“Increasing our devotion as we remember their last full measure of devotion!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Increasing our devotion as we remember their last full measure of devotion!”
Sep 202020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE; “Increasing our devotion as we remember their last full measure of devotion!”

     Most historians agree that the 272 word speech given by President Abraham Lincoln, on November 19, 1863, to dedicate the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is one of the greatest speeches of all time. Lincoln said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but they can never forge what they did here.  It is for us to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from  the earth”.  He called the nation never to forget the price that these brave soldiers paid to keep freedom alive.  But that was not the end of the story.  His speech challenged them to increase their devotion to the cause that they gave their last full measure of devotion!  What a worthy challenge.  As we go through the Book of Acts we too will be challenged to never forget the price some early Christians paid to further the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The first martyr was Stephen.  His sacrifice was soon followed by the sacrifice of James, the brother of our Lord.  As the Book of Acts ends we are anticipating the two primary Apostles, Peter and Paul, also “giving their full measure of devotion”.  Both of them do make that sacrifice under the ghastly reign of the maniacal Nero!  Their dedication reminds us of what missionary Jim Eliott said, not long before giving his life in the cause of our dear Lord.  He said, quoting Peter Marshall, “It is not the duration of our life that matters, but the donation!” 

      The giving of the full measure of devotion of Stephen, James, Peter and Paul, encouraged the early Church to follow in their train.  Many were so emboldened that they too would stand for the Lord, come what may, whatever the price, to extend the Gospel of their Blessed Lord.  In the Church of Antioch, where believers where first called Christians, in the year 70 A.D. They had a marvelous pastor by the name of Ignatius,  He was a dynamic, Spirit-filled and godly powerful preacher.  His preaching was turning the entire population of the city to Christ.  So Trajan, the Emperor of Rome, came to visit Antioch to see what was happening there concerning emperor worship-idolatry and heathenism.  He listened to that preacher Ignatius preach.  He saw the throngs turning to the Lord, and forsaking Roman gods and paganism.  He commanded that Ignatius be brought before him.  He sentenced him to be brought to Rome and to be exposed to the wild animals in the Coliseum.  The Coliseum was built about 5 years after the death of the Apostle Paul.  That means it was likely built in 72 A.D. Now the historians tell us that the first Christian to be martyred in the Coliseum was Ignatius, the pastor of the Church of Antioch. In the long journey to Rome he wrote beautiful and inspired letters. They are the treasures of Christendom to this day.  Finally coming to Rome, he was placed , sent out, stood on the sand in the center of that great arena, with tiers with thousands of spectators watching all around.  The cages were opened, and the lions were let loose.  When the leading lion ran omniverously, carnivorously, vicisously, fiercely toward God’s preacher, Ignatius held out his hand, and arm, to the leading lion, and above the crunching sound of bone and tendon, he was heard to declare, “Now I begin to be a Christian!”  That is how we honor those who gave their full measure of devotion.  That is how we increase our devotion.  That is how we honor them, and never forget them!  Willing to join them in bold courage to be faithful unto our Lord at all cost!  Another Christian martyr of the 20th century reminded us that such a commitment is not in vain.  Jim Eliot, who lost his life taking his Lord’s gospel to the Auca Indians of Ecaudor, said, “He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, (his life), to gain what he cannot lose, (eternal reward)”.  To honor them we must never forget!  In the words of Rudyard Kipling- ” Lord God of Hosts be with us yet-  Lest we forget, Lest we forget!” (The Recessional).

 Posted by at 2:20 pm

“Be Pedestaled in Triumph”-Robert Browning

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Be Pedestaled in Triumph”-Robert Browning
Sep 122020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Be Pedestaled in Triumph”-Robert Browning.

     Paschal, in his masterpiece Penses, tried to explain why the world in his day, like ours, seems lost in their insatiable pursuit of pleasure at any cost.  He said, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in man true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, thou none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words (can only be filled) by God Himself”.  In other words, Pascal was saying that man, created in the image of God, can only be fulfilled when, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!”.  Part of the wages of sin is to “fall short of the glory of God” but have this insatiable desire to know, love and experience Him.  If we do not come back to Him, and experience Him fully, through the salvation provided in His Son Jesus Christ, we will spend our lives seeking Him in an infinite insatiable experience, only to be left empty, disappointed, disillusioned, frustrated.  Even living lives of reckless abandon to all kinds of so-called pleasures and vices are affirmations that we are hungering for a God we were made to know, love and experience to His satisfying fullness.  That is why Augustine said, “We are restless until we find our rest in you oh God!”.  C.S. Lewis, in his book The Abolition of Man, made this very amazing point when he said, “Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility…but aren’t there bad, unlawful pleasures? (you ask).  Certainly, there are.  But in calling them ‘bad pleasures’ I take it we are using a kind of shorthand.  We mean ‘pleasures snatched by unlawful acts’.  It is the stealing of the apples that is bad, not the sweetness of the apples.  The sweetness is still a beam from glory.”  Lewis was saying enjoying pleasure and ecstasy, even in immoral ways, are in themselves an act of seeking to enjoy and experience God.  We may experience the pleasure through immoral and illicit means, but it is not the sweetness that is bad, but the means.  It still reflects the original desire of God to give us His “every good and perfect gift”.  But the reason we fail to retain the enjoyment of these illicit experiences is because we were never intended to enjoy them outside of Him.  They come, through proper means, from His Hand, with His blessing, and cause us then to react to the pleasure by enjoying Him.  That is what Lewis went on to say-“The sweetness is still a beam from glory…I have tried since …to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration.  I don’t mean simply by giving thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims very properly, ‘How god of God to give me this’.  Adoration says, ‘what must be the quality of that Being (God) whose far-off and momentary blessings to me are like this! One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun…’ “

