30 December 2016

This 'n' That

Well, the new year is almost here; 2016 is nearly over. For some, the end cannot come soon enough because this year was characterized by illness, injury, loss, or strife. For others, 2016 brought sweet, joyful memories, positive change, or long-awaited closure. Regardless of where your year falls on this spectrum, 2016 is still ending. You cannot stop it.

The hours, days, months, and years seem to pass by so quickly, don't they? It doesn't seem that long ago that we rejoiced to see summer and now, here we are in the middle of winter, though in many places in the US "winter" seems to be redefining itself. And though God has perfectly designed each day's 24-hour cycle, there never seems to be enough hours in the day or enough days in the week to accomplish all that we think we need to. Then, before we even realize it, before we barely blink, a year has passed, then two, then ten, then a lifetime.
Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
These sobering verses remind us that we have a specific purpose for our time on this earth. We are to serve and glorify the Living God. The world keeps us busy with its distractions, but we are to be about our Father's business. In this we serve and emulate our Lord Jesus Christ. May we purpose to seek Christ and keep our eyes fixed on Him in the coming year and always.

With that, I present you with your final 2016 week in review (kind of):

25 December 2016

From First to Second Advent

The twinkling lights, the joyful music, the seasonal scents. The clich├ęd, but inevitable and very real hustle and bustle of the season. The gatherings, the shopping, the wrapping. The menus, the lists, the crowds. Amid these things, we still find our way to the manger; but, mankind being an easily distracted creature, it is there that we stop. We take a snapshot of this familiar scene—Mary, Joseph, the Christ child, the angels, the shepherds, and a few well-placed animals—and we place it on our mantle as if it tells the totality of the tale, but for all of its miraculous glory, it is not the full story.

Man, though curious by nature, seems content to leave this Christmas story half-finished. Perhaps it is because the next few chapters do not easily harmonize with the gaiety that man has manufactured for the season. Yet, though our Savior first became man as a seemingly helpless infant, and though, if the story had stopped there, we would have reason to praise our great God, in truth and in spite of our undeserving state, there is far more to this story than a star and a stable.

Christmas Day Praise

Come, Let Us Adore Him

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
(Luke 2:1-14)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing


Angels We Have Heard on High


Angels From the Realms of Glory


When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:15-18)

O Come, All Ye Faithful

24 December 2016

Silent, Holy Night

The Birth of a King

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

For Unto Us a Child Is Born


Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Silent Night

23 December 2016

This 'n' That

Well, Christmas is nearly upon us. For many, this is a time of joy and celebration, family gatherings, and fond memories. For others it is a time of sorrow filled with memories of loss and grieving. Is this what matters, our emotions? Our feelings? No, we who are Christians must remember one very important thing: Christmas is not about us.

Of course, Christ came to save His people from their sins. Hallelujah! Praise God! Yet even in the reality of this mission, Christmas is not about us. Christmas is about the God-man who condescended to earth and was obedient to God the Father, even unto death (Philippians 2:8). The baby in the manger who had come to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) could only accomplish those purposes through His atoning, sacrificial death (Hebrews 10:10-14), and because Christ was raised on the third day, those who are His shall also live forever (John 3:16).

Christmas is about Christ. It is not about presents or music or cookies. Nor is it about a divine "naughty or nice" list that requires you to check the boxes of your good deeds in order to find favor with God. Christmas is about Christ. It sounds obvious, but is it obvious in our lives? With our gaze fixed upon the person of Jesus Christ, as we seek to know Him—not just His teachings, but Jesus Christ Himself—through His Word, our pursuits, desires, and deeds will be continually sanctified as  we grow in His likeness. Then, one day, we will be with Him forever. Now that is a lovely Christmas present, indeed.

From manger to cross to empty tomb to Second Coming, all of history is ultimately about Christ.

With that, and with only a couple of days left to clean your house and bake (or eat!) your cookies, I hope you still find a few quiet moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

20 December 2016

What's In a Name? Prince of Peace


For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

In these turbulent times, the idea of peace seems almost idyllic. Yet, Isaiah prophesies that the coming Messiah, who is Jesus Christ, would be the Prince of Peace.

In the history of the world since the Fall there has not ever been true peace among sinful men. From Cain and Abel, to whatever conflict is raging in the world today, men have been at war with one another for millennia.

Only One can bring true, lasting peace to the earth—Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:7 continues,
There will be no end to the increase of His government or peace…”
One day, after Christ has judged the world, He will renew the Heavens and the Earth, and peace will reign for eternity.
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)
As glorious as peace among men may be, however, there is a greater, more ultimate peace that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

18 December 2016

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

God With Us

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear


O Holy Night

16 December 2016

This 'n' That

It's no secret that I love this time of year. The colors, the smell of cookies baking, the music, finally having the opportunity to take my vacation days—all of it brings a smile to my face, even in the midst of uncertainty, sorrow, or adversity.

