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January 15, 2021 Standard Bearer preview article

January 15, 2021 Standard Bearer preview article

Lessons from the Judges (2): From 32,000 to 300

The book of Judges brims with instruction for the church’s youth. Last time, we noticed the idea, “…every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). With this article, we continue drawing lessons from the book of Judges.

We find ourselves in the history of Gideon, following the deaths of judges Shamgar, Deborah, and Barak. Israel had again apostatized. As was repeatedly the case, God’s people slid into the sin of idolatry. Jehovah, in chastisement, sent the Midianites, Amalekites, and children of the East to oppress Israel. It is in this context that God called and equipped Gideon as judge. The Midianites and their allies gathered to fight against Israel. Gideon and certain of Israel—much fewer in number than their opponent—also assembled for battle. Although Israel’s army was small to begin with, Jehovah reduced its size even more before delivering the Midianites into Gideon’s hand. We will draw out two main lessons from this size reduction.

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May 15 Standard Bearer preview article

We will notice, this time, what God requires of us in the single life. Probably most of the young people reading this, as well as some of the young adults, are single. Although this article applies to those who are older and unmarried, it certainly applies to you who are younger, even to those who are dating and not yet married. Read More

Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Public Worship

Public worship is a “must,” but it is also a joy. The Spirit of Christ has regenerated us. We are glad to go up to God’s house. We are thankful for salvation, and express our gratitude by assembling with the saints to praise God. We recognize the awesome privilege that is ours: to come into the presence of the thrice-holy God every Sunday!

My purpose is not to elaborate on the principles and elements of worship; many fine articles, pamphlets, and sermons can be consulted for that. Rather, I will make only a few brief points that touch on worship as a spiritual discipline.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading

The Bible commends reading. Reading is a discipline of the Christian life.

Reading as a spiritual discipline is not the same as reading in general. Certainly, reading books on history, science, wars, animals, and economics (the list goes on) is to be recommended, providing they are wholesome. But reading as a spiritual discipline is more focused on explicitly Christian literature, Reformed literature—in short, biblical literature: the Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) publications, and so many other books and periodicals that promote our growth in godliness. Of course, we read the Bible, too, and that ought to be our main book—but the reading of scripture has been treated in past articles on devotions.

Why do we read? Consider three reasons...

Also, a few reminders about reading are in order...

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Bible Memorization

Why do we discipline ourselves in the memorization of scripture? First, we commit the Bible to memory because the Bible tells us to do this. Josh. 1:7, 8, Ps. 1:1, 2, and Col. 3:16 all express the importance of soaking in the Word of God and retaining it. Look up those passages. Second, we memorize the Word of God because it is just that: God’s Word. The scriptures are inspired—God-breathed (II Tim. 3:16); knowing that scripture is the Word of God, will we not want to fix it in our mind and heart? This Word of God is his revelation to us, his covenant friends. As his covenant friends, we desire to hear and remember what he says. Think of it this way: the Bible is Christ’s love letter to his church; we read and soak in this love letter.

Allow me to propose a five-step approach toward memorization of the Bible. This list might prove helpful for children in school and catechism, but also might be useful for any of us who seek to hide God’s Word in our heart.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Family Devotions

It is on good biblical grounds that fathers, mothers, and children take time each day to worship as family. Family worship includes thorough instruction of children, instruction which Israel was called to give (Deut. 11:18-20). Surely, what stands at the center of the happy, God-fearing home in Psalm 128 is the worship of Jehovah—as a family. Joshua declared that he and his house would serve Jehovah (Josh. 24:15). Besides passages like these, there is the doctrine of the covenant: the relationship of friendship God establishes with His elect people in Jesus Christ. In family worship, we experience fellowship with God, give expression to family fellowship in the truth, and take seriously the command to instruct our covenant seed.  

The importance of family devotions cannot be overstated. 

Here are some guidelines for these family devotions.

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In Review: Called to Watch for Christ's Return

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, by Martyn McGeown. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016. Pp. 286. [Reviewed by Rev. Ryan Barnhill]

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return began as a series of sermons preached by the author on the Olivet Discourse, a speech in which “Jesus proclaims his second coming, an event with which history will come to a dramatic and sudden close” (ix). These sermons covered Matthew 24:1-31, dealing with the signs of Christ’s coming—deceivers, the preaching of the gospel, the great tribulation, and more. These sermons also dealt with Matthew 24:32-25:46, treating the subject of watching for Christ’s return—the unknown time of his return, Christ’s coming as in the days of Noah, parables associated with his coming, and more. These sermons comprise the content of the book. We are thankful that these fine sermons have reached a wider audience through their publication in book form.

If you have not yet ordered your copy of this book, do so today! 

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Devotions in Marriage

A suffering marriage can be explained by many issues: lack of communication, squabbling over finances, a severe trial that has driven a wedge between the spouses, sharp personality differences, disagreement over childrearing, etc. But I wonder if most marriage problems, if not all, grow from one basic root: prayerlessness. Satan is working feverishly hard to break up marriages—is that not evident today? The devil knows well how quickly a marriage without prayer and scripture spirals downward.

Do you value your marriage? Search the scriptures with your spouse. Do you desire a strong relationship? Pray with your spouse. This is one of the disciplines of the Christian life.

Here are some practical guidelines for approaching this worship within marriage.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Praying in Personal Devotions

I provide below some guidelines, this time for individual prayer. The list is not exhaustive. I encourage the reader to add more guidelines.

1. find a good place

2. choose the right time

3. color your prayers with God's Word

4. address personal needs

5. pray from the heart

Such a prayer life requires discipline. Such worship of God requires commitment and resolve. Consistent, heartfelt prayer is hard work, and not without its challenges, as any child of God will testify. But God will give grace. Pray for that grace—the grace to pray! Pray, for prayer is “the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us; and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them” (Lord’s Day 45, A. 116).

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading the Bible in Personal Devotions

I suspect that we all know the need for these private devotions, and the need to read the Bible by ourselves. But perhaps we do not always know how to go about this reading of scripture. And if we do not know how, we become discouraged before we even start. The following is some practical advice on how to read and study the Bible in our private worship.

1. study solitarily

2. think biblically

3. approach worshipfully

4. read meditatively

5. advance systematically

6. move slowly

7. remember frequently

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Challenges

We want to notice the internal and external challenges to this pursuit of godliness, and thus the need to persevere in these spiritual disciplines. I present here three such challenges (laziness, busyness, and the entertainment and technology craze); I am sure you can add to the list...

The calling of the Word of God is clear: as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, as one running the race of this life, persevere. Be disciplined, committed, and consistent in the study of the scriptures and in prayer. This is necessary in the life of the child of God—this concerns our spiritual health and strength! We must be strong to serve our God, strong to fight against sin, and strong to live faithfully in the calling that God has given to each of us.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Introduction

As adopted sons and daughters of God, we desire to grow in spiritual discipline. If discipline is commitment, resolve, resolution, or purpose, then spiritual discipline is the commitment and resolve to serve God in his kingdom. The spiritual disciplines of the Christian life are activities that arise out of this commitment and purpose, and thus activities that aim at the glory of God and growth in holiness. These activities are many and varied, including, but certainly not limited to, public worship, family devotions, private devotions, and Bible memorization. All the activities can be summed up with one word: worship.  Read More
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