31 August 2012

Links to Study the Letter to the Ephesians

As we began our study of Ephesians this week it is a good time to post some valuable links to enhance our study.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library - More links than you can shake a stick at.

Amazon - Over 5k Hardcover, paperback and Kindle books.

Monergism - Loads of helpful stuff including sermon MP3's.

Reformed.org - Lots O' Links, just enter "Ephesians" in the search box.

The Gospel Coalition - Numerous links to sermons and written works.

Theological  Commons - More good resources.

Photo credit

29 August 2012

Calvin on Psalm 32:11

    Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
        and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalm 32:11 ESV)

We spend too much time not being glad in Jehovah to miss the import of this encouraging verse. Calvin explains...

Be glad in Jehovah. After teaching how ready and accessible true happiness is to all the godly, David, with much reason, exhorts them to gladness. He commands them to rejoice in the Lord, as if he had said, There is nothing to prevent them from assuring themselves of God’s favor, seeing he so liberally and so kindly offers to be reconciled to them. In the meantime, we may observe that this is the incomparable fruit of faith which Paul likewise commends, namely, when the consciences of the godly being quiet and cheerful, enjoy peace and spiritual joy. Wherever faith is lively, this holy rejoicing will follow. But since the world’s own impiety prevents it from participating in this joy, David, therefore, addresses the righteous alone, whom he denominates the upright in heart, to teach us that the external appearance of righteousness which pleases men is of no avail in the sight of God. But how does he call those righteous, whose whole happiness consists in the free mercy of God not imputing their sins to them? I answer, that none others are received into favor but those who are dissatisfied with themselves for their sins, and repent with their whole heart; not that this repentance merits pardon, but because faith can never be separated from the spirit of regeneration. When they have begun to devote themselves to God, he accepts the upright disposition of their hearts equally as if it were pure and perfect; for faith not only reconciles a man to God, but also sanctifies whatever is imperfect in him, so that by the free grace of God, he becomes righteous who could never have obtained so great a blessing by any merit of his own.

Calvin, John (2009-06-03). Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1 - Enhanced Version (Calvin's Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 9824-9835). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.

28 August 2012

Pergamum - Revelation 2:12-17

    “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: 
‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
    “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
    (Revelation 2:12-17 ESV)

Sketch of Ancient Pergamum

26 August 2012

Have You Lost Your Perspective?

    When my soul was embittered,
        when I was pricked in heart,
    I was brutish and ignorant;
        I was like a beast toward you.
    Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
        you hold my right hand.
    You guide me with your counsel,
        and afterward you will receive me to glory.
    Whom have I in heaven but you?
        And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:21-26 ESV)

      Dear Father, the older I get, the more I’ve come to appreciate the many voices you’re recorded in your Word. There’s no moment, melancholy, mania, or madness we experience in life that you haven’t anticipated and validated. Today I praise you for writing into Israel’s hymnal a song for the bitter and “beastly”—those who have moved into the temporary insanity of forgetting the gospel.
     Indeed, there are times when I forget that I’m living in a fallen world with a fragile heart among other foolish people just like me; what’s worse, I experientially forget how much you care for me, my standing in grace and your Big Story of redemption. My expectations of you, and of others, become more connected to la-la land than Canaan Land. When this happens, I become just like the psalmist Asaph—a thrower of pity parties, little ones and bigger ones.
     That you tolerate us in those times of disconnect is extraordinary. That you still treasure us when we lose touch with gospel sanity is astonishing. When we shake a fist at you, your grasp of grace is all the tighter. When we complain about a stony, silent heaven, you’re actively, quietly guiding our every footstep. When we try to ignore or run away from you, you’re just as resolved to end our journey in the fullness of your presence and joy.
     It melts my iceberg, jagged-edged heart… that’s what such love does. Continue the thaw. I’m not just the biggest loser when I pitch my tent in the land of disconnected heart; I’m also a thief, robbing a lot of people who are dear to me.
     Restore to me the full enjoyment of your free and full salvation in Jesus, dear Father. Rescue me from my self-centered, demanding heart. Let me live and love like a gentle, grace-full man. Life in this world is just too short to waste on being pouty and petty. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ loving and faithful name. - Scotty Smith

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

25 August 2012

The Canon Revisited - Michael Kruger

Its a great day to purchase Michael Kruger's Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Only $2.49 today here. To add to your studies here's a link to to four lectures by the author on the canon.