And even though it's cumbersome, dusty, and, well, kind of a pain, I'm always happy to put up the Christmas tree. My family has always decorated simply for the season, but over the years the decorations on our tree have evolved with our focus. We now decorate our tree with simple garland and, as ornaments, the names of Christ. I've found this to be a beautifully simple way to turn our focus toward the Savior. I'm not sure I'll ever break out the old Hallmark ornaments again!

One of my favorite names for our Lord that is especially brilliant this time of year is "Light of the World." Jesus said,
I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. (John 8:12)
The blackness of sin permeates this world. If the Holy Spirit does not cause a regenerating work within us, we remain enslaved to this darkness.

Yet, it is through Jesus Christ that we come to know the truth about God and His holiness, as well as the truth about man and his wretchedness. When the Light of the world shines His light into man's wicked soul, He reveals man's need for a Savior. When we trust in Christ for salvation, we are freed from sin's chains. We are released from the dark prison in which we formerly lived.

Christmas is a time when lights sparkle and shine in the darkness of night. May this be a reminder to us of that one shining star that shone through the night sky of Bethlehem, guiding men to the One who was and is the true Light of the world.
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2:9-10)
Do you rejoice with great joy that this Child has saved your soul?

Now, I also hope you rejoice, on a far, far, far lesser scale, of course, that it is time for your week in review (kind of):

15 December 2016

What's In a Name? Eternal Father


For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

This title of Christ’s is fascinating and intriguing. Remember that this verse is describing the infant of Isaiah 7:14:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
The titles provided by Isaiah in 9:6 are introduced as belong to the child who will be born, the son who will be given, the One who shall be called Immanuel, whose name shall be Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

Yet this child, the reader now learns, is also a father. More than that, He is the Eternal Father. This verse is not to say that within the Trinity, Jesus the Son is God the Father. No, for indeed the Trinity is comprised of the three distinct persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Literally, this phrase means “Father of Eternity”1. Jesus has said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13).

13 December 2016

What's In a Name? Mighty God


For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

His name shall be called Mighty God. Mighty. God. El Gibor. God, the mighty One.

This name of the blessed Messiah very clearly highlights His divine nature while also emphasizing His power.

Just how great is His strength? Well, even the wind and the waves obey Him.
When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

12 December 2016

Equipping Eve: The Wisdom and Witness of Anna


She was an elderly widow who had served God her entire life, and she was one of the few people chosen by God to be a witness of the infant Christ. Open your Bible to Luke 2:36-38 and let’s learn a bit more about the woman named Anna.

Click here to listen to this latest episode of Equipping Eve.

Click here for a list of related resources.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: Simeon's Psalm
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ
Equipping Eve: The Word Made Flesh

11 December 2016

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

God My Savior

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

Joy to the World


And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
“HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

(Luke 1:39-56)

Mary, Did You Know?

09 December 2016

This 'n' That

Headphones. They are everywhere. People can't seem to function without them. I see them as people ride bikes, run, or simply walk across the street. I see folks plugged in from their car to the office, and inside the office as well. At their desk, at the printer, in the bathroom. Yes, you read that correctly.

Why are we so conditioned to be constantly surrounded by noise? For my part, I cannot understand how my coworkers accomplish anything with another voice speaking into their ears, whether it is singing or talking. Me? I can't even work with classical music playing. My brain simply cannot process that much at once. And you know what? That's okay.

It seems to me that my generation and younger may end up with hearing aids at a much younger age than previous generations. Sure, I listen to music (usually classical or Christmas music, if the season's right) or podcasts in the car or while exercising, but other than that, I'm okay with the silence. Surely the constant noise plugged directly into our aural cavity cannot be a good thing!

I learned a lesson in the fragility and sensitivity of our eardrums this weekend when I unintentionally, but thankfully only temporarily, impaired my hearing. When bombarded by more unexpected and excessive noise within the next 12 hours, there was more pain. There was pressure. It wasn't terrible, but it was enough to make me nervous.

After a trip to the doctor, I was comforted to "hear" that there was no permanent damage. She talked to me about the danger of seemingly instant hearing loss, though, and explained that, in severe instances, when hearing is suddenly completely lost, a person has only 24 to 48 hours to address the issue (i.e., to be placed on steroids to reduce the inflammation). After this time, the hearing loss is irreversible and permanent.

Wow. What an intricate, fragile body God has designed! Why do we not care for it more? Is our playlist really more important than being able to hear the birds singing for the duration of our time here on earth? I would rather hear creation praising God than to hear man singing his ridiculous "Top Ten" hit any day. That is why you'll probably never see me wandering the halls of my office with headphones in my ears and my phone in my pocket. Instead, you might see me wearing ear plugs when confronted with loud noises, wherever that may be. It may not be the most glamorous look, but I'd rather preserve the precious hearing that my God was so good to give me!

With that, why not turn on some soft, instrumental Christmas carols and then sit back to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

08 December 2016

What's In a Name? Wonderful Counselor


For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

A child will be born, a son will be given, and this One shall have upon His shoulders the government of all. Indeed, He alone is God’s perfect ruler.

