23 April 2017

Sunday Morning Praise

Our Great Savior (Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners)

21 April 2017

This 'n' That

My house sits a few doors up from a small pond, and each year there are one or two pairs of ducks that come to nest. By now they've learned that they can find food in our backyard, so I watched again last night as they waddled through the grass to munch on some corn.

I love observing these creatures. I find it so fascinating that the male stands back and waits, keeping guard while the female eats her meal. Animals act on instinct, yes, but his protection and care for his mate is nevertheless worth noting.

Now, does a female duck think extensively of her mate's care for her? Of course not; she simply knows that he is watching over her for her protection. Still, it offers us a sweet and simple picture, does it not? Just as God cares for these simple animals, so too does He care for us.

In fact, our Good Shepherd is always protectively overseeing and always lovingly guiding. How easy it is to follow such a One as this! I love the picture of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd; nothing could be more appropriate for us helpless, dependent sheep!

Well, in spite of a slightly disjointed introduction, let's get this post rolling, shall we? It's Friday, which means you are obligated to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

14 April 2017

This 'n' That

If you read last week's post, you know that I was struggling with laryngitis leading up to my speaking commitment at the Answers for Women conference last Saturday. Well, praise the Lord for His faithfulness! It was a wonderful conference, and my voice remained strong and clear throughout the talk.

Now, by the time I was leaving the venue on Saturday, my voice was starting to struggle again, but this was a good thing because it was due to having so many wonderful conversations with the ladies. The women in attendance at this year's conference were insightful, inquisitive, and were asking great questions. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to participate!

Now, one week later, we are approaching Resurrection Sunday. I hope you've had time to contemplate the meaning of this week, and have taken time to meditate upon our Lord's sacrifice for those who are His, as well as His victorious resurrection. If not, please do not let this Resurrection Sunday pass you by without doing that!

Hopefully you will find some of these articles to be helpful in that regard as well. So with that, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):

"It Is Finished"


Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face. Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.

They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upona branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

(John 19:1-30)

Further Reading
In the Light of the Resurrection
The Cross and the World
This Is What Matters

12 April 2017

Equipping Eve: Choice or Chance?



“Choice, not chance, determines destiny.” Do you think the writers of this church sign had verses like John 1:12-13 in mind? It seems doubtful! Let’s open our Bibles and use the example of Lydia in Acts 16 to see just who is making the choices that determine our “destiny.”

Click here to listen to this latest episode of Equipping Eve and find additional resources.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: You Make the Choice, God Makes the Change? (Part 1)
Equipping Eve: You Make the Choice, God Makes the Change? (Part 2)
Equipping Eve: On Choosing the Good Part

09 April 2017

07 April 2017

This 'n' That


Well, it's finally here. This weekend, several hundred women will gather in Florence, Kentucky, for the Defend: Answers for Women conference. I'm honored to be a returning speaker at this event and am looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, and engaging in some challenging and God-honoring conversations!

God, in His grace and wisdom, gave me a little lesson in dependence on Him this week. Over a week ago, I came down with a sinus infection, which quickly led to a cough and laryngitis that persisted throughout most of this week. I am cautiously optimistic now, as my voice has strengthened and is (I think) back to normal, but would greatly appreciate any extra prayers as I prepare to speak on Saturday morning. I pray He will be glorified, whether my voice is weak or strong!

As you can imagine, it's been a busy week, so let's get right down to business, shall we? Why not sip some tea (I've been sipping a lot of tea this week!) while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

31 March 2017

This 'n' That

It's hard to believe that it is already the end of March! That means that tomorrow is April Fool's Day, or at least it is for those who celebrate it.

I never understood the point of April Fool's Day. I mean, I understand it, I just don't understand why some people think it's a worthwhile use of their time, energy, and brain power in such a way. Although, perhaps my aversion to this day is actually due to the fact that my brother pulled some pretty good pranks on me when we were younger. It's fine, though. Someday maybe I'll get him back!
Yeah, I don't get it either.

Considering the origins of April Fool's Day remain a bit of a mystery, I suspect that many others out there share my sentiments about this bizarre and pointless day. Nevertheless, as long as it's all in good fun, a little levity is healthy for us, right?

