Archives For Devotion

Prophet, Priest, and King. Those three words have biblical tonnage tethered to them. Each communicate the person and work of Christ with succinct theological clarity.

The Heidelberg Catechism picks up this thread in question 31 (emphasis mine):

Q: Why is he called “Christ”, that is, the anointed?

A: Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in that salvation, he has purchased for us.

I have found that these three terms are also quite helpful in thinking through the believer’s response to the gospel in living a life of worshipful obedience.

Prophet: Christians are to make the good confession of faith, speak the truth of the gospel to one another and outsiders, and continue to be governed by the truth that, “it is written…” (Rom. 10.9-11; Col. 3.15-17; Matt. 28.18-20; 2 Tim. 3.16-17).

Priest: As believers we are to continually offer up the sacrifice of praise in response to the sufficient and unblemished work of Christ. Just like the burnt offering that was to be ever burning and consuming of the sacrifice, so too Christians, in our thinking and living, are to be ever burning and completely consumed with the glory of Christ in the gospel (Rom. 12.1-2ff; Heb. 13.15-16).

King: As we follow Christ we are to find ourselves striving against those things that are against Christ our King. We are to put sin to death, resist the devil, and look forward to reigning eternally with him (Rom. 6.12-13; Gal. 5.17ff; 2 Tim. 2.12; 1 Pet. 5.8-9).

These descriptions are not perfect but I have found them helpful in personally thinking through and communicating our response to the work of Christ as we endeavor to obey and reflect him in this world.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

As finite creatures we have trouble getting our arms around absolute knowledge. Even with the places or subjects that we are most familiar with, we often kick over another rock to discover something new.

This is not the case with God. He knows everything and everyone perfectly. He is the infinite God. His knowledge is complete. He is never learning or growing. Instead, he is utterly sufficient in his absolute and infinite perfection.

This is why such statements as John’s above are so astounding. God’s declares that he is light. This metaphor in the Scriptures refers to God’s purity or holiness as well as his knowledge. The assertion is that God is perfectly pure without any defect or blemish.

What makes this all the more astounding is that God himself is infinite. In other words, the infinite God has plumbed the depths of his infinite character, surveyed it, and concluded with credibility of his divine character: I am perfectly light! In the mansion of God’s character there is not a single room, closet, or hallway of iniquity—every room is bright light and a fragrance, a boquet of holiness!

As a result, believers are to walk in the light (1 John 1.5, 7). We are to press into his character and reflect it into the world around us. As we are doing this we are reminded that it is the holy and perfect sacrifice of Jesus (1 Jn. 1.7) that enables this. It is his holy blood offered for us that brings holiness to unholy people. As you can see it was God’s holiness (light) that determines the need for salvation as well as the nature of our new lives in Christ. Praise be to God that he has worked this in and through the Lord Jesus Christ!

Rejoice in and respond to this holy God–the God who is light!

A necessary reminder this morning:

Teach us, O God, that nothing is necessary to Thee. Were anything necessary to Thee that thing would be the measure of Thine imperfection: and how could we worship one who is imperfect? If nothing is necessary to Thee, then no one is necessary, and if no one, then not we. Thou dost seek us though Thou does not need us. We seek Thee because we need Thee, for in Thee we live and move and have our being. Amen.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

ship

Like many, I wake up and think about what I need to get accomplished today and how I am going to do it.  My mind begins to infiltrate the various areas and sub areas of responsibility.  However, I am aware, even at this early hour of contemplation, that I am not going to get it all done.  And furthermore, that what I do get finished will not be without flaw.

In what can only be described as the grace of God, my mind was quickly drawn to Hebrews 7:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7.25)

The beloved Savior and High Priest does not, like the other priests, die.  Furthermore, he does not need to atone for his own sins (7.23ff).  As a result we have a perfect and eternal high priest who offered a perfect and eternally acceptable sacrifice to the Father.

I need to remember that even on my ‘best’ days I need to have my beloved high priest fervently, faithfully, zealously, and successfully pleading the merits of his righteous life and sacrificial death in my stead.  There is not a second that I live here on earth when I am not dependent upon this glorious work.

And furthermore, there is not a second throughout all eternity that his saints will not depend upon his gloriously flawless work!  This Jesus will not only be the song of my praise throughout eternity but also be the substance of why I can enjoy the presence of God throughout all eternity!

It is the flawless work of Christ that we now and forevermore will depend upon.  All of his ransomed saints will forever cling to his high priestly garments like barnacles upon a great ship.  Indeed the captain of our salvation will successfully navigate us to the celestial port.

