Sunday, January 31

Eighteen Years Ago Tonight!

What? It's not Phyllis' and my Wedding Anniversary, right? Right. But it is our Baptist Church of Perry anniversary for coming to Perry, NY eighteen years ago this very day! Yep, there was 8" of snow and we parked two trucks here-one out front and the other in the back at the garage. There were two crews of helpers that got both trucks off-loaded in one and a half hours! Amazing, really! That was a long but very helpful day. I remember well a few ladies seated right here in the dining room after we had brought in a few large pieces of furniture. They plopped down in a few chairs and watched as the other stuff was put in place. That was a nice welcome.

Who knew (but God) that we'd be here 18 years later? And that so many would have gone home to be with Lord, or moved, or left for other reasons! Boy, if these walls could talk!

Let me just say thank you, Lord Jesus for calling us into the ministry wherever you chose to send us. To have been associated with this body of believers this many years has produced growth in all of us for sure. And I can say that we have seen a definite increase in Christian love and interest in the Word of God. That spells health.

May the Lord continue to bless the body of Christ here at Perry. It's been a true blessing for us to know so many of our brothers and sisters. Heaven is a wonderful place, but Perry is a great stop-off until that Day!


Friday, January 29

More Righteous Than God?!

That's right, we can get to the place in our lives (without saying it out loud) that we imagine we are more loving than GOD himself! What do I mean? Well, the Bible teaches election (Romans 8; Ephesians 1), a doctrine which many reject because in it God looks to them to be capricious. They fight against it because it seems to negate one's "free will," or they argue that it's "unfair to the lost," etc. But there's no question that all through the Word it is there AND in many ways that the same folks do not seem to mind so much.

Examples of Election Most Don't Mind But Should--
God chose Noah and excluded the whole earth!! Wow! Don't miss that one just because it's so familiar to us. God chose Abraham. Later, God would choose the younger Jacob over the elder Esau BEFORE they had done anything "good or bad." Some say, "Well, God did that because he knew how Esau would respond, so . . . " But that doesn't hold water. Why? Because, 1) Jacob was bad too, deceptive and conniving! Don't forget that. But more importantly, such an argument does not work because 2) God actually states that his choosing of Jacob over Esau was his own doing, and (get this) had nothing whatsoever to do with what they had done (they were still in the womb), or what they would do (anything good comes from God anyway--see Romans 9:11). Paul is very clear that God is nailing down the point that he has the right to do with his own whatever he wills (v. 15), and that he is NOT unjust in doing it (v. 14).

And Israel. What of Israel? He chose them out of all the nations of the earth, and NOT because they were worthy of his choice either. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 makes this abundantly clear. He chose David and Solomon though neither were the eldest among their peers. Check it out, the nations heard the truth through Israel, but God did not choose them. Somehow, those who attack this doctrine (and God) imagine that they have a better handle on what true justice is than God who IS the Just and Holy One!! Election occurs throughout the entire Bible not in just a few choices verses in the New Testament. Question is: when we see a doctrine like election (or future punishment, hell, etc.) that we do not like, do we reject it and by so doing impugn the wisdom and justice of God?

When we come to a doctrine of Scripture, ANY doctrine, it is always our wisdom to determine first what the Bible says about it, to determine the limits of the teaching. Then, and only then, can we ponder its implications. What has through the ages been the bane of so many is that they read the Bible with their personal "fairness" filters firmly installed and therefore, cannot SEE what's in front of them. That's terrible exegesis (interpretation of the text). Read with brain engaged, but bias in neutral.

Learn First:  1) That we don't understand God; His wisdom and knowledge are "unsearchable," and "past finding out" (Romans 11:33). Further, know that 2) His ways are so much higher than our ways--infinitely (Isaiah 55:8-9), and 3) that the more we learn the more there will be to understand (because God IS infinite). And learn 4) That God is and always will be mysterious. You will not "wrap your mind around God." You cannot contain him or restrict him, or even accuse him. When you think you've "figured him out," you haven't even begun! You've only succeeded in showing your own foolishness. Say rather with Job, "I spoke of things I did not know" (42:3), therefore "I lay my hand on my mouth" (40:4). Learn with Job to shut up in God's presence. He is loving, therefore we do not die; but he is JUST therefore, we must fear.

Learn Second to bow before the revealed Word of God, and NOT TO SIT IN JUDGMENT ON IT! Scripture truth takes precedence over systems of belief. I believe in the Reformed doctrines (what is sometimes labeled Calvinism). If you do not believe specifically this way, my thought is, you're a Christian if you trust only in the shed blood of Jesus Christ to save you and live a holy life consequently. It's more important that we honor the common blood of Christ in one another than to separate over a system of belief, even though the beliefs are vital. If I wave a banner, it is Scripture only, Jesus only, glory to God alone! It is also vital that we insure our faithful adherence to the written Word of God and honor it even if, or especially when we do not initially understand it or--can I say "agree"--with it. God's Word judges me, not the reverse.

More Righteous Than God?
So, I close how I began, "Do we imagine that we know better than God how to run his universe? We think--do we?--that if we were God, we would save everybody, that we would be "fair," and loving!! OK, so what we are saying is that we are more righteous and holy and just than God himself! God warns, "Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be right?" (Job 40:8). That is so scary, there are no words strong enough to describe it!

Walk humbly before God. He is righteous, holy, good, and just. He holds all his attributes with equal value for they are--like Himself--perfect. God help us to see him truly that we may fear him duly. Amen.


Thursday, January 28

What Alcoholics Can Teach the Church

Philip Yancey, in Church: Why Bother? writes:

Alcoholics Anonymous meets needs in a way that the local church does not--or at least did not for my friend. I asked him to name the one quality missing in the local church that AA had somehow provided. He stared at his coffee for a long time and then he said softly this one word: dependency.

