When Christ Our Life Appears

Another beautiful hymn put out by Sovereign Grace Music and Bob Kauflin. In a day when the world is falling down around us, look up dear brothers and sisters to He who will one day appear and establish righteousness, justice, and His eternal kingdom.

Through Broken Vessels

“It has been well-said that before God uses a man greatly He must first break him breakly. God works best through broken vessels who have been crushed by the hammer blows of the devil. The more we desire to be used by God the greater must be our willingness to suffer for Him. There are no easy paths in ministry. Every assignment is a killing place.

This quote and brief sermon jam comes from Dr. Steve Lawson’s ministry during the 2010 Shepherds’ Conference in California at Dr. John MacArthur’s church.

During this time of trial and troubles, I would be remiss if I did not admit that I struggle with fears of my own. I fear for family, for friends, and for churches. Yet, down through the ages of church history, persecution has always given the church wings to grow and be refined as the Bride of Christ.

If you also have fears, look to Jesus and be a broken vessel fit for the Master’s use.

The Real Issue in America

I have no intention of using this post to argue politically for what is going on right now across America.

But, here are some things that the world sees taking place and for Christians, it is time that we give due consideration to what is really happening. We also need to ask ourselves what we should be doing and how we can best respond to a terrible situation.

True Bible-believing Christians need to stop listening to the spin of the liberal media and the various movements that are only striving desperately to be involved in race-baiting.

Read these carefully:

1) The real issue is NOT about white privilege or black privilege.
2) The real issue is NOT about slavery.
3) The real issue is NOT about a black man who died at the hands of what appears to be corrupt policemen.
4) The real issue is NOT about corrupt policeman always picking on people who have a different color skin than themselves.
5) The real issue is NOT about the need for reparations for atrocities that took place 50-200 years ago.
6) The real issue is NOT about Republicans or Democrats.
7) The real issue is NOT about US citizens or illegal immigrants.
8) The real issue is NOT about the color of one’s skin.
9) The real issue is NOT about the freedom to protest.
10) The real issue is NOT about demanding white people get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness for things they never did.

Right now, riots and looting and mayhem and absolute carnage have caused millions and millions of dollars of damage across the US and even in England. Businesses will never rebuild because everything has been burned to the ground. While firefighters are tending fires, EMTs are tending to the injured police and protestors, and the police are trying to stand and protect, the general public are living scared. The general public is afraid that the riots may come to their town.

Some cities are now considering completely defunding police forces thus caving in to the demands of liberals. In those cities, the general public will live in fear from day to day when there is no longer a police presence to keep criminals at bay.

You may be asking, if these things are NOT the real issue, then what is the problem?

Are you ready for the truth?

The REAL ISSUE is sin. S-I-N!

The REAL ISSUE is pride, which is rooted in sin.

The REAL ISSUE is the total depravity of the heart of man. The Bible is clear that the heart of every single individual is corrupt and desperately wicked.

The REAL ISSUE is that some who call themselves Christian ministers are instructing their congregations with teaching that is contrary to the Scriptures.

The REAL ISSUE is that people hate God and they hate others. Blatant disregard for the two commands given by Christ is the reason why things like racism, prejudism, hatred, bitterness, animosity, riots, looting, murder, mayhem, etc. take place all across this world.

The REAL ISSUE is that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.

The REAL ISSUE is that many churches no longer preach the truth. They want to preach a social gospel which only damns the souls of men and women.

The REAL ISSUE is that churches and pastors have failed to remember their calling is not about trying to make the world a better place, but their calling is to remember that this world is NOT our home and we are just passing through.

The REAL ISSUE is that we have failed to remember the Great Commission to go into ALL the world, preach the gospel to ALL people, and then to disciple ALL believers to become more like Jesus Christ.

The REAL ISSUE is that we have failed to remember that out of faith, hope, and love that the greatest of all of these is LOVE.

The REAL ISSUE is that the church has forgotten that people are lost and dying and on their way into eternity without Christ unless we tell them.

Now that you understand the REAL ISSUES, let’s talk about the matter of asking forgiveness. The Bible is clear in its teaching about seeking and extending forgiveness.

