Inspirations #1

I was reading Matt Chandler’s blog entitled Inspirations, in which he was writing about what stirs his affections for Christ, and what robbed him of affection for Christ. And ends with the question what stirs your affections for Christ, truth and holiness?

I think this is an excellent way to see where you are at, and so here’s my first attempt to answer these questions:

What stirs my affection for Christ (in random order)
1. Watching my daughter Elora sleep
2. Seeing my wife smile
3. Reading or listening to John Piper or Mark Driscoll
4. The Book of Romans
5. Pick up my guitar, close my eyes, and just play
6. Contemplating on 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

What robs me of affection for Christ (in random order)
1. In whatever way, shape, or form be busy with CCIE study
2. Being sucked into unholy conversations and joking
3. Being lazy at home
4. Driving my car on a busy road
5. Not listening to my wife’s discernment
6. Thinking I know without realizing I don’t (which happens too much)

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Rated PG

Last Thursday I went to see Paul Gilbert in the P60 in Amstelveen together with two friends. We got what we paid for. And I mean this in a good way. Here is a guitar virtuoso extraordinaire who toured the world with the band Mr. Big (yes, from the major hit “Just to Be With You”, which proves again that bands usually become famous by a song outside of their normal repertoire), has released many solo albums, but has no problem whatsoever to come to the tiny town of Amstelveen and play for not more than 100 people, and have fun as well!

Now I must admit that I knew Paul Gilbert, but wasn’t too much aware of his solo repertoire other than I knew he mixes up styles without scruples, sings sometimes, and seems like a nice fellow. So I entered the evening pretty blank. But I am not blank anymore! Boy, what a great evening! I have been to many many gigs over a period of ten years, seeing big names in big venues, big names in small venues, small names in small venues, and small names in big venues. But it doesn’t happen a lot that a big name in a small venue shows so much enthusiasm in his playing and seems genuinely interested in giving the audience their money’s worth (there are of course exceptions, like guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine). So, I had fun. A lot of notes where played, a lot of styles flashed by, a lot of guitars where tuned, and a lot of laughing was done… To me the musical highlights of the show where the “old” Racer X songs “Scarified” and “Technical Difficulties” and the fusion song “Burning Organ“.

Paul Gilbert is unique, his own class, rated PG, and does it an a way that is not offending or arrogant at all (and in that he is unique as well). Definitely someone to go see again for a good old night out.

The Reason for God

I have mixed feelings about apologetics. On one hand I feel it is important to be able to engage in meaningful discussion with non-believers about Christianity. On the other hand I don’t feel compelled to try to convince non-believers that the God of the Bible is real, because ultimately it requires God’s saving grace. Now I realize by saying this that I am potentially opening a can of worms called predestination, but that’s maybe for another blog. Having said this, I did feel compelled to put this video on my blog.

In short, it is a video where Tim Keller, the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, visits Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss his book, “The Reason for God: Believe in an Age of Skeptesism.” This event took place on March 5, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series. It is an hour long lecture.

Psalm #5 – Draw Close, It’s Your Destiny!

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me. There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5)

Approaching God
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalm 5:1-3)
David makes it abundantly clear that he wants to talk to God. He calls for His attention three times! What I think is interesting is that David specifically says that he prays to God. Now this sounds kind of silly to say, but I do think it sort of affirms David’s awareness that he is approaching his holy Father, that we request to be in His presence. The fact that we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16) does not mean that we should confuse confidence with arrogance. Charles H. Spurgeon said about morning prayer: “This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul.” The idea behind direct is not “to aim” but “to order, to arrange.” It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: ‘I will arrange my prayer before thee;’ I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. So just as we put lay our request before God before we pray, we should eagerly watch afterwards expectantly to heaven for God to answer.

Drawing Closer to Holiness
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me.” (Psalm 5:4-8)
The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more we become aware of His holiness and our sinfulness. A direct result of our efforts of approaching the definition of holiness, God Himself. “This is a good way to measure how well you are praying and whether, as you pray, you are drawing close to God or are merely mouthing words. If you are drawing close to God, you will become increasingly sensitive to sin, which is inevitable since the God you are approaching is a holy God.” (Boice). But look at David’s confidence! Yet he doesn’t rely on his own righteousness or holiness, but his confidence is grounded in the mercy of God. And look at David’s humility! He recognizes or acknowledges that his godliness is a result of God’s mercy and power and work in him, and not of his own strength.

Two Destinies
There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:9-12)
Wickedness is displayed in what a man says. Jesus said: “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34), and James said: “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6,8). David prays that He will hold them guilty, to let them fall, to thrust them out for their rebellion. But the righteous, the ones who put their trust in God (and not just pay lip service) should rejoice! Let them sing for joy, and find shelter and a shield in the LORD. And what a great blessing it is to find favor in the LORD! Knowing that God says: “This is my child, in whom I am well pleased”. Awesome!

Psalm #4 – Of God and Men

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD. Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety” (Psalm 4)

David Talks to God
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1)
On the surface it looks like David is commanding God to answer, because He is not. But that is not the case. There is passion in David’s cry to the LORD. He is not trying to persuade or command God to answer, but he is expressing passion. God wants us to care about the things that He cares about. Isaiah says “there is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities” (Isaiah 64:7). David is calling on His name and is arousing himself to take hold of God. I love how it says “You have relieved me in my distress”. Looking at the Hebrew text gives in a more visual picture I think. The Hebrew word for “relieved” is “rachab,” which means “broad or roomy pasture”. The Hebrew word for “distress” is “tsar,” which means “narrow, tight”. The Message translates this as “Once, in a tight place, you gave me room; now I’m in trouble again: grace me! hear me!“. And so we see that God answers prayer and that we can call upon the LORD always in times of trouble, for He will relieve us in our distress.

David Talks to Men
Sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him” (Psalm 4:2-3)
David shifts gear and addresses the ungodly men, questioning how long his glory would turn to shame. But we should also ask this ourselves when we are on a course that is compromising. How long will I play around with this sin? How long will I love something that is not building up treasure in heaven? How long will I continue not only being deceived but actually seeking deception? But know (find out, discern, know by experience) that the LORD has set apart the godly men for Himself. What a beautiful realization! To really know that the LORD has set you apart. And what an assurance we have that the LORD hears when we call on Him! We should be confident that God answers our prayers. And when we see that our prayer is not answered, it would be good to figure out why. Many reasons could cause this, like not abiding in Jesus (John 15:7), unbelief (Matthew 17:20-21), unconfessed sin (James 5:16), or a lack of Bible reading and teaching (Proverbs 28:9).

David Talks to Himself
Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD. Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:4-8)
We are in the same situation as David, and that is that we are surrounded by ungodliness. Seeing this ungodliness could (or sometimes should) be reason to be angry, but yet we never have a reason to sin. We should take the same advice as David gave himself, and that is to turn to God and meditate within our heart, filling our heart and mind with God’s Word. Being surrounded by ungodliness could make us doubt if God will show us any good, yet David trusts the LORD that He will. He turns to God’s promise in the book of Numbers where it is written: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26). Knowing that the LORD make His face shine on you should put gladness in your heart, regardless of the circumstances. It should make you sleep well at night, knowing that the LORD bless you and keep you, “for You alone make me to dwell in safety