Afflictions are Medicine for the Soul

Here is Thomas Watson on Afflictions:

“Afflictions are the medicine which God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases; they cure the fever of pride, the fever of lust, he dropsy of covetousness. Do they not then work for good? afflictions work for good, as they are the means of loosening our hearts from the world. When you dig away the earth from the root of the tree, it is to loosen the tree from the earth; So God digs away our earthly comfort to loosen our hearts from the earth.”

Page 29, All Things for Good by Thomas Watson

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Five Reasons to Rejoice in God’s Chastisements

Isaiah 27:1-13 discloses the promises of God to destroy the slithering deluding work of Leviathan (the devil) by the invincible power of His sword – the Word of God. And…are you ready for another song?  In this chapter there is a beautiful song of how He waters His own vineyard continually and cares for it marvelously as He fills the world with the blessings of salvation. Further, He shows how the chastisements of God, turned heads toward Christ as they heard the trumpet sound and were converted. This is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. From our studies so far, it is plain that the prophet Isaiah rejoices in the judgment of God. He sees the judgment of God differently compared to most. He warns of it, and rejoices in it at the same time for it tells the story of a people who were chastised, and their chastisement led to their salvation. In chapter 27, Isaiah gives us five words to show us reasons to rejoice in His chastisements.

1. Sword – The punishment of Leviathan, v1

2. Water – The fruitful vineyard will be watered and fruitful, v2-6

3. Wind – Chastisement that was restrained brought about salvation, 7-11

4.  Wilderness – The destruction of the unrepentant, v10

5. Trumpet – The trumpet call to the elect, 12-13

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We Are Changing the Name of Our National Conference

We are changing the name of our National Conference in Asheville, October 30-Nov 1, from “Church and Family 2014” to “The Power of the Gospel – Transforming Church and Family.” We are not changing the name because we are changing the focus of the conference. We have done this because we realized our original title was fuzzy and made it hard to know what the conference was about.

As we originally designed, the conference will focus on the spiritual foundation of church and family life – the transforming power of the gospel. We will examine the various elements of the gospel’s power at work in repentance, faith, worship, the filling of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, as well as divine love at work in foreknowledge, justification, sanctification, perseverance, sovereignty and glorification.

Other Conference Tweaks This Year

You will experience some differences compared to past NCFIC conferences.

More fellowship time

We will start later in the morning and end earlier in the evening

More time for lunch and dinner

More time together in the main auditorium

We will keep the crowd together in the main auditorium during the entire conference with one exception. We are offering only one breakout track on Friday morning where conferees can choose from among 11 messages.

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Prayer, the Bellows of the Affections

“Prayer works for good. Prayer is the bellows of the affections; It blows up holy desires and arduous of the soul. Prayer has power with God. “Command ye me”  Isaiah 45:11. It is a key that unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy. Prayer keeps the heart open to God, and shut to sin; He assuages the intemperate heart and the swellings of lust. It was Luthers counsel to a friend, when he perceived a temptation begin to arise, to betake himself to prayer. Prayer is the Christian’s gun, which he discharges against his enemies. Prayer is the sovereign medicine of the soul. Prayer sanctifies every mercy. 1 Tim 4:5.  It is the dispeller of sorrow; by venting the grief, it eases the heart. When Hannah had prayed, “she went away and was no more sad”a1 Sam 1:18. And it it has these rare effects, then it works for good.”

– Thomas Watson, All Thngs for Good, p20

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How I Prepare for a Sermon

One of the greatest joys of my life is to preach the Word of God in the church. Scripture is true treasure. It reveals a beautiful Savior and a wonderful life. I am so very thankful for the privilege to preach. I usually spend 10-20 hours on a sermon per week. This might sound contradictory, but while I am grateful and happy to preach and I love the beneficial nature of it, I must admit that it has always been taxing, terrifying and humiliating to prepare sermons. Here are the basic elements of my sermon research process:

Sermon Research Process: 

I. Study the text

1. Read the text ten times, listen to it ten times on audio and prayerfully meditate on it before extensive study begins.

2. Identify who is speaking and who is being spoken to.

3. Outline the text. In expository preaching one of the primary objectives is for the sermon to derive its outline, emphasis and message from the text itself.

