Lessons I learned from the Birth of Our Son

It has been several weeks since I have completed a single post. My personal goal is to publish a blog at least once a week (on Thursdays) and if I am able to twice a week (on Tuesdays). However, our family recently added a fourth child to the mix, Calvin Knox. The last three weeks have been a trial and a half! From the rough labor to the unknown problems, little Calvin’s arrival has brought a great deal of stress to our family.

Now, this is not to say that we do not love him. We adore him!

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Soren holding Calvin for the first time.

He has already been such a blessing and wonderful addition to our family. Our other three children absolutely love him, and my wife and I enjoy simply staring at his cute, old-man looking face. But with his arrival came a lot of stress.

First, we think the labor was difficult for him. My wife spent over 21 hours in labor, and it seems that his head was a little crooked in the birth canal. In addition, the doctor had to use a vacuum to get Calvin out. Calvin’s head, as you can imagine, had a lot of trauma. The doctor assured us, though, that he would be fine and the swelling would go down within a few weeks.

Second, several of his toes are fused together. My wife and I find it adorable, but the doctor was concerned that there might be an underlining genetic issue.

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This is Soren’s hearing test. It was one of many tests this little guy endured.

They told us that everything looked good with his vitals and that he would probably need light surgery to correct the fusing. Again, it seemed that everything would be fine.

Third, while we were at the hospital, one of Calvin’s pediatricians requested an ultrasound of his kidneys. We were not aware of this, and my wife and I became very nervous. All three of our other children never had an ultrasound of anything on them, and so we began to worry about our little boy. The pediatrician explained that she wanted to check on his kidneys because Calvin’s tummy was extended, there may be a problem with his kidneys. Everything checked out fine, though.

Fourth, while we were at the hospital, Calvin seemed to be feeding well. He only lost a small amount of weight, and everything looked as though he were doing fine. At the first post-hospital appointment (Monday morning), however, Calvin had lost a significant amount of weight.

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My sweet wife, Hannah, holding our second son and fourth child. 

He was not getting enough milk, and the doctor was very concerned. The pediatrician found that his mouth was small, the roof of his mouth was high, and his suck was weak. He would have difficulty eating, and though she offered several suggestions to help the little fella, she suggested we talk to a pathologist.

Fifth, at the next appointment (Thursday of the same week), Calvin’s temperature was low (96). With the coronavirus, only Hannah was allowed to accompany Calvin, and when I received a call, Hannah was upset. She said the doctor was sending Calvin to the Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville for possible sepsis. At this point, my wife and I were extremely worried about Calvin. It seemed for every step forward he took three steps back. My mom drove to pick up our three older children, while Hannah and I went to Shriner’s. Again, because of the coronavirus, only one parent was allowed. My brave wife accompanied our little boy, while I waited in the parking lot.

This period was unsettling. I was away from our other children, our newborn son, and my wife. I was completely helpless. I recently completed a study through Psalm 119 of the word affliction. Two of the verses that contain that word came to mind, no doubt due to our gracious God the Spirit: Psalm 119:71 and 92.

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Our daughter, London, holding Calvin for the first time.

These two verses, along with Romans 8:28, provided a tidal wave of encouragement. I prayed and begged God for His healing of our little boy, for strength for my wife, and for His name to be glorified in everything.

While in the parking lot, I attempted to work. But it is almost impossible in such a situation to concentrate on anything else. I tried waiting in the ER waiting room, but they closed it, again due to the coronavirus. After discussing it with my wife, I headed home. I was completely alone, my mom even took our dog, Levi. It was eerily quiet. There were no children running around, singing songs or whistling, no dog barking, just silence. My wife’s thirtieth birthday was the coming Sunday, and so I wrapped her presents, not sure at this point if she would be home.

Later that evening (Thursday still) my wife called and told me all the tests that they would be running. It was a huge list, requiring at least a two-day stay at the hospital. The doctor told her that, if Calvin tested positive for sepsis, he would possibly need a 14-21 day stay. With each update, my wife received it seemed Calvin’s condition was becoming worse. Now my wife was upset, obviously, but she was trusting in the Lord in a way that she had never done before. Her faith in our sovereign God was displayed in a strong way, and I could not be more proud of her!

Friday came and with it, I went back to Shriner’s. I waited in the parking lot, once again, attempting to work and complete some assignments for school. My wife called and had me meet her. This was the first time we had seen each other in 24 hours, but it seemed like a month. Calvin was doing well, but we were still waiting for several test results. Many people all over the country were praying for our little Calvin, and it still overwhelms me at the love and care so many have shown our family.

Friday afternoon I decided to go and get our older children. With the unknown hospital stay, and with the fact that I was missing them like crazy, we decided to bring them back home. I was excited to get our children together! They asked questions about Calvin and momma, and the older two prayed for their little brother.

