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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Artificiality Is a Disease of the Soul

When I was a young lad and first beginning to observe the human scene, one thing that stuck me forcibly was the artificiality of preachers. The word they inhabited was, it seemed to me, always once removed from reality.

I was not brought up in a Christian home and so was not accustomed to the conventional language of religion, and when I chanced occasionally to hear a sermon I listened with an ear undulled by familiarity. How strange the preachers sounded to me, how artificial their tones and how unnatural their demeanor.

They were men, obviously, but they lacked completely the candor and downrightness I knew so well in other men. The bold, man-to-man approach was missing. They seemed to be afraid of something, though I could not tell what, for certainly the tame, patient, almost indifferent persons who listened to them were harmless enough. No one paid much attention to what they said anyway. I am sure that if one of them had slyly interspersed into his sermon stray bits of the Gettysburg Address repeated backward few of those present would have noticed or cared. Yet they spoke so gingerly and apologetically that one got the impression that they  would rather remain silent forever than to offend anyone. After listening to some of them now and again, I knew the meaning of the French saying (though I did not hear it till many years later), "There are three sexes: men, women, and preachers."

Now I am all for preachers and I do not expect them to be perfect, but I am all for downrightness, too. I think it highly improbable that anyone who speaks cautiously can speak effectively. His timidity will deactivate his effort and render it impotent.

It is true that the church has suffered from pugnacious men  who would rather fight than pray, but she has suffered more from timid preachers who would rather be nice than be right. The latter have done more harm if for no other reason than that there are so many more of them. I do not think, however, that we must make our choice between the two. It is altogether possible to have love and courage at the same time, to be both true an faithful. "Let you speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6). It is the absence of salt that makes so much of our preaching vapid and dull. "Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" (Job 6:6).

Our theological schools may be at fault here. They strive to turn out preachers who will be all things to all men in a sense Paul never had in mind. They want their students to be cultured if it kills them and they begin by draining off all salt and leaving only a sweetness and light that appears to some of us to be neither sweet nor light. Everything natural is as far as possible refined away. All tang is eliminated from the speech, all angularity carefully filed off the language. The young man is trained to gesture gracefully, smile faintly and sound scholarly. The direct language that men naturally use when speaking to each other is edited out and a vague, stilted jargon is substituted for it. The total result is artificiality and ineffectiveness.

But back to my own experience: it was by the mercy of God that I was later permitted to hear an evangelist who was completely human and paid his hearers the compliment of assuming that they were human too. He knew what he wanted to say and said it fearlessly; and the people knew what he meant and either took it or left it. Thank God a good number of them took it.

Every man who stands to proclaim the Word should speak with something of the bold authority of the Word itself. The Bible is the book of supreme love, but it is at the same time altogether frank and downright. Its writers are never rude or unkind, but they are invariably honest and entirely sincere. A  great sense of urgency is upon everything they write. They are deeply concerned with moral decisions. Protocol is of less interest to them than the glory of God and the welfare of the people.

One is tempted to offer advise to the young preacher to prevent him from becoming a mere purveyor of artificial religious platitudes, but further consideration shows how useless that would be. One might urge him to study the best writers and speakers, to strive to be original, to look at and through things before speaking of them, to avoid cliches, to speak in the vernacular; but this is to miss the point entirely. Religious artificiality is not a technical thing but a deeply human and spiritual one. It is a disease of the soul and can only be healed by the Physician of souls.

To escape the snare of artificiality it is necessary that a man enjoy a satisfying personal experience with God. His must be totally committed to Christ and deeply anointed with the Holy Spirit. Further, he must be delivered from the fear of men. The focus of his attention must be God and not men. He must let everything dear to him ride out on each sermon. He must so preach as to jeopardize his future, his ministry, even his life itself. He must make God responsible for the consequences and speak as one who will not have long to speak before he is called to judgment. Then the people will know they are hearing a voice instead of a mere echo.

~A. W. Tozer~

My Mouth and Meditation

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. - Psalm19:14 

It is interesting to note that the words of our mouths and meditation of our hearts are watched by the Lord. The Psalmist asks the Lord to let them be acceptable in His sight, not in His ears. So what is God looking for in our mouth and meditation?

Recently this verse kept coming to my mind to pray. But just because I prayed it didn’t mean that I noticed anything different or changed in any way. Then, all of a sudden, to my complete surprise I was confronted about something I said. Immediately, the conviction became so severe that my heart started burning within me. I knew that God heard my prayer and what He was seeing in my mouth and meditation were not acceptable. He took my prayer seriously and now was addressing deep-seated issues.

When God convicts us, it is amazing how naked we feel. We naturally want to conceal our motives, justify our words and cover up our actions. Those are all “sight” feelings, like God is seeing our sin. But our only hope at that time is to repent. The more we fight to maintain our sinful state, the more time we lose in receiving His good counsel and wisdom to change. God sees the fruit of our ways. Those ways are manifested through the words of our mouth and meditations of our heart. The fruit is what God sees more than what He hears. But the Psalmist completes His prayer by addressing two very important characteristics of God: my Strength and my Redeemer. God is able to strengthen you to change and redeem your old ways into a new person with ripe healthy abundant fruit. Today, will you ask the Lord with me to allow your words and meditations to be acceptable in His sight?

…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. - Matthew 12:34

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Wasp and the Church Member

Once while walking among the hills of a southeastern state I noticed a piece of white paper lying by the roadside.

Its presence there was,under the circumstances, so unexpected that it aroused my curiosity. I picked it up and found written on it in a clear, legible hand these words: "In all the world there are only two creatures that are larger when they are born than when they get their growth; one is a wasp and the other is a church member."

Whether this was a lost gem taken from a sermon delivered in church somewhere among the hills or in the nearby town, or whether it had been placed there by some friendly philosopher who had observed my approach and dropped it there for my edification I will probably never know, but I found it more than a little interesting.

