God Has Done The Big Thing. Surely He’ll Take Care Of The Lesser Things.

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Israel had a short memory.

They had been miserable slaves to the king of Egypt who seemed to have all power over their lives. They had no means of escape, yet God heard their groaning, and struck Pharaoh and Egypt with plague after plague, then brought Israel out of Egypt loaded with their gold and silver. Then God miraculously split the Red Sea and brought his people through on dry ground, then Israel watched the sea come back together and engulf the Egyptian chariots who pursued them.

Though God delivered them and provided for them again and again, they couldn’t seem to remember his faithfulness. In their unbelief, every new challenge they faced made them doubt the goodness of their God. They failed to make this important connection: If God did the big thing for them, he’d surely do lesser things. If God delivered them out of Egypt, he’d surely provide for their needs.

A short memory wasn’t just the problem of the generation who left Egypt. It was Israel’s constant failure over the years. We see God reminding his people again in Psalm 81:

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder; (6-7)

I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. PS 81.10

God says to his people: Don’t forget who I am: I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I did the big thing. I saved you when you couldn’t save yourselves. So ask me to provide for you – open your mouth wide – expect me to meet your needs – and I will fill it – I’ll do the lesser thing and answer your prayers and provide for you.

We too need to remember this truth: God did the big thing for us – he saved us from our sins and his wrath by sending his only Son to live and die and rise for us – surely he will do the lesser things – provide, protect and help us.

God has done the big thing – he saved us. Surely he’ll take care of all the lesser things we need.

God could say to us:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of your land of Egypt – your slavery to sin, your misery, your condemnation and hopelessness.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it – ask me and I’ll give you all you need.

Romans 8:32 puts it this way:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

God gave up his most valuable thing – his Son Jesus on the cross – he sent Jesus to be broken and to pour out his blood for sin, then he poured out his horrific wrath upon his Son’s soul, withdrawing every shred of mercy and love from Jesus’ awareness. He did this for us all. After doing this, how will he not graciously give us all lesser things? Surely God will give us all we need to glorify him. Surely he will give us mercy and grace and strength and help. Surely he’ll provide for our needs.

So open your mouth wide and God will fill it. Open your mouth today in praise and thanksgiving. Open your mouth wide in prayer. Ask for whatever you wish. Nothing will be greater than Jesus. Open your mouth wide in expectation that your heavenly Father will answer your prayers.

 

Happy Birthday, John Newton

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In London, July 24th, 289 years and one day ago, John Henry Newton was born. You may or may not recognize the name, but you know his most famous creation: Amazing Grace, probably the most beloved hymn in the English language. In honor of Newton’s birthday, here is the condensed version of his life story. (For the full account, read John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken.)

Newton’s father was an unbelieving sailor while his mother was a devout Christian, and those two influences would characterize the remainder of Newton’s life. Elizabeth Newton wanted her son to one day enter the ministry, but she died in 1732 and by the age of eleven Newton joined his father’s ship. From that point on Newton’s life was spent at sea, first in his father’s ship, then the Royal Navy, and finally a slaving vessel . Newton consistently rebelled against authority, however, and his employment by slave trader Amos Chow ended with Newton himself a virtual slave to Chow and his African mistress, “a servant of slaves in West Africa” as Newton’s epitaph remembers. Newton was rescued by a merchant ship, the Greyhound, and left Africa for England in the spring of 1748. But God had something in store for Newton than a peaceful return voyage.

On March 10th, a violent storm struck the Greyhound off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. Newton awoke in the middle of the night to a ship on the verge of sinking. In fear for his life Newton called out to God. The Greyhound survived, and Newton never forgot the experience.

