A Tale of Two Preachers

Both men had a fire in their eyes with Jesus at the center, but their flames were different. Have you ever noticed that you can listen to someone talk about Jesus, but as they are saying all of the right things, there still seems to be a disconnect? While others you run into always seem to be able to focus you like a laser beam on what truly matters.

When I see it in churches, I sometimes call it the programmatic versus the spiritual, but I doubt that is the best way to describe it. It is hard to put a fine point on it because the programmatic is not wrong in itself. Even spiritual churches have programmatic elements. I think I use the word programmatic because it sometimes feels that way. The leaders appear to be doing what they know they should be doing, but they do not seem to be doing it in a way that tells me that they believe their very lives depend upon the Gospel they are preaching. So what makes the difference? I suppose it all comes down to the hearts of those involved.

The first man, a church leader, had a fire in his eyes and Christ was at the center, but Jesus seemed to be a means to an end. Everything surrounding the ministry where he labored was orthodox. People came, heard the word, and were often even blessed by his preaching, but in his heart, he was building his own kingdom. A place where the people would revere his name; a place where he could leave his legacy. His faith was real, but he still seemed to have one foot planted in the world, and it showed. Well, not to everyone. There were many in the congregation with hearts split between heaven and earth as well, and they did not seem to notice.

They did not notice, at least, until they got a chance to hear the second man begin to speak because the fire in his eyes was pure. Where the first man had the tendency to view knowing Jesus as a means to building his ministry, the second man saw knowing Jesus as the goal. He had found the Pearl of Great Price and was willing to sell all he had to have it (Matt. 13:45-46). Christ was beautiful to him so that is what he pursued. His ministry was something he did to show the world the beauty of Christ so others could know Him too. There was a love for his Lord in his eyes that made believers want to know their Savior the way he did.

Two things seemed to separate these men and their ministries. The first had to do with their reliance. The first one worked with a high degree of self-reliance, where the second one knew his weakness so well that he dared only to rely on Christ. The second aspect had to do with their focus. The first, to some degree, still had his mind set on the things of the world. Even when he preached on setting your mind on things above, he did it with a heart that hoped he was establishing his own glory. The second man had been broken. His heart had been set free from this world. He knew it could no longer satisfy, so he had given up pursuing its glory a long time ago. One seemed to be walking home and calling others to go with him while the other appeared to be fairly content in this strange land.

Here is what I noticed in their preaching, to take a thought from Jayber Crow, one of them was troubled enough to have something worthwhile to say. The first one was unable to show us the emptiness of even the glorious things of this life in comparison to Christ because he had yet to see their vanity. The second one felt a shuddering within him, that knew that the things of this world were trembling all around us. No matter what the topic, his words, and actions shone like a spotlight on our glorious Savior and our true homeland.

So what about you? Where is your heart? Is Jesus the end you seek, or a means to an end? Are you awake enough to feel the frailty of this world convulse beneath you to such a degree that you dare not place your hope in it? We aspire to be like what we find beautiful. May your love for Jesus compel you to grow into His likeness, because if we have no desire to be conformed to His image or make his name known, we may not truly find Him beautiful like we say we do. We may still have our hearts set on this world. May God show us its vanity compared to Himself and turn our eyes heavenward. May we be troubled enough by this world to have something worth saying, and if we are too comfortable, may the Lord shake us from our slumber. May we be able to acknowledge that we are strangers and exiles on the earth.

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. – Hebrews 11:14

-Doug Eaton

Sin, Sorrow, and the Joy of Christmas

The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year.  Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart.  Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are events that should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.

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If this was where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise?  Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.

evelyn-46598-unsplashChrist, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation.  Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

The Best Books I Read this Year

Out of the 60 books I read this year, eight were given five-star ratings. Here are my favorites regardless of the genre and in no particular order.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon  Autobiography: The Early  Years 1834-1860 Volume 1  -     By: Charles H. Spurgeon The Autobiography of Spurgeon – Vol. 1 – Charles Spurgeon

This book is significant in length and full of thoughts of a man filled with the Spirit of God. Not only will you learn more about his story, but it will be delivered to you in a way that exalts the living God. If you are one to underline or make notes in your books, be sure to have a pen ready because this book is full of great spurgeonisms.

Image result for Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus - Nabeel QureshiSeeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi

I pick up this book because I was moved by hearing of Nabeel’s untimely death near the end of 2017, and I am so glad I did. Not only will you be moved by a beautiful true story of conversion, but, along the way, you will also pick up several apologetic arguments delivered in an accessible and engaging way. As a fellow Christian, I was given a glimpse into the heart of my brother in Christ as the Lord patiently called him to himself over the course of several years. I highly recommend this book.

