Thursday, November 29, 2007

Obedience and Prayer

“There are many Christians to-day who are doing things that are not pleasing to God, and leaving undone things which would be pleasing to God. When you speak to them about these things they will confront you at once with the question, "Is there any command in the Bible not to do this thing?" And if you cannot show them some verse in which the matter in question is plainly forbidden, they think they are under no obligation whatever to give it up; but a true child of God does not demand a specific command. If we make it our study to find out and to do the things which are pleasing to God, He will make His study to do the things which are pleasing to us. Here again we find the explanation of much unanswered prayer: We are not making it the study of our lives to know what would please our Father, and so our prayers are not answered.

Take as an illustration of questions that are constantly coming up, the matter of theater going, dancing and the use of tobacco. Many who are indulging in these things will ask you triumphantly if you speak against them, "Does the Bible say, 'Thou shalt not go to the theater'?" "Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not dance'?" "Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not smoke'?" That is not the question. The question is, Is our heavenly Father well pleased when He sees one of His children in the theater, at the dance, or smoking? That is a question for each to decide for himself, prayerfully, seeking light from the Holy Spirit. "Where is the harm in these things?" many ask. It is aside from our purpose to go into the general question, but beyond a doubt there is this great harm in many a case; they rob our prayers of power.”

R.A. Torrey, Cha. 3, “Obeying and Praying” How to Pray (scroll down for the complete book online)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prayer for Revival

"Many a church is praying for a revival that does not really desire a revival. They think they do, for to their minds a revival means an increase of membership, an increase of income,an increase of reputation among the churches, but if they knew what a real revival meant, what a searching of hearts on the partof professed Christians would be involved, what a radical transformation of individual, domestic and social life would be brought about, and many other things that would come to pass if the Spirit of God was poured out in reality and power; if all this were known, the real cry of the church would be: 'O God, keep us from having a revival.'"

R.A. Torrey, "How to Pray" (scroll down for the online book)

Monday, November 26, 2007

20 Reasons Why You Should Plant Churches

Someone pointed me to some church planting resources a while back, among which was the following article by Dr. Tom Cheyney. Tom serves as the Strategic Resourcing Manager within the Church Planting Group of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and is responsible for developing world-class resources for partnering churches, church planters, and those who work with them.

Tom’s “article” is meant to be motivational, “20 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT CHURCHES.” I will warn you from the beginning: some of Tom’s reasons for planting churches are hardly reasons at all; therefore, be prepared for my responses which I feel are offered in the same tone as his. I think it sad that something as important as church planting is treated so lightly, so I am simply responding (reacting?) to Tom’s “article,” not criticizing. Tom’s 20 Reasons are BOLD.

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

20 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT CHURCHES

The apostle Paul said: “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded accordingly to his own labor (1Corinthians 3:8). By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each should be careful how he builds” (1Corinthians 3:10).

1. “Church planting is the most effective evangelism tool anywhere (Acts 6:7).” Isn’t this backwards? This reason we build and paint the nursery is not so that we can have a baby, but because the baby is on the way. Planting a church for the purpose of evangelism is like a farmer needing a field, so he will casts seed to get it. A wise farmer will not so much as build a barn before he has planted. Acts 6:7 reads, “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” The church is planted because the gospel is planted and bearing fruit.

2. “Many tools exist to assist you in planting a church with the North American Mission Board.” What did we do before the NAMB? Is this really a good reason to plant a church?

3. “Church planting is the Great Commission at its best. Multiplication is the heart of a church planter. Replenishment is part of God’s amazing vineyard. That which is watered, ultimately becomes a source for future planting. (Isaiah 55:10)." I agree fully with the Great Commission, but what precisely is being multiplied, replenished and resourced? The Great Commission is about broadcast of the gospel. Multiplication and replenish-ment should be that of individuals who gather in local bodies, not merely the multiplica-tion and replenishment of local bodies themselves. The context of Isaiah 55:10 is God’s Word that “will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (55:11) It is God’s Word (rain, snow—see 55:10) that provides man with what he needs.

