Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't Preach When You Pray

Beware of the evil of mistaking preaching for prayer. The friends who were reputed to be ‘gifted’ indulged themselves in public prayer with a review of their own experience, a recalling of their creed, an occasional running commentary upon a chapter or Psalm, or even a criticism upon the Pastor and his sermons. It was too often quite forgotten that the brother was addressing the divine Majesty, before whose wisdom a display of our own knowledge is impertinence, and before whose glory an attempt at swelling words and pompous periods is little short of profanity; the lecture was evidently intended for man rather than God, and on some occasions did not contain a single petition from the beginning to end.

We hope that good men are stopping this unhallowed practice, and are beginning to see that sermons and doctrinal dissertations are miserable substitutes for earnest wrestling prayers, when our place is before the mercy-seat, and our engagement is intercession with the Most High. If each person will offer the petition most pressing upon his heart by the Holy Spirit, and then make room for another, the evening will be far more profitable, and the prayers incomparably more fervent than if each brother ran round the whole circle of petition without dwelling on one point. Compare your topics of prayer to so many nails; it will be better for an intercessor to drive one nail home with repeated blows, than to deal one ineffectual tap to them one after another.

Let as many as possible take part in the prayer of the church’s desires; the change of voice will prevent weariness, and the variety of subjects will excite attention. Better to have six pleading earnestly, than two drowsily; far better for the whole meeting, that the many needs should be represented experimentally by many intercessors, than formally by two or three.

- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Family Sickness

"And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:30
Dear friend,

My dear wife has been quite ill. Sickness is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet the Lord is good; He knows what we need, and when we need it. We must and shall have it--whether it is sweet, bitter, or sour--for He will withhold no good thing from those who fear and love Him.

He upholds and enlightens the planets and stars. He weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. At the same time, He is providing for the lions and ravens, and supporting all the ants and worms that creep upon the earth!

And with equal accuracy, He adjusts all that concerns us! Worms as we are, He is attentive to everything that relates to our peace and welfare, as though we, each of us individually were the sole objects of His providential care! Yes, His eye and His heart are attentively fixed upon you and worthless me! Well may we say, "Who is a God like unto You!"

- John Newton

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Lord Reigns -- A Letter from John Newton

"The Lord reigns! He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength!" Psalm 93:1

"The Lord reigns! Let the nations tremble!" Psalm 99:1

The Lord reigns! He who once bore our sins, and carried our sorrows is seated upon a throne of glory, and exercises all power in heaven and on earth! Thrones, principalities, and powers, bow before Him. Every being and event are under His rule. His providence pervades and manages the whole, and is as minutely attentive to every part as if there were only that single object in His view.

From the tallest archangel, to the meanest ant or fly--all depend on Him for their being, their preservation, and their powers! He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and to find their food. He overrules the rise and fall of nations; and bends, with an invincible energy and unerring wisdom all events! So that, while many intend otherwise in the outcome, their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of His holy will. He restrains with a mighty hand, the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness; and Satan, with all his hosts, cannot exert their malice a hair's breadth beyond the limits of His permission. Satan may rage, but he is a chained enemy!
This is He, who is the Redeemer and Husband of His believing people. How happy are those whom it is His good pleasure to bless! Howsafe are those whom He has engaged to protect! How honored and privileged are those whom He enables and warrants to claim Him as their friend and their portion! Having redeemed them by His own blood, He sets a high value upon them! He esteems them His treasure, His jewels! He guards them as the pupil of His eye. They shall not lack; they need not fear!

His eye is upon them in every situation, His ear is open to their prayers, and His everlasting arms are under them for their sure support.

On earth, He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all His dispensations for their good! While, in heaven, He is pleading their cause, preparing a place for them, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory that shall shortly be theirs!

"The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!" Psalm 146:10

- John Newton

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When Jesus Comes

One sat alone, beside the highway begging,
His eyes were blind, the light he could not see;
He clutched his rags and shivered in the shadows,
Then Jesus came and bade his darkness flee.

From home and friends the evil spirits drove him,
Among the tombs he dwelt in misery;
He cut himself as demon powers possessed him,
Then Jesus came and set the captive free.

Their hearts were sad, as in the tomb they laid him,
For death had come and taken him away;
Their night was dark and bitter tears were falling,
Then Jesus came and night was turned to day.

"Unclean, unclean!" the leper cried in torment,
The deaf, the dumb, in helplessness stood near;
The fever raged, disease had gripped its victim,
Then Jesus came and cast out every fear.

So men today have found the Savior able,
They cannot conquer passion, lust, and sin;
Their broken hearts have left them sad and lonely,
Then Jesus comes and dwells Himself within.

When Jesus comes, the tempter's power is broken,
When Jesus comes, the tears are wiped away;
He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.

- Oswald J. Smith

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Debtor to Grace

"By the grace of God--I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

It is a part of my daily habit to look back to my slavery in Africa, and to retrace the path by which the Lord has led me, for about forty-seven years, since He called me from infidelity and madness!

My astonishing, unsought deliverance from the hopeless wickedness and misery into which I had plunged myself, taken in connection with what He has done for me since, make me say, with peculiar emphasis, "Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be!"

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come!
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine!

- John Newton

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Morning Always Brings

1. New mercies- "His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lam. 3:23

2. Prayer is fresh- "In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch." - Psalm 5:3

3. New joy and expectation- "For His anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning." - Psalm 30:5

4. Fresh help- "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns." - Psalm 46:5

5. A foretaste of that final Great Morning and the blessed hope- "As sheep they are appointed for sheol; death shall be their shepherd; and the upright shall rule over them in the morning." - Psalm 49:14

6. Alone time with the Father- the Lord Jesus knew and used the early morning time as a man- "And rising a great while before day, he went out into a wilderness place, and there he prayed." - Mark 1:35

- Bob Jennings

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recognizing God's Providence in Life

"You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit." - Job 10:12

What a great mercy it is from the Lord to have the right perspective about our lives. When a person doesn't have that, they cannot understand or appreciate all that has been done for them by a sovereign and gracious God. Neither can they have a thankful and gracious heart. The bigger perspective is huge and very important.

It is a humbling and heart-moving reality to step back and look at your journey until now, and then be able to say, "Lord, it is You who gave me life; You have shown me kindness, and in Your providence every moment of every day You have watched over my spirit."

How good is the God we adore--a faithful, unchangeable Friend; let us continually rehearse, as Job did, God's sovereign and intimate rule in all of life.

- Mack Tomlinson

Monday, December 6, 2010

“Ask, and it shall be given you.” - Matthew 7:7

We know of a place in England still existing, where bread is served to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is bread for him.

Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that he has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have his needs supplied. Nay, he has done better; he has attached to this Hospital of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is black and filthy, it has but to go there and be washed. The fountain is always full, always cleansing. No sinner ever went into it and found that it could not wash away his stains. Sins which were scarlet and crimson have all disappeared, and the sinner has been whiter than snow.

As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good for him shall be denied him. He shall have spending-money so long as he lives, and he shall have an eternal heritage of glorious treasure when he enters into the joy of his Lord.

If all these things are to be had by merely knocking at mercy’s door, O my soul, knock hard this morning, and ask large things of thy generous Lord. Leave not the throne of grace till all thy needs have been spread before the Lord, and until by faith thou hast a comfortable prospect that they shall be all supplied. No bashfulness need retard when Jesus invites. No unbelief should hinder when Jesus promises. No cold-heartedness should restrain when such blessings are to be obtained.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pray without Ceasing

"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:1

How important is a spirit of prayer! It is the proof of regeneration, the manifestation of grace in our hearts, and the evidence our title to mansions in the skies!

Prayer is the breath of the renewed soul, the beating of the sanctified heart, and the effect of the life of God within us.

O that I had prayed more! Prayer should become a habit with us--then everything would furnish us with matter for prayer. Prayer should mingle with our pleasures and our pains, with our labor and our rest. O for more prayer!

We should never do what we cannot pray God to bless. We should never go where we cannot ask God to go with us.

If we would hold fast our profession, if we would adorn the gospel, if we would honor Jesus, if we would enjoy our mercies, if we would get good by our trials, if we would see all things working together for good, if we would conquer Satan, if we would overcome the world, if we would crucify the flesh with its affections and lust--then we must pray!

Prayer, if it is believing prayer, opens Heaven to us, unveils the glorious face of God, and brings down foretastes of the joys of paradise. Prayer makes us a match for all our foes, enables us patiently to carry every cross, and with perseverance to climb and pass over the loftiest hills we meet with on our heaven-bound pilgrimage!

Those who pray, will, by deriving strength from Heaven, by drawing down wisdom from above to withstand every storm, and shout God's praises at last.

Tempted Christian--pray, and you will overcome every temptation.

