Is Salvation Beautiful to You?

diamond

 

“Just as a jeweler in a store will always use a black velvet background to display the splendor of an exquisite diamond, so the intricate, dazzling beauty of the gospel is only fully seen when we understand what the Bible says about man’s radical condition outside of Christ. It’s a bleak and dark picture to be sure. Yet only when we understand the immensity of the problem can we find the right solution – and see the futility of all other man made remedies. We need far more than a moral pep talk; more than some medical first aid for our gaping wounds; and even more than even an oxygen mask to help us breathe more easily. What we need is a miracle! What we need is a resurrection!” – John Samson

The moments when I am not as impressed by the work and wonder of Christ on the cross, just so happens to be the exact same moments when I am numb to my sin and or mesmerized by my own “virtues” and the fleeting pleasures of this world. Sometimes, I don’t see the beauty of my own salvation, because I’m being entertained and blinded by this life. The happy triune God of the universe and His gift of salvation is ever before me.  Beautiful. Stunning. Entrancing. It is right before my eyes and under my nose, but somehow I miss its brilliance and I’m not seeing it’s beauty.  Are you with me? Has the work that Christ did on our behalf lost it’s luster? Is it not so shiny? Not so sparkly?

Oh gee.

We often need a reality check.

We often need to see ourselves more clearly.

We often need to be reminded of the ephemeral nature of this life.

We often need to be reminded of what life apart from Him would be like.

We often need to be reminded of His gracious, unmerited, magnificent love.

Pray for your affections and understanding of God to be increased. Prayerfully read Scripture-even if you don’t feel like it! Especially if you don’t feel like it! Look at who He is and what He has done. Look at who you are and all that you have done. Each salvation story is a jaw-dropping, praise-evoking,  joy-bringing, undeserved, irrevocable miracle! Whether you were a 4 year old growing up in a solid, christian home, or a thief hanging on a cross-your salvation is a miraculous gift. What blessings come when we see God’s grace, and glory, and goodness against the backdrop of who we are apart from Him! How much more beautiful and treasured is my salvation when I remember where I should and could be without it! Peace and God-centered adoration and delight will flow through our spirit when we intentionally work to put the radiance of the gospel in front of our radical condition outside of Christ.

I’m not showing you a pebble and asking you to be in awe of it. I am showing you the most rare, precious, valuable gem in existence asking you to marvel at its worth. Jesus Christ and his gospel is the only exhilarating, essential, life-giving, fulfilling, captivating truth in the universe! Look at it and be amazed!

What Old Bay Teaches Us About God

Since I was raised in Maryland, I am firm believer in the transforming power that Old Bay seasoning has on food.  So much so, that every wedding I go to, I include a box of it in my gift with three wonderfully cheesy reminders:

  1. ALWAYS REMEMBER-OLD BAY SEASONING IS AN AMAZING GIFT FROM GOD-JUST LIKE YOUR SPOUSE!
  2. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO SPICE UP YOUR MARRIAGE! 😉
  3. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO OL’BAY (obey) YOUR HUSBAND!

Recently I came across this clever post about Old Bay by Dan Oshinsky: http://www.buzzfeed.com/danoshinsky/old-bay-seasoning-is-a-gift-from-the-gods . This guy’s opinion of Old Bay is spot on, but his theology is waaaaay off. He says:

“If there is a God, Old Bay is proof that God obviously spent his/her formative years somewhere near the Chesapeake Bay.”

And to that, I would say:

Well sir, there is a God. He is awesome. He had no formative years because (I know this is mind blowing) He is eternal. He transcends time. He always has been. He always will be. There was no beginning and there’ll be no end. He’s God, and He’s remarkable like that.  Oh, and about Him being near the Chesapeake-you got that sort of correct! Because He’s also omnipresent! This is another really cool thing about Him-He is absolutely everywhere all the time. I know it’s hard/weird for our human minds to get how that is possible. But He is God and sooo not like us in so many ways-and that’s a good thing.

