Tag Archives: gospel

The Long and Winding Road

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

-Matthew 1:17 (NASB)

I’m beginning another trek through Matthew and stopped for a bit today to think about the long list of names that begin his Gospel. Patriarchs, kings, ordinary folks, and some notable women run through this genealogy. Lists of names, which are found so often in the Old Testament but much less so in the New, don’t on the surface seem to make for great reading. But I look at these names with a bit of wonder; fallen men and women, some with great but flawed makeups (Abraham, David, Solomon), others with lives that resembled the thief on the cross (Manasseh). In The Gospel of the Kingdom, C.H. Spurgeon remarked, “We will not pry into the mystery of the incarnation, but we must wonder at the condescending grace which appointed our Lord such a pedigree.” All of these share in the long line of God’s faithfulness – a promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 that in him, “all the families of the earth will be blessed”; to David in 2 Samuel 7 that “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” Promises separated by hundreds of years …and I find it greatly humbling that now thousands of years later, this long and winding road now puts we who belong to God in this same story.

It’s difficult not to feel a mix of emotions when thinking about each of the names in Matthew 1:1-17 – frustration, anger, sadness, pity. It’s also easy to look at my own life and feel the exact same things. But this genealogy that Matthew preserves for us reminds us that all of us – sinful, wretched, and fallen as we all are, all who come to Christ -by grace through faith- can be assured that He will in no way cast them out (John 6:37). All of us can then rightly take our place in this grand story and be assured He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Image via Sten [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Book Review: “Asking the Right Questions”

I’m on vacation this week and trying to catch up on reading. It took me just two days to finish Matthew Harmon’s new book, Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. I found Harmon’s book a helpful guide​ to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Harmon begins with a flyover guide to the Bible based on six pieces – creation, crisis, covenants, Christ, church, and consummation. He then spends the majority of the book on developing the right questions to ask in our Bible reading. I found his discussion of the “fallen condition” vs. the “gospel solution” especially good. He provides an outline at the end of the book that summarizes his main discussion on understanding and applying the Bible, which would be good to print out and keep in your Bible.

Overall, this is a good resource for getting a grasp of the Bible’s big picture and tools for understanding and application. You can watch Harmon discuss his book below:

 

Were It Not For Grace

By His grace, God saved me on this date in 2007.  How kind God has been to me during these last ten years (and before them!). I lived in darkness the first 36+ years of my life, and was truly unaware of it. When I did think deeply about God during those years, I sadly took the role of the Pharisee in Luke 18. I considered myself an essentially good person, and certainly not as bad as others. I figured that when I died and finally met God, the good side of my ledger would outweigh the bad. It was only when I really read through the Bible for the first time that I awoke to my real standing before God.

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil.

Genesis 6:5 WEB

I remember being struck by this verse…does this include me? According to the Word of God, it certainly does. The ledger that I planned to present before God was useless. God showed me, by His Holy Spirit, that my only standing would be through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. I think of the patience of God, how long He watched me try to live on my own terms. How close did I come to spending eternity without Him!

That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Don’t marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’

John 3:6‭-‬7 WEB

I used to think those born again folks were strange! Jesus however makes it quite clear that unless you are in fact born again, you will face death twice…physically and then spiritually.

Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment,

Hebrews 9:27 WEB

I am thanking God for His grace today – “grace abounding to the chief of sinners”, as John Bunyan once said. Grace to me, a worm of a man, called by the King of Kings to live for Him and for His glory.

What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Romans 7:24‭-‬25a WEB

A song I heard right after my conversion has become a favorite of mine, and outside of Scripture, gives probably the clearest summary of my own experience. I will reflect on these words today. Thank you Jesus!

Time measured out my days

Life carried me along

In my soul I yearned to follow God

But knew I’d never be so strong

I looked hard at this world

To learn how heaven could be gained

Just to end where I began

Where human effort is all in vain
Were it not for grace

I can tell you where I’d be

Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere

With my salvation up to me

I know how that would go

The battles I would face

Forever running but losing this race

Were it not for grace
So here is all my praise

Expressed with all my heart

Offered to the Friend who took my place

And ran a course I could not start

And when He saw in full

Just how much His would cost

He still went the final mile between me and heaven

So I would not be lost
Were it not for grace

I can tell you where Id be

Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere

With my salvation up to me

I know how that would go

The battles I would face

Forever running but losing this race

Were it not for grace
Forever running but losing this race

Were it not for grace

Beware of Sinking Sand

You sometimes reflect upon the state of your soul, and enquire, is Christ mine? May I depend upon it, that my condition is safe? Your heart returns you an answer of peace, it speaks as you would have it. But remember, friend, and mark this line, your final sentence is not yet come from the mouth of your Judge; and what if, after all your self-flattering hopes and groundless confidence, a sentence should come from him quite cross to that of your own heart? Where are you then? What a confounded person will you be? Christless, speechless, and hopeless, all at once!”

