Thursday, September 06, 2007

Desert Thoughts

Trials come in many shapes and forms. Some tend to be a gathering of inconveniences or menial problems that combine in snowball fashion to form a problem much bigger than me. At other times, a boulder comes out of nowhere, knocking me off my feet. Often in conjunction with that, there are times when a fog settles over me, leaving me in the position of wandering about, lacking clarity on my calling and sense of purpose.

That seems to be where I've been for over a month now. I've had some minor inconveniences recently: running out of cell phone minutes, minor relational difficulties, running out of checks, etc. I've had some boulders come my way: my car breaking down (over $1200.00 in repairs), my new glasses breaking, having to find a new place to live (yet again!), struggling to make ends meet, difficult relationships, loneliness/singleness and feeling left out, etc. In the midst of all of this, I feel somewhat left in the dust, pondering the larger issues of my purpose(s) in life.

Thankfully, the psalms give expression to my thoughts. In Psalm 6, David writes of a miserable existence. He is "languishing" and "greatly troubled" (v. 2, ESV) to the point where he writes: "I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes" (v. 6-7, ESV). I rarely hear Christians admit feeling this way, and the hymns that we sing reflect little of the full breadth of Christian experience and these desert experiences of the Christian life.

It is no coincidence that David begins with a plea for God not to rebuke him in anger or discipline him in wrath. During desert experiences when bombarded with trial upon trial, we are tempted to believe that we are bearing the wrath of God. However, as a Christian, I know that God's wrath toward me was focused on His Son, Jesus Christ, at the cross. When I face times like these, I know they are trials that are used to conform me to Jesus Christ and/or they may be chastening blows from His loving hand. Either way, everything in my life has a good end now (Rom. 8:28), something that was not true prior to my conversion to Christ. Therefore, I must and will accept from God whatever His hand ordains to give me.

My loving Father has ordained that these various trials come my way, and I must not buck that or argue with Him. He truly knows best. In spite of what may seem to the contrary at times, what He sends my way comes from His heart of love. I accept what He gives me, because He is a good Father. He has ordained that I am single at this time, and in spite of the loneliness that sometimes creeps my way, I recognize that He has ordained this. Because I see His love in my lack, I trust him and have the faith to pursue a wife, knowing that His love for me and His goodness may also bring my wife and me together soon enough.

Let us cry to God from the desert, seeking to be faithful to serve Him when the feelings are not there and when life is not "peachy." We must remember that those who do not bow the knee to Jesus Christ are watching how we respond to the trials that our King sends our way. Pray that I'll respond in a godly manner in all of this.

Let us also read and sing the psalms. They are inspired cries from the hearts of many believers long ago. Carl Trueman's defense of psalm-singing--"What Can Miserable Christians Sing?"--provides some food for thought, and I encourage you to click here to read an excerpt at the Tolle Lege blog.

Thank God that He cares to listen to us, giving us this reminder from David in Psalm 62:8 (ESV): "Pour our your heart before him; God is a refuge for us."

Let us be obedient and pour our hearts out to Him daily and consistently...He cares!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Book Giveaway

Tim Challies is giving away some books in a drawing this month. Click here to access the page, and please enter my name when asked who referred you to the drawing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

God as Potter...Not Dentist

Paul Tripp has recently composed thoughts on the subject of waiting, admitting that when he is waiting on the Lord he often views that time much akin to sitting in the waiting room of a dentist's office. However, God is shaping and fashioning us as a Potter during this time. I encourage you to read his article, "Psalm 29: Productive Delay." I have gone through a lot in the past few weeks, and very few people know fully how these weeks have been, something that I hope to write about soon. His post brought me a world of encouragement (along with much-needed conviction). I'll whet your appetite to read the full article by quoting his conclusion:

Waiting on God is restorative. It's one of the tools God uses to remake us into what we were designed to be in the beginning. Yet, I don't like to wait and I still struggle to wait well. How about you? The next time God calls you wait, don't let your mind go to the dentist's office. Picture in your mind the nimble and skilled fingers of a potter, who's putting pressure on the clay right where it's needed, so that it will take on the beauty that is it's potential. And with this picture in mind, give thanks for the very moment that would have once have driven you crazy.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sweating the Small Stuff?

A great new article on the Boundless Webzine site tackles the issues of being picky and sweating the minor difficulties that come up in relationships, especially in the initial stages. I just read the article and found it to be very observant and convicting! The title of the article is also the author's main focus: "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." It's worth a read!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Wade Burleson at Grace and Truth to You posted the history of the composition of a hymn by T.A. Dorsey. The song, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" is a reminder that some of the greatest blessings can come out of the most intense pain. It also serves a reminder that the Lord extends such grace to His children. We can thank God for this song that has been a comfort to many through the years, and I encourage you to click here and view this post.

I cannot help but be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Worship Notes: The Work of Missions

Here is tomorrow's "Worship Notes" bulletin insert:

We will hear and sing about missions this morning during the course of the worship service. If you have not done so already, please take a moment to read the passage found on the back of the bulletin. Those words come from the opening chapter of a book by John Piper entitled Let the Nations Be Glad! The next paragraph from the opening chapter continues:

But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!”, who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoiceI will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High (Psalm 104:34; 9:2). in the Lord…. Missions begins and ends in worship. (p. 11)

Our goal in missions work and in spreading the gospel is not simply to have more people who will experience the joy of a relationship with Christ, although that is part of our desire. Our goal is to bring others to Christ mainly because it grieves us to know that others have not bowed the knee to Jesus Christ as Lord. Our goal is for the Lord to be glorified by others coming to know Him and bringing glory to Him through a new life wrought by the Holy Spirit. This is also why we sing songs of praise and worship. We sing not for our own benefit; we sing because we cannot be silent. The Lord is worthy of our praise, and we want Him to be glorified.

Songs for Today

Send the Light” is based on Acts 16:9 where Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia “standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (NASB). As believers, we are instruments in God’s hand to reflect the Light, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5, NASB). Our mindset should be like that of John the Baptist: “He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light” (John 1:7-8, NASB). In that way, we proclaim the message that we sing about in “We Have Heard the Joyful Sound”: “Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”

I Saw One Hanging on a Tree” was written by John Newton, a man who truly understood the fact that—although we are guilty and deserving of God’s wrath—the heavenly Father’s wrath was appeased by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, in our place. This stirs our hearts, “To think He died for me!”

1. I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood;
He fixed His loving eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

2. Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

3. My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there.

4. A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive:
This blood is for your ransom paid,
I die that you may live.”

5. O, can it be, upon a tree
The Savior bled for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!

We end with the reminder that in the end “Jesus Shall Reign” over the whole earth! Let us ponder the Lord’s majestic reign throughout this week. Stop to thank Him for reigning over every facet of your life.

Worship Notes: Our Adoption as Believers

Although somewhat late, here is last week's "Worship Notes" bulletin insert (July 15, 2007):

This morning we meditate upon the doctrine of adoption. This much-neglected doctrine is one of the most comforting aspects of salvation. God, without any obligation to do so, has freely chosen a people for Himself. Being specifically elected by God the Father to be one of His children is a reminder both of our inability to save ourselves and of God’s great mercy and grace in choosing us for salvation.

Every Christian has been adopted into the family of God. This is a family that far exceeds the fellowship of the world that we once knew. Now, we have a unique relationship with Jesus Christ. Hebrews 2:11 (NASB) tells us that Christ “is not ashamed to call them brethren,” when speaking of believers who have been saved in and through Christ. However, Christ is the natural Son of the Father, the “only begotten” (i.e. unique; one of a kind), while we have been adopted. How glorious it is to consider that even though we are not the natural children of God in the way that Christ is, we still “have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:11, NASB). We receive the blessings of sonship for which the Holy Spirit is “given as a pledge [or down payment] of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14, NASB).

