The Exalted Lamb of God

John 1-29It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The implication is that the early days of March are volatile and forceful while the later days are calm and peaceful.
Conversely, Jesus Christ came to the earth, the first time, as a calm and peaceful  Lamb.  He came to be God’s gracious and merciful covering for our sins. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10.  In the days of His flesh, He was meek and humble. As such, he was depicted metaphorically as the Lamb of God.
As the resurrected Lord, He is still depicted metaphorically as the Lamb of God. Now, however, in the heavenly realms, He is the Ruler of All, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. In the book of Revelation, the book in which Jesus Christ shows what must happen very soon, the exalted Lamb of God is referred to 25 times! As you read and meditate on God’s prophetic word, my prayer for you is that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him.
Revelation 5:6, 5:8, 5:12, 5:13;
Revelation 6:1, 6:16; Rev. 7:9, 7:10, 7:14, 7:17;
Revelation 12:11; Rev. 13:8;
Revelation 14:1, 14:4, 14:10; Rev. 15:3;
Revelation 17:14; Rev. 19:7, 19:9;
Rev. 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27 and
Revelation 22:1-3

No Greater Love

John 3-16Theology of Missions

by Cassandra L. Wood[1]
The purpose of this paper is to articulate a biblical and theological basis for global mission.  This paper will discuss the biblical foundation of missions, the nature of God in relation to missions, mission theology in relation to Christology and Pnuematology, the missionary themes of the Holy Spirit, universal salvation, and reconciliation; and mission in relation to missionaries, leaders, and non-leaders in the church.

Biblical Foundation of Missions

            The biblical foundation of missions begins with God and ends with God. God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.[2] After the fall brought on by the sin of Adam and Eve, God went about the work of restoration, the reconciliation of all things unto Himself. His purpose and will was to restore the status quo, the way things were supposed to be from the foundation of the world. As Moreau states, “God’s missionary heart is evident as He begins the process of rolling back the kingdom of darkness and seeking His lost creation.[3] In God’s wisdom, He chose to manifest His divine power, grace and sovereignty by choosing a people group, or nation. This nation would be how He would manifest Himself. God chose a man named Abraham. He told Abraham to
                        “. . .Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.”[4]
God told Abraham to “go out from” – leave your country, your relatives, your family. God’s intent was to make Abraham His, exclusively.  Abraham was called and had to be taught to trust God completely. In Genesis 12:1-3, the call of Abraham, we see that God, to manifest His divine will, chose first an individual. This individual was the seed through which God would create a nation. That nation is the nation of Israel. Kaiser notes that “Israel had always been responsible for communicating the message of God’s grace to the nations.”[5] Israel is called a light to the nations: “I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand, I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people and a light to the nations. . .”[6]
             Israel is the nation through which the Word of God came: “Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My Nation: for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples.”[7] Through God’s commandments as manifested through the administration of Moses, God set forth His standards. The written standards or commandments of God were given to us as a schoolteacher, a holding place, as it were, until the better standard came.
            Israel is the nation through whom God Himself came. It is as though God, being a holy God, had purposed from the beginning that in order to restore man unto Himself, He alone would do it. Knowing that He was going to manifest Himself on this earth, He wanted to make sure that the race of people, the nation through which He would manifest Himself, would be sanctified, that is, a nation set apart from all the other nations of the world. This sanctified nation, Israel, would be the nation through which He would be manifested.
            God’s gracious deliverance of Israel from Egypt was the time in which He told them that they would be is His special possession, His holy nation, and a kingdom of priests:  “. . .you will be my special possession out of all the nations, . . . and you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”[8]  God’s purpose to reach all people continued into the New Testament when He became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
            Jesus, full of Holy Spirit, went into the synagogue and fulfilled Isaiah 42:6. Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to  preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[9] The wonderful progression of God’s missionary plan plays out from the Gospels, though the book of Acts, through the writings of the Apostle Paul and the disciples who were with Jesus, finally concluding in the book of Revelation.
In the New Testament, God instituted a New covenant. God expressly decrees that there now is one people of God with one purpose.[10] The Gentile believers are declared by God to also be a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own. . .”[11] It is clear that all who believe and have the faith of Abraham are the sons and daughters of God. God’s plan from the beginning was not limited to just the nation of Israel. God told Abraham that his descendants, those who walk by faith, would number the sands of the sea. That promise is fulfilled when a vast crowd of people, too great to be numbered, will stand before the Lord and give Him praises: “After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . .”[12]

