Truth for today

In light of the state of our country and our current political climate, this text from my morning devotions seems particularly appropriate:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4, ESV).

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Dwelling with a deadline

God often weaves my life’s tapestry with interlocking threads.

One of my favorite songs in the psalter is Psalm 90, a prayer of Moses, which I’ve reflected on over the years here and here and here. I also wrote a meditation on it that appears in my devotional A Month of Sundays. But in recent weeks, personal circumstances have caused my husband and me to refer frequently to its petition: “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us” (verse 15a).

God seemed to embroider my tapestry with a golden thread last Sunday evening, when guest pastor Rev. Mark Vander Hart (a longtime family friend) preached on Psalm 90. You can listen to his sermon, A Necessary Prayer to Establish Us, via a link on this sermon page (5-3-15 PM).

Only three days later, the May 6 morning reflection in the Morning and Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon was based on 1 John 4:14 and reinforced the concept of God as our dwelling place. Spurgeon asked, “Do you want a house for your soul?” He made the point that this dwelling comes “without price,” even though we would like “to pay a respectable rent” and “do something” to win Christ and have the house. We can pay nothing but the “ground-rent of loving and serving him forever,” dwelling in Jesus and feasting on his love.

When this world shall have melted like a dream, our house shall live, and stand more imperishable than marble, more solid than granite, self-existent as God, for it is God himself–“We dwell in him.”

When Rev. Vander Hart spoke about God as our dwelling place, he referred to Ephesians 1:3-10 and emphasized about how God chose us from the foundation of the world and how we’ve been with him a long, long time.

Rev. Vander Hart’s references to deadlines especially resonated with me. As a writer, I live with constant deadlines. Each day I face outside and self-imposed deadlines. But Sunday’s sermon reminded me of my ultimate deadline: death.

Rather than being morbid, that reminder is motivating. We don’t see how God weaves every thread into the tapestry of our lives. But the Utlimate Weaver creates each of his children into a beautiful masterpiece.

He provides six days each week to work for him, and he gives each of us our own personal and inevitable deadline. He has determined our exact number of days (Psalm 139:16). Let’s make the most of them!

Discovering Delight blog tour

Discovering-Delight-front (1)I recently received news about an amazing Cross Focused blog tour of Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law.

I’m thankful to David Woollin and the other folks at Reformation Heritage Books for their efforts in promoting my work. And I especially thank God for these wonderful reviews!

Local launch and book signing

Glenda Mathes and Diane Smith at my September 9, 2013, book signing
Glenda Mathes and Diane Smith at my September 9, 2013, book signing

This Friday, Lord willing, I’ll be interviewed by Patricia on KCWN 99.9 FM and will be signing books during the station’s Christmas Open House from 11:00 to 1:00. The station is located at 304 Oskaloosa St. in Pella. Local people, come over between 11:00 and 1:00 for some cookies and conversation!

And if you’re still looking for Christmas gifts, you can’t go wrong by giving someone an opportunity to dig into God’s Word. Discovering-Delight-front (1)Copies of my new devotional, Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law will be available for $10.

Searching for a gift for a middle grade reader, aged 8 to 12? Why not foster their reading skills with a novel that conveys truth in an engaging story? Matthew Muddles Through is about an ordinary but imaginative kid, the middle child in a minister’s family, who faces trouble on every side. Matthew’s humor and imagination help him cope with his problems, and in the process he learns more about loving others and trusting God. Copies of this juvenile fiction novel, the first is a series of three, will be available on Friday for $10.

PrintI’ll also have available copies of A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God and Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss for $10 each. One fortunate person will be able to purchase my singular copy of Not My Own: Discovering God’s Comfort in the Heidelberg Catechism for $15. This is the first volume of the popular Life in Christ catechism curriculum, which has sold in several countries and is being translated into eight languages.

Save shipping! Buy any of these books on Friday and the author will be happy to sign them for you.

Those of you who don’t live nearby may be interested to know that I’m scheduled to be interviewed on the Janet Meffert Show on Monday, December 20, at 2:30 Central time. You can listen online at the show’s website.

Discovering Delight

Discovering-Delight-front (1)In this Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful for many things. I’m thankful I don’t have to go away on this snowy day, and I’m thankful to finally announce that my newest devotional is available.

Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law is available from Reformation Heritage Books or Amazon. Don’t believe the Amazon listing if it says it’s temporarily out of stock or that only one is left. You should be able to get all the copies you want.

And you’ll want several. Where else can you get such an affordable and meaningful Christmas gift for all the adults on your list? This book explores each of the twenty-two sections of Psalm 119 as well as other Old Testament and New Testament texts that speak about delighting in God and his word.

Cornelis Venema, president and professor of doctrinal studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, writes, “This collection of meditations on loving God’s law by Glenda Mathes is a jewel. Mathes’s primary aim is to encourage her readers to discover delight in God’s law and commandments, especially as this is expressed in Psalm 119. She fulfills this aim admirably in a series of brief meditations, each of which brims with helpful insights into the riches of the good gift of God’s holy law. While Mathes observes that loving law clashes in modern ears like clanging cymbals, her meditations invite the reader to joy in God and His good commandments.”

