Monday, March 30

A Christian Voice & The New World Order!

Understanding the biblical injunction to obey our leaders (Rom. 13) does not excuse our accountability to use our minds wisely. Nor can it mean that we bail out on our responsibility as a citizen of the United States. President Kennedy famously urged, "Ask what you can do for your country." And there are things that a good, law-abiding Christian can do without relinquishing his duty before God. Under dictatorial Rome and other such totalitarian governments, the average citizen was severely limited in their impact on government. But our founding fathers, through the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights bequeathed to every person a voice in the United States. 

The Obama Deception is a must-see video for any responsible citizen. There has been a nefarious and unremitting movement on the part of the few (oligarchy) to take over the United States and subject us all to the same sorts of rule foisted upon the people of Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, and Mao's China. Before you cry, "Conspiracy theorist," consider the video on it's own merit. Similar laws are already in place and much legislation is now pending (and being passed every day) which will enslave the American people while purporting to offer them freedom. These "elite" are breaking numerous principles in the above documents every time they do it!

Warning: What you see will be disturbing. The video is 7 minutes shy of 2 hours, so set some time aside to view it. It is a documentary with copious interviews and footage of actual events. The author invites all viewers to check out his facts for themselves, which lends credence to the validity of the documentary.

Encouragement: True believers in Jesus must never give up hope, but see God as the Ruler throughout all changes, national or otherwise. Our hope must not rest in our own government (even at it's best), but in God who holds all things together and works all things together for his own glory. I close with the very powerful Psalm 2 on the the Sovereign reign of God over all nations of this earth:

2 Why do the nations rage 

and the peoples plot in vain? 

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, 

and the rulers take counsel together, 

against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 

3 “Let us burst their bonds apart 

and cast away their cords from us.” 

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; 

the Lord holds them in derision. 

5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, 

and terrify them in his fury, saying, 

6 “As for me, I have set my King 

on Zion, my holy hill.” 

7 I will tell of the decree: 

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; 

today I have begotten you. 

8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, 

and the ends of the earth your possession. 

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron 

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; 

be warned, O rulers of the earth. 

11 Serve the Lord with fear, 

and rejoice with trembling. 

12 Kiss the Son, 

lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, 

for his wrath is quickly kindled. 

Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 

Saturday, March 28

What If Jesus Visited Your Church? Part 2

On Thursday I posted a question as to how we might respond if it were told us that Jesus would be visiting our church in person. I think our "knee-jerk" reaction would be amazement, followed by consternation (especially if we'd been living life awry from his commands). This might be followed-up by relief (or disappointment) knowing that such a consideration is patently hypothetical. Yes, Jesus will come at the judgment, but we are fairly well-assured that he will not make a surprise physical appearance in our meeting houses! 

. . . or, WILL HE . . . ?

This leads us to a logical and biblical conclusion . . .  

Christ In You
Christ is in fact already more visible in us than if he were just physically present! --Do you believe that the spirit is more vital than the flesh?-- Indeed, Paul writes in Colossians 1:27, that Jesus' presence in believers is the essence of the riches of his glorious mystery. And in that monumental eighth chapter of Romans, Paul affirms FOUR TIMES in just a few lines (vv. 9-11) that "the Spirit of God dwells in you," "Christ is in you," "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you," and "his Spirit who dwells in you." This magnificent chapter asserts beyond the shadow of a doubt the security of the true believer. And one of the means whereby he affirms this is in the repetition of of this marvelous truth, viz., that God, the Spirit and Jesus dwell in his own!   

So, this begs the question as to what has stymied our faith that we are more easily impressed by the physical than the spiritual? This is usually a trait that is attributed to non-believers. Yet, it would seem, we who profess Christ fall prey to the same weak faith! So, Jesus' physical presence would shock us, but his indwelling us doesn't seem to phase us? I ask again, how can this be? Well might Jesus question us as he did his disciples after the calming of the stormy sea, "Why did you doubt, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 14:31) So critical is the reality of Christ's presence to the believer that Paul hangs the genuineness of a person's salvation on the recognition of it, 
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5)
Maybe Jesus WILL make a surprise appearance in church--a surprise because he blows away our customary Spirit-less worship by his evident and glorious presence. Perhaps the room will be so thick with God's presence that we might conclude that HE COULD NOT BE ANY MORE REAL IF HE WERE PHYSICALLY PRESENT! Let us expect greater worship, a more godly Spirit-presence. Let us overcome the spiritual lethargy to which we have grown so accustomed and seek the face of God in reality! Proof of Jesus' presence will be changed lives, humility, and a holy expectation of hell and of heaven. Glorious. 

