3 Encouragements from God’s Sovereignty

Doctrine leads to practice. This is a truth that many in the church today have apparently forgotten. I have been sitting with fellow church members from various congregations who informed me that doctrine is boring, lifeless, and impractical. Like decorative pillows that are taken off before bed and placed back upon waking, people see doctrine in the same light.

I have also heard people, including pastors, say that theology and doctrine do not really matter. This, according to Scripture, is absurd. For the sake of space, we will simply look at one example. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul writes, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (ESV) Jesus is Lord is a doctrinal statement. Of course, there are contextual issues that are involved with Paul’s mentioning of this, but it illustrates that without doctrine, we have nothing.

Theology proper (that which focuses on God) tells us that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. This information is gleaned from the sacred Scriptures. But this information, or doctrine, has profound implications. If God has all-power, there is no problem that you and I will face that He is unable to address. If God is omniscient, then there is nothing of which God does not have full and exact knowledge. If God is omnipresent, then you and I are never truly alone.

Doctrine leads to practice. And doctrine is practical. God’s sovereignty is blissfully practical. I want to focus on three ways, and I hope this accomplishes two goals:

  1. To increase your desire to learn the doctrines of the Bible
  2. To increase your awareness of the practicality of doctrine

 

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY MEANS THAT NOTHING HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT


Now, this has enormous applications, some that are easy to believe and some that, beyond God’s grace, are incomprehensible.

The psalmist declares,

Our God is in the heavens;

he does all that he please. (Psalm 115:3, ESV)

There is so much more the Scriptures say about God’s sovereignty. Check out this free resource at Monergism.

This verse, along with other Scripture, teaches us that God is in control of every particle of creation, orchestrating all things for His glory and the believer’s good (Romans 8:28). John Calvin states, “Not even a drop of rain falls without His express command.” (Calvin, Institutes)

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

On Monday morning when your alarm clock fails to go off, God is in control. When your child breaks in the middle of the bike path causing you to bang your knee in an effort not to run him over, God is in control. When you sit through the stop light, again, God is in control. When the doctor brings you bad news, God is in control. 

The beautiful part of God’s sovereignty, however, is not just that nothing happens by accident.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IS DISPLAYED BY THE MOST GRACIOUS BEING


That God is sovereign is sweetly displayed throughout all of Scripture. That God is also a gracious and good God is also displayed. John records of God, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, ESV) Moses beautifully describes God as

“…a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6, ESV)

If God were just sovereign, we might have reason to fear. For a human example, if Adolf Hitler had unlimited power, imagine what destruction he would reign all over the earth. And if God were sovereign, but also evil, we would be in unimaginable trouble. But God is kind, He is gracious, He abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness.

This means that on Monday morning when your alarm clock fails to go off, God is gracious. Perhaps He is preventing you from leaving on time, avoiding a fatal accident. When your child breaks in the middle of the bike path causing you to bang your knee in an effort not to run him over, God is gracious. Perhaps God is allowing this instance to come into your life in order to conform you into the image of His most patient Son, Jesus Christ. When you sit through the stop light, again, God is gracious. Maybe God knows that a certain song that will speak truth and encouragement into your life will come on before you get to school. When the doctor brings you bad news, God is gracious. It is possible that God knows that the only way you can grow closer to Him is to work through that medical issue.

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Flowers offer a beautiful display of God’s goodness. He could have made flowers unpleasing to the eyes, unpleasant to the nose, and unhelpful to the bees. But the variety, beautiful, and intricacies of the flowers are only one display of His sovereign goodness.

Do you see just how awesome doctrine is? This can transform your life! That nothing happens by accident, and that all things are orchestrated by the most benevolent Being have enormous implications. But there is one final point that I want to draw out from this doctrine.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY MEANS THAT, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE MOST UNIMAGINABLE PAIN, GOD IS STILL SOVEREIGN


I must admit, that I have had a great life. God has been so good to me. I grew up in a loving family. I married the most amazing woman in the history of our planet. I have three of the most precious children in the world. And I was born in Texas.

A few years ago my wife and I happily found out we were pregnant. However, upon our first visit, our little baby was measuring smaller than the baby should have been. The doctor informed us that this does not mean that something is wrong, but she also mentioned that it was not good.

At the next appointment, the doctor informed us that the baby would not make it to full term. We were devastated. At this point, we had two healthy children, and the idea that we might lose a baby had never entered into our minds. You can imagine the questions that raced through our minds. How could God let this happen? Why is God doing this to us? We love our children, doesn’t He know that we will take Good care of that baby?

