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Excerpt from C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Morning, August 2

“Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”

Ephesians 1:11

Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the cornerstone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.

 

Evening, August 2

“So she gleaned in the field until even.”

Ruth 2:17

Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.

 

This work is published in the public domain.  

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5 Encouragements for the Spiritual Desert Wanderer

In your daily “quiet times,” do you ever feel like Moses and the Israelites just wandering around the desert waiting for Promise Land?  

You might think that having graduated seminary means that my daily time with the Lord in the morning is full of His Shekinah Glory every time I open my Bible and close my eyes in prayer. 

Let me assure you, it’s not. In fact, if anything, having been in seminary made my times with the Lord dryer and more difficult. I did not expect that this was going to happen in seminary. Yet, I found myself in quite the barren spiritual desert 6 months ago and I had been wandering for a long time. Knowing (some) Greek didn’t help. Knowing the cultural background and context of the text didn’t help. Honestly, it made it worse. I couldn’t just enjoy God’s Word for what it is: His Word! The Bible had become another textbook I had to read. 

Can you relate to this at all? Maybe it’s not because of seminary, but have you ever felt like the Bible was something that you “had to read” and not something that you have the joy and privilege of reading? Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual desert and your Bible reading and prayer weren’t helping? Are you in that desert now? 

Whether you have been, you are, (or will be someday), in a similar place, let me give you five encouragements that I pray bless you in those times: 

1. You’re not alone. I can’t say for certain, but I think that ALL Christians go through this at some point in their journey with the Lord. Take heart! The spiritual desert you find yourself in has been traveled before and others have made it through. Therefore, you will too. But… 

2. Just because you don’t “feel” close to God in your Bible and prayer time doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. I know many people who simply stop reading and praying during desert times and you know what? It doesn’t help. What would happen if I stopped talking to my wife every time I didn’t “feel” love towards her? If I did this, waiting for the morning where all of a sudden the lights came on, I’d be in the dark for a long time waiting to “feel” love for her. How do I “feel” love for my wife? I spend time with her. I talk to her. I share my heart with her. Spending more time, not less, stirs my affections for her. I believe that’s how it is with God. It’s a relationship after all, right? To put it another way: a sailboat won’t move unless the wind blows the sails. Therefore, raise the sails of your spiritual life (read and pray) and wait for the wind (the Spirit) to blow.  

3. I’ve been using John Piper’s IOUS acronym daily for the last 5 months and it has helped a ton: 

  • I—Incline “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36) 
  • O—Open “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) 
  • U—Unite “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) 
  • S—Satisfy “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) 

4. Repent. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of? Could there be some sin that is stifling your walk with God? I don’t know. Only you and God know. But if there is, then I urge you to repent and turn from your sin. Often, this is all it takes.  

5. Beg God to grow your affections for Him. Ask Him to give you the desire to even want to read and pray. Pray this daily, even if you’re in a good spot. This is a request our heavenly Father wants to answer. 

There’s more to be said here, but I’ll leave it at those five encouragements for now.

Everyone is different and everyone’s walk with the Lord is different. I’ve just laid out what I have learned and what has helped me. If this doesn’t encourage you, then go find someone whose Bible-Prayer life is one you want to have for yourself ask them how they do it. Then, go and do the same! 

It’s okay to be in a spiritual desert. It’s not okay to stay there.  

Here’s the really good news though… spiritual desert or not, if you’re in Christ, then Jesus loves you just the same. So take heart, beloved brother or sister.  

 

Gabriel Pech is married to Hannah and they have 3 beautiful children. They have been members at FCC since April 2017. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with his M.Div. in May, 2018. The Pech family now lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they are missionaries to the 80,000+ Americans/military members and their families who are stationed there.  

 

 

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Why Aren’t My Rest Days Restful?

