Sunday, February 28

Jesus Can't Do THAT, Right?

Please read the following from Oswald Chambers. Oh, how he hits on the very issue which causes us to doubt God, to NOT pray first when we should. We discussed this at Prayer meeting and Bible study in passing. Chambers in his typical manner plunges the sword right into the heart of our unbelief and exposes wherein lies the cause of our faithlessness. Thank you, Brother Oswald, that though you being dead, yet you speak!
Inferior misgivings about Jesus 
Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with. John 4:11. 
‘I am impressed with the wonder of what God says, but He cannot expect me really to live it out in the details of my life!’ When it comes to facing Jesus Christ on His own merits, our attitude is one of pious superiority—‘Your ideals are high and they impress us, but in touch with actual things, it cannot be done.’ Each of us thinks about Jesus in this way in some particular. These misgivings about Jesus start from the amused questions put to us when we talk of our transactions with God—‘Where are you going to get your money from? How are you going to be looked after?’ Or they start from ourselves when we tell Jesus that our case is a bit too hard for Him. ‘It is all very well to say “Trust in the Lord,” but a man must live, and Jesus has nothing to draw with—nothing whereby to give us these things.’ Beware of the pious fraud in you which says—‘I have no misgivings about Jesus, only about myself.’ None of us ever had misgivings about ourselves; we know exactly what we cannot do, but we do have misgivings about Jesus. We are rather hurt at the idea that He can do what we cannot. 
My misgivings arise from the fact that I ransack my own person to find out how He will be able to do it. My questions spring from the depths of my own inferiority. If I detect these misgivings in myself, let me bring them to the light and confess them—‘Lord, I have had misgivings about Thee, I have not believed in Thy wits apart from my own; I have not believed in Thine Almighty power apart from my finite understanding of it.’
Chambers, O. (1993). My utmost for his highest : Selections for the year (NIV edition.). Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Co.

Saturday, February 27

Salvation IS of the Lord!

At the risk of overexposure, I copy Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotion for February 26th below. Those who kick against God's sovereignty force themselves into a corner of frustrated attempts at heart-felt Christian living. But we DO have help, and lots of it! Read it slowly, thoughtfully. Ponder the glorious implications of infinite empowerment. You'll not regret that. Guaranteed!!
Salvation is the work of God. It is he alone who quickens the soul “dead in trespasses and sins,” and it is he also who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both “Alpha and Omega.” “Salvation is of the Lord.” If I am prayerful, God makes me prayerful; if I have graces, they are God’s gifts to me; if I hold on in a consistent life, it is because he upholds me with his hand. I do nothing whatever towards my own preservation, except what God himself first does in me. Whatever I have, all my goodness is of the Lord alone. Wherein I sin, that is my own; but wherein I act rightly, that is of God, wholly and completely. If I have repulsed a spiritual enemy, the Lord’s strength nerved my arm. Do I live before men a consecrated life? It is not I, but Christ who liveth in me. Am I sanctified? I did not cleanse myself: God’s Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I weaned from the world? I am weaned by God’s chastisements sanctified to my good. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me. All my jewels were fashioned by heavenly art. I find in God all that I want; but I find in myself nothing but sin and misery. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Do I feed on the Word? That Word would be no food for me unless the Lord made it food for my soul, and helped me to feed upon it. Do I live on the manna which comes down from heaven? What is that manna but Jesus Christ himself incarnate, whose body and whose blood I eat and drink? Am I continually receiving fresh increase of strength? Where do I gather my might? My help cometh from heaven’s hills: without Jesus I can do nothing. As a branch cannot bring forth fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can I, except I abide in him. What Jonah learned in the great deep, let me learn this morning in my closet: “Salvation is of the Lord.” 
Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening : Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.


Friday, February 26

TMI--"Too Much Information"

Ever heard more than you'd like to hear and said, "That's too much information?" This article is about just that. It's not that I'm sharing anything all that personal, but I am sharing why we suffer from TMI with regard to even good things. But first,

I have a confession to make. I like books!

OK, so that doesn't sound very juicy. Glad to know that! But it is true. Now, I don't like just ANY books. As most could imagine, as a Pastor my love hones in on theological/biblical/Christian biographical kinds of writings. I'd like to read novels (the classics especially) but have found that it's more of a direction than a destination. I'm not a particularly fast reader either, thus exacerbating the situation. . . . Maybe.