It was a difficult time in our life. But God was gracious to us. He provided comfort in a way that exceeds our comprehension. The truth of Romans 8:28 was a constant retreat from the devastation. Consider some of the most encouraging words penned by Paul,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

This verse teaches us that God works all things for good. It does not say that we will understand how it works for good. One account I constantly returned to was Joseph’s life. Imagine the questions he must have had. Sold by his brothers, lied about and punished for a sin he never committed, Joseph must have constantly asked God why? But when you read Joseph’s summary, Joseph’s belief in the sovereignty of God was a rock of comfort. Joseph tells his brothers,

Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:19-20)

Joseph did not know why he was going through what he did. But his belief in the sovereignty of God voided his need to know why because he knew Who. Perhaps you are in the midst of a suffering that many people cannot fathom. Dive into the deep love and sovereignty of God. You may never know why, but you can rest in Him. God’s truth is foundation upon which we can rest.

CONCLUSION


Doctrine leads to practice. It changes the way we think, speak, and live. God’s sovereignty is a doctrine in the Scriptures. Search them, learn about God’s control of everything. Meditate on the truth that God is a good God. And resolve to trust God more than your desire to know why. Doctrine leads to practice. And the doctrine of God’s sovereignty leads to a peace that passes our understanding.

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“Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”: A Prayer

I began rereading John Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical MinistryThere are several books that I work through regularly (Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is highest on the list). Each book stirs up a different flame of passion, a great awareness of personal sin, and a earnest desire to be the kind of pastor that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of each chapter, Piper offers a prayer that accompanies the topic. For today’s reading, I was deeply moved by it. I hope that it provides you, pastor or not, with a greater desire to know our sovereign and holy God.

Piper prays,

God, delivery us from the professionalizers! Deliver us from the ‘low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us.’ (Bounds, 1972) God, give us tears for our sins. Forgive us for being so shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy verities, so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation. Restore to us the childlike joy of our salvation. Frighten us with the awesome holiness and power of Him who can cast both soul and body into hell (Matt. 10:28). Cause us to hold to the cross with fear and trembling as our hope-filled and offensive tree of life. Grant us nothing, absolutely nothing, the way the world views it. May Christ be all in all (Col. 3:11).

Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord.

Humble us, O God, under Your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ. In His awesome name. Amen. (Piper, 4)

Brother pastors, let us resolve to ever be in this prayer!

3 Reasons Genealogies Are In the Bible

We all wonder why God allowed genealogies in the Bible. If you find yourself reading through the Bible in a year (or any other length of time), you may even dread it! The endless list of names you can barely spell, the mountains of individuals whose pronunciation you will butcher, and the disconnect from little to no knowledge about the individual causes genealogies to leave a bad taste in our mouths (think of burnt popcorn).

But Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17, ESV) This means that, yes, even genealogies are profitable. We are like children taking medicine. It tastes horrible, and our little brains cannot imagine how something so gross could possibly help us.

So, how do genealogies help us? How are they profitable? This list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it original. I have read different commentaries, articles, and journals over the years. (If one of them sticks out, please send me the source so I can properly cite it!) The thoughts I am sharing this morning stem from that research. However, I want to offer three reasons why genealogies are in the Bible. My hope is to inspire you to cling to the truths of Scripture (see II Timothy 3:16-17), and to build your confidence in God’s wisdom.

Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals in His plan of redemption

One of the benefits of genealogies is that it shows us that God works with individuals. We tend to think of groups such as Israel, Judah, or the Levites. Or, when we do think of individuals, we think only of the big whigs: David, John the Baptist, or Paul. But what about the Loises and Eunices of the Bible (see II Timothy 1:5)? Even “insignificant” people have profound impacts in God’s plan of redemption. No one knows the names of the pit crew members (unless you are a fan of Nascar), but without them the racers would never be known. Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals, many of whom we will never really know, in His plan of redemption. What is your part in this plan? Perhaps you have thought your own life too common to make any significant impact in God’s work of redemption. Take encouragement from the genealogies. They show us that God works with individuals like you and like me.

