Headphones And Homiletics
What advice would the Prince Of Preachers give to pastors just prior to departing into glory? The Greatest Fight in the World by C.H. Spurgeon is his bold and final answer to that question. Every word in this book has the marks of a pastor who preached the gospel for forty years, printed at least 2,200 of those sermons and wrote numerous other books which have been used to build up the Church since the middle of the 19th century.
In The Greatest Fight in the World, Spurgeon pulls no punches. He is adamant that pastors need to remember their armoury, army, and strength. Our armoury is the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. Spurgeon reminds that “if we want weapons we must come here for them, and here only” (p. 7). Our army, which is the Church, provides us with comrades to fight the good fight alongside us. Lastly, our strength comes from the Holy Spirit, in whom we all must depend to have any semblance of power and success in true gospel ministry.
Here are some quotes to whet your appetite to read this stirring gem of a book:
“A passage of Scripture laid home to the heart speedily quickens the feeble heart into mighty action.” (p. 18)
“Our own words are mere paper pellets compared with the rifle shot of the word.” (p. 25)
“Be bold enough to preach unpalatable and unpopular truth.” (p. 38)
“Old-fashioned believers could give you chapter and verse for what they believed; but how few of such remain!” (p. 52)
“We know nothing till we are taught of the Holy Ghost, who speaks to the heart rather than to the ear.” (p. 60)
I encourage you, whether you’re a pastor or not, to read this book and glean from 40+ years of Spurgeon’s prolific and fruitful ministry. C.H. Spurgeon is known as “England’s greatest contribution to the spread of the gospel in the 19th century”, and at the heart of his powerful preaching and writing were a trust for the Word, a love for the Church, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. This is why The Greatest Fight in the World is so vital over 100 years after the original publishing.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
What Does Sin Have To Do With It?
During Advent, we love to think about the little baby in a manger. We're reminded of the magi and the shepherds coming to worship the young son of Mary. Even more, Christmas gives us an opportunity to remember the incarnation of Jesus, which means that God the Son became a man.
One thing that doesn't often come to our minds at Christmas is sin. Who wants to dampen the holiday joy by talking about something depressing like sin? It isn't usually at the top of the list for Christmas dinner conversations, huh?
We don't have the choice to ignore sin at Christmas because it is the very reason Jesus came.
Sin Has Devastating Effects
If you've been following the Advent reading guide I posted last week, you may have found it strange that an Advent guide took us back to the garden of Eden and spends four more days talking about sin. This wasn't by accident.
What we see in Genesis 3:1-19 is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned. Sin hindered their relationship with God and they were no longer at peace with Him. By Genesis 6:5, sin is so ugly that it has consumed the hearts of all people. When sin entered through Adam and Eve, death came to us all. Every single one of us has a death sentence waiting for us because of sin (Romans 6:23).
God is perfectly holy and perfectly just. This means He must punish sin (Job 34:1-10). This news is heartbreaking for every person alive. The 7 billion people living on this planet deserve the punishment for sin right now, and the Holy God of scripture can't just sweep it under the rug. No matter how we think we can get around it, unless God forgives us, we have no hope (Mark 2:7).
What's In A Name?
As you consider the birth of Jesus, you may easily overlook a momentous scene tucked neatly into Matthew's gospel. After Joseph found out his betrothed virgin Mary was pregnant, he was considering silently divorcing her. It was in this moment that God stepped in and sent a message that was utterly earthshaking:
"Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Did you catch it? Jesus came to solve humanity's greatest problem—sin. Jesus' name means, "Yahweh (or Jehovah) saves." He is the Savior who "will save his people from their sins."
The atoning work of Jesus is found in His very name! What a glorious reminder this Christmas that the eternal Son of God didn't just come to be a carpenter, preach good messages, do good deeds, heal sick bodies, and provide an example of good morality. Far more than that, He came to die on a cross to save people from sin and restore them to a relationship with the triune (three-in-one) God of the Universe.
