Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Recently, we concluded going through the Book of Joshua with the men from Christ Fellowship Bible Church. We spent an additional week working slowly through Joshua 24:15 and talking about Joshua's resolve: "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." What is family worship? What does it look like? How does one get started? Is it really doable in our 'fast-paced society'? This is the outline that I provided our men to guide us in our discussion through this important topic.

FAMILY WORSHIP — an outline
And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of religion in our day, which we cannot but touch upon and earnestly urge a redress of; and that is the neglect of the worship of God in families by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. (Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession, 1689)

Joshua 24:15 —
Breaking it down for study: [see also: Deut 6:4-9; Ps 78:1-8; Gen 18:19; Prov 2:1; Eph 6:4; 1 Tim 3:4-5]
1. The Father's own spiritual growth (but as for me...)
2. The Father's own responsibility (and MY...)
3. The Father's own leadership (and my house...)
4. The Father's own determination (we will...)
5. The Father's own worship (we will serve...)
6. The Father's own theology (serve the LORD...)

The Church of Scotland took “Family Worship” seriously, as can be shown in what follows:
Men were strongly admonished if they did not lead in family worship. An elder reproved them and if the fathers persisted in this neglect, they were barred from taking the Lord’s Supper!

Jason Helopoulos strongly encourages us:
As a Christian father and husband, I am to continually put God and the testimony of His mighty works before my wife and children. And there is no better way to do this than regular, consistent, and intentional family worship. No matter how spontaneous I may be, sharing the truth of God and His mighty works "off the cuff" could never equal what we do in regular daily family worship. It is the best means for effectual evangelism and discipleship in the home. By practicing daily worship in the home, my family is continually put in the way of God's grace. The great accounts and truths of the Scriptures are set before us every night. We are daily seeking the Lord's throne of grace in united prayer. And we are offering thanksgiving and praise to God as we join our voices in song. Each of these elements of family worship convey to the minds and hearts of those gathered the truth of God and His mighty works in a full, regular, and consistent way that no other practice in the home can rival...Christian families practicing family worship will also find that it centers their home upon Christ. Our home is always centered upon something, but often it isn't Christ. It's not that we intentionally center it upon something else, we just unknowingly do so. Other things begin to dominate our common life together. It could be things outside the home as we venture out to attend soccer games and ballet lessons. Equally, it can be things within the home like television, video games, or even laundry. These can all be good things and they can serve a good and right purpose. However, they must all remain in their appropriate place: secondary and tertiary status. As a Christian father, husband, mother, or wife, our desire is that our homes are dominated by Christ above all else. Our hope is that our family and its activities will center upon Him. He is our Lord, Savior, and Friend. We have been secured in His grip by grace. And that grace welling up within us leads us to want to worship Him and see our loved ones worship Him as well.

This commendable resolution of Joshua, is absolutely necessary for every true son of Joshua, that is entrusted with the care and direction of a family in our day: and, if it was ever appropriate for ministers to preach, or for people to put family-religion into practice, it is never more so than in the present age; since it is greatly to be feared, that out of those many households that call themselves Christians, there are only a few that serve God in their respective families as they should. (George Whitefield)

“Praise is certainly not at all so common in family prayer as other forms of worship...I agree with Matthew Henry when he says, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.” There is a completeness in that kind of Family Worship which is much to be desired.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Where to start & how to get it going?
How do you begin? Begin simply. Grab a Bible, read a short Psalm, pray a brief prayer, sing the doxology. Don't wait until you prepared or no longer apprehensive. Begin tonight. Many of us have already waited too long. And then gather again tomorrow night and the night after that. When you miss a day or even a week, don't beat yourself up, just pick it right back up again. Over the course of weeks and months, you will find it to be one of the great joys of your life together as a family. A joy that carries in its practice blessing upon blessing to the praise and glory of God. (Jason Helopoulos)

“It is here, in family worship, that the reformation must begin” (Matthew Henry).

More resources on "Family Worship"  |  ArticlesSermons
Praying for families in your local church.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

The Lord calls all believers to pray at all times in the Spirit … and to be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Eph 6.18). What a privilege. But it may appear to be daunting and a bit impossible to pray for everyone in your local church. Where do you begin? How do you start? What could be a helpful guide to aid you in praying for your local church?

In what follows, I provide some ways to pray for the families in your local church.  Pray for...

1. For marriages to be holy.  Consider praying for the marriages to be holy. This refers to the husbands and wives fulfilling and pursuing their God-given roles as laid out in Scripture. Pray for marriages in your church to be godly representations of the gospel of Christ. Pray for set-apart, other-worldly, heavenly-minded marriages at church.

2. For singles to be faithful.  Earnestly seek God in intercessory prayer for the singles in your local church to obey what Paul says of them in 1 Corinthians 7: to have undistracted devotion to the Lord (v.35). Pray that they would utilize their singleness for Christ’s glory, to pursue the saints with selfless zeal and with relentless passion.

3. For widows to be disciples.  Pray for the widows in your church to pursue good works, to show hospitality, to serve the saints by selfless, foot-washing service, to assist those in need, and devote herself to every good work.

4. For retired to be disciplined.  Ask God on behalf of the retired men and women to live like Caleb with full strength and vigor for God, to take on great tasks and duties for Christ’s sake, and to emulate Anna who worshiped constantly, fasted, prayed, and lived a life of gratitude (not grumbling and complaining!) to God. Pray for them to be busily disciplined and continually strengthened by God to do His work, with untiring energy, out of love for Christ.

