Thoughts on the Way Home

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ee Tauw

New Tribes Mission has a video in three clips (now available on YouTube).

Basically it's a short reenactment of what happened with some of their missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Their strategy for reaching this tribe was to learn the language and culture, and then start from the very beginning of the bible and teach biblical story lessons that would lay a foundation for leading to faith in Christ. It was 3 months of teaching everyday before they even got to the person of Christ. I was really encouraged by the video. It takes about 25 minutes to watch all 3 clips. If you start, make sure you make it all the way to the end. That's when it gets really good.

Just fyi, D.A. Carson had some sermons on evangelism and missions that were really good, where he mentions this very thing, the importance of laying a foundation before getting to the gospel with those who are biblically illiterate. I believe he mainly stress this point in sermons 3 and 4 of the five part series found here.

Here are the video clips.








Thanks to the believers at Christ Fellowship Hannibal for pointing this out to me.

Simple Saving Truth

I’ve been realizing over the last year or so how much Christians know that is of real value to the world. I attribute this to the word of God which makes the man of God (or woman or youth of God) adequate, equipped for every good work. The things in the word of God “make wise the simple” (that’s us). How appropriate it is to share your faith with others, since as a follower of Christ, God really has revealed precious truth to you. How many people are there surrounding you, who desperately need to know what you know? I’d say many. In fact, surely that’s a part of Jesus meaning when he says the fields are “white for harvest.”

Recent encounters have confirmed this.

One man I was able to talk with was trying to say that God’s mercy in forgiving sinners is unfair. His words were something like “You Christians say that a man can live their whole in sin and then at some point turn from their sins to God and say ‘God please forgive me’ and you actually believe he’ll do it!” He continued, “That’s wrong! That’s wrong! You gotta live better than that! You can just live a rotten life and then change in the end.” What the man needed to hear is that salvation must be apart from works. He was stumbling over that same old stumbling stone. Live right (or at least try to live pretty much right) and God will accept you. His example of a worthy life was Bill Gates donating to children with polio. But I think some of the youth in our church could have explained this to him how this method of works righteousness is an impossibility for anyone except Christ. For God’s standard is absolute sinlessness, perfect conformity to his law and character. The slightest sin gets men cast out of God’s sight. Our only hope is if God is the forgiving God that he says he is.

Another younger man was saying that in all of his truth seeking (and as a philosophy major he said had done a lot) what he found to be most important was not if or how one worships God, but how one treats their fellow man. What he needed to hear was that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart. His approach sets the second greatest commandment above the first. In fact he was neglecting the first commandment altogether. Jesus says, first love and worship God your creator, and then below that place your relationship to other men.

Then there was this older woman. She seemed to believe that the human race is basically full of good people, with a few small exceptions. Now why on earth would someone say a thing like that?! I mean, you would almost have to be ignorant of the entire history of the human race. Seriously. How many countries do you know of that don’t have some form of a military or police force? My guess is not that she never heard of and saw the sins of humanity, but that she was choosing not to acknowledge them, and that because she herself didn’t want to be judged. In fact she indicated that pretty plainly. “I don’t think people should judge each other.” Translation – “Please, young man, don’t come around telling me I’m sinful.” She desperately needed to hear that God has looked down from heaven upon the sins of many to see if there is anyone who does good, who seeks after God… and there is none good, no not one. Again, this is a simple truth. It’s just that it’s hard to swallow. We live in a sinful sinful world. When she did finally say that she knew of some sinful people, I said “I know a lot!” And then I tried to tell her what I was like when I was lost. You know how she wrote it off? She said, “Well, teenagers! Yeah, they go through that phase, but they’ll eventually come around.” I don’t think so. We are bad people and deserve hell just as much as the fallen angels.

I guess my point is that it doesn’t take an ivory tower theologian to have the answers people need. From my experience, it seems that the great majority of questions and thoughts that people are stuck on and stumbling over (usually unconsciously) have basic answers that just about every Christian knows from the beginning of their walk with the Lord. Amazingly, this is true even when talking with studied atheists and philosophy majors. No matter how much the path of conversation seems to wind amidst diverse spiritual matters, there is almost always one point along the way where a Christian really has something to say that the other person needs to hear. Therefore, even if you’re a new believer, don’t be afraid to share your faith. Share what the bible says. Especially if you can get around to sharing the things about salvation and the cross, because you know that they’re not going to hear that anywhere else. And pray that God would give the hearer understanding into simple (but spiritually discerned) truth.

If we are constantly thinking “I wish so and so were here,” as if we ourselves aren’t made adequate by the Holy Spirit and his sword, the word of God, then may God faithfully rebuke us and renew our thinking. God makes us all adequate. That promise was not true for the famous Timothy only, but was true for his mother and grandmother too. Remember?

Grace Is Not About Grace - Terry Rayburn

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Courtesy of Terry Rayburn at Grace For Life:


A major part of my goal in life is to exalt the grace of Christ. The fact that we are saved by grace through faith is an indisputable part of the Word of God.

And we're not only saved by grace in the beginning, but we are kept by grace, brought to the end of our lives by grace, and kept in the loving bosom of the Father by grace.


Although we will have a measure of fruit in our lives as God works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), yet it's not this fruit, these works, that save us, it is God who saves us by grace through faith, from beginning to end, as our Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

And so I exalt in the grace of God. And because of that, like Paul the Apostle, I despise legalism and self-righteousness. I despise the very idea that our works, our performance, no matter how good they may be, are what causes God to love and favor us.