Pray that Jesus WILL INDEED visit our churches, that we will not let him remain outside but enter and dine with us and we with Him! (Rev. 3:20)

Thursday, March 26

What If Jesus Visited Your Church This Sunday?

Seeing the Invisible Through Eyes of Faith

1 Peter 1:8, [Christ] whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (NKJV). 

I have on occasion asked our congregation what they or our neighbors would do if they heard that Jesus was coming to visit our church in person—next Sunday! Right in front of their own eyes, they would see Him about whom they have heard all these years! I could see the wheels turning, a sort of collective . . . hum-m-m. This notion immediately seems to elicit either a sense of wonder or of dread--wonder at the thought of actually seeing Jesus, and dread at the implications involved in his seeing us! Imagine how this contrasts with the fact that for all these years we have already been praying to the Unseen. We have grounded our hopes and decisions upon biblical principles alone, fostered by the inner working of the Spirit--both real for sure, but incorporeal. Further, we have fought off the pesky temptation to content ourselves with earthy expressions as over against an “other-worldly” attitude. We live out the Christian faith supposedly in the reality of Christ’s presence. 

The flip side is the divinely intended one, namely that NOT seeing Christ IS IN FACT seeing him. Indeed, "believing IS seeing." And this seeing of him produces a marked positive change in the demeanor of the genuine saint--"joy inexpressible." 

But after having posed the above question, we have to scratch our heads and ponder. Oddly, we may need to ask ourselves the unthinkable--"How truly necessary is Jesus himself to our Christianity?" Ludicrous, you say? Of course it is. But WHAT is ludicrous, the question or the answer? How contented has the mass of believers become with a non-Christ Christianity? Hebrews says that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," and where might that fact most be tested but right here in the personage of Jesus himself?

It seems a necessary question these days, when so many have grown smug in their "decision" to "accept" Christ. Their salvation seems to have become reduced to a choosing of Christ, without an accompanying affection for him. Yet, biblically, there is no alternative faith for all true salvation finds it's life in a living, loving Jesus. He "rejoices with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8b). Should this not be the test of our profession, viz., that we are so grounded in the visibility of the Invisible that it is as if he were walking down the isle of our church, or sitting at the dinner table, or in the passenger seat? Why should a mere thing like invisibility create such angst among believers? I suggest that it does not . . . in the true saint. This is key. Such faith will enliven the church once again, for it is on this basis that all are saved. Living, breathing joy . . . inexpressible!

Wednesday, March 25

The Empty Promise of Meditation--Al Mohler

For those of us old enough to remember, there were many in the "hippie generation" who somewhat recovered a focus on meditation. One problem with it, however, was that they promoted it as a self-purification via the cleansing of the mind of all other thoughts--a turning within oneself. Biblical meditation is patently different than this as Al Mohler writes on his blog:
The biblical concept of meditation on the Word of God does involve an emptying, of course. We must empty our minds of ungodly and unbiblical thoughts, of desires for sin and resistance to the reign of God in our lives. But that emptying never involves an empty mind. Instead, it involves a mind in which unbiblical thoughts are replaced by the truth of Scripture -- not a blank slate of meditation that revolves around the self. . . . For Christians, this kind of meditation is a danger, not a means to spiritual growth. Should we meditate? Without question, we should meditate upon the Word of God. This should be a part of our regular and constant spiritual discipline. But, this kind of meditation does not lead to an empty mind, nor to the sense of an empty mind, but to a mind constantly more directed by Scripture.

Tuesday, March 24

Successful Evangelism is God-Centered (Legacy 2, Lloyd-Jones)

In his marvelous biography on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Iain Murray presents the church with invaluable and corrective insight. He writes, not to repeat his previous and massive two-volume biography but to focus on several vital legacies which ML-J (as he calls him) left to the evangelical church. Lloyd-Jones, Messenger Of Grace, was published in 2008 and cannot help but becoming a vital help to the church, especially to those whose life is bound up in ministry. How we need to hear this man's insight and wisdom today! I quote just a portion from Legacy #2, "Christianity is God-Centered Religion." Murray writes:
God-centered Christianity does not mark churches in decline and it was rare in twentieth-century Britain. In the Welsh chapel life of ML-J's own background, the pulpit ethos was mainly sentimental, moralistic, and anecdotal. It was worse in the many churches where liberal theology held sway; the message was akin to saying that a God of love exists for man's comfort and happiness. Even in evangelical circles the message of the gospel was too often reduced to the forgiveness to be gained by responding to Jesus Christ.

