Thursday, January 17, 2008

Encouraging Words

For Emily, who leaves for college today:

From Jesus himself:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)
From William Cowper's hymn "God Moves in a Mysterious Way":

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

And from Jim Elliot:

Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt in every situation you believe to be the will of God.

Behold the Lamb

"Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb."
--Rev. 14:1
Christian, here is joy for you; you have looked, and you have seen the Lamb. Through your tears your eyes have seen the Lamb of God taking away your sins. Rejoice then. In a little while, when your eyes shall have been wiped from tears, you will see the same Lamb exalted on His throne. It is the joy of your heart to hold daily fellowship with Jesus. You shall have the same joy to a higher degree in heaven; you shall enjoy the constant vision of His presence; you shall dwell with Him forever. "I looked, and, behold, . . . the Lamb." Why, that Lamb is heaven itself; for as good Rutherford says, "Heaven and Christ are the same thing." To be with Christ is to be in heaven, and to be in heaven is to be with Christ. . . . All you need to make you blessed, supremely blessed, is to be with Christ.

--Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Crossway, 2003)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Year Ago Today

Gretchen and I moved to Louisville one year ago today. The word that best describes the year for me? Increase. We've grown through the ministry of our loving church family, through the friendships we’ve formed, and through the classes we’ve taken. And yet this increase has come in and through struggles of various kinds. Our faith has increased, yet we have known doubt and testing; our godliness has (we trust) increased, yet we have known sin and temptation; our commitment to and love for one another has increased, yet we have known strain; our knowledge has increased, yet we have often had to admit ignorance; warm friendships have formed and increased, yet we have known times of loneliness; our love for Christ and his gospel has increased, yet we have known seasons of spiritual dryness and coldness.

I'm thankful for our (admittedly light) struggles. I'm convinced that the increase has come because of these struggles, not in spite of them. The Bible tells us in many places that this is God's way:
[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

In this [living hope] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so tha the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

One year ago, we didn’t know what was in store for us. Today, with hearts full of gratitude and joy we praise and thank you, O Lord, for your overwhelming goodness to us:

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!

--Psalm 117

I’m reminded of these verses from the hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”:

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Christ Has Redeemed Our Bodies

Christ has redeemed the bodies of all his children. In that day when Christ redeemed our souls, he redeemed the tabernacles in which our souls dwell. At the same moment when the spirit was redeemed by blood, Christ who gave his human soul and his human body to death, purchased the body as well as the soul of every believer. . . .

Though in a little time I shall slumber in the tomb, though worms devour this body, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and because he lives I know that in my flesh I shall see God. These eyes which soon shall be glazed in death, shall not be always closed in darkness; death shall be made to give back his prey; he shall restore all that he has taken. . . .

Christ shall raise them with himself. Think of that, ye that have lost friends--ye weeping children of sorrow! Your redeemed friends shall live again. The very hands that grasped yours with a death clutch, shall, with eye-strings that never shall be broken, wake up in the noon-day of felicity. That very frame which thou didst sorrowfully convey, with dread attire of funeral, to bury in its tomb--yes, that selfsame body, made like the image of Jesus Christ, spiritualized and changed, but nevertheless the selfsame body, shall rise again; and thou, if thou art redeemed, shalt see it, for Christ has purchased it, and Christ shall not die in vain. Death will not have one bone of the righteous--nay, not a particle of their dust--nay, not a hair of their heads. It shall all come back. Christ has purchased all our body, and the whole body shall be completed, and united in heaven with the glorified soul. The bodies of the righteous are redeemed, and redeemed for eternal happiness.

--Charles Spurgeon, "Plenteous Redemption," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. VII (Pilgrim Publications, 1969)

Avoid Manipulation in Evangelism

Who can deny that much modern evangelism has become emotionally manipulative, seeking simply to cause a momentary decision of the sinner's will, yet neglecting the biblical idea that conversion is the result of the supernatural, gracious act of God toward the sinner? . . .

When we are involved in a program in which converts are quickly counted, decisions are more likely pressed, and evangelism is gauged by its immediately obvious effect, we are involved in undermining real evangelism and real churches. History is full of people coming to Christ months and years after the gospel is presented to them. That may be the case with you. I know it was with me, and it is with many other Christians. Most of us don't respond the first time we hear the gospel.

--Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, pp. 80-81 (Crossway, 2007)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Gospel, in Six Sentences

[T]he good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ's sacrifice and that God's wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into new life, an eternal life with God.

--Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, p. 43 (Crossway, 2007)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Grow in Grace

"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 3:18
"Grow in grace"--not in one grace, but in all grace. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe in the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in fullness, constancy, simplicity. Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed. Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very low and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward--having nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit enable you to "grow in . . . the knowledge of our Lord and Savior." He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know Him is "life eternal," and to advance in the knowledge of Him is to increase in happiness.

- Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Crossway, 2003)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I Don't Believe in Fatalism

My friend David reminded me the other day of this helpful passage from a book I read a few months back:
Scripture teaches that, as King, [God] orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose. Scripture also teaches that, as Judge, He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues. Thus, hearers of the gospel are responsible for their reaction; if they reject the good news, they are guilty of unbelief. . . . God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are taught side by side in the same Bible; sometimes, indeed, in the same text [see Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23]. Both are thus guaranteed to us by the same divine authority; both, therefore, are true. It follows that they must be held together, and not played off against each other. Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent. God's sovereignty is a reality, and man's responsibility is a reality too.

(J.I. Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, pp. 22-23.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"The Richest Man in Town"

We spent New Year's Eve at the Stams' house, praying and singing hymns with brothers and sisters from Clifton Baptist Church--hymns such as "The Gospel Song":

Holy God in love became
Perfect Man to bear my blame.
On the Cross He took my sin,
By His death I live again.

We finished around eleven o'clock by singing "Auld Lang Syne," then made it back to our apartment in time to raise a glass and ring in 2008 with our friends Micah and Carrie.

I felt like George Bailey: the richest man in town.