A Challenge to Preach Christ

“An excuse is made by many Christians, which I conceive will not bear the scrutiny of the judgment day: they say they have not the talents for addressing the impenitent and conversing with them on the subject of religion. But are the simple truths of the Gospel so dark, that only the learned can understand them? Are the words, ‘He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned,’ so obscure, that we cannot properly impress them upon others? Is the road to perdition so plainly described in the Bible, and can we raise no warning voice to the throngs who travel it? Are the happiness of the righteous and the everlasting torments of the impenitent so clearly described, and can we see friends around us crowding their way to despair, with our lips closed in perpetual silence? The truth is, our faith in eternal realities is weak, and our sense of duty faint, while we thus neglect the salvation of our fellow-beings. Let us awake to duty; and while we have a tongue or pen, devote them to the service of the Most High, not in our own strength, but with strong faith and confidence in him.”

Over a decade ago I came across a wonderful biography of a godly man that lived during the Second Great Awakening. Harlan Page (1791-1834) was a carpenter who worked on houses (they called them “house joiners” then) who devoted himself to witnessing to the lost around him and encouraging Christians to live faithful, godly lives. What I appreciate about Page is his tenacity, discipline, and fervor. The previous paragraph was from his biography, Memoir of Harlan Page, or, The Power of Prayer and Personal Effort for the Souls of Individuals.

Daily Bible Reading

For some time at Orwell Bible Church we have put together a daily devotional. We use this to guide and encourage each other to read God’s Word and pray for one another and the Cause of Christ. These are posted every week here, under the “Current Publications” heading.

This year we started off on a two year effort to read the Bible. In the devotional I provide a summary statement (or two) of each chapter, followed by some thoughts based on the text. We read two chapters on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and one chapter on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Yesterday I started publishing a single post on each chapter (Joshua 5, 6, 7, 8). If you’d like to be updated when new posts are up,

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I hope these are a help and encouragement to you grow in your faith!

If I Gained the World

A favorite hymn that we will sing tonight (tune)–

If I gained the world, but lost the Saviour,
Were my life worth living for a day?
Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort
In the things that soon must pass away?
If I gained the world, but had no Saviour,
Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?
Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing
For a moment with a Christ-filled life?

Had I wealth and love in fullest measure,
And a name revered both far and near,
Yet no hope beyond, no harbor waiting,
Where my stormtossed vessel I could steer;
If I gained the world, but had no Saviour,
Who endured the cross and died for me,
Could then all the world afford a refuge,
Whither, in my anguish, I might flee?

O what emptiness!— without the Saviour
‘Mid the sins and sorrows here below!
And eternity, how dark without Him!—
Only night and tears and endless woe!
What, tho’ I might live without the Saviour,
When I come to die, how would it be?
O to face the valley’s gloom without Him!
And without Him all eternity!

O the joy of having all in Jesus!
What a balm the broken heart to heal!
Ne’er a sin so great, but He’ll forgive it,
Nor a sorrow that He does not feel!
If I have but Jesus, only Jesus,—
Nothing else in all the world beside—
O then ev’rything is mine in Jesus;
For my needs and more He will provide.

Relativisitic Parenting

There have been several “blockbuster” movies out lately, and I’ve been surprised at the number of Christians who not only are going to see these but who express (usually via Facebook) how “excellent” and “awesome” such were. So I’ve been mulling over this issue of what Christians consider good and excellent.

Then today there is an article at msnbc titled, “Babies at ‘Batman?’” relating the outrage some have expressed toward parents who bring young children to see “Batman Rises.”

Not surprisingly, the overall tone of the article seems supportive of parents who do so, finishing it off with this–

So when is a child ready to see a PG-13 movie? It really depends on how your particular kid is hardwired, making it one of those difficult, but deeply personal parenting choices.

Dr. Susan Samuels, a pediatrician and assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, tells parents to look at how their children respond to day-to-day events or other potentially scary triggers that they encounter in their ordinary life to determine their ability to tolerate violent or alarming movies.

At the end of the day, this is just one of the decisions that only you can make for yourself, your child, and your family.

There you have it, parents. How should you train, rear, and bring up your children? It depends on your child! That, however, is completely opposite of what God says:

Train up a child in the way he should go (Prov 22:6)

Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4)

How can such entertainment accomplish the purposes God sets forth here?

Please note–Scripture does not say, “train up a child in the way he wants to go” or “bring them up according to the dictates of humanistic psychologists.” God says, “in the way he should go,” which God sets forth in his Word.

“It depends on how your kid is hardwired.” Well, every one of my kids is hardwired with depravity; training their minds and hearts by these things does not lead them to salvation in Jesus Christ (2 Tim 3:15)!

Why would I base my parenting on the level of violence and alarm a child can “tolerate?” How does that square with the kind of mind we should have (2 Cor 10:5; Phil 4:8)?

How does such “entertainment” not conform us to this world? How does it transform our minds so that we may be able to discern God’s will (Rom 12:2)?

