Wednesday, November 26

Thanksgiving Greetings from Mechanicsville!

Before rejoining the crowd, I have a few moments in the upstairs of the beautiful home of my wife's brother, Steve, in Mechanicsville, Virginia. We always are blessed to stay in what we have come to claim affectionately as the "Nelson Suite," a unit of three rooms decorated to the hilt, and which we get to use whenever we're in town. It’s so good to be here enjoying their thoughtful hospitality, listening to Bing Crosby croon “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” reminding me of idyllic days with my folks growing up in Richmond. Praise the Lord, I still have my parents though they now live in Pennsylvania. 

Downstairs, my sister-in-law, Kim, and Jennifer her daughter along with my wife, Phyllis are putting the last touches on a Thanksgiving Eve’s new recipe of Chicken Pot Pie. That along with several delectable desserts make for a renewed commitment to the elliptical and Chuck Norris’ Total Gym awaiting us at home in upstate New York. Happy chatter fills the kitchen as each is catching up on all the news of each other’s lives. There’s a warmth about it that’s glorious and inviting. I do wish all folks had as good a time as we. I know many do. Note I didn’t say it’s perfect. No place is. Even ol’ Bing has just now been replaced by Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Com’n to Town,” not bad, but not my “cup ‘o tea.” Over all our times together are good enough to cancel out any imperfections with an enduring love.

These are the joys associated with those whose homes have been filled with peace--especially the peace of Jesus Christ. It may very well be true that some have few family around with whom they may spend such delightful times. Others may experience more pain than pleasure when with kin. And if that is the case, let me echo what my Dad has been fond of saying on such occasions, "It's not the end of the world." Seriously. We are only here for a brief time--on this earth, I mean. Trust in Jesus. Turn in dependence upon Him, and find that "peace that surpasses all understanding," and "a friend that sticks closer than a brother."

May I just offer anyone who may read this, a very Happy Thanksgiving! God's blessings have been great and frequent. My praise goes up in unmitigated happiness.

Monday, November 24

"Chicken Little" Meets Paul

OK, so we look around our politico-economic landscape and we have to be--if we can fog a mirror--at least a little alarmed at what we witness. The "land of the free and the home of the brave" is now finding our long-enjoyed freedoms questioned and even outrightly attacked. And the only brave people we find are those who lobby Washington for yet another multiple-billion-dollar hand-out and that with little if any compunction! It's enough to make Chicken Little cry out, "America is falling, America is falling!" This time though, our diminutive fowl may be on to something. Indeed, as Proverbs teaches, "Sin is a reproach to any people" (14:34), even to those who don't care if they sin. The Church--God's "salt and light" in this world must be purified if she is to have any positive effect in our culture.

But there's another side to this--we must not let the world's malaise jade our heart and hope. No, we would hear the Psalmist affirm, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (46:1). But we also need to introduce Chicken Little to Paul and instead of fostering an alarmist mentality, train him to look for and to meditate on that which is good. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil. 4:8)There's plenty of bad news to wile away our TV hours, of that the networks will make sure! And, it is also true, that we cannot rightly "turn a blind eye" to troubles as if we lived in Neverland. Still, we must faithfully proclaim, like a "city on a hill," that God reigns, and there is indeed unparalleled victory in the cross of Jesus Christ. This is our hope--true, pure, and lovely which no one can strip from us, as long as our eyes stay riveted on Jesus!

