Saturday, August 30, 2008

He is Precious

"Unto you that believe, He is precious." - 1 Peter 2:7

Jesus is precious to believers--as the Bread of God coming down from heaven, and giving everlasting life to their souls. By Him they are really, constantly, and daily supported, fed and sustained. As bread is sweet and precious to a hungry man, so is Christ sweet and precious to those who live by Him. The entertainment that He gives to them is a divine, a spiritual feast!

Jesus is precious to believers--as the Sun of Righteousness. The beams of His grace are healing, enlightening, cheering, and full of consolation. If natural light is sweet, if it is a pleasant thing to behold the sun; how much more pleasant to experience the irradiating influences of the Light of life!

Jesus is precious to believers--as the fountain where they bathe their weary souls, and in which they are cleansed from all sin and impurity. He is the tree of life, under the shadow of which, they sit with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to their taste. He is a rock, a strong tower, a hiding-place, where they find protection from every storm, and security from every foe. He was precious to the Psalmist under all these views--"I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." It is therefore the delight of their lives to know Him, to love and honor Him with their whole hearts, and to aspire after conformity to His blessed image and His holy will."

O blessed Redeemer, I find in you all that my poor helpless soul stands in need of. Though I have the greatest reason for shame and humiliation on account of what I am in myself, yet in You I behold everything to elevate my hopes, and to afford me relief and encouragement! May my soul magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoice in God my Savior! The characters and relations in which You have revealed Yourself to me in Your Word, exhibit a balm for every wound, and a cordial for every fear.

If I am naked--You are the Lord my righteousness. If I am soul-sick--You are my physician. If I am weak and helpless--You are my strength. If I am neglected and despised--You are my compassionate and faithful friend. If I am ignorant--You are made unto me wisdom. If I am polluted and enslaved--You are made unto me sanctification and redemption. If I am nothing but emptiness and vanity--You are full of grace and truth."

Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!

- John Faucett

A Mother's Prayer

[Editor's note: The previous unnamed poem or hymn on praying for our children was by Amy Carmichael

Father, our children keep!
We know not what is coming on the earth;
Beneath the shadow of Thy heavenly wing,
O keep them , keep them, Thou Who gav'st them birth.

Father, draw nearer us!
Draw firmer round us Thy protecting arm;
Oh, clasp our children closer to Thy side,
Uninjured in the day of earth's alarm.

Them in Thy chambers hide!
Oh, hide them and preserve them calm and safe,
When sin abounds and error flows abroad,
And Satan tempts, and human passions chafe.

Oh keep them undefiled!
Unspotted from a tempting world of sin;
That, clothed in white, through the bright city gates--
They may, with us, in triumph enter in.

- Horatius Bonar

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Revive Me

"My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your Word." Psalm 119:25

"Revive me, Lord--quicken Your work in my soul, and strengthen that which You have wrought in me. The love which withers, the faith which trembles, the hope which fluctuates, the joy which droops--inspire with new life, new energy, new power! It is of little importance what others think of me; Lord, You know that my soul cleaves to the dust.

There is in my heart at times more of earth than of heaven, more of self than of Christ, and more of the creature than of God. You know me in secret--at times how my grace wanes, how my affections chill, how seldom my closet is visited, how much my Bible is neglected, how insipid to my taste are the means of grace, and how irksome are all spiritual duties and privileges.

Lord, stir up Yourself to the reviving of my soul; quicken, oh, revive me!"

- Octavius Winslow

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

With All Thy Getting, Get Unction

The offense of prayer is that it does not essentially tie in to mental efficiency. Prayer is conditioned by one thing--spirituality. You do not need to be spiritual to preach or deliver sermons of homiletical perfection of exegetical exactitude. Preaching affects men, but prayer affects God. Preaching often affects time, but prayer affects eternity. The pulpit can be a shop window to display our talent, but the prayer closet speaks death to fleshly display.

