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.

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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.

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

 

Prayer: The Forerunner of Mercy – Spurgeon

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“Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” -Ezekiel 36:37

Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that He would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing’s shadow. When the sunlight of God’s mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, He Himself shines behind them, and He casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.

“Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw;

Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;

Gives exercise to faith and love;

Brings every blessing from above.”

-Charles Spurgeon-

Faith in College: 7 Ways to Stay Strong

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(The following is a quote from Greg L. Bahnsen’s book Pushing the Antithesis)

A busy academic and social schedule in college can easily pull the Christian away from God’s Word. But remember: you cannot defend God and His Word if you are not sanctified (set apart) for Him by means of contact with His Word. Too many Christian Students drift away from the faith in college because they have not been prepared for the spiritual and apologetic battles they will face. Dr. Gary North once wrote an article advertising a Christian college. The article showed a dejected father who had sent his son off to a secular college. It stated: “I spent $40,000 to send my son to hell.”

Seven Practices Christians Must Do in College.

1. Frequently remind yourself of the nature of spiritual warfare. In order to prepare yourself for your college classes, at the beginning of each semester you should re-read the biblical passages that demonstrate the active antagonism of the unbelieving world against your Christian faith. You must not forget the nature of the unbeliever’s challenge to your holistic (all encompassing) faith.

2. Diligently seek to evaluate everything you are being taught from a principled Christian perspective. After classes each day, jot down comments on the contradictions to the Christian faith which you encountered. Keep them in a notebook. Writing things down is the best secret to a good memory. Reflect on biblical answers to these supposed contradictions.

3. Develop small Bible study and accountability groups with other Christian students on campus. A part of defending the faith involves promoting its defense even among believers. As a Christian in fellowship with other Christians, you should urge fellow believers to realize their spiritual obligation to defend the faith before and unbelieving world.

4. Seek out any Christian campus ministries that are strongly committed to the Bible and are developing the Christian life. Attend their meetings and involve yourself in their ministries.

5. Find a good church in the area of your college. Commit yourself to attend church regularly. As Christians, we must not be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).

6. Where possible use class assignments to present the Christian perspective on issues. We would recommend that you avoid narrow testimonial types of papers. You should rather discretely develop worldview oriented themes that work basic Christian principles into the picture. In-your-face testimonials might be an affront to your professor and may appear to be a challenge to him. But working out your biblical principles might alert him to the philosophical implications of Christianity and will certainly help you flesh out your own understanding. You must be about “making the most of your time” while in college . . . You will certainly not find your professors assigning papers that encourage your Christian faith. But you must seek the opportunities—when they are allowed.

7. As a well-rounded Christian seeking to glorify Christ, you must approach your academic studies in a mature and diligent fashion. Your are both paying hard-earned money for a college education and spending your God-given time in college; make the most of your investment. Do not cut corners in your studies or simply try to “get by.” Christ calls you to excellence. Some students are naturally lazy, others suffer from voluntary inertia. Do not allow your educational experience to inadvertently teach you to be intellectually lazy. Such laziness is disloyalty to Christ.

-Greg L. Bahnsen; Pushing the Antithesis

On Church Growth Without Personal Holiness

Though there are some significant problems in the church growth movement, we should all be for church growth. In fact, it seems almost impossible for a church to be fulfilling the great commission without some kind of growth taking place. We are to go out and make disciples. When they come in, they too are to grow to the place where they go out and make more disciples.

Many times, though, it seems to come down to, “if we get this program going, more people will show up,” and sometimes this is true, but it really is amazing what we can accomplish in the power of the flesh. It is true that nothing happens outside the providence of God, and even kings have their authority because He establishes them, but this is not the same as God’s Spirit moving on the congregation in a sanctifying way.

The idea of common grace and saving grace applies not only to individuals but churches also. A church can grow in number and wealth if it has the right marketing plan, along with a number of other useful strategies, but this does not necessarily mean anything spiritual is happening there.

A church where the congregants live worldly lives for the entire week is not really growing, even if it is getting more numbers in on a regular basis. We cannot call it church growth when the majority of a local church is involved in much of the same worldly lifestyle as the rest of society. If we, as congregants, spend our week chasing after self-glory, personal peace, affluence, and we let the Word of God sit unread with no real prayer life, it doesn’t matter how big the church is.

In fact, this seems to be a problem in many small non-growing churches as well. The people come on Sunday and see low attendance and wonder why the pastor isn’t bringing in more people with his sermons.  Yet there is no real desire for personal holiness in their lives. After spending the entire week with no real thoughts on Godliness, they attend church and expect something to happen, but when we spend a good portion of our time doing things God hates, and not doing the things He loves, we shouldn’t expect much to happen at our church. We are the church, not just the pastor.

It seems that real church growth will not occur when there is no desire for personal holiness in the lives of its people. On the contrary, when there is a hunger for righteousness, and progress is being made in personal holiness, church growth has already begun. We don’t need more programs that will bring more people in to be just like everybody else in the world. We need individuals in the church to grow in Godliness, and as this happens, we will not need programs to bring in the people. The church will grow because the people will be bringing them in, and more programs will be developed to accompany the need for the people who are coming in desiring to know Christ and be more like Him.

So maybe this was a bit of a complaint, but it wasn’t really against the church growth movement. It was against the idea that personal holiness can be neglected, while church growth is to be expected, and this can happen in churches with big marketing plans, and some without them.

As we grow to be more like Christ
And by the world, we are less enticed,
In our hearts, God’s Spirit’s moving,
Then of our growth, He is approving.

D. Eaton

The Deeps

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

The Valley of Vision

Our Quiet Times Are Rarely As They Appear

 

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If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting on the front porch soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.

To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything he can to stay on task and stay focused on the word. There is a physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.

Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities. Activities of idleness, ones that turn his eyes from things above and diverts his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect peace.

Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Worries at work, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.

The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. Yet, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. At this very moment, the eyes of the Lord are looking to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked his eyes on his eyes on his child and will not turn away.

At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying that the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man will be set apart from the world and that he will be sanctified in the truth: the very word of God he is holding in his hands.

As he sits and reads, engage in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths, showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that it is by being comforted by God in times of difficulty that we are taught to comfort others. Something he longs to do.

It is here that the Spirit reminds him that he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is not until our weakness is exposed that the treasure begins to shine forth. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress and bowed the heavens and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.

The man still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. There is an intimacy with his Savior that reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his a Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and once again the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.

D. Eaton

Other Posts From The Fight of Faith

16 Lessons on Pursuing Holiness

Not that I have already attained, but in my desire to press on, I recently taught a class called Holiness: Seeking the Savior’s Likeness at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. If you are interested, you can listen to the lessons at the links below. Simply click on the link to play, or right-click to download the mp3.