Grace Alone

None is so empty of grace as he that thinks he is full.
– Thomas Watson

Grace puts its hand on the boasting mouth, and shuts it once for all.
– Charles Spurgeon

The text says that when the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he loved her. God was saying, ‘I am the real bridegroom. I am the husband of the husbandless. I am the father of the fatherless.’ This is the God who saves by grace. The gods of moralistic religions favor the successful and the overachievers. They are the ones who climb the moral ladder up to heaven. But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into this world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves.
– Tim Keller

Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.
– Jonathan Edwards

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance; cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus Christ.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christians do not practically remember that while we are saved by grace, altogether by grace, so that in the matter of salvation works are altogether excluded; yet that so far as the rewards of grace are concerned, in the world to come, there is an intimate connection between the life of the Christian here and the enjoyment and the glory in the day of Christ’s appearing.
– George Mueller

The Purpose of Ministry

We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39)

Don’t look at the temporary cost of love, and shrink back from confidence in God’s infinitely superior promises. If you shrink back, not only will you lose out on the promises; you will be destroyed.
Hell is at stake in whether we shrink back or persevere. It’s not just the loss of a few extra rewards that hangs in the balance. Hebrews 10:39 says, “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed.” That is eternal judgment.
So, we warn each other: Don’t drift away. Don’t love the world. Don’t start thinking nothing huge is at stake. Fear the terrible prospect of not cherishing the promises of God above the promises of sin. As Hebrews 3:13–14 says, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
But mainly we must focus on the preciousness of the promises and help each other value above all things how great the reward is that Christ has purchased for us. We must say to each other what Hebrews 10:35 says: “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” And then we must help each other see the greatness of the reward.
That is the main task of preaching, and the main purpose of small groups and all the ministries of the church: helping people see the greatness of what Christ has purchased for everyone who will value it above the world. Helping people see it and savor it, so that God’s superior worth shines in their satisfaction and in the sacrifices that come from such a heart.
– John Piper

A Merry Heart

This a true and humorous report that reveals what level of thinking our generation has; just enjoy;

These are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published
by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while the
exchanges were taking place.
______________________________ _
ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
______________________________ ______
ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.
______________________________ _______
ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.
______________________________ ________
ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his
sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
______________________________ ______
ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He’s 20, very close to your IQ.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Your Honor, I need a different attorney. Can I get a
new attorney?
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town, I’m going with male.
______________________________ _______
ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant
to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
______________________________ ________
ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you
performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: ALL of your responses MUST be oral, OK?
What school did you attend?
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 PM.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?
______________________________ ________
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

We all should enjoy a good laugh regularly–a merry heart does good like medicine!

Joy in the Midst of Trials

The Greek term chara appears throughout the New Testament. It is translated by the word joy and refers to an inner feeling of happiness. Holy Scripture refers here to an emotion, a sense of delight and gladness.

Paul declares that he is rejoicing even as he experiences suffering, and that he will continue to rejoice in the future. This is not to say that the presence of sadness in our lives is a moral blemish. The same apostle bears witness to his perpetual sorrow as he contemplates the Jews in their unbelief: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart” (Romans 9:2). It is possible to have joy in our hearts even while there is an undercurrent of sorrow. This is the way it was for the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied that he would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). Yet he also spoke about an inner happiness: “These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11). There was simultaneously joy and sorrow in the heart of Jesus, and we can expect to find the same in our experience too. Joy unmixed with sorrow must await the consummation of the eternal kingdom.

How was Paul able to have joy in his innermost being when he wrote Philippians? He was not a superhuman or a divine person, but simply a man among men, an earthen vessel.The joy Paul experienced was supernatural, generated by God Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Joy is a beautiful manifestation of the moral renewal which the indwelling Holy Spirit produces within the person who is united to Christ by faith. Paul determined to face life’s trials with joy. We must resolve to do the same.

– Mark Lawson

Let us fight bravely against all the trials of this brief life, confident that our Lord will uphold us by his power until we have fully overcome.