     Therefore, the only real answer to overcoming addictions and destructive lifestyles is to see them for what they are.  They are insatiable pursuits of trying to enjoy the pleasures God intends for us to find only in Him, and His Son Jesus.  To try to experience those sweet pleasures from His hand, in illicit ways, will eventually prove to be “pleasure in sin for a season”-and lead to unhappiness.  You and I cannot fill the infinite abyss with finite pleasures, even if they come from the hand of God, if they are experienced apart from putting Him first in our lives.  That is why Emerson said, “Most men, (and women) lead lives of quiet desperation!”  So, it is the enemy’s goal to lead us to seek to fulfill our God-given drives and desires independent of God.  That is where most men and women in the world today are living.  We have believed the lie-“you only go around once so you have to grab all the gusto you can”. But when we realize that we can overcome these destructive lifestyles, with the strength of God, we are freed to experience Him, and in doing so can experience pleasures just as sweet, but in a way that is a gift from Him, and is therefore fulfilling and satisfying.  That is why Jesus said, in John 10:10 “I am come that you might have life…and have it more abundantly”.  That is why Augustine said, “God permits temptation to sin, to transform it into greater good.”  C.S. Lewis also hit the nail on the head, when he said, “Bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of evil impulse until we try to fight it!”  It is a lie of the devil that God says no to us, because He wants to deprive us of pleasure and joy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Truth is pleasure and joy cannot be found, even in God’s gifts if they are sought to be enjoyed apart from Him.  The Gifts are inseparably linked to the Giver!  You can experience them without Him.  He created us for them.  But you can’t enjoy them without Him.  That is the message of the Book of Ecclesiastes.  Solomon tried and did everything.  No limits!  No restraints!  His conclusion?  Live your life for pleasure, apart from putting God first, and you will be “chasing the wind” and concluding “vanity of vanities all is vanity!”. 

   Robert Browning has written a great poem about Temptation- He wrote:

     Why comes temptation, but for man to meet

     And master and make, crouch beneath his feet,

     And so be pedestaled in triumph.

     God wants us to resist the temptation to seek out all the pleasures this world offers if we are not walking intimately with Him.  He wants us to come back to Him.  Embrace Him.  Love Him.  We will find that at His right hand are “pleasures evermore” (Psalm 16:11).  He says, “Take delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).  That is why the Jesus people, of the seventies, found Jesus even more satisfying than a life of illicit sex and drugs.  He proved to be the one who satisfied most, when all those things, pursued without Jesus, were only destructive dead-end streets!  That why they talked about getting the genuine high with Jesus.  He never lets you down.  A genuine and intimate relationship with God, through salvation in His son Jesus is the only answer to the destructive call and pull of this world.  This is illustrated for us in Homer’s Odyssey.  Odysseus was trying to get home to his family and was having a hard time doing it.  Along the way he encountered the enchanting and dangerous Circe who, it was said, turned men into pigs.  When Odysseus successfully avoided her attractions, she confided in him that a sterner test lay ahead-the Sirenes, lusty, luscious maidens whose island lay along the straits and whose songs lured travelers away from hearth and home.  Circe advised Odysseus to have his men plug their ears with wax, and tie himself to the mast.  Odysseus did have his men do just that!  But he had an additional idea-his friend Orpheus, who was also an accomplished musician, was asked to sit on the deck and make a sweet melody that would turn Odysseus’ ears and heart away from the lure of the Sirens, as they passed by.  In that way he stayed the course and passed the test.  The best way to avoid being disappointed by the lure of the lesser is to fill our hearts with the lure of the greater-God, in His Son Jesus Christ.  He will not only give us the pleasures we sought outside of Him, he will give us greater pleasures, that will satisfy our hearts.  That is why Scripture implores us to “taste and see that the Lord is Good!”  (Ps. 34:8). 

     The Christian band Skillet has a unique way of expressing this truth.  In their song, Better Than Drugs they sing:

     Your love is like wine

      Feel you comin’ on so fast

      Feel you comin’ to get me high

      You’re better than drugs

      Addicted for life

      Feel you when I’m restless

      Feel you when I cannot cope

      You’re my addiction, my prescription, my antidote.

Those might not be our first choice of words for lyrics…but they express a true experience we all need.  Let Jesus be…. our antidote…we definitely need one!  He is the answer!

 Posted by at 2:19 pm

Radical or Ludicrous Twaddle?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Radical or Ludicrous Twaddle?
Sep 062020
 

Pastor’s Perspective: Radical or Ludicrous Twaddle?

     John Henry Jowett said, “ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing!”  That statement may be one of the most pertinent comments on the modern evangelical church today.  We have heard our Lord’s commission.  We have committed ourselves to carrying it out, in obedience to His command.  It seems that all we do accomplishes so little.  Why so little impact?  I was recently introduced to a book that made me very uncomfortable, but I must admit it is a God-intended uncomfortableness!  The book is “Radical” by a Southern Baptist Pastor named David Platt.  David graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  After Katrina, he started a Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  It has grown into a mega-church with over 4,000 attending.  But…it did not do so by being a “user-friendly” Church.  It did not copy what other mega churches were doing as the latest trend.  Actually the focus of their ministry was to accentuate the “radical” nature of Christ’s call to discipleship!  Platt testifies to an experience he had on a mission trip to visit underground Asian Churches.  He said, “They walked or biked for miles, each arriving at a non-descript house, separately, at different times, so as not to draw attention to themselves.  All the blinds on the windows were closed tight.  The room was dimly lit.  Twenty leaders from different churches sat in a circle on the floor with their Bibles open…They had gathered in secret.  News and problems were shared.  One woman church leader told of a confrontation with the government officials who threatened and intimidated her people; another told of a cult kidnapping and torturing of members from his church.  We need to pray.  Immediately they went to their knees, faces on the ground, they began calling out to God.  They praised and thanked God for his love, and prayed for their needs.  They audibly wept before God…when they arose from their prayers to depart, Platt said the only thing remaining, to his astonishment was PUDDLES OF TEARS WHERE THEY HAD PRAYED!”

