Friday, October 30, 2009

Hell and What Unbelievers Want -- No One Standing on the Shore of the Lake of Fire Jumps In

The misery of hell will be so great that no one will want to be there. They will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (Matthew 8:12). Between their sobs, they will not speak the words, “I want this.” They will not be able to say amid the flames of the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), “I want this.” “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). No one wants this.

When there are only two choices and you choose against one, it does not mean that you want the other, if you are ignorant of the outcome of both. Unbelieving people know neither God nor hell. This ignorance is not innocent. Apart from regenerating grace, all people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

The person who rejects God does not know the real horrors of hell. This may be because he does not believe hell exists, or it may be because he convinces himself that it would be tolerably preferable to heaven.

But whatever he believes or does not believe, when he chooses against God, he is wrong about God and about hell. He is not, at that point, preferring the real hell over the real God. He is blind to both. He does not perceive the true glories of God, and he does not perceive the true horrors of hell.
So when a person chooses against God and, therefore, de facto chooses hell—or when he jokes about preferring hell with his friends over heaven with boring religious people—he does not know what he is doing. What he rejects is not the real heaven (nobody will be boring in heaven), and what he “wants” is not the real hell, but the tolerable hell of his imagination.

When he dies, he will be shocked beyond words. The miseries are so great he would do anything in his power to escape. That it is not in his power to repent does not mean he wants to be there. Esau wept bitterly that he could not repent (Hebrew 12:17). The hell he was entering into he found to be totally miserable, and he wanted out. The meaning of hell is the scream: “I hate this, and I want out.”

What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want—certainly not what they “most want.” Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer.

Beneath this misleading emphasis on hell being what people “most want” is the notion that God does not “send” people to hell. But this is simply unbiblical. God certainly does send people to hell. He does pass sentence, and he executes it. Indeed, worse than that. God does not just “send,” he “throws.” “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown (Greek eblethe) into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15; cf. Mark 9:47; Matthew 13:42; 25:30).

The reason the Bible speaks of people being “thrown” into hell is that no one will willingly go there, once they see what it really is. No one standing on the shore of the lake of fire jumps in. They do not choose it, and they will not want it. They have chosen sin. They have wanted sin. They do not want the punishment. When they come to the shore of this fiery lake, they must be thrown in.

When someone says that no one is in hell who doesn’t want to be there, they give the false impression that hell is within the limits of what humans can tolerate. It inevitably gives the impression that hell is less horrible than Jesus says it is.

We should ask: How did Jesus expect his audience to think and feel about the way he spoke of hell? The words he chose were not chosen to soften the horror by being accommodating to cultural sensibilities. He spoke of a “fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42), and “weeping and gnashing teeth” (Luke 13:28), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), and “their worm [that] does not die” (Mark 9:48), and “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and being “cut in pieces” (Matthew 24:51).

These words are chosen to portray hell as an eternal, conscious experience that no one would or could ever “want” if they knew what they were choosing. Therefore, if someone is going to emphasize that people freely “choose” hell, or that no one is there who doesn’t “want” to be there, surely he should make every effort to clarify that, when they get there, they will not want this.

Surely the pattern of Jesus—who used blazing words to blast the hell-bent blindness out of everyone— should be followed. Surely, we will grope for words that show no one, no one, no one will wantto be in hell when they experience what it really is. Surely everyone who desires to save people from hell will not mainly stress that it is “wantable” or “chooseable,” but that it is horrible beyond description—weeping, gnashing teeth, darkness, worm-eaten, fiery, furnace-like, dismembering, eternal, punishment, “an abhorrence to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

I thank God, as a hell-deserving sinner, for Jesus Christ my Savior, who became a curse for me and suffered hellish pain that he might deliver me from the wrath to come. While there is time, he will do that for anyone who turns from sin and treasures him and his work above all.

- John Piper

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Thoughtful am I?

Some people seem to have a genius for making others miserable. They are continually touching sensitive hearts, so as to cause pain. They are always saying things which sting and irritate. If you have any bodily defect, they never see you except in some crude way, making you conscious of it. If any relative or friend of yours has done some dishonorable thing, they seem to take a cruel delight in constantly referring to it when speaking with you. They lack all delicacy of feeling, having no eye for the sensitive things in others, which demand gentleness of treatment.

Thoughtfulness is the reverse of all this. It simply does not do the things which thoughtlessness does. It avoids the painful subject. It never alludes to a man's clubfoot or humpback, nor ever casts an eye at the defect, nor does anything to direct attention to it or to make the man conscious of it. It respects your sorrow--and refrains from harshly touching your wound. It has the utmost kindliness of feeling and expression. A truly thoughtful person is one who never needlessly gives pain to another.

Thoughtfulness does not merely keep one from doing thoughtless things; it also leads to continued acts of kindness and good will. It everwatches for opportunities to give pleasure and happiness. It does not wait to be asked for sympathy or help--but has eyes of its own, and sees every need, and supplies it unsolicited. When a friend is in sorrow, the thoughtful man is ready with his offer of comfort. He does not come the next day, when the need is past--but is prompt with his kindness, when kindness means something.

Thoughtfulness is always doing little kindnesses. It has an instinct for seeing the little things that need to be done, and then doing them!

There are some rare Christians who seem born for thoughtfulness. They have a genius for sympathy. Instinctively they seem to understand the experiences of pain in others, and from their heart there flows a blessing of tenderness which is full of healing. This is the highest and holiest ministry of love. It is not softness nor weakness; it is strength, but strength enriched by divine gentleness.

Thoughtfulness is one of the truest and best tests of a noble Christian character. It is love working in all delicate ways. It is unselfishness which forgets self, and thinks only of others. It is love which demands not to be served, to be honored, to be helped--but thinks continually of serving and honoring others. He who has a truly gentle heart, cannot but be thoughtful. Love is always thoughtful.

- J. R. Miller

Words of Truth

Never doubt in the darkness what the Lord has shown you in the light. - Zac Poonen

My business is this-- with all my might to serve my own generation. In doing so, I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord tarry. I have but one life to live on earth and this one life is but a brief life for sowing, in comparison with eternity for reaping. - George Mueller

Many pastors criticize me for taking the gospel so seriously. But do they really think that on judgment day, Christ will chastise me and say, ‘Leonard, you took Me too seriously’? - Leonard Ravenhill

The real sermon is made in the closet. The man, God's man, is made in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his spirit and his weightiest and sweetest messages were gotten when alone with God. Prayer makes the man, prayer makes the preacher, prayer makes the pastor. - E.M Bounds

The best prayers have often been more groans than words. - John Bunyan

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of faith is the end of anxiety. - Mrs. Charles Cowman

If you should lose only a limb, a child, or a friend, it would not be so much, but poor man, it is THY SOUL; if it was to lie in hell but for a day, but for a year, even ten thousand years, it would in comparison be nothing. But O, it is for ever! O, this cutting word 'EVER'! What a soul-amazing word will that be, which says, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING fire’!

- John Bunyan

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keeping a Pure Heart

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." - Matthew 5:8

The pure in heart are blessed by seeing God, and those who see God, see all things rightly in his perfect light (Psa. 36:9). It is therefore no wonder that the Word of God emphasizes the vital necessity of men having pure hearts, while those who believe the divine testimony of Scripture find that they have a growing desire to have such hearts. The question then becomes one of how the believer can attain and keep a pure heart.

The best answer to that vital question is that we should consider ourselves to be dead. This does not mean that we cultivate the ascetic passivity of the eastern mystic or the apathy of the stoic. It means that we regard ourselves truly to have been crucified with Christ and raised up with him in new life (Rom. 6:3-11).

