Wednesday, December 30

Real Church by Larry Crabb

Below are snippets from Larry Crabb's Real Church. Perhaps taken out of context they could be misunderstood, but the risk is worth it, for they surface a dire need within Christendom today.
Learn spiritual theology; hunger for spiritual formation; gather in spiritual community; move into the world on a spiritual mission. Make this into a formula, and the vision dies. Let it be what it is – a rhythmic cycle, a dance – and these four spirituals could transform a gathering of Christians into a church, a real church, the church I want to be part of. (p. xix)
These are folks who, like me, sincerely and with biblical warrant believe that Christians-in-community should be and could be the most potent force on the planet for personal transformation (helping redeemed people become, as coined by C. S. Lewis, “little Christs”), for powerful cultural influence, not mainly through political clout and certainly not through moralistic judgment but through offering a different kind of love than most people have ever seen or felt – a wise love that speaks with power into where people live. (p. xxii)
But if a choice had to be made (and it never should have to be) between a church that shepherded children well but left the parents untouched in their inner world and a church with little for kids but lots to form adults into truth-hungry, formation-focused, community-alive, mission-overflowing disciples of Jesus, I’d choose the latter church every time. (p. 8)

Monday, December 28

Bible Reading's Glorious Consummation!

All Scripture leads to the consummation of all things. That's what I am seeing as I close out this year's Bible readings. It has been my blessing to have read through the Bible using the ESV Study Bible plan located at the back of the Study Bible. It lays out four readings per day from different sections of the Bible.

As I close out this year, my readings have been in Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and Revelation. There is a sort of unity of thought that arises from this combination of texts.

Young Elihu has just finished dressing down Job, and glorifying God's perplexing, myterious ways. Now, God takes His turn and corrects Job by comparing Job's inability with God's infinite power, foresight, etc. As righteous as Job truly was, when compared to God, no one stands. What a lesson to learn not to try and correct God's ways, to question his wisdom! Inexplicable? Yes. Wrong or misguided? Don't even think about it!!

This is Isaiah's message, among others. You cannot read the last chapters of Isaiah (actually from 40-66) without seeing how gloriously powerful God is in all his ways. This is a most pleasant way to end the year. Yes, Israel had sinned God out of their worship, out of their national identity. But God was never disrupted in His plan to bring salvation to all mankind. And no matter how the year ends, He is still in control and working out His wonderful ways for the lost and in the saved. "And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD, and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken" (62:12).

The Psalms close out with "Praise the Lord" in numerous ways. Whatever we may be feeling, He knows all the stars, calls them all by name, and certainly has all of our lives well in tow as well. The Psalms end on a good note, a happy tone closing out the Psalter.

So we read in the closing chapters of Revelation. Babylon the whore, who has captured all the nations of the earth and all religious pretenders, all the devilish armies gathered against the righteous inhabitants of the earth and ultimately against the Creator of all good, WILL SUFFER FINAL DEFEAT! Yes! All will resolve into God's perfect plan. Jesus Christ goes forth conquering and to conquer. The battle will end. Christ Jesus is Victor! JESUS WINS! JESUS WINS IT ALL!! AMEN.

Together, my Bible reading (with two days remaining) congeals into God's greatness and mercy, His unfailing plan of salvation and final defeat of evil. Victory! Reconciliation! The resolution of all things! PERFECT ENDING!

Friday, December 25

Why The Need for Holiness

In the introduction to his classic work, Holiness, J. C. Ryle explains the dire need of the day:
I have had a deep conviction fro many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country. Politics, or controversy, or party spirit, or worldliness have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us. The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background. The standard of living has become painfully low in may quarters. The immense importance of "adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour" (Titus 2:10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers, has been far too much overlooked. Worldy people sometimes complain with reason that "religious" persons, so-called, are not so amiable, and unselfish, and good-natured, as other who make no profession of religion. Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and evangelical doctrine is useles if  it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my impression that we [need] a thorough revival about scriptural holiness. [emphasis mine]
It's hard to believe he wrote this in 1877! Sounds so much like our day doesn't it? The whole book brings a certain needed wisdom and insight to our day, good reason for all of us to make sure we read it!


Thursday, December 24

What Belongs to True Christianity?

In a brief sermon to the Indians, Jonathan Edwards basically outlined the characteristics of true faith. Here I will enumerate them for ease of reading. My thoughts in [brackets] . . .

Things that belong to true religion (18th C for "Christianity"):
1. To know and understand Christ and the way how God saves men by Christ, and to know about another world. [Are we not also today very, very bound to this life and think of all things in direct relationship to how they affect our present situation instead of the one to come?]

2. To have the eye opened to see the excellency of those things that the Bible teaches about God and Jesus Christ, to taste the sweetness of them, and to have those things sink down into the heart. [Here, Edwards urges both substance and motive--taste the sweetness of Jesus Christ, and do this heartily. This, we remind ourselves is but one characteristic of a true believer!]

3. To believe the things which the Bible teaches about God and Christ and another world to be certainly true, not like a dream or an idle story, but like real things. [Oh, how we must make very sure that we who SAY we believe DO IN FACT believe that our faith in Christ is the most valid truth of all!]

4. To see how lovely Christ is and that he is just such a Savior as such poor creatures as they need. [One hymnwriter put it this, "Yea, all I want in Thee I find, O Lamb of God, I come." The focal point of the true Christian is . . . Jesus Christ, NOT in theory, but in reality!]

Edwards says further, "They that have true religion have their hearts taken off from the things of this world and have their hearts in heaven." And "In all these things we must give God our hearts: God sees the heart and he looks at the heart. It will signify nothing to do a great many things outwardly, if we don't give God our hearts."

Finally, Edwards admonishes the Indians, "You must every day, all of you, go alone and pray to the great God that he will enlighten your minds and give you new hearts, that you may have true religion." [Oh, 21st C. Christian, let us apply our hearts to wisdom and give ourselves over to the unfailing pursuit of God]. 

Methinks Edwards could preach this to all Christians, even . . . no, especially to us, TODAY!

Monday, December 21

GOD'S Thoughts--Precious to Us?!

