GRIEF HAS ITS SEASON

Extended reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Devotional reading: Verse 4

“A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.”

It’s ok to grieve. You’re not alone and you’re not abnormal. You are a healthy person expressing deep anguish over the heart-rending loss of someone near and dear to you. The emotional turmoil you are facing is normal and healthy, but it needs to be worked through in a biblical way.

The writer of these lines is using sharp contrasts to express an important reality. From crying to laughing and grieving to dancing we can acknowledge a vast distance between the two.

None of them are forever. We may laugh and dance during the celebration of a wedding or graduation. But laughing and dancing is only for a season. Then, at some point in our earthly existence, we experience the death of someone we love and cherish.

Our laughter turns into crying and our dancing into grieving. Such things are inevitable BUT not insurmountable!

In these eight verses the writer directs our thoughts to a higher plane, a better place. He reminds us that God is in complete control of everything that happens, even the death of a spouse or other ones we love (v.14). He is the One who set the times for all these events.

I believe we grieve so deeply, not only because of our loss, but also because we do not understand the “full scope” of God’s eternal plans (v. 11). We cannot change what God has allowed, but we shouldn’t let those things we don’t understand drag us down and hold us there.

We can have hope and confidence in this: Just like our season of dancing at some point will turn into grieving, so too will our crying turn into laughter once again (v. 12-13).

NEW BOOK REVIEW: A GOSPEL PRIMER FOR CHRISTIANS BY: Milton Vincent

Learning to see the glories of God’s love

I had recently been looking through my library and found this long forgotten gem of a writing by Milton Vincent. I quickly skimmed through this one and decided that it would be helpful for my son to go through as a part of his schooling.

I was correct thinking that way but incorrect in assuming that this little primer had nothing of value for myself.

I had some free time the other day and saw this book laying on the shelf so I picked it up and read through it. I was happy that I did.

All of 97 pages, this gospel primer was a great source of encouragement, reflection, and motivation for me, an older man, in my walk of faith.

Endorsed by godly men such as John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, and Jerry Bridges, who’s own estimates of the primer saw it as a ” small but meaty overview of the gospel,” and a ” practical tool with a powerful effect.” Which can be ” literally life changing.”

As I read through the forward at the beginning of the book I was happy to read that the author wanted his readers to take their time with it. ” This book was written slowly. It savors of a slow cooking.. . Let it’s truths drip down deep.” In other words this book and the truths contained within will be found to be a spiritually useful book!

With that exhortation in mind, I continued. The introduction lays out the main purpose of Milton’s effort: “This book is a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves each day.”

What a much needed exhortation. We often think the gospel saves, but struggle with knowing what to do with it once we are saved! I appreciate Milton expressing that fact because it truly is meant to be more than a once embraced truth to be converted, it actually is “offered to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.”

Briefly in the introduction and then with greater detail in part IV, the writer shares how he came to the conclusion that the gospel is a much needed focus in the daily walk of a believer.

The first part of this book contains reasons to rehearse the gospel daily. In fact, he gives thirty- one of them designed to remind the reader of some valuable blessings which the gospel can render in the life of the believer who rehearses the gospel in faith each day.

The second and third parts contain: A Gospel Narrative in both a prose and poetic format. Both formats are written in a way that facilitates memorization and smooth recital of the gospel.

I really enjoyed how Milton wrote everything in sections I -III in the first person (I, my, me), because it helped me relate these truths to myself on a deeper personal level. I think it was very wise of him to do so because the truths he is relating come off the pages then as not only relating to his own experience, but also to the daily heart experience of others who meditate on what God in Christ has done for them as well.

I am thankful that the writer mentions often that this book is only a tool to “get you launched in preaching the gospel to yourself and rehearsing it’s benefits.” It is not meant to be a substitute for the gospel.

