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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Deep Riches: The Fall of Man

This week over on Deep Riches, we will look at the Fall of Man. Talking snakes and forbidden fruit--is it to be taken literally? Is it allegorical? What really happened? Go to Deep Riches to find out.

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The Fall of Man

Some interpret the fall of man as allegorical, saying it is just a figurative story to represent all people and their temptation. Some interpret the fall as a myth story that personifies the struggle between good and evil. These interpretations do injustice to the text and are inconsistent with the rest of Scripture. Additionally, an allegorical interpretation of the fall does nothing to explain the nature of evil or the horribly destructive events we see in nature. In reality, the fall is an actual, historical event as described in Genesis 3. Apart from a literal interpretation of Genesis 3, the entire Bible loses its foundation and therefore its credibility.

After God created everything, He declared it “very good”. Adam was placed by God in the Garden of Eden and told not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not sufficiently protect his wife, so she was deceived by Satan to eat the fruit. Satan appealed to her eyes, pleasure, and pride and she succumbed. In turn, she gave the fruit to Adam – who had received the face to face law from God – and he ate it. Immediately, they felt shame and guilt and tried to justify themselves by covering their nakedness. They hid from the presence of God in the Garden. By God’s grace, He set the pattern of showing mercy and grace to His rebellious creatures. He covered their immediate sins with the sacrificial blood of an animal and clothed them with its skin. Then He pronounced judgment on creation in the form of a curse. Finally, He provided the promise of a savior – the Seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

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Extreme Truth

Matthew 10:32

“Are you not afraid of what we will do to you?” the Communist colonel asked, his tone a combination of mockery and challenge.

Young Pastor Kochanga, having preached only one sermon in his career, stood before the colonel, knowing that the man held the power of life or death over him. He answered in a respectful, yet fervent tone.

“Sir, truth is never afraid. Suppose your government would decide to hang all mathematicians. How much would two plus two be then? Two plus two would still be four.

“We have truth, as true as a mathematical equation. We have the truth that there is a God, and he is our loving Father. We have the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and wishes to save everyone, even you. We have truth that there is a Holy Spirit who empowers men and gives them light, and we have the truth that there exists a beautiful paradise.

“Whatever whips and whatever instruments of torture you have, it will always remain so. Two plus two still equals four.”

Kochanga was beaten almost beyond recognition and then was never seen again. Though his battered and bloody face was hard to recognize for the other prisoners, in heaven he was immediately known and welcomed.

“Tell the truth.” Children learn this command at an early age, yet its wisdom is timeless. If we will return to simply acknowledging what we know to be true, we will always have the words to say when we are called upon to testify for Christ. Many people often feel unqualified to witness for Christ, saying they lack “training.” We fear being asked a theological question we don’t know how to answer. However, professing Christ doesn’t require course credit in apologetics. Simply tell the truth about what you know—just as those who have experienced religious oppression. Testifying about Christ is easier than it seems. We must go back to the principle we learned in childhood. We are commanded to acknowledge Jesus Christ—to tell the truth.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Best Duty

Jeremiah 29:12

As faith is called the best of graces, so prayer is called the best of duties. If other duties are pennies, this is a pound in many respects. First, it gives God the glory of His three great attributes.

1. It gives Him the glory of His omniscience, that He knows all your wants, that He, whose throne is in heaven, yet hears all your petitions presented to Him upon earth, yes, even when you pray only heart prayer (which man hears not, and knows not) as Moses in Exod. 14:15. The Lord said, wherefore do you cry unto me, when Hannah spoke not a word (1 Sam. 1:13). And David said, "all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee" (Ps. 38:9).

2. It gives Him the glory of His omnipotence; it presupposes that God is able to supply all your wants, which you spread before Him (Eph. 3:20). The very act of prayer says to God as Job, "I know that thou canst do every thing" (Job 42:2).

3. It gives Him the glory of His merciful goodness, or bountiful benevolence, that He is willing as well as able to supply your wants. Divine might and divine mercy are the two pillars that the house of prayer stands upon, as the temple of Solomon stood upon Joachim and Boaz, which signified stability and strength.
—Christopher Neese

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Four Years Later, God Is Still on His Throne

This is an email that a friend from the Mississippi Gulf Coast sent yesterday. It helps to get the perspective of someone who has been there through it all.

