Lamb of God

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5-6

Years ago I heard a story about a guest preacher who was just getting ready to board his train after speaking at a church. A man hurried to him, saying he had been in the meeting and was anxious about his spiritual state. Could the preacher take time to talk to him?

The preacher’s train was the last of the night, and it was about to leave. All he had time to tell the man was to read Isaiah 53:6, and then to go in and the first “all” and come out at the last “all.”

The man was puzzled, but when he went home. he looked up Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” As the man read the passage several times, understanding dawned. He was a sheep gone astray, stubbornly following his own way. But Jesus took his iniquity. If he trusted in Jesus, he would be saved and forgiven.

I don’t know if this is a true story, but the point it makes is true.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,
that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
see him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ, by man rejected;
yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he.
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
proofs I see sufficient of it:
’tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, as you hear him groaning,
was there ever grief like his,
friends through fear his cause disowning,
foes insulting his distress?
Many hands were raised to wound him,
none would intervene to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him
was the stroke that justice gave.

If you think of sin but lightly
nor suppose the evil great,
here you see its nature rightly,
here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
here the refuge of the lost:
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
is the name of which we boast;
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
who on him their hope have built.

Thomas Kelly, 1804

Isaiah 53:6

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the good reads I’ve discovered recently. Maybe some will pique your interest, too.

On the Fence, HT to Challies. “The midst of a car accident is not the best time to consider whether or not Jesus is who He says He is. Although it’s better than never considering the Jesus question, it’s still not the optimal time.”

War. “Some think that mankind can be educated to the point where he will never desire to resort to brutal force in the settlement of problems. That theory is certainly proven wrong in this case. There are three questions that many people ask concerning wars. Why do wars occur, why does God permit them to take place and will we see peace in our generation?”

Are You Getting in the Way of God’s Work? HT to Challies. “Being an instrument of God means that we live in a paradox. On one hand, God does significant things through us to advance his kingdom, and on the other, we are acutely aware of how much better things could go if we weren’t constantly tripping over our own feet.”

On What You Put in Your Head: Toto, We’re Not in Eden Anymore. “While there’s great joy in romping through fields of wildflowers, we know that the pastoral scenes in novels and movies aren’t really accurate. There are ants at the picnic and snakes in the woods. The world is a broken place; it’s really not a good idea to follow my recommendation in the previous post—’learn all you can about everything you can’—without putting some sensible limitations in place. We’re not in Eden anymore. How do we decide which trees in the garden to sample?”

Showing Mercy in a Feeding Frenzy. “They could almost have been us—people who so often delight to tear one another apart, to focus on flaws more than virtues, to be critical rather than encouraging, harsh rather than tender, vindictive rather than merciful. I recently found myself studying the Parable of the Good Samaritan and marveling at its example of mercy.”

The Disproportional Response, HT to Challies. “There’s something deeply disturbing about our cultural moment when it comes to how we respond to being hurt, offended or disagreed with. It’s no longer enough to cut down the poppies, now we have to scorch the earth they were planted in too. When it comes to our churches, this should give us pause and prompt us to deep, and maybe even painful reflection. Are our churches places where loving one another, bearing with one another and exercising costly forgiveness are still the kinds of things that mark us out from the surrounding culture?”

Does My Son Know You? HT to Challies. A moving article about a sports writer’s journey with cancer and his father’s early death from Parkinson’s.

How Can I Expect My Children to Honor Me Since I Am a Sinner, Too? HT to Challies. “I was recently asked this question at a conference. Have you ever wondered the same thing? Certainly, as parents, we blow it. Can we still ask our children to honor us?”

The Lord’s Prayer for Writers, Part 1. Though this is written for writers, it’s a good study of the first part of what we call “the Lord’s prayer” for anyone.