In part one he gives the thirty -one reasons to rehearse the gospel daily. Here are just a few headings:

1. The New Testament model
2. My daily need
3. The power of God
4. My daily protection
5. Transformed by glory
6. A cure for distrust
8. Freedom from sins power
11 Loving my brother and sister
12. My inheritance in the Saints
15. Cultivating humility
18. Perspective in trials
26. Hope of heaven
27. Mortifying the flesh with fullness

With each one of these headings the writer opens up how the gospel is affective in our lives in these ways. I also must note that every page has all the scriptures cited in which the truths expressed are located!

Part two offers A Gospel Narrative in prose. I found the layout of this very helpful for my own comprehension and application. He begins with our sin against God than moves forward discussing God’s work on our behalf and the resulting salvation that comes from it.

I personally think this section would be helpful in our prayer time. We can use one or two of these truths to pray different things than we normally might. We can pray biblical thoughts by using the scripture citations on the bottom of the page.

Part three offers A Gospel Narrative in a poetic form. I truly appreciated this section. It read smoothly and was greatly appreciated and encouraging to my soul. This section, like the others, has all the scriptures used on the bottom of the page. Not only the reference, but the verse written out as well!

Part IV ends the book with the authors story behind this book. I appreciated his honesty and transparency in sharing his “backstory.”

In short, most of his life was lived by trying to maintain his justification status through his own works. Then one day, alone with his Bible turned to Romans five, the Lord “stirred my soul,” with the truth of my justified status before God, which led Him into a fuller, more meaningful walk of faith!

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting, perhaps needing, a richer, fuller, more practical understanding of the gospel, that not only saves but satisfies our deepest longings each and everyday afterwards.

A SUBSTITUTE

Several years ago I needed to find a coffee “substitute.” Caffeine was causing me various issues and I needed to reduce my intake of it. So, I started looking for something that could “take it’s place.”

I found Postum! I enjoyed that drink sooo much, well, that is until it disappeared off the shelves. In every way Postum made me feel like I was having a good cup of coffee. Its texture, taste, and aroma all made me feel like I wasn’t missing anything by not actually drinking coffee. It was great while it lasted!

Part of the salvific work of Jesus in being our sin-bearer, was that of being our substitute. A SUBSTITUTE is one that takes the place of another. That is what Jesus became for us!

Unlike Postum which only satisfies temporarily, The substitutionary work of Jesus Christ brings results that satisfy eternally.

Because of Jesus believer’s have “become dead to sin and alive to righteousness” (1Peter 2:24). God is NOW for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). These are only two of many benefits believers receive when they trust Him as their substitute!

No one else can be such a substitute for us. God had placed that work on Christ alone. Jesus, in all ways, met and settled, for all time, the charges God had against sinners. Because Of Jesus we can have peace with God!

Friend, you don’t have to pay the debt you owe for your sins. Jesus paid it for you! Turn to Him in repentant faith and you will find His forgiveness.

OUR ONLY HOPE

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

EXTENDED READING: Titus 1:-4

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: Verse 2

In the novel, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., an important book comes to light. It is titled “What can a thoughtful man hope for mankind on earth. . .” The chief character is anxious to read it. But when he does, he finds that it doesn’t take long. The whole book consists of one word: “Nothing.”

If you are a Christian, you are probably shirking your head right about now. After all, we have Jesus, right? Yes, we do, and that’s why we have hope!

The Bible begins with the stories of creation, the fall of man, and the penalty of death being imposed upon humanity. As the story develops, we witness God giving humanity hope. Hope first enunciated to Eve and then later developed in the promise to the fathers and the prophets. The Jews had distorted that hope and made it only an earthly, national hope. 

But to Paul, it was much more than that. The Gospel he was appointed to announce was designed to secure “the hope of eternal life” to those who received Christ. He did not view this as a hope newly proclaimed; instead, the apostle linked it with that promise made “long ages ago” (2 Timothy 1:9-10). 

That promise was related to God’s purpose in creation-to take unto Himself a people who would enjoy eternity with Him. And it was a secure promise because it was made by God, who cannot lie.

Our only hope is in that promise of God.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help us see how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that because of your atoning work we should be called “children of God.” Grant us confidence and boldness for the future, as we know that “when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” Amen.

*Adapted from The Topical Chain Study Bible, Pg. 1504