Saturday, January 31, 2009

Preaching for change

Why preach? Why witness? Why for that matter pray?

For change right?! Absolutely we should preach, witness, and pray with great expectation of miracles. We should cry out for God to do wonders before our eyes, to bring revival to our lives, churches, and country.

Let us never do anything JUST to do it, let us never be satisfied to give pretty messages and pretty prayers, let us expect GREAT things and to some degree we should be GRIEVED when nothing happens. Say what you will but this is the testimony of scripture, the testimony of history, never even did Jesus or the apostle Paul shrug coldly at the apathy around them. The weeping prophet (Jeremiah) is not REBUKED for his compassion, yet we should be for our lack of it.

Preacher beware preaching as though you are being graded, beware looking at a sermon as a good speech, beware being over concerned with technical things. Beware trying to be seen when you preach, desire for only Christ to be seen.

Let your sermons grip you, let there be an intense desire to see lives changed, to see God manifested in the life of the hearers. Don't settle for compliments or flattery for that matter, but seek after fruit. Preach as a dying man to dying men, preach as though it's your last. I bet your last won't be so neat, your last wouldn't be so calm, your last wouldn't be so short, but filled with FIRE, with GREAT warnings, with BURSTS of praise, with intense EXALTATIONS of Christ in other words with LIFE!!!!! Preach with reality!!! I am constantly stunned when i read Spurgeon or Edwards among others, how direct, how personal, how plain they preached, and that contrasted to what is common today among those who say they love them. Well THEN preach like them, stop holding back, stop doubting and cry out for passion, a contagious passion.

May i in light of this reference some interesting quotes i was thinking about: Let these stir you in your desire for change.

Spurgeon said "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. let none go unwarned or unprayed for."

and this: At the same time, it was not all doctrine and no exhortation, for whenever Paul finished his message, he made a strenuous, pointed, and personal appeal to those who had listened to him. Let those preachers who are passionately fond of mere doctrine, but having little of the spirit of divine mercy or the milk of human kindness in their souls, those who do not care to have the Word pressed upon the consciences of men and women, stand rebuked by the example of the apostle Paul. Paul knew well that even truth itself will be powerless unless it is applied. Like the seed in the basket, it can produce no harvest until it is sown in the ground. We cannot expect that men and women will come and make an application of the truth to themselves. We must, having our heart glowing, and our souls on fire with love to them, seek to bring the truth to them, to impress it upon their hearts and consciences, as in the sight of God and to the glory of Christ.

A Story of Robert Mcheynne: A few years after his death, a young English minister visited St. Peter's to discover, as he explained, the secret of Mr. McCheyne's amazing influence. The sexton, who had served under Mr. McCheyne, took the youthful inquirer into the vestry, and pointed to some of McCheyne's books still lying on the table.`Sit down here,' said the canny old sexton, leading his visitor to the chair in which McCheyne used to sit.`Now put your elbows on the table!' The visitor obeyed. `Now put your face in your hands!' The visitor did so.`Now let the tears flow! That was the way Mr. McCheyne used to do!'The sexton led his guest to the pulpit; and gave him a fresh series of instructions.`Put your elbows down into the pulpit!' He put his elbows down.`Now put your face in your hands!' He did so.'Now let the tears flow! That was the way Mr. McCheyne used to do!'

Hudson Taylor said; Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.

It was John Owen (a scholar of scholars) who speaking of John Bunyan said "i would give up all my learning to be able to touch hearts like the tinker"

It was John Knox who prayed: Give me Scotland, lest i die

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this: What is the chief end of preaching? . . . To give men and women a sense of God and His presence. . . . I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.

LEt us then cry out to God, to change us and to use us to change others. Let us desire great things. Once we are sure of no intention to manipulate, but to preach weighty truth, yet truth that has moved us to be passionate, truth that moves us to intense appeals, moves us to cry, to speak with URGENCY! Let a person walk away thinking 'that guy is a fanatic' rather than 'i don't think that guy even believed what he said, i'm not buying'.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Reaching groups, missing individuals

In the midst of some sweet fellowship at a brother's house, i was recounting the awesome experience of meeting my wife for the first time. The same day of her conversion, the same day i learned a very hard lesson about the importance of one. Sure like anyone i could talk about how important one soul is, yet when it came to it, i was NOT encouraged by two lost souls coming to an evangelistic meeting that had an intensified amount of preparation put into it (passing out tracts, tracts on vehicles, tracts nailed to trees, crying out in prayer, much fasting). Yet i was convicted and was brought to great repentance before the service (which i had planned to just throw in the towel) and then I went ahead and preached, and my wife was saved. I was brought to an incredible joy, I remember two days later (on Sun am) being so overjoyed over the grace of God that i was jumping in my pew.
All that to say this: it's very easy to talk of wanting to see the world changed, wanting to see your city changed and yet miss individuals. Do you want to see individuals changed?
Too many churches approach too many things in terms of great numbers, whereas when it's just a few or just one, nothing is done.
For instance, i'm reminded of a brother proposing to his church what would be done if there was an abundance of new believers brought in, what kind of classes, discipleship, mentoring would need to be initiated in order to see these babes in Christ matured.
To think of it now, i wonder if many churches and people miss the BIGGER picture, what is being done for the ONE person? Forget about changing the city, when nothing is done for the individual. If that individual soul, that family is not being taught, being ministered to then the only thing that will take place upon MASS groups will be the implementation of a program.
as my thoughts were circling about this, I also was listening to Paul Washer and he was telling the story of how he and the group he was with was greatly rebuked because they were disappointed at the conversion of ONLY 5 people. Yet they were convicted about the fact that they in addition to taking lightly the conversion of 5 people, were not doing the things they planned to do if groups were saved (contacting and discipling these people).
This is not a rare attitude and we must face it; we fail because our hearts are too hard, not because our results are too little. Can you hear the Lord saying 'if you are faithful in the little things....". Would you be willing to teach a class for new believers? Have a heart for that? Really?? What about ONE person? Would you pour time into one person, to see them grounded in the faith? That's not done through 30min one a week lunch meetings. I mean taking time out of your week, praying with, reading with, teaching and answering questions.
Surely this could apply to many instances, but in light of new converts, and i mean REAL converts: they are like sponges, full of hunger for truth, full of zeal for the Lord. This time is crucial, it's comparable to the development stages of a child, very impressionable. It's at this time that you don't want to extinguish any fire, by your lack of interest. It's at this time that you don't want them seeking elsewhere for guidance. Lead them to the word, expose them to body life, show them as Tozer would say how to be lovers before trying to make them laborers.
Since heaven rejoices over the ONE sinner who repents, then we the church should be just as ready to minister to the ONE as to the many.
If it's only for one it's worth it, if the Lord only blesses you with a few then seek to be faithful in the few you have, rather than dreaming up promises of what you would do if you had many.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Missions and the persecuted church!!!

Check out this site, i'm amazed more and more by the lack of knowledge there is about what goes on around the world.
Missions is about truth and it's about the glory of God, first!!! This is primary above all things, perhaps in the abundance of prosperity much more may be done. Yet that's never instead of proclaiming the gospel to a dying world, all the help and good that could be given is like a mere bandaid without the proclamation of the gospel and planting of churches. Yes we have much to do in America, yet it can't be ignored that there are places that are in far greater need!
Since this is true, we should put the bulk if not all in supporting those who will proclaim the gospel, who will establish local churches and that based upon solid doctrinal foundations.
The local church is NOT to neglect it's greater body of believers, the people of God across the world and the proclaimation across the world.
One great resource, for staying informed about what's going on and more than lifeless data, but a compassionate look at what believers are going through in various places check out
sign up for the FREE monthly newspaper, and get the FREE book (tortured for Christ). This book is about the founder (Richard Wurmbrand, Sabina (WIFE)) who went through INTENSE persecution and saw amazing displays of God's grace: Here is a couple of bits from their lives:
In 1945 Romanian Communists seized power and a million ‘invited’ Russian troops poured into the country. Pastor Wurmbrand ministered to his oppressed countrymen and engaged in bold evangelism to the Russian soldiers.
That same year, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand attended the Congress of Cults organized by the Romanian Communist government. Many religious leaders came forward to praise Communism and to swear loyalty to the new regime. Sabina said, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.” Richard warned, “If I do so, you’ll lose your husband.” She replied, “I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.” Thus Richard declared to the 4,000 delegates, whose speeches were broadcast to the whole nation, that their duty is to glorify God and Christ alone.
Between 1945 and 1947, Richard distributed one million Gospels to Russian troops, the books often disguised as Communist propaganda. Richard also smuggled Gospels into Russia. On December 30, 1947, the People’s Republic of Romania was proclaimed.
Richard Wurmbrand kidnappedOn February 29, 1948, the secret police arrested Richard while on his way to church and took him to their headquarters. He was locked in a solitary cell and assigned as ‘Prisoner Number 1.’ In 1950, his wife Sabina was also imprisoned. She was forced to serve as a laborer on the Danube Canal project, leaving their nine-year-old son Mihai alone and homeless. Following her release in 1953, the Romanian authorities informed her that Richard had died in prison. A doctor masquerading as a Communist Party member discovered Richard alive in prison. In a general amnesty, Richard was released in 1956 after serving eight-and-a-half years in prison. He was warned never to preach again. Afterwhich Richard went back in 1959-1964.