In this his flawless person and duty are seen to be so attractive and refreshing to the sin plagued conscience.

Forgetting Not His Benefits

Erik Raymond —  October 28, 2011

Every now and then I like to write poetry. This comes from the 103rd Psalm.

Bless the LORD, O my Soul,
my lips His worth I now extol
From within this feeble frame,
I rise to bless His holy name
Forgetting not His benefits,
the only one of whom my praise is fit

You’ve forgiven all my iniquity
You’ve given me new eyes to see
You’ve showered me in mercy
You’ve crowned my life with love in Thee

Continue Reading…

There is little debate among Christians as to the basics of how we should live as followers of Jesus in this world. We even find ourselves agreeing with many non-believers about the basic moral teachings of the Bible. However, it this matter of why that I’m after here. Why do you serve as a Christian? What is your motivation?

In the 10th chapter of Mark’s fast paced narrative of Jesus’ life we find those following Christ to be, well, hard-headed. They don’t seem to get it at all. After each time Jesus predicts his death in Mark, the disciples begin talking/thinking selfishly (8.31ff, 9.31ff, 10.33ff). They have the nerve to request the chief seats in the coming kingdom.

They have a problem with pride. They are self-orientated and self-consumed. How do you get these guys turned around? What is Jesus’ strategy?

Continue Reading…

Having a new baby at home we are regularly reminded of the 127th Psalm. Good friends remind us of the fact that children are a blessing from God.

As I chew on this verse, sometimes in the middle of the night, I have to chuckle at the irony of God in this Psalm. If you have babies at home or have recently had the experience of newborns, you know exactly where I am going. The Psalmist pairs sleep and children together in a song for believers to sing about the blessings of God. I don’t think this is an accident. Believers should sing about the blessings of both sleep and children as they get up in the middle of the night or sleep through the night. This is a good passage to remind new parents of as they spend time with their kids ‘after hours.’

Walking through it proves to be very helpful and full of application.

Continue Reading…

I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD,proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,and telling all your wondrous deeds. Psalm 28.6-7

Happiness unmitigated by guilt. Joy fueled by acceptance and security. These are true heart cries of all people. We latch on to whatever seems to provide even a whiff of these evasive treasures. At the end of the day, happiness is fleeting, guilt reemerges, acceptance is out of reach, and security is not realized.

However, the writer in this Psalm knew of these things. He experienced them in the assembly of believers. It was to be the heart cry of the covenant people as they assembled together to exult in the goodness of God’s grace and mercy. This exultation was sourced in a heart that believed and experienced the truth of the Word of God.

When I read this Psalm I identify and smile.

I can identify with the longing and even the experience. No, as Christians we do not have a temple or even an altar.

However, we have the Savior who did not go into an earthly temple but a heavenly one! (Heb. 9.24-25)

Therefore, my security, acceptance, and joy is procured by a better priest, with a better sacrifice, in a better temple.

As Christians we are united to Christ! Therefore, our hands go in innocence around the altar of God, as they are dipped and cleansed in the laver of Christ’s merit. We are proclaiming, we are preaching the wondrous deeds of God for us in Christ!

What a heart stirring, joy evoking, mind boggling truth this gospel is! Because of Christ we are graced to know and experience forgiveness, joy, acceptance, and security.

Bend Your Neck and Marvel

Erik Raymond —  January 12, 2011

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Ps.8.3-4)

The Psalmist bends his neck and stares into the heavens. He is humbled and struck by the powerful beauty of God. And then he is broken by the fact that this God cares for him. God creates, sustains, speaks to, and covenants with man.

The believer living on this side of Calvary still finds similar amazement upon his gazing into the heavens.

However, our heart is melted when we bend our necks to look upon the cross of Jesus. Yes, we can marvel at the heavens and the immeasurable stooping of God to speak and sustain us. But, how much more in the giving of his own dear son for our sins?!

What is man that you are mindful of him? Nothing. Especially since God was mindful of us when we were not mindful of him. Romans 5 reminds us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus died for helpless, weak, ungodly, sinning, enemies.

Who is this God that he is mindful of us? And what is grace that it should so enthrall our hearts?

God Sends the Moths (Ps. 39)

Erik Raymond —  November 9, 2010

It is an understatement to say that trials are hard. Whether we are talking about spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, or a combination of these, trials wear us down. They are hard.

We might be tempted to think, “Why me?” in a trial. But as Christians there is something hardwired into our understanding of sanctification that the “Why me?” might better be stated, “Why God?” In other words, the trials are not a surprise to God. He is soveriegn over every single detail of our lives. This does include trials.

