Campbell Markham

Why Do Christians Pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”?

“Thy kingdom come” is a daring prayer! We affirm that the world is not right and that we suffer under a cruel rebellion in which we are all complicit. We pray also that all people will own Jesus as King and bring their lives under his protection and rule. “Kiss the Son…blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12). And we pray that King Jesus will hasten to return to set all things right in this broken and rebellious world.

Thy kingdom come… — Matthew 6:10 (NASB 1977)

Look on the back of any Australian coin and you will be reminded that, though we are ruled by the Federal Government, Elizabeth II is still our Head of State. She is the Queen of Australia.
Everyone knows, however, that though Elizabeth has a great title and honor, she has no actual power. For this reason, though we associate kings and queens with pomp and circumstance, we do not associate them with true power.
God owns the universe and all who live in it.
In biblical times kings wielded real power. They owned the land and the loyalty of their people, and truly ruled them. Legislative, executive, and judicial power, rather than being separated as it is in Australia, was seated in one person wearing one crown.
So, when the Bible describes God as King, it means us to understand that God owns the universe and all who live in it, and rules absolutely.
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“Nuts!” Why Christians Must Fight On Against the Devil’s Calls To Surrender—Revelation 22:12–21

In this time of siege and struggle, surrounded by a powerful and deadly enemy, Satan calls us to surrender: “Stand down. Give in. Stop fighting and your life will be so much easier.” But Christ is coming soon. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Bright Morning Star. We have washed our robes in his blood. We have drunk from the river of life. 

The Siege of Bastogne, December 20–27, 1944, was one of the great battles of World War II.
German armor and infantry, in their last offensive gasp, attempted to divide and cripple the Allied forces on the Western Front by driving across the Ardennes forest to the main Allied supply port at Antwerp. This was the Battle of the Bulge, and German success depended on taking the vital crossroads at Bastogne.
The Germans surrounded the American soldiers there, outnumbering them more than two to one. They bombarded them night and day with tanks, mortars, and artillery. The deep snow and bare birch trees of deep-midwinter Ardennes formed the dramatic backdrop to the violence.
The job of the American troops was to hold fast, to hang on until the irresistible might of the Third Army arrived.
On the third day, General von Lüttwitz called on the American commander, one-star General Anthony McAuliffe, to surrender:

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armoured units….
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.[1]

McAuliffe’s reply is legendary:

To the German Commander.
The American Commander.[2]

Imagine the head-scratching among the German commanders as they tried to make sense of this obscure American idiom. The cheeky “you-know-what-you-can-do-with-your-surrender” arrogance of McAuliffe’s response was grounded in his contempt for the Nazis and the certainty that General Patton and his mighty Third Army were well on the way to help. American troops held on for five days until the promised relief arrived.
It’s an inspiring story. I picture those American troops, low on ammunition and food, hungry, in hell-freezing cold, outgunned, under constant bombardment, facing at every minute a powerful enemy bent on annihilating them. Their job was to hold fast, to hang on until the irresistible might of the Third Army arrived.
This is the church of every age.
This was also true for the first readers of Revelation. They too faced a violent enemy and held out day after day under siege and attack, struggling and suffering, longing for relief.
This is the church of every age. And to the church then and now Jesus has made a great promise.

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done (Rev. 22:12).

Suffering Christians, holding on under violent attack, are to look up, expectant, eager, and ready for the return of Christ. Let’s look more closely at the One who is coming soon.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13).

This is a threefold emphatic way of saying exactly the same thing. Jesus is the uncreated and eternal one. Jesus was there at the beginning of creation, and he will return to wrap up this age.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col 1:16)
By taking on human flesh, Jesus Christ became the central figure of history. It is a monumental mistake and tragedy, an awful perversion, to try to live life without knowing him, and without wanting to know him.
To be severed from him is to be separated from your Creator, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the great I AM.
He will judge us on the Last Day. He will determine our final and eternal destiny in heaven or in hell. So it is vital that we receive him and wash away our sins in his blood.
Our “robes” represent our moral condition, our standing with God.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev. 22:14-15).