4. “You long to establish new life and to break new ground. You are a cultivator and gardener of spiritual life.” Again, does the sower sow seed (the gospel, God’s Word) or barns? And who is it that causes the growth? “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” (1 Cor. 3:8-10) Did you notice in the verses above #1, just under the title that 1 Cor. 3:9 was missing (“For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building”)


5. “New churches tend to grow much faster than older churches.” So when the new church becomes an old church, we should rush out and plant another new church! Read what this pastor has to say (note 4th paragraph down).

6. “It is a holy privilege to exercise your gifts under God in providing a growing new church, fashioned on the New Testament.” When does “new” become “old” and what about the whole counsel of scripture, rather than the last 27 books?

7. “New churches produce more ministry leaders (Acts 16:5)." I don’t see how Acts 16:5 proves the point except that when evangelism is aggressive, the church grows with true converts. Here’s what R.A. Torrey thinks, “It is a great privilege to preach the Gospel, but this world can be reached and evangelized far more quickly and thoroughly by personal work than by public preaching. Indeed, it can be reached and evangelized only by personal work. When the whole church of Jesus Christ shall rouse to its responsibility and privilege in this matter, and every individual Christian become a personal worker, the evangelization of the world will be close at hand. When the membership of any local church shall rouse to its responsibility and privilege in this matter, and each memberbecome a personal worker in the power of the Holy Spirit, a great revival will be close at hand for the community in which that church is located. Personal work is a work that wins but little applause from men, but it accomplishes great things for God.” (“How to Work for Christ,” Vol 1.)

8. “Lost people matter to God.” Yes, they do. And we do evangelism until they are found and are able to be made part of the church, as regenerate members.

9. “You can give life to the vision God gave you for your life’s ministry.”
If God has not breathed life into it, it’s dead. Sorry, but I just don’t have life-giving capability.

10. “Church planters have more fun.” So does anyone else who fills in the blank for the “_____ have more fun” bumper-sticker (plumbers, cowboys, truck drivers, etc.).

11. “You long to penetrate a city and found a flagship church.” I do? Yes, I do plan to penetrate a city, that much is true. But I don't need a fortune cookie to tell me this. A “flagship” chuch? How about a biblical church? There are too many flagship churches where I live.

12. “Your family’s faith will grow.” I pray this is so (like so many other ministry families can attest--and there are some that do!). I could not begin to tell you about the way my kids . . .

13. “Church planting is relational and enables you to make many new friends for Christ.” Now here is some good insight. Church planting is very relational as people grow and serve together. Also, when enemies of Christ are made through the new birth His friends by means of evangelism—I give a hearty “amen!”

14. “You will have more people praying for you.” About as many as pray for our evangelism ministry? Oh, goody!

15. “Church planting is complete evangelism.” I am going to assume the writer means, “evangelism completed.” Or there is an echo in here . . .

16. “You have a desire to see future planters and pastors to be called to ministry from your ministry investment (Proverbs 11:24)”. I just want to see lives changed for the glory of God, in the image of Christ (see #18). If they become planters, pastors, missionaries, teachers, then they had better also be godly men and women, husbands, fathers, children, etc.. I just don't need a fortune cookie to tell me this.

17. “Why clean up after someone else when you can start fresh from scratch?” So . . . if I don’t like my church, I can go plant one just for me! ;-)

18. “You are not afraid of hard work (Proverbs 13:11).” And nothing but. Oh, and I really enjoy criticism too!

19. “You can have it your way.” See #17, and let's plant at Burger King.

20. “You can’t wait for this to end so you can be obedient to the Lord and enlist right now!” No comment.

Prayer, the Holy Spirit and Christian Work

“Early one morning in the Chicago Avenue Church prayer room, where several hundred people had been assembled a number of hours in prayer, the Holy Spirit fell so manifestly, and the whole place was so filled with His presence, that no one could speak or pray, but sobs of joy filled the place. Men went out of that room to different parts of the country, taking trains that very morning, and reports soon came back of the out-pouring of God's Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. Others went out into the city with the blessing of God upon them. This is only one instance among many that might be cited from personal experience.