Image result for The Letters of John - Colin KruseThe Letters of John – Colin Kruse

Ligonier lists this book as their number one commentary on the letters of John, and I can see why. Even if you don’t agree where he lands on every issue, Kruse’s clarity and precision are unmatched. This commentary is perfect for anyone who will be teaching through the letters or simply studying alone at home.

Image result for The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen - Sinclair FergusonThe Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen – Sinclair Ferguson

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn a little more about a man of faith I admire, and I ended up being ministered to. Sinclair Ferguson presents some of the biblical truths that centered John Owens life in such a way that it had me rejoicing in those truths as well. It is a short and easy read, and you won’t be disappointed.

Image result for Voices from the Past - Richard RushingVoices from the Past – Richard Rushing

A little over a year ago I received Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, as a gift, and what a gift it was. This devotion is a collection of writings from great Christian writers like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and Thomas Watson et. al. If you are looking for substance in your daily reading, this is the book for you. Rarely will a day go by where you are not given something that spurs you on in godliness. It will comfort you where you need to be comforted, and it will convict you where you need to be convicted.

Image result for The Gospel Come With A Housekey - Rosaria ButterfieldThe Gospel Come With A Housekey – Rosaria Butterfield

What an encouraging book this is. I enjoyed this book more than her autobiography, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In this book you will be challenged to put your gospel love into practice by opening yourself and home in a way that focuses more on the people present than the usual way it is done, being more attentive to our homes than the people to whom we are ministering. This book will challenge you.

Image result for The Diary of David BrainerdThe Diary of David Brainerd – David Brainerd

This is not a book to read quickly. I read it over the course of a year. Since these journal entries, some sections will start to seem repetitive if you try to read it in a short time, but if you read it over a more extended period, you will be able to marinate in the mindset of this godly man. You will be reminded daily that we are part of something much bigger and we should be redeeming the time.

Image result for four laws of executionThe Four Disciplines of Execution – Chris McChesney and Sean Covey

I tend to read several business books a year in the desire to be better at my job. However, few of them end up making it to the top of my list. This is one of the few. If you are responsible for leading a team to accomplish big things, this book will help you get it done.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter – Liz Wiseman
  • The Saints Everlasting Rest – Richard Baxter
  • Dragon Teeth – Michael Crichton
  • And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

 

 

Freddie Mercury: A Christian Meditation

 

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The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has hit the theaters to chronicle the life of Freddie Mercury and his untimely death to aids.  To reflect on such a life as a believer is sobering.  To reflect on the life and death of anyone would do the same, but there seems to be something more significant when we think about the death of someone like Freddie Mercury.  To imagine that rock royalty, Queen, will one day stand before the King of kings, should cause us all to pause and reflect on our lives for a moment.

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Scripture tells us that it is appointed once for a man to die, then the judgment (Heb. 9:27).  All men, even those who seemed to have the world by the tail for a time, are subjected to it.  What is more troubling for the Christian who considers such an event, is to see how many people are still clamoring to have what Freddie had at the height of his fame, knowing that they fail to see how quickly these kingdoms will come crashing down.

There is no doubt that the pursuit of fame has engulfed many to the point that it seems to have consumed them. Knowing this, it should not surprise us when we read in scripture that “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest” (Isa 57:20).  Even if we end up with all that we dreamed of in this world, unless Christ is our treasure, we will be unable to find the rest that seems to be eluding us (Matt. 16:26).  In fact, we often impale ourselves with many troubles as we continue the pursuit (1 Tim 6:10).

There is a restlessness in the human heart as Augustine pointed out when he said,  “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”  This restlessness comes from the fact that there is a knowledge of God written on our hearts, and in our sinfulness, we want nothing to do with it (Rom. 1:18-20). It is from this point that our pursuits for peace take us everywhere except the one place we would be able to find it.

In our sinfulness we reject God, knowing that we have violated his ways (Rom 1:32), and to cover up that knowledge, we tend to work even harder to find things that can distract us from that truth.  In it, we tend to go further and further down a path of vanity, for all is vanity apart from Christ (Ecc. 1:2).

From here we create our own standards of what we think a virtuous person ought to be, but even by our own standards, we fail to measure up. Only by deceiving ourselves are we able maintain any level of self-approval. Often during these pursuits, we find ourselves engaging in all kinds of aberrant behavior merely trying to measure up to our own standards and fill our emptiness. In it, we cling to our own righteousness to appease the God we know is there and to assuage the guilt we know is ours.  We, even in our suppression of the truth, will create a God to our own liking and will try to appease it (Rom 1:23), and these little gods are tyrants without mercy. On top of that, the God of scripture tells us that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and he wants nothing to do with it (Isa. 64:6).  But, praise God, He then goes on to tell us of the remedy that he has offered in Christ Jesus, for all of us have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  God the Father sent his son to die upon the cross to bear the punishment for all who will believe in Him (John 3:16) to bring us into a right relationship with Him and give us the peace we are seeking.

