Hope As A Character Trait (Roberts)

This is one of those books that I’ve underlined or highlighted parts of almost every page: Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues. It’s a discussion of how Christian ethics and emotions overlap and relate. I’ll come back to the book again, no doubt. For now, here’s a nice note on Christian hope – it’s a good topic for us to think about today! Think about this for awhile:

Real spiritual hope is not a matter of feeling hopeful now and then, when circumstances are looking up, even if the thought that goes with that hope is that we are due to share the glory of God. It is not real, spiritual hope if, for example, you feel it only in church, with the help of the vaulted ceiling, the unctuous preaching of Easter, and the resounding chords of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” The hope needs to be a character trait, and a character trait has to be characterized by “endurance” [Rom. 5:1-5] – by the ability to feel the emotion even in situations that don’t seem very propitious for it. This feature of the apostles’ spirituality was evident in their ability to rejoice even when, by worldly standards, things were going rather badly for them; they were not easily discouraged. And Paul suggests that Christians are (or should be) reflective enough about spiritual development to know that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and thus to rejoice in their sufferings on that account as well.

Robert C. Roberts, Spiritual Emotions, p. 17.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Music Monday: All Thou Art Is Mine (Toplady)

On this edition of Music Monday, I want to share Augustus Toplady’s hymn called “Divine Aid.” I didn’t have time this morning to find a tune that fits – although I’m sure they’re out there. Anyway, here’s the wonderful hymn. May it give you Christian comfort and hope today!

1 The power of hell, the strength of sin,
My Jesus shall subdue:
His healing blood shall wash me clean,
And make my spirit new.

2 He will perform the work begun,
Jesus, the sinner’s friend;
Jesus, the lover of his own,
Will love me to the end

3 No longer am I now afraid,
The promise shall take place,
Perfect his strength in weakness made:
Sufficient is his grace.

4 When thou dost in my heart appear,
And love erects its throne;
I then enjoy salvation here,
And heaven on earth begun.

5 Lord, I believe and rest secure,
In confidence divine;
Thy promise stands for ever sure,
And all thou art is mine.

Augustus M. Toplady, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady, vol. 6 (London; Edinburgh: William Baynes and Son; H. S. Baynes, 1825), 417.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Mercy Tree (Sturm)

Mercy Tree

For Music Monday today, I wanted to point out a song that’s been a blessing to me for my Christian walk: “Mercy Tree.” I’m familiar with Lacey Sturm’s rendition of it on the album “My Hope”. This song is a brief and straightforward proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection – and the hope we have in this gospel. It’s also worth mentioning that as a teenager Lacey was a committed atheist. Her life was quite dark and full of pain to the point that she had planned to commit suicide. But God – through her grandma! – had other plans for her life. Long story short: now Lacey is sharing the hope of the gospel through music. Speaking of, here’s the song “Mercy Tree”:

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broken weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole
Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation by the mercy tree

In the spot between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
Sacred head pierced by our thorns
It is finished was His cry
The perfect lamb was crucified
His sacrifice, our victory
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth quaked at love’s display
Three days silent in the ground
This body born for heaven’s crown
On that bright and glorious day
When heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed!
Praise Him for the mercy tree!

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

One day soon, we’ll see His face
And every tear, He’ll wipe away
No more pain or suffering
Praise Him for the mercy tree

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

Amen!

(Lacey Sturm, “Mercy Tree”)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

No More Tears, No More Reproach (Smith)

 I’ve been enjoying Gary Smith’s Isaiah commentary in the “New American Commentary” series.  I haven’t read it all, but so far so good!  This morning when studying Isaiah 25 I was looking at verse 8, which says this: “…he [Yahweh] will swallow up death forever.The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.The Lord has spoken” (NIV).

Here’s Smith’s helpful commentary:

…When God rules over his kingdom, death will have no power over people in this new world.

As if that were not enough, God also promises the removal of all tears. This includes tears shed when people die, but certainly also tears of oppression, sickness, pain, disappointment, loneliness, rejection, military defeat, financial trouble, and other kinds of loss. All these experiences will be obsolete in God’s kingdom.

Finally, God’s removal of the reproach of “his people” (ʿammî 25:8b) should not be interpreted as a specific reference to removing Israel’s reproach of the exile, for at this point all people (ʿam, “people,” is used in 25:3, 6, 7, 8) in God’s kingdom are his people. When people are reproached they are objects of derision, mockery, shame, and humiliation by others. These evil actions will not be experienced any longer. If the enemies of God are defeated, there will no longer be people to give a reproach, and there will be no sinful people who will deserve to be reproached. This paragraph ends (25:8b) with the affirmation that God has declared that this is what will happen; thus, one can know that all these statements are true.

Gary Smith, Isaiah, (The New American Commentary), Isaiah 25:8.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Light, Peace, Hope, and a King! (Smith)

  After studying and working through Isaiah 9:2-7, I appreciate how Gary Smith summarizes these verses in the “theological implications” section of his commentary.  FYI these verses in Isaiah 9 talk about a “shadow-of-death” kind of darkness that God shines his light into, which brings joy, victory, and peace.  This prophecy also speaks about a son born to God’s people who will rule on David’s throne with justice and righteousness forever and ever.  Here are Smith’s comments:

This message of hope functions as a reassurance that God’s previous promises to the Davidic dynasty will be fulfilled in spite of all the terrible, dark circumstances the nation faced in the time of Ahaz. Light, joy, the end of war, and a new, righteous, Davidic ruler empowered by God himself will replace the gloom that surrounded the nation in the middle of the Syro-Ephraimite War. This hope was an encouragement to Isaiah and his faithful followers to continue speaking about the things of God, even if most people would not listen or understand (6:10–11).

God’s promise to bring peace and justice to this world through the Messiah is also an encouraging message that people can share today, because the political situation in modern times is sometimes about as dark and hopeless as in the days of Isaiah. This good news offers another opportunity for rebellious people to turn from trusting in political alliances, mediums, and the spirits of the dead because God is their only true source of hope. Neither Ahaz nor any modern political figure can ever hope to bring about an era of perfect peace and justice. Only God’s wonderful plans will bring about these ideals, not the plans of Ahaz (8:10) or any other fast talking politician. God’s promises will only be accomplished through his chosen messianic ruler, so placing trust in any other solution is folly.

Gary Smith, The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI