Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coffee With Calvin

John 1:4

God Nearer to Us

He speaks here, in my opinion, of that part of life in which men excel other animals; and he informs us that the life which was bestowed on men was not of an ordinary description, but was united to the light of understanding. He separates man from the rank of other creatures, because we perceive more readily the power of God by feeling it in us than by beholding it at a distance

Thus Paul charges us not to seek God at a distance, because he makes himself to be felt within us (Acts 17:27). After having presented a general exhibition of the kindness of Christ, in order to induce men to take a nearer view of it, he points out what has been bestowed peculiarly on themselves; namely, that they were no created like the beasts, but having been endued with reason, they had obtained a higher rank.

As it is not in vain that God imparts his light to their minds, it follows that the purpose for which they were created was that they might acknowledge him who is the Author of so excellent a blessing. And since this light has been conveyed from him to us, it ought to serve as a mirror, in which we may clearly behold the divine power of the Speech.

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barriers to Revival: Church and Family Conflict

In light of today’s epidemic immorality and compromise, it may even sound strange to call disunity a preeminent revival hindrance. Yet surveys reveal divisive conflict and lack of love are even more prevalent than out-right immorality (at least in the church). According to Jesus, relationship sins are often even more spiritually offensive than some of the more outward sins of the flesh (Matthew 5:23; 6:14; John 13:34-35). Worse yet, they bring shame and dishonor to the holy name of God.

Nearly every New Testament epistle contains strong commands for fervent love and unity among believers. Only the issue of salvation receives greater focus in New Testament writing. Without question, God is extremely serious about strong love and unity among Christians! This issue is absolutely central to God’s kingdom purpose and to exalting His name.

Yet for all the biblical importance of loving unity, congregations hear astoundingly little detailed teaching on this subject. Unfortunately, teaching that does occur is often general and vague. Detailed descriptions are badly neglected. Yet this is exactly the kind of specific teaching required for deep conviction and healing in damaged relationships. Throughout revival history, restored relationships are significant in sweeping revivals.

Excerpted from Releasing the Revival Flood: A churchwide Journey to Miraculous Unity and God-Glorifying Fellowship

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Mountain Peak Visions

The spring edition of Mountain Peak Visions (the West Virginia WMU newsletter) is now available for download in .pdf format.

This issue includes the following topics;
- Missions and Children: Girls in Action and Children in Action
- Preschoolers and Prayer
- Royal Ambassadors
- Mary Ida Tidsworth Missions Endowment
- Acteens / Youth on Mission
- Women on Missions and Missions Mosaic

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Edwards Wednesday

Revelation 1:16

The Sun’s Brilliance

As the sun is an image of Christ upon account of its pleasant light and benign, refreshing, life-giving influences, so it is on account of its extraordinary fierce heat, it being a fire of vastly great fierceness than any other in the visible world. Hereby is represented the wrath of the Lamb.

This is a very great argument of the extremity of the misery of the wicked, for doubtless the substance will be vastly beyond the shadow. As God’s brightness and glory is so much beyond the brightness of the sun, his image, thus the sun is but a shade and darkness in comparison of it, so his fierceness and wrath is vastly beyond the sun’s heat.

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Mornings with Augustine

Revelation 3:19

Tough Times

Not every gracious person is a friend. Neither is every one who strikes you an enemy. Better are the wounds of a friend than the tender kisses of an enemy. It is better to love with severity than to deceive with gentleness.

Those who restrain the frenzied and those who stir up the lethargic are both offensive and, in both cases, are motivated by love for the patient. Who can love us more than God does? And yet He not only gives us sweet instruction, but also continually stimulates us by healthy fear.

God often adds the sharp medicine of suffering to the soothing remedies He comforts us with. He afflicts even the pious and devout patriarchs with famine, strikes a rebellious nation by even more severe punishments, and refuses to take away the apostle’s thorn in the flesh (although asked to remove it three times) so that He may perfect His strength in weakness.

