Monday, August 31, 2009

Conscious of my own Weakness

The loss of all confidence in one's self is the first essential in the believer's growth in grace. The Christian, conscious of his own frailty, will turn to the Lord for strength. "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 12:10

There must be consciousness of our weakness before we will turn to the Lord for help. While the Christian imagines that he is sufficient in himself, while he imagines that by the mere force of his will that he can resist temptation, while he has any confidence in the flesh--then, like 'boasting Peter'--he will certainly fail and fall. The plain fact is that, of ourselves, we are utterly unable to practice a single precept or obey a single command that is set before us in the Scriptures! Apart from Christ, we can do nothing! (John 15:5). The promise of God is, "He gives power to the faint; and strengthens the powerless!" Isaiah 40:29 The secret of developing of Christian character is the realization of our own powerlessness, and the consequent turning to the Lord for help continually. A consciousness of our powerlessness should cast us upon Him who has all power.

- A. W. Pink

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seeking the Lord

Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” This is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence.

But aren't his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore is always near everything and everyone. He holds everything in His being. His power is ever-present in sustaining and governing all things.

And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn everything for our good. “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

But there is a sense in which God's presence is not with us always. For this reason, the Bible repeatedly calls us to “s eek the his presence continually.” God’s manifest, conscious, trusted presence is not our constant experience. There are seasons when we become neglectful of the Lord, give him no thought and do not put trust in him and we find him “unmanifested”—that is, unperceived as great, beautiful and valuable by the eyes of our hearts.

His face—the brightness of his personal character—is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness, beauty and worth.

This happens through “seeking.” Continual seeking. But what does that mean practically? Both the Old and New Testaments say it is a “setting of the mind and heart” on God. It is the conscious fixing or focusing of our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on God.
“Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19)

“If then you have been&n bsp;raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1–2)
This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God. This is what Paul prays for the church: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is a conscious effort on our part. But that effort to seek God is also a gift from God.

We do not make this mental and emotional effort to seek God because he is lost. That’s why we would seek a coin or a sheep. But God is not lost. Nevertheless, there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is often hidden. Veiled. We must go through mediators and around obstacles.

The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. He reveals himself in his Word. So we can seek him through that. The seeking is the conscious effort to get through the natu ral means to God himself—to constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation. This is what seeking God means. He shows himself to us in the evidences of grace in other people.

And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee every spiritually--dulling activity. We must run from it and get around it. It is blocking our way.

We know what makes us vitally sensitive to God’s appearances in the world and in the word. And we know what dulls us, blinds us and makes us not even want to seek him. These things we must move away from and go around if we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.

And as we direct our minds and hearts Godward in all our experiences, we then cry out to him. This too is what seeking him means.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
“If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy...” (Job 8:5)
Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. I long to see your face.

The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him” (Psalm 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord.

The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9). And when he is found, there is great reward. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”

- John Piper

Christ's Dominion in Psalm 72

I once asked an Old Testament professor how many of the Psalms he thought were directly Messianic, that is, that were about Christ Himself. His answer surprised me and delighted me. He said, "All of them." I agree completely.

That does not mean that you will find Messiah being referred to in each one directly or that you will find Messianic quotes that are repeated again in the N. T. But it does mean that Jesus is the author and ultimate subject of everything in the Psalms. Psalm 72 is wonderful example of that. Psalm 72 is about Jesus Christ, especially seeing His dominion and ultimate triumph.

See especially vss. 8-11:

8- May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth!
9- May desert tribes bow down before him and his enemies lick the dust!
10- May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
11- May all kings fall down before him, and all nations serve him!

I am especially struck by a phrase that was borrowed from this Psalm for a national hymn, America the Beautiful, the phrase is "from sea to sea", written in the song as "from sea to shining sea". The sad and real truth is, America's greatness and brotherhood will not extend or be seen ever from "sea to sea". But Jesus Christ will and this Psalm says so.

As I was thinking about that patriotic American song this morning, the tune came to mind and I think the truth of those verses fit the tune well.

O, Jesus Christ, as Lord of all,
Have rule ore all the earth;
Let desert tribes bow down to Him,
His foes will lick the dust.

Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ
May all bow down to you;
And kings with gifts
Their tribute bring
And nations crown Him King.

Somehow, I like that better than America the Beautiful, perhaps because it is fully true and will happen. Why don't you sing it today?

- Mack Tomlinson

Friday, August 28, 2009

Physical Healing

In the first coming of the Son of God into the world, we receive foretastes of his healing power. The full healing of all his people and all their diseases and disabilities awaits the second coming of Christ. And the aim of these foretastes which we receive now is to call us to faith and holiness.
Healing Is the Exception, Not the Rule—For Now
Most people who suffer from disabilities in this life will have them to the day they die. And all of us, till Jesus comes again, will die of something. Here and there, some are healed. We believe in miracles. But even though Jesus had all the power to heal, he did not usher in the final day of perfect wholeness. His ministry points to that day. But while this age of groaning lasts (Romans 8:23), healing is the exception, not the rule. And that is not because we are weak in faith. To be sure, we might see more miracles if we expected more and believed more.

But Jesus left hundreds unhealed at the pool of Bethesda and told the one man he did heal, who had not even believed on him, to wake up. I am pursuing your holiness. The main issue in this age till Jesus comes back is that we meet him—meet him—in our brokenness, and receive the power of his forgiveness to pursue holiness. In this calling to faith and holiness, the disabled often run faster and farther than many of us who have our legs and arms.

And in the mentally disabled, we simply don’t know how far they are running. Perhaps farther than we think. Jesus knows. Jesus knows everything. And he is compassionate and sovereign.
No Days Off for God
We need to see that Jesus showed the Jews that God even works on the Sabbath. He takes no days off. And the reason is so that we might be whole and have rest. And when Jesus says that he works on the Sabbath because his Father works on the Sabbath, he sealed his doom. Now he is both a Sabbath-breaker and blasphemer—making himself equal with God. So as it turns out, Jesus does this on a Sabbath, not to discuss what’s right to do on the Sabbath, but what it means to be the Creator and Ruler of the universe.

May=2 0the Lord open our eyes to know Jesus personally, as one who knows us, and has compassion on us, who is sovereign over our body and soul, and the one who has come with saving and healing power first for the sake of our holiness, and then finally for the sake of our everlasting health.

- John Piper

Appendix- I do also firmly believe that every Christian ought to consistently be asking the Lord for healing anytime they are sick--in faith and with expectancy--from the smallest ailments to the largest ones. Why? Because He healed people all the time in Scripture, which is our warrant of faith, and He is as compassionate as ever. Every instance in the gospels when someone came to Him for healing, He never denied them or turned them away. He even healed some who did not ask.
So the gospels strongly encourage us to be asking for healing. His job is to heal if He sovereignly chooses and our job is to ask and to be content with what God does. We should never be sick without asking the Lord Jesus to have mercy on us and raise us up. We would see answers more if we did. Ours is to ask--His is to choose to heal or show His grace through our cir cumstances. But let us be always asking.

- Mack Tomlinson

Just How Spiritual Are We?

