Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wisdom That Spans Generations

"Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine; do not forsake my law. When I was my father's son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: "Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and life. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth." -Proverbs 4:1-5

Solomon was the wisest man that ever walked the earth. You remember the story don't you? One night, God came to Solomon and told him to ask for whatever he wanted and God would give it to him. Solomon asked for wisdom that night. God was pleased with Solomon's request, so He gave Solomon wisdom and everything else that Solomon could have asked for.

Reading Proverbs this morning, for the first time I realized that Solomon's request for wisdom is not something that originated in Solomon's mind. He had been taught by his father, David. Look at Proverbs 4:3-5 again. Here are words spoken by King David and recorded by Solomon. David instructed Solomon to get wisdom and to get understanding. Solomon listened to his father and he knew the truth of his words. Interestingly enough, Solomon is here teaching his own children these same words that David had taught to him.

We must teach our children the wisdom and good doctrine of Scripture. Follow the example of David and Solomon. Solomon asked for wisdom because he had been taught by his father. Solomon sought to teach his children good doctrine because he had been taught by his father. David's teaching lasted at least two generations beyond him because what he taught was good doctrine. Our children can be faithful and godly because of what we teach them. What a great privilege and responsibility!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Of Sin and Consequence

"As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one...and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:10, 17-18

All men are sinners. There is no one who is righteous--that is there is no one who does righteous things or who is righteous in nature. Mankind, at its very core is corrupt. Sure, people can do apparently moral acts and people can affirm that something is good, but Scripture teaches that even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags when we see them as God sees them. By our own standards we deserve heaven. But by God's standards we deserve hell.
L. S. Chafer says in his Systematic Theology that "sin is exceedingly sinful." How true this statement is. Sin, in its very nature is sinful. It is offensive to the righteousness and holiness of God. Sin will always produce sinfulness and never produce righteousness.
As I was reading my Bible this morning, I came across this note in the margin: "Sin is theological in nature, but sociological in consequences." When we sin, it is always offensive to God and it always has consequences for us and the people around us. We must understand what sin is like if we are to understand who we are as sinners. As sinners, we have offended God and there are consequences for those who live in proximity to us. Let us confess our sin to God and trust that He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Blessed Man

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not whither; and whatever he does shall prosper." -Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is an interesting word. Most of the time we use it to describe the state of life we are in when we have many material things or when things are going well for us. This first Psalm doesn't describe the man who is blessed in this way.
The man who is blessed is the man who, first of all, does not do wicked things. He doesn't walk through his life in the 'wisdom' of the ungodly'. He doesn't stand (abide, dwell) in the path of sinners and he doesn't sit in the dwelling of the scornful. This man steers clear of all things that are contrary to the Word of God.
The man who is blessed is the man that delights in the law of God. He thinks about it and ponders its meaning day and night. This man is totally stable. He is rooted and grounded in what he believes (Colossians 2:6-7). He is like a tree planted close to the rivers. This summer, my dad, my brother, and I took a trip to Boston to watch the Redsox play the Yankees. On the way back from the game, we walked through a park in Boston. In this park there was a small river (or large stream, whichever you prefer). Along the banks of the river were some very large trees. The base of the trunks of these trees were so healthy that the roots literally began two feet above ground and grew down into the ground from there. I'm sure that those roots extended deep into the soil.
The blessed man is a fruitful man. As he delights in the law of God, he sees the effects of it in his life. The righteousness that he reads in the Word is lived out in his life. God makes this man prosper in whatever he does.
Are you a blessed man? Do you measure your blessedness by what you have or by how much you delight in God's law. Read the Word and you will be blessed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Financial Oppression of Interest

Read Nehemiah 5:1-13

Nehemiah and the people of Israel that have returned from the land of Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem are in the midst of the massive building project. In Nehemiah 4 we read of oppression from outside sources. Now Nehemiah and company will face oppression from inside the camp.

The stage is set by the explanation of the financial situation of the Jewish people. First of all, there were a lot of people and they were hungry (v. 2). Feeding these people was not necessarily a problem, but it became a problem because the people tried to solve the matter on their own without Nehemiah's counsel. Some had mortgaged their land in order to buy grain (v. 3). Some had borrowed money to pay their taxes (v. 4). Some had even gone so far as to sell their children  as slaves (v. 5) and they didn't have the necessary funds to redeem their children from the slave market.

When Nehemiah hears of the circumstances, he is not a happy camper. Scripture tells us (v. 6) that he became 'very angry.' I imagine that this is possibly an understatement. If Nehemiah were anything like me, he would have been totally furious. However, even though he was very angry, verse 7 tells us that Nehemiah still took the time for some serious thought

Then Nehemiah rebuked the nobles and rulers (the money lenders) for charging interest on money loaned to their Jewish brethren. Nehemiah exposes the wickedness of what they were doing. They were, in essence, forcing their own people to become slaves without the possibility of being redeemed. After hearing Nehemiah's rebuke, the nobles and rulers had nothing to say. So Nehemiah continued with his solution to the problem.

The nobles and rulers were to stop charging interest and restore the lands, vineyards, houses, and a hundredth of the money and goods that they had charged the people. Interestingly enough, Nehemiah contrasts the charging of interest with walking in the fear of God. The nobles and rulers responded well. They vowed before the priests and people that they would restore what was taken and require nothing from the people. They did as Nehemiah said. 

What does this mean for us? Is it wrong to charge interest ? Is it wrong to mortgage your land or borrow money? What does it mean for our building projects? What does it mean for church finances?

At the very least, it means that Christians ought not to charge each other interest and we ought to seriously weigh the cost of borrowing money or mortgaging our land. The people in Nehemiah 5 made foolish financial and family decisions just because they were hungry and needed to pay their taxes. Just because you can borrow money doesn't mean that you should.

Secondly, there is a need for personal financial planning. These people put themselves in the position of borrowing to pay taxes. This is not a good spot to be in. Essentially, the people locked themselves into paying interest on something that happened in the past. This causes financial enslavement to the past. We ought to always be looking ahead with our finances. That is why it involves planning. 

When it comes to building projects, I can't help but think that the only option ought to be saving until you can pay for the project up front. That ensures financial freedom at the beginning, middle, and end of a project. Churches that take out mortgages in order to fund building projects trap themselves into paying for a project years after it is completed. The whole of church finance ought to be operated on a cash basis. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

100 Days...1000 Chapters

Good Morning!

Today marks the 100th day of the year. If you've been faithfully following the Bible Reading System that I posted as we started this year, you will be half-way through Leviticus, halfway through 2 Samuel, most of the way through Job for the second time, 100 Psalms down, into Proverbs for the fourth time, more than halfway done Jeremiah, and twice through a handful of New Testament books (mostly done Acts for the fourth time!).

This is a lot of reading! You are devouring Scripture at a rate I'm sure you never imagined. You have read nearly as many chapters as there are in Scripture. So keep reading, keep growing, keep on walking with the Lord!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hope of the Resurrection

Hope is a good thing. Perhaps it is the best of things. Hope brings comfort to a downcast soul. Hope motivates the discouraged to keep on running. Hope keeps our eyes fixed on the future. Hope is a good thing.

The Christian’s hope is different from the hope of the world. The hope of the world is a simple feeling that everything will be ok in the end. But the hope of Christianity is a mental confidence that what God has promised will come to pass.

Hebrews 6:19 – "This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus…”

In the day and age in which this was written, the anchor of a ship was often placed in a smaller boat, called a forerunner, to take the anchor deep within a harbor that the boat could not successfully navigate. The forerunner would drop the anchor in the harbor. That would secure the ship’s safety. Even though the ship was out on open water it would not drift away.

