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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forlorn Hope

John Clough was called to the harvest field while working in one. He had grown up without religious inclinations, and in college seemed resistant to evangelistic efforts by friends. His roommate tried to read the Bible and pray with him each evening, but John, growing exasperated, drew a chalk line down the middle of the room, forbidding prayer or Scripture on his side of the line.

But the Holy Spirit worked on his heart, and one evening, unable to study and overwhelmed with his need, he crossed the line and knelt by his roommate. Shortly after, hearing a missionary sermon, John wondered if God would have him overseas, and he applied. He was atop a four-horse reaper breaking off grain when a farmhand approached him with a letter from Boston. Clough wiped away his sweat and tore open the news from the Baptist Foreign Mission Board. "What do you know!" he shouted. "They want me to go to India as a missionary!"

Missions officials wanted to send him to "Forlorn Hope"—Telugu, India—where 17 years of painful, plodding effort had produced no apparent results. On November 30, 1864 Clough and his wife sailed from Boston on a tiny ship, hardly seaworthy, called the James Guthrie. It rolled and pitched its way across the ocean, finally limping into India the following April. John, leaping into service, was immediately confronted with a dilemma. The higher caste of Indians refused to attend church with the lower caste and outcasts. Praying for wisdom, Clough randomly opened his Bible and read in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 of God choosing the lowly. Across the room at the same moment, his wife randomly opened her Bible to the same place. Clough, amazed, took it as divine guidance. He announced that all were welcome in his church, that he would not accept a segregated congregation.

He started preaching, and conversions multiplied. Fifteen months later two Indian preachers stood in a river and began baptizing the converts. When they grew weary, other preachers relieved them. By five o’clock 2,222 had been baptized, and the baptisms continued for two more days.

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000).

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Christmas Family Devotional Guide

The Week of Hope

For hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people believed that one day God would send a great leader to deliver them from bondage and fear. Their nation was captured, people were taken captive, and their temple was destroyed. But the saddest part was that they knew that their sin had forever separated them from God.

But they never gave up hope. They knew that they needed a redeemer and that God’s Anointed would one day come to shepherd them.

The world today is also in need of the Redeemer’s leadership and hope. Jesus Christ came and gave hope to all who would believe in Him.

(Light the first purple candle)
As the first purple candle is lit say: “I light this candle on the first Sunday of Advent to remind us of the hope we have in our Redeemer. Jesus came to give us the hope of our salvation and the hope of our future glory.

Read: Isaiah 7:14
Micah 7:7

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! (John Mason Neale, Henry Sloane Coffin).

Have a family discussion on the hope that you have as a family because of our Emmanuel.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Loving God with the Whole Heart

Matthew 22:37-38

We must not love God only with the heart, but with the whole heart. Pray mark this: perfect hatred and perfect love know no such thing as the world calls prudence. If you perfectly hate any one, all things about him displease you; whatever he says or does, though it be never so good, it seems to you to be evil: so if you perfectly love any one, all things about him please you. Some expound this totality by this distinction: We are to love God with the whole heart positively and negatively: positively, where all powers of the will are set to love God; and this we cannot perfectly do while we are travellers, till we come to our heavenly country: but, negatively, thou shalt so love God, that nothing contrary to the love of God shall be entertained in thy heart; and this we may attain to a pretty tolerable perfection of in this life.

The whole heart is opposed either to a divided and dispersed heart, or to a remiss and a sluggish heart: God doth as much abominate a partnership in our love, as a husband or wife abhors any such thing in their conjugal relation. We must love nothing but God, or that which may please God. He that loves God with his heart, and not with his whole heart, loves something else, and not God.

As the whole heart is opposed to a remiss and sluggish heart, the meaning is this,—the care of our heart should be set upon nothing so much as upon the loving and pleasing of God; we must prefer God alone before all other objects of our love, and there must be an ardency of affection: whatever we do, it must be for his sake, and according to his will. - Samuel Annesley (1620-1696)
Puritan Sermons, Volume 1 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 576-77.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Romeo, James Dean, Twilight and Other Forbidden Fruit

Here we go again.  Another Christmas season, another Twilight movie.  As I watched reports of people lining up for hours to earn Breaking Dawn Part One a whopping $139.5 million over its opening weekend, I thought it was probably time to repost this article.  I originally posted this in 2008 as I first became aware of the popularity of the novels.  At the time, I could not imagine the sustainability of the Twilight franchise.  All the more reason to repost the original warning:

Ladies, meet the 21st century James Dean. His name is Edward Cullen and he’s… a vampire.

