No diadem adorns,
Save for a crown of thorns.
No mirth or joyful song,
Drowns out the jeering throng.
The crowd sits cruelly by,
Only to watch Him die.
They gnash their teeth on Him,
While He yet prays for them.
‘Father, their sins forgive.’
‘I die that they might live.’
A soldier looking on,
With all his doubts now gone.
The One upon the tree,
Was who He claimed to be.
He falls down on his face,
He owns his deep disgrace.
‘When you prayed on the tree,’
‘Were you praying for me?’
Soon his questions all cease,
He sees the prints of peace.
Tim Keller is right. Jesus is the “true and better.” This is the way that we should be reading the Scriptures. We should always have one eye turned toward the Son in the hope that the brightness of the glory … Continue reading
Those who know me or are regular readers of this blog know that I am committed to the practice of “Christ-centered preaching”. Strangely, there are numerous Christian ministers who do not think this a wise approach. For them, it just isn’t enough. My contention is that the “preaching of the cross” while foolishness, is wiser than the folly of men. While it is a stumbling-block to the recalcitrant rebel, it the cornerstone of true life. It is the power of God unto salvation. It is enough. It is enough because it is everything.
(This is an article written by my dear friend, Rev. Rick Brown of Pearl, MS. This is taken from a transcript of a recent sermon. The concept set forth here is very thought provoking. Read it with joy.)
My wife loves Legos. She says the words, “I love Legos,” every time a Lego commercial comes on television. For fifteen years, I have heard her confess countless times that she loves Legos.
Not surprisingly this year, for Christmas, Jessica bought Faith, our ten year old daughter, a Lego set. I questioned Jessica’s motives in buying that Lego set. I wonder if she bought it for her daughter or for herself.
Actually, I think her motives were pure. The proof of it came on Christmas evening.
We eat Christmas supper at our house instead of lunch. I kept telling Jessica that she might had better get the dressing started, and get the pies on because the turkey and ham I was smoking would be done in a few hours. Guess what kept her from getting up? Legos.
An hour passed…
“The turkey and ham will be done in a couple of hours, Jess. How much time do you need to mix those pies and bake that dressing?”
“Oh! I’ll get it in minute.”
But just she sat there with Faith constructing a veritable Lego City.
Another hour passed. They’ve not even taken a restroom break!
“Have you put that dressing on?”
“I’m going to do it in just a minute.”
But I listened from another room as she and Faith laughed and talked and built wondrous things from Legos. Every once in a while, little Aden or Hope (our two youngest) would hover about them and marvel at their creation and the fun they were having together making it. Laughter, cooperation, sharing, loving conversation, and more laughter filled the house as those two forgot about the whole world, and thought of nothing but the joy of sharing this time together.
This warmed my heart enough that I chose to interrupt them no further. That we eat Christmas supper on time seemed of so little importance to me suddenly. There was something divine about that event. Something otherworldly. Something that puts you in mind of what heaven must be like.
It has since occurred to me that I was looking into a mirror darkly beholding a small measure of the joy the three members of the Triune Godhead eternally enjoy. This event depicted, as much as anything in the universe can, something of what it must have been like when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked together on their favorite project–man.
“Let us make mankind in our own image, in our likeness… male and female created he them… and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:26-31).
Just as a home consists of three person types- The Father, The Mother and the Children, so does God consist of three persons, The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.
God does not say here, “Let us make A man in our image and so he made the male.” No, he says, “Let us make mankind in our image and he made male and female.” That male and that female living together would have children and they together constituted the image of the three personed God.
The Home is God’s fullest manifestation of his own nature. To all of creation God says, “Do you want to know what I have always been like? Look at the happy human home.”
You see, God has never, nor will he ever BE lonely. God has always had within himself a warm, happy home- an infinitely happy home. He has always enjoyed the most perfect, the most fulfilling relationships any being could ever HOPE to experience. He does not need ANYTHING outside of the Trinity. God has never needed ANYTHING.
God has perfect contentment and joy within himself- the three persons of the Trinity fellowshipping and loving one another in perfect harmony.
This means that bearing the image of God has more to do with how we relate to one another than it has to do with how we dress, what music we listen to, what we watch on TV or any other thing we do to be holy as individuals.