Why "maybe?" Well, perhaps we weren't necessarily meant to read massive amounts of information. It is certainly difficult to retain it all. Now, I quickly add my deep appreciation for those who can read and absorb a broad range of ideas and philosophies--especially if they can distill those and make them more accessible to the masses. But my point remains that that is not a gift all enjoy. Frankly, we live in a country where many do not read, or at least, read anything profitable as a rule.

There's an important weakness that surfaces when we feel tempted to keep up our readings with others. We may read just to read. I want more than that. Vastly more importantly, God wants more than that! Read for understanding. Read to know God well, to love Him more, in essence to promote the "fear of the LORD."

People can fritter away hours at online social sites--Facebook, IM, Twitter, and texting, etc. (I do three of these myself) These are useful tools IF they are only tools and do not become all-consuming. Then, they not only waste time, but abuse it. What is lost is the art of healthy conversation, and of thinking, or pondering on deeper subjects. Computers can promote our culture's love of the superficial, the mundane, the banal. We must discipline ourselves to move beyond that. A clever statement can be funny, but always aiming to be "cutesy" borders on the innocuous. The Psalmist rightly prayed, "Let the words of my mouth and the MEDITATION of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). This applies to Facebook and texting as well. Of course.

"Too much information" is not the only problem; it's too much useless information! If you're not a Christian, then this may mean little to you. But if you own Christ as Savior, then it MUST mean much. Let us not be deluded into thinking that everything that comes to our minds is worth posting! Let's put a gate on our computers and lock in most things that come to mind. Let God's truth mean much, and let our words be few. That's my advice.

Now, where's that book . . . ?

I welcome your comments.

Thursday, February 25

King David's Mother?

I want to write something about King David's mother. I want to, but there's nothing in the Bible about her. NOTHING AT ALL! Amazing presence, David; amazing absence, David's mother! Well raised, good boy, great shepherd, full of integrity. With the exception of a couple of egregious sins, he was a model king. Are you telling me that his mother had nothing to do with it? It would seem she did. However, one must be careful not to go beyond what Scripture teaches. Still, one cannot but help exercising his "divine imagination." How might she have been with her youngest of eight? Did she have anything to do with his upbringing?

The only thing we read of her is indirectly in David's psalm of penitence. "In sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5). Granted, it IS indirect. After all, about which mother could this NOT have been said, right? So even this reference is to motherhood in general. Well might we multiply instances likened unto David's mother, unknown to us the reader, unmentioned. We grant that it is the norm for Jewish genealogies to omit the women. But does Scripture have to mention someone in order for them to have worth in God's kingdom? Frankly, what does a mention do for anyone anyway? She existed, produced wonderful sons, especially number eight son. Was she not just doing what God had gifted her to do? Do you imagine that Mrs. Jesse had any notion of greatness when those eight boys were ransacking her house, knocking things over and forgetting to clean up behind themselves? I do not think so. Greatness often finds us, and any time it does it must be via the sovereign working of God.

Bloom Where You're Planted
Generally, it is the best wisdom to ponder God's greatness and settle it early in life that you are ready and willing to stay on wherever the Lord puts you. Be faithful in little and the Lord may place you over much. But even if He doesn't, you will have profited immensely just from faithfulness! Don't aspire to greatness; that is an ephemera which disappears quickly and leaves wasted and ungodly desires in it's wake. Hear God's counsel to Jeremiah's servant, "Do you seek great things for yourself. Seek them not" (Jer. 45:5).

So, when you're tempted to feel sorry for yourself because others do not see how wonderful you really are, remember those like David's mother--and the myriad other unmentioned persons. Do what God has given you to do as unto the Lord. And whether or not you get a bonus like she did, you will enjoy the reward of having followed the Lord's will, a thing not to be forgotten in eternity. "We must decrease and HE MUST INCREASE!" (John 3:30). Indeed, as Jesus told the disciples, "There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecution, and in the age to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30). No offering in this life, whether it is our popularity or seeming insignificance will out-give God's rewards both here and in heaven. We do much better when we keep this perspective.

OK, so maybe it's not so amazing that David's mother is absent. It's more normal than not. There's grace behind the scenes. Be more glad for the grace than for the glory.


Wednesday, February 24

Are Christians Left Here Only to Witness?

