Category Archives: Devotion

The Epistle to Diognetus–The Great Exchange

Epistle to Diognetus 9:2-6 (ca. AD 150):

And when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred,
nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us,
but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us,
He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities,
He gave His own Son as a ransom for us,
the holy One for transgressors,
the blameless One for the wicked,
the righteous One for the unrighteous,
the incorruptible One for the corruptible,
the immortal One for them that are mortal.
For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness?
By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God?
O sweet exchange!
O unsearchable operation!
O benefits surpassing all expectation!
that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One,
and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!

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Don’t Judge Yourself by the News

This past Sunday, I had the joy and honor to preach on Hosea 4 to the dear saints at Baptist Church of the Redeemer. You can listen to Sunday’s sermon here.

Chapter 4 marks off a new section in the book as God presents his case against his people:

Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

Here’s how I sought to apply this beginning section to someone who might be inclined to excuse themselves from this list that characterized the Northern Kingdom:

Do you watch the news? Often I hear believers talk about the discouragement that they feel when they see the reports of murder, adultery, deception, etc that characterize our country…very much like this list. If you are hear this morning and you are not a Christian, I want to make something very clear this morning…that sort of thing is not really what you should compare yourself to. We tend to, although it’s discouraging, subtly pack ourselves on the back after the news is over because, after all we’re not that bad.

The Bible really doesn’t have a category for the “really bad” sins and the other, more normal ones…In fact it often doesn’t even distinguish between actions and attitudes. For example, we read in Proverbs 27:14 that an inconsiderate word is basically like blasphemy [Proverbs 27:14 Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.] Jesus tells us that claiming to know God and yet living contrary to his word make us liars [John 8:55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.] When was the last time you saw the headlining story of a newscast be something like, Mr. Smith declared that he hated his boss this week—he has been sentenced to death by lethal injection.” [1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.] Did you see the news last week that talked about a man who was not giving to his local church? He was arrested on charges of theft [Malachi 3:8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.] Thinking about committing adultery; cyber adultery; taking a second look…is ADULTERY [Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.]

Don’t judge yourself by the news, judge yourself by God’s word. You are in great need of a savior. There is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God…but those are the very things that God has provided for you…Jesus perfectly, faithfully obeyed God’s law…he had compassion on his people in dying in their place…and through his life, death, burial and resurrection we have the perfect knowledge of God—he succeeding where we all have failed. Repent of your sins and trust in him today!

Listen to the whole thing here.

It’s Been A While…

It has been a little while since I have consistently posted at Mercy Swimming. So let me update you on what’s been rattling around in my heart and mind over the past few weeks:

Things I’m Excited About…I’m excited about a lot, so I’d better list…

New Preaching Series–It’s been three weeks since I finished a (year and a half long) series through the book of Acts, called “The Church Unstoppable.” You can listen to those sermons here. Two weeks ago we began a journey through the book of Hosea entitled, “Love Defined.” So far it’s been a joy for me to see this amazing picture of redemption, forgiveness, judgement and love. Join us on Sundays or listen here. May God prosper His word among us!

Upcoming Conferences/Events–Yes, I am excited about Together for the Gospel 2010, April 13-15th. If you have not already visited their website you should…and you ought to take the time to watch the video tours of several of the main speaker’s personal libraries. It will make you want more books, so guard yourself from temptation.

I’m also very excited about the annual gathering of Southern Baptists in Orlando this summer. Why? That brings me to my next point…

The Great Commission Resurgence–There’s something happening in the SBC. Last summer, the gathered assembly commissioned the President to appoint a committee (Great Commission Task Force) to evaluate and present ways in which the SBC can more effectively fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus. Their initial report is now available here. Pray for the SBC, and the decisions to by made and affirmed this June.

By the way, the SBC Pastor’s Conference has an amazing line up! Can’t wait to sit under these great brothers as they minister the Word to us this summer.