Image result for freddie mercuryAs was mentioned before, it is appointed once for a man to die then the judgment. The only way anyone will be able to stand in the judgment is if they are in Christ because he is the only one who has lived a truly righteous life and paid the penalty for our sins (Acts 4:12), and if we are not in Christ, we will have to pay our own penalty for sins.  This truth applies to all men and women, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, loved by the world or not.

To paraphrase John Donne, when we hear that someone has died and we wonder for whom the bell tolls, there is a sense in which it will always be tolling for us.  It is a constant reminder of our own frailty, telling us to be cognizant of our own end, and to ponder what awaits us afterward, and whether or not we are living life the way it should be lived; to the glory of God (Psalm 39:4). In it, you will find the fulfillment, rest, and, most importantly, the forgiveness of sins, you so desperately need. It was for this reason Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

 

Jesus: The Mighty Breaker

Mighty Breaker

There brake He the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle.” –Psalm 76:3

Our Redeemer’s glorious cry of “It is finished,” was the death-knell of all the adversaries of His people, the breaking of “the bow and the battle.” Behold the hero of Golgotha using His cross as an anvil, and His woes as a hammer, dashing to shivers bundle after bundle of our sins, those poisoned “arrows of the bow”; trampling on every indictment, and destroying every accusation. What glorious blows the mighty Breaker gives with a hammer far more ponderous than the fabled weapon of Thor! How the diabolical darts fly to fragments, and the infernal bucklers are broken like potters’ vessels! Behold, He draws from its sheath of hellish workmanship the dread sword of Satanic power! He snaps it across His knee, as a man breaks the dry wood of a fagot, and casts it into the fire.

Beloved, no sin of a believer can now be an arrow mortally to wound him, no condemnation can now be a sword to kill him, for the punishment of our sin was borne by Christ, a full atonement was made for all our iniquities by our blessed Substitute and Surety. Who now accuseth? Who now condemneth? Christ hath died, yea rather, hath risen again. Jesus has emptied the quivers of hell, has quenched every fiery dart, and broken off the head of every arrow of wrath; the ground is strewn with the splinters and relics of the weapons of hell’s warfare, which are only visible to us to remind us of our former danger, and of our great deliverance. Sin hath no more dominion over us. Jesus has made an end of it, and put it away forever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end. Talk ye of all the wondrous works of the Lord, ye who make mention of His name, keep not silence, neither by day, nor when the sun goeth to his rest. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Charles Spurgeon

3 Signs We Are Not Spiritually-Minded

“Even now you are not ready.” These are the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:5. There is more nourishment in the word of God for us to take in and enjoy, but too often we are not spiritually-minded enough to receive it. Too often we are spiritually immature.

How would we know if we are spiritually immature when one of the symptoms of being earthly-minded is being blinded to our own condition? Much like losing your appetite can be a symptom of being malnourished. The following phrases from scripture could possibly wake us up, if we are, in fact, earthly-minded.

1. Are we living in a way that is destroying our bodies? When it comes to drunkenness, drugs, or any other dependence that is damaging our health, Paul says,

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” – I Cor. 3:16-17

If we are involved in any of these activities, we are not spiritually-minded, no matter how much theology we know. How can we have spiritual understanding if we don’t even understand how our bodies relate to honoring God.

2. Are we involved in sexual immorality? If so, we are not ready for the deep things of God. We are earthly-minded. Paul is so bold as to say, if we were living this way, we should be removed from the church until we repent.

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” – 1 Cor. 5:11

If we are involved in any of these things, we are not spiritually-minded. We are spiritually immature, if we are Christians at all.

3. Are we willing to be fools for Christ? This world sees the truth of Jesus as foolishness, and if we’re not willing to be seen as foolish for Jesus, it is because we are not spiritually-minded. For those who are, we will know that bearing the reproach of the world is worth it if we receive the riches of Christ Jesus. Paul says,

“We [Paul and the apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake,” and shortly after that he says, “Be imitators of me.” – 1 Cor. 4:10,16

If we are not willing to give up comfort, and the approval for this world, for the kingdom of God, then we do not understand the passing nature of this world and the eternality of all that has been born of God.

