Article by Michael Goforth II:
Yesterday morning I was reading the devotional from, "Good News of Great Joy" and it was all about suffering. Here's an excerpt:
"We are promised glory — if we will suffer with him (Romans 8:17). The way up is down. The way forward is backward. The way to success is through divinely appointed setbacks. They will always look and feel like failure." -John Piper
Right after that, I read my next chapter in, Knowing God by J.I. Packer and that was all about suffering as well! Here are some quotes:
"We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us."
“Fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest.”
“We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is after, in his handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here.”
After reading two devotionals about suffering on the same morning, I was beginning to think that God was preparing me for some massive tragedy. And to be honest, I was a little nervous about it!
Later that morning, I texted a few people from my church to encourage them for the day and ended up in a conversation with one of them. So I decided to share some quotes from my devotionals that day followed by, "Looks like God is preparing me for something. Kind of scary, but I know He is in control!"
He then responded by saying it could just be, "a simple reminder that not everything is intended to go our way, because our ways are not His.”
So who was right? Was God preparing me for some big trial or just some simple small ones along the way? I'm not sure. And it's a fool's errand to read into things like that and try to figure out what God will do next.
There were no big trials for me yesterday. Although strangely enough, when my wife and I read the devotional from, O Come Let Us Adore Him later that evening, that was about suffering as well! haha. So if anything, God was reminding me that suffering is a huge theme in the Bible and something that Christians should expect. (Philippians 1:29)
However, even though my day did not have any big trials, it was full of minor setbacks and frustrations. And I don't know about you, but for me it's really easy to, "sweat the small stuff." In fact, sometimes I feel like it can be harder to trust God and see His hand in the small frustrations of everyday life than it is in the "big" trials.
So my friend's text was a great reminder to not just apply what I had read that day to times of extreme hardship, but to also apply it to the "small stuff" as well.
This was Packer's advice from yesterday's chapter:
"How are we to meet these baffling and trying situations, if we cannot for the moment see God’s purpose in them?
Whether you're going through a big trial or a small one, this is great advice! If God is sovereign over all things, then He is not just in control of the big trials of our lives, He is also in control of the "small stuff." And when He promised to work all things together for good in our lives (Romans 8:28), the "all" in that verse includes small things.
I don't know what God is planning to do next in your life, but I do know that little frustrations are sure to come.
So when you face one of those minor but really frustrating setbacks today, trust that God allowed that trial into your life, seek His face, and respond with the strength He provides.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
You’ve heard this verse a thousand times. You’ve seen it on t-shirts and coffee cups. You may even have it memorized. But don’t let the familiarity of this verse take away from how amazing it is. Read it slowly and purposefully:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
About a month ago I was studying this verse for a sermon and it hit me like it never has before.
The old Michael with all of my sin, all of my brokenness, all of my failures, and all of my attempts at measuring up has been crucified with Christ.
I died with Him. But I live.
When Christ stepped out of that grave and conquered sin, death, and hell, I stepped out with him.
So I live, but it is no longer me living. It is Christ living through me. The one who loved me and gave himself for me, has united himself to me.
I have the presence of the risen Christ indwelling me and empowering me to live this life.
Again, if you’ve been a believer for any length of time, none of this is new information. But how many of us actually live like this is true?
So after studying it, I started thinking, how do I practically live this out in my everyday life?
This led to a lot of thinking, researching, and studying. And I came across an acronym that John Piper made in a sermon from 1983.
It’s called, “A.P.T.A.T.” and it’s how he practically tries to live out the truth of this verse. He breaks it down this way,
A. Admit that you can do nothing.
P. Pray for God’s help for the task at hand.
T. Trust a particular promise of God’s help.
A. Act in faith.
T. Thank God for the help received.
The amazing part about this acronym is that Piper still uses it to this day. So for close to 40 years, he has used a simple acronym to live out the astounding reality of union with Christ from Galatians 2:20!
Now I know they say that you shouldn’t try to fix something that isn’t broken, and that’s not what I am claiming to do here. However, even though I loved the practical steps from this acronym, I wasn’t a huge fan of what it spelled out. I just couldn’t see “APTAT” becoming a regular part of my vocabulary.
So I started thinking of different words that could be used to contain similar steps. And for the last month or so, I have been using the acronym, “P.R.A.Y.” I’ve used this before preaching, before talking with my wife, before sharing the gospel, when I have been tempted to lose my temper, and in so many other situations! I simply pause and “remember to P.R.A.Y.” I’ll break it down for you:
P. Plead for God’s Help
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” Psalm 28:7
Before any task in your life, pause and recognize your dependence on God. Jesus said without Him we can do nothing! So simply pausing to ask for God’s help is a great way to remember that you cannot do this on your own.
R. Rely on God’s Promise
“For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Here I take a cue from Piper and remember a a specific promise from God’s word that applies to my situation.
So before sharing the gospel I remember Jesus’ words, “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)
Before preaching on Sunday, I’ll remember the promise from Isaiah 55:10-11 that God’s word will not return void and will accomplish all of his purposes!
When struggling with patience, I remember that I have access to the fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22-23)
This is a great way to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly! (Colossians 3:16)
A. Act in God’s Power
“I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29
After asking for God’s help and trusting in a particular promise from his Word, now it is time to act in the strength that he supplies. (1 Peter 4:11)
The Christian life is not self-help. It is to be lived in complete reliance to God’s power for His glory.
Y. Yield to God’s Spirit
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
Even though I have decided to act in God’s power, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that I need Him every moment.
So whether I’m sharing the gospel, preaching a sermon, or having a difficult conversation with someone, I am trying to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit all throughout the process.
That is what it looks like in my life when I, “Remember to P.R.A.Y.”
Like I said earlier, I’ve only been using this acronym for about a month, so I understand if you choose to use Piper’s time-tested APTAT instead. Or maybe you’re the type to come up with your own! Obviously you’re not required to use an acronym, but I have found it to be an extremely practical way to live out Galatians 2:20.
Remember, you are crucified with Christ. But you live. And it is no longer you living, but Christ living in you.
I love how David Rightmire explains this, “Christian experience is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus. It is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart by the Spirit.”
So plead for God’s help, rely on His promises, act in His power, and yield to His Spirit. All to the praise of His glory.
Article by Mike Peters:
Prove it. These are two of my most favorite words to say when in a discussion about religion, politics, sports, philosophy or pretty much any topic worth discussing. What can I say? I love evidence. Evidence is the catalyst in a conversion between two opponents that will build a bridge for one of them to that juicy moment of, “Ha! I told you so.” Forget for one second the fact that this craving for evidence can be entrenched in pride. Let’s be honest. We all love being on the winning side of that “gotcha” moment.
Scripture even has a lot to say about evidence and namely evidence related to the person and work of God. We are called to seek after evidence. From the Old Testament teachings about having more than one witness to approve a matter to Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to his disciples and others, we see the importance of evidence in the Bible. John also instructs us to use the Word of God to verify others who claim to speak for God so we can see whether or not they are a false teacher. This is crucial as there is no shortage today of false teachers looking to enrich themselves by way of abusing God’s church. This driving force for evidence even shows up in our evangelism as we share the gospel with others. We give them all the reasoning (medical, logical, cultural) as to why the resurrection of Christ had to miraculously happen. And let’s be honest, how many of us are still crossing our fingers for even more archeological discoveries that continue to verify Biblical accounts of days gone by? Yeah. Me too.
As important as evidence is in the Christian faith, we must proceed with caution. Notice I said, “Christian faith” in the last sentence. Here I want to quote A. W. Tozer. If you’re not sure who he was, no biggie, doesn’t matter. (He was a good preacher, author and dapper looking fella. He also died in 1963) Tozer said, “In the living, breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something. It is a Voice. It is too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” The man of earth (unbelieving) kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to live in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of a scientist, not those of a worshiper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. “It thundered,” we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” Could it be that as a Christian, I am now obsessed with the “evidence” that reinforces my position, and that is the stuff I live by? Or, am I living a life that walks by faith? Hebrews says faith is the substance of what is hoped for, and it’s the evidence of what is not seen. The author to the Hebrews also says it is absolutely impossible to please God without faith.
So how does this simultaneous pursuit of evidence and living by faith play out practically for me? (PSA, I am a sola scriptura guy. Worth googling.) Maybe the study of God (theology) has become my passion instead of listening to His voice. Maybe I am so into the Bible, that it has become another subject for my intellectual mastery (Paul Tripp, another guy, has called that “bibliolatry”) instead of letting the Bible be a finger to point me to the Voice of the Great Author. Maybe I have become so pragmatic in my Christianity that I don’t sense the need to stop and let His voice, the Holy Spirit, speak to me. Do I pray anymore? Do I sit in His presence and just listen anymore?
Here is the great thing about the Bible. It is timelessly true. All of it. If you doubt that, then I kindly declare to you that you are wrong. As good as that is, the Bible has quite a bit of grey area. You may say, “Wait a second, are you a heretic Mike?” No, not today, Satan. Let me illustrate. Who told you to marry your spouse? Who told you to move to that neighborhood? …. how about joining that ministry at your church? Or even that specific church? Why? Yes, there are biblical principles we use as filters, but the specifics on most of life’s choices…? That credit belongs to the Voice of God, aka, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. (John 14-16) He always works in conjunction with the revealed Word, specifically where the revealed Word is not specific. We adhere to the existence of the Holy Spirit theologically, but are we ignoring Holy Spirit’s person and work practically?
We must live by faith. There comes a point when you will not be able to explain and prepare. This is God’s doing. God is committed to your spiritual growth. God is chasing you down with the “faith life”. He is working to push you out of that comfort zone of “normal” and make you trust His character as revealed through His Word. Has evidence become your idol? In this age of information and enlightenment, do our lives resemble that of a kneeling worshiper or that of an “evidence seeking” skeptic.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Who governs the church? While Scripture is very clear that Christ is the head of the church, the form of government beneath Him is slightly more complicated. A simple survey of the wide variety of church government structures that exist today would attest to this. While the differences in church policy could be discussed in great detail, that is not the purpose of this study. Instead, this is an attempt to narrow in on one category of church government and answer a specific question contained within. However, before introducing the problem and presenting the findings of the research, some background information is necessary.
Local churches are governed with a vast amount of variations today. However, in his book entitled, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Wayne Grudem explains that most forms can be organized into three large categories. He states it this way, “Different philosophies of church government will be reflected in different methods used for selecting officers of the church, as explained above. This is evident in the fact that forms of church government can be broken down into three large categories, which we may term “episcopalian,” “presbyterian,” and “congregational.” One of the primary distinctions between these three categories is the self-governing nature of the congregational form. In this structure, the local assembly of believers has no governing authorities outside the congregation.
Episcopalian and presbyterian, while different in many ways, both contain an element of authority that governs more than one local assembly. Charles Ryrie, in his book, Ryrie’s Basic Theology, presents a simple definition of congregationalism. He says, “Basically the congregational form of government means that ultimate authority for governing the church rests in the members themselves. Additionally, it also means that each individual church is an autonomous unit with no individual or organization above it, except Christ the Head.” For the purposes of this study, the congregational form will remain the central focus going forward.
