The Equipping Word

the blog of Dr. Benjamin M. Foxworth
pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Vandalia, IL

The purpose of this blog is to equip the saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:12). This will not be a digital soap box in which I will offer political rants or hammer home personal opinions about topics in the news. This blog’s whole purpose is to use the word of God and personal reflections to encourage, equip, and edify the body of Christ – the church. Anything other would be to waste an opportunity afforded to me by the grace of God. May you be equipped to serve the Lord for His glory!

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Is It Enough?

December 5, 2019  ●  19-36

Is serving God enough? Do we consider our salvation as an opportunity to serve the Lord, serve the king of kings and Lord of Lords, and nothing greater? Is simply getting to serve God enough in our lives?

King David was on the run from his son Absalom, settling in the village of Mahanaim. While in Mahanaim, a man by the name of Barzillai took care of David (2 Sam. 19:31-39). After David’s son Absalom had been killed, and after David’s time of mourning for his son, he set out to return to Jerusalem. David invited Barzillai to come with him to Jerusalem. Barzillai’s reply shows humility and gratefulness from being able to serve David. Barzillai simply told David that he, Barzillai, was eighty years old, and had difficulty hearing, seeing, and even tasting food. For David to take him to Jerusalem would simply be a burden. He was satisfied with going back to his home where he would die in his city and be buried near the graves of his parents. Barzillai did, however, recommend a man by the name of Chimham to go with David as his servant.

Barzillai was satisfied with the fact that he got to serve the king. For Barzillai, serving the king was enough, he did not need any further reward. Later, when David gave his son Solomon instructions on leading the nation of Israel as king, David told him to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai and allow them to eat at the king’s table because they assisted him in his time of need (1 Kings 2:7).

Is serving God enough? The moment God saves us He fills us with His Spirit which enables us to serve God in a particular way (spiritual gift(s)). The purpose of these spiritual gifts is to build up the church and for the benefit of others in the church (1 Cor. 12:7). The question is, though, in our service, are we looking for something greater, a ‘bigger and better ministry’, a position of prominence in our church or denomination? What if we preached or taught Sunday School or was involved in one-on-one discipleship through the years and no one outside our local church ever took notice? Is the fact that we get to serve the Lord of the universe, whether anyone else takes notice or not, whether we are ever placed in a prominent position in our church or denomination, whether we ever write a book or not or are invited to preach many revivals or speak at conferences – is the fact that we get to serve God enough?

Simply seeing the Messiah was enough for Simeon after all his years of waiting for the coming of the Christ-child (Luke 2:29-32). For Anna, simply seeing the Messiah was enough after all her years of praying and fasting in the temple (Luke 2:36-38). For the apostle Paul, all that he ever accomplished in his life was nothing compared to the fact that he got to serve the Lord in the proclamation of His word (Acts 20:24).

Is serving God enough? Yes. The God of the universe, the God of all creation, the God of life itself, saved you when you cried out to Him, forgave your sin, filled you with His Spirit, adopted you into His family, and has prepared a place for you in heaven. You get to serve the God of the universe, and that is enough!

Weeding Sin

August 16, 2019  ●  19-32

We had taken a long weekend to attend a family reunion up in Wisconsin. When we returned I noticed that weeds had overtaken both our front and back flower beds rather quickly. It does not take long for a garden or a flower bed to get infested with weeds. We can pull and rake and mulch and put down weed-blocking cloth to try and cut down on the presence of weeds. However, weeds are relentless and even with our best efforts weeds still persist in trying to gain an opening. Like weeds, sin in the life of the Christian can be relentless too and must be guarded against.

If we, as Christians, do not take care of our lives spiritually, sin, like weeds, will creep in and take over. Jesus taught His disciples about the penetrating effects of sin:

Mark 8:15: And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

The apostle Paul taught this same truth about the penetrating effects of sin being compared to leaven (yeast):

1 Cor. 5:6-7: Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

Do not take offense at the fact that Paul referred to us as, “a new lump”, he was making a point about the penetrating effects of sin. Guarding against the penetrating effects of sin means we must be aware of some important facts about our own lives:

  1. We are all sinners with a sin nature (Ex. 32:22; Rom. 5:19).
  2. We are tempted daily to sin (Matt. 6:13; Heb. 4:15; Jas. 1:13-14).
  3. We must rely on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit daily to combat temptation (Eph 6:10-18).
  4. We must stay vigilant about the attacks of the enemy on our walk with the Lord (Eph. 5:15-16).
  5. In the power of and reliance on the Holy Spirit, temptation can be defeated (Jas. 4:7).