24 August 2012

Doctrine of Prayer Week 8

This is our final study of the Doctrine of Prayer. Please join us as we begin a study of the book of Ephesians  next week.

22 August 2012

His Wondrous Works - Summer Psalms - Psalm 111

     Praise the LORD!
    I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
        in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
    Great are the works of the LORD,
        studied by all who delight in them.
    Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
        and his righteousness endures forever.
    He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
        the LORD is gracious and merciful.
    He provides food for those who fear him;
        he remembers his covenant forever.
    He has shown his people the power of his works,
        in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
    The works of his hands are faithful and just;
        all his precepts are trustworthy;
    they are established forever and ever,
        to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
    He sent redemption to his people;
        he has commanded his covenant forever.
        Holy and awesome is his name!
    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
        all those who practice it have a good understanding.
        His praise endures forever!
(Psalm 111 ESV)

21 August 2012

Overcoming Discouragements

Richard Sibbes
Suffering brings discouragements, because of our impatience. "Alas!'. we lament, "I shall never get through such a trial.' But if God brings into the trial he will be with us in the trial, and at length bring us out, more refined. We shall lose nothing but dross (Zech. 13:9). From our own strength we cannot bear the least trouble, but by the Spirit's assistance we can bear the greatest. The Spirit will add his shoulders to help us to bear our infirmities. The Lord will give us His hand to heave us up (Psa. 37:24). 'Ye have heard of the patience of Job,' says James (James 5:11). We have heard of his impatience too, but it pleased God mercifully to overlook that. It yields us comfort also in desolate conditions, such as contagious sicknesses and the like, in which we are more immediately under God's hand, that then Christ has a throne of mercy at our bedside and numbers our tears and groans. (Taken from The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes, Banner of Truth, pgs. 54-55.)

20 August 2012

Smyrna - Revelation 2:8-11

Our series on the Churches in Revelation continues this week with Smyrna.

Ruins of the Agora at Smyrna

     “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 
‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
    “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
    (Revelation 2:8-11 ESV)

17 August 2012

Working Out Salvation - Philippians 2:12-13

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

16 August 2012

Prayer and Praise

    Praise the LORD!
    For it is good to sing praises to our God;
        for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
(Psalm 147:1 ESV)

God is praiseworthy. Getting that fact under our skin is not as easy as we might think. Self-centered praying (which is a form of idolatry) fails to appreciate that our purpose here on earth is to praise our Creator and Redeemer. Listen to the psalmist as he extols the praiseworthiness of God again and again. The Psalter used to be the basic diet for Christians.Christians sang psalms around the dining room table and in church services on Sunday. Subliminally, the God-centered praise of the book of Psalms became the language of prayer. Since psalm-singing has waned, the rich God-exalting praise that the Psalter represents has waned as well. - Taken from Tabletalk from Ligonier Ministries, April 2012 issue, by Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas.

Wise words for us all to consider. We all succumb to self-centered praying because we are all naturally self-centered. Let us therefore begin and focus our prayers on magnifying our great God. May we praise Him for the gospel and may the Spirit sanctify our prayers.

Tabletalk is valuable daily resource for study and devotions. You can order yours here.

14 August 2012

Losing the Sense of God's Presence

An extremely helpful post on losing the sense of God's presence can be found here at the Gospel Coalition. Ryan Kelly and Mark Mellinger discuss this sensitive issue and what one can do when passing through this difficult stage of life. It is a very helpful 12 minute audio whether you are sensing this yourself or perhaps just feeling down. The book mentioned, Spiritual Desertion, is available at Amazon.

    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation and my God.
                                          (Psalm 42:11 ESV)

Numerous valuable resources on depression and spiritual desertion can be found at the Desert Springs Church blog.

13 August 2012

Ephesus - Revelation 2:1-7

We're taking a short break from our exposition of the Gospel of Mark for a seven week series on the Seven Churches in Revelation. We begin this week with Ephesus.

