The Unashamed Joy of Exclusive Love

Few joys rival that of a fiancée as she admires her diamond ring in the glitter of the sunlight. She basks in the glow of exclusive love. Her lover has made a commitment to love her and her alone, and he has affirmed that promise with a diamond ring. She unashamedly shares the news with everyone she knows. 

Marriage, the Bible tells us, is a picture of God’s love for his own people. If you are in a right relationship with God, He loves you with an exclusive love. You have a special audience with the King of creation. And that truth is cause for deep joy and unashamed sharing of the good news!

Consider a few passages from the Psalms. 

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8; also see 57:1b

“Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”
Psalm 25:22

Do you, like the psalmist, wish that your prayers would have special power and significance as they rise like “incense” and “the evening sacrifice” before God (141:2)? Do we pray for and expect God to give us spiritual victory like David’s people prayed for his military victories (20:1-5)?

God has promised to turn His face toward our plight (4:6; 86:16a), to pay attention to our prayers (5:1-2), to see the affliction of enemies, and to be gracious to us. We can ask God to lift up His hand and not forget the afflicted (10:12), to save us (69:1; 86:2b), to consider and answer us (13:3), to hear a just cause and attend to our cry by giving ear to our prayers, answering us, delivering us, and vindicating us.

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Just last night I was watching the new animated movie, Pilgrim’s Progress. In it, a pilgrim named Christian is told that help is never far away. All he needs to do is ask. On his dangerous journey, Christian repeats this promise to himself over and over, and often claims it, always with success.

And all any child of God needs to do is ask God for help. Help may not always come when and how we expect it, but it will always be for our good and God’s glory. When we turn to God in exclusive dependence, we experience His exclusive care. Rest in that truth today.

CP

Celebrate and Pray

This week we head into the 4th of July. Many of us will spend time celebrating with family or friends. There will be food, fireworks, and fun for everyone. Judging from the title, you may be expecting a reminder to pray for our country. For certain, that is a good thing to do, but I’d like to take a slightly different approach today. I’d like to encourage us all to remember the importance of persevering prayer on behalf of those we celebrate with. As we celebrate with the people we love, we need to remember to pray for them.

Just yesterday I learned that a prayer request I have been lifting up before the Lord for over ten years is very close to being answered. It is a request I have repeatedly made on behalf of someone I love.

The Bible teaches that when we pray, we will receive one of three answers from God. He will either say “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” I must say that I often wondered if I was receiving a straight up “no” from God. My request seemed impossible. But, as it turns out, I now see it may have simply been a very long “wait.” I also must confess I often faltered in my faith. I had seasons of earnest prayer, but other times I stopped praying about it altogether.nils-stahl-_4cqAEHYBoQ-unsplash And that was my loss.

I would encourage you, as you spend time with family and friends this week, remember them in prayer. Remember your requests and patiently endure in bringing them before the Lord. Why? For the love of the person you are interceding for, good of your faith, and for the glory of God. God delights to use every enduring prayer made in faith to make you a little bit more like Christ.

It was no mistake, then, when I read these words in my Bible this morning:

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love
answer me in your saving faithfulness.
Psalm 69:13

Do we have the humility to pray to God, “at an acceptable time…answer me?” Do we have the spiritual endurance to pray, watch, and wait? We can, if we look to “the abundance of [his] steadfast love” and his “saving faithfulness.” This 4th of July I pray that God will help you to pray with enduring faith.

CP

Trusting God Alone

Great leaders spend their lives pursuing clearly stated goals. William Wilberforce, for example, said, “Almighty God has set before me two great objectives, the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” I am finishing up a biography on the life of George Müller. He, too, had a clearly stated goal in life. Next week I hope to write a book review of that biography; but for this week, I simply want to highlight the one aspect of George Müller’s life that stands out above the rest.

Müller’s Goal in Life

Müller repeats his “mission statement” over and over again in his own journal. Here is his first and foremost goal, recorded as the main reason for why he decided to begin building the orphan houses on Ashley Down:George_Muller

“That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened.”

