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April 23, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

Today is Friday and that means it is time for another Free Stuff Fridays. This week’s sponsor is The Torchlighters Heroes of the Faith, bringing worthwhile heroes to children through powerful animated stories. The Torchlighters are created by Christian History Institute, the founders and original publishers of Christian History Magazine. In 2002 CHI felt the call to share Christian heroes with children, as an alternative to the sports and entertainment heroes typically offered by our culture. The first animated episode entitled The Jim Elliot Story released in 2005. This year the Torchlighters project is celebrating 100,000 DVDs in circulation worldwide, while planning for the release of their eighth episode featuring the life of Amy Carmichael.

The action-packed series introduces children to heroes like William Tyndale, Gladys Aylward and John Bunyan. Kids meet heroes who put their faith into action and don’t give up when the going gets tough. Originally intended for ages 8-12, the DVDs often leave a lasting impact on teens and adults as well. Check out the series trailer: www.torchlighters.org.

The Torchlighters is offering 5 “Mission 3-Packs” for free. The Mission 3-Pack includes three episodes on Christian Missionaries: Jim Elliot, Eric Liddell, and Gladys Aylward.

3-PackEach Torchhlighter DVD includes the following special features:

  • Four lesson curriculum, for use in home or classroom settings
  • Reproducible student handouts and discussion questions
  • Spanish and English audio tracks
  • Feature-length documentary on the main character’s life

You can order Torchlighters from Vision Video.

Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

August 06, 2009

After a week’s absence (based on a week’s vacation) I am back today with the next chapter (Chapter 7) of Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The topic for this reading is “The Excellence of Contentment.” I do trust that many of you continue to read the book with me.

Summary

Every week I feel the need to begin with an expression of my affection for this book. Today will be no different! What a great book this is. There, I said it again.

In this chapter Burroughs seeks to teach how contentment is an excellent virtue and an excellent fruit of the Spirit. He offers ten points:

By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him. He says “You worship God more by [contentment] than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament.” “It is but one side of a Christian to endeavor to do what pleases God; you must as well endeavor to be pleased with what God does, and so you will come to be a complete Christian when you can do both.”

There is a great deal of strength of grace in contentment. “It is an argument of a gracious magnitude of spirit, that whatsoever befalls it, yet it is not always whining and complaining as others do, but it goes on in its way and course, and blesses God, and keeps in a constant tenor whatever befalls it. Such things as cause others to be dejected and fretted and vexed, and take away all the comfort of their lives make no alteration at all in the spirits of these men and women. This, I say, is a sign of a great deal of strength of grace.” How beautiful is contentment? “There is no work which God has made-the sun, moon, stars and all the world-in which so much of the glory of God appears as in a man who lives quietly in the midst of adversity.”

By contentment the soul is fitted to receive mercy and to do service. “If we would be vessels to receive God’s mercy, and would have the Lord pour his mercy into us, we must have quiet, still hearts. We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent and vexing, but still and quiet hearts, if we receive mercy from the Lord.” He uses a universal metaphor: “If a child throws and kicks up and down for a thing, you do not give it him when he cries so, but first you will have the child quiet. Even though, perhaps, you intend him to have what he cries for, you will not give it him till he is quiet, and comes, and stands still before you, and is contented without it, and then you will give it him.”

As contentment makes fit to receive mercy, so fit to do service. “When the Lord has any great work for one of his servants to do, usually he first quiets their spirits, he brings their spirits into a quiet, sweet frame, to be contented with anything, and then he sets them about employment.”

Contentment delivers us from an abundance of temptations. “The Devil,” Burroughs says, “loves to fish in troubled waters.” Thus if we are content, we are better able to resist the Devil. “If a man is contented to be in a low condition, and to go meanly clothed if God sees fit, such a one is shot-free, you mighty say, from thousands of temptations of the Devil, that prevail against others to the damning of their souls.”

Another excellence is the abundant comforts in a man’s life that contentment will bring. “Contentment will make a man’s life exceedingly sweet and comfortable, nothing more so than the grace of contentment.”

Contentment draws comfort from those things we do not really possess. How can this be? “Certainly our contentment does not consist in getting the thing we desire, but in God’s fashioning our spirits to our conditions.” “There is more comfort even in the grace of contentment than there is in any possessions whatsoever; a man has more comfort in being content without a thing, than he can have in the thing that he in a discontented way desires.”

