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“Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion”

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Jul 282019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the great agnostics of all time was Bertrand Russell. He was a very outspoken enemy of Christ and the Church. He wrote many books refuting the arguments for Christianity. Yet, in one of his books he spoke very pointedly to the key to our ministry and mission. His wife, Patricia Spence Russell was dying of a terminal illness. In his book, Why I Am Not A Christian, he wrote about his experience. Concerning watching his wife die, he wrote: “She seemed cut off from everything with walls of agony, and the sense of solitude of each human soul overwhelmed me! Every since my marriage my emotional life had been calm and superficial. I had forgotten all the deeper issues and had been content with flippant cleverness. Suddenly the ground seemed to give in beneath me, and I found myself in quite another region. Within five minutes I went through some reflections as the following: the loneliness of the human soul is undurable-nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of that sort of love religious teachers have preached! Whatever does not spring from this motive is harmless or at best useless; It is love that penetrates this loneliness in each person-we must speak to that!”

We live in a world that has no answers. They are looking for answers anywhere and everywhere and I finding none! The Church has the answer in Christ. But just trying to convince them of answers intellectually, without love and passion, the kind that Jesus shared with all He encountered, we will never get close enough to hear what we have to say. T.S. Eliot, in his Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, spoke about all men’s fear of eternity, and desire for answers. He wrote: “I have seen my moment of greatness flicker! And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker! And I was afraid!” Mankind facing mortality and facing an uncertain future, behind the facade and false courage, is desperately open to loving passionate answers! This is a great opportunity for the Church to speak up and not stutter. What is the state of the Church? A.W. Tozer tried to warn the Church to stay ready. He wrote, in his book Rot, Rut, or Revival, in the chapter entitled “Causes of a Dozing Church?”- ‘What is the present condition of the Church? The bulk of Christians are asleep! Not unconverted! But asleep. God’s alarm is going off…yet we are sleeping through the alarm!” Another prophet to the Church, Southern Baptist Preacher, Vance Havner said, “If ever God’s people needed to be aroused and shocked, alarmed and awakened to their privilege and solemn duty-it is today! The Holy Spirit was given not to be a sedative, but a stimulant! We live in a time where people get excited about the trivial and shrug their shoulders at things affecting eternity!” C.H. Spurgeon says, “I am sure I do not have to unroll a page of history and ask you to glance down it except for a second; you will see the Church has fallen asleep, and has become…destitute of zeal having no ardent Passion! Every Christian is either a witness or an imposter. If you have never had sleepless hours; If you have never had weeping eyes. If you have never swelled as if your heart would burst-You need not anticipate that you will ever be called zealous. You do not know that the beginning of true zeal, for the foundation of zeal lies in the heart. The heart must be heavy with grief, and ever beat with holy heavy ardor! The heart must be vehement with desire-panting continually for God’s glory in saving the lost!” Tozer again speaks to our contentment with no passion. He writes “Too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right, but without being willing to endure the inconvenience of being right!” This contentment with our current status, without a passionate burden for winning the lost, we can convince ourselves that we are pleasing to our Lord. But George MacDonald reminds us-“In whatever we do without God we must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably!”

We have lost our burden for the lost. We no longer pray for their salvation. No longer look for opportunity to share Christ with them. We no longer spend restless nights without sleep burdened over the fact that they are facing eternity without salvation and Christ! They are not outwardly bothered about it-and the tragic thing is neither are we! Look at the people that changed history for Christ! Men like John Knox who prayed “give me souls or give me death!” “Scotland or I die!” By Charles Wesley who said, “The world is my parish”-and walked and rode horseback well into his eighties sharing the gospel the length and breadth of England, over 250,000 miles! Millions of converts! A visitor was taken into the Church pastored by Robert Murray McCheyene. He was shown the Pastor’s study-his Bible on the desk; the pages stained with tears for those he would preach to. C.H. Spurgeon who said, “If the lost go to hell do not let them go without being warned and prayed for. Let them climb over our bodies with our arms around their knees begging them to turn to Christ!”

Mary Booth, wrote a poem that expressed her heart.

 

“Oh for a heart that is burdened!

Infused with a passion to pray;

Oh for a stirring within me

Oh for this power every day

 

Or for a heart like my Savior;

Who being in agony prayed

Such caring for others, Lord give me,

On my heart let burdens be laid!

 

My Father I long for this passion

To pour myself out for the lost;

To lay down my life to save others,

To pray whatever the cost.

  

Lord teach me your secret

I’m hungry this lesson to learn!

Thy passionate passion for others,

For this blessed Jesus I yearn!”

 

  Herbert Lockyer tells us that passion which brings tears of burden for the lost will touch lives, like Bertrand Russell told us! He wrote: “Tears win victories. A cold unfeeling dry-eyed Church has no influence on the souls of men!” William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army was asked after his retirement, why they were not winning the lost any longer! He wrote back two words! “Try tears!” Leon Kilbreath, Mr. Sunday School for Southern Baptists used to chastise us for not being involved and passionate about winning the lost. He used to say, “If we shared our Lord’s passion, why are our eyes so dry, our feet so frozen, our lips so silent!” In 1904 William Booth was invited to Buckingham Palace to be honored by King Edward VII. The King said, “You have done a great work General Booth. England recognizes you!” He was asked to sign the Kings book. William Booth wrote, “Your Majesty some men’s ambition is art; some men’s ambition is fame; some men’s ambition is gold; some men’s ambition is power. My ambition is the souls of men!” That used to be the passion and ambition of the Church. Passion for the Lost? Or Lost Passion? You know the tragic answer. That might explain our impotency!

 Posted by at 12:23 am

“We Are the Reason-He Is Our Reason”

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Jul 212019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “We Are the Reason-He Is Our Reason”  By:  Ron Woodrum

        One of my favorite Christian artists of the 1980’s was David Meece. I heard one of his songs on Christian radio the other day and I realized what a gifted musician he was then, and it made me wonder what he is doing today. Is he still singing for the Lord? Still ministering in the name of Jesus? Still impacting crowds with the gospel as he did in the 1980’s and the 1990’s? Has he retired from ministry much like Dallas Holm and Andre Crouch did after years of ministry?