If your trust is in Christ alone, thank God that He has given us the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NASB). If you have not come to the point of trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, consider your hopeless and helpless state. You are not His child and thereby stand under judgment without the blessing of adoption. This morning, come to the true Son, Jesus Christ.

Songs for Today

Today we glory in God as our Father, a reflection of the fact that we have been adopted. We begin by singing, “Redeemed,” a hymn that reminds us that we can only be called God’s children because of Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God (John 14:6). Since we have been redeemed we can sing, “His child and forever I am.”

Our next song, “The Child of God,” is one compiled from verses of a hymn by Isaac Watts (v. 1-3) and one verse from a hymn by Charles Wesley (v. 4). I encourage you to follow the internet links in the footnotes and read the full texts of both of these hymns.

The Child of God
(Sung to the tune of “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”)

1. [As] new-born babes desire the breast,
To feed, and grow, and thrive;
So saints with joy the gospel taste,
And by the gospel live.

2. They find access at every hour
To God within the veil;
Hence they derive a quick'ning power,
And joys that never fail.

3. Lord, I address thy heav'nly throne;
Call me a child of thine;
Send down the Spirit of thy Son
To form my heart divine.

4. Assure my conscience of its part
In the Redeemer's blood;
And bear thy witness with my heart,
That I am born of God.

God, the Father of Your People” reminds us that God is our Father, and we are united as a family of spiritual brothers and sisters as children of the heavenly Father. This song brings to mind the reality of God’s promise to us: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33).

Finally, “Be Thou My Vision” serves as a hymn of response to remind us to keep our focus upon the Lord at all times. We glory in the words of verse two, knowing that God is “my great Father, I Thy true son.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Powerful Sermon

Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society preached a powerfully convicting sermon confronting nominal Christianity at a youth conference. Click here to download this sermon. It brings tears to my eyes...tears of remembrance, tears of repentance, and tears of sadness. I remember my life before Christ and how easily I become complacent in my Christian experience, leading me to repent of my stagnation. I am saddened that I have family and friends who claim to be Christians, but they are not committed to the local church nor do they show any signs of fruit. The truth is that I wish I would have been confronted with preaching like this a few years ago before I became a Christian. I was the kind of nominal Christian that Paul preaches about in his sermon. I was a false childhood convert who wasn't a Christian due to the simple fact that I was not truly following Christ.

As a Christian, this sermon convicted me and brought a renewed sense of zeal and purpose to my walk with Christ. Oh, how easy it is to slumber in the comfy bed of contemporary American evangelical Christianity. Too often I become acclimated to the conditions of this world. My prayer is that the Lord would stir within me an enmity toward this world's charms and riches.

I am reminded of the words to Isaac Watts' great hymn, "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" One particular stanza expresses the prayer and resolve of my heart:

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Worship Notes: God as King and Law-Giver

Here is the latest edition of the Worship Notes bulletin insert for July 8, 2007:

God as King and Law-Giver

This morning’s worship service focuses on God the Father in His sovereignty and role as Law-Giver. God rules over all of the earth (Psalm 47:8), and His creatures must submit to the rule of His law as found in Scripture. He has the right to set the standard, because He is holy and His standard is holiness and perfection (1 Peter 1:15-16). Mankind’s condition is that of an innate sin nature and the perpetual failure to keep the law of God, placing all of humanity under God’s just judgment, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB).

The law is God’s gracious provision to reveal this condition to us. As a verse from today’s Scripture reading reminds us, we would not have been aware of our sinful state were it not for God’s law (Romans 7:7). Today’s sermon will serve to remind us that the law is what leads us to Christ as we realize our sinfulness and cast ourselves upon Him.

As you sing this morning, be mindful of God’s holiness and His sovereign rule over us. If you are a Christian, thank God for His mercy in bringing you to Himself. If you are an unbeliever, realize how far you are from God’s standard, and flee to the Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith in humble repentance. You can be made right (i.e. “justified”; Gal. 2:24) by faith in Christ.

Come, Thou Almighty King” serves as one of the most popular hymns that call the people of God to worship Him, the King. This hymn was originally sung to the same tune as Great Britain’s national anthem, “God Save Our Gracious King,” which also serves as the tune of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” During the Revolutionary War, British soldiers once invaded a church and demanded the singing of the British national anthem. The church responded by singing the correct tune but instead sang the words we sing today: “Come, Thou Almighty King, Help us Thy name to sing,” serving as a reminder that no earthly monarch can usurp the role of the King of kings and Lord of lords. [1]

O Worship the King” also reminds us that God is King, with a special focus upon His role as Creator, based on Psalm 104. The last verse declares God as “Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.” Notice the progression: “We know God first as our Maker, our Creator. Then, even before our conversion, He is our Defender, our Keeper from harm. We know Him then as Redeemer, our personal Savior from sin and its penalty. Finally, as we walk day by day with Him, as we commune with Him and enjoy His fellowship, we know Him also as Friend.” [2]

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” culminates in a downpour of descriptions of God in His glory. The words can be overwhelming in their succession, but this may serve to instill in us a sense of the wonder we will experience when beholding our God one day in all of His perfection. Beholding Him “will overwhelm us far more completely than does this hymn, and we will find ourselves lost in praise.” [3]

In response to God’s law and its purpose in leading us to Christ, we will sing “Jesus Paid It All.” The law shows us that “nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim” (v. 3). Thankfully, for those of us who have placed our trust in Christ alone for salvation, Christ’s death paid the debt to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), canceling out the debt that stood against us (Colossians 3:14).

How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You.
(Psalm 65:4, NASB)

[1] Osbeck, Kenneth W., 101 Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1982), 49-50.
Brown, Rober K. and Mark R. Norton, eds., The One Year Book of Hymns (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1995), July 9th reading.
Grudem, Wayne., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 183.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"Just Friends"

I just came across an article on the Boundless website, and like much of their material, it really caused me to think. I commend the article, "Biblical Dating: Just Friends," to all single believers who are serious about acting with integrity in male-female relationships.

Likewise, I recommend much of what Scott Croft has written in the biblical dating series. I'm afraid that there's not enough good, solid, biblical material on the topic of dating and relationships, but I'm thankful for the ministry of Boundless that seeks to fill that void.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dr. Moore on Southern Culture

I'm a storyteller, and I enjoy being one. By storytelling, I'm not referring to lying. Instead, I refer to what Dr. Moore referenced in a recent post on southern culture on the Henry Institute website, entitled "Reading Southern Culture": "Southerners are storytellers and myth-makers, and the ethos of the South can be better felt than analyzed." He's right, and my southern roots never show so much as when I relate the experiences of my dear Aunt Linda (from Williamsburg, KY) or tell the story of an eye-opening encounter involving a food pantry. Dr. Moore hits the nail on the head when he writes that southern culture is "better felt than analyzed," and I like the feeling.

So, take a minute or two and read Dr. Moore's latest entry, preferably with a Mason jar of sweet tea at hand. In the meantime, I'm going back to work after being on break. I hope you enjoy the read!

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Bible in Worship (Bulletin Insert)

The Word of God should be central in the worship of God. This simple statement guides my understanding of services of the worship of God. Below is the bulletin insert from Sunday, June 24.

The Word and Worship

One of the unique aspects of worship services at Parkwood Southern Baptist Church is our emphasis upon the Bible. The words of our God call us to worship every Sunday morning as Pastor Todd reads a psalm. A Scripture reading is placed in the middle of our hymns and songs to remind us of the centrality of the Word of God in our services. In the evenings, we are reading through the book of Proverbs to complement our pastor’s preaching in the book of James, both books of which are very practical in focus.
Why so much Scripture? The late Presbyterian pastor James Montgomery Boice gives a cogent response:

To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us. God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship. [1]

Our worship is not a generic service of worship where we simply gather to do the act of worship. We come together to worship God, so that Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries prefers to speak of church worship services as the community gathering not for a “Service of Worship” but for a “Service of the Worship of God.” Therefore, if our worship is to be God-glorifying, it has to have the Word of God at a central place. Worship is not about our collective feelings, and we do not gather to worship so that Our hearts will be blessed, although our good God does often see fit to quicken our affections for Him and His glory as we worship. Our services of the worship of God are all about Him and His glory, and thus His book, the Holy Bible, has center stage in our church. No person, song, instrument, or emotional response should take center stage in our worship. The moment these things become the focus of any church the Word of God becomes supplanted, an idol has been erected, and God’s glory is offended so that what happens bears no resemblance to what can rightfully be termed Christian worship.