Hello friends,
I haven't written much lately. Not much has changed since the last time I wrote, but since tomorrow marks the 4th anniversary of Katrina, I thought I'd write some. I started to say write a little, but I don't won't to lie to you!!

Four years ago, I was sitting in Tracy &Van Sikes' home in Marietta, GA, glued to their TV screen. Flipping between CNN, Fox and the Weather Channel, I knew that the coast I left on August 28 was gone forever. Having been through Camille as well, I knew that recovery would take years, not months. I watched as Jim Cantore stood in hip deep water at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. I knew then that the amount of water was unparalleled. I had stood in that same parking lot on several occasions. A few days later I watched a home video taken from the parking garage at the Beau Rivage. The water was up to the bottom of the video screen on the marquee. I knew that was a lot of water, but didn't realize how much until some months later when I was a the traffic light by the Beau. I looked up at the bottom of that marquee and was overwhelmed at the true depth of that water. And so it goes.

Now, four years later, I am still overwhelmed by how high that sign at the Beau is.
If you drive down Hwy. 90 (beach road) you won't see the piles of debris, misplaced boats, and ripped up trees. That has, for the most part, been cleared away. What I see when I drive down the beach is the emptiness of it all. Lots of empty lots. You still see lots of slabs and steps to nowhere. There are a few homes that have been rebuilt or repaired. An occasional gas station or restaurant has reappeared. In fact I had lunch at the White Cap this past Thursday. It was in the Gulfport Harbor prior to Katrina, but was rebuilt several miles to the east on the north side of Hwy. 90. The food, however, was just as good as I remembered.

I have a new job now. I work for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. I travel around the lower 3 coastal counties. I enjoy driving along the beach and bayous. I have learned how much water there really is down here. I hadn't known or thought about that until Katrina. I love to drive close to water and watch the boats sailing in and out. Very peaceful. I suppose that answers the question, "Why do you stay there where you are in harm's way during hurricane season?" It is peaceful and beautiful and the pace of life is slower.

As I travel around Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, I get to see the progress that has been made, and what still remains to be done. In Hancock County the county offices are still in temporary trailers, but downtown Bay St. Louis has many shops and eateries open. The Bay bridge is open and 4 lanes across. Pass Christian, once again, lost a lot of the beach front properties, as they did in Camille. But new stores are slowly popping up. The homes on Scenic Drive are being repaired and soon will be shining brightly. The Wal-Mart on the Pass Christian/Long Beach border has been rebuilt and is taking applications for employment. Long Beach is coming back.
The Friendship Oak survived another one. I have been there several times. Walking under those centuries old branches is indescribable. There is still many empty lots in Long Beach and Gulfport. But you see signs of recovery everywhere.

We still have volunteer groups coming down. Of course not as many as were coming immediately after the storm. I happened across Camp Victor in Ocean Springs one day while looking for a food pantry. Camp Victor is sponsored by several different denominations and it serves as a homebase for volunteer groups. There is a kitchen and cafeteria for feeding, several dormitory rooms with lots of bunk beds, a common area for relaxing and a chapel for praying. It is an awesome facility. Hanging from the rafters are T-shirts from the groups that have passed through Camp Victor. There is a map hanging on the wall with pins indicating the places these groups called home. I couldn't count the number of pins there. The walls are covered with messaged from the volunteers. I think the thing that stands out the most is the pair of tennis shoes that are on display. They are held together with duct tape!! I've always heard you can fix anything with duct tape. I guess it's true. As I said it's an amazing place.

Four years later things are moving along nicely. Have we completely recovered? No. But we are closer today than we were yesterday. If you volunteered or know someone who did, please accept my heartfelt thanks. We have come this far because of the willingnessof the people here to get up and work and because of the thousands of volunteers who came. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I hope that this little note has conveyed to you a sense of accomplishment and hope. I do tend to get reflective sometime, but all in all the mood I see is positive and one of hope. Please continue to keep the coast in your prayers.

Love you all,
And then she added this P.S.: Please keep the folks on the east coast in your prayers. Tropical Storm Danny is buzzing along in the Atlantic.

