While Matt Chandler faces chemotherapy and radiation for his brain tumor, John Piper, one of Matt’s spiritual heroes [and mine] came to the Village Church and preached this sermon on suffering. It is magnificent. And it serves to remind me anew how great and good our sovereign God is, and how he is glorified in our response to suffering.
Hey. For anyone interested, there are some great deals going on at Heritage Books, including complete sets by Puritan writers. I would recommend Richard Sibbes, Jonathan Edwards, and anything by John Owen. I adore the works of the Puritans, and there are some steals here!
MGA.The Roots and Fruits of Discontent. Pastor Glen Forsberg.
The sermon seems to be a stand-alone of sorts, which is being used to address the marked state of personal discontent, why it exists, and how to rid oneself of it. Much of the text is taken from the book of Numbers, as well as from Ecclesiastes [more on that later] He begins by distinguishing the types of discontentment, one that is good and one that is bad. A good type of discontent would be the story of Martin Luther King, who was discontent about race relations, and because of that he changed the face of America. A bad type of discontent would be the Israelites grumbling in the desert that Moses delivered them so that they might die. He shares about how there are people who are never satisfied with what they have, and in their ingratitude they covet the material possessions of others. “Their needs are met, and yet they want more. You have water, but you want wine.” He charges that this is pure selfishness, and it is a chronic problem for some people.
Pastor Glen then gives the three roots of this discontentment. The first is mistrust of God. People are faced with circumstances and assumptions that lead to the conclusion that God does not exist, or does not care, or has abandoned them. [example being Aaron and the people building golden calf because they feel God has abandoned them] The second root of discontentment is because we mistrust our leaders. These might be parents, teachers, boss, government, church, etc. They’ve lost our trust, or perhaps have never had it, and we can’t acquiesce to authority figures. [Aaron and Miriam not trusting Moses and the fact that that his leadership was ordained by God] The third root is the attitude of entitlement. We think we deserve better, or we deserve to be where others are. An exmaple the pastor offers is that the opposite of entitlement is story of David vs Saul. David supports Saul, if not at least tacitly, so long as Saul was king, because David didn’t feel entitled to the throne, though he might make a better king.
He then gives four roots of entitlement.
1. Rebellion. This is as the sprit of witchcraft.
2. Futility. Which is the idea that nothing is good or worth living for. We are taught to believe that we are accidents, and there is no purpose in life or any true reason to live, and this makes us futile in our thinking.
3. Blame. When you are discontent and have an attitude of entitlement, you will look for someone to blame. He quotes Numbers 16:3 and talks about the saga of the rebellion of Korah, how people blamed Moses for God killing Korah and his people, an accusation which was wholly misdirected.
4. Death. This is a weird one. Pastor Glen says that the Israelites left wandering in the desert did not die from old age, but from complaining. He says that the only two people to make it into the promise land, Joshua and Caleb, did so because they did not complain.
The thing is that we don’t know why they died wandering, but we know what made them wander in the first place; lack of faith and trust in God. Joshua was 110 years old when he died, and so he was an old man sustained by the Lord through his travails. As such, Pastor Glen’s assertion is pure speculation. Nowhere do we read that anywhere. In fact, we know why Joshua and Caleb were allowed in the promise land.
“But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” Numbers 21-24.
And so I’m not sure what his point is. The reality is that Caleb and Joshua had faith and trust in the Lord and because of this they were rewarded. They did not despise the Lord, but rather had a different spirit about them. I will have to email him about this one, as I’m really not sure what he is trying to say.
To conclude, near the end he says that “The reason for mistrust is because you feel God has abandoned you, or that he doesn’t care. The reason for the attitude of entitlement is because you feel disadvantaged.” He says that the solutions is that we must trust God with our whole heart and not lean on our own understanding. What are other solutions to discontentment? Plant a new tree; the tree of life. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Honour your leaders and submit to the governing authorities. Care for the innocent, etc. Lastly, If there is a holy discontent in our lives, God is calling us to something. If it’s a ignoble discontent, we must repent of it.