One church shares a similar high view of God’s Word with regard to worship. This church—First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi—has a motto that captures this view of the Bible as it relates to worship: “Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible.”[2] The pastor, J. Ligon Duncan, sums up the aim of biblical worship:

“Our aim then is to have a public worship service that is according to Scripture: that is, a service rooted in the Bible’s teaching about the form and substance of congregational worship."[3]

These are some of the reasons why the Word of God is implemented in various ways during the course of our service. Our attempt is to shape and fashion our worship services according to the Word of God and a proper theological understanding that comes from the study of God’s Word.

On this Lord’s Day, consider an important question: Is the Word of God a central theme in your life? If our worship is based on Scripture, how much more should our relationship with God be governed by the principle of Scripture-centeredness? May the Lord be pleased by our worship today and by our devotion to Him and His Word every day of our lives.

[1] Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, eds., Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), [vii].

[2] J. Ligon Duncan, Worshiping God Together: Congregational Worship at First Presbyterian Church (Jackson, MS: First Presbyterian Church, 2005), 9.

[3] Duncan, Worshiping, 13.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Bible in Worship

One of my roommates has a book entitled Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, a book edited by Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W.H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III (and one that I plan to begin reading slowly through sometime soon). This book was written to celebrate the legacy of James Montgomery Boice, and it covers a plethora of material on various aspects of worship.

My purpose in writing this blog entry was simply to draw attention to this resource that I had somehow missed and to provide the following quote from Boice that was printed on a solitary page among the prefatory material. I think this quote captures my own view of the centrality of the Bible in worship, and it should cause any pastor or worship leader to seriously ponder the principle that the Bible should guide our worship:

"To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us. God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship" (vii).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Just for Laughs

Justin Taylor had a fun post today about some of his "Lessons Learned." If you're looking for a laugh, check it out. I think that I could easily come up with something similar, full of my own personal blunders. I have a lot of them. One recent one involves some kind of meat facility...

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Heart of Marriage: It's All About Me?

This time last week, I was spending the evening with my family, playing Uno in their hotel room. The TV was on, and the news featured the story of a woman whose fiancé proposed to her in the classroom. What struck me was the comment of a child about the purpose of marriage. According to this child, who has obviously been influenced by our culture, says that you get married "to have some love you and take care of you." To put it in the first-person tense: "I marry to have someone to love me and take care of me." While having someone that loves me and takes care of me would be a benefit and a blessing of the marriage union, I desire marriage to give of myself to another. I desire to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Christ's love was a selfless love.

How did Christ love? He gave Himself up for His bride, the church. He didn't look for someone to show love and to care for Him. Instead, He sought to care for and provide for His bride.

I cannot help but be reminded of the song, "The Heart of Worship." This song bears the refrain, "It's all about you." Worship students frequently parody this song as a comment on much of today's man-centered worship, changing the phrase to "It's all about me." Worship, at its core, is not about me. Marriage, at its core, is not about me. Even as Paul discussed the matter of physical intimacy, he taught that pleasing the spouse is one of the major principles guiding the physical union. Each member is to give of himself or herself for the sake of the other in the physical relationship, seeking the pleasure of the other (1 Cor. 7:3-5, NASB). Should physical intimacy be the only portion of marriage that is governed by the policy of selflessness? This question points to the fact that if even a pleasurable act is governed by selfless expression of love, should not the whole tenor of the marriage be one of selfless love toward the spouse?

Truly, the glory of it all is that as a godly husband works hard and sacrifices himself for the sake of his wife, he finds joy and fulfillment in serving her as he honors her more than himself, living with her in an "understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7, NASB) and loving and caring for his wife as he cares for himself (Eph. 5:28, NASB). The glory of it all is that as a godly wife supports her husband and seeks his good above her own, she finds joy and fulfillment in bearing the glory of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4, NASB) and respecting her husband (Eph. 5:33, NASB).

I have not experienced the joy of marriage, and I am not qualified to speak about marriage experientially or theoretically. Thankfully, through the Word of God, I can speak and teach with authority on this topic as I teach what the Scripture teaches and not beyond. It is clear from Scripture that marriage is not about me, it's about my wife. Even now as I pray for her, I'm training myself to think of her and what her needs may be. I pray that I'll continue to grow into a man who is capable of loving more and more selflessly, seeking to emulate the compassionate, selfless love of the Savior. While I'm seeking to prepare financially for marriage (see my entry on "The Sanctification of Spending"), my future wife also deserves my love and my devotion. However, she ultimately deserves a husband who loves God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Pray for me to that end, because it is not about me...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Sanctification of Spending

God gives His children good gifts, and guidance is one of those good gifts. By guidance, I mean the wisdom that He gives to show us how to live our lives. Starting Monday, May 14th, I will begin my full-time job as cataloger in the library. Through thinking about the job, my graduation, and future wedding, the Lord has been convicting me about how frivolously I use my money at times. He's also been sending others my way such as my friend and accountability partner Moy and others to give me advice and counsel, giving me the guidance and wisdom that I need to live a holier life for God's glory. The Lord's timing is good, and I now think about what I spend and have certain guidelines in mind. One such guideline is to tithe (10%) from the money given to me as a gift from others and deposit %50 into savings immediately. I still allow myself the pleasure of using the remaining %40 as I please.

These steps and others will help me to walk wisely before my God and my neighbor. The Lord has been impressing upon me the need to live an examined life. My biggest problem is that I'm not always walking in the spirit (Gal. 5:16). I don't always think enough about the words I say, the money I spend, or even the commercials on TV that I mindlessly watch. These things seem minor, which caused a family member to wonder why I changed the television when an inappropriate commercial was on the other day, just for one example. The Christian must think deeply about life. Running on auto-pilot only leads to harm. This is why Scripture tells us to think on certain things, for instance. On auto-pilot, we're not likely to think on things that are holy or true, among other things (Phil. 4:8). My spending is one such area that the Lord has brought to my attention so that I may prepare for the future, particularly for my future bride.

With that in mind, I mostly wanted to write to pass along a helpful article that I came across today. is a wonderful ministry of Focus on the Family designed for adult singles. They have some solid material with several contributors associated with solid groups such as 9 Marks ministries and Sovereign Grace Ministries. I highly commend this site especially to young men and women who hope to marry one day. The specific article that spurred me to write today is entitled, "Saving It for Marriage." I encourage my single and engaged guy friends to read this. As men of God, we must set the stage and lead our families in the area of finances. Wasteful spending and rampant consumption reveals a core of pure materialism and greed, yet we are called to love not the world or the things and possessions in it (1 John 2:15). Instead, we save up for heaven, things that are spiritual and cannot be destroyed by moth or rust (Matthew 6:19-20).

So, read the article, and let me know what you think from either a man or woman's perspective. I pray that the article was a blessing to you as it was to me.

Expect another blog entry soon sharing some more thoughts about marriage in general soon. A comment on a show last night reminded me just how vast the chasm is between the world's view of marriage and the teaching about marriage found in Scripture. Sadly, spending is only the tip of that iceberg.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts on My Upcoming Graduation

It's hard to believe that I have finished the coursework for my college education. I had my last final on Monday morning, and I will be graduating Friday, May 11th at 10:00 AM. Things haven't gone as planned since I left for college. There have been lots of changes, or "milestones" to use the terminology a friend used in a recent graduation card. I decided to think back on some of them. This post may not amount to much, but I felt that the occasion needed some kind of acknowledgment on this blog. Here are some of the lessons I've learned and the changes that the Lord brought about in my plans and in my life.

