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, September 28, 2009

Deep Riches: Historical Response to Persecution

Throughout history, men have sought to destroy the Church by persecuting her. How has she responded? Find out over on Deep Riches.

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Historical Response to Persecution

The church responded to persecution in almost as many ways as the types of persecution they endured. As a whole, the overarching response was a dispersion of believers. The first persecution of the church by the Jews scattered some of the church in Jerusalem. Persecution under Nero further scattered Christians. These and subsequent scatterings resulted in the rapid, grass-fire like, spread of the Gospel.

Unfortunately, in addition to the church’s rapid growth, there were negative responses as well. Many recanted their faith and denied Christianity in order to save their lives or those of their loved ones. Precious copies of Scripture were seized and destroyed. All told, over three million Christians died due to persecution.

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Extreme Sides

Matthew 12:30

They were singing choruses when the two soldiers entered with rifles. The service came to a halt as the Russian soldiers stared at the believers with wild eyes.

“What are you doing here?” they shouted. “Worshiping your imaginary God?” The church members cowered in the pews, wondering if there were more soldiers and more guns outside.

“All those who are faithful to God, move to the right side of the church,” said one of the soldiers, his face a mask of hatred. “You will be shot for your faith. You who wish to go home and keep your life, stand on the left side. You must decide to live or die. Those who are faithful to this ‘God’ will die. Those who deny him can live freely.”

Ten minutes earlier, everyone had sung praises equally. Now it was a question of life or death. Some stood to the left, looking sadly or waving apologetically to those on the right. Some stood on the right, their eyes closed in last-minute prayers.

“You on the left are free to go,” one of the soldiers said moments later. Those people filed out, taking one last look at those who would soon be dead.

When only those on the right remained, the soldiers put down their weapons. “We, too, are Christians,” they said, “but we wish to worship without hypocrites.”

Defining moments come to us when they are least expected, and we cannot prepare for them. We must experience them “as is” and learn from the consequences. A defining moment is any situation involving a question of character. It may be as complex as a church service interrupted by perpetrators who demand our allegiance to one faith or another. Or it may be as simple as deciding whether or not to walk out of an offensive movie. Our response to a defining moment will side us with that which is Christlike or that which is questionable. Ready or not, we meet our real character face-to-face the moment we decide to take sides.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Saint’s Beauty

Job 40:10

How worldly beauty is courted by all, and what is it? "Beauty is vain" (Prov. 31:30). The bravest features of the body and the loveliest complexion are no other than well-colored earth. But a righteous person has a celestial beauty shining in him. He is embellished with knowledge, love, and meekness, which are of such oriental splendor as to allure the very angels.

A good Christian has some idea and resemblance of that sparkling holiness which is the Deity. Christ is infinitely taken with the spiritual beauty of His church. "Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem" (Song 6:4). Tirzah was a map of pleasure; Jerusalem was the metropolis of Judea, the star and light of all the eastern world. This was symbolic, to set forth the radiance of the church's glory. "Turn away thine eyes from me for they have overcome me" (v. 5).

It is as if Christ had said, "Oh, My spouse, such a resplendent luster is in your visage that I can hardly bear it. I am wounded with the delightful darts of your beauty!" One eye of a believer draws Christ's heart to it: "Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes," (Song 4:9). A saint's beauty never withers; it outlives death. True grace is like colors laid in oil which cannot be washed off.
—Thomas Watson

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spurgeon Saturday

Zechariah 1:8

The vision in this chapter describes the condition of Israel in Zechariah’s day; but being interpreted in its aspect towards us, it describes the Church of God as we find it now in the world. The Church is compared to a myrtle grove flourishing in a valley. It is hidden, unobserved, secreted; courting no honour and attracting no observation from the careless gazer. The Church, like her head, has a glory, but it is concealed from carnal eyes, for the time of her breaking forth in all her splendour is not yet come. The idea of tranquil security is also suggested to us: for the myrtle grove in the valley is still and calm, while the storm sweeps over the mountain summits. Tempests spend their force upon the craggy peaks of the Alps, but down yonder where flows the stream which maketh glad the city of our God, the myrtles flourish by the still waters, all unshaken by the impetuous wind. How great is the inward tranquility of God’s Church! Even when opposed and persecuted, she has a peace which the world gives not, and which, therefore, it cannot take away: the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps the hearts and minds of God’s people. Does not the metaphor forcibly picture the peaceful, perpetual growth of the saints? The myrtle sheds not her leaves, she is always green; and the Church in her worst time still hath a blessed verdure of grace about her; nay, she has sometimes exhibited most verdure when her winter has been sharpest. She has prospered most when her adversities have been most severe. Hence the text hints at victory. The myrtle is the emblem of peace, and a significant token of triumph. The brows of conquerors were bound with myrtle and with laurel; and is not the Church ever victorious? Is not every Christian more than a conqueror through him that loved him? Living in peace, do not the saints fall asleep in the arms of victory?