     Wow!  How convicting is that?  These people live “radical” lives in Asian countries which declare following Jesus to be illegal!  They live with the knowledge that discovery is always a possibility and risk their lives and families for Jesus Christ and their faith.  Their passion is for their faith and love for Jesus Christ, and God.  Platt could not help but contrast what he witnessed on that mission trip with the American Church as we know it.  “We arrive in comfortable vehicles; we gather in air conditioned and heated buildings; we sit on padded or cushioned pews or chairs; we are greeted by choirs and bands; we worship in an orderly pre-planned fashion for ONE hour, and hardly ever stray from our normal routine.  Most church goers never exhibit any passion for being there.  Neither do they open their Bibles or take notes during teaching-sermon; they go home and resume their other lives from Monday through Saturday.  There is no risk, no danger, in attending American Churches-take it or leave it–and many are leaving.  There is nothing RADICAL about American Christianity!”  Platt’s Church tried something different.  He challenged his leaders to have Church services where they “stripped away all the cool, all the cushioned chairs, no power point screens, no decorations, turn off all air conditioning, removing all the comforts”.  They did just that.  They removed all the activities that smacked of entertainment.  They invited people to come and study God’s word for hours!  They kept the seats and the restrooms, but planned to study the Word from 6:00 P.M. to Midnight.  The result?  No one showed?  Actually over 1,000 did the first night!  They now have to take reservations due to “not enough seating capacity!”  I am not suggesting any of this, necessarily!  But he makes a very clear point-we need a wakeup call from our lukewarm American Christianity.  He says, “We have become homogenized and pasteurized, and we have lost the flavor of God, and the FAVOR OF GOD!” 

     The only thing radical about Christianity is the radical change from New Testament times, and I don’t mean radical change for the better!  Soren Kierkegaard, the great Theologian from Denmark, wrote about how weak and enemic Christianity was becoming, even in his day.  He wrote in his book Attack on Christendom,”The most dreadful sort of blasphemy is that of which Christendom is guilty: transforming the God of the Spirit…into lucicrous twaddle”.  He was a Lutheran Pastor writing four centuries after Luther.  Luther nailed 95 Theses on the Wittenberg door protesting the condition of the Church in his day.  Kierkegaard had only a single thesis in protest-He wrote, “Oh Luther, thou hadst 95 theses-terrible!  And yet in a deeper sense, the more theses, the less terrible.  This case if far more terrible: there is only one thesis.  The Christianity of the New Testament simply does not exist.  Here there is nothing to reform; what has to be done now is to throw light upon a criminal offense against Christianity, prolonged through the centuries, perpetrated by millions, whereby they have cunningly, under the guise of perfecting Christianity, sought to cheat God out of Christianity, and have succeeded in making Christianity the exact opposite of what it was in the New Testament.”  In more recent days, another prophetic voice has pointed out our great departure from the true Christianity intended by our Lord when He established His Church.  A. W. Tozer, in his book Of God and Men wrote, “Evangelicalism as we know it today…does produce some real Christians…But the spiritual climate which many modern Christians are born does not make for vigorous spiritual growth.  Indeed, the whole evangelical world is to a large extent unfavorable to healthy Christianity.  And I am not thinking of modernism either.  I mean rather the Bible-believing crowd that bears the name of orthodoxy.  We are making converts to an effete type of Christianity that bears little resemblance to the New Testament.  The average so called Bible Christian in our times is but a wretched parody of true sainthood!”

     One of the great Scottish preachers of yester-year was Thomas Chalmers.  In the early days of his ministry, Thomas Chalmers had entered the ministry as an occupation.  He had not even experienced genuine conversion to Jesus Christ.  He spent only a day or two in ministry preparation, and found himself loving and teaching mathematics during the rest of the week.  He even wrote a pamphlet justifying a life of divided interest and devotion.  But one day he had an encounter with the living Christ.  His whole perspective of Christ, his mission field, and the ministry changed.  He later explained to someone who asked him why he changed by saying, “I love mathematics.  It is all about calculations and numbers.  I still do.  But two calculations changed my life and ministry forever-how short our time is, and how long eternity will be!”  When you and I come to grips with that reality we too will change our perspective of witnessing and ministry. 

     Several years ago one of the wealthiest men in the world was a man named Cecil Rhodes.  He had gone to Africa to develop a cotton business for the British government.  He found that to be a dead end street.  But he did discover the diamond industry, and began to develop the De Beers Mining Company.  In a few years he became the wealthiest man in the world at the time! He is the one who started the Rhodes scholarships at Oxford University in England. He was good friends with William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army in England.  One day they were traveling on a train together. William Booth turned to his friend and said, “Tell me Rhodes, are you a happy man?”  Cecil Rhodes responded to his friend, “Me happy?  No! No!  I am not a happy man!”  Incredible.  As Jesus said, “A man can gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul!”  That is not only a “vanity of vanities” it is a “tragedy of tragedies”.  People all around us are searching for that “eternity” God has placed in their hearts.  God is counting on us to be “Radical” enough; concerned enough; prayed-up enough; endued with his power enough to impact them for Him.  That may never happen until when we get up from our prayer circle we leave behind “puddles of tears!”  Jesus did.  When we share His compassion…we might share in his commission!

 Posted by at 2:18 pm

“Catacombs Conquering the Coliseum”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Catacombs Conquering the Coliseum”
Aug 302020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “Catacombs Conquering the Coliseum”.

     Things aren’t always as they appear.  A recent magazine carried an article on the Coliseum in Rome.  It spoke of it as the place where “Christians died for a faith, that is now taken too lightly”.  i.e. “taken for granted”.  We look back to that famous historic amphitheater as the place where Christians were a spectacle to be pitied.  It is true that many Christians, facing the Caesar, greeted him as “those who were about to die”.  They were ridiculed, mocked, faced starved lions, and died for the blood-thirsty passion of the spectators of the day.  Their blood was spilled so freely in the arena that a visitor, asking about relic to mark his visit to Rome’s coliseum, was told, “take a handful of sand from the Coliseum, it is all martyrs!”.  That Flavian amphitheater seated over 50,000-85,000 spectators. In its arenas gladiators and wild beasts fought for the entertainment of the public.  On the Emperor’s birthday over one thousand exotic animals were slain in one day!  Christians weren’t the only victims to this madness.  This show place, still standing in modern day Rome built by Jewish slaves, and had surrounding walls costing over 50 million dollars to build.  The great Southern Baptist Preacher Vance Havner once said, “If we had sat in those grandstands amidst the grandeur that was Rome we might have been deceived.  For it was not the howling mob in the Coliseum that determined the course of history.  Underground in the catacombs another force was working.  A handful of men and women who worshipped another King called Jesus, who had died and risen again and was coming back again someday-here was the beginning of an empire within an empire, The Christians beneath the Caesars that would change the world.  They crept along the subterranean passageways and tunnels, among the tombs and caverns, haunted and persecuted, were the scum of the earth, in Rome’s eyes.  If we had prowled around in these gloomy depths, we might have come upon little companies singing songs, listening to a Gospel message, observing the Lord’s Supper.  We would have said, ‘they haven’t a chance!’.  BUT THE CHRISTIANS UNDERGROUND EVENTUALLY UPSET THE CAESARS ABOVE GROUND.  THE CATACOOMBS EVENTUALLY OVERCAME THE COLISEUM AND PUT THAT GREAT AMPHITHEATER OUT OF BUSINESS”.  (Havner Hearts Aflame. 1954).