Within the congregational category of church government there exists several variations of structure. Nevertheless, this study will focus on two of the most prominent forms. These forms are similar in that they both only recognize two Scriptural offices in church government, elder and deacon. Where they differ is how they structure the office of elder. The first form is called single-elder led congregationalism. In the book entitled, Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government, four different authors write essays on four different structures of church polity. Steven B. Cowan, the general editor of the book, defines single-elder congregationalism this way, “In this model—probably the most widely used—the local church is overseen by one elder or pastor chosen by the congregation and clearly distinguished as its spiritual leader.” As mentioned, this is a very popular form of church government today. In fact, it may be helpful for the reader to know that the researcher behind this project has a background in this form of government. This structure usually has a board of deacons as a secondary office and includes those churches who have assistant pastors.
The second form of congregationalism that was studied is called plural-elder congregationalism. The difference may seem obvious by comparing the labels, but it is still helpful to see the contrast. Cowan distinguishes this form from single-elder congregationalism by making these distinctions, “Plural-elder congregationalism is demarcated from single-elder congregationalism in that (1) a church with only one pastor is considered deficient, and (2) all the pastors/elders are considered to be equal in authority.” This form also usually comes with a board of deacons, but rejects any hierarchal authority structure among the elders. When comparing and contrasting these two forms of church government, the question is, what saith the Scriptures? The goal of this project was to answer that question. Specifically, does the New Testament prescribe a plurality of elders for each local church congregation? In order to answer that question, the researcher first had to determine which passages in the New Testament refer to this issue. Secondly, he had to examine those passages in their context to discover their bearing on the question. Finally, he had to compare the different passages and their meanings and draw a conclusion.
The first step in studying the plurality of elders in the New Testament is to determine which passages refer to this issue. In an essay on single-elder congregationalism, Paige Patterson identifies three different words that refer to the office of elder. He says, “The terms “pastor” (Gk. poimen), “elder” (Gk. presbyteros), and “bishop” (Gk. episcopos) are used interchangeably in the New Testament.” D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo make a similar comment in their book, An Introduction to the New Testament. They describe the different terms this way, "Within the period when the New Testament documents were written, the labels “pastor” (which simply means “shepherd”), “elder,” and “bishop” (sometimes “overseer” in modern English versions) all referred to the same people, that is, those primarily responsible for the leadership of local congregations.”
One passage of Scripture that demonstrates how interchangeable these labels were is 1 Peter 5:1-2 which says, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;” Peter is writing to the presbyteros, translated “elders,” and tells them to poimanate, translated “feed” or “shepherd,” and to episkopountes, translated, “taking the oversight.” In just two verses, one sees the task of one office described with three different words. In his essay, “Baptist Polity And Elders,” Mark Dever uses a different passage of Scripture to make the same argument:
These two passages are especially helpful because of how clearly they illustrate the interchangeable use of the terms. However, even passages that do not contain all of the terms together can still be compared with other passages and lead to the same conclusion.
In the book, Perspectives on Church Government, James White comments on these three terms and says, “By comparing the use of these terms in parallel passages we are able to discover that the apostles used these terms in a basically interchangeable fashion.” This information is of critical importance when determining which passages in the New Testament refer to the issue being studied. Since Scripture uses the terms elder, bishop, and pastor to describe the same office, all passages that refer to any of these terms should be thoroughly examined. Locating these different passages can be done by conducting a detailed study of each of these words.
“Elder” was the first English term to be studied. This word is taken from the Greek root presbytos and is found 78 times in the New Testament. Depending on the Greek lemma used, as well as the context, this word can carry a different meaning. For example, Luke 15:25a says, “Now his elder [presbyteros] son was in the field:” Here, the word is clearly not referring to the biblical office, but only being used to designate this son as older in age. During the research process of this project, each of the seventy-eight locations was examined to see how many times the word referred to the biblical office of the church.
The findings were then verified by the, “Logos Bible Sense Lexicon.” This lexicon divides Greek lemmas into different categories of meaning based on the context. In the majority of the locations where this root is found, it is referring to the Jewish religious official and not the Christian office. However, the lexicon did identify eighteen different locations where this Greek lemma specifically refers to that office. In these locations, the word is defined by the lexicon as, “Christian elder n. — an elder over an assembly of Christian believers (as an appointed or elected position).” The researcher also added two other locations where the Greek lemma could refer to the office, totaling twenty.
The English word, “bishop” and “pastor” were studied next. “Bishop” comes from the the Greek roots, episcopos and skopeo. Out of the twenty-four times in the New Testament that these roots are found, only seven refer to the Christian office. Poimon is the Greek root from which “pastor” is taken and is found forty times in the New Testament. However, eight times it is used in the context of the Christian office. Together, all three terms made up thirty-five locations that were studied during the research phase of this project. The findings of this research will be summarized in the following section.
Studying each passage in the New Testament that refers to the office of elder was the second step in answering the question. Namely, does the New Testament prescribe a plurality of elders for each local church congregation? What follows is a chronological survey of the relevant findings from the New Testament passages dealing with this question. The first time elder is mentioned in the Christian context is Acts 11:30. In this passage, the church in Antioch is sending money to the Christians in Judea who are struggling due to a famine. Paul and Barnabas are sent to the “elders” in Judea. While the word, presbyteros, is in the plural here, the passage does not specify these elders as belonging to a single church in Judea.
The next time one sees Christians elders mentioned is on Paul’s first missionary journey in Acts 14. After Paul and Barnabas preached and planted churches in many cities, they returned the same way they came to appoint leadership in those new churches. Acts 14:23 says, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” This verse very clearly shows that “elders” plural were appointed in every “church” singular. In his book, Why Elders?, Benjamin L. Merkle makes the following argument, “Even though Luke mentions Barnabas and Paul appointing “elders” only in Acts 14:23, it is likely that this was Paul’s customary procedure.”
In Acts 15, Christian elders are mentioned four times and they are all in the plural form. Verse four of this chapter seems to once again show a plurality of elders in one church. Acts 15:4, “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.” Acts 16:4 and 21:18 also mention a plurality of elders in the city of Jerusalem. Paul ends his third missionary journey in Miletus by calling for the leaders of the church of Ephesus and giving them a farewell address. Acts 20:17, “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” Once again, one sees “elders” plural in a “church” singular. The root word for “bishop” is also found in this passage in the plural form. It is translated, “overseers” in Acts 20:28. While there are no direct commands in the book of Acts that prescribe a plurality of elders for each church, that certainly seems to be the pattern. It is also worth noting again that Acts 14:23 could be considered an apostolic precedent.
The next passage of relevance is Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” Notice the Greek word episcopos, translated “bishops,” is used in the plural here. Also, in Philippians 4:15, Paul calls the Philippians a “church” singular. These two passages indicate there was more than one elder serving in the church at Philippi. The books of 1 Timothy and Titus contain the next set of findings. In chapter three of 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul lays out the qualifications for elders/bishops. Verse one of chapter three says, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” Here the word “bishop,” from the Greek word episcopos, is used in the singular. The same exact thing takes place in verse two as well, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
It is interesting to note that in the next five verses Paul continues to give qualifications for this office and each time he references the person in the singular form. Then, in verse eight, a clear shift takes place. 1 Timothy 3:8, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;” Paul starts this verse by referring to the office of deacon and he uses the word in its plural form. Another example of the word bishop clearly being used in the singular form is Titus 1:7 which says, “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;” Some have used these verses to argue for a single-elder position, including A.H. Strong. In his book, Systematic Theology, he even points out the singular definite article modifying “bishop” in both of these verses. Wayne Grudem responds to Strong’s arguments by saying,
In 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7, the Greek definite article modifying “bishop” simply shows that Paul is speaking of general qualifications as they applied to any one example. In fact, in both cases which Strong cites we know there were elders (plural) in the churches involved. 1 Timothy 3:2 is written to Timothy at Ephesus, and Acts 20:17 shows us that there were “elders” in the church at Ephesus. And even in 1 Timothy, Paul writes, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). With regard to Titus 1:7 we need only look to verse 5, where Paul directs Titus explicitly to “appoint elders in every town.”
In Grudem’s quote one can actually see the next place elder is found and that is 1 Timothy 5:17 which once again uses the word in its plural form. Two verses later in 1 Timothy 5:19, the word is used in the singular, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” However, this seems to be referring to an accusation that is made against a specific individual who is serving as an elder.
In Titus chapter one, one sees the next relevant findings in verses five and seven. Verse seven was dealt with above. However, in Titus 1:5 the first prescriptive command dealing with the amount of elders is found. It says, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” Here, Paul clearly prescribes more than one elder in each local context. However, since each city in Crete theoretically could have had more than one church, the command still leaves room to question.
The remaining passages with information relevant to the question are found in James, 1 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John. In James 5:14, James says, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:” Here James assumes there will be “elders” plural in each “church” singular. In 1 Peter chapter 5, Peter addresses the “elders” plural and consistently refers to the men in the plural form in the following verses. 1 Peter 5:1, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:” 1 Peter 5:3 “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Notice “elders”, “lords”, and “ensamples” are all in the plural form. In 2 John 1 and 3 John 1, the Apostle John refers to himself as, “The elder.” This could be a reference to his office, or it could have just been a title of his. Dever argues that it is hard to know for sure, “Presumably, he was known by this title. But if he was writing to those outside his own congregation, the title may have suggested his widespread recognition, rather than his office. It is difficult to say on such slight information.”
In summary, the biblical evidence seems to be weightier for the proponent of a plurality of elders in each church. In fact, Daniel Akin, an advocate of single-elder congregationalism, makes this admission, “The argument for a plurality of elders, pastors, overseers, leaders is easier to make based upon the biblical evidence.” As seen above, every time the New Testament word elder is used to definitively refer to church leadership, it is found in the plural. Also, of the churches mentioned in Scripture, all of them seem to have a plurality of leaders, and it could be argued that it was Paul’s precedent to ordain more than one elder for each church. As Samuel Waldron says in the book, Who Runs The Church?, “The plurality of elders in local churches in the New Testament is not something that is doubtful. We know of no church in the New Testament that had only a single elder.” That being said, it would still be difficult to make an argument that the New Testament requires it. There is only one example of a prescriptive command when dealing with this subject and that is Titus 1:5. Here, Paul tells Titus to “…ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” However, as mentioned above, it is difficult to say for sure whether or not the cities in Crete had more than one local church.
In conclusion, does the New Testament prescribe a plurality of elders for each local church congregation? After examining every passage in the New Testament that relates to this issue, it could be argued that there is flexibility when answering that question. However, while there are no clear prescriptions of plural-elder congregationalism, the biblical evidence is definitely on that side of the spectrum. The single-elder congregationalist would have a difficult time using Scripture to prove his side. One is left to determine whether or not the description in the New Testament is one that should be followed as closely as possible. With that in mind, Benjamin L. Merkle makes a powerful observation. In his book, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons. He says, “Something described in the Bible is different than something prescribed. The first explains what happened in history; the second exhorts us to do something. Yet, once we leave the biblical model of biblical eldership, we leave the sure footing of apostolic precedent and begin wandering in the wilderness of pragmatism.” The question is, should the church follow the biblical description, or wander into the wilderness? That is a question that each church must answer on her own.
 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 923.
 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 472.
 Steven B. Cowan et al., Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004) Kindle Edition, 14.
 Ibid., 15.
 D.A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo: An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005) Kindle Locations 583-585.
