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.

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Ultimate Strength

 Ultimate Strength

by Pat Knight

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“I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

I’ll admit it; I’m a pushover for statuesque oriental lily plants. From each underground bulb, a gallant plant emerges. Growing to heights of four feet, the lily boasts a sturdy but invisibly reinforced stalk whose purpose is to support and nurture the entire plant, as well as showcase the lily flowers it produces.

Though the lily plant is tall and grandiose, it seldom requires external support for stability. Even during summer windstorms, it will skillfully withstand thrashing wind without bending or breaking the stem. The lily is built for endurance. Even a plant rimmed with pendulous flowers remains stable under pressure.

It is apparent that the balanced lily stalk must possess intrinsic features that prevent it from breaking under intense environmental conditions, specialized fibers comprising the stalk that offer reinforcement. God, the Creator, designed the majestic lily plant for beauty and dependability, giving it equilibrium by strengthening its internal composition.

What augmented inner support do we depend upon when adverse conditions assail us? With personal tragedy, every fiber of our being revolts, thrashing our hearts, twisting and churning our minds, and interrupting our intrinsic ability to remain calm and composed. We may groan and bend under the emotional or physical weight of the hardship.

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Whether we break or rebound depends upon the strength within us. Our tenacity alone is insufficient to fight our personal battles, to provide confidence and composure amidst life’s entanglements. When the winds of adversity blow through our fragile lives, does our resolve wither and snap? Reacting to trauma, we may feel as if all of our energy is sapped. Physical weakness may cause us to tremble or shake, but there is a solid Source of immeasurable reinforcement available to us. God converts our trembling to peace; our weakness to strength.

Unlike the lily plant, our Lord designed His children with a renewable Source of strength. The Creator implanted our psyche with innate fortitude, but when that limited resource of inner strength wanes, our Lord is delighted to buttress our supply with his own infinite strength. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” (2 Samuel 22: 23-24).

Believing in God’s absolute authority and power is much more straightforward when our days are peaceful and predictable. But, how do we respond in an emergency?

It must have been a traumatic jolt the day King Jehoshaphat of Judah was informed that a coalition of enemy armies was poised at his country’s borders threatening to attack. Vulnerable without a militia or armaments, where would the King find strength of opposition against such a formidable foe? “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. The people of Judah came together to seek from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town of Judah to seek him (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

The people prayed continuously as they stood firm to wait for the deliverance they knew the Lord would provide. The frightened, but trusting inhabitants, prayed, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Delighted with their faith, God informed King Jehoshaphat and the people that they need not fight the battle. God further instructed them to stand firm in their faith “and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (vs. 19).

God developed unique war strategy, creating an ambush between that caused the two foreign armies to destroy each other in the confusion of battle. Not an Israelite was harmed. God’s strength was magnified and the people learned a significant lesson about faith and trust at a time when their personal supply was impoverished.

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“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Scripture reminds us to plunge our roots into fertile, watered ground, accessing the Lord, our sovereign Source of all strength. God has created each of us with a natural desire to seek Him and His provisions, to help with both minor and major calamities.  Then on the occasion when we are confronted with an unsolvable adversity, it will be our first response to call on God for His expertise in fighting our battle, for lavishing His gifts of peace and love, and for His intervention to deliver an extra boost of strength.

The lily plant is strong, but not impervious to destruction. Drought, insect infestations, and flooding will defoliate the plant, eliminating its source of nutrition. The plant is given one chance to perform majestically with the nutrition stored within its bulb. If the stress is too great, the plant will collapse.

Our Lord is the God of second chances, over and over again. With the renewable Source of strength God provides, we are able to grow in faith, combat stress, and to submit to the will of the Father. Whatever we lack for life and fellowship with God, He will graciously provide. Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret to contentment and the Source of abiding strength.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

Sharing today from Desiring God.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

By Scott Swain

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.”1 However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”2

Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.”3 Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.4

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness.5 In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”6

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Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

By Pat Knight

I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys.

