28 June 2012

On a Search and Destroy Mission with John Owen

John Owen
Wise advice on sin from one who has gone on before us...

We need to recognize the enemy we are dealing with and resolve that it is to be destroyed by all means possible.


We need to be intimately acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages and occasions which give lust its success. This is how men deal with their enemies. They search out their plans, ponder their goals, and consider how and by  what means they have prevailed over them in the past. Then they can be defeated. ...

Even when lust is not enticing and seducing, they consider, while at leisure, 'This is still our enemy; this is his way and his methods, these are his advantages, this is way the way he has prevailed, and he will do this, if he is no prevented.' ...

One of the choicest and most important parts of spiritual wisdom is to find out the subtleties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin; to consider where its greatest strength lies - how it uses occasions, opportunities, and temptations to gain an advantage. From The Mortification of Sin: Abridged and made easy to read by Richard Rushing, Banner of Truth, pgs. 36-37.

27 June 2012

Eight Ways to Avoid Wandering Thoughts During Prayer

Thomas Manton
Thomas Manton offers eight ways to avoid wandering thoughts during prayer:

1. We must wait upon Him for the power of His grace
2. Meditate on the greatness of God
3. Seek to put down the lusts that are likely to draw your minds away
4. Prepare for prayer
5. Focus on your purpose
6. Develop spiritual affections and you will find it more enjoyable to talk with God
7. Consider the weight of the responsibility
8. Promote solemn meditation on the things of God within you heart*

It is far too easy for us to fall into the trap of allowing our minds to wander during prayer. Try as we will, our minds continue to drift until we move on to the next duty of the day. Perhaps the above suggestions can help us in our prayers to the Lord.

*Adapted from Voices From the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, Banner of Truth, page 191.

26 June 2012

Book Review: How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home

How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home is one for everyone’s bookshelf. Don’t borrow it – buy it. Read it, digest it, meditate on it and refer back to it often. Author Derek Thomas does a marvelous job walking us through “the best chapter in the Bible,” Romans 8.

Perhaps nowhere else in Scripture do we have such a clear explanation of the Gospel as we find in the first chapters of Romans culminating in chapter 8.  The book chapters are divided into 11 digestible chunks taken from Romans 8. Thomas winds his way through developing a clear understanding of grace, the work of the Spirit, union with Christ, legalism, killing sin, adoption, our hope in glory and much more. We’re accepted in Christ rather than in our own works. We’re given an understanding of how are lives are to be lived in light of the Gospel and we see the final hope we have in the life here after.

Thomas writes in an easily understandable style meant to convey theological truth with devotional warmth. You’ll enjoy this and will be edified. You’ll see how, indeed, the Gospel brings us all the way home.

22 June 2012

God’s Glory, Man’s Good - Psalm 8

Our Summer Psalms series continues...

    O LORD, our Lord,
        how majestic is your name in all the earth!
    You have set your glory above the heavens.
        Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
    you have established strength because of your foes,
        to still the enemy and the avenger.
    When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
        the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
    what is man that you are mindful of him,
        and the son of man that you care for him?
    Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
        and crowned him with glory and honor.
    You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
        you have put all things under his feet,
    all sheep and oxen,
        and also the beasts of the field,
    the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
        whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
    O LORD, our Lord,
        how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8 ESV)

21 June 2012

Prayer for God Graciously Working in Our Pain

Have you ever felt like this?

   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jer. 29:11
     Heavenly Father, there’s simply no other god as merciful, gracious, and engaged as you. Your forbearance is immeasurable; your kindness is inexhaustible; your plans are irrepressible. We praise you as this day begins, continues and will end.
     When your people received these words of encouragement from Jeremiah, they were in exile in Babylon—a perfect opportunity for feeling bereft, bewildered, even betrayed by you. Yet we know by your own testimony, in this story and many others like it, that when you lead us into difficult seasons, it’s not to punish us but to prosper us. When you send hardships, it’s not to bring us harm, but to give us hope. When you discipline us, it’s because you love us, not because you’re ashamed of us or angry with us (Heb 12:1-13).
     Forgive us when our whining is louder than our worship; when our contempt is more obvious than our contentment; when our fears take precedent over our faith. For you always know exactly what you are doing with your people, and everything else in the world. You know the plans you have for us, individually and corporately. There’s no happenstance in heaven. You don’t make up things as you go along. You’re not a God who reacts out of irritation, but one who always acts out of great affection. There are no coincidences, just providences. “Stuff” doesn’t just happen; sovereignty is always happening.
     Father, this way of thinking would be utter madness if you never sent Jesus—the spin of all spins, delusional at best, demonic at worst. But Jesus is the “yes” to every promise you have made. His life, death, and resurrection are the guarantee of our gospel prosperity, living hope, and glorious future. Apart from Jesus there is only unimaginable hopelessness. Because of Jesus there is joy unspeakable.
     So bring the truth, grace, and power of this gospel into our current situations, into our personal stories of pain, into the brokenness our local churches, and into the needs of our communities.
Turn our sighs into songs, our cynicism into servanthood, and our grumblings into the rumblings of a coming visitation of the Holy Spirit. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and compassionate name. - Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.

