Tuesday, August 31

A Brief Glance at John Owen


August 24, 1683
Puritan John Owen Focused on Christ

John Owen's later years were hard. As a young man, he had been majestic in appearance; but long hours of study, the many troubles of his life, and disease wasted him. He died on this day, August 24, 1683 at Ealing (a few miles from London). But his funeral showed how highly he was regarded, for throngs attended, including many notable men.

At Oxford University, which he entered in 1628 at twelve years of age, John pored over books so much that he undermined his health by sleeping only four hours a night. In old age he deeply regretted this misuse of his body, and said he would give up all the additional learning it brought him if only he might have his health back. Naturally, he studied the classics of the western world, but also Hebrew, the literature of the Jewish rabbis, mathematics and philosophy. His beliefs at that time were Presbyterian, however, his ambition, although fixed on the church, was worldly.

John was driven from Oxford in 1637 when Archbishop Laud issued rules that many of England's more democratically-minded or "low" church ministers could not accept. After this, John was in deep depression. He struggled to resolve religious issues to his satisfaction. While in this state, he heard a sermon on the text "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" which fired him with new decisiveness.

After that, John wrote a rebuke of Arminianism (a theology which teaches that man has some say in his own salvation or damnation although God is still sovereign). Ordained shortly before his expulsion from Oxford, he was given work at Fordham in Essex. After that he rose steadily in public affairs. Before all was over, he would become one of the top administrators of the university which expelled him and he even sat in Parliament.

He became a Congregationalist (Puritan) and took Parliament's side in the English Civil Wars. Oliver Cromwell employed him in positions of influence and trust, but John would not go along when Cromwell became "Protector." In spite of this, many of Parliament's leaders attended John's church.

John's reputation was so great that he was offered many churches. One was in Boston, Massachusetts. John turned that down, but he once scolded the Puritans of New England for persecuting people who disagreed with them.

He also engaged in controversy with such contemporaries as Richard Baxter and Jeremy Taylor. Through it all, John focused his teaching on the person of Christ. "If Christ had not died," he said, "sin had never died in any sinner unto eternity." In another place he noted that "Christ did not die for any upon condition, if they do believe; but he died for all God's elect, that they should believe."

John wrote many books including a masterpiece on the Holy Spirit. Kidney stones and asthma tormented him in his last years. But he died peacefully in the end, eyes and hands lifted up as if in prayer.

Bibliography:

   1. John Owen. http://www.theocentric.com/johnowen/
   2. "Owen, John." Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith and Elder, 1901.
   3. "Owen, John." Encyclopedia Britannica. Britannica Corp., 1911, 1968.
   4. "Owen, John." The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956.
   5. "Owen, John." Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
   6. Thomas, I. D. E. A Puritan Golden Treasury. Banner of Truth, 1975.

Monday, August 30

God, the Gospel, and Glen Beck

What happens when a well-known Mormon calls the nation to revival? Is that a good sign? What do evangelicals think about it? What SHOULD they think about it? Many Christians seem excited about Glen Beck's attention to religion in the national media. But don't be fooled, dear Christian. Please, please be careful in this arena. Mormons simply are not Christians in any sense of the term! Read the following article for a well-written, insightful approach to this subject. Thank you Dr. Moore. 

REVIVAL! A People Saturated With God


Edwin Orr, one of our greatest authorities on the subject of revival, reported having seen two churches in a town in America both advertising revival meetings. One displayed a board saying, “Revival here every Monday night,” while the other promised: “Revival here every night except Monday!”

If nothing else, that reminds us how loosely the word has been used. In America it has often been used in place of the word mission or campaign. It is something a church arranges, men organize, and God may or may not bless it.

Revival swallows up all other words as the shark swallows the shrimp. So, historically, what does the word revival refer to? The church historian James Buchanan defined revival as “the imparting of life to those who are dead, and the imparting of health to those who are dying.” But that does not take us far enough. Jonathan Edwards, who saw revival in his church in America 250 years ago, explained it as “God’s major means of extending his kingdom,” and more recently Edwin Orr defined these outpourings of the Spirit as a “movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the church of Christ and its related community.”

One thing is clear: almost as soon as you try to define the word revival, you find yourself describing what a revival is. Duncan Campbell, “who was himself involved in revival this century, described it simply as ‘a community saturated with God’, and I am not sure that we shall ever get closer to the heart of it than that.

Of course, some churches are growing and some sinners are being converted, but by and large we have become expert at simply shuffling the pack as dissatisfied or grumbling Christians move from church to church. Revival is not when the churches exchange members, but when the Holy Spirit changes lives. Revival is needed, not because of the state of the world, but because of the state of the church. Only when we realize this can there be any hope of God sending us revival.