The Nature of God in Relation to Missions

            God is love and God is a giver. God shows His love by giving His Son to be the savior of the world. “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.”[13]
God’s love is for all. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save sinners.[14]
God is the sovereign creator. In all of God’s work, in His great unfolding drama[15], He manifests his glorious sovereignty over the universe. God created all things and all things that He created are very good. The very good creation created by God includes all the people groups of the world, all the nations, all the races, all the ethnic groups. Because He manifested His love and graciousness to all, He is worthy of the worship of all.  John Piper maintains that this mandate of the nations to rejoice and glorify God is the raison d’être of missions, the purpose of missions. Piper writes, “Worship is the fuel and goal of missions”[16].

Mission Theology in Relation to Christology and Pnuematology

            God works out His missionary purpose through His Son and through the Holy Spirit. All authority, in heaven and on earth, has been given to Jesus Christ. [17] This authority is manifested by Jesus Christ destroying the devil, abolishing death, and stripping away power from the kingdom of darkness.[18] His authority freed the oppressed from the chains of darkness. That is why He had the power to heal, restore, raise from the dead while He was on earth (and still has in Heaven). Christ’s power contrasts with the enemy’s power. Whereby the devil came to steal, kill and destroy,[19] Christ came to give abundant life.
            After death and the grave were destroyed and abolished through the resurrection power of God through Jesus Christ, He gave this same power, through the Holy Spirit,  to His people who believed on him. Jesus instructed His disciples that before they could preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations, they would first have to be “clothed with power from on high.” [20] This was fulfilled when the disciples were gathered together on the day of Pentecost. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”[21]  Thus began the powerful manifestation act of God’s missionary purpose whereby the people of the world, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, are called to salvation and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.

Themes of Mission Theology: Universal Salvation and Reconciliation

            God wants everyone to be saved, Jew and Gentile. The universality of God’s purpose is crucial: “. . .just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people.”[22]
            The reconciliation of all things is also a key theme in missions. God has purposed to reconcile all things unto Himself.  Thus, He has given to His people the ministry of reconciliation. “And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself. . .” We as God’s people carry that message of reconciliation to all the people of the world. [23]          
            Mission theology relates to missionaries, church leaders, and to all Christians. First, all Christians are missionaries. We are all called to be ambassadors of Christ. As discussed above, we are all called to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Missionaries are simply individual Christians who have made it their life calling and sole work to advance the Kingdom of God by engaging in communicating the gospel to those who have not heard it.
            Church leaders are God’s gift to the Body of Christ. “It was He who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. To equip the saints for the work of ministry. . .”[24] The purpose of church leaders is to equip believers so that they can do the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is to go out to the entire world to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, to reconcile men and women to God, to be ambassadors for Christ.
Footnotes:
[1] This seminary research paper was written on March 2, 2014 for a course entitled Global Studies Survey.
[2] Revelation 1:8 (NET)
[3] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004) 32.
[4] Genesis 12:1-3 (NET).
[5] Walter C. Kaiser, “Israel’s Missionary Call,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, CA: Institute of International Studies, 2009), 11.
[6] Isaiah 42:6-7 (NET). See also Isaiah 49:6b: “. . .I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
[7] Isaiah 51:4 (NKJV).
[8] Exodus 19:5-6 (NET).
[9] Luke 4:18 (NKJV).
[10] Perspectives, 14.
[11] I Peter 2:9 (NET).
[12] Revelation 7:9 (NET).
[13] John 3:16-17 (NET). See also I John 4:9.
[14] I Timothy 1:15 (NET).
[15] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 28-70.
[16] John Piper,  Let The Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 15.
[17] Matthew 28:18-20 (NET).
[18] Colossians 2:14-15. (NET).
[19] John 10:10 (NET).
[20] Luke 24:49 (NET).
[21] Acts 2:4 (NET).
[22] Romans 5:18 (NET)
[23] I Corinthians 5:18-19 (NET).
 [24] Ephesians 4:11 (NET).
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Kaiser, Walter C. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena, CA: Institute of International Studies, 2009.
Moreau, A. Scott, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.
Piper, John. Let The Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010.