Have you been saved from sin? When is the last time you thanked God for that? Share the testimony of Christ's work in your life with friends and family this Christmas season!
Advent 2018 is underway this year, and many Christians are in search of devotional tools to help them focus on Jesus this holiday season. One of my goals is to point you to good books and other great resources to benefit you and the people close to you as you pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.
Love Came Down At Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson brings the message of Christ’s love to you in a unique and special way. Rather than simply focusing on traditional Christmas themes or sections of scripture, Ferguson chose to walk readers through 1 Corinthians 13—the Bible’s famous love chapter.
He reminds us that the words of 1 Corinthians 13 can profoundly move us during the Advent season. We are shown that “when you slow them down, and read them phrase by phrase, and apply them to yourself, they transpose into a different key altogether. They cease to be rhetorically pleasing and emotionally soothing; instead they become an analysis of your spiritual life. They are deeply challenging” (p. 11).
Each day, you get a little bit of exposition, Ferguson’s warm personality and affectionate teaching style, and Christ-focused application. You also get some helpful reflection questions and poetic prayers from various saints throughout church history. The concise, truth-packed chapters are a wonderful way to start each day leading up to Christmas.
If you want a soul-searching, heart-warming devotional this Advent season, look no further than Love Came Down At Christmas. It’s still early, so you can order your copy on Kindle or paperback today!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
A Small Taste Of The Glory Of Christ
God’s presence brings joy to His people (Psalm 16:11). This devotional guide gives you a small taste of the glory of Christ found in God’s Word. Don’t be surprised if you plan to spend 15 minutes and end up enjoying an hour with God! We were created for this. Our sole purpose in life is to worship and enjoy God forever.
How To Use This Guide
The goal is not to just get through the reading for the day and check the box (wait, there is no box!). Pick a time, pick a place, and maybe pick some people to read with. Early birds, get up and have your coffee with the Lord. Night owls, ditch Netflix and enjoy time with Christ.
As you read, I recommend the following basic steps (ARMY):
Before You Get Started
Before you get started with this Advent guide, I want you to take 5 minutes to ask yourself a few questions. I know, I know, you don’t have time to stop and wait, right? But seriously stop and ask yourself these questions:
Why am I doing this? Will God love me less if I fail? Will He love me more if I do well? Is this just something I’m doing to look more spiritual?
If you decide to wake up earlier, stay up later, or give up some time during your lunch break to spend time with Christ, don’t just go through the motions. Remind yourself that the blessed saints are the ones who meditate day and night (Psalm 1). Abiding in Christ will lead to fullness of joy (John 15:1-11). The God of the universe is worth more than any gift you will receive this Christmas.
For a printable version of the guide, click here.
Jesus, The Eternal Son Of God
December 2: Jesus, the Creator (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3)
December 3: Jesus, the Eternal Word (John 1:1-18)
December 4: Jesus, the Foreknown Savior (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; 1 Peter 1:17-21)
December 5: Jesus, the Son of God (John 1:29-34; Luke 1:35; Matthew 14:33)
Sinners In Need Of A Savior
December 6: The Fall of Man (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-19)
December 7: The Effects of Sin (Genesis 6:1-8; Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3)
December 8: The Wages of Sin (Romans 6:23; Psalm 49:7; Romans 3:23)
December 9: The Requirement of Justice (Proverbs 24:12; Job 34:10-15)
December 10: The Forgiveness That Counts (Mark 2:7; Matthew 9:1-8)
Prophecies Of The Messiah
December 11: Jesus, the Headcrusher (Genesis 3:14-15; Romans 16:20; Hebrews 2:14-18)
December 12: Jesus, the King (Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 2; John 18:33-38)
December 13: Jesus, the Forsaken (Psalm 22:1; Psalm 22:14-18; Matthew 27:45-56)
December 14: Jesus, the Risen (Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-32)
December 15: Jesus, the Light of the Nations (Isaiah 49:6; Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8)
Themes Of Immanuel
December 16: Joy in Christ (Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Peter 1:8-9)
December 17: Hope in Christ (Psalm 39:7; 1 Peter 1:3-5)
December 18: Peace in Christ (Isaiah 9:6; Philippians 4:4-7; Ephesians 2:11-22)
December 19: The Sacrifice of Christ (John 15:12-13; 1 John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 8:9)
December 20: The Presence of Christ (Matthew 1:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3)
Unto Us A Child Is Born
December 21: Mary, the Virgin Mother (Luke 1:26-38)
December 22: Mary, the Joyful Mother (Luke 1:39-56)
December 23: Joseph, the Obedient Earthly Father (Matthew 1:18-25)
December 24: John, the Forerunner (Luke 1:67-80)
December 25: Jesus, the Savior, Is Born (Luke 2:1-38)
For a printable version of this guide, click here.
