Monday, January 31

Deliver Us From Pantheism-J. C. Ryle

You would've thought Ryle was living today given the tenor of the following quotation:

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
I feel it a duty to bear my solemn testimony against the spirit of the day we live in, to warn men against its infection. It is not Atheism I fear so much, in the present times, as Pantheism. It is not the system which says nothing is true, so much as the system which says everything is true. It is not the system which says there is no Savior, so much as the system which says there are many saviors, and many ways to peace! It is the system which is so liberal, that it dares not say anything is false. It is the system which is so charitable, that it will allow everything to be true. It is the system which seems ready to honor others as well as our Lord Jesus Christ, to class them all together, and to think well of all.

It is the system which is so careful about the feelings of others, that we are never to say they are wrong. It is the system which is so liberal that it calls a man a bigot, if he dares to say, “I know my views are right.” This is the system, this is the tone of feeling which I fear in this day, and this is the system which I desire emphatically to testify against and denounce. From the liberality which says everybody is right, from the charity which forbids us to say anybody is wrong, from the peace which is bought at the expense of truth – may the good Lord deliver us!

Knots Untied, “Only One Way of Salvation” [Cambridge, England: James Clarke & Co., 1977], 30, 31.

Saturday, January 29

Sinclair Ferguson on "The Greatest of All Protestant Heresies"?

Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.

How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?

Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”

A moment’s reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ’s work is somehow repeated; if grace is not free and sovereign, then something always needs to be done, to be “added” for final justification to be ours. That is exactly the problem. If final justification is dependent on something we have to complete it is not possible to enjoy assurance of salvation. For then, theologically, final justification is contingent and uncertain, and it is impossible for anyone (apart from special revelation, Rome conceded) to be sure of salvation. But if Christ has done everything, if justification is by grace, without contributory works; it is received by faith’s empty hands — then assurance, even “full assurance” is possible for every believer.

No wonder Bellarmine thought full, free, unfettered grace was dangerous! No wonder the Reformers loved the letter to the Hebrews!

This is why, as the author of Hebrews pauses for breath at the climax of his exposition of Christ’s work (Heb. 10:18), he continues his argument with a Paul-like “therefore” (Heb. 10:19). He then urges us to “draw near … in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). We do not need to re-read the whole letter to see the logical power of his “therefore.” Christ is our High Priest; our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience just as our bodies have been washed with pure water (v.22).

Christ has once-for-all become the sacrifice for our sins, and has been raised and vindicated in the power of an indestructible life as our representative priest. By faith in Him, we are as righteous before the throne of God as He is righteous. For we are justified in His righteousness, His justification alone is ours! And we can no more lose this justification than He can fall from heaven. Thus our justification does not need to be completed any more than does Christ’s!

With this in view, the author says, “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who come to God by him” (Heb. 10:14). The reason we can stand before God in full assurance is because we now experience our “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and … bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

Ah,” retorted Cardinal Bellarmine’s Rome, “teach this and those who believe it will live in license and antinomianism.” But listen instead to the logic of Hebrews. Enjoying this assurance leads to four things: First, an unwavering faithfulness to our confession of faith in Jesus Christ alone as our hope (v.23); second, a careful consideration of how we can encourage each other to “love and good works” (v.24); third, an ongoing communion with other Christians in worship and every aspect of our fellowship (v.25a); fourth, a life in which we exhort one another to keep looking to Christ and to be faithful to him, as the time of his return draws ever nearer (25b).

It is the good tree that produces good fruit, not the other way round. We are not saved by works; we are saved for works. In fact we are God’s workmanship at work (Eph. 2:9–10)! Thus, rather than lead to a life of moral and spiritual indifference, the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ and the full-assurance faith it produces, provides believers with the most powerful impetus to live for God’s glory and pleasure. Furthermore, this full assurance is rooted in the fact that God Himself has done all this for us. He has revealed His heart to us in Christ. The Father does not require the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us. Christ died because the Father loves us (John 3:16). He does not lurk behind His Son with sinister intent wishing He could do us ill — were it not for the sacrifice his Son had made! No, a thousand times no! — the Father Himself loves us in the love of the Son and the love of the Spirit.

Those who enjoy such assurance do not go to the saints or to Mary. Those who look only to Jesus need look nowhere else. In Him we enjoy full assurance of salvation. The greatest of all heresies? If heresy, let me enjoy this most blessed of “heresies”! For it is God’s own truth and grace!