The Lord changed my college plans...He led me to Boyce College after a couple of semesters at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. I had some great friends, and I settled in rather easily to the college experience. I was also only an hour away from home and could travel home every weekend to visit my family. My family is an integral part of my life, and I was thankful for the opportunity to adjust to slowly adjust to living without them as a regular part of my day-to-day experience. I wanted an education that would train me more theologically. Although my previous college has a terrific music program, I have had the firm conviction that a minister of music is more than the sum of his artistic training. The Bachelor of Science in Church Music degree required only one religion class. That view of music ministry is not aligned with my own. The minister of music (wearing whatever titles may be chosen) is ultimately a minister and servant of the Word. This is why I transferred to Boyce College, which has granted me the opportunity to have similar music classes while adding on Old and New Testament classes and studies in various Christian disciplines including: theology, ethics, and evangelism, to name a few. It has trained me to be a minister, one capable of shepherding the flock, and giving me musical skills to use in the service of the King.

The Lord changed my vocational plans...I thought that I would graduate from Shorter College in May 2005 and attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to get a further church music degree. I assumed that I would graduate 3-4 years later and become Minister of Music at some First Baptist Church, giving me a cozy office job and a nice fiscal provision. Vocation was one of the many idols that had crept in my heart. I joke about it now, but so far the few ministry move that I have involved a cut in pay. I am happy though, realizing that the Lord has and will provide for all of my needs (Phil. 4:19).

The Lord changed my relationship plans...I assumed that I would have already been married by this stage of my life, possibly even having become a father by now. I rest in His sovereign goodness, confident that He will introduce my bride to me in His perfect timing. I look back on my plans, and I'm thankful that I didn't find a girlfriend my first few years in college. I was lost and thus living for myself. I knew not experientially how to love sacrificially, nor did I have the capability to love as I ought. Only through experiencing the love of Christ have I been able to show genuine, selfless love to others (1 John 4:19).

The Lord changed my heart...It was a shock to me at the time, but the Lord finally and fully impressed upon me in February of 2005 that I was lost and devoid of God's grace in my life. I was without hope, trying to serve a God that I denied by my life and whose favor I sought to own through hollow deeds. I never thought that I would be one of those guys who would come to know Christ in college. I thought I knew Him, but my pride kept me from coming to Him, even though I was deeply burdened (Matt. 11:28-30) by the awareness of my own sin and the abiding conviction that I was under the wrath of an Almighty God who would have been just to assign me to hell. Sure, I was saved from sin, but I was chiefly saved from the wrath of God upon me (Rom. 5:9).

Finally, the Lord is changing my view of myself...I'm finding more and more sin in my life as the days pass by. As I look to Christ, I see myself deficient of the kind of holiness that I should be exhibiting. As a result of walking with Him, I no longer have unrealistic and lofty expectations of how righteous I am and how capable I am of doing genuine righteous deeds for God's glory. Instead, I find that pride so easily creeps into my heart, revealing a genuine fear of man and a lack of a holy fear of the Lord. Recently, through a shopping excursion, I was amazed at how much money I could spend at a whim with a piece of plastic. Thankfully, the Lord convicted me of this, and I was able to return the unused clothing days later. I can be very materialistic, and I didn't realize this about myself until recent days. This is part of the reason why I'm selling and donating portions of my library. I must not love the things of this world (1 John 2:15).

My prayer is that the Father will make me more like Christ, daily reforming me and conforming me to Christ's image and likeness. My prayer is that the Lord will continue the painful process of convicting me of my sin so that I recognize more areas that need sanctification, holy change. My prayer is that the Lord will wean me from this world in preparation for glory.

The Christian life is much like the college experience...It costs a lot, and the learning never ceases. There are tests...some I pass, and some I fail; but thankfully, the Lord will keep me from falling (Jude 24), from failing to graduate and pass into glory. Thankfully, I'm secure in Christ, and I'll graduate, receiving a glorified body like my Teacher's--the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) in the flesh, seated at the right hand of the Father.

As I consider this Friday as I walk across the stage to receive a piece of paper acknowledging the completion of coursework, I will think of the day when I stand before the Father, clothed not in a black robe with a mortarboard cap, but in the white robe of Christ's righteousness. As I turn my tassel at the ceremony's end, I will think of casting my crown at the feet of Jesus Christ. That day will be a graduation, the Graduation to end all others.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Letter from a Proud Son


I've been meaning to write you an e-mail for some time now to let you know how much you mean to me. Instead, I thought I'd write this on my blog for the world to see how proud I am to have you as my father! I've been working on this for over a month, thinking of exactly what I wanted to tell you. The words you'll find probably don't express exactly what I wanted to say, but I hope they do reflect the love and admiration that I have for you.

I learned many lessons from you growing up, even when I didn't realize that I was learning them. You made it clear to me so many times growing up that you loved me, and even to this day I'm glad to hear that you brag on me at work. It means a lot to me, probably more than you know. You always affirmed Cindy and me in so many ways, and I'm thankful to have a father who permitted me to make choices, even when they did not exactly line up with yours. You never pushed me into playing basketball because I was tall or into football because I was big. Instead, you came to concerts and went to see me play in the marching band. I even remember you coming out to the game after you almost died from your brain aneurysm. That meant a lot to me, and if I didn't say it then: Thank you!!

I can still envision seeing you climb those steps with that cane of yours, definitely not the strong, independent dad that I remembered when I was a kid. However, your frail body made it all the more meaningful to me, and I'm thankful that the Lord brought you back to full health. You went back to work as usual as soon as you could, a sign of your dedication to us.

That's probably the best lesson I learned from you: Take care of your family. You have always been a worker and an excellent provider for Mom, Cindy, and me. You gave of yourself working jobs that caused you stress, for bosses who didn't appreciate you, enduring a work environment at times when you just wanted to walk out. You endured it, knowing that we couldn't have made it without you working.

You also taught me the value of laughter. Our home was far from uptight, and because of that I have learned to laugh during the seasons of life. We were not designed to fret about everything but to take joy in life and rejoice in the benefits that the Lord gives us. I'm thankful for the lesson of laughter, for it's always been a reminder not to take myself too seriously and to enjoy the life that God has given me.

You always encouraged me in my education, and you never once discouraged me from learning all that I can about everything that interests me. I can remember times growing up when I would hear you give figures or tell stories or offer scientific explanations of why things are the way they are. I didn't value it at the time, but I now recognize that you have always had a thirst for knowledge that you have passed on to me. Thank you for that! I catch myself seeing some interesting fact or reading an article and thinking that I need to pass this along to my dad.

You taught me the value of saying, "I love you." I would hear that phrase multiple times a day when I was growing up, and I still read it in e-mails or hear it when I talk to you on the phone. You've always sought to let Cindy and me know that we are loved. I'm thankful for growing up in a house with that kind of atmosphere, with parents who genuinely loved and cared for me. There are some people who go their whole life with never (or at least rarely) hearing their father say that he loved them. I'm not in that category, and I'm thankful for that.

You taught me to sacrifice for those you love. Numerous times in my childhood, I remember you wore tattered jeans or shirts with missing buttons, all so that Cindy and I could have decent clothes to wear to school. Although I wasn't old enough to remember myself, I remember hearing stories of how you and Mom ate biscuits and gravy several nights a week because most of your grocery money went toward formula, diapers, and other baby needs. As an adult now, I look back to my childhood and wonder how Cindy and I were able to have as much as we had, yet the bills were always paid. Your sacrifices largely paved the way for me to be where I am today, beginning to enroll in seminary and seeking the Lord's will for my life. Without your sacrifices, it wouldn't be possible for me to be where I am today. Thank you!

