John and I watch far less news than we used to. You might say the same. It’s more depressing every day, particularly as we watch society’s determined rebellion against God’s Word and the Lord Himself. We feel hopeless, as well as righteously indignant.
We can’t live in denial of the growing lawlessness around us. Neither can we ignore the approaching persecution that will come against those of us who stand on God’s Word. Taking a Pollyanna attitude certainly won’t give the fortitude we’ll need in the coming days.
At the same time, we must resist turning into Debbie Downers. Amid all the negativity swelling around us, the Lord has blessed us with both temporal and eternal blessings, the latter of which not even the most corrupt government can take from us. Without denying the rising evil around us, we must focus on His goodness and remember reasons to praise Him.
Through Jesus, God has given us the precious gift of salvation! How can we refrain from rejoicing when we think of His goodness in covering the sin of all who believe in Him? How can we remain depressed when we contemplate spending eternity in His immediate presence? How can we not glorify Him for the great things He has done?
Paul gave wonderful guidelines for how the Christians in Philippi should direct their thoughts:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
As I considered writing this article, I couldn’t help picturing that scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews comforts the children by singing about her favorite things. She teaches them that simply remembering her favorite things keeps her from being overwhelmed by negative circumstances. And, to an extent, her philosophy actually does resemble the principle in Philippians 4:8, doesn’t it?
If we look carefully at Paul’s list of what we need to think about, however, raindrops on roses seem pretty trivial. Should we distill this beautiful verse of Scripture down to a mere slogan for positive thinking that Oprah Winfrey would embrace?
Normally, professing Christian women chafe at the idea of limiting their teaching ministry to other women and small children. They follow the world in insisting that we have a contribution to make to the whole church, and that our female perspective must be heard. As they see it, the Word of God cannot be fully represented without the female voice.
Where does Scripture ever say such a bizarre thing? If the Word of God is breathed out by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), why would a female perspective be necessary? Shouldn’t we scratch our heads in bewilderment at the suggestion that men need to hear female voices before they can fully understand what the Bible says?
I can’t help wondering if some men — even Reformed men — have started buying into the idea that female voices need to join the conversation. Logging on to my Twitter Notifications today, I found two tweets by Reformed men, proudly proclaiming that they read The Outspoken TULIP.
Throughout my early childhood, the Presbyterian church I attended with my parents and sister sang The Doxology every Sunday. I had no idea what it meant, but I sang it obediently, feeling secure with the familiar words and melody. I probably figured that God liked it.
After Jesus saved me, I attended mostly Charismatic churches. Early on, the primary church I belonged to sang contemporary praise songs, with an obligatory hymn each service. Gradually, hymns fell away almost entirely.
On rare occasions, The Doxology would pop up. Singing it brought back warm childhood memories, but I also loved praising God from Whom all blessings flow. I loved praising Him with all creatures here below, as well as with the heavenly host. I loved praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
In our church today we sang The Doxology as the closing verse of a longer hymn. A hymn I’d never heard in its entirety. The verses that precede the familiar words of doxology expand on God’s worthiness to receive praise, as well as the joyful privilege we have of giving Him that praise.
I’ve loved The Doxology my entire life. Today’s discovery that it’s part of a longer hymn surprised and intrigued me. I still love The Doxology, but now I know that there’s so much more where it came from. And I love the whole hymn!
We live in a culture that tells us to love ourselves. Self-esteem is, according to almost everybody, an essential virtue — one that we must teach our children as soon as we possibly can. Even in evangelical circles, people frown upon those who speak too often about our wretchedness.
But can’t self-esteem frequently keep Christians from examining themselves periodically to see if we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)? Can it cause us to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12:3)?
You and I definitely should ask ourselves these questions when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. When we don’t see evidence of genuine repentance in our lives — or at least grief over our sin — we need to ask ourselves if we have really been born again.
Our pastor livestreams the Wednesday evening Bible Study through our church website and our church Facebook page. At the concluding of each study, he takes questions submitted through emails or Facebook comments.