Let us, by all means, love even our enemies, for this is right. God commands us to do so in order that we may be children of our heavenly Father “who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” As we praise His gifts, let us also ponder His correction of those whom He loves.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Crash Prevention—Study

Dr. Don Deel, the Mountain State Baptist Association Director of Missions, has given some helpful advice on how to prevent the kind of ministerial crash described in these earlier posts. We have seen his first and second suggestions. Today is the third:
Fall in love with studying the Word of God. If the only time you spend studying the Bible is to prepare a message, you have put a muzzle on yourself as you feed your sheep. They’re receiving, but you aren’t. You need to be fed as well. Take time to study for yourself. If messages come out of that, that’s fine. But the point is to receive. Take time to go to pastor’s fellowships, where you can receive ministry and encouragement. Take time to be with your wife and children.
Next Monday we will look at the final prevention step.

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Personal Testimony, Part 5

Somewhere during this time of renewal, God began to remind me of His call on my life. When God truly calls a person, His call does not expire. In my life, He remained quiet until I was ready to fully submit to His lordship. His reminder did not come dramatically, but rather in a slow, unfolding way. First, He gave me an insatiable hunger for learning. Then, he built upon that learning with a desire and a gift to teach. Finally, it was as clear as if He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember how at one time I wanted you to preach? I still do.” Up until that point, I had not remembered the commitment I made years before at Glorietta. It was only after I renewed my relationship with God that He graciously, clearly, and quietly reminded me of His call.

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Martyrs Monday

Hebrews 11:1

“Here is the plan,” said the young Christian leader to the youth group. “At 8:30 you must begin to distribute the meeting invitations at the university. You must give them all out quickly before the secret police come and ask what you are doing. If you cannot give them to someone, just leave them lying somewhere. God will get them into the right hands.”

“You want us to pass out invitations before we have permission?” Images of being arrested by the Egyptian police flashed through the minds of the anxious men and women gathered around their leader.

“Exactly! Look, we have to exercise a little faith. We’ll take the first step, and the rest is in God’s hands.”

In Egypt, Christian gatherings are closely monitored and cannot be held without government approval. Shortly after 8:30, the youth leader called the police to request permission to hold a Christian gathering.

“You must fill out the proper forms, and we will notify you in a month or so.”

“I am sorry, sir, but we have already begun giving out invitations for the meeting,” the Christian answered anxiously.

“Why did you give invitations before you had approval? You know we must approve such meetings. Well, I guess since invitations have already been given out I will approve the meeting this time.”

Putting our faith into action is all about taking the first step on an uncertain journey. As others who have made this journey will tell us, it’s not the actual going that is difficult. It is “going without knowing” that is a bit unnerving. There are no maps on a journey of faith. We navigate by the starlight of God’s provision. It’s an off-road adventure that leads us to places we cannot see from the main highway of life. It took great faith for the believers to send out invitations to a meeting that they weren’t sure would be permitted. God honored their step of faith by blessing them with three hundred new converts that night. Are you ready to step out in faith?

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

This Week's Memory Verse

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dobson's Defeat

It is unwise to attempt to assess a person’s mental state after only listening to a two minute audio clip. That being said, Dr. James Dobson’s words reflect a tone of defeat and discouragement. As we have watched the waning influence of the so-called Religious Right, it is sad to listen to Dr. Dobson. I have no doubt that he is a godly man who has accomplished many wonderful things. But now in his twilight years, as his role in the ministry he created fades to black, this audio gives the impression that he is asking the question, “What exactly have I accomplished?”

That should serve as a lesson to us. If we desire our legacy to be political and cultural, we will one day look back in frustration at how little we accomplished. Our political activism and social involvement will never usher in heaven on earth. The very best we can hope to accomplish is what Dr. Dobson laments as a “holding action.” Every so-called progress made in stemming evil politically will be overwhelmed. Pornography will increase. Violence will increase. Immorality will increase. The culture of death will increase. Evil will continue to increase even as labor pains increase in frequency and intensity until the time of delivery (Matthew 24:8).

So what is the answer? Should we slink off in helpless despair? Should we curse the darkness around us and cry ourselves to sleep? That would have to be our reaction if our only hope was in our political activism and social involvement. But that is not our hope. Our hope is in the power of the Gospel. While we continue to work within the parameters of good citizenship to stem the tide of evil, that is not our hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. He will one day remove the curse and restore His creation.

