Rejoice today (a meditation)

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Some days seem good, others seem bad. Some days we don’t want to end, others we can’t wait for them to be over. Good days, bad days, rough days, easy days—through them all, God commands our joy.

Joy can sometimes be a difficult thing for us to grasp, because the world looks at happiness primarily through the lens of pleasure. If it makes me feel good, then it must be good. There ensues a struggle—because what might bring momentary happiness might later bring lasting pain or destruction, if we do not approach the situations with wisdom.

But the Bible looks at joy differently.

Joy is a happiness focused on God—a happiness that looks not only at the momentary pleasures but also at the lasting, even eternal, outcomes. Seeing happiness through the lens of scripture we discern that some momentary pleasures will be fleeting in the long run (Hebrews 11:25), and we discern that some momentary pain will result in lasting happiness. We see this lesson even in an act such as childbirth—where there is pain in the labor but joy in holding new life.

This is why in John 17, Jesus could pray about us having his joy fulfilled in our lives and quickly follow with the pain of persecution for being faithful to him (17:13-14). This is also why Paul could say that the sufferings of today aren’t worth comparing to the glories to come (Romans 8:18) and James could tell us to take joy in our trials because of the good result they are producing (James 1:2-4).

Psalm 118 provides for us a two-fold reason as to why we can have such joy, even on the difficult days. First, God is in control of the good days and bad. The sun has come up, the earth has completed another rotation on its axis, and you have opened your eyes and taken another breath.

You have begun a day—this day, today. “This is the day that the Lord has made.” It’s God’s day, God’s plan, and he has graciously included you in it. Yes, because of Genesis 3 and mankind’s fall into sin, evil very well could (and likely will) happen throughout the day. God doesn’t clue us in as to why he allows certain acts of horrific evil to occur. God doesn’t promise that such evil will not bring pain into our lives. God does promise that whatever such evil is and however much it might hurt in the moment, he will set all wrongs to right, he will punish all evildoers who do not turn from such sin, and he will bring ultimate good in response to that evil through Jesus and for his people.

The darkness has not escaped his notice and will not always remain. So, we can live with a forward-looking joy.

Second, it is a day to rejoice because God has saved us from our sins. A few verses before this call to rejoice, the psalmist said, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:21-22).

Verse 22 finds a quotation in several spots in the New Testament as a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. That is ultimately how God has “become my salvation.” If you belong to Jesus, then every sin of yours on him was laid and every perfect act of his to you was given. Because of that gracious act, you are no longer a rebellious sinner but a beloved son or daughter.

As someone else has said, that means: For the Christian, the closest we will ever get to hell is the pain we experience in this life. That’s why Paul could write that the sufferings in this life aren’t worth comparing to the glories to come. What is to come is simply so much greater and better. Knowing that and knowing how Jesus rescued us from an eternal hell, we can be glad in this day no matter what it brings.

So, indeed, let us say with the psalmist: This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Good Reads 09.14.16 (on: gossip, parenting, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On gossip: Gossip Says More About Me by Stephen Witmer

But gossip offers what it can’t deliver. When gossip says, “You’re interesting,” or, “You belong,” it’s lying. To people who thrive on gossip, you’re only interesting as long as your gossip is interesting. When we use gossip to gain access into a community (a church, a workplace, a friendship circle), our words tear apart the very community we want to join. (click here to read more)

Two on parenting:

Give It All, Just Not for Your Kids by Emily Jensen

Doesn’t this type of parental sacrifice seem rational? Because we love our children, we should also give it all for them, right? This is certainly a popular idea in our culture as evidenced by our social norms. Our children’s birthdays and holidays abound with monumental traditions and heaps of presents. They are rarely without entertainment, activity, socialization, and internet-capable devices. We think our children are deserving of only the finest athletic and academic training. They take our sleep at will, our nerves over time, our public acclaim in an instant, and our rational minds when we’re not looking. But we don’t notice, because we’re busy handing out donuts. We’re just doing our best to give it all for their sake.

