Category Archives: Christian Living

These are not Suggestions!

These are not suggestions

about what God’s people ought to be:

                                                       (Don Fortner)

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Since God has ordained that His people walk in good works, we are assured that God will graciously cause them to do so by the sweet constraint of His grace.

Grace experienced, makes Christians gracious.

Mercy tasted, makes Christians merciful.

Faith bestowed, makes Christians faithful.

Kindness known, makes Christians kind.

Forgiveness enjoyed, makes Christians forgiving.

Love felt, makes Christians loving.

These are not suggestions about what God’s people ought to be
, but statements of fact about what all true believers are.

Believers are a people who, being saved by grace, ruled by love, and motivated by gratitude–seek the will and glory of God in all things.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” Titus 2:11-12

The Awesome God!

The Providence of God!

                                                               (Don Fortner)

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Predestination is the sovereign, eternal, immutable, unalterable purpose of God almighty, by which He ordained and ordered, according to His own will and good pleasure, all things that come to pass in time.

Divine providence is the daily, constant, sovereign rule of our God over all things for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose of grace in predestination. Divine providence is the accomplishment of God’s sovereign will and purpose. Providence is God bringing to pass in time (sovereignly, absolutely, and perfectly) what He purposed in eternity.

Predestination is God’s purpose.
Providence is God’s execution of His purpose.

Nothing in the universe happens by luck, chance, fortune, accident or by blind fate! Everything that comes to pass in time was purposed by our God in eternity, and is brought to pass by His wise, adorable, good Providence.

Nothing comes to pass in time that God did not purpose in eternity, in sovereign predestination.
Nothing comes to pass in time except that which God sovereignly brings to pass in His Providence.

And that which God predestined in eternity and brings to pass in his Providence is for the good of His elect, and the glory of His name. This is clearly and incontrovertibly the teaching of Holy Scripture (Psalm 76:10; Proverbs 16:4, 9, 33; 21:1; Daniel 4:34, 35, 37; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 11:33-36).

Providence is God’s government of the universe. If we have a proper view of God’s Providence, we will see the hand of God and the heart of God in everything – in all the experiences of our lives. Believers ascribe their sorrows, and even the cursing of their enemies to the hand of their heavenly Father’s wise and good Providence (Job 1:21; 1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 16:11-12).

God is not idle. He never needs to rest, recuperate, or regroup. God almighty, our God and heavenly Father is always at work, governing the world. I have frequently heard preachers and religious leaders speak of sickness, poverty and war, sin, crime and cruelty, famine, earthquakes and death as things over which God has no control. Nonsense!

God’s Providence is as ‘minute’ as it is ‘mysterious’ (Matthew 10:30). Our God has ordained the number of hairs on the heads of all. Not even a worthless sparrow falls to the ground without His decree.

God’s Providence is ‘all inclusive’. God rules everything, great and small, everywhere, and at all times.

He who created all things, rules all things!

Nothing in God’s universe breathes or wiggles contrary to God’s decree (Isaiah 46:9-13).

As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good.
Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.
Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.
Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.
Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.
Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would make us proud.
Our great God knows exactly what we need. By His grace, if we are His–we will bow to His Providence, accept it, and give thanks for it.

God’s Providence is always executed in the ‘wisest manner’ possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God. We bow to His will, which is evident in His works of Providence, and say, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”

The God of Providence rules all things well. How we ought to trust Him! Ever remember, our heavenly Father is God all wise, good, and omnipotent. He is. . .
too wise to err,
too good to do wrong,
and too strong to fail!

 

“I can do all things through Christ…”

Suffering Financially before the World

by David Briones; Tabletalk Magazine, 2016

Financial suffering is a reality in the lives of many Christians today. Many of us are familiar with the vulnerable moments of financial crisis. Will I be able to get a job this month? Will I have enough money to pay rent? Will I be able to make my car payment? Will I be able to put food on the table for my wife and kids?

Sadly, this form of suffering is frequently written off as a First World problem. After all, physical persecution is the only way a Christian can suffer on behalf of the gospel, right? Not according to Paul. He certainly suffered physically (2 Cor. 1:8–9; 4:8; 11:23–26), but he also suffered emotionally (11:28), spiritually (v. 29), and financially (1 Cor. 4:11–12; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). Even so, little consideration is given to how God uses financial suffering in the church to shine the light of the gospel in a dark world. But we can learn a rich lesson about enduring poverty from Philippians 4:10–13.

This passage is well known for all the wrong reasons. Many well-intentioned Christians misuse, misinterpret, and misapply the divine promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” They assume that it means God will provide anything and everything they desire in this life. They cling to this verse like a lucky rabbit’s foot, rubbing it while repeating the promise in order to receive all that they desire. For many, this includes monetary gain. But Philippians 4:13 doesn’t make that kind of promise. When read in context, we see that God promises contentment, not by pulling us out of financial suffering but by empowering us to endure it with contentment. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and the world will notice it.

Let’s consider the context of Philippians 4:10–13 for a moment. Paul penned these words from a jail cell (1:7, 13, 14). Unlike today, prisoners in the ancient world relied entirely on friends and family members to provide food and clothing. The state offered very little help. Paul was completely dependent on the mercy of others. He was vulnerable and in need. He was suffering physically and financially. Thankfully, the Philippian believers expressed their concern tangibly by sending material gifts to their imprisoned Apostle (2:29–30; 4:18). Surprisingly, in response to the Philippians’ generosity, Paul “rejoices in the Lord” (4:10); that is, the “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2; cf. 2:11, 19; 3:8, 20). He alone “revived” the Philippians’ concern for Paul, which allowed Paul to experience relief from his financial suffering in prison. “I have received full payment,” Paul declares, “and I abound” (4:18). The Philippians’ gift placed Paul in a state of material abundance.

And yet, Paul prohibits the Philippians from thinking that his joy in the Lord is entirely over their material gift. That is why he immediately includes a disclaimer, “Not that I speak according to need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (v. 11). From the world’s perspective, contentment comes from within oneself. One strives in one’s own strength to become content. This is self-sufficiency at its finest.

But for the Christian, true contentment comes from outside oneself. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things [lit.] in Christ who strengthens me” (vv. 12–13). This is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. The source of strength to experience contentment on both sides of the economic spectrum is found “in Christ.” Our union with Christ by faith enables us to endure lowliness, hunger, need, and even the most severe financial suffering with contentment. For the branch “can do nothing” apart from the vine (John 15:5). But “in Christ,” we can do all things. We can abound financially or suffer financially with contentment.

While the world looks to itself in financial suffering, the Christian looks to Christ. This is precisely how believers shine as lights in the world. I will never forget my wife’s concern about our finances when I was completing my Ph.D. in England. A fierce argument ensued. Anxieties and fears were disclosed.

And there were many tears. But when we came to our Christian senses, we fell on our knees, prayed to the Lord, forgave one another, and listened to His voice in Scripture. In God’s timing, a sense of peace fell over us—to the point where we not only read but also proclaimed Habakkuk 3:17–19a:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength.

Many Christians are acquainted with this peace that surpasses all understanding during financial crises. Though the world looks for contentment in all the wrong places, Christians can cope with financial suffering in a manner that demonstrates their utter dependence on Jesus Christ. While the world may commend the strength of your faith during financial hardships, you can declare the strength that Christ provides by faith in the gospel. The good news is that despite your financial situation in this life, Christ suffered and died for the sins of His people, delivered them from eternal suffering, and will ultimately bring them to eternal rest with God. And since He has pledged His love for you in the gospel, He will never leave nor forsake you—even when you suffer financially (Heb. 13:5).

Christians as Pilgrims in this World

The Christian Life as Pilgrimage

by Derek Thomas; Tabletalk Magazine, March 2016

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

A half-century ago, I sang these words in school assemblies set to music composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The words appear in Part 2 of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress as part of Mr. Valiant-for-Truth’s testimony. Earlier, Valiant had introduced himself to Mr. Great-heart and his companions with the words, “I am a Pilgrim, and am going to the celestial city.”