As Christians, hope is our anchor. Jesus, our forerunner, has taken our hope beyond where we ever could and placed it in the presence of God, behind the veil. No matter what happens out here in the open waters, we can know that our hope is both sure and steadfast.

The hope of Christianity is the resurrection. We believe, first of all, that Christ died, was buried, and rose again three days later. And we believe that one day He will return and resurrect those who have died in Christ and those who are alive and remain will be raptured. That is our hope.

In 1st Corinthians 15 we read of the truth of the resurrection. The Corinthians had lost sight of this hope. They even went so far as to deny that there was a resurrection. This was no small matter. Paul writes this long treatise in defense of the vital doctrine of the resurrection. Let’s look at a portion of it:

1. The Resurrection is intrinsically tied to the Gospel

1 Cor. 15:1-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

Declare: - means to make known. It is as if Paul has to declare the Gospel anew to a group of people that should have known better.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that it was the gospel of the resurrection that had brought them salvation in the first place. In verse 12 Paul tells us that some of the Corinthians were actually questioning the resurrection from the dead. Our culture today is not much different. The majority in our culture denounce what the Scripture teaches. In fact, there are many within the church that if seriously questioned would deny the doctrine of the resurrection.

In some small way, I can understand why it would be difficult to believe in something so amazing, something so far beyond our comprehension. None of us have seen a resurrection. There is no one here today that has died and been resurrected. Yes is it difficult for our minds to accept such a truth, but let me remind you that these are the very words of God. These are words we can trust. We have never seen a resurrection, but the Word of God declares this truth: “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” We can heartily agree with Job and declare, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God…How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Without the resurrection the doctrine of the gospel would be incomplete. Paul ties the resurrection to the very gospel itself. The resurrection is the “good” in the “good news.” Without the resurrection, Christ’s death is just “news”—just another headline in the morning paper. “Extremist Sect Leader Crucified on a Cross” the papers would read. Without the resurrection, Jesus would be no different from the so-called heroes of the rest of the world’s religions.

2. The Resurrection was identified by many eye-witnesses

1 Cor. 15:5-8 – “and that He was seen by Cephas…the twelve…over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present…James…the apostles…[Paul]”

One of the greatest confirmations of the resurrection is the host of eye-witnesses to the risen Lord. An eye-witness account is powerful. Think about it. In our court system in America, an eye-witness is enough to give someone the death penalty. Eye-witnesses confirm something that actually happened.

It is possible that if there was only one eye-witness that the testimony could be passed off as untrue or unreliable. But Jesus was seen by over five hundred people at one time. Try convincing those five hundred that they were all crazy or hallucinating. The word ‘seen’ means to gaze with eyes wide open. There was no doubt about it. Jesus was alive—and that confirmed by a host of eye-witnesses.

If the resurrection was false, they had to know it! If it was something they had conjured up by hiding the body or if Jesus faked his death they would have known. Why would the disciples have died for Christ if the resurrection was false? Many people have died for a lie, but they always believed it to be true. The disciples and other eye-witnesses of the resurrected Christ were willing to go to the death because they knew the resurrection was real.

3. The Resurrection is imperative to the hope of eternal life

1 Cor. 15:12-20 – “If Christ is not risen, the our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…”

If there is one thing that Christianity hangs on, it is the resurrection of the dead, specifically the resurrection of Christ. Paul declares that without the resurrection his preaching is empty and their faith is empty. Not only that, if Christ is not risen, then all those who have died in Christ have perished.

I love verse twenty. “BUT NOW Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This is the truth. Christ is risen from the dead. What a glorious day! Our faith is not in vain! Our preaching is not in vain! Our Christianity is not in vain. Those who have died in Christ did not die in vain! There is life beyond the grave! Christ is risen from the dead!

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” -1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

The resurrection gives hope for:

1. The Past – Those who have died in Christ will be bodily resurrected at the rapture of the church. Their lives were not in vain. The sacrifices that they made for Christ were not in vain. They will be resurrected.

2. The Present – This hope motivates us not only to live for Christ, but to convince others of the certainty of Christianity. Remember, our hope is both sure and steadfast. Jesus has gone before us and placed our
hope where we never could have gone.

3. The Future – There is coming a day when we shall meet the Lord in the air, whether we have already died or are still alive and remain. Each and every day we ought to expect the Lord to return. He is coming again. We have hope.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Famous Last Word..."Almost"

The Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." -Acts 26:28

Paul had a miraculous opportunity to share the faith before King Agrippa. It was an opportunity that was orchestrated by God. God used the persecution of Paul by the Jewish leaders to bring Paul to this point. I enjoy how clearly Paul explains his own conversion in this chapter of Acts. King Agrippa patiently listened to Paul expound from the very beginning his own persecution of the church, his miraculous conversion, and his ministry to the Gentiles.

But Agrippa could not bring himself to commit his life to Christ. He said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian. We don't know if Agrippa ever put his trust in Christ. I certainly hope that he did, but I am saddened that he couldn't quite make the choice. Someday Agrippa will stand before God to give account for his life. How sad it would be to have to say to God, "I almost became a Christian."

If you have not become a Christian, put your trust in Christ. Turn from your sins and trust Christ for salvation. Don't be like Agrippa. Don't let almost get in the way. Give yourself fully to Christ.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bible Reading Plan Update

To begin this wonderful year of 2012, I started using a Bible reading plan that involves reading 10 chapters of the Bible from 10 different books of the Bible every day. I am now two months into it, and let me tell you, I am amazed by how effective it has been for me. Here's what I've been able to read in just two months following this plan:

  • Genesis, some of Exodus
  • Joshua, Judges, Ruth, some of 1 Samuel
  • Job, 1/3 or Psalms
  • Proverbs almost twice
  • Ecclesiastes
  • most of Isaiah
  • Matthew, Mark, half of Luke
  • Acts twice
  • Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians
  • 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, &3 John
I have never read Scripture so diversely and in such volume. The Lord is using this reading plan to strengthen my understanding of the Word and to give me a new appreciation for hearing from God each day. If you don't have a Bible reading plan, I suggest starting with this one. You can find an explanation of it HERE

Don't just nibble on the Word, FEAST ON IT!

The Valley of Vision - A Convert's First Prayer


I could never have sought my happiness in thy love,
   unless thou had'st first loved me.
Thy Spirit has encouraged me by grace to seek thee,
   has made known to me thy reconciliation in Jesus,
   has taught me to believe it,
   has helped me to take thee for my God and portion.
May he grant me to grow in the knowledge
     and experience of thy love,
   and walk in it all the way to glory.
Blessed for ever be thy fatherly affection,
   which chose me to be one of thy children
   by faith in Jesus:
I thank thee for giving me the desire to live as such.
In Jesus, my brother, I have my new birth,
   every restraining power,
   every renewing grace.
It is by thy Spirit I call thee Father,
   believe in thee, love thee;
Strengthen me inwardly for ever purpose
   of my Christian life;
Let the Spirit continually reveal to me my interest in Christ,
   and open to me the riches of thy love in him;
May he abide in me that I may know my union with Jesus,
   and enter into constant fellowship with him;
By thy Spirit may I daily live to thee,
   rejoice in thy love,
   find it the same to me as to thy Son,
   and become rooted and grounded in it
     as a house on a rock;
I know but little--
   increase my knowledge of thy love in Jesus,
   keep me pressing forward for clearer discoveries of it,
   so that I may find its eternal fullness;
Magnify thy love to me according to its greatness,
   and not according to my deserts or prayers,
   and whatever increase thou givest,
   let it draw out greater love to thee.