Our Redeemer has given us the supreme example of self-mortification when he prayed in Gethsemane, "Not my will but thy will be done" (Matt. 26:39). Our Lord also taught us to pray in the same way when he told us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

What this means is that we are to mortify (progressively put to death) our desires, plans, and agendas. If we regard ourselves as dead, it is clear that the dead have no agendas. Yet we are not merely dead-we are united to Christ in his death. Therefore, as Christ submitted his will to the will of his heavenly Father, so we submit our wills to the will of that same heavenly Father. Such submission of our wills to the divine will entails our renouncing our own impure and weak passions for the holy and glorious desires of our God; we renounce our finite and fallible understanding for the infallible wisdom of our Lord; we cease to rely on our weakness and cast ourselves, instead, upon his almighty power; and we forsake the quest after imperfect and changeable human love for the pleasure of our luxuriating in the immeasurable and unchangeable love of our God.

When we fail to renounce our wills and submit, instead, to the Lord's will, we invariably seek such things as personal gain, promotion, and comforts. We would never seek loss, humiliation, and suffering. Yet rarely would our Lord have us to possess the former things, while he usually would have us to accept and even glory in the latter things (2 Cor. 12:9,10). It is no wonder, then, when we pursue our own will without highest regard for the Lord's will for us, that we find ourselves frustratingly groping in darkness rather than walking and serving fruitfully and satisfyingly in the light of the Lord. On the other hand, when with pure hearts, we are sincerely desirous to know and do the Lord's will, we easily see and know the will and way of our God (John 7:17).

We are naturally inclined, however, not to renounce our wills but to promote them. Too frequently we approach a decision with the presupposition that we know what is right and best for all concerned. Yet a little self-examination would reveal to us a remarkable correlation between what we determine to be right and what we desire to be right. With categorical contradiction the Scripture speaks against our smug and self-centered certitude. We are told by wise Solomon not to lean upon the trembling reed of our own understanding, but rather to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts (Prov. 3:5-6).

It is one thing for us to know and even to confess that such absolute and continual trust in the Lord is the right thing for us to exercise; yet it is quite another thing for us actually to acknowledge him in all of our ways. Jesus has told us that without him we can do nothing (John 15:5). His statement is so clear and simple that a child could understand it. Yet few of us believe our Lord's statement in the absolute and categorical sense of the words he has used. Without thinking, we launch ourselves into all sorts of endeavours, failing to acknowledge the Lord and assuming that we can do all sorts of things without him. This is not self-mortification, but is, instead, self-exaltation.

What we are called to do in every detail and decision of our lives is to determine from the light of God's Word what the right thing is for us to think, feel, say, and do in every relationship and in every situation, great and small. Our ability to discern the right way — the way of the Lord — is diminished in direct proportion to the degree that we have and cherish a personal agenda. The one who truly prays, "Not my will but thy will be done", and who seeks to think and act in conformity with and not contrary to that prayer, will find that he has a pure heart and consequent ability, without the obscuring clouds of personal passion, to see God and in his light to see all things, not as we deludedly or deceptively want them to appear, but as they truly are. We do well, therefore, with increasing fervency to pray for, to seek after, and to knock for pure hearts that alone can perceive and receive all that our God would show us and convey to us.

- William Harrell

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Are You Mourning?

"Why go I mourning ?" -- Ps. 42:9

Can you answer this, believer? Can you find any reason why you art so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Do you not know that day follows night, that spring and summer come after winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! for God fails you not.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sovereign Grace Found a Young Man

Many years ago God's sovereign grace found a young man. The Lord, in His ways of saving mercy, showed in awakening grace the danger from sin which threatened the soul of this young man. This 20 year old did not know at that time in his life what was called restraining grace, that grace the apostle speaks of in Rom. 1:24; 26; and 28; but he sensed in his heart that the Lord was holding back the forces of evil in his soul, and if the Lord turned him loose in his sin, he would be dragged down into the utmost depths of sin.

The young man sought in every way to cast off his fears, but the fears clogged him still. In an inebriation on the Saturday night of that week in hell, when he was for a time in his thoughts among the damned, the young man had some mental relief from his fears through the effects of the alcohol. The fears subsided for a brief time, but divine grace was good in His electing mercy and did not release the young man to the demons which sought his soul. He slept that night because of the drunken stupor. On the morrow, however, the old fears were awaiting him, more dreadful than before.

The young man was invited that day to enjoy a home-cooked meal with a neighbor, the young man's parents being away those days. The neighbor was a godly man. In the conversations of that day there was a kind of peace on the heart of the youth, but he was not saved and he knew it. He stayed on through the afternoon, and remained an uninvited guest for the evening meal, and then on into the night, until he knew he must be going. The streetcars would quit running at midnight, and he had to make a transfer to reach the place where he was staying.

And so he left and caught a streetcar and had not ridden more than about 6 blocks until the demonic forces were upon him, more dreadfully than ever before. They continued to press upon his soul the fear that his soul would be utterly taken over to its ruin in sin. The devils were so confident in their delight and glee. They pressed him thus until the streetcar came to the place of transfer. They continued unabated while he waited for the other streetcar. They vaunted over his soul as he sat among the few people on that lonely and dark night, near the midnight hour. Until finally the young man could take it no longer. He made a decision to seek the salvation of his soul.

Peace came with this decision, but he knew that he was not saved.

He went to the place where he was staying. A kind old lady had given him a New Testament some years before, as she had sought to speak to him about his soul. He had not read the New Testament, but he had kept it because he was intellectually curious about books on various subjects. He took out this Testament. He hardly knew where to read, but thought he would begin at Paul's writing. He had some little knowledge of the Bible, for he had been reared in a home where church and Sunday school attendance were expected of the children.

He knew that the first of Paul's letters was Romans. He began there and he read down to where Paul said:

"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

The young man was now a believer. He knew beyond reasonable doubt that his fears were not due to a disturbed mind which had been too long in its studies. He knew that that gnawing dread that God might turn him over to demonic forces, which would find things in his own heart which they could take hold of and drag him down into utter criminality. Though the young man was now a believer, he knew he was not saved. You ask, "Why?" He would not know, but he did know.

He fell at the feet of Him whom he later came to speak of as Sovereign Mercy. What he said in his prayer, he does not remember. This is the only part of that night's experience that he does not remember. He thinks he might have said, "I surrender," but really he does not remember what he said. He only knows that as he knelt, a condemned sinner, really knelt before the Lord, sincerely seeking deliverance from his sin, a glory swept over his soul which seemed almost physical in its reality.

He was tired, but refreshed in this beauty. He read that night from the New Testament until, in fatigue, he could read no longer. He fell asleep, the first sober sleep he had known for a week, saved and thankful. The next day he read on through the New Testament. He went up town and purchased an entire Bible. Began with Genesis and read through Malachi. He could hardly lay it down.

Did he understand what he was reading? Not too well. Why did he continue this reading? It was the savor of God which he discerned therein. The glory which was in the sacred pages answered to the glory which was in his heart, and he delighted in that glory. Many years have now passed. The young man is now an old man, old in years, but younger in the strength of the Lord. He reads the Bible with better understanding now. He seems to have acquired a better grasp of the terms, an understanding of which is essential to an understanding of the Bible, but he still delights in the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ, as that glory is reflected in the sacred pages.

Without this key - the work of sovereign grace in the soul of man - THE KEY - the gospel of Christ - will never be found of man. "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Psalm 119:18.

- E. W. Johnson

Justification by Faith

What does justification by faith mean? This is the doctrine which tells us that God has contrived a way whereby men and women can be saved and reconciled unto Himself. It is all of His doing. It tells us that God, on the basis of what He has done in His Son, our blessed Lord and Saviour, freely forgives and absolves from all their sin, all who believe the gospel.

But it does not stop at that; they are furthermore given the righteousness of Jesus Christ and declared to be just and righteous in God’s sight. It is not only negative, there is this positive aspect also. We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ which is ‘imputed’ to us, ‘put to our account’, and so we stand accepted in the sight of God. As Romans 5:19 puts it, we are ‘constituted’ righteous people in the presence of this holy and righteous God.

Justification does not mean that we are 'made' righteous, but rather that God regards us as righteous and declares us to be righteous. This has often been a difficulty to many people. They say that because they are conscious of sin within, they cannot be in a justified state; but anyone who speaks like that shows immediately that he has no understanding of this great and crucial doctrine of justification. Justification makes no actual change in us; it is a declaration by God concerning us. It is not something that results from what we do, but rather something that is done for us. We have only been made righteous in the sense that God regards us as righteous and pronounces us to be righteous.

