I Am Debtor

When I think of all the many ways I have been blessed by God, only then do I begin to see that to Him I owe all praise and thanks.  I am not talking about the worldly provisions that God has given – though by all comparisons, God has been good to me.  What strikes me most, is the richness of His grace and favor shown unto me through His complete and sufficient work to secure my salvation in Jesus Christ.

I was dead – not dying – in sin.  I was unlovable, recalcitrant, petulant, defiant.  And God proved His love in that while I was still a sinner, He sent His Son to die for me.  Christ bore the wrath I had earned, the cross I deserved, and exchanged it all for His righteousness, His peace, that I might be reconciled unto God.

As the hymn sings, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

As I’ve been reading the Memoir’s of R.M. M’Cheyne, I came across this poem of his that says so much better what I want to express.

“I AM DEBTOR”
R.M. M’Cheyne
May 1837

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk you glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know -
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know -
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know -
Not till then – how much I owe.

When the praise of heaven I hear
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know -
Not till then – how much I owe.

Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light:
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe

When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall, but still arise;
The Spirit comes – the tempter flies:
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.

Oft the nights of sorrow reign -
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain,
But a night thine anger burns -
Morning comes, and joy returns:
God of comforts! bid me show
To thy poor, how much I owe.

McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.

SDG

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Why I Struggle to Pray

“Pray without ceasing.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)

I heard it said once that if you want to embarrass a Pastor, ask him about his prayer life.

The sad fact of the matter is, even as pastors, we struggle to pray.  You probably expect that pastors have got a handle on these spiritual disciplines, after all, we’ve got our Master of Divinity hanging on the wall.  Truth is, though, the life of a pastor is just like the life of any other Christian.  Pastors wrestle with sin, struggle with discipline, and must constantly come back under the Word of God for “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).  No Pastor has arrived at that point where they have got Divinity Mastered – and those who tell you otherwise should be avoided.

All that to say, I struggle with prayer.

I hesitate to tell you this because 1) I am ashamed of the fact, and 2) I don’t want you to use that as an excuse (Well, the pastor struggles with prayer, so I don’t have to pray…).  Still, I think that as a Pastor, I should live the Christian life in such a way that demonstrates a life of Discipleship, through what I say and do.  Discipleship is a journey, and that journey has ups and downs, hard lessons to be learned, and there are times when each of us stumble and fall.  To model Discipleship that is so polished and perfected is a lie – not even the Disciples in the Gospel followed Jesus perfectly.

So, back to prayer…  I struggle with prayer.  Sometimes I forget to pray.  There, I said it.  Sometimes I lay down and night and I’m asleep before my head hits the pillow, and I’m up with the alarm rushing for a busy day – and nary a prayer has been uttered.  Sometimes I’m frustrated, preoccupied, or I just don’t stop to take the time to do it.   This isn’t always the case.  Often I do pray, and I try to maintain a daily habit of time before the face of God in prayer.  But then there are days when I find I don’t pray – and that disturbs me.

I hate this about myself. I know that prayerlessness is faithlessness.  Prayerlessness is disobedience.  Prayerlessness is godlessness.

So why don’t I pray?  I ask this so that I can identify in my own life, and possibly yours, the reasons we struggle to pray so that we can, hopefully, grow in prayer.  Here are a couple of thoughts:

It feels like I’m not doing anything.  When there is a problem I want to fix it. I want to address the issue, talk to those affected, work to bring help, relief, and resolution.  And so it seems counterproductive to stop and pray.  Shouldn’t I be doing something, anything, instead?

What I forget is that prayer is the most important thing I can do.  Martin Luther once said on a busy day, “I have so much to do that I will spend the first three hours in prayer.”  Prayer brings us in touch with the One who is able to do all things, the One who makes our actions effective, the One who empowers and supports our love.  Any action that does not begin in prayer will ultimately rely on your strength and power to sustain it.

