Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Will Accept You

Spurgeon's Morning and Evening are sent to me every day via email. This is tonight's devotion--a must read:
The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in His active life by which He honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of His own person. Such, too, was His passive obedience, when He endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that He might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of His doing and His dying, His substitutionary sufferings and His vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a preciousness must there be in Him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a sweet savour to put away our ill savour! What a cleansing power in His blood to take away sin such as ours! and what glory in His righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved!

Mark, believer, how sure and unchanging must be our acceptance, since it is in Him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received His merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts, and fears, and sins, Jehovah's gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though He sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when He looks at you through Christ, He sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father's heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Saviour coming up, this evening, before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Semper Reformanda (Always Changing)

At the end of The Final Battle, the last of The Chronicles of Narnia, Eustace, Jill, Poggin and Tirian are urged to go further up and further in. This is seen as the great adventure awaiting those who are loyal to Aslan, the Christ figure in the story. But this journey doesn't start after this life is over. We are called to go further up and further in starting now. It's otherwise called growing up or maturing. This process isn't painless. It involves change and change never comes easy. Some of us hate it. Sue Cameron writes:
Remember what it was like being born? You don't recall the bright lights, the screaming? The whole process would be much nicer without the stage known as transition. It's the most intense, demanding and productive part. Hard? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. New life will not emerge without transition.
What's true during our initial entry into daylight continues as we mature: Times of transition are some of the most difficult and challenging periods of living. If we're unwilling to endure them, we'll never progress down the narrow channel that leads to maturity.

Semper Reformanda is a commitment passed down from the Reformers that we do well to remember. 'Always reforming' can be translated 'always changing.' We can't make our way through life without change. We move, we change jobs, we lose jobs. We lose our health. We lose mothers and fathers, we lose spouses. We sometimes lose children. But what if these hard changes are part of the further up and further in process? What if God uses these troubling transitions to open the doorway to greater joy? Jesus said it best: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Knowing God and Knowing Ourselves

Everyone needs something that keeps them going--a drive that presses them on. For some it is their families. For others it is their job. Still others have a hobby or love of sports that keeps them motivated. All these things have an important place in my life, but the greater motivation is described in the Bible in several ways: "Christ in you the hope of glory" "to know you and the power of the resurrection" "crucified in Christ...therefore Christ now lives in me" "you shall be my people and I will be your God." All of these Biblical phrases can be summed up by saying that my greatest motivation in life is knowing God. But to know God, I must know myself. And to know myself rightly I must know God. This is what Calvin says at the beginning of his Institutes. Blaise Pascal shows how Christ is central to this knowing God and knowing ourselves:

“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness
makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness
without knowing God makes for despair.
Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because
he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.
Wretchedness induces despair.
Pride induces presumption.
The Incarnation shows man the greatness
of his wretchedness through the
greatness of the remedy required."
Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All His Children

This has been a trying time for our family. Like many across the country, I've been "downsized." We're having to do with less--not a bad discipline. I hope we can remember the lessons we are learning when things take a turn for the better.

At the same time, some of my friends are enjoying tremendous opportunities for ministry, and I'm not a part of it. Do I despair? Give way to bitterness? Doubt God's providence? No. We are to know "how to abound and how to be in want." Contentment is hard to learn, but very rewarding.

I found the following devotional from C. H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening very encouraging in light of our current circumstances. It is based on Galatian 3:26: "You are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

The fatherhood of God is common to all his children. Ah! Little-faith, you have often said, "Oh that I had the courage of Great-heart, that I could wield his sword and be as valiant as he! But, alas, I stumble at every straw, and a shadow makes me afraid." List thee, Little-faith. Great-heart is God's child, and you are God's child too; and Great-heart is not one whit more God's child than you are. Peter and Paul, the highly-favoured apostles, were of the family of the Most High; and so are you also; the weak Christian is as much a child of God as the strong one.

"This cov'nant stands secure,
Though earth's old pillars bow;
The strong, the feeble, and the weak,
Are one in Jesus now."

All the names are in the same family register. One may have more grace than another, but God our heavenly Father has the same tender heart towards all. One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King's mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, "Our Father."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Suffering and Glory

There was a report tonight on the news about 'Survival Jobs.' It dealt with those who lost their high paying jobs and are now not unemployed, but are working for much less than they previously made. I fit in that category. We're getting by--for now.

Many are much less fortunate, I realize. Hardship has hit everyone in some way--some more severely than others. Before all this economic mayhem is over, everyone will be affected.

I'm reminded tonight that desperation always precedes deliverance, as my friend Tullian often says. The cross always comes before the crown. I found these words from my "Amma," Elisabeth Elliot encouraging and pass them onto you.

Over and over in the Bible we are told that there is a correlation between suffering and glory. The reason lies deep in the mystery of evil, for of course there could be no suffering for creation, for beasts or men, or for the Son of Man, had not evil entered the world. But the story does not end with suffering.

"In Jesus we see one...crowned now with glory and honor because He suffered death" (Heb 2:9 NEB).

If we concentrate on that marvelous sequence, we will find in the midst of our own pain a great shaft of light. There is glory above us, shining down into our darkness, reminding us that "if we suffer with Him" (we need never suffer without Him, for He has entered into all our weakness, into death itself for us) "we shall also reign with him"(2 Tm 2:12 AV).

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

(William Cowper)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Christianity Brings Transformation

In these drastically dire times, it's hard to find good news. I was recently alerted to an article in The London Times entitled, "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God," written by Matthew Parris. He concludes, "Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem." Notice what he says about the difference Christians are making:
...I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

Thanks to Bob Osborne, Executive Director of World Harvest Mission, for calling attention to this article. You can read the entire article by going to whm.org/goodnews and clicking on "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God."