Trust in God is a good thing, we agree. But the big difference between Müller and many other Christians is that he wanted people to realize it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone for provision. Müller purposefully stripped away any dependence on human means to highlight God’s powerful orchestration of events. And this was no passive dependence. Müller prayed and then worked for God, believing He would answer. If anything, Müller’s biography has reminded me that it is indeed a safe and delightful and rewarding thing to trust in God alone.

We rarely allow ourselves to we feel as if we need to depend on God alone. Sure, we may get a flat tire, or our water heater may give out, or we may face a medical emergency. But most people have their “plan B,” their smart phone handy, or their emergency fund. We don’t like to be exposed to risk or hazard. Yet George Müller discovered the value in stripping away the human “props” that rob glory from God.

God’s Goal for Our Lives

Self-preserveation is natural, but what happens when God forces us to be exposed? David lived much of his life under the threat of danger, exposure, and even death. Early on he ran from Saul, and late in his life he runs away from his own son Absolom. He was forced to depend on God alone. He and other psalmists make this point. I have bolded certain phrases for emphasis.

I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from You.‘”
Psalm 16:2; 140:6; cf. 75:4

For You are the God in whom I take refuge.
Psalm 43:2a; 71:1a

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.

Psalm 54:4

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; 
I shall not be greatly shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2, 5-6

On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 62:7

(see also Psalm 27:9d; 51:14b; 25:1; 28:2b; 40:17; 70:5)

We may have our “plan B,” or “plan C,” or “plan Z,” but I think God delights to knock out all those props from underneath us to show us and others it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone. He takes away the facade of dependence and makes us genuinely trust in Him. That social media post, that big step forward in your career, or that beefy retirement account can’t ensure your future; only God can do that. I do think we can make a biblical case for wisdom, preparedness, and planning. But when we seek to substitude our plans for dependence on God alone, we have bowed to the idols of self-control and ease. One of God’s goals for the Christian’s life is that we would show it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone.

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Our Goal for Our Lives

If this is one of God’s main goals for the Christian life, we need to be serious about making it our goal. We need to pray that God would give us the spirit of Job, who reflected sage-like wisdom and utter humility before the Lord with these words,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; 
blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21

We are dependent upon God from the day we are born. This is why it is so important that every Christian spend private time in prayer with God every day. Not a day goes by that you or I will safely live independent of God. I say “safely” because many Christians will choose to live independent of God today, but that is not a safe place to be. We buy into the lie that security rests in our own hands. But security rests in the hands of God alone. In every stage of life, may we prove that it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone.

For You, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon You I have leaned from before my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb.
Psalm 71:5-6

CP

The Silent Treatment

Perhaps the most hurtful thing you can experience in a relationship is being ignored. Confrontational arguments and occasional verbal jabs cause damage, yes. But being treated like you don’t exist means there is no relationship. And, worse yet, there is no hope of repairing a broken relationship if either person decides to shut down.

A Look in the Mirror

We can be very offended when others ignore us. But before we start judging too harshly, we need to take a close look in the mirror by asking ourselves a probing question- how does God feel when I ignore him? Does he care? The answer is yes. He cares very much.

Notice his response to the lukewarm attitude of the church at Laodicea.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.
Would that you were either cold or hot!

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,
not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Revelation 3:15-17

They said they didn’t need God. Whether they spoke out loud or just thought it in their hearts, God knew. God knows very well what it feels like to be ignored. He knows when we have become smug and self-satisfied. And he warns us to correct the problem before it’s too late.

Stoke the Fire

One simple little word in the Psalms points us to the correct attitude. It is the word, “Oh” (sometimes spelled “O”). It is an exclamation, an address, a sign of excitement or desperation. It’s like waving and yelling, “Hey! Over here!” or groaning to yourself out loud. The Messiah cries to God, “O you, my help” in Psalm 22:19b. David repeats it again and again. And when the psalmists use this little word, they reveal to us the true nature of a right relationship with God.

