The Battle Hymn

I came across the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” this morning.  While it isn’t a perfect song, the lyrics to the fourth stanza particularly stood out to me:

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

How beautiful is that?  While the original author wrongfully imported this end-time event into the present day, the power of the words(in their appropriate context) have me really longing for that day today.  When He comes, the trumpet will sound the final advance–there will be no retreat.  Be swift, my soul; be jubilant, my feet!

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Great Verse: 2 Corinthians 4:7

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

-2 Corinthians 4:7

(Despite Jars of Clay’s best efforts a few months ago to sour this verse for Christians, the power of these words cannot be veiled.)

Just a few observations and reflections on this verse…

1. We are seemingly unfit carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: We are dust.  Priceless treasures are supposed to be placed in spotlessly transparent, airtight, bulletproof, fireproof containers watched over by high-tech surveillance and armed guards.  I struggle with sin every day; I lose my nerve in spiritual situations sometimes; far too rarely do people take me for a clone of the spotless Lamb of God.  Doesn’t it seem like there should be a less consequential task for earthen vessels like me?

2. But we have this treasure.  God chose to store it in us.  That treasure is God’s Light (4:6), which is the knowledge of God’s glory which we have seen in Jesus Christ.  I have seen God’s glory, because by faith I have seen the glory of Jesus in the Scriptures.  And so now I am a witness–God chose for it to be like that.  He chose to show me Himself in Jesus, and so now I’m marked–I know Him.  He has placed this priceless treasure, this pure Light, inside of me; and now this man of former darkness is a Light Bearer to the world.

3. The deposit of this treasure in me ultimately means that God has taken me for the use of His own purposes.  The Light will shine, the Power will be seen, and the people that know me may only be left in wonder that such radiance can proceed from something so earthly…

4. …And, in fact, it seems that this was God’s intent all along: That ordinary, flawed, and broken people like you and I should serve as tangible, undeniable displays of Power and Light that go so far beyond our innate capabilities that the only suitable explanation is the activity of God.  The only suitable explanation being God, the only suitable object for thanksgiving and adoration is Him as well.

May we so gladly boast about our weaknesses that the Power of God may be trumpeted through us all the more and all the glory that proceeds may go to Him alone.

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Great Verse – Hebrews 10:35

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” – Hebrews 10:35

Taken as a simple out-of-context, inspirational quote (like Philippians 4:13 often is), this verse would still mean a lot to people from all walks of life.  But the “confidence” of Hebrews 10:35 does not go hand-in-hand with contemporary notions of self-image or self-esteem–it has nothing to do with being comfortable in our own skin–because this confidence has nothing to do with us.  This is the confidence of Hebrews 10:18-19 that God has considered the offering of Jesus Christ as acceptable so that our sins are forgiven and the pathway to God (through Christ) is open.  We may now enter the holy place through the veil (the body of Jesus) as we are covered by the blood of the sacrifice (the blood of Jesus), and so we can “draw near” (v.22) and “hold fast” (v.23) and not “shrink away” (v.39).  We may live confidently–with all our confidence firmly set on Him–because God has promised with an oath (6:17); it is impossible for God to lie (6:18); Jesus our immortal High Priest continues His ministry forever (7:24); He continually intercedes for us (7:25); and He has offered the once-for-all sacrifice to God, now being seated at the right hand of the Father (10:12).  All of our confidence rests in Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (13:8).  He is sufficient, He is steadfast, and so we can be sure.

How about this: Let’s not throw away our confidence today, whatever may come.

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Good Stuff: If we have to choose…

“If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus.” – Russell Moore,

Amen and amen (even as an older Millennial myself ministering to younger Millennials).

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Trustworthy Statements

Five times the Apostle Paul uses the expression, “It is a trustworthy statement,” exclusively in the pastoral epistles.  In some cases it seems unclear to me what precisely the “trustworthy statement” is, but I have bolded what I believe to be Paul’s trustworthy statement in each case:

  • 1 Timothy 1:15 (The Gospel of Grace) – “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
    I have never considered this verse in its context bedrock foundational statement from a fading mentor to his beloved protégé. “Timothy, regardless of how much longer I am around, never, ever, ever forget that Christ came for sinners–sinners like you and me.”  It may be that the statement Paul is passing along is merely “Christ came into the world to save sinners,” a reminder of the loving mission of Christ to give Himself up for otherwise helpless people–and that the rest of the verse is Paul’s reflection that there is no sinner who needed the mercy of Christ more than he did.  That may be the case, but I prefer to read Paul’s statement as “Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all,” in which the “I” does not refer exclusively to Paul, but to Timothy and to every man who would recite this statement after him.  No one needed the grace of Christ more than I (David) did.  No one on earth.  In its fuller expression, this statement disarms me of bitterness or pride I might feel toward another and leads me to mercy and compassion instead (cue “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”).  I know the depths of my own sin more than that of anyone else on earth, and so truthfully I confess with Paul that no one on earth is more unworthy of the grace of Christ than I am.  And yet the truth remains: I am the chief of sinners, and yet “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Praise God.
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