Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lessons from the Psalms of Ascent [Psalms 120-134]
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

The collection of 15 Songs of Ascent comprise a hymnal within the hymnal [Psalms 120-134]. This set of poems aided the Jewish pilgrims as they journeyed from their homes to Zion to worship the Lord, with His people, in the Temple for the three pilgrimage feasts (cf. Deut 16:16). For the New Testament people of God, we do not embark on a pilgrimage from our homeland to the Temple to worship God. But we do, however, live as strangers and aliens in this world as we journey from this world to the heavenly Zion. As the Israelites of old meditated on Scripture, sung biblical truths, and anticipated the assembling with the redeemed, so believers today can learn how to approach the heavenly Zion as we trek through life. In this essay, I will provide six reminders as to how we must approach the heavenly zion.

1. Remembrance.
The Songs of Ascent served to remind the pilgrims of the greatness of God and of the necessity of trusting Him in and through hard seasons of life. Remembering God carries the Christian through life. Without simple reminders we as God’s people often forget essential truths. As the pilgrims of old remembered God, so must we as we journey on.

2. Anticipation.
One theme that pervades the Songs of Ascent is the pilgrim’s longing for Zion. O how those who journey through valleys and through the wildernesses anticipate with longing the Temple precincts to worship God with His people. How much more must God’s people today anticipate the future reunion with all God’s people in the heavenly Zion.

3. Endurance.
One hallmark that characterizes every child of God is none other than endurance. All who live godly lives suffer persecution and, yet, they endure and persevere and continue on the journey without giving up. Pilgrims of old endured hardship, hostility, enemies, and struggles and yet endured till they reached Jerusalem. God’s people today must endure through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.

4. Homesickness.
The worshipers of Israel who trekked many long days felt the homesickness for Zion. O the longing for, and the passion to reach, and the anticipation of residing in the Temple. This world, with all of its struggles and with all of the enemies within it, is not a believer’s home. God’s presence is. Let the church long for the ultimate dwelling of God!

5. Community.
The worshipers who would meditate on the Songs of Ascent would leave their homelands and their unbelieving friends and families to journey to Zion to be with those who love Shalom and to be with the God of Shalom. Let all believers today crave the community of the redeemed. Let not a day pass without praying for the local church and for longing to fellowship with them. Christians must involve themselves in community regularly, faithfully, and happily.

6. Gladness.
Nothing so gladdens the heart of God’s elect than to be with God, with His people, corporately worshiping Him! The travelers who left home and headed for Jerusalem had hearts full of gladness and joy as they longed to worship God with the community. Let believers travel with gladness and joy as they praise God anticipating the heavenly Zion!

More essays & pdfs can be found here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

“The Pilgrimage Songs: Journey On & Sing On…”
The Songs of Ascent for the New Testament Christian [Psalms 120-134]
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Psalms 120-134 all have the same superscription (title): “A song of Ascents” [‏שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת; shir ha’maalot]. Scholars have presented various viewpoints as to how ancient Israelites incorporated these psalms as they journeyed to the Zion to worship the Lord. But it seems that the best understanding is that this collection of 15 hymns comprised the devotional hymnbook for Israelites as they would journey to Zion for the three annual pilgrimage feasts (Passover, Tabernacles, and Pentecost). And as they began far away (at home) and traversed upward to Zion they would reflect on divine truth, meditate on these hymns, anticipate the community of worshipers, and long for true Shalom [peace]. But how can New Testament believers today interpret and apply these precious psalms? There is no temple for us. There is no pilgrimage we must take. How can the believer today read and understand these precious, eternal, God-given poems?

As we journey on, as New Testament Christians, how can we benefit from the Songs of Ascent? I  will provide four simple headings to aid in our understanding of these hymns.

1. Singing [Acclaim]
The psalms of ascent are really the songs of ascents. They are to be sung by the Jewish people as they ascend up to Jerusalem to worship. In fact, Isaiah 30:29 clarifies this when the prophet says: “You will have songs as in the night when you keep the festival, and gladness of heart as when one marches to the sound of the flute, to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.” So as the pilgrims would obediently journey to the Temple three times a year they would do so with gladness of heart and with songs on their lips. Believers today must also journey with gladness in our hearts and with songs on our lips. Also, Paul instructs believers to encourage one another with songs.

