Prayer for the Holy Spirit in Reading the Bible

It is always right and good to pray for the ministry of the Spirit to increase in our lives. We thank the Father for sending the Son and we thank the Son for coming into this world as the Savior. Should we not also pray to the Spirit, to do His special work in our lives?

In reading this morning, as I reflect on beginning a new year of Bible reading, my thoughts are turned to the Spirit’s special role in taking the truth of God’s Word and making it real to me. I will see nothing and gain nothing from the Bible apart from His illuminating work upon my mind and soul. We ought to pray something along this line daily as we read—

“Blessed Spirit of God, You have given me the Bible; You inspired its writing, and You alone can feed my soul today with it; Come and make real the truth to me this morning; come and quicken me with your truth; illumine my mind and soul to see this morning what you eat to say to me, and show me the things of Christ; open my eyes to see wondrous things, fresh things, and things beneficial for me right now. Please make my time in your Word increasingly life-giving and profitable; cause me to increase in desire for the Bible more and more, and take your place more than ever as Paraclete to make real the things of God to my soul. Make my time in your Word become a time in the power and freshness of the Holy Spirit.”

As the hymn-writer said, “Spirit of God, my teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me.”

– Mack Tomlinson

Wisdom from Charles Hodge

To be in Christ is the source of the Christian’s life.
To be like Christ is the sum of the Christian’s excellence.
To be with Christ is the fullness of the Christian’s joy.
~ ~ ~ ~
The grace of God exalts a man without inflating him–and humbles a man without debasing him.
~ ~ ~ ~
The gospel is so simple, that small children can understand it–and it is so profound, that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches!
~ ~ ~ ~
Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us–but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the grace of God.
~ ~ ~ ~
This is true religion:
to approve what God approves,
to hate what God hates, and
to delight in what God delights.

– Charles Hodge

All is of Grace

I see clearly now that anything, whatever it is, if it be not on the principle of grace, it is not of God. Here shall be my plea in weakness; here shall be my boldness in prayer; here shall be my deliverance in temptation; at last, here shall be my translation. Not of grace? Then not of God. And here, O Lord Most High, shall be your glory and the honor of your Son. The awakening for which I have asked – it shall come in your time, on this principle, by grace, through faith. Perfect my faith, then, Lord, that I may learn to trust only in divine grace, that Thy work of holiness might soon begin in Portland.

– Jim Eliott

Are We Spiritual Sideliners or Dangerous?

We are so utterly ordinary and commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are ‘harmless’, and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are ‘sideliners’ – coaching and criticizing the real wresters while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!

– Jim Elliot

Ministry Prayer Requests

This month of December is unique for us in one way, and because of that, we especially ask your prayers over the next 4 weeks if you think of us. Our schedule is as follows:

– This weekend, December 3-4, preaching at Grace Church, Mt. Pleasant, Texas

– December 10-14, Madison, Alabama, preaching 3 times at Grace Baptist Church, Madison

– December 16-21, New York City, with Linda, and preaching at Grace Baptist Church in the city on Sunday, December 18th

– Home for Christmas December 22-26th

– Amarillo Texas December 27-January 6th, where I am scheduled for eye surgery on both eyes, which will be done on December 29 and the second surgery on January 5.

This is a busy schedule this time of the year, and we truly need and ask your prayers.

Warmly yours with thanks, and praying you are experiencing the presence and love of Christ our Lord.

– Mack and Linda

Don’t Take the Bible for Granted

William Tyndale, from his prison cell in Vilvorde, Belgium, wrote to the Marquis of Bergen, the governor of the jail where he was being held captive before he was strangled and his body burned. Listen to what William Tyndale wrote; ‘I entreat your lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I must remain here for the winter you would beg the Commissary to be so kind as to send me, from the things of mine which he has, a warmer cap; I feel the cold painfully in my head. Also a warmer cloak, for the cloak I have is very thin. He has a woolen shirt of mine, if he will also send it. But most of all my Hebrew Bible, Grammar and Vocabulary, that I may spend my time in that pursuit.’ How one’s emotions are stirred in read those words! What a price some men paid that we might have what we take for granted, the word of God in our own language.