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

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Deep Riches: Persecution

Starting Monday, look over on Deep Riches for a brief series of articles on persecution. What has been the historical response of the church to persecution? How have theology and church practice developed as a result of persecution? How is persecution affecting the church today? Look on the sidebar to the right of this posting to see when the new articles are available.

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Do Good

Romans 2:10

The good servant receives the bread of his labor with confidence. The lazy servant can't look his employer in the face. It is essential, therefore, that we be quick to practice good works, for of Him are all things. He warns us, "Behold, the Lord cometh, and His reward is before His face, to ren¬der to every man according to his work." He urges us, therefore, to attend to our work with a whole heart so that we won't be lazy in any good work.

Let our boasting and our confidence be in Him. Let us submit ourselves to His will. Let us consid¬er the whole multitude of His angels, how they always stand ready to serve His will. For the Scripture says, "Ten thousand times ten thousand stood around Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him, and cried, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Sabaoth; the whole creation is full of His glory.'"

Let us, therefore, gather togeth¬er in harmony and cry to Him earnestly as with one mouth, so that we can share in His great and glorious promises. For the Scripture says, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which He hath prepared for them that wait for Him."
—Clement of Rome

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

On this day 23 years ago, I boarded a city bus in Denver, CO. That bus took me to a government building where I got on a van with a handful of other young men. That van took us to the airport, where we boarded a plane bound for San Antonio, TX. Upon arriving in San Antonio, we boarded another bus. Then shortly after we passed under the sign, “Welcome to Lackland Air Force Base,” the fun began.

Don’t get me wrong, that first night was anything but fun. Neither were the second or third nights. But that first night started me on an incredible journey that I could have never imagined. That journey covered 18 states, 12 countries, and 10 time zones in 20 years. The Lord used that journey to mold and break and shape me. Sometimes I drifted from Him. Sometimes I flat-out ran from Him. But He fulfilled His promise that He would never leave me or forsake me—even in the depths of a Korean ditch or the backside of a Saudi Arabian desert.

Some people have asked me if I miss the Air Force. In some ways I do. Had the Lord not called me into the pastorate, I would have stayed until they took my boots away. But the fact is that the Lord did call—and when we respond to His call, He changes our desires. I thank God that He allowed me to serve this great nation in the way that I did for 20 years. It was a blessing and an honor and a privilege. But even more than that, I thank Him that He has called me out of that into a new kind of service. And I am especially thankful that this time, He’s doing it without any yelling or forced marches!

1 Corinthians 1:9

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Ex Libris: Reaching People under 40 while Keeping People over 60, by Hammett & Pierce

Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60: Being Church for All Generations. What a wonderful goal! After all, isn’t it the desire of every church in America to be a church for all generations? See if I thought the authors lived up to the title of their book in my review over on my book review blog, Ex Libris.

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Repentant Prayer

Isaiah 1:15

One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance. Hence the common declaration of Scripture: God does not listen to the wicked; their prayers, as well as their sacrifices, are an abomination to him. For it is right that those who seal up their hearts should find the ears of God closed against them, that those who, by their hardheartedness, provoke his severity should find him inflexible. In Isaiah he thus threatens, "When you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood" (Isa. 1:15). In like manner, in Jeremiah he says, "Though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them" (Jer. 11:7-8, 11); because he regards it as the highest insult for the wicked to boast of his covenant while profaning his sacred name by their whole lives. Hence he complains in Isaiah, "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me; but have removed their heart far from me" (Isa. 29:13).

Indeed, he does not confine this to prayers alone, but declares that he abominates pretense in every part of his service. Hence the words of James, "You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). It is true, indeed (as we shall again see in a little), that the pious, in the prayers which they utter, trust not to their own worth. Still the admonition of John is not superfluous, "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments" (1 John 3:22); an evil conscience shuts the door against us. Hence it follows, that none but the sincere worshippers of God pray aright, or are listened to. Let everyone, therefore, who prepares to pray feel dissatisfied with what is wrong in his condition, and assume, which he cannot do without repentance, the character and feelings of a poor beggar.
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Deep Riches: Peter and the Church

Did Jesus make Peter the head of the church? Does that mean that he was the first Pope? Who was the rock that Jesus talked about in Matthew 16? Find out the answers on Deep Riches.

