Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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The Heart of the Gospel

If you've not yet heard this message, make certain you do before the day is out:

My heart hurts

I picked up my neon-green plastic carabiner flashlight this Sunday, and if that don’t want to make you ask me about my personal testimony, I don’t know what will. It even says, “Share Jesus” on the side, the only two words I need to know. A certain individual (who shall go unnamed) in my immediate ministerial vicinity has unleashed a church-wide campaign that will make my obedience to the Great Commission successful—if only I wear this and produce it from time to time. People who see it will just “want to know” my testimony, so I can invite them to Sunday School to hear the gospel. Any other way is just unbiblical, you know.

I put it to the test. I’ve been wearing it proudly on my key-ring (and for those who know me, already know I carry the jailor’s share), and so far, nobody has stopped me and asked me for my testimony. I’m not so sure I can invite anyone to church, if they don’t stop me to ask. I wondered if my WWJD bracelet and my colored “wordless beads” were confusing them . . .

Since I’ve been wearing my “thing,” I’ve actually been able to share the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ through tracts and conversation almost a dozen times, and my neon-green carabiner/flashlight never made it into the conversation, or my testimony. Maybe I’m holding it wrong . . .

Today at lunch, in a very safe environment, I produced my key ring—just plopped it on the table in front of the Freshmen I was with. Nothing. So I held up my neon green plastic carabiner/flashlight and asked, “Does anyone wonder what this is, or why I have it?” I got everyone’s attention! Great!

They stared at me, cheeks stuffed with macaroni and cheese, perhaps wishing they were back in Chapel, or falling asleep in class somewhere.

I said, “Does anyone want to hear my testimony?” And I waved the neon light around.

Before everyone thought I’d lost my marbles, I asked the group of freshmen I was eating with if this contraption made them think of spiritual things. Cautiously, each either shook their head, or said, “no.” I told them that I had the same feeling.

I told them how a minister in my church said that if I wore this, and produced it from time to time, people would want to know my testimony and I could invite them to church. What did they think? Blank stares.

I said, “Do you think if I wore this down to Five Points or for some other evangelistic campaign that people would be dying to know how my life was changed by Jesus?” We laughed. It was fun.

But it was sad.

“Why not just walk up to people and share the good news of Jesus Christ?” I asked.

What would be more obedient to the Great Commission: my “Going” and preaching the gospel, or my waving my neon-green sign in hopes that someone will come and ask?

The more I think about evangelism, the more excited I get . . . and the more distressed because when someone does ask about church, I feel hesitant to direct them to my own . . . Would I want someone attending my church if this is the way they handle the gospel?

I dare say I would not. For after this outrageous campaign, the room of Sunday School teachers was sternly warned that Sunday School was for evangelism, not teaching the Bible. Not socialization, but evangelism.

What’s wrong with going and telling?

My heart hurts.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday Night at Five Points

Friday night I had the wonderful and exciting privilege of joining 16 undergraduates (and one alum) in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ in evangelism. We met about 6:45 for some introductions, encouragements, Prayer and Worship. By 8:45 or so, we piled into cars and caravanned our way to 5-Points here in Columbia.

5-Points is a cross-roads near downtown Columbia, just off the USC Campus. Here College students (and partiers in general) meet, eat, drink and commit lewd debaucheries in public. A beautiful fountain forms the central meeting place, surrounded by restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores peddling wares I am not brilliant enough to think of. We parked in a grocery store lot, paired off experienced evangelizers with new-comers and hit the streets. The coordinator of the event and myself tried to equip everyone with as much literature as we possibly could. I took two students with me, and we made our way down the sidewalk.

The first guy we met was Clarence, a Rastafarian. When I first approached him, I saw he was carrying a walking stick, but did not identify the Rasta carvings immediately. We got to talking and right away noticed his slight inebriation—which meant the conversation 1) would not go far; 2) however far it went, it would be lively. And lively it was. We learned the man was not only keen on his liquor, but stuck by his struggles for freedom. When I addressed his conscience with the 10 Commandments, he admitted his guilt before God, but was eager to rationalize his way out of condemnation—he’s done more good things since he stopped doing bad things (claims to have been on death row).

