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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.  

Posted in: Bible study, Christian Living, Security, Uncategorized

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For the Purpose of Godliness

This is the phrase that is included in each chapter title of Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  I can almost hear mouse clicks all over the city as readers of this blog attempt to exit out after reading the word “discipline” – the “D word.” For some reason, we Reformed believers can mistakenly equate discipline with legalism. In his book, Whitney shows how the spiritual disciplines are far from being legalistic, restrictive or binding, but rather the means to unparalleled spiritual liberty. If you will think about the excitement of achieving a difficult goal, whether becoming proficient on a musical instrument, losing weight, running a marathon, or – you fill in the blank – you know that it took discipline to achieve that goal.

If you are a new believer seeking guidance in your new walk with Christ, or a seasoned saint feeling a little stale in your pilgrimage,  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life can be a means of grace in your life to give you direction and refreshment in your journey with your Lord and Savior.

Donald Whitney’s key verse for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” This verse is the theme of the entire book. In other words, the spiritual disciplines are means, not ends. The end – that is, the purpose of practicing the disciplines – is godliness. Whitney defines godliness as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that is both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ.

Whitney assures us that we stand before God only in the righteousness that has been bought by another: Jesus Christ. All who come to God trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ to make them right with God are given the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes all those in whom He resides to have new, holy hungers they never had before. They hunger, for example, for the Word of God, which before salvation may have seemed boring or irrelevant. Perhaps for that reason, Bible Intake is the first of the spiritual disciplines exposited by Dr. Whitney in his book.

Whitney limits himself to those disciplines that are Biblical, that is, to practices taught or modeled in the Bible. He skillfully unpacks ten spiritual disciplines, where they can be found in the Scriptures, and how they can be practiced experientially for the purpose of godliness.

I will confess that I am currently NOT practicing all ten of the disciplines as outlined by Donald Whitney, but I found the book very helpful in reminding me of the benefits of spiritual disciplines and redirecting my focus to my purpose in life until He comes or I go home.

My prayer for myself and for my brothers and sisters at Faith Community Church is that we will discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness for HIS glory and HIS alone. Amen.

 

Tina Bush

Posted in: Bible study, Book Review, Christian Living

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Goals for 2018

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of
God”

~Christ Jesus

I am not a big fan of resolutions but I do have some goals for the New Year. One of them
is to increase my intake of Scripture. I want to utilize the technology at my fingertips and
listen to Scripture with earbuds and blue tooth speakers. And I just want to read it more.
I came across a very simple plan in which the New Testament could be read in 30 days.
Basically, if I read 8 chapters a day, I could cover the entire New Testament. That is not
an unreasonable investment of time – four chapters in the morning; four chapters in the
evening. So that will be my goal for the coming year – consuming many more spiritual
calories. As I read, I just want to listen to the Scriptures. I want to lay down my
presuppositions – and all that I think I know about the text – and read it as much as
possible like it is the first time. I want to listen to the Word of God.

1 – Matthew 1-8
2 – Matthew 9-15
3 – Matthew 16-23
4 – Matthew 24-28
5 – Mark 1-7
6 – Mark 8-13
7 – Mark 14 – Luke 2
8 – Luke 3-8
9 – Luke 9-13
10 – Luke 14-21
11 – Luke 22 – John 2
12 – John 3-8
13 – John 9-15
14 – John 16 – Acts 1
15 – Acts 2-8
16 – Acts 9-15
17 – Acts 16-21
18 – Acts 22 – Romans 1
19 – Romans 2-10
20 – Romans 11- 1 Corinthians 6
21 – 1 Corinthians 7-15
22 – 1 Corinthians 16 – 2 Corinthians 12
23 – 2 Corinthians 13 – Ephesians 4
24 – Ephesians 5 – Colossians 4
25 – 1 Thessalonians 1 – 1 Timothy 6
26 – 2 Timothy 1 – Hebrews 6
27 – Hebrews 7 – James 2
28 – James 3 – 1 John 1
29 – 1 John 2 – Revelation 4
30 – Revelation 5-22

 

 Dr. Timothy Juhnke is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church. In addition, Tim also serves as President of Faith Christian Academy, a Classical Christian school in Kansas City. He and his wife, Lori, have four grown sons and three precious granddaughters.