Today the church still tries to organize more and more, but that has never been God's way. He takes individual men. He takes Moses to the backside of the desert. John the Baptist was in the wilderness until the day of his showing forth. Jesus, the Son of God who had left the glory of His Father, spent thirty years in training to minister for three years! John Baptist spent thirty years in training for six months of preaching, then had his head cut off. The apostle Paul at least thirty years--Moses at least forty years--now we want to go to Bible School for six months to three years, and somehow expect to come out like a super prophet, thinking we have all we need!

It’s the time factor that kills most of us. Tell me how much time you spend alone with God and I will tell you just how spiritual you are. Not how many meetings you go to. Not how many gifts you have. Not how many sermons you preach. Not how many recordings you’ve made. Tell me what kind of time you spend alone with God . . .and that will tell you how spiritual you are.

- Leonard Ravenhill

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Significance of Foot Washing

"He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him." John 13:4-5

When the Lord Himself would stoop to the humblest and lowest act of service and wanted to teach His disciples to do the same, the washing of feet was the one He chose.

During His earthly walk, Jesus saw all humble deeds in both their present and future dignity. He knew how and why it was that he who would be greatest must be the servant of all. He connected service and reward together. In His mind, all humble deeds of service were invested with great dignity. Jesus never did a humble deed, or took up a menial position, or uttered a lowly speech, without a consciousness of the true nobility attached to them. Therefore, with great joy He performed all His humble service!

It is just here that we fail. We have little power of association. We isolate our humble services and deeds from their eternal principles and thoughts, and then our services become burdensome and our duties become toilsome--and failure is too often the result. Let us realize the nobility of any humble service and remember that our now all-glorious Redeemer once said, "I am among you as One who serves." Luke 22:27

Life and common every-day service and duties will wear a new aspect to us when we see them tending to such a glorious consummation! We shall have fresh heart and energy when we realize that the future will compensate abundantly for them.

"So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, YOU OUGHT TO WASH ONE ANOTHER'S FEET; for I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you." - John 13:14-15

- Philip B. Power

What About Imprecatory Prayers?

An imprecatory prayer in the Bible is a prayer for God's judgment on someone. David many times prayed for God to judge and even kill his enemies; he would pray for judgment to come upon them severely. How does this square with New Testament praying?

The following question about imprecatory praying was sent to me recently:

Dear Mack,

"In the Old Testament, they prayed those imprecatory prayers of judgment on their enemies. So why did both Stephen, when he was being stoned in Acts, as well as Jesus when he was being crucified--why did both Stephen and Jesus prayed for their enemies to be forgiven? Why did they not pray an imprecatory prayer instead?"

My reply:

Dear brother,

Imprecatory prayers are especially found among the Psalms of David. An example is seen in Psalms 35:

"Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! . . . . Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them! . . . Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it to his destruction!" - Ps. 35:1-8

My answer on this question will be somewhat simple and brief.

Obviously the O. T. imprecatory prayers of David were prayers that were bound up with the Messianic purposes of God being established with and through David; the enemies of David were often literally the enemies of God's redemption plan being carried out.

So when David prayed those prayers, he was praying under perfect divine inspiration against the enemies of God which would have hindered God's purposes in the earth.

But the N. T. gives us a different type of praying than the O. T., since we are in a new covenant and not a covenant that is a physical and political theocracy ruling the land of Israel. Our enemies now are not physical enemies normally, except those who try to take the lives of Christians. Even then, martyrs do not pray against their enemies, but rather for them to be saved and to know God's mercy.

We would say also that there are a few examples of imprecatory prayers and actions sprinkled in the
N. T, such as Paul praying blindness upon a man as a form of God's judgment in the book of Acts, as well as other examples in different ways.

Concerning the prayers of Stephen and Jesus at the time of their death, they prayed for their enemies to be forgiven--for their sinful acts to not be held against them. New Testament praying is about forgiving enemies, not judging or killing them; that is why they were led by the Holy Spirit to pray as they did; they were facing death for the sake of the gospel, so they were not praying for judgment on their enemies, but rather for grace. This is how Jesus taught us to pray in the gospels.

Is it ever right for a believer in the New Testament era today to pray an imprecatory prayer? The answer would be that sometimes it can be right, given the right situation. In situations where it is clear that God's glory and honor is completely at stake in circumstances that, if the wicked are not stopped and judged, God will totally be dishonored and defeat will come to kingdom purposes. Even then, we really have to be led by the Holy Spirit in such cases to pray against someone for them to be judged. But in some instances, it is the right thing and the God-honoring thing to do.

I know of instances where men who were church members had become real enemies of God's work, though they were professing Christians, and were opposing the gospel, and were attacking and criticizing God's shepherds and were tearing down the work of God; then godly people began to pray about the situation and those men died soon in such a sudden way that it was obvious to everyone that God had intervened and removed them. That was Spirit-led imprecatory praying.

I do also believe there is an important application of using imprecatory prayers against all our own personal spiritual enemies--demons, besetting sins, worry, fear, lust, anger, bad problems-- everything that comes against us which would hinder our progress in Christ, we ought to aggressively pray against these things to be dealt the death blow more and more. While God uses many things to sanctify and change us, we ought not to neglect this aspect of truth, that David always cried out to God for deliverance and God consistently delivered him from all his foes. This is the victory that overcomes the world, says the apostle John, even our faith.

So that is my brief and simple answer, which obviously does not address the question fully or adequately, but I hope that is somewhat helpful.

- Mack Tomlinson

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Would Martin Luther Think?

News Report this past week:

"Leaders of the country's largest Lutheran denomination have moved toward a more welcoming view of homosexuality.

Delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, approved a "social statement on human sexuality" that acknowledges differing views on homosexuality. It says the ELCA is strong enough to accommodate such differences.

Shortly before the vote, strong winds toppled trees outside the convention center and damaged the steeple of a Lutheran church next door, prompting a speaker at the convention to say, "We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work."

Well, I trust it was. He who controls the winds and the waves also controls the falling of every tree, and even hurricanes. Twice in recent years, hurricanes (the first was Katrina) have caused the cancellation of the gay pride week in New Orleans, always scheduled the same week during the year.

We already know what God thinks about it all. But I wonder what Martin Luther would have said if he had been at the meeting in Minneapolis?

- Mack Tomlinson

When I Am Tried and Tested -- A Letter from John Newton

Dear friend,

I hope that you have found your trials so sweetened and so sanctified by God's blessing, that you have been enabled to rejoice in them!

Whatever may be the immediate causes of your troubles, they are all under the direction of His gracious hand and each, in their place, cooperating to a gracious end. Your afflictions all come from God's heart, who loves you better than you love yourself! They are all tokens of His love and favor, and are necessary means of promoting your growth in faith and grace.

You are in the hands of Him who does all things well, and conducts His most afflicting dispensations to those who fear Him with wisdom and mercy!

The Lord knows what is best for you! When there is a special need for your being in the furnace, He knows how to support you; and He knows at what time and in what way deliverance will best work for His glory and your good. These are the two great ends which He has in view, and which are inseparably connected together.