- D.M. Lloyd-Jones

Friday, October 23, 2009

1859: An Outpouring of the Spirit of God Then and Today

In 1859, an evident movement of the Spirit of God brought an awakening to the area of Fordington in England, and other areas as well. This was during the powerful ministry of C. H. Spurgeon in London. Handley Moule said of the event:

Surely it was divine. No artificial means of excitement were even dreamed of; no powerful personality, no D. L. Moody came to us. A city missionary and a London Bible woman were the only helpers from a distance. Up and down the village the pastor and the faithful helpers, as they went around, they found those who were anxious about their souls. And the church was filled to overflowing, as was the large school room, night after night throughout the week.

The very simplest means carried with them a heavenly power. The plain reading of a chapter of Scripture often conveyed the call of God to men and women, and they 'came to Jesus as they were'. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that hundreds of people at that time were awakened, were in awe, and were made conscious of eternal realities. And a goodly number of these showed in their life afterward that they were indeed new creatures.

- Handley Moule

The encouraging reality about the promise and hope of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is this-- it is not dependent on Christians preparing enough, praying enough, becoming serious enough, or 'paying the price' to see it happen. Indeed, all believers are to be seeking God, praying and walking in obedience. But revival occurring is not based upon 'preparationism'-- "if we can do things well enough, repent enough, increase our obedience enough, and pray enough, then God will answer."

This is simply wrong; it is not only wrong, but such a view, if believed consistently, will result in either spiritual pride (thinking we have earned God's blessing somehow by our obedience), frustration, or bondage and defeat. There have been many sincere preachers, as well as Christians in general, who burned out on the message of revival because they sincerely tried to do all they were told to do over a period of time, only to see no results in terms of a revival coming. This genders unbelief, or at best, an abandoning of any hope that revival can happen.

The clear truth in history is this-- at set times and according to His sovereign and gracious purposes, God suddenly arises in power and pours out the power of the Holy Spirit in places where He chooses. The church cannot earn it, deserve it, and neither can the church ever prepare enough for it to happen.

"And the Lord, whom you seek, shall SUDDENLY come to his temple" - Mal. 3:1

"SUDDENLY there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind"- Acts 2:2

The basic fact which must govern all views of revival, is that God really is absolutely sovereign in His ways regarding when and how He pours our His Spirit. The preparation and obedience of the church are the result and fruit of the drawings of the Spirit, not the cause of the coming of the Spirit.

But immediately someone will say: "Well, if God really is sovereign in the matter of revival, then you are saying we ought to just lay back and do nothing", to which I reply, "I have said nothing of the kind nor do I believe that." Here is where we become faulty in our thinking. Even if some say they believe God is sovereign, they still believe somehow revival lies within our responsibility by our sanctified efforts. This is a wrong position that has poisoned our understanding of the historic view of revival. Revival is not the church's responsibility, but rather is God's responsibility. Our responsibility is to live the Christian life, preach the gospel, and walk in obedience to Christ fully. God can then send a revival anywhere He chooses.

The truth is, every true Christian is seeking to obey the Lord, desires and prays for revival, and wants to walk with God. All believers are to do all those things all the time with a sincere and obedient heart. But an increase of these areas of sanctification, which are the normal Christian life, will not at all necessarily cause a revival to come. What A. W. Tozer said years ago is certainly true: "There is so much prayer for revival among believers widely in America, that if it depended on the quantity of prayer, we would see revival break out widely this next Sunday; there is no shortage of concern or even prayer for revival."

Two godly and powerful preachers, who were traveling together for one month several years ago in a ministry preaching tour, were discussing the need for revival. One said to the other, "If believers became more serious, more prayerful, would truly repent of all known sin, and would concentrate in prayer completely, then we would see God move in revival power", to which his friend said, "All right; if that is true, then why don't we go rent a motel room, and not leave there until revival has come? We will cancel everything for weeks, stay here and pray until we see it happen." His friend thought a moment and then said, "Well, the real issue is, we must consider what the will of God is in such a decision." They decided they were not supposed to take that action.

Exactly. It is not God's will always to be sending a revival everywhere or at all times. It may come where God suddenly chooses to move or it may come where a people have been earnestly seeking God to pour out His Spirit. If it really does come down to the church's increased obedience, brokenness, and increased praying, then everyone who believes that ought to stop everything they are doing literally, ministry wise, and do nothing but pray for 10 hours a day or longer until revival comes because they have to believe, if they are consistent with their views, that revival depends on them.

Every Christian is to be walking with Jesus Christ daily in such a way that everyone around them knows they are real. But the hope for revival is not in our preparation, nor our readiness, nor our godliness, our obedience, nor anything else. All of these things believers are to be walking in because that is the real Christian life. The real hope about revival coming is the wonderful fact and sovereign promise of God that anywhere, anytime, Christ can suddenly pour out His presence in reviving grace and when He does, revival happens. It often and usually comes suddenly, unexpectedly, and everyone is surprised.

So what are we to do? Love Christ, seek Christ, preach a doctrinally pure and Spirit-anointed gospel regularly, diligently walk with Him, believe His promises, be faithful in church attendance, and walk in obedience. That is not the revived life--that is the normal Christian life. And then we especially and always ought to be asking God to send the promise of the Father--the outpouring of His Spirit, as Luke 11:13 encourages us.

- Mack Tomlinson

Daily Thoughts: What About Reading?

I received an excellent question from a dear friend of mine concerning what is the best approach for reading good books. Here are his questions and then my reply.

"Dear Bro. Mack,

You've been reading good books for a long time now. If you could go back and do all of your reading over again would you do anything different? Read different books? More books? Less books? More books by the same author? Take better notes? Forget taking notes? I think you get the gist of my question."

My reply

Dear brother,

Reading! What a gift, what a discipline, what a benefit, what a friend, what an important thing!

What would I say?

1. I would read more systematically. What I mean is I would always be reading something in a planned way, setting aside time for scheduled reading regardless of my situation or schedule. On family vacations or trips away, I would choose a specific book you have been wanting to read and haven't gotten to it yet. Then read the whole thing while gone.

2. I would read more prayerfully. Spend more time praying about what book I am to read next because some books we are not ready for or they will not benefit us right now like they would in the future; so I want to read now what God would have me read now; and also praying as I read through a book, that the Holy Spirit will give me from it what I need. I am not just trying to fill my head or increase in knowledge; I am wanting to be taught of God.

3. I would read with more balance. Read broadly and mix up my subject reading more; I would read biography, then theology, a book on prayer, a New Testament work, an Old Testament work, church history, the best apologetics, biblical theology, etc, spreading it out; it is easy to read only what we most enjoy and that isn't best for us in the long scheme of things; somewhat related, I would also read some influential books that are liberal or totally wrong if particular books are really influencing people around me; an example is that I read a good bit of The God Delusion by Dawkins several months ago; I did it purposely since it was so popular and was having a so-called impact widely; I gained insight into the arguments and it helped me know how they think and what they arguments are.

4. I would read with more discernment. What I mean is, if I am reading a book and truly not understanding it or its a real drugery and not benefiting my soul, then I would put it down and take it up later; if the same thing happens again when I read it, I take it from the Lord that the book is not for me.

5. I would come to a knowledge of the very best authors in all of church history, including those still alive, and I would read everything they wrote. All of Bunyan, all of Tozer, all of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, all of J. C. Ryle, all of Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, etc; we want to see the minds and heart of the best men who have lived; only read bad authors when it has a very specific purpose, like having to read a popular emergent author to really know their position; but normally stay away from reading dangerous authors or shallow ones; the shallow ones are popular, but they really only give you cotton-candy theology and not meat to make you stronger.

6. I would set a goal to read through some men's works--John Bunyan, John Newton, John Murray, etc; read systematically through their writings over a period of time. I have told some young men the greatest theological education they could get would be to get the 3 vols of Bunyan and take a year or more to study them closely; it would be the education of a life time; he's the best, in my opinion.

