Pastor Dies Shortly After Preaching These Words

Watch this servant of God fulfill 55 years of ministry. The preacher in the video is Earl “Buddy” Duggins, former pastor of Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore, TX. He is preaching on Easter morning, 2020, and two months earlier, he had lost his wife. What do you do when your rib is gone? You lean more firmly upon your Staff.

What you are about to watch is Pastor Duggins’ final few minutes of his last sermon. He would die unexpectedly within the next couple hours. What you are witnessing is a faithful pastor going the distance amidst grief.

In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul uses some of his final words to address Archippus with this warning/encouragement, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” In the video, you saw every aspect of that verse on display.

First, pastor Duggins had been watchful. He knew his enemy was prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His enemy was not only trying to destroy him but his flock also. There is only one message that can overcome those dangers, and that is Gospel. It is easy to wander off into all kinds of topics that tickle the ear, and entertainment is what many people desire to hear, but Pastor Duggins preached the word.

He was also sober-minded. He did not let the condition of his broken heart pull him away from his calling. To answer his pain, he did not resort to worldly stimulants; he went to his Savior, who fortified him with the strength he needed.

He endured the suffering. Even amid grief, he did not lose faith in his Heavenly Father, and he did the work of an Evangelist. Through constant and faithful teaching, He pointed them to Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life.

In all of that, he fulfilled his ministry. The idea of the word “fulfill” carries with it two thoughts. The first and most common is never to give up; preach the scriptures until the day you die, and this is what Pastor Duggins has done. However, there is a second idea in the word as well, and that is the idea of proving. It is only by patiently enduring afflictions, continually preaching the word, and never drifting away that a ministry validated. All these characteristics show pastor Duggins to be a good and faithful minister in Christ.

There is now no question about his faithfulness. He has run his course; he has finished the race. Shortly after he preached these words, he kneeled before Jesus, who said, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into joy today.”

What about us? We never know when a gospel presentation will be our last. There is so much in this world working to pull us away, and, internally, we are prone to wander. Whatever your profession, our Lord has called all believers to be fishers of men. Be watchful of your enemy, be sober and diligent, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry. The only way this will happen is by staying close to our Savior. Jesus, keep us near the cross.

Pastor Duggins, who was kept by the power of God through faith, has now entered that great cloud of witnesses. Since they surround us, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Well done Pastor Duggins. Your ministry continues to bear fruit even while you are present with the Lord. We cannot wait to join you and your beautiful wife and praise Jesus who accomplished it all, but for now, your example of faithfulness will encourage us all to stay the course and finish the race.

Well done good and faithful servant.

-D Eaton.

The Richest Jewel in Our Father’s Cabinet

Let it be considered, to what the Father gave His only begotten Son: even to death, and that of the cross; to be made a curse for us; to be the scorn and contempt of vile men; to the most unparalleled sufferings that were ever inflicted or borne by any!

It melts our affections, it breaks our heart, to behold our children striving in the pangs of death. But the Lord beheld His Son struggling under such incomparable agonies. He saw Him falling to the ground, groveling in the dust, sweating blood, and amidst those agonies turning Himself to His Father, and, with a heart-rending cry, beseeching Him, “Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me (Luke 22:42)!

To wrath, to the wrath of an infinite God without mixture; to the very torments of Hell was Christ delivered, and that by the hand of His own Father! What kind of love is this, which made the Father of mercies deliver His only Son to such miseries for us! In giving Christ to die for poor sinners, God gave the richest jewel in His cabinet! This is a mercy of the greatest worth and most inestimable value.

Heaven itself is not so valuable and precious as Christ is! Ten thousand thousand worlds, as many worlds as angels can number, would not outweigh Christ’s love, excellency and sweetness! O what a lovely One! What an excellent, beautiful, ravishing One is Christ!

Put the beauty of ten thousand paradises, like the garden of Eden, into one; put all flowers, all pleasing fragrances, all colors, all delicious tastes, all joys, all sweetnesses, all lovelinesses into one; O what a lovely and excellent thing would that be! And yet it would be less compared to that loveliest and dearest well-beloved Christ than one drop of rain compared to all the seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths!

Now, for God to bestow this mercy of mercies, the most precious thing in Heaven or earth, upon poor sinners; and, as great, as lovely, as excellent as His Son was; what astonishing love is this!