Why Not More Grace Preaching?

You see, God's grace is absolute. Nothing we can do can make Him love us more, and nothing we can do can make Him love us less. And yet I have people often ask me something like this:

"If this Grace stuff is really true...if God really does love me and accept me in Christ, apart from my performance...if there is nothing I could do to make Him love me more, and nothing I could do to make Him love me less...if He really has forgiven me of all my sins, past, present and future, so there is no condemnation for me...then why don't more preachers preach that, Terry?"

Here's why. Actually one of two possibilities, in my experience:

1. They have been so brainwashed with legalism and performance-based Christianity themselves, that their own eyes haven't been opened to the radical nature of Grace after salvation.

Ask them about Christ "living His Life through me", and they will jump to remind you about your duty to buckle down and discipline yourself with self-control. If you remind them that self-control ironically is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives through you (Galatians 2:20)...they will look at you as if you were some alien from another world.

And if they are biblically knowledgeable, they will begin to quote you rule after rule, duty after duty, sin after sin, to beat down your "grace" once and for all, you...you...Antinomian! (They love that word, because it keeps them from having to examine the biblical nature of Grace after salvation).

or...

2. They pretty much see the radical nature of New Covenant grace, but they are scared. Scared that if they preach it in all it's glory...if they truly preach "it is finished"... if they preach it without a mixture of the Law...then the sheep will run wild!

Actually, the opposite is true. Real born-again Christians are new creations. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. We love Jesus, in our heart of hearts. We hate sin in our heart of hearts.

When we hear how radically He has saved us, when we hear of His love that no sin or failure on our part will diminish, then the love of Christ constrains us to follow Him, to desire His ways, to fellowship with Him, to be filled with His Spirit.

The sheep don't run wild under grace. They run wild under Law, which quenches the Holy Spirit and inflames sin.

A Little Test

Here's a little test I give often, not to embarrass people, although it sometimes does, but to illustrate how misunderstood is the concept of being under the Grace of God.

Here's the test...complete this verse:

"For sin shall not be master over you, for _______" (Rom. 6:14)

Pretty important verse, wouldn't you say? A verse that explains why sin shall no longer be master over us? Important, no? Give up? Here's the whole verse:

"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace."

When's the last time you heard that verse preached? Maybe never.

Why?

Ask around. See if your friends, preachers, teachers, can complete the verse. You might be surprised. And there's a good chance that either they don't believe it (watch them try to twist such an elegantly simple verse to mean something else), or they don't want it spread around. The sheep will run wild.

Grace Is Not About Grace

Okay, on to our subject for today, Grace Is Not About Grace.

Here's the point. As much as we may exalt the Grace of Christ, and I hope I've made clear that I do, it's not for the sake of the Grace itself, it's for the sake of Jesus Christ Himself. It's for His credit, it's for His honor, it's for His glory.

We glory not in the Grace for Grace's sake, we glory in the Lord Who bestowed His Grace on us.

And so Grace is essentially about Jesus Christ. Though He has brought us into the picture as the objects of His Grace, we need to go beyond the concept of Me, Me, Me, and turn our focus, our gaze to Him. And the irony is that this is best for us. (God's ways are always best for us, even when we don't remember that.)

Preaching Must Be About Christ

This is why it's so important that preaching be about Christ.

It's why congregations can starve even under expository Biblical preaching, if the preacher doesn't take care to feed the people the Bread of Life, Who is Jesus Himself.

Charles Spurgeon tells this story. Listen carefully, preachers:

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it."

“Ay, no doubt of it."

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine, “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, 'Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ.

“And,” said he, “I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”

Self-Centeredness

So, finally, in seeing Grace as being something the Lord has done for us, how do we break away from the self-centeredness of thinking that we are therefore the center of the universe, instead of Him?

In the movie, Lord of the Rings -- The Return of the King, there is a character named Gollum. He once murdered to get "The Ring", and was so corrupted by it that he shriveled into a despicable little creature so pitiful it's hard to hate him. His corruption was characterized by intense self-centeredness, which culminated in a scene hard to forget.

Having lost the ring, it was now being carried off by the Hobbit hero Frodo, to be destroyed. In the unforgettable scene, Gollum is once again contemplating murder, the murder of Frodo and his faithful companion Sam.

The evil Gollum talks to himself in the mirror of a pool of water, getting more and more excited at the thought of murdering them to regain The Ring, hatching his plan to feed them to a giant spider, until he gleefully shouts to himself a climactic, "And take it for Me-e-e-e-e!!"

Such is the height of self-centeredness. Me! Me! Me!

Every Christian has heard the concept of being Christ-centered versus being self-centered. And we all will agree that being Christ-centered is best.

But what is being Christ-centered?

Is it dutifully serving Him, honoring Him, doing good deeds for Him, etc.? You know what I mean, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last?"

I know this is the common view, but let me take a little different tack (actually a radically different tack).

Being Christ-centered, biblically speaking, is being in a relationship to Him in such a way as to be fixated with Him. It's not the deeds. It's the "looking upon" Him. Seeking His face. Seeking Him. Knowing Him, as opposed to knowing about Him. Fellowshiping with Him. Gazing on Him.

Then, out of that, comes the serving, honoring, and so forth. But with joy and the power of the Spirit. When we look upon Him, we escape the obsession with ourselves.

We stop asking ourselves, "How am I doing in my Christian life? Am I good enough? Am I working hard enough for the Lord? Am I acting holy enough? I, I, I, me, me, me!"