– Geoff Thomas

Jesus, the Last Adam

Jesus is an Adam because he was made like us in every respect, apart from sin, and is the head of a new humanity. He is second because no man between Adam and Christ entered the world without sin. He is second also to remind us that he entered the world without sin himself. He is also second to remind us that he entered a fallen world, not the pristine world of the first Adam. Christ is last because there is not, and need not be, any like him who followed after him, since he reverses what Adam did in his sin and also accomplishes for us what Adam failed to do.

— Sinclair Ferguson

The Folly of Failing to Fill the Holes

‘For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.’ – 2 Samuel 19:6

All men are tempted by the big three- women, children, and power. We see the big three and the damage they can do in the life of King David. We saw last the folly of running red lights. God put before David at least nine ‘stop lights’ to keep him from his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba, but in his folly, he went for it and brought devastating consequences upon his family and kingdom.

Men battle not just the folly of other women or the pursuit of power, but also the folly of failing to fill the holes they eventually see in their children. Take David’s dealings with his son Absalom as a sad example. I see at least seven holes in Absalom’s life upon which David failed to act.

Hole number one. Samuel tells us that David had many wives (2 Samuel 5:13) though he does not give us the exact number. Scripture records eight of them and one, Maacah, was the mother of Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3). Absalom was born long before David’s adultery with Bathsheba but David’s problems with women did not merely begin there. Absalom would have witnessed his father’s undisciplined life with many different women. Take away- your children are not stupid. They see what you are doing. They are watching your every move, how you get too close to women who are not their mother.

Hole number two. Half brother Ammon lusts after half sister Tamar (Absalom’s full sister) and rapes her. Absalom plots vengeance against Ammon, eventually murdering him. While justly angry at Ammon’s violating of his sister, Absalom’s fratricide was unjustified. David did nothing to stop Absalom. Take away- teach your children to appeal to God ordained authority to right the wrongs they see or experience. They must never gain the idea that vigilante justice is acceptable.

Hole number three. After discovering that Absalom had committed fratricide, David did nothing to discipline his son. The narrative of the text is now making clear that David favored Absalom over all his other children. He mourned the departure of Absalom and was glad that Ammon was now dead (2 Samuel 13:39). Take away-never play favorites with your children. Never allow them to engage in vengeful actions against anyone, especially their siblings.

Hole number four. David was conned by Joab, his nephew, the captain of David’s army. Joab sent a widow woman from Tekoa to set up David with a bogus story about one of her two son’s killing the other son, asking David to protect her son against retribution, something he agrees to do. She then draws the noose around David’s neck by challenging him for being inconsistent. If he would protect her son from retribution, why would he not protect his own son and bring him back from exile? Take away- do not spare your children the discipline they need. Do not indulge them in their wickedness. Stop it early. It is much easier to discipline a three year old that a sixteen year old.
Hole number five. Absalom was a strikingly handsome man who lived a privileged life as the king’s favored son. The long story of Absalom (taking up seven chapters of 2 Samuel) reveals how David repeatedly coddled and indulged his son. After David foolishly recalled Absalom, though still requiring him to live away from the king, Absalom demanded that Joab visit him. When Joab was slow to answer, Absalom had Joab’s field burned, destroying his crop of barley. Joab caved. So did David, granting Absalom full access to his presence. Take away- failure to do the difficult business of discipline, leaving unchecked the undisciplined life, will lead inevitably to more and more outrageous demands and family disruption.