I’m not good enough to pray.  I can’t work with a dirty desk.  If I’ve got a day of writing ahead of me, I’ve got to clear the desk first, remove all distractions, then I can get to work.  We often assume the same attitude with prayer, that we’ve got to get our hearts right before we can come to God.   Silly rabbit, that’s what prayer is for.

I don’t get anything out of praying.  For some reason we’ve come to expect that every experience of prayer should culminate in some ecstatic mystical delight that satisfies our existential longing for communion with God.  We should feel swept away, tingly, overcome with the moment of prayer.

What we fail to remember is that, as in any relationship, oftentimes in prayer before God we find ourselves dealing with the daily, ordinary, pedestrian affairs.  We come to Him asking for our daily bread.  Sometimes we find ourselves with bread to satisfy our needs; other times we discover steak, wine, and desert.  But, most usually, it’s the bread that we need that we find in prayer.

My mind wanders and I don’t know what to say.  You know how it is.  You sit down to pray, and 10 seconds in, you’re already thinking about your bills, your schedule, your kids, the ballgame – everything but prayer.  Maybe you refocus, and get back to your praying, and a minute in, you start dozing off.  Even the most focused of us can get Spiritual ADD when we close our eyes in prayer.

Ultimately, we are undisciplined and unfocused in our prayers.  The disciples struggled with this, they couldn’t stay awake to pray with Jesus in the Garden.  We hate the idea of reading prayers, and think we have to forge out on our own, and then we ramble and mutter and really say nothing at all.  We think of all the random things that come to mind while in prayer as distractions, when in reality they may be the Spirit’s prompting us to actually pray for those things.  We are spiritually lazy, and we give up too easily.  We find opening our hearts to be a difficult thing, and so we offer up a few platitudes and deprive ourselves of the sweet communion with God that fervent prayer can offer.

I don’t really need God.  I don’t think anyone would really ever come out and say this, but a prayerless life is a life without God.  When we don’t pray, we are telling ourselves, I can take care of this on my own.  There’s no need to bother God with these day to day issues; I can handle it.  I’ll wait to ask God for help when things really get bad.

Genuine prayer is humbling, dependent, and needy.  Genuine prayer to God is like a beggar pleading for food.  “Give us this day our daily bread” Jesus taught us to pray.  We are, whether we acknowledge it or not, constantly dependent upon God.  Prayer brings us back to the reality that no matter how successful we may be, we need His help, His provision, His grace, His mercy, His strength, His love, His wisdom, His everything.

I don’t think God will hear/answer my prayer.  Yes, I know that throughout Scripture God heard the prayers of His people, and He promises to hear our prayers through Christ who intercedes for us.  I know the stories of answered prayer; I’ve even seen prayers answered in my own life.  Still, maybe God will let me down this time.  Can I really trust Him?  Maybe God will not grant what I want… no, NEED… or His plan will be different than mine.

We doubt God’s goodness, we forget God’s faithfulness, we do not trust His provision and so we do not pray.  We think we know better than God what we need in this life, we have our plans worked out and all we really want is His approval, not His will.  So we insulate ourselves: God can’t let us down if we never ask anything of Him.

I love my sin more than I love God.  That is a hard truth to accept, but it is often the case.  I love the power that a bitter and unforgiving heart gives me over others.  I love the immediate gains that selfishness and indulgence offers.

Coming into the presence of God reveals my sinfulness and demands a healing.  Praying for my enemy forces me to see him no longer as an enemy but someone to love.  Praying for healing in my marriage requires me to accept my responsibility in its brokenness.  Prayer doesn’t change the world, it changes me.  And the old me doesn’t want to change.

Okay, so I’ve been brutally honest.  But isn’t that where we need to start with God?  Maybe you can relate, perhaps I’m alone here.  The fact remains, we need to pray.  We need to cast aside these hindrances that would keep us from coming with confidence before the throne of God.  Christ has opened the way, let us draw near to Him.

