Follow Me, I Will Make You…

Christians are unfinished. You cannot wait until you think you are ready to follow Christ, because you will never be ready. You will never be fit to follow the Lord. You will never be worthy to be His Child, if you wait until you have made yourself that. When Christ calls us, he calls us to a new life. He makes us new people.

When Christ calls us by His grace, we ought not only to remember what we are, but we ought also think of what He can make us. It is “Follow Me, and I will make you.” We should repent of what we have been, but rejoice in what we may be. It is not, “Follow Me, because of what you are already.” It is not, “Follow Me, because you may make something of yourselves.” But, “Follow Me, because of what I will make you.” Verily, I might say of each one of us as soon as we are converted, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (Spurgeon, The Soul Winner)

When Christ called, the disciples they did not become fishers of men instantaneously. But, by following Christ, He made them into what he said he would.  He made them great teachers, preachers, and evangelists. If it is not yet evident what Christ is making of you, continue to follow him patiently and faithfully, and you shall see!

The Equipment of Prayer

David McIntyre  says that “the equipment for the inner life of prayer is simple, if not always easily secured. It consists particularly of a quiet place, a quiet hour and a quiet heart.” 

To have good time of prayer, it seems that all three of these need to be secured.

1. A Quiet Place: This seems to be the easiest to secure for most people. There is that special place that we all retreat to at different times.  Maybe it is a room, a shed, a chair, a porch, or a place outside by a creek.  Most likely you have that special spot where you can retreat. Maybe you are a mother of young children who can never seem to find an escape.  Perhaps you can do as this woman:

“A poor woman in the great city, never able to free herself from the insistent clamour of her little ones, made herself a sanctuary in the simplest way. ‘I threw my apron over my head,’ she said, ‘and there is my closet.”

Find your place to be quiet.

2. A Quiet Hour: Often times, we might think that this is the most difficult to secure.  There are so many things vying for our attention that we do not have the time to devote to prayer. There are dishes and clothes to be washed, meals to be cooked, homework to be checked or done, ball practices to go to, a little TV watching to do, some Facebook surfing or internet browsing to do, and loads of other fun and not-so-fun things that take up time.

David McIntyre suggests:

Certainly, if we are to have a quiet hour set down in the midst of a hurry of duties, and kept inviolate, we must exercise both forethought and self-denial. We must be prepared to forego many things that are pleasant, and some things that are profitable. We shall have to redeem time, it may be from recreation, or from social intercourse,  or from study, or from works of beneficence, if we are to find leisure daily to enter into our closet, and having shut the door, to pray to our Father who is in secret.”

In the previous chapter, McIntrye spoke of the importance of a life of prayer, or habit of prayer throughout the day.  However, here he speaks of the importance of a “time” or hour of prayer (not necessarily meaning a full 60 minutes). McIntyre claims that “the two things ought not to be set in opposition. Each is necessary to a well-ordered Christian life; and each was perfectly maintained in the practice of the Lord Jesus.”

McIntyre also speaks of the importance of having this quiet hour of prayer. He says:

“Now, if it was part of the sacred discipline of the Incarnate Son that he should observe frequent seasons of retirement, how much more is it incumbent on us, broken as we are and disable by manifold sin, to be diligent in the exercise of private prayer!”

If Christ who was perfect needed quiet times of prayer, how much more do I? You have the time, redeem it!

3. A Quiet Heart– Often times when I pray I find one or two of the three things missing. Sometimes I have a quiet place and a quiet hour, but no quiet heart.   Often times it is hardest for me to have a quiet heart. My mind is constantly thinking about what I have to do next.  It takes work to slow down and focus on praying.

I find his tips to be really helpful.1)recognizing our acceptance before God through Jesus. 2) Confessing and receiving the enabling grace through the Spirit. 3)Reading the scripture in the presence of God.

George Muller’s struck a chord with me when he confessed that “often he could not pray until he had steadied his mind upon a text.”

It only makes sense that focusing on God’s Word would help to quiet and steady the heart, preparing us to stand in the presence of God in prayer.