Not being an apiarist I am unable to judge the truth of the statement that a baby wasp is larger than an adult one; but that part about the church member I find too true to be amusing or even comfortable.

Knowing the good people of the hills as I do, and being familiar with their religious terminology, I am sure that the writer of the epigram meant the term "church member" to be understood as synonymous with Christian, and intended to say that his experience had taught him that the average Christian lost "size" and became less a Christian later on than when he was first converted.

Why do so many enthusiastic new converts later run out of steam and settle down to a life of dull religious routine? Why do they lost their zeal and accept the dead average of subnormal spirituality they see about them as the best they can hope to maintain in this present world? Why are they often "smaller" after they have been on the way for several years than they were when they first started on their journey toward the Celestial City?

Now I do not insist that my description applies to all Christians. In fact I think our epigrammatist was covering too much territory when he gave the impression that all church members get older. I do not think they all do, but the fact that some do is enough to disturb one who loves the church and carried the welfare of the saints on his heart; and the fact that any do calls for prayer and careful investigation.

Could it be that after a joyful conversion many have without knowing it become enamored of their experience instead of fixing their eyes upon the Lord? Then when the novelty wears off their experience the joy and enthusiasm go out of their lives. What they should be taught is that a true Christian is converted to Christ, not to peace or rest or joy. These things will come in their time, but they will go again unless the gaze is fixed upon Christ who is the source and fountain of all spiritual delights.

Every emotion has its reaction and every pleasurable experience will dim after a while. The human organism is built that way and there is nothing we can do about it. It is well-known that the second year of marriage is often the most critical, for then the first excitement has worn off the relationship and the young couple has not had time to acquire a new set of common interests and to learn to accept a more stable if less emotional kind of life.

Only engrossment with God can maintain perpetual spiritual enthusiasm because only God can supply everlasting novelty. In God every moment is new and nothing ever gets old. Of things religious we may become tired; even prayer may weary us; but God never. He can show a  new aspect of His glory to us each day for all the days of eternity and still we shall have but begun to explore the depths of the riches of His infinite being.

If we offer our converts something beside Christ or something in addition to Christ, we  should not be disappointed if they do not run well or long. Novelty soon wears off everything, no matter how precious. When the interest begins to flag, we try to recapture it by fiery exhortations. I for one admit that I am weary of the familiar religious pep talk. I am tired of being whipped into line, of being urged to work harder, to pray more, to give more generously, when the speaker does not show me Christ. This is sure to lead to a point of diminishing return and leave us exhausted and a little bored with it all. And from there we may easily grow backward and become smaller and less fervent than when we were first converted.

I have spent many uncomfortable hours in prayer meetings listening to my brethren begging for blessings, but all the prayer is comfortable when the heart is having fellowship with God and the inner eyes are looking upon His blessed face. I have suffered through many a dull and tedious sermon, but no sermon is poor or long when the preacher is showing me the beauty of Jesus. A sight of His face will inspire love and zeal and a longing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God.

The sum of all this is that nothing can preserve the sweet savor of our first experience except to be preoccupied with God Himself. Our little rill is sure to run dry unless we keep it replenished from the fountain. Let the new convert know that if he would grow instead of shrink he must spend his nights and his days in communion with the Triune God.

~A. W. Tozer~

Being An Overcomer

This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4).

It is easy to love Him when the blue is in the sky,
When summer winds are blowing, and we smell the roses nigh;
There is little effort needed to obey His precious will
When it leads through flower-decked valley, or over sun-kissed hill.
It is when the rain is falling, or the mist hangs in the air,
When the road is dark and rugged, and the wind no longer fair,
When the rosy dawn has settled in a shadowland of gray,
That we find it hard to trust Him, and are slower to obey.
It is easy to trust Him when the singing birds have come,
And their canticles are echoed in our heart and in our home;
But 'tis when we miss the music, and the days are dull and drear,
That we need a faith triumphant over every doubt and fear.
And our blessed Lord will give it; what we lack He will supply;
Let us ask in faith believing--on His promises rely;
He will ever be our Leader, whether smooth or rough the way,
And will prove Himself sufficient for the needs of every day.

To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out into the vast, whence comes no returning voice, and where seems no hearing; to see the machinery of the world pauselessly grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hair-breadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand; to wait patiently, ready to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail--such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed.

-~George MacDonald~

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Holy Spirit Is Indispensable

The continued neglect of the Holy Spirit by evangelical Christians is too evident to deny and impossible to justify.

Evangelical Christianity is Trinitarian: "Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is sung in almost every church every Sunday of the year; and whether the singer realizes it or not he is acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is God indeed with equal claim to be worshiped along with the Father and the Son. Yet after this claim is sung at or near the beginning of the service little or nothing is heard of the Spirit again until the benediction. Why?

There is no single answer to this question. The historic church has not as a rule done much better than we. The Apostles' Creed dismisses the Holy Spirit with the words, "I believe in the Holy Ghost." Various other ancient creeds follow this one-sentence acknowledgment. The Nicene Creed goes a bit further, saying, "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-giver, that proceedeth from the Father, who with Father and Son is worshiped together and glorified together, who spake through the prophets.

The Athanasian Creed, the fullest and most explicit of them all, attributes full deity to the Spirit, but while the right truth about the Father and the Son is set forth at considerable length in the document, the most that is said of the Spirit is this: "The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and the Son: not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding." The Te Deum Laudamus, that most famous and most beautiful of ancient Christians hymns, praises at great length the Father and the Son, but of the Spirit it says only, "Also, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter."

Is it not strange that so much is made of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and so little in Christian writings supposed to be based upon the New Testament? One of the church fathers, in a treatise on the Trinity written in the third century, devotes to the Holy Spirit but six pages o a book 140 pages in length. While defending the deity of the Spirit, he yet says twenty times as much about the Father and the Son as about the Spirit.