All Christians are pilgrims heading to the celestial city. Bunyan was simply reflecting the Bible that he loved. Scripture affirms that Christians are pilgrims. In the paradigmatic covenant made with our father Abraham, God promised him Canaan as “the land of your sojournings” (Gen. 17:8). And in the New Testament, Peter reflects the same idea when he describes his readers as “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1; cf. 1:17, “the time of your exile”). Similarly, in reviewing the faithful believers of Old Testament history, the author of Hebrews refers to them as “strangers and exiles” (Heb. 11:13).

The Christian life is a road trip, a journey of the most exhilarating kind. It has a starting point and a terminus. It is a metaphor of movement. Christians do not stay in one place too long, for they are set for another location. Early Christians were referred to as the followers of “the Way”—a reflection that they seemed determined to follow a different path (Acts 9:224:14).

Several issues arise. First, there is the idea of an adventure. Yes, adventure. If Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit initially shunned adventure because it upset the equilibrium of his routine way of life in the Shire, he would later record his extraordinary journey in a breathless tale bearing the subtitle There and Back Again.

Christians explore a somewhat different journey—Here to There, perhaps. But it is nevertheless a journey equally as exciting, fraught with tales of valor and danger. There is something exciting about the Christian life. New glimpses of God’s provision, intervention, and rescue await at every turn. We have no idea what a day may bring forth (Prov. 27:1), but we may be assured that nothing happens without our heavenly Father willing it to happen. We are called to follow our Master wherever He leads us—in green pastures beside still waters, as well as in the presence of enemies and a valley of shadow and death (Ps. 23).

My friend and predecessor at the church I now serve, a name familiar enough to readers of Tabletalk, Sinclair Ferguson, often ended his sermons with an exclamatory “Isn’t it wonderful to be a Christian!” Yes, it is a thing of great wonder, an exciting adventure every second of the way.

Second, pilgrimage is evocative of the transitory nature of this life. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “The things that are seen are transient” (2 Cor. 4:18). What does it mean to refer to this life as “transient”? The answer lies in the tension evoked in the New Testament between the “now” and the “not yet.” Christians are those upon whom “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Something of the world to come has already perforated our spacetime existence and has claimed us as citizens of another realm (Phil. 3:20).

This perspective raises fundamental tensions. In one sense, we live here with a variety of responsibilities as citizens of this world. The reclusive life of withdrawal and abstinence is not a biblical worldview. This bizarre view of life is caricatured in Simeon Stylites the Elder, a man who climbed a pole in Syria in AD 423 and remained there for thirty-seven years until he died. This is a denial of Christianity, not its affirmation. Christians get involved in society. Christians reshape society. They are lights in dark places. A new affection has overtaken Christians that makes everything else seem paltry and trite. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, the Christian life is ignited by the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

A third aspect of pilgrimage is a sense of direction, a goal, an end point. The journey has a destination. Christianity provides a shalom, a sense of wholeness and completeness. Christians know who they are and where they are going. Aimlessness and drift characterize so much of life without the embrace of Christ.

Christians “look” for “things unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18, where the Greek verb “to look” suggests an intense, steady gaze). It sounds like a paradox: we look for something that cannot be seen. Glory awaits, and Christian pilgrims maintain a steady but determined discipline of facing forward. What lies ahead fills our vision and keeps us expectant. What awaits steady pilgrims surpasses expectation and defies explanation.

“Onward and upward! To Narnia and the North!” is a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia tale The Horse and His Boy. All pilgrims of the cross agree: onward and upward!

Cost to Being a Christian in America?

There’s no cost of being a Christian in America!

(Leonard Ravenhill)

I went to a church not along ago, they got thirty acres. So what are their plans with it? They want their own football field and tennis courts. Dear God, do we go to church to learn to play tennis? God help the preachers!

We have such an accommodating Christianity today.

The best title of the professing church of God today, in my judgment, is “Unbelieving Believers.” There’s cancer in the church tonight!