Weeds are a fact of life when it comes to gardens and flower beds. We can work hard to get rid of them, and for the most part we can minimize their presence. But occasionally there is that persistent weed, that “volunteer” tree or bush that tries to get a foothold in the flower bed through a crack in the sidewalk or through a tear in that weed-blocking cloth. A tear or a crack is all a weed needs. The same is true of sin. When there are minute “cracks” in our spiritual armor, when there are small “tears” in our spiritual condition, sin will try to creep in and take hold. Our lives need constant spiritual care just as our gardens and flower beds do. Be vigilant, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and know that no sin, no temptation can overtake the presence and power of God.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Wireless With God

July 5, 2019  ●  19-31

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

You do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:2b)

We live in a world dominated by wireless communications. Regardless of whether you use texting, Snapchat®, e-mail, Twitter® or other methods, our world is dominated by wireless communication. It is interesting to read some of the books of the New Testament because many of them were actually letters written to either specific churches, a group of churches, or individuals. Think about it, a world with no electronic communications whatsoever. The Book of Romans, for example, was a letter, written by the apostle Paul to the church in Rome. This letter was given to a woman named Phoebe to be taken to the church and read to them (Rom. 16:1-2). The Book of Revelation, written by the apostle John, was a letter addressed to seven specific churches, to be read to them, in what we know today as the country of Turkey (Rev. 1:11). However, from the beginning of time, the ultimate in wireless communication has always been prayer (Gen. 4:26).

Regardless of where we go or what situation we are in, we are always connected to God through prayer. God is always on-line and waiting to hear from His children. Unfortunately, this most critical facet of the Christian’s life is left untapped.

Jesus taught His disciples about prayer because He was a man of prayer Himself.

Luke 5:16: But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 6:12: It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

When Jesus taught His disciples on prayer, He taught a truth that is often missed. In Matthew 6:5-9 Jesus said, “When you pray” (v. 5), “But you, when you pray” (v. 6), “and when you are praying” (v. 7), “Pray then in this way” (v. 9). Notice what Jesus was saying? Jesus never for one moment thought His disciples would not pray! He was not telling them to pray, He was instructing them on how to pray and what their prayers were to include.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); “I want men in every place to pray” (1 Timothy 2:8). James wrote that, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)

The purpose of prayer is for the people of God to reorient their lives to the will of God, allowing His Holy Spirit to transform them day by day into vessels He can use. Prayer must take priority in our lives if we hope to see God work through us and the church. In order for prayer to be effective, we must be willing to pay the price.

Paying the price means you hold prayer as more important than other things in your life. Paying the price means you understand that not to pray makes the Christian, and the church, spiritually weak and ineffective for the kingdom of God. Paying the price means you will set aside as much time as needed every day for spending time alone with God, and for Him to speak to you.

Many people have a hard time praying, not knowing where to start or what to include in their prayers. Others think they have to use King James Version language in their prayers, such as, “Oh Lord, thou art a wonderful God.” Who talks like that? Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is also communion with God, being still and allowing God to speak to us.

There is no one formula for praying and there is no set amount of time someone is to be in prayer each day. I simply tell people they need to pray daily for whatever needs to be prayed for, however long that is. Jesus gave His disciples some guidelines in Matthew 6, and those guidelines are good for us to follow (but not pray exactly what Jesus told His disciples because He did not tell them to pray that specific prayer):
Honor God as holy (v. 9)
Pray that His will be done (v. 10)
Ask God to provide for your needs today (v. 11)
Ask for forgiveness, and be forgiving (v. 12)
Pray for strength through temptation (v. 13)
Adoration of God (v. 13)

Here is another easy way to structure your prayers, using the word ACTS1:

  • A – adoration. Begin by praising God.
  • C – confession. Proper prayer includes confessing our sins before God and asking for His forgiveness.
  • T – thanksgiving. Find things to thank God for.
  • S – supplication. What are your requests before God?