This reality is emphasized by the four-fold name given to Him in Isaiah 9:6. Isaiah packs more names for Christ into this one verse than is seen in any other single verse in Scripture. At the time of the Old Testament especially, a name was far more than a mere identifier, it defined the character of the person. The name was the person. This is why the names of Christ are so significant; they offer great insight into the person and nature of our Lord.

06 December 2016

What's In a Name? A Child Born, A Son Given


For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Isaiah 9:6 contains more names of Messiah in a single verse than any other in the Bible. The names of Messiah presented in this verse cannot be fully appreciated, however, without an understanding of the broader context of the passage.

As Isaiah prophesies, chapter 8 ends on a note of judgment:
When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness. (Isaiah 8:19-22)
Indeed, in short order, as history demonstrates, Assyria came and took Israel into captivity. Judgment had come.
 

04 December 2016

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

What Child Is This?

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

What Child Is this?


Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

02 December 2016

This 'n' That

Well, it is officially December. How did that happen?

Chicago's Michigan Avenue; Flickr user Daniel X. O'Neil
I drove into the city last week for the first time since I moved here several years ago.  I wanted to see how this place "does Christmas," if you will. While the ice rink may have been open, the carriage-pulling horses were dressed in holiday garb, and the streets were twinkling with lights, it was mildly disappointing. I decided that whoever is in charge of Christmas-izing the city needs to go spend a weekend in Chicago. There wasn't much I liked about the Windy City (except the Cubs), but that city certainly knows how to dress itself up for the holiday season. From the ice rink in Millennium Park to the Christkindlmarkt, to brightly lit Michigan Avenue, Chicago can certainly help even the most miserly of Scrooges muster up a little worldly-based Christmas cheer. Yet, in spite of my affinity for most things Christmas, I'd much rather be on a quiet farm in the country, with the stars lighting the sky, shimmering down on a layer of freshly fallen snow than in a bustling city.

Of course, neither of these are realities for this blogger. Instead, I call the suburbs home, with its mostly-quiet neighborhoods and sometimes too-festive neighbors. That's okay, too, though, because in the end, "Christmas spirit" has nothing to do with silver bells or Christmas lights.

It is officially December, friends. Are we fretting over the long list of presents we still need to buy? Or are we focused on the celebration of the advent of our Lord?

Ponder that, then come back here and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

01 December 2016

What's In a Name?


Most tend to think of a name as merely an identifier. My name is Erin. Your name might be Susan, Joshua, Abigail, or something else. Names prevent us from having to refer to one another as “Hey, You."

Perhaps you named your child Julie simply because you liked the sound of the name and it blended well with your surname. You likely gave little if any consideration to the actual meaning of the name Julie, which in its French origin, means “downy.”

Today, our names act as a label; a name is rarely chosen as a means of defining our individual character. In days long ago, however, names carried far more significance. In the Bible especially, one can see that names were far more than mere labels. According to S. Lewis Johnson, in the Bible, the concept of a name held the following importance:
  • The name was the person,
  • The name was the person revealed, and
  • The name was the person actively present.1
We see the noteworthiness of names emphasized throughout Scripture. In Genesis 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, even as He established an everlasting covenant with His servant:
Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
“No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:3-8)
God changed Abraham’s name because he was promised to become the “father of a multitude,” or of many nations. This new name reflected God’s promise to Abraham.

27 November 2016

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

The Promised One

The Lord God said, "And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:22-26)



The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:10)

A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel. (Numbers 24:17b)

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2)

26 November 2016

Equipping Eve: More Sad Church Signs


It's unlikely that anyone actually gleans their theology from a church sign. Church signs are notoriously cheesy and oftentimes the churches that display them are theologically unsound. Erin drives by lots of church signs everyday, and finally realized that they can make a great teaching tool—of what not to believe, think, or teach. Open your Bible as we seek to debunk some of these sad church signs.

Click here to listen to this latest episode of Equipping Eve.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: Sad Church Signs
Equipping Eve: Stickers in My Bible
Equipping Eve: A Victim of Spontaneous Baptism

25 November 2016

This 'n' That

Well, I hope all of my American readers had a pleasant Thanksgiving yesterday! Ours was relaxing and pie-filled, just as it should be, and it was wonderful to spend the time away from the busyness and stress of work to think on something other than clients and deadlines.

We have a tradition in my house to complete a jigsaw puzzle on Thanksgiving Day. So, yesterday morning began with pie and coffee for breakfast (because, well, what else are you supposed to do when there's pie in the house?) and we quickly settled in at the kitchen table for our annual puzzle attempt. As is also my habit on this day, I turned on the television to view a bit of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I'm not sure why I still tune in each year, other than the mere fact that it was always tradition to watch it when I was young.