If we would only spend more time in prayer, there would be more fullness of the Spirit's power in our work. Many and many a man who once worked unmistakably in the power of the Holy Spirit is now filling the air with empty shoutings, and beating it with his meaningless gesticulations, because he has let prayer be crowded out. we must spend much time on our knees before God, if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

R.A. Torrey, “How to Pray.” (scroll down for the complete book)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bullwhip Guy

The Advantages of Personal Work

"There is no comparison whatever between what will be effected by good preaching and what will be effected by constant personal work. Take a church of one hundred members; such a church under an excellent pastor would be considered as doing an exceptionally good work if on an average fifty were added annually to this membership. But suppose that that church was trained to do personal work, and that fifty of the one hundred members actually went at it. Certainly one a month won to Christ by each one would not be a large average. That would be six hundred a year instead of the fifty mentioned above. A church of many members, with the most powerful preaching possible, that depends upon the minister alone to win men to Christ by his preaching, would not accomplish anything like what would be accomplished by a church with a comparatively poor preacher, where the membership generally were personal workers."

R.A. Torrey, "How to Work for Christ." Find all three volumes here (scroll down).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Between Prison And Monastery

Dr. David Soper, in God Is Inescapable, suggests that basically the difference between a prison and a monastery is just the difference between griping and gratitude. Undoubtedly this is true. Imprisoned criminals spend every waking moment griping; self-imprisoned saints spend every waking moment offering thanks. Dr. Soper says that when a criminal becomes a saint, a prison may become a monastery; when a saint gives up gratitude, a monastery may become a prison.
—Ray O. Jones

Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Just One Day of Thanksgiving?

Charles Dickens said that we are somewhat mixed up here in America. He told an audience that instead of having one Thanksgiving Day each year we should have 364. "Use that one day just for complaining and griping," he said. "Use the other 364 days to thank God each day for the many blessings He has showered upon you."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Conflict of Prayer

“Our spiritual cravings are not strong enough to give life to the mighty conflicts of prayer. They are not absorbing enough to stop business, arrest worldly pursuits, awaken us before day, and send us to the closet, to solitude, and to God; to conquer every opposing force and win our victories from the very jaws of hell.”

E.M. Bounds on “Hezekiah, the Praying King,” in Prayer and Praying Men.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Meditations Upon an Egg

"The egg's no chick by falling from the hen;
Nor man a Christian, till he's born again.
The egg's at first contained in the shell;
Men, afore grace, in sins and darkness dwell.
The egg, when laid, by warmth is made a chicken,
And Christ, by grace, those dead in sin doth quicken.
The egg, when first a chick, the shell's its prison;
So's flesh to the soul, who yet with Christ is risen.
The shell doth crack, the chick doth chirp and peep,
The flesh decays, as men do pray and weep.
The shell doth break, the chick's at liberty,
The flesh falls off, the soul mounts up on high
But both do not enjoy the self-same plight;
The soul is safe, the chick now fears the kite.

But chicks from rotten eggs do not proceed,
Nor is a hypocrite a saint indeed.
The rotten egg, though underneath the hen,
If crack'd, stinks, and is loathsome unto men.
Nor doth her warmth make what is rotten sound;
What's rotten, rotten will at last be found.
The hypocrite, sin has him in possession,
He is a rotten egg under profession.

Some eggs bring cockatrices; and some men
Seem hatch'd and brooded in the viper's den.
Some eggs bring wild-fowls; and some men there be
As wild as are the wildest fowls that flee.
Some eggs bring spiders, and some men appear
More venom'd than the worst of spiders are.
Some eggs bring piss-ants, and some seem to me
As much for trifles as the piss-ants be.
Thus divers eggs do produce divers shapes,
As like some men as monkeys are like apes.
But this is but an egg, were it a chick,
Here had been legs, and wings, and bones to pick."

(from “A Book For Boys and Girls; or Temporal Things Spiritualized.” By John Bunyan, London. First published thirteen years after Bunyan's death.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Huck Norris?