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Ellie loves her little brother “Cauvin”! 

Friday evening my wife said that two of the three tests came back negative for sepsis, and things started to look up. They scheduled a full-body x-ray to check for any bone defects, at which Calvin would have been referred to a genetic specialist. The X-ray came back negative for any issues, and once again we were overwhelmed by God’s graciousness.

Saturday morning came and the doctor told Hannah that if the last test came back negative, she could take Calvin home. It was better than Christmas morning! We were excited and could not wait to get our family back together.

I took the other three children and ran a couple of errands, eagerly awaiting a call from Hannah saying she and Calvin would be released. We returned home after the errands and right after I unloaded the last bag my phone rang. It was Hannah. I answered it and Hannah said, “We’re coming home!” Even typing this brings tears to my eyes. In a whirlwind of activity and concern, God answered the prayers of many of His children, graciously allowing our little Calvin to be well and return home. I loaded the kids back into the van and headed straight to the hospital where my beautiful bride and precious son were awaiting.

I cannot explain why God allowed us to go through this. But what I can do is offer a few lessons that God taught us. I hope and pray that they will help you when you go through dark waters.

BY GOING THROUGH AFFLICTION, MY WIFE AND I LEARNED TO TRUST GOD’S WORD

Psalm 119:71 states, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”[1] It was good, the psalmist says. While I would never choose to go through something like that again, I can honestly say it was good. I learned that God comforts in an intimate and inconceivable way. That was good. I learned that God’s Word did not change with my dire circumstances. At a point in which everything seemed to be unraveling, God was sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1). None of this took Him by surprise. Everything was going according to His marvelous plan (Rom. 8:28). It was good that I was afflicted. When I was separated from my wife, knowing that she struggles with both depression and anxiety, I knew that God was with her and would never leave her (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). It was good that we were afflicted. When we considered the fact that our little boy may not live, the treasure of our hearts was challenged (Matt. 6:19-21). Did we value our children’s lives over our God? Were we more concerned with our own desires more than God’s glory? It was good that we were afflicted.

God’s Word provided comfort during this affliction, and with this tool, we learned God’s Word better.

BY GOING THROUGH AFFLICTION, WE REALIZED THAT WITHOUT GOD, WE WOULD HAVE PERISHED

The psalmist writes, “If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction.”[2] The psalmist realized that, without a loving relationship with God, affliction would have overcome him. My wife and I learned, through affliction, that God is the most important part of our lives. He was a refuge to which we would flee, whether reading His Word or praying to Him. The affliction was simply a tool that reminded us and continues to remind us, that God is the most important part of our lives.

We live great lives, enjoying our home, our church, and our family. And it is easy for us to become focused on those things rather than on God. Affliction reminded us, however, that God is the center of our lives. Our relationship with Him, given to us by His grace, is the anchor. We would have never been able to go through this trial without God.

BY GOING THROUGH AFFLICTION, WE WERE REMINDED THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD

Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”[3] Paul writes all things. This includes that wonderful times, such as the day I married the most beautiful, sweet, and amazing lady, Hannah. It included the churches in which I served, the births of our other three children, the long walks with my wife, the sweet sunrises, the laughing and singing of our children, the lovely afternoon nap, and so on. Those are all good things. But all things also include those dark times. The times when you watch your sweet, practically perfect grandmother waste away through Alzheimer’s. The times when you have bills due but not enough money. Those times when you argue with your spouse. And yes, even those times when your child could be deathly ill.

As we waited for updates and tests, while separated from each other and our children, we learned on a practical level that all things work together for good. My wife, as I mentioned earlier, has struggled with anxiety. Yet, as she is growing in her walk with our Heavenly Father, she would write on Facebook, “Please pray with us that we will find out what’s going on with our little guy and that God would be glorified through this situation!”[4] We are learning that all things work together for good, even those difficult, life-altering times.

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Thank you to all who prayed for our little boy. God has graciously answered our prayers!

This period of our life has been one of the most stressful. Yet, it has also been a season of growth. We are reminded of the preciousness of life, of the joys of being together, and of God’s sovereign rule. We are reminded that, even in the midst of this trying time, that God’s goodness has not changed one iota. We are reminded that His Word is a treasure trove of encouragement, challenge, and balance.

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For the study of affliction in Psalm 119, see these links:

A Study in Affliction: An Introduction to Psalm 119 and the Believer’s Trials

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 1)

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 2)

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 3)

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 4)

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 5)

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 6)

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 7)

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[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 119:71.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 119:92.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 8:28.

[4] https://www.facebook.com/hannah.o.howell

Guided by Gurnall: Part Twelve

William Gurnall, following the consistent practice of Puritan preachers, offers a doctrine first and then provides several reasons for the doctrine.

