Monday, June 30, 2008

I Will Not Fail You

In Joshua 1:5, we read the following as God talks to Joshua as he is about to lead the people into the promised land:

“No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you" (Emphasis Added).

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of a night by a fear that grasped your soul whether it was a circumstance you were facing or a situation in which you absolutely had no control over at all. We humans really control very little with respect to the events of our lives. Sure, we try to control what we can with respect to ourselves, but controlling other things is beyond us. Joshua is about to lead the people into Israel. Remember, he was there 40 years ago, when the people had failed to believe and were sent to wander in the desert for 40 years until the older unbelieving generation had died off. Joshua is now leader for Moses has died. He is now with a new group of people. But, the task remained the same - take the land of promise.

Joshua had believed 40 years ago, yet God still in Joshua 1 continues to tell him over and over not to fear, but to have courage (Joshua 1:6-9). And here in Joshua 1:5, we see why Joshua should not fear.
  1. God would be with him just as He was with Moses.
  2. God would not fail him.
  3. God would not forsake him.
Joshua had seen the great wonders of the LORD over the last 40 plus years. He knew God could accomplish what He asked him to do. But I bet these words of encouragement were a key to strengthening Joshua's faith. Just as with Joshua, God will always be with us, He will never fail us, and He will never forsake us. What great comfort that should give us. What great courage it should give us to be faithful in the task God has given us to do. The next time you do wake up with that fear in your heart, remember this verse or the many others, such as Hebrews 13:5, that remind us once again that God, unlike us, has in Himself the ability to control everything in our lives. We indeed should never fear. He is sovereign. And I am glad He is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Does God Himself Satisfy Us?

This morning I heard a great sermon from Mark Dever about the first few chapters of Job. He made some interesting points. After Satan comes before God, God tells Satan about Job. He describes him as such, "The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil”(Job 1:8). It is interesting that God starts this conversation about Job. Satan's reply is such, "Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9-11).

Do you realize what Satan is saying? He is actually attacking God by saying that Job only fears God because of the gifts that God gives him. Satan is in effect telling God that He in Himself is not enough to satisfy the soul of Job. Job would curse God if He allowed these gifts to be removed. Well, God gives permission to Satan, but disallows him to touch his body, "Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD" (Job 1:12). You get the impression that God is setting Satan up for a fall.

We read on how Job basically loses everything he has including all of his children and all at the same time. He is experiencing suffering to the extreme. What is his response? "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,“Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God" (Job 1:20-22). Amazing. Job does not curse God when he loses all of the good gifts that God had given him. But instead, he finds his delight in the Lord. He worships God. And this passage tells us specifically that he does not sin or blame God in doing wrong to him.

We go on to see in chapter 2 how Satan again approaches God saying this time that Job only serves God because of his health (Job 2:1-6). Again, God grants permission for Satan to attack his body, but not his life (Job 2:7-8). Again Job, even after his wife tells him to curse God, "does not sin with his lips" (Job 2:9-10). At this point Job has lost everything, even his health. Yet in the mist of this great suffering, He does not sin against God.

More could be said, but I feel that Job here is testifying against the lies of Satan and confessing that God Himself is the satisfaction of the soul of Job. Job knew that this was from God and was ultimately for his good. We must ask ourselves if we would respond in the same way if great suffering was put on us. Do we delight in God merely for His gifts to us, or do we delight in God Himself trusting His sovereignty in doing what is for our good in every situation and circumstance of life. I am reminded of two passages:

Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you. (Psalm 63:3)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

God is our treasure. We should not love anything more than Him. We should not allow the sufferings He gives us to drag us into the pride of self pity. But instead like Job and like Paul we should see these as "slight momentary afflictions" that God is using to prepare us for an "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." That is our hope in the midst of suffering. If we believe that God is sovereign, then we must remember that all our circumstances are allowed by Him. If we believe that He only wants our best (as the Bible teaches), then we will remember that these trials are for our absolute best.

I encourage you to listen to the entire sermon. It is well worth it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Our Suffering Servant

This morning I read Isaiah 53 in my morning study. I was amazed at the depth of material found in this one chapter about the Suffering Servant, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I thought for a moment that to get the most out of this chapter, it would take a great deal of time and wondered when and how I could do this. A few hours later, I remembered that I had purchased a book some time ago that deals specifically with Isaiah 53.