Until that time, our most effective and productive activity is not a “holding action.” Our most effective and productive activity is an “expansion action.” Universally preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we spend a lifetime doing that, we will never look back on our lives in defeat and despair, for then we will have truly accomplished something.

Matthew 24:14

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Spurgeon Saturday

Revelation 3:20

What is your desire? Is it set upon heavenly things? Do you long to enjoy the high doctrine of eternal love? Do you desire liberty in very close communion with God? Do you aspire to know the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths? Then you must draw near to Jesus; you must get a clear sight of him in his preciousness and completeness: you must view him in his work, in his offices, in his person.

He who understands Christ, receives an anointing from the Holy One, by which he knows all things. Christ is the great master-key of all the chambers of God: there is no treasure-house of God which will not open and yield up all its wealth to the soul that lives near to Jesus. Are you saying, “O that he would dwell in my bosom?” “Would that he would make my heart his dwelling-place for ever?” Open the door, beloved, and he will come into your souls. He has long been knocking, and all with this object, that he may sup with you, and you with him.

He sups with you because you find the house or the heart, and you with him because he brings the provision. He could not sup with you if it were not in your heart, you finding the house; nor could you sup with him, for you have a bare cupboard, if he did not bring provision with him.

Fling wide, then, the portals of your soul. He will come with that love which you long to feel; he will come with that joy into which you cannot work your poor depressed spirit; he will bring the peace which now you have not; he will come with his flagons of wine and sweet apples of love, and cheer you till you have no other sickness but that of “love o’erpowering, love divine.”

Only open the door to him, drive out his enemies, give him the keys of your heart, and he will dwell there for ever. Oh, wondrous love, that brings such a guest to dwell in such a heart!

Readings taken from Logos Bible Software version of Morning and Evening: Daily Readings by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Bring My Books!

Justin Taylor has posted a great excerpt from Charles Haddon Spurgeon's sermon on 2 Timothy 4:13 where Paul asks Timothy to bring him his books/parchments.

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read.... A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they
by the apostle!

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!

He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "Give thyself unto reading." The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.
Okay—so now I don’t feel quite so guilty about the books I bought at last night’s WVCSB State Evangelism Celebration. But honey, I had to—Paul and Spurgeon said so!

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Personal Testimony, Part 4

In 1999, we moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where I had the privilege to sit under the ministry of a man I still consider a mentor—Reverend Scott Thompson of Emma’s Grove Baptist Church. Under his ministry, I more fully began to experience a renewed relationship with God. God filled me with an insatiable desire to read and study about Him, His Word, and His world. I went back to school, enrolling in Liberty University’s distance learning program. At the same time, I earned two Associate of Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. God also gave me a burning desire to teach His Word. At Emma’s Grove, I was able to serve as a deacon, work on several committees, and teach Sunday school. I also had the opportunity to preach my first sermon there. God has given me the best blessing a father can have—seeing all of his children profess faith in Christ. In Asheville, I was blessed to lead our two youngest children, Katelyn and C.J., to Christ. My father baptized each of them at Emma’s Grove.

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Friday with the Fathers

Hebrews 11:1

Clear Vision—Clement of Alexandria

Faith lacks nothing. It is perfect and complete in itself. If it lacks anything, it is not completely perfect. But faith isn’t disabled in any respect. After we leave this world, it doesn’t make we who have believed wait. Instead, we receive the pledge of future good without distinction.

Where faith is, there is the promise. And the completion of the promise is rest. In addition, through illumination we receive knowledge, and the end of knowledge is rest.

So, then, just as inexperience ends by experience and bewilderment by finding a clear way out, so darkness must disappear by illumination. The darkness is ignorance. Through it we fall into sins, completely blind to the truth. Knowledge, then, is the illumination we receive that makes ignorance disappear. It gives us clear vision.

Bonds of ignorance are quickly loosened by human faith and divine grace, and our sins are taken away by the medicine of the Word. We are washed from all of our sins and are no longer entangled in evil. Our character isn’t the same as before our washing.