Have you ever begun your work on Monday and felt so worn-out that it couldn’t possibly be the beginning of the work week? Then you thought about your Saturday and Sunday and couldn’t remember what would have made you so tired this Monday morning? On the flip side, has there ever been a Monday in your life that, though you were busy all weekend, you were still able to face with energy? I know I have experienced both kinds of Mondays, and I’m sure you have too. Rest is something most people do not think they need to be taught about. Many would say, “It’s not getting into bed that I struggle with, it’s the getting out.” Although over-work is a common problem, I believe that many of our struggles with exhaustion are due to the wrong kind of rest. You can do nothing all day and still not feel rested. For this reason, I believe we as Christians need a better understanding of rest that we might live more energetically to the glory of God. My goal in writing this is to persuade you that rest is not so much the absence of activity, but the freedom from our daily duties to work and toil, that we might actively pursue that which satisfies us most in Christ. In order to do this, I will look at two key biblical passages concerning rest, Deuteronomy 5:12-15 & Hebrews 4:9-13, then finish with some applications that will aid us in ending our restless rest.  

 A Theology of Rest  

In the retelling of the Ten Commandments, Moses exhorts the Israelites:  

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  

In this text, we learn three unique reasons why we are to rest (Keller). First, we take a Sabbath rest as a Celebration of our Design. We learn in the Creation account in Genesis that God worked for six days, then rested on the seventh. In the passage above we learn that we are to have a day of rest that models exactly what God did in the beginning. We are to reflect God’s image by resting every seventh day as He rested. Our rest, then, is a celebration of our likeness to God as His image bearers. We learn here that rest is not rooted in the Law but in the Creation account. Secondly, we take a Sabbath rest as a Declaration of our Freedom. The flow of the argument in verse 15 is that Israel is to remember their slavery in Egypt and the Lord’s deliverance. Then the Bible says, “Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Here we see the command to rest is to reflect God’s mighty ability to deliver His people. Because God freed Israel, they were to rest in celebration of His mighty work. The principle for us here is that God is always the Deliverer of His people and rest is a celebration of His might, not ours. Therefore, we are not to seek refuge in working for money without rest, trying to save ourselves. Rather, we rest as a declaration of our freedom from all worldly bondage. God has delivered us and we do not have to prove ourselves or think we are our ultimate provider. God freed us from this bondage which is so common to man. This leads us to the third underpinning of our rest. We rest as an Act of Trust. To rest means we are not working (an obvious deduction), and not working means no money. Tim Keller says it well, “To practice the Sabbath is a disciplined way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” Therefore, rest is yet another way God’s people show the world they trust God and revere Him.  

Now turning to the New Testament, the author of Hebrews writes:  

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:9-13).  

Here is the incredible teaching that for God’s people there is a greater Sabbath rest than what Moses spoke of in the Ten Commandments. This is the rest believers have in Christ. The flow of the argument reveals that there has been no lasting Sabbath rest for God’s people. Joshua did not provide it (verse 8) when they entered the promised land; therefore a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people to enter into. That rest is nothing other than Christ and His atonement for the sins of His people. The greater Sabbath rest is Christ’s righteousness that fulfilled the Law and is imputed to those who believe in Him. We strive to enter that rest which Christ provides because the word of God, (the Law), is sharp and revealing. It is so sharp that is cuts us up (because of our unrighteousness) and so revealing of our thoughts and intentions that we are naked and ashamed before the One to whom we must give account. Rest, then, is pictured as life lived in union with Christ. Resting in Christ’s finished work on the cross, rather than in our own works, is the Sabbath rest that is reserved for God’s people.  

So How Do We Rest Restfully? 

Now that we have walked through two key texts on rest, what do we do with that knowledge? First, we must meditate on the three underpinnings of the Commandment to observe the Sabbath. Do we see rest as a celebration of our design? Seeing rest as a celebration makes us delight in our Creator for making us in His image. Do we regularly take days off from our work as a declaration of our freedom from being bound to the ways of the world? Seeing rest as freedom allows us to stop feeling guilty for not working on our to-do lists, because we know we are free to serve God above all! Do we rest from work, knowing that rest may mean less money, as an act of trust in God as our Provider? Seeing rest as an act of trust is a regular reminder that we walk by faith and not by sight. These three questions are a helpful place to start when looking at why we all need to rest regularly and enjoy that rest, too.  