Later, Richard moved on to the United States, and in 1966 he appeared before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, where he stripped to the waist and revealed eighteen deep torture wounds on his body. His story spread rapidly, leading to more and more speaking engagements.

My preference? , because they proclaim a gospel according to truth, based first upon the Glory of God above the condition of men. The are apart of a local church and seek to see local churches planted and edified. They are concerned to distribute and even translate good materials (study bibles, tools and theology) in order to EQUIP the leadership they support. They also hold conferences to bless and equip missionaries, which are native-missionaries. Good stewardship, the support of native missionaries is enormously cheaper and more fruitful than foreign missionaries. I do know that the conferences they had in Africa through Mbewe's church, the speakers paid their own way; Jeff noblit, Voddie Baucham, and Martha Peace.
check this answer to one common question:
2. How can a native missionary be as qualified as the American missionaries with a university or seminary education?
That depends on what you consider the qualifications to be. Do you measure a man of God by a diploma from a university, or by biblical knowledge, godliness, the Spirit’s power, and zeal? In my ten years as a missionary in Peru, I met indigenous missionaries of whom the world is not worthy. These are men who would stand for hours and preach while being mocked and beaten and having goat urine poured on their heads. They would preach until their persecutors grew tired, sat down, and listened! I know men who look like toothless, sandal-footed beggars, and yet they have started ten or fifteen churches. One of the greatest examples of the truly qualified missionary is Angel Colmenares of Peru. He is an indigenous missionary who has been used of God in a movement that has left hundreds of churches in its wake. Several years ago I asked a friend to accompany Angel and me to a Bible conference among the mountain people of the Northern Andes. He accepted even though he was scheduled to travel to Brazil to attend a conference advertised as “the greatest gathering of missionary minds and strategists in the history of South America.” Before the Bible conference, my friend and I accompanied Angel as he walked through a garbage dump looking for a discarded car battery that he hoped he could use to power his microphone for open air preaching. As we walked through the garbage, my friend looked at me and said, “I was scheduled to go to the greatest gathering of missionary minds and strategists in the history of South America, but here I am walking around in this garbage with you and this little beggar of a man who has started more churches than all those mission experts put together!”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wise example from PILGRIMS PROGRESS

If you haven't read this classic the you have missed out on a rare gem, jam-packed with deep theology. A story not to entertain you, but more like a concentrated manual of practical theology.
I'd recommend 'The new Pilgrims Progress' or "The pilgrims progress in modern English". As far as depth goes, nothing comes close to this (not Lewis, not Tolkien, nothing i know of). Yet this is a book that you could read several times and get more each time, especially as you grow in the knowledge of the scriptures.
A beautiful mixture of insight springing from sound doctrine and much experience. The piece you will now read is a great example of wisdom from a seasoned preacher. Keep such things in mind, this situation is not unusual in America. I wish MORE ministers would be MORE concerned in their daily interactions with church attenders to SEEK TO FIND OUT if they ARE truly saved; not SATISFIED with Christian talk. I see CHURCH MEMBERSHIP and BAPTISM CLASSES as the GREATEST opportunity to FIND out and to really EXAMINE whether someone is of the faith, ESPECIALLY if they have been raised in church.
Here is the piece (Bunyan narrates first, then enters the discussion between CHRISTIAN (bunyan the main character on his way to glory with his companion FAITHFUL)

Moreover, I saw in my dream that, as they went on, Faithful, as he chanced to look on one side, saw a man whose name is Talkative walking at a distance beside them; for in this place there was room enough for them all to walk. He was a tall man, and something better looking at a distance than near at hand. To this man Faithful said:
FAITHFUL. Friend, are you going to the heavenly country?
TALKATIVE. I am going to that very place.
FAITHFUL. That is well; then I hope we may have your good company.
TALKATIVE. With a very good will, will I be your companion.
FAITHFUL. Come on, then, and let us spend our time in talking of things that are profitable.
TALKATIVE. To talk of things that are good is very acceptable to me and I am glad that I have met with those that are so inclined. Indeed, there are but few who care thus to spend their time, but rather speak of things that are of no profit.
FAITHFUL. That is indeed a pity, for what things are so profitable to talk about as the things of the God of heaven?
TALKATIVE. I like you wonderfully well, for your saying is full of the truth; and I will add, What is so pleasant, and what so profitable, as to talk of the things of god? What things so pleasant? that is, if a man has any delight in things that are wonderful. For instance, if a man delights to talk of the history or the mystery of things, or if a man loves to talk of miracles, wonders, or signs, where shall he find things written so delightfully, as in the Holy Scripture?
FAITHFUL. That’s true; but to be profited by such things in our talk should be our aim.
TALKATIVE. That is what I said; for to talk of such things is most profitable; for, by so doing, a man may get knowledge of many things; as of the folly of earthly things, and the benefit of things above. Besides, by this a man may learn what it is to turn from sin, to believe, to pray, to suffer, or the like; by this also a man may learn what are the great promises and comforts of the gospel, to his own enjoyment. Further by this a man may learn to answer false opinions, to prove the truth, and also to teach the ignorant.
FAITHFUL. All this is true; and glad am I to hear these things from you.
TALKATIVE. Alas! the want of this is why so few know their need of faith and grace in their hearts in order to have eternal life.
FAITHFUL. But to know these things is God’s gift. No one can know them by talking about them.
TALKATIVE. All that I know very well, for a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven; I could give you a hundred Scripture passages to prove this.
FAITHFUL. “Well then,” said Faithful, “What is the one thing that we shall talk about at this time?“

TALKATIVE. What you will. I will talk of things heavenly or things earthly; things in life or things in the gospel; things sacred or things worldly; things past or things to come; things foreign or things at home; things necessary or things accidental, provided that all be done to our profit.
Now Faithful began to wonder; and, stepping to Christian (for he walked all this while by himself) he said to him softly, “What a brave companion have we got! Surely this man will make a very excellent pilgrim.”
CHRISTIAN. At this Christian modestly smiled, and said, “This man with whom you are so taken will deceive with his tongue, twenty who know him not.”
FAITHFUL. Do you know him, then?
CHRISTIAN. Know him? Yes, better than he knows himself.
FAITHFUL. Pray what is he?
CHRISTIAN. His name is Talkative; he lives in our town. I wonder that you do not know him.
FAITHFUL. Whose son is he? and where does he dwell?
CHRISTIAN. He is the son of Say-well. He lives in Prating Row, and is known to all that are acquainted with him by the name of Talkative of Prating Row; and in spite of this fine tongue, he is a sorry fellow.
FAITHFUL. Well, he seems a very good man. I have been deceived by him.
CHRISTIAN. Deceived! you may be sure of it. Remember the proverb, “They say, and do not”; but the kingdom of god is not in word, but in power.
His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of turning from sin. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him. It can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, because of him. For my part, I am of opinion that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall, and will be, if god prevent not, the ruin of many more.
FAITHFUL. Well, I see that saying and doing are two different things, and hereafter I shall watch for the difference between them.
CHRISTIAN. They are two things, indeed, and are as unlike as are the soul and the body. This, Talkative is not aware of but thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian, and thus he deceives his own soul. Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed; talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart of life. And let us assure ourselves that, at the judgment, men shall be judged according to their fruits.