David Meece was born May 26, 1952, (actually a year older than your Pastor!), can you believe that? He grew up Humble, Texas with an alcoholic father, and a very strict mother, who insisted he learn classical piano only! By his mid-teens he was touring in Europe and the U.S. doing classical piano concerts. He went on to study at Peabody Conservatory of Music. After dedicating his life to Christ, he sought to use his gifts to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. He ventured into songwriting and recording Contemporary Christian music in the late 70’s. His first album was David, released in 1976. His first album had moderate success in the Christian world. He followed it up with three more albums that had wider circulation and greater success. His magnum opus, (greatest work), came on his 1980 album Are You Ready? It was the song-We are the Reason. It went straight to the top of the charts, and has now been recorded by over 200 Christian artists. Meece explained how the song happened to Contemporary Christian Music Magazine-“We are the Reason was written to remind us that Jesus died for each one of us individually. The individual nature of Christ’s sacrifice is something we need to really focus on.” He explained that he did not really know what he was doing, when the Holy Spirit led him to write the lyrics. He said, “It’s not my intellect that did it; it wasn’t my profound theological thought. I was a piano teacher. I never went to Bible College, never attended a Seminary. I was probably the last person you would expect to write a song like that which would have such a profound spiritual message. I mean, it just kind of wrote itself. When I took it and played it for Brown Bannister, my producer, he was the one that recognized it for what it was. I really did not know; it was one of those things that God plopped in my lap!” What a great song! Listen to the words:

“As little children we would dream of Christmas morn

And all the gifts and toys we knew we’d find

But we never realized a baby born one blessed night

Gave us the greatest gift of our lives

 

We are the reason that He gave His life

We are the reason that He suffered and died!

To a world that was lost He gave all He could give

To show us the reason to live…

 

I’ve finally found the reason for living

It’s in giving every part of my life to Him

In all that I do, every word that I say.

I’ll be giving my all just for Him, for Him

 

…. for He is our reason to live!”

 

  Those are just a few excerpts of his lyrics. But what a message.

He is still performing concerts. He is still ministering for the Lord. He and his wife Debbie are very active in a Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He still travels the world. Still sings to large crowds, but also will come to smaller venues, to share the Gospel for those who request his ministry, on an individual basis. He is still lifting up Jesus, and His Gospel message in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is still his reason to live! My favorite song of his was from his first album. It is a song titled Dave’s Prayer-Got to Know You’re There! I was renewed and refreshed by the memory of his ministry in my life and I wanted to share that with you. Check him out on u-tube. Great music. Great piano. Great lyrics. Be blessed!

 Posted by at 12:18 am

” That Incredible Christian or That Incredible Shrinking Christian”.

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Jul 142019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: ” That Incredible Christian or That Incredible Shrinking Christian”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Back in 1964 A.W. Tozer wrote a book called That Incredible Christian. In his book he enumerated the characteristics of a true Christian that often made him an enigma to the rest of the world, and yet that enigma was an unexplainable difference that often had a magnetic draw of curiosity that caused non-Christians to investigate the genuineness of our faith, and often would lead them to choose that fascinating relationship with God, through Christ for themselves. Listen to a brief description that Tozer shares-“The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, (to his old self), yet he is more alive than ever…and he fully expects to live forever! He walks on earth, but is seated in heaven! He is like the Nighthawk, which is so graceful in flight in the air, but is so awkward and ugly on the ground…to be a victorious son of heaven he must not follow the pattern of earth. To be safe-he must put himself in jeopardy! He loses his life-to save it. When he tries to preserve it, he is in danger of losing it! He goes down-to go up! If he refuses to go down, he is already down! He is strong when he is weakest…and weakest when he sees himself strong. He has the most when he has given the most away! He is most sinless when he is most conscious of his sin! Most sinful when he feels he has little or no sin! He is wisest when he knows that he knows little! Knows least when he thinks he knows much! Sometimes he does the most, by doing nothing! -Goes furthest when he is standing still! He fears God-yet is not afraid of Him. When he is in God’s presence, he feels overwhelmed and undone! Yet there is no other place he desires to be more! He loves supremely One he has never seen! He fully expects to go and see Him one day soon, but is in no hurry to get there! In this world he is a confirmed pessimist, but expecting Christ soon, he is a restful optimist! THAT INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN!” That kind of incredible Christian lived with a conviction that God had brought something into their lives through Christ that was an enigma to the world, but something they desperately needed to share. That led them to pray for their non-Christian friends; be there for them in the difficult days of their lives; and always ready to share the Gospel with them and encourage them to give their lives to Christ. Always it seemed that the Incredible Christian had a burden to see their friends and loved ones share in this Incredible Christian life!

But those days seem like a mirage in the cold hard reality of this New Millennium! I am not sure why but most Christians do not even seem to be familiar with all the Incredibility they have in Christ Jesus. Losing the wonder of it all has evaporated the ever-present desire to share that incredible faith with those who have never met or known our Lord. It seems that many Christians are not even sure how incredible the Christian life is-why would it be something you would want to convince others to embrace it! IT SEEMS THAT INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN HAS BECOME THAT INCREDIBLE SHRINKING CHRISTIAN! Eight years before Tozer wrote his book, That Incredible Christian, another author, a science fiction author, Richard Matheson, wrote a novel called The Incredible Shrinking Man. It was made into a movie in 1957. In the book/movie Scott Carey is exposed to a cloud of radioactive spray. This radioactivity causes him to shrink 1/7 of an inch per day. As he shrinks, he is detrimentally affected in his success on his job; with his family; and in all of his relationships! As he shrinks to 7 inches he engages in battles with sparrows and spiders who would normally run away from him. This fiction was fantastically entertaining for an earlier generation. Truth be known-it speaks to our generation-to the Christians in our generation. For the last several decades Christians have been shrinking in stature. It used to be that we had a strong influence on our culture and in our community. But as we have grown less and less in being Incredible Christians-we have become as Martin Lloyd Jones has said-“irrelevant”. Instead of the world looking to the Church and the Christian for direction, they have chosen to ignore us. The tragedy of it all is we have become comfortable with that! We seldom take a stand on the issues of our day. We seldom hold up the Cross and the Christ as the only answer to the problems that confront our society today. We have embraced the philosophy “I’m Ok-Your Ok!” and from a Biblical point of view-“That is Not Ok!” Instead of being “That Incredible Christian” we have become “That Incredible Shrinking Christian!” That is the tragedy for the Gospel in this new millennium!

There was another Carey. His name was William Carey. He and some fellow Baptist pastors in England began to pray for the lost, in their country, and in the world as a whole. They began to discuss the destiny of those who had not received Christ. They prayed that God would bring the good news of the gospel to them. They became the answer to their own prayers. Carey came to the conviction “Expect Great Things from God-Attempt Great Things for God!” That lead to the birth of modern missions. William Carey gave his life to taking the good news of the Gospel to Burma. He embraced all the challenges of learning the languages and customs-of loving the unlovable…Of patiently giving all his possessions, energy and life in winning them to Christ. He even engaged his 8-year-old son Felix in the work. Felix excelled in learning the language and translating the Bible into the language of the Burmese people. Felix was a co-laborer with his father William in a “Great work for God”. When he was 21 Felix married. He and his wife had a son. The hardships of the missionary life took the life of his wife and son. In his weariness he grew discouraged. Felix not only was gifted in language translation but had medical abilities as well. The King of Burma offered Felix a position as Ambassador to the governor-general in Calcutta. The weary Felix accepted, resigning his mission activities in 1814, Felix lived in affluence as a Burmese Government official now. His father William was crushed. He wrote to fellow Christians back in England-“pray for Felix-he is shriveled from a missionary to an ambassador!” Felix’s wealth and position in the world led him to overspending and alcoholism. He had to resign in disgrace. He disappeared into the province of Assam, wandering and homeless for three years! The good news is he recovered. He returned to being a missionary. He finished well and had an impact for the gospel. Perhaps we need to write a letter to ourselves. “Pray for the 21st century Christian. He has shriveled from being a witness to a wanderer! From that Incredible Christian to that Incredible Shrinking Christian!” Unless we draw near unto our Lord; Unless we get our credible stature back in the eyes of the world-our Gospel will fall on deaf ears in these last days! Today’s message is about Understanding the Gospel in a Nutshell and striving together in applying the essentials needed for Impacting the World with the Gospel of Christ…and stop the shrinking!

 Posted by at 9:20 pm

“Call it a loan-on a debt that you owe”

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Jul 072019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Call it a loan-on a debt that you owe”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  In the 33 years that our Lord sojourned upon this earth, He never once demonstrated a single shred of materialistic desire. I doubt seriously that He ever scanned the Jerusalem Daily News to see whether the stock market was up or down, or called His bank to see how His investments were doing, He never worried one second that inflation might be eating away at His little “nest egg” tucked away in some corner of His humble abode. He never had an abode. He told those who would follow Him that the “foxes have holes, and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay His head!” (Matthew 8:20). He told His disciples to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth”. (Matt. 6:19). He lived that message before them. He said, “a man’s life consisteth not in the things he possesses!” (Luke 121:15). When we had United Voice in concert, their lead singer, Jeremy reminded us that all during the days of His flesh Jesus had to often borrow the things that He needed. Stop and think about that! The day He was born- He had a borrowed room-in a stable. He had no baby crib-He had a borrowed manger-i.e. “a feeding trough” borrowed from the cattle. He borrowed a coin from the fish’s mouth to pay taxes. He borrowed 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed the 5,000. He often borrowed a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, or to use as a pulpit to preach from. When He made His entrance, in fulfillment of Scripture, on Palm Sunday, it was on a borrowed donkey. You remember Jesus told them to go into the city, find a donkey tied at a certain location, take it and tell the owners-“The Lord hath need of him” (Mark 11:2-3). Someone has said that the only thing that was his was His Cross. The poem goes like this:

         

They borrowed a bed to lay His head

When Christ the Lord came down;

They borrowed the ass, in the mountain pass

For Him to ride into town;

 

But the crown that He wore

And the cross that He bore

Were his own-The cross was His own.

  

He borrowed the bread when the crowd He fed

On the grassy mountainside;

He borrowed the dish of the broken fish

With which He satisfied;

  

But the crown that He wore,

And the cross that He bore,

Were His own, the cross was His own.

  

He borrowed a room, on the way to the tomb

The Passover Lamb to eat;

They borrowed the cave, to use as His grave;

They borrowed the winding sheet

They covered in spikenard so sweet

   

But the crown that He wore,

And the cross that He bore,

Were His own, the cross was His own.

  

  A great poem-but not accurate. Even His cross was a borrowed cross. It belonged to Jesus Barabbas. Jesus borrowed his cross on which to die- in his place and in ours too. He had a borrowed tomb, that He only needed for three nights and days. All His life He borrowed necessities in order to impact our world for God. Do you know He still is? Would you let the Lord borrow from you? You say “what do I have that the Lord has need of?” Anne Johnson Flint tells us clearly what the Lord needs to borrow from us. Listen to her words-

 

Christ has no hands but our hands

To do His work today

He has no feet but our feet

To lead men in His way

He has no tongue but our tongues

To tell men how He died

He has no help but our help

To bring them to His side

   

What if our hands are busy

With work other than His?

What if our feet are walking

Where sin’s allurement is?

What if our tongues are speaking

Of things His lips would spurn?

Oh how we need to help him

And hasten His soon return?

 

  Would you let Jesus borrow your hands, your feet, your tongue? Several years ago, there was a pop song entitled-“Call It A Loan”- The lyrics stated-“Call it a loan-on a debt that I owed!” That sounds like a tune we could definitely learn from our Lord! Just keep telling yourself-“The Lord has need of you!” He really does!

 Posted by at 9:10 pm

FIRST-PERSON: Making a connection

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Jun 302019
 

FIRST-PERSON: Making a connection by Doug Munton

O’FALLON, Ill. (BP) — I moved several times as a boy and it wasn’t much fun

Each time I had to overcome old fears, break down unseen barriers and make new friends. I never liked that feeling of being an outsider. I haven’t forgotten how it felt to my tender young soul.

But it taught me some valuable lessons in helping to connect with guests at church.

Visiting a church can be awkward for a first-time guest. They don’t know the people, the customs or the expectations. They can feel nervous, intimidated or ignored. They might not even yet know the message of the Gospel.

Here are some tips to help church members purposely connect with guests that can make a real and lasting difference:

1. Talk to people you don’t know.

Church member, this is the simplest thing that you can do for guests. If you don’t know someone, say hello. Tell them you are glad to see them. I ask almost every Sunday, “Have I met you before?” If I have met them before, I apologize for forgetting and work to get to know them better.

In connecting with guests, just speak to them. Look them in the eye and say a simple greeting. Welcome them. Care about them. A surprising number of church members never do this.

2. Be friendly to people who aren’t yet your friends.

Every church in America thinks they are friendly because they are friendly to their friends. But being friendly to your friends does not make your church friendly to guests.

I love that our members have church friends with whom they can talk and laugh and visit. But I want them to choose to meet some new people. One of my dearest college friends was the very last guy I met of all the guys on my dorm hall.

Make some new friends at church this week. Maybe they will become lifelong friends. But even if not, you will help a new person connect with your church.  

3. Learn their names.

Introductions usually involve us telling each other our names. But if we aren’t careful, we quickly forget. It isn’t that we aren’t good with names but that we didn’t really pay careful attention when they told us their name to begin with.

Our small groups have come up with a simple solution for this. We are starting to wear name tags. You can’t easily ask the name of a couple in your small group who have been coming for months. It is embarrassing that you forgot. But name tags help us remember. And they are especially helpful for connecting with guests.

4. Read body language.

If someone looks confused, they probably are confused. A simple, “Can I help you find something?” is helpful. With a little practice, you can begin to understand what people are feeling and thinking from their body language.

Guests often look a bit apprehensive because they are. Learning to read this allows you as a church member to do something about this. A friendly face and kind word goes a long way toward lowering that nervousness.

Some of our guests want to remain fairly anonymous. They typically appreciate a friendly greeting but don’t always want deep conversation until they know if they can trust us. You may be able to read that. Perhaps you could say, “If I can help you with anything, just let me know.”

Other guests would really like to have someone offer to have them sit with them. Or they might enjoy some friendly conversation. Body language is a language that communicates volumes when we begin to understand it.

5. Invite them to take the next connection steps.

It is entirely appropriate to tell a departing guest that you hope they come back. There is nothing wrong with letting them know about your small groups, an upcoming special event or membership class, or the classes for their children.