SDG

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You Need More Gospel!

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:15)

It never ceases to amaze me what people will do to shed a few pounds.  Here’s a couple of novel approaches that I’ve seen recently.

There’s the “Nothing But Twinkies” Diet: The theory is, Twinkies are only 150 calories, so if you eat 10 a day, that’s only 1,500 calories.  I’m sorry, but what?!?  That’s what got me overweight in the first place.

Even I see how stupid that is!

Even I see how stupid that is!

It’s similar to another fad called the “Eat-All-Day” Diet: In this program, you graze all through the day on approved foods.  I know of others who graze all day, this is what they look like…

mmm... food...

mmm… food…

Then there is the “Sleeping Beauty Diet.”  I kid you not.  The theory is that lack of sleep can often lead to weight gain, so then the reverse is true.  Sleep a little more, close the eyes, fold the hands, and you’ll see the pounds just walk away.  Wait a minute, that was an episode of Doctor Who.

Yeah, that'll work.

Yeah, that’ll work.

While I’ll give props to creating a diet based on my two favorite past times – Doctor Who and Sleeping – I’ve got enough common sense to know it ain’t gonna work!

I know I need to lose weight myself, and trust me, if there was a tried and true way to do it without having to break a sweat or take a break from sweets, I’d be all over that.  But the simple truth of the matter is this: there is only one real way to lose weight and keep it off, Eat Less and Exercise More.  If you want to shed the extra pounds, it will probably take as long as it did to gain them in the first place.  But all the shakes, formulas, tricks and shortcuts are simply an avoidance of reality – you have to eat better, eat less, and move your body if you want to lose weight.  Remember this was once the recommended way to get skinny again:

Words fail me!

Words fail me!

For every fad and gimmick in the weight loss industry, there are just as many in the realm of Spiritual Disciplines.  We don’t like the sound of spiritual discipline, it’s too much like exercise, it’s too formal and complicated.  I just want to enjoy Jesus, and know His blessings, right?

I can’t tell you how many times I hear stuff like this.  “I just want to connect with Jesus.  I don’t need the church, or some preacher, or some ‘organized religion’.  I can just center myself, and listen for His voice.  That’s real spirituality.”

Those were my words once.  I faithfully attended Bedside Baptist, covered by the tutelage of Pastor Whitesheets – I had taken the “Sleep Your Way to Heaven” approach.  Is it any wonder, then, that my faith was stagnant, my life riddled with hypocrisy, my heart full of sin?

What shook me from that spiritual stupor?  What do we need as a healthy, sustainable spiritual diet?  It’s simple: You Need More of the Gospel!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that saves, and the only thing that will keep you saved.  It is the message that we are all desperately broken and headed for destruction, but that God, in His grace, delivers and forgives all who call on the name of Jesus Christ for their salvation.  You will never come to a point in your life where you have exhausted your need for, or the supply of, the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are you struggling with sin?  You need more Gospel!  Don’t come up with excuses to help cover it up or justify it, confess it, repent of it, turn from it, and call out to Jesus for your salvation.

Are you wrestling with doubt – can you be sure of God’s provision for you?  You need more Gospel!  Look there and see that God loves you, and sent His Son for you, so that He could bring you into eternal fellowship with Him.

Are you wondering what your purpose is in life?  You need more Gospel!  There you will find that God has forgiven you and given you His Spirit in Jesus Christ so that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you may share the love of God in Jesus Christ with those around you.

Are you wanting to know God better, to live more like Jesus?  You need more Gospel!  Find Him where He has promised to be, in His Word, in His church, in the preaching, the sacraments, the fellowship of believers.  God has promised to pour out His grace upon those who seek Him there – why would you look anywhere else.

Leave the spiritual gimmicks, the devotional fads behind.  Turn to the Gospel again and again and again and again.  This was the call, is the call of Christ: “Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”

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How Long Was That Sermon?