For Lloyd-Jones the whole approach was different. Preaching needs to start from where the Bible starts: "In the beginning God"--God the Almighty, the Eternal, the Ruler and Judge of all.
The Bible is the record of the activity of God. God is the actor. God is the centre. Everything is of God and comes from God, and turns to God. It is God who speaks. It is God who acts. It is God who intervenes. It is God who originates, who plans everything everywhere.
He goes on to explain major implications of failing to preach this, implications which are most vital to reiterate as we move toward the celebration of the resurrection . . . 
Without the Bible's revelation of the majesty and holiness of God, man has no conception of the glory from which he has fallen, or of his present predicament. His need is for reconciliation that will change both his statue and nature as a sinner. It is a need that cannot be met without divine action. When Christianity ceases to be God-centred, a superficial understanding of sin will always follow; sin is treated as mere unhappiness or dissatisfaction instead of rebellion against God. Consequently the wrath of God passes out of sight, and with it, the necessity of the substitutionary death of Christ. Men reject the penal sufferings of Christ "because they do not see the problem."
Indeed, it is light views (unbiblical, therefore, false) of man's depravity that has led to the substandard preaching of the gospel around the world today. Every minister would benefit greatly from reading this well-written account of several significant themes in ML-J's ministry, themes which today cannot be overstated! Salvation hangs in the balance as God's greater glory is being ignored!

Monday, March 23

Why Don’t We Pray Luke 10:2?

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2; also Matthew 9:38)

Implications of this prayer:

1. There is still a great harvest of souls to be won.

2. There is a perennial lack of laborers. (This infers that God seeks and uses laborers, election does not mitigate such a need, but assures its success!)

3. The Lord does the sending of missionaries.

4. It seems we believers must first pray for God to send, even before volunteering to go!

5. It is always God’s harvest, not ours. 

In my years of hearing and preaching missionary messages, most seemed to revolve around Great Commission challenges. And, of course, who can gainsay such an emphasis? Still, as Jesus himself gave the above command, somehow this too must enter into our philosophy of missions. Through international media coverage and the internet, we see the world more easily today than ever. The immensity of the need is astounding. So it is a boon to our soul to know that we may, indeed must, call upon God to send out those into the world to harvest his crop.

Friday, March 20

Better Than "The Good Ol' Days"

What's better than "The Good Ol' Days?" It's a Spirit-filled work of God TODAY. But many Christians expect too little today; their expectations are well below what many in the past pursued and even pled to get from God. As C. S. Lewis said, "Christians have been far too easily pleased."

Jeremiah 3:15-16, 

15‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.

My focus here is on the words of verse 16, "When you have multiplied and increased in the land . . . they shall no more say, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.'" When God is manifestly doing a genuine, vibrant work Christians do not fall to reminiscing about the “good old days” of revivals past or of their favorite, charismatic preachers. Such memories are a fine thing and worthy of reflection, but not if it’s due to a paucity of spiritual enlightenment today. Israel began to actually prefer Egyptian slavery and deprivation over wilderness freedom if only because it was predictable. To unbelieving Israel, God forsook them in the wilderness. And if he were to be absent there, then why not return to an oppression that at least boasted better onions, leaks and garlic?

We are no different today. People come to church—and if their spirit hasn’t atrophied—still hope to find a vibrant God and virile worship. But the Spirit has been disallowed from so many churches today that spiritual dullness prevents their ability to detect His absence! This is heartrending. We go through the motions of glorifying God, but demean it’s effectiveness at every turn. We come and we go with nary a word from the Lord. We grow accustomed to it, entering the sanctuary with little expectation for anything glorious. It’s one thing to suffer divine silence, quite another to accept it as the norm! What a distressing state to which the church has fallen.

Yet, it was Jeremiah’s word that sounds an opposite and clear invitation. He will provide shepherds whose leadership will ring so true with Spirit-power, that the people will simply forget all the glory days of yore in favor of the awesome presence of God today. 