Find this article HERE

Friday, January 28

Exiled Preacher: John Owen on the authority of the pope

Note: John Owen was one of the most astute of the English Puritans. Of his works, many have said that though difficult at times to understand, when he writes on a subject, he leaves nothing left to say. Thanks to Guy Davis (Exiled Preacher) in the south of England, I am posting his article from yesterday.

John Owen on the authority of the pope

Yesterday I gave a paper on Puritan Attitudes Towards Rome Reloaded to the Bradford on Avon Ministers' Fraternal. Here's an excerpt:

One of Cane’s main arguments in the Fiat Lux was that before England departed from Rome during the reign of Henry VIII, the nation was at peace with itself. Since relinquishing the authority of the pope, however, the country had been beset by terrible divisions between the various Protestant sects. There was nothing for it but to return to Rome, only then all would be well again, ‘we have no remedy for our evils, no means of ending our differences, but by a return unto the rule of the Roman see.’

The legitimacy of the pope’s authority was one of the key points at issue between John Owen and his Roman opponent, John Vincent Cane. He deployed five main lines of argument against the Roman Catholic claim that the pope has universal authority over the Church.

1. Exegetical

The key biblical text that Rome cites to prove its claims concerning the pope is Matthew 16:18 & 19. They reason that as the pope is Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome, that the keys of the kingdom of heaven now belong to him. Owen however disputes this, devoting virtually a whole chapter of A Vindication to demonstrating that there is not a shred of evidence in the New Testament that the apostle Peter was ever the Bishop of Rome. He applies the words of Jesus, “Upon this rock I will build my church” not to the pope, but to the whole Catholic Church, which is comprised of individual believers who confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

2. Historical

If the Bishop of Rome was indeed granted universal authority over the Church, then we might expect to find evidence of this in early church history. Cane tries to argue that this is the case, claiming that it was the pope who summoned the council of Nicaea in order to defend the deity of Christ. Owen won’t let him get away with that one. With his expert knowledge of the creedal heritage of the church, he easily sets the record straight. The Bishop of Rome did not preside at Nicaea. Neither was he given a place of special prominence at the Council of Chalcedon. Indeed, in some of the first six ecumenical councils, much to his chagrin, the power of the Bishop of Rome was expressly limited. So much for the ‘universally acknowledged’ authority of the papacy!

3. Christological

Cane argued that since his ascension Christ can no longer be the visible head of the church. According to the Franciscan, Christ was only the head of the church in his human nature. The church apparently needs a visible, human head and that role is now fulfilled by the pope. However, as Owen points out, in suggesting this, Cane was departing from the Catholic faith by driving a wedge between the divine person of the Son and his humanity.

As we have just seen, Cane wanted his readers to believe that the pope was the great champion of Christological orthodoxy at Nicaea and Chalcedon. But now he makes him the living embodiment of the Nestorian heresy condemned at the latter Council. Owen insists that Jesus Christ is the ‘supreme and only head of the church catholic’. He exercises his rule over the church through his appointed bishops or elders. But no bishop, not even the Bishop of Rome may claim to be the head of the church In replacing Christ with the Bishop of Rome as head of the visible church, Rome was as good as admitting that the pope was the Antichrist.

4. National

Owen’s opponent endeavoured to win the people of these islands back to the Roman Catholic fold by saying that the pope, ‘is a good man, one that seeks nothing but our good, that never did us harm, but has the care and inspection of us committed unto him by Christ.’ Owen begs to differ, urging that a return to Rome would be nothing less than disastrous for the people of England,

let him tell us how he will assure us that if this good pope get us into his power again, he will not burn us, as he did our forefathers, unless we submit our consciences to him in all things; that he will not find out ways to draw the treasure out of the nation, nor absolve subjects from their allegiance, nor excommunicate or attempt the deposition of our kings, or the giving away of kingdoms, as he had done in former days.
In The Church of Rome No Safe Guide, the divine likewise warned his fellow countrymen to beware of the ‘insupportable yoke’ of the pope, with his claim to a divine right of universal rule over kings and sovereign princes. For Owen, the pope was the enemy of the peace, liberty and prosperity of the nation.

5. Prophetic

Writing in 1682, near the end of his days, Owen bemoaned the fact that many were endeavouring to minimise the differences between Papists and Protestants. The older view that the pope was the Antichrist was falling out of favour. However, listing the ‘idolatries, persecutions, murders and Luciferian pride’ of the pope and his church, Owen continued to identify the Bishop of Rome as the Antichrist prophesied in the Scriptures. There could be no alliance the man of sin.

