29 December 2017

This 'n' That

I hope everyone had a joyful Christmas celebration this week! If your holiday didn't turn out to be filled with perfect Hallmark movie moments, well, that's okay, as long as Christ was celebrated.

Now we're on to a new year. 2018 looms before us, promising a year of laughter, smiles, friendships, memories, tears, trials, and disappointments. Yes, no matter who you are or what your circumstances, I can guarantee that you will experience all of these in some measure over the course of the next 12 months.

So, as you prepare for the onslaught of all that this new year will bring, remember the truths you know from Scripture. Truths such as, every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17; cf. Luke 11:13), that discipline from God is designed to grow and strengthen us, and is exercised because we belong to Him (Hebrews 12:7-11), that trials test our faith for our own sakes, with the result of praise and glory to Christ (1 Peter 1:6-9), and that Jesus Christ is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30), our peace (Ephesians 2:14), our friend (John 15:13-16), and our Shepherd (John 10:11), and, if we belong to Him, we shall never be plucked from His hand (John 10:27-29).

We rest in these and the many other sturdy truths of Scripture every day, but as we approach a new year it is particularly strengthening to meditate on these and the character and nature of our God. Begin today. Tomorrow, repeat. Then repeat again the next day, and the next day, and the next...you get the idea. Something else you should repeat, albeit weekly rather than daily, is the practice of pouring yourself a cup of coffee or tea (or soda or water or whatever) and taking a few minutes to relax and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

25 December 2017

Good News for All Time and All People


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 2:9-14)

The angels announce that with the coming of God's Son we may look forward to God's supreme and most costly gift. Their news was not just for one day or for a tiny handful of people: it was intended for all time, to the very end of the world; and it was meant for all of us, from the greatest to the least....

Since the angel invites us to rejoice at the coming of Christ, not inane ordinary way but with unbounded delight, let us make the most of the message. What can we say about this joy? If we involve ourselves in worldly pleasures and are wholly absorbed by our own wants, we will never rejoice in the grace of Christ. Let the shepherds instead be our example. Their earthly lot did not change, despite the fact that they had heard the angel's word and had witnessed the birth of God's Son. They went back to their flocks exactly as before; they continued to live as poor men, guarding their herds. In terms of the flesh and of this passing world they gained nothing from the privilege which we read about here. For all that, they were full of joy. Theirs is a lead we should follow. For although the gospel might earn us neither wealth nor fame, and although it might not bring us gratification or amusement, nevertheless we should be glad that we are the objects of God's favor. That is where true blessing and happiness lie, and where real rest is found....

—John Calvin, "Glory to God on High"

Merry Christmas to you!

Christmas Day Praise

Angels From the Realms of Glory


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


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 2017

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

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)

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)





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)

22 December 2017

This 'n' That

Well, Christmas is finally almost here. One week from today, the wrapping paper will all be smushed in the bottom of the waste basket, the pie plates will have been licked clean, washed, and put away, and the Christmas tree will stand as a mocking reminder that, lovely as it is, it must be taken down, and all of the decorations must once again be packed away for another year. In just a few short days, the Christmas carols that filled our homes and cars will cease ringing, beginning their 11-month silence.
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)
The incarnation of Christ happened in time, but, unlike our Christmas decorations and fanciful "Christmas spirit," its reality and effects are not limited to one month a year. Christ, the second Adam, came to earth so that He could live the life of obedience that we cannot and die the death that we deserve. Christ's incarnation is vital to the gospel. Without it, we could not be saved.
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)
Fleeting as it is, many of us love and enjoy the Christmas season, but how thankful we are that our Christ, the One whose birth we celebrate at this time of year, is not a fleeting Savior, but a faithful, immutable, eternal One.

Merry Christmas to you all as you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

21 December 2017

Christmas Sorrow Is Overcome by the Man of Sorrows

The memory plays in my mind with brilliant clarity. It's too vivid, really, and I'd much prefer the scene to be a bit more muddled, but I am powerless to change that.

December 21, 2002. Fifteen years ago. Sixteen Christmases ago. Has it been that long?

I was home from college for Christmas break. It was early afternoon and my mother had just stepped into my room to tell me that my grandfather had come out of his surgery just fine. He and my grandmother would be staying in Wisconsin for Christmas, due to the fact that Grandpa just had another stent placed. Thrilled to hear he was doing well, I turned up the volume on the Christmas music so it rang just a bit louder through my room. I readied myself to run some errands with my mother. It would be a good day. No school, Christmas was coming, and the air was cool and crisp. What could be better? Yes, it would be a Merry Christmas.

