As you look at the year so far, what do you see? Wisdom and experience tell us that “perspective is everything.” Abraham Lincoln expressed that when he said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or we can rejoice because thorn bushes grow roses.” How you look at things determines so much. How does Jesus want us to look at things? Few things in Scripture are as important as keeping in perspective the heart. The heart – that center of your emotions, desires, and will – that is where God is calling you and me to look.
From the Heart
It is so easy for us to underestimate the importance of the heart. When Jesus was questioned about the Greatest Commandment in Mark 12, He reminds us that true obedience begins with a heart response: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (v. 29). In fact, all of our behavior begins with our heart: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, because from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus echoes this same idea when he said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Who you are will determine what you do. So that raises the greatest question of all – who has Jesus made you? Where does your heart sit in relation to His commands? There would be nothing better than to stop reading this article and spend some time prayerfully asking God where your heart is at. Continue reading
I think everyone struggles to be truly content. Whether in possessions, circumstances, relationships, or something else, we all answer like Rockefeller when he was asked how much money is enough: “just a little bit more.” Contentment is a battle for everyone.
I recently preached on contentment, and I had three resources that were of great help to me. The following books are often missed by Christians, and I hope you’ll take note of these. Jeremiah Burrough’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Amazon), William Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment (Amazon), and Thomas Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment (Amazon paperback, CCEL, PDF) are all masterful treatments of a subject that many modern Christians are deficient in.
For example, Watson practically addresses several enemies that would threaten to steal our contentment. We all face circumstances in life that make it that much harder to practice godly contentment, and Watson lists some of these and then goes on to address these from Scripture:
I have lost a child:
- It was my only child
- I have a great part of my estate melted away
It is sad with me in my relations: Continue reading
Hope is a glorious grace, whereunto blessed effects are ascribed in the Scripture, and an effectual operation unto the supportment and consolation of believers. By it are we purified, sanctified, saved. And, to sum up the whole of its excellency and efficacy, it is a principal way of the working of Christ as inhabiting in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Where Christ evidences his presence with us, he gives us an infallible hope of glory’ he gives us an assured pledge of it, and works our souls into an expectation of it.
Hope in general is but an uncertain expectation of a future good which we desire; but as it is a gospel of grace, all uncertainty is removed from it, which would hinder us of the advantage intended in it. It is an earnest expectation, proceeding from faith, trust, and confidence, accompanied with longing desires of enjoyment… Gospel hope is a fruit of faith, trust, and confidence; yea, the height of the actings of all grace issues in a well-grounded hope, nor can it rise any higher (Rom. 5:2 – 5).
The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded
“The thesis of this study is that Charles Hodge manifested the attributes associated with Calvinistic confessionalism (strong adherence to creedal religion, liturgical forms, and corporate worship) as well as characteristics of evangelical pietism (the necessity of vital religion marked by conversion, moral activism, and individual pious practices)…
The unique combination of confessionalism and pietism characterized Charles Hodge’s spiritual life from the cradle to the grave.”
Hoffecker pp. 32 – 3
One of the things a pastor and a congregation spend a lot of time on together is the sermon that is preached every Lord’s Day in the worship service. The minister spends time preparing and delivering the message, and the congregation spends time hearing it and living their lives based off of it. But have you ever thought about how to hear a sermon? How can we obey Jesus’ command to “be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18)? Consider a few ideas with me:
- Believers should prepare themselves to hear. The Apostle Peter commands that we “desire the sincere milk of the Word like newborn babies,” and that one of the ways we prepare that spiritual “thirst” within us for God’s Word is by laying aside all sin (I Peter 2:1 – 2). Sin acts like wax in our ears, and keeps us from hearing the life-giving words we so desperately need. Do not allow Saturday night – or the week before Sunday – as an opportunity for sin, but instead lay aside sin by faith and focus on “thirsting” to hear from the Lord in the sermon.
- Believers should prepare through prayer. One of the best ways to create this spiritual thirst in preparing is through prayer. We say with the psalmist, “Lord, open my eyes, that I would behold wondrous things out of Your Law in the sermon this Sunday” (cf. Psalm 119:18). Ask God to reveal to you His will for your life in the sermon; do it every Sunday! The Apostle Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him as he preached, and to do so constantly (Ephesians 6:18 – 19). We should pray this way for our Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and especially our ministers and elders.
- Believers should test the sermon against God’s Word. Paul praised the Bereans because they “searched the Scriptures daily” to see if Paul’s message lined up with Scripture (Acts 17:11). As Christians, we are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Ministers must not preach on their favorite topics, heart-warming stories, practical advice for better living, politics, or anything else – but only what the Lord says in Holy Scripture. A congregation can hold their minister accountable by carefully testing what he says.
- Believers should receive the sermon in a godly attitude. Continue reading
“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
John Owen in Communion with God:
Commune with each member of the Trinity. The Father is the fount of love. The Son inducts us into both his personal and purchased grace. The Spirit is our Comforter.
Last December my grandfather died, and I had the privilege of explaining the Scriptures for the service. The funeral was held at Bethel Ev. Free Church in Fairmont, MN. My sermon text was Psalm 37:23 – 24:
The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
You can find the video on the sermon page at the bottom.
He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves beside. There’s not a chain
That hellish foes, confederate for his harm,
Can wind around him, but he casts it off
With as much ease as Samson his green withes.
He looks abroad into the varied field
Of nature, and, though poor perhaps, compared
With those whose mansions glitter in his sight,
Calls the delightful scenery all his own.
His are the mountains, and the valleys his.
And all the resplendent rivers. His to enjoy
With a propriety that none can feel,
But who, with filial confidence inspired,
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say—”My Father made them all!”
– William Cowper, The Winter Morning Walk