A Right Big Mess Was Made By All, or, The Transformative Powers of Mud. “Today I am challenged by this memory; I have been daily cursing the mud and dirt dragged into our home by my children as they try to find rays of sun and active pastimes in our backyard. I’ve resented what the dirt represents: carelessness on the part of my children. Work for me. But writing out this fantastic and hilarious and ridiculous memory has taken me back, and I hope transformed me a bit, again.”

Finally, going along somewhat with the previous article, this is a sweet video about a boy’s adventures with his grandfather and a red wagon:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Welcome to my almost weekly list of good reads found around the Web.

This Dying Young Woman Has a Message for Us, HT to Challies. “Brooklyn may face dark moments, but they are never so dark that the light of Christ does not breakthrough. Along with telling her story, she wants to speak directly to us, and even when she wants to tell us hard truths, her sense of humor steps in to help us swallow the medicine. ‘I’m sick. Soon to die. But so are you. I’m just doing it faster.'” Brooklyn did pass away March 1.

Truth in Small Bites Is Truth Nonetheless. “When life takes a turn, most of us tend to push Bible reading aside until our circumstances return to normal. If you’re not able to sit down at your kitchen table for a quiet hour of in-depth study, you don’t even crack open God’s Word. Somewhere along the way, you’ve told yourself that if you’re not able to feast, you shouldn’t eat at all, not realizing that a handful of almonds in the middle of the night is far better than allowing your soul to starve.

Sexual Sin Is Not Inevitable, HT to Challies. “God never commands us to do anything without providing the resources to obey by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Death, Miracles, and Tears from a missionary in Cameroon, HT to Challies. “About three years ago I took a girl in our village named Mami to get an ultrasound. At the clinic I met her boyfriend named Koo who was visibly concerned about her pregnancy. So much so that he made a deal with God: if his baby survived, he would dedicate his life to the Lord.”

The Friend Who Sharpens Me, HT to Challies. “While it’s great to have friends we agree with theologically and mentors who can teach us more about the historical faith we hold to, I’m learning that it’s important to make friends with those I disagree with. It’s important to learn from those with a different viewpoint than me.”

Tell Me a Story? “There are many nights when both Dan and I draw a complete blank. Four sets of eyes stare at us longingly as we frantically rake our minds for something to say, only to come up as empty as one of Pooh’s honey jars. Over the years we have developed a strategy for handling situations like this. It’s easy to implement, and it has never failed.”

This is a good reason to get those dust bunnies when they’re small and few. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

When God Gives Up

When God gives up

God’s patience and longsuffering are some of the qualities I appreciate most about Him. He works and waits so patiently to draw sinful and resistant people to Himself. He picks us up a thousand times when we fall. He forgives us when we confess the same sin repeatedly.

But we can’t presume upon Him. We can’t put Him off, either for salvation or for obedience, for ever. We can’t expect Him to just wait in the wings until we get good and ready to come to Him.

God was patient with Israel’s complaining and unbelief when He first brought them out of Egypt. They had been captive slaves for 400 years. Surrounded by paganism, they probably had not been taught much about God and His ways. But after seeing His power displayed in the plagues, at the Red Sea, in providing for water and food in the middle of a desert, more of them should have started trusting Him. He even forgave them when they built a golden calf and worshiped it instead of Him.

But finally, when they refused to go into the promised land even with reassurances that God would help them conquer, that was enough. God deemed that they would wander around the wilderness for forty years until that generation died off. Then their children would be able to enter in.

God still loved them and worked with them. But they forfeited their opportunity to enter into their rest.

But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
Psalm 81:11-13

It’s sad to think that disobedience and unbelief could be so costly for God’s people. But it’s even scarier for those who refuse to believe on Him at all.

In Romans 1, Paul tells about God’s wrath against ungodly and unrighteous people who:

  • suppress the truth (v. 18)
  • did not honor God as God, even though evidence of “his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (vv. 19-21)
  • did not give thanks to him (v. 21)
  • “became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21)
  • “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (v. 22) and “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25)

Three times in the next few verses, we’re told God gave them up.