In what way do the world’s amusements help believers in their pursue of that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14), or aid in cleansing the defilement of the flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Cor 7:1)?

Christian parents should not be relativistic parents, and that applies for all Christians!

Good Reading

One of my professors when I was in seminary, Dr. Bill Combs, has been writing a series of posts on the KJV-only issue here. They’ve been very good, and I’d encourage you to read them.

I’ve had those of this persuasion tell me that the rise of newer translations divides and splits churches, but my experience has been quite the opposite I’m afraid. In fact, there’s a new church starting in our metropolis of Orwell (population 1,519) because we (Orwell Bible Church) are not KJV-only (and because we believe what the Bible says about election).

Another series of posts just beginning is by a pastor friend, Mike Harding of First Baptist Church of Troy, MI (one of our supporting churches when we came to Orwell). He is addressing the issue of Christians imbibing alcohol, particularly those of fundamentalist background and conviction.

Your Last Days on Earth

I know, not a very “Chrismasy” title, but remember the Preacher’s advice in Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4—

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.

The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.

What would you occupy your time with during the last days of your life on earth, especially if you were restricted to a bed?

Pastor John Ashbrook left us with a great example to follow. Here are some of the things he did:

  • Whenever someone visited, he tried to minister to them somehow. If it was medical personnel, he’d ask them their names, get involved with their lives, and point them to Christ.
  • He read the Bible, and when he couldn’t read anymore, loved ones read him the Bible
  • He looked forward to being with Christ
  • He prayed, prayed with others, and others prayed with him
  • He talked on the phone with those who called
  • He gave thanks to God for the life he was entrusted with, praising Him for the opportunities to serve Him

I’m sure there were other things, but many of these are what family members told me tonight during calling hours, and I saw much of this during a visit I had with him two weeks ago.

One thing he didn’t do was watch TV—he didn’t own one. More and more I’m liking the thought of that. That thing is the means for wasting so much time.

Psalm 90

1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

3 You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

7 For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
8 You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
9 For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
11 Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

13 Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Praise to God, Immortal Praise

Praise to God, immortal praise,
For the love that crowns our days;
Bounteous source of every joy,
Let Thy praise our tongues employ.

Flocks that whiten all the plain;
Yellow sheaves of ripened grain;
Clouds that drop their fattening dews,
Suns that temperate warmth diffuse.

All that spring with bounteous hand
Scatters o’er the smiling land;
All that liberal autumn pours
From her rich o’erflowing stores.

These to Thee, my God, we owe,
Source whence all our blessings flow;
And for these my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.

Yet, should rising whirlwinds tear
From its stem the ripening ear;
Should the fig tree’s blasted shoot
Drop her green untimely fruit,

Should the vine put forth no more,
Nor the olive yield her store;
Though the sickening flocks should fall,
And the herds desert the stall,

Yet to Thee my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise;
And, when every blessing’s flown
Love Thee for Thyself alone.

–Anna Barbauld (1743-1825)

Watch the Door

Received this encouraging note yesterday from one of the men in our church:

He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
and for his children it will be a refuge. (Prov 14:26)

Only through the Lord can we be assured that our family is protected from outside influences, personal lapses, and breeches in our defenses.  In “barnspeak” that translates to, “If you leave your barn door open, a barn animal is going to get out.”
To which I would add, “Don’t give predators an open door.”

Religion in Practice

Religion, in practice, consists in loving and fearing God and keeping his commandments–in receiving his son Jesus Christ as our only Saviour–in loving all our fellow men as ourselves; particularly, in abstaining from murder, adultery, stealing, lying, cheating, slandering, and oppressing one another–in honoring and obeying our parents and governors–in doing acts of justice and kindness, as we have power and opportunity, to all men, even to our enemies–in moderating our passions and affections–and in living soberly, chastely, and temperately in our conversation.

Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, July 1800, p. 17.

Daily Bale for March 25, 2011

For family devotions we jumped ahead a bit and read Exodus 32, the golden calf incident. Josiah correctly got the main problem, their making and worshiping of idols, but then asked what I thought for an 8 year old was a perceptive question– “But they didn’t have the 10 commandments yet; Moses was just coming down the mountain?” True enough, little theologian! However, that does not excuse their sin, and Aaron at least should have known better. The incident shows that Egypt was still in the Israelites, even though the Israelites were out of Egypt.

For part of my personal Bible reading I read Ephesians 5. I noted this paragraph–

3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

I thought about how for some reason we Christians too often find amusement in and imitate the common grace expressions of our culture instead of embracing and imitating (v. 1) a full-fledged saving grace mindset. We should embrace the latter, not settle for the former. We should desire that which should be named among us, that which is proper among saints, that which is fitting a citizen of the coming kingdom of Christ and God.

Ran several errands around town. Emails and phone calls. Reading, studying, preparation for Sunday.

Got a call from the doctor’s office that my insulin came in!!! Good news, as I was almost out. Bad news, Andy had the van and wouldn’t be back until after it closed. I got my exercise in at least!

Family night, which means lots of home-made pizza!

One of the men from church sent me this great picture of an area barn–