Monday, December 13, 2004

To my wife

Since (you say) I am getting to be quite forgetful (I don't remember why), at least I am not like this poor bloke:

Two poems on Jonathan Bing
by Betrice Curtis Brown

Oh, Jonathan Bing, oh, Bingathon Jon!
Forgets where he's going and thinks he has gone.
He wears his false teeth on the top of his head,
And always stands up when he's sleeping in bed.

Oh, Jonathan Bing has a curious way
Of trying to walk into yesterday.
"If I end with my breakfast and start with my tea,
I ought to be able to do it," says he.

Oh, Jonathan Bing is a miser, they say,
For be likes to save trouble and put it away.
"If I never get up in the morning," he said,
"I shall save all the trouble of going to bed!"

"Oh, Jonathan Bing, what a way to behave!
And what do you do with the trouble you save'"
"I wrap it up neatly and send it by post
To my friends and relations who need it the most.''

***************

Poor old Jonathan Bing
Went out in his carriage to visit the King,
But everyone pointed and said, "Look at that!
Jonathan Bing has forgotten his hat!"
(He'd forgotten his hat!)

Poor old Jonathan Bing
Went home and put on a new hat for the King,
But by the palace the soldier said, "Hi!
You can't see the King; you've forgotten your tie!"
(He'd forgotten his tie!)

Poor old Jonathan Bing,
He put on a beautiful tie for the King,
But when he arrived, and Archbishop said, "Ho!
You can't come to court in pajamas, you know!"

Poor old Jonathan Bing
Went home and addressed a short note to the King:
"If you please will excuse me, I won't come to tea;
For home's the best place for all people like me!"

What I like about Scrooge

I just have to post this article as it is thought provoking: In what ways is the logic right? Is Scrooge the good guy? How does the article oppose Biblical Christianity?

"What I Like About Scrooge: In praise of misers."
By Steven E. Landsburg
Posted Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004, at 11:18 AM PT

Here's what I like about Ebenezer Scrooge: His meager lodgings were dark because darkness is cheap, and barely heated because coal is not free. His dinner was gruel, which he prepared himself. Scrooge paid no man to wait on him.

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else? Oh, it might be slightly more complicated than that.

Maybe when Scrooge demands less coal for his fire, less coal ends up being mined. But that's fine, too. Instead of digging coal for Scrooge, some would-be miner is now free to perform some other service for himself or someone else.

Dickens tells us that the Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his 50 cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor's household should—presumably for a houseful of guests who lavishly praised his generosity. The bricks, mortar, and labor that built the Mansion House might otherwise have built housing for hundreds; Scrooge, by living in three sparse rooms, deprived no man of a home. By employing no cooks or butlers, he ensured that cooks and butlers were available to some other household where guests reveled in ignorance of their debt to Ebenezer Scrooge.

In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser—the man who could deplete the world's resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide.

If you build a house and refuse to buy a house, the rest of the world is one house richer. If you earn a dollar and refuse to spend a dollar, the rest of the world is one dollar richer—because you produced a dollar's worth of goods and didn't consume them. Who exactly gets those goods? That depends on how you save.

Put a dollar in the bank and you'll bid down the interest rate by just enough so someone somewhere can afford an extra dollar's worth of vacation or home improvement. Put a dollar in your mattress and (by effectively reducing the money supply) you'll drive down prices by just enough so someone somewhere can have an extra dollar's worth of coffee with his dinner.

Scrooge, no doubt a canny investor, lent his money at interest. His less conventional namesake Scrooge McDuck filled a vault with dollar bills to roll around in. No matter. Ebenezer Scrooge lowered interest rates. Scrooge McDuck lowered prices. Each Scrooge enriched his neighbors as much as any Lord Mayor who invited the town in for a Christmas meal.

Saving is philanthropy, and—because this is both the Christmas season and the season of tax reform—it's worth mentioning that the tax system should recognize as much. If there's a tax deduction for charitable giving, there should be a tax deduction for saving. What you earn and don't spend is your contribution to the world, and it's equally a contribution whether you give it away or squirrel it away.

Of course, there's always the threat that some meddling ghosts will come along and convince you to deplete your savings, at which point it makes sense (insofar as the taxation of income ever makes sense) to start taxing you. Which is exactly what individual retirement accounts are all about: They shield your earnings from taxation for as long as you save (that is, for as long as you let others enjoy the fruits of your labor), but no longer.

Great artists are sometimes unaware of the deepest meanings in their own creations. Though Dickens might not have recognized it, the primary moral of A Christmas Carol is that there should be no limit on IRA contributions. This is quite independent of all the other reasons why the tax system should encourage saving (e.g., the salutary effects on economic growth). If Christmas is the season of selflessness, then surely one of the great symbols of Christmas should be Ebenezer Scrooge—the old Scrooge, not the reformed one. It's taxes, not misers, that need reforming.

Steven E. Landsburg is the author, most recently, of Fair Play: What Your Child Can Teach You About Economics, Values, and the Meaning of Life. You can e-mail him at armchair@troi.cc.rochester.edu.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Approach, my soul, the Mercy Seat

“You should tell the devil “Just by telling me that I am a miserable, great sinner you are placing a sword and a weapon into my hand with which I can decisively overcome you; yea, with your own weapon I can kill and floor you.

For if you tell me that I am a poor sinner, I, on the other hand, can tell you that Christ dies for sinners and is their Intercessor… You remind me of the boundless, great faithfulness and benefaction of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The burden of my sins and all the trouble and misery that were to oppress me eternally He very gladly took upon His shoulders and suffered the bitter death on the cross for them.

To Him I direct you. You may accuse and condemn Him. Let me rest in peace, for on His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins and the sins of all the world.”

--Martin Luther

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Wanna see something scary?

The quote below is an excerpt from a book I recommend everyone read at some point and time. I think of these paragraphs as a "depth guage", so I ask the question: "where are we now in the age of so-called 'Post-modernism'?"

"Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their au­tonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would be­come a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a triv­ial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distrac­tions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflict­ing pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin, 1985.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

a muse

O Scholarly Pen!
(Where to begin?)
Touching your lips to the dry desert page,
Caressing that plane,
A dance not in vain,
Swirling true art from the mind.

O Unlearned Keys!
(who credits these?)
Standing in rows on old bleachers like troops.
A-fiction romance
and diction, no dance,
Stamping the mark from the hand.

O Sapient tyro*!
(how will you go?)
Seeking to eat from the table of lore.
A home-sculptured meal,
Or “a fast-food deal”?
Glean from the ones who take time!

**********
"[T]hat's what learning has come to nowadays. The Latin language is hardly understood, Hebrew is unknown and Greek is so little esteemed that it is not considered ignorant for even the most learned men to pass over a Greek word without reading it." -- Victor Hugo
**********

* an interesting word referring to a student in general, implying the kind of student he is: ignorant or learned. That he is "sapient" suggests he is "learned."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

thinking through

"There are two selves: one that reacts to circumstances; the other responding from God to the situation." These words open a study on depression and despair. This is an intriguing thought as it exposes one of the most unique wonders of the universe found in man that will not be found in any other place or event in nature, namely that man can exist as two separate beings when he is only one. This is found in the statement "there are two selves"--by definition, man should not be able to exist in two selves simultaneously, yet he does. The book of James (in so many words) gives examples of how this strange phenomenon of works out in mankind.

James begins right at the heart of the issue: temptation. Man has a choice of responses to temptation that he will go through--when it is set before him he cannot do anything but experience it. Man has a choice in his experience of temptation: he can either be joyful because the endurance of the temptation (and non-submittal to it) will produce patience and a perfect work from God, even the opportunity to ask wisdom of God and attain such positive reinforcement for his life. On the other hand, one can succumb to the temptation and through lust conceive sin. So the result is reaction to circumstances could in effect be either the blessing of righteousness or sin. One cannot see much of man's dilemma here but at least one can see the start.

In chapter 3 James points to universally impossible situations. "Does a fountain send forth at the same hole the sweet and the bitter? Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olive berries; or a vine, figs? So no fountain can yield both salt water and fresh." (James 3:11-12). But with a tongue man does the impossible. James 3:8 says "But no one can tame the tongue, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." Now, what can one do with this? By this we bless God, even the Father. And by this we curse men, who have come into being according to the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so."