I’ve been gone awhile, and I was fairly disheartened to have to return reviewing this sort of sermon. I just don’t understand the point of it. In a way it almost seemed like it was being used to address grumblers in the congregation. I don’t know if that’s true or not, and so I’m not going to speculate on why it was preached, but my impression from hearing many sermons of congregation rebuke was that a few of them may have been getting chastised. Again though, that’s just an impression I get. And such a sermon is not a bad one to preach. I’m just saying that’s what it seemed like. In any case, this sermon seemed to have little to do with the Gospel or with Jesus or really anything spiritual. It was almost like he was preaching self-help with a few biblical subtexts thrown in to make it legit and seem like he was giving the subject of discontentment a thorough biblical treatment. But it seems to me that he failed to identify the problem and failed to diagnose and treat the symptoms
Before I address that though, I want to call attention to one salient point. At one locus during the sermon he misquotes a bible verse. He means to say that a certain verses is located in Lamentations 3 and instead he quotes us Ecclesiastes 3. That’s not too big of a deal, as It’s not the end of the world and happens to everyone. But what really, really bothers me us that he then quotes some bible verses which I cannot find anywhere in the chapter. He says, verbatim:
“Ecclesiastes 3:22. [should read Lamentations 3] Because of the Lord’s great love, we are alive. His compassion never fails, they are new every morning. He does not willingly bring affliction or grief on the children of men, in verse 33. He says ‘I’m looking for a better day. I believe God’s going to lead us there’.”
That’s weird, because my bible says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23. I don’t know know if he had a bible in front of him, or if he was speaking extemporaneously and trying to rattle off the verses by memory, but the reality is that he butchered whatever piece of scripture he was trying to share there, either by ignorance or deceit. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt and not assume that he was being deceitful, and so the result unfortunately is a sloppy bit of preaching. From what he said, it seems that he has added some words, deleted others, and then alters the meaning. Furthermore he then tacks on verse 33 in a way that would seem to show that God does not bring pain or affliction on us. And yet that is what this whole chapter and book is about; God directly punishing his people.
Because of the way he has fused verses 22 and 23 with 33, it reads as if God is speaking words of protection and peace over us. And yet you read the chapter and even the book of Lamentations, and you see that the opposite is happening. God is humiliating the people and desiring that they see it as for their own good. God’s anger is burning, though thankfully it is only temporary, but for the moment his wrath is hot upon the people for their faithlessness and infidelities towards him. In Lamentations 43-45 we see that, when it says that God has pursued his people and has killed them without pity, so that his judgment might be thorough. He has wrapped himself in a cloud of his own anger towards his people and he has become silent towards him. And so when it says that the Lord “does not willingly afflict” that carries the literal meaning of “does not afflict from his heart.” God’s first instinct is not to punish, and in fact he does so only when his patience with sinners does not lead to their repentance.
In any case, that bothered me, and that needs to be addressed, because the scriptures did not say what he said it did. Thankfully, a little later on, he makes an excellent point, which is that “So many people feel entitled in our world today. Folks, but for the grace of God we would have nothing and be nothing. It’s because of the goodness of God that we have anything. And that we are something” This is very true, though he didn’t explain it at all, though this is a central key to this whole discontentment thing. Prior to the Lord reaching down and giving us faith and saving us we were children of wrath- objects of God’s wrath really, and we were lost and going to hell. If not for his grace and mercy and loving-kindness, we would have nothing and be nothing, and that’s why we are so thankful that he has saved us and given us faith and repentance. Unfortunately Pastor Glen doesn’t say that, but that is what ought to be communicated.
Why are we discontent? Because we are sinners. That’s it plain and simple. Every single person is discontent, and our only hope to lessen our own selfishness is to have Christ transform us through the long and hard process of sanctification. It’s that simple. We are children of Adam and we are fallen. That’s the root of it all. The problem is that we are not being satisfied in Christ. He is not our all, and we will always be discontent until the love and mercies and joys and blessings and discipline of Christ satisfies us. Because Christ is the source of all satisfaction and contentment, and that is where we always must go in order be restored and reconciled to God. People want more stuff because they are not satisfied by Christ’s goodness to give them a little bit of stuff in the first place. The Israelites wanted more and better food because they were not satisfied with the manna God gave them, nor were they thankful that every day they were being sustained by his hand. People are not happy with their job and are coveting other people’s because in their sin they fail to be pleased and satisfied and sufficiently grateful for the vocation God has given them, and instead seek to elevate themselves in their envy and pride by coveting another. People feel they are entitled, because they have forgotten the work that Christ has died for them on the cross which resulted in their salvation. They take it for granted, and they fail to worship him completely and totally for that. See what I’m saying? Why are people lonely? Because they are not being satisfied by Christ. Why are people hurting, and angry, and fearful, and whatever? Because they are not seeking the One who could satisfy every longing and craving and desire, and who desperately seeks to satiate. Everything is found in Christ, and the pursuit of him, and in the appreciation of him, and in the nearness and intimacy of him.
