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Profitable Bible Reading

Profitable Bible Reading

Profitable Bible Reading
Recently, I read a book about profitable Bible reading in which the author suggested, when you read the Scriptures, “Endeavor to learn something new from every verse before you leave it.”
Really?
Ok.
In other words, make it my aim to discover something new from every verse I read? And stay right there in my reading until I can find something new?
Well, that sounds like a sure-fire way to get stuck. With that approach, I’ll be at a lasting standstill for most of my Bible reading from now on. I know the author means well and wants us to get maximum profit from our Bible reading, and not read casually or inattentively. But I think this suggestion is quite a bit over the top.
I must say, let’s get real here. For one, after you’ve been a believer for a few years, most days it’s going to be rare that you discover something new even in each chapter you read. You may wear yourself out making the effort, but the fact is, you’ve become pretty familiar with a lot of the Scriptures and may not be at all able to spot something new.
I’ll even go so far as to say, if you do find something fresh in every verse you read, well … I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re not reading it right. With that approach, chances are, you’ll be making stuff up. If you can find something new in every verse, your imagination is getting carried away and you’ll be seeing what really isn’t there.
May I suggest a few sounder, more realistic goals about what to aim for in Bible reading? A lot more could be said, of course, but my purpose is to state a few goals that are in contrast with the idea that somehow a Bible reader needs to find something new or fresh in every verse he reads. Or that it’s even of benefit to your soul to try. No — how about these goals instead:

1) Ask the Lord to show you what you need for today

That’s really more of your need than to see something fresh or new. Why, even if you do find something fresh in a verse that you didn’t see before, how long is that going to stay with you anyway? You know. It’ll slip out of your head in no time. Probably before the day is done.
But the Spirit of God is probably not really interested in enlarging your storehouse of Bible knowledge. He is interested in equipping you for a holy walk with God – today. Ask Him to show you how to walk with Him today. After all, as Jesus said in another context, “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Each of your days has needs of its own, that the Lord knows are coming. Ask Him to prepare you by your reading.

2) Ask the Lord to feed you

If a man’s wife cooks him a meal with healthy, nutritious, and tasty foods, is it really important to him whether anything in the meal is new? Isn’t he glad and thankful to have this food again, even if it’s something he’s eaten a hundred times before? And he enjoys it. Again. It may even be a favorite. Much like singing a hymn that you’ve sung a hundred times before, and you love it every time. You need not concern yourself with newness in what you digest from the Word – look to the Lord to feed and nourish you. That’s more of what you need.

3) Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you — again

If you’re a saved individual, the Spirit of God has already revealed Jesus to you. But what do you need more than to keep seeing Christ? Even if it’s features about Him that you have seen before. So what? You need to see Jesus again and worship Him again. The Spirit seeks to glorify Christ, we’re told in the gospel of John. Even the things you know about Jesus, you haven’t seen sufficient glory in those beautiful, wondrous features of Him. Ask Him to show you Jesus, again and again.

4) Ask the Lord to show you something in the Scriptures that you can serve others with today

Something that will help you be a blessing to others. Some light with which you can encourage other believers today. Or something that will provoke you to pray for people in need today. Or something that will help you be more effective in bringing the gospel to unconverted people you will meet, today. Again, this is a much more worthwhile goal than “show me something new I’ve never seen before.” How about, make me a useful instrument of love to others? As Jesus said, to love our neighbor, “This is the Law and the prophets.”

Wait on the Lord to Shape Your Life with His Word

We all know that you’ll have occasions that you read the Word and none of the above will happen. You won’t experience any noticeable, felt edification at the moment. But you know that it’s still been worth your while to read and meditate on the Word. Often the effects and use of a reading are only consciously realized later.
When you’re reading and none of these benefits seem to be coming, you know what? Wait on the Lord to shape your life with His Word at the time of His choosing. And if you have time, keep reading until you have been fed. Years ago, I heard a young, new disciple say “I overcame this idea of getting my Bible reading done and then being satisfied that I did it, by taking a different approach. Now I keep reading until I don’t want to stop.” Not limiting yourself to the chapter numbers on a Bible reading plan or schedule. How about not quitting until you get something nourishing? Be like Jacob, refusing to go away until He blesses you.
Sure, there will be days that won’t work. You won’t have time to keep on reading. You have to get to work. The duties of the day press in on you. In that case, give thanks that you’ve been able to read the Word and know that God will produce fruit from the Word in your life, according to His will and in His time.

So, while more could be said, this is probably enough … for today.

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John Lennon’s Plea for Help and God’s Merciful Provision

 

John Lennon's Plea for Help and God's Merciful Provision

(published with permission)

John Lennon’s Plea for Help and God’s Merciful Provision

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) not just anybody
(Help) you know I need someone
(Help)

Recently I wrote about Paul McCartney. It seems only fitting that I write about his songwriting partner John Lennon as well.

In March 1965, only a year after the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Lennon wrote the #1 hit “Help!” McCartney was called in at the end to help with the countermelody but the song and lyrics were pure John Lennon. “Help!” spent three weeks atop both the US and UK pop charts and was the title song for the 1965 Beatles movie “Help!”

In a 1970 interview with “Rolling Stone” magazine, Lennon said he felt that “Help!” was ”among his most honest, genuine Beatles songs.” Writer Ian MacDonald described the song as “the first crack in the protective shell Lennon had built around his emotions during the Beatles’ rise to fame.”

