Delight

Psalm 37.4The noun delight has its origin in the 13th century.  It is defined as “a high degree of gratification”.  The French origin of the word points up the fact that it is a fairly intimate word.  Psalm 37.4 reads, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

I would guess that many of us have a very difficult time relating to this verse.  We live in a world that knows neither love nor hatred by the physical evidence in front of them (see Ecclesiastes 9.1-2).  Asaph pined away about witnessing the prosperity of the wicked during his life (Psalm 73).

But as the song writer penned, “If I could see beyond tomorrow as God does see…”  Our problem truly rests in the fact that we find a high degree of gratification in all the wrong things.  Our desires are tethered to all the wrong things.  If desire is tethered to time and the sensate experiences of life, we simply have the wrong desires.  It’s hard to convince myself and others that this is positively true.

Psalm 37.4 tells us to delight ourselves in the LORD.  This is a responsibility that we must meet, or we will become unsatisfied with life.  Psalm 81.10 has the clear directive of our LORD:  “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”  Nobody else is able to fill us but our Creator.  Feed on His faithfulness (Psalm 37.3b).

Think of Heaven.  The souls who have gone before us are indeed happy and care-free.  If eternal life is something we enjoy now (and it is), then we ought to bring a little delight from Heaven into our world today.  Don’t live below the position and privilege that you have in Christ as God’s dear child.  Heaven is to you an everlasting possession.  Find a high degree of gratification in the LORD.  Once you do, you will have the desires of your heart …all of them.

Gaining Christ

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Nothing wins in life like gaining Christ.  Self-righteousness is repugnant to God, but the righteousness which is from God by faith is an unsurpassed excellence.  We count all things loss for this excellence.  We count all things as rubbish in comparison with gaining Christ.  Nothing wins in life like gaining Christ.

What is mean by knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection in Philippians 3.10?  This power is certainly found in the fact that the death of Christ is an incomplete story.  Jesus offered up His life’s blood for us.  He then appeared in the presence of God for us as the resurrected Christ (Hebrews 9.24).  If He is not risen, His work is not finished.  But He is and it is (John 19.30).  He was delivered up to death with a view toward our offense;  He was raised from the dead with a view toward making us right before the Father (Romans 4.25).  “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8.34).

The power of His resurrection gave entrance for the Spirit to indwell and empower the believer.  Jesus said that it was to our advantage that He went away. If He had not, the Helper would not have come to us.  But He departed, and He sent the Helper to us (John 16.7).  We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Promised One (Acts 2.38-39).  “Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14.9).

The power of His resurrection will exalt us to glory.  “By man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15.21).  Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14.2-3).  “The forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever” (Hebrews 6.20).

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection is experiential and relational knowledge.  The resurrection of Christ establishes the foundation of faith.  It is one thing to read about faith, it’s another to experience it.  Do you have a faith that overcomes the lusts of the flesh?  Do you have a faith that draws you close to God?  Do you have a faith that moves you to delight in those things in which God delights?  If you do, you are experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection quickens hope.  Hope comes to those who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.  You ride out the storms of doubt, trial, and adversity.  You keep dependent in times of prosperity.  You trust in the LORD.  You know your sinfulness, but you also know the power of His blood.  You know your weakness, but you also know the sufficiency of His grace.  You are confident of this very thing:  that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phiippians 1.6).

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection transforms temporal life into eternal life.  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.13).  This hope-filled, eternal quality of life paves the way for temporal suffering within the sphere of joy and peace.  Only the hopeful are able to enter into the sufferings of Christ.  The power of His resurrection carries us through the fellowship of His sufferings.

 

Cancer: Six Years and Counting

imageI wrote this from my hospital bed the day after I was diagnosed with cancer.  Each Memorial Day I remember many battles that I never fought.  I didn’t really fight this one either.  The Lord fought it for me.  Thankful to be here.

 
“Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?” (Isa 10.15a)

 
It is difficult to find balance in life without an understanding that God is always good to His children. I garner comfort from the fact that not everything is left to chance or the sheer willpower of human ingenuity and exertion.

 
On one hand, I would find myself fairly miserable if everything found its end on the temporal plains; on the other hand, in times of great prosperity, I am tempted to forget God and grow overly confident in the very abilities He Himself has given me. So, whether in adversity or prosperity, the tendency is to presume upon God.

 
The Assyrian emperor Sennacherib is the epitome of one who thinks too highly of himself and his abilities. God greatly humbled this man’s army by sending a single angel to destroy 185,000 of his men. When Sennacherib returned home after the defeat, he was killed by his two sons.

 
As Christians we face a powerful enemy that thinks too highly of himself. He resembles Sennacherib because he himself infused the emperor with his own deceitful power. Yet God used this evil emperor’s actions to punish his own children. God has even allowed our own persecution, infused by satanic energy, to accomplish corrective and purifying measures in us. God allows illness like cancer to accomplish the same purpose.