(ht: Justin Taylor)

CIU Seminary & School of Missions in Atlanta

Are you:

A Pastor/Missionary wanting to become more effective without leaving your ministry?
A Ministry worker wanting to upgrade your training without leaving your church?
A Business executive wanting to transition into ministry without leaving your career?

If you're looking for Seminary level courses from an accredited institution, both focused and broad; courses taught from a multitude of perspectives by a knowledgeable and experienced faculty, then SSM Atlanta is the place for you!

Whether you're from Atlanta, or want to obtain a seminary education while you remain in your current ministry or occupation by using our Advancement in Ministry learning track, the CIU Seminary & School of Missions in Atlanta provides top-quality education in a convenient location. Go here for more information.

January 14-18, 2008 Courses
Genesis to Song of Solomon (BIB 5112)
Strategies for Evangelism and Church Planting (ICS 6084)

January 21-25, 2008 Courses
Prophets (BIB 5113)
Prayer and Discipleship (MIN 6430)

On Doing Prayer

TIME FOR PRAYER:

Leisure time is a strange phenomenon. While we seek a break from activity through rest and relaxation, how easily we fill that time with activity. Free time is really not as free as it could be. I’ve not been on a cruise before, but I hear they are the most tiring vacations on the planet because people are kept so busy. It takes me a couple of days just to rest from a regular vacation!

If we were to make a list of all things we could do in our free time (TV, movies, internet, sports, reading, yard work, etc.), where would prayer fall in the list? Is prayer a “free time” activity? My main problem with effectual prayer is that, for some reason, I have allowed it to migrate out of meaningful conversation with the Most Supreme, High and Holy God Who Reigns Above All, to a free-time activity. I struggle with prayer time because I am too busy. This makes prayer an optional activity, doesn’t it? Martin Luther did not think so. He is quoted to say that he had so much to do in one day that he had to get up three hours earlier to pray!

Think with me on this: does it matter if I am a morning person or an evening person? I have to get up and go to work, whether I am a morning person or an evening person. I have my husbandly and fatherly responsibilities regardless if I am a morning or an evening person. You see how this goes. Why should my prayer life depend on my morning or evening level of alertness? If my phone rings at my desk while my first cup of coffee is still brewing, I must answer it and converse with whoever is calling. I believe God wants us at our best and our worst.

Imagine you are in a dark night, in a tight spot and in deep waters. Will you wait for morning or evening to pray? Consider Jonah. Did he catch a glimpse out the whale’s blowhole for a glimpse of the morning or setting sun before he prayed? Was he in a good mood when he prayed? If a prayer of desperation is timeless because prayer itself is timeless, why wait to pray?

Here’s a HUGE “what if”: what if God was a morning person to your evening person? Ridiculous, I know. Since He is the all-time person, remind me again why we treat prayer according to our preference? And what happens if we “miss?” Wait for the clock to cycle around again? “Sorry, God, I missed prayer time. I’ll make it up tomorrow.”

Our hearts are set on God, or not at all.

ON BREATHING AND PRAYER:

Often the illustration is given that prayer is like breathing. I believe that prayer is less about the “act” of breathing (“in” and “out”; “talking” and “listening”) and is more about the “what” of breathing. Do we live because we breathe, or do we survive because of what we breathe? In order to live we need air and air must be breathed. I can inhale and exhale underwater but that does not mean I will continue to live. If we fail to breathe, life gets interesting because we are missing one vital element of survival, then we gasp out of desperation to do regain that which we deprived ourselves. If we follow the analogy and say that prayer is the activity then prayer is a presumption on God, like presuming that oxygen must exist because I breathe. “Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of dependence on God.”[i] In other words, God is the environment (in Him we live, move and have our being), therefore we must pray.

Prayer is the Christian way of life. “Every prayerless day is a statement by a helpless individual, ‘I do not need God today.’ Failing to pray reflects idolatry —a trust in substitutes for God. We rely on our money instead of God’s provision. We rest on our own flawed thinking rather than on God’s perfect wisdom. We take charge of our lives rather than trusting God. Prayerlessness short-circuits the working of God. Neglecting prayer, therefore, is not a weakness; it is a sinful choice.”[ii] Prayerlessness is practical humanism.