– John Calvin

Glorious Truth

What are you really living for? It’s crucial to realize that you either glorify God, or you glorify something or someone else. You’re always making something look big. If you don’t glorify God when you’re involved in a conflict, you inevitably show that someone or something else rules your heart.
– Ken Sande

Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.
– Andrew Murray

Amy Carmichael’s great longing was to have a “single eye” for the glory of God. Whatever might blur the vision God had give her of His work, whatever could distract or deceive or tempt other to seek anything but the Lord Jesus Himself, she tried to eliminate.
– Elisabeth Elliot

Every blossoming flower warns you that it is time to seek the Lord; be not out of tune with nature, but let your heart bud and bloom with holy desires.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon

God is the greatest thing that exists, ever has existed or ever will exist; so for us to glory in anything else would be sin, as there is nothing greater than God, and there is no calling greater than praising God.
– John Piper

Our gifts are very pleasant to Him. He loves to see us lay our time, our talents, our substance on the altar, not for the value of what
we give, but for the sake of the motive from which the gift springs.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon

We ascribe to God. We don’t add to Him.
– John Piper

Delayed Deliverances

Immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. (Acts 16:26)

In this age, God rescues his people from some harm. Not all harm. That’s comforting to know, because otherwise we might conclude from our harm that he has forgotten us or rejected us.
So be encouraged by the simple reminder that in Acts 16:19–24, Paul and Silas were not delivered, but in verses 25–26, they were.
First, no deliverance:

“They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace.” (verse 19)
“The magistrates tore the garments off them.” (verse 22)
They “inflicted many blows upon them.” (verse 23)
The jailer “fastened their feet in the stocks.” (verse 24)

But then, deliverance:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God . . . and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. (verses 25–26)

God could have stepped in sooner. He didn’t. He has his reasons. He loves Paul and Silas.
Question for you: If you plot your life along this continuum of Paul’s initial suffering and later deliverance, where are you? Are you in the stripped-and-beaten stage, or the unshackled, door-flung-open stage?
Both are God’s stages of care for you. He has not left you or forsaken you (Hebrews 13:5).
If you are in the fettered stage, don’t despair. Sing. Freedom is on the way. It is only a matter of time. Even if it comes through death. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

— John Piper

Words for the Wind

Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?” (Job 6:26)

In grief and pain and despair, people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow, when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys, and talk as though that is the only music. They see clouds only, and speak as if there were no sky.

They say, “Where is God?” Or: “There is no use to go on.” Or: “Nothing makes any sense.” Or: “There’s no hope for me.” Or: “If God were good, this couldn’t have happened.”
What shall we do with these words?

Job says that we do not need to reprove them. These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away. There will come a turn in circumstances, and the despairing person will waken from the dark night, and regret hasty words.
Therefore, the point is, let us not spend our time and energy reproving such words. They will be blown away of themselves on the wind. One need not clip the leaves in autumn. It is a wasted effort. They will soon blow off of themselves.

Oh, how quickly we are given to defending God or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind. If we had discernment, we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.

There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by pain and despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real and dark within where they come from. But it is temporary — like a passing infection — real, painful, but not the true person.

So, let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us, against God, or against the truth, are merely for the wind — spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul, not reproving the sore, is the aim of our love.

— John Piper

Doubling Down on Decay

‘You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?’
— James 4:4

In a most insightful blog in The Masculinist, author Aaron Renn takes up the issue of the American evangelical church and why we lack powerful impact in our culture. He writes of positive world Christianity, neutral world Christianity, and negative world Christianity. In the positive world of American Christianity, prior to 1994, the church was seen in a relatively positive light. To be a Christian then was to enhance one’s career or standing in the community. Christians were largely respected. To join an evangelical church or prominently to display a Bible on one’s desk was good for business.

The approach of church ministry then was to address the issues of the day in the church and world in a direct , sometimes highly combatative manner. It was during these years that the seeker sensitive approach to ministry (think Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church) was embraced by so many, largely because there was a basic friendliness by the world toward Christianity.

Some of the major players in the days of the positive view of the church were Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. Both men spoke directly, boldly, and passionately about the moral and political issues of their day. When Colorado Senator, Gary Hart, running for the Democratic nomination for President in 1988, was reported by the Miami Herald of cavorting with a young woman named Donna Rice on a yacht, the outcry was so great that Hart was forced to drop out of the race.

