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.

I'm Back...?

For the first time in several weeks, I am now able to access my blog from home, which means that I'll be posting more often. Thanks for your patience!

Hopefully my problems with Blogger and other Google sites will not resurface...For the meantime, I'm enjoying being able to blog at home again!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Hold the Fire and Brimstone, Please"

The title of this post is the title of a short article by Burk Parsons in this month's issue of Tabletalk, a magazine published by Ligionier Ministries. In the article, Parsons recalls an incident where he was teaching a class on heaven and hell to a class of middle-aged students. Not one student could raise his hand when asked to recall the last time a sermon was heard on the topic of hell. The same response was given when asked about heaven, except this time a few could say that they remembered hearing a pastor at least mention heaven in a sermon.

So, where did hell go? Hell is an important biblical truth, and one that is not a peripheral matter to the truth of the gospel. It goes to the core of divine justice and man's sinfulness, the foundation blocks for a true understanding of the gospel. Everyone is sinful, and unless the individual recognizes his sinfulness and the fact that he deserves hell, he will remain lost. A sense of God's divine justice and our sinfulness is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that God's power would be shown in great ways, manifesting itself in many being drawn to Christ for salvation if only more pastors would speak of the judgment to come? Let us not forget the marvelous revival that began with Jonathan Edwards preaching "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," which graphically depicts the precarious situation of the lost in regards to divine judgment. Sinners who would flee to Christ must know why and from what they are fleeing!

Parsons ends his article with a defense of the usefulness and necessity of the doctrine of hell and divine retribution:
The subject of the eternal destinies of human beings is not a footnote to the Gospel, it is at the heart of understanding the very essence of the Gospel. We would not need mercy if we had no sin, and we would not need grace if we had no future. God bestows His grace upon us not merely so we can get a fire ticket out of hell. In fact, in preaching fire and brimstone, the Lord graciously provides us with a bad impression of ourselves so that we might be offended by our sin and turn to Him in repentance and faith through Christ.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Link: The W.A. Criswell Sermon Library

I encourage you to visit the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library. The website has numerous sermons delivered by W.A. Criswell in various settings. As I've mentioned before, he was a hero to my grandfather, and I remember hearing stories about W.A. Criswell before I knew who he was. My grandfather particularly liked his material on premillennialism, and I was able to purchase a tape of the lecture that Criswell gave at Moody Bible Institute, "Why I Am a Premillennialist."

I think he was more pleased by that gift than any other gift that I ever gave him, which lets you know of the impact that Criswell had on him. I've been blessed to be able to hear some of Criswell's sermons, and I encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Cross Centered Life

It's amazing how much of an impact that a small book of under 100 pages can have. I highly commend The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney to you. This is the kind of book that exalts the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ so that the believer may know how to live the gospel.

For me, it's a reminder of the Lord's grace in my own life. It is only in recent years, since my conversion, that I have even begun to learn what it means to live the Christian life. Before my conversion, my view of Christian living was summed up in rules and laws that I couldn't live up to. I felt condemned before God and walked around knowing that I could never live up to His standards. I thought Him to be a harsh judge and a Father with little time to fool with or care for someone like me. Little did I know, it was that realization of my own condemnation that would lead me to saving faith.

It's hard leaving behind the chains of legalism to flee to Christ. I still find myself pondering my "performance," and then I must confess and repent of the sin in my own heart. Oh, how I wish I were not so apt to fall prey to the Tempter himself.

In this book, C.J. Mahaney lists three areas that keep us from living a life that is centered on the cross of our Lord:

1. Legalism, which means basing our relationship with God on our own performance.
2. Condemnation, which means being more focused on our sin than on God's grace.
3. Subjectivism, which means basing our view of God on our changing feelings and emotions. (p. 23)

The chapter on legalism profoundly affected me and caused me to flee to Christ even more. He shares the story of a plate spinner that he saw on the Ed Sullivan Show as a child. The man would have those long rods with plates spinning on the top of them. He would keep adding plates, and Mahaney grew anxious as he watched the man on television add new plates and try to keep the previous ones from falling. He compares this to the life of a new believer who hears of various spiritual disciplines and receives advice from other believers about matters of spiritual living. This Christian then adds more and more plates to the rods of his life, and "instead of being a further expression of his confidence in God's saving work in his life, his spiritual activities became spinning plates to maintain" (p. 29).

Mahaney goes on to mention that even the worship and heart attitude of this new believer is manifested differently at different times as a direct result of his performance-based mentality:

The shift is plainly seen on Sunday mornings. On one Sunday, Stuart sings and praised God with evident sincerity and zeal. Why? Because he's just had a really good week. Not a single plate has wobbled.

But on another Sunday, following a week in which several plates fell, Stuart is hesitant to approach God. He finds it difficult to worship freely, because he feels that God disapproves of him. His confidence is no longer in the gospel; it's in his own performance, which hasn't been so great lately. (p. 29)

Mahaney's answer is to ponder the meaning of justification. At salvation, God declares us to be just. We've been given the verdict of innocent because Christ took our punishment. At salvation, we repent of our sins and receive Christ's righteousness accredited to our account! Mahaney urges the believer who is prone to legalism to remember that "God completely and totally forgave you. He not only wiped the record of your sin away, he credited the righteousness of His Son to you" (p. 31). Oh, how marvelous is the love of God! My right-standing is based on Christ's righteousness. I obey Him now not out of debt or duty, but out of love and through grace.

In the end of that chapter, he admits that he knows the temptation to legalism: "That's why, when I complete my daily devotions and close my Bible, I make a point of reminding myself that Jesus' work, not mine, is the basis of my forgiveness and acceptance by God" (p. 35).

I encourage you to pick up this little book. I'm not a quick reader, yet I was still able to finish it in a few days just by reading a few minutes each night. It has changed the way I view my Christian life, and it was an encouragement to my soul.

Christian, always ponder the cross and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.