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"Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love" (Prov. 5:19) emphasizes two things: the quality of lovemaking ("fill... with delight" and "be intoxicated") and the quantity of lovemaking ("at all times" and "always"). The wisdom of God is saying, "When you get married, drop your inhibitions, and go for it." Back in the days of the Puritans, when a New England wife complained, first to her pastor and then to the whole congregation, that her husband was neglecting their sex life, the church removed him as a member. Why? Because the Bible is clear: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another" (1 Cor. 7:4-5). And Proverbs 5 is wisely adding, "Make it fun and frequent!" The word translated "be intoxicated" is used elsewhere in the Old Testament for a man staggering down the street in drunkenness (Isa. 28:7). The point is for a man to be crazy in love with his wife. This counsel is not trivial. It is the serious wisdom of God, because, as we shall see later in the Bible, marriage points ultimately to the love of Christ and our joy in him. And the striking thing about this wisdom here in Proverbs, coming from ancient times as it does, is that marriages back then could be arranged for economic or political reasons. But the Bible sweeps all of that aside and calls husbands and wives to be head-over-heels in love with each other."
—Ray Ortlund Jr., Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel (page 67).
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With great sadness I must report that my dear sister in Christ, Julie Cain, passed from death to life after her long battle with cancer. In an article I posted April of 2015 I wrote, "God is able to use this trial to prove His faithfulness through Julie's life so that all might know the joy one can have in Christ. God is able to use the Cain family testimony to reach people who want nothing to do with God, but in seeing the joy in the Cain family, they are drawn by God's lovingkindness and are united with Christ in salvation. God is able to use this trial in Julie's life to do so much."
I stand behind these words today and can attest the faithfulness of God in using Julie's short life to put on full display His glory and grace. Julie had a joy about her that was so evident to all that knew her. Her faithfulness to love her Husband, children, family, and friends was apparent and visible. Her eagerness to know Christ and bring Him glory was seen in her faithfulness to His church and gospel witness to everyone she met.
Julie died physically today, but because of Christ, she has never been more alive.
While all of these things are true about Julie, we must understand that what made Julie's life exemplary was not found in her. Rather, what made Julie's life exemplary was and is Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ who sought her and bought her with His own blood (Gal. 3:13-15). It was Jesus Christ who was molding her into His own image, teaching her that she must decrease and He must increase (John 3:30). It was Jesus Christ who was teaching her, guiding her, and providing for her day by day as she sought to bring Him glory (Col. 1:17). It was Jesus Christ who was with her when she found out that she had the dreaded disease of cancer and it was Jesus Christ who comforted and ministered to her in the final moments of her life here on Earth (Ps. 23:4; Rom. 8:38-39).
And it is Jesus Christ that she will worship today, tomorrow, and forevermore. Unhindered by sin, she will sing His praises for all eternity because He is the Lamb that was slain and to Him belongs glory, honor, and power (Rev. 4:11). So dear friends of Julie Cain, do not be deceived. When Christ said "It is finished!" He ripped out death's fangs so that we might not feel the sting of death eternally when we place our faith in Him. Dear friends, don't miss the point here: Christ has eternally defeated death. And because He has defeated death, all those who place their faith in Him will too. Julie died physically today, but because of Christ, she has never been more alive.
For a long time I found it hard to keep a consistent prayer list. I tried so many different things. I used note cards, post-it notes, the ‘notes’ app on my iPhone, and a whole host of other things all to no avail. I would either lose track of my lists or not use them because I couldn’t carry them around with me everywhere. So I started to ask myself the question, “How can I create a prayer list that is simple to use, easy to update, and with me everywhere?” This blog post is the answer to that question. Since switching to the prayer list method I describe in this post I have found my prayer life to be more intentional, refreshing, and focused. I think you will too. Here is how you can set up your prayer lists like mine in four steps:
1. Create An Evernote Account
Evernote is a free note-taking app for both Android and Apple users. If you don’t have a smartphone you can still get an Evernote account for free at www.evernote.com. Evernote gives you the ability to create notebooks, notes, and a million other things I don’t even use on a regular basis. The use of notebooks and notes will be all you need to create a prayer list like I use.
