And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). What an unspeakable blessing, to be chosen — of all women, from all generations — to be the one woman who would be mother to the holy Son of God. In the very next verse in Luke the angel announces that Mary will conceive and bear a son, who is to be named Jesus. He will be great, he will be called the Son of the Most High, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter took an old Latin phrase and popularized it in his day, in English. It is simple, but profound: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Why was Baxter so concerned to see Christians publicly, charitably, doctrinally unified? Baxter, writing in 17th century England about the evil effects of division in the church, made this observation:
The God of all grace [has] called you to his eternal glory in Christ (1 Peter 5:10). God is the God all grace, but he is not all grace — he is also holiness, wrath, justice, and strength. It is for this reason that the only way to go to God or receive blessings from him is through the way he has provided in Jesus Christ.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). True love is permanent. Love is eternal at its core. Because it is from God and primarily directed to God, it will never fail, never implode, never become obsolete.
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking this past week about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, walking away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately.
Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits (Genesis 6:14-15). The Big Boat The dimensions of the ark were about 450 feet long, by 75 feet wide, by 45 feet high. Such a huge vessel would have had a total storage capacity of almost one and a half million square feet.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered (Luke 2:1). What powerful truth and what precious comfort are contained in this familiar verse! Here we see that God’s purposes are perfectly and promptly completed. Did you think that kings, or presidents, or dictators make history? No! They are but instruments in the hand of the eternal and purposeful God. Hundreds of years before, God had spoken through the prophet Micah saying:
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalm 147:7). In this season of Thanksgiving, it is helpful to consider what “thanksgiving” specifically is, in biblical terms. And in this verse we see at least three crucial elements to godly gratitude. First, thanksgiving above all involves communication with God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). What does the psalmist mean when he tells us to enter the gates of God with thanksgiving? If I might put it so simply and colloquially, it means “Don’t even think about coming into God’s presence without praise on your lips.” God’s goodness is infinite, and God’s blessings are abundant, and so thanksgiving is the only appropriate response.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle written to straighten out a church with a host of serious problems. Yet as such it is helpful and enlightening and inspiring to see how Paul the theologian addresses his deep, rich theology to specific, messy, practical issues as Paul the pastor.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What a sweeping, staggering claim this is! And yet Paul says we can know for certain that all the details of our lives are working together for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ. How do we know this?
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it (Genesis 9:6-7). God knows that humans are fallen, broken creatures. Even as Noah steps off the Ark into the new, post-Flood world, God is already addressing the issue of homicide.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer … let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6) Prayer is the means God has given us for unburdening our souls. This is important to consciously, biblically affirm. Otherwise, we may feel weighed down with anxiety, with guilt, with discouragement, or with sorrow and yet have no solution for these soul burdens. Does that perhaps describe you?