James Durham was a Scottish Puritan Divine who died in 1658 at the age of 35. He had served as pastor for only eleven years, yet he was a prolific writer during his life. One of his books is titled Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53. I guess that Durham had the same thought as I did when he read this wonderful chapter of Scripture. He considered it important enough to spend 72 sermons on it (which is still amazing to me how the Puritans could take passages of Scripture, sometimes even short ones, and preach many sermons on them). In Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson's must have book Meet the Puritans, the following is mentioned about this particular book:

First published in 1683, then in 1686, this collection of sermons was reprinted six times in the eighteenth century. The present reprint is carefully and beautifully done; it uses the 1702 edition as the base text but also takes the other editions into account. . . . This is an excellent book for believers who yearn for a more intimate fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. John Duncan said to a friend who wanted to draw closer to Christ, "Read Durham on the fifty-third of Isaiah at my request. He has much repetition and you may be disgusted with that. But it's repetition of a very fine thing, the eating of Christ's flesh and the drinking of His blood. Well, That's what we must be repeating, in fact, all our life long." The Marrow of the Gospel is one of the best commentaries ever written on Christ's person and work in redemption. Charles Spurgeon highly recommended this book, saying, "This is marrow indeed. We need say no more; Durham is a prince among spiritual expositors." Others have said this work equals if not excels all of Durham's other publications

Another good review of this book is found at The Shepherd's Scrapbook blog. Here is the Table of Contents with the sermons in outline form. The publisher also makes available online the life of the author as well as his Sermon 68 on Isaiah 53:12. Well, my answer on how to dive deeper into this chapter has been answered. I hope to read through one sermon a week to understand Isaiah 53 better and to keep my mind on the sufferings of Christ in my place.

The Delight of the Sabbath

In Isaiah, we read:

“If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable,
And honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure
And speaking your own word,
Then you will take delight in the LORD,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14

I have been meditating on these verses for a few weeks. It tells us that we are to resist the temptations to go after what we take pleasure in and desist from our own ways and words on the Sabbath - the holy day of the Lord. Instead of these things, if we call the Sabbath a delight as He commands us, then the Lord says we will receive an inheritance of joy and delight in the Lord. With relationship to corporate worship on the Lord's Day, I have often asked myself if there is any other place I would rather be, people I would rather be with, or activity I would rather be doing. We all must ask ourselves that question.

The culture and world gives us multitudes of places, people and activities with which we can occupy our Sundays. I have even seen many Christians immediately jump at these opportunities over the regular stated corporate worship of their church. These opportunities take the shape of sporting events, hunting and fishing season, or just needing some time away. Do we really believe that God wants our absolute best and instructs us accordingly? If so, why do Christians jump so quickly at these excuses to miss corporate worship? No matter what your view of Sabbath day observance, you surely must agree that God has revealed in Scripture the need for gathering with our brothers and sisters on His day to worship Him. Or then again, maybe you don't agree and maybe you don't see.

In relationship to this, I am often reminded of the quote by C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory. Lewis writes:

Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

This is true. We pursue those things which we think will make us happy while missing the greatest joy available to us. I believe this happens with many Christians and the Sabbath. I do not speak with pride, but I speak as one who at one time in my life would have more easily been drawn from corporate worship on the Sabbath by these things. I speak as one who is still learning how to best observe the Sabbath. I speak as one who fails often in this. But, I also speak as one who wants the most infinite joy and delight in the Lord that is possible on this earth. And the Lord tells me here that if I delight in the Sabbath, I will delight in the Lord. Christians, let us believe God wants our absolute best and that He prescribes in His word how we can pursue it. If we believe so, we must believe what He tells us about His Holy Sabbath.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Diving Deep into the Institutes

Providence has led me to read one book and one booklet over the last few months which focused on a similar subject. In John Piper's book, When I Don't Desire God, I read the following a few months ago:

These older works are like reading the Bible through the mind and heart of great knowers and lovers of God. Don't let long books daunt you, like John Calvin's Institutes. To be sure, finishing a great book is not as important as growing by it. But finishing it is not as hard as you might think. . . . my copy of Calvin's Institutes has 1,521 pages in two volumes, with an average of 400 words per page, which is 608,400 words. That means that even if you took a day off each week, you could read this great biblical vision of God and man in less than nine months (about thirty-three weeks) at fifteen minutes a day

Then just recently, I read the following in the booklet by Sinclair Ferguson called, Read Any Good Books?. In it he writes the following:

Have you ever read the Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin? Now, there is a work whose reputation and length sometimes frightens us off from even beginning it. But pick it up (especially in the visually more pleasant translation by Ford Lewis Battles) and you will find it far easier to read than you feared. It is far more heart-warming, far more instructive, far more Christian than you ever imagined!

I have never been one to shy away from hard books such as ones by certain Puritans. But, I must confess, I have always treated Calvin's Institutes as a reference book to refer to when needed. However, these two authors have given me incentive. I have decided to dive into this 2 volume work and feast on what these authors are describing. I hope to give updates on my progress. Perhaps you could also take their words and apply them to a book you have always been hesitant to start?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Praying the Word of God

A few months ago, I completed the book When I Don't Desire God - How to Fight for Joy by John Piper. It was very edifying, but I benefited most from the chapters on the Word of God and Prayer with relation to using the Word of God to guide you in prayer. Piper also mentions an acrostic that he uses each day in praying and reading the word. I thought it was a good one to remember and use so here it is. The acrostic is IOUS.

  1. Inclination - Ask God to give us an inclination to His Word and not to money or fame or power (Psalm 119:36)
  2. Open - Ask God to open our eyes to see wonderful things when we read His Word (Psalm 119:18)
  3. Unite - Ask God to unite our hearts in the fear of God rather than fragmented over a dozen concerns (Psalm 86:11)
  4. Satisfy - Ask God to satisfy us in His steadfast love (Psalm 90:14).
I was greatly encourage by his suggestions to allow the Word of God to be a spring board into prayer. We can't go wrong by praying the Bible. Sometimes that is all we can do.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Christian Imperialism

Heritage Baptist Church of Owensboro, Kentucky is having a Missions Conference next month during July 13-16. I love the title given to the conference: "Christian Imperialism - Extending the Kingdom of Christ through the Foolishness of the Cross." This really is the only way that Christianity is to spread. And as history has shown us and the Bible teaches us, it will be costly to take the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the World. May we pray and be faithful in accomplishing this task. And may we treasure our Lord more than the comforts of this world. Below is a video promoting the conference that focuses on the task and costs of taking the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, people and nation. It is very telling and convicting.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Truth of the Bible as Hate Speech?

Here is a very thought provoking discussion by James White concerning the current state of the freedom of speech in Canada with respect to Christian beliefs. It is quite possible that what is happening in Canada will one day happen here. As James points out, if we one day must face the decision between faithfulness to God and love for our earthly possessions, may our response be as those recipients of the letter to the Hebrews found in Hebrews 10:32-39

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.


But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (NASB)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More of the ESV Study Bible

Another peek into the upcoming ESV Study Bible - the introduction and beginning chapters of Revelation.

You can learn more about the ESV Study Bible and get a pre-order discount at

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Seriousness of the First Commandment

In Exodus 20:3, we read the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me" - period. This commandment is first and we see in Deuteronomy 13: 6-11 how serious God takes the breaking of this commandment. Deuteronomy 13 deals specifically with individuals who seek to lead the people of God to "go after other gods" and serve them. It deals with the specific violation of the first commandment. In Deuteronomy 13:6-7, we read of those who are closest to us tempting us to follow other gods.

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other . ."

Notice the description of some of these people. The wife "you embrace." The friend "who is as your own soul." You son and daughter and your brother. These are the closest friends and family members. These are the ones a person greatly love. But, these are the ones described as enticing the people "secretly" to go and serve other gods. How did God tell the people to respond to these closest to them when they tempt them to follow other gods? We have the answer in Deuteronomy 13:8-11:

"you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you."