Washing refers back to Revelation 7:14, to Christians who are “coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Our “robes” represent our moral condition, our standing with God. By nature our robes are stained and filthy with sin and vileness. Even our best deeds are tainted with pride and greed: “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6).
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Speaking Words of Love, Light, and Life with Each Other

As Proverbs 10:11 tells us, “From a wicked heart the mouth wreaks violence and death.” The quality of your words depends on the quality of your heart. That’s because your words come out of your heart. If you want your words to do good, then you have to ensure that the source is good.

In the 1970s a professor by the name of Albert Mehrabian proposed his famous 7-38-55 rule of communication. When we communicate our likes and dislikes, the listener’s acceptance of our communication will depend 7 percent on our words, 38 percent on our tone of voice, and 55 percent on our facial expressions and body language.
If I say, “I love pickled herring,” and my voice is slow and monotone and my face looks like a pickled herring, then, despite my words, you won’t put pickled herring out on the table next time we have breakfast together—unless you have a mischievous streak. And if I hear you tell me that you “have no problem with me” with an upbeat voice, but your arms are crossed and you are making overly intense eye contact, then I won’t be convinced.
Texting is less demanding than face-to-face communication. 
This means that face-to-face communication is costly, because I know that you are weighing not just my words but also the tone of my voice and my body language. I am going to get an immediate—possibly uncomfortable—response from you. Is this why we prefer less demanding forms of communication? Like a phone call—or even a text?
On the flip side, with face-to-face communication there is far less room for misunderstanding. Even if I don’t get my words exactly right, my tone of voice and expressions will fill in the gap, clarify, or even correct my inadequate or poorly chosen words. Then again, maybe I don’t want you to hear my tone of voice or to see my body language. Perhaps it would say too much…
Texting is especially open to causing misunderstanding. 
So although communicating by telephone may be less costly—because you are not seeing and weighing my expressions—it is also more open to misunderstanding. And communicating by email or text is the least costly form of communication: I don’t have to open up my expressions or even my tone of voice to your scrutiny. But I am now 93 percent open to being misunderstood. You have only my bare words, unqualified, unenhanced, and uncorrected by my non-verbal communication.
Now how is this going to work out in a society that is increasingly isolationist and wary of face-to-face contact and where even phoning someone is becoming rare? Research shows that phone apps are only the fifth most used app on smartphones, and I am told that Millennials dislike being called and prefer only text. In fact, they consider it a little rude to be called without prior warning via text!
The LORD has something to say about speaking in the book of Proverbs. His words, written some three thousand years ago, still apply whether we are speaking, writing letters, writing emails or texts, or posting on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the power of speech. 
First, consider the Bible’s teaching on the power of speech.
And God said, “Light be.”And light was (Gen 1:3).
When God speaks, light and galaxies and teaming life burst into existence. His words are that powerful. And a word from Jesus could kill a fig tree, calm a storm, and raise a rotting corpse to life.
And our words, like those of our heavenly Father whose image we bear, have power to them. They can’t create ex nihilo, but they can build up and tear down. They can create and destroy. They can bring a torrent of good or evil. James tells us that just as a tiny spark can set ablaze a great forest, so too can the tongue set the whole course of a person’s life on fire.
Our words can do tremendous good or harm.
Very powerful things can do tremendous good or tremendous harm, and so they need to be tamed and controlled and directed in the right way. Proverbs addresses the tongue in the same way it addresses everything, by looking first at the heart.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked” (Prov. 10:11).
“When a person has a righteous heart, then their mouth is a “fountain of life.” Their words transform what is saline and dead into something fresh and teaming with life. This makes me think of Ezekiel’s river, flowing east out of God’s Temple, and raising abundant life wherever it goes:
And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ezek. 47:12).
If you want your words to do good, then you have to ensure that the source is good.
Yet, as Proverbs 10:11 tells us, from a wicked heart the mouth wreaks violence and death. The quality of your words depends on the quality of your heart. That’s because your words come out of your heart. If you want your words to do good, then you have to ensure that the source is good. That’s why Jesus said to the Pharisees,
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matt. 12:34-35).
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Sleeping on Rocks Right Now? Jesus is Right There

As a church struggles—and every true church must struggle—heaven’s stairway joins her to heaven and all heaven’s mercy and safety. The stairway is not built by our faithfulness, but God’s promise. The stairway is not our obedience and steadfastness, but the person of Christ come down to rescue us from our sin and rebellion.