─Song of Solomon 2:1

Cultivated extensively for the past five thousand years in the Middle East, rose petals have been used for confetti in ancient celebrations, for medicinal purposes, and as a source of perfume. During the 17th century, royalty used both the rose and rosewater as legal tender, for barter, and for payments. Designated as a tangible expression of love in our current age, what conveys affection or adoration more obviously than a bouquet of roses? Though long ago a cherished flower of nobility, roses of all varieties are now easily grown by novice gardeners.

Roses are designed and proliferated throughout the world by our Lord, the Master Creator. There are no color clashes in God’s world: red, orange, purple, fuchsia, and yellow exist in an array of hues, blooming side-by-side in natural harmony, illustrating the cooperative manner in which our Creator intends for people of all nationalities and ethnicities to function. The Lord Jesus claimed, I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys” (Song of Solomon 2:1), in whom the preeminence of God is revealed.

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus came to earth from the presence of God in heaven, the perfect Son, striking in beauty, lovely to gaze upon, to exalt, and to emulate. He lavishes pleasure through our senses, intensifies our praise, and magnifies our worship of the Godhead. Jesus is splendid and majestic! When He identifies with the rose of Sharon, He is portrayed as a beautiful, stately rose thriving in the fertile valley of Sharon in Palestine, where the elegant flower grows in profusion.

Jesus, the personified Rose of Sharon radiates unconditional love, fragrance, and delight. He occupies our minds as we seek Him, fills our hearts as we absorb His love, and permeates our speech as we exhale ministering words of devotion to him. “Taste and feel that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).Both the Father and the Son engage our senses, that we may fully experience their glowing splendor. We are reflectors of sovereign light, bearing the image and beauty of God as we derive our very life from Him. Similar to the way a delicate bud opens from the center to reveal glamorous layers of rose petals, our hearts display the nuclei of our spiritual lives, where Jesus’ love multiplies.

Physical beauty is rarely emphasized by our Lord. Though man’s priorities are often determined by personal beauty, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God is far more interested in the integrity of man’s inner characteristics. “It {your beauty} should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4).

Let us behold Christ’s beauty, purity, and holiness as He occupies our thoughts and affirms our priorities. In a world infiltrated with thorns of hurt and danger, the Rose of Sharon is poised to deluge believers with comfort and compassion.

Witnessing the unfolding of God’s glory in the Son must have been an ecstatic experience for those who glimpsed His presence on earth. It is no small wonder that masses were attracted to the blessed one of God. He was breath-taking, set apart from all humanity. We still marvel with delight at His glory and righteousness.

The believer responds to Christ on a spiritual level. Hearts are transformed by the Savior’s love and saving grace. Like the predictable maturing of a rose from bud to blossom, the believer’s faith unfolds with beauty, gentleness, and joy, one petal of obedience at a time. Blossoming in love is accomplished by Christ’s residence in the believer’s heart. Roses need abundant sunlight to bloom, just as Christians crave the abiding presence of Jesus’ splendor and majesty to flourish. As we diligently remain united with Christ through faith, we reflect His beauty in our lives. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

A rosebud is encased in a snug package, gently swaddled by a few select outer leaves. As the flower matures, the leaves relax, permitting each subsequent layer to expand to full capacity. Our hearts jubilantly respond like a newly exposed rose blossom, revealing a delightful uniqueness, radiantly shining with the light of Jesus, stunning the world with the intense fragrance of Jesus’ divine love.

Just as the flower bud’s true potential is revealed when its exterior sheath peels away to unveil a shining rose within, Christ living in our hearts promises a unique positional status as a child of the King and heirs with the Son of God for all eternity!

In each of His marvelous designs, our Creator is visible. Ponder the unique shapes and intricate details God invests in every rose. God isn’t reluctant to spend extravagant creativity on each flower, utilizing variegated colors and velvety softness to enhance a blossom. Then He lavishes specific plants with His proprietary fragrance, poured with impunity from His heavenly lab to gardens on earth.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly beloved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). As a renowned rose, Jesus is the object of extreme beauty and humility. Stooping to earth as the Son of man, Jesus espoused characteristics of meekness and gentleness. Living in any area beneath the glory of heaven required that Christ adopt a humble personality to define His earthly ministry.

