Wednesday, September 30

Stand Against Murdering The Defenseless!

Don't Despise the Day of Small Things

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

I remember the excitement in my boyhood neighborhood when somebody began to build a large home on a vacant lot at the end of our street. A concrete truck rolled up to pour foundations, and for several days we could hear the sound of vigorous pounding as carpenters framed the walls. Then everybody left. I never knew why. Not another nail was pounded. The frame stood winter and summer--as long as I lived there--a house of sticks and little more.

Some of God's projects stall, too. Five centuries before Jesus was born, the Israelites returned from exile to find Jerusalem in ruins and their beloved temple destroyed. With great enthusiasm they set about rebuilding it. However, Zerubbabel the governor, got little farther than laying the foundation before opposition set in. Neighbors fought the project tooth and nail, finally succeeding in getting a restraining order to halt construction (Ezra 4). Enemies mocked. Supporters became discouraged. For years the site stood silent.

Failure. Zerubbabel felt like a failure. Oh, there were plenty of other things to do. Zerubbabel set to work building his own wood-paneled home. But his grand dream had fizzled.

He was probably like the rest of us when failure looms. What little self-confidence we have ebbs away. We seal ourselves from more pain by denial. We meet further effort with skepticism. We protect ourselves from getting our hopes too high again. We look at the ground rather than the sky, at the past rather than the future.

And then one day a man of God, Zechariah, began to speak words that pierced Zerubbabel to the heart and filled him with fresh hope: "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel," came the message. "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." Zerubbabel could feel his heart pounding as the message continued. "What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!' The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple, his hands will also complete it" (Zechariah 4:6-7).

The project had seemed like an immovable mountain, Zerubbabel thought. But now with God at work he knew he could finish the temple.

The final words of the prophecy jolted him. "Do not despise the day of small things. Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel" (vs. 10).

He had despised that early start. How weak, how insignificant, how naive he had been. Yet, in spite of all that, God had been in those beginnings.

How often our efforts for God are attacked by the enemy. We can get so discouraged we don't even want to try again. But God delights in taking the insignificant and making something out of it. Down through history we can see the pattern:
  • Moses' rod that delivered a nation from Egypt (Exodus 4:1-9),
  • The jawbone of an ass that in Samson's hand killed a thousand Philistines (Judges 15:14-16),
  • Five smooth stones that felled the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17),
  • The handful of meal and a jar of oil that sustained a widow through years of famine (2 Kings 4:1-7),
  • Five barley loaves and a couple fish that fed a multitude (Matthew 14:13-21), and
  • The mustard seed Jesus said would become a great tree for birds to find shelter (Matthew 13:31-32).
What little thing, what dream, what false start, have you despised? Your small church, your tiny Bible study, your hopes of ministry for Christ? Do you despise your failures? Don't. Surrender them to the God who delights in taking human weakness and showing His strength. Take another look at your discarded dreams, this time through God's eyes:

"Not by might, not by power, but my Spirit says the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6). Oh, by the way. When I went back to my old neighborhood, someone had finished that house at the end of the street. It's beautiful.

Tuesday, September 29

Prayer MATTERS! An Email to Our Church

The following is an email I sent out to our Perry Baptist Church family yesterday (Monday). Only after writing it did I feel it might serve a broader purpose if posted on this site. May the God of all Power and Comfort raise up a strong prayer effort in his people everywhere against this sinful attack against the Lord of Life!
Dear Fellow Pilgrims:

The 14th Annual Life Chain will be held in Perry on Oct.4, 2009 from 2-3 p.m. Meet at our church parking lot at 1:45 p.m. for prayer together before standing along Rt 39 for prayer against evil, specifically the evil hearts of this nation that conceived the evil solution to slaughter babies! And pray as well for those who've suffered such degradations in their own bodies. 


We must “speak up” against this slaughter of the helpless unborn! Don’t think that your standing on a street in a small town like Perry has no effect. “Despise not the day of small things,” God told Zechariah when it came to time to re-build the post-Babylonian destruction, seemingly insignificant temple (Zechariah 4:10). How could it compare to the awesome grandeur of Solomon's temple?

Compared to the man-power of much larger cities and Washington, D.C. mega-crowds, we in rural Perry may imagine we have little with which to fight. But that is simply NOT TRUE! Moses’ prayer saved the entire nation of Israel from destruction! (Ex. 32:9-14, esp. 14). Isaiah’s prayer brought on the destruction of the invading Assyrians to the tune of 185,000 men! (Isaiah 37) Prayer’s effect does not hinge on OUR numbers but on the ONE to whom we cry out! Listen to what the LORD told Isaiah right after he had prayed, “For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David” (Is. 37:35). Don't miss that. “I WILL DEFEND THIS CITY,” and “FOR MY OWN SAKE.” The key is not found in the voice of the one praying, but in the power of the God being prayed TO! Let us NOT allow Satan to tempt us to cease praying because we are not big names like Moses or Isaiah! That’s an evil ruse he uses all too frequently and, apparently, with too much success. Let us have faith in God and not faith in the evil one!