Christians, you will not find one Scripture that instructs us to get on our knees and ask the forgiveness of others for the things that our ancestors may or may not have done. The Bible tells us that we are responsible for our own sin. Every individual is responsible BEFORE God for our own sins, and not the sins of others.

Christians, you will not find one Bible verse that demands that white people get down on their knees and seek forgiveness for being white. God, the Creator of the Universe, made one human race. God alone is the creator of life and He alone creates us with different skin colors.

To demand something God does not require is to seek to make ourselves greater than God. To question who and how God made a person to be His image-bearer on earth is to say that we know better than God. Ultimately, to question God in the place we were born is to demand accountability from God toward His creation.

But God is sovereign. Ecclesiastes says that He has set eternity in the heart of man and Romans reminds us that even creation points to the majesty of God.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. If you are tired of what you find in your heart and you realize that the only way to change is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, then the Bible is clear.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Yes, my friend, there is hope but it is not found in politics or religion or culture or any aspect of society. The hope that racism, prejudism, and all the other ills of the world will end is only found in the knowledge that God made a way for a man or woman to be forgiven of his or her sin.

Christ became the sin-bearer of mankind so that fellowship could be restored between God and man. It cannot happen by good works or by trying to be a good, moral person for there is no such person.

In conclusion, your real issue and my real issue is not about somebody else. Our real issue is personal. Your real issue is about you. My real issue is about me. Our real issue is about our relationship with a holy and righteous God who cannot stand to look upon sin.

Plead to God for mercy if you have not done so already and before it is too late. Look to Him and seek forgiveness for the sin which separates you from His holiness. Stop blame-shifting and passing the buck for your own wickedness.

Come to Jesus and He will save you. The Bible says that all who come to Christ that He will not cast them away.

The love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.

Forgiveness is only true found in Christ alone. He is our hope in life and death.

This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!

Unbreakable

A book review by Stuart Brogden

If there is one foundational problem within the professing body of believers it is too low a view of God, compounded with the attending view of man which is too high. The theme of almighty God, and the implications that biblical truth has for the salvation and preservation of sinful men is woven throughout this book by Bela C. Strickland. This brother has written about the golden chain of redemption found in Romans 8:28-30, a chain that was fashioned in the blood of Christ and gives comfort to those who have been purchased by the Lamb.

Unbreakable is divided into 7 chapters which are gathered into 2 parts; plus a conclusion that takes us through verse 39. Bela’s main concern is that those who profess Christ rightly understand Who saves who so God gets the glory and the saints gain confidence in Him.

Chapter 1 is titled, We Must Know. If there is truth about how a sinner is reconciled to holy God, we need to know it! For us to have sure footing as in Psalms 18:33, we must have the right view of Scripture. Bela tells us, “To find such solid footing in the truth of God’s Word, even while the ground is shifting under our feet, we need to avoid slipping into two unhealthy, unbiblical extremes: to obsess over what we can’t know about God, or to be apathetic about what we can know about God.” (page 10) To know the Word rightly takes work. The Spirit of God gives understanding to those who seek earnestly. We cannot live the Christian life on auto-pilot. What we must know is God Himself; such knowledge comes through the Word by the Spirit.

What We Do Know is the second chapter, with verse 28 as the focus. Our author points out a very important but often misunderstood aspect of this verse: “Paul doesn’t say that God causes all thing for good.” (page 19) The passage says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God.” This is not a promise to all, but only those “who love God and are called, according to His purpose.” Bela wisely counsels that this truth must be present in the minds and lives of the saints, especially in bad times. God will cause the worst thing you face to work out for good, if you are His child – trusting the faithful One to do what He has promised is a safe place, even if your world is crumbling. In our current day of hysteria, this is truth we must cling to.

Chapter 3 begins with verse 29, which opens with a statement that can only be rightly interpreted one way. God foreknew a people; it doesn’t say He foreknew everyone or things about them. Note this: in every instance in the New Testament where God’s foreknowledge is mentioned, it is a people, not events, that He foreknew. This knowledge is a personal, intimate knowledge as between a husband and wife; not the mere awareness of the existence of anyone. Certainly God knows about everyone and all that we think, say, and do; but He foreknew only some.