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching..”
(2 Timothy 4:2)

This week I posted a question on two different Facebook discussion groups to which I belong, asking about the average length of their (or their pastor’s) sermons.  The resulting conversations were interesting, and I thought I would share with you some of my observations.

  • Never ask a Pastor’s Discussion Group a question unless you are prepared for a lot of answers. There is an old adage, “never give a pastor a microphone unless you’ve got 20 minutes to spare.”  That lesson came home this week.  I posted my question about the length of sermons on a Monday morning, and by early that afternoon, I had over 200 responses.  My phone, my tablet, and my computer all kept chirping away to let me know I had received a new message.  It sounded like a flock of birds had moved into my office.
  • Some People really need to Relax. The question I asked was innocent enough, “How long are your sermons?”  Most pastors, and many laypeople, responded just saying approximately how long the sermons lasted.  Others, however, took the opportunity to hijack the discussion forum into a diatribe about how long (or short) a sermon should be.  “If you can’t preach for more than 30 minutes, then perhaps preaching isn’t your gift.”  Yes, that was actually said.  “If you can’t say it in less than 15 minutes, then it doesn’t need to be said.”  That was said, too.  Heated arguments erupted over “catering” to the congregation’s attention span or caving to worldly pressures; snarky comments were posted comparing people’s willingness to sit through a 2 hour movie or game and their rejection of worship lasting more than 1 hour.  It was disturbing to note the lack of humility and graciousness demonstrated in the conversations.  IT’S A FACEBOOK DISCUSSION FOLKS – RELAX!

Now on to the actual question:

  • The responses on sermon lengths were vastly different based on the group responding. The first group I asked is a discussion group of rather conservative PCUSA pastors.  Sermon times reported there ranged from 15 to 30 minutes, with the average being about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on how much is scheduled for the worship service that day (baptism, communion, etc.).
    The other group I asked is not specifically Presbyterian, but is a group of Reformed (Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.) believers from all over the US, pastors and layman alike.  The overwhelming response from this group reported 40 to 50 minute sermons.  Their worship services lasted over an hour, with the sermon being the central part of the service.
    Just to share where I come in – my sermons, on the average, are about 18 to 22 minutes long, including the Scripture reading and prayers.  I don’t intentionally time them, but each week I have to take the recording of the sermon, and edit it down for our 15 minute radio broadcast.
  • One of my favorite comments was this one:
    “When I was a kid, our pastor’s response to people who were chronic complainers, including opinions about sermon length, was this: “Sermonettes make Christianettes.” I guess those folks needed to hear hour long sermons. Anyways, he never caved.  I actually listened to him from about 5th grade on. His sermons were shorter than any class I had in school and about the same length as Gilligan’s Island. I was convicted at an early age that if I complained about sermon length, I would sound stupid.”

The overall lesson is this: Preaching should explain and apply the meaning of the Bible.  The sermon ought to deliver the truth of God, not give the preacher’s opinion on current events, or pass along the latest self-help ideas.  Every sermon should explain the Bible and then apply it to people’s lives.

My preaching may not conclude with an overtly practical application.  You will not often hear “because of this, we need to do this.”  Rather, my hope is that through the sermon I may show and celebrate in the glory of God revealed to us through His Word, that we might grow in the likeness of Christ together.  This may not be immediately practical, but I pray that it is eternally helpful.  Whether my preaching takes 15 minutes, or whether it lasts an hour, the Word of God must be read, taught, and applied to our hearts for our salvation and for God’s glory.

SDG

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Fasting From Communion with God

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35)

I’ve been reading through the biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister in the 1830’s.  The biographical sketch of his life is filled with excerpts from his daily journals and insights into his heart and mind for ministry.  It is fascinating (and somewhat comforting) to read of another pastor from an entirely different time and place, who also struggled with a sense of never making the most of his time, who felt terribly unqualified for the high calling of ministry were it not for the Sovereign Grace of God, and whose greatest joy was to bring glory to God in sharing the Gospel.