Welcoming a first-time guest is just the start of the assimilation process. A warm welcome goes a long way. But we want more than that for our guests. We want them to consider and trust the claims of Christ. We want them to join us on this discipleship journey. We want them to fellowship with other believers and worship with the church family and serve as God has gifted them. We want them to join us in welcoming other guests and helping them to follow the Lord as well.

Consider how it must feel to attend your church as a first-time guest. Have empathy for the awkwardness that can come with a new experience in a new place.

And choose to be that friendly face this week who offers that kind word.

Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., and a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 Posted by at 12:16 pm

“That Scar-Even that is no sacrifice!”

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Jun 232019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “That Scar-Even that is no sacrifice!”  By Ron Woodrum

        Doctor David Livingstone was one of the greatest missionaries to give his life for spreading the gospel. After war broke out in China, he had to change his plans for missionary work. His father-in-law, Robert Moffat challenged him to come and challenge the Dark Continent for Christ. He accepted the challenge and spent the years of 1852-1873 exploring and evangelizing Africa. Early on, while trying to show the natives how to defend their livestock from the lions, he shot and wounded a lion, who attacked him while reloading, and for all practical purposes destroyed his left arm. He spent 22 years of tireless exploration and evangelization. He pushed himself to the limit for his Savior and the people of Africa. His life verse was Matthew 28:20 “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world”. His life motto and prayer was-“God send me anywhere-only go with me. Lay any burden on me-only sustain me. Sever any tie on my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Thee!” He is known for discovering Victoria Falls. A statue of him there is inscribed with his motto: “CHRISTIANITY, COMMERCE, AND CIVILIZATION”. He was criticized by the London Missionary Society for additional activities than evangelizing; but he felt the other two activities supported his priority of spreading Christianity. He was attacked over 30 times; He often had his supplies and medicine stolen; He battled pneumonia, ulcers, dysentery, and malaria, which eventually killed him in 1873. He suffered greatly to share the gospel where it had never been before. Stories were written about him how that he made so many sacrifices and suffered so much for the Gospel’s sake. When he came back to England to speak, before going back to Africa for the final time, he spoke these words: “For my own part I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Is that a sacrifice that brings its own blest reward? Is it a sacrifice in doing what is good? Is it a sacrifice to have the peace of God that you are safe in His will? Is it a sacrifice to have a bright hope of a glorious hereafter? Away with the word sacrifice! IT IS A PRIVILEGE! Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then, with a foregoing of common convenience and charities of life, may make us pause, or waiver, or our soul to sink a bit; but only for a moment. All of these are nothing when compared to the glory that shall be revealed in and for us! I NEVER MADE A SACRIFICE!” (He gave that message as he stood at the pulpit thin and gaunt; bearing the marks of illness and attack all over his body; his left arm hanging limp and useless at his side). The people of Africa loved him so much that they demanded his heart be buried with them in Africa. It is there with a monument in Zambia. They also loved him so much that they carried his body hundreds of miles, against their customs and superstitions to enable his body to be transported back to his native England and to be buried in Westminster Abby.

How I hang my head in shame when I think about myself. When I think about Christianity in America that will make little or no effort to evangelize our friends and neighbors without endangering ourselves in any way. We don’t even have to inconvenience ourselves at all. He did so much with so little. We do so little with so much. It makes me think of Amy Carmichael convicting poem NO SCAR?

She asks us: Hast thou no scar?

No hidden scar on foot, or side or hand?

I hear thee sung as mighty in the land.

I hear thy bright ascendant star.

Hast thou no scar?

 

Hast thou no wound?

Yet I was wounded by the archers spent

Leaned against a tree to die, and rent

By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned

Hast thou no wound?

 

No wound? No scar?

Yet as Master, shall servant be,

And pierced are the feet that follow me

But thine are whole; can he have followed me far

Who has no wound-who has no scar?

 

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was purchased through great suffering. It was proclaimed in New Testament times through great suffering. What makes us think that we can follow our Lord and proclaim His Gospel without it being a Gospel of Suffering? Our Lord promised to be with us with His presence and power as we suffer in proclaiming His Gospel. Wounds and Scars accompany His Gospel. But all that said, with Livingstone, our testimony should be-“We never made a sacrifice!” When we look at what Jesus did to save the world, we cannot help but be satisfied with His finished work on the cross. When He looks at our work in spreading that Good News Gospel is He satisfied with us? B.B. McKinney wrote a convicting hymn that asks that question.

Satisfied With Jesus

 

  I am satisfied with Jesus

He has done so much for me

He has suffered to redeem me

He has died to set me free

  

  He is with me in my trials

Best of friends of all is He

I can always count on Jesus

Can He always count on me?

  

  I can hear the voice of Jesus

Calling out so pleadingly

Go and win the lost and straying

Is He satisfied with me?

  

  And when my work on earth is ended

And I cross the Mystic sea

Oh that I could hear Him saying

I am satisfied with thee.

  

  I am satisfied with Jesus

I am satisfied with Jesus

But the question comes to me

When I think of Calvary

Is my Master satisfied with me?

 Posted by at 11:58 am

“Laser-Light Gospel Evangelism”

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Jun 162019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Laser-Light Gospel Evangelism”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

 

I was led to Christ by Pastor Russell Pittman, of the Salem Baptist Church of Decatur, Illinois in early September 1968. The next year, after growing in Christ, I felt God calling me to give up plans to go to the University of Illinois and be a Physical Education major, with the goal of being a coach. My second choice was to be a disk-jockey on a radio station! I know-I was setting my goals extremely high! But God had other plans! I was licensed to the ministry in March of 1969, and began an itinerant ministry of Youth revivals all over the state of Illinois. But I remember an event that affirmed that call in a very emphatic way. It was the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Youth Encounter of 1969. It was held on Dec. 26-27 at the Springfield, Illinois Holiday Inn. Kids from all over Illinois traveled through the snow to attend the conference. There were three main personalities giving testimony and speaking at the Encounter. The first was Debra Barnes. She was Miss America 1968. She was Miss Kansas, and was elected Miss America. She was a devout Christian, and made that plain in her acceptance speech. While she was speaking protesters from the New York Radical Women were waving sheets promoting Women’s Lib, and “No More Miss America Pageants!” Debra was a gifted Pianist and played and gave her testimony. She gave God the glory, and told how holding that honor opened doors for her to share Christ with the world! (Boy how times have changed!). Debra has lived faithfully to the Lord, and currently is Associate Professor of Piano studies at Missouri Southern State University, in Joplin, Mo., and Worship leader for nearly 20 years at The Faithlife Worship Center in Carthage, Mo. The second personality was Terry Bradshaw. Terry was a football star whose father was retired military and a Vice President of a manufacturing company in Shreveport, La. They were strong Southern Baptists, and Terry grew up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In High School Terry led his football team to record setting years. He also set a national record for throwing the Javelin-throwing it 245 ft! (a record that stood for years, but was recently eclipsed by 10 feet). That feat earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated, where he would appear on the cover three times after winning the Super Bowl in 1974, 1975, and 1979. At the time he spoke to us he was star quarterback for Louisiana Tech University, having been back up to Phil (Duck Dynasty) Robertson in his first two years. Phil choose not to play in 1968. He told Terry, (he now says-“I am going for the ducks, you go for the bucks!”). In 1969 Terry was the Most Outstanding College Quarterback. He broke records in his last two collegiate years! Terry came to the Youth Encounter as a spokesman for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Of course, he went on to be the #1 draft pick of the Pittsburg Steelers, for whom he won 4 Super Bowls (’74, ’75, ’78,’79). Terry unashamedly declared his love and commitment to Jesus Christ as the most important thing in his life, and gave God all the glory for the accomplishments he had been blessed to attain. The third personality at the conference was Ron Hutchcraft. He was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and leader in the Youth for Christ movement. Since that time Ron has been active for over 55 years in RHM Ministries. He has a radio program entitled A Word With You, and a ministry to native Americans called On Eagles Wings. He was so different! He spoke casually, sitting on a stool, not behind a podium. Every word he spoke went straight to the heart. He clearly held Jesus up as the only way of salvation. But more than that, he challenged these many young people to give their life to something that would matter for time and eternity -“following Jesus with all your heart-wherever He calls you!” He insisted that Jesus wanted us to be “all in” and give ourselves 100% No holding back! I have never forgotten the last service. As the instrumentalists played and sang, I have decided to follow Jesus, he challenged each of us, if we were serious about it, to stand up, in front of all our peers around us, and declare publically-“I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS-NO TURNING BACK!” I have never forgotten the decision I made that day- almost 50 years ago! What an Encounter! The theme was “STAND UP AND STAND OUT FOR JESUS”. He probably doesn’t even remember that day. I have never forgotten it.