7. I have never taken notes in my own reading, but that's probably because I lacked the discipline to do it; the best way for that would be to get some notebooks and to summarize a book in the notes as you go through it; probably would retain much more from the book.

8. I would each year plan a break from books (say, 1 month out of each year) and during that time, I read only the Bible and concentrate on prayer. Take an annual sabbatical from reading books.

9. I would focus primarily on books that are experiential, that feed me spiritually. We don't need books that are merely informative and that give out information, but we do primarily need food for the heart that draws us to Christ and spurs us to godliness and holy living.

Hope this is helpful in some way.

Happy reading !

- Mack Tomlinson

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Gentleness of Jesus

"Learn from Me--for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29

Of the gentleness of Jesus it was said, "He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick." (Isaiah 42:3) There is nothing that this sorrowing, sinning world needs more than gentleness. Yet there are some Christians who seem never to have learned love's secret of gentleness.

We need to pray for the grace of gentleness, that we may walk softly among men, never hurting another life by harsh words or ungentle acts.

We can have something of the beauty of Christ in our life. As we can get into our hearts the grace of the Lord Jesus and the mind that was in Jesus, the light of divine love will shine out from our dull nature and transfigure it. This will make us sweet-tempered and gentle-spirited. It will make us honest in our dealings with our fellow-men. It will make us kind to all about us. It will make us godly people to live with at home and will make us good neighbors and faithful friends. The unconscious ministry of such a life through long years will leave untold blessings in this world.

Such a life of quiet, simple, humble Christlike goodness will pour out its unconscious influence into other lives, making them better, happier, holier, and sweeter. Such a ministry of simple goodness is within the reach of every Christian. It requires no brilliant gifts and no wealth. It is a ministry which the plainest and lowliest may fulfill.

In these days of 'fashionable worldliness', the church needs just such simple goodness and gentleness. It has eloquence in its pulpits and activity in its pews, but it needs more godly people filled with the gentleness of Christ, manifesting the life of Christ wherever they go.

- J. R. Miller

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Godliness of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Part 2


Dr Lloyd-Jones acknowledges that this is not as easy as it sounds. He acknowledges, “I was for over two years in a state of uncertainty and indecision before leaving medicine for the pulpit. But in the end it was made absolutely and perfectly clear, mainly by means of things which God did. These are the rules which I would advise you to observe:

1. Never speak to anyone about it. Don’t tell people what you are feeling and discuss it and ask for advice. That always leads to still more uncertainty and confusion. Make an absolute rule of this at all costs. Say nothing until you are absolutely certain, because we are all subject to self-suggestion.

2. Do not even think about it and discuss the pros and cons with yourself. Once more this leads to auto-suggestion and confusion. Believing as I do that God does ‘call’ very definitely, and in a distinct and definite doctrine of a call, and that a vocation is distinct from ‘the need is the call’ idea, I believe that God will always make His will and His way plain and clear. With reverence therefore, I say leave it to God entirely as regards purpose, time and all else. All you have to do is to tell God that you are content to do His will whatever it may be and, more, that you will rejoice to do His will.”


When he was 26 years of age in Easter 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 he 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 and suggests that that was not an isolated incident. The Doctor himself told me that in his room at Bart’s he had some great times, and he has gone on record, “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 tongue speaking 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:

1. a sense of God’s glory and presence
2. an assurance of God’s love for us in Christ
3. the element of joy and gladness
4. love toward God
5. a desire to glorify the Father and the Son
6. 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 these times were an experience 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 also that in a church 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.” One thinks of some of the prayer meetings of ministers gathered at Bala in Wales in the annual conference where such experiences might be occasionally known.

It is for preachers to know such immediate experience 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 recognise 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 that 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 was not a ‘closet Charismatic.’ His godliness reflected 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; 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 was 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 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, both 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 that 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.”

- Geoff Thomas

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Godliness of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Part 1

[For those who know of and appreciate the British preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who died in 1981, these thoughts need no explanation or reasons as to why they can be beneficial. But for those not familiar with him and have never become acquainted with his ministry or books, I can only encourage you sincerely and earnestly to find his sermons online and listen to them, and also read his books. No theologian, pastor, preacher or author can help or instruct you any more than Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A good place to begin would be his book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, or some of his volumes on Romans or Ephesians. So begin reading Lloyd-Jones-- it will do you much more good that all the popular authors today.
- Mack T.]

Dr. Lloyd-Jones would preach every two years in Aberystwyth, Wales [where Geoff Thomas pastors] and after one occasion I went to see him for morning coffee. It was a great treat for me to be with him alone. These occasions did not happen often. He always stayed in the home of a local doctor who, when he was a medical student in London, had been converted under Lloyd-Jones' ministry. Henceforth he zealously bought the Doctor’s books as they were produced by the Banner of Truth.

When I entered the parlor, the Doctor was reading his daily portion from a much worn pocket Bible. He laid it aside and we had an hour together. If we are to consider the godliness of Dr Lloyd-Jones, let us start with his approach to Bible reading.


He said to the theological students at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, in 1969 that an “essential in the preacher’s life is the reading of the Bible. This is obviously something that he does every day regularly. My main advice here is: Read your Bible systematically. The danger is to read at random, and that means that one tends to be reading only one’s favourite passages. In other words one fails to read the whole Bible. I cannot emphasize too strongly the vital importance of reading the whole Bible. I would say that all preachers should read through the whole Bible in its entirety at least once every year. You can devise your own method for doing this, or you can use one of the methods devised by others. I remember how after I had worked out a scheme for myself and the members of my church in my early years in the ministry, I then came across the scheme that Robert Murray McCheyne worked out for the members of his church in Dundee. It is in his biography by Andrew Bonar. By following that scheme of Robert Murray McCheyne you read four chapters of the Bible every day, and by so doing you read the Old Testament once, but the Psalms and the New Testament twice, each year. Unlike many modern schemes he did not just pick out little sections, or a few verses or small paragraphs here and there, and thus take many years to go through the whole Bible, and in some cases omit certain passages altogether. The whole object of his scheme is to get people to go right through the Scriptures every year omitting nothing. That should be the very minimum of the preacher’s Bible reading. I have found this to be one of the most important things of all.”

Then the Doctor underlined that in this way: “Here, I want to say something that I regard, in many ways, as the most important discovery I have made in my life as a preacher. I had to discover it for myself, and all to whom I have introduced it have always been most grateful for it. When you are reading your Scriptures in this way — it matters not whether you have read little or much — if a verse stands out and hits you and arrests you, do not go on reading. Stop immediately, and listen to it. It is speaking to you, so listen to it and speak to it. Stop reading at once, and work on this statement that has struck you in this way. Go on doing so to the point of making a skeleton of a sermon."

Then there is also this added observation; “For many many years I have never read my Bible without having a scribbling-pad either on my table or in my pocket; and the moment anything strikes me or arrests me, I immediately pull out my pad. A preacher has to be like a squirrel and has to learn how to collect and store matter for the future days of winter. So you not only work out your skeleton, you put it down on paper, because otherwise you will not remember it. You think you will, but you will soon discover that it is not so.”


If the essence of godliness 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 great 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 I have 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 times 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."

So here is a theme that appears to recur in Lloyd-Jones’ godliness, that of God’s constant dealings with the Christian, that he is our Father and deals familiarly with his children. Submit to the Spirit of God! Follow God’s promptings in Bible reading and prayer is what he is telling us. This is further seen in his counsels about understanding the will of God for your life.

To Be Continued

- Geoff Thomas

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Happened in a Prayer Meeting

What is the use of a prayer meeting? There are many uses. Believers are encouraged and strengthened; the cause of God is maintained; the truth of God is watered after it is sown; and prosperity is rained down through the opened windows of heaven, according to the Lord's promise.

In the beginning of the year 1799, Thomas Charles of Bala, in Wales, lost a thumb through frostbite. Alarming symptoms arose, and his friends feared that his life was in danger. A special prayer meeting was appointed. Fervent supplications were offered to God on his behalf.