5. For women to be submissive.  Seek God on behalf of the wives and young women to be submissive to their husbands, to be quiet (as opposed to boisterous and self-focused), gentle, obedient to authority, and to be sensible, pure, workers at home and to not dishonor the Lord but to adorn the doctrine of Christ in all respects.

6. For men to be humble leaders.  Plead boldly and persistently with God to raise men and cultivate in men a Christlike emulation so as to be humble, gentle and sacrificial leaders. Ask God for men to not be self-willed but self-effacing and others-focused.

7. For children to be obedient.  Pray for the young children to obey their parents in all things. Pray for the children to receive God’s blessing and follow God’s Word as they grow in godly homes and hear God’s Word taught.

8. For teens to be Spirit empowered.  Appeal to God for young people to be Davids, young men devoted to God with hearts that follow Him and set God before them continually. Pray for more Josephs, young people fleeing from immorality (literally!) and living with paramount integrity, trustworthiness and love. Pray for young people to be like Jesus, totally about the “Father’s business” in this present evil age in which we live.

9. For babies to become missionaries.  Seek the Lord boldly and open your mouth wide to the God who is able to do far more abundantly beyond what you think or imagine to raise up and grow the smallest of nursing babies in your church to be missionaries for Christ’s work and service. O pray for men with an open map and an open Bible who believe God’s sovereignty and go with Spirit-empowered and evangelistic zeal to preach the gospel to the rough, the savages, the unreached, and unengaged peoples of the world. O God, amaze us for your glory!

10. For shut-ins to rest in Christ. Come to the throne of grace for those who are homebound in your church. Maybe there are the elderly who aren’t able to leave their homes, maybe people in the final stages of cancer or a terminal illness. Seek the Lord on their behalf that they would rest in Christ and not be bitter, or angry, or resentful or pessimistic. Pray that those who find themselves confined to the home would rest in Christ and bathe in Scripture and reflect on and proclaim God’s faithfulness.

11. For families to be little churches of worship.  Plead earnestly that every home would be, as it were, a little church, earnestly and consistently about the worship of God in the home, led by the father, with the families gathered together to read the Word, sing God’s praises, and pray together -- all for God’s glory. Pray for the homes to be worship gatherings where God’s blessing would rest upon those homes and where families would prepare in the homes for worship corporately with God’s people.

More resources at CFBC's website & at Pastor Geoff's articles page.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pastors Should Beware of These Common Dangers.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Satan is a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour. To be sure, he is chained and unable to spiritually destroy believers. Nevertheless, the chained monster hungrily pursues ministers of God and preachers of the Word so as to discourage them, discredit them, defile them, or distract them. Because of the cleverness of our great enemy and because of the proneness of our hearts to exercise little trust in God and wander into sin, all pastors must beware of these common dangers. Though not exhaustive, I’ll list five of the most common dangers to pastors.

1. Prayerlessness.
Honestly, prayer is hard. When else do you find (or make!) the time to be still, be quiet, be undistracted, and *fight* to be alone, quiet, focused, and passionate? In our unstoppably busy age and with our ever-increasing satisfaction that comes at amazing warp-speeds, one of the most difficult duties of the pastor can be to get down to his knees, open his bible before him, and call upon the name of the Lord for a lengthy period of time. To be prayerless is to exercise little trust in God. To live prayerless means that the man contents himself in his own abilities to perform the tasks that lay before him. But O how pastors must fight prayerlessness with holy violence. Get less sleep! Rise at midnight and pray for an hour for your congregants if you need to! Say no to some lunch appointments to go on a walk in the woods and meet with God. Shut off the entertainment and say no to the activities if you find yourself prayerless. Praying well demands time. You learn to pray by praying. And meeting with God in fervent and holy communion doesn’t occur in a 3-minute short prayer while waiting for the car to warm up on the way to a breakfast meeting. Diligently desire and passionately prioritize prayer. Pray in your praying! Down to the knees & up with your eyes to the heavenly Throne where the King of the everlasting ages beckons you to come and fellowship with Him in sweet communion.

2. Self confidence.
Relying on self proves to be the highway to spiritual calamity. Indeed, to state it again, trusting in one’s power and abilities and character to do God’s work will most assuredly give birth to a catastrophic disaster. The ministry of the Lord demands that the man of God utterly die to self -- daily! The Christian must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Christ. How much more must the man who speaks the utterances of God! How much more should the man who cares for God’s sheep slay every single shred of self-confidence and stake his focus supremely and exclusively on Christ and His wondrous power. Self confidence manifests itself in a plethora of ways. Little prayer before, during, and after sermons proves self-confidence. Lack of prayer before counseling appointments reveals self-confidence. More concern about your dress, your tie, your appearance, and your charisma more than being exegetically faithful and heart-grippingly direct in application is another proof of self-confidence. Too much trust in programs to build the church and excessive thoughts about being relevant and cultural and acceptable demonstrates self confidence. And this is tragic. Christianity at its very heart slays every part of self confidence and drives the sinner to Christ! So let every minister of the gospel flee to Christ regularly and passionately for grace and strength in every endeavor! Trust Christ alone.