I would like to see every person in the church gathered together (IN FAITH) to stand along the road and simply call out to God quietly. Remember what God told the prophet Zechariah to tell Zerubbabel (the one building the temple), “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the LORD of hosts” (4:6). The LORD is telling us, "Do not despise the day of small things because victory or success have nothing to do with your position, but everything to do with my mighty power and effective Spirit!"

God stir us up and bless us all as we labor together for those who cannot defend themselves, and for God who gives to all men life and breath and everything else!
Pastor Dave

Monday, September 28

"Poor In Spirit" Necessary to Be Saved--Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) was  a much loved professor of theology at Princeton, a warm, generous defender of the faith, most notably historic Calvinism. The following comes from his writings dated 3 March 1861. What DOES it mean to be "poor in spirit?"
This of course is not to be understood as something derogatory. Poor–spirited is a term of reproach. It expresses the absence of manly virtue, of courage, strength of conviction and of will.
The poor in spirit are these who are conscious of their spiritual poverty. They stand opposed to those who falsely assume and assert that they are rich and know not that they are wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked.
1.  A sense of ignorance and a willingness to be taught. . . It is only those who are sensible of their ignorance and of their insufficiency to discover truth and who are converted so as to be as little children, who have the Holy Ghost, who is the source of all true knowledge and one of the great blessings of the kingdom of God.
 2.  A sense of unworthiness, as opposed to a spirit of self–righteousness. It is a consciousness of guilt and ill–desert in the sight of God which leads the soul to cry, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. So long as a man thinks that the law of God does not condemn him who cherishes the persuasion that he has never done anything worthy of death, so long is he left in his delusion. But when he is made sensible of the enormity of his guilt, and when he trembles at the wrath of God and renounces his own righteousness, then he receives the righteousness of Christ and becomes rich indeed.
3.  A sense of pollution, as opposed to self–complacency or a disposition to admire our own excellence and to regard ourselves as attractive in the sight of others. To this is opposed a sense of vileness, which leads us to abhor ourselves and lay our mouths in the dust before God. To those who are thus poor in spirit, the Spirit comes and adorns them with all his heavenly grace.
4.  A sense of helplessness. This is opposed to the conceit of our own power to change our hearts, to subdue sin, to secure holiness of heart and life. Those who have this conceit God leaves to their own resources, either to perish in their delusion or to convince themselves of their utter impotence, because then they are endued with power from on high.
So when they think they have power in themselves to accomplish any good work in the Church, God leaves them to try. It is only those who are poor in spirit whom He helps.
5.  Poverty of spirit is a sense of wretchedness, i.e., of the utter incompetence of the world to fill the desires of the soul. Those who think themselves rich because possessed of this world’s sources of happiness, and desire nothing more, God leaves in their contentment. But those who are sensible of their poverty, who hunger and thirst after God, He fills with Himself.

Friday, September 25

Time, Stress, and the Sabbath!

One of the best explanations of the principle of Sabbath is found in the works of Rabbi Heschel. If you’re a Gentile, or a protestant, you may be tempted to skip over this article. Don’t! You may be surprised. Please read the following slowly; take it in. Note that this is all Heschel’s with the exception of the headings which are my own.
One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word kadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar? . . .
God Declared TIME Holy, Not a Location
It is, indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word kadosh is used for the first time: in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: "And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy." There is no reference in the record of creation to any object in space that would be endowed with the quality of holiness.

This is a radical departure from accustomed religious thinking. The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place--a holy mountain or a holy spring--whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first.
TIME Declared “Holy” From the Beginning
When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time. When at Sinai the word of God was about to be voiced, a call for holiness in man was proclaimed: "Thou shalt be unto me a holy people." It was only after the people had succumbed to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that the erection of a Tabernacle, of holiness in space, was commanded. The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last [emphasis mine]. Time was hallowed by God; space, the Tabernacle, was consecrated by Moses.