One person in particular, an old man, was much noticed for his very importunate prayer. Referring to the fifteen years added to Hezekiah's life, he entreated the Lord to spare Mr. Charles' life at least fifteen years. He repeated the following words with such importunity that his prayer greatly affected all who were present: 'Fifteen years more, O Lord! We beseech Thee to add fifteen years more to the life of Thy servant. And wilt Thou not, oh our God, give fifteen years more, for the sake of Thy church and Thy cause?'

The prayers of the people were heard, and Mr. Charles set to work again with renewed vigour. He often said he must be diligent, as the fifteen years would soon be up.

As this period drew near to its close, he frequently named it in conversation; and about a year before his death, he spoke freely and fully to the poor man who in 1799 had so fervently asked God to prolong his life. He often expressed a desire to live to see his Welsh Bible printed: 'Then I will be content,' he said, 'to lie my head upon my pillow and die.' He did live to see it completed; and the last words he ever wrote were: 'It is finished,' in reference to that. And, what is remarkable, he died within a week of the close of fifteen years from the date of the poor man's prayer.

It was during this term of fifteen years that Mr. Charles did the most important work of his life - labour that bears fruit all over the world to the present day. He wrote several books, organized Sunday schools throughout Wales, translated the Bible into Welsh, and was instrumental, with others, in the establishment of the Bible Society. It was through him that Wales was supplied with the Word of God; and many distant lands have blessed the name of Thomas Charles. Who can tell the full results of that fervent prayer of that Welsh Christian? This, remember, was at a prayer meeting.

- John Morgan Jones, Wales

Many of the references to prayer in the book of Acts are references to the corporate prayer meeting of the church.
'They gathered--they prayed--they lifted up their voice to God--they were devoted to prayer," etc. It was group praying, believers gathered for prayer. Why was this so and why is it so important to God?

None of us know what God might be doing through our regular and faithful attendance at the prayer meetings of our church. If your church has a weekly prayer meeting, you should attend faithfully, if at all possible. Burdens are lifted, hearts are strengthened, believers are edified, and needs are met, even around the world, simply through the prayers of the saints. God often does more through a weekly prayer meeting of a church that is ever done in bigger meetings or conferences.

The big test of a church is its prayer meeting. Any church that does not have a regular prayer meeting is basically saying to the Lord, "Thanks for the offer of grace, but we can handle things fine ourselves."

- Mack Tomlinson

Gracious Personal Revivings

Just a little of the blessing I had hoped for from the Lord in the year 1969, from July to September.

It was at the end of June when I feel I had such a sight of my sinful self, and what I was by nature. I felt in a dreadful state. How it made me cry for mercy and upplicate for the forgiveness of my sins! Though I had had it before in times past, I had lost sight of it.

How I did try to plead with the Lord that day, before going to chapel on the Thursday evening, that the Lord would speak to me that night through His servant, our pastor. His text was in Acts 13: 38-39 on forgiveness. It was a wonderful sermon to me, as he spoke about all that I had felt as a sinner, and he put it in words. He then spoke of forgiveness and justification; I felt much helped. I would humbly say I felt I had prayed it out of him, as much as I had been enabled to pray.

Then when I got to bed at night, I lay there about two hours, and the dear Lord came with such power; His felt presence--one cannot explain such love. How promises flowed in, the Father kissing the prodigal, saying, "Put a ring on his finger, and the best robe", etc. How I said with a feeling heart, "My God, my Father, may I call Thee mine?" How I wept! Then of Joshua, "Take away the filthy garments from him. And . . .I will clothe thee with change of raiment." "Let not your heart be troubled . . . I go to prepare a place for you." How I wept tears of humility, so unworthy, why me? But felt,

"I'm blest, I'm blest, for ever blest,
My rags are gone, and I am dressed
In garments white as snow."

"He wept, He bled, He died for you."

The next day after this, I had not much mind for the things of earth. On Saturday I felt, "Could it really be for such as I? Was it real?" But I did try to pray it might be confirmed on the Sunday, and it was. "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1. 30). I felt it.

On the following Thursday evening, the sermon text was 1 Samuel 2. 6-8. How good it was to me, what I had felt! I had Hannah's song and had been raised up.

The next Sunday Mr. Case was preaching and his text was Jabez' prayer. When he spoke of the "indeed blessing," what I was listening for, felt I had it, after many prayers and longings for it.

Then the next Sunday pastor's text was Psalm 119. 174-176. I felt I lived.

The next Sunday was Ephesians 2. 19, 20. Felt comfortable but not so much feeling.

Then the next Sunday, August 3rd, was a special time. Text was Ephesians 1. 5-7. How I felt I was "accepted in the Beloved." When I came home at night. I said to my pastor, "Living tongues are dumb at best; we must die to speak of Christ." Words failed me. Then to my surprise and amazement, he took Ephesians 1:3- 4.

The next Sunday, August 10th, before the sermon, his reading was Numbers 23 concerning Balaam. I said, "Is Thy servant going to tell me I am deceived inwardly?" I said, "O Lord, undeceive me if I am." But O what a powerful sermon it was to me, all "spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ"! I knew not how to contain myself and to hide it from others. Tears ran down my face, full with the blessing of the Lord.

When I began to walk home, I hardly knew how to make it, as it had all taken my bodily strength. When home, I felt "my willing soul would stay, in such a frame as this, and sit and sing herself away to everlasting bliss." Those lines came to me afterwards: "I faint beneath the bliss." In the evening, it was just as good to me. Could not help speaking of it to my pastor and others. Felt a little like what I had read of Joseph Tanner, of whom it was said that he feared to live rather than die. How I feared myself to live and sin against so good a God! I felt the need of prayer more, that I might be kept from pride and self-righteousness. I would be holy, but knew I could not keep myself; I was so afraid of doing anything to cause Him to depart. But the blessing just came down. I could not but believe.

The next Thursday and on the Lord's day, the text was Ephesians 3. 16-20. It was a good time. What a depth there is in it all! I could say, "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." It was wonderful how the Lord led His servant into Ephesians as He did, it seemed, for me. In preaching, he would repeat just what I had already felt or was feeling. Once I said prayed silently, "Lord, let him repeat about Joshua," and then he did. No thanks to me, but to the Spirit's work.

The following Sunday, August 31st, his text was Joel 2:25-27. In the week I had been thinking of these and had read them from verses 21 to 27. They were good to me in my young days, before I was baptized, that I should never be ashamed. But I felt now it was being more fulfilled. I felt one morning and I looked up and said, "Lord, I should like to hear it preached from." Then unexpectedly, that Sunday morning, he took them. How I felt what was said! The Lord had dealt wondrously with me, and that "I am the Lord your God," that I should never be ashamed.

Monday, September 1st, Mr. Neville preached about Martha and the resurrection. "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life." He spoke of Him coming to a poor sinner in that power, which I felt He had to me.

That night I went away for twelve days' holiday, which had been arranged before. How I did feel to need to be kept, and not to depart from the dear Lord, which I hope I was in a little measure! I had not the same power felt, but enjoyed reading Ruth and Solomon's Song. Then I returned home on Saturday.

The Sunday morning before the service, I pleaded with the Lord not to let the services be in vain, and not just in form only. Then the words came: "At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar..., and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed" (Ruth 2. 14). How humbled I felt, my spirit softened! I went to chapel with expectation. The text was Psalm 23: 1-2. How good I felt it! "The Lord my Shepherd"; I had been made to lie down in green pastures and beside the still waters. I could go with all that was spoken; truly I was sufficed. Blessed time! How I did say at these times, "Blessed Jesus, precious Jesus."

For thirteen weeks I walked in peace and communion with the dear Lord. Good times I had before getting up in the morning, and often when I lay down at night alone. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?" I cannot praise Him as I would. It was like I felt going over again the days of my espousals when I was young. Not perhaps that ecstasy of joy but (how shall I put it?) that solid peace and rest in believing in an unchanging God. How I looked back at what I hope the Lord had done for me then and had believed the promises!

But now I do not feel that power and feeling as I did. Though not quite left alone, I miss the presence of my Friend, but pray not to be left to unbelief, but to be kept near the dear Lord. Knowing what I am by nature, if left in any measure, I would say as I felt it, "I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all, but Jesus Christ is my All and in all." None need despair since I have mercy found.