Root cause of discontent? Sin. Remedy for discontent? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is that though we try and fail and stumble and will never live up to the law and to his commands, and will continuously break his heart and wrong him, in his goodness he has died for us on the cross so that we might be forgiven all of that and live in right relationship with him. Going deeper, it’s recognizing that we were saved out of our wretchedness and declared righteous and holy, and in this life we have no one but him. So the ones who are angry and bitter; they need to lay down their weapons raised against God and rest in the goodness of his grace. Those who feel abandoned? Security in the one who sticks closer than a brother. Those who feel entitled; humbled by the immenseness and scope and importance of the work that was done on the cross by Christ, so that we might see that all we deserve is damnation. That’s all we’ve wrought. And the knowledge of that will make even the small kindness and blessing in his life seem like an impossibly generous gift, and will make the gift of eternal life and even more so.
The root of our entitlement is sin. The fruit is sin. The only solution worth hearing about is the Gospel applied to regenerated, born again believers, so that we might be sanctified into his likeness, by drawing close and finding our satisfaction in him. And so in light of that, I just don’t understand this sermon at all.
So while I was down in Plamondon my parents went to midnight mass at the Roman Catholic Church and I figured I would tag along. I’m not entirely sure why, as that is not something I would ordinarily do, but since we weren’t able to attend our own church service back in Fort McMurray I figured that we might as well check it out and be able to experience the small crumbs of the gospel, small as they might be. Within a few minutes though I found myself regretting being there. It wasn’t terrible, and it’s not like I couldn’t sit still and just sit back and enjoy parts of it, but just being there…contemplating the religious epistemological distinctives of the RCC as it relates to the faith of the attendees, and then eventually watching them taking the Eucharist with all the…theological shenanigans… that is represented therein, that was difficult. Not only that, but there was a prayer to Mary in the pamphlet which I was unable to copy down, but I remembered a few words from it and I’m almost positive this is it.
“O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke Thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let Your name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on You, for, in all my needs, in all my temptations, I shall never cease to call on You, ever repeating Your sacred name, Mary, Mary. O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fills my soul when I pronounce Your sacred name, or even only think of You! I thank God for having given You, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely pronouncing Your name; let my love for You prompt me ever to hail You, Mother of Perpetual Help. Amen”
As if that wouldn’t make me as crazy as a rat in a coffee can. On the plus side though, we got to recite the Nicene Creed. That’s always good.
I’ve been reflecting on them a lot lately, as I’m listening to a sermon/lecture/speaking session given by Perry Noble at his pastors conference where he delivered what was one of the most unbiblical and twisted messages I’ve ever heard from someone speaking to over 2000 pastors. For those who do not know, Perry Noble is a rockstar within the movement, and all the cool kids want to be like him. He is the senior pastor at Newspring Church, which is running over 10,000 now, and in the circles he swims in he is considered to be the next Rick Warren. Unfortunately the man is a spiritual totalitarian, is agonizingly theologically unsound, and has one of the worst proclivities towards scripture twisting I’ve ever seen. In any case, this was on my mind when the leadership team at the church I am currently attending has decided that they’re going to begin a several month-long trek through the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by seeker -sensitive pope Rick Warren himself, and wants the congregation onboard with them. Now it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I loathe seeker-sensitive stuff, and find many [if not most] of the current crop of seeker sensitive pastors to be fairly appalling and biblically illiterate/ purposefully deceitful in their biblical presentations of several theological matters, first and foremost which is the gospel.
What an interesting development…
Oh, and here is a clip from that Perry Noble talk I was referring to. The whole deal is about a million of these strung together. Enjoy!