Ever heard this . . . "The only reason God left you on earth was to spread the gospel!" Is this true? I think it was stated this way often in order to assure a new Christian that indeed immediately upon salvation, they had everything they needed in order to enter heaven's gates, but that they needed to stay in order to tell others. That IS partly true. We ARE to testify to Christ's salvation in a dark world. But to state that this is the ONLY reason for our being here is misleading at best, unbiblical at worst. Read what A. W. Pink (1886-1952) had to say:
ONCE a man makes the conversion of sinners his prime design and all-consuming end and NOT THE GLORY OF GOD, he is exceedingly apt to adopt a wrong course. Instead of striving to preach the Truth in all its purity, he will tone it down so as to make it more palatable to the unregenerate. Impelled by a single force, moving in one fixed direction, his object is to make conversion easy; and therefore, favorite passages (like John 3:16) are dwelt upon incessantly, while others are ignored or pared away. It inevitably reacts upon his own theology; and various verses in the Word are shunned, if not repudiated. What place will he give in his thoughts to such declarations as, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23); “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him” (John 6:44); “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:14)?

He will be sorely tempted to modify the truth of God’s sovereign election, of Christ’s particular redemption, of the imperative necessity for the super-natural operations of the Holy Spirit.
Pink, A. W. (2005). The Arthur Pink anthology. Bellingham, WA.: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Tuesday, February 23

I Am a Living Commentary

Thanks to my friend and former post-college roommate, Dave Scudder, pastor in Philadelphia, I submit the following from The Letters of John Newton:
"Hold me up--and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

We are poor, weak, inconsistent creatures--if left but a little to ourselves. 

When I think how cold, dull and heartless I have been; how often I have wandered, how often trifled upon the brink of temptation; when I consider what powerful, vigilant, and subtle enemies are combined against me; and how many professors have fallen on my right hand and my left--I am amazed at the greatness of His mercy in preserving me!

I am a living commentary that there is forgiveness with Him--and that He is able to save to the uttermost!


Monday, February 22

The Discipline of Spiritual Tenacity

If you have not become familiar with Oswald Chambers, perhaps it is time you do so. His wisdom is winning and his biblical insights enlightening. Take advantage of his writings. Read the following a couple of times to get the full weight of his advice. 
"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). 

Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a disciple has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for—love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men—will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o’-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.

If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified. There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of that will not be fulfilled. One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God. “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience." Remain spiritually tenacious.
Chambers, O. (1993). My Utmost for His Highest

Sunday, February 21

We Stand Forgiven-Octavius Winslow

And when we consider that there bends not a believer over this page, however weak his faith or small the buddings of Divine grace in his soul–-he may have been the vilest sinner, and now the weakest believer–-yet looking to Jesus, notwithstanding all his imperfections and failures, he stands complete in the righteousness of God, how magnificent and precious does this doctrine appear! O blessed truth! how it abases, and yet how it exalts! To know that while our feelings fluctuate, and our frames vary, and our experience ebbs and flows as the tide, yet our righteousness varies not, changes not, and that we are not justified one moment more really, more freely, more completely than another, is a mercy unspeakably great.
The above comes from a site dedicated to giving us sermons and quotations from Octavius Winslow, who lived from 1808-1878. Ordained to the ministry in New York, he spent the rest of his years in England. For more, read his biography.

Saturday, February 20

Modern Hymns, Age-Old Theology

I post the following because, 1) it is true, and 2) it very much reflects my own conviction and desire for appropriate, soul-exhilarating music in church.
By David Giarrizzo
I was raised in a Reformed Baptist church. So as far as my taste for music in worship goes, I am an avid admirer of the hymns. From before I could read I was singing hymns. I sang them not just at church, but at home, at school, and in the car. I knew the hymns and loved them from a very young age—their words and tunes. And I used to think that by definition, all hymns were at least a hundred years old. But I was wrong.

Over the past few years I have noticed a resurgence of sorts in some circles of evangelical America: A forsaking of the shallow, rock-driven, “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend” praise choruses and a return to the deep, theologically-substantive, time-tested hymns. Some groups have sought to put old words to new music (“contextualizing??”), while others have just written their own original songs.

This hymn below, based on a selection from The Valley of Vision, is a hymn that was written by Bob Kauflin in 2006, and has become one of my favorites.
O great God of highest heav’n,
Occupy my lowly heart.
Own it all and reign supreme,
Conquer every rebel pow’r.
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war.
You have loved and purchased me,
Make me Yours forever more.

