Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Trinity and the Error of Modalism

The Bible teaches that God is one God in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This teaching is commonly known as the Trinity - meaning that God is a "tri-unity" or "three-in-one." Now let me make it clear that Christians do not believe in three Gods. Nor does the Bible teach that God is one person who appears in three different forms or modes, which is an error sometimes known as modalism or Oneness Pentecostalism. Though the concept that God is one God in three distinct persons may be difficult for us to grasp, it is what Scripture clearly teaches.

The Bible teaches that God is one:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD (Deuteronomy 6:4)

For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)

The Bible clearly teaches that there are not three Gods, but one true God. However, Scripture also teaches that there are a plurality of persons in the Godhead.

God the Father is:
God - Phil 1:2
Creator - Gen 1:1
Eternal - Psalm 90:2

God the Son is:
God - John 1:1; Romans 9:5; Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; Heb. 1:5-13
Creator - Col 1:16
Eternal - John 8:58; (cf. Ex 3:14)

God the Holy Spirit is:
God - Acts 5:3-4
Creator - Job 33:4; Job 26:13
Eternal - Heb 9:14

This teaching that all three persons in the triune Godhead are One God but three distinct persons, is seen throughout Scripture:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)

We are told here that Jesus Christ - the Word of God - was “with God” in the beginning. If I said, “I am with my wife,” you would not think I was saying that “I am my wife." In the same way, we can clearly see a distinction in John 1:1 between the Father and the Son. However, John also tells us that the Word “was God," so clearly He is the same God while at the same time being a distinct and separate person.

Another text illustrating this truth is Zechariah 12:10.

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

Zechariah speaks here of a time when God will pour out His Spirit, showing that the Spirit of God is a distinct entity. Some cult groups have claimed that the Holy Spirit is not a person but “God’s active force." However, we can see from other verses that God the Holy Spirit has every aspect of a person:

The Spirit loves (Rom 15:30); He is someone you can have fellowship with (2 Cor 13:14); He speaks (Acts 8:29); He can be lied to (Acts 5:3); He can be grieved (Eph 5:30). Clearly these are not attributes of an impersonal force, but of a person.

Notice also in Zechariah 12:10 that God says, “they will look on Me whom they have pierced." God says it is He who will be pierced on the cross, and then in the next part of the verse He speaks of the one on the cross as somehow different from Him: “and they will mourn for Him.” As in John 1:1, we see here a distinction of persons within the united Godhead.

The Error of Modalism

A common error and false teaching regarding the Godhead is modalism. Also known as Oneness Pentecostalism, modalism is a heresy which wrongly teaches that God is one person that puts on three different "masks." In other words, the modalist believes that God is one single person that has manifested Himself in three different modes or roles.

Those who adhere to this false doctrine believe that in the Old Testament God appeared as the Father, then in the ministry of Jesus God appeared as the Son, and then after Jesus' ascension God now operates as the Holy Spirit. This is a denial of the Trinity because it contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture that God is one God in three persons, claiming instead that God is only one person playing three different roles. However, Scripture clearly teaches that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not simply three modes; they are not three masks worn by one person, but they are clearly three distinct persons in one united God.

One helpful verse on this is Matthew 26:39.

And going a little farther [Jesus] fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

In order to hold to the false notion that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same person, not only do you have to say that Jesus was praying to himself here, but you have to completely ignore the last part of the verse where Jesus says, “not as I will, but as you will.” This phrase clearly teaches that the Father and the Son have two different wills. They are One God - as Jesus said, "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30) - but they are two distinct persons in the Godhead, each with His own will.

Another text refuting modalism is Matthew 3:16-17, which recounts the baptism of Jesus.

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Here we can see all three members of the Godhead acting as distinct persons. It would be ludicrous to suggest that Jesus was somehow acting as a ventriloquist here, making a voice sound from Heaven!

And the text immediately after Jesus' baptism is instructive as well:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt. 4:1)

Are we supposed to believe, as the modalist claims, that this verse is teaching that Jesus led Himself into the wilderness? Or is the Holy Spirit another person in the Godhead who led Jesus into the wilderness?

