Friday, December 30, 2011

Pastoral Leadership

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing
mother tenderly cares for her own children.  Having
so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased
to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also
our own lives, because you had become very dear
to us.  For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship,
how working night and day so as not to be a burden to
any of you we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and
uprightly we behaved toward you believers; just as you
know how we were exhorting and encouraging and  
imploring each one of you as a father would his own children.
...For this reason we also constantly thank God that when
you received the word of God which you heard from us,
you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it
really is, the word of God, which also performs its work
in you who believe.
I Thessalonians 2:7-11, 13
italics and underlining mine

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God
to you; and considering the result of their conduct,
imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7
italics and underlining mine

There is much said and written about pastoral leadership and all that is required, even conferences and seminars dealing with this issue.  I think understanding leadership and its principles is good, and even helpful; but when dealing with pastoral leadership there is a paradigm shift from the leadership model that is touted in our corporate and sports world, and unfortunately this model is what is suggested most often in the context of pastoral leadership.

I find it interesting that the Bible does not go into all the areas that the modern seminars do in talking about pastors as leaders, but what is does do is to lay out the basics for a pastor, which assume the pastor will be leading a group of people.  The core requirements in the Scriptures are contained in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and revolve around demonstrated character, demonstrated management of his own home, and an ability to teach that comes with a knowledge of and proficiency with the Scriptures. The reason for these requirements, and how they flesh out in the pastor's leadership is demonstrated in the Scriptures above.  The pastor is to lead with the Word and by example. 

Notice how many times the gospel/word of God is used in the section of I Thessalonians.  Notice the leaders who were to be remembered and imitated in Hebrews....those who spoke the word of God.  These, of course, fit in with the Lord's instruction to Peter to feed his sheep.  The pastor must lead his flock with the word of God.  After all the word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).  Our first priority must be to lead our people with the word of God.

Then,we must be leading our people by our example.  To do this we must also be leading ourselves with the word of God.  Again, listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 119:9 "How can a young man (or older man for that matter) keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word."  It is the pure way, the Lord's way,that when lived out by the pastor is the example to his people....the example that is to be imitated. 

Why did the people in Thessalonica receive the Word as the word of God, and not the word of men?  Because they saw it lived out in the lives of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.  Look at the underlined words above...they proved themselves, they imparted their lives, they behaved in a devout and upright manner.  And this did not happen in a vacuum...the Thessalonians were witnesses, knew personally what Paul and crew had done, and were to recall these very facts.   Also, we see that the Hebrews were to remember the result of the conduct of their leaders, in other words, the fruit born out of their lives, and then to imitate their faith.

The lives of the pastors give weight and credence to the words that they preach and teach.  In essence you should not be able to separate the man from his message, they should be the same.  This is the way that God has designed it, so that His people could be sure about both the message and the man.  So when we think about our pastoral leadership, let's make first things first....let's put first things first....let's emphasize in our ministry what the Lord emphasizes, our handling of the Word and the life that we live.  These should be the foundation of our pastoral leadership, and will provide a firm foundation for all else that goes with it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Gospel and Good Works

What is the relationship between the Gospel and good works/social justice ministries/mercy ministries?  This is one of the current intramural debates among Christians.  Paul actually addresses this issue in his epistle to Titus. The phrase good deed(s) is used six times in this short letter, and after dealing with the issue of establishing order-appointing elders-refuting and silencing false teachers (yes, they all go together), he emphasizes the role of good deeds in the life of the believer and therefore the life of the church.

In 1:16 we see that there are those who profess Christ but whose deeds deny him, and Paul calls them detestable, and worthless for any good deed.

In 2:7-8 Paul exhorts Titus, as the spiritual leader, to be an example of good deeds, which along with purity of doctrine, dignity, and soundness of speech, will put the opponents of the gospel to shame and give them no reason to malign Christians.

In 2:14 we see that Christ redeemed us from every lawless deed so that His people would be zealous for good deeds.

In 3:1 we see that we are to be in a state of readiness/preparedness for every good deed.

In 3:8 we see that we, as Christians, are to exercise thought in engaging in good deeds, and that these deeds are good and profitable for men.

In 3:14 we see that we must be in the habit of/accustomed to engaging in good deeds that meet pressing needs, so that as Christians we will not be unfruitful.

It is obvious that engaging in good deeds is a key theme in this book, something that Paul, speaking on behalf of the Lord, views as important. And if you follow the flow of thought concerning good deeds (from 1:16-3:14) you will see that deeds will either be contrary to and therefore contradict our doctrine and profession, or they (good deeds) will concur with and therefore confirm our doctrine and confession.

In reading this epistle we see that those who are not Christians are worthless for any (truly) good deed. We see that for Christians good deeds adorn the doctrine we preach, put the opponents of the gospel to shame and causes their maligning to fall flat. We see that, as Christians, we are to have a passion for goods deeds, to be always ready and prepared for good deeds, and are to thoughtfully engage in good deeds. These good deeds are beneficial to men, not just Christians but to men in general; and in performing these good deeds pressing needs will be met, and we will not be unfruitful (in other words, God will take them and use them for His with John 15:1-11).  As Martin Luther said, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."

Paul doesn't define what these good deeds are...probably because He knows that Christians who have a heart for good deeds and give careful thought as to when, where, why, and how, will not only be guided by the Holy Spirit in their endeavors; but through the Spirit will also be given the opportunities for them as well, as the Lord always matches God-given desires with God-given opportunities (see Psalm 37:3-6).

I don't think there is a tension between good deeds and Gospel proclamation...they do go together. How can you love someone enough to give them the gospel to meet their spiritual need, and not be moved to provide for their physical needs, or vice-versa?  Doing one without doing the other tears the heart right out of the Gospel.

As is always the case, the Scriptures give us the mind of God concerning these issues.  So instead of debating one another, let's get busy and stay busy doing all that the Scriptures tell us to do.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Faith and Conformity

True faith always produces real conformity to Christ.
R. C. Sproul
The Holiness of God
Page 165

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pressing On and Taking Hold

Not that I have already obtained it
or have already become perfect,
but I press on so that I may lay hold
of that for which also I was laid hold
of by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12

"It is the Word of Christ, loved, lived in,
abiding in us, becoming through obedience
and action part of our being, that makes us
one with Christ, that fits us spiritually for
touching, for taking hold of God."
Andrew Murray
quoted in
Transforming Prayer
by Daniel Henderson
Page 110

It is also this same abiding in the Word of Christ that is the foundation behind the promise found in Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart."  A heart that delights itself in the Lord is a heart that delights itself in His Word.  If you do not delight yourself in His written word, you will not delight yourself in His Living Word...the Word that became flesh, the embodiment of the Word.