18 June 2012

The Four Thousand - Mark 8:1-10

    In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
(Mark 8:1-10 ESV)

17 June 2012

Happy Father's Day

    Listen to your father who gave you life,
        and do not despise your mother when she is old.
(Proverbs 23:22 ESV)

    The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
        he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
(Proverbs 23:24 ESV)

    Hear, O sons, a father's instruction,
        and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
(Proverbs 4:1 ESV)

16 June 2012

Sin, Spirit, Mortification and John Owen

John Owen
'But how does the Spirit give us victory?'

By our living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit. As we abound in the graces of the Spirit and walk according to them, the fruits of the Spirit restrict the fruits of the flesh, because the works of the flesh are contrary to the works of the Spirit. This renewing of us by the Holy Spirit, as it is called (Titus 3:5), is one great way of mortification. He cause us to grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in the graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the works of the flesh, and contrary to the thriving of indwelling sin itself.

*From The Mortification of Sin: Abridged and made easy to read by Richard Rushing, Banner of Truth, pg. 19.

15 June 2012

The Godly Man - Psalm 1

Our new series, Summer Psalms, begins this week with The Godly Man, Psalm 1.

    Blessed is the man
        who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
    nor stands in the way of sinners,
        nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
    but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
        and on his law he meditates day and night.
    He is like a tree
        planted by streams of water
    that yields its fruit in its season,
        and its leaf does not wither.
    In all that he does, he prospers.
    The wicked are not so,
        but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
        nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
    for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
        but the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psalm 1 ESV)

14 June 2012

To Be a Better Friend

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me. 2 Tim. 1:16-17

Dear Lord Jesus,
Onesiphorus is just one of many of my brothers and sisters I’ll have to wait till heaven to meet. Knowing you places us in a most amazing family, and like every other family, it’s a broken family filled with broken people; but like no other family, it’s a family with a guaranteed future of whole people and perfect relationships beyond all imaginings (1 Cor. 2:9).

We praise you for paying the supreme price of your life to secure such an glorious forever for us. Until that Day, may the gospel make me much more of a friend like Onesiphorus. Though his name literally means “bringing profit,” he didn’t have to live that way.

Like any of us, he could have been too busy to care—so preoccupied with good things that the best things were left undone. He could have lived a driven life instead of a called life. He could have “given at the office,” but stayed committed to a life of personal peace and affluence—a life of being isolated and not bothered by the needs of others. But instead he was a source of refreshment, and according to Paul, he worked hard at it.

Jesus, make me a much more refreshing person. Fill my heart with your mercy. Give me gospel eyes to see others as you see them. Sensitize my spirit with your Spirit. Free me from working hard just to get my to-do list done, that I might work hard at bringing refreshment and encouragement to others. Forgive me when I get too busy to care about anything more than me.

Lord Jesus, help me aware today of those who simply need a call, to be checked in on, to be remembered. Who needs some reason to hope, motivation to get out of bed, convincing that life is even worth living? It may be at the price of an airline ticket to find them. It may simply be a walk across the street, a drive across town, a face-to-face visit—some small thing that will bring a profit beyond my imagining.

Jesus, you searched hard to find us, and you did. You’ve broken our chains and you’ve borne our shame. May I offer a refreshing taste of your kindness to others today, no matter what their chains are. The only thing that counts today, or any day, is faith expressing itself in love. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and liberating name. - Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition

13 June 2012

Doctrine of Prayer Week 2

Q98: What is prayer?
A98: Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.