Taken from "Revival! A People Saturated With God" by Brian
H. Edwards, Evangelical Press, Faverdale North Darlington
DL3 OPH, England (pp. 25-26; 37-38)

Friday, August 27

A Lost Letter to Wormwood (conclusion)

I quote Kevin DeYoung's article below. It can be found on his blog HERE. Many of you will recognize the style as coming from C. S. Lewis. It is not his, but a take-off. And he hits the nail on the head. Take the time to read this carefully. I have included one follow-up comment which bears repeating. NOTE: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis are fictional communications between two devils, Screwtape and his young nephew, Wormwood. Throughout, Screwtape is offering his nephew advice on how to destroy or at least minimize the effectiveness in disciples of the enemy (God).
We pick up the letter with Screwtape’s instructions on how to keep his nephew’s college-aged subject away from church and perfectly wretched…

At the risk of insulting your diabolical intelligence, allow me to remind me of your course in Youth Misery. Recall the Three S’s of Satan, our Sinister Snake (I know, he sometimes gets carried away with alliteration, but it does help jog the old memory). The Three S’s of youth misery: Keep them separate. Keep them selfish. Keep them searching. Allow me to expound.

The First S: Keep them separate. Our Bureau of Statistics (remember there are lies, damned lies, and statistics) has documented evidence proving that the best way to keep young people from growing into devoted followers of the Enemy is to keep them far away from any of his grown-up, devoted followers. Church attendance allows for too much interaction between old and young. With this interaction come manifold dangers: modeling, mentoring, service, and hospitality.

Listen closely. Groups of students meeting together for prayer and study is, it’s true, a pernicious influence, but gladly, the influence is often short-lived. Soon, your subject will graduate and he will find that the rest of the planet is not like his university. He will not be surrounded by peers all his age with his same interests. It is to our advantage that he be unable to relate to anyone above the age of 25. This not only makes for misery, but it makes church involvement, and therefore the Christian life, much less likely.

This, of course, goes hand in hand with the Second S: Keep them selfish. It’s really quite simple.  All of our human subjects are selfish, but the young especially. It’s hardly their fault. They have no spouse or children to think of, only themselves. They have food handed to them on plastic platters. And they live in a country that believes for some strange reason, pleasant enough to us, that history doesn’t matter, that the old are useless, and that youth culture should be prized above all else. And yet, I must hasten to add, don’t underestimate your subject. Human youths are capable of extraordinary acts of courage and bravery and accomplishment, as the Annals of the Enemy record. Keep your youth far away from such examples. See to it that no visions of nobility or self-sacrifice or inspiration enter his head.

Which again, if I may repeat myself, is why church must be foresworn at all costs. It is at church that he will see examples of lived-out bravery and sacrifice. And, more importantly, it is at church that he will have to face his own selfishness. He will encounter music he doesn’t like and old people who do strange things and babies who smell and cry. (Incidentally, I only mention babies because your subject is male, as is mine. The female youth I am told must not, under any circumstances, be surrounded by small children, those children enticing the females to re-visit church rather than repulsing them away as with most male subjects). My point is that so long as the spiritual experiences of our youthful subjects can be catered to the whims and fancies of 18-22 year olds, the students will not likely stick with a church when they discover that churches must also deal with the whims and fancies of 8 year olds and grandmothers.

One more thing, students today love the idea of community. Do everything in your power to keep them loving the idea of community rather than loving their community. As long as they love their vision of community instead of loving the actual fleshly people around them, they will never have real community and they will stay far away from church.

The Third S, and I here I draw to a close, is to keep them searching. Use the native restlessness of this time to your advantage. Students think it is their inalienable right to be irresponsible and uncommitted. Feed this conviction. Do not, in any way, allow for your subject to consider commitment or service or what they call “accountability.” If he must be interested in God, keep it peripheral. Let him come and go and flit in and out of whatever spiritual venue suits him for the day. But see to it that he makes no promises, no commitments, no investment. And in the unlikely event that you cannot prevent such blunders, make sure there is no one in his life to hold him to his promises and commitments, especially those who are older and wiser. This goal is best served by keeping our patients away from church. Remember the cross-stitch (pardon my use of the foul word “cross”) above auntie’s fridge: “Keep them searching for the soul; never finding and never whole.”

All that’s left is for me to thank you for your patience in reading what has turned out to be a rather lengthy correspondence. Please do not hear my harsh words as anything but familial concern for your welfare and the good of our Infernal Kingdom.

Would you be so kind as to write me back as soon as possible? These are weighty matters and we truly live in troubled times. Might I suggest you use the post instead of email–what with your past internet struggles and dalliance with sermonography?

Say hello to your father for me. Best wishes in your malfeasance, malevolence, and malediction.

Unscrupulously yours,
Uncle Screwtape


Comment by LEW
This is good and helpful, but may I humbly suggest that it doesn’t adequately address the chief reason why the devil wishes to keep people away from the church, even weak and warped churches? That is, because that’s where the means of grace — especially Word and sacraments — are. He wants to keep them away from the means of grace because he wants to keep them away from the God who can strike straight blows with crooked sticks, who can convey heavenly treasures via weak and foolish jars of clay. Praise God that he can do end runs around the means of his appointment, but take heed because we cannot. Satan and his minions know that.

 

Thursday, August 26

Don't Jump Ahead of God!