     On January 1, 404 B.C. A Christian monk, from Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, was led by an inner voice to go to Rome, and plead for an end to the gladiatorial games.  He followed the crowds into the Coliseum.  Two gladiators were fighting.  Telemachus tried to get between them to get them to stop the fight.  Three times he cried out, “in the name of Christ forbear!”.  Some stories go that he was killed when he was run through by one of the gladiator’s sword.  Actually, a more historic accuracy is that the frenzied crowd, angry at his attempt to stop the entertainment, actually stoned the Christian monk to death.  The historian Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical history Book V, Chapter XXVI: Of Honorius The Emperor and Telemachus the Monk, says “when the abominable spectacle was being exhibited, Telemachus stepped down into the area, endeavoring to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another.  The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.  When the admirable Emperor was informed of this, he numbered Telemachus among the number of victorious martyrs, and put an end, once for all to that impious spectacle!”  THE CHRISTIANS HAD CONQUERED THE COLISEUM! 

     We live in a pagan world.  We are headed toward a very perilous age for Christians.  We are given very little chance to impact our world.  But as we read Christian history remember-Committed Christians who “love not their life to the end” even in numbers of courageous single Christians, even living underground, in their own self-imposed catacombs, can rise up in Spirit-filled courage, and make an impact!  We must rise up, stand up, refuse to back up, shut up, until we are taken up.  Who knows?  History might just repeat itself!

 Posted by at 2:17 pm

“We have not seen the last of the best!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “We have not seen the last of the best!”
Aug 232020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “We have not seen the last of the best!”

Revivals have been a big part of my life for over six decades.  I was saved in September of 1968.  My parents were saved the next fall, November 1969, during a revival with Gerald Thompson as the Evangelist at the Salem Baptist Church of Decatur.  Later, after God had called me into the ministry, my very first ministry was being a bus Pastor.  But that was soon followed in 1969 with opportunities to preach youth revivals in Central Illinois.  I preached 25 youth revivals during the years of 1969-1971 averaging nearly 10 per year.  The focus of most of those revivals was for Christian youth to surrender their lives to Jesus, and witness and bring friends to the youth meetings.  Many young people came to faith in those days as the sixties welcomed the seventies! I began pastoring my first Church in May of 1971 at the age of 17.  Every Church that I have pastored over the years has had one to two revivals per year.  Over nearly 50 years of ministry I have participated in over 250 revivals, counting the ones I hosted as a Pastor of a Baptist Church, and the one I personally preached as an Evangelist.  In the eighties I averaged preaching about 8-10 revivals per year-all over Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and South Carolina, and Tennessee.  I have had the joy of witnessing revivals transform Churches collectively, and Christians individually.  I can honestly say my life was touched by every one of them.  As a young person I made it a habit to attend revivals at sister Baptist Churches, and also several other denominations-Methodist, Church of God, Assembly of God, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Bible Churches, etc.  Even though there are many that feel that revivals are a thing of the past that no longer impacts American Culture today…I strongly disagree.  Even though most revivals today reach fewer non-Christians than they used to; they still impact the people of God.  When the Church is revived…the community that surrounds it is impacted for Christ.

I want to share a few famous Christian quotes that help us understand the role that revival plays in the life of a local Church, and in the lives of the individual Christians who are identified with the Church.  J.I. Packer defines a revival as “a visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have fallen asleep spiritually, and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness.  All this ushers in a vivid sense of sin and profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and with an evangelistic overflow”.  Stephan Olford writes, “Revival is that strange, sovereign work of God in which He visits the people-restoring, reanimating, and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.  Such a divine intervention will issue in evangelism, though, in the first instance, it is a work of God in the Church and among individual believers”.  Charles Finney, the revivalist of the early nineteenth century, defined revival concisely as “a new beginning of obedience”.  Simply put a new closeness to God; a new passion for Christ; A new love for God; A new holiness in life; A new filling and refreshing of the Holy Spirit.  One of my favorite descriptions of revival is from John Wesley.  He wrote, “We need to storm the throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.  I continue to dream and to pray about revival…in our day, that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community, in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit, to fulfill God’s intentions!”  Probably the best quote I have been influenced by on revivals is by Andrew Bonar.  He wrote, “Revivals begin with God’s own people, The Holy Spirit touches their hearts anew, and gives them a new fervor, and compassion, and zeal, new light and life, and after He has come to the Church, He next goes to the Valley of Dry Bones…Oh what responsibility this lays upon the Church of God.  If you grieve Him away or hinder His visit-the poor perishing world suffers sorely!”  The responsibility for the condition of America and the World may just be related to the fact that we have neglected the continual need of revival in the life of the Church to keep God’s people passionate and productive in our ministries to that very world!

One of the complaints I often heard about revivals was that the same people came forward revival after revival to re-dedicate their lives anew and afresh to the Lord Jesus Christ!  My response has always been– “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH THAT!  PERHAPS THAT IS WHAT HAD KEPT THE CHURCH ON THE CUTTING EDGE”.  Like the Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing says, “Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love!”  If rededication, at a minimum of once per year, kept us vitally functioning as Christians individually, and Churches collectively…then Praise The Lord.  We could use a few rededications right now!  I came across an interesting story the other day.  It was the story of a man of God that felt the call to be a missionary to Formosa.  Formosa was the Portuguese name for Taiwan.  The Chinese country in the Far East, recently given back to mainland China.  Thomas Barclay answered the call to go as a missionary to Formosa, and ministered there for over 60 years.  He translated the entire Bible into their language.  Behind that life of service lay a covenant with God that he wrote when he was sixteen, and which he renewed every year for the rest of his life!  (I would call that a re-dedication).  It read, in part, “This day do I, with the utmost solemnity, surrender myself to Thee.  I renounce all former lords that have had dominion over me, and I consecrate to Thee all that I have:  the faculties of my mind, the members of my body, my worldly possessions, my time, and my influence over others; to be all used entirely for Thy glory, and resolutely employed in obedience to Thy commands, as long as Thou continuest me in this life; with ardent desire and humble resolution to continue Thine through all the ages of eternity; ever holding myself in an attentive position to observe, with zeal and joy, to the immediate execution of it.  To Thy direction also I resign myself, and all that I am and have, to be disposed of by Thee in such a manner as Thou in Thine infinite wisdom shall judge most subservient to the purposes of Thy glory.  To Thee I leave the management of all events, and say without reserve, ‘Not my will, but Thine, be done!’ “Renewing that annually brought about 60 plus years of faithful service.  I would, without hesitation, define that as an on-going REVIVAL!

