The excellency of our God—Amid the cold of winter

Look what I found this morning!

A substantial snow—by Alabama standards—blanketed the Birmingham area yesterday. This morning, while there are icy road issues in some places, the snow is still powdery, white, and beautiful as it covers everything!

I have heard that the rose is considered the most “perfect” of all flowers. So, since Jesus is absolutely perfect in every way He is often referred to as a Rose.

Isaiah 35:1-2 came to mind:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing.
… They shall see the glory of the Lord,
The excellency of our God.

While the snow in Birmingham has covered everything and it looks pure, white, and clean, the dirt is just covered up. That’s what we try to do sometimes, isn’t it? We try to clean up or cover up our sin, and fail. The Good News for Christ-followers is that Jesus Christ took our sin and the wrath we deserve upon Himself.

Look at the picture again and you will see the dirt showing throught the breaks in the snow.

The rose here, although a deep pink, seems to represent the shed blood of Christ through which we have been saved from our sin and futile attempts to get ourselves cleaned up.

The green stem represents the stem of Jesse (Isaiah11:1 KJV) which points to Jesus coming to earth and living as fully God and fully man. I’ve heard it said that leaves represent God’s truth, which is the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God that makes us a new creation—gives us new life in Christ!

A wonderful old by Robert Lowry comes to mind, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

And, of course, one of my favorite Christmas Carols—and sadly not very well known by many Christ-followers today— also comes to mind, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

Following are the first and second verse lyrics (go online to hear this beautiful carol):

*Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From, tender stem hath spring!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As men of old have sun.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half-gone was the night.

This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor,
The darkness ev’ry where.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

There is a beautiful arrangement “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming/The Rose**” by Craig Hella Johnson (find it online to listen). The ending combines this carol and song painting a beautiful image of Jesus Christ, our Savior!

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
     From sin and death he saves us,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose
     And lightens ev’ry load.

*Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, Words: 15th Century German; st. 1, 2, translation Theodore Baker, 1851-1934; stanza 3 translation Harriet Krauth Spaeth, 1845-1925
**The Rose, Amanda McBroom, Lincoln Mayorga

Did you miss it?

Each year it seems that the Christmas decorations go up and sales begin earlier and earlier. Summer is barely in full-swing and we are thinking about Christmas. I believe it was early July when I noticed the first Christmas items appear in a local store, giving shoppers a full six months to get all their shopping and decorating completed in plenty of time for Christmas. Decorations go up and Christmas music plays in stores and on the radio. TV commercials advertise items that we simply must have.

The recent trend is for the spectacular Black Friday sales to begin a week or so prior to Thanksgiving, and many stores are open on Thanksgiving Day. And, many stores are open on Christmas Day, so people do their “last minute” shopping, or spend money they received as gifts. The after-Christmas sales, lasting through around Valentine’s Day, give you the opportunity to purchase decorations for next year at greatly reduced prices. So basically, the Christmas retail season lasts eight months.

Amazingly, the extended shopping time-frame does not seem to have an affect on the busy-ness and frenzy that has become Christmas. There are decorations to unpack or purchase, so our homes and yards are well decorated. We begin shopping very early in the year for the best price on the items that those on our gift-giving list want. Endless phone calls, emails and text messages are exchanged in our attempt to get all of our family together at the same time and in the same place for our Christmas celebration. There are church, school, office, neighborhood and various organization programs and parties to attend, and the concomitant foods and goodies to prepare and share.

With all the hoopla surrounding Christmas decorating and shopping and football rivalry and championship games, we seem to have repurposed Thanksgiving.

Are you familiar with the term repurposed?

According to Merriam-Webster online, repurpose means “to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose.”

Sadly, Thanksgiving is no longer a day set aside to thank God for His bountiful gifts as the Pilgrim’s did, as our nation did in the past. Throughout our history, the United States of America has set aside national days for prayer, humbling ourselves before God, and giving thanks for His blessings and provision, and to ask for His continued blessings. Since 1942 that day has been the fourth Thursday of November.

… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:18

We have repurposed Thanksgiving as the official starting line for the mad dash that we call Christmas.