  • “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24)
  • “God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (v. 26)
  • “God gave them up to a debased mind” (v. 28)

This commentary says these were degrees: God gave them up (or over, some translations say) bit by bit until they ended up with a debased mind. That debased mind led to “all manner of unrighteousness,” which Paul expands on in the rest of the passage.

C. S. Lewis has said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'” (from The Great Divorce). When we insist on our own way long enough, God lets us have it. And the results are never good.

Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices. Proverbs 1:29-31

Because God is longsuffering, He doesn’t usually give people up at the first rejection. But at some point, the door of opportunity will be closed. We don’t know how much time we have. It’s wise not to wait. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

It’s also not wise to put off obedience or the next step of faith God wants us to take.

When I have been reluctant to obey God at some point, I’ve had to confess my unwillingness and ask Him to help me be willing. One person said, “I’m willing to be made willing.”

When I have felt my heart wasn’t right and my will was being stubborn, I’ve prayed with Jeremiah, “Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned” (Lamentations 5:21, KJV) and with the psalmist, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

The psalmist and the writer of Hebrews used Israel’s disobedience to plead, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:6-11; Hebrews 3:7-8, 15). May our hearts always be pliable in His hands.

if you hear His voice do not harden your heart

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

The Incredible Privilege of Drawing Near to God

The privilege of drawing near to God

In Old Testament times, God’s people were aware of a great distance between themselves and God.

One of the first times God met with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt, the experience was scary: “a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness brought people to their knees and made their sin stand out all the more in contrast. Isaiah reacted by saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-7). Peter responded to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:1-11). John, called the beloved disciple, “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:9-19).

The children of Israel had to go through detailed rituals to have their sin forgiven. In Exodus they were instructed to build a tabernacle with an inner Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. Leviticus had instructions for the different kinds of sacrifices. The tabernacles, sacrifices, and priesthood all carried wonderful symbolism of what Jesus would come to be and do. But at the time, the clearest message was that the people could not draw near to God without sacrifces and mediators because God was holy and they were not.

But even with all those rituals, “since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1).

But then Jesus came. The Savior, the Messiah promised ever since the first sin separated man from God. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies about Himself. His death was the reality pictured by the OT sacrifices for sin. At His death, the veil covering the Holy of Holies was torn open, signifying that the way was open to God.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The OT sacrifices had to be offered continually because they were insufficient to take care of sin for ever.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

The OT priests died and had to be replaced.

But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)

Though Jesus was God, He was also man. He was holy, but He faced temptation and weakness and dread.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and symbolism given to the Jews. But what about the rest of us?

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

How do we draw near? The verses above mention faith and cleansing: faith Jesus is who He claimed to be, faith that His atonement took care of our sins. This privilege is open to anyone willing to repent of sin and believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrew 11:6)

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)

We have the incredible privilege to draw near to God—for salvation, for cleansing, for fellowship, for grace and help.

What a privilege to come into God’s presence,
Just to linger with the One who set me free.
As I lift m eyes and see His awesome glory,
I remember who He is and bow the knee.

-Ron Hamilton

For more information, see 4 Conditions to Draw Near to God.

(Sharing with Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I had some ideas for a blog post about the results of Jesus’ resurrection. But when I began to research it, I found several posts that already did a better job than I could have:

Here are a few more good reads discovered this week:

It Is Finished. An imaginative account of what the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus might have looked like from Satan’s point of view.

React vs. Respond. This was a helpful distinction.

A Few Short Truths regarding how teaching Biblical sexuality is not hate and does not incite to murder.

When America Put the Bible on Trial, HT to Challies. A look at the Scopes trial and its effects 100 years later. “Liberalism believes that you can hold on to cultural influence by compromising your convictions. And in so being and doing, it is a fool’s errand. For one, the world or culture is not interested in compromise. Nothing short of wholesale endorsement will suffice. Second, compromising the Bible’s truthfulness and trustworthiness destroys the foundation and the superstructure of Christianity itself. The church does not stand over God’s word. Culture or ‘progress’ does not have the final word on matters.”

