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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wonderful Rainy Days

I must confess… my family has a terrible tendency to over schedule. Most of the time, every second of our lives are filled to capacity—with good things, but nevertheless filled. We’re not victims. It’s not that we have trouble saying no. We just really like to say yes—to everything. And when a slot opens up on the calendar, we seem to feel like we have to fill it as soon as possible. That’s why this week has been so special.

We finally decided to take a vacation. Now, let me tell you what that’s usually like. Normally, when my family takes a vacation, it’s to do something. We travel to see family. We go to a theme park. We have an agenda. We fill every waking moment with activity and busyness. Most of the time when we come home from “vacation” we are utterly exhausted. I have half-joked many times about needing to get back to work in order to rest and recover.

For the most part, this vacation is like that. My time away started this past Monday. That’s the same day our state missions camp started, so I drove the kids up in the church van. Camp finishes today, so I’ll head back up to get them in a little while. I’ll be back in the pulpit on August 8th, so tomorrow I’ll need to work on those sermons. Sunday, we’re heading to Southside Baptist Church in Parkersburg, WV, to spend time with my aunt and uncle, who is pastor there. Then it’s off to Montgomery, AL, to spend time with our oldest daughter and friends from our time living there. As usual, every second will be filled to overflowing. Kids will need to be dropped off with friends. We will scatter to the four winds. Stress. I can’t wait.

Once again, that’s why this week has been so special. I was excited to drive our church’s young people to missions camp this year because the group included our two children who are still at home. That meant that my wife and I had three whole days to ourselves. We made the best of it without making the most of it. We rented a chalet in the Smokies and chilled. We walked together (going nowhere in particular). We talked together (without interruption). And for the most part, we didn’t have a schedule or anything pressing to attend to. It rained every day, but it was beautiful.

Now, back to busyness!

Proverbs 18:22

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Like God

Luke 6:36

How is it possible to be a child of God? By being free from all passions and showing gentleness to those who offend and wrong us. There is nothing that brings us as near to God and makes us so much like Him as doing these good things. Therefore, when Paul says, "Be ye followers of God," he means that they become followers by doing these things. For we need to do all good deeds, but above all we must love others and show gentleness.

Since we sin many times each day, we need much of His love ourselves. Therefore, we also need to show much mercy. Much and little aren't measured by the quantity of things given, but by the givers' means. And if you don't have any¬thing but have a compassionate soul, this will prepare a reward for you.

So then, let us then be inclined to show mercy and all other blessings will follow. For those who have a spir¬it of love and mercy will give money away if they have it. If they see anyone in distress, they will weep. If they encounter people who have been wronged, they will stand up for them. If they see others treated maliciously, they will reach out their hand to them. For those that have a treasure house of blessings, a loving and merciful soul will make it overflow to meet all of their neighbors' needs. Such people will enjoy all the rewards God has prepared.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ex Libris: Charles Darwin's Religious Views

Was Darwin ever a believer? Did he ever experience a death bed conversion?

You can read my review of Charles Darwin's Religious Views: from Creationist to Evolutionist, by David Herbert over on Ex Libris.

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A Smelly Distraction

John 11:39

There being nothing more inconsistent with life than putrefaction and offensive smell, Martha infers that no remedy can be found. Thus, when our minds are preoccupied by foolish thoughts, we banish God from us, if we may be allowed the expression, so that he cannot accomplish in us his own work. Certainly, it was not owing to Martha that her brother did not lie continually in the tomb, for she cuts off yhe expectation of life for him and, at the same time, endeavors to hinder Christ from raising him; and yet nothing was farther from her intention.

This arises from the weakness of faith. Distracted in various ways, we fight with ourselves, and while we stretch out the one hand to ask assistance from God, we repel, with the other hand, that very assistance, as soon as it is offered. True, Martha did not speak falsely, when she said, "I know that whatsoever thou shalt ask from God he will give thee"; but a confused faith is of little advantage, unless it be put in operation, when we come to a practical case.