Contentment is a great blessing of God upon the soul. Quite simply, God extends special blessing to those who are content in him.

Those who are content may expect reward from God, that God will give them the good of all the things which they are contented to be without. This one was particularly interesting to me as its implications are incredibly far-reaching. Burroughs says, “There is such and such a mercy which you think would be very pleasant to you if you had it; but can you bring your heart to submit to God in it? Then you shall have the blessing of the mercy one way or another; if you do not have the thing itself, you shall have it made up one way or another; you will have a bill of exchange to receive something in lieu of it.”

By contentment the soul comes to an excellence near to God himself, yea, the nearest possible. “A contented man is a self-sufficient man, and what is the great glory of God, but to be happy and self-sufficient in himself? Indeed, he is said to be all-sufficient, but that is only a further addition of the word ‘all’, rather than of any matter, for to be sufficient is all-sufficient.”

There is a lot to chew on in this chapter and an unusual number of quotable phrases. I look forward to reading this chapter’s “opposite” next week as we look to the evils of a murmuring spirit.

Next Week

For next week, just press on with chapter 8, “The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit.”

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read these classics together. So if there is something you’d like to share about what you read, please feel free to do so. You can leave a comment or a link to your blog and we’ll make this a collaborative effort.
August 02, 2009

This is one of my favorites from The Valley of Vision as much for the concept of the prayer as its actual words. This is a prayer meant to follow prayer. Read it and I’m sure you’ll see, as I do, just how weak and listless my prayers actually are and how much even my best efforts in prayer and praise and petition are in need of God’s grace. Bewail your prayers and thank God that he hears them and answers them nonetheless.

*****

O God of grace,
I bewail my cold, listless, heartless prayers;
their poverty adds sin to my sin.
If my hope were in them I should be undone,
But the worth of Jesus perfumes my feeble breathings, and wins their acceptance.
Deepen my contrition of heart,
Confirm my faith in the blood that washes from all sin.
May I walk lovingly with my great Redeemer.
Flood my soul with true repentance that my heart may be broken for sin and unto sin.
Let me be as slow to forgive myself as thou art ready to forgive me.
Gazing on the glories of thy grace may I be cast into the lowest depths of shame.
and walk with downcast head now thou art pacified towards me.
O my great High Priest,
pour down upon me streams of needful grace,
bless me in all my undertakings,
in every thought of my mind,
every word of my lips,
every step of my feet,
every deed of my hands.
Thou didst live to bless,
die to bless,
rise to bless,
ascend to bless,
take thy throne to bless,
and now thou dost reign to bless.
O give sincerity to my desires,
earnestness to my supplications,
fervour to my love.

June 23, 2008

Only on rare occasions can I bring myself to buy greeting cards. When it is Aileen’s birthday or when it is our anniversary, I either tell her how I feel (not something I’m particularly good at most of the time) or I buy a blank card and fill it with my own words. Or occasionally, to my shame, I forgo to card altogether. For some reason it just seems fake, disingenuous, to give her a card with a little poetic inscription written by someone else—someone who has never met her and knows nothing about her. What do the words mean when they’ve come from someone else? It seems that a card like that really means nothing to me, and I would rather give her a card that has come from my heart rather than the mind of a stranger. I prefer to invest the time and affection in expressing myself for her benefit.

Have you ever stopped to consider what it must be like to work for Hallmark or another of the companies that create greeting cards? Imagine spending your whole day attempting to come up with wonderful statements of deep feeling—love, remorse, sympathy—yet without feeling any of the associated emotions. Imagine having to write words that express sympathy, yet not feeling any sympathy yourself. Or imagine having to write words that can express the deep, passionate love a man has for his wife as they celebrate fifty years of marriage, but without having ever experienced that sort of love yourself. It must be very odd to spend the whole day writing words of love and passion from a husband to a wife but then return alone to an empty home and a life lived alone.

