Oct 1

In That Time Before All Time!

(Charles Spurgeon, 1864)

Meditate, dear friends, upon the whole range of God’s works in Creation and Providence. There was a period when God dwelt alone and creatures were not. In that time before all time, when there was no day but “The Ancient of Days,” when matter and created mind were alike unborn, and even space was not – God, the great I AM, was as perfect, glorious, and as blessed as He is now.

There was no sun – and yet Jehovah dwelt in ineffable light.
There was no earth – and yet His throne stood fast and firm.
There were no heavens – and yet His glory was unbounded.

God inhabited eternity in the infinite majesty and happiness of His self-contained greatness. If the Lord, thus abiding in solemn solitude, should choose to create anything the first thought and idea must come from Him, for there was no other to think or suggest. All things must be of Him in design. With whom can He take counsel? Who shall instruct Him? There existed no other to come into His council-chamber, even if such an assistance could be supposable with the Most High.

In the beginning of His way, before His works of old, eternal wisdom brought forth from its own mind the perfect plan of future creations, and every line and mark therein must clearly have been of the Lord alone.

He ordained the pathway of every planet and fixed the abode of every star. He poured forth the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and girt Orion with its bands. He appointed the bounds of the sea, and settled the course of the winds. As to the earth, the Lord alone planned its foundations, and stretched His line upon it.

He formed in His own mind, the mold of all His creatures, and found for them a dwelling and a service. He appointed the degree of strength with which He would endow each creature, settled its months of life, its hour of death, its coming and its going.

Divine wisdom mapped this earth – its flowing rivers and foaming seas, the towering mountains, and the laughing valleys. The divine Architect fixed the gates of the morning and the doors of the shadow of death.

Nothing could have been suggested by any other, for there was no other to suggest. It was in His power to have made a universe very different from this if He had so pleased. That He has made it what it is, must have been merely because in His wisdom and prudence, He saw fit to do so.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being!” Revelation 4:11


This Is No Gospel!

posted by pastorken
Sep 15

The Evangelistic Methods of Our Present Golden-calf Christianity!      (A.W. Tozer)

 

Any objection to the evangelistic methods of our present golden-calf Christianity, is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning the lost!”

And what are you winning them to?

To true discipleship?
To cross-carrying?
To self-denial?
To separation from the world?
To crucifixion of the flesh?
To holy living?
To nobility of character?
To a despising of the world’s treasures?
To total committal to Christ?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is NO!


They Will Never Perish!

posted by pastorken
Sep 1

If Only One of God’s Sheep were to Perish!   

                                                    (Darvin Pruitt)

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish – ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” John 10:27-28

If only one of God’s sheep were to perish
. . .
the purpose of God would be frustrated,
the power of God would be resisted,
the promise of God would be broken,
the faithfulness of God would be a mockery
and the Word of God proved to be a lie.

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Romans 8:38-39


Aug 15

The Matchless Wisdom of God which Devised this System of Salvation!

(Charles Spurgeon)

“Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her!” Ephesians 5:25

The more I consider the doctrine of substitution the more is my soul enamored of the matchless wisdom of God which devised this system of salvation. As for a hazy atonement which atones for everybody in general, and for nobody in particular; an atonement made equally for Judas and for John – I care nothing for it. But a literal, substitutionary sacrifice, Christ vicariously bearing the wrath of God on my behalf – this calms my conscience with regard to the righteous demands of the law of God, and satisfies the instincts of my nature which declare that, as God is just, He must exact the penalty of my guilt!

 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!” John 10:11


Aug 1

Where the Battle Rages!

(Martin Luther)

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking – I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point!


Are You Troubled?

posted by pastorken
Jul 15

The Only Sure Medicine for Troubled Hearts!

(J.C. Ryle)

“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God believe also in Me!” John 14:1

This verse is rich in precious truth. For eighteen centuries it has been peculiarly dear to Christ’s believing servants in every part of the world. Many are the sick rooms which it has lightened! Many are the dying hearts which it has cheered!

We have in this passage, a precious remedy against an old disease. That disease is trouble of heart. That remedy is faith.