You taught me to be grateful. That is how I was raised, and I'm thankful for that. Cindy and I were always encouraged to be grateful. When going over to other people's houses, we were taught not to go for the candy, but we were taught to accept it with gratitude if it was offered. You always discouraged the rude attitude of ingratitude, and that has helped me so much in ministry. I have learned not to expect thanks or reward from others, but when a word of thanks or a reward is offered, I am always thankful. You trained me to be that way.

Finally, you taught me the faith. That's probably the thing I'm proudest about of you! You gave me a solid foundation in the Christian faith. I was taught never to doubt God's Word. The Bible was always held in high esteem as a book authored by God, as an inerrant book and an infallible rule for faith and practice. I was taught to love Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. I was taught to lift high the name of Jesus Christ, the only way to heaven. I was taught never to doubt the Lord and what He can and does do. I was taught to reject the heresies of the cults and of liberal "Christianity." I was taught to accept true, sound doctrine with all diligence.

These are the things you taught me, and the longer I live, the more I see the value of those years of teaching. Thank you for all the years that you have poured into my life, and I thank God that you're my father.

And, although as I've grown older, I view you a little differently. I now consider you a teacher and advisor in church matters, and I'm thankful that I was able to call you to ask you how to conduct the first funeral I officiated a few years ago. You help me in the other areas of life when I need someone with more wisdom, and I'm thankful that I can always turn to you for guidance. And, although I now call you "Dad" as I've grown to be an adult, deep in my heart, you'll always be "Daddy!"

I love you, Daddy, and I just wanted you (and the world) to know!

Monday, April 02, 2007

"My Song Is Love Unknown"

"My Song Is Love Unknown" is a wonderful hymn with a rich text that points me to the Savior's sacrifice. May it encourage you to consider what great love Christ displayed at the cross:

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Click here to view this text at the Cyber Hymnal website with MIDI accompaniment. I'm more familiar with the tune LOVE UNKNOWN, which is the tune I recommend. To hear it, click on the word MIDI in parentheses by that tune title.

I also encourage you to visit and click here to listen to a beautiful setting of this same text.

Let us consider Christ and His suffering this week.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why I Write Long E-Mails

I've been meaning to write this post for some time now. Some of my friends have complained, albeit jokingly (I think), about my proclivity toward writing long e-mails. There are actually several good reasons why I do this, and some of these reasons may lie in my weaknesses as much as my strengths. Nevertheless, if you have received lengthy e-mails from me, take heart! That's a good thing, mostly...let me explain.

I write long e-mails because...

1. I attempt to be thoughtful. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to send me an e-mail message that may seem lengthy to others. To me, it shows that they poured themselves into their words. Especially when I've written something personal or express a need for help, it means a lot to me when someone writes back with a long, thoughtful response. It shows that they spent their time communicating with me and imparting wisdom, knowledge, encouragement, or even laughter, all for my sake. I value words, both what others say to me and what they say about me. In return, I try to encourage others. If I've sent you a nice, long e-mail acknowledging the impact that you have made on me or expressing thanks for the ways that you have ministered to me, take that long e-mail as a compliment. That's how I mean it to be taken.

2. I often think through things as I type. Especially when I write about Scripture or theology, my e-mails can become quite lengthy. Often, this is because I'm thinking through matters as I'm typing. I get caught up in the experience, and minutes later I have open to find references along with various commentaries by my side. When my thoughts get flowing, I let them, and some of my friends have received those theological think-throughs. If you have been sent one of those e-mails, feel free to roll your eyes, but also be thankful that the Lord has used you to help me think more deeply and intimately about God and His Word. For being my guinea pig, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

3. I am more careful with my words when I write. This is another major reason that I tend to write long e-mails. I tend to think more about the words that I use. I will often revise an e-mail several times for fear of being harsh, corny, inconsiderate, or glib. I can be all that and more in real-life situations, as I often am, but I have a little more control of that in e-mail. I guess that's another reason that grows out of my own weakness, but it's a reason nonetheless.

4. I think of long e-mails as the written equivalent of sitting on the front porch swing with relatives, sipping sweet tea and shooting the breeze to my heart's content. Those porch-time sittings were some of the happiest times of my teenage years. We would sit and just share stories and laughs. My e-mails have the tendency to be a bit familiar with the people that I know. In fact, I wonder at times if I share too many details about my life or what I'm thinking. Often, after sending one, I'll wonder if the person receiving really cares to know me. However, I think that my tendency to chat and openly share things about myself is part of my southern raising (I'm referring here to being raised in the deep south, the great state of Georgia, not the city of a Louisville where I currently live, which I would not classify as a southern city). I had a grandfather who could talk to anyone (and normally would). He was a lot more out-going than I am, except when it comes to e-mails. When I feel comfortable around others, I do get very chatty. The same is true with my e-mails. If you've received a long e-mail, it probably means that I trust you, and that should be a compliment. I hope it seems that way!

So, those are the main reasons that I send out lengthy e-mails at times. If you occasionally receive them from me, consider it a good thing. I won't be offended if you don't write back promptly or choose not to respond. The words are for you, regardless.

Know that if you send me an encouraging e-mail (or card, letter, etc.), I greatly appreciate it! In fact, when people send me cards of encouragement, I put them in a box. A pastor of mine once encouraged me to create a "Monday morning file." At times when I'm discouraged, when I think that no one cares for me, or when I'm wondering if I'm impacting anyone at all for the sake of the Kingdom of our Christ, I take out that box. I find encouraging notes from members of previous churches, thank you cards signed by various members of a church I served, or even a card with a couple of sentences from a retired lady telling me that she prays regularly for me. I cherish those, possibly more than the people who send them realize, and possibly more than I can adequately express with the spoken word. If you have sent me a card, a letter, or an e-mail just to encourage me through the years, I publicly say "Thanks!"

So, today, let me just encourage you today to write a family member, a friend, your pastor, a colleague, a member of your church, or someone who is going through a difficult time. Expect no thanks, and do it all for the glory of God. They may never acknowledge what your words meant to them or the impact that they had. However, do everything as unto the Lord, for He is the One who can use your words to do far more abundantly above all that you can ask or think.

[While I have had the idea for this post for some time, the last paragraph of application (sorry to use a preacher term) was spurred on by my friend Angela's recent blog entry, "Spreading the Gift of Words." I encourage you to read it!]

Monday, February 19, 2007

For a Friend...

I don't normally do this kind of thing, but in honor of my good friend Moy's birthday, I told him that I would post a short list of bad pick-up lines that may be overheard at Southern Seminary. However, I offer these two disclaimers:

1. It was not my idea to post these! It was Moy's idea to put some of these up through some jokes that we had batted around. Sorry, ladies, but "The Moy" is married.

2. I have never used any of these lines, nor would I, and nor would I encourage others to do so.

Lastly, as you will notice, this list is very short, which means that we need some reader participation. If you can think of corny religious (or even quasi-religious) pick-up lines that some bookish, Southern Baptist seminarian might use, please add your suggestions in the comments section.

Enjoy, and Happy Birthday, Moy!

Pick-Up Lines One Might Hear at SBTS:

7. Do you believe in special revelation, because God revealed to me that you sure are special?

6. So, how many points are you? (Think of TULIP, not a buck.)

5. Have you considered becoming a minister's wife?

4. So, what do you think of Joshua Harris' writings?

3. God told me that you'd go out on a date with me...You don't want to call God a liar, do you?

2. Would you like to help me fulfill God's will for me to be married?

1. Your name must be Grace, because you're irresistible.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts at the Close of Valentine's Day

So, I'm sitting here in front of the computer on Valentine's Day, also known as Single Awareness Day (SAD) to many singles. Valentine's Day has never been a time when my feelings of loneliness have been excessive, because I value the marriage relationship too much to simply focus on my wants and foster exaggerated feelings of loneliness. I would rather remain single if the Lord has not placed anyone on my heart than rush into a relationship fool heartedly with my emotions, hormones, and/or feelings of loneliness being the only impetus toward finding someone.