2. Reflecting [Apprehend]
A theme that occurs so often in the Scriptures is that of remembering, reflecting, and apprehending divine truth. How often does God tell his people to “remember”! All though the Torah, through the Psalms and the Prophets, and then into the New Testament, the Lord Jesus institutes two ordinances (baptism and communion) so as to remember Him and His work of redemption on behalf of His people. As the Israelites of old would travel from their homes to Zion, they would meditate upon and remember God’s truth. Without simple reminders, we forget essential truths.

3. Anticipating [Anticipate]
How the hearts of the godly long to be in God’s presence! God’s people crave the community of believers! The psalmist reflects one who lived amongst the wicked and earnestly desired to be where God dwelt, where God’s people gathered, and where worship would occur communally! Believers, today, must also live with anticipation just as the Jews of old who traveled and anticipated more and more the closer they came to Zion. Anticipation grew as they drew near to the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. So also, our anticipation should grow daily for the heavenly Zion!

4. Gathering [Assemble]
An intimate bond exists between the people of God. There is an unbreakable, eternal, Christ-centered, and happy bond between worshipers who love God, love Christ, love Scripture, and love each other. The pilgrims of old who journeyed to Jerusalem meditated on the need for this commonality amongst the people of God. They longed to gather together. So it is today with us. We gather together regularly, corporately, willingly, and happily for fellowship.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

If it were revealed to you that you were about to preach the last sermon you would ever give, how would you preach and what would you do different?

1) Preach Christ & Him crucified. Every preacher must have a central thrust and focus and centerpoint in every sermon. He must herald the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. Not every sermon is a gospel, evangelistic sermon but every message must proclaim Him.

2) Preach with the Spirit's power. The minister must beg earnestly for the Spirit of God to come upon him and anoint him with power and unction. The Spirit makes the words he utters effective. Let every man of God preach every sermon with the Spirit’s empowerment.

3) Preach God's Word faithfully. Preaching takes the Word of God and proclaims its eternal message to the hearers that have gathered so that they know what God has said and that they know how they must respond. To preach faithfully is to be God’s mouthpiece.

4) Preach to save souls. A man ought to never ascend to the pulpit and preach if he thinks that no one may be saved that day. What little faith that poor preacher possesses! He must preach to snatch souls from the eternal fire! He should preach to win people to Christ!

5) Preach to as to feed hungry sheep. Christ’s shepherd loves Christ’s blood-bought sheep. Nothing is so urgently needed among sheep than being fed. They could be coddled, encouraged, and stroked but without food, they will die. Preach Christ to feed hungry souls!

6) Preach with utmost passion. A dull and boring preacher of the gospel is a contradiction in terms. No man can sit having his heart and mind soaked with divine truth and then preach God’s Word without passion. Let a man have fire in his bones as he preaches with the tongs of the divine altar that have consecrated his lips. Indeed, may the Spirit thunder through Him as he preaches passionately to persuade. He heralds for a verdict!

7) Preach to all people present. Many different kinds of people gather to hear the preached Word. There are the truly converted souls who crave to behold Christ in a deeper way and to know in knowledge of Him. There are the outright unbelievers who have no desire to reconcile to God. Indeed, many churchgoers sit under the word who think they stand right with God but who bear no fruits in keeping with repentance. Additionally, there are the procrastinators who think they can persist in sin and then forsake it later on in their lives. Preach to all who gather.

8) Preach as to never preach again. If a man knew he would never preach again, how must this man announce His Master’s message? He must give his all, his energy, his life, his sweat, his prayers, his passion! Nothing less.

9) Preach truth that's gripped your heart. Everyone knows when a man preaches without conviction. A minister won’t compel a congregation to believe truth that has not gripped the innermost parts of his own heart.

10) Preach for the glory of God. Irregardless of how many people may assemble together, a man of God always preaches ultimately to an audience of One. God is there. And God will listen to how the minister takes His own very Word and heralds it and applies it. May preachers preach for the utter magnification of God almighty!

These points should characterize every sermon that the minister preaches. So, man of God, preach as if you would die and go to heaven when you're finished because, soon enough, you will preach your last sermon.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Enhancing worship on earth would greatly increase if believers understood what worship in heaven is like. So, in this brief write-up, let us examine how the Scriptures describe heaven. Let us seek to model heaven’s worship on earth.

1. God-focused.
The worship in heaven focuses on one central, dominant, and inexhaustible subject -- the person of God. The triune God is the focus of heaven and thus is the focus of all worship. If the worship in heaven is saturated with the person, work, glory and personhood of the triune God, then how much more should believers’ worship here be like that.