Not that anyone really CAN jump ahead of God. He knows the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). And because God is timeless, He can never be late, or "miss" an appointment. These seem obvious to us. So it seems so until we're in the middle of a decision and have occasion as did Saul to upend God's clear command. He was to have waited seven days per Samuel's orders. But he didn't. The pressure was on, no doubt. The Philistines were gathered and ready to quell this rebellion and to put Israel back into rank servitude! Saul reasoned, "I have to act! I have to do something!" That's so American, isn't it? 

Disobedience = Rabbit's Foot 
So, Saul overstepped his boundaries and unlawfully offered the sacrifice in Samuel's absence. In so doing, Saul was viewing sacrifice to the God of heaven as, well, . . . a rabbit's foot! He needed divine help against these powerful and well-equipped Philistines. So, he "rubbed" the rabbit's foot to get a little magic. That's what men do when God is reduced to a formula for success instead of a God to be loved and obeyed! Since Samuel was taking so long to show up, he took matters into his own hands (a good leader?), and sought out God's favor by offering sacrifice himself.

But that's not the way God works! We've seen this before. It never works! Sarah couldn't wait for God to fulfill his promise so she had Abraham father a child by Hagar, her handmaiden. Wrong! You shoulda waited on the Lord. ALWAYS!

Samuel's question resounds down through the centuries, "What have you done?" That's always the question, isn't it? When we've usurped God's authority, taken matters into our own hands, and created destruction single-handedly, then we need to hear, "What have you done?" 

Faith waits on God no matter how long He takes. Faith assumes God is always right, always on time, and always wise. And they are wise who give God space to accomplish his perfect designs in His own time! So, because Saul refused to believe God, Samuel spoke: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart . . .
(1 Sam. 13:13-14). Wait on the Lord.  

Saturday, August 21

Missionary John Paton on Classroom Discipline

I borrow the following from Ray Van Neste's blog (Oversight of Souls) this past week. It only seems fitting for me to quote this article since we here at Perry Baptist have a goodly number of members involved in education. They would, no doubt, view Paton's methodology with admiration mixed with horror! But not his heart, for that is royal. Oh, that we took God more seriously ourselves!
In honor of our new semester beginning next week, I thought I would post a story from the autobiography of John G. Paton, which was passed on to me by Patrick Brown. This famous, godly missionary knew how to manage a classroom.

“The following week, a young man and a young woman began to attend the Night School, who showed from the first moment that they were bent on mischief.  By talking aloud, joking, telling stories, and laughing, they stopped the work of the School.  On my repeated appeals for quiet and order, they became the more boisterous, and gave great merriment to a few of the scholars present.  I finally urged the young man, a tall, powerful fellow, to be quiet or at once to leave, declaring that at all hazards I must and would have perfect order; but he only mocked at me, and assumed a fighting attitude.  Quietly locking the door and putting the key in my pocket, I turned to my desk, armed myself with the cane, and dared any one at his peril to interfere betwixt us.  It was a rough struggle – he smashing at me clumsily with his fists, I with quick movements evading and dealing him blow after blow with the heavy cane for several rounds – till at length he crouched down at his desk, exhausted and beaten, and I ordered him to turn to his book, which he did in sulky silence.  Going to my desk, I addressed them, and asked them to inform all who wished to come to the School, That if they came for education, everything would be heartily done that it was in my power to do; but that any who wished for mischief had better stay away, as I was determined to conquer, not to be conquered, and to secure order and silence, whatever it might cost.  Further, I assured them that that cane would not again be lifted by me, if kindness and forbearance on my part could possibly gain the day, as I wished to rule by love and not by terror.  But this young man knew he was in the wrong, and it was that which had made him weak against me, though every way stronger far than I.  Yet I would be his friend and helper, if he was willing to be friendly with me, the same as if this night had never been.  At these words a dead silence fell on the School; every one buried face diligently in book; and the evening closed in uncommon quiet and order.” (46-48, in edition linked above)

Heb 13:7:  “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith”


Friday, August 20

Is This Your Cry?

Those who've endured any trials of faith know and admit freely how weak we are in terms of our own repentance. We fight, and often feel ourselves to lose. Yet, we win and glorify God in the winning. And don't we love it when someone is able to formulate the words that we want to say, but just don't have ready at hand? Hear then the following prayer. Please take the time to read this slowly, meditatively. The true servant of God will find agreement in these expressions:
O GOD OF GRACE,
Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,
   and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,
   clothing me with a bridegroom's robe, 
   decking me with jewels of holiness.
But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
   my best prayers are stained with sin;
   my penitential tears are so much impurity;
   my confessions of wrong are so many 
      aggravations of sin;
   my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
   no loom to weave my own righteousness;
I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
   and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
   for thou dost always justify the ungodly;
I am always going into the far country,
   and always returning home as a prodigal,
   always saying, Father, forgive me,
   and thou art always bringing forth
      the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it,
   every evening return in it,
   go out to the day's work in it,
   be married in it,
   be wound in death in it,
   stand before the great white throne in it,
   enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of 
   the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
   the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
   the exceeding glory of Christ,
   the exceeding beauty of holiness,
   the exceeding wonder of grace.
Highly recommended for serious seekers of God . . . The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

Thursday, August 19

Enoch Taken: Blessing or Bummer?!