Lennon had more to say about “Help!” in another interview but I’ll save that for later. First a personal memory.

Sometime in the early 1990’s I was walking through an upscale Kansas City mall and wandered into an autograph store. The store featured authenticated autographs of people like Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Einstein, Edison, Churchill and more. Each autograph was meticulously framed with some sort of letter establishing the provenance of the signature. Some were just a simple signed check or receipt yet the prices soared into the tens of thousands of dollars.

One document, in particular, caught my attention. It was the enormous, flowing, scrawl of John Lennon on a brief handwritten letter above his signature on Apple Records letterhead. A neatly type-written letter was framed next to it, explaining the story behind the letter. The explanatory letter was written by a college student at the University of Kansas. He explained that as a Christian, he was worried about John Lennon’s soul and had written him a brief letter in which he referred to Lennon as “brother” and briefly explained the gospel and encouraged him to consider asking Jesus to be his savior. The handwritten letter before me was Lennon’s angry response.

Of course, I’m paraphrasing from a memory more than 25 years ago, but Lennon’s response was terse: “First off, don’t ever call me brother. I’m not your brother and I don’t need a savior so you can keep your Jesus.” Those few words filled an entire page and Lennon ended the letter with a bold signature.

I was fascinated from a historical point of view, but perhaps more importantly as a Christian. Here was clear evidence that someone had explained God’s plan of salvation to Lennon and that it had been emphatically rejected.

“When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone I’m not so self-assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh-so-many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I never done before.”

During a 1980 interview, Lennon recalled writing “Help!” saying “the whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help.”

During the 15 years between the writing of “Help!” and that interview, Lennon had tried every imaginable avenue to find peace and meaning in this world from eastern mysticism to drugs and everything in between but without success.

And now, back to that framed, handwritten letter.

As I stood staring at Lennon’s letter the date leaped off the page. Lennon had written the letter in December 1980. I don’t recall the exact date, but it was no more than a week before he was shot to death by Mark David Chapman while walking home to his apartment from the recording studio with his wife Yoko Ono late one evening in New York.

God had mercifully thrown John Lennon a lifeline in the final days of his life but Lennon had angrily rejected true Peace and true Love in a furiously written response. It shocked me that Lennon felt so strongly about it that he sent a handwritten letter to a young college student. Why wouldn’t he just throw the offending letter away? Why bother to respond? My guess is that God wanted written evidence that His Mercy had been offered… and firmly rejected. Somewhere, someone owns that letter which stands forever as proof of God’s Mercy.

In Luke 12:20 Jesus says these words: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

I’ve lost several friends to sudden heart attacks and grinding automobile accidents. None of us knows when this life will come to an end and we will stand face-to-face with eternity and the One who created us.

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) not just anybody
(Help) you know I need someone
(Help)

©2019 Steve Lambert

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Free Bible Reading Plan

Bible Reading Plan

Grace & Truth _ Bible Reading Schedule from Grace & Truth Books, written by Dennis Gundersen.

 

This Bible reading plan is designed with several original and unique features:

 

  • Rather than work consecutively through the entire Bible, start to finish, this schedule mingles readings in both Old and New Testaments at all times, providing daily time in each Testament.
  • It takes the reader through the Old Testament once/year, the Psalms twice/year, but the New Testament four times/year.  This is purposeful: to give a Christian a richer acquaintance with the gospels and letters written for believers, since the coming of Christ.  We who believe are members of  the New Covenant!  We ought to be frequently reading through the books of the New Covenant.
  • Almost every day, this schedule keeps the reader in one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or  John).  This is based on the conviction that constant exposure to the teachings of our Lord Jesus is vital to spiritual health.
  • The schedule’s pace slows down during the summer months, and in December as well, to make allowance for heavier demands on families and travel schedules.  It also includes “catch-up” days, in the event that you slip behind.  The “catch-up” dates are frequently arranged in connection with holidays and other busy times.
  • The Old Testament contains 929 chapters.  So, the reader is taken through the entire Old Testament in a year, merely by reading 2-3 chapters daily.
  • The New Testament contains 260 chapters.  So, the reader is taken through the entire New Testament, four times in a year! – by reading an average of 3 chapters daily.
  • Note: the Psalms and Prophets columns are dominantly devoted to those categories, 90% of the time.  But both of those categories include rare but brief departures from Psalms and Prophets, in  order to make the schedule workable.
  • You may notice the final column for Proverbs is blank.  Since most months are either 30 or 31 days, simply read the chapter corresponding to that day.

 

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Logical Conclusions, Pragmatic Emotionalism, and the LGBTQ (P?) Movement

Logical Conclusions, Pragmatic Emotionalism, and the LGBTQ (P?) Movement

Logical Conclusions, Pragmatic Emotionalism, and the LGBTQ (P?) Movement

A Guest Post by Van McDaniel

As Christians we have a monopoly on truth and morality.  Not because of anything true or moral within ourselves, but because we belong to and serve THE Standard of truth and morality.  Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word is the objective, ultimate standard of what is moral, as well as what is immoral. As Christians we are obligated to seek truth and defend it through a proper, logically and philosophically consistent, biblical worldview.  If a non-believer wants truth they have no choice but to go through Christ. If a non-believer is seeking knowledge and wisdom on literally anything at all they must go through Jesus Christ, because as we see in Colossians 2:3, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.  We must see the world through a biblical lens in order to navigate the rough waters of every other worldview that stands in hostile opposition to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the Apostle Paul writes “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.  