What strikes me is how many people treat the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as no more than a predated April Fool's joke. From the swoon theory, to the claim that His disciples stole Christ's body (Matthew 28:11-15), sinful men have long tried to convince one another that Jesus didn't die on the cross or, if He did, that He did not rise 3 days later. Thankfully, we Christians know this is not the case, for God's inerrant Word tells us exactly what happened:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened. 
(Luke 24:1-12)
Aren't we thankful that we can know without question that Christ not only died on the cross, serving as a substitute and bearing the wrath of God for all who would ever believe, but that we can also know that He rose three days later, demonstrating God's acceptance of His sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-14)? Faith may be the conviction of things not seen, but it is also the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). We know our faith is not in vain, because the truth of what we must believe is sufficiently contained within the Bible, that Word that God has been so gracious to give to us (John 20:31).

Well, that was a long and windy introduction, wasn't it? Oh well, I suppose we're all entitled to wax eloquent now and then! Now that I'm done, I hope you'll stick around and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

26 March 2017

24 March 2017

This 'n' That

Well, thanks for giving me a break from blogging last week. It was greatly appreciated, and much needed. Things are only slightly less chaotic this week, but they are a great deal more clear, so that makes for a still busy, but #blessed, blogger (see what I did there?). Would you like to know something I learned this week?
The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Also,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Yes, I know. Those aren't exactly obscure, hidden verses, are they? Things can get a little fuzzy, though, even when we are pursuing the Lord's work and our desires are to serve Him. At the end of the day, the Lord still has completely different plans than we do, and sometimes, we may not like that those plans aren't clearly laid out for us, or aren't coming to fruition when we think they should. The Lord's timing is always perfect, though, isn't it? Now I'm excited to see what the real plan—His plan—will be.

For now, though, things are back to normal (whatever that is), and that is just fine with me! That means that we have some catching up to do, so grab a cookie (because we all need more cookies in our lives) and get ready to enjoy your last two weeks in review (kind of):

17 March 2017

This 'n' That (Not Quite)


In all the years that I've been posting This 'n' That, I don't believe I've ever missed or skipped a Friday. Until now. It is a particularly busy season, and an even busier week, and unfortunately, the post cannot take priority.

Do not worry, though! This 'n' That will be back next week, Lord willing, or perhaps even earlier. In the meantime, this busy blogger would deeply covet your prayers.

12 March 2017

10 March 2017

This 'n' That

“Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:39)
This is just a happy picture.
Jesus has indeed done great things for us, has He not? Perhaps He has not cast out demons from our bodies, as with the man described in Luke 8, but He has done great, wonderful, magnificent things. If we have been saved, He has cured us of our spiritual blindness. He has purchased salvation for us. He has promised us eternal life. He has promised to care for our practical needs. What a majestic Savior!

Well, it seemed to be a bit of a slow week, didn't it? Or perhaps it is that, for me, this week real life was so full and busy that internet life took not just a backseat, but was dragging behind on its own rickety trailer. Regardless, this week's lineup is a bit slim, but I hope you still find it worth taking a break to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

09 March 2017

Faith Makes Christ Precious


To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)
Faith is the effect of a principle of new life implanted in the soul, that was before dead in trespasses and sins; and it qualifies, not only for obeying the Savior's precepts, but chiefly and primarily for receiving from and rejoicing in his fullness, admiring his love, his work, his person, his glory, his advocacy. It makes Christ precious; enthrones him in the heart; presents him as the most delightful object to our meditations—as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and strength; our root, head life, shepherd, husband...

A most valued friend of mine, a clergyman now living, had for many years given a rational assent to the gospel. He labored with much earnestness...was very exemplary in his whole conduct; preached almost incessantly (two or three times every day in the week for years)...He succeeded likewise with his people so far as to break them off from outward irregularities; and was mentioned, in a letter to the Society for Propagating the Gospel...as the most perfect example of a parish priest which this nation, or perhaps this age, has produced...

One day, reading Ephesians 3 in his Greek Testament, his thoughts were stopped...He was struck, and led to think with himself to this purpose: The apostle, when speaking of Christ, uses remarkable expressions; he speaks of heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths, and unsearchable, where I seem to find everything plain, easy, and rational...