3. Arrogance.
The very first sin in the history of the world was pride. The sin of arrogance rises up in rebellion against God in that pride seeks to be God. It doesn’t merely wage war with God (although it most certainly does this) but it wants to slaughter God and put self in the place of God as God. Over and over in the Book of Proverbs, Solomon states that God utterly hates pride. It is an abomination to Him. The prideful will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who love self, trust self, enjoy self-accomplishments, and promote self-glorification prove they do not truly know God or themselves. Moreover, they misunderstand sin, man, God, Christ, the gospel, and the clear teaching of God’s Word. The pride of life is not from the Father but it’s from the world. So then, let men of God remember that local church ministry and every *single* sermon must be focused exclusively and exaltedly on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The way that a minister’s arrogance comes forth is when his sermons tend to be more man-focused than God-focused. It’s when the worship services cave into the cultural demands to serve what people want rather than what God requires. It’s preaching texts and giving clever stories to connect with the audience so they’ll be entertained, happy, and come back again next time -- and maybe even join their church! When people leave captivated more by the church, the minister, the sermon, or the homiletical outline more than by Christ and His substitutionary crosswork in all of its magnificent facets, arrogance has crept in for something has risen up to take the place of Christ alone -- and that’s the very essence of pride. Ministers, daily let’s slay our pride!

4. Lukewarmness.
It could be hard to tally in a handful of pages the many demands that rest on the shoulders of the pastor.  From service planning, to picking out music, to the selection of a sermon text, to the studying and praying and organizing and crafting of the sermon, to the meeting with congregants, to the counseling relationships, to leadership development, and to the love and constant care of his own wife and children in the home, it seems that endless *things* constantly blast the man for his attention and time and concern. (And let it be said that most of these things are important and good.) However, none of these things are good when they busy the pastor so much that his heart becomes lukewarm as he outwardly does the ‘job’ of pastoral ministry. O how common this can be. Just think of how many times our Lord confronted the Pharisees for their externalism. Few pastors are honest enough to state, after arriving on a Sunday morning after a real draining and exhausting week, and tell people: “Wow, I really don’t feel ready to preach for I’ve been so busy doing the duties of ministry that I’ve not been devoted to my Master.” Those statements are quite infrequent. And yet, that’s precisely the Lord’s counsel to the very wise, learned, theologically astute, and historically grand church at Ephesus. He told them that they’ve lost their first love. They had all kinds of activities and works happening, but their hearts were far from Christ. O let men of God warm their hearts early before meeting with people for meetings. Let us remember: we can do much after we’ve been alone with God in the early hours but we can’t do anything profitable in the day until we’ve met with God in the early hours. Kindle afresh the gift of God! Let the gospel grip you and blaze through your soul hotly and unstoppably! Meditate on the gospel! Preach to your soul what you endeavor to preach to others! Passionless preachers are dead preachers that persuade no one to believe. Take the gospel and dig them deep into the ground of your heart. Feast and focus on your heart!

5. Isolationism.
I wonder if you surveyed the average pastor how many close friends he would honestly say he has. Many pastors have no real close friends in the ministry or outside of their local congregations. There is that “pastoral pedestal” that they find themselves sitting upon (whether they like it or not) and who is he going to go to when he finds himself battling with lust? Where is he going to turn to when he and his wife are not sexually intimate? To whom is he going to confide in for accountability when he is battling anger with his children and impatience toward his small children in the home? How easy it can be for pastors to cover these up and not tell anyone because, after all, they’ve believed the sly and Satanic lie that they *cannot* tell anyone. Then the man digs himself deeper into the hidden nature of his sin by his own isolationism and lack of seeking accountability. Undoubtedly this is one reason why Christ Himself calls His church to be led by a plurality of godly, qualified, biblically-minded men to help and hold one another accountable. Sin happens. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Temptations will certainly come. We are to bear each other’s burdens and pastor even our pastors. Have you ever asked your pastor: ‘who holds you accountable?’ That may be a good question to ask. Or, ‘where do you go in seasons of sin and temptation to wickedness?’ Though deep and personal, those are necessary questions to ask men in leadership. Popularity or being ‘the-guy-up-front’ can sometimes come with the false appearance that all is well and with the mistaken assumption that surely he has many men around him that guard him so that he certainly can’t fall into sin. But that line of reasoning is bad, unhelpful, dangerous, and tragic. Let pastors be open and honest with the leadership teams in times of struggle and hardship. Let ministers find other (and older) men to confide in and meet with for prayer, accountability, help, bible-reading, and nurturing. Yes, even the hard questions should be asked about sexual purity (in all its forms), marital fidelity, communication, intimacy, and happiness, financial integrity, disciplining and shepherding of the children in the home (and in family worship), and personal bible reading, prayer, meditation, and repentance. These issues should be asked of the pastor. And the godly minister will welcome these questions from other men who love and care about him and his soul.

More articles from Pastor Geoff are found at his articles page.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Core Tenets of Biblical Counseling
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Consider the following characteristics that should have a place in the life of every healthy local church:
  • Counseling One Another
  • Loving one another
  • Reproving one another
  • Warning one another
  • Bearing the burdens of one another
  • Edifying one another
  • Encouraging one another
  • Serving one another
  • Instructing one another

Maybe you read those and thought to yourself that you’re doing those. You see others doing these things in your church. It goes far beyond the pastor or the elders in your church because there are many men and women who are helping each other in love and with biblical fidelity grow in Christlikeness. And truly, all of these biblical phrases have a part to play in biblical counseling relationships as one Christian helps another Christian walk in a Christ-honoring way through life.
Biblical counseling is the skilled application of God's sufficient Word to the hearts of God's people.

Let’s break that down piece by piece to understand this definition even more.