On this point, we might do well to reflect on the words of Richard Baxter, "That if the pope be not [the Antichrist], he had ill luck to be so like him."

Thursday, January 27

Actions Begin in the Mind. Get Spirit Help There First!

Victory over sinful tendencies begins in the mind. We do what we first think about. Control that, and our actions will follow suit. Paul writes the following to the Corinthian Church:
Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  --2 Corinthians 10:5
A. W. Tozer writes:
What we think about when we are free to think about what we will-- that is what we are or will soon become. . . .
The best way to control our thoughts is to offer the mind to God in complete surrender. The Holy Spirit will accept it and take control of it immediately. Then it will be relatively easy to think on spiritual things, especially if we train our thought by long periods of daily prayer. Long practice in the art of mental prayer (that is, talking to God inwardly as we work or travel) will help to form the habit of holy thought. (Born After Midnight, 44, 46-47)
Too many have given over the area of the mind to fate. Worse many have not even considered that the mind can be controlled so do not make any effort. But certainly if our Lord has commanded us to love Him with "all of our mind," then He means for us to lay that on the altar of willing sacrifice as well as our bodies and spirits. Take over this fortress. One defeat opens the way for another more easily attained. But by the same token, one victory leads to another, for you have strengthened your resolve at least to that degree. Replace wrong thoughts with good right away. Some have suggested that when tempted by a thought, we have 5 seconds to resist. I've heard John Piper say 2 seconds! Point is that we CAN resist, but that opportunity must be grabbed right away. Let's go forth today, grabbing our thoughts for Christ, but not alone. Go with the Spirit of God!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ” (Philippians 4:8)    

Wednesday, January 26

Beware of Anti-intellectualism - C. H. Spurgeon

Does it matter if we who claim Christianity know what we believe? How could it not? Listen to this from the 19th C. Charles Haddon Spurgeon. As always, he says it so well. (NOTE: the video "stuck" for me at about 6:45 into it. If it does for you, you will still have heard enough to have benefited you).

Tuesday, January 25

Voluntary Thots. Where Do They Go?

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. --Proverbs 4:23

Tozer writes of this verse,
Every person is really what he or she secretly admires. If I can learn what you admire, I will know what you are, for people are what they think about when they are free to think about what they will.
This is one of those truths which seems obvious, incontrovertible. It's a principle true for all of mankind. Something interests the hearts of every person. What we must do as Christians is figure out (honestly) what, or who rises to prominence in our hearts. That will indeed be the determining factor in what we believe and how we live.

Chimp Contemplating  
It is true also that we cannot every minute of the day determine what we will do. Our jobs, our home responsibilities, and school will force certain tasks upon us. And we will do them. But when we have "free" time, about what do we tend to think? What rises to the surface of our consciousness? That will tell you what comprises the heart of your desires. Again Tozer warns,

Your baptism and your confirmation and your name on the church roll and the big Bible you carry--these are not the things that are important to God. You can train a chimpanzee to carry a Bible. Every one of us is the sum of what we secretly admire, what we think about and what we would like to do most if we became free to do what we wanted to do. Faith Beyond Reason, 96.
Lord, fill your people with a heart consumed with your Person, who love to meditate upon the riches of your grace, and mercy, and wrath, and justice, and holiness. 

Saturday, January 22

Heaven's Glory Better Than Earth!

Spiritual leaders of the past have agreed that next to the Bible, every Christian should own and use a hymnbook. Add to this books that give us stories of great hymns and you triple your benefit! The following comes from a collection of hymns called Village Hymns For Social Worship by Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844), who was influential in the Second Great Awakening in the United States in the early quarter of the 19th Century. The following hymn is numbered 199 in the book:

The Christian's Hope

What sinners value I resign;
Lord, tis enough that thou art mine:
I shall behold thy blissful face,
And stand complete in righteousness.

This life's a dream an empty show;
But the bright world to which I go--
Hath joys substantial and sincere;
When shall I wake and find me there?

O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near and like my God!
And flesh and sin no more control
The sacred pleasures of the soul.

Friday, January 21

A Radically Real View of GOD

I LOVE the following from the pen of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. What he says in these few words is critically important to the success of our spiritual lives. Please read on . . .