When we usually talk about revivals we refer to Great Awakenings of the Past.  It has been so long that they are now viewed as “Ancient History!”  No one expects to see them ever come again.  Shame on us.  God has not changed!  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!  One of my favorite quotes speaks to this very subject.  It is a quote from the great Scottish Preacher and Theologian-James Stewart.  He wrote, “It is God’s way to go beyond the best that He has done before; therefore a living faith will always have in it a certain element of surprise and tension and discovery; that what we have seen and learned of God up to the present is not to be the end of our seeing, nor the sum total of our learning; that whatever we have found in Christ is only a fraction of what we can still find; that the spiritual force which in the great days of the past vitalized the Church and shaped the course of history has not exhausted its energies or fallen into abeyance but is liable to burst out anew and take control.  God is promising wonders that He has never done before so that there will be more jubilant doxologies, more exultant hallelujahs.  For there is no limit to the love of God, no end to the redeeming Grace of Christ, and NO EXHAUSTION OF THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”. (“Expect Great Things From God”-The River of Life: Sermons of James S. Stewart-1972). My prayer is– “God Do It Again!”  “Do it as you have never done it before!”  “Lord send a revival-let it begin in me-in us-and spread like wild-fire”.  WE HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST OF HIS BEST!  BELIEVE IT!

 Posted by at 2:16 pm

“JESUS SAVES: GET THE MESSAGE OUT ANYWAY YOU CAN…IT STILL HAS POWER TO MEET OUR DEEPEST NEED”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “JESUS SAVES: GET THE MESSAGE OUT ANYWAY YOU CAN…IT STILL HAS POWER TO MEET OUR DEEPEST NEED”
Aug 162020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “JESUS SAVES: GET THE MESSAGE OUT ANYWAY YOU CAN…IT STILL HAS POWER TO MEET OUR DEEPEST NEED”.

     One of my favorite hymns is the hymn-“JESUS SAVES”.  I’m sure you recall the lyrics.

We have heard the joyful sound

Jesus Saves! Jesus Saves!

Spread the tidings all around

Jesus Saves! Jesus Saves!

Bear the news to every land,

Climb the steeps and cross the waves;

Onward tis our Lord’s command

Jesus Saves!  Jesus Saves!

     What a great song to sing in a worship service!  It gives us opportunity to lift our voices and testify to the reality of the truth that Jesus Christ really does save sinners like you and I.  But the sad thing is those who really need to hear that testimony are not sitting there listening.  We all benefit from being reminded of the trustworthiness of our Savior, but those who really need to know that reality rarely come to worship services to be reminded by or confronted with that truth.  Singing that lyric in public would probably not be well received from those listening, and not likely be received as life changing truth.  One zealous Christian took the phrase “Climb the steeps” to share the joyful news “Jesus Saves!” quite literally.  He climbed up a highway overpass, and for all to see, white paint, on black background, he wrote his public message, in courageous graffiti-“JESUS SAVES!”  Now everyone who drives by that underpass/overpass is confronted with that reality of that news!  THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!  You might respond-well that certainly will not be effective!  How embarrassing that any Christian would resort to that kind of tactic to get the Good new of the Gospel out.  Frederick Buechner, in two of his books, The Hungering Darkness, and Secrets in the Dark, referred to such an incident, and what impact it just might have on the public collectively, and all of us individually.  Let me share what he wrote: 

     “Maybe Jesus Saves written up there on the cliff or the abutment of the bridge is embarrassing because in one way or another religion in general has become embarrassing: embarrassing to the unreligious man because, although he does not have it anymore, he has never really rooted it out of his soul either, and it still festers there as a kind of reproach; embarrassing to the religious man because, although in one form or another he still does have it, it seldom looks more threadbare or beside the point than when you set it against very much the same kind of seventy-five-mile-per-hour, neon-lit, cluttered, and clamorous world that is represented by the highway that the sign itself looks down upon there. 

     And maybe, at a deeper level still, Jesus Saves is embarrassing because if you can hear it at all through your wincing, if any part at all of what it is trying to mean gets through, what it says to everybody who passes by, and most importantly and unforgivably of all of course what it says to you, is that you need to be saved. Rich man, poor man; young man, old man; educated and uneducated; religious and unreligious—the word is in its way an offense to all of them, all of us, because what it says in effect to all of us is, “You have no peace… You are not happy… not whole…not saved” That is an unpardonable thing to say to a man whether it is true or false, but especially if it is true, because there he is, trying so hard to be happy, all of us are, to find some kind of inner peace and all in all maybe not making too bad a job of it considering the odds, so that what could be worse psychologically, humanly, than to say to him what amounts to “You will never make it. You have not and you will not, at least not without help”? You need to be saved, and Jesus specializes in that!

     And what could be more presumptuous, more absurd, more pathetic, than for some poor fool with a cut-rate brush and a bucket of white paint to claim that the one to give that help is Jesus? If he said God, at least that would be an idea, and if you reject it, it is only an idea that you are rejecting on some kind of intellectual grounds. But by saying “Jesus” he puts it on a level where what you accept or reject is not an idea at all but a person; where what you accept or reject, however dim and far away and disfigured by time is still just barely recognizable as a human face. Because behind the poor fool with his bucket there always stands of course the Prince of Fools himself, blessed be he, in his own way more presumptuous, more absurd. (Being saved by the Cross is still foolishness to the world!)