We may also perceive in Martha how various are the effects of faith, even in the most excellent persons. She was the first that came to meet Christ— this was no ordinary proof of her piety—and yet she does not cease to throw difficulties in his way. That the grace of God may have access to us, let us learn to ascribe to it far greater power than our senses can comprehend; and, if the first and single promise of God has not sufficient weight with us, let us, at least, follow the example of Martha by giving our acquiescence when he confirms us a second and third time.
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

God-Appointed Power for Revival

The Bible says the people of Nineveh believed God (Jonah 3:5). The power of God’s preached message changed a city of hundreds of thousands of people. How did that happen? It happened by the power of God. He empowered the preacher and gave him exactly the message to preach. When the people heard the Word of God, the Scripture says they believed God. Their belief and their faith in God began to change them.

Here is the evidence of the power of God: The king sent a decree throughout the city saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” (Jonah 3:7–9)

Everything about the city was changed because when the preaching of the Word of God was laid out in front of them in the power of the Holy Spirit, they heard and they believed. The Bible says that from the top to the bottom, from the greatest to the least, they all believed in God and were changed. That is why this goes down in history as perhaps the greatest awakening ever recorded in the annals of religion.

Please note, it was all of God. It was God-appointed prayer, a God-appointed preacher, and God-appointed preaching. A God-appointed place, a God-appointed period of time, and God-appointed power. When all those things come together, we should not be surprised to discover that a revival is taking place. God is anxious to do that today if we will preach the message He has given us to preach, and if we will go in the power of His Holy Spirit, but most of all, if we pray.

Excerpted from The Runaway Prophet, by David Jeremiah.

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False Hopes

Psalm 36:1

Some flatter themselves with a secret hope, that there is no such thing as another world. They hear a great deal of preaching, and a great deal of talk about hell, and about the eternal judgment; but those things do not seem to them to be real. They never saw anything of them; they never saw hell, never saw the devils and damned spirits; and therefore are ready to say with themselves, "How do I know that there is any such thing as another world? When the beasts die, there is an end of them, and how do I know but that it will be so with me? Perhaps all these things are nothing but the inventions of men, nothing but cunningly devised fables."

Such thoughts are apt to rise in the minds of sinners, and the devil sets in to enforce them. Such thoughts are an ease to them; therefore they wish they were true, and that makes them the more ready to think that they are indeed true, so that they are hardened in the way of sin, by infidelity and atheistical thoughts. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1); "They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, the LORD shall not see; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it" (Psalm 94:6-7).
—Jonathan Edwards

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Persecution

John 15:2

If suffering persecution was always praiseworthy, the Lord could have said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted,” without adding, “for righteousness’ sake.” In addition, if inflicting persecution was always blameworthy, Scripture wouldn’t say, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I persecute.” Therefore, in some cases, the one who suffers persecution is wrong and the one who inflicts it is right.

The truth is, however, that the bad have always persecuted the good, and the good have persecuted the bad. The former harm by their unrighteousness, the latter seek to do good by administrating discipline. The former act with cruelty, the latter with peace. The former are compelled by lust, the latter by love. Those who aim to kill aren’t careful about how they inflict wounds, but those who aim to cure are cautions with their dagger. For one seeks to destroy what is healthy, but the other, that which is decaying.

The Jews scourged Christ; Christ also scourged the Jews. People handed the apostles over to national powers and the apostles handed people over to the power of Satan. In all these cases, one thing is important to observe: who was on the side of truth, and who on the side of iniquity? Who acted from a desire to hurt, and who from a desire to correct what was wrong?
—Augustine of Hippo

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Deep Riches: On the Trinity

Have you ever seen the word "trinity" in the Bible? Probably not, especially considering the fact that it's not there! So where did we come up with it? See the answers over on Deep Riches.

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On the Trinity

While the word “trinity” is not in the Bible, the Bible explicitly and implicitly teaches the concept. The Old Testament explicitly teaches that God is one God – primarily in the shema (Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one! – Deuteronomy 6:4). The New Testament explicitly teaches God exists in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 8-10; especially 10:30 and Colossians 1:15-20).

On the surface, we are either faced with a contradiction between the two Testaments, or a deeper teaching. Since the Word of God is complete and without error, we are faced with a deep teaching that can only be understood through comprehensive illumined Bible study. Although Tertullian was the first to give the doctrine of the Trinity its name and later church councils creedalized it, it has always been revealed in Scripture.

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Martyrs Monday

Isaiah 42:4

Pastor Florescu couldn’t bear to watch his son being beaten by the Communist officers. He had already been beaten himself, and he had not slept for two weeks for fear of being attacked by the starving rats the Communists had forced into his prison cell. The Romanian police wanted Florescu to give up other members of his underground church so that they, too, could be captured.

