TOPICS » Encouragement

Suffering and Comfort in Christ

This is for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling with trials of various kinds right now. 2 Corinthians 1 was in our Bible reading plan today, and I wanted to be sure that you were encouraged by it.

“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. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–11, ESV)

Encouragement from Calvin to Live Holy

Below is a quote from Calvin that I came across this morning while reading in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 3, chapter 6 entitled, The Life of the Christian Man.

Here, Calvin is first of all confronting those who confess Jesus as Lord but live in a way contrary to the gospel. His exhortation is strong. But afterwards he provides comfort to those who, although they may be truly striving after Christ, are frustrated with the slow progress when it comes to their growth in holiness.

If you take the time to read Calvin you will soon discover that he has the heart of a pastor. He understands that within the church there will always be some who need exhortation, and others who need comfort – he is careful to provide both.

“Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart. Let them, therefore, either cease to insult God, by boasting that they are what they are not, or let them show themselves not unworthy disciples of their divine Master. To doctrine in which our religion is contained we have given the first place, since by it our salvation commences; but it must be transfused into the breast, and pass into the conduct, and so transform us into itself, as not to prove unfruitful. If philosophers are justly offended, and banish from their company with disgrace those who, while professing an art which ought to be the mistress of their conduct, convert it into mere loquacious sophistry, with how much better reason shall we detest those flimsy sophists who are contented to let the Gospel play upon their lips, when, from its efficacy, it ought to penetrate the inmost affections of the heart, fix its seat in the soul, and pervade the whole man a hundred times more than the frigid discourses of philosophers?

I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected. What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.” (Calvin, 447)


Children In Church – Thoughts

Since this Sunday is a Communion Sunday and the children will remain in the service, I would like to share some thoughts on this topic.

It has been a number of months since we began the tradition of keeping our children in for the entire service on Communion Sundays. This has been a new experience for most of us, and I think it has been a great experience for our children and for the congregation as a whole. While it has provided parents with additional opportunities for discipling their children, we would be ignorant to say that it has always been easy. As I mentioned, this is new to almost all of us; therefore, we are all learning how to “disciple in the pew.” In many ways, through the grace of God, we are learning by trial and error. As a congregation, we are learning how to teach our children to worship the Lord not only through song and prayer but also through the teaching of the Word.

This whole topic has been on my mind over the last three or four months, and as I was reading “Parenting by God’s Promises,” I came across this passage under the category Seize Opportunities for Teaching; I thought it was worth sharing.

“We should make good use of the means of grace dispensed in public worship… For example, if there is a baptism in church on a Sunday morning, we can talk to our children afterward about the meaning of baptism and our part in the covenant as baptized people. Likewise, we can use open-ended questions to find out what our children learned from the sermon and other parts of the service. What part of the service meant the most to them that day, and why?  Do you remember what Psalms were sung? What special needs did the minister bring to God in the prayers? Did they remember to bring a gift along to put in the collection for the benevolent fund or for world missions? We need to generate discussion about these things. If our children know we will be asking questions about the sermon and the other parts of the service, they will get in the habit of paying close attention to what is going on”.

I have taken some time to think through what the author had to say, and here are some of my thoughts.

First and foremost,we as parents we are teaching our children how to listen. We are teaching them that when they go to church they are to be actively participating and listening to what is taking place. If we want this for our child, then we must “inspect what we expect.” We must be asking open-ended questions about the different parts of the service and what was taught. As adults at Emmaus, we do this every week. You know that at your Gospel Community Group you will be asked certain questions about the sermon; therefore, it motivates you to pay careful attention to it. This sort of conversation can easily take place on the ride home from church or in a more formal setting throughout the week.

Second, teaching our children to actively listen doesn’t necessarily mean they will understand what is being taught, and that is okay. As our children grow, their understanding of the subject matter will increase.  Regardless of our child’s maturity or cognitive ability, they are never too young to be developing their skills to actively watch, listen, and think about what is taking place.

Third, as parents we have the privilege and opportunity to use the sermon as a tool to further disciple our children at home. For those who have older children, you can continue the discussion or further study the topics that were introduced in the sermon. For those with elementary age children, you can provide more clarity or more age-appropriately explain the main points of the sermon. For those with even younger children, you could extend the conversation and provide instruction based on their simple observations.

While God has given parents the primary responsibility to disciple their children, it is an endeavor that requires a “body” of support.  It would be a blessing to hear from others on how they are using the Sunday service to help disciple their children in the Lord.

God bless,


The Parable of the Sower – Devotional Thoughts from Mark 4:1-9

Mark 4:1-9
1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.
2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow.
4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.
6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.
8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This passage should cause us to go two directions in contemplation. One, we should consider the sower, and two, we should consider the soils as we make application to our lives.

