Thomas Watson

30 11 2007

Thomas WatsonThomas WatsonLast year, I was listening to an interview with Dr. Steven Lawson (whose preaching I admire and appreciate) and he was asked which books had been most influential in his ministry.  His immediate answer was A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson.  I’d never heard of the work or the man, so I did a quick search on the Internet and found the book as public domain on the Christian Classics Etherial Library
I knew I was in for a treat after I read the glowing bio of Watson that opens the book, written by none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon! What followed that brief introduction was a series of sermons that have richly encouraged my faith and confronted me with a view of God that is rarely found in the modern church.  I have grown to love the writings of this dear brother and plan to post comments from Watson on a regular basis. However, before I do that, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce you to my beloved Puritan friend.

Thomas Watson (1620-1686) was an English Puritan preacher. 
As an Englishman, Watson suffered for his beliefs.  He lived during a time of sweeping reformation and great difficulty in England. During his ministry he was imprisoned for his stand on the Monarchy.  Later, he was released, but not before one of his companions was executed. When Charles II passed the Act of Uniformity, Watson was ejected from his pastorate (along with 2,000 other godly pastors) for his refusal to confom his church service to the Book of Common Prayer.  He and many other believers were forced to meet in barns, homes, and sometimes in the forest. Watson lived in a time when taking a stand for the truth had serious, life threatening consequences yet he didn’t back down. 
But above Watson’s struggles as an Englishman what I really treasure is his Puritan heart. What is meant by the term “Puritan?”  Often as our modern era reflects back upon the Puritans, we view them as legalistic hypocrites; another incarnation of the NT Pharisees. But such impressions soon pass away when you begin to read their writings.  What you discover is that they were people who loved God and His Word; people who celebrated Christ and the Gospel. They had a healthy hatred for sin but that was only because they were overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s holiness. This is what I mean when I say that Thomas Watson was a Puritan.  His love for our God and his fascination with God’s beauty and the wonder of our salvation flow off of every page of his writing.  His theology is so wonderfully practical and yet so rich and deep.  (Reading Watson is like breathing-in refreshing, clean air as you hike through mountain meadows, gazing all the while at the breathtaking peaks around you.   I love to walk among the majesty of his thinking and let my soul breathe it in deeply.)     
I believe his theology was so practical because at his core, he was a pastor.  His sermons are clearly words from a shepherd’s heart.  That heart is evident not just in those words, but in what he endured to tend the Master’s sheep.  Even when he could no longer preach in the approved church buildings of England, it didn’t stop him from feeding the flock.  As I mentioned above, he would preach in barns, in the woods; wherever he could find.  He had a passion to tell people about his God. Eventually, after more reforms in England, Watson was reinstated.  He again pastored a church, and for five years shared the preaching duties with Stephen Charnock, whose work The Existence and Attributes of God is Puritan classic on Theology Proper. 
Watson’s ministry had a powerful impact in his own day and through the repeated publishing of his sermons he continues to influence generation after generation for God.  I am just one more mentored by this wonderful brother.  I hope you will enjoy his wisdom in the posts ahead.

Starting this next week, I’ll begin posting Watson’s answers to the question: Why must I glorify God?


A Love I Didn’t Know

28 11 2007

Rylie the Little BakerMy precious daughter, Rylie Karis, is now a little over 2 and a half.  She is my joy and my delight.  Her presence in my life has caused me to grow in numerous ways, to provide a whole new perspective on God’s care for me, and to discover a love that, I must confess, really surprised me. 
Before God blessed us with Rylie, Amy and I had been married for 6 years. She is and has been my best friend.  Over those six years my relationship with Amy really grew and I experienced a deepening of my love for her and my commitment to her.  I am closer to her than any other person on this planet!  
However, when Rylie was born, I discovered a love I did not know. It is somehow different from the love I experience in my relationship with my wife and that was something I hadn’t expected. There are days when just the thought of seeing Rylie laugh or discover something new or just watching her sleep fills me with so much joy I think I might explode! Honestly, it often feels like me heart has grown and at times my body and my mind can’t handle the change- like it just might swallow me up! 
Do any of you who are parents know what I’m talking about? 
Have you experienced the same thing?
The difference is hard to describe, but I guess I should give it a shot. 
One way to express the difference is to say that my love for Rylie is a downward love, while my love for Amy is a horizontal love.  Amy is my partner, my companion, my equal; while Rylie is my care and my charge.  My love for Amy is affection and adoration and assistance to an equal.  But with Rylie, as her father, God gives me joy in caring for her, in teaching her, in cheering her on to new accomplishments.
I understood that difference in theory before Rylie was born, but I was completely unaware of how much joy I would find in this downward love.  Let me try to illustrate what I mean.
With Rylie, everything is new; her world is a new one.  And as I watch her, there is a joy I take in her experiencing the newness.  The day she took her first steps was one of the proudest days of my life; I took such delight in her accomplishing this milestone.  I was filled with joy for her and in her.  I had never known the experience of watching my child, my own flesh and blood, take their first step.  She had been trying to walk, without much success, for some time and when she finally did it, I was so happy for her!  My charge had accomplished something wonderful for her and it became something wonderful to me.  I entered into her joy and because of my perspective (as one watching over her and caring for her) I think my joy far surpassed her own.
As you can see, I’m still just trying to figure out this love I’ve found.  When I’ve talked to other parents, they identify with what I’m saying, but we always seem to have a hard time putting our finger on how it is different and why.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the difference. 
But one final thought before I leave this topic for now: I wonder how this relates to God’s affection for us?  When we share our faith, or truly walk in the Spirit, or depend on His strength to endure our trial, do you think God experiences a similar downward joy- a joy that exceeds our own?  I’d love to hear thoughts and scripture surrounding this question.
What a blessing it is to be Rylie’s dad and I pray that I can continue to faithfully delight in the charge my God has given me.  I love you, Rylie!     