I have been trying to teach my family good practices of the stewardship of God's provisions and one vehicle of this stewardship is the practice of recycling. Each time a container is emptied I encourage them to see it finds the proper receptacle. One container that cannot be recycled is a bleach container. What can one do a container for poison? It certainly cannot be used again and must be destroyed. How is it that the tongue can be full of evil and deadly poison and curse men one moment, yet be used to bless God in another (James 3:9)? Man does the impossible!

Ray Stedman describes what this kind of living looks like by showing how one handles the passing euphoria of the high-points of the Christian life. On one hand, one may experience the habits of the former life swinging back into practice and the newly learned disciplines of Bible study and prayer become neglected to the point that "conversion" becomes forgotten. Some may wonder if they were ever truly saved. On the other hand, one may become aware of his sin and rebellion and "is frightened by the thought of regressing to what he was before, and casts himself in repentance and frustration upon the Lord anew . . ." in a cycle of rededications that becomes the acceptable norm. Stedman points to the middle of extremes where one:

It is possible to avoid the pain of humiliation of repentance and renewal by maintaining an outward facade of spiritual commitment, moral impeccability, and orthodox behavior. In so doing he can preserve a reputation for spiritual growth and maturity that is satisfying to the ego and seems to gain much in the way of opportunities for service and the commendation of the Christian community. Such a Christian life-style is prevalent around and so little condemned that the new Christian can hardly be blamed for adopting it and regarding it as the expected thing. He drifts into it with scarcely a pang, little realizing that it is a total fraud, s shabby imitation of the real thing. To him hypocrisy is a deliberate attempt to deceive others, and his own commitment to the doctrine, moral standards, and practice of Christianity is deep and sincere. But in reality he is a hypocrite . . .#

None of these are descriptive of what many would call "the normal Christian life" or "the victorious Christian life."

When I think of all that man faces and all he responds to and all that man is, I cannot help but remember that man is either in the flesh or he is in the spirit; he is governed by the law of the Sprit and life or he is dead in the spirit and flesh. When we read a statement such as "there are two selves" one must realize how a statement like this tries to rescue man from himself and to once again, do the impossible; that is, exist in two selves simultaneously. A statement as this says "man's problem is the situation and one must chose to respond to the situation through this avenue or that, by a wrong reaction from the flesh or by a right response from God." This only a partial truth. This is much like the practice of sweeping a floor. One sweeps to be rid of dirt. In Africa one will quickly learn that sweeping a floor can have two purposes: to be rid of dirt or to decorate it. If one lives in a house with dirt floors one will not sweep to clean up the dirt but will with the broom move the dirt around to form intricate patterns that decorate the interior. One way of living want to remove the dirt while another only moves it. The fact is: the dirt remains.

Perhaps one would better be helped by stepping back away from self and the situation to see from God's perspective. Chuck Swindoll stated that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I respond to it. While it remains true that God is sovereign and controls everything, much of what happens to which we must respond is the result of our own actions under His providence. If there are two selves, “one that reacts to circumstances; the other responding from God to the situation" one of those “selves” is responsible to have produced the very situation of consternation. We do not sit idly by and let life and all it contains roll over us. We are partially responsible to what happens in the course of life.

In the late 1970’s a dam broke on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia and many lives were lost on that dark and stormy night. While it is true that an entire lake emptied itself over that 186 foot drop and down the channels right through campus and many people that night met their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through death, it was not the night nor the cold nor the water that caused their deaths. Most people died by what was in the water--the wreckage of homes and vehicles that accumulated and crashed on downstream right through the married student housing. Much of the damage that occurs in life about which we cry to God for help and deliverance is caused by our own contribution to the stream. Put simply, “you reap what you sow.”#

Recently I was shocked when my children brought home a flyer from church. The content of the flyer pointed out that parents are good at collecting material on parenting but read it little and now these materials sit on the shelves unused. What can be done to save the family? Spend $7.00 for new year-long guide for the family to use that keeps Bible verses in the four main viewing areas of life: driving time, eating time, recreation and bedtime. While I was thinking about the opening statement of the flyer, my wife shrugged and said, “how about saving a few dollars and just read the Bible regularly as a family.”

Thursday, October 28, 2004

song from the night

last night was the eclipse and i missed it not because i wanted to but because i had to as the clouds covered the sky and the moon and me played peekaboo until the blanket got too thick and finally the moon went out and everything was dark

i knew it was dark because it was dark and things all around were not as bright as they before when the moon was out and was so blinding that when you looked at it for a while it burned a hole in your eye and everywhere you looked you could see a spot

i went to bed then later i woke up and it was very bright outside because the eclipse was over but my wife did not miss it and she said that about 2 am it looked very red outside when the moon was coming out from behind the earths shadow

my friend is in the hospital today having an operation because he has cancer so i woke up at half past 4 am and got ready to be at the hospital to pray with him at 6 am which is something i have never really done before and i am very tired

i tried to think of something to say to encourage him because he needs to have people around him right now to show him love as he has lost so much already and is very tired too from putting up with all the stuff going on in his life

another friend reminded me last night that even though the moon is behind the clouds and we cannot see what is going on we know that the eclipse is taking place and though we cant see it with our eyes will just have to enjoy it as it is

God has made the moon and the earth and the sun to bring glory to Himself and though we cannot see what is going on sometimes we just have to trust that what He has ordained to make happen will happen and we need to accept that

i told my sick friend that we dont know much about what is going to happen today and just like the moon behind the clouds what we see with our eyes and understanding can only go so far and we can trust that He is there with us

when the moon passed through the night i was reminded of God's love and care for us because the moon was in aries the ram last night and i could not help but to think of Abram who was given a ram by God as his faith was tested

God wants to teach me something about Himself through the wonders of the universe and the ravages of cancer and i am still not sure what all the lessons are but i am ready to learn them because i love God so incredibly much

Friday, October 15, 2004

X-Box marks the spot

"Eph 2:3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:--"

Paul draws a line in the sand: once you were here, now you are here. Once you once lived in the lust of the flesh. Once you did the desire of the flesh and mind. Once you were by nature children of wrath, just like everyone else.

Someone would say, “There you go—it’s not your fault. You were born in sin; therefore your addiction came from your parents.” Great! Then tolerate my sin! Why is everyone so “concerned” about me?

While it is true that I was born in sin and I once thought and had the desires of the unregenerate heart, I do not have to continue living like an unbeliever, one who does not know Christ Jesus. Paul makes the distinction that “we also once lived”. We don’t live there anymore.

Bob Coy (Calvary Chapel, Ft. Lauderdale) summarized it this way: growing up, the best video games in the world was “Pong” (and remember how our parents thought the Atari would do “something” to our TV, so it was only turned on for a couple of hours a week?) and now we have the X-Box. If I am playing James Bond on my X-Box and you ask me if I want to play “Pong” I will do some serious laughing in your face—NO WAY!

I am not live with the whiney childish, “but God, it’s not my fault so please tolerate my sin—please excuse me, I can’t help myself.” I am instead to live with “but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus . . .” [emphasis added]

Thursday, September 23, 2004

a prayer

A brother sent this to me--enjoy!

"Thou art the blessed God, happy in Thyself, source of happiness in Thy
creatures, my maker, benefactor, proprietor, upholder. Thou hast produced
and sustained me, supported and indulged me, saved and kept me; Thou art in
every situation able to meet my needs and miseries.

May I live by Thee, live for Thee, never be satisfied with my Christian
progress but as I resemble Christ; and may conformity to His principles,
temper, and conduct grow hourly in my life. Let Thy unexampled love
constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others
deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope
delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name.

Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country of everlasting delights,
that paradise-land which is my true inheritance. Support me by the strength
of heaven that I may never turn back, or desire false pleasures that will
disappear into nothing. As I pursue my heavenly journey by Thy grace let me
be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for Thee, and the
good and salvation of my fellow men."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Boots

This is (I believe) one of the greatest poems ever written. Just wanted to share it with you:
*****************
BOOTS by Rudyard Kipling

We're foot-slog-slog-slog-sloggin' over Africa -
Foot-foot-foot-foot-sloggin' over Africa -
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Seven-six-eleven-five-nine-an'-twenty mile to-day -
Four-eleven-seventeen-thirty-two the day before -
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Don't-don't-don't-don't-look at what's in front of you.
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again)
Men-men-men-men-men go mad with watchin' em,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Try-try-try-try-to think o' something different -
Oh-my-God-keep-me from goin' lunatic!
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Count-count-count-count-the bullets in the bandoliers.
If-your-eyes-drop-they will get atop o' you!
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again) -
There's no discharge in the war!

We-can-stick-out-'unger, thirst, an' weariness,
But-not-not-not-not the chronic sight of 'em -
Boot-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

'Taint-so-bad-by-day because o' company,
But night-brings-long-strings-o' forty thousand million
Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again.
There's no discharge in the war!

I-'ave-marched-six-weeks in 'Ell an' certify
It-is-not-fire-devils, dark, or anything,
But boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

What Is the Difference...

Between the atheist who would not dream of financially supporting the church and the Christian who will not financially support the Lord's church?

Between the skeptic who does not believe the Bible and the negligent Christian who never reads it?

Between those who do not believe in Bible classes and those who choose never to attend a class?

Between the atheist who does nothing to build up the Lord's church and the Christian who finds fault with others but does nothing himself?

Between a man of the world and a person in the church who lives like a man in the world?

Between a man of the world who lives for self, and a person in the church building who lives for self, not God?

These are tough questions for Christians who live in a tough world. The fact is that Christians make no difference until they are different.

So, what's the difference?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Being God's gift to mankind.

We are familiar with the quip, "whaddya think you are, God's gift to man?" Would you believe that the remark actually came from someone's definition of "ministry?"

What does “ministry” mean?

"An office and function whereby one proclaims the mystery of godliness. A work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of church leaders that informs theology and practical implementation." (Stitzinger, James. “Pastoral Ministry in History.” TMSJ 6/2 (Fall 1995) 143-80. All quotes hereafter come from this summative article.)

FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:
The shepherding love, care, mercy, discipline, compassion and delight of God toward people.

FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT:
Same as OT plus the wisdom, glory, power and humility of Christ; laying down life for sheep.

Elder (presybteros): Administration and spiritual guidance of the church;
Bishop/overseer (episkopos): guidance, oversight, leadership in the church;
Shepherd/pastor (poimen): position denoting leadership and authority, guidance and provision;
Preacher (kerux): public proclamation of the gospel and teaching of the flock;
Teacher (didaskalos): one responsible for instruction and exposition of scripture; teaching as instruction and correction.

THE EARLY CHURCH (100-476 AD):

Clement of Alexandria (155-220): Ministers are those who are chosen to serve the Lord, who moderate their passions, who are obedient to superiors, and who teach and care for sheep as a shepherd.

Origen (185-254): . . . the one representing Christ and his house (the church) and teaching others of these truths.

John Chrysostom (344/354-407): The nature of ministry is the method and way of healing by the powerful application of the Word . . . cauterizing, cutting, “and if it be needful to sear and amputate . . . roust the soul when it sleeps and reduce it when it is inflamed . . . cut off excesses and fill up defects, and perform all manner of other operations which are requisite for the soul’s health.” To live by example with the ambition that the Word of Christ would dwell in men richly.

Augustine (354-430): The office most easily desired and most to be feared; the challenge of God’s divine city with an earthly city.

THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD (476-1500 AD)

The Book of Pastoral Rule. Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604): The “supreme rule” and how well it is lived out in teaching; “the government of souls [as] the art of arts.”

Note these two views with the rise of Protestantism:
1) Schismatics, heretics and divisive people; usurpers of authority.
2) Shepherds, preachers, caretakers, administrators of the sacraments, edifiers.

John Wycliffe (1324-1384): A whole [holy] person with wholesome teaching; a deserter of temporal living and a person of care, “resplendent with righteousness of doctrine before his sheep.”

John Huss (137-1415): One who oversees the church in the pattern of the apostles and true priests did before the office of pope was introduced. (E.H. Gillett summarizing Huss. “Not the office makes the priest, but the priest the office. Not every priest is a saint, but every saint is a priest.”)

THE REFORMATION PERIOD (1500-1648 AD)

Biblically based and patterned.

Martin Luther (1523): Preaching of the Word, baptism, administration of sacraments, binding and loosing sin, sacrifice and pastoral care.

Martin Bucer (1491-1551): “1) A diligent teacher of the Holy Scriptures; 2) an administrator of the sacraments; and 3) a participator in the discipline of the church (life and manners, penance and sacred ceremonies, care for the needy.)”

John Calvin c. 1540: “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.” One who divides the bread into small pieces to feed his children, who administers sacraments and visits the sick.

An Anabaptist idea: One who enters into the brotherhood of discipleship.

The Schleitheim Confession of 1527: “This office [of Pastor] shall be to read, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all the brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderer be stopped.”

THE MODERN PERIOD (1649-present)

Richard Baxter (1615-1691): Acts 20:28.

The centrality of the Word, the spiritual reality of the church, the role of all laity in church and participation of simple worship.

William Perkins (1558-1602): The minister is first an angel of God to the people, an interpreter “who is able to deliver aright the reconciliation, made betwixt God and man. . . a double interpreter, God’s to the people and the people’s to God.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): Being God’s gift to man.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892): Serving the spiritual needs of the people.

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1939-1981): Engagement in the spiritual help of individuals (over psychological help).

Jay Adams: Confronting sin with biblical teaching.

John MacArthur: Biblically leading a flock with preaching, teaching, worship, discipleship, fellowship under the head of the person and work of Christ.

A FEW CONTRIBUTING THOUGHTS BY FRIENDS (INCLUDING TEACHERS AND STUDENTS):

“A cup that overflows . . .”

“. . . an individual who has been called upon on to act, by the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit, performing as if God Himself were acting dispensing God's grace, mercy, instruction, teaching, and discipline towards another person for their benefit. If someone is called into full time ministry, short term ministry, a one time ministry, or a single moment ministry the equation remains the same. God calls us unto Himself for relationship and fellowship, we discover His heart, we desire to please Him, we listen for His voice, we act in faith, the result is God administers to His people through His people.”

“. . . one who does some of the officiating in a service . . . that may deliver the sermon not to be confused with Pastor [a spiritual overseer, considered the leader of some churches]. Some are referred to as the leaders of a church or parish, and considered the superior of one of several religious orders.”
“1. Properly, a chief servant; hence, an agent appointed to transact or manage business under the authority of another; in which sense, it is a word of very extensive application. “Moses rose up and his minister Joshua.” Exo 24.
2. One to whom a king or prince entrusts the direction of affairs of state; as minister of state; the prime minister. In modern governments, the secretaries or heads of the several departments or branches of government are the ministers of the chief magistrate.
3. A magistrate; an executive officer. “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” Rom 13.
4. A delegate; an ambassador; the representative of a sovereign at a foreign court; usually such as is resident at a foreign court, but not restricted to such.
5. One who serves at the altar; one who performs sacerdotal duties; the pastor of a church, duly authorized or licensed to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. Eph 3.
6. Christ is called a minister of the sanctuary. Heb 8.
7. An angel; a messenger of God. “Who maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flaming fire.“ Psa 104.
MIN'ISTER, v.t. [L. ministro.] To give; to afford; to supply.
“He that ministereth seed to the sower”--2 Cor 9.; “That it may minister grace to the hearers.” Eph 4.
MIN'ISTER, v.i. To attend and serve; to perform service in any office, sacred or secular.
I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. Exo 29.
1. To afford supplies; to give things needful; to supply the means of relief; to relieve.
“When saw we thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?” Mat 25.
2. To give medicines.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?
In this sense, we commonly use administer.
If one is considering further study of this topic (minister), I would highly recommend the following works:

Adams, Jay, Shepherding God's Flock. Zondervan, 1986.

MacArthur, John, F., Jr, Richard Mayhue, and Robert Thomas, L. Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry : Shaping Contemporary Ministry With Biblical Mandates. Electronic ed. Logos Library Systems. Dallas: Word Pub., 1995.