I tried very hard to impress his guilt before God and need for repentance, but he kept shaking his painted stick at me. Once he cursed and while I reflexively cautioned him to watch his language (as a young lady was present), he was already apologizing—and got quite upset that I admonished him. The students stood, watching and listened patiently and I think were perhaps a little scared. I don’t blame them. I thought I was going to cracked in the head with that stick.

I finally was able to impress upon him that he could talk himself out of his troubles all day long, but time never erases the crime. When I asked him what he thought of James Seale and whether he received justice. Clarence got quiet and listened and thought, but could not accept the love that God was extending to him through the cross. We finally had to part ways (he wanted to go drink) and I gave him a tract to read for later on.

Further down the street at the Fountain, I met up with a couple of brothers from another church who bring their camera for interviewing Way of the Master style. We had a great visit and encouraged each other on.

My two companions wandered over to Starbucks with some “Coffee Trivia” tracks and tried to strike up a conversation with the employees. They did a good job in friendly dialogue and got the workers to read the tract.

Back outside, I returned to the fountain and talked some more with our friends, watching the sidewalks as people began to arrive (it’s about 10:30 or so) by the droves. We were able to pass out some Million Dollar Bills to passers-by, but could get nobody to stop for an interview or to talk. Guys were interested in the ladies and the ladies were “fishing” and it was all gross.

Guys wearing bling are suckers to stop and talk, especially when I give them Million Dollar Bills and compliment them on their grills. Two guys stopped and I took them through the “Good Person” test, and began the details of the 10 commandments. One guy got upset (laughingly, mind you) when I got the 7th commandment about adultery. When I asked if he’d lusted, he confessed that was why he was out there that night. Both the guys were. But while the first guy was telling me how much the conviction was ruining his evening (he left, chosing to lust than hear the gospel) the other guy stayed, his face as determined as chiseled in stone. We talked for a while about sin, the guilt and condemnation of sin, and just as I was talking about the substitutionary death of Christ, two lesbians came right up behind me and . . .

I turned and heard myself say, “Aw, c’mon. Go away. Take that stuff outta here.” I was mad. Then I turned back to the guy I was talking to and he did not know what to do with himself. He wanted to laugh and found he could not. I stepped closely in front of him and told him, “look, that did not happen by accident. Satan does not want you to repent and begin a sin-free life. You need to choose right now what you are going to do: die in sin and chase after ‘that’ (motioning the direction the girls went) or forgiveness in Christ Jesus.” He could not speak. I told him he needed to make a decision. He shook my hand, thanked me for talking to him, took a tract and left.

I don’t really know much about what other team-mates were doing, but I did notice they were trying to strike up conversations with folks nearby. I did notice three Eastern Indian fellows that sat at the fountain and watched us. After a while, I took my bag over by one and asked if I could sit down. He said, “yes,” then asked (nicely) what we were doing out there. I told him we were sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. I asked if he went to USC (he did) and discovered which program he was in. He was getting his Master’s in Geology. I then asked what his religion was, or what worldview he held. He was a non-practicing Hindu.

We enjoyed a good conversation, “thinking” through tough questions together: did the Universe always exist, or have a definite beginning; what that beginning cause or uncaused; was the cause personal or impersonal; the reality of the God of the Bible, the historicity of the person and work of Jesus. I addressed his conscience without naming the 10 commandments, and he agreed that his conscience told him of his guilt. I pressed the incarnation and substitutionary death of Christ and he listened and thought with me. Surprisingly, he said that guilt and shame are dealt with not by someone outside ourselves, as in Jesus, but through the spark of divinity that is found in everything. I discussed the need to know the God of the Bible and the necessity of becoming the child of God by virtue of redemption and he listened carefully.

Finally, we had to stop as our team had to make way back to the rendezvous. As I had been talking to my Indian friend, my other two teammates had started conversations with the other two gentlemen and they waited patiently for me to finish talking with my new friend. Surprisingly, one of the students found his conversationalist had actually been thinking about becoming converted—someone had planted a seed! More excitingly, all three of us knew who that seed-planter was! Someone right here at the University!

Praise the LORD!

The teams all reconnoitered about midnight, we debriefed and each had a wonderful story to tell. I encouraged each to journal and/or blog their experience, so keep your eyes and ears open!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Personal (lesson in) evangelism

Yesterday evening I had an incredible desire to pray about evangelism, so I began, "Lord, because you have given me so many people to talk to . . ." and I had to stop. Then (because we are a home-schooling family), I had a parent-teacher conference (read: "I said to myself") that went something like this:

"Didn't you mean to pray, 'Lord, please give me someone to share the gospel with?'"