Secondly, we need to let the implications of the greater Sabbath rest become present in our lives. Because Christ has proven us before the Father (made us righteous), we no longer need to prove ourselves through over-work. Because we’ve been given an identity in Christ, we no longer need to make an identity for ourselves in our work. Because we’ve been given fulfillment in Christ, we no longer need to chase satisfaction in climbing the ladder in corporations. Because every selfish motive for work (self-worth, fulfillment, prominence, and glory) is revealed as void and unsatisfying, we can rest satisfied that we are complete in Christ. Rest, as we learn in Hebrews, is ultimately found in Christ. Therefore, our focus in rest is to be Christ, our Sabbath Rest. To rest without a focus on Christ and what He has done for us, is to rob ourselves of the benefits of greater (more fulfilling) rest. This is why I argue that rest is not so much the absence of activity, but the freedom from our daily duties to work and toil, that we might actively pursue that which satisfies us most in Christ. If we know that Christ is the greatest rest anyone of us can experience, then we must pursue satisfaction in Christ as we rest. We are all likely familiar with John Piper’s famous declaration that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” What I am contending is that this principle from Piper is just as important when we are resting as it is when we are talking about the Christian life in general. So when we practice regular rest, our guiding principle needs to be, “What can I do that will make me more satisfied in Christ?” This is the key to enduring and genuine rest, that allows us to enter our work week ready and wanting to leverage every moment for the glory of God by serving people and working with excellence. And isn’t that what we want most as Christians, to leverage every moment for the glory of God? 

As a last word of advice, I encourage you to PLAN YOUR REST. If we do not actively plan things that satisfy us in Christ, we will passively waste our rest either being busy-bodies that are tired on Monday or as lazy-bodies not ready for Monday. So plan to spend time in the word of God, growing in the knowledge of your incredible Savior. Plan to spend time in prayer, growing in your zealousness to see God answer the prayers of His saint. Plan to spend some time sharing your faith with friends or a stranger, increasing in your desire to see God worshipped by all and all delighting in Him. Plan to spend time with your family, soaking up those precious moments God has given you, letting gratitude wash over you because God has given you infinitely more than you deserve. Plan to spend time in nature, marveling at God’s creation that cries out in praise and beauty to its Creator. Whatever it is that satisfies you in Christ, plan it in advance so that your to-do lists and other things do not rob you of satisfaction in Christ. May God bless you with restful rest as you seek satisfaction in your Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.  

Endnote: Concerning Deuteronomy 5:12-15, I rely heavily on Tim Keller’s treatment of it in his book, Every Good Endeavor, chapter twelve. 

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC and serves as an Elder in Training. He and his wife, Heidi, have two little girls, Selah and Sophia.

                                                                   

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That He May Silence The Enemy

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

You have ordained strength,

Because of Your enemies

That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

In God’s plan to conquer the world — you do know that He has placed all things under the authority of His Son Jesus, and that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, right? It’s in the Bible 🙂 — in His plan to conquer the world, the humble and weak exult over the arrogant and strong. The enemy and the avenger, those who prey on the weak, who are proud and have no fear of God, are shut up by the praise of little children. This is true and absolute victory, and it is as sure as the Word of God.

May, 2018. There have been two recent news stories from out of the UK regarding small children with grave deformities who, though their parents wished to take them out of the UK to countries where physicians were willing to treat the children, the parents were nonetheless barred by the British High Court from moving their children elsewhere to seek treatment. If you wish to research these events, the children’s names were Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. Charlie Gard died on July 28, 2017. Alfie Evans died April 28, 2018.

The details of their stories are heart-crushing and infuriating, and this is not only an English Single-Payer Socialized Medicine problem. Neglect and euthanasia may be technically against the law in Kansas and Missouri, but don’t doubt for a second that it happens in secret, with the knowledge, if not the active participation, of doctors, nurses, insurance companies, and politicians. Terri Schiavo was starved to death at the order of an American judge in Florida, though her parents wished to keep caring for her. This is an American sin, too.

As with all sin, not only is the murder and abandonment of the weak a despicable wickedness and injustice in its own right, but it tells a lie about God. When parents murder their unborn children in abortion, they are telling a lie about the fatherhood of God. When governments execute the innocent under their jurisdiction, they are telling a lie about the justice of God.