But you are right that Old Bay does show us some things about God! It shows us that he is INCREDIBLY GRACIOUS, and AWE-INSPIRINGLY CREATIVE.  Gracious in the sense that when He created us, He didn’t have to give us taste buds. We would have been completely fine without them; food could have been solely for nourishment and without delight and we wouldn’t have known any better. BUT instead, He is so kind, and loving, and gracious that he gave us the ability to taste and enjoy! Just because!

And I say it shows His amazing creativity because when making taste buds, He could have made it so that we taste one or two sort of taste. Good or bad. Sweet or salty. Spicy or tangy. That’s it. But no. He gave us the ability to taste it all. We can taste over a hundred flavors of ice cream, dozens of types of hot sauce, countless varying  spices like cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper, amazing herbs like basil, rosemary, and my personal favorite-cilantro! Every country in the world brings out different flavors to foods that we get to enjoy! In America we enjoy root beer floats, apple pies, barbecue ribs, grits, green bean casserole, and of course, Old Bay Crabs. And our pallets are sure to break out in a song and dance number when we get to eat different things like Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Greek, Irish, and English dishes!

Isn’t our Creator awesome?

And if that God is so gracious and kindly creative, don’t you want to get to know Him? Don’t you wonder what else He is like? Because you don’t have to wonder! He has given so many answers in a book all about Him, called the Bible. I know you’ve heard about it! Well next time you are so pumped and excited and overwhelmed because of the awesomeness of something in His creation as small and insignificant as a seasoning-I hope it leads you to deeper seeking to know the happy, holy, just, perfect, kind, brilliant, sovereign being behind life’s little gifts like Old Bay. 🙂

 

Marvel at the Gift of Adoption

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The Pompell Family

I was born Betty-Catherine Carolyn-Michelle Widenhoffer. It’s a mouthful-I know. Fortunately, eight years later I was adopted and my name changed to Betty Catherine-Michelle Pompell. I was so proud of my new name. I told anyone about my adoption who would listen! I remember leaving 3rd grade for an appointment with the judge in my “Sunday Best” gleefully exclaiming to my classmates-“I’m leaving to get adopted!” My aunt mailed me a card with my new name on it and I pinned it to my wall and kept it there for years, and years, and years. I love the family that God gave me. I shudder to imagine what my life would be like without the Pompells. Apart from my salvation, adoption has been the biggest blessing God has given me here on earth.  It is neat to think about and reflect on the gift of earthly adoption, and compare it to our gift of heavenly adoption.

My name was hardly the only thing that was changed-that was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, my whole world was morphed into a new one.

  • My birth certificate changed. That’s right, the official document now says that my adoptive mom, Karen, gave birth to me on July 31st 1989 when she was 34 years old, and that the father is her husband, Robert, who was 38 years old. I know that may seem little to you, but to me, that was the coolest thing. To me it brought comfort that people couldn’t look at my past and dig up, “oh look who you were the first 8 years” no, according to the State of Virginia, I am now, and have always been a Pompell.
  • So I got a new birth record, a new name, and not just new parents-but a new family.  Bob and Karen had a daughter, so by default, she automatically became my sister once the adoption went through. I am so glad she is-what a gift God has given me in her! Though not flesh and blood, our bond is deeper than our DNA.  Bob’s mom became my grandmother, and I had new cousins and new aunts and uncles too!
  • Also, when I was adopted, my birth mother had certain restrictions placed on her. She could no longer be within so many miles of me; she could not ever take me back. She forfeited all of her rights to Karen and Bob, and could do nothing without their consent and approval.  The adoption was permanent; I was safe.
  • Lastly, I love that I played no part in my adoption-except to joyfully receive it! Mom and Dad were not “impressed” with me, or excited about what I could bring to the family. They didn’t see excellence in me, or hope of a comfortable retirement from me in their old age. No, no, no. They saw a broken, difficult, neglected young girl with a dulled sparkle in her eye and spirit. They saw a child whose innocence was taken too young, and whose life begged for attention, love, and direction. Despite being warned by psychologists, counselors, and the like of my high probability for leading a life of disaster, my Mom and Dad in faith, took me in, loved me as their own, and breathed a joyful hope into my young, fragile spirit. Since they didn’t choose me based on my good behavior or because of hopeful expectations they had for me, but solely because of their love-I had no fear of  them getting rid of me if I didn’t “measure up!”