Snoopy is one of the few tame elements of the parade.
photo: AndrewDallos Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade via photopin (license) 
Each year that I watch the parade, I cringe a little bit more than the year before, and 2016's extravaganza did not disappoint. Glancing up now and then to glimpse the television from the table, I found myself wondering why this debacle continues. No longer do the television cameras focus on the marching bands and the balloons. No, instead we get to see multiple alleged "music sensations" lip-syncing their most popular song. And, while I hate to sound like that crotchety old woman who thinks all music is awful and evil, I have to ask: why do we consider these songs to be music? Every song sounded the same and had the same sensual beat and rote, mindless lyrics. In fact, sadly, it wasn't much different from the contemporary so-called "Christian" music we hear today. The lesson? Don't tune in to the Macy's Parade unless you're looking to watch a really bad concert.

As always, the parade ended with the entrance of Santa Claus, a theme which saddens me as it should every Christian. The way in which the world exalts this mythical figure in the eyes of children is indeed shameful. Even more perverse were the shenanigans that accompanied the Macy's Santa Claus. Dancing around the North Pole float were women dressed as candy canes, and let's just say that they were not wearing modest costumes. Here, then, is an entire event originally designed for children, that has been sensualized in order that those children might become desensitized to such lasciviousness. It is no surprise to those of us who know Christ, of course, but it nevertheless should grieve us.

At some point during the morning, I said, "Watching this parade makes me thankful that God has saved me out of the world." Further, it makes me long for that eternal home that He has promised He is preparing for us. Finally, it makes me all the more eager to proclaim His gospel so that others may also be plucked from the clutches of the world and placed firmly in the palm of His hand.

With Thanksgiving now behind us, we march forward all too quickly toward Christmas. But before you do that, why not take a few moments to relax while you enjoy some pie and your week in review (kind of):

24 November 2016

Eternally Thankful

Family and friends will gather today to reflect on their thankfulness for the gifts they have been given. Yet, the great majority of these individuals will ultimately "give thanks" to an unknown, unacknowledged being. They do not know the true One from whom all good things flow.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
And while they ought to be thankful for His mercy, for it has kept them from thus far being destroyed, in truth, they hate this God because they do not know Him.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)
By contrast, Christians ought to be mindful this day—and every day—to thank their Lord for far more than a warm home, a food-filled table, and the laughter of friends. God has indeed promised to provide for His children's daily needs (Matthew 6:25-34), and it is right and good to thank Him for this; however, in a world that is only thankful for the tangible things of life, the Christian has hope that peers far beyond those fleeting, failing mementos and memories
The Christian is thankful for his salvation, an eternal gift that he could never obtain or attain on his own.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
The Christian is thankful for his undeserved, eternal inheritance, which is a promised treasure to be enjoyed for eternity.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
Above these great, immeasurable gifts is God the Father; God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased His own in order that they might enjoy that salvation and eternal inheritance; and God the Holy Spirit, who is granted to believers at the moment of their salvation so that they might grow, learn, and walk in holiness.

Yes, above all, the Christian is thankful not simply for what God has given him, but for who God is.

18 November 2016

This 'n' That

They say that patience is a virtue. The expression is rumored to have first been penned by poet William Langland in the 1300s, in his poem "Piers Plowman." Chaucer apparently made a similar statement in his The Canterbury Tales. I should remember since I read that once, but alas, apparently 11th grade English failed me. Or rather, perhaps I should have failed 11th grade English! I digress...

Regardless of which literary great first expressed this sentiment, in truth, it was God who first elevated patience as a noble and necessary characteristic of His children.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
We can expect that God would call on His children to exhibit this virtue, for He is perfectly patient; therefore, His children ought to reflect the character of their Father, even if, in their fallen state, they must do so imperfectly.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
As fallen men and women, it is not always easy to be patient with others. It only takes one quick visit to the grocery store to understand this! Yet God, in His goodness, is sanctifying us in order that we might grow to look more and more like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

While patience with others may be a struggle, there is an event that requires even more patience from believers.
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8)
His coming is near! Yet, as we toil and plod through this life, it often seems as though His return is far away...too far away.

Brothers and sisters, let us pray that we are not discouraged by this fleeting age, for God is sovereign and Christ is King. Best of all, He is coming again, and when He does, He will take those who are His to be with Him forever.
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. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)
May we, with the Apostle John, exclaim, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

I would love nothing more than for Christ to return before you have a chance to read this post, but in case He has not, I still hope you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

16 November 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Glorification


When Christ said upon the cross, “It is finished,” He declared His redemptive work to be complete. His perfect sacrifice had pleased and appeased the Father and ransomed His people.

All those who would ever be in Christ now stand legally justified before the Father, cloaked in the righteousness of the Son.

Christ’s sheep now not only follow Him, they are sanctified and set apart, growing to look more like their Shepherd each day, even in the midst of a hostile world.

That would be enough undeserved blessing, but at the cross Christ accomplished even more.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53)
The consequences of the cross did not end with Christ’s final breath. His subsequent resurrection assured a future resurrection and eternal life in glory for all believers.

Glorification is a final, future work wherein God will transform our broken, physical bodies into eternal bodies fit to enjoy eternity (1 Corinthians 14:12-19; 15:42-44; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

This future work will be the ultimate culmination of our ongoing sanctification and the final removal of our sin (Romans 8:18).

