Thursday, April 30

Three Conditions for Prayer

As our nation heads into deeper economic and international troubles, we who call ourselves Christians have to be prepared by a strong faith and an active prayer life. I have turned to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones recently because we have record of messages he gave out of such a national malaise, England under attack during WW2. It is one thing to ponder, "What would we do if we were attacked or God permitted persecution?" It is another thing when that actually occurs. One of the most important activities we believers can do is to pray. Building on 1 Timothy 2:8, Lloyd-Jones unfolds three conditions which govern the activity of prayer:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.

The three conditions are, 1) lifting holy hands, 2) without anger, or 3) quarreling. I will give just a brief summary of each:

Holy Hands

There is nothing which is so utterly contrary to the whole teaching of the Bible as the assumption that anyone, and at any time, without any conditions whatsoever, may approach God in prayer. . . . The promises of God are never without condition. God has not promised to grant us all our requests unconditionally; and the first condition is ever this one of the "holy hands." [So we need to deal with our own sin first]

Without Anger (Wrath)

It does not mean so much anger, or the expression or manifestation of anger, as an unloving disposition--not a violent outburst of temper, but rather a "settled condition of ill-will and resentment." Here, the emphasis is not upon the way in which a man regards God, and approaches Him, but on the way in which he approaches and regards his fellow-men, his neighbors.[Here, then is a call for reconciliation with our brother, so that we can pray]

Without Quarreling (Disputing)

The reference is not to disputing with others, but to disputing with oneself. It denotes a state of wavering and uncertainty, or, perhaps, even a state of actual intellectual rebellion. . . . As a result of these doubts [about God, or if prayer is useless, etc.], whether only one of them, or all of them together, it often comes to pass that prayer is nothing but some desperate adventure of doubtful experiment in which we engage.[MLJ then goes on to say that some will try faith because it worked for someone else] Prayer is not meant to be the doubtful experiment that may lead to faith and belief; it is rather the expression, and the outcome, of a faith that not only believes in God, but is also prepared to trust its all to Him and to his holy will. To pray to God in order to discover whether prayer works or not is an insult to God. . . . The men whose prayers have been answered have always  been those who knew God, those who have trusted Him most thoroughly, those who have been most ready to say at all times and in all circumstances "Thy will be done," assured as they were of His holy and loving purpose. 

Monday, April 27

Orders for the Church in Time of War

In August 1942, Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a series of five messages to his London congregation geared to helping the church deal with the present firestorm from Germany. England had been in the grip of war for nearly three years. Now he felt it necessary to shore up the church's faith to enable them to withstand in the face of such persistent opposition. His text was 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (ESV). In his application, Lloyd-Jones drew a parallel between the first-century church and the present day. 
The problem with the church at Corinth was that it had ceased to believe truly in the doctrine of the nature of the Christian church. If I understand the times in which we live aright, I would suggest that that is our fundamental trouble today. We have lost the sense of corporate church life. We are interested in religion. . . . But I wonder to what extent we really believe that we are members of the body of Christ, not a loose association of people who are interested in religious things, but really members of that mystical body of Christ through which He acts upon earth? Do we realize that we have been bought with a price, that we are not our own?
Further on he says,
Have we further realized that opposed to us is a mighty adversary; that all the powers of Satan and evil and hell are arrayed against us? . . . Have we realized that the ultimate object of the enemy is not simply to destroy us, but is, above all, to frustrate the schemes and plans of God? 
After pointing out the many ways the church today fights over miniscule things, he adds:
While the church is thus divided, and is quarrelling and arguing, the world is in the welter of a great war and the people in this and other lands are departing further and further from a knowledge of God. What are we to do about it? Here is the order of the day. "Wake up," says the apostle. "Rouse yourselves." And having done so, "stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done in love."
Should we not all learn from this war-time preacher that the church has a peculiar and powerful presence in this world as long as we ARE the church? The very gates of hell cannot prevail against her. Let us trust our Lord to keep her, and show that trust by proclaiming the Gospel of truth. We are to always be salt and light in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation among whom we shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15). 