Aimee Byrd, author of Housewife Theologian and cohost of the Mortification of Spin podcast, writes, “Discovering Delight focuses on a timely subject, the relationship a Christian has with God’s law, in an accessible way. If you like the idea of daily devotionals but wish they went a little deeper, this is the book for you. Glenda Mathes offers a commendable style of commentary-meets-personal-devotional. She provides the context, meaning, and personal application of Scripture that will lead the reader to greater pleasure and true joy in God’s law.”

I’m thankful for those terrific endorsements, and I’m thankful to share with others the joy of finding delight in God and his word. Discovering Delight truly was a delight to write. May it ignite your delight in the Lord to his glory!

Spurgeon’s turns

Morning
Morning

Charles H. Spurgeon has become known as the Prince of Preachers for good reason. The 19th century minister had an amazing ability to make biblical truth come alive. He knew how to turn a phrase.

Many years ago we purchased his classic Morning and Evening devotional. While I recall reading it enough to wear page edges and tear the dust cover, we didn’t use it extensively for family devotions, preferring instead to read through the Bible with our children at mealtimes. But I recently signed up at BibleGateway to receive daily devotional emails containing excerpts from Spurgeon’s classic. These daily meditations are giving me a renewed appreciation for Spurgeon’s turns of phrases and the way they vividly convey scriptural truth.

Take today’s reading (which you may be able to view here). Expounding the term “joint heirs with Christ” from Romans 8:17, Spurgeon speaks of Christ as “sole proprietor” of God’s “vast creation” and stresses our “joint-heirship” with him of heaven’s glories and his royal crown. Spurgeon writes:

He uncrowned himself that we might have a coronation of glory; he would not sit upon his own throne until he had procured a place upon it for all who overcome by his blood. Crown the head and the whole body shares the honour. Behold here the reward of every Christian conqueror! Christ’s throne, crown, sceptre, palace, treasure, robes, heritage, are yours.

What a thought! And he goes on to expand on Christ’s words about believers sharing in his fullness of joy—a concept with which I’ve always struggled. He writes, “Christ deems his happiness completed by his people sharing it.” And this:

The smiles of his Father are all the sweeter to him, because his people share them. The honours of his kingdom are more pleasing, because his people appear with him in glory. More valuable to him are his conquests, since they have taught his people to overcome. He delights in his throne, because on it there is a place for them…. He delights the more in his joy, because he calls them to enter into it.

Spurgeon excels at bringing biblical truth from my head into my heart. Inanimate theory becomes living reality.

My recently revived interest in his devotionals was piqued when I discovered the following gem from one of his reflections on Matthew 11:28-30, when Christ offers rest to those who take his yoke upon themselves:

Christ bids us wear His yoke; not make one for ourselves. He wants us to share the yoke with Him, to be His true yoke-fellow. It is wonderful that He should be willing to be yoked with us; the only greater wonder is that we should be so unwilling to be yoked with Him.

I used this gem in a PowerPoint I recently presented to four different women’s groups in Illinois and Indiana churches (you can read more about that here). The quote comes from a communion address Spurgeon delivered in his sitting room at Mentone. You can read the entire text here at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (which is an extremely helpful and comprehensive website). That meditation appears in a collection of Spurgeon’s communion addresses called “Till He Come,” which can additionally be found here as part of the extensive Spurgeon Archive. You can probably find everything you want to know (plus a whole lot more) about Spurgeon on the latter site.

Evening
Evening

Was Charles Spurgeon a perfect preacher? Of course not. Anyone can find points of disagreement among his voluminous writings. But each morning and evening lately, his devotionals have an uncanny knack for strumming my heart strings.

I can’t find our worn and torn-dust jacket copy of Morning and Evening, but I’m thinking this recent release with updated language by Alistair Begg (Truth for Life) and ESV references might be a great replacement.

In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying the devotionals as they appear in my inbox and touch my heart with Spurgeon’s turns.

AMOS on sale!

AMOS coverAmazon is currently selling my A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God for only $7.20! What a bargain! At that price, you should buy several for Christmas gifts.

UPDATE: Reformation Heritage Books is offering it at half price! Only $5!

Best. Feeling. Ever!

Is there any greater delight than being productive and believing that you’re doing exactly what God wants you to do?

Today’s a Wonderful Wednesday because I finished the introduction and Day 1 of a new devotional manuscript I’m writing.

Writing can be such a struggle when you feel as if you’re pulling every word out of your brain with a pliers. But what incredible joy when the words pour onto the page and fall neatly into place!

Christmas Rest

Tomorrow is Christmas! How does thinking about that make you feel? Excited as a child who just can’t wait? Calm as a queen who has everything under control? Or as panicky as an arachnophobic in a cellar full of spiders?