From 1994 to 2014, however, the American evangelical church was viewed in a neutral light. To be a Christian was more of a neutral attribute. It may not help your career but it certainly wouldn’t hurt it either. The neutral world of Christianity gave rise to urban church types, what we might call hipsters. They said that they were apolitical but most leaned left in their political viewpoint. These pastors and churches sought to avoid highlighting any social or political issue which would bring Christianity into conflict with the world Consequently most of these pastors had no trouble championing opposition to racism and bigotry or sex trafficking, but were reluctant to speak on the horrors of abortion. Renn observes that Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, perfectly fits this description.

From 2014 to the present, however, a new view of the church has arisen. We now find ourselves in a negative view of Christianity. Being a Christian today, especially in larger, more hip cities, is usually a huge social negative. Try expressing your opposition to same sex unions in the board room and see where that takes you. While being a Christian in the positive church era was an enhancement of one’s career; and while being a Christian in a neutral view of the church may not help someone, it certainly would not hurt him either; we now have the negative view of the church where people openly and violently reject Biblical views on marriage, child rearing, business, law, economics, and politics.

To summarize — if the positive church world celebrated traditional norms on marriage, family, church, and government; and the neutral church tolerated these Biblical norms; now the negative church world repudiates them. We have moved from celebration to toleration to repudiation. And those church leaders who were loved by the neutral view of Christianity are now facing repudiation by those who embrace the negative view of Christianity. Tim Keller, for example, was recently uninvited from giving lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary because he embraces traditional marriage between one man and one woman.

Well, with these things in mind, what shall we do to reach our western world where so many are violently, militantly opposed to Christianity? It seems that so many are like sharks in the water which smell blood. They are in a feeding frenzy.

To retreat, as though we are in exile, is not the answer. Our model is always Jesus and the apostles. Though living and proclaiming the truth in the days of both meant that those loving righteousness were in a severe minority, Jesus and Paul never retreated. They constantly moved forward preaching the kingdom of God. It does not mean exchanging evangelism and discipleship for political action on the right. To engage in political process is our right and political ction on the right. To engage in the political process is our right and duty and we ought to follow Biblical norms when doing so, but these efforts must never supersede preaching the gospel of grace to all, regardless of their political, moral, or spiritual positions on anything. But it also does not mean accommodation with the left on issues like economics, government, same sex unions, abortion, or transgenderism. The more ‘progressive’ pastors continue to act like they still live in the neutral world of Christianity, then the more they will move to the left, eventually falling into theological apostasy.

Well then, what is the answer? We must double down on decay. We must be bold, intentional, fearless, considering friendship with the world as hostility towards God. We are not to sccumb to the harlotry of desiring the praise of men. Paul gloried in the cross of Christ. The world was crucified to him. He willingly embraced his stature before men — a slave, a spectacle, a fool, the scum of the earth and the dregs of all things. Give up the debilitating Siren song — the smile of man toward what we say or do.

More than ever, we must pray, living out the practical implications of Calvinism — that no one understands, no one seeks for God, none are righteous; and unless God by His sheer mercy and grace moves on people to convict them and regenerate them, then there is no hope at all of societal change orimpact. We need open air preaching more than ever. Open air preachers need to double down. We need more, not less of them. We need people moving out of their comfort zones, from behind the battle lines of our churches and coffee shops, and take to the streets where lost people live, work, play, and die. We need real men who are steadfast, immovable, who are always aboutnding in the work of the Lord. We need evangelists and preachers of every kind who are willing to be fools for Jesus’ sake, who are willing to suffer ridicule, rejection, and accusation in order to reach out to those who are hopelessly lost without Jesus, who are living without God in this world , and who, unless God intervenes in sheer mercy, have only the prospect of a fathomless, shoreless, graceless eternity in the lake of fire, which is the second death.

– Al Baker

All is Mercy

It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:16)

Let us make crystal clear at the beginning of the year that all we will get from God this year, as believers in Jesus, is mercy. Whatever pleasures or pains come our way will all be mercy.

This is why Christ came into the world: “in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:9). We were born again “according to his great mercy” (1 Peter 1:3). We pray daily “that we may receive mercy” (Hebrews 4:16); and we are now “waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:21). If any Christian proves trustworthy, it is “by the Lord’s mercy [he] is trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 7:25).