Hudson Taylor admonishes, “If we want to see mighty works of Divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3).

Test yourself: when do you breathe best, morning or evening?

BREATHE WITHOUT CEASING:

What do you think of when you hear or read, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? I think of regular, persistent breathing. Here is Matthew Henry’s golden nugget, “The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season. Prayer will help forward and not hinder all other lawful business, and every good work.”[iii]

Paul instructed the Ephesians on the wide range and deep depths of prayer, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). This refers to 1) variety of prayer (“all prayer and supplication”); 2) the frequency of prayer (“always”) 3) submission to the will of God in prayer (“in the Spirit”); 4) the manner of prayer (“be on the alert”); 5) the persistence of prayer (“all perseverance”); and 6) the objects of prayer (“all saints”). [iv] Prayer is the necessary involvement of fellowship with our Great God and Savior.

“I think of praying at all times as living in continual God-consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our Heavenly Father. . . . Thus life becomes a continually ascending prayer: all life’s thoughts, deeds, and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with our Heavenly Father.”[v]

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

[i]MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Includes indexes. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1995.
[ii] Comfort, Ray. “Prayer.” School of Biblical Evangelism.
[iii]Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, 1 Th 5:16. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991.
[iv]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Eph 6:18. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[v]MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Ibid.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

News on "the news"

Do you know what the scariest, most troubling, most worrisome words in the English language are? “Uh-oh,” or maybe “oops!” Imagine you are in the doctor’s office getting a physical and as he is listening to your chest, his eyebrows come together as he strains to listen and you hear a slight, “uh-oh” come from his lips. Or imagine you have taken your car to the repair shop and after your third trip down to check on their progress you hear a crashing noise, metal striking metal and a mechanic under your hood is heard to say, “oops!”

Neil Postman, in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” suggests the one phrase that separates everything from everything is, “Now . . . this.” These two words are the most commonly used words in radio and television, indicating that “what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see . . . the phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world is mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, ‘Now . . . this.’”[i]

It is for this reason that when I think of “the news” I think of watching or listen to something else. I don’t like the news. Neil Postman defines “news” as “trivialization of public information.” How much of what is reported really matters to you or affects you directly? A small percentage. This is another reason I despise going to the airport because on top of all the stress I face in getting from point A to point B (by means of layover 1 and 2), I am firehosed with information that only stirs up my desire to tell the world about Jesus! In today’s world, the news is nothing more than 45 seconds of a fragmented information without a personal context, personal consequence, value or seriousness. At bottom “news” is nothing more than entertainment.

Let’s try an experiment (and we will use some principles Postman describes in his book): imagine you are given the chance to produce a TV show for the station of your choosing and your goal is to reach the largest possible audience. What do you need?

First, you would need a cast, so you must set out to find people who are likable, credible. Who do you eliminate but the ones who are less-than-desirable (for one reason or another). You may even consider eliminating faces that are too pretty, or people who actually look like they are acting. After all, many performers lack credibility as genuine people. You may not want an actor, but a face that is welcome in your own home, a “safe” face.

Second, you would need to consider what you would like to communicate to your audience. Will it be “fact” or “fiction”, “truth” or “untruth?” Whatever you choose, you want to hold your audience for the duration, so whether fact or fiction, it must be believable. This is what the “news” does. It communicates credibility over reality.

Also, how will you begin your show? How will it end? What moods do you want to create? Have you ever noticed that the Evening News asks nothing of you? Advertisers ask something of you, but not the newscaster. “It is quite obvious that TV news has no intention of suggesting that a story has any implications, for that would require viewers to continue to think about it when it is done and therefore obstruct their attention to the next story that waits panting in the wings.”[ii]

Do you want your audience to react? If so, what reaction are you looking for and what would you want them to do? Right here is the difference between “news” and “good news” or “gospel.” Not too long ago I met four young men downtown and our conversation came around to perspective the way we view ourselves and others. Three of the four thought they were pretty good people and the fourth fellow agreed he was not as good as his friends. After a brief survey of the Ten Commandments, all four youths were obviously bothered by what they saw in themselves. One young man said to me, “You know, we came down here tonight to have a good time then we meet you. You are telling us we are in trouble with God because we have broken His moral law as liars, thieves, etc.. This is all bad, very bad news. What are we supposed to do?”