In that great chapter on faith, Hebrews 11, we read this very familiar verse:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. ” (Hebrews 11:5
Taken Up?!
Something dawned on me (I think it was yesterday), that I've always viewed this as a great blessing. And I think the reason for this is that we think it better to avoid death, which Enoch did. But ponder this--he left this earth way early! Enoch had lived less than half the years of his contemporaries. Then he was gone. Granted, he didn't die. But he didn't live long on earth either. Was that a blessing? 

"But I Don't Want Heaven . . . YET!"
Why ask this question? Because if you were to ask most "Christians" today, "Are you looking forward to heaven," they might say "Yes." But many will likely answer, "I don't really think about it." They ignore the subject! What do you mean you "don't think about it?" How can a lover of Jesus Christ NOT think about being WITH Jesus Christ? Oh, did I mention . . . there's another question to ask so-called Christians. "What do you anticipate about heaven?" "Do you look forward to being with Jesus, talking with him, walking with him?" Then you get that sort of awkward look, like - "Don't I have someplace else I need to be right now?" Or you get a weak, "Yea, I guess so."

What?! 
The very heart of Christianity is . . . well, . . . CHRIST! Right? But for many, not so much. At least not for many people who call themselves born-again believers. It seems a plethora of American believers are so wrapped up in THIS world that they cannot imagine the next to be an improvement--and an unbelievable one at that! Their treasures are here. To talk to them you'd have to re-write Hebrews 11:5, "By [lack of] faith [Joe 21st C. Christian] hated the thought of dying, and refused to be taken up even to avoid death, because he loved this world so much he couldn't imagine any benefit to being with Jesus." Really?? . . . REALLY!

The Real Issue
Enoch was promoted. It wasn't the not seeing death that was so attractive either (though not unimportant). But it was his living, breathing, loving relationship that he had had with God up to the point of his departure. If we were more attuned to Christ today, then we would be more enamored of heaven tomorrow. Our avoidance of the subject is in itself indicative of the paucity of serious consideration that we ever give to things eternal. This is to our own loss and immense detriment. Enoch pleased God. How? He walked with him--conversed and shared and listened and just plain enjoyed being together! 

Do you enjoy being with God? 
THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE. It is not just for a few "super" saints. It is what Christianity was intended to be all along. Let us confess our hardness of heart, our dullness of spirit -- in short, our faithless approach to God. Then develop that walk with God that longs for his presence more than for anything. "One thing have I desired of the Lord . . ." (Psalm 73:25). When this happens we will find with Enoch that the thought of heaven will not only be frequent, but it will be an unending blessing -- not a bummer!


Wednesday, August 18

The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity

The issue dealt with below by a twentysome year old is so common yet so beneath the purpose of the church that it must be brought out whenever we can. "Lord, awaken us to the wholesale sellout we're experiencing across the USA in the name of successful evangelism." When will we open our eyes? Thanks to The Wall Street Journal for publishing this article from Brett McCracken. 
‘How can we stop the oil gusher?” may have been the question of the summer for most Americans. Yet for many evangelical pastors and leaders, the leaking well is nothing compared to the threat posed by an ongoing gusher of a different sort: Young people pouring out of their churches, never to return.
As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment.
Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.

Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn’t megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.

Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”—remains.

There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).

“Wannabe cool” Christianity also manifests itself as an obsession with being on the technological cutting edge. Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an “iCampus.” Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.

But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before?

Sex is a popular shock tactic. Evangelical-authored books like “Sex God” (by Rob Bell) and “Real Sex” (by Lauren Winner) are par for the course these days. At the same time, many churches are ļ¬nding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.

Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia, created a website called yourgreatsexlife.com to pique the interest of young seekers. Flamingo Road Church in Florida created an online, anonymous confessional (IveScrewedUp.com), and had a web series called MyNakedPastor.com, which featured a 24/7 webcam showing five weeks in the life of the pastor, Troy Gramling. Then there is Mark Driscoll at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church—who posts Q&A videos online, from services where he answers questions from people in church, on topics such as “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse.”

But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?
In his book, “The Courage to Be Protestant,” David Wells writes: ”The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.

“And the further irony,” he adds, “is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.”
If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.
If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same. 

Mr. McCracken’s book, “Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide” (Baker Books) was published this month.

Tuesday, August 17

Love's Passion's Lost!


And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Mark 14:3).

John tells us that this "woman" was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. But since both Matthew and Mark do not mention her name, let us for the moment forget it as well. The point is made larger if we just consider that this was a passionate seeker of Jesus Christ. That way we can more easily apply it to ourselves.

There is a direct connection between Christian maturity and intimate union with Christ.  
What I mean is that most Bible-believing Christians agree that we should do what it takes to grow spiritually: Bible reading, prayer, attend Church, etc. What has largely been overlooked or totally neglected is the direct connection between these activities and our passion for the Lord Jesus himself! This woman had it. Most today simply do not. How can this be? Same Jesus. Same wonderful salvation! Why such ignorance?

