He is Able

Friday is for Heart Songs

Reading with the Pastor
Matthew 12  and  Psalm 18:1-30

bible study with pen

The disciples and Jesus both fall under the criticism of the Pharisees. The Pharisees think they can battle Jesus with interpretations of Jewish law. Bad idea. Jesus turns the tables by quoting the example of David against their legalistic forbidding and then puts a dart in their hearts with a quote from Hosea 6:6, “If you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (Mt. 12:7).

Then he announces the coup de tat “For the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath” (vs. 8). 

Yes, He is Lord of all. He created the Sabbath. He sets its rules and regulations and so He heals a man with a withered hand to demonstrate that He is free to do good and show compassion on any day He chooses and to whoever is in need (Vss. 8-13). 

Remember that.

Jesus is Lord.

  • He is Lord of the Sabbath. 
  • He is Lord of time.
  • He is Lord of space.
  • He is Lord over your enemies and your situation.
  • He is Lord over you.

Bask in the protection of that. Wonder at the confidence that can give you for your situation. Let your heart be quieted by the sovereign Lord of your life who said to the disciples hours before He laid down His life for them (and us), “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”

Stunning.

He said that after He said He was going to die for them (cf. John 13)!

How could He say that?

He is sovereign.

Never forget that He is able.

 

Some History I Didn’t Know

Here is a great piece of history rescued from the ashes of World War II of a day when the church stood for righteousness in the face of fascist evil. Read it and rejoice in the wonder of what God can do when believers stand on the faith they profess against all odds. The following comes from the good people at Kairos Journal. They do good work. May we in our time be ready to make such a stand against fascist tyranny.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Bulgarian Orthodox Heroism – [1940-1945]

On May 24, 1943, Bulgaria celebrated one of its most important national holidays: Saints Kyril and Methodius Day. Unfortunately, there was a moral cancer at work in sectors of the government, for some officials were urging that all the nation’s Jews be deported to Poland. There they would face almost certain death in Nazi concentration camps. So Metropolitan Stefan, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, addressed the issue bluntly. When he rose to deliver the traditional sermon to the masses assembled in Sofia’s Saint Alexander Nevski Square, he took aim at the Nazis: “This year our celebration is flawed by the persecution undertaken against the Jews … I send from this high place an appeal to the state authorities to not enslave the freedom-loving, democratic and friendly Bulgarian spirit … to foreign indoctrination, influences, and orders.”1 As he spoke, Nazi-sympathizing government ministers were seated behind him on the platform.2

The danger to Bulgaria’s Jews began several years earlier when the nation became a passive ally of the Germans. As part of that alliance, the nation passed anti-Jewish laws in 1941 and subsequently gave a pro-Nazi cabinet authority to exercise broad powers without parliamentary approval.3 Taking full advantage of the situation, several of the most anti-Semitic government officials vowed to Hitler that they would deport thousands of Bulgarian Jews for extermination.4Indeed, they tried to begin it on several occasions, but timely resistance from the king, key government officials, the public, and the Church thwarted their plan.5 And, so, the “entire Jewish population of the country” was saved.6 Not one person was ever deported, and Bulgaria’s Jews were the only Jewish community in the Nazi sphere of influence whose population increased during World War II.7

The Church had been active in the cause since 1940, when the parliament began to consider anti-Jewish laws under the ruse of protecting the country from harm. In response, the Holy Synod, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s supreme body, wrote to the prime minister in protest: “All men and all peoples must defend their rights and protect themselves from danger, but this just aspiration must not serve as a pretext for injustice and violence toward others.”8 Three years later, in March 1943, authorities attempted to corral Bulgaria’s Jews for the first time. Yet once again, the Church protested. In Plovdiv, the nation’s second largest city, the head of the local church, Metropolitan Kyril, threatened to lie across the tracks if a train loaded with Jews tried to leave the city. He also told the local government that he would act according to his conscience rather than their policies.9 Likewise, Neofit of Vidin, president of the Holy Synod, staunchly opposed anti-Jewish measures. After deportations from nearby Thrace and Macedonia, he met with the prime minister and strongly urged him “to show mercy and humanity toward the suffering Jewish minority.”10

Perhaps the boldest acts of resistance came from Metropolitan Stefan. A man of considerable political power, he preached against anti-Semitism in 194211 and later christened Jews in an attempt to have their names removed from the deportation list.12 Once, he defied a government order to close all the nation’s churches so that their priests could not reveal a secret deportation plot.13 Despite threats of arrest and public defamation, he never backed down from using the Church’s full resources to protect Jews.14

One historian aptly remarked, “There is no doubt that in the entire history of the Holocaust, the Bulgarian church stood high above any other Pravoslav [Orthodox], Protestant, or Catholic church, in her bold and unyielding struggle to rescue the Jews.”15 Indeed, it demonstrated that when God’s people stood for justice, they could accomplish feats with moral force that many nations failed to accomplish even by military resistance.