Danny Akin; Francis Chan; Matt Chandler;
Tony Evans; Steve Gaines; David Landrith;
CJ Mahaney; Al Mohler; Russell Moore;
David Platt; Andy Stanley; David Uth;
Ken Whitten; Ravi Zacharias;

A New, Much Anticipated Biblical Theology–Dr. Jim Hamilton’s Biblical Theology is due out this October! You can visit this blog to see a preview including the beautiful cover! Can’t wait to get my hands on this baby (probably both hands at 480 pages!).

A New President at Wheaton–I am so excited to hear the Dr. Phillip Ryken will be the next President at Wheaton College. I feel deeply for his church, however. You can see the deep emotion and sadness when a pastor has to leave his flock in his address here. All the info about this exciting news can be found here.

Pick the Next Redeemer Institutes–Finally, I’m excited about the upcoming Redeemer Institutes, that YOU CAN PICK!! That’s right, you can give three to five suggestions for our upcoming Institutes this Spring and Fall. All the information is here. If you’re not a facebook user, you can leave your suggestions on my blog and I’ll consider them for sure.

I apologize if you feel like you’ve just taken a gulp form the fire hydrant. Hopefully I’ll be a more consistent blogger in the future so I can do this in smaller chunks. Thanks for reading and swimming in mercy with me!

Silence and Solitude with the Puritans

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to get away for an entire day of silence and solitude–away from computers, cell phones, television, radio, etc. It was extremely refreshing and long overdue. Lord willing I hope this will become a monthly routine for me. In case you are curious, some of this was instigated by a series of posts by C.J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll.

I would like to share one element of my time with you. I began be reading over my personal journal and reflecting on 2009 as a whole. Some of that was very encouraging and some not so much. Recently, in my own personal devotional time I’ve been reading through some Puritan prayers in a book called The Valley of Vision. Last week I was on page 134 at a prayer entitled “The Deeps.” The Lord moved. Here’s the prayer (with some updated language):

Lord Jesus,

Give me a deeper repentance,
a horror of sin,
a dread of its approach;

Help me chastely to flee it,
and jealously to resolve that my heart
shall be yours alone.

Give me a deeper trust,
that I may lose myself to find myself in you,
the ground of my rest,
the spring of my being.

Give me a deeper knowledge of yourself,
as Savior, Master, Lord and King.

Give me a deeper power in private prayer,
more sweetness in your Word,
more steadfast grip on its truth.

Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action,
and let me not seek moral virtue apart from you.

Plough deep in me, great Lord,
heavenly Husbandman,
that my being may be a tilled field,
the roots of grace spreading far and wide,
until you alone are seen in me,
your beauty golden like summer harvest,
your fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no Master but you,
no law but your will,
no delight but yourself,
no wealth but that you give,
no good but that you bless,
no peace but that you bestow,

I am nothing but that you make me,
I have nothing but that I receive from you,
I can be nothing but that grace alone adorns me.

Quarry me deep, dear Lord,
and then fill me to overflowing
with living water.

I think this really sums up my day of prayer and reflection. Plough deep in me Lord! This was really a challenge (turning off all electronics and spending time in seclusion), but it was really worth it. I’ll be commenting more on what I learned from my time, about myself, the Lord and his church.

Merry Christmas!

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Busy or Unbelieving?

What don’t we pray more? What is at the root of our prayerlessness? Kevin De Young answers:

Here is my favorite paragraph:

You don’t need to work and work at discipline nearly as much as you need faith. You don’t need an ordered life to enable prayer, you need a messy life to drive you to prayer. You don’t need to have everything in order before you can pray. You need to know you’re disordered so you will pray. You don’t need your life to be fixed up. You need a broken heart. You need to think to yourself: “Tomorrow is another day that I need God. I need to know him. I need forgiveness. I need help. I need protection. I need deliverance. I need patience. I need courage. Therefore, I need prayer.”

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: KD)

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Pretend Christianity?

John Thacker preached a great sermon Sunday on James 2:18-26, entitled “Living Faith.” You can download, stream or podcast here.