Sunday, April 26

John Piper on Radical Christian Sacrifice

We're heading into difficult times. Everyone seems to know this. Question is, are we Christians ready to take it? This is a seven minute video of cuts from a message by John Piper. It is well worth the watching. "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29). We must start now--if we haven't already--developing a war-time faith. 

Saturday, April 25

Hope When Our Eyes Are Darkened . . .

Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries wrote the following for "A Slice of Infinity," over which she is the managing editor. May I whet your appetite to read the entire article here by saying that we all face what the Puritans termed "The Dark Night of the Soul." I think some of that is included in what she says. Want hope? Read on . . . 

Dark Though It Is

“My soul is too cramped for you to enter it,” lamented Saint Augustine of God. Later, he would find this cry itself something of an answer. For uttering it was to admit that God was there. It is God who makes God known to us--even in our restless longing, even as our souls are cramped with sin and the journey at times seems more a fight for autonomy than a means to knowledge. And yet somehow we come to know an incomprehensible God.

Author Anne Lamott might word it differently, though the effect is the same. “The Holy Spirit rarely respects one’s comfort zones,” she writes of her unlikely story of faith and conversion. Beginning with the closing lines of W.S. Merwin, she articulates her propulsion from non-belief to belief. “We are saying thank you and waving, dark though it is.”(1) Tracing her leaps or lurches toward faith, she describes darkness in a broken world and an unpredictable childhood, the dimming affects of self-loathing, addiction, fear, and grief. And she describes the presence of one to thank regardless, one whose light gradually appeared through a world that slowly cracked into a thousand pieces. 

Whether the journey of faith is a dramatic miracle or more like a gift that requires some assembly, we are put together by the one who knows us best. “Man is born broken,” quotes Lamott. “He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” In his care for all of our many pieces, God reveals Himself as the God who is there. And in unlikely stories of faith and conversion, whether the apostle Paul’s or Anne Lamott’s, masses in China or individuals in the Middle East, in them and in their faith, God invites us to reconsider the depths and reaches such a promise entails: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

Saint Augustine, who once labored in dark and cramped crevices to see the God of light, later realized that to look for God is to find Him. Often, I think we don’t know that we’re looking. Our restless hearts are crying out for Someone, but all we hear is gibberish and think of ourselves as crazy. Other times, perhaps we aren’t really looking so much as we are being looked for. Regardless, faith begins long before we have eyes to see. “The world of souls is a vast and broken place,” said a wise friend of mine. “Most stumble in blindness. But where you see an eye of the kingdom, or a soul squinting at light, rejoice, for God is near.”

The Spirit of God is both the healer of our blindness and the light by which we see the kingdom, our selves and neighbors, and Christ who saves us.  Beside the savior, we find ourselves as pilgrims moving toward the faith God ordained and the life God intended. The journey is not always straight or sensical; it is usually demanding and requires continual surrender, but we walk with Christ himself. The way of the Cross is unpredictable, except for the dying and rising. But there is unfathomable mercy for the journey and light that will not be overcome, no matter the darkness.

Friday, April 24

Walking in the Light!

R. C. Sproul has written a delightful children's story based on the verse in 1 John 1:5, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." That's a glorious text, isn't it? LIGHT! Darkness bespeaks sin and degradation, deceit and manipulation. We trip when there is no light. But in it's presence we behold the contours & brilliance of objects and art in a room. Light opens our eyes to the lovely, and fills our souls with delight (is there a connection?). In this little book, Grandpa tells a story to his grandson, Charlie, answering why it is that people are afraid of the dark. In the process, Grandpa also answers why it is that some people are also afraid of the light!

Jesus came into the world to be the Light of the world. But not everyone likes that, or wants Him! The ESV Study Bible contains a helpful and succinct note on 1 John 1:7, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." There's something "squeaky" clean about this truth! That's not the ESV note! But here is what they write:
Walk in the light means to reflect God's perfection (see v. 5) in the human sphere and includes both correct doctrine (truth) and moral purity (holiness). The symbolism of light as knowledge (see note on vv. 5–10) also implies that when Christians “walk in the light” their lives will be known, and will not contain hidden sins, falsehoods, or deception. Such walking “in the light” results in deep divine and human fellowship (see v. 3) and progressive cleansing from all sin.
So, it means to: 
1) Reflect God's perfection in doctrine & purity.
2) Live lives of openness and honesty--no deception or falsehoods. Oh, what a blessing it is to live in such a manner!
3) Enjoy God's and human fellowship, and 
4) Benefit from the progressive cleansing of sin.