And those He foreknew, He predestined (chapter 4). Bela notes that many think God predestines people according to what He sees them doing or choosing during their lives. But the word, predestine, does not allow God to be influenced by history or the future; neither does His nature permit it. If God’s choosing of sinners for salvation was based on any part of the creature’s doing or choosing, the creature would be the one in charge! Strickland cites Psalm 139:16 in support of his view – God wrote in His book all the days He had ordained before David was conceived! If God is sovereign, the creature does not determine if or when he gets reconciled to God.

On page 46, Bela twice declares that the righteousness of God which is imputed to the elect is also “infused into” them, saying “We stand before God and live for God, in Christ, positionally being declared righteous and practically being made righteous.” I do agree that the Spirit works in us to sanctify us as we walk with the Lord, but I struggle with the concept of righteousness being infused to us – our flesh will not be made righteous in any degree until Jesus returns and we are glorified – our new bodies will be righteous. For now, our souls (which includes our minds) are being renewed daily and this the work of the Spirit.

In chapter 5, Bela reviews the call of God on those being saved (verse 30). He points out (page 51) how so many wrongly herald John 3:16 as a universalist passage, but he misses the opportunity to show the correct language behind the Greek, as the KJV is misunderstood and many translations use the KJV phrasing because it’s familiar to the reader – not because it’s accurate. In a nut-shell, John 3:16 reads more accurately like this: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, and all who are believing on Him will not perish but have life eternal.” The Greek work behind “so” is an adverb (as in John 3:14), not an adjective; it describes the manner in which something was done, not the degree or magnitude of the action. The English word “whosoever” has no Greek equivalent. The phrase in Greek is “the believing ones.” Lastly, as Bela points out, “whosoever” does not convey ability, it merely identifies a group. He later declares, rightly, “that Jesus died for people in spite of their hatred, not in response to their love.” (page 53), citing parts of Romans 5 as evidence.

Strickland (page 58) makes an assertion that “only the New American Standard Bible and the New King James Version bring through in translation” a nuance Paul intended us to grasp. Bela says only those two translations specify “those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined,” rightly observing that only those specific people among the masses were called. A review of translations shows the vast majority of them bring out what Bela wants us to see. It makes no sense to me to call out two translations as unique when a) the NASB specifies “those whom” while the NKJV does not include “those,” and b) the NIV, ESV, CSB, Berean Literal, NET, and others agree with the specific emphasis our author wants us to see.

Bela properly brings lots of Scripture to bear in this chapter, to make sure his readers get the message: God calls men to salvation; man can do nothing to influence this.

Justification is covered in chapter 6 and while Bela and I are in agreement here (and throughout this book), I think he brings some confusion into the topic. Again, our brother emphasizes man’s inability at do anything that can reconcile him to God. When he gets into describing the sin that afflicts mankind, Bela says, “Sin is the rebellious breaking of God’s Law” – but he give no citation for this. To break a law of God is sin, even if it’s done in ignorance. But the definition of sin is not given in Scripture as the breaking of God’s Law, rebellious or not. Many run to 1 John 3:4, which does not state, “Whoever commits sin transgresses the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” It says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” There is no reference to ‘Law’ or “transgressions’ in that verse – it was added by the Geneva Bible translators, and other translations (KJV, Jubilee 2000, American KJV) simply followed suit. The NIV, New KJV, ESV, Berean Literal, NASB, CSB, NET, NAS1977, ASV, ERV, Young’s Literal all agree: sin is lawlessness. That’s the biblical definition.

Bela’s case is further complicated in that in none of his references to “God’s Law” does he tell us what law he means. One more ambiguous mention of Law (capitalized in the book), page 82. “Having been justified, we can now live out His Law, rather than living without His Law.” Again, which law? There are many laws in Scripture that God gave to man at various times, to people in different covenants. Knowing which laws are for the saints in the New Covenant is critical, as people are just as willing today as they were in the first century to put the heavy yoke of Moses’ law on the backs of the saints.

