The Storm Rages On

Listening to the weather forecast on the first day of spring was infuriating.  I found myself shaking my fist at the TV and calling down curses upon the “computer models.”

This is spring, but its spring in the High Plains, which usually means another three weeks of winter! How I long for the sun to shine through these bleak overcast skies; for the world to turn green rather than this shoe-bottom brown.

But, alas, I must wait.  Though the sun is trying to shine through my window now, off in the distance the clouds are forming and the storms rage on.  More snow, more cold, more winter – that’s all the weather man said.

I saw this meme and knew it to be true:

Winter Meme

Old man winter just won’t die. He keeps rearing his ugly head. Doesn’t he know when he has overstayed his welcome?

Just as I long for the sun to shine and new growth to come to the world outside, how desperately do I long for this in my own heart.  I long to walk in the radiance of the glory of God, to see new growth in the life on the vine. I want to live a life that delights my creator, to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to grow in my love for my neighbor.

And yet, the old man in me simply won’t die.  Sin keeps rearing its ugly head.  The temptations I thought I had overcome keep creeping back in, the vices the gripped me, continue to squeeze all life from me. My old self, with all it’s worldly passions and tastes still rages on.  Like a winter storm that comes in the midst of spring, the old life in me  comes to bite, devour, and delay any growth in righteousness.

I grow tired of the battle, of fighting the same fights day after day.

Doesn’t the old life know its defeated? Christ has conquered sin and death, and in Christ, I live a new life.  The war is over, but the battle rages on. Why then do I struggle with sin?

Galatians 5:17, while speaking truth to my heart, may not give me a lot of encouragement.  Paul writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against he Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to teacher other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  In Romans 7, he famously writes, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

There is a war that is raging between the old life in the flesh and the new life in the Spirit.  If we enter this battle simply laying down our arms, we will be overcome and lose all the joy of our salvation.  If we are engaging in this war, fighting against the last outposts of worldliness and the strongholds of sin in our hearts and minds with the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God), the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of faith, and all of the armor of God, then we will overcome, as Christ has overcome the world.

There is promised victory, new life, in Christ. Yet this victory, while glorious, is never complete in this life. The Westminster Confession describes it this way:

This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

How do we ready ourselves for this battle?  While I could focus on the armor of God, or the means of grace, or the pursuit of spiritual disciplines, I think the best place to start is with looking to Christ.  If you want to enjoy the delights of spring, then when the sun is shining – go stand in it for a while. If you want to engage in the battle against sin in your life, then “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).  Fix your eyes upon Christ. Read in His word of His grace, His love, His power, His goodness.  Allow Christ to become bigger than any obstacle you face today (1 John 5:4-5), to become more satisfying than that which temps you (John 6:35), more rewarding than anything this world offers (Psalm 16:5-6).

I’ll conclude with yet another quote from Robert Murray McCheyne:

Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable.
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!
Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms.
Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him.
Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.

A Time to be Thankful

“Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

(Psalm 147:1 (ESV)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and what great timing!  The election is over, and regardless of who you supported, I don’t think anyone is completely satisfied with the election.  The money spent by each campaign was disgusting, the lies and falsehoods, scandals and cover-ups, were shameful.  The election revealed that we are a nation evenly divided.  There are wars and rumors of wars around the world, but political correctness and expediency keeps us from protecting and defending our allies.  Economies are crumbling, and those who have been elected to lead us lack the courage of their convictions to do what is right and necessary.  If ever we need a time to be Thankful, this is the time.

In spite of all that we see around us, let us never forget the blessings we have received from the hand of our Heavenly Father through the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.  The blessings are innumerable, immeasurable, and incorruptible.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3).

To this end I share with you the Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving, presented by President Lincoln on October 3, 1863.  In commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, but also the turning point in the war, Lincoln called the nation to a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings and mercy that come in the midst of God’s dealing with our sins.  May this serve as a reminder of all those things for which we are thankful.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

May you have a truly blessed day of Thanksgiving!

SDG