Something struck me, though, as I was reading, that made me stop and think about my life in comparison with M’Cheyne’s.  Early on there was this summary of the young pastor’s ministry:

From the first he fed others by what he himself was feeding upon. His preaching was in a manner the development of his soul’s experience. It was a giving out of the inward life. He loved to come up from the pastures wherein the Chief Shepherd had met him—to lead the flock entrusted to his care to the spots where he found nourishment.

(Bonar, Andrew A. Memoirs and Remains of R.M.M’Cheyne. (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1978)pg. 36.)

I have shared before my daily Scripture reading practice.  I encourage everyone to read daily from the Word of God, and to read in a way that lets the Word really sink in, soaking the mind and soul with God’s revelation.  There are a variety of reading programs out there, but the one I prefer, actually, was developed by M’Cheyne.  In this program, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice per year, reading about four chapters a day, taken from different parts of the Bible.

I share this, not necessarily as an advertisement for the reading plan (though you can go here to find out more).  No, I share this to warn you of a hazard of such a plan.  Reading God’s Word ought to draw you deeper into the presence of God, knowing His will, revealing His love, and strengthening your faith.  There is deep, nourishing, life-giving power in His Word.  Still, sometimes having a reading plan before you makes you want to read to “get it done” so you can move on to the next thing.

How often do we read our Bibles, check the reading off the “To-Do List” for the day, close the book and move on?  Are we just grazing in the grass, never really getting down to the roots?  I have to admit, there are a lot of days when that’s all my Bible reading really is – just something to do.  I skim the surface of the page, my eyes see the words, but the words never really touch my heart.

How can I expect to feed the flock unless I am first fed by the Word?  If I am not sharing from the deep experience of my soul, if I am not “giving out of the inward life,” then the best I can give is but an anemic, watered-down, half-life of the Gospel.  If I am not fed in the pasture where my Chief Shepherd as met me, how can I ever hope to lead others.

I read that M’Cheyne would rise well before the break of day to worship and fellowship in the communion with God, singing Psalms and hymns and reading God’s word.  That time in devotion would so prepare him for the day that all of his studies, all of his conversations, all of his leisure, was permeated with the fragrance of the Gospel.  He had been to the feast, and he was sharing the portion of the table of the Lord.

Why do we, why do I, fast from such a blessed fellowship today?  Why do we starve ourselves spiritually, content to live of the scraps and droppings that fall before us, when we have been invited to the feast?  God sets before us in His Word a smorgasbord of all the most soul-satisfying, life-giving truth that our hearts hunger for, and we ask for the “weight-watchers” menu.   When we deprive ourselves of all that God offers us, we are essentially telling God we don’t need Him nor what He gives, and we’d rather do this life on our own and in our own way.  (“How’s that working for you?” – Dr. Phil)

The simple truth of the matter is, God is God, and we are not.  He provides our daily bread.  He spins the planets and keeps them going.  Without Him, we can do nothing.  We cannot survive without every good gift that comes from His hand.  And yet, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), and God would not have us famished spiritually.  Rather, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Eph 1:3).

Pull up to the table, to the feast of the Lord, and drink deep the blessing of His Word.  Let His Word teach you, correct you, fill you, strengthen you; until His Word gives light to all of yours.  Let your reading time, may my reading time, be a time of sweet communion in the Lord’s presence that give grace and substance to every endeavor through the day.

SDG

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Victory in Jesus

“Take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Last Sunday, the elder leading worship began the service with a quote from David Wells’ book, God in the Whirlwind.  Here is a portion of that quote:

Worship, then, is all about refocusing our lives. It is about confessing our sin together, for God is holy, and once again hearing the words of assurance that Christ has borne sin’s penalty. It is about remembering the resurrection of Christ, his grace, his holy-love, and his reign that will one day sweep away all that has broken life and defied God. There is no other reason to be in worship than to remember and celebrate these truths. They will endure for all eternity because they all correspond to what happened in the cross and to what is there in God’s character. They will be celebrated in eternity. They will be our eternal song.

