A Year of Wisdom – 2017 in the Wisdom Books

At the start of the new year many folks plan and make resolutions. For many Christians the new year is a time to start over with their Bible reading. For some it becomes and honest effort to actually read through the Bible when they stopped the year before. For others they’ll read through the pages of scripture in their entirety for another time. I’ve always encouraged Bible reading through the Bible. In the past I’ve read through the Bible cover to cover and it is certainly a very worthy endeavor. However, I always feel rushed when I attempt to do a reading plan. It’s difficult to not want to slow down and stick with a book or particular passage. This year I’ve seen several folks talk about how they intend to spend some specific time studying particular books rather than trying to read through the entire Bible in the year with a reading plan. I’ve decided to spend sometime in the wisdom books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. These are all books that I’ve read before, but I’ve not spent much time studying.

Their worth in study is reflected in the opening words of Proverbs:

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

– Proverbs 1:2-6 ESV

There’s great wisdom to be found in the pages of all of Scripture and ultimately the wisdom of God is found in Christ Jesus as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV

As such I believe in many ways that Proverbs isn’t just a collection of ancient Jewish sayings that might find their way into fortune cookies, rather it is a book about Christ. As are the books of Ecclesiastes and the book of Job. These books are books that deal with seemingly every area of life. They speak of joy and sorrow, life and death, pain and pleasure. I begin my journey in Proverbs and intend (Lord willing) to blog a bit in my journey through these books. I pray I’m a little wiser at the end and able to share a little bit of the wisdom found with all of you. Soli Deo Gloria.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7 ESV

P.S. I’ll also be sharing on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #AYearOfWisdom if you care to join in on social media.

Be Patient Until the Lord Comes: Pondering Charlotte

The world we live in is chaotic. The world is broken. The world is fallen. It isn’t just humanity that is broken and fallen, the Apostle Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning as it awaits for the return of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:20-22). As an American and a North Carolinian this week has show how broken and fallen our world is. The city of Charlotte has been in turmoil this week. I’m not going to get political. I’m not going to put myself in the role of judge, jury, defense, or prosecutor in this post. I, however, am never hesitant to get theological. Men and women created in the image of God have lost their lives and have been harmed for reasons considered just and unjust. I’m not sure what the right response to all of the events that have taken place should be. I know many have made knee jerk reactions in the media and individuals on social media. There is one thing that I do know that I can do and that is to place my hope and trust in the Lord.

I was reading the book of James this morning and began thinking about the implications of James 5 on the current situation. James was writing to Christians who were enduring suffering and persecution, and I readily accept and realize that what is going on in Charlotte does not directly have an impact on me. I’ve not lost any loved ones or members of my community to the violence taking place. However, my heart groans to see the conflict in my country, especially when it hits so close to home. James wrote to these suffering believers:

 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.-  James 5:7–11 ESV

He tells them to be patient as they wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus. There is much work to be done in seeking reconciliation, peace, and justice with the seemingly constant shootings and responses in our country. I hope and pray by God’s grace we can begin to see some of that in our nation, but ultimately I know there will always be conflict because men are always going to be fallen. So, while I can share unhelpful memes on Facebook and make my pronouncements about what has happened or not happened, I think it would be of much more benefit to be a person of prayer, a pursuer of one trying to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), and to be a person of patience waiting on the one who can bring peace. I have confidence that he can bring peace even now in the midst of chaos and hopelessness and I long with confidence that there is coming a day when he will bring peace eternal. He is our hope and he is our peace. May Charlotte, Tulsa, and the rest of our nation find their hope and peace in him, his name is Jesus and he is coming again.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. –  Revelation 21:1–7 ESV

On Mission in Montana: Day 5

Rain. They’ve been needing rain in this area of Montana as they’ve been in a drought and today we arose to rain. I’m not sure when the rain started but it rained from the time I woke up until just about time for our Bible Camp to start. That last part of the sentence is a testimony to God’s lovingkindness. The food team had it fairly easy this morning as it was cereal and oatmeal for breakfast.