A Biblically Correct View of Salvation

This is no easy task to be sure, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we persevere, and through faith in the Person and finished work of Christ we have absolute hope and assurance that the truth will stand alone on the last day when we are resurrected and glorified.  Until that day we run our race and fight for the truth of scripture without apology or compromise, while proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom to anyone and everyone indiscriminately with humility, love, and grace. This is not as easy as it sounds, but when we exercise a biblically correct view of salvation and see that the unmerited grace of a holy and righteous God is the only thing separating us as Christians from those who reject Christ and His gospel, we should feel compassion on the lost, which should compel us to brave the hostile waters of the secular world in order that those whom have yet to be called will be through the proclamation of the gospel.  This is what the Great Commission is all about, and it is our honor and privilege that the Lord of Glory would use us to accomplish His purpose and will.

The LGBTQ Movement

It’s important to lay the groundwork just laid, as I write about the LGBTQ movement.  When doing so we must remember that those who identify with the LGBTQ movement, either through action or support, bear the image of God and by virtue of that are worthy of dignity and respect.  Our disagreement isn’t personal… it’s biblical. Scripture gives us clear and objective commands in regards to human sexuality and gender, and as Christians we must adhere to what scripture teaches and commands.  More than that, we must not only adhere to it as if it’s something that we don’t want to do, but feel somehow coerced to; we should have a willing desire to affirm what scripture clearly teaches. I hate homosexuality, but I love homosexuals.  I hate transgenderism, but I love transgendered people. As Christians we are not to judge such people for their sin, because you and I are sinners saved by grace. Instead we love them by telling them about the holy and righteous God that will judge them unless they repent and surrender in faith to Christ.  Whether that happens or not is wholly the sovereign prerogative of God. Our job is simply to proclaim the truth in love and then pray for God to be glorified through our faithful witness of His truth.

Window of Discourse

Changing gears, there is a political theory known as the Overton Window, or the Window of Discourse.  This theory describes the process by which ideas or policies are considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion.  If a politician recommends an idea or policy that is outside of the window, it would be considered too radical and would not be accepted by the public.  The theory states that over a period of time this window can be slowly moved, or manipulated, so that what seemed radical 15 or 20 years ago would be acceptable today.  Both political parties have employed this strategy in the past, and continue to do so today. I can remember back in the 1990s when it was thought of as radical for two people of the same sex to be in a relationship, let alone get married.  It was a radical idea and was not accepted by the public. On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry. What happened between the 90s and 2015?  This was a very long argument that slowly gained traction and eventually became widely accepted by our society. It was argued in lower courts for years, until finally SCOTUS stepped in and ruled. As Christians such a decision should offend us because it offends the God that paid for us with the life of His Son.  God has objectively defined what marriage is in His word. Marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, created by God. Marriage is a picture of the gospel. Marriage is designed by God as the best means of human flourishing. In one ruling SCOTUS decimated this biblical truth, and we are now being told that if we do not fall in line and accept this ruling that we are judgmental, hateful bigots.  Political demagoguery at its best.

Overton Window Strategy

This is just one of many examples of the Overton Window strategy being used.  If you have been paying attention since Obergefell, you have seen the window continue to move.  After same-sex marriage was normalized, soon after the transgender movement took center stage. Boys can become girls, and girls can become boys depending on how they “self-identify”.   Feel free to use whatever restroom you identify with. Biological males winning sports contests designed for females. We are told that such abominations are progressive and good and that these competitors are brave and virtuous. All of this is just another example of a world that hates God attempting to overturn His purposes in creation.  Biology has been thrown to the wind. The natural order of God’s good creation has been overturned, and we are told to just shut up and accept it. Some people who identify with this movement even try to claim Christ as their Lord, rewriting the text of scripture to fit their narrative. Biblical Christianity is being marginalized and is being replaced by a false Christianity… but that is a discussion for a different day.  

Love is Love, Right?

As the window continues to be moved by those with an antichrist agenda, we are now seeing Pedophilia take center stage.  Who would have thought 20 years ago that our society would even entertain such evil? When you are thinking logically such a thought is incomprehensible.  I personally see consistency in the fact that a nation that murders 3,000 children in the womb everyday would eventually turn those children who were fortunate enough to be born over to sexual predators.  I mean, love is love… right?

In 2018 what we are seeing is a godless worldview that is based in nothing more than subjective, blind emotional pragmatism.  There is no logic or reason. Critical thinking… what’s that? Your truth is just as true as mine, even though they stand in stark contrast to each other.  If you say that an eight year old child has the emotional and logical capacity to determine their gender, then in the interest of logical and philosophical consistency you must also say that same child has the emotional and logical capacity to consent to sex with an adult.  The only way around that is blind emotional pragmatism. In such a worldview there can be no objective, ultimate morality. There is only arbitrary personal preferences.

Objective Sources of Morality

Such a person can say that my seven year old son has the ability to determine that he should have been born a girl, and then call the 35 year old man who wants to have sex with him a pervert and call for him to be incarcerated.  The latter is certainly true to be sure, but from what objective source of morality is that conclusion being drawn from? As a Christian I can objectively say that it’s immoral and evil, because God calls it immoral and evil, but when your worldview rejects God and has placed man on the throne in place of Him what then?  Isn’t the 35 year old Pedophile just living his truth? Once again, love is love, right? It has already been conceded that a child is capable of determining his or her gender, and so it certainly must follow that they can choose their sexual partner. What if the 35 year old man self identifies as a nine year old? What if the eight year old boy self identifies as a 41 year old woman?  Do you see the infinite spiral of immoral absurdity that is the natural consequence of a rejection of the Lordship and authority of Jesus Christ and the ultimate standards of morality found only in biblical Christianity?