"None of us can make it on our own--isn't that why Jesus came?" he explained. "Yet most church people give off a self-satisfied air of piety or superiority. I don't sense them leaning on God or each other. Their lives appear to be in order. An alcoholic who goes to church feels inferior and incomplete." [I might add that the phobic reactions of some alcoholics seems to issue from their self-judgment which they in turn pass on unjustified to those around them. His point, however, is well made, for many so-called Christians are well-dressed legalists. Let's pray against such a proud attitude.]

Yancey friend continues, "It's a funny thing, what I hate most about myself, my alcoholism, was the one thing God used to bring me back to him. Because of it, I know I can't survive without God. I have to depend on him to make it through each and every day. Maybe that's the redeeming value of alcoholism. Maybe God is calling us alcoholics to teach the saints what it means to be dependent on him and on his community on earth."

Yancey then points out several necessary character traits: "humility, total honesty, and radical dependence--on God and on a community of compassionate friends." As I thought about it, these qualities seemed exactly what Jesus had in mind when he founded his church.

Alcoholics Anonymous came out of a discovery by Bill Wilson. On his own, Bill had stayed sober for six months until he made a trip out of town, where a business deal fell through. Depressed, wandering a hotel lobby, he heard familiar sounds of laughter and of ice tinkling in glasses. He headed toward the bar, thinking "I need a drink."

Suddenly a brand new thought came ot him: "No, I don't need a drink--I need another alcoholic!" Walking instead toward the lobby telephones, he began the sequence of calls that put him in touch with Dr. Bob Smith, who would become AA's cofounder.

Church is a place where I can say, unashamedly, "I don't need to sin. I need another sinner." (Church, Why Bother? 51-52).


Wednesday, January 27

The Attraction of the "Path of Righteousness"

"He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake." I hardly need to give the reference to this verse, do I? OK, well, you know it's Psalm 23. And it's verse 3. It's the "path of righteousness" that has caught my eye and now my "pen." What is it? How is it that the Lord actually leads us into it? Then, a word about "for his name's sake."

Path = Progression => Pilgrimage
A path is more than a fact, a point of knowledge. We learn many facts in our lifetimes, but they don't necessarily change the way we live. Yet it is precisely this point which the Bible repeatedly gets across. The Psalmist cries out, "Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths" (25:4). Even the well-worn Psalm 23 provides the same: "He leads me in paths of righteousness" (v. 3). And Psalm 86:11 prays: "Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth" (86:11). And Psalm 119:33, "Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will keep it to the end." Notice in this last verse, that the antecedent to "it" is "way." He doesn't pray, "Teach me your statutes" which is fine in itself. But teach me "how to live by your statutes." Help me to embrace them as my everyday lifestyle. We could multiply verses, but I don't think that would enforce what has already been laid down. It's biblical, that's the main thing we need to know.

I suspect much of our teaching style in Sunday School, Small Groups, and in our pulpits may have accurately displayed the truth, but it will not necessarily have communicated the need for a worldview change, a divinely empowered new way to think and to live. (Of course, it could be argued that IF we are not teaching life change, then we really are NOT teaching accurately) So, what should we do?

Hitting the Path
First, recognize the larger issue of pathway living (read pilgrimage?), confess where we have kept God at arm's distance this way, then repent (which means a change of heart, moving in the right direction).

Second, make note of the numerous places that "way" and "path/pathway" are used in relationship to spiritual growth. Become familiar with their broad-reaching effect, so that your thinking is larger and more God-encompassing, and therefore, worldview altering.

Third, and probably most vital after the above are in place, is PRAY specifically that you'll think this way. DAILY! The Psalms do that; they pray for this change. We need to do the same, . . . and keep on doing it!

Example: John Bunyan's Christian
John Bunyan became well known for his book, Pilgrim's Progress. The classic attraction of his book is not found when Christian loses his burden at the foot of the cross, as wonderful as is that moment. The weight of the book is found in the way in which Christian and his traveling partners progressed down the path of the Christian life. Pilgrims stay on the move, and toward the right goal--though not entirely without the occasional detour, to be sure! Christianity is all about movement toward God, knowing him, obeying him, embracing him. Our churches need lifestyle Christianity, which emits a categorical change, such that every day, all day long believers experience everything through God's eyes, not by force but willingly.

May God direct our path.


Saturday, January 23

Why We Can't See For Looking?

"Amazing! I know I've read it many times before, but I never SAW it!" Expressions like this erupt from many Christians who have made it a habit of reading their Bible. We seem to be blinded to stuff in Scripture that seems so obvious -- once we've seen it! It's the "once we've seen it part" that blows our minds.

Once such portion came out today in our Men's Study Group, the reference to the graves being opened after Jesus' resurrection and from them came "many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep . . . and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many" (Matthew 27:52-53). Jesus' resurrection was a categorical miracle calculated to reinforce his claims to deity and to being the Savior of the world. Anybody can claim anything. That's a fact, a truism. But not just anybody can support their claim. The resurrection was the most momentous demonstration in history verifying a most outlandish claim of someone claiming that he was MORE than a mere man. Such a claim was not likely to win adherents, at least humanly speaking. Gentiles deemed it foolish beyond belief, and the Jews considered it sacrilege, a stumbling block to their religious paradigm (1 Cor. 1:23). And when Paul astutely proclaimed the gospel on Mar's Hill in Athens, the intelligentsia gave him a condescending ear UNTIL he grounded his statements in the resurrection! The "unknown god" is the God of the Bible, who doesn't need praise from any man especially since he created them and they owe HIM their life and breath and everything else! He reached down to man via "a man" whom he verified as more than just a man by raising him from the dead! This is no small feat, no matter how used to the doctrine of resurrection we may have grown.

Back to my initial point. Not only did JESUS rise from the dead (which is a game stopper), but "many saints" went into Jerusalem at the same time. Really? Yes. Come on! A bunch of formerly dead saints came out of the tombs and walked right into town and appeared to many friends and strangers. Can you imagine what that must have done? Jerusalem and the surrounding areas boasted at certain times of the year hundreds of thousands of people!! This is amazing in the least! And so widely known was Jesus' resurrection that the Emmaus road disciples (Luke 24) could not believe that their traveling companion (Jesus himself though they had not yet figured that out) had not heard! How could you NOT have heard? Nothing has been more broadcast!

