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A New Life Resolution

This time of year many set New Year’s Resolutions, and they are very prone to fail. But allow me to propose from Scripture “A New Life Resolution.”

In John 1:5 the apostle writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The light here is at least the moral light of Christ that goes on loving a lost world without end. One has described the darkness as thick like a fog in London (A.T. Robertson). In spite of this dense fog of moral depravity, Christ goes on shining.

This accords with John 3:19,

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19)

Christ’s moral light has come into the world, the right way has been shown, believe and obey Jesus! however, people loved to stay in their sin on the basis of their works. The reason for the rejection of Jesus is the total depravity of man.

Nevertheless, still the darkness has not overcome the light. The light keeps on shining; that is, the light keeps on giving light (Ibid.) This light is related to his life (John 1:4). Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes,

“he does not merely talk about life—he gives it. “In him was life” (John 1:4). He has life in himself. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily (Colossians 2:9), and any life you need he can give you.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 121.

When new life enters the lives of men, they do not merely get a New Year’s Resolution, they get a New Life Resolution. They become eternally resolved to keep on shining the life of Christ into the world with certain hope that the light of Christ will never be put out, but will actually take over this dark world with power. This is the beginning of the message of the gospel of John. So, it is no surprise that John ends with these words:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

The world cannot contain all that Jesus has done for the world. He will ultimately save the world, and thus as Christian believers we are go on living lives of light without end with such hope. Such is the New Life Resolution: to go on shining morally in this sin-corrupted world with confidence in Christ who is the light of the world that cannot be overcome, but who himself overcomes all.

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Cling to Christ

Music is such a tremendous gift to the church. For example, I just got off the phone praying with a church member about a need. The temptation is to remain in sadness and stop praying, but the Lord lifts us up to intercede, and at times through music, “pray without ceasing.”

When I hung up the phone, the song I heard was “Cling to Christ” by Sovereign Grace Music. It helped me to keep praying, and to pray Christ-ward.

It’s a great prayer to sing or simply pray:

Father, I can come to You
And boast of deeds I’ve done
In my pride I strive to earn
The favor Christ has won
He alone pleads my acceptance
All my works aside
So I come with empty hands
And I cling to Christ

Father, I can go astray
And battle needless fears
Voices tell me I’m condemned
And that I can’t draw near
But Your Spirit calls me homeward
With Your words of life
Jesus bore my every sin
So, I cling to Christ

It’s more than I can do
To keep my hold on You
But all my hope and peace
Is that You cling to me

Father, all my earthly aims
In time will turn to dust
Let me learn that loss is gain
For those who know Your love
All the treasures of this world
Will never satisfy
You alone are endless joy
So, I cling to Christ

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A Tough Decision

Today our family had to make an emotionally tough decision to return our dog to the breeder. This was an option the breeder gave us if the dog was too much for our family. As much as we were looking forward to having a pet for our family and also a help for our special needs daughter, the dog was not suitable. So, with much prayer and discussion we took up the offer of the breeder to return him.

Our dog probably needed to be in a different environment with other dogs in order to be happy. We are grateful to the Lord for the breeder who allowed us to have the dog, but also grateful that she let us return the dog. We made some good memories and learned some things along the way.

The main thing we learned was to depend on the Lord for Lauren’s needs, to be content, and rest in him. We also learned that we are capable of doing a lot in a given day; as we gave 100% to meeting every need. The experience made us more aware of simply redirecting that energy toward the things we have existing and giving ourselves a bit more margin to work with. Furthermore, our daughters contributed to some very thoughtful and spiritually mature thinking in seeking to do what was right in the matter; for this we are most grateful. Our family walked through this together depending the Lord both in getting the dog and returning him. That being said, we still love dogs and see value in pet ownership. Maybe one day we will revisit the matter, but for now, we will trust the Lord and rest in this decision. We appreciate your prayers in the matter.

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The First Thing For a New Believer

We brought in the year 2020 watching the movie Overcomer by the Kendrick brothers. In the movie, the principle of the school shares the gospel with the main character and she receives Christ. When she does, the first thing that she is told to do is to read Ephesians 1–2 and write down who they are in Christ.

This is a fantastic place to begin for new believers—Ephesians 1–2. Understanding one’s Christian identity is vital for the Christian life; that is likely why the apostle begins Ephesians with such rich theology before Christian practice.