I have also found it useful to divide my week up into specific prayer days. Here is what I pray for:

  • Sunday – the church services, the messages, decisions
  • Monday – the preaching ministry God has entrusted me with
  • Tuesday – our deacons
  • Wednesday – the youth ministry, our Wednesday night service, TeamKid
  • Thursday – our Sunday School teachers and Director by name
  • Friday – my family
  • Saturday – Sunday’s services, personal preparation for delivering those messages.

I read an article from crosswalk,com written some years ago on prayer. Included in this article was some information on roadblocks to prayer from Dr. Mark Johnson, chief psychologist at the Central Jail Complex of Orange County California at that time2:

  • Disobedience. Why should God give you His ear when you have chosen to plug yours to His commands and His leading?
  • Secret sin. Why should God offer a helping hand if you’re holding one behind your back clutching sin?
  • Stubbornness. Why should God give in to you while you are refusing to give in to Him?
  • Self-indulgence. Why should God pour out His favor if you have decided to keep all of it for yourself?
  • Mistrust. Why should God answer prayer if you continue to mistrust Him and remain a doubting Thomas?

The Christian that does not pray becomes a spiritually weak Christian, and is missing out on some wonderful communion with God. The Christian that does not pray is unprepared and unequipped to serve and live for God on a daily basis.

I want to encourage you to establish, along with your daily time in God’s Word, a prayer time as part of that quiet time. Learn to pray without ceasing, pray with and for your friends, your church, your family, and for God’s will to be done through you.

Without prayer the Christian life, robbed of its sweetness and its beauty, becomes cold and formal and dead; but rooted in the secret place where God meets and walks and talks with His own, it grows into such a testimony of divine power that all men will feel its influence and be touched by the warmth of its love. Thus, resembling our Lord and master, we shall be used for the glory of God and the salvation of our fellowmen3.

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1
The prayer acrostic ACTS is not original with me, I do not know where it originally appeared.
2 “Roadblocks to prayer”, www.crosswalk.com, Aug. 21, 2000 (internet, accessed July 2, 2019).
3 “Christ Commanded Us To Pray”, E.M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Book Five: Purpose in Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), 365. I would highly recommend you buy of copy of this book, it is an incredible resource on prayer!

The Blessings of Gathering

July 2, 2019  ●  19-30

Ps. 84:1-2: How lovely are Your dwelling places, o Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

God has made us a people who gather, a people who congregate. When we distance ourselves from gathering with other brothers and sisters in Christ we miss the blessings God has in store for us because we gather.

First there are the blessings of PLACE. The blessings of PLACE are realized as we gather as a family of faith with other brothers and sisters in Christ in the space God has given us. God has blessed us with great facilities, and while the church is not the building, we are blessed because we have a place to gather.

Second there are the blessings of STRENGTH. The blessings of STRENGTH are realized through the strength we receive from one another by encouragement, prayer, and the sharing of burdens.

Third are the blessings of TRUST. The blessings of TRUST come from the lives and testimonies of others as they share how their trust in God helped them gain the victory through life’s difficulties.

I want to share with you 10 powerful statements we make when we regularly gather as a people of God:

  1. I am a child of God and love being in His presence with His people.
  2. I have been powerfully saved by Jesus Christ and am part of His family by faith.
  3. I enjoy being in the company of other brothers and sisters in Christ.
  4. I understand being a church member has responsibilities and I want to be used of God.
  5. I want my family to be spiritually prepared for the attacks of Satan.
  6. I have a great high priest in Jesus Christ who is acting on my behalf before God the Father.
  7. I am not ashamed to be associated with others members of my faith family.
  8. Gathering as a people of God is important to my family and I.
  9. My regular presence in God’s house is a testimony to God’s saving grace in my life.
  10. The teaching and preaching of God’s Word is indispensable for the spiritual health and growth of my family and I.

I want to encourage you to allow God’s Word to equip you to understand and realize the blessings of gathering as a people of God. Use the following verses to help you gain an understanding of the importance of regularly:
Ps. 35:18; 73:15-20 / Acts 4:32

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.