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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.

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