"No," I said to myself, "I meant what I said. God has put so many people across my path that I have not shared the gospel with, I should pray for boldness and clarity to speak."

"But that is so profound," I answered myself in amazement. "Who ever heard of praying that way?"

God apparently has. I was caused to remember that obedience to the Great Commission is about "Going" to those who are already there and either do not know there is a Jesus who has made salvation possible, or do not know they need to repent and confess their sin and be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

If I prayed, "Give me someone to share the gospel with," I am assuming one of two things: either there are so many people around me who are truly converted that I cannot find a lost person with whom to speak; or, I am failing to believe God has sent me with His authority to speak. I settled on the fact that God has indeed already given me people to talk with--I just had to obey Him and go do it. And Satan was ready to thwart the gospel.

We got to the store and I got out with my tracts and my wife had already started talking to this guy who was just sitting in his car a couple of spaces over. I got around the car, she dismissed herself and went it, and I approached the man with a tract. I only got to speak with him a couple of minutes for his wife came out and they had to leave, but he took another tract and he smiled alot, then left.

I kept passing out tracts in the store until an incident occurred (for the sake of those involved, I will spare the details) that caused us to cut our shopping trip short for an emergency run back home. I was boiling hot, getting quite angry because I felt I was not able to have an effective ministry. God said, "really?" I forgot it was His work, not mine I was doing.

We were able to return to our shopping and visited another store (as the first was now closed) and I continued passing out tracts. I will just say I love going to the grocery store because the Security guard there knows that if I do my job, his job will be easier . . . think about it.

Evangelism is obedient and easy. Just get out and do it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coming to "terms" (part 2); or, "What Jesus died for."

Romans 1:18-20 tells us that everyone knows and is therefore without excuse:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

What is this knowledge everyone has? Every person knows "God is" and because everyone knows He "is", they are without an excuse. One cannot help but think of Moses asking God to identify Himself, to which He replies, "I am." God reminds Moses what is already known about Him: He is and He is always contemporary. God has made Himself so evidently known though creation, we can say with assurance that the athiest does not exist!

Also, the eternality of God (just one of the many facets of who He is) should not to be equated with the sum of all God is. He is not solely eternal; that is, "eternal" is just one of His many attributes. How His eternity relates to man is connected with the fact that He has "He has set eternity in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end" (Eccl. 3:10). The default setting does not mean man has apprehended, comprehended or is reconciled to God; rather, this means man is the creation of the creator, and by what his conscience tells him, should begin to himself through God who is.

What God is on God's mind? What is He concerned about? First, God is concerned about righteousness. This is why His wrath is revealed against unrighteousness, because unrighteous men (not "unchurched" but "unrighteous" men) suppress the truth in unrighteousness! Why? Because they see God and they see His righteousness and prefer to love themselves with all their heart, soul, and strength. Second, God has Jesus on His mind. Jesus is the exact radiance of God's glory--He is perfect. What do I mean when I say "God has Jesus on His mind?" Consider how you do not know what is on my mind until I open my mouth or write it down. The writer of Hebrews tell us, "God, who at many times and in many ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds, who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the word of His power, through Himself cleansing of our sins . . ." (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Did you see that? God is so concerned about righteousness that He has to provide it and has done so in opening His mouth and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), to cleanse us from sin!

"Since then the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same; that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death (that is, the Devil), and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Now watch this. This is the golden nugget: "He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

You've heard the story about the three umpires who were debating their philosophies of umpiring. "There's balls and there's strikes,' says the first, "and I call the the way they are."

"No," exclaimed the next. "That's arrogant. There's balls and there's strikes, and I call them the way I see them."

"That's no better," says the third umpire. "Why beat around the bush? Why not be realistic about what we do--there's balls and there's strikes and they ain't nothin' 'till I call 'em."

Man wants to be the third umpire, making "nothin'" into "something" as he calls them. Really this is yet another evidence of God's image in man--as God created with language, so man is creative with language--but this creativity does not make nothing into something. Man cannot make truth out of non-truth just as he cannot make righteousness out of unrighteousness. Consider Chesterton's assessment of his day, "The thing from which England suffers just now more than from any other evil is not the assertion of falsehoods, but the endless and irrepressible reptition of half-truths." A baseball is a baseball, but if it crosses the strike zone the reality of its condition does not change, no matter what you or I think or say.

