March 21, 2018

Hope in Wormwood Days

I hope, from time to time, to be posting some of my articles over at (check them out for a great deal of other helpful content, too).  When I post there, I hope to link here.  Here's the first installment:

March 8, 2018

"God blesses us"

“God blesses us,
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him”
Psalm 67:7

What a marvelous reminder, in Psalm 67, of the stewardship with which we, as God’s people, have been entrusted! One reason the church is so blessed; one reason God so “cause[s] His face to shine upon us” (v.1) … is so that we might leverage His blessings for the purpose of spreading His fame to “all the ends of the earth”! Read the entire psalm, and notice how it both begins and ends with this theme – we are blessed, so that the nations might bless God!

One specific blessing spoken of in Psalm 67 is the blessing of temporal prosperity – a good harvest season. But perhaps other sorts of blessings are in view. Or, at least, the psalm can surely be applied to other sorts of blessings. And, in these few paragraphs, I want to think, particularly, about how the church in America is blessed, and how we ought to steward those blessings for the glory of God in world missions.

That’s not to say, for one second, that only the church in America is blessed; or that the church in America is more blessed than the church in other lands! Not so! Psalm 67 applies to all Christians everywhere! And we would do well to remember that the church in other lands is blessed in unique ways, too. Christians in many other lands are often blessed with fortitude in suffering; or with deep, child-like humility; or with habits of prayer which we Americans could stand to learn from. And, of course, the church in every place is blessed with the same word of God, the same Holy Spirit, the same gospel, and so on!

So the purpose of this article is not to puff up the American church. But since Psalm 67 does apply to our blessings, too; and since I am writing primarily for an audience that resides on American soil, I write for that audience. And I point out three particular blessings which the Lord has poured out on this particular portion of His vineyard, and remind us that God blesses us in these ways for the sake of spreading the gospel; that “God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him”! It’s not an exhaustive list of God’s blessings, but I hope a helpful one.

So then, for the sake of His fame among the nations, God has blessed the American church with:

1. Financial blessing. We have so much in this country! And the churches in this country have so much, too! We are blessed, financially. Think of how amazing it is that Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, a fairly small congregation, has well over $100,000 at our disposal, every year, to use for the glory of God. And PRBC is not abnormal. The American church is financially blessed! And let us never forget that the reason is not only for our own up-building in grace, but also so “that [God’s] way may be known on the earth, [His] salvation among all nations” (v.2, emphasis added).

2. Linguistic blessing. English is spoken and/or understood so widely in today’s world, is it not? Which means that we English speakers have ready linguistic access to people from all sorts of places. That doesn’t mean that long-term missionaries shouldn’t take the time to learn the native tongues of the people to whom they minister. They should! But the fact that English is today’s lingua franca means that we who aren’t long-term missionaries have amazing access (at home, and abroad, and online) to people from many nations, tribes, and tongues. And we have such access; God has allowed our language to become so widespread, not for our own ease, but “that all the ends of the earth may fear” the Lord!

3. Theological blessing. Make no mistake, America is probably the world’s chief exporter of false teaching. And I’m not overlooking that. But America, by God’s grace (alone!), is also blessed with sound theological seminaries, Bible colleges, and book publishers that Christians in many other countries drool over. We are extremely blessed with access to solid theological training and teaching. And we are blessed in that way, not to keep all that learning simply to ourselves, but to bring good news to the nations as well!

So, my friends, let us steward these blessings well! Let us give of our financial blessing to the cause of world missions! Let us take advantage of our linguistic blessing by sharing Christ with people from many nations! And let some of us take all of the theological blessing available to us, and go – moving abroad, learning another language, and making the knowledge of God available at “the ends of the earth”!

February 27, 2018


I have written before about how much I enjoy the Winter Olympics. And, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed them once again this time around. There’s something deeply delightful about being cozied up with your family, on a winter’s eve, watching these great triumphs on snow and ice.

But one thing (among a few) that saddened me this time around was how often I heard God’s name, on broadcast television, being taken in vain. During both the broadcasts and the commercials, the holy, holy, holy God could be heard, over and again, being used as an exclamation, rather than in true reference to the Almighty. It was disturbing and disheartening … not only because people used God’s name that way, but because we have apparently reached a point, culturally, where it is no longer even considered shameful to do so (or to broadcast people doing so), even on the once somewhat-sanitized airwaves of broadcast TV.

On one hand, I’m not at all surprised. So much other sin, these days, is portrayed (and sometimes celebrated) on television … and tolerated (and sometimes enjoyed) by viewers. Why should I expect the broadcasters, the advertisers, or their viewership to care about the 3rd commandment? And yet, on the other hand, NBC did issue an apology, at one point, when microphones picked up an athlete using the ‘F’ word. Apologies were also issued for certain socio-cultural gaffes made by on-air personalities. And yet God’s name was blasphemed left and right … with the network and other responsible parties apparently recognizing, neither that such language is inappropriate and foul, nor that the reason it is so is because of the greatness of the One whose name is being misused!

Why am I pointing these things out? Not to be a culture warrior, lambasting NBC, or the television industry in general. And neither am I trying to gather stones for us to cast at our culture or our neighbors. Nor, even, am I writing in order to address the redemptive task of graciously engaging our neighbors on such matters, and pointing them away from sin and to Christ. In this space, rather, I’m simply concerned to urge that we Christians beware not to be taken (or to allow our families to be taken) along for the cultural ride.

Did you watch much of the Olympics? And did you pick up on what I am pointing out? And do you notice (and cringe at) the misuse of God’s name on so many other channels, shows, and other forms of media? Or have you become desensitized to this grievous offense against God (and/or others like it)?