If you have trouble quieting your heart, read the Word of God!

Praying is hard work. Finding a quiet place, a quiet hour, and a quiet heart can be difficult. But, the hard work will certainly be worth it.

The Gospel is for Children, Too!

Everyone loves to hear a good story about a changed life – sinner to saint, drug dealer to preacher, or a terrorist to evangelist. These stories capture our attention and make us think about the powerful message of Christ. The Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus in Acts is one of the most famous depictions of a radical turnaround. Paul went from persecuting Christians to being persecuted as a Christian. Chuck Colson, special counsel to President Nixon and convicted criminal, gave his life to Christ and was dramatically transformed. He went from prisoner to prison minister and national speaker.

Testimonies like his are inspiring. There are countless stories of people who have been rescued from darkness and brought into the kingdom of light – the kingdom of God.  Many pews in churches today are filled with sinners who have been transformed.  Some of them have a “Damascus Road” event, while others have a much different story.

Their story goes a little bit like this: “I was raised in a Christian home with parents who took me to church – sometimes dragging and screaming. But, I am thankful that they took me because I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Sunday school, and I was saved at an early age.” Perhaps, some Christians with this type of testimony see it as boring and uninspiring.  The truth is that any sinner who is saved is amazing. It does not matter if the sinner is a child or an adult or someone with a sketchy past, anytime someone is brought from death to life, there is great rejoicing.

The benefits of becoming a Christian young are tremendous. There is great value in teaching the gospel to children.  Christians should work hard to teach the gospel to their own children as well as other children.

Becoming a Christian at a young age not only saves from sins, but it can prevent committing a multitude of sins that will later be regretted.  Charles Spurgeon said, “To reclaim the prodigal is well, but to save him from ever being a prodigal is better. To bring back the thief and the drunkard is a praiseworthy action, but so to act that the boy shall never become a thief or a drunkard is far better; hence, Sabbath-school instruction stands very high in the list of philanthropic enterprises, and Christians ought to be most earnest in it. He who converts a child from the error of his way, prevents as well as covers a multitude of sins” (from The Soul Winner).

Because of this, we should devote time and energy to the salvation of children and teenagers as well as adults. It is not a lesser task to win children to Christ.  We should not look to child evangelism as the minor leagues. Spurgeon also said, “The conversion of a child involves the same work of divine grace, and results in the same blessed consequences as the conversion of the adult. There is the saving of the soul from death in the child’s case, and the hiding of a multitude of sins, but there is this additional matter of joy, that a great preventive work is done when the young are converted. Conversion saves a child from a multitude of sins” (from The Soul Winner).

In a couple of weeks, our church will have a week-long Vacation Bible School.  There will be hundreds of kids singing songs, listening to Bibles stories, making crafts, playing games, eating snacks, and hearing the gospel.  Our goal is to proclaim the gospel accurately and clearly to the kids who attend in hopes that the Lord will call many of them to himself and they will be saved.  Vacation Bible School is not about the goofy skits, the silly songs, the amazing snacks, or the decorations.  It is first and foremost about proclaiming the Gospel. Let us unashamedly proclaim the gospel to our children. Let them come to Jesus.

Cultivating a Life of Prayer

I recently started reading the book The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre as a part of Tim Challies “Reading Classics Together”.  You read one Chapter a week, make notes, think of application, and then add to the comments on Tim Challies blog (he posts about the book every Thursday).  It is a great activity and a way to read great books together with a lot of people.  There is often great insight in the comments.

As I read along, I will be posting a few short thoughts on each chapter.  If you would like to begin reading through this book, here is a link to the book (http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Life-Prayer-The-Life-blood/dp/1845505867/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338576730&sr=8-1). Read through the book and visit challies.com on Thursdays to read along.