This led him to a close examination of all his epistles and, by the blessing of God, brought on a total change in his views and preaching. He no longer set his people to keep a law of faith; to trust in their sincerity and endeavors, upon some general hope that Christ would help them out where they came short; but he preached Christ himself, as the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. He felt himself, and labored to convince others, that there is no hope for a sinner but merely in the blood of Jesus; and no possibility of his doing an works acceptable to God, till he himself be first made accepted in the Beloved.

— John Newton, Jewels from John Newton: 07 March, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016.

06 March 2017

Repost: Lydia's Conversion and God's Irresistible Grace

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14, NASB)
The manner of Lydia's conversion is a fine illustration of how God always redeems lost souls. From our human perspective, we may think we are seeking Him, that trusting Christ is merely a "decision" that lies within the power of our own will to choose, or that we are sovereign over our own hearts and affections. In reality, wherever you see a soul like Lydia's truly seeking God, you can be certain God is drawing her. Whenever someone trusts Christ, it is God who opens the heart to believe. If God Himself did not draw us to Christ, we would never come at all. Jesus was quite clear about this: "No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father" (John 6:45).

The fallen human heart is in absolute bondage to sin. Every sinner is just as helpless as Mary Magdalene was under the possession of those seven demons. Romans 8:7–8 says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God." We are powerless to change our own hearts or turn from evil in order to do good: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil?" (Jer. 13:23). The love of evil is part of our fallen nature, and it is the very thing that makes it impossible for us to choose good over evil. Our wills are bent in accordance with what we love. We are in bondage to our own corruption. Scripture portrays the condition of every fallen sinner as a state of hopeless enslavement to sin.

Actually, it's even worse than that. it is a kind of death—an utter spiritual barrenness that leaves us totally at the mercy of the sinful lusts of our own flesh (Eph. 2:1–3). We are helpless to change our own hearts for the better....

[Lydia's] heart was truly open. She was a genuine seeker of God. But notice Luke's whole point: it was not that Lydia opened her own heart and ears to the truth. Yes, she was seeking, but even that was because God was drawing her. She was listening, but it was God who gave her ears to hear. She had an open heart, but it was God who opened her heart. Luke expressly affirms the sovereignty of God in Lydia's salvation....

If it were not for God's sovereign work drawing and opening the hearts of sinners to believe, no one would ever be saved. This is the very thing Paul has in mind in Ephesians 2, after stressing the utter spiritual deadness of sinners, when he says salvation—all of it—is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8–9).

Did you realize that even faith is God's gift to the believer? We don't reach down into our own hearts and summon faith from within by sheer willpower. God is the one who opens our hearts to believe. Repentance is something He graciously bestows (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25).

I think all Christians have some intuitive understanding of this truth....We know in our hearts that our salvation is wholly and completely the work of God's grace, and not in any sense our own doing. All believers, like Lydia, must confess that it was God who first opened our hearts to believe.

...Grace doesn't push sinners against their wills toward Christ; it draws them willingly to Him—by first opening their hearts. It enables them to see their sin for what it is and empowers them to despise what they formerly loved. It also equips them to see Christ for who He truly is. Someone whose heart has been opened like that will inevitably find Christ Himself irresistible. That is precisely the meaning of the expression "irresistible grace." That is how God draws sinners to Himself. Luke's description of Lydia's conversion captures it beautifully. The Lord simply opened her heart to believe—and she did.

– John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women, (Thomas Nelson: 2005), 192–194.

Further Reading
John MacArthur on the New Birth
Replacing the 'Violent' Cross
Halftime and the Renewed Mind

03 March 2017

This 'n' That

Every now and then, I go through my purse and/or wallet and run across store credits that I have forgotten about. It's like finding free money! Except, I spent the money in the first place, and now I'm limited as to where I can re-spend it. So...when you apply logical thinking, it's not very exciting after all.

These scare me in so many ways.
Nevertheless, it is still fun to be able to then go to the store or to the website (we'll use DSW as an example, since that's the store credit that is currently sitting on my desk), pick out a pair of shoes, and "not pay" for it when I purchase it. Sure, it's not free money, but, 6 months after receiving the store credit, it is kind of like free money since the new charge isn't applied to my credit card.