Psalm 19: A Paradigm of Faith

Psalm 19: A Paradigm of Faith

An Essay

By Cassandra L. Wood
INTRODUCTION

Psalm 19 is a majestic psalm which sees the glory of God from a macroscopic to a microscopic perspective. That is, God’s glory is revealed from its lofty heights in the heavens down to its habitation in the human spirit. The boundaries of Psalm 19 reach from up to the skies to the inner recesses of the human soul.
The key theological theme in Psalm 19 is the glory of the LORD, reflected, seen, and known not only in His creation but also by, through and in the revealed Word of God, also called the Law and the Torah.
The revelation of His magnificence and glory, both through His Word (Law) and through His creation, lead to a response of humility from human beings.
Psalm 19 is more than simply a psalm which extols the grandeur of God’s creation and His Law. It is also a model, or paradigm, of faith. It is a paradigm of how to have faith in God holistically, i.e., by meditation on all of His works of creation, His Law, and in His redeeming love.
In this article, I will discuss the tri-layered categorization of Psalm 19. Interwoven into this discussion will be elements of its structure and literary features. Finally, I will conclude with how the revelation of God’s glory in the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the New Testament.
Psalm 19: Structure and Categorization
            Historically, as stated in its superscription, Psalm 19 is a Psalm of David written for the choirmaster. The superscription provides a clue that the psalm was and is appropriate to be used in a corporate worship setting.[1]  Psalm 19 is structured into three strophes[2] and two stanzas.[3] Psalm 19 can be categorized as a wisdom psalm, a Torah psalm, and, to some extent, a psalm of praise.
Psalm 19 as a Wisdom Psalm
            Psalm 19:1-6 is an acknowledgment of the theological principle that the celestial creation of the LORD is a revelation of His divine will as reflected in the heavens.  Strophe 1 (vs. 1-6), speaks of the wisdom of God as displayed in the heavens. The common theme is God’s magnificent creation, particularly of the sun and the moon. Structurally, vs. 1-4a is a quatrain strophe, utilizing a parallel pattern[4] to praise the glory of God. Psalm 19 also meets the categorization of a psalm of praise because it has its own language of praise which gives universal glory to the LORD.[5]The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words;  no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. [6]
Verses 4b-6 is also a part of the first strophe of Psalm 19. The sun is the common theme in this bi-colona line. The Psalmist describes the sun using the literary style of personification to emphasize its strength, vitality and energy. To reinforce the imagery, the Psalmist employs the simile of an athlete eager to run the race. “In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.”[7] Psalm 19 is not traditionally included in the genre of a wisdom psalm because it does not include all of the elements of style and motifs of the wisdom psalms.[8]
Psalm 19 as a Torah Psalm
Because they do not have a standard literary pattern as do other literary genres in the Psalms, Torah psalms are to be thought of as a category rather than of a genre.[9] The Torah is the set of instructions which God imparted to the Israelites, through Moses on Mt. Sinai. This law was codified in the first five books of the English bible, what we know of today as the Pentateuch. The Torah is much more than the simple codification of God’s precepts, however. Abraham showed himself to be the model of the intended purpose of God’s law. He lived a life of obedient faith, based on the Torah.  In reference to the faith of Abraham, the LORD said, “. . .because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”[10] Notice in the previous text the manner in which Genesis uses many different words to describe the Torah. This use of multiple terms for God’s law is mirrored in Psalm 19:7-9:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,  making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. 
In reference to the law of God, Psalm 19 uses the words “law”, “statutes”, “precepts”, “commands”, and “decrees.”  Psalm 19:7-9 is an acknowledgment of the theological principle that the law of the LORD is a revelation of His divine will to human beings.
Interpreting Psalm 19
Is Psalm 19 One Psalm or Three Psalms?
The analysis of Psalm 19 thus far has shown us that the first strophe of Psalm 19, verses 1-6, is an acknowledgment of the theological principle that the celestial creation of the LORD is a revelation of His divine will as reflected in the heavens and that the second strophe, verses 7-11, acknowledges the theological principle that the law of the LORD is a revelation of His divine will as given to human beings.
