Giving Thanks Should Have A Direction

2004_0810Plymouth0052Does anyone seriously deny that America has become a secular society?  On the local news this morning, for instance, reporters had difficulty concealing their celebratory attitudes as the first shops to legally sell recreational marijuana opened at 8:00 a.m. today. Two of them. Only shops on the East Coast. Right here in Massachusetts! I grieved over the obvious disregard for God’s standards of sobriety.

Not long after running the story showing the massive amount of people lining up to buy their legal pot, the station ran another story predicting the massive amount of people who will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe I have a quirky way of viewing things, but it struck me as odd that Americans thumb their noses at the God of the Bible as they flock to celebrate a holiday originally intended as worship for His care and provision.

The Christians who celebrated that first American Thanksgiving (right here in Massachusetts, by the way), called for the feast as an expression of thanks to the Lord for sustaining them through that harsh New England winter and for the abundant harvest that ensuing Fall. (Do public schools still teach that part of American history?) Their thankfulness was more than a nebulous gratitude directed at nobody in particular, but heartfelt thankfulness to a personal Lord Who had lovingly taken care of them.

It’s important to count our blessings. Absolutely! In some ways,  I suppose it’s good that secular people step back and recognize the value of being grateful to something beyond themselves.

At the same time, I feel troubled that so many Americans have such enthusiasm about the Thanksgiving holiday when they demonstrate a total lack of interest in God Himself. As I see it, their nebulous gratitude lacks the beauty and depth of praising the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. ~~Psalm 86:8-13 (ESV)

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What Makes You So Great?

When you attend high school reunions, weddings, funerals or other social events, people invariably ask about your accomplishments. Who did  you marry?  What career did you choose?  Where are you sending your kids for college? Where do you spend vacations?

And don’t you love answering that your husband is a prestigious man? Or that your employer absolutely depends on you? Or that your kids each chose well-known universities and consistently make the dean’s list? Or that you’ve been abroad just recently and happen to have pictures on your iPhone.

We love boasting about ourselves!

But as Christians, we should boast only in Jesus Christ and what He has done to save wretches like us. His love should both puzzle us and fill us with overwhelming joy! If we must boast, let us boast in what He has done for us.

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Three Times My Savior

king-jesusOver the last six months, I’ve been praising each Person of the Trinity for His part in my salvation. Have you ever thought about salvation in terms of the Trinity?  I hadn’t until recently, when I started praying prayers of thanksgiving for having been saved from God’s eternal wrath and to eternal life.

The more I think about salvation, the more I understand that God did all the work in bringing me to Himself. In contrast to most of my Christian life, during which I routinely patted myself on the back for deciding to follow Jesus, I now focus on His gracious work to save me. For that reason, when I typed up my 2018 prayer guide in January, I considered how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit each worked to bring me from death to life.

The Father

God the Father knew that I had absolutely no ability to atone for crimes against Him. I trespassed against His holy standards, and had no way of making an offering that could make up for those violations. Yet the Father loved me (for reasons I’ll never discern) so deeply that He provided an offering for me.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~~John 3:16 (ESV)

Sometimes in prayer I’ll park on that thought for a while, thoroughly fascinated that the Father didn’t even require me to bring my own offering. He had made such requirements of the Old Testament Jews, but in His mercy He supplied the Lamb of God as the perfect offering for my sins. And therefore I thank the Father for His role in my salvation.

The Son

How can I fail to adore the Lord Jesus Christ, Who willingly went to the cross and accepted the punishment for my sins? So many beautiful Scriptures come to mind as I type these words, all testifying to His inexplicable love in offering Himself as the sacrifice for me.

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ~~Romans 5:6 (ESV)

In my weakness and bondage to sin, Jesus Christ died as my substitute. I should have borne the Father’s wrath, but my gracious Savior bore it in my place. I can’t imagine the depth of His suffering as He hung on the cross, naked and bleeding, facing the punishment for sin on behalf of everyone who would believe in Him. Therefore I praise the Son for His role in my salvation.