Wednesday, March 18

Dominoes & a Half Aborigine

Rest in Two Acts

Act One
We're on vacation in Mechanicsville, Virginia and in a couple of days we'll head with family to Myrtle Beach, SC. One of our pastimes with Phyllis' folks is to play dominos. It is a rather inane game requiring few skills and whose value lies more in the mindless banter that goes on while connecting numbers than it does in pursuing a well thought out strategy. The inanity of the game is only increased by the fact that you can only play what you draw, an action requiring but simple motor skills to pull 14 dominoes mindlessly into a pile in front of yourself. 

OK, so it doesn't take an Einstein. It's not chess! But we have fun! Fun, by the way, depends on your expectations. We expect little. For Phyllis and me, it is also rest from ministry--blessed work indeed. Still, it's rest, switching gears, changing scenery. Another great advantage to this game is that it is not technology-bound; it's as computer free as the old "stick & hoop" days! I love it for that. 

Act Two
We watched the movie "Australia" before we left--as the Brits say-- "on holiday." This recent flick presents an epic sort of story involving a British aristocrat flying to Australia during WW2 trying to make the most of her husband's ranch in the midst of "Death Valley" heat and intense competition "down the road." Vital to the story was the cutest little half-Aborigine, Nullah, disparagingly labeled by racists, a "creamie." This adorable boy from the outback seemed to represent the movie's wise man. Referring to his "witch doctor" grandfather, King George, Nullah said something like, "he hears the song and dreams." For Nullah, hearing songs out in the wild and seeing dream-like visions qualified one as authentically human. I may not have the wording correct, but the message came across loudly to me that it wasn't riches, race, or even genteel civilization that constitutes superiority, but the being able to hear--really hear and truly see

POINT? Nullah's medicine-man grandfather lived very simply away from (and aloof to) all the crazy womanizing, money-grabbing of modern civilization. And because of it, he seemed to have a far better handle on how to live life to the fullest. No argument is made here for the Aborigine religion. I am only interested in the seeming freedom of living away from the constant technological, Hollywood-induced ephemera called the "good life." So, let us at least take away from this the all-encompassing biblical truth to "meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still" (Psalm 4:4). Every now and then it is important to step away from the cacophony of schedules and phones and emails and simply look . . . and listen, push a few dominoes around the table . . . and breathe. There is music if one listens hard enough, and a place for dreaming . . . maybe "somewhere over the rainbow?" Ah-h-h . . .  

(Notice I say this while typing away on my MacBook Pro!? Oh, and did I remember to plug in my BlackBerry and iPod to charge them up? What if someone can't get in touch with me? What if I don't return someone's email? How can I live? Someone make it stop!!)

Tuesday, March 17

My Indebtedness to Walter Chantry's "Today's Gospel"

Years ago, while still in college (1970-75), I read Today's Gospel by Walter Chantry for the first time. It was a watershed moment in my theological understanding of conversion. This coupled with the many "hand-outs" I received and numerous other Puritan works with which I became familiar have been a spiritual boon to my soul since then. I praise the Lord for directing me to reading these godly men of faith. They have provided an endless source of heart-enriching material.

Now, some 35 years later, after having digested Chantry's book, which has become part of my "spiritual DNA," it has been my privilege to re-read it. The Banner of Truth Trust has reprinted it some 13 times since its first publication in 1970. It is a short treatment (92 pages) of Jesus' method of evangelism which he believes is exemplified in the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27). Chantry answers the question put forward in his introduction, "What's Wrong With Evangelism Today?" Curiously, when so many methods rise and fall on the very fashionable "Trend Curve," his assessment of evangelism is quite current and urgently needed. Since I am highly recommending this book as a staple in every Christian's library, let me quote from the back of my copy:
Differences between much of today's preaching and that of Jesus are not petty; they are enormous. The chief errors are not in emphasis or approach but in the heart of the Gospel message. Were there a deficiency in one of the areas mentioned in these pages, it would be serious. But to ignore all--the attributes of God, the holy law of God, repentance, a call to bow to the enthroned Christ--and to pervert the doctrine of assurance, is the most vital mistake.
Walter J. Chantry was born in 1938, graduated from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1960) and Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia (1963). In 1963, Mr. Chantry was ordained to the gospel ministry and became pastor of the Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle, Pa, where he served for 39 years. Since December 2002 he has served as Editor of The Banner of Truth magazine.