The tragedy of this hour is that we have too many dead men giving out dead sermons to dead people. Why? Because the strange thing today which exists in the pulpit is a horrible thing: it is preaching without unction. What is unction? It's hard to define. Preaching without unction kills instead of giving life. The unctionless preacher is a savor of death unto death. The Word does not live unless divine unction is upon the preacher. Preachers, with all thy getting--get unction from above!

Preaching is a spiritual business. A sermon born in the head reaches the head, but a sermon born in the heart reaches the heart. Unction cannot be learned, but only experienced through prayer. Unction is like dynamite--it will pierce, it will sweeten, it will soften. When the hammer of logic and the fire of human zeal fail to open the stony heart, unction will succeed.

Away with this powerless preaching which is unmoving because it was born in a tomb instead of a womb, and nourished in a fireless, prayerless soul. If God has called us preachers to the ministry, then we should get unctionized. With all thy getting--get unction, lest barrenness will be the badge of our unctionless intellectualism.

- Leonard Ravenhill

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For our Children

Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children.

Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril;
From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand pluck them.

From the worldlings hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness;
Holy Father, save our children.

Through life's troubled waters steer them,
Through life's bitter battle cheer them;
Father, Father, be Thou near them.

Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging;
Holy Father, for our children.

And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.

Christ the Only True & Successful Shepherd

"I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep." - Ezekiel 34:15

Ezekiel 34:11-24 is so similar to both Ps. 23 and John 15; all three portions speak of the Shepherd and His care for His own; what comfort is derived from the great truths and realities that Ezekiel 34 gives us.

It certainly was blessedly applied to our family and hearts this very day. Our two youngest children, Richard and Caroline, entered Ryan High School here in Denton this morning for their first day of school as 10th graders. Earlier in the morning, I had come to Ezekiel 34 as part of my daily reading schedule. Linda and I had already been praying that God would keep them, protect, guide, sanctify, help, and watch over their souls daily. So it was no accident or coincidence that the Lord encouraged my heart the very day they start to school with the assurance, "I myself will be their shepherd." After breakfast, the four of us read 34:11-14 together and prayed it as they were ready to leave for school. It was a word from the Lord and will likely be the theme of our school year.

As children get older and are gone, or are in situations, classrooms, and places that parents won't be there physically, one can become fearful, worried, anxious, and wrongfully agitated over the well-being of their children. We simply have to let go, relax, give over the reigns to another, and rest is His perfect ability to do what we cannot do- keep our children and work in them to bring His purposes.

So what a glorious thing it is to be able to pray daily and regularly, "Lord Jesus, shepherd them-- be to them daily, moment by moment, what you are as a Shepherd; I cannot keep them-- so please keep them; I cannot watch over them so please do so; I cannot guide their every step or keep them from those who are evil, but You can fully; so please shepherd and keep them, and become more real to them than their parents or friends are." Our prayer, morning by morning, will specifically be, "Lord Jesus, shepherd them today."

Throughout that section of 34:11-24, wonderful promises are repeated:

- "I myself will search for my sheep" - vs. 11

- "I will seek out my sheep" - vs. 12

- "I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness" - 12

- "I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep" - 15

- "I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will feed them; he shall feed them and be their shepherd" - 23

- "And I the Lord will be their God" - 24

What more could a believer need or ask for? What more could a parent hope for, whose children are "away" from you? What could be better than a 24/7 heavenly bodyguard, who has a shepherd's heart to reach them, keep them, and shepherd them. How glorious is that?

A fresh re-reading of Psalm 23, John 15, and Ezekiel 34 together will certainly yield great blessing, comfort, faith and strength, especially if your children have just left for college or are in a school outside your own home. Your have a blessed and perfect Shepherd working on your behalf. What could be better? You can't get better than perfect- and that is our Christ- the Great Shepherd of the sheep- a perfect and perfectly loving and wise Shepherd.

- Mack T.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dear brethren,Our ministry trip to Alaska, scheduled for Oct 14-28, will be approaching fast; I would ask you to pray for the preparation for this and for all the provision that will be needed.