But we may go even further. As Christians we understand that trials are brought to us by God’s sovereign hand to bring about sanctification. As James writes, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1.4). However, in the midst of the sanctifying vice we should still further ask, “Why God?”

The current trial may be discipline. God could be bringing the circumstances to us in order to tighten our grip on him or he could be bringing it to loosen our grip on our treasures. In either case he is working in and through circumstances in our lives to make himself our chief treasure.

Consider the Psalmist in Psalm 39. This guy believed that what he was enduring was a result of divine discipline for sin.

When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! (Ps. 39.11)

In other words, God sends the discipline and the circumstances act as a divinely dispatch moth to consume his treasure! This is good because in sin we are, like Achan, hiding treasures in our tent (Josh. 7.22). God intends to unfasten us from these fleeting treasures and to refasten us, wholly and completely upon himself.

This is why the Psalmist deals with himself and his sin. He is a good model for us:

7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!

9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. 10 Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand.

It is good then for us in the midst of a season of sanctifying affliction to ask, “Why God?” In this we acknowledge his sovereignty, goodness, and love. He is moving in your midst for his glory and your good (Heb. 12.7). The question is how. He may be bringing discipline or trial. But at any rate, he is bringing grace.

Therefore, watch for the divinely dispatched moths. God is graciously working to make him our true delight through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22.42

Jesus is here in the Mount of Olives. It is here that the olive, being pressed upon from every side, serves as an illustration of where Jesus comes. Indeed he is being tormented in spirit; his heart is being crushed as his abandonment upon the cross is in full view. He will reach the depths of human brokenness and lift up his voice in prayer. So here he comes to the Mount of Olives to feel and experience the relentless pressure of being forsaken by God.

Matthew tells us that the soul of Jesus is “very sorrowful, even to death”. Why? Why is Jesus here experiencing the uttermost grief and sorrow that a man can take? Why is he on the verge of death as he bears up under this grief? It is because of the infinite price-tag that accompanies the sin of rebels like you and like me. The inflexible and unrelenting cup of divine wrath is fully mixed and the Savior is contemplating the reality of having his head thrust back and drinking it down to the dregs.

There is much application here for us as Christians. See how heinous your sin is that it brings Jesus to the point of physical death when he considers its due penalty? How does your sin affect you? Do you hate it? I mean truly, do you see if for what it is? It is the unashamed rebellion against everything that is right and good; it is your hatred of the glory of God. It is your insistence upon personal supremacy. It is your desire to be God. It is sin and its price-tag is staggering, even for the God-man.

There is a great parallel here for the Christian; when considering sin are you like the disciples? That is asleep and indifferent? Or are you like the Savior? That is sickened and grieved.

Jesus then cries out,

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

We know that the cup is divine wrath and Jesus is getting ready to drink it. Jesus, looking down the barrel of divine wrath, pleads for the cup to be removed. The one thing that Jesus elevates above his fellowship with his Father (which he has intimately enjoyed throughout eternity), is the will of God. Jesus says in effect, “Take this away…I can’t bear to be separated from you….unless, it is your will, for then I will guzzle the cup. For your will is right and good.” O’ that we would learn from our Master here!

If ever there was a moment for the pluralistic, liberal view of Jesus and his ‘universalistic’ salvation to be stated it was here. However, in the echo of the Son of God’s prayer for the cup to be removed what do we hear? Nothing. His prayers of desperation go unanswered. The Father will not remove the cup for there is no other way to have my sin paid for and the glory of God vindicated than to have this perfect, holy, glorious, unblemished, lamb of God be slaughtered on the Calvary’s altar. Yes my sin is pricey. And yes my Savior is awesome!

Jesus continues to bear up under this relentless burden and now he begins to sweat drops of blood. The frosty Palestinian dirt is now being splattered with the blood of Jesus. Christ is in such agony that blood comes bursting out of his forehead and splatters on the ground. See the weight of the wrath of God. See the hefty price-tag upon your sin. See the faithfulness of the Savior. See his beauty here as he prays ‘fervently’ and sweats clots of blood.

The modern cries for pluralism are extinguished by the only one who saw the depths of human sin, the value of the glory of God, and then went and died for it. Yes, Jesus alone is Savior and Lord.