As we have journeyed through The Christian In Complete Armour, we have learned much about the armor of God. In this section, Gurnall offers the following doctrine:

It is not enough to have grace, but this grace must be kept in exercise. (Gurnall, 63-64)

In this “fourth branch,” Gurnall is discussing the “put on” aspect of the armor of God. In Ephesians 6:11, Paul commands the believer, “Put on the armor of God…” (ESV) As Gurnall notes, “It is one thing to have armour in the house, and another thing to have it buckled on; to have grace in the principle, and grace in the act.” (Gurnall, 63)

 

This armor is to be used, as Gurnall mentions. Noting the lifelong excursion of spiritual war, Gurnall informs the believer that “Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together; then, indeed, will be no need of watch and ward, shield or helmet.” (Gurnall, 64)

 

“FIRST. CHRIST COMMANDS US TO HAVE OUR ARMOUR ON, OUR GRACE IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 63)

 

What Gurnall is telling us is that we must be busy about the work God has given us to do. We must endeavor to follow Peter’s pattern in 2 Peter 1:3-11. Peter remarks on this need for growth by describing our state, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8, ESV)

 

The spiritual disciplines are a must for the believer. In my brief ministerial experience, many Christians complain of defeat in the face of temptation, struggles with sinful thoughts, and joyless living. When I ask them how their time with God has been, I come to find out that it is almost non-existent.

 

How can you increase your growth? There are two helpful resources I would recommend. First, Dr. Jim Berg’s book Changed Into His Image: God’s Plan for Transforming Your Life is an excellent work with an accompanying study guide. This book provides a treatment of the Christian life with practical applications. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Second, Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life. As with Dr. Berg’s book, Spiritual Disciplines has a study guide. Whitney offers a treatment of the various spiritual disciplines (such as Scripture intake, prayer, fasting, etc.).

 

Put on your armor, Christian, and exercise the grace that has been given to you!

 

“SECOND. SATAN’S ADVANTAGE IS GREAT WHEN GRACE IS NOT IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 64)

It is easier, says Gurnall, for Satan to trip you up when you are not growing in grace (i.e., wearing the armor of God). Consider an athlete. The individual trains and enhances their skill in the sport in which they compete. However, when the individual fails to train with consistent intensity, they fail at the sport. Likewise, when Christians fail to grow in grace, Satan is granted easy access to further harm you and help you sin.

 

The devil and forces of evil are given the upper hand when the Christian fails to practice his or her grace. How many dear brothers and sisters pack the pews on Sundays as defeated by the great adversary of our souls because of inactivity!

 

“THIRD. BECAUSE IT IS SO AWKY A BUSINESS, AND HARD A WORK, TO RECOVER THE ACTIVITY OF GRACE ONCE LOST, AND TO REVIVE A DUTY IN DISUSE.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

Remember, Gurnall is discussing the need to use the armor, not to simply own it. It is easy, reasons Gurnall, to maintain and grow in grace then it is to restart it. Now, we must take caution here and not that Gurnall is not discussing a Christian’s loss of his or her salvation. It is eternal redemption. However, he is not wrong in this sentiment.

 

Consider his elaboration, “The longer a soul hath neglected duty, the more ado there is to get it take up; partly, through shame, the soul having played truant, now know not how to look God in the face; and partly, from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

It is easier to maintain a car through consistent oil changes, tune-ups, and gas refills than it is to leave it idle for years. Most of the car’s operating systems would need to be replaced and fixed before operable. Christian, maintain your vehicle! Daily intake the Word of God and pray, attend church services with your fellow brothers and sisters, nourish your should through the spiritual disciplines. Neglect not your armor!

 

“FOURTH. WE MUST KEEP GRACE IN EXERCISE IN RESPECT OF OTHERS OUR FELLOW-SOLDIERS.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

Here Gurnall discusses one of the most important aspects, though often neglected, of the Christian life. Christianity involves a community, or fellowship, to use the biblical word (see 1 John 1:3, for example). We were meant to live together.

 

Though we are currently in social distancing due to the coronavirus, Christians were never meant to live the Christian life alone. We need each other. And one of the many responsibilities that you have to your brothers and sisters (and indeed all of us) is for the benefit of them.

 

We don our armor for them. Gurnall notes, “Thus, Christian, thou art to be helpful to thy fellow-brethren , who have not that settlement of peace in their spirit as thyself, not that measure of grace or comfort.” (Gurnall, 66)

 

In other words, Christians need you to live the Christian life to encourage them to continue pressing on! One of the most encouraging ministers I know is John MacArthur. He has pastored his church for fifty years. He is committed to the expository preaching of God’s Word. And for fifty years he has opened the Scriptures and expounded upon them, living in and among his people. They have observed his doctrine and his way of life, and he is still their pastor. His faithfulness is a challenge to me!