Ever quote the idiom, "A penny for your thoughts?" We may have said this to that "special" person lovingly seeking to get inside their minds. I'm using this familiar saying as a springboard into Psalm 139:17,
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! 
    How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.
This verse falls into the "how-many-times-have-I-read-this-and-still-didn't-see-it category?" Sometimes (perhaps, often) we read in a "knee-jerk" sort of way, half-reading the words, but not really looking closely enough at them to see what they really mean.

It's easy to do. Yes . . . it is. And that is why we do it. It's EASY. OK, now what?

Well, my sort of half-listening interpretation to "How precious are your thoughts" centered on God's thoughts about ME (I hope not for selfish reasons). This does in fact blend in with earlier verses, "you discern my thoughts afar off," and "even before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely" (2 & 4). That connection aside, verse 17 is not in the same vein. Now, the Psalmist is declaring "Your thoughts" (viz., what goes on in God's mind) are "precious to me." Now, the million dollar question: "Honestly, how do the infinite number of thoughts (more than the sand) that simultaneously flood God's mind come across to us as "precious?" Something is precious when it carries an intimate meaning to us. Somehow, among all God's myriad thoughts--he controls all actions in the universe, every evil actions evil men propose, all wars, all school-yard fights, as well as every poem, symphony, and invention--we might have to find it strange that God not only knows us, but guides us in every step! Given that the Infinite has infinite capacity, it's still amazing beyond comprehension that we have such a wonderful audience with this Tremendous Mystery!

Learn. We benefit by meditating on things we cannot understand! No one CAN keep a ledger of all of God's thoughts. Still, the Psalmist ponders them. We should as well.

Learn also that though so many thoughts mesmerize us and even put us to sleep (see ESV Study note), we will awaken and find that God is with us. So what? Praise the understanding of God, who knows our weakness yet bends to our inability to see him. We may not be able to grasp HIM, but He graces us! "I awake, and I am still with you."


Sunday, December 20

JESUS SAVES! Yes. But From What?

From this morning's sermon on Matthew 1:21, "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 
Last, let’s understand that Jesus came to save sinners from sins! Or, sin itself. From what aspect of sin do we need to be delivered? We happily affirm that the Bible teaches we are delivered from the guilt, the penalty, the power, and ultimately the presence of sin.
1)  Jesus Saves Us From the Guilt of Sin. Guilt is the fact resulting from an offense. We sin, therefore, in point of fact, we are guilty. We are punished due to the guilt of our sin. Jesus saves us from the fact of our sin. The Psalmist said, I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the [guilt] of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). In Christ guilt no longer exists! “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses . . .” (Eph. 1:7).
2)  Jesus Saves Us From the Power of Sin. The power of sin is its rulership over us, its dominion. Thomas Watson explains, “We are delivered from the rule of sin, though not its presence. Sin may rage in a child of God, but it may not reign. Lust raged in David, and fear in Peter, but it did not reign, they recovered themselves by repentance.”  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14). Watson writes further, “Sin lives in a child of God, but is deposed from the throne; it lives not as a king, but a captive.” Indeed, "Jesus saves his people from their sins" the power of sin! 
3)  Jesus Saves Us From the Penalty or Curse of Sin. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). And, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). Christ said to his Father, “Let the curse not be upon them, but upon me.” So, we read in Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law [working force] of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law [working force] of sin and death.  
4)  Further, Jesus saves us from the presence of sin. Amen. At our glorification, we shall at last be free from sin’s very presence! No more deceitfulness, manipulation, hatred and crime. The redeemed are to be lifted from the earth and from its sin. The day will come when we will be taken to a place where there is no sin. Jesus promises that “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination” (Rev. 21:27). Neither the Devil nor his demons will be able to enter into that City.” (Harold Sightler) 
5)  Jesus Saves Us From Satan. This makes the Devil mad. He does not want me to proclaim deliverance from his power. Blessed be the day when Jesus saved me from Satan. I am free indeed. The Devil cannot do more than nag me. He cannot put his dirty hands upon me except in God’s will. He cannot get to me except God permit him to do so. The Bible describes Satan as a roaring lion going up and down in the earth seeking whom he may devour. I rejoice that there are some whom he cannot devour—the redeemed. To the saved he is more a roar than anything else.  
Claim the deliverance and rejoice in it. The Devil can do no more than try to hinder you from so doing. Claim freedom by faith. When Jesus saved you, He saved you from Satan. 
Many times the Devil has threatened my life. In nearly audible impressions he tells us that he will take our lives. But he is a liar; my life is in Jesus, and the Devil can do nothing about it (Harold Sightler in a sermon on this text).
Nothing in this life so excites the believer like the truth that Jesus saves him from sin! Nothing is so vital to his ongoing life, yes, to life itself! So, one might look for eternity to find a subject of greater weight and he will cease trying, finding only the Creator outreaches his own plan of salvation.

May we find in Jesus Christ this season an increasing love welling up within our hearts for the beautiful, all-encompassing Savior of the world!

Saturday, December 19

Franklin Graham: Our Churches Are Dead!

