How to Meditate on the Trinity

Ythe-valley-of-visionThe Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions is one of those works that is a model of meditation on the great doctrines of Christ. Edited by Arthur Bennett, each prayer is laid out in poetic formatting on just two pages. There are sections on:

I.    The Father, Son and Holy Spirit
2.   Redemption and Reconciliation
3.   Penitence and Deprecation
4.   Needs and Devotions
5.   Holy Aspirations
6.   Approach to God
7.   Gifts of Grace
8.   Service and Ministry
9.   Valediction 
10. A Week’s Shared Prayers
.             [broken into AM and PM]

It is a small book, easily fitting in a woman’s purse or the glove box of a man’s truck, but it is packed with 400 pages of daily helps to take your heart to the throne of grace. I highly recommend it. You can get it on Kindle for $5, or paperback for $13, or leather bound for about $23. A great buy at any of those prices. Here’s chapter 1 below.

THREE IN ONE, ONE IN THREE,
GOD OF MY SALVATION,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;
O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;
O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered
my heart, implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.
Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, 
so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost
and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace 
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep, jewel, portion;
O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace thou hast
.   exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
.   implanted faith within me,
.   subdued my stubborn heart,
.   made me one with him for ever.
O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,
O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my petitions,
O Holy Spirit, thou art willing  to help my infirmities,
to show me my need,
to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.
O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those things
that concern thy kingdom and my soul.
Let me live and pray as one baptized into the threefold Name.

“O happy day to be loved by the Father, washed by the Son and indwelt by the Spirit. Lord, make my heart rejoice in the wonder of both who You are and the grace You have given me both in my remaining time in Illinois and my future ministry in South Carolina. For the glory of Your Name, I ask it. Amen.”

Ten Reasons You Might Need to Read this Little Book

Ten Reasons You Might Need to Read this Little Book

  1. Your passion for Christ has lost its edge.
  2. You long for revival in your own heart.
  3. You wonder if there is more to the Christian life than you are currently experiencing.
  4. You are looking for meaning and direction in life.
  5. You wonder if God has bigger plans for your life.
  6. You know that something is missing in your life but can’t put your finger on what.
  7. You desire to make a difference in the world.
  8. You have a growing suspicion that the drive to be comfortable and secure is sucking the joy out of your heart.
  9. You have sensed that you have left your first love for Christ.
  10. You really didn’t need to read all of these, #1 was enough.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what others are saying.

The temptation to pursue a safe and easy life is pervasive. With the Bible as his guide, Marty Schoenleber shows us we weren’t meant to settle into this world, but to sojourn for Christ–no matter the cost. This is timely counter-cultural teaching.”

—Steve Burchett,
Christian Communicators Worldwide,
http://www.CCWtoday.org

Order from Amazon in paperback or for Kindle readers.

Settlers or Sojourners Cover for BlogThe Church is on a rescue mission in hostile territory. Wherever in the world we sleep each night, unless we are in heaven, we are not home.

It is good to be unsettled and dissatisfied with the transience of this passing-away world and to resist our pursuit of its deterioration.

We are citizens of heaven, but our feet still walk upon the earth. We are sojourners craving to unpack our bags and settle down somewhere. But not yet. ‘Reject earthly anchors’, says Marty Schoenleber. I amhomesick for the ‘celestial city’ of God and Marty has spiked my (already) hearty appetite for it in this compelling booklet.”

—David Sitton, Founder
To Every Tribe Mission

You might want to read it once a week!

A Chapter Revision Excerpt

Marty at Outside Preaching EventAmong the many things I have been working on since leaving Trinity Church as its Senior Pastor is a revision of my 2012 book, Picking A President: Or Any Other Elected Official. Some might think it odd to revise a book that is only five years old. Let me tell you why I’m doing it.