-John Flavel

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

When Your Rib is Gone, Lean More Firmly on Your Staff

Dear Sir,

Last Friday I received a note from Mr. Venn, which acquaints me with the loss of your wife, who, I find, expired suddenly after a long illness. When your rib is gone, you must lean firmer on your staff. (Psalm 23:4)

What a bubble is human honor, and what a toy is human joy! Happy is he, whose hope is the Lord, and whose heart cries out for the living God. Creature comforts may fail him, but the God of all consolation will be with him. When human cisterns yield no water, he may drink of the river that waters the throne of God.

Youth, without grace, wants every worldly embellishment. But a gracious heart and hoary hairs cries out for communion with God, and says: Nothing on earth can I desire in comparison with Him!

What a mercy that you need not fly to wordily amusements for relief or to find comfort! Not satisfied with this world’s husks, the prodigal’s food, God has bestowed a pearl on you which creates an appetite for spiritual nutriment, and brings His royal dainties into your bosom.

May this season of mourning be sweetened with a sense of the Lord’s presence, bringing many tokens of His fatherly love, and sanctifying the painful visitation by drawing your heart more vigorously unto Him and fixing it on Him!

May the Lord bring eternity nearer to our minds, and Jesus nearer to our hearts.

-John Berridge (1716-1793) – Letters

A Guilty Soul Restored

Dead. Black. Harmful. Guilty. 

These are not words that describe a mere principle that worked within me; they described me. Though life coursed through my veins, I was spiritually dead, and death was to be the only wage I would merit. Not simply physical death, but eternal death. Flesh was the only word that could describe me. As in death, my eyes were closed and lifeless; I allowed no light to enter because I loved the darkness. Blackness permeated everything I was. Though my physical eyes could see, in rebellion they would not look upon light and life. All my actions, though I boasted of virtue, were done in darkness, and because of this I was harmful. I dangerous to myself and those around me, and none of it was accidental. In all of it, I was culpable for I had gone astray.

Broken, Injured. Restless. Fearful. 

Of no merit of my own and entirely for His name’s sake, He called this wandering sheep and blotted out my iniquities with the blood of His sacrifice on the cross. I heard His voice, it gave me life, and light began to penetrate my soul. Though still somewhat harmful something had changed. Something old had passed away, and all things were becoming new. Yet, in it all, I was still broken. I had injured myself and those around me, and in restlessness and fear, I began to wonder if He would fulfill all He promised.

Guided. Nourished. Protected. Loved. 

From a distance, I followed His voice learning that He would only lead me to places that would be to my advantage. In His leading, He began to feed my wounded soul with nourishment that could not be found in any other source. In my ignorance, I would wander from time to time, but He never failed to fend off the enemies of my soul with His rod. If necessary, He would even use His staff to chasten me. When my foolish legs began to wander, He did not hesitate to wound them. Then in my weakness, He would gather me up into His arms and keep me close to protect me from myself and my enemies while I would mend. In those times, I began to know Him better, and as He spoke to me using a name that was all my own, I knew I was loved.

Peace. Comfort. Fearless. Endless. 

My Shepherd’s name is Jesus, and He restores my soul. I now lay down in peace wherever He leads me, and I shall not be in want. I am comforted by His rod and staff and long to be at my Shepherd’s side. No longer do I fear evil, for He is with me. His goodness and mercy will be with me all the days of my life, and my dwelling in the house of the Lord will be endless.

“He restores my soul.”– Psalm 23:3

-D. Eaton

The Temptation of Jesus

I am one of the teachers at our church where we are going through the Gospel Project. Since we are unable to meet for class, I have been uploading these videos so everyone can keep up with the curriculum. If you are interested in following along, you can do so below.

The temptation of Jesus is a pivotal moment in the gospels. To fully understand it, it is important to compare and contrast Jesus’ temptation with what Adam faced in the garden. We will also see relevance to our dealings with temptation as well.

Our Quiet Times are Rarely as Quiet as they Appear

If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting quietly, soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.

To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything it can to stay on task and focus on the scriptures. The man has physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.

Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the Spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities; activities of idleness that turn his eyes from things above and divert his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect tranquility.

Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Employment anxieties, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.

The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. However, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. As he reads, the eyes of the Lord look to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked eyes on his child and will not turn away.

At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man be set apart from the world and be sanctified in the truth; the word of God he is holding in his hands.

As he sits and reads, engaged in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that by being comforted by God in times of difficulty, he is taught to comfort others. This is something he longs to do.

The Spirit then reminds him, through the scriptures, he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is in his brokenness that the treasure begins to be revealed. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress, bowed the heavens, and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.

The man, still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. His joyful intimacy with his Savior reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and, once again, the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.