Chapter 1 – The Life of Prayer

In chapter one, McIntyre talks about the importance of cultivating a life of prayer.  This seems to be more intimate and thorough than desiring simply to cultivate a time of prayer. I have always thought of the importance of having a dedicated time of prayer.  For instance, it would be good to pray for 30 min to an hour or more in the morning.  I’ve tried this many times and have failed miserably. Praying is difficult work.  It takes focus and endurance.  Satan, our adversary, does not want us to be people of prayer.  I have oftentimes thought that he attacks our communication with God.  He distracts in times of our Scripture reading (God communicating with us) and our prayer (us communicating with God).  If Satan can keep God’s people cut off from God, then he has accomplished much.  He has declared war on the children of God, and we desperately need to stay connected to our great General.

I love the idea of not just developing an intentional time of prayer, but cultivating a life of prayer.  Andrew Bonar (McIntyre’s colleague and predecessor) said, “I see that unless I keep up short prayer every day throughout the whole day, at intervals, I lose the spirit of prayer.  I would never lose sight any hour of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and if I have this sight I shall be able to pray” (Andrew A. Bonar, Diary, 7 October 1860). It is this kind of consistency and continuity that I desire.

I also loved how McIntyre discusses the image of a praying life in the Old Testament as walking with God. Too often, I view prayer strictly as closing my door, getting on my knees, and lifting up other brothers and sisters.  What is needed is to cultivate a life of prayer that abounds in ceaseless and uninterrupted connection.

Often times, those who are called upon to pray may find themselves stuttering and stammering, looking for the right words to pray. McIntyre says that a cultivation of this type of life (a habit of prayer) “will secure its expressions on all suitable occasions.”

John Piper says that “prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic  intercom.” McIntye concludes this chapter with a great quote about prayer. May we remember this as we pray. He says, “Soldier of Christ, you are in the enemies territory, keep to the Lord’s watch.”

On Preaching, Teaching, and Prayer

Here is a great little anecdote from Charles Spurgeon for those of you preaching and teaching this Sunday.

 “When a poor man was breaking granite by the roadside, he was down on his knees while he gave his blows, and a minister passing by said, ‘Ah, my friend, here you are at your hard work. Your work is just like mine; you have to break stones, and so do I.’ ‘Yes,’ said the man, ‘and if you manage to break stony hearts, you will have to do it as I do, down on your knees.’

The man was right, no one can us the gospel hammer well except he is much on his knees, but the gospel hammer soon splints flinty hearts when a man knows how to pray. Prevail with God, and you will prevail with men. Straight from the closet to the pulpit let us come, with the anointing oil of God’s Spirit fresh upon us. What we receive in secrecy we are cheerfully to dispense in public. Let us never venture to speak for God to men, until we have spoken for men to God. Yes, dear hearers, if you want a blessing on your Sunday-school teaching, or any other form of Christian labour, mix it with fervent intercession.” From the Soul Winner

Make much of prayer as you prepare you lessons for this Sunday!

The Wingfeather Saga

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

Over the last three years, I have fallen in love with the world of Aerwiar.  Oh that’s right, you probably don’t even know what the world of Aerwiar is do you?  That means you don’t know what a toothy cow or a Fang of Dang is either.  You haven’t even heard of the Jewels of Anniera nor do you know of the mysterious goings-on in Glipwood Forest.  You haven’t sailed the Dark Sea of Darkness or ran for your life from the Stranders of the East Bend, have you?  You can’t imagine the taste of the fruit that grows in the Green Hollows, and I bet you aren’t even afraid of what lies in the Blackwood Forest at the edge of the Killridge Mountains.  I feel sorry for you.  It is time for you to go on an adventure, I encourage you to take your wife and kids along.

Aerwiar has been under the attack of Gnag the Nameless for many years.  His awful Fangs of Dang have made their way across the Dark Sea of Darkness to the land of Skree and Glipwood Township where Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby make their home in a little cottage on the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.  They spend their days with their mother, their pirate Grandpa, and Leeli’s dog, Nugget.   Their lives are at peace until the dreaded Fangs of Dang begin looking for the lost Jewels of Anniera.   An adventure ensues like you would not believe.  The first book in the Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, is loaded with action, adventure, peril, creatures of an unknown sort, pirate tales, sea dragons, and a story so riveting you will not be able to put the book down.  On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is also available in audio format.

