some laws on minority votes. Yet the attack on Georgia’s law is a poor choice, despite Biden going “all in” on the narrative, because it locks the administration into proving a weak case. While the court declined to issue a sweeping new standard for all Section 2 voting rights cases, this case could open the door for precisely that type of ruling. The Biden administration — which has lost a remarkably high number of legal cases in its first year — is likely to lose this one, too, before the next presidential election. Politically motivated cases like these impose costs that are rarely paid by those who bring them. The more a prosecutor feels it necessary to repeat that “It’s not about politics,” the more likely a case is entirely political. 

 Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates on Twitter @JonathanTurley.....

If these voter laws assuring voter integrity that the feckless, dishonest Biden and Abrams are whining about  sound like Jim Crow 2.0,  then I have a poppy farm in the Arctic I'd like to sell you....We must push back against this utter nonsense. We cannot let these people win this.  

As today's battered and rudderless national Republican party attempts to redefine itself into a more principled, vigorous organization that represents real conservative values,  let us hope that voter integrity and voter ID laws  in every state are at the top of its to-do list.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

On This Fourth of July, Let Us Pray for Mercy and Revival In America and The Catherals Sing A Perfect Song for a Sunday 4th As the Battle Rages On


This is an old Southern gospel song by The Catherdrals which combines the Greatness of God's Son's sacrifice for us (the scars and stripes), as well as our magnificent nation which is teethering on the edge of judgment and the abyss (the stars and stripes): Finally, Johnny Cash sings Battle Hymn of the Republic

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sunday, Isaiah 65----Good News for Some, Dire News for Others

ISAIAH 65 , The Righteousness of God's Judgment

Isaiah has prayed, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isa. 64:1). Now (Isa. 65) God replies with two complementary perspectives.

 First, God says that he is not as distant as Isaiah thinks. Throughout Israel’s troubled history God revealed himself to the people again and again (Isa. 65:1). He kept disclosing himself, through a long stream of prophets, to people who did not ask for him, to those who did not seek him, to a nation that did not call on his name. He was busy saying, “Here am I, here am I” (Isa. 65:1)—but they proved to be an obstinate people, walking “in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations” (Isa. 65:2). Doubtless Isaiah wants God to come near, but by their persistent rebellion in every domain the people are saying, in effect, “Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!” (Isa. 65:5). This habit of thinking oneself better than God is prevalent today. We are so interested in “spirituality” and so committed to exonerating ourselves on every side that we cannot possibly allow ourselves to submit to what God says. We judge what he says to be unreasonable; we are wiser and better than God, more sacred than he. That is what stands behind his judgment (Isa. 65:6–7).

Second, notwithstanding the threat of judgment, God holds out a vastly different prospect for the chosen remnant who seek his face in contrition and faith. What he promises them is far more than a somewhat more secure empirical Zion. He holds out to them nothing less than a “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17). That is what “Jerusalem” ultimately means (Isa. 65:18–19); as in Revelation 21, Jerusalem is not so much a center in the new heavens and the new earth as another way of conceptualizing the same reality. The vision is spectacular (Isa. 65:17–25), akin to what was foreseen earlier (Isa. 2:2–5; 11:1–16). But it is not for everyone without exception. As clearly as any in the book, this chapter distinguishes between, on the one hand, God’s chosen ones (Isa. 65:22), the people blessed by the Lord (Isa. 65:23), those who seek him (Isa. 65:10), his servants (Isa. 65:9), and, on the other hand, those described in the first seven verses, who amuse themselves with notions of magic, playing their games of Fortune and Destiny (Isa. 65:11). 

The bottom line is that when God called they did not answer, when he spoke they did not listen. “You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (Isa. 65:12). Nowhere is the distinction clearer than in Isaiah 65:13–16. “My servants,” God says, will experience unimaginably fine blessings, but the “you” whom he addresses will face utter abandonment and reprobation.

From The Gospel Coalition Daily Devotion