Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"The Little Hurts" by Edgar A. Guest

Every night she runs to me
With a bandaged arm or a bandaged knee,
A stone-bruised heel or a swollen brow,
And in sorrowful tones she tells me how
She fell and "hurted hers'f to-day"
While she was having the "bestest play."

And I take her up in my arms and kiss
The new little wounds and whisper this:
"Oh, you must be careful, my little one,
You mustn't get hurt while your daddy's gone,
For every cut with its ache and smart
Leaves another bruise on your daddy's heart."

Every night I must stoop to see
The fresh little cuts on her arm or knee;
The little hurts that have marred her play,
And brought the tears on a happy day;
For the path of childhoord is oft beset
With care and trouble and things that fret.

Oh, little girl, when you older grow,
Far greater hurts than these you'll know;
Greater bruises will bring your tears,
Around the bend of the lane of years,
But come to your daddy with them at night
And he'll do his best to make all things right.

"Heavenly Father, thank you for my four precious children. As their earthly father, please use me to lovingly console their tender little hearts whenever they are hurting. Thank you for protecting them by preventing them from getting hurt even worse than they do sometimes. Please take up the slack where I lack and transfer their allegiance from me, their earthly father, to You, our heavenly Father. Amen."

It has been given back.

Never say about anything, "I have lost it," but only "I have given it back." Is your child dead? "It has been given back." Is your wife dead? "She has been given back." "I have had my farm taken away." Very well, this too has been given back. "Yet is was a rascal who took it away." But what concern is it of yours by whose instrumentality the Giver called for its return? So long as He gives it you, take care of it as of a thing that is not your own, as travellers treat their inn.

Epictetus, from The Manual.

"And he [Job] said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.'" (Job 1:21)

Heavenly Father, may I be a good steward of all that You temporarily entrust to me. May I never cling covetously to Your creations but view them as momentary gifts that constantly remind me to worship You alone, the Creator. May I always bless Your name--when You give and even when You take away--regardless of the means by which You choose to do so. Amen.

Ovid on Birth and Death

"To be born, is to begin to be
Some other thing we were not formerly:
And what we call to die, is not t' appear,
Or be the thing that formerly we were."

Ovid, from Metamorphoses, Vol. 4, Book XV.

"Crossing the Bar" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

"Remember" by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that I once had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

"If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?"

From "Idylls of the King" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

"On Another's Sorrow" by William Blake

Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief & care,
Hear the woes that infants bear,

And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast;
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infant's tear;

And not sit both night & day
Wiping all our tears away?
O! no never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give his joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.

O! he gives to us his joy
That our grief he may destroy;
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"The Old Time Family" by Edgar A. Guest

It makes me smile to hear 'em tell each other nowadays
The burdens they are bearing, with a child or two to raise.
Of course the cost of living has gone soaring to the sky
And our kids are wearing garments that my parents couldn't buy.
Now my father wasn't wealthy, but I never heard him squeal
Because eight of us were sitting at the table every meal.

People fancy they are martyrs if their children number three,
And four or five they reckon makes a large-sized family.
A dozen hungry youngsters at a table I have seen
And their daddy didn't grumble when they licked their platter clean.
Oh, I wonder how these mothers and these fathers up-to-date
Would like a job of buying little shoes for seven or eight.

We were eight around the table in those happy days back then,
Eight that cleaned our plates of pot-pie and then passed them up again;
Eight that needed shoes and stockings, eight to wash and put to bed,
And with mighty little money in the purse, as I have said,
But with all the care we brought them, and through all the days of stress,
I never heard my father or my mother wish for less.

"Hard Luck" by Edgar A. Guest

Ain't no use as I can see
In sittin' underneath a tree
An' growlin that your luck is bad,
An' that your life is extry sad;
Your life ain't sadder than your neighbor's
Nor any harder are your labors;
It rains on him the same as you,
An' he has work he hates to do;
An' he gets tired an' he gits cross,
An' he has trouble with the boss;
You take his whole life, through an' through,
Why, he's not better off than you.

If whinin' brushed the clouds away
I wouldn't have a word to say;
If it made good friends out o' foes
I'd whine a bit, too, I suppose;
But when I look around an' see
A lot o' men resemblin' me,
An' see 'em sad, an' see 'em gay
With work t' do most every day,
Some full o' fun, some bent with care,
Some havin' troubles hard to bear,
I reckon, as I count my woes,
They're 'bout what everybody knows.

The day I find a man who'll say
He's never known a rainy day,
Who'll raise his right hand up an' swear
In forty years he's had no care,
Has never had a single blow,
An' never known one touch o' woe,
Has never seen a loved one die,
Has never wept or heaved a sigh,
Has never had a plan go wrong,
But allus laughed his way along;
Then I'll sit down an' start to whine
That all the hard luck is mine.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Will Your Library Do With You?

I once had a professor to say, "I can tell a lot about a preacher by looking at his library." Generally, I would agree. When I think about personal libraries, I am reminded of this ditty:

Be a little careful about your library.
Do you forsee what you will do with it?
Very little to be sure.
But the real question is,
What will it do with you?

