Sunday, January 30, 2022

Notes to Self: 50 True Things {Part Three}

For part one of this series, please see this post:

For part two of this series, please see this post:

21. Christians do not grieve without hope; neither do we hope without grief. Grief means we lost something important. Hope looks forward to the resurrection and our promised reunion with loved ones who have died in body but are with the Lord in spirit. 

22. The only way out of grief is through it.

23. If we lock grief away in a closet, the stench of it will leak out through the cracks around the door as irritability, depression, numbing behaviors, impulsivity, and/or physical symptoms. Locked away in the dark, it will grow stronger and eventually force its way out. It is much better for all involved when we can begin to grieve our losses when they happen, or soon afterward.

24.  "...the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, ...comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 ,ESV). He overflows with comfort for all who come, and His comfort mends our brokenness with golden kintsugi grace. What’s more, His comfort overflows from us into the lives of others in affliction, even if their affliction is not the same as ours. What amazing grace. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

25.The journey toward holiness is marked with crosses, altars, and Ebenezers: 

  1. crosses where we know Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings;  
  2. altars of surrendering my will for God’s; 
  3. and Ebenezers where we stop and declare, “This far the Lord has helped me.”

26. Surrender to the Lord is the gateway to joy and peace. Fighting His will is exhausting and can only end in frustration.

27. Remember to remember the ways God has been faithful in the past. This is part of the reason I keep a journal and practice daily, intentional, written gratitude. Telling my story also helps me remember it. (So thank you!)

28. The Christian life is not difficult; it’s impossible (in your own strength). “You must do what you cannot do with what you do not have, but He will do through you what He can do with what He does have” (Dr. Bill Lawrence, Dallas Theological Seminary).

29. At the same time, it is always possible to do the will of God. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, dwells in Christian believers. He changes our desires towards the Scriptures and the Lord and enables us to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

30. You are not as strong as you think you are. (This is part of the reason suffering and things that make us desperate for God are blessings.) 

Christ in you is stronger than you dream. His strength really is perfect, and His grace really is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7-10). 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Winged Hope


In Acts 27, Paul the apostle is a captive traveling by ship to stand trial in Rome. His crime is preaching the gospel that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. Travel delays postpone the voyage so that they are traversing dangerous winter seas. Such a severe storm drives them along and batters them for days that the experienced professional sailors reach their wits’ end. They begin to jettison cargo. Dr. Luke the gospel writer served as companion to  Paul on this journey and preserved for us this first-person account:

And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.  When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.”

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land (Acts 27:19-27, ESV).

The tempest blocks all appearance of sun and stars needed for navigation, cheer, and hope. “All hope was fading that we would be saved.” In this utter desperation, the God Paul belongs to and serves, the God who has told Paul in the past that he must proclaim Christ before Caesar, sends him the fresh courage of an angel in the night. This divine messenger reiterates the promise that Paul must appear before Caesar. Not only that, the angel bears good news for the crew: “God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you” (v. 24, CSB).

They continue to drift, off-course and uncertain of destination, until—at midnight on the fourteenth night—they begin to suspect they are approaching land. Still afraid, the sailors “prayed for daylight to come” (v. 29, CSB). At about daylight Paul urges them to eat and restates God’s promise that not even a hair will be lost from a sailor’s head (v. 34). He takes bread, gives thanks to God in front of everyone in expectation of the promised deliverance, breaks the bread, and eats. The 275 other souls onboard take courage to eat too, the throw the rest of the grain overboard.

The ship runs aground on a sandbar and is lost to the pounding waves, but the chapter ends on this note: 

The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. [43] But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, [44] and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land (Acts 27:42-44, ESV).

Just as God had promised, they did run aground on “some island,” the island of Malta. Even in the middle of the storm, God promised that Paul and all those sailing with him would be safe, and they were. “Everyone safely reached the shore” (CSB) because the God Paul belonged to and served, the God I belong to and serve, keeps His promises. If He promises that no one will lose a hair from his head, the whole head is secure, and the body belonging to it..


The nineteenth-century English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon comments with stunning eloquence on Paul’s faith here. Paul says in verse 25, “I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” Spurgeon writes, “Paul believed God when to outward appearances ‘all hope was fading that we would be saved’ (v. 20). Paul’s faith hoped against hope. When hope mourns, “I cannot find rest for the souls of my feet,’ faith cries, ‘Use your wings.’ When there seems nothing for faith to rest on but the bare Word of God, then faith is glad, for now she can commune with her Creator without being entangled by outward means and artifacts. Did not the Lord hang the world on nothing but his word? And cannot we hang our souls there, too? It is grand to stand like the arch of heaven, unpillared and yet unmoved, resting only on the invisible God. Did I say ‘only’? Is not that resting on everything that is worth trusting, since God is all in all?”

Monday, January 24, 2022

Notes to Self {Part Two}

 For an explanation and the first 10 true things, please visit this post:

Notes to Self: 50 True Things {Part One}

11. Many of my problems in walking with God come from listening to myself more than talking myself. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones illuminated this for me in his book Spiritual Depressionso I’ll let him explain: 

"Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self [similar to the "flesh" or "the old man" of the New Testament letters] is talking to you. Now this man's treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you'. 

"...The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted? ...then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note:  defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God' (p. 20). 

12. Feelings are not facts. Ask them gently if they are telling the truth and what deeper questions they are raising. 

13. Feelings make decent thermometers but lousy thermostats. They indicate where something hurts or thrives or feels threatened, but we make trouble for ourselves when we let them rule our words and actions. 

14. Feelings are temporary, waves we can surf that may resolve on their own without additional help. Remembering this enables me to weather the descent from the crest of exceptional happiness to the sands of ordinary routine with equanimity, because I knew all along that the effervescent gladness was temporary. Remembering this also enables me, when the storms blow in, to anchor my hope in the truth of God’s Word and Christ’s work, so that I can ride the wave of trials toward shore and solid ground and not drown beneath it or be swept out to sea.

Remembering that both happy and hard are temporary enables me to believe in the light at the end of the tunnel even when I can’t see it yet. It holds me back from making permanent decisions based on temporary emotions, because I remember the soul sunshine of former days and believe it will come again. Night will not always last.

15. In those rare and precious times of smooth seas and sunshine, learn all you can of God and His Word. Stockpile Scripture and theology in your heart in days of plenty to sustain your soul in times of storm or famine. Hard times sap my energy and mental capacity and make deep study challenging; those are the times to sink my roots deep and ground myself in what I learned in the sunnier days. We will learn much in the painful trials of life too, but for me those have been times of experiential learning and growing in the personal knowledge of God. In academic terms, sunshine is for lectures; storms are for labs.

16. Remember in the dark what you saw in the light. The stars are still there when concealed by clouds. The sun still shines above the thunderhead. “The moon is always round, and God is always good” (Jonathan Gibson, The Moon Is Always Round). 

17. “Anything that makes me desperate for God is a blessing” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth).

18. Sometimes we don’t really discover God is all we need until it seems He is all we have. (See also "The Parable of the Bell Sheep.")

19. On the back side of an intense trial, I wouldn’t accept any amount of money to volunteer to repeat it. At the same time, I wouldn’t trade any amount of money for the deeper fellowship with Christ gained through that suffering.

20. If I knew what God knows, I would prefer one slash of the claws of the Lion of Judah to a million accolades and flattering kisses from the world.