I spent sometime reading John 13 this morning and reflecting on how our service in Montana is just a simple way of seeking to serve like Jesus. There isn’t immediate fruit and not everyone received or even understands the work of ministry, but that didn’t stop Jesus from washing the feet of Judas and Peter. Nor should a lack of immediate results stop th work of the disciples of Jesus in the Great Commission today. 


The time for ministry work didn’t start until later in the afternoon, so our team from Oak Grove borrowed a vehicle and did a little sight seeing at the local WalMart and then upto see Flathead Lake. Montana is beautiful. I’m not sure I can emphasize that enough. We also spent sometime at the People’s Museum in Pablo. It was really helpful in understanding more about the history and culture of the people that make up the Flathead Confederation. 


Ministry this evening consisted of cooking lots of chicken burritos and working at the Bible Camp. After serving supper Kevin and Tracie worked with the kids at the archery station again. I was given a new task this evening. My role was that of grandfather. This meant spending sometimes talking about the story we had heard and really another opportunity to share the gospel. Each age group spent a little time in the tent. I’m praying those who said they had received the gospel truly had and that those who haven’t will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.


We ask that you will keep praying for our teams and the people we are ministering to. 

soli deo gloria 

On Mission in Montana: Day 4

I’m not sure you can go on a Mission trip without having biscuits and gravy. This morning was no exception as my recommendation to make them came to fruition. Kevin is our designated biscuit maker at all breakfast functions at Oak Grove and he did a dandy job making biscuits for our team this morning. Tracie has become our designated coffee maker as there is no room for weak coffee in Montana. I do confess it has been different spending more time serving in a support role rather than an “on the field” role, but today proved to be a day filled with both. 

Part of our duties for the day on the food team was to head into Missoula to Costco. We all divided up and before it was all said and done we had two flat carts and two regular carts full of supplies for the team and our Bible camp in St. Ignatius. Tonight was the first night we cooked for the Bible Camp and we kept things simple with hot dogs and chips. Following serving dinner we all found ourselves working with the kids at the camp our team is hosting along with a local pastor. 


Kevin and Tracie headed up the archery station. The kids really seemed to enjoy taking a few shots and some had never shot a bow before. I ended up helping one of the interns with a group of kids and floating around wherever needed. I can honestly say I’ve never been in a Tipi before to do ministry, but today we sang and heard Bible stories inside of one. 


The theme and story for the night was the Prodigal Son. The crafts, snack, skit, and stories all reflected the story. It was not only a joy to see the kids hear the story it also was good to be reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness myself. 


Even now as we head back the work for the day isn’t all done, but knowing that Jesus is being proclaimed and honored helps keep the tiredness and frustrations in perspective. 

We ask that you would pray for us in the next coming days as we continue to minster to the kids and their families at Bible Camp. 

soli deo gloria

On Mission in Montana: Day 3

Coffee, Pancakes, Short-handled shoves, and Bison are the things of our third day in Montana. Our Oak Grove team is on the cook team and is cooking and making sure lunches are packed for our team. Today that will step up to cooking for food the team an an estimated 120 kids at the day camp.


Following breakfast we made our way to St. Ignatius to help with preparations for the kids camp that begins this evening. The major portion of the preparation yesterday was putting up a rather large tent. This allowed us to work closely with some of the team from Tennessee and Montana. The tent is held by tension on all sides by a large number of stakes and ropes. In the process of driving this stakes into the ground the handle of the sledge hammer managed to break. Thankfully after some ingenuity and a little whittling we managed to have a short handled hammer that got the job done. 


After we put up the tent we went back to the final day of the Pow Wow in Arlee and observed quite a bit of the celebration including an honoring of all the veterans who had served from the Tribes. The sense of honor and respect the Tribes have is quite admirable. 