But I remember an event that affirmed that call in a very emphatic way. It was the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Youth Encounter of 1969. It was held on Dec. 26-27 at the Springfield, Illinois Holiday Inn. Kids from all over Illinois traveled through the snow to attend the conference. There were three main personalities giving testimony and speaking at the Encounter. The first was Debra Barnes. She was Miss America 1968. She was Miss Kansas, and was elected Miss America. She was a devout Christian, and made that plain in her acceptance speech. While she was speaking protesters from the New York Radical Women were waving sheets promoting Women’s Lib, and “No More Miss America Pageants!” Debra was a gifted Pianist and played and gave her testimony. She gave God the glory, and told how holding that honor opened doors for her to share Christ with the world! (Boy how times have changed!). Debra has lived faithfully to the Lord, and currently is Associate Professor of Piano studies at Missouri Southern State University, in Joplin, Mo., and Worship leader for nearly 20 years at The Faithlife Worship Center in Carthage, Mo. The second personality was Terry Bradshaw. Terry was a football star whose father was retired military and a Vice President of a manufacturing company in Shreveport, La. They were strong Southern Baptists, and Terry grew up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In High School Terry led his football team to record setting years. He also set a national record for throwing the Javelin-throwing it 245 ft! (a record that stood for years, but was recently eclipsed by 10 feet). That feat earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated, where he would appear on the cover three times after winning the Super Bowl in 1974, 1975, and 1979. At the time he spoke to us he was star quarterback for Louisiana Tech University, having been back up to Phil (Duck Dynasty) Robertson in his first two years. Phil choose not to play in 1968. He told Terry, (he now says-“I am going for the ducks, you go for the bucks!”). In 1969 Terry was the Most Outstanding College Quarterback. He broke records in his last two collegiate years! Terry came to the Youth Encounter as a spokesman for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Of course, he went on to be the #1 draft pick of the Pittsburg Steelers, for whom he won 4 Super Bowls (’74, ’75, ’78,’79). Terry unashamedly declared his love and commitment to Jesus Christ as the most important thing in his life, and gave God all the glory for the accomplishments he had been blessed to attain. The third personality at the conference was Ron Hutchcraft. He was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and leader in the Youth for Christ movement. Since that time Ron has been active for over 55 years in RHM Ministries. He has a radio program entitled A Word With You, and a ministry to native Americans called On Eagles Wings. He was so different! He spoke casually, sitting on a stool, not behind a podium. Every word he spoke went straight to the heart. He clearly held Jesus up as the only way of salvation. But more than that, he challenged these many young people to give their life to something that would matter for time and eternity -“following Jesus with all your heart-wherever He calls you!” He insisted that Jesus wanted us to be “all in” and give ourselves 100% No holding back! I have never forgotten the last service. As the instrumentalists played and sang, I have decided to follow Jesus, he challenged each of us, if we were serious about it, to stand up, in front of all our peers around us, and declare publically-“I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS-NO TURNING BACK!” I have never forgotten the decision I made that day- almost 50 years ago! What an Encounter! The theme was “STAND UP AND STAND OUT FOR JESUS”. He probably doesn’t even remember that day. I have never forgotten it.

  Recently I heard Ron on the radio. It was his program-A WORD WITH YOU. He titled his program-“A mission with a name on it!” Let me briefly share part of it with you. Maybe God will use him to impact your life like he did mine!

    Ron said, “My friend Dave got tired of wearing glasses. But if he didn’t, he was dangerous. After consulting with a specialist, he determined he was a candidate for Lasik surgery. During the procedure, a laser beam was aimed at the parts of his eyes that had limited his vision and the carefully aimed light of that laser changed everything! Guess who doesn’t need glasses anymore! All because of the power of focused light. My Word With You is ‘A mission with a name on it!’ For someone you know, for someone you love, their only hope of ever seeing Jesus may be the power of focused light. You are God’s laser light to their life. Were not talking about single-handedly reaching everyone in your town, your school, your workplace, or your neighborhood for Christ. Were talking about focusing your love, prayer, and efforts on one person you want to have in heaven with you. Someone who, if they died today, probably would not go there. I call it a mission with a name on it. Not just non-specific concern for the ‘lost’. We’re talking about a burden with a name. Andrew met Jesus. The first concern of his was to go and tell his brother Peter. We know the results of that mission (See John 1:40-42). We know Jesus had a heart for just one sheep. He left the 99, to go search diligently for the one lost sheep. A mission with a name on it. (Palestinian Shepherds named their sheep). That doesn’t mean you ignore all the other lost people around you! But you start with one person. God lays that person on your heart. You pray for that person every day. You pray that you, or someone of God’s leading, will cross paths with them, and share the Gospel. You look for ways to love them, in their language of love, demonstrating Jesus’ love for them, in practical ways. You focus the light of Jesus and your efforts like a laser beam on that one life!