“O LORD, be my helper!”
Psalm 30:10b

“Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You.”
Psalm 25:20

“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!”
Psalm 14:7a; 53:6a

Also in Psalm 7:9; 25:20; 28:9; 36:10; 53:6; 55:6; 60:1, 11
and Psalm 31:19; 34:3, 8-9 81:13

These short, direct cries for help demonstrate to us what true worship looks like. True worship is passionate. We need to be careful and recognize that true worship is much more than mere passion. We can stir up a frenzy of passion by means of all sorts of external manipulation. You can get your heart pumping with good entertainment or some stirring music, all without seeing God for who he truly is.

But passion stirred up by a fresh glimpse of the Almighty God is true worship. When we recognize our position of dependence on God our Creator, we will wear our voices out crying, “Hey! Over here!” because we desperately need his help.

Impossible to Ignore

Cerebral Christianity, or passive Christianity, or mediocre Christianity, or nominal Christianity, is not true Christianity, at least not for long. You can’t stay lukewarm forever. Why? Because God will not allow it. He will not ignore you or allow you to ignore him. If you, as a true child of God, have adopted a blasé attitude towards your heavenly Father, he will discipline you in love.

My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12

God does this because he loves you. He knows your heart, and he lovingly allows testing circumstances in your life to draw you back to himself. He is jealous for your affections. If you have no concern for God, and face no discipline, you need to question whether you are even his child. God cannot and will not ignore his children or respond in kind to their childish ways.

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A New Perspective

For the believer in Christ, properly fueled passion is an excellent indicator of the temperature of your spiritual life. It is the exact opposite of a lukewarm, distant relationship with God.

So the next time someone ignores you, let it be a reminder. Take a look in the mirror. Ask yourself, “Is this how I am treating God?” You can’t ignore God for long. Ask forgiveness for ignoring him if you have, and confide in him your hurt because he knows exactly how you feel. Every day millions upon millions of people ignore God. He gave up his Son, bleeding and dying, for them.

Yet God still stands ready to forgive. So with fresh passion, having experienced Almighty God’s forgiving grace, rise up. Love others. And know that, no matter how others may treat you, the Lord is with you. He will never ignore you.

CP

 

God is My Co-Pilot?

My wife gave me a drone as a gift this past Christmas. I immediately learned the benefits of drones when an unsuspecting neighborhood cat walked into our back yard. Unfortunately, it was my first flight, and in an attempt to scare the cat away I crashed the drone in the woods behind our house. Flying a drone is tricky to learn- it can fly up, down, backward, forward, right, left, rotate right, rotate left, and any combination in between. Every time I started to lose control, I panicked, and my drone would crash to the ground. And I have the live video footage to prove it.

Control Freaks

It doesn’t matter if you are crashing a drone or overcooking tonight’s supper, losing control is a very frustrating thing. Do you yearn for control over your own life? It’s a common temptation, perhaps propelled by a natural desire for security or an inordinate hunger for power. We all are, to some degree or another, control freaks. We may go about it quietly through subtle manipulation, or we may throw our weight around to get our own way. It’s the way our sinful flesh works; we all are control freaks.

But control in life is as finicky as learning to fly a drone. You may feel like you have started to figure things out, but in a split-second life may spiral out of control. And it does. We all know it does. Our inability to control life is a good thing, though. We weren’t meant to be in the driver’s seat.

Not Even a Co-Pilot

You may have seen the bumper-sticker that says, “God is my co-pilot.” Those words actually represent a low view of God. God is the Pilot. Life is automatically under His control. When we pretend we can somehow control all of this, we ignore reality and place a weight on ourselves we were never meant, or able, to carry.

I love the words to the song Our Great Savior by J. Wilbur Chapman. The fourth stanza reminds us that we aren’t the pilot. Of course, he’s not talking about flying drones but rather steering a ship. And in this ship called life, we aren’t even a co-pilot. No, God is the Pilot, and we cry to Him when life spins out of control.

Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o’er takes me,
He, my Pilot hears my cry.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

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God controls all things. He, your Pilot, hears your cry. So Psalm 3:8a tells us, “Salvation belongs to the LORD.” And this deliverance is both personal and corporate. Think of a young couple’s quiet, hidden struggle with infertility. Then think of our nation’s horrendous, grotesque promotion and practice of abortion. One struggle is personal and may be relatively unknown. The other is very public. Yet in both situations, God’s people desperately need help, right now!

I don’t know your struggle, but I do know God is in control. In the Psalms David and other writers model for us how we can approach God when life seems to be spinning out of control. Let me share a few verses that may help you start your conversation with your Guide and Keeper. May you rest in our great Savior as the Pilot of your life.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
~Psalm 130:1-2; 142:5a, 6-7a

I cry out to God Most High, 
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
~Psalm 57:2; 142:1-2

O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
incline Your ear to my cry.
~Psalm 10:17b; 17:6; 31:2a; 45:10a; 71:2; 78:1; 86:1a; 102:1,2c

But I, O Lord, cry to You;
in the morning my prayer comes before You.
~Psalm 88:1-2, 13

C.P.

Sitting at the Feet of Jesus

It’s a week into January, and the New Year sparkle has already started to fade. It only takes a few days to remind us all that we are still sinners in need of a Savior. And because we are sinners, we need to remember that all our resolve, all our good intentions, and all our desires for reform will be pointless if we fail to hit the one goal that matters most.

One Thing is Necessary

Just this morning I read a story in my devotions that re-oriented my priorities. Jesus reminds us that, when push comes to shove, you and I really need one thing more than anything else today.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.
And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary,
who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

But Martha was distracted with much serving.
And she went up to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?
Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
but one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen the good portion,
which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Do the words of Jesus describe you and me? “You are anxious and troubled about many things.” I’m certain they do, more than we would like to admit. We use busyness as a cloak and a noble excuse, but here Jesus exposes it for what it truly is- an idol. We love our checklists, our goals, our discipline, our efficiency, our timeliness.

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But, according to Jesus, “one thing is necessary.” What is it? To sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His teaching. He is the Savior, He has the words of life, and He alone can give us what we truly need for each day. Spending time with Jesus is not simply another task to add to our checklist. Mary lingers at the feet of Jesus. Have you quieted your heart and listened to His teaching? Nothing else matters more.

One Thing Satisfies

Perhaps part of the reason we make an idol of our busyness is that we like being busy. We enjoy a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It’s not wrong to get a lot done; in fact, when done in faith, getting a lot done can be a God-glorifying endeavor. But getting a lot done will never satisfy you. Getting a lot done will never provide the power you need to overcome your sin today. Getting a lot done may actually destroy your soul by keeping you from the one thing you need most. 

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Notice the benefit Mary receives from lingering at the feet of Jesus- her “good portion…will not be taken away from her.” Our temporary to-do lists will end up crumpled at that bottom of our trash cans or in a deleted files folder, but not one moment spent with Jesus is ever wasted. When you eat the Bread of Life, you nourish your soul with eternal truth that reaps eternal benefits for your soul.

Instead of succumbing to the idol of busyness, Jesus calls you to soak up soul-satisfying truth that only comes from sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to His teaching. My favorite passage in all the Bible mentions just a few of these benefits- we behold God’s steadfast love; we feast on the Bread of Life; we drink from the Fountain that will never run dry; we see the truth illuminated by the Light of the world; we enjoy and seek the love of God poured out on us.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

Psalm 36:7-10

 

So, whatever you do today and this year, make sure you take time every day to sit at the feet of Jesus. And don’t make it yet another chore- listen, linger, delight. One thing is necessary, and I pray you choose the good portion which will not be taken away from you.

 

C.P.

Christmas in Light of Eternity

Yesterday I received news that a beloved member of my extended family, my aunt Debbie, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. My heart aches for my uncle, for my cousins, and for all who loved her dearly. It’s not what we expected.

Unmet Expectations

The unexpected loss of my aunt stands out even more against the backdrop of what we expect this time of year to feel like. We expect joy, festivity, and merry-making. We don’t like unexpected heartbreak, especially during the holiday season.

The truth be known, unmet expectations plagues many a Christmas gathering. You may expect that perfect gift, or that perfect someone, or that perfect family tradition, or that perfect treat, or that perfect home decor to satisfy you. But it can’t, at least not for more than a few fleeting moments. This transient life was never meant to satisfy you. Whatever ideal you have in your mind of what Christmas should bring, I’d like to suggest to you this Christmas that you change your expectations. Instead of expecting Christmas to satisfy you in ways it never can, let the passing pleasures of Christmas turn your longing heart to behold the eternal love of God.

Eternal Love

The center of this celebration, Jesus, is Himself eternal. All who repent of their sins and place their faith in Him alone for salvation can know for sure they will spend eternity with Him. My aunt Debbie professed faith in Christ. While we grieve, we do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Because Jesus is eternal, Aunt Debbie can live forever.

We find the theme of eternal love in the Psalms. God repeatedly reassures believers of His eternally steadfast love, His covenant commitment to them. And because God’s love is eternal, His covenant love still applies to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Psalm 89 reminds us nine times that the love of God endures “forever.” Other passages repeat the theme:

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:5

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 117:2

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever…”
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 118:1-4, 29

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

And, if those passages weren’t enough, Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “His steadfast love endures forevertwenty-six times! It is called an antiphonal song, designed so the congregation can repeat the same phrase in response to truths proclaimed by the worship leader. In light of the wonderful acts of God, we affirm over and over again “His steadfast love endures forever.

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Great Expectations

I can expect, in joy mixed with sorrow, that someday I will see my aunt Debbie. I hope you approach this Christmas with radical, hope-filled expectations of what Christmas can bring. In Jesus Christ, Christmas brings hope in our sorrow, joy in our sadness, solace in our suffering, grace in our weakness. And it will last forever, because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Merry Christmas!

C.P.

First Aid for Depression

Believer, are you discouraged today? Perhaps you feel as if you couldn’t sink any lower. I have found that in the darkest moments of my life the simplest passages of Scripture mean the most. Raging emotions and sleepless nights mean my mind and heart can only handle so much.

Today I would like to give you an emergency kit for your soul. I’ve gathered and listed all the verses in the Psalms that make this simple point: pray to God because He loves you like no one else. God’s love is unchanging, unswerving, unbreakable, unassailable because that is what God is like. His love is not fickle, or passive, or capricious. And on the days when we despair of life, you and I need to wage war on our minds from a thousand different vantage points. These simple verses do just that. Read them again and again. Pray them. Memorize them. Cherish them.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Psalm 25:6

Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
Psalm 31:16

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,

nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
Psalm 36:10-11

Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
Psalm 44:26

Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
Psalm 17:7a

Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
Psalm 18:50

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Psalm 69:16

Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love!
Psalm 109:26

Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
and teach me your statutes.

Psalm 119:124

Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
Lord, according to your justice give me life.
Psalm 119:149

Consider how I love your precepts!
Give me life according to your steadfast love.
Psalm 119:159

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love,Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

If you want to go deeper, read these verses again and notice how God shows His steadfast love, who receives His steadfast love, and what God’s steadfast love is like (How? Who? What?). I can promise you this emergency kit works because God always has good plans for those who turn to Him. Notice,

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
Psalm 57:2

You may not always feel like turning to the Word of God in your despair, but you will never regret it. Turn to the Word, then turn to God in prayer. When you do, you will find that God is with you even in the darkest of nights.

By day the Lord commands His steadfast love,
and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:8

C.P.