 Mark Dever, “Baptist Polity And Elders,” Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry 03:1 (Spring 2005) : 8-9.
 Chad Owen Brand et al., Perspectives on Church Government (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2004) Kindle Edition 270.
 Faithlife Corporation. “Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. (September 2017)
 Benjamin L. Merkle, Why Elders? (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2009) , 29.
 A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907), 914–17.
 Grudem, 930.
 Dever, 11.
 Akin, Perspectives on Church Government, 64.
 Waldron, Who Runs the Church?, 212.
 Benjamin L. Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008) 165.
Article by J. Mike Peters:
Major depressive disorder is when one feels an intense level of sadness, worthlessness or apathy. This feeling may come and go, and it varies in its duration. Half of the population will battle with depression at least once in their lives. 
First, allow me to share a bit about my own personal experience. I have dealt with these sensations of utter despair and failure due to a perceived inability to achieve success or acceptance by peers and family. According to the behavioral model, one needs reinforcement to maintain levels of motivation. When that reinforcement does not exist, a feeling of worthlessness begins to take over like a dark, looming storm cloud just before a downpour. When you are constantly pushed to perform and inevitably your performance always falls short of pleasing the authority or yourself, depression is lurking.
Next, cognitive theorists add to these insights as they say that depression can be caused by a negatively biased or distorted way of thinking when a person encounters failure or disappointing events.  These cognitive distortions, in a religious context, can cause a person to develop an unhealthy view of God and others as they watch themselves or others battle with sin during their Christian walk. If you feel like God can’t stand you because of something you did today, depression is lurking.
Lastly, consider this. How many times does personal failure and the disapproval of self and others have to take place before we reach a conclusion of futility and just give up? This “learned helplessness” is a way of thinking that can add to the depressive state because one thinks that acceptance and love are always out of reach. Add all the stress involved in a demanding religious paradigm and you have someone who just may want to give up on God, life and everything. If you have ever wondered, “what’s the point anymore?”, depression is lurking.
The answer is not an easy one as we navigate these waters. I have lived and am tempted to sink back into these modes of moods on a regular basis. Don’t let my following explanation seem to be oversimplified because I believe in professional help for those suffering with depression.
The best answer is the gospel. The gospel says that even when I am bad, I shouldn’t despair from my own self disapproval or the disapproval of others, because Christ was good for me. The gospel says God is not mad at me when I mess up and I don’t have to view my sanctification process negatively, because Christ lived perfectly for me. The gospel says that inner change is possible and there is hope for me to become more like Jesus because Christ is in me and I am in him.
If you battle depression, I implore you to get ongoing help from a professional just as I have. Beyond that, I plead with you to see Christ more clearly. Romans 8:1 says that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. There is nothing to be ashamed of because anything you could have ever done is able to be covered by the finished work of Christ. Don’t listen to the feelings that tell you you’re worthless. Seek comfort amidst your failures from the Great Comforter and ask His help for change as you battle sin. Seek community from a group of believers who know and live the gospel because they have seen it transform them. Believe the Word when it says you are treasured by God because you are in Christ, not because of your performance.
Christian friend, you were worth the immeasurably precious shed blood of the Son of God, so don’t let anyone else, including yourself, tell you otherwise.
Editor's note: If you are struggling with depression and would like to speak with someone from our church, please do not hesitate to contact us.
 Nevid, J. (2018) Essentials of Psychology. Concepts and Applications, Boston, MA: Cengage Learning
Our church is privileged to partner with Mike and Jen Peters, along with their children Jack, Ollie, and Henry, as the serve the Lord in southern Spain as church planting missionaries. To connect with them and read their latest newsletter, click here.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Monday morning text from friend: "Hey, my aunt has hip surgery tomorrow morning and we would appreciate your prayers!" Your response: "Okay, I will be praying!"
Wednesday morning text from friend: "Thank you so much for your prayers, the surgery went great!" Your initial response to yourself: "Shoot, I totally forgot to pray about that. . ."
Feeling super guilty, you respond with a vague: "That's so great to hear!"
Has that ever happened to you? If so, you're not alone. Unfortunately, this happens far too often with far too many Christians. To be honest, sometimes when people say, "I'll pray for you!" I'm thankful, but I'm also slightly suspicious about whether or not that will actually happen. I know that's kind of negative, but I also know it's kind of realistic. And that's why I'm writing this article.
I want to share a super simple habit you can build to help you actually pray for your friends and family when you say you will. It's not original with me, and it's nothing new, but it is excellent advice. The title kind of gives it away, but here it is:
When you receive a prayer request from someone, stop what you're doing and pray right then and there for the request.
It doesn't have to be a long and elaborate prayer either. You simply pause, and bring the request to your heavenly Father. After all, if you're His child, you have blood bought access to His throne room at any time, why wouldn't you use it?
After praying right then and there, it's also helpful to add the request to your prayer list if you have one. And if you really want a pro tip, use a reminders app on your phone to remind you to pray again later. This is especially helpful if the request is time-sensitive like your friend's aunt who has hip surgery tomorrow morning.
I get little reminders all throughout the day that say, "Pray for ____'s surgery." or "Pray for ____'s job interview." or "Pray for comfort for the ____ family during this time." Not only does this help me actually pray for them more than once, it also keeps me in contact with my heavenly Father all throughout the day.
This habit is especially powerful if you receive a request in person and you pray with the person right then and there. You'd be surprised how encouraging this is to someone who is in need of prayer!
Let's walk through another scenario with this great new prayer habit you've been practicing:
Friday evening text from friend: "Please pray for my unbelieving co-worker, I plan on sharing the gospel with them today."
You read the text, stop what you're doing, and pray: "Father, please empower ____ as he shares his faith at work today! And please work in the heart of his co-worker so that he would come to faith! Amen."
Your response: "I just prayed and will continue to! That is very exciting, so please keep me posted!"
As you can see, this is simple, but it is also extremely powerful. With this habit, you're simply taking God at His Word, believing that prayer actually makes a difference, and then praying. Imagine the joy that would fill your heart, if the co-worker in that scenario trusted Christ! You would be a part of advancing the light of God's kingdom in this dark and needy world.
So start praying right away. I think you'll find this practice to be very encouraging, especially when you start witnessing how powerful prayer really is.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
I come from a family of six people. If you’re counting, that’s 2 parents, 3 sisters, and me. Interestingly enough, everyone in my family has had eye trouble except me. So growing up, I was the only one who didn’t have to wear glasses. I was grossly outnumbered by my sisters, but at least they couldn’t call me four-eyes.
It wasn’t until college that I realized that I actually did wear glasses. And whether or not you have eye trouble, you wear glasses as well. That’s right four-eyes, you wear glasses too.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about what is commonly known as a worldview.
Webster’s dictionary defines worldview this way, “a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.”
In other words, a worldview is a certain set of glasses that all of us look through when we consider the universe around us and our relation to it.
The glasses you wear have been shaped by your upbringing, your culture, the media you consume, your friends, and so much more. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a worldview, and it impacts your life in more ways than you realize.
Pastor and apologist, Voddie Baucham Jr., has done a considerable amount of research and teaching on this subject and he uses four basic questions to distinguish between a secular worldview and a biblical worldview. Here are his responses to the four key worldview questions from two different perspectives:
WHO AM I?
Secular Worldview: You are an accident. You are a mistake. You are a glorified ape. You are the result of random evolutionary process. That’s it. No rhyme. No reason. No purpose. This is the pathetic reality when evolution runs its full course. If the idea is carried to its logical conclusion, human beings have no value. You are ultimately nothing.
Biblical Worldview: The Bible says that I am created by God—in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Not the result of random processes. The Bible says that whether I am tall and beautiful or small and not so handsome, whether my body functions perfectly or is severely deformed, I am the crowning glory of the creation of God, and as a result I have inherent dignity, worth, and value.
WHY AM I HERE?
Secular Worldview: You are here to consume and enjoy. That’s the only thing that matters. When the famous philanthropist John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” he was as honest as any man has ever been. He responded, “Just a little bit more.” Consume and enjoy—that’s why you’re here.
Biblical Worldview: “All things were created through him and for him…. that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:16b–18). The ultimate purpose of all things is to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ. That’s why I exist. That is why you exist. And because of this, contrary to the view of our culture, the reason for my existence goes far beyond consumption and enjoyment.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD?
Secular Worldview: People are either insufficiently educated or insufficiently governed. That’s what’s wrong with the world. People either don’t know enough, or they’re not being watched enough.
Biblical Worldview: I am. You are. Despite the fact that we are the crowning glory of the creation of God, created to live and bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, we are instead hostile and disobedient toward the One by whom and for whom we were created. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The Bible calls this disobedience towards God “sin”, and it says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In short, sin is what’s wrong with the world.
HOW CAN WHAT IS WRONG BE MADE RIGHT?
Secular Worldview: The solution is more education and more government. Teach people more stuff and give them more information. How do we combat AIDS? Through AIDS awareness. How do we combat racism? Anti-hate classes. What about the man who beats his wife? Anger-management classes. Just give people more information and everything will be fine.
Biblical Worldview: What is wrong can only be made right by the substitutionary, atoning death of Christ. “He [Jesus] has now reconciled you in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and beyond reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22). There is no other means by which we can be made right with God. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 
Those aren't the only worldview questions to ask, but they are certainly the most important ones. And as you can see, they are radically different from one another.
Many Christians will compare those questions and breathe a sigh of relief because they think they have a biblical worldview. However, it is important to recognize that our actions don’t always line up with what we say we believe. Let me give you a practical example from everyday life.
There are a large number of Christians in America who say they believe that sin is the world’s biggest problem and that the answer to that problem is the gospel. However, when it comes to the future of our country they put their hope in political parties and candidates, instead of the gospel.
They ridicule and mock non-Christians who disagree with their political views all the while forgetting that those people are eternal souls who are in desperate need of Christ. They don’t need to be ridiculed, they need to be prayed for. They don’t need to hear a political speech, they need to hear the gospel. They don’t need to trust in a candidate, they need to trust in Christ.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in politics. I’m saying we should allow a biblical worldview to shape our involvement. The Scriptures teach that our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and our primary political views should be, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done. . ." (Matt. 6:10) God isn’t seeking more republicans, He’s seeking more worshipers. (Jn. 4:23-24) Worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation to the praise of His glorious grace. (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:6)
When we apply a biblical worldview to politics, we understand that our first priority is not to advance a political party or recruit voters, it’s to make disciples. (Mt. 28:19-20) And this should radically impact the way we handle ourselves around unbelievers when politics are brought up.
That is one small example of how an American worldview affects the actions of Christians in America, but it is not just politics. The glasses we wear impact everything about us—our money, our time, our resources, our relationships, and so much more. So how do we ensure that we are operating from a biblical worldview?
Ultimately, we must rely on the Holy Spirit and seek His power and guidance in our day to day lives. However, there is one practical step you can take to do this and that is to saturate your heart and mind with the Scriptures.
In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Every single day your worldview is being conformed by everything around you. The culture you live in, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the friends you spend time with, and so much more.The only way to combat this constant pressure is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Every single day we need to renew our minds with the Word of God. Read the Word, pray the Word, study the Word, meditate on the Word, and listen to the Word preached. And slowly but surely God will use His Word to renew your mind and reshape your worldview.
We all wear glasses…the question is, do yours need to be cleaned?