2. Create A Notebook
Once you have an Evernote account, you will want to create a ‘notebook.’ This is easy to do. Just click on the ‘create a notebook’ button that will appear at the top of your screen on Evernote (see image below).
3. Create A Note For Each Category of Prayer
This is where I found Evernote so helpful. After creating a notebook, you can create notes within the notebook to section off different categories. As you can see in my prayer notebook (below) I have several categories: family, marriage, personal, salvation, ministry, and missions. Feel free to create your own categories that fit your life and influence currently.
4. Write Prayer Requests In Each Note
After you have created a note for each category you will need to fill in prayer requests in them. I do this by having different headings in the note. As you can see below, I have in my ‘ministry’ note headings like pastors & staff, college ministry, and my church’s Thursday night bible study. This enables me to update them as I pray through each heading every week easily.
I hope you will be able to use this method and see your prayer life grow as you bring before the Lord specific, intentional, and focused requests.
About six months ago I was told about a new little book by Christopher Ash titled Zeal Without Burnout. The book was helpful, practical, and easy to read. Reading the book was like sitting down with a wise counselor applying the truths of God's Word to your own heart. You can purchase the book by clicking here.
Christopher Ash spoke on this topic at the Basics Pastors Conference in 2014 at Parkside Church. Watch it here:
"Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to speak as a man) will depend on you. This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, "How will this affect their souls?"
I recently started reading an excerpt from a letter Dr. J.W. Alexander wrote to young ministers in the early 1800's. The letter was based solely on the topic, 'Ministerial Study.' In the letter Dr. Alexander pleas with ministers of the Gospel to "observe that the ministerial learning which I am recommending is solely the discipline and accomplishment whereby you shall be better fitted for your work." He exhorts them to "regard your mental powers as given you to be kept in continual working order, and continual improvement, and this with reference to the work of preaching and teaching." His honest and firm encouragement and exhortation is founded upon a central thought that was swirling in his head that life is short. Or as he puts it, "The day is near when you whole ministerial life will seem to you very short in retrospect." As the letter continues, he offers five tips for teachers of the Bible to consider when thinking about studying and learning.
1. Love the Bible.
He reminds his readers that all learning should be for one purpose: a deeper love and understanding of the Bible. "All your discipline and your acquisition are only so many means for learning God's Word, and for teaching it." Great teachers and preachers of the Bible keep their eyes in books and their hearts in the Bible. In other words, study and learn from many books, but set your heart on the Bible. Read the your Bible and read other books for the sake of knowing the Bible better. How do you do this practically? Alexander say, "devote the first and last part of every day to the persual of the Bible." Begin and end everyday with the Bible.
2. Don't Waste Time On Other Things.
"Be determined to be ignorant of many things in which men take pride." Ask yourself the question, what is robbing me of time throughout my day? For Alexander, it was bad literature. For us, it might be social media, technology, or other things. Find what is robbing you of time and "disregard the perishing nothings of the hour."
3. Don't Take Shortcuts.
"Observe the evils which attend the lack of thorough preparation." Don't rely on your giftedness to preach or teach. Prepare. Do the hard work of study. Set a time everyday to read a book, even if for five minutes. Alexander exhorts, "If he (the teacher or preacher) has begun this slovenly way while still young, and before he has laid up stores of knowledge, he will, in nine cases out of ten, be a shallow, rambling sermonizer as long as he lives." Study the Bible, read books. Learn.
4. Have a Place to Study.
Alexander argues that having a place to study and "labor" as he puts it, is a great benefit to the teacher or preacher. "A prevalent sense of this will do more than anything to procure and redeem time for research, and will cause you to learn more in an hour, than otherwise in a day." For some, that means having an office space. For others, it means having a chair or favorite coffee shop to sit at. Either way, have a place to study and learn.
5. Plan to Study.
Alexander suggests, "Propose questions to yourself: what part of the week do I devote to study? What head of theology has lately been under investigation? What is my plan of study for the coming day?" In asking these questions, you are intentionally setting in your mind the intent and sim to study. Do you set aside time to read and learn every week? Is there a time that you can use or redeem to labor in study?