In this world of all bad, very bad news, there is only one kind of good news. I could tell the boys the good news because they understood what the bad news was. I don’t mean the kind of good news that reports how the local food drive went, or who got High School Football Player of the Week. The news I am talking about matters because each person is held personally responsible, personally accountable for how God sees the heart. This news does not divert us with “Now . . . this,” but “because of this” and “in spite of this.” The gospel keeps everything in context and demands a response.

[i] Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. London: Penguin, 1989. P. 99
[ii] Ibid. P. 103

Monday, November 12, 2007

Randy Stonehill on Holiness

Yesterday at church we were blessed to have Randy Stonehill with us. He played some classic tunes, including the song he co-wrote with Keith Green, “Your Love Broke Through” (which I cried through in it’s near entirety). We could not help but notice smiles creep across the faces of some Emo kids as Randy played his set. Here is a challenging thought on Holiness from Randy (not direct a direct quote, but my notes on what he said):

“We have a tendency to go through life telling the Almighty, 'I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life.' God is not obligate or committed to our happiness and this is frustrating for us. He is actually passionate that we understand that HE is THE LIFE—God is more committed to our holiness than our happiness. Happiness is the dream of desperate men. Holiness is the journey of people who are desperate about what’s on God’s heart.”

A flashback from Randy for you to enjoy:



Sunday night we received some great apologetic training from Charlie Campbell (via DVD) at Always Be Ready on the New Age Movement. I like the organization of Charlie’s presentations and strongly recommend you bookmark his page and/or resources.

Friday, November 09, 2007

What happened to "Five Points Friday?"

In case you were wondering what happened to the “Five Points Fridays” posts, I have a good explanation. Two weeks ago I did not go out because I had stayed up all night the night before and was just too plain tired to go down to Five Points after working all day. A small team went regardless, and we praise the LORD for all He is doing.

This reminds me. When I post these reports, I can only best tell the stories I am directly connected with. While there are as many as 20 team-members who go out doing evangelism, I cannot report everyone’s story. They are strongly encouraged to do their own journaling and/or blogging, but what I give you here is just a small slice of what God is doing.

Last weeks “Five Points Fridays” post simply never got written, 'till now. It was clear and very cold. We left CIU with about 13 people, but so many more showed up I think I remember counting almost 24 people total. Since it was so cold it was hard to get people to stop and talk, so my team stayed at Starbucks until we got kicked out.

The highlight of the evening was our impromptu Street-corner Bible study. Our team is often joined by another team from a local church, mostly young men as young as 15 or 16 with hearts burning for the LORD. One of their team members began asking me some very good questions as we walked back to my car for more tracts (we gave out all we had and I, for once, failed to bring extras). We decided to sit down and talk and he kept asking great questions.

So here we are, sitting on a wall on the street corner, right by the cross-walk, Bibles out and searching the scripture. It was not long until his other team members joined us. Picture this: 15 men (one white “old guy” and 14 African-American young men) standing around in the middle of a very cold night at a stop light near downtown Columbia having Bible Study! IT WAS AWESOME!

We talked about the gospel, the death of Christ, the glory of God, the Victorious Christian life, spiritual warfare, love of God, love for God, love for others, aspects of ministry and I can’t remember what else.

At one point in the conversation, one guy thanked us, told us how much he enjoyed the conversation and that he got a lot out of it, and he left! As another young man was bringing up another question for us, it occurred to me that I had not seen the guy who just left before. I asked the other fellas if the guy who just left was with them. Nobody had seen him before. Apparently, while we were talking and people were passing us by, this one guy came back and stood within our group hearing the gospel and having Bible study! When we all realized what had happened, one young man chased our visitor down and talked to him for a few minutes. I really don’t know how their conversation went.