"We are always in the presence of God. We are always in His sight. He sees our every action, indeed our every thought ... He is everywhere ... He sees it all. He knows your heart; other people do not. You can deceive them, and you can persuade them that you are quite selfless; but God knows your heart. ... When we wake up in the morning we should immediately remind ourselves and recollect that we are in the presence of God. It is not a bad thing to say to ourselves before we go any further": 
'Throughout the whole of this day, everything I do, and say, and attempt, and think, and imagine, is going to be done under the eye of God. He is going to be with me: He sees everything: He knows everything. There is nothing I can do or attempt but God is fully aware of it all. "Thou God seest me".'
"It would revolutionize our lives if we always did that ... the many books which have been written on the devotional life all concentrate on this. ... This is the fundamental thing, the most serious thing of all, that we are always in the presence of God. He sees everything and knows everything, and we can never escape from His sight [see Psalm 139]. ... If we only remembered that, hypocrisy would vanish, self-adulation and all we are guilty of by way of feeling ourselves above others, would immediately disappear. ..."

"If we were all to practise this it would be revolutionary. I am quite certain a revival would start at once. What a difference it would make to church life, and the life of every individual. Think of all the pretence and sham, and all that is unworthy in us all! If only we realized that God is looking at all, and is aware of it all, and is recording it all! ... the man who starts with a true realization of that is soon to be seen flying to Christ and His cross, and pleading to be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, ii, pp. 15-16

Tuesday, January 18

Prayer Is Universal-Biederwolf

"O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come." Psalm 65:2

If all nations of men seek after whatever they perceive to be their god, then how much more shall those who know Him seek after the true God? Here is William Bierderwolf's comment on this:

Wherever men have believed in a Higher Power--and such belief has always been universal--there they have not waited for an argument to prove the possibility of entering into converse with such a Being, but have taken for granted and acted upon the privilege of so doing.

William E. Biederwolf (1867-1939)
Most Of Humanity Prays to Someone
Rather than a command from the Deity, prayer has been a specific demand of man's own nature. Prayer is the heart of religion. Prayer is religion. It is the connecting link between God and man. . . . 

But For Christians This is All Changed
What is true of other religions is true of our own. The Christian is preeminently a person of prayer; not that he did not pray before, but that [which] was then a blind instinct becomes now an intelligent principle. What then was a dictate of his own nature gives place now to the promptings of God's Spirit within him. What then he was led to do out of sheer necessity, he now esteems the sweetest of all his privileges. What then he sought by sacrifice and penance he now obtains as a gracious bestowal in answer to his petition. What then he undertook with fainting heart he now pursues with boldness by the "new and living way." What then he sought to use as a means toward temporal blessing becomes now the channel of spiritual grace as well. What then was a mere pleading in his own behalf becomes now a gracious intercession for others as well. What then was mere asking of an infinitely removed Divinity is now the most intimate communion with the God and Father of us all. This is the difference between heathen prayer and Christian prayer.

Then, There's This . . .
Deprive the unregenerate man of prayer, and though his prayers avail not you make him miserable and forlorn; deprive the Christian of prayer and you not only deprive him of his sweetest privilege and dearest solace, but you take from him the key that open[s] the storehouse of his God; you not only take away his chief support, but you cut the never of his religious life; you rob him of his "vital breath."  

From: How Can God Answer Prayer? (1937)

Monday, January 17

Take Heed Lest You Fall . . .

“And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house.”
— 2 Samuel 11:2

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Be On Your Guard!
At that hour David saw Bathsheba. We are never out of the reach of temptation. Both at home and abroad we are liable to meet with allurements to evil; the morning opens with peril, and the shades of evening find us still in jeopardy. They are well kept whom God keeps, but woe unto those who go forth into the world, or even dare to walk their own house unarmed. Those who think themselves secure are more exposed to danger than any others. The armour-bearer of Sin is Self-confidence.

Be Where You Should Be . . . 

David should have been engaged in fighting the Lord’s battles, instead of which he tarried at Jerusalem, and gave himself up to luxurious repose, for he arose from his bed at eventide. Idleness and luxury are the devil’s jackals, and find him abundant prey. In stagnant waters noxious creatures swarm, and neglected soil soon yields a dense tangle of weeds and briars. Oh for the constraining love of Jesus to keep us active and useful! When I see the King of Israel sluggishly leaving his couch at the close of the day, and falling at once into temptation, let me take warning, and set holy watchfulness to guard the door. 
Watch For Good Intentions Turned Bad
Is it possible that the king had mounted his housetop for retirement and devotion? If so, what a caution is given us to count no place, however secret, a sanctuary from sin! While our hearts are so like a tinder-box, and sparks so plentiful, we had need use all diligence in all places to prevent a blaze. Satan can climb housetops, and enter closets, and even if we could shut out that foul fiend, our own corruptions are enough to work our ruin unless grace prevent. Reader, beware of evening temptations. Be not secure. The sun is down but sin is up. We need a watchman for the night as well as a guardian for the day. O blessed Spirit, keep us from all evil this night. Amen.

