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Archive for March, 2013

Ten Daily Reminders for Believers

bless-the-lord

 

I wake up lost every morning. At least that’s what it feels like. Perhaps something similar is true of you.

Somehow during the night I’ve forgotten the big realities about God and the universe and myself and the gospel. I desperately need to steady myself with biblical truth rather than stumbling forward to live from unbelief.

I tend to forget the big realities during the day as well. I regularly catch myself living on the idiotic assumption that I will constantly remember the things that really matter — and that I will act in line with them. I assume that the realm of the seen and touched will not overwhelm the realm of the unseen and hoped for.

But in reality, whether it’s night or day, I don’t stay awake to what’s truly important for very long. I am like that college kid who sits in church on Sunday morning trying to keep his eyes open after an irresponsibly late Saturday night. My eyelids droop by default, and my mind wanders from the glories of the Bible to superfluous, naturalistic daydreams (that may or may not end with an embarrassing full-body twitch that snaps me awake again).

So I’ve learned over time to put structures in place that remind me of those unseen things, especially during my bleary-eyed, half-conscious mornings.

One effort is this list of ten truths. I hung it up next to our dining room rocking chair (my preferred spot for study and contemplation). It’s developed over the years as a list of the daily reminders I need most. Many of them overlap substantially, but a double reminder only reinforces the original purpose.

I’ve added a short commentary for each in hopes that something here might help you in your pursuit of remembering the biggest truths that we can be prone to assume and forget.

 

1) God exists. (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58)

It seems so simple, so basic, but I tend to wake up a naturalist, and a narcissistic one at that. I assume that all there is in the world is what is in front of my face. My bed, my wife, my kids, and most importantly myself. The simple yet ultimate existence of God immediately clears my lens, makes me small, and infuses meaning into every step. God exists — and that changes everything.

 

2) God loves you. (Romans 5:8; John 16:27; Jeremiah 32:40–41)

Another massive biblical reality, this immediately counters my hesitation to embrace God’s ultimate authority, reminding me that He has set his affections on this little speck of a person. He is far from indifferent toward me.

 

3) Jesus died for you, and the Father has now bound himself to give you only good things. (Romans 8:28; Romans 8:32)

This draws me quickly to the central reality of all history: the cross. It is an objective truth set in time and space, so it immediately draws my gaze away from my own capacity to garner acceptance from God through my efforts. Furthermore, the outworkings of the cross make clear that even the harshest trials will come to me as blessing, for my ultimate good, no matter how bad I feel at the time.

 

4) God sees you as perfect. (Hebrews 10:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

My self-absorption, anxiety, and self-pity know no bounds. They must be beaten into submission by the beauty of imputed righteousness. The question, “How am I doing?” is met head-on with the answer, “Perfect.” In that regard, every day is a good day.

 

5) That is because of Jesus’s perfection, not yours. You deserve hell. (Romans 3:10; 1 Timothy 1:15)

There are two main purposes here: first, to counterpunch when my flesh looks for a way to subtly claim credit for the perfection that is mine only in Jesus; second, to maintain a sense of trembling gratitude for my salvation. While I enjoy the glory of the gospel, there should always be an awestruck voice in the back of my mind that is whispering, “I shouldn’t be here.”

 

6) You will die. (James 4:14, Hebrews 9:27)

Nothing brings clarity to me like this simple and straightforward reminder. How quickly I assume my earthly immortality, and how often I need to think of myself as a terminal cancer patient.

 

7) You will live forever in the new heavens and new earth. (Romans 8:18, Hebrews 10:34)

I don’t want to be a clear-headed fearer of death, like some atheistic poet. I want to glory in the guarantee of indescribable bliss that is just around the corner. And I want to live like it’s real — because it is.

 

8) For now, you are an exile on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13–16)

This keeps me from feeling at home when I’m not at home (especially in my own home). It prepares me for not fitting in, for weird looks when I speak with conviction about Jesus, and for holding loosely to every bit of earthly life.

 

9) Nothing on earth is truly worth putting your hope in. (Jeremiah 2:13; Galatians 6:14)

This is a practical specification of #8. It is right for me to remember that I will inevitably be disappointed by every earthly pursuit or relationship or emotional experience. It runs me back to my true Home and the true Bridegroom.


1
0) You have no right to be unhappy. (Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:8–9)

This is a summarizing application of all the previous reminders, but it merits its own slot. How quick I am to become “blah” when there is a treasure trove of happy reality at my disposal! I must beat this into my discontent little brain. I can be plenty unhappy, but I have no right to be.

 

These reminders flee from my mind like stray socks in an armful of laundry. Every time I pick one up, another falls. By the time I read #10, #1 is beckoning again. What a grace that #4 is still true!