Spitting in God’s Face

Sure, the non-Christian can do moral things and have moral opinions, but because their worldview fundamentally cannot provide for it, they must steal it from the Christian worldview, and they do so while spitting in God’s face.   In closing, Christians, we haven’t seen bad yet. Bad is coming… are you ready for it? Can you defend the Christian worldview? You may know what you believe, but do you know WHY you believe it? How far will the window move in the next five years?  What about 15 or 20 years? Today as I write this, Pedophilia is still considered too radical, but if the secular totalitarians have their way, as they have for the past several decades, it will eventually be normalized and accepted. You may read that and think I’m crazy, but consider the public view on homosexuality 30 years ago compared to the view today.  

Good News

The good news is that this madness will eventually end when the sky cracks open and the Lord returns in glory to conquer His enemies once and for all and claim His Church.  Until that day comes we must remain vigilant and uncompromising. There is no neutrality. We are not to be apathetic or indifferent on this issue. May God grant all of His Church the strength to overcome as we look forward to the day when Jesus will make everything new.  No King but Christ.


Van McDaniel lives in Virginia Beach, VA with his wife Angela and 3 children.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and currently works as a Systems Analyst.  He is a member of New Song Fellowship Church in Virginia Beach. 

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Falling Asleep in Church

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said ‘Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.’ And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” — Acts 20:7-12

I feel sorry for Eutychus, first, because he fell asleep on the Apostle Paul, second, because his sleepiness had such unhappy results, and, third, because Luke was there to record the whole thing! This is the first record of someone falling asleep in church. There have been thousands of successors, but Eutychus is the one everyone remembers.

The Danger of Falling Asleep in Church

As a pastor I have again and again been reminded that on any given Sunday there are believers who are in danger of falling asleep in church. I have seen people fall asleep and bump their heads on the pews in front of them. I have been sitting on the platform when one my associates dozed off and dropped his hymnal! I have heard people awaken with a snort. In one congregation a certain young man sat on the front row and slept every Sunday. As soon as I was through the introduction, his eyes closed and his head tilted. The most memorable, however, was the Sunday both he and his wife fell asleep with their heads propped against one another. I’ve heard a preacher tell of an elder who fell asleep, and when his wife nudged him during the service, he stood and pronounced the benediction.”

I have great sympathy for those who have trouble staying awake in church. Some of us work such trying schedules that when we sit down, it is the first time we have relaxed all week. Others are sometimes victims of medication. Sometimes it is just so warm … The truth is, some of the best saints have fallen asleep in church. Eutychus was perhaps an enthusiastic new Christian who, though he was tired, would not miss church for anything. His spirit was willing, but his body was sleepy.

Falling asleep in church really does not concern me. It can happen for any number of reasons, both good and bad. What concerns me are the thousands who warm a pew every Lord’s Day with their bodies awake and their souls asleep. Some use the church hour to mentally complete the unfinished business of the preceding six days. Some people are more awake attending a garage sale or closing a business deal or even watching TV than they are when they sit with eyes wide open in church. Innumerable churchgoers appear to be perfectly awake but are spiritually asleep.

Why People are Asleep in Church

Some people are asleep because they have never been awake. I am familiar with that state because I was once in it myself. I attended church, heard God’s Word preached, sang the great hymns, listened to others pray – but with no depth of comprehension. I was simply present where others worshiped. I was on the outside. I was not alive to spiritual things. Perhaps you derive some vague comfort from being with religious people and doing Christian things, but inside you understand very little of what is going on. The pity is, it is possible to pass from this life into eternity without recognizing your slumber until it is too late. It is possible to be damned even in the church. As Screwtape, a senior devil, said to his trainee, Wormwood (in the great C. S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters), “The safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Have you ever been truly awake? Would you like to wake up?

Sin, a compromising backslidden state, is a second reason some are in spiritual slumber. Some people have experienced an awakening and are truly Christians but have slipped into a spiritually comatose state. Sometimes we hear of Christians who have fallen to unimaginable depths, although they regularly attended church. Though they seemed to listen, they were spiritually and morally asleep.

Samson is the preeminent example of this in Scripture. He began and ended in the faith but messed up big-time in between. Sin progressively and imperceptibly too such hold of him that he was no longer awake to spiritual realities. In fact, his final doze on Delilah’s lap was symbolic of his state. “He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ Bt he did not know that the Lord had left him.” (Judges 16:20) Sin desensitizes us, and we soon fall asleep, even in church. Though externally everything may appear fine, sin makes us indifferent and bored with spiritual things.

Familiarity is a third reason why some are spiritual slumberers. C. S. Lewis recognized this danger when he warned a friend who was considering the ministry that the constant familiarity with holy matters could dull him to their significance. Lewis summed it up by saying, “None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things.” We can become like the man who directs the trains at the railroad station and has been selling tickets to various towns for years. Though he has never himself traveled at all, he begins to think he has been to all the towns to which he sees other people traveling. Some of us had no children’s church when we were growing up but instead lay in our parents’ laps. On the way to Never-never Land, we would count the holes in the sanctuary ceiling. We knew all the hymns (and their parodies). We knew the Doxology before we knew our times tables. We become so familiar with it all that we took it for granted. Church can easily become ho-hum. Some, though not damned in the church, are bored in the church.