Heart-trouble is the commonest thing in the world!
No rank, or class, or condition is exempt from it.
No bars, or bolts, or locks can keep it out.
Partly from inward causes and partly from outward causes;
partly from the body and partly from the mind;
partly from what we love and partly from what we fear
– the journey of life is full of trouble! Between grace and glory even the best of Christians have many bitter cups to drink. Even the holiest saints find the world to be a valley of tears! “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!” John 16:33

Faith in the Lord Jesus is the only sure medicine for troubled hearts!
To believe more thoroughly,
to trust more entirely,
to rest more unreservedly,
to lay hold more firmly,
to lean back more completely –
this is the prescription which our Master urges on the attention of all His disciples.

Never let us forget that there are degrees in faith, and that there is a wide difference between weak and strong believers. The weakest faith is enough to give a man a saving interest in Christ, and ought not to be despised, but it will not give a man such inward comfort as a strong faith. Vagueness and dimness of perception are the defect of weak believers. They do not see clearly what they believe and why they believe. In such cases more faith is the one thing needed. Like Peter on the water, they need to look more steadily at Jesus and less at the waves and wind.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You! Isaiah 26:3


These are not Suggestions!

posted by pastorken
Jul 1

These are not suggestions

about what God’s people ought to be:

                                                       (Don Fortner)

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Since God has ordained that His people walk in good works, we are assured that God will graciously cause them to do so by the sweet constraint of His grace.

Grace experienced, makes Christians gracious.

Mercy tasted, makes Christians merciful.

Faith bestowed, makes Christians faithful.

Kindness known, makes Christians kind.

Forgiveness enjoyed, makes Christians forgiving.

Love felt, makes Christians loving.

These are not suggestions about what God’s people ought to be
, but statements of fact about what all true believers are.

Believers are a people who, being saved by grace, ruled by love, and motivated by gratitude–seek the will and glory of God in all things.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” Titus 2:11-12


The Awesome God!

posted by pastorken
Jun 15

The Providence of God!

                                                               (Don Fortner)

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Predestination is the sovereign, eternal, immutable, unalterable purpose of God almighty, by which He ordained and ordered, according to His own will and good pleasure, all things that come to pass in time.

Divine providence is the daily, constant, sovereign rule of our God over all things for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose of grace in predestination. Divine providence is the accomplishment of God’s sovereign will and purpose. Providence is God bringing to pass in time (sovereignly, absolutely, and perfectly) what He purposed in eternity.

Predestination is God’s purpose.
Providence is God’s execution of His purpose.

Nothing in the universe happens by luck, chance, fortune, accident or by blind fate! Everything that comes to pass in time was purposed by our God in eternity, and is brought to pass by His wise, adorable, good Providence.

Nothing comes to pass in time that God did not purpose in eternity, in sovereign predestination.
Nothing comes to pass in time except that which God sovereignly brings to pass in His Providence.

And that which God predestined in eternity and brings to pass in his Providence is for the good of His elect, and the glory of His name. This is clearly and incontrovertibly the teaching of Holy Scripture (Psalm 76:10; Proverbs 16:4, 9, 33; 21:1; Daniel 4:34, 35, 37; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 11:33-36).

Providence is God’s government of the universe. If we have a proper view of God’s Providence, we will see the hand of God and the heart of God in everything – in all the experiences of our lives. Believers ascribe their sorrows, and even the cursing of their enemies to the hand of their heavenly Father’s wise and good Providence (Job 1:21; 1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 16:11-12).

God is not idle. He never needs to rest, recuperate, or regroup. God almighty, our God and heavenly Father is always at work, governing the world. I have frequently heard preachers and religious leaders speak of sickness, poverty and war, sin, crime and cruelty, famine, earthquakes and death as things over which God has no control. Nonsense!

God’s Providence is as ‘minute’ as it is ‘mysterious’ (Matthew 10:30). Our God has ordained the number of hairs on the heads of all. Not even a worthless sparrow falls to the ground without His decree.

God’s Providence is ‘all inclusive’. God rules everything, great and small, everywhere, and at all times.

He who created all things, rules all things!

Nothing in God’s universe breathes or wiggles contrary to God’s decree (Isaiah 46:9-13).

As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good.
Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.
Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.
Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.
Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.
Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would make us proud.
Our great God knows exactly what we need. By His grace, if we are His–we will bow to His Providence, accept it, and give thanks for it.