Food, Family, Football, and Fantastic Sales
Thanksgiving is an amazing time of year for most of us in America. There's a huge feast, family time, and great football.
Then there's Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year for many of us. There are some insane deals on stuff we've been waiting all year to get. Many stores are open before we have time to finish praying over Thanksgiving dinner.
Has Thanksgiving just become the day we eat an oversized, coma-inducing meal that fuels us up for Black Friday shopping? Instead of thankfulness, it often reminds us of the things we needed but didn't remember until we saw the commercials.
On Black Friday, we're bombarded with the idea that there is never enough.
In a sad, twisted irony, Black Friday has become yet another opportunity to indulge the covetousness that so defines our materialistic culture the rest of the year.
Covetousness Is Universal
You know what I'm talking about, don't you? All year you've wanted to get your hands that new iPhone you keep seeing at work. You've stared at that pair of Jordan's at the mall for too long now.
That kitchen upgrade you couldn't afford suddenly seems reasonable. Regardless of what it is, you feel the draw. You reason with yourself, "How do I pass up that big of deal?!" or "I'd be stupid not to buy it today while the price is this low!".
I get it. Some people genuinely don't struggle with materialism or an intense desire for shopping. We can use Black Friday to serve others and to steward our money well. I'm not against Black Friday itself. In fact, I plan to make use of good deals this year, too. We just need to check our hearts and motives as we do our Black Friday shopping each year.
We all covet something, though. Even if you hate Black Friday and the commercialism of Christmas, there's always something. What is it that would make your life worthwhile if you could have it? Is it the perfect family? Is it a spouse? Is it a raise? Whatever it is, we need to take covetousness seriously because God takes it seriously.
Bowing At The Altar?
How many of us would bow down and worship a tree, statue, or false god of another religion? That's outrageous! We are rational, Western Christians who know better than that! And yet, we read in the Bible these shocking words:
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
Does that change your perspective on that little sin of being envious of that Mercedes, iPad, perfect home, or Puritan book collection? Okay, maybe I'm the only one who covets Puritan book sets! God equates that coveting with bowing down and worshiping another god—even if that god is our own desires.
Idolatry deserves the wrath of God, doesn't it? We see that in the Word of God (Exodus 32-34). Our covetousness deserves the same wrath that a worshiper of Molech deserved in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:21). Thankfully, for those in Christ, it was paid for by our generous Savior on the cross. Jesus drank the cup of wrath for every bit of it.
Being bitten by a venomous snake is immediately a life or death situation. In many cases, the only way to survive is to receive an antidote to reverse the effects of the venom. In the case of covetousness, God gives us an antidote in Colossians 4:2. Though not the only answer to covetousness, this antidote will benefit us in this holiday season:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
There are three vital aspects to consider in our fight against covetousness:
Christ Is Greater
Ultimately, covetousness is worshiping our desires more than Christ. He is supremely more glorious and beautiful than any earthly treasure could ever be (Isaiah 4:2). When we see Him for who He is and what He has done, we will be drawn to worship. He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3). There is no greater treasure than Christ.