It is only to the extent that we abide in His written word that we also abide in Him.  Jeremiah 15:16a tells us this, "Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart..."  The Lord tells us in John 15:10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." 

We press on and take hold by abiding in His word.  If we are abiding in His word, then we automatically will be living in obedience to that word.  This is the key to the abudant spiritual life, to the close fellowship with the Father and the Son, and is a marker of our love for Him; as we see in John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."  It is those who love and obey to whom Jesus will disclose Himself; and it is when we press on in loving and obeying that we touch and take hold of God.

Monday, December 12, 2011

For His Glory Today

Father, today in Your church, from the rising
of the sun to its setting, make Your praise
glorious.  Give us lips and lives that will
will not only praise You, but will bring praise
to You.  Give us no other desire today than
to bring You praise, than to bring honor
to You in accordance with the greatness of
Your name.  Today, in Your church,
be glorified. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

For His Glory Today

As we go forth this day, O Lord, may the
meditations of our hearts be acceptable in
Your sight.  Cleanse us as we begin this day,
and keep us clean throughout the day.  Guard
our hearts and minds with what is true, right,
honorable, beautiful, pure, lovely, and
praiseworthy; so that what comes out of
us in word and deed manifests the sweet aroma
of Jesus Christ.  Work out through us what You
have worked within us for the display of the
greatness of the glory of Your grace.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

For His Glory Today

As the Psalmist says, "Not to us, O Lord,
not to us, but to Your name give glory."
Use us today to fulfill the purpose for
which You have made us.  And in fulfilling
that purpose may we bring You great glory.
Manifest Your life through us.  Manifest Your
love through us.  Manifest Your righteousness
through us.  Manifest Your mercy and compassion
through us.  Cause the radiance of Your glory to
be seen in us as we live as Christ would live.

Friday, December 09, 2011

For His Glory Today

Father, apart from glorifying You, apart from being
agents of Your glory and for Your glory, we have
no reason to exist.  Keep us mindful today, that
whether we eat or drink, whatever it is we do,
should be done for Your glory. Today, use Your
church, Your living body, to manifest Your glory
throughout this world.  Make Your matchless
worth to be seen through us, so that all the world
around us can truly say, "God has been in this place."
May it be so wherever we are in this world, so that
the world may be keenly aware of Your Divine glory.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

For His Glory Today

Today, O Lord, work in us that which is
pleasing in Your sight, so that we may
bring You glory.  Today, cause our salt
to be salty, our light to burn bright, so that
we might bring You glory in each and every
circumstance of our day.  Shine forth the
beauty of Your holiness in us, so that Your
glory may shine brightly round about us.
Let us, Your servants, be and do, so that
our very lives shout, "Glory to God, glory
to God, glory to God!"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

For His Glory Today

Father, may all that we say today, every word
that is on our tongue, every word that passes
through our lips, bring glory to You.  Make us
cognizant this day of bringing you glory by what we say. 
 Let no careless word, let no unwholesome word,
 proceed from our mouth, but only that which gives
grace to those who hear; so that whether they are
a believer or an unbeliever You will be glorified 
in their presence by our speech.  This day, make us, 
Your children, a people of purified lips.  Glorify Yourself
through what we say, and how we say it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

For His Glory Today

Today, let Jesus Christ be magnified wherever
a breath is taken, to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Seducing Spirit of Our Age

Following my last post on Francis Schaffer's quotes from The Great Evangelical Disaster, I thought I would repost this with a few updates.  This was originally posted in November 2006.

There is a seduction and deception going on in churchdom in America today. It is reminiscent of the admonition that Paul gave the Corinthians in II Corinthians 11:3-4. This seduction is to be relevant to the culture, to be radical or primal to win people to Christ. While these may sound good on the surface the reality is that the church is being deceived into accepting another gospel. Without going into all the ways this other gospel is being perpetrated on the church I want to give some keys so that people can recognize when their church, pastor, or leadership is succumbing to the seduction of this spirit of our new age.

1. When "evangelism" is touted over theology
2. When confrontation is traded for comfort
3. When results are more important than truth
4. When sin is relabled as poor choices, bad decisions, falling down, failure, shame,
     or having problems
5. When requiring commitment is exchanged for providing convenience
6. When preaching/teaching becomes speaking or conversation
7. When pastorisms are substituted for Scripture
8. When doing it because it is right is replaced by doing it because it works
9. When research and response dictate the church service instead of Scripture
10. When fellowship becomes community
11. When the sacred becomes like the secular
12. When being relevant is more important than being righteous
14. When being distinct gives way to blending in with the culture
14. When books, or movies, or current events are sermon topics instead of the Bible
15. When it becomes all about life change instead of becoming like Christ
16. When worship becomes man-centered entertainment instead of
      God-focused exaltation
17. When offending the saints is okay, but offending the sinner is not
18. When the church corporate is put ahead of the church as a body of believers
19. When individual Christians are deemed expendable for the sake of the
      church corporate
20. When sin is ignored or tolerated among church members by its leadership
21. When more emphasis is put on telling people that God loves and accepts
      them like they are, instead of telling them that Christ died because of their sin
22. When video clips of movies, television shows, or youtube spots are used to
      make a point in the sermon instead of the Scriptures, therefore elevating secular
      entertainment to being equal with Scripture
23. When secular songs are used as worship music
24. When attendance numbers are used to justify what is being done or to bless
      what is being done
25. When there is an attitude of good riddance when people leave, instead of remorse
26. When there is no thought about God liking what is happening, but every care
      given to the seeker/unchurched/community liking what is happening
27. When the staff/leadership substitutes pleasing God with pleasing men

The thing that is disturbing is that all of this is being done in the name of Christ while He is being denied His rightful place of preeminence.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Word from Francis Schaffer

If you have not read any of Francis Schaffer, you should.  He was probably the greatest prophetic voice in evangelicalism in the last century.  Even though he has been with the Lord for a number of years, his is still a prescient voice today...maybe because he had his finger on the humanness of evangelicals and its weaknesses, but nevertheless his voice still rings true, and issues he pointed out are still with us today.

I read his last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, in 1984, the year he went home.  It was one of the defining books that I have read, and I have been re-reading it the last few weeks.  I am going to quote some of it as he draws the book to a conclusion, as it hits the church where it lives today.

"We need a revolutionary message in the midst of today's relativistic thinking.  By revolutionary or radical, I mean standing against the all-pervasive form which the world spirit has taken in our day.  This is the real meaning of radical....We need a young generation and others who will be willing to stand in loving confrontation, but real confrontation, in contrast to the mentality of constant accommodation with the current forms of the world spirit as they surround us today, and in contrast to the way in which so much of evangelicalism has developed the automatic mentality of accommodation at each successive point.....the evangelical accommodation has constantly been in one direction--that is, to accommodate with whatever is in vogue with the form of the world spirit which is dominant today.  It is the same world spirit which is destroying both church and society.  Balance must be considered constantly.  But the accommodation we have been speaking of has constantly taken the form of giving in to the humanistic, secular consensus which is the dominant destructive force of our day.'