John’s sermon was extremely clear and encouraging. There is a temptation to give into moralism when we approach practical sections of God’s word. John serves us well be rooting his exhortation (like James does) deep in the roots of the gospel. Enjoy!

Link to Sermon

The Practice of the Mind: Solo Sex, a CCEF Audio Clip

Once again CCEF has given us a great resource on a topic that no one wants to talk about. So, if you’re asking the question: What’s Wrong with Masturbation and Sexual Fantasy?…check out Winston Smith’s answer here.

Here’s a preview:

Masturbation, pornography, sexual fantasies…what’s so bad about these? No one gets hurt, right? Aren’t they better than indulging in actual sexual indecencies with other people? CCEF faculty member Winston Smith addresses the issue of what’s sinful (if anything) about these supposedly “victimless” indulgences.

(HT: CCEF podcast)

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2 Must Reads From Sovereign Grace Ministries

1. The entire collection of C.J.’s series on Biblical Productivity is available here on pdf. This series has had and is continuing to have an impact on my soul as a Christian, husband, father and pastor. Here’s a quote:

Lazy? Not me. I’m busy. Up early, up late. My schedule is filled from beginning to end. I love what I do and I love getting stuff done. I attack a daily to‐do list with the same intensity I play basketball. Me lazy? I don’t think so!

Or at least I didn’t think so. That is, until I read about the difference between busyness and fruitfulness, and realized just how often my busyness was an expression of laziness, not diligence. I forget now who first brought these points to my attention. But the realization that I could be simultaneously busy and lazy, that I could be a hectic sluggard, that my busyness was no immunity from laziness, became a life‐altering and work‐altering insight. What I learned is that:

• Busyness does not mean I am diligent
• Busyness does not mean I am faithful
• Busyness does not mean I am fruitful

2. C.J. is doing a series highlighting the “ordinary” pastor, which I love, since I am one of those “ordinary” pastors. His latest installment involves Grady Van Wright, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Pearland, TX. I know Grady and respect him greatly. Don’t miss this inside look at his devotional and family life that is both encouraging and convicting! Part 1, Part 2.

Thank you SGM for serving us so well once again!

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A Great Book for Ordinary Pastors

Okay, I turned thirty last weekend. So, I’m doing a little bit of introspection…reflection…and depression (just kidding on the last!). But seriously, this is a great time for me to take stock of my life as a Christian, as a husband, as a father and as a pastor.

The first book that I read in 2009 served me well in doing just this. Last night I finished D.A. Carson’s biography of his father’s life (Tom Carson) entitled Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor. This book is simply a record of Tom Carson’s ministry, as his son has put it together through experience and sifting through journal entries (both in English and French as Tom served in French Canada).

I could not be more encouraged by this little book. Tom Carson was not an acclaimed author nor was he ever invited to speak at a conference, but he exemplified godliness in the pastorate (even as the number two guy at some points in his ministry). So what’s my takeaway? Let me give you a few things:

1. I never want to gague my ministry by numbers.
2. I never want to stop praying
3. I never want to stop soaking up God’s word, for myself.
4. I never want to stop loving my wife. (One chapter is dedicated to Tom’s wife Marge and her Alzheimer years)
5. I never want to lose sight of the joy of long, slow, happy work in the field God has given me.
6. I never want to neglect my children
7. I never want to feel sorry for myself again.
8. I never want to put anything past the God who is in the heavens and does as he pleases.
9. I do want to start journaling.
10. I do want people to see God in me…as someone who knows the God of Psalm 16:11– “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand, pleasures forevermore!”

This is an abbreviated list. To summarize, I need God, more than I ever have. Thank you Dr. Carson for encouraging at least one ordinary pastor!

R.C. Sproul and Redeeming the Time

I am not a naturally disciplined person. I am at home with laziness, relaxation and oversleeping. For as long as I have been a Christian, I have fought the battle of redemption of time, and I don’t think that I’m on the winning side at this point. However, the grace of God is abundant and sufficient for enduring change!

