Monday, November 30, 2015

Here He Comes!


[Photo of children hiding under a table]

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not
know on what day your Lord will come.”
—Matthew 24:42

“Shh! Here she comes!”

Most teachers of young children have heard this from time to time when they have had to step out of their classrooms for a couple of minutes. Children take the opportunity for a fun game of “Surprise!” The teacher enters the room to see students popping up from under their desk in an effort to startle her.

What anticipation children enjoy! We, too, should anticipate the wonder and element of surprise that will come at the Second Advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture often refers to Him as the “Bridegroom” and we the church as the “Bride.” Jesus spoke in length about His Second Coming in Matthew 24 and 25.

Jesus wanted to make sure that His Bride keeps watch, and does not give up the anticipation of His coming. He does say, however, in Matthew 24:36:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father.”

However, He does give us some clues about the state of world cultures before that day arrives. It would seem from these clues that we are closer than ever to His appearance.

Jesus, as a way of illustrating how He intends His Bride to watch and prepare during a long delay, tells the story of the Ten Virgins in a wedding party in Matthew 25:1-13. Five of the virgins looked ready because they held lamps, but only five of them also carried the oil for the lamps. Lamps took perpetual filling. In the story, at midnight the Bridegroom surprised the virgins with the call, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Only those with oil had prepared themselves when the Groom arrived.

God looks for faithful followers. He wants us to watch for Him and to “keep our lamps trimmed and burning.”

During this time of Advent, we should pay close attention to the words of Advent hymns. Many not only reflect the anticipation of Jesus’ first coming, but also the anticipation we should feel regarding His second coming.

The hymn, “Rejoice! Rejoice, Believers” paraphrases the story of the Ten Virgins for us:

Rejoice, rejoice, believers!
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
and darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising,
and soon He will draw nigh;
Up, watch and pray, nor slumber;
At midnight comes the cry.

See that your lamps are burning;
Your vessels filled with oil;
Wait calmly your deliverance
from earthly pain and toil;
The watchers on the mountains
proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go meet Him as He cometh,
with alleluias clear.

Our hope and expectation,
O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou Sun so longed for,
O’er this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted,
we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of our redemption,
and ever be with Thee! 1


1 “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers!” A hymn by Laurentius Laurenti (1700) and translated by Sarah Borthwick Findlater. Public domain.



Monday, November 23, 2015

Perfume Bottles, Jewels, and Loaded Wagons


[Photo of a jewelry display]

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise; give
thanks to him and praise his name.”
—Psalm 100:4

Did you ever try to compile a list of things for which you are grateful? I’ve found that such a list needs consideration for many days, in order that I might begin to realize the vast and quite ridiculous nature of such an endeavor!

Yet, to look at the past, God’s mercies, extended to us from our birth, should bring a humble and heartfelt gratitude to each of us.

  • What dangers has God kept from us or delivered us out of the midst?

  • On how many journeys has God protected us?

  • What people has He brought into our lives to bless us?

  • What kindnesses has He promoted us to receive from past friends and acquaintances—or even strangers?

  • What education and rich experiences has He provided?

  • What earthly goods has He given into our care?

  • What health for body and soul has He generously provided?

Puritan writer, George Swinnock says that we should meditate on God’s former favors to us. He writes:

An empty perfume bottle still smells when the perfume is gone. 1

Indeed! How true this is of the past goodness of God in our lives.

When we look at the present, we need to make a whole new list! What about our homes, abundant food and clothing, family, health, Christian fellowship? What of daily blessings of work and rest? What of worship and the study of God’s Word? So many of these mercies we learn, over time, to take for granted. Yet, it behooves us to consider them all.

Again, George Swinnock writes:

Think of them [our present mercies] particularly. Spread them out like jewels to your view. Meditate on how freely they are bestowed, on their fullness and greatness. 2

When we consider that we entered this world with nothing, we should be amazed and continually grateful for all that God has so freely given to us. Yes—the photograph of a fragrant empty perfume bottle, or, as show above, a table loaded with jewels may well represent to us the abundance God bestows on us.

At this time of Thanksgiving, of harvest and in-gathering, we do well to consider the riches that God has given to us. As Psalm 65:11 reminds us:

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.

Yes, in this verse we have yet another picture as an example of God’s goodness to us: loaded wagons!

As we consider this time of Thanksgiving, let’s truly focus on all the many wonderful gifts God has given us and recognize that it is His gifts that sustain us each day of our lives.


1 From “Works” by George Swinnock, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 316.
2 Ibid



Monday, November 16, 2015



[Photo of a grandmas chair]

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored
up for those who fear you, which you bestow in
the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.”
—Psalm 31:19

A mom dreams of giving her child a gift she really wants to give, but can’t afford. She lays down a deposit with the intention of paying a little at a time. And then, just before Christmas, goes back and claims the gift she has the goal of giving.

Just think of our God that way. He holds gifts in store for us and knows the best time to give them. Deuteronomy 28:12-13 speaks of the kind of blessing God stores for those who obey and follow Him:

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands…The Lord will make you the head, not the tail…you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

In Proverbs 2:7, we read that:

He holds victory in store for the upright.

In 2 Timothy 4:8, we read that God holds in store for His children a “crown of righteousness.” These are new graces out of God’s abundant new provisions.

Have you ever received a gift that is really old? Let me give you an example.

As a high school girl, my grandmother gave me a beautiful antique settee and chair that she owned. The chair had a big hole in the cushion, and the upholstery lay in tatters. At the time, my mother took the chair, and stored it away in our old farmhouse. Many years later, after I had married and moved away from home, my mother had that old chair recoiled and cushioned so that it, like new, could be useful again.

God does that too. He can “restore” things in our lives we thought would never be useful again. In Joel 2:25, we read God’s words to Israel, even before the exile to Babylon:

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (NKJV)

When the destroying swarms of trouble, sickness, or poverty devastate us, God has a way of miraculously restoring those things that we thought had been ruined. He holds them in store for the day when He makes them like new: useful and beautiful again.

God, like the loving parent, knows the gifts that He intends to give to us. He delights to think about us, to plan good things for us, and to rejoice in preparing a time for His special gift-giving. We can delight in waiting on God’s good things. Praise Him for the day of gift-giving ahead, full of surprises and great joy, all to His glory!



Monday, November 9, 2015

But Dad, You Promised!


[Photo of little girl holds her dad's hand]

“But Moses sought the favor of the Lord
his God. ‘O Lord,’ he said, ‘why should
your anger burn against your people,
whom you brought out of Egypt with
great power and a mighty hand?’…
‘Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac
and Israel, to whom you swore by your
own self: ‘I will make your descendants
as numerous as the stars in the sky.’”
—Exodus 32:11, 13

Looking at the photo above, can you just hear the child’s voice, “But Dad, you prommmmised!” Maybe she had waited for that puppy for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, and heard Dad say, “Not until we move into our new house in the country.” Or, “When you are eight years old and can take care of a puppy.” Chances are, while Dad may have completely forgotten the promise, the child hasn’t, and she stands in very good stead pleading the promise.

God hears prayer from His children too, especially when they remind Him of His promises. For example, during the escape from Egypt, God’s people had so angered Him by forming and worshipping a golden calf, that He could not even refer to them any longer as “My” people. Moses had to remind God in prayer, as recorded in Exodus 33:13:

“Remember that this nation is your people.”

We can plead our relationship with God.

If we act on the promise we’ve read or heard and believe that promise, God also takes note. Remember Noah? In Genesis 6 and 7, we read how God promised Noah to spare his family even though He intended to destroy the world. In order to do that, God asked Noah to build an ark in which his family could survive.

With no sign of rain whatsoever—in fact, at this point in the history of the earth, it had never rained—Noah built this huge ark on dry land according to all the instructions God gave him. God did destroy the world, but spared Noah and his family, just as He promised. However, if by faith Noah had not obeyed and built the ark, he and his family would not have had a chance of survival.

While reading the Scriptures, listen for God’s voice in the promises you find there. If He makes a promise and you know it resonates with you, plead your relationship with Him as His child, and act on that promise in faith.

Like the little girl who took her umbrella to the prayer meeting because she had been told that the adults intended to pray for rain, expect God’s answer to His promises and to your prayers—in His time and in His way.



Monday, November 2, 2015

Godly Ophthalmology




[Photo of a young blind woman walking in the woods]

“The god of this age has blinded the minds
of unbelievers, so that they cannot see
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
—2 Corinthians 4:4

I have cataracts. The cataract clouds the vision of the lens of the eye and can be blamed for the majority of blindness across the world. I am grateful that here in the United States, we have routine cataract surgery, easily done and usually without serious consequences.

What a contrast between blindness and the brilliant glory of Christ. Eugene Peterson defines glory as:

…the open display of God’s good will, his loving salvation, his redeeming purpose. 1

The brilliance of God’s glory as referred to in Exodus 34:29-35 caused Moses’ face to shine so intensely that he had to wear a veil when he spoke to the Israelite people. God’s glory, brilliant and dazzling, lies in contrast to the blindness of the human race, struck sightless by the sin we bear.

Just as a cataract fogs the lens completely if not removed, so sin takes away the sight of all of us until God gives us the ability to see again. All of us know the phrase, “I once…was blind, but now I see” from the hymn Amazing Grace. 2

A graphic picture of this comes to us in the story of St. Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-18. He, religious and obedient to his faith in every way, thought persecuting this new sect of “Christians” fell on him, and he went about the country making “murderous threats” and imprisoning them. That day, the glory of Christ Himself shone on Paul, knocking him from his donkey and blinding him. He heard God speak to him from this “glory” and turned to Him in repentance and new faith.

Acts 9:18 tells us that after Paul met Ananias who put his hands on him:

…immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.

Like the removal of cataracts to restore our physical sight, God miraculously removes the blindness of our hearts caused by the clouding of sin. He comes to us with that kind of life changing encounter with Him. We then begin to see in a new spiritual way things we never could before.

We can see the brilliant colors of God’s truth that once was a drab absurdity. We understand in a new way God’s wonderful love and provision for us. Christ Jesus, who once dwelt so far away that we could not see Him, now is seen up close, with clarity and definition.

Rejoice today, if God has removed your spiritual cataracts so that you see Him and know Him. Pray for those you know who still stumble in the darkness, and ask God for opportunities to share with them the transforming vision you have received from Him. He has made this operation available to them as well through His death and resurrection. The Great Physician waits to heal spiritual eyes and restore sight!


1 Peterson, Eugene. A Year with Jesus. San Francisco: Harper Collins Publisher, 1989. p. 321.

2 Newton, John. Amazing Grace. Public Domain.