  1. This election, more than perhaps any other, demonstrates a need for this book. We simply need better candidates to vote for. Period.
  2. The time to read and study a book like this is four years before the next election. That gives activists and political types time to find candidates with sound character and believable problem-solving abilities.
  3. Recognizing those candidates means a population that is tuned into asking the right questions long before candidates are placed on a ballot. That takes time, introspection, and hard work by each of us. If we want to recognize better candidates we need to be better and more informed people.

So here is part of the revised 21st chapter of a probably-differently titled book. (Front-runner for the new title? Mr. and Mrs. Candidate, You’re Fired!) All chapters in the book are based on a chapter in the book of Proverbs. As always, it is always best to read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the same chapter in the book.

Proverbs 21   God Overrules Rulers.

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
     he turns it wherever he will. (1)

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
     but terror to evildoers. (15)

No wisdom, no understanding,
     no counsel can avail against the Lord.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
     but the victory belongs to the Lord. (30-31)

Proverbs 21:1, 15, 30-31

______________________________

Proverbs 21:15 echoes the things we learned in chapter 20. The role of the righteous leader is twofold:

1) to do justice and thereby bring joy to those who desire to do righteousness and

2) bring terror to those who delight in evil.

A good government is one that maintains a balance between personal freedom and the common good.

But if Proverbs 21:15 echoes chapter 20 (esp. Prov. 20:2, 8, 18, and 22), it also gives a powerful corrective to thinking that any human ruler’s power is ultimate. The point of the first verse is that the heart of the king is in God’s hand. This is both a mystery and a great comfort. Even if your candidate is not elected, even if according to your best judgment, the worst of two evils is elected, a believer need not despair. Listen to the wise words of another generation commenting on this passage:

God can change men’s minds, can, by a powerful insensible operation under their spirits, turn them from that which they seemed most intent upon, and incline them to that which they seemed most averse to, as the husbandman, by canals and gutters, turns the water through his grounds as he pleases, which does not alter the nature of the water, nor put any force upon it, any more than God’s providence does upon the native freedom of man’s will, but directs the course of it to serve his own purpose.

Even kings’ hearts are so, notwithstanding their powers and prerogatives, as much as the hearts of common persons. The hearts of kings are unsearchable to us, much more unmanageable by us; … but the great God has them not only under his eye, but in his hand. Kings [or Presidents and Congressman] are what he makes them. Those that are most absolute are [still] under God’s government; …49

A farmer (“the husbandman”) directs water by digging canals. So God directs the heart of rulers. And the Scriptures are filled with examples (Exod. 10:1-2; Ezra 7:21; Neh. 2:1-8; Isa. 10:5-7; Isa. 45:1-6). With absolute certainty, the writer reminds us of a great mystery. God is sovereign over all. The final two verses of the chapter come full circle.

30 No wisdom, no understanding,
      no counsel can avail against the Lord.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
      but the victory belongs to the Lord.

This is the perspective and the comfort we need in all our political involvement. Trust God. Even as you work to ensure that good people are elected, never forget that God is forever sovereign. There is no wisdom, no understanding that can stand against the Lord’s purposes. People can make their plans, but God can overrule all of them. Political operatives can wheel and deal, but in the end, God will “cause all things to work together for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” (Rom. 8:28). And that is comforting news in the midst of our sometimes frustrating (maddening!) political process.

Make sure that you are one who loves him, the sovereign God of the universe, above all things. We will not change the world through lots of political activity. We have responsibilities and duties in that sphere, but they are only one piece of a larger picture.

We will change the world by not “leaning on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledging him,” and watching him direct our steps (Prov. 3:5-6). In every election there is a candidate who is better for the country, county or city—always one that is better than the other. We have a responsibility before God to elect men and women who will lead wisely and well. But there is one Judge and Ruler who was never elected. He rules with might and power, with wisdom and righteousness, and his will is ultimately unassailable. Trust him. He, unlike every human governor, is always worthy of our complete trust.