I do not write this to be judgmental. The word of God judges me as much as it does anyone else, and there are areas in my life that need improvement too. I write this so that all of us, the children of God, can grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ by being reminded how serious sin actually is. It impacts us much more than we think it does. May we discern our condition by the word of God and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, for “if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” – I Cor. 11:31

If anything in the short devotion exposed sinfulness in your life, run to Christ where forgiveness is freely offered, and sanctification can be found. Finally, remember the words of Psalm 97:10-11:

“O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”

The Memory Of Old Jack by Wendell Berry – Book Review

Image result for the memory of old jackI always enjoy spending time in Port William, but this time was a bit more tragic. Wendell Berry has a way of taking what appears to be an ordinary, well-lived, life of a man in Kentucky and showing you the hidden tensions and pressures that are at work. Sometimes the seemingly trivial choices we make have profound emotional repercussions, even if no one else will ever see them. To borrow a metaphor from Andrew Peterson, they are like mountains on the ocean floor.

Jack Beechum is nearing the end of his life, and Berry gives us insight into the memories he holds, even while that memory appears to be fading to those around him. As always in Berry’s writings, the expression of Jack’s tragedies and triumphs will be tied to his land in multiple ways. I have read most of the Port Williams series, and Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter still top my list. The first half of this one left me wondering if this would be my least favorite, then it began to come together. This book may now be my third favorite, not because of the enjoyment it gave me, but because of the glimpse it gave me into the emotional complexities of life. It functioned more like a warning shot than a target at which to aim. While at the same time, it did not fail to leave a little hope in its wake.

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The Memory of Old Jack – Buy on Amazon

Why Many Christians are Wrong About the War on Christmas

War on Christmas

I am of the opinion that the way many Christians are responding to the so-called war on Christmas is wrong. We live in a time when many people, organizations, and business will not publicly say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend someone. Likewise, many of the traditional decorations and songs will no longer see the light of day. Starbucks even has the audacity to fail to decorate their coffee cups to our liking. This has prompted many people to say that there is a war on Christmas.

What many Christians don’t realize is that the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, also had a war on Christmas.

“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).”

Since I refuse to be taken in by the in the genetic fallacy, I would strongly disagree with the conclusion some might derive from this that it is sinful to celebrate Christmas because of its origins, but we must agree that it is not a holiday mandated by Scripture. So my questions for those who believe that there is a war on Christmas would be, “Would you consider Spurgeon part of the war on Christmas if he were alive today because he certainly would not say, Merry Christmas?” Or is he a man with Christian liberty exercising his conscience?

The point of those questions is this, just because some people will not say Merry Christmas, or decorate their businesses the way we want, does not mean there is a war on Christmas that we must hold at bay.

I bring up the Spurgeon quote only to prime the pump and get us thinking. I believe there is a more direct problem with the way many Christians respond to the “war on Christmas.”

Building on the premise laid out by Spurgeon that there is no biblical mandate that we celebrate a holiday called Christmas in December, we, therefore, have no biblical foundation to require anyone to celebrate Christmas, not even other Christians. If it has no biblical basis, then it is a tradition of men. Some non-biblical traditions of men are good, and some are bad, but they all become evil if we make them a requirement to be a Christian in good standing.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

Now some may protest and say, but we are not saying they need to celebrate it to be good Christians, and you said some traditions are good. All we are saying is that it is a good tradition that should not be under attack, and stores should not be so worried about offending people. They should say “Merry Christmas” because that is what holiday it is. To that, I would say, I understand the sentiment. Political correctness has run amuck, but is the Christmas holiday the hill upon which we really want to take a stand?

The foundational problem with political correctness is that it trades truth for falsehood to avoid offense, but what exactly is the reality of the Christmas holiday that they are violating. What holiday truths need to be pressed upon those who refuse to celebrate it or are trying to avoid offense? Santa, elves, reindeer, decorated trees, the Christmas spirit?

There are wonderful truths of the birth of Christ that every Christian should broadcast to the world, even if it is illegal to do so and lands us in jail, but we do not need to convolute those truths with the traditions of the holiday. Doing so does more damage than good.

Until I hear better reasons why we should fight the “war on Christmas,” my conclusion is this, as much as I love and celebrate Christmas every year, it is not a holiday required by the word of God. Christians should not require other Christians, and certainly not non-Christians, to celebrate it.

Happy Holidays,

D. Eaton

Depart From Me, I Never Knew You

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It is hard to believe that it has been almost nine years since I posted the video below on YouTube. Of course, some of the images in the video make it look like it is 20 years old. Though the media may be dated, the truth stays the same. This is a clip from a sermon I preached called, Can You Lose Your Salvation?