The promise of glorification is why we look for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is our blessed hope.
[L]ooking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus…(Titus 2:13)
In this moment, we will be “set free from slavery to corruption” (Romans 8:21), will instantly be conformed to the image of our Savior, and, best of all, will see our Lord face to face.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…(1 Corinthians 13:12)
We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2b)
Christian, is there any greater promise? May we seek to serve Christ well while we await His return.

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption
Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation
Consequences of the Cross: Justification
Consequences of the Cross: Reconciliation
Consequences of the Cross: Sanctification

13 November 2016

Equipping Eve: Sad Church Signs


It's unlikely that anyone actually gleans their theology from a church sign. Church signs are notoriously cheesy and oftentimes the churches that display them are theologically unsound. Erin drives by lots of church signs everyday, and finally realized that they can make a great teaching tool—of what not to believe, think, or teach. Open your Bible as we seek to debunk some of these sad church signs.

Click here to listen to this latest episode of Equipping Eve.

Click here for a list of resources used in this episode of Equipping Eve.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: Selfie Righteousness
Equipping Eve: On Transgenderism and Twisting Scripture
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ

Sunday Morning Praise

And Can It Be

11 November 2016

This 'n' That

Well, November 2016 may just go down in US history as the month of long shots. First the Cubs, then Trump. Some might say both were miracles, but if we are realistic, neither the Chicago nor the Trump victory saw God altering His divinely designed laws of nature. Instead, both incidents were ordained long ago. Both were stunning victories, though, and both certainly left many people sleepy (maybe we should start closing the polls earlier). In addition, both victories meant there were a host of disappointed individuals who had been rooting for the other team or candidate. Both victories led to anger and, oddly enough, tears.

It is probably the first time in a long time that I've been on the celebrating side of such events, so for that I am personally thankful. I am more thankful, however, that in the midst of political chaos, God is still on His throne. "There is," after all, "no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God" (Romans 13:1). Kind of makes you breathe a little easier, doesn't it?

Source
As Christians, we know that God is sovereign over all things. While that doesn't mean that we ignore current events or remain unprepared for potential happenings, neither do we fret or scamper about like Chicken Little, crying that the sky is falling. We should not be found inciting unnecessary fear in others, or going about functionally denying the sovereignty of God (even if we affirm it with our lips) by our actions. Sadly, there are Christian ministries guilty of such behavior, taking informing or warning to the extreme and instead sending followers into a Y2K mentality (stock up on freeze-dried food, NOW!). Friend, it is good to be informed. It is good to be aware. It is not good to be afraid. Don't allow the ramblings of someone with a self-created platform to send you spiraling into despair. Remember the One who is your Light in this dark world.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
Well, now that all this November wackiness is over, perhaps we can finally enjoy Autumn. And there is no better complement to falling leaves and crisp air than a hot cup of tea and your week in review (kind of):

09 November 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Sanctification


At salvation, the person who has been granted repentance and faith in Christ finds that the desires of his mind and heart have been transformed to desire the pursuit of righteousness to which God calls us (Matthew 6:33).

We will not be perfect this side of Heaven, however, and we find ourselves undergoing a constant process of sanctification.

Philippians 2:12-13 presents the paradox of sanctification. While it is a work of God, sanctification is worked out by men through the means provided to them by the Father:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
How, then, is sanctification a consequence of the cross?

Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who stand legally justified before the Father, are new creatures.
The old things passed away, behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Paul’s discussion of the new man in this verse is closely tied to the reconciliation of men to God that was wrought by Jesus on the cross.

Think for a moment of Christ upon the cross. He who was sinless bled and died, bearing the wrath of God for the sins of all who would believe (Romans 5:6-11). What He endured, you deserve, and yet His death satisfied the wrath of God so that by believing in Him you may inherit eternal life (John 3:36).

Why, then, would you desire to actively and willingly engage sin? Why would you delight in that for which Christ died (Ephesians 5:3-12)?

Salvation was fully accomplished on the cross. Sanctification is the fruit of that salvation worked out practically in the believer’s life. Surely the man who has been saved by God should desire to be sanctified by God.

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption
Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation
Consequences of the Cross: Justification
Consequences of the Cross: Reconciliation

04 November 2016

This 'n' That

Well, if you read last week's post, then you can probably guess how this Cubs fan/blogger is feeling today. In case you've been under a rock, the Cubs won the World Series. At the risk of irritating my non-baseball appreciating readers, let me just say one final time this season, GO CUBS GO! It's history 108 years in the making and wow, what a way to write that chapter!
The 2016 World Series will go down in history for more reasons than one. In the end, regardless of which team one was cheering for, anybody who loves baseball had to admit that this series was just plain good baseball. Both teams played exceptionally well. The Cubs didn't win without a fight, and the Indians went down fighting. Kudos, gentlemen.

With the World Series behind us, what do Americans have to look forward to now? Sigh. November 8, and unlike the World Series where one team eventually wins, it seems like everybody might wind up losing with this one.