The Perfect Christmas Present

Do you have a wishlist? Recently I began the arduous task of sifting through various wishlists to pick out just the right present for each person. But, to me, the best gifts are not the ones found on a list, but the ones discovered in the little moments of life. Perhaps it’s happened to you- you make a passing comment in conversation, so passing in fact that you forgot you said it, but your friend tucks it away in his or her mind. They make a special note to get the gift that you love.

When you open your gifts, what is the most surprising and delightful gift of all? The one from the person who remembered what you said. In a world of wish lists, nothing beats thoughtfulness. That, in my mind, is the perfect Christmas present.

And you can have confidence that God will remember his promises to you. Nothing beats God’s sovereign “memory,” his sovereign “thoughtfulness,” his sovereign care.

God Remembers

Scripture teaches that God is omniscient, knowing all things, and yet it says he “remembers” us and his promises. So we have to ask the obvious question- why would God talk about himself in this way? The five-dollar word is anthropomorphism, which simply means God intentionally describes himself with human traits so we can better understand his character.

So when God “remembers” his covenant, it doesn’t mean he somehow forgot what he promised. It means that God is taking action on the basis of His covenant promises. So the Psalm writer prays,

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them.
Psalm 106:4
(see also Ps. 105:8-11; 136:23-24; 132:1-5; 132:10-18)

He is asking God to save him just like God will save Israel. He is asking God to act on the basis of previously made promises.

We pray this way all the time. We ask God to take action based on the promises we read in his Word. We ask him to remember us.

But if we only call on God to remember us, we will fail to see the entire picture. It’s like completing the border of a puzzle but leaving the inside in pieces. You see, it’s not just that God remembers, it’s that he wants us to remember something, too.

We Remember

What should we remember? In the book of Psalms God calls the nation of Israel to remember their own history. In it they find repeated evidence of God’s covenant loyalty. Did they remember the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron? Did they remember the events of the Exodus? Did they remember the wilderness wanderings? Did they remember the possession of the Promised Land (Ps. 105:12-44; 135:4-12; 136:10-24)? If they remembered those miraculous moments, they would find abundant reasons to trust in God. And so can we. Because God “remembers” us, we can, along with Israel, “remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered” (Ps. 105:5-6).

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So before you update your wish list, I’d encourage you to stop and consider what God has done for you. Remember this Christmas that he sent his Son Jesus to be born as a baby and live a perfect, sinless life. Remember that Jesus willingly chose to go to the cross and die for your sins and my sins. Remember that Christ rose from the grave, proving his deity and securing his exultation. Remember the gospel and believe (Philippians 2:5-11).

We can place our full confidence and trust in God because he remembers us. But it all starts with remembering him and what he has already done. Remembering God and his work in Jesus Christ is the best gift you can offer God this Christmas.

C.P.

21 Days of Giving Thanks – Day 4

In an effort to emphasize the season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to celebrate it all through the month of November. Earlier I explained my 21 Days of Giving Thanks challenge, which you can read about here. Today let’s give thanks for the unity God can bring to a local church.

Day 4 – Give Thanks for Church Unity

Church unity can be a fickle thing. If you have ever felt the awkwardness of a tense church service or an unwanted business meeting, you know what I mean. Unity can also be used as a political tool by heretics to water down theology. Everything is considered expendable for the sake of unity. But the ugliness of a church split or the deceitfulness of theological error actually help us to appreciate more deeply the real thing when we see it.

I am thankful to God that in both my former and current church God has allowed our congregations to have a considerable amount of unity. The people stay long after services and the fellowship is real. Has that been your church experience? If not, let me encourage you today- such an experience is possible. Not only is it possible, it is promised to churches that strive together as a body to grow in the Word (Ephesians 4:11-16). If that is your experience, give thanks to God!

Church unity is a precious thing. Don’t take it for granted and don’t destroy it needlessly! Instead, give thanks and cherish it.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!”
~Psalm 133:1

Challenge: Thank God for the unity you see within your own church. Ask him to reveal where you may be disrupting the precious unity of God’s church, then confess it and ask forgiveness from God and those you have sinned against.

CP