 Those questions and answers can be found in the tract entitled, "Life's Ultimate Questions" by Voddie Baucham Jr. https://www.crossway.org/tracts/lifes-ultimate-questions-2837/
Article by Michael Goforth II:
This Sunday our church will begin our second journey through the New City Catechism, a collection of 52 questions and answers about God, mankind, sin, Christ, and more. This may seem odd to you since we’re a Baptist church, but there is actually a long history of Baptists and the use of catechisms. As Jeff Robinson points out, “To the thinking of many, “Baptist” and “catechism” aren’t allies. But historically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth.”
In fact, one popular catechism from the 1600’s that is still in use today is literally called, “The Baptist Catechism.” And other Baptists produced catechisms in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.  It wasn’t until recent years that the phrase “Baptist catechism” began to sound like an oxymoron to many.
Charles Spurgeon, a great Baptist preacher from the 1800’s was a firm believer in the importance of catechisms and even compiled his own for use in his church and family. He said this about catechisms, “For my part, I am more and more persuaded that the study of a good Scriptural catechism is of infinite value to our children. . .”
However, more important than asking, “Is catechizing a Baptist thing?” is to ask, “Is catechizing a Biblical thing?”
The English word “catechize” comes from the Greek word katecheo which is found directly in our New Testament, and usually translated “teach” or “instruct.” (See 1 Cor. 14:19, Gal. 6:6, and Acts 18:25) A good definition of this Greek word is, “to teach or instruct by word of mouth.”
And while you won’t find a specific command to use the question and answer format found in many catechisms today, you will find the repeated command to instruct or teach biblical doctrine to others. This teaching is often referred to as a, “form” or “pattern” of teaching which meets a certain standard. (See Rom. 6:17, 2 Tim. 1:13, and 2 Thess. 2:15) So it seems to me that the use of a catechism that is rooted in the truths of Scripture, is both Baptist and biblical.
Now before you give up on this article because I’ve bored you with the use of Greek words and their definitions, stick around a little longer. Because I want to give you 5 practical reasons why I think you should consider using a catechism in your walk with the Lord.
1. A catechism can increase your understanding of the Bible.
When traveling to a new place, it’s helpful to know the main roads and landmarks so that you don’t get lost. Good catechisms will help you know and articulate the core doctrines of the faith which can act as a map for navigating the Scriptures.
2. A catechism can enable you to worship God in truth.
In John 4:24 Jesus says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Good catechisms teach us the truth about who God is and what He has done and we need these truths to be able to worship God rightly. As we take the time to learn and meditate on these truths about God, we will learn to love Him properly. (Matt. 22:37)
3. A catechism can equip you with a Biblical worldview.
The Bible has answers to life’s biggest questions: "Who am I?” “How did I get here?” “Why am I here?” and “What happens when I die?” Good catechisms equip us with the Bible’s answers to these questions and help us see all of life through a biblical lens. As you soak in these truths you are, “transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and able to discern, “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2)
4. A catechism can encourage you in the fight of faith.
As we store away the core doctrines of Scripture in our hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit can use these truths later to encourage us. During a difficult trial when we’re tempted to become anxious or discouraged, the promises of God can flood our minds.
Just the other day I was counseling someone through a trial and I reminded him of our future hope by using question 52 of the New City Catechism. It says, “What hope does everlasting life hold for us? That we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new heaven and the new earth, where we will be forever freed from all sin in a renewed, restored creation.” What an encouragement!
5. A catechism can prepare you to make disciples.
Christ’s final command before ascending back to Heaven was to go and make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:18-20) A catechism is a great tool to help you do just that. It can enable you to defend and articulate the faith, answer questions, and instruct others in the Word.
For parents, making disciples begins with your own children. And as Kathy Keller points out, when you catechize your young children, you are, “laying the kindling and the logs in the fireplace, so that when the spark of the Holy Spirit ignites in your child’s heart, there will be a steady, mature blaze.”
There are many other reasons for using a catechism, but hopefully by now you have seen enough value to begin. For centuries, Christians have used this practice to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 3:18) So consider this your personal invitation to join us this Sunday as we journey through the New City Catechism. You can view it online, download the app, or purchase the hardcopy. Whatever format you choose, I believe it will be a blessing to you.
Spurgeon said it best when he said this about learning from a catechism, “. . .to have known these very excellent, wise and judicious definitions of the things of God. . . . It will be a blessing to them-the greatest of all blessing . . . a blessing in life and death, in time and eternity, the best of blessings God Himself can give.”
 Quoted from Jeff Robinson's article, "Are Catechisms a Baptist Thing?"
 See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keach's_Catechism or "The Baptist Catechism"
 Quoted from Thomas J. Nettles' article, "An Encouragement to Use Catechisms"
 Faithlife Corporation. “Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. (August 2019)
 See "Question 52" of the New City Catechism
 Kathy Keller, "Introduction," The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 8.
 Quoted from Thomas J. Nettles' article, "An Encouragement to Use Catechisms"
Article by Michael Goforth II:
You’ll find it on movies, in songs, plastered all over the internet, and regularly stated from the lips of those around you…
“Just follow your heart. . .”
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but can I be honest with you for a moment? This is some of the worst advice you’ll ever hear. Please, don’t follow your heart.
If you follow your heart, your decisions will be completely dependent on the weather, how much sleep you got last night, or whether or not you had a bad burrito from the cafeteria yesterday. Since all of these things affect how you feel, all of these things will affect your decisions.
And not only is this advice completely unreliable, it’s also unbiblical. Listen to what the prophet Jeremiah says on the matter, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Deceitful and desperately wicked. . .not exactly the description you’d want on your counselor’s résumé.
In Proverbs, a book written to help God’s people live wisely, Solomon says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
In other words, your heart is not something you want to rely on. You shouldn’t trust it, and you certainly shouldn’t follow it. The wise course of action is to trust the Lord and let Him direct your paths.
So instead of following your heart, here are five questions to ask before making a decision:
1. Have I asked the Lord for wisdom on this decision?
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
Always ask God for wisdom before making a decision. Then, go to where His wisdom is most clearly revealed, which brings us to the next question.
2. What does Scripture say about this decision?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2 Timothy 3:16
Scripture is the source of truth. (Jn. 17:17) The very Word of God. (2 Pet. 1:21) Scripture is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. (Ps. 119:105)
We should always consult the Bible in all of our decisions.
Does this decision involve a command to follow? A sin to avoid? A principle to apply?
A simple way to ensure we are making the right decision is to compare it to what Scripture says.
3. Have I received wise biblical counsel on this decision?
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: But in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
If you’re struggling to apply the Scriptures to your decision, it can be helpful to receive biblical counsel from another wise Christian on this issue. It is also wise to compare your conclusions on a decision with the biblical counsel of someone else.
4. Will this decision help me bring glory to God?
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Since the purpose of your life is to glorify God, you should always ask this question before making a decision. In the verse above, Paul even mentions seemingly mundane activities like eating and drinking to make sure you get the point. God’s glory should be considered in everything we do.
When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He said it was to love God with our entire being. (Mt. 22:37-38) If a decision will not help you love God more and bring glory to Him, it is not a good decision.
After stating the greatest commandment, Jesus threw in a second one as a bonus. He said, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mt. 22:39) This brings us to our final question.
5. How will this decision affect the good of others?
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10
When making a decision, Christians should always consider the interests of others (Phil. 2:4) and only do to others what they would want done to them. (Mt. 7:12)
These five questions are by no means exhaustive, but they should provide a helpful framework for making decisions. And they will certainly make a better compass than your heart.
So please, don’t follow your heart. I know it’s popular, but it’s just really bad advice. Your own understanding is not a safe thing to lean against. Instead, trust the Lord, and allow Him to direct your paths.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
“Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”
This may be a simple children’s song, but it contains a profound truth. Do you want to grow as a Christian? Then read your Bible, and don’t forget to pray.
In 2 Peter 3:18 we’re commanded to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And while there are many practices that God uses to bring this growth in our lives, nothing can replace Bible intake and prayer.
Carl Lundquist made this point well when he said, “. . .whatever varying religious exercises we may practice, without the two basic ones of Emmaus—prayer and Bible reading—the others are empty and powerless.” 
READ YOUR BIBLE
The Bible is the greatest treasure we have today. It reveals to us who God is, what He is like, and what He expects of us, His creation. In its pages we learn that our infinite, majestic, and all-powerful God brought everything we see and even what we can’t see into existence.
We learn that God describes Himself as, “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. . .” But next God adds that He “. . .will by no means clear the guilty.” (Exodus 34:6-8)
How can God both forgive sin and not let the guilty go unpunished? This brings us to the greatest truth contained in the Scriptures. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as our perfect substitute to pay for our sins and bring us into a right relationship with our Creator. (1 Peter 3:18) If we repent of our sins and believe the gospel, we can be saved. (Mark 1:15)
This is the greatest news we’ll ever hear, and we wouldn’t know any of these truths if it weren’t for God’s gracious revelation to us in Scripture. This explains why Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
Just as the outer man will waste away without physical food, so the inner man will waste away without the regular intake of God’s Word. Donald Whitney comments, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.”
Every day we’re being shaped by a myriad of voices all around us. Whether from co-workers, friends, television, music, or movies. In a noisy world like ours, we’re desperate for the voice of God. And the only way to discern truth from error is to renew our minds with Scripture. (Romans 12:2)
In his final letter before martyrdom, the Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of God’s Word. He wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16–17)
Do you want to grow in grace? Read your Bible.
PRAY EVERY DAY
We have the immeasurable privilege of hearing from God through His Word, but that is not where our privileges as God’s children end. We also have the joy of responding to God in prayer.
David Mathis comments, “The speaking God not only has spoken, but he also listens—he stops, he stoops, he wants to hear from you. He stands ready to hear your voice. Christian, you have the ear of God. We call it prayer.” 
God wants to hear from us? Yes. In fact, our prayers are like incense to God (Rev. 5:8) that brings Him delight (Prov. 15:8). If that thought does not make you overflow with praise, wonder, and humility, I don’t know what will.
This is why Jesus expects us to pray (Matt. 6:5) and even encourages us to never give up in prayer. (Luke 18:1) It also explains why the Apostle Paul commands us to, “continue in prayer” (Col. 4:2) and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)
J.C. Ryle makes this observation about prayer, “What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.”
Do you want to grow in grace? Pray every day.
If you’re a new Christian looking to grow, I hope this article has encouraged you to start a regular habit of Bible reading and prayer. However, if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, nothing that I’ve said so far is new. You learned the children’s song years ago, and you’ve been humming it since I mentioned it earlier. But this article is less about information and more about action. You may know the song, but are you living it?
Whether you’re a brand new Christian or not, here are 3 practical suggestions to get started:
I began this article with the first line of a children’s song, but there is a second verse as well. And it is just as profound and timeless as the first, “Neglect your Bible, forget to pray, and you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink.”
Again, it may be simple, but it is so very true. Bible intake and prayer are the primary God-ordained means of growth for His children. Make them a priority in your life and you will grow. Neglect them, and you will shrink.
Thousands of Christians have walked these well-worn paths and found the joy and satisfaction of growing closer to God. Will you join them?
“Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”
 Carl Lundquist, The Burning Heart Newsletter (St. Paul, MN: Evangelical Order of the Burning Heart, November 1984), page 2. (For background on his reference of, "Emmaus" see Luke 24:13-35.)
 Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2002), page 28.
 David Mathis, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), Kindle Locations 1276-1278.
 J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), page 35.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
It might rain. You might catch a cold. You might get a raise. You might get fired.
Your team might win. The restaurant might be good. You might pass your test.
There are a lot of "mights" in this life. We live in a world full of uncertainties, but do you want to know one thing that is certain?
You’re going to die.
You might die today. You might die tomorrow. But you will die.
It may not be fun to think about, but it is still a reality. Death is coming for you.
You can choose to ignore it. You can try to distract yourself from it. You can exercise and eat healthy to try to postpone it. But you can’t escape it.
You will die.
It’s the one appointment you can’t cancel. In fact, death is closer to you now than when you started reading this blog post.
I’m not trying to be morbid, I’m trying to get you to think. If it’s true that death is the one thing we can bank on, shouldn’t we think about it more than we do?
I think about death a lot. As a pastor, it’s kind of part of my job description. It’s not always fun, but I’m thankful for the perspective it gives me.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon makes the following argument:
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2
In other words, it’s better to go to a funeral than a feast. Parties can bring fun, but cemeteries can bring wisdom.
This is especially interesting coming from Solomon, because if anyone knew how to party it was him. He had no limits when it came to throwing a feast. Even to this day, he is considered one of the richest men to ever walk the face of this earth. But he says funerals are better than feasts.
Why? Because death reminds us of our appointment and teaches us how to live.
DEATH REMINDS US OF OUR APPOINTMENT
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men…”
Death is how it ends for all of us, but few of us are prepared for it.
We grab an umbrella, because we heard it might rain. We take vitamin C because we heard a cold is going around. We buy health insurance, because we might have a health crisis. (Or because we might get fined by our government if we don’t. . .but that’s another story.)
My point is this, we prepare for so many things in this life that may never even happen, but death is a certainty. It’s guaranteed. Yet how often do people not prepare for it?
Hebrews 9:27 warns, “. . .it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
You’re going to die, and then you’re going to stand before God and give an account for your life.
Since all of us are sinners (Rom. 3:23) and God is a just judge who cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Ex. 34:7), this is not good news for us.
Thankfully, God did not leave us in our sin. He sent His Son Jesus into the world to die on the cross for our sins. Three days later, Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave and He now offers salvation to all who will believe.
As John 3:16 so eloquently explains, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus came as our substitute and absorbed the wrath of God that we deserved. If we trust in Him alone for salvation, our sins are covered by His blood and we are reconciled to God.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Pet. 3:18)
We no longer have to fear judgement after death because, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Rom. 5:1)
All of us have an upcoming appointment with death, but only those who have trusted Christ can face this without fear.
Are you ready for your appointment?
DEATH TEACHES US HOW TO LIVE
Death not only prepares us for our appointment, it teaches us how to live.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”
The wise person will think deeply about death. He will, “lay it to his heart” and allow it to shape the way he lives.
What does this look like?
In my own life this means slowing down and being present. It means being thankful and intentional.
It means I wake up every morning with the understanding that this day is a gift from God. It means that I don’t constantly look forward to what’s next in my life, because “what’s next” may never come.
It means I put my phone down to be present with the people I’m with. It means I go for a walk and pray or pause to wonder at the beauty of a sunset. It means I make time for my wife. I slow down, I look into her beautiful eyes, I tell her how much I love her, and I thank God for every moment with her.
It means I ask God to let me live each moment for His glory and the good of others. It means all of that and so much more.
Dwell on the certainty of your death for a moment. How does that reality shape your life?
Is there a broken relationship you need to mend? Is there a co-worker you need to share the gospel with? Is there an important conversation you need to have with a loved one?
In James 4:14 we’re reminded, ". . .ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
Like a puff of smoke, you are here for a moment, and then you are gone.
One book that has helped me immensely in this area is Living Life Backward by David Gibson. He shows from the book of Ecclesiastes that, “. . .future death is a light God shines on the present to change it. Death can radically enable us to enjoy life.”
Later in the book he challenges his readers to, “Ride a bike, see the Grand Canyon, go to the theater, learn to make music, visit the sick, care for the dying, cook a meal, feed the hungry, watch a film, read a book, laugh with some friends until it makes you cry, play football, run a marathon, snorkel in the ocean, listen to Mozart, ring your parents, write a letter, play with your kids, spend your money, learn a language, plant a church, start a school, speak about Christ, travel to somewhere you’ve never been, adopt a child, give away your fortune and then some, shape someone else’s life by laying down your own.”
When we embrace the reality that life is short and death is inevitable, it allows us to see every moment as a gift from our gracious Heavenly Father. This can and should have a radical impact on our decisions about time, resources, and relationships.
Are you ready for your appointment with death? It’s the one thing you know is coming, make sure you’re prepared.
If you are ready, how can you start allowing the reality of your death to shape the way you live? Make this prayer of Moses your prayer as well, “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
Start thinking about your death. It can radically shape the way you think about your life.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2
Article by Michael Goforth II:
There’s a big difference between a soaring eagle and a waddling penguin.
One is a symbol of power and freedom as it flies through the air with its majestic wings. The other one mostly hangs out on the ground or in the water.
They’re both birds, but only one of them can fly.
Do you know why penguins can’t fly? It’s because they can’t afford plane tickets. . .
(I’m sorry about that, I really am. The worse part is, there’s no excuse. I’m not even a dad.)
The real reason penguins can’t fly is because they don’t have the wings for it. Their wings are designed more for swimming than flying. A penguin can desire to fly all he wants, but his wings won’t allow him to.
Similarly, if you ever feel like your prayers never get off the ground, maybe its because your method doesn’t allow for it.
THE SOLUTION TO BORING PRAYERS
This is a problem Donald Whitney discusses in his book, Praying The Bible. He acknowledges the problem of boring prayers and then says, “I would argue that if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit—if you are born again—then the problem is not you; it is your method.”
I’ve discussed his method in a video before, but to summarize, he argues that we should pray the Bible. So when you read, “The Lord is my shepherd. . .” from Psalm 23, you pause and thank God for being your Shepherd, or pray and ask Him to shepherd your family that day, or anything else that comes to mind. Then, you simply move to the next line in the passage you are praying through.
He explains, ". . .basically what you are doing is taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through your heart and mind back to God. By this means his words become the wings of your prayers.”
Did you catch that phrase at the end? “. . .the wings of your prayers.” In other words, you don’t have to pray like a waddling penguin anymore.
One tool Whitney gives to help incorporate this method of prayer into your life is what he calls the, “Psalms of the Day.” This approach gives you five different Psalms to choose from each day for prayer.
To find the psalms for each day, you start with the day of the month you are in. So today would begin with Psalm 29, because it is May 29th. From there you simply add 30 until you get five Psalms to choose from.
So today’s psalms would be: Psalm 29, 59, 89, 119, and 149.
Tomorrow’s psalms are: Psalm 30, 60, 90, 120, and 150.
On June 1, your psalms will be: Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, and 121.
If you’re already writing this method off because you’re bad at math, stick with me. This is where technology comes in with the win.
A HELPFUL TOOL TO GET STARTED
Thankfully, an awesome guy named Bryant Huang read Praying the Bible and decided to create a free app that allows you to quickly scan through the five psalms of the day and choose the one you’d like to pray through.
The app is called, “Five Psalms,” and it’s completely free! To download it for iOS, click here. To download it for android, click here. If you don’t have a smart phone, you can download a "Psalms of the Day" chart by clicking here.
I’ve been using the app for a few months now, and I love it! After my Bible reading each morning, I open "Five Psalms" and choose a psalm to pray through. From there, I write out a short prayer to take with me for the day.
Here are a few examples from one of today’s psalms:
“Lord, help me to live for your glory today.” (Psalm 29:1-2)
“Lord, thank you for being the true King.” (Psalm 29:10)
“Lord, be my strength and peace today.” (Psalm 29:11)
I think you’ll really enjoy praying through the psalms. As Whitney says, “Within the breadth of 150 psalms, you can find the entire range of human emotion. You will never go through anything in life in which you cannot find the root emotions reflected in the Psalms. Exhilaration, frustration, discouragement, guilt, forgiveness, joy, gratitude, dealing with enemies, contentment, discontentment—you name it: they are all found in the book of Psalms.”
However, this is all very flexible, and you can adapt this however you want. You can pray through all five psalms each day, you can pray through whatever passage you read in your devotions that day, or you can pray through a section of a New Testament epistle each day until you finish it. Either way, I would highly recommend that you try this method.
The difference between birds that soar and birds that waddle is the size of their wings. And sometimes the difference between prayers that soar and prayers that waddle, is the size of the method.
So if you’re having a hard time getting your prayers off the ground, try praying the Bible. It really has given wings to my prayers, and I think it will do the same for you.
Book Review by Michael Goforth II:
“How can Christians thrive in this spectacle-saturated digital age?”
That is the question Tony Reinke attempts to answer in his newest book, Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age.
To answer this, Reinke uses 33 chapters that are short and to the point, with each one packing a punch.
The book is divided into two parts with section one entitled, “The Age of the Spectacle.” Here he introduces the topic of the book and surveys the current digital landscape. He discusses topics like social media, video games, television, politics, and more. Critical to understanding this section, and the rest of the book, is his use of the word spectacle. He defines it this way, “A spectacle is something that captures human attention, an instant when our eyes and brains focus and fixate on something projected at us.”
In part two, simply labeled “The Spectacle,” Reinke brings out some of the implications of our digital age, and makes some observations on how to navigate it as a Christian. Towards the end of this section, he gives some practical suggestions and then narrows in on what he calls his “supreme concern.” This is how he summarizes it, “In sum, all my concerns are dwarfed by this one: boredom with Christ.”
Since I only have one critique, I’ll air it out early. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flow of this book. Normally I enjoy books with shorter chapters because I can knock out a chapter each time I read and quickly scan them later for information. However, there were times while reading this book that I felt like I was lost in traffic. Each chapter was good, but they didn’t always seem to connect in a coherent way.
That being said, Reinke does call this book a, “theology of visual culture.” So it may have been his purpose to write this as sort of a collection of topics with a central theme and focus. Prospective readers may find it helpful if they slow down after each chapter to pause and reflect before moving on. Either way, the structure of the book in no way detracts from its vital message.
While it will be impossible to highlight all of them here, to the positives I now turn.
In this “age of the spectacle” this “ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention,” Christians need a wake up call. And Reinke does an excellent job attempting to sound that alarm.
He warns, “In the digital age, monotony with Christ is the chief warning signal to alert us that the spectacles of this world are suffocating our hearts from the supreme Spectacle of the universe.”
As I read, I felt an urgency in Reinke’s words. He’s burdened and concerned. He doesn’t want our glowing screens to distract us from the glory of Christ.
Like a lighthouse in the night, he shines a bright light on the catastrophic dangers of our age and attempts to guide the Christian to safety.
Competing Spectacles contains warnings that Christians everywhere need to hear, but it is not just a collection of warnings. Thankfully, the book offered biblical solutions as well. While reading, you may find yourself discouraged, but Reinke will not leave you hopeless.
He says, “When we turn our attention to Christ—our ultimate Spectacle—all the flickering pixels of our culture’s worthless things and beloved idols grow strangely dim.”
