And Speaking Of The Church

After writing a series of posts about the church, only one hymn seems fitting. The hymn writer shifts the focus from the church itself to the One Who established the church as His bride.

Usually, I introduce Sunday hymns with lengthy musings on them, and usually doing so has merit. In this case, however, the hymn simply provides a conclusion to my series. May we remember that the church belongs to Christ and exists for His glory.

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As We Take the Lord’s Supper

I’m preparing my heart for Communion this morning. This memorial, which Christ instituted only hours before His betrayal and arrest, reminds us both of His atoning sacrifice for us and His future return.It also reminds us of our unity with each other.

The church John and I belong to delayed our monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper a week because of Labor Day weekend. So I spent a little time yesterday contemplating it by listening to the Gettys’ beautiful hymn, Behold the Lamb. Whether or not your church will observe Communion today, the words will sharpen your focus on our precious Savior.

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What Constitutes A Glorious Day?

This past Thursday John and I went into Boston — for no other reason than to enjoy the perfect weather. After spending an hour at the Museum of Fine Arts, we went to Downtown Crossing, and wandered up Washington Street. We stopped at B.Good for lunch, where we shared the absolute best chocolate shake I’ve ever tasted. We then wheeled to Quincy Market to buy our annual bag of Ghriradelli chocolates and a 2020 Boston calendar before going down the Greenway to catch the early train home.

It was a glorious day!

Yet maybe calling it glorious trivializes the word “glorious.” As much as Thursday delighted us, it pales in comparison to the truly glorious day when Jesus will return for  His beloved Church. I don’t think I’m alone in failing to comprehend the thrill that day will bring. But I definitely know that when I see Him coming in the clouds, I’ll wonder why I ever thought a Thursday in Boston was glorious.

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The Gospel Can’t Be Shared Often Enough

Heavenly CrossNo matter how long, or how deeply, we walk with the Lord, we never outgrow the need to hear that Jesus Christ took our place on that cross, shedding His innocent blood in payment for our sins. As we mature in Him, of course we will pay attention to many other issues that Christians must face, as well we should. But we must keep the Gospel central in our hearts and minds as we glorify the Lord for His grace in saving us.

Some of you might disagree with this assessment.  You might even show me Hebrews 6:1-3.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (ESV)

Of course, that passage actually refers to Continue reading

That’s Gratitude For You!

Many professing Christians acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross to forgive their sins.  Okay, that’s a start. But sometimes it seems as if they don’t understand the full implications of His death.

To put it bluntly, few of them really believe that, had they not been brought to faith in Christ, they would deserve eternity in hell. Indeed, few genuinely believe hell even exists. Nor do they honestly believe that their sins are serious enough to warrant eternal punishment.

Such a dismissal of a literal hell creates a casual attitude toward salvation, it seems to me. Consequently, the Lord’s sacrificial death doesn’t compel them to respond in adoring devotion.

But the redeemed sinner who grasps the truth that Christ snatched her from the jaws of hell responds much differently. Precisely because she knows the condemnation she deserves, she freely abandons her life to Him. She  knows she’ll never be worthy of what He’s done on her behalf. She simply wants to show her gratitude by living for Him.

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Praise God I Have A Place To Put My Hope

As John and I exited Boston’s Prudential Tower Wednesday, we started down Boylston Street toward the Public Garden. Just outside the door, I noticed a saxophone player.  Now, it’s not really unusual to find musicians scattered throughout the city, especially in areas that have a high amount of foot traffic. Most of the time, I pass by them enjoying the music momentarily. They’re part of Boston’s charm.

This particular saxophone player intrigued me because the first five notes he played sounded just like the first five notes of the hymn, My Hope Is In The Lord. I strained to hear whether or not he was actually playing the hymn, but I couldn’t quite tell. I rather doubt it.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about the hymn, and about where I place my hope. Certainly, this world offers little hope as it gleefully plummets toward its endorsement of sin at breakneck speeds. Christians who refuse to acquiesce to the demands of the liberal culture must expect increasing levels of pushback and eventual persecution. Even denominations that, a mere three years ago could be counted on to stand on the bedrock of Scripture have begun bowing to the world’s corrupt values.

We can’t hope in anything or anybody!

But we can hope in the Lord. And maybe our crumbling society reminds us to keep our hope fixed decidedly on Him. When we recall His sacrifice for us at Calvary, we can rest confident in His faithfulness toward us. Against the darkness, we can sing cheerfully that our hope is in the Lord.

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Flashback Friday: Which All People Did Jesus Die For?

Originally posted April 25, 2016

Pink tulips framedThe doctrine of Limited Atonement seems contradictory to the Bible verses that talk about Jesus dying for all people. I had difficulty accepting the doctrine because of such verses myself, so I do sympathize with my Christian brothers and sisters who believe God’s Word refutes it. Consequently, I pray that I can maintain an attitude of humility as I demonstrate how to understand these Scriptures while still affirming that Christ shed His blood specifically for those who would believe in Him.

Obviously I can’t examine every verse that people use to support the belief that Christ died for everyone in this single article. And it would probably be tedious if I wrote a separate article about each verse in question. So I’ve decided to show you just one passage, which I believe offers helpful context. I will also explain how the passage fits into the broader context of the apostle Paul’s teaching. Once you see my hermeneutic in understanding this passage, I pray that you’ll apply it to the other Scriptures on this issue.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-15 (ESV)

I see verse 11 as   clearly as you do. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,” it says. But verse 14 says with equal force  that He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.” This verse makes it evident that God has formed a particular group of people, distinct from the world in general, to belong exclusively to Him. Therefore Christ’s sacrifice only applies to this select group.

How does verse 14 then square with verse 11? Looking at Titus 2:1-10 provides the needed context:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)

Notice that Paul addresses a variety of sub-groups within the church in Crete. Although each sub-group has its own distinct responsibilities, they all function in ways that bring honor and glory to the Lord. Salvation crosses lines of gender, age and socioeconomic position. Paul affirms the same principal in Galatians 3:25-29.

Having once been a Jewish Pharisee who believed salvation was limited to his ethnic group, Paul delighted in knowing that  Gentiles could enter into God’s Kingdom through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:16 and Ephesians 2:11-22). Titus 2:11, therefore, ties in with these Scriptures  (and others like them) to celebrate the glorious fact that Christ opens salvation to every race and nation. Salvation appears, not just to Jews, but to believers from every nation!

Praise the Lord that all who believe in Him, not just the physical descendants of Abraham, have the privilege of His salvation. We should feel humbled by His generosity to include us in His elect, mindful that we’ve done nothing to deserve His favor.

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