 

You never know what encouragement you offer to your fellow brothers and sisters. Thus, we must for their sake and ours, don the armor of God.

 

CONCLUSION

 

God has given us armor to wear, not to collect dust. Likewise, He has provided the sacred Scriptures to help our knowledge of Him increase, to provide guidance for our lives as we grow in godliness. Are we putting it to good use? Are we donning our armor daily? Or, are we neglecting the state of our souls?

 

Brothers and sisters let us consider the words of Gurnall solemnly. Let us, therefore, put on the whole armor of God.

 

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For more guidance from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Lessons on the Judgment of God: Part Four

For the last few weeks, we have been examining lessons on God’s judgment from Genesis chapter five. We have previously noted God’s reason, God’s consistency, and God’s grace in judgment. Continuing on this positive note from our last lesson, we see God’s provision in judgment.
It seems odd to find provision in the midst of judgment, but it is something clearly observable in Genesis chapter five. Though judgment was being executed (notice the several men who died), and though God’s judgment to a fuller extent would be coming (see Genesis 7 and the global flood), God gave provision in the forms of Noah and his three sons (5:28-32).
We learn from the New Testament scripture that God saved humanity, He provided a way of escape and for the continuation of the human race through Noah (see 1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:5).
In this example, in the Old Testament, we are reminded of the provision from the judgment in Jesus Christ
Judgment, particularly God’s judgment, is a terrifying event. However, even in the midst of judgment, we see God’s goodness. To God be the glory!
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See previous entries in this series:
Lessons of the Judgment of God
Lessons on the Judgment of God: Part Two
Lessons on the Judgment of God: Part Three

A Study in Affliction: The Sufficiency of God’s Word in Psalm 119 for the Believer’s Affliction (Part 7)

We are in the midst of affliction. The introduction of the novel coronavirus, designated COVID-19[1], has at this point eliminated 79,381 image-bearers of God.[2] It has wreaked havoc to many nations, particularly Spain and Italy.[3] There are many who have endured great physical affliction, spending days and even weeks suffering through and recovering from COVID-19.[4] In addition to the physical loss and detriments to health, we have witnessed an economic shift unlike any other in history. According to the International Monetary Fund “In the last two weeks in March almost 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits.”[5] Furthermore, the psychological, educational, and social effects of the novel coronavirus will not be realized for years to come. We are, as I mentioned in the first sentence, in the midst of affliction.

How do we handle this? How does the Christian, the believer in the God of heaven, respond to such affliction? We have been studying this word affliction in Psalm 119. It is a soul-nourishing study, and today’s verse is no different.

Psalm 119:107 states, “I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!” (ESV)

Like David, we are severely afflicted. We are overwhelmed, like the shore of the beach breaking under the crushing power of a massive wave. What is David’s response? What does affliction do in the Shepherd of Israel’s life?

Affliction, severe and life-altering affliction, points us to God.

The truth is that affliction points us to God. We are reminded of several truths in the midst of such affliction. First, we are reminded that we are not God. This unseen virus has practically shut the entire world down. COVID-19 is killing people, overwhelming hospitals, destroying economies, etc. We are powerless to stop this virus. We are not God. Secondly, we are reminded of how fragile life is. In my context, Americans enjoy a plethora of pleasures, enjoyments in life, and physical wellness. We have access to healthy food, clean water, and excellent facilities for care. In fact, my wife went to the doctor today to check on our unborn son. Yet, with all of this, we are fragile, Individuals who were otherwise healthy have succumbed to the virus. The lungs of survivors are weak. Large numbers of people are dying. We are fragile. Third, we are reminded of how quickly life can change. At the beginning of the year, I was planning out my preaching and teaching schedule. I had made plans for a conference in the fall, and yet this all came crashing to a sudden halt. Everything changed in a short period of time. What do all of these reminders provide for us? They point us to the One who is God, the One who is not fragile, and the One who is in complete control.

David, in the midst of his severe affliction, says, “Give me life, O LORD, according to your word!”

Affliction drives us to the All-Sufficient One. We turn to God in these afflictions. When faced with physical death, we remember the One who gives eternal life. When faced with the fragility of life, we are reminded of the Rock of our salvation. When faced with economic downfall, we are reminded of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. When faced with overwhelming, severe affliction, we are reminded of the One who gives life!

There is one more phrase David mentions, following his practice in almost every verse of Psalm 119: the Word of God. David requests life “according to [God’s] Word.” It is God’s Word, David recognizes, that gives life.

We have the most wonderful gift in the sacred Scriptures. But how do they give us life? How, in the midst of severe affliction, do we get life?