This is why Jesus went to the cruel cross. Just hours before he laid himself down as a sacrifice for us, he prayed this prayer recorded in John 17:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
You will not find a verse of Scripture in the entire Bible that says that Jesus came to save you from hell. That’s not why he came. That’s not his MOTIVE in coming. Thank God he DOES save us from hell, but that’s not what moved him, motivated him to come to the world.
He came that we might experience the glory that he has always experienced in the presence of the Father. He saved us so that we might be one, just as he and his Father are one.
That was the purpose of creation.
In Genesis one, after each thing that God made was made, he sits back and declares, “It is good.” He made the light and he said, “It is good.” He made the seas and the skies and he said, “It is GOOD.” Over and over again, God makes something, beholds it and declares, “It is good.”
Do you know what God said after he made the first man? Genesis 2:18 tells us. It says, “And the Lord God said, ‘It is NOT good…’” The male human being was the first thing God made in his universe that, when he stepped back and beheld it, he had to conclude, “It is not good.” AND ALL THE LADIES SAID?
Read the rest of the verse. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone. I will make an help meet for him.’” I like the way the New Living Translation puts it, “I will make a helper JUST RIGHT FOR HIM.” It is not good, God said, that the creature which was designed above all else to bear his image should be alone. Then God made Eve and put them together. God performed the first wedding ceremony. And God told them, “Multiply and fill the earth…” And at the end of the sixth day, having made and married Adam and Eve and having told them to begin a family together, God looks at his creation, his finished product with the united image bearers as its crowning achievement, and he comes to this conclusion recorded in Genesis 1:31: “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
Did you catch that? Light and the baby blue sky were just good. The stars that glittered like diamonds against the velvet firmament were just good. The majestic eagle soaring the heights and the massive blue whale spouting rainbows high into the sunlit air were just… good. The snow-capped mountains and the white sandy beaches were just good. But of the human home God said, “It is VERY GOOD!” The home was the crowning achievement of God’s whole creation.
To know best what God is like, never look to one person- no matter how great and godly that person may be. To know what God is like, visit a happy home. It was never one man who bore God’s image. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN WHEN PEOPLE COME TOGETHER IN GREAT LOVE AND JOY THAT GOD HAS BEEN MOST CLEARLY SEEN.
With that in mind I charge you to put your home where God puts it- above everything else in the world. I charge you to love each other and your children as God the Father has always loved God the Son and God the Son and Spirit have always loved God the Father. Let your home be what God made it to be- a reflection of himself- the glory of the joy of the love each member of the Trinity has for each other. May people visit your home and say, “So this is what God is like!”
The second best thing that bears the image of God, is his Church. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples (ones who have mimic me) that you have love one toward another.” May the church be one, even as the Father and the Son are one. And when a visitor leaves that church service, may he say, “So this is what God is like.”
With folded wings they cover their faces;
Those sinless sons of light.
The Terror of Kings, whose glory displaces,
Sits robed in consummate might.
Echoing praise declares His dominion,
Through earth, and sky, and sea.
The Ancient of Days in heaven’s pavilion,
Surrounded in mystery.
The threshold moved at the voice of the throng,
The house was filled with smoke.
His holiness proved through antiphonal song,
By the Three-fold word they spoke.
Trembling I stand, my words nearly falter,
‘I am undone! Unclean!’
But coals in his hand from God’s burning altar,
Now claim my lips for the King.
I arose and went down where the potter I found,
Quietly spinning his wheel.
With determined passion, those skilled hands did fashion,
A vessel shaped by his will.
He personally sought the clay that was brought,
He dug each piece from the earth.
His heart had designed it before his hands mined it,
His handprints gave it true worth.
But the clay was so hard that the vessel was marred.
Surely he’ll throw it away.
But he held it steady until he was ready,
His masterpiece to display.
‘It often takes pressure to mold priceless treasure,’
‘I know how much it can stand.’
‘I’ll press it to make it. The pressure won’t break it.’
‘It’s never out of my hand.’
And then through the clamor I heard a voice stammer,
‘I’m misshapen; worthless, bent.’
‘Such great condescension and patient attention,’
‘Deserves more for what was spent.’
A gracious word spoken consoling the broken,
‘So what? I’ll make you again.’
‘If ever you should slip, I’ll still hold firm my grip,’
‘Willing once more to begin.’
‘Once more around the wheel to bend you to my will,’
‘Once more through the fire you’ll go.’