As far as I know right now, I will be doing three aspects of ministry during this time:

1) Speaking for 3-4 days to the students at the Seminary/Bible college in Bethel
2) Speaking at an annual pastor's and minister's conference for western Alaska
3) Preaching out among the Eskimo villages in various churches

We thank you for remembering us; we will send another report in the coming weeks as a reminder.

We also would ask you to pray for 2 brothers who are on trips this week for a number of days- Paul Washer on a 12 day preaching trip to Peru- Saeed heading to eastern Europe and Britain for 1 month among Persian churches.

Yours with warm gratitude,
Mack Tomlinson

Friday, August 22, 2008

Christ's Uttermost Love

"Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." John 13:1

Christ loves unto the uttermost. His love is not worn out by our faultiness, our dullness, nor even by our sinning. Christ bears with us in all our sad failings; He's patient toward all our weakness, infirmity, and sin. He is our faithful, unfailing friend, though we give Him but little love--and that little mingled with doubts, complainings, murmurings, and ingratitude.

Many of us make it hard for Christ to be our friend; yet He loves unto the end--unto the uttermost!

- J. C. Philpot

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Open Hand or a Clenched Fist? The Frightening Reality of a Fair-Weather Faith

I don't know how else to say it, so I'll come straight to the point. Last Sunday, August 17, 2008, I came face to face with the fragility and weakness of my faith in God. It may have been the most frightening moment in my Christian life. Let me explain.

On Wednesday, August 13th, just five days earlier, I was in Oklahoma City meeting with the staff of Bridgeway Church. During lunch, as I was about to respond to another question, my cell phone rang. It's every parent's worst nightmare.

My younger daughter, Joey (23), was hysterical and virtually incoherent. It took at least ten minutes fo r me to get her calm enough that I could understand what she was saying amidst the tears and shock. She had been on her way back to Kansas City from Branson, Missouri, when her car grazed the side of a large truck that had moved into her blind spot. She was instantly airborne, her car virtually flying through the air at 65 mph.

The car flipped upside down, but not as you might expect. It didn't roll over, side to side, but rather back to front. The nose of the car dipped as the rear end rose, eventually landing on its roof. Joey immediately unhooked her seat belt, pushed away the airbag, and fell to the roof of the car which was now the floor.

Her immediate instinct was to call me. But I was helpless to do anything, being nearly four hours away. I called Ann in Kansas City and she quickly made her way to the hospital in Bolivar, Missouri, where the police took Joey for an examination.

Miraculously and mercifully, she had only an abrasion on her neck from the seat belt and a slight chemical burn on her forearm. No broken bones. No internal injuries. No bleeding. She was sore for several days (and still is, as of Wednesday, August 20th), but was graciously preserved from any serious injury. Everyone at the scene said they'd never seen an accident like that in which the driver walked away unscathed. The car was thoroughly crushed and destroyed. We have pictures to prove it. "I have no explanation for why your daughter isn't dead," said the police officer to me on the phone.

You may wonder, then, why Sunday would have been a difficult day for me. I was filled with such indescribable gratitude for what God had done. My heart was flooded with joy and delight as I reflected on how close she had come to death and how wonderful it was that she emerged without serious harm.

The tears of thanksgiving and profound appreciation and worship flowed freely and unashamedly. My hands were lifted=2 0high in adoration and praise as we sang that now familiar and somewhat dated chorus, "He is exalted, the King is exalted on high, I will praise Him!" We then sang what has quickly become one of my favorites, "Beautiful," by Phil Wickham, one verse of which is as follows:

"I see your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It's all proclaiming who You are,
You're beautiful!"