How to Stay Awake in Church

Each of us should periodically make a personal spiritual assessment. If we have never truly been awake, we must ask the God of grace to help us believe. We must confess our sin, declare our faith in Christ, and ask Christ to make us brand-new – to receive Him as our Savior. Church will then become more alive than we ever imagined. If we are already children of God and our slumber is due to sin in our lives, we must repent, do a U-turn, and allow the joy of Christ to refill us. The joy of worship will then flood our souls.

Those of us who suffer the problem of familiarity must consciously and deliberately participate with all our being in the corporate worship of the church. When we sing a hymn, we should shut everything else out and sing it to God, singing not only with the mouth but with the heart and mind. As others lead us in prayer, we should pray along with them – a spiritual concert. When we hear the Scriptures, we must listen, for we are hearing the voice of God. We must listen to God’s Word as we would to a love letter, for that is what the Bible is.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ran a seminary in Nazi Germany that was not approved by the state. He was a critical and intelligent man, but in his homiletics class he always laid down his paper and pencil, opened his Bible, and listened to the students’ sermons, no matter how poor or unskilled they were. He felt that the preaching of God’s Word ought to be received as if he were listening to God Himself. That is how we should listen too.

If we have been born again from our slumber, and if we have confessed our sin, we must consciously, in dependence upon God, wake up to the wonders of worship. Our coming together with other believers should demonstrate that we are awake and alive in Christ! Worship is to be in technicolor, for Christ is with us! That is how to stay awake in church.

A Final Word

Martin Luther had a parable or a dream about how on one occasion the devil sat upon his throne listening to his agents report on the progress they had made in opposing the truth of Christ and destroying the souls of me. One spirit said there was a company of Christians crossing the desert. “I loosed the lions upon them, and soon the sands of the desert were strewn with their mangled corpses.”

“What of that?” answered Satan. “The lions destroyed their bodies, but their souls were saved. It is their souls that I am after.”

Another reported, “There was a company of Christian pilgrims sailing through the sea on a vessel. I sent a great wind against the ship that drove the ship on the rocks, and every Christian aboard the ship was drowned.”

“What of that?” said Satan. “Their bodies were drowned in the sea, but their souls were saved. It is their souls that I am after.”

The third came forward to give his report, and he said, “For ten years I have been trying to cast a Christian into a deep sleep, and at last I have succeeded.” And with that the corridors of Hell rang with shouts of malignant triumph.

If we are asleep, let us hear God ‘s call today!

The night is nearly over, the day is almost here. So let us therefore put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12)

“Awake to righteousness, and sin not.” (1 Corinthians 15:34, KJV)

“Wake up, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

Used with permission. From Acts: The Church Afire, by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word Commentary Series, Crossway Publishing 1996
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The Pope and Capital Punishment

The Pope and Capital Punishment

As of August 2, Pope Francis issued a declaration stating that the death penalty is unacceptable for the punishment of criminals, in all instances. This is to say, regardless of the crime committed. 

 thoughtful reading of this Vatican Files post, Evangelical Perspectives on Roman Catholicism will exhibit, to some extent, how a religious leader claiming to speak with authority for the Lord Jesus Christ can arrive at such a position. 

For any Christian scholar or reader, this is both enlightening and disturbing.  For it is clear that, the Pope (may we add, known to God as just another ordinary man by the name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has been influenced so heavily by varying voices outside of the Word of God that, he lacks rooted, firm, decisive beliefs of his own; and thus he is like the waves of the wind-tossed sea (Ephesians 4:14). 

Secondly, he has clearly become a leader far more fixated on pleasing people and seeking to be an advocate of what they feel they need, rather than on pleasing God in intellectual and practical submission to foundational biblical truth.  For, to this day, it does remain a baseline of biblical truth to accept the charge of God stated in Genesis 9:6 that, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.”  

Real Dignity

For one to describe capital punishment as treating human life without dignity is evidence of a sound moral compass being missing in the Pope’s conscience, which has evidently been supplanted by a twisted and damaged one.  The fact is, the dignity of human life requires the death penalty for those who murder a human being.  For there is no appropriate expression or response to the egregious wrong of the act of murder but to forfeit your own life for so doing.   The dignity of human life, as the image of God, is something so exalted that we honor it by imposing the severest of consequences on those who take it unlawfully. 

Further, to make the focal point of a conversation about dignity in these matters revolve around having a higher regard for the life of the perpetrator rather than the victims of such crimes, is in itself a rude slap in the face to all who have suffered the loss of loved ones through an act of homicide.  

It’s remarkable that a Pope would dare to speak against the practice of capital punishment, when for so much of his Papal career he has spoken highly of Marxist regimes notorious for using summary executions as their political weapon of choice – and not to do away with murderers, but merely to rid their regime of outspoken individuals who differ with or question their policies.  What could possibly more vividly expose the fatal flaw of the doctrine of Papal infallibility?

A Long History of Contradictions

There is a glaring, all-too-obvious contradiction of this Pope’s opinion with that of those who occupied his office in past centuries, men who gleefully both ordered and oversaw the execution, not of criminals, nor murderers, but alleged “heretics”, declared as such for differing with them.  If capital punishment is inappropriate in all circumstances, then Protestants George Wishart, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer (among others) and one no less noble than William Tyndale are awaiting an appropriate apology and refund. 

