Rejected Weekly Links (1/8/2016)

Call it the first fail of 2016 for me…

Didn’t think I’d want this post I made go to waste. As I wrote what you find below, I was unaware that I wasn’t scheduled to post this on my church’s blog. Well, to those few who still subscribe to this blog, here’s a bonus!

“Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday.  However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before.  It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach.  In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word.  This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.” (Philip Ryken, quoted by Ken Ramey, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! Praise God for another year to bring Him glory on this earth in our daily lives! May we continue to seek His face every day, in every area! I hope these links will push you in the right direction, so here goes!

  • Denny Burk brings to our attention the hurt that transgenderism causes children when the culture seeks to change their bodies instead of their minds. In contrast, Ray Ortlund writes to encourage fathers to view their relationship with their children as a high calling from God and to excel in their role to His glory.
  • With the recent end of InterVarsity’s Urbana conference, some questions were raised as to what went on, specifically with the embrace of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the denigration of the pro-life movement. The article is aptly titled, ‘Dorothy, This Is Not Your Parents’ InterVarsity Anymore.
  • Have you ever heard someone tell you, “God spoke to me” in reference to some belief/teaching they adhere to? Professor Michael Kruger gives an example from church history to demonstrate the danger of that uttering that kind of statement.
  • Have you made any resolutions for the new year? How are you doing with that? If you already find yourself struggling with keeping your resolutions, here’s some wise advice from Jonathan Edwards, the one who wrote those famous 70 resolutions, and yet struggled to keep them himself! For the marrieds, be aware of what can hurt your marriage this year, and for everyone, be prepared when disappointed with our relationships.
  • CCEF published their (every so often) magazine, CCEFNow, which gives an update of their current ministry work, along with articles related to biblical counseling. Articles cover the theological nature of counseling, the person-specific process of sanctification, ministering to youth, and more! This is definitely a resource you do not want to pass up!
  • How would you respond if someone objects to the truth of Christianity by bringing up the problem of evil, especially if that person is an atheist? Dan DeWitt responds. In responding to how to follow Christ in an ever-increasing secular culture, Tim Keller, Russell Moore, and Collin Hansen explain some ways to build bridges to the gospel using the cultural narrative of the day.
  • In succinct fashion, biblical counselor Robert Kellemen asks a simple, profound question: ‘Where do you fit into God’s mission?‘ Your role may be more valuable than you think.

That’s all for this week! Pray for College Life and Lumos, as they will be meeting tonight. Looking to seeing everyone back at church this Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria


How to Give a Devotional

Hello everyone (or just hello, you two),

I’ve been referring to a blog post for some helpful advice on how to give a devotional, and since the post gets older, I thought I would link to it, as well as include, the advice that was given to me on this. Colin Smith is a member at Christ Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, and has written some helpful material on different theological topics (one that I have benefited greatly from is his paper on JEDP Theory, which is something UCSD students will encounter sometime in their studies).

Mr. Smith has posted a devotional blog entry about once a week, and since I have been given opportunity to give a devotional a number of times, I thought I would ask him for any guideline for what to say/how to prepare one (Is there a class that teaches this? I’d be curious where people learn how to do this, otherwise, this may have to do). The post comes from his devotional on Matthew 5:6.

UPDATE (November 6, 2012)

Mr. Smith was kind enough to make his readers aware of my blog, and I took that as an opportunity to follow-up what he wrote back in May (which I had planned to do but never got around to it). Well, he gave some very helpful feedback, and I wanted to throw in the latest comments from him on giving devotionals. I hope this is of help to all of you. 🙂

Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

May 8, 2012 at 1:19 am

Hello Mr. Smith,

I was wondering how people prepare to give devotionals. If you know of any resources or could pass along any helpful words of wisdom, that would be much appreciated. Thanks for the work you put on this blog! I’ve always appreciated your paper on the JEDP hypothesis. Your article kept me sane throughout college! =)


May 8, 2012 at 1:53 am

Thank you, Cesar! It’s especially humbling for me to think that any of my work has been used to bless and encourage others, so I thank God for that.