This week, someone asked how people with severe mental disabilities can be saved. With great compassion, our pastor equated such a situation with that of a child dying in infancy. He cited 2 Samuel 12:14-23 (particularly verse 23) and Deuteronomy 32:4 to substantiate the belief that God will take people with severe intellectual disabilities to heaven.
The brief discussion reminded me of a young man who lived in the nursing home where I spent two years. Cerebral Palsy had not only rendered him a quadriplegic, but it made him blind and non-verbal. As if that wasn’t enough, he Read More »
In 1953, she joyfully walked out of her office for the last time. Her fondest dream had come true! At age 37, she finally would carry a baby to term, softening the pain of her three failed pregnancies.
Even though the baby was born with severe disabilities, she rejoiced to be a mom. When a second baby came two-and-a-half years later (this time perfectly healthy), she happily settled into her role of stay-at-home mom. Sure, she served in United Cerebral Palsy and March of Dimes, as well as local women’s groups. She even signed up to lead her older daughter’s Girl Scout troop. But she loved being home with her little girls. It was all she ever wanted!
Late in 1963, she accompanied her husband on a working vacation to San Diego, leaving the girls with they grandmother for the week. It was the first time they had gone anywhere without the kids. After her husband’s conference, they took a day in Tijuana, Mexico — of course, buying Read More »
Some people have expressed concern that the forced social distancing that has resulted in churches livestreaming services and Bible Studies will discourage physical church attendance once states lift bans on public assemblies. I understand that the concern.
Ever since services have been televised, small numbers of professing Christians have opted out of attending church, finding it so much more convenient to fire up their TV, computer, tablet or smart phone and watch church in their jammies. Those who have experienced hurt from their church families find this long-distance approach to worship particularly soothing. How nice to hear God’s Word preached without the messiness of accountability and/or difficult relationships!
Others feel frustrated by the lack of churches that preach sound doctrine. Not too many of years ago, I despaired of finding a good church in our area, and seriously contemplated getting my spiritual nourishment online. Thankfully, my godly husband nixed that idea and the Lord brought us to a church that faithfully preaches His Word. Still, I understand the temptation to let online services substitute for actual church attendance.
So yes, some people probably will continue watching services from home long after COVID-19 fades Read More »
Isn’t it easy to make ourselves responsible for procuring and maintaining our salvation? Something in us insists on taking at least a small portion of credit for our acceptance into heaven. Certainly, I spent years figuring out theological systems that allowed me to view myself as a contributor to my standing before God.
Thankfully, the Lord used His Word to convince me that He both initiated my salvation and will carry it to completion. He alone deserves all the glory.
This realization humbles us, which explains why so many of us fight against it. Surely, there must be some little way we cooperate with the Holy Spirit! Just a little? But no, Christ claims all the glory. His mercy takes us from start to finish.
Precisely because everything about our salvation emanates from His mercy and grace, we enjoy absolute security. Nothing can rob us of the security that He has bought us with His blood and therefore He will keep us for Himself. He will not permit anything — including ourselves — to interfere with His eternal purpose for us. We can rest secure in His grace.
Several friends of mine are suffering through major trials right now.
Some focus on the circumstances, praying exclusively for relief from their hardships. Yes, they look to the Lord, and that’s definitely a good starting place. One friend hasn’t been open to spiritual conversation in years, but her current situation compels her to ask for prayer. She knows that she needs God to intervene.
Another friend is going through trials much more serious than those of the first friend I’ve mentioned. And her trials have been relentless. Yet even as she tells me through tears about all the severe affliction she’s enduring, she hastens to proclaim God’s goodness. She even praises Him for opportunities He gives her in her circumstances to tell others about her Savior.
Pain surrounds a lot of believers right now. Perhaps this new year has also been unkind to you. If so, follow the example of my second friend. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, trusting His sovereignty. He will give you a beautiful perspective.