Dennis Gundersen No Comments

The Valley of Vision

 

At Grace and Truth Books, we often send out the classic devotional, The Valley of Vision, a compilation of prayers, intended to teach and encourage Christians to be faithful in their private and family worship. This beautiful volume has been the most popular Puritan book in print since its release in 1975. In it, the prayers of the Puritans are brought to life, including those of Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts and others.

I often offer up a quick prayer that it will bless the reader that I am sending it to as much as it has blessed me. I can’t help but smile as I think of the way that this devotional first intersected with my life.

We were facing financial stress. My husband’s commission checks had been unusually low for a long period of time. We were a little short for the bills, so I had called each company and had arranged to pay them late with his next check, which was supposed to have a $500 bonus included with it. For some reason, his check did not have the bonus and I did not have enough to follow through with the arrangements I had made. I was really dreading and fretting about calling those companies to tell them I didn’t have the money after all.

That morning, I had read a short passage in my new devotional, The Valley of Vision, which talked about, when in a trial, it is better to pray for God to be glorified in the trial, even if it means staying in it, instead of just praying for a way out of the trial. I remember not being able to earnestly pray in that way, so I started pleading with the Lord, “Help me to pray that prayer; grant me your Spirit’s power so that would be my plea- your glory, not my comfort or our stability.” And He did. Through the Spirit’s power, I prayed that God would be glorified through this trial, even if it meant keeping us in it for a time. As I was getting up from praying, now with a peaceful heart and ready to call about those bills, my phone rang.


A friend that I had not seen for a very long time, asked if I would be home for the next 30 minutes; she had something to bring by. She came over and handed me $500, telling me, she and her husband had prayed about a bonus that was coming to them that they didn’t need, asking God to whom they should give it to. The Lord had put us on their hearts and that morning, they had received the bonus. I never did have to make those phone calls! And even more importantly, I was taught to pray, as first importance, for the Lord’s glory through trials even when that won’t always mean deliverance. And for that lesson, I am thankful and will forever think of that devotional with much fondness. It has stretched my faith in so many other areas and has taught me to pray with a much higher purpose than I had before I began reading it.

If you’d like a copy of this gem, we offer The Valley of Vision in two different formats; paperback and a deluxe bonded leather edition. Come in to see us, give us a call or order from our website. You won’t be sorry.

-Nicci Medina

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Wisdom for Men

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve noticed men not do what would seem necessitated by their roles as husbands and fathers. I’ve seen men park at stores or restaurants, alight from their cars and immediately head for the door, leaving their wives in the dust to corral the children. The man may already be in the store by the time his wife begins walking toward the door with the children. I’ve also seen men lounge on the couch or enjoy uninterrupted chat time with friends while their wives prepare a meal and try to keep general operations under control. Outside of an occasional, “Hey, stop that” from her husband directed to an unruly child, she may have no other help, other than that which she specifically requests.
I don’t know why those incidents have stood out to me more than anything else, but it breaks my heart. I don’t know why men behave like that — perhaps they’re in a hurry, or maybe they just aren’t thinking — but, whatever the reason, I wonder — is it a trial to wait or work? Is it a drag to help your family? I want to challenge any man who is married, who will be married, or who has sisters or younger siblings or anyone in his life who need his help: slow down and be a real man. There’s more to life than success, your hobbies, and your buddies. There are God, family, and things of eternal importance.
I’m grateful for a Dad who stays behind, helps his children, holds his wife’s hand, and does as much to help around the house when he’s home as my Mom does. In fact, he has told Mom to go take a nap or do something enjoyable while he cleans the kitchen or watches the younger ones.
Men, be like Christ: attentive, thoughtful, caring, and loving. Think of what He has done for his church: throughout the millennia, He has faithfully loved His bride and provided for her every need. He has walked hand-in-hand with us, guiding, sustaining, and cherishing us, as the old hymn says, no matter how great or small our trial. Be like Christ. Man up. Stay behind. Hold your wife’s hand. Do the work for her; you’re not above it, and, in fact, you’re called to it. Never fall prey to the notion that housework and looking after the children are your wife’s responsibilities. You are the man; show your family that godly love works. Show them that you will not only protect them, but will walk with them in even the most insignificant or menial situations. As someone who’s been blessed to watch the positive impact that such gestures can have, I can attest that such actions will be a profound blessing to your wife and your children. Eternity will tell how much they appreciate it.
– Benjamin Bender
Dennis Gundersen No Comments

Love, Wisdom, and Boat Building

Love, Wisdom, and Boat Building

 

by Nicci Medina

Often times when there is a battle to be won, a race to be run, or a job to be done, a charge is given. I’d like to encourage all of you fellow mothers with the charge to walk by faith as you seek to raise your children in a God-honoring way, with the hope that they will place their faith in the finished work of Christ for their salvation.

Our Struggle

So often, especially as homeschool moms, we believe that if we just love our children enough or if we are wise enough to find just the right discipline protocols or just the right curriculum, that our children will turn out good and noble.  We are duped into believing it is all up to us, as if it all depended on our love and our wisdom.  Think about this with me for a moment, whether or not our wisdom or our love are able to lead our children in the right way, into the kingdom of God.  Let’s take a look at two examples in the bible who showed much wisdom and much love.