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Peter and the Church

Matthew 16:17-19 marks a key moment in Peter’s life and the teaching of our Lord. Jesus just finishes commending Peter for proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It would only make literary sense that, unless there was an obvious transition, the verses immediately following would have something to do with that proclamation.

When Jesus says, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” He doesn’t say it in a vacuum. It relates back to what started the conversation: “who do men say that I am” not, “who do men say that you are, Peter.” In essence Jesus is saying, “we know who you are Peter, you are a little rock. You’ve proclaimed who I am – the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Now I’m telling you I am also the foundation I will build My church upon.” He then tells the gathered apostles what the role of His church will be. “The gates of Hades will not prevail against it” indicates death and persecution will not defeat the church nor dissuade her from her mission.

Since no one comes to the Father but through Christ, He has to be the keys of the kingdom of heaven that Jesus said He would give them. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” is a beautiful picture of the ultimate purpose of the church. The church is to evangelize the lost. In the eternal scheme of things, the only ones who are bound are bound by sin. Those who are saved by the finished work of Christ on the Cross are loosed from their sins and declared free by the God of the Universe. Any other interpretation, and there are many, seem to be eisegetical and do injustice to the text.

As far as the definition and origin of the church, the Greek word literally means “called out ones.” Christ is the Head of the body, the church. The church is the bride of Christ and is made up of all believers from Pentecost until the rapture. The church originated at Pentecost with the giving of the Holy Spirit and will last until she is caught up to meet Jesus in the air at the rapture.

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Extreme Family

1 Corinthians 15:55

The woman was one month away from graduating from Bible school along with her daughter. It was the same Bible school where her son, Stenley, had gone before he went to another Indonesian island as a missionary. Stenley was killed for carrying the gospel, but his testimony had prompted many others to go to Bible school and to accept God’s call to share his love.

When they had completed their training, the woman and her daughter planned to go to the very village where Stenley had died. She hoped for a chance to show Christ’s love, even to the men who had beaten her son to death. A visitor to the Bible school, hearing of her plans, was surprised. “Are you not afraid to die?” he asked her.

The woman seemed confused by the question, as if it was not something she had thought of before. “Why should I be afraid to die?” she answered simply.

Her faith in God’s goodness was complete. If he chose to use her in the village where her son died, so be it. And if he permitted her to die there, she would accept that call as well. Her death would bring her into the presence of the Christ she loved. Death was not an obstacle or a punishment, merely a doorway into the eternal presence of God.

Facing death can remind us of children standing above the edge of a water hole. We hug our own shoulders tightly to our bodies, shivering with the anticipation of the unknown. Will it hurt? Will I make it? We don’t want to be the first to jump—not with all these uncertainties. Fortunately, we don’t have to. History is full of family members who have leaped across the boundary between life and death. They are saints who died in full assurance of their destination. Jesus Christ, in fact, has gone where no other person has gone before—to death and back again. Christ, the head of our Christian family, has taken the terror out of death and replaced it with assurance. Heed the call to come on in. The water’s fine.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Forgotten Sins

Psalm 40:5

There are many sins that we have forgotten, for which we were never humbled in particular. And yet if we truly repent of those we do know, and call to mind, our forgotten sins shall be forgiven. For God will pardon us like Himself; He will forgive us like a God, not according to our knowledge, but according to His own. And as He is greater than our hearts, to know much more against us, than we can remember against ourselves, yet He is greater than our hearts, to forgive even those faults which our hearts and consciences do not recollect.