I was blinded by my sin,
Had no ears to hear Your voice,
Did not know Your love within,
Had no taste for heaven’s joys.
Then Your Spirit gave me life,
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son,
Gave me endless hope and peace.

Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace.
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face.
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed.
O great God of highest heav’n,
Glorify Your Name through me.
© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

Friday, February 19

Can You Call God "MINE"?

". . . For the LORD God, even my God is with you" (1 Chronicles 28:20).

See that? "EVEN MY GOD." David is encouraging his son, Solomon as he hands over the kingdom with all it's great responsibilities. But Solomon, I'm sure, is not surprised by David's "ownership" of the LORD God, for Jehovah had been David's mainstay throughout his life.

Paul does the same thing when he owns the gospel, "my gospel," and "But my God shall supply all your needs in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19?). So, David and Paul call God "MY God," or the gospel, "MY gospel."

How is it that we call God mine? I am quite certain that many who attend churches around this country (and the world) do so with little consideration that the One with whom they have to do is, in this sense--theirs. They show up to a building they did not buy, nor which they intend to "own" emotionally. They hear prayers prayed, songs sung, and sermons preached. They may even enter into these songs or messages and get something out of them. But they never--it seems--can say that they "own" them as their own. Such tend to keep a comfortable arm's distance away from faith all the while convinced that they are saved.

The dictionary even helps us here. Besides meaning "to possess," it defines "own" in terms of "doing something unaided," "taking responsibility for something," or to "acknowledge." When a friend or acquaintance of ours finally achieves a heightened degree of success in his or her art or vocation, we might say of them--"They've finally come into their own." An online "phrase finder" defines it thus:  "To come into one's own" means literally to take possession of what is rightfully one's own property, and figuratively to begin to flourish and be happy and successful in a role that suits one. This fits quite well, actually, especially for the Christian who most literally has received an inheritance that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven" (1 Peter 1:4). But if the Christian (and this is the point isn't it) does not "own" this inheritance, then they cannot be said to have flourished, been happy in a role that Jesus suited to them! They merely, as it were, show up to class long enough to say "present" when the teacher calls the role. But that's it.

On the other hand, let me encourage all Christians to "own" the faith, to acknowledge God personally, deeply, intimately. Like Paul who cried out, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). It was his desire, and his desire drove his actions, defined his motives. To "own" Christ, then, fellow Christian, is at least to deeply desire Jesus.

Let me encourage us further to do this decidedly, determinedly, persistently, and perseveringly. This will change everything! These four adverbs call forth from us our will and determination even unto the end! Such a loving, gracious God demands that does He not? "For the LORD God, even MY God is with you."


Thursday, February 18

The Impetus of Prayer is LOVE!

The following comes from an 1853 book: INSTRUCTIONS IN THE DIVINE LIFE OF THE SOUL FROM THE FRENCH OF FENELON AND MADAME GUYON. Careful!! Don't turn it off because of your unfamiliarity with these dear people. Their insights are Word-grounded and Christ-exalting.

1. True prayer is only another name for the love of God. Its excellence does not consist in the multitude of our words; for our Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask Him. The true prayer is that of the heart, and the heart prays only for what it desires. To pray, then is to desire—but to desire what God would have us desire. He who asks what he does not from the bottom of his heart desire, is mistaken in thinking that he prays. Let him spend days in reciting prayers, in meditation or in inciting himself to pious exercises, he prays not once truly, if he really desire not the things he pretends to ask.
2. O! how few there are who pray! for how few are they who desire what is truly good! Crosses, external and internal humiliation, renouncement of our own wills, the death of self and the establishment of God’s throne upon the ruins of self love, these are indeed good; not to desire these, is not to pray; to desire them seriously, soberly, constantly, and with reference to all the details of life, this is true prayer; not to desire them, and yet to suppose we pray, is an illusion like that of the wretched who dream themselves happy. Alas! how many souls full of self, and of an imaginary desire for perfection in the midst of hosts of voluntary imperfections, have never yet uttered this true prayer of the heart! It is in reference to this that St. Augustine says: He that loveth little, prayeth little; he that loveth much, prayeth much.
Metcalf, J. W. (1999). Spiritual Progress. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sunday, February 14

Why We Need Trouble-Spurgeon

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 1:5

There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales—in this side he puts his people’s trials, and in that he puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to his crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this—then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honour Jehovah. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies. 