The following article comes from Paul Proctor. I print it here in its entirety because I think it is so necessary. Pardon the fact that it is long. But please don't let that stop you from reading! 
I read an interesting article/interview with Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist, Billy Graham, in a publication called The Gathering where he not only expressed the importance of sharing the gospel, but also some less than flattering comments about today’s churches and pastors “going directions Jesus never told us to go into,” referencing the new “liberal” evangelical emphasis on “social justice” and “Christianizing” the culture.
Of course, I can’t speak for Franklin Graham, but it sure sounded like a slap in the face of Rick Warren with his Global Peace Plan. Certainly, there are many who have made the social gospel job one, but none more notable than the Purpose Driven pastor from Saddleback Church.
Unfortunately, Graham didn’t name names, an all too common practice among clergy today, which leaves many vulnerable to “Christian” celebrities who put people-pleasing programs and global agendas over and above the Word of God and the call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. If Mr. Graham believes certain pastors are out there leading others astray with a false gospel, he has a duty to warn them, not just make vague references that will go in one ear and out the other as if who’s doing it doesn’t really matter. Souls are at stake here.
But, in spite of this, he made some important points in the Q&A session that need to be mentioned:
TG: The next generation of believers seems to be making social justice issues such as poverty, disease, orphans, clean water, etc. a real priority. What do you think about that?
Graham: None of that is our mandate. Jesus never said, "I want you to go out and alleviate the poor in the world." ...So many churches and so many pastors today are going directions Jesus never told us to go into. He said, "you'll always have the poor with you."
TG: Do you see those works as a door to sharing the gospel and making disciples?
Graham: That's the if. If they do it, sure. My grandparents were missionaries to China. They took modern medicine to China. Why? Because the Chinese people had no medicine. My grandfather, a surgeon, saved people's lives so that he could preach the gospel. If the social program comes first and then if you can, you try to work the gospel wedge into it, that won't work. It has to be the gospel first. You go, why? Because Christ died on the cross. He shed His blood on the cross, and that's why I'm going. And by the way, if I see somebody hungry, I'm going to try to feed them. If I see somebody that needs some medicine, I'm going to give them that. If I meet somebody who just needs an arm around them, I'll hug them and tell them God loves them. But I'm going because Christ told me to go into the world and make disciples. He never told me to go feed people. He never told me to go try to make people feel better. He told me to preach the gospel.
TG: To what extent do you think Christians should be involved in helping to usher in the kingdom of Heaven now, on Earth? Should we be trying to redeem our culture?
Graham: First of all, the Bible didn't tell me to do that. I can't Christianize this culture. The god of this world is Satan - this is his culture. He is the god of this age. I'm to preach the gospel. .... God is calling a people for Himself. I don't know whom He's calling, I just have to be faithful and preach.
Later in the article, Graham stated, point blank: “We need revival. Our churches are dead.” I think most Christians who regularly read this column already know that, but it was important to hear him say it.
After having visited many such churches in and around the very home of the Southern Baptist Convention here in Nashville, Tennessee over the last ten years, I couldn’t agree more. And, I don’t say that with any presumed piety, personal innocence or lofty, Mr. Know-it-all kind of attitude. I say it with a deep sadness, frustration and desire to wake up sleepy, jaded and distracted Christians and their pastors who apparently don’t recognize the seriousness of the situation or the urgency of the hour.
One evangelical tactic addressed in the article that I vigorously disagree with concerning both the Billy Graham Association and Franklin Graham, is the blatant use of popular music styles (and celebrities, I might add) in their crusades to help draw crowds. Samaritan’s Purse also hands out church-donated toys at Christmas to appeal to children and their parents on the mission field as a way to gain their favor and make them more receptive to the gospel.
Jesus never did either of these things and neither should we. Although He fed the masses on more than one occasion to demonstrate God’s love and power, there’s no biblical record of the Lord using food or anything else of a carnal nature to lure people in to hear Him preach. In my view, these pragmatic and people-pleasing practices are just another form of religious bribery that has now become the modus operandi of most churches today, which I believe, in no small part, set the stage for the whole seeker-sensitive church growth movement that has successfully undermined the gospel and steered the Church at large toward evangetainment as its thrust instead of God’s Word and, in the process, shipwrecked the fragile, unfed and undisciplined faith of many by teaching them to do the same.
My wife and I visited a typical SBC church not long ago where the orchestra kicked off the Sunday morning service with something that sounded more like a television talk show theme than a call to worship. I’m sorry – I don’t care what your tastes in music are – that can’t be justified. Whether Christians realize it or not, synthesizing the sacred with the secular promotes confusion and a compromised worship atmosphere.
In all fairness though, the music minister is a very nice young man with a wonderful voice who usually leads a blended mix of traditional and contemporary selections in an attempt to offer a little something for everyone in attendance – a common practice among Southern Baptists and others which, in my view, only leaves the congregation divided, with everyone impatiently waiting for their music to be played so they can get in their three minutes of worship and praise before the next genre is covered that appeals to someone else’s palate and turns our stomach.
How anyone stays focused on God and His Word jumping from traditional hymns to funky blues tunes to rock guitar solos to jazzy Jesus numbers is beyond me. But, this is the kind of conflict being created by well-meaning church leaders today acting on group consensus rather than godly conviction. If we don’t do that with our theology, why are we doing it with our music?
We then went to an adult Sunday school class where the Word of God was set aside for the entire hour in order to fill out a lengthy church survey on personal preferences followed by a touchy discussion on the same – this after a half-hour or more of pre-class chitchat, pastries and coffee which concluded with an array of suggested entertainment-oriented social activities and restaurants to meet at for informal class get-togethers and what-evers during the week, which was apparently difficult for many due to all of the other regularly scheduled activities already committed to with family.
Friends, this is what the Church in America has become in the 21st century: Christians trying to figure out where to go and what to do with themselves in this great big amusement park we call America!
But, all of this, I sincerely believe is going to change dramatically – and very soon. And, though there will be a lot of suffering and hardship in the coming years, and especially in the Church, I am convinced that when people eventually lose everything worldly and superficial that has, up to now, seemed so important to them, the faith of some will come alive as never before while others will continue to seek the flesh in one form or another, following whoever offers the most gratification for the least amount of suffering and sacrifice.
If you want to properly prepare for dire days ahead, prepare for this. When fear, violence, suffering and uncertainty become the order of the day, there may be no better time in our nation’s history to share the good news of Jesus Christ and be the kind of witness for Him that we should have been all along.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” – Mark 16:15

Friday, December 18

Practicing the Fear of the LORD. A Final Mediation on the "I.O.U.S."

A few weeks ago I had "toyed" with adding a letter to the "I.O.U.S." of John Piper, the letter "P" representing the word "practice." (Last Meditation was on December 11th) Actually, I did a little more than toy with it; I actually wrote to Desiring God Ministries and explained my thoughts to them. I don't expect it'll amount to anything. Surely they receive hundreds of such emails. But I wasn't trying to be cute or clever. It just seemed a good thing. Let me explain.

Among my regularly scheduled devotional readings, Psalm 111:10 sort of "popped out" at me. It says,
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. (ESV)

Now, if you consider that this is among the several "Praise Psalms," or "Hallel Psalms," (for Hallelujah, "praise the LORD"), these closing words exude a meaning all their own. But apart from these last words of Psalm 111 there is an interesting interplay between wisdom and our acquisition of it. "The fear of the LORD" is a not too unfamiliar phrase which we encounter in Scripture and which is rich with implications in itself. I am sort of (lovingly) setting aside these two phrases so that I can isolate the one I am interested in accentuating, namely, "all those who practice it have a good understanding." This is where my prayer centers--practice. All who practice "it" what? "It" refers to "the fear of the LORD." Notice it does not say, "all who know how to define it," or "all those who think it's a good idea." But all who practice it. It's the practicing of a virtue that evidences the reality of our faith in that virtue (or, rather in the God who prompts such virtues). Many in Bible-believing churches will grant that these things are true; they give them, as the OT says, "lip-service." They agree with the need for "the fear of the LORD." But, that, as we all know, is definitely NOT the same as exhibiting it, living it out in every day life, or . . . practicing it! Practicing the faith cannot be done by those who's only interest in God is circumstantial or from a distance.