In Justin Clark’s Sunday School class on the early church, he took us through The Letter To Diognetus, an early apologetic defense of Christianity to the Romans. In it, the author observes that Christians “marry, and have children, but do not destroy their offspring,” that is, in contrast with the Greco-Roman practices of abortion and child exposure. Child exposure was simply taking a baby out to the wilderness, and leaving him to die, by starvation, predation, or by heat or cold exposure. Other early A.D. writings attest to the Christian practice of rescuing the children abandoned to the elements.

This set the early Christians apart. By this they bore witness to the God who loves the weak.

For us here at FCC, in Kansas City, Middle America, I want to zero in on five things we can do to bear witness for God in the face of these horrors, and stand with the great cloud of Christian witnesses who went before us:

(1) If you have participated in abortion or in the abandonment of someone who was frail and helpless, repent. Name your sin, confess it, without any self-justification or rationalization agree with God that it is heinous, and receive God’s forgiveness in the name of Jesus.

(2) Prepare to be deliverers of the weak.

1 Timothy 5:8 reads:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

Christian men, this is part of our duty to provide for our families: preparation. Think through the scenarios of caring for your families should they need exceptional medical care. Make sure your medical providers also uphold the dignity of life, and affirm with you that starving, suffocating, or euthanizing the infirm is murder. Be on the lookout for these dangers, before they come.

(3) Pray imprecatory Psalms.

If you’re not already regularly praying Scripture as a practice, please do! Praying Scripture will shape your love for God, will shape your desires to be in accordance with His will, and will help Scripture take root in your soul.

In the face of abortion, abandonment, needless and unjust violence, how many thousands of times have you felt helpless. It’s in these circumstances we should turn to the imprecatory Psalms, and pray God’s vengeance against the darkness. Imprecation means “cursing,” and the Psalms are full of imprecation against God’s enemies. The most widely recognized imprecatory Psalms are Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140.

Both Jesus and Paul appeal to the imprecatory Psalm 69 (see John 2:17, 15:25; Romans 11:9-10, 15:3). The Apostles turned to the imprecatory Psalm 109:8 to guide them in replacing Judas (Acts 1:20).

Plead with God to arise in His anger to deliver the helpless (Psalm 7:6), to make the oppressor quake with fear and feel the indignation of God (Psalm 69: 23), to put to shame and confusion those who pursue the innocent (Psalm 70:2), to bring to ruin and swift judgment those who persecute the innocent (Psalm 109).

This does not preclude wishing for the repentance of the wicked. Pray for that too. But as with Church Discipline, when we have come to the place of seeing only hardness of heart and arrogant defiance against the God of Heaven, we ask God to ride to war to defend His name as the God of righteousness, the protector of the orphan and widow.

(4) Stand with Stand With Faith.

Proverbs 24:11-12 reads:

Deliver those who are drawn toward death,

And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”

Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?

He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?

And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

Every month members from FCC gather outside Planned Parenthood and bear witness to the Good News that God has come to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, to forgive sins, and to defend the helpless. We cannot run in and save the babies being murdered, but we can stand as witnesses to the truth. Come out and stand, pray, evangelize, and witness.

(5) Give to the benevolence fund.

If Americans continue to devalue human life even further, the institutions we as Americans have relied upon to care for the disabled and infirm – social welfare and medical insurance programs, public and private homes for the disabled, etc. – will officially and openly begin to abandon and murder those who need extraordinary intervention. We, together as a church, will have to come together to support each other financially as we obey God in caring for the poor and the weak.

Let not any of us say, “I didn’t know.” Let us bear witness to the truth, and let us do what we can to rescue those being carried off to the slaughter. And let the enemy and avenger be shut up by the praise of infants and nursing babes.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC. Joe is Kate’s husband, and father of four. 

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The Gospel Cordial

An excerpt from a sermon entitled “The Gospel Cordial,” delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on Lord’s Day Evening, September 20th, 1863. Available for free from the Christians Classics Etheral Library: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/proverbs.xlv.html

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. —Proverbs 31:6, 7.