-The Valley of Vision, p. 94-95
Banner of Truth Trust 1975

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Confident Eternal Life In Him

"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." -1 John 5:20

I have confidence in my faith in Christ. This comes not from the strength of my faith, for often my faith waivers. This confidence comes from the object of my faith--Jesus Christ.

1) I have confidence in His person. He is the Son of God. No one else could have done the things that He did. No one else could have accomplished salvation for mankind. No one but Jesus, the Son of God, can give me confidence in my faith. Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus never fails.

2) I have confidence in His truth. He is the true God. Idols are powerless. Idols are fake. Idols cannot give truth. Jesus, on the other hand, is the source of all truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the faithful and true witness. His word is truth. You can trust the truth. You can build your life upon the truth and it will never fail. But if you build your life on anything else, it will crumble under the weight of life's trials.

3) I have confidence in His promise of eternal life. As the God of truth, you can trust what He promises. He promises eternal life to all those who put their trust in Him. I love how clearly John puts it: This is the true God and eternal life.

Do you have confidence in Jesus? He is trustworthy. You can know for certain that you are saved and that you will have eternal life through God's Son Jesus Christ. Your faith may falter from day to day, but Jesus will never fail.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: What Does God Want of Us Anyway?

A quick overview of the whole Bible
Copyright 2010 by Mark Dever
119 pages, Published by Crossway

In case you are just starting to follow these book reviews, I’ve been working on reading the 9Marks series. If you are not familiar with 9Marks, please check out their website. The goal of the series is to provide books explaining what the Bible has to say about the 9 marks of a healthy church. This next book is by Mark Dever, senior pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in DC.

This book is the result of three sermons preached by Pastor Mark Dever. The first is an overview of the whole Bible, the second an overview of the Old Testament, and the third is an overview of the New Testament. By using this outline, Dever has done a great job breaking down each of the major sections of the Bible and explained a little about the books that are in each section.

I always enjoy reading about the Bible. I find its unity and cohesion totally miraculous. Naturally, I enjoyed this little book. It is a great resource for explaining to a new Christian the basic outline and theme of Scripture. It is also a great tool for believers to be reminded of the greater narrative that is going on in the Bible. Sometimes we lose sight of that in the day to day Bible reading that we do. Don’t lose sight of the main theme. As they used to tell us at Bible school: Keep the main thing the main thing.

Read this book. It will encourage and refresh you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Put Your Life in Order

"Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God." -Psalms 50:23

Do you live a life of praise? Or is your praise reserved for Sunday morning worship service? Whoever you are and however you live your life, God desires that you glorify Him. That is His design for your life. In the Westminster catechism, the question is posed, "What is the chief end of man?" and the response is given, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

The psalmist shows us how to live a life of praise that glorifies God: "and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God." You must put your conduct in order. Not just any order--mind you--but you must put it in the right order. If you are going to live a life that glorifies God, your conduct must be righteous.

It seems almost too obvious to say, but God is not glorified by our sin. He is not praised through our iniquity. He is praised by our obedience and righteous living. Put your life in order. Flee temptation, put away your disgusting sin, and choose to live a life that praises and glorifies God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Valley of Vision: Assurance


I am loved with everlasting love,
   clothed in eternal righteousness,
     my peace flowing like a river,
     my comforts many and large,
     my joy and triumph unutterable,
     my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation,
     my sense of justification unclouded.
I have scarce anything to pray for;
Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven
   and my supplications are swallowed up in praise.
How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election
   when based upon thy Word
   and wrought inwardly within the soul!
I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner
     thou hast loved,
   and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee,
   else I would never get to heaven.
I wrong the work of grace in my heart
   if I deny my new nature and my eternal life.
If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption,
   I would sink into nethermost hell
   by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove;
If Jesus were not by the power of his Spirit
   my sanctification,
   there is no sin I should not commit.
O when shall I have his mind!
   when shall I be conformed to his image?
All the good things of life are less than nothing
   when compared with his love,
   and with one glimpse of thy electing favour.
All the treasures of a million worlds could not
   make me richer, happier, more contented,
   for his unsearchable riches are mine.
One moment of communion with him, one view
   of his grace,
   is ineffable, inestimable.
But O God, I could not long after thy presence
   if I did not know the sweetness of it;
And such I could not know except by thy Spirit
   in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst 
   elect me,
   call me,
   adopt me,
   save me.
I bless thee for the covenant of grace.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take Care of Yourself

"He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good." -Proverbs 19:8

God desires that we take care of ourselves. He doesn't want us to destroy our bodies or our souls. Solomon gives us some instruction here as to how to do that. Solomon says that the one who gets wisdom loves his own soul. He cares about himself. He is the man who takes care of his own soul.

Often we think of a man that loves himself or loves his own soul as a man who is selfish and prideful. While this is the natural tendency of one who loves himself, it is not always the case. I think that most of us love ourselves too much. We end up caring about ourselves much more than we ought to. We love ourselves at the expense of God and others.

But loving your own soul is not a bad thing. God wants you to care for your soul. Living a wise life is essential to caring for your own soul. So get wisdom and keep understanding and you will take good care of your soul. While you are at it, care for the souls of others as well.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: What is the Gospel?

Copyright 2010 by Gregory D. Gilbert
Published by Crossway
124 pages

This is another short book in the 9marks series (check out 9marks here). It is the first book written by Greg Gilbert, and I believe it is Greg’s first written work (he has since published What is the Mission of the Church? with Kevin DeYoung). Overall, it is a great book to start out with, I mean, what better way to begin a writing career than by writing about the gospel?

This is a great little book that examines what the Bible describes as the gospel. I like it because it is concise. It didn’t need to be lengthy and wordy because the gospel we find in the Bible is not complex. It is beautiful divine truth wrapped up in a few short verses in Romans 3:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” –Romans 3:23-26 (ESV)

The layout of the book is very similar to the gospel teaching of Child Evangelism Fellowship. If you are not familiar with CEF, you need to be. The chapters in the book are as follows:
  1. Finding the Gospel in the Bible
  2. God the Righteous Creator
  3. Man the Sinner
  4. Jesus Christ the Savior
  5. Response—Faith and Repentance
  6. The Kingdom
  7. Keeping the Cross at the Center
  8. The Power of the Gospel

You will be blessed, encouraged, and strengthened in your understanding of the glorious gospel by reading this book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Valley of Vision - Christian Calling

The first act of calling is by thy command in thy Word,
   ‘Come unto me, return unto me’;
The second is to let in light,
   so that I see that I am called particularly,
   and so perceive the sweetness of the command as well as its truth,
   in regard to thy great love of the sinner,
   by inviting him to come, though vile,
   in regard to the end of the command, which is fellowship with thee,
   in regard to thy promis in the gospel, which is all of grace.
Therefore, Lord,
   I need not search to see if I am elect, or loved,
   for if I turn thou wilt come to me;
   Christ has promised me fellowship if I take him,
   and the Spirit will pour himself out on me,
     abolishing sin and punishment,
     assuring me of strength to persevere.
It is thy pleasure to help all that pray for grace,
   and come to thee for it.
When my heart is unsavoury with sin, sorrow, darkness, hell,
   only thy free grace can help me act
   with deep abasement under a sense of unworthiness.
Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to thee,
   and cleanse me from the deceit of bringing my heart to a duty
   because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.
Grant that I may be salted with suffering,
   with every exactment tempered to my soul,
   every rod excellently fitted to my back,
     to chastise, humble, break me.
Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,
   as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell on Christ,
   and drew me to him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Permeating Holiness

"but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."" -1 Peter 1:15-16

God is holy. I know that. I sing songs about God's holiness. I preach about God's holiness. I even share with others about God's holiness. Yet my functional view of holiness isn't always biblical. I say that because I don't always live my life like I believe God is holy. Often my days are rank with my own unholiness. Mentally I affirm this sound, scriptural truth: God is holy. But practically, I am far from perfect.