OK. So, Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection took place among multiplied thousands (perhaps over a million) who HAD heard the news. And now, word was getting out that not only Jesus but many, many dead people ("saints") also had been seen walking about town talking to friends and relatives. We've seen strange things before, but NOTHING like this!

That defies belief. Or, . . . DEFINES it. . . . See the unseen in order to know the unknown. Lord, open our eyes to behold wondrous things out of your Word.


Friday, January 22

Honesty in Prayer

I found the following A. W. Tozer article very enlightening! If we would pray rightly then we must pray honestly like the Bible characters, especially the Psalmist. I am copying the whole article. It is worth it.
The saintly David M'Intyre, in his radiant little book, The Hidden Life of Prayer, deals frankly, if briefly, with a vital element of true prayer which in our artificial age is likely to be overlooked.

We mean just plain honesty.

"Honest dealing becomes us," says M'Intyre, "when we kneel in His pure presence."

"In our address to God," he continues, "we like to speak of Him as we think we ought to speak, and there are times when our words far outrun our feelings. But it is best that we should be perfectly frank before Him. He will allow us to say anything we will, so long as it is to Himself. ‘I will say unto God, my rock,' exclaims the psalmist, ‘why hast thou forgotten me?' If he had said, ‘Lord, thou canst not forget. Thou hast graven my name on the palms of thy hands,' he would have spoken more worthily, but less truly. 

"On one occasion Jeremiah failed to interpret God aright. He cried as if in anger, ‘O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived.' These are terrible words to utter before Him who is changeless truth. But the prophet spoke as he felt, and the Lord not only pardoned him, but met him and blessed him there." 

Another spiritual writer of unusual penetration has advised frankness in prayer even to a degree that might appear to be downright rudeness. When you come to prayer, he says, and find that you have no taste for it, tell God so without mincing words. If God and spiritual things bore you, admit it frankly. This advice will shock some squeamish saints, but it is altogether sound nevertheless. God loves the guileless soul even when in his ignorance he is actually guilty of rashness in prayer.

The Lord can soon cure his ignorance, but for insincerity no cure is known. 

The basic artificiality of civilized human beings is hard to shake off. It gets into our very blood and conditions our thoughts, attitudes, and relationships much more seriously than we imagine. A book on human relations has appeared within recent years whose underlying philosophy is deception and whose recommended technique is a skillful use of flattery to gain desired ends. It has had an unbelievably wide sale, actually running into the millions. Of course its popularity may be explained by the fact that it said what people wanted to hear. 

The desire to make a good impression has become one of the most powerful of all the factors determining human conduct. That gracious (and scriptural) social lubricant called courtesy has in our times degenerated into a completely false and phony etiquette that hides the true man under a shimmery surface as thin as the oil slick on a quiet pond. The only time some persons expose their real self is when they get mad. 

With this perverted courtesy determining almost everything men say and do in human society, it is not surprising that it should be hard to be completely honest in our relations with God. It carries over as a kind of mental reflex and is present without our being aware of it. Nevertheless, it is extremely hateful to God. Christ detested it and condemned it without mercy when He found it among the Pharisees. The artless little child is still the divine model for all of us. Prayer will increase in power and reality as we repudiate all pretense and learn to be utterly honest before God as well as before men. 

A great Christian of the past broke out all at once into a place of such radiance and victory as to excite wonder among his friends. Someone asked him what had happened to him. He replied simply that his new life of power began one day when he entered the presence of God and took a solemn vow never again to say anything to God in prayer that he did not mean. His transformation began with that vow and continued as he kept it. 

We can learn something there if we will.

Thursday, January 21

The Myth of the Spontaneous Word

Nothing we do is ever truly spontaneous. Whether in word or deed, it began somewhere inside before it exits via action or message. Thus, our Lord rightly affirms, "As a man thinks in his heart so is he" (Prov. 23:7, KJV). Out of the well of our hearts springs whatever is inside (Luke 6:45). Good or bad. But this is not the kind of spontaneity of which I am thinking.

Good Springs . . .
A number of weeks back, after having shared with the men in our Saturday morning men's group, my family and I were discussing what was said. We remarked how the Lord had blessed something I had shared from that morning's devotions. It's true, I had been affected by the passage in my reading, the Spirit having blessed and opened up wonderful truth to my soul. In turn, I was enabled to share that with the men, who in turn related their own opinions. We all entered into the spirit of the text and enjoyed it immensely. It was quite evident that the Lord had brought that about, as I must add, He does practically every week! It's become a sort of humorous thing when I say, "Before we begin, I have something that I was reading that I just want to draw your attention to." And then we may end up talking it over for the entire hour! Mind you, the class enters into it happily. There's something exciting about such "spontaneous" words from God.

Spontaneous . . . Really?
My son, Dave and I were remarking how blessed, how rich we all have been after these times and on top of that, to know that this wasn't a "prepared" word, but spontaneous! Phyllis pointed out that no word shared like that is ever truly spontaneous. "After all," she said, "You've been saved for 48 years!" She's right. I remember hearing that same thing brought out in my readings, so it struck a note in all our hearts. What's she saying? After that many years of living the Christian life, daily devoting oneself to reading, praying, studying, preaching and teaching the Word of God, can anything be truly considered "spontaneous"?

This applies across the board. What comes out of us is essentially what we have taken in all our lives. Are we not all products of our past, for good or for bad? Every sermon, every Sunday School lesson, every book, movie, or job, every person with whom we've interacted, all feed into and contribute to the storehouse of our experience. This is why it is so vital for us to ensure that we "load up" with the right food, that we place ourselves in the path of God's blessing. Each of us is the sum of what we have experienced.

Let us affirm good, godly preparation for lessons or sermons. But let's not hesitate to share with our brothers and sisters what God has placed on our hearts in routine devotions. I greatly enjoy hearing from my fellow believers the word God has given them for the day. It may be a tough word, or harsh. And maybe our reaction to God is negative or angry. But it is a TRUE word. The point is that God's Word is so marvelous that we don't want to practice reading it without also enlisting the Spirit's aid to ensure that we see, really SEE what's in front of us.