The main point of this chapter is found on page 79; speaking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:20: “His point was to stress the hopelessness of external self-righteousness for entry into God’s kingdom, as well as the hope of exceeding, surpassing, righteousness for entry God’s kingdom, which they could have.” If they were given ears to hear, faith to believe, that righteousness would be theirs. This is the message of the Kingdom: God predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies.

The last chapter, 7, focuses on glorification. In this part of the book, our dear brother shines the light on Christ, contrasting the Christian’s hope with the hopelessness of other, false religions. “If you are jealous for the glory of God, that statement (“and these whom He justified, He also glorified”) should give you pause, especially in the awareness of so much man-exalting, God-diminishing doctrine.” AMEN! Contrary to those who lift up man with emotionally stimulating talks, Christians ought to see things differently: “So, with the statement that the effect of Christ’s resurrection and the end of all Christ’s redemptive work is the glorification of fallen man (and, primarily, I would add, the glorification of God Himself), you should expect a very careful, biblical, Christ-centered, Christ-exalting explanation.” AMEN!

“The hope of being raise by God comes only with the hope of being right with God. This hope of glory is only for those from whom He has removed the guilt of sin – these whom He has made perfectly righteous with the perfect righteousness of His Son – these whom He has made perfectly right with Himself, as His Son is perfectly right with Him.” This is the truth! Our union with Christ means EVERYTHING! There is no hope apart from Him; there is only sure hope if joined with Him.

Bela’s closing encourages the reader to stay focused on Christ and the truth recorded in Scripture. “There is no guarantee that you will always feel firm.” (page 117) We cannot trust our emotions or feelings – Jesus is trustworthy, He is worthy of our devotion, worship, and service. “When discouragement is threatening to crush your spirit, you must take courage in the truth of what Jesus has done for you and given to you.” (page 118) On that note, we close – thankful for the work our brother has done in this book to encourage and equip us to do just that.

Sanctification by the law – where is that found?

I’ve looked and looked and don’t find any New Covenant context teaching telling us to go back to Moses. Everything I have found shows me otherwise.
Take Romans 12, for example. First chapter after a bunch of theology, including a bunch of “law” talk. Much encouragement for the saints to walk a certain way and not a hint of law-keeping, other than the exhortation to not take vengeance but leave that to God.
What we see is a continual teaching to live by the grace of God, be transformed by renewing your mind, be humble. In the section on body-life Paul tells us how to love one another with specific teachings – but no law-keeping.
Here’s the bottom line: The Mosaic Law and other laws like it (found in many Fundamental fellowships) are intended for those who are unregenerate. What we are taught in Romans 12 is fit only for those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who wills and equips us to do what pleases the Father.
While all Scripture is for our edification and benefit, the law of the Old Covenant was for those in that covenant. The Law of Moses does not and never has bound people outside that covenant community.
If you are in Christ, there is a better law, fit for a spiritual people. We have a covenant built on better promises, mediated by a better priest, with a new law meant only for the saints.
Rejoice! God’s grace was sufficient to save you and by it He is sufficient to renew your mind and sanctify your soul until Christ returns or He takes you home.

The Fragrance of Suffering

Behind a Frowning Providence, He Hides a Smiling Face

“Ministers never write or preach so well, as when under the cross.”

– George Whitfield

I don’t know why, but I’ve always gravitated toward those who’ve endured suffering—far and above those whose lives are generally considered perfect.

Whenever I’m in the presence of anyone who’s been forever altered by a life of suffering, I am inexplicably drawn to them. They are beautiful and they possess a depth to their souls that causes them to stand out in the midst of everyone around them—a depth that only profound suffering can produce. Even more precious to me among those who’ve suffered, are those who understand that their suffering wasn’t for nothing, but was for a greater purpose.

In William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way, he penned this verse:

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”

A fragrance of suffering permeates those who’ve experienced great pain, loss, and trials, and is far more attractive than that of those whose lives have been defined by happy, clappy superficiality (and this is especially true when it comes to those who occupy pulpits).

Continue reading here.

The Pain of Cancer in a Child

Preaching and teaching about handling the trials and tribulations of life is always easier than the day you personally encounter those difficulties. When our family spoke of going to Liberia as missionaries, we were not prepared for the very real eventuality that it came close to taking the life of my daughter and myself.