I’m not saying that being insensitive to the misuse of God’s name by others is the same thing as engaging in blasphemously yourself. But surely our numbness to His being dishonored is a grief to the heavenly Father. And furthermore, unless we awaken from such spiritual sedation, we may soon find that we (and our children, who learn from us) will not only begin to be numb to offenses against God, but also to fall into them ourselves!

And so it’s worth asking – not for the sake of throwing stones; and not just for the sake of kindly helping take specks out of others’ eyes; but for our own sakes – it’s work asking if we even notice the way God’s name is bandied about, so carelessly, in our culture. It’s worth asking, too, if we’re bothered by such misuse of His name (and, indeed, if we’re bothered enough so as to shut the TV off when it’s bad enough; or to turn certain portions on mute; or to pause and discuss with our children the sadness of what we just heard or saw). And it’s worth asking these sorts of questions about any number of other offenses against God that are considered normal in our present cultural milieu.

Let us not be numb to the dishonor of our God!

February 20, 2018

A Breath of Fresh Air

How about the weather these last two days? Monday and Tuesday have felt like spring! And I am most thankful, not just for the warmth itself, but for how the warmth has beckoned me to breathe fresh air. Monday afternoon found our family on a lovely walk, breathing in more such air than we have for many days. And today (Tuesday), after many weeks breathing the stale, re-circulated, indoor air of a cooped up winter, windows are opened wide, allowing both home and office (and their occupants!) to breathe the fresh breaths of spring! And how good such breaths are, both for mind and body!

And it occurs to me that we can speak similarly about “a Sabbath well spent”.* It occurs to me that, after six days of breathing what often feels like stagnant air – after six days in the office; after six days in the rat race; after six days of toil; after six days of paperwork, or computer screens, or deadlines, or sweat, or stress, or pressure, or difficult co-workers – “a Sabbath well spent” (a  Sabbath used in the way God intended it, in other words) can be a breath of fresh air! It can be like the throwing open of windows, or the taking of a brisk spring walk, after a week trapped indoors.

Think of it that way! Think of your Sunday opportunities – for physical rest, for praise (at church and at home), for prayer, for sitting under the preached word, for fellowship, for edifying reading – think of them as a weekly fresh air walk, or as the flinging open of the windows, so that the draft of a different and healthier air can blow through the corridors of your life. Think of Sunday as a spiritual fresh air day!

Strive, yes, to breathe more and more of that air, seven days a week! But recognize that, if some days and weeks are more like a cooped up January, there is always a fresh-air day just around the corner! There is always this one day on which you don’t have to breathe the same old air, as it were – a day on which you are entitled (and commanded!) to get out of the rat race; to lay down the labors of the rest of the week, and to throw open the aforementioned spiritual windows of praise, fellowship, the word, and so on!

So commit to doing so!  

Commit, first of all, to setting aside your normal labors on the Lord’s Day – which is commanded, by the way, even if those labors are not stressful, or like stagnant air!  This commitment is right and healthy, whether you think you need to get away from your work or not!  And, if the Monday-Saturday routine is stressful or stagnant, such a commitment will get you, one day a week, out of the stale air!   

And commit your Sundays also, not just to getting out of the rat-race, but to positively breathing the fresh air!  Commit to open the windows, or to go on a fresh-air walk, so to speak.  Commit, in other words, to really do the things that make Sunday a breath of fresh air!  Breathe that air in – by means of rest, praise, prayer, fellowship, the word, and solid Christian books. Don’t sit, on a spring-like day, in the same stagnant air in which you’ve been languishing. Breathe the fresh air!

*I quote this phrase from Matthew Hale’s classic poem “a Sabbath well spent”. In this poem, Hale rightly points out how a well-spent Sabbath brings contentment and health for the week that follows, though I have used his words  in writing about the blessing of the Sabbath coming on the heels of the week that was.

February 12, 2018

Some Helpful Books

Some books are best read straight through, in fairly decent-sized chunks, and without a great deal of starting and stopping … so that you can keep the train of thought, or the flow of the story, straight in your mind. Other books, however, while they can be read fairly quickly, can also serve you quite well by taking up regular residence on your nightstand, or beside your recliner, or wherever it is that you tend to go in the quiet moments … and by being dipped into and mulled over, here and there, in smaller or larger chunks, over the course of many months or years. And, with the reminder that the Bible must always be the first and foremost book in our lives, I encourage you to read the spiritually edifying variety of both sorts of books!

In the space below, allow me to recommend a handful of books that fall into the latter category – the kind you might keep nearby your bed, or beside your favorite chair, or wherever you do your reading … so as to dip into them at various times. Each of them would be of certain benefit to you.

The Valley of Vision. A collection of Puritan prayers (gathered under various topical headings) which, although not divinely inspired, will read something like a collection of psalms. Use them for meditation, and to prompt your own prayer life. Available in paperback or leather bound.

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Written in beautiful, poetic prose, Rutherford’s letters are devotionally warm, pastorally helpful, and will encourage you to want to know more of Rutherford’s Savior. Charles Spurgeon called these letters “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.” You might begin with the abridged version.

Spurgeon’s sermons. Charles Spurgeon was called “the prince of preachers” for a reason! And generations have benefitted from the hundreds of his sermons that have been preserved. Warm, straightforward, and consistently making “a bee-line to the cross,” his sermons make for some of the best reading that any Christian could do. One readily available volume (of 28 sermons) is CH Spurgeon’s Forgotten Early Sermons.

Operation World. If you want to pray for the spread of the gospel among the nations, this book is a wonderful resource. Containing important information, statistics, and prayer requests for each nation of the earth, this book has the potential to draw out your mind and heart in pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

May God grant you fruitful reading!