I don’t consider myself to be an expert when it comes to devotionals, but since I post one every week, I must have some idea what I’m doing! As I see it, the idea behind a devotional is to draw out truths or principles from a passage that will help the reader/listener draw closer to God. Ultimately it is to increase one’s devotion to Him, but it can also exhort and encourage. It shouldn’t be long, and it shouldn’t be too academic (which is something I need to watch out for!). For devotionals, I try to keep it simple, keep it focused, and make sure it’s practical. If you’re delivering a devotional, it shouldn’t be more than about 10 mins, and the tone of it should lead naturally into prayer. In a written format, again, it shouldn’t be too long, and it should draw the reader into prayer. As you look at the passage, ask yourself: What does this passage teach us about God? Does this passage point to behaviors or attitudes we need to cultivate in order to draw closer to God? Does this passage suggest specific prayer topics?

I’m not sure if that’s helpful to you–feel free to follow up with more questions if not.

Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

November 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Wow, thanks, Mr. Smith, for that shout out. I recently posted that because I kept looking for that particular post with your comments, and I kept forgetting under which passage you wrote that. Again, thanks for those helpful comments! I gave a devotional at our all-church retreat just yesterday, and I tried following your guidelines (though I asked a lot of questions to try and relate it to the passage for personal application).

If I can be so bold and ask a few follow-up questions (6 months later :-D ): how do you present the material you prepared for? Do you have a handwritten outline that you refer to (whether skeletal or detailed) when giving the devotional? Or do you try and remember what you studied? I have the tendency to try and stick to my notes (handwritten) so I avoid saying, “uhh” and “um” a lot, but it can come off like I’m just reading my notes. How you deliver it I guess is where I’m going with this.

Also, how have you come to learn how to give devotionals? It seems like there is an unwritten way of doing this that I have yet to learn, and as a pastoral intern, I know it will be a responsibility waiting in the wings for me, and I do want to be more prepared in this. Any resources would be very useful.

Lastly, when do you give these devotionals in particular? Do these studies come from your own personal Bible reading? Is it something you have as reference material that you refer back to at a later point?

I would appreciate your responses, and look forward to more of these as time goes on. Thanks again! =)


November 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

You are welcome, Cesar! I don’t often get the opportunity to present devotionals these days (most of my teaching at church is my Romans adult Sunday School class), but when I do, I like to make sure I really know the passage and the information I intend to share. This helps to cut down on the “ums” and “uhhs” (at least for me), and it also helps me be prepared in case anyone has questions. In other words, I tend to over-prepare. When it comes to delivery, my ideal would be to just read the passage and go without notes. But I usually have at least an index card with a list of points I want to make. If I’ve prepared well enough, a word or a phrase should be enough to trigger the thought.

The purpose of the devotion should ultimately be to draw attention to Christ and exalt him, either through pointing out his character and attributes, or by exhorting us all to live and think in ways that honor him. Because of that, it’s really important that the devotion not be just an exercise in exegesis, or an opportunity to show off how much Greek or Hebrew I know. That may mean a lot of what I prepare never gets said. But that’s okay, since the preparation gives me confidence in my presentation.

The devotionals on the blog are not drawn from devotionals I have delivered, but are certainly ones I *could* deliver if called upon to do so. (The series I’ve started from Psalm 1 is drawn from a message I delivered some years ago; for the purposes of the blog, I’m just utilizing the research and making devotional application.) These are just meditations on passages of Scripture that I find uplifting and/or beneficial, and that I want to share with my readers. I prepare each devotional as I would if I were presenting it in person; the only difference is that the format here is written, not spoken.