'It does seem to me that evangelical leaders, and every evangelical Christian, have a very special responsibility not to just go along with the "blue-jean syndrome" of not noticing that their attempts to be "with it" so often take the same forms as those who deny the existence or holiness of the living God.  Accommodation leads to accommodation--which leads to accommodation..."

A true prophetic voice is timeless.  This was written in 1984, but we see the same issue alive and well in the church today.  As Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun."  We see the same accommodation today, as so many pastors/churches/Christians have fallen into the "we must be relevant to the culture" trap.  The pursuit of relevance has led to accommodation.  It is only when we are truly counter cultural, truly radical to the culture that we have any true impact.  We are not salt and light by accommodating the world spirit of our times, but only when we are stopping the corruption of the world spirit, and exposing the corruption of the world spirit can we call ourselves truly radical; and you cannot be relevant and radical at the same time. 

I would recommend that you read this book.  Think about what Francis Schaffer has to say, and see how he recaptures the true meaning of living the radical Christian life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Making the World a Better Place

I think it is safe to say that wanting the world to be a better place would be common sentiment the world over.  In many places it is even a popular sentiment.  And we see great efforts from many quarters of society to achieve this goal, from breast cancer awareness, to clean water initiatives, to homeless shelters, to aids research and education, to disaster relief, to famine relief, to refugee aid, to save the whales, to anti-abortion measures, to racism awareness, to anti-poverty campaigns, to enviromental concerns, to soil conservation, to water conservation, to energy conservation, to operation Christmas child, to no child left behind, to school drop-out initiatives, to Unicef, to UN peace keeping, to Mid-East diplomacy, to anti-terrorist measures, to social justice concerns, to mercy ministries, to the Salvation Army, to food banks, to welfare, to...whew, the list goes on and on.

All of us, who inhabit this world, want it to be a cleaner, safer, nicer, peaceful, friendly, beautiful, and even loving place to live.  But, alas, it is a sentiment doomed to failure, and a desire that will never come to fruition.  Why, you might ask?  Because the root issue of all of the problems in this world, sin, is ignored by the world; and all the attempts that those in the world make to make the world a better place to live, treat the symptoms, not the disease. 

Man is a slave to sin, he is blinded by his sin, he is deceived in his sin, he loves his sin, he is an inventor of sin, he is an encourager of sin, he flaunts his sin, he feeds his sin, he exalts his sin, he is incapable of not sinning, he excuses his sin, he justifies his sin, he promotes sin, he uses sin to accomplish his purposes, he won't give up his sin, he cherishes his sin, he worships his sin, he speaks sin, he thinks sin, he acts sin; in other words he is thoroughly permeated and dominated by sin.  He is born in sin, and sin is inescapable.

The earth is cursed because of sin.  All creation groans because of sin.  The world and all that is in it is passing away because of sin.  Man is condemned because of sin.  Since man rules over the world and sin rules over man, therefore sin is the ruling and guiding force in this world.

Enter the church, the greatest sin-fighting agent in the world; and not the corporate or organized church, but the church as the body of Christ, the church as represented by each individual Christian as they live out the life of Christ in their daily affairs.  Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are salt and light.  Salt stops the corruption of sin in its tracks (Matthew 5:13), light exposes sin and causes it to flee (John 3:18-21, Ephesians 5:8-13).  In addition to this, through the church the gospel is proclaimed; and it is the gospel, the living Word of the living God, that brings cleansing to sinful man (John 13:8-10, John 15:3, Ephesians 5:25-27).

The church has been given the mandate to go into all the world and make disciples, and the church does that by preaching and sharing the gospel, the Word of God.  It is the gospel that cleanses man from sin, it is the Word of God that keeps man's way pure, and keeps him from sinning (Psalm 119:9, 11).  True believers do not practice sin, but practice holiness (I John 3:7-10), and as they do they are salt and light in the world.  It is the gospel that deals with the sin that dominates and controls man; first by cleansing him from sin and freeing him from the bondage to sin, and then by empowering him to have victory over ongoing sin as he is obedient to the Word of God. 

So, what is the most important thing the church must do to make the world a better place?  What is its mandate from its head, the Lord Jesus Christ?  It is to preach, teach, and live the gospel.  So as we, the living body of the living Lord, go about our daily affairs, sharing the gospel and living the gospel, the world is made a better place, literally one Christian at a time.  But if all of God's people, those that are truly His, would make this their focus; we would see the world become a better place, not a perfect place...that is yet to come (Revelation 21-22).  So as we minister to those around us, our neighbor, let us make their world a better place by introducing them to the One who has overcome the world and all of its sin, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gauging Our Worship

I Chronicles 16:
7 Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and
his relatives to give thanks to the Lord.
8 Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
9 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
10 Glory (boast) in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
11 Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
12 Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments from His mouth, 
13 O seed of Israel His servant,
Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
14 He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
16 The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac.
17 He also confirmed it to Jacob as a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Cannan,
As the portion of your inheritance."
19 When they were only a few in number,
Very few, and strangers in it,
20 And they wandered about from nation to nation,
And from one kingdom to another people,
21 He permitted no man to oppress them,
And He reproved kings for their sakes, saying,
22 "Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do my prophets no harm."
23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
24 Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He also is to be feared above all gods.
26 For the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place.
28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him;
Worship the Lord in holy array (the splendor of holiness)
30 Tremble before Him, all the earth;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations,
"The Lord reigns."
32 Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
33 Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy
before the Lord;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
34 O give thinks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
35 The say, "Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
And glory in Your praise."
36 Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.
Then all the people said, "Amen," and praised the Lord.

When you gather for worship each Sunday, is this what you are doing?  Is this what is accomplished during the time of your gathering that you call praise and worship?  Does what you do and what you sing about elevate the Lord as this does, or do you find yourself singing songs to yourself, about yourself ?  Do you sing of His mighty deeds, the greatness of His salvation, the wonder of His majesty, the glory of His name?  Does what you call worship boast in Him?  Does what you do on Sunday bless the Lord, or is it designed to bless you?  Can you really be blessed if you are not blessing the Lord?  Would you call your gathering a holy array?  Do your people come to present themselves before the Lord, and have that sense of trembling before Him?  Are you ascribing to the Lord the glory due His name?  Does what you do bring glory to His name?  Does your worship time cause the people attending to say, "Amen," and praise the Lord.?

Just asking.....But God has given us the means, by His word, to gauge our corporate worship.  Hopefully, this is how you are gauging your worship; to know if it is acceptable in His sight, and a pleasing fragrance and soothing aroma to Him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Fear

This is a repost of #4 in a series.