After cooking supper for the teams we were given quite a treat. Pastor Allen of the River Church in Hamilton took us to the National Bison Range. The Mission Mountains are nothing short of breathtaking and being able to see Bison, Antelope, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, and Elk was just icing on the proverbial cake of being able to ride through the Range. There’s no doubt in my mind why the native people readily acknowledge a creator as we observe the natural beauty of this area. 

Today we are headed to Missoula to purchase food and supplies for the camp this week. We ask that you pray that we can reach the children we anticipate and their families with the gospel. Every bit of progress made during the camp and benefit the churches in the area in their ongoing work as missionaries in a very lost region. 

soli deo gloria

On Mission in Montana: Day 2

We have made it to Montana. Yesterday was a day spent mostly at 30,000′ above the earth and in airports and so I didn’t get a chance to update the blog. We had pretty easy flying and quite literally flew off into the sunset the further west we traveled. It was quite amazing seeing the 9:50 sunset in Missoila last night. The Rockies are ever presently displaying the glory of God. 


We finally made it to Pablo Baptist Church around midnight and managed to get settled after meeting part of the team here on the ground already.

This morning (Sunday) we began the day with a timely devotion on serving for the glory of God. I made it my prayer this morning to resound with the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 96. It’s my prayer that in this area that almost 98% unchurched/lost would come to behold the glory of God in the face and light of Jesus. 


Following our time of devotion we worshiped together with Pablo Baptist. We heard a great message from Pastor Kelly and were blessed with a time of corporate prayer that included praying for the mission teams who are here. 

Shortly after the worship service we headed into Arlee for the Pow Wow. The tribe has graciously allowed Pablo Baptist and the mission teams to serve during the Celebration. While they asked that we did not openly seek to evangelize, we were given the opportunity to do so if it came up in conversation. Several different things were done today to help seek to build relationships with the Natives here on the reservation. Members of the team picked up trash, played with kids, and walked and prayed. By God’s grace these things are having a positive impact with the tribes and allowing further relationships to be built. 


We had a providential encounter almost immediately after getting to the Pow Wow when someone asked to borrow a phone. The simple use of a cell phone allowed us to have a gospel centered conversation and pray with a man who had just experienced a death in his family. We are praying for more opportunities like this. 


Tomorrow we will begin to work on preparations for the day camp in St. Ignatius and spend the afternoon back at the Pow Wow. Please continue to pray for the people here who acknowledge a creator, but don’t recognize that to be the crucified, buried, and risen Jesus. Pray for the mission teams who are here from: North Carolina, Montana, Tennessee, and Missisppi. Pray for the churches that our work will compliment theirs, people will come to faith, and God will be glorified.

soli deo gloria 

Go West Young Man – On Mission in Montana

Over 150 years ago the famous words of Horace Greeley were penned, “Go west young man, and grow up with the country.” While he wrote of the expansion of the United States towards the west, later this week I’ll be headed west for a different reason. There will be three of us from Oak Grove that are headed to Montana for a week long mission trip. I first heard about the mission opportunity about a year ago and immediately thought I would like to go. I had to pray and do some serious self-reflection to examine my intentions. Having read A River Runs Through It the idea of going to Montana has always been a no brainer for me. However, this isn’t a fishing trip, it’s a mission trip.

Pablo,_Montana_blue_water_tower_July_2013.JPG

I first mentioned the trip to the church months ago and after much prayer, discussion, and the Lord providing through an individual all the money we need to cover all three of our flights and baggage with a few dollars to spare we decided to go and have assembled a team of three.  We’ll be working with several missions interns, local churches, and another mission team. I thought I would share a little bit about the trip so that we could let folks know what we’ll be doing and how they can pray for us.

