29 May 2017

"We Are the Dead"

It is Memorial Day. You might not even notice. In fact, you may not even read this post until Tuesday or Wednesday, or later, this week. You may be too busy swimming, or gardening, grilling hot dogs, or just plain enjoying a Monday off of work to realize that men and women had to die for you to enjoy a free vacation day.

I'm not trying to lecture you or make you feel guilty. I have been longing and looking forward to this three-day weekend as much as anybody! It is not wrong to enjoy the time with friends and family, but we ought not forget why we celebrate Memorial Day in the first place.

27 May 2017

Equipping Eve: Without the Shedding of Blood (Part 2)

Is the plan of redemption too violent? Is it really just a horrific tale of “cosmic child abuse”? Believe it or not, there are those who profess to be Christians who would say that it is. As always, let’s go back to the Bible and see what God has to say about the penal substitutionary atonement.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.
Click here to listen to Part 1.

Additional Resources
Christ—Our Substitute (Charles Spurgeon)
The Scriptural Necessity of Christ's Penal Substitution
Penal Substitution in Church History
Penal Substitution in the Old Testament
Replacing the 'Violent' Cross

26 May 2017

This 'n' That

Okay, there are two things that you, as the reader, need to know for context before I tell this story.

First, we had some intense storms in the area last Friday evening. At least that's what I'm told. I was preoccupied.

Second, there's a Catholic hospital in the area that is allegedly "continuing the healing ministry of Jesus." Yeah. Apparently they haven't paid too much attention as to how Jesus healed when He cured illnesses and restored limbs.

Anyway, there's your context.

I was sitting in this hospital last Friday night (no, I wasn't a patient) when a voice came over the loudspeaker. In case you're wondering, it was not the voice of God, unless God is a soft-spoken, approximately 82-year old woman (He isn't). So there I sat, weary from the day, but extremely intrigued when I heard (the following is a loose paraphrase),
We'd like to offer you a spiritual moment of reflection.
Oh boy. This should be good.
Today's storms came quickly and they were intense and disruptive. Sometimes the circumstances of our lives are like that. The storms come unexpectedly and they turn our lives upside down.
Wow. Profound.
When the storms come, we need to find peace in our lives. There is one who offers peace.
Wait, is she actually going to speak the name of Jesus Christ?
So in those moments of turmoil, look to the source of peace in your life.
Silence. That was it. The moral of the story? When life is topsy-turvy, pick a random source of peace and run with it. Yep, that'll help. Sigh.

The peace that Jesus offers is the only peace that matters: peace with God, reconciliation between us fallen, hateful sinners and a perfect, righteous, thrice-holy God. If He is not your source of peace, then any "peace" you find will be temporary and inadequate.

So now that you've had your spiritual moment of reflection, are you ready for your week in review (kind of)?

20 May 2017

A Turning Point for Each Man

...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment...
(Hebrews 9:27)

All men are born physically just one time.

Each man is also appointed to die physically just one time (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16).

At the time of physical death, those who repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation are ushered into eternal life with Him (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Those who refused to bow the knee to Christ are ushered into eternal torment (Isaiah 66:22-24; Mark 9:42-48; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Eternity. That is a very long time. Yet, man is an eternal being. No, he does not exist from eternity past; however, he has been made to live forever. And every man will live forever, either in the presence of Jesus Christ, or away from His presence, "where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."
Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house-- for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. 
(Luke 16:19-31)
Such an eternal existence is unthinkable, and yet it is right and just for the perfect, thrice-holy God of the universe to execute His judgment in such a way on unrighteous, depraved, sinful men.

19 May 2017

This 'n' That

On my desk sits a wooden nutcracker. It is there all year, even though we typically associate nutcrackers with Christmas. I found it this past winter at a local Christmas market, one of those that masquerades as an authentic German Christkindlmarkt, when in reality it's nowhere close. In spite of its inauthenticity, though, the excursion wasn't a complete bust, because I returned with my nutcracker...my shepherd nutcracker.

You see, the fact that it's a shepherd is why I love it, and it's why I intend to keep it on my desk year round. Perhaps one of my favorite analogies found in Scripture is that of the Good Shepherd.
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. (John 10:11-18, emphasis added)
What a picture! What a caring, tender, sacrificial Savior we serve! Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He lays down His life for His sheep. Moreover, He knows His sheep. He is not a faraway god, high and lofty and out of reach. Yes, He is high and lofty and mighty and all-powerful, but He also is near, caring for His own, and knows each of His sheep. He knows their flaws and imperfections, their trials and joys, their conflicts and triumphs.