I did feel I have heard ministers pray at chapel in such a way that it seemed like it might be heaven begun below. But O to realise it! What an awe and hallowedness felt! All this was after much searchings of heart after the death of my dear husband, much sowing in tears, as it is nearly four years ago; felt the Lord appeared to him. I wanted that "indeed" blessing though I had some help.

Once was after hearing the Word comfortably at chapel, as I walked in home, those lines came to me, "In heaven my choicest treasure lies." What I felt for half an hour I cannot speak of! As I found the hymn and read it down, how I felt each verse and the next hymn. I did not want to speak to anyone. I was alone and said, "What is this world to me? it is not my home."

After the death of my husband, the next Sunday after he was buried, I did feel I wanted a taste below of what he was enjoying above. But I had to wait eighteen months for this again. I feel I can say I did not lose really the sweetness of the blessing for twelve months.

-Mercy Sturgess

Friday, October 16, 2009

Master, Speak! Thy Servant Heareth

Frances Havergal's hymn is one of my favorite hymns of all. If we sang this to the Lord more often, especially before hearing His Word and if we prayed this more, I wonder how much more we would hear from Him? - Mack Tomlinson

Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
What hast Thou to say to me?

Speak to me by name, O Master,
Let me know it is to me;
Speak, that I may follow faster,
With a step more firm and free,
Where the Shepherd leads the flock,
In the shadow of the rock.

Master, speak! Though least and lowest,
Let me not unheard depart;
Master, speak! For O, Thou knowest
All the yearning of my heart,
Knowest all its truest need:
Speak! and make me blest indeed.

Master, speak! and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
Master, speak! O, speak to me!

- Frances R. Havergal

Divine Faithfulness in Affliction Always for our Good

Divine Faithfulness in Affliction is Always for our Good
which means
Pain is Often Better for Us Than Pleasure
which means
God's Kindness Is Always Most Wisely Shown Us in Every Denial
which means
God Loves Us Too Well to Give Us Things That Ultimately Would Not Be Best for Us
which means
The Father's Purpose in All His Dealings with Us is our Sanctification, Not our Temporal Pleasure

(How's that for a title? Well, its not any longer than some of the old Puritan book titles or sermons and, for this Daily Thoughts, it does serve its purpose. - Mack T)

"I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are just, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

Sometimes the ways of God do seem hard,
Our fondest hopes are crushed;
Our fairest joys fade like summer flowers,
And the desires of our hearts are withheld from us.

Yet, if we are God's children, we believe that a blessing is hidden in every one of these losses or denials. It is right here that we get a glimpse into the mystery of many unanswered prayers. The things we seek, which are denied, would not work good for us if we received them, but would bring evil instead. So our Father keeps them from us, even though we desire them. And the things we plead to have removed are, at times, essential to our highest interests.

Health is supposed to be better than sickness. But there comes a time when God's kindness will be most wisely shown by denying us health. He never takes pleasure in causing us to suffer and He is touched by our sorrows. Yet He loves us too well to give us things that would harm us or to spare us the trial that is needful for our spiritual good. It will be seen in the end that many of the very richest blessings of all our lives have come to us through God's denials, His withholdings, or His shattering of our hopes and joys.

We should never forget that the purpose of all of God's dealings with His children is to sanctify us and make us vessels fit for His use. To this high and glorious end, our present pleasure and gratification must often be sacrificed. This is the true key to all the mysteries of Providence. Anything that hinders entire consecration to Christ is working us harm, and though it be our tenderest joy, it is best that it be taken away.

Prayer is not always granted, even when the heart clings with affection to its most precious joy. Nothing must hinder our consecration. We should never think first of what will give us earthly joy or comfort, but of what will fit us for doing the Master's service.

Pain is often better for us than pleasure;
Loss is often better for us than gain;
Sorrow is often better for us than joy;
Disaster is often better for us than deliverance.

Faith should know that God's withholdings from us, when He does not give what we ask, are richer blessings than were He to open to us all His treasure-houses, at whose doors we stand and knock with so great vehemence. Our unanswered prayers have just as real and as blessed answers as those which bring what we seek.

- J. R. Miller

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Announcing 2009 Springfield Bible Conference

Faith Bible Church
4450 Old Jacksonville Rd.
Springfield, Il. 62711

Date: November 20-22, 2009
Conference Theme: A Passion for God
No cost and no registration needed

For anyone living in Illinois or Missouri, we want to encourage you to attend the annual conference at Curt Daniel's church, Faith Bible Church, November 20-22.


Steve Lawson, Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala, who serves on the board of Masters College and Seminary at John MacArthur's church.

Jeff Pollard, Pastor of Mt. Zion Bible Church, Pensacola, Fl., who also directs the publishing work of Chapel Library.

Curt Daniel, Pastor of Faith Bible Church, the host church.

Scheduled Messages:

- A Passion for God
- A Zeal for the Gospel
- A Passionate Love for Christ
- Rekindling Your Spiritual Fire
- Holy Violence
- An Urgent Challenge to Young Christians
- God's Passion for God
- False Religious Passion
- Passionate Repentance
- Fervent Prayer

There will be an afternoon session for the youth on Saturday afternoon and an informal dinner for pastors and elders on Saturday.

There is no admission for the conference and registration is not necessary.

For more information, please contact Curt Daniel at 217 585 8770 or email

Nearby motels include Motel 6 (217 529 1633), Red Roof Inn (217 753 4302), Comfort Inn (217 787 2250) and Fairfield Inn (217 793 9277)

This conference will be well worth attending if you are able.

-- Mack Tomlinson

The Prayer of a Man of God

Most merciful God, I rejoice that You reign over the universe with a sovereign sway, so that You do according to Thy will, in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. You are the Maker of my body, and Father of my spirit, and have a perfect right to dispose of me in whatever way which will most effectually promote Your glory: and I know that whatever You do is right, wise and just and good. And whatever may be my eternal destiny, I rejoice in the assurance that Your great name will be glorified in me.

But as You have been pleased to reveal Your mercy and grace to our fallen miserable world; and as the word of this salvation has been preached unto me, inviting me to accept eternal life upon the gracious terms of the Gospel, I do cordially receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and only Redeemer, believing sincerely the whole testimony which You have given respecting His divine character, His real incarnation, His unspotted and holy life, His numerous and beneficent miracles, His expiatory and meritorious death, and His glorious resurrection and ascension. I believe, also, in His supreme exaltation, in His prevalent intercession for His chosen people, in His affectionate care and aid afforded to His suffering children here below, and in His second coming to receive His humble followers to dwell with Himself in heaven; and to take vengeance on His obstinate enemies.

My only hope and confidence of being saved rests simply on the mediatorial work and prevailing intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ; in consequence of which the Holy Spirit is graciously sent to make application of Christ's redemption, by working faith in us, and repentance unto life; and rendering us meet for the heavenly inheritance, by sanctifying us in the whole man, soul, body, and spirit.

Grant, gracious God, that the rich blessings of the new covenant may be freely bestowed on Your unworthy servant. I acknowledge that I have no claim to Your favor on account of any goodness in me by nature; for alas! there dwelleth in me, that is, in my flesh, no good thing! nor on account of any works of righteousness done by me; for all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Neither am I able to make atonement for any one of my innumerable transgressions which, I confess before You, are not only many in number, but heinous in their nature, justly deserving Your displeasure and wrath; so that if I were immediately sent to hell, You would be altogether just in my condemnation.

And now, Righteous Lord God Almighty, I would not attempt to conceal any of my actual transgressions, however vile and shameful they are, but would penitently confess them before You; and would plead in my defence, nothing but the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died, the just for the unjust, to bring us near to God. For His sake alone do I ask or expect the rich blessings necessary to my salvation. For although I am unworthy, He is most worthy; though I have no righteousness, He has provided by His expiatory death, and by His holy life, a complete justifying righteousness, in which spotless robe I pray that I may be clothed; so that Thou my righteous Judge, wilt see no sin in me, but wilt acquit me from every accusation, and justify me freely by Thy grace, through the righteousness of my Lord and Saviour, with whom You are ever well pleased.