However, through that painful time, we had a small handful of family and friends who supported us financially as well as in prayer. One of those is my dear friend and close brother in Christ, J.L. Pattison, and his lovely family.

J.L. has been a long-time contributor to this blog since the time that it was Defending Contending. I have had the privilege of being their pastor in the past when we lived in deserts of Nevada, and have watched them grow.

Yet, nothing could have prepared us for the news that we received this last November.

This was the beginning in his words —

On November 15, 2019, an x-ray for persistent leg pain in our five-year-old son’s left leg revealed a large tumor that originated in the bone of the upper portion of his femur. After an MRI, we were told by an oncologist in Reno, Nevada that it is likely Ewing Sarcoma. A week later a biopsy was conducted in Salt Lake City, Utah where we were told it was Osteosarcoma.

With only a 70% survival rate, our family has moved from the mourning phase of this life-shattering news, to the action phase where we are fighting for Kohen’s life.

Kohen is a precious little boy and has one of the sweetest personalities. His brothers and sisters have been very supportive through this painful process, but this is taking a toll on everybody. They are all aware that this cancer may end this little life at the worst scenario, or that during his upcoming surgery in March, may require the amputation of his entire leg.

While J.L. and his family are not perfect, they have learned to depend on the sovereign purposes of He who alone is Perfect in every way. They know that the wrong question is “Why did God…?” The Biblical question that they are praying for strength to ask every day is “God, how will you use this to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ?”

I want to encourage each of you to go to “The Kohen Chronicles” and follow the Pattison’s journey through this valley.

Pray for them. Pray for strength, for grace, for healing, for wisdom for the medical teams, and most of all that God will be glorified through this trial. Send a card or gift to them and to Kohen. Any outpouring of support would be greatly appreciated.

Our hearts ache with each new blogpost. While our tears will never match those of the Pattison family, we know that in Christ we share a bond that is anything but common.

J.L. asked us to hold off until now to share this news, but we will now be posting regular updates to Truth in Grace.

Brother, you and your family are dearly loved! There is nothing else I can say right now, except to share this short poem written many, many years ago by a British minister, and the beautiful hymn from the Gettys.

“We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see,
but all is well, that is done by Thee.”

Is it well with your soul?

Thank you to J.L. Pattison for sharing this poignant hymn from Sovereign Grace. The beautiful words and story that accompanies Horatio Spafford’s beloved “It is Well” still rings true today, especially for those who learn daily (and sometimes hourly) to trust in the sovereign purposes of God.

Tomorrow, we will be sharing a very special post on behalf of J.L. Pattison and his family. This dear friend and brother has been a great encouragement to our family as well as to the extended readership of “Truth in Grace” and previously on “Defending Contending.”

In the meantime, I would ask you if it is well with you? If so, realize afresh and anew that we have the privilege of coming into the throne room of grace and petitioning the Father with our cares and concerns.

Be blessed today as we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith – Jesus Christ!

Sighing and Groaning?

In my reading through the Scriptures in a year, today I read Ezekiel 5-9. I realize that Ezekiel was written by the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Judah and Israel. Yet, my mind struggled with what was prophesied would happen to Jerusalem.

V. 3 tells us the glory of God had departed! This is itself is tragic, but read on.

Vv. 4-6 give a solemn declaration of judgment pronounced against those who were God’s chosen people. These verses read like this in the ESV,

4 And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. — (Emphasis added)

ben-white-W8Qqn1PmQH0-unsplash

Dear brothers and sisters, how often do we read through the pages of Scripture and fail to understand what is happening?

We can often overlook the principles found in the Scriptures and do not comprehend how it can apply to our own lives over 2 1/2 millennium after Ezekiel wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Under the judgment of God, the ONLY people who would be protected from the wrath of the Almighty were those who sighed and groaned over all the abominations.

There would be no pity shown, and nobody was exempt. Sadly, the nation had become so corrupt that the messengers who would be placing the mark upon the foreheads were told to start with the elders.  These were the men charged with the religious and governmental affairs of the nation.

In other words, there were people from the top of the religious and social stratum who were NOT sighing and groaning over the abominations. These abominations were so vulgar and grotesque that Ezekiel only alludes to some of what these might have been.

