Filed under: Devotions
By Caleb Hancock
Have you ever thought that you knew a lot of things? Did you ever think that you were pretty clever? When facts, undeniable truths are presented in front of you, do you have a hard time dealing with them? Was there ever a time when you just didn’t get something, but now see how you were mistaken or wrong?
With those questions in mind, let’s take a look at Mark 8.
Here we have Jesus traveling in a boat with his disciples while, via parable, warning them about the Pharisees and Herodians, who denied Jesus’ authority and deity.
You can read about it here: Mark 8:14-21
I love the way that Jesus deals with his ignorant disciples. Did you catch it? He makes them say, out loud, what they had witnessed Him do, namely feeding 5,000 and 4,000 people with only 5 and 7 loaves of bread respectively. They knew the facts of the situation, that they themselves had collected the leftovers in 12 and 7 baskets. They had seen what Jesus had done. And yet, they still did not understand. They obviously had, eyes, ears, mouths and hearts, but they remained darkened in their understanding. Their “hearts were hardened”.
But what didn’t they understand? (v. 21) What were they missing in this instance?
Take a look down at verses 29, and 31-32a.
By the miracles that these disciples had witnessed, Jesus was revealing that He is the Christ, the Messiah. That He had come to bear the sins of those who put their faith in Him alone, that He would exhaust God the Father’s wrath against these sins in His own body, and that He would raise from the grave, victorious over sin and death, revealing the acceptance of His sacrifice.
Have you heard these truths before? And are you living today as if they are true???
So often, when I come to God’s Word in scripture, I am aware that my heart’s attitude is not in line with the awesome revelations therein. Namely, that I am a child of God, bought by Christ’s sacrifice, and now declared “NOT GUILTY!” in the throne-room of God! How amazing!
Let’s live our lives not as men with eyes, ears, hearts, and mouths that work, but that are unable to respond to these great truths. Rather, let us be men who, perceiving these marvelous truths, have a profound impact in our world by enjoying, demonstrating and proclaiming them!
ps. One of my favorite skits about facts being presented, repeated, but not understood is the classic Abbott and Costello Act, “Who’s on First” presented here:
By Walt Alexander
Now, I recently finished writing many posts on courtship. But I realize that teaching doesn’t always end problems. In fact, it often creates more problems – more questions to ask, more things to think through, more stuff to do.
If we say goodbye to dating, what do we say hello to right now? How do guys and girls relate?
Here are just a few things we say hello to:
1. Say hello to the Lord.
The primary reason –as stated in earlier posts– I love courtship (or biblical dating) because I long to see single people more in love with God than with the carousel of continuous dating. Singleness can be a unique season of life where we can secure “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35). This season was a gift in my own life, as it served me to cultivate this undivided devotion, this contentment in God.
So, do hard things in your relationship with the Lord while you are single. Set goals for your spiritual disciplines. Consume Christian books. Go on reading retreats. Say hello to the Lord.
2. Say hello to more friends.
Oftentimes, the dating carousel –with its tendency to isolation and inclusion– is filled with partiality and slim relationships. Partiality is elevating one person over another in your own mind, attitude and actions because of superficial qualities, like personality, dress, physique, intellectual rigor, and other characteristics. It is sin against God and is infinitely dangerous. However, it often permeates our relationships.
So, as you say goodbye to dating, expend your energies getting to know more friends. Repent of partiality and cultivate relationships! This season in your life is a unique (and excellent) one to invest in relationships.
3. Say hello to serving.
As you say goodbye to dating, you will notice that your planner is immediately loosened. So, I would encourage you to follow Christ’s example (Mk 10:45) and utilize this unique season to serve in your church, in your care group, in your house/apartment. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). Your labor – your serving – is not in vain. The risen Savior sees it and is glorified through it.
But, this takes work – believe it or not. A servant heart is difficult to maintain. You will have to consistently direct your heart to what is supremely valuable – treasuring and glorifying Jesus Christ. You will also have to continually manage your schedule to look for pockets of time you can redeem.
Also, serve everyone. Serving is a God-given opportunity to put partiality to death. Run from partiality and serve everyone. Don’t just ask the girl you know (and like) to dance. Ask the girl you don’t know and don’t (yet) like to dance!
What do you guys think? What would you add?
by Mike Plewniak
Last night at VFC, I had the privilege to finish up our “From Blah, Blah, Blah to La, La, La” series by talking about guarding our summers. My main two things to guard were 1) time with God and 2) our friendships. In following up my encouragement to read good books, I thought I would give some recommendations of my favorite books, and I’d love to hear some of yours (I’m always looking for good books).
With that said, I wanted to start by recommending some fun books. I try to read a couple of different books at a time to keep my appetite for reading strong. Boring books don’t encourage me to read. Usually, if I keep a fun book (like the following) going, I read more across the board. So, here are a few fun books for the summer:
From start to finish, this book had me. I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading the conclusion. And after I read it, I had to wake-up my wife to read it to her. A great true story of perseverance, leadership, and exploration. A manspeak must read!
The book that started the movement for Adams to get a major memorial in DC. An incredible man in the history of the USA, and someone who you will love learning about. Again, the ending is wonderful and true. His relationship (and differences) with Thomas Jefferson kept me reading other books about the two of them. HBO just did a series based on this book that is coming to DVD on June 10th. Your goal: read the book before you watch the series.