Keep taking in God's Word, and you'll be loading up to one day give it out, . . . perhaps, SPONTANEOUSLY!!


Wednesday, January 20

Jolted By John Adams . . . Again

Phyllis, my son, Dave and I finished watching the celebrated HBO 7-part version of the life of John Adams. That was our second time. Well-acted, it projects a sober account of the battle that led to and followed up the American Revolution. You get an inside look at great men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and, of course, John (and Abigail) Adams. But we did not close out our viewing with just a simple dismissal, "That was good." Often upon watching serious shows like this, I am affected, deeply moved, nearly transported in my mind by the sheer weight of the subject of a life lived well and by the finality, the dreadful shock of death. With Adams and Jefferson dying on the same day (July 4th, 50 years after signing) those signers of the Declaration of Independence had all died, but one. In a real sense, a long, colorful, turbulent time in our history was past. So much life lived. So little attention (it seems) to the even greater issue of life with God! Oh, the weight that overcomes me after viewing such films! You get to know these people, develop an appreciation for their personalities, quirks, and their more noble traits. Then you must watch them leave this earth. My heart cries out, "Oh, did you know Jesus Christ?" "Will I see you again?" It is not a light concern, personality flaw or a mere religious preference. These "heroes" of our early years as a country, I want to see in heaven--and I think I shall for some. But watching their lives made me realize that one cannot absorb all the living that takes place in a few people, much less all those who've ever lived! It's alarmingly overwhelming. I sit in a fog. I don't want to forget. It's as if they came back to life for a season, of course, only to expire once again re-aggravating the pain of loss.

What jolts me? It's the thought that so much life has been lived well beyond my control and mostly outside my knowledge or understanding. I praise God that He has always been at work in every country at all times in each person! Unfathomable! Were it not for my faith in this loving, sovereign Providence I could not hope to get back on track, to re-enter life's routines with any semblance of priority. It's difficult sometimes. I swallow, ponder and re-commit my heart, my life, my all to Jesus Christ who does all things well. Once again that ubiquitous phrase finds its appropriate target, "Teach us to number OUR days, so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Ps. 90:12). I am further comforted in the knowledge that He who created all things, has also determined the time and location of our lives so that each may "feel their way toward" God, and hopefully find Him (Acts 17:26-27). I trust this for them then, as well as for ourselves today.

My wonderful family has grown used to my nearly depressing angst in these times. (Other films have likewise left me deeply moved, e.g., "Amadeus" and "Saving Private Ryan" being two major culprits). If they sober my soul, far better is it to have experienced such heavy enlightenment than to have lived a life flitting about between mist and myth. If one lands hard, at least he has landed. Lord plant my feet on the sold ground of hope in Christ who has indeed ordered all things after the counsel of his own will to his own glory. That wins the day for me. My Lord will bring all things together, the just and unjust in one final and powerful display of divine judgment. On that I trust; in that I hope.


Tuesday, January 19


This Christmas, while in Virginia with family, we visited a Barnes & Noble! That's not a shocker to anyone who knows me. But while other family were shopping, Dave and I went down the line in the shopping center for coffee and a look-see. I "happened" upon a collection of daily readings from Philip Yancey's writings- Grace Notes. Knowing Yancey as I do, I've always admired his way of seeing the otherwise undetected or seemingly unimportant. I read him and I am awakened. His reading for today centers on prayer, a perpetual interest of mine, even if I do not practice it as well as I should. Should we pray even if we are not up to it?

Regular Exercise
Yancey points out that he likes to run. But he will run even IF he doesn't feel like it. Why? Because there are accompanying benefits in other areas of life, like strengthened heart and lungs, it facilitates skiing and mountain climbing, and he can eat what he will without worrying about weight gain!

"Benefits accrue as well for those who practice regular prayer (whether or not they feel like praying)." He cites writer Nancy Mairs, who attends church in the same spirit that a "writer goes to her desk every morning, SO THAT IF AN IDEA COMES ALONG SHE'LL BE THERE TO RECEIVE IT." [Emphasis mine] Yancey approaches prayer the same way. Many days he may not get anything perceivable out of it, no appreciable profit. But, he says, "I show up in hopes of getting to know God better, and perhaps hearing from God in ways accessible only through quiet and solitude."

I resonate with Yancey's attitude. It has been my habit for years to arrive early in my office for Scripture and prayer. It's as much a part of me as any bodily routine to begin or end the day. You just do it. But I look forward to it; the day could not be the same without it. Still, not every day does truth flash like lightening upon me. But it may! It HAS. But routine has a 100% better chance of doing so than if I never began such a regimen. I remember in the early 60's hearing Pastor Seume (Richmond, Va.) say from time to time, "Even if you do not get anything out of your Bible reading, God will still bless your pursuit anyway." And this is much the same. To quote Nike (but with a much greater goal in view) "Just Do It!" Swoosh! That's right, "JUST DO IT!!" Listen to Yancey again,
For years I resisted a regular routine of prayer, believing that communication with God should be spontaneous and free. As a result I prayed infrequently and with little satisfaction. Eventually I learned that spontaneity often flows from discipline. Leonardo da Vinci spent ten years drawing ears, elbows, hands, and other parts of the body in many different aspects. Then one day he set aside the exercises and painted what he saw. . . . I found that I needed the discipline of regularity to make possible those exceptional times of free communication with God.
Spontaneous Routine?!
I too, have often found a true "word from the Lord" in my regularly scheduled devotional times. It has been my added privilege to be able to carry those thoughts into the classroom on the same day as I received them. The class has been very receptive and open to such a "word," which has given an originality to such times as opposed to being a "canned" talk.

Such preparation has not been the consequence of a singular isolated "Word" from above, but the result of years of participation in the glorious routine of pursuing God in Scripture and prayer. So, how shall I conclude this post? . . . JUST DO IT!