While the festivals celebrate events that happened in time, the date of the month assigned for each festival in the calendar is determined by the life in nature. . . . In contrast, the Sabbath is entirely independent of the month and unrelated to the moon. Its date is not determined by any event in nature, such as the new moon, but by the act of creation. Thus the essence of the Sabbath is completely detached from the world of space [emphasis mine].
In Summary
The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ph.D. (1907-1972), born in Warsaw and educated in Poland and Germany, was Professor of Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Among his books are Man Is Not Alone, God in Search of Man, The Earth is the Lord's, and Israel: Echo of Eternity.

Thursday, September 24

Chambers on Honest Teaching

Worker for God—and I speak this to myself as well as to you—what do you fasten your mind on when you listen to a preacher, when you read a book? When Jesus Christ said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” He did not stop there, He went on to say, “. . . and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Oh, I wish I had time, I would kindle you by telling you of some folks I know who have lifted themselves out of the very gutter of ignominy and ignorance by sheer grind in the secular callings of life. Would to God we had the same stick-to-it energy in God’s line! Many a lad have I known in Scotland who has worked hard day and night to attain a scholarship in secular callings, and are we to be behind them? This word of the Apostle Paul’s is used in that connection— “take heed,”  concentrate, stick at it, fix the mind on it.  Give heed to reading, be careful of your self-preparation. God grant that we may be approved unto God by what we build in. When Paul mentions the matter of conversation, he says,  “See that your speech is edifying” —good building-up stuff, not sanctimonious talk, but real solid stuff that makes people stronger in the Word of God, stronger in character, stronger in practical life.
Chambers, Oswald. Workmen of God : The Cure for Souls. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996, c1937.

Wednesday, September 23

A Word to Christian Workers

Like so many other churches, we have just kicked off our Fall programs - AWANA, Rally Day for Sunday School, and soon, Released Time classes for kids after school. Programs are not an end unto themselves; they are only as good as the truth taught and the leaders that lead them. The name, AWANA, refers to "Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed." So, what does that mean? It is based on 2 Timothy 2:15. The following comes from the Scotsman, Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), who was converted under the ministry of C. H. Spurgeon in London. He is best known for the devotional My Utmost For His Highest. 

Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.  (2 Timothy 2:15, RV)

FIRST, "Rivet" God's Truth into Your Heart
How can a man or woman become a workman approved unto God? Read 1 Timothy 4:16 —“Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching." If you forget everything else, do not forget that verse. The word “heed” occurs again in Acts 3:5  and  20:28. It means to concentrate, to screw your mind down, fix it, limit it, curb it, confine it, rivet it on yourself and on your teaching. It is a strong word, a powerful word, a word that grips, a rousing word. That is what we have to do if we are going to be workmen approved unto God.

Next, Intentionally Put Yourself into an Apprenticeship Role with Godly Leaders. To be a good leader, you have to be a good follower. Hear Chambers,
But I want you to notice first of all who is talking and who he is talking to. It is the Apostle Paul talking to Timothy, or writing to Timothy, or sending a message to Timothy. Paul’s method was that of apprenticeship, that is always God’s method of training workers. In the old days when artists used to have apprentices, they used to put the boy in charge of mixing paints and in between doing this he would watch the artist paint, and slowly bit by bit, doing the hard work and watching the master work, he would learn to “take heed.” That was Paul’s method. Timothy had a good mother and a godly grandmother, and he was trained spiritually in this apprentice style. If you are going to be a worker for the cure of souls, God will bring you under masters and teachers. That is the method God always uses. He does not use anyone who is undisciplined. Thank God for every worker who was ever placed under apprenticeship!
Please notice, Timothy's mother and grandmother didn't just school Timothy in the facts! No, they taught him GOD! Oh, how many Preachers and Sunday School teachers limit their students to mere knowledge of facts instead of promoting the "fear of the Lord," love for Christ, delight in his law, etc. These are the kinds of teaching which should fill our time at church and home. God help us.

Tuesday, September 22

Have We Lost CHRIST in Christianity?

Dear Fellow Believers:
Our Lord calls us to “love God with all of our mind . . .” The following excerpt is intended to do just that—promote our pondering on a subject that might make us question our Christian assumptions.