I read this exerpt from an article by R.C. Sproul in Table Talk Magazine on CJ Mahaney’s blog and I had to share it with you. May the Lord give us the grace to redeem the time, because these wicked days are moving by faster than we all know. Take some time to evaluate your schedule (or make one!). You won’t regret it!

Time Well Spent (excerpt)
By R.C. Sproul

Time is the great leveler. It is one resource that is allocated in absolute egalitarian terms. Every living person has the same number of hours to use in every day. Busy people are not given a special bonus added on to the hours of the day. The clock plays no favorites.

We all have an equal measure of time in every day. Where we differ from one another is in how we redeem the time allotted. When something is redeemed it is rescued or purchased from some negative condition. The basic negative condition we are concerned with is the condition of waste. To waste time is to spend it on that which has little or no value.

I am a time waster. When I think of the time I have wasted over the course of my life, I am hounded by remorse. This guilt is not a false one fostered by an overactive work ethic. The guilt is real because the time I have wasted is real time.

The late Vince Lombardi introduced the adage, “I never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” This explanation points to one of the most dramatic elements of sports—the race against the clock. The team that is most productive in the allotted time is the team that wins the game. Of course, in sports, unlike life, there are provisions for calling time-out. The clock in a sports contest can be temporarily halted. But in real life there are no timeouts…

Given my propensity to waste time, I have learned a few tricks to help me beat the clock. They may be helpful to some of you.

First, I realize that all of my time is God’s time and all of my time is my time by His delegation. God owns me and my time. Yet, He has given me a measure of time over which I am a steward. I can commit that time to work for other people, visit other people, etc. But it is time for which I must give an account.

Second, time can be redeemed by concentration and focus. One of the greatest wastes of time occurs in the human mind. Our hands may be busy but our minds idle. Likewise, our hands may be idle while our minds are busy. Woolgathering, day-dreaming, and indulging in frivolous fantasy are ways in which thoughts may be wasted in real time. To focus our minds on the task at hand—with fierce concentration—makes for productive use of time.

Third, the mind can redeem valuable time taken up by ordinary or mechanical functions. For example, the mechanics of taking a shower are not difficult. In this setting the mind is free for problem solving, creative thinking, or the composition of themes. Many of my messages and lectures are germinated in the shower. When I used to play a lot of golf, I found that the time I had between shots was a great time for composing messages in my mind.

Fourth, use your leisure time for pursuits that are life enriching. Leisure time is often spent on avocations. Reading is a valuable use of time. It enriches life to read outside of your major field or area of expertise. Augustine once advised believers to learn as much as possible about as many things as possible, since all truth is God’s truth. Other avocations that are enriching include the arts. I like to study the piano and I dabble in painting. No one will ever mistake me for a serious musician or an accomplished artist. But these avocations open up the world of beauty to me that enhances my view of God and His manifold perfections. I also enjoy working cross-word puzzles to warm up the little gray cells and to expand my vista of verbal expression.

Fifth, find ways to cheat the “Sand Man.” Several years ago I had an epiphany about time management. Though my life-long pattern had been to stay up late at night I realized that for me, the hours between 9–12 p.m. were not very productive. I reasoned that if I used those hours to sleep I might secure more time for more productive things. Since then my habit has been to retire between 8–9 p.m. when possible and rise at 4 a.m. This has effected a wonderful revolution for my schedule. The early hours of the day are a time free from distractions and interruptions, a marvelous time for study, writing, and prayer….

Sixth, use drive-time for learning. Driving a car is another mechanical function that allows the mind to be alert to more than what is happening on the roadway. The benefits of audio tape can be put to great use during these times. I can listen to lectures and instructional tapes while driving, thereby redeeming the time.

Finally, in most cases a schedule is more liberating than restricting. Working with a schedule helps enormously to organize our use of time. The schedule should be a friend, not an enemy. I find it freeing in that the schedule can include time for leisure, recreation, and avocation. It helps us find the rhythm for a God-glorifying productive life.

(HT: CJ)

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