Being old and out of touch, I was late in realizing the phenomenon that is the Twilight book series. The premise of the series is simple enough—teenage girl falls in love with a boy she’s not supposed to fall in love with. Forbidden fruit is a romantic premise that is older than Romeo and Juliet. But here’s the difference—in the Shakespearean world of four centuries ago, Romeo was wrong for Juliet because of familial disputes.

Fast forward to James Dean in the 1950s. Same story, new chapter—teenage girls fawn over a boy they’re not supposed to. But by this time, society had “progressed” to the point that the forbidden fruit had nothing to do with his heritage. Instead, the illicit attraction had everything to do with the boy’s rebellion against the puritanical rules of society. James Dean was forbidden fruit because he smoked. He drove fast cars. He was disrespectful and slightly dangerous. He wore the clothes of street gangs and didn’t fit into the straight-laced structure of Mom and Dad’s world. He was sexy because he broke the rules.

That formula worked to create teen idols of young men from Dean, to Elvis, to John, Paul, George and Ringo. It moved from the anti-establishment rebellion of cigarettes and leather jackets to long hair, love beads and psychedelic drugs. It continued past the ‘60s into the ‘70s and ‘80s and blossomed into free love relationships, “friends with benefits” and even homosexuality. Each illicit attraction enticed by the sexiness of forbidden fruit.

But in today’s age of tolerance, none of that fruit is considered forbidden. Society says it is now normal to be rebellious. It is acceptable to lead an immoral lifestyle. Society says that sex is just a physical act with no consequences or even moral implications. As long it is consensual and “protection” is used, anything and everything is okay. And because everything is now okay, teenage girls have to plumb even lower depths to find their forbidden fruit.

And they have—except Romeo is no longer in the land of the living. They’ve found him in depths of the spiritual underworld. James Dean smoked cigarettes—the forbidden fruit of today drinks blood. James Dean didn’t fit into the structure of Mom and Dad’s world. Today’s forbidden fruit doesn’t fit into the realm of God’s creation. James Dean was always on the brink of breaking young girls’ hearts. Today’s forbidden fruit wants more than the girl’s heart—he wants her eternal soul. As the young girl told the interviewer on the Today Show a couple of weeks ago—he is sexy because it is wrong. James Dean was sexy because he broke the rules of society. Edward Cullen is sexy because he breaks the rules of God. The worst thing James Dean could steal was a young girl’s heart. The unseen spirits behind the vampire novels want to steal her soul.

2 Timothy 3:1-7

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Introducing: MeinHerrundmeinGott

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome James Boyd as a new contributor to Deep Riches.  James holds a PhD from Southwestern Seminary and serves as Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church in Princeton, WV.  He is married with two beautiful daughters and has a deep conviction that all Christians should be disciple-makers.  His “handle” is MeinHerrundmeinGott, which is German for “My Lord and my God.”  I know his writings will edify you.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Parents Can Help a Teen Fulfill His/Her Ministry—2 Timothy 4:1-5

In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul exhorted Timothy, his spiritual child, “to fulfill” the ministry God had given him. What can parents learn from this exhortation about how to help their teens be faithful to the mission of Jesus? First, Paul established the serious basis of the exhortation by reminding Timothy that to ignore it would incur God’s judgment and trivialize the second coming and rule of Christ. Parents have no excuse for trivializing their teens’ ministries in the kingdom. Of all the ways parents expect teens to excel, excellence in following God’s will in ministry ought to be the top concern. Second, Paul described the nature of Timothy’s ministry. Timothy was to share the truth of God’s Word patiently, when easy and when difficult, allowing the Word to point out sin, direct in righteousness, and encourage its hearers unto holiness. Sharing is certainly something parents teach their children, but how have you helped your teen share the truth of God’s Word with their friends this week? Third, Paul identified the reason why Timothy needed to focus intently on sharing the Truth of God’s Word. There were many who wanted novelty rather than the true teachings of the Bible. These people gathered teachers who contradicted what Timothy taught. Paul exhorted Timothy to share the Word in order to combat these lies. Teens must understand that their ministries will be a fight for the Truth. They will be opposed and it will not be the easy path. Does your teen observe you sharing the truth in love? Equip your teen to wield the sword of the Spirit with skill to combat the lies that deceive so many. Finally, Paul told Timothy how to succeed. Timothy needed to be clear-headed, having his mind untainted by the world’s lies. He needed to be willing: 1) to suffer for the Truth, 2) to tell the good news, and 3) to endure until he was able to say that he had completed the work God had given him to do (see also John 17:4). Are you helping your teen: prioritize God’s mission most, understand what that work should look like, prepare for the battle it entails, and endure until they complete it? If not, are you really parenting like the heavenly Father parents?

