HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018

In the Book of Revelation, chapter 22, verses 20 and 21 read as follows:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Reading these words so soon after the celebration of Jesus’ birth I am reminded of the words written in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the prophet says:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder: and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end ….

The Child Jesus was born long after Isaiah made this prophesy, yet the Child born in a stable was the same Person Isaiah prophesied would be born.  The Child laying in the manger was the same Person the Apostle John wrote about when he penned the words quoted above from Revelation 22:20-21.

John was one of Jesus’ disciples. He knew that Jesus had been crucified and died.  In fact, he was standing at the cross when Jesus told him to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother. And, even before he wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book in our Bible, John knew that Jesus rose from the dead and had ascended to Heaven, our Savior and King.  He also had confidence that Jesus would come again as He had promised. John 14:3.

So, what is Isaiah saying when he said that the government will be upon this Child’s shoulder?

The US Capital Building
U. S. Capitol Building

For us, the concept of government does not necessarily carry connotations of security or permanence. Not only do we have elections with the associated change of personnel, there are upheavals in governments all over the world with various groups fighting for control.  On top of that we have numerous allegations of sexual assault leveled at high government officials, with multiple investigations undertaken that seem to overwhelm the news cycle each day. Permanence and righteousness in government is hard to find these days. So, what is the Scripture saying here

The Hebrew word translated in Isaiah 9:6 as government is transliterated as misrah which, according to Strong’s Number reference, has a Hebrew definition of “dominion” and it comes from a root word which means “to rule”.  We understand that someone who rules, governs. But when “dominion” is incorporated into the meaning of “rule”, an entirely different picture is created.

The Reformation Study Bible says that these words in Isaiah 9:6-7 mean that “He will carry the burden of rule and authority.”

The Scripture allows for no change. Full dominion and authority will be Christ’s.  Isaiah does not say that He might rule for some period … His ruling dominion will not end. Whatever needs to be done, will be done. He has absolute supremacy in all things.

What does this mean? Simply put, it means that this Ruler can handle whatever is happening in your life, because He is in absolute control.

Who will be doing this ruling?   It is the Child for whom sovereignty is just one of His divine attributes.  It is the Child who was born in the stable and who was wrapped in swaddling cloths.  It is the Child who has incredibly wonderful, powerful names:

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 The Christian knows this Child by the name of Jesus.

The One who heals the sick. The One who takes our sins and burdens. The One who carried a cross and endured its torture and shame on our behalf.   If you don’t know this Child, Jesus Christ, please take time at the beginning of this new year to seek Him and respond to the Holy Spirit’s quickening of your heart — believe in and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

The concluding verses of Revelation 22 say:

Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

Revelation 22:20-21.

As we look forward to 2018, may we pray along with Henri J. M. Nouwen:

“Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear Your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of Your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence. We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To You we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Father, we come to the close of the year 2017 and think back of all that You in your providence gave to us, and we thank You for your presence and support in both the blessings and the difficulties.  We look forward to 2018, a year that is as fresh and clean as new fallen snow.  While we don’t know what will happen, we can face the unknown with confidence because You are in control, and we know that Jesus will one day come again, but this time it will be in power and glory.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

 

THE FEAR OF GOD

When we were in England, we visited a number of cathedrals and were amazed at the exquisite details in the construction and decoration of each of them.

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Bath Cathedral, Bath, England

The exteriors of the cathedrals had a focal point, upward to the sky as if the very building was praising God in prayer and thanksgiving.

canterbury-side-view
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

 

Even the walls of the cathedrals evidenced exquisite workmanship and beautiful detail.

canterbury-wood-carvings-adorning-the-walls
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Carved woodwork adorning the walls of the Cathedral.

 

The church in Canterbury was established when Saint Augustine was sent as a missionary in 597 A.D.  In the town of Canterbury, there has been daily worship of God for over 1,400 years.  Just think about that for a moment! 

The original cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. Although there have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, parts of the Quire or Choir, which is the area between the nave and sanctuary in a cathedral, and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.

canterbury-stained-glass-windows
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Stained glass windows. They were removed and sequestered for safety during World War II and reinstalled when the war ended.

See the Canterbury Cathedral’s website for more detailed information on this glorious church.  https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/history/cathedral-history-in-a-nutshell/

We came to the entrance of the cathedral property and walked through this gate.  At first I thought this was the church … then I realized it was “just” the gate to the property.  Even this aspect of the cathedral was designed and constructed with an emphasis on the heavens.

canterbury-the-archway-into-the-church-property
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Arched gate into the Cathedral property.

 

Why go to all this trouble in creating such glorious buildings in which to worship God?  Why do all this incredible craftsmanship during a period of time when people were living in far less sturdy structures?  Why do this at all?

I suggest that these folks had a right understanding of the “fear of the Lord”. 

Scripture has much to say about learning and fearing God.   See for example the following passages in the Old Testament:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,…”

Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

Psalm 111:10 ESV

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

So, what does it mean to fear God?  One definition of “fear” is, of course, to be afraid, to be in terror when we face God.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

The justified person, the believer in Jesus Christ, is not afraid of God, rather God is his Father and fear is washed away.  Paul wrote this to his spiritual son, Timothy:

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

But we are still admonished to “fear the Lord”, so if we are justified by Christ, what does it mean?

“Fear” when used in this context references our actions of “reverence” and “worship”.  We are to “be in awe of” Him and we are to “honor” Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 1:7 ESV

The note on Proverbs 1:7 in the Reformation Study Bible says, in part:

The fear of the Lord is the only basis of true knowledge.  This fear is not distrustful terror of God but rather the reverent awe and worshipful response of faith to the God who reveals Himself as the Creator, the Savior and the Judge.   

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the majesty of His creation?

yosemite-2011-wrm-126-waterfalls-and-river-c
Yosemite National Park, waterfall and river.

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the detail of the small baby, a child created in the image of God?

baby-girl-1-month-old
One month old baby girl.

Has your spirit ever soared when entering a place of worship as you anticipate spending time with your Savior and God in worship?

canterbury-cathedral-view-of-the-altar-area
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Interior of Cathedral looking at the altar area of the church.

Have you considered our Savior God who sent His only Son to die for your sins?  Have you thanked Him today, even this moment, for such love, grace and mercy?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Unfortunately, our culture has forgotten this precept.  We have instead turned to human philosophy and social engineers.  We have created a generation of children who have turned to Hollywood or the Internet for their heroes and role models.  The fantasy world of television and movies, with computer generated special effects, has become the reality that our youth crave.  Young and old alike seek thrills and/or escape by turning to drugs and alcohol.   We kill children without batting an eye, while we worry about the spotted owl or the snail darter fish.  

Scripture does not change – its teachings are true and they are timeless.  Thousands of years ago, God stated that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.   It was true then, and it is true today. 

I believe that those building the cathedrals were honoring God and creating a place of worship that was a physical representation of the glory and magnificence due Him in worship. 

Note that I am not saying that all churches need to be this elaborate.  Nor am I ignoring the role that the Popes or other “leaders” likely played in desiring a place of magnificence for his own benefit. 

What I am saying is that we, even in our “modern” age, need to have a holy fear of our God.  It is a heart issue, not an architectural one.  We should give God the reverence, awe and honor to which He is due.  In short, He is not the “Big Guy in the Sky”.  He is our Creator, Sustainer and Savior … He is our Father and our God.

 

Father, forgive me when I have not given You the reverence that You deserve.  Let my heart sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” throughout the day and let my praise to You be last on my lips as sleep overcomes me.  May I love You and glorify You in all things.