Since knowledge springs up with illumination the moment we hear, we who were untaught become disciples. For instruction leads to faith, and faith with baptism is taught by the Holy Spirit. That faith is the one universal salvation of humanity.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coffee With Calvin

Joshua 2:8-9

Responding to Fear

Rahab recognizes that it’s the work of a divine hand that has struck fear into the people of the nations of Canaan, which, in a way, causes them to pronounce their own doom upon themselves in anticipation. Rahab infers that the terror which the children of Israel have inspired in the Canaanites is a token of the Israelites’ victory, because the Israelites fight under God as their Leader. In the fact that, while the courage of Canaan had melted away, the Canaanites prepared to resist the Israelites anyway—with the obstinacy of despair—we see that when the wicked are broken and crushed by the hand of God, they are not so subdued as to receive God’s yoke, but in their terror and anxiety become incapable of being tamed.

Here too, we have to observe how, when afflicted by the same fear, believers differ from unbelievers, and how the faith of Rahab displays itself. She herself was afraid, just like every other one of the Canaanite people; but when she reflects that she has to deal with God one way or the other, she concludes that her only remedy is to avoid evil by yielding humbly and placidly, since resistance would be altogether useless. But what is the course taken by all the wretched inhabitants of Canaan? Although terror-struck, so far is their sin from being overcome that they stimulate each other to the conflict.

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Increased Love and Unity Exalts God’s Name

The greatest reason for seeking a revival flood involves a primary purpose of our existence. And what is that primary purpose? Put simply, it is to know, love and glorify God through seeking His kingdom and exalting His name. And without question, loving one another is a vital part of loving God and seeking His kingdom.

When we learn to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, we find life itself. “But seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). “Whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). Indeed life is all about knowing Him, surrendering to Jesus and walking humbly with our God (John 17:3). Jesus pulled it all together in His two Great Commandments. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it—Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

The Bible leaves no doubt that loving God means loving each other (Matthew 22:37-38; John 13:34-35; 17:21). Today believers must re-discover a vital fact—the two Great Commandments are inseparably linked! In other words, no one can truly love God yet be unkind or bitter toward fellow Christians. In Matthew 5:23 and Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus made clear that anger and disunity among believers seriously blocks our relationships with Him. In fact, the entire chapter of John 17 closely ties God’s glory and our witness to dynamic oneness among saints.

In terms of love and fellowship, today’s Church is in a major crisis. Never has our nation seen such devastating disintegration of church and family relationships. In fact, what we have witnessed in family structure is no longer a decline, it is an unmitigated collapse. As much or more than any other factors, relational anger and unforgiveness are huge barriers to a modern day revival flood.

Excerpted from Releasing the Revival Flood: A churchwide Journey to Miraculous Unity and God-Glorifying Fellowship

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Edwards Wednesday

1 John 3:2

Greater Intimacy

The saints’ conversation with Christ in heaven shall not only be as intimate, and their access to him as free, as of the disciples on earth, but in many respects much more so; for in heaven, that vital union shall be perfect, which is exceeding imperfect here. While the saints are in this world, there are great remains of sin and darkness, to separate or disunite them from Christ, which shall then all be removed.

This is not a time for that full acquaintance, and those glorious manifestations of love, which Christ designs for his people hereafter; which seems to be signified by his speech to Mary Magdalene, when ready to embrace him, when she met him after his resurrection; “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17).

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Succumbing to The Shack

Yesterday while in Roanoke, VA, I availed myself of the opportunity to go to two of my favorite places—LifeWay and Barnes & Noble. In southern West Virginia where I live, we have neither, so it is a special treat to wander the aisles of both bookstores. Kind of like Disney World, only way better.

My travel route first took me to Barnes & Noble—besides, I really needed a Starbucks. I was able to find a couple of interesting looking books on the discount table which I will put in the “when I get to them” reading stack. After looking at how big that stack is, it will probably take a while to get to them. The Fight for Jerusalem will probably get read sooner rather than later, but I can imagine it will take a while to get to Behe's book. Nothing against Behe, but his material is not light and I usually have to have some external motivation to spur me on to reading it. I can see it sitting on the shelf until I start preparing for next spring’s Psalm 19 conference.

