A Prayer for Order

samuel-martins-631378-unsplashAnd David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi:  – I Chronicles 19:15

Lord, we are naturally prone to disorder and sin, and there is so much in this life that is out of place. Help us order our spiritual lives first, for if they are out of order, how will we be able to order anything else rightly. Primarily, Lord, I pray you help us order our loves with you having the preeminence. Once that occurs, then all the other loves will fall into place, and until that happens, no other love will be loved properly.

From there, help us to bring order to our families and work in a way that brings you glory and us joy.  May we see effectiveness in all we attempt, and holiness in all we do.  You are our true desire, Lord, and You are not a God of chaos, but of order and peace. May our lives reflect that, as well as the institutions in which we function. For we desire to be conformed to your image and see your kingdom come.

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Jesus in the Days of Our Youth

 

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Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” – Ecclesiastes 12:1

The older I get, the more the wisdom in this passage resonates. I continue to enjoy my years, but when trouble hits, I am glad I have known Jesus since I was young. In these moments, I can look back and see how faithful he has been, and I know He always will be trustworthy.

There is great joy looking back on the springtime of my life when everything was fresh and new, and I recall walking with Jesus. So often, the hymns and songs of my younger days fill my heart with joy. Not because the contemporary Christian music from the 80’s and 90’s was so wonderful (most people question my music choices when I turn it on), but because I can see my younger self, and remember who I am and, most importantly, I remember my Savior.

It is easy to lose yourself in this world, even as a believer, but in the words of Andrew Peterson, when you get lost, stick to the old roads, and they will lead you home. This is a blessing only those who have walked with Jesus for many years will understand. I know the Lord has other benefits for those called later in life, but those who experience the wisdom of this verse, rejoice.

Lord, Thank you for calling me early in the day. When the days are evil, I will look to you and remember the long road we have traveled, and I know you will always be faithful. If there is anyone still in their younger days reading this, may your Spirit move them to heed this passage, even if they do not yet fully comprehend its importance.

A Sobering Reminder

 

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So Saul died for his breach of faith. – 1 Chronicles 10:13

These are sobering words. A man who was anointed as king by the Holy Spirit did not follow the ways of the Lord and died because of it. We must be careful, for our enemy is seeking whom he may devour.

Are we vigilant in the things of God, paying attention to the snares around us? Too often we are not as diligent as we should be. We expose ourselves to many dangers, and there are genuine and dire consequences that can come from it. Take heed lest you fall.

Lord, You are our only hope: our Strength, our Shield, our Rock, and most importantly our Righteousness. Keep us when we cannot keep ourselves. Protect us when we are blind to the dangers that surround us, and especially those that we see yet, in our sinfulness, are still drawn to them. 

Father, be glorified in us today in the work we have to do, in our family lives and relationships, and in our ministry to others. For you are worthy. We love you, Jesus.

1 John: Loving One Another and the Four Loves

 

I am currently teaching a course through 1 John. This is the fourth lesson in the series. In it, we take a look at the command to love one another and consider C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves to prime the pump and get us thinking about the depth of this command.

All of the lessons in this series can be found here. New lessons will be uploaded weekly through April.

Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Leanness of Soul

thanksgivingOh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! Psalm 106:1

We often talk about the benefits of being thankful this time of year, but it is also important to look at what can happen to us if we are not. Psalm 106 begins by calling the people of God to praise and thanksgiving. The following 12 verses continue by reminding them of God’s great and merciful works. How He showed His power and set them free from the slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea to get them to safety, and covered their enemies with water. As they remember God’s goodness toward them, we see thanksgiving flowing from grateful hearts as they recognize the Lord and His mighty works.

Then, a few verses later, we find a drastic change as we are told how they soon forgot His works and did not seek His counsel. Later, when they were in the wilderness, they began to lust for the pots of meat they had in Egypt and began to test God in the desert. As they started to demand meat, as if the Lord had not given them something they deserved, we find this in verse 15, “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness of into their soul.