Does this describe your life at all? If you are anything like me then you will sympathize with me on this. I want to take some time to remind you that the one who called you is holy. God above, Lord of all the earth, the living God, Jehovah of Hosts, is a holy God. He is holy in that He never sins. He is absolutely and totally morally pure. There is no evil in God. He is also holy in that He is totally separate from sinners. God's holiness sets Him apart from our sinful lives. Sin drives us from the presence of the Lord and sets up a barrier between us. There is no one like the Lord.


"For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified." -Hebrews 10:14

If you've trusted Christ as your Savior, God has positionally made you holy. If you are saved, when God looks at you, a sinner saved by His grace through faith in Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection, He sees the righteousness of Christ. In His eyes, you are holy. You may draw near to God and He will draw near to you because of this positional holiness. Isaiah 57:15 says, "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." What a privilege to be considered to be completely holy by a holy God.

Yet we still sin. Practically we are still unholy human beings. Our flesh desires to fulfill its lusts. Our pride desires to exalt itself high above the throne of heaven. That is why God is making us holy. He is working in us. He will complete the work until the day of Jesus Christ. He will finish the job. And He expects us to do our part. The Holy Spirit commands through the words of the apostle Peter, "be holy in all your conduct". That means we need to put an effort forth. Do your best. Be holy. Positionally you are holy. Now go and work towards making it practical as well. Let God's holiness permeate your entire life and practice until it is complete and grown to full maturity. You will always have room for progress. God desires that from you.

"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse oursleves from al filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." -2 Corinthians 7:1

Sunday, February 12, 2012 on God's Faithfulness

On Wednesday I shared with you a verse from Psalm 37. Do you remember what it was? Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness. Well, let me tell you, that verse has been on our minds and hearts the last few days.

I shared that verse with you on Wednesday, in part to encourage myself with the whole job search thing. There were moments in the last few weeks that it has been difficult to trust in the Lord. Well, Wednesday I was offered a job. I was blown away. Thanks God for showing me Your faithfulness. I was satisfied with God's tremendous answer to my prayers.

Tonight during the service I shared that verse and the new job with the congregation at Belgrade Bible Church. Little did I know that God was not done showing me His faithfulness. After the service we had a fellowship supper, which on the second Sunday night of the month is routine for BBC. What I didn't realize was that the folks here at church came together and gathered groceries and cards for Alicia and me. All in all, our freezer is packed to the MAX, our kitchen table is covered with pantry-type foods (all gluten-free by the way) and our coffee table is covered with beautiful cards and gift cards from our church family. The gift-cards and cash totaled more than $700. Wow!

The Lord has shown us that when we feed on His faithfulness, it is not just eating the crumbs that fall from His table. It is a banquet feast, prepared with God's very best. I can't think of a more exhilarating way to live life than to trust in the Lord fully and do what you know He has called you to do. We rejoice this evening knowing full well that our God is a faithful God. When we put Jodie down for bed we pray that the Lord would help us to remember this day so we can tell Jodie and Kendra years down the road about how faithful our God is. Great is Thy Faithfulness! 

Book Review: Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons

By Thabiti M. Anyabwile
Published by Crossway
Copyright 2012

Its been some time since I've put up a book review. I'd like to tell you its because I've just been too busy to write about all the books I've been reading, but that is not the case. Because of our recent transition from Presque Isle to Belgrade, I've had to put much of my reading on the shelf. In the last couple of weeks I've been working hard at getting into a good routine for just about everything, including reading. So this is the first book I've finished since our move to Belgrade.

I'm working on reading all the 9marks books that have been put out. I got them all for a song from an email promotion I received, so they will probably be the bulk of the books I read for a while. This book is the newest in the 9marks series. For those of you who are not familiar with 9marks, I suggest you take some time and visit their website: They have helpful articles for pastors and parishioners alike and are seeking to strengthen the church through their ministry.

This book, written by Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, is a tremendous help in thinking through the biblical qualifications that we are given in the pastoral epistles regarding elders and deacons. Essentially, Thabiti takes each qualification and writes a short, thought-provoking chapter on each.

I like the style. I think it is easy to read and understand. It causes you to think beyond what is written here by asking some penetrating questions. It makes you evaluate your own church situation. At the same time, this book does not cover any one qualification exhaustively. I think that it is intended that way. The point is to spur you on towards more study and more thought.

I found the major weakness in this book to be that there is not much space devoted to discussing how the qualifications for elders and deacons interconnect. For example, the book does not discuss how being a one woman man and rules his own house well tie in together. Another case of this is the correlation between hospitable and not greedy for money. Again, I realize the book is not intended to be exhaustive, but it seems that at least some time should be given to discussing these things.

Overall, a good book. It is not too in-depth for even the newest of Christians, and it will serve as a valuable tool for any church in search of qualified elders and deacons.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Truths About The Living God - Jeremiah 10:10

Jeremiah 10:10

"But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king; at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation."

What do we learn about the living God?

This verse is pretty self explanatory, but just think about it. Our God is not like any human king. He is an everlasting king. He has always been King, and will always be King, over everything. He is the absolute authority. But remember, our God is not like any human king. Everything He does is perfect. There is no way to improve upon anything He does. He is always good, even when we may think otherwise. He always only does what is best, in light of eternity. Jehovah can do nothing wrong; He makes no mistakes.

Our King is deserving of all praise, honor, worship, sacrifice, and anything we can give Him. Does He need anything? No. But as we realize who He is, we should want to give Him all we have, recognizing that anything we have is His to begin with, even our lives. How ridiculous it is to withhold anything from the living God! Whether it be giving money to the Lord, or possessions, or giving our very lives to serve Him, there should be no desire to keep anything for ourselves. Stop living for yourself and "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1)

In the last half of the verse we see our Everlasting King's great might and power. You don't wanna mess with the Almighty King. If you're not with God, you're against Him, and that is a bad place to be. I think that much of the time we focus more on God's attributes such as love, mercy, grace, and all those things that seem "nice" to us. But we are wise to be mindful of God's holiness and justice as well. It is a serious thing to sin against the living God. We are in the age of grace, but "shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid." (Romans 6:1-2) Read the Old Testament and you will see the seriousness of sin, whether it pertain to the Israelites in the wilderness, or to the nations surrounding Israel later on. We may also examine the Scriptures as they relate to the Great Tribulation, the final outpouring of God's wrath and judgment upon the earth.

Jehovah is the true God, the living God, the everlasting King, and the Almighty.

"Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thanks for Praying!

I want to thank all of you who have prayed for me (Mark) and my family recently. Yesterday the Lord provided a second part-time job for me. It is a job that is flexible with my church schedule, and I get to work with a fellow-believer, who I am also doing a weekly Bible Study with. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! Keep praying that we would 'feed on His faithfulness!'