So friends in Christ, pull up a chair in Luke 22 and see your Savior deal simultaneously with the price-tag for your sin and the immovable righteousness and holiness of God. Come and see him pray, cry, and sweat. And then watch him look his betrayer in the eye and march resolutely to Calvary only to die for betrayers such as us. Amazing. Sit and stare and be amazed, “for while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5.6)

fountain.jpgAs you read the 119th Psalm you quickly realize this guy was incredibly passionate and transparent with God. One might rightly say he actually knew God and was known by him. Therefore as followers of the same God, believers living today do well to emulate his pattern of seeking divine pleasure in all things through the intimate study, meditation and proclamation of the word of God and the God of the word. I have found personally that the 119th Psalm is a great personal revival tool; for if I cannot pray as the Psalmist there must be something clogging my spiritual windpipe, I must therefore search for this impediment and remove it that I may think God’s thoughts after him.

There is an exciting connection that is established right away in the first few verses of Psalm 119 between joy and obedience. In v.1 the saints are “blessed whose way is blameless who walk in the law of the LORD” this same theme continues in v.2. There is great joy in faithful obedience to the divine agenda. And conversely there is great sorrow in the rejection of and rebellion from God’s will. So many people are searching for the secret of abiding joy and happiness, the answer is quite simple, it is to know God and to obey him, for in this there is joy that endures.

Why is there such joy in genuine obedience to God? I think there are several facets to the answer, however, one real basic understanding fuels everything else. Believers have abiding joy because the source of the joy is not in themselves but rather in the infinitely glorious and joyous God. The joy is rooted in the eternal character of God. We as his followers are privileged then to sit at the great buffet of God as prepared through his word and enjoy the delicious feast of divine revelation as it explains with unparrelled precision the glory and beauty of God.

There is an interesting dynamic that the Psalmist hits on right out of the box here for us concerning the role of the word in our obedience and joy. There are several words used in verses 1-8 to denote our actions:

  • v.1: walk in the law
  • v.2: observe his testimonies
  • v.2: seek him
  • v.3: do no unrighteousness
  • v.3: walk in his ways
  • v.4: keep them (precepts) diligently
  • v.5: keep your statutes
  • v.7: give thanks
  • v.8: keep your statutes

path1.jpgAs the Psalmist grows in his knowledge and understanding of God he grows in his love for God, the Scriptures, and obedience! It becomes a wonderfully designed conduit of praise. Think about it: God reveals himself in the Scriptures, which are then read by us his creation, he then causes there hearts to respond to this truth, even converting them and then he gives them food daily that nourishes and inflames appetites for divine glory….and the more you eat the more you want!! The more you stoop and taste at the fountain of God’s delights the more you realize that the taste is unparalleled and the well is inexhaustible (Jn. 4). Therefore, we as believers are to linger long at the spring of God and enjoy fresh water from his word as often as possible, knowing that it nourishes, satisfies, and is inexhaustible.

What a privilege it truly is to have God reveal himself in the Scriptures. We may know him and his tender lovingkindness, his wisdom, and his holiness. We may tremble at this sovereignty and inflexible justice, but take great comfort in his goodness.

While we endeavor to keep the statutes diligently (v.4) we remember the Lord Jesus who, in the place of sinners, kept the commandments of God perfectly and gloriously! As we long to obey and enjoy God through his word we remember that it is earned by one who was quite like us but quite unlike us also. Our Lord Jesus, the God-man, who has purchased salvation for his people; there is great joy in the Christian because there is great joy in Christ.

Psalm 16:2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.”

Indeed it is good to come to the Scriptures to be calibrated by reality. I know in my own heart that I often times invent reality, so therefore it is pivotal to be told the truth instead of trying to creatively compose it.

I learn from this passage that any good that I may have or experience is not ultimately sourced in me or what I do, but rather in God.

It is God and God alone who is the source and definer of all goodness. Everything that may truly be called good is sourced in, characterized by, and sustained by God.

As Christians we need to pray this way, think this way and live this way. We have no good but from God. Therefore when we pray we are to seek God’s will which is goodness because he is good (Ps. 119.68). Then we “eagerly watch” (Ps. 5.3) with eyes suspecting the goodness of God. Then when we see God’s goodness in our lives (even more clearly now because we are praying for and anticipating it) we are inclined to praise and thank him, for we know that every good gift comes from God (Jam. 1.17).

Regrettably, this also works the other way. When I am thinking that I am good then I have no need to pray. I also have little understanding of my own sinfulness and utter need for God to work some good down into my life. And further, I will not be apt to praise him for his goodness because I am too busy worshipping and marveling at myself for being so good.

I think it was Spurgeon who spoke of faith as the gift of self forgetfulness, as the ability to look away from yourself and unto God. How refreshing, how glorious, how beautiful and how sanctifying it would be for us today to look away from ourselves and to look unto God. That is to see him alone as the author and sustainer of all that is good. Then when we evaluate our lives and see some good things happening we are not drawn to erroneously praise ourselves but rather God, the very reservoir of goodness. It is here when our pride is humbled that God alone is exalted. Amen.