Biblical counseling is the skilled application of God's sufficient Word to the hearts of God's people.
Biblical counseling is true Christian soul-care. Far from being a self-help book, the Bible does provide everything a child of God needs for life and for godliness. This does not mean that the biblical counseling community rejects science, medicine or the medical community. But rather, biblical counseling affirms that the Word of God is the ultimate authority in matters of this life and in godly living. So, biblical counseling, at its very core, is one Christian reading and rightly interpreting the Word of God so as to help others to walk in a manner pleasing to Christ. This underscores the preeminent need for good hermeneutics (=bible interpretation). The Christian needs to know what the Bible says and where to go in the Bible to help others who are struggling. This is something, to be sure, that any Christian can (and should!) do. This does not leave all counseling cases in the lap of the trained and licensed professionals. It shows that the simplest Christian who knows his Bible and who is able to get at the meaning of the text as the author intended it to be understood and who can rightly and appropriately bring God’s Word to bear in pertinent situations is capable to counsel others through circumstances in life. So then, biblical counseling requires that Christians know God’s Word well to be able to bring truth to bear in specific times. Again, any Christian can do this. The Spirit-indwelt Christian, armed with the sufficient and powerful Word of God, is massively more competent to help a Christian battling with sin than an unbelieving, licensed professional.

Biblical counseling is the skilled application of God's sufficient Word to the hearts of God's people.
Biblical counseling requires good hermeneutics to get at the meaning of the text. But then, the counselor needs to know how to go from the meaning to the application of the text. So how does the Scripture about “giving thanks in all circumstances” relate to a friend’s life who is battling with crushing anxiety? How do the texts about fearing God help the struggling Christian who finds himself so often caving in to the sin of man-pleasing? For these questions, the Christian needs to have the Word and the meaning of the text, but he also needs to know how the text applies to a fellow believer’s specific situation. Far from the accusation that biblical counseling is an overly-simplistic method of helping by saying: ‘memorize this verse and pray more,’ biblical counseling commits to walking side by side with other believers in the bearing of each other’s burdens so that sin is put off and godly habits are put on in its place. Again, no licenses or degrees are mandatory for this to take place. The Christian who knows his Bible and uses it to diagnose and bring change in his own life is one who can do this to fellow believers in his local church with a committed relationship of godly love -- or, biblical counseling. 

Biblical counseling is the skilled application of God's sufficient Word to the hearts of God's people.
Every biblical counselor stands upon and glories in the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Word of God. The Bible never claims to be exhaustive in all areas of knowledge. But the Bible does claim to be absolutely sufficient for all that the Christian will need for all areas of both life and godliness. The Word is God-breathed and profitable … so that the man of God will be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Bible is not just an option for help when battling with down and out depression, sexual additions, self-mutilation, suicidal temptations, alcoholism, or schizophrenic tendencies. The Word of God is the ultimate authority because it is sufficient to help the child of God glorify Christ and triumph through this life -- even though the path may be thorny and lonely. It must be stated again that biblical counselors who affirm the sufficiency of the Word do not reject science or the medical profession. Medical exams and care from physicians are so important to look at the physiological elements of a person’s makeup. But it is the Word of God that changes the heart and teaches the Christian to endure whatever hard trial or physical ailment that may invade one’s life by the good and sovereign hand of God. So again, biblical counseling underscores and champions the reality that the Bible repeatedly claims to be adequate and perfect for the converting and changing of the heart so as to make God’s people more like Jesus Christ.

Biblical counseling is the skilled application of God's sufficient Word to the hearts of God's people.
Another central tenet of biblical counseling is the target of biblical change being the heart. The Word of God does not promote behavioral management or simple external change. Too many examples exist in the Scriptures to show that God is not impressed with outward righteousness if a person is rotten and full of wickedness on the inside. So biblical counselors take God’s Word and apply it to the lives of other Christians so that the heart is wooed by Christ and gripped by Christ and convicted by the Spirit and empowered by grace to obey the Word -- regardless of the trying life-situation a person may be in. A wife may be in a tragic and abusive marriage to a great deceiver and yet she can glorify Christ as her heart continually is drawn to Christ, to His Word, and to godly living even enduring the hardships of life. This is where biblical hope is so profound and beautiful. It reminds the believer that God’s promises are yes and amen and that God is working all things together for good for His people so as to conform them more into the image and likeness of God’s beloved son, Jesus Christ. So biblical counseling refrains from referring fellow believers to psychologists and psychiatrists because ultimate change occurs in the heart, by the power of the Word, in the context of the local church, for the glory of Jesus Christ, even if a situation in life or a trial in life or a pain in life remains the same or escalates in intensity. Sometimes the tendency is to do anything to get “relief.” But it just might be that God may allow a specific situation to remain (and thus, to withhold ‘relief’) so that the child of God will grow stronger in his heart-confidence in Christ, in his fear of God, in his fortification on God’s sovereignty, and in his commitment to prayer, Bible reading, and serving in his local church. And if this happens, biblical counselors can come alongside the counselees and say, “to God be the glory!”

Biblical counseling is the skilled application of God's sufficient Word to the hearts of God's people.
If biblical counseling pursues the heart and conforming the inside of the person more into the image of Jesus Christ, then it only assumes that biblical counseling can only happen in God’s people. In other words, if an unbeliever comes to a Christian for counseling, that relationship will be full of help and hope because it will be evangelistic in nature because there is something far more important than simple physical relief from a pain or relief from a circumstance, namely, the sinner’s peace with God. So, biblical counselors know and understand that all counseling is pre-counseling until the person is a Christian. For indeed, no person can understand the Scripture or obey Christ or live out the precepts of God’s Word if they are lost and dead in sin. Only true Christians have the ability to honor God, obey God, please God, and to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, in regard its lusts’ (Rom 13:14). This is not to say that biblical counselors turn people in the community away who genuinely need and long for help. Biblical counselors do not angrily or arrogantly shove people off if they’re tangled in sin and angry at God. Biblical counselors understand, however, the reality of God’s word and systematic theology derived from the Word that the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor 2:14). This is why evangelism takes priority when a biblical counselor meets with a nonbeliever. This includes proclaiming the gospel in love, with patience, with compassionate urgency, and with fidelity in calling the unbeliever to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. And for the Christian, he has both the ability and the desire to obey and honor Christ above all things. Even if something is hard or seemingly impossible to do, the child of God has the indwelling holy Spirit, the power of prayer, his local church, and the counseling relationship to help him on the ongoing and progressive journey of sanctification.