I think it would be only fair to admit that there is more in the New Testament about the Son than about the Spirit, but the disproportion is surely not so great as in the writings referred to above, and certainly the all but total neglect of the Spirit in contemporary Christianity cannot be justified by the Scriptures. The Spirit appears in the second verse of the first book of the Bible and in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, as well as hundreds of times between the first and the last.

It is not, however, the frequency of the Spirit's mention in the Bible or in other writings that matters most, but the importance attached to Him when He is mentioned. And there can be no doubt that there is a huge disparity between the place given to the Spirit in the Holy Scriptures and the place He occupies in popular evangelical Christianity. In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is necessary. There He works powerfully, creatively; here He is little more than a poetic yearning or at most a benign influence. There He moves in majesty, with all the attributes of the Godhead; here He is a mood, a tender feeling of good will.

According to the Scriptures everything God did in creation and redemption He did by His Spirit. The Spirit was found brooding over the world at the moment God called it into being. His presence there was necessary. The life-giving work of the Spirit is seen throughout the entire Bible; and it is precisely because He is the Lord and giver of life that the mystery of the Incarnation could occur.

"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

It is highly significant that our Lord, though He was very God of very God, did not work until "God anointed [him] with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 10:38). The Son did His work of love as a Spirit-anointed man; His power derived from the Spirit of power.

It has been wisely suggested that a more revealing title for the The Acts of the Apostles would be The Acts of the Holy Spirit. The men whose mighty deeds are recorded there could have done not one lone act of power if they had not been filled with the Spirit. Indeed the Lord specifically forbade them to try to do anything in their own strength. "But tarry ye  in the city of Jerusalem," He told them, "until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).

The only power God recognizes in His church is the power of His Spirit whereas the only power actually recognized today by the majority of evangelicals is the power of man. God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do their by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.

Everything that men do in their own strength and by means of their own abilities is done for time alone; the quality of eternity is not in it. Only what is done through the Eternal Spirit will abide eternally, all else is wood, hay, stubble.

It is a solemn though that some of us who fancy ourselves to be important evangelical leaders may find at last we have been but busy harvesters of stubble!

~A. W. Tozer~

The War with Evil

Enemy attack? There was a time in my life when I had no enemies. Once I began ministry, however, that changed. It should come as no surprise that many who serve God in full-time ministry become targets of demonic assaults, especially those who serve in regions where the powers of darkness are commonplace. But enemy attacks are by no means limited to those dark corners of the world. The adversary is working overtime anywhere he can find a relational rift to exploit or a habitual sin to manipulate. How grateful I am for this song in Scripture. It, like few other scriptural passages, comes to grips with enemy attacks and gives us hope to get beyond them.

Every ancient song, like every great hymn, has its own special tone. The magnificent hymn "And Can It Be?" has a tone of assurance. The lovely "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" has a tone of dependence and trust. The moving strains of "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" carry a tone of passion and pain, while "I Am His, and He Is Mine" conveys love and acceptance. Psalm 91 has a unique tone in its message as well. We discover this by reading it through and looking for words or phrases that communicate similar thoughts. Let me list some:
Verse 1: shelter
Verse 2: refuge . . . fortress
Verse 4: refuge . . . shield
Verse 5: terror by night . . . arrow . . . by day
Verse 6: pestilence . . . destruction
Verse 7: a thousand may fall
Verse 9: refuge
Verse 11: guard
Verse 15: rescue
There can be little doubt about the tone of Psalm 91; it is warfare, battle, conflict, fighting. It is a song for battle in that it conveys an atmosphere of daily, oppressive enemy attack. And who is this enemy? Israel's national foes? No. A human being who opposes the writer? I don't believe so. An actual, visible war on a bloody battlefield? No, I doubt it. Look at several more verses as we identify the enemy:
Verse 3: the trapper
Verse 8: the wicked
Verse 10: evil
Then consider the promise of angelic assistance (91:11-12) as well as divine deliverance (91:14-15). When you put all the evidence together, I think it builds a strong case for a song about surviving the attacks of our spiritual enemies, Satan and his demons. It talks about a battle in the unseen spiritual realm. This explains our need for angelic and divine intervention. Because our supernatural enemy comes at us with supernatural strength, we need supernatural help.

Unfortunately, we have neither the space nor the time to examine the full spectrum of enemy attacks, but perhaps an example or two would help. There are certain people whose presence throbs with evil. Being near them unleashes depressing powers which are both frightening and unavoidable. I have encountered these individuals throughout my ministry and have never forgotten the attacks. Frequently the people have trafficked in mind-bending occult practices and/or have been heavily involved in the drug culture. I have seen weird, even bizarre things occur in my family during such times. Fitful nightmares, passionate outbursts of rebellion and arguments, a heavy cloud of depression, strange accidents, and uncharacteristic marital disharmony can follow in the wake of these attacks. I shudder as I recall those awful times.

Not all demonic attacks are overt. In fact, most take more subtle, insidious forms such as turning people against one another or keeping someone bound in habitual sin in order to destroy the lives of everyone they know. Several years ago, I witnessed the sin of just two people shake two otherwise stable ministries all the way to their foundations.

Keep this in mind when digging into Psalm 91. The tone is warfare and the enemy is our evil adversary who comes at us with persistent regularity. Let me suggest four distinct parts to this song about divine deliverance from supernatural evil:
I. Protection amid Evil (91:1-4)
II. Attitude toward Evil (91:5-10)
III. Assistance against Evil (91:11-13)
IV. Security from Evil (91:14-16)
 ~Charles Swindoll~

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Prayer of a Minor Prophet

The Covenant and Prayer of a Preacher

Written in 1950, this article has been reprinted many times and widely circulated.

This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Saviour in the secret place and in the silence, father in than his well-meaning brethren could take him.

"And he said: O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou art about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, my Lord, Thou hast stooped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man taketh this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou hast ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, thy servant.

My God, I shall not not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfitness for the work. The responsibility is not mine, but Thine. Thou has said, "I knew thee - I ordained thee - I sanctified thee," and Thou hast also said, "Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak." Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the present of the enemy; give me understanding to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine  own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity, or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet - not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path, I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.

Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee, therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I my do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with Thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen." AMEN!

~A. W. Tozer~

Our Teacher

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:27 

Jesus tells His disciples in John 16 that when He goes away He will send a Helper, His Holy Spirit. “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13). When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are immediately indwelled by His Holy Spirit. 

We believe, then, we receive. One of the biggest attacks Christians face today comes from an enemy telling us that we have no real power, no victory, and no hope. In John 8:44, Jesus describes our enemy: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is perfect in every way. He cannot lie. He cannot deceive. He is holy and righteous beyond our understanding. His promises are true. His faithfulness reaches to the heavens. When He says that we have His Holy Spirit, then we must believe in faith that we have an abiding relationship filled with His love and power. He promises that no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor has entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Do you believe Him today? Do you want to know more about the things of the Lord? As a child of God, saved and sealed for the day of redemption, you have the anointing of the Holy Spirit who will teach you all things. Let today be the day that you start learning about these things. How to start? Read His Word and study it. Pray and ask for the things you want to learn about. Ask questions that you want answered. Get up every day with an attitude of faith and do not allow the enemy to tempt you with his lies. Maybe it is time for you to go back to school…and what a great Teacher you have! And the best part…He will only give you open book (the Bible) tests. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goodness and Greatness

When the mists have cleared away and all things appear in their proper light I think it will be revealed that goodness and greatness are synonymous. I do not see how it could be otherwise in a moral world.

In the meantime the two qualities are not the same but can be separated, and indeed are often contrary one to the other.

Judged by our tentative human standards, mankind may be divided into four distinct classes: Those who are great but not good; those who are good but not great; those who are both great and good, and those who are neither good nor great. In the Bible they stand out with great clarity.

Among those who were great and good is Abraham the Hebrew. By goodness here I mean moral soundness within the framework of the individual's understanding of it. Abraham was not perfect according to Christian standards, but his moral character nevertheless rose above that of his contemporaries like a mountain peak above the hills below.

For the greatness of the man no brief need be submitted here. He was a big man, a giant in a field of utmost importance, the field of religion. As the father of the faithful and founder of the nation of Israel his place has been long established.

In secular history it is not difficult to identify men who were great but NOT good. Three men of more recent times comes at once to mind - Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. However grudgingly we admit it, they were great men and must be acknowledged as such if we would be completely honest. A man who can forge out an empire, change radically the course of world history or hold in his iron control nearly a third of the human race must be called a great man, even a prodigy, regardless of what kind of personal character he may possess. And these men did these things. They were great but NOT good.

Then there are the men who are good but NOT great, and we may thank God that there are so many of them, being grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.

These men move quietly enough across the pages of the Bible, but where they walk there is pleasant weather and good companionship. Such was Isaac, who was the son of the great father and the father of a great son, but who himself never rose above mediocrity. Such were Boaz the ancestor of king David, Joseph the husband of Mary, and Barnabas the son of consolation.

Every pastor knows this kind - the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. Without these the churches as we know them in city, town and country could not carry on. These are the first to come forward when there is word to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made. They are not known beyond the borders of their own parish because there is nothing dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness, but their presence is a benediction wherever they go. They have no greatness to draw to them the admiring eyes of carnal men but are content to be good men and full of the Holy Spirit, waiting in faith for the day that their true worth shall be known. When they die they leave behind them a fragrance of Christ that lingers long after the cheap celebrities of the day are forgotten.

The fourth class consists of persons who are neither great nor good. Into this class fall the majority of men.

A Bible example of this kind of man was Ahab, the king of Israel. True he had the external trappings of greatness; he was a king. But the very contrast between what he should have been and was serves but to accent the shabby, contemptible character of the man. Beneath his royal robes beats the heart of a weakling. This whimpering, sulking fellow was the craven tool of a strong but vicious wife who corrupted him and ruined his people. He has not one lonely virtue to commend him. He was neither good nor great.

At the other extreme are the millions of common people who can claim neither goodness nor greatness. Thomas Gray in his exquisite "Elegy" describes those who have been overlooked by the world.

"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
After the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."

Beautiful as this thought is it yet represents what we want things to be rather than what they are. It raises tender feelings within us to dream of the noble masses of mankind living their  lives as pure as undiscovered gems and as fragrant as unseen flowers, but the hard facts are quite otherwise.

The masses of men are not great, but this does not argue them good. The truth is that they are almost without exception selfish, lustful, egotistical, opinionated, vain and afraid. If this appears a harsh judgment on my fellow men, please know that I claim for myself no inspiration, and commend my readers to an inspired apostle. Read Paul's words in Romans 3:9-19 and Ephesians 2:1-3.

It remains only to be said that not all men can be great, but all men are called to be  good by the blood of the Lamb and the Power of the Holy Spirit.

~A. W. Tozer~

Trust Him

God... calleth those things which be not as though they were (Romans 4:17).