Hole number six. Daddy David allowed Absalom access to opulence. Though Absalom has a long history of irresponsible and reckless behavior, David still allows his favored son a chariot, horses, and a posse of fifty men. Second Samuel 15 reports that Absalom hung out daily with his posse at the gate, siding with the people as they came to present their cases before David, suggesting not too subtly that he would make a much better king than David. Thus Absalom stole the hearts of the people from the king. David seemed to not know how to form the word ‘No,’ on his lips as he spoke with Absalom. The favored son wanted to leave town for Hebron and David let him go. This, of course, is the time and place where Absalom raised the insurrection against his own father, usurping the kingdom from him. Take away-the grace of expanding freedom is fine when you are dealing with an obedient child; but when you have one who is serially disobedient, manipulative, and deceiving, you have no choice but to hem him in with the law. ‘No, you cannot go there. No you cannot have a car. No, you cannot wear that short dress.’

Hole number seven. We read in 2 Samuel 18,19 the story of Absalom eventually being killed in battle and the kingdom restored to David. However when David hears that his favored son, the one who has caused him untold heartache, is dead; David weeps profusely, uncontrollably, and unwisely. Joab severely rebukes David, suggesting that David would be happy if all his people and faithful leaders were dead, as long as his beloved Absalom was still alive. Take away- do not allow yourself to be blinded by your children’s rebellion. Behavior you would never approve in others, you may possibly allow in your children, perhaps because you are misguided, thinking that you are to be your child’s best buddy. Don’t go there. When law nor grace have worked and your rebellious older child is utterly disrupting your family life; in order to save the rest of your children and to maintain the peace in your family, you may have to remove the wayward child for a season from your home.

And last but certainly not least, you must never forget to pray for your children, asking God the Holy Spirit to take out the rebellious heart that loves sin and hates God, what I like to call the cobra heart (Psalm 58:4); and to give them the heart of Jesus in regenerating grace. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Pray for your children. Evangelize your children. Ask God to give them a new heart which loves God and hates sin.

– Al Baker

Running Red Lights

‘David sent messengers and took her . . . he lay with her.’ – 2 Samuel 11:4.
When Israel clamored for a king, Yahweh relented and gave them Saul, but after Saul’s disobedience, God promised another king after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). When Paul the apostle was addressing the Jews at Pisidian Antioch, reviewing the salvation history of Israel, he referred to David as a man after God’s own heart, one who would do His will (Acts 13:22). So, how could a man after God’s own heart, who wrote these marvelous Psalms, who expressed a profound depth of holiness and zeal (Psalm 22, 47, 63), fall into the grievous sin of adultery and then exacerbate the problem by having his adulteress’s husband murdered? The answer-David ran nine red lights God had graciously put before him.

Red light number one. Israel was in the midst of war with the nation of Ammon when the Arameans sided with Ammon against Israel. David gathered his army and crossed the Jordan River at Helam and routed the Arameans (2 Samuel 10:15-19). The Ammonites had not yet been conquered so the war continued, but David was not there in the war theater. It was the spring of the year, after the rains, when the roads are dry, that armies would typically move out of camp and face their enemies. David stayed home. He sent Joab to conquer the Ammonites (2 Samuel 11:1). In other words, David was neglecting his kingly responsibilities. Take away-stay in the fight. Stay busy. Idle time in hotels, coffee shops, or restaurants are breeding grounds for licentious behavior.

Red light number two. ‘Now when evening came, David rose from his bed,’ (2 Samuel 11:2). What? Why is David in bed at 6 p.m.? Why is he not managing his kingdom, meeting with his key men? Answer-because David is the king and he can do whatever he pleases. If he wants to slack off his work routine, no problem. He knows the peace and prosperity of the kingdom is due to his able leadership (apparently he has forgotten that all he has and is is from God’s benevolent hand). Take away-Get up early. Never sleep past 6 a.m. Do the hard and most important tasks first. Never be enamored with your position, money, or power. It can vanish quickly like the frost at noon day.
Red light number three. David walked around on the roof of his house. Is it too much to imagine that due to the height of a king’s palace, towering over other nearby buildings, that David had observed lurid scenes before? Again, David has too much time on his hands. He reminds me of prideful Nebuchadnezzar who is walking around on the roof of his palace and sees the vast city he has constructed and congratulates himself on his mighty accomplishments (Daniel 4:28-33). He suffers insanity for a season, as a consequence. Maybe David was looking for something. Maybe he had seen Bathsheba before. Take away-eschew pride. Resist it. Run from it. Resist also the fleshly impulse to look for the other woman at work, lingering at the break room, hanging out at her office, taking her to lunch or for a cup of coffee. Eschew brazen pride. It is a killer of men, their wives, and their children.