C. H. Spurgeon, Evening devotion for this day . . .

Saturday, January 15

Tozer Again. Quiet Again.


It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. ” (Lamentations 3:26) 

Several years ago I had been so blessed by the daily readings from A. W. Tozer, that I heartily recommended the daily email devotion to our church. Some have taken advantage of that free offer. Now, there are numerous solid devotional resources from which to choose, which I highly recommend, viz., Spurgeon's Morning & Evening, Chamber's Utmost For His Highest, etc. And if you wanted something to feed and challenge you, these would bring a great blessing. But don't miss Tozer. He writes well and will reward your effort. He is easy to read, yet deep in application.

I decided to resubmit my email and get on the list, having removed it a couple of years ago. I had read them and to great profit, but thought a hiatus would be appropriate. I had it, and now I am ready to "hear" Tozer again.

Here's the first thought I wanted to share. John the Baptist began his ministry out in the silence of the desert. Tozer focuses on the quietness of his beginnings and recommends it to us all. I say a hearty "Amen" to that! Here's what he says:
In our day we just cannot get quiet enough and serene enough to wait on God. Somebody has to be talking. Somebody has to be making a noise. But John had gone into the silence and had matured in a kind of special school with God and the stars and the wind and the sand....

I do not believe it is stretching a point at all to say that we will most often hear from God in those times when we are silent.
I do believe there are many voices straining to be heard. Some may actually have something to say! Others are there just to prevent our hearing what is most important to hear. It is those voices, it is in those times that we must recognize the pressure and back off, preferring rather to sit in silence before the Lord and to take in his blessing. This is a blessing that will hardly come but to those who wait for it. Let us get into the habit of waiting quietly before the Lord. They never lose who turn everything else off in order that they may listen closely to the loving tones from the Savior.

Friday, January 14

Get Up, Brush Yourself Off, and Keep Going . . .

“The righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. ” -Proverbs 24:16

The holiday season is over, winter has settled in, and though it's getting lighter, still the days seem so dreary. Many Christians may be walking into these days with an unsettled heart that may lead to depression. But it need not be that way. In fact, it should not be that way. What we must learn is what Proverbs says above, keep getting up. Don't quit. C.S. Lewis explains:
No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.
Now, that's a good word of advice isn't it? Despite how it sounds, it is not the sin in us that is so bad as it is our disregard for it that matters. Stay alert, remain sensitive to sin's power, and you're on your way to a godly solution.

Thursday, January 13


Last post on this subject was on December 14. I left off with this paragraph and asking: 
You can see how it is evident that Christ IS our life, having provided for us by promising it, meriting it, providing it and bestowing it on us. But this, to me, doesn't really tell me all I'd want to know about the quality of the LIFE. It tells me THAT I have it. It tells me HOW I got it. I am prompted because of Jesus to give him THANKS for having secured life for me. But what is it to live this life?
Now, I hesitate to finalize my thoughts because I am not sure that I understand the answer. The previous three posts on Christ Is Your Life surfaced the problem of our not really seeing Christ intensely enough as an internal Savior. Maybe the best I can do for now is to reiterate the teaching of Scripture on this on allow the Holy Spirit to teach us what it means. I think Galatians 2:20 says summarily what we need to know: 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
There is an identification here which goes well beyond a mere addition of salvation to our lives. God has completely closed the gap between Himself and man uniting us intimately through Jesus Christ. We learn that in new birth we first die -- to self, to sin's dominion, and to Satan's manipulative power. So, in a very real sense, any life that we think that we have has to be derived from elsewhere. Where? Paul makes clear that it is from "the Son of God." 

This means, it seems, that our lives are lived not by Christ leading us along a path like disciples, with Him in front, and we tagging along behind. True, we are disciples. Just not like that. Further, our loving Lord is not behind us pushing us where we are not willing to tread. Worse yet, we would do well to see that "Christ in you" means that our Father in heaven lovingly and willingly invites us into heaven. “It was the good pleasure of God … to reveal his Son in me” (Gal. 1:15, 16). No, He has so owned us, so saved us, so altered our lives that we become one with Him. It is possibly so good that we cannot "wrap our minds around it!" “But we all … are transformed into the same image from glory to glory as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). And, “For to me to live (is) Christ, and to die (is) gain” (Phil. 1:21).