Genealogies teach us that God works in the mundane

The second reason genealogies are in the Bible, though not second in order or significance, is that they teach us that God works in the mundane. Now, don’t get me wrong, the birth of the child is a miracle. Besides my salvation and marriage, the most exciting moments in my life we’re meeting three of our four children. There is nothing mundane about the birth of a precious baby. At the same time, however, it is mundane, at least in the broad sense. Parents have children, those children grow up, get married, and have children. It is mundane. Genealogies are not unlike this. After the tenth “And (insert name you cannot pronounce) begat (insert second but equally un-pronounceable name)…” you realize just how mundane genealogies truly are. The glaze over your eyes and the blank stare bring you back to fourth grade. But an amazing truth lies underneath the common experiences of life: God works in them. Have you ever stopped and considered that for rough thirty years Jesus did the mundane elements of life? He would wake up, eat, work, come home, attend synagogue, and repeat. Day after day. Year after year. Yet, this was part of God’s redemptive plan to save countless numbers of people. Genealogies are an expression of God’s work in the mundane. How do you view the mundane of life? Did you ever stop to consider that the mundane of life my be God’s way of using you in His plan of redemption?

Genealogies teach us humility

The final reason genealogies are in the Bible is to teach us humility. There are several ways this is observed. First, it shows us some of the great people of the Bible and some of the worst. It’s The Incredibles and the Malcoms in the Middles thrown together. It’s the Uncle Bobs the mean grannies. Our humility comes from the fact that God uses both. Second, genealogies teach us humility because it shows us that it is not all about us. We come, and we go. We do not live for ever. But God’s work does not stop with us. It goes on and will go on. Does that not humble us?

Conclusion

Let’s face it: genealogies are not the most exciting part of our Scripture reading. They can be a little boring. But, if we take the time to consider a few reasons God gave them to us, it may, like the redemption of sinners by the grace of God, transform something boring into a reminder of God’s Grace.

Rags to Riches: How Jesus’s Incarnation Changes Us

John Calvin, in his massive work Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge), describes the glorious exchange wrought by the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

I am guilty of not meditating on the wonders of the incarnation. The thought that God became man is simply astounding, and yet I do not think about it nearly enough. In my reading of Calvin’s Institutes, I came across this comparison of what we gained and what Jesus loss. It is a thought that draws my mind into deeper meditation and appreciation of Christ’s work in becoming man.

Calvin paints this exquisite picture,

This is the wondrous exchange made by his boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness. (896-897)

Christian, are you discouraged? Think about Jesus. I end with Paul’s thoughts, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21, ESV)

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Gurnall asks the question, “If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?” (37)

Gurnall, in his second response, delivers the following encouragement:

Christian, candidly interpret God’s dealings with thee….Now take heed of charging God foolishly, as if God were not what he promiseth; this were to give that to Satan which he is all this while gaping for. It is more becoming the dutiful disposition of a child, when he hath not presently what he writes for to his father, to say, My father is wiser than I. His wisdom will prompt him what and when to send to me, and his fatherly affections to me his child will neither suffer him to deny anything that is good, or slip the time that is seasonable. Christian, thy heavenly Father hath gracious ends that hold his hand at present, or else thou hadst ere this heard from him. (39)

What gloriously encouraging words! I am sure that we have all been at a point in our lives in which it seems as if heaven has been emptied of God’s presence. The pain can become so overwhelming that the internal screams seem to drown out any semblance of the comfort of God.

Perhaps we find ourselves in the same predicament as Job. Job says, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3, ESV) He later declares, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him,  he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.” (Job 23:8-9, ESV)

God begins to speak to Job concerning His might, wisdom, and grandeur. (Job 38-41) God never offers the reasons why Job experienced the sufferings he endured. Many times, we are not privy to the reasons why God allows us to suffer. But before we begin to question God or doubt His goodness, let us heed Gurnall’s advice and trust our Heavenly Father.

Catch up on our series below:

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

How To Worship Reverently

How do we worship? Does it matter how?

I am slowly working my way through In Reverence and Awe. It has been superb. Every chapter brings me to the truth that God is a glorious, holy God before Whom I should fall in worship and adoration. I am reminded, on almost every page, that I am a wicked sinner deserving at every moment to be cast into hell for eternity. Thankfully, I am also reminded that Jesus bore God’s righteous indignation and saved me forever.

As the name implies, Hart and Muether discuss worship throughout the book. In chapter eight, the two enumerate on the thought “Worship with Godly Fear.” So, according to the authors, how should we worship?