It comes from a book by Mike Yaconelli entitled, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith. The following is only a short portion from his chapter on Wild Abandon, based on Jesus’ call to “lose our life for his sake,” or abandon ourselves to follow Christ. Yaconelli writes: 
Let’s look at children again. 
Little children start their lives unrule-ly, without rules, oblivious to society’s prescribed laws, which, according to the rule makers of our society, exist for children’s and everyone’s good. Eventually children are socialized. Domesticated. They learn how to behave, how to conform to the cultural “norms” for the greater good of society. Children are told that learning the rules, becoming responsible and orderly, and discovering the boundaries of a civilized world are what growing up is all about.
But is it?
Or, in the process of socializing our children to follow the rules, do we rob them of the discernment needed to know when to follow rules and when to break them? Have we robbed our children (including those of us who have grown out of childhood) of the childlike intuition that caused us to know in our hearts how to recognize the Rule Maker? Christianity is the wild religion that has always been more concerned about following Jesus than following the rules of Jesus.
Remember when you said yes to Jesus that first time? You didn’t know all the rules, but you knew Jesus. Sadly, the church immediately stepped in and told us we needed to know more than Jesus; we needed to know the rules of the Christian faith, otherwise we might end up in confusion and spiritual anarchy. The church is always worried we might make a mistake!
Mistakes are the guaranteed consequence of wild abandon. Mistakes are signs of growth. That is why the Old and New Testament are full of people who made mistakes. The church should be the one place in our culture where mistakes are not only expected but welcomed.
Every time the disciples started establishing rules—no children near Jesus; don’t let the crowd touch Jesus; don’t talk to Samaritan women; don’t let people waste expensive perfumes—Jesus told them to knock it off, and His rebuke was usually followed by a lecture that said, “You still don’t get it! We are not substituting religious rules with our rules. We are substituting religious rules with Me!” Jesus kept saying “Follow Me,” not “follow My rules.” So most of us have spent our Christian lives learning what we can’t do instead of celebrating what we can do in Jesus (pp. 52-53). 
Celebrate Jesus, rejoice in Him, not just in an extension of what he has done for you.

Monday, September 21

Service For God is NO Sacrifice

In the 1800's David Livingston was a famous missionary to Africa, giving up a lucrative vocation as a British doctor to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1857, he was asked to speak at Cambridge University on the subject of the sacrifices he'd made in his life. Here is a snippet from that speech:

For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought!  It is emphatically no sacrifice.  Say rather it is a privilege.  Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink, but let this only be for a moment.  All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us.  I never made a sacrifice.         


Sunday, September 20

The Devil is Very Real!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against ​the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over ​this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe - a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the power behind death and disease and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. It is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion and we are living in part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy occupied territory - that is what the world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage.
                                                          --C. S. LEWIS, Mere Christianity

Saturday, September 19

FEAR NOT - The Church Reigns Triumphant!

If we knew what is going on this world, the prevailing evil, unmitigated terror being perpetrated on numerous people groups in the name of the state, overweening atheism, militant gays, and all contrasted with a most tenuous church, we would become very much afraid. It seems no stretch by any means to admit of end-times responsibility. What are we to do who have been watching not just the world decline, but seemingly the church as well? First, we need to "get our heads out of the sand" and see the reality of this sin-torn world. Second, we MUST PRAY WITH ALL THAT GOD IS for revival and the coming of the Lord Jesus. In the mean time, don't think that the church will pass into oblivion, or drift silently into the night. Jesus declared (with full understanding of the evils of this world), "On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). 

In a most encouraging sermon, Charles H. Spurgeon preached, "Man Transient: God's Word Eternal." Toward the end, he gave the following application. Whenever you are feeling weighed down by the pressures of this world or culture, grab hold of the truth Spurgeon proclaimed!  

Another lesson. If you be on God’s side, never be afraid of the mightiest opponent. What are they? What are they? Grass! Where is the mower? Then he comes, there is an end of them. And what are their boastings, and what are their railings? The flower of grass. Here comes a breeze — the sharp breath of winter, and they are gone. . . . Ah! the Lord knows how to take care of his Church without the help of some of those gentlemen who are so very earnest in taking care of it just lately, and I am pretty sure that if he could not take care of it without them, he won’t do much at it with them. But his truth will never shake nor be moved, come what may. You never need be alarmed. If all the kings, and emperors, and cardinals, and popes, and priests, and great men, and mighty men, and merchants, and mobs, and crowds should rise against the Lord’s truth and against the Lord’s anointed, what would it signify?  Who art thou that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and the son of man that is but a worm? The grass in the field — why, let it boast; what cares the king with his army about the grass? “Why,” saith he, “the steeds of my cavalry shall eat the grass; it shall soon be gone.” So God shall overthrow all their show of strength. In an hour, if so God willed it, he could convert the world. In a single hour, if so it pleased him, dominant superstitions would be relinquished, and the old systems of idolatry would totter to their fall.
Never think of the Church of God as if she were in danger. If you do, you will be like Uzza; you will put forth your hand to steady the ark, and provoke the Lord to anger against you. If it were in danger, I tell you, you could not deliver it. If Christ cannot take care of his Church without you, you cannot do it. Be still, and know that he is God. Who am I that I should begin to agitate myself about the safety of the Empire of France, and should go to Napoleon and should tell him that I was afraid the empire was insecure, and I was come to help him manage the Government? I think I should be sent back about my business. And so, surely, when you begin to say, “The Church is in danger! The Church is in danger!” what is that to thee? It stood before thou wert born; it will stand when thou hast become worm’s meat. Do thou thy duty. Keep in the path of obedience, and fear not. He who made the Church knew through what trials she would have to pass, and he made her so that she can endure the trials and become the richer for it. The enemy is but grass, the word of the Lord endureth for ever. [emphases mine]

