#TheGospel

“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.”

John Calvin in preface to 1534 French translation of the New Testament

Where are the Sweetest Spots?

“Sweet are the spots where Immanuel has ever shown his glorious power in the conviction and conversion of sinners. The world loves to muse on the scenes where battles were fought and victories won. Should we not love the spots where our great captain has won his amazing victories?” Robert Murray McCheyne

Some times we find ourselves in dreadful spots where despair and the sentence of death is all we may expect from looking at our circumstances. God is near to all who call upon His Name in Jesus, however, and He raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He is our rescuer! God is glorified in rescuing us and changing dreadful spots into the sweetest spots in our stories. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAg7rn7fH3Q

This song makes me rejoice and exult in Christ, our Rescuer 🙂

Artwork by Will Coats

Identity in Christ

Identity in Christ

https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Your-Identity-Christ-Renouncing-ebook/dp/B06XT2SSLM/ref=pd_ybh_a_19?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=KXNBA27SZ55AV2JXQQR6

Our identities, besides being one of the most precious things to protect from theft, crisis, or loss, are extremely important to God. The Father has given each of His children a personal identity in Christ that will shape them on their journey to heaven. If, in the process of identity formation, we ignore what God says concerning our identities, then we may expect confusion in the other three seasons of spiritual formation, from adolescence to old age (see chart below for Calling to Christ, Intentionality for Christ, and Legacy from Christ).

Robert Davis Smart

https://www.facebook.com/MyIdentityInChrist/

Embracing Your Identity in Christ:: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies (Kindle Locations 116-121). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

Practicing the Spiritual Act of Benedictions

What is a benediction? How do we give one?

The word benediction derives from two Latin words that mean, “to speak well of,” and people in every culture and generation look earnestly and intently for a final word of divine kindness from God through His ordained agents of blessings.

We long for our parent’s blessing before each of them dies. The last thing said in the Bible is a benediction. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22: 21). It is only fitting that our last words to others in life should be a benediction.

On the occasion of each of our grandchildren’s births, I speak down a rich and full blessing from on high upon grandson and granddaughter. Here I met James for the first time to bless his head.

Before you leave off just now, dear reader, please receive this one for you:

May you be lost in wonder, love, and praise, so that through every

period of your life His goodness you pursue, Until our Lord comes

again. And now to God’s elect, Whom He has upheld since they were

conceived, Carried since they were born, Hear His good promise;

“I am He; I will sustain you, I will carry you, I will rescue even to your

old age.”

 

 

This is an excerpt taken from Robert Davis Smart’s Legacy from Christ: What’s My Message? (Kindle Locations 461, 560-564). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

How Gratitude Catches Up to Us as Leaders

Frodo had leadership thrust upon him, and his long journey is, in one sense, a process of his acceptance of his own leadership. He can’t escape it, even with the Ring, and he certainly wasn’t sufficient for it alone. One dear Christ-like figure in the story is Frodo’s friend, Sam.

My dear friend, Will Coats, pictured them this way.

We all rage against God at some point after we were converted, called, and empowered to lead in our particular place. God shows us favor when He chooses us in love to fulfill His gracious plans to many. Some times the person runs ahead of God’s plans, presupposing that they are entitled to it and quite self-sufficient for the task (i.e. Moses; cf. Acts 7:25). Other leaders attempt to manipulate the blessing out of His Hands with an outrageous mo for strategic planning without God’s wisdom. For example, Rebekah and Jacob. God particularly loves to invite reluctant leaders like Moses, Jonah, and Esther to courageous lead for the sake of others’ welfare, but reluctance is yet another way we rage against God’s timing and call on our lives.

What we need is Gospel-rest that comes only after we have raged against God to the point of futility, only to finally realize we were already given the favor – already discovered and wanted and secure in God’s redemptive story. One of my favorite authors, Dan Allender writing on leadership, put it this way:

“Remember, only repeated encounters with our furious flight from God can bring us the genuine rest we seek . . . God invites the one who rages to collapse in his arms of love. Rest comes when we can no longer sustain our flight, and we find God waiting for us. But rest is not true rest without surrender.” How do we surrender? “We must eventually be caught face to face with God and be unnerved by his kindness. Only then will we surrender” (p. 104).

Do you know when a leader knows that she knows she has surrendered to God? When he has assurance that the calling and place and people God gave him to lead was a gift? It is when the leader is thankful, even for the furnace of affliction that has forged her to become the leader she now is, and worn out from avoiding it. Allender adds: “The funny thing about gratitude is that it is not earned or deserved; it, too, is a gift. We can’t force ourselves to be grateful, but we can stumble into the arms of gratitude when we’re exhausted from our running” (p. 108).

Dan B. Allender, Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness (The Crown Publishing Group).

Some Onez Got ta Lead

“Leading is very likely the most costly thing you will ever do. And the chances are very good that it will never bring you riches or fame or praise in exchange for your great sacrifices. But if you want to love God and others, and if you long to live your life now for the sake of eternity, then there is nothing better than being a leader.”

Allender, Dan B.. Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness (p. 2). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When Gender Identity is Regarded as Meaningless

In April 2015 Dennis Prager wrote in National Review: “The End of Male and Female: Whatever one’s position on same-sex marriage, one must acknowledge that at the core of the argument for this redefinition of marriage is that gender doesn’t matter.

Marriage is marriage and gender means nothing, the argument goes. So, too, whether children are raised by mother and father or two mothers or two fathers doesn’t matter. A father has nothing unique to offer a child that a mother can’t provide and vice versa. Why? Because — for the first time in recorded history — gender is regarded as meaningless.

Indeed, increasingly gender doesn’t even exist; it’s merely a social construct imposed on children by parents and society based on the biological happenstance of their genitalia. When signing up for Facebook, one is offered nearly 60 options under “gender.” In various high schools across the country, boys are elected homecoming queen. A woman was recently kicked out of Planet Fitness for objecting to a man in the women’s locker room. She was accused of intolerance because the man said he felt that he was a woman.” http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416543/americas-decay-speeding

 

Seek the Lord While He is Near

“Lord of creation, you are everywhere, but there are certain places where the dividing wall between heaven and earth feels wafer thin. That notion tempts me to pack up for a faraway pilgrimage to find you, but you meet me where I am. Wake me up to your kingdom of grace and goodness through your presence in your Word and sacraments. Amen.”

Reinders, Philip F. Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year (p. 579). Faith Alive Christian Resources. Kindle Edition. (Heidelberg Catechism 66)

God’s Love Versus Ours

The cross of Christ inverts how we interpret love. In one short thesis Luther explains the love of God versus human love in the famous Heidelberg debate; thesis 28: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of [humans] comes into being through that which is pleasing to [them].”

We love in reaction to what we find lovely and intrinsically attractive to us. I found my wife lovely and delightfully find all her ways attractive to me, even if her love language calls for lots of time with her in a mall.

God’s love, by contrast, is not in reaction to seeing and finding us lovely. Rather, He first sets His love and affections upon us and makes us lovely through Christ. His love is creative.

We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:18). He chose us in love to be His beloved (Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Ephesians 1:4). He will never stop loving us because He never began loving us. He will refute every objection we can muster for why He should not love us, and He will make us adorable when we rise from the dead as His bride upon His return. We don’t have to make ourselves lovable to God since He took care of that in Christ.

For the best on Luther’s life and theology, see Luther on the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2015) by Carl R. Trueman http://www.wtsbooks.com/luther-on-the-christian-life-cross-and-freedom-carl-r-trueman-9781433525025