MacArthur, John. The Master's Plan for the Church. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1998, c1991.

some others might be;

The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter
The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges
Biblical Eldership, John Piper
Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, John Piper
Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch

Web resources:

1. http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/leadership.html
2. http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/godlylife.html
3. http://www.tenth.org/articles/servantheart.pdf
4. http://reformedperspectives.org/files/reformedperspectives/practical_theology/PT.AP9.02.2.pdf

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Why do it?

Why does one enter the ministry? “Before a person aspires to enter any profession, it is fair to ask him whether he knows what will be expected of him.”[1] Has anyone ever asked you that—“Why are you in the ministry?” One quickly discovers that his answer must come from one or two areas—either he is in the ministry for God or for himself. Generally speaking one also quickly recognizes that whatever he is “in” for is to accomplish something for himself or for God.

A recent survey of seminary students revealed some unsettling facts:
89% of those surveyed saw preparation or enhancement of a Christian Service Career was Important.
48% saw importance in becoming a better-educated person.
74% saw the necessity of improving job skills as important or somewhat important.
37% were neutral in seeing to develop personal maturity while 26% thought this was important and 31% said this was unimportant.
48% thought that maturity in the Christian life was important, while 52% saw this as somewhat important or were neutral.
42% said they had neutral feelings about learning the basics of Bible study and prayer while 16% said this was important and another 16% said this was somewhat important and another 16% said this was unimportant.
37% thought it was important to grow in personal understanding of what God is doing in the world while 21% remained neutral and another 21% saw this was somewhat unimportant.

Look at those numbers above again and put them together. 89% see preparation or enhancement of Christian Service as important and 37% see growth in understanding what God is doing in the world as important. Less than half were neutral about learning the basics of Bible study and prayer. Neutral?

Consider these words penned in the 1880’s:
“Our position is such that we cannot remain neutral. Our life cannot be one of harmless obscurity. We must either repel or attract-save or ruin souls! How loud, then, the call, how strong the motive, to spirituality of soul and circumspectness of life! How solemn the warning against worldly-mindedness and vanity, against levity and frivolity, against negligence, sloth and cold formality! Of all men, a minister of Christ is especially called to walk with God.”[2]

If one is in ministry for God, for the accomplishment of His ends according to His means, there is no “neutral.” Where is the focus of seminarians today? Who are these people? Why are they seeking to be in the ministry? What is their purpose? Given the thought that any number of people want to be pastors is one thing, but for any of those numbers to be NUETRAL about Bible study and prayer should be a great cause for great concern. To see that such a low number see the importance of understanding what God is doing is cause for great alarm!

How surprised should we be to know that 58% of those sampled said they would serve in the church, 24% in a mission, the rest were undecided? From the positional standpoint, 46% want to be Pastors, 33% to be Missionaries, Church Planters or support staff and 10% to serve as Teachers or Counselors. 11% were undecided. These numbers represent the answer of many responses as to why people are in ministry. Being in ministry because God has called leaves no room for indecision or neutrality, as the end of ministry is not the same as the means. Horatio Bonar reminds us: “The end for which we first took office, as we declared at ordination, was the saving of souls; the end for which we still live and labor is the same; the means to this end are a holy life and a faithful fulfillment of our ministry.”[3]

What is the reason one is in the ministry? One must determine if his answer justifies the ends or the means. If one is in ministry that he may learn the holy life and faithfulness—if one is in ministry to be discipled, then he is in for the wrong reason. The personal life of the minister is the first step of the means to the end, which is the salvation of souls and the changing of men into the image of Christ. If, on the other hand, one is in ministry for the salvation of others and that ministry grows out of his personal and spiritual maturity, then he is in a better position.

The minister is the man of relationships. He is a man who has a task to perform and as a man is also a citizen who relates to the people around him, not as a professional to professionals but as a person who has been changed by the very message he preaches. He has his own physical, mental and spiritual life with accompanying duties. He has civil duties as well, representing as a citizen the person of God Himself through ceremony.[4] The minister must remember that the message of the gospel includes the work of Christ that saves man from the power of sin (in the already) and will bring a salvation from the presence of sin (in the “not yet”). The minister of Christ models this out of his life.

The question now becomes: does one want to contribute to ministry, or commit to it? When asked how satisfied they were with their own personal contribution toward their Seminary Educational goals, 32% said they were very satisfied and 42% were simply satisfied. 16% had mixed responses and 10% were either dissatisfied or did not respond. If this is the level of contribution seminarians have toward their own education, will they be able to grow in their contribution to their ministry? The difference between contribution and commitment may be discovered by looking to the chicken who suggests to the hog that they work together at helping the poor and hungry by providing people with a nice breakfast of ham and eggs—the one may accomplish her task by contribution, but the other can only accomplish by commitment!

The minister must examine his purpose in ministry by looking to Jesus who said of his own purpose, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) In order to accomplish this Jesus had to maintain His personal walk with God. Jesus succeeded in His mission because He was totally committed to the task before Him. He was willing to give up everything, even His life, for the cause He believed in.

Within this last year I have had two conversations with two entirely different groups of pastors and missionaries about the necessity of taking time alone with God. Out of each group one person (and this person is a missionary) said to the effect, “I don’t have time to drop everything for a personal retreat, for time alone with God. From the time I get up until I fall down in exhaustion I am in ministry. I take care of my family, my people, always doing the work of the church.” What these were saying is: 1) I am in over my head; 2) I don’t have personal prayer and Bible study and have no interest in doing so. Should we be surprised when we see that less than half of those polled have any concern whatsoever for personal growth, spiritual development or for what God is doing in the world?

In preparation for my trip to Africa this last July one pastor gave me some “words of wisdom” for my trip which included these tips: Tell your host to protect you from being asked for things and make no promises for anything. This caused me great sadness because what I heard was “be unapproachable and make no plans for further ministry.” I did not follow his advice. Just by spending time in conversation and hearing needs has taught me some other things about ministry. I went to Africa telling them that what I give to them, I give in the name of the LORD and they received this as if it were a greeting from an old, dearly missed and deeply loved friend. Three pastors are getting bicycles and small groups of pastors are getting materials to further their growth and education—and none of it is coming from me! I heard their requests, we prayed together believing that God would provide and He has!

No one really succeeds in life until he reaches the point that he is willing to lay down his life. Jesus said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." David Brainerd had such an intense compassion for souls, and was so concerned for their salvation, that he said, "I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for Christ. While I was asleep, I dreamed of these things, and when I awoke, the first thing I thought of was this great work. All my desire was for the conversion of the heathen, and all my hope was in God."

A one-legged schoolteacher from Scotland came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for service in China. "With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary?" asked Taylor. "I do not see those with two legs going," replied George Scott. He was accepted. What, exactly, is one in training for? If he is in ministry for himself, then he will train to make himself be the best trained person he can be—a specialist. If, on the other hand, he is in ministry for God, then he will train to be the most obedient person God is allowing him to be. One pastor said to me recently, “I do not want to be a great man. I simply want to be obedient to God.”

Someone once compared the ministry to the circus man who spins plates on sticks. The man goes up and down the line, adding more and more plates and keeping his plates spinning he has already started. After a point he must decide which plates he wants to keep spinning and which should fall. Once he gets all the plates going that makes for a good show, he should have discovered that it is not the plates that he must keep spinning; rather, he must strengthen and build up the sticks on which the plates rest!