You might expect at this point a dramatic life-alteration, a “was blind but now I see” type conversion. Not quite. Something had changed in Newton’s heart, but it took years for Newton to begin walking as a faithful Christian. In fact, after this encounter with God Newton became the captain of several slaving vessels. Still, that stormy night marked the beginning of God’s pursuit of Newton – and God always gets his man. Gradually Newton began to realize the extent of what God had done for him in Christ, and what that meant for his life and conduct. He retired from the sea in 1754 and entered the ministry in 1764. Over the next 43 years, Newton pastored congregations in Olney and London. He wrote numerous hymns; Amazing Grace was created to go along with a New Year’s day sermon in 1773. He also wrote several books, including a narrative of his conversion; wrote a vast quantity of letters of spiritual advice; and influenced numerous younger ministers and Christians, including statesman William Wilberforce, the man God used to lead the movement to abolish the slave trade. Newton died December 21st, 1807 at the age of 82.

From “servant of slaves,” slave-trader, and slave of sin to slave of Christ and son of God. Newton’s story is more colorful and dramatic than most of ours – but only from one perspective. In God’s sight, in the eyes of the angels who rejoice in heaven over one repentant sinner, every conversion – whether in a sinking ship or a kneeling by your bed in the quiet of the night – is a miracle of God’s power comparable only to the creation of the world itself (see 2 Cor. 4:6). Because of that, every Christian knows the thrill of singing, with Newton and every other son and daughter of the Lord:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me.
I was once lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

 

Cutting Through The Chaos Of the Holidays

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Another year has passed. The holiday season is upon us, and if your life is anything like mine that means busyness is also upon us. On top of ordinary life come Christmas parties, vacations to see family, gift shopping, decorating – not to mention consuming the requisite quantities of eggnog and Santa-shaped sugar cookies. For the most part these once-a-year festivities are joyous…but they’re chaotic, too.

But let’s pause for a moment to cut through the chaos. Another year has passed. Once again we proclaim that Christ has come. Once, many years ago, in the fullness of time, the Son of God took on human flesh. Infinity joined with finitude. Omnipotence joined with weakness. Years would pass. In the weakness of that human flesh, Jesus would grow from infant to adult. And yet, in the weakness of that human flesh, and for the first and only time in human history, Jesus would offer perfect obedience. The second Adam would succeed where the first had failed.

Then, when the years of his life were complete, in a moment foreknown before the foundation of the world, the Son became the sacrifice. On Golgotha, God provided the lamb. Jesus died for our sins. And God accepted the sacrifice.

Three days would pass. Then, for the first but not the last time in human history, resurrection conquered death. The Lamb who was slain was raised as the Lion of Judah. Sin lost its dominion and the grave lost its sting. The new age has dawned. Redemption accomplished.

Years would pass, decades into centuries into millennia. Until one day, in the power of the Spirit, from the lips of ordinary humans, the message of this redemption came home to me. With saving power I heard that the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me – and for you too, if you receive him by faith.

More years will pass. An unknown number of Christmases will come and go. Until one day, in power and glory, before the watching eyes of the cosmos, this same Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead – and me, and you. We will stand before him. And one plea will be sufficient: Jesus died for me.

The holidays are busy, even chaotic. So is life in a fallen world. But underneath it’s very simple. Christ came. Christ died. Christ rose. Christ is coming. Until then, him we proclaim.

Come Lord Jesus!

Photo by Tim Green aka atoach

I Scarce Can Take It In…

The “Divine Exchange” never ceases to amaze me.

Jesus exchanged his “divine bank account” for mine.  God credited my sinful life to Jesus, as if he had lived my life,  and God credited Jesus’ perfect life to me as if I had lived his life of flawless obedience.  But not only did God count Jesus’ obedience to me, but he gives me all the rewards for that obedience.  I scarce can take it in…

And now we may say, Lord, the condemnation was yours, that the justification might be mine; the agony yours, that the victory might be mine; the pain was yours, and the ease mine; the stripes yours, and the healing balm issuing from them mine; the vinegar and gall were yours, that the honey and sweet might be mine; the curse was yours, that the blessing might be mine; the crown of thorns was yours, that the crown of glory might be mine; the death was yours, the life purchased by it mine; you paid the price that I might enjoy the inheritance. — John Flavel, The Fountain of Life

Let this wonderful truth fill you with joy and thanksgiving today.