A Happy, Holy, and Hope-filled 2013

A happy, holy, and hope-filled New Year to all who bless me by reading this blog. I appreciate every one of you and thank you  with all my heart for your interest, your comments, your “likes,” your “Tweets,” your corrections, and your encouragement. You’ve become a big part of my spiritual life and I’m grateful for your sanctifying influence upon me. It’s been wonderful to meet some of you here and there as I travel around, and hope I can bump into a few more of you in 2013.

In an hour or so, I’ll be preaching a New Years Day sermon on 1 Peter 3v15 with the title, Reasons for a Hope-filled 2013. So let me start the New Year with my definition of Christian hope:

Christian hope is (1) a realistic expectation of (2) and joyful longing for (3) future grace and glory (4) based upon God’s reliable Word.

You’ve got 60 minutes to improve on that and get a mention in my sermon!

The F250 Gospel

My son, Allan, has been looking for a car or pickup truck for many months. Since he started learning to drive a few months ago, most of his waking (and probably sleeping) moments have been consumed with getting his own vehicle. Craigslist has been his meat and drink. He probably knows more about cars than I’ve learned in 46 years.

But, there’s a fairly major problem.

Money. Or rather, the lack of it!

So he starts looking for a job. But to get a job, you need a car. But to get a car, you need a job.

He’s been totally stuck. Despite weeks and weeks of seeking, searching, planning, talking, he doesn’t have even a steering wheel to his name.

Until last Monday (yes, Christmas Eve), when we were driving along 3 Mile Rd near our home and God dropped an F250 into our lives. Free! And even added a bow!!

There’s a corner near our home where people put cars for sale from time to time. It was late on Monday afternoon when Allan begged me to stop to look at the black pickup truck that was sitting there with a red bow on it. I said, “Come on, Allan, you’ll never be able to afford that.” But it was Christmas time so I graciously stopped and waited while the “expert” surveyed the vehicle.

“Dad, it’s free! It’s free!”

“Allan, there’s no way it’s free. And if it is, it’s not worth having!”

I reluctantly got out of my car to take a pessimistic look, and sure enough, it was “FREE!”

“Dad, can we phone the guy and ask to drive it?”

As Santa was flying overhead at the time, I thought I’d enter into the spirit of the season and entertain his fantasy a bit longer. So we phoned and within minutes we were in the home of a lovely older couple who explained that they had been through really hard times with the recession, but that God had recently blessed them, and they were able to buy a new vehicle. They were going to sell the old F250 on Craigslist for $4000, but decided to simply put it at the end of the road, and then prayed that God would send someone who would really value it. That was 15 minutes ago, and we were the first to call.

“I don’t know if you believe in God…” he said.

“Eh, is it enough to be a preacher of the Gospel?”

We all laughed.

One hour later, after sharing God’s gracious dealings with our respective families, we were home with an F250 that God had just dropped from heaven into my son’s lap. Admittedly it’s got @250,000 miles on the clock. But it’s had only one owner, who’s treated it as “my baby” for 15 years and who recently pumped $4000 into it.

Allan said to me a few days ago that he still can’t believe he actually owns it. He posted the story on Facebook and some of his friends thought he was lying! It’s ridiculous, said one. Too good to be true! “Must be a piece of junk!” said another.

No, it’s just the God of all grace, giving my son, and my family, a vivid and unforgettable little snapshot of the Gospel of grace and of our common reactions to it. Most say, “Can’t be free,” or “Can’t be true,” or “Can’t be worth much,” or “That’s ridiculous!”

But some say, “I can’t believe He’s mine.”

Check out

The Year In Commentary: Anthony Bradley
I don’t always agree with Anthony, but he always makes me think a bit deeper, wider, and further.

23 Reasons to be joyful
Here’s a fantastic way to end 2012 and begin 2013.

Gospel-centered expectations
Great word from Tim Brister on our attitude as we go to church.

In praise of denominations
As someone with a few burn marks, I need to remember this.

The lost art of the handwritten note
I received one of these from a friend recently and it impacted more than any of the thousands of other communications I received last year.

A bit of hopeful news for Hobby Lobby
The eventual outcome of this issue may be far more pivotal that the election result.

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.

A Hallelujah from Head to Foot

That’s what Augustine said a Christian should be: A top-to-toe hallelujah, a body-and-soul hallelujah, a muscle-and-mind hallelujah.

Can’t say I always agreed with this. As a young Christian, worship was a “preliminary” to the main event, the sermon. Singing was like soup or salad: you had to do it to get to the steak. The tantalizing dessert of Christian service followed, the sweet experience of going out into the world with the gospel on lip and in life. By that time the “boring” soup or “tedious” salad was long forgotten.

Twenty-plus years on, worship is often my favorite Christian experience, especially public worship. Although I’m no singer, I just love to sing with God’s people and to lift up my eyes to heaven and believe that God sees and hears and enjoys our joyful noise. It’s just so good for the soul, so comforting, so energizing, so inspiring.

Let all the angels of God worship Him
Recently, while studying Hebrews 1v6, I was stunned to read that when Jesus was born into this world, God said, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” As soon as Jesus breathed his first breath of air, God commanded all the angels, ALL the angels, from all over the heavens and the earth to cease what they were doing and to gather in one place to worship God in baby skin. Cherubim, seraphim, archangels, and all other ranks of heaven’s hosts made their way to Bethlehem to sing, adore, admire, and magnify Jesus. Every single last one of them! What a worship that must have been!

And if the angels worshipped Him, we should worship Him even more because:

  • We have a lower status than the angels
  • We have a lower nature than the angels
  • Jesus took our nature not angelic nature
  • Jesus took our sin, something he never did for the angels.
  • Jesus died for our sin, something his holy angels never needed
  • Jesus has now taken our nature to the highest throne of heaven

No wonder the hymnwriter not only wrote:

Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!’

But also:

Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies’
With th’angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’

Yes, let all the angels of God worship Him, but let us also be Halleljuahs from head to foot.

Check out

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning
When I obey, it works.

Make me an Asian” and everlasting Splendors
Trillia Newbell takes a pop at a racist App and concludes: “Race helps us learn about our neighbor, to connect, to understand how to serve one another and enjoy the fullness and goodness of God’s creation.”

Top Biblical Studies Books 2012
Breaking my rule of ignoring all “Top Whatever” blogs to bring you some mind-stretchers and heart-enlargers.

Why we need to rediscover wonder
When was the last time you had a Psalm 8 moment? R C Sproul Jr’s A Call to Wonder will help you get started.

The most ignored sin
If it became the most targeted, our churches would be transformed.

What is the secret of a productive and joy-filled life?