From Morning & Evening Devotions, Feb. 12th Morning.

Saturday, February 13


It seems to be a reliable principle that we may grow lax in prayer after we have experienced a great victory. So it appears in the battles from Jericho victory to Ai defeat. What was missing there? Joshua and Israel failed to ask God's permission to attack a much smaller town than Jericho, and thus were defeated.

Similarly, in 2 Chronicles 16, we read of Judah's Asa hiring Syria to fight against Baasha, king of Israel. This was a wrong move. Why? He did not consult God. So, God sent the prophet (seer) Hanani to tell him, because you didn't turn to God but relied on yourself to figure this out, you've lost out on destroying the Syrians.

First, history shows that you can defeat even larger enemies IF YOU CRY OUT TO GOD! "Because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand" (v. 8b). So, I ask myself (and you), "Why is it that we do this?" Why, given our Lord's good history of delivering us out of trouble, granting us wisdom and guidance . . . why is it that we presume upon Him today? Strange, isn't it? We seek the Lord when we have a "BIG" issue, but fail to pray before we read today's Bible reading? Why? Is that too small a matter, too infinitesimal? You talk about real spiritual issues with your loved ones? But do you really pray for God to change them, to enlighten them to truth, to help them in their struggles? Do you just think about it? PRAY! PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. PRAY ABOUT EVERY LITTLE THING. PRAY ABOUT EVERY LITTLE THING . . . ALL THE TIME. Never presume upon God.

Second, the LORD is always on the look-out for those who will trust in Him. He doesn't sit by idly or passively waiting to see if we'll call out. He's searching the field of battle for a good warrior! "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him" (v. 9). God WANTS to help us. YES! Further, God's ready to give us "STRONG SUPPORT." He's not just going to "throw us a bone" as it were.

But notice one thing else about this verse. Who's God look for in particular? Those whose heart is BLAMELESS toward Him. Blameless? You would've thought He'd have looked for one who is "Faithful," who believes Him. But "Blameless?" Why? Well, "blameless" can mean, "innocent of wrongdoing." But this is more at the idea of "complete, safe, or at peace." God is looking then for us to be those who find our completion in HIM, who consider no move "safe" that does not begin with reliance on God, and who rest in God's wisdom, for they are at peace only with his decisions. God is not the last resort, the one you turn to only if all other means have been exhausted. He's the first one you turn to, and this habitually. That will make a difference, all the difference in victory and defeat, in love and misery for the Christian. Those who call out to God find Him all-sufficient and that leads to joy and thankfulness. "Rejoice evermore" (1 Thess. 5:16).


Friday, February 12

Church or "Christian" Club?

How does a church become reduced to a mere club, a place where humans set the rules and follow their own by-laws? What makes this happen, that God and his Word are effectively nullified or rendered a waste of time? W. Robert Godfrey weighs in on this in his insightful March 2010 Tabletalk article, "The Christian Club."
Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?
What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry their Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.
God's Word Must Be Vital
Indeed, it is "alive and active" (Heb. 4:12), "God-breathed" and "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bereans examined it to ensure they were getting a true sermon (Acts 17:11), and the Thessalonian Christians heard the Bible as if it were really God's Word which works effectually in those who believe (1 Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is absolutely vital to our existence and certainly to the church's progress in faith. Godfrey has it right: "Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril." Let us never lose the eternal value of Scripture, but embrace it's ability to shape our person and shower us with blessing. No other book is like it.  


Thursday, February 11

Gifts Buried Under the Snow

A. W. Tozer grabbed my attention today with his reading based from Matthew 13:58, "And he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." Jesus was in his hometown of Nazareth. They couldn't deal with the thought that he might be more than he seemed to them growing up. (Frankly, how could his sinlessness escape their notice?!) But that's not the point here.

Here's Tozer's point:
How many blessed truths have gotten snowed under. People believe them, but they are just not being taught, that is all. I think of our experience this morning. Here was a man and his wife, a very fine intelligent couple from another city. They named the church to which they belonged, and I instantly said, "That is a fine church!" "Oh, yes," they said, "but they don't teach what we came over here for." They came over because they were ill and wanted to be scripturally anointed for healing. So I got together two missionaries, two preachers, and an elder, and we anointed them and prayed for them. If you were to go to that church where they attend and say to the preacher, "Do you believe that the Lord answers prayer and heals the sick?" he would reply, "Sure, I do!" He believes it, but he doesn't teach it, and what you don't believe strongly enough to teach doesn't do you any good.