How will you fight covetousness this holiday season? If you have children, how will you teach them Christ-centered thankfulness? Leave some ideas in the comments!
A Yearly Reminder
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that is easy to enjoy. Good food, family time, football, and Charlie Brown are just a few highlights of the holiday for me.
As a lover of the Autumn season, I consider Thanksgiving to be the pinnacle of the fall season. When I was a kid, I would wake up to the smell of an array of amazing dishes that grabbed my taste buds and made my mouth water all day. The smooth Kenny G. collection, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and my dad's melt-in-your-mouth fudge are things I’ll never forget.
More Than A Feast Day
Though Thanksgiving was such a memorable part of my childhood, I never truly understood the connection of the holiday to actually being thankful. Now I think I get it.
Thanksgiving can be a time we set aside to worship and thank God for His generosity. There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that can show us thankfulness, command us to be thankful, or point to the God who is worthy of our thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving can certainly be more than a feast day. As believers, we can use it as a day to display gratitude for the glorious work of our triune God in the salvation of sinners.
The Will Of God
Have you ever wondered what the will of God is for your life? Have you ever prayed for God to reveal His will? Scripture shows us that God has two wills: a revealed will (what we see in scripture) and a hidden will (what we don’t see until it happens).
We often gravitate toward finding the hidden will while neglecting the revealed will, don’t we? The all-knowing God of the universe doesn’t always reveal His intentions to us. We have to trust His wisdom and perfect planning as we walk through life in this fallen world.
We can know the revealed will of God. How? By opening the Bible to passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We see that thanksgiving is an aspect of God's revealed will for our lives.
Are You Thankful?
Rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks are God’s will. Are you rejoicing? Are you praying without ceasing? Are you thankful? This is God’s will for your life! When you are doing these things you are living as God created you to live!
As we consider being purposeful in celebrating Thanksgiving this year, here are just a few areas worthy of our meditation and prayer:
Start today. Open to John 3:16 and spend 5 or 10 minutes jotting down some meditations on the passage. Pray through those meditations by yourself and with your family.
Fathers, develop a brief devotional to share with the family before Thanksgiving dinner. Mothers, remind your children of the importance of thanksgiving and share why the gospel brings true thanksgiving in our hearts.
Regardless of the season of life you're in, show your loved ones a Christ-centered heart of thanksgiving.
What are some other reasons to be thankful? What passages or works of God make you thankful? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Logos Bible Software is one of the greatest Bible study tools I've ever seen. I am not exaggerating when I say that! There are so many great tools in Logos that instructional courses have been created to show users how to tap into its power.
Last Christmas, I purchased Logos 7 and my library increased to 900+ books and study resources that I could access at home and on the go. Since then, I've been able to access shelves worth of bible dictionaries, original language tools, sermons, and commentaries from my smartphone!
If I encounter a difficult passage and want to see the original Greek, I don't have to grab a book from the shelf (though I love hard copies, too!). If I need to read from the Pillar New Testament Commentary or the New International Greek Testament Commentary, I can access them in seconds while enjoying a medium roast at the local coffee shop.
If I want to see propositional outlines of a passage or read a systematic theology on a given topic, I can find both with just a few mouse clicks or taps on my smartphone screen.
With all this, I've not even mentioned the Psalms explorer, Spurgeon's sermons, Themelios articles, maps, cultural concepts, and ancient Christian writings. All of these are searchable within Logos. And with these, I've still barely scratched the surface!
Logos 8 Is Impressive
With all the praise for Logos 7, you can imagine my wife's surprise when I asked her about upgrading to Logos 8 less than a year later.
I saw the reviews, promo videos, and new features, and a little piece of me died. OK, not exactly. But I knew I wouldn't be able to afford all the new features.
However, I decided to try the starter upgrade package (which was heavily discounted), and it has been worth every penny.