So that's the world. In the world, you consistently get nothing for free. Nothing. Then there's the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm, those who have been saved by Christ have a wealth of resources at their disposal, all given as a gracious, unmerited gift from a holy, loving, giving God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
Of course, our salvation was in fact quite costly.
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
What an amazing, gracious, God we serve, that He would give His Son to purchase lowly sinners! What a loving Christ we serve, that He would lay down His life to redeem those sinners!
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)
Salvation is no mere "store credit;" no, it is indeed a gift. A magnanimous gift from a magnificent God. Oh, that we might serve Him well!

Now that all of that has been said, I do need to use up these store credits before I forget that I have them (again). Anybody need any shoes? While I go online shoe-shopping, why don't you take some time to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

25 February 2017

Equipping Eve: On Choosing the Good Part


Ladies, open your Bible to Luke 10 and let’s take a look at the familiar story of Mary and Martha and ask ourselves: Are we choosing the good part?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

The following resource from Grace to You was used in this episode of Equipping Eve:
Bible Questions and Answers, Part 65.

Additional Resources
Equipping Eve: How Healthy Is the Women's Ministry in Your Church?
Equipping Eve: Have We Left Our First Love?
Equipping Eve: What Is Sanctification?

24 February 2017

This 'n' That

I don't know what to write about today. How's that for exciting honesty? If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know this has happened to me before. Some days, there's just nothing worth writing about. Or at least, there's nothing in my head worth writing about, except, of course, the fact that I have nothing to write about.

More often than not, when I hit these creativity walls, it's not for lack of things to discuss, it is simply due to a lack of things that would be wise to discuss in such a public forum. Blogs, Facebook, and other forms of social media are great outlets for teaching and creativity, but they are not the ideal means for us to discuss the inner wonderings (or wanderings) of our minds and hearts. When we use these means to this end, we ultimately indulge in selfie righteousness as we seek validation from our 4 billion Facebook friends.

With that in mind, I'll keep my words this week to a minimum and encourage you to settle in with a cup of tea (or coffee or cocoa or soda or water) while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

17 February 2017

This 'n' That

There cannot be a flock without a shepherd; neither is there a shepherd truly without a flock. The two must go together. They are the fullness of each other. As the church is the fullness of him that filleth all in all, so we rejoice to remember that "of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." That I am like a sheep is a sorry reflection; but that I have a shepherd charms away the sorrow and creates a new joy. It even becomes a gladsome thing to be weak, that I may rely on his strength; to be full of wants, that I may draw from his fullness; to be shallow and often at my wit's end, that I may be always regulated by his wisdom. Even so doth my shame redound to his praise. Not to you, ye great and mighty, who lift your heads high, and claim for yourselves honor: not for you is peace, not to you is rest; but unto you, ye lowly ones, who delight in the valley of humiliation, and feel yourselves to be taken down in your own esteem—to you it is that the Shepherd becomes dear; and to you will he give to lie down in green pastures beside the still waters. 
- Charles Spurgeon, "The Sheep and Their Shepherd"
How grateful we should be for our Good Shepherd! Scripture tells us that believers are His sheep and in fact, Jesus Himself calls us "My sheep." We are His! We are His because He has elected us from before the foundation of the world, and we are His because He purchased us with His own precious, unblemished blood.

We are His and because we are His, we can never be plucked from His hand. What a gracious picture this offers the weary and war-torn Christian. To know that we may rest in His palm even now...such a comfort is merely a foretaste of the eternal life that has been promised to us. It is no wonder that we love this Savior of our souls and yet we long to love Him more, we long to serve Him better, indeed, we long for eternity when we can sing more perfectly,
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
With that sweet hymn echoing through your mind, I hope you'll enjoy your week in review (kind of):

12 February 2017

Equipping Eve: Have We Left Our First Love?



At one time, the church at Ephesus was a stalwart body, sound in doctrine and intolerant of sin and error. Yet, in a sobering letter to this first-century church, Jesus Christ said these gut-wrenching words: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Is it possible to be zealous for sound doctrine but lacking in love for Christ?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Resources
Rekindling Your Love for Christ
The Lord's Word to His Church: Ephesus
Ephesus: When Love Grows Cold

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: How Healthy Is the Women's Ministry in Your Church?
Equipping Eve: Stickers In My Bible
Equipping Eve: A Victim of Spontaneous Baptism

Sunday Morning Praise

Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow)

10 February 2017

This 'n' That

I love waffles. I mean, who doesn't love waffles? If you don't love waffles, I have to seriously question your sanity.