Red light number four. David saw a woman bathing. He also noticed that she was beautiful. It is one thing to see a beautiful woman and re-direct your eyes to the task at hand.. It is another thing to linger with your look. Take away-a lingering, lustful look may very well be what catapults you into the bed of destruction.

Red light number five. David sent for her. He could do that because he was the king, and people do what the king commands them to do. He saw her, lusted after her, and sent for her. Take away-all the prayer and praise, all the writing of the Psalms were no match for the pride of the king. He was going to do exactly what he wanted to do. All your Bible reading, all your prayer, all your meetings, all your profound and moving times with God are no match for your lust if you keep running red lights.

Red light number six. David was told that the woman is Bathsheba, the wife of another man, and by the way, not merely the wife of any man, but the wife of one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39) Talk about treachery! At the very least, since Bathsheba was married to such a humble faithful servant of the king, surely David should have backed off. Take away-the more red lights you run, the easier it becomes to run the next one. You just don’t consider, at this point, that you are running rapidly to rapacious disaster.

Red light number seven. David sent messengers. He had already done that once. He sent them again. This time, however, it was not to inquire but to take. While they were on their way, David had a few minutes to think about what he was planning to do. He could have stopped. He could have contemplated how this would destroy his family and credibility in the kingdom, but after running seven red lights, he is gaining speed toward destruction. Take away-unchecked lustful passion will overpower sound thinking every time.
Red light number eight. She came to him. There was still time to call it off. Yes, there was this beautiful young woman, whom he had just seen naked, one for whom he was lusting mightily, but he could still have walked away, sent her home without touching her. Take away-men who commit adultery are like sheep being led to the slaughter. They may be powerful men in business, church, or government but they can be woefully weak in the presence of a beautiful woman.

Red light number nine. He lay with her. He did it. He committed adultery and now everything will change for David, Bathsheba, their respective families, and the kingdom. Take away-you never sin in a vacuum. Libertarianism is not the real world. Your actions do matter to your nation, community, church, and most of all, to your family. How many children have been emotionally and spiritually traumatized by the sexual sin of their parents.

Are you too close to someone other than your spouse? Run for your life. Flee to Jesus. Ask Him for mercy. Don’t be a fool. I promise you, you will regret your actions for the rest of your life. Can you be forgiven? Of course you can, and some of you have fallen into this sin and you know you are forgiven, been restored to your loving Saviour. But the consequences remain. They will never leave you in this life. Don’t go there.
– Al Baker

The Gospel is the Answer to a Lack of Assurance

The gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly the message of the entire Bible. Any honest reader of Scripture, who has a basic understanding of God’s Word recognizes that Christ is the focus of the Bible, and the gospel itself, the good news of what God has done in Christ for sinful men, is the only remedy for a lost world. But the gospel and its implications to all of life have often been used only evangelistically. The church has often failed to see the many applications of the gospel to the Christian in all areas of life and growth. The truth is that the gospel is the basis of everything in the Christian’s life. We must be “gospelized”– gospel-centered, gospel-focused, and making the gospel the central reality in all our living.