Suddenly, my hands began to tremble ever so slightly. The tears dried up. Without warning, giving me no chance to prepare my heart, this horrifying thought raced through my mind: "Would I be lifting my hands in love and adoration of the Lord if Joey20had died last Wednesday? Or would my raised and open hand be a clenched and defiant fist? If she, like so many who had similar wrecks, had died, would I have praised God for being ‘Beautiful'"?
I was spiritually paralyzed. A shiver of raw fear ran down my spine. No words can adequately explain the emotional terror that gripped my soul. Was I the sort of person who would only worship and honor and love God so long as he saved my daughter's life? Was I the sort who would happily and profusely speak of the mercy of divine providence only if it shined on me favorably?

If Joey had not survived the wreck, or if she had been severely injured or paralyzed, would I have declared God to be beautiful, or would I have seen him as ugly and uncaring and indifferent? Was my faith the sort that flourished only in fair weather, or would it withstand the storm of tragedy and loss of the worst imaginable kind?

I couldn't answer my own questions. I froze in fear. Would I have cursed God instead of extolling him had my precious little girl died? How have other people coped when their child was lost? What did they think of God? Was he still worthy of their praise? Was he still deserving of their devotion and affection and love? Was he still "exalted" as "King on high"? Was he still beautiful in their eyes?

I wish I could tell you that I reassured myself by saying, "Hey, Sam, don't worry. Of course you'd still love God. The pain would be unbearable, but your faith would withstand the test. You're strong. After all, you're a Calvinist. Your whole life and ministry are built on the stability and strength of divine sovereignty."

I wish I could tell you that's what passed through my mind. But it didn't. Maybe I would still have praised him. I certainly hope so. Oh, God, please let it be so! But I felt vulnerable in that moment in a way I never have before. I felt weak and frail and terrifie d that my faith was only as good as were the circumstances of my life.

I have many times glibly and proudly quoted the words of Job: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). It's always been easy, because the Lord has not as yet "taken away" anything of great value to me. He came close, but he gave her back. If he hadn't, could I have honestly and sincerely said, "Blessed be the name of the Lord"? I don't know. That's what scares me.

I want to believe that I would still love and honor God following the sort of loss Job suffered. I desperately want to believe it. I labor in my study of God's Word and in prayer and in so many other ways to cultivate a heart that is quick to submit to his sovereign ways. But I would be less than honest if I didn't say that I was shaken the other day.

There's no=2 0great struggle in affirming God's sovereignty when he has given rather than taken away. I felt no strain last Sunday in saying, "Blessed be the name of the Lord," because Joey was standing next to me. Had it been otherwise, would I follow the advice of Job's wife and "curse God and die" (Job 2:9)? I don't know. I pray not. God help me.

- Sam Storms

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


[Editor's note: Though I am not convinced that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a cessationist, as the article below claims, the gest of the article is so excellent and needed; cessationism, technically and generally stated, is the position that all the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased with the apostles; Dr. Lloyd-Jones did not seem to hold that view, though he certainly would have believe the primary supernatural ministry gifts and inspiration of the Apostles would have ceased with the canon of Scripture being completed. - Mack T.]

When Martyn Lloyd-Jones was 25 years of age, at Easter in 1925, he was alone one day in the small study he shared with his brother Vincent in their Regency Street home. There he came to see the love of God expressed in the death of Christ in a way which overwhelmed him. Everything which happened to him in his new spiritual life was occurring because of what had first happened to Christ. It was solely to that death that MLJ owed his new relationship to God. The truth amazed him and in the light of it he could only say with Isaac Watts:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,That were a present far too small;Love so amazing, so divine,Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Iain Murray records that this was not an isolated incident. The Doctor himself said in his room at St. Bart’s that he had some great times: “I must say that in that little study at our home in Regency Street, and in my research room at Bart’s, I had some remarkable experiences. It was entirely God’s doing. I have known what it is to be really filled with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

It is in the light of this that we must approach his exhortations to know a baptism with the Holy Spirit. That this did not manifest itself in speaking in tongues we know because he wrote to an inquirer very plainly: “I have never spoken in tongues either in private or in public.” So the Doctor could not be described as a Pentecostal because their definition of the evidence for the baptism of the Spirit is made in that precise way.