Posted in: Bible study, Pastor Tim

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Our Daily Bread

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

Every morning before school my dad led us in devotions.  He always read from a little devotional booklet called Our Daily Bread.  Each day it had a few verses of Scripture usually accompanied by a brief – and sometimes interesting – story for application.  Admittedly, I probably enjoyed the stories more than anything, but looking back I am extremely thankful for those mornings.  First, it established in my mind honor for God and His word.  It also established a routine – I knew every morning what we were going to do, and my dad knew every morning what he was going to read to us.  But perhaps more importantly than anything, it modeled for me what would become a lifelong pursuit:  Daily encountering God through His word.  Our Daily Bread

One of the biggest challenges to daily Bible reading is the lack of structure and routine.  Structure and routine are the disciplines that must accompany daily Bible reading.  Establish a time that you are going to set aside for Bible reading.  Depending on your schedule it may be morning or evening; but get a time established in stone and keep it!  Secondly, I strongly encourage that you find a daily devotional that will help direct you every morning.  There are three very helpful resources that I strongly recommend.  We have a couple copies of these in our bookstore, but they can be purchased at almost any major book outlet.

I highly recommend any one of the following:

  • Strength for Today by John MacArthur.  This is an excellent devotional.  MacArthur has written a devotional for each day of the year.  There’s not a lot of fluff here.  Solid Bible teaching and application.
  • Read Through the Bible in a Year by John Kohlenberger.  This is a very inexpensive investment that will reap tremendous dividends.  Kohlenberger provides some brief background to each book.  Each day has a reading plan – that if followed for a year – will result in having read through the entire Bible in one year.  Maybe this could be your New Year resolution!
  • For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word by D.A. Carson.  In an effort to help preserve biblical thinking and living, D. A. Carson has also written thought-provoking comments and reflections regarding each day’s scriptural passages. And, most uniquely, he offers you perspective that places each reading into the larger framework of history and God’s eternal plan to deepen your understanding of his sovereignty—and the unity and power of his Word.

Posted in: Pastor Tim

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Role of Old Testament Law to the Church

BY MARTY BEAMER

The Old Testament has baffled believers for centuries. What do we obey? Is it applicable for us at all? There are some people who think that the Old Testament law has no bearing on people today while others believe that it should be obeyed. The former will quote verses like Galatians 2:16, “… yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” The latter usually take their position based on 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” However, the second group will usually do their best to avoid passages like Leviticus 11:17 “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.” So what role should the Old Testament law play in the church today?

“All Scripture” is profitable. Wait. “All?

Let me start by addressing those who say that the Old Testament has no bearing on the life of the church. While these people are usually right in stating we are under a different covenant, they are wrong in their application of the covenant. Usually, the book of Galatians is the go-to defense for this position. But a close reading of the book will easily refute this interpretation. Paul never once says in the letter that the law has no bearing on the life of the Believer. What Paul repeatedly says is that the law cannot save a person. Those who take this position are falling into a common fallacy known as the “either-or-fallacy.” Either the law has complete bearing on our life or it has none at all. The problem is that this creates a false dichotomy and places the New Testament against the Old Testament. Paul himself will strongly go against this when he says, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not!” (Gal. 3:21). What these mistaken interpreters fail to realize is that a New Testament faith has its foundations on an Old Testament faith. In fact, I am bold enough to say that there is no New Testament faith without the Old Testament faith because they are one and the same. Those who had faith in the Old Testament looked forward to what God would do, and we look backwards to what God has done. To say the Old Testament has no purpose for the life of a New Testament believer is to lay the axe to our very own roots. We need the Old Testament. And, it is just as much the breathed Word of God as the New Testament.

So then, what do we do with the law? If it is the foundation for the faith we hold today and the Word of God, then wouldn’t we be negligent to skip over portions of Scripture? If you answered yes, then how do you read the law and interpret it correctly? Let me try and give you a few principles that might help. These aren’t exhaustive but it might get you started.

First, try to understand the reason God gave the specific law you are looking at. What is going on in Israel’s history when the law is given? What is God’s main concern in giving the law? Almost all of the laws are dealing with how Israel is to live with a holy and perfect God. God demands holiness for those who dwell with Him. The law usually answers the question: What does it take to be His people?

Secondly, understand that the reason behind God giving the law is still applicable today. God still demands holiness to be in His presence. Christians today question what it means to be in communion with a holy God. The difference is that the sacrificial demands have now been met by Jesus. We are holy and beloved before God because the sacrifice has been made! There is nothing we could ever do to be made right with God (the argument of Galatians). But that does not mean we shouldn’t live holy lives. God desires for us to be in communion with Him and still desires for us to live in obedience for that to happen. Sin still breaks that communion. Again, the difference is that we do not go to the temple to sacrifice in order to restore that communion. It has already been restored by Christ!