But Ephesians 2 is not merely about Christian identity. It begins with the spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph 1:3–14) but also includes a wonderful model for prayer (Eph 1:15–22) and goes on to speak of one’s new relationship with God that is now opposed to the Satan that the believer formerly followed (Eph 2:1–10) and one’s new relationship with the church (Eph 2:11–22).

So, I commend the advice, howbeit advised in a movie, it is good for real life.

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Going Social

I’ve set up a social media account that should get regular updates at https://facebook.com/brianmann.faith

Please take time to click “like” to support and get updates. Thank you!

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Reaching the Religious

One of the most perplexing incidents in the book of Acts is that of Paul circumcising Timothy directly after the Jerusalem Council that established that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised to be saved. But that is the point, Timothy was circumcised not in order to be saved, but to remove offense to the Jews whom the apostle was attempting to reach with the gospel in proper order (The Jew first and also the Greek). So, Acts 16:3 says,

“Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

Acts 16:3 ESV

Some commentators wrestle with the date of Galatians and this verse, but I find that unhelpful at this point. The real issue is that of being willing to put aside obstacles to see the gospel go forth. This did not mean doing anything sinful to spread the gospel, but only that which was lawful. This did not mean doing something against conscience, but only what was truly beneficial and accepted. Nonetheless in Timothy’s circumcision we see a young man willing to bleed for the gospel to be heard.

By implication this is a great challenge to Christians today. Are we willing to set aside preferences for the sake of spreading the gospel? Are we willing to dress up in order to reach professionals? Are we willing to meet the religious where they are? There is far more example today of dressing down, going to those outside the church, and reaching the outwardly sinful, but what about those who relying on their own good deeds who need the gospel too? The apostle to the Gentiles not only did all to reach the Jews, but prioritized them in his ministry. The Jews may be considered for applicatory purposes not merely ethnic Jews but those well educated in the Bible and in good works. What about them?

The modern church has done everything to reach a sinful culture by lowering its standards in the preaching and singing instead of raising the standard in both by setting aside real preferences that require the minister actually looking religious in order to reach the religious.

It could be argued that everyone is religious (see Acts 17:22), thus how are we reaching the religious?

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Book Review—The Four Callings of William Carey

Duke, Roger, D. The Four Callings of William Carey: The Father of Modern Missions. Germantown: Duke Consulting Group, 2017. 108 pp. $2.99 Kindle

Roger Duke is an experienced educator at college, university and graduate levels. He holds graduate degrees in theology and religion. Regarding books, he has written six published works and edited over twenty. He retired after 20 years of teaching to pursue an itinerant career in consulting, teaching, and writing. I came in contact with Dr. Duke at the birth of my third child. He reached out to me because he too had a special needs child and was most helpful. 

Dr. Duke defines the main calling of the Christian and distinguishes it from the various callings. This is all illustrated by the life of William Carey beginning with his call to salvation and then going onward to Carey’s callings to missions, India, and finally to perseverance. 

Dr. Duke set out to speak on callings and why they matter. He did so from a Christian worldview defining calling as vocation, which is one’s station in life. Calling, according to Dr. Duke, is how we love our neighbor. It is obvious that Duke believes this begins with one’s call to God in salvation and then is worked out in various areas of gifting and passion. 

I appreciated the succinct approach to calling and would recommend it for reading by any Christian. There is much confusion about calling from outright denial of the concept to glorifying the experience of a calling that doesn’t come near to the straight-forward application that Duke gives us. When we think of calling, we should think in terms of what Duke lists, beginning with God and going forward in what we do as our career, where we do it, and how long we do it. All of these are essential aspects of calling that doesn’t get explained in a merely mechanical way, but in the form of history and biography that takes the reader on the journey with Carey to see what made him tick, and what also may by implication make us tick. 

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The Keys to First Kings

In 2020, I plan to preach from 1 Kings, and I have ascertained with the help of one commentator (Mr. Woodhouse) some solid reasons to do so. I call these “Keys to First Kings.”

Key #1 Fix Your Eyes on the Champion King

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.””

John 19:19

Woodhouse writes, “1 Kings tells the account of fourteen kings who ruled over all or some of the ancient Israelite people from about 961 to 850 B.C.” Nevertheless all fourteen of these kings point us to one King, namely Jesus of Nazareth (at that time to come). This is the first key to understanding 1 Kings.

Key #2 Take a Trip to Kingdom Outfitters

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.””