– John Flavel, from The Fountain of Life

To Those Who Reside As Aliens…

“What makes the children of God so strange?

The grace of God which calls them out of this wretched world. Every man who carries the grace of God in his bosom is necessarily, as regards the world, a stranger in heart, as well as in profession, and life.

As Abraham was a stranger in the land of Canaan;
as Joseph was a stranger in the palace of Pharaoh;
as Moses was a stranger in the land of Egypt;
as Daniel was a stranger in the court of Babylon;

so every child of God is separated by grace, to be a stranger in this ungodly world.

And if indeed we are to come out from it and to be separate, the world must be as much a strange place to us; for we are strangers to …

its views,
its thoughts,
its desires,
its prospects,
its anticipations,
in our daily walk,
in our speech,
in our mind,
in our spirit,
in our judgment,
in our affections.

We will be strangers from …
the world’s company,
the world’s maxims,
the world’s fashions,
the world’s spirit.

“They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” -Hebrews 11:13

“I am a stranger with you and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” -Psalm 39:12

“I am but a stranger here on earth.” -Psalm 119:19 

The main character of a child of God is that he is a stranger upon earth. One of the first effects of the grace of God upon our soul was to separate us from the world, and make us feel ourselves strangers in it.

The world was once our home—the active, busy center of all our thoughts, desires, and affections. But when grace planted imperishable principles of life in our bosom, it at once separated us from the world in heart and spirit,

if not in actual life and walk. We are strangers inwardly and experimentally, by the power of divine grace making this world a wilderness to us.”

-J.C. Philpot (1802-1869)

Affections and Knowledge

“The grace of God influences both the understanding and the affections. Warm affections, without knowledge, can rise no higher than superstition; and that knowledge which does not influence the heart and affections, will only make a hypocrite.”

— from The Works of John Newton, Vol. 1, p. 136.

Book Review: “Do More Better”

41fXfohImwL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Would you like to be more productive? Most of us would answer yes to that question, even as the busyness of our lives sometimes wears on us. But have you thought about why you want to be more productive? Along with providing tools and tips to improve your productivity, Tim Challies’ Do More Better gives insight into why productivity  matters, why doing more good is the goal, and Who is the reason for it all.

Any new habit or plan will ultimately fail if there is no strong foundation to keep it going – to return to when days become mundane. Although we want to know the tools that will help us get from point A to point Z, Challies delays providing this right away. Instead he walks his readers through a “productivity catechism”, which ultimately leads to the mission statement, or foundation, of the book:

Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.

This charts the course of the book, and Challies returns to this statement again and again. He goes on to describe common obstacles (“productivity thieves”) that often get in our way, such as laziness and busyness. Challies then asks his readers to spend some time thinking about two major topics:

  • defining our major responsibilities
  • stating our mission

This is a two-pronged approach in that we define our major responsibilities (work, family, church, etc.) and then select a mission statement to guide each of these areas. These could take some time to reflect on and complete, but they must be done if we want to use the practical tools that he provides later on most effectively.

All of us have different ways that we organize and keep track of our day. Some are basic, some can be quite extensive. In the second half of the book, Challies recommends three online tools:

Challies is quick to note that we may find other tools (paper planners, alternative software) that are more suitable to our tasks. But his main point remains – we need a place to manage the tasks we’re responsible for; we need somewhere to track our meetings and appointments; and we need somewhere to “gather, store, and access (our) information, and do it in a logical hierarchical fashion.” (p. 68)

There are other neat features of Challies’ book, including “serve and surprise” along with an appendix describing “20 Tips to Increase Your Productivity”, but you’ll have to buy the book to see these in detail.

I found this book quite helpful for a number of reasons. First, we often start out with great energy on getting things done, but just as often don’t think of the why behind doing all of it. Challies’ productivity statement, mentioned above, provides a foundation for us. I’m going to print this out and place it in prominent places by my desk at home and work. Second, the benefits of the productivity tools are clearly outlined. I’ve used Todoist for a couple of weeks now and find it useful, and it nags me appropriately to do the things that I’m behind on. I’ve been using Google Calendar for years, so he didn’t have to sell me on that. I confess that I’m not quite sure about Evernote yet, and whether the time it will take to get everything in there will be worth it. But I’m definitely going to try it out.

Overall, I think Challies blends the why and the how extremely well in this book, as we look forward to a new year and the goal of being more productive in all we do. The time invested in reading this book will pay off, if you follow the steps as he has outlined them. I’d recommend Do More Better and would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Cruciform Press in exchange for an impartial review