So we can see from the above verses (and there are many more) that modalism, or Oneness Theology, is in direct opposition to what Scripture teaches. This denial of the triune Godhead not only results in the worshiping of a God who is different from the God of the Bible (i.e., idolatry), but it also leads to a works-based salvation. Within various groups the works added to salvation may be different, but some examples include: that baptism by full immersion is necessary for salvation; that baptism is invalid unless performed in the name of the Lord Jesus only; and that speaking in tongues is the only sure evidence of salvation.

In response, it should be noted that even though baptism is important and the obedient thing for a believer to do, it is not a work needed to get someone into heaven. The thief on the cross was never baptized. Secondly, the claim that baptism is invalid unless performed only in the name of the Lord Jesus contradicts the teaching of Jesus Himself in Matthew 28:19, where He commands His followers to baptize disciples "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Lastly, the claim that speaking in tongues is the only sure evidence of salvation contradicts John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

It is not “whoever speaks in tongues” but "whoever believes" that is assured of salvation. In addition, 1John 5:13 tells us that the book of 1 John was written so that those who profess to believe in Christ can test that their faith is real, and therefore have Biblical assurance of salvation. However, there is no mention of speaking in tongues in 1 John, proving that speaking in tongues is not a Biblical evidence for salvation.

To deny the Trinity is to not worship the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself. Though the concept that the God of the Bible is one God in three distinct persons may be difficult for us to grasp, it is nevertheless what Scripture plainly teaches. To know this God is to have eternal life (John 17:3); to deny Him is to remain dead in sin (John 8:24).

- Kevin Williams and Garrett Holthaus

Friday, April 22, 2011

Moody Stuart’s Six Exhortations

1. Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that he hears your prayers. (Hebrews 11:6)

2. Never neglect daily private Bible-reading and, when you read, remember that God is speaking to you and that you are to believe and act upon what he says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules. (John 5:39)

3. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus. Every night reflect on what Jesus has done for you, and then ask yourself, "What am I doing for him?" (Matthew 5:13-16)

4. If you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room and kneel down and ask God’s blessing upon it. (Colossians 3:17) If you cannot do this, it is wrong. (Romans 14:23)

5. Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, that therefore you may. (2 Corinthians 10:12) You are to ask yourself, “How would Christ act in my place?” and strive to follow him. (John 10:27)

6. Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God’s Word. Ask yourself, “Can what I feel be true if God’s Word is true?” If both cannot be true, believe God, and make your own heart the liar. (Romans 3:4; 1John 5:10-11)

- Geoff Thomas

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Difficulties

When God is about to perform any great work, He generally permits some great opposition to it. Suppose Pharaoh had acquiesced in the departure of the children of Israel, or that they had met with no difficulties in the way. They would indeed, have passed from Egypt into Canaan with ease, but they, as well as the church in all future ages, would have been great losers. The wonder-working God would not have been in those extremities, which make His arm so visible. A smooth passage here would have made but a poor story.

- John Newton

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Common Temptation

It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer.

The truth is that in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.

- George Mueller

Grace is not a Thing

In the Christian life we can easily find ourselves using jargon without knowing what we're really saying. What exactly is "grace"?

It is legitimate to speak of "receiving grace," and sometimes (although I am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misuing this langauge) we speak of the preaching of the Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord's Supper as "means of grace." That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn't a thing, a substance, or a "quasi-substance" called "grace." All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — "Christ clothed in the gospel," as John Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus.

If I can highlight the thought here: there is no "thing" that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself. Grasping that thought can make a signficant difference to a Christian's life. So while some poeple might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

- Sinclair Ferguson

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Authority of Christ

The fundamental basis of all Christian missionary enterprise is the universal authority of Jesus Christ, “in heaven and on earth.” If the authority of Jesus were circumscribed on earth, if He were but one of many religious teachers, one of many Jewish prophets, and one of many divine incarnations, then we would have no mandate to present Him to the nations as the Lord and Savior of the world.

If the authority of Jesus were limited in heaven, if He has not decisively overthrown the principalities and powers, we might still proclaim Him to the nations, but we would never be able to “turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). Only because all authority on earth belongs to Christ do we dare go to all nations. And only because all authority in heaven as well is His do we have any hope of success.