Footnotes:

  1. Michael Bar-Zohar, Beyond Hitler’s Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews (Holbrook, MA: Adams Media, 1998), 195.
  2. Metropolitan Stefan, “Metropolitan Stefan,” in The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria’s Jews Survived the Holocaust, ed. Tzvetan Todorov, trans. Arthur Denner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 126-131.
  3. Bar-Zohar, 27-62.
  4. Ibid., 63-66.
  5. By 1943, the king had already decided to rescue Bulgaria’s Jews, but his decision was bolstered by the Church’s prophetic witness. See ibid., 204, 268.
  6. Thomas Cahill, Mysteries of the Middle Ages: And the Beginning of the Modern World (New York: Anchor, 2006), 36.
  7. Bar-Zohar, 268. Italy and Denmark also distinguished themselves for protecting their Jewish populations (Cahill, 36).
  8. Statement by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to the Prime Minister,” in Todorov, 56.
  9. Bar-Zohar, 126-127.
  10. Ibid., 169.
  11. Ibid., 168.
  12. Ibid., 208.
  13. Ibid., 208-209.
  14. Ibid., 210.
  15. Ibid.

What if Teardrops are Blessings?

I was driving back from Illinois in a rented truck to my new home in South Carolina. Talk radio and country music stations were all I could get and I was tired of both. So I turned the radio off and started praying for my kids and the kids of a former staff member from our previous church. About thirty miles down the road, I turned the radio back on and hit the search button and found this song just as it was being introduced.

Within minutes I was in tears, filled up with the longing that the song expresses.

“Oh God, if mercies and the nearness of your presence come in the disguises of storms and heartache, then give me a storm-battered life. Give me them that I might have You. Because I can’t live with the storms without You.”

Do any of us really understand what we are praying when we pray such prayers?

No.

Emphatically no.

But praying such prayers is a moment of clarity on the beauty of Christ and the glory of the gospel. Let Laura Story help you learn to pray. Let her help you learn that, with thanks to John Piper, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” Let your heart learn that we are most fulfilled, and grow in the capacity for the greatest joy when we are most delighted in Him.

Haunting Quotes Filled with Truth

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Madeleine L’Engle.

“O God, give me grace to be a light to the world. Give me joy in showing mercy and the humility that is appropriate for a sinner who has no righteousness apart from the righteousness of Christ imputed to me. In Jesus name and for His glory I ask it.”

Praise God with Me

On a morning when we woke up to yet another tragedy in Dallas, …

On another morning when we were reminded that justice and peace are far from us, …

On yet another day when our hope and confidence in the direction of our country has been shaken to the core, …

Would you take two minutes to have your vision renewed? Watch this video and praise God for what He is doing around the world and then, begin to pray Habakkuk’s prayer from Habakkuk 3:2 for our own nation. Pray that what He is doing around the world He would once again do here.

 

“O Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
 O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
 In the midst of the years make it known;
 In wrath remember mercy.” 

—Habakkuk 3:2

Great Quotes to Move Your Life

Once, there were great men who walked the earth. Here’s a quote from one of them.

Old Photograph John Gibson Paton Scotland

“Nothing so clears the vision and lifts up the life, as a decision to move forward in what you know to be entirely the will of the Lord.”

–John Paton, servant of God

Simple. 

  • Read your Bible.
  • Do what it says.
  • Experience clear vision.

Continuing to Think about Spiritual Gifts

Think it Through

Spiritual GiftsI am continuing to meditate and read about how to better equip the saints of the church. The last few days have been a rich time of revisiting some of my notes from previous times when I have taught on spiritual gifts. And I have had the opportunity to revise and re-edit/update some old notes, supplementing them with new material and new thinking.

Here is both a great quote and a great idea for how you might approach spiritual gift training at your church from Dr. Earl Radmacher.

“Every pastor ought to have a goal of helping each member to identify his gift, and then to find the place where his gift fits into the total work of the church. It is a rare pastor who has preached a series of messages covering each gift.

I ask pastors I meet, ‘Why don’t you take fifteen weeks and preach on one gift of the Spirit each week and then ask for decisions from your people.’ Ask them ‘What are your gifts? How are you using them?’ and really dig in deep because, as I understand it, shaping up the saints in large part means enabling them to find out what their gifts are and where they can use them.”

 –Dr. Earl D. Radmacher
Quoted in Leslie B. Flynn’s 19 Gifts of the Spirit, (page 15)