What then would be the signs and manifestations of baptism with the Spirit in Lloyd-Jones' judgment?

In the book Joy Unspeakable he gives six marks:

i] a sense of God’s glory and presence

ii] an assurance of God’s love for us in Christ

iii] the element of joy and gladness

iv] love toward God

v] a desire to glorify the Father and the Son

vi] light and understanding of the truth

This is what he was referring to when he told me that he had had ‘good times’ in his room at the hospital. He believed they were experiences of baptism with the Holy Spirit. There is, for example, an incident that took place at Christmas 1929: “The memory of that night never faded for those who were present. Mrs Lloyd-Jones recalling it, said: ‘As we knelt in prayer I seemed to be full of a warm golden glory, an indescribable joy and a hope that the consciousness we then enjoyed of the presence of God might never pass away.'”

Such experiences were not the prerogative of the study alone, or with members of one’s family, but in a church also, the Spirit of God could come upon a congregation gathered together praying. He recounts one such meeting, presumably in Aberavon, when a man got up to pray and it became clear that soon ‘something most extraordinary’ was taking place; “ . . . suddenly this man was entirely transformed; his voice deepened, a power came into it, even in his speech, and he prayed in the freest most powerful manner I have ever heard in my life . . . the prayer meeting continued without intermission and the freedom that had accompanied this man’s prayer was given to all the others . . . one felt that one was outside time, that one was in heaven; one was really lifted up to the spiritual realm.”

It is for preachers to know such immediate expe rience of this grace that the Doctor is most exercised, to have a baptism which enables him to preach powerfully and movingly. He longs that the gospel of Jesus Christ should come propelled to their hearers through Spirit-filled men. How do we preachers recognize this when it is happening?

He replies: “It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching--an awareness of a power not your own, thrilling through the whole of your being and an indescribable sense of joy. You are a man ‘possessed’, you are taken hold of and taken up. I like to put it like this — and I know of nothing on earth that is comparable to this feeling — that when this happens, you have a feeling that you are not actually doing the preaching, you are looking on. You are looking on at yourself in amazement as this is happening. It is not your effort; you are just the instrument, the channel, the vehicle: and the Spirit is using you, and you are looking on in great enjoyment and astonishment. There is nothing that is in any way comparable to this. That is what the preacher himself is aware of. What about the people? They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately. They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled. Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens, anything may happen to any one of them. They know at once tha t something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. As a result, they begin to delight in the things of God and they want more and more teaching.”

Such experiences while preaching the Word had been his from the beginning to the end of his ministry. In a letter written when he was 26 to his future brother-in-law, Ieuan Philips, he described speaking in his church in London and records: “It is not for me to say anything about the paper – all I shall say is this. The people who count at Charing Cross all liked it, while I myself was moved to an extent that I have never experienced before.”

From his gatherings of similar experiences of preachers from the Puritan time until today, Lloyd-Jones is firmly in the tradition of experiential Calvinism. He is not a ‘closet Charismatic.’ His piety reflects that whole living tradition of intense personal communion with God, power in prayer and in preaching. No ‘sign gift’ was ever insisted upon or even suggested. He was a cessationist [see editor's note above]; for example for him there was no possibility or need of the gift of apostles being bestowed again upon the church. It was a foundational gift which, when Scripture had been written, ceased to exist. The living Bible was enough; “There is thus no successor to the apostles. By definition, there never can be or has been a successor to the apostles.” That is also his conviction for prophets and evangelists.

There is thus only the remotest connection between himself and the supporters of the Charismatic Renewal movement, a coincidence of terminology. When we protested to him about his use of the phrase ‘baptism of the Spirit’ because of its takeover by Pentecostals and Charismatics, he replied that our spiritual fathers had used it in the way he was using it and that, though it might have been hijacked by others, he was not going to cease using that phrase. There was nothing in his teaching that would have been heretical to preachers from Calvin through to Kuyper. The great theme of his book of sermons on the gifts of the Spirit, Prove all Things, is not anti-cessationism, but the sovereignty of the Spirit in his operations.

If preachers today went to the Doctor and described to him their experiences of the help of the Spirit of God as they prayed and preached, he would assure them, as he did to virtually all the students and older men who went to him in London and described what had happened to him, that they had had a baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then let us pace ourselves for the marathon of a life in the ministry, pastoring wisely men and women with their enormous problems, growing in understanding of the truth, becoming more evangelistically fervent and all the more so as we see the day approaching.

Unless our experiences of God serve to exalt that God before men we are guilty of a self-indulgent piety. Let me end with my favourite quotation from Lloyd-Jones’ book on preaching. I am sure it is often quoted as giving to ministers the great end of their preaching: “There is one thing I have looked for and longed for and desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon; I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does tha t I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.

Every Christian ought to be asking the Father for more true and biblical visitations of the Holy Spirit upon their life. (Lk. 11:13) What might we experience if we did so only remains to be seen.

- Welsh pastor Geoff Thomas

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When I am Weak, Then I am Strong

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weaknesses.' Therefore I will glory all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

There is a blessing in weakness--it nourishes dependence on God. When we are strong, or deem ourselves strong, we are actually really weak, since we are trusting in ourselves, and do not seek Divine help. But when we are consciously weak, knowing ourselves unequal to our duties and struggles, then we experience strength because then we turn to Christ, and get His strength.

Too many people think that their weakness a barrier to their usefulness; or make it an excuse for doing little with their life. Instead of this, however, if we give it to Christ, He will transform our weakness into strength. He says that His power is made perfect in weakness; that is, what is lacking in human strength, He fills and makes up with divine strength. Paul learned this when he said that he now gloried in his weaknesses, because on account of them, the strength of Christ rested upon him, so that when he was weak, then he was strong with Divine strength.

We need only to make sure of one thing--that we do indeed bring our weakness to Christ, and lean on Him in simple faith. This is the vital link in getting the blessing. Weakness itself is a burden; it is like chains upon our limbs. If we try to carry it alone, we shall only fail. But if we lay it on the strong Son of God and let Him carry us and our burden, going on quietly and firmly in the way of duty, He will make our very weakness a secret source of strength. He will not take the weakness from us necessarily--that is not His promise--but He will so fill it with His own power that we shall be strong, more than conquerors, able to do all things through Christ, who strengthens us!

This is the blessed secret of having our burdening weaknesses transformed into strength. The secret can be found only in Christ. And in Him--it can be found by everyhumble, trusting disciple.

- J. R. Miller


If the essence of piety is personal communion with God then what does Dr. Lloyd-Jones have to say to us on praying? There is one section in Preaching and Preachers which is very moving. It is just over two pages in length, and it is the only place in his lectures on preaching that he expands on the theme of prayer. Every sentence is worth reading:

"I approach the next matter with much hesitation and a sense of utter unworthiness. I suppose we all fail at this next point more than anywhere else; that is in the matter of prayer. Prayer is vital to the life of the preacher. Read the biographies, and the auto­biographies of the greatest preachers throughout the centuries and you will find that this has always been the great characteristic of their lives. They were always great men of prayer, and they spent considerable time in prayer. I could quote many examples but I must refrain as there are so many, and they are well known. These men found that this was absolutely essential, and that it became increasingly so as they went on.

I have always hesitated to deal with this subject. I have preached on prayer when it has come in a passage through which I have been working; but I have never presumed to produce a book on prayer, or even a booklet. Certain people have done this in a very mechanical manner, taking us through the different aspects, and classifying it all. It all seems so simple. But prayer is not simple. There is an element of discipline in prayer, of course, but it surely cannot be dealt with in that way because of its very nature. All I would say is this — and again I am speaking here from personal experience — that once more it is very important for one to know one’s self in this matter. Whether this is a sign of a lack of deep spirituality or not I do not know — I do not think it is – but I confess that I have found it difficult to start praying in the morning.