Lord willing, I plan to cull a few poignant thoughts from his book and share them in upcoming posts.

Monday, March 16

Bound by Technology?!

On March 6, Mark Earley, President of Prison Fellowship wrote an insightful and needed commentary for BreakPoint. The principle of Sabbath is too little understood these days in the evangelical camp, and therefore, too little practiced. Read this and see what you think.

Get Unplugged Taking a Sabbath from Technology

Try this experiment: Shut down your computer, turn off your cell phone, unplug your iPod, hide your Blackberry, and click off the television. Then, pick up a book. Read for an hour. When you’re done, pull out a sheet of paper and write a letter. And then, go for a walk outside.

If you find this scenario difficult, you’re not alone. Mark Bittman, writing in the New York Times, describes taking a break from technology for an entire day: “I woke up nervous, eager for my laptop . . . I was jumpy, twitchy, uneven.”

According to a 2005 survey, most Americans—including children—spend at least nine hours a day watching TV, surfing the web, or talking on their cell phones. Of those hours, one-third of the time is spent using two or more of those media at once.

While technology has many worthwhile purposes, it demands a high price from us. Studies have shown that our increasing media dependency is crippling our attention spans, wounding our ability to create meaningful relationships, and generating a false expectation that we should be able to be contacted at every hour of the day.

Katie Dunne, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, observed that while the Internet has made it easier for her to find information for class, it also made it easier for her fellow students to avoid face-to-face interactions with their professors—and with each other.

She wrote in her school newspaper: “It seems like the more advanced our technology becomes, the more likely we are to withdraw from the real world. The intimacy of conversation and the integrity of relationships are compromised by quick and cold forms of communication.”

But getting away from technology is easier said than done. Many of us couldn’t do our jobs if it weren’t for computers, cell phones, and PDAs. But here’s the problem—when we leave work, technology is following close behind us in a constant stream of text messages, Facebook posts, and emails. We’ve become addicts to the god of information.

So, here’s a challenge—take a technology sabbath.

Joe Carter—editor of the Evangelical Outpost blog—recently began making one day of his week completely technology free.

He writes on “After drinking from the fire hose of information a day without info tech will seem like a year long drought. But by unplugging the god of Technology you might just find something new in the pause—a still small voice sharing the information that truly matters.”

But like anything worthwhile, taking a break from technology takes practice and patience. Here are some of Carter’s tips on making a technology sabbath worthwhile.

First, make sure to give yourself a full 24 hours, preferably from sundown to sundown. Let people know that you are unplugging, so they understand why you are not responding to them right away. Lastly, dedicate some of the time to practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, and attending a worship service.

In the meantime, meet a friend for coffee. And leave your Blackberry at home. 

Saturday, March 14

Clamor For God's Presence-Sunday!

Do we not long for a refreshing filling of the Spirit of God in our churches? It is certain that God is not finished with his work, and indeed, it is he who said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). Sometimes we need simply read of such powerful effusions of the Spirit in days gone by to remind us that God may yet pour out his grace today. A favorite reading of mine is from Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism. The following is taken from the life of Gardiner Spring, pastor of Brick Church, NY City, 1810-1873.

“Sparse clouds of mercy had been hovering over the congregation during the first four years of my ministry . . . and not a few, especially of those in middle life, had been brought into the kingdom of God.

The year 1814 was a year of great labor and deep solicitude. Many a time after preaching did I remain long in the pulpit, that I might not encounter the reproaches of the people of God for my heartless preaching, and many a time, as I left it, has my mind been so depressed that I have felt I could never preach another sermon. But I did not know to what extent the Spirit of God was carrying forward his own noiseless work. . . God was already beginning a precious work of grace among the people. He had taken it into his own hands, and was conducting it is his own quiet way, convincing the church and the world that ‘it is not by might, nor by power, but by his own Spirit,’ as the Author and Finisher of the whole” (pp. 205-206).