This is why the doctrine of God's sovereignty is so inestimably sweet.
Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; Daniel said,
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding. (Daniel 2:19-21)
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)
Do not fret, Christian, no matter the outcome, for your Lord not only sees all, He knows all, because He has ordained it all.

With that, it seems like a perfect time to segue into the most important matter of the moment, namely, your week in review (kind of):

02 November 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Reconciliation

Many may claim indifference toward or tolerance of God, but the truth is that all men are born His enemies (Psalm 51:5; Romans 8:7-8; Ephesians 2:3). The enmity between God and man exists because man is sinful (Romans 3:23) and God is holy and demands holiness (1 Peter 1:13-16).

There must be peace between God and man in order for man to be saved. Man, separated from God by sin, must be reconciled to the sovereign Father.

How can man, who has incurred an overwhelming debt of sin, be reconciled to a just and holy God?
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… (2 Corinthians 5:18)
This work of reconciliation is all of God. It is a divine work and a divine gift given to those who belong to Christ.

Scripture states that reconciliation is accomplished by Christ’s work on the cross.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6, 10)
…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
In eternity past, God determined a way for men to be reconciled unto Him. He sent His Son, who offered His sinless blood as a substitutionary, atoning sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19) and brought about the forgiveness of sins for all who would believe in Him (Matthew 26:28).

At the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was torn in two; the barrier between God and man had been removed (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).

God forgives sin. Man, though wicked, can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ alone.

Won’t you repent and believe upon Him?

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption
Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation
Consequences of the Cross: Justification

31 October 2016

A Brief Reformation Day History

While the world celebrates death with skeletons, ghosts, and goblins on October 31, the Church remembers the formal start of the Protestant Reformation. Begun by Martin Luther, a hammer, and his 95 Theses, men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and many, many others would go on to challenge the heresies and abominations of the Roman Catholic Church. Their defense and weapon? The pure Word of God. May we be encouraged, challenged, and inspired by their fidelity and boldness, and, should we see God's Word abused, may we never cower, capitulate, or fail to speak, knowing that we stand upon a firm foundation of Truth.

Introduction

By the sixteenth century, God had uniquely positioned and prepared the Western world for what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Closing out the Middle Ages and ushering in the beginning of modernity, the Reformation has been called the greatest event in history, next to the introduction of Christianity.1 Not only was the church, which at this time was the Roman Catholic Church, in dire need of reform, but at this point in history, even the secular world sat poised for a new beginning.

Exploration was expanding, trade was increasing and the middle class was gaining ground. Educational opportunities were increasing and, by God’s great grace, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press allowed for a far greater dissemination of ideas. The Renaissance was at its peak and, in the midst of all this, God chose to raise up several well educated, godly, strong-willed, Christ-centered and Scripture-focused men.

Among these men was an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany his 95 Theses against the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. With this swing of a mallet, Martin Luther launched the Reformation.2

28 October 2016

This 'n' That

Well, it's Friday. No, it's not just Friday. It is Friday, October 28, 2016. Do you know what that means? No, I'm not thinking about Halloween. I'm not even thinking about Reformation Day (go ahead, tar and feather me in your mind). I am thinking about Game 3 of the World Series.

While I have long been a baseball fan, the truth is, I never cared about baseball in October. That's because my team, the Chicago Cubs, rarely played ball in October. Let's face it, for years (and years, and years), the Cubs lost all hope of October as early in the season as possible.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Not this year. This year, 2016, 71 years after last winning the National League (NL) pennant and 108 years since their last World Series victory, the Cubs are once again finally at the top of the NL. They are the NL champions. For someone who's been a loyal fan since she was a young girl (despite not even living in Chicago until my 20s), this is a big deal. Adding to the poetry of this series is that it is against the Cleveland Indians, another team that has had little success in the postseason in years past.

So tonight is Game 3 of the World Series. Right now the series is tied, with Chicago and Cleveland each having won one game. As I write this, I'm pondering the appropriateness of donning Cubs gear at the office. It is Friday, after all.

As for the theological significance of the situation, well, there isn't any, unless I wanted to mutilate a few doctrines and liken Chicago's years of failure with someone trapped in a besetting sin and the grace of God to save even the worst of sinners. Such a comparison strikes me as a bit blasphemous, though, so let's not even entertain the thought. Instead, let's just enjoy the baseball moment. Go, Cubs, Go!

Further, let us simply thank the Lord for another Friday, the introduction to a weekend of rest for many. As you prepare to "Fly the W," why not also take some time to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

26 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Justification


Christ’s work on the cross is everything for the Christian. It must be.

It was essential that Jesus live in perfect obedience to the Law (Matthew 5:17).

Without the resurrection, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).

Yet it is Christ’s work at Calvary that brought about justification (Romans 5:9). It was the pleasing nature of His substitutionary, atoning sacrifice before the Father that paid the ransom price for men’s sinful souls.