God’s Providence is always executed in the ‘wisest manner’ possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God. We bow to His will, which is evident in His works of Providence, and say, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”

The God of Providence rules all things well. How we ought to trust Him! Ever remember, our heavenly Father is God all wise, good, and omnipotent. He is. . .
too wise to err,
too good to do wrong,
and too strong to fail!

 



Suffering Financially before the World

by David Briones; Tabletalk Magazine, 2016

Financial suffering is a reality in the lives of many Christians today. Many of us are familiar with the vulnerable moments of financial crisis. Will I be able to get a job this month? Will I have enough money to pay rent? Will I be able to make my car payment? Will I be able to put food on the table for my wife and kids?

Sadly, this form of suffering is frequently written off as a First World problem. After all, physical persecution is the only way a Christian can suffer on behalf of the gospel, right? Not according to Paul. He certainly suffered physically (2 Cor. 1:8–9; 4:8; 11:23–26), but he also suffered emotionally (11:28), spiritually (v. 29), and financially (1 Cor. 4:11–12; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). Even so, little consideration is given to how God uses financial suffering in the church to shine the light of the gospel in a dark world. But we can learn a rich lesson about enduring poverty from Philippians 4:10–13.

This passage is well known for all the wrong reasons. Many well-intentioned Christians misuse, misinterpret, and misapply the divine promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” They assume that it means God will provide anything and everything they desire in this life. They cling to this verse like a lucky rabbit’s foot, rubbing it while repeating the promise in order to receive all that they desire. For many, this includes monetary gain. But Philippians 4:13 doesn’t make that kind of promise. When read in context, we see that God promises contentment, not by pulling us out of financial suffering but by empowering us to endure it with contentment. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and the world will notice it.

Let’s consider the context of Philippians 4:10–13 for a moment. Paul penned these words from a jail cell (1:7, 13, 14). Unlike today, prisoners in the ancient world relied entirely on friends and family members to provide food and clothing. The state offered very little help. Paul was completely dependent on the mercy of others. He was vulnerable and in need. He was suffering physically and financially. Thankfully, the Philippian believers expressed their concern tangibly by sending material gifts to their imprisoned Apostle (2:29–30; 4:18). Surprisingly, in response to the Philippians’ generosity, Paul “rejoices in the Lord” (4:10); that is, the “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2; cf. 2:11, 19; 3:8, 20). He alone “revived” the Philippians’ concern for Paul, which allowed Paul to experience relief from his financial suffering in prison. “I have received full payment,” Paul declares, “and I abound” (4:18). The Philippians’ gift placed Paul in a state of material abundance.

And yet, Paul prohibits the Philippians from thinking that his joy in the Lord is entirely over their material gift. That is why he immediately includes a disclaimer, “Not that I speak according to need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (v. 11). From the world’s perspective, contentment comes from within oneself. One strives in one’s own strength to become content. This is self-sufficiency at its finest.

But for the Christian, true contentment comes from outside oneself. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things [lit.] in Christ who strengthens me” (vv. 12–13). This is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. The source of strength to experience contentment on both sides of the economic spectrum is found “in Christ.” Our union with Christ by faith enables us to endure lowliness, hunger, need, and even the most severe financial suffering with contentment. For the branch “can do nothing” apart from the vine (John 15:5). But “in Christ,” we can do all things. We can abound financially or suffer financially with contentment.

While the world looks to itself in financial suffering, the Christian looks to Christ. This is precisely how believers shine as lights in the world. I will never forget my wife’s concern about our finances when I was completing my Ph.D. in England. A fierce argument ensued. Anxieties and fears were disclosed.

And there were many tears. But when we came to our Christian senses, we fell on our knees, prayed to the Lord, forgave one another, and listened to His voice in Scripture. In God’s timing, a sense of peace fell over us—to the point where we not only read but also proclaimed Habakkuk 3:17–19a:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength.

Many Christians are acquainted with this peace that surpasses all understanding during financial crises. Though the world looks for contentment in all the wrong places, Christians can cope with financial suffering in a manner that demonstrates their utter dependence on Jesus Christ. While the world may commend the strength of your faith during financial hardships, you can declare the strength that Christ provides by faith in the gospel. The good news is that despite your financial situation in this life, Christ suffered and died for the sins of His people, delivered them from eternal suffering, and will ultimately bring them to eternal rest with God. And since He has pledged His love for you in the gospel, He will never leave nor forsake you—even when you suffer financially (Heb. 13:5).


