Raiding Satan’s Strongholds By The Instruction of God’s Word

One of the saddest features of Protestant Christendom today is the wide breakdown in teaching the Word. Instead of constructive indoctrination, in thousands of our denominational churches there is a meagre fifteen or twenty minute discourse on some moral or social or other topic of current interest. This is no petty criticism on our part, but a sincere complaint with a sob in it. The breakdown in sound teaching of the Bible leaves our people the easier prey of error, and in recent years hundreds of thousands have been beguiled away by specious counterfeits. The call to each of us is to so know our Bible that we can ‘instruct’ others. Despite rebuffs from ‘them that oppose,’ our words will be used of the Holy Spirit to ‘recover’ others from Satan’s snare…Those who best know their New Testament are least prone to these new heresies. All of us who know the truth of Salvation according to the New Testament should take pains to ‘instruct,’ as opportunity allows, those who are ensnared.

– Awake My Heart: Daily Devotional Meditations For The Year, J. Sidlow Baxter, pg. 330, commenting on 2 Timothy 2:22-26.

What a word! Are you sobbing over the theological and doctrinal famine sweeping through our churches? Do you know the Bible? Are you taking pains to teach others what it says? The means and only means of rescuing those ensnared and deceived by counterfeit doctrine is sound instruction of the Word (see 2 Timothy 2:22-26)!

Some Practical Advice for Christians

Do you use or have you ever heard of D.A. Carson’s Bible devotional called, For the Love of God? If not, I strongly recommend it. It is very simple to use. It has daily Bible readings and some very practical insights from Bible scholar D.A. Carson on a portion of that day’s reading. It is designed to assist you in discovering the riches of God’s Word and thereby deepen your love of God. So you can get an idea of what it is like, I have copied and pasted today’s devotional below:

SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR Christians (Phil. 4:4-9):

(1) Always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). This command is so important that Paul repeats it. Our responsibility to obey it is independent of circumstances, for regardless of how utterly miserable our situation is, the Christian always has the most profound reasons for rejoicing in Christ Jesus: sins forgiven and the prospect of resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth–not to mention the consolation of the Spirit even now, and much more. Practically speaking, Paul well knows that the believer who is truly rejoicing in the Lord cannot possibly be a back-biter, a cheat, a whiner, a thief, or lazy, bitter, and filled with hate.

(2) Be known for gentleness (Phil. 4:5). That is almost a delicious oxymoron. So much in our culture wants us to be known for aggressiveness, or for some intrinsic strength or superiority. The gentle person does not usually think in terms of being known. But Paul wants us so to focus on gentleness that eventually we become known for gentleness. The ground Paul offers is that the Lord is “near.” In this context, probably Paul does not mean that the Lord’s coming is near, but that the Lord himself is never far from his people: he is near, and is watching us, as he watches over us, all the time. That becomes our motivation for acting as he wishes us to act.

(3) Stop worrying (Phil. 4:6-7). Paul is not advocating irresponsible escapism, still less a Pollyanna-like optimism. Moreover, strictly speaking he is not telling us to stop worrying and nothing more, but rather he tells us how to stop worrying–by replacing this constant fretting with something else: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [there’s the praise theme again], present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Paul does not deny the agony and sorrow of many human experiences. How could he? His letters show that he suffered his share of the worst. But he knows the solution. Either worrying drives out prayer, or prayer drives out worrying. Moreover, Paul insists, this disciplined, thankful, intercessory prayer brings with it “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

(4) Think holy thoughts (Phil. 4:8-9). Garbage in, garbage out. We are renewed by the transforming of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). So watch what you feed your mind; watch what you think; determine to drive your mind into good and healthy channels, not those characterized by bitterness, resentments, lust, hate, or jealousy. Reflect on all the kinds of things Paul includes in his diverse list of verse 8. Moreover, here too Paul serves as an important example (Phil. 4:9): he is not telling us to do anything he does not practice himself.

Pretty good stuff, eh? You can buy it in book format (it is in 2 volumes) or you can just click here and read it for free in a blog/digital format!

A Tribute To Our Faithful Four-Legged Companion “Buddy James Manwarren”

Just a couple of days ago, late in the evening on Labor Day, our family said goodbye to our dog Buddy. We adopted him from the local animal shelter just days before they had to close it. That was 9 years ago. During those 9 years we had a lot of adventures with Buddy. While there were days when he greatly annoyed us, we all grew to care about him, especially my oldest daughter Alexis. Buddy was her best friend.