So...waffle irons. They're fantastic because they make waffles, but they seem determined to do this under a complete cloak of secrecy. Oh, sure, that little green light on the top is supposed to blink or glow when the waffle is done, but let's be honest, that little light is useless. That little green light of mine, it does not shine. Or it does shine...all the time. Yeah, so that's not helpful at telling me when the batter has become waffley deliciousness.

I ask the question then: why not a window? Why not a little window on the top of the waffle iron so you can monitor the progress of your waffles? We are wearing computers on our wrists, for crying out loud, so why can't we develop a windowed waffle iron? And this one may claim to be "smart" and know the perfect cooking time for my preferred waffle color, but how does it know?

These are the things I ponder when I am trying to escape everything else that plagues my mind. What's the spiritual significance? Well...um...here you go: it doesn't matter if we think we've closed the blinds on the window of our soul, God still sees the thoughts of our mind and the true condition of our hearts. Now, if any of you pastors decide to use this for a sermon illustration on Sunday, I'll expect to receive my royalty check next week.

Well, it is Friday (hooray!). Why not whip up a batch of waffles, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

03 February 2017

This 'n' That

I am thankful for the Lord's provision and equipping. I am thankful for circumstances that challenge me practically, mentally, and emotionally. I am thankful for opportunities, whether at work or elsewhere, that push me outside my comfort zone, because there are times when I discover that my comfort zone has expanded along the way without me realizing it.

Yes, I am amazed at God's equipping, kindness, and graciousness extended toward me in all things.

Even better than His provision for daily needs or practical equipping in daily life is His spiritual equipping of His saints through His Word. Sixty-six books; He has given us 66 books! They are His words, and, written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), they are inspired, inerrant, and infallible in their original manuscripts. Each of these books, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, points to or reveals to us the only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How good of God to give us such a clear way to know His Son!

Do you treasure this word? Do you look to it for daily nourishment? Indeed, it is through this word that God has truly equipped us for everything pertaining to life and godliness. May we not disdain it by neglecting it.

If you haven't taken time to read the Bible yet today, stop reading this blog and go do that. When you're done, come back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

27 January 2017

This 'n' That

I love the story of Joseph in Genesis. Reading through these chapters again, I'm struck anew by God's sovereignty in all of our circumstances.

Fast-forward to our Lord Jesus Christ. He was God incarnate, with all the authority and sovereign power of His Father. He could have felled the soldiers who came to arrest Him in the garden. He could have walked away from the jeers and abuse at his mock trials. He could have, with just a word, destroyed the soldiers who beat Him. He could have come down from the cross.

But He didn't.

Why?

For the joy that was before Him, He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). For those sinners the Father had given Him, He died (Romans 5:8-10). Out of love and obedience to His Father, He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

What a magnificent Christ we serve! May we fix our eyes firmly on Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and not grow weary in this life, but rather look to the next, when we will be with Him forever.

Of course, until that time, we still live on this earth, and so the close of another week means the opportunity for you to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

25 January 2017

Grace Upon Grace


For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

If I was to describe [a believer] from the Scripture character, I should say, he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for his glory, his image, his presence; his affections are fixed upon an unseen Savior; his treasures, and consequently his thoughts, are on high, beyond the bounds of sense. Having experienced much forgiveness, he is full of bowels of mercy to all around; and having been often deceived by his own heart, he dares trust it no more, but lives by faith in the Son of God, for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from him grace for grace; sensible that without him he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought.

But was I to describe him from experience, especially at some times, how different would the picture be? Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so...He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps, while he is making the reflection, he feeds a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down, and give his preference to a newspaper. He needs not to be told of the vanity and uncertainty of all beneath the sun; and yet is almost as much elated or cast down by a trifle, as those who have their portion in this world. He believes that all things shall work together for his good, and that the most high God appoints, adjusts, and overrules all his concerns; yet he feels the risings of fear, anxiety, and displeasure, as though the contrary was true.