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Heavenly Father, dispenser of all knowledge, thank you for the library which You have entrusted to me. May it grow in volume as You see fit. Most of all, may You use it to influence and mold me, my family, and others, more into the image of Christ Jesus the Lord."

What is Your One All-Consuming Passion?

“A zealous man in religion is preeminently a man of one thing. . . . He sees only one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up for one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies, whether he has health, or whether he has sickness, whether he is rich, or whether he is poor, whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense, whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish, whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame, for all this the . . . man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one things is to please God and to advance God’s glory.”

Source: J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion (London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1959), 130.

Reminds me of:
Q: "What is the chief end of man?"
A: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

Lord Jesus, please help me always to keep my preeminent passion as pleasing God, my heavenly Father. Protect me from double-mindedness and distracted by peripheral matters. Regardless of my life or death, health or wealth, fame or shame, may I be "Ablaze for Your Glory!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Does Christ live in the parlour of your heart?

"Rest assured, Christ will not live in the parlour of our hearts if we entertain the devil in the cellar of our thoughts."

(Charles H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 5:6, in The Treasury of David, I.47)

"Lord Jesus, please make yourself at home in the living-room, and indeed every room, of my heart. Please forgive me for every time I have ever entertained sinful thoughts. Root out any pernicious thought in the cellar of my mind. Thank You, sweet Jesus. Amen."

Flattery is Fatalistic

"A clerical sycophant is only fit to be a scullion in the devil's kitchen."

(Charles H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 2:10, in The Treasury of David, I.18)

"Heavenly Father, may I, as clergy, not be guilty of trying to curry favor from others. Deliver us from flattery and fawning before famous people in order to procure personal pleasantries. Please spare me from stooping to such a slavish spot in Satan's kitchen."

Application of Yourself and the Text

"Apply yourself wholly to the text,
Apply the text wholly to yourself."

--J. A. Bengel

"Lord, aid me in applying myself totally to the biblical text and applying the biblical text totally to myself. Help me avoid the perilous pitfalls of, on the one hand, applying myself only partially and half-heartedly to the biblical text and, on the other hand, of applying the biblical text hypocritically and only to others who seem to need it more than I do. Amen."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Are God's Children Starving Even While Seated at His Table?

"There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton's terrible sentence applies to our day as it did to his: 'The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed'. It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the kingdom, to see God's children starving while actually seated at the Father's table"

- A.W. Tozer

"Lord, as the hungry sheep stare up, use me to serve them scrumptuous and satisfying portions from Your delectable word. Help Your preachers faithfully feed Your flock as we feast at the Father's fine table. Surely, if we gorge ourselves on God's good word then we would not be guilty of gluttony. May we taste Your savory sweetness and see that the Lord is good. In Jesus' Name. Amen."

Pilgrim, Are You Progressing in Piety?

"Young converts are prone to depend too much on joyful frames, and love high excitement in their devotional exercises; but their heavenly Father cures them of this folly, by leaving them for a season to walk in darkness and struggle with their own corruptions. When most sorely pressed and discouraged, however, He strengthens them with might in the inner man. He enables them to stand firmly against temptation; or, if they slide, he quickly restores them, and by such exercises they become much more sensible of their entire dependence than they were at first. They learn to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, and to distrust entirely their own wisdom and strength, and to rely for all needed aid on the grace of Jesus Christ. Such a soul will not readily believe that it is growing in grace. But to be emptied of self-dependence, and to know that we need aid for every duty, and even for every good thought, is an important step in our progress in piety. The flowers may have disappeared from the plant of grace, and even the leaves may have fallen off, and wintry blasts may have shaken it, but now it is striking its roots deeper, and becoming every day stronger to endure the rugged storm."

-Archibald Alexander

"Heavenly Father, when the storms of life assail, may Your gracious will prevail. When You are growing us in grace, give us faith to trust You, even when we cannot see Your beautiful face. Rid us of self-reliance and root us in God-dependence. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Sermonettes or "sweet but substanceless snacks"

“Much of what emanates from modern pulpits would not be recognized by history’s great preachers as being Bible-based and glorifying to God. Rather than the spiritual meat the Body of Christ needs–marked by doctrinal clarity, a sense of gravity, convincing argument, and a proper focus on Christ–entire churches are being administered a sweet but substanceless snack by their pastors. Consequently, congregations leave the sanctuary malnourished and ill-prepared to stand firm when their faith is challenged.” - Alistair Begg

Sermonettes produce Christianettes. (I heard one preacher add: "who smoke cigarettes" to this sad but true axiom.)

"Lord Jesus, please help me consistently prepare and regularly present a full-course meal through the whole counsel of God from the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God in order to equip the saints of God to do the work of God by the Holy Spirit of God for the glory of God the Father. Amen."

Preacher, What Is Your Biggest Problem?

“A preacher’s biggest problem is how to toughen his hide without hardening his heart.”