It's hard to read this and NOT come away happy! What a breath of fresh air. What a profound blessing for all of us who proclaim the gospel, for this is indeed Good News! My wife, Phyllis, read "The Lightlings" to the kids in Children's Church this past Sunday, and they loved the story and the pictures! What an unending blessing for ALL who believe the gospel. WALK IN THE LIGHT!

Thursday, April 23

Hate Crimes Bill & Prayer

There is a bill before Congress right now (H.R. 1913, "Local Law Enforcement and Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009") which is encased in ambiguous terminology specifically geared to put it within the rights of government to imprison anyone who does not comply with their very biased and unequal view of what they term "hate crimes." Matt Barber has a piece on this which all defenders of free speech should read, "Separate but unequal protection." Here are a few paragraphs from his article:

Protection we already enjoy--

Under the 14th Amendment, victims of violent crime are currently afforded equal protection under the law regardless of sexual preference or proclivity. If passed, H.R. 1913 will change all that.  It overtly and, most likely, unconstitutionally discriminates against millions of Americans by granting federally preferred status, time and resources to individuals who define their identity based upon aberrant sexual behaviors (i.e., "gay" and lesbian "sexual orientation" or cross-dressing "gender identity").

What we stand to lose:

In short, this bill places newfangled "gay rights" in direct conflict with our enumerated constitutional rights. It becomes the first step in the official criminalization of Christianity. It's a zero sum game and someone has to lose. Ultimately, what we lose are our First Amendment guaranteed rights to freedom of speech, religious expression and association.

But the threat is not just some shadowy phantom looming in the near future. It's a clear and present danger. While debating the notion of "conspiracy to commit a hate crime" in the last Congress, Representative Artur Davis (D-Alabama) admitted that the legislation could be used to prosecute pastors for merely preaching the Bible under the concept of "inducement" to violence.

Why should I, a pastor, emphasize this? I have to. Government is supposed to protect the rights of ALL of it's citizens. Homosexuals should be protected. And religion should be protected. This bill singles out the homosexual. So, we who believe the Bible are in danger of losing our freedom once again. The true Christian, far from vilifying any group, desires to present God's truth to them in as loving a manner as possible. This is nothing new. It has been our M.O. for centuries! Truth is really what is at stake. Can a group decide this? No, they will tend to select whatever seems most beneficial to them. God must determine what is true for all of us. ALL of us! As Jesus said when praying to His Father in heaven, "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17). Religious freedom comprised a large part of the reason for the founding of this great country. But even today we CAN do something about it. Each of us can contact our Congressman NOW and let them know of our disagreement with such legislation. Once it is law, we'll have our hands full dealing with the fall-out. But it's not law yet. And we have a legal right, yea, a religious right to voice our disapproval . . . for truth's sake.

What else do we do? PRAY.

Write your Congressman. That's our civic responsibility. But we do not do that without having first called upon God who is over all the world. "The earth is the Lord's." Prayer moves God's hand. Hear these words:

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith2 Thess 3:1-2 

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Col. 4:3-5

Tuesday, April 21

A Call for Original Grace in Children & Church

A child cannot but help growing up imitating his parents' faith. They naturally learn to imitate Mom & Dad in many ways, convictions being just one of them. As most of us have discovered, a borrowed, or second-hand faith will not stand up against the trials of life; it is a sort of chimera, a fictional trust. It's adolescent. We expect imitation at a young age; it's part of what growing up is about. But by the time toddlers evolve into adolescents and then into teenagers, maturity takes on a more pronounced form. It is so important at this time for a child to have come to know truth, yes, to know God as it were on his own. Is there a name for this?