John 18:36

We are balanced by this very thing and outfitted for salvation through 1 Kings. How so? First, as glorious as the greatest kingdom this world has seen (King Solomon in 1 Kings 1–11) we would not trust in it. Second, as bad as the worst kingdom this world has seen (King Ahab in 1 Kings 16–22) we would no despair over it. Rather, as 2 Timothy 3:15 states, “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” includes that of 1 Kings, and especially 1 Kings. This Book that speaks of fourteen kings helps us to see the kingdom anticipated in the coming of Jesus Christ is not of this world. Nevertheless, we can be outfitted (that is what made wise for salvation means) for the out-of-the-world kingdom.

Key #3 Imagine a Forever Indestructible Kingdom

“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’””

2 Samuel 7:16

God promised early on that there would be a king to make things right forever (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 35:11 the Scripture speaks about the covenant, “And God said to [Jacob], “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” One has said that wherever there is a sovereign king and his subjects there is a covenant (Frame). God promises or covenants to bring forth kings from Jacob (Israel). This is the concept of Messiah or King promised to come and establish his forever kingdom. And this kingdom is also indestructible as stated in:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

Genesis 49:10

and

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.””

1 Samuel 2:10

That is the third key.

Key #4 A Kingdom Predicted to be Rejected yet still rules

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

John 1:11

The out-of-this-world forever, indestructible kingdom that points us to our champion king and outfits us for salvation is one that is predicted to be rejected by his own people.

Woodhouse writes that 1 Kings

“is a story of power and politics in which we will learn many interesting and important things. By far the most important is the wonder of the extraordinary inscription that Pontius Pilate put on the cross when seen in light of the Scriptures. The story of these kings will (as Jesus put it) “bear witness about me.” Our task is to listen carefully to this testimony.”

It is no surprise to anyone who listened to the testimony of Scripture that the Messiah’s kingdom would be rejected. The breadth of fourteen kings illustrates how man will often accept everything but the Messiah’s kingdom, whether with the glory of Solomon or the darkness of Ahab; but something greater than Solomon is testified in 1 Kings.

These are the keys to 1 Kings:

  1. Fix your eyes on your champion king—this book will be your hero.
  2. Take a trip to kingdom outfitters—this book is holy; it will make you wise enough to trust Jesus and be saved.
  3. Imagine a forever indestructible kingdom—this book will be your hope.
  4. Do not be surprised at this king’s rejection, nor sad because he rules—this book is a harbinger of the cross.

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A Reading Plan for Everyone

I’ve attempted it several times, but admittedly Bible reading plans are difficult for me to follow. I prefer simply to plod along, going to the next chapter and reading it. This keeps me from the unnecessary guilt if I miss a day, or even the need to rush through several texts when I am compelled to dwell upon a certain portion.

Now, I say this not to condemn anyone who works well with Bible reading plans. I have those in my immediate family who do quite well with the discipline. However, there are others like myself who find it more of a burden than a delight.

In Acts 15 the apostles and elders placed no other burden on the people except to act morally/lawfully in keeping with the gospel of grace they had received.

So, I make this little note to encourage both those who do well with reading plans as well as those do not. Carry on. We are made differently—and that is ok. But as for me, I prefer to plod in a different way, however lawfully.

It’s perhaps like David’s armor. He could not put on another’s that weighed him down. So, I’d encourage everyone to find a way to read the Bible that simply helps them to be exposed to all of God’s Word, whether in the form of a reading plan, or simply just reading it through.

Most importantly, let’s not look down on each other for how we read the Bible, but build each other up simply to read the Bible. Is it not a tremendous privilege? Consider that some are illiterate and depend solely upon the reading of the Word to them each Sunday. Yet, for many, we are privileged to be able to pick up the Bible daily! What a delight, in whatever way you pick it up!

Perhaps the focus should not be on how we pick it up for ourselves, but how we might pick it up for and with others. Is there someone in your congregation who doesn’t know how to read? Is there someone who needs the truth of Scripture that you can read with and to? I am sure there are those who read the Bible better than me, because they are reading it so that others who otherwise could not, may also hear it. This is something we could all aspire to attain. That’s a reading plan for everyone! A plan to bring the Scriptures to others who for whatever reason are unable or even unwilling yet to bring it to themselves.

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A Great New Year’s Worship Song

We finished our last service of 2019 at church with this song. It’s perfect for worship at the end or beginning of the year. Enjoy this song brought to you by brianmann.faith via Spotify.