Interview with Don Whitney

Erik Raymond —  October 4, 2007

More than likely if you have asked for help in the area of spiritual disciplines you have been directed to the ministry of Don Whitney. Don has been used greatly by God to model and demonstrate faithful, simple, and biblical devotion for the church. He has written several books on this topic; Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, and Simplify Your Spiritual Life. In addition to writing helpful books, Don is involved in the training of pastors as the Senior Associate Dean at the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Don will be teaching multiple sessions at the upcoming Omaha Bible Church Conference on October 20th. The focus of the conference will be upon the practice of spiritual disciplines (more info here). If you are in the area (and really, who is not close to Omaha?!) we’d love to have you join us for a day of encouragement. In view of the conference I caught up with Don and asked him some questions to help us get to know him a little better.

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Erik: Don, thank you for your time in answering some questions. It has been so encouraging to get to know your heart and passion by reading your books and listening to your sermons. In effort to help folks get to know you better I want to ask you a few personal and practical questions.

Don: Sounds good.

Erik: I hear a distinct Southern accent in many of your MP3s, where did you grow up?

Don: A little county seat town called Osceola, AR. It’s on the Mississippi River about an hour north of Memphis and thirty minutes south of the Missouri bootheel. It’s also the home of Lance Quinn and Dale Evans (as in Roy Rogers and). My mother still lives there.

Erik: I know that you previously had sports journalism ambitions; are you a Razorbacks fan?

Don: Actually I wanted to be a sportscaster, in part because of virtually growing up in the radio station my dad managed. As to the Hogs, despite the loyalties one might express verbally, you can always tell a true Razorback fan by this: cut him and his blood is Razorback red. I remember a time when every radio station in the state except three carried Razorback football. There were places in the state where you could go all the way across the dial and get nothing but Razorback football. It was great.

Erik: Do you think Darren McFadden should win the Heismann Trophy?

Don: Absolutely.

Erik: We see you as a man who has modeled faithfulness to the Lord for many years. Knowing that it is God who is working in and through you, I am always curious how this began. So, how did God bring the gospel to you?

Don: I was raised in a Christian home. I’d been in church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night since nine months before I was born. So even though I’d heard the Gospel countless times, there was a Thursday night during a series of meetings at our church when I was nine years old that I sensed the Lord calling me through the Gospel to Himself.

Erik: As someone who has been involved with the Southern Baptist Convention for many years, how encouraging is it to be personally a part of the regeneration that is currently occurring at Southern?

Don: It is an incredible privilege and honor to teach at Southern. The opportunity to shape so many ministers and missionaries is very rewarding.

Erik: Who is your favorite theologian?

Don: Favorite? Hmmm. I don’t really think of a favorite. I imagine I would share a love for most of the same theological heroes as your readers.

Erik: What are 5 of your favorite books?

Don: My favorites tend to be biographies. Among them would be Iain Murray’s Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Murray’s Edwards, Dallimore’s Spurgeon, Dallimore’s Whitefield, and Roger’s Steer’s biography of George Mueller.

Erik: Don, in your upcoming conference at Omaha Bible Church you are going to focus your attention in multiple sessions on the need for believers to sharpen their spiritual focus in the area of spiritual disciplines. Could you share some specifics with respect to your own devotional routine?

Don: In simple summary, it’s just read, pray, sing, and sometimes journal. More broadly, I begin with Bible reading. I read through the Bible during the first months of the year, and then again through the NT at least once in the balance of the year. Additionally, I seek to read a chapter of Proverbs each day and a chapter of the Pastoral Epistles. I also try to read through Psalm 119; Ecclesiastes, and James each month. Sometimes I will meditate on a text from my reading, using one of the methods I’ll teach in the upcoming conference. Often I will meditate on a text while praying through a Psalm. For after my time of Bible intake, I pray, almost always by praying through a Psalm, though sometimes another passage. Usually I pray while slowly walking. At some point during my time in prayer I will sing, either spontaneously from the Psalm, or a song I know by heart, or a hymn that’s in a One Year Book of Hymns that I have on my Treo.  I write in my journal before or after praying, or even at the end of the day, but do not do so at the same level of consistency as with the other elements of my devotional practices.

Erik: I have heard you speak about the Puritans and in particular their almost fanatical pursuit of knowing God through prayer and Bible study; in your estimation, what are some of the chief reasons for why they so excelled in the disciplines and perhaps many today fall short?