This solution is not original with Reinke, it’s from Scripture. And that’s exactly why it is so effective.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 the Apostle Paul teaches that we become like Christ by beholding Christ.
When we gaze at the glory of the Lord, perfectly displayed to us in Christ, we start to change. Our hearts become captivated by the beauty, the splendor, and the majesty of Jesus. We’re amazed by His love, His mercy, and His grace as we behold Him. And even though we may not notice it right away, the Holy Spirit is working a miracle on the inside.
Reinke puts it this way, “As we feed on Christ, his glory satisfies our hearts as it enlarges our desires for more of him.”
So be sure to read Competing Spectacles, but don’t stop there. Pick up your Bible and gaze at the glory of Christ. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and treasure Him above all else, even in this media age.
Crossway provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. To purchase a copy, or learn more about this book, click here.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Have you ever thought about why we “say grace” before meals?
I know it was the example of Jesus and the apostle Paul (Matt. 15:36, Acts 27:35), but what is the purpose behind it?
You could argue that there are several, but I think the main purpose is one of recognition and thanksgiving. We recognize that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17) and we thank our Heavenly Father for providing us with the food. (1 Timothy 4:4-5)
When we pray before a meal, we are pausing to turn our hearts and minds godward. We are recognizing our Creator as the great Giver of all good things. And we are thanking Him for sustaining us with His provision.
This is a great practice, and if you don’t already do this, I would highly recommend it. But if it’s true that every good and perfect gift is from above, wouldn’t it make sense if we were to “say grace” before more than just meals?
I love how G.K. Chesterton famously says it, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
Believe it or not, the first time I started thinking like this was in the first grade. Recess had just finished and snack time was upon us. My teacher started passing out the snacks and as you can probably imagine, those first graders had their mouths full before the majority of us even got our share.
There I was, somewhere in the middle of the pack, and visibly upset by the carnage of Little Debbie snacks that surrounded me. I quickly brought my concerns to the teacher and explained that we hadn’t prayed and thanked the Lord for the food yet. She calmed me down and explained that since it wasn’t a “full meal,” God would understand. I remember walking away somewhat puzzled by that. If we thanked God for a hot dog, why wouldn’t we thank Him for a brownie? Not bad logic for a kid who can barely tie his own shoes.
Now, I don’t tell you that story to brag about my childhood spirituality, or to rebuke my teacher. She actually did a good job calming me down, especially when you consider the fact that we were surrounded by a herd of hungry first graders. And to address my childhood spirituality, in that same grade I got busted for taking toy dinosaurs from the toy bin and bringing them home. I just wanted to borrow them. . . forever. . . Things weren’t very pretty when my dad found out.
The real purpose of the story is to get you to think. If we thank God for a hot dog, why wouldn’t we thank Him for a brownie? Or a great book? Or a fun game? Or a cozy blanket? Or a night out with some friends?
We say grace before meals, but what if we said grace before movies? What if we said grace before phone calls? What if we said grace while watching a sunset? What if we said grace before writing a note?
What if we practiced God’s presence in the little things of life? What if we had an attitude of prayer and thanksgiving all throughout the day? What if we allowed every good gift to point us to the Giver?
After all, we are commanded to “pray without ceasing,” and in the very next verse we read, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
In my own life, I have found this to be a very fruitful way to practice God’s presence. I thank God for hot meals, and I thank Him for cold drinks. I thank Him for snowy mornings, and I thank Him for sunny evenings. I thank Him for a nice place to live, and I thank Him for a great church to pastor.
If you’re a good Baptist, you’ve been wondering this entire time when I’m going to address such a pagan title for a blog post. (I’m joking. . .kind of. . .) But here it is.
Sometimes when my wife and I are cooking a meal together, a dance party will break out in the kitchen. Some are crazy and filled with laughter, others are slow and sentimental. During the last one, I remember holding her in my arms and being overwhelmed by God’s goodness in my life. With her head against my chest, I fought back some tears, glanced up at my Heavenly Father and just said, “thank you.” Shannon is an amazing gift, and she points me to the glorious Giver.
So don’t just say grace before your meals. Say grace before your morning coffee, say grace before you brush your teeth at night, and say grace for everything in between.
Let’s give thanks, “always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20)
And remember, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17)
Book Review by Michael Goforth II:
Sorrow, laughter, anger, joy. . . .it seemed as if I experienced the entire range of human emotions as I listened to this group of faithful shepherds relive the highs and lows of their time in ministry. And as a young pastor, I felt like this book was written directly to me.
Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime is edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robison Sr. It is a collection of essays from veteran pastors including Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, Bryan Chappell and more. Each chapter begins with a fictional letter that highlights a very real struggle of pastoral ministry. The experienced pastor responds with wisdom and encouragement from the Scriptures to press on.
The book covers a wide variety of topics with chapters like, “Is It Time for Me to Go?” “My Critics Are a Burden for My Wife,” and “How Am I Going to Make It Financially?” Other topics include preaching, suffering, criticism, doubt, and more.
At the end of the book, the reader will be delighted to find a treasure chest of gold as Robinson interviews John MacArthur, who just marked his fiftieth anniversary as pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Talk about faithful endurance!
I don’t normally do this, but since the book did not require a strict chronological reading, I read the introduction and then skipped to the chapter that interested me most. It was chapter 8 with the title, “Does Staying in a Small Rural Church Make Me a Failure?”
Since I’m currently pastoring in a town of only 600 people, I know the answer to that question is no, but I was eager to hear Mark McCullough’s perspective. His words warmed my heart as he reminded me again of the, “irrepressible joy found in knowing God and being known by him.”
From there, I read the book cover to cover and I found help on every page. Even the chapters that I thought would not apply to me were profoundly practical. However, there was one chapter that stood out from the rest.
It was chapter 9 entitled, “I’m Feeling Tired, Worn Out, and in Need of a Break,” by John Starke. The title didn’t really resonate with me, but I read on. And I was shocked by what I found. In fact, I would argue that this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Starke asks the question, “If God rested even though he wasn’t tired, and if he asks his image bearers to rest like he rested, do you think maybe there’s a deeper reason for rest than mere exhaustion?” He then unpacks the importance of Sabbath rest with statements like, “To be in a hurry, always busy, never resting is a compulsive grasping for things we were never meant to possess or control.” Again, this chapter alone is worth buying the book.
If I had to offer one critique, I would suggest an entire chapter on identity. Far too many pastors look to their work for identity instead of looking to the Person and work of Christ. This was a huge struggle for me when I started the church I’m currently pastoring, and I was not prepared for it. While this topic is certainly addressed throughout the book, I believe it is one that warrants its own chapter.
Overall, I loved this book and I would highly recommend it. I’m so thankful the Lord led me to it at such an early stage in my ministry and I will revisit its pages regularly in the years ahead.
It has often been said that God doesn’t call us to be famous, He just calls us to be faithful. And I believe this book will help pastors do just that.
So read the book, be encouraged, and “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
Crossway provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. To learn more about this book or purchase a copy from Crossway's website, click here.
Article by Charisse Goforth:
We lived 700 miles away. Away from all family. I felt very alone. I didn’t have many friends, mostly just acquaintances. And I was tired. So tired. Mom wasn’t there to give me a break and Mike worked 6 days a week.
Our firstborn was almost a year old and I hadn’t slept through a single night in over a year. Not only had my uncomfortable, huge belly kept me awake before her birth, but after her birth she woke up (and stayed up) several times a night.
Every single night.
We tried everything. I cried more than I care to admit. Sheer exhaustion took over and I can remember thinking that I would give anything, anything for one night of uninterrupted sleep.
I couldn’t complain to anyone. The only phones we had were land lines and it was far too expensive to call home. There were no cell phones. There was no texting. There was no one to vent to.
So I turned to the only One I had in my loneliness. I complained to God. I cried out to Him and I finally admitted to the ladies at my church that I needed prayer. I was not super mom. I needed them to reach out to God on my behalf.
Once I gave it to God, once I leaned totally on Him and told Him I couldn’t do it anymore,
He told me~
“I can Charisse, I can do it for you.”
He whispered to my lonely, exhausted heart that I wasn’t alone and that I needed to trust Him through this.
It was then that I realized I had not been trusting. I had been feeling sorry for myself in my loneliness and sleep deprivation. I might have called out to Him in frustration and despair, but not in faith and trust.
So to all of you moms that are wondering~’How can I get through these baby years without losing my mind?’
The sleepless nights, the terrible two’s,
(or terrible teens), the empty nest or even the adult years of our children....
But He can.
Let go of the frustration and despair and give it to God. Once I truly did this I realized I was never really alone. When the world was dark and everyone was asleep, as I held her and cried~ He was right there by my side the whole time. His strength is limitless when we have no strength left at all.
Three more babies came after my first. There were many more sleepless nights. A lot of crying. Too much of Charisse and not enough of Christ. Thank God, His mercies are new every morning. He is faithful and even now when the sleepless nights of crying over my adult children may come, when the world is dark and I’m holding their problems in my heart, I can rest in Him, trusting that I am not alone and neither are they.
He is right there by their side.
Psalm 121:2-3 💗
Article by Michael Goforth II:
It was December of 2013 and my secret Santa handed me a gift. I was puzzled by the size of it since I had only asked for an Amazon gift card, but I tore into the wrapping paper with excitement.
I was somewhat disappointed when I discovered that it was just a book. Not only that, the title of the book was, “HUMILITY” written in large prominent letters across the front. A book about humility? Gee. . .thanks.
Since my wife Shannon and I were still dating at the time, and this was from my future sister-in-law Bridget and her husband Evan, I quickly faked a smile and thanked them for the gift. I was still trying to win them over. And in their defense, they had slipped an Amazon gift card in the book. So all was not lost.
Little did I know, this little book about humility would change my life forever.
Near the end of the night, as I was pretending to be excited about my gift and paging through the book, my other future sister-in-law, Erin, quipped, “You know what they say, readers are leaders!”
I’m not sure if she did it on purpose, and at the time I didn’t know the difference. But she had actually reversed a quote by Harry Truman where he said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
Either way, her statement haunted me for the rest of the night. Readers are leaders? This was not good news for me, because I hated reading. But I also wanted to be a leader. Did I need to become a reader?
Fast forward to January of 2014. The holidays were over and that little book on humility sat on my night stand. Since I was still trying to win Evan and Bridget over, I decided to read it. Mainly so that I could tell them I read it. Which is ironic, because I was about to read a book about humility for prideful reasons.
To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the book! I sent Evan and Bridget a text to thank them and a few days later I found a package on my front porch. It was another book from Evan.
I was thankful, but since I still didn’t really enjoy reading, I read that one out of obligation as well.
Thus began a year long process of Evan trying to turn me into a reader. Every time I read a book and thanked him, he would send me another book. It was kind of annoying at first, but then I started looking forward to the next package in the mail.
I was slowly becoming a reader, and I was strangely enjoying it.
It’s now 2019, and you’ll rarely find me without a book close at hand. I absolutely love reading and I am so thankful for God’s wonderful providence on that cold December night.