  1. God’s Word provides the proper lens by which we view all of life, including severe affliction.
    David recognizes how God’s Word gives us the right (i.e., biblical) lens from which to view life. Difficulties, rather than unfair instances, are tools in the hands of a sovereign and good God. When in the midst of financial ruin, God’s Word reorients our focus from self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency. The list could go on, but let it be said that God’s Word helps us view life with a God-focused lens.
  2. God’s Word provides the encouragement that Christians are becoming more like Jesus with everything, especially with severe affliction.
    We are reminded in Romans 8:28-29 that God is chipping away everything in our lives (as believers) that are not like Jesus Christ. Paul says, “All things work together for good” (Romans 8:28, ESV), and this includes severe affliction. What a comfort that brings, brothers and sisters, that even in the midst of severe affliction, God is fulfilling His promise to make you be more like His Son, Jesus Christ! (Phil. 1:6) God’s Word gives life!
  3. God’s Word provides the avenue of dealing with the hardships of life, particularly during severe affliction.
    Think about Job, the “man [who] was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). This man endured severe affliction, losing all ten of his children, most of his wealth, and his physical health in a short period of time (Job 1:6-19; 2:1-8). In a back-and-forth debate between Job and his three friends, God appears on the scene and begins questioning Job (see chapters 38-41). Every question reminds Job that He is not God and that even in the midst of severe affliction Job can (and should) trust God. Without demeaning Job’s pain, or doubting the difficulties he is experiencing, God reorients Job’s focus from his problems to Himself.

    This is extremely practical. We have the means to deal with the difficulties of life in God’s Word. This is why I call it a priceless treasure!

We are in the midst of affliction. To what do you turn? Or, more biblically, to Whom do you turn? Brothers and sisters, let us not turn to individuals, governments, scientists, and doctors (though all of those certainly have a part to play!), let us turn to God, and pray that He will give us life through His Word, for His glory!

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, accessed 7 April 2020.

[2] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, accessed 7 April 2020.

[3] For Spain, see: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/spain/; for Italy, see: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/italy/ (both accessed 7 April 2020).

[4] Here are a few perspectives: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/01/covid-19-recoveries-it-was-the-most-terrifying-experience-of-my-life, accessed 7 April 2020.

[5] John Bluedorn, Gita Gopinath, and Damiano Sandri, “An Early View of the Economic Impact of the Pandemic in 5 Charts,” International Monetary Fund blog, 6 April 2020, https://blogs.imf.org/2020/04/06/an-early-view-of-the-economic-impact-of-the-pandemic-in-5-charts/, accessed 7 April 2020.

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

In expositing Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall seeks to distill every ounce of truth from the mines of spiritual warfare. It is a tremendous work, both in its length and in its content.

In the present section, Gurnall is describing the need for the whole armor of God (see Eph. 6:11). Up to this point, he has made mention of the need for the armor, what the armor consists of, and why the Christian must bear it.

Now Gurnall focuses on the extent of the armor or the completeness of it. He discusses it in a “threefold respect.” (Gurnall, 58) These are:

  • “FIRST. He must be armed in every part cap-a-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and senses of the other, not any part left naked.” (Gurnall, 58)
  • “SECOND. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God.” (Gurnall, 58)
  • “THIRD. The entireness of the saint’s armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint’s furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece.” (Gurnall, 83)

These are excellent points that well deserve our attention. We will examine these briefly.

“FIRST. He must be armed in every part cap-a-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and senses of the other, not any part left naked.” (Gurnall, 58)

In other words, the whole armor involves the whole body. Every inch must be protected in order to wage war against the enemy of our souls. Gurnall remarks, “Our enemies are on every side, and so must our armour be.” (Gurnall, 58)

He notes several examples of individuals in the Scripture who had one area unprotected. Ahab was killed with a small dart. “Eve looked but on the tree, and a poisonous dart struck her to the heart,” write Gurnall. (Gurnall, 58)

Are we not as prone to sin as they? Must we not bear the whole armor of God, and ensure every part of our bodies are covered and protected from the attacks of the devil? How foolish we are to think that we are more than capable of handling an enemy who has practiced wickedness almost as long as time has existed! How arrogant and haughty are we that we believe we can do what the powerful angel Michael could not! (Jude 9)

Brothers and sisters, let us put on the whole armor of God.

“SECOND. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God.” (Gurnall, 58)

Continuing on, Gurunall comments on the need to build upon the armor of God. That is, the need to develop the graces with which God has lavished upon the believer. He spends the majority of this section in 2 Peter 1:5-7, which reads:

5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Gurnall notes how the Scriptures describe the increasing effect of growing in grace. In putting on the whole armor, the Christian must not leave one piece off. He provides a brief exposition of that passage (a marvelous one) and then applies it to the understanding of the Christian’s armor. Each piece, each grace, if you will, must be donned. The enemies of our soul are many, multi-talented and intrinsically evil. As we put on this armor, we must put all of it on. We must don the graces of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to stand against the attacks of the slithering serpent.