He knows the value of Christ's blood and merits, to forgive all our sins. And by unfeigned faith, we are interested in the virtue of it. God has more thoughts of mercy in Him than we have had of rebellion against Him. His thoughts have been from everlasting, and reach to everlasting; whereas, it is but as of yesterday that the oldest sinner began to rebel against God.
—John Shower

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spurgeon Saturday

Galatians 5:1

This “liberty” makes us free to heaven’s charter—the Bible. Here is a choice passage, believer, “When thou passest through the rivers, I will be with thee.” You are free to that. Here is another: “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee”; you are free to that. You are a welcome guest at the table of the promises. Scripture is a never-failing treasury filled with boundless stores of grace. It is the bank of heaven; you may draw from it as much as you please, without let or hindrance. Come in faith and you are welcome to all covenant blessings. There is not a promise in the Word which shall be withheld. In the depths of tribulations let this freedom comfort you; amidst waves of distress let it cheer you; when sorrows surround thee let it be thy solace. This is thy Father’s love-token; thou art free to it at all times. Thou art also free to the throne of grace. It is the believer’s privilege to have access at all times to his heavenly Father. Whatever our desires, our difficulties, our wants, we are at liberty to spread all before him. It matters not how much we may have sinned, we may ask and expect pardon. It signifies nothing how poor we are, we may plead his promise that he will provide all things needful. We have permission to approach his throne at all times—in midnight’s darkest hour, or in noontide’s most burning heat. Exercise thy right, O believer, and live up to thy privilege. Thou art free to all that is treasured up in Christ—wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It matters not what thy need is, for there is fulness of supply in Christ, and it is there for thee. O what a “freedom” is thine! freedom from condemnation, freedom to the promises, freedom to the throne of grace, and at last freedom to enter heaven!

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

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Christ’s Cross

2 Corinthians 5:15

The cross of Christ made those who abused their authority subject to their former subjects. The cross teaches us, first of all, to resist sin to the point of death and to die willingly for the sake of religion. It also sets an example of obedience for us, and in the same way it punishes the stubborn¬ness of those who once ruled us.

Listen to how the Apostle Paul taught us obedience by the cross of Christ: "Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Him the form of a ser¬vant, being made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." So, then, as a skilled master teaches both by example and com¬mand, so Christ taught us obedi¬ence, even to the point of death, by dying to Himself in obedience.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ex Libris: The Gay Agenda, by Ronnie Floyd

To see my review of The Gay Agenda: It's Dividing the Family, the Church, and a Nation, by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, click over to my book review blog, Ex Libris.

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No Time Without Prayer

Ephesians 6:18

If it is objected that the necessity which urges us to pray is not always equal, I admit it. James properly taught us this distinction: "Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms" (James 5:13).

Therefore, common sense itself dictates that as we are too sluggish, we must be stimulated by God to pray earnestly when-ever the occasion requires. Thus David calls a time when God "may be found" a seasonable time; because, as he declares in several other passages, the more heavily grievances, annoyances, fears, and other kinds of trial press us, the freer is our access to God, as if he were inviting us to himself. Still not less true is the injunction of Paul to pray "always" (Eph. 6:18); because, however prosperously, according to our view, things proceed, and however we may be surrounded on all sides with grounds of joy, there is not an instant of time during which our want does not exhort us to prayer. A man abounds in wheat and wine; but as he cannot enjoy a morsel of bread, unless by the continual bounty of God, his granaries or cellars will not prevent him from asking for daily bread. Then, if we consider how many dangers impend every moment, fear itself will teach us that no time ought to be without prayer.

This, however, may be better known in spiritual matters. For when will the many sins of which we are conscious allow us to sit secure without asking for freedom from guilt and punishment? When will temptation give us a truce, making it unnecessary to hasten for help? Moreover, zeal for the kingdom and glory of God ought not to seize us by starts, but urge us without intermission, so that every time should appear seasonable. God promises that he will be near to those who call upon him in truth, and declares that those who seek him with their whole heart will find him. Those, therefore, who delight in their own pollution cannot surely aspire to him.
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Deep Riches: Man as the Image of God

You were created in the image of God--scholars call this the Imago Dei. That sounds really good, but what does it mean? Does that mean that God looks like me? Does He have two arms and two legs and ten fingers and toes? What if I only have one leg? Does that mean God looks different to me? Check out Deep Riches for some theological foundation that can help you figure out the answers to your questions.

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Man as the Image of God

When God created Adam, He formed him from the dust of the earth, breathed spirit (breath and spirit are the same word) into him and made him a living soul. God created him with a personality – “mannishness” as Francis Schaeffer would say. The image of God in man is the things that make him a man – that unique combination of mind, emotions, will, and being that form his personality. Some have said that the image of God is man’s immaterial nature – his soul/spirit. I think they are correct as far as the immaterial nature contains the personality. The Bible indicates other creatures have soul/spirits, but only man and God have personalities.

