28 December 2018

This 'n' That

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. Around here, the holiday was fairly quiet, which is exactly how we like it. I hope yours was a time of joy and celebration in remembrance of our Lord's incarnation.

Now we march forward to 2019. January always brings with it a newfound sense of optimism. Still, resolutions will inevitably fall by the wayside and a new year will undoubtedly fail to deliver all the pleasant things we anticipate. 2019 will hopefully bring joy for each of us in some aspect, but we can be certain that it will also bring disappointments, trials and challenges, and irony by which we will fail to be amused. This is acceptable, though, because all these things are temporary and we still, as Christians, have much to look forward to as we stride one year closer to being with our Lord forever.

This being Christmas week, many of the articles linked below still carry a holiday theme, so hopefully you won't mind extending your Christmas thoughts at least one day longer.  Why not toss some marshmallows in your hot chocolate, then, as you sit back to enjoy your final 2018 week in review (kind of):

25 December 2018

24 December 2018

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

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.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

23 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent Praise

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 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.
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 2:1-15)

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 2:15-20)

22 December 2018

Equipping Eve: Joy to the World

It's Christmastime, which means we’re celebrating the first advent of Christ. But the fact that there’s a “first” advent implies a second, and that event—the second coming of Christ—is something all Christians should be eagerly anticipating!

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

21 December 2018

Christmas Sorrow is Overcome by the Man of Sorrows (Repost)

*This is a repost of an article originally published on 21 December 2017.

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. Sixteen years ago. Seventeen 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.

This 'n' That

Christmas is almost here. Hard to believe, isn't it? In the busyness of the season, it's easy for us to lose sight of what we are truly celebrating, namely the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And in the midst of that, it's easy to further forget how much more we have to look forward to. There is, after all, a second advent, a promised second coming of Christ.

This time of year, we remember when He condescended to come to earth as a man. His humble birth gave way to a humble life, and it all culminated in His crucifixion. His resurrection three days later demonstrated the Father's acceptance of His sacrifice, and further confirmed that He was indeed truly the Son of God.

In His birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ fulfilled every prophecy foretold in the Old Testament about His first coming. In His return, He will fulfill every prophecy that yet remains. He came the first time to save. He will return to judge.

These are weighty things to consider amid the jingling of silver bells, but they are crucial for us to acknowledge, understand, and celebrate. From the manger to the cross to the empty tomb to His victorious return, Jesus Christ has always been Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). This December 25, we do not merely celebrate a birthday, we worship a willing Savior. Merry Christmas.

Hopefully these last few days before Christmas will allow you at least a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

16 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent 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.” (Luke 1:39-45)

O Come, All Ye Faithful

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.
“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.
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 1:46-56)

O Holy Night

14 December 2018

This 'n' That

Does anyone else remember what it used to mean to plan to see a movie? It meant arriving at the theater about 30 minutes early, buying your tickets, and then entering the theater and selecting your seat. Well, in case you haven't been to a movie in several years, consider this your friendly warning that things have changed.

Now, most people buy their movie tickets and choose their seats online at home, and arrive just minutes before the film is about to start. And if you didn't think ahead, when you purchase tickets at the theater, you still have to choose your seats from a screen before you actually sit down. It's all very weird.

I first experienced this a couple years ago when I ventured into a movie theater after about a 5 year unintended big screen fast. I experienced it again this week when a friend and I decided to go see White Christmas. The whole process makes me feel very old and out of touch, but it was still worth it to see Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen on the big screen. Now, I realize that White Christmas contains absolutely no spiritual or theological themes. That doesn't make it sinful, just agnostic. And while I'll always prefer Holiday Inn, White Christmas will always be a classic. Movies like this are just a fun and lighthearted addition to the season. They entertain us, but they do not point us to the One who is our focus (or ought to be) this time of year and everyday.
She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Yep, that's the One!

Now that I have you humming "White Christmas" the song, why not hum while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

09 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent 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)

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)

What Child Is This?

Mary, Did You Know?

07 December 2018

This 'n' That

I really enjoy focusing on Advent. I've never understood why so many churches shun recognition of this season leading up to the celebration of the incarnation of our Lord. It seems, in their effort to not be like the mainline denominations, they've essentially ended up being Amish, forgoing frivolities such as decorations, which are benign in and of themselves, and practices that could actually prove spiritually profitable, such as Advent. Still, to each his own, I suppose.

In that spirit, I came across this lovely post about Advent this week. I'm looking forward to reading each subsequent post on their respective Sundays. It reminds us that even things such as an Advent wreath are used to point to Christ (in other words, just because you find this practice among mainline denominations, doesn't mean it's bad). Thus, if our Advent teachings are saturated in Scripture, pointing to the Light of the World, they can indeed be helpful tools for children and adults alike.

In fact, I think it's essential for parents to use this season to focus their children's attention on Christ, though we must be mindful of the tools we use to do this. I'm in awe of my own mother, who over the years has tirelessly developed intricate and involved Advent teachings for her grandsons. I trust these projects will be treasured for many years to come and they are significant, not only because they were created with a grandmother's love, but because Jesus is at the center of every day's teaching.