“THIRD. The entireness of the saint’s armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint’s furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece.” (Gurnall, 83)

The final item Gurnall discusses concerns the sharpening of the tools, the increasing of their effectiveness. The blade of the knight must be continually sharpened in order to maintain its effectiveness in battle. Likewise, the Christian’s armor must be maintained.

Gurnall describes the situation,

“The Christian had need have an armourer’s shop at hand to make up his loss, and that speedily, for Satan is most like to fall on when the Christian is least prepared to receive his charge.” (Gurnall, 61)

The Christian’s armor must be at the ready at all times, for the devil is a tireless enemy. Therefore the Christian must be about the protection and development of his armor. This is due to the nature of grace, “Because grace is subject to decays,” remarks Gurnall. (Gurnall, 61)

We are in the work of sanctification, daily becoming more like Jesus Christ, which necessarily involves the armor of God.

Concluding Thoughts

How is your armor, Christian? Are you wearing all the armor of God? Are you and I constantly building upon the faith, as described by our brother Peter? Are we watching our armor, ensuring it is equipped and maintained?

As I read this section, I was reminded of the fierceness of the battle. Christians, we need to remember that our adversary is walking around looking for people to devour. Therefore, let us put on the whole armor of God.

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Lessons on the Judgment of God: Part Three

In two previous posts, we have learned two important lessons from the judgment of God as presented in Genesis chapter five. They are:
1. God’s reason for judgment
2. God’s consistency in judgment
A third lesson we learn from God’s judgment is His grace. It is odd that we would find beauty in judgment, by grace is such a gem. Like the piece of coal that is formed into the exquisite diamond, God’s grace is most wonderfully displayed in the harshest environments: life in a fallen world with fallen human beings.
God’s Grace in Human Life
In Genesis chapter five, one aspect sticks out to the average reader: the length of human life. The oldest one to live was Methuselah. He lived to an astounding 969 years. You may wonder, “How does this display God’s grace?”
Perhaps we should reconsider Genesis 2:15-17. In that passage, God warned Adam that if he failed to obey Him, Adam “would surely die” (Gen. 2:17, ESV). Yet, even Adam did not die immediately. God, as we noticed in the initial post, has the right and perfect liberty to execute His wrath immediately and to the fullest degree possible. Yet, God is gracious, and the fact that Adam (and the many men like Methuselah) did not immediately die is a mark of God’s grace.
Just consider all the wonderful technological and medical advancements that have occurred in the last fifty years. This is because God has graciously allowed certain individuals to live, and their contributions to our society and wellness result from God’s graciousness.
God’s grace in Human Relationships
Another mark of God’s grace is observed in human relationships. In each individual mentioned (a total of ten in the genealogical realm) “had other sons and daughters” (see Genesis 5:4, 7, 10,13, 16, 19, 22, 26, and 30). Families are wonderful marks of God’s grace. Though some are not able to experience this blessing, families are incredible. I am blessed to enjoy a wonderful relationship with my parents, my in-laws, my wife, and my children. Even in judgment, we see God’s grace.
God’s grace in Human Salvation
Perhaps the greatest display of God’s grace in Genesis chapter five comes in the unique privilege of Enoch’s life. Enoch is described as an individual who “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24). Breaking the normal pattern of birth, life, bearing of children, and death, Enoch simply “was not” (Genesis 5:24).
What happened to Enoch? The Scriptures say, “God took him” (Genesis 5:24). He did not die. In other words, God graciously kept him alive rather than punish Him. God had every right to, as we have already observed. However, God graciously kept Enoch from death.
While there is no direct connection of this to our salvation, it would certainly be a mistake not to make the connection between God’s grace and our own salvation. We are described as being “dead in trespasses and sins” in Ephesians 2:1. Yet, God in His grace saved us (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Conclusion
What is our conclusion to this lesson of judgment? The conclusion is God is a gracious God. Even during times of judgment, or discipline, God is gracious. Relish God’s goodness in these circumstances!

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

In my reading of William Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour, I came across a wonderful, soul-nourishing section. It reminded me of my children and the constant question they ask, “Why?” They ask this question for almost everything I tell them. “That ant is a fire ant.” “Why?” “God clean your room.” “Why?” “I love you!” “Why?”

Any parent, or any individual who has ever worked with children, particularly young children, know this experience. Yet, in Gurnall’s discussion on the need for the armor of God, he anticipates that why question. Why does the armor have to be God’s armor? 

There are several important reasons why the armor must be God’s armor. Gurnall offers some helpful insights as they relate to the main issue, false armors.