Thursday, November 20

John Owen on Prayer and the Word

A resource I used for several years and is still available online is Expositor's Quote of the Week. Building on one of his from John Owen, I found a longer quotation. Just know that Owen is not always the easiest to read, but he is always worthwhile. Here is richness, and please read to the end to get the memorable sentence found online at Expositor's Quote.
The second duty of a pastor towards his flock is continual fervent prayer for them. . . . Without this, no man can or doth preach to them as he ought, nor perform any other duty of his pastoral office. From hence may any man take the best measure of the discharge of his duty towards his flock. He that doth constantly, diligently, fervently, pray for them, will have a testimony in himself of his own sincerity in the discharge of all other pastoral duties. . . . And as for those who are negligent herein, be their pains, labor, and travail in other duties never so great, they may be influenced from other reasons, and so give no evidence of sincerity in the discharge of their office. In this constant prayer for the church, which is so incumbent on all pastors as that whatever is done without it is of no esteem in the sight of Jesus Christ, respect is to be had, [first] unto the success of the word, unto all the blessed ends of it, among them. These are no less than the improvement and strengthening of all their graces, the direction of all their duties, their edification in faith and love, with the entire conduct of their souls in the life of God, unto the enjoyment of him. To preach the word, therefore, and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random [emphasis mine]. 
“The True Nature of a Gospel Church and its Government.” From chapter 5, The Especial Duty of Pastors of Churches. In Works of John Owen, Volume 16.
Moving in on Sunday, here's a corrective and powerful word. God bless us all!

Wednesday, November 19

Is the Church Trying to Be Fashionable?!

Excepting the radical edges of church life (the pendulum effect), in the main, curiosity, resistance and opposition comprise the natural consequence of being the "Church" in this world. John Stott even entitled his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Christian Counter-Culture. He writes, "The followers of Jesus are to be different--different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious." (The copyright on his book is 1978). What we are seeing come to fruition today is a church who has not only heard, but has unfortunately succumbed to the siren call of our culture. Where do you and your church land? Tullian Tchividjian has provided a quiz to determine that. Please check out his blog at New City Church.

The Unfashionable Quiz (Revised)

In bringing my forthcoming book, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different, to the finish line, I added this “quiz” at the very beginning. What do you think?  


      1.  You can look around at church and notice that everybody is basically the same age and they look and dress pretty much like you do.
2.  You can’t stand singing a worship song that was “in” five years ago—much less singing a hymn from another century.
3. You believe social justice is more important than evangelism OR evangelism is more important than social justice.
4. The church you go to is so dimly lit during worship that you can’t see the person singing next to you, much less the person singing across the room.
5. You’ve attended a “leadership” conference where you learned more about organization and props than proclamation and prayer. 
6. Your goal in spending time with non-Christians is to demonstrate that you’re really no different than they are and to prove this you curse like a sailor, drink like a fish, and smoke like a chimney.
7. You’ve concluded that everything new is better than anything old OR that everything old is better than anything new.
8. You think that the way Jesus lived is more important than what Jesus said–that his deeds were more important than his doctrine.  
9. You believe that the best way to change our culture is to elect a certain kind of politician.
10. The church you’ve chosen is defined more by its reaction to “boring” churches than by its response to a needy world. 
11. You’ve decided that everything done by the church you grew up in was way wrong and you’re now, thankfully, part of a missional “community” that does everything right.
12. The one verse you wish wasn’t in the Bible is John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.” That’s way too narrow!

Tuesday, November 18

"Ten Most Irritating Phrases"

The following is found on Serious Times. I've added my own personal favorites in [brackets]. 
Researchers at Oxford University have compiled the top ten most irritating phrases.
At the end of the day, such lists are fairly unique.  I personally, at this moment in time, and with all due respect, absolutely agree with their list.  It’s a nightmare to hear these phrases, and I know that when I have thought of using them, I shouldn’t of.  Nonetheless, you hear them 24/7, even when stopping shouldn’t be rocket science.
Here they are in a less irritating form:
1.  At the end of the day, [the bottom line]
2.  Fairly unique
3.  I personally
4.  At this moment in time
5.  With all due respect
6.  Absolutely
7.  It’s a nightmare
8.  Shouldn’t of
9.  24/7
10. It’s not rocket science
[11. Like]
Not quite making the top ten, but coming close, [were] the expressions “synergy,” “literally,” and “ironically.”
Revealed in the book A Damp Squid, named after the mistake of confusing a squid with a squib (which is a type of firework), author Jeremy Butterfield says “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language.”
So here’s my “top five” list of irritating phrases circulating around Christianity, leaving those who post on this on to suggest those that might round it out to ten:
5.  “Must be providential.”  Trotted out every time anything happens good or bad, often in ways that trivialize the true nature of God’s sovereignty and conveys a fatalism of the worst sort. [Similarly used is "God must have had a reason," which suggests that the one saying it doesn't really believe it]
4.  “I need to go where I’m fed.”  The ultimate in spiritual narcissism and the deepest reflection of a consumer faith.  We can throw in “I didn’t get anything out of it” (applied to worship) and “I need to be ministered to.”
3.  “I’m Reformed.”  Code used by those who claim the entire Reformation for themselves and their embrace of Calvinism.  Nothing against Calvin, but it is a ridiculous reduction of the Reformation’s mosaic and the many streams of Protestantism that flowed from its dynamic.
2.  “Postmodern.”  So overused, and misused, that it’s become specious.  When a single word can refer to a philosophy (such as offered by Lyotard), an era of history (meaning that which follows the modern era), and a style of ministry, then we need some more words.      
1.  “Emergent.”  Do I even have to explain selecting this one?
Looking forward to yours…..
James Emery White