My earnest prayer is, that Jesus may save me from my sins, as well as from their punishment; that I may be redeemed from all iniquity, as well as from the condemnation of the law; that the work of sanctification may be carried on in my soul by Thy Word and Spirit, until it be perfected at Your appointed time. And grant, O Lord, that as long as I am in the body, I may make it my constant study and chief aim to glorify Your name, both with soul and body, which are no longer mine, but Yours; for I am 'bought with a price' [1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23] — not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Enable me to let my light so shine, that others, seeing my good works, may be led to glorify Your name. Make use of me as an humble instrument of advancing Thy kingdom on earth, and promoting the salvation of immortal souls. If You have appointed sufferings for me here below, I beseech You to consider my weakness, and let Your chastisements be those of a loving Father, that I may be made a partaker of Your holiness. And let me not be tempted above what I am able to bear, but with the temptation make a way of escape.

O most merciful God, cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength declineth. Now, when I am old and grey-headed, forsake me not; but let Your grace be sufficient for me; and enable me to bring forth fruit, even in old age. May my hoary head be found in the ways of righteousness! Preserve my mind from dotage and imbecility, and my body from protracted disease and excruciating pain. Deliver me from despondency and discouragement in my declining years, and enable me to bear affliction with patience, fortitude, and perfect submission to Your holy will. Lift upon me perpetually the light of Your reconciled countenance, and cause me to rejoice in Your salvation, and in the hope of Your glory. May the peace that passeth all understanding be constantly diffused through my soul, so that my mind may remain calm through all the storms and vicissitudes of life.

As, in the course of nature, I must be drawing near to my end, and as I know I must soon put off this tabernacle, I do humbly and earnestly beseech You, O Father of mercies, to prepare me for this inevitable and solemn event: Fortify my mind against the terrors of death. Give me, if it please You, an easy passage through the gate of death. Dissipate the dark clouds and mists which naturally hang over the grave, and lead me gently down into the gloomy valley. O my kind Shepherd, who hast tasted the bitterness of death for me, and who knowest how to sympathize with and succour the sheep of Your pasture, please be present to guide, to support, and to comfort me. Illumine with beams of heavenly light the valley and shadow of death, so that I may fear no evil. When my heart and flesh fail, be the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

Let not my courage fail in the trying hour. Permit not the great adversary to harass my soul in the last struggle, but make me a conqueror and more than a conqueror in this fearful conflict. I humbly ask that my reason may be continued to the last, and if it be Your will, that I may be so comforted and supported, that I may leave a testimony in favour of the reality of religion, and Your faithfulness in fulfilling Your gracious promises; and that others of Your servants who may follow after may be encouraged by my example to commit themselves boldly to the guidance and keeping of the Shepherd of Israel.

And when my spirit leaves this clay tenement, Lord Jesus, receive it. Send some of the blessed angels to convoy my inexperienced soul to the mansion which Your love has prepared. And O! let me be so situated, though in the lowest rank, that I may behold Your glory. May I have an abundant entrance administered unto me into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; for whose sake, and in whose name, I ask all these things. Amen.

- Archibald Alexander

The Beautiful Terrible Cross

There was a beautiful terrible cross
And though You committed no sin;
Saviour, You suffered the most wicked fate
On the cruelest creation of man.

There on that beautiful terrible cross
You did what only You could;
Turning that darkened spot, evil of hell
Into our soul's greatest good.

We see the love that You've shown us
We see the life that you gave;
We bow in wonder and praise You
For the beautiful terrible cross.

There on that beautiful terrible cross
The darkness was strong on that hill;
You remained sovereign, Lord, still in control
Your perfect plan was fulfilled.

We gain the riches of heaven
You paid the horrible cost;
We stand forgiven and praise You
For the beautiful terrible cross.

- Todd Smith

Monday, October 12, 2009

Maintaining Spiritual Zeal

There is not one way to true spiritual fervour. There is no master key that opens every life to being fervent in Spirit. Let me give you many directives that are truly important, and some not so important (you must decide which is which for we are all different members of the body). How may this grace of true zeal be yours in greater abundance than it is at present? Thirty guidelines:

Don’t neglect asking God to make you more fervent in spirit every single day.
Go20to bed on time and get up on time each morning so that you start unrushed.
Sit under the best ministry you can get each Sunday. If you can get better preaching elsewhere why stay here? Life is too short.
Hitch your wagon to a star. Our lives are creaking ol d wagons; our congregation is a groaning wagon, but there are stars to which we can be hitched. I am talking of Martin Luther, John Bunyan, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, J. Gresham Machen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Read what they say; if they have recordings then listen to them. Learn of their lives and their battles. Makes them your role models – a number of men not one. Let their example and teaching help draw you through life. Hitch your wagon to them.
Unclutter your life. Our lives are all a pruning away what is inessential and a search for the simple things of the gospel.
Allow extra time to do things and to get to people and places.
Pace yourself. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over a period; don't lump the hard things all together.
Take one day at a time.
Separate your worries from your concerns. If a situation is a concern, think about it, and ask God what he would have you do and let go of the anxiety, and put your trust in him. Why worry about situations concerning which you can do nothing? Commit it to the Lord and get on with life.
Live within your budget; don’t use credit cards for ordinary purchases.
Have backups; an extra car key in a friend’s house, an extra house key buried in the garden. A rickety old laptop . . . even a typewriter for emergencies.
K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut). This can prevent an enormous amount of trouble.
Carry a Bible with you to read while waiting in line.
When we are ill, we are never quite as ill as we imagine we are. We always add on a proportion. Remember you are never as bad as you think you are.
Get enough rest, and eat sensible enjoyable food. One morning you don’t feel like reading the Scriptures. You don’t feel like working or praying. So you tend to say to yourself, 'Well I’m not feeli ng well today and I can’t do this.' No. You mustn’t say that, you must rouse yourself. Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise.
We all feel better if our minds are being exercised. Read more than the daily paper and novels. Do more than watch the TV. Think. Read non-fiction. The more you use your mind the better.
Get organized so that you use your time to maximal efficiency. It is amazing what you can do if you plan well.
Listen to CD’s while driving. That can redeem the time.
Write down thoughts and inspirations that have come to you or you’ll forget them.
Every day, find time to be alone. Once again, every day, find time to be alone.
When you are bowed down, then talk to God on the spot. Try to nip small problems in the bud. Don’t wait until later.
Make friends with as many godly people as you can.
Keep some little cards; inscribe new Scriptures on them; commit them to memory.
Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is to say, 'The Lord Omnipotent is King.'
Keep smiling when you are tricked and criticised.
Take your work and studies seriously, but not yourself at all.
Develop a forg iving attitude (most Christians are doing the best they can).
Do everything for double usefulness. Bake two cakes or two quiches and take one to someone who is housebound. Write two letters to missionaries when you are in the rare writing mood.
Men and women, 'we must hurry.' That was the great word of William Chalmers Burns in Scotland as he thought of the shortness of the time. Buy up the opportunities of the week that lies ahead. It will never return.
Never resist an inclination to pray.
Paul the Apostle urges us to ensure that the energy of the Spirit is at work in us constantly with no hindrances preventing it. Resist the hindrances, remove the obstacles, and maintain the glow. You cannot work up the fire but you can remove the ashes and be stirring up the gift of God within you. We must not quench the Spirit. We must resist the drift to becoming lukewarm. That is not an option. The Lord will spew us out of his mouth if we do not become fervent in spirit. We must recapture every day our first love.

- Geoff Thomas

Commending the Gospel with a Consistent Life

Every time we get a victory, it commends the gospel and helps to win other people and take them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. This has happened often. As I was thinking about all this, an illustration came to my mind of a young lady I once saw as a candidate before a certain missionary society. She was eventually accepted and went out to work in the Far East, and this, in a nutshell, was her story.