4. Identify important words in the text, and document where else these words are used and their lexical meaning.

5. Explain the historical locations mentioned in the passage by identifying where they are on the map, where they are referred to in other places in Scripture and why they are mentioned in this particular text.

6. Explain the identity of the people mentioned in the text, where they are found elsewhere in Scripture, and why they are mentioned in this particular text.

7. List the images and metaphors mentioned in the text. (more…)

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How to Avoid Having a Household of Uncouth Godless Pigs

Martin Luther tells us how to avoid having a household of uncouth godless pigs in his comments on the fifth commandment:

“If you are a father or mother, you should at this point remember your children and the workers in your household. Pray earnestly to the dear Father, who has set you in an office of honor in his name and intends that you be honored by the name “father.” Ask that he grant you grace and blessing to look after and support your wife, children, and servants in a godly and Christian manner. May he give you wisdom and strength to train them well in heart and will to follow your instruction with obedience. Both are God’s gifts, your children and the way they flourish, that they turn out well and that they remain so. Otherwise the home is nothing but a pigsty and school for rascals, as one can see among the uncouth and godless¹.”

1. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 203–204.

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Living for God Conference – Des Moines Iowa

This weekend I will be speaking at the Living for God Conference in Iowa. This conference will offer an environment in the heart of Des Moines with messages, teaching, and fellowship that are geared to exalt the Word of God as the powerful Word of God that it is.

This evening I will be giving a message titled: The Blessed Christian Life, focusing on The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-16.

For more information about the Living for God Conference click here.

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Hide Yourself in His Chambers

In this message we will focus on the final verses of Isaiah 26 concluding our three part series on this chapter. This entire chapter is a song that is meant to be sung in troubled times and it communicates that God is the God of all comfort. It indicates that God walks with His people in times of trouble and He gives them a song to sing. There are times of trouble for the people of God. Often it comes when the judgment of God is upon a nation. Sometimes it comes when the people of God are oppressed and even killed. At other times it comes when we have been foolish or sinful and we are under the chastisement of the Lord. This is the context of the song in chapter 26.

This is a famous text for Scottish Covenanters. During the killing times of the Scottish reformation, Donald Cargill, preached on this text (Isaiah 26:20-21) on July 10, 1681, just two days before he was hanged. A wayward young man was present at his hanging – James Renwick. He was so moved by the scene, that it changed his life and he was never the same again and devoted his life to declaring the fame of Jesus Christ. Two years later, Renwick preached his first sermon from this text. He deliberately chose Isaiah 26:20 in order to publicly maintain the same testimony as Cargill, and perhaps even suffer the same fate. On February 17, 1688 He was caught, beaten and hanged. His head was removed from his body in the Grass Market in Edinburgh. It is no accident that Isaiah 26:20-21 would be a famous passage of Scripture during the killing times. It was meant for times of trouble.

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Something Helpful for the Law/Grace, Sanctification/Justification Discussion

Here is a helpful reflection on a presentation Derek Thomas made that provides helpful language discussing the role of the law in sanctification. For more on this subject, see also, Ernest Kevan’s book, The Grace of the Law.” It might also be beneficial to take a look at our video sessions on the law as explained in the Second London Baptist Confession, in our series, “Family Foundations in Sound Doctrine.”

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He Does All our Works in Us

Singing will change your life and shape your emotions. Show me the songs that you love, and I will know what you love and how you live. This is why Augustine wrote, “Only he who loves can sing.” God has invested much power in singing. Isaiah 26 pictures a people singing some of the most remarkable lyrics. Through these lyrics, the prophet is explaining how God will judge the world and how His people should sing about His judgment. A chapter like this should cause us to ask, “What are we singing? What kinds of lyrics play in our hearts?”

Singing has an important place in the Bible, and it is the content of the singing that distinguishes the Christian from the non Christian. After escaping Egypt on the other side of the Red sea, the children of Israel sang (Exodus 15). When the tribes of Israel gathered around the tabernacle in the wilderness, there was singing (1 Chron 6:31-32; 16:42). When Moses was in the last few days of his life God told him to write a song and in one day he wrote a song and taught it to the people. Even the stars sing, “when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Perhaps this is why J.I. Packer declared, “Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology.”