Download the pdf article  |  other articles
Some helpful words from Martyn Lloyd Jones answering the question: What is a Christian?

"You are not a Christian unless you have been made speechless!  How do you know whether you are a Christian or not?  It is that you 'stop talking.'  The trouble with the non-Christian is that he goes on talking. . . . People need to have their mouths shut, 'stopped'.  They are for ever talking about God, and criticizing God, and pontificating about what God should or should not do, and asking 'Why does God allow this and that?' You do not begin to be a Christian until your mouth is shut, is stopped, and you are speechless and have nothing to say"  (in Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Rom 3:20-4:25 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan], 19).


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Church Member!  Fight to Attend Your Church Weekly!
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Fight? Attend Church? Weekly? Church member? Yes, indeed! We live in such a swirlingly busy age with countless distractions and endless entertainments and overly-busy schedules. How easily and how quickly it can be that the gathering together with the people of God in your local assembly can be missed one week because of a scheduling conflict. And then it becomes easier the next week. And the next. And so on. So the title is intentional and the motive of this essay is pastorally & compassionately exhortational: FIGHT and make it a priority to attend your local church on a weekly basis.

I understand things come up. Illness happens. Vacations occur. There are providential workings of God that may cause a child of God to miss church. But please hear this: missing church should not be the norm; it should be the exception. It is your local church where Christ promises to walk amidst His people and bless them by speaking to them and ministering to them in very real and special ways.

Additionally, this essay is for the true Christian. This is not just another paper urging the unsaved to just ‘get to church’. This essay is for those whom God has saved and who have obediently committed themselves to a local church and submitted themselves to the leadership of that church. This is an essay for the saved to reorient the focus on the Lord and on His church because this in our culture can distract and disrupt and cloud our minds at times.

My argument? Fight with all your might to attend your church weekly. I’ll provide 7 simple reminders.

1. For the sake of your HEART.
Dear Christian, bought with the precious blood of Christ, as a newborn baby long for the pure milk of the Word so that you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:1-2). O child of God, have you tasted the kindness of the Lord? Have you partaken of the sweetnesses of His love for you? Do you hunger for Him and thirst for righteousness? Attend church for the sake of your heart so that you can grow as you receive the food of the Word. No matter what you tell yourself and how you seek to justify it, it’s impossible for you to grow spiritually if you continually find yourself absent from the body of Christ. For the sake of your heart, attend your church to be fed God’s Word through the preaching and to hear Christ address you and the Spirit to mold your heart through the truths heralded.

2. For the sake of your CONGREGATION.
Dear Christian, Christ never called you to a life of lone-ranger isolationism. Christianity is never my Christianity. It’s always a community, joint, shared journey. And that journey is with other predestined travelers who are progressing and traveling to glory just as you are. Don’t neglect them! No matter what you tell yourself, private times in the Word (as important as that is!), and family worship (as important as that is!), and listening to sermons online (as helpful as that can be!) is not a substitute for actually going to the gathering with your fellow believers to worship the crucified & risen & interceding Christ together. Your fellow believers who have covenanted together love you. When you’re not there, they wonder where you are (at least, they *should*). They care for you and wonder if everything’s OK. We minister together as a body. A body has many members. When one member is absent, there’s something incomplete about the body. So make it a point, a deliberate point, to attend worship with your congregation.

3. For the sake of your LEADERSHIP.
You, dear Christian, submitted yourself obediently to Christ and willfully from your heart to membership in your local church (if you haven’t done so yet, you should). They are called by God to give watchcare over your soul. As a father cares for his children, so a leader loves and gives oversight to Christ’s people. As a husband leads his wife and protects her, so undershepherds are to care for Christ’s Bride by giving biblical leadership to her. As a shepherd leads and guides the sheep, so your pastor-elders must give biblical guidance and counsel to the sheep bought with the blood of Christ. Your leadership cares for you. They watch over you. They are to minister to you. One of the *primary* ways your pastors care for you is by praying regularly for you and preaching God’s Word faithfully to you. If you miss church, you’re neglecting one of God’s chiefest ways for your pastors to care for your soul -- through the feeding of God’s Word. If a child didn’t come to meals, wouldn’t a loving parent wonder what’s going on and whether the child is sick? So you, dear Christian, receive the feeding and nurturing and loving and guidance from Christ as His appointed undershepherds tenderly love your soul by praying, studying, and preaching. You should attend & receive.

4. For the sake of your TEMPTABILITY.
Dear Christian, still growing in godliness, fight sin and temptation with zeal. Have you forgotten you have a cunning enemy who would love to distract you and put obstacles (enticing and entertaining ones!) so that you don’t attend church? Don’t isolate yourself! If you miss one or two or three weeks, how easy it is (and Satan loves to underscore this in your mind) to miss just *another* week. After all, no one has called and (you may think) no one notices or cares. But how temptable we are -- even as children of God. We are not to abandon the gathering with the saints and we’re not to let worldly endeavors take precedence over, or priority over, the Word of God. To help guard you from temptation and to help keep you alert to your sinfulness, sin’s attractiveness, Christ’s beauty, and heaven’s nearness, fight to attend corporate worship as a safeguard and as a blessing to fortify your soul in grace & in the gospel weekly.