As I was meandering the aisles I came across The Shack. I have read several reviews on the book, including the multipage essay by Challies. I also heard what Dr. Mohler had to say about it on his radio program. After their appraisals, I was not interested in the book at all. I rarely read novels and this one seemed to be just the latest example of New Age drivel. Nevertheless, when I saw The Shack display at Barnes & Noble, I casually picked up a copy to see what all the hubbub was about. I have heard rumblings about Christians I know who are enthralled by it (to the point of teaching through it in Sunday School), so I wanted to get a glance for myself. I was taken aback by the cover blurbs—Eugene Peterson compared it to Pilgrim’s Progress! Michael W. Smith wrote that it will “leave you craving for the presence of God.” I was intrigued, but still didn’t bite. A $15 cover price for a paperback will often serve to squelch curiosity and intrigue—especially if I’m reasonably sure I’m not going to be annoyed by reading it. I sipped my coffee and resisted. Then I went to LifeWay.

After all of the controversy and charges of heresy I have heard surrounding The Shack, I was surprised to find it prominently displayed in the front of the store. In addition, it was part of a promotional sale they were having. I noticed that the tag on the shelf underneath the book was marked with LifeWay’s new warning tag (pictured above). I had read about the tag when they implemented it several months ago. I was disappointed by how tiny the font was and the fact that it was on the shelf below the book instead of on the book cover itself (the warning is more in-depth and much clearer on their website). As I saw the display and thought of the people in my church who were probably reading the book, I succumbed. Of course the sale price coupled with my minister’s discount probably didn’t hinder my decision. As I approached the register, the young man behind the counter positively gushed. He told me that it was the best book he had ever read.

I am highly skeptical about books that are runaway best sellers in the evangelical community—especially when they are at the same time runaway best sellers in the secular community. That alone smacks of New Age spiritual gobbledygook. But, now that I bought the book, I have obligated myself to read it. I will read it with my highlighter and pen, and evaluate it for myself. I have a couple of books to finish before I get to it, but within the next few days, you will see it appear in “What I’m Reading Now” in the sidebar of this blog. Then within a couple of weeks, I hope to review it.

Until then, let me leave you with a recommendation. If you can squint enough to read the words on the LifeWay warning label, heed the part that says, “Read with extra discernment.” That is what I intend to do.

1 John 4:1-6

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Tuesday Mornings with Augustine

Luke 17:3

Rebuke in Love

We should rebuke in love—not eagerly hoping to injure the person, but earnestly taking care to improve him. If we have such a mindset, we practice what Christ commanded: “If thy brother shall sin against thee, rebuke him between thee and him alone.”

Why do you rebuke such people? Because you are grieved that they sinned against you? God forbid. If you do it out of love for yourself, you don’t do anything. If you do it out of love for the other person, you act in excellence.

Notice what these words say about whom you should love in doing so—yourself or the other person: “If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Do it for other people’s sake then, so that you can “gain” them. If by doing so you “gain” them, they would also be lost if you hadn’t done it.

Therefore, don’t let anyone disregard it when he sins against a fellow Christian. For the Apostle Paul said, “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ,” because we have been all made members of Christ. How can you not sin against Christ if you sin against a member of Christ?

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Crash Prevention—Relationship

Dr. Don Deel, the Mountain State Baptist Association Director of Missions, has given some helpful advice on how to prevent the kind of ministerial crash described in these earlier posts. Last Monday we saw his first suggestion. Today is the second:
Get into relationship with a mentor. We all need help from time to time, maybe even more so when we’re in the ministry. You need someone who has the wisdom, experience, and hopefully the anointing to minister to you as a pastor. God has provided for this need within His ministry to you. It is part of the “calling” of an apostle. Jesus never built an organization, nor did Paul. They built relationships with other ministers whom they could pour their lives into. All of Paul’s letters are an example of this. He wrote to the elders and ministers over the churches he had established, giving them help and instruction. Find someone with the same anointing, and enter into a mentoring relationship with them. Pray with and for your wife and children.
Next Monday we will look at the third prevention step.