[T]here is most comforting cordial in the Gospel. Dr. Watts truly sings—

Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

I will take first, the case of a true believer in Jesus who is sorely tried with cares and losses and crosses. I will suppose that you have come in here to-night dreading what may happen to you to-morrow. Perhaps your trouble my brother, is that your business is failing and that want is staring you in the face. Possibly you, my sister, are sorrowing over that dear child who lies in her little coffin in the quiet room upstairs at home. Or it may be that you, my friend, have a sick wife, and day by day you see fresh signs and tokens of the great loss that is surely awaiting you. I cannot mention all the causes of sad heart in the believing members of this great assembly, but my Master has sent me here with his own blessed cordial, which is more than sufficient to comfort every sorrowing saint here.

Remember beloved, that all that happens to you comes in the course of divine providence. Your loving heavenly Father has foreseen, foreknown, and I venture to say, foreordained it all. The medicine you have to drink is very bitter, but the unerring Physician measured all the ingredients drop by drop, and then mixed them in the very way in which they could best work for your highest good. Nothing in this world happens by chance. That great God – who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens, to whom all things that he hath made are but as the small dust of the balance, who maketh the clouds his chariot, and rideth upon the wings of the wind – that same God careth for you with such special care that he has even numbered the very hairs of your head and put your tears in his bottle. You may therefore rest assured that even those experiences which are causing you so much sorrow are all in accordance with his eternal counsel and decree. Doth not this divine cordial make you forget your poverty and remember your misery no more?

I might keep on all night trying thus to comfort tried saints, but I must content myself by giving them just one more sip of this divine cordial, and that shall be this – remember how soon all these trials will be over. Be of good courage, weary pilgrim; the heavenly mansion where thou art to rest for ever is almost in sight; and thou mayest well sing—

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul! how near,
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy golden gates appear!

How fast the years fly by, and our trials and troubles are flying just as fast. Beloved, Paul truly wrote concerning “our light affliction which is but for a moment;” for after all, our afflictions are only like a troubled dream, a little starting in the sleep of life, and then we wake to sleep no more for ever. This world is, to the believer, like a country inn by the wayside, where there are many constantly coming and going, and there are such disturbing noises that no one can rest. Well, never mind, thou art only tarrying there for one short night, and then thou shalt be up and away to thine eternal home, to go no more out for ever. Will not this divine cordial make thee forget thy poverty and remember thy misery no more?

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God’s Will: Our Sanctification

by Reese Hammond

After hearing Pastor Tim preach at the Jesus Church International building on God’s will and trusting God as our Good Shepherd, I couldn’t help but begin to think about my family’s current situation. Last year was a major year in our lives. In May I graduated from seminary, in July we had our son Malachi, in August I started a new job, and at the end of December I began looking for full-time ministry work. Overall, our year has been fast and furious. Now that we’re almost finished with March I can’t help but feel the weight of some of our pending life decisions. We haven’t found any ministry work despite praying and searching diligently. Our lease is soon to be up and we need to make a decision on whether to re-sign or not. We’re currently contemplating a possible career in the military and my current job is needing an answer to whether or not I’m coming back at the end of May. It can feel a little overwhelming at times.

Now, the blessing of being reminded that God is truly a Good Shepherd naturally confronts us with two things: First, that God is truly the Sovereign leader. As a shepherd leads his sheep, God lovingly and sovereignly leads His people. As Tim said, “God doesn’t consult the sheep.” God leads them where they are to go and He does so in perfect, sovereign power. Scripture affirms this in the 32nd Psalm when God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” He is truly our Good, Sovereign Shepherd and we must remember that.

Secondly, and much more important to the purpose of this article, is that because God is the Good Shepherd, I MUST trust Him in His leading. This is the hardest part in the Christian life, especially when God’s plans don’t seem to be meshing with ours. This is where faith truly works itself out. I MUST trust Him. I work and strive and pursue trusting God with my whole heart as Proverbs 3:5 tells me. Trust is not an optional thing in the Scriptures. Trust, in God’s eyes, is of primary concern.