How powerful are our words to change reality? I was talking with a guy downtown who set himself sternly against the truth of the gospel and his need for righteousness, denying that the day would come he would stand before God in judgment. I encouraged him to step into the road and deny the existence of trucks. "Having tried, we must hold fast [to the truth] (I Thes. 5:21), upon [the penalty of] the loss of a crown (Rev. 3:11); we must not let go for all the fleabitings of the present afflictions, etc. Having bought truth dear, we must not sell it cheap, not the least grain of it for the whole world; no, not for the saving of souls, though our own most precious; least of all for the bitter sweetening of a little vanishing pleasure." Thus saith Roger Williams (1603-1683).

Remember our reference last post on the world not taking the church seriously because the church is not serious? Listen to J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), "We are not only to renounce evil, but to manifest the truth. We tell the people the world is vain; let our lives manifest that it is so. We tell them that our home is above and that all these things are transitory. Does our dwelling look like it? O, to live consistent lives!"

Now that you are done reading this, go share the good news of Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A few choice goodies

Taking my cue from The Pilgrim, here are some choice goodies for ya':

A great book on Apologetics;

An awesome resource for Biblical Counseling;

I love this book!

The first chapter of this one really says it all.

I know the guys who wrote this one!

Coming to "terms"

I’ve been enjoying Michael Horton’s excellent book, “Putting Amazing Back Into Grace” and am pleasantly surprised to reflect on lessons God has been teaching me and am encouraged (as I’m sure you, too, are) to find others who have arrived at the same conclusions. In short, I will simply say that throughout my life I’ve been through Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, Non-denominational “Bible” Churches, Interdenominational Bible Churches (I think non- and inter- are the same), a sprinkling of Four-Square and Church of God, the Conservative Baptists, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and more shades of Southern Baptist Churches than most people need to know about.

The journey through Bible College was a life-changing experience in and of itself and Seminary was certainly fantastic jolt to the system (as much as I wanted to attend, Satan was not all that excited and made this plain to me and my family); but, this last year-and-a-half has been used by God to bring more praise and glory to Himself that ever was expected by me. Life and church and ministry have never been more abundant (notice I did not say “pleasureful” or “enjoyable,” but “abundant”) and with increasing joy I praise God for His faithfulness.

The past few weeks I’ve been lamenting this dreadfully hot weather and have not been able to get out to do much evangelism, so I’ve been restless. While God has used this time to help me think and pray and prepare for the Fall, some notable thoughts have been firmly planted within and are increasingly growing. One notable thought I’ve tried to write about, but each time was met with miserable failure—perhaps today’s the day!

My thoughts begin with a term that is now reaching the point of becoming trite, and that term concerns “the unchurched.” As I dwelt on what that term means and who the term intends to identify, I was quickly reminded the last thing “the unchurched” need is “church.” Who are these people? They are the lost, the unregenerate, the “dead in sin”. Not the “pre-evangelized”. Not a person who can be better than he is, or a “normie.” I don’t believe there is such a thing as “the unchurched” as I can’t find that term or concept for that matter in scripture. The term “unchurched” is wrongly made synonymous with “unreached,” those who do not merely not believe in Jesus, but do not know there is a Jesus to believe in. “Unchurched” (in my understanding) is a marketing term, referring to people who are shopping and have not yet tried a product. Unless I totally missed something in Greek or Hebrew class, I can’t find anything that translates as “unchurched” (or “untabernacled”, “untempled” or “unsynagogued”) in all of scripture.

If the “unchurched” are to be “churched,” what is the source and/or model of this principle? The tabernacle was the last place a stranger would want to go because, face it, only one person enters God’s presence once a year—and he’d better be prayed up! Listen carefully to what pagans and others say about the God of the Bible—they are correct in that He is a terrible God! Who would want to worship Him? What they fail to grasp is all this terrible God has done in order to make fellowship possible, much less tolerable. Paul Washer’s comment to the effect, “I love children; therefore I hate abortion” is an illustration that places that terribleness in the context of love. Leviticus is the instruction book on how to live and enjoy this presence: what man is able and not able to do; and, what God is able to do overall. But I get ahead of myself.