For many in Bible-believing churches today, God is more of a name they respect at arm's length, not the intimate Lord of their heart. Thus, it is vitally necessary that we pray this prayer often:
Lord, guide me into a proper fear of God and then, help me to so embrace it, to so own it that I live it out, yes, practice it every day . . . as a lifestyle.
"Practical godliness is the test of wisdom," writes C. H. Spurgeon. "Men may know and be very orthodox, they may talk and be very eloquent, they may speculate and be very profound; but the best proof of their intelligence must be found in their actually doing the will  of the Lord."

Further, as we fear the LORD we gain a good understanding. What is God's will? How can we know? Answer? Fear the LORD, and the understanding will follow. Don't put the cart before the horse. Believe rightly (fear the LORD) and you will know God's will and live rightly (have a good understanding). We too often hear, "Show me your will and I will do it." God says, "Trust in me and I will show you my will."

One further thot: If we were to take the "P" of practice and place it at the beginning of Piper's "I.O.U.S." it would be "P.I.O.U.S." I don't know . . . it sorta works out. Right? Either way, even it doesn't "catch on," it'd be wise of us to pray for such a practicing heart. May our wise and loving God help us all!


Thursday, December 17

Preferring Heaven to this World--John Huss

What are the riches of the world to me! What affliction can their loss cause me! What is it to me to lose the favour of the world, which makes us swerve from the path of Christ! What signifies infamy, which, when supported with humility, proves, purifies, and illuminates the children of God in such a manner that they shine like the bright sun in their Father's kingdom.

And lastly, what is death, should this miserable life be torn from me! He who loses it in this world triumphs even over death, and finds true life in the next.


Wednesday, December 16

A Christmas Prayer to Ponder

The following comes thanks to my friend, Jack Hager, who posted this on his blog.  Jack says, "This is astoundingly, personally applicable!" Agreed. Written by Scotty Smith, Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tn:

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:16-19

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. 

For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps 73:25-26). So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

Tuesday, December 15

THE DIVINE PURPOSE--A Book Recommendation

THE DIVINE PURPOSE: Displayed in the Works of Providence and Grace in a Series of Letters to an Inquirer by John Matthews. 

Rev. John Matthews (1772-1848) tackles the thorny question of The Doctrine of the Divine Decree by expounding the following Question and Answer:
Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
In your evening walk you tread on a worm, and crush it to death; presently you observe a venomous serpent near your path, which you also kill. In the first case, the effect, as it respected yourself, was accidental; that is, it happened without your intention; you had no design to injure the worm. But in the latter, the effect, or event, was according to your intention; your killing the serpent was in consequence of a design, previously and deliberately formed, in your mind. And yet, in both cases you were the cause of death. In a thousand instances, the exertions of men produce Effects, not only without design, but contrary to their deliberate intentions. But nothing like this can possibly happen with God. It would be the height of absurdity, and manifest the greatest ignorance of his character to suppose, that his power was exerted in blind efforts, and was producing effects, which he had not previously designed. Every effect which his power produces, is according to the predetermination of his own wisdom.
Solid Ground Christian Books is honored and excited to be able to introduce a new title that first appeared in 1825, then again in 1828, and then in 1840, and most recently in 1843 with an excellent Preface by Archibald Alexander of Princeton Seminary.

Sunday, December 13

A Call to the Perseverance of the Saints-Helen Roseveare

This morning in Sunday School, we are going to view a video from the Desiring God National Conference held in Minneapolis, September 29, 2007. The following are a brief set of notes to capture the essence of what she said. God took Helen through a series of extremely difficult tests as a missionary, including being raped as a young lady. Her message does not come from some sheltered “ivory tower,” but from the trenches of warfare. I invite you to view this online if you are not a part of our adult Sunday School! May the Lord bless each of us as we tackle the certain warfare we are bound to endure IF we are to go on in grace unto glory.

“A Call for the Perseverance of the Saints”  

Message Notes

Just as Jesus endured until his "It is finished," so too we can endure if we keep our eyes on him. We can endure if we accept his loving discipline and endure, without giving up or getting bitter, the hardships that he gives.
It is utterly essential to persevere to the end. To start a race is fine; but it's much more important that we finish, that we hit the tape.

Three biblical "one things" pertain to this:
"One thing I know" (John 9:25). Past tense. It's the gospel. We come to know it at conversion, when we go from a state of blindness to seeing. This is the foundation of our joy and hope.

"One thing I do" (Philippians 3:13-14). Present tense and active. Our present activity is to tell others about Jesus, with earnestness, and to remain faithful to him in all that he has called us to do. We must continue daily in this, in order to please him, in choices big and small. There's a temptation to slack off, tone down, seek greener pastures, but we must remain committed. This means that we must be willing to go down into the valleys. And in our hardships we must trust that God is accomplishing his greater purposes for us.

"One thing I seek after" (Psalm 27:4). Future orientation. We must make it our priority at all times to seek to love him above all things, dwelling and gazing upon his beauty. Have you let Jesus Christ into your life in a way that you are withholding nothing from his influence? Do you treasure your early morning hour with him? Do you guard the sanctity of the Sabbath? Do you love him more than the things that keep you from fellowshipping with his people? Do you long to gaze upon his face in order that you might be like him? 

2 Kings 3. The Lord is calling us to trust him to fill our valleys with the perfectly-timed waters of his grace. Press on. God is faithful. 

Saturday, December 12

Doing The Will of God From the Heart-Eph. 6:6

The manner in which we do God's will is as important as the thing itself.  We obey acceptably when we obey from the heart.  We do God's will acceptably when we do his will as it is done in heaven, that is, as the angels do it.  How do the angels obey?

(1.) They do it regularly, without wavering.  Angels do not do anything but that which is commanded.  Obedience must be set by the sundial of God's Word.