We turn outward from our own navels to the glorious Son of God, our Lord, our Friend, our Savior, our Beloved.

And then something mysterious and wonderful happens:

"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

A.W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God, put it this way:

"While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves--blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do."

And so we see that Grace is not about Grace.

It's not even primarily about us, though He has graciously brought us into His Life and given His Life to us.

It's about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is all. He is everything. If we fellowship with Him, if we commune with Him, our life is fulfilled.

If we have Him as our Shepherd, we shall not want.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tozer on Levity in Preaching

"A preacher not long ago announced that he would have for his subject the next Sunday evening, 'Don't Tear Your Shirt.' He took for his text these words, 'Rend your hearts and not your garments,' and preached on repentance. It is that kind of thing that makes atheists. To approach a solemn subject in such a flippant manner is inexcusable. It is time the Christian public goes on a gracious and dignified strike against such comic-strip parody of the gospel preaching."

In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer, James Snyder

Friday, May 23, 2008

Silence in Prayer

I know sometimes silence in prayer can seem kind of mystical, but from the scriptures silence does seem to be one way to show him how much you respect, trust, and worship him. Grudem had a section in his chapter on prayer in his systematic theology. In one way, he didn’t say much… but in another way, if you are just talking about getting quiet and still before the Lord, what really do you need to say? What follows are some verses I thought were good and some thoughts I had.

Exodus 14:14
" The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent."

Psalm 62:1
My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation.

Psalm 62:5
My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.

Psalm 65:1
There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, And to You the vow will be performed.

Lamentations 3:26
It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.

Habakkuk 2:20
"But the LORD is in His holy temple Let all the earth be silent before Him."

Zephaniah 1:7
Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests.

Zechariah 2:13
" Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation."

Revelation 8:1
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Possible cautions:


Your mind may wonder - - - Maybe keep a verse or thought of God particularly in view while you wait silently. Or one thing Grudem suggested would be keeping the request you just asked in mind for a while silently before the Lord before moving down the list to another request. This particular kind of silence in prayer may even help us avoid what Ravenhill called “fast praying,” rather than “praying and fasting.”



You may feel pressure to be silent a long time - - - This would be a trap. Jesus’ principle about the gentiles’ repetition of words in their praying, would apply here. I.e. they thought of prayer like chanting magically. There is no magic formula to prayer because prayer is not magic. It’s talking to a person, namely God.


Possible helps:


Increased trust - - - Sometimes it’s good to sit back and realize that it’s not the strength of your prayers that upholds the world. It could be good to make your request known and then just be still and know that he is God, and that you can trust him with anything.


Removing awkwardness - - - Sometimes in corporate prayer settings I think people feel awkward when there is silence. This is surely unnecessary. I mean, if we’re all believers what’s the harm of being quiet before the Lord for a while? Even when it’s so-and-so’s turn to pray, don’t worry too much about rushing them or skipping them if their silent. I think seeing the value of silence could help remove the awkwardness.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Interview with D. A. Carson

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Courtesy of Adrian Warnock.

PART ONE



PART TWO



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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Rocks

I've still been thinking about really big rocks ever since I read Psalm 61. What amazing creation!















Hung Up on the Love of God

In regards to Mason's post on John 15:9:

15:9 and also 17:23 are so good, and yet I have to admit I’ve often been left paralyzed by their wording. Really, it's sad, I know. But here is the issue. We know that saying “just as” and “even as” doesn’t necessarily mean “in the exact same way.” It can just mean, “in a similar way.” That is, in referring to two different things, there only has to be one point of correspondence or commonality to use those words. So who's to say that these verses in John don't just mean that the Father and the Son have some love for us?

Nevertheless I’ve always heard preachers use the words like “in the exact same way” when referring to similar verses, and especially this verse. It was hard for me, because I never heard anyone deal with the ambiguity that exists with the words “just as” (and yes, the same ambiguity exists in the Greek). With that being said, what is the meaning? Could God's love for us somehow be a weaker lesser love?

No, of course it is not. The preachers are right. The above meaning is totally correct. You just have to determine it from the context of the Bible. God does love us with the same love for his one and only son, because he has placed us in him and made us sons. He has adopted us. And just because we would otherwise have no loveliness in and of ourselves, his love for us is not then some mirage, or half-love. It is totally full.

To know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge…

Anyway, if anyone else has gotten hung up on the wording before, I hope that helps.

The LORD is...

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Posted with permission from Hannah over at Step By Step:

I have been compiling this list for a couple weeks now, and finally “finished” it this morning. I hope it will encourage you all as it encouraged me while I was putting it together! (It is definitely not complete, so feel free to let me know of any additions/subtractions/changes that need to be made.)
_______________________________________________
The LORD is my—

Brother
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
--Hebrews 2:11
“. . .He had to be made like His brethren in all things. . . .”
--Hebrews 2:17
“. . .heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. . . .”
--Romans 8:17

Comfort
“. . .You comfort me.”
--Isaiah 12:1
“I, even I, am He who comforts you.”
--Isaiah 51:12
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.”
--Isaiah 66:13

Deliverer
“The LORD is. . .my deliverer. . . .”
--Psalm 18:2
“He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.”
--Psalm 18:17
“He delivers me from my enemies.”
--Psalm 18:48
“. . .The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.”
--II Samuel 22:2
“Arise, O LORD, confront him, bring him low; deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword.”
--Psalm 17:13
“. . .O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!”
--Psalm 43:1

Father
“For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name.”
--Isaiah 63:16
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.”
--Isaiah 64:8
“. . .You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”
--Romans 8:15-16