It is the same with the fullness of the Holy Ghost. Evangelical Christianity believes it, but nobody experiences it. It lies under the snow, forgotten. I am praying that God may be able to melt away the ice from this blessed truth, and let it spring up again alive, that the Church and the people who hear may get some good out of it and not merely say "I believe" while it is buried under the snow of inactivity and nonattention.
Buried Does Not Mean Non-Existent!
As a pastor, I am, of course, alerted to Tozer's warning. I don't want to be guilty of saying we believe something, but then never practicing it. I fear that his accusation is accurately aimed! We did, in fact, pray over a young woman two Sunday's ago. And I can say that I have preached and taught that we should do this. Our Elders believe in it. They join with me readily and willingly. Praise the Lord! But there is a part of me that still feels as if it is not truly inculcated into the very spiritual fabric of the body of Christ. Lord, my prayer is this: Please open our eyes to see and experience the Holy Spirit's power in our lives and to put that continuously into practice. Dig out the doctrines which have been buried by the drifts of presumption and neglect.


Tuesday, February 9

Quote of the Day!

Her name is Mildred. But she's only ever been known as "Midge" to her friends and family. Midge has been in the Eastside Nursing Home for about 3 years, and other than being a little hard of hearing and a little weak in the legs gets around quite well . . . for a woman pushing 86! Sprite of mind, her humor keeps you on your toes.

Phyllis (my wife) and I, on the way home from our monthly Minister's meeting (this one in Attica) decided it would be good to visit those whom time allowed. We missed Midge the last go-round, so wanted to make sure we saw her this time.

After chatting with Midge for a bit, Phyllis shared with her that she and Midge had something in common--the same birth date! Midge volunteered that she was 39, how old might Phyllis be!! . . . Younger! . . . Then I asked her, "If we brought up a birthday cake on July 24th for the both of you, and I put 86 candles on it, about how long do you think it'd take for you to blow them out?" Without losing a beat, Midge wryly commented, "I'm sure it'd take less time than it would for YOU TO LIGHT THEM!" Yikes! This woman had us rolling.

What a blessing to visit these dear ones in the home. Not all get to keep their wits about them, as is evidenced from some who "greet" the elevator. But some mainly suffer from physical weakness and just need a loving, watchful eye. This they get at Eastside Nursing Home. Praise the Lord for such a place. There are those who DO care and we must not forget that in this age of pseudo concern and government-implemented programs. God bless them, and Waneta, Betty, and Gertie, and May and now Janet at another facility--Extended Care in Warsaw.

OK . . . so maybe we WON'T light all 86 candles! But it'll be fun eating the cake just the same.

God bless you Midge!


Friday, February 5

The Low Ceiling of Suffocated Christianity

That's right, that is if we adhere to the clip-boards of the rationalists. That which is above us, beyond man, transcendent is summarily dismissed in favor of that which can be reduced to pen and paper.

Losing Our Supernatural Vocabulary?
Go into the average church today and mention the term providence as in the "Providence of God," and you'll likely receive a blank look. And once you explain that "Providence" refers generally to God's sovereign right over all of His creation so that He controls all things and people for His own purpose and to His glory--I say--once you've said this, you'll receive all kinds of objections, as if this were a new teaching. "What about sin?" "Does God control that?" "And if God controls sin, how is it that He is not Himself a sinner?" Or, "I thought the devil made bad things happen and God only does good things." And more . . . All this is the subject matter of that area of study termed "Theodicy." Yes, so pervasive is this issue that it has it's own title!

Now, these are good questions to be sure. But are they coming from the conviction that God is Almighty, or is He on the "hot seat" of man's speculation? Man may pose questions from ignorance or arrogance. The difference is vital. Which leads to how modern man is suffocating himself and much of the religious world as well. 