May God the Father grant a powerful effusion of his Spirit over this land, in our churches . . . tomorrow!                                                                        

Thursday, March 12

Peterson-"Praying with Eyes Open"

Christians need to be as prepared to meet God in Church as explorers have been to go on expeditions to the North Pole or Mt. Everest. Failure to prepare properly meant certain death in numerous cases. It can as well in worship. In The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson, citing Annie Dillard, comments on the staggeringly pedestrian style of much of modern day worship: 
The blithe ignorance is frightening: "Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? . . . On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does not one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews." Explorers unmindful of "conditions" died. Why don't similarly unprepared worshipers perish on the spot?
It's not that Dillard doesn't go to church. She does. Says Peterson, 
She realizes that one can no more go to God alone than go to the pole alone. She further realizes that even though the goal is pure, the people are not pure, and if we want to go the Land we must go with the people, even when they are playing banjos, singing stupid songs, and giving vacuous sermons.
These words may seem harsh. And praise God they are not true everywhere. But evidence speaks for itself, and we mustn't turn away from that, but seek a higher view of God which pulls us away from the little box we have become so accustomed to, a box not invented by God, but man, and too small to allow for the God who is too mysterious to name. Let us not just be amazed, but live amazed, blown away by the wonder of God in nature, in economic recession, and, yes, even (especially) in church!

Tuesday, March 10

Ministry's Not "Running a Church"

Our local ministerium met today. We have a good group of pastors and wives who have been meeting together for years to discuss pertinent subjects. In addition to a summary of Sovereignty and Free Will, we discussed our common reading, which happens to be from Eugene Peterson's, The Contemplative Pastor. It's not always easy to know what subjects will pique another brother's interest, but one did seem to hit home today, viz., "Curing Souls: The Forgotten Art." Let me excerpt a few thoughts from it, and perhaps, if you are interested, you may want to read the entire chapter.
The primary sense of cura in Latin is "care," with undertones of "cure." The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is a determination to work at the center, to concentrate on the essential. . . . 
Curing Souls Is Not the Same As "Running a Church"

Other pastors and church people will often (mistakingly) speak for us ministers describing what we do as "running a church." But whether mistaken or not, it seems that many pastors bow to such a description. Our calling is thus reduced to an objective work that we perform instead of the prayer-drenched curing of souls. Peterson writes:
It should be clear that the cure of souls is not a specialized form of ministry (analogous, for instance, to hospital chaplain or pastoral counselor) but is the essential pastoral work. . . . Curing souls is a term that filters out what is introduced by a secularizing culture. . . . A caveat: I contrast the cure of souls with the task of running a church, but I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not contemptuous of running a church, nor do I dismiss its importance. I run a church myself: I have for over twenty years. [He continued to 29 years at the same church] I try to do it well.

But I do it in the same spirit that I, along with my wife, run our house. There are many essential things we routinely do, often (but not always) with joy. But running a house is not what we do. We we do is build a home, develop in marriage, raise children, practice hospitality, pursue lives of work and play. It is reducing pastoral work to institutional duties that I object to, not the duties themselves, which I gladly share with others in the church.

Monday, March 9

"Christian Directions" from Samuel Rutherford

Puritan pastors (like many today) were anxious to assist their flocks with spiritual aids to help them live genuine Christian lives. Below are 8 (online) from the pen of the wonderfully holy Samuel Rutherford. As a pastor, I will copy such as these for distribution at our church, particularly to the several classes I teach. I do this for at least two reasons: 1) the material reveals basic and often more heart-exposing wisdom than that of our present-day fare, and 2) it connects contemporary believers with those from history who have traveled the pilgrim road before us. Thus, they constitute another cross-section of that "great cloud of witnesses" whose faithful endurance encourages us to continue fighting the fight of faith. Exposure to the classics can only provide our fellow-believers with a wider and hopefully, more profound explication of the Christian life. 

1. That hours of the day, less or more time, for the Word and prayer, be given to God; not sparing the twelfth hour, or mid-day, howbeit it should then be the shorter time.

2. In the midst of worldly employments, there should be some thoughts of sin, death, judgment, and eternity, with at least a word or two of [short] prayer[s] to God. These help us foster the presence of an eternal perspective. 

3. To beware of wandering of heart in private prayer. Easy to do, but it can be controlled.

4. Not to grudge if ye come from prayer without sense of joy. Downcasting, sense of guiltiness, and hunger, are often best for us. We neither deny nor exalt our feelings, but see all things as useful which drive us to God.

5. That the Lord's Day, from morning to night, be spent always either in private or public worship

6. That words be observed, wandering and idle thoughts be avoided, sudden anger and desire of revenge, even of such as persecute the truth, be guarded against; for we often mix our zeal with our wild-fire.