The thing is, Jesus doesn’t tell us to give it all for our children. In fact, he wants just the opposite. He says that we are to give it all to him, and hate everyone else in comparison to how much we love and treasure him (Luke 14:26). (click here to read more)

Learn to Stop Yelling at Your Kids by Brook Wayne

However, the atmosphere yelling creates can break a child’s spirit. It wears on a body to be spoken to harshly and in an unduly loud voice. As soon as Mom or Dad’s voice goes up, a child’s defenses go up as well. Yelling does the exact opposite of what a Christian parent wants to see happen in her child. Instead of drawing that child closer to seeing the issue at hand, they are pushed away from receiving your word. (click here to read more)

On reading the Old Testament: 4 Practical Guidelines for Reading Old Testament Stories by George Guthrie

In the Old Testament stories, God is the ultimate hero, not any human being. God is the one working out the salvation of his people. Seeing him as the ultimate hero gives us an important frame of reference for reading the Old Testament stories. (click here to read more)

And finally, some wisdom on marriage… (from the desiringgod.org instagram feed)

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Good Reads 09.07.16 (on: marriage, God’s loving discipline, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On growing your marriage: Your Marriage Is Either Growing or It Isn’t by Melissa Edgington

But, I think after seventeen years I have finally begun to learn that no marriage will grow deep and strong unless we are both firmly planted in God’s word, letting the words of life sustain us as individuals and as a couple. I am not a “good” wife. But, when I turn to Jesus and ask Him to make me the kind of wife He wants me to be, when I ask Him to give us a marriage that is a brilliant picture of His love, then I start seeing that our roots can grow deeper that I ever thought possible. Our little marriage sapling can grow as tall and as wide as God’s will allows, if only we rely on Him in our weakness and let Him be the good and faithful gardener that He has proven Himself to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading and devotional life: Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life by Tim Challies

The phenomenon of daily, private devotions is relatively new to church history and there is something to be said for reading the Bible in community, perhaps as a married couple or as a group of friends. If you are struggling to read the Bible, why not allow yourself to feed off the habits and self-discipline of someone else? Ask your husband or wife if you can join in their devotions or ask your friends if you can get together with them to read and to pray. The biblical mandate is not to have a daily, personal quiet time, but to be steadily, consistently taking in the Word. (click here to read more)

On encouragement (especially for men) to get help fighting against porn in their lives: Why Men Don’t Get Help in Their Battle with Pornography by Brian Liechty

You see, even though Jesus was the perfect man, He didn’t suffer like one. Instead He suffered as one who was unclean. He faced punishment as if He had rejected God. He died like an outsider. And He did these things to remove our shame! In other words, Jesus became as an unclean, unacceptable, outcast so that we could become clean and accepted and welcome before God!!!

When men start to realize and believe that God has removed their shame in Christ it changes the way they face their struggle with pornography.  It leads them out of the darkness and into the light. It moves them from concealing their sin to confessing their sin. It challenges them to get the help they need instead of being paralyzed by their fears. (click here to read more)

On God’s discipline of those he loves: When God Graciously Makes You Miserable by Matt Moore

God laid a heavy hand on David because of his sin, leaving him miserable and desperate for relief. Why? Was it because God is a short fused tyrant who delights in inflicting pain on his creatures, as many critics of the Christian faith suppose? No—it was because “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). It was not God’s hatred that descended upon David; it was God’s love. Knowing the destructive nature of sin, God refused to allow David to continue down a path that would lead to either great temporal suffering (at best) or even eternal demise (at worst). When he saw his beloved child veering away from the Springs of Eternal Life and sipping the poison of broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13) instead, he unleashed his disciplinary love to jolt his slumbering son awake—and it worked. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.31.16 (on: quietness, a greater love for God, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On fathering: 6 Things a Godly Dad Does by Scott Slayton

A man can only be an effective father as he continues to grow spiritually. Our marriage and parenting will be impacted by our sin and lack of maturity. We will be impatient, temperamental, rude, thoughtless, and respond sinfully to being sinned against, so our only option is to keep growing in holiness and sanctification. Putting to death the sin in our lives and growing in Christlike maturity will have a practical effect on the way we lead our homes. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: One Very Good Reason to Read Your Bible by Tim Challies