The phone rang, though I'm not sure I heard it above the crooning of Bing Crosby's voice. Mom entered again, her face very different than before. Grandpa was gone. The stent blew, there was no way to save him. The conversation I'd had with him the evening before would be the last time I would hear him laugh. In that moment, my world both stopped and spiraled out of control, all in one confusing sweep.

17 December 2017

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

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)

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

16 December 2017

Equipping Eve: A Christmas Carol


Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim…no, not that Christmas Carol! As Christmas Day rapidly approaches, let’s pause to consider some of the hymns and songs that we sing each year in celebration of Christ’s birth.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: The War on Christmas
Equipping Eve: God With Us
Equipping Eve: The Wisdom and Witness of Anna

15 December 2017

This 'n' That

I've already admitted that I watch Hallmark movies at Christmas. With watching television comes the inevitable...commercials. There are some Christmas commercials that I actually like, because they've been around for years and remind me of a simpler time. Like the commercial for Hershey Kisses where the red, green, and silver candies play "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" — that thing has been around for ages, since 1989 apparently! Another that has always taken me back is one I've unfortunately not seen this year. It's for Campbell's soup, and depicts a snowman waddling indoors, sitting down to a bowl of hot soup, and melting away to reveal a little boy. Even though this is selling soup, for some reason it always reminded me sipping hot chocolate after playing outside in the snow.

There is one type of Christmas commercial that continually baffles me, however. It is the car commercial. A man awakes on Christmas morning to find his dream Mercedes sitting in the driveway donned with a big, red bow. The snow is falling gently all around, and he grins with glee, all his grown-up Christmas wishes having come true.

Two things: First, not to sound like a feminist, but why don't women ever get cars for Christmas in these commercials? I mean, if someone wants to send me a Mercedes, I promise I'll flash a super-big grin, even if it's not snowing, and even though I don't need or want a new car, much less such a luxury one.

Second...really? Who are these people who are gifting luxury cars to loved ones at Christmas? Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to buy your wife some piddly sweater, or even a necklace, and then find a $50,000 car sitting in your driveway from her? Awkward.

I know, I know. These commercials aren't trying to convince us to give someone a car for Christmas, rather, they are trying to get us to buy a car for ourselves because the vehicle is being offered at such a great price. Well, I won't argue that this may be the time of year to make a big purchase if it's necessary since the sales are prevalent, but I still find the whole notion of these commercials mildly hilarious. They also are blatant examples of the commercialism and worldliness of Christmas in our society. It's all about the material gifts, isn't it? Thankfully, we Christians know that there has been a priceless gift given to mankind in the Lord Jesus Christ. A fancy car will eventually break down, but our Lord is the sovereign King forever.

Now that all of that has been said, I'll be sure to keep you posted if I find a new car in my driveway on Christmas. If a few of you want to go in on that gift together, I totally understand and would support that decision.

Well, when I drafted this on Thursday, my news feed was filled with stories about Roy Moore. Don't worry, I won't subject you to any of that. Instead, I hope you'll enjoy these other links I've uncovered as you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

13 December 2017

The Cure for 'Acceptable' Sins


Over the past few weeks, we've looked at a host of so-called "acceptable," or even "respectable" sins, and we've seen that, much to our fallen nature's dismay, there is nothing acceptable about them at all. All sin is sin against a pure and holy God. All sin separates us from our God. All sin is an abomination before God.

10 December 2017

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

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?


Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming

08 December 2017

This 'n' That

About a month ago, I spent some time in an airport. A lot of time. A lot of unplanned time.

Delays. They happen. I'm thankful I don't travel often, and I'm thankful that, so far, I've not had to endure a delay that was too much of an inconvenience. On this occasion, I was traveling home from a business trip. I had deliberately rescheduled my flight so that I would arrive home in the evening, be able to get a good night's sleep, and put in a full, busy day the next day.

Then life happened.

I arrived at the airport, made it through security, and found my gate. I settled in to wait a bit longer than planned, because the aforementioned activities had gone more smoothly than they sometimes do. After awhile, my plane arrived, and the passengers deplaned. Everything seemed perfectly normal. But then, after another little while, I realized that we were supposed to be boarding...and we weren't. Okay, it is a major airline, after all, a slight delay is common.

Then came the announcement: the plane had been struck by lightning on its way in. Obviously, everyone who had been on board was fine, but the plane needed to be checked for damage before lift off.

Great.