After surviving a storm like Katrina and daily living with the aftermath, I guess you can never look at a weather forecast the same. God is in control and His glory is shining brightly on the Gulf Coast.

Job 42:2-3

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He Rides Upon Katrina

Four years ago today, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Having lived in Gulfport, MS from 1991-1999, we still had many friends and loved ones there. For reasons only known to the national news media, New Orleans received virtually all of the press coverage, but the destruction was felt throughout the region. Especially hard hit was the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Cities like Long Beach and Pass Christian were practically wiped off the map. While Katrina might be far from most of our minds, many Gulf Coast residents are reminded daily of its destruction as they move in and out of temporary facilities that still serve as local homes and businesses. Pass Christian’s website describes city operations today:

Today, most of the City's operations are based out of temporary facilities located at the corner of Fleitas and Second Street just one block off the beach, behind War Memorial Park. Most office hours are from 8 AM to 4 PM. The City Hall trailer houses the Mayor, Comptroller and General Administration staff. Directly behind city hall to the west is the Municipal Court trailer. North of the City Hall trailer is the building codes department. The police department is located in two trailers at the far west side of the temporary site.
Time moves on. Four years have passed. In our age of instant headlines and 24-hour news cycles, our memories are short. This anniversary should not serve as a time to feel sorry for Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast residents. They are moving forward. They are living life and rebuilding. The aftermath of the hurricane provided unprecedented opportunities for spreading the Gospel and providing Christian compassion and service. We who were not directly touched by Katrina should not feel pity for those who were. Instead, we should use this anniversary as an opportunity to remember to pray for them. Praise God for the pockets of revival He has brought as a result and humble ourselves before Him.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.—William Cowper

(Thanks Lynn for the pictures you took just days after the hurricane--including your flowers!)

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Spurgeon Saturday

Psalm 51:1

When Dr. Carey was suffering from a dangerous illness, the enquiry was made, “If this sickness should prove fatal, what passage would you select as the text for your funeral sermon?” He replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature is unworthy to have anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.’ ” In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and nothing more should be cut on his gravestone:—

William Carey, Born August 17th, 1761: Died - -

A wretched, poor, and helpless worm
On thy kind arms I fall.
Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honoured of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness. We have need that the Lord should have mercy upon our good works, our prayers, our preachings, our alms-givings, and our holiest things. The blood was not only sprinkled upon the doorposts of Israel’s dwelling houses, but upon the sanctuary, the mercy-seat, and the altar, because as sin intrudes into our holiest things, the blood of Jesus is needed to purify them from defilement. If mercy be needed to be exercised towards our duties, what shall be said of our sins? How sweet the remembrance that inexhaustible mercy is waiting to be gracious to us, to restore our backslidings, and make our broken bones rejoice!

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

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Dr. Seuss Performs a Wedding

I got this in an email this week. I don't know who originally wrote it, so I can't give them proper credit, but I thought it was worth passing on.

What if Dr. Seuss performed a wedding?

Pastor: Will you answer me right now
These questions, as your wedding vow?

Groom: Yes, I will answer right now
Your questions as my wedding vow.

Pastor: Will you take her as your wife?
Will you love her all your life?

Groom: Yes, I take her as my wife,
Yes, I'll love her all my life.

Pastor: Will you have, and also hold
Just as you have at this time told?

Groom: Yes, I will have, and I will hold,
Just as I have at this time told,
Yes, I will love her all my life
As I now take her as my wife.

Pastor: Will you love through good and bad?
Whether you're happy or sad?

Groom: Yes, I'll love through good and bad,
Whether we're happy or sad,
Yes, I will have and I will hold
Just as I have already told,
Yes, I will love her all my life,
Yes, I will take her as my wife!

Pastor: Will you love her if you're rich?
Or if you're poor, and in a ditch?

Groom: Yes, I'll love her if we're rich,
And I will love her in a ditch,
I'll love her through good times and bad,
Whether we are happy or sad,
Yes, I will have, and I will hold
I could have sworn this has been told!)
I promise to love all my life
This woman, as my lawful wife!

Pastor: Will you love her when you're fit,
And also when you're feeling sick?