Two Opposite Responses
Those at table with Jesus became indignant and even scolded the woman for "wasting" this expensive ointment! Imagine thinking that anything done for Jesus would be extravagant?! But what they are saying finds immediate parallel with our age, doesn't it? We, too, tend to evaluate actions and items according to their price instead of according to their use. We think pragmatically. "This money could've helped the poor." Or, "Look, the woman's sentiment was fine, but once she poured out that super costly ointment, it just absorbed into the ground." Practical. Reasonable. That's what we call it, don't we?

On the other hand, here's how Jesus assessed this woman's display of love:  “But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (v. 6). There it is! "She has done a beautiful thing to me!" Oh, who sees this today? The poor you can see and touch. The same goes for money. But such affection settled on Jesus? Well, it's seemingly inefficient and short-lived!? I guess we today must look on such an expression of love as too "mystical," or non-quantifiable." 

Yet, right here Jesus says something unique in all his ministry . . . “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (v. 9). What is odd here is that I rarely (if ever!) remember hearing this story told in association with the Gospel. How about you? Why do you think Jesus would have us remember this, yes, connect it to the "Good news," the gospel? Precisely because the good news is all about our being freed from sin's constraints in order to be able to love and adore and express our worship toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of Christendom seems to have approached this truth, but most all have come up short. Our love's passion has been lost in formal religion. Let us determine that we will go all the way into such knowledge. Let us "do a beautiful thing" to Jesus, by really loving HIM!

Amen. 

Friday, August 13

What's God Done in Your Life Lately?


Quench not the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)

We can quench the Spirit over a period of years, not just in one or two acts. One of the most prevalent ways is to ignore God personally while adhering to Him externally. Specifically, many older Christians (in the Lord) when testifying of God's goodness, go back to an earlier time when God really had done a work in their lives. It would seem as though that was the last time (in their memories) that He had done anything for them! Good habits are commendable, but not if they smother the purpose for having established them. So, attending church regularly and reading one's Bible, as necessary as these are, were not meant to prevent our having present day mercies and current blessings to report. Oswald Chambers hits this point hard:
Beware if in personal testimony you have to hark back and say—‘Once, so many years ago, I was saved.’ If you are walking in the light, there is no harking back, the past is transfused into the present wonder of communion with God. If you get out of the light you become a sentimental Christian and live on memories, your testimony has a hard, metallic note. Beware of trying to patch up a present refusal to walk in the light by recalling past experiences when you did walk in the light. Whenever the Spirit checks, call a halt and get the thing right, or you will go on grieving Him without knowing it.

Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go. [Chambers, O. (1993). My Utmost for His Highest. Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Co.]
Do you any current acts of God in your life that demonstrate He is with you today? Samuel the prophet urged upon Israel, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. ” (1 Samuel 12:24). Do you see WHY Samuel urged the people to "fear the LORD?" It is based upon the fact of "what great things he has done for you." God has worked in your lives, and is still working. That should change how we view the present day.

Is your experience of God only historical? Or is it present day? What has God done in your life . . . Today?

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Thursday, August 12

Do We FEEL Anything for Jesus?

There is an unremitting frustration when it comes to discussing love for Jesus Christ. Not talking about it, but doing it; not parsing Scripture, but feeling it. We seem quite adept in the ministry world at talking all around Jesus, but ill-equipped to experience it. We know we should love him, and are adept at finding verses to prove the point. We are great at sharing what truths we've learned, even truths related to Jesus. But we seem handicapped to speak of intimate love for our Savior. Is such love not CENTRAL to everything else--resisting sin, studying for sermons, reading good books, even enjoying God's Word? So, I ask this question (of myself as well), do we feel anything when we talk of loving Jesus?

Is it really possible for the eternally blessed Son of God to come and take up residence in the newly converted life and it NOT AFFECT HIM??!! How is it that we have become effective at holding even our Savior at arm's distance?

Three times our Lord probed Peter, "Do you love me?" And all three times Peter missed the point (John 21:15ff). But Mary apparently had caught on, for according to Jesus, she desired "the one thing necessary" (Luke 10:42).

And you know what's really deflating? I can write all this and STILL not love Jesus from the heart! Oh, Lord Jesus, how long will you put up with us?

Draw us to yourself, and PLEASE make it so that we can no longer talk all around you.

Amen.

Wednesday, August 11

Worse Than Blind

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Samson and Delilah, ca. 1610
London, National Gallery

Sad? No, worse than that. Insane would be more like it. The story of Samson’s acquiescence to Delilah’s overt machinations reveals the judge of Israel to be nothing short of delirious.
And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” (Judges 16:15–17)
“Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice . . .” Right?! Oh, that pales by comparison! Unbelievable! You have to admit it. It’s plain ridiculous! I mean, how many times do you have to be bamboozled before you “get it?” It’s as if Samson were taking a flying leap off a cliff onto a bed of nails willingly! 