(2.) Angels obey God's will entirely with nothing cut away.  The least command cannot be left undone.  Every command has the same authority, and if we do God's will uprightly, we do it uniformly; we obey every branch of his will with unlimited obedience.  Many do God's will by halves.  They pick and choose like a lame horse that favours one leg.  To play a lute you must strike every string or spoil the music.  Hypocrites profess fair, but when it comes to sacrficing their Isaac, crucifying a beloved sin, or parting with some estate for Christ, they pause and say as Naaman, 'In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant' (2 Kings 5:18).  It is acceptable with God, though we fail in some measure, that we desire to do all of God's will and that it grieves us that we do not do better.

(3.) Angels obey sincerely; first, by pure respect to his command.  It was a hard service for Abraham to sacrifice his son, and though he surely did not feel present joy, he obeyed, because God commanded it.  The command, not comfort, is the ground of duty.  Secondly, we obey sincerely when we do God's will with a pure eye to his glory.  The Pharisees obeyed for vain-glory.  He that does God's will rightly desires God's honour to be lifted up in all the world rather than his own glory.  A gracious soul makes God his focus and obeys his commands with the pure motive of lifting up his glory.

Thomas Watson, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 156-159, from new book from Banner of Truth, Voices From the Past.


Friday, December 11

Satisfied ONLY in Christ! Meditation 6 on the I.O.U.S.

The fourth and final verse John Piper uses as an aid to keep himself engaged with God's Word and Life through Christ is the "S" of the IOUS:
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (Psalm 90:14).
Here is a call to engage God with divinely enabled pleasure. "Satisfy us." I don't want to learn just what you say--doctrine. Or, learn how to live, application. Both of these are vital and together form the basis of all Christian growth. To learn the truth and then to live it out comprises most of the believer's energies. Still, combined they are not precisely where the Christian should aim. Rather, Psalm 90:14 brings the two together--doctrine and application--and drives them to the land where God himself is my pleasure and to be in his presence results in my highest joy!

Why Pray This?
FIRST, because we sin. Because the essence of sin is the attempt to replace my satisfaction in Jesus Christ with . . . well . . . just about ANYTHING! Even church, or Bible, or kindness. But we also find ourselves finding happiness in lesser, God-denying things too like gossip, anger toward someone, pornography, or love of money. We pray because we desperately need God's help! And we have it. Praise the Lord we have an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 John 2:1).

SECOND, we pray this because we want something better . . . much, much better! Probably the greatest of sins we commit with regularity (and don't realize it) is the sin of dull, puny expectations. When a believer does not KNOW what he is missing, it is easy to loiter around the back streets when a superior road belongs to him! God has saved us to a higher life, life IN Christ! This is the "light of life" (John 8:12). Don't underrate that Jesus came that we might have "life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). An old and maybe unfamiliar hymn emphasizes this:
I'm pressing on the upward way;
New heights I'm gaining ev'ry day,
Still praying as I'm onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
And for the tension of this world? Stanza 2:
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay.
Tho' some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
Now, that's the heart! "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love . . ." Amen!

(Please see my post for Nov. 16th for the first of these meditations)


Thursday, December 10

CONSUMED WITH CHRIST! Meditation 5 on the I.O.U.S.

On November 19th, I began a blog series on John Piper's I.O.U.S. This is the fifth meditation on a series of verses (Psalm 119:36, 18; 86:11; 90:14 respectively) intended to rivet our hearts by faith to an intimate trust in God's Word and ways. The "U" stands for Psalm 86:11,
Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
Obviously, Piper recognizes the "U" as corresponding to the last line, "Unite my heart to fear your name." What does this mean?  

FIRST, a united heart is opposite to a divided heart. A divided heart happens when the mind knows one thing to be true, but the heart yearns for another. And since Scripture rightly affirms, "As a man thinks in his heart so is he" (Prov. 23:7), we all tend to go in the direction of our hearts! Thus, the need to pray, "Unite my heart." In other words, I am praying that I will not only KNOW the truth in my head (through reading, meditation, & prayer) but that I will SO believe it that it will become my life. This is what James so consistently points out in his letter, it is not in the seeing (mind), but in the doing (heart) that we live truly godly lives. This is born out in James--as it said--repeatedly.

SECOND, please grasp the connection between the first and second parts of this verse. Specifically, notice the words "way," "walk," and "unite." They go together inextricably. "Way" and "walk" refer to lifestyle, a whole mindset, or, if you will, one's worldview. It is NOT just a knowledge of the right path to take, but is the actual pathway, the process, one's pattern of living. Better, it is the "default" position, the place they return to automatically in times of trial or joy.

Perhaps I can best explain the difference with two terms: dwell and visit. There's a great difference between dwelling with someone and merely visiting them. It seems that many professing Christians have developed more of a visiting mentality in terms of Christian growth. They seem to be content to, as it were, "drop in on God" once a week, to pay him a visit. They may do this "religiously," but it is still ONLY a visit. That is NOT the brand of Christianity Jesus died to secure! Paul wrote the Corinthians about our being a place for Christ to dwell, "For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people'" (2 Cor. 6:16). Wonderful truth! God dwells in us, and we in Him. He is our Owner and Provider. Oh, beautiful love this relationship with Jesus Christ; far, far better is it than visits!

The prayer for God to "Unite my heart to fear your name" infers a bringing together of mind and heart in one direction, with one purpose--to know Christ intimately. Or to love him--REALLY love him! This is a lifestyle, not an article of clothing we can don or discard at our leisure. The true Christian's entire life is bound up in Jesus Christ by desire. All other loves fall well behind this "Union." And he loves to have it so.

Excellent prayer: "Unite my heart (into single mindedness) to fear (love, respect, fear) your name (everything about God by which He is known)." The Christian wants to be absorbed with God!


Wednesday, December 9

What Would YOU Do with Fifteen Extra Years?

Nothing quite reveals the tenor of our hearts like our attitude after a trial. When the pressure is off, to what do we turn? Hezekiah, king of Judah learned that his sickness would certainly lead to death (Isaiah 38-39). Plain and simple. He wept bitterly at the prospect of leaving this earth, though he'd been a fairly decent leader. We read how God answered Hezekiah's prayer NOT to die, and sent Isaiah the prophet to deliver the good news. During the subsequent 15 years, the newly healed king showed off Jerusalem's riches to a foreign envoy (Assyria) who were later to return and threaten total destruction. Bad move!