 
During the time in which Sennacherib ruled, he was greatly feared because he was a well-used pawn of the devil. However, Sennacherib was a deluded man. He thought that he moved under the power and wisdom of none other than himself. This is why pride is so unbecoming when found in a believer. It is devastating to think of times when as an ax I boasted against the very One who chopped away with such a blunt and dull instrument! A realization of my need of Him sharpens my ability to serve Him. Apart from this knowledge, I face the great tragedy of presuming upon God.

 
Sennacherib was used of God to accomplish His will, but in a single night he was left devastated by an unseen enemy. When what we deem ‘good’ and ‘bad’ comes our way in life, it is always good to recognize the hand of God. I am relatively certain Sennacherib never did. That’s what makes his life such a tragedy.

 
God has allowed it all for our good. He gives and takes away; nonetheless, blessed be His name. If we are given the pleasant meadow of success, we must acknowledge the hand of God. If we are given the treacherous mountain paths, we still must acknowledge His hand behind it.

 
I would gladly take the trial of the siege Jerusalem faced over the temporal triumph of an evil emperor. There is great spiritual benefit in every adversity we face. We just need ears to hear and eyes to see. We stumble and struggle, but when we enter into an eternal relationship together as a church with our Lord Jesus Christ, we see the true end of man. I’d take that struggle over blissfully moving forward in life unaware of the pending judgment ahead of me.

 
I need not ask the question, “Is this cancer a good thing or a bad thing?” It’s all good! Why? Because God is using it to draw me to Himself. I’m hopeful that He will even use my illness to draw others closer to one another and closer to Him. If we fix our sights on the below things, will not God send what is needed to help us clearly see above things once again? Yes, if He loves us, He will.

 
Pray that the Lord would continue to prune away, that I might bring forth even more fruit whether by life or by death. Even though He slay me, still I will trust in Him.

 
Yesterday, was a very good day. I was thankful to spend a few precious hours with Sue and for all the visits and encouragements along the way. My headaches returned, but the attentive nurses watch out for me here. The Koehlers provided a wonderful home-cooked meal. I spent a good hour and a half talking to Tim Kinnicutt during the evening. The doctor prescribed a sleeping medication, and I slept through the whole night for the first time in a long time!

 
Today, I met with Dr. Kengla. She is my oncologist. Sue, Pastor Mincy, and Bryce Ellsworth were all present at the meeting. I learned that I have grade one/stage four follicular lymphoma. The grade number indicates that I have a cancer that has been slowly progressing through my body. The stage number indicates that the cancer is throughout my lymphatic system and in the bone marrow as well. The good news is that it is not present in the brain stem or spinal column.

 
According to my doctor, this cancer responds best to a combination of a human antibody/protein named Retuxin and traditional chemotherapy – a drug called Bendamustine. I will begin treatment early Thursday morning. Obviously, there will be side effects to this regimen (fever, chills, tightness in the chest, hair loss and vomiting).

 
I will need to go through four to six rounds of chemotherapy at a rate of once per month. This means four to six months of chemotherapy followed up by testing and observation. It is possible that it could extend to eight months. It is also possible that the cancer will reappear and treatment will need to begin anew. It is also possible that my cancer would transform into a more serious form of lymphatic cancer.

 
My return to ministry will be limited. Even my contact with others must be limited because of the risk of infection. I will need to be careful about what I eat and work hard at building exercise into my life. I will also need get second opinions from the Kaiser in Vallejo and possibly Stanford.

 
Please pray for the headaches to dissipate. They have continued into this evening. I had a test in the afternoon to provide a baseline reading going into chemotherapy. Pray as well that I would weather the treatment in good stead.

 
Love in Christ,
Pastor Oesterwind

You Cannot Do What God Has Done

Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”  But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to imagebring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach)… (Romans 10.5-8)

The end and goal of the law is a righteous standing before God by faith. Christ is that end and goal. Moses wrote about the righteousness which is of the Law in Leviticus 18.5. You just have to do the Law and live by the Law in order to have the righteousness of God. The problem is that no one does. But the Law had another component:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” (Deuteronomy 30.11-14)

Moses emphasizes the heart in this passage. Loving obedience comes from a trusting heart. Pleasing God is not beyond Israel’s reach according to Moses. God required faith. Israel cannot think that they can ascend into heaven and bring Christ down to earth to save His people. Israel cannot think that they are good enough to raise up Christ the Messiah from the dead. God had already done these things. They just needed to accept them in their heart. The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

The Abundance of Everything

We certainly love God for who He is, but we also love God for what He gives.  It’s never advisable to think only in terms of the abstract in theology.  It may sound pious to say that we simply love God for who He is and not what He gives, but such piety will not stand in the face of Scripture.  We arPsalm 103.3e grateful daily for all of God’s benefits.  We serve Him with joy and gladness for the abundance of everything (Deuteronomy 28.47).