He knows our frame and of what we are made. His mercy exceeds that of the most tender parent. And though He causes grief, He will have compassion. Your afflictions which at present are not joyous but grievous shall, when you have been duly exercised by them, yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. I trust the Lord gives you a measure of patience and submission to His holy will. If so, everything shall be well and when He has fully tried you, you shall come forth as gold!

The thoughts of what we deserved at His hands and what Jesus suffered for our sakes, when applied by his Holy Spirit, have a sovereign efficacy to compose our minds and enable us to say, "Not my will, but may Yours be done!" How unspeakably better is it to be chastened by the Lord now than to be left to ourselves for a season, and at last condemned with the world.

The path of affliction is sanctified by the promises of God and by the consideration of our Lord Jesus, who walked in it Himself, that we might not think it too much to tread in His steps. Yes, it has been a beaten path in all ages; for the innumerable multitudes of the redeemed who are now before the eternal throne have entered the kingdom by no other way. Let us not then be weary and faint, but cheerfully consent to be the followers of those who, through faith and patience, are now inheriting the promises!

If after much tribulation, we stand accepted before the Lord in His glory, we shall not then think much of the difficulties we met with in our pathway to glory. Then sorrow and sighing shall cease forever and songs of triumph and everlasting joy shall take their place! Oh, happy transporting moment, when the Lord God Himself shall wipe every tear from our eyes!

Until then, may the prospect of this glory which shall be revealed cheer and comfort our hearts! Hitherto the Lord has helped us. He has delivered us in six troubles and we may trust Him in the seventh. Whatever storms may arise, we have an infallible and almighty Pilot, who will be a Sun and a Shield to those who love Him!

As long as we live, new trials will be needful. It is not that the Lord delights in grieving us and putting us to pain; on the contrary, He rejoices in the prosperity of His servants. No, it is not for His pleasure, but for our profit, that we may be made partakers of His holiness!

Perhaps you may have observed a bird, in a hedge, or upon the boughs of a tree; if you disturb it, it will move a little higher and thus you may make it change its place three or four times. But if it finds, after a few trials, that you continue to follow it, it takes wing at last and flies away!

Thus it is with us! When the Lord drives us from one creature-rest, we immediately perch upon another! But He will not allow us to stay long upon any. At length, like the bird, we are sensible that we can have no safety or stable peace below! Then our hearts take flight and soar heavenwards, and we are taught by His grace to place our treasure and affections out of the reach of earthly vanities. So far as this end is accomplished, we have reason to be thankful and say, happy rod--that brought me nearer to my God!

- John Newton

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Power of Prayer

Use the hammer of diligence, and let the knee of prayer be exercised, and there is not a stony doctrine in Revelation which is useful for you to understand, which will not fly into shivers under the exercise of prayer and faith. You may force your way through anything with the leverage of prayer. Thoughts and reasonings are like the steel wedges which give a hold upon truth; but prayer is the lever which forces open the iron chest of sacred mystery, that we may get the treasure hidden within.

-- C. H. Spurgeon

A Testimony

Here is a good testimony from a pastor that I received regarding the Daily Thoughts that dealt with motives in Christian ministry.

Brother Mack

Thanks for the thoughts on our motives. You are right on. My wife and I were talking about your article last night on our front porch. I told her as a result of it that I was set free from the pressure to be somebody. It's like we labor under a burden, sometimes unspoken, to be a hero preacher. As though the pinnacle of preaching achievement is to be a popular conference speaker or an open-air evangelist. As though we should be reaching for that as a goal--to want to have sought-after messages on the internet and books in demand. I am afraid we have many young men who feel this way and it fosters the desire for men to be a celebrity and to follow men from conference to conference.

Again, be encouraged, brother; thanks for your ministry

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Verse We Can't Explain Away or Avoid

"All that the Father gives me will come to me; and whoever comes to me, I will never cast out."
- John 6:37

There are some especially challenging verses in the Bible which are simply profound and glorious, and are to be believed and enjoyed. Yet some professing Christians simply can't seem to believe them because they can't make the verses fit into their theological system or tradition, or they are so prejudiced against what such verses say that they have to explain it away or avoid it.

I have met people who do not like and won't even read Romans 11 because they actually can't stand what Paul says in that chapter. Some pastors will avoid preaching entire sections of Scripture because they know if they preached them, they would be greatly opposed in their church. So they remain silent about those passages by avoiding them.

Such a verse is found in the words of our Lord in John 6:37: "All that the Father gives me will come to me; and whoever comes to me, I will never cast out." How are we to read it and understand it? What is it saying? Some simple obvious observations we see even from a casual reading:

1. "All the Father gives me..."
There are some souls who have been given by the Father to Christ the Son.

The verse specifically and clearly says this; Am I to change it or try to adjust it to fit my theology? Why not let it stand and say what it says? Did Jesus mean what He taught there? "All that the Father gives me." So a right biblical doctrine from this text is this: Some have been given to the Son by the Father.

One might reply, "Yes, but would it not be right to say that ALL people--everyone--would have been given to Jesus by the Father? No, that would not be right, and the context of the verse clearly shows why, which we answer in our next observation.

2. "All that the Father gives me WILL COME to me" . . .
All those who have been given by the Father to the Son DO come to Jesus Christ.

Jesus said this clearly: "All that the Father gives me WILL COME to me." If ALL PEOPLE UNIVERSALLY had been given to the Son, then everyone would end up coming to Him for sure because He says all who are given by the Father DO come to Him.

3. "Whoever comes to me shall never be cast out" . . .
Anyone, anywhere, anytime who truly comes to Christ will never be rejected or cast away.

That's pretty clear and simple. Anyone who truly desires to come and does come, will be received and is never rejected or turned away.

Summary doctrine- God the Father has already given to His Son, as His inheritance, a great number of individuals as His bride--its called in the Bible His body, the true church of Jesus Christ. All those who have been given to Christ by the Father will certainly come to Him. Everyone who truly comes to Him in saving faith will be received and not cast away.

Application- It is wrong for us to negate what one Scripture clearly teaches by saying, "But what this verse says can't be truly saying that because other verses contradict what it says." No, they actually don't. Scripture never contradicts Scripture; but it often does state objective truths that seem impossible to reconcile because our minds cannot see how they both could logically be true. When that happens, we must let every truth stand alone and we must say, "Both are equally true and I just don't have enough understanding yet."

John 6:37 is infinitely glorious truth that we must believe and rejoice in, even if it is beyond us.

- Mack Tomlinson

A Hymn for the Day

No strength of nature can suffice
To serve the Lord aright:
And what she has, she misapplies,
For lack of clearer light.

How long beneath the law I lay
In bondage and distress;
I worked the precept to obey,
But toiled without success.

Then to abstain from outward sin
Was more than I could do;
Now if I feel its power within,
I feel I hate it too.

Then all my serv ile works were done
A righteousness to raise;
Now freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose His ways.

“What shall I do,” was then the word,
“That I may worthier grow?”
“What shall I render to the Lord?”
Is my inquiry now.

To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.

- William Cowper

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Biblically Informed Self-Knowledge

As a new Christian in 1930, C. S. Lewis was learning terrible things about his heart—the unfathomable layers of pride. It is astonishing how similar his description of his own heart was to the description Jonathan Edwards gave of our inscrutable strata of self-admiration.

