Grandma Powell

My Grandma Powell (Dad’s mom) passed away today at 89, a day before her and Grandpa’s 66th wedding anniversary.

One of my absolute favorite short verses in Scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” My Grandma was absolutely a woman of faith.  Today, her faith became sight.

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Take heed, Behold, and Cling

…For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.
– Mark 13:22-23

Mark 13, like its parallel account in Matthew 24, is a tough chapter to grapple with.  Jesus says that in the time leading up to His Return there will be whispers of wars, actual wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution of Christians (imprisonment, flogging, trial, universal hatred, etc.), the Abomination of Desolation, and deception writ large.  In sum, things will not be good.

And then things become truly crazy.  False “Christs” and false prophets will rise up.  They will even produce demonstrations of power for attestation of their ministries.  The power and the deception will be so great that even the elect (“if possible”) may succumb to their deceptions.  But here is the thing: We have the Bible.  And as evangelical Christians, we actually use this thing.  We ascribe to it terms like inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency.  Why do we think and speak of Scripture the way we do?  Because Jesus tells us to:

But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.

How do we know what to look for as the days grow evil?  Jesus has told us in the Bible.  How can we possibly be prepared in the event of great persecution?  We listen to His words and we cling to them with a death grip as though our lives depended on our holding on.  How can we overcome?  The difficulty of the age to come surely surpasses our own capability, but this we know: God is working on our behalf, and His strength is more than sufficient for every trial.  As Jesus tells us, “Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days (Mark 13:20).” Do you know what I really love about that verse?  Jesus is speaking of future events, and yet He speaks of the acts of God in the past tense.  He has already shortened those days.  God is not bound by time, and He is certainly not bound by what powers of darkness there may be.  The days when darkness are sure to come, but they will be short because God is working on behalf of we who belong to Him.  And He has told us “everything in advance.” Let us work all the more diligently to take heed of what has been spoken, to behold the One who spoke it, and to cling to Him as though all of eternity hinged on Him.

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Good Quote: Passion

I’m not really sure where this one originated, but it’s worth reflecting on, particularly for a Christian:

“If people don’t know what your passion is, you don’t have one.”

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Good Quote: Packer on God’s Greatness

“The Christian’s instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God.  But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby. We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God.” – J.I. Packer, Knowing God (83)

 

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Psalm 49 – Do Not Trust in Your Wealth, Fame, or Immortality

Psalm 49:5-12
Why should I fear in days of adversity,
When the iniquity of my foes surrounds me,
6 Even those who trust in their wealth
And boast in the abundance of their riches?
7 No man can by any means redeem his brother
Or give to God a ransom for him–
8 For the redemption of his soul is costly,
And he should cease trying forever–
9 That he should live on eternally,
That he should not undergo decay.
10 For he sees that even wise men die;
The stupid and the senseless alike perish
And leave their wealth to others.
11 Their inner thought is that their houses are forever
And their dwelling places to all generations;
They have called their lands after their own names.
12 But man in his pomp will not endure;
He is like the beasts that perish.

I am not a rich man, and I have no plans of becoming one, so it would seem that this is an easy psalm to write about.  After all, writing or preaching about somebody else’s weaknesses is much easier than writing about my own.  And yet, I know that deep within my heart is a longing for significance–not the noble kind in which I find all of my validation in Christ, but the fleshly kind in which others speak of me in tones alternating between sheer delight and reverence.  Vain much?  Oh, that’s not even the half of it.

Few will ever be rich, and yet everyone has his shot at stardom these days.  We live in the age of YouTube, American Idol (is that still on?), Twitter, niche blogs, and reality television shows about families built around their 10-year-old sons’ go-kart racing careers (Kart Life, go look it up).  If you are not micro-famous, you must not be trying.  One of the defining characteristics of this generation of emerging adults is narcissism.  After all, they (we?) have been told their whole lives that they are unique and that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to–how could they be anything but narcissistic?

Thoughts of eternity, of a land far away on the other side of the grave, seem to be rare in our present time.  There is always so much going on, so fast and so often, that rarely do people take the time to slow down and be alone with their thoughts.  And yet the longing for eternity’s cousin, immortality, has never been stronger.  The quest for the Fountain of Youth never ends.  Whether it’s the song “Forever Young,” the store Forever21, or the Hollywood plastic surgery industry, our culture is obsessed with living forever and looking good doing it.  I read a headline just today asking the question if the first person who will live to 1,000 is already alive now.

Wealth, fame, and immortality.  Not much has changed in a few thousand years.  And still, despite our best efforts, people come and go; they grow old, wear out, and die.  And God’s Word endures, adding all the more sting to its rebuke of our pride: “Man in his pomp will not endure.” Hoard all of the wealth that you can; someone else will take it when you die.  Make a name for yourself; you will be forgotten.  Even name streets, communities, schools, and regions after yourself; they will forget who you were, and someone will probably change the names. “Their inner thought is that their houses are forever.” Men come and go; God endures.

Money can buy a lot, of stuff but Jesus’ question still stands unanswered 2,000 years later, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” As the psalmist writes, “the redemption of his soul is costly.”  Costly beyond measure.  As v.7 says, we cannot save ourselves and we cannot save one another.  Redemption is beyond us; we do not have the currency to exchange for the ransom of eternity.  But Jesus does.  He is the one “who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:6).”

Let us not entrust ourselves to the idols of wealth, fame, or manmade immortality.  Our wealth cannot buy us what we really need.  Our fame, at the most, will be momentary.  And our pursuit of immortality will end when we die.  But let us entrust ourselves to the One who is able to save us from death.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
For He will receive me.
– Psalm 49:15

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