What Do WE Learn From Hezekiah?
Why show off riches like that? Obviously, that was not wise, and it resulted in Jerusalem's destruction. And even when he heard the judgment from Isaiah (Jerusalem would be lost but not on his watch), he said in effect--"Whew! At least it's not going to happen in my day!" How could he be so self-absorbed (remember he was a good king) that he'd be OK with his sons suffering instead of himself? This is horrid! I wonder how much like Hezekiah each of us tends to be?

Still, the larger question arises: What would you and I do if our impending death were averted, and we were given 15 extra years to live? I suspect another way to ask the same question would be: What have we always wanted to do that if we knew we had a limited amount of time, we'd make sure we accomplished? 1) Take that yearned for European trip? 2) Buy a special house and retire? 3) Perhaps, reconcile with that long-term acquaintance (don't want that on my conscience going into death, right?). What have you always wanted to do if given the chance?

A Proposal
Why not spend our remaining days doing whatever we could to direct ourselves and others into a deeper, more God-honoring frame of mind? Why not be  a zealous laborer for the kingdom? Come to think of it, why not do that anyway? What is more important, after all? Please. Too many so-called Christians rate way too highly the things of this world. Why not give every ounce of our lives (whether we know the day of our death or not) serving the Lord God with gladness of heart?! Why not love the Lord Jesus Christ with every fiber of our being?

Hezekiah missed his chance to make good on fifteen extra years because he had a misguided sense of purpose in the years prior to his sickness. The point is this. In times of restored health, we will default to what really means the most to us. Do we really want to die having learned that for most of our lives we only ever gave God "honorable mention," our lips but not our hearts?! That's catastrophic! Oh, dear believer, where is YOUR heart? What means the most to you? It'll surface when something like what happened to Hezekiah happens to you.

Get ready today. BE ready to love the Lord so much NOW that any chance you get will be spent exalting Him and glorifying Him until such time as he moves us to be with Him!

What WOULD you do?


Tuesday, December 8

Standing Against Satan-Wm. Gurnall

Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armor is a tremendous resource for all Christians. It is based on Ephesians 6:10-20. 

This describes the Christian's posture in his fight against Satan. It is a military expression, a word of command that a captain would use to his soldier. A coward does not stand, but Christ directs us to stand our ground to stoutly repel the enemy. Uriah stood in the face of death.  He did not dispute with his General; obey he must, though he lost his life. To resist some temptations may cost us dear. The Roman captain said it was necessary to sail, not to live. The soldier carries his prince's honour with him into the field. How unworthy it is to expose the name of God to reproach to avoid the little scorn, temporal loss, or trouble! Truly, God is not careless with the blood of his servants, yet sometimes he tries their loyalty in hard service and sharp temptations, that he may from their faithfulness and holy stoutness in their suffering for him triumph over Satan. God furnishes armour for us to stand. Stand, and the day is ours; flee, and all is lost. There is no armour for the back in God's armoury.  Stand, and the bullets fall; flee, and they enter your heart. He that stands believing, comes off with his life. He that recoils and runs from his colours, God will have no pleasure in him. There is comfort in striving against sin and Satan, though through blood. Would you not rather die in the field for your Prince, than by the axe for cowardice or treachery? Satan is a cowardly enemy. He is discouraged when he finds the soul awake to oppose him. He fears and trembles at your faith. Pray for help against him, and vigorously reject the motions he makes, and he will run (James 4:7). He cannot hurt us without our consent. When we resist, his heart fails and he leaves. If we only weakly resist, he continues his assault. The only way to be rid of him is to shut the door upon him and deny all discourse with him.

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour, I:275-278

Monday, December 7

Marking Your Bible For Assurance

In the classes I teach at church, the question has frequently arisen, "How do we find assurance for our salvation?" Or, its corollary, "How can we help another person who doubts their salvation?" This is a wonderful question which shows a true yearning to help another.

Here's the short answer. Assurance comes from the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). I like to mention this first as the foundational truth we need to lay down before moving on to other biblical means. Salvation is of the Lord, and so is assurance OF that salvation.

Next, I direct fellow Christians to do what I had learned to do when I was still in college at Bob Jones University. I can't remember from whom I heard or read this. But for assurance they directed me to 1 John. As most of you may know, the gospel of John was written specifically in order that "you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life through his name" (20:31). John is careful to tell us his purpose in penning his account of Christ's life. Likewise, he reveals his purpose in writing the little letter of 1 John: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (5:13). So, the Gospel was written to help man believe, and 1 John was written to help man KNOW that he has believed. Essentially, then 1 John is a book of assurance.

While it is not OUR calling to GIVE others assurance (that belongs to the Holy Spirit); it is our privilege to direct them to the Scriptures whose purpose is to do just that. An important note here. Please do not tell your children or anyone else that YOU know that they are saved! That is neither biblical nor wise. You cannot give them assurance, that belongs to the Spirit. And you can be deceived while the Spirit and the Scriptures cannot. What I like to say to folks if they come to me looking for assurance is this, "Let me show you how you can discover where you stand with God." Then I tell them of Romans 8:16 and of 1 John. Obviously, 1 John is not the only place to turn. The entire Bible can be used for assurance. But for one concentrated location, 1 John is excellent. 

Next, in order to to make 1 John more useful as a tool, do this. Read through the letter slowly and mark in the margins next to verses that are positive aspects of Christianity a "plus" sign and a "minus" next to negative aspects. For example, 1:3 says that John writes so that Christians may have fellowship with one another and with the Father. There are two positive characteristics right there. An example of a negative is verse 6, "If we say that we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." If you read through the entire letter this way, your faith will be strengthened and you'll have a quick and useful tool to encourage others. 

One further tool for the slightly ambitious. Mark doctrines as well. For instance, 2:22, "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" So, to mark this, I'd put a "minus" sign in the margin and then to denote that it's a doctrine, circle the minus sign. In doing this, you'll have a compendium of positive and negative signs along with doctrines that true Christians believe or practice.

I trust that this little tool will greatly benefit your Christian walk . . . or, perhaps reveal to you if you ARE a believer! May you prosper in assurance and thus find joy in Jesus' name!


Sunday, December 6

The True Meaning of Christmas & Easter!