Weeks after winning my license, I crashed my car. It was a wet night and my friends and I decided it would be fun to drift around corners with wheels spinning. I lost control, the front of the car hammered into a high curb, and the steering was wrecked.
I limped the car home, too ashamed and embarrassed to tell my parents. I drove it first thing in the morning to the repairers in town. The mechanic hoisted it up and showed me how I’d bent the wheels and steering arms. Repair would be very costly.
I remember pacing the wet streets car-less, wondering where on earth I would find the repair money and still too ashamed to tell my family. For just a few hours I felt unusually helpless, almost nauseous with worry and loneliness. Looking back, I see how unnecessary my suffering was. All the help in the world was all around me, and I was blind to it.
So it is with Jacob in the book of Genesis.
Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran (Gen. 28:10).
What tragedy we read in these few words. Jacob was born into a rich and loving family. But he tricked his twin brother out of his birthright (Gen. 25) and then pulled a seriously devious and nasty deception on his blind father, tricking Isaac into giving him Esau’s covenant blessing (Gen. 27). So now Jacob is fleeing Beersheba, his home in the south of the Promised Land, to Haran in the strange and distant north: beyond Galilee, beyond Syria and Damascus, right up near Assyria and the Euphrates River.
Jacob means “Grasper.” Grasper had betrayed his family. And by lying and cheating and dishonoring his father, he had also dishonored God. What had he accomplished? A family in humiliation and disarray. He himself running, alone, and far, far from home.
Remember, this is the father of Israel. According to the principle of corporate identity as explained in Hebrews 7:1-10, the entire nation was physically latent within him at that moment. Jacob is Israel. Grasper personifies the church. What is true of him is true of the church.
What is true of Jacob is true of the church.
And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep (Gen. 28:11).
After fleeing all day, night falls with no motel or friendly house nearby. In verse 20 Jacob prays for “food to eat and clothes to wear.” So we see a lonely, guilty, destitute man. He lies in the open air with a rock for a pillow. He is exhausted physically, morally, spiritually, and relationally. This by nature is you. This by nature is your church.
Sleeping on rocks gives anyone strange dreams. God gives Jacob a vision. It is a kind of apocalypse; God pulls aside the curtain to show Jacob what is going on behind his desolate circumstances.
God showed Jacob a staircase joining heaven and earth.
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac” (Gen. 28:12-13a).
God cast our rebellious parents, and thus us, out of Eden. Cherubim wielding blazing swords barred the way back (Gen. 3:24). Humanity, and not least Jacob at this point, live within the desolation of that separation. But God showed Jacob a staircase joining heaven and earth.
The people of Babel attempted something like this, to build a tower to reconnect heaven and earth, to manufacture greatness and security (Gen. 11:1-9). But it was human-made and prideful, and God razed it. If God separated humanity from heaven, what can we do to bridge the gulf?
We cannot reach up to God, but he can reach down to us. That is the staircase.
Why are angels dashing up and down it? “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). They rush down with God’s word and salvation (Heb. 2:2), and rush back up with our prayers (Rev. 8:4). The staircase establishes communication between Jacob and heaven. It is a conduit of help—of salvation.
The One who speaks to Jacob is “the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” He made that unbreakable promise to Abraham:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:1-2) 

At that point Jacob must have doubted those promises. “Land? Great nation? Great name? Blessing? I’m an exile from the land. My ‘great name’ is Grasper. I’m cursed, not blessed!” Jacob had betrayed family and God and had lost everything. Yet God was working right then even in Jacob’s betrayal and desolation to fulfill his promise. God was there, heaven and earth were joined. God’s ministering servants rushed up and down for Jacob.
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God Can Handle Chaos—Including Yours

Whoever you are, and whatever the depths and agony of your trials, God is hovering over you: he loves you, he is near to you, and he can rescue you. We see a living picture of his rescue unfold in the subsequent six days of creation. God does not stand aloof from the world in all its chaotic agony. His caring, brooding presence is very near, and he is at work.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. —Genesis 1:1-2

If we are going to get anything out of Genesis, then we must prepare ourselves.
Basil of Caesarea (330-79) said at the beginning of his Hexaemeron, a series of sermons on Genesis 1,

How earnestly the soul should prepare itself to receive such high lessons! How pure it should be from carnal affections, how unclouded by worldly disquietudes, how active and ardent in its researches, how eager to find in its surroundings an idea of God which may be worthy of Him!