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, we buried him. I asked everyone in the family to share a memory they had about him. Everyone did, including myself. You might think that’s strange but you see, I believe animals are great teachers. Also, when we read the Bible, we are often encouraged to learn about God and life from the animals. Remember Proverbs 6:6? Or remember Matthew 6:26-27? Just to name a couple.  As I have personally reflected on his time with us, here are some things that Buddy has taught me and I hope I never forget.

  • Live life to the hilt – Buddy was not, by any means, a lazy dog. He lived life to the uttermost. In fact, when we picked him out at the animal shelter he was with several other puppies. The rest of the puppies were laying there but Buddy was jumping and scratching and doing his best to get out of his pen. That habit never broke. We gave up trying to keep him in a pen or crate. Every time we came home, he had somehow broken out and was at the door to greet us. This teaches me much about my Christian life. A verse I meditate on frequently is Colossians 1:28-29, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” As Christians, we are to live to the hilt for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be living sacrifices who are solely and wholly committed to Him.
  • Enjoy people – There are two kind of people in the world: here I am or there you are. A “here I am” person waits for others to come to them but a “there you are” person seeks other people out. Buddy was a “there you are” dog. He loved people. Although a large dog, he always wanted to be a lap dog. He wanted to lick your face. He wanted to play with you. No matter where we went as a family, he would sit near us or with us or on top of us. When friends visited, he (often to their annoyance) would smother them with attention. This reminds me of Jesus who was a master of people-work. He loved and cared for and enjoyed people. He sought people out and pointed them to salvation in Him.
  • Guard what’s important – As much as Buddy loved people he also was a great guard dog. When unfamiliar people came to the door he barked and growled ferociously – especially at the UPS delivery guy. Valerie and I enjoy going on walks together. Before we leave, Valerie would often say to Buddy, “Guard the kiddos.” And he did. Sure, sometimes his barking would drive you crazy but he was defending us and there was a comfort to knowing when we were walking that they would have to get through Buddy first. This causes me to think of the duty of Christians and the church at large to defend the truth of the Bible. It also brings to my attention of how God defends and guards his people.
  • Always watching – You could count on it. Before we even pulled into our driveway, there was Buddy’s head and beady eyes poking up over the window ledge. When one of us would go away, such as Lexi to school or Valerie to get groceries, Buddy would sit at the window and watch. Are we not called as Christians to watch and pray for the Lord’s return? Are we not also called to watch out for false teaching and to watch out lest we waste our days and time?
  • Death is inevitable – Buddy was a mixed breed of Boxer and Labrador. The veterinarian told me Monday night that the longest she had seen a Boxer live was to the age of 13. The average lifespan of Boxers I am told is 10-12 so Buddy was at the end. He was not long for this world. But even in his death he is teaching us. The Bible teaches that death entered this world because of sin and so Buddy dying painfully but importantly reminded my young family that death is real. It is their first real experience of loss. I am a pastor so my kids have been to more than their fair share of funerals and seen people lying in caskets but it didn’t phase them because they didn’t know them. But Buddy’s death got their attention and God is teaching us that we live in a sin cursed world that groans for its Creator (Romans 8:19-24). Buddy is teaching us to look to Christ who conquered sin and death and Satan.

With all of that I can say, “Thank you Lord that you are sovereign over all and can use anything to teach us and grow us in You. Thank you for giving to us our faithful four-legged companion (who Valerie called “Buddy James Manwarren” when he would get in trouble and it just kind of stuck). He has taught myself and my family some important lessons. Help us to remember and keep learning. All glory to Your name.”

When is the last time you prayed for persecuted Christians?

Today I was reminded of the need to be praying for our brothers and sisters who are in chains for Christ. It is reported that in North Korea Christians are being used for chemical experimentation and having their heads crushed by steamrollers in front of their families. This is distressing and compelled me to pray for them and others all around the world. Here are some things I brought to the throne of grace that I thought I would share with you to encourage you in your prayers:

  1. That they would not be surprised by such suffering – 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12
  2. That they would remember that suffering is a privilege and they will be wonderfully rewarded – Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 25:23
  3. That God would flood their hearts and minds with his promises and his character not the least of which is that God is forming Christ in them – Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13
  4. That God would use their sacrifice to strengthen and advance His church – Read the whole book of Acts but at least Acts 8:1-8.

There you have it, four ways to pray for our persecuted church family. Now start praying!