"I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me." -Psalm 13:6

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How To Get Everything You Want

"Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness." -Psalm 37:3

Perhaps one of the most memorized verses in Psalms is 37:4 - "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." I believe it is so popular because its a verse the tells us how to get what we want. That is appealing to our sinful hearts. Hey look here! A verse that tells me how to get what I want. Right? Not even close.

People, we must remember that verse 3 comes before verse 4.

First of all, trust in the Lord. Trust Him. Let Him guide you. Don't trust yourself. Don't trust your job. Don't trust your parent's faith. Trust in the Lord. All too often we are guilty of placing our trust in something other than God. We trust our own abilities or our bank accounts. Undoubtedly, we will find that these things fail. But if we trust in the Lord, we will find that He never fails.

Secondly, do good. Don't just trust the Lord, act upon it. Do the things that He has called you to do. God has prepared good works for you to walk in. Don't do evil. Don't give in to your flesh. Do good.

Third, dwell in the land. God has you where you are for a reason. Have you found it? Don't get impatient to go somewhere else to do those good things God wants you to do. Do good right where you are. Minister to the people around you. If you stop and look, those around you need the Lord maybe more than you even realize.

Fourth and last, feed on His faithfulness. God has prepared a banquet table before you. Everyday the table is set afresh and anew. Everyday the main course is set before you--His faithfulness. Did you know that you can live on God's faithfulness? Did you know that His faithfulness is the one thing you need to live? Think about it. His faithfulness gives you breath each moment of the day. His faithfulness provides the food, clothing, and shelter that you need. His faithfulness has placed you where you are. His faithfulness has given you the family that you have. His faithfulness is all you need.

Now read verse 4: "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." 

Feasting at the table of God's faithfulness is a delight, isn't it? I can't help but think of the joy that comes from the Lord providing our needs at precisely the right time. Have you experienced that? Have you ever been in a situation where things seemed impossible, but God provided at precisely the right time? It is a delight to live by faith. It is good and desirable to delight yourself in the Lord. Enjoy Him. Enjoy His faithfulness.

Did you know that your desires are controlled by your appetite? If you feast on sin and indulge yourself with selfishness, your desires will be selfish and sinful. But if you feast on the faithfulness of God and delight in Him, your desires will be holy and pure, just as He is. God wants good, faithful things for you. Feast on His faithfulness and He will give those things to you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Good News...and a Bad Response

"But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them." -Acts 5:29-33

At this point in the book of Acts the church is well established. Christianity is rapidly spreading through the region. The apostles are faithfully preaching Christ and giving testimony to salvation in His name. Peter is the main spokesman for the group. The apostles are beginning to encounter persecution. Here they are on trial before the officers and high priest.

As they stand before this council, the apostles boldly proclaim the gospel. This morning as I read this, it struck me that the gospel is such good news. Look at what the apostles preach. God has exalted Jesus to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel, despite the fact that they had murdered Jesus. God also gave the Holy Spirit to all who would obey Him. What great news! Jesus is alive and actively granting repentance and forgiveness of sins.

Yet this good news does not fall on believing ears here. The council heard this and became furious. They began to plot murder for the apostles, just as they had plotted to kill Jesus. They heard the good news but chose a bad response.

Don't follow the example or pattern of this council. Listen to who Jesus is and what He is doing. Examine just how good the good news of the Gospel really is. Jesus can grant you repentance and forgiveness of sins. On top of that, for the obedience of faith, God will give you the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of His salvation. Trust in Christ to save you.

Believer, keep trusting Christ. Keep turning from your sins. Confess them to Jesus and He will graciously forgive you. Now go out and boldly proclaim this gospel message. We are His witnesses!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Take Good Courage

"Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD." -Psalm 31:23-24

How is your courage today? That may seem like a strange question. I thought it was strange for a while. My mom used to ask that question while us kids were at Bible School. I never knew how to answer, other than saying, 'its fine mom.' I knew that would get me off the hook. Since those Bible school days, I have learned what she meant. It is verses like these here in Psalms that showed me the truth behind mom's question.

Many times we meander through the events of the day just accepting what happens as it comes. There is no anticipation involved or hope that the Lord will miraculously bring you through the difficult moments. That is not living with courage. There are other days when we live trusting our own strength. We feel strong and independent. We don't really face anything difficult, so our perception of ourselves becomes inflated because of our "grand victories". But this is not living with courage.

And then there are days when we feel so helpless and alone. Our trials overwhelm us. Family and friends seemingly desert us. It seems that the day will never end and we will never make it through victorious. It is at these moments that we cry out to the Lord for strength and courage. We must realize that each day is a day that we must trust in the Lord. It takes courage to do that. It takes faith in God's promises to walk through each day.

God wants us to live with courage--good courage. He desires that we love Him and trust in His promise to preserve the faithful. He wants us to live with hope and eagerly wait for Him to strengthen your heart when you are weak. So take good courage. Trust in the Lord. Wait for Him and you will not be disappointed by Him.

All those times that mom would ask that seemingly strange question make sense now. She was just wondering if us kids were facing the day with our trust in the Lord or our trust in something else. She wanted to know if we believed God's promises and eagerly hoped in Him for strength. So let me ask you again: How is your courage today?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Family Update

We know that many of you have been praying for Alicia and I in the last couple months. We have made the move to Belgrade, ME and I have been called by Belgrade Bible Church to work part-time as their assistant pastor. It has been a jam-packed month! We've been working on painting some of our apartment and getting the trailer ready to be rented. Over-all we are settling in nicely and have felt very welcomed by the folks at our new church home. We do miss our State Street family terribly though.

Alicia has been seeing a hematologist in Augusta regarding the blood-clot issues she had in her leg. We found out that she has a genetic predisposition to clotting. The doctor isn't too worried about it, but did say that we should take some precautions for the future. She will be on coumadin for another few weeks.

I'm still looking for part-time work in the Waterville or Augusta area. Please pray that the Lord will open the door at the right place of employment.

Thanks for your prayers and God bless!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Truths About The Living God - Psalm 84:2

Psalm 84:2

“My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”

What do we learn about the living God?

What does your soul long for? What do you desire above all things? Is it things of this life? Earthly treasures? Things that really will not matter to eternity? Or maybe you have a legitimate desire to serve God in some way.

Even the last mentioned thing may become a wrong desire.  Life can become very busy, especially as a Christian serving the Lord. We need not to be caught up in the matters of life. Instead, we should say, as David said, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.” We must always return to the basics of having an intimate, loving relationship with our God. Our primary desire, always, should be simple communion with God.

In the second half of this verse, the psalmist literally says, “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Do you find joy in your God, in the one and only living God? Knowing your God should fill you with joy, and make you want to praise Him! There are so many reasons to praise God. Spend some time right now praising the living God for a variety of things. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Like Precious Faith

1.29.2012 - Belgrade Bible Church – AM Service

J. Vernon McGee –
“Second Peter is the swan song of Peter, just as 2 Timothy is the swan song of Paul. There are striking similarities between the two books. Both epistles put up a warning sign along the pilgrim pathway the church is traveling to identify the awful apostasy that was on the way at that time and which in our time has now arrived. What was then like a cloud the size of a man’s hand today envelops the sky and produces a storm of hurricane proportions. Peter warns of heresy among teachers; Paul warns of heresy among the laity.

Both Peter and Paul speak in a joyful manner of their approaching deaths. Paul said that he knew that the time of his departure had come. He had finished his course. He had been on the racetrack of life, and now he was leaving it. He had fought a good fight, and he had kept the faith. A crown of righteousness was laid up for him. You will find that same triumphant note here in 2 Peter as Peter also faced the prospect of death.