Groom: Yes, I'll love her when we're fit,
And when we're hurt, and when we're sick,
And I will love her when we're rich
And I will love her in a ditch
And I will love through good and bad,
And I will love when glad or sad,
And I will have, and I will hold
Ten years from now a thousandfold,
Yes, I will love for my whole life
This lovely woman as my wife!

Pastor: Will you love with all your heart?
Will you love till death you part?

Groom: Yes, I'll love with all my heart
From now until death do us part,
And I will love her when we're rich,
And when we're broke and in a ditch,
And when we're fit, and when we're sick,
(Oh, CAN'T we get this finished quick?)
And I will love through good and bad,
And I will love when glad or sad,
And I will have, and I will hold,
And if I might now be so bold,
I'll love her my entire life,
Yes, I WILL take her as my wife!

Pastor: Then if you'll take her as your wife,
And if you'll love her all your life,
And if you'll have, and if you'll hold,
From now until the stars grow cold,
And if you'll love through good and bad,
And whether you're happy or sad,
And love in sickness, and in health,
And when you're poor, and when in wealth,
And if you'll love with all your heart,
From now until death do you part,
Yes, if you'll love her through and through,
Please answer with these words:

Pastor and Groom: I DO!

Pastor: You're married now! So kiss the bride,
But please, do keep it dignified.

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Worship Due

Philippians 2:7-8

We read and believe many things in light of the Incarnation. But even in our human feelings, we can observe God's greatness. For example, Jesus is wearied by His journey so that He can refresh the weary. He desires a drink when He is about to give spiritual water to the thirsty. He was hun-gry when He was about to supply the food of sal¬vation to the hungry. He dies to live again. He is buried to rise again. He hangs on the dreadful cross to strengthen those in dread. He veils the heaven with thick darkness so that He can give light. He makes the earth shake so that He may make it strong. He rouses the sea so that He can calm it. He opens the tombs of the dead so that He can show that they are the homes of the liv¬ing. He is born of a virgin so that people can believe He is born of God. He pre¬tends not to know so that He can make the ignorant know. As a Jew He is said to worship so that the Son may be worshipped as the true God.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament on Logos

It's interesting that on the day that I chose to review Dr. Beale's book,
The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism, Logos Bible Software decided to release his Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This is an excellent resource that uniquely stands out among commentaries. For a limited time, Logos is selling the download for $39--$20 less than their regular price if you use the offer code NTUSEOFOT.

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Ex Libris: The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism

In The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority, Dr. G. K. Beale presents a collection of essays designed to highlight and refute some current attempts within the evangelical community to weaken the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

See the full review over on Ex Libris.

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Original Sin

Romans 5:12

Original sin may be defined as a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh. This corruption is repeatedly designated by Paul by the term "sin" (Gal. 5:19). The works which proceed from it—such as adultery, fornication, theft, hatred, murder, reviling—he terms, in the same way, the fruits of sin, though in various passages of Scripture, and even by Paul himself, they are also termed sins.

The two things, therefore, are to be distinctly observed: that being thus perverted and corrupted in all the parts of our nature, we are, merely on account of such corruption, deservedly condemned by God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity. This is not liability for another's fault. For when it is said that the sin of Adam has made us obnoxious to the justice of God, the meaning is not that we, who are in ourselves innocent and blameless, are bearing his guilt, but that since by his transgression we are all placed under the curse, he is said to have brought us under obligation. Through him, how-ever, not only has punishment been derived, but pollution instilled, for which punishment is justly due.

Next comes the other point: that this perversity in us never ceases, but constantly produces new fruits, in other words, those works of the flesh which we formerly described— just as a lighted furnace sends forth sparks and flames, or a fountain without ceasing pours out water. Our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle.
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lovely Inhabitants

All the persons that belong to the blessed society of heaven are lovely. The Father of the family is lovely, and so are all his children; the head of the body lovely, and so are all the members. Among the angels there are none that are unlovely, for they are all holy; and no evil angels are suffered to infest heaven as they do this world, but they are kept forever at a distance by that great gulf which is between them and the glorious world of love.

