Monthly Archives: December, 2018

Count Your Many Blessings

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“Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” (Psalm 65:11)

At year’s end, a Christian should stop to count his blessings. If he does this fairly and fully, no matter what his problems may have been during the year, he will have to confess that God, as always, has crowned the year with goodness.

The coronation figure is frequently used in Scripture to speak of God’s blessings in the Christian life. For example: “Bless the LORD. . . Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2, 4). Even our testings and trials are always in the context of God’s grace and love. Christ Himself wore a crown of thorns so that we may be crowned with mercy and salvation.

Consider also Psalm 5:12: “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” The word “compass” is the same Hebrew word as “crown,” with the basic meaning “encircle.” Other jewels in the believer’s year-end crown are God’s grace and glory. “[Wisdom] shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” (Proverbs 4:9).

Then there is the wonderful testimony that “thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). Finally, the believer’s crown is none other than the Lord Himself: “In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people” (Isaiah 28:5).

Most Christians have an abundance of material blessings for which to thank the Lord. Even if they have none of these, however, God has crowned the year with goodness and favor, with lovingkindness and tender mercies, with grace and glory and honor and, best of all, with His own presence. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). HMM

The Grace of God in Creation

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“He left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

There is abundant evidence of the mighty power and wisdom of God in the vast cosmos and the tremendously complex world. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

But in addition to such evidence of His wisdom and power, there is also wonderful evidence of the grace of God in nature. Although “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22), laboring under the awful curse on the ground imposed by God when Adam sinned (Genesis 3:17), it has been so subjected “in hope,” with God’s promise of ultimate deliverance from the “bondage of corruption,” and “we are saved by hope” (Romans 8:20-21, 24).

This goodness of God is evidenced in the daily victory of light over darkness, the annual return of spring after winter, and the oft-repeated triumph of life over death. Although individuals die, new souls are born; and always, there is hope. Man must eat his bread in the sweat of his face as he labors to wrest a living from the cursed ground, but God does send the rain and the fruitful seasons, and the food is grown.

Though he must eat of it in sorrow all the days of his life, somehow God nevertheless fills his heart with food and gladness. And all of the labor and sweat and sorrow is “for thy sake” (Genesis 3:17), urging man to return to God for both his daily bread and his eternal salvation.

How foolish is the man who receives all these gifts of God’s grace without acknowledging their source. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness . . . not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). HMM

Isolation, the Silent Killer

“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” ~ Proverbs 18:1

Isolation can be a killer. To remain unconnected from meaningful, accountable relationships with godly men is an invitation to disaster.

Joe* was a young man I mentored in the early nineties. At one time he made it big in the world of high finance. Successful. Articulate. Bright. Educated. He was a married family man with four beautiful daughters.

Joe accepted Christ and subsequently sensed a call into the ministry. He planted a church not far from where I live. The ministry grew and prospered under his capable leadership. We would meet periodically over lunch, and our connection of trust allowed us to go to build accountability that kept us both on track and healthy.

But out of nowhere he stopped showing up. I emailed and called him several times and didn’t get any response. I decided to assume he was simply busy.

Then one day I received some news that sucked the wind out of my lungs. Joe had an affair, separated from his wife, and a few months later, he committed suicide. I felt substantial levels of grief the morning I heard the news. Beyond the obvious, my grief was intensified by the unnecessary nature of this tragedy.

If only he stayed connected to someone… perhaps a wife would not be a widow, four girls would still have a daddy, I would still have a friend, and a church would still have a loving shepherd.

Let this serve as a wake-up call to all of us. We need each other, because isolation can be a killer. You and I were not meant to do life alone. Men need other men to help us be the men God created us to be. ~ SS

Lift Up Your Eyes on High

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“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Our text makes three majestic statements about the cosmos, each reflecting true scientific insight as well as the work of each person of the divine Trinity:

  • The omnipresent Father has “brought out” an infinite “host” of organized systems in the cosmos—galaxies, stars, planets, animals, and people. All are capable of description mathematically, “by number,” and thus all bear witness to their great Designer. Chance processes never generate organization or complexity, so that special creation by God is the only legitimate explanation for the “numbered” host of heaven.
  • The Son is the omniscient Word of information, description, and meaning. Every system in the cosmos is not only numbered, but named! That is, in the mind of its Creator, it has a function and has been coded to fulfill its purpose. The Second Law states that systems never code themselves, but rather always tend to distort the information originally programmed into them. Only an omniscient Creator could thus implement the divine purpose for every created entity.
  • Finally, the Holy Spirit is the omnipotent Energizer who activates and empowers every system. The Second Law says that energy becomes less available as time goes on, so that only the Creator could provide the energy to activate the designed, programmed cosmos in the beginning.