"Original Grace"

When I was counseling my daughter, Rachel for her marriage back in 2005, this was one of the most important "qualities" I dealt with in her. Yes, we talked of love, commitment, sex, and money as every marriage counselor ought. But, as her father and pastor, I was also concerned that she knowingly take a more personally grounded faith into her relationship with Jay for Christ's sake. It was at this point I was scrambling in my mind trying to find a term that described this plight. The week of our next appointment it hit me--a phrase that might express such a faith. In our next meeting I explained to my daughter and future son-in-law how important it was that faith be their own, something they understood readily. I said, "Rachel it's one thing to follow Christ because Mom & Dad do (which she knew), but quite another for you to see God's great value and to seek Christ with all your heart because you know it, you feel it and you believe it." I said, "What you must exhibit is what I would call 'original grace,' a grace that originates in you personally, which you have experienced, and not just because someone modeled for you. 

There is great need for our children (& our church members) to sport not their parents' or their pastor's faith but to realize their own. As there is a call for preachers to be original in their explication of truth from the pulpit, so we who lead in the church must urge upon each Christian the pursuance of God for themselves and not detour (devolve) from this into TV religion or even good Christian books. A borrowed faith will hardly be a happy faith, and will certainly not be able to stand the test of trials and contradiction. Let us aim to foster such a belief that it may be said of our families and our fellow believers that we all exhibit a God-honoring, Christ trusting, "original grace."

Postscript. I can say that both Jay & Rachel have labored in their lives to live out an honest & original pursuit of faith in God. They, like we all, are in process. Praise the Lord, there is superabundant grace to go around for all of us! "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8). 

Thursday, April 16

Ten Commandments of the New Testament

OK, there are only five of them. But where I found them is as much a story as they are in themselves. 

Way back in the early '70s, when I was helping my Dad doing some clean-up at the Richmond Christian School, I came upon an obviously old copy of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. Sometimes libraries have to get rid of old books and replace them. I'm glad! The copy I found in the dumpster (don't ask why I was in it), had belonged to our dear late missionary Mary Baker who had apparently died at the hands of the radical Simbas in the Congo. As a child I remember hearing her speak to our church family (Immanuel Baptist Church, Richmond, VA) and being moved by her evident and deep love for the Congolese. Once, eyes twinkling, she admitted that she had a hard time in America; it was difficult speaking to all the white faces! She loved her Congolese family and frankly returned there in the midst of Simba uprisings knowing that she might face death. As far as I remember, they never found her body, but they did find her tiny shoes beside the river's edge, the apparent victim of crocodiles. 

Her copy of Kempis' Imitation contains her full name, Mary Elizabeth Baker, and the date, 1934. In the back, upon attending training school, she recorded what she labeled the "Ten Commandments--New Testament." Dr. Henry C. Mack was the instructor and the date was 3-20-35. Based on Philippians 4:8, here are the five commandments:
  1. Thou shalt be true in motive.
  2. Thou shalt be honest in action.
  3. Thou shalt be just in deed.
  4. Thou shalt be pure in character.
  5. Thou shalt be lovely in disposition.
Simple. Succinct. Spiritual. 
Sister Mary, I sincerely look forward to seeing you on the other side of the River!

Wednesday, April 15

The Imitation of Christ

One of my wife's and my favorite spiritual books (her favorite) is Thomas a' Kempis' Imitation of Christ. Online version. Book version. I cannot see how any Christian would not benefit greatly from this man's intimate knowledge of God and his skill in communicating that to others. Here is #10 under the heading "Of The Zealous Amendment Of Our Life":
Remember always thine end, and that time lost never returns. Without care and diligence thou shalt never acquire virtue.

If thou begin to wax lukewarm, it will begin to be evil with thee. 
But if thou give thyself to fervor of spirit thou shalt find much peace, and feel less labor, by reason of the assistance of God's grace and the love of virtue.
The fervent and diligent man is prepared for all things.
It is harder work to resist vices and passion, than to toil in bodily labors.
He that avoideth not small faults, by little and little falleth into greater.
Thou wilt always rejoice in the evening if thou have spent the day profitably. 
Be watchful over thyself, stir up thyself, admonish thyself, and whatever becometh of others, neglect not thyself.
The more violence thou usest against thyself, the greater shall be thy profiting.  

This is just a small part of the book. Hopefully, the simplicity of his words will whet your appetite to read this classic for yourself.