Scripture constantly reminds us that our trust in God is of major importance. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” This verse is most powerful because God is telling us that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him without faith. That is because trusting God has everything to do with what we believe about Him. As Christians, it is sin NOT to trust God. Not trusting God reveals that we truly don’t believe what He has told us about Himself in His Word. This is a hard saying but I want the truth about the character and person of God to refresh us and help us trust Him more fully. When we don’t trust God, we are inherently saying to ourselves and to others that God isn’t good and that He isn’t trustworthy or powerful enough to trust. This does not, and cannot, please God. When we are afraid things won’t work out, doubt that God can provide, or despise our circumstances, we are stealing from ourselves the peace of God that can only be found in trusting Him and His character.

Now, as I say these things, I am also compelled to give comfort to all of us after the cut from God’s Word. As we strive to trust God for our future, whether at home or at FCC, we must be reminded and comforted that it is because of what Christ has done for us in the gospel that we can even trust God in the first place. He has given us a new heart and mind that is now able to seek Him. He has forgiven all our sins so that we can now come to God boldly through Christ’s shed bled. He has justified us, is sanctifying us, and will glorify us. And as we go through this life striving to grow in trust, be reminded that He is constantly working in us to accomplish this very thing. As Paul says in 1st Thessalonians, “…this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Reese Hammond is a member of Faith Community Church and a recent graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to the beautiful Lisa Hammond and is the proud father of Malachi. 

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Feeling The Exposure 

As Pastor Tim has been preaching on different gifts and roles within the body, I had a brief and intriguing conversation.  This person’s job required them to work outside; sometimes the weather was bitter cold.  At the same time, they had to have their index finger exposed to operate a handheld device.

A Part of the Body; Isolated and Exposed

Sherri and I have recently returned from visiting FCC’s missionaries in Africa.  We observed their isolation from fellowship and family, their daily challenges, along with the persistent dangers they face.

I appreciate the imagery of the exposed finger and our missionaries because “they” are not alone in their susceptibility.  The truth is – “we”—the local body of Christ—has part of “our” body isolated and exposed.

Consider the implication of the outside worker’s exposed finger.

The body feeling the distress and discomfort of the finger’s exposure is a good thing.  If the body ceases to feel the sting and ache of the finger, that is convenient but dangerous.  I encouraged the person who works outside, to do everything they can to make sure they always “feel” the exposed finger.

 

Jack Colwell is an elder at Faith Community Church. 

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“I say unto all, Watch.”

The following is from chapter 10 of John Owen’s book, known as Indwelling Sin In Believers, available for free at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/owen_remainderssin.html

The author is trying to help us understand how it is that Christians continue to struggle with sin in their lives after being made new by Jesus, and how to overcome this “indwelling sin,” because Jesus didn’t make us new that we might remain under sin’s power. Chapter 10 is focused on the “the deceit of sin, in drawing off the mind from its attendance unto particular duties.” I always find the Puritans edifying, in that while they are intensely self-examining, they yet turn our attention away from our feelings, to focus on God, and they’re not afraid of the idea of duty — that we have means, tools God has given us in this great salvation, and that we are responsible before God to use those means, to persevere in the salvation that God has called us to. Does God promise to keep us to the end? Hallelujah yes! And He has given us everything we need in Christ to make it all the way.

The Puritans’ language can be heavy lifting, but if you take your time with it, it yields immense benefit.

– Joe B.

_________________

It is from the deceit of sin that the mind is spiritually slothful, whereby it becomes negligent unto this duty. The principal discharge of its trust in this matter is expressed by watching; which is the great caution that the Lord Jesus gave unto his disciples in reference unto all their dangers from sin and Satan: Mark 13:37,

“I say unto all, Watch;”

that is, “Use your utmost diligence and circumspection, that you be not surprised and entangled with temptations.”

It is called also consideration: “Consider your ways,” — “Consider your latter end;” the want whereof God complains of in his people, Deuteronomy 32:29. Now, that which is contrary to these indispensable conditions of our preservation is spiritual slothfulness, as the apostle declares, Hebrews 6:11, 12,

“And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful.”

If we show not diligence, we are slothful, and in danger of coming short to inherit the promises. See 2 Peter 1:5-11,

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; to virtue knowledge,” etc.