Focusing on America alone, D.L. Moody was one of those great evangelists who made significant contributions to the glory of God; however, he represents one among many who introduced small changes in the gospel that has become our current cascade failure. Moody had the right idea about going out into the highways and byways to bring people in to hear the gospel but like a desert freight train, he roared though town and breezed right on by with his message of instantaneous conversion much akin to slapping band-aids. The Scots were right in their precaution to investigate him out. H.C. Trumbull actually put pen to paper and recorded many of his experiences. Compare his notes with R.A. Torrey, who dug deep with his plow to ensure good seeding (“How to Work for Christ”, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3.)

What I’ve concluded about “the unchurched” is this: they don’t need church. Out of those who do know there is a Jesus to believe in are not even ready for Jesus yet. They need something else. And that “something else” is the same thing that keeps church attendees glued to their pews in fear instead of going out with the gospel. Those who are “churched” know they are lacking something because, though they may be heaven-bound, are tired-before-they-start of explaining why their walk and their talk do not align. See, if the gospel is simply “miss hell, gain heaven,” there is no reason why one who is hell-bound to desire heaven—if he does, it selfish and has nothing to do with God, but what one gains as an individual. This is idolatry.

The “unchurched” looks at himself and sees there is nothing different about him and Joe Pew-warmer except that he hears Joe talk about heaven amongst other wordly things. Joe’s conscience is telling him there must be something else, and he does not see it in the church, so there is no reason to attend. In the same way, Joe knows there must be something that must distinguish him from those “out there” and talking about heaven becomes frustrating because he has to excuse himself more, and this is tiresome.

What church attendees need is the same thing church non-attendees need, and that is righteousness found only in Christ Jesus. This is the truth of the gospel. Here is what Horton says in his chapter, “Jumping Through Hoops is for Circus Animals,:”

“Christians, of all people, should be committed to that pursuit [of truth], regardless of the consequences. Usually we want to control the truth, to decide for ourselves whether it will be helpful, practical, supportive of our general presuppositions. But truth is often unkind to our notions of what is useful knowledge.”

We are comfortable with not simply what we know, but with our traditions, that we’ve allowed to do our thinking for us. We’ve confused that which we’ve grown up in and around with what we know to the point that most don’t know to ask, “what is useful to be known?” Furthermore, consider Horton’s nod to Paul Payne’s observation that “the world does not take the church seriously today because the Church is not serious.” Serious about what? Righteousness.

Test me on this. As a starting point, which occurs more in the Bible: teaching on righteousness and unrighteousness, or heaven and hell? Consider just two verses:

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 11:4)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9)

The Bible emphasizes repeatedly that the believer is one who is accepted by God, ransomed from sin, redeemed from guilt, and rescued from lostness. To be saved is to gain God in Christ Jesus. Missing hell and gaining heaven is an added blessing because it is God who makes Heaven what it is . . . but that’s another blog.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Reward of the Faithful

“Think of the privilege, my friends of saving a soul, if we are going to work for good we must be up and about it. Men say, "I have not the time." Take it. Ten minutes every day for Christ will give you good wages. There is many a man who is working for you - Take them by the hand. Some of you with silver locks, I think I hear you saying, I wish I was young, how I would rush into the battle." Well, if you cannot be a fighter, you can pray and lead on the others. There are two kinds of old people in the world. One grows chilled and sour, and there are others who light up every meeting with their genial presence, and cheer on the workers. Draw near, old age, and cheer on the others, and take them by the hand and encourage them.

There was a building on fire. The flames leaped around the stair case, and from a three story window a little child was seen who cried for help. The only way to reach it was by a ladder. One was obtained and a fireman ascended, but when he had almost reached the child, the flames broke from the window and leaped around him. He faltered and seemed afraid to go further. Suddenly some one in the crowd shouted, and then a cheer went up. The man was nerved with new energy, and rescued the child. Just so our young men. Whenever you see them wavering, cheer them on. If you cannot work yourself, give them cheers to nerve them on in their glorious work. May the blessing of God fail upon us this afternoon, and let every man and woman be up and doing.”

D.L. Moody, “The Reward of the Faithful.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dominoes in Silver Shadows

F.W. Boreham’s first chapter of Silver Shadows (see previous post) is titled, “Dominoes” where he shows the simplicity of practical Christianity with the illustration of a common playtime pastime.

