If Today Was Your Last Day

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

If Today Was Your Last Day

By Benjamin Vrbicek

We’ve all heard some version of the question, “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?” The question is designed to get us thinking about what truly matters and what doesn’t.

There is a helpfulness to this question, I suppose. I certainly don’t want to spend my last day before seeing Jesus perfecting my yo-yo technique or binge-watching Dora the Explorer.

But to be frank, I find the “last day” question paralyzing. It’s overwhelming to consider all the things that could possibly be done. How does one decide what’s the most effective, impactful, God-honoring thing to do when your toes are on the precipice of eternity? How could I know if it’s better to sneak into North Korea—should it even be possible—and preach the gospel, or to track down all my unsaved friends and family so I can preach the gospel to them? Maybe I should also drain my life savings so I can give it away—but who should I give it to?

I have no idea how to answer these questions. Besides, thinking about the most effective thing to do on your last day seems to me like the silly meme that gets shared online: “Jesus is coming; look busy.”

Does being prepared for the second coming of Christ merely involve some extraordinary acts of obedience moments before he returns?

According to Jesus, it doesn’t.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready for Jesus’ Return?

In the Gospels, Jesus frequently charges his followers to stay ready for his return. One such place is Luke 12:35-48. Through a couple short parables about different kinds of servants, Jesus illustrates for his disciples what it means to be ready.

Stay Dressed for Action

In this passage—contra the logic of the “last day” question—being prepared for Jesus’ return means doing the kinds of things appropriate for your context, however ordinary and mundane they might seem. If you’re a teacher, be found grading midterms to the glory of God. If you’re a Christian who works in a factory, be found working until the whistle blows.

Jesus commands, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (v. 35). The literal rendering of the phrase “stay dressed for action” is, “let your loins stay girded.” Back in the day, to have your loins girded meant that a man was ready to work because he had pulled his long, flowing robe around to the front and tied it tight so that it wouldn’t interfere with action.

Read the rest here.

5 Holiness Myths

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

5 Holiness Myths

What comes to mind when you think of a holy person? Some of us see the beauty of holiness lived out on a regular basis in our churches and homes. But others fail to see the appeal of a holy life lived out, either because they haven’t seen it in practice or because less-appealing counterfeits have filled their horizon. Sometimes it’s helpful to articulate what holiness is not in order to gain a clearer understanding of what it is and why we want it. Here are five false views that you may have encountered.

1. Holiness is an honorary status.

Some speak of saints as if they were some sort of extra-dedicated class of Christian, a select few who have earned a special status. But the Bible does not make this distinction. Paul calls all Christians saints (1 Cor. 1:2). He tells the Corinthians that they have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.” This is our position before God. We are sanctified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:11).

Because we are saints in Christ, we are to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” (Eph. 4:20–24). In other words, our practice should match our position. This growth in holy practice is what the theologians call “progressive sanctification.”

There are not two tiers of Christians. All Christians are saints, and all of us are becoming holy in practice.

2. Spirit-empowered holiness feels easy.

The idea that sanctification requires effort may seem unspiritual to some, but the Bible is full of athletic metaphors that encourage us to do just that. Paul told Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), and the author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for . . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Spiritual disciplines are essential for growth. As we study God’s Word and pray, our will and desires change to become more like Christ. As we daily resist sin and make God-honoring choices, we are working our spiritual muscles and making progress in the right direction.

Read the rest here.

A (Not So) Revolutionary Strategy for Great Quiet Times

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

A (Not So) Revolutionary Strategy for
Great Quiet Times

By Heather Pace

Bible reading and prayer are undeniable staples in the Christian diet. Yet as universal as the daily “quiet time” is, it’s interesting to note how few people feel successful in the endeavor.

Just ask a room full of Christians how many minutes they spent in concentrated prayer last week—and listen to the room fall silent. Ask how engaged they were in Bible reading, Bible memorization, or any type of Bible study—and prepare to hear the crickets chirp.

