Henry Anderson

Life and Death

There is no higher calling in this world than to live for Christ. When you wake up tomorrow morning, using this verse or others, actively seek to dawn this mentality. Live for Jesus, display Jesus to others, tell others about Jesus, being reminded that this life is a vapor that is here and then vanishes. Make the most of the time God has granted us on earth. 

Life and death… are a definition of opposites. They are two spheres we will all traverse, should the Lord tarry. It’s also true that while we will navigate both, we have only experienced one of which at this point in time. Life is present. Death is the future. Since death is the future, shouldn’t it affect life at present?
I imagine that everyone would agree here, that it should. ‘Yes, since death is coming, that should inform how I live at present.’ Sadly, I think at times unbelievers do a better job here (in a negative way) than we do––in living in light of the future. What I mean is this, since death is coming, unbelievers seek to enjoy their fill of the world to the full, indulging in sins and all sorts of evils, throwing caution to the wind with their souls. For the unbeliever, death often motivates unholy living at present, it fuels the fire, so to speak.
If that is the case, how much more so should Christians be sold out to live for the Lord at present, particularly in light of what death brings? If death motivates unholiness for the unbeliever, how much more should it motivate holy living for the believer, out of a love for the Lord? In Phil 1:21, Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That verse is a spiritual thermometer of sorts, it shows how you’re doing. The way you live your life at present testifies to what you believe about what is to come in the future.
I know we are well on our way into 2023. It’s a bit late for new years resolutions. I am generally not one for new years resolutions, given the world’s flippant commitments. However, I am for them in the Jonathan Edward’s sense. Edwards composed 70 resolutions for his life in being a follower of Christ. The first of his resolutions is undergirded with Paul’s words in Phil 1:21. Edwards wrote,
“Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.”
The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards
That is a grand statement. Our aim and practice as believers should be to live to glorify the God who saves, with all that we are, all the time. As I write that, which I firmly believe, I recognize that I do not live up to that statement perfectly, and I imagine that you do not either. Our God is awesome, in the truest sense of the word, because of what the future holds, we should live fully for Him at present… but we don’t. Despite how great our God is we can forget our purpose and call in life, at least in practice.
Again, Paul writes, clear, unambiguous teaching that summarizes the life of a Christian. He says, “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” At first glance, it might be easy for someone to assume that Paul writes a statement like this one when everything’s going his way in life. That’s not the setting. Paul makes that statement while imprisoned, not from the Ritz. He wrote in verses 7, 13, 14, and 17 of the chains that he wore. But the reality that he was imprisoned did not change or alter his perspective on his purpose in life. In fact, he wrote in Phil 4:11–13,
“Not that I speak from want, for I learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in abundance; in any and all things I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
At which point, we can see that “going Paul’s way in life” wasn’t what mattered most to him.
So here Paul is, this man who is heavenly-minded and therefore of the most earthly good, and he says to the Philippian church that his desire is for Christ to always be magnified in him. He says in verses 18–20,
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my salvation through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”
This is Paul’s focus in life. When Paul wakes up, his day is about Christ being magnified. When he goes to bed, the same is true. This is what he breathes, eats, drinks, and dreams. His life isn’t like a shotgun with many different pellets in a general direction, but rather like a rifle with a single bullet and precise aim. His focus is clear. He knows his purpose in life.
At this point, Paul has likely been walking with the Lord for around 26 years or so. If anything, he has only become more crystalized in his focus and resolve to live for Christ. Shortly after he was saved by the Lord Jesus, in Acts 9:19b–20 we read, “Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” Upon being saved, Paul knew he was to proclaim Jesus Christ. He knew that he was to live for Him, and he continued to grow in this knowledge over time.
As we read on in Acts and in learning about Paul through his letters, around 16 years later we see a fuller picture of Paul’s heart for the Lord. We read him say in Gal 2:20, a statement that is so direct concerning the Christian life, that it only amplifies Phil 1:21.
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Glory in the Garden

Jesus’ placement in the garden is an intentional, providential, God-inspired, connection back to the garden of Eden (cf. 2 Tim 3:16–17). Jesus rises from the dead as the greater Adam who succeeded where Adam failed, and He will reign forevermore over His Edenic kingdom on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