D. G. Hart and John R. Muether write,

“The joy we experience in contemplating and worshiping the risen Savior is an emotion that is always tinged with sobriety and humility. It is not the high-fiving ecstasy of fans who have just seen their team win the national championship. Nor is it the celebration of a job promotion. It is a joy that recognizes not only the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, but also our own complicity, because our sin, in his pain and death. When we contemplate the suffering of Christ we come in humility, restraining sinful impulses, and we embrace a bleeding Savior as the fountain of our comfort.” (Hart and Muether, 128)

There is a beauty in this type of worship. It is God-honoring, for it does not treat God lightly. Truly He is immanent (or close). However, we must never forget that He is transcendent as well. He is, as Isaiah describes, “One who is high and lifted up, who inhavits eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15, ESV).

We take too causal an approach to the Holy One of Israel. Hart and Muether argue along the same lines as does the author of Hebrews. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29, ESV).

How do we worship? With reverence and awe.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash

Creation Meets the Christian

It is currently that wonderful time of the year where the wind becomes chilly, the sky deepens in its blueness, and the leaves of the trees become a wonderful display of the variety found all over creation. It is the time of pumpkin spice, of warmly, welcoming fires, and the renewed joy of drinking coffee. It is a time to look upon the changes of the season and reflect on the changes that come to us all.

One of my favorite aspects of fall is the change of leaves. The brilliant reds and the flashy yellows, the vibrant greens and burnt oranges, they all present a certain joy in simply beholding them. The trees range in sizes, some just a few feet in height, others towering above everything around them. Just as the ant can provide us with instruction (Proverbs 6:6-8), so too, the trees which paint our fall landscapes with breathtaking beauty can also take us under their wings and help us grow in our faith.

Sanctification is often view in an academic and intellectual manner.[1] Sanctification, as John MacArthur helpfully defines, is “the believer’s growth in spiritual maturity, practical holiness, and Christlikeness through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit (as He applies biblical truth to the hearts of His saints).”[2]

You may ask, “What does sanctification have to do with fall, or trees?” That is an excellent question! During this time of the year, I find myself constantly looking at the trees and their leaves. While engaged in the beauty of creation, I remembered a quote I previously heard, “When God wants to make an oak, he takes a hundred years, but when he wants to make a squash, he takes six months.”[3] The massive spread of the ancient oak provides shade during the summers, protection during the storms, and safety for the squirrels and birds. That same oak also provides a glimpse into the sanctification process.

Think about how long it takes for the tiny sapling to grow into the colossal hardwood. Years past, seasons come and go, children are born and grow up and have their own children. Sanctification is similar. Paul discusses this process in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”[4] Get that? We are being transformed. It is a process. Just as the oak takes years to grow, so too the Christian takes years to become more like Jesus (see 1 John 3:2).

I think there are two helpful truths from this:

  1. Do not despise the process!
  2. Brothers and sisters, we all get discouraged with our constant failures. They are daily reminders of our sinfulness, of the infiltration of the world into the very fibers of our beings. The constant and unstoppable war between our flesh and the Spirit is exhausting. It left Paul asking, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[5] Have we not all struggled with wanting to do right but failing? Take heart! Our sanctification, our becoming like Christ is a process. It is grueling, at times. Let the trees encourage you, because just as it takes time for them to grow, so too it takes time for us to grow. But there is a delightful difference between the oak and the Christian. A horrible hurricane can demolish the tree. Nothing can prevent the Christian. Thanks be to God, because “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[6] Therefore, do not despise the process!
  3. Learn from your failures.
  4. While our failures are sin and must be confessed (1 John 1:9), we can still learn from them. One of my favorite authors, Thomas Brooks, writes on this thought, “Ah! you lamenting souls, that spend your days in sighing and groaning under the sense and burden of your sins, why do you deal so unkindly with God, and so injuriously with your own souls, as not to cast an eye upon those precious promises of remission of sin which may bear up and refresh your spirits in the darkest night, and under the heaviest burden of sin?”[7]Brooks later offers reasons for the constant battle of sin. He writes, “…partly to keep them humble and low in their own eyes; and partly to put them upon the use of all divine helps, whereby sin may be subdued and mortified; and partly, that they may live upon Christ for the perfecting the work of sanctification; and partly, to wean them from things below, and to make them heart-sick of their absence from Christ, and to maintain in them bowels of compassion towards others that are subject to the same infirmities with them; and that they may distinguish between a state of grace and a state of glory, and that heaven bay be more sweet to them in the close.”[8]As we approach to Thanksgiving, spend time in prayer on these thoughts, especially those of Thomas Brooks. Do not be discouraged by the process, stay faithful to the spiritual disciplines! Contrary to our “have-it-now” society, our progressive sanctification (becoming more like Jesus) takes time. Look to the oak, and meditate on it. Finally, learn from your failures. Let each sin point you to the Savior. Let each mistake cause you to marvel as His magnificent grace. Let each heart break cause you to long for the wonders of heaven.