Parents, I hope that you embrace this season and all of its possibilities for teaching and instruction. How wonderful it would be to see a generation of children grow to love Christmas for Who it's truly about, Christ, and to actually display that love in their lives, rather than merely professing it with their lips.

Okay, that's enough rambling for today. Only 17 days until Christmas, so you better finish up your shopping, then don some fuzzy slippers and sit back to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

02 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent 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

30 November 2018

This 'n' That

I love Christmas markets!
I can't believe November is almost over! I enjoy the Advent season, and look forward to it every year, so I'm happy to welcome December. Unfortunately, though, it does mean that not-so-merry task of lugging the Christmas decorations up from the basement. Nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like trying not to damage the walls when you carry up the Christmas tree!

Last night I watched a special documenting Christmas traditions in Europe. It was really interesting to see how different countries celebrate, and even to see the difference between Christmas celebrations in the cities versus in the common countryside. Suffice it to say that I find our American traditions to be lame and lacking. That's why it's so special to be aware of the true meaning of Christmas. When it's about Christ and when that's your focus, the rest of it is just a little added flavor!

While you wait just one more day to bust into your chocolate Advent calendar, why not distract yourself with your week in review (kind of):

24 November 2018

Equipping Eve: What Does Total Depravity Mean for the Christian?

Most reformed Christians have said, thought, or written something to the effect of, “Oh, I am a wretched, wicked worm…” This is because Scripture teaches the total depravity of man before he is saved. In Christ, however, we have been made a new creation, so what does total depravity mean for the Christian?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Additional Resources:
Total Depravity: Misapplied (Things Above Us)
What Is Total Depravity and Is It Biblical? (CARM)

23 November 2018

This 'n' That

Well, are you all done with your Black Friday shopping? I mean, it started last night, didn't it? Everyone should be overjoyed with all the deals they found! Or not...

I don't do Black Friday, and I suspect most of my readers don't either, unless you're shopping online. Strangely enough, I think I actually have most of my Christmas shopping done already and, even if I didn't, no present would be worth this! Black Friday brings out mankind's total depravity, and I'd prefer to stay far, far away from it.

For my US readers, I hope you all enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving yesterday, and can continue to relish a peaceful long weekend with your families. For my non-US readers, I hope you can still sneak a piece of pumpkin pie this weekend, holiday or not!

Well, it's back to normal on Monday, but before that happens, let's take a few moments to enjoy the week in review (kind of):

16 November 2018

This 'n' That

Last night, I watched my Green Bay Packers lose against the Seattle Seahawks. Then, about 30 minutes later, I lost my power. And not just with a quick flicker of the lights. No, there were three (I think) sky-illuminating booms that caused the lights to flicker, flash, and die. I never did figure out the reason or source of those flashes and booms. No, it wasn't lightning.

The night before and all yesterday morning, the clouds that have lingered all week finally dropped lots of ice on us. That was followed by rain, and then a really lovely snowfall (snow!). There wasn't much accumulation, but it was enough to help justify the fact that I'm already listening to Christmas music. As it turns out, earlier in the day, many people in the area had lost power due to the ice. We had been fortunate. Until, apparently, late at night. After the power went poof I checked the outage map on the power company's website. Latest restoration: 11:59 pm on 17 November. Excuse me? I knew that they were calling for people to go without power into the weekend, but that was those people. This was affecting me.

November 17, that's Saturday. This was Thursday night. I immediately thought of all the problems this would cause: my cell phone has been struggling to live for months and can't hold a charge, so, um, no contact with the outside world; no shower until Saturday, a reality that nobody should have to experience; no way to cook anything; no way to work on Friday (okay, maybe that one wasn't so bad); and oh yeah, no heat with freezing temperatures. An adventure for sure.

I fell asleep some time after midnight and awoke again when, blessedly, the power came back on. I have no idea how or why our power was restored so quickly, but I am very thankful. (I'm also a little paranoid, waiting for it turn off again!) When things like this happen, I first consider how spoiled we are here in America, and then I consider how much exponentially worse conditions will be during the time of the Tribulation. I considered the same thing many times over the past week, seeing so many horrifying videos of the fires in California. Those are nothing compared to the destruction described in the book of Revelation. It all makes me very thankful for God's promise to collect His Church before that time (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), and makes me all the more zealous to proclaim the saving gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Well, if I hadn't had power this morning, you wouldn't be reading this right now, so settle in an enjoy your week in review (kind of):

13 November 2018

Sibling Status Means Something

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Corinthians 12:14-18)
The image of the body of Christ as a body is essential to our understanding of the Church. Some members function as hands, others are feet, still others work behind the scenes, yet are nonetheless vital organs to this precious organism. Yet, the body of Christ is not just a body. It is more than just a collection of saints working together to glorify God and Christ. It is a family. We are brothers and sisters with one another, and with Christ.