Jesus teaches using a parable as He explains why different people respond differently to the gospel. He compares the human heart to four different types of soil.
The first is described as a path; ground that is hard packed, unable to receive even the smallest of seeds.  This represents the hearts of those who hear the gospel and reject it outright. As Christ-followers we need not be concerned with this soil as representative of our own hearts, for we are in Christ! But we should be aware that some will respond to the gospel with pure hardness of heart; though they have eyes they do not see, though they have ears they they do not hear.

Next, the human heart is compared to rocky ground; earth that has a thin layer of soil on top with hard rock just bellow the surface. The seed of the gospel is said to spring up quickly because of the shallow soil, but the plant withers away quickly with the heat of the sun. This soil type should certainly concern us as professing Christians. We must ask ourselves, do I have depth to my faith? Do I really understand the gospel? Have I truly sunk my roots down deep into Christ through daily abiding in Him and His Holy Word? This is a question that we should ask ourselves throughout our Christian life if we hope to endure faithfully through the trials of life.

After this Jesus mentions the seed that fell among thorns. This, given the culture in which we live, should probably be of greatest concern to us. Jesus, in verse 19, says that the thorns represent the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things. I would guess that many Christians find their spiritual vitality and fruitfulness choked out by these pervasive thorns.

Jesus then mentions the good soil. This represents the heart that receives the gospel with gladness and continues to cultivate a spiritual life of depth based upon the gospel. It should be noted that it is only this soil that produces a harvest “yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

As we consider the soils, we should be encouraged to daily tend the garden of our souls. We must submit to God and His Word, asking the Holy Spirit to till the soil for depth and to weed out any potential distraction to the kingdom. I trust that if we do this, we will be fruitful in our ministry.

When it comes to the sower, we should notice one thing – the sower sowed liberally. The sower did not try to discern the quality of the soil before he cast the seed. From an agricultural perspective this sort of behavior is foolish (perhaps Jesus wanted this part of the story to be shocking to His listeners as a way to draw attention to this principle). Seed was expensive in Jesus’ day and a good farmer would have made quite sure that the soil was good before he threw the precious seed. Jesus seems to be communicating that when it comes to the gospel of the kingdom it is not our place to judge the condition of the human heart or the readiness of an individual to receive the gospel; we are simply called to sow seed and to leave the rest to God.

I wonder what kind of harvest we would see if we would stop judging by appearance? What would happen if we shared the gospel more freely? I think we would find ourselves in the midst of a great harvest! Truth be told, it might be those who, according to our judgement, appear to be furthest from the kingdom who are in fact the closest. The reality is that we have no idea what God is doing in the hearts of the men and women and boys and girls who live all around us. God is constantly tilling hearts; some soil is prepared and some is not. The only way that we will know if someone is ready to receive the gospel is to preach the gospel to them.

Church, I encourage you to apply the twofold message of this parable to your lives. Ask God to till the soil of your own heart and preach the gospel freely today.

Soli Deo Gloria,


Encouragement from First Peter

As I began to read through 1 Peter in preparation for a sermon series that will most likely begin in a few weeks, I took special notice of verse 1-3 of chapter 2. The whole chapter, and book for that matter, is written to encourage Christians to stand firm in Christ, trusting in the sovereignty of God, even in the midst of persecution (in 1 Peter the persecution seems to be primarily of the verbal sort). The thing about being mistreated by others is that there naturally arises within us a desire to self-protect, to lash out, or to answer back to the ridicule you are receiving. But Peter tells us “to put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1–3, ESV).

These are certainly good words for us to hear! We are to “put away” certain behaviors from amongst us and we are to “long for the pure spiritual milk”. I want so badly to be a part of a congregation that is passionate about doing away with sin and running to Christ and His Word. We need to put away all kinds of sin, but I think these sins are particularly applicable to us in our situation. We need to be a people who trust that God is truly in control of all things. When we believe this, we are truly free to live godly lives. We are free to keep our mouths shut when others slander. We are free to release bitterness and to give it to the Lord. We are free from envy and the temptation to act deceitfully. When we really trust (have faith) in God and believe that He is in control, it frees us to live as God has called us to live as we surrender fully to Him.

Let me encourage you to live trusting in God for all things. God is the one who protects, vindicates, and judges the hearts of men. Because of this, we are free to pursue God’s calling on our lives, being filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Gal 5:22-23) as we walk daily in the Spirit, trusting that He is leading us where He wants us to go. We are free in Christ! Let us walk in that freedom instead of becoming entangled in the bondage of sin .

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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