I had read this passage in Wells’ book, highlighted it, and flagged it for use as an introductory statement as our worship begins.  Still, when the Elder read that quote this week – it got me thinking, and I quickly had to write down some notes while the congregation started singing the opening hymn.

We need worship to refocus our lives.  While I may not be very consistent at vehicle maintenance (how’s that for a leap in thought – trust me, I will come back around), I know that having your alignment checked and the tires balanced regularly is a good thing.  When your wheels are out of alignment, and the tires are out of balance, your tires will wear unevenly, deteriorating faster than they ought, and the general handling and performance of your vehicle diminishes.  If you’ve driven through the streets of Cherokee, IA for a couple of years, crossing the train tracks on Willow, Cedar, or Bluff streets on a regular basis, chances are your alignment is out of whack, and it’s time to have it checked.

Each week, as we gather for worship, we come to get our life back in alignment.  Each day is filled with bumps and pot-holes that make a wreck of our faith.  We face obstacles that seem overwhelming: the bills are more than the paycheck; a friend turns her back on you; the doctor said it’s cancer; your marriage is falling apart.  We struggle daily with sin: we do the things we know we shouldn’t (and often we enjoy it), and we neglect the good that we ought to do; the careless word that cuts someone down, the bitter attitude that can’t let go of old wounds; the arrogance and selfishness that disregard God’s word for what we think is right and best in our own eyes.  We wrestle with doubt: can God really love me; could one man on a cross truly pay for all my sins; if God makes all things work for good, why am I facing this?

This is just one reason why we desperately need to worship.  We may put on a good front when we come in and find our pew on a Sunday morning, but if we could see with the eyes of Christ, what a different picture that would be.  Each one of us comes into the house of prayer beaten, weary, worn, tired, frustrated, confused, broken, wounded.  Our lives are so out of alignment, so out of whack, it’s only by the grace of God that we made it back to worship.  We come, not to show off how right and good we are, but because each of us is sick and we need healing.

There is a balm in Gilead, that makes the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead, that saves the sin sick soul.

We come to worship confessing our sins, not so that we can wallow in the mire, but so that, having confessed them, we may find healing in the assurance of pardon.  That’s why, at least in our serve, there is no “Amen” after the Prayer of Confession – that prayer is not done until you hear the assurance of you salvation.  “In Christ, your sins have been forgiven.”  That is the proclamation of the Gospel!  That’s what we need to hear, before anything else.  You are at peace with God, you are forgiven your of your sins, the wrath has been born by the Lamb, you are a new creation!

What obstacles do you face this week?  What hardship do you bear?  What sin has beset your soul?  What grief is too much to carry?  What doubts and fears overwhelm you?  Does it seem like God has let go and things are beyond His reach?

Do not lose heart.  Christ has overcome all things.  He has overcome all sin.  He has overcome all doubts.  He has overcome the grief, the fear, the shame.  When we come back to Christ as our foundation, He brings our lives back into alignment.  We find assurance when assailed by temptation, peace in the eye of the storm, hope in the midst of despair.  We will still face suffering and loss, but we know that even these things draw us closer to Christ, in whom we have ultimate victory.

Return to this foundation in the worship and praise of God through Jesus our Savior.  Know that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).  Come back to the message of the Gospel, the truth that will endure for all eternity, the truth that will be our eternal song.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28–31 (ESV)

SDG

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Summer Reading List

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
(Proverbs 4:7)

With the summer almost halfway completed, I wanted to share my Summer Reading List before it was too late.  I pass these titles along to you for your consideration and edification.  Enjoy!