What is it in us that so willingly walks (yes, even runs) into destruction? Yet, that is exactly what sin (in all its forms) does. We could rail on Samson for his obvious dismissal of all rational thought. In a sense he deserves it. (Oddly enough--or NOT--his very foolishness became the means to thoroughly judge the Philistines and deliver Israel). But in another very real and quite embarrassing sense, we are not that unlike him! Isn't all sin a type of insanity? Going up against God cannot be thought to be anything less than the leaving behind of one's own senses. Still, we do it . . . even Christians! 

So, how shall we overcome? Samson avenged himself in the end, bowing against the supporting pillars of the foreign temple bringing it down on 3,000 Philistines and himself as well. It was worth it to him. But was it only worth it because he got revenge? That would be sad . . . to have accomplished such an evident Spirit-empowered feat of strength ONLY for personal revenge! Even our "solutions" can be tainted with self-interest! That's scary isn't it? Of course, we can't say that he only did it for selfish reasons. Perhaps as his hair grew so did his faith. What a fall from which to retrieve oneself!

No wonder Solomon warned his son, "Keep your heart with all vigilance . . ." (Prov. 4:23a), because from the heart issues sin. And from the same heart issues either godly or ungodly sorrow. The simple way, the best way, the godly way to handle such egregious trespasses is to simply call your sin what it is (since God already knows) and ask forgiveness. What a wonderful means to resolve our transgressions. And how apathetically we often are to take advantage of it. Lord, lead us away from self-correction into Spirit-conviction, repentance and resolution. Cleansed! Purified! Resolved. 

Yes! No matter how foolish we have been, there's no profit in revenge, or in circumnavigating our Lord's complete forgiveness. Jesus' blood has already brought down the pagan temples of our lives. Ours is to gratefully accept it . . . and LIVE!

Tuesday, August 10

C. H. Spurgeon on the Exclusivity of the Truth

"No man is an island" especially in terms of the truths gleaned from a myriad men of God over the ages! I have always been indebted to Charles Haddon Spurgeon for his wit and wisdom, but mostly for his humble acquiescence to the Gospel and intimate communion with his Lord Jesus. The following quotation centers on a subject that makes my heart ache in these truth-ignoring, yes, even truth denying days. 

I saw this on Adrian Warnock's site, and he took it from HERE.
Posted on July 15, 2010 by Jonathan Hunt

From notes of a sermon delivered on a Lord’s Day evening in 1856, at New Park Street. Notes taken by Pastor T.W. Medhurst.

John 14.6 – ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way… no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me’

“There seems to be growing up amongst us an idea that a man is of a persecuting spirit if he does not think that the one who flatly contradicts him is as right as himself. If we do as some wish, we shall in time reach that blessed state of charity which had been attained by the courtiers of the Sultan, who, when he said at mid-day, “It is midnight,” replied, “Yes, sire, there is the moon, and there are the stars.”  Today, we are expected not to protest against Popery, lest we should be considered bigots; we must subscribe to all that men teach, if only they are sincere. Suppose a man, travelling due North, was sincere in thinking that he would get to the South, do you think his sincerity would bring him to the desired destination? If a man was sincere in thinking that prussic acid was a wholesome food, would the poison do him no injury? If a man starved himself while he sincerely believed himself to be feasting, how long would it take him to get fat? You say “these things are contrary to the laws of nature.” Just so, and the laws of God’s gospel are as fixed and true as are the laws of nature. If you are honest and sincere in keeping to the road of ruin, you will reach the natural end of that road, eternal destruction. Sincerity in believing a lie does not change that lie to the truth. There is only one way to heaven; there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ is exclusively “the way.” This excludes all by-paths, all cross-roads, and all short cuts. Scripture knows nothing of the new theory, that we may be all right though we are in direct opposition to the Word of God.”
Cross-posted to the CH Spurgeon blog also. This will form part of new books forthcoming from DayOne publications.
Open our ears, Lord, that we may gladly hear such truths!

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Monday, August 9

The Most Grossly Undervalued Truth!

My friend (and former roommate after college) Dave Scudder, posted this from Jonathan Edwards. It surfaces one of most underrated truths in the history of mankind. Sadly, I'm not exaggerating one bit! Nor am I referring to the world, who are incapable of understanding this gem of a truth! No, I am talking about self-proclaimed Christians who should be intimately aware on this point! The very essence of salvation is that the believer is transformed in order that he may know God intimately (John 17:3). And the reason Christ died was not to give us peace, free us from sin, Satan and the world, or to make a place for us in heaven (though all these are wonderful concomitants of our redemption) No, the purpose of salvation is that God might enable us as new creatures to be able to see and adore the beauty of God, to really know Him! Oh, how few today really see this as the goal of salvation. This truth is not the exclusive possession of a few dessert mystics. Oh, no! This is the very heart of the matter, the essence of God's great work of re-creation, yes, the "one thing necessary." Do not let this truth or the following quotation get away from you by reading it too quickly. Focus on it. Ponder it. REALLY. Please. Edwards knew his Lord well. We in this day need to love Him again!
God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied....
 

To go to heaven and fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.
 

Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows.
 

But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.
Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”
-Jonathan Edwards

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Saturday, August 7

God's Word: Nothing To Be Trifled With!