So as I sit at my desk and type, looking at my feeble and frail reminder of this great and glorious Good Shepherd, I am struck by His immeasurable goodness, His unwavering faithfulness, and His unfathomable love for a poor, wretched sinner like me.

There is so much more contained in this passage, but that ought to be enough to stop us in our tracks for today. With that, then, why don't you pause to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

13 May 2017

Equipping Eve: Without the Shedding of Blood (Part 1)

Is the plan of redemption too violent? Is it really just a horrific tale of “cosmic child abuse”? Believe it or not, there are those who profess to be Christians who would say that it is. As always, let’s go back to the Bible and see what God has to say about the penal substitutionary atonement.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Additional Resources
Christ—Our Substitute (Charles Spurgeon)
The Scriptural Necessity of Christ's Penal Substitution
Penal Substitution in Church History
Penal Substitution in the Old Testament
Replacing the 'Violent' Cross

12 May 2017

This 'n' That

I heard a great quote this week from Jerry Wragg, pastor of Grace Immanuel Baptist Church in Jupiter, Florida. In fact, it came from an equally edifying sermon that is embedded below. Said Wragg,
We are raising a generation of Christians who love to talk about Reformed theology but [who] lack genuine love.
In its immediate context, I think Wragg was referring to those "young, restless, and Reformed" folk who like to flaunt their alcohol consumption, tattoos, and coarse language. At the same time, I think we do well to take this thought into deeper consideration as it refers to those of us who hold to the doctrines of grace. As I've heard another wise pastor say, and I am paraphrasing, it often seems as though those who hold to the doctrines of grace fail to show much grace. The irony is, if we truly believe in the doctrines of grace, we of all people should be filled with love and grace for others, just as Christ has demonstrated His love, grace, and mercy to us undeserved sinners.

Let's be mindful, then, of keeping our spiritual pride in check. Let's be mindful that we do not forget God's grace in our attempts to proclaim and uphold the gospel, because without grace, there is no gospel.
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)
With that, let's celebrate the fact that it is finally Friday by enjoying our week in review (kind of):

07 May 2017

When We Forget the Meaning of Grace

Without a continual reminder of the good news of the gospel, we can easily fall into one of two errors. The first is to focus on our external performance and become proud like the Pharisees. We may then begin to look down our spiritual noses at others who are not as disciplined, obedient, and committed as we are and in a very subtle way begin to feel spiritually superior to them.

The second error is the exact opposite of the first. It is the feeling of guilt. We have been exposed to the disciplines of the Christian life, to obedience, and to service, and in our hearts we have responded to those challenges. We haven't, however, been as successful as others around us appear to be. Or we find ourselves dealing with some of the sins of the heart such as anger, resentment, covetousness, and a judgmental attitude....Because we have put the gospel on the shelf as far as our own lives are concerned, we struggle with a sense of failure and guilt. We believe God is displeased with us, and we certainly wouldn't expect His blessing on our lives. After all, we don't deserve His favor.

Because we are focusing on our performance, we forget the meaning of grace: God's unmerited favor to those who deserve only His wrath. Pharisee-type believers unconsciously think they have earned God's blessing through their behavior. Guilt-laden believers are quite sure they have forfeited God's blessing through their lack of discipline or their disobedience. Both have forgotten the meaning of grace because they have moved away from the gospel and have slipped into a performance relationship with God.

—Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, (NavPress: 2006), 22-23.

Further Reading
Faith Makes Christ Precious
Equipping Eve: On Choosing the Good Part
The Cross and the World

Sunday Morning Praise

Amazing Grace

05 May 2017

This 'n' That

So, I tweeted this a couple days ago:
Yeah, you've been there, haven't you? You open your email or text messages, read the latest, and think, "Wait, am I on Candid Camera, or did this person actually think that writing/saying/doing this was a good idea?

We've all experienced this and should not be surprised when it happens. Still, it's disappointing to watch grown adults, both men and women, behave like 14-year old girls. Junior high was miserable enough the first time around, do we really need to live through it again? Backstabbing, shunning, lies, gossip—will we ever grow up?

Well, if we are Christians, we should grow up, shouldn't we? We should not be characterized by these things, but by other, more lovely fruit:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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 5:16-24)
I know—we are saved, but we are still sinners, and we all have our "mean girl moments," but we have been purchased with the precious blood of Christ. This Savior, in His mercy and grace, purchased us in spite of those sins, so ought we not strive, by His enabling power and indwelling Spirit, to have far more "fruit of the Spirit moments"?
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Wow. How amazing is His grace! May our own love for His Body be ever-increasing as we grow to look more and more like our precious Redeemer.

Okay, now that we've all successfully mortified that sin (yeah, right), let's take a few moments to enjoy our week in review (kind of):