And John Calvin (1509-64) said in his commentary on Genesis, “The world is a mirror in which we ought to behold God.” “If my readers sincerely wish to profit with me in meditating on the works of God, they must bring with them a sober, docile mild, and humble spirit.”
So remember that the author of these words, Moses, saw an appearance of God at the burning bush, and God spoke with him “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Exod. 33:11; cf. Num. 12:6-8). And don’t forget the power of these words, “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
The Hebrew word for “beginning” is ראשׁית (rēshīt), which may also mean “starting point” or “first,” and is closely related to ראשׁ (rōsh), which means “head.” The word God translates אלהים, Elōhīm, which may be the plural for אל (el), the generic word for god. The plural does not in itself teach the doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God and three persons in the godhead, but is more likely a “plural of majesty.” God is not just god, he is GOD. Elōhīm. GOD! The very sound of this word, naming as it does the Creator of the universe, should fill us with awe, dread, and love.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Before there was an earth and atoms, life and light, time and tide, there was God. He is eternal, which does not mean that he is very old, but that he had no beginning. He always was, is, and will be. Many have mockingly asked, “What was God doing before he created the world?” In his Commentaries on Genesis, Calvin relates a humorous answer he had read to this question:

When a certain impure dog was in this manner pouring ridicule upon God, a pious man retorted that God had been at that time by no means inactive, because he had been preparing hell for the captious.

We cannot speak reasonably of what God was doing “before creation,” because before creation there was no time as we know it—there was no “before.” Certainly there was nothing that brought God himself into existence.
The Hebrew verb for create is ברא (bārā); it is only ever used with God as the subject. What did God create? The “heavens and the earth.” Heaven, שׁמים (shamayīm), also means sky. Earth, ארץ (erets), also means land and ground. These words do not have a special meaning in Genesis 1:1; but when put together like this, “heaven and earth,” that is, “sky and ground,” “everything that’s up and everything that’s down,” they emphasize that God made everything. Only God himself is not made.
There are no time indications in these first two verses. The earth (erets) was formless and empty. There is some lovely alliteration here in the original, the earth was תהו ובהו, tōhu va bōhu. These words are neither “good” nor “bad” but are exceedingly and perhaps unpleasantly bland. Tōhu can refer to a barren wasteland, “a barren and howling waste” (Deut. 32:10; also Job 6:18). It can refer to futility (1 Sam. 12:21) and meaninglessness (Isa. 29:21). Bōhu appears only three times in the Old Testament. Isaiah 34:11 describes how “God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation,” and Jeremiah uses just the same phrase as Genesis 1:2: “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty (tōhu va bōhu); and at the heavens, and their light was gone” (Jer. 4:23). We will return to Jeremiah’s hugely significant phrase in a moment.
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Is God the Background for Your Selfie?

May we never turn our back on our heavenly Father, with the camera focused upon our pathetic selves. God forbid that he would ever become a background picture for the glorification of self. May our first request to our Father in heaven, “Hallowed be your name,” put him back at the center of our Christian prayers and service. And may it put us on the lower periphery—the happiest, truest, and best place to be—looking upward and inward to our heavenly Father with praise and adoration. And may he hear our prayer, that many of the lost will come and join us in his praise.