[1] Anderson, Robert. The Effective Pastor. Chicago: Moody, 1985.
[2] Bonar, Horatio. Words to Winners of Souls.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Harmon, Nolan. Ministerial Ethics and Etiquette. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1940.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Study the Men of Faith

Thomas Jefferson encouraged the study of the Greek and Latin as they are models of pure writing and one should enjoy the luxury of reading “the originals” as there is value in the science of all those classics contain; however, Jefferson did admit that the study of “the originals” is not for everyone.[1]

Alexis de Tocqueville indicates the intentional nature of classic literature. “Nothing in their works seems to be done hastily or at random; every line is written for the eye of the connoisseur and is shaped after some conception of ideal beauty.” The point of study is not that men would become dangerous citizens who specialize in dead languages, but that men would become changed by what they read following the discipline of learning how to read. He serves the reminder of the difference between the slave and the free man is what he knows—it was the slaves who discharged the duties of the middle classes. If the aristocrats wanted to learn anything or to hire a service, they went to those educated; that is, the slaves.[2]

Henry David Thoreau’s opinion was that the classics should be read for emulation. As many professors seek to study the classics to determine what cultural or philosophical direction man might be headed, Thoreau felt that study of the classics reveals the hearts and minds of men. Thoreau saw a contrast between studying what was written and studying those who wrote. He wrote:

“To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. . . I aspire to be acquainted with wiser men than this our Concord soil has produced, whose names are hardly known here. Or shall I hear the name of Plato and never read his book? As if Plato were my townsman and I never saw him--my next neighbor and I never heard him speak or attended to the wisdom of his words.”[3]

The orator must listen for the writer, for as Thoreau felt, the classical writers had no one preceding them to listen to.

In another place the case was made that it is the man (Pastor, teacher, Christian in general) who is the message: quality over quantity; effectiveness over lukewarmness; truth over hypocrisy; maturity in Christ over stagnation in self; a living ministry over a dead ministry; WORD and WORK go together as the person IS the ministry, first the minister in care to himself, then to others. In this place we find that we should agree with Thoreau and study great men of faith, not just their messages.

Horatio Bonar makes the point:
"To the men even more than to their doctrine we would point the eye of the inquirer who asks, Whence came their success? Why, may not the same success be ours? We may take the sermons of Whitefield or Berridge or Edwards for our study or our pattern, but it is the individuals themselves that we must mainly set before us; it is with the spirit of the men, more than of their works, that we are to be imbued, if we are emulous of a ministry as powerful, as victorious as theirs. They were spiritual men, and walked with God. It is living fellowship with a living Saviour which, transforming us into His image, fits us for being able and successful ministers of the gospel."[4]

Studying the great men of ministry, the heroes of faith provides one with a look at what it means to be great once attached to God. Now, one may argue that one should not study other men, but God and His Word. To this I would agree—yes, it is true; on the other hand consider this, that in studying other men one learns “the good, the bad and the ugly.” In studying the great people of faith one discovers how they got there, what God was doing in their lives to shape their faith. The student of the ministry should not expect to find vessels of golden nuggets in looking at other men; rather, he should find a treasure in earthen vessels.

§ What was the effect of Ira Sankey on D.L. Moody?[5]

§ What was Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret and why is it important?[6]

§ What led A.B. Simpson to call Christians of other denominations together for prayer and Bible study? What is the significance of the camps he established and what was their connection to the continuing healing ministry of Christ Jesus?[7]

§ How and for what reasons does one put Bibles in plain sight for the purposes of smuggling?[8]

§ Billy Sunday was a notable preacher. What was his profession before he began the ministry and how did it help and hinder him? What were the criticisms he faced?[9]

§ Why was the great Jonathan Edwards asked to leave his church?[10]

§ What was Corrie Ten Boom’s reaction when approached by a German Christian she recognized to be a former Nazi prison guard in the concentration camp she was in?[11]

§ What was Jade Moon Lee’s reaction to The Demon after 22 years?[12]

§ How long does it take to forget?[13]

Previously we examined a few men who walked with God. Obviously their first and closest students were their own children, who studied them and the walk. Moses called Joshua alongside to learn and to indirectly be the object of study. What lessons about walking with God did Samuel learn from Eli? It was much more than, “when God’s speaks, answer Him!”

What about Elisha? The Bible says “And it happened when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha. Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken away from you. And Elisha said, please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me. “ (2Ki 2:9). Why would he say this? What did he mean? What kind of ministry was he looking for? What did he see in Elijah that he wanted in his own life?

Jesus said, “Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) Repeatedly Paul said to the effect: do as I do as I have learned from Christ! Study the lives of the faithful who have gone before us! Go back and read Bonar’s statement once more about the necessity of studying the men if we want our ministry to be as victorious.

Oh, and if you don’t know much of Jefferson, de Tocqeville or Thoreau, look ‘em up, too. What they said sure sounds good. Are they worth emulation?

"In our converse with poor saints, we are taught the way of God more perfectly for ourselves and get a deeper insight into divine truth. So that watering others makes us humble. We discover how much grace there is where we had not looked for it; and how much the poor saint may outstrip us in knowledge. Our own comfort is also increased by our working for others. We endeavour to cheer them, and the consolation gladdens our own heart. Like the two men in the snow; one chafed the other’s limbs to keep him from dying, and in so doing kept his own blood in circulation, and saved his own life. The poor widow of Sarepta gave from her scanty store a supply for the prophet’s wants, and from that day she never again knew what want was. Give then, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and running over." Spurgeon, Morning and Evening.

[1] Letter to John Brazer 24 Aug 1819
[2] -Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Volume II, Part I, Chapter XV: "The Study of Greek And Latin Literature Is Peculiarly Useful In Democratic Communities."
[3] From Walden, on “Reading.”
[4] Bonar, Horatio. “Words to Winners of Souls.”
[5] Pollock, John C. Moody without Sankey: A New Biographical Portait. London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1963.
[6] Taylor, Howard. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Chicago : Moody Press, 1982.
[7] Tozer, A.W. Wingspread. A.B. Simpson: A Study in Spiritual Altitude. Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1943.
[8] Andrew, Brother. God’s Smuggler. Old Tappan: Revell Co., 1968.
-----. The Ethics of Smuggling. Wheaton; Tyndale, c1974.
[9] Dorsett, Lyle W. Billy Sunday and the redemption of urban America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.
[10] Lesser, M.X. Jonathan Edwards : an annotated bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994.
[11] Ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Toronto: New York, 1974.
-----. Tramp for the Lord. Old Tappan: Revell, 1974.
[12] Toliver, Ralph. Gold Fears No Fire. Singapore: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, c1986.
[13] Popov, Harlan. Tortured for His Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.
Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ. Middlebury: Living Sacrifice Books, 1990.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Walking with God

The Navajo talk of walking life paths and each one walks his or her own. Basically, there is the Dine’ way (the Navajo way, the way of life and land) or there is a way for everyone else—and generally speaking, it is in the Dineway the Navajo tries to maintain the hozho (peace) of the imbalance of nature caused by the less knowledgeable (non-Navajo). Within the Navajo way are many paths detailed in ceremonies: the Navajo Blessingway, which is a rehearsal of “emergence” or creation (of sorts); the Enemyway, a cleansing ceremony and others such as Shootingway, Nizhoniway or Beautyway, Mountainway, Nightway, Navajo Windway. Each of these is dominated by chants categorized as Lifeway, Evilway and Holyway.[1]

In more recent times there has been the addition of the Jesusway. Since the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ believers are recognizing there is another path to walk and it is a narrow way that leads to life. Jesus taught, “Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt.7:13-14). Once on this path there is no turning to the right or left. The Navajo Christians would agree that walking with God is not an abstract ideal but a personality, a lifestyle.[2]

Enoch is a person that comes to mind when we think of walking with God, for we read in Genesis that Enoch walked with God, and then God took him (Gen. 5:24). Closer investigation will reveal that Enoch did not always walk with God. Genesis 5:22 tells us that he walked with God for 300 years after he fathered Methuselah. In Genesis 5:21 we read he was 65 years old when he fathered Methuselah and when he was 365 years old, God took him. Enoch walked with God for 300 years, but not for the first 65. It did not take Enoch long to discover there were two ways to walk—either with God or apart from Him. He chose the Godway over the Enochway.

But did you know there were two Enochs? One walked the Godway. The other Enoch walked the Enochway. This one was the son of Cain, murderer of Abel (Genesis 4). Each of Cain’s sons did not walk with God. As a matter of fact, one of those relatives was worse than Cain, walking in the way of a son of God should not, walking as a son of man, in his sin. No replacement for Abel came until Seth (Genesis 5) and it is from these sons of God that our Enoch came, who walked with God and all his sons with him, including Noah. It is when the sons of God found another interest (the daughters of men) that the wickedness grew and Noah’s walk stood out.

