There is no finality to the Christian LIfe this side of eternity. Leonard Ravenhill

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Words of Gold 1

"What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more." Robert Murray McCheyne

"Crosses are all alike, but no two are identical." A.W. Tozer

"My preaching has occasioned persecution, but the want of it will, I fear, occasion worse."
                                                                                                               Donald Cargill

"It is perilous to study the Bible in any other light than its own." Octavious Winslow

"There is no limit to what God can do with a man, providing he does not touch the glory."
                                                                                                              Charles Cowman

"If you try to imitate Christ the world will praise you; if you become Christlike it will hate you."
                                                                                                      Martyn Lloyd Jones

"Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?" Leonard Ravenhill

"He alone will be Lord in our hearts, and none other; for Divine Love can admit of no rival."
                                                                                                   John Tauler

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where Are You Going?

"...please which way ought I to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where," said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

" -so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Life is a peculiar thing. Many of us pass through it without even realizing it. We work, we eat, we sleep, but we never get around to actually living. It seems we are always laboring for something more than the simple things of life. We work for extravagant vacations, bigger houses, nicer cars, and everything else that the rest of the world has. We live for the transient forgetting that some things are eternal. Too many of us are like Alice, aimlessly wandering trying to get somewhere, but really nowhere in particular.

 We dwell in a culture that is thoroughly infatuated with stuff. Most of the goals or visions that people have for their lives center around the material. While there is nothing wrong with having earthly possessions (we all own things) these should never be the focal point of our existence. The first of the Ten Commandments instructs us to have no other gods, other than the Lord. God is to be first in our life. I think the saints who wrote the Westminster catechism had it right when they began with, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." In essence they were saying your purpose in life as a man or woman created by God, is to bring Him glory, honor and praise in all that you do, and in this sort of lifestyle you will find peace, joy and satisfaction, that begins now and continues for all of eternity.

As Christians we need to be heading somewhere, or rather we need to be chasing after Someone. Christ should be our goal in life. We have no right to wander, we must live with our eyes set on the prize. The Apostle Paul explained his goals in Philippians 3, " Not that  I have already attained or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers,  I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

We do not have much time. Life even at its longest is very short. We have no time to waste. Treat this life as you would a precious jewel, because it is worth more than the finest of diamonds. Jonathan Edwards once said, "Time is very short, which is another thing that makes it very precious. The scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set a higher value upon it, especially if it be necessary and they cannot do without it... Time is so short and the work that we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare. The work which we have to do to prepare for eternity, must be done in time, or it can never be done; and it is found to be a work of great difficulty and labor, and therefore that for which time is the more requisite."

So where are you going? What are you living for? Don't just walk through life and not know where you are going.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The World Was All Before Them

"Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way."
                                                      Milton

Pause for a moment and think of that day that Adam and Eve were evicted from the beautiful garden called Eden...

It was an incredible place. Flowers bloomed endlessly. A veritable buffet of fresh, luscious fruit was everywhere. A cool tropical mist hung lazily in the air. A rainbow of color was splashed all around. Here the animals lived in perfection, never vengefully tearing one another apart, but peacefully existing together in a habitat of peace. Death did not exist, only life was here, perpetual and pure. It was paradise, it is no wonder that when God examined it His description was concise, but fitting, "It was good."

But even the most fertile imagination could not visualize this place as it actually was. Even the tongue replete with adjectives of wonder and mystery could not describe the beauty of Eden. Perfection is something we have never known. Completely unadulterated beauty is something our eyes have never seen. We dwell in a marred world, so a home without blemish is a foreign concept. We've never known anything but the fallen, the imperfect, the less than good. But still our minds can wonder as we imaginatively wander through a world better than our own.

The first time I read Milton's immortal lines, "The world was all before them", I inwardly shuddered. For although Adam and Eve had a big globe on which they could live, the crushing thing was, what they were leaving behind. The world with all of its vast opportunities was ahead of them but Eden was behind them. Though they were embarking on an incredible journey, they were leaving serenity, peace and fellowship, for an angel with a fiery sword to guard. Their sin opened their eyes but closed the gates of Eden. That one nibble from a good looking piece of fruit plunged the entire race of humanity into the abysmal blackness of separation from God, all because of a "little" sin.

So what's the lesson here?

While there are many directions we could go with this story, I want to emphasize the effects our decisions can have. When Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, though their all their life was before them, they had actually begun to experience the reality of death. God had said in Genesis 2:17, "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." What God was saying here was not that the second their teeth sunk into the fruit they would drop dead; but that the instant they flouted His rule they would begin to die. Spiritual death would be immediate and physical death would begin to slowly, but relentlessly take its toll on mankind. Our souls would be lifeless and our bodies would steadily deteriorate.

