As a Breast Desires to Empty Itself…


I’ve been on quite a few missions trips to West Africa and one thing that you cannot miss when you are there is the freedom that African women have to breastfeed in public. I remember once, after preaching in public to a large crowd, that a woman came forward and told me that she wanted to trust in Christ. As we were praying together, I heard her baby getting fussy, and I opened my eyes and she just pulled down her top and started nursing. That’s certainly something that I’ve never countered in the American church!

And it was after one of my trips to Africa in 1994 that I painted the painting above- “Mother’s Milk.” It was one of the main pieces at my senior art show in college, too. And it (and many other paintings of mine) were banned at the Christian college that I went to. I had to pull them down because they were too controversial. Life as an artist in the (Southern) church…

So I’ve painted a number of paintings through the years of women breastfeeding. It has been one of my motifs that I often return to. And it’s a motif that the Puritans picked up on as well. We tend to shy away from the imagery (probably because of our over-sexualized culture), but the Puritans knew that breastfeeding was beautiful a picture to show the love of God for sinners like us. Here’s how one of my favorite Puritan pastors, Richard Sibbes, describes the love of Jesus…

Doth he come empty? No; he comes with all grace. His goodness is a communicative, diffusive goodness. He comes to spread his treasures, to enrich the heart with all grace and strength, to bear all afflictions, to encounter all dangers, to bring peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. He comes, indeed, to make our hearts, as it were, a heaven. Do but consider this. He comes not for his own ends; but to empty his goodness into our hearts. As a breast that desires to empty itself when it is full; so this fountain hath the fulness of a fountain, which strives to empty his goodness into our souls. He comes out of love to us. Let these considerations melt our hearts for our unkindness, that we suffer him to stand so long at the door knocking, as it is said here. Sibbes, R. (1862). The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes. (A. B. Grosart, Ed.) (Vol. 2, p. 67). Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet And Co.; W. Robertson.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus doesn’t come to us empty. He comes with grace. And He doesn’t come to us for something that He can get out of it. He’s not self-centered in His giving. He doesn’t come to us for His own ends- He comes to empty His goodness into our hearts! And just like a breast that is full and ready to empty itself of its milk, so too Jesus is ready to fill us with His goodness. He is an overflowing fountain, dare I say, an overflowing breast, that desires to fill His hungry children with His milk.

Think about that today. It will melt your heart.

– Benji

Walking Sermons


And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Puritan Richard Sibbes said, “Godly friends are walking sermons.” I think that’s what the preacher of Hebrews is getting at. We all need encouragement. We all need to be stirred up to love and good works. And that’s why godly friends can be walking sermons- because the reality is that we’re all sick in some way. We’re all selfish and struggle with many sins, so we need encouragement and stirring. The church is, after all, a hospital. Richard Sibbes said that too-

“The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls…The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other…”

The Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell in sinners like us because that’s all that there are! We are all smoky, offensive souls when compared the glory of God, but that doesn’t stop God from dwelling inside us individually and corporately. We are a common hospital where at any moment we are all in some measure sick of some spiritual disease. And that’s why meeting together for mutual encouragement is so important. We need to be pointed to Jesus all the time. He alone is the cure for our sin-sick souls.

So look around. There are hurting people sitting in front of you at church. And behind you. And next to you. And there are hurting people filling up their coffee cups before and after the service. So be intentional anytime we gather as a church. Look for someone to encourage. And don’t be surprised if someone stirs you up too. Let’s be a church that places not just a high value on preached sermons, but also on “walking sermons.”

– Benji

The Story Carries Us


For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

What a wonderful promise we have here!

At the time that Paul was writing Romans there was no official New Testament canon, so Paul is talking about the Old Testament in this verse. He’s telling the Roman Christians that all that was written down in the Old Testament was written for our instruction, so that we would be able to endure, be encouraged, and have hope. That’s a wonderful Gospel promise! That’s a wonderful Gospel promise that’s found in a portion of God’s word that records thousands of failures by God’s people!

Imagine that: The stories of the failures of God’s people in the Old Testament are supposed to encourage us and help us to endure and give us hope! That seems a little strange to me. But then I remember that the story is not about Abraham or Moses or David. It’s not even about us. It’s about God. It’s His story. And Michael Williams explains that in his book Far As the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption

Were the patriarchs faithful to Yahweh? Often, no. But God was faithful, and that in the end is the story of Genesis. What Moses is teaching Israel in the book of beginnings is that the patriarchs are not the heroes of the story of Israel. Ultimately, the story is not about them. The patriarchs do not carry the story. Rather, the story carries them. The drama keeps coming back around to Yahweh, and to his faithfulness in spite of the faithlessness of his covenant partner. The divine purpose cannot be defeated by sin, even the sin of the covenant vassal. (p.131)

The story is not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. And His story carries us. We do not carry the story. The drama of our lives always comes back around to Jesus. And even our sins and failures cannot thwart His plan! Even the sins of God’s people cannot stop Jesus! That ought to be enough to encourage you to endure all of your failures and have hope.