Troubled Christian--pray, and God will deliver you out of every trouble.

Perplexed Christian--pray, and God will make your way plain before your face.

Doubting Christian--pray, and God will disperse your doubts, and chase your fears away.

Trembling Christian--pray, and God will strengthen you with strength in the soul.

Sick Christian--pray, and God will make all your bed in your affliction.

Dying Christian--pray, and death will lose all its terrors, and you will gently fall asleep in Jesus.

Lost sinner--pray, for God who heard the publican and justified him, will hear you and save you.

O for the grace of prayer, that we may in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

- James Smith

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter in the Soul

"Thou hast made summer and winter." - Psalm 74:17

My soul, begin this wintry month with your God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind you that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and they tend to assure you that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with you in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor world will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season; if it is upon you just now, it will be very painful to you. But there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord Himself makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation; He scatters the hoarfrost like ashes over the meadows of our joy; He casts forth His ice like morsels, freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all; He is the great winter King, and rules in the realms of frost.

Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills are of the Lord's sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill insects and put a boundary on raging diseases; they break up the clods and sweeten the soil. Oh, that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction.

How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw near to Him and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises and go forth to labors which fit the season, for it wrong to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold, for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good Degrees to Earn

I believe in getting a good education and in having the proper degrees needed for successful ministry. Among all the degrees which can be conferred upon a person, there are the following: an associates degree, a BA, BS, a MM (Masters of Ministry), MDiv (Masters of Divinity), DD (Doctorate of Divinity), Thd (Doctorate of Theology), and Phd (Doctor of Philosophy). I am sure I have left some out, so I will not labor the point. There are others, I am sure.

But of all the degrees that can be earned, there are two that are the most important. The first is the UPS degree. Every Christian has it and every preacher, pastor, missionary and Christian worker should labor in light of it. A person is not qualified for any ministry in the kingdom of Christ without this degree. It doesn't take much on our part to earn it. In fact, every Christian has earned it. This degree has been conferred on each of us already. It is recorded in the halls of true academia already. What is it?

The UPS degree- "Un Profitable Servant". This degree is conferred based on Luke 17:10: "So likewise, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded of you, then say, 'we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do'." God himself confers this degree upon everyone enrolled in the school of Christ. All of us hold this degree. We have earned it, having finished all the work necessary to be considered a true unprofitable servant, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto.

Let every Christian and servant of Christ realize that this degree has been conferred on us and is hanging on the wall of our lives already. It follows after every use of our name in everything we do. It marks every sermon, every good work, every labor of love, and every effort we make in life. Having done all, in the end, that degree expresses everything about our accomplishments. So see yourself as John Doe, UPS.

Then there is a second degree which we are working on-- or at least we should be. It is the highest, most desirable of all degrees. There is no accomplishment beyond the earning of this highest achievement of learning and knowledge. It is a degree program that every of one us ought to be motivated to earn. We should be working on this one day and night. It will be a great day when this degree is conferred on us. And it ought to be desired and expected with real anticipation.

The second degree is the famous and prestigious WD degree - "Well Done, thou good and faithful servant-- enter thou into the joy of your Lord." - Matthew 25:21

Are you working on your second degree, now that you already have your first one? Labor hard; the course work is extensive but nothing is more satisfying.

The thought strikes me this morning with fresh reality-- If every Christian and every preacher walked in light of the first degree they have already earned- the UPS degree, and if they then realized there is no higher degree that can be ever earned than the WD degree, we would have a much more educated and wise ministry and a much improved class of students in the kingdom of God. If every preacher only had these two degrees, it would be a wonderful thing and we would have a highly educated ministry.

Leonard Ravenhill, when asked where he went to seminary, used to reply: "Bush University." When people said, "Oh, I've never heard of that one- who else went there that I would have heard of?", Ravenhill said, "Moses."

That's the university we should all graduate from.

By the way, there is another degree mentioned for a few men, which is not for anyone else. It is for deacons in the church of Jesus Christ. Christ has a degree for them and they should realize it and rejoice in it, that it can be conferred on them: "For they that have served well as deacons purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:13) You deacons-- go after that good standing and great confidence for yourself as a minister of Christ to his people.

These degrees summarize everything that is important in the higher educational system of the kingdom of God. You've earned the first degree. Now work on the second one more.

Warmly yours, increasing in the knowledge of God and his ways, I remain,

- Your fellow UPS scholar with honors, and future WD candidate

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ's Sufferings

I have heard a million sermons about the nails and the thorns, and granted, the physical agony of crucifixion is a ghastly thing, but there have been thousands of people who have died on the cross and who have had more horrible painful excruciating deaths than that. But only one has received the full measure of the curse of death. I doubt that Jesus is even aware of the nails and the spear, He was so overwhelmed by the outer darkness. Dear friends, on the cross Jesus is in Hell! Right there. Totally bereft of the grace and presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. He becomes a curse for you, so that you someday will be able to see the face of God. So that the light of his countenance will fall on you, God turned His back on His Son. No wonder He screamed, He screamed from the depths of His soul.
- R C Sproul

His sufferings were far from consisting in mere corporal afflictions, with such impressions upon his soul and spirit as were the effects and issues only of them. It was no more nor less than the curse of the law of God which he underwent for us: for he freed us from the curse by being made a curse.
- John Owen

The whole of it evinces the truth of Christ's human nature, that he was in all things made like unto his brethren; that he had a human soul, and endured sorrows and sufferings in it, of which this of desertion was not the least: the heinousness of sin may be learnt from hence, which not only drove the angels out of heaven, and Adam out of the garden, and separates, with respect to communion, between God and his children; but even caused him to hide his face from his own Son, whilst he was bearing, and suffering for the sins of his people.
- John Gill

Had there been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus should have shrunk from these sorrows, and used such a remarkable expression. Isaiah tells us, (Isa 53:4,5) "He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, Gal 3:13, he was made a sin-offering, 2Cor 5:21 he died in our place, on our account, that he might bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was the manifestation of God's hatred of sin to his soul, in some way which he has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering, endured by him, that was due to us; and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.
- Albert Barnes


"Why hast thou forsaken me?" We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. "Why?" what is the great cause of such a strange fact as for
God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? Hast:" it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. "Thou:" I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea, worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. "Forsaken: " if thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? "Me: " thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God.

- Charles Spurgeon

A Grateful Spirit

"You have pleaded the causes of my soul; you have redeemed my life."

A grateful spirit should ever be cultivated by the Christian, and especially after deliverances we should prepare a song for our God. Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a censor smoking with the sweet incense of thanksgiving. How joyful Jeremiah seems to be while he records the Lord’s mercy. How triumphantly he lifts up the strain! He has been in the low dungeon, and is even now no other than the weeping prophet; and yet in the very book which is called “Lamentations,” clear as the song of Miriam when she dashed her fingers against the tabor, shrill as the note of Deborah when she met Barak with shouts of victory, we hear the voice of Jeremiah going up to heaven—“You have pleaded the causes of my soul; you have redeemed my life.” O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it, sing gratefully, and shout triumphantly.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Divine Appointments

[God gives divine appointments--let us not miss ours that come along regularly. This is from my friend, Jeff Gregory, in Dallas-- Mack T. ]

This evening I was doing some late night shopping at Albertsons Foods and as I was unloading my shopping cart onto the conveyor belt at the checkout , I pulled out my keys and was fumbling through them looking for my Albertsons keychain card so I could get a discounted price on a few items. The cashier lady spoke to me in a foreign accent and said, “Those cards aren’t used anymore. How long has it been since you’ve shopped at Albertsons?”

I replied, “I couldn’t remember if Albertsons still used the card or not. It hasn’t been that long since I’ve shopped at Albertsons.”

As she was checking me out, I read her nametag. It said, “Megibre.”

“Your name is Megibre.”

“Oh, you pronounced my name correctly.”

“What language do you speak?”

“I’m from Albania.”

“Oh, you speak Albanian.”

“We came here because of the war. Maybe you heard about it.”

“Does “Megibre” have a meaning in English, like “Margaret”?

She shook her head.

“How long have you been living in Dallas?”

“I’ve been here eleven years.”

“What is your religion?”

She looked a little sheepish, and said, “I’m Muslim.”

I was surprised because she didn’t look at all like a Muslim woman. She was about 55 years old – looked like a typical middle-aged American woman.

I continued the conversation: “I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus. Do you know Jesus?“

“I don’t know anything about religions. I work all the time. I have four children.”

“Jesus is the one who died on the cross so we could have forgiveness of sins.”

She looked at me as if she didn’t know what I was talking about.

“What are you going to do with your sins?” I asked.

“We don’t eat all day from 6:00 am till 8:00 at night…”

“You’re talking about Ramadan.”