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Personal Testimony, Part 3

In the mid-nineties, after a tour supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Saudi Arabia, I began to truly submit to God’s work in my life. Moses had to spend 40 years in the desert at Midian and Paul had to spend three years in the Arabian Peninsula desert—by God’s grace, I only had to spend 120 days in the desert. When I got home, I finally began to submit to the Lord and grow spiritually under the ministry of Reverend Brad Ball at Bel Aire Baptist Church in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was there where God began to spark a desire in me to read and to learn His Word that has never abated. It was also during this time that God blessed me with the awesome privilege of leading Kyla, my firstborn, to the Lord. She was almost immediately baptized.

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Martyrs Monday

Proverbs 19:21

Dr. Robert Bateman gently helped his sister-in-law into the lifeboat. “Don’t be nervous, Annie. This will test our faith. I must stay and help the others. If we never meet again on this earth, we will meet again in heaven.” Bateman dropped his handkerchief to the woman as the boat dropped toward the dark, icy water below. “Put that around your throat, Annie. You’ll catch cold.”

Dr. Bateman then gathered about fifty men at the stern of the ship and told them to prepare for death. Earlier that day, he had conducted the only religious service on the large ship, a service that ended with his favorite hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Robert Bateman had founded the Central City Mission in Jacksonville, Florida, a spiritual lighthouse in a city regularly full of drunken sailors. He had been called “the man who distributes more human sunshine than any other in Jacksonville.” Bateman went to England to study Christian social work and was returning to the United States to put into practice what he had learned.

However, late on the night of April 14, 1912, Bateman’s ship struck an iceberg. Bateman led the men with him on the stern of the ship in the Lord’s Prayer. As the band played “Nearer My God to Thee,” the great ship Titanic slid under the waves.

It is said that one sure way to make God laugh is to tell him our plans! When we accept Christ, we are embarking on the greatest adventure of our lives. In order to make the journey worthwhile, we must surrender ourselves to his command—the captain of the ship. He orchestrates our life’s journey as he sees fit, navigating through our whims and wants toward greater goals. At times, even the worst of times, his map seems antiquated and we wonder if he has lost his way. Jagged rocks jut out from the murky depths. The moonless night envelops us in its darkness. How tempted we become at that moment to resume control of our life’s plans. The voyage is a venture in faith, however, if it is anything at all. God’s plans for our lives steer us in directions we might never choose for ourselves. Yet he knows best.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

This Week's Memory Verse

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Product Placement Gone Wild!

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Spurgeon Saturday

Joshua 2:21

Rahab depended for her preservation upon the promise of the spies, whom she looked upon as the representatives of the God of Israel. Her faith was simple and firm, but it was very obedient. To tie the scarlet line in the window was a very trivial act in itself, but she dared not run the risk of omitting it. Come, my soul, is there not here a lesson for thee? Hast thou been attentive to all thy Lord’s will, even though some of his commands should seem non-essential? Hast thou observed in his own way the two ordinances of believers’ baptism and the Lord’s Supper? These neglected, argue much unloving disobedience in thy heart. Be henceforth in all things blameless, even to the tying of a thread, if that be matter of command.

This act of Rahab sets forth a yet more solemn lesson. Have I implicitly trusted in the precious blood of Jesus? Have I tied the scarlet cord, as with a Gordian knot in my window, so that my trust can never be removed? Or can I look out towards the Dead Sea of my sins, or the Jerusalem of my hopes, without seeing the blood, and seeing all things in connection with its blessed power? The passer-by can see a cord of so conspicuous a colour, if it hangs from the window: it will be well for me if my life makes the efficacy of the atonement conspicuous to all onlookers. What is there to be ashamed of? Let men or devils gaze if they will, the blood is my boast and my song. My soul, there is One who will see that scarlet line, even when from weakness of faith thou canst not see it thyself; Jehovah, the Avenger, will see it and pass over thee. Jericho’s walls fell flat: Rahab’s house was on the wall, and yet it stood unmoved; my nature is built into the wall of humanity, and yet when destruction smites the race, I shall be secure. My soul, tie the scarlet thread in the window afresh, and rest in peace.