There are various applications of the gospel relative to the ministry, such as the worship life of the church. Christ himself must be the focus in our singing, prayers, and in all preaching and teaching. Any church that departs from keeping the gospel central in its ministry, that ministry will cease being effective. There are also other areas where the church must remain gospel-centered, such as missions, social work, personal evangelism, and our relationship with government and society. But I want to focus here on a more specific and narrow application of the gospel, that being the pastoral counseling and shepherding of those who lack or struggle with assurance of salvation.

The doctrine of assurance is greatly neglected in our day, in terms of both understanding it biblically and in gospel preaching. We do not have time here to address the issue of assurance more deeply, only to say that Christians and Christian leaders must make a distinction between a person’s possession of salvation and the possession of assurance. These two things are not the same. One does not always follow the other. There are people who are converted and who possesses assurance of their salvation, and there are people who are converted who have very little assurance, and in some cases, no assurance.

What is the answer and the means of helping them? There are various issues involved relative to assurance, but at the heart of the issue is the gospel itself and our believing it. I would argue that a clear understanding of the doctrinal truth of the gospel and a person’s acceptance with God through Christ is the only certain remedy for a lack of assurance. This has great implications for effective pastoring counseling. This is often neglected or forgotten, but may be the most important issue in pastoral counseling. Here’s why.

When a pastor deals regularly with a person who lacks assurance, what is he to point them to? Here is a man or woman who makes a clear profession of faith in Christ, is consistent in worship, has a tender heart, loves the preaching of the truth, and loves to be with other Christians, but they cannot gain personal assurance. What will help them the most? When they pour out their heart to you, desiring guidance and counsel, where do you take them? Do we have them focus on their own struggle and inward need, to get them to analyze their condition? Or do you take them to the cross, outside of themselves, to freshly see what Another One has done perfectly for them? This, and this alone, is where they can find assurance—the gospel.

The battle for assurance is one of the most significant battles Christians often face. One of the hardest trials any Christian can go through is to have little or no assurance of salvation. It is also one of the most challenging areas of pastoral counseling. The difficulty is what approach to take in trying to help such a person without trying to give them assurance yourself. They may have inconsistent assurance, little assurance, or no assurance. The reason for the lack of assurance is also often very difficult to discern—are they living in some unconfessed sin? Are they just battling besetting sins and are being condemned by the devil or by themselves? Are they laboring under unbelief that they are not good enough for God to love them? Are they basing their acceptance with God on their works or their performance? Are they physically or emotionally exhausted, chemically deficient, or battling physical sickness? Or the greater question may be, have they ever been truly converted at all?

There are many reasons that can be the root cause of the lack of assurance. It is, at times in some cases, virtually impossible to know the root cause. For one person, it may be purely spiritual reason and another person’s struggle may be completely different. A prolonged experience of no assurance is one of the most discouraging and difficult experiences a true believer can go through. I have often said that, in some ways, it would be much easier to face a physical sickness than to be a true Christian who lives with the agony of having little or no assurance of their acceptance with God, feeling or believing that God doesn’t love them.

Pastorally, here is what often happens with such persons. Picture such a person coming over and over again to their pastor or elder. One day, they come and say, “I need to talk to you; I just don’t think I am saved.” Discussion begins and then ends. The next week it happens again: “I know what you said is true, but I have no feelings about God being with me or loving me.” And the statements continue in different ways, even for months.

“How can I know Christ died for me?”

“What if I only think I’m saved and I deceive myself and go to hell?”

“What if I did not have pure motives when I thought I believed in Christ, and I was a false convert?”

“What if I come to Christ and he won’t receive me?”

“I regret so much the horrible things I’ve done in the past; I can’t get over it and it haunts me so much; how could God ever forgive such bad things?”

“I don’t really think I repented deeply enough for God to save me.”

“I have tried to come to Jesus, but it doesn’t seem like I can get saved.”

“I don’t know if I have truly believed or not.”

“Won’t I feel any different when God really saves me?”

“If I was truly a Christian, I don’t think I would doubt God’s love for me.”