Jesus Saves…. And the bad thief, the one who according to tradition was strung up on his left, managed to choke out the words that in one form or another men have been choking out ever since whenever they have found themselves crossed up by the world: “Are you the Christ? Then save yourself and us.” With the accent on the “us.” If you are the Savior, whatever that means, then why don’t you save us, whatever that involves, save us from whatever it is that crosses us all up before we’re done, from the world without and the world within that crosses us all out. Save us from and for and in the midst of the seventy-five-mile-per-hour, neon-lit crisscross of roads that we all travel in this world. And then the good thief, the one on his right, rebuked the bad one for what he had said angrily, and then in effect said it again himself, only not angrily, God knows not angrily—said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” And finally the words of Jesus’s answer, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” which are words no less crude than the ones trickling down the cliff side, in their way no less presumptuous, absurd, pathetic; words that express no theological idea as an idea, but words that it took a mouth of flesh to say and an ear of flesh to hear. I can imagine that the guards who had been posted there to see that the execution was carried out properly might themselves have felt something like embarrassment and turned away from the sheer lunacy of the scene. (How can someone dying such a death on a cross save anyone?)

Such a one as that save me? That one—the spindle-shanked leader who thinks he is God’s son, bloodshot and drunk with his own torture, no less crossed up, crossed out than any other mother’s son. Such a one as that—Jesus, scrawled up there on the concrete among the four-letter words and the names of lovers? Only somehow then, little by little, a deeper secret of the embarrassment begins to show through: not can such a one as that save me, but can such a one as that save me? Because I suspect that at its heart the painful wincing is directed less to the preposterousness of the claim that Jesus saves than it is directed to the preposterousness of the claim that people like ourselves are savable—not that we are such sinners that we do not deserve saving, but that we are so much ourselves, so hopelessly who we are—no better, no worse—that we wonder if it is possible for us to be saved. I suspect the reason why the name “Jesus” embarrasses us when it stands naked is that it inevitably, if only half consciously, recalls to us our own names, our own nakedness. Jesus saves … whom? Saves Joe, saves Charlie, Ellen, saves me, saves you—just the names without any Mr. or Mrs., without any degrees or titles or Social Security numbers; just who we are, no more, no less. I suspect that it is at our own nakedness that we finally wince.”  Get your brush, and bucket of paint…get to sharing the good news…JESUS SAVES! EVEN ME! EVEN YOU!

 Posted by at 2:15 pm

“AFTER-CHRISTS…IN TEN THOUSAND PLACES!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “AFTER-CHRISTS…IN TEN THOUSAND PLACES!”
Aug 092020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE“AFTER-CHRISTS…IN TEN THOUSAND PLACES!”

     When Jesus breathed His last breath, and Joseph of Arimathea and Nichodemus claimed His body and buried it in that borrowed tomb everyone-followers and enemies thought that was the tragic end. The Jewish leaders thought they had squashed the crisis that was the greatest threat to Judaism, as they knew and loved it.  The Romans were glad that they had quelled what might have been the greatest of all rebellions against Imperial Rome.  The disciples were devastated.  They expected Jesus’ ministry to conclude in an overthrow of the Romans, Him ascending the throne of His father David, and two of the twelve, still undecided, would sit at His right and left hands in this new invincible Kingdom.  But those expectations had been crushed on a Black Friday afternoon, that later would be desginated Good Friday.  It wasn’t very “Good” in their eyes at that time. You can read of their devastation and disillusionment in the narrative of the two disciples who encountered the risen Christ, on the road to Emmaus. When the unknown Stranger quizzed them on their sad demeanor, they honestly responded, that they were sad because Jesus of Nazareth had been delivered by the rulers, and had been crucified.  Then they said, “We had hoped that He would have been the one to redeem Israel. i.e. The Messiah” (Luke 24:21).  Philip Yancey, in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew,  wrote about what might have happened if Jesus had never been raised from the dead.  He wrote, “Sometimes I think about how different the world would be had Jesus not been resurrected from the dead.  Although the disciples would not risk their lives trumpeting a new faith in the streets of Jerusalem, neither would they forget Him! They had given three years to Jesus.  He may not have been the Messiah, (if He had not risen), but He had impressed them as the wisest teacher ever and had demonstrated powers that no one would explain.  After time, emotional wounds began to heal, and the disciples would seek some way to memorialize Jesus.  Perhaps writing His sayings down in written form, akin to one of our Gospels…or build a monument to Jesus’ life.  Then we who live in modern times could visit that monument and learn about the carpenter/philosopher from Nazareth.  We could sift through His sayings, taking and leaving what we liked.  World-wide Jesus would be esteemed in the same way Confucius or Socrates is esteemed”.

     But that is not what happened.  John Masefield’s play “The Trial of Jesus” has Longinus, the Roman Centurian, come back to report to Pilate.  Pilate’s wife, Procula, asks, “Do you think He’s really dead?”  The centurion replies, “No, my lady, I do not!”  “Where do you think He is?” she asks.  He replies-“Let loose on the world, my lady, where no one will ever stop His truth”.We have no historical record of Longinus, or anyone saying that, nor even thinking that!  Not even His disciples!  But Masefield gave a good description of what actually did follow.  Jesus was still alive, and through the Holy Spirit, incarnated and invigorated His disciples  to take His message and minstry throughout the entire Roman world in one generation!  Frederick Buechner says that is the real message of Easter-  “we can never nail Him down, not even if the nails we use are real and the thing we nail Him to is a cross!” Walter Wink, in Naming the Powers, says, “Killing Jesus was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed by blowing on it!”  St. Augustine, in describing the Ascension, said, “You ascended from before our eyes, we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts!”.  What Augustine was describing was more than a metaphor.  It was a real incarnational transforming of those who would carry on the ministry of Christ in the world-as His body-the Church!  The great author and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his writings saw Christians as a seconding of the kenotic incarnation of the living Christ.  He coined the phrases “After-Christs”.  In his poem, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame,  He wrote:

     “for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

      lovely in eyes, and lovely in limbs not his,

      To the Father, through the features of men’s faces”

     Jesus had promised His disciples that after He left, that He would still be with them by the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit.  He told them it would be even better for them because they would do “even greater things than He did!” (John 1412).  We know the early Church saw the fruition of that promise.  But overall how has that worked out for the Church?  Frederick Beuchner points out this has not always worked out for the best.  He writes, “The Church at Corinth were in fact Christ’s body, as Paul wrote to them one of his most enduring  metaphors-Christ’s eyes, ears, and hands.  But the way they were carrying on, that could only leave  Christ blood-shot, ass-eared, and all thumbs to carry on God’s work in a fallen world”. (The Magnificent Defeat).  Philip Yancey speaks to that failure of the Church to successfully function as the body of Christ, in the fallen world, when he writes quite eloquently, “I could fill several pages with colorful quotations, all of which underscore the risk involved in entrusting God’s own reputation to the likes of us.  Unlike Jesus, we do lnot perfectly express the Word.  We speak in garbled syntax, stuttering, mixing languages together, putting accent marks in the wrong places.  When the world looks for Christ it sees, like the cave-dwellers Plato wrote about in one of his allegories, only shadows created by the light, not the light itself!”