The Lord had granted them their fleshly desires, which was meat in the form of quail, but the meat did not satisfy them. The more they ate, the more it left them empty, and for some it even caused disease. Ingratitude works much the same way. When we think that we need something more than what God has already given us or has promised to provide, we tend to find that when we get what we desired, our longings had deceived us. The reason for this is because we should be feasting upon God, through His word, in remembrance of all He has done on our behalf. When we begin to forget God, and ingratitude begins to set in, it doesn’t matter what we receive, we will still want more. If God and His great mercy are not enough to fill our hearts with gratitude, nothing will.

Gratitude flows freely from a heart that is full of God, mindful of His great works, and aware of His grace to such unworthy and sinful creatures. The sinner, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and has been filled by the justifying work of Christ, can find themselves in any harsh situation that this life has to offer and still have hearts that rejoice and are full. However, the one who forgets God’s great works toward them and begins to think they deserve something more can be in the most pleasant of all earthy positions but will live with souls which are lean.

The same Gospel that saves us from our wretched condition is the same Gospel that will fill our souls with joy for all eternity. We are never to forget how great His love is for us, that we should be called sons and daughters of God. To go about our lives without this at the center of who we are, will bring a leanness to our souls that will never be satisfied by anything else we try to put in its place.

This Thanksgiving, if your heart has been forgetful of God’s great love and works toward you, or if you find yourself unsatisfied with what the Lord had done for you, it is time to seek His face and remember His goodness. Do not let one more day go by without spending time in His word and calling out to Him in prayer. The most excellent holiday meals will not cure the leanness of soul which accompanies ingratitude toward God, and if you have remembered your God and your heart is full of Him, then any lack you face this holiday will not be able to empty the joy and gratitude which fills your soul. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

May all our hearts burst forth with gratitude toward our great God this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving,

D. Eaton

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100

Good Days and Bad Days: They are Not Always as they Seem.

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The good days are to be expected, and bad days are surprising and strange. Perhaps we have an unconscious assumption that is causing us grief. Wendell Berry, in his book, Jaber Crow, describes the “old-timers” in a way that seems lost on many people today.

“As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley’s comet.”

Though many may wrongly interpret this as fear, there is health in this way of thinking. For many of us, we have been promised the world by our politicians, and we have believed them.  It is true that we may chuckle at the thought that any one person thinks they have that much control, but conservatives and liberals alike often believe the that the state of our existence will continue to progress and that humanity will build its tower to heaven. This, of course, is false, there are good days and bad days ahead for all of us.  Scripture itself tells us that when fiery trials come upon us, we should not think that something strange is happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12).

Moving to a more personal level, as long as our health is robust or our jobs feel secure, we think we can handle anything, but in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” It does not take much for us to begin to feel our weakness. The problem is that when we don’t feel it, a false sense of our own competency begins to blind us.

Lousy days may not be the blight on our existence we think them to be. If we believe God’s word, which reminds us that God is working in our favor as much on our bad days as on our good days, we have no reason to lament the rough days like we are prone to do.

When I think, for example, about how quickly I am prone to forget about my daily connection to God through prayer, I thank the Lord for the days that knock me to my knees. I am much better off on my knees in prayer after taking a hit than walking confidently without Him.

Maybe it is just me, but too many “good” days in a row and I begin to forget that we are living in a fallen world, even when the evidence is all around me. Those are the days I walk in a fog of self-sufficiency, and it is not until I am hit with a reminder of my frailty that I am brought back to a favorable frame of mind.  If this is true, then some of my “bad” days are actually my good days, and some of my “good” days are actually my bad days.

Some days it is abundantly clear how much I need Jesus. On the other days, I’m delusional.