Saturday, January 16

Former Catholic Priest Exposes Rome's All-Inclusive "Faith"

Former Catholic Priest, Richard Bennett speaks at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London on the subject: "Catholic Mysticism and the Emerging Church Reexamined." This is of tremendous importance in the battle for the truth, especially in terms of the authority of the Word of God versus the false authorities of man (all religions which teach contrary to faith alone in Jesus Christ alone). Among other heresies, you will hear is one that shows Rome approving of both Hinduism and Buddhism as "valid means" of reaching heaven!? That's completely and utterly heretical beyond the pale of anything remotely sensible! And this is written in Vatican II. See verses below video for God's take on this!

"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you" (Deut. 4:2). Peter, an eyewitness of Jesus Christ states (by the Spirit) that over against the evidential aspect of eyewitness reports is the superior ("more sure") "prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place . . . knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Oh, Lord, give us boldness in these last days to stand up for the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. Dear reader, pray that folks will see the weight of this issue. Pray that Protestant church leaders will rise up and be counted among the true seekers of Jesus Christ and defenders of the truth as it is in Jesus. Pray for Roman Catholics to be freed from the bondage of syncretism's grip and to find true freedom in the releasing and exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ.


Friday, January 15

Beware Satan's Tactics!

Taking from J. C. Ryle's Thoughts For Young Men, listen to this sage, godly advice:
For another thing, the devil uses special diligence to destroy the souls of young men, and they seem not to know it. Satan knows well that you will make up the next generation, and therefore he employs every art betimes to make you his own. I would not have you ignorant of his devices.
". . . We would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs" (2 Cor. 2:11).
Young men, beware of being taken by his snares. He will try to throw dust in your eyes, and prevent you seeing anything in its true colors. He would fain make you think evil good, and good evil. He will paint, and gild, and dress up sin, in order to make you fall in love with it. He will deform, and misrepresent, and caricature true religion, in order to make you take a dislike to it. [Just watch the evening news!] He will exalt the pleasures of wickedness--but he will hide the sting. He will lift up before your eyes the cross and its painfulness--but he will keep out of sight the eternal crown. He will promise you everything, as he did to Christ, if you will only serve him. (Matt. 4:1-11) He will even help you to wear a form of religion, if you will only neglect the power. He will tell you at the beginning of your lives, it is too soon to serve God--he will tell you at the end, it is too late. Oh, be not deceived!
See yesterday's post for where to buy Ryle's book or to read it online for free.

Thursday, January 14


Recently, I gave my son, Dave a copy of J. C. Ryle's "Thoughts For Young Men," (1868) which is a wonderful call to Christian living for men, both young and old, and as Dave would offer, for women as well. Here is a quotation which meant much to Dave and me and which we'd suspect you'd have to find intriguingly apt. Illustrating one of the dangers facing young men as being that of "thoughtlessness and inconsideration," Ryle writes:
Matthew Henry tells a story of a great statesman in Queen Elizabeth's time, who retired from public life in his later days, and gave himself up to serious thought. His former gay (i.e. "frivolous") companions came to visit him, and told him he was becoming melancholy. "No," he replied, "I am serious; for all are serious round about me. God is serious in observing us--Christ is serious in interceding for us--the Spirit is serious in striving with us--the truths of God are serious--our spiritual enemies are serious in their endeavours to ruin us--poor lost sinners are serious in hell--and why then should not you and I be serious too?"
Thank you J. C. Ryle. You can read this book online HERE. Or better yet, buy the book HERE.


Wednesday, January 13

Dismount A Dead Horse!

One does not have to look far to find aberrant or at least, substandard views on Church. Just look at Church web sites! Not all, of course. Praise the Lord, many will not cower to worldly pressures or bend to "emerging" methodologies. Still, we may learn from what appears or in many cases fails to show up on web sites. Like prayer meetings. The following quotation comes from Trevor Bron, in "3 Truths Churches Struggle to Accept." He offers some sound advice to be sure. What I found somewhat disconcerting was a comment he made under point 1, "It's OK to Say "NO." He revealed an effete Wednesday prayer meeting running simultaneously with an undermanned AWANA program. He writes:
The first church I was on staff with had a difficult time saying no. This was especially true when it came to the Wednesday night prayer meeting. By the time I began my internship at the church, there was only a small group still attending the prayer meetings, and the average age was well over 65.

Even as a young, inexperienced intern I knew the reason the prayer meeting was still going on was that no one had the leadership clarity and ability to say no. This small band of people had such great potential to be engaged in more meaningful ways. AWANA also met on Wednesday night, and its leaders were always in need of more volunteers. With a greater clarity of vision for these kids, I believe those prayer meeting folks could have been utilized to a much greater degree and at the same time been re-instilled with a feeling of value and purpose in their service to the church.
Now, I wrote to Trevor asking him to clarify if his comments included disbanding Prayer meeting altogether? That was two days ago. I hope still to hear from him. At this point, and unless otherwise corrected, here is my assessment. 

I wanted to quote Trevor, because of what we did as a church when our Wednesday prayer meeting fell off. You see, he's not completely wrong. Sometimes we hang on to programs to the detriment of what they were intended to produce, in this case EFFECTUAL PRAYER. I love this quote, "When the horse you're riding dies, dismount!" But let's be sure that the horse is NOT prayer itself! The Church can no more forget prayer than humans can forget to breathe! But that seems what many many churches are doing! It's nothing less than self-inflicted suffocation. It's like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

What dawned on me (Spirit) as we changed our day for prayer was that prayer is NOT a program of the church. If it were, then people could opt out of it like they do any other program that doesn't fit into their gift-mix, or service preference. But prayer is the life of the church and cannot be dismissed like a program. I began to teach the flock this way, and that along with, of course, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, has produced a growing number coming out and praying together for about an hour! Yes, we meet for 90 minutes, the last hour of which is prayer. We have a good secretary who publishes a Family Prayer Sheet each week with the latest updates from our missionaries from whom she receives regular emails to keep us current. It's a wonderful time of prayer. But we as leaders see this as a priority. Incidentally, one of our reasons from moving from Wednesday to Sunday was to allow our Elders to attend more regularly. They simply could not "swing" Wednesdays (as with others). It's not just that they should "be at prayer meeting to be a good example. THEY wanted to pray with the Body of Christ! This provided that forum.