     Flannery O’Connor, in his book The Habit of Being, answered a critic of the Church by explaining that the critic did not understand the role that sin plays in the failure of the Church.  He wrote, “All your dissatisfaction with the Church comes from an incomplete understanding of sin.  What you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the Kingdom of Heaven on earth right now, that the Holy Ghost be translated into into all human flesh.  The Holy Spirit rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking man to return at once, to the state God originally created him in. You are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time…The Church is founded on Peter, who denied Christ three times, and couldn’t walk on water by himself.  You are expecting his successors to walk on water.  All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful…to have the Church be what you want it to be would require continous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs!”  Before  you and I use O’Connor’s words to excuse our failures, let me tell you the New Testament emphasizes that such miraculous meddling of God in human affairs is exactly what God has done by sending His Spirit to empower us to live as Christ’s body in the world.  Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, but not I Christ liveth in me!” (Gal. 2:20). 

Robert Frost wrote a poem describing this process…he wrote  in Kitty Hawk:

“But God’s Own Descent

Into flesh was meant

As a demonstration…

Spirit enters flesh, and for all it’s worth,

Charges into earth, and in birth after birth,

Ever fresh, Ever Fresh”

     Malcomb Muggeridge wrote, in Jesus the Man Who Lives, “Future historians are likely to conclude that the more we knew about Jesus the less we knew Him, and the more precisely His words were translated the less we understood and heeded them”.  He may be right.  The goal is not to understand Jesus and imitate Him, (something we do not have the power to do).  The goal is to know Him experientially by the power, presence, and performance of the Holy Spirit and incarnate Him in our lives, as His body.  That is miraculous meddling in the  affairs of men.  That is exactly what God wants to do through us-His Church!

 Posted by at 12:56 pm

“DISAPPEARING ACT FOR THE MAGNIFICIENT MAGNET!”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “DISAPPEARING ACT FOR THE MAGNIFICIENT MAGNET!”
Aug 022020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “DISAPPEARING ACT FOR THE MAGNIFICIENT MAGNET!”

     Somebody stole the cross. Go figure!  Well that was a news story that got my attention a few years ago.  The missing cross was a six-foot-tall metal structure that was embedded in rock and concrete, and it was perched high upon a Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert.  Veterans actually placed it there to honor those who had died fighting for their country.  And wow! It was there for 75 years-no problem.  People who did not want it there argued against it all the way to the Supreme court.  And for the time being the Justices said that it could stay.  But somebody just went up there and stole it!  It’s Crazy!  Who stole the cross?  When I heard that I got to thinking…and something much more troubling occurred to me.  The cross has gone missing a lot of places these days; places that matter a lot more to God than on a mountain in the Mojave Desert! I listen to a lot of Christian radio programs; a lot of Christian television programs and I hear very little about the cross.  I listen to a lot of Christian talk today and there is quite an emphasis on how to have a great marriage, how to raise your kids, how to manage your money, how to have a good self-image, but hardly one reference to the Cross!  I hear some great Bible teaching on subjects that are deep and powerful, but the cross was on the margins or not even on the page!  The emphasis today is on important things like justice for the oppressed, compassion for the poor, help for families, and make no mistake, these things are a priority to our Loving Heavenly Father!  But we seldom hear about the Cross-God’s game-changer for a sin-broken planet, and that is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

     Sadly, I think of lost people that I have known for a long time.  We have talked a lot about a lot of things!  But somehow how there never seems to be an appropriate moment to talk about the Cross of Christ!  To let them know He choose to die, such a death, not as a victim, but as a vicarious substitute.  He died for them.  He died for me.  He took the deserved judgment for our sins!  But somehow I seldom get around to the cross!  The cross is stolen from the conversation.  I suspect I am not alone!  Christians talk about their Church, their faith, their worship, but not much about our Savior!  Somebody stole the Cross!  I know who stole it!  It is the one that Jesus talked about-in John 10:10 he said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy”.  The devil hates the Cross.  The Bible says, “that he disarmed the principalities, and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross!”. Charles Spurgeon called the Cross “the Magnificent Magnet”. In John 12:12 Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself!”.  No wonder Satan encourages us to talk about anything we choose…just don’t mention that Cross!  Talk about your Church.  Talk about your faith.  Talk about family values.  Shy away from that cross!  The enemy of our souls knows its power, and he does whatever he can to erase the cross from our view!  He has stolen that cross.  That is the great disappearing act of the Magnificent Magnet!     

     Now the veterans were outraged that the cross was stolen from the hill in the Mojave Desert. We should be outraged too!-About the fact that the cross has been stolen from our hearts,  from our minds, from our worship services, from our Bible studies, from our Christian radio and TV programing, but most of all from our daily conversations with  the very people who need to hear about it!  I Corinthians 1:18 says “The message of the Cross is the Power of God unto Salvation”.  Mel Gibson did a powerful movie on The Passion of the Christ.  It was controversial.  It was criticized, but it changed the lives of millions who saw it!  So will our conversations about the Cross.  We need to be Passionate about the Passion of the Cross!  Just as passionate as the World and the Devil is about stealing it away from our consciousness!  Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross!  The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference.  I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary. Gold City used to sing a Gospel song entitled- “It’ Still the Cross!”  It still is!  The Cross will never lose its power!  At the point of being redundant-let me share my favorite quote about the cross.  It is by George McCloud, in his book Only One Way Left, “The cross must be raised again in the center of the marketplace, as well as on the steeple of the Church, I am recovering the fact that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died, and that is what He died about!  That is where His followers ought to be, and what His followers should be about!”  Malcom Muggeridge, in his book Jesus Rediscovered, admitted that he had let the devil steal the cross from his heart, when he wrote “I should have worn it over my heart, carried it as my precious standard, never to be wrested out of my hands…it should have been my cult, my uniform, my language, my life!  I have no excuse!”  Neither do we!  We need to reclaim the Stolen Cross!  We need to raise again the “Magnificent Magnet”!  The World is in desperate need of the saving power it radiates to all who will “Look and Live!”