Oftentimes, we skip over and miss our opportunity to give thanks to the Lord. Now, don’t misunderstand me. We are to give thanks to the Lord for everything in our lives, at all times, not just at Thanksgiving. But, Thanksgiving provides a unique opportunity to gather with family and friends to share with each other, and join together in giving thanks to Him.

As the crazy busy holiday season ramps up to warp speed, it is very easy to set aside your personal time in the Word of God. This holiday season, make your relationship with God your top priority.

Killing Sin Habits

Today on Think on These Things, Charlotte and I will continue our discussion using Stuart & Zondra Scott’s book, Killing Sin Habits as a springboard for our discussion. Today we will be looking at the cycle of temptation.

Live-stream, listen, or watch at 2:00 p.m. Central.

Live-stream at: gleniris.net

Listen locally on WGIB 91.9 FM or:
92.3 FM – Springville
101.5 FM – Columbiana
106.1 FM – Moody / Odenville
106.1 FM – Jasper
107.9 FM – Tuscaloosa

Watch on WAY-TV Channel 47

Will God discipline us today in the manner he did Israel?

I am delighted to have Dr. Howard Eyrich, my dear brother in Christ, friend, counselor, and mentor as my guest blogger. It has been my honor to minister alongside him in various capacities for several years

Read Ezekiel 17.

How do we apply this passage?

Why do we in the New Testament church think that God will not discipline us in the manner he did Israel—pestilence, storms, disease, and wicked people?

God loved Israel. God took Israel to wife. He chose her. He purposed her. He sent prophet after prophet to teach and to confront her. He called her to repentance that he might bless her. When she would repent, He would forgive and restore her. When under attack He defended her unless He was using the attacker to chastise her and even then, limited the impact.

So, Jesus loved us. He chose us in eternity past. He calls us in due time. He translates us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. He sends us preacher after preacher to teach us and to call us to repentance. He teaches us that as a Father He will discipline us.

Yet we preach, we insist on preaching in today’s evangelical church, a God Whose love does not harm us. We preach a God of grace that tolerates us to the point of never being mad at us. We shudder when someone suggests that natural disasters may be the hand of God to awaken us. We, by implication, insist that being not under law but under grace we can give ourselves license to live as we please and not incur the wrath of God?

Why do we do this? Is not Yahweh the Father of Jesus—the only begotten Son Who is one with the Father? Do we not see in Jesus the personalized relationship dimensions of the Father as He relates to individuals while walking the face of the earth?

Is not the life of King David a prime example of a God/man relationship? God called him “A man after my own heart” (I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:2). God choose him. God purposed him. God sent prophets to him. Yet we see David living a life of sin, discipline (God was angry with him), repentance, and restoration, experienced with the consequence of his sin.

Is it not possible that we have perverted grace in the name of grace? Is it not possible that we have diminished biblical anthropology by a misapprehension New Testament theology and fallen prey to the mal-formed liberal theology of the 20th Century that saw Yahweh as the bully-God of the Old Testament, and Jesus as the love-God of the New Testament.

It seems to me that Ezekiel 17 calls us to reconsider our 21st Century theology of grace. Should we not see grace as the shield that holds back the full throat of the wrath of God rather than a wholesale prevention of the wrath of God? Should we not see grace as the love of the Father that disciplines us to bring us, when He is angry with us for our insistent sin, to repentance and restoration of fellowship with Him? Does he not desire to be a Faithful Just Father Who will forgive our sins upon confession of our sin (I John 1:9)?

MY GUEST BLOGGER:

Dr. Howard Eyrich, after a long ministerial journey of more than 60 years, retired as the Pastor of Counseling Ministries at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. Over his career, he served several successful youth ministries, as Dean of Men in a Bible College, as a church planter, a senior pastor, a seminary president, and a Biblical Counseling professor at the graduate and lay levels for more than 40 years.

He has served on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Birmingham Theological Seminary, Trinity Seminary, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition, to name the major efforts.

His publishing efforts include: two books as solo author, three books with a co-author, and numerous chapters in significant volumes in the biblical counseling field, as well as articles for the Journal of Biblical Counseling and several other magazines.