11 November 2018

Sunday Morning Praise

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Equipping Eve: Not Seen, But Heard

Remember “Doubting Thomas,” who insisted on seeing the resurrected Christ before believing that He was alive? When Jesus appeared to Thomas, He said to him, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” We love Christ even though we haven’t seen Him, but we can still know what He looks like by studying His marvelous attributes as found in the Bible. Join Erin for an all-too-quick glimpse at who our Savior really is.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

09 November 2018

This 'n' That

I went to the store last night to get cough drops. Did you know that some cough drops require you to be 18 years old to purchase them? I guess they don't want anybody going overboard on menthol. Anyway, on my way to the register, I spotted a display with new toys for Christmas. Consider this your friendly warning that Yellies are a thing.

What are Yellies? As near as I can tell, it's a plush, spider-like toy that is voice- and sound-activated. The tagline on the display was, "The louder you yell, the faster they go!" So they encourage your children to yell needlessly...and loudly. I realize that nobody asked me, but it's my blog and I'll say what I want: this might possibly be the dumbest toy I've ever seen. Any parent who purchases one of these for their child(ren) deserves every moment of headache that results from the constant yelling.

It seems to me that yelling is a much more common occurrence now than it was in years past. When I was a child, we didn't scream and holler when we played. Okay, maybe occasionally, but usually due to particular circumstances. Nowadays, if children are playing, they're yelling. Why? Why all the noise? You can't walk through a store without hearing a child scream, not because they are injured, but because they didn't get something they wanted. What astonishes me is the way most parents just ignore it and let the child continue making a scene. It's almost as if they don't hear it. Perhaps they're just immune to it since their children are screaming at home, too. Either that or they've gone deaf from all the clamor.

So as not to seem that I'm simply venting an opinion about children screaming unnecessarily, here's my point: all that noise simply creates and contributes to chaos. Our world is growing increasingly chaotic, so why would we encourage our children to participate in this by purchasing a toy that promotes needless yelling? It doesn't make sense, just like so many other things in the world today. Our God is not a God of chaos, He is a God of order. As His children, we should seek to emulate Him, and that includes the way we raise our children.

Okay, before you run out and purchase your own Yellie, pause for a few quiet moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

02 November 2018

This 'n' That

This seemed like the quintessential "November"
Wow, can you believe it's November already? November means lots of things: more fall colors and increasingly bare trees, increased stress levels as the holidays approach, more sickness, more layers, and, for those of us whose football team isn't having the best season, increased anxiety about the post-season.

Did you notice a theme in that list? Looks like lots of "increase"! Just writing that list made me think of a familiar Bible verse:
He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30)
Pastor S. Lewis Johnson once said that these seven words were "extremely important to understanding the source of joy." Firstly, we must know, understand, and acknowledge Jesus' place: He must increase. Then we must necessarily know our place: we must decrease.

This is indeed an important call to pastors, for those who elevate themselves, whether blatantly or subtly, deny their flock the joy of seeing Christ. This verse is also a call to each and every Christian, though. Our truest joy is found when Christ is exalted and when He is first in our focus, is it not? I'll let Johnson sum this up:
There is a logic here because as he increases necessarily I decrease. For the more I am occupied with him, like the red oaks in the spring when the sap begins to rise in those red oaks, those dead leaves that have been hanging onto the tree all through winter finally begin to fall off. And the manifestations of the old life leave as the sap of the new life in Christ becomes predominant in the life of a Christian occupying with him. (Source)
Okay, with that, there doesn't seem to be a point in making you wait any longer for your week in review (kind of):

26 October 2018

This 'n' That

Is it just me, or do Christians talk about trials a lot? I mean, a lot. Don't misunderstand, I know that we all go through trials, sometimes very lengthy and draining trials (oh boy, do I know about this!), but this topic really seems to dominate a great many books, articles, and even sermons. What is that about?

It's true, God never promised us a rose garden, and Christians often seem to endure more than the unsaved (even David asked, "why do the wicked prosper?"), but why do we tend to dwell on this so much?
Bubbles make every bad day better.

From my perspective and experience, when we belabor the point about trials specifically, we do the exact opposite of what we're attempting to do. We say high and lofty things about the sovereignty of God, etc., but by focusing on the reality of trials ad nauseum, we ultimately end up looking at ourselves instead of Christ. When a sermon goes on and on and on and on about trials, we become absorbed in looking at our own situation rather than to the One we claim to serve.

That's the problem as I see it, but I think there's a very simple solution: look to Christ. And I don't mean ordering people to look to Him while you preach your sermon (or write your book) about trials. I mean, simply preach and teach Christ. Point people to the person of Christ by studying the Gospels. Focus on His nature and characteristics, rather than tossing Him in as a point of law while you lament your circumstances. When our main focus is Jesus, the trials don't disappear, but they begin to pale in light of the Savior we serve and what He has promised us.

But then, what do I know? Who am I to be telling the educated ones how to teach and write? All I know is, when a Christian is becoming spiritually, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from being beaten down by a constant inward focus on the "woe is me-ness" of trials as perpetuated by lauded teachers, they eventually realize they need to look elsewhere for relief. Thankfully, there is a healing balm found right there in the pages of Scripture, and in the One who is the Living Word.

Well, around here it is a gloomy and rainy day, which is perfect weather for brewing a cup of tea and relaxing with your week in review (kind of):

20 October 2018

This 'n' That (on Saturday)

This llama has nothing to do with this post.
I think I can count on one hand the number of times that I've had to delay your week in review, so I'm grateful for your patience! It wasn't in the plans for this post to be delayed, but yesterday kind of slipped away from me. Nevertheless, I still have a great roundup of links for you, and didn't want to leave you hanging for a whole week. The problem is, now I can't remember what I planned to write for this introduction. So, instead I'll just share some early Saturday morning musings.

I just made out my weekend to-do list, and, like every week, it includes such fun-filled activities as "do laundry" and "vacuum." Sometimes I wonder why I look forward to Saturday so much if all it means is doing chores! And while I'm rambling about nothing in particular, I've come to realize that every time I write the word "vacuum," I wonder about that double "u." Where did that come from? Whose idea was it?

That's where Google, the all-knowing search engine, comes in. Apparently "vacuum" is from the Latin word "vacuus," which means "empty." Now you know (unless you took Latin in high school, in which case you may have already known and were judging me for my ignorance).

Speaking of words and language, I'm reminded of an interesting book I read in my first year of grad school. Scripture as Communication by Jeannine Brown is a thought-provoking introduction into biblical hermeneutics, and really challenges the reader to consider the very nature of the communicative act, and how that relates to our view and understanding of God's Word.

Anyway, perhaps I'll write more about that at another time. For now, you've been offered a glimpse into the tangential way my mind works (from to-do list, to Latin origins, to books read long ago), and I apologize for that. I think now may be a good time for me to be quiet and let you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

12 October 2018

This 'n' That

Fall has officially arrived. I'm busting out my hand warmers to keep my digits warm while I type at work, and I'm dangerously close to buying some of those microwaveable slippers to keep my toes toasty during the day (I work from home, so slippers are allowed). I actually really like fall, but the cooler temperatures do require a little more daily maintenance to keep me warm.

I don't expect that the fall colors will be overly stunning this year, though, at least not in my area. Our summer was just too...strange. No matter, because soon it will be even colder, drearier, and icy, and I'll be longing for spring, allergies and all. Still, with every change of the seasons I am reminded of our Creator's magnificent power, providence, and sovereignty. He controls the changing of the seasons, even as He has ordained all things that come to pass.

So, while I go searching for some gloves, why don't you grab a mug of something pumpkin-flavored and sit back to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

06 October 2018

Equipping Eve: The Promises of God: God's Promised Seed

Our God keeps His promises, and no doubt the greatest of these promises is found in Genesis 3:15. Get your page-turning fingers ready, ladies, because we’re about to dig into the biblical text to find out more about God’s promised Seed!

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

05 October 2018

This 'n' That

Fall means pie (yay!), and lots of it! Unfortunately, the temperatures around here have been so warm, it's difficult to get in the pie-making, or even the pie-eating mood. And pumpkin flavored treats? I've only been able to delve into some pumpkin cookies, and even that feels odd with the thermometer hovering around 80 degrees.

Nevertheless, it's apple season and my favorite dessert by far is apple pie. Something that has always perplexed me, though, is the fact that so many people use Granny Smith apples for their apple pie. Why? Haven't you ever noticed that it is fairly tasteless and, if it does have a taste, it's sour? My friend, if you are making your pies with Granny Smith apples, you are doing it wrong. Get in the car, go to the store (or orchard, if you have one nearby) and search out Jonathan apples. Now those are pie apples! Can't find Jonathans by you? I can sympathize, I've been there. There are alternatives, though none will be quite as tasty. And whatever you do, don't ruin the world's most delicious dessert with those overused Granny Smiths!

I don't know about you, but I am very thankful that the fruit from Genesis 3 was not an apple. Apples are delicious (even if they don't all make good pie), and their reputation deserves to be as flawless as their taste!

Okay, now that I've offended everyone whose grandmother used Granny Smiths in her apple pie, let's turn to the matter at hand. Grab a slice of pie, a cup of tea, and settle in to enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • I can't even fathom paying only $1756 for a car. Nor can I imagine paying $1 million for that car today. It sure would be a lot of fun to drive, though!
  • It's October, which means it's time for articles about Martin Luther.
  • This is why I sometimes wear gloves inside.
  • Interesting look into the past.
  • This is why certain things trigger in our brains as being adorable.
  • Speaking of, here's your weekly (though slightly less orthodox than usual) dose of adorable.
  • Aw, I hope this puppy finds a good home!
Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue but of the life. —John Calvin

28 September 2018

This 'n' That

Wow, I cannot believe that it is nearly October! The month of September has absolutely zoomed past, and I don't even remember how it was spent! Oh well, such is the busyness of life.