True Community, Jerry Bridges – While I have already read this book, I am re-reading as I prepare the summer sermons series based on this theme of building authentic community as the Church in Jesus Christ.  Bridges presents some very deep theological foundations and explanations of what it means to be the Church and what our fellowship ought to be, but in such a way as to not bog the reader down or shoot over our heads.  I highly recommend this book, and there are six copies left in the Church Narthex.

God in the Whirlwind, David Wells – This is decidedly a more substantive theological work than True Community, but it is still very approachable and has much to say for today’s Church.  Wells argues that the church has lost sight of the character of God, his Holy-Love.  We hear a lot about God’s love but not much about his Holiness. Well’s writes,  “We have become inclined to think of God as our Therapist. It is comfort, healing, and inspiration that we want most deeply, so that is what we seek from Him. That too, is what we want from our church experience. We want it to be comforting, uplifting, inspiring, and easy on the mind. We do not want it to be something that requires effort or concentration. We want God to be accepting and nonjudgmental.”  In a masterful, yet compassionate and encouraging tone, Wells calls the church to engage our culture with the Holy-Love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ; the gospel which should shape and influence our view of the world, ourselves, our worship, and our service.

Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller – I have always enjoyed Keller’s writing, and this book doesn’t let me down.  I read this book as sort of a modern-day Christian response to the soul searching of Ecclesiastes.  Before Christ, and apart from Him, the author of Ecclesiastes, and those who pursue their treasures in the world today, all work, all success can seem empty and meaningless – there’s always more to do, always someone better to come along.  With great pastoral care, Keller shows readers that biblical wisdom is immensely relevant to our questions about our work. In fact, the Christian view of work – that we work to serve others, not ourselves – can provide the foundation of a thriving professional and balanced personal life. Keller shows how excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace can help others and even be considered acts of worship—not just of self-interest.

Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung – This book jumped into my hands and screamed, “I was written for YOU!”  Now, if I could just find the time to read it.  If your life is anything like mine, you have a packed calendar, there are often things that done get done, or don’t get done well, and the most important things (like your family), often get the least amount of attention.  I’ve only just started  with this book, but already I’ve begun to see how my “busyness” is often a cover for my insecurity, and a way to feed my sinful pride.  Since I’m still early in the book, I’ll share this review from Publishers Weekly:

DeYoung offers a refreshing (and refreshingly short) take on the plague of modern American life: the too-long to-do list and the overscheduled calendar that produce the frazzled response ‘busy’ to the innocent question ‘How are you?’ DeYoung doesn’t offer time management but rather theology. God wants you to use your talents, but God is not nearly as big on the idolatry of self-importance that often motivates over-commitment.  DeYoung is clever (‘If Jesus were alive today, he’d get more emails than any of us.’), his analysis is well-organized, and he brings theological thinking without moralizing. If you are someone who checks your email before going to bed and as soon as you wake up, DeYoung has your number, and this is your book.”

One With Christ, Marcus Peter Johnson – Wanting to go deep with a Theology book this summer, I’ve selected this treatise from Dr. Johnson, assistant professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute.  From the cover of the book there is this summary, “Despite our love for the Bible, emphasis on the cross, and passion for evangelism, many evangelicals ironically neglect that which is central to the gospel.  In our preaching, teaching, and witnessing, we often separate salvation from the Savior.  Looking to the Scriptures and to church history, Marcus Johnson reveals the true riches of our salvation by reintroducing us to the foundation of our redemption – our mysterious union with the living Christ.”

Memoir and Remains of R.M. M’Cheyne, Andrew A. Bonar –Having read Metaxas’ biography on Bonhoeffer and Marsden’s on Edwards, I thought I’d turn this summer to the story of Robert Murray M’Cheyne.  M’Cheyne was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and missionary in the early 19th century who died at the young age of 29.  A preacher, pastor, poet, he was also a man of deep piety and prayer. His biography tells the story of his brief life, and includes all of his collected writings, letters, and poems.

SDG

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