The people are told not to yield to or listen to the one tempting them to go after other gods. They were not to pity him, spare him, or conceal him. But they were instructed to kill him. In fact, it says that the one being tempted by these close friends and family were to be the "first against him to put him to death." This is amazing. Imagine being the first one to throw the killing stone against the wife "you embrace" or "cherish" (NASB), your daughter or son, or friend "who is as your own soul!" Again, what we see is that God in the nation of Israel would not let anyone draw His people away from Him. The first commandment is serious and the nation of Israel was to treat it as so. God alone is God and there is no other. This was done so that "all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do such wickedness as this among you."

We do not practice this in the church today, but God still takes the breaking of the first commandment as serious. The church today practices discipline such as found in Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. We are still called to not listen to those false teachers who would lead us to other gods for they can do serious damage to the faith. We are called to "contend for the faith" (Jude 3), not to yield to them (Galatians 2:4-5), and even consider them as "accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9). "Vengeance" is the Lord's (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30) and one day he will judge those who seek to lead His people toward seeking and serving false gods. Indeed, this is a serious commandment. May we pray that God would give us discernment and wisdom to see false teachers even when they may be our closest friends. God is our supreme love and deserving our full devotion and exclusive loyalty. May He also give us grace never to become one of these individuals that "secretly" leads others to serve false gods. Thank God that He is a merciful God always forgiving those who in Christ come, confess and ask (1 John 1:9).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

I just received and read (it took me about one and a half hours to read the word-packed 40 pages) John Blanchard new evangelistic booklet, Where Do We Go From Here? His booklet, Ultimate Questions, has been printed by the millions in different languages and used greatly in evangelism. I would say, and agree with the publisher, that in this new booklet, Blanchard has another tool that will reach this same level of use in showing people the gospel. He draws the reader instantly in from the first sentence detailing the death bed scene of a famous political leader (I will let you read to see which one). From there he discusses the certainty of death, false views of what happens after death, and then the biblical view of what happens after death. I would encourage individuals and churches to get this booklet and use it as God provides opportunities in your witnessing efforts. Below is the publisher's blurb on the book. Don't let the phrase "user-friendly" turn you away; Blanchard is biblically solid and upfront in his explanations of sin, death, hell and judgment.

Where do we go from here? may become more widely used than anything John Blanchard has written since Ultimate Questions, which now has over fifteen million copies in print in fifty languages. The reason is obvious. Where do we go from here? is the final question all humanity faces, and this booklet tackles it head-on. Exactly what does happen to us when we die? The immediate future of the body is fairly obvious, but what about the spirit or soul? Is it annihilated or reincarnated? Is it conscious or unconscious? Do we face endless pain or endless pleasure? Is there a ‘second chance’ to put things right? Do we have to wait until after we die to find out? This booklet answers these and other questions biblically, clearly and in a user-friendly way. Here is an ideal resource to share with people who have no grasp of the Christian message.
More Information Here

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Picture of Worship

Whatever your interpretation or view of the Book of Revelation, one can't keep from noticing when reading it that one of its major themes is worship. In chapters 4 and 5 alone, one can see many worshipers in this scene as well as 5 proclamations of worship to God. We see the four living creatures (Revelation 4:8; Revelation 5:8-10;14)) and the twenty-four elders (Revelation 4:10-11; Revelation 5:8-10;14) worshiping God. These are then joined by the angels and the "myriads and myriads and thousands and thousands" in the pouring out of praise to the lamb(Revelation 5:11-12). Finally, even these are joined by "every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them" (Revelation 5:13) in the worship of the Lamb and He who sits on the throne.

What a group of worshipers. Then let us read the calls to worship God found in these two chapters.


“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” Revelation 4:11.

And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” Revelation 5:9-10.

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” Revelation 5:12.

“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” Revelation 5:13.

The theme of worship is obvious and this is found at the very beginning of the book. It would probably be beneficial at times to read the Book of Revelation and only focus on these pictures of worship. Can you imagine how John felt as he saw these visions and described this view into heaven. His inspired words indeed present us a picture of worship that all believers should desire and anticipate. They also should give us things to consider when we see and hear what some call worship in many churches today.