Friday, November 14

Successful Ministry from Samuel Davies

The following is a portion from a sermon by Samuel Davies, The Success Of The Ministry Of The Gospel Owing To A Divine Influence. It is dated 19 November 1757, from Hanover, Virginia (where, incidentally Phyllis and I received our marriage license). The great Martyn Lloyd-Jones of London commended Davies as one of the greatest preachers ever produced in America. Born in Delaware in 1723, he became President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) upon the death of Jonathan Edwards. Unfortunately, Davies himself succumbed to pneumonia and blood poisoning in 1761, only eighteen months after having taken office. He opens his message with the following:

THE design of God in all his works of creation, providence, and grace, is to advance and secure the glory of his own name; and, therefore, though he makes use of secondary causes as the instruments of his operations, yet their efficacy depends upon his superintending influence. It is his hand that sustains the great chain of causes and effects, and his agency pervades and animates the worlds of nature and of grace.
And "just for fun" may I include one sentence simply because of his word selection, which remember, he preached to average laymen! Building on the argument that the hard-hearted simply cannot understand the gospel until God unlocks their minds; no outside influence can accomplish that feat. He articulates, "What can persuasions do to extirpate inveterate, implacable enmity?" Get my point? He was a very humble man and a gifted orator. So, this sentence is simply the way he thought. In terms of this contrary disposition he says later:
Now, since the innate dispositions of men are thus averse to the gospel, it is evident that nothing but divine power can make it effectual for their sanctification. Instructions may furnish the head with notions and correct speculative mistakes, but they have no power to sway the will and sweetly allure it to holiness. Persuasions may bring men to practise what they had omitted through mistake, carelessness, or a transient dislike: but they will have no effect where the heart is full of innate enmity against the things recommended. In this case, he that planteth, and he that watereth, are nothing; it is God alone that can give the increase. 
Davies beautifully reinforces that both the lost and saved have had the experience of God's Word doing it's work in various ways and with diverse effects upon their hearts.
Your own experience proves the same thing. Have you not found that the very same things have very different effects upon you at different times? Those truths, which at one time leave you dull and sleepy, at other times quicken all your powers to the most vigorous exercise? Sinners, do you not return from the house of God in very different frames, though the service there has been substantially the same? At one time you sweat and agonize under a sense of guilt, and make many resolutions to change your course of life; and at another time, there is a stupid calm within, and you matter not all the concerns of eternity. Some indeed have lain so long under the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, that they are hardened like clay, and hardly susceptive of any deep impressions at any time, after they have murdered their conscience, and silenced all its first remonstrances. . . . 

And you, saints, you also experience a like vicissitude. Sometimes, oh how divinely sweet, oh how nourishing is the sincere milk of the word! How does the word enlighten, quicken, and comfort you! How exactly it suits your very case! At other times it is tasteless; it is a dead letter, and has no effect upon you. At times a sentence seems almighty, and carries all before it: and you feel it to be the word of God; at other times you perceive only your feeble fellow-mortal speaking to you, and all his words are but feeble breath; as different from the former as chaff from wheat.
What a blessed sermon indeed! Find it and drink in it's fullness. You would do well to secure a copy of the three volumes of his sermons published by Soli Deo Gloria, Sermons of the Rev. Samuel Davies. 