What does that mean? Why Abraham did this thing: he dared to believe God. It seemed an impossibility at his age that Abraham should become the father of a child; it looked incredible; and yet God called him a "father of many nations" before there was a sign of a child; and so Abraham called himself "father" because God called him so. That is faith; it is to believe and assert what God says. "Faith steps on seeming void, and finds the rock beneath."
Only say you have what God says you have, and He will make good to you all you believe. Only it must be real faith, all there is in you must go over in that act of faith to God.
Be willing to live by believing and neither think nor desire to live in any other way. Be willing to see every outward light extinguished, to see the eclipse of every star in the blue heavens, leaving nothing but darkness and perils around, if God will only leave in thy soul the inner radiance, the pure bright lamp which faith has kindled.
--Thomas C. Upham
The moment has come when you must get off the perch of distrust, out of the nest of seeming safety, and onto the wings of faith; just such a time as comes to the bird when it must begin to try the air. It may seem as though you must drop to the earth; so it may seem to the fledgling. It, too, may feel very like falling; but it does not fall -- it's pinions give it support, or, if they fail, the parent birds sweeps under and bears it upon its wings.
Even so will God bear you. Only trust Him; "thou shalt be holden up." "Well, but," you say, "am I to cast myself upon nothing?" That is what the bird seems to have to do; but we know the air is there, and the air is not so unsubstantial as it seems. And you know the promises of God are there, and they are not unsubstantial at all. "But it seems an unlikely thing to come about that my poor weak soul should be girded with such strength." Has God said it shall? "That my tempted, yielding nature shall be victor in the strife." Has God said it shall? "That my timorous, trembling heart shall find peace?" Has God said it shall?
For, if He has, you surely do not mean to give Him the lie! Hath he spoken, and shall He not do it? If you have gotten a word -- "a sure word" of promise -- take it implicitly, trust it absolutely. And this sure word you have; nay, you have more -- you have Him who speaks the word confidently.
"Yea, I say unto you," trust Him.
~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Call to the Ministry

The Christian minister, as someone has pointed out, is a descendant not of the Greek orator but of the Hebrew prophet.

The difference between the orator and the prophet are many and radical, the chief being that the orator speaks for himself while the prophet speaks for God. The orator originates his message and is responsible to himself for its content. The prophet originates nothing but delivers the message he has received from God who alone is responsible for it, the prophet being responsible to God for its delivery only. The prophet must hear the message clearly and deliver it faithfully, and that is indeed a grave responsibility; but it is to God alone, not to men.

It is a dubious compliment to a preacher to say that he is original. The very effort to be original has become a snare to many young men fresh out of seminary who feel that the old and tried ways are too dull for them. These reject the pure wheat of the Word and try to nourish their congregations on chaff of their own manufacture, golden chaff maybe, but chaff nevertheless that can never feed the soul.

I heard of one graduate of a theological school who determined to follow his old professor's advice and preach the Word only. His crowds were average. Then one day a cyclone hit the little town and he yielded to the temptation to preach on the topic "Why God sent the cyclone to Centerville." The church was packed. This shook the young preacher and he went back to ask his professor for further advice in the light of what had happened. Should he continue to preach the Word to smaller crowds or try to fill his church by preaching sermons a bit more sensational? The old man did not change his mind. "If you preach the Word," he told the inquirer, "you will always have a text. But if you wait for cyclones you will not have enough to go around."

The true preacher is a man of God speaking to men; he is a man of heaven giving God's witness on earth. Because he is a man of God, he can speak from God. He can decode the message he receives from heaven and deliver it in the language of earth.

The response earth gives to the message of heaven at any given time varies with the moral conditions of those to whom it is addressed. The true messenger of God is not always successful as men judge success. The message delivered in power has sometimes returned to destroy the messenger, as witness the slain prophets of Israel in Old Testament times, and Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

The true minister is one not by his own choice but by the sovereign commission of God. From a study of the Scriptures one might conclude that the man God calls seldom or never surrenders to the call without considerable reluctance. The young man who rushes too eagerly into the pulpit seems to be unusually spiritual, but he may in fact only be revealing his lack of understanding of the sacred nature of the ministry.

The old rule, "Don't preach if you can get out of it," if correctly understood, is still a good one. The call of God comes with an insistence that will not be denied and can scarcely be resisted. Moses fought his call strenuously and lost to the compulsion of the Spirit within him; and the same may be said of many others in the Bible and since Bible times. Christian biography shows that many who later became great Christian leaders at first tried earnestly to avoid the burden of the ministry; but I cannot offhand recall one single instance of a prophet's having applied for the job. The true minister simply surrenders to the inward pressure and cried, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!"

While there s only one way to become a true preacher, unfortunately there are many doors into the pulpit. One is to be endowed with what is sometimes called a "good pulpit presence." Many a tall Absalom whose commanding presence and sonorous voice mark him as a natural leader of  men is attempting to speak for God when he has not been sent by God. His call is from the people instead of from the Spirit and the results cannot but be disastrous.

Others have become ministers from a genuine but altogether human love for mankind. These have a strong sense of social obligation which they feel they can best discharge by entering the ministry. Of all wrong reasons for becoming a preacher this would seem to be the most laudatory, but it is nevertheless not a spiritually valid reason, for it overlooks the sovereign right of the Holy Spirit to call whom He will.

Most surely the church has a service of compassion to render to the world, but her motives are not humanitarian. They are higher than this by as much as the new creation is higher than the old. It is inherent in the Christian spirit that the followers of Christ should wish to minister to the bodies as well as the souls of men. But the call to give God's prophetic message to the world is something apart.

The call to witness and serve comes to every Christian; the call to be a Voice to mankind comes only to the man who has the Spirit's gift and special enabling. We need not fewer men to show mercy, but we need more men who can hear the words of God and translate them into human speech.

~A. W. Tozer~

The Boomerang of Sin

Be sure your sin will find you out. - Numbers 32:23

Sin is like the boomerang of the savage, it comes back on the hand that has launched it forth. The brethren accused Joseph of being a spy, and cast him into the pit; and on the same charge they were cast into prison. King David committed adultery and murder; so Absalom requited him. The Jews crucified the blessed Lord; and they were impaled around Jerusalem till room and wood for their crosses failed.

There is a Divine order in society. God has so constituted the world, that as man deals with his neighbor, so he is dealt with. The consequence does not always follow immediately. There is often a long interval between the lightning flash and the thunder-peal. The sentence against an evil work is not executed suddenly. But though God's mills grind slowly, they do grind, and to powder. It is impossible to deceive God; for it is His immutable law, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal 6:7-8).

When sin comes to find you out, like a sleuth-hound on the track of the criminal, be sure that it finds you in Jesus. "That I may be found in Him." Nothing will avail to intercept the awful execution of sin's vengeance, except the blood and righteousness of Jesus. Put Him between you and your sins, between you and your past, between you and the penalty of a broken law. Be sure that only when the blood of Jesus speaks for you through earth and heaven, there can be a cutting off of sin's terrible entail.