False armors

The helpful insight Gurnall gives is in relation to what he calls “false ware.” (Gurnall, 54) He writes,

“It is Satan’s after-game he plays, if he cannot please the sinner with his naked state of profaneness, to put him off with something like grace, some flighty stuff, that shall neither do him good, nor Satan hurt.” (Gurnall, 54)

When asked why we need God’s armor, we must remember that the enemy of our soul, Satan, would love to see us take comfort from false armors. It may provide a sense of security, but offers no protection. Think of many individuals who work for their salvation. The good deeds they engage in provide a sense of comfort, but ultimately they will leave the individual under the just wrath of God if there is no repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Gurnall makes this clear,

“Pray they must, but little care how it be performed. Believe in God? yes, they hope they are not infidels. But what [the armour] is, how they came by it, or whether it will hold in an evil day, this never was put to the question in their hearts.” (Gurnall, 55)

False Security

That false armor, whatever it may be, leads to false security. This is a dangerous place to be. Imagine being on the highest mountain, on the very top you can see only great distances between yourself and the ground. Your head becomes light with the enormous height. This is the predicament of false armors. You may feel secure because of your expert training, monumental experience, and superb equipment, but this is a false security. One misstep and you will plummet to your death. Gurnall notes the direness of the situation,

“O how hard is it to persaude such a one to light, and hold Christ stirrup, while he and his duties are made Christ’s footstool.” (Gurnall, 55)

There is another aspect of this security, and that involves the condemnation of the one trusting in armor other than that of God’s. Gurnall remarks on the sad situation of those who reject the armor of God,

“None sink so far into hell as those that come nearest heaven, because they fall from the greatest height.” (Gurnall, 55)

So many individuals seem to be Christian. They “made a decision at camp” or “they trusted Christ when a young child,” and yet their lives bear proof that they do not have the armor of God. The false armor produces a false security, over which the sure judgment of God stands. Gurnall states, “None will have such a sad parting from Christ as those who went half-way with him and then left him.” (Gurnall, 55) Jesus puts it like this, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23, ESV)

A Call for Reformation

What is Gurnall’s advice for those who believe they have the armor of God when in fact they do not? Take up the armor, of course! Repent of the sinful negligence you have shown in refusing to take up the armor of God and put it on! His advice stands true today,

“O Christians, either vindicate the name of Christ, whose ensign you seem to march after, or throw away your seeming armour, bu which you have drawn the eyes of the world upon you.” (Gurnall, 56)

In other words, either be true to Christ or leave Christ. The damage you are creating by claiming to have the armor of God, while not truly possessing it, will only bring further condemnation to your soul.

The message for us today, then, is not much different than that in Gurnall’s day. Let us take up the armor of God. Let us be sure that it is indeed His armor. And let us fight the flesh and the devil with God’s weapons, in God’s power, and with God’s armor. And if we are not truly His, let us cast off the hypocrisy, for we bring greater condemnation upon ourselves when we play the Christian life.

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Lessons on the Judgment of God: Part Two

In a previous post, we examined the first lesson we learn from The History of Judgment, a sermon on Genesis chapter five.

In this post, we continue our learning by examining the second lesson we learn: the consistency of God’s judgment.

God is a consistent judge, meaning that He has, is, and will continue judging sin. Since God is holy and we are sinful, He must judge sin. If you go back and read Genesis chapter five, you will notice that every single individual named, with the exception of Enoch, died. God promised Adam that if he failed to obey God, he would die (see Genesis 2:17). Adam failed to obey, as did every individual who came from Adam (with the exception of Jesus Christ). Another important passage of Scripture that illustrates the consistency of God’s judgment is Ezekiel 18:20. Ezekiel the prophet writes, “The person who sins will die.” (NASB) There is no debate, no question, and no objection. Sin brings death. It is as true as the sin is bright, and more so.

In our day and age, society is condoning sin in an ever-increasing way. It reflects the wicked and deceitful hearts full of sin (Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 2:1-3). The Church, however, is also guilty of this. A brief scan of major denominations and ecclesiastical organizations will yield an abundance of evidence to this. And the individual Christian is guilty (dare I say, me?) as well. We justify our sins and believe that somehow, in some way, God will not judge our sins. He is holy, and as such will never let sin be unpunished.

The consistency of death is seen, not only throughout Scripture but also in history. God’s consistency in judgment is also seen in the toil of our work. In Genesis 3:17-19, God curses the ground, the earth, and man’s work, as a result of man’s disobedience. Ever since then, man has dreaded Monday. Well, he has dreaded work. In current United States culture, COVID-19 aside, everyone works hard in order to retire. Those daily work schedules and deadlines all remind us of the consistencies of God’s judgments. The dread of the end of the weekend is a reminder of the consistency of God’s judgment.