Wednesday, November 12

"The Holy Club" & Accountability

Thanks to Christianity Today for the following:

John and Charles Wesley and a handful of other Oxford students [among whom was the great evangelist, George Whitefield] devoted themselves to a rigorous search for holiness and service to others.

The Holy Club, the name given to John and Charles Wesley’s group by their fellow collegians in mockery of their emphasis on devotions, was the first sign of what later became Methodism. Begun by Charles and led by John after his return to Oxford University in 1729, the Holy Club members fasted until 3 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, received Holy Communion once each week, studied and discussed the Greek New Testament and the Classics each evening in a member’s room, visited (after 1730) prisoners and the sick, and systematically brought all their lives under strict review.

These are 22 questions the members of John Wesley's Holy Club asked themselves every day in their private devotions over 200 years ago.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  1. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  1. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  1. Can I be trusted?
  1. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  1. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  1. Did the Bible live in me today?
  1. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
  1. Am I enjoying prayer?
  1. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
  1. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  1. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  1. Do I disobey God in anything?
  1. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  1. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  1. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
  1. How do I spend my spare time?
  1. Am I proud?
  1. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  1. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  1. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  1. Is Christ real to me? 
Taken from: John Wesley—Revival and Revolution: Christian History, Issue 2 (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, Inc.), 1997.

Monday, November 10

Shakespeare on Obama

After chatting with my 89 year-old, Christian, WW2 vet, conservative Dad this morning (a blessing indeed), something struck me regarding the Church's attitude toward our President-elect. A goodly number of Christians voted for McCain and therefore felt disappointment at the results because, among other issues, Obama has an abysmal abortion record. So, knowing the election is concluded, how should we then live? We have been hearing, and rightly so, that the Church needs to pray for President-elect Obama. This is biblical. Romans 13 states that "authority is instituted" by God. And 1 Timothy 2 tells us to pray for those in authority. This has always been the rule within the context of the believing community. 

So, do we Christians pray about it? Does the Church? Not, do we agree we should, but do we do it? That's the most important question. 

"If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men's cottages, princes' palaces." --Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice-Act 1, Scene 2    

Or, as my mother so often used to quote: 

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Both of the above quotations say essentially the same thing. Agreeing that we should do something does nothing but incriminate us unless we do it. It may assuage our spiritual conscience to discuss it, but in the end, this knowledge will leave us ill-equipped to battle the forces of evil. All of the agreement in the world will not amount to anything good, unless the church actually prays. 

Here's what "hit" me about this. How many churches have prayer meetings in which they pray? And if a church does not have a prayer meeting currently, how will they practice the kind of prayer called for in 1 Timothy, chapter two? It'll just be yet another call to the church which is left unheeded.

The simple answer is, "Just do it!" At all cost, DO IT! Why? ". . . so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain" (Philippians 2:16). Let me suggest several things:

1) Practice individual prayer, and especially so if you're a Pastor or leader in the Church. A call to corporate prayer will necessarily ring hollow if we are not praying leaders.

2) Encourage the Elders or Deacons to pray individually and to attend prayer meeting willingly. Everyone's busy. The leaders need to know how important prayer truly is. Don't assume that they do. We know well the words of the early apostles, "But we will devote ourselves to prayer . . ." (Acts 6:4). An old saying says, "If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy."  

3) Make prayer meeting a top priority in the church, but not a program. A couple of years ago, prior to our moving prayer meeting from Wednesday night to Sunday night, this truth captivated my heart--prayer is not another program in the church. If it were, we could opt out of it. After all, no one is expected to do everything, right? The fact is that the early church prayed. Period. It was not an option; it was a privilege. This was their source for more boldness and power.It certainly was not a program instituted to "get people involved." By virtue of their salvation, God's people ARE involved. And God's people pray! 

Most of all, don't talk about doing this. Do it! Yes, it may start small, but if we are committed to praying privately, and if we promote it as our God-given privilege, God will bless it. Prayer meetings are irreplaceable. No methodologies or fancy speakers can off-set it's neglect. The Church is anemic today, and in no small way, the lack of true praying is the greatest culprit. Let's turn our "cottages" into "palaces" of prayer. 