When this couple left Eden they left all they had ever known to gain thorns, thistles and pain. Decisions have consequences. Sometimes we think a road before us will open up a world of opportunities, and sometimes they do. But what we must consider, is this gain we percieve at the cost of something far better? Are we gaining the world but losing Eden? Maybe an opportunity opens for career betterment, but pause and look at the situation circumspectly. Look at it with your eyes wide open in every direction. The fruit looked good to Eve but it cost her so much, more than she could have ever imagined. Your decisions just as Adam's, will affect others, your family namely. Think before you go on. Don’t consider your wants and desires primary in any situation. Your thoughtless bite from the tree of your own wants could drag others out of Eden. In all of life live with your eyes wide open and looking in evey direction, for all of the decisions that you make will have consequences, either good or bad.

"The world was all before them" but Eden was behind them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Change Your Name or Change Your Act

He was just a young man, a soldier in the worlds most powerful army at the time. But he had failed in his service and had not been loyal to his country. He was now on trial before the great conqueror Alexander the Great for desertion. Alexander was a tough man, he was a commander who had conquered all of the known world by his courage and determination. He demanded complete allegiance from his subjects and was not compassionate to those who had disappointed him. But as Alexander sat there in judgment over the young man, he became touched by the soldiers pleas for mercy. All who were there anxiously awaited for the great conquerors verdict. Would he be released? Would mercy be shown? After a pause Alexander asked the young man, "What is your name?" The soldier feebly replied, "Alexander." The mighty monarch demanded once again, "What is your name?" The young man replied again, "Alexander, sir." The Macedonian ruler jumped from his seat grabbed the young soldier and threw him to the ground, he held him there and thundered angrily, "Either change your name or change your behavior."

If we are Christians our actions will coincide with the name we bear. It is not enough to be professors of Christianity we must live that faith out in our daily life. Christ must affect your character, and if He does not then you are not truly saved. If we claim to be Christians than there ought to be evidences of that profession. Jesus Christ should be the driving passion of our existence. We must, as Frances Schaeffer said, experience the Lordship of Christ in the totality of our life. We must not only talk Christian language we must live the Christian life day in and day out. As the book of James says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."(James 1:22-25)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

All Roads Lead to God

"We will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." Romans 14:10-12

Some religious theorists try to convince the populace that everyone regardless of spiritual persuasion will in the end get to Heaven. These pluralists preach that every man and woman on the face of this earth, in spite of their place in the religious marketplace, will get to God. Their basic theology is encapsulated in the old statement: All roads lead to God.

While such reasoning sounds warm and fuzzy, this line of thought is neither biblical nor rational. Jesus clearly stated in John 14:6 that He was the road to the Father and that no one no matter how hard they tried would get to God outside of Him. So we see that the "all roads lead to God" theory and the words of Christ are antithetical to each other. Secondly, this inclusive theology fails any standard of logic. How can all religions be right went they all believe very different things from one another? How can all roads lead to God when some religions don’t even believe in God? Does the Muslim get his hedonistic heaven when he dies, the Hindu his reincarnation, and the evangelical his golden streets and pearly gates? It just doesn't work!

Now having said all of that, let me say this, I do believe all roads in life do lead to God, but not in the traditional way. The Bible clearly teaches that every man and woman will stand before God at His judgment throne. This is far from something warm and fuzzy. God is a good judge and He will judge accordingly. The Word of God says we will all have to give an account of ourselves to God. This is everyone who has ever lived and everyone who will ever live, no one gets to skip the judgment.

It is here at "Jehovah's awful throne" that God Almighty will pronounce the verdict on our lives. If we stand before Him washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, cleansed from our sins and have been made new, our eternal destination in Heaven will be prepared.(Although we will still be accountable for how we have lived and should live every moment of our days in a way so that when we stand before Him, He will say "Well done") But if when you stand before God you stand alone as your own lawyer trying to defend your sin-stained self before a completely holy God, their is no hope for you, your eternal destination is also prepared. Heaven is a real place, it is the eternal home of those who have been saved from their sin by Jesus Christ. Hell is also a real place and it will be the eternal nightmare of all those who have rejected Christ.

The road that you are walking does lead to God; but not as a benevolent Santa Claus. The God you will meet is a perfect judge and He hates sin. So don't wait to get prepared to meet Him. (Amos 4:12) We get to live this life but once and then we have to face God. (Heb. 9:27) Don't depend on your own goodness, you won’t measure up. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. (Rom. 13:14)

Remember: Their is a judgment coming!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good Intentions Aren't Good Enough

“The greatest enemy of the life with God is not sin but the good that is not good enough.”
Oswald Chambers

“It is only Jesus Christ Himself who is capable of living the Christian life.” Ian Thomas
 

The Christian life is impossible! We can’t live it. We can’t do it. We can try, but we will never make it. We can know the right stuff but never live it. The Christian life is impossible!

