About 15+ years ago a bit of a change in my mindset took place when it came to development as a missionary pastor. We were still serving in Brno, Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic) in our first church plant and I came to the realization that I needed to be more intentional with my reading list...about what I read and how frequent as well.
From then on I always had an article or book that I was reading or readily available. Whether it was devotional, theological, or practical-ministry oriented, I had one either in-hand or at-hand for those times when I was on working or on a trip for work. I found I was frequently traveling by train/bus ride to and from Brno to Prague or to Ostrava. There were times of waiting at a doctor's office or picking up kids from school, or even waiting for a mentoring meeting having arrived early to get a table or staying late to meet with another of the men I was mentoring, etc.)
Whatever the situation, I was going to boost my reading efforst and touch on numerous authors, some of whom I had been instructed, by influential men in my life, to stay away from and never read. So, I was reading, Sproul, MacArthur, Lloyd-Jones and Boice for really the first time. I was also reading Puritan and Reformed authors such as John Bunyan, John Owen, Richard Baxter, Martin Luther and John Calvin.
It was a very growing time for me even while serving on a crucial church planting work. At one time too the Lord had us working in Brno with both an established church AND on our church plant. Now that was a loaded year of ministry and overwhelming at times. I do believe, however, the Lord's obvious fruit for all of that was bolstered by the fact that he had us spending good amounts of time in His Word and reading from solid new sources for our walk of faith and ministry.
I still take mini-excursions of reading the Puritan authors and I have just started a new one this last week. His name was Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) and his collected "Works" has been edited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones into the small, but powerful book, "A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin". Goodwin was one of those pastor-preacher-theologians who, according to Dr. Beeke, was obscured a bit due to the events of the mid 1600s in England when Puritans or Non-conformists were exiled from the Church and from higher learning.
Dr. Beeke further states that Goodwin is known as "the Atlas of Independency" and rivaled the great Puritan John Owen in his abilities with exegesis and preaching. His "Works" influenced many great men such as Edwards, Whitefield, Cotton, Gill and Whyte. Alexander Whyte called Goodwin "the greatest pulpit exegete (read expository preacher) of Paul that has ever lived" and said that Goodwin's sermon "Christ Dwelling in Our Hearts by Faith", is one of the "two very greatest sermons in the English Language".
If you desire a good read for a mini-excursion or as our good friends in Australia might call it, a "mini-walkabout", then find a copy of this small but impactful book. I received it from the Shepherds’ Conference on our last furlough.
Goodwin wrote this in his "Works"...
"The Indwelling of Christ by faith...is to have Jesus Christ continually in one's eye, a habitual sight of Him. I call it so because a man actually does not always think of Christ; but as a man does not look up to the sun continually, yet he sees the light of it...So you should carry along and bear along in your eye the sight and knowledge of Christ, so that at least a presence of Him accompanies you, which faith makes."
Dr. Beeke writes in this book's beginning that "the watchword at the time of the Reformation" and for a century later "was ad fontes – ‘back to the sources’ – so it is now: the way forward is backward". He goes on to state, "We need to go back to the spiritual heritage of Reformed Evangelicalism to find the pathway foreward. We cannot live in the past; to attempt to do so would be antiquarianism. But our Reformed fore-bearers in the faith can teach us much about Christianity, its doctrines, its passions, and its fruit.
I pray the Lord will richly bless you as you read His Word and perhaps by reading men of God who have learned and written before us about the important subjects that move us towards a deeper understanding of God's sovereignty in all things. It truly is as we keep our eye habitually on Jesus, that we will find a greater degree of growth and faith as we serve Him. This is the way forward as we live “coram Deo”…”Before the face of God”!
PS - click on the book below to go to Amazon.com and read more, perhaps purchase for yourself.
December 14, 2017 marked the passing of an amazing man of God, namely Dr. R.C. Sproul. The first time my wife and I were impacted and influenced by Dr. Sproul was in the early 1980s with his Holiness of God series.