“Oh, you know Islam?”

“You know what sins are? The things we do that displease God. God doesn’t like our sins and has to punish them. But Jesus came to pay for our sins by dying on the cross. Because of our sins God will punish us in hell, but instead he punished Jesus on the cross so we won’t have to go to hell. He came to give us forgiveness and eternal life. Do you know the Bible?”

She was looking at me like she was having a hard time grasping what I was saying. She also was fidgeting a bit. There was no one else around within hearing distance so I didn’t hesitate to carry on the conversation.

“Jesus died on the cross but he rose from the dead on the third day. He resurrected. He’s alive. He’s a living Savior.”

“I became a Christian when I was 21 years old and he’s been with me ever since. Jesus came into my heart and forgave me of my sins and he’s given me peace and joy.”

“I’m sorry. I have to go.”

As I passed by her on the way out she was helping another customer but she said to me, “Come back. Thank you.”

After I unloaded my groceries into my car and was driving down Buckner Boulevard, I began to pray loudly and with emotion:

“Oh God, may this woman know she has met a servant of the living God this night. May she know that a messenger from God has come to her this night. Stir up her heart and mind. May this night be the beginning of a search for her to learn about Jesus. Speak to her, O God, in dreams. I pray she will look for a Bible.

O God, I pray I will meet her around your throne one day. Maybe she will even remember this night, this conversation. O God, may this night be a divine encounter for her!”

Will you join me in praying for Megibre’s salvation?

- Jeff Gregory

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God is Planning for Thee in Love

Please remember that God is planning for thee in love. God is never capricious, never moody, and never experiments with us. He plans all things always in love. If there are wounds (and who of us can escape them?), then there is still balm in Gilead. If there is rejection, then we remember that all men rejected Him. We can still fill up the sufferings of Christ. Remember Madam Guyon's words:

A little bird I am, shut off from fields of air,
Content within my bed to lie,
Since God has placed me here;
Well pleased a prisoner to be
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

- Leonard Ravenhill

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Keep on with your Work

Keep about the work that God has given you. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil's dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil's rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let councils resolve, let the devil do his worst, but see to it that nothing hinders you from fulfilling the work that God has given YOU to do!

He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood about yourself which Satan and his servants may start to peddle. If you do these things you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourselves and not for the Lord.

Keep at your work. Let your aim be steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded, and rejected. (You will not be the first!) But see to it with steadfast determination and unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life until you too can say: "I have finished the work which You gave me to do".

- from The Reformer

True and False Assurance and the "Carnal" Christian

The real question we must face is this: What do we do with a host of our converts that are living like the Devil after they were 'saved' by going through our system? There are not too many choices and most of them are cures that are worse than the disease. Let me mention two errors that arise when we refuse to admit that something may be wrong with our system of giving assurance of salvation.

First of all, we can adopt the old view that these people were saved and then lost. Granted there are some texts that seem to teach that this is possible, but a careful examination of those texts plus an exegesis of many other texts will always lead us to conclude that no one will ever be truly saved and then lost.

The second error is of more recent origin and has deeply penetrated the church in our generation. It was invented by people who were unwilling to either examine their system or give up their doctrine of eternal security. I am referring to the Carnal Christian doctrine. I want to remind you of several things.

(1) This doctrine was a deliberate invention to protect the converts of an easy-believism gospel that had departed from the biblical gospel. Leaders could not blame their own system nor could they accept that a Christian could be saved and lost. Believing those two things forced them to find another answer to the problem and the Carnal Christian doctrine was the result. This doctrine enabled the proponents to protect (a) their easy-believism gospel, (b) the altar call and giving assurance to all who came, (c) the doctrine of eternal security of all who had been assured, and (d) the 'sure salvation' of their converts who did not live like real converts. Everybody and everything won except the truth of the gospel. The truth of the gospel was dragged through the streets.

(2) The Carnal Christian doctrine is less than 200 years old and was preceded by, and consciously brought about by, the people who rejected the preaching of both repentance and the lordship of Christ in evangelism. This doctrine was designed and promoted purely as a means of justifying the lack of true godliness among the converts of easy-believism.

(3) No Christian is totally carnal and likewise no Christian is totally spiritual. There are not two categories. A carnal Christian, meaning a person totally controlled by carnality even though truly saved, is a contradiction in terms. All Christians have carnal aspects in their life and likewise all Christians have spiritual aspects in their life.

A Fair and Honest Question

"But Mr. Reisinger, are you saying that we should never label people? Do you mean we should never tell anyone, 'You are saved' "?
That is exactly what I am saying. If you are honest, you will have to admit that since you cannot see a person's heart you cannot give him assurance that he has truly believed. Someone may say, "But I always make sure they are sincere." And how my friend, do you do that without looking into their heart? If you reply that you "always ask them if they are truly sincere," I will not bother to answer that silly statement.

Whether we like it or not, we are not in a position to say with perfect certainty that any one individual is either saved or lost! The most we can say of any person in an absolute sense is that they either do or do not make a profession of being a Christian. There are many people that appear to be truly lost and others that appear to be truly saved, but in both cases we cannot see the heart.

In my first pastorate there was a deacon who used to say, "Time and the Devil will tell." If someone got married and I said, "Ray, I believe that will be a good marriage," he would say, "Time and the Devil will tell." When someone made a confession of faith and I said, "I believe that is genuine," I would get the same "Devil will tell" routine. And do you know what happened in every case? Time and the Devil would show that sometimes we were right in our expectations, but other times we would see how very wrong we were. Let me give you a few biblical examples of this fact.

If we would have heard Peter curse and swear by the fire when he openly denied Christ, we would have concluded he was not a truly saved man, but at that moment Peter was a true believer.
If we would have heard Thomas utter his words of unbelief, we would have been sure he had no faith, but he did have saving faith.
We would have called David an adulterous and murdering hypocrite, but at that very moment he had the grace of God in his heart. (By the way, people often say, "David's sin of adultery and murder prove the doctrine of eternal security." That is nonsense. David's awful sin only proved that he was a sinner. The sincere repentance expressed in Psalm 51 is what proved the grace of God was in his heart.)
Likewise, if someone would have suggested that Judas was a phony and had his hand in the till, we would have protested and said, "He is a godly believer. You are misjudging him."

In all of these cases we would have been as wrong as can be.
I honestly believe the average fundamental church in our generation would have labeled Judas a "carnal Christian" who was eternally secure. They would have never let that rich young ruler get away. They would have "decisioned" him and made him a deacon within six months as well as chairman of the building committee.
- John Reisinger

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Darkened Mind

No man will see truth clearly at all and truly believe it unless God first opens his eyes to see it.

I sit listening to two college professors over a cup of coffee discuss their work and the intricacies of academic life. It's obvious they are smart men intellectually. But what is also obvious is that they are self-confident, arrogant men. I desire to walk to their table and after introducing myself, say to them, "Gentlemen, is it at all real to you that one day soon you will stand before Jesus Christ, the Judge of the universe, and give account to Him for everything you've ever done and every word you've ever spoken. You will give account for every word in your classroom, every motive you've ever had, and every thought of your heart. Are you now ready to meet Him?" Such men, unless they are Christians, would think I was either a dinosaur or mentally imbalanced.

As I think about it, it is clear. Men's minds are so darkened, prideful and blind, they could sooner be persuaded that they could build a ladder to the moon with spagetti noodles than be persuaded of their personal accountability to God. Their darkened minds have convinced themselves He doesn't even exist. If they believe He exists at all, in is obvious that He is not pertinent to this life and will not factor at all in their death.

Men more easily believe there is life on other planets than believe they will stand before God one day.

Men more easily believe that they came from monkeys than from their Creator.

Men more easily believe they will be re-incarnated as a bug than that their soul is to live forever.

Men more easily believe they will cease to exist after death than that they will exist consciously in an eternal state.

Men more easily believe that life originated here by the arrival of aliens than that they were created.

Men more easily delude themselves into thinking everything will somehow be all right when they die than face the truth that they will perish in their sins.

Why will people more easily believe a lie than the truth? Because the natural mind is darkened. It is at enmity with God and wants to believe a lie. They don't want God to exist; they want Him gone and out of the picture as a non-factor. If they can delude themselves into believing the lie, then they are free from any personal responsibility and accountability.

What an awesome and terrifying prospect awaits the secular, proud man upon death--to awake in eternity, only to realize too late that all you denied IS true and all you believed is a lie. Then its too late, for the eternity condition is irreversibly set.

The most terrifying thought an unbeliever can have--"Hell is real and what if I am there forever?"

The second most terrifying thought--"My personal accountability to the living God--when I die, I will stand before God in judgment."

