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..."