My wife started a garden last year. Anyone who has done this knows that it is tedious work (it doesn’t matter if you have a green thumb or a brown thumb). You have to have the right soil composition. You have to have the right types of plants for each season. You have to make sure that the plants get enough water and not too much. You have to tend to them regularly and protect them from insects, and in our case, our Basset Hound.
What fascinates me is thinking about the garden of Eden, in light of gardening practices today. Some things would have remained the same. There would be land and plants. But other things would be entirely different… before sin, you wouldn’t have plants dying from pests or disease. The sun wouldn’t scorch the plants. You’d have enough water for them. There were no years of famine. It would have been a special place (to say the least), and that’s what we see presented in the Bible.
Moses writes
Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and so the man became a living being. And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, toward the east; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.Gen 2:7–8
God made Adam out of the earth that He just spoke into existence with a word, five days earlier. Subsequently, God planted a garden and put the man there. It is a garden before sin. The colors, fragrances, tastes, and growth were unaffected by the fall. It’s quite a stimulating thought.
I want to draw your attention to two observations which we will pair with the gospel of John later. The first observation I want to draw your attention to is found here. New life is found in the garden. Adam has just been fashioned and is in the garden. Adam is the first human to exist. His life is breathed into him and his direction is seen in him, as a new creation, beginning in a garden.
Next, we see what occurred within the garden in Gen 2:9. “And out of the ground Yahweh God caused to grow every tree that is desirable in appearance and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The garden is full of produce that God causes to grow. It is a picture of God’s kindness as the fruit is good for food which should reveal God’s own character to Adam.
God made rivers and then tasks man with his job,
Then Yahweh God took the man and set him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may surely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat from it; for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”Gen 2:15–17
There’s more here than I will comment on. Suffice it to say, Adam is placed in the garden as God’s representative. That’s the second observation. Under God, Adam is tasked with ruling over the garden and that expands to the rest of the land and created order (cf. Gen 1:26–28). Adam is called to be faithful as God’s vice-regent. He is without sin, but his faithfulness must be proven. That’s seen in the wording of Gen 2:17.
So, life is breathed into the dirt, and Adam exists, he’s commissioned to be faithful as God’s representative, and his occupation is that of a gardener. Things are looking great.
As the story goes on, Adam sins. He betrays God and does the only thing God prohibited him from in Gen 2:17. Adam ate the forbidden fruit (cf. Gen 3:6). From that moment on, everything changed. Mankind was dead in sin. Man’s relationship with God was fractured. Sin tainted man, making him depraved. The colors, fragrance, sounds, and beauty of the garden of Eden too would have diminished. Sin affected the world over because of Adam’s sin. We have all been affected, but one Man.
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Expository Singing

What matters most to God is what fuels our obedience, and it should be love. When we come before the Lord in song, it’s not enough to merely be engaged with the words intellectually, it’s not even enough to follow through on what we sing, we must be a people that love God in these realities. That’s what the Lord desires.