5. For the sake of your WITNESS.
Dear Christian, one way you can represent Christ to the lost is by prioritizing your church attendance. This is your new family -- your eternal one that is wed far stronger than just biological ties. You have a family of blood-bought Christians that you’ve joined yourself to. So, it’s OK (I would argue, it’s *good* and *right*) to deny attending a party or a dinner or an entertainment activity if it conflicts with your corporate worship. Priorities are good. Have them. Hold them. Stick to them. Let the lost see that you prioritize Christ and His Word. If you don’t prioritize meeting with Christ and the people of Christ and hearing the Word preached, why would you think the lost would do that as they watch your mediocre attitude toward it? For the sake of your witness, fight hard to prioritize corporate worship.

6. For the sake of your CONSCIENCE.
As a believer, you obediently submitted yourself to undershepherds to love and nurture and care for you. You joined yourself to a church and there was some sort of commitment or covenant that you signed. In that, undoubtedly you affirmed that you’ll attend church regularly. Do you have a clean conscience before your Savior that you’ve been true to your commitment? Additionally, your Savior loves you and calls you to attend and not forsake the assembling together with the saints. Never forget, going to church is commanded for the people of God. It’s never a burden but a blessing. Never a weighty duty but a delightful yearning. Prioritize the gathering with the people because Christ calls you to it and also because you committed yourself to it in your own membership agreement.

7. For the sake of your SAVIOR.
Dear elect child of God whom the Father sent His Son to redeem, Christ is present among His lampstands and He walks amidst His churches. Christ gathers to meet with you in corporate worship, will you skip it and refuse to meet with Him? O how He yearns to fellowship with you and address you from His Word. Will you find other things more important, more pressing, more entertaining, more worthwhile than meeting with your Beloved? In corporate worship, Christ speaks to you in a very real and powerful and special way through the preaching of the Word. If you miss corporate worship consistently, you miss the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper) which are two commanded means of grace for you to remember Him and His substitutionary death with the people of God. Do you miss this? Do other things take priority over this? O your Savior yearns for you and loves to meet with you and anticipates meeting with you? So should you, O Christian, attend the sweet times of fellowship where you remember the gospel, feast upon Christ, receive conviction by the Spirit, and edification from God’s people. Prioritize it!

More articles at Geoff's articles page.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Over the last few months, we at Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis, MO) have been working through a course called: The Foundations of the Local Church.

Here are all the topics, audios, and links put together in one place.

1. Preaching the Word of God  |  Link
2. Penal, substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ  |  Link
3. The authority and inerrancy of the Bible  |  Link
4. Submission to government, a minister of God  |  Link
5. Worshiping the Triune God of glory  |  Link
6. Qualified, converted, male biblical leadership in the local church  |  Link
7. The purpose of the church: comprehensive discipleship  |  Link
8. The joy of evangelizing the unsaved  |  Link
9. Equipping the saints to do the work of ministry  |  Link
10. The absolute sovereignty of the one, true God  |  Link
11. The power, privilege, and duty of prayer  |  Link
12. Cessationism:  the ceasing and fulfillment of the miraculous, sign gifts  |  Link
13. The kind of church you wanna be a part of (lessons on a healthy church)  |  Link
14. Participating in corporate worship  |  Link
15. Preserving unity in the body of Christ  |  Link
16. Using your spiritual gifts  |  Link
17. What is true conversion?  |  Link
18. Christ as the gospel: the remedy for lawlessness and legalism  |  Link
19. What are the marks of true conversion?  |  Link
20. Restoring a sinning brother in the church  |  Link

Listen to any or all of these and be blessed by the truth that is preached at Christ Fellowship Bible Church.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Give Yourself to Constant & Committed Prayer.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Proverbs 15:8  — The prayer of the upright is His delight.

Every Christian has at his disposal the most mind-boggling wonder. The weakest saint can come before the throne of Almighty God in heaven in simple prayer. It’s not the might of the saint that changes things. It is the intercession of the sufficient Savior who intercedes for the weakest Saint as the Spirit takes those prayers before the Father in heaven. That’s where the power resides. O that every Christian would set aside time in his daily schedule to be alone with God in the communion of prayer. Not praying ‘as you go’ or praying ‘as you drive’ or praying ‘from time to time.’ And all of those are not bad, nor are they to be rejected. But the goal of this essay is to exhort and plead with Christians to set daily aside to go into the ‘inner room’ and be alone with God -- to pray, to really pray, to call upon God fervently, passionately, unceasingly.

In this brief essay, I’ll provide 7 pastoral suggestions as you give yourself to constant & committed prayer.

1. Pray till you pray.
Elijah was a man like us and he “prayed in his praying” that it would not rain (James 5:17). And it didn’t for three and a half years! There’s a difference between saying a prayer and praying. There’s a world of contrast between muttering a few half-hearted yet often repeated phrases in prayer to God for the same old things (or the same old people) and truly falling on one’s face in fervent and tireless wrestlings with God till the cause is won. Do you what it is to pray like this?  God has used men of prayer to rock the world for Christ’s renown. Maybe there is little spiritual fruit in our land because the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is content to say its ‘prayers’ rather than to pray till one has truly prayed -- that is, to pray in one’s praying and seek God by taking hold of His garment and not letting Him go till the answer comes. O dear saints, pray till you pray. Godly saints of old have said that truly praying doesn’t happen in three minutes while you’re at a red light. No! It may take time to get in the spirit of prayer, the attitude of prayer, the fervency of prayer, and the warmness of prayer. But pursue it! Don’t be too busy to quiet yourself to pray. Those who have truly called on God know what it is to pray in your praying. Seek God for this grace and this blessing.