Dr. Eyrich and his wife Pamela have two grown children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Retirement for Dr. Eyrich is a time for ministry. He writes, teaches, preaches, and travels for the Kingdom. He also enjoys the hobbies of model railroading, hunting, and shooting.

In-Studio Guest Phyliss Wright

Phyliss with her granddaughters Lily and Ruby

The next two Saturdays we will rebroadcast two programs we aired last year. My dear friend, Phyliss Wright, is our in-studio guest. Phyliss is a committed Christ-follower who understands the importance of disciple-making, particularly in the context of future generations.

Phyliss serves as Associate Children’s Minister at The Church at Brookhills. She is one of the most creative, energetic, and “crazy-in-the-right-way” people I know. It way my honor to minister alongside her for many years before we both moved on to different aspects of ministry.

Join us as we revisit the topic of “Women in Ministry” in the context of our discussions using the book, Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle, edited by Dr. Mark Shaw and Dr. Bill Hines as our springboard. Ruth Froese and I co-wrote Chapter 11: “Paul and Women in Ministry.”

Live-stream, listen, or watch at 2:00 p.m. Central.

Live-stream at: gleniris.net

Listen locally on WGIB 91.9 FM or:
92.3 FM – Springville
101.5 FM – Columbiana
106.1 FM – Moody / Odenville
106.1 FM – Jasper
107.9 FM – Tuscaloosa

Watch on WAY-TV Channel 47

Exciting News!

Here we are signing the joint contract for this devotional to be released in early December 2017.

I will be collaborating again with Harriet E. Michael, my fellow Nigeria MK and lifelong friend, by adding a devotional on prayer that will be part of our “Prayer Collection” and also the second in our Glimpses of the Savior devotional series.

Harriet and I co-authored Glimpses of the Savior: 30 Meditations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. Then, Harriet authored Prayer: It’s Not About You, for which I wrote Study Guide on Prayer–A Companion to Prayer: It’s Not About You.

Harriet and I, and our publisher Marji Laine Clubine (Pix-N-Pens Publishing) would appreciate your prayers as we work to complete this project!

 

Ordinary Woman … Extraordinary God

In the days leading up to Mother’s Day, I have been thinking about my mom. I have talked and written quite a bit about her, so, there isn’t really anything new to say. But, just because there isn’t anything new to say, does not mean that I can’t REPEAT some things!

A Facebook post last week resulted in a long conversation with a friend about my mom and God. I thought I would share a recap of that exchange. In the post I said,

She was just an “ordinary” woman in so many ways, yet, “extraordinary” in so many other ways.

The friend, who dearly loved my mom, took issue with my calling her ordinary. And, while I understand what she was saying, my mom was ordinary.

My mom—Jeannie to people of all ages who knew her—was the eighth child (fifth girl) of nine children born to Callie (Hudson) and Olin Thomason. She always described herself as an ordinary, awkward, bucktoothed girl who was always the clown!

For those who knew my mom, ordinary is NOT a word that usually comes to mind when you think of her. Yet, she was ordinary in so many ways.

In her childhood and teens, she struggled to “fit in” at school, had grandiose dreams of what she wanted to do in her life, places she wanted to go, got frustrated with her siblings, she preferred having fun wherever she was … and the list goes on and on. Like most of us, she got angry at and hurt by people and circumstances, dealt with the effects of aging on her health and body, experienced a myriad of disappointments … and this list goes on and on, too!

She did laundry, cooked meals, ironed and mended clothes, did the grocery shopping, doctored a gazillion boo-boos, and kissed away her children’s fears and hurts.

Mom’s life wasn’t easy in many ways and she experienced innumerable hardships. Just six weeks before her birth, my grandmother had to have emergency gall bladder surgery, very risky surgery for both my grandmother and mom. The doctors really didn’t expect that my mom would survive the surgery, but she not only survived the surgery and remained safely in my grandmother’s womb—she thrived! While serving as a missionary in Nigeria, West Africa, a can exploded inside a wood stove, badly burning mom. She buried two sons and a grandson, and many other family and friends. She had a myriad of health issues in her later years.