    “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
    “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
(Revelation 2:1-7 ESV)

Artemis Temple Ruins

11 August 2012

Spiritual Depression in the Psalms - John Piper

A simply wonderful and moving sermon on the issue of spiritual depression.

Sinclair Ferguson and Archibald Alexander

Sinclair Ferguson
What do Sinclair Ferguson and Archibald Alexander have in common? A vast amount of resources of both have been generously posted for us at Feeding on Christ. Thanks to Nick Batzig and John Hendrix who brought all this together. We are grateful.

Archibald Alexander
Links to Alexander's bio can be found here and Ferguson's here. We can learn much from both men. Each has written volumes and much of Ferguson's preaching we have recorded for us. Enjoy the links and be sure to share them.

10 August 2012

Being filled with the Spirit and being filled with God’s Word

    And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, 
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
(Acts 2:42 ESV)

Are we hungry for God's Word? Are we eager to get to Sunday services or are we eager for Sunday services to be over. Are we struggling to understand the Word being taught or are we thinking about the Sunday afternoon football game? Is the Spirit reigning in our hearts or is it the world? Kent Hughes sheds some light on what was happening with the newborn Christians in Acts chapter 2:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching . . .” Note carefully that this verse literally says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” It is very important that we note this term “continually devoting” because it governs the other characteristics of the church where the Spirit reigns. It denotes a steadfast and single-minded devotion to a certain course of action.

...These new Christians, under the reign of the Holy Spirit, were hungry for God’s Word. They could not get enough of it. Being filled with the Spirit and being filled with God’s Word go together.

The backbone of a healthy Christian life is teaching. Peter says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Teaching was the milk of the early church under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The example of an energetic nursing baby is a fitting example for us to pursue, even if we have already moved on to steak. Young believers must make sure they are feeding on the teaching of God’s Word. There is much confusion today about the essential matters of our faith. In a non-reading, experience-oriented culture, solid Bible teaching is sometimes hard to find. Believers should beware of churches or Christian fellowships where the people do not carry their Bibles. Read your Bible. Mark it up. Each of us must make sure that sometime, somewhere in our week we are being taught. 
When the Spirit reigns, God’s people continually devote themselves to the study of his Word.

Hughes, R. Kent (2010-03-10). Acts: The Church Afire (Preaching the Word) (Kindle Locations 779-786). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

As the Sabbath  approaches this week we must ask ourselves, is the Spirit reigning in my heart or the world? Am I anxious for Sunday worship or am I just going through the motions as I'm expected to? Let us seriously consider what is at stake every time we miss the opportunity to be fed God's Word.

09 August 2012

Trials, Peace and Rejoicing?

    Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

Though favorite verses of many, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 can and does cause confusion for some. How can we rejoice always in severe trials? How can we pray always, are there not other things in life we must also do? How can I give thanks for having cancer? G.K. Beale in his commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians offers some insight to these questions.