- John Stott

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Minister's Regrets - Part 2

Geoff Thomas

5. I am sorry that I did not learn to disciple people.

I hear people talking about it, maybe more in the USA. I would like to have been there, unobtrusive, tucked away in a corner, watching and learning, seeing how they did that, the mechanics of it, the programme, the length, the homework, the expectations and the fruit. Where do men get the time to disciple? They have more discipline and so they can disciple, I guess. Every disciple I have met who announced he was seeking my input into his life ended up showing his own agenda and wanting confirmation. At first it had been hidden and I was naive, but then it came out and there were tensions.Is there a generally recognized approach to discipling? Is there a book to advise us that everyone else knows and uses? 'I was greatly helped being discipled . . .' men say. Tell us how. It is to my loss that I know so little about discipling.

6. I am sorry to be the frequent prisoner of circumstances,

though kept sane by my assurance of the holy, wise and powerful providence of God, ruling and governing all his creatures in all their actions. The life of a minister is hazardous, dealing with events that are unpredictable and problems met for the first time and intractable. No book gives any assistance; fellow ministers shake their heads. Normally the minister feels he is not in control. He would like a five year plan, a year plan, a monthly plan and one for each week, the wheels of which are silently turning without any human involvement. You could tell the time by them. Such a minister envies the fixed routines of a monk. He would preach away a certain number of neatly spaced out Sundays, read through a dozen classic books a year, visit the members in turn and have six weeks’ annual writing time to produce a book on a topic no one else has written upon.

It is not like that, except for cult leaders; it has never been like that. There are the phone-calls that make you sit down. There are the e-mails with their questions and invitations, the books that have to be read because the congregation is reading them, the queries from people whose marriages are breaking up for the most bizarre reasons, people who are leaving the church for undisclosed reasons (they never say, do they? They just write that they are leaving). The local group of gospel churches need a reassuring elderly presence; there are also committees. Then there is the family and one’s delightful duty to nourish and cherish one’s wife and not provoke one’s kids to wrath. In theory one seems to have loads of spare time, but one never has enough. So one makes lists, and the tough neglected issues are copied onto the next list, and onto the list after that. But in all these things we are more than conquerors. Its diversity and challenge is fulfilling.

My own conviction is that people come first, not study, not preparation, not writing, not further degrees, but people. I can say that so confidently because I am not disturbed by a host of folk knocking on my door or lining up to discuss something with me after the services. What a rare delight that someone actually wants to talk to you and ask your opinion and advice. At the end of many a day I write in my journal something like, 'Nothing much happened . . . not much done . . . loads of little things.' One deals with people at the old people’s home, one sits with the students on a Sunday night, one is going across to the hospital, one is compiling the church newsletter or drawing up the agenda for the church meeting or answering one’s correspondents. One would not want it to be different, asking, 'Choose Thou for me my time, my friends, my ministry, my days, my priorities.' God save us from being locked into book-lined studies with a Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob, protected by a secretary or two in outer offices, emerging for graciously given interviews with favoured people. Tell them often, 'The doors of this church are always open to you, and the door of the Manse.'

7. I fear I have watched too much TV.

TV is like fire, necessary for warmth and washing and cooking, but also able to burn and destroy. It is present in our own house like some fascinating knowledgeable uncle whom yet we can shut up in a moment when he gets too garrulous. He can present live rugby 6 or 7 times in a year when Wales is playing. He can show us reports of snowfalls and tsunamis and planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York and revolutions on the streets of Iran, all unmissable spectacles. Then he comes closer to home and he shows us farming programmes about Welsh rural communities in the Welsh language which are a personal delight. He has documentaries about history and science and medical breakthroughs. He has programmes about antiques, and quizzes between various universities. I can thank God for TV; if I could not I would not tolerate it in the house. I am not interested in films and comedy programmes and soaps and cooking and political discussions and motor cars and music and most of what is on the box. It leaves me sad and cold to glance at the announcements of what is going to be shown in fifty channels. 'No thanks, Uncle. Not in this house.'