Can you see how this mirrors our salvation? 

Your spiritual birth certificate says that you have ALWAYS been Christ’s. He knew and choose you before the foundations of the world. There has NEVER been a time where his eyes have not been on you and his heart has not been for you.

You not only received a new Father, but also a new family. You are a co-heir with Christ. You have a family of sisters and brothers in the Lord that are stronger binds than any earthly relationship.

Your birth mother of sin has no hold on you. You don’t have to worry about the adoption being retracted or her coming back to get you. Nothing can happen to you without your Father’s approval. You are a child of God! Sin no longer has a hold on you! No one can ever pluck you from your Father’s hand.   

And lastly, 17th century Presbyterian theologian John Flavel says, “As God did not at first choose you because you were high, so he will not forsake you because you are low.” What comfort in our adoption! God did not choose you because you were really bringing a lot to the table, or because he thought you would be a great asset to the kingdom. No. He chose you solely based on his perfect grace. Thankfully, since that is what it is based on, you can do nothing to earn it and you can do nothing to end it.  

Our gift of being adopted as God’s own child is something that we should all marvel at and rest peacefully in more. Think about the true implications that your salvation has in your own life. What does it change? What fears vanish in light of who your Father is? What lies dissipate knowing whose child you are? What gratitude is brought forth knowing what your life would be like if you were still with your “birth parents”?

ADOPTION Scripture Print // Ephesians 1:5 Bible Verse // Faith Art · MERCY iNK · Online Store Powered by Storenvy

Romans 8:14-16 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

Why Did God Save Noah?

NOah

I praise the Lord that like many of you readers, I grew up in a Bible teaching, gospel loving church. And I am sure that if you would have asked me about the story of Noah I could have echoed it back to you-flannel graph and all. If you would have pressed me, “Why did God preserve Noah’s life?” my answer would have sounded something like this:

“Well, all the rest of mankind was evil and wicked in every way, but Noah was righteous. Noah didn’t sin or lust or disrespect Yahweh, but instead tried to obey, love, and honor Him. God saw this good behavior and when deciding to punish all the evil men, he rewarded Noah’s obedience and preserved his life via the ark!”

Right?

Would you have said that too?

Would you have taught the lessons with a concluding statement of, “So even if everyone around you is sinning, YOU need to be good so that you too can sail away from God’s wrath and be safe from his righteous judgment”? If so, what that is teaching us is that God saved Noah because of what Noah was doing and not doing. Genesis 6:8 tells us

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

So my question is, is that concluding statement the point of the story? Did he “find favor” after he was being well behaved and doing all the “right things?” Is that when God’s eyes lit up at the sight of Noah? Or maybe because he was the smartest or the bravest or the most committed? Is that when God “finds favor” with us?

No.

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord not when he was obedient, but LONG before. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord before time dawned when the Trinity predestined him to be able to obey and have righteousness and please God and desire to do God’s will above his own. The order of events was not:

Noah’s righteousness –>            God’s favor —>              Noah’s Salvation

But instead…

God’s favor –>                              Noah’s Salvation –>                     Noah’s Righteousness

See the only reason Noah was seen as virtuous and blameless was because of GOD’S GRACE in his life empowering him to be that. His works of righteousness is a response to being found favorable in God’s eyes, not the other way around. And this is reason to rejoice! This truth makes God so much better! It is not that He is watching his people, searching feverishly for someone righteous to reward-he would NEVER find anyone-we are all naturally so self-glorifyingly wicked! Instead, he has graciously chosen to make people righteous in his eyes for His perfect plan and because of His lavish love!

Why did God save Noah? It’s the same reason why God saved you.

Friends, we should be the most grateful of all people. God does not love you because of your good works. He did not save you because of any potential He saw in you or any desirable attributes you have. It is all grace.  And therefore, He does not forsake you because of your shortcomings. He is not surprised by your failings or regretful of his decision to make you His child and heir. The love in God’s eyes when he looks at us is not based on our performance, but based off of his beautiful, gracious favor and kindness.

Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”