As far as the origin of a person’s immaterial nature, there are primarily three theories – pre-existence, immediate creation, and Traducianism. Pre-existence states God created all souls during the 6 days of creation. Upon conception or during a certain point afterward, He joins a soul with the body. Pre-existence has no biblical foundation and gives the impression of a take-a-number system.

Immediate creation says that God, upon the moment of conception or at some point afterward, specially creates a perfect soul and joins it with the body. Two arguments refute this theory. First, God finished creating in 6 days – He made all that was made and it was very good. Today, He is out of the ex nihilo creation business. Second, why would God create a perfect soul and place it in a totally depraved body? This leads inevitably to an unbiblical dualism.

Finally, Traducianism states that the soul is passed from the parents, not in the genetic make-up, but as some mysterious part of the union of mother and father. Additionally, this is the only theory that requires the presence of the soul at the very instant of conception. This is the view that I see as more consistent with Scripture and with the observation of human nature.

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Extreme Legacy

Matthew 5:14

When Stenley got off the boat on the remote Indonesian island, he felt the spiritual darkness. The people practiced a combination of witchcraft and Islam. Stenley was fresh out of Bible school and ready for the work to which God had called him, reaching these island people for Christ.

Stenley preached boldly, calling people to turn to Christ and then to burn their idols and the relics of their old life. One Muslim burned his idol, but inside it was a scroll from the Koran. When radical Muslims heard of the burning of the Koran, they reported Stenley to area officials. Stenley was immediately arrested.

Although Stenley was horribly beaten and lay comatose, his mentor from Bible school, Pastor Siwi, came to see him and witnessed tears streaming from his eyes. Soon after, Stenley died from his injuries.

But even death could not end Stenley’s ministry. When his story was told in his home village, eleven Muslims accepted Christ as Savior. Fifty-three villagers made the decision to attend Bible school, seven of whom asked to be sent as missionaries to the very village where Stenley had died.

Hoping to extinguish the gospel fire, village officials snuffed out Stenley’s life. But even in the midst of their violence, God’s hand was at work. Today the flames of the gospel burn brightly in that village.

“Leave the light on.” That’s what all who follow Christ should aim to do when they leave this world behind. A committed Christian leaves the light on for a world that is lost in darkness. It’s called leaving a legacy. It seems we often hear of famous people who leave behind a legacy in film, sports, or some other public arena. However, while the lives of many Christian saints are extinguished in anonymity, their faithful lights still burn brightly throughout the world. Their legacy of faith, integrity, hope, and love cannot be doused by their death. In fact, death may even accelerate the flame. For a legacy like that is often willingly imitated by those who remain.

Readings taken from
Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Little Faith

Matthew 17:20

Little faith is true faith, as well as great. A little man is a man as well as a great man; a little water is as water as the ocean sea. The disciples had true faith, and yet very weak, weak in knowledge, though they believed that Jesus was the Messiah that should save the world, yet how, they could not tell.

They were ignorant of His death, for when He told them of His sufferings, it is said they understood not that word. And Peter took his Master aside and counseled Him not to go to Jerusalem to die. They were ignorant also of His resurrection. For when Mary told them of it, they believed it not. Of His ascension, when He spoke of a little tarrying with them, and then of His going away, they understood it not, they knew not where He went, they said, and knew not the way. Now how weak was this their knowledge, to be ignorant of such main articles?

But weak faith may prove strong in time: the most learned clerk was in his grammar book, the greatest giant was in swaddling clothes, the tallest oak was a twig, and faith grows from a grain of mustard seed to a tall tree. As from a child to a man, so corn grows from a weak blade to a stalk and ear, and ripe corn therein. The disciples, so weak before, afterwards when the Holy Spirit was sent upon them, they were exceedingly strong, and feared not the face of tyrants.
—John Rogers

Readings taken from Day by Day with the English Puritans

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spurgeon Saturday

Nahum 1:2

Your Lord is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think that you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he would not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than you should perish, and he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart’s love and himself. He is very jealous of your trust. He will not permit you to trust in an arm of flesh. He cannot bear that you should hew out broken cisterns, when the overflowing fountain is always free to you. When we lean upon him, he is glad, but when we transfer our dependence to another, when we rely upon our own wisdom, or the wisdom of a friend—worst of all, when we trust in any works of our own, he is displeased, and will chasten us that he may bring us to himself. He is also very jealous of our company. There should be no one with whom we converse so much as with Jesus. To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find sufficient solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret intercourse with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would fain have us abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself. Let this jealousy which would keep us near to Christ be also a comfort to us, for if he loves us so much as to care thus about our love we may be sure that he will suffer nothing to harm us, and will protect us from all our enemies. Oh that we may have grace this day to keep our hearts in sacred chastity for our Beloved alone, with sacred jealousy shutting our eyes to all the fascinations of the world!