FAITHFUL. Well, I was not so fond of his company at first, but I am sick of it now. What shall we do to be rid of him?
CHRISTIAN. Why, go to him, and enter into some serious conversation about the power of religion and ask him plainly (when he has approved of it, for that he will) whether he sets it up in his heart and home.
FAITHFUL. Then Faithful stepped forward again, and said to Talkative, “Come, what cheer? How is it now?”
TALKATIVE. Thank you, well: I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time.
So Faithful put many questions to Talkative to draw him out and was soon convinced that he was a man who only talked – and had no deep faith in his heart that led him to act. At last Faithful said to him:
FAITHFUL. Have you felt your own sins, and have you turned from them? And do your life and conduct show it the same? Or is your religion in word and in tongue, and not in deed and truth?
TALKATIVE. Then Talkative at first began to blush; but, recovering himself, replied: this kind of discourse I did not expect; nor am I disposed to give an answer to such questions, because I do not feel bound to do so. Will you tell me why you ask such a question?
FAITHFUL. Because I saw you were quite free to talk, and I feared that you had only notions about things. Besides, to tell you all the truth, I have heard of you that you are a man whose religion lies in talk, and that your life gives your mouth-profession the lie.
TALKATIVE. Since you are ready to take up reports, and to judge so rashly, I must conclude you are some peevish or cross man, not fit to be talked with; and so adieu.
CHRISTIAN. Then came up Christian, and said to Faithful, “I told you how it would happen; your words and his heart could not agree. He had rather leave your company than reform his life.”

“How Talkative at first lifts up his plumes!
How bravely doth he speak! How he presumes
To drive down all before him! But so soon
As Faithful talks of heart-work, like the moon
That’s past the full, into the wane he goes;
And so will all but he who heart-work knows.”

Thus they went on, talking of what they had seen by the way, and so made that way easy, which would otherwise, no doubt, have been tedious to them; for now they went through a wilderness

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

thoughts on prayer

What a grace prayer is, what an opportunity we have. How incredibly transforming was the idea of prayer once Jesus Christ split the veil. The veil split changing forever the access we have before a glorious God. We have now a privilege unknown to the great majority of human history, we have access to the throne of grace. This access is a wonderful grace of God, that God hears our cry to Him. That God welcomes our cries to Him. That Christ not only came as fully God and fully man, but came to endure through physical experience every imaginable trial, fulfilling His life description as a man of sorrows, He was indeed acquainted with grief. We (humanity) leeched upon Him, and did our all to manipulate, change, and abuse Him.
In this abuse, in His daily fight with sinners such as us; He fully grasps experimentally our weaknesses and battles. He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses.
We can come boldly before His throne, knowing that we will receive grace in our time of need. Put no fronts on before God, let it all out; He calls His people to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice, How MUCH MORE will God do this over His children. He seeks to break your pride, but he doesn't crush us, He takes us in our brokenness and carefully mends us. We may be sure He has an answer, we may be sure that we will continue to hold us, to cause us to stand. Do you feel weak then go to Christ for strength. DO you feel void of desire, then go to Christ for passion. Rejoice in the Lord always, for the Lord most High is your father.
I love this prayer song by my lyrically favorite Christian rapper; Shai Linne
(check the other posts about Christian rap; for now just GET OVER your misguided problems with it, and read it. OK better yet if you don't like it ; then MAKE-believe it's just a poem and like it :) )

Heavenly Father, it’s in the name of Jesus I pray
He is the way- for His sake, please receive what I say
First things first, blessed be Your holy name
There’s none like You, You stand alone and you reign
Lord, You know my frame, You remember that I’m dust
Jesus, who overcame- it’s in Him I put my trust
No confidence in the flesh, it’s obvious I’m a mess
No doubt, much more a mess than what I can see manifest
I confess that I daily fall short of Your glory
I’ve failed so many times- my sin’s always before me
I take time to ponder the opportunities I’ve squandered
And how I’m prone to wander from here to yonder
My foolish, restless heart clings to dear idols
Which could never satisfy me- they’re mere trifles
Like David said, You hem me in behind and before
You convict me of the sin that I’ve been trying to ignore
Lord, you see my immaturity, You see my insecurity
You see all my impurity- how long will You endure with me?
My heart’s laid before You- stark naked, undressed
I pray that You would become greater and that I’d become less
Yes, when I see Jesus and His inherent loveliness
I’m reminded of my own comparative nothingness
And actually, I’m as primitive as can be
Compared to His magnificent, infinite majesty
You’ve shown me the glory of Christ, He’s so holy
My only hope is that You look upon the lowly
So I humble myself as I appear at Your throne
Not based on my righteousness, but Christ’s merits alone
I’m crying out for mercy as I magnify Your name
You amplified the pain of the Lamb of God who was slain
So truly, I only have one request that’ll suit me
Please open up my eyes to better behold His beauty

Good q&a

Listen to this: Very solid answers from honest questions. The TWO people on the panel are Paul Washer and Voddie Baucham (a college conference)

thoughts on GOOD preaching and conviction!

I had brought up yesterday my first exposure to church life as a young boy of 11yrs. I left something out which i find very interesting. As far as the life and study habits of our Pastor (Nigel) this man was blameless, a very strong (young) brother in the Lord. I remember times after church playing football (our soccer) with the guys at some park including the Pastor. I don't mean an event, just sporadic and frequent times of getting together. I think it was the Pastor who taught me to play Chess, and he loved playing with his daughters. Despite the familiarity we had with him and the amount of time spent doing things with him around, when he entered the pulpit it was TOTALLY different. First off he believed in the 1hr prayer before service (SIDE NOTE: did you know there was a whole ministry started based on Jesus asking the disciples 'could you not pray one hour', that would encourage churches to do at least that--ANYWAYS).
As a 11yr old boy I hated the preaching time, i would go to the front every single Sunday (until the Pastor discouraged such flippant attitudes). I used to think he was ALWAYS talking about me, I was convinced that GOD had just told him everything that i did that week, I was fearful of that time (to this feeling my mother and probably my sister (she was about 8) would agree).
Now that's what i call good preaching! Paul Washer spoke of Leonard Ravenhill in the same way.
Consider this: i was 11 and very rebellious yet this captured me, whereas many young people today sit in churches half-asleep. You know it's a problem in America when the parents don't find it unusual that their children are bored to tears with preaching (i say this more to point out the fact that they probably aren't saved). We should seek, as Spurgeon did to reach EVERYONE who has the ability to understand. We should pray for such an anointing in our services that people come in with a Holy Awe.
One of the first very SOLID and reformed writings that i ever read was the famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards "sinners in the hands of an angry God". I was BLOWN AWAY by this sermon, not because i thought it too strong or extreme. In one sense i was excited and rejoiced about such preaching, but what SHOCKED me above everything else, the very FIRST thought that came to mind was "HOW IN THE WORLD IS THIS POPULAR?" I could not understand preachers who referenced or quoted this, yet they preached like wimps! I used to think that the problem in the 'church' was a lack of knowledge; 'if only they'd listen to this guy, or if only they read this book' and then you find out they DID and you're confused, you think "are you sure you listened to that message?, are you certain we are talking about the same book?"
Please hear me in this; How can you justify enjoying the powerful and searching preaching of DEAD men, yet you don't really like the one's who are alive? Times really haven't changed, the best preachers aren't always popular among other preachers, Spurgeon wasn't, Edwards wasn't, Tozer wasn't, Whitfield wasn't. It's also interesting to note what preachers influenced some of the more known people today, and then to see how they don't chose those type of people to preach in their conferences.
Let's face it some of the so-called best preachers didn't always preach expositional and through the bible. I thought it hilarious when Lloyd-Jones in his Preaching and Preachers mentioned how silent men are when it comes to mentioning SPurgeon when they talk about how to preach good. Prince of Preachers? What marked Spurgeon, did he lack depth and doctrine because he often preached like a storyteller, he could take a passage and give no setting, use it as a spring board totally off it's context and be considered great?????!!!!!! Well what then made him great if he broke so many cardinal rules of preaching? He still preached truth, regardless of the text he was DOCTRINAL, regardless of the passage he was ALWAYS preaching SYSTEMATIC theology, he held high the doctrines of Grace, he fully grasped the means to reach men, and God used him to reach countless men, women and children.
Why could he preach like this and not fall into what many do when they preach topically? One safety proposed for expositionally thru books preaching is that you won't just preach the topics you like; generally this IS true, but as i've said before a preacher who wants to avoid things can just pick and chose what he will emphasize by reading longer passages and going faster. So then why did he NOT fail in this way, why do some not fail in this way? BECAUSE Spurgeon was a man in pursuit of God. Spurgeon fed his own soul, he read widely, he read deeply, he soaked in the scriptures and as a result he was not blinded by a love for one aspect of theology. You can take a Spurgeon sermon, and write a book, there are many times that you could add tons of scripture because he's speaking so biblically.
I do love expositional preaching, i do think a good model (certainly the safest) is to preach through books of the bible; but i don't think it should hold the preeminence it does today, not in such a way that makes anything else 'bad' preaching. Honestly how long will it take to go through the bible? If that's the goal then preach longer messages and more than once a week (that would be my preference). I've also heard preachers say that this helps them study, a great way to be more biblically balanced; do you realize what they are saying, it's a terrible admission. So you search the scriptures because you are a preacher who preaches thru books of the bible? How in the world are you going to encourage people in the pew to study if that's your incentive? Preacher let me ask this; are you familiar with the scriptures? Do you know the word? Not are you up to date on the latest theological controversies going on, not have you mastered Greek, but DO YOU KNOW the WORD? Above all, the point i want to make is that good preaching is not a mode of preaching, it's not adhering to certain rules, but adhering to the truth of scripture. For one thing the average church member will not notice the difference in what may impress a seminary class; can you engage them, is there authority and is there passion in your preaching ? Have you lifted up Christ? Most critiques i've heard of sermons are absolutely ridiculous, they are just nit picking about silly cosmetic issues. How in the world can someone bind a preachers heart, by telling him if he inserts the gospel into a message that has nothing to do with the subject, that's bad. So your sermon isn't pretty, so you went on a couple rabbit trails, so you went past the 40min mark, so you didn't have 3 points, I can tell you this: God does NOT care, you will NOT be judged by that, you will be judged by whether you taught TRUTH, whether you sheepishly AVOIDED offending anyone, whether you APOLOGIZED for things the you shouldn't have (because people frowned), and whether you really cared about the sheep.