"Paul attaches always, continually and in all circumstances to the three precepts in 5: 16-18 in order to highlight that his readers are not only to rejoice, pray and give thanks for the "good things" but also for the "bad things" that confront this church. Thus the circumstances of the readers' ordeals help explain how anyone can possibly be joyful always and pray continually. No one can literally rejoice and pray every second of their conscious existence, since this would prevent doing anything else. The answer comes from considering the following phrase: give thanks in all circumstances (or "give thanks in everything"), both good and bad. Similarly, the NIV's pray continually expresses that these activities are frequent, not literally every second. The parallelism of these three activities all being continual suggests that the phrase this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus is the ground not merely for thanksgiving but also for rejoicing and praying. During our daily activities, we must focus on the task at hand, but we should never lose sight of God in our spiritual peripheral vision. He should always be "in the background of [our] consciousness" (Findlay 1904: 127). When we are not aware of him in our "peripheral vision, " spiritual accidents occur, as can happen to us physically when we lose our literal peripheral vision."
"Martin (1995: 182) contends that "Paul never instructed the church to thank God for evil events but to thank God that even in evil times and circumstances our hope remains, and God continues his work in our lives (Rom 8: 28). " Romans 8: 28, however, does not say merely that God continues working in us in the midst of trials but that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him. " The same idea is likely in 1 Thessalonians, since Paul has said that "no one [should] be unsettled by these trials" because "you know quite well that we were destined [by God] for them" (3: 3). True, we do not thank God for bad events narrowly viewed in and of themselves, but we should thank him for such events as they are viewed in the "wide-angle lens" as part of his plan to sanctify us and to glorify himself (see 5: 23)."
"Similarly, another commentator affirms that believers should not "rejoice" in all things, such as illnesses, since "Christ did not. in any ordinary sense, rejoice on the Cross" (Whiteley 1969: 83). Perhaps, however, the key is in recognizing that Christians do not rejoice in such events in the "ordinary sense" the way the world rejoices. As in 1: 6, Paul's point is that we should have the attitudes of joy and thanks in response to whatever ups and downs we face. He has in mind a continual attitude of being aware of God's presence. Such an awareness will result in our ability to rejoice in whatever good or difficult things cross our paths under God's sovereign hand, to thank God for all these things and to pray for our needs and the needs of others. As Paul notes in 5: 18, thanksgiving has its ultimate source of being in Christ Jesus. Paul's statement that God's people are in Christ Jesus should remind them that they are to see all things through the lens of Christ and not from their own vantage point. As a consequence, they will experience peace."
Beale, G. K. (2010-02-17). 1-2 Thessalonians (Kindle Locations 2412-2435). Intervarsity Press - A. Kindle Edition.

What a gracious and wonderful God we serve who allows us to have peace in the most distressing trials of life. Consider what the Lord has done for you today.

08 August 2012

Union With Christ - Ephisians 2:4-7

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
    (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV)

Mark Van Drunen

07 August 2012

A Look at the Book of Hebrews with Sinclair Ferguson

Sinclair Ferguson
...The big picture in Hebrews is fairly straightforward. Put simply, it is “Jesus is the greatest.”

Jesus is: greater than angels (chaps. 1–2); greater than Moses (3:1–4:12); greater than the priests and high priests (4:13–7:28); and greater than the Old Testament sacrifices (chaps. 8–10).

Since this is so, like those heroes of the faith who looked forward to the Messiah’s coming, we need to: keep our eyes glued to Him as we persevere in faith (chaps. 11–12) and live together as the new covenant community (chap. 13).

If we get lost in the details, Hebrews will appear to be a long, maze-like book. But if we grasp the big picture, we will see why the author thought he had “written … only a short letter” (13:22, NIV).

The above is from Time to (Re)Discover Hebrews by Sinclair Ferguson at the Ligonier Ministries website. Take a few moments to read the whole article and spend some time a the Ligonier website enjoying the many things they have to offer. You'll be enriched.

06 August 2012

But God....

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
    (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Rev. Michael Harvey

04 August 2012

Exhort One Another - Hebrews 10:24-25

    And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

John Calvin
Having said, "Not forsaking the assembling together," he adds, But exhorting one another; by which he intimates that all the godly ought by all means possible to exert themselves in the work of gathering together the Church on every side; for we are called by the Lord on this condition, that every one should afterwards strive to lead others to the truth, to restore the wandering to the right way, to extend a helping hand to the fallen, to win over those who are without. But if we ought to bestow so much labor on those who are yet aliens to the flock of Christ, how much more diligence is required in exhorting the brethren whom God has already joined to us?

John Calvin (2010-03-01). Commentary on Hebrews - New Century Kindle Format (Kindle Locations 4783-4787). 99 Cent Books & New Century Books. Kindle Edition.

As we head off to worship tomorrow, let's take our minds off ourselves and encourage one another.

02 August 2012

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Sweet video of the hymn Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken with very cool sermon clips interspersed. Enjoy and be blessed.

01 August 2012

A Song of Joy - Summer Psalms - Psalm 16

    Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
    I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
        I have no good apart from you.”
    As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
        in whom is all my delight.
    The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
        their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
        or take their names on my lips.
    The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
        you hold my lot.
    The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
    I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
        in the night also my heart instructs me.
    I have set the LORD always before me;
        because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
    Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
        my flesh also dwells secure.
    For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
        or let your holy one see corruption.
    You make known to me the path of life;
        in your presence there is fullness of joy;
        at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16 ESV)