Who He Is

God is merciful, gracious, and steadfast.  The extension of God’s mercy teaches us that we deserve nothing but His wrath.  The extension of His grace indicates that He watches over us and delights in giving us good gifts we will never deserve.  His steadfastness helps us to realize that He will always be present and never neglect us.  The mercy, grace, and steadfastness of the LORD are realities which spur active service.

What He Gives

The response and worship of God’s children ought to be personal, committed, and continual.  David writes, “Bless the LORD, O my soul” (Psalm 103.1).  We owe a debt that we cannot possibly pay.  Even if we are struggling to make ends meet, we are better off.  The richest of men who know nothing of God’s gifts live is spiritual squalor.  This drives commitment to obey the LORD’s primary command:  Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He forgives, heals redeems, crowns, and satisfies.  Therefore we continually bless and praise Him.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:

Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103.1-5

We are reluctant to bless the LORD because it doesn’t feel genuine.  The reason this is true is that we fail to remind ourselves of His character and all His daily benefits.  There is no greater joy for the Christian to be genuinely and continually committed to his God.  Be thankful for who He is and what He gives.

Explore the Book: Exodus (Pt 1)

Exodus is built around its three great actors:  Israel, Egypt, and God.

Israel

Exodus meant four things specifically for Israel:

  1. A new life was marked by the beginning of a new calendar (Exodus 12.2).
  2. The house of bondage gave way to new liberty by the powerful hand of God’s deliverance (Exodus 13.3).
  3. The Passover memorial and feast symbolized a new fellowship (Exodus 12.14).
  4. The deliverance of Israel from bondage marked a new assurance that God would indeed be there God (Exodus 6.7-8).

The Exodus under Moses parallels the redemption Christ brings to believers:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5.7-8).

We, too, have new life, new liberty, new fellowship, and new assurance.

Egypt

Exodus meant three things specifically for Egypt:

  1. Their false idolatry was exposed (Exodus 12.12).  Baxter
  2. Resistance to God is futile (Exodus 9.16).
  3. Egypt parallels the world:
  • Its material wealth and power (Hebrews 11.26)
  • Its fleshly wisdom and false religion (Exodus 8.7)
  • Its ruler (Satan compared with Pharaoh)
  • Its principles of force, arrogance, ambition, and pleasure
  • Its persecution of the people of God (Deuteronomy 4.20)
  • Its overthrow by divine judgment (Exodus 12.29; 15.4-7; plagues, death of the firstborn, drowning of Pharaoh’s army)

God

Exodus provides a go-to manifestation of God’s power.  It will be an event that the Old Testament returns to again and again.

The Marvel of the Exodus Deliverance:

  1. A marvel of judgment (plagues, smiting of the firstborn, and the defeat of the Egyptian army)
  2. A marvel of grace (blood-marked dwellings are passed over and Israel is delivered)
  3. A marvel of might (God’s power to part the Red Sea)
  4. A marvel of guidance (demonstrated by the pillars of cloud and fire)
  5. A marvel of provision (manna and water)
  6. A marvel of faithfulness (God honors both the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants)
  7. A marvel of condescension (God meets with man in the Tabernacle; He will not forsake His people)

The Marvel of New Testament Redemption:

  1. Judgment – God has judged human sin at the cross of Jesus Christ and through the blood of His Son.
  2. Grace – We identify with Christ and escape punishment we deserve.  Then, we are given righteousness we do not deserve.
  3. Might – The resurrection of Christ is a manifestation of God’s supreme power over sin and death.
  4. Guidance – The Holy Spirit leads us in the way we should go.  There is no need for a physical pillar of light or fire.
  5. Provision – We have all the spiritual blessings in Christ.  He supplies our every need.
  6. Faithfulness – God keeps covenant with His people.  He will not leave or forsake us.
  7. Condescension – God makes His home in us through the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we are the temple of the living God.  This is simply amazing condescension.

These parallels provide an entrance for the Gospel.  Baxter draws three points of comparison and three points of contrast:

Comparison

  1. Israel was freed from the house of bondage, namely Egypt.  We, too, are freed from the bondage of sin.
  2. Israel celebrated their deliverance with the Passover lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
  3. Israel commemorated the Passover with a feast from that time forward.  Christ is our Passover and we too remember Him as such through the Lord’s Table.

Contrast

  1. Means:  The blood of animals was a mere shadow of the substance of Christ’s blood shed for us.
  2. Extent:  The liberation of Israel was limited to just them, but the liberation of the Gospel is for whosoever will come.
  3. Effects:  Israel was delivered from physical slavery in Egypt, but we are delivered from eternal slavery in Hell.

 

Easter Meditation: Behold the Man!