A key interpretive issue of Psalm 19 is the sudden change in topics between strophe one (vs. 1-6), strophe two (vs. 7-11) and strophe three (vs. 12-14).  Broyles notes that they read like two separate compositions.[11]  Bullock’s contention is that the two stanzas of verses 1-3 and verse 14 are held together by the same word, “The same word (‘omer) occurs for “speech” in the first stanza (v.2) and in the psalmist’s prayer that his “words” (‘imre, from the same root) be heard (v. 14).”[13]
Bullock further notes that C.S. Lewis argues that the connecting link between the two stanzas is verse 7, “nothing is hidden from its heat.”[14] The argument is that “[t]he Torah dominates human life as the sun dominates the daytime sky.”[15]  I disagree with Lewis’ argument. I would argue that the connecting link or the parallelism between the first stanza which speaks of God’s glory in the heavens and the second stanza which speaks of God’s Law is the entire bi-colon of vs. 4-6. Just as the sun is radiant, so is the law of the LORD radiant.[16] Just as the sun is likened unto a “champion rejoicing to run his course”[17] so the “precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.”[18]
The Psalmist’s Humble Response
The Psalmist’s response to the magnificence of the revelation of God’s glory in the heavens and His glorious precepts are found in verses 12-13. In these verses, the Psalmist voices a petition wrought with humility.  The revelation of the LORD’s magnificence and glory, both through his Law and through His creation, leads to a response of humility. “But who can discern their own errors?  Forgive my hidden faults.  Keep your servant also from willful sins;  may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless,  innocent of great transgression.” 
It is as if the Psalmist was declaring an ultimate surrender before the magnificent Creator — what more can be said or done before such a holy God? The Psalmist’s petition is reminiscent of the words spoken in regard to God’s creation in another psalm: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?[19]
CONCLUSION
The concluding meditation of Psalm 19 is “[m]ay these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”[20]  These are the words which tie the entire psalm together.  It is at this beautiful conclusion that one sees how Psalm 19 is a paradigm of faith. It is a pattern to be followed by all believers as to how to have faith in God holistically, i.e., by meditation on all of His works of creation, His Law, and in is redeeming love manifested by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is here that the Christian can see the Messiah revealed in the Psalms. In speaking of our Redeemer, the New Testament says,
 . . .while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”[21]  Psalm 19, then, is truly a psalm which reveals to us the glory of God from a macroscopic to a microscopic perspective.
 [1]Greg M. Parsons, “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Psalms,” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1990): 172.
[2] Mark. D. Futato, Interpreting the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, Inc., 2007), 29. The first strophe is vs. 1-6, the second strophe is vs. 7-11, and the third strophe is vs. 12-14.
[3]C. Hallell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids,  MI: Baker, Academic, 2001),  220.  The first stanza is vs. 1-11 and the second stanza is vs. 12-14.
[4]Futato, 50, 51.
[5]Bullock, 126, 130. Bullock notes that the Psalms of Praise have four major themes: creation, the universality of Yahweh’s presence and sovereignty, Israel’s history, and God’s awesome deeds.
[6] Psalm 19:1-4a (NIV).
[7] Psalm 19: 4b-5 (NIV).
[8] Bullock, 202-203. Bullock lists six styles and four motifs in his discussion of the wisdom psalms. Psalm 19 uses one of the styles (the nature simile) and arguably none of the themes (motifs), unless one argues that vs. 13 is a theme encouraging one to be diligent in one’s personal actions.
[9] Bullock, 214. The Torah Psalms are Psalms 1, 19 and 11. These psalms are called Torah psalms because of the major concentration of the psalms are in the law of the LORD.
[10] Genesis 26:5 (NIV).
[11] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 108. Bullock here includes vs. 12-14 with the second strophe of vs. 7-11.
[12] Bullock, 220.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid., 220. The reference made is actually verse 6b, not verse 7.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Psalm 19:8 (NIV).
[17] Psalm 19:5 (NIV).
[18] Psalm 19:8 (NIV).
[19] Psalm 8:4 (NIV).
[20]  Psalm 19:4 (NIV).
[21] Titus 2:13, 14 (NIV).