I plan on spending my married life trying (as best as I can by God's grace) to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25), and I plan on serving her the rest of my life because she is my sister in Christ. Choosing the bride that I will serve, love, protect, provide for, lead, and cherish the rest of my life is no small thing. Much like the task of preaching, I take the matter of marriage seriously so that it brings about an appropriate and godly dose of fear in me. When I stand before the people of God proclaiming the truth of God's Word, I stand there in weakness, fear, and trembling, in awe of the task that God has set before me and unable to accomplish it without His grace. When I think of my future wife, I sometimes tremble at the seriousness of the task that will be mine to care for her. It's no small thing, but I know that the Lord gives grace in weakness. Just as He supplies the strength that I need to preach, He will supply the strength that I need to approach my future wife, begin a relationship, and weather the trials and heartaches that come from being united to another sinner saved by grace.

Having said all of that, I have used this day to think more about marriage. How can I prepare myself to be a good husband and father? What areas of my life need the most sanctification? What should I expect from my wife and from being married? What is the best way to go about finding and relating to the one who will be my wife? What will my wife need me to do and to be for her? How can I begin the process of learning how to love someone as much as Christ loved the church? Am I truly ready for the married state?

In all of this, I have humbly asked the Lord to make me ready for my future bride and to bring her my way, soon. Surely if the Lord can present His bride, the church, without a spot or wrinkle, He can surely prepare me and continue transforming me into a bridegroom that will bring Him the most glory as I treat my wife in a godly way that reflects Christ's love for the church.

Pray for me, and pray for my (future) wife.

Finally, if you're single and could use some advice on this day (and the days of singleness to follow), consider:

1. Pray for your future husband or wife. I pray for my future wife on a regular basis, even daily for the past few weeks. This will help you to think less of yourself and more about your future spouse. Marriage is not a state of perpetual selfishness, and one must not run toward the altar in the hopes of finding self-fulfillment. Instead, one should come to the altar with joy knowing that the Lord has provided a marvelous picture of the relationship of Christ and the church and a means to give of your life to someone else. So, pray for your future spouse regularly.

For my wife, I specifically pray that the Lord will sanctify her and draw her closer to Himself. I pray that He'll prepare her to be a godly wife to me and mother to our children. I pray that He'll create and stir within her a desire to love me, a wretched sinner though I am. I pray that He'll bring us together (soon), and that if we have already met that He will make His will for us abundantly clear. I pray that He'll care for her and protect her in whatever she does and will take care of her needs according to His riches in glory.

2. Think seriously about marriage. If you do not believe that the Lord has given you the gift of celibacy, you must actively prepare yourself for marriage and begin or continue pursuing the marriage state. In Not Even a Hint--later retitled as Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)--Joshua Harris gives clear advice about marriage:

Unless God has removed your desire for sex and has given you a clear vision to serve Him as a single person, then assume that you're supposed to get married and either make yourself ready or begin pursuing it...I think there are far too many singles today (men in particular) who have no good reason for delaying marriage. Sometimes I think it's just plain laziness and selfishness. Other times it's a cultural, unbiblical emphasis on career and material success. (p. 111-112)

3. Be a brother (or sister) to your sisters (or brothers) in Christ.
Harris gives Christian men some wise advice:

Probably one of the most important things godly single men can do to help their single sisters is to actively be brothers to them. Don't flee relationships with them. Helping to guard their purity doesn't mean avoiding them. It means caring for them and extending genuine friendship. We can encourage Christian women we know who are serving God passionately. We can thank women who dress modestly. (p. 90)

4. Trust in the Lord.
The Lord's hand is good, and He gives good gifts to His children. I look forward to being blessed with a godly wife that I can love with all of my heart, and I trust that the Lord will bring us together soon. I would be lying if I said that I was always confident and never doubted, but I know that the Lord is good. Since He has not given me the gift of celibacy and hampered my desire for marriage nor my physical drive, He desires me to proceed in the direction of marriage. In that way, I trust in Him completely, knowing that He will not fail me in this. I find my satisfaction in Him, knowing that His timing and His will is perfect.

So, single Christian, use this time of singleness to prepare yourself. As I've been told by many married couples, relationships tend to sneak up on you. So, I conclude that it is much better to prepare while the water is calm.

May the Lord cause you to be unwaveringly satisfied in Jesus Christ, above all else!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chapel Schedule

I was just looking at the chapel schedule here at SBTS this semester, and I'm thankful that I'm a part of an institution that invites such godly men to preach the Word. I always look forward to our chapel services. Also, I'll have the opportunity to hear some of my favorite preachers, which means that I'm especially excited about the schedule.

In light of that, I admit that I have found that some of the "no names" have been the most edifying to me, men whose names you wouldn't know but who have nonetheless preached the Word mightily and with such great conviction that great truths of Scripture were made manifest to me in fresh ways.

In either case, may the Lord add His blessing to the reading and the preaching of the Word this semester!

Please Click here to check out the chapel schedule. If you're anywhere near Louisville on Tuesday or Thursday, I'd encourage you to drop by to attend our chapel services at 10:00 AM.

I'd also encourage you to pray for each of these men during the semester. I just printed off the list, and I plan to pray specifically for the men whose names are found there. I also encourage you to pray regularly and fervently for the pastor of your local church, too. I can assure you that he always stands in need of your prayers.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Prayer Request: Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg's ministry, Truth for Life, sends out Truthlines, a monthly ministry update. In this month's edition, which I received yesterday morning and read today, Begg mentions that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It seems that the cancer is "non-aggressive, localized, and treatable." I encourage you to offer your prayers for Alistair Begg and his ministry.

I was particularly struck by a one-sentence paragraph near the end of his e-mail:

"The psalmist reminds us that our times are in His hands and so we rest content in the confidence that God is too wise to make a mistake and too kind to be cruel."
To that I say "Amen!" Although mysterious and sometimes painful, we know that everything that the Lord does is right. My prayer is that the Lord will see fit to show His glory through healing Alistair Begg. In the meantime, let us join him in praying for the Lord's will to be done.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lessons Learned

It was February 1st of 2005 that I was converted and became a Christian. I repented of my sins and the "good works" that were fooling me into believing I was okay. Surely the Lord would look over my sins and give me an A+ for effort. The truth is that those efforts dug me deeper into depravity. My outward performance and smug, legalistic, self-righteousness were no small things. They were cosmic treason against an infinitely holy God.

Oh, how I praise the Lord for His work of grace in my life! I still see so many deficiencies in my life, yet I'm thankful that the Lord has continued to bring about some much-needed changes. I wish I was a spiritual giant like those I read about. My life seems to be a speck in God's kingdom. However, I'm reminded of other "specks" that God has used to bless my life. I could mention names that almost no one reading will know, yet these men affected my life in such profound ways. Tonight at church, Brother Todd mentioned that many of us that are pastors or hope to one day pastor might snub our noses at the small, rural church that runs 15 in Sunday school. In his lesson on John the Baptist, he brought out the fact that God gave him a message, and he was to proclaim that message in a desert. However, I'm happy to serve God in the desert.

In this desert, however, the Lord has taught me a few things, whether it be about myself or about the Christian life. I would like to end this post just listing my thoughts. There's probably nothing orderly about today's entry, but I just wanted to think about the Christian life that I've been living for the past 2 years in thankfulness for God's sanctifying grace.