God help us to believe in the strong Savior of which Spurgeon speaks!

Friday, September 18

Pascal's "Three Kinds of People"

There are three kinds of people in the world; those who have sought God and found Him and now serve Him, those who are seeking Him but have not yet found Him, and those who neither seek Him nor find Him. The first are reasonable and happy, the second reasonable and unhappy, and the third unreasonable and unhappy. 


Thursday, September 17

Does Bible Reading Make You Spiritual? Part 2

Yesterday, we focused on the idea that Bible reading in itself does not make you spiritual, that this is the work of God in Jesus Christ.

Unquestionably, the Bible places great emphasis on reading the Bible. Of the godly man, Psalm 1:2 says, "His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." But, there's more . . .

Today, we want to affirm the very important place of God's Word in the Christian's life. We ask the question, "Is there a right WAY to read God's Word? Is there a way to study the Bible that really imparts God's power and presence to us?"


This is basic to all successful Christian living. It goes contrary to the world's mantra that "seeing is believing." Faith sees what the eyes blindly overlook. The only way we can glean from God's Word is to PARTICIPATE in our reading. Participation is faith participation. What does that mean? Eugene Peterson explains that there is a TEXT where God is the subject. It is not just words on a page, therefore, it demands that we get involved in our reading in a more intensive way than if we were on the outside looking in. He says further, "If we have not entered this text as participants we arent' going to understand what is going on. This text cannot be understood by watching from the bleachers -- or even from expensive box seats. We are in on it."

--We Involve Ourselves in What Really Interests Us
Peterson explains something that makes so much sense to me because I do the same thing. He used to run, and enjoyed it when he took up running. He was so interested in it that he bought magazines and checked out books at the library to read everything on the subject. He entered 10K races every month or so, and entered a marathon once a year. It didn't matter, he avers, if the magazines were well-written, or that there wasn't but so much you can write on the subject without repeating. He loved running, and therefore, loved reading about running as well.

Then something happened. He pulled a thigh muscle and while he was recuperating for a couple of months, not running, he stopped reading the periodicals and books. It wasn't a decision he made, they were still all over the house. He just wasn't reading them. "The moment I began running again I started reading again."

Here's the point of spiritual reading, participatory reading. GET THIS! Peterson writes:
It meant that I read every word on the page as an extension or deepening or correction or affirmation of something that I was a part of. I was reading about running not primarily to find out something, not to learn something, but for companionship and validation and confirmation of the experience of running [emphasis mine]. Yes, I did learn a few things along the way, but mostly it was to extend and deepen and populate the world of running that I loved so much. But if I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.

The parallel with reading Scripture seems to me almost exact: if I am not participating in the reality -- the God reality, the creation/salvation/holiness reality -- revealed in the Bible, not involved in the obedience Calvin wrote of [i.e., "all right knowledge of God is born of obedience"], I am probably not going to be much interested in reading about it -- at least not for long.

Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God. The most important question we ask of this text is not, "What does this mean?" but "What can I obey?" A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.
Reading alone does not a spiritual person make. Nor does reading disconnectedly. There must be a readiness to know the Author first, even before we read a word. And after we have begun reading, we must embrace the ongoing heart of the Author in our doing what he says. To quote a line from the University hymn of Bob Jones, "Knowledge alone life's problems cannot meet, we learn to live while sitting at Thy feet." Indeed.


Wednesday, September 16

Does Bible Reading Make You Spiritual? Part 1

"Read your Bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow."

We sang this song in my years growing up. Often! It became the mantra of every Bible-teaching church it seems, for many of you have heard it as well.

Question: "Is it true?" Does reading the Bible make you grow?

Answer? It depends. I'd like to present two seemingly opposing points of view on this. Seemingly, because in the end it will be seen that they do not conflict at all. They actually combine to surface one of reasons the church of today suffers from spiritual anemia.

FIRST. You don't have to READ the Bible to grow spiritually.

