I witnessed something today that I consider a remarkable privilege. It was as if I travelled back in time to colonial New England. And it happened here in the middle of the epicenter if technological development and advancement.

I’m in Los Angeles at Grace Church for the Shepherds’ Conference along with 3,000-plus other pastors, and mid sermon the power went out. The place went black with only emergency lights dimly shining in the cavernous brick auditorium that is Grace Church.

What did John MacArthur do? He grabbed a flashlight and just kept on preaching. He didn’t flinch. He was unflappable.  He literally just kept going. His voice grew with intensity as he unpacked the covenant of redemption. Soon his voice was traveling powerfully to every corner of the room.

Without being trite, let me just say, it was awesome. I felt like I was in an auditorium in Geneva with men leaning in to hear each word Calvin spoke or out in a field in western Massachusettes to hear Whitfield. Dr MacArthur just went on preaching Christ. In Spurgeon fashion he powerfully pleaded with pastors to preach Christ or stop preaching.

Since the power outage prevents access to his words, I’ll give you snippet here:

I just wish that the church would lift up Christ. If anyone would tag your church let it be this, “They were ever and always exalting Christ” you and your church should be known for robust Christology. Do you want to know the secret to Grace Church? These people keep be holding the glory of Christ and they have been and are being transformed! That’s the answer. When I watch TV preachers I yell at the TV. “Stop!! Give them Christ!” A truncated Christology does not help anyone. Men, you need to care less about what people want to hear and more about what they need to hear. Give them Christ.

This power outage served as an illustration for us. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from preaching Christ! What a surprising blessing and timely lesson this was. I’m thankful for the providential feeling of going back in time, while being  greatly encouraged to keep plodding along in faithfulness.

Update: in talking with Phil Johnson today he let me know that the quick thinking pastor Mark Dever grabbed his iPhone and captured the scene described above. Take a listen below:

I was reading in Calvin’s Commentary on Ephesians this am and he helpfully laid out various aspects of blessing. I appreciated his pastoral care in addressing the subject after the repetition in verse 3 of Ephesians 1.

Here it is…

I find in Scripture four different significations of this word.

1. We are said to bless God when we offer praise to him for his goodness.

2. God is said to bless us, when he crowns our undertakings with success, and, in the exercise of his goodness, bestows upon us happiness and prosperity; and the reason is, that our enjoyments depend entirely upon his pleasure. Our attention is here called to the singular efficacy which dwells in the very word of God, and which Paul expresses in beautiful language.

3. Men bless each other by prayer.

4. The priest’s blessing is not simply a prayer, but is likewise a testimony and pledge of the Divine blessing; for the priests received a commission to bless in the name of the Lord. Paul therefore blesses God, because he hath blessed us, that is, hath enriched us with all blessing and grace.

The door flings open and a wide-eyed, curly-haired little girl hastens into the center of the room. She comes right up to me without a second thought. She is my daughter, the fact that I am in a meeting is of no consequence to her at the tender age of 3. She has something to say.

One of the things that I learned in pastoral ministry is that children are often a very good illustration of the truth that we are trying to communicate. This is no different. The scene described above have been happened multiple times over the years.  One of my kids would run in, jump up on my lap and ask if they could eat a piece of candy or to inform me of something that was very important to them at the moment. As parents we had to work with them on manners but not confidence. They understood that they had free access to Daddy. Come and plead, talk, make your requests known to me. I think of their little faces, resolving to come and then running down the hall to get there, and then with wide-eyes they march in. It’s instructive for us.

This truth of Christ’s high priestly care for us provokes a most amazing response. It is the response of coming to God’s throne with confidence.

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“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus felt the full force of all temptations. The ones that we feel and cave upon he felt to the highest level–and prevailed victoriously.

You might be saying, “It was different for Jesus–he is the Son of God! How can he really understand me?”

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I remember going to the dentist as a kid. After all of the picking and cleaning I was given fluoride. I picked the flavor, marinated in that gushy material, and then spit it out. The hygienist would then treat me like a prize-fighter and give me a tube for water. I compliantly, swished and spit. Then I was done, out of the chair and on my way out the door.

I am afraid that too many of us practice dental chair devotions. We grab our Bibles, spend some time in it and then we are done. We promptly put down our Bibles and walk out the door or on to our daily tasks. Five to eight hours later someone could ask you, “What did you read in the Word today?” The answer, too often, is, “I can’t remember.”

What happened? We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly. This is because we often practice a “swish and spit” devotional time. We don’t really engage the mind and heart with the Word.

How do we resist this “swish and spit” mentality?

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“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

You would expect a book that is divine and living would in fact be active, and so it is. Paul writes in 1 Thess. 2:13 that the word of God does work. Jeremiah writes: ““Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
God’s word is powerful. The word translated here as powerful is the source of our word energy. It means to say that God’s word has God’s power, his energy.

Because it is God’s word, it is an undefeatable word. The Bible has all the essentials of the life and power of God to do his work! Isaiah says that the word of God does not return void; it does his work, powerfully so (Is. 55). The Word of God is powerful.

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Paul rejoiced whenever Christ was preached (Phil. 1:15-18) and I try to do the same. Paul also talked about proclaiming Christ with wisdom and making the most of our times with the unbelieving world around us–even having grace dripping from our lips (Col. 1:28-29; Col. 4:5-6). Therefore, I can rejoice but also long for some evangelists to switch up their game a bit to be a more considerate and faithful.

Here are four evangelists that need to retire. If only they were just caricatures.

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