Friday, November 7

Passing Judgment on God?

It has been impressed upon me that the current of today’s culture has shifted categorically away from God-fearing to God-judging. It is also true that God is plainly ignored, a charge that can and should be leveled primarily at the church. Formerly, when someone suffered an illness or injustice, they assumed that there must be something in themselves amiss, or that it was simply God's will. And even if inexplicable, the assumption was that God is always right. But now it seems God is "on the hot seat," that he is at the behest of public opinion or the neglect of church indifference. Now, they accuse God of wrongly judging them, that “if God is love, how could this happen?” Even Job apparently was not exempt from this temptation, for youthful Elihu called both Job and his other "comforters" on the carpet:

“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong. For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. “If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say. Shall one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty," (Job 34:10-17) 

When God himself stepped in to enlighten Job, he posed this piercing question: "Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?" (Job 40:8) I say "piercing" because I do not think that Job imagined he was putting God in the wrong, condemning him to make himself look right. This truth had to cut him. It always does. 

There will always be issues which befuddle even the most astute of church members and theologians. Mystery enshrouds our Lord. Indeed, "his ways are past finding out" (Romans 11:33). Job did get it right when he affirmed, "If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. . . Who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number" (Job 9:3 & 10)

I fear that much "emerging conversation" and theological discussion, while fostered by valid concerns, still descends into the abyss of foolishness when their supposed solutions impugn the unique value of Christ's Body, the Church. Tread carefully! Gamaliel was wise when Peter and the apostles were being threatened with death. His counsel to the ruling body is one which we today must heed, "If this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!

On 26 November, 1868, Charles Spurgeon preached, "Man Transient: God's Word Eternal." Some of his closing words crystallize the call for scrutiny when it comes to judging the Church of God:

Never think of the Church of God as if she were in danger. If you do, you will be like Uzza; you will put forth your hand to steady the ark, and provoke the Lord to anger against you. If it were in danger, I tell you, you could not deliver it. If Christ cannot take care of his Church without you, you cannot do it. Be still, and know that he is God. . . When you begin to say, “The Church is in danger! The Church is in danger!” what is that to thee? It stood before thou wert born; it will stand when thou hast become worm’s meat. Do thou thy duty. Keep in the path of obedience, and fear not. He who made the Church knew through what trials she would have to pass, and he made her so that she can endure the trials and become the richer for it. The enemy is but grass, the word of the Lord endureth for ever. 



Wednesday, November 5

Somber, Sober Reality

I am in a somber frame of mind and heart today. I didn't vote for Obama due to his extreme stance on a number of issues, which we are all a bit weary of discussing. Not the least of those is the wholesale destruction of a human life via abortion. That, as they say, is a deal-breaker. But win he did. So what now? There are a number of responses circulating in the blogosphere, one of the most cogent of which can be found on Justin Taylor's site Between Two Worlds. It would seem that Christians will now become very familiar with the Bible's teaching on our responsibility as believers. Most commonly cited are Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2, which describe our need to be submissive to our rulers as having been placed there by God, and to pray for those in authority. Mind you, that was during the days of the Roman empire with it's corrupted Caesars. 

I am sobered by something else though--imminent questions regarding our religious freedoms. Will "hate crimes" legislation accelerate placing more true ministers in jail for preaching the truth? Will our Christian radio stations be "forced" to give equal time to the opposing point of view? How many of our accepted freedoms will continue to erode? I think what sobers me about this is the realization that my faith--the faith of our fathers--is now going to require gutsy commitment. There are likely to be consequences for speaking the truth in my pulpit. I could go to jail! OK, you say. We have spoken to this issue before haven't we? Yes. But somehow we could relegate that to someone else in another time. But not me, and not now! It was more of an eventuality rather than a reality. I've read of persecution with respect to the early church, and of personages like Wycliffe, Huss, Latimer and Ridley, and Luther. I read of groups like the Puritans, various missionaries, and the seemingly interminable list of the persecuted from the Voice of the Martyrs. But not me!