2. Pray with an open Bible.
How does one pray so fervently?  Perhaps the greatest way to do this is to open your Bible and read a portion of it, a phrase, a verse, even a word (!) and let the truths therein produce the outgushing of your soul to God! Speak to God in light of what He has spoken to you from the written Word. Our God initiates. So let Him initiate conversation with you by reading His Word and then respond (=a conversation) to God with genuine praise, heartfelt requests, contrite penitence, and diligent intercessions. Don’t hurry in prayer. Don’t hurry in conversing with God. Relationships take time and conversations take time. Going deep with a loved one takes time. So it is with God. Hear from Him (thru the Word) and then respond to Him (in prayer). Dear beloved, pray with an open Bible before you.

3. Pray starting with praise & thanksgiving.
Before we seek the hand of God and the roll off the things we want God to do for us and for our loved ones, consider starting your seasons of prayer with praise and thanksgiving. To put it simply: seek the face of God before you demand the hand of God. And one easy way to do this is to have your Bible before you as you seek God in the inner room and on your knees. Go through the psalms. How easy it is to read a verse and turn that into a shout of praise for God’s character! You can read what God has done and exclaim His marvelous deeds! You can marvel at David’s pains and thank God that He never leaves His redeemed ones. O begin with praise before you petition Him! Start with thanksgiving before you lay out your wants. Thank God for everything He is and everything He has given -- even your trials. The cure for complaining and grumbling is thankfulness. So thank God for that hard family situation. Thank God for that person who is after you, angry with you, persecuting you. Thank God for the hardships in life (no matter what they may be). Set your soul aright with God as you remember who He is and who you are. Remember, God is in heaven and you are on earth. Praise Him. Thank Him. Lift up your eyes in praise!

4. Pray bewailing your sins.
When you praise God and remember who He is -- especially when you have your Bible still open before you -- you will see the holiness of God, the character of God, the gospel of grace, and the commandments God has given and you will see how far short you fall. Don’t let this lead you to despair and depression but rather let it lead you to genuine repentance and heartfelt bewailing of your shortcomings as you behold the grandeur and glory of God in Christ. Bewail how much iniquity still resides in your heart -- even as a Christian! Sorrow over your selfishness that still exudes out from the heart so frequently! Repent over the littleness of your love for Christ and over the littleness of your hatred -- God-like hatred -- for wickedness. Repent that you have laughed at sin rather than been grieved over it. Bewail the sins that we still commit and the duties that we often neglect. O come before God humbly as a penitent sinner.

5. Pray laying hold of Christ.
And as you find yourself with your open Bible flat on your face before God in repentance, lay hold of Christ and His omnipotent righteousness. Cling to Him and His intercession as a loving and great High Priest. Don’t stop your prayer as you repent and see yourself as a vile transgressor. Flee quickly and decisively to Christ alone and cast your eye upward to Him at Calvary and see Him who paid for your sin there! Behold Him who bore your transgressions upon His own righteous soul. Gaze at Him who mightily and sufficiently shouted: “It is finished!” Lay hold of Christ and seek Him till your soul is warmed afresh with the saving mercy and tender compassion of your Bridegroom. Lay hold of Christ and let the love of this Savior warm your heart and fill you full as you seek God in your fervent praying.

6. Pray specifically & largely.
What if God answered all of your prayers affirmatively? What would change? Would the city be saved? Would all your church congregation be converted and discipling and revived and street preaching and pleading for souls? What would happen if you prayed big prayers? Don’t limit God by asking small things of a global God! Maybe we see little fruit around us in contemporary Christianity because the saints are not earnestly yearning for big things from our big God! God does say, after all, open your mouth wide and I will fill it (Psalm 81:10). God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Do we forget this? Do we forget that the God who brought revival to the entire city of Nineveh can bring revival to our cities? Do we forget that through one Christ-exalting sermon, the Spirit of God cut many to the quick so that thousands were converted on the Day of Pentecost? We worship the same God today! Let us ask big things of God. And indeed, when you pray, believe that God hears and that God will answer. And with your open Bible, make a case with God. Pray prayers in conformity with His will so that God can’t refuse our prayers. Yes, make biblical cases with God and hold Him to His Word. Press Him!

7. Pray worshipfully.
And in all this earnest praying, pray worshipfully. Worship, after all, is responding rightly to who God is. Respond to God’s glory revealed in Scripture with genuine and heartfelt prayers to Him through Christ. Behold the glory of God in the face of Christ as the Spirit impresses His truth upon your heart in prayer and Bible reading. Worship your God in prayer. Let it not become a sheer duty or a mindless ritual. Engage with God. Discipline yourself. Mere activity in the name of God without heart-affection is utterly worthless before God. Don’t come in the dark, early morning hours and seek God in prayer because you must -- seek God because you can! And because you can, then we can say that we must! For I do believe that we can do much of great value after we’ve met with God in quiet and communing prayer. But I believe that you can’t do anything of great value till you’ve met with God in quiet and communing prayer.  Worship God in sweet communion of prayer. He is delighted in the prayers of the upright. So get to it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Principles from Paul's Prayers
Gleanings from Philippians 1:4
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Philippians 1.4   
πάντοτε ἐν πάσῃ δεήσει μου ὑπὲρ πάντων ὑμῶν, μετὰ χαρᾶς τὴν δέησιν ποιούμενος,

author’s translation
“...always making supplication in my every supplication for all of you with joy…”

Philippians 1:4 describes how the Apostle Paul thanks God in all his remembrance of the Philippian believers. He reminds them that they are all saints in Christ Jesus (1:1) and that they have received grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). And so this propels Paul into thankfulness to God when he remembers them. Paul is overwhelmed with love and gratitude and care for this church that is precious to his heart.