Losing Forgiveness, HT to Challies. “It is apparently fine to be concerned about a deceased horse, while being part of a baying crowd that seeks to destroy a man. In our rush to virtue signal, or to vindicate our own omniscient appraisal of a situation, we lose perspective—we lose sight of the person.”

While I Was Still a Marxist Christ Rescued Me, HT to Challies. Wonderful account of the conversion of Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World Magazine.

Leading in Prayer, HT to Challies. This is some good advice for when you’re asked to lead in public prayer. Though it’s for a particular slot in a particular church’s service, it has some good general principles for any gathering. I especially like the part about not making political points or preaching mini-sermons during prayer.

The Louvre Just Put Its Entire Art Collection Online, HT to The Story Warren.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you.

Easter Teaches Us of New and Better Life

Several years ago, we got word that a lady in our former church had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had been one of the merriest people I’d ever known. When we went back to that town for a visit, it was hard to see her in the church lobby looking confused and suspicious.

When our former pastor announced he had pancreatic cancer a few years ago, I was stunned that God would take someone in his prime with an active ministry and love for people who was doing so much good. Our pastor admitted he was going to have to take by faith that what God had for him in heaven was going to be so much better, because what he had on earth up til that time was pretty good.

I wondered why God would let one of His beloved children end up in pain or confusion.

But then I remembered this was not their end. Alzheimer’s and cancer were just stopping places in their long journey home. God promised that their sufferings would produce and eternal weight of glory.

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

We get so caught up in the things we have to and want to do, our families, our ambitions, that we forget this world isn’t all there is.

We look forward to heaven . . . some day. But when we get there, we’ll probably wish we could have come sooner.

C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend of the unpleasant effects of aging: “the growing realisation that there were a great many things one wd. never have time to do,” studies one could never take up, facing retirement and “the infernal nuisance (to put it no higher) of patching up some sort of new life somewhere,” and so on. “I am therefore (with some help from the weather and rheumatism!) trying to profit by this new realisation of my mortality. To begin to die, to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus world has fastened on one.” He acknowledged that a good night’s sleep or a pleasant day would likely dispel his gloomy mood. But, he went on to say:

One ought not to need gloomy moments of life for beginning detachment, nor be reentangled by the bright ones. One ought to be able to enjoy the bright ones to the full and at that very moment have the perfect readiness to leave them, confident that what calls one away is better. . . (Letters of C. S. Lewis, October 15, 1949).

It was said of those in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 that they desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (verse 16).

I admit I am too caught up in the bright moments of this life. God kindly breaks in and turns my attention up and away to that world to come. “Eternal glories gleam afar . . .”

I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! All pow’r to Him is given,
To guard me on my onward course, and bring me safe to heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever.

James G. Small, “I’ve Found a Friend, O Such a Friend

Easter speaks to me of many things—redemption, forgiveness, new life, and more. But this year it reminds me that this world and its pleasures and problems are temporary. We’re going to spend a lot more time in eternity than we did here. Are we ready?

Jesus came to earth as the Son of God, God in flesh. He lived a perfect life in our place because we never could. He died to take on the punishment for our sin so we wouldn’t have to. When we repent of our sin and believe on Him as Lord and Savior, His righteousness goes on our account: God sees Him instead of us.

Forgiveness of sin, His presence, His peace, his help, His grace—and heaven too!

Do you know Him? Are you ready for eternity?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Soul, Scripture and a Snapshot, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some thought-provoking reads discovered this week.

Regeneration, HT to Challies. “We’ve dropped being born again from our vocabulary as evangelicals as it smacks of being American from the 1950s and yet the doctrine of regeneration couldn’t be more vital. If you’ve not been born again/regenerated you cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5 which fulfils Ezekiel 36:25,26). If you don’t understand regeneration you will misunderstand the whole of the gospel.”

