When Life Troubles You

The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”

We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.

But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?

Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.

The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.

“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”

“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.

But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.

What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.

The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.

Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.

The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.

True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?

Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.

Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”

Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.

Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.

Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?

All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.

When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.

My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!

That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.

The Resurrection Fact

a book review by Stuart Brogden

Fellow Christian, do you doubt the fact that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead? Truth be told, nobody who has been born of the Spirit of God should doubt this fact. Reality is, many who deny God do. How do you and I respond when a well-educated reprobate throw up man’s wisdom that appears to crumble the foundation of our faith? If we well versed and studied up in what the Bible says about the centerpiece of its theme – the propitiating death of the Son of Man and His resurrection from the dead – we will be on firm footing. Understanding the arguments that will be thrown up against us is of benefit, and that’s the reason for this book.

The Resurrection Fact – Responding to Modern Critics, is a compendium detailing the elements and weaknesses of the enemy’s assaults and the reasoning that gives thinking Christians more confidence in this core aspect of our theology. The 8 chapters first examine the importance of the resurrection of Christ and facts recorded about it, followed by a helpful rehearsal of the impotence of the scientific method regarding historical events. The last 6 chapters review various attacks by people – some claim to be inside the camp of Christ, some deny there is reason for a camp.

Chapter 3 takes a look at an apostate Roman Catholic – but I repeat myself. One former apologist for Rome, John Dominic Crossan, has gone further off the reservation by embracing what the editors of this book call “progressive Christianity.” Typical of this movement is the idea that Christ Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual only, not physical. The editor for this chapter (John Bombaro)  call this “unbelief masquerading as “faith.”” (page 61) In a platonic scheme of dismissing the physical for the spiritual, these progressives write off the physical as unimportant, obscuring the meaning, often embracing the gnostic gospels for support. “Progressive Christianity believes it can skirt the pitfall of establishing the historicity of the resurrection because “the truth of a parable – of a parabolic narrative – is not dependent on its factuality.”” (page 66 & 67)

When facts are not important to one’s religion, any collection of stories will suffice. And that’s why spurious documents no one takes seriously are held up as authoritarian by these new style heretics. Contrary to what Crossan and his fellow-travelers claim, “God redeems the totality of a human being according to a Hebraic (not Platonic) anthropology.” (page 69) The result of the progressives’ view is the lack of eschatological hope – if Christ be not raised from the dead, bodily, neither will we be! “Crossan makes the parable primary and the person and work of Jesus secondary. This distinction is akin to the difference in importance between Jesus showing the way and Jesus being the way.” (page 69) This is related to the error many evangelicals make in reducing the life of Christ to an example for us to follow. It is that – and much more! If Jesus had not lived without sin, compliant to the law of the Old Covenant, if He had not submitted Himself to take our place under the wrath of God, propitiating that so we would be judged righteous, then all the good examples in the universe would be nothing more than a cruel hoax.

Bombaro closes out this chapter observing that, “while Crossan may claim that it is the meaning that matters, that meaning has ceased to be exegetically derived and has become altogether eisegetical. There is no Christ risen from the dead, not really, not historically. … Crossan, it turns out, is really that cynic he makes Jesus out to be.”

You can have all the riches in the world, just give me Jesus – the biblical Jesus. None other will do ruined sinners good.

Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment 5

c. It is the frame of spirit that shows the habitual character of this grace of contentment. Contentment is not merely one act—just a flash in a good mood. You find many men and women who, if they are in a good mood, will be very quiet. But this will not hold. It is not the constant tenor of their spirits to be holy and gracious under affliction.

— Contentment is a gracious frame, opposed to natural quietness. Indeed, in contentment there is a compound of all graces. But now the gracious frame of spirit is in opposition to three things:

a. In opposition to the natural quietness of many men and women. Some are so constituted by nature that they are more still and quiet. Others are of a violent and hot constitution, and they are more impatient.

b. In opposition to a sturdy resolution. Some men through the strength of a sturdy resolution do not seem to be troubled, come what may. So they are not disquieted as much as others.

c. By way of distinction from the strength of natural (though unsanctified) reason that may quiet the heart in some degree. But now I say that a gracious frame of spirit is not merely a stillness of the body that comes from its natural constitution and temper, nor a sturdy resolution, nor the strength of reason.

