I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). How much do your worldly friends really love you? Movie or music stars you look up to? The employer who wants you to devote your life to climbing the corporate ladder? The cars, gadgets, carpet, or designer outfits you spend so much time dreaming about or delighting in?
Although we often think and talk about God being good, loving — and even wrathful — the truth is that God is also supremely, perfectly, and always happy. One of the best modern equivalents for the idea of “blessedness” in the Greek language is “happy.”
Allow me to make one last new year’s observation, with the help of George Whitefield. As we enter into this new year, many resolutions will be made regarding better diets and more exercise. But what we need most — as always — is to feed on Christ and to exercise ourselves unto godliness. The preeminent preacher of the Great Awakening in America, George Whitefield reminded his audience in a New Year’s message entitled “A Penitent Heart, the Best New Year’s Gift” that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Not exactly your typical warm and fuzzy holiday
My wife and I were struck by this recent devotion from C.H. Spurgeon’s Checkbook of Faith — so much so, in fact, that we’ve printed out a copy, framed it, and hope to make it a regular part of our prayer life. Nothing is more potent or refreshing than praying God’s promises back to him! From Every Sin “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
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:
George Muller, the great nineteenth-century English preacher, fed over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime — on nothing but prayer. Refusing to solicit donations or perform fundraisers, Muller famously found God more than sufficient for all the needs of the orphanages as he daily prayed for their provision (read an excellent article here for more on that). Countless Christians since Muller’s day have discovered there are life lessons to be learned from God’s grace in and through this man’s faithful ministry.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords … to him who alone does great wonders (Psalm 136:3-4). The authors of Scripture are unanimously in awe of the God about whom they are writing. And here the psalmist explains why: God alone does great wonders. “To him who by understanding made the heavens … to him who spread out the earth … the sun to rule over the day … the moon and stars to rule over the night” (Psalm 136:5-9). God is the God of creation.
Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.
What does the church of Jesus Christ really look like? Of course, I am not talking about the architectural style of the building in which it meets, but what a local body of believers looks like. We know the church should be sound in doctrine and zealous in proclaiming the gospel. But how does a sound church really function?
Worshiping God is both our duty and our privilege, no matter who we are. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation with the biblical command, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). If Jesus would quote this command even to Satan, surely there is no one exempt from the force of its demands. This is because, as Psalm 95:6 reminds us, the call to worship our Lord God arises from the reality that he is “our maker.” Every creature owes the one Creator their worship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism. He was involved in plots planned by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned and eventually hanged, just before the end of the Second World War in Europe. I have lately been enjoying Bonhoeffer’s classic work The Cost of Discipleship, written at the height of his conflict with Nazi ideology and with the compromising German church.
This beautiful, biblical description of a Christian comes from James Smith in 1856. As you read this pastor’s wise and insightful summary of the Christian life, prayerfully consider — not only whether these words describe you, but — how they may better describe you. May each of us as Christian believers learn Christ’s doctrines better, trust his promises better, and do his will better. If anyone is in Christ — he is a new creature:
The creation is singing and dancing the praises of its Maker so clearly and so loudly, that Paul says everyone is “without excuse” when they ignore what is “clearly perceived” (Romans 1:20). The fine-tuning of this massive, marvelous, intricate universe we live in is just one of many ways that the creation is declaring the existence and glory of its Creator. Yet the effort to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18) continues in every generation, in a variety of ways.
The doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture” is a well-known and important teaching within the Christian faith. This doctrine refers to the fact that the Bible is clear, that it communicates perfectly. All scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible can be understood by anyone, barring mental handicaps (2 Timothy 3:15). This doesn’t mean it is easy to correctly understand; rather, the Bible requires careful, thoughtful study (2 Peter 3:16). Equally vital as the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity, however, is the balancing consideration of the “perspicacity” of the reader.
A friend who has recently been reading through David Brainerd’s biography shared with me a stirring passage from Brainerd’s journal. What motivated this man — who spent years in sacrifice and service of the gospel, and eventually died an early death for the spread of it — to continue laboring in the face of excruciating pain and disappointment? The overarching, undergirding concern “that God might be known to be God in the whole earth” and that “God have the glory forever.”