Over the past few decades, there has been a tremendous emphasis placed upon exposition in the church. The benefits of this are too many to count. A revival has taken place where a number of churches have moved away from a surface level study of God’s word (like skipping a rock on the ocean), to an in-depth comprehensive study of the text––exposition (like dropping an anchor down to the ocean floor).
After all, if God’s word is breathed by Him and therefore sourced in Him, then it is incumbent upon us as His people to draw the last drops of sweet nectar that we can from every single word. Paul tells Timothy
All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Tim 3:16–17
Since the Scriptures are profitable to equip us for every single good work prepared for us, we should not just know a little bit of them, we must live in them (cf. Matt 4:4; Eph 2:10).
To that end, many pastors have written books on the topic of expository preaching. That is, preaching that seeks to understand a text within its larger context and draw out the God-laden meaning from the words and grammar that has been used by the Biblical writers. G. Campbell Morgan put it this way, “The sermon is the text repeated more fully.” That’s the idea.
In a related but slightly different direction, in 2010, Ken Ramey wrote a book entitled, Expository Listening. His work is a primer on how God’s people should approach listening to an expository sermon. It is based on passages like Jas 1:22, “But become doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Building off of the momentum, in 2017, Josh Neimi released the book entitled, Expository Parenting. The book aims to show parents that they must expose and lay bare the pure milk of the Scriptures to their children.
With that being said, you opened this article expecting to learn about a different type of exposition. At this point, I do want to speak about expository singing.
Now, there are two ways that we might approach this topic. The first would be more for worship leaders. Expository singing could mean the way that writing hymns and spiritual songs should be done, based on the exposition or explanation of the meaning of the Scriptures. That’s one way, but that’s not what I intend with this article.
The second approach is seen in thinking about expository singing, not from the approach of creating content, but rather based on how we approach the songs that we sing to the Lord each Sunday (or throughout the week). Well-written hymns and spiritual songs are expository in nature. The Scriptures are the light unto our path, and good praise songs will emphasize the light of the Lord through His word and bring us near to Him (Ps 119:105).
With that in mind, there are four principles that I want to deliver to you that should cause you to enjoy God more through song when rightly appropriated. In finding your enjoyment in God, you bring honor to Him in fulfilling your created purpose… the exaltation of His name (Ps 34:3).
Here is a question for you, what makes a good Christian song? Is it the date in which it was written (a pre-1900 hymn with preferably some old English mixed in)? Is it the melody that the song has or its tempo, upbeat or slow? What about the instruments used or lack thereof (drums, guitars, cymbals, harps, a cappella)? How about the number of times the chorus is sung? Here’s the answer. None of those make a good Christian song, inherently.
What makes a good praise song is the words. It’s the content. After Jesus’ ostensible disciples depart from Him, there’s this precious interaction between Jesus and his disciples…
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”
John 6:67–68
Where else can we go, but you Lord? We sing songs that make much of the God of our salvation.
But here’s the rub, how many of those words do you actually think about when you sing them on Sunday morning (or ideally throughout the week)? It is so ingrained in our culture and in our world to value songs that have catchy beats and rifts and then to mindlessly puppet the words the artist sings. That has no place in Christianity. This is the first principle of expository singing, we must be engaged singers.
We Must be Engaged Singers
There are two quotes that I use often but have never been able to find (if you can identify them please let me know). The first is from Charles Spurgeon (at least I think) concerning sanctification, “we must move, but He must move us.” I love that quote, but I can’t find it anywhere. The second pertains to our topic. Paul Washer once said (at least I think) that “we never lie more than in our singing of songs of praise.” Why would Paul Washer say that?
It’s all too common for people to sing glorious lyrics on Sunday morning but not truly mean them. If I told you, “I like your outfit,” but I didn’t mean it, what would you call me? You’d call me a liar. But doesn’t that happen with how we approach God through song? Yes, I said “we,” I am guilty of this too. Here are some relatively well-known lyrics… through introspection, answer as to whether or not you meant them fully when you last sang them.
“My soul finds rest in God alone; All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King; I will tell the wondrous story how, my lost estate to save, in His boundless love and mercy He the ransom freely gave; When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries, May Jesus Christ be praised; I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no pow’r, no wisdom.”
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Reflections Concerning a Flower of the Soul

Christian, do not be down on yourself. Run to new heights in the love of God in Christ, by trusting in Him and adoring His hand toward you in seasons of ease and difficulty.