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Future Uncertainty

In 1750, at the end of his ministry at Northampton Church, Jonathan Edwards wrote a letter to his dear friend, a Scottish minister named Reverend McCulloch.  After completing over 20 years of ministry in Northampton, it was clear that Edwards did not know what the future held for him.  But it is also clear that he knew Who holds the future and was determined to submit to His will.  In that letter, he wrote:

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Man's Land

One of the most enduring images of World War I is the horrific innovation of trench warfare.  Opposing sides of the battle would entrench themselves in parallel holes in the ground.  Defensively, the trenches were brilliant.  It was nearly impossible for the enemy to advance his position against a well-entrenched army.  They were so defensively effective, offensive warfare was completely stifled.  Every time either side would attempt an advance, it resulted in massive casualties and little success. 

What resulted was stalemate.  For days and weeks and months, troops would fester in filthy, rat-infested, disease-ridden pits that more closely resembled cesspools than military encampments.  Despite the appalling conditions within the trenches, they were far better than the area between the trenches. 

In the No Man’s Land between trenches, the ground was churned up beyond recognition from the constant futile barrage of the warring factions.  Scout teams that ventured into that area were ripped to shreds—often from both sides simultaneously.  Human and animal carcasses lay strewn about, unattended for days as the stench of death permeated the air.

Tragically, this is the image that often comes to mind when one is called to be a peacemaker between warring factions.  When both sides of a battle are content to stay entrenched in their opposing positions, the degradation becomes obvious in their attitudes and language.  Unreasoned vitriol and unjustified accusations roll off tongues resulting in a kind of bitterness that begins to eat away at those within each trench.  When a peacemaker wanders unguarded into No Man’s Land, more likely than not, he will be ripped to shreds by both sides. 

So if that is the case, and human nature says that it is, then how are we supposed to be the peacemakers that Jesus calls us to be?  Is it Jesus’ desire for His peacemakers to be churned up like the forsaken soil of No Man’s Land?  Of course not.  In the same Sermon on the Mount where Jesus called peacemakers blessed sons of God (Matthew 5:9), He also said that God will take care of His children (Matthew 6:25).

Wandering into No Man’s Land is a terrifying proposition.  But Jesus has called each of us to be peacemakers.  When we seek to make peace between warring factions of His people, He calls us His children.  He is our strength and shield and will guard and protect us as a Father guards and protects His children.  When we act as the peacemakers that Jesus has called us to be, we go in His name—under His authority, with His strength and power.  And as a son of God, no matter the shots you might have to take, the battle is not yours.  The battle is the Lord’s—and because of the cross, He is already victorious.  He will prevail and peace will come.

Psalm 28:7-9

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Hearing God's Call

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote in his journal, “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”

Though his statement is fraught with theological pitfalls, it is completely understandable to one who is actively pursuing God’s will for his life.  The call of God is a mysterious thing.  A universal question of those who are serious about their relationship with Christ is, “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” 

When I was 16 years old, I attended a Centrifuge camp at Glorietta.  It was there that God clearly called me into pastoral ministry.  At the time, I didn’t like the specificity of His call, so I diverted it—redirected it to a more personally preferable path.  I thought it would be a lot more fun to be a DJ than to be a preacher.  My plan was to be a DJ on a Christian radio station—that would be how I would fulfill my calling.  But that was not what God called me to do, so I failed miserably. 

For over 15 years, I ran from my call, to the point that I completely forgot it.  It was as if my experience at Glorietta was completely wiped from my memory.  It was not until I was placed in the middle of a Saudi Arabian desert that the Lord graciously regained my attention.  He reminded me of His call on my life without restoring the memory of Glorietta.  That memory was not restored until a protracted period of obedience, preparation, prayer and study. 