Around here, it is finally starting to feel like fall, and this morning's chilly temperatures were no exception. We also had quite a bit of fog here this morning and as I stepped outside to fill the bird feeders and realized that I could barely see to the back of the yard, I happened to think of this verse:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Just as I could not see far beyond the trees due to the thick mist that essentially covered my eyes, so too can we not fully see our Lord in all of His glory. We are incapable of sufficiently comprehending all that He is and all that He does. There is still so much about this world and our lives that we do not understand. Yes, we have His Word. Says Spurgeon, "The revelation of God is ample and profound, but our understanding is weak and shallow." Yes, we have the gracious illumination of the Holy Spirit, but it is not until He takes us to glory that we will fully see Him and fully know Him. What a wondrous day that will be! What a thing to look forward to!

But, today is still today and we are still here in this fog-filled world, so you may as well make the best of it by enjoying your week in review (kind of):

22 September 2018

Equipping Eve: Salvation in the Old Testament

All those sacrifices…all that blood! Wow, it really must have been difficult for Old Testament believers to get saved and stay saved! Wait a minute…let’s back up and see what the Bible has to say about salvation in the Old Testament.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Additional Resources
Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers 
An Introduction to Christ in the Old Testament

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ
Equipping Eve: Doctrinally Sound Legalism
Equipping Eve: Hopeology

21 September 2018

This 'n' That

The dentist always asks me if I can open a bit wider. And
everybody says I have a big mouth!
Have you ever bitten your tongue? It hurts! Now, have you ever bitten your tongue while it was numb, for instance, if you were at the dentist? I have. When this happens, the novocaine acts as both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because it prevents you from feeling that initial painful chomp. It's a curse because once it wears off, wow, does your mouth hurt! In addition to the sheer pain you're experiencing, you suddenly realize just how much you actually use your tongue, and what a necessary member of your body it is.

There are a few routes we can go with this illustration, but I'm just going to select one. Sometimes we sin without pain. We sin, we know we have sinned, we feel guilty and repentant about our sin, but beyond that we may not see immediate effects of our sin. When I bit my tongue under the effects of novocaine, I didn't feel a thing, I only heard the crunch. It wasn't until I could look in a mirror and see the aesthetic effects that I was able to be mindful of how carefully I must chew until the numbness wore off. And it wasn't until the numbness wore off that I was fully aware of the painful effects of my action.

Depending on the sin, it may be years before we see the true consequences of what we've done. That is why it is essential for us as Christians to be in an ever-repentant state of mind, so that we do not slip into the deceitful, numbing ease of sin. That is also why it is a blessing that God, in His goodness and grace, allows us to see in ourselves both how we have grown spiritually, and where we may still be immature. What Christian cannot say that she becomes more aware of her sin as she grows in Christ? This is because, as He grows us into maturity and more into His likeness, we become keenly aware of how unChristlike we are, and how dependent we are on Him and His grace. And yet He continues to sanctify us by the enabling power of His Holy Spirit. He does not leave us to pull up our own spiritual bootstraps and fix ourselves. Best of all, when we do sin, which we inevitably will daily, through His Word He reminds us that we are already forgiven.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
If we have been saved, we have already been justified before God in Christ. We confess and repent of our sins in time that we may reap the benefits of His forgiveness and continue in sanctification, growing in the grace and the knowledge of the Son.

That's all very good news, isn't it? I think it is!

I'm a little short on links this week because I'm weary of hearing about social justice and politics and would prefer that we all go back to what matters: God's Word. So with that, why don't you grab a snack (and watch your tongue while you chew it!) and enjoy your abbreviated week in review (kind of):

14 September 2018

This 'n' That

Hurricane Florence as seen from the space station.
Credit: NASA; Source: Space.com
I do hope you are all remembering to pray for those in the path of Hurricane Florence. When we see such seemingly uncontrollable—yet divinely controlled—strength, it ought to cause us to reassess our priorities. Not only from the standpoint of, "If you were at risk of losing your house and everything in it, what would you save?" but for those of us resting on the outskirts of the storm, perhaps we need to re-evaluate how it is we are spending our time as well. It seems to me that a phenomenon such as Florence ought to cause us to set aside our "social" squabbles and instead be diligent to be in prayer and the proclamation of the gospel. But then, nobody asked me.

So while I do have a roundup for you this week, and some of it may be lighthearted, please know that those who are affected by, or are going to be affected by, Hurricane Florence, are in my prayers and thoughts. With that, here's your inconsequential week in review (kind of):

09 September 2018

A Hymn No Man Can Mimic

I love the sound of rain. It's steadiness is soothing to me, and I appreciate how it seems to overwhelm all other noise. Yet, over the past 24 hours, we have received an extraordinary amount of rain, due to Tropical Storm Gordon making its way across the map. The temperatures have dropped and the flash flood warnings have been issued in abundance. And while the incessant rainfall offers a valid excuse for staying inside with a cup of tea and a book, such a lengthy duration of precipitation tends to leave one feeling as though the world may not ever return to "normal." As much as I appreciate those drizzling drops, when they fail to ever stop, you start to miss the other sounds of the world around you.