Q. If God asked you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" What would you say? 
Your experience of salvation is wonderful, but do you have any "hard evidence" which you can site that qualifies you for heaven? This is a serious question and one which every Christian should answer well. The following helpful explanation of our salvation comes from James Montgomery Boice:
If the death of Christ on the cross is the true meaning of the Incarnation, then there is no gospel without the cross. Christmas by itself is no gospel. The life of Christ is no gospel. Even the resurrection, important as it is in the total scheme of things, is no gospel by itself. For the good news is not just that God became man, nor that God has spoken to reveal a proper way of life for us, or even that death, the great enemy, is conquered. Rather, the good news is that sin has been dealt with (of which the resurrection is a proof); that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; and that therefore all who believe in him can look forward to heaven. . . . 
Emulation of Christ’s life and teaching is possible only to those who enter into a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus as their substitute. The resurrection is not merely a victory over death (though it is that) but a proof that the atonement was a satisfactory atonement in the sight of the Father (Rom 4:25); and that death, the result of sin, is abolished on that basis. Any gospel that talks merely of the Christ-event, meaning the Incarnation without the atonement, is a false gospel. Any gospel that talks about the love of God without pointing out that his love led him to pay the ultimate price for sin in the person of his Son on the cross is a false gospel. The only true gospel is of the one mediator (1 Tim. 2:5-6), who gave himself for us. Finally, just as there can be no gospel without the atonement as the reason for the Incarnation, so also there can be no Christian life without it. Without the atonement the Incarnation theme easily becomes a kind of deification of the human and leads to arrogance and self advancement. With the atonement the true message of the life of Christ, and therefore also of the life of the Christian man or woman, is humility and self sacrifice for the obvious needs of others. 

The Christian life is not indifference to those who are hungry or sick or suffering from some other lack. It is not contentment with our own abundance, neither the abundance of middle class living with home and cars and clothes and vacations, nor the abundance of education or even the spiritual abundance of good churches, Bibles, Bible teaching or Christian friends and acquaintances. Rather, it is the awareness that others lack these things and that we must therefore sacrifice many of our own interests in order to identify with them and thus bring them increasingly into the abundance we enjoy...We will live for Christ fully only when we are willing to be impoverished, if necessary, in order that others might be helped. (Foundations of the Christian Faith)

Saturday, December 5

God WILL Supply Every Need of Ours!

The following is an example of the kind of Puritan devotions you could own, found HERE. I love the Puritans. But don't feel bad if you have to read them more than once (especially until you get used to them). Remember, often that which comes too easily is ill fit to help us. Hard mining discovers riches from God. Enjoy!

My God will supply every need of yours.
Philippians 4:19
The ways of God's providence direct us into the calling and employment that is ordered for us in this world. To have an honest, lawful employment in which you do not dishonour God is no small mercy. If it is suited also to your genius and strength, this is a double mercy. If you have less toil than others and more time for heavenly exercises, ascribe this benefit to the special care of providence for you.  How strangely are things wheeled about by providence! David followed the sheep and likely never raised his thoughts to higher things, but God made him the royal shepherd. Some have work, but not enough strength. Others have strength, but no employment. If God blesses your labour and gives you and yours necessary support and comfort in the world, it is a choice providence and should be acknowledged with all thankfulness. If you find yourself scarcely able to provide for the necessities of life, consider: though you have a small portion of the world, if you are godly, he has promised never to forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Providence has ordered the condition that is really best for your eternal good. If you had more of the world you might not be able to manage it to your advantage. We are directed to be content with food and clothing, and the little that the righteous has is better than the riches of many wicked (Psa. 37:16). If providence has so disposed you that you cannot only eat your own bread but have enough for works of mercy upon others, and all this is brought to pass in a way you did not expect, let God be honoured in this providence. Remember that the success of your callings and earthly employments is by divine blessing and not human diligence alone. Be well satisfied in the station and employment where you have been placed. God is wise and seeks your eternal good.
 John Flavel, Works, IV:387-391

Friday, December 4

Stand Firm For the Faith!

A Principled Defense

One need only look at the history of the church within the last generation or so, to see that our resolve has been weakened, and is almost nonexistent when it comes to defending the truth, or standing up for what we know to be just and right. For most people, silence and retreat is more acceptable than the defense of truth, because chances are very slim that one will get wounded while retreating. We weigh the matter judiciously, conclude that it’s too small a thing to get worked up about, and back away slowly as to not stir the attention of the enemy. We don’t like making waves and the enemy knows this. We have an aversion to being marginalized, to being mocked, to being ridiculed, to being persecuted, and so we would rather slink away in the middle of the night than confront the enemy. We have taken it upon ourselves to become negotiators, when we have been called to be messengers, to be spectators when we have been called to be soldiers. We have become passionately passionless, and purposefully purposeless for fear of offending the unregenerate and unrepentant. 

With every retreat the enemy gains more ground, with every omission, with every act of cowardice on our part the enemy gets that much bolder, and continues his steady march.

For some reason we’ve come to believe that the enemy will simply stop short of our citadels, that he will stop short of besieging the towers if we just give up enough ground. Surely the enemy will be content with a partial victory, surely his desire is not to overrun the entire house of God. If this is what you believe, if you believe that the enemy will stop short, than you don’t really know the enemy we face. His desire is the utter destruction of God’s house, and he will not stop short of his goal. This is why we must stand, this is why we must boldly proclaim the truth and defend even those things we consider as insignificant or of little importance.  

There is a passage in first Chronicles that details what I’m attempting to convey. At the beginning of David’s reign, the Chronicler of the time took a census of David’s mighty men, and among them was a man named Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite.  

1 Chronicles 11:13-14, “He was with David at Pasdammim. Now there the Philistines were gathered for battle and there was a piece of ground full of barley. And the people fled from the Philistines. But they stationed themselves in the midst of that field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. And the Lord saved them by a great deliverance.”  

Here was David and Eleazar, defending what amounted to a piece of ground full of barley. It wasn’t like they were defending a city, it wasn’t like they were defending Jerusalem, it was just some barley in a field. All of the people had fled, the Philistines were on their way, and they came to the conclusion that it was easier to let the Philistines have the piece of ground full of barley, than to risk their lives in order to defend it. David and Eleazar however, decided to stay and fight, they decided to make their stand for a piece of ground full of barley, and even risk their lives in order to defend it. 