Dominoes. You know, a game played with rectangular marked by small dots. The premise of the game is simple: get rid of your tiles, making each move matching the opponent’s piece. If your opponent plays a tile with a six, you play a tile with six. If he plays a four, you must match his with a four; or, miss a turn. Whoever gets rid of all tiles first, wins. What a beautiful picture true Christianity—where one finds himself living for the other person, giving himself away and not accumulating for himself.

Dominoes are biblical. Watch how Paul played:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Cor. 9:18-23)

Now, to play dominoes as a Christian, we are not to do whatever the world does. We do not match move for move, thought for thought, speech for speech, etc.. We are in the world, but not of it. Paul is showing us his game of dominoes by speaking of the goal of his ministry. “Paul had denied himself in the truest sense by placing himself under such a bond to everyone else. The phrase 'that I might win the more' is not talking about winning earthly or heavenly rewards. Paul was speaking of winning the lost to Christ. Such was Paul’s concern for lost souls that, though he was free in Christ, he was willing to enslave himself to people if it would give him an opportunity to proclaim the gospel.”[i]

Dominoes is not about matching the world move for move or demanding your rights, but giving them up for the purpose of winning, becoming a fellow partaker of giving up. We give out in order to see others come in. We pour out in order to see others filled up. We betray ourselves in order to see others know the truth. Paul says before this, ““I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel”[ii] How miserable the Christian who does not play, or he plays for himself and the game is lost.

The game is played on the table of the real world, where we are honest with others through our testimony. Our testimony is not the vehicle through which we introduce others to Christ, that’s the responsibility of the law. Our testimony is where we display common ground by using the law to show the breadth of human depravity, not to level the playing field in order to minimize the predicament from which we must be saved.

“Paul’s words have to do with being made a servant of Jesus Christ, and our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us broken bread and poured-out wine to please Himself. To be “separated unto the gospel” means to hear the call of God; and when a man begins to overhear that call, then begins agony that is worthy of the name. Every ambition is nipped in the bud, every desire of life quenched, every outlook completely extinguished and blotted out, saving one thing only— “separated unto the gospel.” Woe be to the soul who tries to put his foot in any other direction when once that call has come to him.”[iii]

[i]MacArthur, John. Ashamed of the Gospel : When the Church Becomes Like the World. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993.
[ii]MacArthur, John. Drawing Near. Includes indexes., June 4. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993.
[iii]Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year, February 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reading Boreham

I’ve discovered the greatest irony of all time: withdrawn books from a library. To me, this makes no sense, withdrawing books from a library, especially old books. Yes, I know: libraries are not exhaustive repositories, but dispensers of circulated material; but, if books are withdrawn (even the old ones), how can they be circulated? Of course, the rationale is that if they are not circulating, they are taking up shelf space . . . which really speaks more about the libraries than the readers, who are both losing their sense of wonder in literary discovery. When I go to the library, I try to check what’s on sale . . . usually they are withdrawn books.

A few years ago a missionary and academic giant went to be with the Lord. At the request of his wife, his library was left mostly intact and faculty were allowed to go in and take what they pleased (first come, first served). Staff were later allowed to come in and take what remained, the rest was donated. Out of the pickings I found a set of books that grabbed my attention from the start. Six emerald-green hard-back books with gold-embossed letters, published in the early 1900’s. Inside the cover of each was a bookplate of the library from which they were withdrawn. The top of the cover page, on the opposing side, bore the signature of the then-champion and rescuer of these precious tomes from the dust-bin. Now he was with the Lord, and the books were in danger of the heat of the city dump (or worse!) once again.

The books are a set of contemplations, teachings and insights of an Australian minister and master storyteller, F.W. Boreham (1871-1959). I’d never heard of F.W. Boreham, but the books were so intriguing then, and are captivating now. A whole set of matching books. Must have been important, must have made some contribution, sometime, somewhere. I’ve read each one since I found them a home on my self, and recently, they’ve been appealing to my eye once again. Tonight, I took one off the shelf and brought it to the kitchen table, for our dinner-time reading, the “The Silver Shadow.”

Now, stop right there. There is a golden nugget here, and we’ve not even cracked the book. You don’t want to miss this treasure that lies on the surface. What is a “silver shadow?” Well, what is a shadow? Simply put a shadow is a shade, or partial darkness cast from an object juxtaposed to it’s light-source, a dark figure cast on another surface. Older usages of the word include the concept of “reflection.” Ahh. Now we are getting somewhere.

