Ten Big, Daily Reminders (Desiring God)

Image taken from article at Desiring God

I was encouraged by this blog from Matt Reagan at Desiring God where he gives 10 different reminders for Christians concerning realities about God and ourselves. Reading through these, I’m compelled to remember these daily as I am weak and often need reminders. I agree with the writer where he says that somehow during the night, he’s forgotten the big realities about God and the universe and himself and the Gospel. He states, “I desperately need to steady myself with biblical truth rather than stumbling forward to live from unbelief… I’ve learned over time to put structures in place that remind me of those unseen things, especially during my bleary-eyed, half-conscious mornings.”

Link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/ten-big-daily-reminders

I pray that it encourages you as it encouraged me.

TGC: 5 Reasons You Need the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Andrew Conway gives 5 reasons that Christians needs the Westminster Shorter Catechism and why it’s worth engaging today:

1. The catechism gives a helpful summary of core beliefs. 

2. The catechism rightly views salvation as past, present, and future.

3. The catechism calls for whole-life discipleship.

4. The catechism opens the door to the wisdom of the Puritans.

5. Our ‘chief end’ really is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

To view the article in its entirety, head over to The Gospel Coaliton:

5 Reasons You Need the Westminster Shorter Catechism

 

Fire-starters, Fury Makers, & the Humility of Christ

Image from Flickr

I often like to read online comments on various articles or news stories to see what people are talking about. They often give me insight into how viewers are thinking or processing the information contained in the story. It seems to be inevitable that there will be commenters arguing about anything from typos in the story to facts to what they think should have been the outcome.

This morning, I was reading a Facebook post by The Gospel Coalition where 2 commenters were going back and forth in a heated discussion. The discussion could have been civil, but one of the commenters had to go there. Where is there? There is where the conversation gains new heights of irritation, where fuel is heaped onto the fire. What took it there in this conversation?

“Are you smoking crack?”

Purely incendiary! Not to mention, offensive. However, we are all often guilty of saying the most unhelpful things in a conversation that ultimately bring up walls and end conversations quickly! Things like:

“Are you serious?”
“You can’t be serious!”
“You don’t really believe that!”
“You can’t be that _____!”
“You ARE that _____!”
“Where did you get THAT from?”
“Oh, please!”
“You have LOST your mind!”
“No person in their right mind would think something like that!”
“Oh, you think you know everything. Right.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

The list can go on and on and on… and on. Now, reading those, we will probably cringe, especially if we remember ourselves using any of those phrases before. I will admit, though embarrassed to do so, that I surely have. We become those that start the fire and create fury. As one who is a believer & follower in Jesus Christ, I understand that saying these things reveals a heart of anger toward the other person. In those moments, there is a failure to love that person as I should (Matt. 22:39) which is ultimately a failure to love God for He has commanded me to do so (Matt. 22:37). I am failing to see the other person as an image bearer (Gen. 1:27) who is deserving of my respect and dignity. It shows that there is a preoccupation with self as well, a self seeking preoccupation, a self serving preoccupation, and that is wrong as well. I am more concerned in those moments with winning an argument, than winning others & being kind to others.

When I think about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in regard to those moments, I’m reminded of Philippians 2:

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-11 ESV

Jesus is my perfect example of humility. He was never concerned with winning an argument; He was concerned with winning people to the Kingdom of God. He was never self centered or self serving, but rather, Scripture says that He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). He loved God and He loved His neighbor. He did everything that I fail to do day by day.

But – there is hope in the Gospel! I fail daily because I sin daily! I am born in sin! I, Jenn, am a natural born sinner like everyone. I know that this presents a problem in light of God’s holiness, therefore I need a Savior. I need Jesus! Praise God that He provided His Son, Jesus, to save us. Christ lived the perfect life, the life that I could never live, yet He died the death that I deserve to die. We all deserve to die that death. We all deserve to bear the full brunt of God’s wrath. But Jesus bore that wrath on the cross so that all who repent and trust in Him would receive His righteousness. He died on the cross for sin, and rose 3 days later, ascending to the right hand of God, and He is there now. My sin, our sin, deserves wrath, but, because I have trusted in Jesus and have received eternal life, I don’t get God’s wrath or judgment. I am forgiven! I have received the Holy Spirit and He convicts me of sin when  I fail. And when I fail, I can run to God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful & just to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Christ is our only hope. He is the only way (John 14:6).

Because of Christ, there is hope for me. There is hope for all of us, all who are fire-starters and fury makers. When I am prideful and humility is the farthest thing from me, I can look to Christ, my perfect example, and hope in His glorious Gospel.

