Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thessalonians: The blessing of an intensive pronoun

Seven times in the NASB translation of First and Second Thessalonians does the English word “himself” appear. Five of those times it functions as an intensive pronoun, meaning you could drop the word from the text, and the text would still make sense (see 1 Thess 3:11; 4:16; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:16; and 3:16). The intensive pronoun emphasizes, or intensifies, the personal noun that it follows.

For example, in 1 Thess 4:16 we are told that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout.” Himself in this case emphasizes that it is Jesus descending, as opposed to, say, an emissary who represents Jesus. The amazing fact that it will be Jesus personally (Jesus Himself) who will be descending is emphasized or pointed out.

The payoff in this thought comes in these three verses:
  • 1 Thess 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely . . .
  • 2 Thess 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father . . . comfort and strengthen your hearts . . .
  • 2 Thess 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace . . .
Here’s what’s neat: contrary to what some religions teach, it is not a mediator or mediatrix (such as Mary or a saint) who secures blessings (sanctification, comfort, strength, peace) to us: it is God Himself, Jesus Himself! God Himself is personally, immediately (in other words, without a mediator other than Jesus) involved in your life!

If you know Christ as Savior, you are not distanced from Him by layers of heavenly bureaucracy. He personally, immediately, immanently, is involved in your life. He truly is, Immanuel, God with us!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mine, all mine . . .

Psalm 39 is my psalm.

Sorry, bub; move along; you’re going to have to find your own psalm! Thirty-nine is mine!

Many of David’s psalms I don’t identify with so well. For example, I don’t have any real enemies; at least, I don’t think I do. So the “save me from all my enemies” psalms sort of zoom right past me. The penitential psalms I identify with completely. I’ve had ample opportunity to pray them. But the ones that complain about enemies, not so much.**

Except Psalm 39. You know who the enemy is in that psalm? David is his own enemy. He’s being chastened for sin: Remove your plague from me; because of the opposition of your hand I am perishing. With reproofs You chasten a man for iniquity; (vv 10-11a).

And he’s got his nose bent out of joint about it, so he’s afraid to speak in public: I said I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence (v 1).

Ever been in a really bad mood? You know they can read it on your face. And you know your attitude is sinful. And you don’t even want to open your mouth, because you know whatever comes out won’t be in keeping with Ephesians 4:29. Ever been there? Me? Seems like I make a visit there several times every day, at least.

Anyway, David did not want to dishonor God anymore than he already had by his sin (of which we know nothing). So he was keeping his mouth shut. But he knew what was going on: I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is You who have done it (v 9). He knew that his troubles at that moment were from God's chastening rod.

So he’s biting his tongue. In fact, he’s not saying anything, good or bad: I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, and my sorrow grew worse (v 2).

Finally he’s had enough and gets by himself (I’m reading that into the psalm), and begins to pour out his complaint and seek his God: My heart was hot within me, while I was musing, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am (vv 3-4).

Are you your own worst enemy? The fact of the matter is, unless you have reached some exalted state of sanctification, you probably are. I know I am. Maybe I ought to speak for myself, though. I certainly don’t know your heart. Don’t even really know mine (Jeremiah 17:9). But this I do know: no low-down, lop-eared, son of a gun gives me as much grief as . . . I do.

Anyway, I like how this psalm runs its course. I can identify with that, too. David’s still struggling at the end of the psalm. He’s not wearing some syrupy sweet grin and a “Smile, Jesus loves you” pin. Instead, he’s still crying out, Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with you, a sojourner like all my fathers (v 12).

I can’t really identify with the sentimental “my dear Jesus, sweetest name I know” lingo. I know folks who talk like that and really think like that, and who really do mean it.

I’m just not there, not yet anyway. Terms like, sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, Lord God Almighty, Ancient of Days, and so on, speak far more to me than the personal intimacy stuff. And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; make me not the reproach of the foolish (vv 7-8). Now, that’s my language.

Like I said, buddy: move over and find your own psalm. This one’s mine.

[**The main reason for this, I believe, is that Christ faced and defeated those enemies for me on the cross. Those psalms are largely (but not exclusively) Christocentric. I say not exclusively, because when we do find ourselves with actual enemies, we’ll find those psalms on our lips. I expect this is especially true of the persecuted Church. If I ever undergo such persecution, I’m sure that I, too, will identify more closely with those beautiful psalms.]

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Almost there!

Dani just finished this great looking front cover. The word count is just shy of 60,000, which is at three-quarters of my target. Getting close, can't wait. Click on the image to go to the Falcon Down page on my website.