Don't quit reading this post! Not yet. Please hear me out. I definitely believe in reading the Bible; I've personally been reading through the Scriptures since I was 15. And, of course, I have absolutely no regrets at all. What a tremendous blessing has come to me through the intake of God's Word. But I'm making another point.

The church indeed does stress reading the Bible, but the fact is there used to be a time when reading the Bible simply was NOT an option. Not that long ago, literacy was a real luxury not enjoyed by very many. Most early church attenders heard the Word read to them for two reasons, 1) there were no Bibles for everyone, and 2) not everyone could read. According to Gene Edwards (The Secret to the Christian Life) "illiteracy was not a sign of ignorance. . . Literacy was a trade similar to cabinet making or television repair." As we know, before Gutenberg, books were not readily available, and for those who could afford them they were quite rare. Edwards offers that "before 1700 . . . the ability to read and write did not become a viable force in the general human society." Even in Martin Luther's day, "when the printed word had been credited with bringing in the Reformation, the maximum number of people who would read what Luther wrote stood at about 5 percent! And even as late as 1800, 85 percent of all Southern boys who fought in the Civil War could not read, and of those who could, they were only semi-literate."

Did Jesus require that before he selected the disciples, they had to take a reading test? We know that in the Old Testament and in the early Church, one had to attend synagogue or a house church (respectively) in order to hear the Word of God. We understand that Hebrew children were required to memorize great portions of Scripture so that they could refer to it in that fashion. Scrolls were not as abundant nor mobile as our Bibles.

Well, if so many in Bible days, or in succeeding generations could not read, how can we affirm that "unless you read your Bible, you cannot be a good Christian?" I think this is valid question. No one is arguing that illiteracy is to be preferred to literacy. No. Of course not. But the question remains and it is a good one. How DOES one go about knowing God better if he doesn't read?

I will give you what Gene Edwards teaches though I cannot fill in all the details today. But I wanted to give enough to understand 1) the depth of the question, and 2) the loss we've been suffering due to our failure to implement the very presence of God. Gene Edwards says,

"We believers, whose ranks are spread among tribes and nations over this planet, have but one common factor among us: a living, moving, speaking Lord who dwells inside each of us. That the indwelling Lord is the only one with the resources to live the Christian life. To point to anything else as the answer to the Christian life cuts off most of us from effectively living the Christian life."
"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God . . ." (Gal. 2:20). "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

"Wouldn't it be better," you ask, "if we had both, if we read God's Word AND pursued the indwelling living, breathing power of the Spirit of God within us?" Yes, that of course is to be preferred. But by isolating the reading from the indwelling Spirit, we are enabled to acclimate ourselves to God's initial intention IN HIS WORD. He never meant for us to divorce reading from himself. "Abide in me" (John 15:4). Indeed, Jesus IS the Word become flesh (John 1:14), whom we must eat (John 6) if we are to be saved. The two go hand in hand. Reading alone does not breathe God's life into the Church or into any individual. Yet, God could and did breathe life into the soul of many who have not been able to take advantage of the written word in their own possession.

Tomorrow, Part 2 - Yes, read God's Word, but read it the RIGHT way. What's that?

Tuesday, September 15

Do We Ever FEEL Anything About God?

What do you "feel" about heaven and holiness? Not, "What are you SUPPOSED to know . . . but feel. The following excerpt from the Personal Narrative of Edwards causes the true believer to sigh with longing for Christ & God's heaven!

The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness; to be with God, and to spend my eternity in divine love, and holy communion with Christ. My mind was very much taken up with contemplations on heaven, and the enjoyments there; and living there in perfect holiness, humility and love: And it used at that time to appear a great part of the happiness of heaven, that there the saints could express their love to Christ. It appeared to me a great clog and burden, that what I felt within, I could not express as I desired. The inward ardor of my soul, seemed to be hindered and pent up, and could not freely flame out as it would. I used often to think, how in heaven this principle should freely and fully vent and express itself. Heaven appeared exceedingly delightful, as a world of love; and that all happiness consisted in living in pure, humble, heavenly, divine love.

I remember the thoughts I used then to have of holiness; and said sometimes to myself, "I do certainly know that I love holiness, such as the gospel prescribes." It appeared to me that there was nothing in it but what was ravishingly lovely; and highest beauty and amiableness ... a divine beauty; far purer than any thing here upon earth; and that every thing else was like mire and defilement, in comparison of it.

Perhaps between yesterday's and today's posts will serve to whet your appetite for more of Edwards. Many of Edwards' sermons & writings are online here. Please check them out! They will be a boon to the soul of anyone willing to put forth the effort.