—Vance Havner

While in seminary I remember hearing this little ditty: "A Preacher should have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros." In other words, he should be thoughtful, tender-hearted, and thick-skinned.

Unfortunately, too many preachers (and Christians) have the mind of a child, the heart of a rhinoceros, and the hide of a child. In other words, they are shallow, jaded, and touchy.

"Holy Spirit, cultivate in me the proper balance of head, heart, and hide. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Do You Need A Vacation?

"A vacation is what you take when
you can no longer take what you've been taking."

--Earl Wilson

Preacher, Are You a People-Pleaser?

The Man, His Son, and the Ass
(A fable by Aesop)

A man and his son were driving an ass to market, where it was to be sold. “Have you no more sense,” said a passer-by, “than to trudge along, letting your ass go without a load?” So the man put his son on the ass, and they went on. “You lazy young rascal,” said the next person they met; “aren’t you ashamed to ride, and let your poor old father go on foot?” The man lifted off his son, and got on himself. Two women passed, one saying to the other, “Look at that selfish old fellow, riding while his little son follows on foot!” The man then took the boy up behind him. The next traveller they met asked the man whether the ass was his, and on being told that it was, he said, “No one would think so, from the way you use it. Why, you are better able to carry the ass than he is to carry both of you.” So the man tied that ass’s legs to a pole and, staggering under the weight, they carried it into the town. There they were greeted with so much laughter that the man, infuriated, threw the ass into the river and, seizing his son by the arm, set off home.

Moral: He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.

J. Harold Smith said it this way: “Every preacher who trims himself to suit everybody will soon whittle himself away.”

What is Preaching?

“Preaching is not the art of making a sermon and delivering it. Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering him.”

—Bishop Quayle

Hast Thou No Scar ?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die: and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I
Hast thou no wound?

No wound, no scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

—Amy Carmichael

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Melissa Ward Kerstetter

Melissa, my wonderful wife, I thank our Lord Jesus for you (Phil. 1:3). I am glad beyond measure that "the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'" (Gen. 2:18) in reference to Adam, but in application to me, because He could not have given me a better "helper." We complement one another quite well. Indeed, my fountain is blessed and I continually rejoice with you--the wife of my youth (cf. Prov. 5:18).
Thank you for being my wife and the Mother of our four precious children. You are beautiful physically on the outside but even more attractive spiritually on the inside (cf. 1 Peter 3:3-6). May God grant you many more birthdays as you serve Him faithfully each day. I love you with more than words and I will always love you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Charis Dawn Kerstetter

Charis, you were the first arrow God added to your Mom and Dad's quiver (cf. Psalm 127), back on February 3, 2000. I will never forget seeing your face for the very first time through my tears of joy. You are already fulfilling your name--"grace dawning" or "the dawning of grace." Aren't you glad that your Mom and I didn't give you the middle name "matic"? Although with your effervescent personality, we would not have missed the mark. You bring so much joy to our family and are a good help to your younger sisters and brother.
May God continue using you to shine the light of His marvelous grace into the broken lives of many people. May God sharpen and hone your musical ear and train you with a musical eye so that you may glorify Him through music, just like your Mom does. Our prayer is that you will serve God always with every ounce of your strength and every breath of your being. We are so proud of you and we will always love you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

God Calls Me as Full-time Pastor-Teacher

On February 2, 2009, God called me to Pastor the people of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Valdese, North Carolina. I echo the words of the Apostle Paul: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into ministry . . . . Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:12, 17).
Although God called me to a public preaching ministry in January 1993, which has led to many sermons in different settings (e.g., church buildings, classrooms, a court room, and even a pharmaceutical company) and locations (e.g., NC, SC, GA, and NY), this is my first full-time ministry opportunity as Pastor-Teacher.
May God grant me heavenly wisdom (Jas. 3:17-18) as He leads me by His Spirit into shepherding His sheep (1 Peter 5:2-4) and "equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12). Heavenly Father, glorify Yourself in and through me as you conform me even more into the image of Your unique Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:29).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Noah Glenn Kerstetter

Noah Glenn, our one and only son, Mommy and Daddy love you very much. Whenever I was cutting your umbilical cord, the Doctor pointed out that it was tied in a knot, which is rare and even rarer that a baby survives whenever this occurs. Your Mom and I were extremely relieved and grateful to our Lord Jesus for knowing you, forming you, sanctifying you, and ordaining you in the womb before you were even born (cf. Jer. 1:5).
Contrary to what most people ask, we did not keep trying until we got a boy. Your Mommy and I had decided even before we got married, that, Lord willing, we were going to have four children--regardless of the sex of the baby. We are thankful to our Great God that He has loaned you and your three older sisters to us so that we could be good stewards in rearing you all in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Noah, may God use you as "comfort for those who are in the valleys of life" (Psalm 84:6). May you experience the Lord not only as "the God of the mountains" but also as "the God of the valleys" (cf. 1 Kings 20:23-30). May you "gain Christ and be found in Him . . . know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:8-10)