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)
“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):