Seeing that the beatings and torture weren’t working, the Communists brought in Florescu’s son Alexander, only fourteen years old, and began to beat the boy. While Florescu watched, they hammered his son’s body unmercifully, telling the pastor that they would beat his son to death unless he told them the locations of other believers.

Finally, half mad, Florescu screamed for them to stop.

“Alexander, I must say what they want!” he called out to his son. “I can’t bear your beatings anymore.”

His body bruised, blood running from his nose and mouth, Alexander looked his father in the eye. “Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Stand strong! If they kill me, I will die with the word ‘Jesus’ on my lips.”

The boy’s courage enraged the Communist guards, and they beat him to death as his father watched. Not only did he hold on to his faith, he helped his father do the same.

Is there no justice in this world? When we read of the horrible atrocities committed against the innocent, we can’t help but wonder. We may falter in our faith when we hear about cruel suffering at the hands of evildoers. We may become discouraged when we long for the salve of mercy that seems to tarry. Is there no justice in this world? In answer to our cry, the Bible teaches the principle of “yes and not yet.” Yes, some evildoers meet with swift justice here and now. However, God’s mighty hand of infinite justice has yet to fall on this earth. That is saved for the end of time. We grow weary waiting, but he is undeterred.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

False Anticipations

Mark 4:19

Our hearts deceive us in promising I know not what contentment and happiness in the fruition of these outward blessings, when yet the event answers not our expectation. O says the deceitful heart, "If I might have this or that which I desire, so much living, such or such an office, or preferment, how comfortable and salacious a life should I lead?"

Well, when it has its wish, it fares with it almost, as with the Israelites in their quails: it finds more vanity and vexation of spirit in its presence than it did before in the want of this its so much desired good. Hence also that phrase of the "deceitfulness of riches," because they do not perform that which our hearts promise us concerning them.

In the same regard all worldly honors are called "lies" by David: "O ye sons of men, how long will ye follow after lies?" (Ps. 4:2). The lie indeed is in our own false hearts. We make them liars, in that we promise such great matters to ourselves of them. The rich fool promised himself a little heaven in his riches: "Soul, take thine ease" (Luke 12:19), but alas how soon did God disease him? "O fool, this night shall they take away thy soul," and then where is thy ease?

The reason of this deceit is that we, in our expectation of these outward things, before they come, apprehend only the good and the sweet, abstracted from the sour, the pleasure divided from the pain, but in the fruition we feel both, yes, more of the sour than of the sweet, and hence it comes to pass that nothing pleases us so well in the fruition, as in the expectation. Nay, almost nothing pleases us as much when had as when hoped for. Nothing, I mean, of these temporal things; as for eternal things, they are more loved by us when possessed than when desired.
—Daniel Dyke

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spurgeon Saturday

Genesis 39:12

In contending with certain sins there remains no mode of victory but by flight. The ancient naturalists wrote much of basilisks, whose eyes fascinated their victims and rendered them easy victims; so the mere gaze of wickedness puts us in solemn danger. He who would be safe from acts of evil must haste away from occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes not even to look upon the cause of temptation, for such sins only need a spark to begin with and a blaze follows in an instant. Who would wantonly enter the leper’s prison and sleep amid its horrible corruption? He only who desires to be leprous himself would thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in the midst of a safe channel.

This day I may be exposed to great peril, let me have the serpent’s wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove may be of more use to me today than the jaws of a lion. It is true I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company, but I had better leave my cloak than lose my character; it is not needful that I should be rich, but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin. The devil I am to resist and he will flee from me, but the lusts of the flesh, I must flee, or they will surely overcome me. O God of holiness preserve thy Josephs, that Madam Bubble bewitch them not with her vile suggestions. May the horrible trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil, never overcome us!

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

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Friday, July 24, 2009

On the Trinity

Starting Monday over on Deep Riches, look for a new short series on the Trinity. While I won't attempt to explain the Trinity in depth, I will provide you with some food for thought. Look for it starting Monday!

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Perfect Pastor

Over on the Desiring God blog, John Piper quotes John Newton as follows:

In my imagination, I sometimes fancy I could [create] a perfect minister. I take the eloquence of ______, the knowledge of ______, the zeal of ______, and the pastoral meekness, tenderness, and piety of ______. Then, putting them all together into one man, I say to myself, "This would be a perfect minister."