They say that April showers bring May flowers. Well, that might ring true for many parts of the country, but in central Texas, it’s usually May showers that bring June flowers. There’s quite a bit more rainfall in May. It’s always beautiful seeing the Indian paintbrushes, Indian blankets, and pink evening primroses rise up and cover the fields. The scenery from our God far surpasses even the most alluring Bob Ross paintings, as the landscape is dotted with radiant colors that seem to dance with the wind.
But as you know with flowers, as beautiful as the bright reds, the vibrant yellows, and the glowing pinks are…they do not last for long. That is especially true in the middle of a Texas summer. The rains have usually gone, and the heat scorches the once blooming and thriving floral landscapes. The colorful vista becomes light brown, with a dull green intermingled.
Something similar can occur within us, it’s something we are prone to in our fallenness. When the heat of trials are turned up and the fires are stoked, a certain flower that is designed to remain constant in the Christian life, begins to wither in us all at particular moments in time. The flower that I am speaking of is that of Christian contentment. Yet, it is a flower that does not have to fade or droop over from exasperation.
Christians have such a treasure that the world does not possess. By the grace of God, everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for sinners as a propitiatory sacrifice to the Father, who has risen gloriously from the dead, can be content––always. That’s moving news! However, it might not sound all that earth-shattering to your ears at first (or your eyes in this case since you’re reading this), but let me illustrate.
For the people of the world who remain at enmity with God, their contentment is only superficial. The burden of their sins remains fastly strapped to their backs. It cannot be shaken off permanently even with a seared conscience (cf. Matt 27:5 ; 1 Tim 4:2 ). There is a settled recognition that something is wrong and that judgment will come because of it. The contentment of the world, when it does appear, it never lasts because the object of their contentment is never sure (cf. Matt 7:24–29 ).
For some, it might be difficult to remember the discontentment that you had in your life before coming to love Jesus Christ. It might be tough to remember the fear of your guilty standing before a holy God. What liberty and freedom you have now. That knowledge of a perfect Judge which once made the skies sullen now makes them bright in the light of the gospel of Christ.
Having said that, even in salvation…as precious as that reality is, discontentment isn’t entirely absolved around us, or in us. For some of you, you do love the Lord Jesus, and you know all about discontentment in your life, even as you are reading this article.
There are at least two reasons for this. First, the world around us thrives on discontentment. Second, what became natural in us because of the fall, in our flesh, is discontentment.
It should come as no surprise that most people in this world are not content. Satan both knows this and loves this reality. He does everything he can to fan the flame toward more unsettledness in the world (always wanting but never having). It’s why in the United States last year according to Forbes, 300 billion dollars were being spent on advertising. For some perspective, it would take 9,500 years to count to that number without sleeping. Don’t let your head spin too much on that.
The number $300 billion is not consumers buying products. It’s only companies paying for their products to be displayed on TV, on the internet, and in print. Just for some additional perspective, that amount of money is more than the GDP of the 41st most wealthy country in the world, which is Chile, which is in front of Finland, Egypt, Portugal, Greece, and most other countries. That’s a lot of money. And that’s just for the US. When you add in the rest of the world by the same article approximately one trillion dollars were spent on advertising in 2021. The advertising business is predicated upon causing you to believe that you need something that you don’t presently have when you have probably been living just fine without having whatever they’re selling and didn’t realize you “needed” their trinket until you saw their message…just some food for thought.
Discontentment is not just bred through looking at advertisements alone. That’s something we all know. It can come through the relationships you have, even with brothers and sisters in the church. It can happen when you go over to someone’s house and see that they have the new this, that, or the other name it appliance. It can be when a family talks about the vacation they just went on to the mountains or through wanting to keep up with the Jones’. Or maybe it’s through social media in seeing someone wear a certain brand of clothing or living in a certain house or doing something in particular that causes you to think…“if only I had that…if only I were there too.”
Dissatisfaction can happen almost anywhere, at any time. There is a battle for your contentment, and it’s a battle that began long before you or I were born. You can trace the battle for contentment all the way back to the garden. Think about what the god of this age says to Eve, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
We can postulate what went on between Eve’s ears. “You mean, serpent, there’s more to life than what I currently know? There’s more that I can have in this world? I have been misled and duped?” This leads us to the underlying accusation, the place where Satan wanted Eve. It’s where he wants you, and me, “Why would a good God withhold that from me?” That right there is an affront to and a charge against a perfect God. It’s nothing new, and it’s what we battle against today.
The goal of this brief post is to show you that God has given you, Christian, a Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I have seen no better definition of contentment than that of the puritan pastor, Jeremiah Burroughs in the aforementioned work. He wrote in 1648,
Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition.Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
With those words, Burroughs, based on Scriptural texts (of which we will consider), opens the doors of your heart for greater joy in contentment in Christ.
There is only one word used in the New Testament for contentment. That sounds simple enough. But here’s the kicker, the word is found in three different forms (as a verb, adjective, and noun). The forms have slightly different nuances.
The verb form is “ἀρκέω.” It is used eight times and speaks of sufficiency or satisfaction (depending on the context). The idea is that there is nothing that is lacking. For example, Paul says in 2 Cor 12:10 , “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions and hardships, for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul was saying that amid all the hardships he went through: the beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, etc, he was sustained and content.
At which point, the world would say, “that’s simply not possible.” But the reason for this state was due to the Lord Himself. In 2 Cor 12:7–9 , we see the key turn in the lock of the truth revealed in verse 10.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me⁠—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.2 Cor 12:7–9
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