Finally, let the New Testament help inform your view of the law. The New Testament, specifically the teachings of Jesus, are an extension of the Old Testament law, and consequently, the correct interpretation. If it is said in the New Testament, you can be sure that it has binding implication on your life. For instance, Jesus says adultery is sinful (Matt. 5:27), therefore the Old Testament law is still binding on us. However, the law about not eating pig (Lev. 11:17) is not restated in the New Testament. Instead Jesus says in Mark 7:19 that it isn’t the food that makes us unclean but what is in the heart. Therefore, the principle of being holy before God stays the same, the practice of being holy before Him looks different.

I hope we will not take the Old Testament law lightly. The New Testament church should honor the law and understand the principles God taught, and still teaches, today. But, we should not be bound to it for our salvation. We are under a different covenant and so the application of the law looks different, but it is still, as Paul said, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Do not neglect it but profit from it.

Marty Beamer is Assistant Pastor at FCC and an M.Div. and Biblical Languages student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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The Sinkhole Syndrome

BY DONALD S. WHITNEYsinkhole

You know the story. The man has been believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that—like most sinkholes—the problem didn’t develop overnight.

Several years ago, this man likely had a relatively consistent devotional life through which the Lord often refreshed, strengthened, and matured him. But with each passing year, his busy life became ever busier. Increasingly he saw his devotional life more as a burden—a mere obligation sometimes—than a blessing. Because of the massive doses of Bible teaching he’d heard—in addition to the knowledge gained teaching church Bible classes himself—he began to imagine that he needed less private prayer and Bible intake than when he was younger and not as spiritually mature. Besides, he had so many other God-given responsibilities that surely God would understand that he was too busy to meet with Him every day.

One small concession led to another; one plausible rationalization led to the next, until the devastating day when a tipping point was reached, and the spiritual weakness developed by too many private compromises could no longer sustain even the appearance of Christian integrity. And into the sinkhole fell his reputation, witness, ministry, and perhaps much more.

If you’re a strong young Christian, passionate about the things of God, and you find it impossible to imagine yourself coming to such a condition: beware. This situation could easily be yours in a few years. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 are an apt admonition here: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. For fifteen years I’ve been a professor of biblical spirituality. I’ve written several books and many articles related to spirituality. I speak on the subject to future ministers and missionaries on a daily basis in the seminary classroom, and in churches and conferences around the country almost every weekend. And yet I will freely admit that it’s harder for me to maintain my devotional life now than ever in my life. That’s because I’m busier now than ever. I have many more responsibilities than I had as a young man. And they all take time, time that must come from somewhere.

As the pressures of life increase and more deadlines loom, it becomes harder to maintain time for the devotional life. “Who will know if I abandon a consistent prayer life? Who can tell if I seldom turn the pages of Scripture? I know the Bible pretty well already, and I hear it a lot at church. God has given me this busy life; surely He understands.” And the erosion begins.

At the outset it’s likely that very few will know when the hidden part of your spiritual life begins crumbling. Just as imperceptible movements of water underground can carry away the earth beneath long before anyone on the surface perceives it, so the pressures of life can secretly displace the soil of our private spiritual disciplines long before the impact of their absence is visible to others. The more public parts of a Christian’s life, such as church involvement and various forms of ministry, can often continue with little observable change right up until the awful moment of collapse and the hypocrisy is revealed.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with many factors that undermine intimacy with Christ. Realize that it’s almost certain that the number of time-thieves trying to steal from your time with God will only increase as the years pass. My hope is that this article will alert you to this subtle, creeping tendency so that it won’t overtake you.

Never be deceived by the temptation to think that with the increasing spiritual maturity you expect to come with age, the less you will need to feast your soul on Christ through the Bible and prayer. What Jesus prayed in John 17:17 for all His followers—”Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”—applies to us all throughout our lives.

Jesus practiced what He prayed for us. While Jesus is infinitely more than our example, nevertheless He is also our example of sanctified living, of living coram deo. The Bible tells us (in Luke 4:16) that Jesus regularly attended when God’s people assembled to hear the Scriptures, and also that He would get alone to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23). Jesus’ followers need both the sustaining grace that comes through the public worship of God as well as that which comes to us when we meet with Him individually.

I don’t want to minimize the role of the church in preventing spiritual shipwreck in the life of the believer. In this piece, however, I am writing to warn those who will increasingly be tempted to think that frequently meeting God with others can compensate for seldom meeting with Him alone.

There are seasons of life when our devotional habits may be providentially altered. But the general rule is that those reconciled to God through the cross of His Son need conscious, personal communion with Him every day until the day they see Him face to face. And the ordinary means by which He gives it is through the personal spiritual disciplines found in Scripture, chief of which are the intake of the Word of God and prayer.

Pursue the Lord with a relentless, lifelong, obstacle-defying passion. Resolve never let your daily life keep you from Jesus daily.

Donald S. Whitney is Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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