Readings taken from Logos Bible Software version of Morning and Evening: Daily Readings by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Peep Show Marketing

The circus sideshow has now become a peep-show. For several years, we have watched a marketing-based approach to ministry become the norm in American evangelicalism. The problem with using marketing to build churches (other than biblical concerns) is that people are increasingly desensitized to secular marketing approaches.

In an oversaturated media environment, it is virtually impossible to garner attention. For example, how does one billboard stand out amongst the dozens along a typical commute? Marketers have tried pithy catchphrases and colorful pictures. Beautiful beaches and mountains have been used. There have even been attempts at disseminating serious information. But nothing grabs attention like sex. Suggestive and even lewd pictures are joined by crassly suggestive phrases and double-entendre. The fact that sex sells has become axiomatic in the world of sales and marketing.

Sadly, the axiom is being adopted by many churches. Churches have moved from the carnival barker marketing of the distant past to the production / event marketing of the recent past. Churches are now realizing that isn’t enough. Attention craving, marketing driven ministries are finding it difficult to get noticed in the current market. So they are increasingly turning to what works. They are increasingly selling themselves with sex.

Ed Young, Jr. made national headlines with his “Seven Day Challenge”. Last year, he challenged the married couples in his congregation to commit to seven straight days of sex. To illustrate, he made the challenge while sharing the platform at Fellowship Church with a huge bed. As offensive and unbiblical as the message was, what generated national attention was how it was marketed. Young made several national TV appearances, including CNN. Billboards were rented that promoted the “sermon”. Even more disturbing is the number of copycats it has generated. John MacArthur has said, “Sermons about sex have suddenly become a bigger fad in the evangelical world than the prayer of Jabez ever was.”

One of the latest examples is Daystar Church in Good Hope, AL. I’ve been to Good Hope—other than the huge Daystar campus, there’s not much there. Most of the people who attend Daystar commute from Birmingham. But last month, the pastor Jerry Lawson started a sermon series titled, “Great Sex: God’s Way.” Needless to say, it wasn’t a straightforward exposition of Ephesians 5. While it doesn’t appear that Lawson’s messages were as provocative or lurid as Mark Driscoll’s infamous Song of Solomon series, the purpose was the same. With all the national media attention and marketing surrounding the series (including billboards along I-65 and a CNN appearance), there is no explanation other than a desire to attract an audience. The axiom once again holds true—sex sells.

But is that what we are called to do? Are we, as the church, called to market the Gospel? Is the Gospel a product that we are called to peddle? The answer becomes clear when we understand what the Gospel is. The Gospel is offensive. It is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). If you have ever endured the stench of decomposing flesh, you understand Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. To the lost and dying world we are called to reach, the Gospel is a repulsive stench. We can dress up the corpse and perfume it all we want to. But if it is still the Gospel, it is still offensive to lost people. We are not called to peddle the Gospel. We are called to proclaim it—accurately, lovingly, thoroughly, boldly and continually.

Is there a place for preaching and teaching on sex in the church? Yes—in a sensitive, tactful, respectful and reverent manner. Sex within the confines of marriage is a glorious gift from God. It is impossible to systematically preach through the Bible without touching on the subject—especially as a picture of Christ’s intimate love for the church. Sex was given as a picture of the Gospel—not as sophomoric titillation designed for a marketing ploy. When used in that way, it sullies the Gospel and cheapens the gift of sex.

Sex might sell, but it does not save.

2 Corinthians 2:17

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Personal Testimony, Part 2

Satan began his deception almost immediately after I surrendered to the ministry when, instead of pursuing the pastorate, I decided to study Christian radio and television broadcasting at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. My brief initial stint in college was marked by spiritual decline, rebellion, and ultimately carnality. My rebellion was so thoroughgoing that, when I left college, I even began to dabble in the occult. In the midst of my horrible rebellion, God graciously showed His mercy by giving me a godly wife and a career in the Air Force.

For several years I was what might be called reformed, but not truly renewed. When a person has a call on his life and has not fulfilled it, he can never experience a truly renewed relationship with God. While we were stationed overseas, my relationship with the Lord was more obligatory than full. That relationship continued to wane during years of heavy travel as part of our tour in Gulfport, Mississippi, eventually becoming lukewarm at best. I often succumbed to sin, but I did not live in open rebellion as in the past. Sometimes I even filled important roles in the church like Sunday school teacher and deacon. Something was amiss until the Holy Spirit convicted me that living a decent life and being a hard worker was not the same as truly living for Him.