This has been a bit of a weird Christmas for me, mainly due to the nature of my job. For the past several years I’ve been a night supervisor at a large office supply chain, and then for the first time this year, since my promotion, I’ve been a manager on the floor. This has caused a bit of disconnect for me because my main job- what my job is centered around, is to find ways to make people buy more stuff for Christmas. That’s what it essentially boils down to. I need to generate revenue, and so I am making sales, encouraging people to purchase add-ons, training my cashiers and sales staff on how to maximize profitability and utilize various sales tactics to get the most out of each person.
And I don’t mind that, as that’s my job and that’s the nature of the business, but it has resulted in not having a whole lot of time to sit and be silent and meditate on the true meaning of Christmas- that is the birth of my Savior. I don’t tend to get caught up in all the holiday buzz as a whole, and tend to maintain a quieter and more reverent appreciation for Christ in this time of consumerism and business, and yet this time I’m not sensing that. I want to. I want to be able to just…feel that slight implosion of heartache as I bring to bear the culmination of history in the Christ-child in my mind. Whenever I think of him and his promised coming, I desire to have my affections stirred up for him, and for the miraculousness of his birth.
And yet I’ve barely had time to even think about that. In fact, I missed advent completely this year. I feel like I’ve poured so much into being the best manager for my store and aiding people to spend while at the same time neglecting my own appreciation. I guess it boils down to this; I just haven’t thought a whole lot about Jesus lately. And it makes me sad that I haven’t. And I hope in the coming days I can do so, because I can’t stand my own faithlessness to consider him daily during the rest of the year, much less this time of the year.
Thoughts and Factoids on the Three Wise Men. Part 1
There has been a lot said about the three wise men who came to visit Jesus and bring him gifts soon after his birth. That scenario has been repeated over and over again, and we hear it in Christmas stories, Christmas songs, Christmas plays, and Christmas sermons. And yet there’s only one problem; much of it is myth and unsubstantiated. And so I decided to spend a week unpacking this to get behind the truth of the matter, coupled with some history and sacred imagination, to give a full, robust picture of what was happening and what God was doing through this event.
As it were, we tend to hear all sorts of different accounts of these people. Some say that they were kings and there were three of them. Others have said they are representatives of three families of Shem, Ham and Japeth, and that’s why in the pictures one of them is invariably dark-skinned and pictured as an Ethiopian. Some Christians have have given them the names of Caspar, Belthizar and Melchoir, while the ancient traditions of the Syrian Christians name the Magi Larvandad, Gushnasaph and Hormisdas. Some have claimed to recover their bones, as their three skulls are said to have been found in the twelfth century by the Archbishop of Cologne Rainald of Dassel. Since then, the shrine where the bones are supposedly located is above and behind the high altar of the Cologne Cathedral, and are there to this day.
Realistically though that’s just a lot of speculation, and we really have very limited facts and specifics about these men in addition to what we have here in Matthew, which is very limited in and of itself. What we have is thus; “There came wise men from the East.” That’s it. That’s pretty much the extent of what we know of them in a specific sense. And so to move beyond that we need to expand the picture a bit and look at the arc of history so that certain pieces can begin to fall in place.
For example, we know that they were members of an Eastern priestly group, descendant of a tribe of people originally associated with the Medes. [As stated by Herodotus] As it were, in the history of the world there have been four major world empires. The first was the Babylonian Empire, which was east of Israel in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates River. This was followed by the Medo-Persian Empire, which was a conglomerate empire made up of the Persians and the Medes. The third great world empire was Greece. [When the Medo-Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great the world became Greek] and the fourth great empire was the Roman Empire. And so while several world empires have come and gone, we see that the Medes and Persians were still around in the Babylonian Empire. The Magi are present in the book of Daniel, among other places, and we see them in the Roman Empire when Christ is born.
To go to the text, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king behold there came Magi.” The Magi were basically a pagan, priestly tribe of people, and we see that they were existing in Babylon as very high ranking officials. They had managed to ascend to high places in the Babylonian Empire because of their amazing intuition, wisdom, knowledge, astrology, occultic ability etc. They had risen to a place of prominence and so immediately they came into contact with all these Jewish people that had been brought into captivity during the exile and post-exillic period. They also came into contact with one very specific Jew by the name of Daniel who was elevated in the Babylonian Empire. Consequently, it would be highly unlikely that they wouldn’t have been made familiar with the dispersion of the Jews in Babylon with Jewish prophesy regarding the Messiah. They were made aware of what was really on the Jewish prophetic plan for this one who was to come.