-D. Eaton

The Day Death Became Life

It was darkness, and it was light. It was torment, and it was peace. It was death, and it was life. The Cross; two heavy wooden beams, shouldered by the man of sorrows. It pressed hard upon His back. A back that had already been turned into an open wound by the lashes it had received. Compared to the burden He was about to bear, it was nothing, but it brought Him to His knees.

It was His choice to do it, but it was a choice that caused Him to sweat blood as He wrestled in prayer in the garden. He had made His decision; He would drink the cup that caused Him so much dread. If this cup were visible, the sight of it would have caused our hearts to stop, our stomachs to turn, and all our strength to vanish. It was a mixture of every dark deed we, as His people, would ever commit. It also included every foul emotion, every impure motive, and every heart’s desire for evil that we were unable to fulfill. If you have ever felt the weight of sin, you know it can break your heart and darken the soul, and because our hearts are still clouded by our lusts, we have never felt it to its full degree. It is crushing.

Not only were every one of our sins in that cup, but everything they deserved as well. The cup contained distress, depression, and despair. It included desolation, disease, and death. That cup was the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful God of righteousness. What we saw in the bodily suffering of Jesus was only the surface, and He drank the cup until it was dry.

At that moment, life left His body. His chest stopped moving, His tongue lay still, and His eyes went cold. The enemy of death had taken Him. He was supposed to be our Savior, but He was dead. The wages of sin had taken the sinless one who was meant to set us free. They wrapped His body, laid Him in a cold tomb, and covered it with a stone. Our hope had died. He had borne the brunt of our sins, and it had killed Him.

Then something happened on the morning of the third day. Though it occurred in the dark of the tomb, a light came back into his eyes. There was a newness to His body unlike anyone else who had ever returned from the grave. His body was alive, never to die again! The stone rolled away, and He emerged. Death had not defeated Him. He bore our wrath, and it had not overcome Him. He had conquered it. The bonds of death could not hold him!

In the resurrection, we have confirmation that His redeeming work was complete. He was a hostage to our debt, and now that debt had been paid. He died for our sins and rose for our justification. Death could not hold Him because He had laid His life down of His own will; no one could demand it from Him. He could lay it down, and He could take it up again.

Since the bonds of death cannot hold Him, neither can they hold anything that belongs to Him. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus in faith will be saved. Child of God, what is it that brings you down? Is it sin, guilt, failure, shame, condemnation, accusation, or a body that is experiencing death? Whatever it is, it will find its defeat in Jesus Christ.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lord! He has risen, and He is alive!

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – Jesus (John 11:25-26)

-D. Eaton

It Is Finished: The Death of Jesus

I was part of a Good Friday in real-time series for our church on Facebook live. My portion was the death of Jesus and his final statement, “It is finished.” What was in the cup that Jesus so much dreaded to drink that it caused him to sweat drops of blood. The video is below.

-D. Eaton

Seeing God’s Mercy in Coronavirus

Is Coronavirus God’s judgment on us for our wicked ways, is it something he intends for our good, is it a mixture of both, or none of the above? Scripture tells us, “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). What this verse means is that God does not always tell us why he is doing what he is doing. We may do our best to try to figure it out, but, often, his ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33). In the end, he is always accomplishing more than we could ever think or imagine.

What do we do when we are unsure of what God is doing? How do we know how to respond when that is the case? If we do not fully know his intentions, how can we see his mercy? In the same way that the hidden things belong to the Lord, the revealed things belong to his people (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are several things that the Lord has told us in his word, and his word is the rock upon which we should build our lives. That way, when the storms come, we are not washed away (Matthew 7:24-27). He has not asked us to build our life on what he has not told us, but what he has revealed. Considering Coronavirus, we are helped when we think about in light of the following three biblical truths.

1. God is in Control

The first truth we need to bring to mind is that God is sovereign. He is the Lord Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. He reigns on high, and who can stay his hand (Daniel 4:35)? If we do not believe that God is in control over Coronavirus, either we have a God who is too weak, or lacks the knowledge, to remedy the situation. These are our only options if we deny his sovereignty, and these options are horrific and contradict what God has revealed to us in the Bible. To think this way about God is to trade the the truth of God for a lie and lay the foundation of our lives on sinking sand, and we might as well give up hope. God is sovereign. He could end covid-19 in an instant if he desired, but he has not chosen to do so as of yet. The decision to end Coronavirus or have it continue to play out is in his hands (Isaiah 45:7), and his decisions are never hasty or without good reason.