Justification is a one-time event. Upon receiving salvation, where once a man stood guilty and condemned before the holy God, he now stands justified and is reckoned as righteous before the Father (Romans 5:1).

Justification is wholly a divine work. It is God who justifies (Romans 8:30, 33) and men are justified as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Justification is a gift from God that is granted to believers and is made theirs by faith (Romans 3:24).

No work of the Law can render men righteous before God, only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This truth is repeatedly stated in Scripture. Paul declares it boldly in Galatians 3:24-26:
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Yet even this faith is a gift from God to men.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Saints on both sides of the cross are justified by faith in Christ alone (Romans 4:3; cf. Hebrews 11).

Have you placed your faith in this great Savior?

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption
Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation

22 October 2016

Equipping Eve: Stickers in My Bible


By now, almost every Christian woman is aware of the latest fad of Bible Art Journaling. Can taping stickers in my Bible and doodling in the margins really draw us closer to God? Or is this merely one more way that the whims of the world have crept into the visible church?



Further Listening

21 October 2016

This 'n' That

It's rare for me to cross the state line into Kentucky. There simply is no need for me to do so often, with the exception of every six to eight weeks. This is when I venture across the bridge to get my hair cut. I know, important stuff.

Now, on a soon-to-be-related note, this area has not seen much rain over the past two months or so. When the heavens opened and poured down Wednesday afternoon, then, I was thankful. It was still bright and pleasant outside, and as I walked to my car after work, there was a beautiful, perfect rainbow in the sky. It was a lovely reminder of God's promises. Little did I know...

I arrived at my destination, where I knew I would be for the next 90 minutes or so. The hair stylist and I chit-chatted about the rain (of which she had seen none; it had not yet rained in that part of the city) and work and upcoming vacations (hers, not mine. What is a vacation, anyway?). Then, as I sat there, I noticed the sky growing darker. Consulting Twitter, I saw that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. "Great, just what I need, strong winds and hail on the way home," I thought. Oh, well.

Within minutes, though, I saw this pop up on my screen:
Yes, you guessed it, I was right there, smack dab in the middle of the red. Tornado sirens started going off and continued to do so for the next hour or so.

The building we were in does not appear to be terribly sturdy, and there is no lower level, so three of us (yes, I made a new friend that night since we were both getting our hair done in the middle of severe weather) hunkered down in a center room where my dear, sweet stylist continued to work. Well, I guess if you have to sit around and wait out a tornado, you might as well keep cutting!

The rain pounded, and while I'm not sure we were the recipients of any monstrous hail (thankfully), it certainly sounded like it! The wind was fierce and the sky was the blackest I've seen in awhile. We prayed together and laughed nervously. The first tornado warning expired and we anticipated the storm would pass by. The rain kept pounding. Then another tornado warning was issued. Then, in one moment, the rain stopped and everything grew eerily still. The three of us looked at each other, anticipating crumpling to the floor, our arms over our heads. But it did not come to that. The rain started again and the second tornado warning expired.

It was an adventure, to say the least.

At the end of it all, there was no damage, we all made it home safely, and I ended up with a rather good haircut (although we had already decided that if something went awry and I ended up with a chunk out of my hair, we were going to call it the "tornado cut" and make a trend out of it). Haircut aside, it would be an understatement to say I was praising God for His protection!

Nights like Wednesday remind me of the magnificence of narrative passages such as Mark 4:35-41:
On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
This Jesus, the great Master who saved us, not only commands the wind, He created it (Col 1:16)! That, friends, ought to bring us great comfort in times of turmoil.
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries. (Psalm 135:6-7)
Do we rest in the sovereign control of our Lord over all things? May we do so daily, and may He strengthen us to do so in confidence.

Well, I hope you are not reading this while waiting for a tornado to pass, but regardless of where you are, I hope you will enjoy your week in review (kind of):

19 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Sin separates us from God. Man’s disobedience toward the One who created Him and Who is sovereign over all things precludes us from being reconciled to God by any endeavor of our own.

Sin is pandemic and pervasive. It affects every man (Romans 3:10-11, 23) and its wages is death (Romans 6:23). Sin incurs the wrath and judgment of a holy, righteous, perfectly just God (John 3:36; Romans 2:5-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 20:12-15).

God’s Word explicitly states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Yet the divinely instituted Old Testament sacrifices merely foreshadowed a greater sacrifice; even keeping these rituals could not atone for man’s sin (Hebrews 10:4).

The wrath of God must be placated. It must be appeased. It must be propitiated.

How is this accomplished?
[Christ] Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2; cf. Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).
The death of Christ satisfied the righteous wrath of God. Acting as a substitute, on the cross Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God for all who would ever believe upon Him. He, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19), died the death deserved by all sinners.

Christ’s death pleased and appeased the Father, and all who are Christ’s were redeemed at once by this great act of love and obedience (Hebrews 10:10-14).

The reality of this divine propitiation means that Christians can rest knowing they do not stand condemned before God (Romans 8:1), but rather are clothed in the righteousness of their Savior (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Truly this is the act of a supremely loving God (1 John 4:10).