Here is Lewis writing to his friend, Arthur, amazingly within a year after his conversion:
During my afternoon “meditations,”—which I at least attempt quite regularly now—I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character. Sitting by, watching the rising thoughts to break their necks as they pop up, one learns to know the sort of thoughts that do come.

And, will you believe it, one out of every three is the thought of self-admiration: when everything else fails, having had its neck broken, up comes the thought “what an admirable fellow I am to have broken their necks!” I catch myself posturing before the mirror, so to speak, all day long. I pretend I am carefully thinking out what to say to the next pupil (for his good, of course) and then suddenly r ealize I am really thi nking how frightfully clever I'm going to be and how he will admire me...

And then when you force yourself to stop it, you admire yourself for doing that. It is like fighting the hydra... There seems to be no end to it. Depth under depths of self-love and self-admiration. (quoted in The Narnian by Alan Jacobs, 133)
Then we go back 200 years to the1740s when Jonathan Edwards was struggling to sort out what was wheat and what was chaff in the emotions of the Great Awakening in New England. In one of his greatest books, Religious Affections, he gives the most penetrating descriptions of Christian humility I have ever seen. The part that foreshadows Lewis goes like this:

If on the proposal of the question [Are you humble?], you answer, “No, it seems to me, none are so bad as I.” Don't let the matter pass off so; but examine again, whether or no you don't think yourself better than others on this very account, because you imagine you think so meanly of yourself. Haven't yo u a high opinion of this humility? And=2 0if you answer again, “No; I have not a high opinion of my humility; it seems to me I am as proud as the devil”; yet examine again, whether self-conceit doesn't rise up under this cover; whether on this very account, that you think yourself as proud as the devil, you don't think yourself to be very humble. (quoted from the online works of Jonathan Edwards)

One of the reasons these two are such giants of influence is the depths of their own biblically informed self-knowledge. Layer after layer until they despaired of knowing themselves humble. Humility, it turns out, isn’t the kind of thing that can be spotted in oneself and prized.

Humility senses that humility is a gift beyond our reach. If humility is the product of reaching, then we will instinctively feel proud about our successful reach. Humility is the gift that receives all things as gift. It is the fruit, not of our achievement, but of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is the fruit of the gospel—knowing and feeling that we are desperate sinners and that Christ is a great and undeserved Savior.

Humility is the one grace in all our graces that, if we gaze on it, becomes something else. It flourishes when the gaze is elsewhere—on the greatness of the grace of God in Christ.

- John Piper

Monday, August 17, 2009

Motives in Christian Ministry

I have often been challenged in my own heart before the Lord to check my motives in all things regarding serving Christ. Because it's not only about what I believe and what I do in kingdom service--of paramount important is the question WHY. Why am I doing what I am doing--what are the hidden motives of my heart? Why do I do what I do and why do I say what I say?

The glory of God has been re-emphasized in recent years and rightly so. But now its almost "popular" to talk about God's glory. It's becoming an evangelical fad that's very cool; its "IN" to speak much about God's glory, reading and quoting Jonathan Edwards or John Piper about the glory of God, the supremacy of Christ, and "it being all about Him."

These days, it's "in" to imitate the theology of whoever happens to be the most popular current author, preacher, theologian, or conference speaker. It's "in" to always attend the Desiring God Bethlehem conference, the Together for the Gospel conference, the True Church conference, the Bentley conference, the Arkansas conference, or the Heartcry Missions conference; it's the cool thing to do these days because surely everyone who is anyone goes there, right? (if I've left out your favorite conference, then include it as well.)

Its so easy to get caught up in such conferences that preach about God and His glory. So we get used to using the lingo about the glory of Christ and tossing around all the right terms. And there right before us lies a subtle trap. It's very possible to do those things so that others will believe we are deep, solid, and theologically accurate. The right thing begins to be driven by wrong motives. And therein lies the danger. Listen closely and consider.

I believe much of what we see in professing American evangelicalism, including all the Reformed movements and the conservative and family-oriented ministries, is driven by self-centered and man-centered motives and not by motives for God alone.

If the secrets and motives of the hearts of all were fully disclosed and could suddenly be seen, we would probably see that many are trying to steal glory from God for themselves by speak about His glory. And the stealing of His glory is due to wrong inner motives in the heart that motivate much of what is done in ministry. What do I mean? I mean simply this.

A man can preach eloquently about the true God, when ironically, what is actually motivating that man to preach about God's glory is that he wants to be known as a man who talks greatly about God. A man can develop a preaching ministry that is very popular, well-done with excellence, which seems so sound and good, and yet he is primarily motivated by secret desires to be a popular preacher. He wants success and wants to be known. He wants a cutting-edge ministry that is growing and growing. And he steers everything toward that. When he's driven by such motivation, he and those who work for him will be blind to it, but the discerning soul will see it because flesh always shows itself to be flesh.

A Bible teacher can teach in a very gifted way the deepest truths revealed in the Bible, and communicate them exceptionally (He's a fabulous communicator!), but the hidden motive is the desire to be known and liked as an excellent teacher so he can build a bigger and bigger ministry. You see, its the personal reputation he's after, and he's using truth about God as his means to a self-centered end, all because of wrong motives.

A church can begin an orthodox ministry that is is impressive and is run very efficiently, but behind it all, the motive is to build a successful ministry empire, in order to be known as the church in town.

A church or ministry can begin and promote their annual conference as being all about God, and yet the primary motive driving the promotion, unknown to everyone except God Himself, is pride; the conference planners are wanting theirs to be known for the sake of their ministry.

A ministry being so well-tuned to give the appearance of doing everything with excellence because image and perception is everything. Wanting to impress anyone, especially donors.

One can have the finest web site available, with the most superb links and resources imaginable, yet it all be only wood, hay, and stubble because its all motivated by the flesh.

There is so much of this that is widespread, that even the least discerning believer among us often sees it clearly. It's repulsive; and if it is repulsive to any of the Lord's people, how much more is it material for vomit in the stomach of Jesus Christ, the One who is supposed to get all the glory?

I confess without reservation that there have been many times in the course of 35 years of Christian living and 33 years of ministry, that my motives were wrong. I am sure now my motive often was really only about me and my reputation-- what people would think of my messages--if I could impress them with my knowledge--if they thought I was a praying man--if I appeared spiritual and humble. Just think of that--pride driving me to want to be known as humble--how sick and sickening.

I can remember specific times early on when I preached on something mainly because I thought it would be an impressive sermon and I thought I could make it my best one. It is very sad to have to confess it now, but I honestly did not see it at the time. That's very sad and God is very merciful.

All too often I know that hidden pride motivated me to desire to be seen as something that I wasn't. My only answer now in looking back on it all is that I did not see it at the time and was so ignorant and immature that I was blind to it all, and God has been infinitely merciful to me.

How could I use Christ, or His Word, or His people, or His gospel, or prayer, or His name, or messages about His glory, with motives of wanting people to think I was a real man of God? The real truth was that I was a novice, immature, carnal in areas of my life, undisciplined, and lacking stability and self-control. God knew it all along and I would feel it at times, but I sure did not want anyone else to know it.