To delve further into this and to set the scene for what happens Matthew 2, we see these influential Magi operating in the Babylonian Empire early on. In Jeremiah 39:3 and verse 13, a man by the name of Nergal-sharezer is mentioned. Nergal-sharezer, as it were, is the chief of the Magi in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. And so these oriental kings such as Nebuchadnezzar had elevated the Magi to the place of being the official advisers to the king, which would make them tremendously powerful people. And even when Babylon fell and the Medo-Persian Empire came in with great rulers like Cyrus and others you still have the high ranking officials of the Medo- Persian government being taken from this group called Magi, which would also make them unmatched in political power.
In Daniel Chapter 2 we’re in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is there, the Jews are in captivity in Babylon and it says, “The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician [Magi] or enchanter or Chaldean” [caste of Babylonian astrologers] . So here we find the word Magi. It’s not strictly the word magician, as that’s an English corruption, and you see that when you begin to try to translate it. In any case, we see that the Magi had a very prominent place at that time. They were known as those who could interpret dreams. Nebuchadnezzar had this bizarre dream and none of them could handle it, save Daniel. In Chapter 4 verse 7. We again see the Magi. “Then the Magi, the Enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the Astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.”
“At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods —and I told him the dream, saying, “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. ” Now here we meet the master of the Magi, of the chief of the magicians, who is Daniel. [Right now I'm rattling off some verses to show that the Magi are prominent and do play a role.]
Now when Daniel came along and all these Magi who were in the high ranking place of advisers to the king couldn’t give any answers, Daniel could, something amazing happened. Daniel 5:11, “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him:” talking about Daniel now, “Whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king I say, thy father made master of the Magi.” Now how interesting. Daniel was so adept at telling the dreams of the king that the king made Daniel the master of the Magi.
So Daniel was literally in Babylon and was the chief over this whole priestly group, which puts him in the tremendously unique position of being able to dispense to these Magi all of his information about the Old Testament which is safe to say that this is precisely what Daniel did. We know that Daniel was a man of God. We know that Daniel was a man totally devoted to worship and expression of his faith because he wound up in a lion’s den because of it, didn’t he? And there’s no question in my mind that Daniel and the other godly remnant in the diaspora of the dispersion shared their knowledge of the Old Testament and their copies of the Scripture with these people in Babylon. Additionally, when the final decree of Cyrus came that they could go back to the land the majority of the Jews never went back. The majority of the Jews stayed in Babylon, intermingled, intermarried and throughout the remaining history of Babylon and Medo-Persia there were people in the noble families, people in the high ranking offices, some say even monarchs in that part of the world who had part Jewish blood. And certainly we would have to conclude that Daniel had a profound impact in the dispensing of that information.
When Darius came to the throne he introduced Zoroastrianism, which the Magi absorbed, so now in the mess you have some Magi committed to Zoroastrianism as time went on, some of them committed to ancient magian formulas and some of them maybe believing honestly in their heart that the God of Daniel was the real God. And so this is the key as history moved on from here, the Magi began to depart from a singular commitment to their historic religion and they began to find their way into different things. Some of them may be leaning toward Zoroastrianism, some toward the ancient magianism, and I would posit that it is not unlikely at all that the Magi who showed up at the birth of Christ were really true seekers of the true God. I think that’s within the realm of possibility, considering the history. We have this idea that this Magi were complete pagans, but that very much is unsubstantiated. There is no reason why they would not have been true seekers and believers, and were in fact coming to see the Messiah.
So that’s one side of things. To further set the stage, politically speaking, Rome was scared of the eastern Empire. This Empire at the time was run by the Parthian Empire; which was made up of the Medes and the Persians and the old Babylonian territory. That Parthian Empire was always kind of an anxiety for Rome. Rome had stretched and expanded it’s borders but never really felt very secure about the Parthian Empire. And they had become violent enemies. And they fought. In 55 B.C. they fought and the Roman army lost 30,000 men. In 40 B.C. they fought again and another 24,000 were lost. There were tons of battles and skirmishes between them, and where did they always fight their battles? The great empire in the west, the great empire in the east came together and had it out right along the coast of the Mediterranean, Syria, Jordan, Palestine. In short, Israel. Israel was a little no-man’s land between the powers of the east and the powers of the west.