I will leave this here, hoping that, as it has with me, so it will with you become an ongoing pursuit to discover what we already have in Christ. God help us to see more clearly.


Wednesday, January 12

Is The Pastoral Grass Greener Elsewhere?

In the closing chapter of On Being A Pastor, Derek Prime and Alistair Begg surface the oft recurring tendency of weary ministers to imagine that they will find a better ministry elsewhere. The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. Nonetheless, we who shepherd churches may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and wishing to escape. The authors I just mentioned direct us to correspondence between Isaac Watts (the hymn writer) and a young man who assisted an older minister in a new chapel in Southampton [England]. After about 18 months, being unhappy there, he contemplated moving. Watts replied:
Your last is now before me with all the long details of discouragements. . . . I own many of them to be just . . . if we look merely to appearances. But I have a few things to offer which will in some measure, I hope, reconcile your thoughts to a long continuance among them. 

1) Consider how great things God has done . . . in Southampton by your means. . . . 
2) There are some person in whom God has begun a good work . . . by your means. Oh, do not think of forsaking them! 
3) There is scarce any people . . . who love their minister and honour and esteem him more than yours do you. . . .
4) Where is the man who is better qualified for carrying on God's work in the town than your are? 
5) If you leave, whither will you go? The case is the same in many places as it is with your and much worse.
6) Consider whether this be not a temptation thrown in your way to discourage you in your work. 
7) Let us remember that we are not engaged in a work that depends all upon reasonings, and prospects and possibilities, and present appearances, but upon the hand and Spirit of God. If He will work, who shall hinder? . . . Meditate on these things. Turn your thoughts to the objects which are more joyful, and the occasions you have for thankfulness. Praise and thanksgiving are springs to the soul and give it new activity.
OK, So Not a Pastor? 
Any Christian can apply this, don't you think? Be where you are. "Occupy till I come" said our Lord (Luke 19:13 KJV). Let us commit ourselves to not only being there, but doing so with all of our hearts. For it is this attitude of service which brings delight to us and to heaven. It is THIS attitude that glorifies God as worthy to be served!

Tuesday, January 11

Selling Salvation Short . . .

A long time friend and college crony, Bob Leroe included the following in his sermon a couple of weeks ago. I thought it inspiring enough in its matter to include it for you. The truth sets those free who believe that truth.
One day Jesus will right every wrong and create a new earth; a new order will replace the old order, polluted by sin. . . . Jesus makes “all things new” right now [which] is talked about by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old way is passing away and all things are becoming new.”  We don’t have to wait for the 2nd Coming; we can be made new now. Salvation is Paradise restored--a return to the Garden--as the curse of the Fall is reversed in us, and we are restored to our intended status as God’s children…and the Holy Spirit begins His work of ongoing renovation in our lives (sanctification). When we trust Christ our sins are forgiven, and this new heavenly process begins in us. Our salvation is something Jesus has done, is doing and will do. Renewal is not a hollow word for believers. The newness Jesus brings about has many facets…
  • By His sacrifice, we have new birth.  
  • By His grace, He’s given us a new outlook and way of life.  
  • By His love we have a new relationship; we are God’s children and friends.  
  • By His power we have a new freedom; we are no longer enslaved to sin but set free.
  • By His Spirit we have a new heart; we are dead to sin and alive in Christ.
  • By His word we have a new direction, one that leads to Heaven.
  • By His promises we have a new confidence; fears are gone.
  • By His authority we have a new security, assurance of salvation.
  • By His church we have new resources for spiritual growth.
  • By His wisdom we have a new purpose, meaning, and reason for living.
  • By His sovereignty God makes all things new!
I would add to Bob's thoughts . . . these are but a part of what God is and has been doing in those who believe in Him. May we not become paralyzed due to unbelief, an unbelief that ignores the grand work of grace begun at salvation and continued through that same grace (Titus 2:11-14). Far more was accomplished in our redemption than most Christians are aware.

Monday, January 10

10 Positive (Certain) Predictions for the New Year

Toni Estruch, one of the ladies in our church sent this. It can be found HERE. With the prospect of economic downturns, political malfeasance, and in the face of general violence and sin unabated, we who call on the name of the LORD would do well to "think on these things . . ."