What we must understand, is that it wasn’t the barley they were defending and risking their lives for, it was the principle of giving up ground to the enemy. David’s principle was simple. We leave nothing to the Philistines. Whether a patch of earth or a handful of barley, David and Eleazar decided and purposed in their hearts, that they would give nothing to the enemy.  

The spiritual principle that we learn from this exchange is as simple as it is profound. We must not be willing to leave anything for the enemy. If it comes to it, we must be ready and willing to go to war with Satan himself, even over something small, something that the world would look at and mock us for defending. Leave nothing for the enemy to exploit! 

The sad and lamentable truth, is that the church in our modern age has given up a lot of ground. Those who ought to have been mighty men, those who ought to have been warriors, decided it wasn’t worth fighting over a patch of earth, it wasn’t worth defending a handful of barley, so they simply retreated, and gave up ground. We refused to defend the small things because we thought them unworthy of our efforts, and the more ground we gave up, the bolder the enemy became. Soon enough, here the enemy stood at the castle walls, and now the church has gotten so used to running it has gotten so used to giving up ground, that it is having a difficult time mustering up the courage to defend the city itself. Those of you with spiritual eyes and ears know exactly what I am talking about! 

The last part of the verse we read is also worth repeating, because it reveals a second essential spiritual truth. When we stand our ground, when we defend the truth of God’s word, when we are willing to put our reputations on the line for the sake of Christ, and suffer the mocking and scorn that will surely come from the godless, it is the Lord that will fight alongside us; it is the Lord who will ensure our victory.  

All they had to do was stand and fight, all they had to do was be determined that they would not retreat, that they would not back down, that they would not give up ground to the Philistines.  

The Word is very clear as to who gave David and Eleazar the victory.  
“And the Lord saved them by a great deliverance.” 
It’s not that the church is continually suffering defeat; it’s that it hasn’t even made its stand yet. Between those who prefer to be mere spectators, and consider that taking a stand for the truth isn’t really for them, because well, they just want to preach a positive message, and be positive and create an atmosphere of positivity, and those who surrender to the enemy before the first sword is drawn or the first bow is strung, the number of true warriors, the number of those who are willing to defend the truth and make their stand is small indeed.  

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I do not trust men who call themselves warriors yet have no scars. I do not trust men who call themselves warriors yet their armor is in pristine condition, as though they had it pressed for a military funeral rather than scarred and worn as though they were standing on the front lines.  

Make no mistake, we are at war, and this spiritual war is one in which there can be no spectators. There are only three options. We either flee from before the enemy, surrender to the enemy, or make our stand against the enemy.  

I realize full well that some continue to be under the misconception that they can strike a truce with the enemy and somehow coexist. The only problem is that the enemy never honors your terms of surrender, and you will be a slave, and subject to his whims. Knowing that the enemy is merciless, ruthless, vile and heartless, his whims will always gravitate toward creating an environment of pain, sorrow and heartache for those who surrender and give up the fight.
When we are faithful, when we honor God in the little things, when we look upon a patch of land and a handful of barley as David and Eleazar did and say in our hearts it is not dispensable, it is not expendable, it is worth defending and worth standing our ground over, we know that God stands with us, and though the enemy might outnumber us, it is the Lord who will save us by a great deliverance.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr. 

(With thanks to my son, Dave, Jr., for alerting me to this post from Mr. Boldea's grandfather was Dimitri Duduman, a Romanian Christian who defected to America in the 1980's)


Thursday, December 3

Renewing the Church-Part 2

We need to get rid of the notion that church growth is directly related to techniques, hard labor or charismatic personalities. We would not demean these, especially the "hard work" ethic. But what we deplore is a faith dependency on these things, a dependency that turns our eyes off the Master and away from the Holy Spirit for our empowerment. It is not alarming that many voices have been crying out for renewal in the church. What is alarming is our apparent faithlessness with regard to the "Old Paths" (as J. C. Ryle would call them). However we choose to deal with today's culture, we must realize--shouldn't we--that man is basically the same today as he was 200 or even 2, 000 years ago? Sin still blinds man's spiritual eyes and jades his ability to understand the truth. It is this with which we must deal, ever and always. The gospel cuts through that where the Holy Spirit drives it home to the heart.

Mark Galli's article (see post 2 days ago) in the October Christianity Today writes of numerous problems in the church requiring, as he calls it, a "kaleidoscope of answers," many of which rightly deal with horizontal issues such as racism, and indifference to injustice as well as poor ecclesiology,  and inattention to doctrine. And while granting that many of the movements he cites do pay attention to the vertical (the Godward issues), "our practical and activist sensibility--one of our movement's stellar attributes--tends to undermine the vertical" (p. 25).  This supports what I have often taught, namely that much of our brand of Christianity tends to (if not outrightly) objectify the gospel, reducing the life of Christ to a set of Christian actions . . . minus Jesus, the Person.

Spiritual formation certainly aims the believer in the right direction, as long was we don't get our hands on it and reduce it to yet another method! We American Christians have an uncanny way of taking the living Word and the Spirit-filled life and quantifying it and qualifying it and ultimately consigning it to a laboratory where Christianity becomes a set of laws born out through experimentation and testing. Will we ever learn to walk with God like Enoch, become a friend like Abraham, or earn the moniker from God as a man/woman after His "own heart" like David? We do not promote comparisons here, but example. I love what Jesus told Martha, "Mary has desired the one thing necessary" (Luke 10:42). His "one thing" seemed to involve the attentive sitting and gleaning from Christ himself. Paul would later cry out, "That I may know Him . . ." (Phil. 3:10). That's getting at it!

Applying it slightly differently, Galli quotes Martin Luther, who said, "One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ." One more time. We can turn the Bible itself into an idol (bibliolatry)--not to be too negative. Still, John Wesley's reputation is commendable to us all, that he was preeminently a man of one book. I love God's Word, and especially as it gives life. "We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete" (1 John 1:4).

Get enamored with Jesus himself. Walk with Him in solitude. Do more than merely read, but pour over Scripture intentionally praying "open my eyes to behold wondrous things" (Ps. 119:18). Look for wonder. Worship the Wonderful!! When our hearts are renewed IN Christ, we will then likely start to see changes within the body of Christ at large. That is God's call.