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,
but of power and love and discipline.
II Timothy 1:7

Those of you who learned this from the King James would substitute the word fear for timidity, and, of course, both words are correct.  The Greek word used here is deilia, and it is the only time it is used in the New Testament.  The normal word for fear that is used in the NT is phobeo, from which we get our word phobia; and it usually conveys being frightened.  The word deilia conveys more the result, the condition of the psyche because of the fear; and, as such, is most literally translated cowardice.  If you read the book of II Timothy you understand that Paul is telling Timothy not to be a coward in light of the persecution, suffering, and hardship he is facing.  Fear was causing Timothy to retreat from the ministry to which God had called him, and Paul is encouraging Timothy to rekindle the gift God had given him and to stand firm in preaching the word amidst all obstacles.

Fear is one of the great weapons of the enemy, and all of us have our fears; and if I were to list them all, this would be the longest post in history.  Fear is a great controller and most of us let our fears, whether rational or irrational, control us; which is just what the enemy wants.  And it can be the biggest impediment to our spiritual growth and progress in Christlikeness.  You notice that I said, "Let our fears control us." because fear only has the power over us that we allow it to have.  What then is the antidote to fear?  How do we combat it?  How do we control it, versus letting it control us? 

We need to understand how to handle fear, our fear(s), because we all have them.  The question then is not do we have fear, but how do we handle fear when it comes up and puts its grip on us. Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what needs to be done, doing what is right, in spite of the fear.  So how do we appropriate spiritual courage?

Paul gives us both general and specific remedies for fear in this letter to Timothy. The general remedy is found in II Timothy 2:1 as he tells Timothy, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."  And in II Timothy 1:7 we see what God, by His grace, has specifically supplied to all of us to combat fear/spiritual cowardice, and that is power, love, and discipline.  In fact, what the verse tells us is that spiritual timidity is not from the Lord, He has not given it to us; but instead has given us the opposite.  Power, love, and discipline are the elements of spiritual courage, and God by His grace has supplied them to us.  So let's see how they aid us in our battle against fear.

Power Overcomes Fear
In essence, power overpowers fear, and God has given us a spirit of power, or spiritual power.  It is not our power, but His power in us, working in us and through us.  Listen to these verses from Ephesians:
1:18-20 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know...what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
3:16, 20 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man...Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..

Where does God's power reside, His resurrection power?  Within you, in your inner man, through the indwelling person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.  I John 4:4 tells us this, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."  The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that resides in you, and God's power in Christ, in all its greatness and magnificence, is directed toward you like a laser beam.

How do we access this power?  We do so by humbling ourselves in obedience to Him.  James 4:7 tells us, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  In Isaiah 66:2 God tells us this, "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."  We have the perfect example of humility and its corresponding obedience in Christ.  Philippians 2:8 tells us this, "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." When we are confronted by fear, we are to look obediently to Him, and be obedient to Him; and in our obedience His power will be supplied to us, and in our obedience we will overcome the fear.  Our focus on Him and being obedient to Him will take our focus off of the fear. 

Love Casts Out Fear
Where there is love there is no room for fear.  Sounds almost too simple doesn't it?  We must understand that fear is a great motivator, and most of us, really all of us, are motivated by fear.  In other words, the reason we do what we do is because of fear.  However, as great a motivator as fear is, there is a greater motivator, really the greatest motivator, and that is love.  Our love of God and love of others should always be the reason we do what we do.

I John 4:18 tells us, "There is no fear in love; but perfect (mature) love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment (retribution/consequences we don't want), and the one who fears is not perfected (mature) in love."  Also, in II Corinthians 5:14-15 we learn, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."  If you are living for yourself, concentrating on yourself, worrying about yourself, then fear will always control you.  When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as your self and love the brethren as Christ loved them; then you aren't preoccupied with yourself and it is the love of Christ that is controlling you, and fear has been moved out of the driver's seat and to the back of the bus.  When it is our love for God that is motiviating us we will be like Paul, who suffered the loss of all things and considered them but rubbish because he had gained Christ.

Discipline Controls Fear
The Greek word for discipline is sophronismos, and means a sound mind, sound judgment, literally a mind under control.  It is a rational mind in contrast to the irrationality of fear.  It is a mind controlled by the truth, thoughts that are guided by the truth, thinking that is permeated with the truth.  Proverbs 3:25 tells us, "Do not be afraid of sudden fear."  This speaks to the terror that irrationality, those irrational fears, bring upon us.  We are not to be gripped and controlled by such fear.  In John 8:32 we see that when we know the truth, the truth will make us free.  In other words the knowledge of the truth releases us from bondage.  Knowing the truth breaks the grip that fear has on our life and controls our thoughts instead of fear.  It does not let fear in the driver's seat of our mind. 

Philippians 4:8 tells us what our minds are to dwell upon, and these attributes serve as filters to keep fear in its proper place, under control.  First, we are to think only on what is true.  If it is not true, totally true, we are to reject it. Fear always dwells around the borders of the truth, and will always skew the truth or be based on partial truth.  Secondly, even if it is true, if it's not honorable we are not to dwell on it.  Thirdly, it must be right, the right thing to think about, something that causes and promotes right thoughts...right about God, right about others, right about ourselves, and right about the situation (It is amazing how fear promotes thoughts that are not right or true about God, others and ourselves, dishonoring all; and causes us to blow the situation out of proportion).  Next, it must be pure, promoting holiness in our thinking, not rottenness.  This is to be followed by thinking about what is lovely and is of good repute.  Thoughts based on fear are never lovely.  And, interestingly, the word for good repute means words of good omen.  Fear never brings about words of good omen, but always the opposite...doom, gloom, and tragedy.  Finally, we are to have our minds dwell on those things which are excellent and praiseworthy.  When we allow ourselves to think upon and dwell upon what is less than the best, thoughts that are worthy only of the gutter, we are supplying fear with rich fertile soil from which to grow.  Fear always assumes the worst and dwells upon all that is bad.

So when fear assails you remember it is not from the Lord, but from the enemy, through our flesh.  God has given through His Spirit and by His grace, all that we need to combat fear so that it is not the victor; and thanks be to God that He always leads us in triumph in Christ. (II Corthians 2:14, I Corthians 15:57)  Our victory was achieved by Christ on the cross.  Christ tells us in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation (which is the truth), but to take courage (literally, to be of good cheer) because He has overcome (subdued, prevailed, conquered, achieved the victory).  So let us live in light of that victory, ever mindful of the power, love, and sound mind that are ours in Christ as the result of Him abiding in us and us abiding in Him. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Confident Patience

This is a repost of #3 in a series

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait.
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchman for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchman for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

After Psalm 119, the longest Psalm and longest chapter in the Bible, there is a group of short Psalms from Psalm 120-Psalm 134.  Each of these short Psalms contains great and profound truths, and this is a great section of the Scriptures to read and mediate upon.