Now there is One, who, if he chose to, could actually do this; but he never did it. He has seen fit to do otherwise, and to divide these gifts to every man severally as he will. (Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, p. 107.)
The quote is interesting on several levels. First, the obvious fact that no pastor is perfect. Second, it's interesting how that nearly three centuries later, people are still searching for one.

But what I found most intriguing about the quote were the ministerial qualities that Newton listed. The qualities of Newton's perfect pastor would include eloquence, knowledge, zeal, personal meekness, tenderness and piety. Judging from today's pastoral searches , the modern church's qualities of a perfect pastor are much different. It seems that many would assemble the perfect pastor using the charisma of ______, the personality of _________, the performance skills of _______, the marketing and entrepreneurial savvy of ________, the management skills of ______, and the hipness of ________.

Quite a difference, wouldn't you say?

1 Timothy 4:11-16

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Amazing Grace

Happy birthday, John Newton. God's grace is truly amazing.

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Understanding God

Job 11:17

No matter what knowledge of God we can gain by observing or reflecting on Him, He is far better than how we perceive Him. Say we wanted to acquaint someone who couldn’t bear a spark of light or the flame of a very small lamp with the brightness and splendor of the sun. Wouldn’t it be necessary to tell him that the sun’s splendor was unspeakably and incalculably more glorious than all the light he had already seen?

In the same way, our knowledge of God is restrained by flesh and blood. Due to our participation in material things, our minds are dull in their attempts to understand spiritual things, although our understanding hardly compares to a spark or lamp. However, among all intelligent, spiritual beings, God is superior to all others—so unspeakably and incalculably superior. Even the purest and brightest human understanding can’t comprehend His nature.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paper or Plastic?

Let me introduce to you a book lover’s nightmare:

Late in the night while you sleep, a shadowy figure enters your house by some unknown method. He disturbs nothing—walks right past your wallet and your wife’s jewelry box. The gun cabinet and electronics remain untouched as he stealthily slips past your bedroom into—of all places—your library. Completely undetected, he removes several classic volumes from your shelves leaving gaping voids in your formerly meticulously organized shelves. You awake the next day and experience the feeling of personal violation that comes from being victimized by a thief.

That scary scenario seems unlikely, but in a sense, that is what happened to owners of Amazon’s Kindle digital readers. Okay, it wasn’t technically theft—and no one broke into anyone else’s home. But last Friday, unbeknownced to their owners, Amazon remotely accessed Kindle readers and deleted some digital books that their owners had bought from them. To their credit, Amazon paid the people back. But readers lost any notes or highlighting they had placed in their books.

What was the greatest irony of the whole situation? Among the books that were deleted—George Orwell’s 1984. If you don’t get the irony—read the book. The REAL book. And when you finish, you can always do something else you can't do with an electronic book. You can resell it or give it away!

HT: Alan Jacobs

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Ex Libris: Tortured for Christ

Tertullian once said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. That was not just a historical statement that reported on the early church. It is an observation that still holds true today in lands that are far removed from the prosperous comfort and complacency of the American church.

Click over to Ex Libris to read my review of Tortured for Christ, the account of Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs.

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Turned by God’s Hand

Proverbs 21:1

Whenever God is pleased to make way for his providence, even in external matters he turns and bends the wills of men. Whatever the freedom of their choice may be, it is still subject to the disposal of God. Daily experience teaches that your mind depends more on the agency of God than the freedom of your own choice. Your judgment often fails, and in matters of no great difficulty your courage flags. At other times, in matters of the greatest obscurity, the mode of explaining them at once suggests itself, while in matters of moment and danger, your mind rises superior to every difficulty.

In this way, I interpret the words of Solomon, "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD has made even both of them" (Prov. 20:12). For they seem to me to refer not to their creation, but to peculiar grace in the use of them. When he says, "The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever place he will" (Prov. 21:1), he comprehends the whole race under one particular class. If any will is free from subjection, it must be that of one possessing magnificent power, and in a manner exercising dominion over other wills. But if it is under the hand of God, our will surely cannot be exempt from it.