Alexander ends his letter by saying, "Tell me how you spend your time in your early ministry, and I shall be better able to predict how you preach (or teach)." In other words, if you are not investing your life in pursuing more knowledge of the Bible and the world around you, don't expect to grow in your ability to preach and teach. Study hard and aim to learn everyday.
"An epidemic of Asiatic cholera at that time began to rage in London, particularly in the area south of the Thames. Spurgeon cancelled all out-of-town engagements and gave his time to visiting the sick. The disease entered numerous homes. Almost everywhere there was suffering, and often there was death. 'Family after family', he says, 'summoned me to the bedside of the smitten and almost every day I was called to visit the grave.' With lovingkindness to the sick and in heart-felt sympathy with the bereaved he conducted this labour, and at any hour of the night he might be awakened with an urgent request to come and pray with someone who seemed about to pass into eternity."
-Arnold A. Dallimore, Spurgeon: A Biography (page 51)
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"One of the marks of revival is not just high-octane worship, which costs us no self-denial and might even reinforce our selfishness. True revival awakens a new sense of our responsibility to one another, which is contrary to our selfishness and therefore a more revealing indicator of the presence of the Holy Spirit. When John the Baptist was announcing the coming of God's kingdom, the people asked him what they should do. He told them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise" (Luke 3:11). If we love God's presence, we will not say, "The poor aren't my responsibility." We will help them. And those of us who lead should exert this influence. In our personalities and lifestyles, we should be life-enrichers, not life-depleters."
-Ray Ortlund Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (page 60)
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"No individual, not even the whole world together, can rob God of his glory. The Bible says, "The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!" (Psalm 113:4). You and I are no threat to him. He isn't insecure when he insists upon the triumph of his glory alone. The problem is that we think that his glory and our joy do not lie together in the depths of his heart. We think we have to compete with his will to fulfill our own potential. That is pride. We think too well of ourselves and too poorly of God to believe that his love for his glory and his love for us are one love, drawing him on to that final day when we will be forever happy with his glory alone. But how could it be otherwise? Human fulfillment is union with God."
-Ray Ortlund Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (page 53)
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Good friends are hard to come by. Why? Because many people aren't sure what it means to be a good friend! God has given us His Word to shine wisdom on this issue. Namely, in Proverbs we find much wisdom about relationships including six marks of a good friend:
1. A Good Friend is Faithful.
"Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?" Proverbs 20:6
At the end of the day, a good friend is faithful. They will not abandon you when things get tough or bail out on you when you need them most. They are constant, present, and reliable.
2. A Good Friend is a Listener.
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2
Bad friends talk more than they listen. They love for you to hear about everything going on in their life, but give little time to listening to what is going on in yours. "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding" is the opposite of what a good friend does. A good friend takes pleasure in listening and seeks to never make you feel unheard.
A good friend takes pleasure in listening and seeks to never make you feel unheard.
3. A Good Friend Helps you Grow.
"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17
Good friends stretch you. They are constantly pushing you to grow and change. Some of the best friends I have are those that tell me what they are learning and teach me things I didn't know. Are you helping your friends grow?
4. A Good Friend is Honest.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." Proverbs 27:6
No one likes a liar. Yet, often times we fail to be honest with those we love most. Why? Because we love comfort. We love peace-filled relationships that are undaunted with conflict and disagreement. Good friends don't shy away from being honest for the sake of comfort. In fact, they love you enough to be honest with you. Even if they suffer the consequences.
5. A Good Friend Is Gracious.
"Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9
A good friend is not easily annoyed or offended. They are gracious with you. The look at your weaknesses and cover them with love. They don't allow them to become hindrances in your friendship. Gracious friends are those who are willing to walk with you as you grow. They pray for their friends instead of criticize or gossip about them.
Friends need time together and friends need time not together.
6. A Good Friend is Not Clingy.
"Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you." Proverbs 25:17
Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.” Friends need time together and friends need time not together. A good friend realizes this and doesn't attach themselves to their friends. They give them space. They don't constantly inquire when they can spend time together. Instead, they live life and let the friendship take it's course. Bad friends choose to center their lives, happiness, and well-being around other people. So they think that every day, week, or month they need face time with their friends. Good friends understand the wisdom of giving space to those around them.