I have come to learn certain things about private prayer. You cannot pray to order. You can get on your knees to order; but how to pray? I have found nothing more important than to learn how to get oneself into that frame and condition in which one can pray. You have to learn how to start yourself off, and it is just here that this knowledge of yourself is so important. What I20have generally found is that to read something which can be characterised in general as devotional is of great value. By devotional I do not mean something sentimental, I mean something with a true element of worship in it. Notice that I do not say that you should start yourself in prayer by always reading the Scriptures; because you can have precisely the same difficulty there. Start by reading something that will warm your spirit. Get rid of a coldness that may have developed in your spirit. You have to learn how to kindle a flame in your spirit, to warm yourself up, to give yourself a start. It is comparable, if you like, to starting a car when it is cold. You have to learn how to use a spiritual choke. I have found it most rewarding to do that, and not to struggle vainly. When one finds oneself in this condition, and that it is difficult to pray, do not struggle in prayer for the time being, but read something that will warm and stimulate you, and you will find that it will put you into a condition in which you will be able to pray more freely.

But I am not suggesting for a moment — quite the reverse — that your praying should be confined only to the morning when you start your work in your study. Prayer should be going on throughout the day. Prayer need not of necessity be long; it can be brief, just an ejaculation at ti mes is a true prayer. That is, surely, what the Apostle Paul means in his exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5: 17, ‘Pray without ceasing’. That does not mean that you should be perpetually on your knees, but that you are always in a prayerful condition. As you are walking along a road, or while you are working in your study, you turn frequently to God in prayer.

Above all — and this I regard as most important of all — always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this — always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of, ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2: 12—13). This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences in the life of the minister. So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing, but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect. You will experience an ease and a facility in understanding what you were reading, in thinking, in ordering matter for a sermon, in writing, in everything, which is quite astonishing. Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately, and thank God if it happens to you frequently.

From every standpoint the minister, the preacher, must be a man of prayer. This is constantly emphasized in the Pastoral Epistles and elsewhere, and, as I say, it is confirmed abundantly in the long history of the Church, and especially in the lives of the outstanding preachers. John Wesley used to say that he thought very little of a man who did not pray four hours every day. Nothing stands out so clearly likewise in the lives of people like David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, Robert Murray McCheyne and a host of other saints. That is why one is so humbled as one reads the stories of such men.

- D. M. Lloyd-Jones

Monday, August 18, 2008

Paul's Thorn

"Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." 2 Corinthians 12:7

Paul tells us that his "thorn" was given to him to keep him humble and save him from spiritual peril. Without it, he would have been exalted above measure and would have lost his spirituality. We do not know how much of his deep insight into the things of God and his power in service for his Master Paul owed to this torturing "thorn". It seemed to hinder him and it caused him incessant suffering, but it detained him in the low valley of humility, made him ever conscious of his own weakness and insufficiency, and thus kept him near to Christ whose home is with the humble.

There are few people who have not some "thorn" rankling in their flesh-- In one it is an infirmity of speech; in another an infirmity of sight; in another an infirmity of hearing. Or it may be lameness; or a slow but incurable disease; or constitutional timidity, or excessive nervousness; or a disfiguring bodily deformity; or an infirmity of temper. Or it may be in one's home--which is cold, unloving, and uncongenial; or it may be some moral failure; or it may be a bitter personal disappointment through untrue friendship or unrequited love.

Who has not his "thorn"? We should never forget that in one sense, our "thorn" is a "messenger of Satan," who desires by it to hurt our life, to mar our peace, to spoil the divine beauty in us, and to break our communion with Christ.

On the other hand, however, Christ Himself has a loving design in our "thorn." He wants it to be a blessing to us. He would have it keep us humble and save us from becoming vain. Or He means it to soften our hearts and make us more gentle. He would have the uncongenial things in our environment to discipline us into heavenly-mindedness, give us greater self-control, and help us to keep our hearts loving and sweet amid harshness and unlovingness. He would have our pain teach us endurance and patience, and our sorrow and loss teach us faith.