At this grim hour, the world sleeps in the darkness–and the Church sleeps in the light.

You’ll never get me to believe that the church today believes in Hell.

We’re a million, billion miles away from New Testament Christianity!

I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again!

Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy. The more joy you have in the Lord, the less entertainment you need.

Is the world crucified to you–or does it fascinate you?

The apostles had no gold, but lots of glory. We have lots of gold, but no glory.
The book of Acts shows us the church before it became fat and short of breath by prosperity!

Who or what takes priority over God in our lives?

Where, oh, where are the eternity-conscious believers?

Where are the souls white-hot for God because they fear His holy name and presence and so live with eternity’s values in view?

There’s no cost of being a Christian in America!

I’d rather have ten people who want God than 10,000 people who want to play church!

Precious Jesus!

My Needs – His Fullness!

                                                         (James Meikle, 1757)

All plenitude is in Christ, to answer all the needs of His people. In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead, that out of His fullness, I may receive all spiritual blessings!

Have I destroyed myself by sin?
I have deliverance from Him who is mighty to save from sin and wrath!

Is my life fleeting and passing away like a shadow?
Jesus is the Ancient of days, and endures forevermore!

Are my days short-lived and full of trouble?
Jesus is my life, and the joy of my heart!

Am I exposed to contempt?
Jesus shall be my crown of glory, and diadem of beauty!

Am I traveling through the wilderness?
Jesus is my staff, and on Him I lean all the way!

Am I on my last journey to my long home?
Jesus is my leader, and my rewarder!

Am I a sheep?
Jesus is my pasture, and my green pasture too!

Am I hungry and thirsty?
Jesus is my heavenly manna, and gives me to drink of the water of life!

Am I weary?
Jesus is my rest and refreshing!

Am I weak?
Jesus is my strength!

Am I oppressed and wronged?
Jesus is my judge and my avenger!

Am I reproached?
Jesus will wipe away the reproach of His people!

Am I a soldier?
Jesus is my Captain and shield!

Must I fight in the field of battle?
Jesus is my armor in the day of war!
Do I sit in darkness?
Jesus is my light!

Do I have doubts?
Jesus is my counselor!

Am I ignorant?
Jesus is my wisdom!

Am I guilty?
Jesus is my justification!

Am I filthy?
Jesus is my sanctification!

Am I poor?
Jesus is the pearl of great price, and has immeasurable riches laid up for me!

Am I blind?
Jesus, and none but He can open the eyes of one born blind!

Am I naked?
Jesus has white clothing to cover the shame of my nakedness!

Am I in the very utmost necessity?
Jesus is a very present help in time of trouble!

Am I exposed to the hurricanes of adversity?
Jesus is . . .
a refuge from the storm,
a shelter from the blast,
rivers of water in a desert,
the shadow of a great rock in a weary land!

Am I afraid of being left alone?
Jesus will never leave me, nor forsake me!

Do friends and brethren prove false?
Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother!

Am I in danger from disease and death or from sin and Satan?
My life is hidden with Christ in God! When He shall appear, I shall appear with Him immortal in my body, and glorious in my soul!

Is my case considered in the court of Heaven?
There Jesus is my Advocate!
Do I offend the Father?
Jesus is my Intercessor!

Do I suffer in my body, and am I grieved in my mind?
Jesus bore my infirmities, and carried my griefs!

Is my mind disquieted, and my soul debarred from peace?
Jesus is my sympathetic High Priest! He was tempted in all points, and knows how to support those who are tempted!

Am I poor in my circumstances?
Jesus, the heir of all things! Though He was rich, yet for my sake He became poor–that I through His poverty might be made rich!

Do I suffer in my character?
Jesus was numbered with transgressors, called a glutton, a drunkard, and a devil!

Am I bereaved or alone?
Jesus, my best friend, can never die!

Must I undergo death and be laid in the grave?
Jesus has taken away the sting of death, and robbed the grave of its victory!

Must I rot in the grave?
Jesus shall be my resurrection, and raise me to immortality and bliss!