One night in 1962 we students were watching some TV programme in the lounge at Westminster Seminary, just four of us having popped in from different corridors for a break of ten minutes or so before making ourselves some chocolate and going to bed. There were always that kind of number briefly watching an extract of some trivia on a black and white screen, but usually no one at all was there. Dick Van Dyk’s programmes were popular I think. Then into the room came John Murray and he watched it for a half minute and finally said, 'Sometimes you’d like to put your fist through the screen,' and left. Quite so. I want to watch what is good-humoured and edifying, but feel that over the years I have found myself drifting into grey areas. Then shutting up uncle is not so straightforward. A pastor friend of mine decided to read Latourette’s fat volume of church history at the end of the day rather than watch the TV the news programme, and he completed the book. Good for him. I do not want to watch any of the grey area and even keep the true, just, holy and praiseworthy firmly under control, not always successfully. Let redeeming grace triumph over common grace always. That phrase in a succinct Latin quip would be memorable . . .

8. I am sorry that my love for Jesus Christ is cool and shallow.

'Weak is the effort of my heart and cold my warmest thought.' It was true for Newton and it is true for us today. Sometimes I think, 'Do I love him at all?' Where is the affection, the glow, the delight and anticipation of meeting with him? M'Cheyne wrote in his diary, 'Rose early to meet him whom my soul loves. Who would not rise early to meet such company?' I wish that that reflected my own heart’s longing for the Saviour. I wish I could give myself to him anew each Sunday, thinking, 'I am going to go where the Lord Jesus is.' When I have nothing else to think about I wish my mind naturally gravitated to him. Here is someone who laid down his life for me. This is the one who delivered me from hell. Behold my Saviour who is taking me to glory for ever. Here is my beloved and here is my friend who is working all things together for my good. This dear Lord of mine is going to do an eternal makeover on my whole life. The Lord Jesus is my personal teacher and personal trainer and personal counsellor and personal bodyguard. He can protect me from the biggest devil in hell. Christ is so fascinating a personality, wise, caring, fresh, creative, stimulating, patient and so kind to me. It is my chief complaint, that my love is weak and faint. I who encourage others to love him am amazed that I can love him so little, but what is more amazing is the fact that I love him at all.

- Geoff Thomas

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Minister's Regrets - Part 1

I remember every member of the congregation who stayed for a few services, or maybe a few years, and then grew disillusioned with my life and preaching and drifted off disgruntled. But that is not of first priority in my areas of failure. None left to hear more of Jesus Christ or a better gospel than the one they heard sitting at my feet. I thank God for that. They had another agenda hidden from me and the congregation, different ecclesiastical, social and philosophical convictions, and some of them moved on to where they could find their own prejudices gently rearranged on Sundays. It happens. But my regrets are more substantial than the dynamics of the movement of people into and out of a congregation.

1. I am sorry that I have not done more personal evangelism

The times I have defended the faith with a critic have been rare. Occasions on which I have gone back to a non-Christian’s home and explained the faith, answered his objections and spelled out the nature of Christianity have been too infrequent. I could have made a rule for myself that for every occasion on which I had preached publicly I would seek to speak to one unbeliever about the Lord Jesus, and then to seek and pray for such opportunities.

The occasions on which I have spoken to sinners have been fruitful. Some of them have come to church and become Christians. Their objections were paper thin, no weighty considered arguments – not at all. They had read an article or briefly heard a sentence or two, and all their complaints about the Christian religion were hanging on that. For example, that ‘most of the wars in the history of the world have been fought over religion.’ They were the ones to be believing myths; my life was rooted in the history of the Sermon on the Mount, the cross and the empty tomb. I said a few words to them and they agreed with me instantly. When they said half smiling, 'Who made God?' I said 'He is eternal and uncreated,' and they nodded their heads satisfied. They changed and would hear more. Why haven’t I put myself in places where those sorts of exchanges could take place? I love to speak about Jesus Christ to people, more so these days than ever before. May God guide.

A mother from Swansea asked me to visit her son at the University in Aberystwyth. I was happy to do so, but he was resistant and embarrassed and did not want to hear of the claims of Christ. It seemed an unfruitful tense time, but his room mate sitting on a bed in the room was listening to all the conversation and the next week he turned up in church, became a Christian and married a girl in the congregation. I had not even been talking directly to him and yet the word was effectual.