7. That known, discovered, and revealed sins, that are against the conscience, be avoided, as most dangerous preparatives to hardness of heart. Why? Because these insinuate themselves into our lives undetected, and often are only discovered after they have left a scar.

8. That in dealing with men, faith and truth in covenants and trafficking be regarded, that we deal with all men in sincerity; that conscience be made of idle and lying words; and that our carriage be such, as that they who see it may speak honourably of our sweet Master and profession.

Saturday, March 7

Real Christianity Really Needed TODAY!

ONE cannot help but wonder at Tozer's farsightedness which seemed to witness the very world in which we live today. Although he died in 1963, you could hardly tell it by the following paragraph!

Now more than at any other time in generations, the believer is in a position to go on the offensive. The world is lost on a wide sea, and Christians alone know the way to the desired haven. While things were going well, the world scorned them with their Bible and hymns, but now the world needs them desperately, and it needs that despised Bible, too. For in the Bible, and there only, is found the chart to tell us where we are going on this rough and unknown ocean. The day when Christians should meekly apologize is over—they can get the world's attention not by trying to please, but by boldly declaring the truth of divine revelation. They can make themselves heard not by compromise, but by taking the affirmative and sturdily declaring, Thus saith the Lord.    —A. W. Tozer on Christian Leadership 

As we head into Sunday, let us resolve anew that we who have the truth will not conceal it, but blare it from the roof-tops! Matthew 5:16 urges us, Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works (truth-telling) and give glory to your Father in heaven (because it is evident from your words that heaven is the origin of your message). 

Friday, March 6

John "Rabbi" Duncan on Calling Men to Christ

I'm not even waiting one day to post this quotation! It comes thanks to John Piper's blog. When my wife, Phyllis, read it to me this morning, I was elated! Why? Because, as Duncan was prone to do, he "hit the nail right on the head." [Let me note that Piper sites Rich Gleanings as his source (see below). He sends you to Amazon where there are a few used copies. My link is to Reformed Heritage who offer the same in a new copy for less!] 

I was so intrigued by the contents of the quotation that I searched my copy of Duncan's sayings, Just A Talker. (He wasn't known for writings but for his peripatetic wisdom). At any rate, I found the same words in my book and to my delight found that I had highlighted the same words! So, I thank Piper for realigning my thoughts by surfacing this great word! I hope you're as encouraged by the profound wisdom found in these words. You may want to re-read Duncan's words. 

Piper writes:

The Bible teaches that we are so sinful we are morally unable to please God (Romans 8:7). It also teaches that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Yet salvation is by faith, and we are called again and again in Scripture to believe (Acts 16:31).

How then shall we preach to those who cannot come to Christ, but must come in order to be saved?

John Duncan (1796-1870) was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland and a missionary to the Jews in Hungary. He is often referred to as Rabbi Duncan because of his love for Jewish people. John Macleod wrote that "since the days of the Apostles there is hardly on record such a striking work of grace among the Jews as took place in the days of his labors in Buda-Pesth."

Here is Duncan's penetrating answer to our question.

It would not do to tell a man that he may come to Christ, but that he must come. Some, indeed, would have man to do all, though he could do nothing; and others would have him to do nothing, because all was done for him.

As long as I am told that I must come to God, and that I can come, I am left to suppose that some good thing, or some power of good remains in me, and I arrogate to myself that which belongs to Jehovah. The creature is exalted, and God is robbed of His glory.

If, on the other hand, I am told that I cannot come to God, but not also that I must come, I am left to rest contented at a distance from God, I am not responsible for my rebellion, and God Jehovah is not my God.

But if we preach that sinners can't come, and yet must come, then is the honour of God vindicated, and the sinner is shut up. Man must be so shut up that he must come to Christ, and yet know that he cannot. He must come to Christ, or he will look to another, when there is no other to whom he may come; he cannot come, or he will look to himself.

This is the gospel vice, to shut up men to the faith. Some grasp at one limb of the vice and some at the other, leaving the sinner open - but when a man is shut up that he must and cannot, he is shut up to the faith - shut up to the faith, and then would he be shut up in the faith. God is declared to be Jehovah, and the sinner is made willing to be saved by Him, in His own way, as sovereign in His grace. (Rich Gleanings, 392, emphases added)