Would I go to God and to glory?
Jesus is my way, and must admit me into the palace of the great King, where I shall abide forever!

My needs are many, but His fullness is infinitely more!

The morning dews and fructifying showers water the fields, and refresh the parched furrows. But what are they, compared to the exhaustless ocean of Jesus?

What is all that I enjoy here below, compared to the exuberant fullness of Heavenly bliss? O! then, how shall my soul be replenished when possessed of this infinite All, through eternity itself!

Life is not to be Wasted

Oh, Do Not Waste Life!;

                                                    (George Everard, 1884)

“Making the very most of the time!” Ephesians 5:16

Be careful to make the very best use of your time. Make the most of each passing day. Instead of trying to kill time–strive to make it so fruitful of good to yourself and others. Hours and moments are golden–yes, more valuable than pearls and diamonds–and to squander and waste them is folly beyond description! Until we reach eternity, we shall never know how much good has been obtained or wrought . . .
by a moment’s earnest prayer,
by a passing opportunity seized,
by five minutes given to read a helpful book,
by a quarter of an hour given to visit some suffering saint.

How much Christ accomplished in the three years of His public ministry! He was always intent on the work He had to do, so that tens of thousands were taught and benefitted. And though we are so sinful, and our power so feeble in comparison–is not His life to be a pattern for ours?

Oh, do not waste life! Map it out prudently, and think well of the work to which you yourself are called.
No lost hours through late rising in the morning!
No mornings or evenings worse than lost, in drinking in the poison or the vanity of a worthless novel!
No moments thrown away in idle gossip and foolish talking!
No, no–our was life given to us for this! Use it far better and more wisely. Remember that . . .
the time is short,
the work is great, and
the outcome is for eternity!

Soon will the great bell toll, which will usher you into a future state. Brother, sister, make haste to do all the work allotted to you–to do it well, that the Master may be glorified, and your crown the brighter.

“So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

The Christian’s Treasure!

Your Everlasting Treasure, and Your Unchangeable Friend!

                                                     (George Everard, 1884)

“Thus says the LORD:
Let not a wise man glory of his wisdom,
and let not the mighty man glory in his might,
let not a rich man glory in his riches.
But let him who glories, glory in this – that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things!”
Jeremiah 9:23-24

Glory in Christ and in Him alone!

Glory in Him as your Faithful Shepherd, who will care for you, and guard you, and restore you, and keep you even to the end.

Glory in Him as your Unfailing Physician, who will heal your soul-wounds, and bind up the bleeding, broken heart.

Glory in Him as your Great High Priest, who will ever lives to plead your cause before the Throne of grace.

Glory in Him as your Omnipotent King, who reigns over the events of Providence, and will make all things work together for your eternal good.

Glory in Him as your Mighty Redeemer, who will deliver you from every enemy, and make you conqueror over sin, death and Hell.

Glory in Him as your Everlasting Portion, remembering that when all else shall take wings and flee away–when the home is broken up, and dear ones die, and means grow less, and health decays, yes, when everything on earth fails you–He will be your everlasting treasure, and your unchangeable Friend!

And let this glorying be seen by your entire resignation to His will and by choosing His path rather than your own.

“Not I, but Christ!” Lord, choose for me,
And make me love what pleases Thee.

“Not I, but Christ!” His will be done,
And mine with His be merged in one.

Myself no longer would I see,
But Jesus crucified for me.

His eye to guide, His voice to cheer,
His mighty arm forever near.

“Not I, but Christ!” Lord, let this be
A motto throughout life for me!

The Right Kind of Freedom for Christians

The Right Kind of Freedom

by Nate Shurden; Tabletalk, 2/2016

They were truly delightful. Probably in their late fifties, recently retired, just relocated to Franklin, Tenn., to be closer to their grandkids. They started attending the church several months earlier and had just expressed excitement about participating in the upcoming inquirers’ class. Hearing this, I was encouraged but mistakenly concluded that signing up for the inquirers’ class meant they were exploring the possibility of membership. I innocently began to ask about churches they were members of in the past when the conversation shifted.