Tuesday, April 14

The Cost of Discipleship--The Forgotten Price

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged on April 9, 1945 just a few days before the end of WW2. He faced death as a consequence of his stand against the pervasive evil of Hitler's regime. Thus, Bonhoeffer's passion in following Christ was not just good theology, but it manifests the heart of a man whose life was truly crucified with Christ. Chuck Colson presents a piercing reminder for all believers regarding the true cost of following Jesus. We have been going awry for a long time now, as many present-day prophets would agree. Read Colson's article. It is an encouraging and necessary word in this evil day.

You can find this book on or at Westminster bookstore

God embolden us by His grace!

Monday, April 13

On Eagles' Wings-High Soaring Deliverance!

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how ​I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4).

God describes in most moving and insightful terms the whole process of deliverance of his people out of Egypt, including the ten plagues, the Red Sea crossing as well as his miraculous provisions of water, quail and manna. In his infinite wisdom and with a poetical heart, our Lord communicates to the Israelites how he did this. He doesn’t just confess “I bore you up with my strength and outstretched arm.” He could have and in fact did use those figures of himself elsewhere (Dt. 4:34; Ps. 136:12). But here in Exodus 19, our Lord’s way of describing Israel’s brief but stupendous history of deliverance is to frame it in high-flying terminology, “I bore you on eagles’ wings.” At once our interest is piqued by such an analogy. PBS describes them as large and strong birds of prey, some species are as large as 20 lbs with an 8 foot wing-span. They are known for their excellent eye-sight, able to spot a rabbit up to two miles away. Matthew Henry points out that the bearing on "eagles' wings" denotes speed, that God got them out of Egypt swiftly, with great ease and strength. Using the same figure elsewhere, the weak who trusts God increases strength, mounting up with "wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31). They shall fly high above the frey, not limited to the hindrances and pitfalls so often associated with stumbling over the rocky terrain of life below.

Then, he says that his goal was—not the Promised Land, per se—but that he “brought them to [himself].” God’s purposes are not primarily locative, but relational. We tend to think in terms of geography because we cannot “wrap our minds around” the intimacy God in Christ secured for us. God’s purpose in conversion has always been the same, that we may “know Him” (John 17:3). While heaven and freedom from sin and overcoming the evil one are also wonderful benefits, still the ultimate end of conversion is that we may be reconciled with God to be His own people. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness in his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Amazing!!

Friday, April 10

Resurrection: More Important Than We Often Credit

“Books on the resurrection are a little like buses. Wait ages for any to show up then all of a sudden two turn up at the same time. Sam Allberry and I speak about our books on the resurrection, and why we both agree this is such an important subject.”

This is how Adrian Warnock introduces the following interview with Sam Allberry on his blog,


Thursday, April 9

God Bids Us To Come & Die!

So crucial is the following quotation to the desperate need of today's church, that I am passing it along thanks to John Piper.

Today, sixty-four years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged for his part in the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He is known by many for one main sentence. It is worthy of Holy Week.

Here is the context of his most famous quote:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther's, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. (The Cost of Discipleship, 99)

Tuesday, April 7

The Last Supper

One of the most recognized paintings of all time is Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, which he painted from 1495-1498. The Intellectual Devotional describes it as "one of the most famous paintings of a biblical subject in Western history." 

The Last Supper depicts Jesus Christ celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples just before Judas betrayed him. "According to the sixteenth-century author Giorgio Vasari, who wrote biographies of the most famous Italian artists of the Renaissance, da Vinci's fresco was meant to capture the precise moment of Jesus Christ's pronouncement, "One of you is about to betray me" (Matthew 26:21). The apostles are thus shown reacting to His words, each one expressing a different emotion--denial, doubt, rage, disbelief, or love."

Jesus had said, "the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table" (Luke 22:21). The Devotional goes on to say, "In da Vinci's painting, Judas is the only person besides Christ with his hand on the table. His face is in shadow, and his body physically recoils from Jesus. In older depictions of the scene by other artists, Judas had been depicted isolated from the rest of the group, either seated alone on the opposite side of the table or stripped of a halo. Da Vinci distinguished him from the other apostles in a more subtle manner, focusing on his psychological state rather than on external attributes."