I can look back now over 3 1/2 decades of being a Christian and a preacher, and as I survey those years, I see wood, hay, and stubble that I was often producing, simply because of some wrong motives.

- Wanting to impress

- Wanting to be a part of a particular church

- Wanting to be in a specific ministry or specific type of ministry

- Wanting to start a ministry when it would be years before I was even ready at all to be entrusted by
God with any ministry

- Wanting to teach or preach

- Wanting to write a book

- Wanting to be connected somehow to well-known men

- Wanting to become something that God was not purposing for me to become

- Wanting to be something for God when I was not prepared at all to be something for God

- Wanting people to think something of me that was not reality

- Wanting people to have a better impression of me than was accurate and true

This stuff gets down to the very heart of what we are, that only God sees and knows; it is the reality of this self life and impure motives that must die because that is what wants to steal God's glory by using God for self exaltation.

Honestly, now all such motives have become to me abominable and now cause my mind to be weary and my heart to grieve. I hate it all with a nauseous hatred.

When you begin to really think of it all, I wonder how much such self motives and self interest drives a majority of Christian work and ministry?

- The drive to begin a new ministry

- The zeal of an evangelistic ministry

- A passion for theology

- The effort to write or publish books

- The beginning of new conferences everywhere (as if we really needed more conferences)

- Even the unending publication of new translations of the Bible--Let's name a few:

The Biker's Rumbling Bible, The Cowboy Rough Ridin Bible, The Coach's Game Plan Bible, The Athlete's Bible, The Rapper's Bible, The Seeker Friendly Bible, The Messianic/Completed Jew Bible, The Soul Winner's Bible, The Reformation Bible, The Dispensational Bible, The Spirit-Filled Life Bible, The Soccer Mom's Bible, The Pre-Millenial Bible, The Amillenial Bible, The Prosperity Study Bible, and the Businessman's Success Bible.

You could name some I have left out. (As if the holy Bible itself is not enough.) It's a wonder that someone hasn't published The Hooker's Bible or the Sex Addict's Bible. Perhaps they have and I haven't heard about it.

Want to know what motivates it all? MONEY and FINANCIAL PROFIT--pure and simple. The big evangelical publishing houses keep producing new, contemporary versions of the Bible because it's big money. No new translation is needed at all, but money drives it all; and self motives drive the money.

But that's another issue altogether. Personal motives are what we are talking about here.

Lately this has come to my mind consistently. Why am I doing what I do? What do I want people to think of me? What motivates my Christian service, my preaching, my reading, my witnessing or anything that I put my hand to?

Preaching- Preacher, what are the hidden motives in your heart when you stand to preach? I, for one, am sick of preachers who obviously are wanting to impress people with their sermons; the truth is, if this is their motive, no one is impressed, especially God. They already have their reward, and I promise, it's a pretty empty one.

Conferences- Why begin another conference? Why be a conference speaker? Why attend conference after conference? What are our motives really?

Prayer- How much public praying in the presence of others is motivated by impressing others, praying to be heard by men?

New Books- Some authors produce books like a paper mill; the truth is, the publishers press them and pressure them to do another book; why? because their books will sell and the publishers want an annual amount of revenue coming in from that author. So the race is on- more books, more books, more books and the motive behind it is obvious. It's like a big elephant being in the living room, but no one wants to talk about it. But it's still there and everyone knows it.

Knowledge- Why am I interested in truth? Why do I want to discuss theology? Why do I blog and enter theological discussions online? Is it to appear to others as really being something and to impress them, to win the argument or appear to be the most solid one in the discussion? How edifying! I wonder what Christ feels and thinks of us if that is what is lurking in our motives?

Reading- Why do I read really? Is it for others to know that I am doing it? Is it to be able to say we have read something? Is it to be knowledgeable so we can be seen as that?

Whether it is our specific service, our desire for personal growth, doing Bible teaching, or discipling someone, why am I really doing it?

The sobering truth is this-- every Christian will answer at the judgment seat of Christ for the works done in their body as a Christian. On that day, I believe false motives in service and ministry will cause us to lose any reward that might have come to us in serving Christ, meaning that every work or service that was done with impure motives will lose its reward because false motives turn good works into evil works--into wood, hay, and stubble.

God once asked Jeremiah a very specific and serious question: "Seekest thou great things for thyself--Seek them not." If the Holy Spirit asked each of us that question, how would we answer? Would we turn from seeking great things for ourselves and confess our wrong motives if He made it clear that we were doing that?

Gone forever should be a motive to be known by men, to be a great author, to be seen as something, to have a successful ministry in the eyes of anyone, to be admired spiritually, or to be in with the best evangelical group or church.

I have to ask myself always, "If God wills for me to pastor 15 people, to never write a book, never be known or popular, never preach in another conference, never have an outward ministry, and never have any reputation at all among anyone as being anything, can I be satisfied with that? If I only have God alone and am hidden away, and am only pleasing Him, is that enough? If my church never grows and no one ever hears anything about me, is that fine with me?

Today if John Piper's church called me and ask me to preach in their big conference (which we all know will never happen thankfully), I would honestly dread the thought of it and would decline; I would decline because I know that I don't have the goods to speak in such a venue, and so I would decline the invitation- pure and simple. I would not accept it because I know that I probably couldn't handle either the embarrassment of it or the compliments which likely would only be common courtesy and kindness, not because they were truly deserved.

I know that some would say that would be a wrong decision. After all, they need the truth and what an opportunity I would be passing up. What doors could that open further for me? That is exactly my point. The invitation becomes about me. So I would decline unless I had a very real assurance that it would not become about me and that it would not change me for the worse. Could I be trusted with the opportunity without it bringing pride with it? I don't know. But I do know this- I do not have desires or motives to preach in such settings and that feels liberating. I would rather preach to fifty people who are hungry and humble than three thousand in a mixed multitude.

I am at the place now in my heart that I don't care if I preach to two thousand people or to ten people. I don't care. I just don't care about any of it any more. All such desire has disappeared like a vapor. The Word of God seems to have washed it away or is truly in the process of washing it away deeply. And the main reason this is true at all is because God has graciously done this in me sovereignly. Twenty years ago, I did not see any of it.

There's also another reason that such desires have disappeared for me-- I have dabbled in some of it at a very small level and it never satisfies; partaking of it never gives that which the flesh promises it will give. Ultimately, its all temporal, unsatisfying, and empty.

It's true-- godliness with contentment really is great gain; it's actually true. To be known by God--to be His--to want Him--to be motivated by the desire to fear and please Him only--that is life's purpose and life's satisfaction.

I love an old mission statement I heard back in the 1980's: "I have no one to impress--I only have One to please."

Motives- how big and controlling are they down inside of us? They are the biggest human issue within us that drive our Christian living and ministry. May God deal radically and deeply with us all about our motives. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

If God, in this short time of reading these thoughts, has convicted you about wrong motives, then stop and just begin to cry out to Him to save you from this trap; cry out to Him about it all to purify your motives and to cleanse and deliver you from all motives except Christ Himself.