“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” All this the mind is turned from, if once, by the deceit of sin, it be made slothful. Now, this sloth consists in four things: —

1st. Inadvertency. It doth not set itself to consider and attend unto its special concernments. The apostle, persuading the Hebrews with all earnestness to attend diligently, to consider carefully, that they may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, gives this reason of their danger, that they were “dull of hearing,” chap. 5:11; that is, that they were slothful, and did not attend unto the things of their duty. A secret regardlessness is apt to creep upon the soul, and it doth not set itself to a diligent marking how things go with it, and what is continually incumbent on it.

2dly. An unwillingness to be stirred up unto its duty. Proverbs 19:24,

“A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.”

There is an unwillingness in sloth to take any notice of warnings, calls, excitations, or stirrings up by the word, Spirit, judgments, any thing that God maketh use of to call the mind unto a due consideration of the condition of the soul. And this is a perfect evidence that the mind is made slothful by the deceit of sin, when especial calls and warnings, whether in a suitable word or a pressing judgment, cannot prevail with it to pull its hand out of its bosom; that is, to set about the special duties that it is called unto.

3dly. Weak and ineffectual attempts to recover itself unto its duty. Proverbs 26:14,

“As the door turneth upon its hinges, so doth the slothful man upon his bed.”

In the turning of a door upon its hinges, there is some motion but no progress. It removes up and down, but is still in the place and posture that it was. So is it with the spiritually slothful man on his bed, or in his security. He makes some motions or faint endeavors towards a discharge of his duty, but goes not on. There where he was one day, there he is the next; yea, there where he was one year, he is the next. His endeavors are faint, cold, and evanid; he gets no ground by them, but is always beginning and never finishing his work.

4thly. Heartlessness upon the apprehensions of difficulties and discouragements. Proverbs 22:13,

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.”

Every difficulty deters him from duty. He thinks it impossible for him to attain to that accuracy, exactness, and perfection which he is in this matter to press after; and therefore contents himself in his old coldness, negligence, rather than to run the hazard of a universal circumspection. Now, if the deceit of sin hath once drawn away the mind into this frame, it lays it open to every temptation and incursion of sin. The spouse in the Canticles seems to have been overtaken with this distemper, Song of Solomon 5:2, 3; and this puts her on various excuses why she cannot attend unto the call of Christ, and apply herself unto her duty in walking with him.

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One Small Butterfly, Two Big Lessons

by BJ Rathburn

I don’t know about you, but I love God’s creatures, especially those in the animal kingdom. I like to look for spiritual analogies and Scriptural truths illustrated in the creature before me and how God made it. As I’ve reflected on what I might share with you, I remember a certain encounter with one of God’s small creatures and two important lessons it taught me. I share them here in hopes it will encourage you in some way.

It was late in the afternoon on a late Spring day. I had been walking through some hard things for a while that would eventually result in marital separation. In the moment, things seemed to be piling up on me. Can you relate? The Psalmist knew this well when he cried out to the Lord in Ps. 25:17, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Well, the troubles of my heart were most certainly enlarged that day. Something had happened and I didn’t have anyone to share it with but the Lord. I was overwhelmed, confused, frightened, anxious, hurt, angry, lonely, and had no earthly idea of what to do. I walked the short walk to a little clearing at a nearby trailhead, sheltered from public view, with an arbor and some benches on the edge of a scrubby mesquite forest. No sooner did I sit down when the tears just flooded out.

I was trying to mentally articulate a prayer of some kind to ask God for help By Wikipedia: User: Umbris (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonswith the turmoil in my heart when through my tears I saw something move at my feet. Scorpions, tarantulas, colonies of fire ants, and other nasty things inhabited my neck of the woods in Dallas, so the first thing I did was instinctively yank my feet up onto the bench. But when I looked more carefully, I saw a beautiful butterfly, (probably a Cassius Blue), blending in perfectly with the background beneath me. It appeared to be sunning itself, but periodically closed its wings so I got a good view of its defense mechanism patterning. For a fleeting moment, the beauty of the winged thing at my feet displaced my self-pity.

Lesson One: When You Need God to Change the Course of History, He did.