The Race. I could identify with this both as a mother watching a child race and as someone who will never cross any finish line first. “I have a feeling that it isn’t only the Olympic gold medalists who bring God pleasure when they run, limp, or crawl across a real finish line.”

Rescued, Resilient, and Resisting—Even in a Pandemic. I love this post from Michele about riding out the end of the pandemic with a “Resolve to finish well. Foiling Satan’s attack on our human tendency to ‘yield just when … relief was almost in sight,’ let us rather lean in to the struggle against impatience or petulance.”

On the Question Every Heart Asks: Why? HT to The Story Warren. “It is comforting to know that even Solomon in his wisdom, also asked why.”

The Counsel and Care of the Elderly, HT to Challies. “Society feeds the pride of young men and women by telling them that they can change the world–regardless of God-given giftings, intellect, upbringing, associations, providential encounters, guidance, or hard work. Society tells us that the elderly are a burden to progress. While there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), ours is an increasingly narcissistic culture. This is nowhere more evident than in our disdain and disregard of the elderly.”

The Risky Upside of Missionary Biographies. And some advantages. I shared some others a few years ago in Why Read Biographies?

When Amazon Erased My Book, HT to Challies. Scary.

There were a number of posts on emotions this week:

Dealing with Anger. “Most of us will agree that when we get angry we lose much more than our temper. We say or do terrible things that we regret later, and we wish we could take them back.”

Engaging Our Emotions, Engaging with God, HT to Challies. “God doesn’t call us to avoid or squash our emotions (as Christians often suppose). Neither does he call us to embrace them unconditionally (as our culture often urges). Rather, he calls us to engage them by bringing our emotions to him and to his people.”

Lament Is for Little Ones, Too, HT to The Story Warren. “These psalms typically follow a threefold structure: tell God how you feel; ask for help; respond in trust and hope. We can use this pattern to help our children learn to lament to God all that they are feeling.”

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some noteworthy reads from the last week or two:

The Do Not Depart site is focusing on “Snap Shots of Bible Study” this month. Each writer will share the tips they’ve found most helpful. The two articles so far have been good.

How to Influence Your Teenager’s Quiet Time With God. Good tips here.

Small and Holy, HT to Challies. For those who lament not knowing the exact time of their salvation, “It is not only a beginning date, but our following, stumbling, and returning to God that matters.”

Don’t Quarrel Over Opinions but Welcome One Another, HT to Challies. “Our commitment to unity is only really put to the test when something comes up that we have different and strong opinions about. One way to maintain unity would be to eject the minority who think differently. That would leave a very united congregation! But it would be the artificial unity of the cults, where everyone has to think the same on every issue. Gospel unity looks very different – that’s where we bear patiently with one another, love one another and strive to think the very best of one another.”

FAQ: Aren’t Missionaries Really Just Colonists? HT to Challies. “It is more than a little ironic that the Americans leveling colonization accusations argue based on American presuppositions. They attack missionaries across an ocean, assuming they know what is best for the Africans. Were they to come, sit down, and discuss the issues with our neighbors, they would walk away with a very different perspective.”

Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now, HT to Rachelle. Many have mentioned kind of a listless, can’t get thoughts together feeling since the pandemic started.

This is a cute video about a baby who gets very excited about paint samples. (Maybe an HGTV show is in his future!) HT to Steve Laube, who said if books were substituted for paint samples, book lovers would have the same expressions.

Happy Saturday!

How do you know if God is displeased with you?

How to know if God is displeased with youAs I skimmed through Twitter recently, I saw a tweet from someone I didn’t know who asked, “How do you know if God is displeased with you?”

I didn’t have time to read all 60+ responses, but I scrolled through several. I was astonished to see that no one appealed to the Bible or prayer.

One mentioned a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach. Another cited a vague uneasiness. One said that everything going wrong in life was a sure sign of God’s displeasure. But those can all be caused by any number of things.

God uses our consciences to convict us sometimes, but conscience has to be trained. Some people have no conscience about cannibalism or genocide. Others’ consciences trouble them over every little thing.