Remember Strong’s words, “When God wants to make an oak, he takes a hundred years, but when he wants to make a squash, he takes six months.”[9]

[1] A perusal of many systematic theologies will provide ample proof for this. See, for example, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible has this, “Term meaning being made holy, or purified, it is used broadly of the whole Christian experience, though most theologians prefer to use it in a restricted sense to distinguish it from related terms, such as regeneration, justification, and glorification.” Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Sanctification.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1898.

[2] John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2013), 56.

[3] Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium and Commonplace Book Designed for the Use of Theological Students (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1909), 871.

[4] ESV

[5] Romans 7:24, ESV.

[6] Philippians 1:6, ESV.

[7] Thomas Brooks, The Works of Thomas Brooks: Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), 93.

[8] Brooks, Works of Thomas Brooks, 94.

[9] Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium and Commonplace Book Designed for the Use of Theological Students (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1909), 871.

Photo by Roman Averin on Unsplash

Cotton Mather: Directions For A Candidate Of The Ministry

This month I celebrated my 34th birthday. My in-laws gave me four books for my birthday. They have been tremendous blessings already!

The first of the four that I read was Cotton Mather’s Directions For A Candidate of the Ministry, edited by Nate Pickowicz.

The first time I ever heard this book mentioned was in a message by John MacArthur on 1 Timothy. He quotes, at length, part of the introduction to the book written by John Ryland. The quote changed my perspective on the gloriousness of the pastoral ministry and the remarkable privilege God has given pastors all over the world.

Ryland describes the wonders when he writes,

“The office of the Christian Ministry, rightly understood, is he most honorable and important that nay man in the whole world can sustain; and it will be one of the wonders and employments of eternity, to consider the reasons, why the wisdom and goodness of God assigned this office to imperfect and guilty man!” (Mather, 23)

Brother pastors, do you feel the enormous weight that falls upon our shoulders? Have you considered the remarkable wonder that God called us, sinful though we are, to be His spokesmen?

Not only is the calling remarkable, but the work of the pastor is unrivaled. Ryland continues,

“The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher are: to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men; to display in the most lively colors, and to proclaim in the clearest language, the wonderful perfections, offices, and grace of the Son of God; and to attract the souls of men into a state of everlasting friendship with Him.” (Mather, 23-24)

When MacArthur read this quote, I was weeping. That God should call me to such a high and lofty office is beyond my ability to comprehend. Were it not for His salvation and sanctification, I would immediately run from the task. Yet, I was compelled to read more of Cotton Mather’s work. If the introduction to the book is this profound and soul-stirring, what would the rest do?

I began searching for the work and came up disappointed. I had failed through numerous searches. I gave up. Through the course of events I began receiving a catalog from Reformation and Heritage Books. In that magazine I saw many books that I would love to digest. One thing led to another, and I eventually found Mather’s book! I could not believe it. So, when my mother-in-law asked for birthday ideas, I immediately passed this along.

The book exceeded all my expectations. It would be an exaggeration to say every page was gold, but it would not be too far off to say that at least every other page is gold.

I do not want to offer a full review, but I do want to highlight a few of the points that stirred my affections for God and excited my heart for the work.

Cotton’s second chapter is titled, “The True End of Life.” The true end of life, as biblically stated, is to glorify God. I have read a dozen books or so on ministry, and few if any begin with the glory of God.[1] Mather’s work builds off the wonderful privilege of human beings to glorify their Creator. He prays,

“May my life be such a continual homage to the Glorious GOD, as He may through His Christ look down with delight upon.” (Mather, 42)

He offers several questions with which the minister may poke and prod his own heart and soul on pages 48-51. I am to glorify God in my reading, my exegetical work, my prayers, my visits, etc. There is nothing more essential to do than to glorify God. It is, as the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “the whole duty of man.”

The rest of the book builds from this theological foundation, offering practical advice on reading, studying, language acquisition and retention, how to read Scripture, how to read works of theology, personal health and well being, and even general rules with which to govern one’s life.

I recommend this book heartily. As of yet, it is one of the most profound works on the office of the minister that I have read. Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is on the same field in terms of sheer brilliance and digestibility. If you are a minister, purchase this gem and live it out. If you know of a pastor, buy this book for them. It will be a blessing to their soul, and will only provide you richer foods upon which you will eagerly dine.