10. God will still be on the throne. Psalm 47:8
9.   His grace will still abound. Romans 5:20
8.   His mercies will still be new every morning. Lamentations 3:22
7.   His promises will still be true. 2 Corinthians 1:20
6.   He will still be faithful. Isaiah 49:7
5.   He will still be working out His plan. Ephesians 1:11
4.   He will still provide. Philippians 4:19
3.   He will still bless you with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
2.   His blood will still have the power to cleanse from all sin. I John 1:7
1.   He will still love you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
Until He Comes! Revelation 22:20

Friday, January 7

Is This What It Means to Simplify?

Here's one for American Christianity! 

I just read a brief testimony from a Pharmacist who returned from a short term missionary trip with a renewed desire for living a more simplified life. I am attracted to living simply, especially after the hectic holidays have left us a bit haggard. But I think he's missed the point of simplification. He's certainly to be commended for attempting to live the more simplified life per Scriptural injunction, "To whom much is given, much is required." But his answer to this is to sell one of his four cars leaving only 3 for him and his wife. OK . . . ? He had (at writing) "tentatively sold one of our three houses (do we need that many when most of the world has none?)." So, two people have narrowed down their possessions to three cars and maybe two homes? Now, I'm not haranguing him for what he HAS done (I mention no names). 

That's not my point. We all need to make steps in the right direction, even if only baby steps. Revelation comes to us in degrees to be sure. What I don't want to do is to rest satisfied that by comparison to my rich neighbors, I have really given something up, pacifying my conscience in the process. Perhaps as we look further into this new year, we could ask our Father in heaven what He would have us to do so that we might have less clutter in our lives and thus, enable ourselves to see Him more clearly. It's a spiritual "can't see the forest for the trees" kind of thing. I think Thomas 'a Kempis encapsulates this well:
This is the greatest wisdom—to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
(The Imitation of Christ)
Life can become very distracting. We must simplify in order to really "see" what's around us, and to recognize the Christ within us, clamoring after Him and not after temporary things. 

God help us.


Thursday, January 6

You Can Always Tell a Dane . . .

My Dad's a half Dane, and I'm, therefore, one quarter. Our last name is really spelled Nielsen, but it (like so many) was inadvertently changed at Ellis Island into the typical English spelling. We chuckled one day when we saw a mug that read, "You can always tell a Dane, but you can't tell him much!" Cute, huh? OK, well, that may be true of any Svinska, Italian, German, or anyone else for that matter! But it brings up something that we all need to assess in ourselves, that is, our own willingness to learn, a willingness that stems from humility and submission. The wise person will listen, but the fool knows everything. Ever run into a fool? It's hard to talk with them; they're too busy blathering about something they imagine they know (when often they know very little). The Scripture teaches us to be wise, and warns us about being foolish. Read Lloyd-Jones' comment on fools from his Sermon on the Mount sermons:
What are the characteristics of the foolish man? The first is that he is in a hurry. Foolish people are always in a hurry; they want to do everything at once; they have no time to wait. How often does the Scripture warn us against this! It tells us that the godly, righteous man 'shall not make haste'. He is never subject to flurry and excitement and hurry. He knows God and he knows that the decrees and purposes and plan of God are eternal and immutable. But the foolish man is impatient; he never takes time; he is always interested in short cuts and quick results. . . . We are all familiar with this kind of person in ordinary life and quite apart from Christianity. He is the type of man who says, 'I must have a house at once; there is no time for foundations.' He is always in a hurry.
Perhaps, in 2011, we might learn a lesson here and listen well, rest in the Lord and not give in to frenetic busyness. Your heart will feel better and your love for Christ open up.

Wednesday, January 5

Another Ten New Year's Questions . . .

The following comes from a minister in our fellowship (Rich Sharpe):
Quote from Don Whitney: Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them. Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going. The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
Good questions, don't you think?


Tuesday, January 4

God Must Reveal Truth to Even the Most Intelligent

The Bible says quite plainly and frankly that man is totally incapable of arriving at a knowledge of truth by means of scientific theory, and that if he would arrive at a knowledge of truth, he must submit himself to revelation. In other words, he must admit that he cannot arrive at truth unaided. He must cease to have self-confidence; he must cease to trust his own intellect and his power of reason.... The Bible starts by telling men just that.... Man has got to submit himself to revelation. For truth is a mystery, and if man would have any knowledge of it, he must submit in humility, and in reverence....