And among all the company of the saints, there are no unlovely persons. There are no false professors or hypocrites there; none that pretend to be saints, and yet are of an unchristian and hateful spirit or behavior, as is often the case in this world; none whose gold has not been purified from its dross; none who are not lovely in themselves and to others. There is no one object there to give offense, or at any time to give occasion for any passion or emotion of hatred or dislike, but every object there shall forever draw forth love.
—Jonathan Edwards

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lasting Truth

Hebrews 9:14

By genuine holiness, the people of God cast out the enemy of godliness. They do so by rejecting him, not by pacifying him. And they overcome all of the enemy's temptations by praying to God against him. For the devil can only conquer or master those who are allied with sin. Therefore, he is conquered in the name of the One who became human but lived without sin.

But we are separated from God by sin. And in this life, we aren't cleansed from sin by our own good deeds or our own power, but by God's compassion and forgiveness. For God, in His goodness, has given us any holiness we might have. While in the flesh, we might tend to attribute too much to ourselves if we don't live under God's pardon until the end.

The Mediator offered us this grace so that we who are polluted by sinful flesh could be cleansed by one representing sinful flesh. And by this compassionate grace of God, we are governed by faith both in this life and after this life. We are led toward perfection by the vision of unfading truth.
—Augustine of Hippo

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Deep Riches: Our Propitiation and Reconciliation

Propitiation and reconciliation are two big words with even bigger meanings. Find out what they are and why they are important over on Deep Riches.

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Jesus Died to Be Our Propitiation and Reconciliation

Christ died as our propitiation. Under the Old Covenant, the High Priest was required to make an atoning sacrifice for the people of Israel once a year on Yom Kippur. That was the only day he was allowed to enter the Holy-of-holies and be in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. He was called to sprinkle the blood of a pure lamb on the cover of the Ark. The cover was called the Mercy Seat – the same word that is translated propitiation in Romans and 1 John.

The blood of the lamb pointed to Christ’s blood which satisfied God’s righteous wrath and opened the way for fellowship between God and man. That fellowship is the reconciliation of a righteous and holy God with His once rebellious people. When saved by the blood of Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us enabling us to be in the presence of God.

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Extreme Assassin

John 12:32

The Muslim leader was shocked to find Andrew, the Christian evangelist, sitting in his living room with his own family, sharing a meal together!

He was shocked because he had recently offered a large reward to have this Christian killed. Now Andrew was in his home telling his own family members about Jesus. “What’s going on here?” he screamed. “What’s this man, this infidel, this enemy of Allah doing in my home?”

His daughter-in-law began, “I asked him here because he, his Jesus, has healed your son—my husband.” Her story continued in a rush of words. “He has been sick for eighteen years, but today this Christian, Andrew, came and prayed for him. He laid his hands on him, and now he is well! Jesus has healed him!”

The man saw his son’s excitement as he told how he had felt the sickness leave his body. This was the first time in months that his son had gotten out of bed. For the first time in eighteen years, he felt no pain.

The man’s anger was replaced with a sense of relief and happiness. He didn’t choose to accept Christ that day, but he has become an ally to the Christians in that area and has helped many avoid jail and persecution. The man who once put a contract on Andrew’s head now welcomes him with open arms.

Christianity is a “see-for-yourself” type of experience. When the Muslim father walked into his home, Andrew was not preaching a three-point sermon on the triune God. He was not berating the man’s wife and children for formerly believing in Allah. He was having a meal after praying with the Muslim family. They had an empty sickbed to prove God was real. Likewise, we must remember that God’s truths are self-evident. The pressure is not on us as the messengers, if we will say and do the right things. We do the right thing whenever we proclaim the gospel to others. Jesus will draw their hearts to him. We must let the evidence of Christ’s reality speak for itself.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Easy Yoke

Matthew 11:30

Since Christ is so compassionate, surely it is unreasonable to quarrel at and refuse to submit unto His yoke? The yoke of such a merciful one must be an easy yoke, and his burden a light burden (Matt. 11:30). The kingdom of heaven is like a marriage and as the wife's subjection unto a tender and indulgent husband is sweet and pleasant, so, and much more pleasant, is the believer's subjection unto Christ.