Pointers, Shadows, Types: Journeying Through the OT w/Joseph

2016-03-29 20.33.28At the beginning of the year, I made it my mission to finally trek through the Old Testament as a whole. I’d started so many times before, only to start to fizzle at Leviticus, coast through Numbers, and finally crash and burn by Deuteronomy. Yes, I admit it! I had a hard time. I’d find myself eventually back in the New Testament, telling my husband that my brain needed a ‘break’ from the Old Testament. Lies! I’d never end up going back to the Old Testament and would camp out in my favorite, well known books of the New Testament.

However, because the Bible is one big picture of God’s plan from creation to redemption, everything fits together. It is all important. It all points to Jesus. Even the Old Testament? Especially the Old Testament! The Pentateuch (1st 5 books of the Bible) is replete with pointers to Jesus. Having this big picture mindset really made all the difference in my reading this time. I found myself excited to read each day, often running to find my husband to share with him the gems that I’d come across! He’d gotten me a journaling Bible for Christmas which is now filled with colorful writings in the margins now from my colored ink pens.

First, in Genesis 3:15, known as the protoevangelion, we see the promise of a Savior:
[15] I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15 ESV

Although, through Adam, sin had entered the world, there was a promise that one day, man’s enemy would be crushed by the offspring of man. That offspring would be Jesus (Gal. 3:13-18), and through His death on the cross, He defeated sin, death, and Satan. Praise Him!
2016-03-29 20.31.34
As we read through Genesis, starting with chapter 37, we learn about the life of Joseph. Joseph is a main character in Genesis & he is a type of Christ. One of the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), he was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery by them (while they led their father to believe that he was ravaged by wild animals), falsely accused, thrown into prison, forgotten, & elevated to positions that only God could orchestrate. Once sold, he was made to be an overseer over the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers. Potiphar’s wife, attracted to Joseph, tried to get him to lie with her. Joseph told her no. One day, she attempted to lie with him again, grabbing him by the garment, and he fled, leaving behind that garment in her hand. She lied to her husband and accused Joseph of attempting to ‘come into her’, which led to his being thrown in prison & subsequently being made overseer of the prisoners. While in prison, he met Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker and rightly interpreted their dreams, being told by the cup-bearer that he’d remember him when restored to his position. Did he remember? Not at all. He forgot until some time later when Pharaoh himself began to have dreams. The cup-bearer remember Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. Joseph ended up rightly interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and was then made an overseer by Pharaoh. The constant refrain that we see during these chapters in Genesis? The LORD was with Joseph. In spite of all of these trials, the LORD never left him. According to the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, Egypt was about to experience a famine. Pharaoh had recognized that God was clearly with Joseph so he entrusted him to steward things rightly. And steward, he did. He stewarded the land and its crops well during the time of abundance so that there would be food during the time of famine.

Now, back home where his brothers and father were, they were affected by the famine so who did they have to see in order to get food? That’s right – Joseph. Once they got to Egypt to retrieve food, Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize Joseph. Through a series of events that Joseph orchestrated, they came to find out that it was him.

[4] So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. [5] And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. [6] For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. [7] And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. [8] So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Genesis 45:4-8 ESV

He was reunited to his father, who eventually died. With their father dead, Joseph’s brothers feared that he would seek retribution, but he did not. He maintained the right perspective.

[15] When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” [16] So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: [17] ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. [18] His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” [19] But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? [20] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. [21] So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Genesis 50:15-21 ESV

So, how does this point to Jesus?

Joseph was rejected & despised by his brothers as was Jesus by the Jews. Joseph was falsely accused and punished according to that false accusation as was Jesus. We see that God sent Joseph to preserve people. Jesus is the One that was sent by God the Father to save His people. That is what His name means:

[21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 ESV

Joseph is a type of Christ in the Old Testament, one of many. Jesus is the greater Joseph! What was done to Jesus was meant for evil, but God meant it for ultimate good – that those who repent (turn away from their sins) and believe in Jesus would be granted forgiveness & eternal life with God. This is great news!

But why is this good news?!

When God created man, He made us in His image and in His likeness. We were created good! But referenced earlier, Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the tree which God commanded him not to eat. Because of Adam’s sin, all men sin. We’re born that way. We’re born with an inclination to do what’s wrong. If you don’t think babies deal with this problem, think – Have you ever had to teach a child to disobey? How to say no? You have to teach them to obey, to not hit, to not throw tantrums, to listen. They already know how to sin. It’s our very nature! And because God is holy, this presents a problem. God is perfect, pure, and in Him is no sin at all. He is what we are not. And because of this, there’s a huge problem. We’re sinners at war with God with futile weapons, fully deserving of God’s wrath because of our sinfulness. But like God sent Joseph, He sent Jesus. This Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfect, obedient life. He lived the life that we should live! Yet, He died on the cross for the sins of His people. The death that He died was the death that we deserve. We deserve to bear the full weight of God’s wrath for our sins, yet Jesus absorbed it, dying on the cross, to be raised on the 3rd day because death could not hold him. He was innocent. On the cross, Jesus defeated sin, death, and Satan. He ascended to Heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father. For those that turn away from sin & put their trust in Jesus as their Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit Who helps us to obey. We’re forgiven and we’re redeemed solely because of what Jesus has done. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, is the better Joseph who preserves His people from eternal punishment, from spiritual famine, from the wrath of God. But only those that come to Jesus in repentance and faith are preserved. He is the only hope for our preservation, for our salvation. There is no other hope. And to this truth, we must respond accordingly for our lives depend upon it.