On this subject there is an admirable sentiment of Augustine, "Scripture, if it be carefully examined, will show not only that the good wills of men are made good by God out of evil, and when so made, are directed to good acts, even to eternal life, but those which retain the elements of the world are in the power of God, to turn them to what place he pleases, and when he pleases, either to perform acts of kindness, or by a hidden, yet indeed, most just judgment to inflict punishment."
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

God-Appointed Period of Time for Revival

The place may be right for a revival, but if it is not the right time—God’s time—revival will not come. Interestingly, Jonah’s was the fourth and final warning to the city of Nineveh. A serious plague had swept through the city of Nineveh in 765 BC. That was followed by a total eclipse of the sun on June 15, 763 BC, and another plague in 759 BC. People in ancient cultures reacted differently to disasters and heavenly happenings than Western cultures do today. They were not secular in their worldview. They believed that the “gods” were intimately involved in their daily lives. If there was a disaster, they thought they were being punished. If there was an eclipse in the heavens, the sun and moon gods were at odds with one another. Whether they were right or wrong, they took signs seriously. So when a bald, bleached prophet appeared in their city (following two epidemics and an eclipse), they were ready to listen.

Is it possible that through some of the events we witness in our culture today, God is preparing us to hear the Word of the Lord? The onset of AIDS, tragedies that spark news all over the world, continued violence, the breakdown of the family, assassinations of leaders—all of these things should be awakening us to the fact that we desperately need to hear the voice of God.

The revival in Nineveh happened at a time orchestrated by God so that when the message came, it would find hearing among the people. It was a God-appointed time for a revival in Nineveh.

Excerpted from The Runaway Prophet, by David Jeremiah.

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The Picture of Marriage

Don’t you just love a good mystery? Mysteries are fun because all the clues point to the answer. In today’s passage, Paul reveals the fact that marriage is a mystery. But it’s not just an ordinary mystery. Marriage is a mystery that reveals the true nature of Jesus and the love He has for His bride, the church.

This is the second message of our Faith and Family series. The manuscript from Sunday morning’s sermon from Ephesians 5:22-33 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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The Breath of Life

Genesis 2:7

The breath of man is as it were his life, hereby showing what man's life is, even a blast of wind that goes away and comes not again. To this the Scripture seems to have reference in several places, as Job 7:7, "O remember that my life is wind"; Psalm 78:39, "He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again," alluding to the breath's going forth when a person is dying. And that thin, vanishing vapor that is in the breath, that at some seasons appears but vanishes away as it were in a moment, is a type of the very thing expressed, "What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). While the breath continues warm, the vapor appears, but when that warmth is gone, the vapor disappears. This represents how suddenly our vital heat or warmth, that maintains the life of the body, will be gone, and cold death will succeed.
—Jonathan Edwards

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WVCSB Annual Men and Boys Retreat

The 2009 WVCSB annual men and boys retreat will be held September 18-19 at Camp Caesar in Cowan, WV.

This will be a great time of food, fun, fellowship and the opportunity to meet with God in the great outdoors.

Guest Speaker: Craig Culbreth, Partnership Missions Director, Florida Baptist Convention.

Cost: $5.00

Deadline: Sept. 3, 2009

Click here for more information.

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Teach Us to Number Our Days

I came across this blog post and was intrigued by the title. I had read about the death of the world's oldest man this past weekend, but Gregg Metcalf really put things into perspective.

Psalm 90:12

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Three Temptations

1 John 2:15-16

Human desires are tempted only by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. The devil tempted the Lord by these three. He was tempted by the lust of the flesh when, while hungry from fasting, He was told, “If thou be the Son of God, speak to these stones that they become bread.” Listen to His response: “Not by bread alone doth man live, but by every word of God.”

He was also tempted by the lust of the eyes to perform a miracle, when He was told, “Cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone,” Listen to His answer and, when you face similar temptations, say the same thing: “Get the behind me Satan; for it is written, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God.”

How else was the Lord tempted? By the “pride of life.” When the devil carried Him up to a high place and said to Him, “All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” What answer did the Lord teach us to five by His answer to the devil? “It is written, Thou shall worship the Lord they God, and Him only shall thou serve.”