 

Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/ten-big-daily-reminders

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2_timothy_3_16

In the church we have a doctrine called “inspiration.” And the English translation of 2 Timothy 3:16 that I just read, uses the term inspiration. But I think that we must make a distinction between the use of the term inspiration here, and the way it’s used theologically in the history of the church. Because, as Dr. B.B. Warfield once pointed out so eloquently, the real meaning of this text here in 2 Timothy 3:16 has to do not so much with the way in which God communicated His information to us through the human writers, but rather the emphasis in this text is on the source of that information. What Paul is saying, he uses the wordTheopneust (I’ll write that out in English) in the Greek here when he says “all scripture is given by inspiration.” Literally what this word means is God-breathed. And it means that which God has breathed out, rather than that which God has breathed in.

Now, I was just ready to give my next sentence after finishing that sentence and I noticed that in between that last sentence and the next sentence I had to pause…and take a breath. Because in order for me to speak I have to have breath in my lungs, and while I’m speaking, if I continue to speak and don’t take a breath while I continue to speak pretty soon I start squeaking like a mouse and I run out of breath…I have to breath, because when I speak I’m breathing out, and in order to breath out I must first breath in. Now the force of what Paul is saying here is that he is saying that all of scripture is breathed out from God.

Now when we breath out that means we are involved in expiration, not in the sense of dying, but we expire at death because we breath out for the last time, and we don’t breath in anymore. But to breath out is expiration, whereas to breath in is inspiration. So really, if we were getting real technical here, we should translate this phrase that all scripture is given by expiration.

Now, so what? What’s the difference between an expiration and inspiration here? Again, the point that I’m jealous to make here, is that what Paul is saying when he insists that all of the scripture has been breathed out by God, he is saying that it’s ultimate origin is in Him. It is His word. It is His speech. He is the One who is the source of these writings. And so when we talk about the doctrine of inspiration, we’re talking about the way in which God superintends the writing of sacred Scripture. That God does not just act, and let people respond with their own insight, and their own imagination to set forth their view of what God has done, but that God is working by the Holy Spirit to superintend that record to make sure that the record that is written is His Word.

Source: R.C. Sproul (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-inspiration-mean-2-timothy-316/)

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“My Trial”

by Brock Schueren

gavel

I am surrounded on all sides by beings unfamiliar to me. Some are clothed in pure white with golden crowns upon their heads. Others are as living flames. With two fiery wings they fly, but their feet and faces are hidden by the fires of their other wings. Still there are other beings: beings covered in a multitude of eyes.

These beings I see as I stand in a courtroom awaiting a trial. It is my trial. I am to be judged today. I am not worried about what will happen. I’m a pretty good person, and certainly not as bad as those who have gone before me or those who will come after me. Compared to them, I’m doing just fine.

There’s a commotion in the room. I turn to see someone entering. I know who he is. He’s the accuser, my adversary. I feel a twinge of anxiety but it quickly fades away. I remember that he is just here to do his job, the same job that ended up putting away all those bad people who came before me. He won’t be too hard on me, and even if he is, there isn’t much dirt on me for him to dig up anyway.

He points at me and begins a long rant against me. I’m nervous, but most of the things he accuses me of are minor and easily justified. They are certainly no big deal. As he continues speaking, my mind begins to wander. I think it’s odd that the judge isn’t here to listen to the prosecution. I would have thought he would want to hear this. Oh well, I’m sure he will turn up at some point for just long enough to let me go. Maybe he knows that all these accusations aren’t a big deal so he hasn’t even bothered coming to listen? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t hold my attention for very long.

My mind wanders again. I look around and try to count the number of people gathered in the court. But the fiery beings distract me. They fascinate me to no end. They are certainly like nothing I have ever seen before. I wonder if they are hot. Are the flames real flames that would burn me? Again I am distracted – this time by the beings covered in eyes. They unnerve me. Can they see out of all of those? Can they look at me, at the accuser, and at the other beings all at the same time? Can their eyes see more than flesh? Can they look into my soul? I am more ashamed by their gazes than I am by the one who accuses me.

He continues his list of accusations: “You are a blasphemer, a liar, a hypocrite. You lust in your heart. You are sexually immoral. You hate your neighbors and seek the destruction of those who do you harm. You cheat, steal, and covet what is not yours. You are an idolater and practice wicked things. If the judge is just, you will not leave here except in shackles, and will be led away to your destruction.”

I think this man is crazy. I’m really not that bad. No one in his right mind would punish me. If I’m this bad, think of what all the really awful people are doing – the evil people who murder or rape. Or those who practice black, despicable magics. Or those who sacrifice children. Or who eat people. Trust me; I’m fine.

The Adversary continues in this fashion for so long that I now have no idea how long it’s been. Minutes, hours, even days or weeks may have passed while he’s continually spewed forth all my faults, failings, and transgressions. My mind wanders from one topic to another, alighting on anything that will distract me from his tireless assaults. I know all of these things are true, but they do not faze me. Why would they? I know each one. I am, after all, the one who did them. They aren’t surprises to me.

But then something changes.

Suddenly I sense a difference in the air. It smells the same, but somehow it’s more potent. The ground feels at once both cooler and warmer. My skin begins to tingle. I hear a change in audience. They sound quieter even than their initial silence. The light begins to change. It gets brighter and whiter each moment. I glance at the fiery beings. Their flames flicker ever so slightly differently, almost as if they are trembling. The Adversary continues speaking, but his words do not come as fluently. Even he is attuned to the differences, but he does not stop his railings.