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We Have a Strong City

What should Christians do when all is collapsing around them? Isaiah 26:1-11 provides the answer. This section is the first part of a song of praise for the strong city of God. This chapter continues the testimony of praise from the previous chapter where it is affirmed that the Lord is a shelter in the storm. In chapter 26 the Lord gives His people a song to help them through the upcoming times of trial. When they see the walls collapsing around them they will have a song that will remind them that God has not abandoned them, but that He has a city with strong walls and bulwarks that will never be shaken. The city of man will be shaken, but the city of God will never be shaken. How are God’s people supposed to respond? Simply to keep their minds “stayed upon Jehovah.” We will sing accordingly as we lift up our voices in singing “Like a River Glorious.”

Hidden in the hollow of his blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding, as he promised, Perfect peace and rest.

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Spurgeon on How Scripture Smiled and Frowned on Him

Charles Spurgeon says this about Scripture:

  • [T]he Book has wrestled with me.
  • The Book has smitten me.
  • The Book has comforted me.
  • The Book has smiled on me.
  • The Book has frowned on me.
  • The Book has clasped my hand.
  • The Book has warmed my heart.
  • The Book weeps with me and sings with me.
  • It whispers to me and it preaches to me.
  • It maps my way and holds up my goings.
  • It was to me the young man’s best companion and it is still my morning and evening chaplain.

Charles Spurgeon “The Word a Sword” (sermon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, May 17, 1887)

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A Puritan Prayer for Family

A puritan prayer for family, in The Valley of Vision. This prayer contains many of the theological principles that the puritans understood to define family life:

“Let those that are united to me in tender ties
be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory.
Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion, instruction, discipline, example, that my house may be a nursery for heaven, my church the garden of the Lord, enriched with trees of righteousness of thy planting, for thy glory;
Let not those of my family who are amiable,
moral, attractive, fall short of heaven at last;
Grant that the promising appearances of a tender conscience, soft heart, the alarms and delights of thy Word, be not finally blotted out, but bring forth judgment unto victory in all whom I love.”

The Valley of Vision, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, 2002 edition, The Family, p208-209

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Delight-Ful: 31 Days to a Happier Baby… And Wholehearted Motherhood

Our friend Kate Collins has written a wonderful book, “Delight-Full: 31 Days to a Happier Baby . . . And Wholehearted Motherhood

She writes,  “Mothering is hard work. Completely worth it—invaluable, actually. But it’s hard work. Mothers need encouragement and truth spoken into their lives as they raise their little ones. Delight-Full gives mothers a scriptural perspective on the whys and wherefores of motherhood and offers mothers the gift of hope. Author Kate Collins speaks from personal experience, sharing stories that describe how parenting is so much more than tricycles and freezer cooking. Parenting is about reflecting God to our children. Parenting is giving our children a tangible, yet very fallible, glimpse of what God’s love for them is made of. Delight-Full helps mothers wholeheartedly embrace the great gift and tasks of motherhood.”

This book is written in 31 bite-sized chapters, Delight-Full contains warmhearted, real-life family stories and a scriptural take on just what the Lord can
work in the fertile ground of a mother’s heart. Each chapter ends with practical and encouraging notes, from one momma to another, to lift your spirits and help you turn your eyes to the Lord as you plant the seeds of God’s Word in the hearts of your children.

Go to The WEBSITE for the book.

You can PURCHASE it here,

and watch a TRAILER here,

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Get an Advanced Degree on the Judgment of God

One of the most difficult challenges human beings face is to have a right understanding of divine judgment. There are many practical problems that result from this, and one of them is that if you don’t have a right view of judgment, you cannot understand truth and love very well. In our Scripture passage this week (Isaiah 24:13-23) Isaiah continues his explanation of divine judgment upon the whole world. It speaks of how God will break the bondage of the world to the forces of darkness; how He will heal a broken world; how He will turn the land that is mourning in to a land of joy; how He will cleanse the land that has been defiled.

If you take a step back and read the whole section as a unified whole, that includes Isaiah 24-27, you see immediately that the whole context is really a Song of praise for the relief God brings to the world through judgment of the wicked. In this sermon, we continue to explain the characteristics of the judgment of God.  We have covered the first ten characteristics that appear in verses 1-12. Now, in verses 13-23 we all observe the next five characteristics.

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