If the Louvre is Paris’s most popular tourist destination, Leonardo da Vinci’s La Joconde is easily the most popular exhibit within the museum.
I first saw the Mona Lisa in 1985. I remember a crowd taking photos with their 35mm cameras. Every time a flash went off, an attendant would futilely wag their finger. This scene repeated about every five seconds.
In 2018 I noticed a big change. There was the same-size crowd, and people were also taking photos. But they were not taking photos of the Mona Lisa. They were taking photos of themselves in front of the Mona Lisa.
Which means that they had their backs to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
This new phenomenon is not explained by the difference in device—the old cameras were also capable of self-portraits.
The phenomenon is explained by a difference in attitude.
In the past, people took a photo of a painting to show others. The intention was that others be able to look at and admire the art.
Today, people take a photo of themselves in front of the painting to show others. The intention is that others be able to look at and admire the photographer. Admire the selfie-artiste, who is gorgeous and cultured.
And so in 1985 the signs around the Mona Lisa warned against damaging the painting with camera flashes. In 2019 the signs warn against self-portraitists damaging each other with elbows and selfie-sticks. It’s a picture of our world, our obsession with self, and our miserable struggle to admire anything outside of us, except in its capacity to bring admiration to ourselves.
This is a caricature of course. No one is entirely selfish, and we are surrounded and blessed by the countless selfless acts of others. But it is undeniably a growing and powerful tendency in our society, a tendency that sows only frustration and misery.
What is the primary purpose of Christianity?
What is the character of our Christianity? Is its primary purpose myself? What I get out of it? Selfishness is the air we breathe, and just as it infects and damages our relationships with others, it infects and damages our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Jesus exposes, challenges, and disintegrates this selfishness with the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Hallowed be your name (Matt. 6:9; all Scripture quotes from NIV).
In order to understand this fully, it helps to engage briefly with three languages: English, Greek, and Latin, and no prior experience required.
“Hallowed be your name” reminds us of the importance of treating God’s name as holy.
The English “hallow” is a verb that means “to make holy.” So “Hallowe’en” was originally the “eve” before the holiday that celebrated the “hallowed” ones, the saints. “Holiday” itself comes from “holy day,” a day to cease work in order to worship. You can hear the similar “hal” and “hol” sounds in these related words. “Hallowed be your name” therefore means, “May your name be hallowed, may your name be treated as holy.”
The Greek original gives further important context. The verb hagiazō correlates with the noun hagios, almost always translated by the English words “holy,” “holy one,” or “holy place.” The link can be seen in the rare English word “hagiography,” which is a biography of a saint or a biography that attempts to portray someone as saintly. And this introduces a set of words built on the Latin sanctus, including “saint,” “sanctuary,” “sanctify,” “sacred,” and “consecrate.”
These are three language-groups of words that refer to the same thing: the English “hallow” and “holy,” the Greek hagiazō and hagios, and the Latin “sanctify” and “sacred.” Putting these words together like this gives us a more rounded understanding of their meaning.
Let’s come back to hagiazō, the original language word in the Lord’s Prayer. This verb was used in three basic ways:

To set apart, consecrate, hallow something for a ritual purpose. So Jesus talks about the altar that “consecrates” a sacrifice, that “makes the gift sacred” (Matt. 23:19). And Paul talks about food that is “consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:5).

To purify something, “to eliminate that which is incompatible with holiness.” Thus, Paul says of Christians, “You were washed, you were sanctified [hallowed], you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 6:11). And he describes husbands who are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and hallowed it by “the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). Christians are those who have been “sanctified [hallowed] in Christ Jesus and called to be holy” (1 Cor. 1:2).

To treat something or someone as holy, to reverence something. Peter commands Christians, in their hearts, “to revere [set apart/sanctify/hallow] Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15). Christ is to be given a unique and revered place in our hearts.

This third sense of hagiazō is what Jesus means when he teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” We pray that God’s name will be hallowed, treated as holy, reverenced, and sanctified.
“Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD Almighty!”
It is important at this point to recall the idea of holiness in the Old Testament. In Exodus 3:5, at the burning bush, God commanded Moses to “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” God was present, and so the ground was to be hallowed, treated as different, with reverence. Footwear off.
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The Perfect Outcry in a Broken and Anguished World — Psalm 130

Things are not right. Untold crowds protest. But in Psalm 130 we hear the perfect outcry that can, and must, arise from every heart. In this Song of Ascents we lift up our heads to Jesus Christ. We wait for him, more than the watchman waits for the morning. 