Coming to Our End: God’s Design in Trials?

27 11 2007

The EndA few more thoughts on how we are to understand the trials we endure.
I came acrsoss this in a puritan prayer, recorded in the book The Valley of Vision:
“Let no incident of life, pleasing or painful, injure the prosperity of my soul, but rather increase it. Send me Thy help, for Thine appointments are not meant to make me independent of Thee…” 
When I read this, I had to take a moment and really think through the writer’s statement.  What in a trial would “injure the prosperity of my soul“?  Would the trial itself?  No.  Otherwise why would James write “count it all joy?” (James 1:2)
That which would injure my soul would be my response to the trail.  Injury would come if I allowed the trial to drive me to my own strength instead of the strength of God.  If the fruit of my trial is self-dependence instead of God-dependence, serious damage has been done.  This got me thinking about the trials that have come into my life lately which I’ve just buckled down and endured.  How much time have I spent lately praying for God’s strength to help me through these trials?  How much have I really looked to Him for strength and provision?  How much damage has been done to “the prosperity of my soul“?
Clearly, God’s design in my trials is to show me the sufficiency of His glorious strength and the weakness of my own; scripture speaks to this over and over again (2 Cor. 12:9; Rom. 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:5-7).  So, when I try to endure the trial in my own strength I really find myself fighting against God’s design.  This begs the question- what will God have to do to bring me to the end of my self-sufficiency? 

Great Trials Produce…

26 11 2007

… great glory.  This was my thought this morning as I reflected on John 11
John 11 records the death and miraculous resurrection of Lazarus.  Lazarus and his two sisters were close to Jesus (we are told twice in the first 5 verses of Jesus’ love for His three friends), but what does Jesus do for them as they are in the midst of this trial (Lazarus’ sickness) that is about to get worse (Lazarus dies)?  Does Jesus quickly travel to Bethany to heal His sick friend?  Does He complain to the Father for allowing His friends to suffer this way?  Does He start praying, “Father, make Lazarus get better quick”?
I imagine that most of us would probably do something along those lines for our friends and family if we could.  If we could heal our mother of cancer or mend our son’s broken heart after his  divorce, we would rush to the rescue.  But John tells us: “So when [Jesus] heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was” (v. 6).  Jesus didn’t rush to His friend’s side, but delayed His departure two extra days.  Why? 
Because Jesus saw trials differently than we often do.   As Jesus looked at the coming trial (the death of His friend Lazarus) listen to how He assesses the situation: “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (v. 4).  He allowed the trial to become greater so that He might clearly display the greatness of His power.  
Notice the results.  Because Jesus miraculously raised a dead man from the grave, not simply a sick man from his bed, the disciples grew in faith (v. 15), Martha came to understand that the resurrection is about Jesus not just a future event (v. 27), and many Jews came to believe in Jesus (v. 45).  All of this happend through an immense trial, not in spite of it.

Father, next time I’m faced with a tremendous trial please help me to take my eyes off of the difficult situation and put them on Christ so that I might see the wonderful display of His glory. 

Psalm 40:1-2

26 11 2007

The title for my blog comes from this wonderful Psalm of David’s deliverance.  I first read Psalm 40 as a teenager and David’s words resonated with my own cry.  I was overwhelmed by the guilt of my sin in the face of God’s holiness and was feeling much like Christian in the Slough of Despond.   This verse was a Divine answer and I praise God for the glorious gift of salvation through my Lord Jesus Christ.
As I read these verses, I thought of my own perilous condition, that of being sunk deep in the pit of sin, unable to get any footing… all I could do was cry out!  But what a deliverance!  God did rescue me and set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm.  God saved me and lead me into ministry (which is another story I’ll probably write about down the road).  I have been working in a church for 10 years now and have been happily married to my beautiful wife, Amy, for 9 years.  We have two children: Rylie Karis, our 2 year old joy, and Anna Sophia, the gift I am waiting for (Amy is 6 months pregnant at the time of my writing). 
These are just some of the blessings that God has given me over these last 19 years of relationship with Him.  My desire is to be able to write, record, and share my thoughts and reflections about this God who saved me and the life He has given me.