In a previous generation, a man named John Wannamaker, one of the most looked to and successful businessmen in America, and founder of one of the first famous department stores in America, was also a lover of Jesus Christ, and a Sunday School teacher. One day he wrote a hand copied letter to each member of his large class. What he said touched my heart. He wrote, ‘If you are saved, humbly trusting in what Jesus did for you in His love on the cross, think of others who are not saved. Be burdened that they will be spending eternity in darkness-separated from God forever! That’s your friend, your relative, your neighbor-Do Something! Settle your mind and heart on some particular person. Pray and work and do not give up til that person comes to Christ. Your help comes from God. It is an undying soul you are laboring for. What a pleasure it will be to have some newborn soul with you in heaven! Do not put it off for a single hour. Hearts grow harder and eternity is close”. He signed his letter to his class-‘Yours in the hope of heaven, and to win our friends to go with us’.” That’s your mission with a name on it! That is your laser beam of Gospel proclamation! Imagine the joy of someone coming up to you in heaven and saying “Thank you-I would not be here if not for you!” Thank God your mission with a name on it had their name!

 Posted by at 2:57 am

“A Brand Plucked From the Fire-with the World His Gospel Parish”

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Jun 092019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “A Brand Plucked From the Fire-with the World His Gospel Parish”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the most interesting and impacting Christian influences of the 18th Century was John Wesley. Historians feel that he, and possibly George Whitefield, are the reason that England escaped the Revolutionary tragedy and turmoil that plagued France during this same time in history. His spiritual influence brought such a revival to England that created an entirely different culture than the one that nearly destroyed France, John Wesley was born June 28, 1703, to an Anglican minister Samuel Wesley, and his wife Susannah. John was the 15th, of 19 children! His mother was the 25th child of 25! One would think that John was mostly influenced by his minister father, but we are told that all of the Wesley children were impacted most by their godly mother. Somehow, she had time to spend individual time with each one of them, (a challenge when there is only 24 hours in a day). She taught them the Word of God, to pray, and to live by very strict Christian behavior toward each other and those in the outside world. John would be ingrained with these Christian methods so much that he would carry them with him the rest of his life! Many historians refer to Susannah Wesley as the Mother of Modern-day Methodism! Even after he left home for his college education, he turned to his mother asking her to define sin for him. She responded, “whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself”. She not only taught them the Scriptures, but taught them to study it in its original language, from the Greek New Testament. An incident that occurred while John was quite young, shaped him the rest of his life. The Wesley home caught fire. All of the family escaped the flames, except John. He was trapped on the second floor. There was no way of escape. Neighbors recognizing the emergency of the situation, formed a human ladder, (standing on each other’s shoulders), to reach up and out to rescue young John. For the rest of his life he referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the fire”-quoting what God said of Joshua the High Priest in Zechariah 3:2.

John and his brother Charles went to Oxford. While there they formed, with two other students, the Holy Club, where they emphasized practical methods and rules for living the practical Christian life. Again, this was from the influence of his godly mother who tried to make the commandments of Scripture every day exercises in holiness for her children. John had an insatiable appetite to know and please God. James Oglethorpe had founded a colony in Georgia where many from debtor’s prison in England were sent. He asked John and Charles to go to this parish and minister to these prisoners, and also to evangelize the Indians. In October of 1735 they sailed on the Simmonds ship to the Province of Georgia, in the American colonies. It was on this trip that he met and was greatly influenced by the Moravian missionaries that were on the same trip. On the way to the New World, the ship encountered a life-threatening storm, and it was clear the ship was going to sink. The Moravians sang hymns and rejoiced calmly. John Wesley was terrified of death. The Moravian pastor asked John why he was so terrified. He asked him “don’t you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?” John would write of the incident later in his journals, that he immediately responded “Of course I do!”, but admitted that his confession even sounded hollow to his own ears! He spent two years ministering to prisoners and Indians in Georgia. He and Charles were not well received! They decided to return home. John was returning a broken and disillusioned man. He wrote in his journals-“I went to Georgia to convert the heathen and the Indians. Who will convert me?” Upon returning to England he continued to meet with the Moravians. At one of their Bible studies, at Aldersgate Street London, May 24, 1738, they were studying the Book of Romans from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. When the leader read the preface to the commentary that described Luther opening his heart to the salvation of the Lord that was received by faith alone-John Wesley would later write in his journal-“I felt my heart strangely warmed, and at that point, instead of trusting my methods of Christian living for my salvation, I do believe I trusted in Jesus Christ alone as my Savior and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death”. That was a turning point in his life indeed! He was not received well in the Anglican Church, rejected by the Bishops and clergy, He followed the example of George Whitefield, beginning an itinerant ministry. He turned to preaching the Gospel of Grace in the open fields. His motto became-“the world is my parish”. He became adept at open-air preaching. He began to draw crowds into the thousands at his services. He was a small man, 5 foot 6 inches 120 pounds. When he preached, he had to stand on a chair, or a rock, or a hill, or man-made platform. He preached on an average 15 sermons a week, He continued to preach to this Gospel parish for the next 50 years! Over that time, he preached over 40,000 sermons. He traveled on horseback the length and breadth of England-altogether more than 250,000 miles on horseback. He would be seen traveling on horseback, reading his Greek New Testament, and preparing messages. He said, “He destroyed his sermons every seven years, and wrote new ones”. He felt that he was a failure if he could not write better sermons as he went along! They say that the miles he traveled, could have circled the world 10 times! He did so often in the face of hostile crowds, on roads that were often only muddy ruts. A contemporary described him as “the last word…in neatness and dress” and “his eye was the brightest and most piercing that can be conceived”. Once a wild bull was turned loose on him and an audience he was addressing. He was attacked, and sometimes robbed, but none of these things deterred him. His ministry was greatly anointed by the Holy Spirit and the crowds responded in powerful conversions everywhere he went. His converts quickly numbered into the thousands!

He was a powerful preacher and author. He wrote, “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh be not weary in well-doing!” Wesley was strongly Arminian in his theology. He opposed strong Calvinism. But in spite of that he did so with a sweet spirit. He coined the phrase, “we can agree to disagree, agreeably!” He wrote, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. here in all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences”. Everywhere he went he reminded other Christians “You have one business on earth-to save souls!” He gave himself to that ministry tirelessly! His prayer was “may I never be useless for the work of God!” He felt strongly about living the Christian life as well. He wrote, “By salvation I mean not barely according to the vulgar notion deliverance from hell or going to heaven only, but a deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity, a recovery of the divine nature…after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness”. He believed in giving generously to the Lord’s work. He said, “When I earn any money, after taking care of my needs, I give it all away in His work lest it find a way into my heart, as an idol!” “When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy, and prosperous. Now if that man when he gets all he can, and does not five all he can, I have no more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!” He also said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness”, and wrote a Medical journal that became famous, and catalogued many popular and home remedies of his day. He was known for saying, “Untold millions are still untold, until we tell them!” “though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry!” He also said, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn!” (Charles Spurgeon followed his example!). He was a humble servant of the Lord. He and George Whitefield often disagreed on theology. Wesley did not fully embrace eternal security. George Whitefield did. People asked Wesley if he thought he would see Whitefield in heaven? He quickly responded, “No!” They thought his response was unfair, until he explained-“George will be so close to the throne of God, and I so far away that it will be quite unlikely I will even be able to see him!” Let me share two of my favorite quotes from Wesley. One is about the Bible. He wrote, “it could not be the invention of good men or angels; they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying ‘Thus says the Lord’ when it was their own invention. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they could not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity, without Christ! Therefore, I draw this conclusion that the Bible must be of Divine Inspiration. I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God. Just hovering over the great gulf; til a few moments hence, I am no longer seen. I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing-the way to heaven. How to land safe on that happy shore. God has condescended to teach the way. For this very end he came from heaven. he hath written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me that book! Give me the Book of God! I have it. Here is knowledge enough for me! Let me be Homo Unius Libri-a man of one book!” The other quote I admire is the one he said, “Give me 100 men, who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, I care not a whit whether they be clergy or layperson, and I shall shake the very gates of hell!”. That was his life’s goal. He led the way for far more than 100 men and women! He did so for nearly fifty years of incessant itinerary witnessing and ministry!