Here are my top 3 favorite features of Logos 8 Starter:
A Tool For My Studies
For me, Logos is a powerhouse Bible study tool. For the past 11 months, I've used Logos 7 to prep for every sermon I've preached. I love the quick access to the vast array of study helps. I especially enjoy the exegetical guide, which is helpful for word studies and parsing Greek verbs. The sermon editor has been an asset in creating handouts for sermons and various Bible studies, as well.
Logos 8 has taken my studying up a notch by giving me Workflows to help improve my Bible study process and decrease the amount of time that I spend searching for resources. That alone is worth the price of the upgrade!
A Tool For My Devotional Life
I'm a pencil and paper type of guy. I have notebooks all over the place, and I love jotting notes in my Interleaved ESV Journaling Bible. With the help of Logos 8, though, I can have a more focused devotional life with a digital footprint to benefit myself and others.
Instead of simply writing my thoughts and prayers in a journal, I can now type out my prayers and meditations for later use in blog posts, sermons, or personal devotions. I have a consistent, easily accessible place for the most precious moments that I spend with the Lord.
Is Logos 8 For You?
Are you a pastor, lay leader, Bible teacher, or believer who wants to enhance your spiritual life? If so, Logos 8 may be a valuable tool to enhance your biblical studies and spiritual life. They have several entry points, so whether you're a starter looking to build a small library, a pastor desiring to preach better, or a scholar skilled in the original languages, Logos has something for you!
With the holiday season quickly approaching, you may be seeing the word "Advent" flying around! Is this some weird tradition that super-Christians celebrate to fight back against Christmas? Not quite. Is it something only super-spiritual or rigidly orthodox Christian partake in to shame the nominals? Not at all! Let's take a look at Advent and see how you could benefit from making it a part of your life this Christmas season.
What is Advent?
Advent is a season for Christians to anticipate the celebration of Jesus' birth with scripture reading, prayer, singing, family worship, and more. For Christians worldwide, it is the first holiday in the Christian calendar and begins four Sundays before Christmas. Advent 2018 is from December 2, 2018 to December 24th. Many churches celebrate the final day of Advent with a midnight candlelight service of scripture reading, hymn singing, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
4 Reasons To Celebrate Advent This Year
If this is your first time hearing about Advent, you may be wondering why you should make it a part of your life. Here are four ways Advent could be a blessing to your soul:
Over the coming weeks, I plan to highlight some helpful Advent resources and themes to incorporate during Advent 2018. I also plan to provide you with a personalized reading guide with short devotions and questions that will be helpful for personal quiet times or family worship.
Will you and your family be participating in Advent this year?
How will you and your family anticipate the celebration of Christ's first coming?
Share your comment below!
Are You Enjoying God?
Do you enjoy God? No, really. Do you actually enjoy God?
Your immediate answer may be “Of course, it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship!” That’s true indeed. But we have to accept the fact that there’s often a pretty broad gap between what we should experience and what we actually experience. So, I’ll ask you again, “Do you really enjoy God?”
Enjoying God: Experience The Power And Love Of God In Everyday Life by Tim Chester helps us consider our experience and enjoyment of our triune God in everyday life. Chester reminds us that whether our children are throwing tantrums or loneliness is making its dismal presence felt again, we can still enjoy God.
That seems impossible unless you’re one of the exceptionally strong Christians, doesn’t it?
God is Enjoyable
At the heart of Enjoying God is the fact that Christians can truly know God and experience His presence in daily life. God is known in the three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We experience Him as we interact with each Person of the Triune Godhead. By faith, all believers are connected to God through the work of Christ, and this union with Christ leads to daily communion with Him. The more time we spend in communion with God, the more we will experience and enjoy Him.
BBQ Grills vs. Smokers
As a huge fan of good barbecue, I prefer the smoker to the grill. Grills are fast, easy, and make amazing barbecue. You can throw on a slab of ribs, some hamburgers and hotdogs, and some juicy steaks and have it ready in a matter of an hour or two.
Grilling never compares to a brisket that has been smoked to perfection for 18 hours over some hickory or applewood! That kind of melt-in-your-mouth meat carries the rich flavor of smoke, seasoning, and juices that can hardly be matched on a grill!