Both apostles anchor the church on the Scriptures, on the Word of God, as the only defense against the coming storm of apostasy.”

It is a good idea to try and outline books of the Bible for memory’s sake. 2nd Peter has a very simple outline that makes the book easy to remember. Each of the three chapters in 2nd Peter covers a different topic. In chapter one, Peter gives us Foundational Truths. In Chapter two, Peter warns of False Teachers. In chapter three, Peter discusses Future Things. These three titles will help you remember what is in this great letter from Peter.

“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” -2 Peter 1:1
Who is the writer? “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ”

“Simon Peter” - The name Simon was given to him at birth, Peter is the name given to him by Jesus.

Why did Peter choose to introduce himself as ‘Simon Peter’ instead of just ‘Peter’ as he did in his first epistle?

1. The name ‘Simon’ marked some key failures in Peter’s life – (i.e. Luke 22:31-34 – Jesus predicts Peter’s denial; John 21 - Jesus asking if Peter loved Jesus.) Peter could have used both names to indicate the change that had taken place in his life. It is as if he is saying, “This is who I was before, and this is who Jesus helped me become.”

2. Simon Peter used both names to clearly indicate who wrote the book. This would make it harder for false teachers (against whom the book is written) to discredit what is taught here.

“a bondservant” – doulos – Thayer’s Greek Definitions tells us that doulos means “a slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men, one devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.” What a rich meaning! Peter first identifies himself as a slave. He shows not only his humility and subservience, but also shows to us who his master is. He is slave of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior (v. 1), our Lord (v. 2). Take a look at Exodus 21:2-6 for a description of what exactly a ‘bondservant’ is. The bondservant was a slave who had the option to go free but chose to stay. He loved his master and desired to serve him forever. He was a willing slave.

“The following story is to illustrate the attitude of a willing slave. The incident took place at a slave auction in the Southland during the days of slavery. A fine looking young man was placed on the block for sale. Among the interested bidders was an Englishman who outbid a number of other interested buyers. When the deal was finally consummated, the young slave chided his purchaser for buying a slave when slavery was already abolished in England. To the young man’s chiding the purchaser replied: ‘I have bought you to set you free.’ Overcome with emotion, the slave said: ‘Sir, I will be your willing slave forever.’”
Peter has the same attitude as King David. Psalm 116:16 – “O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds.” Jesus had done so much for Peter. He chose Peter, taught him, rebuked him, and worked with Peter to make him into the solid-rock type man that Jesus would use to proclaim salvation to so many. Peter learned what Jesus taught the disciples in Mark 10:43-44. They must become slaves if they were to follow Christ’s example.

This attitude of a bondservant is not specific to Peter. Other NT writers also considered themselves slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans – Paul a bondservant of Jesus Christ, Philippians – Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, Titus – Paul, a bondservant of God, James – James a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, II Peter – Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, Jude – Jude a bondservant of Jesus Christ. These epistles all begin with the declaration of slavery to the Lord.

“and apostle” – apostolos – means ‘messenger’ or ‘ambassador’. More specifically, here it is in reference to those few men who were hand-picked by the Lord Jesus. The book of Acts shows us the that the word Peter uses here is not just a generic term for messenger.

Acts 1:1-3 – “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Acts 1:21, 24-26 – ‘“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who knows the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.’

Who is Simon Peter writing to: “to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”

“like precious” – literally means ‘of equal value or honor’. This faith produces the same precious effects in the apostle and in the Christian.

How is that faith obtained? By the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:18-21 – Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

APPLICATION: Let’s Make a Connection

The reality of Peter’s faith is that he was a slave of Jesus Christ. He had given himself up to be subservient to the will of Jesus Christ. He had committed his service to extend and advance the cause of Jesus among men. And he had devoted his life to Jesus at the disregard of his own interests. He was a slave of Jesus Christ.

Peter’s second epistle is written to those who have obtained like precious faith—to those who hold their faith of equal value or equal honor. The people that Peter is writing to understand that their lives have been given to the service of Jesus. Their sole purpose had become the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They could be described as devoted to Jesus at the disregard of their own interests. They were slaves of Jesus Christ.

The words of Paul echo throughout these thoughts:

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 2:8-10 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Philippians 1:21 – For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

This is not extra-ordinary Christianity, it is ordinary Christianity. Peter, and those to whom he writes, are not Super-Christians, they are normal Christians.

It is time to evaluate your faith. II Corinthians 13:5 tells us to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith.

Some piercing questions:

Have I given myself up to be subservient to the Lord Jesus Christ?

Have I given my service to extend and advance the cause of Jesus to the ends of the world?

Have I devoted my life to Christ at the disregard of my own life?

Why have I not lived my life this way?

What changes must I make in my life to live my life this way?

Men for God - Session 4

Gary Stairs
"Long-Haul Men" - Destination

There is nothing special about us that ensures we will arrive at our destination the way God wants us to. The long haul is still in front of us and God wants us to FINISH WELL. God never fails! He can help us to finish well.

Philippians 4:7-

The Peace of God that passes all understanding comes when we think on these things. Meditate on those things. Those are the things that bring the peace of God.

What you have learned, received, heard, seen in me...DO! The doing is where we often get tripped up. Put into practice what you already know.

"For I have learned..." There is a process to becoming what God wants us to be. Paul knew how because he had been through the midnight hours. You have to learn the long-haul. Take heart--God never intended this to be instantaneous.

4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Has Satan won this day, month, year, circumstance, reaction, pride, relationship with your wife, kids, church?
It takes time to become like God wants you to be!

1. Be Thankful - Philippians 1:3-8 (Past) - Be thankful for every remembrance of everyone. (the jail in Philippi, beatings, midnight hour) God help me get to the place where I am thankful for EVERYTHING.

2. Be Prayerful - Philippians 1:9-11 - (Present) - that love will GROW in knowledge and discernment. Not a puppy-love but a DEEP LOVE.

If we don't learn to make sound, biblical choices, we are IN TROUBLE. We need to make excellent choices. All of us are only 1 bad choice away from a ruined life. (Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world) This is why Paul prays. This is why we pray for our kids. This is why we pray for our wives. Don't just pray it...DO IT...LIVE IT.

3. Be Purposeful - Philippians 1:20 (future) - Be biblically focused in our relationships. I don't want to be ashamed before God. I want CHRIST TO BE MAGNIFIED in me.

Allow God to do it in you. Obey His leading.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Men for God

Wrapped up the conference this afternoon. We're headed back to Maine. I'll put up the final message notes tonight. What a great time in the Word of God!

Men for God - Session 3

Gary Stairs - "Long-haul Men"


Remember, the 'long-haul life' is not a sprint, but a marathon. It is a journey, and often journeys have Detours and Delays. They don't happen on our time-schedule.

Acts 16 - 2nd missionary journey

v. 1-5 - Great results. God is blessing. They increased in number daily.

v. 6-7 - Stopped in their tracks. The Holy Spirit said 'no.'


Paul had to submit to God's delay, but not quit. The delay made no human sense.

v. 8 - They listened to God

v. 9-10 - A vision appeared. God re-directed them and opened an incredible challenge because they chose to submit and remained committed to the long-haul.

v. 22-24 - Beaten and imprisoned - DELAYED

v. 25 - They kept on going. In the midst of a Midnight Experience, they persevered. Often in the midnight we find crisis, conspiracy, and confusion. Make the choice to keep going on. You can't understand what God is doing in the midnight, but you can make that choice to rejoice. The prisoners heard them.


v. 27-28 - People around us are also in a midnight hour. The jailer is at the point of death. Much like the teens in our culture, this jailer had given up hope and is at the point of suicide. Paul and Silas intervened because a life is on the line. They could have not said anything. The man that caused their DELAY was now vulnerable before them. They chose to intervene.