The Holy Spirit

Ephesians 2:1 says that I was dead in my transgressions. I had no way of reaching out to God, and, for that matter, no real desire for Him. But the Holy Spirit took pity on my wretched condition and mercifully gave me His life.

 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, ~~Titus 3:5 (ESV)

I thank the Holy Spirit daily for giving me new life in Christ. Through His power, I have the faith necessary to receive salvation. Without Him illuminating God’s Word to me, I would have no hope of understanding my dependence on the shed blood of Jesus to make me right with God. Therefore I honor the Holy Spirit for His role in my salvation.

Each Person of the Trinity has done so much to rescue me from the eternal consequences of my sin and to assure me of everlasting life that I have to worship each of Them! If you’ve never associated the Trinity with your salvation, pick up a Bible and examine passages about each Person and His role in salvation. You might find yourself worshiping Father, Son and Holy Spirit too.

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The Trinity On Sunday Mornings

Two weeks ago, our church sang a beautiful old hymn invoking each member of the Trinity to bless our worship of Him. I delighted in its descriptions of Father, Son and Spirit, intrigued by how each Person works during a church service. It deepens my sense of awe as I enter into corporate worship on Sundays.

Perhaps listening to this hymn, and thinking seriously about the words, will enhance your perspective on Sunday morning worship as you contemplate the Trinity’s intimate involvement in our prayers, our hearing of His Word and our response to Him. I know it gives me a greater sobriety about worship.

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Who Our Departed Loved Ones In Heaven Watch

Spring in Boston May 9 2011 001The night John survived his cancer surgery, a family member attributed his survival to his sister, who had lost her own battle with cancer nine years earlier.

I had just been through one of the most emotional days of my life, and I was too exhausted for a theological conversation on the state of the dead, so I swallowed my annoyance and mumbled something about God’s faithfulness. But the remark troubled me then and it troubles me still.

It troubles me even more when evangelicals (who claim to know Scripture) talk about their departed loved ones looking down on them from heaven and perhaps even intervening in their circumstances. A nominal Catholic understandably makes such fanciful assumptions, as my family member did, but people who say they read and believe the Bible really should know better.

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that when someone close dies, it’s natural to want to continue the relationship. I occasionally catch myself trying to talk to my mom, almost four years after her death (and I have no evidence that she ever turned to Christ). So I really do understand why people want to believe that their loved ones still hear  and observe us. It’s painful to accept that our loved ones no longer participate in our lives.

But even leaving aside the issue of those who die without Christ, I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that those in heaven maintain any concern for us. Since they behold the Lord in all His glory, wouldn’t He be the singular focus of their attention? Consider this passage from Revelation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~~Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

As much as we’d like to think that our loved ones gaze lovingly down on us from heaven, I believe we miss  the whole point. Our loved ones in heaven behold the face of the resurrected Savior, Who captivates all their attention simply by being Who He is! Would we even want to distract them from such a magnificent preoccupation?

John’s sister had nothing to do with him making it through a surgery that, because of his disability, should have ended his earthly life. But make no mistake: there was most definitely heavenly intervention. God the Father Himself watched over John, guiding the surgical team. Like our loved ones in heaven, I can glorify and praise God for mercifully granting me a few more years with my husband. The Lord deserves all the glory, as John’s sister surely would tell us.

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Our Wrathful, Loving Father

John 3 16a

Typically, Christians think about salvation in terms of Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. Certainly, that ought to be our primary focus. God’s Word indicates that we will spend eternity praising Him for shedding His blood for the remission of our sins.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.” ~~Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV)

Of course we should regularly praise and adore the Lord Jesus Christ for taking our place on the cross, where He took the Father’s wrath that rightfully belonged to us.  How could we not worship Him for such a profound demonstration of selfless love? It will be both a joy and a privilege to kneel before Him in gratitude for bearing those nail scars!