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross
Consequences of the Cross: Redemption

14 October 2016

This 'n' That

There was a time when I bemoaned the use of the Oxford comma. Oh, sure, like many my age, I was raised to use it. Yet upon entering the writing world in my twenties, I was finally free. Free to not use this optional comma. Free to assert myself in my exclusion of this tiny punctuation mark.

Let me pause for a moment, because I fear there may be at least one person reading who is unfamiliar with the Oxford, or serial, comma. The Oxford comma is "placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction" (eg, and, or) in a series of three or more items. For example, the following sentence includes an Oxford comma (bolded):
I went to the store to get apples, eggs, and Oreos.
Come to think of it, that might actually be my current grocery list. Anyway, this next sentence excludes the Oxford comma:
I went to the store to get apples, eggs and Oreos.
In spite of my temporary rebellion against the Oxford comma, over the past few years I've grown to appreciate it again. Lists without it seem unpolished and hurried. After all, consider the confusion that can be caused by not using it:
At the store, I ran into my friend, an Elvis impersonator and a botanist.
Wait a minute, my friend is neither an Elvis impersonator nor a botanist! You see, this sentence should read,
At the store, I ran into my friend, an Elvis impersonator, and a botanist.
Otherwise, you might think I have some rather strange friends! (For the record, I've never met an Elvis impersonator or a botanist in the any store, which is kind of surprising considering the years I spent in Los Angeles and Chicago.)

Last I checked, there were no spiritual implications to using or not using the Oxford comma; however, I think I've seen it used in the NASB translation. The only logical conclusion, then, is that saved people use the Oxford comma. (Calm down, that was sarcasm.)

Okay, now that you've had your grammar lesson for the day, why not brew a cup of tea, slip on some fuzzy socks, sit back, and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

12 October 2016

Consequences of the Cross: Redemption



Most of us know what it is to pay a ransom, though few of us have actually been required to do so! A ransom may be defined as a payment made for the release of a prisoner.

In Mark 10:45, Jesus declared, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” At the cross, Jesus Christ paid the ransom for those who are His.

Scripture speaks of Christ paying this ransom in another term, namely, “redemption.”

Colossians 1:14 says Christ rescued us “from the domain of darkness” and teaches that it is in Him that, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Peter reminds us that we were redeemed “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19).

Hebrews 9:12 tells us that Christ obtained “eternal redemption” for His own.

Redeemed.

Redeemed from what? From sin and slavery to sin. All men stand guilty before God, unable to obtain their own righteousness (Romans 3:10-18, 23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Redeemed by what? By the blood of Christ, of whom John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). It is only by the shedding of blood that sins are forgiven (Hebrews 9:22) and “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

Why were we redeemed? It pleased God to set apart a people for Himself. As the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, bled and died, He did so for the sake of those who had been given to Him by the Father (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; 1 Peter 1:20-21).

Christian, do you thank God for the redemption that was obtained for you at the cross?

Have you praised Christ for paying the ransom price that freed you from your bondage to sin?

See Also:
Consequences of the Cross

11 October 2016

Equipping Eve: The Great Exchange


Open your Bible to the book of Romans and study along as we look at how the Apostle Paul, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes a great and glorious exchange.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Click here for Sinclair Ferguson's book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life.

Additional Resources
Equipping Eve: Counted Worthy to Suffer
Equipping Eve: What Is Sanctification?
Equipping Eve: A Victim of Spontaneous Baptism

07 October 2016

This 'n' That

Source
To keep things interesting at the office, we recently engaged in a challenge to determine the best flavor of Oreo (there are so many now!). Mint won, of course, because mint Oreos are amazing. Amazing. Did I say they are amazing? Especially the thin ones. They are...well, you get the idea.

But I digress.

Did you know that there is a Swedish Fish flavored Oreo? Well, there is, but they are only available at Kroger stores, so they are a bit elusive. That may not be a bad thing.

Think about it: Swedish Fish...and Oreos. You've probably started imagining the flavor in your mind by now and might be thinking, "I'm not sure how I feel about that." Yeah, listen to that hesitation and avoid them. They are not overly pleasant.

The lesson? Change isn't always a good thing. That is why the Word of God is so precious—it does not change.
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
For,
“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.
(1 Peter 1:24-25)
The Word of the Lord will stand forever. And ever. And ever. It will never waver or falter. It will never become obsolete. It cannot, for it is the very Word of God! Yes, and God, too, is immutable by nature.
For I, the LORD, do not change. (Malachi 3:6a)
It makes perfect sense, then, that His Word would reflect His character and also be intrinsically immutable. This is why the 66 books of the Bible are authoritative in their entirety. They are God's Word. They will not change. Ever.

Is this not a great source of comfort in the uncertain times in which we live? Is this not a firm foundation upon which we can stand when everything around us teeters and eventually topples? How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. Amen.

Yet, the world today is ever-changing, which is precisely why we can bring you another edition of your week in review (kind of):