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The Holy Spirit convicts men of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Christians still remain in the world as salt and light. The creation testifies to the glory of God. Everyone, saved and unsaved, has a conscience. God does not presently permit mankind to be as depraved as possible. He also promotes good in our world in the form of kindness, compassion, and charity.

Pilate is an example of an unsaved, pragmatic leader who wants to do the right thing when faced with what he deems is an impossible situation. He believes that Jesus of Nazareth is innocent. He has done nothing worthy of a death sentence. He worked hard at advocating for the our Lord. When he could not overcome His enemies, he still looked for a way to release Him. Maybe the enemies would be satisfied if Pilate scourged Jesus within an inch of His life. Presenting Jesus before them arrayed in the mocking robes of a king, all bloodied and beaten, he said, “Behold the Man!”

Why does Pilate do this? He cannot dismiss the Jewish religious leaders without putting himself and his position in jeopardy. But he still has hopes of releasing Jesus. The presentation of Jesus after His beating was designed to invoke sympathy in His fellow countrymen and shame them for their unreasonable hatred toward Him.

Once people see Jesus beaten, bloodied and bowed, perhaps they will relent. Once they see the end of their hatred, perhaps they will have compassion because of the undeserved pain and suffering they have caused Him. An expansion of Pilate’s thoughts are in order: “Behold the Man! You have demanded that I crucify Him. I have told you over and over again that He has done nothing worthy of death, but you maintain that He has. I have scourged Him and still find no fault in Him. Even if He has broken your laws, surely He has suffered enough for it. Be satisfied! Don’t make me go through with what you’re asking me to do. Behold Him! Where is your compassion? Won’t your anger dissipate? Behold the Man!”

Pilate gives voice to Jesus’ defense before His persecutors. “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the LORD has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger” (Lamentations 1.12). Yet, they will not hear Pilate’s advocacy or anyone else’s. “Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness’ I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none’ and for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69.20).

There is no sympathy in Jesus’ enemies. There is no shame either. Jesus is a rebel as far as they are concerned. Pilate presents Jesus to His blood-thirsty detractors hoping to convince them that such a gentle and lowly man is no agitator or zealot. Even His closest disciples and friends had deserted Him. No one advocated for Him save Pilate himself. “Behold the Man! How can you say that He is a threat to you or to Rome. There is nothing special about this Man. Yet you fear Him. You are jealous of this Man? You want to put this Man to death? Even if He had influence over the nation in the past, how could He ever hope to gather a following again after all that has happened to Him on this day? Leave this Man be. He is no longer a threat. Behold the Man!”

Pilate views the nation’s religious leaders with contempt. They pursue a dead dog …a flea. The scribes and Pharisees had connived and planned for this day. They would not let it pass. They would not be satisfied until Jesus was crucified. If Pilate did not comply, they would make him an enemy of Caesar. “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” (John 19.12).

“Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them [other religious detractors of Jesus Christ], ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’ Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11.49-51).

Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied of the saving benefits of Christ’s death when he intended simply to recommend the execution of a trouble-maker. Pilates desire is to save the Man who would save him by His death. Even Pilate’s wife understood Jesus was a just man. She advised her husband, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27.19).

Behold the Man!

  1. Behold the Man and gain confidence! The sheer weight of fulfilled prophecy indicates that Jesus is the Christ. Was this Man treated with contempt by the whole nation? Was this Man mocked, reviled, and spit upon? Was He beaten with many stripes? Search the Scriptures. If it is so, then He must be the Christ. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before it’s hearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53.7). He could have called 10,000 angels to defend Him and obliterate us. But then prophecy would not have been fulfilled. Our redemption would not have been secured. If He endured this for us while we were yet enemies, what will he not do for us when we beg for His mercy?
  2. Behold the Man and gain gratitude! The love of Christ is past finding out. A finite mind cannot comprehend an infinite love. We desire to know the love Christ which passes knowledge, but we cannot plumb the depths of such love. But what we do find out and experience, leaves us grateful. “Behold the Man!” A crown of thorns, a reed for a scepter, a royal robe, and blood flowing down. He is ready to lose consciousness. He carries our shame and contempt. He demands more than lip-service from us. He will win our heart if we behold the Man.
  3. Behold the Man and gain motivation! If you love Christ, keep His commandments. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14.21). “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15.14). People sought to make Jesus king, but he refused. He hid Himself from His would-be subjects. They desired a bread-king. But when they mocked Him and plated a crown of thorns for Him, He submitted willingly to this. Why? It was because such submission would set us free to love and worship God. It would free us to exalt, honor, and worship God. We would say, “Behold the Man!” We would say it with new meaning and perspective. He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself. He endured the cross, despising the same. We follow Him and bear His reproach. He gave Himself for us, to purchase a people who would be zealous of good works. Let Christ be magnified in our body, whether it be by life or by death! Behold the Man!