But the benefit of personal devotions goes far beyond self. The benefit of knowledge of God and intimacy with God extends to your family, to your neighbors, to your church. If you can’t or won’t do devotions for your own sake, won’t you do it for the sake of others? Won’t you do it for their good, even if not for your own? (click here to read more)

On praying for a greater love for God: Lord, Enlarge My Love for You by Jon Bloom

What drives the Christian life is the great joy set before us (Hebrews 12:2), causing us to forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal for the eternal prize of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13–14). The Christian’s approach to life is to attain the resurrection from the dead “by any means possible” (Philippians 3:11). Whatever it takes. (click here to read more)

On making time for quietness before God: Quiet by Rachel Erin

It could be that we need to actually turn off the television, close our laptops, or adjust the notification settings on our phones. It could also mean that we are deliberate in the activities we say “yes” to for our families and ourselves. When we fail (which will happen often), it means taking time to refocus our hearts on the sufficiency of the gospel and Christ’s sacrifice for us instead of rehearsing our inadequacies over and over.  (click here to read more)

On church: 8 Reasons Every Church is Messy by Chuck Lawless

The gospel is intended to reveal messiness. Think about it—that’s precisely what the gospel does. It shatters our prideful exteriors and reduces us to our messy core. If you preach the gospel, there’s some messiness you should welcome. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.17.16 (on: humility, your life story, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On Bible reading and confusing passages: The Bible Is So Confusing by Mike Leake

Are you using the difficulty of the Scriptures as a dodge for reading and obeying the parts which are clear? This is a word not only to the person who has a dusty Bible on his shelf but also the seminary student or pastor who spends his time trying to untangle difficult passages while neglecting to be captivated by the ones which any simple person could understand. Yep, the Bible is difficult in spots. But it’s clear enough for us to give our lives in obedience to the Lord. (click here to read more)

On scripture memory and Christian growth: The First 15 Bible Verses a Christian Needs to Memorize by Scott Slayton

I put together a list of passages for young or new Christians to memorize so they would grow in their understanding of the character of God, the work of Jesus, salvation by faith alone, and the basics of the Christian life. We need to focus on these issues early in the Christian life because if we just start learning Scripture’s commands without understanding who God has revealed himself to be and the heart of the Christian message we will develop an unhealthy view of what it means to live as a Christian. (click here to read more)

On God’s work in your life story: God Wrote Every Chapter in Your Story by Katrina Reyes

By God’s grace, I am learning that in these in-between chapters, character development takes place. He’s teaching me trust, patience, and how to wait on him through the unknown. Just like with fictional characters, unexpected twists and turns and trials come into our lives, many of them being entirely out of our control. But the author always knows how the story is going to end before the characters do. (click here to read more)

A book review on Jerry Bridges’ last book: The Blessing of Humility by Tim Challies

Bridges insists “A life of humility is not an option for a believer to choose or reject. It is a command of God.” To teach the beauty and value of humility as well as to start on down the path toward humility he turns to the Beatitudes saying, “these expressions of Christian character are a description of humility in action.” In other words, when Jesus taught how to live before God and before man, he was teaching how to live with humility. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.10.16 (on: spiritual dry spells, praying for teachers, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On why we need to know our Bibles better than we know what’s on blogs or in books: Books, Blogs, and the Importance of Knowing My Bible by Mike Leake

So it is very important that I keep this in mind as I read through all of these books and blog posts. I want to follow Jesus and be the best husband and daddy that I can be. But I’m also a bonehead who is being slowly (oh so painfully slow) transformed into the likeness of Jesus. He is my standard. I never can meet that standard. But he has graciously provided for me. He accepts me because He accepts His own perfect work. (click here to read more)

On what to do when you feel spiritually dry: What to do When You Are in a Spiritual Dry Spell by Scott Slayton

Our prayer life suffers the most during dry spells. We feel distant from God, so we don’t pray because we find it discouraging and this only leads to a further sense of alienation from God. When you struggle to pray, try praying through several Psalms to reinvigorate your time in prayer. These words inspired by the Holy Spirit give us a vocabulary for prayer and remind us that other people who know God walk through the same periods of darkness that we do. (click here to read more)

On prayer and school: Pray for Your Child’s Teacher by Shane Pruitt

Teachers literally shape and mold future generations. When people are asked, “Who was the most influential person in your life?” the most common response is a parent and a very close second is a teacher. As your children head back to school, you’re entrusting them to a teacher. These men and women are simply human beings; this means they’ll make mistakes, they value encouragement, they appreciate patience, and they surely need your prayers.