Then, as I poured my coffee this morning, I realized that the rain had momentarily ceased. While it would no doubt begin again soon, for a few sweet minutes, the early morning sounds that I so enjoy were no longer overcome by the steady patter of the rain. I heard a bird singing sweetly in the trees at the back of the yard. The extra weight of the water upon the leaves clearly did not bother him, nor did the sudden drop in temperature. He was singing his dulcet song this Sunday morning, a hymn that no man can ever mimic.

I stepped outside to hear him more clearly, and to delight in his melody before the blue jays joined in with their not-so-symphonic cries. The air was crisp—something so foreign to us with the oppressive humidity of recent weeks—and the morning was still as it awaited the inevitable resurgence of moisture. Brief though it was, it was one of the most peaceful moments I've been granted in months, and for that I am thankful. Thankful for the reminder of God's care for even the smallest of His creatures (Matthew 6:26), and grateful to be blessed with such a sweet Sunday morning song.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. (Psalm 104:12, NIV)

May our praise be to God as sincere, sweet, and trusting as the tones of this small bird.

Sunday Morning Praise

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

08 September 2018

Equipping Eve: The Fruit of God's Faithfulness

God is faithful. It’s easy for us to give lip service to this, because we intellectually know it to be true, but sometimes it helps to reflect on real, living examples of how God has exercised His faithfulness to His people. That’s when our Lord stops being an unreachable entity in the sky, and starts being the personal Shepherd that He is.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Further Listening 
Equipping Eve: Unshakeable Joy
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ
Equipping Eve: Life Verses and Labyrinths

07 September 2018

This 'n' That

Any time my family traveled to the beach when I was young, one of my primary goals was to find a large conch shell so I could take the ocean home. You know what I mean; the phenomenon of holding a shell to your ear and hearing the waves is one that fascinated me as a child, especially since that sound traveled back home to the midwest with me.

Of course, as I grew older, I came to understand that it wasn't really the ocean I was hearing in that shell. But what was it, then?
The most likely explanation for the wave-like noise is ambient noise from around you. The seashell that you are holding just slightly above your ear captures this noise, which resonates inside the shell. The size and shape of the shell therefore has some effect on the sound you hear. Different shells sound different because different shells accentuate different frequencies. You don't even need the seashell to hear the noise. You can produce the same "ocean" sound using an empty cup or even by cupping your hand over your ear. (Source)
I know, it kind of bursts that childhood bubble, doesn't it? Even though we're all grown up now though, stop and think about that explanation above. Did that just happen by chance? Did those sound waves (no pun intended) just poof! appear out of nowhere millions of years after the alleged Big Bang?

No, they did not. And those shells, which once housed a living creature, did not evolve, mutate, or morph from a blob of goo. And that sand that squishes between your toes while your searching for those shells? Yeah, that didn't just appear out of nowhere either. God put it there (Jeremiah 5:22), and while we can never count each grain of sand, I daresay that God knows exactly how many He created.

Great, now I want to go to the beach! Oh well, while I resign myself to another hot, humid, and apparently rainy weekend, why don't you relax with your week in review (kind of):

02 September 2018

31 August 2018

This 'n' That

Lately, I've had a lot of opportunities to bite my electronic tongue. It seems as though I'm living and reliving Proverbs 13:3 in nearly every area of my life: on social media, in text message conversations, and at work. Yes, if my electronic tongue were real, it would be quite bloody by now!

I've studied the book of James a couple of times over the years, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels more than a pinch of conviction when arriving at the third chapter. Let's face it, because the tongue can be used to bite, sometimes we must bite our tongue. Often, this may not even be due to a desire to deliver scathing or unfavorable remarks, but simply to offer an opinion—an opinion that isn't actually necessary.

This is where godly wisdom comes in. Sometimes we may have something perfectly worthwhile to say...but to say it at a particular time or place isn't wise. Guarding our mouth means more than just refraining from speaking in haste or anger or irritation, it means knowing when and where to speak, to opine, to admonish.
He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
Guards his soul from troubles. (Proverbs 21:23)
Well, now that I've spoken about speaking, I'll be quiet and let you enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • A great reminder that we must keep our mind on more than our immediate circumstances.
  • Savor the everyday blessings.
  • Some interesting insight into the man who is sixth in line for the throne of England.
  • Here's your weekly dose of adorable.
  • Life under the Son.
  • This is cool even if Legos and cars aren't your thing.
  • Duh. Now, if only the powers that be in those chilly office environments would realize this!
God’s wisdom in creation amazes the eye. His wisdom in providence astonishes the mind. But his wisdom in redemption awes us and it leaves us lost in wonder, love, and praise. It is centered in Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God. —S. Lewis Johnson

24 August 2018

This 'n' That

Whenever I see a particularly beautiful sunrise or sunset, I become acutely aware of our Creator, His goodness, His beauty, and, well, His creativity! I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys His handiwork, but no matter how many lovely sunrises I see, I never cease to be amazed at the distinctness of each one. No matter how many gorgeous sunsets I witness (and when I lived in Malibu I saw plenty), I still cannot capture the hues with my camera, no matter how fantastic that device claims to be.