On June 28, 1790, one year before his death he wrote, “This day I enter into my eighty-eighth year. For above eighty-six years, I found none of the infirmities of old age: my eyes did not wax dim, neither was my natural strength abated. But last August, I found almost a sudden change. My eyes were so dim that no glasses would help me. My strength likewise now quite forsook me and probably will not return in this world!” He died on March 2, 1791, at an age of 87. As he lay dying, his friends and family gathered around him. Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, “Farewell, Farewell! The best of all is, God is with us” he lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice again, repeating the words “The best of all is God is with us!” His biographer writes, “He witnessed in the hearts and lives of many thousands and saw God’s provision for his work to last for future generations!” If you visit his tomb, in London, England, you will be touched by his epitaph-“To the memory of the venerable John Wesley, late fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford-This great light arose to enlighten…and revive, enforce, and defend the pure apostolic doctrines and practices of the primitive Church, which he continued to do both with his writings and labors for more than half a century…Reader if thou art constrained to bless the instrument-give God the glory. After languishing a few days, he finished his course and life together, gloriously triumphing over death, March 2nd, 1791 in his eighty-eighth year of his life.” He was a brand plucked from the fire, who spent all the days of his life, in the world that was his Gospel parish, plucking others from the fire with all of his strength-and good method to follow! No pun intended!

 Posted by at 2:44 am

“The Mastery of That One Essential Thing”

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Jun 022019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE; “The Mastery of That One Essential Thing”.   By:  Ron Woodrum

  Maybe you have seen the movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Billy Crystal plays a white-collar guy named Mitch. He is married with children and is questioning whether anything in his life really matters! He and his two friends take a vacation out West in order to take part in a cattle drive. Jack Palance plays a mysterious and intimidating cowboy named Curly, who wears a black hat and a red bandana. He leads this bunch of city slickers with gruff reluctance. In one scene Mitch and Curly are riding together. Mitch, having occasionally stood up to Curly, has caused Curly to warm up to him. Curly says, ‘A cowboy leads a different kind of life…when there were cowboys. We are a dying breed. A couple of days we will lead this herd across the river, through the valley…there’s nothing like bringing in the herd!” Mitch responds, “That’s great-your life makes sense to you!” Curly laughs. Mitch asks, “What’s so funny?” Curly looks right into Mitch’s eyes and says, ‘You city folk…worry about a lot of stuff! How old are you? Thirty-eight?” (Mitch answers “thirty-nine!”). “Yeah, you all come out here the same age with the same problems” Curly tells him. “You spend a whole year getting knots in your rope, and you think two weeks out here will untie them for you! None of you get it! Do you know what the secret of life is?” Mitch shakes his head “no”. “This” Curly says, raising up his index finger. Mitch jokes, ‘Your finger?” Curly clearly states, “One thing-just one thing! You stick to it, and everything else don’t mean squat!” Mitch says, “That’s great! What is the one thing?” Curly smiles, riding away, says “that’s what you’ve got to figure out!” Most Christians need to head Curly’s advice. They need to figure out the one thing that is the secret of life!

In his book Mr. Bridge, novelist Evan Cornell describes a moment in the life of a Kansas City lawyer in the 1930’s. Outwardly he is seen as the epitome of success. He is wealthy; his family seems strong; he is highly respected. That’s life, we say, above the waterline. At soul level-below the waterline-Mr. Bridge is a bundle of fears. Awake at night staring out the window of his bedroom, he watches a storm, as he ponders the direction of his life. Cornell writes: “A leaf flattens against the window beside his head. Then it suddenly vanishes away into the darkness! Suddenly a feeling of profound despair overwhelms him because everything he has done in his life seems useless. All that he attempted seemed meager, and his life seemed wasted!” There are a lot of Mr. Bridges struggling with those feeling of futility in their Christian lives…perhaps for good reason. They are missing that “one thing that is the secret to life!” How do we lose that direction? In his landmark book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Serge quotes Bill O’Brien, CEO of Hanoever Insurance: “People enter business as bright well-educated, high energy people and desire to make a difference. By the time they reach 30, a few are on the fast track, and the rest put in their time and do what matters to them in the weekend. They lose the commitment, their sense of mission, and the excitement with which they started their careers. We get…little of their energy, and almost none of their spirit.” You would think he was describing the loss of mission many Christians have today…and their loss of energy to the Church. Serge goes on to say: “Surprisingly few adults work rigorously to develop their own personal mastery. When you ask them what they want from life-they talk about what they would get rid of…not the disciplines of personal mastery. The things that really matter have been lost. They are not living lives of highest aspirations any longer!” He is talking about us Church! E. Stanley Jones speaks relevantly about that same issue…”Man needs nothing so much as he needs something to bring life together in total meaning and total good…instead of his fragmented life. He is confused-the most confused yet intelligent person that has ever existed. He knows everything about life-except HOW TO LIVE!” Even the agnostic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized this. He wrote in Beyond Good and Evil: “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living”. That is what we are missing!

That one thing…that secret of life…that discipline of personal mastery…that life of highest aspirations…that long obedience in the same direction that makes life worth living…is having a passionate grateful love for our Living Lord, and continued commitment to put Him first in our lives come what may. Seeking first the Kingdom and God, and singing the old song “I shall not be moved!” That kind of link of love to our Lord opens us up to His presence and power to Incarnate Him into our lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Helmut Thielicke illustrates that beautifully in his book I Believe, I Believe. He writes: “Many churches have stained glass windows. Those windows recount the mighty acts of God by means of pictures. The venerable figures of the prophets and apostles look down on us, and perhaps there are scenes from the life of Jesus or symbols of the Holy Trinity. These windows are not intended-or at least not primarily-to provide an ornamental border for the place of worship, nor to generate a meditative atmosphere. They are meant to deliver a message. They are the Word illustrated, and they preach through pictures the way the organ preaches through music. Now if I see the Church from the outside, If I just walk around it, these windows appear as lifeless gray-on-gray. They are mute and have nothing to say. However, as soon as I go on the inside, (with the sun shining brightly through them) all the colors blaze out, and the pictures come to life, and begin to speak the message!” So it is with our lives. The presence and power of the Light of the World illuminating our lives with His glory will show and share the message with those that most of time only see us as gray on gray! Seeking His Presence, Power, and Glory should be the all-consuming Passion of our lives. Everything else should pale in light of that one thing! Then we will live the secret of the Christian life.