The scenario we find in the 21st century is much different. The world faces even greater abominations. Abortion is now acceptable. The family is being destroyed. LGBTQ issues cloud every aspect of culture and society. What transpires behind closed doors is now openly flaunted and accepted.

In fact, our own governments willingly and deliberately strip financial aid from countries that refuse to allow for abortion at will and who refuse to legitimize ALL aspects of the LGBTQ movement.

What is NOT different is that many “elders” who are to stand in the gap and proclaim thus saith the Lord refuse to stand anymore. Even evangelical churches are becoming more open and accepting of contemporary issues of the day.

Instead of being like Martin Luther and stating, “Here I stand, I can do no other”, elders and churches are allowing for more and more abominations to come into the places where God’s people are to worship. Entertainment drives the masses and the goats feel happy while the sheep starve for lack of the bread of life from pulpits.

In this life, we are not worried about the enemy brazenly storming across our land. We do not go to sleep worrying whether our women will be violated, our children openly sold as slaves, and whether we will even have enough to eat for tomorrow.

Sadly — nay, tragically, the abominations that surround us are compounded by the reality that very few sigh and groan. Instead, we laugh when it flickers across our screens. At times, we can become so hardened in our hearts that there is only a twinge of guilt that we have mocked the God we claim as our Father.

naassom-azevedo--2k57MGq4AI-unsplash

My challenge to you — go and read Ezekiel 9. See the state of Israel and Judah. Ask yourself whether you are laughing and enjoying the fruit of the world and its abomination.

If we truly desire revival, we need to begin learning once again how to sigh and groan over the abominations. We need to seek forgiveness for our own areas where we fail to meet the perfect, holy standard that is Jesus Christ. We must hold ourselves accountable and strive to become more like the Master.

May you and I who truly know Jesus Christ as our Savior remember that like Israel of old, we are called to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). Unlike the abominable offerings that God refused to accept from Israel, we MUST offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Take the world, BUT GIVE ME JESUS!

What About Suffering?

What should be our attitude toward suffering trials and tribulations? Let us look into the Word.

Twice in the book of Job, YHWH taunts Satan, asking if he has considered His servant. Here’s the first one:

Job 1:6-8 (HCSB) One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” “From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered Him, “and walking around on it.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”

In all his suffering Job did not sin – God held him in His hand, sustaining Job through the trial; not removing him from it.

Much later in redemptive history, YHWH tells one of His servants that Satan wants another shot.

Luke 22:31-32 (HCSB) “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

The faithful Son follows the path of His Father and holds His servant and sustains him through the trial, not removing him from it.

When we read of tribulation in the Bible, we are promised we’ll have them if we are walking as children of the light. Rather than looking to be removed from trials, we should have much confidence that God will sustain us through them. For our good and His glory. He has saved us from the wrath to come – what is it to suffer a little while in the flesh?

Missing in the Church

Leonard Ravenhill is the type of preacher that is needed today. Yet, many places no longer have times of prayer. Churches are kept afloat by sermonettes or entertainment, not because of the clear message of the Gospel. The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ, and not about what we bring to the equation.

May God daily, even hourly, bring His holiness to our attention so that we will humble ourselves before Him. If we are ever to see revival, which we desperately need in this day and hour, we must get back to the basics.

NOT Part of the Gospel

John MacArthur has started a new series from Ezekiel 18 entitled, “Social Justice and the Gospel.”  He is very thorough and rightly concludes from Scripture that “social justice” is NOT part of the Gospel.  Too many, even in evangelicalism, are being taken in by a society that thinks it is entitled.  In doing so, pastors are failing their congregations by adding to the truth of God’s Word.  I encourage you to listen to this series.

Rejoice!

Sometimes it’s good to look back down
We’ve come so far; we’ve gained such ground
But joy is not in where we’ve been
Joy is who’s waiting at the end

As I sat down to write this afternoon, these lyrics came to mind (taken from the song “Run After God With All Your Heart”). In my case, I am looking back to where my health was from January to April of this year, and I am thanking God for how far He has brought me. It’s easy to still be discouraged when I think that I’m not where I want to be yet, but why would I complain when God is continuing to do a work in my life?