1. God gives us timely lessons. The Lord has a way of teaching us things through trials and giving us the strength we need for that moment. I can look back and see numerous times that the Lord has taught me a lesson that I would not have had the faith to withstand just 2 years ago. The Lord taught me to better trust in Him and His timing. In moving to my current apartment, my situation was hopeless. I was at the end of my rope, and the Lord came through in the last few days. I literally had no where to go in the final weeks before the house I was living would be sold by our landlord. I don't know if I could have handled that same situation 2 years ago. It was a timely lesson, a lesson designed for that moment in my life, and although I would weep and felt forsaken by God, He heard my cries.

2. Growth in grace is steady, but it is often imperceptible to us. It's remarkably true that others may see us grow in leaps and bounds with a life full of grace, yet to us we see the doubting tendencies and the scars of past sins that still come to life after lying dormant for weeks, months, or years. During this past year, I have often lamented the lack of growth in my life. I did not see major steps toward becoming like Christ. However, even if I look at my life a year ago, I see so many changes and new opportunities that the Lord has brought into my life to remind me that He's actively changing me. I think of a mentor relationship, a new accountability relationship, a new friendship, the sins that are being vanquished, along with several areas in my life that the Lord has encouraged me to change. I cannot see that at the moment. I struggle through each step, not realizing I've walked for miles. I focus on the stretch of road ahead of me and the tiredness of my feet, forgetting that my goal is to keep my eyes on Christ during the journey of the Christian life. On a special day like today, I recognize the grace of God in my life, and I'm humbled that the Lord has given me the privilege of teaching, preaching, and ministering in the name of Christ.

3. Friends sanctify. The Lord has brought some friends into my life that have truly changed my life. That may sound a bit over-the-top, but there's no other way that I can put it. Through those deep friendships with fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, the Lord has revealed to me how much of a sinner that I am. Recently, I sent an e-mail to a brother of mine confessing a sin that I committed against him that he didn't know about. I was able to reconcile with another brother through a rift that was created by something that I said, even though I didn't know the rift even existed for months. Through those interactions, I learned how prideful or insensitive I can be. Those are painful lessons. I don't like to think of myself as a prideful person. I don't normally choose to think of myself as someone who is insensitive to those around me. The truth is, through these men, I have come to realize how much of an impact my choices have on others. Just by choosing different words, I would have been able to avoid hurting a dear brother. Through choosing to tell the truth about a situation, I let my brother see my sin instead of concealing it.

4. Sins must not go unconfessed. It seems that the verse the Lord kept drilling into my head the whole fall semester was Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." The Lord brought about victory in an area of my life because I confessed it to my pastor and a couple of brothers. The Lord is gracious and will hear the prayers of those who confess their sins. I also forsaked that sin, and have taken measures to eradicate it from my life. Unfortunately, any sinful action comes about through sinful attitudes of the heart, and I pray that the Lord will continue working on my thoughts just as much as He gives me the strength to act as I should.

Those are some lessons that I have learned this past year. My prayer is that I will be more like Jesus by the time I post an entry on this blog next year.

Pray for me that the Lord will grant me the grace to live the Christian life as I should, not just when celebrating the anniversary of my conversion, but every day of the year. May I be like Christ on the day when a close relative dies, on the day when close friends forsake me, or on the day when sadness grips my heart. All of that (or none of that) may happen this year...If it does, I pray that it will make me more like Jesus.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Daily Bread

Tomorrow I will be teaching my kids about the 4th petition of what's commonly called the Lord's prayer. This simple phrase teaches us to ask the Lord for daily bread, the sustenance that we need to survive.

Sometimes I forget the good gifts of God. It is by His gracious provision that I have anything to eat. In a rare occasion, all 3 of my elementary-age students wanted to pray last week. One of the girls prayed that the Lord would help her dad to be able to make enough money to buy groceries so that they would have enough to eat. Something about that really touched me. This girl recognized that the Lord provides the basic necessities of life, and she was not ashamed to ask for God's provision even among a group of her peers.

This little girl was probably not thinking of the Lord's prayer when she was praying, but it fits so nicely with what I have studied in preparation for tomorrow's lesson. One of the things that struck me was the childlike humility she displayed in voicing her need. So often I am so reluctant to admit the needs that I have in my own life. I do not want others to see my needs or insufficiencies, those areas in which I desperately need God's grace. Instead, I am quick to cover up those blemishes. However, this little girl displayed the humility of asking someone for help, and that Someone happened to be the One who provides for her daily.

William Hendriksen in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew states:

Humility is required; hence, 'Give us....' Although the supplicant is making a living in the sweat of his brow and besides has even paid for his groceries, he must still accept what is on the table as a gift from God, a product of grace; for, not only is God the ultimate source of every blessing (James 1:17) but also, by reason of sin man has forfeited all! (p. 333)
I had never thought of it that way, but humility is required to even ask the Lord to give us our daily bread. It implies need. It implies that we need a Provider. It implies that we're not self-sufficient. It implies that God is good.

It may seem like a very simple lesson, but I pray that the Lord will always keep me humble and further humble me to recognize the areas of need in my life so that I may drop to my knees in utmost thankfulness in response to His glorious provision

Stop today and thank God today for your daily bread and the many blessings that He has sent your way.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Traffic Jams for the Glory of God

A former pastor of mine was known to utter the phrase, "Confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation." That phrase has stuck with me through the years, and it is applicable for me as regards this entry. It probably comes as no surprise, but I can be really selfish. In fact, much of what I do centers around me. I eat because I am hungry, I read a certain book because I want to read it, and the list goes on. Granted, the examples just cited are fairly benign.

How should we react when an accident or wreck messes up our schedule? In my case, how could I be so frustrated that a wreck on I-65 caused me to be delayed by 3 hours? The frustration is understandable, but a few thoughts were going through my head during that time:

1. How can I be more concerned about my time than about those involved in the wreck? For a wreck to be so bad that I only moved 2 miles in 3 hours, I should have been more concerned about those involved in the wreck. I was most certainly not loving my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:39).

2. How can I be frustrated at my situation when the sovereign God of the universe ordained that I be stuck in this traffic jam? I cannot accept only good from the Lord's hand. I must not allow myself to get irritated by God's hand of providence. The truth is that if I were to evaluate the root attitude of my heart, I would have unearthed dissatisfaction with the Almighty with the pride and arrogance of a sinful creature who thinks he knows better than God. If I had my way, the wreck would not have happened, but even such simple, seemingly harmless statements reveal a distrust with what God does. I must not presume to think that I know better than God, and I had to come to grips with my selfishness as I was sitting in the car with nothing but my thoughts. Those thoughts were mostly about my precious time. I did not suffer physical or mental anguish. I simply experienced God's providential hand interrupting my schedule, and all I could think about was myself.

3. How can I use this time for God's glory? The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to remind them to "do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, NASB). Could this traffic jam be used to the glory of God for Christ's sake? Yes! In fact, it was this thought that precipitated my prayers for the individuals that were involved in the wreck. It was this thought that spurred me on to prayer for the brother of a close friend of mine. It was this thought that drove me to listen to some Christian songs from a Sovereign Grace CD.

I had never considered it before, but today I learned that a traffic jam can be used for the glory of God and to teach me much about making much of Jesus Christ at every moment and in every situation...for the kingdom and the King, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Salvation by Works

Through reading Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, I came across a quote that I've heard several times:
I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work. (p. 34)
This reminds me somewhat of my pre-conversion experience. Granted, I was not nearly as dedicated as Martin Luther, but I had a similar view of my life. I was chaste, and I served the church. I did many things, and the activities of the Lord's kingdom became the activities that were placed front and center in my life. However, my own false sense of my own righteousness fooled me.

I can truly empathize with Brother Martin who tried so hard to live a good life. However, Bainton makes it clear that "the trouble was that he could not satisfy God at any point" (p. 34). Constantly working under the pressure that you'll never measure up is a rather disconcerting condition. Sadly, I feel that it is the condition of many. I am reminded of a short phrase used by Dr. Moore in a chapel sermon during the past semester or so. He uttered a string of phrases that spoke of conversion experiences that included something similar to "or the 7-year-old boy saved from a life of Southern Baptist self-righteousness."