When we finally look up and really “behold who hath created these things,” we must see God the Creator—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. HMM

The Prophetic Reason for Christmas

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“And [Joseph] knew her [Mary] not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” (Matthew 1:25)

The actual birthday of Jesus was sometime in the fall (September or October) rather than in December. The date is of lesser consequence, however, than the reason for the celebration (Isaiah 1:18). Heaven itself celebrated the birth (Luke 2:8-14). And after the shepherds got over their fear, they couldn’t stop telling the news.

Then there were the wise men from the east who came to worship the one “born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). They got there well after the birth, having put their lives on hold, and willingly gave of their time and treasures to honor this great King while they rejoiced with “exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10). Surely all Christians should worship and rejoice as well as open our treasuries when we celebrate Christ’s birth.

But if we just focus on the birth, we may miss the greatest reason for the commemoration. After all, there was nothing uncommon about the physical process. The conception, now that was miraculous (Luke 1:35):

The eternal “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The great Creator and Son of God, “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20), submitted to the will of the Father and “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). That was why heaven celebrated.

Counting back nine months from around September puts us pretty close to the end of the previous December. Perhaps our sovereign God has orchestrated events so that we would celebrate the real miracle of the conception: “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). HMM III

When God Became Man

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“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands.” (Hebrews 2:7)

We cannot comprehend what it meant for the infinite Creator God to become finite man, even coming “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). Nevertheless, we can, and must, believe it, for “every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:3).

The Scriptures have given us a glimpse of the “emptying” that His incarnation required—the setting aside of certain outward aspects of His deity. He had been “so much better than the angels” (Hebrews 1:4), but He had to be “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9)—“put to death in the flesh” (1 Peter 3:18).

The eternal Word “was God” (John 1:1), but it was necessary that “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). “The world was made by Him” (John 1:10), but “the princes of this world . . . crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).

He “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). That is, He was not fearful of losing His deity and, therefore, did not have to cling to His divine nature and attributes as He became man. Thus, He “made himself of no reputation” (emptying Himself of the outward form of God) “and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

Yet that was only the beginning. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He suffered hell for us, that we might enjoy heaven with Him.

Because He was willing to be so humiliated, He will one day be crowned with glory and honor. “God also hath highly exalted Him, . . . that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9, 11). HMM

If You Possess These Things

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“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

In this first chapter of Peter’s last epistle, he refers to “these things” (one word in the Greek) no less than six times. That they are extremely important things is evident from our text, but if these things are lacking, one is spiritually blind and has forgotten what Christ did for him in salvation (v. 9). However, if he does “these things,” he will never fall (v. 10).

What then are the things which Peter stresses so urgently? Verse 8 makes it obvious that they constitute simply the hierarchical catalog of Christian attributes listed in verses 6 and 7—that is, faith, virtue (strength of character), knowledge, temperance (self control), patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (unselfish love).

The same word is used in verse 4, where it explains how we are enabled to acquire these traits of Christian character. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [‘by these things’] ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”

When these things characterize our lives, we become nothing less than Christlike. He, in His humanity, was all these things as He shared our nature, and we have become partakers of His divine nature when we manifest them.

The wonderful thing is that they are all mediated to us through the gracious promises of the Word of God. God promises, we believe, and then receive! There is an effectual promise for the achievement of each stage in the growth of a Christlike character. Indeed, as Peter had already said by way of introduction, “his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). HMM

God’s Standard

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“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

It is remarkable how different are our human standards of value from those of God. But what should be the criteria by which men recognize hearts of loving kindness, attitudes of justice, and characters of righteousness? These are the attributes of our Creator and Savior, and it is our achievements in these areas that determine our real standing, in the scales of eternity, before Him.

Human wisdom, might, and riches easily generate pride, and pride is “the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

Thus the Scripture has to remind us “that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: . . . That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 29). We should, indeed, desire wisdom, might, and riches, but not as measured by the world. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). “As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10). “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Let lovingkindness become the standard of true wisdom; justice, the measure of real power; and righteousness, our criterion of riches. All are found fully only in Jesus Christ.

If we must “glory” in something, let it be the cross. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). HMM

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