Nobody likes to be around someone who is always down, and I imagine that is true for God as well. As long as everything is going well, we are full of praise and adoration for Him, but when something happens that we don’t like, we grumble and complain and fret. How that must make Him sad! After all, He is still as powerful as He was last week, but we very quickly lose sight of that.

I confess that I do this too often, but I pray to lift up my eyes of faith to see what God is doing instead of focusing on the negative that can cause discouragement and depression. I want to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

I would like to see every Believer share more praise reports than prayer requests. We have both, and I love to pray for my Brothers and Sisters, but often the needs overshadow God’s goodness. In the midst of our trials, let’s not forget to rejoice because He is good!

Consistent Inconsistency – Part 5 – Children & Church

Let us consider another inconsistency, but let me first warn the reader that it may cause some real heart searching, especially if you have children.

The scene is the same just about every week. Families struggle to get up on Sunday morning. Many have not bothered to prepare their hearts throughout the previous week, and especially the Saturday night before. This quickly becomes obvious as the rest of the morning progresses.

Breakfast is rushed and the parents are shouting at the kids to “Hurry or we will be late to church.” With a final flurry of activity, everybody runs out and jumps in the appropriate vehicle. On the way, the driver is pushing past the speed limit and hoping that a policeman is not sitting over the next hill with a radar gun. In the back, the children begin to bicker and then fight. The parents both threaten to stop the car to take care of the problem that does little to straighten out the children. The little ones are mostly immune to the threats because they have already figured out long ago that the parents don’t really mean what they say.

Every now and then, a word of wisdom may grace the conversation. One of the parents will remind their offspring that “we all need to settle down as we are going to worship the Lord.”

Arriving at their chosen place of worship a few minutes late, the parents send their children off to a little classroom. In the room, they only manage to get through 45 minutes due to the seemingly endless supply of snacks and juice. During the class, they may receive a pithy little lesson which may come complete with puppets and pages to color.

Stated otherwise, this means: Continue reading

What’s the New Covenant?

The New Covenant – Fullness in Christ.

Even a casual read of the Bible reveals several covenants. Many books have been written about them. One covenant, the New Covenant, stands as the answer to everything that is wrong, God’s final Word on making all things right. The glory of being in Christ Jesus is revealed in this covenant, which binds Christ and His church together, providing redemption and eternal salvation for sinners. The sign of the New Covenant is circumcision not made with human hands followed by water baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). The Lord’s Supper is another sign within this covenant, reminding us of its Author and His return (1 Corinthians 11:25). One dear brother I count as a friend helps us see this:

Baptism serves as an outward sign of the inward grace of regeneration and union with Christ. It is less than meaningless if there is no inward grace to reflect. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). What Jesus is saying is that this cup of wine represents the new covenant he is going to ratify by shedding his blood. This cup becomes the sign of that covenant.  Every time we take communion we should rejoice that we are heirs of the new and better covenant that was ratified by his blood. (Randy Seiver)

In Hebrews 7-9 the New Covenant described, contrasted with the Old Covenant, so we can see it more accurately. Chapter 9:1 even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.What follows is a description of the tabernacle of the Hebrew religion, featuring lampstands, a table and bread, the Most Holy Place with the ark of the Mosaic covenant containing the tablets of testimony, the golden vial of manna, and Aaron’s staff. Levitical priests ever making sacrifices that would cover sin for a time but never able to take away sin. All of these forms of worship are summed up in verse 9 as symbolic for that age and “imposed until the time of reformation” (verse 10). There will be no re-institution of those types and symbols as the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was sufficient, satisfying God the Father and finishing the redemptive work announced in Genesis 3:15, bringing that reformation.

when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation [speaking here of His body of flesh]he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-12 & 15)

Listen to this sermon here

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

Old and New

Normally, at the beginning of the year we ask ourselves, How can I get rid of the old and begin anew? What can I do differently in my life? Where do I need to go from here?

In the Bible we see a lot of places that talk about the old and new. We see that after salvation we are new creations in Christ and we are to put off the old man and put on the new man. We know that we need to put away the “leaven” out of our lives and follow the Lord. The old and new can be represented by either “old” is bad and “new” is good. Although sometimes “old” could be better than “new” if it’s in the way of wisdom.