So Rome was incredibly wary of the Parthian Empire in the East during this time period, having lost many costly battles to them. And if you look at verse 3 of Matthew 2 it says, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled” Yeah. No kidding. Here come the powerful Magi who were the Parthian king-makers. The historian Strabo tells us that the Magian priests formed one of the two councils of the Parthian Empire and they held sway in choosing who would be the next king in the kingdom. So here come these men to arrive in Jerusalem, and to say that Herod was rattled is an understatement. Keep in mind too that while some of the Magi were honest and they exalted the craft of wisdom and political advice, some of them were corrupt and they prostituted it to anyone who could pay. [Simon Magus, Elymas the Sorcerer]. These were the kind of people that made the citizens of the Roman Empire despise such sorcerers. Philo the Roman historian calls the Magi “vipers” and “scorpions”. Pliny the elder calls their magic a “monstrous craft” And that was a sentiment that seems to have been carried by the general populace.
And so here they come asking about the King of the Jews, and it’s not difficult to see why Herod was troubled. As a note to that. the bible never says that there were three Magi. That is something that is assumed because they came with three gifts of an unnamed amount, and yet there may have been as little as two and as many as a thousand- there is no way to know for sure. Because of the nature of the travel and the distance and the supplies needed to travel from where they came, several thousand miles away, the picture of three elderly men alone on camels doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When these Persian king makers appeared in Jerusalem no doubt they were traveling in full force with all their oriental pomp and pageantry, as well armed and protected by the Persian cavalry who would have been there to oversee and protect them from bandits and others harms. So when they came charging into the city of Jerusalem and Herod peeked out his little palace window and saw them I’m sure he flipped.
These are powerful men and to make it worse historically at the time we know that his army was out of the country on a mission. And the Bible says Herod was troubled. I guess he was. Because Herod had a title, which was King of the Jews. He got it from Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus crowned him king of the Jews and for his troubles he got that little buffer state under his power and here he was in the middle of two huge contending empires. The Romans and the Parthians. And all of a sudden this massive cadre of Persians arrive in the city and he is panicked and they say we’re coming to find the new king. Now at this time Herod was close to death. And Caesar Augustus was really old and hanging by a thread. And since the retirement of Tiberius the Roman army didn’t even have a commander-in-chief. And they knew that this would be an ideal time for the East to bring an Eastern war against the West, and so yeah, again, you bet Herod was troubled and agitated and probably freaked right out. And that’s where things get really interesting.
For those who do not know, two of the biggest Christian influences in my life have been John Piper and Matt Chandler. Several years ago John Piper was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he wrote this piece entitled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”
Here’s the outline:
You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
I think of this in light of the fact that Matt Chandler was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour and had an operation to remove it, and it seems initially that the doctors were unable to remove all of it. He has written several pieces about his journey through this trial, and you can search them out, but I think of Piper’s piece, and I wanted to share those salient points to remind everyone that God is good and faithful, regardless of the situation.
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
Seeing as it is Christmas time, I thought I would offer up a new Paperthin Hymn for the festivities. The words are by English hymn writer Issac Watts based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts’ collection; The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. Watts wrote the words of “Joy to the World” as a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a Christmas song celebrating his first coming as a babe born in a stable.
As far as this version of the song goes however, this was from our friends at Sojourn Music who specialize in putting contemporary music to old hymns. In this case, it is from their Advent Songs album. And it is fantastic. As a whole I’m not big on Christmas songs. I mean I like them well enough, but other than “What Child Is This” I tend not to care for the tunes very much, and so this has been a real blessing to find something that sounds pleasant to me. I’ve been playing it over and over, and it’s a good song to mellow out to and have in the background playing. From a theological perspective, I think it’s bang on. There is such a sense of…celebratory triumphantness in Christ being here and being present, though it is somewhat difficult to think of it as a Christmas hymn celebrating the birth of Christ when I know that’s not why it is written. In any case though, it is wonderful and I hope you enjoy.