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah. For Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it; Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye. And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the Lord. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’?” ” (Jeremiah 32:1–5)
Prophets spoke for God. God never gets anything wrong. Everything God says happens. PERIOD! End of story.
Or, at least, it SHOULD be! Scripture is replete with examples of those who dismissed God’s word as a “kill-joy” or a waste of their time. In the example above, the king of Judah hated that Jeremiah had prophesied his captivity under the Chaldeans. So, rather than listen to him—as from God—Zedekiah threw Jeremiah in jail! (We can understand his apprehension at such a message. But to jail the messenger!?) Really? What good would it do. The WORD has gone out. It’s not going to change. Jailing Jeremiah won’t help one bit. (But that’s using reasoning, and reason is hard to come by among rebels). By the time we get to chapter 32, Nebuchadnezzar is in the process of besieging Jerusalem, carrying out the very prophecy which Zedekiah, king of Judah hated, and  for which Jeremiah was imprisoned.
Lesson?
Well, a most obvious one is: “You shoulda listened!” Prophets of God only speak the truth of God. And God is NEVER wrong. NEVER! 100% accuracy. You’d think that would’ve earned a little respect. But, NO! Evil, persistent evil foolishly refuses to listen even in the face of historical precedent. There was nothing wrong with the messenger. Certainly nothing aberrant in his message. Why the resistance? Why is there ever any resistance to God’s message? Innately, men will not have God rule them. "It doesn't matter what you say, we don't want Him!" It doesn't make sense. But it is what it is.

Another lesson is the arrogance of man that he would "put it to God," forcing God to answer to him! Zedekiah asked, "Why do you prophecy and say . . . ?" He's not inquiring; he's attacking. What? Do you really imagine that if you command the prophet to shut-up, that therefore will avert God's plan, His wrath? No, he's simply setting Jeremiah to take the fall for a country gone bad, and in the process, setting him up to be thrown into prison. What audacity men have that they think to put God on the judgment seat! How utterly foolish. Yet, today such an attitude has gone epidemic. God somehow must answer to man!? C. S. Lewis wrote,

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it.

Audacious. Foolish. The answer is rather, hear God. Submit to God. Obey God. Don't tell Him how to run the universe! And never presume to sit in judgment over the One who gave us jurisprudence.

 

Friday, August 6

Don't Be Foiled By the Devil! Part 4 - Conclusion

Buy HERE
GOD KNOWS HUMANS
The Bible tells us often that God knows humans better than they know themselves—He doesn’t have to wait for the information to come from the accuser, the devil. God has said,
I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb. For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.  (Isaiah 48:8b-11a)
God does have a stake in each of us—and it is for His own sake that He will lift us up. He is not going to bless us for our own sake—He is going to bless us for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of His own name!
If you think that there is anyone in the world so good that God could do something for that person’s sake, you don’t know sin; and if you think there is anything that God will not do for you for His sake and for His name, you don’t know God! [emphases in article all mine]
If you have failed, remember that you are not responsible to men in this regard. You stand responsible before your heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at the right hand of God. Let us be encouraged by this good news!
In the third place, some are fearful that they will lose their reputation as sober and conservative and traditional Christians. In other words, they have never been willing to be a fool for Jesus’ sake!
It is amazing that genuine Christians are not willing to stand up wherever they are and give a good word for the Lord. There are great political ideologies sweeping the world now whose members will make double-eyed, long-eared donkeys of themselves for the sake of the party and the cause. There are religious sects whose witnesses are willing to go to jail, to be pushed around, to be lampooned for the sake of a miserable, twisted doctrine! But in our Christian ranks, we prefer to be respectable and smooth, and we have a reputation for being very solemn Christian believers.
I can only conclude from my experience that many solemn, professing Christians will never make any spiritual progress and will never really be happy in the Lord until God finds some way to shake them out of their deadly respectability! . . .

HAVE TO LOSE REPUTATIONS
So it has been with all of God’s saints who have pleased Him and praised Him through the centuries. At some time in their witness and expression of the living Christ they have had to lose their reputations among those who have been traditionally pious and somber, dogmatic and cautious.
This is still happening in our day, and with glorious results.
A young man who is director of one of our American Bible conferences has given me his testimony of great and radical things which the Lord has done for him in recent months.
“I realize now that in my service for God I was one of the most self-assured, conceited and horrid young fellows you could ever meet,” he told me frankly. “I could raise money, I could put on a great program, and I figured I was a great success in the Lord’s work.
“But recently on a trip to Wales, I had the opportunity of talking to some older folks who remembered Evan Roberts and the great Welsh revival. They told me about the true working of the Holy Spirit in Christian renewal and revival—and I didn’t really know what they were talking about
“Somehow, and they did not realize it, it was just as though they were burying me under a great load of crushing bricks, and God spoke to me about my own great spiritual lack.”
He told me that he made his way to the little cottage where he was staying and got down on his knees and began to sweat it out before God.
Do you know what this was? It was the act of dying! It was the end of self. That man died to reputation, ability, presumption, success, conceit, personality—all of that stuff!
He said to me, “Mr. Tozer, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and my whole life has been transformed. Now I only want this cheated and betrayed generation to see the glory of God once more.”
I said to him then, “Brother, do you realize that if you carry through with this message and this blessing that you will lose some of your best fundamentalist friends? You will be described as having gone off your rocker!’
“I am not worried any more about my reputation,” he replied. “I am perfectly willing because I am going to let the Lord have His way in the whole operation!”
The interesting thing is that he hasn’t had to switch or change his doctrines around at all—he just found out that he needed the fire of God on his doctrine, and he got it!