The most fruitful evangelism in our church has been done by members of the congregation showing friendship to people to whom God has led them. I should have been more of an example in this. I should be explaining to them each week the people I was seeing, and encouraging these new arrivals to feel at home in the Sunday congregation. It has been a failure in my life; my life has been consumed in preparing two sermons for Sundays. I pray that my last years will be my most fruitful years in personal evangelism.

2. I am sorry that I did not do a Spurgeon on Sunday nights for the first five years of my ministry.

In other words I wish I had given myself to the great texts of the Bible once a Sunday for that period. Consider these famous words of Jesus in Luke chapter 9:

Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23-26).

There are three or even four great texts there: The Cost of Discipleship, Losing your Life in order to Save it, The Folly of Gaining the World and Losing your Soul, and Who will be those Whom the Lord will be Ashamed of when He Comes Again? These sorts of texts have been honoured by God to the salvation of hearers for twenty centuries. They are plain and they focus on the heart of the Christian message. These themes are what Ryle and Spurgeon and Whitefield and Wesley preached on. Those of us who listened to Dr. Lloyd-Jones on his visits around the United Kingdom heard him preaching on such passages as those with a heavenly anointing. Today there are entire and influential preaching movements which are cold towards such mighty texts being declared on single occasions. The followers of those schools regard those four verses of Luke 9:23-26 as a sub-section within a single sermon on the whole of Luke 9. They would make a few comments on each of those texts, moving on and on restlessly to their goal of completing their studies of the entire gospel of Luke in six months. Such sermons are mere glorified Bible studies.

There are mighty texts of Scripture which are gems of truth, summaries of the gospel. They are in the Word of God to be preached; their power is to be felt by a congregation, by the young and the old. If the Christian religion is divided into three sections - its devotional emphases, its ethics and its teaching - then the usual method of expounding the devotional is to take the Lord’s prayer and go through it clause by clause. The customary way of expounding the ethical is via the ten commandments and seeing it expanded in Matthew six and Romans twelve. It is a commendable expository approach. However, how have the divines dealt with the third section, the nature of the Christian faith? They have turned away from the big texts and mightiest passages and built the exposition of the faith on the Apostles’ Creed or the Westminster Shorter Catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, admirable helpful statements, sure, but the great passages from Genesis 1, Genesis 3, Isaiah 6, Isaiah 53, John 1 and 3, Romans 1, 5, 6 and 8, Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 2 are those which present the heart of Christianity more naturally and winsomely.

I am pleading that texts that present the essence of the faith should not be dealt with en passant in the flight to ‘finish the book,’ even made more cerebral by being dissected on a screen from a PowerPoint projection. Where is the prophetic declaration? Where is the excitement of digging a hole in a field and discovering that the spade has struck the lid of a treasure box; 'Look at this . . . and consider this diamond . . . and here is gold dust . . .' The preacher, upheld by God, brings these themes to bear on the consciences of his hearers. Do they see this beauty? Do they feel the weight of these truths? Are they almost crushed? Do they feel they are teetering on the brink of a precipice almost falling off . . . 'O the depth . . .' not hitting the buttons on the laptop built into the pulpit and bringing up the next coloured box with its three points on the screen. This is an exercise in addressing the intellects of the congregation. The atmosphere is one of the classroom rather than Pentecost. The doxology is diluted, and God himself in his power, holiness and grace beseeching men by one he has appointed and gifted is marginalized.

I wish I had learned early on how to preach the gospel from those vivid verses that sum up the plight of man and the power of God to save. Consecutive expository preaching at both services on a Sunday when you are actually beginning your ministry is an unwise self-imposed burden. You are forced to consider passages that do not readily lend themselves to popular preaching, and there is no greater need in our pulpits today. Now that I have learned my craft I preach evangelistically morning and evening, intermingling the emphases of my role-models, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones. I love to sit under expository, consecutive evangelistic ministry.

3. I am sorry that I did not rest in a routine of personal devotions early on.

Settled into a place at a time and seeking the face of God sounds natural, like morning ablutions, but it is a living holy world you are entering and so there is bound to be dark spiritual resistance. It is the Holy One, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, whose face you are seeking. What a struggle for some of us, to impose upon the flesh a spirit of contrition, penitence and hunger for the divine, yet how essential to gain some progress there. How many pitfalls would have been avoided if only one had prayed more faithfully about issues and people. It was an issue spotted by the apostles themselves. They were the busiest of men; they had the grandest of concerns, to keep alive and joyful in God the holy widows, both Hebrew and Greek, of the persecuted congregation. They came to the conclusion that their balance of the ministry of mercy and the ministry of the word and prayer was askew to the detriment of the kingdom of God. They concluded that their priority as church leaders was this; 'We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.' There is no explanation of how they worked this out, 50% praying and 50% the word? The latter could not have been study solely; it must have been declaration, the defence of the faith, pastoral visitation and so on. How did they spend their time dedicated to praying? In praise, in corporate prayer, in praying with the dying, in private devotions? Those elements are all present in the later chapters of Acts and in the epistles. The effect of this decision is indicated a few verses later; 'the word of God spread.' There is no possibility of that without the prior commitment to prayer and the word. No spiritual growth, no conversions, no impact on a community, no revival of religion, no victory over temptation, no Christ-likeness without the word and prayer. Prayer is simply impotence stretching out to omnipotence. Did Jesus pray? Was there any man who less needed to pray, humanly speaking? He was full of the Holy Spirit, beloved by God, overcoming every temptation and sin, yet he prayed. How much more ourselves, especially before the big events that rise and advance irresistibly towards us.

When I mention prayer, I’m not thinking about rolling on the floor, but about simple earnest praying regularly, and praying all the time. A young theological student named Prichard made an appointment with the greatly loved Rev. Henry Rees of Liverpool. He recounted his interview some years later. He never forgot that time together. He was taken upstairs to the study and they sat each side of the fire. Henry Rees spoke to him; 'So your mind is bent on preaching the gospel. That is the most serious and solemn duty any man can ever engage in.' His hands were on his knees and he rocked slightly to and from as he spoke. 'Praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . .' repeating it many times, and then adding, 'We are not aware of the thousandth part of the power praying has upon preaching . . .' Then, again slightly rocking back and for he went on repeating that word, '. . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying.' Then he paused for a moment and said, 'If I were called upon suddenly to preach on any great occasion, and had only two hours of time to prepare for it, I should spend them every moment in praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying.' He wept a great deal as he spoke. Then he regained his composure and said, 'I cannot tell you what are the best books to read. I don’t know much about books, but try to read those books which will be most likely to nourish and strengthen the spirit of prayer in you. The great thing with preaching is praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying . . . praying.' Soon the interview came to an end and Prichard went away convicted thinking that these were the most awesome moments he had experienced. If you want to humble a minister, then ask him about his praying.

4. I am sorry that I did not meditate more on the Word of God.

Of course that goes with prayer. Where I do meditate is over a passage of Scripture I am to preach upon. It seems a holy word to employ for such a functional task. I am talking about looking at a section of Scripture from as different an angle as I can envisage, putting it in different settings, seeing it from the perspective of different states and conditions of man, placing it in the context of the whole of redemptive history. But I have heard, as all of us have, of men who have spent hours in prayer. Some of that must have been in meditation. It must have been. They have considered a word that they read that day and then they looked at it word by word in the presence of God and responded to him . . . God (who is he? What has he done? What is he doing now? What will it be when I come into his presence?) commands (the God who spoke and it was done, who commanded and all things stood fast, the God who brought all things into being by his fiat, the God who gave his law on Sinai, the God who will judge the world by his law . . .) all men (without any exception at all, the greatest and the least, the people with learning difficulties, the scientist, the most moral of men . . .) everywhere . . . to repent. And so on, thinking about the words individually and in their structure, each one breathed out by God. To taste the cordial of heaven in what the Lord has written for our good. Our preparation for preaching overwhelms our personal communion with the Almighty. It is serving another end rather than the drawing near to God himself.

- to be continued

- Geoff Thomas

Giving Thanks

If we can’t thank God for everything, even the bad stuff, then what we’re saying is “I’m wiser than God! I could have done it better! I deserve more than this! If I’d have been in charge, I’d have done it this way!”

You know you just shudder at the thought. You put your hand over your mouth and bow and bless the Lord… …Giving thanks for hardships makes the devil mad and makes God glad.

- Bob Jennings