Fortress/Refuge
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
--Psalm 18:2
“O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge; save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me.”
--Psalm 7:1
“The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.”
--Psalm 9:9-10
“In the LORD I take refuge. . . .”
--Psalm 11:1
“I have become a marvel to many, for You are my strong refuge.”
--Psalm 71:7
“But the LORD has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.”
--Psalm 94:22
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.”
--Psalm 73:28

Friend
“. . .There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
--Proverbs 18:24
“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.”
--Luke 12:4
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. . . .I have called you friends. . . .You did not choose Me but I chose you. . . .”
--John 15:13-16

God
“. . .You, O LORD, have become their God.”
--II Samuel 7:24
“For Your people Israel You made Your own people forever, and You, O LORD, became their God.”
--I Chronicles 17:22
“. . .My King and my God. . .to You I pray.”
--Psalm 5:2
“Oh LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge. . . .”
--Psalm 7:1
“Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.”
--Psalm 22:10
“. . .This is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him.”
--Exodus 15:2
“. . .I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”
--Zechariah 13:9

Help
“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.”
--Psalm 18:6
“. . .You have been my help. . . .”
--Psalm 27:9
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
--Psalm 46:1
“My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”
--Psalm 121:2

Hiding Place
“You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.”
--Psalm 32:7
“. . .Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”
--Psalm 17:8

High Priest
“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
--Hebrews 2:17
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
--Hebrews 4:14
“. . .Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
--Hebrews 6:20

Hope
“For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.”
--Psalm 71:5

Husband
“For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts. . . .”
--Isaiah 54:5
“. . .As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.”
--Isaiah 62:5
“. . .Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
--Ephesians 5:25-27

Judge
“Let my judgment come forth from Your presence; let Your eyes look with equity. You have tried my heart. . . .”
Psalm 17:2-3
“Judge me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness.”
--Psalm 35:24
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us.”
--Isaiah 33:22
“. . .The one who examines me is the Lord.”
--I Corinthians 4:4
“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
--Jeremiah 17:10

King
“Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray.”
--Psalm 5:2
“. . .The LORD is our king; He will save us.”
--Isaiah 33:22
“. . .God is my king from of old, Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.”
--Psalm 74:12
“Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.”
--Psalm 24:9-10

Life
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. . . .’ ”
--John 6:35
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.’ ”
--John 11:25
“. . .Christ, who is our life. . . .”
--Colossians 3:4

Lifter of my head
“But You are a shield around me, O LORD; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.”
--Psalm 3:3

Light
“For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness.”
--Psalm 18:28
“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory.”
--Isaiah 60:19
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? . . .”
--Psalm 27:1

Master
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He is gracious to us.”
--Psalm 123:2
“. . .It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
--Colossians 3:24b
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
--John 15:20

Portion/Inheritance
“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance. . . .”
--Psalm 16:5
“ ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ ”
--Lamentations 3:24
“. . .God is. . .my portion forever.”
--Psalm 73:26

Redeemer
“. . .Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.”
--Isaiah 54:5
“ ‘In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.”
--Isaiah 54:8
“. . .Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
--Isaiah 43:1
“. . .You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold. . .but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
--I Peter 1:18-19
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”
--Psalm 19:14
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”
--Job 19:25

Righteousness
“In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ ”
--Jeremiah 23:6
“. . .The LORD is our righteousness.”
--Jeremiah 33:16

Rock
“The LORD is my rock. . . .”
--Psalm 18:2
“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?”
--Psalm 18:31
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation.”
--Psalm 18:46
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”
--Psalm 19:14
“To You, O LORD, I call; my rock, do not be deaf to me, for if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.”
--Psalm 28:1

Salvation
“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”
--Isaiah 12:2
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?”
--Psalm 27:1
“Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.”
--Psalm 3:8
“The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him.”
--Exodus 15:2
“And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
--Hebrews 5:9

Savior
“Wondrously show Your lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand from those who rise up against them.”
--Psalm17:7
“I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
--Psalm 18:3
“For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . .”
--Isaiah 43:3“I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me.”
--Isaiah 43:11
“And the LORD their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people; for they are as the stones of a crown, sparkling in His land.”
--Zechariah 9:16
“And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”
--Luke 1:47
“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
--Luke 2:11

Shepherd
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
--Psalm 23:1
“And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.”
--Micah 5:4
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
--John 10:11

Shield/Protector
“The LORD is. . .my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
--Psalm 18:2
“. . .He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”
--Psalm 18:30
“But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.”
--Psalm 3:3
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.”
--Psalm 4:8
“My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.”
--Psalm 7:10
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.”
--Psalm 28:7

Song
“. . .The LORD GOD is my. . .song. . . .”
--Isaiah 12:2
“The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”
--Psalm 118:14
“. . .I will sing to the LORD. . . .The LORD is my strength and song. . . .”
--Exodus 15:2

Strength
“I love You, O LORD, my strength.”
--Psalm 18:1
“The God who girds me with strength. . . .”
--Psalm 18:32
“The LORD is my strength. . . .”
--Exodus 15:2
“For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”
--Psalm 18:39
“I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.”
--Psalm 3:5
“The LORD is my strength and my shield. . . .”
--Psalm 28:7
“The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places. . . .”
--Habakkuk 3:19
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heat and my portion forever.”
--Psalm 73:26

Upholder
“. . .Your right hand upholds me. . . .”
--Psalm 18:35

Vengeance
“The God who executes vengeance for me. . . .”
--Psalm 18:47

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gatepost Article: Talkativeness