~F. B. Meyer~

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pragmatism Goes To Church

It is not by accident that the philosophy of pragmatism around the turn of the century achieved such wide popularity in the United States. The American temperament was perfect for it, and still is.

Pragmatism has a number of facets and can mean various things to various people, but basically it is the doctrine of the utility of truth. For the pragmatist there are no absolutes; nothing is absolutely good or absolutely true. Truth and morality float on a sea of human experience. If an exhausted swimmer can lay hold of a belief or an ethic, well and good; it may keep him afloat till he can get to shore; then it only encumbers him, so he tosses it away. He feel no responsibility to cherish truth for its own sake. It is there to serve him; he has no obligation to serve it.

Truth is to use. Whatever is useful is true for the user, though for someone else it may not be useful, so not true. The truth of any idea is its ability to produce desirable results. If it can show no such results it is false. That is pragmatism stripped of its jargon.

Now, since practicality is a marked characteristic of the American people they naturally lean strongly toward the philosophy of utility. Whatever will get things gone immediately with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of undesirable side effects must be good. The proof is that it succeeds; no one wants to argue with success.

It is useless to plead for the human soul, to insist that what a man can do is less important than what he is. When there are wars to be won, forests to be cleared, rivers to be harnessed, factories to be built, planets to be visited, the quieter claims of the human spirit are likely to go unregarded. The spectacular drama of successful deeds leaves the beholder breathless. Deeds you can see. Factories, cities, highways, rockets are there in plain sight, and they got there by the practical application of means to ends. So who cares about ideals and character and morals? These things are for poets, nice old ladies and philosophers. Let's get on with the job.

Now all this has been said, and said better, a few dozen times before, and I would not waste space on it here except that this philosophy of pragmatism has had and is having a powerful influence upon Christianity in the middle years of this century. And whatever touches the faith of Christ immediately becomes a matter of interest to me and, I hope, to my readers also.

The nervous compulsion to get things done is found everywhere among us. We are affected by a kind of religious tic, a deep inner necessity to accomplish something that can be seen and photographed and evaluated in terms of size, numbers, speed and distance. We travel a prodigious number of miles, talk to unbelievably large crowds, publish an astonishing amount of religious literature, collect huge sums of money, build vast numbers of churches and amass staggering debts for our children to pay. Christian leaders compete with each other in the field of impressive statistics, and in so doing often acquire peptic ulcers, have nervous breakdowns or die of heart attacks while still relatively young.

Right here is where the pragmatic philosophy comes into its own. It asks no embarrassing questions about the wisdom of what we are doing or even about the morality of it. It accepts our chosen ends as right and good and casts about for efficient means and ways to get them accomplished. When it discovers something that works, it soon finds a text to justify it, "consecrates" it to the Lord and plunges ahead. Next a magazine article is written about it, then a book, and finally the inventor is granted an honorary degree. After that any question about the scriptualness of things or even the moral validity of them is completely swept away. You cannot argue with success. The method works; ergo, it must be good.

The weakness of all this is its tragic shortsightedness. It never takes the long view of religious activity, indeed it dare not do so, but goes cheerfully on believing that because it works it is both good and true. It is satisfied with present success and shakes off any suggestion that its works may go up in smoke in the day of Christ.

As one fairly familiar with the contemporary religious scene, I say without hesitation that that a part, a very large part, of the activities carried on today in evangelical circles are not only influenced by pragmatism but almost completely controlled by it. Religious methodology is geared to it; it appears large in our youth meetings; magazines and books constantly glorify it; conventions are dominated by it; and the whole religious atmosphere is alive with it.

What shall we do to break its power over us? The answer is simple. We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church. The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but also what we are do do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from those instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.

I say the answer is simple, but it is not easy for it requires that we obey God rather than man, and that always brings down the wrath of the religious majority. It is not a question of knowing what to do; we can easily learn that from the Scriptures. It is a question of whether or not we have the courage to do it.

~A. W. Tozer

Wait Patiently

It came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land (1 Kings 17:7).
Week after week, with unfaltering and steadfast spirit, Elijah watched that dwindling brook; often tempted to stagger through unbelief, but refusing to allow his circumstances to come between himself and God. Unbelief sees God through circumstances, as we sometimes see the sun shorn of his rays through smoky air; but faith puts God between itself and circumstances, and looks at them through Him.
And so the dwindling brook became a silver thread; and the silver thread stood presently in pools at the foot of the largest boulders; and the pools shrank. The birds fled; the wild creatures of field and forest came no more to drink; the brook was dry. Only then to his patient and unwavering spirit, "the word of the Lord came, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath."
Most of us would have gotten anxious and worn with planning long before that. We should have ceased our songs as soon as the streamlet caroled less musically over its rocky bed; and with harps swinging on the willows, we should have paced to and fro upon the withering grass, lost in pensive thought. And probably, long ere the brook was dry, we should have devised some plan, and asking God's blessing on it, would have started off elsewhere.
God often does extricate us, because His mercy endureth forever; but if we had only waited first to see the unfolding of His plans, we should never have found ourselves landed in such an inextricable labyrinth; and we should never have been compelled to retrace our steps with so many tears of shame.
Wait, patiently wait!
--F. B. Meyer
~L. B. Cowman~

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Era of an absentee God

"There are over many who have much knowledge and little virtue," said the blind saint, Malaval," and who often speak of God while rarely speaking to Him."

These words were written a long time ago; whether they were true of Christians in Malaval's day I am not able to say; we have but his word for it. But I can testify that they describe vast numbers of Christianity today.

The Bible teaches plainly enough the doctrine of the divine omnipresence, but for the masses of professed Christians this is the era of the Absentee God. Most Christians speak of God in the manner usually reserved for a departed loved one, rarely as of one present; but they do not often speak of Him.