Ungodly ones are strangely prejudiced against the scepter and government of Jesus; but indeed it is without cause. They say, "We will not have this Lord to reign over us." It is a mercy to be translated into the kingdom, for then you are freed from other lords, which are so imperious, so cruel, and will reward with death all the service which you do for them. All the precepts of Christ are for your profit and He forbids you nothing, but what He sees will harm you.

I think that at the reading of this, the most stubborn should yield and say, "We stood outside against the Lord of life, but it was upon a mistake; we did not think His service was so near a kin to freedom; we once imagined His commands grievous, therefore we cast them behind our backs, but now they are to be esteemed above gold, nay, the finest gold, and are sweeter than the honey and the honeycomb."
—Nathanael Vincent

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spurgeon Saturday

Song of Solomon 5:8

Such is the language of the believer panting after present fellowship with Jesus, he is sick for his Lord. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigour, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus. What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What bread is to the hungry, clothing to the naked, the shadow of a great rock to the traveller in a weary land, such is Jesus Christ to us; and, therefore, if we are not consciously one with him, little marvel if our spirit cries in the words of the Song, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.” This earnest longing after Jesus has a blessing attending it: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness”; and therefore, supremely blessed are they who thirst after the Righteous One. Blessed is that hunger, since it comes from God: if I may not have the full-blown blessedness of being filled, I would seek the same blessedness in its sweet bud-pining in emptiness and eagerness till I am filled with Christ. If I may not feed on Jesus, it shall be next door to heaven to hunger and thirst after him. There is a hallowedness about that hunger, since it sparkles among the beatitudes of our Lord. But the blessing involves a promise. Such hungry ones “shall be filled” with what they are desiring. If Christ thus causes us to long after himself, he will certainly satisfy those longings; and when he does come to us, as come he will, oh, how sweet it will be!

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

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Missions?

Why do we do spend so much time, effort, energy and resources on missions? Why should we spend far more than we do--even to the point of pouring out our lifeblood and the lifeblood of our children on the mission field? Watch this video for the answer.

Hebrews 10:24


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Equiping the Saints

Another headline. Another pastor is hauled away from his pulpit in shame and disgrace. Another church is devastated. Another ministry is destroyed. Why does it happen so often? Stand to Reason blog posted a very good article that addresses some of the core issues involved.

This is sad. Another pastor taken down by sin. Now, I think these cases are the exception. Our churches are largely filled with good men and women who lead. But
the fall of pastors is still too prevalent and it has me thinking about the "Senior Pastor" model. The liabilities are many:

#1 - The senior pastor is looked to primarily for leadership that reflects charisma rather than character. When there’s a single primary pastor, whether consciously or
unconsciously, he alone is relied upon to be the “face” of the ministry. And in our culture, it’s charisma not character that makes a lasting first impression on people. Therefore, many churches depend upon his celebrity status to represent their ministry. New attenders, enamored by a personality, choose to join a church primarily on that basis. Indeed, in many cases a senior pastor’s character is an afterthought.

#2 - The body of believers is much more susceptible to the development of an unhealthy co-dependence on the senior pastor. The “Senior Pastor” model, when combined with the widespread dysfunction found in American culture, encourages a co-dependent relationship between pastor and parishoner that is detrimental to the spiritual health of the body. Thus, the typical believer experiences an unhealthy need to connect with the senior pastor on some level before he or she can connect to that particular church.

# 3 - The personality of the senior pastor begins to dominate church life. When there is so much dependence placed upon a single leader, his strengths and weaknesses tend to shape the body life of the church. His strengths become the emphasis of the church, no matter how unbalanced. In addition, his weaknesses, unable to be counter-balanced by other leaders, are likely to become the weaknesses of the church.

#4 - The senior pastor model encourages the body of believers to become spectators. Since the senior pastor is the “professional” minister who is paid to do the work of the
ministry, the body is enabled to sit back and watch him and his staff do their job. Thus, the large majority of significant ministry is carried out by the paid staff of a particular church.

#5 - When a senior pastor falls, the damage is immense. When there is so much dependence upon a single leader, the effects of his sin and shortcomings are multiplied exponentially. In contrast to the elevated status of the senior pastor, the lesser roles of associate pastor or support staff do little to mitigate against the damage to the body.