- Mack Tomlinson

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Behold, He Prays"

Acts 9:11

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray, the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed, praying soul. Often a poor broken-hearted saint bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears. Yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music. That tear has been caught by God and treasured in heaven. "Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle" implies that they are caught as they flow.

The praying soul, whose fears hinder his words, will be well understood by the Most High. He may only look up with misty eye, but prayer is the falling of a tear. Tears are the diamonds of heaven and sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's court, numbered with the sublimest strains that reach the Majesty on high.

Do not think that your prayers, however weak or trembling, will be unregarded. Jacob's ladder is lofty, but our prayers shall lean upon the angel of the covenant and so will climb its starry rounds. Our God not only hears prayer, but also loves to hear it. "He forgets not the cry of the humble." True. He regards not high looks and lofty words. He cares not for the pomp and pageantry of kings and regards not the triumph and pride of man.

But wherever there is a heart big with sorrow or a lip quivering with agony, or a deep groan or penitential sigh, the heart of Jehovah is open. He marks it down in the registry of His memory. He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up:

"Faith asks no signal from the skies,
To show that prayers accepted rise;
Our Priest is in His holy place,
And answers from the throne of grace."

- C. H. Spurgeon

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jesus and Sinners

All that Jesus does for lost sinners, He does freely, out of pure pity, kindness, and love.

Yet we are always looking for something in ourselves--to encourage us! On the other hand, we tend to look at some sin committed by us--which discourages us. Whereas we should look only to Jesus. I want now, for a few minutes, to fix the eye of your mind on what Jesus does for sinners--how He acts toward them today.

Jesus calls the sinner. He says, "Come unto Me. Come, just as you are. Come, this moment. Come, for all that you need. Come, for all that you desire. Come, and be saved. Come, and I will satisfy you. Come, and commit all your concerns to Me, and I will make all things that occur, work together for your good."

Jesus receives the sinner when he comes. He receives every sinner, however base, vile, or unworthy he may be! He receives the sinner graciously--pardoning every sin, forgiving and forgetting all that he has done amiss, and treating him with the utmost kindness.

Jesus cleanses the sinner. In the fountain of His precious blood, and in the laver of His holy Word--He cleanses him from guilt and pollution--fitting him for holy service on earth, and for holier service in heaven. Nor is there any getting rid of guilt--but by His blood; nor of impurity--but by His Spirit working with His Word!

Jesus clothes the sinner. Cleansed from guilt and filth--we are clothed in His garments of salvation, and are covered with His robe of righteousness. All that is necessary for our honorable appearance in heaven among the glorified--He undertakes to provide.

Jesus feeds the sinner. Those who trust in Him, are completely nourished by Him. His flesh and blood becomes our daily food. We can no more live and be healthy, without nourishing food for the body--than we can live and be happy, without sweet and frequent nourishment from Christ. There is in the renewed soul--a craving for Christ, and it is never satisfied--but as it realizes His presence, meditates on His Word, or is solaced with His love!

Jesus employs the sinner. Having called, received, cleansed, clothed, and nourished him--He sets him to WORK. He gives him a cross to carry, and aplot in his vineyard to cultivate. He sends him to speak to others of His grace, and to manifest to others His temper and disposition. He sends him to thepoor widow's cottage, to the sick man's chamber, and to the ignorant soul's home--and says, "Feed them for Me; comfort them for Me; and teach them for Me!"

Jesus comforts the sinner. Yes, when he is depressed and discouraged, when he is low and cast down. He consoles by some special providence, by some seasonable portion of His Word, by the counsel of some friend, or by the sweet whispers of His Spirit.

Jesus assures the sinner. Assures him of His love to him, of a saving interest in His finished work, and of a title to heavenly mansions! When Jesusassures us--our doubts and fears depart, our unbelief is destroyed, and our souls are filled with peace and joy.

Jesus visits the sinner. He says, "I will come unto him." And He does come, and brings with Him--pleasant light, precious fruits, and joy and peace. He says, "I will come and sup with him--and he with Me." And He draws him out into such sweet, near and dear communion with Himself--that no costly meal, no delightful company--can be compared to it.

Jesus restores the sinner. For as astonishing as it may appear, it is nevertheless true--that we are prone to wander!

We leave light--for darkness!
We leave plenty--for poverty!
We leave joy--for sorrow!
We leave a paradise--for a desert!

And having wandered, we would never find our way back--if He did not come after us! But, blessed be His holy name--He does! And then He restoresour souls, and again feeds us in green pastures, causing us to lie down beside the still waters!

Jesus reproves the sinner. However He may spare our persons--He never spares our sins! He visits our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquitieswith stripes! His reproofs are often sharp. Cutting convictions, heavy losses, severe trials, perplexing troubles, bodily sickness, and painful bereavements--are some of the RODS which He employs. But however numerous and heavy His strokes--they are lighter than our guilt, and fewer than our sins! He deals with us as with sons. He chastens us for our profit--and to make us partakers of His holiness!

Jesus glorifies the sinner. Glorifies him with Himself--and confers on him an eternal weight of glory! What it is to be glorified--we do not fully know. At the least, it is to be freed from all that is sinful, painful, and degrading--and to be invested with all that is bright, beautiful, and blessed. It is to be made as likeJesus as possible, and to be with Him where he is forever!
O wondrous grace, of a wondrous Savior!
Believer, this precious Savior is yours!

Will you not love Him then?

Will you not bear witness to the power and sweetness of His love, to the joy and happiness that are found in His ways?
Will you not observe His statutes and keep His laws?

Will you not come out of the world, which is peopled by His enemies--and be separated to Him? Can you mingle with the carnal, and frequent places of worldly amusement? Must you go to the world to be gratified and amused?

Beware how you wound your precious Savior's loving heart!

- James Smith

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Trophy in our Hand

We've got a race to run but we run it with a trophy in our hand. We've got a fight to fight but we fight it from a position of victory. We've got a work to do, but we work from a position of rest because of the finished work of Christ. We're in and we're accepted!

The other day I was talking to one young man in our church meeting and I said "Are you a Christian?" He said "No I'm not but I'm working on it" and I said, "Well I know what you mean but you know, you ought to do just the opposite. Quit your working and just run up the white flag of absolute unconditional surrender and trust the finished work of Christ.

- Bob Jennings

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wasting Time- Part 2

One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.
- John Piper

I learned a long time ago not to say I don't have time for something.
- Chuck Todd

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wasting Time

We must live for eternity. Every minute of time you waste you will not get back. If you waste your time, you will waste your life.

- Steve Lawson

Come and Dine

"Jesus said unto them, Come and dine." - John 21:12

In these words, the believer is invited to a holy nearness to Jesus. "Come and dine" implies the same table and the same meat; sometimes it means to sit side by side and lean our head upon the Saviour's bosom. It is being brought into the banqueting house, where waves the banner of redeeming love. "Come and dine" gives us a vision of union with Jesus because the only food we can feast upon when we dine with Jesus is Himself. Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him."

It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; if we cannot all feel alike, we can all still feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven. At the table of fellowship with Jesus we are one bread and one cup. As the loving cup goes round, we pledge one another heartily therein. Get nearer to Jesus and you will find yourself linked more and more in spirit to all who are supported by the same heavenly manna. If we were more near to Jesus, we should be more near to one another.

We likewise see in the words the source of strength for every Christian. To look at Christ is to live, but for strength to serve him you must "come and dine." We labor under much unnecessary weakness on account of neglecting this precept of the Master. None of us need to put ourselves on a low diet. On the contrary, we should fatten on the marrow and fatness of teh gospel that we may accumulate strength therein, and urge every power to its full tension in the Master's service. So if you would realize nearness to Jesus, union with Jesus, love to his people and strength from him, then "come and dine" with him by faith.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Run to your Father

"This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven" - Matthew 6:9

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" - 1 John 3:1

Beloved, we have a heavenly Father. He has adopted us into His family. He not only wears a father's name, but he has a father's heart. He loves every believer with a father's love. He watches over each of His children with a father's care. Yes, we have a Father, and He is always near us. His heart is ever disposed to do us good. He will not withdraw His eye from us!

He bids us to cast every care upon Him, to expect every blessing from Him, and to carry everything that troubles us, to Him.

Does providence frown on us, perplex, and trouble us? Let us not fret, complain, or forebode--but go and tell Father! Does Satan tempt, suggest evil thoughts, or endeavor to mislead us? Let us not parley with him, be alarmed at him, or yield to him--but go at once and tell Father!

Everything, whether painful or pleasant, should lead us to our Father in heaven. He loves to listen to our broken prayers. He loves to sympathize with us. He never chides us for coming too often, or refuses to listen to us. Happy child, who has such a Father!

