The LORD Reigns

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I was on Jury Duty recently and as I was waiting in the Jury Room to be called up or not called up to court, I thought about how at that moment the government had so much sovereignty over my life.  Whether or not they called my name would determine if I would go to work the next day or back to the courthouse.  If I was assigned (I was), it could be a quick 2 day trial or my life could have to revolve around a trial for months (after all, I live in L.A. County).

I think God’s sovereignty is sometimes hard for us to understand as American Christians because we don’t have any clear examples of “absolute” authority such as was so common during the time the Bible was written.  The government’s “power” to make me come in to Jury Duty and to decide what would happen with the next few weeks of my life, or to force me to pay taxes, is about the extent of my personal involvement with the government’s sovereignty.  I used to wrestle quite a bit with God’s sovereignty.  Although I accepted it, as God is clearly displayed and explained as sovereign again and again and again in God’s Word, and although I wanted to understand it, it sometimes made me question my understanding of God.  My understanding of God needed to be questioned and expanded. 

I remember reading a quote by Jonathan Edwards that exclaimed, “…Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God…” (quoted in Desiring God, p. 38, by John Piper).  I could tell by the way Edwards worded it that he rejoiced in this attribute of God.  I had a hard time saying this the same way, much like the struggle that Habakkuk had at the beginning of his prophecy, before he waited on the LORD .  I think it was because I wanted to rejoice in God’s sovereignty, but all of the theological and practical “problems” were getting tangled up in my mind.  Praise God that I can now agree with Jonathan Edwards in the rest of his quote: “And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense…I have often since had not only a conviction but a delightful conviction.  The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet.  Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.  But my first conviction was not so…” (quoted in Desiring God, p. 38, by John Piper).   

The Lord has been teaching me this doctrine again and again over the last 15 years as I have studied the Bible and constantly been confronted with God’s absolute sovereignty and also as I have seen it lived out in my own life, family, and ministry with others.  I love God’s sovereignty now.  I love to exclaim with the Psalmist, “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psalm 97:1)  I am prepared to accept and deal as biblically as I can with any confusion that may cause (more posts on that in the future, in particular regarding “Sickness” and “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”).  The fact that the LORD reigns is actually the greatest comfort now during times of trial rather than a question mark.  It is a sweet doctrine to be embraced rather than to be feared.  One thing that has helped me in my understanding of and rejoicing in God’s sovereignty is knowing that His sovereignty is always exercised in a way that corresponds with His other attributes, such as His love, mercy, compassion, justice, etc.  A favorite way that I like to express this truth is that “God is both sovereign and good.”

There is a sense in which, when God is seen as sovereign, He is seen more clearly as God than with any other attribute.  Everything else is created, but only God is the ruler of the universe.  That is why so many of the Psalms (the “worship book” of the Bible) call attention to God’s greatness and sovereignty, because reflecting on this aspect of His character inspires worship.  I remember hearing R.C. Sproul teach pastors that if they hide an aspect of God’s character from their people then they are guilty of veiling the glory of God. May we as God’s people never be declared guilty on that count!

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My Senior Testimony in Chapel at TMS

My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…as for me, the nearness of God is my good;  I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

Psalm 73:26, 28

I was thrilled to give my Senior Testimony in Chapel at The Master’s Seminary on April 3rd, 2012.  I pray that you will be encouraged and I invite you to give glory to the Lord with us for what He has done in our lives.  Great is His faithfulness!

Thank You, Lord, for Your sovereignty and goodness in my life and for how You have blessed our family over the last 4 1/2 years of seminary.  Thank You for Your grace in allowing me to attend The Master’s Seminary.  May You truly receive ALL the glory!!

Thursday Night of “Passion Week”

It is Thursday night of “Passion Week.”  We all know that Christ died on Friday and rose on Sunday, but what happened on Thursday night?  He washed His disciples’ feet.  He taught His disciples in the Upper Room.  He transformed the Passover meal into “The Lord’s Supper” commemorating His death.  He cried out to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane until He sweat drops of blood.  He was betrayed with a kiss.  He was arrested.  And He knocked a large detachment of Roman soldiers to the ground with His word.

The beloved Apostle, moved by the Holy Spirit, remembered that night: “So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.  Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’  They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’  Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’  Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.  When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:3-6)

Judas, along with the religious leaders, had organized a detachment of soldiers to come and arrest Jesus in the garden.  The word translated “band” of soldiers in the ESV is a “cohort” of Roman soldiers that would normally number 600 men.  However, depending on the circumstances it could be up to 1,000 or as little as 200.  Given that there were extra Roman soldiers on duty for the Passover Feast, as well as the fact that the other Gospels indicate that there were others besides the soldiers in the crowd who carried clubs, it is no exaggeration to say that there was a minimum of 300 men there that night if not the full 1,000 given Jesus’ popularity just a few days before on “Palm Sunday.”  This would be at least 15 times more armed men than are in the picture at the top of this post.

Jesus decimated them by simply answering “I am” to their question.  These trained killers fell to the ground at the word of our Savior!

It is mind-boggling how some commentators will try to explain away this profound moment before Jesus was arrested.  It is another display of His authority before He would let them arrest Him, and we are reminded once again that He is the incarnate God before He humbles Himself to the point of death on a cross.  Before His greatest humility, He once again displayed His power.  Yet some will say things such as that they fell down because they expected to find a meek peasant and instead were met in the dim light by a majestic person.  Ludicrous.  Others say that those in the front were startled when Jesus appeared out of the shadows, which in turn knocked down those behind them like dominoes.  Nonsense.  Roman soldiers were highly trained and had taken over much of the world.  They battled against the most powerful armies on earth and often won.  They did not easily spook and fall down like children when somebody emerged from a dark garden that was now lit up with their torches.  But, they did fall down when Jesus said “I am.”  As John MacArthur explains, “All Jesus had to do was speak His name–the name of God–and His enemies were rendered helpless.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, John 12-21, p. 308)

It is no wonder Peter was emboldened to cut off the ear of the slave of the high priest!  Christ quickly reminded Peter right in front of the soldiers that if He wanted to, He could ask the Father to send 72,000 angels that He could then command (Matt. 26:53).  What was a detachment of Roman soldiers compared to His power?     

This was a foretaste of Christ as sovereign LORD even though the cross was looming on the horizon.  The same Apostle John who wrote the Gospel of John later saw Christ exalted and described Him: “…from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.  When I saw him, I fell at His feet as though dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.‘” (John 18:16-18)

Just as He laid His hand on John to show His grace, how He loves you and me!  That He would place Himself into the hands of these soldiers to obey the will of the Father, to be crushed on the cross as He paid the awful and incomprehensible price of sin when He could have stopped it all in an instant, with a word, needs to move us!

Even when they fell down at His word, the soldiers in the garden that night didn’t recognize Him as God.  But it may have contributed to God’s work in some of their hearts as later some soldiers would believe in Christ as the Son of God and Savior even at the foot of the cross the next day.  As you celebrate Good Friday and then Resurrection Sunday, remember that our King was not a victim of an evil plan (although it was evil, Acts 2:23), but rather the triumphant Victor of the Plan that had been made before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23).  Thank You Jesus for Your power, and thank You for Your grace!