Joseph is just one one of many pointers to Jesus. Many more shadows, pointers, and types exist in the Old Testament, such as Noah, Moses, Jacob, and Isaac. As you read through the Old Testament, look for clues that point forward to Christ. He is there; all of Scripture points to Him.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:27 ESV

How the Lord Saved Me

crossLast Fall, during our church’s Disciple Now (DNow) weekend, I was asked to share my testimony of how I, a DNow leader & redeemed sinner, was saved by a gracious God. Here is what I shared with the youth, parents, and fellow DNow leaders.

Good evening, friends. I stand before you a redeemed sinner, a sinner saved by grace, and this is how that very grace transformed my life.

I grew up attending church because being an African American, this was a cultural norm for my family. I was 12 when I was baptized and helped with different ministries yet I lived a life that didn’t reflect Christ. My high school years were the pinnacle of my rebellion. I did the things my classmates did: I ran away from home, I disrespected my parents, I got into drugs and alcohol. As I got older, and graduated from high school, I’d left the church I grew up in while my sinfulness continued to escalate, finding me with a desire to learn more about the occult and pagan practices. I read all the books that I could read, researched, and made purchases to support this newfound desire. It was interesting though – even though I wasn’t a Christian, I found myself praying to God, while in my ignorance, pursuing my new interest. At that time, I thought that I was a good person. I thought that I was going to Heaven. I thought that there were many ways to God, not just one. I thought I was perfectly fine doing what I was doing, but praise God that He did not see fit to leave me to that way of thinking.

On the evening before my 21st birthday, I met someone that spoke truth to me about the life I was living. He warned me that my new interest was dangerous and it scared me. I returned to the church I grew up in, afraid that God could never forgive me for what I’d done. The youth pastor at that church comforted me with the truth that God is a forgiving God and He could forgive me.

Over the next several months, the Lord was working in my heart, causing me to see my sinfulness more clearly. In the summer of 2002, God’s Gospel became clearer to me. I understood that my sin separated me from God and I deserved His wrath.  It also became clear to me that God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to live the perfectly righteous life that I couldn’t and to die as a substitute in my place. Jesus took the wrath of God that I deserved. Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead proving His innocence and his righteousness. I knew my only hope was to respond to this gospel by repentance and faith and that is what I did.  Over time, I saw evidence of a changed heart that had new desires. My desire toward sin was replaced with a desire to please God – a desire that only He could give! My life is different and I am a new creation in Christ. The cross changed my life and I now realize there is no greater joy than living a cross centered life.

Grace & the Gospel

the-gospel

At the beginning of this year, my husband David and I decided to pray for more diligently for opportunities to share the Gospel  as well as boldness in sharing it. Once a week, we have a day that we really focus on these prayers. Today, Wednesday, was that day.  Concerning other prayer requests, we have really been able to see God’s kindness, grace, and faithfulness, and today was no different.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are my off days so I usually use them to do chores around the home like doing laundry. This morning when I went to load the laundry card in our apartment complex’s office, the machine wasn’t working and there was a repairman fixing it. I decided to run an errand and come back to read and do some other chores in the meanwhile. After doing a few things around the home, I finally went down to the laundromat and got my clothes washing. As I was walking out, I noticed an older woman walking up, peering through the door. I walked out and she commented that she was trying to see how much it cost to wash and dry your clothes. I informed her, but let her know that she had to get a card issued through the complex. As she stood there, she began to tell me that she was visiting her grandson there. This led to my asking her where she lived. After about ten to fifteen minutes of conversation, I’d found out about her family and found out that we’d lived in some of the same places / areas. She currently lives in Pennsylvania; I lived there for 3 years. She has a daughter moving to Dallas; I was born and raised there. She has family in Houston; my husband is from there. During our conversation, she mentioned that she’d lived here in Austin previously and had actually lived on a street nearby. That street happens to be the street that my church is on. As I shared that with her, she immediately knew where it was. After some time, she mentioned that one of her family members was a teacher. Yet, another thing in common. I let her know that I was a teacher at a private Christian preschool. As the conversation went on, I asked her if she was a Christian. She’d mentioned a few things about church so I thought it was a good question.