So many Christians live with the nagging feeling that time with God doesn’t hold the priority it should in their lives. They want to make progress, but they just can’t seem to master the art of quality quiet times. Worse, many start to think of their quiet time as the enemy they can’t conquer, instead of the life-giving friend it is.

Real Struggle

Why are quiet times such war? Perhaps it’s because of unrealistic expectations or lack of diligence. Maybe it’s because the quiet times others post on social media make ours look subpar.

Or what if we’re making the whole thing more complicated than it needs to be?

Angst about quiet times is often connected to barely having them. Imagine how successful you’d feel if you spent a little time in God’s Word and prayer every day for the next year. What if you didn’t let the busyness of life undermine your time at Jesus’s feet (Luke 10:38–42)? Without even speaking of “quality time,” a legitimate quantity would make a massive difference.

Besides, merely “checking the box” quickly moves beyond that motivation. God’s Word is so good, and prayer is so profitable that if we just commit to these practices, results will follow. A momentum will develop. Faithfulness will lead not only to built-in routine, but also to life-changing habit.

Here are three reasons why mere faithfulness works.

1. God’s Word Will Change You

The Bible has a way of convicting our hearts, correcting our thoughts, awakening our spirits, and changing our lives (Heb. 4:12). Psalm 19 says God’s Word revives our soul, brings wisdom, rejoices our heart, enlightens our eyes, and, of course, keeps us from sin (Ps. 19:7–11).

Read the rest here.

Paying Attention to the Bible’s Important Messages

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Paying Attention to the Bible’s Important Messages

How to identify qualifiers that give you pause
June 25th, 2018
MAnn-Margret Hovsepian

BIBLE ENGAGER’S BLOG

“To be honest with you…” 
“To tell you the truth…”
“As a matter of fact…” 
“Honestly…” 
“To be frank…” 

How often have you heard or uttered these words, or some similar phrase? Have you ever wondered why anyone would preface a statement with such a qualifier? After all, shouldn’t we always tell the truth? If you use one of these expressions in a given situation, does that mean you are dishonest the rest of the time?

While starting a sentence with “to be honest” may be a red flag in some situations—or simply a bad habit—there may be times when the speaker is trying to break the ice, command attention, or give the listener a heads-up that something direct or potentially unpleasant is about to be said. It can be a way of saying, “I’m about to say something important” or “listen up!”

Notice Important Qualifiers

Have you ever noticed that similar qualifiers appear in the Bible? Depending on which version you study, you will find phrases such as:

“Truly I tell you…” 
“I say to you very seriously…” 
“For I assure you…”
“I can guarantee this truth…”
“What I’m about to tell you is true…”

Zooming in on teachings prefaced by these qualifiers will help you get more out of your Bible reading. These markers help us identify truths that are vital to our understanding of God’s will for us and to our Christian growth. Like road signs that caution us to slow down or tell us where to turn, these clues in Scripture make Bible reading more than just an item to cross off our to-do lists.

Try Starting with Paul

Here’s a good place to start. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul started or concluded five statements with “This is a true saying…” He was not implying that everything else he’d written was untrue, but he clearly wanted his readers to pay special attention to these teachings.

Let’s look at the five sayings Paul highlighted for his protégées:

Read the rest here.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

10 Bible Reading Habits
I’ve Learned from My Pastor

By Rachel Lehner

…hold fast to the word I preached to you… (1 Corinthians 15:2b)

A good sermon exhorts us to grapple with God’s Word preached, hold fast to its truth, and do what it commands. A preacher who places himself under Holy Scripture will present his teaching in a way the congregation can follow, to understand the text they hold on their laps.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor’s Sermons

I have found my senior pastor to be exceptionally faithful in this regard. In recently reflecting on 15 years of sitting under his teaching, I’ve seen how his Word-based preaching has significantly impacted my personal Bible reading.