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

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Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 and the Gospel

This week, I stood in disbelief as I talked with an older gentleman. Actually, he did most of the talking. He seems to be a nice, hardworking gentleman farmer—someone whose image might come to mind as a caricature of an “average American”. His face bears the marks of a hard but full life. Judging from the stories he told me, he loves Jesus (though never attends church, reads his Bible or serves Him in any way), holds preachers in high esteem (as long as they’re visiting people and doing what preachers are supposed to do), and loves America and Momma.

I meet many people like him. Conversations with people like him invariably turn toward the fact that our country is falling apart. “Young people today just don’t have any respect for anything.” When they discover that I am a veteran, they gush about the military. Then they usually drift into a story about a brother or uncle or cousin who was “messed up real bad” in Vietnam. Typically there are a few more diversions as I attempt to steer the conversation back to Christ, but most of the time, we can get back there. Not this time.

It was my fault. I was not disciplined enough to bring the conversation back. It followed the typical pattern up until a point. Then he threw me for a loop. He began to talk about the economy and how rich people and politicians are stealing money from poor people. Once again, this is a fairly typical line of reasoning among many people in my area. Then he moved from his economic concerns to discounting what happened eight years ago today. To paraphrase: “We shouldn’t be concerned about what happens overseas. Every once in a while they might come in and blow up a building or something, but that’s about it.” I was aghast. I have been prepared for reactions like that as I have talked with young postmodernist liberals. But I was completely unprepared for those comments from the mouth of a self-proclaimed patriot.

Is this where we have come in eight short years? Have we come to a place where “average” Americans have forgotten that we were attacked on our own soil? Have we forgotten that we were attacked by idolatrous ideologues who still desire nothing more than to kill “infidels” like us? This past week, I have seen more headlines concerning Ramadan than I have about 9/11. Why is that?

Mind you, I am not a Christian jihadist. As a historically and theologically rooted Baptist, I vehemently hold to the truth that the Kingdom of Christ is not advanced by the sword. At the same time, I recognize that God has given authority and responsibility to the State to protect and defend its interests (and general good) with the sword. I also recognize that America is still at war—whether we want to be or not. 9/11 was thus far just the apogee of Muslim attacks on our country. We have staved off further attacks by the aggressive (preemptive) action of our military. Ironically, because that action has been so successful, we have once again become complacent. This plays right into the hands of our attackers who have a much different picture of success than we do, as well as a much longer time horizon.

My conversation this week shocked me because it is no longer simply radical peaceniks and kooks who discount or demean 9/11 and its aftermath. It is now being done by “average Americans”. Eight years is not very long for such a change to have taken place. What will happen in the next eight years? I have no idea. But no matter what happens sociologically and geopolitically, I know one thing—the Gospel will still be true. Because of that, I have to stop being shocked into silence when people just don’t politically “get it.” The only thing that will change people is the Gospel and the Gospel is not politics. It is neither conservative nor liberal politics. It is not a strong military or universal health care. Jesus changes citizens and citizens change government, not the other way around. Because of that, we cannot lose focus on the Gospel like I did with that gentleman this week.

How am I going to remember 9/11 this year? I am going to remember it in the context of the Gospel.

Ephesians 5:15-17
(Thanks to Dolan Trout who created the collage on 9/13/2001)

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Building Up the Church

2 Timothy 4:2

We pray that words may be given to us, as it is written in the book of Jeremiah, "The Lord said to the prophet: 'Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth as fire. See, I have set thee this day over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, and to build and to plant.'"

For we need words now that will root out of every wounded soul the disgraces spoken against the truth. We also need thoughts that will pull down all edifices based on false opinions. And we require a wisdom that will throw down all high things that rise against the knowledge of God.

Just as we must not stop rooting out and pulling down the hindrances that have just been men­tioned, we must, in place of what has been root­ed out, plant the plants of God's field. In place of what has been pulled down, we must raise the building of God and the temple of His glory. For that reason, we must also pray to the Lord who gave the gifts named in the book of Jeremiah. Pray that He may grant us words for building up the temple of Christ, for planting the spiritual law, and for teaching others to do the same.