TALKATIVENESS

Editor’s note: The following is taken from an old tract whose author is unknown. The illustration about the steam locomotive will date it around the turn of the 20th century, but its truth is absolutely timeless. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom”. (Prov. 10:19-21) “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.(Matt. 12: 36-37) - Conrad Murrell

Talkativeness is utterly ruinous to deep spirituality. The very life of our spirit passes out in our speech, and hence all superfluous talk is a waste of the vital forces of the heart. In fruit growing it often happens that excessive blossoming prevents a good crop, and often prevents fruit altogether; and by so much loquacity the soul runs wild in word bloom, and bears no fruit. I am not speaking of sinners, nor of legitimate testimony for Jesus, but of that incessant loquacity of nominally spiritual persons…of the professors of purifying grace. It is one of the greatest hindrances to deep solid union with God. Notice how people will tell the same thing over and over…how insignificant trifles are magnified by a world of words; how things that should be buried are dragged out into gossip; how a worthless non-essential is argued and disputed over and over; how the solemn, deep things of the Holy Spirit are rattled over in a light manner…until one who has the real baptism of divine silence in his heart, feels he must unceremoniously tear himself away to some lonely room or forest, where he can gather up the fragments of his mind, and rest in God.

Not only do we need cleansing from sin, but our natural human spirit needs a radical death to its own noise and activity and wordiness.

See the evil effects of so much talk.

First, it dissipates the spiritual power. The thought and feeling of the soul are like explosive powder and steam…the more they are condensed and concentrated, the greater their power. The steam that if properly compressed would drive a train forty miles an hour, if allowed too much expanse would not move it an inch; and so the true action of the heart, if expressed in a few Holy Ghost selected words, will sink into the minds to remain forever, but if dissipated in any rambling conversation, is likely to be of no profit.

Second, it is a waste of time. If the hours spent in useless conversation were spent in secret prayer or deep reading, we would soon reach a region of soul life and divine peace beyond our present dreams.

Third, loquacity inevitably leads to saying unwise, or unpleasant, or unprofitable things. In religious conversations we soon churn up all the cream our souls have in them, and the rest of our talk is all pale skim milk, until we get alone with God, and feed on His green pasture until the cream rises again. The Holy Spirit warns us that “in the multitude of words there lacketh not sin”. It is impossible for even the best of saints to talk beyond a certain point without saying something unkind, or severe, or foolish, or erroneous. We must settle this personally. If others are noisy and gabby, I must determine to live in constant quietness and humility of heart: I must guard my speech as a sentinel does a fortress, and with all respect for others, I must, many a time, cease from conversation, or withdraw from company to enter into deep communion with my precious Lord. The cure for loquacity must be from within; sometimes by an interior furnace of suffering that burns out the excessive effervescence of the mind, or by an over-mastering revelation to the soul of the awful majesties of God and eternity, which puts an everlasting hush upon the natural faculties. To walk in the Spirit we must avoid talking for talk’s sake, must speak in God’s appointed time and in harmony with the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit” (Prov. 17:27).

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” ( Is. 30:15)

Do not be rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few, For a dream cometh through the multitude of business, and a fool’s voice is known by a multitude of words" ( Eccl. 5:2-3)

HT:CM

Brooks on Reading

"Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee's touching of the flower that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian."

Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, Thomas Brooks (21-22)

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Answer to Unfaithfulness

Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness. (Jeremiah 3:22)

We don't get faithfulness and then come to Christ. We come to Christ in order to get faithfulness. Have you grown weary in your battle against a sin your swore you'd never fall to again? Have you been distracted by the cares of this life? Has your affection for Jesus grown cold? Wait no longer! Run back to Him, and tell Him all your failings! To the weak, poor, and helpless, He bids come! To the Christian who has lost their affection He offers a promise - "I will heal your faithlessness." What an encouragement on a Monday afternoon.

HT:DG

Friday, May 16, 2008

Accepted for Christ's Sake or Not At All

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There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ's sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing, nor does the nature of our relation to him or to God through him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His blood and righteousness alone that we can rest.

-
— B. B. Warfield, Works 7:113

HT: Adrian Warnock

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The Love of God

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you" - John 15:9

Garrett's post reminded me of this text. This astounding statement leaves one rhetorical question racing through my mind. How much does the Father love the Son? Were we to abandon all other pursuits to investigate this one question, we would never break the surface of understanding the Father's affection toward his Beloved, though eternity was at our disposal. And yet, O dear believer, not one mite of this same intensity and fullness of love is missing in Christ's affection toward you.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill,
And ev'ry man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fear Not Little Flock - John Piper

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From a sermon on Luke 12:32:

But there is another thing we are prone to fear that goes right to the heart of God. It is perhaps the deepest fear of all and the one that may lie behind all the others. Perhaps that's why Jesus keeps it for last. We see it in verse 32: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

What fear is Jesus trying to eliminate here?

He is trying to eliminate the fear that God is not the kind of God who really wants to be good to his children. This is a fear that rises up in the hearts of those of us who are prone to feel that God does not want to be gracious to us, that he does not want to be generous and helpful to us. We are prone to think of God as one who is basically irked with us—ill-disposed and angry.

Sometimes even if we believe in our heads that God is good to us, we may feel in our hearts that his goodness is somehow forced or constrained, perhaps like a judge who has been maneuvered by a clever attorney into a corner on some technicality of court proceedings where he must dismiss the charges of the prisoner that he really would rather send to jail.