But it’s a good thing that we are the servants of a God who can always accomplish the impossible. Jesus summed it up well, when the disciples who were bewildered and confused had asked Him, “Who can be saved?” Jesus answered them, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)

We can’t make ourselves good. We can’t build ladders to Heaven, we’d never make it. God knew of this dilemma and He did not leave us alone. He sent His Son to save us. There was no other way only a perfect sacrifice would do. Jesus wasn’t overpayment He was the only possible payment. Outside of Christ we cannot get to God. Doing good things, or trying our best to be good people will never bring us to Heaven’s gates. Paul explains this in Galatians 2:21, “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If we could be made righteous though obedience to the Ten Commandments, then Christ didn’t need to die. But anyways, none of us regardless of how good we think we are could ever attain Heaven on our own merit. Because the truth is, we all fall short of God’s standard. That’s why we need Jesus.

But I think we also need to consider our life on the other side of the cross. Just as it is impossible for us to save ourselves, it is equally impossible to change ourselves after conversion. We must look to Christ for genuine revolution within our heart. I love the words of Bunyan’s Greatheart, “It is my duty to distrust mine own ability that I may have reliance on Him that is stronger than all.”

In Galatians 5:16 Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” You see, Biblically good intentions are never good enough. As a matter of fact good intentions most often turn out bad, because they reek of our flesh. We want to change ourselves but this is not Christ’s way. Our way says, “I won’t do this or that and therefore I am good.” But Christ says, “Only God is good.” Christ also tells us in John 15 that if we are not abiding in Him and He is indwelling us we can’t bear fruit.

Ian Thomas in his book The Saving Life of Christ explains our misinterpretation of Galatians 5:16. He says that we reverse the statement,

“The devil loves to invert the truth and turn it into a lie, and probably what he has been saying to you is this: ‘Try not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and then you will walk in the Spirit’, as though the latter were a reward for the former. He knows that in this way he will keep you preoccupied with yourself, instead of being preoccupied with Christ…

“You have been trying not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh in order to walk in the Spirit - fighting a battle already lost. What God has said to you is this, ‘Walk in the Spirit’, in an attitude of total dependence upon Him, exposing everything to Him, ‘and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh’ - for you will then be enjoying through Him the victory that Christ has already won. To walk in the Spirit is not a reward - it is the means! It is to enjoy the Saving Life of Christ!”

Remember this - good intentions are never good enough!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sorry We Don't Agree

The other day I had the privilege of sharing the truth of the Word of God to a Jehovah’s Witness. He came to our house inviting me to a meeting they were having at thier Kingdom Hall. After he gave me his invitation and finished his scripted speech he was ready to jump into his car and leave. But I wasn’t going to let him get away that easy.

So I began to engage him…

Our conversation centered mostly on whether Jesus was God or just a powerful angel. Although I presented Scriptures to him and tried to reason with him, he was unconvinced. Jesus is not God according to what he has been taught and the Trinity doesn’t make any sense to him. After some more discussion and attempts at persuasion it was clear that neither of us were going to budge in our beliefs. The gentleman reached out his hand to me, we shook hands and he said, “Well at least we both agree that Jesus is the ransom for our sins.” I couldn’t let the conversation end that way. So I said, “But it’s not the same, we don’t agree. Jesus doesn’t mean the same thing to you and me. You have to get this right; your eternity depends on it.”

In Jude 3-4 it says,

“Beloved, although I was very eager to right to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who were long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Jude begins his letter saying that he wanted to write of salvation, the glorious salvation we have been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. All Christians love to talk about this, and ponder it, and write about it. Like William Cowper we would all have Christ’s “redeeming love” be our theme until we die. But after some consideration Jude decides to shift gears, instead of writing about our salvation he warns them of those who would pervert this salvation. He tells the Christians he was writing “to contend for the faith.” To contend means - “to strive in competition or rivalry.” In the spiritual world we have enemies. They are those who would corrupt the faith. We are called by the Word of God to strive against these teachings.

Our warfare though should never be done in pride with the goal of gaining the upper hand and putting our opponent at our mercy. The battle is not ours. We are not fighting our cause. We are contending for the faith, we are to be faithful to the Bible. We defend Christianity not to prove ourselves superior, but with the intention of seeing a soul saved. Whether it is the Jehovah’s Witness deluded by deceivers. Whether it is the atheist denying the existence of God. Or whether it is the emergent church trying to kowtow to post-modern gurus. We must contend for the faith. Not attacking but contending. When men deny the truth and when they depart from the truth, we must stand our ground and fight for the truth.

So to the Jehovah’s Witness man I spoke to the other day, “I care about your soul. I want to see you saved. But if Jesus isn’t God then He can’t be the perfect sacrifice for our sin and we can’t be ransomed. You must understand that. Sorry, but we don’t agree.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

No More Spare Time

Recently I went with my family to my favorite used bookstore. While there my Dad came across a thick, old, white book about the Scottish Covenanters. Knowing my interests in these saints he showed it to me. I flipped through its pages and decided this was a book for me. It is called A Cloud of Witnesses. As I have been reading it I have been fascinated by the stories of men and women who lived a courageous Christian life. One of these men was James Boig. Although little is known about this mans life, the book contains a letter he wrote to his brother the day before he was killed. The letter is typical; giving the reasons that he was to be martyred, his defense of his position, and his testimony of dependence on God for his salvation. At the end of the letter, he says, in light of what was to take place the next day, “I have no more spare time.” The next day a worthy man went to his reward.

I was really impressed with this statement about not having anymore spare time. James Boig was going to die, and so he saw all his life concentrated on this one purpose; going to meet his Maker. But as I thought about this, I realized that no Christian really has any spare time. We have not time to waste, no time to squander. Moses in Psalm 90 says, “Teach us to number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom.” Moses is asking God to remind him that life on earth will not last forever. Jonathan Edwards used to pray, “Oh God stamp eternity on my eyes.”

Friends, we have no spare time. No time to waste. Let’s live for a goal in life, that goal being Jesus Christ. Let us direct everything that we do toward the purpose of bringing glory and honor to our Lord. There is no such thing as down-time in the Christian life. Direct all that you do toward this purpose, to know Him more. Apply all of your energy for Him. Honor Him in your home, in your work, in your entertainment, and in your relationships. All of your life, every square inch of it must be under His Lordship.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Living In Harmony: The Sin of Spiritual Fratricide


Fratricide - the crime of killing a brother

“The ministries of all denominations are mine. Gain from them all.” Barclay Buxton

Thomas Jackson, better known as Stonewall Jackson was one of the Confederate States of America’s finest generals. He was well known for his sheer determination and dauntless courage. Fame, position, and honor were all his; but this would come to an abrupt end at the battle of Chancellorsville, 1863. Jackson went out after dark with a few other men on a reconnaissance mission close to the enemy’s lines. The night was black, tension was in the air, and the situation Jackson was putting himself into was quite precarious. As they galloped along shots broke the still night air and Jackson fell from his horse. He died a short time later, not even forty years old. Who shot him? Sadly it wasn’t the enemy. It was Jackson’s own pickets in the bushes who fired at him. The whole thing was an accident.

In the spiritual realm we have done the same as Jackson’s men did. Instead of fighting the enemy we have fought with each other. Instead of advancing the kingdom the kingdom of God we’ve torn it apart with our arguing. We're attacking each other with “friendly” fire instead of making war against the powers of darkness. We're tearing each other up. We're killing one another. We have much denominational division and theological wrangling. Many Calvinists hate Arminians. And many Arminians hate Calvinists. Many Pentecostals think the Baptists are hopelessly misguided. And many Baptists think Pentecostals are crazy. We are supposed to be united in Christ with one common goal of advancing a holy, righteous kingdom. But instead we bicker so much we don’t have time to advance God’s kingdom. Often we make disciples not of Christ, but of preachers, fallible humans. We are not called to be followers of John Wesley but Jesus Christ. We are not called to be the students of Calvin’s Institutes, but the Word of God. Whose disciples are we?

I must clarify that I am in no way trying to say that we cannot learn from others. I am not saying we shouldn’t read books or listen to sermons. The point I am trying to stress is that too often we appear to follow men and identify with men more than we do Christ. We are followers of Martin Luther. Or Menno Simons. But we are supposed to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Paul told the Philippian church to be, “of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention. Do nothing from factional motives or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead in the true spirit of humility let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this attitude and purpose and mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” (Php. 2:2-5 Amplified)

There should be abundant love and harmony within the body of Christ. We should be characterized by a humble spirit just as Christ was. We need to not be pursuing our own interests, our own agendas, and remember that we are the servants of Another. We need to stop “killing” one another and start building one another up. We must remember that men are just the instruments that God is using. They are just the pen He is writing with.

“When one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:4-9)

Let’s stop dividing over petty things. Certainly sin must be confronted within the church. A denial of basic Biblical theology must be countered with the truth. But the pettiness needs to be put aside. Though I am not reformed in my theology I have long been blessed by reading the Puritans, the Scottish Covenanters, and the Reformers. Though I may not agree with all they say; I do know this, those men knew God, and there is much that I can learn from them.

Let’s stop shooting at one another and unite as the body of Christ should be, in an aggressive attack on the gates of hell. Christ cannot be divided, His body is one. The hands are not better than the feet and the feet are not better than the hands. We must move forward as one harmonious body.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

GOD OF FIERY LOVE

He’s fire and fury; He’s passion and rage;

He’s kindness and love, and He’s goodness and grace.

He shakes the foundations and rattles the leaves;

He speaks in the stillness, whispers on the breeze.


He’s a flash of lighting and a thunder crack;

The God who pursues us to bring our souls back.

He’s wind; He’s waves and the mighty rushing tide;

The groom who would die for the love of His bride.


His voice rumbles the hills, He wakes every soul;

He sings a love song, like the minstrels of old.

He’s a flaming sword that calls us to decide,

But He gently woos us to His loving side.


He’s fair and He’s just, and He sits on the throne;

He’s our only hope, without Him were alone.

He’s holy and good like we can’t comprehend,

Bow at His feet, receive the grace that He sends.


And worship the One worthy of all our praise,

Bring Him glory and honor all of your days.

May all hail the One who sits enthroned above,

The Eternal King, God of fiery love.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

E.M. Bounds On Zeal

“Zeal is a contagious, but not a popular, element. Our fathers too their tea piping hot; we take ours iced. Iced Christianity is more popular and tasteful than iced tea. We can endure in our churches enough warmth to take the chill off, but more than this is offensive. We have added many good elements to our preaching, but these cannot make up for the loss of fervor. The average mind can only be moved to action by a flame. Some men may pull through to heaven on a cold collar, but they are the exception. A dwindling flame destroys the vital and aggressive forces in church life. God must be represented by a fiery church or he is not truly represented. God is all on fire, and his church, if it be like him, must also be aflame with the great and eternal interests of religion. Zeal need not be fussy to be consuming and forceful. Christ was as far removed as possible from nervous excitability, the very opposite of intolerant or clamorous zeal, and yet the zeal of God’s house consumed him.

“The lack of ardor in Christian profession or action is a sure sign of the want of depth and intensity. The lack of fire is a sure sign of the lack of God’s presence. To abate fervor is to retire God. God can tolerate many things in the way of infirmity or error. He can pardon much when one is repentant, but two things are intolerable to Him - insincerity and Luke warmness. Lack of heart and lack of heat are the things that he loathes. ‘I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth,’ is God’s judgment on our lack of fire in the Church. Fire is the motor that moves the Christian life. Christian principles that are not aflame have neither force nr perfume. Flame is the wing by which faith ascends, and fervency is the soul of prayer. Love is kindled in a flame, and fire is the air that true religion breathes. It feeds on fire. Christianity can stand anything better than a feeble flame.

“Christian character needs to be set on fire. Lack of heat makes more infidels than lack of faith. Not to be in earnest about the things of heaven is not to be about them at all. The fiery souls are the ones that win in the heavenly fight. Nothing short of red hot can keep the glow of heaven in these chilly times. We must grasp the live coal and covet the consuming flame.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Zeal

“Somewhere a church was burning down. Among the spectators was a well known atheist. The pastor said to him, ‘While the church was in good condition, you did not attend. But now that it is on fire you come.’ The atheist replied, ‘If your church had always been on fire, I would have attended regularly.” Richard Wurmbrand

Zeal is something that is sadly often looked down on. The term zealot is often used in a derogatory way, more than it is in a positive way. The zealous individual is thought to be a little crazy. Zeal translates as enthusiasm. This was the accusation laid against the early Methodists, they were “enthusiasts”. They were passionately devoted to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they were mocked for this. The incredible thing though, is that while the world opposed George Whitefield and John Wesley, some of their most severe opposition came from the church. Religious people were accusing these early Methodists of being too zealous about their faith. As if that is even possible!

Zeal is an absolute necessity for the Christian. William Macdonald summed it up well in his wonderful little book, True Discipleship, he says, “A disciple can be forgiven if he does not have great mental ability. He can be forgiven also if he does not display outstanding physical prowess. But no disciple can be excused if he does not have zeal. If his heart is not aflame with a red-hot passion for the Savior, he stands condemned.”(True Discipleship pg.29)

We are not called to be smart. We are not called to be impressive. We are not called to be famous. We are not called to be liked. But we have been called to follow after Him. We should be filled with abundant passion for our Lord. We should be zealous for His cause. We should be on fire for His Kingdom.

When Christ was on this earth He lived a passionate life for His Father. When Christ saw the circus that was taking place in His Father’s house, he grew angry. He began to drive these men out of the temple, as you would cattle. He flipped their tables over and scattered all of their goods. He took their full pouches of money and poured their contents on the ground. After He did this, John says they remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house has eaten me up.”(John 2:17) Brother Yun comments on Christ’s zeal and passion as an example to us, “There are many timid Christians today, but the two words “timid” and “Christian do not belong together. To be a Christian means to be like Christ, and He is full of God’s fire and passion. Jesus was not timid when he confronted the Pharisees, tackled sin and denounced the rulers of His day. He was not timid when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple courts. Nothing about Jesus is timid.” (Living Water pg.101)

The Apostle Paul too was a man of zeal. He was fanatically passionate about the Gospel. His one purpose in life was to know Christ. He would not stop, he would not sit, and he would not take a break. He was reaching ahead, and pressing forward, and fighting the good fight of faith. He lived his life with one supreme goal, and that goal was the Lord Jesus Christ. As Oswald Chambers said, “No attraction was ever allowed to hold the mind and soul of Paul save the face of Jesus Christ.” (My Utmost for His Highest April 1) If ever a man was an enthusiast or a fanatic it was the Apostle Paul.

This is how a zealot lives. Unconcerned with the status quo he lives with fervency for one goal. For a Christian that goal is Jesus and the advancement of His Kingdom, on a personal level and a corporate level. J.C. Ryle, a 19th century British preacher, quite ably described what zeal in Christianity was like,

“A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, un-compromising, thorough-going, wholehearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies, - whether he has health, or he has sickness, - whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offence, - whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish, - whether he gets blame, or whether he gets shame, - for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it, - he is content. He feels that lie a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning he has but done the work for which God appointed Him.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

Prophetic Vision

I was recently reading William Booth's Amazing Visions, reprinted by David Ravenhill this past year. In it I came across an intriguing and revealing quote of Booth's. It was a prophetic statement concerning the 20th century. Booth was quite accurate in his predictions, and I believe that we in the 21st century are reaping the fruit of what was sown in the past century. Sadly we are following along with what previous generations have done, and we are not trying to reverse our situation. Read what Booth said,

"I consider the chief danger that confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Legalism, License and Christianity

"Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19-20

The Pharisees of Christ's day are the quintessential example of what legalism actually is. I believe that today there is much confusion concerning what legalism is. The Pharisees were religious zealots, they were serious about prayer, fasting and the law of God. None of these things were wrong. Prayer is good. Fasting is good. The Scriptures are good. The problem with the Pharisees was not so much the activities they did, but why and how they did them.

Christ in the sermon on the mount clearly explains that the Pharisees religion was all for show. Their praying was extravagant so others would admire them. Their fasting was made obvious so men would be impressed. They wanted the populous to perceive them as super-spiritual. They were practicing religion for men, not for God. They desired mans approval and admiration and missed life's true purpose, that of bringing glory to God.

Christ's judgement on the Pharisees was not that it was wrong to pray, tithe, fast and sacrifice. Christ's scathing rebukes focused on the Pharisees choosy amnesia. They concerned themselves with the parts and completely forgot the whole. Outwardly they appeared immaculate, but on the inside they were a mess. They missed the forest because of the trees.

We are confused as a church about this subject of legalism today. Christians with any sort of standard are labelled legalists. Those who believe and live Biblical principles are written off as legalists. Those who try to live as responsible Christians, trying their utmost to bring glory to God are called legalists. Standards are thought of as legalism, this is absurd though.

Let me make this perfectly clear, a standard in and of itself is not legalism. And most certainly Biblical standards are not themselves the ingredients of legalism. Legalism is the result of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. If you, like the Pharisees of Christ's day, live the way that you do for men, then you are a legalist. If you impose your lifestyle on others because it's what your church does, you will, without a doubt, create legalists. Your Christianity must never be based on a group or a church, it must be founded and grounded in the Word of God.

If your life is a reflection of the Christian life as outlined in the Bible, men may call you a legalist, but Christianity is not legalism. You see this is the great danger our churches face today; in our fear of legalism we must not swing to the opposite extremes. The opposite of legalism is of course, license. But a life of license, a life with no restraints, is certainly no better than legalism. We have thought that license is better than legalism, but this is wrong, for neither are Christianity.

Paul warns of this fleshly tendency towards license in Romans 6,

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no mean! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

We are called to follow Christ. Jesus must invade every corner of your existence. We must live continually asking ourselves: Does my life bring glory to God? Is my life an honor or dishonor to God? Do the things that I do bring shame to His name? Trying to live like Christ is not legalism my friend, it is Christianity.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Man God Uses ~ Samuel Logan Brengle


A while ago I was talking with a Christian merchant who expressed a great and important truth. He said:

"People are crying to God to use them, but He cannot. They are not given up to Him. They are not humble and teachable and holy. There are plenty of people who come to me and want work in my store, but I cannot use them. They are not fit for my work. When I must have someone, I have to go and advertise, and sometimes spend days in trying to find a man who will fit into the place I want him for, and then I have to try him and prove him to know whether he will suit me or not."

The fact is, God is using everybody that He can, and using them to the full extent of their fitness for His service. So instead of praying so much to be used, people should search themselves to know whether they are usable.

God cannot use anybody and everybody who comes along any more than the merchant could. It is only those who are "sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21) that He can bless with great usefulness.

God wants men and women, and He is hunting for them everywhere, but like the merchant, He has to pass by hundreds before He finds the right individuals. The Bible says: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him" (2 Chr. 16:9).

Oh, how God wants to use you! But before you ask Him again to do so, see to it that your heart is "perfect toward Him." Then you may depend upon it that God will show Himself strong in your behalf. Glory to His dear, dear name!

When God searches for a man to work in His vineyard He does not ask, "Has he great natural abilities? Is he thoroughly educated? Is he a fine singer? Is he eloquent in prayer? Can he talk much?"

But rather, He asks, "Is his heart perfect toward Me? Is he holy? Does he love much? Is he willing to walk by faith, and not by sight? Does he love Me so much and has he such childlike confidence in My love for him that he can trust Me to use him when he doesn’t see any sign that I am using him? Will he be weary and faint when I correct him and try to fit him for greater usefulness? Or will he, like Job, cry out, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’? (Job 13:15). Does he search My Word, and ‘meditate therein day and night,’ in order to ‘do according to all that is written therein’? (Josh. 1:8).

"Does he wait on Me for My counsel and seek in everything to be led by My Spirit? Or is he stubborn and self-willed, like the horse and the mule, which have to be held in with bit and bridle (Psa. 32:9), so that I cannot ‘guide him with Mine eye’? (Psa. 32:8). Is he a man pleaser and a timeserver, or is he willing to wait for his reward, and does he seek solely for ‘the honor that cometh from God only’? (John 5:44). Does he ‘preach the word’ and is he ‘instant in season, out of season’? (2 Tim. 4:2). Is he meek and lowly in heart and humble?"

When God finds such a man, He will use him. God and that man will have such a friendly understanding with each other, and such mutual sympathy and love and confidence that they will at once become "workers together" (2 Cor. 6:1).

Paul was such a man, and the more they whipped him and stoned him and tried to rid the earth of him, the more God used him. At last they shut him up in prison, but Paul declared with unshaken faith, "I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound" (2 Tim. 2:9), and so he spoke God’s Word. Neither devils nor men could put shackles on it, but it pierced right through the prison walls, and flew across oceans and continents and down through the long centuries, bearing the glorious tidings of the blessed Gospel, overthrowing thrones and kingdoms and powers of evil, and everywhere bringing light and comfort and salvation to dark, troubled, sinful hearts. Though more than eighteen hundred years have passed since they cut off Paul’s head and thought they had finished him off forever, yet his usefulness increases and his mighty words and works are today bearing such fruit to the good of men and the glory of God as passes the comprehension of an archangel.

Oh, how surprised Paul will be when he receives his final reward at the general judgment day, and enters into possession of all the treasures he has laid up in Heaven and the everlasting inheritance prepared for him!

Poor, troubled soul, cheer up! Be of good courage! You think you are useless, but you do not know. Trust God!

Paul saw dark days. He wrote to Timothy one day and said, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me" (2 Tim. 1:15). Study his life in the Acts and the Epistles, and see what conflicts and discouragements he had, and take courage!

Jesus said, "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive…)" (John 7:38-39).

See to it that you are a believer. See to it that you are "filled with the Spirit," and Jesus will see to it that out of your life shall flow rivers of holy influence and power to bless the world, and you, too, will be surprised at the reckoning day, to behold the vastness of your reward as compared with the littleness of your sacrifices and your work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Will He Find You Doing?

We live in a busy world. There are thousands of things vying for our attention. Voices are calling to us, hands are beckoning for us to come, this world is trying to snatch our souls so they can destroy them. Bunyan's Pilgrim was from the City of Destruction, but we in 21st century America live in the City of Distractions. Lights flash, sounds ring, images bombard us everywhere that we turn. We live in a world inebriated with this need for constant "activity". Although we are always doing we are never accomplishing. Although our minds are always occupied they are never thinking. Although we are always hearing and seeing we are not comprehending, we are just absorbing. The powers of hell wish to consume our mind and heart, so that we cannot devote them to higher things. If we are saturated with the things of this world, we cannot be absorbed with the things of another Kingdom.

In Matthew 24 Jesus in answer to a question posed to Him by His disciples, describes what their attitude or lifestyle should be like in light of His second coming. Starting in verse 36 of Matthew 24, Christ says,

"But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Matthew 24:36-44)

Our society is literally obsessed with discussion on the end of time. Whether it is concern that this very year, 2012, according to some old calendar, is going to be the end of the world. Or we speak of the shenanigans of a radio preacher who gave us first one date in 2011, that would be the day that Christ returned, and then when nothing happened gave an alternate date, which likewise was
incorrect. Some time ago a couple of authors wrote a slew of novels with their spin on the second coming that did quite well. All around us there are bestseller books, blockbuster movies and all in all a general interest in the this subject. It seems to me somewhat absurd and even sacrilegious though, all of the money that has been made off of these opinions, because you must admit, that's what they are opinions.