Could it be these liabilities are the result of an unbiblical model of church leadership? A biblical model should provide us with a structure that mitigates against these weaknesses. I'm sure that church in Compton is going to be reeling for some time.

Pray for your pastor. Learn from him. Encourage him. Hold him accountable for his walk with Christ. But always remember that his primary responsibility is to equip the saints of God in such a way that they will be able to effectively perform the works of ministry. The pastor is not THE minister. He is A minister among a body of ministers.

Ephesians 4:11-12
1 Timothy 4:16

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Loving Others

John 13:35

We should remember what name Christ calls His people, by what title He gives to His flock. He calls them sheep, that their Christian innocence might be like that of sheep. He calls them lambs, that their simplicity of mind might imitate the simple nature of lambs. Why does the wolf lurk under the appearance of sheep? Why does he who falsely claims to be a Christian dishonor the flock of Christ?

To put on the name of Christ and not to walk in the way of Christ is a mockery of the Divine name and a desertion of the way of salva­tion. Christ teaches that one who keeps His com­mandments will receive life, and one who hears and does His words is wise. Moreover, he who both does and teaches that which has been well and usefully preached will be advantageous to the preacher. One is called the greatest in the king­dom of heaven if what he says he does.

But what did the Lord most often instill into His disciples? What more among His saving commands and heavenly principles did He charge to guard and observe than to love one another with the love He had for the disciples? And how can people keep the peace or the love of the Lord when they can't be peaceable or loving because they are jealous?

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ex Libris: Amusing Ourselves to Death

Yes, I finally read Neil Postman’s modern classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. It was worth the wait.

See my review over on Ex Libris.

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Courageous Prayer

Matthew 6:10

We ought to derive from these verses a profitable admonition. For if we are members of the Church, the Lord calls upon us to cherish the same desire which he wished believers to cherish under the Law; that is, that we should wish with our whole heart that the kingdom of Christ should flourish and prosper, and that we should also demonstrate this by our prayers.

In order to give us greater courage in prayer, we ought to observe that he prescribes to us the words. Woe then to our slothfulness, if we extinguish by our coldness, or quench by indifference, that ardor which God excites. Yet let us know that the prayers which we offer by the direction and authority of God will not be in vain. Provided that we be not indolent or grow weary in praying, he will be a faithful guardian of his kingdom, to defend it by his invincible power and protection.

True, indeed, though we remain drowsy and inactive, the majesty of his kingdom will be firm and sure. But when, as is frequently the case, it is less prosperous than it ought to be or rather falls into decay, as we perceive it to be at the present day, fearfully scattered and wasted this unquestionably arises through our fault. And when but a small restoration, or almost none, is to be seen, or when at least it advances slowly, let us ascribe it to our indifference. We daily ask from God "that his kingdom may come" (Matt. 6:10), but scarcely one man in a hundred earnestly desires it. Justly, therefore, are we deprived of the blessing of God, which we are weary of asking.
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Family Forgiveness

Because everyone has sinned, everyone needs forgiveness. That is especially true within families. But how does that forgiveness play out in our families?

This message is the latest in our summer series called, “Faith and Family”. The manuscript of Sunday morning’s sermon from Colossians 3:12-21 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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Pursue Happiness

Psalm 146:5

Happiness is the end of the creation, as appears by this, because the creation had as good not be, as not rejoice in its being. For certainly it was the goodness of the Creator that moved him to create; and how can we conceive of another end proposed by goodness, than that he might delight in seeing the creatures he made rejoice in that being that he has given them?

It appears also by this, because the end of the creation is that the creation might glorify him. Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight. Neither can the highest end of the creation be the declaring God's glory to others; for the declaring God's glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves and others at what is declared.

Wherefore, seeing happiness is the highest end of the creation of the universe, and intelligent beings are that consciousness of the creation that is to be the immediate subject of this happiness, how happy may we conclude will be those intelligent beings that are to be made eternally happy?
—Jonathan Edwards

Readings taken from Day By Day With Jonathan Edwards

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Believe, Hope, Love

1 Peter 5:5

In the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old. According to that veiling, fleshly people once were and continue to be dominated by fear of punishment. But according to the revealing, spiritual people have been freed by the gift of love. They knocked in holiness and even hidden things opened up to them. And now they seek without pride, fearing lest even revealed things be closed up to them.