2. Christ-exalting.
The Lamb of God, seated on His throne, receives praise, worship, adoration, honor, glory, and blessing from the vast multitude of worshipers in heaven. The Lord of glory, the risen and exalted Christ, receives worship as He sits on his sovereign throne. Heaven is Christ-exalting and it is full of delightful joy and worshipful praise to His great name.

3. Corporately loud.
Many multitudes gather corporately to worship the Lord around His throne in glory. God did not design worship to merely be an individual endeavor only. Corporate worship characterizes heaven. Heaven is a world of corporate love as believers love Christ, love each other in pointing each other to Christ, and sing loudly His praises to His renown.

4. Cross-saturated.
Heaven’s worship focuses on the cross of Christ! The Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, who made His people white through the blood of His cross is the apex of worship! The righteousness of Christ, the atonement of the Lamb, and the perfection of redemption comprises the singing, the conversations, the minds, and the thoughts of heaven’s inhabitants.

5. Always enduring.
Worship does not grow old in heaven. After ten million ages have past, heaven’s praises shall not diminish in the slightest. Worship will always endure in heaven. No songs will grow old. The story of redemption will not fade away. The worship always endures and always saturates and always gladdens those who dwell in this eternal dwelling.

6. Loud singing.
If many multitudes of people reside in the new heavens and the new earth and if the elect from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation stand together to exalt the God-Man forevermore, one can only imagine how deafeningly loud this singing must be! Worship in the Old Testament included many instruments, cymbals, vocalists, and choirs. O to imagine how loud, beautiful, breathtaking, and sweet the singing in perfect glory must be!

7. Sinless service.
Worship is not synonymous with singing. Though singing can be an element of worship, worship is much bigger than the singing of songs. Worship is the response of a worshiper to the revelation of God. Worship in heaven includes living life for God’s glory. It will include service to the living God and performing His bidding in the massive expanse of the new earth. Imagine a life of absolutely sinless service to the living God with an always-perfect-attitude and a relentless-pursuit of God’s glory in every act! Let heaven’s worshipful service guide Christians now to serve him in this manner.

8. Entirely pure.
Nothing unclean will enter the new heavens and the new earth. No impurities, no lust, no selfishness, no coveting, no materialism, no sinful temptations, and no deceptions will exist there. Heaven’s worship will wholly be clean, pure, undefiled, and genuine. All the motives to worship God will stem from hearts always and ever filled with divine love and supreme consolations. No wandering minds, heartless songs, or man-fearing dispositions will reside in this place!

9. Eternally happy.
No sadness will ever fill a believer’s heart in heaven. No sickness, no mourning, no pain, no tears will ever be found in glory. The heaven of God is a happy place. The heaven that believers enjoy is a world of ecstatic and exuberant and enthralled happiness in God’s personhood and salvation. No reason will ever be found in heaven for a person to be sad or mournful. No depression, no fears, no anxiety, no worries, and no anger. All is happy because all who live in heaven will be caught up in supreme and everlasting happiness in the triune God and in His love for the Godhead.

10. All-encompassing.
Worship defines all that happens in heaven. From traveling the endless expanse of the new heavens and the new earth, to conversing with God’s elect from all the ages past, to performing God’s bidding and doing His service, to gathering with the redeemed to sing His praises, to musing on the bankless ocean of blessings and graces of the gospel of Christ’s redemption. All that believers do in heaven will be worship. Heaven is a world of perfect worship, joy, peace, blessing, fullness, energy, life and delight. Let believers here endeavor to worship God now in this way.
Here are some very helpful resources to inform your thinking on biblical ("nouthetic") counseling.

Is There Any Difference Between Biblical Counseling & Christian Psychology? by John MacArthur and Wayne Mack.
This is a very helpful, brief, and compelling overview showing the vast differences between biblical/nouthetic counseling and the so-called Christian psychology methods.

What Distinguishes Biblical Counseling from Other Methods? by David Powlison
In this blog entry, Powlison shows how biblical counseling is fundamentally different than other methods because the view of God, man, sin, hope, and change are all vastly different.

The Mandate for Biblical Counseling by Paul Tautges
There are helpful resources here, quotes, definitions, and he draws the link (rightly so!) between discipleship and biblical counseling.

What Is Biblical Counseling Anyway? by Ed Welch
A very compelling treatment on the importance of defining what biblical (nouthetic) counseling really is.

We Are All Called to Counsel
In this blog, Jeremy Lelak argues that every Christian is called to counsel one another.