John Calvin On The Christian Life

I just read this and had to share it. It resonates deeply with my soul. After quoting Romans 12:1-2, Calvin writes:

This is a marvelous thing – we are consecrated and dedicated to God to the end that we might not think, speak, meditate, or act unless it be to His glory. The sacred can’t be put to profane use without injustice to God. If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, let us forget ourselves and our own interests. Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us – in every way in all our lives – run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own – who’s taken rule and dominion away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor to want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord. – John Calvin, A Little Book On The Christian Life, pages 22-23.

Admittedly, some days my progress in the Christian life is little more than staggering, limping, and crawling but I press on and praise Him for any and all success!Let us all who name the name of the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fix our eyes on the goal of being wholly and solely committed to God’s glory. May it be our sole pursuit!

The Most Powerful Platform In America

For my pastoral ministry class I recently completed reading The New Guidebook for Pastors by James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson. Although there are a few things I would quibble over, all in all I profited spiritually and practically from it. One of my favorite chapters was chapter 3, “The Pastor and His Preaching.” Below are a few quotes from it that encouraged me and I hope will encourage you.

All through the Word of God and down through the annals of history, when God has moved it has almost always been attended by the preaching of the Word. There is no task more important, no calling any higher, and no work more noble than preaching the Word of God. – page 31

 

Too often our desire to reach numbers, people, and crowds has caused us to sacrifice the Word of God on the altar of drama, theatrics, and entertainment. While there is nothing wrong with skits, great music, PowerPoint presentations, and even appropriate videos, there is something tragically wrong when we do anything other than make preaching the Word of God central in the service. You cannot separate the Word from worship. – page 34

 

John Albert Bengel, speaking of the Word of God in preaching, said, ‘When the pulpit is in strong health, the light of Scripture shine bright; when the church is sick Scripture is corroded by neglect, and thus it happens that the outward form of Scripture and that of the church usually seem to exhibit simultaneously either health or else sickness; and as a rule the way in which Scripture is being treated is in exact correspondence with the condition of the church.'” – page 35

 

The centrality of the Word of God is of utmost importance. Whenever a preacher steps into the pulpit, what he does with the text influences the health of the church. If there is any hope of winning the lost to Jesus Christ, if there is any hope of maturing the vast majority of those in the pews who are in desperate need of growing, then the preacher must preach the Word! The only thing that twill relieve the famine in our land is commitment to content. Preach the Word!

 

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood, and it will consume them” (Jer. 5:14 NASB). Think about that for a moment. When you preach the Word of God, it is like fire that sets people aflame. No U.S. president in any state-of-the-union speech can claim that. No Hollywood writer, actor, or producer can do anything like that. No athlete in any winner’s circle can make a speech that sets the audience on fire. But the man of God has the promise of God that when he speaks the Word of God, it is like fire that burns and like a hammer that shatters rock (Jer. 23:29).

The pulpit that is on fire with the Word of God is the most powerful platform in America and all over the world. Pastor, is your pulpit aflame with the truth of God’s Word? Is your heart still on fire for God?

1 Timothy 4:13 – “Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.”

Are You A Patient Person?

I will be honest. I am not. In fact, as God graciously and perfectly conforms me more into the image of Jesus, I am learning that impatience is probably my greatest weakness. I am not happy about this. Patience is required for godly leadership. “The Lord’s bond-servant” says Paul, “must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged” (2 Timothy 2:24). Those who preach God’s Word are to do “with great patience” (2 Timothy 4:2). Not surprisingly, this impatience leads to misunderstanding and confusion and frustration not only in my own life but in my family and ministry.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 rebukes my impatience:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 

In this familiar passage, Solomon talks about times and seasons. He begins by stating a thesis, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (v. 1). He then proceeded to illustrate it and prove it to be true (verses 2-8). Clearly, God has a fitting time for each thing to be done. Timing is critical in everything. Timing is something that has to be God-directed. This is why I am more and more convinced that one of Satan’s greatest ploys is to rush us. Noise and haste are usually of the devil.

Added to this are a few more very fitting verses on waiting:

  • Psalm 25:21: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.”
  • Psalm 37:7: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him…”
  • Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

God’s Word to you and me over and over is to wait on the Lord!

The supreme example of this is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who saw and understood his entire life was on God’s sovereign schedule (see John 12:23, 27; 17:1). There was no noise or haste in his life. He did not succumb to Satan’s ruse to rush him (see Matthew 4 and the wilderness temptation). Jesus perfect patience rebukes my impatience.

So here I am rebuked – graciously, lovingly, opportunely – rebuked. How about you? God’s timing is nothing like ours. W must learn to be still and quiet and to wait on him through prayer and study of God’s Word. This is not wasted time. There is no better way to determine God’s timing and grow in the perfect patience of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.