And wise is that child who carries everything to his Father, who tells Him all, keeping nothing from Him. When we carry our cares or our troubles to Him, He says, "Leave them with Me. I will manage them. I will settle them."

Christian, run to your Father from every foe and from every danger! Tell your Father everything that vexes, grieves, or troubles you. Trust your Father to manage all your affairs. Honor your Father by consulting Him on all matters, by confiding to Him all your secrets, and by making His written Word your daily rule on all points.

"The righteous cry, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." With childlike simplicity, confidence, and honest hearts--they go and tell their Father!

- James Smith

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Live on Your Knees

Live on your knees. Anything that can be accomplished without prayer is not worth pursuing.

- Paul Washer

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Our Master our Model: Represent Him

"Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way." Titus 2:10

Christ enjoined upon every one of His disciples to study Him, to learn of Him, and to imitate His example. A true Christian is the representative of Christ in this world--the only embodiment of gospel teaching and influences, that is presented in human society. How vitally important is it, then, that those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians, should make our Christianity attractive! Multitudes of people know very little and think very little about the Lord Jesus; nearly all the ideas they get of His religion--is what they see in those who profess it!

An attractive Christian is the one who hits the most nearly that golden balance between love on the one hand and firmness on the other hand. He is strict, but not censorious. He is sound and yet sweet and mellow, as one who dwells much in the sunshine of Christ's countenance. He never incurs contempt by compromising with wrong nor does he provoke others to dislike of him by doing right in a very harsh or hateful or bigoted fashion.

Our Master is our model. What marvelous example of gentleness, forbearance, and unselfish love adorned His life! What He was is what we in our imperfect measure should pray and strive after. Study Jesus, brethren. Get your souls saturated with His spirit. His grace imparted to you and His example imitated can turn your deformity into beauty, and adorn your lives with those things which are true and honest and lovely. We must make our daily religion more attractive!

"Leaving you an example--that you should follow in His steps." - 1 Peter 2:21

- Theodore Cuyler

Monday, October 11, 2010

Praying Payson of Portland

Edward Payson was born in 1783 to Seth Payson, a Congregational pastor in Rindge, New Hampshire. From an early age, his unusual intelligence was evident. By age 4, he was a proficient reader and his thirst for knowledge became a ruling passion in his life.
When Edward was 17, his father enrolled him at Harvard and he graduated in 3 years. His classmates ridiculed him, saying in jest that Payson had read every book in the Harvard library.
The death of his brother in 1804 ignited his conversion. It was a decisive change for the 21 year old. He wrote his mother about his new relationship with Christ: "I am so happy that I can hardly think about or write about anything else." Convinced that God had called him into the ministry, he began rigorous personal disciplines that would produce a great spiritual harvest. He rose early for prayer and Scripture reading. He immersed himself in good books by Jonathan Edwards and others, preparing himself for the calling he keenly felt God had on his life.
He began increasingly to enter into the life of prayer that later made him famous. "He prayed without ceasing," wrote his biographer, "he studied on his knees. Much of his time was spent prostrated with the Bible open before him, pleading the promises of God."
In 1807, Payson began pastoring the Congregational Church in Portland, Maine, where he served until his death in 1827. Such grace and power attended his preaching that three Congregational churches asked him to become their pastor. One even offered to build a new church building for the large crowds that waited to hear his preaching. A typical entry in his diary during this time reads: "What was preached seemed to come with power; many were in tears and all seemed stirred up, so that, though I went [to church] crushed down under discouragement, I came back rejoicing."
In 1811, Payson married Ann Louisa Shipman. They had eight children and their family was a model for godliness and was admired throughout New England.
Payson was an effective soul-winner and pastor. Unlike many churches today, his congregation did not grow primarily by disgruntled Christians transferring from other churches. He also did not consider a person to be converted just on the basis of his testimony alone. He, like other pastors of his generation, waited until the professed convert showed signs of spiritual fruit. Only then did they consider a person converted and would admit the person to the communion table.
In September, 1809, Payson wrote his mother: "At our last communion, we admitted 11 to the church and next Sabbath we shall admit 12 more. The appetite for hearing the truth seems insatiable and our assemblies are more crowded than ever. Many have joined us lately." This was typical of his experience. During the 20 years of his ministry, his church received more than 700 converts.
The first explanation is Payson's success at prayer. At 26, he wrote in his diary, "I was enabled to agonize in prayer for myself and the people, and to make intercession with unutterable groanings." He was given the nickname "Praying Payson." It has been said and documented that the wood floor at his bedside was worn down by his knees from regular times of prayer.
The second reason for his success was his emphasis on preaching. Payson believed that the proclamation of God's Word was his primary job. To this end, he labored in prayer and the Word of God many hours each day. Church affairs and counseling did not distract him until his time with God was satisfied.
Payson preached with great passion, love, and affection. He always sought, like Charles Simeon, "to rouse and humble them rather than to comfort them, for if they can be kept humble, comfort will follow."
As his preaching reputation grew, he received numerous invitations to preach in neighboring New England churches. Offers began to come from larger churches in New York City, but Payson refused them all. Ambitious for God alone, he remained loyal to the flock God had entrusted to his care.
After his death many tried to explain the power behind his preaching. "It was the eloquence of truth spoken in love," wrote his biographer, "The words seemed to come from his mouth encompassed by that glowing atmosphere that was in his heart, to brand their very impression in every heart upon which they fell."
God did not favor Payson with a long life. In his early 40's, his health began to fail. He suffered great pain for several months. As his suffering grew, so did his joy in God. He finally lost the use of his limbs. Although confined to a bed in pain, the joy of the Holy Spirit filled him. "I can find no words to express my happiness," he wrote to a friend, "I seem to be swimming in a rive of pleasure which is carrying me on to the great fountain." Payson died in the spring of 1827 and has since been remembered as Praying Payson of Portland.

- William Farley

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Personal Disciplines of Private Prayer

"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place and there he prayed. - Mark 1:35

There are no short cuts in the Christian life. Jesus had to do what was necessary to maintain his walk with the Father. He felt the need to pray and had to choose to do it.

He had spent the previous night at Peter’s house after the fullest day imaginable. He had begun that Sabbath morning in the temple, teaching and healing a demonized man, then headed to Peter's house probably for some rest and fellowship with the other men, only to find Peter's mother-in-law very ill with a fever. The Lord healed her completely, so that she arose and served them.

The day was not finished yet, for as the Sabbath was concluding at sunset, a great number of people from all over town came to the door of the house for help. Both the diseased and the demonized came for healing and deliverance and all went away free and whole.

So by the time the Lord went to sleep that evening at Peter's house, he must have been drained and somewhat exhausted. If anyone should have slept in, showing up for breakfast at 9:00 a.m., it should be Jesus after such a day.

But when Peter awoke, he could not find the Lord anywhere. Jesus was already gone to begin the new day. He had an appointment he wanted to keep.

He was up before the crack of dawn and had gone to a lonely quiet place to be alone. But he was not alone. He was with his Father. He was alone in the desert, isolated area just praying, long before the day light would reveal his form.

The Lord attached great importance to private prayer by his public teaching and his personal example. We see several things here about Jesus' prayer life.

1. A Time- “And rising early”- He had a time to do it; he chose a time and used that time. The exact time is not nearly as important as that we HAVE a time, which normally should be the least distracted and most appropriate time for us personally. Do you have a time that you go to private prayer? For some it is at 5:00 am and for others, that time is different. It is not the time of day that is critical, but rather that a time in the day somewhere is used for real and undistracted prayer.

2. A Discipline- “He went out”- Jesus had to chose to go out; he wasn't carried out by angels to the place; he got up and went out; we must follow his example and discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. It is a choice we must make. If there is no going out, there will be no communion with the Father. Jesus had to choose to do this and we must as well.

Do you go out somewhere to pray? Is there a principle in your heart to go and be alone? Time with the crowd and time with others will rob us of going out to be with our Father in heaven. We must get up and get out there.

3. A Place- "to a desolate place"- Jesus got alone where he could really be alone. For him it was necessary to completely withdraw. The principle is to get really alone where no one will bother you; it may be your backyard, the nearest park, your car in the drive way, or a nearby lake or cemetery. Get to a place where you are really alone. Why did our Lord do this? It was necessary and it was desirable- "to a desolate place."

4. For Solitude- “to a desolate place” means a place of solitude. Really withdrawing to that lonely place brings with it solitude that no place of noise can provide. It means being away from all other people. If we cannot take withdrawing from other people to be alone, then we will never enjoy private communion with God. We must be weaned from men to be give to time alone with God. This is the challenge. Some people spend more time on FaceBook than they do in private prayer because earthly friendships are more real and needed than intimacy with God. If we know others more closely than we know our Saviour, something is definitely wrong. If we are unwilling to be socially weaned from men, we will remain spiritually lean. Do we know what it means to have solitude in a desolate place?