God gave King Solomon great wisdom, so much that he has often been touted as the wisest man ever. But despite all of Solomon’s wisdom, his son still turned out to be a wicked man. Indeed, Solomon himself fell into great sin.  His life is a good reminder for us that wisdom will not save us, save our children or keep anyone from sin. Surely if it could, it would have with Solomon and with his son. Solomon was a great failure in this.  Some might answer to this that he had the wisdom of angels, yet had not love?  One might argue that Solomon had the kind of knowledge that puffs up, and not enough of the love that builds up?

His father, David, however, did have this kind of love, a great love for his heavenly father.  So much love for God, that he was even called a man after God’s own heart.  He was forgiven much, therefore he loved much.  Surely this kind of love would produce a Godly child?  Yet, many would say, David also, failed to produce godly heirs.  Some would argue that the problem was in Solomon’s and David’s lives; that their actions didn’t match up with their words:  Solomon knew not to give his heart to women, yet did it. David had great love for the Lord, yet in his work of adultery, he loved his own desires more that he loved his God.

Yet, do we not all profess to know and to love the Lord, yet in our day to day failures and sins, we also deny him?  What hope then is there, for us and for our children?

Our Only Hope

Only in the cross of Christ, can we find our hope.  Remember for a moment with me, that glorious gospel that declares to us that a sinner can be made right with God, only through believing in Christ’s righteousness and Christs sacrifice on our behalf.  That glorious gospel that reminds us that we are made right with God only by realizing how wretched we are and that none of our good works will get us into heaven.  That same glorious gospel that announces to the world that a great exchange has taken place, in which Christ traded His right standing with God for our sinfulness.  He bore the consequences of our sin, so that we might become right with God.

Only in this cross of Christ, can we find any kind of hope.   Even as Christians, we wretchedly fail to know God and His Wisdom as we ought and we miserably fail to love Him as we ought. If we are hoping that our wisdom or our love will lead our children down the right path, we are mistaken.

So what are we to hope in?  Only in the cross of Christ and in the mercy of our Lord to bring our children to that same cross.   Does that mean that we don’t do anything, just sit idly by, hoping and praying that the Lord will save our children?  No, of course not.  Yes, we pray, remembering the Lord’s precious promises about prayer, but we also walk by faith.  Let me share a picture with you of walking by faith as it relates to raising children.

Faithfulness

Hebrews 11 talks about those who have gone before us, walking in faith. Verse 7, says, “By faith, Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Are we not, as mothers, also like Noah, building an ark to save our children?  Just like Noah, we have been warned of things not seen, of the impending judgment of all sinners in hell. The ark that we are building is the fear and admonition of the Lord, the very words of scriptures which are able to save our children’s souls.  Just as the Lord caused the animals to come into the ark, so it is up to Him to bring our children into His saving grace, but it is up to us, especially in our roles as mothers, to be obedient; to build the ark, which is the foundation of Godly fear and a life built around the truths of the scriptures.

In this building of the ark, this walk of faith, two things stand out.   They are the teaching and the obeying of the scriptures.

2nd Timothy 3:15-17 says, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”. I know, that as a Christian mother, your ambition is for your children to become complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. That will only come through the sovereign work of God, most often working through the scriptures.  It is my prayer that we will bank on the sufficiency of scripture, as we seek to raise our children up to be equipped for all that God has called them to do.

So the first part of this walk of faith in raising sons is in the teaching and training in the scriptures. The 2nd part is found in the obedience to the mandates of scripture in our own lives. Titus 2:3-5 talks about the older women admonishing the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” This clues us in that by not loving our husbands, loving our children, being discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to our own husbands; that by not obeying in these areas, we blasphemy the word of God. This chapter goes on to talk about how other groups in the church, the young men and bond servants, are to live. It finishes by saying that they may live this way in order to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” Let us also then, as mothers, adorn the teachings of scripture with our own obedience to them. To adorn, means to accent, to make them look attractive.  Just like a necklace or earrings would adorn a woman’s face, so also our obedience to the teachings of scriptures, specifically as they relate to a woman’s roles, will adorn the teachings of Christ, making them attractive.  Conversely, disobedience in these areas, may cause others, especially our children to disdain the word.

Let us then walk wisely, giving forethought to all the ways we spend our time, because the days are evil. If we teach the word to our children, but do not obey it ourselves, we will blasphemy this very word which will bring disastrous results into our children’s lives. So two important parts to this walk of faith; training our children in the scriptures and being careful ourselves to obey its teachings.

And of course, neither of these will be possible without prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. We will fail when we try to walk in our own strength.  And on those days that we do fail, we have an advocate, Jesus Christ, who is always interceding at the throne of grace for us.

May the Lord enable all of us to run with endurance this race of motherhood that is set before us, as we look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Might He help us to not become weary while doing good, because at the proper time, we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. His strength, His harvest, His timing. Let us plead with Him, to bring all of our sons and daughters out of darkness and into His marvelous light, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those of us sanctified by faith in His Son. Join me in thanking Him for the privilege we are given to be with our children, teaching them His truths so that from childhood they will know the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make them wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Might the Lord enable all of us to line up every aspect of our lives in obedience to His word, that we might adorn the word of God, making it attractive to our sons and that, ultimately, we would see another child brought into His Kingdom. And in the end we will praise His glorious grace for giving us the faith to walk in obedience to Him, building that ark; that foundation of Godly fear and a life built around the scriptures.