Prayer:

Lord, Your word declares that You laugh at the folly of earthly rulers who raise up any plans against Your Anointed (Psalm 2:1-4). You warn the kings of the earth, all who govern, to show discernment and to bow down in worship of You as their sovereign Lord. And one day, Your word declares that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that You are indeed Lord of heaven and earth (Isa. 45:23; Phil. 2:10; Rom. 14:11).

Help me to trust You and Your word, not only for that future day, but for every day that I breathe between now and then. Help me to not be anxious over who wins or loses a particular election. But help me to do my part to ensure that worthy men and women have the opportunity to serve. Amen.

Questions:

  1. Are you anxious about the upcoming election? Have you taken your anxiety to God and asked him to calm your anxious spirit (cf. John 14:1-6 and 1 Pet. 5:7)? If not, do it now.
  2. Does the candidate feed your tendency to be anxious and “earth-bound” by the type of rhetoric he or she uses?
  3. Does the candidate’s platform give an indication that “the righteous will rejoice and evil-doers will fear” if their policies are implemented?
  4. Does the candidate have the support of knowledgeable men and women who you respect as being on the side of righteousness?

Nourishing Cancer of the Soul

Thursday is for Spiritual Formation

This was the first of a three part series from two years ago. The longer I am in ministry, the more I look at the horrible things that people say about other people on Facebook and other social media, the more I think that Matt Mitchell’s book on Gossip ought to be a required reading in every church in America at the start of their membership class.

For my part, I think I will work a series into the preaching calendar about every two or three years. It’s that important and that perennial to the life of the church internally and the testimony of the church in the world.


You can get Matt’s book at Amazon.com by clicking on
this link.

When You Say You are a Christian, What Does it Mean?

Tuesday is for Preaching

Slave by MacArthurI am re-reading John MacArthur’s Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (Thomas Nelson, 2010). It is such a powerful book and it starts in the preface with a compelling story of a brother in Christ who gave his life in testimony to the beauty and attractiveness of Christ in the late second century, probably around AD 177. His name was Sanctus and he knew who he was. He knew who he belonged to and he knew what to hold on to.

“I am a Christian.”

The young man said nothing else as he stood before the Roman governor, his life hanging in the balance. His accusers pressed him again, hoping to trip him up or force him to recant. But once more he answered with the same short phrase. “I am a Christian.”

It was the middle of the second century, during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius [AD 161-180]. Christianity was illegal, and believers throughout the Roman Empire faced the threat of imprisonment, torture, or death. Persecution was especially intense in southern Europe, where Sanctus, a deacon from Vienna, had been arrested and brought to trial. The young man was repeatedly told to renounce the faith he professed. But his resolve was undeterred. “I am a Christian.”

No matter what question he was asked, he always gave the same unchanging answer. According to the ancient church historian Eusebius, Sanctus “girded himself against [his accusers] with such firmness that he would not even tell his name, or the nation or city to which he belonged, or whether he was bond or free, but answered in the Roman tongue to all their questions, ‘I am a Christian.'” When at last it became obvious that he would say nothing else, he was condemned to severe torture and a public death in the amphitheater. On the day of his execution, he was forced to run the gauntlet, subjected to wild beasts, and fastened to a chair of burning iron. Through out all of it, his accusers kept trying to break him, convinced that his resistance would crack under the pain of torment. But as Eusebius recounted, “Even thus they did not hear a word from Sanctus except the confession which he had uttered from the beginning.” His dying words told of an undying commitment. His rally cry remained constant throughout his entire trial, “I am a Christian.”

For Sanctus, his whole identity–including his name, citizenship, and social status–was found in Jesus Christ. Hence, no better answer could have been given to the questions he was asked. He was a Christian, and that designation defined everything about him.

… As one historian explained about the early martyrs, 

They [would reply] to all questionings about them [with] the short but comprehensive answer, “I am a Christian.” Again and again they caused no little perplexity to their judges by the pertinacity with which they adhered to this brief profession of faith. The question was repeated, “Who are you?” and they replied “I have already said the I am a Christian; and he who says that has thereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things besides.”