My historical hero. This is the first biography that I read on Spurgeon. From this, I started reading his books, sermons, sermon notes, autobiography, etc…. I love CJ’s encouragement to find great Christian men of history and to master their works. After 8 years of reading spurgeon, I’ve realized that I cannot master him or read all of his works. But what a great man to learn from and this is a great introduction to him.
Subtitle: The Month that Saved America. Another book that shows how the decisions of leaders have massive implications. Lincoln and Lee are both highlighted as men who had to make decisions that would be highly unpopular, but ultimately necessary for the good of others. This book keeps you moving too. It’s hard to stop one chapter without starting the next.
Filed under: Roles and Relationships
By: Travis Evans
Godly women have it rough, and men, we must seek to care for them and be their brothers. I know that I have been less than helpful at times with my sarcastic sense of humor. Girls take words and thoughts to heart. They are always looking to grow. If you see that you have told such a “joke,” immediately ask for forgiveness from her. It’s just not helpful, plain and simple-for instance saying off-the-cuff things like, “Well, I guess you’re not very kind are you.”
These girls live in a culture that opposes them and seeks to discourage them-telling them they’re not beautiful unless they look a certain way or are useless unless they are a CEO or other leader. Yet, these girls are trying to grow in hospitality by inviting people over and cooking for them. They are looking out for guys and not looking at themselves when they choose to dress modestly. They are passionate about sharing the Gospel. They are trying to grow in submission by not taking men’s roles. They are always looking to serve others and die to themselves. They are regularly pursuing the Lord and falling more in love with their Savior.
So ladies, I just wanted to say THANK YOU and we see you trying; more than that, God sees you trying, and He is pleased. God is at work in your lives. Be encouraged!
Guys do you want to be challenged? Look at what Godly girls are doing and thank them openly and often for it!
by Mike Plewniak
I just returned from last week’s Together for the Gospel conference. What a week. What great messages. How encouraging to see 5000+ (mostly pastors) joining together to worship and hear God’s word proclaimed. People keep asking me about a highlight, and I honestly cannot pick just one. From MacArthur’s to Piper’s message (both great), to CJ’s closing message to pastors (great), to hanging out with the guys I’m privileged to serve with (great), to seeing friends from Pastor’s College and other churches (great), and eating great food (great).
So, if you are interested in a taste of what T4G was all about, let me recommend a couple of resources:
– you can listen to and download all the messages.
– live blog of the conference
– a list of the free books we received
– photos of the conference
– the songs we sang together
– what people are saying
Filed under: Devotions
by Caleb Hancock
Have you ever read about Gideon? He was one of the Judges that God used to rescue Israel in the Old Testament. Check out his story here in Judges 6-8.
As I was reading this last week, I was amazed by the story. God calls Gideon, this Jewish man full of questions and doubts to save Israel from the Midianites. He repeatedly asks God for signs again and again. He meets God’s messenger face to face, sees him do miraculous things, and yet is still afraid. So this is the setting that we have as Gideon calls out the men of Israel to fight with him against Israel’s enemies in chapter seven.
But what does God say? He tells Gideon to send those men who are fearful home. So 22,000 (That’s the equivalent of UT’s undergraduates) walk home. So, after almost 70% of his men leave, Gideon must be nervous about the upcoming battle.
But God tells him that there are still too many men to fight. So he has the men drink water, and tells Gideon to distinguish between the ones who kneel down with their face to the water versus those who kneel and bring the water to their mouths with their hands. (Like the boy in the picture above) After they are separated, only 300 men remain who brought the water to their mouths. So now, only 1% of the initial army remains to fight with Gideon. Can you imagine what this man, who was full of doubts at best, must have been thinking?
Are you in similar-feeling situations? Do you feel like your circumstances are not looking too good? Do you ask God, “Why?” “Are you kidding me?!” “Where have you gone?”
Do you think that Gideon was familiar with this?
But what happens? God delivers Israel, Gideon and his 300 men defeat the dual-kinged nation of Midian. How? In verse 22 we see that the LORD brought about the victory, setting the Midianites into suicidal confusion.
So why did he prune Gideon’s army so? Look back at verse 2: “Lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ “
This is a great illustration for the Christian’s salvation. We are like Gideon and Israel: weak, doubtful, and looking back at our past, treacherous and rebellious against the Lord, deserving of death. (Romans 3:23, 6:23a)
But God, the Lord, who we have offended time and again by our lives and hearts, He has mercy, sending His Sinless-Son to bear the punishment that our sins deserve on a cross. I am so thankful for that cross today, because through it, my sins are paid for. So we see that salvation and redemption come not from a prestigious background or performance, nor a pedigree that is beyond questioning, but by God’s mercy alone. Why? Ephesians 2 informs us:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
So, we all share in Israel’s guilt. And we have all personally sinned against a HOLY God. But because He chose to have mercy, those who cry out to Him in faith, confessing their sins, and because He is Just, punishing His innocent Son in our place, we can receive the forgiveness and joy that come through the Gospel!
So don’t boast in yourself today, but rather in the Father and Savior and Spirit that have taken your spiritually dead corpse and have raised you to life in Christ Jesus! What we were powerless to do, God did ,that He alone might receive all of the praise and glory! How good he is to us!
Filed under: Books
May I recommend the Black Premium Calfskin one for $155.99?