D. Eaton

 

On the Outrage Over the Nashville Statement

Several Christian leaders recently released a statement which was designed to clarify the Biblical position on human sexuality. The statement said nothing new about these issues. Christians have held every proposition in this document for thousands of years. What is new over the past years, is the outrage that comes from those who disagree with statements like this. It is not merely disagreement but venom.

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What is pictured above are some of the tame responses; the ones that left out the profanity-laced threats. We live in a time where if a group of people holds to a view of marriage that agrees with almost all of human history, 50% of today’s population will consider them bigots. Some will even call them Nazis and fascists. In condemning them, however, these new moral revolutionaries condemn most people who have ever lived.

The tide is indeed turning against those who hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality. So much so that the warning of being “on the wrong side of history” comes with some empirical force. This, however, should not surprise believers.

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In history, when the authorities came for Christians, it was rarely ever because they were “Christians,” it was usually because of some other trumped-up charge. They often said that believers lacked patriotism, or indicted them with some other anti-social behavior. The same will happen in America if these trends continue. They will not say, it is because we are Christian that we need to be punished, but because we are hate-filled bigots abusing those around us through discrimination.

The important thing to remember is that the “wrong side of history” will not ultimately be determined by consensus, but by the only true God who revealed Himself in scripture. The Christian must remain faithful to God. To do this, we must never waver from His word, and we must continue to love those who hate us for it.

If we can only respond to this outrage with belligerence, maybe we should not respond at all. Not being belligerent does not mean that our logic cannot be sharp or our arguments strong. Nor must we water down the wrath to come for those who will not repent, but to quote Francis Schaeffer, “There is only one kind of person who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the person who is by nature unbelligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way.. . .. We do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight, but because we must for God’s sake. If there are tears when we must speak, then something beautiful can be observed.”

May God be your strength, truth your anchor, and love your battle cry.

D. Eaton

When Sin Brings You Low

 

With everything going on recently, (Charlottesville, North Korea, Barcelona, etc.) I was happy to preach this past weekend on when sin brings you low. This sermon looks at Micah 7 and explores two ways sin brings us low; from the sin around us to the sin within us. It then looks at the answer and the proper response. The MP3 of this sermon can be downloaded at the link below.

When Sin Brings You Low

The Five Emotional Stages of a VBS Worker

It is that time of year again. Excited teams of Vacation Bible School volunteers are lining up to put on a meaningful week of ministry for kids. What many do not realize is that, like the five stages of grief, there are emotional stages to working VBS, and we do not want you to be caught off guard.

Below you find the emotional cycle upon which you are about to embark.

5 VBS Stages
The Five Emotional Stages of a VBS Worker

Here is what you need to know about each stage:

I can’t wait until VBS!
At this point, you are slightly delusional, but your excitement is honorable. You are about to embark on an important, and, for some kids in attendance, a life-changing ministry.

This week is going to be great!
Monday has finally arrived, and you have a picture in your mind of a week full of beautiful moments where you will be surrounded by children who were born without sinful natures.

What was I thinking?
It is here that you begin to realize that the image you had in your mind does not entirely line up with reality. From the kid who consistently confuses craft time with snack time, to one who thinks every Bible question should involve a discussion of his fidget spinner collection, things do not go as smoothly as planned.

Am I even human anymore?
By Thursday you are exhausted, and the spiritual vision becomes even more cloudy. You truly begin to wonder if this is making a difference in the life of these kids. After all, Perilous Pete, as you mentally refer to him, continues to be disruptive regardless of the fact that you continue to guide him lovingly.

Glad that is over!
This stage is often the shortest-lived. It is usually recognized right about the time the final assembly closes in prayer. You are spent and ready to go home and hide for a week. Then Pete, now known as Precious Pete, runs up to you, gives you a big hug and says “Thank you, I didn’t know Jesus loved me, but I do now.” At this point, you immediately jump back into the first stage of the cycle.

VBS is a ministry, and we should never expect it to be easy, but like all ministry, it will always be worth it.