She had been a student in Cambridge where she was the secretary of the Communist Party. She happened to be in Cambridge during that very severe winter of 1946 to 1947 when everything was frozen up, in Cambridge and in most other parts of the country. She lived in a room off one of the staircases in the college, and, of course, there was a terrible shortage of water. You could only have a bath once a week and there was always a queue. There was one other girl on that staircase, a Christian, the only Christian on the staircase. The Communist girl noticed that instead of asserting her rights and always going to the front and always complaining, as the others were, the Christian girl bore with it all. She allowed people to be assertive and selfish while she just went on quietly. This shook the Communist. She said, 'Here's someone who really is practising and living what I claim to believe but do not do.' The attitude of the Christian not only opened her eyes and made her think, it led to conviction, to repentance, and to conversion, and she went out as a missionary. The simple action of this Christian girl led to that great result.

- Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Alaska Mission Strategy

You have read some in previous months about our missionary friends, Justin and Melissa Vold in Alaska. I feel now it would be both educational and inspiring for you to read their overall mission plan in Alaska, so that not only that you could pray for the work of the gospel there, but so that you could see the bigger picture of what is happening in a quality ongoing mission work. The following overall mission plan God has given to the Volds is very useful to be able to pray for them. God is doing a very real work in Alaska, especially among the Upik Eskimos, through the solitary work of Justin Vold.

The biggest reason I am emphasizing prayer for them is because of the unique difficulties of the Alaskan work- the hard travel, the dangers, the loneliness, the isolated places, the lack of fellowship, the possibilities of real persecution, and many other things.

I am scheduled to go there in December, God willing, to be among some of these villages. -- Mack Tomlinson

From Justin & Melissa Vold

Strategic Ministry Plan: The work which the Lord has called us to primarily is to go and proclaim the gospel in villages that are yet to have any church or any gospel witness. We have a list of 104 Arctic Eskimo villages without an evangelical church. We have made it our goal to take the gospel systematically into each of these villages that are not connected to any road system. This means we must fly into a particular area and travel by land or river, to specific villages. We first begin with real prayer, and then we get a local phone book and pray for each person of specific villages by name. We wait on God to open the door to go to a particular area during a 2 week period, and then we do personal evangelism and preach Christ through whatever opportunities God provides.

When we see people come to faith in Christ, we then follow up and disciple the new believers and train them to be a church (Acts 2:42-47). We are currently working with 2 Eskimo men who are growing in the Word of God and prayer. We are training them to be godly husbands and fathers, as well as how to preach the Word. We have trained over 40 indigenous pastors and lay ministers in the past 5 years. We have started, by the grace of God, one church in an unreached village this fall. Our goal is to make that particular church the sending station for indigenous mission trips to the surrounding villages on and around the Yukon River that have no gospel witness.

A second part of our strategic plan includes serving the villagers who do have a fellowship of believers. We do this by training, encouraging, and equipping them. Many of these villages have no pastor or minister and are very hungry for the things of the Lord. We help them through Bible studies, encouragement, and other needs as the Lord leads.

Thirdly, as a staff evangelist with Ambassadors for Christ International, I am given the opportunity to preach in the lower 48 states. The motto for AFCI is "Revival in the Church, evangelism through the Church and traing for the Church worldwide". In keeping with the passion of this ministry for the church, I travel to preach in conferences, retreats or week long meetings at their request, helping the church to re-focus. I also seek to recognize those God is calling into the mission field and help them in their journey. We currently have three looking to the Lord for service in the Arctic fields, as well as several others we have helped in other regions.

Short Term Goals: Our short term goals include the following.

Personal: My personal goals are to devote more time to the Word of God and prayer and enjoying the presence of Jesus Christ. To love Him to know Him. As a husband, my goal is to be like Christ to my wife and love her as Christ does His church. As a father, my goal is to show His love, patience, kindness, and loving discipline to our children and to train them in the ways of Christ.

Short Term ministry goals: As the Lord wills, our plans include going to Pilot Station, AK to continue to sow seed and also to water the gospel seed we have already planted, to preach there and help establish the new church, which is 1 month old as a fellowship, with a married couple, who have been believers for 2 years. Also, I plan to preach in the villages of Manokotaq, Togiak, and Aleknagik October 13-30. In November, my plan is to preach in the village of Chevac, which is a Yupik Eskimo village which has no church. In December, I plan to attend the Ambassadors for Christ Ministry council meetings in Marietta, GA. After this time I hope to have concentrated time in the Word and in prayer, time with the family, and get needed rest through the Christmas break. Then in January, I will resume village missions.

Ministry long term goals:

The long term goals of this work include:

1) Establishing a biblically functioning church in the unreached villages that have no gospel witness, and seek to help them have their own indigenous pastors, elders, flock, with the church having a goal of being mission-minded, sending out those from their own fold whom the Lord is calling as missionaries.

2) To help the churches in villages that are struggling or have ceased to meet, that they would be, by God's grace, revived to bear fruit.

3) To see, with my own eyes, 104 villages that have had no church previously, to be filled with the knowledge of the gospel of Christ and then raising up the next generation of Eskimos to love Christ and make His name known among the nations.

4) To die as a faithful believer, full of His love, grace and truth, having served Him faithfully all my days and having served my family lovingly and having been used by the Lord to bring Him glory, honor and praise.

Your friends and servants in the gospel of Christ,

- Justin and Melissa Vold

Friday, October 9, 2009

His Sheep Hear His Voice

"My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me . . . a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." -- John 10: 5, 27

Christ's sheep know how to hear, what to ignore, and who to follow. While anyone can recognize the "echo" of the Creator in creation (Ps. 19: 1-4), and to many the "sound" of God's testimony in Scripture (Jn. 5:39), it's only the chosen sheep that ever hear His voice. Three characteristics of the Shepherd’s voice:

First, it's a powerful voice. "My sheep hear My voice" -- not "a" voice, which denotes uncertainty; neither "our" voice, regarding consensus. It's singular, direct, and authoritative. It's the same voice that stills the waves, silences the demons, raises the dead, and forgives sins. Whether knocked to the ground (Acts 9:4) or caused to rise up (Matt. 9:9), the results are always the same -- sheep that follow with no regrets (Mk. 10:22) and no provisos (Matt. 8:21-22). Anything less is the voice of a stranger.

Second, it's a personal voice. "He calls His own sheep by name." Saul's companions heard something (Act 22:9), the Jews thought it thundered (Jn. 12:29), but sheep hear their name. The Shepherd doesn't call out His flock; He calls His own one at a time. And not only is their name known but their sin is personal as well -- "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" -- not persecuting the Church, or disobeying the law. His companions were never called "on the carpet," and neither were they called to Straight Street.

Third, it's a pleasant voice. ". . . that they might have life abundantly." The Shepherd's voice has a certain cadence to it, a harmony that is melodic to the sheep. His voice soothes with the promise of abundant eternal life (vs. 10); it quiets the fears of being found alone or lost (vs. 28-29). It even has the ability to make for peace when other sheep are added to the fold (vs. 16). Regardless if the sheep find themselves lying in green pastures or trembling in the valley of the shadow of death, it's the Shepherd's voice that reassures.

What sheep lack in intelligence or courage is made up in voice recognition. Strangers may look like angels (Gal. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:14-15) and even act like God, but it’s their speech that gives them away -- a voice that lacks authority, intimacy and hope. Those who have ears to hear, hear -- they also know what to ignore.

- Mark Lacour

The Only Qualification for Coming to Christ

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor--but the sick!" Matthew 9:12

From the garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Savior sweat pardons; from the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy, the cry comes, "Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth!" From Calvary's summit, where Jesus cries, "It is finished!" I hear a shout, "Look unto Me, and be saved!"

But there comes a vile cry from our soul, "No, look to yourself! Look to yourself!" Ah, look to yourself and you will certainly be damned! As long as you look to yourself, there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are, but a consideration of what Christ is, that can save you. You must look away from yourself, and look to Jesus!

Oh! there are many who quite misunderstand the gospel; they think that their good works qualify them to come to Christ; whereas SIN is the only qualification for anyone to come to Jesus.

- C. H. Spurgeon