The year 2020 will be remembered, so far, for Covid-19, and large-scale protests. Vast masked crowds gather to rail against racism, policing, gender-inequality, climate change, and whatever other grievances each new week brings. Iconoclasts topple whole quarries of obnoxious memorials of the people and events of our past.
I tend to be cynical about all this. Protestors seem intent on inflaming rather than healing race and gender divisions. And they seem to give little thought to the consequences of their demands. Defund the police? Erase our history? How then will our grandchildren not repeat its mistakes?
Whatever I may think, thousands are getting off their bottoms and onto the streets. They are unhappy, distressed, and they cry out for change. “Things are not right! We want something better!”
In Psalm 130 the psalmist too was deeply unhappy and distressed.
In this they share some common ground with Psalm 130. The psalmist too was deeply unhappy and distressed. He too felt the pain of brokenness and cried out in anguish.
The difference is that Psalm 130 is a perfect outcry. It shows exactly what should be cried out, and to whom we should cry out, and for what reasons.
Psalm 130 is “A song of ascents.” The temple was on Mount Zion, the highest point of Jerusalem, which is itself a city on a hill. It may first have been sung by pilgrims as they streamed up through Jerusalem to the temple to worship. It looks up, away from self and the earthly, to the face of the Lord.
And Psalm 130 is, along with Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 143, one of the Penitential Psalms. We see a sinner looking up to God’s face and pleading for his mercy.
A broken heart cries out to the Lord.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy (Psalm 130:1-2).

David had once said, “I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me” (Ps. 69:2). “The depths” is the bottom of the sea, the base of the slimy pit. “The depths” can take many forms. It could be the depths of an airless dungeon, or chronic pain. It could be the depths of poverty, or of a broken heart. It could be the depths of despair, shame, or fear. It could be the depths of hopelessness, of looking forward and seeing nothing but the cold grave and endless torment. The psalmist cries out de profundis (Latin for “from the depths”) of this black and hopeless place. He dares to evoke God’s “ears” and begs that he will listen.
We should never forget that a loving Lord sometimes casts his people into the depths. Think of Joseph in the Egyptian dungeon and scabrous Job on his ash heap, consider David in the caves of exile, Jonah in the stinking whale, Daniel in the lions’ den, the Prodigal Son in the sty, and Peter in the abyss of bitter self-loathing on crucifixion eve. The Lord casts us down to death, that we might come to life and cry out to him.
Notice that the Psalmist doesn’t scramble out of the pit, and then call to God. He calls to God from the shroud. God wants our prayers from wherever we are, and even from whomever we are, at that moment.
Note two fundamental differences between the protester and the penitent.
First, the protester cries out to human authorities for change. Thus, they aim far too low and expect the impossible. Human governors can provide a degree of defense, law and order, communication, and healthcare, and we should be thankful for good government in Australia. But no government can reach into people’s hearts. They cannot make the greedy generous, the racist color-blind, the violent gentle, the selfish selfless, and the reckless responsible. The Psalmist cries out to the highest heavens. The voice of the protester, like a flapping dodo, fails to rise from earth and clay.
Second, the protestor cries for justice and rights. “Give me what I deserve!” The Psalmist cries out for the opposite. To see the Lord, the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley, the Lamb without Blemish, is to see at once the blackness of our own hearts, “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9 NKJV). To see the Holy One, sword of justice in his hand, is to see at once what we richly deserve, the fires of hell and the worm that does not die.
We must tread very carefully here. There are people who are in the pit as an immediate consequence of a sin. Think Jonah, Peter, and the Prodigal Son. And there are people in the pit, but it is not an immediate consequence of sin. Think Job, Daniel, and Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. Yet the cry in both cases is the same, “Have mercy!”
There is profound injustice in the world. “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11 NIV). Love compels us to stand for the rights of the unborn, the impoverished, child-slaves, political prisoners, and the elderly who are abused and who live, in some nations, with euthanizing potions at hand. Christians will always want to defend the weak.
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Marie Durand — Part 3: The Indelible Legacy of the 1572 Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

