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.
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Jesus has delivered us from sin and death! So why aren’t we proclaiming the Gospel from the rooftops?
For decades, Western culture has told us that religion is a private matter, not to be discussed in polite conversation. It warns us that people might get offended if we evangelize them. And in recent years, various entities have taken measures to silence Christians altogether.
The intimidation has a much greater effect on us than it should, I’m sorry to say. I regret that, though I’m bold when I write, I struggle with face-to-face evangelism. And I suspect a lot of you share my struggle. We shrink from telling people the good news because culture demands that we do so!
But think about the power of the Gospel in your life. Think about how Jesus rescued you from an eternity in hell and liberated you from slavery to sin. Don’t you want everyone to know that same joy and freedom? Don’t you want everyone to glorify Him by singing His praises?
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Wouldn’t it be terrible if obtaining and maintaining our salvation depended on our efforts? I would have lost mine decades ago! Actually, I never would have had it with the first place.
Praise God, Jesus Christ took pity on my helplessness, fully aware that nothing I could do would make me right with Him. In His mercy, He shed His innocent blood on the cross, declaring me righteous! What amazing grace!
Sometimes, however, I forget my absolute dependence on Him for my salvation. I’ll believe that He responded to my initial act of faith, or that He keeps me because of my obedience and service to Him. I’ll congratulate myself on how well I understand doctrine, how consistent I am in praying and how earnestly I praise Him in church.
In those times, I must remember that my righteousness is completely in Christ. What a wonderful reason to rejoice!
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As my girlfriends and I approached our 30th birthdays, panic and despair set in. We watched other women in the church take wedding vows while we spent lonely Saturday nights without dates. We joked sardonically that we differed from trash because trash gets taken out once a week. (The men in the church failed to appreciate our humor.)
One friend met regularly with me for a while to talk and pray about coping with our singleness. She began encouraging me to develop intimacy with the Lord, explaining only that she sometimes fantasized about Him. I don’t know if those fantasies were romantic — and I don’t think I want to know. At the time, however, I desperately wanted Him to remove the pain and loneliness I felt.
My friend’s exhortations to cultivate intimacy with God left me with the impression that such intimacy came through mystical experiences. I assumed that I would feel His presence in a way that would obliterate my desire for a husband. Obviously, my motives for wanting intimacy with Him were entirely selfish.
Yet the Lord does call Christians to a type of intimacy with Him that has nothing to do with our romantic desires. Even better, we don’t have to search for spiritual experiences in order to enjoy this intimacy. All we have to do is Continue reading
At this time of year, expectations soar. We long for that perfect holiday, when friends and family fulfill all our secret desires, having no needs or wants of their own. Of course, we take it for granted that we and our loved ones will be happy and healthy. It’s Christmastime, after all, and life should be a living Norman Rockwell painting.
Alas, we often face disappointments throughout the year. Worse, hardships and trials don’t take a break between November 30 and January 2. As a matter of fact, we feel disappointments all the more acutely this time of year precisely because we cultivate expectations of perfection.
Life gets uncomfortable and joyless at many times of the year. In those bleak times, however, Christ calls us to find our comfort and joy in Him rather than in our circumstances. As we remember the amazing story of His birth and the reason for His first coming, we remember that Christmas isn’t about our temporal desires, but instead about Him. And such realizations bring tidings of comfort and joy.
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I personally know many non-Christians who just love Christmas. They’ll decorate their homes to the hilt, send out beautifully illustrated year-end newsletters wishing people peace and joy, and maybe even put up a cute nativity scene as an homage to the story of the first Christmas.
For them, Christmas is primarily about brightly wrapped presents, feasting on scrumptious food, and parties. Songs mentioning benign infants lying in mangers must be supplemented with other songs about jingling bells and an obese elf from the North Pole who sees us when we’re sleeping. And then there are the infamous office parties and their accompanying innuendos about who was nice and naughty.
Most of all, they’ll declare that Christmas is about children. Not so much about a specific Child, although some might give Him an obligatory nod, but children and their sense Continue reading
Each morning, John and I listen to John MacArthur’s Grace To You broadcast. Currently, Grace To You is featuring MacArthur’s most popular Christmas messages that he’s preached over the course of his fifty years of pastoring Grace Community Church. Today’s message focusing on the deity of Christ captured my attention, but not in the way you might expect.
As MacArthur preached on Jesus being the Son of the Most High, and therefore being God Incarnate, I thought about God as the Most High Being. I don’t meditate on the fact that He is the Most High often enough, which usually leads me to regard Him a little more casually than I should.
That casual attitude particularly shows up in my prayer life, I’m sorry to say. Yes, I know the stereotype of Continue reading