WE MUST TRUST
It is for us to trust, to trust wholly in the Lord Jesus. This is the only way in which we can conquer fear and live in blessed victory.
I have had times in my life and ministry when the burdens and the pressures seemed to be too much. Sometimes physical weariness adds to our problems and our temptation to give in to discouragement and doubt. At these times it seems that even in prayer it is impossible to rise above the load. More than once, by faith that seemed to have been imparted directly from heaven, the Lord has enabled me to claim all that I needed for body, soul and spirit. On my knees I have been given freedom and strength to pray, “Now, Lord, I have had enough of this—I refuse to take any more of this heaviness and oppression! This does not come from God—this comes from my enemy, the devil! Lord, in Jesus’ name, I will not take it any longer through Jesus Christ I am victor!” At these times, great burdens have just melted and rolled away all at once!
Brethren, God never meant for us to be kicked around like a football. He wants us to be humble and let Him do the chastening when necessary. But when the devil starts tampering with you, dare to resist him!
I stand for believing in God and defying the devil—and our God loves that kind of courage among His people.
If you are still wrapped in grave clothes and great fears lie upon you, it is time for you to dare to rise and in sweet faith in the risen Jesus Christ declare: “I will not take this any longer. I am a child of God—why should I go mourning all the day?”
Will God answer?
“All right, My child,” He will answer as the burden rolls away, “I have waited long to hear you say that. Jesus is Victor and in Him you overcome!”

Thursday, August 5

Don't Be Foiled by the Devil! Part 3

WE MUST GET FREE!
I think we had better get free! We must face up to the issues and attitudes and doubts which constitute our fears, that keep us from being happy and victorious Christians with the true liberty of the children of God. We seem to quake about many things.

In the first place, are you still afraid of your past sins? God knows that sin is a terrible thing—and the devil knows it, too. So he follows us around and as long as we will permit it, he will taunt us about our past sins.

As for myself, I have learned to talk back to him on this score. I say, “Yes, Devil, sin is terrible—but remind you that I got it from you! And I remind you, Devil, that everything good—forgiveness and cleansing and blessing—everything that is good I have freely received from Jesus Christ!”

Everything that is bad and that is against me I got from the devil—so why should he have the effrontery and the brass to argue with me about it? Yet he will do it because he is the devil, and he is committed to keeping God’s children shut up in a little cage, their wings clipped so that they can never fly!

In our churches we often sing, “Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears.” But nothing happens and we keep our fears. Why do we claim on one hand that our sins are gone and on the other act just as though they are not gone?

Brethren, we have been declared “Not Guilty!” by the highest court in all the universe. Still there are honest Christians, earnestly seeking the face of God, who cannot seem to break loose and find real freedom. The grave clothes trip them up every time they try to move on a little faster. Satan uses their past sins to terrify them.

Now on the basis of grace as taught in the Word of God, when God forgives a man, He trusts him as though he had never sinned. God did not have mental reservations about any of us when we became His children by faith. When God forgives a man, He doesn’t think, “I will have to watch this fellow because he has a bad record.“ NO, He starts with him again as though he had just been created and as if there had been no past at all! That is the basis of our Christian assurance—and God wants us to be happy in it.

SATAN MAGNIFIES MEMORIES

Next, are you allowing Satan to magnify the memories of your spiritual failures? He will always keep them before you unless you take your stand and move up in faith.

The devil will whisper, “You didn’t get very far along toward the deeper life, did you?“

He will say, “You made a big ‘to-do’ about wanting to be filled with the Spirit and you really flopped, didn’t you?”

He will taunt you with the fact that you may have stumbled in the faith—and perhaps more than once! The devil wants you to live in a state of discouraged chagrin and remorse.

Remember, the Bible does not teach that if a man falls down, he can never rise again. The fact that he falls is not the most important thing—but rather that he is forgiven and allows God to lift him up!

Perhaps you have read of the saintly Fletcher, whose holy life became so recognized that he was called “the seraphic Fletcher.” His testimony reveals that he stumbled and miserably failed God seven times. But after the seventh failure he went to a room and did not come out until he was able to rest his case completely in the strength of God’s hands. He came out of the room saying, “Dear Lord, I believe that I am delivered from the bondage of my sin. If you will keep me and help me I will never cease telling the world what you can do for a man!” For the rest of his life Fletcher exhibited to the world God’s power to bless and to keep His transformed children on earth.

If our failures are going to hinder us forever, we might just as well never have taken the first step. But God knew all about us and He still loved us and desired His eternal best for us. (I Talk Back To the Devil! by A. W. Tozer)


Tomorrow, Part 4 - Conclusion