So how do you know if God is displeased with you?

Ask Him. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Read His Word. There He tells us what’s right and wrong. Of course, we have to be careful to read in context, consider who is saying what to whom, and interpret it with some common sense principles.

Paul says, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7b). The Bible gives us the ten commandments (Exodus 20), a list of things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19), lists of things to put off and put on (Ephesians 4:17-32), the difference between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26), as well as other instructions.

The Bible doesn’t just tell us what not to do: it also tells us what we should be doing. So we could also displease God by failing to do good in some area.

The more we read the Bible and grow in the Lord, the more we grow in our understanding. For instance, we might read early on that we shouldn’t steal. That seems pretty straightforward: don’t take anything that belongs to someone else. Then later we realize that if we goof off on the job, we’re stealing from our boss the work he has paid us for. Then even later we come across Ephesians 4:28: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We realize that not stealing isn’t an end in itself: we need to replace theft with honest work not only to provide for ourselves, but to help others.

Besides general right and wrong, the Bible shares some specific things that God is pleased with:

Faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” Hebrews 11:6).

Fear (reverence): “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11).

Spiritual sacrifices: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Obedience: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Wait a minute—I just mentioned sacrifices were pleasing to God, and now I am saying they are not? The sacrifices in this verse were part of the OT system of worship. Too often people fell into religious ritual without their hearts being in it (we still do that, though our rituals are different). God was saying through Samuel that it doesn’t do any good to perform religious rites without obeying Him. That’s the height of hypocrisy.  But the spiritual sacrifices that please God, mentioned above in Hebrews, were ministry to others at cost to ourselves from a heart of love and worship of God.

Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Jesus is more than just an example, but God does want us to listen to Him and live like Him. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

One problem with trying to please God is that we can’t in our flesh.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).

That’s dire. What’s the remedy?

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:9-11).

How does that happen? When we believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and turn from our sin and trusting in ourselves or anything else, Jesus and the Holy Spirit live within us. Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness, which we could never do. He took our sins on Himself on the cross, so that when we repent and believe on Him, He puts His righteousness on our account.  We could never be good enough on our own to please God. Even if we could from this moment forward, we have a past of not pleasing God. The only way He can be completely pleased with us is through Christ.

We can be saved in a moment. But then it takes a lifetime to grow in grace and Christlikeness. One former pastor used to say that “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) meant not to work for salvation, but to work it out like a math problem: take all those lofty truths and principles and work them into your everyday life.

But we do stumble and fail. When we believe in Christ, God becomes our Father.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Over and over in the Bible, God is described as longsuffering, slow to anger, merciful, ready to forgive, ready to help. If our heart is with Him and our desire is to walk with Him and do His will, we don’t need to walk around with a vague feeling of spiritual uneasiness. As a loving Father, He will show us right from wrong, forgive us when we fail, and enable us to live for Him.

But some walk in blatant disregard of the Bible yet think God is well-pleased with them. Or they think they know who God is and what the Bible says, but they’re misinformed. We shouldn’t be presumptuous. How we need to read His Word, come to Him with a humble spirit, and seek His grace to live for Him.

Early in my Christian walk, I probably had more of that vague uneasiness that something was wrong spiritually. A former pastor used to say that when we come to God and ask Him to search our hearts, then we wait and deal with whatever He brings to mind. He likened it to opening a box, dealing with what’s there, opening another box, until there are no more boxes—nothing else that God brings to mind. I still do that sometimes. But now, after 45 years of reading His Word and walking with Him, usually conviction is immediate. Often, right after I do or think something wrong, God will remind me of what His Word says about what I just did or thought. Then I try to immediately ask His forgiveness. But it’s still good to ask Him to search our hearts in case we’re overlooking something.

Sometimes it takes a while to sort through whether we’re feeling false guilt over a man-made principle that goes beyond the Bible. But the more we read His Word and walk with Him, the more familiar we’ll be with what pleases and displeases Him.

 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21).

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