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Jesus knows that the flock of God struggles with fear. He knows that one of those fears is that God is the kind of God who is basically angry and delights most of all to judge sinners and only does good out of a sense of constraint and duty, not delight. Therefore the Lord is at pains this morning to free us from this fear by telling us the truth about God. He has chosen every word for our comfort and joy and peace.

Fear not,
little
flock
for it is your Father's
good pleasure
to give you
the kingdom!

-John Piper

Read the whole sermon here.

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As the Father Has Loved Me...

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“I have paraphrased John 17:26 in order to pray it like this: ‘Father, grant me power from the Holy Spirit to love the Son of God like you love him.’

I pray this in the morning when I get up; I pray it during the day when my mind slips into neutral; and I pray it when I fall asleep at night. My heart has been captured by this prayer.

When I pray it, I am confessing to God that if he does not grant me a work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I will never acquire passion for the Son of God. I am confessing to him that my godliness, my discipline, my knowledge of the Word, though all good, are insufficient to produce passion for the Son of God.

I can change my mind, but only the Holy Spirit can change my heart. Divine love can only be divinely imparted.”

—Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 201

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Victory in the Christian Life

We must militate against the idea that continual defeat and unbelief is normal Christianity. Walking in victory with a clean conscience is the birthright of every single Christian. A defiled conscience a sign that something is wrong[1]. Notice the sweeping statements made by Paul concerning his own life:

Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day" (Acts 23:1).

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted (1 Cor 4:4).

The latter half of the last reference guards us against Perfectionism. Christian perfectionism, simply stated, means a person can obtain total sinlessness in this life. But are we really in danger of Perfectionism? As Ravenhill once said, it's like setting guards around a cemetery in fear of a violent uprising among the occupants. Guards are necessary, but only where danger exists. A "Beware of Sharks" sign is utterly unnecessary here in Missouri.

Along these lines, we should tell inquiring Christians when we are walking in victory. We have a tendency to think this is arrogance. But nothing is further from the truth. I can't tell you the help I received the other night simply by hearing my friend tell me his conscience is clear and he isn't defeated. However, we cannot move toward this until we rediscover the truth of normal Christianity - believing God and a life characterized by victory over sin.

mv

[1] Notice I didn't say a defiled conscience is a sign a person is in sin. Sometimes the problem is simply a matter of need for further instruction in the truth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Rock that is Higher







Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I



I never get upset over the fact that God is higher than I, that he is God and I am not. It is such a joy. It means he gets to fight the battles, and I get to hide in him... and nothing is too difficult for him. He gets to rule the universe, and I get to worship him.

To quote Gandalf, "He is both wise and powerful... he'll know what to do." And I would add, he is good (unlike Saruman).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
Selah

For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


We get to join the long heritage of those who have hidden themselves in the Rock of Ages.




Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Plague of Gossip - Jon Zens


"Have You Heard . . .?"
The Plague of Gossip in the Body of Christ

By Jon Zens


Bob Mumford once said, "The Christian army is the only one that shoots its wounded."

Regrettably, I have observed his statement to be all too true.

As long as I've been a Christian I have watched friends and their families undergo untold pain and hurt because of the incredible power of gossip and slander. Years ago we were traveling and after speaking in a church a brother came up to me and said, "I heard that you had quit teaching in churches and took up potato farming." How and why such a rumor got started is anybody's guess! This rumor was fairly innocuous, but imagine the untold harm done by vicious judgments on the life and character of others.

In this article, I would like to address this issue head-on. My hope is to raise the awareness of my brothers and sisters in Christ on this matter, so that we all will better follow the Lord's teachings regarding our speech about and actions toward others.

What exactly is gossip?

Gossip is second or third hand information that someone dumps on you without your prior consent and without the consent of the person being gossiped about. Gossip can be true, partially true, or completely false. It can be motivated by good intentions, but it's always negative personal information about another that puts them in a bad light.

What is slander?

The Bible defines slander as accusatory speech that is injurious to a person's name and reputation. It's essentially character assassination . . . the act of smearing someone. Gossip and slander color people's perceptions of an individual unfairly and unjustly without their knowledge or consent. One major component in both of these sins is that the person being torn down is out of the loop. Talebearers usually avoid speaking directly to the one they are demeaning.

I will admit that I have listened to gossip in the past. At the time, the thought never occurred to me how deeply a person and their family could be hurt when someone attacks their character without their knowledge or consent.

It seems that most people who spread gossip never think about this. Nor do they realize that what they're doing is engaging in gossip and slander. (Some people, of course, who intend to smear another human being know exactly what they're doing. Many Christians, however, naively spread gossip without realizing what sort of destruction it brings in the lives of others.)

For this reason, I have raised a standard in my life. To the best of my ability, I always evaluate people based on my first-hand experience with them, not on what someone else tells me about them - for the obvious reason that second-hand information can be very misleading and inaccurate (sad to say, I haven't always lived up to this standard in the past).

Gossip and slander violate the Lord's own maxim: "Treat others the way you want to be treated." If anyone has suffered the agony of being gossiped about, they understand the force of those words. No one wishes to be the subject of gossip and slander. There are few things so hurtful.

One of the problems is that gossip and slander seem innocent and they often come to us subtly. One doesn't have to be operating in malice to be guilty of gossip and slander. Again, the motive is irrelevant. Spreading negative or shameful information about another person is contrary to walking in love. Love "thinks no evil" and "believes the best of others" (1 Cor. 13).