Monday, September 14

Jonathan Edwards' Walk to Remember

Don't mistake Edwards' genius for a cold, calculating heart. Not at all! He reveals a very personal and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ in his Personal Narrative. It is a sort of journal of his heart-warming desires after Christ. The following is lifted right out of his narrative and unveils the true yearning of his heart. I wonder if we had more of this exhibited in our leadership in churches if it might not ring more true in the hearts of some of our religious "skeptics" even within the congregation? They hear the truth, but seem unable to "connect the dots" when it comes to seeing it actually lived out. Listen to Edwards:

I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Psal. 119:28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of, than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life­giving good there is in them.

Is this not a wonderful account of the holy breathings of a heart after God? Oh, how blessed it would be to find ourselves in a similar vein. God help us.

Sunday, September 13

The Church's Self-Corrective: BEHOLDING GOD!

In a culture saturated with the esteem of the "self" and marred by the decline of Deity, we stand in need of beholding God for who he is. We need desperately to be humbled and amazed at the infinite splendor of his unrivaled Greatness and the unspeakable wealth of his lavish Goodness. We must marvel at his blinding Glory and fall astonished at his benevolent Grace. If we are to escape the cult of self and find, instead, the true meaning of life and the path of true satisfaction, if we are to give God the glory rightly and exclusively owed to him - that is, if we are to know what truly promotes both our good and his glory - we must behold God for who he is.

BRUCE WARE, God's Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith (2004).

Saturday, September 12

Opposition a Sign of True Preaching

In his Prefatory remarks to the Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin warned that in general the church will not be well received and if it were, this would not be a good sign.

"Here is, as it were, a certain characteristic of the Divine Word, that it never comes forth while Satan is at rest and sleeping. This is the surest and most trustworthy mark to distinguish it from lying doctrines, which readily present themselves, are received with attentive ears by all, and are listened to by an applauding world. . . With the violent hands of men he tries to uproot that true seed, and seeks (as much as lies in his power) to choke it with his weeds, to prevent it from growing and bearing fruit. But all that is vain, if we heed the Lord our monitor, who long since laid open Satan's wiles before us, that he might not catch us unawares; and armed us with defenses firm enough against all his devices."

"Fight the good fight of faith." "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him" (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:4).

And what of love, you ask? Fighting and love are not mutually exclusive. That were the ploy of Satan to get man to believe it. What greater love could there be than the preservation of the truth, even fighting for it, so that men may through a genuine gospel be saved. Indeed, it is the highest form of hatred to lead people into a false belief which not only CANNOT save them, but will even damn them. How many today have been deceived into soft-peddling the truth, mistaking love for selfishness. What a devilish scam to tempt man into betraying the truth while taking credit for love!!

Indeed, "fight the GOOD fight of faith."

Friday, September 11

Christianity IS a Fight!

Is this part of our counsel to would-be or new believers? We hope so. To enter salvation without this knowledge is to be "set up" for failure. Oh, how we need to warn the believer that though his blessings are immense in Christ, this world is not a friend to grace. Therefore, he will face opposition from many quarters (including his own heart). "To be forewarned is to be forearmed," they say. At church I have often quoted this from Spurgeon:

"Conversion is the first blow in a life-long conflict that will not end til we are in glory."

The Daily Spurgeon for Wednesday addresses itself to the fight and to endurance in it. I invite you to read that. But I will quote one paragraph here:

The believer is commonly compared to a warrior: he is engaged in a great battle, a holy war. Like Joshua, he has to drive out the Canaanites, that have chariots of iron, before he can fully take possession of his inheritance; but it is not the winning of one battle that makes a man a conqueror; nay, though he should devastate one province of his enemy’s territories, yet, if he should be driven out by-and-by, he is beaten in the campaign, and it will yield him but small consolation to win a single battle, or even a dozen battles, if the campaign as a whole should end in his defeat. It is not commencing as though the whole world were to be cleared by one display of fire and sword, but continuing, going from strength to strength, from victory to victory, that makes the man the conqueror of his foe.

May our Leader in battle shore us up in the fight, NOT against each other, but aiming all our spiritual powers against the foe, against sin, the world, and Satan! Victors in Christ.

Thursday, September 10

Be Jealous for Your Heart

Let original sin [inherited from Adam] make us walk with continual jealousy and watchfulness over our hearts. The sin of our nature is like a sleeping lion; the least thing that awakens it makes it rage. The sin of our nature, though it seems quiet, and lies as fire hid under the embers, yet if it be a little stirred and blown upon by a temptation, how quickly may it flame forth into scandalous evils? Therefore we had need always to walk watchfully . . . A wandering heart needs a watchful eye.