Thus, our thorn may either be a choice blessing to us--or it may do us irreparable harm. If we allow it to fret us; if we chafe, resist, and complain; if we lose faith and lose heart--it will spoil our life! But if we accept it in the faith that in its ugly burden, it has a blessing for us; if we endure it patiently, submissively, unmurmuringly; if we seek grace to keep our heart gentle and true amid all the trial, temptation, and suffering it causes, it will work good for us, and out of its bitterness will come sweet fruit!

- J. R. Miller

Friday, August 15, 2008

Creature Comforts Insufficient

All the temporal blessings and accommodations which God provides to sweeten life and make our passage through this wilderness more agreeable will fail and disappoint us, and produce us more thorns than roses, unless we can keep sight of His hand in bestowing them, and hold and use the gifts in some due subservience to what we owe to the Giver.

But, alas! we are poor creatures, prone to wander, prone to admire our gourds, cleave to our cisterns, and think of building tabernacles, and taking our rest in this polluted world! Hence the Lord often sees it necessary in mercy in the lives of His children . . .

- to embitter their sweets, - to break their cisterns, - send a worm to their gourds, and - draw a dark cloud over their pleasing prospects.

His Word tells us, that all here is vanity compared with the light of His countenance. And if we cannot or will not believe it upon the authority of His Word, we must learn it by experience. May He enable you to settle it in your hearts, that 'creature comforts' are precarious, insufficient, and ensnaring; that all good comes from His hand; and that nothing can do us good, but so far as He is pleased to make it the instrument of communicating, as a stream, that goodness which is in Him as a fountain.

Even the bread which we eat, without the influence of His promise and blessing, would no more support us than a stone. But His blessing makes everything good, gives a tenfold value to our comforts, and greatly diminishes the weight of every cross.

The Creator, not the creature comforts He gives, is the source of true joy.

- John Newton

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Great Attraction of Heaven

"Let not your heart be troubled. Be believe in God, believe also in Me; in My Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you and will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also!" John 14

"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better!" Philippians 1:23

The great attraction of heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. He Himself is the object chiefly enjoyed. To be with Jesus and like Jesus, and to behold His glory, constitute the heaven which true believers desire! They long to behold that blessed face which was buffeted for them! Their eternal anthem is, "All praise to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us! Give to Him everlasting glory! He rules forever and ever! Amen!"

- W. S. Plumer

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Has Grace come to You?

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age." - Titus 2:11-12

Saving grace is an educator- that is, it teaches its recepient something of major importance. It teaches us that we cannot live as if grace hasn't come. If a person lives as if grace hasn't come- living just the way they always have, no different than they were before- no different than a worldly person-- then it is a sure sign that in their life and experience grace indeed has not come yet. If a person lives as if grace hasn't come, it is because in their life grace hasn't come yet.- Stuart Olyott

It does not matter how many times a person makes a "decision for Jesus"-- they can wear the church carpet out walking down the isle making decisions-- but if there is no change of life, no repentance evidencing real change, no heart-felt love for God that is genuine, no newness of life-- then there is no true salvation; a decision for Jesus is not the same as true and radical salvation which comes from true regeneration and conversion. The gospel is not, "Repeat this prayer after me and if you are sincere, you are saved"; the call of the gospel according to the New Testament is, "Repent and believe the gospel, take up your cross and follow Me." A cheap, shallow, inadequate, and false gospel message has sent more people to hell than drugs, immorality, and atheism ever did.

There's a new hymn that has recently been released, sung to the old chorus, "I have decided to follow Jesus." It goes something like this:

I never wanted to follow Jesus,I never wanted to follow Jesus,I never wanted to follow Jesus,He rescued me, He rescued me.

That is the truth.

- Mack T.