The memory of those rivers of blood…makes nature tremble. — Antoine Court, 1756

A boulder toppling into a stream may alter and direct its course ever after. In the same way, certain historical events have changed and channelled the culture and mindset of entire peoples for many centuries. You cannot understand the English apart from 1066, Gloriana, Waterloo, and the Blitz. You cannot understand an American apart from the Pilgrim Fathers, the War of Independence, Gettysburg, and Pearl Harbor. You cannot understand an Australian apart from the Endeavour, Burke and Wills, the Ashes, and Gallipoli.
Marie Durand’s eighteenth-century church community cannot be understood apart from the sixteenth-century French Religious Wars, the Saint Bartholomew’s Massacre of 1572, the Edict of Nantes in 1598, the Dragonnades, the Revocation in 1685, and the Camisard Rebellion of 1702–1704.
The “French Religious Wars” describes a series of eight civil wars fought out between 1562 and 1598. An estimated three million people perished, fifteen percent of the French population. Although the antagonists wore their inherited religious labels of “Protestant” or “Catholic,” social and political struggles were the true causes of these wars. A right devotion to the religion of the Bible—which brings reconciliation with God and our enemies—would have extinguished the flames of war.
French Protestants saw these wars as the necessary armed defense of their property and lives from Catholic aggression, of their right to live and worship as Protestants. French Protestant scholars agonized over God’s purposes in these violent struggles and what form resistance should take: whether to passively and patiently suffer persecution, whether to take up arms against tyranny, or whether to flee. This practical-theological struggle continued well into the eighteenth century and is manifest in a number of Marie Durand’s letters and the dreadful decisions that she was required to make.
The Fourth Religious War erupted from the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which commenced on August 24, 1572. This tragedy needs special mention because of the deep mark it left on both the Huguenot psyche and Catholic-Protestant relations for many generations. Certainly, its reverberations were felt by Marie Durand’s community in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Antoine Court, for example, the leader of the restoration of the Protestant church in France from 1715, wrote in 1756 about “the memory of those rivers of blood […] of that Saint Bartholomew’s Day, the thought alone of which makes nature tremble.” Louis Bourgeon, a specialist on the Massacre, wrote in 1987 how its scale and ferocity had left its mark well beyond the eighteenth century: “The history of Saint Bartholomew’s continues to this day to be the cause of a spirit of passion, conscious or not.”[1]

“Let There Be Light”

We can all rejoice that God is the God of light and that his Son Jesus is the Light of the World and the glorious fulfillment of Day One of Genesis. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5).

Human beings have a natural love for light. It is no wonder, for light and all it represents was the very first thing that God introduced into his creation.
The first two verses of the Bible proclaim,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:1-2)

Creation was a structureless, lifeless, lightless, and watery chaos. And the Spirit of God hovered like a mother bird over the chaos. He loved the chaos, cared for the chaos, and was about to develop the chaos over a period of six days. Remember that we shouldn’t, strictly speaking, talk of “six days of creation,” for creation was achieved in a moment. Rather, Genesis 1 describes six days of God enlightening, ordering, filling, and enlivening his creation. This is day one:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening and there was morning—the first day (Gen. 1:3-5).

1. God spoke light into existence.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3). Witness first the power of God: he speaks, things happen. In other words, what God wills happens. As Basil of Caesarea explained in his sermons on Genesis 1: “The divine will and the first impetus of divine intelligence are the Word of God.”
What happens, happens because God wills it to happen. There is no higher will than God’s, there is no will strong enough to compete with God, and there is no realm where God is not present and where his will does not rule. This is the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and it is inherent in the word “God.”  God by definition is the eternal being whose will reigns supreme and unchallenged. Thus, we call God “Lord” or “The Lord Almighty” or “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
In the Greek Pantheon, each god competes with the others. Even Zeus—king of Olympus—is outwitted and manipulated and frustrated by the mischievous wills of both gods and men. Elohim is not at all like this. He rules, full stop.
Note especially the power of God’s words. For Paul, this underpins the gospel mission. The gospel is God’s Word, so it is inherently powerful. Mighty Rome might find it pathetically weak, and the philosophers might find it grotesquely foolish—but even the “foolishness” of God is wiser and mightier than the power and wisdom of humanity (1 Cor. 1:18-25). And when God speaks directly to the human heart and spirit, his word is invincible (2 Cor. 4:6).
2. Light is a marvelous thing.
For starters, light is very quick, moving just shy of 300,000 kilometers per second. If you drove your car to the sun at 110km/h (the speed limit) it would take you 157 years to arrive. But if you could ride a beam of light to the sun, it would take you only eight minutes and twenty seconds. I am always delighted by the thought that when I look up at the stars, not only do I see a glorious picture of the number of Abraham’s descendants, I see also the distant past, the light of far distant stars and galaxies that may have taken thousands of years to reach me.
Our amazing scientists still do not wholly grasp the paradoxical nature of light. Physicists talk about “wave-particle duality,” or a “duality paradox”; for on the one hand light behaves like waves and has frequency and amplitude, but it also behaves like particles that can be amassed and focused into a laser beam that can cut through steel. The Jedi knight’s brilliant light sabre might be mythical, but the sheer awesome potential of light is not. These two distinct properties of light have not yet been harmonized. Albert Einstein said,