T.S. Eliot, one of the great figures of English literature, expressed that truth in his poetry, after he became a Christian. In the fourth poem, of his Christian writing Four Quartets, entitled Little Gidding, he addresses the need for that very Passionate Fire. He writes:

 

The dove descending breaks the air

With flame of incandescent terror

Of which the tongues declare

The one discharge from sin and error.

The only hope, or else despair

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-

To be redeemed from fire by fire.

 

Who then devised the torment? Love

Love is the unfamiliar Name

Behind the hands that wove

The intolerable shirt of flame

Which human power cannot remove.

We only live, only suspire

Consumed by either fire or fire.

 

What fire is going to consume you? How about a passionate fire that burns deep inside to light up your life with the glory of the Lord as you give your all to glorify Him with all you say or do. That is the one thing…that one essential thing…the secret to life that reaches the highest of aspirations. That kind of life crowns Him with many Crowns.

 Posted by at 1:31 am

“Our Permanent Halfway Spiritual Condition-lives of silent mediocrity!”

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May 262019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Our Permanent Halfway Spiritual Condition-lives of silent mediocrity!”  BY:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the greatest Christians I have ever met was Howard G. Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was introduced to his ministry by my college room mate Dennis Suhling. Some of my most treasured moments were the times I got to sit under his ministry. The one thing that Dr. Hendricks, (known to his students as “prof” and his colleagues and friends as “Howie”), was to always strive for excellence and never settle for mediocrity. He saw mediocrity as the greatest blight on the contemporary Evangelical Church. He said, “I have never met a Christian who admitted that they intended to live a mediocre Christian life…but I have met a myriad of mediocre Christians!” One of the most influential prophets of my day, A.W. Tozer spoke to this issue in a very convicting way. He admitted, “Personally I have carried a heavy burden of sorrow for Evangelical Christians of our day who have somewhere in their past compromised with their heart’s longings and settled down to a lukewarm and mediocre kind of Christianity that is utterly unworthy of themselves and the Lord they claim to serve!” (That Incredible Christian). John Mason put Christian mediocrity in context when he said, “Mediocrity is a region bound on the North by compromise, on the South by indecision, on the East by past thinking, and on the West by lack of vision”. Eugene Petersen, (Author of the paraphrase The Message), sought to identify why Christians settle for such a low level of discipleship and maturity, he defines as mediocrity instead of excellence, when he writes “One aspect of the world that is harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once…our attention span has been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by the thirty-page abridgement. It is not difficult in out world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel-but it is terrifically difficult to sustain that interest! Millions make a decision for Christ but there is a dreadful attrition rate…evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim…when it loses its novelty it goes on the garbage heap!” He feels that is why so many Christians find themselves in what A.W. Tozer called “Our permanent half-way spiritual condition”. Jen Sincero, making a play on Thoreau’s “‘lives of quiet desperation”, says “so many people live lives of silent mediocrity!” That is so true of the greater number of rank and file Christians in our churches today. Mediocrity is an attitude of the world that has permeated the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “most of the world’s wisdom is accepted by mediocre people to discourage them from ambitious attempts and console them in their mediocrity”. Eric Hoffer is even more confrontational. He warns “The real Antichrist is he who turns the wine of excellence into the water of mediocrity!” Andrew Carnegie agrees. “People who are unable to motivate themselves MUST be content with mediocrity”. Anne Rice warns us “the world doesn’t need anymore mediocrity”. We must affirm “neither does the Church!”. My favorite quote on this subject is Isaac D’Israel when he says, “It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity…I am never content sitting comfortable in a mediocrity chair!” Robert Baldwin sums up what our attitude should be…”I have a horror of not rising above mediocrity!”

How do we define mediocrity? Webster defines it as “the quality of being not very good”. The idea is inferred that we “settle for less than the best, or the good”. The etymology of the word says it all. It comes to English from the French and Latin. The root word is Latin and comes from “medius”-meaning “halfway” and “ocris”-meaning “mountain”. The idea is we settle for climbing halfway up the mountain instead expending all energies to scale the mountain to its summit and reach the top. That is the tragedy of mediocrity in the Christian ranks. Our Lord desires so much more for us, and we stop before we reach the top. We settle for so little when He wants us to experience the best. A.W. Tozer again hits the nail on the head! He writes “God is not honored by our arrested spiritual development-our permanent halfway spiritual condition. We all know that we honor God by going on to full maturity…but instead of following toward the heights, we bargained with the Lord like a street huckster…we bicker and bargain with God about his expectations for spiritual attainments”. Of course, we settle for far less. Worship-we only go halfway. Bible study-that is too much time and effort to “study to show ourselves approved rightly dividing the word of truth”. Praying? We never give Him the best time of the day-only leftovers-even if that! When it comes to witnessing and fishing for men…we fail to win one soul to Christ in a year…many of us in our entire Christian life. That is less that mediocrity. That is a crime!

James Russell Lowell, the great American poet spoke so eloquently on this subject. He wrote:

 

“Life is a leaf of paper white

Whereupon each one of us may write

His word or two, and then comes night.

Greatly begin! Though Thou have time

But for a line, be that sublime-

NOT FAILURE, BUT LOW AIM, IS THE CRIME!

 

Mediocrity in the Christian life is a crime! It is turning the Wine of Excellence into the Water of low aim and mediocrity. It is only going halfway up the mountain. It is quitting too soon. It is sitting down in the comfy chair of little effort. The crime of living the silent life of mediocrity. Our Lord deserves so much more. The world deserves to see so much more of us. We deserve so much more for ourselves! Paul said, “this one thing I do, forgetting those things behind, I keep on reaching for the things that are before, I keep on pressing toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-16). Paul’s goal was anything but mediocrity. He aimed to “reach the top”. At the end of his life he could say-“I have fought the good fight…I have finished the course!” Anything but mediocrity. I recently heard Anne Graham Lott, daughter of Billy Graham, in her message on devotion and commitment refer to an African Christian who was martyred for his faith. He had written in his journal his determination to reach the top for Christ, by giving everything in his commitment to Jesus. This is what he wrote, “I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made-I am a Disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, or slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low-living, sight-walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His Presence, walk by patience, and am uplifted by prayer. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road is narrow. My way is rough. My companions are few, My Guide is reliable. My mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, hired away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, OR MEANDER IN THE MAZE OF MEDIOCRITY! I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preach till all know, and work until He stops me. And when He comes my banner will be clear!” THAT KIND OF CHRISTIANITY is the heights the Lord intends for us to aim for. We may not reach it. But aiming for anything less, and stopping half-way home is mediocrity! A common Christian crime! Don’t aim so low!

 Posted by at 1:30 pm