What does gossip and slander usually sound like? It usually begins with something like, "Did you hear about such and such . . ." The rest of it goes on to put an individual in a shameful or negative light. A.W. Tozer had these powerful words of advice about the sin of gossip:

Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God's favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God's children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back -- a little spot somewhere -- and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, "Here lies in peace the story about my brother." God will take care of it. "With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged."

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, "But that's not grace." Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father's table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won't let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don't tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you -- no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background (from Five Vows for Spiritual Power).

So what should we do if we hear a rumor about someone else?

If we are in conversation with a person and they begin to express words that put another brother or sister in a bad light, we have a responsibility to interrupt such speech and exhort them to speak directly with the person they are criticizing. If an email containing gossip is sent to us, we should disregard the content and ask the sender to go to the one being spoken against. In all circumstances, as much as lies with us, we should not be a party to gossip and we should confront those spreading evil speech. We must not forget that matters of concern about others must be confirmed with witnesses (Matt.18:16), and others should only be notified if the person refuses to repent - which means they refuse to stop their sinning. We sin by entertaining accusations against others that have not been confirmed by witnesses, or that have already been repented of. It is sinful to spread information about the past sins of others when they are already under the blood of Christ.

In addition to the above, we should go to the person being targeted and make them aware of it. We should then ask for them to confirm or correct it. This is the loving thing to do. Think about it: If someone was spreading something negative about you, would you not want to be made aware of it? Again, love treats others the way we wish to be treated.

It's not good enough to ask the gossiper if they've spoken to the person gossiped about. In my experience, oftentimes a person spreading the gossip will say "yes," but when I've tracked down the person being gossiped about, they will deny having had such a conversation. Or the conversation really wasn't a conversation at all. Nothing can replace going directly to the person being spoken about.

Whenever we hear gossip, we should consider these questions: "Would I want someone talking about me like this? How would my family feel about this? My spouse, my mother, my father, my children, my best friends?" (These thoughts are typically never considered when a person listens to or spreads gossip about another individual.)

Have you ever noticed that speech that tears others down travels like a brush fire, but news of repentance and restoration seems to move along at a snail's pace? Why is it that we often immediately believe and embrace negative assessments of people, but reports of repentance, change, or the dispelling of a false rumor are met with skepticism? As believers, the exact opposite should be our practice: we should be hesitant to entertain and skeptical of adverse words about others, and quick to rejoice in and embrace news of the dispelling of a rumor or another's repentance!

Satan's nature is to accuse. He is called the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12). In fact, the word "Satan" means adversary, and the word "devil" literally means "slanderer." That should say volumes to us. One sister noted these warning signs of a spirit of accusation:

**Being suspicious of others
**Having bitterness toward others
**Being easily offended without cause
**Having envy and jealousy toward others
**Believing the worst about others
**Exaggerating the offenses of others
**Refusing fellowship with a person after they have changed
**Holding people to their past failures
**Imposing our perfectionism standards on others
**Basing harsh judgments on misunderstandings without seeking clarification
**Judging others for misbehaviors that we are prone to
**Becoming the Holy Spirit for others
**Using others as a scapegoat
**Tearing down others so we look better
**Bringing skeletons out of the closet
**Being unsatisfied with any amount of confession and sorrow from another
(Marsha Fisher, "Accusation," Be In Health Conference, April 29, 2008, Thomaston GA)

Further, the union of Christ with his people should certainly give us reason for great caution with our words about fellow believers. Paul said in Romans 14:15, "Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died." I think we are also warranted in saying, "Do not by your words destroy your brother or sister for whom Christ died." It is a very serious matter to hurt anyone in Christ's little flock (Luke 17:1-4).

A careful reading of the Bible shows the destructive nature of gossip and slander. It says, "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts" (Prov. 18:8, 26:22). Gossip is likened unto poison that once someone drinks, they cannot get out of their system. And it always separates people. Even close friends and loved ones.

Put another way, gossip not only damages the person being gossiped about, but it also damages the person hearing the gossip, for it causes them to judge the other unfairly.

Consider these texts prayerfully:

"A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends" (Prov. 16:28).

"Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down" (Prov. 26:22). "He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool" (Prov. 10:18).

"Brethren, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it" (James 4:11).

"The tongue has the power of life and death . . . " (Prov. 18:21).

"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6).

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all people" (Tit 3:1-2).

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Eph. 4:31).

"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman" (Psalm. 15:1-3).

In conclusion, the next time you hear a rumor, go to the person being rumored about. And never spread something about another person without talking to them first and having an open mind to hear their heart. Unconfirmed notions about others should not be spread abroad.

In the pursuit of mutual edification and peace, our mouths play a very important role. Our words should be carefully chosen, and designed to build up, not to destroy (Eph. 4:29.31; 5:4; Col. 3:8,16; James 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:11). We must "slander no one" (Tit. 3:2), and be ready always to speak a good word about our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the human realm, words are most often the spark that leads to wars and atrocities, and there is a parallel in the realm of the church, for "if you keep on biting and devouring each other" with hurtful and damaging words, "you will be destroyed by each other" (Gal. 5:15).

May our speech to others and about others be "only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph.4:29). -- jzens@searchingtogether.org

For further reading

Thomas Dubay, "Verbal Contention," Caring: A Biblical Theology of Community, Dimension Books, 1973, p.184: "Sacred Scripture comes down hard on sins of speech, so hard that it is safe to say that few people indeed manage to come close to living its full message."