Why is it that such an ordinary woman is remembered by so many people as extraordinary?

When teaching or writing, I always use my mom as my quintessential earthly example of a life exhibiting the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10 and Psalm 28:7).

In the midst of hardships, disappointments, fear, and great loss, mom would pray, “Lord God, strengthen me so that all those watching will know that You alone are my strength and hope.” That prayer was often followed by her singing, The Light of the World is Jesus (Philip P. Bliss, 1875, Public Domain):

No darkness have we Who in Jesus abide;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
We walk in the light when we follow our Guide!
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Come to the light, ‘tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Now, you need to know that in my mom’s later years her singing voice was raspy and a bit off-tune, however, in those moments, as she prayed and sang, often with huge tears running down her cheeks, she sang beautifully, as I imagine the angels sound. And, at that precise moment, there would not be a movement or a sound from anyone within earshot or eyesight, as this ordinary woman led everyone to look to Light of the World (Hebrews 12:1-2).

How did she do that?  How was it possible in the midst of such dire circumstances?

It was possible, because … God said Let there be light (Genesis 1:1-4).

It was possible, because … The Light dispelled the darkness of her sin (I John 1:5).

It was possible, because … she knew The Light of the World (John 8:12).

It was possible, because … The Light of the Holy Spirit taught her as she read, memorized, and leaned, the Word of God (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).

It was possible, because … she understood what it meant to present her body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

It was possible, because … she practiced being transformed by the continual renewing of her mind (Romans 12:2).

How was it possible for mom to lead people have such strong faith and to exhibit the joy of the Lord in and through every circumstance?

When people looked at this ordinary woman, my mom, they saw the work of an EXTRAORDINARY GOD shine in and through her because she knew, loved, and obediently served Him!

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.”  -Dwight L. Moody

My Mother’s Day celebration includes giving thanks to the Lord for the of my precious mom who shined brightly for her Savior and Lord, Jesus!

Glocal Disciple-Making

Today on “Think on These Things” Charlotte and I continue discussing Glocal counseling/missions using Chapter 15: “Paul’s Missional Call For Cross-Cultural Counseling” in Paul the Counselor: Counseling abd Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle. In this chapter, Steve Standridge and Mark Shaw help us understand that Christ-followers are to “carry the message globally to a lost and dying world destined for hell unless they hear and believe the Gospel.”

Live-stream, listen or watch at 2:00 PM Central.

Live-stream at: gleniris.net/WGIB

Listen locally on WGIB 91.9 FM or:
92.3 FM – Springville
101.5 FM – Columbiana
106.1 FM Moody/Odenville
106.1 FM – Jasper
107.9 FM – Tuscaloosa

Watch on WAY-TV Channel 40

From where do you get comfort and hope?

What exactly is our “blessed comfort” and “future hope” that we read about in Scripture? And what is the source of that comfort and hope? We will discuss these answers today as we continue our journey through the book, Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle, edited by Dr. Mark Shaw and Dr. Bill Hines. Today we will be using Chapter 14: “Our Blessed Comfort and Future Hope” by Bill Hines and Phillip Price as the springboard for our discussion.

Live-stream, listen, or watch at 2:00 PM Central.

Live-stream at: gleniris.net

Listen locally on WGIB 91.9 FM or:
92.3 FM – Springville
101.5 FM – Columbiana
106.1 FM – Moody / Odenville
106.1 FM – Jasper
107.9 FM – Tuscaloosa

Watch on WAY-TV Channel 40

Our Blessed Comfort and Future Hope

ToTT logoToday, we continue our journey through the book, Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle, edited by Dr. Mark Shaw and Dr. Bill Hines. Today is begins a 3-episode discussion in a series using Chapter 14: “Our Blessed Comfort Bill Hines and Phillip Price as the springboard for our discussions.

Live-stream, listen, or watch at 2:00 PM Central.

Live-stream at: gleniris.net

Listen locally on WGIB 91.9 FM or:
92.3 FM – Springville
101.5 FM – Columbiana
106.1 FM – Moody / Odenville
106.1 FM – Jasper
107.9 FM – Tuscaloosa

Watch on WAY-TV Channel 40