Merry Christmas

25 12 2008

On this glorious Christmas day, I hope these words of prayer and reflection resonate with your heart.
May you have a wonderful and worship time with family and friends, rejoicing in our Lord who stepped so low to rescue us and raise us up to him!

“My heart melts at the love of Jesus,
my brother, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,
married to me, dead for me, risen for me;
He is mine and I am his,
given to me as well as for me;
I am never so much mine as when I am his,
or so much lost to myself until lost in him;
then I find my true manhood.

But my love is frost and cold, ice and snow;
Let his love warm me,
lighten my burden,
be my heaven;
May it be more revealed to me in all its influences
that my love to him may be more fervent and glowing;
Let the mighty tide of his everlasting love
cover the rocks of my sin and care;
Then let my spirit float above those things
which had else wrecked my life.

Make me fruitful by living to that love,
my character becoming more beautiful every day.
If traces of Christ’s love-artistry be upon me,
may he work on with his divine brush
until the complete image be obtained
and I be made a perfect copy of him,
my Master.”

from “The Love of Jesus” in The Valley of Vision

Thank you, Jesus.


From the Margin of… Acts 2:39

13 12 2008

How are you at “speaking the truth”? How clear and plain do you make the truth when you are talking with an unbelieving coworker or a relative that has walked away from the faith?From the Margin of...

I think we have all experienced the temptation to soften up our message or water down the truth a bit, attempting to make it more palatable and the conversation more comfortable.  However, when we water down the content of the message, won’t we find that we’ve watered down the power of the message as well?

Because of that temptation, the following quote from Richard Sibbes really convicted me.  I appreciated Sibbes comments so much that I wrote them next to the text of Peter’s powerful sermon in Acts 2.

Sibbes explains:

Truth feareth nothing so much as concealment, and desireth nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all; when it is most naked, it is most lovely and powerful.”

I thought Acts 2 to be a good margin location as the two together remind me that, as I preach, I must proclaim the truth clearly, boldly, and in all its naked beauty, believing that God the Spirit will use the naked truth to bring souls to the Savior.  But the practice of “truth exposing” shouldn’t just be isolated to a sermon or a teaching time, it should be my habit whatever the conversation and whatever the context.  I don’t know about you, but my fallen lips (and the mind that fuels them) need this reminder!

Genesis 1 and the Encouragement of Our Hearts

22 07 2008

“It is a mighty support of faith that God creates.  He that made all things with a word, what cannot he do?  He can create strength in weakness; he can create a supply of our wants.  What a foolish question was that, ‘Can he prepare a table in the wilderness?’ (Psalm 78:19).  Cannot he that made the world do much more? ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 124:8).  Rest on this God for help, who made heaven and earth.  As the work of creation is a monument of God’s power, so it is a stay of faith.  Is thy heart hard? He can with a word create softness.  Is it unclean?  He can create purity.  ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psalm 51:10).  Is the church of God low?  He can create Jerusalem a praise (Isaiah 65:18).  There is no such golden pillar for faith to stay upon as a creating power.”  – Thomas Watson

Broken Pieces and the Providence of God

19 06 2008

Have you ever asked the question, “What in the world is God doing?!”  I’m sure we’ve all had moments when the circumstances in our lives suggest that God has lost His sovereign grip on the universe.  The next time you bump into one of those, remember this important reminder from our dear brother, Thomas Watson:

God is to be trusted when his providences seem to run contrary to his promises.  God promised to give David the crown, to make him king; but providence ran contrary to his promise.  David was pursued by Saul, and was in danger of his life, but all this while it was David’s duty to trust God.  Pray observe, that the Lord by cross providences often brings to pass his promise. God promised Paul the lives of all that were with him in the ship; but the providence of God seemed to run quite contrary to his promise, for the winds blew, the ship split and broke in peices.  Thus God fulfilled his promise; upon the broken pieces of the ship they all came safe to shore.  Trust God when providences seem to run quite contrary to promises. ( “The Providence of God” from A Body of Divinity)

On Demand Repentance?

24 04 2008

Have you ever thought, “OK, I’ll just give in to this temptation- just this one time- and then afterwards, I’ll quickly repent and everything will be good between me and God!”  Now, if you’ve done that, I’m not posting to ask you to write out a confession in the comments section (I guess you can if you want), but I want us to take a moment and think this idea through.  So, have you ever thought that way?  Shamefully, I must admit that I have.  I think many Christians are tempted to think this way, and to think this way often.  They are tempted to view repentance as an easy work, to regard it as magic erasure they can just pull out of their back pocket and use it anytime they want.  But is that really the case? 

Last week, as I was reading through Precious Remedies against Satan’s DevicesI came across Thomas Brooks’ response to this foolish thinking and dangerous practice.  He addresses this idea under “Devices Satan Uses to Draw the Soul to Sin; Device 6”.  Listen to his warning.  

Device 6: By persuading the soul that the work of repentance is an easy work, and that therefore the soul need not make such a matter of sin.  Why!  Suppose you do sin, saith Satan, it is no such difficult things to return, and confess, and be sorrowful, and beg pardon, and cry, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me!’ and if you do but this, God will [forgive your debt], and pardon your sins, and save your souls.  By this device Satan draws many a soul to sin, and makes millions of souls servants or rather slaves of sin.