How can these things be, or why are they permitted?...By these exercises he teaches us more truly to know and feel the utter depravity and corruption of our whole nature, that we are indeed defiled in every part. His method of salvation is likewise hereby exceedingly endeared to us: we see that it is and must be of grace, wholly of grace; and that the Lord Jesus Christ, and his perfect righteousness is and must be our all in all.

—John Newton

22 January 2017

Equipping Eve: How Healthy Is the Women's Ministry in Your Church?


A recent article by Melissa Kruger asks the question, “How healthy is the women’s ministry in your church?” What a great question! In this episode, we will discuss Kruger’s article, as well as look at the biblical portrait of women.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Below is a list of resources to accompany this episode of Equipping Eve:
How Healthy Is the Women's Ministry in Your Church? (Melissa Kruger)
The Biblical Portrait of Women: Setting the Record Straight (John MacArthur)

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: The Wisdom and Witness of Anna
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ
Equipping Eve: How to Study the Bible

Sunday Morning Praise

O Worship the King

20 January 2017

This 'n' That

I hate to say it, but there is a word that we as Christians need to stop using. Wait, scratch that. We need to stop overusing it. That word is: blessing.

Yes, blessing. I know, I heard you gasp. I hear you muttering under your breath, "Why, I'm not sure she's even a Christian!"

My guess is if you asked, she'd say she feels "blessed."
Listen, the next time you are in conversation with your Christian brethren, I want you to pay attention to just how often this word is used. Then I want you to truthfully acknowledge how often it is used genuinely. My unscientific guess is that, more often than not, we (yes, let's include all of us) use this word because we think we have to. We think that, if we don't call everything a blessing, people might think we are grumbling, or in sin, or not even Christians at all. Be honest—I'm describing you right now, aren't I?

The irony is, the more we use it, the more we sound like we are just trying to convince ourselves. "Yes, that splinter embedded in my finger was a real blessing, and it was a blessing when I couldn't find the tweezers to get it out, because then I was blessed by the subsequent pain. It was a blessing for me to realize just how much pain a small thing like a splinter can create. The blessing that came from the subsequent infection was blessed, too. Then it was a blessing to be able to apply antibiotic ointment, which in itself is a real blessing. That was all followed by the blessing of applying the bandage to my finger, which by this point was feeling like the most blessed finger any blessed person ever had."

I realize I may be coming across as a bit of a grouch here, and my example above is hopefully a bit exaggerated. We, as Christians, most certainly should be recognizing and acknowledging the blessings of God in all of our situations, both good and bad. Further, we should boldly and always praise and thank Him for these great blessings, again, both good and bad. We should proclaim the blessings of God to all who can or will hear. I do not deny this; in fact, I heartily commend you to do so daily.

The problem is, when we speak this way, if we do not genuinely believe what Scripture tells us, namely that all good things come from God and that even His discipline and trials are good, then others can see right through our hypocritical speech. Let us not be defined by hypocrisy, proclaiming our thankfulness for blessing through the lips of a forced smile. Are you in a trial yet you see the blessed hand of God in the midst of it? It is okay to declare thankfulness for that blessing through tears, and in fact you should. God sees our heart, not our play-acting. Don't patronize Him or His Word by pretending otherwise.

Sometimes it is enough just to know that He is good and gracious to bless His children.

With that, I hope you'll be blessed by the blessing of this blessed week in review (kind of):

14 January 2017

An Unexplored Mission Field

Tom Cruise. John Travolta. Kirstie Alley. Greta Van Susteren. We know a lot of celebrity Scientologists, but do we know what it is that Scientology teaches, or what it is that enslaves these and potentially millions of other lesser known individuals? Is this "church" merely a business, or is it an actual religion?

According to Walter Martin, the Church of Scientology "has all the marks of a religion. It has its own set of scripture, it holds a worldview, and it seeks spiritual enlightenment."(Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Ed. Ravi Zacharias. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2003. 351.)

Based on the work Dianetics (which means, "through thought" or "through the soul"), written by founder L. Ron Hubbard, the cult of Scientology is based on a "science of the mind." Its scriptures include Dianetics and Hubbard's other works, which immediately puts it at odds with Christianity and its unique claim to the exclusivity and authority of the Bible as the only Word of God.