In my last post I talked about impatience being an impediment to Spiritual growth, and how the Lord is at work instilling patience in us.  In Psalm 130 we see a wonderful example of patience, and the Psalmist paints a picture for us of someone who is not only patient, but confidently patient.  In these verses we see three keys to this confident patience.

  1. The object of our patience.  The object of our patience, the One on whom we are waiting is the Lord.  Our realization must be that the Lord is sovereign and in control, and will work our situation out according to His timing.  He is neither too early nor too late.  We know that when the fullness of time came He sent forth His Son (Galatians 4:4), and at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6)  We see that the timing of the most important event in the history of mankind was under the control of God.  It is the Lord whom we wait upon and His timing is always perfect.  It is perfect in completing His plan and pupose for us.  So if our desire is for His will to be done in our life, we can be content  and wait for the unfolding of His will for our life.  This kind of waiting is an active submission to the Lord's will and plan for our life, and puts our will in its proper place.

  2. The ground of our patience.  The ground of our patience is the word of God.  The word of God is yay and amen.  His yes is always yes, and His no is always no.  In Jeremiah 1:12 He tells us that He stands over His word to perform it.  So we know that we can stand on whatever He says, for He will fulfill it.  His word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  It does guide us and is our ground to stand on when we are having to be patient and wait for the Lord.  His word literally guides us into patience, and aids us and strengthens us to remain in that state of patience that looks unto the Lord.

  3. The confidence of our patience.  I really love the picture of confident patience the Psalmist paints here.  His soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman waits for the morning.  How does the watchman wait for the morning?  Confidently, very confidently, because he knows that the morning absolutely will come.  In fact, the morning cannot be stopped from the exact time it should come.  The Psalmist is saying that He is more confident in the Lord, and has a better ground of confidence than the watchman who knows the dawn is coming.  In the darkness of the night, the watchman may not know how much longer before the dawn, but he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is approaching nearer with every beat of his heart.  His is a knowing anticipation of the dawn breaking no matter how long or dark the night.  This is a firm ground of confidence.  Our confidence should be greater and more secure than this watchman's because it is the Lord we are waiting upon, and we have His word as our guarantee. 
This is faith in action, faith being put to the test and being strengthened and refined.  This is the faith the Lord wants to develop in you.  This is faith that is willing to wait for the Lord no matter how dark or long the night because it knows the breaking of the dawn is certain.  This is the faith that endures as seeing Him who is unseen. 

Let us wait upon the Lord with confidence in His care and concern for us, and the knowledge that His plan is always the best plan.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Impatience

This is a repost of #2 in a series

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea,to go around
the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.
The people spoke against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up
 out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water,
and we loathe this miserable food."
Numbers 21:4-5

Have you ever noticed that in almost every situation that the Lord allows or brings about patience is required?  Somehow God never seems to work on our timetable, and His timetable always seems much longer than we think is necessary.  But, you know, He knows ultimately and eternally what is necessary.  So if patience...much patience... is required, then for some reason, usually unknown to us at the time, patience is necessary.  Personally, I think patience is required so often because it may be the hardest virtue to develop; and out of patience and through patience many other virtues are developed. 

Patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and we receive the fruit of the Spirit the minute we are born again and the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in our heart (Romans 8:9).  But although the fruit is given, it must be developed and cultivated, which is part of our working out our salvation (Philippians 2:13).  So, in His divine providence, situations arise that require patience, sometimes mega patience. 

In the example of the Israelites in Numbers 21 they became impatient, not with the journey, but because of the journey.  It was hard and long.  They were meeting with opposition, they were subsisting only on manna, and every day was the same thing with no end, no relief, and no promised land in sight.  So they lost it and became impatient, not with the journey, but with the Lord because of the journey.  The word impatient in Numbers 21:4 literally means short.  They were short with the Lord.  Have you ever been short with someone?  Did you act in an unbecoming way toward them?  Were your words, harsh, mean, or demeaning?  Did you lose your temper with them?  Were you exasperated with them?  Get the picture?  The Israelites were stomping their collective feet and telling the Lord, in no uncertain terms, that they had had enough.

How often we are tempted to do be short with the Lord because of our journey, especially if it is hard and long with no end in our sight.  Many times there are trials to be endured and seen through to their completed end, or sometimes the main trial is being patient.  When we become impatient because of the journey it severs and ends the lesson(s) we were learning, and the qualities of Christ that the Lord was building in us are left incomplete.  In other words, our growth was cut short or stunted.  What will the Lord, as the wise master builder, do?  He will begin all over again, usually using the consequences of our impatience to not only discipline us for our impatience, but also to train us anew.   

What are some keys for us to not become impatient with the Lord and short-circuit our growth?

  1. Understand I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape so that you will be able to endure it. (Italics mine)  In the Greek, the word for temptation and trial are the same and are translated according to the context.  It does present us with a great play on words, because in every trial there is an accompanying temptation, and in each temptation a trial is involved.  What is this verse saying to us?  It is telling us that in our trial and its accompanying temptation that we should not seek our way of escape, but be patient and seek the way of escape the Lord provides.  But unless we are patient we won't see the Lord's way of escape, and those early exits stop what God was accomplishing in us through the trial.

  2. Trust Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not get weary.  What a great picture of the grace of God; its strength for us and its sustaining power.  What is the key to obtaining this grace, this power that carries us on eagles wings?  It is a patient trust...waiting for the Lord...not being impatient because of the journey, but trusting the Lord in the journey.  This is the power that undergirds us so that we may endure the trial and temptation.  Our patient trusting in Him which leads us to our humbling ourselves before God, is the key to appropriating His grace and all that it brings.

  3. Realize I Kings 19:11-13 So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord."  And behold, the Lord was passing by!  And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.  And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here Elijah?"  God works through ordinary means.  We all want that great miracle where the sea parts, and the sun stops in its steps; but most usually the Lord works through the order He has already established.  In other words, God works at the speed of life and at the pace of people.  God is patiently working, invisibly working, and we must be patient with His work.  After all, it is for our eternal good and His eternal glory.
Finally, I know a man who went through a ten year trial.  He will tell you that he was tempted to become impatient because of the journey, but that he trusted the Lord and the Lord was true to His word and was true to him.  There were times during this trial that the grace of God was so real and so present he could almost cut it with a knife, and God used this trial to grow him spiritually and bring him to where he is now.  Where would he be now if he had become impatient because of the journey, stopped trusting in the Lord, and had taken an early exit of his own making? 