No matter what you do, may God be glorified!

[1] One exception would be John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. The second chapter addresses God’s glory.

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

It has been a while since last we visited Gurnall’s exposition on Ephesians 6:10-20.

You can check out the previous posts here and here.

We pick up in verse ten, where Paul writes, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

We are now on page 25 of Gurnall’s work, and an incredible thought came from his pen. He is working with “An amplification of the direction, ‘and in the power of his might’”. (Gurnall, 24) His goal is to present several doctrinal implications and their respective outflow in the life of the believer. It is wonderful. In his exposition, however, he develops an idea that I shall reproduce in its entirety:

As a father in rugged way gives his child his arm to lay old by, so doth God usually reach forth his almighty power for his saints to exercise their faith on, [as He did for] Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faith God tried above most of his saints before or since, for not one of those great things which were promised to them did they live to see performed in their days. And how doth God make known himself to them for their support, but by displaying this attribute? ‘I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty,’ Ex. vi. 3.This was all they had to keep house with all their days: with which they lived comfortably, and died triumphantly, bequeathing the promise to their children, not doubting, because God Almighty had promised, of the performance. (Gurnall, 25)

Whoa! I suggest you read and reread that again. Though the language is archaic, its point is nonetheless potent. These men lived incredible lives of faith on the Word of God. How wonderfully limited this Word was! And yet, the faith was not in the amount or clarity of words, but in the One Who is the Word. I was gripped by two thoughts:

  1. If these men were able to accept the revelation given by God, though limited in comparison to today, how can I speak otherwise.By this I mean, how can I question God with the vast amount of revelation we have in the Scriptures? Though by human nature I may seek more knowledge, greater clarification, or understanding to God’s work in the world, this should never leave me frustrated or angry with God. I must rejoice in the vast amount of revelation that I so often take for granted.
  2. Secondly, do I enjoy the blessings of God more than the God of the blessings? I think this happens to everyone. It is easy to enjoy the creaturely blessings with which God blesses us. While working through Gurnall’s work I have also been reading Ephesians almost daily. The opening paragraph speaks of the spiritual blessings believers have in Christ. Paul, however, opens with the focus on God. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV) God, let my focus remain on You and You alone!

I close with the words of a prayer titled Longings After God, from Banner of Truth’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

My Dear Lord,

I can but tell thee that thou knowest

               I long for nothing by thyself

               Nothing but holiness

               Nothing but union with thy will.

Thou has given me these desires,

               And thou alone canst give me the thing desired.

My soul longs for communion with thee,

               For mortification of indwelling corruption,

                              Especially spiritual pride.

How precious it is

               To have a tender sense and clear apprehension

                              Of the mystery of godliness,

                              Of true holiness!

What a blessedness to be like thee

               As much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator!

Lord, give me more of thy likeness;

Enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness:

Engage me to live more for thee.

Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences,

               And when I feel at ease after sweet communings,

               Teach me it is far too little I know and do.

Blessed Lord,

               Let me climb up near to thee,

               And love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with them

               And pant for deliverance from the body of sin,

               For my heart is wandering and lifeless,

               And my soul mourns to think

                              It should ever lose sight of its beloved.

Wrap my life in divine love,

               And keep me ever desiring thee,

Always humble and resigned to thy will,

               More fixed on thyself,

               That I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.

 

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

We continue our guided tour through Ephesians 6:10-20 with William Gurnall. I have been blessed, encouraged, and convicted by Gurnall’s exposition. I’m only 17 pages in!

William Gurnall wrote this about Jesus, encouraging believers to “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”

“For prowess, none to compare with him: he never turned his head from danger: no, not when hell’s malice and heaven’s justice appeared in field against him; knowing all that should come upon him, [he] went forth and said, ‘Whom seek ye?’ Jn. xviii. 4. For success insuperable: he never lost battle even when he lost his life: he won the field, carrying the spoils thereof in the triumphant chariot of his ascension, to heaven with him: where he makes an open show of them to the unspeakable joy of saints and angels.” (16-17)

These are so powerful! I especially love, “when hell’s malice and heaven’s justice appeared in field against him; knowing all that should come upon him, [he] went forth and said, ‘Whom seek ye?’ Jn. xviii. 4.” Our Savior, the Captain of our faith (Hebrews 2:10), is truly the Mighty God.