Since errors are not equally harmful I suppose it is better to think of God as existing in some remote region of a lonely universe than not to think of Him at all or, worse, to deny outright that there is any such being as God. But truth is always better than error, and with the inspired Scriptures before us we need not think wrongly about such an important matter as this. We can know the truth if we will.

An Absentee God is among other things inadequate. He does not meet the needs of the being called man. As a baby is not satisfied away from its mother, and as life on earth is impossible without the sun, so human beings need a present God, and they can be neither healthy nor satisfied without Him. Surely God would not have created us to be satisfied with nothing less than His presence if He had intended that we should get on with nothing more than His absence. No. The Scriptures and moral reason agree that God is present.

Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. Their fear and chagrin for the moment overcame their conscious need of God. Sin never feels comfortable in the divine Presence. Jonah, in his determined refusal to obey God's command, rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Peter, with a sudden acute consciousness of personal guilt, sought not to flee from the Lord's presence but begged the Lord instead to depart from him. Men need God above everything else, yet are uncomfortable in His presence. This is the self-contradictory moral situation sin has brought us into.

A convinced atheist is more logical than a Christian who tries to worship an Absentee God. The atheist can ignore all moral and religious precepts without fear because he believes that there is no God to call him to account. His mental state is the same as that of a burglar who has talked himself into the belief that there are no policemen, no courts and no jails. Both may enjoy peace of mind for a while - till the truth catches up with them.

The notion that there is a God but that He is comfortably far away is not embodied in the doctrinal statement of any Christian church. Anyone who dared admit that he held such a creed would be considered a heretic and avoided by respectable religious people; but our actions, and especially our spontaneous utterances, reveal our true beliefs better than any conventional creed can do, and if we are to judged by these then I think it can hardly be denied that the average Christian thinks of God as being at a safe distance looking the other way.

One advantage gained from thinking of God as being absent is that we may assume that He is pleased with whatever we may be trying to do, as long as it is not downright wicked. There would seem to be no other way to account for the vast amount of religious nonsense being carried on these days in the name of the Lord. Ambitious persons burned up with desire to promote the kingdom hatch up religious schemes so moronic as to be altogether beyond credibility, and which would never be believed by serious-minded persons if they were not put on display in every city, town and hamlet throughout the country.

Since Protestants have no pope to keep them in line and since God is too far away to be consulted, the only limit to our modern religious folly is the amount the people will stand; and present indications are that they will stand plenty and pay for it, too. That the divine method and manner for evangelizing the world, and conducting public services are set forth in the Holy Scriptures never seems to occur to the busy planners whom an Absentee God has left in charge of His affairs while He is away.

At the far end of the spectrum are the conventional churches. I thing it is the deep-seated notion that God is absent that makes so many of our church services so insufferably dull. When true believers gather around a present Christ, it is all but impossible to have a poor meeting. The drabbest sermon may be endured cheerfully when the sweet fragrance of Christ's presence fills the room. But nothing can save a meeting held in the name of an Absentee God.

~A. W. Tozer~

I Called Upon Him

I called upon him, but he gave me no answer (S. of Sol. 5:6).
The Lord, when He hath given great faith, hath been known to try it by long delayings. He has suffered His servants' voices to echo in their ears as from a brazen sky. They have knocked at the golden gate, but it has remained unmovable, as though it were rusted upon its hinges. Like Jeremiah, they have cried, "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through."
Thus have true saints continued long in patient waiting without reply, not because their prayers were not vehement, nor because they were unaccepted, but because it so pleased Him who is a Sovereign, and who gives according to His own pleasure. If it pleases Him to bid our patience exercise itself, shall He not do as He will with His own!
No prayer is lost. Praying breath was never spent in vain. There is no such thing as prayer unanswered or unnoticed by God, and some things that we count refusals or denials are simply delays.
--H. Bonar
Christ sometimes delays His help that He may try our faith and quicken our prayers. The boat may be covered with the waves, and He sleeps on; but He will wake up before it sinks. He sleeps, but He never oversleeps; and there are no "too lates" with Him.
--Alexander Maclaren
Be still, sad soul! lift thou no passionate cry,
But spread the desert of thy being bare
To the full searching of the All-seeing eye;
Wait! and through dark misgiving, black despair,
God will come down in pity, and fill the dry
Dead place with light, and life, and vernal air.

--J. C. Shairp
~L. B. Cowman~

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Honesty In Prayer

The saintly David M'Intyre, in his radiant little book, "The Hidden Life of Prayer", deals frankly, if briefly, with a vital element of true prayer which in our artificial age is likely to be overlooked.

We mean just plain honesty.

"Honest dealing becomes us," says M'Intyre, "when we kneel in His pure presence."

"In our address to God," he continues,

"we like to speak of Him as we think we ought to speak, and there are times when our words far outrun our feelings. But it is best that we should be perfectly frank before Him. He will allow us to say anything we will, so long as it is to Himself. "I will say unto God my rock," exclaims the psalmist, "why hast thou forgotten me?" If he had said, "Lord, thou canst not forget. Thou hast graven my name on the palms of thy hands," he would have spoken more worthily, but less truly.

On one occasion Jeremiah failed to interpret God aright. He cried as if in anger, "O Lord, you deceive me, and I was deceived." These are terrible words to utter before Him who is changeless truth. But the prophet spoke as he felt, and the Lord not only pardoned him, but met him and blessed him there."

So for M'Intyre. Another spiritual writer of unusual penetration has advised frankness in prayer even to a degree that might appear to be downright rudeness. When you come to prayer, he says, and find that you have no taste for it, tell God so without mincing words. If God and spiritual things bore you, admit it frankly. This advice will shock some squeamish saints, but it is altogether sound nevertheless. God loves the guileless soul even when in his ignorance he is actually guilty of rashness in prayer. The Lord can soon cure his ignorance, but for insincerity no cure is known.