As to where I learned this: years of being in church, and listening to and reading devotionals. There may be an art or technique to this that people have written about–I’m sorry, but I don’t really know of any such books to recommend. The best place to start, I think, is in your own study of Scripture, and your own quiet times before the Lord. If a passage really seems to speak to you, or bless you in a particular way, ask yourself why? And how would you communicate that to someone else?

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. May the Lord richly bless your studies! :)


November 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Thanks, Mr. Smith. That gives me a lot of food for thought. I appreciate your time in answering this. It really means a lot. Looking forward to the next post! :-)


The Goal of Spiritual Discipline

I remember reading a Christian book on how to be a disciplined follower of Christ, and the first illustration came on the first page of the book, and has always stuck with me. It wasn’t only until yesterday that I was reminded of it again, bringing back memories of my continued desire to learn to play guitar, but now the stronger desire to be disciplined for the work of the Lord. Below is the story and application of it, along with a video that looks pretty close to what is described in the book. I hope you enjoy, and see the grace of God in being drawn closer to Christ by way of spiritual discipline. May we have that deep desire to be more like Christ in this life than like anything else we want to be in life.


Discipline without direction is drudgery.

Imagine six-year-old Kevin, whose parents have enrolled him in music lessons. After school every afternoon, he sits in the living room and reluctantly strums “Home on the Range” while watching his buddies play baseball in the park across the street. That’s discipline without direction. It’s drudgery.

Now suppose Kevin is visited by an angel one afternoon during guitar practice. In a vision he’s taken to Carnegie Hall. He’s shown a guitar virtuoso giving a concert. Usually bored by classical music, Kevin is astonished by what he sees and hears. The musician’s fingers dance excitedly on the strings with fluidity and grace. Kevin thinks of how stupid and klunky his hands feel when they halt and stumble over the chords. The virtuoso blends clean, soaring notes into a musical aroma that wafts from his guitar. Kevin remembers the toneless, irritating discord that comes stumbling out of his.

But Kevin is enchanted. His head tilts slightly to one side as he listens. He drinks in everything. He never imagined that anyone could play the guitar like this.

“What do you think, Kevin?” asks the angel.

The answer is a soft, slow, six-year-old’s “W-o-w!”

The vision vanishes, and the angel is again standing in front of Kevin in his living room. “Kevin,” says the angel, “the wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years.” Then pointing at the guitar, the angel declares, “But you must practice!”

Suddenly the angel disappears and Kevin finds himself alone with his guitar. Do you think his attitude toward practice will be different now? As long as he remembers what he’s going to become, Kevin’s discipline will have a direction, a goal that will pull him into the future. Yes, effort will be involved, but you could hardly call it drudgery.

When it comes to discipline in the Christian life, many believers feel as Kevin did toward guitar practice–it’s discipline without direction. Prayer threatens to be drudgery. The practical value of meditation on Scripture seems uncertain. The real purpose of a Discipline like fasting is often unclear.

First we must understand what we shall become. It is said of God’s elect in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God’s eternal plan ensures that every Christian will ultimately conform to Christlikeness. We will be changed “when he appears” so that “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). This is no vision; this is you, Christian, in a few years.

So why all the talk about discipline? If God has predestined our conformity to Christlikeness, where does discipline fit in?

Although God will grant Christlikeness to us when Jesus returns, until then He intends for us to grow toward that Christlikeness. We aren’t merely to wait for holiness, we’re to pursue it. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy,” we’re commanded in Hebrews 12:14, for “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”

Which leads us to ask what every Christian should ask, “How then shall we pursue holiness? How can we be like Jesus Christ, the Son of God?”

We find a clear answer in 1 Timothy 4:7: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” NASB.

(Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney, pp.15-16 [1997])

Quick Summary of My Two Weeks in Argentina

Hey guys,

If any of you have seen me at church within the past couple of weeks, you might have seen me pass out some letters to a number of you. Those were my follow-up letters to those who have supported me in the work of missions to Argentina this past July. In case you didn’t have an opportunity to support me but would still like to read what I wrote, you can read it here:

If you read through the letter, there will be a missions report night this coming Sunday night from 5:30-7:30. There will be food, and all are invited to come. Hope to see you all there!

