Unending Thanksgiving

November 24, 2022 | by: John Lee | 0 Comments

“Happy Thanksgiving!” A simple yet helpful phrase reminding us here in the United States that it is the last Thursday of November. It’s the time of year for many of us that is filled with the joy of family, food, and counting one’s blessings from the Lord. For others, this year’s Thanksgiving is extremely difficult. It has been a year of life challenges, hardships, loss of loved ones, and it may simply seem impossible to give thanks. Yet, wherever you find yourself today, God’s gracious call for us to give thanks in all circumstances is not unprecedented. In a way, the imperative to give thanks is a reorienting grace. If you are like me, my heart’s giving of thanks often finds root in things that are quite movable, unstable, and shaky. We often learn the hard way that the wonderful and good gifts God blesses His children with are unreliable sources for lasting thanksgiving. So, I’d like to draw our attention to the wonderful eternal truths in Psalm 136, a reminder that our thanksgiving finds its source in something, or rather someone, immovable. In this Psalm’s 26 verses, the psalmist lays forth the command to give thanks and the reasons for doing so. For this Touchpoint, we’ll hone in on the first 3 verses of this psalm. These first 3 verses frame the rest of this psalm. Let’s take a look: ... Keep Reading

Chapter 10, Application, and Chapter 11, Expansion, of the Big Story of the Bible go hand in hand. Application focused on the theological work of the Holy Spirit applying the redemption accomplished by Christ. Expansion focuses on the historical outworking of that application in the church age. The full fruit of God’s Covenant of Redemption expand farther and farther to every corner of the earth. Jesus’ final words before his ascension in Acts 1:8 give an outline not only for the book of Acts, but also this chapter of the Big Story. He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The witness of Christ’s redemption expanded outward like ripples from Jerusalem. In Acts 1-7 the attention is primarily on the Jerusalem church. The persecution that arose after the martyrdom of Stephen pushed the church to expand out to Judea and Samaria. We see this expansion in Acts 8-12. And then the Holy Spirit led the church at Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas to carry the gospel to the Gentiles outside of that Palestine region. In each of his three missionary journeys, Paul travels farther and farther from Judea (Acts 13-20). Acts concludes recounting the story of Paul’s trials and travels to Rome (Acts 21-28). This was God’s design from the beginning. He told Abram in Genesis 12:3, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The expansion of the church, through the preaching of the gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the fulfillment of Genesis 12:3. Jesus also said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). Jesus says that the end, namely, his second coming, will not occur until the gospel has been preached through the whole world. It is not only the proclamation of the gospel that is predicted. In John’s vision of the throne room of heaven, he hears the angelic host praising the Lamb, saying, “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Jesus has effectively purchased a people for God. This specific group of people will hear the gospel and respond in faith. Jesus didn’t shed his blood just to give people the possibility of being saved. Jesus shed his blood to save them. And this group of people is from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” The work of redemption accomplished by Jesus and applied by the Spirit must expand to every tribe and language and people and nation. ... Keep Reading

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises made in the Covenant of Redemption. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the law, satisfied the just wrath of God, and paved the way for all believers to be reconciled to the Father. Jesus purchased and accomplished redemption. Question 29 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks and answers, “How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.” Chapter 10 of the Big Story of the Bible focuses on this Application by the Holy Spirit. Let me address this topic by asking three questions: why, how, and what. Why do we need the Holy Spirit to apply the finished work of Christ to us? Can’t we just do this by ourselves? The resounding message of Scripture is No! The apostle Paul says we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Eph. 2:1). He also quotes Psalm 14 in Romans 3:10-1 when he says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” What Paul is describing in these passages is the dead condition of the human heart. Ezekiel calls this condition “a heart of stone” (Ez. 36:26). Therefore Jesus explains that one must be “born again” by the Spirit (John 3:5). The Spirit removes the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh so we can cling to Christ by faith. Apart from this work of the Spirit, no one will ever enjoy the finished work of Christ. ... Keep Reading

Jesus is the center of the Bible. Jesus is the focus of the Bible. Jesus is the thread that ties the Bible all together. Whether we read the Old Testament or the New Testament, we rightly ask how this passage reveals Jesus. This is because the Bible tells the story of God’s covenant of redemption. This plan of redemption was established befor... Keep Reading

Reading our Bibles with the Big Story of the Bible in mind protects us from a common fallacy. Many believe that the God of the Old Testament is a god of law and judgment while the God of the New Testament is a god of grace and forgiveness. The Big Story reminds us of the unity of the Bible and the consistency of God throughout the story. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The true God of the Bible is a God of holiness, justice, righteousness, wrath, grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Familiarity with the Big Story helps us understand how these attributes fit perfectly in our gloriously good God. The Old Testament story of the exile helps us. God is patient and slow to anger, but Israel runs out of time. God allows two neighboring kingdoms of Israel to “punish” them for their unfaithfulness. During this time, many of the faithful wonder if the blessings of God have ended. God still affirms his promises to bless. In 2 Kings 17 we read about the fall of Israel, the northern nation, to the Assyrians. The key verse is verse 7: “And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…” This occurred about in the year of 721 BC. In 2 Kings 24-25, we read of the fall of Judah, the southern nation, to the Babylonians. Judah’s fall and exile occurred over a period of time between 605-586 BC. The key verses in regard to Judah are found in 23:26-27, where we read, “Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him…” ... Keep Reading