Here are 10 habits I have picked up from my pastor’s weekly sermons:

1. Slow down!

I’ve read the Beatitudes many times and thought I had mined all their treasures—until our church did a 17-week series on only 10 verses. My pastor’s high view of Scripture has challenged me to expect more from each verse and to slow down when I read my Bible.

2. Use Scripture to explain Scripture.

When seeking to understand the meaning of a word or verse, I’ve seen how important it is to interpret Scripture in light of itself. For example, I understood the word “blasphemy” to mean insulting or showing contempt for God. But my pastor used Mark 2:7 to explain Matthew 26:65, which defines “blasphemy” as claiming to be God. This makes the charge against Jesus before the priests all the more meaningful since Jesus was put to death for claiming to be God, the one crime for which Jesus could be rightfully convicted.

3. Expect glimpses of Christ outside the Gospels.

I likely would never have seen all the ways Joseph pointed further to Jesus Christ if it hadn’t been shown to me, but as I repeatedly saw this on Sunday mornings I started finding Christ throughout Scripture on my own. I found Jesus in the promised son who would deliver God’s people (Judges 13:3) and in the psalmist longing for a pledge of good (Psalm 119:122), among many other examples. As Pastor Colin has said, “The whole Bible is one story. It begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points us to Jesus Christ.”

4. Details are often more significant than we realize.

I’ve learned to ask questions of details that may seem insignificant in a passage. For example, why are we told that Jesus heals an official’s son in John 4? My pastor brought to our attention the many parallels to Pharaoh’s son who died in Exodus 12. He explained how this small, but significant, detail pointed to why grace is better than law, and why Jesus is better than Moses. Any time a verse gives specific details like the number of baskets in Mark 6 or repeats a phrase like “here I am” in Genesis 22, I want to look closely because I know the Spirit has preserved the text this way for a reason.

5. We have more in common with the original recipients than we think.

Read the rest here.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.

The Light of the World

The Light of the World

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me,
he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:44-46

The western portion of the U.S. was the scene of many massive wildfires this summer, and as I write this there is still some wildfire activity in certain areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land, buildings and personal property were wiped out and many firefighters exhausted themselves in fighting these fires. Many discussions and debates went on about the merits of tree thinning to remove trees and vegetation that were too dense or dead. In other words, these wildfires could well have been averted or at the very least, diminished in size. Some people might call this preventive maintenance. I like to this of it as a risk management plan.

So it is with the state of our souls. God offers us the free gift of His salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus willingly took on the burden of our sins so that we would not have to suffer for eternity. In my humble opinion, this free gift of salvation can also be considered as a risk management plan for God’s people.

I’m sure you’ve seen the signs displayed at professional sports games that read John 3:16. You may have asked yourself, what does that mean? These people are joyfully telling the world that there is a way for us to spend eternity in heaven! According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Verses 17-18 go on to explain:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
 

I have highlighted the words believe and not believe in the previous verses and in the ones in the opening of this article. To “believe” means more than agreeing that Jesus is God; it means trusting that Jesus Christ alone can save us from paying the price for our sins. Believing is to agree that what He says is trustworthy and that relying on Him gives us the power to change.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, let the promises in these verses be yours. All you have to do is pray these verses to Jesus, believing them to be true. He’ll take care of the rest.

You can have everlasting life in heaven if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord!

I used to think at times that when I finally come face-to-face with God, I would have a list of questions to ask Him. However, I’ve come to realize that when I go home to be with Jesus, I won’t care about any of the “stuff” I have experienced here on earth. None of it will matter any longer because of the utter joy I will have in His presence.

Maybe if we thin out the debris and clutter in our lives, we’ll make more room for God to reside with us and within us. The more we rely on Him to guide our lives, the more we’ll be able to know His will for us. That’s when we might stop wondering what eternity holds for us and start believing in the only One who matters.

Now that’s a risk management plan I can live with forever!


To find out more about how to ask Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of your life, please go here to read more about it.

You are also welcome to email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com with any questions you might have.