I always think that one of the greatest statements [of this Bible teaching] is in that picture of Moses at the burning bush. With the typical scientific attitude Moses said when he saw that phenomenon, 'Ah! I will turn aside, and examine this curious phenomenon that I am seeing.' . . . He was about to advance and investigate when the voice came, saying, 'Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground' (Exodus 3:1-5). You do not investigate here, you worship, in reverence and in awe. . . . [Jesus] taught the same truth in His interview with Nicodemus, who was a very able and erudite teacher of the Jews, and who came along desiring to investigate, and wanting to understand. It was to him that Christ said: 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.... .The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. . . .' (John 3:3-8). 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Approach to Truth: Scientific and Religious, pp. 21-3

Monday, January 3

What Kind of "New Years'" Resolutions?

I've often asked of the church, "A year from now, will you be where you want to be spiritually?" Or, put another way, 
When you get to a year from now, as you look back over the previous year, what will you need to have put into place in order to grow in your love and affection for Jesus Christ?
I've "lifted" the following (in part) from Church & Culture Blog. Please go HERE to read it in it's entirety. My additional comments are in [brackets].

New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Church

It’s that time of year again.

We’re going to lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt, stick to a budget, stop smoking, save for the future and spend more time with family.

We make resolutions because we want to bring change to bear on our circumstances.  We want to improve ourselves and our quality of life.  And the top resolutions, for most people, tend to revolve around the same three poles:  money, health and family.

But what would a set of New Year’s resolutions look like for you and your church, your role as a leader, or simply as someone who wants to live a life of strategic Kingdom investment?

Though many more could be added, here are fifteen to consider:

1. Pray more.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord…‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

2. Invest in my spiritual gift(s).
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (I Timothy 4:14-15, NIV)
3. Get more intentional about evangelism.
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (I Corinthians 9:22, NIV) [Be a walking testimony to your love for Christ. What we believe about Jesus WILL most certainly evidence itself, so aim to live in love for Him and you will become the most effective witness TO him].
4. Care for myself spiritually.
[I like to put it this way, "Learn the art of spiritual progress for yourself. That is, learn what does and does not help you toward Christ, and do it]. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)
5. Make the tough decisions I know are best.
[No small matter here. Do what's right simply because it IS right and NOT because YOU can see the advantage in doing so. Such an attitude reveals our lack of trust in God]. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22-24, NIV)
6. Confront debilitating patterns of sin.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1, NIV) [It's amazing how many "Christians," instead of "throwing off" sins, drag them around, apparently because they do not realize 1) the detriment, and 2) the potential freedom that could've been theirs.
7. Do the hard work needed to build community.
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV) [Don't shirk your duty here, by putting it off on the leadership of the church. They have their responsibilities, true. But so does EVERY believer. And what is that responsibility? It is to maintain the happiness and holiness of the body by helping rid it of impurities. Honestly, how many really do not take sin seriously as being the greatest hindrance to our happiness? Joy is at stake].
8. Keep in touch with contemporary culture.
From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders…All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (I Chronicles 12:32, NLT). [I take this verse to mean that we should be aware of what God is doing in this world and go about finding ways to bring that to pass].
9. Quit comparing myself to other Christians, other leaders and other churches.
Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind.  When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?”
Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?” (John 21:20-23, Msg) [See also 2 Cor. 10:12].
10. Read more.
Timothy, please come as soon as you can…When you come, be sure to…bring my books,… (II Timothy 4:9, 13, NLT) [That Paul knew his surroundings is evidenced in part in Acts 17 when he pointed out the Athenian religious attitude and quoted one of Crete's poets (Epimenides?). Now, there's much we shouldn't read, but that must not deter us from good reading. "Those who will not read have no advantage over those who cannot read."]
11. Prioritize my family.
A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife,…attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? (I Timothy 3:2-5, Msg) [Here is where we might add, learn to apply the faith to every area of life and not to selected portions].
12. Refuse to use ministry to satisfy my personal ambition.
Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. (Jeremiah 45:5, NIV) [Love this verse!! 'Nuff said].
13. Love people, not just crowds.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3, Msg) [A good application of this passage certainly. But only one. The larger issue is the very presence of such an all-encompassing, soul-satisfying love for God that transcends and, really, defines all outer expressions of faith. No expression of faith can be divorced from heart affection toward God].
14. Be more open to change.
See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19, NIV) [Again, the larger issue here is not just our ability to SEE change, but the necessary virtue of submission which paves the way for its acceptance].

15. Stay focused on the vision.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)