The Old Testament closes on a high note, with some disappointment mingled in. In Chapter 7 of the Big Story of the Bible, we learned about the exile. The covenant people of God were removed from their land because of their unfaithfulness. Even in that punishment, we hear of the hope of restoration. The return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem are but a foreshadow of the true, deeper restoration God desires for his people. Hence the note of disappointment at the end of the Old Testament: the people of God were still waiting for the Promised One to come. We read the story of Israel’s restoration to their land in Ezra and Nehemiah. Israel’s restoration is a picture of and reminder that God is faithful to his promise to bless his people. During this time, we hear the promises of God being reaffirmed to give hope to the people. In Ezra we read of the first exiles returning to the land during the reign of Cyrus of the Persian Empire. They immediately seek to rebuild the temple. In Nehemiah we read of more Israelites returning to Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership some 70 years after the first exiles returned in Ezra. Nehemiah led the efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in order to provide basic protection for the city. The Israelites faced significant opposition to their rebuilding process of Jerusalem, but God was faithful to seeing them through to the end. ... Keep Reading

Have you ever imagined being the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)? You have two sons. One of them comes to you and wants out. He has had enough of the family living and wants freedom. You have only loved him, cared for him, and provided for him. If he would only remain with you, he would be set for life. But he rejects all that by demanding his portion of the inheritance so he can be free. Once he leaves, you look for any sort of update that a traveler may have about your prodigal son. You pray daily for his return. You grieve over him when you learn of his promiscuous living. You become anxious when you hear he is financially destitute. You pray and hope he would return, broken from the experiences. This is the experience of God with Old Testament Israel. He gives them everything to be blessed and to be a blessing: a covenant, people, land, and a king, not to mention the promises of one to come. Yet, time after time, Israel wants out. They want to worship idols according to their own imaginations. They want to be like other nations with multiple gods. They believe the lie that God is withholding blessings from them. God does not look for updates about how Israel is doing, but he actively sends his prophets to warn Israel of their crash course with destruction. This is Chapter 6 in the Big Story of the Bible: Unfaithfulness. In chapter 5 we saw God give Israel yet another blessing, a king who is the foreshadow and ancestor of the Promised One. David, and his son Solomon, enjoyed a great period of peace and prosperity. That all comes to an end when Solomon’s heart wanders. 1 Kings 11:1 & 1 says, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God.” Solomon, and all Israel with him, became like the prodigal son. ... Keep Reading

In Chapter 4 of the Big Story of the Bible, God formed the nation of Israel by rescuing them out of Egypt, entering into a covenant with them at Sinai, and then establishing them in the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. It is from this nation that the promised seed of the woman would come. In the next chapter of the Big Story, we see this nation reject God, again; but God works this rejection into the story of the promised one to come. Chapter 5 is called Kingdom and covers the biblical books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, and the poetry books of Psalms through Song of Solomon (the writings of David and Solomon). In 1 Samuel 8:6 the people of Israel tell Samuel the prophet, “Give us a king to judge us.” God explains to Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7). I stated last week that Israel in the Old Testament serves as a mirror for us, revealing how the human heart tends to drift away from God. In rejecting God as king, Israel shows us our tendency to resist the rule of God in our life. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, humans look for ways to avoid God. We desperately need the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent and rescue us from our sinful inclination to rebel. At first, God gives the people what they want. Israel gets Saul as king. He is taller and stronger than other men. He is a powerful military leader and decisive. But, just like Israel, Saul ignores God and takes matters into his own hands. Samuel pronounces to Saul, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Sam. 15:23). ... Keep Reading

This Fall through these Touchpoint articles I am giving an overview of the Big Story of the Bible. I have two main purposes behind this. First, I want you to read the Bible well. Part of reading the Bible well is being familiar enough with the overarching storyline to be able to fit what you are reading into that bigger picture. Every Christian should become familiar with the Bible. Second, I want you to understand your life and circumstances in light of the Big Story of the Bible. Your life story is woven into the bigger story of the Bible. The better you understand the story of the Bible, the better equipped you will be to interpret and respond to the ebbs and flows of your life. This is your story. As a review of where we are: The Prelude covers eternity past, the time before Creation. The members of the Trinity made a covenant with one another, the Covenant of Redemption. This is the thread that runs through the entire history of the world. Chapter 1 is Creation (Genesis 1-2). In creation, God sets the stage for his grand plan of redemption, making man in his image, establishing a covenant with Adam, and instituting marriage as a living picture of the redeemed relationship he desires with his people. ... Keep Reading

Chapter 3 of the Big Story of the Bible, perhaps, is the most important chapter of the story. Anyone who thinks the Bible is just a collection of rules to follow totally misunderstands Chapter 3. This third of twelve chapters is called Promises. While chapters 1 & 2, Creation and Fall, are found in Genesis 1-3, Promises covers the rest of Genesis. In this Chapter God begins to reveal his redemption plan (made before creation) through the promises he makes to people. All of our hope of rescue from the devastating effects of the Fall rest in God keeping his promises. The first promise actually comes in the context of the Fall in Genesis 3. In verse 15, God speaks to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” At first glance, this doesn’t sound too much like a hope-filled promise. Enmity? Bruising? What we learn, however, that God is speaking of is his only begotten Son becoming a descendant of Eve in order to crush the work of Satan. What Satan had meant to be the destruction of God’s good creation, God will work out to be the gloriously good redemption of his people through Christ. The rest of Genesis really is a story about the descendant of Eve. Who is he? From what family line will he come? Will the foolish actions of people threaten the descendent? On what basis does God choose the family line? Three things stand out in Genesis about how God will fulfill this promise.... Keep Reading

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