5. The Action- “and there he prayed”- he prayed; Jesus did not just read about prayer in the Old Testament. He didn't just teach about prayer. He didn't run to every weekend seminar there was about prayer or head to Barnes & Nobles to get the newest best-seller on prayer. No- He just prayed. He got up, went out to a specific place that was the best setting for Him to have private prayer and "THERE HE PRAYED".

Better to have a B in a college class and have a prayer life than an A and no prayer life.

Better to have an untidy house with prayer than a perfect house without prayer.

Better to have 5 things undone on your errand list than have an undone prayer life.

There are no short-cuts to spiritual growth and maturity. We can read the best books, go to every good conference, listen to the finest preaching, and be in the best church possible. But if we are not following our Lord's example he has given us in his prayer life, then we will never know the communion with God that could be ours- "And there He prayed."

- Mack Tomlinson

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Live Like We're Dying

We should live in such a condition as we would be content to die in.

- Richard Sibbes

Friday, October 8, 2010

From a Welsh Pastor

I went hoping that my satellite navigation system would work for the third time that day. It took me to a 7.30 Bible Rally on the other side of the town where I have been preaching once a year for over 40 years. It starts each September, and the tradition for years was that Dr. Lloyd-Jones preached at the opening meeting to a packed gathering. There was a network of those gatherings across England and Wales, and people attending them during the 60s said to one another, “Why can’t we have biblical preaching like this every Sunday?” A number of congregations commenced directly from such rallies and then the rallies ceased, their function over. Chippenham is one of the few that still goes on having started in the forties. I suppose it is like the Pensacola Institute in Florida which encouraged free grace theology and preaching in the South and then it had served its function and died.

On Sunday we had just a few new students in church. Slim pickings so far especially among the women students. We will get a better picture of who is going to settle in the congregation over the next couple of Sabbaths. The Christian Union has been organizing freshers’ welcome meetings this past week. They planned a barbecue on the beach on Saturday night, and they catered for 1000 students. Think of it! Over 500 turned up, but it turned out to be one of those pre-evangelistic occasions with the theme, “A Christian Union exists at the University.” There was no message. I reckon that was a wasted opportunity.

Then on Monday there was the ‘Grub Crawl.’ Almost 100 students, maybe a third non-Christians, began the evening at the Salvation Army and had the first little ‘starter’ of fruit juice. My friend Ray Hobbin who leads that work prayed for them there. Then they walked to us – five minutes - and we had 8 different delicious soups to offer them as the second course. They stayed for over half an hour and then I stood on top of a chair and told them what we did in our church – preach Jesus Christ, incomparable in his birth, his life and preaching, no one died like him, and no one rose from the dead as he did. How profitable our Lord is for knowledge, for motivating us to God-honouring living and in giving life a purpose. I spoke to them for ten minutes and then they applauded. It is the only meeting in the year at which I am applauded and that is a blessing isn’t it? They do it each year. They left us for the Anglicans where they had the main course, sausages, casserole and potatoes. The new curate told them about the church and the services, but there was no gospel. On they went to little Elim for the pudding course – loadsacake. No message but all kinds of people from the small membership came to welcome them, old people, and families with children. Finally they ended up in Holy Trinity Anglicans with lots of deserts especially magnificent home-made fudge, and coffee, but some said that they were already too full to eat much. There was no message. I don’t understand preachers missing an opportunity to speak to scores of unconverted students about the Saviour.

Friday, after our 7 a.m. prayer meeting I took the 9.30 train to Scotland, preaching in Glasgow at a Bible Rally in the South Glasgow Baptist church where Jeff Wright pastors – we almost share the same name, and we do share the same birthday. I had not been preaching at one of those rallies for at least seven years, but someone could tell me the text on which I preached on that occasion. I am glad it was not the text I preached on this night. John J. Murray was there and that was an extra treat. We always enjoy sweet fellowship. So then it was home to Jeff’s and good crack until midnight. I was up at 5.30 on Saturday morning and Jeff drove me to the station for the 6.30 train that got me back to Aberystwyth at 1.30.p.m. I enjoyed reading Peter Hitchens’ The Rage Against God, and John Newton’s letters, Wise Counsels, and the autobiography of Cathie Macrae which John J. Murray gave me. But then I discovered that I had mislaid my pocket diary with all my bookings for the next 3 or 4 years. I have searched everywhere and called Glasgow but they cannot find it there. I hope a good Samaritan will return it to me and be suitably rewarded. I feel a real idiot for such a lapse; it is an enormous humbling. I can say with Whitefield, “I bless God for my stripping seasons. Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.”

The first Sunday in October, when I expected congregations to return to normal, was another minor disappointment, a day heavy with rain, there were two dozen folk still away and some students who had been with us last week were off a church hopping, displaying the woeful religious consumerism of our age. So I have another week or two to wait before the early autumn vacationers return and settle down and we grow together in knowledge over the next six months. Of course there were encouragements, blessing in the services, and at the Students’ Welcome at the close of the evening Rhodri Brady spoke about what a student’s priorities should be – growing in holiness basically. We were a dozen back at the Manse for the close of the day and I photocopied 8 pages from John Owen’s paperback on Temptation and we read aloud a paragraph each in a circle and then made comments. It is extraordinary reading, vital, racy, engaging, lucid, challenging and exhorting. There is no Christian writing like it today. What an impoverishment not to enter this world. It is so biblical and spiritual.

Monday morning four of us men went to the Owain Glyndwr square in the middle of Aberystwyth where the two banks are, and engaged in some street evangelism offering leaflets to passers by. Rhodri again is particularly gifted in this work. He can talk to the elderly and the young. He was saying to me how most people will say that they are Christians, and then he will ask them whether they are born again and so often the reply mirrors Nicodemus’ who first heard that term. One man smiling said to him, “My mother would not like that.” I had a long happy conversation with an Indian student who has just arrived in Aber. to do a Master’s degree in creative writing. She was not a Hindu, has gone to church in the past and I hope she will come to church next Sunday.

We had help from two men who are in the town involved in an evangelistic outreach given a grandiose title, something like The Walk of a 1000 Men. A number of men had walked along the 100 mile border of England and Wales a decade ago stopping each night, holding a meeting and evangelizing en route. This year they were walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and the Cardiganshire Coastal Path. They have been doing this for two weeks, and now a new group are in Aberystwyth for the final week, 134 of them. I thought I could enlist their services to help us this morning, and they delegated two men both called Peter who stood on the street corners with us four and gave out our church literature. I guess that means some will say I supported the event, but I took advantage of it to stir myself up. Theirs is a broad based contemporary evangelism which I cannot support, decisionistic, e.g. reading aloud a religious response from a piece of paper, “Now I receive Christ . . .” They have a conjurer and escapologist who did a trick ‘for the children’ in St Michael’s church on Sunday. They have a street artist. They end with a rally and an appeal to raise a hand or come to the front and that is in the University Great Hall on Saturday, but I have not announced it. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the church should lure people to Christ by presenting Christianity as an attractive option. The presence of these men in the locality has just been a providential catalyst to encourage our autumn outreach to the town. Six of their men came to our Men’s Prayer Breakfast at 8 on Saturday and they stayed for 45 minutes and talked about their own lives and the Lord saving them. It would be unthinkable that local na├»ve Christians should judge that I and our congregation are not committed to evangelism.

Last week I had a sweet anonymous gift through the post. The parcel contained 24 CDs of the conductor Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic playing many of the great classical symphonies. The accompanying letter said,

“It has now been 3 years since I 'stumbled' upon one of your sermons on the internet. Since then I have both listened and read, more often read, your sermons on a weekly basis. Sometimes I have found myself reading at least 4 or 5 in a week. They have consistently challenged, rebuked, instructed, convicted, encouraged, and comforted me. Always pointing to the Saviour Jesus. What has been most striking is how grounded in reality they are. We are brought not only to the think of the Glory of Christ and the blessings in the heavenly places, but this is wonderfully tied in with the nitty gritty of our daily lives and struggles, both within and out with the church fellowship. Perhaps this is because you have remained in a pastoral role for such a long time.

“Expository preaching has often become simply explaining the meaning of a text. I am not a well read man, nor am I theologically trained, however I have often thought preaching is more than that. It is certainly not less than explaining the meaning but when one's heart has been gripped as well as our minds then something changes. What place do the emotions have in the sermon hearer? I don't know. But I do know when my affections have been touched as well as my thinking challenged it always drives me to the Saviour in praise or repentance. Usually both. In saying this I always thank the Lord for all His servants who are faithfully labouring in the Gospel. Particularly those who receive little acclamation, if any at all, and remain unknown for the vast majority of their lives and ministry. Despite this they still love the Saviour and count every day of service a delight.”