Don: J.I. Packer answers this more thoroughly in A Quest for Godliness. I believe that they just had more of a general sense of discipline related to the pursuit of God whereas a greater sense of “go with the flow” prevails in matters related to Christian spirituality today. We also have more distractions today. Would Mueller have prayed as much if he’d had to answer phone calls and emails in the administration of the orphanages? Would Edwards have meditated and written so much if he’d had the Internet?

Erik: In your ministry have you seen “daily quiet times” become an unhealthy form of ‘self-merit’? Identify some helpful ways in which to prevent leaning on your own ‘faithfulness’ as a means of commendation to God?

Don: There’s always some of that, because there’s always a streak of relying on self-merit in all of us. Far more common, in my opinion, is the minimization or abandonment of the devotional life. For every one who is legalistic about a quiet time, there are fifty who rarely or never have one. As to ways to prevent commending oneself to God by faithfulness to devotional practices, we must not think of man-centered ways to solve the dilemma. I submit that meditation on Scripture and praying through Scripture will be the best ways to keep us focused on Christ’s righteousness and not our own.

Erik: As a seminary instructor you spend a lot of time with guys who have a lot of books on their plate. What practical advice would you give on the balance between reading good theological books while also giving proper attention to Bible reading?

Don: I’d give them the same advice I’d give to those who have graduated and are full-time pastors. Give daily priority to the Word of God, and let the other reading find its own level after that.

Erik: In addition to the 3 general sessions that you will be leading at OBC on October 20th, you will also be leading a workshop for pastors. The soberly engaging session is entitled, “Don’t Blow it” and will deal specifically with the need to maintain pastoral fidelity.. As someone who has been in ministry for over thirty years, please comment on your passion for pastors to ‘disaster proof their ministry’ to the glory of Christ…

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Don: I’ll be speaking on 1 Tim. 4:16, which strikes me as a text which could be the theme verse for every seminary. Paul’s emphasis is for the minister to pay close attention to two things—piety and theology. To my knowledge this is the only text in the Bible where the reader is basically given the same command three times in the same verse (“pay close attention . . . persevere in these things, . . . for as you do this”). Moreover, every time in Scripture where Paul wrote to or spoke to ministers (here in 1 Timothy 4:16, in Titus 2:7, and in Acts 20:28-30), he made the same emphasis. So Paul’s pretty passionate about communicating this to ministers, and I think we should be too.

Don, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions and give us a little insight into your life and practices. We look forward to having you come out and join us at Omaha Bible Church on October 20th for a full day of equipping in the practice of spiritual disciplines. In order to help with planning and childcare we do request a preregistration which you may do here.

If you are a pastor or church leader and would like to attend the pastors’ workshop please drop me a note – IrishCalvinistATgmailDOTcom

>>Here is a summary of the day’s events:

Conference Schedule

7.30 – 8.45 Catered breakfast & registration

9.00 – 10.30 Session 1 :: Reading & Meditating through Scripture

10.45 – 11.45 Session 2 :: Praying through Scripture (pt. 1)

12.00 – 1.00 Catered lunch

1.15 – 2.30 Session 3 :: Praying through Scripture (pt. 2)

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4.00 – 5.00 A Workshop for Pastors (more info here)

There is little doubt that the Apostle Paul is experiencing a theological adrenaline rush in the book of Ephesians. He is coming out of his sandals with excitement. This soteriological energy drink doesn’t cause him to sit back with a fat head but rather to get busy praying for other believers. Specifically he prays that the matchless and incomprehensible power of Jesus may work sanctification into the life of believers.

Power is an interesting thing. In the presence of power there is boldness an confidence. And likewise with the absence of power there is timidity and fear. Here in Ephesians 3 the Apostle Paul prays, asking God for grace, (knowing that what comes is wholly a result of divine blessing and kindness) that believers would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (3.16).

What does it mean to be strengthened in the inner man? Simply it is to be spiritually fortified with a genuine love for Christ and a desire to do his will. It is to be growing in maturity. This maturity is expressed in our affections and our actions (what we love and what we do). Even though this is a prayer for other believers, it is still truly God-centered prayer. The goal here is for God to be glorified through the Spirit-enflamed, Bible-Saturated, Sin-Mortifying Christian who is ever growing in Christian maturity.