In Luke 17:5–6, the apostles plead with the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And Jesus says, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” In other words, the issue in our Christian life and ministry is not the strength or quantity of our faith, because that is not what uproots trees. God does. Therefore, the smallest faith that truly connects us with Christ will engage enough of his power for all you need.
But what about the times that you successfully obey the Lord? Does your obedience move you out of the category of supplicant of mercy? Jesus gives the answer in the following verses of Luke 17:7–10.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Therefore, I conclude, the fullest obedience and the smallest faith obtain the same thing from God: mercy. A mere mustard seed of faith taps into the mercy of God’s tree-moving power. And flawless obedience leaves us utterly dependent on mercy.
The point is this: Whatever the timing or form of God’s mercy, we never rise above the status of beneficiaries of mercy. We are always utterly dependent on what we do not deserve.

Therefore let us humble ourselves and rejoice and “glorify God for his mercy!”
– John Piper

Short Prayers

Prayer does not have to be eloquent; in fact, the Bible seems to teach the opposite, both in precept and in example. Psalm 17 is a wonderful example of short, ejaculatory prayers, where the Psalmist simply asks God to act with brief descriptive phrases.

God does not need our information to fill Him in on any emergency situation; He does not need our commentary to enlighten Him, our counsel to direct Him, or our wisdom to help Him. Let’s just be laying hold of Him for His help in time of need. Useless words or an over-abundant amount of words often cloud the simplify and reality of prayer. We have all probably felt the tension of some people praying with such detail, that one gets the feeling that 90% of the prayer is giving God information, educating Him about the details that He apparently doesn’t have.

Why do that? “Lord, Thou knowest.” That is all that is truly needed. Get down to business–cut to the chase. The Psalmist does this, when he gets down to asking what he desires for the Lord to actually do. How much of our praying is informing God needlessly and how much is actually asking Him to move and work? Hear the Psalmist–

“Give ear” (vs. 1) Just hear me, Lord; give me your attention. God is not hard of hearing or inattentive, but rather expressing this in prayer is actually the Psalmist’s help in focusing on the reality that God is hearing. It often quickens faith to consciously express, “Lord, hear me now; give ear, O Lord; I desire you to hear and answer.”

“Keep me” (vs. 8) An all-encompassing prayer; what all would this imply or include? The Psalmist doesn’t even know; it covers much and its application is far-reaching. But God knows how to apply such a prayer in whatever way is truly needed. “Keep me, Lord.”

“Hide me” (vs. 8) Hide me from what? From whatever I need to be hid from; God knows what that is; from sin, from evil men, from the way of the enemy, from traps, from what ails me spiritually, from what is not good for me. Hide me safe in that shelter of rest, hide me under the shadow of Thy wings. Hiding is the act of shielding and protecting. God is a great hiding place.

“Arise, O Lord” (vs. 13) Lord, it seems it is time for You to act. Arise, move, speak, work, intervene, and save. When God arises, anything can happen–an act of judgment or an act of deliverance and salvation. But when He arises, things always happen. He knows what He will do when He responds to the cries of one of HIs children–“Arise!”

“Deliver” (vs. 13) Deliver my life, deliver her, deliver him, deliver them, deliver our church from the enemy’s working; O, God, deliver us! What all must happen for deliverance to come? How can it happen and what will it take? It doesn’t matter; that is not for us to know. What is for us to know that we can and should call out for deliverance. Only God is the true Deliverer. David often called God his deliverer. David’s God is our God.

When will we actually believe that God knows our hearts, knows the situation, knows what needs to be done, and doesn’t need us to school him about everything? He knows, He loves, He is hearing us, He knows exactly how, when, and where to apply our praying in its answer. Our knowledge is not ultimately important at all for the answer to come. Our asking is what is important.

Short prayers are marvelous, often the most powerful prayers. Use them today in whatever way comes to mind; It is a glorious reality to realize that we don’t have to know all it would mean for God to give ear or keep or hide us, or to arise and deliver; let’s stop informing God with an over-abundance of details, and increase our humble importunity in pleading with Him through simplicity and faith. He hears when we call, even when it is short and sweet praying; in fact, especially when it is short and sweet praying.

– Mack Tomlinson