You will ask, “In what way is the grace of contentment distinguished from all these?” Where contentment of heart springs from grace, the heart is very quick and lively in the service of God! The difference is very clear: The one whose disposition is quiet is not disquieted as others are, but neither does he show any activeness of spirit to sanctify the name of God in his affliction. But, on the other hand, he whose contentment is of grace keeps his heart quiet with regard to vexation and trouble and at the same time is not dull or heavy, but very active to sanctify God’s name in the affliction that he is experiencing.

I will give you just one mark of the difference between a man or woman who is content in a natural way and one who is content in a spiritual way: Those who are content in a natural way when outward afflictions befall them are just as content when they commit sin against God. When they have outward crosses or when God is dishonored, it is all one to them whether they themselves are crossed or whether God is crossed. But a gracious heart that is contented with its own affliction will rise up strongly when God is dishonored.

— by Jeremiah Burroughs

Salvation is of the Lord!

Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit

Of all the charges we have been given by God, is there any more serious and important than the gospel? If we rightly believe that reconciliation of sinners with holy God is the most vital part of life, then the role given us by God in His grand redemptive plan must be worthy of our close attention. It is call to properly understanding and proclaiming that gospel our author strives to impress upon the reader in this fine book.

Seiver’s book is presented in 3 parts, focusing on the necessity of evangelism, the biblical pattern for evangelism, and the theological foundation for evangelism – which takes up the largest space in this book. This reflects what should be common knowledge among the children of God – our practice in all things related to our faith is informed and formed by what we think of ourselves and of God; our theology. This is why, for example, the first 11 chapters of Romans is a seminary in theology and the last 5 are how it works out in the lives of individuals and the local church.

One statement from the introduction that sticks out – the gospel “is not even primarily about sinners going to heaven when they die. It is about the manifestation of God’s glory in the contrivance and execution of the plan of redemption.” Being reconciled to God, being with Him in a state of being unable to sin, showing forth the glorious saving grace found only in Christ Jesus – that is the great prize. Since the Bible tells us (Mark 4 – parable of the seeds) that good soil will produce much fruit, and that the seed is the Word of God, we conclude two things that Randy puts before us: The Gospel is God’s message, not ours; and the fruit produced by our message will reflect its source. A false gospel will produce false converts – God promises to attend the proclamation of His Word, not the “wisdom of man”.

Part 1 defines Calvinism, Arminianism, and these views affect evangelism; about which he says, “We can define evangelism as the proclamation of the good news that God has universally published his terms of peace … this proffered pardon is not based in any sense on the sinner’s willingness to return to God or on his believing acceptance of the terms of peace. Pardon is based solely on Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments on the sinner’s behalf.” Our author bids us cast aside our traditions and concepts and jargon that is not found in the Bible; this should be solid ground but I have been amazed at how few people agree with the idea or with working it out to align with Scripture. This will be the rub for many who read this book. I would encourage anyone interested in the idea of biblical evangelism to take and read.

Bottom line from part 1: “People become effective evangelists when they are so filled with the knowledge of God’s glory and of his truth that they simply cannot be quiet.” That is what the Bible records and that is very good counsel.

Part 2 opens with this jewel: “Whenever we search for a biblical pattern for any aspect of the church’s life and ministry we need to understand that such a pattern is established in the didactic passages of the New Testament Scriptures, not in the historical and hortatory passages.” I dare say that many of the errors so prevalent in church life today are the result of normalizing narratives.  Combine that with the long ending of Mark and you have people handling snakes and drinking poison as if commanded to do so by God to demonstrate faith in Him.  As you read the chapters in this part, your thoughts of evangelism will likely be shaken, as many of the practices in our churches are not found in the Bible, but are established only as traditions of men.  Randy sums much of this section up with this: “the message preached to the unconverted included no call for them to believe that Jesus died for them. It simply demands that sinners leave their sin and their wicked and misguided thoughts about God and return to his way. It assures them that when they account God to be faithful to keep his promise, he will pardon them in Jesus’ name (by his authority and through his merit).”