"Scientology describes deity in three ways," says Martin, "Supreme Being, God, and gods. Members are free to choose their concept of God" (Martin, 363). Further, it is taught that man himself can attain a "godlike" nature, a doctrine which is no doubt linked to Scientology's root belief that man is basically a good and moral being (Martin, 364; 365).

By contrast, Christianity teaches the existence of one God, existing in three persons. There is indeed only one God, and He is the God of the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:39, 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; Mark 12:32; Ephesians 4:6). Per the revealed Word of God, Christianity teaches that man is in fact inherently evil (Romans 3:10, 23).

For the Scientologist, "salvation is to be free from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth" (Martin, 367). In other words, Scientology embraces reincarnation. From the Scientology website (note: this writer prefers not to offer a link to this website, but it is readily accessible for the interested reader): "Scientologists believe that people are immortal spiritual beings who have lived before and who will live again, and that their future happiness and immortality as spiritual beings depend on how they conduct themselves in the here and now." Like every other false religion, then, Scientologists believe that their eternal destiny depends upon their own good works. This is indeed why this group is so heavily involved in social improvement.

This is of course in stark contrast to the teachings of Christianity, which proclaim that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Man's good works are as filthy rags before a holy God, and they cannot save him (Isaiah 64:6); man must be born again from above (John 3:3), brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 4:17).

There is much more to learn about the teachings of Scientology, but what has been examined here ought to offer enough evidence to help the reader understand that this is a group that is diametrically opposed to the things of God.

Why the topic of Scientology? Well, it has received some renewed press in recent years and while most Christians understand that it is a false and damning religion, it seems as though it is still far too easy to forget to view such individuals—both those who are currently trapped in such cults and those who have left—as our mission field.

13 January 2017

This 'n' That

Friday the 13th. Almost as creepy as Halloween, isn't it? Are you wearing your garlic clove? Oh wait, that's for vampires, isn't it? Never mind.

Here's a fun fact for you: According to Wikipedia, "The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: 'triskaidekaphobia'; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th  is called paraskevidekatriaphobia." Further, in Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered unlucky, and Friday the 17th is unlucky in Italy. The moral of the story is that superstitions such as "unlucky" days are silly and unsubstantiated, especially from a biblical viewpoint.

How superstitious are you? Are you superstitious? I hope you aren't, because as Christians, we know that there's no such thing as "luck," good or bad; rather, there is divine providence. Regardless of how it appears from our fallible, limited perspective, divine providence is always good, because it is the working out of God's perfect will by God Himself. That great doctrine of sovereignty ought to bring us great comfort in all circumstances.

What do we do with Friday the 13th, then? Grab your black cat (if you have one), and give it a snuggle. Run, don't walk, under that ladder. Embrace that broken mirror in all of its funhouse-like attributes. Yes, defy Friday the 13th, because it is just another day on the calendar.

Not only is it another day, but the best part is that it is Friday, which means you get to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

06 January 2017

This 'n' That

Ah, the first week of January. This is a time when many fall into that post-holiday slump, whether due to their intense love for all things Christmas that is instantly extinguished on December 26, or due to facing the reality that they won't see another break in their work schedule until May. Or perhaps you are one of those people who simply doesn't enjoy the gloomy skies of January. Regardless, it often seems that the sentiment of a "happy new year" is misplaced.

I never did understand the phrase, "happy new year." In reality, the year is really only new for one day, so are we wishing everyone a happy new day, and if so, why don't we do this every day? What is the expiration date for these well wishes? Let's face it, we will all have something lousy  happen to us this year, so does that mean the wish for a happy new year has failed? Am I the only one who thinks this is a ridiculous phrase to use so freely?

At the end of the day (or week or year), we have to acknowledge that happiness is a mere transient emotion, bouncing along the rollercoaster of our circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is something that flows forth from a heart that knows and loves God and desires to serve Him. True joy is found in Jesus Christ alone, and it does not ebb and flow with the sorrows and thrills of life. If we know this joy, let us be thankful to God and eager to share with those who have not yet bowed their knee to Him. What better way to celebrate the new year than to share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ with those who are lost?

As you ponder that thought, let me thank you for joining me for the very first 2017 week in review (kind of):

01 January 2017

Sunday Morning Praise

Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

Click here for another beautiful rendition of this hymn.