Readings taken from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ex Libris: Methland, by Nick Reding

In the book, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, Nick Reding details the problem of methamphetamines in small-town America.

See my full review over on Ex Libris.

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Expectant Prayer

Psalm 5:3

In praying, we must truly feel our wants and—seriously considering that we need all the things which we ask—accompany the prayer with a sincere, nay, ardent desire of obtaining them. Many repeat prayers in a perfunctory manner from a set form, as if they were performing a task to God. And though they confess that this is a necessary remedy for the evils of their condition—because it were fatal to be left without the divine aid which they implore, it still appears that they perform the duty from custom, because their minds are meanwhile cold and they ponder not what they ask. A general and confused feeling of their necessity leads them to pray, but it does not make them solicitous as in a matter of present consequence, that they may obtain the supply of their need. Moreover, can we suppose anything more hateful to God than this fiction of asking the pardon of sins, while he who asks at the very time either thinks that he is not a sinner— or, at least, is not thinking that he is a sinner; in other words, a fiction by which God is plainly held in derision? But mankind is full of depravity, so that in the way of perfunctory service they often ask many things of God which they think come to them without his beneficence, or from some other quarter, or are already certainly in their possession.

There is another fault which seems less heinous, but is not to be tolerated. Some murmur out prayers without meditation, their only principle being that God is to be propitiated by prayer. Believers ought to be specially on their guard never to appear in the presence of God with the intention of presenting a request unless they are under some serious impression and are, at the same time, desirous to obtain it. Nay, although in these things which we ask only for the glory of God, we seem not at first sight to consult for our necessity, yet we ought not to ask with less fervor and vehemence of desire. For instance, when we pray that his name be hallowed, that hallowing must be earnestly hungered and thirsted after.
—John Calvin

Readings taken from Day by Day With John Calvin

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Applying God’s Word

In our last three messages in Nehemiah, we’ve seen what it takes to understand God’s Word the way He would have us to. But the fact is, most of the time our problem isn’t a lack of understanding God’s Word. Most of the time, our problem is applying all the things that we DO understand.

The manuscript of this sermon from Nehemiah 8:13-10:39 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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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What Does Your Family Look Like?

If you walk into a church where most of the hair is gray, where the sanctuary is much too large for the congregation, and those who sit in the pews are scattered all over the church, sitting where they have sat for many years, chances are that this church has an inward focus. If you’re looking for a church where the people love and care for one another, this is it. They may even do some good ministries that care for people outside the walls of the church; but somehow they haven’t learned to connect with people in the community—at least not enough to get them to come to church. The worship and Bible study meet the needs of the people in this church. The fellowship inside the church is warm and friendly, and guests who find their way inside the church are welcome, just not sought after or pursued.

That quote is from a book I recently read called Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60: Being Church for All Generations. Great title. Excellent observations. Many of the author’s conclusions are suspect.

God has called local churches to be churches for all ages. Our churches should have thriving children’s ministries. Our churches should have dynamic youth groups. Our churches should have young parents and old parents and grandparents and evangelistic, excited Senior Saints. Our churches should look like many of our families do at reunion time—great-grandma enjoys things as much as the children running around her walker. But if that’s what God has called our local churches to look like, why don’t we? Why do many of our churches look exactly like the description above? Could we be too inwardly focused?

In many of our churches, we love each other and have wonderful fellowship inside our walls. Isn’t it time for us to carry that same love and fellowship out into our communities? That’s not something that can come from pastors and staff. It’s not something that can come from elders. It’s not something that can come from deacons. It’s not something that can come from a plan or a program or a committee. It’s only something that can come from each and every member. God has called us to do it—will we fulfill our call?

Ephesians 2:21-22

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Keep School in Prayers

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.

Thomas Aquinas

HT: Trevin Wax

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Faith and Family Series

With a hint of fall in the air, we have completed our summer Faith and Family series at Brushfork Baptist Church. In case you missed something, you can access the messages here. You will find rough manuscripts of all six sermons as well as audio links to four of them. I pray that they will be a blessing to you.

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West Virginia Southern Baptist

The September edition of the West Virginia Southern Baptist is now available here. This edition features this year's Mission Camp. I always knew my son was a clown--now I have proof!

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Deep Riches: Imputation of Sin

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Is that true? Is it possible for a person to live without sin? If it was possible, would that mean that they would have no need for a savior? Find the answers over on Deep Riches.

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