Do you hear your own thinking in those lines?  I know I heard mine!  “Don’t worry about repentance; it is an easy thing… we can always repent later!”  How many times have those thoughts passed through our minds?!  But notice the source of such wicked thinking- it comes straight from the pit!  So what do we do with our errant thinking; how do we combat this temptation?  Glad you asked!  Brooks gives 6 tools, six “remedies,” to fight this temptation.  Today, you just get the first one (but trust me, it is enough to get you off to a good start!): Read the rest of this entry »

Hard on the Ears or a Joy to the Heart?

8 04 2008

How do you respond to convicting truth preached from the Word?

Personally, I love hard preaching.  When the Spirit of God takes me to the “woodshed” through the preached Word of God, I rejoice!  It is like water to my soul; it is refreshing, invigorating, and satisfying.  I want to be reminded of eternity, of the gravity of these truth, of the call to holiness and the sacrifice of my Savior.  I need to be reminded of my own inability, of how lost I was, and how desperately every day I need to grace of God. 

But there are times when I wonder if my delight in such convicting sermons is weird or bizarre or strange.  There are moments when I think: “Am I just wired wrong?” 

Recently, through conversations with some others in our church who delight in a convicting challenge (who actually find joy in it!) I came to a place of puzzlement over this “phenomena.”  Why would people enjoy hearing that they are wrong, out of line, or in danger of punishment?

The world would answer the question by saying that we are just a bunch of masochists, that somehow we get some perverse delight out of the emotional or psychological pain.  They would say we need help (as in the professional kind).  However, I think the world couldn’t be more wrong with their answer.

I came across the following in Thomas Watson’s A Godly Man’s Picture and I believe it gives the true answer to this “bizarre” behavior:

The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates.  This is the threatening of the Word.  It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness… a godly man loves the menace of the Word.  He knows there is love in every threat.  God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin… there is mercy in every threat. 

So, the child of God learns to see the mercy in the threat, the joy in the conviction, the eternal pleasure gained through moments of pain, the refinement in the moments of fire.  Explaining this truth leads Watson to raise the following question (and further drive the point home):

Do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins?  It is the minister’s duty sometimes to reprove.  He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit, but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine hilt without an edge. ‘Rebuke them sharply’ (Titus 2:15).  Dip the nail in oil, reprove in love, but strike the nail home.  Now Christian, when the Word touches your sin and says, ‘Thou are the man,’ do you love reproof?  Can you bless God that ‘the sword of the Spirit’ has divided between you and your lusts?  This is indeed a sign of grace and shows that you are a lover of the Word.

Did you catch that last part?  Why this bizarre behavior?   Because God is producing it.  It is a sign of his grace working in our life.  If we fought the conviction, if we hated it, it would only manifest a heart that is embracing rebellion and doesn’t want to submit to what God is saying.  However, that we love such hard teaching and desire to have the light of truth shine upon our souls reveals something heavenly working in our lives- it reveals Someone divine working in our lives.

So, the next time your pastor isn’t “pulling any punches” and you find yourself broken but joyfully, realize there is nothing wrong with what you are experiencing.  Actually, there is everything right with it, and your joy should only increase when you realize this strange feeling is evidence of God’s Spirit working in your life.  

Becoming Wise to the Enemy

6 04 2008

 “Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.  If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.” 

These words are found in the opening of Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. As I read those words, I thought to myself “I have spent most of my time studying the first three but I’ve thought very little of the fourth” and the further I get into this wonderful Puritan treasure, the more evident my ignorance of the Enemy’s schemes becomes apparent.

Some might think (as I used to) “Do we really need to spend time thinking about what the Enemy is trying to do?  Should we really spend that much time thinking about Satan? Can’t I just focus on the first three and be OK?” 

Listen to Brooks’ response to why we should engage in such study:

1- “Because Satan has a greater influence upon men, and higher advantage over them (having the wind and the hill, as it were), than they think he has, and the knowledge of his high advantage is the highway to disappoint him, and to render the soul strong in resisting, and happy in conquering.”  

2- “[this study’s] exceeding usefulness to all sorts, ranks and conditions of men in the world. Here you have salve for every sore, and a plaster for every wound, and a remedy against every disease, especially those that tend most to the undoing of souls, and the ruin of the State.”

3- Because as we focus on studying the second (the Scripture) it will show us that we must be knowledgeable about the fourth.  Do you remember when Paul charged the Corinthians to forgive their repentant brother (2 Cor. 2)?  Do you remember his warning that accompanied the charge? He compels them to act “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).  Could that be said of us, that we are not ignorant?  Brooks makes this text his key launching point and foundation for all that follows.  And this text in 2 Corinthians is just one example of Scripture calling us to be wary of our Enemies devices (for other examples see Ephesians 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25-26; 1 Peter 5:8).

4- And finally, as Brooks points out, all true Christians experience Satan’s schemes: “He is but a titular Christian [a Christian in title only] that has not personal experience of Satan’s stratagems, his set and composed machinations, his artificially molded methods, his plots, darts, depths, whereby he outwitted our first parents, and fits us a pennyworth still, as he sees reason.”  All true Christians have experienced his attack, but can we all see it coming? 

This is why such a study is important and why I’m beginning to see this wonderful little book as a precious gift to the Church.

As we continue through the month, I’ll be posting from some of the sections of the book that resonated most with me and try to share the practical ways I’m apply the truth our dear Puritan brother is teaching.