How Did Christianity Start Suffocating?
So, how does this "suffocate" today's form of Christianity? In his recent book, Unfashionable, Tullian Tchividjian exposes one foundational weakness of the church, their desire (it seems) to be relevant and respected. How does the church gain such respect from an opposing world? Well, they must be decipherable [my word]. If they can figure us out, or God out, then we are more acceptable to them. We're on terms they accept. Of course, as he goes on to explain in his book, this is not the purpose of the church . . . to be understood.

But what about suffocating? When you consider the 21st century, you'd expect us to be more enlightened, capable of the most expanded vistas ever. But the opposite is true. He quotes Peter Berger, saying that people in the twenty-first century world are living in a "world without windows." In other words, they have no ability to see outside of themselves. "Most cultures," says Tchividjian, "generally accepted a larger purpose beyond the immediate, and they recognized the higher power of something supernatural." Os Guinness says, "The deepest experiences of all were held to be 'religious,' 'sacred,' 'other,'or 'transcendent,' however these terms were defined." Instead, all of life is "rationalized." "Everything becomes a matter of human classification, calculation, and control." "What counts in a rationalized world," says Guinness, "is efficiency, predictability, quantifiability, productivity, the substitution of technology for the human, and--from first to last--control over uncertainty." Everything's produced, managed, and solved this side of the ceiling, which explains why so many people are restless and yearning . . ." This has in turn led the TV industry to produce such out-of-the-world shows like Ghost Whisperer, Supernatural, and Heroes" and (I add) Lost. "Our generation is crying out for something different, something higher, something beyond this world. They long for elements that a world without windows disallows--mystery, transcendence, and a deep sense of wonder, awe, and spirituality." He quotes Guinness, "Eternal questions and yearnings are thrusting their way up between the cracks in the sterile world of secular disenchantment."

The Answer?
The answer is much larger than I could write here, but its basic tenants are simple. Don't be afraid of the truth of who God is and of telling that to the world. We celebrate God's immanence in His coming to earth in the form of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ of Bethlehem. Truly, His name was called "Immanuel," or, "God with us." But let us not believe this to the exclusion of God's transcendence. There is a mystery about God which no one can explain. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God" (Deut. 29:29). And from Job, "Can a man by searching find out God?" (11:7). Oh, the tendency today is to make God relevant to everyone, which of course, He already IS by virtue of His very personage as Creator/Sustainer. Indeed, "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). God warns us in so many words that "Familiarity breeds contempt." If we try to bring God down to an understandable level, we will distort His very being, thus destroying His Person. He ceases to be God. Of course, God will not, yea, cannot do that! Instead, we ought to fear God! "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7). Therefore, anyone who boasts in his intelligence must have already concluded this, that God is to be feared--since it is "First-Grade" information! "To whom then, will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?" (Isaiah 40:18).

Here's the point. God is overwhelmingly beyond all conception, transcending the most elevated thoughts of Him. However we proclaim the Gospel to the world, that will not change. It cannot. We preach Jesus Christ, God in flesh. But God still "dwells in light unapproachable" (1 Timothy 6:16). "To Him be honor and eternal dominion."  We do well to remember that in the Church, and not be ashamed about it, but glorify our Lord in it!


Wednesday, February 3

Holiness by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at

My own heart so resonates with Keith Mathison's that I feel I must quote his December 1, 2009 article completely! I have told our church family numerous times over the years that Ryle's Holiness ranks on my top ten all time favorites, if the not the number one spot! Like Mathison, I first read the book about 30 years ago (he must be younger), and it's effects have never left me. And I agree totally with his assessment of Ryle's writing, that he is graciously to the point, exceedingly biblical and . . . quite sane!! Get your own copy. Do whatever you have to do to secure one, and mark it up. Then live it out!

Holiness by Keith Mathison
In the early centuries of the church’s existence, Christian apologists would sometimes appeal to the distinctively holy lives of Christians as evidence for the truth of Christianity. Would such an appeal be of any use today? According to numerous surveys, the behavior of professing Christians is not discernibly different from the behavior of those who profess other religions or no religion at all. The phrase one often hears on the lips of pagans who observe contemporary Christian behavior is: “The church is full of hypocrites.” This should not be. We worship a holy God who calls His people to be holy and who has provided the means by which they may be holy.

The problem of lax and hypocritical Christianity is not a new one, and one of the best treatments of the entire subject is a classic written by J.C. Ryle (1816–1900), who served as the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool for twenty years. Ryle was a deeply committed and non-compromising evangelical Christian. In fact, Charles Spurgeon referred to him as an “evangelical champion.” His book Holiness has been reprinted numerous times since its original publication in 1879. It is deservedly considered a Christian classic on the subject of sanctification. It ranks up there with the work of John Owen on the mortification of sin.