There are many reactions to Jesus today, not dissimilar to da Vinci's depiction. Humanity has not changed all that much, has it? It behooves us all to ask how might we have responded were we in the place of these men? More to the point, how ARE we responding today? We each can give an expected answer, but when the pressure is on, when Jesus puts the truth before us, we have to respond honestly. The saddest words ever spoken of anyone were spoken of Judas, "It would have been better for him that he had not been born" (Mark 14:21). Indeed, it may be said of all of us, were it not for redemption in Christ, it would've been better for us never to have existed. Far from betraying Jesus, may there be an increase in numbers of those who bow the knee before the "Holy One" of Israel. There is hope in Him.

Monday, April 6

My Mind's Made Up--Don't Confuse Me with the Facts

That was a "tongue-in-cheek" saying popular in my house as I was growing up. We still may use it occasionally. But it is always, as I said, given in jest due to the obvious conflictual nature intrinsic to such a saying. But this conflict does not hinder the "Global Warming" voices out there today, does it? Their minds are made up, so trounce on reason! In a recent BreakPoint post by Chuck Colson (March 31), and with tongue firmly lodged in his cheek, he wondered how these windy prophets could be getting away with their agenda in light of the facts, namely that if anything, we are currently suffering from global freezing, not warming, as any of us who live in the frozen north can attest. Ah, but we cannot be right can we? Of course not! It's evident when facts are ignored that someone has another agenda.

The folk in Fargo, North Dakota might see otherwise. Colson records:

Temperatures across North Dakota have been five to 10 degrees below normal all winter long. Massive snowfalls have blanketed the Peace Garden State for months. As now, North Dakota is enduring an end-of-March blizzard.

The people of Fargo are paying the price. The ice-jammed Red River is cresting more than 40 feet over normal, flooding everything that isn’t protected by the heroic efforts of North Dakota citizens building up and maintaining the levies.

Despite the fact that the globe has been cooling since at least 2002,  or that near-record cold and snow have plagued much of North America all year long, all the proponents of global warming can see is—well, global warming.

This is why its adherents in Congress and in the White House want curbs on greenhouse gases, potentially ruinous cap-and-trade policies, and curbs on oil exploration (at a time when we need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil). And if in the near future you start paying upwards of $5 a pound for ground beef, thank those in Congress who want to tax cow flatulence as a way to combat global warming.

As the New York Times relates, renowned physicist Freeman Dyson has called “climate change an ‘obsession’—the primary article of faith for ‘a worldwide secular religion’ known as environmentalism.” Dyson accuses the adherents of this religion of “relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee . . . imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth.”

Why emphasize this? Well, more is at stake here than the national deception foisted upon this nation in order to control us through higher taxes. It raises another question: “Have we grown so inept at reasoning that we cannot see through such inane palaver?” Or is it that we have so little fortitude that we are not willing to react against such arguments even when we know that they are patently erroneous? What happened to that old saying so commonly invoked: "Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Seems many wish to keep their heads buried in the (warm) sand regardless of the personal attacks both to their own mental capabilities as well as to their pocket books. 

Sunday, April 5

On Not Praying One's Personal Agenda

We all have been there. The pastor or a leader opens the service or closes in prayer and in Jesus' name goes on to praise a number of people for what they have done in service to God. Of course, it is good to give credit to folk who have served with a pure heart. But there is a tendency which must be avoided which assumes God and praises man. In the context of service to God with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength, we must not be guilty of feigning love to God while fawning over man. I write this, of course, as a pastor who finds himself in such a compromising position on occasion. I suppose this principle applies equally to all manner of indirect prayers that occur in our prayer meetings, where in the name of God, the pray-er directs his personal agenda or even "preaches" to others in the room. Nothing is so destructive to good prayer. 

All this comes down to integrity of purpose and to good intentions that would rather go out of its way to glorify God than to let the opportunity pass. 

(Hm-m-m, I wonder what they're praying about?)

Friday, April 3

Stewards of the Mystery

The term "mystery" in the Bible refers to a truth heretofore unknown or little understood. In a previous post ("What If Jesus Visited Your Church"--3/28), I touched on one of those mysteries, i.e., "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). Delving into this "mystery" I cannot help feeling as though I am plumbing the depths of the unfathomable. No wonder that in the early part of the 20th Century, the German theologian, Rudolph Otto scrambled to find a term that rightly respected the power, indeed, the awesomeness of God and ended up calling Him the "Wholly Other." But he also utilized a latin term, mysterium tremendum, which you can figure means "tremendous mystery." Intrinsic to this mystery is that this inexplicable God, who's ways are "past finding out" (Job 9:10; Rom. 11:33) entered our world of flesh. The transcendent became immanent. "Immanuel," as you know, means "God with us." Virgin born, Jesus carried within himself God fully, and man fully. Inexplicable! 