Part 3 is the longest, focused on the proper theology behind evangelism. He spends time presenting a biblical view of God and tells us, “It is never right to conclude that God is unfair [unrighteous] because he did not act in a way that meets our standard of right and wrong.” It is OK for the Christian to admit he doesn’t understand something; it is flat out wrong to say something clearly taught as God’s will is not right. We are reminded of our main goal in life – the glorify our God, and our author highlights how ur gospel proclamation fits into this: “We preach the gospel because it is in line with God’s great purpose—that is, to make his glory known in the earth.” What can be more glorious than the displayed mercy of holy God as He redeems sinners and makes them fit for His house? If some do not hear our message, we do not lose heart – our goal is to be pleasing to our Savior. He bids us to sow the seed He has given to us, not to presume to know or determine the nature of the soil into which we sow.

This section of the book covers other topics, such as the authority of Scripture, the nature and purpose of salvation, God’s eternal purpose, repentance and faith, and conferring assurance.

You are likely to disagree with some of Mr. Seiver’s conclusions or the details of this or that. But unless you want to sit in judgment on God, you will find yourself in vigorous agreement with his over-arching thrust – salvation is of the Lord!

You can buy this book here.

Willing to Be Used by God

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me

These words penned by Steven Curtis Chapman echo my sentiment most of the time. I can relate to Gideon who referred to himself as “the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). I’m thankful that God does not limit Himself to using the good looking, the smart, or even the greatly talented. He simply looks for those who are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

In God’s Kingdom, there are no competitions. God simply desires faithfulness, those who will run this race called life with endurance, never stopping until we cross the finish line.

It’s easy to compare ourselves with others but Scripture tells us that is unwise (2 Corinthians 10:12). If I had every gift and talent I would like to have, I would probably be pretty proud. If I look at it that way, my limitations are a blessing.

To me, the wonder is not in the fact that God can use me but that He does. I trust He is using you as well. You may not see it but rest in it. If you are shining with the light of Jesus, people can’t help but notice. Don’t beat yourself up with how imperfect you are but get up each morning, talk to the Father, read His Word, and tell Him you are willing to be used however He would like to use you each day. Then thank Him for the work He is doing in and through you. He is so faithful!

Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment 4

Contentment is an inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit. It is an inward frame of spirit and a gracious frame. Contentment is a soul business.

a. It is a grace that spreads itself through the whole soul. In some, there is a partial contentment. It is not the [whole] frame of the soul, but [only] some part of the soul has some contentment. Many a man may be satisfied in his judgment about a thing, who cannot for his life rule his affections, his thoughts, or his will. I do not doubt that many of you know this in your own experience, if you observe the workings of your own hearts.

the-rare-jewel-of-christian-contentment-by-jeremiah-burroughs

But there is a great deal of hope of attaining contentment, if you can sit down and say, “I see good reason to be contented.” Yet even when you have [gotten this] far, you may still have much to do with your hearts afterwards. There is such unruliness in our thoughts and affections that our judgments are not always able to rule them. That is what makes me say that contentment is an inward frame of spirit. The whole soul—judgment, thoughts, will, affections—all are satisfied and quiet.

b. Spiritual contentment comes from the frame of the soul. The contentment of a man or woman who is rightly content does not come so much from outward arguments or help, as from the disposition of their own hearts. Let me explain myself. Someone is disturbed. If you come and bring some great thing to please him, perhaps it will quiet him, and he will be “contented.” It is the thing you bring that quiets him, not the disposition of his own spirit, but the external thing you bring him. But when a Christian is content in the right way, the quiet comes more from the disposition of his own heart than from any external argument or from the possession of anything in the world. To be content because of some external thing is like warming a man’s clothes by the fire. But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like the warmth that a man’s clothes have from the natural heat of the body.

–Jeremiah Burroughs

Captive to the Word of God

Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores. In four parts, Captive to the Word of God examines the history of Baptists and the distinctives that mark them; how Baptists fit into and should view reformed theology; a Baptist view of the covenants in Scripture; and what these theological and doctrinal concepts look like when practiced in a local church.