I first read Bishop Ryle’s Holiness some twenty years ago. The book was deeply convicting and made a lasting impact on my thinking. Ryle’s work is convicting because he does not appeal to silly gimmicks and other manmade answers to the problem of sin. He appeals over and over to Scripture, to the Word of the living God, and he drives the Word of God home through careful and direct application. If you are complacent in your sin and do not want to be disturbed in your enjoyment of it, do not read Ryle. This is a book about the necessity of sanctification, the necessity of holiness. It deals with weighty subjects, the weightiest in fact: God, sin, Jesus Christ, the gospel, the Holy Spirit, justification, sanctification, heaven, and hell. It is a book for those who want to move beyond milk and get to the meat of the Word.

Frankly, some older Christian books are difficult to read because of the style of writing that was common in previous ages. To contemporary readers, many of these works seem dry and wordy, tedious and dull. I have run across many such books myself. Ryle does not fall into that category. Ryle’s writing is more comparable to that of someone like Charles Spurgeon. He writes with such an intensity and passion that the reader cannot easily become bored.

The book itself contains twenty chapters dealing with various issues related to holiness and one chapter containing quotations on the subject by older Christian writers. In the main section of the book, Ryle devotes entire chapters to subjects such as sin, sanctification, the nature of Christianity as a fight, counting the cost, growth in grace, assurance, the church, and love of Christ. The introductory chapter on sin is perhaps the most important chapter in the entire book because wrong views of salvation and of holiness are inevitably based on wrong views of sin. As Ryle explains, “If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies.”

One of the most prevalent errors made when discussing holiness is to slide into the view that we are somehow justified before God by our holiness. Ryle is careful to observe throughout this book the distinction between sanctification and justification. Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. But those who have been justified bear the fruit of the Spirit and grow in holiness. In other words, they are sanctified by God. They are now to love Christ and the things He loves. This is very easy to forget in our day and age when walking an aisle is equated with conversion and walking in the light is considered optional.

Whether you have been a Christian for ten months or ten years, I encourage you to read Ryle’s Holiness. His words will exhort you, convict you, encourage you, and challenge you. His chapters will drive you to dig into the Scriptures, and there you will see that holiness is not optional for the Christian. We are to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). We are to walk by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). We are to love the Lord because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39).
You can purchase Holiness in either hardback or paperback from several publishing firms. My favorite is Charles Nolan Publishing in Moscow, Idaho.

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Tuesday, February 2

The One Thing Necessary

In his sermon, "The One Thing Necessary" from Luke 10:42, Archibald Alexander directs us to one of "things" that is necessary, namely the WAY in which believers hold their knowledge of God. "In the holy affections which flow from [such knowledge] consists the highest dignity and supreme excellence and felicity of human nature." Many today, wrongly assume that holiness is akin to a stilted, boring, some might say, stuffy, Christian. Of course, that some feel this way only makes sense if you consider that one of the dreadful results of the Fall in the Garden of Eden was the destruction of the will, leaving it jaded in its ability to discern the true value of moral qualities. Quite the opposite is the case in terms of the beauty of holiness as can be seen in Alexander's wonderful description of it! 
The excellence of holiness is so great, that the apostle Peter describes it as a participation of the divine nature. "According as his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him, that has called us to his glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature." When holiness is manifested in the particular virtues of the Christian life, it cannot but win the approbation of every mind, not perverted by error, or blinded by prejudice. . . . Even the devils know that moral excellence is better than sin, for they have experienced the effects of both. Holiness is the glory of God, for this word expresses the sum of all his moral attributes. Holiness is the foundation of heavenly bliss and glory, the golden pavement of the city of God. Without holiness no one can enter into the society of heaven. The knowledge which the best attain here, is obscure and imperfect; but there the view of divine truth will be perfectly perspicuous [clearly understood]. "Here we see through a glass darkly; but there face to face." In proportion to our knowledge will be our love; and from this perennial fountain will flow uninterrupted happiness.
 Lord, give us ears to hear!

The above is thanks to Solid Ground Christian Books, Evangelical Truth: Practical Truths For the Christian Home.