In asking some real-life teachers, “How would you want the parents of your students to pray for you this year?” here is a prayer list of what they shared: (click here to read more)

On being “true to yourself”: The Exhausting Task of Finding Your Best Life Now by Trevin Wax

What should we do? The world says pursue happiness, whatever the cost, by becoming the best version of “you” possible. Look inside for salvation, and then look outside for affirmation.

The problem is, “the curated version of you that lives online also feels hopelessly polished and inaccurate,” Havrilesky writes, “and you feel, somehow, that you alone are the inauthentic one.” Show your true self and you’ll be shamed. Another problem is that this pursuit of happiness—finding yourself and being true to whatever authentic person you decide to be—turns out to be rather exhausting. (click here to read more)

 

What do you bow to? (a meditation)

The devil then took Jesus up and showed him, in an instant, all the kingdoms of the world. “I will give you authority over all of this,” said the devil, “and all the prestige that goes with it. It’s been given to me, you see, and I give it to anyone I like. So it can all be yours, if you will just worship me.” ~Luke 4:5-6

After his baptism and before he started his ministry, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. At the end of this time, he was tired and hungry, and Satan showed up with a series of temptations. Each one spoke to Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and challenged the Father’s care, provision, and promise.

Elsewhere, the Bible calls Jesus the King of kings. In Philippians 2, Paul wrote that because of Jesus’ obedience, even to death on the cross, the Father gave him authority over all the world so that every knee would bow to him. When standing toe to toe with the devil at the end of those forty days, Jesus heard the offer of the same promise given without the hardship of the cross.

Satan was never meant to be the ruler of the world. In the beginning, God made humanity in his image to exercise dominion over the world and under his authority. When Satan came along and tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God’s voice and they chose rebellion over obedience, something changed.

The Bible doesn’t tell us the moment it occurred, but because of our first parents’ rebellion, Satan was granted dominion. This is why Paul spoke of Satan being “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But this wouldn’t last. The world, by nature, had been gifted by God to mankind. So, the Perfect Man (both fully God and fully man) came and gained back the world through living a perfect life and dying as a perfect sacrifice.

It wasn’t an easy act. In his humanity, Jesus even sweat drops of blood as he prayed in great anguish of the cross to come and asked, “Father, if there is any other way? Yet, your will be done.”

Three years before that prayer, Satan offered Jesus another way. He could have the kingdoms of the world as a gift, and it would only cost an act of worship.

In truth, this would have cost much more. Had Jesus said Yes then God would have sinned and lost his perfect goodness and righteousness across his being. He would have dishonored his own deity if the Creator would have worshiped a creature. Then, no longer perfect, Jesus would have sacrificed his ability to save us from our sins. Yes, he could have had the kingdoms of the world without the torment of the cross, but the end result would have been cosmically devastating.

So Jesus, knowing the pain that would come, chose to gain the Kingdom through his own sacrifice. He replied to Satan, “It is written, ‘The Lord your God is the one you must worship; he is the only one you must serve’” (Luke 4:8). And thanks be to God for the Son’s perfect obedience.

But we should ask the question of ourselves: What will we bow to?

Jesus said that following him would prove difficult at times and cost us everything (Luke 9:23, 57-62; 14:25-33). Yet, when it is all said and done, the eternal gain will vastly outweigh what we lost (Luke 9:24-25, 18:24-30).

We also face the temptations to have now what we are promised then, but if we must bow ourselves to people or possessions to have power, fame, or riches, then the cost isn’t worth it even if it seems easier in the moment. We gain nothing in the end if we possess all the wealth and power in the world yet lose our souls.

So let us walk the path of Jesus, difficult though it might be, and bow ourselves to no one but the True and Living God.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.