I was very moved and hope you will not be thinking I am bragging (though I don’t know my own heart) but realize that the 700 printed sermons on our church website are touching a worldwide congregation.

Warmly from Wales

- Geoff Thomas

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ravenhill on the Canadian Revival

(This is from the City Editor of the Winnipeg, Manitoba Free Press, writting in Decision Magazine in March, 1972; his article was entitled 'Quickening in Canada'. The editor goes north in zero degree weather and observes that revival has "warmed things up."

" I had long known about the revival for two weeks, having read the excellent accounts in Christianity Today, but was not sure how to handle the story in 'Decision.' I telephoned Saskatoon and learned that the evangelists, the Suteras twins, had gone to Regina, and the Ebenezer minister, the Reverend Bill L. McLeod, was in Winnipeg: but the Saskatoon meetings were continuing each night. Then I received a letter from a friend who is a world authority on revival, Leonard Ravenhill, in Nassau, Bahamas.

He wrote back: "Dear Woody, when meetings last until 2 and 3 a.m. -- when couples tear up their divorce papers before 1,800 people -- when the chief of police says there is a rash of crime-confessing -- when shopkeepers say they are staggered by the number of people confessing their shoplifting -- when lawyers and psychologists get saved -- when church members confess they have been living in sin -- when all this and more happens night after night for weeks -- then one can say there is a touch of revival. Hop a plane, my brother, and get a 'foretaste of Glory divine.'

That seemed to be the summons I was waiting for, so I flew to Winnipeg on December 15, 1971 and attended services that evening in Elim Chapel..."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Final End of Saul and Solomon

I received the following from a dear friend after he read the Daily Thoughts this week on Solomon and I sent him the following reply.

[Hey Mack,

The thoughts you put forth on Solomon commanded my attention. From the once-saved-always-saved sect I came from, this truth is real. It is emphasized that we are "Kept by the power of God", yet we must persevere; a mystery indeed, yet like sovereignty and responsibility, it is all still very true.
So Solomon's end seems similiar to King Saul; were they saved for heaven? I am asked occasionally. I tend to answer "take heed brethren lest by unbelieving heart you fall." Indeed press on in the faith.

love you much, Mack ]

My Reply

Good morning, brother;

Insightful thoughts here from you on this issue of Saul and Solomon.

We always want to know definitely, don't we, the end about some of these things and people in the Bible; I am not sure the Bible answers it always dogmatically for us. One key, I believe, is to view the person in the final light of the way the Bible pictures them; what kind of picture does it paint of one's end? In other words, how does Scripture seem to want us to view the person's state at the end of their life? Regarding men like Judas and Demas, the Bible does not leave their end as a positive thing in our minds; it (the Bible) wants us to see them in a final negative light.

Saul seems clearly to be this way; at first, he was given a new heart, not in a regenerational way that made him truly know and loved God savingly, but a heart to rule and govern Israel as a temporal leader. But his final end is abrupt and worsens as the end comes- God gives him a demon, etc, and he dies violently in a context of judgment, not mercy. He does not die the death of the righteous, but of the wicked. We are never led by Scripture to view Saul in a redemptive way.

Solomon, on the other hand, though he had this great mess-up and stumbled, it seems that Ecclesiastes was his final legacy, where he shows all the vanity he gave himself to for a period of times, and then gives evidence through his writing that he returned to God and viewed it all properly.

But a more definitive word about Saul and Solomon is a lynch-pin that, I believe, nails it for us. In 2 Samuel 7:15, the Lord directly speaks to David about both Saul and Solomon and tells us the difference between them.

Speaking of Solomon, God says to David, "But my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you." (2 Sam. 7:15)

This seems to clarify it for us with finality. God loved Solomon in a saving, redemptive, and permanent (if we can use that word) way that He clearly did not have for Saul. If words have meaning, God's own testimony is that He removed or took away His love or positive mercies toward Saul.

This does not eliminate all the mystery, but I feel it clarifies the final end of both men. And you are right in your final analysis. Whether we understand it all or not, our response must be, "Press on to know the Lord regardless of what anyone else does." This reminds me of Luke 13:23-24, when someone asked Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" Most Christians today would give a definitive reply, "Yes or no, I don't think so. " But Jesus' reply is completely different. His simple answer is, "Strive to enter through the narrow door." If someone asked us, "How many people do you think will be in heaven?" would we say to them, "Just make sure you strive to enter into that narrow door."

Hope this helps somewhat. Great is the mystery of godliness, and great still is the mystery of much of the Bible.

Love you too, brother.

Your brother and friend,

-Mack

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Lesson from Solomon's Life

It is amazing that Solomon could lay out all the principles and commandments for living as he did in Proverbs and other writings. He was not only the King of Israel, but also the King of "principles" by which to live, one-liner precepts such as:

- Watch what you do in this kind of situation

- Watch out for this kind of person and avoid them

- Listen to this kind of wise person

- Do this in these circumstances

- Behave in this way

- Avoid this kind of situation

- Be careful with this and watch out for that

Good counsel? Absolutely; the way of life? Absolutely!

Solomon was the king of the one-liners, as far as counsel and principles to live by; no one ever exceeded him in earthly, relationship wisdom.

YET we see the end of this man, who knew every truth and every principle to live by.

"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women . . . . from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, 'You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn your heart after their gods. Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God. . . . so Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord . . . then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab and for Molech the abomination of the Ammorites on the mountain east of Jerusalem. So he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrified to their gods." (1 King 11: 1-8)

Solomon had almost as many relationships with women as Bayer has aspirin. [ So much for the modern interpretation of the Song of Solomon that popular Bible teachers are touting, which teaches that the book is not about Christ and the church, but rather is a book of sacred romance between one man and one woman- Solomon, the perfect lover of one woman- are you kidding me? Its about Christ and his bride- don't ever believe anything different. ]

This reality does not remove the exceptional gifting God put in his life nor does it negate the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiates. But it does tell us that even the greatest or most knowledgeable person is still susceptible to tragic destruction if they do not keep walking with a heart of obedience to God daily. Knowledge or past experience does not preserve a person in the future. The strongest man, Samson, was captured by sin; the great-heart David was captured by sin; the wisest man who ever lived--Solomon--was captured by sin. If sin brings down the best, can it not easily get the rest?

Here's this man with all the knowledge ever needed, who also had personal, direct, and audible revelations of God Himself on more than one occasion. But Solomon's wisdom in earthly matters, even all the practical principles for life and relationships, did not keep him. Why?

Because this man, who could lay out all the commandments and teach principles in a way far beyond anyone who ever lived--his heart was far from God. So much for trusting in your knowledge or theology.

What's the lesson for us from Solomon?

What we know cannot preserve us ultimately. It is God Himself, Christ Himself, that is the Preserver of our lives. Our hearts must be His daily or we too can be gradually given over to the creeping and snaring consequences of subtle sin.

What you know cannot keep you; It's Who you know. Solomon would write another book on that if he could.

- Mack Tomlinson

Monday, September 27, 2010

People-Pleasing Preachers Won't Please God

In all generations, useful preachers of the gospel have been objected to by part of their community. Mere chips in the porridge may escape censure and mildly win the tolerance of indifference. But decided worth will be surrounded with warm friends and red-hot foes. He who hopes to preach, so as to please everybody must be brand new in the ministry. The one who aims at such an object would do well speedily to leave the ministry.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For the Fame of His Name

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love (vs. 7). For he said, 'Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.' And he became their Saviour (vs. 8). In all their affliction, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old (vs. 9) . . . . . like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name (vs. 14). - Isaiah 63:7-9, 14

Some passages yield more pure gold than others when memorized and meditated upon. Isaiah 63 is one of those gold mines of Scripture. If you dig in, you will come out with some precious gems.

Here Isaiah "recounts" God acts of love, kindness and mercy. He remembers all the Lord has granted to Israel in his great goodness that comes from the sheer compassion of Jehovah. What kind of recounts does the prophet do?

1. God making and naming unworthy people as "His people"- (vs. 7)

2. He became their Saviour (vs. 8)

3. In all their affliction, he is also afflicted (vs. 9)

4. The angel of his presence saved them (vs. 9)

5. He redeemed them ( vs. 9)

6. He lifted them up (vs. 9)

7. He carried them all their days (vs. 9)

8. He gave them rest (vs14)

9. He led them (vs. 14)

A good count, when you think about it. Isaiah recounts all these acts of God specifically. The questions arises: Why would God be so good and loving to a bad people? There's none good, no not one. Israel was not. What motivates God to pour out gracious acts which have to be numbered and recounted, so as to be able even to recognize them?

We have all heard silly songs that say, "What did I ever do to deserve even one of the blessings You've shown?" "Why would God love me?" "What did He see in me?"