Are you making your list and checking it twice? If you’re like me, you’re making multiple lists: lists of gifts, groceries, and gatherings; lists for decorating and baking, lists for cooking and cleaning.

Maybe you’re not stressed with lots of hectic activities, but the Christmas season is a difficult time of year for you…perhaps due to uncomfortable family dynamics…or perhaps because this is the first—or yet another—year without the loved one you miss so much. For whatever reason, you may be thinking, “If I can just get through Christmas Day…or through New Year’s Eve, then I can relax.” But if that’s the way you’re thinking, you’re missing a lot of the joy that’s supposed to accompany this season. Even if you’re not longing for the holidays to be over, you may simply feel as if something’s missing during this Christmas season.

That’s why I’d like to consider with you the concept of Christmas rest. Does that sound like an oxymoron? Christmas cheer, Christmas joy, Christmas festivity, those are all familiar phrases. But Christmas rest? That sounds kind of strange. What do I really mean by that?

Rest is a concept found throughout the Bible, from Genesis, which records our Lord’s first creative work, to the book of Revelation, which depicts his final consummating return. And, although he calls us to rest in a special way every Sunday, he also calls us to rest in him daily. Psalm 37:7 encourages us to “Rest in the Lord.”

In Jeremiah 6:16, the Lord tells us, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

Isn’t rest for your soul something you desire, especially during the Christmas season? We find rest for our souls by trusting totally in our triune God. That means depending more on our heavenly Father and worrying less about our earthly future. It means becoming more aware of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, helping us obey God’s word out of joyful gratitude instead of begrudging duty. It means relying on the finished work of Jesus Christ instead of living by our own work. When we rest in Jesus, we step off the dead-end treadmill of trying to earn our salvation or God’s favor. Resting in the completed work of Christ’s atonement colors the way we observe Christmas.

ChristmasLooking at the etymology of the word “Christmas” helps us see the link between Christ’s atoning sacrifice and the concept of Christmas rest. The word “Christmas” was formed by joining “Christ” with “mass,” which already in the Middle Ages was the Roman Catholic Church’s public celebration of the Eucharist (the sacrament Protestant churches now call the Lord’s Supper or communion). The church originally celebrated Christmas as sacramental worship.

If we pause for a moment to think about how that compares to our modern culture and the way it celebrates Christmas, does it seem as if Christmas these days is less “mass” and more “mess”?

Believers originally commemorated Christ’s birth by remembering his death. Does that seem like kind of a downer? Not if we bear in mind that Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sins and purchased our salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. It is a free gift. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!

If Jesus had been merely a teacher, whose wise sayings were recorded, we might treasure his wisdom, but we’d have no reason to celebrate his birth. But he was far more. He was God who became man. That’s why we celebrate the incarnation, when Jesus became a real human being and walked on this earth. John 1:14 says about Jesus, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (ESV).

Sometimes those lovely nativity sets in our homes can give us the wrong impression about the incarnation. The incarnated Christ was more than a perfect porcelain baby with outstretched arms. He was a real baby, whose body developed in his mother’s womb. Her labor contractions pushed him down the birth canal to be born like any other baby.

But Christmas is about more than a genuine human infant. Immanuel means “God with us.” Immanuel is “God with us” then and “God with us” now. “God with us” as a baby lying in the manger and “God with us” as a man hanging on the cross. “God with us” as the resurrected and ascended Lord sitting at God’s right hand…right now.

The Prince of heaven brought peace to earth. He secured our salvation by dying for our sins. He conquered death by rising from the grave. And he rules supreme by reigning at God’s right hand. There he perfects our prayers and pleads for us with the father. He answers Satan’s accusations against us by saying, “That sin is covered. I paid for it on the cross.”

We don’t have to live the perfect life or be the perfect wife. Jesus paid for all our sins. We don’t have to earn our salvation, Jesus did it all. We don’t have to work for God’s favor. Jesus secures it for us all day, every day. We can rest in him.

When we focus on the living Christ and less on the cultural mess, we’ll be able to find Christmas rest in all our celebration, in all our sorrow, and even in all our stress.

Isaiah’s prophecy in his ninth chapter speaks in sometimes graphic language about this world’s mess, but points us past the horror of war to the Prince of Peace:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this (Isaiah 9:1-7, ESV).

Thank you, Lord, for your great gift of Immanuel, God with us. In this busy Christmas season, help us remember your ultimate gift as the reason for our gifts. Help us rest in Jesus not only as a past present, but also as a present person. Help us focus more on Christ and less on the mess.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us. Let us find our rest in thee. Amen.

The above meditation is a revised version of a devotional delivered 12-9-2012 at the Union Park Baptist Church Christmas Tea and is the property of Glenda Mathes. Please feel free to link to this URL.

A Month of Sundays free at Challies!

AMOS coverTim Challies is famous for his book reviews and “Free Stuff Fridays” on his blog: challies.com

Today he’s giving away packages from Reformation Heritage Books, including copies of my devotional, A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in GodHead over to challies.com to register for your chance to win!