Now, I know you're expecting me to go to Psalm 19:1 here, but that's actually not the verse that strikes me in these times.
Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
Praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations;
His glory is above the heavens. (Psalm 113:1-4)
I think it's the third verse of Psalm 113 that is most convicting here. Yes, the Lord should be praised from sunrise to sunset; He should be praised always! Yet, I fail. Miserably. Daily. I'm going to take a chance and say that you fail, too. Miserably. Daily. But why?

It's frustrating to realize that, in our fallenness, we fail in this intensely important task. We get caught up in the worries and the busyness of life and we do not take time to stop, breathe, and praise the Lord for the day He has given us. We're too busy complaining about all that's gone wrong to thank Him for giving us breath, and to thank Him for saving us in spite of our sinfulness. Goodness, I venture to say that many of us are too busy to even see the sunrise or sunset, let alone to take time to praise their Painter!

Thankfully, God forgives even this failure, but let's pray that He would increase the praise on our lips. After all, no one is more worthy!

Okay, if the sun is setting as you read this, step outside and enjoy it, praise God, and then come back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

17 August 2018

This 'n' That

It's raining. It's been raining. It's humid. It's been humid. All. Summer. Long (the humidity, not the rain). The air outside is so thick, you can barely breathe. Even though the sun isn't shining, today you can step outside and quickly break into a sweat just because the heavy, stagnant air isn't moving. Fun times.

Less-than-desirable weather, be it too hot, too cold, too dry, or too wet, often makes me ponder our eternal home. I don't know about you, but I cannot fathom what it will be like to see Jesus, or what exactly our "mansion" (John 14:2) will look like. I can't imagine the brilliance of the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21. And since I cannot fully grasp these things in my brain, I ask lesser, though still unanswerable, questions. Will there be seasons in eternity? Will there be snow without the bitter, breath-stealing cold? I cannot wait to find out! I do know one thing is true: there will be no stifling humidity in heaven. I mean, that's just a given because nobody enjoys that.

Well, while I go ponder the heavenly thermostat, why don't you hunker down inside, away from the rain (if it's raining by you), or settle into your chaise lounge with an iced tea (if it's warm and sunny by you) and take a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

10 August 2018

This 'n' That

There are bugs in the grass. Get it?
Earlier this week, after finishing an evening walk, I wandered over to my “garden” (okay, it’s a couple of raised garden beds on the side of the house. I live in the suburbs, so I have to improvise) to pick some peppers and cucumbers, and check on the progress of the zucchini. I wasn’t in the grass even five minutes before my legs were covered with mosquito bites. That’s me, the human mosquito banquet! The next morning, I brought in the paper and read the front page headline, which said that mosquitos in my county have tested positive for West Nile virus. Yippee.

Thankfully, most people don’t actually experience symptoms of West Nile. I know, it kind of makes you wonder why they make such a big deal out of it, doesn’t it? I suppose because, if you do get a severe case, it can be pretty bad. No matter, because I think I've already had it (yay for immunity). I’m far more concerned with more practical matters right now, like how many tubes of cortisone cream I’m going to go through before the end of the season!

So, what is the big theological point here? Simple. Mosquitoes are evil. They have been vomited out of the very pit of Hell. They have no redeemable purpose on this planet. If they do, I’m sure I’ll learn of it someday in glory. In the meantime, I think I’ll just stay inside until fall arrives.

What do you do when you’re trapped inside your house, surrounded by blood-sucking monsters buzzing around your yard? The answer to that is also simple: you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

03 August 2018

This 'n' That

Yeah, I don't get it either, but somebody
thought this picture was a good idea.
It's hard to believe summer is speeding by so fast. Did you know that it's already August? It's curious to me how, even as an adult, I tend to view the summer months as a time of rest. As a child, teenager, and young adult, this makes sense because we're granted a "summer vacation" between school years. Not so much as an adult (unless you're one of those who chose education for a career. Kudos to you for thinking ahead on that one!). Once you land that much anticipated first job post-college, it's all over. Say hello to 40 hour work weeks all year long (if you're lucky, that is. Most of us are probably more familiar with 50+ hour weeks). Still, there is something about summer that makes us a bit more relaxed and ready to take some time to step away from the busyness of our lives.

That's why it can be so discouraging when circumstances arise to "ruin" our summer relaxation plans. I venture to say this happens to most of us at one time or another. What we remember in those moments is that God is sovereign over the circumstance and that, just as the seasons turn from one to another, so too do each one of us endure seasons of waiting in the valley, seasons of climbing the mountain, and seasons of reaching the peak. To everything, there is a season, right (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and cue The Byrds)? And when that season has ended, we will look back and see God's gracious hand of provision, providence, and protection through it all, whether it was a time of trial or a time of joy.