God has placed you where you are to answer this question for those around you. "Long-haul living" requires making choices. Make the right choices. Make the choice to submit and not quit. Make the choice to rejoice. And make the choice to intervene.

Allow God to lead you. Obey His promptings. 

Men for God - Session 2

Day two of the Men's Rally here at NBBI. I'm convinced that there is nothing quite like 300 men singing praises to our God. It is incredibly moving to listen to. What a great day that will be when we can all sing with one voice in heaven.

Gary Stairs
"Long-haul Men" - Tracking

Don't over complicate God's will. God's will is that we BE SAVED, then live life to the fullest UNDER HIS DIRECTION.

God's tracking system will never fail. It will never lead you down the wrong road.

You cannot know the will of God apart from the Word of God (the infallible tracking system).

Psalm 139 - We are not being asked to follow a fallible, man-made plan.

V. 1-6 - God is perfect in His knowledge. Totally complete. Socrates: "know thyself". God: "know the One who knows everything about you."

V. 7-12 - God is perfect in His Presence. He is always there to provide course corrections for "long-haul living".

V. 13-16 - God is perfect in His control. Let the one who knows what He is doing be in control.

V. 17-18 - God is perfect in His love. He takes care of us. We are never off His mind.

V. 23-24 - "lead me"- Perfect Submission to God's tracking system.

Allow God to lead. Obey His promptings.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Men for God - Session 1

I'm at the Men for God rally at NBBI today and tomorrow. So I'll be posting what notes I take down.

Gary Stairs
"Long-haul Living"

It's a marathon, not a sprint.
We want our lives to make a difference.

PAUL - Acts 26

You get to know a man by knowing his testimony.

V. 9 - Paul was religious, sincere, he wanted to make a difference, he was serious, admired, strict, he wanted to do many things...CONTRARY to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a life of FRUSTRATION and NO PEACE. (contrary - Matt. The disciples on the sea, the wind and waves were CONTRARY to the boat.)

V. 12 - The road to Damascas. Jesus speaks to Paul. God got Paul's attention. GOD CAN GET OUR ATTENTION. He put Paul in the dirt. It was a personal message. Only Paul heard the message.

V. 16 - "Stand up" God brought Paul from Pride to Humility. "I will make you a minister and a witness" (only through God's Power) God gave Paul PURPOSE.

The Purpose of long-haul living - "minister and witness"

The Plan of long-haul living - what God will reveal

We don't know all the plan, but God reveals it one step at a time. "You're going to have to trust Me."

At the end of a long-haul life, look back and say WOW WHAT A LIFE!

V. 17 - The Promise - "I will deliver you" - With God's promise we can trust in God in even the most difficult steps.

V. 19 - Paul was obedient

V. 22 - Paul endured and continued because of God's faithfulness. With His help we can enjoy living His way--the Long-haul life.

Allow God to work. Let Him get your attention. Obey what He reveals.

I believe that you can listen to the messages to the Men for God rally at

Speak Carefully

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him." -Proverbs 26:4

In keeping with posts of late, today also has to do with proper, ethical speech. Solomon encourages us not to answer a fool according to his foolishness. All I can think of at the moment is how our culture presses us in the exact opposite way. Society would have us believe that if we do not answer an argument in a quick, witty way we are foolish and unwise. This could not be further from the truth.

When presented with an argument or a foolish matter, Solomon tells us that it is best not to answer. Now, some matters require a response, but keep in mind that your response does not need to be immediate, and it certainly does not have to be according to the foolishness of the fool. Choose your words carefully and speak on your own terms, not on his.

We are also told here what will happen if you do not pay attention to this proverb. You will become like the fool. By answering quickly, rashly, and abruptly you will have become a fool yourself. I can't think of better encouragement to heed this proverb. In essence, Solomon says if you want to be considered wise, do not answer a fool according to his folly.

Think about it for a moment. Are you becoming like the fools that you answer? Are you being pulled into the trap of foolish words? Be careful how you speak. Do not become a fool by answering him, even when you just want to keep him quiet. Let the Holy Spirit guide your tongue and only speak (1) the truth, (2) appropriately, and (3) carefully.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Speak Appropriately

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." -Proverbs 25:11

Do you ever read proverbs like this one and wonder what it means? The other day we looked at a proverb that warned us of the consequences of lying. Today we're going to look at a proverb that encourages us to speak appropriately. Let's break this one down for a moment. The topic in this short proverb is 'a word fitly spoken'. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this phrase as, "a word spoken at the right time". I think that conveys the idea of the text well. Solomon is describing appropriate speech.

A word spoken at the right time is like apples of gold. Both the fruit and the material are desirable things. Apples are sweet to the taste and pleasant to look at. Gold is a precious metal that is desired by many. A word spoken at the right time is as desirable as apples of gold. All who hear it will feel fulfilled and pleased. A word fitly spoken will be enjoyed by all who hear and considered as valuable.

Solomon goes on in his description of fitting words. Not only are they like apples of gold, he describes them as being 'in settings of silver.' I can't help but think that if I had something as valuable as an apple of gold I would not put it on a plain wood table or alone on some bookshelf. Something as valuable as that deserves to be placed in a valuable, beautiful setting of silver. An appropriate word will not only be pleasant to the ears, it will be spoken in the right setting.

Often, we commit to speaking the truth, but we fail to speak the truth at the right time. The truth can do a lot of damage if it isn't spoken and applied in the right situation. Let me ask you, are your words appropriate? Are they valuable and pleasing to those who hear? And are they spoken in the right setting? Commit to not only speaking truthful words, but also speaking truthful, appropriate words. Honor God with your speech and seek to build others up, imparting to grace to those who hear.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." -Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Valley of Vision - Resurrection


Great was the joy of Israel's sons,
   when Egypt died upon the shore,
   Far greater the joy
   when the Redeemer's foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
   conquering of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
   tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives forever.
He, my gracious surety,
   apprehended for payment of my debt,
   comes forth from the prison house of the grave
   free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
   that the claims of justice are satisfied,
   that the devil's sceptre is shivered,
   that his wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
   in him I rose,
   in his life I live, in his victory I triumph,
   in his ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer,
   thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
   art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as Man of sorrows
   wast crowned with thorns,
   art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than thine,
   no agony more bitter,
   no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
   no life more glorious,
   no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive
   thine enemies behind thee.
What more could be done than thou hast done!
   Thy death is my life,
   thy resurrection my peace,
   thy ascension my hope,
   thy prayers my comfort.

The Valley of Vision, p. 86-87, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Speak the Truth

"A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape." -Proverbs 19:5

I've been meaning to write this post a few days. I've finally found a few minutes to get it done.

Often the temptation for us to lie is strong. Let's face it, sometimes it is easy to just expand the facts of a story just a bit, or to cover up a mistake that we've made, or to take the credit for something we have not done. It is easy to lie. It is natural to us to speak falsehoods. Psalms 58 tells us that men go forth from the womb speaking lies. Since we have so many years of practice doing it, many times we don't even notice that we have lied.

I want to challenge you and I to stop lying. Put it away. Crucify the flesh and its passions daily. This little verse in Proverbs serves as a warning to us if we do not put away lying. Yes, lying may bring you temporary benefits, but God Almighty is listening. His Word says that he who speaks lies will escape. Put away lying. Avoid the sure punishment that will come.