There is nothing more contrary to love than envy, and envy comes from pride. Consequently, the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man, both discloses Divine love towards us and serves as an example of human humility for us. As a result, our great swelling can be cured by a greater counteracting remedy. For in pride there is great misery. But there is even greater mercy in God's humility. Therefore, make this love your goal. Refer all that you say to it. Whatever you speak, speak it in such a way that those you converse with may believe when they hear you, upon believing they might hope, and I upon hoping they might love.
—Augustine of Hippo

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Deep Riches: Our Substitute and Redeemer

Why did Jesus have to die? To be our substitute and redeemer. Find out what that means on Deep Riches.

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Jesus Died to Be Our Substitute and Redeemer

Christ is our substitute. Under the Law, the priest would lay his hands on a lamb to represent the sins of Israel being imputed to the spotless one. God’s perfect law requires the wages of sin to be paid in death. Since God is righteous and immutable, He cannot waive that requirement or ignore it. To fulfill His perfect law, He sent Christ to die in our stead.

Likewise, Christ redeemed us. Like Gomer in the book of Hosea, we were broken and helpless in the slave market of sin. The price of our freedom was blood, and Jesus fully paid the price.

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Extreme Conviction

1 Thessalonians 1:5

In a recent interview, an Indonesian Christian, Petrus, made this startling statement: “Because we have Jesus, it is not difficult to be a Christian, although there are many oppressions.” While his statement seems obvious to many of us, following Christ has required great sacrifice for Petrus.

An angry, radical Muslim mob surrounded the church building, breaking windows and chanting their hatred for Christians. Petrus’s father, the church pastor, was inside with Petrus’s mother, sister, cousin, and a church worker. His father tried to calm the mob, but they would not leave. He retreated into the church to pray, asking God’s protection and help.

The mob, seeking blood, lit the building on fire, screaming chants as they waited to attack anybody who came out. Indonesian police were too afraid to take action. The military were not available. It was another church burning in a nation where more than five hundred churches have been burned in the past ten years.

When Petrus arrived at the scene hours later, the church and parsonage were ashes. The bodies of his loved ones were burned almost beyond recognition.

Later, a government official apologized to Petrus but urged him not to seek revenge. Petrus’s desire is not for revenge but love. He wants to see Muslims in his country won to Christ’s kingdom.

Persecution is often the final battleground in the fight between natural instinct and spiritual conviction. Instinct is interested in self-preservation. Conviction is above our own interests. Instinct says to take revenge upon our perpetrators. Conviction reminds us of the spiritual needs concerning those who persecute us. Most of us, after seeing our loved ones murdered for their beliefs, would find it instinctively difficult to share Petrus’s convictions. However, the alternative to following Christ was more unbearable for Petrus. How could he not follow Christ? His story proves it is possible for our convictions to overrule our instincts. But this is only when our natural inclinations are reversed by the compelling love of Christ—a victory amid the battleground of persecution.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trace God’s Mercies

Psalm 18:25

Whoever would be wise should read the Proverbs; whoever would be holy should read the Psalms. Every line in this book breathes peculiar sanctity. Psalm 18, though placed among the first, was penned among the last (as the preface assures us) and is left as the epitome of the general history of David's life. It is twice recorded in the Scriptures (2 Sam. 22, and in this book of Psalms) for the excellence and sweetness thereof; surely, we should take notice of it.

Holy David, being near the shore, here looks on his former dangers and deliverances with a thankful heart, and writes this psalm to bless the Lord. As if each of you that are grown in years should review your lives and observe the wonderful goodness and providence of God towards you, and then sit down and write a modest memorial of His most remarkable mercies, for the comfort of yourselves and posterity.

An excellent practice: what a comfort would it be for you to read how good your God was to your father, or grandfather, that is dead and gone? So would your children rejoice in the Lord, upon the reading of His goodness to you, and you cannot have a better pattern for this, than holy David who wrote this psalm when he was threescore and seven years old, when he had outlived most of his troubles and almost ready for his journey to his Father in heaven, he resolves to leave this good report of Him on earth.
—Richard Steele

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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