Holding these things fast, you won’t have the strong desires of the world. Because you won’t have the strong desires of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life won’t change you. For if you love the world, you cannot love God.
—Augustine of Hippo

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Monday, July 20, 2009

The Great Gospel Mystery

Everybody loves a mystery. When I was growing up, Hardy Boys Mysteries were some of my favorite books. It seemed like every time I went to the library, I came home with more of them. I remember looking on the back cover at the list of all the titles and checking off which ones I had already read. When I got a little bit older, I graduated from Hardy Boys to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie Mysteries. I enjoyed reading mystery books because they made me think. As I read, I rarely knew who committed the crime even though the author continually gave clues throughout the book. Sometimes those clues would lead to nothing more than a wild goose chase, but occasionally they were fairly easy to figure out. If you paid enough attention to the subtleties and clues, you could figure out the mystery. Whether you figured it out or not, the final pages would clearly unveil the mystery. There was always a review of the most important clues and those clues would all be tied together. The result was a completely clear picture of what really happened. The mystery was solved!

The words that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:32 are interesting. When referring to marriage, he says, “This is a great mystery.” What is he talking about? How is marriage a mystery? Marriage had been going on for thousands of years since God first instituted it in the Garden of Eden. When God instituted marriage, He used it to provide for our need for intimate relationship. He also used it to illustrate His nature. There wasn’t much mystery there—God established marriage as a permanent covenant relationship in order to show His covenant nature. He established marriage as a new, one-flesh union that replaced the individual lives who went before. That was a wonderful display of His regenerating nature.

The covenant nature and regenerating nature of marriage weren’t a mystery. God clearly revealed them when He first established the institution in Genesis 2. What remained a mystery was how God would accomplish those things. How would He fulfill His covenant? How could He establish a permanent, faithful covenant relationship with people who are completely unfaithful? How would He provide regeneration? How would He cause all old things to pass away without doing damage to His holiness? How would He make all things new? That was the mystery. And, like any good mystery, the Old Testament is filled with clues.

Looking back on the Old Testament from this side of the cross, we can see the entire Gospel in its pages. But from the perspective of the Old Testament saints, all they had was hope and trust in the promises of God. They didn’t see how the clues would all fit together but they trusted that God would fit them all together and reveal the mystery in His perfect timing. What is fascinating is that one of the clues God gave was marriage. Of course, many men in the Old Testament messed up the clues that God was giving them when they had multiple wives. That was never God’s design and it was sinful. Had they not engaged in that sin, they would have had a clearer picture of the mystery of salvation that God was revealing to them. But they were hard-headed just like we are.

If we treated marriage like we are supposed to, we wouldn’t have such a hard time spreading the Gospel. Instead, the testimony of Christ's love for His bride would abound because a wonderful picture of the Gospel would be constantly on display in our lives. Throughout the Old Testament, God used marriage as a clue to His redemptive purposes in Christ. They just didn’t get it. Today, God still uses marriage as a picture of His redemptive purposes in Christ. Imagine the response in the world today if we were to “get it” and display the sacrificial love of Christ for His bride in the way that we sacrificially love our wives. Once again, the church would be turning the world upside-down for Christ.

Hebrews 12:2

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Deep Riches: The Character and Nature of God

Who God is, in and of Himself, is one of the greatest arguments for the inerrancy and infallability of Scripture. Check out this argument over on Deep Riches.

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The Character and Nature of God

The character and nature of God insures the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Some would consider this a circular argument, but it is one that is completely logical. If the God of the Bible exists, He is perfect, righteous, holy and omnibenevolent. As such He loved man enough to reveal Himself to him. He revealed Himself in His creation – not enough to know Him intimately, but enough to know He exists.

If God was the god purported by the Deists, that limited revelation would be sufficient – but He is so much more. He made us for relationship with Him. Because of that, He revealed Himself in His Word. He is known sufficiently, truly and intimately through His Word – His inspired, inerrant, and infallible written Word, and His Word made flesh.

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Martyrs Monday

Philippians 1:3

“Collect some wood!” the soldiers snarled. Young James Jeda assumed that the soldiers were about to cook their dinner. Earlier that day, he had watched, horrified, as the radical Muslim soldiers killed his parents and four siblings in Southern Sudan. They spared James only to use him as a worker.

When the fire was well lit, James was surprised and terrified when they suddenly grabbed him, and he tried to flee. But the soldiers were too strong, and soon they had tied his hands and feet.

“Good news for you, young one,” said a soldier. “We are going to let you live. But you must join us by becoming a Muslim.”

“I cannot become a Muslim,” James said simply. “I am a Christian.”

Infuriated by the young boy’s faith, the soldiers picked him up and hurled him into the fire. They packed up their gear and left the area, assuming James would die.

Young James didn’t die. He managed to roll out of the fire and find help.