Perhaps you have forgotten the truth that God is a God of judgment. Perhaps you need to reread Genesis chapter five and be reminded of this lesson. Perhaps you need to be reminded of the truth that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, took His children’s place in judgment. This transfer of judgment can be yours through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. As you are reminded of the consistency of God’s judgment, be reminded of the consistency of God’s grace (see John 3:16).

Your Life and Doctrine: 2 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

In 1 Timothy 4:11, Paul instructs Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (ESV)
Paul desired that his young protege would be careful about his manner of life and the content of his beliefs. And, as God’s people, we must all be aware of how we are living and what we believe.
Our Manner of Life
What does our manner of life say about us? Whom does it say we serve? We all know the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” and perhaps that is more true (if that is possible!) for the Christian. For those who claim the name of Christ, and yet act in a manner contradictory of the Lord Jesus, they bring great shame on the Lord and confuse people who are not His followers. It can also hinder people’s own walk with God, or lack thereof.
Christians have enjoyed a period of cultural acceptance up until very recently. Now, however, society, in general, lies in opposition to almost all Christian values. The after effects of this, however, are more detrimental than society’s rejection. Consider David Kinnaman’s and Gabe Lyons conclusion, “The hypocritical perception is most acute not when a religion is on the fringes of society, but when it has because a dominant part of the culture.” (Kinnaman and Lyons, UnChristian, 43) For centuries Christianity has enjoyed a certain prestige in American society. However, that is already shifting, rapidly and increasingly. Now, more than ever, Christians need to “keep a close watch” on their lives. Those who pretend to be in Christ’s sheepfold are leaving in the droves, and Christ’s true followers must live as their Lord did. They must pay special attention to their lives.
One practical way in which we can do this is to incorporate a time of self-examination every day. I suggest the 10 Commandments, due to their consistency in Scripture as well as their ease in reading and comprehension. Regularly ask yourself, “Am I following the 10 Commandments? How does my life differ from what God has taught?” Questions like these will help you keep a close guard of your life.
Our Matter of Beliefs
In 2018, Ligonier conducted a study on what people believed (you can find the study, including the research methodologies, here: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/state-theology-what-do-people-really-believe-2018/). One of the results was the distinct declaration that people today do not believe what the Scriptures teach, Christian and otherwise alike. Some of the questions are basic aspects of the faith, and it is shocking to see.
However, before we criticize others, are we engaged in serious study of our Faith? Do we regularly search the Scriptures and see what they teach? I am certainly not advocating for people to sit down and read systematic theology books (though that would be helpful!). However, when we cannot agree on what the Scriptures teach about the exclusivity of Christ, are we keeping watch of our doctrinal beliefs?
What we believe affects how we live, which in turn affects what we believe. What are some ways you can watch your doctrine? I find Statements of Faith to be helpful, particularly in the context of your church. What does your church believe? Study their Statements of Faith. You can also check our declarations such as the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (here: http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp). It is an excellent summary of beliefs, which also include references to Scripture.
Another helpful tool are systematic theologies. Now, I would caution you on which ones you choose. First, they can be extremely academic. While there is a need for them, it may not produce the same fervor for understanding God more. Another aspect to be aware of is the beliefs. There are systematic theologies that espouse heresies. Finally, take care with how you approach your study. It can be an exercise in gaining knowledge, but unless it helps you know and love God and your neighbors more, it is fruitless.
So, brothers and sisters, pay attention to your life and your beliefs. And to God be the glory!

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

William Gurnall notes the importance of our armor being the armor of God. He writes, “The Christian’s armour [sic] must be amour [sic] of God in regard to its make and constitution.” (Gurnall, 54)

To apply it to a different thought: make sure your godliness has God in it. It is easy to focus on armor in a generic sense, but Christians must remember that, in the midst of war, our armor is to be the armor of God.

It is easy to seek for substitutes. Think of vitamins. We need fruits and vegetables to have a balanced diet. However, many of us assume that if we take a multivitamin, or some green powder, we can forgo that serving of cabbage or broccoli. In other words, we search for substitutes in place of the main focus. Gurnall describes our present day situation, “There is abundance of false ware put off now-a-days; little good armour [sic] worn by the multitude of professors.” (Gurnall, 54) It is always amazing to me when I consider William Gurnall lived from 1616-1679 and how apt his words are for us today.

So, how does this look today? We look to books (Christian, secular, or otherwise). We listen to podcasts. We go to conferences. We enjoy friendships. While many of these things are good and helpful (I do all!), they are not replacements for our most important relationship: our relationship with God. That same principle applies to our battle with spiritual matters. Gurnall wonderfully reminds us that we must put on the armor of God. Our focus must be, in an ever-growing way, on God. 

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction