A New Year’s Verse
December 30, 2017
At the beginning of the year…the hand of the Lord was upon me.
Whew! How did we make it through the past year with its challenges, heartaches, blessings, opportunities, and distresses? If the old year worried you, don’t take your anxieties into the new one. If the holidays exhausted you, pause long enough to thank God for mercies that never cease.
Recommended Reading: Ezekiel 40:1-4
Think of Ezekiel. At the beginning of the year, when Ezekiel was reeling from news that Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians, God touched him. The Lord lifted him up and transported him by revelation into the future. Ezekiel saw what God is preparing for days to come, and the prophet was so overwhelmed it required the rest of his book—Ezekiel 40-48—to describe the glories he saw.
God’s revealed promises will take us through time and into the future. You can trust Him with the coming year, with all the years of life, and with the endless ages of eternity. Here on the eve of a new year, the hand of God is on us.
The name of this millennial city will be The Lord is there—a tremendous promise given to Hebrew exiles who must have wondered if the Lord would ever be with them again.
From The Jeremiah Study Bible
Read-Thru-the-Bible: Revelation 18 – 22
Outfitted and Empowered
By John Piper
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20–21)
Christ shed the blood of the eternal covenant. By this successful redemption, he obtained the blessing of his own resurrection from the dead. That is even clearer in Greek than it is in English, and here it’s clear enough: “God . . . brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . . by the blood of the eternal covenant.” This Jesus — raised by the blood of the covenant — is now our living Lord and Shepherd.
And because of all that, God does two things:
The will of God is not just written on stone or paper as a means of grace. It is worked in us. And the effect is: We feel and think and act in ways more pleasing to God.
We are still commanded to use the equipment he gives: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But more importantly we are told why: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).
If we are able to please God — if we do his good pleasure — it is because the blood-bought grace of God has moved from mere equipping to omnipotent transforming.
Experience Life Online!
Sunday @ 10:30 AM. (or catch the recording Monday, 7:00 PM)
Making Change - Less is More
by Craig Groeschel
Changing it up for the New Year's holiday - we'll explore a topic that hits home for all of us!
Let us suppose we possess parts of a novel or a symphony. Someone now brings us a newly discovered piece of manuscript and says, ‘This is the missing part of the work. This is the chapter on which the whole plot of the novel really turned. This is the main theme of the symphony’. Our business would be to see whether the new passage, if admitted to the central place which the discoverer claimed for it, did actually illuminate all the parts we had already seen and ‘pull them together’. Nor should we be likely to go very far wrong. The new passage, if spurious, however attractive it looked at the first glance, would become harder and harder to reconcile with the rest of the work the longer we considered the matter. But if it were genuine then at every fresh hearing of the music or every fresh reading of the book, we should find it settling down, making itself more at home and eliciting significance from all sorts of details in the whole work which we had hitherto neglected. Even though the new central chapter or main theme contained great difficulties in itself, we should still think it genuine provided that it continually removed difficulties elsewhere. Something like this we must do with the doctrine of the Incarnation. Here, instead of a symphony or a novel, we have the whole mass of our knowledge. The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine, if accepted, can illuminate and integrate that whole mass. It is much less important that the doctrine itself should be fully comprehensible. We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else.
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis
Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
The Cappadocians - Molded by a Woman's Touch
The Cappadocian Fathers, as they later came to be known, were brothers Basil and Gregory and Gregory Nazianzen, all from Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey. Recognized for their monastic leadership, they were also astute theologians. The term Cappadocians, however, is more fitting than Cappadocian Fathers because it captures three generations of a family, both women and men. The grandmother of Basil and Gregory was Macrina the Elder, who fled persecution only to be left widowed and impoverished. Yet she ministered to those who were even more needy and was canonized as the patron saint of widows.
One of Macrina's sons was Basil (the elder), who had nine children, five of whom were designated as saints. Macrina (the younger) (324 - 379), named for her grandmother, was the older sister who had a profound influence on her siblings as well as on her mother.
Macrina the Younger had chosen a life of asceticism after her fiancé died, and she treated her servants as sisters and equals. She later joined with Basil to form a convent in conjunction with his monastery. The most celebrated of the Cappadocians, he is recognized as Basil the Great (329 - 379), Father of Eastern Monasticism. Setting aside worldly aspirations and touring monasteries in Egypt, Basil returned to Cappadocia, where he established a monastery. His "Longer Rules" and "Shorter Rules" are still used today, and all monks in the Eastern church are Basilian monks. Basil viewed monastic life as one of service to those in need, setting the example by selling his family's estate for famine relief and calling on other wealthy landholders to do likewise. He worked in the kitchen and dispersed provisions alongside ordinary monks, distributing food freely to any in need, regardless of ethnicity.
Basil had a flare for words and is remembered particularly for "The Six Days," his series of nine sermons on creation that display the beauty of God's natural wonders. In 370 he was named bishop of Caesarea, pitting him against Emperor Valens, an Arian. When he died in 379, the entire population of Caesarea—Christians, Jews, and pagans—is said to have followed his funeral cortege with weeping.
Basil's younger brother Gregory of Nyssa (335 - 394) did not enter the monastery and may have been married to Theosebia, a much-heralded deaconess in the church at Nyssa, where Gregory served as bishop. His writing set the stage for the Eastern church's focus on apophatic theology, which emphasizes that God is ultimately unknowable. While strongly defending the doctrine of the Trinity, he insisted that God is infinite and transcendent and thus beyond our understanding. The true way to God is through darkness.
Gregory Nazianzen (c. 325—389), the third of the Cappadocian Fathers, was a close associate and friend of Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. His mother was instrumental in converting her husband, Gregory, who subsequently became bishop of Nazianzus. Young Gregory accused his father of tyranny and left home, only to later return and work with his father in the church.
Gregory later gave away his wealth and entered a monastery. On his own deathbed, Basil, not a man to hold grudges, recommended his friend Gregory to a post as the leading theologian in Constantinople with the hope that he would defeat Arianism. As such, Gregory's tenure in Constantinople was anything but peaceful. The city was deeply divided, but he began drawing crowds with his powerful preaching. His "Five Theological Orations," defending the Trinity and the deity of Christ, were aimed at Arians.
Arian opponents stormed his church in 379 during the Easter vigil, killing one bishop and wounding Gregory. Matters improved when Theodosius ascended the throne and vowed to rid the East of Arians once and for all. Gregory was elected bishop of Constantinople to replace the Arian bishop dismissed by the emperor, but his problems were far from over. Accused of attaining his position illegally, he resigned: "Let me be as the Prophet Jonah! I was responsible for the storm. . . . Seize me and throw me." The emperor accepted his resignation, and Gregory returned to Cappadocia where his ministry began.
A Horrible Destiny
By John Piper
. . . Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Do you remember the time you were lost as a child, or slipping over a precipice, or about to drown? Then suddenly you were rescued. You held on for “dear life.” You trembled for what you almost lost. You were happy. Oh, so happy, and thankful. And you trembled with joy.
That’s the way I feel at the end of the year about my rescue from God’s wrath. All day Christmas we had a fire in the fireplace. Sometimes the coals were so hot that when I stoked it my hand hurt. I pulled back and shuddered at the horrendous thought of the wrath of God against sin in hell. Oh, how unspeakably horrible that will be!
Christmas afternoon I visited a woman who had been burned over 87 percent of her body. She has been in the hospital since August. My heart broke for her. How wonderful it was to hold out hope to her from God’s word for a new body in the age to come! But I came away not only thinking about her pain in this life, but also about the everlasting pain I have been saved from through Jesus.
Test my experience with me. Is this trembling joy a fitting way to end the year? Paul was glad that “Jesus . . . delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). He warned that “for those who . . . do not obey the truth . . . there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8). And “because of [sexually immorality, impurity, and covetousness] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).
Here at the end of the year, I am finishing my trek through the Bible and reading the last book, Revelation. It is a glorious prophecy of the triumph of God, and the everlasting joy of all who “take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). No more tears, no more pain, no more depression, no more sorrow, no more death, no more sin (Revelation 21:4).
But oh, the horror of not repenting and not holding fast to the testimony of Jesus! The description of the wrath of God by the “apostle of love” (John) is terrifying. Those who spurn God’s love will “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:10–11).
“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Jesus will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). And blood will flow “from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 184 miles” (Revelation 14:20). Whatever that vision signifies, it is meant to communicate something unspeakably terrible.
I tremble with joy that I am saved! But oh, the holy wrath of God is a horrible destiny. Flee this, brothers and sisters. Flee this with all your might. And let us save as many as we can! No wonder there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous (Luke 15:7)!
Glory Is the Goal
By John Piper
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)
Seeing the glory of God is our ultimate hope. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). God will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).
He will “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). He “calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). “Our blessed hope [is] the appearing of the gloryof our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Jesus, in all his person and work, is the incarnation and ultimate revelation of the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “Father, I desire that they . . . may be with me where I am, to see my glory” Jesus prays in John 17:24.
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
“We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
Seeing and sharing in God’s glory is our ultimate hope through the gospel of Christ.
Such a hope, that is really known and treasured, has a huge and decisive effect on our present values and choices and actions.
Get to know the glory of God. Study the glory of God and the glory of Christ. Study the glory of the world that reveals the glory of God, and the glory of the gospel that reveals the glory of Christ.
Treasure the glory of God in all things and above all things.
Study your soul. Know the glory you are seduced by, and know why you treasure glories that are not God’s glory.
Study your own soul to know how to make the glories of the world collapse like the pagan idol Dagon in 1 Samuel 5:4. Let all glories that distract you from the glory of God shatter in pitiful pieces on the floor of the world’s temples. Treasure the glory of God above all this world.