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do. (The Evolution of Physics, p. 278)

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Marie Durand — Part 2: Daughter of the French Reformation

The Waldensians likewise sprang from a reform movement. They arose around Lyons in the twelfth century and spread into southern France and north-western Italy. They too ran afoul of the Inquisition. (Waldensian Protestants continue to live and worship in northern Italy. The Italian author Bruna Peyrot, who in 1997 wrote an historical novel about Durand, Prigioniere della Torre, is a Waldensian.)
All of this means that long before the Reformation, the Vivarais, the Durands’ home region in the south which roughly corresponds to modern-day Ardèche, bore a strong bent towards cultural separation from the north, religious non-conformity, and political autonomy.
If the south of France felt a sense of proud geographical and cultural autonomy from the north, a great many in France as a whole felt a proud sense of religious autonomy from the Pope and Italy. This divided the late-medieval French church into two groups. The Ultramontanes—literally “over the mountains”were fiercely loyal to the Pope, who resided across the alps in Italy. The opposing Gallicans resented the church being ruled by distant Italians and preferred all things Gallic, French. (Gaul is an ancient name for France.) Needless to say, French monarchs were proud Gallicans, and in 1516 Francis I secured the Concordat of Bologna, which removed the right to appoint senior church positions in the French church from the Pope to the French kings.
The other big social movement that played such a key role in the rise of French Protestantism was the fourteenth and fifteenth-century European Renaissance, which means “re-birth.” Beginning in northern Italy, great minds and artists looked to recover and build upon the achievements of Classical Greece and Rome. This brought tremendous developments in painting, sculpture, music, architecture, historical and textual scholarship, literature, mechanical invention, and political theory.
Renaissance flowered in fifteenth-century Europe into Humanism, a scholarly movement which looked ad fontes, “back to the sources.” From the time of the Crusades, ancient books and parchments flowed into western Europe from Palestine and southern Europe. Scholars strove to grasp the thought of the ancients by mastering their languages—especially Greek, Hebrew, and classical Latinand by searching for and copying and comparing the oldest manuscripts that they could get their hands on.
Gutenberg’s development of the printing press around 1436 supercharged the whole Humanist project. It permitted the cheap, massive, and rapid multiplication of books and pamphlets and the ideas they carried. Western European scholarship was shaken by the content of this tidal wave of fresh thought and the exhilarating spirit of personal intellectual responsibility, of searching out the truth for oneself.
The re-examination of the biblical texts in their original languages sparked a major rethink of Christian thought and practice. A German Augustinian monk at the University of Wittenberg, who was lecturing in the early sixteenth century on the Psalms, Galatians, and Romans, rediscovered the Bible’s teaching about the way of salvation. The teachings of Martin Luther, and especially his recovery of the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, began to be debated in France in the 1520s. Luther’s critique of the papacy and all things Rome appealed to those with Gallican tendencies. They also appealed to a growing intelligentsia with a newly acquired taste for self-education and the new humanism.
Reformation in France was sparked in Paris in the 1520s in the diocese of Meaux around bishop Guillaume Briçonnet (1472–1534), the humanist Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (1455–1536), and the brilliant author Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549), sister of the French King Francis I. There was however one great figure who would far eclipse them all.
Visit the 1909 Monument international de la réformation, built into the wall of Geneva’s Old Town, and you will see among the granite statues of such Reformers as Guillaume Farel, Theodore Beza, and John Knox, a five-meter-tall representation of John Calvin. Calvin’s figure stands slightly forward of the others and dominates the monument.

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