Doctors were able to save James’s life, but he will always carry reminders of that day. His body bears skin grafts and scar tissue, and one arm is partially deformed b y the burns. In heaven, those scars will be honor bars, a reminder of the day when James Jeda refused to turn his back on Christ.

Most people are suckers for souvenirs. One can hardly make it through the gauntlet of gift shops at an airport or train station without succumbing to the temptation to buy a memento of the trip’s experience. But what is there to remind us of our most significant life experience—our commitment to Christ? Some will look at their paycheck and remember the promotion they declined because they were not willing to compromise their morals. Others, upon seeing a public school classroom, will recall where they first learned what it was like to be persecuted. Still others will see a gravestone of a believer and be reminded of the meaning of commitment. These “souvenirs” are infinitely significant reminders of the price of faith in Jesus Christ.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Always Near

Psalm 119:151

Though God stands far off, yet He is near, though not sensibly, yet really and truly; the essence of the nearness remains still, though the sense and influence is somewhat cut off. Even as it is with the sun, when it is covered with a cloud, the body of the sun is as near as when the cloud was not before it, though the heat and light, its influence, are somewhat cut off. A man is still as near the sun in a cloudy day as in a clear day; so, too, a man is as near God, that once is truly near Him, even when He hides Himself under a cloud of trial.

The relation to the substance holds firm, as a son is as much a son when he is a thousand miles off from his father, as when he is in the same room, in his father's presence; so, too, a son of God is as much a son, for the essence and truth of the relation, and as much a spouse, when God is hidden from him under the distance of affliction, as when He was joyous and at peace.
—Richard Vines

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Spurgeon Saturday

Numbers 2:31

The camp of Dan brought up the rear when the armies of Israel were on the march. The Danites occupied the hindmost place, but what mattered the position, since they were as truly part of the host as were the foremost tribes; they followed the same fiery cloudy pillar, they ate of the same manna, drank of the same spiritual rock, and journeyed to the same inheritance. Come, my heart, cheer up, though last and least; it is thy privilege to be in the army, and to fare as they fare who lead the van. Some one must be hindmost in honour and esteem, some one must do menial work for Jesus, and why should not I? In a poor village, among an ignorant peasantry; or in a back street, among degraded sinners, I will work on, and “go hindmost with my standard.”

The Danites occupied a very useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up upon the march, and lost property has to be gathered from the field. Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth, and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith, and restoring her fainting sons. Every position has its duties, and the slowly moving children of God will find their peculiar state one in which they may be eminently a blessing to the whole host.

The rear guard is a place of danger. There are foes behind us as well as before us. Attacks may come from any quarter. We read that Amalek fell upon Israel, and slew some of the hindmost of them. The experienced Christian will find much work for his weapons in aiding those poor doubting, desponding, wavering, souls, who are hindmost in faith, knowledge, and joy. These must not be left unaided, and therefore be it the business of well-taught saints to bear their standards among the hindmost. My soul, do thou tenderly watch to help the hindmost this day.

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

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Friday, July 17, 2009

More Great News!

Today must be "International Good News about Great Southern Baptist Preachers of the Past Day"! And to think--no one told me about it ahead of time.

Within hours of discovering the forthcoming release of Adrian Rogers' sermons on the web, I've now received the news that the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library will soon be released as well. According to the website, many of Dr. Criswell's sermons are already available to download for free and more are continually being added.


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The Ultimate Adrianism

There is exciting news on the horizon for those of us who love the preaching and teaching of Dr. Adrian Rogers:

The family of Adrian Rogers, along with the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, announces the formation of the Adrian Rogers Legacy Library. The goal of the Adrian Rogers Legacy Library is to capture the entire lifetime sermon output of Dr. Rogers in a state-of-the art online format.

This sermon library, when finished, will contain the full notes and transcripts of over 4000 sermons by Adrian Rogers, along with streaming audio and video, all in a fully indexed, cross-referenced and searchable format. Library “members” will be able to search Dr. Rogers’ entire body of work by keyword, topic, theme, scripture reference, “Adrianism,” and illustration.
The website is unclear as to whether there will be a charge for use of the library. I imagine that has yet to be determined and will be based on the costs associated with development. I hope the Rogers family will follow the lead of pastors like John Piper, Alistair Begg and John MacArthur in providing as many materials as possible for free. Regardless, I can't wait until this tremendous resource is available!

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