“I’m sorry. I’m afraid we misled you,” they said. “Even if we attend the inquirers’ class, we won’t be joining the church.” Surprised, and a little confused, I asked why that would be the case. “We don’t do membership. We’ve found it comes with certain expectations about attendance and involvement, and we just prefer to be freer than that.”

Though rarely expressed so honestly, such sentiment is representative of a significant number of professing Christians across North America. It seems many are happy to maintain a loose a liation with a church fellowship, but consider membership just a little too much commitment for their tastes.

To be fair, some of the views or feelings expressed about membership stem from bad experiences in local churches. It is true that some churches and denominations have a history of using membership as a legalistic billy club. If someone is coming from that background, it will take time to heal, build trust, and reshape what biblical church membership is supposed to look like.

Other Christians have simply never been taught a biblical view of membership and instinctively connect the word with the Rotary Club and Costco. For this person, the idea of membership feels like an exclusive clique where only those who pay the dues are welcome. Again, biblical instruction coupled with loving care will often lead these brothers and sisters into joyously committing to membership.

In my experience, however, an increasing percentage of professing Christians resist making the membership plunge for the reason the couple of above stated: “We prefer to be freer than that.” Here’s the question though: Is the freedom of non-membership the freedom God wants for us?

When we take an honest look at Scripture, it is clear that we are redeemed not to be alone or loosely associated but to be numbered among the body of Christ. And contrary to how it may feel at times, membership is exactly the kind of freedom for which we have been designed.

At first blush, it may seem odd to call membership the kind of freedom we’re designed to experience, but that is the way Scripture speaks of it. One of the primary ways Scripture speaks of membership is with reference to the metaphor of the physical body.

In Ephesians 4:1–16 and 1 Corinthians 12:1–27, Christian membership is analogous to the membership shared by the various parts of our body. The way your hand and foot are attached to your physical body is the same way individual Christians are to be attached to Christ and other Christians. The Bible is giving us a picture of a fellowship that is so interrelated and interdependent that true life and belonging cannot be expected without each part’s being connected to one another. Very simply, we cannot be ourselves by ourselves (Rom. 12:5).

Now, from a certain angle, one could argue that a hand or foot’s attachment to the body is restrictive. It is true that an attached hand or foot is not experiencing the “liberty” of being unattached from the body. The question we should ask is whether the so-called liberty of being unattached to the body is the kind of liberty the hand or foot is designed to experience. Can the hand or the foot be what they are supposed to be without the body? Can we expect the hand and foot to function and develop without the body? The obvious answer is no.

To be honest, the situation is far more serious than a matter of functioning and development. It’s a matter of life and death. When a hand or foot is dismembered from the body, the very life of the hand or foot is drained out of it. It ceases to live. This is not to mention the fact that it’s very disturbing to see a part of the body cut off. Interestingly, when a hand or foot is attached to a body as it’s designed, it strikes us as the most ordinary thing in the world. But if you see a hand lying on the ground, it’s traumatic—the stuff of horror movies.

It makes sense, then, why John Calvin, leaning heavily on the early church fathers, argued that the church is the “bosom [in which] God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith … so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother” (Institutes 4.1.1).

Far from being restrictive to our freedom, membership in a local church is the exact condition and constraint that makes for a healthy—and free—Christian life. In the end, membership really is the right kind of freedom.

Its My Birthday This Month; I Am Getting Older!

As We Grow Older:     

(J.R. Miller, “The Glory of the Commonplace”)

“Even to your old age and gray hair I am He; I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!” Isaiah 46:4

As we grow older, there should be a constant gaining, never a losing in our spiritual life. Every year should find us living on a higher plane than the year before. Old age should always be the best of life, not marked by spiritual emptiness and decay, but by nobler fruitfulness and more gracious beauty. Paul was growing old, when he spoke of forgetting things which are behind, and reaching forth to things ahead. His best was yet to be attained. So it should always be with Christian old age. We must ever be turning heavenward, toward nobler life and holier beauty!

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green!” Psalm 92:12-14