Me – “Are you a Christian?”
Her – “I guess so; I was baptized when I was 14. I don’t drink, smoke, I try to do the right thing, I raised my kids to do the right thing…”
Me – “Those things are all good things, but those things don’t make us Christians.Have you heard of the Gospel?”
Her – “Yes, it’s the 10 commandments & all of the people who wrote & made up the Bible”
Me – “Well, the 10 commandments are a part of the Bible, and the Gospel is explained there as well”

I took that opportunity to share the Gospel with her. I told her that we are all sinners, we’re all born disobedient toward God, and that we deserved hell. I told her that Jesus lived the life we should have lived, yet died the death we should have died. I explained that when we trust in Jesus, we receive His righteousness and we receive eternal life. Earlier, during our conversation, she’d mentioned that she couldn’t wait to see all of her loved ones in Heaven, but she’d mentioned God as an afterthought. “Mary, the best thing that is in Heaven for the Christian is Jesus! We get Jesus! And unless they trust in Jesus too, though it would be nice to see them all there, some of our family members will not be there.” As our conversation wound down, I invited her to our church on Sunday.

Now, there are some important things I must mention. I am naturally shy and introverted. When I started dating my husband, a lot of that diminished & I have grown in these areas. He is naturally quite outgoing and gregarious. He seems, to me, to be gifted at talking to people, lacking fear. I tend to often feel awkward and intimidated. David & I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago about me having to work harder to overcome my natural tendencies by God’s grace and the power of His Spirit. Today was an answer to our prayers toward that end. Sharing the Gospel with her was not as hard as I’d made it to be. God granted me the boldness I’d prayed for. I saw her as someone who needs Jesus and my heart was saddened for her. I cared about her. I listened to her. I wanted to know who she was. She wasn’t someone to check off of my list. She was a sinner, like I am, in need of God’s great grace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

David has often encouraged me to do life intentionally when it comes to having Gospel conversations. Any moment could be opportune. What I thought was going to be just doing laundry today was something much more.

When I’d told him about my conversation with her, he shared that he’d prayed this week about this very thing for me. How gracious is God to answer my love’s prayer in this way. I am thankful for the opportunity to be obedient to God’s command to share His Gospel, and I pray that I would have many more chances to tell people of God’s great love to us sinners that was shown by the sending of Jesus Christ. I pray that I would continue to grow in my fervor and boldness and urgency.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
(Romans 1:16 ESV)

The Day After Christmas

Today is December 26th. It’s the day after Christmas. Just like that, Christmas day is over. I wonder what many people feel today. Is the holiday ‘buzz’ gone? Is there a longing to ‘relive’ yesterday, to do it all again? To see those smiling, happy, surprised faces? Is there newfound remorse over spending so much money? Is there a feeling of relief now that it’s over?

If so, our hearts should be redirected to the reason for Christmas. It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which, as John Piper points out in his advent devotional book, “Good News of Great Joy”, is an indictment against mankind. Christ was born because we needed a Savior. We needed to be saved. We need to be saved. So the fact that there is a birth to celebrate at all is not something to take lightly. As much as I enjoy giving my husband gifts, as much as I love seeing his handsome, smiling face light up with joy upon seeing his gifts, there is a far greater Gift at hand. There is a far greater reason that we celebrate what we celebrate yesterday, a reason that we should celebrate every day!

We celebrate the birth of Christ because God was merciful and gracious the day when Christ was conceived. The day that the angel came to Mary and told her about the baby that was to be born through her, this was a day dripping with the sweetness of abundant grace and mercy. God was merciful and gracious when this was planned in eternity past that there would be a Savior for sinful men who couldn’t appease God on their own. This truth doesn’t change because it is no longer Christmas day. This truth still reigns. This truth still exists — yesterday, today, and forevermore! The truth that God sent Jesus into the world to be born as a babe, cloaked in human flesh, to live the sinless & perfect life that we should have lived, but to die the gruesome death we deserve to die… This truth is still Truth! The truth that Jesus absorbed all of God’s wrath for those that place their faith in Christ – it still stands! The truth that God extends mercy to us through Jesus is still the same truth that has always been. This is the greatest Gift ever given – salvation through Jesus Christ, given by God to humanity. However, it’s akin to our gift giving – it’s one given that must be received and accepted. We receive the Gift of salvation by turning from our sinful ways and placing our full faith in Jesus. What a Gift!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16, 17 ESV)

So, yes, today is December 26th. It’s the day after Christmas. Just like that, Christmas day is over. However the reason for Christmas is not. Jesus is alive!