Spiritfulness Meditation

 

Grace, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.   

The purpose of Spiritfulness.net is for you to

Meditate, Contemplate, and Ruminate
 . . . On the Word of God . . .
  for Encouragement, Edification, and Spiritual Transformation
 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]. . .
2 Timothy 3:16 Amplified Bible (AMP)
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

 

 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
Psalms 1:2 (NASB)
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.
My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes.
Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word. My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word. 
Psalms 119: 15, 48, 97, 99, 147-148 (NKJV)

Spiritual Transformation Through   Sacred Reading

During a time of solitude, meditate on His Word. Wait on Him to give direction and strength. Allow silence, solitude and meditation to become to you a “vehicle of transformation.”[1]
The Lectio Divina (sacred reading) methodology is an excellent biblical meditation practice to use on the journey toward spiritual transformation.  Sacred reading consists of four elements:
1)      Lectio (reading). Read a passage of scripture of your choice. If you can’t decide on a verse of scripture to read, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a verse or passage of scripture. Wait. Listen. He will bring to your consciousness a verse of Scripture.
2)      Meditatio (meditation). Meditate on the scripture. Boa elaborates on meditation as being a time to “saturate and immerse yourself in the word, to luxuriate in its living waters, and to receive the words as an intimate and personal message from God.”[2]
3)      Oratio (prayer). After meditation on the scripture, pray to LORD about it. Thank Him for the Word and ask for further insight.
4)      Contemplatio (contemplation). Contemplation is silence in the presence of God.  Wait in silence for the voice of the LORD. I agree with the Psalmist, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.”[3] Boa states that contemplation is the fruit of the first three elements; “it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our minds and hearts.[4]
[1] Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,  2001),  80.
[2] Boa, Conformed to His Image, 177.
[3] Psalm 62:5 (NASB).
[4] Boa, Conformed to His Image, 97.

 

Get in on God’s Frequency

HeavenImagine yourself attempting to find a clear signal on the radio so you can listen to your favorite station. After continued searching, you encounter static in the airways. There is no clear signal -– the airwaves are blocked.
It is the same when we pray. The atmosphere is clouded with negative spiritual activity. We cannot find a clear, distinct frequency to tune into communication with God and hear from Him.
Spiritfulness meditation allows you to get on the same frequency as God the Father. You can clear the atmosphere by taking captive every thought to make it obey Christ.
I tear down every arrogant obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NET)
By declaring the Word of God, you cleared the airwaves and have taken a step to get on to God’s frequency in the heavenly atmosphere. Your faith in the effectiveness of the Word of God makes it possible to clear the air of oppressive thoughts which can hinder your prayer.