Memorizing Scripture

One benefit to memorizing Scripture, I’ve been finding, has been to help explain the Gospel to younger believers who are processing more what they have come to understand. Every time I think about the Gospel (what the message is and how it relates to a specific area of my life), I find myself again thankful that God entrusted to His children a message that seemed impossible to accomplish, yet simple to explain to even a child. Past attempts at memorizing Scripture has had long-term effects, and I hope to get back into putting God’s Word in my heart for Him to use my life to further His kingdom.

I made a few documents that lists out verses in the ESV, ready and available to print, and helpful to have to review over and over again. I created a Word document for the following set of Scripture memory verses:

Gospel Memory Verses from the Evangelism Workbook made by Grace Community Church (with a couple additions) (18 verses)

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology Memory Verses (57 passages)

The (John) MacArthur Scripture Memory System (52 passages)

The Navigator’s Topical Memory System (72 verses)

If anyone is interested in any of these lists, leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to email it to you. One help I’ve found in keeping these verses in my mind is to record myself reciting the verse reference and then the verse itself, and play it on my MP3 player, leaving it on repeat until I can quote it word-for-word at least 10 times. If you find you can benefit from it and would want me to record it for you, let me know and I will do all I can to help with that as well.

One message that’s always been a helpful kick-starter for memorizing verses is a message on the life of Dawson Trotman, which was spoken by Dan Dumas at Grace Community Church. The message is called ‘Lessons from Church History: Dawson Trotman.‘ Hope this helps!

Sermon Listening Project

Hey guys (or guy),

Since it’s been forever and a day since I last wrote on this blog, I thought I’d try something new here. I’ve been wanting for the longest time to get caught up on listening to sermon sets or conferences that I never attended (but would have liked to), and also to be made aware of what certain preachers have spoken about (enter interesting topic). I’m almost always made aware of a new sermon or conference or speaker who can greatly inform me of many things (as well as humble my ever-growing mind) on a daily basis, and I need to have some way of making it a discipline of mine that I would want to bless others with. I would want this site to become a resource to my friends who would find anything here of interest to them, as well as keep me aware of my constant need of grace.

There’s a constant stream of sermons, lectures, messages that I would love many people to be made aware of, as well as to look back to for reference in my own walk with Christ, that I think is constantly on my heart to share with others. Here’s a number of reasons why I want to start a shift in this direction:

  1. Glorify God. From the Apostle Paul to today, every disciple of Jesus Christ has to have this as his goal in every area of life (if anything, memorize 1 Corinthians 10:31 as well as Romans 11:36). I know there’s a godly way, and an ungodly way to listen to sermons (whether good or bad), and I want to be a faithful servant of God and others in putting myself under teaching that will help me point others to Christ. I am not considering this a hobby, but a real help to open myself to correction in what I think to be the correct view about whatever passage or subject. THIS IS NOT A REPLACEMENT OF WHAT I ACTUALLY HEAR IN MY CHURCH ON SUNDAY. I love my pastors and elders, because they know me and I know them, and they are the most qualified to address me in what I need to be corrected on. What I hear on Sunday is of primary importance. Because of this, I hope to go back over sermons that have been preached that are on archive (Lighthouse Bible Church), as well as go over the sermon most recently preached. I want to be a blessing to my pastors, not a burden in trying to “correct” them by pointing out how Pastor John Piper interpreted a passage differently. I am a member of a local church in San Diego, and nowhere else.
  2. San Jose Church Plant. I keep realizing over and over again that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are moving away from San Diego in a little over a month (some sooner than others) that I might not be able to keep in touch with on a regular basis. I would want there to be some topic of discussion among us whenever we do see each other (or talk on the phone), and show love to them by pointing them to resources that could be of benefit to their own growth and witness in NorCal. I sheepishly also want to hear the messages Pastor John and J.R. preach once they make the move (not sure if I’ll put up my notes for that on here or not).
  3. Jay Adams and Ken Ramey. These two pastors/writers are the only two I’m aware of that have written books on how to listen to a sermon effectively (Be Careful How You Listen: How to Get the Most Out of a Sermon and Expository Listening: A Practical Handbook for Hearing God’s Word, respectively). I’ve read Adams’ work, but have yet to delve into Ramey’s (and have attempted to pass this along to the youth at one point), but I see it as a necessity especially for a project like this to know how to gain the most out of what you hear on a Sunday morning. Their vantage is to come with a humble heart and mind in how you hear a sermon, which is a means of grace for your life. It allows you to be thankful to God, even when you hear a bad sermon!
  4. Humility. To expand on reason #2, some guys listen to too many sermons without discernment (I am including myself), and act as if they are the new experts on whatever passage of Scripture they heard Pastor John MacArthur preach from. There’s no true humility being displayed (which I’m sure is the intention of the pastor they just heard), and so God’s glory is not the endgoal in their listening. The negative attitude we have about (enter whipping-boy pastor here) can make an ugly Christian, and one you much prefer staying away from (I don’t doubt having been this way at some point). I need to grow in this area, so don’t be surprised if the beginning posts have something to do with humility.
  5. Technology. As a Christian in this day, we have endless amounts of material to listen to, as well as read, that is a blessing, and could also be a curse. Pastor Martin Lloyd-Jones, I’m sure, didn’t get to hear many of the great preachers of his day on a regular basis. Same goes with Charles Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards (I am not comparing myself with them; it’s only for the sake of illustration). I’m just pointing out the fact that the times in which we live allow us to know what is being preached in Britain, as well as in Europe, Australia, and give us some context by which we can pray and hopefully be prepared to engage, should we ever minister in said countries. When I was younger, I never knew of any of these preachers or even knew Christianity extended beyond my little hometown (other than Charles Stanley, who my aunt watched on TV or Marcos Witt, the Spanish equivalent to Chris Tomlin in his day who also preaches, or whatever bishop was preaching on BET). There’s a lot of good teaching, as well as bad teaching. Of the few times I’ve done so, I know where I’d put myself in (hint: not good). The curse could be over-exposure (vast amount of information, yet no change), or heretical preaching (lack of discernment). Both exist, and I want to be an encouragement to the youth group mainly in this area, but also to the other brothers and sisters in church.
  6. Growth in general, specifically in teaching. I’m hoping to be part of the Master’s Seminary within the next year or so, so I know I need help in teaching. This could be a small push in the right direction, to hear good preaching along with the great preaching I get at church already. Of course, it’s a calling, as well as a gift by God that one teach well, but to hear sermons from godly men can not only push one to grow in godliness, but to strive in preparing a message that will be of use to the church one serves at. The church leaders are to equip you for the work of ministry, not the messages you hear at Resolved.

All this to say I don’t know how often or how many sermons I hope to post and reflect on, but I would want this to be a way I can keep myself accountable to doing what I intended on doing for quite some time now. I know a lot of people don’t have the time to listen to messages on a constant basis, so this could be a place to check out what’s being said in an hour, but you could read in 5-10 minutes, and possibly listen to it later if it interests you. I don’t think I have much to contribute to a blog, so why not point others to what those more mature than me have sought to explain and by that be an encouragement and a servant to those I know (and anyone willing to follow along)? I will not let this get in the way of my own reading of the Word and prayer, and will stop whenever it hinders those more essential means of grace. I hope it supplements my disciplines in my Christian life, as well as be a blessing to you (whoever you are).

So who knows when I’ll start or which sermon it’ll be, but hope to see something new within the year (I’m realistic and not going to promise something for tomorrow or even this month). Adios!