‘Then beautifully varnished with glory untarnished,’
‘My handiwork you will show.’
The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. ~Solomon
And sometimes a proud old soldier
Who had heard songs of the ancient heroes
And could sing them all through, story after story,
Would weave a net of words for Beowulf’s
Victory, tying the knot of his verses
Smoothly, swiftly, into place with a poet’s
Quick skill, singing his new song aloud While he shaped it, and the old songs as well –
Men should once again learn to write and love poetry. In previous millennia, poetry was overwhelmingly a male passion. Your manhood would have been questioned if you did not share in the longing for a metrical weave of words. But what has happened? Why do most modern men hate poetry? Why is poetry now largely considered the domain of effeminacy?
Certainly part of the blame falls to that romantic sentimentalism still prevalent in much poetry. That might naturally and rightly turn some men away. After all, most modern men only come into contact with that “poetry” found in greeting cards, and I can’t imagine Beowulf or King David chanting “love is a flower” while scraping the residue of dried blood from underneath their fingernails. Sentimentalism, however, can’t be the only culprit. Even if you show some men less-sentimental poetry, they don’t have the stomach for it.
Perhaps it’s the ghoulish introspectionism of so much modern poetry. Today you can’t crack open a poetry anthology without being suffocated by self-absorbed poems prating on about dysfunctional families and self-inflicted loneliness. It would be nice if men were repelled by most sorts of introspectionism, but in fact our psychological century loves it. That sort of poetry should draw more moderns, not less. And the men who are all chest and no soul – aliens to any self-reflection – need to read more of that warrior David’s poetry. There we often find an introspectionism that would willie those marble men who are repelled by any second-guessing.
I think the main culprit is modernity itself. Modernity and beauty simply don’t mix. Pragmatism and an industrial-sized busyness denigrate everything that can’t squeeze out of a calculator. And the first thing to die under such circumstances is a passion for beauty. For those trying desperately to jump over moving hurdles, pursuing beauty is just foolishness. Men are still those most involved with the machinery of modernity, but the point applies equally to those women who share that passion for urban busyness. And it’s even more wasteful and inefficient if the poets seem to be intentionally mysterious at times, twisting tenses and mumbling meters. We just don’t have the time for poetry; beauty isn’t useful, we say, until we’re in our eighties, when many finally reflect and realize that beauty was truly essential to a good life that has now slipped by.
Why did such a powerful warrior like David hear and write poetry? He had a passion for beauty – a passion for Jehovah, for life, for creation, for friends, for enemies. Simple prose couldn’t contain such a life. There is too much to be said, and the engineer’s syntax can’t capture it. David even with all his sin was a man after God’s own heart, and we need to learn to find that heart. Poetry is a place to start.
One of the consequences of pursuing good poetry is humility. This occurs in a number of ways. When reading excellent poets, we often find ourselves standing before a master craftsman who can combine phrases like the most intricate jewelry or wood-inlayed chest. In the best, we find natural and disciplined talent which will never flow from our own hearts. God does not give His gifts to everyone, and we are to rejoice in that and marvel at those whom He has raised up.
But more importantly, the good poet is the keenest observer of detail. He notices patterns in people and nature which we easily overlook. He gives us metaphors which bring disparate items together in a way that delights and reminds us of the important things in life. But poetry isn’t just for the expert elite. Everyone should take part in this expression of the cultural mandate.
Everyone, especially leaders, should seek to be keen observers of creation and the image of God. We can’t be good stewards if we don’t know the patterns around us. Wisdom demands it. If so, then it takes discipline to pursue beauty. Don’t let a day go wasting by without engaging beauty, especially poetry.
So if you hate poetry or don’t have the time or are just indifferent, consider that this might be symptomatic of some deep failure in you instead of in the poetry. And then, don’t just admit to the failure and go on hanging your head. Hunt for beauty. Track it down. A passion for beauty certainly is characteristic of those great men in the past whose lives were characterized as after God’s own heart. Remember David’s psalms and Beowulf’s celebrations, full of life and faithfulness. What tragedy to be the unpoetic, dry modern at a feast where,
Hrothgar’s hall resounded with the harp’s
High call, with songs and laughter and the telling
Of tales, stories sung by the court
Poet as the joyful Danes drank
And listened. . . .