Carried by His story,




Sometimes I doubt God’s love. I know that sounds strange, especially because I am a pastor. But, in case you didn’t know, pastors struggle to believe just like every other sinner in the world. So, yes, I doubt God’s love often. And, yes, I am that fickle. But I have a friend who is helping me to see the glories of Jesus and to believe God’s outrageous love for sinners like me.

In his book “The Glory of Christ” John Owen lists a few questions you can ask yourself if you are doubting God’s love. Read so that you may “walk in the paradise of God and enjoy the sweet perfume of his mediatorial love”-

All who believe that Christ is God value his love and so are never happy with vague ideas of his love as mediator. To have clear, distinct ideas of Christ’s love, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Whose love is it? It is the love of the divine person of the Son of God who laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16).

2. How did this love of the Son of God show itself? It showed itself in the divine nature by eternal acts of wisdom, goodness and grace. And in the human nature it revealed itself by deeds of pity and compassion, shown by his works and his sufferings for us (Eph. 3:19, Heb. 2:14-15, Rev. 1:5).

3. Did we deserve Christ’s love? No, we deserved wrath, not love. This thought should be enough to humble you and bring you into the best attitude of mind to meditate on the glory of Christ’s love as mediator.

4. What did the love of God procure for us? It procured our eternal salvation and our enjoyment of God forever.

With such clear ideas of the love of Christ, and by worship, you may walk in the paradise of God and enjoy the sweet perfume of his mediatorial love (Song of Sol. 2:2-4).

Finally, do not be content to have right ideas of the love of Christ in your mind unless you have a gracious taste of it in your heart. You may taste that the Lord is gracious, that is, you may experience for yourself his grace in your heart. If you do not actually experience the love of Christ in your heart, you will not retain the idea of it in your mind.

Christ is the meat, the bread, the food provided by God for your soul. And there is no higher spiritual nourishment in Christ that his mediatory love, and this you should always desire. In his love, Christ is glorious. No creatures, angels or men could have the least idea of it before it was revealed by Christ. And after it was seen in this world, it is still absolutely incomprehensible.

God Loves You Where You Are


Working on a sermon and was reminded of this gem of a quote by Jack Miller.

“God loves you where you are, not where you have been pretending to be… The last thing we want to admit is that we are weak, foolish, and sinful. But we are tense in our imagined righteousness. What we really need is just to face the truth about ourselves. When we do that, our lives have a special appeal to God and to unbelievers. God loves to hear a person cry out in heartbroken honesty, ‘Lord, I am nothing but a poor sinner. Send help quickly or I’ll die!’” {Repentance: A Daring Call to Real Surrender, p.86-87}

So glad that Jesus loves me where I am and not where I’m pretending to be. Confession: I pretend a lot. I can “do fake” real good. I can “play Christian” very well. And the One who sees through my shams loves me where I’m at. File that under “GOSPEL GOODNESS.”

In the Serious Apprehension of the Gospel

I’m currently reading Christian Love by Hugh Binning (1627-53), one of the Puritans. His story is fascinating. He graduated from the College of Glasgow in 1646 at the age of 19 and was shortly thereafter named the chair of Philosophy at the college. He was ordained in 1650 and pastored a church for 3 years before his death at age 26. During this time Binning preached a series of 40 sermons from Romans 8:1-15 called “The Sinner’s Sanctuary.” At the age of 26, I don’t think I was qualified or capable of preaching 40 sermons from Romans 8:1-15! Three of these sermons are included at the end of Christian Love.

In “Sermon 37” (I love the title!) Binning explains how constant Gospel rehearsal provides the rest that we need when our hearts condemn us:

Therefore to the end that you whose souls are once pacified by the blood of Christ, and composed by his word of promise, may so enjoy that constant rest and tranquility as not to be enthralled again to your old fears and terrors, I would advise to you…

1. That ye would be much in the study of that allowance which the promises of Christ afford. Be much in the serious apprehension of the gospel, and certainly your doubts and fears would vanish at one stroke of such a rooted and established meditation. Think what you are called to, not to fear again, but to love rather, and honor him as Father.

Be much in the serious apprehension of the Gospel, my friends. Think about it. Read about it. Talk about it. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Keep dwelling on God’s amazing love for sinners. There’s nothing more rewarding and beneficial to a Christian. I promise.


Put My Tears In Your Bottle

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Psalm 56:8

I know that the holidays can be tough for many people. We miss loved ones, family members, friends, etc. As if life wasn’t hard enough in this fallen world, the holidays come along and seem to highlight this. So let me encourage you today (and I’m really just encouraging myself).

God sees and knows all of your pain, heartache, sadness, tears, etc. He’s seen you go through a whole box of Kleenex. He’s seen you toss and turn in your bed. He sees all of that and takes note. Psalm 56:8 is telling us just how much our Father cares for us. Think about it: God knows every late night bed tossing that has occurred in your life. He has collected every tear that you have shed. He has written down all of your pain and sadness in a book.

I hope you cling to the God of Psalm 56:8 this Christmas season. I hope you truly believe that God has kept every tear of yours in a bottle. I hope you truly believe that God has kept a journal of all of your sorrows. What a caring, kind, gracious Father we have. Read this verse, meditate on this verse, memorize this verse until it gets down into the nooks and crannies of your heart and you realize just how much God loves and cares for you.