On and on it goes. How do you counsel such a person? It can drive a pastor to discouragement if he is trying to find some new or innovative thought or way to give help to such people. Over the years, I have found there is only one truth such people must be brought back to, and that is the death of Christ for them and his free offer of salvation to them. Regardless of their questions, doubts, or struggle, the issue is always the same—will they believe that Christ died for them, and will they come to him, and in coming, will they believe he receives them freely? Christ is freely offered to them in the gospel, and they are invited and commanded to come to him without delay and without excuse. This is the gospel’s answer to a lack of assurance. The objective redemptive work of Christ is the only basis of assurance. They will never gain assurance by looking within themselves; in fact, that often is the cause of the lack of assurance in many people.

The gospel is always the answer in the battle with assurance. It can boil down often to one of several causes: 1) they are yielding to specific sins that are robbing them of assurance; 2) they are trying to be accepted by God on the basis of their own works or performance; 3) they have a physical, psychological, or chemical imbalance illness that is the root of their spiritual struggle; 4) they are in pure unbelief, not believing that God has forgiven their sins; 5) they are not a believer at all, and will not have assurance until they come to Christ.

In such cases, the person should see a doctor and get a full physical exam to eliminate the possibility of a physical problem. Spiritual struggles can be rooted in physical problems. But once that is dealt with, the answer is always the gospel.

If a person is a believer, it is the gospel they need to be reminded of. They do not need to be told to look inside their own hearts; they do not need to be convinced by a sincere friend that they are a Christian; they do not need to rack their minds to find out where they are wrong, etc; the propensity toward introspection for a weak-minded believer who cannot gain assurance is very real, and no one facing this battle should be directed to look inward to find relief.

The only answer is to direct the struggling soul, over and over again, to the objective unchanging standard of Christ and what he has done for sinners. If a person is condemned for their sins, if a person believes God could not love them, if a person is convinced God is willing to save anyone except them, if a person is convinced they have committed the unpardonable sin—the only reply to any of those scenarios is to set before them the perfect work of Christ on their behalf that makes and keeps us right with God.

It is only in believing the gospel that they will gain peace and assurance. If they are a true believer, but are yielding to specific sins, the gospel is also the answer. They must see that Christ died for those sins, and the sins are robbing them of their relationship with the Lord and robbing them of assurance. If they are trying to gain assurance based on their works, performance and goodness, then the answer is the same. Nothing can make us accepted by God except the gospel. The perfect atoning work of Christ is the only basis of our acceptance with God. This is why at times the best thing a person could do who lacks assurance is to take a deep and long look at the doctrine of justification by faith, and the doctrine of the death of Christ in the place of sinners.

This is the wisest path and approach to take for pastors in helping weak saints with their battle for assurance. We cannot tell them they are saved, we cannot simply give them assurance because it won’t last, and we cannot somehow talk them into a logical gaining of assurance. The gospel itself must become very clear in their minds, and only the Holy Spirit can apply it. So in pastoring people who lack assurance, pastors need to be a broken record. We have one and only one message to doubters. If they are lost, the gospel is the answer; if they are a believer, the gospel is still the answer. Point them to flee to the Savior and believe the work he did for them. The gospel itself is the greatest tool in pastoring the doubting Christian. This, and this alone, can bring peace to the doubting soul.

– Mack Tomlinson

Daily Thoughts: Prayer

Prayer is not just receiving things from God, that is the most initial
stage; true prayer is getting into perfect communion with God
– Oswald Chambers

The devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and
credentials. But he knows his kingdom will be damaged when we
begin to lift up our hearts to God.
– Jim Cymbala

The prayer that sparks revival begins long before the countryside
seems to awaken from its slumber in sin. It starts when men fall
on their knees and cry out to God. That’s where true intimacy
with God takes place and we begin the journey of being
transformed into the image of Christ. And as men are transformed,
the course of a nation can be changed.
– Wellington Boone

I am perfectly confident that the man who does not spend hours
alone with God will never know the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
– Oswald J. Smith