Long story short, we never did get on that plane. After a couple of hours, they decided to fly in another plane. Unfortunately, that plane left late and arrived over an hour later than it should have. So, at the end of it all, while I should have landed at approximately 7:20 at my destination, I didn't actually board a plane until about 10:30 pm. Needless to say, I climbed into bed around 2:00 am and, well, that productive work day I had planned for the next day was not so productive after all.

It really is fine, though, because I am thankful no one was hurt in the initial incident, and I'm thankful that I and my fellow passengers didn't have to board a plane with potential damage.

This whole backstory is leading to this, though. As I sat for what seemed like endless hours in this tiny airport, eventually, the nighttime cleaning crew arrived. You see, in a small airport, everything—everything—closes down by 8:00. Even the restaurants. Yeah...

So as I sat there, tired, a bit frustrated, and desperately wanting to be home, I watched this cleaning crew essentially begin their work day.

And they worked. Hard. They were detailed, sweeping and dusting under and around the chairs, and they clearly had a system so that they could work together to get the job done. What was also striking was that they were friendly. Here they were, doing a job that most of us would consider to be an unpleasant one, and they managed to be affable and amiable to those of us who were waiting on our hopelessly long-delayed flight. As someone who tends to appear standoffish when I am focused on a task, I found this convicting. As someone who was tired and a bit grumpy, I found their demeanor to be uplifting. No, I had no profound conversation with any of them, but simply watching their diligence and determined approach to their work made me admire them. May we all be so dedicated, even when performing the most mundane or menial tasks.

As Christians, we more than all others have reason to perform our work with resolve and thankfulness. We are, after all, to do all things as unto the Lord. He has placed us in our circumstances, whether at work, school, or home, and so we perform our daily duties with diligence and zeal to please Him. He is a good, gracious, and merciful, no matter our circumstances. May we always keep that truth at the forefront of our minds.

Well, speaking of cleaning, I have a feeling there's something around here that needs to be cleaned. While I go check that out, why don't you take a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

06 December 2017

Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Pride


We are proud of our children, proud of our friends, proud of our homes, proud of...ourselves. We are proud of our accomplishments, proud of how we have averted disaster, proud of our successes. We are a proud people. Yet even as Christians we often forget that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). What has come to us, whether joyful or trying, has been handpicked and hand designed by God.

03 December 2017

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

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)

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)

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus


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)

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

02 December 2017

Equipping Eve: God With Us


The Christmas season is upon us! Let’s turn our focus away from the busyness and distractions the world brings us this time of year and instead look upon the One Whom we celebrate this season: Immanuel, God With Us.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Resources
The King's Supernatural Birth (S. Lewis Johnson)
God's Gift of Christmas (John MacArthur)

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: Simeon's Psalm
Equipping Eve: The Wisdom and Witness of Anna
Equipping Eve: The Incarnation

01 December 2017

This 'n' That

Look! A perfectly posed Christmas devotional picture!
I'm sure this happened completely by accident.
Well, December is finally here! I know some of you are celebrating by busting out your Christmas sweaters. Others of you are moaning because the days are passing by quickly and there's simply too much that still needs to be done. Others of us are too busy with non-season specific duties (i.e., work) to even think about the holidays, even though we'd love nothing more than to (for once) actually enjoy the season.

One thing that I find helpful during the month of December is to find some sort of advent study that will keep me focused on Christ and His incarnation. I know—some people hear "Advent" and assume a legalistic, ritualistic motive, but that is hardly the case. Unless, of course, you consider study of the person and work of Jesus Christ to be empty and merely ceremonial, but I doubt that is true of any of my wonderful readers!

Your Advent study does not have to be anything formal. You might simply determine to read and study through specific, relevant texts from the Old and New Testament. Or perhaps you might study through a book or two on the topic of Christ and Christmas. John MacArthur's small book, God's Gift of Christmas, is a good resource and a great gift idea. I recently downloaded The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation, and am looking forward to reading that. James Boice's The Christ of Christmas and The King Has Come are also accessible resources. The ministry of Naomi's Table also offers an Advent project idea that parents may enjoy walking through with their children.

Whatever December has in store for you, I pray that you will, above all, keep your eyes, heart, and mind fixed firmly on the person of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know I say that often, but we live in a world that seeks to keep us too busy to meditate on the Word our Lord has given us and on our Savior who is revealed therein, and, without daily time in the Word and prayer, we will easily be swept away by those many distractions.

I hope that this post isn't a distraction for you. If it isn't, then I hope you enjoy the few minutes you'll spend enjoying your week in review (kind of):