It was the first time we had heard such doctrinal teaching and it sayed with us while we prepared and went to the mission field. We truly believe that 10-20 years after that, when we several times faced false doctrinal teaching, we were able to recognize it due in part to Dr. Sproul's teaching and example. Later still it was Table Talk magazine and Dr. Sproul's books "After Darkness, Light" and "Getting the Gospel Right", which helped us navigate through ecumenical interference to our church planting efforts.
I believe to many Dr. Sproul was the quintessential Pastor-Teacher. We would be included in that group. But he was also a Pastor-Theologian to us. The Lord used him and continues to use him with a great deal of impact in our lives for practical ministry efforts.
I used Table Talk magazine personally and to disciple men for ministry while I stood with them as they served. I was inspired to stand firm on doctrinal issues by Dr. Sproul’s examples of firmness with love in my heart.
Recently my wife and I have once again begun listening to him each morning on Reformation Network (RefNet) before work to strengthen us in the fight for truth and a walk of holiness. I consider Dr. Sproul one of my spiritual mentors though we never met on this earth. He was of course like us a sinner saved by grace alone, but he was used by God to further our walk of faith and service for His kingdom.
Dr. Sproul, Dr. MacArthur, Dr. Lloyd-Jones and several other men in my life are why I am still serving today as a missionary for now almost 30 years. I desire to carry on with the same passion as I believe Dr. Sproul did as he served and prayed along the way with a verse like this on his heart and mind, Jeremiah 33:3 - “Call to Me and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”
I don't believe everything Dr. Sproul held to theologically, but I do believe as he did in the sovereignty of God in all things and especially in His sovereignty over the work of salvation and sanctification in the life of a believer.
I thank the Lord for Dr. Sproul! His faithfulness in the proclamation Christ and Him crucified has been used of God in the lives of many! I look forward to seeing him when we all get to be with Jesus. Though he was just like us all... a sinner saved by grace alone...he was a man of admirable and godly quality.
I find it a great encouragement to look into the lives and preaching and teaching of faithful men! My favorite is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and I am slowly working through a biography on his life and ministry, plus listening to a sermon of his at least once a week. Every morning, as Kim and I prepare for our day, we listen for about 25 minutes to R.C. Sproul from Ligonier Ministries. It has been a blessing recently to do this together.
Lately too I have been slowly reading the e-book of "Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching", where we find some magnificent authors/preachers. In particular I have been fascinated by the writing and preaching of James Montgomery Boice. Boice was used of the Lord to make a formidable contribution to the church and its position on the inerrancy of Scripture. This was through the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy in 1977.
Rather than take too much space here to share my insights, I decided to seek out a blog post to link to. I found it through Tim Challies' well known ministry blog. My prayer is that others will be encouraged by the life of James Montgomery Boice as his legacy of solid biblical preaching and teaching lives on even though Boice is with the Lord since the year 2000. Dr. John MacArthur once essentially said of Boice's passing that the church has lost a blessing. Yet, via his preaching and writing we continue to be inspired by one of the defenders of the faith and God's Word, James Montgomery Boice. Click on the quote below to read more and be encouraged! May the Lord richly bless you!
Here in the Philippines they don't really celebrate Thanksgiving as we do in America. However, some churches like our Emmanuel Baptist Church in Taytay (East Manila), is an exception as they schedule something for Thanksgiving every year on Sunday.
Since Thanksgiving Day here is a work day just like any other, I find myself pressed for time. So, I found what is clearly a solid blog post about giving thanks and its greatness, especially as it pertains to God's Word. I thank the Lord for the people he has placed in my life over time and regularly, like family! I thank the Lord for my precious and beautiful wife and children. Also for those who are faithful friends and give me encouragement along the way.
Here is a link to a post on TGC (The Gospel Coalition)), written by Dr. Kevin DeYoung. It was a good reminder for me. I hope you will enjoy it! Click on the image to go to it.
I remember my first exposure to Eric Liddell's testimony and life was when, as a college student, I saw the movie "Chariots of Fire". It was an amazing story of triumph in competition, but also, and more importantly, a testimony that exalts Christ's work through His obedient and faithful servant.