Preaching tastes? What's you fav flavor

What kind of preaching do you like? What flavor of God's word is your favorite?
Sound silly? I'm being serious, there are many people that talk of the word and it being preached like a Dairy Queen menu.
I have spoken and heard preachers in pulpits that will name the subjects they don't like to mention. Perhaps you might be able to guess some of them, usually it's something NOT very encouraging *at least not in a fuzzy teddy bear type of way. Some subjects are avoided due to the audience, the pew controls the preaching in many churches.
Let's list a few things: Hell, Homeschooling, Biblical Courtship, Exposing of Heretics and heretical organizations (who claim to be evangelical), the doctrines of Grace and so on. Much of what is avoided is not because of the lack of biblical clarity, but lack of 'majority' acceptance. There are things that were preached in the days of Spurgeon and before that you have to strain to find. You might reply 'well we don't have that problem because we preach through the bible' I would reply that preaching through whole books of the bible doesn't mean you preach the whole counsel of God; it's not hard to only mention some parts and zone in on what you want to zone in on. Unless you're like a Lloyd-Jones and go slowly through books then you'll skip stuff like most do. This always amuses me when someone tries to exalt this type of preaching to the point where they mock all others (let's not forget there's many well known preachers that didn't normally preach through books--Spurgeon for one).
Good preaching is truth preaching that confronts you, that convinces you, and that comforts you!!! SO what type of preaching do you like, do you ignore preaching that gets personal? Do you not like it when a man preaches like he BELIEVES there is A HELL? Do you not like when the preacher points out an area that you are currently failing in? Do you respond with defense and refusal? Are there truths within the scriptures which you really love, but others which you don't like thinking about?
DO you know what it is to pick and chose pieces you like? It's IDOLATRY!!! You have concocted a God of your imagination. Take a common one like Hell, do you consider it a harsh topic, something to avoid, something which makes God look different? If you do then you have wrongly understood His Holiness and His Justice. DO you not realize that God is GLORIFIED in damning men to HELL! What would be your reaction to an announcement of a six part preaching series on Hell coming up at your church? (Would you react the same to a six part series on the love of God?)
What's balance? 50-50 right? WRONG, not on GOd's scale. We should emphasize what God does, we should be silent on what He does. We should be crazy and forceful where He is and gentle and tame where He is.
I truly believe that a unbalanced view of God, especially on often neglected subjects leads to a low appreciation of His grace, a low fear of His Holiness, and a low worship of His glory; consequently a low (depressing, joyless, zeal-less) Christianity!
Do you want to find out where you are in error? Do you welcome truth that challenges everything that you have heard and done? Do you really want the preacher to be vague and to leave you alone?
As regards preaching we can truly say 'no pain, no gain', want to know how God causes your growth? He PRUNES you so you can bear MORE fruit JN 15.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't overreact

Brothers, sisters we must will all our strength beware of overreaction. There have been countless precious truths and realities overlooked because of overreaction, and I wouldn't try to list them, but i want to briefly touch a few.
Above all we must realize with the Apostle Paul "by the grace of God i am what i am..." "what do you have that you have not received, and if you received it why do you boast?"
These statements should humble you to be very cautious in how you approach people and the truths of scripture. There are some truths that many have come into that are very difficult to grasp early on, especially in the majority of churches.
As Paul Washer speaks of when someone becomes a Calvinist (that they should lock that person away for a year so he doesn't hurt anyone). Why does he say that, it's not the truths coming from what is sometimes called Calvinism, but how many people react when they start to grasp these truths. They act like they NEVER were taught it, or never struggled to grasp it and that if you don't have a grasp on it then you can't be saved. One overreaction is to completely disregard every and anything you've ever benefited from any non-Calvinists.
Most often overreactions produce scorn of others, a prideful attitude (a despising) in teaching, and ultimately overreactions usually becomes an idol.
THe greatest danger to the glory of God in overreaction is that we take something that is good and give people a bitter taste of it because we strip it of it's heart, it's grace, it's beauty. On the other hand in many overreactions like to the extremes of Charismatic Churches we ignore the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we ignore the emotional aspects of Christianity.
Beware then saints of God, not to ignore truth because you've seen it abused. Be careful not to despise your brothers and sisters because they don't understand, help them.
TEST: When you meet another person who says they are a Christian or a minister or a seminary student WHAT first comes to MIND?????? Do you wonder first if they are a Calvinist, or wonder if they are Reformed, Paedo Baptist, Dispensational, Charismatic? If that's often the first thing that comes to mind, i would say you are overreacting then, you are focusing on minors. The first thing that should some to mind in light of the Scriptures, in light of Christ, in light of the centrality of the gospel, in light of the fact all believers will fellowship together in heaven, the FIRST question that should rule your first impression is I WONDER IF THIS IS REALLY A CHILD OF GOD, is this person a true believer, are they my family, do they grasp the gospel? That should be our greatest and primary concern. Then as opportunity arises you might be able to address errors, but address them with sympathy and humility.
To some extent I've been blessed not to overreact to things i've been exposed to. As for the doctrines of Grace, i've come to cherish and love these truths because i wrestled for years over certain scriptures (before ever hearing it taught correctly) that i just couldn't fit into what i thought was true.
As to my exposure of Charismania, I've been in some of the wildest churches you could imagine and have seen a tremendous amount of hype and hysteria. Yet by God's grace I've also been exposed to a couple of these fanatics that have left a lifetime impression upon me. Not every Pentecostal or Charismatic is void of the scriptures, (Wayne Grudem is Charismatic as well as C.J. Mahaney!) not everyone is emotion driven and there are countless differences on signs and wonders among them. I was blessed before my salvation, to be exposed to a Pentecostal church in England, a Church led by a very young pastor (mid twenties), a church that was very diverse, a church that evangelized on the streets every weekend. This church wasn't predominately women, it wasn't led or influenced either from any mystical women (been there). At the time we were only in England for 15mths, i was about 11 and would often spend time with the older men of the church. There was an incredible amt of fellowship, it was unthinkable NOT to go to church (not as some RULE) but because you just wanted to be around that family. If you were sick as a pentecostal you just believed it better to just go (and perhaps God will heal you there (NOT BECAUSE YOU GO) ) If you did miss, someone would call maybe a couple of people (not a designated person, but concerned church family people).
It was quite amazing to be around young guys that really loved Jesus, that loved to speak of God, i remember often going to the Pastors house and he'd be in his study. I remember going to the 'before work' prayer meetings at different people's houses, with whole living rooms filled with people on their knees crying out to God for salvations and the like. Again this wasn't the extreme 'who can shout the loudest and the most' type of charismatic prayer meetings.
Despite some of the falls; i can say even today I'm challenged by what i saw in many lives there. I so wanted to be like these guys, even though i didn't know Christ then, they were in my 11yr old eyes so cool, i was attracted by their passion. After we left England (that time) things drastically turned for me, I revolted against everything Christian, I pursued my own lusts with great force, I in my High School days fought hard against anything of God because I had IMPRINTED on my mind what a surrendered life LOOKED like and I DID NOT want to submit (despite my lack of doctrine, my un-enlightened depraved heart: I KNEW to be a CHRISTIAN was a DRASTIC CHANGE). I practically erased the thought of that church and those friends from my mind, UNTIL i truly was saved and in my dissatisfaction with the American Church that i was exposed to, I started to remember these saints, and the seeds they planted 10yrs before that started to birth and bless me with a passion for MORE. Not to see miracles, not for a type of experience per se, but I longed TO find PREACHERS who were ENAMORED by God, who were FIRST in love with JESUS. It's so funny that i really thought that was absolutely hopeless in America. I really felt like some Elijah and all i wanted to do was to move back to England (yet God had other plans among exposing me to a great multitude of faithful and passionate believers in America).
WHEW! Ok so all that to say we must be careful, especially in putting 'types' into boxes, especially if they are believers.
Legalism is another, it seems within the reformed camps that so many have so rejected legalism that they have begun to turn good counsel, biblical principles, and searching rebukes into legalism. As long as you are vague or just harp on something you already know everyone doesn't accept then you'll be popular, but start hitting home and you're a legalist. I'm surprised how individualistic some reformed brothers can be in their lives, many totally unconcerned with what image they give of Christ to the world. The only thing that seems to matter is that they have doctrine correct and to not feel condemned ("Jesus accepts me, I'm saved by grace, I have liberty and if i give you mixed signals then that's YOUR problem).
There are so many subjects that have been abused, that need to be reexamined and MORE churches NEED TO TAKE A STAND on, that are being called 'choices' and on the other hand there are other things that have been so elevated that should have more freedom.
May the Lord help us to pursue biblical balance in all things.
Let it always be clear, that i don't promote TOLERANCE or doctrinal stupidity; We MUST contend for the faith, yet let's not kill other saints in the process. Let us speak the truth in love, and let us not be deterred from all that God has provided and commanded becuase of the extremes of others; Our banner our camp must be JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED!!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Usual means of grace, with exceptions

Means of grace: ways in which God works or commands us to work. Ways in which God has given us to participate in His work. Tools for all we need in this life.
If the body of Christ today is lacking anywhere most, it is in this area; there is so much confusion to the 'ordinary' workings of God. There need not be any confusion, but i would like to submit some thoughts that might not be too conventional.
God in His holiness is without a doubt totally other, and this God is NOT bound by anything. There are no such laws that govern Him, rather all that is (including the laws) comes forth from Him. That said God uses various means and has given us various means (tools) to use NOT because He needs them, but because He has chosen to work this way.
For instance, PRAYER is a means of grace, yet we know God already knows all our needs. We also know that prayer is NOT a form of spiritual manipulation (we don't move God to do something which He doesn't already want to do) all prayer is contingent upon His will- so why pray? We pray ultimately because He tells us to, and because He tells us to, it then works naturally with our new natures.
Preach the word: The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but hasn't God already saved a people for Himself, doesn't the Holy Spirit illumine a man's mind, convince and convert him? Couldn't angels proclaim a purer more accurate message? Then why preach? Because this is the way God has chosen to work, this is the way God calls us to live. Once again, we preach not only out of obedience, but we actually plead with men because God gives us this burden to plead with men, although it may seem confusing to our minds. In other words God not only puts forth the means, but also gives us the proper motivations and affectations that line up with those means.
Church is also one of those means, the local church. Why do i need anyone when i have the word and the Spirit of truth within me? Why do i need to be around the problems of other people, they'll just slow me down? Why do i need the organized religion of mere men? Because IT IS the way God has chosen it to be. God has LIMITED each one of us in our growth that we MUST use the things God has put in place in order to thrive. God has within the local church model, put things in place that will absolutely humble the pride of men, and cause us to trust more that He knows best. God has given gifts to the church to teach what the LORD won't let you see unless you receive it from others.
All this to say He uses means in order to give us daily grace. This is all part of our salvation.
YET we must also recognize that GOD is NOT bound to these means. They are the ORDINARY means of grace, not EXCLUSIVE means. They are what we are to follow, what we are to hold to, and what we are to teach. YET we must not be afraid to say, GOd does NOT have to use these and HAS not always used these. Take a man in prison for his faith, is he limited because of his lack of fellowship? his separation from the local church? It seems the testimonies of such men would be NO, WHY? well first because God isn't bound and because in His grace in His love, in His sovereign working of the life of every believer, God has often blessed men with extraordinary growth and even insight (apart from the word, apart from the local church ...) and i would submit that is because such a man is NOT choosing to disobey and thus is still blessed!
What about the testimonies of men in closed countries that have said they came to Christ through visions or a audible voice? Would you say God COULD NOT do that, or would you say NO, God would send someone there to preach and then maybe. Could such had a DAMASCUS road experience like Paul (apart from the preached word)? Is it possible that God can do that and that perhaps it's a message to us that if we don't desire to join in it, that He can still do it without us?
It's not that hard to understand or believe that, as it is to believe that a man is saved under weak, shallow and man-centered evangelism. Yet it is true that many men have been saved through a great deal of error, perhaps even under the preaching of someone who has since apostatized. That's more odd to me then God doing something supernatural, yet it does happen.

!!!NOW!!! Let me say this, in warning to the lovers of pragmatism. Just because it has worked doesn't make it OK. Just because God has done something in a certain way before does not mean we are to seek after that. We are NOT called to GUESS and PRESUME upon God's working. We are called to search the scriptures and do likewise. TO approach anything, with a 'sure it's not in the scriptures but hey it works' is to test God. That's the same as saying 'God i know you've commanded this, but i have a better idea'. In fact this is exactly what Moses did wrong. Moses was commanded to speak to the rock in order for water to come out, and in his pride Moses choose rather to just do what he did before. Well? it worked didn't it? Yes the water came out, everyone was refreshed and MOSES was PUNISHED!!!!
God will NOT bless sin, though His purposes will still be carried out, He will punish or discipline transgressors. One could look at the testimony of a believer who lived in a land of intense persecution, and think "hey they still grew, they didn't go to a church, I don't need the church either!" and they would be in direct violation of God's REVEALED (clearly commanded, communicated) will. In the same way too many are looking at evangelism and not concerning themselves with what God said to do and what God said He WILL bless. Instead men are looking at exceptions and 'results' then forming their methods and theology based upon that. They are continuing to STRIKE the rock, by doing this they not ONLY add something new (unwarranted) but by doing so they take AWAY from what God has told us to use.
Let a solid teacher of the gospel come and you might get a few people, let it be a Christian movie and everyone's expecting a third great awakening! Everything's a ministry these days, from sports groups, to clothing places, to films everything is a high expectation for possibly ushering in the kingdom, but what gets little thought , little attention is the PREACHED word, the LOCAL church, the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES and so on. In fact i remember hearing a testimony about someone coming to faith through a vision (in India or somewhere like it) and the person requested we all pray for more of this; which was received by the church as a good idea?!!! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO, That's NOT what we are to pray for, we are to PRAY for laborers and to SEND them and to GO, because that's the 'ORDINARY' way, that's the way the scriptures tell us to do it, not through exceptions.
Likewise i've mentioned before in parenting, there may be lots of exceptions where parents really blew it but somehow God was pleased to bless those children in such a way you would think they were raised by the apostle Paul. There are too many looking at the disobedience of men and seeing how God has worked in spite of them and have lived sloppy lives trusting God to clean it all up in the end.
TO do it the way GOd has told us to, to seek Him the way He has told us to, to reach out to the lost they way He has told us to, to be a part of the local body the way He has told us to, is to BRING THE MOST GLORY to GOD. Leave your pragmatism and your creative inventions in the marketing world, God doesn't need your assistance, He knows what He is doing.
Let us then be convinced that we are to seek out what God has said, what the biblical model is for all things: the Local church, Christian living, evangelism, family and so on.
I hope this was clear enough, bless you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tozer on Ravenhill

Here is what Tozer wrote in the foreword of 'Why revival tarries' concerning Ravenhill, it's truly convicting. Yes that book is one of those flaming classics that will leave you offended, humbled and longing for more, despite the fact that some things might be extreme (and even theologically weak) yet the truth it does contain is truth we need to hear MORE. It's also more or less a conversation (more like a long list of statements put together).
Here it is:
Great industrial concerns have in their employ men who are needed only when there is a breakdown somewhere. When something goes wrong with the machinery, these men spring into action to locate and remove the trouble and get the machinery rolling again. For these men a smoothly operating system has no interest. They are specialists concerned with trouble and how to find and correct it.
In the Kingdom of God things are not too different. God had always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke, and exhort in the name of God and righteousness.
A thousand or ten thousand ordinary Old Testament priests or New Testament pastors and teachers could labor quietly on almost unnoticed while the spiritual life of Israel or the Church was normal. But let the people of God go astray from the paths of truth and immediately the specialist appeared almost out of nowhere. His instinct for trouble brought him to the help of the Lord and of Israel .
Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew Who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart.
Those who know Leonard Ravenhill wil recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God not to carry on the conventional work of the Church, but to beard the priests of Baal on their own mountaintop, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet and warn the people who are being led astray by him.
Such a man as this is not an easy companion. The professional evangelist who leaves the wrought-up meeting as soon as it ends to hurry over to the most expensive restaurant to feast and crack jokes with his sponsors will find this man something of an embarrassment, for he cannot turn off the burden of the Holy Ghost as one would turn off a faucet. He insists upon being a Christian all the time, everywhere; and again, that marks him out as different.
Toward Leonard Ravenhill it is impossible to be neutral. His acquaintances are divided pretty neatly into two classes, those who love him out of all proportion and those who hate him with perfect hatred. And what is true of the man is sure to be true of his books, of this book. The reader will either close its pages to seek a place of prayer or he will toss it away in anger, his heart closed to its warnings and appeals.

balance needed in the gospel

In sharing the gospel we must be careful of acting contrary to doctrine. Which happens when we try to follow the footsteps of those who draw big numbers, perhaps famous men like Billy Graham. We must not assume the ministry of the Spirit in convicting, drawing, or assuring. of course this also happens when we take something from the gospel, like the personal offense. It was Spurgeon who remarked that in order to evangelize we should not have to lie. Let our words, our coined phrases be examined in light of scripture. We must allow methodology to be driven by doctrine. Many of the reformed camp have given much effort to being careful not to do these things; to this carefulness i write. The problem is just as unbiblical, and anti-God glorifying, and that problem is what may be called an OVER-REACTION which is to the exclusion of the example of the church. Those theologically minded men and women that were used mightily in saving souls were those who upheld the doctrines of grace while being obedient to the means of grace.
The means often seem to puzzle our human logic, yet it's not of us to ask WHY? they are used but to ACCEPT that God in His sovereignty has so chosen to use them; thus by faith we obey despite our questions.
Spurgeon among others was noted as a man who modeled this balance well. Full of zeal for truth and full of zeal for the conversion of sinners.
Spurgeon preached to the edification of his church, yet he was cross-centered, knowing that many lost people attending needed to also hear the gospel, "for it is the power of God unto salvation". Not the word in general but the gospel specifically is the power of God unto salvation.
2 Timothy 2: 24And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
With CARE we are to instruct *we are to HOPE for repentance.
2 COR 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
2 COR 5:20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We beg as if God had to, pleading, asking with all desperation.
Luke 14:23 "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.
With all that is in us we COMPEL men.
Eph 6:19 we must pray for open doors
Consider the example of pleading by Paul: 2 COR 6: 1And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain-- 2for He says,"AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU."Behold, now is "THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is "THE DAY OF SALVATION"--
We must warn men with all our strength: COL 1:28, 29 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
There is nothing worse then solemn truth given by a cold, calm, dignified and eloquent reformed Pharisee.
Consider the call of the gospel in Lk 23:27 ...that repentance and remission of sins should be preached. Peter did this, he gave the command to REPENT and gave the promise of sins forgiven (Acts 3:19). We likewise must not only preach truth but plead with men to OBEY the gospel.
If our hearts are not overwhelmed for the lost, and we feel no urgency when we are sharing the gospel, then i submit there is SIN to be repented of. Let none give any excuse for such coldness, not disposition, not calling, not upbringing, nothing but pride-filled SIN.
LK 19:41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
A correct understanding of sovereignty doesn't produce coldness! Jesus was sovereign yet He could weep for Jerusalem. Paul could weep for the non-elect. We proclaim truth whether men listen or not, but we should never rejoice in the rejection of the gospel.
To some extent we should be able to agree with Paul in Roms 9:1-3 - considering what Paul just wrote before this and what he will yet write concerning God's electing purposes and yet Paul can so long for the salvation of his people.
Jer 9:1Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!
Likewise we should all be weeping prophets eating not only God's bold truth, but receiving His lamenting heart (Ez 2:8-10) Can you think of a prophet not known for his pleading with rebellious men to repent.
I can think of a convicting title from a Leonard Ravenhill sermon "have you no tears?"
With all the reference to Spurgeon consider this ending quote "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. let none go unwarned or unprayed for." In all my love of truth i can say with confidence that it is much worse to be wrong in motive (cold and prideful) then to be wrong in mind (ignorant and pragmatic).
With broken hearts may we be blessed to bear fruit to the glory of God.

Idolizing godly men? Biblically

It's always amusing to note that often the comments people make concerning doctrine and practice, often have much more to do with annoyance and avoidance rather then with correcting truth.

This also happens when you use the quotes of men and people are frustrated with their own walk or lack of conformity to scripture and reply something like 'well they are just men, we should only be looking at Jesus'. That's a little odd since, Jesus would be the higher standard of course. Or perhaps you have heard people say like i have often, 'i like the bible, because it shows the flaws of men like David, he committed adultery and murder (probably the top reason people reference David) and this really encourages me'. I hope you know that this is absolutely ridiculous, if you look at the lives of old and new testament saints to find comfort in their sins. NO, we should find comfort ONLY in God's mercy and their repentance!

Why do we have the stories? One of the main reasons and purposes in watching the rise and fall of others is: 1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (speaking of Israel in the wilderness)

In other words we should be more careful and seek to learn from the faults of others, i have found two types of people in life: those who learn the hard way (by trial and error) and those who learn from the mistakes and successes of others!

So then how are we to view men of God? Are we to take some notice of them, but basically isolate ourselves with a sole focus on OUR 'PERSONAL' relationship with Jesus? It of course is true that men are prone to idolize and to follow others and perhaps we want to avoid the example of many cults, but then how are we to look at men?

I would like to give you some scriptures that I have chewed upon while thinking about this lately.

Eph 5: 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I John 2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps

OK we'll pause here, it must be noted that our example is Christ, that the one we follow is Christ! We are to look to no other for guidance, for truth, we are to be HIS disciples.

Since this is true and exclusively TRUE, then what? We must then ask how? In other words we must recognize that God has chosen to work through means, He uses ways often confusing to us which INCLUDE us?! So in what way are we to follow the Lord, what is the example of scripture, what does the scriptures say? (i believe much clarity will come to the majority of questions of so-called 'hard' theology if we simply come to grips with the reality that God uses means).

First let's consider one GREAT aspect of a pastor, his primary qualification to the ministry:

I Peter 5:1-3 ..2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight.......3.......but being examples to the flock

The first function of God-ordained shepherds is to lead by example (one may have much ability, but fail to qualify to lead because they cannot do so by example). Since this is the call of the men, Jesus has given the church, then it must also stand to reason that those under them must follow them.

Philippians 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

Wait a minute!? I thought the 'humble' thing was to tell people how sinful you are and to NOT follow you? This seems to be the norm right? Yet when you first ever read these words did you think 'isn't this pride?', yet once again we must redefine according to scripture what humility is and isn't. If you are a shepherd don't FEAR to say this when needed, there are times you will have to say 'watch me'. It's definitely PRIDE when you are saying that, but you try to make it sound like something else.
1 Thess 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
Doesn't sound like 'positional holiness to me', yet i would also like to take this time to remind you that we must not be quick to write someone off if they use the same type of speech.

Paul not only says that he is an example, and perhaps you might reply 'yeah well duh, he's one of those SUPER-APOSTLES' sorry that's NOT the RIGHT answer. He's just a redeemed man, he was an obsessed man, one passion, one pursuit, and that was Christ! Yet Paul doesn't attempt to say, follow me because of who I am, but he says 'and NOTE those who walk...' in other words. Mark those, take notice of those, watch those who ALSO live in such a godly pattern and FOLLOW them as well. Does that mean i hop around following whoever i bump into and go and do what they do? NO, it means that we are to NOTE the 'PATTERN', this pattern that is ultimately CHRIST, the PATTERN of Christ in OTHERS. We are to look for living examples, we are to read the lives of men who stand in stark contrast to this world and much of 'professing' Christianity!

Consider the reaction of this PATTERN being followed correctly:

1 Thess 1:4-7 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia

We lived before you, you watched us, you did likewise, and others are now watching you. This is what body life should be about, all striving to be imitators of Christ, by imitating Christ in others!

The balance? Where and how must we draw the line? How are we to exactly follow godly men, say eve a Jonathan Edwards?
1 Corinthians 1:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
To Christ and NO further, let us recognize what of Christ is in a man and then leave the rest! A Paul Washer, a Piper, A Bunyan whatever, we follow them to the extent they follow Christ. We are not to follow our most loving pastors, spouses, parents in any other way- when it comes to them or Christ we part ways and thank them for the direction thus far.

The beauty of God, poem

Something i wrote when My first son was a little baby, and when some of the most delightful times i had with the Lord were times that little boy was around (Ezekiel). I loved to hold him while i paced back and forth in prayer, or i'd being singing my own (custom noise making) worship to the Lord. As a new father i was continually blown away from the love the i had towards this child, knowing this child was a fallen selfish, demanding rebel. Yet it only made me think greater of how much more Christ saw the true me, yet His love towards me is eternally far beyond the love i had for this child. Anyways i didn't write it for people, i just penned what was on my mind--enjoy!

Oh the beauty of the Father’s love. An all compelling love, an all consuming love, and yet a love completely beyond comprehension. To know Him is to love Him, to love Him is to know Him. As a Father looking at my baby boy, I can just sit there and stare at him with overwhelming love; better yet I love to just hold him to my chest as close as can be with no regard to the time. Dear beloved don’t you understand that no earthly Father or human has the heart that can give the love that the precious Lord gives. As a Father he longs that much more for that intimacy, He longs to hold you to know you, without any regard to time. The Father listens in anticipation for His children to call His name, to cry “ABBA FATHER” which could be best translated as Daddy. The Father is never too busy, He always has time, it’s us who are too busy. Intimacy is what the Father is longing for; heaven for eternity could be consumed into one word: INTIMACY. We’ll need those glorified bodies to stand in His presence, to be able to receive that type of love. His word, His love letter to His creation tells us “He is love”. His breath on paper says “For God so loved..” , or even more it could say for God so loved those, who could care less, who resented such love, who would defile and walk upon such love, For God so loved those who were His enemies, For God so loved those He could have rightly sent to hell, for God so loved those that were separated from Him through willful and continuous sin, For God so loved those that He gave….. What did he give but the apple of His eye, He gave a gift no man could afford, no man deserved, but He gave anyways. The Spirit says “Come..”, it says “the veil was torn..” there’s now access through His blood, justice is satisfied and grace freely given, to all who will “Come..” Yet who cares, who is running to such opportunity to such availability, the Father waits, He calls, and yet so many are too busy. Intimacy is what grace gives, to know and embrace the Father’s love. Worship at His feet and adore Him, no time is ever regretted of when spent on the Father’s presence. What a joy, what a privilege to commune with the Holy of Holies, His beauty to behold, the awesome wonder. The Father calls to you “lay aside those worthless projects, those Spirit deteriorating entertainments”. Many know this world, many know history, many know sports and many know business, but who might the Father ask “knows me?” Could that first love be lost, could there be no desire, could there be no feeling, have you too grown cold? Then cast all weights aside, let there be no other lovers, break up with this world and sit at the feet of Jesus, anoint His feet with thy tears and dwell on His grace to thee. Let His love be your food. For nothing else satisfies. Let the men say with David “my soul thirsts for you..” oh for our hearts to cry out, Lord send real men like David who will worship You, Send men like Moses who will desire to see “your glory”! Precious children run to the Father lay pride down, lay self down and worship Him in the beauty of holiness. May one day we sing those intimate worship songs with our hearts, with our time, and our devotion confirming such words; let us offer up more than our lips but our hearts. Oh the Father desires to hold you, to whisper His love in your ear. Oh how jealous I am of the Apostle John who laid his head on Jesus’ chest, oh to be held by our savior. Yes that should be our prayer to have our heads held to the Father’s chest, to hear His heartbeat, to hear His heart-cry, to love the things He loves, to hate the things He hates, to weep over the things that grieve Him. To know Him is to love Him, in His presence and there only may we become like Him, may our cold hearts be warmed by the fire of His love. To abide in Him is what we need, it’s His desire that you abide in Him, for without Him you can do nothing, to abide, such closeness. No longer does He want to call you servant but friend, to tell us all things, such intimacy. Consider the love of the cross, what sacrifice, what persevering love. What a privilege and honor to visit and stay with the King of Kings, oh I wonder what men would give to spend time with the famous, with the powerful, and with the prestigious and yet they can give nothing of any value, they can offer no freedom, their wisdom is but foolishness. The Ancient of Days invites you to His banquet, oh the excuses, too many are building their own kingdoms, and yet the offer still stands “COME!?”. Come let us go to the house of the Lord, come let us pursue His holiness, don’t let the masses persuade you, be determined to see Jesus, to know Him, leave the rest to die in their apathy, let others pursue those mirages, but You come and follow Jesus. When? Holy Spirit when should we yield, when should our priorities change, when Lord should we clean our houses, when should the compromise go, when should we let you in, when should we surrender our families to You, when should we fast and pray, when should we repent of our tolerance, when, when , when?? Yes the Spirit answers, the Spirit says “TODAY IS THE DAY…”…

Psalm 27:4, 8
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Many ask who we might remember in heaven, will we see our loved ones? Many speak of the crowns, of the benefits, the riches in heaven. Aha! we’re so blind heaven isn’t heaven because of that, it doesn’t matter what it will look or be like, what makes heaven, heaven is that JESUS is there, we’ll see JESUS, His glory will give us light. Oh in heaven it’s ALL about JESUS.
Lord I pray may your will be done on earth, that men will make it ALL about You, just like in heaven, AMEN

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mind on heavenly things: AMERICA

I want to encourage all those who are deeply stressed over the many affairs of our nation, the leaders, the economy, the war, the schools whatever it may be. I want to encourage you to remember that this is first God's America, not because of how America was founded but because of the Sovereignty of God, He is IN control. It is true that within every nation and every change that comes in that nation, God may be choosing to bless that nation or judge that nation, yet as Christians we need never fear either way, because we are in the hands of God and He WILL bless US. We must strive to have one desire, and that one desire must be 'God whatever happens let it be MOST to YOUR glory!"
Perhaps we are already being judged, and in ways we don't recognize; perhaps we are being judged in all our freedoms and democracy???!!! Perhaps the 'successful' rise of so many FALSE churches and leaders is great condemnation over us.
Perhaps Obama is a blessing and that greater than Bush? Consider that some of the greatest blessings and reversals in the history of Israel came through some wicked men that God moved to do exactly what He wanted. Obama wasn't voted in by the majority, God placed him there. We should give equal prayer to this leader as any other and certainly that God would save him (NOT FOR THE NATION but for HIS OWN SOUL-God have mercy on HIM!!!).
There is one way in which it will be a nice change, at least the majority of Churches won't being going out of their way to make him look like a remarkable reformer like they did with Bush everytime he mentioned God.
The battle is in the mind! Do you suffer much from anxiety and are you very pessimistic? Can i give you some good advice? STOP WATCHING so MUCH news, it's not fruitful, it's typically one-sided. This is why the Lord, had Paul write in Philippians 4:6-8 what we should give our thoughts to. Focus more upon the good news of the gospel, and the expectation of a heavenly kingdom. When's the last time you really focused on the gospel? When's the last time you spoke of the gospel? I don't mean only witnessing but when's the last time your fellowship with another was centered on the gospel?

I just the other day listened to this very good message from Stephen Lawson, please listen as well---

Get what you can, listening to good or bad preaching

Examine yourself first, get the plank out of your own eye, BEFORE you go to your brother!
I have had the odd experience of being in very wide spectrum of churches, some of which i could not call a church. I've been within the prosperity, name it and claim it churches; I've been in churches that focused primarily on 'deliverance' casting out every imaginable (and i mean IMAGINED) demon you could think of; I've been within very sound (hard to believe but in case you didn't know some of them will be in heaven as well) pentecostal churches, i've been in very compromised churches, i've been in very comfortable churches, i've been in dead and cold churches.
All that to say, i've had my share of exposure despite the fact that it's been within a short span of time. Yet when i did come to saving faith, and was convinced that I am to be conformed to the image of Christ, and that i couldn't blame my shortcomings on the imperfections around me. I have tried to develop the art of taking what good i can, trying to hold onto whatever gem i could. Say if i had to sit under a preacher who really lacked gifting, perhaps lacked solid consistent doctrine; rather than fall into the depressing habit of critiquing every sermon, i've sought to take what good i could and apply what truth i could.
In other words, if we are part of a church that has teachers we may disagree with, then with every teaching and every sermon we MUST make the best of it, don't go expecting to be disappointed, with a closed ears attitude. Rather, recognize that their still be much truth that you need to hear and regardless of the faults, when it comes to yourself (as a hearer) don't you DARE try to slide by conviction because you can point something wrong out.
There are men that you can learn from their example only, there are men who you can learn from some of their teaching as well, there are men who you can ONLY learn from their teaching, and there are men that you can learn from in word and deed. Without a doubt it is best, and should be the goal of every Christian to be examples in word and deed, in teaching and living. Yet don't be too quick to disregard those holy saints who are weak in doctrine but shame most Christians in life. This sometimes seems to be a contradiction, but it's true nonetheless.
I really like what Paul Washer says (why quote him so much? i easily remember what he says because of repetition and most of the time his quotes aren't his) "It's better to have it and NOT know what to call it, then to know what to call it and NOT have it" The person who grows up in church is often this way, they can give all the correct answers, yet it's their life that makes you doubt their salvation.
There are without a doubt men i will quote and have, like A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill that are NOT always easy to read and that because i can find many places where i disagree, but there are other places where i KNOW they have something i do NOT, where they are speaking truth that should convict us all. Are you a searcher of truth? Do you seek to be convicted? Then listen to godly men, listen to the truth of their words or listen to the truth of their lives.
I'm not saying be gullible or be tolerant, but be careful not to ignore something the Lord may be saying to you. In other words, I've heard of many stories about Ravenhill where people wrote him, where people went to his house and he invited them in (even many baptist students and ministers) and they where left with great impressions upon their souls of God. There are men who you could pick their brain and fire away questions and leave thinking 'wow that guy is smart', but there are some people of God, some leaders that you could be around for a short time and just WATCH and you leave thinking 'now that's what it means to walk with the Lord' or 'Finally I'm convinced that such men exist who have a hear after God'. Without a doubt i have met men and thought 'know that's how a husband or father should be' or 'that's what i call preaching' etc...
Follow Christ in men, emulate those things that you see Christ in; whether that be in doctrine or in life.
Confront false doctrine, confront bad teaching, confront heresy, confront wrong views and methods but do this while at the same time not be too quick to write off men who are clearly men of God. You may have to call them out by name, you may have to warn others not to listen to them, but as for each individual we must not be closed to receive convicting truth from those we don't agree with.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

We're different because of love

2 Corinthians 5:14
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

I Just recently spoke on these verses at the Juvenile Jail, at first because i had to follow up someone else who's not usually there (not very structured), well the little time i had last week to clean up what was said and try to nail this verse wasn't enough. In those cases i almost always return to those same verses to so that the message WILL be clear.
In light of returning, I find this MOST fruitful among preachers who do this. Albert Martin is a person who does this, he will plan (perhaps a series) and focus most of his attention and what he wants to get across to his hearers, YET (note this) if he doesn't keep to his 'time schedule' then he will extend his series so that you still get the meat you need. I think ministers unfairly to themselves and especially to their hearers make themselves SLAVES to their time-plan and rather then preach through a book or series longer they will just CUT out things (I can't count how many times i wish a ministers either kept on preaching or continued the next week because you felt it was rushed and consequently fruitless) where do men learn these things?
Anyways this is one of those verses that i just love to use in evangelism, because it's a wonderfully exclusive verse. It's plain, it's direct and it really hits the heart of true conversion.
I attempted to get the minds of the youth rolling, by drilling them over and over again as to WHY Jesus died for sinners: in light of these verses. "uh for our sins?!" Typical lazy answers. Yet this verse makes it plain that at the core of every person, they fall into only one of two categories: Those who are living for themselves and those who are living for Christ. This is very illustrative of the reality of an daily relationship with Christ. Yet specifically a daily relationship that is submissive to the Rule of Christ.
The difference separating the lost and religious man from the truly saved man is that the TRUE Christian is "COMPELLED" by love, the Love of CHRIST constrains him. The TRUE believer WANTS to serve Christ. The religious man, the religious church-kid HAS to (look like) serve Christ. One truly fights against sin and the other bitterly trys to stop sinning.
Of course it's also easy to recognize in these verses and important to stress to lost people, that they CANNOT make themselves 'love' Christ. I used the example of a man that gets married (perhaps because he got the woman pregnant and feels obligated to 'do the right thing') and he gets married because he feels he 'has' to, he puts a roof over their head because he 'has' to, he watches the children because he 'has' to, and yet what will happen in time? Eventually he'll grow incredibly bitter and in some way abusive or he'll reach a point where he stops feeling like he 'has' to and then HE LEAVES!! Like the foolish person who talks of 'falling in' love.
THis is the picture of the false convert, time will eventually show where the motivation is truly at, and he will fall away. One Christian artist made the point that if you say 'i tasted and it wasn't good to me' then you NEVER truly tasted because if you taste then you WILL see that the Lord is good! The believer on the other hand will only grow in his desire to serve His Lord and that not because he grows more 'afraid' (which is just self-preservation) but he will grow in his love for the LORD and his knowledge of God's love for him.

Sexual Lust, Advice from Christian Rap?!

Here is yet another installment concerning what is called 'holy hip-hop'. Despite the overwhelming compromise within 'Christian music' there ARE contemporary artists that are incredibly sound, not the purely entertaining stuff or the purely emotionally soppy stuff. Here is another Song from an artist who is incredibly reformed and theologically precise in his lyrics. This is yet another from Timothy Brindle from his album "killing sin" yes it's practically a mini John Owen on sin in rap form. This song is one part of a series concerning pornography, very helpful.
Please let me first inform and further warn/ Pornography has taken the church by storm/ And I confess that it’s disturbing/ But we must expose the depths of this perversion/ To warn those/ Who never touched it to stay away and help craving slaves of pornos/ Plus this is written for those that play with their sin/ To show them the danger they’re in/ If you’re a regular buyer your playing with fire/ By feeding its raging desires/ Its pictures stick into your brain/ Wicked and profane as addictive as cocaine/ Even mind that defiles/ If you’re hooked the best time to turn back is now/ Because the longer you wait the harder it’ll be/ This is for those who are starving to be free/ Yet certain pastors consider it a norm/ To be dibbing dabbling fiddling with porn/ But that excuse is sick and ludicrous/ To approve of this just because everyone is doing it/ Many explore the internet and view hard core porn in a sec’/ Then walk the intellect/ But will you fall in ministry/ And contribute to this billion dollar industry? / Christians this sin is destroying our lives/ And if you’re married it’s destroying you’re wives/ Because it weakens the union of marriages/ And keeps you from her that you should be cherishing/ Many scoff at abortion/ But turn around and practice this awful distortion/ Of the God goodness of sex y’all look at this mess/ It shows to us God’s not that important.
Hook: Step into the light of Christ and let His word expose your darkness (expose your darkness) 2x
Verse 2: This self worship’s an abomination/ Idolatry worthy of condemnation/ It darkens your soul now your heart is stained/ Consider how awful is this dark exchange/ It’s trading God’s glory for pictures/ And wicked images and abhorring His scriptures/ It’s trading His truth for lies/ Our only hope is Him who was slain and crucified/ Christ our Lord and Savior bore these sins to absorb the anger/ For all moral traitors and glory haters/ He was born and raised to save porn users and fornicators/ So place your trust in Him/ And cultivate God’s hatred for this disgusting sin/ How dare us clog our minds with fogged mentals/ And defile our bodies which are bought temples/ It conceals the Lord’s beauty/ It’s hindered many believers even yours truly/ Porn ruled me it’s so deceiving/ But through prayer and the Word there’s hope for freedom/ Because God the Spirit is more powerful than this/ But without Him your drowning bound in its abyss/ So come armed with scripture/ Without your armor with ya Satan’s darts will hit ya.

Verse 3: So now cut off all access/ Of anything that’ll cause you to slip or make you fall backwards/ Here’s some helpful wisdom/ Disconnect the internet and the television/ Because it’s an idol box in which devout businesses/ Get rich from dishing out images/ And I could spit a lot more toward/ Prime time TV’s soft core porn/ Now may this verse convict you/ At the root of your addiction is a worship issue/ Because you long for fulfillment and pleasure/ But it never ever makes you feel any better/ Porn leaves you duped into thinking/ That it’s rewarding but leaves you feeling like puke when it’s stinking/ And after you’re still annoyed because it didn’t fill the void/ What you need is the realest joy/ Which only comes from pursuing, devoting, embracing/ Communing, and knowing, and praising/ The Glorious Christ robed in splendor/ Who alone fulfills like no contender/ Many feel consumed by their sin/ But the heat of victory is communion with Him/ We’ll begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates/ When we know Him and savor His grace.

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