What Is Biblical Counseling?
A simple, biblical & compelling definition of what biblical counseling is.

What Is Biblical Counseling? by Jay Adams
Another simple explanation and one-page treatment defining the process of biblical change.

What are Some Affirmations & Denials of Biblical Counseling by David Powlison

Critiquing Modern "Integrationists" by David Powlison (Journal of Biblical Counseling)

Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair by David Powlison

The Sufficiency of Scripture to Diagnose and Cure Souls by David Powlison

What Is Biblical Counseling Anyway? by Ed Welch

How Does Scripture Change You? by David Powlison

Counseling the Depressed Person: The Puritan Alternative to Secular Psychology by David Herding (MA thesis) - excellent!

A Christian Directory - A Body of Practical Divinity and Cases of Conscience (Christian Ethics) by Richard Baxter
This is a very lengthy Puritan treatment of the sufficiency of Scripture and of Christ to cure the souls of any malady. This is biblical counseling at its finest & Baxter addresses many issues & directly applies Scripture to each. The entire book is FREE on google books.

Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling by Tim Keller
This is a very lengthy article where Keller shows how biblical counseling — that is, addressing any and every issue with the sufficient and comprehensive Word of God — is nothing new but the Puritans practiced this type of "healing of the soul." Very helpful resource here!

  • Introduction to Biblical Counseling, by John MacArthur, Wayne Mack, The Master’s Seminary Faculty.  
  • Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, By Paul Tripp 
  • Competent to Counsel, by Jay Adams   
  • The Christian Counselor’s Manual, by Jay Adams  
  • A Theology of Christian Counseling, by Jay Adams  
  • The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams, by Heath Lambert
  • Scripture and Counseling, by Bob Kelleman & Jeff Forrey, eds.
  • Christ Centered Biblical Counseling, by James MacDonald, Bob Kelleman & Steve Viars, eds.
  • The Biblical Counseling Movement, by David Powlison
  • Gospel-Centered Counseling, by Bob Kelleman
  • How to Counsel from Scripture, Martin & Deidre Bobgan  
  • The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference, By Robert Smith, M.D.
  • Equipping Counselors for your Church, by Robert Kelleman
  • Power Encounters, David Powlison  
  • Seeing With New Eyes, by David Powlison
  • Christian Psychology's War on God's Word, By Jim Owen 
  • Counseling the Hard Cases, by Stuart Scott, ed. 
  • Biblical Counseling and the Church, by Bob Kelleman & Kevin Carson, eds. 
  • Counseling and the Church, by Deepak Reju
  • Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, by Ed Bulkley   
  • Anger and Stress Management God's Way, by Wayne Mack
  • Anger, Anxiety and Fear, by Stuart Scott
  • The Heart of Anger, by Lou Priolo
  • Living with an Angry Spouse, by Ed Welch 
  • Uprooting Anger, by Robert Jones
  • The Exemplary Husband, by Stuart Scott
  • The Complete Husband, by Lou Priolo
  • Solving Marriage Problems God's Way, by Jay Adams
  • Strengthening Your Marriage, by Wayne Mack
  • Preparing for Marriage God's Way, by Wayne Mack
  • Feminine Appeal, by Caroline Mahaney
  • The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace
  • The Case of the Hopeless Marriage, by Jay Adams
  • Mortification of Sin, by John Owen
  • How to Overcome Evil, by Jay Adams
  • The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande
  • Sin and Temptation, by John Owen 
  • How People Change, by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane
  • Bitterness: The Root that Pollutes, by Lou Priolo
  • The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness, by John MacArthur
  • God's Healing for Life's Lessons by Bob Kelleman
  • A Shelter in the Time of Storm by Paul Tripp
  • When God's Children Suffer, by Horatius Bonar
  • Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
  • God and the Gay-Christian? by Albert Mohler
  • Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
  • Homosexuality, by Ed Welch
  • Resisting Gossip, by Paul Mitchell
  • Practicing Affirmation, by Sam Crabtree
  • If You Bite and Devour One Another, by Alexander Strauch
  • Sexual Abuse, by Bob Kelleman 
  • Is It My Fault? by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb
  • Finally Free, by Heath Lambert
  • Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is, by Joshua Harris
  • Sexual Detox, by Tim Challies
  • If I'm a Christian, Why am I Depressed? by Bob Sommerville
  • The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams, By Heath Lambert  
  • Men Counseling Men, by John Street, ed.
  • Women Counseling Women, by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Carol Cornish, Eds.  
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, by Jeremy Lelak


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