MacArthur’s preface to his book, p. 7-9.

And if you are looking for a shorter but kind of “cousin” treatment to who we are in Christ, …

… pick up a copy of my Settlers or Sojourners: Meditations in Christian Identity at Amazon in either paperback or kindle formats.

Fighting the Good Fight the Good Way

“To be right with God often meant
to be in trouble with men.”

—A.W. Tozer

Wiley CayoteThe world has changed. As boomers and their grandparents die off the culture is about to take a huge leap off a cliff as the forty-year experiment in relativistic thinking yields it final fruit. Like Wiley Coyote chasing the road-runner, we are headed for a rude awakening. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago puts it this way:

“We have crossed an invisible line and there are no signs that we are capable of turning back. Like a boat caught in the mighty torrent of the Niagara River, we are being swept along with powerful cultural currents that just might put us over the brink. Seemingly irrevocable trends put in motion forty years ago continue to gather momentum and speed. Our Judeo-Christian heritage that gave us the freedoms we have enjoyed is for the most part gone, and in its place is an intolerant form of humanism that can boast of one victory after another. The ‘cultural war’ we used to speak about appears to be over, and we have lost.”

Cited in Prepare: Living Your Faith in an
Increasingly Hostile Culture
by J.Paul Nyquist, p. 15

Part of the function of this BLOG is to alert its readers to worthy books for their time and edification. Recently a friend at church came back with multiple copies of J. Paul Niquist’s new book Prepare. My wise and intelligent wife started to read it and was impressed. That was all I needed to  begin. I have started to read it now and can not recommend it highly enough.

If you are looking for a book that will help you understand what is happening in the country, how what is happening is different from the past, and how you ought to respond to it as a believer in Christ—and you should be—this is the book you ought to read.

Fighting the Urge to Live for Comfort, Security, and Convenience

Friday is for Heart Songs

endurance9
The Shackleton expedition to Antarctica is a testimony to human endurance and determination. Where is that spiritual commitment to endure in the American Christian?

I love my country. Flaws and all, I love it. I think, on balance, it has been a force for good in the world, even with all of its missteps and corruptions.

But it is dangerous to live here. Dangerous to the soul.

Our affluence, our comforts, and the long favor of the church in our history clouds our perspective. It causes us to think that what has been is normal when in fact the experience of Christians for almost two-thousand years has been much more precarious. Persecution was their past and it is likely our future.

Today I was rereading a book on endurance and ran across the three paragraphs below. They highlight one of the principle dangerous to our soul–the idea that we deserve a trouble-free, pain-free life.

“There is mind-set in the prosperous West that we deserve pain-free, trouble-free existence. When life deals us the opposite, we have a right not only to blame somebody or some system and to feel sorry for ourselves, but also to devote most of our time to coping, so that we have no time or energy left over for serving others.

The mind-set gives a trajectory to life that is almost universal–namely, away from stress and toward comfort and safety and relief. Then within that very natural trajectory some people begin to think of ministry and find ways of serving God inside the boundaries set by the aims of self-protection. Then churches grow up in this mind-set, and it never occurs to anyone in such a community of believers that choosing discomfort, stress, and danger might be the right thing–even the normal, biblical thing–to do.

I have found myself in conversation with Christians for whom it is simply a given that you do not put yourself or your family at risk. The commitment to safety and comfort is an unquestioned absolute. The demands of being a Christian in the twenty-first century will probably prove to be a rude awakening for such folks. Since we have not embraced the Calvary road voluntarily, God may simply catapult us onto it as he did the home-loving saints in Acts 11:19: “Those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phonenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word.'”

—John Piper, The Roots of Endurance:
Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton,
Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce,
p. 18
(Crossway, 2002)

I highly recommend the book by John Piper and its three short biographical accounts of the how the grace of God is enough. For my own book along similar lines see this link. It is also available on Kindle.