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Friday with the Fathers

Daniel 2:22

Revelation of God—Hilary of Poitiers

Our nature can’t contemplate heavenly things by its own strength. We must learn from God what we should think of Him. We have no source of knowledge but God Himself.

You might be as well trained in secular philosophy as possible, and you may have lived a life of righteousness. But, although all of this will add to your mental satisfaction, it won’t help you know God.

Moses was adopted as the queen’s son. He was instructed in all the Egyptians’ wisdom. Moreover, out of loyalty to his race, Moses avenged the Hebrew by slaying the Egyptian who wronged him.

Yet he didn’t know the God who blessed his fathers. For when he left Egypt afraid of his deed being discovered, he lived as a shepherd in the land of Midian. There he saw a fire in the bush, but the bush wasn’t consumed. Then he heard the voice of God, asked His name, and learned His nature. Despite all this he couldn’t have known anything except through God Himself.

We, in the same way, must confine whatever we say about God to the words He has spoken to us about Himself.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ex Libris: Preaching for God’s Glory

Alistair Begg gives some wonderful insight into preaching in the little booklet, Preaching For God's Glory (Today's Issues).

Check out my review over on Ex Libris.

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Coffee With Calvin

John 11:26

Perpetual Life

This is the exposition of the second clause, how Christ is the life; and he is so, because he never permits the life which he has once bestowed to be lost, but preserves it to the end. For since flesh is so frail, what would become of men if, after having once obtained life, they were afterwards left to themselves? The perpetuity of the life must, therefore, be founded on the power of Christ himself, that he may complete what he has begun.

The reason why it is said that believers never die is that their souls, being born again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23), have Christ dwelling in them, from whom they derive perpetual vigor. For though the body be subject to death on account of sin, yet the spirit is life on account of righteousness (Romans 8:10). That the outward man daily decays in them is so far from taking anything away from their true life, that it aids the progress of it, because the inward man is renewed from day to day (2 Corinthians 4:16). What is still more, death itself is a sort of emancipation from the bondage of death.

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Revival Means an Explosion of Intimacy and Power with God

We now turn our attention to the greatest of all revival blessings —an incredible closeness with God Himself! For believers who often feel distant and find it hard to hear God’s voice, His voice often becomes clearer than those of spouses and best friends!

For those who struggle with areas of spiritual bondage or defeat, God’s power begins to flow like a river (John 7:38). Impossible mountains begin to move and long awaited answers at last arrive.

Churches and ministers long dry and weary suddenly burst forth with new life. God’s name is exalted and His kingdom explodes forward by evangelistic harvest!

While a revival flood certainly does not remove all suffering, God’s grace becomes so real we tend not to care. In fact, true revival often brings some level of persecution from those who oppose God. Yet truly revived believers are so full of God they actually rejoice in their persecutions and trials! (2 Corinthians 12:9; James 1:1-3)

If you are among the millions struggling to achieve a strong prayer life or intimacy with God, please take hope. Spiritual power is not out of reach and God definitely desires to help you remove your barriers. But even beyond personal blessings and closeness with God, there is another purpose greater than all other. That purpose is pleasing God and glorifying His name! Indeed, true revival is all about Him, not us.

Excerpted from Releasing the Revival Flood: A churchwide Journey to Miraculous Unity and God-Glorifying Fellowship

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In Christ

Are you a Christian? According to some recent statistics, over 80% of Americans call themselves by that label. But being a Christian is far more than calling yourself by a label. Being a Christian is being in Christ. In this Easter Sunday message, we’re looked at what it means to be in Christ.

The manuscript of Sunday morning’s sermon from Romans 6:1-11 is available here. You can listen online or download the .mp3 audio file or podcast from the player at the bottom of this page.

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Edwards Wednesday

Proverbs 11:4

Mercies’ Dam

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose.

It is true that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward.

If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This Week's Memory Verse

Ooops! Didn't get the memory verse posted this week--I'll try to do better!

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