I fear that all too often I, as a Christian, can worship God in just this way. So often I sing songs with the most wonderful lyrics, but in a way that betrays my true feelings. I sing “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” But when I sing those words, so often it is as if I am a single man writing a greeting card to celebrate a fiftieth wedding anniversary. Though the words may sound wonderful, they are devoid of any true understanding. When I sing “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” do I even try to understand just how amazing God’s grace is? Have I experienced that grace and allowed it to transform my life? Do I know that the very grace I sing about is the only thing keeping me from an eternity of separation from God? Do I feel deep love and affection to the giver of grace? Or do I merely parrot back the words?

True worship relies on both feeling and understanding, or as Jesus said, on spirit and truth. Worship that is devoid of feeling and emotion will be dead worship, for the God we serve is worthy of feelings that express His worth. He evokes these feelings in those who love Him. It is the very height of hypocrisy to pay lip-service to God when I do not truly feel affection for Him. At the same time worship needs to be thoughtful. While it engages my feelings it must also engage my mind. My feelings must have their basis in what I know about God so that the more I know about Him the greater will be my feelings of affection for Him.

Before I married my wife I heard time and again from the wonderful older couples in our church that after forty, fifty or even sixty years of marriage, they continued to love each other more deeply and more intimately. I marveled that this could be true, yet through the first decade of my marriage I have already seen that it is not only possible but it is the way God intended marriage to be. I love my wife in a deeper way now than I did the day we exchanged vows. In the ensuing years we have faced trials together and have spent countless thousands of hours talking and laughing and worshiping together. The more I learn about Aileen and the more time I spend with her the greater my feelings of affection for her. To know her is to love her, and to know her more is to love her more.

Likewise, great knowledge of God must produce great feelings of affection for Him. These feelings of affection give me the burning desire to worship Him. I long to express my feelings, not as a means to some devious or selfish end, but simply as an expression of the affection I have for Him. As such, worship is not a means to an end, but it is an end in itself.

May 25, 2008

Continuing my new habit of posting prayers on Sunday, here is a prayer for Scriptural convictions. It is once more drawn from The Valley of Vision. It seemed appropriate in a week I’ve been considering how I tend not to regard Scripture as the treasure it is. This is a prayer praising God for the gift of the Bible and asking forgiveness for regarding it so little and so lightly.


O God of love,
I approach thee with encouragements derived from thy character,
for I am not left to feel after thee in the darkness of my nature,
nor to worship thee as the unknown God.
I cannot find out thy perfections,
but I know thou art good,
ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy.
Thou hast displayed thy wisdom, power, and goodness in all thy works,
and hast revealed thy will in the Scripture of truth.
Thou hast caused it to be preserved, translated, published, multiplied,
so that all men may possess it and find thee in it.
Here I see thy greatness and thy grace,
thy pity and thy rectitude,
thy mercy and thy truth,
thy being and men’s hearts;
Through it thou hast magnified thy name,
and favoured mankind with the gospel.
Have mercy on me,
for I have ungratefully received thy benefits,
little improved my privileges,
made light of spiritual things,
disregarded thy messages,
contended with examples of the good,
rebukes of conscience, admonitions of friends, leadings of providence.
I deserve that thy kingdom be taken away from me.
Lord, I confess my sin with feeling, lamentation, a broken heart,
a contrite spirit, self-abhorrence, self-condemnation, self-despair.
Give me relief by Jesus my hope,
faith in his name of Saviour,
forgiveness by his blood,
strength by his presence,
holiness by his Spirit:
And let me love thee with all my heart.

April 20, 2008

This is my last planned post about Together for the Gospel. I want to use it to provide some final links and information. Then I’m going to move on to other things. Or at least that’s the plan for now.

T4G Audio & Video

Here are links to each of the sermons:

Session I Ligon Duncan - Sound Doctrine - Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry Download

Session II Thabiti Anyabwile - Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church | Download

Session III John MacArthur - The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability | Download

Session IV Mark Dever - Improving the Gospel: Exercises in Unbiblical Theology | Download

Session V RC Sproul - The Curse Motif of the Atonement | Download

Session VI Albert Mohler - Why Do They Hate It So? The Doctrine of Substitution | Download

Session VII John Piper - How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice | Download

Session VIII CJ Mahaney - Sustaining a Pastor’s Soul | Download

To watch the various YouTube videos that were posted online through the conference, simply click here.

To listen to the audio from the Band of Bloggers event, visit this link.