So, before this season of summer turns away, let's take the opportunity to sip a few more glasses of iced tea and relax in the sun. Hey, that sounds like a great accompaniment to your week in review (kind of):

27 July 2018

This 'n' That

Does anyone else tend to overthink things? I mean, really overthink things? I have a tendency to do this, at least with major circumstances. Sometimes this is good, because I find I've thought of a situation from every angle, so I'm prepared for whatever might come. Many times, though, it brings me close to a point of immobility, particularly when there appears to be no good decision or outcome. That's when God graciously jumps in (even though He was actively there all the time) and shows me again that He is sovereign over all things. I am very thankful for His patience with me!

There is one thing, however, that we can never overthink, and that is God Himself. This is because He is immeasurable and we can never exhaust our study of Him. Thankfully, He has clearly and fully revealed Himself in His Word and so, though He is immense, He is not unreachable or unknowable. He is high and lofty, yes, but He is also personal and near to His children. May we pray that we would be more aware of His hand in our lives, even in times that seem mundane, or in situations that we think the Creator would deem trivial. He will answer that prayer, and no doubt it will bring us to our knees in praise and thanks to Him who so deliberately cares for His own.

Well, as the summer starts to wind down, I hope you'll set aside some time this weekend to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

23 July 2018

A Life Exhausted for Jesus

The Lord does not promise us a long life. Nor does He promise us a life free from trials. What He does promise His children is a life of abundance (John 10:10), both on this fallen earth, and exponentially more in the next life.

Our abundant life in this temporal realm may not be marked by riches, fame, or ease, but, for those who belong to Him, there is joy in the mundane, and even joy in the trials. We Christians have this joy because of the eternal inheritance that is ours in Jesus Christ.

It seems we often fail to fully experience and appreciate this joy, though. The trials of life, the daily meanderings through this sinful, fallen world, are quick to strip us of our eternal focus. This is why we pray that God, through the enabling power of His Holy Spirit, would strengthen and quicken us for His service while we are here on this earth. It quickly becomes difficult to lose sight of the joy that is ours in Christ when we're busy with His work!

This work for Christ's kingdom does not need to be particularly "radical." It does not require moving to a remote, unknown land, or living on the streets of the inner city. It does not necessitate extreme fasting or 24-hour service in a church building. We serve Christ well when we serve Him within the circumstances in which He has sovereignly placed us. We serve Him among our families, in our workplace, and in our classrooms. We serve Him as we shop or tend to daily duties in the world. We serve Him well by reflecting His grace and joy even when we are enduring an unthinkable tribulation.

20 July 2018

This 'n' That

So, it's 6:00 pm on Friday and I am just now writing this post. For comparison, I usually draft This 'n' That on Thursday, then make minor tweaks Friday morning before scheduling it to publish in the early afternoon. That didn't happen this week (obviously). It's just been one of those weeks, though I feel like I say (or at least think) that a lot.

About an hour ago, I tweeted out that I was still at work and the post would be late. The wonderful thing is, I work from home, so when I'm done with work, all I have to do is turn on my personal computer and start writing with no commute or crazy coworkers to come in between. I'm really thankful for that luxury, especially in times like this, but thanks for your patience nonetheless.

I had plenty of ideas for this post throughout the week, but unfortunately didn't write any of them down and have now forgotten them (getting old I guess!). No matter, because at this point, your Friday is almost gone anyway, but don't dismay! In my part of the country, this evening is filled with thunderstorms and general droopiness, so it's the perfect excuse to stay inside, curl up with a cup of tea, and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

13 July 2018

This 'n' That

There are nights when I turn off my lights, ready to drift into (hopefully) sound sleep, and I realize that my room is still bright, awash with the glow of the moon. Other nights, I awaken in the wee hours of the morning wondering who is shining a flashlight in my face, only to recognize that another beautiful, full moon is beaming through the panes and the blinds.

Thankfully, the light doesn’t keep me awake, and I almost welcome the heavenly radiance. Night can be a time when our trials overwhelm us, when the “what-ifs” can dominate our waking and sleeping thoughts, and when regrets or doubts seem to gain the most traction in our tired minds. Waking to find my room gleaming with the moon’s brightness reminds me that I serve—and indeed am a daughter of by gracious adoption—the One who Himself is light!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)
Even the blackest night is pierced by the light of the moon and the stars. And, at the risk of overusing a tired analogy, even in the darkest moments of our lives, the light of Christ shines through. Further still, the brightness of His beams reminds us even in the joyful times that He is sovereign and that He watches over and cares for His own.

God is transcendent, high, and lofty, yet personal and near to His children. He is not disconnected from our lives. He is indeed the Light.

Well, it looks like tonight we'll have a new moon, a supermoon, in fact, though it sounds like there won't be much for us to see. Regardless of what the night brings, I hope you’ll take a few moments today to relax and enjoy your week in review (kind of):