But lately I’ve also been amazed and thankful to the Father for His role in my salvation.

At first, it seemed a bit strange to draw a connection between the Father and salvation, especially in light of the doctrine of propitiation. Propitiation means an offering made in order to appease wrath. Therefore, Jesus accepted the task of serving as the propitiation for our sin, appeasing the Father’s wrath that we deserve.

Again, we naturally focus on Jesus’ gracious obedience to make Himself our substitute, and so should we! But as we do, perhaps we should also remember the most famous New Testament verse of all time:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~~John 3:16 (ESV)

Think through the first two clauses of that verse with me, keeping the doctrine of propitiation in mind. The same Person of the Trinity Whose wrath against our sin demands appeasement actually gave His beloved Son as the offering to turn away His righteous indignation! I don’t know about you, but I think that’s mind boggling!

The Father, in extremely real terms, actually provided His own offering for our sin, ladies.

If I had more skill as a writer, maybe I could express the enormous impact of the Father’s generosity in giving His own Son as the means of sparing us from His wrath. I wish I could describe how I tremble with a strange mixture of awe and joy when I praise God the Father each morning for His part in bringing about my salvation.

Instead, allow me to challenge you to start thinking about this incredible love that God the Father has demonstrated to whomever believes in Him. Like me, you might want to incorporate this concept into your daily prayer time. See if the Holy Spirit  doesn’t get you excited about the Father’s wondrous role in your salvation.

 

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Saturday Sampler: November 5 — November 11

Autumn Leaves Sampler

The lovely sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical Beginnings showcases a splendid, though relatively unknown, hymn by John Newton with Sunday Hymns from the Past – The Trembling Gaoler by John Newton. She could post only the lyrics, but they’re quite powerful and well worth reading.

As usual, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day nails it when she posts Worldly influence and the Church’s fixation on youth. I’ve seen what she describes first-hand, so I can attest to her accuracy.

Denny Burk’s piece, Pastors, be ready for questions about homosexuality and abortion, isn’t really just for pastors. While pastors should certainly take the lead in standing for Biblical truth in these vitally important areas, the rest of us also have a responsibility to proclaim the truth regarding these matters.

Barry York of Gentle Reformation cautions us against using theology to avoid actually practicing Gospel principles in his piece, You Can’t Reform What You Won’t Touch. His words made me rather  uncomfortable — and that’s undoubtedly a good thing!

Writing from her passion for the prophecy of Scripture, Elizabeth Prata profiles The Man Who Will Change the World in her blog, The End Time. We need the wonderful reassurance that Elizabeth finds (and shares) as she faithfully studies God’s Word.

In this week’s installment of her series on the seemingly insignificant sins that we routinely commit without feeling convicted, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised both challenges and encourages us with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worry. If you’ve missed previous posts in this series, you can find links to them at the conclusion of her article.

Amy Mantravadi opens her month-long series on thankfulness with a beautiful essay that closely parallels my own experience. Please read Thankful Thursday: The Communion of Saints both to appreciate the privilege of regular church fellowship and to rejoice in God’s provision for those of us who, because of physical limitations, can’t be as active as we want in our local churches.

It’s been a while since the ladies at Out of the Ordinary have posted anything, but Persis more than made up for their long absence with Doctrine Matters: Imputation. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is a dry theological article, consider the fact that the Lord encouraged me tremendously as I read it. Praise the Lord for using her words to deepen my assurance of His faithfulness!

Beware These Seven Counterfeit Gospels warns Kristen Wetherell in a contributing post for Unlocking The Bible. Her list, with each point backed up by Scripture, gives us an excellent framework for recognizing false teaching.

In a brief,  easily read, post on the Ligonier blog, R.C. Sproul helps us in the task of Understanding Free Will by letting us in on how Martin Luther resolved his struggles over this issue. It’s an interesting little insight into a hotly debated topic.

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