At the time, His calling was vague and unspecific, but nonetheless unmistakably real.  From that point, I began asking every man of God I could find, how they were able to discern God’s call on their lives.  I began to seek discernment on my knees and look for examples of God’s calling in His Word.  What I discovered was disconcerting for a linear thinker like me. 

I like to plan.  I like to know.  I thrive on consistency and systems and linear progression.  But God’s call is not so.  God’s call is very specific and linear and consistent—but He seldom reveals it to us in that way.  His plan, purpose and calling have been set since before the foundation of the world.  But He has chosen to reveal them only as we trust and obey Him each step along the way. 

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  It is a very familiar verse that we don’t often ponder the meaning of.  God’s Word is a lamp—but what does the lamp illuminate?  To keep us from stumbling over immediate obstacles or stepping in a hole, it lights our feet.  To keep us heading in the right direction, it lights our path.  It does not light up the whole field so that we can see everything that is behind, around and before us.  That would be overwhelming and would seriously diminish our need for faith. 

The more we see, the less we need to rely on faith, but the Lord loves us to walk by faith.  Trust Him to handle the plan.  Trust Him to reveal the call in His way and in His timing.  In the meantime, walk in the light He gives today.  Avoid the pitfalls of sin, worry and disobedience.  Place one foot in front of the other in the direction His Word leads.  And in time, according to His sovereign plan, God’s calling will become clear.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blessed Assurance

Though blinded at six weeks of age through improper medical treatment, Fanny Crosby wrote more than 8,000 gospel songs texts in her lifetime of 95 years. Her many favorites such as "Blessed Assurance" have been an important part of evangelical worship for the past century. Only eternity will disclose the host of individuals whose lives have been spiritually enriched through the texts of Fanny Crosby’s many hymns. Engraved on Fanny J. Crosby’s tombstone at Bridgeport, Connecticut, are these significant words taken from our Lord’s remarks to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, after she had anointed Him with costly perfume—"She hath done what she could" (Mark 14:8).
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Perfect submission, perfect delight! Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission—all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest; watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.
--Taken from Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Faith Tested

Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators.

When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven.

No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity.

Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Jesus, Bring the Rain

When a person looks back over his life, there are certain events that come to mind almost immediately and stand out above the rest.  Certainly, there are the wonderful memories.  The sight of the rippling water when I was baptized at 12 years old will never leave me.  The water was rippling, not because of the baptistery, but because I was so nervous the pastor thought I was having a seizure. 

I will never forget the night I got down on one knee in the crowded dining room of Simms Landing to ask my bride-to-be for her hand in marriage.  I don’t really need all of the pictures and videos—our wedding day is as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday, even though it was over 24 years ago. 

I remember the expression on my wife’s face as I nearly passed out at the birth of our first daughter.  And I remember the expression on the Security Forces Airman as I flew through the back gate of Keesler Air Force Base to get to the base hospital just in time for our second daughter to be born.  I also remember the sheer terror as they took our son to neo-natal intensive care because he wasn’t breathing. And the sheer joy when the doctor told us he was okay. 

The call to ministry, my ordination, finally walking across the seminary stage after over 15 years of night school and distance learning classes—each of those are wonderful memories that I will cherish forever.  Just like I will cherish the day that the Lord called me to pastor Brushfork Baptist Church and the wonderful times my family and I had serving there.

But when a person looks back, he not only remembers the wonderful memories, he cannot help but recall the painful ones as well.  Family deaths, broken relationships, sickness and tragedy are part of everyone’s life and we bear the emotional scars for a lifetime.  Yesterday was one such moment for me. 

Yesterday, I had to tell a group of people I deeply love that I will no longer be their pastor.  It was my desire that the Lord would keep me there forever and we would grow into a strong, healthy, multi-generational world mission center—but for some reason, He saw things differently.  I don’t know exactly where He will call us or what He will call us to do next. But I know that my family and I will bear yesterday's emotional scar for a long time.

For those who have followed this blog (despite the paucity of recent postings), this will be the last entry here.  I will continue—hopefully with more regularity—posting on Deep Riches.  I will also be starting a new website within the next few days.  You will be able to find it at

It amazes me how God uses everything in our lives—the good, the bad and even the ugly—to mold and grow and shape us into the people He wants us to be.  As the song says,

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain.

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