This has been a blessed time. We pray that more (who are able) will come, not out of some legalistic constraint, but from heart motives. One thing we do know, WE MUST PRAY. Period! And God will add unto His church, for indeed, Jesus said, "I will build my church." And part of His building is to put it within the hearts of his people to complete his command to be always at prayer.


Tuesday, January 12

Are You Past Assuming Jesus?

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (Luke 7:18-19)
Jesus, having healed the Centurion's servant, and having raised from the dead a widow's son at Nain, had come under the notice of John the Baptist, who subsequently sent his own disciples to ask this healer if HE were in fact that One to come or should they be on the look out for him? The question was then and always shall be, "Do we have the right Christ?" Absolutely vital question. Notice then several features in their response which we must emulate:

1. They Entertained a General Idea of Jesus. There must have been something about Jesus that caused John's disciples to ask this of THIS particular traveling rabbi. Many people today seem content to remain here in the general knowledge of Jesus without pursuing him further to see more about him. And as important as such knowledge is, it is not enough in itself.

2. They Were Forced to Face Specifics About Jesus. Jesus did not answer with a simple "Yes." He surely could have. But no, Jesus drove them to examine the evidence. A "Yes" or "No" answer would have only confirmed that this "Rabbi" thought he was "the One." But IS HE REALLY? That's the issue. So Jesus does one better and forces them (as it were) to collect enough empirical evidence that their question would be more than answered and they themselves would have been convinced. So, this would be more than a report from one Rabbi who thought highly of himself. The evidence would demonstrate a certain cohesion between claims and truth, a cohesion that would be quite difficult to overturn.

3. The "Looking" Should Be Commended. They basically said, "Are you Christ, or shall we keep on looking," inferring that they would NOT STOP LOOKING UNTIL THEY FOUND THE MESSIAH. That is commendable. Oh, that more so-called Christians who've grown slack in their faith would hear this and do it! LOOK. "Are you the One about whom we have heard so much. Or is there another Jesus?" Don't think this an unfaithful kind of question. Confusion over the person of Jesus has ever been the bane of the Church. Don't assume anything. Do as John's disciples and ask, always ask the question, "Are you the One, or shall we keep looking?" Many want an aberrant Jesus, one who is only a "good teacher," or "moral instructor," or who "loves everybody and wouldn't send anyone to hell." Are these the Jesus of the New Testament, the One revealed in the Bible? LOOK and see for yourself. But look honestly.

Jesus IS the ONE. You need LOOK for no other. Just make sure you know the real Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture. He will not change like a chameleon to suit each man's desire. He came for but ONE purpose, and that was determined by God the Father before the world was created. Glorious purpose indeed, that all would come to a knowledge of the truth. How does your knowledge of Jesus Christ stack up against this knowledge? Study the Gospels and learn of Christ. He is beautiful in every way!


Sunday, January 10

Lone Righteousness = True Righteousness

Then the LORD said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation." (Genesis 7:1)
Several features of God's loving care jump out at me in this line, ". . . for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation."

FIRST, God takes notice of just ONE righteous person. "I have seen that . . ." While we accept that God is omniscient, it is still a boon to our soul to know that He sees just one righteous soul.

SECOND, God minds the QUALITY of the soul, looking only upon their righteousness. "For I have seen that YOU ARE RIGHTEOUS BEFORE ME." Noah's righteousness was in quality both CLEAN and NON-HYPOCRITICAL (which is to say the same thing from the positive and negative side).

THIRD, Noah was righteous BEFORE God told him of the threat of punishment (see 6:9). Many may seem to be righteous who are so only because to their minds there is nothing better. But Noah was righteous without props, without threats. Truth is, that is not  righteous at all which is not righteous for God's sake.

FOURTH, Noah was righteous AFTER God warned of the coming flood. "For I have seen that . . ." In the midst of controversy and antipathy, he still stood by God's word. In other words, controversy and antipathy likely mounted as over the years, Noah (and sons-in-law) built the ark. Still, he maintained his integrity. Righteous in the cauldron of competing desires! That's valid.

FIFTH, Noah was alone in his righteousness. ". . . for I have seen that you are righteous before me IN THIS GENERATION." True righteousness does not thrive via the "buddy system." Find someone else to join with you and you'll go to church. May be. But one cannot discover true faith, a valid righteousness in a group. Noah personally, and without the aid of others believed God. Faith is like that. Originating in the heart, it manifests itself in the life.

Pray that we may exhibit such isolated righteousness, so that even within the larger group we may be marching to the beat of the Heavenly Drummer!


Saturday, January 9

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety. You can be anxious before you know it. I know. This happens to me not infrequently. It's not always (in fact mostly never) obvious. But it's there. And peace flees away. Further, it doesn't have to be based on anything solid, momentous. Just a feeling, an awakening disposition when we roll out of bed. But it affects our faith outlook. A cloud of doubt hangs over us. Often we can't tell right away either. God is not, as it were, in the "driver's seat."

It has long been my habit when this happens--after I recognize it--to get still and quote that ever blessed portion from Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything . . ." Stop there! Here's where you commence to preaching. Yes, YOU. You don't have to BE a preacher to do this. But I DO preach and I preach this one to myself. So, first I repeat aloud the words of the verse, picking out each word as necessary : "Anything?" Really? Yes. Anything. That's quite inclusive isn't it? Then I ask, "Is this (that I'm feeling) 'anything?'" "Does it qualify as being under the classification of "anything?" "Well, yes, of course it does." And, "Doesn't the Lord know everything, therefore, he knows about this feeling I have, this issue I'm facing, this test I'm enduring?" Again, I answer, "Yes, of course he does!" "Then don't be anxious about this either." What is felt in secret can be unraveled when spoken aloud.