How about you, my friends?  Are you being tempted to become impatient because of the journey?  Don't be!  Call out to the Lord for His strength, the strength necessary to wait for Him and His way of escape.  Trust Him to provide all that you need to wait for Him.  For in doing so your growth will not be impaired, but enhanced; and Christ will shine more brightly in you.

Living God, consuming fire,
burn the sin from my life.
Make Your will my desire.
Take my life in Your hands.
Purify me with Your love, 
  till I shine far brighter than purest gold
 in Your light.
Amen and Amen!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Pain

This is a repost of # 1 in a series.

There is an old adage, probably derived from sports, it is, "No pain, no gain."  I heard that many times growing up, as I was active in sports and faced the pain of training as I pushed myself to new levels of strength, fitness, toughness, speed, and endurance.  Why does someone push himself/herself like that, out of comfort into pain and exhaustion..time and time again?  It is because they have a goal in mind, a prize to be won, a victory to be achieved.  The goal, or prize, or victory is considered valuable enough, important enough, precious enough, to be worth the price of the pain paid for its achievement. All for what?  A temporal prize that will fade away with time, soon to be forgotten, if not by the individual, then by those who come after;  a faded ribbon, a rusted trophy, a yellowed and crumbling newspaper clipping, or an obsolete CD or DVD; a prize that will be burned up along with the rest of this world when God destroys this universe to make way for the new heavens and new earth.

But many gifted athletes are not willing to push themselves to that point of pain and exhaustion, they are not willing to become uncomfortable, and are willing to take what they can get without the sacrifice.  These are the ones who had such great potential, but never lived up to it.  Their goal was not worth the pain involved for its achievement.

Spiritual growth, spiritual maturity is much the same.  It does take sacrifice, and is at times painful and exhausting.  In Christianity, the ultimate goal is to become like Christ, in fact God promises in Philippians 1:6 that He Himself will complete that work He began in us until the day of Christ Jesus, but we have our part to play which is why we are to work out our salvation while God is at work in us.  So effort and striving are still required of us for us to continue down the path of Christ-likeness, and Paul uses the metaphors of the athlete and the hard working farmer in II Timothy 2 to give us an example of the discipline and effort required to advance and grow in our Christian maturity. 

Unfortunately, just as many athletes are not willing to push through the pain and endure the exhaustion, so many Christians are not willing to undergo pain and endure weariness to become more like Christ.  Mark Dever has made the statement that we, in our culture, are addicted to comfort.  It is this addiction to comfort and its corresponding aversion to pain that are one of the impediments to our growth in Christian maturity.  It cripples our discipline and hampers our efforts.

Christian growth, spiritual growth, growth in Christ-likeness, the continual conformation into His image is often painful; not necessarily physically painful, but mentally, spiritually,and emotionally painful.  Confronting our own sins, shortcomings, foibles, and weaknesses is uncomfortable for us; and only if we view the goal of being more like our Blessed Savior as worthwhile, as desirable above all else, as precious to us, will we engage the pain and endure the weariness that is required for confronting these things about ourselves and achieving victory over them.

Let's face it, none of us likes pain, none of us wants to be weary, but the reality is that pain is necessary and is useful in perfecting us.  It is when we seek to avoid the pain of self-examination and self-confrontation, and refuse to be wearied by enduring that battle that our Christian growth is stunted or stopped.  In seeking to make our lives more comfortable, we make our lives less glorious.  Yes, it is true for those of us in Christ, that if there is no pain there is no gain; but we must remember that He Himself is our gain, He is our very great reward. In words of Paul "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

Is our Lord's eternal pleasure more important to us than our temporal comfort?  Is our desire to hear Him say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master."  greater than our desire for personal comfort?  Let's pray that it is, and ask Him to make it so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great Last Words

"I am going to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion...My bow abides in strength.  Is Christ divided?  No, I have the whole of His righteousness; I am found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God, , which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.  Christ cannot love me better than He doth.  I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God...Now I shall be ever with the Lord.

These are the last words of Thomas Goodwin
Banner of Truth
November 2011
Page 3

In our final hour, may we all have this confidence spawned from a life that has experienced the fullness of communion with the triune God.  May we all be swallowed up in God.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Preaching and Relevance

...we have to face the fact that the pursuit of relevance as being constantly timely is a mirage.  When relevance is invoked as self-authenticating concept, it becomes meaningless and dangerous because it begs the questions, Relevance for what?  Relevance to whom? 

Such questions are commonly ignored in today's headlong rush after the unholy trinity of the powerful, the practical, and the profitable.  But if we don't ask them, the constant appeal to relevance becomes an idol, a way of riding slipshod over truth, and a means of coralling opinion deceptively.  Until, that is, we finally deceive ourselves.

The fact is that nothing is finally relevant except in relation to the true and the eternal....Only truth and eternity give relevance to "relevance."  To think or do anything simply "because it is relevant" will always prove to be irrational, dangerous, and a sure road to burnout.  It may tast like unpleasant medicine to our practical modern thinking, but in fact it's a powerful antidote to perpetual folly.....God has broken into our silence.  He has spoken and has come down Himself.  And in His written and living Word we are given truth from outside our situation, truth that throws light on our little lives and our little world.  This word of God is the only true Archimedean point to gain the leverage to raise us above the forces of gravity in our human condition.

Os Guiness
Prophetic Untimeliness
Pages 106-107

Monday, November 07, 2011

Preaching the Gospel

People are brought to faith in Jesus Christ
not because a preacher happens to be exceptionally
dynamic one Sunday morning, or because he finishes
his sermon with a spellbinding story.  Rather, in a
mysterious work that is both sovereign in expression
and divine in origin, the power of God unites with the
proclamation of the word of God and produces effects
that are in keeping with the purposes of God. 
Arturo Azurdia III
Spirit Empowered Preaching
Page 44

Then the Lord said to me, "You have seen well,
for I am watching over My word to perform it."
Jeremiah 1:12

Friday, October 28, 2011

The God of Forgiveness

This is a repost.

One of the things I have noticed over the last few years is the spiritual insecurity of so many Christians. One of the ways this insecurity is manifested is in the area of forgiveness. This seems to be an area of faith where many people are struggling and where a great deal of insecurity resides. Again, in a time when the thrust of most preaching and church life is "all about you" and how God loves you and accepts you for who you are, you would think that people would not be wrestling with this. But when the teaching, preaching, and small group discussion fails to address the basic foundations of our faith because they don't think doctrine is relevant to the lives of the people, how would the people, the flock, have any basis from which to understand forgiveness, much less be able to know they are forgiven? When I was teaching in Dallas in the mid eighties the Minister of Education told me that I was teaching too much doctrine and that I needed to have more application lessons. My response to him was, "Bill, they can not apply what they do not know." This attitude that the ME had has only become more prevalent over the last 20 years. In addition to this, if you teach or preach on forgiveness you must deal with the sin that needs to be forgiven and many churches won't do that because it might make the people feel bad about themselves or offend them.