May 15

The Christian Life as Pilgrimage

by Derek Thomas; Tabletalk Magazine, March 2016

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

A half-century ago, I sang these words in school assemblies set to music composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The words appear in Part 2 of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress as part of Mr. Valiant-for-Truth’s testimony. Earlier, Valiant had introduced himself to Mr. Great-heart and his companions with the words, “I am a Pilgrim, and am going to the celestial city.”

All Christians are pilgrims heading to the celestial city. Bunyan was simply reflecting the Bible that he loved. Scripture affirms that Christians are pilgrims. In the paradigmatic covenant made with our father Abraham, God promised him Canaan as “the land of your sojournings” (Gen. 17:8). And in the New Testament, Peter reflects the same idea when he describes his readers as “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1; cf. 1:17, “the time of your exile”). Similarly, in reviewing the faithful believers of Old Testament history, the author of Hebrews refers to them as “strangers and exiles” (Heb. 11:13).

The Christian life is a road trip, a journey of the most exhilarating kind. It has a starting point and a terminus. It is a metaphor of movement. Christians do not stay in one place too long, for they are set for another location. Early Christians were referred to as the followers of “the Way”—a reflection that they seemed determined to follow a different path (Acts 9:224:14).

Several issues arise. First, there is the idea of an adventure. Yes, adventure. If Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit initially shunned adventure because it upset the equilibrium of his routine way of life in the Shire, he would later record his extraordinary journey in a breathless tale bearing the subtitle There and Back Again.

Christians explore a somewhat different journey—Here to There, perhaps. But it is nevertheless a journey equally as exciting, fraught with tales of valor and danger. There is something exciting about the Christian life. New glimpses of God’s provision, intervention, and rescue await at every turn. We have no idea what a day may bring forth (Prov. 27:1), but we may be assured that nothing happens without our heavenly Father willing it to happen. We are called to follow our Master wherever He leads us—in green pastures beside still waters, as well as in the presence of enemies and a valley of shadow and death (Ps. 23).

My friend and predecessor at the church I now serve, a name familiar enough to readers of Tabletalk, Sinclair Ferguson, often ended his sermons with an exclamatory “Isn’t it wonderful to be a Christian!” Yes, it is a thing of great wonder, an exciting adventure every second of the way.

Second, pilgrimage is evocative of the transitory nature of this life. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “The things that are seen are transient” (2 Cor. 4:18). What does it mean to refer to this life as “transient”? The answer lies in the tension evoked in the New Testament between the “now” and the “not yet.” Christians are those upon whom “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Something of the world to come has already perforated our spacetime existence and has claimed us as citizens of another realm (Phil. 3:20).

This perspective raises fundamental tensions. In one sense, we live here with a variety of responsibilities as citizens of this world. The reclusive life of withdrawal and abstinence is not a biblical worldview. This bizarre view of life is caricatured in Simeon Stylites the Elder, a man who climbed a pole in Syria in AD 423 and remained there for thirty-seven years until he died. This is a denial of Christianity, not its affirmation. Christians get involved in society. Christians reshape society. They are lights in dark places. A new affection has overtaken Christians that makes everything else seem paltry and trite. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, the Christian life is ignited by the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

A third aspect of pilgrimage is a sense of direction, a goal, an end point. The journey has a destination. Christianity provides a shalom, a sense of wholeness and completeness. Christians know who they are and where they are going. Aimlessness and drift characterize so much of life without the embrace of Christ.

Christians “look” for “things unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18, where the Greek verb “to look” suggests an intense, steady gaze). It sounds like a paradox: we look for something that cannot be seen. Glory awaits, and Christian pilgrims maintain a steady but determined discipline of facing forward. What lies ahead fills our vision and keeps us expectant. What awaits steady pilgrims surpasses expectation and defies explanation.

“Onward and upward! To Narnia and the North!” is a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia tale The Horse and His Boy. All pilgrims of the cross agree: onward and upward!