We’ll be spending Saturday to Saturday on the trip with both of those Saturdays devoted to traveling. Once we arrive in Montana we’ll be spending the week on the Flathead Reservation. While there we’ll be working with several local churches to serve in a couple of different ways. We will be staying in Pablo and will worship on Sunday with the Pablo Baptist Church. The first couple of days we’ll be serving however we are needed and praying during the Arlee Celebration. The rest of the week we will be helping a church plant with a kids day camp in the town of St. Ignatius (think VBS) where I’ve been told there may be as many as 200 kids.

sm_csktlogo

How you can pray for us:

  1. Pray that our hearts will be open to serve and sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Pray that we will be given opportunities to share the gospel openly during the Arlee Celebration.
  3. Pray for the children and families we will meet during the kids camp in St. Ignatius.
  4. Pray that the Lord would already be at work in the lives and hearts of the people we will come in contact with to be receptive to the gospel.
  5. Pray for the churches we will be serving alongside of that we can help in their mission.
  6. Pray for the interns spending the summer on mission in Montana.
  7. Pray for the people that we will encounter in the airports and on the planes.
  8. Pray for our families while we are gone away from them.
  9. Pray for safe and speedy travel during this holiday weekend and upon return.
  10. Pray for Oak Grove Baptist Church in our absence.
  11. Pray for the continued work throughout the entire summer in Montana.

We truly need and appreciate your prayers while we are on this trip. I’ll try to post updates via blog/social media throughout the week.

 

A Full Head and a Full Heart – A Gospel Cordial from Don Whitney

I maintain that a biblically balanced Christian has both a full head and a full heart, radiating both spiritual light and heat.

If absolutely forced to have only on or the other, we must choose the burning heart. If we have the truth in our head but our hearts are not right with God, an awareness of truth will only magnify our guilt before Him at the judgement. But if we have properly responded to the gospel from the heart, in the end we shall be saved even though the rest of our doctrinal understanding is shallow or muddy. Not only would I choose that option for myself, but I would prefer that for those I pastor as well. It’s much harder to get a ship out of the harbor than to correct one on the sea that has drifted off course.

But let us be both out of the harbor and on course. Christians must realize that just as a fire cannot blaze without fuel, so burning hearts are not kindled by brainless heads. We must not be content to have zeal without knowledge.

Does this mean we must be brilliant to be Christians? Absolutely not. But it does mean that to be like Jesus we must be like learners even as He was at only age twelve, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Does this mean we must have several diplomas handing on the wall to be first-rate-Christians? It certainly does not. But it does mean that we should discipline ourselves to be intentional learners like Jesus, of whom it was marveled, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”

 

– from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

What We Do In Worship Reveals What We Think About God: A Gospel Cordial from Richard Phillips

What we do in worship reveals what we think about God. A church that worships through dry and joyless ritual shows that it believes in an absent God. A church that stirs up emotional enthusiasm and fills the worship service with entertainment believes in a week God who needs our spiritual help. A church focused on money reveals a God who is unable to meet our needs, whereas a church that exalts its own celebrities shows its blindness to the glory of God.

But what does it say when people reverently lift their hearts in praise? It says they think God is worthy and great. What do Christians show when they humbly confess their sins? They show that they believe in a holy and forgiving God. What does it say when we commit ourselves to prayer? It says that we believe in a God of power and love. What does it say when Christians are devoted to the reading and teaching of God’s word? It shows our belief that God has reveal himself, that his Word is truth, with power to save. What does a church say by worshiping according to the Bible instead of the latest worldly fad and fancy? It says that God matters more than worldly approval and that his ways are trust worthy and right.

-Rick Phillips, from Reformed Expository Commentary: John.

Christianity is a Bloody Religion: A Gospel Cordial from R. Kent Hughes

Christianity is a bloody religion—the blood of Christ cleanses us of all sin! This must be primary in our witness and thinking! Yes, Christ came to give abundant life. Yes, Christ worked miracles, and he can work miracles in our lives today. But these are the benefits of the gospel, not the gospel itself. The gospel centers upon Christ as the sin bearer—“the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Most of us understand what John is saying. However, our salvation does not depend on our formulation of the doctrine of the atonement, but on our experience of it! Is he our Lamb? Do we really believe he died for us? If we keep the wonder of the Atonement before us, we will be different people!

-R. Kent Hughes, from John: That You May Believe