Then the spectators break their silence. First one, then another. Soon I can hear them all. They are shouting, wailing, crying out in voices like peals of thunder. But I hear another noise. The figures in white are throwing down their crowns and kneeling on the floor. I look about in bewilderment. The light continues to increase. It is now so bright that I cannot bear it. I cast my eyes downward to shield them. It doesn’t work; I close them entirely. The wailings increase. My ears are deafened. I attempt to open my eyes and look up. Suddenly I see the train of a robe. It seems to have filled the room. My eyes follow it to the seat where the Judge is now sitting. I gaze upon Him and am ruined. I fall at his feet, utterly undone.

I am overwhelmed by my sins, transgressions, iniquities, and failings. “It’s me!” I cry out. “I have done all these things.” I am now fully and completely ashamed of what I have done. Even the tiniest lie now seems to me as the blackest scar in the presence of this bright Judge. I know who I am in His presence. I am a filthy rag soaked in putrid blood. I am a wretched stain more odorous than a thousand rotting carcasses. I can make no excuse. Who now cares what others have done before me or will do after me? I do not. I am crushed beneath the weight of my sins. I cannot bear them. I cannot breathe. I can think of nothing but my guilt and shame. I am afraid.

Then I hear Him speak, and His voice tolls throughout the chamber, engulfing the cries of the beings, the Accuser, and me. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins,” He says. But my blood is vile and cursed by my iniquities. I know he will pronounce me guilty and discard me as the waste that I am. He must.

But then I see the crowd parting, and I behold a lamb without blemish, spotless as newly-fallen snow. He is pure and clean. Marvelously white. Surely his blood is innocent. Surely he is perfect. If anyone were to deserve life and blessing it would be this lamb. He would not be condemned.

As I gaze upon his beauty, he is transformed into the likeness of a man. And as this happens I hear the Judge speaking again, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The man stands next to me now as I cower on the ground at his feet. Before us the Judge is seated, high and lifted up upon his mighty seat.

I can still hear the wailing and gnashing of the assembled host. They are crying out the majesty and the splendor and the holiness of the Judge. I know my doom is coming. He opens his mouth, ready to speak. I know the verdict. “Guilty!” He pronounces. The word echoes off the walls and reverberates across the foundation. My heart races, fearful of the fate before me. I will die, rightfully, for the many sins I have committed.

But wonder of wonders, the man next to me is led away. I see him shackled and tied up. He is beaten, bruised, bleeding. He is bearing the penalty for what I have done. He was condemned, and he is dying for me. Soon I see him dead, his body broken and his blood poured out. This perfect man, spotless lamb, lies dead before me.

But more wonderful still, and unbelievable to my eyes, I see this man raised from the dead. The power of death could not hold him; he has been raised to life.

I am still on the floor, wallowing in the muck of my blood and the stains of my iniquities. Someone approaches me and places something upon me. It is a robe: pure and white like the wool of the lamb. It covers me and my stains. I am wrapped in it perfectly. A hand reaches down to me and lifts my face. My eyes turn upward where I see the Lamb who was slain. He says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

“My Savior and my God!” I cry, and cling to his feet.

“Come,” He says and leads me before the Judge where I stand clothed in the perfect righteousness of the Lamb.

“I find this man innocent,” proclaims the Judge. “Enter now into eternal life,” he says to me. Then the crowd begins a new noise, praising God that justice has been served and mercy also.

Are not the justice and mercy of God entwined so perfectly in the person and work of Jesus Christ? The justice was poured out upon Christ through his death for us, and mercy was granted to us who believe in His finished work. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has born the wrath of God in your place. Only through him and his sacrificial death is there forgiveness of sins. And by his life are we raised to new life in him. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” –Romans 5:10-11

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“There is Hope”

by Stanford Murrell

 

Years ago an S-4 submarine was rammed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts. It sank immediately. The entire crew was trapped in a prison house of death. Every effort was made to rescue the crew, but all ultimately failed. Near the end of the ordeal, a deep-sea diver who was doing everything in his power to find a way for the crew’s release thought he head a tapping on the steel wall of the sunken sub. He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and he realized it was Morse Code. He attached himself to the side and he spelled out in his mind the message being tapped from within:

“Is… there… any… hope?”

 

Sometimes we ask ourselves a similar question. We ask such things as, “Is there any hope for our nation?” “What hope does my family have?” “What hope is left for the Church?” “What hope is there for this relationship?” “Is there any hope?”

 

Many people conclude there is no hope and end their life or abandon themselves to a reckless lifestyle. But the Christian can ask, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance” (Ps 42:5).

 

The Bible contains a message of hope. Paul declared, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Peter says we have been “begotten unto a living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3). True and lasting hope comes as we embrace the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore let the heart sing,

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
 

Refrain

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Refrain 

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

Today, we exhort you to turn to Christ and let hope live again in your heart.

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