Lord Jesus, I pray you would so work in each one of us, so as to remove every false and wrong motive within our hidden parts--quarry us deep--strip all false and inferior motives away, wean them from us, cause them to dissolve, set us free from them, cause them to be repulsive to us, and please replace them with one motive--Jesus Christ period.

What did Paul say? For me to live is . . . . . Christ." Period. That's the only motive for any of us.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

- Mack Tomlinson

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Genuine and Supreme Love to God

Supreme love to God will certainly produce self-denial for His sake. It will habitually avoid everything which He has forbidden, and will obey, not a part, but all of His commands. Supreme love will seek communion with its object more than any worldly pleasure. It will pant after Him and for greater conformity to Him; it will seek His glory as its highest interest; it will consider Him as its most desirable portion; it will delight in thinking of Him more than in any worldly object; it will delight in prayer; it will renounce the world and idols, and cultivate a heavenly mind.

As humiliating as the thought is, we know that every person is God's enemy until he is born again. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Hence it is, that so many people who attend church regularly and lead regular lives, are so unmindful of God from day after day, neglect prayer, put eternal things out of view, and lose themselves in the eager pursuit of the world.

They must be conscious, if they would only think seriously, that the world engages more of their care than God or their souls, and is of course their supreme god. They must be conscious that prayer is a burden, that pious fellowship is a burden, that the thoughts of God which sometimes intrude are unwelcome, that Christian service is not agreeable to their taste, that they would rather be employed in amusement, or business, or pleasure, or sloth than in godliness; that they would rather be reading an amusing story than the Scriptures.

Surely such people do not love God. Such minds could not be happy in heaven if they were allowed there. They must undergo a radical change or certainly they can find no happiness beyond the grave. Ah Lord God, how many of such are to be found among us--among the dearest friends of our hearts!

- Edward Griffin

The Flood Came and Swept Them All Away

"He wiped out every living thing that was on the surface of the ground, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth! Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark!" Genesis 7:23

Finally, the frightful morning began! The heavens gathered blackness. Angry tempests conflicted in the skies. The lightnings flashed over the world! The word began to spread, that Noah and his family had entered into the ark. The ungodly then began to fear!

Before long, floods of water poured from the sky. Some now began to turn their eyes towards the ark; others stood doubting; others still dared to scoff!

The waters go on to increase. The rivers fill and start to overflow. The waters begin to rise in the streets. Some flee into their houses; others, more intimidated, run to the hills! Others are now convinced, and with dreadful fright, are seen wading toward the ark!

The fountains of the great deep are now broken up. The waters rise more rapidly, and begin to rush with impetuous force. With difficulty they stand against the stream. They struggle for their lives to reach the ark! Thousands come--some wading, some swimming, some sinking, some hanging onto the ark with the grasp of death--all screaming for admission!

But it is too late! Time was, when the ark was open and they might have entered in, but that time is past! Where are now those tongues which made fun of the enormous vessel and the man who built it? Now what do you think of him, who for more than a century has been called a fool and madman! They would give a thousand worlds to be in his condition now!

Those nearest the ark cry and plead to be let in, but its all in vain! The waters roar! The ark is lifted up! They sink and are seen no more!

By this time, every human being--adult and child--on the whole earth is thoroughly convinced. Hear their cries from the tops of the houses, which are answered by wails from those on the hills. See the multitudes who have fled to the mountains. How like frightened sheep they crowd together! Now the waters, roaring and foaming, have reached their feet! They flee up to the highest ridge, but the floods pursue them there! Some are able to climb the lofty oaks and the waves overtake them there! They flee to the highest branches, and for a moment have time to reflect on their former madness: "How could I not believe the Lord's prophet? Where is the ark now which I scorned? Where am I going? O eternity! eternity! What a dreadful God have I despised!" On the topmost bough, the impetuous torrent sweeps them away! Their hold is broken and they sink to rise no more!

The ark floats by and sails over the heads of the revilers and persecutors! Only that blessed family in the ark is safe!

The same terrors will seize an unbelieving world when Jesus comes again!

"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and swept them all away! That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man!" Matthew 24:37-39

- Edward D. Griffin

Friday, August 14, 2009

Truth under Attack

John Calvin said, "A dog barks when his master is threatened or attacked. I would be a coward if I saw the truth of God under attack and yet I remained silent."

Are we, then, less than a dog, when it comes to speaking up an speaking out in defense of God's honor and His name when truth is attacked and put on trial? Every day, all around us, truth is put on trial and is called a lie, said to be wrong, said to be narrow--it is called all kind of names daily and is twisted, perverted, and changed. The ungodly of this world never hesitate to spread their lies and to put truth down. How can I be less for truth than they are for lies? How can I not speak up for truth consistently?

There are times we should be silent, such as when we are tempted to simply defend ourselves in some situations and give excuses for something. But we often speak up in our own defense. Its then that we probably should be silent rather than speak.

But when it comes to random conversations, water-cooler chit chat at work, lunch discussions, or other such situations, we should always defend truth when it is attacked. If we are there and we don't speak up, then who will? We are worse than a dog if we won't defend our Master's truth when it is blasphemed and ridiculed. Better to speak up and quietly shock everyone there and go away with a clear conscience and a joyful heart than to compromise with silent guilt and be grieved that you would not own your Lord and His cause?

Do we speak when, instead, we should remain silent and do we remain silent when we should speak?

The great temptation to compromise our witness Charles Wesley expresses in one of his hymns:

Shall I, for fear of mortal man
The Spirit's course in me restrain;
Or undismayed in deed and word,
Be a true witness for my Lord;
Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng,
Soften Thy truths and smooth my tongue?"

May the Lord make us as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. May He make us more courageous, more unmoved, less fearful of men, more loyal to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at least more like the dog that always barks when its master is threatened.

"I want to speak when I should speak,
And not draw back when truth's attacked,
To be Your voice, who died for me;
Open my mouth to own Your shame.

Save me from cowardice in all my ways,
Save me from fear of men each day;
Save me from faltering with mind and will,
O, sanctify my will, my heart, my tongue.

Lord, help me speak your honor round,
And never fear to own Your cause;
Set free my heart and then my tongue
Make me a fearless, speaking son. -- (MT)

- Mack Tomlinson

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Christians are Unmoved and Kept-- All the Way Home

"He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber." Psalm 121:3

This is a choice stanza for pilgrims to the celestial city.

"He will not allow your foot to be moved." Though the paths of life are dangerous and difficult, yet we shall stand fast, for Jehovah will not permit our feet to slide; and if He will not allow it, we shall never be moved! If our foot is thus kept, we may be sure that our head and heart will be preserved also! Those who have God for their keeper shall be safe from all the perils of the way.

Among the hills and ravines of Palestine, the keeping of the feet is a great mercy. But in the slippery paths of a tempted, tried and afflicted believer, the blessing of upholding is of priceless value, for a single false step might cause us a fall fraught with awful danger! To stand 'steadfast' and pursue our holy way is a blessing which only God can give. It is worthy of His divine hand and worthy also of our perennial gratitude. Our feet shall move in heavenly progress and we shall never be overthrown!