That's about it, really. Nothing exotic. Extremely simple. But when you're anxious, simple is better. So, what happens? Well, usually before I even make it through the process (which is obviously short) I am already feeling better! Really? Yes, really! Anxiety is just a weak unbelieving response to . . . well, whatever it is. It's Satan's way of subtly diverting our attention off from the beauty of Jesus. But God IS in control. He DOES love us. He DOES command us not to be anxious. So, He MUST know what He's talking about. OF COURSE HE DOES! Based on that, I throw myself in his direction. And he catches me every time. Every time. Scripture destroys unbelief. It's unbelief not to trust God. Don't "worry" about that, though. Simply confess, "Help my unbelief." That is one of God's many, many strong suits.

How long does this take, this preaching to self? Usually very, very brief, until anxiety leaves and peace returns. You never begrudge any time spent in this process. It drives you closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. And we all know that there is no better place to be. God grant us all such faith to ground our hope in Christ alone!

Wednesday, January 6

On My Mind: The Skinny God by David Wells

Many years ago, J. B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God is Too Small. It was quite popular at the time, in 1952, although it now seems rather quaint. The juvenile understanding of God Phillips was attacking then is, by contemporary standards, rather innocent. This, however, is a book which I believe should be written afresh every decade. For is it not the case that our internal bias (cf. Rom. 1:21-5) constantly tilts us away from God’s centrality and toward our own? And does this not lead us to focus more on ourselves and less on him? Even worse, don’t we then substitute our importance for his greatness? 

This inward bias is now being mightily encouraged by our experience of the modern world, the upshot of which is our fascination with our self. Those who are well fed seldom think about food but for the hungry this becomes a consuming preoccupation. And for modern people, the self has likewise become an obsession. We are the starved. How else can we explain the fact that America has half the world’s clinical psychologists and one third of the world’s psychiatrists? Over approximately the last thirty years, the number of clinical psychologists has increased 350%, clinical social workers 320%, and family counselors 680%, so that today we have two psychotherapists for every dentist and there are more counselors than librarians. The plagues of the modern self are providing sustenance for an extraordinary number of professionals, as well as driving a burgeoning publishing industry. 

At the root of these statistics are two related developments. On the one hand, it is undeniable that life in our contemporary world is extraordinarily difficult, that the toll it extracts is high, and that the wounds it inflicts are deep. We, today, live with more stress, with higher levels of anxiety, than any prior generation. We have more people passing through our lives on a daily basis than ever before because of telephone, fax, e-mail, and even television and yet we are often lonely because so few ever matter to us personally. We often are not rooted in any place but wander around our society like perpetual migrants and we may not even have families to which we are connected in any meaningful way. The constant change, the terrible speed of it, the escalating number of choices we have to make, all extract their cost. And we must also live in a society that is fragmenting in fundamental ways. Between 1960 and 1993, violent crime increased 560%, single parent households 300%, births to unmarried mothers 400%, and teen suicide 200%. So, it is no wonder that we feel alarmed and insecure and that we also become preoccupied with the wounds and pains within. 

On the other hand, many (even in the Christian world) have drunk deeply at the trough of popularized psychology and appear to accept its two basic assumptions. First, we believe that we can find release from these pains through the right technique. If we are anxious, guilty, insecure, lost, unmotivated, unappreciated, ineffective, or friendless, we need worry no more about it. There is an answer, though we will have to pay to get it. Second, we have come to believe that our top priority should be that we seek our own authenticity before all else and that others, such as spouses or friends, may have to be treated as a threat to our own growth. Hence, where these assumptions have intruded upon the Church, our spirituality has become extremely privatized, highly individualistic, inimical to commitments, and quite ethically indifferent. Because this is so, we lose our appetite for God, our taste for his Word, and our sense of dependence on Christ. Our God, too, has become too small and is now often lost amidst our inner preoccupations. 

There are, of course, those who genuinely need professional psychological care but the overwhelming proportion of those who have cast their faith in psychological terms do not. Their appetite for the therapeutic has come about for other reasons. In part, it reflects their own inner emptiness and the pain which this creates; in part, it rests on our growing cultural sufficiency, that what God’s grace, power, and regeneration once did, we can now do for ourselves; in part, it reflects a greatly diminished sense of sin and our refusal, quite often, to bear the pain of any self-reproach at all; and in part, it seems to reflect our lost ability to see any purpose in life outside of the self, an inability that both fuels our self-indulgence and stokes our need for more distraction. 

What seems so obvious to anxious, pained, bewildered moderns is what is so wrong. We are having to learn again, even in the Church, that Christ’s paradox is always true: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Losing one’s life flies in the face of all of the counsel we are receiving today that it is by finding the self, cultivating the self, expanding the self, and actualizing the self, that we will find life. Today, self-restraint and the self-abnegation which faith requires have become obscenities. And we miss the point entirely if we think that this is simply a quarrel between two competing views of therapy. 

No, what is at stake is whether or not we will be able to see the greatness of God, and whether what we see will enter into the innermost fibers of our being, for this is where our true spiritual health resides. The greatness of his power, wisdom, and goodness, and his greatness in creating, sustaining, and ruling over all of life, are not simply doctrines to be talked about but truths to be appropriated. His greatness in giving and judging his Son in our place, as well as his greatness for what he has yet to do one day in putting truth forever on the throne and error forever on the scaffold, should be matters of great weight to us and great joy for us. The psalmist spoke of longing, of fainting for God, of being enraptured with his beauty (Ps. 84:1-2), of having a compelling thirst for him (Ps. 42:1). How out of place this would be in many of our churches today! The truth is that our diminished “god” simply lacks the power to summon up such longing, such hope, such pleasure, in those who have come to worship him. But if our God has become small and skinny, he has been diminished only in our understanding and experience. He has not really been diminished. So why can we not hope that the Church will yet be surprised to discover his greatness afresh? Why can we not hope that those who long for God, who are enraptured by his beauty, who thirst deeply for him, will become the norm rather than the exception? I know of no reason. 

This article first appeared in the July/August 1997 issue of Modern Reformation.

