“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

In the midst of such deep despondency over the pain, inhumanity, and violence our world seems to face each morn anew, the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gently lift our chins and our hearts with much-needed truth.

Longfellow

 

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Keeping It Real: Mea Culpa

In his commentary on Exodus 20:4-6, John Mackay helps us place the responsibility for religious decline where it should be: ourselves.

How absolutely humbling.

Religious decline John Mackay

Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Keeping It Real: Biblical Meditation

I’m so thankful for biblical teachers like J.I Packer, a teacher who doesn’t encourage us to “move our attention inward…to rest in our true natures” (in the way of yoga’s self-realization) — but who, instead, helps us learn how to look away from ourselves, to speak to our flawed souls in honest, truth-filled ways. This truth does not lie in our hearts—because those hearts are “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus told us where to look for truth when he prayed his High Priestly Prayer in John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” May Christ’s prayer be answered as we open our Bibles and pray for the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom — and, as a result, may you and I “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

J.I. Packer knowing god.jpg

“A Man from the House of Levi”

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite Woman” (Exodus 2:1).

Thus begins the story of Moses’ birth in Exodus 2:1—with one tiny sentence that, in and of itself, may seem insignificant.

However, let’s set that sentence in the context of the words of Jacob, the grandfather of Amram¹, our “man from the house of Levi.” Jacob’s haunting pronouncement in Genesis 49:5-7 relates to Simeon’s and Levi’s “treatment of the men of Shechem whom they massacred on account of the humiliation of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34).”² Allow the gravity of these words—words that are generational in their weight—sink into your soul:

Simeon and Levi are brothers;
    weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
    O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
    and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
    and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
    and scatter them in Israel.


BUT…“Now a man from the house of Levi…” (Exodus 2:1)Behold, I am making all things new

And Moses is born…

from the house of Levi.
from the house whose anger was cursed.
from the house whose willfulness was loathed.
from the house that received a promise of division.
from the house that was guaranteed to be scattered.

BUT… “Now a man from the house of Levi…” (Exodus 2:1)

Because God delivered a family — so He could send one who would point toward the Deliverer.
Because God redeemed a family — so He could send one who would direct our attention to the Redeemer.
Because God’s irresistible grace is amazing.
Because His Divine claim on us through His Son’s blood—not our past—defines who we are.
Because His promise in Revelation 21—”Behold, I am making all things new”—is a present-tense, all-inclusive promise: all things.

Your things.
My things.
Things of the past.
Things of the present.
This moment.
Being made new.
For His glory.
For your ultimate good. 

Let’s stand on that precious promise today, my sweet friend.

 


 

 

 

[1] Alan Cole’s Exodus Commentary

[2] ESV Study Bible Footnote, Genesis 49:5-7: p. 133.

“Truth Overheard”—How Our Words Matter

Older women are to teach what is good.Grace Abounding

Thus the apostle Paul instructs the young Titus concerning one of the roles of older women within the church (Titus 2:3).

Sometimes, we women forget that—no matter how young or old we are—if we’re able to read these words, we are all probably in the role of “older” to some else’s “younger.”

Oddly enough, John Bunyan recently reminded me just how important it is that we women not forget this exhortation to “teach what is good”—and how teaching “what is good” may happen in the moments we least expect.

In his autobiography, entitled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Bunyan writes of his time as a young man, “ignorant of Jesus Christ…establishing his own righteousness in which [he] would have perished had not God in mercy showed [him] more of [his] state by nature.”

Then God, in His sovereign grace, brought Bunyan into contact with a group of older women. Listen as Bunyan explains the impact their conversation—a conversation which he only overheard—had on him:

But one day the good providence of God called me to Bedford to work at my trade. In one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun talking about the things of God. Being now willing to hear their discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker myself in the matters of religion.

I will say I heard but I did not understand, for they were far above my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts, and also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature. They talked about how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they spoke about the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular and told each other by what means they had been afflicted and how they were strengthened under his assaults. They also discoursed about their own wretchedness of heart and their unbelief and did condemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.

I thought they spoke as if joy made them speak. They talked with such pleasantness of scriptural language and with appearance of grace in all they said that they seemed to me as if they had found a new world….At this I felt my own heart begin to shake and mistrust my condition to be nothing. I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth never had entered my mind, neither did I know the comfort of the Word and promise or the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, I took no notice of them, neither did I understand what Satan’s temptations were or how they were to be withstood and resisted.

Thus, when I had heard and considered what they said, I left them and went about my employment again, but their talk and conversation went with me. My heart also stayed with them, for I was greatly affected by their words.

How tremendously convicted I am by the questions that are raised in my own mind each time I read Bunyan’s words:

  • Are my conversations as I’m “sitting at a door in the sun” — or visiting with my neighbors, or chatting with someone after church, or making copies at the copy machine — are these seemingly casual conversations actually of such weightiness that the person who overhears my words is impacted by their truth?
  • Do my overheard words make someone think that I speak as if joy has made me speak? (Read that one again. It hurts.)
  • Is there such an appearance of grace in all that I say that it seems as if I have found a new world?

Oh, Lord. Please forgive us for our casual words. Teach us to be careful with our words—because we know that we will give account for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36). Teach us to season our every conversation with grace so that the word of God will not be reviled (Titus 2:5). We ask this so our whole lives—including every word we speak—would be used for the glory of Jesus and for His name’s sake. Amen.

“The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard” (by Kara Tippetts)

1496605_10206438717111061_2211255306245711183_n“If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God’s Word in front of me.” (Paul David Tripp)

I purchased Kara Tippetts’ The Hardest Peace for one reason: Joni Eareckson Tada wrote the foreword. That was sufficient enough endorsement for the investment.

However, even the gravitas and ethos that come with any of Joni’s words couldn’t prepare me for the impact that The Hardest Peace has had in the quiet of my soul. The magnitude of this young mother’s words comes not from her tragic story; indeed, many have experienced devastating pain and heartache from tragedy and disease. But not many can invite readers into their stories in such a way that causes us to examine ourselves in the light of her story and her journey into a deeper walk with Christ…to engage in such a way that we are forced to answer her questions with heart-wrenching honesty—and walk away with a prayer to become more thoughtful, more carefully-attuned to the moment we’ve been given.

Please read this book, dear friend. And, in the process, I pray that you and I become more Christ-like wives and mothers and grandmothers and friends because of Tippetts’ precious sacrifice of love. She has held up the mirror of God’s Word in front of us, as Paul David Tripp says. May the Holy Spirit use her book as a way of conforming us to the image of His Son.