In what follows, I’ll provide 4 simple principles we can learn from Paul’s prayers.

When Paul says that he “always” offers prayers it does not mean that he ceaselessly prays for people 24/7 on his knees. The rest of the verse further explains what he means as he states that [he always prays for them] “in his every prayer for them all.” That means that the believers in Philippi are at the forefront of his mind when he meets with God in prayer. As Paul thanks his God and expresses praise to God, he quickly turns to the precious congregation of Philippian believers that has helped him in the furtherance of the gospel in so many ways. Men of God pray. Men of God pray constantly. Indeed, Paul exhorts believers to pray continually (1 Thess 5:17) and to pray at all times (Eph 6:18). Believers can learn from Paul as he regularly bows before his God in worshipful gratitude and in heartfelt praise as he pours out his soul to God and in so doing he regularly lifts up the Philippian believers. Let this remind all Christians to be constantly, regularly, and ceaselessly praying for the brethren.

In this verse, Paul utilizes the same particular Greek word for prayer two times. The idea of “prayer” [δεήσει... δέησιν] refers to an entreaty, a request, a supplication, an intercession. It’s as if Paul is saying: “I’m always offering entreaties with joy in my every entreaty for you all.” Perhaps the best way to view this is Paul praying with intercessory prayers on behalf of the Philippian believers. Paul intercedes for -- that is, he prays on behalf of -- the Christians that he knows and loves in the city of Philippi. What an encouragement this must have been for the believers to receive this letter from Epaphroditus and undoubtedly they must have been reassured that Paul really does love them for he shows it by his undying intercession and fervent entreaties to God on their behalf. What a faithful friend who prays for his friends. Indeed, the friend loves the brethren the most when he is praying for them and bringing them before God’s almighty throne of grace. Let us learn to pray for one another. To make requests to God on behalf of the believers whom we know and love and serve alongside of in the ministry.

3. He prays WITH JOY.
Not only does Paul continually pray for them and intercede for them by bringing them before God but he does so with joy. To Paul, prayer is no chore, it’s a delight. Prayer is no mere preparation to do great things for God, it is doing great things for God! Paul bows before the Lord in thankful prayer and brings the Philippians before the mighty God who hears and answers prayer. And he does so with an attitude of joy. And amazingly, Paul prays with joy for the believers even as he knows they have need of growth in humility, in unity amongst the brethren, and in proper thinking as they live life. He knows they need to remember the gospel and be on constant guard from the false circumcision and false teachers that roam around true believers. And yet all the while, he does not see prayer as a dutiful task but a delightful privilege. He finds it a blessing, not a burden. O that all believers would joyfully bring their brethren before the Lord in diligent and regular prayer. What would happen to our relationships and our congregations if we prayed for one another with joy in our every prayer for one another. For Paul, even amidst hardship, he can pray with joy because He knows and has an unshakeable confidence in the certainty that God is in control. Thus, as he prays for them, intercedes for them, thanks God for them, and prays for their growth and godliness, his heart can throb with joy and his lips can drip with glad praise. Let us learn from the Apostle and pray with true joy.

Another element of Paul’s prayer is that he prays for all the saints [πάντων ὑμῶν]. He prays for all of the brethren. What an example for all ministers of the gospel and shepherds who serve Christ’s church to learn from Paul’s example and to pray for all the saints specifically, by name, regularly, and with joy. Furthermore, what a profound example for all Christians to emulate by praying for all the saints specifically. Consider your own prayer life. How do you pray for the entire flock of God where you serve? Do you know them? Do you have a directory of their names so you can pray with specificity for all of them? Consider how powerful our churches would be if we constantly, joyfully, and specifically interceded for one another in heartfelt, biblical, passionate prayers! O how unstoppable the church would be! Consider how many souls be would be touched by the gospel as we would bear each other up to speak of Christ to the lost! And even knowing that there was a rift between Euodia and Syntyche (cf Phil 4:2), Paul still thanks God for them and prays for them specifically. Consider how Paul must have prayed for the Philippian jailer and his family and Lydia and her family (and the church that met at her home; cf Acts 16:40). O that we would follow the Apostle Paul’s example in praying specifically for all the saints. Consider taking 3-5 names/families per day in your church and bringing them before the Lord faithfully. Consider how you may get to know folks that you may not be all that familiar with at the present. Consider how you will encourage others when you reassure them that you have been praying specifically for them. Consider how uplifting it would be to have others follow up with you regarding specific prayer requests. Do you pray for the marriages in your church -- all of them?  Do you pray for the children to be saved and walk closely with Christ -- all of them?  Do you pray for your pastors and elders? Do you pray for the youth? Do you pray for the elderly and shut-ins? O let us begin now to pray joyfully, regularly, and specifically for all the saints as we intercede for them. O think of what Christ could do through this kind of faithful and prayerful church!
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