I remember what stuck with my mind and heart was that here was a man with great talent and greater faith and convictions. When the clash of those two came during the 1924 Olympics he stayed on a course that brought him persecution, ridicule and prejudice, but a course of obedience to His Lord and Savior. No compromise was on his mind and heart. I remember that this had a deep impact on my young life as a follower of Christ. Fortunately, the Lord provided a solution so that Eric could compete while remaining true to his convictions of not running and competing on Sunday. Yet, ultimately this was not what Liddell believed he was called upon by God to do with his life. He believed that God made him for China.
I am presently working through Eric Liddell's devotional, "The Disciplines of the Christian Life". In the introductory chapters, written by men who knew Liddell very well, we find that during an extremely difficult moment in his life, he and another were trying to save the lives of men who were in the resistance organization in occupied China and were hidden and injured, Liddell was particularly helped along, while trying to decide to embark on the dangerous rescue, by Luke 16:10, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."
I have provided a link to an extremely rich blog entry by Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which I hope will be an encouragement to you as much as it has been to me. In it he provides some of the details of the life of Liddell after the Olympic glory days.
With the ranks of career missionaries from America diminishing more and more, my hope and prayer here too is that the Lord will do with a new generation of believers what He did with Eric Liddell (and what He did with myself and my wife). Namely, that a new generation of missionaries will be called to give their life to serve long-term and career in the spread of the gospel and God's love. I suppose a challenging question at this point might be...What has God called you for? Maybe it is or maybe it isn't China, but it could be for somewhere. The missionary force needs missionaries "on the ground" with a presence among the people of a country for long-term influence. I hope you will enjoy this blog article by Dr. Mohler on the rest of the Eric Liddell story! May the Lord richly bless you as you serve Him. Click on the picture/quote below to go to the blog entry.
Yesterday, October 31st, marked the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg castle door. It was meant as a way to bring about serious debate over many errors in the church compared to the standard of the Scriptures, especially concerning salvation and justification by faith alone. It was not taken well by the RCC leaders, BUT the 95 Theses were spread far and wide by the timely invention of the Gutenberg printing press (their version of social media & internet 500 years ago!). It caught on with those who had ears to hear and hearts that were receptive. In honor of Luther's obedient and faithful act, I offer this quote on some very practical ways of fighting the good fight and maintaining a walk of holiness and faith:
"When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.”
Posts related to this title will consist of quotes on various topics and themes from God's servants through either written or spoken sources. They are offered as a means to inspire, influence and impact our lives that we may thrive as His obedient and faithful servants:
"Reformation doesn't mean scrapping the role of the Bible and putting up your own ideas and theories. It means the exact opposite. It means returning to the Bible...every reformation has been a return to the New Testament...that is the only hope tonight and in this present age." ~ Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Every year, on October 31st, Halloween gets top billing. Which is rather sad since there is nothing but darkness and death associated with it.
We in the church have a different reason for celebrating on October 31st and it is not simply an alternative to Halloween. In fact, we are remembering a very special event when an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, recently born-again through personal preparation and study in Romans and Galatians, when the Holy Spirit revealed to him and he realized that nobody is capable of attaining enough righteousness points with God to achieve salvation.
Luther came to realize that only by Christ's work on the cross and the grace we don't deserve and the free gift of faith we are given can we be justified and forgiven. By faith alone are we justified and thus, Christ's innocent sacrifice on the cross accomplished what no man could ever do. An amazing and supernatural transaction takes place as Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us (ie: credited to us). Our guilt, through sin, is imputed on to Christ, even though He didn't deserve it. He took the penalty in our place. What an amazing gift of love God has done!
This same message of love and hope is needed even now. This message of justification by faith alone is desperately needed today. God's Word and the message of justification by faith alone is still being used to transform hearts and lives, just as it was used by God to transform Luther into an obedient and faithful preacher who could write, "Every week I preach justification by faith to my people, because every week they forget it".
The message of the Reformation still matters today...nothing has changed. I invite you to click on the picture below and read the blog article from Ligonier Ministries to read more about this topic, "Why the Reformation Still Matters".
Check back to this blog regularly for other posts focused upon how we might thrive as his servants!
Robert Thomas Clark, M.Div.
Follower of Christ