A Truth for Fighting Promise Envy

I must confess. I felt a twinge of envy last Sunday. As Scott worked his way through Genesis 15, verse 15 got my attention. There God promises Abram this: you shall be buried in a good old age. I immediately wondered if, among all the other stupendous promises Moses received from the Lord with that fascinating cutting of the covenant experience, he really appreciated that one very much. Did he sigh with relief that he didn’t have to worry about a premature demise and all the issues related to not living out a full length of days? I wonder.

I envy him for that promise. I do especially on this day, the seventh anniversary of my five-hour long surgery to remove cancer from my tongue, the month-long recuperation that followed, and ultimately the summer-long treatment process I endured. Those memories on top of attending three funerals in the last couple of weeks of men all of whom died in their fifties have me thinking much about the brevity of life and the lack of guarantee anyone has that tomorrow won’t be his last.

The truth I bring to bear on my fight with envy comes from Psalm 116:15. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. The Psalmist wrote this on the heels of some great deliverance that snatched him from the jaws of death. He concluded that for the believer God regards the precise timing of his death, whether in the prime of life or a ripe old age, as precious. The Hebrew word means weighty, valuable, or costly as in the price of a precious stone. In other words, it’s no insignificant thing in God’s eyes. It matters immensely when He takes one of His own out of this world to his home in the next.

So as I ponder God’s goodness today in giving me seven more years of service for Him that I might not otherwise have enjoyed, I choose to fight the envy of Moses who likely dismissed worry about an early demise with confidence in God who regards my/our termination so supremely significant that there will be nothing in the least untimely about it.

A Simple Strategy for Battling Burnout

Not many gray hairs graced the Acts 29 Network conference I attended this week in Orlando.

The brothers above (left), however, Ray Ortlund Jr. and Sam Storms, were among the exceptions. Scott Thomas (right), president of the movement, engaged them in Q & A at the close of the conference.

Among the questions submitted by conferees came a request for ways to avoid ministerial burnout. Since burnout, fatigue, and discouragement afflict lots of folks along with pastors, I thought I would pass on Dr. Ortlund’s excellent prescription.

Choose a promise of God for the particular season of struggle in your life and wave it daily as a banner over your life.

For example, if you find yourself facing financial hardship you might choose Phil. 4:19.

Caught in the clutches of anxiety? Commit Phil. 4:6-7 to memory.

Feeling abandoned or lonely? Claim Heb. 13:5b.

Suffering persecution? First Peter 5:10 fits the bill.

Fighting disease or illness? Second Corinthians 12:9 carried me through cancer.

Growing weary in waiting? Isaiah 40:31 will lift you on eagle wings.

You get the idea.

There is a reason that 2 Peter 1:4 refers to the gift of God’s promises as precious and very great. Among others it is because they will sustain us over the long haul and help keep us in the race, if we raid the armory of Scripture, load them in our hearts, and wield them like spiritual weapons in our everyday warfare.

Why not go to the Word and ask God to give you a promise right now for your circumstances whatever they may be?

Men in Friendship

This Saturday we resume our study in Richard Phillip’s excellent treatment on manhood entitled The Masculine Mandate.

We have come to chapter 11 – Men in Friendship. The author derives numerous practical principles from the relationship of Jonathan and David in the book of First Samuel.

Here is a sample to whet the appetite:

Jonathan’s example with David shows us that a godly friend ministers primarily to the faith of his brothers in Christ, seeking to build up their trembling hearts and protect them from the dangers of unbelief and fear. This is the Genesis 2:15 work-and-keep mandate at work in the important arena of male friendship. When we come to a friend and “strengthen his hand in God,” we restore his wavering faith to its certain confidence in the unfailing promises of the Lord (p. 127).

For help with your reading and study you can click on The Masculine Mandate – SG 11.

Bring your own breakfast and join us for the fellowship and interaction at the church office from 7 AM to 9 AM!

Beautiful Feet

These don’t look so hot to me today.

But they dazzled with beauty on Friday, August 5, in the village of Mrima, Kenya. I mean with an Isaiah 52:7 kind of beauty.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

I got to do that with this man, among others.

Allow me to introduce you to Tandara, the village chief and local Muslim imam of Mrima. He hosted us for the dedication of the well OGC funded to have dug in this unreached community of Eastern Africa. You can see the well pump in the background. In this photo Tandara had just accepted a copy of the Digo New Testament.Pray he reads it!

During the dedication ceremony, with all the village surrounding us and Tandara seated at my feet of all things, I found my anxiety growing about the words I would say in preaching the gospel to this man and his people – people who likely had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ before. To say the least, this was not my normal Friday morning agenda!

The Lord was gracious to me as he brought to mind the promises of His word, especially the one above about lovely feet. I claimed that as I stood to preach the gospel from John 7:37-38 with as much boldness and courage as I could muster with the help of the Holy Spirit. Rarely have I felt such anointing from the Lord. I was so grateful for His help. I felt so privileged to accomplish such a mission.

Do you think of your feet as beautiful when it comes time to share the gospel with someone? You should. Last Sunday I put forth an appeal at the end of the service to look for opportunities to share with others and to let me know when the Lord opens the door.