T4G Books

Here is the first batch of books:

Here are the rest of the T4G giveaways along with most of the Band of Blogger book giveaways (though a couple were not available at Amazon):

T4G Posts

Many of the people who were present at T4G have been writing about their experiences. It may be easiest just to click here to read the Google Blog Search roundup.

One that caught my eye was Zach Nielsen’s Is There A Uniqueness To Men Singing Together About The Gospel?. He gives three good reasons that such singing is a sign of gospel humility.

Another good one is Bob Kauflin’s list of the songs he chose for the times of worship.

April 17, 2008

Here is a quick introduction to the importance of books at Together for the Gospel—and the amusing effects of free books on the pastors assembled.

April 17, 2008

Here is an excerpt from a Together for the Gospel panel discussion with R.C. Sproul. He and the other men discuss the reality that preachers are often dissatisfied with their sermons. It is an illuminating discussion mixed with hilarious quips.

May 16, 2006

How many times have you heard a person claim that he has “accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior?” Have you ever asked him what it means that Jesus is his Lord? Have you ever asked him how Jesus is his Savior? What makes Him his Savior? And what does it mean that He is his personal Lord and Savior?

How many times have you heard a person open a prayer with the words “Dear God?” What do those words really mean? Are they addressing God or addressing a letter? Why do we begin our prayers with an address? Is this necessary or merely custom?

How many times have you heard a person thank God that Jesus is present, for “where two are more are gathered together, Jesus is there?” Have you ever asked him why Jesus is only there where two or more are gathered? Have you ever asked if He is present in a more special way when people are gathered versus when they are alone?

There are so many times we flippantly speak of God and His attributes without even caring to understand what we are saying. So we really understand what it means to address God and to bring ourselves into His presence? Do we understand what it means that “Jesus is there?” Do we even care to know what it means that Jesus is my Lord and my Savior?

The incredible thing is that we don’t need to understand these things to be God’s children. We do not need to devote ourselves to endless studies in theology and doctrine in order to be saved. God sees and knows and values the heart more than the mind. Yet if we want to grow deeper in our love for God, we need to begin to understand these things. We need to grow deeper in our knowledge of Him.

On that day that I got married, I loved my wife deeply. On our wedding day, as I looked at her walking down the aisle towards me, I never would have believed that I could love her more than I did at that very moment. I had known her for four years and had spent thousands of hours just being with her, listening to her talk and watching her interact with other people. And now she was walking towards me, looking absolutely radiant, and intending to pledge her life to me. I began to sob like a child and felt my heart would nearly burst with the love I felt for her. But you know what? Almost eight years into that marriage I can honestly say I love her more now than I did when we got married. Why is that? It is simply that I know her so much better now. The more I learn about her, the more I know her. The more I know her, the more I love her.

I use that illustration to show that you can really only love God inasmuch as you know Him. When you are an unbeliever and do not know God you cannot love Him at all. When some day you die and go to be with Him, you will know Him in a perfect way, and will accordingly love Him in a perfect way. The time between when you come to love Him and you are called to be with Him is your opportunity to experience that love and get just a foretaste of heaven here on earth.

I love God more now than I did when I first believed. As a child I loved God with a childlike love, but I barely knew Him. I can think back to distinct moments as I grew older when God taught me something new and amazing about Himself. I can remember moments where something hit me like a lightning bolt and I was awakened to a new reality about God that I had not known before. There were times when my whole body broke into chills as I grew in my knowledge of my Creator. There were other times when I broke into tears as I began to realize the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice for me or the vast depths of His love for me. As I learned about my God I learned to love Him more. As I learned about my God I had to love Him more!

You can be a believer and know almost nothing about God. The man who hung on the cross beside Christ new little more than that Christ was the Son of God and that God had forgiven his sins. And that was enough. But if you want to love God more you need to know Him more. I know that I’m a mere preschooler when it comes to knowing God. I look at others and see some who are in primary school, some who are in high school and some who must be about ready to finish up their post-graduate studies. And how I yearn to know Him that much, knowing that the love I feel for Him now, as great as it may be, is nothing more than a child’s love! I long to love Him, and therefore long to know Him. And I look forward to the day when I will know Him even as I am known by Him, that I may love Him with the perfect love with which He loves me.