Here's the kicker, all of this has caused me to reflect on ministry in a much more realistic manner. In a sense, not to sound cute, I am sobered that I am sobered! My Christian faith, though long in years (47), seems to have been fostered in ease. Other than a few folk who made fun of me or poked at my faith on construction jobs, I have lived a fairly innocuous Christian life. I suspect that this is the experience of most of my compatriots in ministry. 

That's all I wanted to say . . . today.  I am not saying that Obama is the antichrist, or the end of the world religiously. We will pray and labor for Christ regardless. That's the way it is. What I AM urging is that anything that causes us to become more sober in our lives should not be easily dismissed, but thoroughly considered. May the Lord drive us to our knees where we may find both clarity and courage.

Hope-filled in Christ alone,

Monday, November 3

A Virtuous Ministry--Part Two

The following is Part 2 of an ordination message given on 29 October 2000. (See previous post for Part 1) God gives two virtues for ministers of God to pursue: 1) Humbly Rely on God Alone, and . . . 

Second, Courageously Obey God’s Commands. The first virtue—humility—positions you to hear God’s Word to YOU. That is why humility and prayer are so vital to every Christian’s life—especially the Pastor’s. But once God speaks (and he will to the humble), then it becomes our responsibility and pleasure to follow his every lead. That Jesus was obedient must not be overlooked as our example. Jacques Boussuet puts it this way, “Thirty years of our Lord’s life are hidden in these words of the gospel: ‘He was subject unto them.’”

We are all interested in seeing God work in our own lives and churches, right? We want to see church growth? We have collected the latest books, and attended exciting seminars to learn the latest principles in Church Growth techniques. These certainly do have their place, and I would not want to impugn the good effect they may have. But there are certain essential virtues without which all the best techniques would amount to nothing. Simple Obedience is one of those virtues. So powerful is obedience that it is to be chosen over worship. Remember Samuel’s doleful complaint to King Saul--“obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). How is obedience better? If we were honest with ourselves, we may look rather askance at obedience—not that it is unimportant to us, but it doesn’t seem as fulfilling as other virtues. In our way of thinking, to obey means simply to do what God says. That’s it! Well, that’s NOT it, if motive is included in our definition. To limit the meaning to the "bare bones" performance of a duty is to miss both the richness and beauty of God's command. In the Hebrew, the word “obey” is made up of a combination of words, “to hear the voice.” Involved in this is the heart. When we hear someone call to us, we tend to respond in kind, whether to a baby’s cry, our child’s call for help, a creditor calling for money, or to God calling us to labor in Western New York. All these elicit a different response—go change their diaper, run to our child’s side in love, sweat when the creditor threatens us, or move to New York. So, too, in our obedience to God, we cannot separate our feelings from the One doing the calling. When God calls, we hear, but not in a detached manner. No voice carries with it the sense of authority that His carries! 

We desire change—improvement in our churches. Yes! We study how to bring about those changes, that is true. But the beauty of obedience is that much reform will occur as a result. It seems that the Chronicler wants us to see this. Asa obeyed God. And God blessed through Asa with these notable changes:

1)    God crushed Asa’s enemies (14:12-15).

2)    Asa destroyed godless idols (15:8).

3)    All the people covenanted with Asa to follow the Lord, wholeheartedly (15:10-15).

4)    Asa even deposed his grandmother—Maacah for her part in fostering idolatry (15:16).

Doesn't Asa's life reveal that a humble, obedient spirit can go a long way in the work of God? We may try many things out of the sheer urgency of the situation, but it will ultimately be the humble heart that courageously obeys its Lord. “It is a vain thought to flee from the work that God appoints us, for the sake of finding a greater blessing, instead of seeking it where alone it is to be found—in loving obedience.”

God is on the lookout for any man (or woman) who will seek Him with their whole heart. If we saw nothing else here in this passage, I think to catch this would be of immense importance to us in ministry and our Christian lives. God’s attention is especially piqued by the presence of humble, obedient, faithful men. Ability, whether natural or spiritual does not impress God. But something does. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

Bill and Liz—you already have talent and good tools with which to do God’s work. May I just encourage you to keep it simple by focusing primarily on the twin virtues of humble dependency and courageous obedience.