"He who keeps you will not slumber." We could not stand a moment if our Divine Keeper were to sleep! We need Him by day and by night. Not a single step can be safely taken except under His guardian eye. God is the convoy and body-guard of His people. When dangers are all around us, we are safe because our Preserver is awake, and will not permit us to be moved. No fatigue of exhaustion can cast our God into sleep--His watchful eyes are never closed!

- C. H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What a Kind Shepherd

"The Lord is my shepherd--I have everything I need." Psalm 23:1

"The Lord is my shepherd!" What condescension is this, that the Infinite Lord assumes the office and character of a Shepherd towards His people! It should be the subject of grateful admiration, that the great God allows Himself to be compared to anything which will set forth His great love and care for His own people!

David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a weak, defenseless and foolish creature, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything!

No man has a right to consider himself the Lord's sheep unless his nature has been renewed; for the Scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats! A sheep is personal property, not a wild animal. Its owner sets great value on it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly as David did, that we belong to the Lord!

There is a noble tone of confidence in this sentence. There is no "if", nor "but", nor even an "I hope so". David says, "The Lord IS my shepherd." We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father.

The sweetest word of the whole verse is that monosyllable, "MY". He does not say, "The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large," but "The Lord is MY shepherd!" He is a MY Shepherd to no one else--He cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me! The words are in the present tense. Whatever the believer's situation, he is constantly under the pastoral care of Jehovah Himself!

The next words are an encouraging inference from the first statement, "I have everything I need." I might lack otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd, He is able to supply my needs and is certainly willing to do so, for His heart is full of love towards His people!

I shall not lack for temporal things. Does He not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can He leave His children to starve?

I shall not lack for spiritual things, I know that His grace will be sufficient for all my needs. Resting in Him, He will say to me, "As your days--so shall your strength be!"

I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I have everything I need." Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may lack, but "I have everything I need." "The young lions may lack, and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing."

Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, "I have everything I need!" Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack; and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I shall have all good things and abound, not because I have a large store of money in the bank, nor because I have skill and wit to sustain myself, but because "The Lord is my shepherd!"

The wicked always lack but the righteous never! An unsaved person's heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious heart dwells in the "palace of contentment!"

- C. H. Spurgeon

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Parents and their Unconverted Children

Parents! Your children who are yet unconverted, are as surely as any other person, dead in trespasses and sins. May no parent fail fully to realize the spiritual state in which all human beings are naturally found. Unless you have a very clear sense of the utter ruin and spiritual death of your children, you will be incapable of being made a blessing to them. Go to them, I beg you, not as to 'sleepers' whom you can by your own power awaken from their slumber, but as 'spiritual corpses' who can only be quickened by a divine power!

If you think that your child is not really depraved and you indulge foolish notions about the innocence of childhood, then it should not surprise you if you remain barren and unfruitful.

If you would bring spiritual life to your child, you must vividly realize that child's spiritual condition--dead, dead! God will have you feel that your child is dead in trespasses and sins, as you once were. God would have you come into contact with that death by painful, crushing, humbling sympathy. If you would raise your dead child to spiritual life, you must feel the chill and horror of your child's death yourself. You must have some real distinct sense of the dreadful wrath of God and of the terrors of the judgment to come.

Depend upon it--when the spiritual death of your children alarms and overwhelms you, it is then that God is about to bless you!

- C. H. Spurgeon

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What is Revival?

Churches often advertise they are having a “revival”. But such announcing of revival is characterized by three things-- it is sad, presumptuous, and weak.

First, it is sad. Revival means to bring to life again and thus churches are unwittingly advertising they are dying, in need of life, backslidden, lukewarm, and in a bad way. To be in a dying condition is a shame. It does not seem like something to advertise. But maybe credit should be given at least for honesty.

Then, It is also presumptuous. The Spirit of Go d is unpredictable--like the wind (John 3.8); how does a church know that they will be revived as a result of some special meetings with some visiting preacher? If God does not arise and visit them, the special meetings will be of no effect and business will go on as usual.

Finally, it is weak. Historic revival is not some evangelistic campaign, but it is God coming to a church, to churches or to a community in a supernatural way with unusual power. It is divine fire and you don’t have to advertise a fire. Examples?

In the Hebrides Revival of 1949 in Scotland, for example, God came in such a powerful way that communities were swept into the Kingdom of God almost overnight.

The Canadian Revival of 1970 began in Saskatoon, and in a matter of days the biggest building in the city could not handle the crowds. It spontaneously spread until finally in Winnipeg there were so many stolen items returned to stores that one department store had to designate a special building to store them all. Families were healed. Lives were changed.

After much prayer, the South African Revival of 1966 began when God came as at Pentecost with a “sound from heaven.” (Acts 2.2) Dozens each day came uninvited to the meeting place under conviction of sin and asking for spiritual help.

This is revival; this is new life. May God do it again, even in our city.

Habakkuk 3:2 says, "O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years."

Psalm 85:6-- "Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?"

- Bob Jennings

Being a Christian When You are Young

To be a believer in Jesus Christ early in life is to be saved from a thousand regrets! Such a person shall never have to say that they carry in their bones the sins of their youth. The Christian young man will not fall into the common sins of other young men and injure his bodily health by excesses.
He will likely marry a Christian woman and so have a holy companion in his journey towards heaven. The same is true for young women who really follow Christ.

Early godliness helps us to form friendships for the rest of life which will prove helpful and saves us from those which are harmful. The young Christian will select, as his friends, the godly from the church and not the party-goers at the local bar. They will be his helpers in virtue and not his tempters to sin. Depend upon it--a great deal depends upon whom we choose for our companions early in life. If we start in bad company, it is very hard to break away from it.

The man brought to Christ early in life has this further advantage--he is helped to form holy habits and is saved from being the slave of sinful ones. Habits soon become second nature; to form new ones is hard work; but those formed in youth usually remain to old age.

I also notice that very frequently those who are brought to Christ while young grow in grace more rapidly and readily than others do. They have not so much to unlearn and they have not such a heavy weight of old sinful memories to carry. The scars and bleeding sores which come from having spent years in the service of the devil are missed by those whom the Lord brings into His church early, before they have wandered far into the sinful pleasures of this evil world.

I cannot commend early godliness too highly. How attractive it is! Grace looks loveliest in youth! That which would not be noticed in the grown man strikes at once the most careless observer when seen in a child or younger person. Grace then has a convincing force--the infidel drops his weapon and admires. A word spoken by a child abides in the memory and its artless accents touch the heart. Where the minister's sermon fails, the young person's prayer may gain the victory!

- C. H. Spurgeon

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Help for the Inconsistent Bible Reader

This is an encouragement for those who are inconsistency in the daily reading of the Bible. There can be various reasons why a person is inconsistent or negligent. If that happens to be you, then what I share here is for you.

What makes some Christians inconsistent in Scripture reading?

Generally speaking, inconsistent people are simply too busy and do not take time to get alone, be still, and have an uninterrupted time in the Word. In such a case, the only solution is to take some self-inventory, ask the Lord for grace to change this, and then make some real choices.

