Why Are You Fearful?

Here are ten reasons I came across in my Scripture reading today why you, my Christian friends, have no reason to fear:

  1. Jesus commands all things – “…Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.” – Matthew 8:26
  2. We have received the Spirit of adoption – “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!'” – Romans 8:14-15
  3. Our suffering is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18
  4. God works all things together for our good, i.e. – our conformity to Christ – “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” – Romans 8:28-29
  5. God is for us – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31
  6. God will give us all that is necessary for life and godliness – “He did not even spare HIs own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?”
  7. God has chosen us, justified us, and Christ Jesus intercedes for us – “Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.”
  8. Nothing can separate us from God’s unconquerable, all-satisfying love – “No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.” – Romans 8:37
  9. God is faithful – “But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  10. God is with us so God commands us – “Do not be afraid or discouraged” – Joshua 8:1 and Joshua 1:9.

“You are to regard only the LORD of Hosts as holy.

Only He should be feared;

only He should be held in awe.” 

Isaiah 8:13

 

New Year Resolutions

I know. I know. We are 11 days into 2018 and I am just now posting about new year resolutions? But, hey, better late than never, right? The truth is, my schedule has been so full that I didn’t have a chance to do much reflection until just about a week ago. Before I share them with you, let me ask you, have you made any yet? Or maybe I should ask, how many have you broken already?

It seems people have a love/hate relationship with them. I personally am a very goal oriented kind of person so I naturally gravitate toward them. I also think they are valuable because they keep us from drifting and just bumping along day to day but not really going anywhere or accomplishing anything. However, I also think a strong case can be made for them Biblically.

  • God calls to Israel, “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:5).
  • Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
  • And my all-time favorite (and which I preached on this past Sunday morning), “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29).

That last reference is dripping with resolve and determination. It has shaped my ministry and lifestyle more than any other verse in the Bible. I want to spend every last ounce of God-given energy I have not on making a new and improved version of myself but on being increasingly transformed into the person of Jesus Christ. I want to become increasingly Christ-like in my words, thoughts, actions, and attitudes. I want to talk like Christ, look like Christ, think like Christ, serve like Christ, love like Christ, etc. But that is not all. I want to help others do the same! I want to help others be fully developed followers of Jesus Christ. You see that in the verse when it repeatedly says, “everyone.” This is why the overall mission of my life is making more and better disciples of Jesus Christ. It is surrendering my entire being to God that I might intentionally develop others into spiritual maturity.

With all of that being said, here is what Colossians 1:28-29 looks like in my life this year:

  • Redeeming the Time
    • Wake up every morning at 5:30am so I can have a good 90 minutes of personal Bible study and prayer and also time to read some other good Christian books.
    • My Bible reading plan is Professor Grant Horner’s plan. I have used it before and really benefited from it.
    • I will memorize the entire book of Ephesians using the plan by Andy Davis.
    • This ties into Colossians 1:28-29 in a number of ways. For starters, how can I intentionally help others mature in Christ when I myself am not intentionally growing in Christ? Furthermore, it is God’s Word and prayer that is going to energize me to do this work.
  • Exercise
    • I will limit myself to 1500 calories a day
    • I will exercise 20 minutes a day
    • I will do all of this because my body is not my own and because I want to live on this earth as long as I can so I can have that much more time to encourage others. Also, proper food and exercise is a way God energizes us to do his work!
  • Writing
    • Publish at least one blog post every week.
    • It should be easy to see how this ties into Colossians 1:28-29 – I can proclaim Christ, teach about Christ, admonish others in Christ, etc. through blogging and hopefully help others in doing so.
  • Reading
    • It is my aim to read no less than one book a week. For the most part I already do this but I want to be more intentional about it. I plan on reading a smattering of good Christian and non-Christian books.
    • Again, doing so will help me understand God and others more. It iwll help me proclaim Christ with more wisdom. Also, reading energizes me. It provokes my thinking and challenges me in lots of ways.
  • Counseling
    • I want to complete my A.C.B.C. certification this year. I need to finish phase 2 exams and phase 3 supervision.
    • The connection this has with Colossians 1:28-29 is very obvious. The word for “admonishing” is the Biblical word for counseling. It means to “put into the mind” or “to lay to the heart.” It is implanting God’s truth into the heart of another so as to guide, correct, and instruct them toward Christlikeness.

There you have it! Now let me encourage you to do the same. Just like Colossians 1:28-29 has shaped the mission of my life I think it can and should shape yours. Obviously, it will look different in your life than in mine but if you are a Christian, your aim should always be spiritual maturity in Christ. How could it be any less? So have you made any resolutions for 2018 yet? Is spiritual maturity at the heart of them? If not, why not? How can you change them to reflect this mission? If you are not a Christian and have kept reading this far anyways then I would encourage you to recognize God’s desire for your life is that you be mature in Christ also! The first step toward that happening is you turn from your sin and trust in Jesus Christ who can give you life eternal and life abundant.

 

 

 

 

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!