While I am not opposed to thoughtful consideration on the "schedule" for Christ's second coming, I am afraid that more often than not we are the ones writing the calendar. No one has a monopoly on understanding the end times. No man or woman regardless of education and understanding can honestly explain every prophetic aspect of Scripture. Whether you are Tim Lahaye, Harold Camping, Hal Lindsay, or Gary Demar, you do not have all of the answers. You cant!

I think we have focused on the wrong things.  I believe the New Testament focuses not so much on why and the how of the events, but instead Christ and the Apostle's stressed the necessity of our actually being ready for His return. In Matthew 25 we read of the ten virgins. Here we have the five foolish and the five wise virgins. The foolish had lamps but no oil for them. The wise had oil for their lamps so when the bridegroom came they were ready and could welcome him. When it was announced that the bridegroom had arrived, the foolish virgins had to run to the market and buy some oil, and they missed the bridegroom and the feast that followed.

What is the moral of the story? "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."(Matt. 25:13) This was the same admonition Christ was continually giving. "You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."(Matt.24:44) Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation."(Matt 26 :41) "But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."(Luke 21:34-36)

I believe that another danger we face in this fascination for end times prophecy, is the possibility of extreme neglect for spiritual fruit in our lives. We like to talk of Israel, and pacts that are made and who's the Antichrist; but really these things are superficial. The supreme obsession of our life ought to be to know God personally and intimately. T. Austin Sparks explains this clearly, "There are multitudes of people who are simply engrossed in prophecy as a thing whose spiritual life counts for nothing, who really have no deep inward walk with the Lord."

Friends, this is what it really comes down to, are we watching for our Lord to come, or does the world hold our gaze? Are we watching for our Lord to come, or are we trying to figure out when He is going to come? Remember where we started; the City of Distractions. The question for us is are we being distracted? By the worlds gimmicks? By end times theology? Are we watching like Jesus commanded us to?

When HE returns what will He find us doing? Will we be somewhere we wish we were not? Will we be saying something we wish we had not? Will we be doing something we shouldn't? Will we be using our tongue in a wrong way? Will we be wasting our lives living for the flesh? Will we be disputing over theology? Will we be fighting over when the rapture will happen, or if it will even happen at all? Let this sobering question pierce your very soul,

WHAT WILL HE FIND YOU DOING WHEN HE RETURNS?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Love Is... Me?

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, love never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This section of Scripture has been laid on my heart by the Lord, for me to study and implement by His grace, throughout this year and the rest of my life. This chapter is extremely convicting to me. Here Paul says that without love we are worthless and useless.I sometimes wonder where I stand.

If you take the word love out of these verse and insert Jesus it works every time. Think of Christ's life while He was here on earth and the example that He left us. His life was the embodiment of 
1 Corinthians 13. "Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He did not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. He does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out."

Several weeks ago I felt the Lord urging me to do an experiment with these verses. Instead of putting Christ's name into this chapter, put my name in. This was shattering to me. "Justin is patient? Justin is kind? Justin is not irritable? Justin keeps no record of being wronged?" It was devastating to realize how unlike Jesus I actually am. My name in that chapter just doesn't work, it simply doesn't.

Oh sometimes I might be "patient", but its far too often just a mockery. On the inside I'm as impatient as possible. Restraining myself is not the kind of love Paul is speaking of, that's just good self-management, that's not love. This sort of love, the 1 Corinthians 13 kind actually needs to become who I am. This is who Jesus was. It was His character, not a costume.

But what about me?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Loving Bride

I was rereading Francis Schaeffer's small, but fascinating volume, "The Church Before the Watching World" the other day. I was impressed with the following excerpt about the need for Christians to not only be doctrinally sound, but also to passionately love and serve their Master. This is what he wrote,

"We who by God's grace belong to the people of God, we who are Christ's, we who are God's, we who have been redeemed on the basis of the blood of the Lamb... We are to act as that which we are. Who are we? We are not just those going to heaven: we are even now the wife of God. We are at this moment the bride of Christ. And what does our divine bridegroom want from us? He wants not only doctrinal faithfulness, but our love day by day.

"I must ask myself, 'What about you Schaeffer?' And what about you, each one of you who know the grace of God. What should be your attitude? Our attention must swing back now to ourselves.

"We must ask, Do I fight merely for doctrinal faithfulness? This is like the wife who never sleeps with anybody else but never shows love to her own husband. Is that a sufficient relationship in marriage? No, ten thousand times no. Yet if I am a Christian who speaks and acts for doctrinal faithfulness but do not show love to my divine bridegroom, I am in the same place as such a wife. What God wants from us is not only doctrinal faithfulness, but our love day by day. Not in theory, mind you, but in practice."