In connection with Paul’s petition for this gracious endowment of strength, we read of how this growing maturity plays itself out:

Ephesians 3.17-19 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

A result of the believer’s growing maturity is the delightful dependence upon Christ the Lord. Christ is literally “at home” in the hearts of believers. Therefore sin is not at home. When we are strengthened and fortified by the Spirit we are enflamed with a captivating understanding of the beauty of Jesus and so therefore the despicable nature of sin. No doubt you know in your own life something of this corollary; as your love for and value of Jesus is high, your hatred of and devaluation of sin is high. The converse is true as well. You and I will only hate sin as much as we love Christ.

What is the tool that God uses to enflame a passion for the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ in all things?

How does he cause believers to begin to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ (3.18)?

God uses his word in conjunction with his Spirit to distinguish Jesus as unrivaled and worthy of all devotion and praise. It is the Word of God as illumined and applied by the Spirit of God that causes the child of God to be fortified and strengthened in the inner man. This is God’s means of sanctifying his children; this is his personal growth plan for the Christian.

What does it say about our agreement with God’s wisdom when we shelf or neglect his plan? Can we really say we are committed to what God’s committed to? Are we really committed to our growth and God’s glory when we are sloughing off the prescribed means of attaining these things? Can we really say we worship the all-wise God when we question his plan for growth by ‘secretly’ neglecting or replacing it?

In this passage we see the apostle praying for the best for Christians, that we would be strengthened to maturity, that Christ would be valued supremely, and that we would be forever amazed and impressed with the incomprehensible love of God in Christ. This comes through the Spirit of God and by the Word of God. Let’s relentlessly cling to both as we pursue our chief end of glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

This morning I woke up with drums of Calvary beating in my mind. Specifically I was drawn to relentless petitions for Barabbas’ freedom in favor of Jesus’ execution. I had to just sit and try to dwell upon the scene, what follows is what came out. I was convicted and encouraged, which seems to be the pattern in the meditation upon Christ’s cross; so therefore I share this likewise for your encouragement and conviction where need be.

The scene is violent, it is cold,

the source of countless stories told

Heaven’s joy stands beaten and disgraced

One from whom men hide their face

The judge emerges, off’ring his release

The raging mob strikes back with anger now increased

…..

“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” is the uniform cry

Release to us a murderer, Just let this one die

There is a voice in the crowd that is disturbingly distinct

I hear it clear as day in my mind—I’m sure that it is me

…..

I rage and yell, for this offering,

Kill this ‘righteous’ one, get him away from me

Give me a murderer, Barabbas, yes, he will do,

He is more like me than this—“King of the Jews”

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He has preached of his kingdom and spoke of my sin

He has dared to look at me and order me to follow him

I’ve had enough of this guy and his claim to be the king

Give me Barabbas! Give me Barabbas! Is the song I sing

…..

Now my voice is nearly hoarse from crying for his death

I stare at his bloody brow and watch him fight for breath

He too is hoarse—but the cause is not like mine

He was bearing the hell-drenched curse for sinners such as I

…..

I see him with heavenly resolve cry out one last time

With a voice so certain and so strong I’m sure it was divine

His shout echoes still, in my ears, with the freshness of that day

“It is finished!” says this Jesus, with blood still dripping from his face

…..

I look at him much different now—for I see him as he is

The righteous Lamb of God pierced through for sinners’ sins

I look upon this bloody cross, horrified by what I see

The demands of my sin by the Law made him a curse for me

…..

He hangs dead before me, heaven’s wrath now spent

I put my hand over my mouth, for my heart is now rent

O’ the love of God to order such as course

By this cross I’m forever changed, but my voice remains still hoarse.

…..

Isaiah 50:6 I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.

It is an interesting and ironic thing this cross of Jesus. For in it we see the humiliation of a prestigious King and the exaltation of rebellious traders.

Jesus is no doubt suffering the most shameful and dishonoring treatment imaginable for one of his stature. Never before and never again will one so prestigious as the King of heaven suffer such violent mistreatment at the hands of humanity. It would be socially appalling if someone who does relative good in society suffered mistreatment by a government or a religious group. But consider the infinite exponent attached to the unfettered hatred unloaded upon the face, brow and back of the sinless one Jesus the Christ. Isaiah prophesying some 800 years prior tells us that Jesus was “marred more than any man” (Is. 52.14).

So it is here in the ironic and shameful humiliation of Jesus that we find our exaltation.

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Mark 14:65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

This scene is emotional gripping. You just need to let the reality of these words sink in through your mind and into your heart and let it break it.

For consider the dramatic irony here:

-The one who has all of the honor of heaven is served with the most dishonoring contempt by his own creation.

-The cheeks that were kissed by his virgin mother, touched by those he healed, later kissed in betrayal by one of his closest friends is now dripping with the venomous spit and of his accusers.