The basic artificiality of civilized human beings is hard to shake off. It gets into our very blood and conditions our thoughts, attitudes and relationships much more seriously than we imagine. A book on human relations has appeared within recent years whose underlying philosophy is deception and whose recommended technique is a skillful use of flattery to gain desired ends. It has had an unbelievably wide sale, actually running into the millions. Of course its popularity may be explained by the fact that it said what people wanted to hear!

The desire to make a good impression has become one of the most powerful of all the factors determining human conduct. That gracious (and scriptural) social lubricant called courtesy has in our times degenerated into a completely false and phony etiquette that hides the true man under a shimmery surface as thin as the oil slick on a quiet pond. The only time some persons expose their real self is when they get mad.

With this perverted courtesy determining almost everything men say and do in human society, it is not surprising that it should be hard to be completely honest in our relations with God. It carries over as a kind of mental reflex and is present without our being aware of it. Nevertheless, it is extremely hateful to God. Christ detested it and condemned it without mercy when He found it among the Pharisees. The artless little child is still the divine model for all of us. Prayer will increase in power and reality as we repudiate all pretense and learn to be utterly honest before God as well as before men.

A great Christian of the past broke out all at once  into a place of such radiance and victory as to excite wonder among his friends. Someone asked him what had happened to him. He replied simply that his new life of power began one day when he entered the presence of God and took a solemn vow never again to say anything to God in prayer that he did not mean. His transformation began with that vow and continued as he kept it.

We can learn something there if we will.

~A. W. Tozer~

Teach Them Diligently

"And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

My children got into the car after a day at their Christian school and told me that a friend of theirs was going to hell. They said, “He lies, mom, and liars go to hell.” I asked, “Why do you think that?” Then the two kids broke out in a song that has a line that says, “Liars go to hell…liars go to hell…Revelation 21:8, 21:8…burn burn burn.” I thought to myself, “How can my kids believe this when we know we each fall short everyday?” Well, the subject changed and I never addressed it.

Around 4:30 the next morning, I woke up with this thought racing in my mind: “You need to teach your children about grace. They are not being taught how to live in God’s grace at their Christian school. The gospel is about God’s grace to sinners. Your kids don’t understand how to extend grace to others or themselves.”

After much prayer, I approached the subject of grace and what Revelation 21:8 says. My son said to me, “Are you telling me that I sin everyday (lying included) and God doesn’t hold that against me? Are you telling me that I can do whatever I want, and because of the blood of Christ, it is covered and God sees me as righteous anyway?” Immediately I prayed, “Oh Lord, I really want my 13 year old son to completely get this but this Truth can lead to poor choices…help.” And the wisdom of the Lord came upon me as I opened my mouth and said to him, “Yes. That is exactly right. However, if you really love the Lord and know Him, you won’t want to sin and hurt Him. Your heart should respond back to His love and as a result, you will live a life that is pleasing to Him.” Both of my kids nodded in agreement and said, “Cool.”

I thanked the Lord when my daughter then said to me, “Mom, Sunday school teaches us about God but you teach us how to know Him better and love Him more.” God gets the glory because I ignored it initially.

Today, we need to realize the responsibility we have to give our children a strong biblical foundation. We have to role model to them the love of Christ from our hearts and we have to teach them how to know Him better. Be sensitive to the conversations you have with your children. God will lead you in what to say…just be diligent!

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Things Come Hard

In this twisted world of ours the most important things are often the most difficult to learn; and conversely, the things that come easiest are mostly of little real value to us in the long haul.

This is seen clearly in the Christian life, where it often happens that the things we learn to do with the least trouble are the superficial and less important activities, and the really vital exercises tend to be avoided because of their difficulty.

It is seen still more clearly in our various forms of Christian service, particularly in the ministry. There the most difficult activities are the ones that produce the greatest fruit, and the less fruitful services are performed with the least effort. This constitutes a trap into which the wise minister will not fall, or if he should find that he is already caught in it he will assault heaven and earth in his determined fight to escape.

To pray successfully is the first lesson the preacher must learn if he is to preach fruitfully, yet prayer is the hardest thing he will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act he will be tempted to do less frequently than any other. He must set his heart to conquer by prayer, and that will man that he must first conquer his own flesh, for it is the flesh that hinders prayer always.

Almost anything associated with the ministry may be learned with an average amount of intelligent application. It is not hard to preach or manage church affairs or pay a social call; weddings and funerals may be conducted smoothly with a little help from Emily Post and the Minister's Manual. Sermon making can be learned as easily as shoemaking - introduction, conclusion and all. And so with the whole work of the ministry as it is carried on in the average church today.

But prayer - that is another matter. There Mrs. Post is helpless and the Minister's Manual can offer no assistance. There the lonely man of God must wrestle it out alone, sometimes in fastings and tears and weariness untold. There every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else. Everyone must pray as if he alone could pray, and his approach must be individual and independent; independent, that is, of everyone but the Holy Spirit.

Thomas a Kempis says that the man of God ought to be more at home in his prayer chamber than before the public. It is not too much to say that the preacher who loves to be before the public is hardly prepared spiritually to be before them. Right praying may easily make a man hesitant to appear before an audience. The man who is really at home in the presence of God will find himself caught in a kind  of inward contradiction. He is likely to feel his responsibility so keenly that he would rather do almost anything than face an audience; and yet the pressure upon his spirit may be so great that wild horses could not drag him away from his pulpit.

No man should stand before an audience who has not first stood before God. Many hours of communion should precede one hour in the pulpit. The prayer chamber should be more familiar than the public platform. Prayer should be continuous, preaching but intermittent.

It is significant that the schools teach everything about preaching except the important part, praying. For this weakness the schools are not to be blamed, for the reason that prayer cannot be taught; it can only be done. The best any school or any book (or any article) can do is to recommend prayer and exhort to its practice. Praying itself must be the work of the individual. That it is the one religious work which gets done with the least enthusiasm cannot but be one of the tragedies of our times.

~A. W. Tozer~