Dr. David F. Wells is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts

Tuesday, January 5

The Man God Uses

While you're thinking about your new year's resolutions, consider the character of a truly godly man in Luke's gospel account. Character is what we ARE, not just what we plan to become. Yes, character drives our resolve. But it seems much more to the point to say that it is our resolve that shapes our character! Learn from Simeon:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him (Luke 2:25).
What does Luke tell us of Simeon? He was: 1) righteous, 2) devout, 3) waiting for the consolation of Israel, and 4) the Holy Spirit was upon him.

First, Simeon was RIGHTEOUS (or Just).

Matthew Henry locates Simeon's righteousness toward man. But it seems more than that. The same word is used in 1:6 of both Zechariah and Elizabeth. According to I. H. Marshall this kind of righteousness "implies a religious rather than a purely ethical character, seen in obedience to God's commands and going beyond a merely external, legal righteousness." In other words, they weren't legalistic but loved God with their hearts, and that evidenced itself consequently toward man. It would seem that one must be righteous IN God before he can be just TOWARD others. It is one of the banes of mankind that without Christ they only live in deceit, manipulating one another. But not a righteous man! They cannot tolerate that kind of behavior. It's not that they are never guilty of such behavior. It's that they despise it and with God's eternal help deny such a lifestyle at every turn!

Second, Simeon was DEVOUT.

Henry shows this was toward God. Righteous toward man, devout toward God. We can agree with this. Devout means "reverence or pious." It comes from the word (eulabeis) that according to Marshall, "originally meant 'cautious' and hence 'careful in religious duties.' Because of it's negative tone it may not seem desirous to so define our word. But I think it's a fine choice. Interestingly, during the first and second great awakenings in our country (and Europe), moral decrepitude was often described using the terms "careless." Men and women had grown "careless" of their souls, of God's Word, of the judgment to come, of heaven and hell. Devout, then would be the opposite of that--careful, and attentive to spiritual matters, God's Word, etc. 

It was devout men who buried the martyr, Stephen. They realized the import of what had happened, and the heart of the martyr to willingly die for the name of Christ. That was precious to them, as any such death should be to the lover of Jesus Christ.

Third, Simeon was WAITING.

Waiting is not a passive word; it is an actively submissive word, one which suggests dependence upon another to supply what he himself obviously cannot. In Psalm 5:3, David said, "In the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and WATCH." See the connection? David did something in the preparing of a sacrifice. But that wasn't ALL he did. He "watched." Watching is a word that suggests faith, a faith in the offering as well as a faith in how that offering is received. To care for both is a truly righteous act. "Waiting," like "watching" is righteous. No one else could provide the "consolation" Israel needed. Judas Maccabeus had tried earlier in a rebellion and failed. Now, the Messiah had come! Was He to give them the longed-for deliverance? Simeon's eye was fixed on God to see what God would do. God and ONLY God. Waiting believes God knows best. Waiting trusts that God will do what is best. Waiting is what faith-filled men and women do.

Fourth, Simeon was HOLY SPIRIT empowered. 

This almost seems obvious--not to undermine the Spirit's presence. But it seems, doesn't it, that the first three characteristics--righteous, devout, and waiting--could never have occurred unless and until the Holy Spirit were present in some capacity? But that demurring statement aside, the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary to any one if they are to be godly! The Spirit is central in Luke's Gospel and Acts when men are being used by God to spread the gospel and to build the church. Acts has sometimes been entitled, "The Acts of the Holy Spirit," for He is the one behind the progress of the Christian church. HE STILL IS! And godly men are glad for this.

So, I ask you . . . are you godly? If someone were to write your epitaph, would it say, "They were righteous, devout, waiting and Spirit-empowered?" Make this NOT a resolution to be performed, but a heart to be emulated. That is FAITH; that is GODLINESS. That is JOY and that is LIFE itself. Don't miss it!


Saturday, January 2

A Lush Bible Beginning!

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
What a selling job the devil has done to many Christians by convincing them of the dullness of God's Word! It is anything BUT! Still, when New Years rolls around, many a believer--nominal or serious--will re-evaluate their past year (good idea) realize how sparse has been their dedication to the reading of God's Word, and then resolve to change.

If you are one of those (and who isn't at some point in their lives?) then ponder just a moment the following. The Psalms open with (of course) Psalm 1. This Psalm encapsulates the entire Psalter, summarizing in just 6 verses that to which all the rest address themselves. Deny Satan's deceptions and embrace the tenor of the Psalm's call to the truly godly. You want to be godly right? Well, then, look at these inducements:

1. The godly DELIGHTS in God's law. This is hardly a boring attitude. There isn't a soul alive who when they are said to have delighted in something find it hard to dedicate their hearts to it! If we don't delight in God's Word . . . ever, then it's time for confession and repentance. It should be there.

2. They MEDITATE DAY AND NIGHT in God's law. Obviously not 24/7 is meant but fully involved without hesitation. Such involvement never seems an imposition to the true Christian, but his delight. The BOOK is their default position to which they return when all else goes on the fritz. Scripture becomes the one thing necessary to which they willingly resort not just regularly but whenever they discover "free" time has been granted them.

3. RESULT? They are not shriveled up "fuddy-duddies" (Satan's lie), but are rather likened to verdant trees who are so precisely because they draw life-giving water with regularity. They are not lackeys, but lush with life. Really, what true believer wouldn't love this?!

4. RESULT? All they do prospers. That is prospers NOT from sinful man's point of view but from God's. How do you know which is which? Well, try this somewhat simple test: Ask yourself, "Did Job prosper?" Your answer will reveal in great part HOW you define success, and that reveals your heart. The heart determines "prosperity." Job's success came BEFORE God restored everything to him twice over.

5. Lastly, the godly benefit in that, as verse 6 brings out, the Lord KNOWS THE WAY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Our Lord is intimately, lovingly, watching over and attending our pathway, every step of the way. Now, that is security and happiness and joy!

Again, who are you going to believe? When God tells us in His Word this is the Christian's case, we do well to believe him!

Happy New Year!