Let’s Pray:

Oh, Lord let us not trust in anything, except the cross, and let us cry out night and day, that you would save and sanctify our children, making them into all that you desire them to be.

Let us remember what a miracle it is that we are saved.

Let us remember your precious promises about prayer and let us spend ourselves, laboring in our prayers, that you would move your mighty arm.

Let us not be deceived and blinded, thereby spending our time, entertaining ourselves with the things of this world.

Instead, let us spend our time, walking by faith, building that foundation, while crying out to you on their behalf.

Oh Lord, save our children from their own sinful hearts and from the wrath to come on all who don’t believe, so “that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”

Dennis Gundersen No Comments

Our Only Hope in Life and Death | New City Catechism Review

The New City Catechism book cover

Our Only Hope in Life and Death

“What is our only hope in life and death?” I ask.

“That we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ” comes the resounding reply.

It sounds like music to my ears, as I breathe a quick, silent prayer that God himself with infuse this truth into my children’s hearts as I seek to infuse it into their young minds. “How and why did God create us?” I press.

They reply from memory, “God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.”

“Yes!” I exclaim, again silently asking the Lord to water these seeds of truth that have been planted, knowing that all-to-soon the enemy will come knocking with his own brand of truth to supplant into their minds and hearts.

Learning Truth

I’ve heard it said that the only way to tell a counterfeit bill is by studying the real thing. Likewise, in order to equip our children to discern truth from lies, we must help them study the truth. When it comes to math, we see to it that our children learn to add and subtract, but we don’t stop there. We don’t leave them in their rudimentary math knowledge, hoping they will be able to figure it out on their own. We add to that, the skill of multiplying and dividing and we drill them with flashcards, making sure they have these things memorized so they may move on to Algebra and Geometry and perhaps Calculus and Statistics.

All too often though, in regards to spiritual matters, we leave our kids with only the rudimentary knowledge. Some of us tell our children that Jesus died on the cross for them and have read them a few bible stories such as David and Goliath and given them a list of what good Christians should and should not do. We may take them to Sunday school and Church, thinking that from these, they will be fully equipped. Some of us will, hopefully, take it a step further and actually read the bible to our children on a daily basis. This is a blessed and needful thing! Yet, many have either forgotten or perhaps have never considered taking it a step further.

The Importance of Memorization

To actually study and memorize key biblical truths is an often missed, but necessary step in equipping our children with the needed lens to filter through the enemy’s lies that they will surely be bombarded with soon.

One way to do this is through the use of something called a catechism. A catechism is simply a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers used for the instruction of Christians or as J.I. Packer puts it, “The growing of God’s people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight.”

Although the use of the catechism flourished in the 2nd and the 5th centuries of the ancient church, it floundered, along with much other truth during the dark ages. With the revival of truth in the time of the Reformation and the invention of the printing press, Luther, Calvin, and many other reformers brought the catechism back into use, both in the church and in the homes.

The use of catechisms to teach children and new believers waxed and waned in the years that followed and has steadily declined since the time of Spurgeon, who said, “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times.”

Looking around at the so-called truth being dished out and so readily believed in our times, I can’t help but think that Spurgeon may have been on to something and that we may want to now, in our own times, heed his advice.

The New City Catechism

A few years ago, our family started using “The New City Catechism,” published by Crossway. It contains 52 questions and answers related to God, human nature, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit and more, along with scripture references. I started using this catechism with my three boys when they were about 6, 8 and 13 years old. We had previously used a different catechism with my older kids, but I liked the fact that this one had both the long and the shorter versions of the answers. I had planned to memorize 1 new question and answer each week with the older child being responsible to memorize the longer version of the answer and the younger two to memorize the shorter answer.

Catechism in Our Family

Of course, things don’t always go as planned, so we did not finish in a year. My younger two decided they wanted to memorize the longer ones that their brother was doing, so we slowed down the pace and have all been memorizing the longer answers together. Once we had a question memorized we would make sure to review it weekly, in much the same way that one would drill children with their multiplication tables. Although my kids have done great with the memorizing, I’m wishing we would have gone about it a bit differently.

Because there are 52 questions and answers and the longer answers can get a bit wordy, my younger child has had a harder time recalling the answer without out a bit of prompting of the first few words.

In retrospect, I wish I would have first taken them all through the shorter answers, until they could answer quickly, from rote memory. Then we could’ve gone back through to learn the longer answers. In fact, I am considering going back through to do just that; to learn the shorter answers and be able to answer them quickly, then go back and pick up where we were with the longer answers.

Either way, I am very grateful to have started this with my children and am thrilled when something comes up in conversation and the boys are able to use the things they have learned in these catechisms to decipher the truth. We have studied and memorized much truth through these catechisms and when Satan has come knocking with his convincing lies, I have often seen my boys compare them to the light of these truths and have determined Satan’s brand of truth to be counterfeit. And for that I am grateful.

Written by Nicole Medina | Grace & Truth Books

 

Resource mentioned in this article: The New City Catechism

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have used catechisms—collections of questions and answers designed for memorization and recitation—to teach others the core doctrines of the faith. The New City Catechism is a modern-day resource aimed at reintroducing this ancient method of teaching to Christians today.

This short book lays out 52 questions and answers related to God, human nature, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and more. Whether used devotionally, recited orally, or memorized over the course of a year, families, churches, small groups, and Christian schools will treasure this as a valuable tool for teaching the core doctrines of the Christian faith to children and adults alike.