Christians exude the beauty of Jesus in unrivaled form and fragrance. A joyful attitude and a forgiving spirit, combined with acts of kindness, places followers of Christ in unparalleled positions to bountifully disseminate the soothing, aromatic scent of the Rose of Sharon.

Oh the Deep, Deep Joy of Jesus

Sharing today from Desiring God.

Oh the Deep, Deep Joy of Jesus

What sustained the man of sorrows

By David Mathis

Man of Sorrows. What a name.

Isaiah penned some of the most memorable lines in all the Bible when he prophesied about God’s coming “suffering servant”:

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

We know from the New Testament, and the realizing of Isaiah’s words 700 years later, that this suffering servant would be not only the promised Messiah, but God himself — God’s own Son, come to rescue his people, by receiving in himself the justice they deserved. How can God himself, the happiest being in the universe, not only become man, but “a man of sorrows”?

Isaiah’s next words give the answer: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. In his mission to save us, he entered not only into our flesh and blood but into our sorrows. And yet, even as prescient and memorable as Isaiah’s prophecy is, nowhere does the New Testament refer to Jesus as “man of sorrows.” Yes, he carried our sorrows, and he even had his own, but he was so much more than a man of sorrows. Fundamentally, he was a man of something much stronger.

Sustained in Sorrow

Jesus could not have borne our griefs and carried our sorrows had he not been buoyed by something deeper and more enduring. Imagine what emotional strength it must have taken to fulfill the words of Isaiah 50:6:

I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.

Did he ever taste sorrow. He entered into our sin-haunted environment and felt our infirmities, making himself able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He spoke a blessing to those who mourn and weep (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21). At the tomb of his friend, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). He wept (John 11:35). Then he was “deeply moved again” (John 11:38).

How was he sustained in the sorrows he encountered, not just in the course of normal human life, but in the unique steps he took as the suffering servant?

Deep, Habitual Joy

The surprising testimony of the Gospels is that Jesus was a man of unparalleled and unshakeable joy. “A joyless life would have been a sinful life,” writes Donald Macleod, “Jesus experienced deep, habitual joy” (Person of Christ, 171). While the Gospels focus on the objective, external aspects of his ministry, we do get a few precious peeks.

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What Is It Like To Enjoy God?

Sharing today from Desiring God.

What Is It Like To Enjoy God?

By John Piper

The enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of a Person — not just the enjoyment of a thing, or an idea, or a pattern of actions, or a mysterious force. The ultimate joy of God’s creatures is joy in a Person — joy in God.

This is exactly why Jesus died. The apostle Peter says, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). To God. The Person. What makes eternal life desirable is not just that it lasts forever, but that it is knowing and enjoying an infinitely satisfying Person. And he is also a Person who, in his human nature, died so that he could be known and enjoyed.

Enjoy the Person

But how do we come to know the Person? We come to know him by his actions, his ideas revealed in his word — things that he has made as pointers and foretastes of himself.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). We know the love of the Person by the action of the Person. We know the power of the Person by the action of his creation of the universe (Romans 1:18–20). We know the wisdom of the Person by his purposeful providence in history (Romans 11:33–36). We know the justice and righteousness of the Person by the punishment of sin in the death of Jesus (Romans 3:24–26). We know the faithfulness of the Person by the keeping of his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). We know the compassion and patience of the Person because we know Jesus Christ who said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

So as you meditate on the perfect work of your God, let Scripture compel you to enjoy the Person:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (Psalm 37:4)
  • Be glad in the Lord. (Psalm 32:11)
  • In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
  • The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. (Psalm 16:5)
  • As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1–2)
  • I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)
  • We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Enjoy His Gifts

And the same is true with things and human experiences. God gives them to us to reveal more of his character, essence, and unsurpassed worth.

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