If you’re not a reader, I’m just going to show my cards at the beginning and tell you that I want you to become a reader. I’m convinced that it will change your life. And if you’re not too bored by this post already, I want to invite you to continue as I share 4 ways that reading has transformed my life:
1. Reading Changed My Appetites
As I mentioned above, I used to hate reading. I mean I really hated it. Growing up, I thought books were dry and boring. I wanted to play sports or go hunting, and you might entice me with a good movie, but reading? No way.
In both high school and college I had championed the art of skimming through books so I could get a good grade without reading. I once told my parents that I would never go to college because of all the reading I would have to do. Ironically enough, a week from today I’ll graduate with a master’s degree.
What changed? Reading.
Even after I begrudgingly finished my bachelor’s degree, I still didn’t like to read. I celebrated the thought of never having to read again. However, that would all change after December of 2013. I started enjoying reading so much that I decided to further my education.
But I’m not asking you to go to college, I’m asking you to read. Give it some time and I think you’ll be surprised by how much you enjoy it.
Like many good things, reading is an acquired taste. It takes time to develop, but once you do, you’ll love it. It will open up a world of discovery for you and you’ll be hungry to learn more.
2. Reading Brought Depth To My Free Time
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on a tangent about all the hours we spend watching television or staring at our little glowing rectangles. Social media alone can be the cause of shorter attention spans, superficial relationships, increased self-absorption, and shallow spirituality. But I think most of us know all of that.
Instead of spending your free time with mindless entertainment, you could pick up a great book instead!
Instead of hanging out on Facebook, you could spend the evening with awesome guys like Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, and the Apostle Paul!
I still enjoy watching funny videos and catching up with my friends on social media, but I also enjoy reading.
And in a shallow culture like ours, it’s nice to bring some depth into my life through a good book.
3. Reading Helped Me Treasure God's Word
Even though I hated reading while growing up, there was one book that I knew I needed to read.
My parents had taught me from a young age that I couldn’t live on bread alone. (Matthew 4:4) I knew my soul would starve without the Word of God. However, my time in the Scripture was often fueled by duty instead of delight. I read the Bible because I knew I needed to, but I didn’t always enjoy it.
This became even more difficult with the rise of the smart phone. I now had an endless stream of entertainment that seemed more enticing than words on a page.
Once I started to develop my appetite for reading, that began to change. The Holy Spirit used my new found joy of reading to help me treasure God’s Word more than I ever had before.
So I want to encourage you to acquire a taste for reading. And if you only have time for one book, make it the Bible.
The fact of the matter is, God chose words, not videos, to reveal Himself to us. We are people of the Book. And whether we learn to enjoy reading or not, we desperately need to spend time in God’s Word. Our souls depend on it.
4. Reading Brought Me Closer To God
If it’s true that reading helped me treasure God’s Word more, then it would make sense that it brought me closer to God as well.
God creates with His Word (Psalm 33:6), God upholds the universe with His Word (Hebrews 1:3), God saves with His Word (1 Peter 1:23), God gives life with His Word (Matthew 4:4), God advances His kingdom with His Word (Mark 4:20), and God builds up His people with His Word (Acts 20:32).
Most importantly, God chose to reveal Himself through His Word, and the pinnacle of that revelation came in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-3)
Today, He speaks to us through His Word. I love how Justin Peters put it, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.”
Reading brought me closer to God because it brought me closer to His Word.
On top of that, reading gave me access to more of God’s teachers. In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul says that pastors and teachers were given to equip Christians for the work of ministry. This should primarily take place through your local church, but reading gives you the opportunity to learn from other good teachers, including those who have passed away.
I’ve grown closer to God through books like The Knowledge of The Holy and The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Desiring God by John Piper, Habits of Grace by David Mathis, Knowing God by J.I. Packer, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and the list goes on!
Some Practical Tips
I’m hoping this post has encouraged you to at least consider reading more. If so, you may be wondering where to begin. Here are a few practical tips:
In closing, if you’re not a reader, give reading a try.
If you are a reader, be like Evan. Find someone in your life that you can encourage to read.
And if you are Evan, don’t let this post go to your head. If it does, I have a great book on humility that I can recommend to you.
"Here is an invitation you can’t resist. Let’s venture into the forest together and discover, perhaps for the very first time, just how good life can be.” —Tim Savage
Book Review by Michael Goforth II:
In, Discovering the Good Life, Tim Savage comes right out of the gate with his purpose for writing the book. He wants to answer the question, “How do we find fullness of life in a world full of trouble?”
If we’re honest, we all want fullness of life. We all want to experience joy, peace, and satisfaction. The author puts his finger on this yearning when he says, “To be able to celebrate life without reservation and without regret—that is our greatest desire.”
But is that really possible? In a world full of pain and brokenness, can anyone really find true happiness? In this book, Savage answers that question with a definitive yes. And he is quick to point out that the answer does not come in a principle, it comes in a person. Namely, the Lord Jesus Christ.
To support this answer, Savage takes his readers on a riveting journey through the meta-narrative of Scripture. In poetic fashion, he weaves the Bible’s story into a tale of three trees:
-The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
-A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse
-The Tree of Life with Its Twelve Kinds of Fruit
These three trees unfold a narrative that gets consistently better over time, and Savage uses them to both explain our problem and point to our solution. In the process, he makes this fairly bold claim, “The three trees—these three only and these three together—restore hope to humanity.”
You might be thinking, “how can trees restore hope to humanity?” And that’s why you need to read the book.
Savage is a wonderful writer and I’m confident you’ll find this book both engaging and refreshing. Every time I had to put it down, I found myself looking forward to picking it back up again. And with only 176 pages, I was finished in just a few days.
My biggest takeaway from the book was his treatment of life as a verb instead of a noun. He puts it this way, “We define our lives in terms of people, places, and things—in terms of meeting people, visiting places, and accumulating things. We pursue life by pursuing nouns.”
This was convicting for me. In a culture built on consumerism, it is hard not to fall into this mindset. But life is so much more than nouns! Life is a verb, and “. . .it is only by giving ourselves away that we begin to truly live.”
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I would have enjoyed a little more practical application at the end, but I thought Savage did an excellent job showing that “discovering the good life" really is possible.
Jesus came to bring abundant life. And He laid down His life to make this possible. Are you experiencing this life today? Do you have the joy, peace, and satisfaction that only Jesus can offer?
If not, I want to encourage you to read this tale of three trees. With the author as your guide, go on this journey, and discover “the surprising riches available in Christ."
"What is so good about life? In Christ, it could not be better." —Tim Savage
Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. To learn more about this book or purchase a copy from Crossway's website, click HERE.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Real events, real time, and real history—these are what make Christianity so unique and remarkable. You can trace its beginnings to actual events that took place within the world of space and time.
For example, look at the incarnation, the virgin birth, and the substitutionary atonement. These are not just abstract theories in Christianity. Each of these events had numerous eyewitnesses who testified of their occurrence in written records. William Craig summed it up this way, “Christianity is not a code for living or a philosophy of religion; rather it is rooted in real events of history.” 
What is so remarkable about this is that even with its close tie to historical events that have been viciously attacked, Christianity has stood the test of time. A brief survey of other world religions quickly shows that there are no verifiable ways to validate or test them. They are all based on individuals who had private experiences. Christianity, on the other hand, is based on actual public events from the past.
Christians all around the world will celebrate one of those public events this Sunday. Namely, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is one of the most well-attested events in history and we could spend several hours examining all the evidence. But instead, I want to share a short sermon excerpt entitled, “One Solitary Life”:
I'll close with a question from Normal Geisler and Frank Turek, "If there was no resurrection, how could this life be the most influential life of all time?"
They continue, "We don’t have enough faith to believe that this one solitary life from a remote, ancient village could be the most influential life of all time … unless the Resurrection is true." 
Have a Happy Easter!
 Craig, William Lane (2008-06-09). Reasonable Faith (3rd edition): Christian Truth and Apologetics (Kindle Locations 4711-4712). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 Adapted from “Arise, Sir Knight,” a sermon by James Allan Francis, in The Real Jesus and Other Sermons (Philadelphia: Judson, 1926), 123–124.
 Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 324.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Once upon a time, an evil serpent-dragon slithered through a garden on the hunt for his prey.
He was on a mission of deceit and rebellion and through a series of well-crafted lies, he was successful. Heeding the serpent's advice, the very first humans plunged themselves into a spiral of doom and destruction.
It was right in the middle of this dark scene that God stepped in with a message of hope. He promised a coming Hero from the seed of the woman. A Hero who would crush the serpent’s head. A Hero who would kill the dragon and get the girl.
Have you heard this story?
I’m sure you have, although maybe not told quite like that. If you haven’t recognized it by now, this is the story of the Bible.
Jesus is the promised Hero that came to crush the serpent’s head. (Genesis 3:15). The villain is, “the great dragon. . . .that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan”(Revelation 12:9) And the girl is the bride of Christ, the church. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
This is God’s story. And He didn’t just write it, He stepped into it.
He became flesh and dwelt among us.
The Creator, walked among the created. And then, He rescued His people through death on a cross.
God isn’t just the Author of the story, He’s the Hero as well.
Joe Rigney explains it this way, “In this narrative, God is the storyteller and the main character. He is the bard and the hero. He authors the fairy tale and then comes to kill the dragon and get the girl.”
This story is the greatest story ever told. And do you want to know the best part? It’s not over yet!
Jesus is coming again. And He promises to create a new heaven and a new earth.
A renewed garden with no sickness, no pain, and no serpent-dragons. A place of paradise for His happy bride to dwell with Him forever.
You see, every other story about heroes, and dragons, and damsels in distress, are small little reminders of the true story.
The story of God rescuing and redeeming His people.
If you’re a Christian today, this isn’t just God’s story, it’s your story as well. You’ve been swept up into this grand narrative with a hope greater than you can imagine!
I love how the New City Catechism puts it:
“Question: What hope does everlasting life hold for us?
Answer: It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and new earth, where we will be fully and forever freed from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation.”
If you’re not tempted to shout for joy right now, go back and read that again. Because that is your future if you’re a believer today!
And if you’re not a believer, consider this your personal invitation from the Hero and His bride:
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17
Come, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Be forgiven of all your sins. Drink of the water of life. And enter in to the greatest story ever told.
Jesus came to kill the dragon and get the girl. Through His death on the cross, He conquered Satan and rescued us, His happy bride.
One day, He will return. He will create a new heaven and a new earth. And He’ll bring all those who believe. . . . back to the garden.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” —C.S. Lewis
I’ll never forget the first time I read that quote. It completely rocked my world. I was reading, Desiring God, by John Piper and this quote seemed to leap from the page.
For most of my life, I thought of sin as the fun stuff of this world that Christians weren’t allowed to do. I was the ignorant child, and although I tried to obey Scripture, I really wanted to go make mud pies.
Now I see that sin simply cannot compare to the pleasure of knowing God.
Believe it or not, I’m actually at a “holiday at the sea” right now. I’m in Oak Island, North Carolina where my family vacations every year. And let me tell you, this is way better than making mud pies!
You see, we don’t struggle with sin because our desires are too strong, we struggle with sin because our desires are too weak.
We constantly settle for the temporary mud puddle pleasures of sin when Jesus offers us an ocean of everlasting joy and satisfaction.
However, too many Christians have believed the lie that in order to pursue God you have to abandon your pursuit of pleasure.
This idea may sound noble, but it leads to a life completely absent of any real joy.