Those who write such songs or ask such questions simply don't get it. Here's the answer. God did not see anything in us. Nothing, nada, zip, zero, absolutely nothing. The only thing that would have been there to see was sin. He saw nothing but sin and filth and pollution.

So what's the answer? Or is there an answer? Some say, "No, there is not an answer as to why God loved us and has acted so graciously. It cannot be known."

Wrong answer-- Isaiah tells us why in vs. 14-- "to make for yourself a glorious name."

He does it all--for the fame of His name. Reason enough. That's why God does all that He does.

God did it first for his glory, for the fame of his name, and not for us. He always does. He does all things for his glory, sometimes showing mercy on the most unworthy of people and sometimes executing judgment on people that deserve judgment as much as the people who receive mercy. Those who receive mercy deserve judgment just as much as those who receive judgment. Judgment is deserved by all and mercy is deserved by none. Whether showing mercy or judgment, God is glorified.

When have you and I last recounted God's mercies? That's a good math problem to work on. We will never solve it. Numbers don't go high enough for us to be able to solve the problem. Far too many mercies.

But we can join Isaiah in saying, "I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love." That's you and me. Christ has done all He has done for us for the fame of his name. So let us recount those mercies regularly.

- Mack Tomlinson

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Accepted in the Beloved." - Ephesians 1:16

What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God. But the term "acceptance" in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacence, nay, even of divine delight. How marvellous that we worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love! But it is only "in the beloved." Some Christians seem to be accepted in their own experience, at least, that is their apprehension. When their spirit is lively and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted.

If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in One who never changes, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. How much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour! Rejoice then, believer, in this: thou art accepted "in the beloved.

You look within, and say, "There is nothing acceptable here!" But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind his back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One. You fight with corruption, and wrestle with temptation, but you are already accepted in him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts you; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy you, for you are accepted in him who has broken Satan’s head. Know by full assurance thy glorious standing. Even glorified souls are not more accepted than you are. They are only accepted in heaven "in the beloved", and thou art even now accepted in Christ after the same manner.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God Rejoices over his People

"I will rejoice over them to do them good." - Jeremiah 32:41

How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in his saints!

How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in his saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we cannot take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened; conscious of our sinfulness, and deploring our unfaithfulness; and we fear that God’s people cannot take much delight in us, for they must perceive so much of our imperfections and our follies, that they may rather lament our infirmities than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: that as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so does the Lord rejoice over us.

We do not read anywhere that God delighted in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delights in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people!

Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” As he looked upon the world he had made, he said, “It is very good”; but when he beheld those who are the purchase of Jesus’ blood, his own chosen ones, it seemed as if the great heart of the Infinite could restrain itself no longer, but overflowed in divine exclamations of joy. Should not we utter our grateful response to such a marvellous declaration of his love, and sing, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation?”

- C. H. Spurgeon

Monday, September 20, 2010

Serious Preaching in a Comedy Culture- Part 2

The Preacher's Message

The third argument for serious preaching is the preacher’s message. There is no more serious message in the world than the face that we are sinners on the way to divine judgment and eternal damnation in hell.

Is there not good news, though? Yes, but even the divine remedy to our desperate plight demands awe and reverence. We preach Christ crucified, the power and wisdom of God. But who can stand in the shadow of that God-forsaken, cursed tree and tell a joke? Even hardened soldiers changed their tune there (Matt. 27:54).

Is there not joy in believing? Yes, but it is joy in believing, not joy in jokes. It is spiritual joy, not carnal. And even when we believe, and rejoice, it is always tempered by the new perspective we have on those who are still perishing. Richard Baxter said: 'Let the awful and important thoughts of souls being saved by my preaching, or left to perish and be condemned to hell by my negligence, I say, let this awful and tremendous thought dwell ever upon your spirit.' In the light of this, should we not join with Solomon who 'said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?' (Eccl. 2:2).

The Preacher’s Fruit

Fourth, consider the preacher’s fruit. What was the effect of New Testament sermons? The first post-resurrection sermon had this effect: 'And fear came upon every soul' (Acts 2:43). Paul describes the impact the Word of God should have on a visitor to our church services upon hearing God’s Word: '. . . he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth' (1 Cor. 14:24-25). Though we don’t see much of that today, it was certainly present in times of revival through church history

"But if I stop making people laugh, people will stop coming to church." Yes, some will stop. But what is more important, having more people in our churches, or doing more good? Here is wise Solomon’s answer:

"It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity" (Eccl. 7:2-6).
The Preacher’s World
Fifth, there is the preacher’s world. On the one hand we are living in a world full of suffering, sorrow and pain. Is comedy appropriate when there are deeply wounded and hurting souls in our congregation? On the other hand, we are living in a world full of vanity, frivolity, and superficiality. Is more comedy really what’s needed to make people think more deeply and carefully? James says the way to truly heal and help people is to aim at conviction and repentance:

"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:8-10).

Paul also says that in the light of sin, inappropriate foolish talking and jesting should be replaced with giving of thanks (Eph. 5:3-4).

Conrad Murrell used to lace his sermons with comedy. However, God convicted him that in the light of the world we live in, it was completely out of place. He writes:

"Evil is upon us. We are under sentence of death. Our children are being lost to drugs, immorality, drunkenness, despair, lawlessness and suicide. Our parents grow older and are slipping into hell. Our brothers and sisters carelessly let their lives slip by oblivious to their eternal destruction. Churches decay. False prophets deceive the people. Lies prevail. Truth is trodden under foot. The saints cry for bread. Add to this all the physical suffering, torment, starvation, political and social oppression in this world. What is funny? Where is the humour in all this reality? Is there anything any more incongruous than dying humanity hee-hawing itself to hell? How much laughter do you hear in a funeral parlor where a child lies after being run down by a drunk driver? How many comedians perform on death row in a prison house? If the world may laugh while it goes to hell, certainly Christians may not. They may be blind, but we are not. Distress may drive a fool to jesting, but it drives a Christian to his knees."

John Angell James wrote a book arguing for a more 'earnest' ministry. He holds up a high standard:

"It is hard to conceive how earnestness and spirituality can be maintained by those whose tables are covered, and whose leisure time is consumed, by the bewitching inspirations of the god of laughter. There is little hope of our arresting the evil except we make it our great business to raise up a ministry who shall not themselves be carried away with the torrent; who shall be grave, without being gloomy; serious, without being melancholy; and who, on the other hand, shall be cheerful without being frivolous, and whose chastened mirthfulness shall check, or at any rate reprove, the excesses of their companions. What a demand does this state of things prefer for the most intense earnestness in our Sabbath day exercises, both our prayers and our sermons! In this modern taste we have a new obstacle to our usefulness of a most formidable kind, which can be subdued only by God's blessing upon our fidelity and zeal."

It might also help us to remember the suffering parts of the body of Christ. I spent some time with the church in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. The Hungarian and Romanian churches were just emerging from decades of persecution. I don’t recall one joke in any of these sober gatherings. Though our part of Christ’s body presently enjoys times of unprecedented prosperity and comfort, let’s remember that other parts of the same body, North Korean parts, Chinese parts, Sudanese parts are being attacked, wounded, tortured, and even 'amputated.'

The Preacher’s Bible

My sixth argument against comedy in preaching is the preacher’s Bible. The Bible never uses 'laughter' in the sense of comedy. Yes, there is some irony, satire, ridicule, and derision. There are a few word-plays and puns. But, of the 33 times 'laugh' and 'laughter' occur in the Old Testament, they are used in a good and positive sense only four times, and then to describe joy rather than laughter. The other 29 times usually speak of scorn or unbelieving derision. They are never used to describe anything funny. In the New Testament we find 'laugh' and 'laughter' only five times, only one of which is in a positive sense (Luke 6:2). Three of these times, the laughter is in scorning Christ. The nearest we find to 'joke, fun, funny, humour or amuse' in the Bible is 'foolish talking, jesting, fool, foolishness, merry or merriment.' Only the last two of these are ever used in any good and positive sense, and that is in reference to joy and rejoicing in the blessings of the Lord.

The Preacher’s God

Seventh, and last, think about the preacher’s God. The third commandment requires that we use anything associated with God carefully and reverently. The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it like this:

"The third commandment requires that the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing . . ."

And no wonder! Consider the reactions of Job, Isaiah, and Daniel when they came 'face-to-face' with God (Job 42:5-6, Isa. 6:5, Dan. 10:17). And even Christ’s most intimate friend almost died when he met the glorified Christ on Patmos (Rev. 1:17).

Perhaps none of these arguments taken apart are convincing. But taken together the cumulative effect surely persuades us to more serious preaching in our comedy culture.

- David Murray