God has been so gracious to me already this week. And it is only Wednesday! On Monday I met with a young man who is new to our church. He is on fire for evangelism and practically begged me for outlets to share his faith. I put him in touch with some folks in the area who go out on Friday nights and he was so grateful. On Tuesday I heard about another brother in our fell0wship who plays basketball in his neighborhood on a regular basis. He recently invited some of his unbelieving friends to church and they accepted his invitation. Another brother shared with me how he and his wife have been befriending neighbors who are Mormon. Recently he had a discussion with the husband about how the Old and New Testaments fit together in terms of the covenant faithfulness of God.

I felt like the Lord encouraged me to see that we have many beautiful feet in the congregation at OGC!

Do you see your feet in such a light? Are you praying for open doors for the gospel where you live, work, and play? When you feel the anxiety hit you in such situations, remember the promises of God, especially that your feet are most lovely when you proclaim the good news of the gospel.

The week is only half done. I would love to hear from anyone else in the body about your exquisitely beautiful, most lovely, gospel feet!

The DNA of Godly Men

Today’s message from 2 Samuel 23:8-17 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I closed the message:

Brothers, only Jesus makes us mighty men – as we depend on His strength, devote ourselves to His service, daringly act for His pleasure, and ultimately delight in His sacrifice as David’s greater Son. May we more thoroughly than ever orient our lives around Him for the praise of His name and the joy of those we serve.

Praise God for every man who stood for prayer to grow in gospel might!

Battling Weariness and Discouragement

As we saw last Sunday, Haggai 2:1-9 contains precious promises for warding off debilitating discouragement. Here are some more thoughts from Scripture for waging war on this paralyzing foe.

Proverbs warns, If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small (24:10). Everyone faces adversity. Prolonged struggles can wear us down. Tragic events can crush us. If we sink under the pressure, it tells us something about our strength quotient. No one wants to admit a shortage of strength, but the potential for that exists almost on any given day.

How do we cultivate a reservoir of strength that stands firm even in seemingly overwhelming adversity? Here are four strategies for waging war on personal weariness and discouragement.

  1. Understand that perseverance is a matter of obedience. Paul tells the Thessalonians in his second letter, But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good (3:13). The Galatians get the same exhortation: And let us not grow weary while doing good (6:9). Caving in when we encounter obstacles does not glorify God. He calls for pressing on in the fight.
  2. Consider the example of Jesus in persevering under trial. The writer to the Hebrews tells us to do just that in 12:3 – Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. Our Lord’s face-like-a-flint march to Calvary under enormous affliction should temper the way we measure the extremity of our own adversities. Ponder the passion. Take courage from His courage.
  3. Come under the continual hearing of the word of God, especially its promises. Isaiah says, The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary (50:4). Apt words in the right circumstances lift the heart and strengthen the soul. When Paul tells us not to grow weary because we will soon reap if we don’t faint (Gal. 6:9) and to be always abounding in the Lord’s work because it is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58), those promises help douse the fires of discouragement and fan the flames of perseverance.
  4. Give yourself to persistent waiting on the Lord. Another great promise of the Scripture for the weary comes from Isaiah 40:31 – But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. The Hebrew word for wait comes from root that means twine or string. It’s the idea of strength formed from the intertwining of multiple strands. To wait on God is to intertwine our pygmy-like limited strength with God’s massive unlimited strength so that we gain His power and faint not. Waiting on God involves meditating on His character. The Psalmist says, I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (27:13). Waiting on God involves praying for His help and will. Jesus linked prayer and fighting weariness in Luke 18:1 – Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.

We simply don’t have the resources in and of ourselves to bear up under relentless adversity. We need a battle plan from God to see that we don’t grow faint and fail from limited strength.

John Newton knew something of this. He says this in his essay, The Snares and Difficulties Attending the Ministry of the Gospel:

It is a good and noble cause, and we serve a good and gracious Master who, though He will make us feel our weakness and vileness, will not suffer us to sink under it. His grace is sufficient for us, and if He favors us with a humble and dependent spirit, a single eye and a simple heart, He will make every difficulty give way, and mountains will sink into plains before His power.

Discouragement will not give way in our lives without the fight of faith. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10).

Puritan Power & Perspective on Waiting

GurnallFor some reason I’ve made it a habit to turn to the Puritans first thing each morning this year in my abiding in Christ time.

Moody Press published a collection of daily readings in spiritual warfare from the writings of William Gurnall called The Christian in Complete Armour (1994). Numerous times the meditations within its pages have framed my perspective for the day and boosted my reserves of spiritual power and strength.

The entry for November 21 this week proved particularly meaningful for me and I thought I would pass it on.

Wait on God as long as you have to, until He comes according to His promise and takes you out of your suffering. Do not be hasty to take yourself out of trouble. . . . The fullest mercies are the ones we wait for the longest. Jesus did not immediately supply wine at the marriage of Cana, as His mother had asked, but they had the more for waiting awhile.

Hope assures the soul that while God waits to perform one promise, he supplies another. This comfort is enough to quiet the heart of anyone who understands the sweetness of God’s methods. There is not one minute when a believer’s soul is left without comfort. There is always some promise standing ready to minister to the Christian until another one comes. A sick man does not complain if all his friends do not stay with him together, as long as they take turns and never leave him without someone to care for him. . . .

The believer can never come to Him without finding some promise to supply strength until another is ripe enough to be gathered.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (Isa. 40:31).