To get a handle on forgiveness you first must understand the nature and character of God and then understand what He has done so that we can be forgiven. So the rest of this post will be about the nature and character of God as it relates to forgiveness.

The best place to start is with Exodus 33:17-34:7. This section of Scripture relates the story of Moses asking God to show me your glory. I find God's response to this prayer/request intriguing as He tells Moses I will make all my goodness pass before you and proclaim My name, the name of the Lord before you. So we see that God's glory is inextricably linked with His goodness and His name. His goodness is His glory and His name is representative of His glory. So God reveals that He is good and in the revelation of His goodness His glory shines forth and is displayed. As God passes by Moses and reveals Himself and His goodness listen to what He says, "The Lord, The Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished..." So we see here that forgiveness comes forth from the goodness of God, and is as much a part of His goodness as His compassion, His grace, His longsuffering, His lovingkindness, and His truth. God forgives because God is good, and His forgiveness of our sins is an extension of His goodness to us. Since His glory is displayed through His goodness, He is glorified in the forgiving of our sins. This alone is reason enough to fall on our knees as grateful beneficiaries of His goodness, which He has chosen not to withhold from us. Being forgiven is the result of the Lord lavishly bestowing His goodness upon us.

Psalm 130:4 states, "But there is forgiveness with You, that you may be feared." Here we see that His forgiveness is one of the pillars for our holy awe and reverence for the Lord. Understanding His forgiveness, experiencing His forgiveness, reveling in the fact that we are forgiven and that God has not dealt with us according to our sins, but according to His goodness and compassion as He is ever mindful that we are but dust, should bring forth in us an unmatched reverence and a heart that bows low in worship. God magnanimously bestows forgiveness upon His people and in the magnitude of His forgiveness He is glorified and exalted; and we see His worthiness of our reverence and stand in awe of His goodness because deep in our soul we know the depth of our own sin and see that for which we have been forgiven, that which no one knows but us and God.

In Nehemiah 9:17 we see that He is a God of forgiveness and in Psalm 86:5 we see that He is good, ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness for all who call upon Him. What does this mean for us? We can see that since He is a God of forgiveness that forgiveness flows from Him to us. He does not have to be coerced into forgiving us, and it is not something that He must struggle to do or something that He begrudgingly doles out like a scrooge at Christmas. In fact, it is just the opposite as we see that He is ready to forgive, He is poised to forgive, He longs to forgive so that we can be brought into right relationship with Him, and thereby enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with Him. These verses, along with I John 1:9, show us that we do not have to go to great lengths, do great penance, or go through great machinations to be forgiven, but we simply call upon Him and confess to Him our sin and it is forgiven; and we are made clean before Him, not just for that sin, but from all our unrighteousness. This, my friends, is goodness, great goodness, goodness worthy of abundant praise and worship out of a heart that has experienced gladness, true gladness, through forgiveness and cleansing.

Yes, forgiveness is ours because it flows from God to us and He is ready and waiting to forgive, not because of us, but because of His goodness. He forgives us on the basis of who He is and what He has done so that we can be forgiven. Have you asked for the forgiveness of that you can come to Him and be saved, so that you can fellowship with Him, so that you can be cleansed and find rest and comfort for your soul? If not, ask Him today, confess to Him today, and in His goodness He will not refuse.

O Lord, how truly good You are, good beyond the scope of our ability to comprehend and good beyond our ability to measure. May praise and honor be heaped upon You and Your name be exalted this day because of Your goodness and forgiveness. Thank you for Your forgiveness, its availability, and its abundance. You are good and You do good. Great is the Lord and blessed be Your name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Being Boudreau

This is a repost.

As you can tell, Boudreau is a Cajun name. Boudreau lived in southern Louisiana, close to the coast, near New Orleans. When hurricane Katrina was approaching, being a good Christian, Boudreau started praying to the Lord and asking for protection and deliverance from the storm. In his spirit Boudreau sensed the comfort and confirmation that the Lord had heard His prayers and he would be delivered from the storm. As the storm grew closer, the tide began to rise, the rain was falling hard, and the area near his home started to flood. At that time the county sheriff came by in his Jeep and told Boudreau to get in and he would take him to a higher area, safe from the storm. Boudreau told the sheriff no thanks, for the Lord would deliver him safely from the storm. Several hours later the storm was stronger and not only was the area near Boudreau's home flooded, but the waters had entered his house, causing Boudreau to climb up on his roof. At this time the sheriff came by in a boat, and asked Boudreau to get in, but Boudreau refused, telling the sheriff that the Lord would indeed deliver him from the storm. The storm became so severe and the water so high and powerful, that Boudreau was swept off of his roof and was being taken by the waters down toward the bayou when he was able to grab hold of the top of a tree. Once again, the sheriff came by, this time in a helicopter, and yelling over the storm, told Boudreau to seize the rope he had thrown down to him. Boudreau again declined, telling the sheriff the Lord would indeed deliver him. A few minutes later, when the sheriff could no longer stay over him and had left, Boudreau was swept off of the tree by the raging waters and went under.

Suddenly, Boudreau was absent from his body and present with the Lord. He gazed at the Lord in astonishment, and said to Him, "Lord, you promised to deliver me from the storm, what happened?" To which the Lord responded, "Boudreau, I sent you a Jeep, a boat, and a helicopter. All you had to do was get in."

Many times, probably too many times, Christians are like Boudreau. We have prayed for guidance, for deliverance, for wisdom, and God's answer to that prayer is right in front of us; but we are waiting for that dramatic deliverance, the hand writing on the wall, or the skies to part and the Lord's voice to sound, instead of looking at what he has given us through ordinary means to answer our prayer.

Are you being Boudreau, having prayed to the Lord, but ignoring the facts right in front of your face because they are not how you expect or want the Lord to answer your prayer? Are you afraid to step out in faith on the obvious? Are you holding on to something you should not be holding on to, waiting for the Lord to pick you up and put you where you should be? Are you letting the things of your flesh stand in your way hoping the Lord will "miraculously" give you what you prayed for? Are you afraid of the difficulty, the rejection, the pain or discomfort you might suffer and, as such, are waiting for the Lord just to make it happen so that you will not have to pay the price of obedience? Is it going to take some spiritual gumption on your part, and you are not willing to step up to the plate? Are you more afraid of man than you are of God?