Noah was another man who walked with God, for in Genesis 6:9 we read, “Noah was a just and perfect man in his generations. Noah walked with God.” We know that Noah was 600 years old when the floods came (Gen. 7:6) and he was considered to be walking with God during this time. We don’t know how old he was when he started and really it does not matter. The fact is: Noah walked with God.

Solomon testifies that his father David walked with God in 1 Kings 8:25. How well did Solomon walk with God? God said He would put a king of His choosing on the throne who is not a stranger. Also, this king would not supply himself with horses from Egypt, nor cause his people to return there, nor would he take many wives for himself or great treasures. He would be a king who has a copy of God’s law and will meditate on it day and night (Deut. 17:14-20).

How well did Solomon follow in his father’s footsteps in walking with God? 1 Kings 3:3 says “Solomon love the LROD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” EXCEPT? This should not surprise us. Solomon gained the throne by deceit, by the choosing of another beside God (1 Kings 1:11-53). He had horses brought from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28), ushered in the golden age by amassing great wealth (1 Kings 4:21-28). And all we remember is that God gave him wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-24) by his record here, in one psalm, the collection of Proverbs and recollections of Ecclesiastes. And did we mention the wives and idolatry (1 Kings 10-11)?

How well did he do? Look at the kings who followed: 1 Kings 15:3 “And he walked in all the sins of his father which he had done before him. And his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as the heart of David his father.” And the dominoes fell the way they fall.

What does it take to walk the Godway but Jesus—and He said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No on comes to the Father but through me” (Jn. 14:6).

What does that way look like? It starts with salvation, for in Jesus is life, the light of men (John 1:4). From there John write elsewhere, “And this is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10).

The Jesusway is the way of obedience (John 14:15). Someone said that no horse gets anyone anywhere until he's harnessed, no steam or gas drives anything until it is confined, no Niagara ever turns anything into light or power until it is tunneled, no life ever does great things it is until focused, dedicated, and disciplined. Some forms of life that can live in relative isolation. A sponge, for instance, fastens itself to the bottom of the sea and completes its life cycle there. Lichen grows on the side of a rock and, while it spreads around slightly, never moves from its original location. But man isn't made to be like that. His power and usefulness come, not in isolation, but through union and cooperation with God in the through Jesus Christ in the power of His Spirit. No life can be truly valuable in God's sight that isn't attached to Jesus Christ.

[1] “Navajo Cosmology and Worldview.” Unpublished article.
[2] Bonar, “Words to Winners of Souls”

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Four Ways of Spiritual Watchfulness

Horatius Bonar writes in Words to Winners of Souls, “Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power, much more a healthy soul.” Bonar then presents four ways by which one is to accomplish the personal care of the soul.

First, “keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb.” I remember once asking a great Christian brother how he managed to keep such a level head. I never saw him angry or irritated. This brother just keeps his cool. I have seen him agitated but not distraught—“shaken, but not stirred” (so to speak), but he is such a consistent person with his demeanor that I just had to ask how he did it. He simply smiled and said, “keep short accounts with God.”
“That’s it?” I wondered.
“That’s it.” And he just smiled.

John MacArthur illustrates the purpose and function of the conscience.
"In 1984 an Avonca Jet crashed in Spain. As always after a crash like that investigators study the accident scene looking for the black box. The black box is the cockpit recorder, and that’s important so they can reconstruct the conversation as well as the electronics, the technology is recorded in that black box unit to try to determine why the accident happened. Amazingly when the found the black box and they played the recording it revealed that several minutes before the plane flew straight into the side of a mountain, a shrill computer synthesized voice from the planes automatic warning system told the crew repeatedly "pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up." The pilot inexplicably snapped back "shut up gringo!" and flipped off the switch. Minutes later the plane smashed into the mountain and everybody was, of course instantly killed.

When I read that It appeared to me to be a great illustration of how the conscience functions, and how a modern people treat their conscience. Conscience is the souls warning system. And it tells us when to "pull up" to go another direction, to make an immediate midcourse correction because were flying into disaster.[1]"

The conscience belongs to Christ and should be protected (1 Cor. 8:12), informed by the Word of God (2 Cor. 4:2) and is connected to faith (1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9). Apart from these the conscience is broken, shut off, seared in hypocrisy (1 Tim. 4:2). The blood of Christ cleanses the conscience from dead works (Heb. 9:14) and is the basis for our drawing near to God (Heb 10:22).

Secondly, Bonar writes, “keep up close communion with God”. This refers to the running and meaningful conversation one is to maintain. One cannot minister out what he does not have within. There should be an echo of David’s cry within saying “far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD from ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). Communion or fellowship with God is reflected on our fellowship with others. John writes “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

The Irish peddler helps us understand the importance and necessity of our keeping close to God. Someone said to him, "It's a grand thing to be saved."
"Aye," said the peddler, "It is. But I think something is equally as good as that."
"What can you possibly think is equal to salvation?"
"The companionship of the Man who has saved me," was the reply.

Again John reminds us "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). We fellowship not with a concept such as salvation, but with the person of our salvation; that is, our love is for a person, not a state of being.

Thirdly, Bonar instructs that one must “study likeness to Him in all things.” Robert Murray McCheyne tutors E.M Bounds:

Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this, for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all the week. If Satan can only make a covetous minister a lover of praise, of pleasure, of good eating, he has ruined your ministry. Give yourself to prayer, and get your texts, your thoughts, your words from God. Luther spent his best three hours in prayer.[2]

Certainly one hears the echo of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Peter asks his readers, “And who is the one who will harm you if you become imitators of the good?” (1 Peter 3:13). Many times Paul encourages his audience to imitate Christ in the same way he does (1 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6) and in so doing, getting to know Christ in all things.

Recently I overhead a conversation that contained this golden nugget: we cannot keep what is on the inside from showing up on the outside. What we do easily tells if what say is true or not because we live out who we are. I think this person was simply summarizing Proverbs 23:7 “as he thinks in his heart, so is he” and what Jesus taught saying, “Do you not perceive that whatever enters into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the waste-bowl, purifying all food? And He said, that which comes out of the man is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things pass out from inside and defile the man. (Mark 7:18-23).

We’ve been through the WWJD fad, now it is time to ask it for real. When we study HIM, we detach from self-at-center and are taken to the borders of our existence to find Him at center, as Bonhoeffer would say. We begin to look at the requirements of the Christian life and counting the cost would then spend whatever it takes to finish well. Someone once pointed out that if you want your father to take care of you, that's paternalism; if you want your mother to take care of you, that's maternalism. If you want Uncle Sam to take care of you, that's Socialism and if you want some dedicated extremists to take over the government and take care of you, that's Communism (we would say slavery). If you want and are able to take care of yourself, that's Americanism. If you surrender all to Christ and want God to take care of you, that is true Christianity. Of course, you'll be called a "square" or an "extremist," or a "crackpot," but you will have the best for time and eternity.

Finally, “read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people.” One cannot help but remember Jesus feeding the 5000. Both He and the disciples have just finished a retreat, time alone with God because of their ministry and as they leave, they are met by multitudes of people who need ministerial attention. Get the picture: they went to God for spiritual nourishment having exhausted their ministerial resources, as it were, and now there are all these people receiving newly supplied ministry and it is getting late, the people need to eat. Jesus is introduced to a boy who makes a present of his lunch (loaves and fishes). Jesus takes these, looks to heaven, gives thanks (now watch this), then breaks the loaves and fishes and gives the pieces to the disciples who then give to the crowd. Mark 6:41 records that “He divided up the two fish among them all.” Luke 9:16 says “He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude.”

The disciples did not receive one great big healthy portion that grew in their hands as they moved among the crowd. Start again from the beginning: they went to God because they “ran out” and were refitted for the next round of ministry. In this new round Jesus went to God for the distribution blessing, then the disciples went to Jesus to get what the crowd needed. Once they were out, they went back and received more from Him and this kept going until the trash was more than what anyone could eat! The disciples were not to hoard the food then pinch off flakes for everyone. They were to receive and benefit from Jesus first—to see the miracle in their own hands first—then they were to give it to the crowd.

The next day Jesus would say “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst . . . I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he shall live forever.” (John 6:35, 51). What Jesus is saying here is that one must take all of him as if one were eating. It is a complete action, an all-consuming action. If when “eating”, taking Christ for all He is, the eater is changed, then that which comes out of him are those things that evidence a new, clean, God-saturated heart. His ministry is effective and complete! Since He is the Word of God, we are to internalize it and follow how it changes us. From this we are then to minister to those around us.A physician went to hear D. L. Moody. Although he had not thought of such a result, he was converted. When asked the reason for his change of heart, he said, "I went to hear Mr. Moody with no other idea than to have something to laugh at. I knew he was no scholar, and I felt sure I could find many flaws in his argument. But I found I could not get at the man. He stood there hiding behind the Bible and just fired one Bible text after another at me till they went home to my heart straight as bullets from a rifle. I tell you, Moody's power is in the way he has his Bible at the tip of his tongue."

[1] MacArthur, John. “Winning the War from the Inside Out”.
[2] Bounds, E.M. Men of Prayer Needed.

Friday, July 09, 2004

a tale of two divers

Elwyn Davies tells the story of the days he was stationed in North Africa during the Second World War. In the harbor were 187 sunken ships and it was the task of his men to send divers into these ships, to find the safes and blast them open to find documents that pertained to the enemy and his plans.

In those days the divers wore the old-type diving suits, not like those used today. Every diver had a buddy and every buddy had a reserve buddy.

Across the harbor at this station were chalk cliffs where caves and tunnels had been dug in. One such cave had three chambers: the innermost chamber housed the divers, the middle chamber held communications and in the outer chamber, the buddies stood waiting.

When the diver went into the water his #1 buddy would sit on a three-legged stool by the water’s edge holding in his left hand held a pressure gauge. His right hand held the handle of a small, innocent-looking wheel. When immediately the helmet was fixed and the diver entered with water the eyes of his buddy were glued to that gauge and his hand carefully turned, pumping the air into his buddies’ lungs.

And as long as the diver was in the water, his buddy was fixed, immovable, just turning the wheel and watching the air pressure.

In those days were also dive-bombers: fast, low-flying German dive-bomber, who every now and then throughout the day would come sweeping down into the harbor area splattering their bombs.

Over and over again, the buddy would sit on the stool clutching the gauge in one hand and turning the wheel with the other, eyes glued to the dial. Over and over again, that buddy would be cut in half, sliced right in half by the bullets and bombs. Over and over again, before his body fell into the water, another buddy would run out of the cave, snatch up the gauge and turned the pumps.

In all those months, not one diver was lost.

This is what prayer is all about to missionaries serving Jesus in the ends of the earth, living in lands not their own.

I was recently told by a local church that asking for support was against policy, but they would pray for me as I finish preparations for going to Africa.

Everybody prays when divers were in the water and dive-bombers zoom overhead, but who is on the stool?

Thanks to those who have manned the pumps . . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Attack of the Wingdings

(WARNING: The following Blog is rated "L" for "Language")

You know what Wingdings are--these are the font you may select in your word processor that replaces letters with symbols.

You know what it means when you are reading, say, a comic strip and you see a string of symbols when the character is talking? It means one is using bad language, cussing up a storm.

As this program I am currently using does not support wingdings, I cannot type them here--perhaps that is best. Here is why: I am so hopping angry and there are not enough wingdings in the world to express what I would like to say right now.

I just heard on the news that a bill is being passed for mothers who are aborting their children to have administered to the soon-to-be destroyed child PAIN KILLERS!

Yes! It is true! SRN News just reported it! Then they played a sound byte of some (insert wingdings here) liberal stating that science confirms that an unborn child has a higher level of sensitivity than that of a newborn (albeit, "live") child; hence the pain killers.

Why? Because its the humane thing to do.

Insert Wingdings here.
My Nouthetic brethren, I stand admonished.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Reflections on the cherry tree

It's been a busy month with Intensives going on. In my "downtime" last night, I read George Washington's Farewell Address. Remember him?

The first President of the United States wrote this (bold characters are my emphasis):

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, "where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?" And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"

My, how far we've come.

Immediate thoughts:
1) Washington admits that morality and religion are inseperable.
2) The true patriot cannot subvert the inseperable two.
3) The politian and the pious man are on level ground--they must both respect and cherish the inseperable two.
4) There is no security, reputation, or life if religion is abandoned and morality is apart.
5) If there is a separation between the two, the court has no standard by which to investigate and protect.

And we wonder how we got here . . .
Did George lie?

Friday, June 04, 2004

Celebs Beg to Be Voted Off Reality Show

Jun 2, 10:18 AM EST the The Associated Press released an "article" I found strangely humorous. Below is a sampling of the publication:

"The bugs — both the ones that bite and those that must be eaten to stave off hunger — the heat and other discomforts are claiming their toll as celebrity contestants on a Colombian "Survivor"-style reality show drop like flies. Instead of trying to endure to the very end on a verdant tropical peninsula in order to collect the cash prize, several are pleading with their tribes to vote them off the show.

"Isla de los Famosos" — Spanish for "Island of the Celebrities" — has captured a broad audience, partly because viewers in a country where most people live in poverty are getting a kick out of watching models, singers and actors deal with the gritty business of day-to-day survival. The other day, two of the contestants had to slaughter and butcher a hog for their teammates. They have also been given live chickens for food, and have had to build their own huts. Those used to a more pampered lifestyle were shocked by the primeval setting."

I post this because of the weight of the quote I have posted from John Steinbeck on the side-bar. Folks, stop and think about this for a minute. The people who warm the pews with us would'nt know how to survive if it came down to it.

Remember Snake Plisskin? Few would. If you saw the movie (and I don't recommend it) "Escape from New York", there was a sequel, "Escape from Los Angeles" or something like that. The last scene of the movie is a hoot. Snake has just done his heroic mercenary stuff to save the world from a bomb that would kill all the technology of earth and would throw the world back into the stone age. In the last scene, he pressed the button and everything goes black. Then you see him strike a match to light a cigar in victory.

When I go to the pump to pay up to $2.00 a gallon for gas, or go to the store to pay $4.00 per gallon for milk, I keep hearing Larry Norman singing the words of Revelation in the elevator music of my head, "a piece of bread would buy a bag of gold. I wish we'd all been ready."

We've not yet seen the worst of times. When they come, people will not know where to turn . . .

The early church was ready because they knew that if they supported each other, they survived. Why do you think they fellowshipped by going house to house sharing everything in common? Because God provided for the fellowship of believers out of their own poverty. And they grew and flourished.

And people will be crawling under mountains begging to be voted off . . .

Thursday, June 03, 2004

1. How many Charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?

One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

2. How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?

None. God has predestined when the light will be on. Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be one that has been chosen to be changed.

3. How many Armenians does it take to change a light bulb?

All. They need everyone to make sure it stays on. One can never really be sure.

4. How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

Change???

5. How many neo-orthodox does it take to change a bulb?

No one knows. They can't tell the difference between light and dark.

6. How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb?

One. But for the message of light to continue, send in your donation today.

7. How many independent fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, because any more might result in too much cooperation.

8. How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?

At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb, they still might not change it, to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.

9. How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?

None. They use candles.

10. How many worship leaders who use guitars does it take to change a light bulb?

One. And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.

11. How many members of an established fundamental Bible teaching church that is over 20 years old does it take to change a light bulb?

One to actually change the bulb, and nine to say how much they liked the old one.

12. How many United Methodists does it take to change a light bulb?

This statement was issued: "We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb (or light source, or non-dark resource), and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted-all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence. "

13. How many Amish does it take to change a light bulb?

"What's a light bulb?"

14. How many youth pastors does it take to change a light bulb?

Youth pastors aren't around long enough for a light bulb to burn out.

15. How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

109. Seven on the Light Bulb Task Force Subcommittee, who report to the 12 on the Light Bulb Task Force, appointed by the 15 on the Trustee Board. Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Committee Executive of 5, who place it on the agenda of the 18 member Finance Committee. If they approve, they bring a motion to the 27 member church Board, who appoint another 12 member review committee. If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting. They appoint another 8 member review committee. If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of a light bulb, and the Congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the light bulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a 7 member committee to find the best price in new light bulbs. Their recommendation of which Hardware Store has the best buy must then be reviewed by the 23 member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connection to Disneyland. They report back to the Trustee Board who, then commissions the Trustee in charge of the Janitor to ask him to make the change. By then the janitor discovers that one more light bulb has burned out.

-Author unknown

Thursday, May 27, 2004

when the cat's away

When my wife and I are away from home, we have a rule for our five kids about calling us, which is “DON’T call unless it is flooding, burning or bleeding.” Any of us who have ever been kids all know that great unspoken and unwritten rule: when no adult is present, there are no rules. It just goes to prove that when we were born, they may have broken the mold, but there is proof that it grows back . . . ((wait a while, you'll get it))

So my wife and I will be out and the phone will ring with "daddy, brother’s looking at me" or "mommy, she’s breathing my air again" or "I got blood in my veins" (actual call, that last one) or some other non-emergency.

It makes you wonder about Paul and Timothy. Paul told Timothy "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long." (1 Tim 3:14) What? You mean that Timothy is left in this church—alone? Without Paul? With all those . . . “church people?”

Which brings up another question:
“What's the difference between a cult and a church?” To tell the difference, look at the foundation. What is the foundation of a church, particularly, THE church?

Paul makes an interesting statement: “in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15).

How will Timothy direct the church without Paul? I wonder if Timothy was left feeling like a baby sitter or big brother while the “parent” was out of the “house.” I wonder what those church people were acting like?

The way to tell the difference between a church and a cult is how either treats Christ. “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”, as we confess with that great hymn. The foundation of a church is found in the mystery of godliness, which is explained in 1 Tim 3:16.

The foundation of a cult is the non-mystery of ungodliness with another ministry, namely the ministry of hinderance and/or destruction of the work and message of Christ.

The conduct of the church is based on its foundation. What the church thinks of Christ affects its stand, its ministry, its action. Put another way, the difference between a church and a cult is how Christ is handled.

Does a church merely nod at ideas or is it transformed by the reality of the person and work of Christ Jesus?

Does a cult live a God-saturated life?

Which is better: a comfortable place where everyone is welcome, finds a place to fit in and has a great social life; or, a place where there is conviction, discomfort, admonition, working, growing? Guess which one the church should be. Guess which one draws more people at the expense of doctrine, even that great confession?

I asked myself these questions and invite you to do the same:
How do I handle Christ?
Do I treat the sufficiency of His person and work with a Sunday morning fervor, or have I let Him penetrate my being every day of the week?
Do I or have I undermined anything He has tried to say or do?

Am I a “church” or a “cult”?

Recently we set out to enjoy a PBS series, "Colonial House." Making a long story very short, 17 people were selected to live like it was 1628 for 4 months in Maine last summer. The man appointed to be "lay preacher" was a liberal religion professor from California. The governor was a southern baptist minister from Texas. The governor tried hard to enforce the bible-based country law of the colony, but was met with opposition constantly. He and his family had to leave due to personal family tragedy and could not continue the project

The lay minister held "discussion meetings" and had no real preaching of the Bible (he tried one three-hour sermon, but did not do it again). Since he was appointed governor, he began to raid the wine, relax the laws and the people were lazy and apathetic. Ironically, in retrospect, he did admit he did not model the "man of God" the town needed.

The town was the most miserable, backward colony I have ever seen. In its day it should not have survived, and I raved about this for a few days. Then I remembered a horrifying story by Nathaniel Hawthorne of a colonist who discovered one night that everyone in town, including the town minister, was a witch. Apparently, the problem did exist and, well, we see where we are today.

Really, the project provided a micro-picture of where we are today, having removed the Bible from our government AND our churches. One person actually walked off the project because he could see where history was "going" and did not want to be there when it happened . . . how tragic.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

gettin' ready

as I have been preparing for my bible study on Rev. 2:8-11, God has given me this to think about:

* my oldest daughter was splashed in the eye with a corrosive chemical last week (she's fine now). She saw the same doctor my youngest son did when he got stuck in the eye with an arrow two years ago.

* two days ago my oldest son got his eye smashed with a ball and his eye was bleeding. He saw the same doctor.

* the people we have been buying our house and land from decided that we have until the end of July to close the deal move out (they are ditching our 6 year agreement). I will be in Africa at the end of July, which follows June, my most busy time of the year with 86 students coming for two weeks of intensive courses.

* my 60 year-old dad got a broken collarbone and a totaled Harley in a motorcycle accident while riding California to Washington D.C. for a Memorial Day celebration. Apparently this truck the convoy was following on the highway slammed on his brakes and dad hit the back of the truck--and the bikes following him dominoed into the pile. This was his last year as a team-leader. Fortunately, the accident happened while in his home state and he is going home.

* my sister is moving to San Diego from Denver (she is getting to the east coast the long way).

* I put ten dollars of gas in my van, which is supposed to last to the end of the month. At $1.86 per gallon you don't get too far down the road . . .

* I gotta hot water leak under my kitchen sink I can't get stopped.

* I am almost finished reading John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

* Today's my birthday.

* * * * * * * *

Le's turn in our song-books to sing that front-porch ballad we all remember so well . . .
"Gloom, dispair, agony on me.
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.
If it wern't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.
Gloom, dispair and agony on me."

(there is actually some levity in the fore-mentioned ballad, but you may have to be over 30 to get it . . .)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

intention

(context for this post comes from "mailbag" posted on 5/12/04)

Jesus’ intimacy with his church takes place on two levels: locally and universally. We can get an idea of what this is like when we see Him walking among the candlesticks in Revelation 2. There is no difficulty in seeing one walking among such well-lit fixtures, observing them from all sides, noting the strength of light and length of tallow. The responsibility to burn belongs to the candle, but it is set in place by the same one who can remove it.

There is another image of intimacy found in His holding the seven stars in His right hand. I remember my fascination with marbles as a child, holding them in my hand, turning them all around, fingering them, listening to them rub against each other, fascinated by the marks and lines that ribboned through them.

Perhaps Jesus considers His churches in much the same way, only by the millions. Hand cupped, fingers together, face close by, touching, turning, fingering, pushing, looking for that one . . . there it is . . . pulling it out of the pile, holding it up to the light between finger and thumb.

* * * * * * * * * *
I know your deeds. I know what you enjoy pouring yourself into. I know what you enjoy spending your energy on. I know the things you do without anyone asking.

I know your toils, your labors. I know the things that draw out your energy. I know the things you do because you have no choice but to do them. You may or may not enjoy doing these things, but you do them.

I know what you can endure, how you hold up balancing the things you like to do and the things you are required to do. I know what you are like when you are held under.

I know what you cannot endure. I know what you tolerate and what you do not tolerate. Are the things you put up with the same as the things I put up with?

* * * * * * * * * *
What does it mean to have left your first love? This is a tough statement. Once, the Ephesians were encouraged to speak the truth in love (4:15) and now the Ephesians are hearing just that. There should be a balance between truth and love and they are discovering that they have been fighting so hard for the truth, they forgot the love.

If we stop to think about it, considering all we do in ministry (or marketplace or missions) because we love to do it or considering all we do in ministry (or marketplace or missions) because we have to do it, what does it matter if there is no love?

Jesus says that Ephesians have forsaken their foremost love. What is that? I think a clue is found in Matthew 22:35-40.

If we are to love God and from the overflow of love to Him we love others, then losing the first love is losing love for God and love for others. So what does it matter if you do what you enjoy or because its your job if there is no love? What does Paul say to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13 about doing all these things without love?

Larry Norman, speaking the vernacular: “you can be a righteous rocker on a holy roll or you can do most anything. You can be a Leon Russell on a super-muscle or being a corporate king . . . But without Love, you ain’t nothin’, without love.”

So waddya do?
Remember how you got started with Christ. Eph 2 (You were . . . remember . . . remember).

Repent and do the deeds you did at first.

Remember how when you began your new life in Christ and you wanted to do everything out of love for God and how it sloshed over and affected everyone else? Is that happening now?

Ok, class. Can anyone tell me what was paved with good intentions?

Class?

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