My initial reaction of gratitude (that the creature at my feet was not venomous) quickly morphed into a spirit that questioned the Lord. “Lord! I wish you would come down and straighten this out! I wish you would come down and make your presence known! I wish you would come down and interrupt all this and fix it forever! I wish you would come down and show me what to do! I want to be able to see You as clearly as the butterfly at my feet. I wish You would do something! Anything!”

The Lord used the tenor of my impetuous grumbling to take me to Isiah 64-65, which opens, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down…” And no sooner did I read that, when I knew God was using His Word to tell me that He did. He did rend the Heavens and the curtain to the Holy of Holies, too! He did come down. He sent His Son into the world to live an obscure life full of hardship, to suffer at the hands of the persecutors He came to save, and to die that I, among many, could receive forgiveness for my sins and an eternity in Heaven free of all the pain and sorrow and death that sin delivers on earth. In my selfishness, I had been whining to God that my momentary troubles were bigger than His solution. But I was wrong. And in my selfishness, I didn’t really want this reminder at first. It seemed that God was minimizing my pain with the “good” news. But God chastened me and then encouraged me that when His incarnate Son came down, His solution to sin and sin sickness, His solution to brokenness, His solution to pain – was a once-and-forever, bigger than all evil solution that couldn’t be revoked, overturned, repealed, undone, or even diminished. It didn’t minimize evil or heartache (though I have sometimes blown things out of proportion). Rather, Jesus on the cross and Jesus in His glory simply dwarfs the most monumental suffering.

I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I sometimes unwittingly use my emotions as an excuse to ignore truth. I give myself an emotional hardship pass as though getting out of sound doctrine were the same as a “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. But this path only exacerbates the problems underlying raw and unruly emotions. When I follow God’s way of dealing with the underlying problems, I am on the path to peace and healing even when the trouble doesn’t go away – even when the trouble gets worse for a while. And so it was that day.

Lesson Two: Most vulnerable with God is safest.

As God gently but firmly corrected my upside-down theology, I was free to see a second lesson in the butterfly. When its wings were up, it could launch into flight a fraction of a second faster. And the “eyes” on the underside of its wings, meant to scare off or confuse predators, were in plain view. So when its wings were up, its guard was up. Its defenses were at the ready. But where it rested at my feet, it was better camouflaged with its wings down, sunning itself. In that setting, at that time, being more vulnerable offered it more protection.

By leppyone (Cassius Blue) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWhen I saw that, I marveled, and the Lord reminded me that “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). So here’s my second confession: I know God wants me to guard my heart. But sometimes I use the language of biblically guarding my heart to cover up a selfish desire to protect my heart from pain. I can quickly erect an invisible shrine to all things that help me avoid pain, sprinkle some Bible verses on it and tell myself I’m doing well, when all I’m really doing is trying to save my life my way, apart from Christ, and losing it in the process. When I let God protect me from pain, I’m not passively subjecting myself to evil or going around hunting for pain by any means! But I’m able to follow Jesus into difficult, even painful situations and simultaneously experience joy, freedom, and peace because I’m following Him and He is protecting me. God used the butterfly that day to show me that my heart only wanted to follow God if He led me out of trouble, away from pain, towards momentary happiness. And that in the process, I was forfeiting the blessings of following Him where He leads, experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding, and watching Him provide protection for me in ways that added no sorrow.

I pray that if you’re going through something hard right now, God will gently but inescapably show you that when you need Him to change the course of your life, He did. And when you most need protection, resting at His feet in vulnerable submission to and humble dependence on Him is the safest place you can ever be.

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We Have An Advocate

From John Bunyan’s The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate

 

The Apostle John, holding 1 John 2:1

1 John 2:1b. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous

The best saints are most sensible of their sins, and most apt to make mountains of their mole hills. Satan also, as has been already hinted, doth labour greatly to prevail with them to sin, and to provoke their God against them, by pleading what is true, or by surmising evilly of them, to the end they may be accused by him (Job 2:9). Great is his malice toward them, great is his diligence in seeking their destruction; wherefore greatly doth he desire to sift, to try, and winnow them, if perhaps he may work in their flesh to answer his design-that is, to break out in sinful acts, that he may have by law to accuse them to their God and Father. Wherefore, for their sakes this text abides, that they may see that, when they have sinned, “they have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

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