Here’s what people are saying about this book:

Mike Ratliff

As a fellow Baptist I am extremely grateful to Stuart for writing and publishing this well written and well researched book. When God drew me out of the mediocrity of American Evangelicalism in 2004 I had the Word of God and works of Luther, Calvin, Sproul, Pink, Packer, Boice, Clark, Edwards, Owen, Horton, Spurgeon, and Bunyan to wade through in an attempt to get a grasp on what Stuart has clearly organized and presented in this fine work. In the above list of names only two of them are Baptists (Spurgeon and Bunyan). I did learn much of my Reformation Theology from all those listed, but I learned how to get things right Biblically through the teachings of those two men. If I had had this book back then it would have been most useful! Why? Stuart gives us the history of the Baptist very succinctly and then history of the Reformation itself and why it was necessary. In part 3 Stuart gives us the proper interpretation of Covenant Theology by Baptists which keeps us from the errors made by so many in todays mess of Evangelicalism. Lastly, Stuart gives us proper soteriology in Part 4 which is sadly missing in our day, which is a large part of why Evangelicalism has lost its way.

I highly recommend Stuart L Brogden’s new book to you. If you are being drawn by God to know Him and your role in His Church then this book is a wonderful place to start. You won’t be disappointed.

Jon J. Cardwell, pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, Anniston, Alabama and author of Christ and Him Crucified

As we live in times of enormous dysfunction, disagreement, and even disunion in local gatherings professing to have faith in Jesus Christ, Stuart Brogden’s voice rises in the wilderness as a servant and workman of Christ who, by God’s grace and in His providence, has been made manifest among us. Although his message is couched in a Particular Baptist perspective, the underlying theme of his treatise is found in the main title of his book: Captive to the Word of God. A thorough and thoughtful passion for God’s Word has always been needed by the Christian believer, and today, more than ever. Too many, these days, are departing from their First Love, Jesus Christ, because they have divorced who He is and what He has done from what has been written of Him from Genesis to Revelation. Whether you identify with Baptists or not, Stuart Brogden provokes us to love God’s Word unto loving Christ… and loving Christ and His holy Word as much as a sinner saved by grace is able, by God’s grace.

Rev. Jeff Canfield, D. Min., Pastor at Word of Life Church, Sullivan, Indiana and author of A Call to Honor and When Church and Government Collide

Stuart Brogden’s excellent work, subtitled, A Particular Baptist Perspective on Reformed and Covenant Theology, is not only rich in church history, but also in theological substance. Mr. Brogden details the Baptist view of Reformed and Covenant Theology in a scholarly and authoritative manner. Without a doubt, this work should be considered a necessary addition to any serious theological student’s study library, as well as a wonderful resource for any pastor, teacher, or professor.

Jeffrey D. Johnson, pastor at Grace Baptist Church, Conway, Arkansas and author of The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism

Eliza Spurgeon told her son: “I have often prayed for your conversion, but I never thought you would become a Baptist.” With his quick wit, the young Charles responded: “Mother, that shows you that God has not only answered your prayers, but has done exceeding abundantly above all you asked or thought.” Like Charles Spurgeon, I am joyful to be a Baptist but concerned we have lost sight of what it means to be a Baptist. With confessions of faith being stored in the attic as archaic relics of the past, it is no wonder that the labels defining denominational distinctives are being dropped from churches’ names. To recover the Baptist name, it is vital that we recover the historic Baptist distinctives. For this reason I cannot recommend Captive to the Word of God enough. Stuart Brogden covers all the major components of the Baptist faith and traces every doctrinal tenant back to the Scriptures. Above everything else, Brogden explains why Baptists are called “people of the book.” In my opinion, this helpful work needs to be required reading for all Baptist seminary students. In fact, everyone who wants to know what it means to be a Baptist should read this book. Since I love the historic Baptist faith, I love this book.

Click the pic or the link to be taken to the Amazon page. Also, now available on Kindle!

My goal in writing this is to examine my own beliefs, strengthen my fellow Baptists, provoke fellow Christians to think biblically, and be a faithful steward of all the Lord has given me. My goal in life is to serve our God for the glory of His name and the good of His people, and to be remembered by my family and our God. May all who have benefited from anything I have said or done forget my name; may it be the name of the Lord Jesus that is remembered. A more excellent way to sum this up was written by an 18th century pastor, William Mason in his booklet, The Believer’s Pocket Companion:

The design of my writings is to stir up and quicken the Lord’s children in the way of . . .

greater trust in Christ,

 more intense looking to Christ,

greater dependence upon Him,

and more consistent abiding in Him

  • so that they may . . .

enjoy more sweet fellowship with Him,

find more of the His inestimable preciousness,

and experience more of His wonderful love, which surpasses knowledge.

Amen and amen!