If a person can come to the place of sincerely saying, "Whatever my schedule is, whatever my responsibilities are, I desire to have a quality time in the Word of God every day, regardless of what I am doing; it may mean being up an hour earlier; it may mean taking lunch alone every day rather than eating with others; it may mean stopping on the way home from work for a quiet time and place to read and meditate--I don't care what it takes, I must have regular and quality time in the Word of God for daily nourishment of my soul and daily renewal of my mind and heart; I am going to do this, by God's grace, no matter what because I know this is God's will for me."

I believe in our day that this is the primary problem. It simply is not the priority it ought to be. And some haven't won the battle yet. So they suffer in their walk and will continue to do so until this change takes place. It can happen if they desire it enough and are serious enough.

For such a person, I can give them a regular reading plan that is simple and user-friendly; I did not say easy--disciplined reading time is a discipline that can be built into your life. I will then offer suggestions about how to do your reading that can maximize your benefit and enjoyment. I will not share that here, but am simply making this reading plan available to anyone who needs a plan and will ask for it.

I could not begin to express the life change that comes from reading every day without interruption. I'm not talking about reading ten or fifteen minutes, but at least an hour daily. What happens is this:

- The more you become consistent, the more of a habit it becomes.
- The more you read, the more your mind becomes renewed to truth.
- The more your mind gets renewed, the more enjoyment, truth, enlightenment, strength, hope, freedom, joy, and a God-centered perspective comes to you.

The more this happens, the richer and more enjoyable Bible reading becomes; it then is not a drudgery, but an exciting experience, where you actually look forward to the time with anticipation and enjoyment.

So, if you are a person who is inconsistent because you don't have a plan and method, I welcome you to ask.

- Mack Tomlinson

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Security of Divine Providence: A Letter from John Newton

"Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father! And the very hairs of your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:29-30

Let us learn to see and acknowledge God's hand in all we have and in all we meet with. Such a deep and abiding persuasion of the Most High God, ordering and over-ruling all our concerns, would, like the light, diffuse a luster and a beauty upon everything around us! To consider every comfort of life as an effect and proof of God's mercy towards us, would, like the fabled magic stone, turn all our possessions to gold and stamp a value upon things which a common eye might judge as insignificant.

The eye of divine providence is upon every single fluttering sparrow of the field. Nor can we properly term any circumstance of our lives as small, since such things that seem most trifling in themselves do often give birth to things which become most important. On the other hand, to be able to discover the wisdom and goodness of our heavenly Father, through the darkest cloud of troubles and afflictions, to see all our trials appointed to us in number, weight, and measure; nothing befalling us by chance, nothing without it being needed, nothing without a support, nothing without a divinely designed advantage--what a support must this be to the soul!

Take away this truth of divine providence and man is the most forlorn, helpless and miserable object in the world! He would be pining for everything he has not and trembling for everything he has! He would be equally suffering under the pressure of what does happen and the fear of what may happen! He would be liable to thousands of unsuspected dangers, yet unable to guard against those which are most obvious!

Let us learn the secret of being content in any and every situation: "Our heavenly Father knows what we have need of, before we ask Him!" "The earth is His, and the fullness thereof;" and His goodness is equal to His power. In Christ, He has already given us more than ten thousand worlds!

Are you poor? Be satisfied with the Lord's appointment. It would be as easy to Him to give you a large estate as to supply you with the bread you eat or to continue the breath in your nostrils. But He sees that having less is best for some and that prosperity might prove their ruin! Therefore He has appointed them the honor of being in this respect, conformable to their Lord, who, when on earth, "had nowhere to lay His head!"

- John Newton

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Heart of a Seventeen Year Old New Christian

Spurgeon's thoughts and view of things at seventeen:

"Yes, where Jesus comes, He comes to reign. How I wish He would reign more in my heart--then I might hope that every atom of SELF, self-confidence, and self-righteousness would be swept out of my soul. I surely long for the time when all evil affections, corrupt desires, and rebellious doubting thoughts shall be overcome, and completely crushed beneath the Prince's feet, and my whole soul be made perfectly pure and holy. But so long as I am caged within this house of clay, I know that my corruptions will lurk about, and I must have hard fighting--though the victory by grace is sure. Praying is the best fighting; nothing else will keep them down! I would go forth by prayer, like the Israelites, to gather up this heavenly manna, and live upon free-grace!"

- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, August 3, 2009

Seventeen Year Old Son's Letter to Dad

My dear father,

I am very comfortable here, and I may say, happy. Were it not for my vile heart, I might rejoice. I am the least of God's people and I am sure I am the worst. But yet I am one--I believe in Jesus and trust in Him. Conviction of sin, I take it, is the evidence of true spiritual life. I can fall into His arms, though I cannot rest on my own merits, for I have none. Jesus, and Jesus alone--is my sure defense. -

I must bless the Lord for making me His son; it is of His own sovereign mercy. Not one good thing has failed. I have felt corruptions from the old man are strong, but His grace always comes in just at the critical time and saves me from myself! The Lord alone keeps me! I have no hope of persevering, but by His power. I know that His almighty arm is all-sufficient.

I want to feel "less than nothing," but this is a very great attainment.

Sometimes I pour my heart out sweetly and freely; at other times, I can hardly bring up a petition. What a contrast, mixture, and paradox I am! My greatest concern is to grow in grace, and to go onward in the heavenly race! I hope you and dear mother are well. Love to all.

Your affectionate son,

- Charles Spurgeon

Christ-- Altogether Lovely

"Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

In calling the Lord Jesus "altogether lovely," the redeemed church asserts that she sees nothing in Him which she does not admire. The world may rail at His cross and call it shameful, but to her it is the very center and soul of glory. He is never without beauty to her! She presses His pierced feet to her embrace and looks upon His wounds as jewels! Fools stand by His cross and find many a theme for jest and scorn, but she discovers nothing except solemn reason for reverent adoration and unbounded love!

"You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved--with no imperfection in You!" (Song of Songs 4:7) Viewing Him in every office and relationship, she cannot discover a flaw! She knows too well His perfect Godhead and His spotless manhood to offer a moment's shelter to the thought of a blemish in His immaculate person! She abominates every teaching that debases Him! She spurns the most gorgeous religious drapery that would obscure His beauteous features! Yes, so jealous is she of His honor, that a hint against His purity would stir her soul to holy wrath and speedy would be her relentless execution of the heresy! Nothing has ever aroused the ire of the true church so much as a word against her beloved Redeemer. To all true believers, this is high treason and an offense which cannot be treated lightly.

Jesus is without a single blot or blemish, yet this negative praise and this bold denial of any fault is far from representing the fullness of the loving admiration of the Church. Jesus is positively lovely in her eyes! Not merely lovely--His beauties are attracting beauties, and His glories are such as charm the heart. But although this utterance of the church is the very climax of the language of praise and was doubtless intended as the pinnacle of all description, yet it is not possible that this one sentence, even when expanded by the most careful meditation, should be able to express more than a mere particle of the admiration felt. Her description towers above all others; but its stature fails to reach the towering height of Heaven-born love. It is but a faint symbol of unutterable affection! It is a choice pearl washed on shore, from the deep sea of Divine love.

- C. H. Spurgeon