How do we avoid the punishment? Speak the truth. Ephesians 4:25 says, "Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another." It would be a difficult thing to just drop lying. It is much easier to replace a sinful habit with a righteous one. So stop lying and speak the truth. Build your neighbor up with your words.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Truths About The Living God - Psalm 42:2

Psalm 42:2

"My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?"

What do we learn about the living God?

Think of a day in your life when it was extremely hot outside, and you were working or playing hard in the blazing sun. Perhaps you were running a marathon, or playing an indoor sport. I don't know. When you were done doing whatever it was you were doing, what did you do? I'm going to guess that you were thirsty, and that you got something to drink. That would be the logical thing wouldn't it? Remember that awful feeling of thirst? Your mouth was all dry and pasty, and hardly able to swallow anything. You would just about give anything for some water, or anything to cool you down.

Does your soul feel that way about God? Do you desire nothing more than to be in God's presence, and to experience a close relationship with Him? Do you want to be filled with Him? Jesus said in John 7:38, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."

Now think of when you got your drink. I bet you didn't just sip it a little at a time. You probably chugged it down and possibly dumped some of it on your face, but it felt great didn't it? Oh and you probably didn't stop with just a couple swallows.

This is the way it should be in our relationship with God. You should always have that thirst for the living God, and when you are in His presence, you should be satisfied, refreshed, and renewed. If you don't thirst for the living God, chances are, you're filling yourself with other junk. Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:13, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Only God can fill that thirst that you have. Dwell in His presence, and always be thirsty for God. Only He can satisfy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Valley of Vision - Reconciliation


Thou art beforehand with men
   for thou has reconciled thyself to the world through the cross,
   and dost beseech men to accept reconciliation.
It is my responsibility to grasp thy overtures of grace,
   for if thou, the offended part, act first with the word of appeasement,
   I need not call in question thy willingness to save,
   but must deplore my own foolish maliciousness;
If I do not come to thee as one who seeks thy favour,
   I live in contempt, anger, malice, self-sufficiency, and
   thou dost call it enmity.
Thou hast taught me the necessity of a Mediator, a Messiah,
   to be embraced in love with all my heart,
     as king to rule me,
     as prophet to guide me,
     as priest to take away my sin and death,
   and this by faith in thy beloved Son who teaches me
   not to guide myself,
   not to obey myself,
   not to try to rule and conquer sin,
   but to cleave to the one who will do all for me.
Thou has make known to me
   that to save me is Christ’s work,
   but to cleave to him by faith is my work,
   and with this faith is the necessity of my daily repentance
   as a mourning for the sin which Christ by grace has removed.
Continue, O God, to teach me
   that faith apprehends Christ’s righteousness
   not only for the satisfaction of justice,
   but as unspotted evidence of thy love to me.
Help me to make use of his work of salvation as the ground of peace
   and of thy favour to, and acceptance of me the sinner,
   so that I may live always near the cross.

The Valley of Vision, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 28:18-20

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to then end of the age." Amen." -Matthew 28:18-20

To whom is this command spoken?

This command is spoken to the disciples that had gathered in Galilee on the mountain that Jesus had appointed.

What does this command require?

Go and make disciples of all the nations by baptizing of them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and by teaching them to observe all things that Jesus had commanded.

What truths do we learn through this command?

Let's just break this down by the various phrases of these verses.

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the Master. There is no one who has authority over Him. Surely this is a reason to obey Him. Keep in mind that Jesus begins this final command by appealing to His authority. He is God.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the command. Is the command 'Go' or is the command 'make disciples'? In the Greek, the imperative in this phrase is 'make disciples.' What we have translated as 'Go' literally means as you are going. Some use this knowledge to excuse their disobedience. Jesus doesn't excuse not going, but rather He assumes that His disciples will go as a part of their disciple-making. Going is essential to making disciples of all nations. The only way that Jesus disciples would reach some from all nations is going.

What does it mean to make a disciple? The word disciple literally means learner. So disciple-making innately involves making learners of Jesus. I believe that all of Jesus' disciples are to be life-long learners. Learners never stop learning. Learners keep studying and keep obeying Jesus until they meat Jesus face to face.

Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a matter of obedience, not preference. Jesus commands it as part of making disciples. As a disciples of Christ, you must be baptized. There is much truth here regarding the doctrine of the Trinity. Notice that Jesus says that there is one name, yet three persons. Three in one, one in three, oh what perfect tri-unity.

Teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded. This phrase is why we began this study in the first place. In order to teach all that Jesus commanded, you must know what Jesus commanded. Read through the Gospels and search for the commands of Christ. Seek them not just for knowledge but also for obedience. Put into practice that which you seek to teach. Follow all of Christ's commands, not just some of them.

What are the blessings of obedience and the consequences for disobedience?

Reaching the lost and seeing disciples grow into disciple-makers are two of the blessings of obedience. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing one of your own learners seek someone out to teach themselves. This honors God and brings Him glory.

Disobedience to this command results in failing to reach the world for Christ.

Disciples, seek to be obedient to your Master. Honor Him by making disciples of all the nations. By the way, He will be with you always, even to the end of the age.

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 28:9-10

"And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feed and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." -Matthew 28:9-10

To whom is this command spoken?

Mary and Mary Magdalene (v. 1)

What does this command require?

Rejoice! Do not be afraid. Go and tell [the disciples] to go to Galilee.

What truths do we learn here?

This is Jesus first appearance after His resurrection. Mary and Mary Magdalene came to see the tomb where Jesus was laid. There they saw an angel of the Lord and heard him declare that Jesus had risen from the dead. As they were on their way back to tell the disciples, Jesus met them and said, "Rejoice!" What a happy, joyous occasion this is! Jesus is alive. Rejoice! The women fell at His feet and worshiped Him. They were overjoyed at this awesome event.

Jesus then gives them instructions. First, He says to them, "Do not be afraid." Certainly that would have been a possibility, after all, Jesus was beaten and crucified just three days earlier. There is no reason to fear, however. Jesus is alive and in the flesh. He appeared to the women in bodily form, not as a spirit or as a ghost. The women were able to hold Him by the feet.

Secondly, Jesus says to these two women, "Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." I find this intriguing because Jesus was there on the road to the tomb. Why couldn't the disciples have met Him on that same road? Whatever the reasoning, Jesus commands these two women to give a specific message to the disciples.

Mary and Mary Magdalene were obedient to Jesus. Later in this chapter we find the disciples gathering in Galilee on the mountain that Jesus had appointed. Tomorrow we will look at the final command in the book of Matthew, the Great Commission.

What are the blessings of obedience?

Because the women were obedient and gave the disciples the message that Jesus spoke to them, the disciples then went to Galilee where Jesus appeared to them to give them the Great Commission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Living Godly in Christ Jesus

The other day I was going through my Bible reading plan, and read 2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 12, which says,

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

This sentence has stuck in my head. When I read this verse, I can't help but ask, am I really living godly in Christ Jesus? In North America we really don't suffer very much. You have to wonder why. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." This is a promise. If we are really living godly lives, the way we are intended to live, we are going to suffer persecution. If you're not suffering, examine your own life and see why. We can never be too holy, despite what some people may think. We must press on towards the goal, which is holiness.

The disciples and Christians that we read about in the book of Acts suffered. Why? Because they were completely obedient to Jesus' commands. He said preach the gospel. They preached the gospel, and they suffered for it. Think about this today. If you're not suffering persecution, it's possible that you're not living the godly life you should be.