 Posted by at 12:55 pm

THE PRAYER OF CAUSALITY CAN CHANGE OUR VEXING BURDEN INTO BLESSED VICTORY!

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on THE PRAYER OF CAUSALITY CAN CHANGE OUR VEXING BURDEN INTO BLESSED VICTORY!
Jul 262020
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE THE PRAYER OF CAUSALITY CAN CHANGE OUR VEXING BURDEN INTO BLESSED VICTORY!

     Several years ago the New York Herald Tribune told the story of a tragedy involving a Long Island man who began digging his own well, of all days on his birthday!  He had rigged up quite an operation with his shovel, rope, and bucket routine.  He had gotten down some thirty-five feet when his wife called him to come in and get cleaned up for his birthday dinner.  As he began to climb out, the walls caved in and he was buried under tons of dirt.  Was he perhaps cowering underground in an air pocket beside the ladder?  Ambulance and rescue crews, fire departments and derrick operators worked feverishly through the long night digging a nearby well; people roosted in trees and watched through the night.  News crews carried the story.  Periodic cave-ins hampered the rescue effort.  Everyone was wondering what it was like inside that tomb-whether it was an endlessly approaching death or had it already come to that man.  When the breakthrough came, sad to say, he had died.  What a tragedy!  His birthday turned into a burial. 

     When it came to Jesus Christ, the opposite was true-His burial turned into a Birthday on the day Jesus “became the first-begotten from the dead”.  On the very day of his burial his disciples were huddling together, behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews, and the Romans, fearing if they continued on following in Jesus footsteps, soon 11 more crosses would be raised between heaven and earth, on the hill of the skull, and most of their bodies would not end up in a rich man’s tomb, but likely in the fires of the  Valley of Hinnom.  Their fears were not ill-founded, for after all the Romans were known for crucifying so many revolutionary Jews that trees in the Jerusalem area were almost extinct!  But Jesus’ burial, and subsequent rising from the dead, turned his burial into a birthday for the Church.  The book of Acts tells us that it was the risen Christ, and the Church’s faith in the infallible evidence of His resurrection, that turned their world upside down, and caused the gospel message to triumphantly conquer the Roman world from Jerusalem to Rome, and beyond!

     The truth of the matter is that these days the Church spends her time again locked up, behind the four walls of the Church, if not fearing the world, certainly ignoring it, and their ministry to it.  One denominational worker, in the Methodist faith said, “There are 15 churches in my district; 12 could close down, and the communities would not even miss them!”  Believe me the same could be said about Baptists!  Southern Baptists too!  We huddle behind the four walls of our Church “talking about how the Great Commission just cannot be done today!”  willing to make our mandate more relevant to another day, an earlier time.  Our days are the days of the Great Apostasy after all!  Our predicament reminds me of another tragic incident that occurred just off New York City on Long Island.  A crew aboard a heavily loaded scow suddenly sensed that it was taking water and was sinking.  They tried desperately to save it, but it was a losing battle; suddenly the crew noticed some piling thrusting out of the freezing icy waters, they decided to jump overboard, abandoning the sinking merchant vessel.  All through the night they clung for life to the piling and cried out for help toward the blinking lights along the shore for help.  In the morning some early fishermen saw them clinging to the piling, fingers, hands, bodies nearly frozen to death, despairing for life.  In the ensuing rescue the terrible irony of their experience became clear:  all through the freezing night the men had clung to the piling in water that was only four feet deep!  At any moment they could have walked safely to shore!  What an image of our modern Church!  Hemmed in by our past failures; our irrelevancy; our inhibitions and anxieties…we are clinging for dear life in the cold and freezing waters of a modern culture, when right around us is the steps we can take to victory.  Carl F.H. Henry, one of the most brilliant men I have ever had the privilege to meet, and to sit in one of his classes, before he passed away, put it very succinctly.  He said, “So it was with the early disciples who huddled behind locked doors for fear of the outside world.  The risen Lord appeared to them, and He knew what power need to be applied and where in their situation.  He not only gave them the Great Commission-He breathed the Holy Spirit of power upon them, and He transformed his burial into their birthday!  We live with slammed doors, shut doors, sealed doors, and we need nothing so much but to hear the voice of Him who calls…’I am He that liveth, and was dead…I…have the keys of hell and death’ (Rev. 1:18)” (New Strides of Faith p. 106). 

     That key is Prayer.  Albert Einstein was fascinated by the power and paradox of prayer.  So was C.S. Lewis. On one occasion Lewis responded to an objection about prayer by Kurt Vonnegut.  The objection went something like this:  “I don’t think it all likely that God requires the ill-informed (and contradictory), advice of us humans to run the world.  If He is all-wise, as it is said He is, doesn’t He know already what is best?  And if He is all-good won’t He do it whether we pray or not?”  In reply, Lewis said that you could use the same argument against any human activity, not just prayer.  “Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them…Why ask for salt?  Why put on your boots?  Why do anything?”  God could have arranged things so that our bodies nourished themselves miraculously without food, knowledge entered our brains without studying, and umbrellas magically appeared to protect us from rainstorms.  But God chose a different way of governing the world.  He chose a partnership which also relies on human agency and choice.  Our involvement and prayers help change what happens.  He says so in His word.  Lewis borrowed a term from Blaise Paschal to describe what happens when we pray, and God answers by His power.  He called that the “dignity of causality”.  We partner with God in causing things to come to pass!  Carl F.H. Henry says, that kind of activity of prayer, and enduement of the Holy Spirit, can “change our vexing burden into a blessed victory!”  Oh how we need to join Jesus in the Ministry of Prayer.  Remember “without Him we can’t!  Without us-He won’t!”   Pray-Pray-Pray!

 Posted by at 7:34 pm

“Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion”
Jul 192020
 

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

     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 8:07 pm