As we go along further in our walk with the Lord things grow harder. These are times that we are to keep something that is old instead of replacing it with new. The things the Lord places in our path is always necessary and good but isn’t always new. Even in 2nd John, the writer tells us that it’s not as though a new commandment had been written but it was from the beginning.

When we fail a test placed before us then the Lord brings that situation back into our lives, not necessarily in the exact same way but close enough to the original situation that we almost have to say, “This seems to be a deja vu type situation. I already went through that so why am I going through it again?” Going through the same type situation doesn’t always mean that it’s about the same test, either, even though it could be.

your-will-be-done

Our hearts tend to grow cold and distant towards the Lord when things go our way. We tend to want our will to be done not the Lord’s will. This, of course, isn’t unusual as it’s part of human nature. Doing our will instead of God’s will should, though, be unusual for a child of God. We each have sinful ways in our hearts and lives that have to be changed and conformed to the image of Christ. We are not exempt from both general suffering and discipline given us from the Lord when we follow our will.

However, going back to the old and new. The Lord guides our hearts in what we’ve learned in the past and builds on those areas at the present and future. Each thing we’ve learned is a grace the Lord has worked in and through us within each situation. We can either grow to be more like the Lord or stay stagnant, which eventually causes us to lose ground. This means the trial we go through will be even more difficult and we will need to work even harder on those areas we’ve lost.

On a more personal level, I find even in my own heart that the further I go in my walk with the Lord, the more dependent I need to be on the Lord. The example was made of a man being on an airplane about to go down. He was given a parachute and the other passengers, who didn’t have one, made fun of him. They tried every way they could to get him to take it off but it only caused him to cling tighter to the parachute knowing the plane was going down and that was the only way he would be saved. Friend, whoever you may be, if you are a true believer cling tight to the Lord through all your trials. Yes, this is a poor illustration but the idea is still the same. Do not let the things of this world allure you away from the Lord. Remember this “airplane” is going down and we should be more like the Lord today than yesterday and tomorrow more than today.

The question was asked, Where do I need to go from here? The answer is simple. Depend on the Lord, wait for Him to guide your path, follow His will no matter who deserts you, makes fun of you, persecutes you, or even tries to wheedle you into leaving the “parachute” behind, so to speak. No, we can’t leave the Lord as He has adopted His children into His family, but we can sure be like His disciples and deny Him or even follow the world for a time. May His grace, from everlasting to everlasting, be ever poured out into our hearts so we, His true children, will do His will always no matter what comes our way.

Reflecting on ’16 While Looking toward ’17

I’ve noticed people posting their “word for 2017″ on Facebook. There are two words that come to my mind that I feel a need to grow in: Faith and Victory.

This past year, I really struggled in those departments. It is so easy to let the cares of life bring one down and yet, when we do that, we are failing to communicate to the world that we serve a magnificent God who is greater than our burdens.

I also want to be more of an encouragement to others this year. This will require focusing on others more than myself but, with God’s help, I want to do that. There are so many hurting, lonely people in the world. I pray that I will do better at pointing others to Jesus, who is the Hope and Life that they need.

I know that I will be tested on these things. Any time God is working, the enemy of our souls is also working to discourage us and keep us from fulfilling God’s plans for our lives.

walking

We never know what a year will bring, but we do know that, if we walk with the Lord, He will walk with us through every storm that we face.

I am blessed with friends who have stuck with me and encouraged me this year when I felt like they should have left me to wallow in my own misery.  That is the sign of a true friend: one who will not be pushed away by negativity but will continue to be there to listen, pray for you, and just “be there” for you. I am so blessed to have people like that in my life.

This reminds me of how much we need the Body of Christ. Don’t take your Brothers and Sisters for granted. If you find that person who knows how to encourage you and is not afraid to challenge you when you need it, treasure them. Friends like that are hard to find and yet sometimes we don’t notice them because we are too busy with our own lives to pay attention.

May this coming year find you drawing ever closer to our Lord and Savior. May we all become more selfless and more God-full. May this be our greatest year yet!