--Thomas Watson, English Puritan (c. 1620-1686)

Wednesday, September 9

Run For Your Life

This is a 5 minute excerpt from a soul-stirring sermon preached on the Sunday after 9-11. The pastor is Carter Conlon from Times Square Church in Manhattan. It calls for the church to run into the conflict, not away from it! IT'S A MUST-HEAR! PLEASE.

Run For Your Life - posted by Kris Easters (Kebass2312) -

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, September 8

Facts and figures don’t always spell success

How do you spell "success?" The following may help:

written by Stephan Joubert

Stephan JoubertFacts and figures (the right ones!) usually impress people. When thousands of people show up to listen to a well-known preacher or a singer at events, many call it a roaring success. Well, I’m not against large crowds attending religious events or church services, but when attendance becomes the definition for success in Christianity, we are in serious trouble.

Far too many preachers are nowadays being marketed as crowd drawing celebrities on numerous church programs and flyers for upcoming religious events. But is this what religious leaders or churches should be known for? Did we all get stuck in that infamous bodies/budget/buildings = success syndrome? Why do we uncritically apply the rest of the world’s definitions of success in church time and time again?

Perhaps I’m the only stranger in Jerusalem, but I’m convinced that Jesus focused more on reaching individuals, outcasts, marginalised persons and the poor than on getting people to fill buildings, revival meetings, worship events, etc. Success to Jesus means sowing one mustard seed a time. Yes, I know that mustard seeds multiply, as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 13. But to uncritically equate this kind of growth with large crowds at Christian events is not correct. The real test for kingdom growth is discipleship. Followers of Jesus who make the right impact for him in their everyday lives are the correct answer.

Crowds and audiences don’t really change the world. Yes, they fill seats. Yes, they cheer, sing, celebrate and rejoice. But the real change-agents in our world are individuals and small groups of committed followers of Christ. They understand and embody the difference between fans and disciples.

Facts and figures don’t always spell success | echurch

Monday, September 7

A Warning About Bible Reading Plans

The following is from the beloved Scottish pastor Robert Murray M'Cheyne and deserves our attention. Answering the concern that Christians certainly do want to take in the Word of God, M'Cheyne points out that there is a warning attached. In our reading let us look out for:

1. Formality. We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless form. The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed rule may, in some minds, be to create this skeleton religion. This is to be the peculiar sin of the last days: “Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”(2 Tim. 3:5). Guard against this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up your souls.

2. Self–righteousness. Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading the Word, and accomplished their prescribed portion, may be tempted to look at themselves with self–complacency [or, self-satisfaction when danger really lurks around the corner]. Many, I am persuaded, are living without any divine work on their soul—unpardoned and unsanctified, and ready to perish—who spend their appointed times in secret and family devotion. This is going to hell with a lie in the right hand.

3. Careless reading. Few tremble at the Word of God. Few, in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large a portion, may be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying, “Our soul loatheth this light bread!” and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking God. Take heed lest that word be true of you: “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of Hosts”(Malachi 1:3).

4. A yoke too heavy to bear.—Some may engage in reading with alacrity [cheerful willingness] for a time, and afterwards feel it a burden, grievous to be borne. They may find conscience dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the fetter, and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy.

If there be so many dangers, why propose such a scheme at all? To this I answer, that the best things are accompanied with danger, as the fairest flowers are often gathered in the clefts of some dangerous precipice.

Sunday, September 6

Chronological Snobbery

The title "Chronological Snobbery" comes from C. S. Lewis. But others have certainly weighed in on such a truth-constricting point of view, relegating older writings to the dinosaur age, rendering them nothing more than insignificant wonders in the scheme of things. On the other hand, we would not affirm that all older writings are to be preferred to newer ones, for that would be to subjugate ourselves to the same malady only in the opposite direction. Rather, all writings should be accepted on their own terms without the interference of dated bias. As Lewis also affirmed, we do not prefer to mix older with newer writers because they did not also make mistakes. They did. It's just that they didn't make the same ones that we do. So, we read older writers to "hear" speech unencumbered by today's culture. In so doing, we hope to gain a heart of understanding.

The following comes from Peter Berger:

There is a hidden double standard. The past can be relativized simply by explaining the misconceptions of the ancient worldview. "The present, however, remains strangely immune from relativization. . . . In other words, the New Testament writers are seen as afflicted with a false consciousness rooted in their time, but the contemporary analyst take the consciousness of his time as an unmixed intellectual blessing. The electricity- and radio-users are placed intellectually above the Apostle Paul.

And therein lies the danger.