What, then, is a “silver shadow,” and what does the author mean by the title, “The Silver Shadow?” The title would not be at all appealing should he have said, “The Mirror.” That’s too prosey; nevertheless, the author intends nothing more than to communicate how his book will cause one to take a good, long, honest look at oneself and perhaps become discontent with what is seen and desire for change.

This is where I get excited, making the swing from natural, or general revelation, to special revelation. It is such a fulfilling ride. We aren’t accustomed to thinking like this. This is just one reason why the older books are so intriguing to me. Though the authors are long-gone, through their writing they still invite the reader to sit in the office and think alongside them. They don’t think for the reader. A Godly writer will take you on a journey from yourself, to the cross, to the image of Christ.

I read the first chapter out-loud during dinner. I enjoy reading to my family so much that I can’t eat. I love to read while they eat. You could have heard a pin drop.

Come back for "Dominoes."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

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Preachers make me sick!

"Oh, you preachers make me sick!" a fellow said to a witnessing Christian on the train one day. The Christian assured him he was not a preacher.

"I don't care what you are. You Christians are always talking about a man going to hell because Adam sinned."

"No," the Christian said, "you need not go to hell because Adam sinned. You will go to hell because you refuse the remedy provided for Adam's sin. Don't keep complaining about something that has absolutely been taken care of. If you go to hell, you will go over the broken body of Jesus Christ, who died to keep you out!"

Thursday, August 02, 2007

John Piper reflects on the tragic bridge collapse

"At about 6 PM tonight the bridge of Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. I am writing this about three hours after the bridge fell. The bridge is located within sight of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Most of us who minister at the church cross this bridge several times a week. At this point I don’t know if any staff was on the bridge. Desiring God offices are about a mile from the bridge.

There are no firm facts at this point about the total number of injuries and fatalities. When we crossed the bridge Tuesday on our way out of town, there was extensive repair work happening on the surface of the bridge with single lane traffic. One speculates about the unusual stresses on the bridge with jackhammers and other surface replacement equipment. This was the fortieth anniversary of the bridge."

Read the rest here, noting Piper’s comment on why the word “bridge” does not appear in the Bible.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Revival We Need

“IT was in 1904. All Wales was aflame. The nation had drifted far from God. The spiritual conditions were low indeed. Church attendance was poor. And sin abounded on every side.
Suddenly, like an unexpected tornado, the Spirit of God swept over the land. The Churches were crowded so that multitudes were unable to get in. Meetings lasted from ten in the morning until twelve at night. Three definite services were held each day. Evan Roberts was the human instrument, but there was very little preaching. Singing, testimony, and prayer, were the chief features. There were no hymn books; they had learnt the hymns in childhood. No choir, for everybody sang. No collection; and no advertising.

Nothing had ever come over Wales with such far-reaching results. Infidels were converted, drunkards, thieves, and gamblers saved; and thousands reclaimed to respectability. Confessions of awful sins were heard on every side. Old debts were paid. The theatre had to leave for want of patronage. Mules in the coal mines refused to work, being unused to kindness. In five weeks 20,000 joined the Churches . . . .

Do we need it? Listen! How many of our churches are more than half empty Sunday after Sunday? What a multitude there are who never enter God's house? How many mid-week prayer meetings are alive and prosperous? Where is the hunger for spiritual things? Oh, the shame of it!

And Missions--the lands beyond the seas, heathen darkness--what are we doing? Does the fact that multitudes are perishing ever cause us an anxious thought? Have we grown selfish?
What about the tremendous wealth that God has given us? Take the United States as an example, the richest nation in the world today, and the major portion of her wealth in the hands of professing Christians. And yet the United States spent more on gum in one year than she spent on Missions. How many Christians are giving God even the tenth of what He gives them? . . .
How many professing Christians are living the Christ-life before men? Oh, how like the world we are becoming! How little opposition do we find! Where are the persecutions that were heaped on the Early Church? How easy it is now to be a Christian!

And what of the Ministry? Does the minister grip, convert, and save by his message? How many souls are won through the preaching of the Word? Oh, my friends, we are loaded down with countless Church activities, while the real work of the Church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected.”

Oswald J. Smith (1889-1986), The Revival We Need.

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