Dr. Larry Crabb humorously describes the effect this way, “We’re like children who grudgingly eat our spinach of obedience, hoping someday we’ll receive a cookie.”
If this is the first time you’ve heard this, and you’re a discerning Christian, you might be thinking, “This sounds great, but is it Biblical?”
That’s a great question to ask, and since I’m preaching through the Gospel of John right now, I’ll start with some of the invitations of Jesus found there:
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” —Jesus (John 4:13-14)
“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” —Jesus (John 6:35)
“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” —Jesus (John 7:37-38)
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” —Jesus (John 10:10)
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” —Jesus (John 15:11)
Does that sound like the spinach of obedience to you? Jesus is offering satisfaction! He’s offering abundant life! He's offering joy!
And this is not just in John, its all over the Bible! Here are a few more examples:
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11
“O taste and see that the LORD is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34:8
“Delight thyself also in the LORD…” Psalm 37:4
“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, And floods upon the dry ground:” Isaiah 44:3
“And the LORD shall guide thee continually, And satisfy thy soul in drought, And make fat thy bones: And thou shalt be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” Isaiah 58:11
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8
I could share more, but I think you get the point. So where do we go from here?
I think we need to realize that our problem isn’t that we desire pleasure. Our problem is that we go everywhere to satisfy that desire except to God, and that will only lead to despair.
Jesus is the true source of pleasure. He alone can thrill your soul, He alone can satisfy your longings, and He alone can bring joy to your heart.
So stop settling for mud pies in the slum and start enjoying your holiday at the sea. Start pursuing God as the true source of joy, pleasure, and satisfaction.
Because if you’re not desiring God, then your desires aren’t too strong. . . .they’re too weak.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Why do you get so angry when your children embarrass you in public? Why do you always have to be right in an argument? Why are you so self-conscious about the way you look? Why are you working so hard at your job?
In his book, Encounters with Jesus, Tim Keller makes the argument that we do those things because we are trying so hard to prove to ourselves that we are somebody, even though on the inside we know there’s something wrong with us.
He uses the famous Rocky Balboa as an illustration. The Rocky films were kind of before my time, but my dad made sure that I didn’t miss out on that staple in our country’s great history. In the first film, Rocky is about to fight the infamous champion, Apollo Creed. He explains to his girlfriend Adrian that he’s not worried about winning. He just wants to put up a good fight. This is how he says it:
“I just wanna prove somethin’ —I ain’t no bum. . . . It don’t matter if I lose. . . .Don’t matter if he opens my head. . . . The only thing I wanna do is go the distance—That’s all. Nobody’s ever gone fifteen rounds with Creed. If I go them fifteen rounds, an’ that bell rings an’ I’m still standin’ , I’m gonna know then I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood. . . .”
After quoting Rocky, Tim Keller says, “I propose to you: One of the reasons you have all these dreams of working hard to look good and do well and achieve is because you are trying to prove to yourself and everyone else, even people who may not be around anymore, that you are not a bum.”
Do you want to hear something really freeing? You are a bum.
You can try to cover that up with your social status, your career, your family, or your success, but in the end, deep down, you know there is something wrong with you.
You are a bum. And so am I. But this is what makes the Gospel such good news.
The Scriptures teach that our first parents were created by God without sin. However, they chose to rebel against Him and usher sin into the world. Since then, we’ve all inherited that sin and we come into the world broken and separated from God. Deep down, we feel this brokenness. So we desperately try to fix it or cover it up. But in the end, we can’t.
God saw us in our brokenness and sin. He saw that we could never fix what was wrong. So He came to this world, and became flesh like us. He lived among us, He felt our pain, He saw our tears. And then, He carried all of our sin and brokenness to the cross and paid for it once and for all.
And do you know what He said at the end? He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Finished. Done. Complete. Nothing left to do.
He rose from the grave to conquer death, and now He offers life and forgiveness to all who will believe on Him. (John 3:16) If you’ll turn from your attempts of justifying yourself, and ask Him to save you, He will. He will join you to Himself by faith and His righteousness will now belong to you.
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,”
No condemnation. No more guilt, no more shame, no more trying to gain the approval of others. No more trying to prove that you, “ain’t no bum…”
God looks at you, united to His perfect Son Jesus by faith, and He approves of you. How would your life change if you knew you had God’s approval? What would that look like for you? Because once you’re in Christ, you have the approval of the only One Who really matters.
I love how Scotty Smith puts it, "Wake up, dear friends, and live today in the knee-buckling knowledge that God loves you as much as Jesus, and there’s nothing you can do about it, but abide in it and live out of such a glorious standing in grace."
You see, in Christ, you don’t have to prove to anyone that you “…ain’t no bum…” because in God’s eyes, you’re royalty. You’re His beloved son or daughter.
So come to Jesus today. He promises to give you rest. Not just temporary rest, but rest for your soul. (Matt. 11:28-30)
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Imagine a van full of loud kids. Some laughing, some fighting, some singing.
Suddenly, as their dad puts his blinker on and turns down a road, they all get quiet. And one by one, they each take turns praying together as a family.
It didn’t always go quite that smooth, but it did happen! At least that’s what Pastor Brown told me as he turned down the road.
I was fresh out of Bible college working at my first church when Pastor Don Brown took me down his family’s “Prayer Road.”
It was a special road they chose on the route between their house and church. Whenever they turned down the road, they would start praying together as a family.
He was older now and all his kids had grown up and moved out. But I could tell as he talked that the road would always hold a special place in his heart.
Fast forward to 2016 and I’m the pastor of my very first church in Port Austin, Michigan. Every Sunday morning a group of us would drive from Caseville on our way to the weekly gathering.
After a couple weeks I remembered that “Prayer Road” idea and as a group we decided to officially choose Port Crescent Road. Every time we turned down that road, we would start praying for Port Austin and for our church.
To this day, it remains the official “Prayer Road” and whether I’m driving to a service with a group or just checking on something at the church by myself, I always pause what I’m doing and pray as I drive. It has become a special place for me now. In fact, a couple weeks ago God gave me that beautiful sunrise in the picture above while I was praying.
So here’s a challenge for you, choose a road on a route you regularly travel and make it your official “Prayer Road.”
I think you’ll find that God will not only use it to sweeten your drive, He’ll also use it to sweeten your fellowship with Him.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
WHAT IS WORSHIP?
One of the most overlooked aspects of worship today is its all-encompassing nature. Many immediately think of worship in terms of singing or music, but it is much broader than that. The word itself comes from the Old English weorthscipe, which broken down meant weorth (worth) -scipe (ship). So in a literal sense, it was simply the ascribing of worth to someone or something. 
The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible simply defines worship as, “Expression of reverence and adoration of God.”  With that definition, worship could definitely include music and singing, but it could also include nearly every aspect of a person’s life. This is the Apostle Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 10:31 when he commands the Corinthian Christians to perform basic tasks like eating and drinking in a way that ascribes worth to God.
Whether people realize it or not, they are always engaged in personal worship. This can be directed to God, but it can also be directed to someone or something else. This is why Jared Wilson said, “The truth is that we worship our way into sin, and we have to worship our way out.” 
In summary, personal worship is the adoration, enjoyment, delight, and satisfaction in God that overflows into every area of a person’s life. At our church, I define worship as, "Treasuring God above all else and responding in awe with our hearts, minds, and actions."
PRACTICING PERSONAL WORSHIP
Jesus explained how true worship must be practiced in John 4:24 when He said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
To worship God in “spirit and in truth” would be impossible apart from divine revelation. Therefore, all personal worship must begin with and be guided by what God has revealed about Himself through His Word.
I personally begin my day with a brief prayer that the Spirit would open my eyes as I read His Word. After that, I begin reading Scripture with the intent of learning more about Who God is. I then meditate on the truths in that passage and use them as a bridge to prayer.
After praying through a passage of Scripture and lifting up different praises and requests to God, I ask God to empower me to glorify Him that day. I then attempt to continue this worshipful posture all throughout the day and “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17) To help with this, I have three anchor points in my day where a reminder goes off to reorient my heart and mind around God.
The goal is to begin personal worship in Scripture reading and prayer and allow that to overflow into every aspect of my day.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WORSHIPPING WITH OTHERS
When the Apostle Paul gave instructions for corporate worship in 1 Corinthians 14, he specifically said, “Let all things be done unto edifying.” in verse 26. That phrase is key in understanding the importance of corporate worship. The word “edifying” in this verse comes from the Greek word that means, “the act of bringing something closer to fullness or completion; understood as if assisting in the construction of an incomplete building.” 
There is a building up that takes place in corporate worship that cannot happen when a person is alone. The fact of the matter is, being in community with other believers and gathering together for corporate worship is an indispensable essential when it comes to growing as a Christian.
While that is very foreign to the current individualistic culture of this day, it is prevalent all throughout the Scriptures.
Therefore, both personal and corporate worship is essential in the life of every believer.
 Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Worship,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2164.
 Jared C. Wilson. Gospel Wakefulness (Kindle Locations 1998-1999). Crossway.
 Faithlife Corporation. “Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. (July 2018)
Article by Michael Goforth II:
In an online setting like this, it would be easy to give a quick theological response to such a question without considering the gravity of such a situation. I recently attended the funeral of a stillborn infant. I cannot even begin to express to you the pain I felt in my own heart as I watched that Christian mother hold her lifeless newborn in her arms and weep during the service. With that in mind, let us consider the importance of relying on God as we attempt to answer a question like this.
Before getting to my response, I think it is important to affirm that the Scriptures are quite clear about the fact that all people are born as sinners already under divine condemnation. (Ps. 51:5, 58:3; John 3:18; Rom. 5:12-21) If a person does not respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ with repentance and faith before they die, they will spend all eternity separated from God in a place of torment. (Rom. 3 ; John 3 ; Luke 16) Jesus was quite clear when He said, “Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7) With these truths in mind, there is no Scriptural basis for an “age of innocence.” If God were to allow an infant or someone who is incapable of understanding the gospel into Heaven, it would not be because they were innocent.
That being said, we serve a very merciful God. After David’s sin with Bathsheba, his child of only seven days of age died. When his servants informed him, he responded, “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Sam 12:23) It is clear here that David was persuaded that he would see his child again one day. We also know from other passages that David knew he would spend eternity in Heaven. (Ps. 23:6) Therefore, David was expecting to see his child again in Heaven.
How can this be if the child was under divine condemnation the moment he was conceived? The answer must be that God, in His great mercy, must have applied the merits of Christ’s redemptive work to the child’s account before he died. In a miraculous act of grace, the Holy Spirit regenerated the child so that he could enter the kingdom of heaven. (John 3:3) Is there evidence that God does this to infants? He certainly did with John the Baptist, “he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary offers this helpful comment, “God’s Word does not present an explicit and unequivocal case for infant salvation; it is somewhat silent on the question. Insofar as it does address the relevant issues, however, it seems clearly to imply that those who die before reaching an age of responsibility will not be condemned by God, even though they are sinners by nature and choice, but will instead be received into eternal salvation.” 
In conclusion, let us remember God’s unfailing love, mercy, and grace. Let's trust that the Judge of all the earth will do right. (Gen. 18:25). And let's take comfort from the example of David in 2 Samuel 12. If you know someone going through this pain, walk with them through the grieving process offering prayer and comfort from the Scriptures.
 Brand Chad, “Accountability, Age Of,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 18.