On another note, this last week we visited Calvary Chapel in Lexington and heard an incredible message from 1 Timothy. How refreshing it is to hear the Word of God preached (they prefer to use the word “teach” at Calvary Chapel) book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. We went back Wednesday night to hear Charlie Campbell of Always Be Ready speak on “The Deity of Christ and the Cults.” Though I took a plethora of copious notes, here is a link to his presentation, “An Examination of the Verses the Cults Use to Disprove the Deity of Christ”. I strongly recommend a period of devoted attention to the content as it is one of the best, concise presentations I’ve heard on the subject—complete with a rebuttal and some great suggested talking points.

Now, to close in prayer:

“Oh, precious Saviour! save us from maligning Thy Gospel and Thy name by clothing it with our paltry notions of earthly dignity, and forgetting the dignity which crowned Thy sacred brow as Thou didst hang upon the cross! Like the Apostles, let us be willing to push our limbs into a basket, and so be let down by the wall, if need be, or suffer ship-wreck, hunger, peril, nakedness, fire, or sword, or even go to the block itself, if thereby we may extend His kingdom and win souls for whom He shed His blood. The Lord fill us with this love and baptize us with this fire, and then the Gospel will arise and become glorious in the earth, and men will believe in us, and in it. They will feel its power, and they will go down under it by thousands, and, by the grace of God, they SHALL.”

(A prayer by Catherine Booth (1829-1890))

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jesus Suffered and Died . . . To Make Us Holy, Blameless, and Perfect

"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)

"He has now reconciled [you] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." (Colossians 1:22)

"Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Corinthians 5:7)

One of the greatest heartaches in the Christian life is the slowness of our change. We hear the summons of God to love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). But do we ever rise to that totality of affection and devotion? We cry out regularly with the apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). We groan even as we take fresh resolves: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12).

That very statement is the key to endurance and joy. “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” All my reaching and yearning and striving is not to belong to Christ (which has already happened), but to complete what is lacking in my likeness to him. One of the greatest sources of joy and endurance for the Christian is knowing that in the imperfection of our progress we have already been perfected—and that this is owing to the suffering and death of Christ. “For by a single offering [namely, himself!] he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). This is amazing! In the same sentence he says we are “being sanctified” and we are already “perfected.” Being sanctified means that we are imperfect and in process.

We are becoming holy—but are not yet fully holy. And it is precisely these—and only these—who are already perfected. The joyful encouragement here is that the evidence of our perfection before God is not our experienced perfection, but our experienced progress. The good news is that being on the way is proof that we have arrived.

The Bible pictures this again in the old language of dough and leaven (yeast). In the picture, leaven is evil. We are the lump of dough. It says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Christians are “unleavened.” There is no leaven—no evil. We are perfected. For this reason we are to “cleanse out the old leaven.” We have been made unleavened in Christ. So we should now become unleavened in practice. In other words, we should become what we are.

The basis of all this? “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” The suffering of Christ secures our perfection so firmly that it is already now a reality. Therefore, we fight against our sin not simply to become perfect, but because we are. The death of Jesus is the key to battling our imperfections on the firm foundation of our perfection.

From John Piper’s The Passion of Jesus Christ

Monday, November 05, 2007

Overfed

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fire has a way

We all saw the detestation in Southern California from the wild firesthat came ripping through that area. Hundreds of expensive homes were reduced to piles of smoldering ruins. For many, insurance payments will allow them to replace the structures, but it will not be possible torestore exactly what has been lost. No one can reconstitute the ashes, re-glue the beams, and restore the broken windows making the homes exactly as they once were. Fire has a way of permanently changing things.

It is that very property of fire that Jeremiah uses to describe God's Word. The Prophet quotes God as saying, "'Is not My word like fire?' declares the LORD, 'and like a hammer which shatters a rock?'"(Jeremiah 23:29). The point of this illustration, I think, is to demonstrate that God's Word permanently and completely changes the personwho hears it. As fire chemically changes a house, and a hammer permanently changes a rock, so the Word of God permanently alters the person who hears it.

How has the ministry of the Word changed you?

(from my friend, Dr. John Williamson)

Popular Posts