My friends, look at the obvious, look at the facts, look at your situation, consider the actions and attitudes of others. God may have already answered your prayer, and be waiting for you to follow Him.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making the Main Thing the Main Thing

Biblical preaching must always occupy the leading place of influence in the life of any church.  At the core of any healthy congregation is a vibrant exposition of God's Word.  Unfortunately, though, many pastors are turning away from the central role of expository preaching and doctrinal teaching.  But in so doing, they fail to realize that new converts, first and foremost, need to be taught God's truth.  As a result, many other things are competing with--and even replacing--the primary role of biblical preaching in the church.  Christian concerts, drama, pageants, festivals, musicals, talk shows, and religious movies are establishing a greater foothold in the life of the contemporary church.  Some of these activities may have a place in the church, but they must never compete with nor overshadow the Spirit-energized proclamation of God's Word within a church. 

In diagnosing the ills of emphasis on these auxiliary methods, Martyn Lloyd-Jones lamented, "All this at best is secondary, very often, not even secondary, often not worthy of a place at all...The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God."  He echoed the words of the chief pastoral voice of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, who declared, "The primary importance of the pastor is to be an expository preacher." 

Evangelical churches desperately need to return to the primacy of the apostles' teaching.  Preaching is the foremost responsibility of the preacher and the church.

Steve Lawson
Famine in the Land
Pages 33-34

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Most Profound Change in the World

The most profound change in the world, is the change in a man or woman because they have been born again. 

They go from being dead to being made alive in Christ.

They go from being children of the devil to children of God.

They go from hating God to loving God.

They go from reveling in sin to hating sin.

They go from being held captive to being made free.

They go from dwelling in darkness to being light in the Lord.

They go from being of the world to being aliens in this world.

They go from being mastered by sin to overcoming sin.

They go from being enemies of God to being friends of God.

They go from practicing evil to practicing righteousness.

They go from desiring to please themselves to desiring to please God.

They go from having a hard heart to having a soft heart.

They go from following their own ways to following God's ways.

They experience of all this because of the rebirth of the soul, as a new man has been born within them and they can no longer remain the same. Yes, they may look the same, but they are different.  They are no longer the person they used to be as old things have passed away, and new things have come.

Have you experienced the new birth?  Have you had the life transforming rebirth of the soul?  Are you somehow different in your inner man?  If you claim to be a Christian, and yet have not been changed, then you have not truly been born again and are still lost in your sins, still under judgment, and still a child of wrath as the rest who do not know Him. 

Ask God today to save you, to have mercy upon you, to be compassionate to you, and turn from your ways and your sin, and turn to Him with all your heart.  Seek Him and He will let you find Him, and He will restore your soul and make you whole.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thought for the Day

We must practice truth,
not just speak about it.

Francis Schaeffer
The Great Evangelical Disaster
Page 81

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Holiness, God and God alone possesses it.  God and God alone is holy.  Holiness is His most Divine attribute.  It is what sets God apart from all of His creation.  It is what makes Him distinctly God.  It is the power inherent in His presence.

It is safe to say holiness is God's most defining attribute.  It embodies all that He is and all that He does.  It is intricately woven into all His other attributes, and as such separates them from the carnal, the corrupt, and the mundane.  If we think of His attributes as a crown of jewels, holiness would be the most brilliant of all the jewels in the crown, and we would see it reflected in the lustre of all the others.  It is the outshining of holiness through each of the other jewels that provides the brilliance and purity of their color.

We cannot truly understand God apart from understanding His holiness.  The place to start in knowing God is His holiness.  Understanding His holiness is the springboard of the knowledge of God, it is the platform from which we must start.  It is the platform for our understanding of all His other attributes, His actions, His motives; and is the backdrop against which we should view them.

The holiness of God is the least known, least understood, least appreciated, and therefore the least valued of all His attributes; but, yet, it is His most important attribute. God always acts in accordance with His holiness; and how often is that overlooked or misunderstood.

The foundation of our reverence for God is our understanding of His holiness.  We revere (or fear) Him to the extent that we view Him as holy.  We only understand the sinfulness of our sin in light of our understanding of His holiness.  The issue of man's separation from God is due to the fact that He is holy and we are not, and it is God's requirement for man (Leviticus 11:44, I Peter 1:15-16, Psalm 5:4-7).

Oh, the abounding grace of God, that we would be made clean through the washing of water by the word, and clothed in the perfect righteousness of His Son.  Though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool...all through the blood of the Lamb.

Father, show us your holiness, so that we will treat You as holy.  Show us Your holiness so that we may properly revere You and Your name.  Give us understanding, O Lord, so that we may appropriately order our lives.  Teach us about Your holiness, O Lord, so that we may worship You as You and You alone deserve.  Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Church

The Church should not accommodate man,
it should, however, accommodate God.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Understanding the Gospel

For people to know when they hear another gospel they must first know and understand the true gospel.  For us as pastors, that means we need to be preaching the gospel well enough, often enough, and thoroughly enough so that our people will be grounded in the gospel.  As Hebrews 5:14 indicates, it is the knowledge and practice of the truth that gives discernment.

The gospel is the message of salvation, what God has done in the person of Christ to provide for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to men.  The gospel is not having our problems fixed, dealing successfully with stress, being a better _______, overcoming addictions, or overcoming our past; it has nothing to do with health or wealth, prosperity or poverty, unleashing the champion inside every person, thinking positive thoughts, or feeling better about ourselves; and it does not include anything that man can, must, or should do to add to what God has accomplished through Christ. 

Overcoming addictions does not save.  Being a better _________, does not save.  Feeling better about yourself does not save.  Making peace with your past does not save.  Only one thing saves, and that is placing the entirety of your trust on what God has already done in Christ as complete and sufficient for the salvation of your soul.  Anything less does not save, and anything more does not save. 

The Scriptures are saturated with the gospel.  Preach and teach through them, in context, and the gospel in all its richness and fullness will be presented; and your people will come to know, understand, and appreciate it.  People who know and understand the gospel are the ones most likely to share it, and they will be rooted and grounded in their own spiritual life. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Redeeming the Time

How then do we redeem time, and how are we redeemed from time?  On the one hand, we rdeem the time by living out our lives according to our gifts and callings, thus serving God's purposes in our generation.  Those who live out their lives in this way do justice to the best of their time; and they live before all time because they live before God.

On the other hand, we redeem time by trusting the end of our time to the Lord and redeemer of time.  Ultimately, we redeem the time and are redeemed from time only through the One who is the redeemer of everything--He who is, the God who is the Lord of time and history and yet is  "the same yesterday today, and forever."

In St Augustine's description, God relates to us in time in ways that are "once for all [semel], all at one [simul], and always [semper]."  He is before our time, outside our time, and at the end of our time.  We can therefore each pray Augustine's celebrated prayer, which applies to time as much as any part of life:  "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You."

Thus until the day of our homecoming arrives, we continually trust that the Lord of time will redeem us at the end of time.  And in the meantime that is our lives, we live out our callings in the thick of things, and so set about redeeming time actively though imperfectly, as timely as untimely people can ever be.

Os Guiness
Prophetic Untimeliness
Pgs 118-119