Bainton quotes Luther's comments on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, which described the "disillusionment" of his lost condition and how he viewed righteousness and holiness:
This word is too high and too hard that anyone should fulfill it. This is proved, not merely by our Lord's word, but by our own experience and feeling. Take any upright man or woman. He will get along very nicely with those who do not provoke him, but let someone proffer only the slightest irritation and he will flare up in anger...if not against friends, then against enemies. Flesh and blood cannot rise above it. (p. 34)
Luther recognized his own sinful nature, and Bainton adds that he "simply had not the capacity to fulfill the conditions" (p. 34).

However, God cannot allow sin into His presence. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is my righteousness! I have no goodness of my own that I can claim as my entrance into heaven. Instead, I come by the blood and plead the righteousness of Christ by grace through faith.

If you're a believer, thank God that Jesus Christ was the sacrifice for you. If you're not, consider why God should allow you into His heaven. He demands perfection, and if you're not trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior, you only have your own righteousness to claim. However, human "righteousness" at its best is only filthy rags, which means that you'll never measure up on your own. Turn to Christ! Repent and place all your trust in Him.

If you're unsure of your standing with God, please feel free to e-mail me. For so many years, I was too ashamed to admit to another person that I didn't think I was really a Christian. I was afraid to seek out a believer out of fear. What would they think of me if I were to admit that I, although a minister, was lost and not a Christian, living a false life serving a Christ who was not really my Savior?

Thankfully, the Lord convicted me, and I could not escape so great a salvation. I e-mailed Dr. Moore and, for the first time, really expressed that I knew that I was lost for all of those years. I wished I would have surrendered sooner, and I don't want you to be slowly sliding toward eternal destruction due to the same fears that I had. Ultimately, it was pride that was keeping me from God, and I'm thankful that He invaded my life, broke through the pride of my heart, and rescued me from my slide into the torment of hell. He gave me peace!

Truly, these are matters of life and death, and I encourage you to e-mail me or seek out a Christian. Make sure of your standing with God, and do not make the mistake of letting pride keep you from humbling yourself to admit your need. God is near to the humble, and He is mighty to save those who come to Him by grace through faith.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"The Look"

I traveled to Amelia, Ohio today to spend time with relatives, and during the course of my 2-hour journey I found myself listening to my newly purchased Sovereign Grace CD, Songs for the Cross Centered Life. I listened to one particular song time and time again. The song, simply called "The Look," paints a picture of one standing at Calvary, looking upon the Savior. It is a very simple song that speaks of the atoning work of Christ.

How fitting it is for the Christian to think of Calvary, to think of the suffering that secured pardon and the blood that purchased redemption! My prayer is that God will grant me such an allegiance to the crucified Savior that it may be honestly said that the purpose of my ministry is that I may "know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV).

As I kept listening to this song today with eyes full of tears of gratitude, I was reminded of how undeserving I was, am, and forever will be, of the grace that God has shown in saving a wretch, a worm, like me. I deserve judgment, hell, and God's wrath. He chose to display mercy instead. That is why I can earnestly and truthfully sing the chorus of this song and why my life will continue to sing His praise:
Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Christian Incineration?

It's not often that you come across the question of cremation and its appropriateness for the Christian. Thanks to a recent broadcast of the Albert Mohler Program hosted by Dr. Moore, a caller posed a question about cremation during an "Ask Anything Wednesday" program (click here to find more information about that broadcast as well as download options). Thankfully, because of this question, Dr. Moore decided to post a link on The Henry Institute website to an article entitled "Grave Signs," written for Touchstone Magazine.

I can still remember hearing a defense of cremation during a rehearsal of the Shorter College chorale. Our director said that he wanted to have his body cremated so that money can be saved and the rest of his monetary wealth given to the poor. The body is not the real "person," so to speak, so why waste the money on a burial? It made sense to me, and I remember telling my parents and others that I would like to be cremated when I die.

Shortly thereafter, I learned and thought more about the significance of such an event for the believer. Ultimately, through my reading, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Moore came to in his article, and his article has simply fortified my understanding of Christian burial.

Dr. Moore makes several strong points. He points to the reality that "the body is not a shell, a husk tossed aside by the 'real' person, the soul within. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but the body that remains still belongs to someone, someone we love, someone who will reclaim it one day." The body must be treated with respect. To present a body to the ground implies the safekeeping of rest and a deposit that will be redeemed at the resurrection of the saints.

Another strong point of the article is Dr. Moore's reminder to us of the imagery of sleep in the Bible. Sleep is a common metaphor for death. Truly, death is not the end for the believer. The satin pillows we see in caskets accompanied by sighs of "he looks so peaceful" are not the trite pleasantries of an awkward sadness. They point to the Christian's rest. Cremation points to finality and futility.

The act of burial is an important one, and I would commend it as the option that Christians should consider. Cremation is by no means sinful, for God can and will resurrect many ashes of believers throughout the ages. However, Dr. Moore reminds us that a Christian burial says a lot, probably more than many Christians and unbelievers usually consider when deciding upon their last wishes:

"Christians at a burial site remind themselves and the watching world, by committing a seemingly 'sleeping' body to the ground, that one day this same northern Galilean accent will ring from the Eastern skies--and 'they that hear shall live' (John 5:25)."

I cannot help but think of my own grandfather, James Ralph Wells, resting in the ground in Chatsworth, GA, waiting to be awakened by the same voice that once called Lazarus forth. My grandmother no longer utters, "Shhh! Don't wake up your grandpa." That's the task of the Lord of Lords now, and that Galilean accent will awaken Papaw most gloriously!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Link: Archives and Special Collections (SBTS)

If you're a Southern Baptist, you're probably aware that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has a fascinating history. I encourage you to check out the Archives and Special Collections website of SBTS. You'll be able to become well-informed of the history of this great institution as you come across captivating stories, quotes, and facts about SBTS. It's worth your time to take more than just a glance!

New Link: Christian Classics Ethereal Library

I have just added a new link for the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. It is a virtual storehouse of biblical, theological, and historical resources of the Christian faith. I'm sorry that it took so long for me to think to add this wonderful resource. You'll want to bookmark this site!

New Book on Baptism

A new book on believer's baptism has been published by B&H Publishing Group, the publishing entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. The book is entitled, Believer's Baptism: The Covenant Sign of the New Age in Christ. Judging by the editors and contributors, this book will undoubtedly prove to be of extreme help to me, my fellow Baptists, and others who desire to interact with the credobaptist (believer's baptism) position.

I will be interested in seeing how the book is received.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Friday, January 12, 2007

Valley of Vision

One of the most soul-stirring books that I use in my personal devotions and prayer life has to be The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. The prayer entitled "A Minister's Preaching" has made such an impact on me that I usually pray it on a day that I have the opportunity to preach. It reminds me of the seriousness of the occasion and that I "go weak and needy to my task" (p. 191).

However, what brings me to write at the moment is a desire to recommend a new CD to you, "Valley of Vision," produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries. The first song, "In the Valley," is one of my favorites:

Verse 1
When You lead me to the valley of vision
I can see You in the heights
And though my humbling wouldn't be my decision
It's here Your glory shines so bright
So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown
To be low is to be high
That the valley's where You make me more like Christ

Let me find Your grace in the valley
Let me find Your life in my death
Let me find Your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You're near with every breath
In the valley

Verse 2
In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley's where Your power is revealed

Click here to buy an MP3 from the Sovereign Grace Ministries online store.

Also: Visit to learn more about the project and access various files such as lyrics, lead sheets, and chord charts. May these songs and their lyrics become tools to enrich and deepen your devotion to the Lord.