After reading through On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, you will quickly want to pick up the second installment of the Wingfeather Saga, North! Or Be Eaten.  This tale follows the Igiby children north to the Ice Prairies as they try to escape the clutches of the ghastly Fangs of Dang. With the children now on the run, North! Or Be Eaten offers another wild adventure that will keep you turning pages.

The Monster in the Hollows, the recently released book three in the Wingfeather Saga, is the most introspective of the three.  The children, their mother, and Podo their pirate grandfather have found peace again on the other side of the Dark Sea of Darkness in the Green Hollows.  There aren’t many Fangs or physical enemies with whom the children must contend.  However, a more fierce enemy arises when shame and guilt plague some of the characters because of decisions that they have made.

I was excited when I got to the end of The Monster in the Hollows and found out that there was going to be a fourth book, The Warden and the Wolf King. I don’t want the adventure to end!

If you have children I suggest that you get this book and read it with them.  I guarantee it will be time well spent.  Andrew Peterson is a masterful storyteller who is able to weave Christian truths and values into a stunning tale of sibling adventure.  My children are too young to know what is going onwith this tale, but I cannot wait until the day that I can break out the Wingfeather Saga and read it with my family.

If you don’t have children, I suggest that you get these books.  They are masterfully written and appropriate for anyone who can read or listen to a story being read.    You can buy the books from The Rabbit Room or Amazon.

In the famous last words of Radmer Oglesworth from the second epoch in his book For What It’s Worth, “Read with your family and read with your friends.  Don’t stop reading until the adventure ends!”

The Great Sacrifice

To be honest, I have never really been one to think that much about Memorial Day. That is a tough confession to make. I guess you could chalk it up to youthful apathy, or self-absorption. I know that I was supposed to take time to reflect on the wars and sacrifices of many Americans. But, as I was growing up, there weren’t any wars, and I did not really know many veterans.

It was not until this past decade that I began to think about the implications of Memorial Day. I am sure that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced all of us to take a step back and be thankful to the brave men and women who have selflessly given up their lives for our freedom.

Both of my grandpas served in the military. One was a veteran of World War II. The other was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

Foy Lee Templeton Sr., my mother’s father, served in Pacific during World War II. As a kid I loved listening to the stories that he would tell about his days in the world. He was an MP, so he mostly told me stories about keeping Filipino prisoners while he was in the Philippines. Every Christmas Eve when our family got together, he would start a conversation or two like this: “Do you know what I was doing 50 years ago tonight (depending on how far away from the date we had gotten).” we all knew the answer and would say, “Getting on a boat.” He would then proceed to tell us about how he boarded a boat to head out to the pacific. I’m pretty sure we have had that same conversation every Christmas Eve since he has been gone. Somebody will ask the question, and we will all reminisce about my grandfather’s time in the service.

Parks Alvie Collins, my father’s father, served in Europe during World War II and was in the Korean War. I don’t remember many of his stories, nor do I remember him talking much about his actual war time. He served in two wars and made a career out of the military. One thing that I do remember is that he told me that he lied about his age so that he could enlist earlier. He was eager to serve his country.

I am proud to have had these two great men as grandfathers. Thanks Papaw. Thanks Grandpa.

I have had several family members who have served in the Armed Forces. To them I say thank you.

I have also had several friends who have made great sacrifices by going off to war. To them I saw thank you.

As I reflect on the sacrifice of these brave men and women, there is a stark contrast between their lives and mine. My life has been void of anything remotely close to self-sacrifice. I have never left my family behind to fly or to sail off to a distant land where people do not want me. I have never faced an enemy who hated me or shot at me. I have never had to spend my days looking for IEDs or potential areas of insurgence. The more I think about it, the more I truly understand that I have never been faced with giving up much in my life.

Though I have not had to personally sacrifice, my life has been profoundly affected by the greatest sacrifice of all. I am most thankful and grateful for the sacrifice of one man. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked this earth and lived a perfect life. He willingly laid down his life for sinners. This is the greatest sacrifice in history. He died a cruel death on a cruel cross to save people who hated him, to save his enemies. Isaiah the prophet wrote of this great sacrifice hundreds of years before Christ went to the cross. He said:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.


Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53)

As I read and re-read the words of the prophet, I am amazed at the sacrifice that Christ has made. He took upon himself wounds that were meant for me – a death that was mine. Because of his death, I now have life.

If anyone reading this does not know Christ, I encourage you to call upon the name of the Lord, repent, and be saved. Charles Spurgeon said:

The way to be saved is simply to trust in what the Son of man did when He became man, and suffered punishment for all those who trust Him. For all His people, Christ was a substitute. His people are those who trust Him. If you trust Him, He was punished for your sins; and you cannot be punished for them, for God cannot punish sin twice, first in Christ, and then in you. If you trust Jesus, who now liveth at the right hand of God, you are this moment pardoned, and you shall forever be saved.”

I urge you to trust Him today.

On this Memorial Day, I will remember those who have sacrificed for country. I am a citizen of this country, so I will remember those who have given their lives so that there is a place that I can raise my children where they are guaranteed certain inalienable rights.

On this Memorial Day, I will also remember those who have sacrificed for God’s kingdom. I am a citizen of a kingdom that supersedes any allegiance that I have in this world. I stand in the current of a long line of men and women who have gone before, sacrificing their lives so that the news of our king will be heard all around the world.

Finally, I will remember my King Jesus Christ who sacrificed everything so that I may be his child.

Summer Family Time

I am just stepping into the world of parenting real people (I know babies are real people, but now that they can walk, talk, and think for themselves the task is going to a whole new level). There are many things that I want to do with my children and there are many things that I want to teach them.

I want to teach them to love God, his people, and his creation. But, I understand I need help.  This is why that I am always on the lookout for great resources.

The Village Church in Dallas has put together a Summer Family Activity Book to help families follow the model laid out in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. .From the website:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you sit up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

We have put the Summer Family Activity Book together with this charge in mind. Whether you’re hanging out at home, traveling across the country or running errands around town, there is no shortage of opportunities to help your children see the things of the Lord. Our hope is to help you see and take advantage of these moments.

The activities and devotionals in this resource have been divided into four sections to follow the model of Deuteronomy 6:

  • Set a Rhythm. These are activities your family can do repeatedly and consistently throughout the summer. Some of them will help you put things in place to establish a routine for your family. Others will help you think about ways to be missional – intentionally connecting with people in your community whom you interact with on a consistent basis.
  • At Home. These are activities that can be easily done as you spend time at home. Many of them include a devotional at the end that will help your kids make a connection between what they have done and a truth from Scripture.
  • Out and About. This section provides ways to be intentional with outings you take as a family.
  • On the Way. These are activities that can be done as your family travels – whether you’re moving about by land, air or sea.

I encourage you to download this activity book and try to implement it into your family life this summer. May your summer be a great time for you as a family to grow closer to Jesus and to each other.

Visit the Village Church page: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/summer-family-activity-book/

The Cost of Being a Shepherd

Are you a pastor? Do you aspire to be a pastor? Here is a word of encouragement for you today.

Prepare yourselves, then, to see and suffer many things with which you would rather be unacquainted. Experiences which would be unnecessary to you personally will become your portion if the Lord uses you for the salvation of others. An ordinary person may rest in his bed all night, but a surgeon will be called up at all hours. A farming-man may take his ease at his fireside, but if he becomes a shepherd he must be out among the lambs, and bear all weathers for them. Even so doth Paul say, ‘Therefore, I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.’ For this cause we shall be made to undergo experiences which will surprise us.”
from The Soul Winner by Charles H. Spurgeon

For those of you who are Pastor’s I pray that you would be encouraged and empowered. For those of you who are not pastor’s, please pray regularly and earnestly for your pastor.

New Old Books

The development of the Kindle, the iPad, and other eReaders has lead to an eruption of reading.  One of the things that is exciting is that now many old books are becoming more easily available at an inexpensive price.  Deep Roots Library exists to make old books available in new formats.  Go to their website this week and take advantage of their book giveaway.

http://deeprootslibrary.com/

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