-The one who is omnipotent and omniscient has now submitted himself to be blindfolded.

-The one who is without sin is beaten like a vilified rebel.

-The one who has all power receives crushing blows.

-The one who is all knowing is now being quizzed and mocked by rebels.

Jesus is enduring such mocking and abuse at the hands of sinful men. His face is littered with flem, slaps, and punches. His eyes are covered and his glory mocked even further with the taunting “Prophesy!” Knowing also that Isaiah tells us that he was “marred more than any man” (Is. 52.14).

We read back into the text and are thankful and rightly so.

But are you broken?

See because if you were somehow able to transport yourself to the scene described above and able to come up next to Jesus and lift up the blindfold a bit and have the punches stop for a moment so that he could hear you, and if you could ask him, “Jesus, why? Why are you doing this? Why are you putting yourself through such torture? Just tell them what they want to hear? Please stop!! This is not right!!”

You know what the Savior would say?

Based upon a passage like 1 Peter 3 we have a pretty good idea of what was going on in his mind. Jesus was bringing sinners like us to God (1 Pet. 3.18).

So to the question of why…Jesus would say…it is for you my sinful child. I am submitting myself to this display for you that you may be rescued from yourself and your sin.

With every blow across the sinless brow of Jesus we have the indictment of our sin and the amplification of his gloriously resolute love.

This scene, like every other scene in the earthly ministry of Jesus, he did he did not take any shortcuts. He did not cut around the devilish temptations and he did not pander to the abusers here, nether do we see him short circuiting God’s plan on the cross as the sinless Savior gives up his own life after completely guzzling the eternal wrath of God while shamefully hanging upon the blood stained wood of Calvary.

So if Christ is yours today, please know that it is because you are Christ’s! Christ had his sheep on his mind as he was battered, mocked and shamed.

So marvel at the infinite love, grace, mercy and resolve of The Savior today.

Be more impressed with Jesus; for he is infinitely valuable and we grossly undervalue him. Indeed he is beautiful.

 

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Devotion :: Psalm 123

Erik Raymond —  September 26, 2006

In this brief snapshot into the life of the Psalmist we see him and his peers being surrounded by the songs of scoffers and doubters. In the midst of their chorus of contempt we are given a great model of faithfulness.

When we are in the midst of resistance and difficulty it is common and even natural to look at and measure our surroundings for help and relief. Further, we often find ourselves looking inward, at ourselves for the relief that is necessary.

In the model of faithfulness however, we see something different from the Psalmist:

Psalm 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He is gracious to us.

The Psalmist models exactly what the essence of faith is, simply looking away from ourselves and depending fully on God. Just as a servant has come to know of the faithful character of his master so too we who have been blessed by God have come to anticipate and relish our Master’s continual gracious condescension to us.

This exercise that we see from the Psalmist is so pivotal for us as believers. We get to participate in spiritual cardio as we massage our hearts to depend upon God for his manifold mercies. Just saying the words of this Psalm forces you to question whether you believe them or not!

Psalm 123:1 To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!

Do you look to him who is “enthroned in the heavens”?

How good is it believer that ultimately you are not looking to the hands of earthly masters for your care and consolation but you are looking to the One who is enthroned in the heavens!?!

Through the blood stained cross of Jesus Christ you have a sure and faithful advocate who is able and willing to console and encourage you in the midst of the scoffing crowds. And even more, scoffing is providentially used to draw us into greater dependence and appreciation of our wonderful Savior.

 

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Jesus is able to sympathize

Erik Raymond —  August 31, 2006

Hebrews 4.15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses

Often times, particularly during tough times, we struggle with the thoughts that people do not understand what we are going through. I cannot count how many times I have heard people say, “But you don’t understand what I am going through!” The good thing for us who are Christians is that we don’t necessarily have to understand or identify with what each person is going through in order to help or to be consoled.

Why? Because Jesus does.

This is so good, so rich and so life changing!! In God’s infinite wisdom and design he has organized things to exalt his Son. Within this context we have Christ’s sympathy and compassion exalted. There is nothing that anyone has gone through, are currently going through, or will go through that Jesus cannot relate to, sympathize with or encourage his children in. Jesus is so gloriously and marvelously sufficient!!

When I read a passage like the one above I am driven to the gospels to analyze the context of some of the days within the context of Christ’s earthly ministry. I am left with an open mouth and enriched praise when I consider that Jesus was under no obligation to become a man and deal with the junk that comes as a result of our sin in this fallen world. He did this because he loves his Father. Jesus is loving his Father as he is loving his sheep.

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