Enjoying God is a book that calls us to slow down. Each chapter has some practical application that could require a week (or more) to put into practice. As the type who loves to plow through a book in a few days or a couple weeks, at most, I benefitted from slowing down and savoring each chapter and each topic of application.
Some books are perfect for reading in a day or two. Enjoying God is not one of them. It’s like smoking a good brisket and needs time to be pondered over for a season as you apply the action steps and learn to enjoy God more.
You Could Benefit From Enjoying God
Obviously, you don’t need this book to enjoy God, but could you benefit from taking a season to read through this book, search the scriptures, and commune with God? The holidays are approaching, and the hustle and bustle of this season can tempt you to put your devotional life on hold. Don't give Christ your holiday leftovers this year.
What if during your time off from work, you used some of that free time to read and pray more? What if your Advent devotional time (more to come on Advent soon!) could be used to enjoy God more this December? Enjoying God can be a good catalyst to help you cap off 2018 and start 2019 in deep communion with the Lord.
Get your copy of “Enjoying God” today!
I received a free copy of this book and was not required to leave a positive review.
“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Get To Know Motyer
If J. Alec Motyer is not on your list of authors to read, it’s probably about time to get to know him. Though he recently entered his heavenly abode (August 2016), Motyer’s voice is still very present through his numerous commentaries, devotional books, and other writings. For me, reading Motyer was like unearthing a gold mine of Old Testament theology. I haven’t yet seen writings on the Old Testament that contain more sound scholarship and devotional warmth than Motyer. He takes a largely neglected and misunderstood section of scripture and reminds readers that the Old Testament is flavorful and vital food for our souls.
How Do You Feel About The Old Testament?
Motyer opens this book with a much-needed question: “Do you find the Old Testament more than a little bit daunting?” This is a question many people will answer with, “yes, of course!”. This book is written to help those who not only feel it is daunting, but also carry a misguided view that keeps us from actually reading the Old Testament much. Notice that I said “us”. I, too, do not read much of the Old Testament and feel lost in a foreign world that I have been told doesn’t correlate with the New Testament Christian experience.
A Devotional Work
Motyer traces 6 Old Testament themes throughout this devotional book. Why do I consider it devotional? Frankly, because Motyer clearly states in the introduction that “the readings are more important than the introductions, so if you find any chapter best left for later, why not get on with the readings and then come back to it?” He desires communion with God in His inspired Word rather than merely reading his words and missing out on the treasures of the scriptures themselves. For each major theme, he offers 6 days of readings with some brief commentary to supplement the readings.
The 6 themes he shares will help readers enjoy the Old Testament in a more organized and accessible way than they may have tried before. Rather than aimlessly picking up in a random place or dreadfully trudging through the law with no concept of what’s going on, Motyer gives brief overviews of the themes of history, religion, worship, prophecy, wisdom, and God as they present themselves in the Old Testament. In the appendix, he also provides 24 weeks worth of short daily readings with more brief commentary to help readers explore the riches of the Old Testament for themselves.
A Swiss Army Knife
Swiss army knives are known for their numerous practical uses. Motyer has presented the Church with a swiss army knife on the Old Testament. This book could be used for personal devotion, discipleship, small group classes, or even a sermon series. The six themes are easily identifiable, and the readings are brief enough to illustrate the theme while not forcing the theme onto the biblical text. The commentary is brief enough to illuminate some truths in the passages while also giving readers the hunger to do more digging for themselves.
Get your copy of “6 Ways The Old Testament Speaks Today” here!
Note: I received a free copy of this book from Crossway. I was not required to write a positive review.
Chrys Jones is a Christian, husband, father of three, pastor, and teacher. He is also a recording artist and producer for Christcentric Records and a book briefer for Accelerate Books. In his free time, Chrys loves to spend time with his family, roast coffee, read good books, and listen to beat tapes and jazz.
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