On this truth hangs all of history! 

In his post from Thursday, April 2nd, Ravi Zacharias wrote the following:
I have often referenced the quote by the talk-show host Larry King, in his response to a particular question: “If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” Mr. King’s answer was that he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When the questioner followed with, “And what would you like to ask him?” King replied, “I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.” The first time I requested permission through a common friend to use this quote of his, he sent word saying, “And tell him I was not being facetious.” I believe him. Who would not like to interview Jesus Christ?
So, transcendent, immanent, and virgin born, our Savior exists completely unique in the universe! One can say some things that are true about him, but in no way can one properly tap the depth of such a relationship with Jesus! And to top it off, such an inscrutable mystery belongs not to the spiritual elite, but to all who name Jesus as Savior! Still, this truth comes prepackaged with a wonderful responsibility--stewardship.

Paul writes through the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 4:1, "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." That's the fact of our vocation. But verse 2 provides the basic condition, "Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." 

There's the "kicker." We who proclaim Jesus Christ (all Christians, but especially pastors) are "stewards of this mystery." In other words, it falls our lot to properly appreciate this truth, and accurately teach it and to thereby glorify God in it!

One of the errors into which we pastors may easily slide is over-familiarity with certain doctrines. This is dangerous. We've all heard, "Familiarity breeds contempt," which means not to become buddy-buddy with the wrong folk--bosses, & certain authority figures. We in leadership can easily fall prey to the temptation to reduce the wonder of "Christ-in-you" to a fact to be known, and lose the value inherent in that truth. Further, we may become too cozy with Jesus in the sense that after a while we feel we have the right to represent him in any way we feel necessary to make our point, viz., to lower him to a cozy level to suit the culture. While God has graciously invited believers to call him, "Abba," (Daddy) this doesn't mean he's our buddy next-door, nor that we control his public relations. We need to maintain a healthy and loving respect for our Savior. Why? We are stewards of this truth--responsible not just to know it, but to handle it carefully. What a privilege! 

Have a glorious Palm Sunday!

Thursday, April 2

Facing Religious Persecution in America

During WW2, Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a series  of messages in London as his country faced the very real threat of destruction at the hands of Hitler's Germany. These and other messages from the same era are combined under the title of The Christian in an Age of Terror. It seems very fitting that we today also call on the power of God and ground ourselves thoroughly in God's eternal Word. 

Trials Encourage Intercessory Prayer

An example comes from the first sermon in the book, "Religious Persecution," which he preached in August of 1941 on Acts 12:1-3.
You are aware of the terrible things that took place in Germany [in the 1930s and early 1940s], and formerly in Russia [in the days of Stalin]. I believe it is one of our duties as Christian people to acquaint ourselves with things like these, were it only that we might pray intelligently, and that we might play our part rightly as members of the Christian church who know something about the ministry of intercession and who feel for their brethren.
He then, somewhat prophetically (he attributes it more to reading the indications) goes on to say:
Indeed, perhaps more urgently, we ought to consider this matter because we ourselves may one day be faced with the exact and selfsame thing. . . . But certainly there is a great danger that a spirit of materialism may sweep over this land of ours, and that Christian faith from being patronized and often ignored will be actively opposed. It is well therefore that we should prepare ourselves, and that we should acquaint ourselves with the nature of this spiritual warfare. 
Citing attacks against the weak early church in Acts, Lloyd-Jones draws this conclusion:
What happens to the church collectively can happen to us individually and one by one. For we are all face to face with the same enemy, and we can emerge as triumphantly as the church did on this occasion which is recorded for us in this twelfth chapter of the book of Acts.

Wednesday, April 1

Fred Winters' Widow's Testimony of Forgiveness

The following is a living example of what John through the Spirit teaches in 1 John 3:18, Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth