30 August 2017

Unshakeable Joy

The devotional that follows, as well as subsequent posts in this series, originally were written for and appeared as anonymous publications in the bulletins of a local church. Considering the joy (no pun intended) which resulted from the composition of this series, and the limited audience to which these articles were initially exposed, it seemed appropriate to finally share them here, with this dear readership.

As our Lord instructed His disciples just hours before His death, He taught them doctrine and He shared with them warnings, but above all, He offered them joy and hope (John 16:20-22).

Christians are commanded to rejoice, and not just occasionally or when circumstances are favorable; no, Christians are to rejoice always.

25 August 2017

This 'n' That

So peaceful!
The past few weeks have been a dichotomous rollercoaster of stress and delight, uncertainty and hesitancy, doubt and determination. My faithfulness has ranged from unwavering gratefulness to unbecoming grumbling. It has all culminated in a great display of God's care and provision. To His glory, and to my constant awe, I have seen clearly how He has woven together events and people over a period of years as a means of caring for one of His undeserving children.

And perhaps the most stunning realization is that this God who so clearly demonstrated His care, mercy, and provision for me, is the God who created the universe. He is the God who, in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has provided a way of salvation and a way to obtain eternal life. The God who has been so wonderfully generous to us here on earth is preparing for His own a far greater future reality.
Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3)
Amen and amen. With that, I hope you take some time today to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

18 August 2017

This 'n' That

Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19)
Standing on this side of the cross, most of us of Gentile origin, we may easily overlook this bold question set forth by the disciples of John the Baptist.

"Are You the Expected One?"

The Expected One. What a name! Those Jews who knew and trusted their Scriptures (known to us as the Old Testament) were confident that there was a Messiah coming, because the LORD had declared this in no uncertain terms in His holy Word. Sadly, today there are still many who are waiting for the Expected One, for they are too blind to see that He has already come and is indeed coming again (Hebrews 9:28).

The Expected One. How could anyone miss it? How could anyone not see that Jesus was the Messiah? How good of our Lord to explain to the disciples on the road to Emmaus everything within the Scriptures concerning Himself (Luke 24:27)!

The Expected One. So many waited expectantly for His first coming. Today, we wait expectantly for His second coming, when justice will prevail and His children will be with Him forever. Are you eagerly awaiting His return?

Well, it would be fantastic if Christ would return right now, wouldn't it? Since that may not happen, why not wait while enjoying your week in review (kind of):

11 August 2017

This 'n' That

Use it as a vase today,
serve lemonade in it tomorrow!
I remember a pre-Pinterest world. I remember when people had opinions, likes, and dislikes, and decorated their homes accordingly. Sure, there were trends and fads, but if you didn't like chickens, then you didn't decorate your kitchen with chickens. It was that simple. No one judged you; no one cared. But now, if you don't decorate according to the latest Pinterest fad, well, clearly there must be something wrong with you. Don't like burlap and mason jars? Too bad. It's popular and it's on Pinterest, ergo, you must conform. (For the record, I have nothing against mason jars. It's just...they are everywhere.)

Well, this may help date your pictures to precisely the month and year they were taken, and your  home may always be up to date with the latest kitschy trinkets, but is it an enjoyable place to live? Some of my fondest memories are stirred when I sift through old treasures and find something that I remember sitting on our coffee table, or in our curio cabinet, not just for months until the next trendy wave came through, but for years. And it remained there so long because it meant something. It had sentimental value. It belonged to my mother, or my grandmother, or to my mother's grandmother. Those decorative items had a story behind them—stories I loved to hear and stories I still remember.

I often wonder if children today will be able to enjoy similar memories, or will their thoughts of their childhood home be empty and Pinterest-ified? To each his own, I guess, but I am thankful to have grown up in a Pinterest-free world.

It's easy to get caught up in the latest fads, whether it is clothing, furniture, cars, or decorating ideas. How many of us will find in a year or two that our "distressed" furniture now just looks, well, old and outdated?

Perhaps the saddest fad of all, though, is the fad of evangelicalism. There is no doubt that, in many parts of America, it is trendy to call yourself a Christian. It's cool to be #blessed and many eagerly hop on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, the bandwagon they are boarding is one of a false faith. It's supported by wobbly, damning doctrine and will not withstand the fires of persecution, which will indeed come. So how does the true Church respond? With the gospel. With the message of mercy and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone. We respond with the truth and let God take it from there.

Speaking of home decorating fads, I'm thinking about bringing back wall stenciling (just kidding). Now before you go de-Pinterest your home, why not first take a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

04 August 2017

This 'n' That

One of my worst nightmares has always been that I will be that person who holds up a line boarding a plane. That my boarding pass will cause the scanner to screech and flash red. That I will be left standing in a strange and obnoxious city watching my ride home literally fly away.

Well, a few weeks ago, it happened....most of it, anyway. Everything except the plane leaving without me. There's still no explanation as to the "ticketing error" that caused me to be the last one running to her seat. No one can explain why my boarding pass could get me through security but not through the gate. Suffice it to say I am exceedingly grateful for the Delta employee who worked quickly to fix it so I could board and we could leave as scheduled ("as scheduled" meaning the usual 30 minutes late, of course).

Traveling is always stressful, but this particular trip was a doozy. I am so thankful to the Lord for His protection and kindness throughout it. Little things like travel hiccups make you realize how wonderful the doctrine of God's sovereignty truly is. Almost late for that important meeting because the hotel goofed up? God wasn't surprised. Last minute flight change because crazy traffic won't get you there in time for your initial flight? God had that planned too. Very last minute panic when your boarding pass fails you? Yeah, God totally knew that was coming. If He promises to care for His children, then we know that what He's ordained is good and according to His perfect plan, even if it throws a massive wrench into ours.

With that, let's all breathe a sigh of relief that it is Friday and sit back while we enjoy the week in review (kind of):

01 August 2017

"Crammed Full of the Gospel"

I believe that those sermons which are fullest of Christ are the most likely to be blessed to the conversion of the hearers. Let your sermons be full of Christ, from beginning to end crammed full of the gospel. As for myself, brethren, I cannot preach anything else but Christ and His cross, for I know nothing else, and long ago, like the apostle Paul, I determined not to know anything else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. People have often asked me, "What is the secret of your success?" I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel,—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news.[...]There ought to be enough of the gospel in every sermon to save a soul.

Spurgeon, Charles H. The Soul-Winner: or How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour. Kindle Edition, 42-43.

Further Reading
On the Dangers of Distorting God's Grace
When We Forget the Meaning of Grace
The Dividing Doctrines of Grace