2. The Wages of Sin is Death

The second truth we need to remember during this time is that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23). Death is what sin deserves, and that is not only physical death, it is also spiritual death. Scripture calls this “the second death.’ This involves God consigning those who reject him to the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). Jesus called it “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and the apostle Paul called it “everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). To be clear, this is not annihilation; we will not cease to exist. Jesus said, this is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50). Those who go there will experience this for all eternity. An infinite punishment is the only suitable penalty for a finite being who sins against an infinite God.

Before we think God’s wrath for sin applies only to people worse than us, we need to remember that God’s word also says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23). We have all transgressed the Lord of the universe. His law, since we have been created in his image, is written on our hearts, and we have violated it. Every one of us, every person living on this planet right now deserves hell for our sins. There are no exceptions, and we should never try to understand the difficulties we are facing without remembering what we deserve.

3. Everything Short of Hell is Mercy

The final truth we then need to apply flows logically from the first two. Everything short of hell is mercy. If we do not see that God is merciful to us even in this, we are operating from a false premise that says we deserve better. If we are not in hell at this moment, no matter what we are facing, God is being gracious. He is being patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). No matter how bad things could get with covid-19, it is better than we deserve. His mercy is abundant even during this pandemic.

What should we do with the mercy that he is extending to us? We should embrace it and humble ourselves before him as a nation and as individuals. We should draw near to our savior who has promised, if we do so, he will draw near to us (James 4:8).

Many have died from Covid-19, and their time has come to meet their Maker. Some of them received their just reward; the wages of their sin. As painful as that is to write, it would be unloving to conceal this truth. Others who have died from the virus had found forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and they were ushered into his glorious presence as his children. Instead of wrath, they found grace. The question is, what will happen when our time comes. There is only one way to the Father, and that is through faith in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Jesus Christ was the only person ever to live a sinless life. He is the Son of God; fully God and yet fully man. He came to do for us, what we can not do for ourselves. He is the only one who does not deserve sin’s wages, yet he went to the cross willingly to take our punishment (2 Corinthians 5:21). “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He was given over to death because of our transgressions and He was raised for the sake of our justification (Romans 4:25). This is what Good Friday and Easter are all about.

Though our sins have alienated us from him, “all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children” (John 1:2). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13). For those who believe Jesus, the wrath of God for our sins is satisfied.

Even in Coronavirus, God’s mercy is abundant. If this pandemic does not touch us, we need to remember, we will die someday. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). It will happen eventually. Come to Jesus today, he is our only hope and refuge. Not only that, it is where our true joy will be found. We were created to be in relationship with him, but we have traded his glory for corruptible things. We pursue riches, power, fame, and a host of other worldly trinkets, but he is calling us to something better. In drawing us to himself, God is calling us to the most glorious life possible, not only in heaven, but even now in the midsts of hardships.

Come drink of the living water and never thirst again (John 4:14). Come to know the friend who will stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Begin walking with your creator who will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6) and will work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), Yes, even the fallout of Coronavirus will be for the good of his children. My prayer is that we will all draw up under the wing of our Savior where we belong.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

-D. Eaton

Do Yourself a Favor; Read this Letter

The following is an excerpt from a letter of John Berridge to a fellow minister who had recently injured himself in a bad fall.

Dear Sir,

I received your letter, and dare not say that I am sorry for your fall, nor indeed for any afflictions that God lays on His children; they are tokens of His fatherly love, and needful medicine for us. Rather would I pray that while God keeps you in the furnace, you may be still, and feel your dross and tin being purged away.

The Lord Jesus gives me a dose of this medicine most days; and I am never so well as when I am taking it, though I frequently make a crooked face at it. If your heart is as my heart, it will need many a bitter potion to cleanse and strengthen it! Afflictions have been to me some of my greatest mercies.

No lasting gain do I get, but in a furnace. Comforts of every kind make me either light or lofty, and swell me, though unperceivably, with self-sufficiency. Indeed, so much dross, native and acquired, is found in my heart, that I have constant need of a furnace. Jesus has selected a suitable furnace for me, not a hot and hasty one, which seems likely to harden and consume me–but one with a gentle and lingering heat, which melts my heart gradually, and lets out some of its dross. Though I cannot love the furnace, yet the longer I live, the more I see of its need and its use. A believer seldom walks steadily and brightly, unless he is well-furnaced.

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of affliction!” Isaiah 48:10

May the Lord water your soul and your vineyard, and teach you to know nothing, and preach nothing but Jesus Christ!

For His sake, I am your servant,

John Berridge, 1761