Margaret Foth, "Life is too short . . . to let conflicts go unresolved," "Life is too short . . . to bear grudges or harbor bitterness," Life Is Too Short . . . to Miss Today, Zondervan, 1985, pp.75-80, 87-92.

Joyce Huggett, Listening to Others: Hearing Their Hearts, Hodder & Stoughton, 2005. Karen Burton Mains, You Are What You Say: Cure for the Troublesome Tongue, Zondervan, 1988.

John Wesley, The Cure for Evil Speaking (1760), http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/49.

Friday, May 09, 2008

From Pastor to Professor

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An interesting article here by Sean Michael Lucas (professor at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis) describing how many ministerial students begin seminary wanting to be pastors, but leave wanting to be professors.

HT: Justin Taylor

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

God's People - Everyone Working


Something a brother said in a small group two nights ago really hit me in a fresh way, with now a fresh verse to claim for proper theology, specifically ecclesiology. I thought I'd pass it on:

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Ephesians 4

11
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
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His point (and Paul's in Ephesians) was that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers all equip the rest of the body, so that they can serve and work. That is, more specifically, it's totally unbiblical to think that the "work" of the church is done by those with the above gifts/roles. The above people are to be equippers and to be setting good examples, but they are never to carry the burden of church "work" alone. This means a healthy church should never be a one man show, or some kind of Sunday morning spectator sport. God gifts a pastor, for example, the way he does so that everyone else can be better at what they do in the body of Christ. If a church doesn't function this way, it's probably not a true "church," or perhaps it was at one time and is now dying.

Anyway, the verse was great and made me really happy. I used to be so bothered and burdened by the way "ministry" was portrayed at the Baptist college I attended. But what a privilege and great joy the truth is. We are all workers! Let's find some good pastors and teachers and evangelists to equip us to go about doing some work for the Lord.

And possibly by way of challenge, do some thinking about your church and your pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.. How are you fitting in? How are they equipping you? In what ways are you serving?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Same Jesus - Conrad Murrell

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Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)


Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

In order for Him to be “This Jesus,” He must of necessity be the same Jesus, for He is the immutable God. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that He is the express image of His Person. Isaiah 9:6-7 declares Him to be the Almighty God. We have imposter Jesuses partly because of those who hate the real One. There are others who simply stumble over the seemingly irreconcilable contrasts in His revelation of Himself. This is no theological weakness, but is consistent with His being the “Stumbling Stone” upon which proud and arrogant, self-appointed men dash themselves to destruction. They are those who have made human logic the supreme test of truth, and who sneer at that which is too high and sublime for earthen minds. But let us consider some of those contrasts in Christ.

1. He is the embryo in the virgin’s womb, the babe of Bethlehem, the growing boy of Nazareth, the young man of Galilee. Yet He is the Ancient of Days of Daniel 7:9. Before Abraham was, He is (John 8:58). He had glory with the Father before the world began (John 17:5).

2. He is the apprentice Carpenter/Stonecutter, the learning Son (Hebrews 5:8), He, Who on the cross, cries, “Why?” Can this be He Who is the Truth, the Teacher, the Confounder of the doctors and His detractors, in Whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge?

3. The mortal Who grew tired, weary, sleepy, Who hungered and thirsted. Is this the same as the Immortal, Self-Sufficient God Who never wearies (Isaiah 40:28), Who was complete, content before the creation?

4. See the compassionate Shepherd, Feeder, Healer, Who loves and weeps for all suffering humanity without exception; can this be the discriminating Despot Who reveals truth to some and hides it from others? Who saves some and hardens others? Who calls some sheep, others dogs, hogs, vipers? Who blesses some and curses others?

5. He is the humble Servant, serving, washing feet. He is the submissive sufferer. Yet He is the Royal Prince, Who accepted such admiration and worship lawful only for Deity. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

6. He is the Friend of sinners, the Seeker of the lost, the Reconciler of His enemies, those who hate Him without cause. He covers sin, claims power to forgive and to deliver. He is the Advocate, the Defender, the Substitute, the Sin-bearer. Yet He is the Angry Lamb, the awful Face from Whom men flee and hide, the merciless Judge of the living and the dead, the Prosecutor, punishing every wicked deed and thought.

7. He is the Prince of Peace Who bequeaths to us His joy unspeakable, the Sabbath Rest and bliss. He is the Cessation of strife, sorrow, grief and tears. Yet He is He Who brings not peace, but a sword; Who disrupts families, rips asunder friends and loved ones; the Divider of men. He exacts costly sacrifices, the plucking out of eyes and cutting off of feet and arms, and the pouring out of our lives unto Himself.

8. He is the Submissive Victim, the Silent Lamb. He is the Travailing Suppliant, begging in the garden. It is He in humiliation and agony. He sinks helplessly into darkness and despair (Psalm 69:1-3, 14-15). Yet at the same time He is the Triumphant Warrior, Captain, King of the Apocalypse, He Who is exalted high above all.

9. He is the dying, expiring Victim. Yet He is the Risen, Victorious, Living, Reigning King.

10. He Who was afflicted by the creation, smitten by men, cut by whips, pierced by thorns and spears, Who cried out on the Cross, “I thirst;” is the One Who made the waters, the rivers, Who is the Well, Who formed all things and rules them after the purpose of His own will.

11. He Who was God-forsaken, utterly abandoned, left absolutely alone, is He Who is Omnipresent, Who promised never to forsake or leave us alone.

Can all of these contrasts be true of the same Jesus? Absolutely! These merely speak of His Plenitude. He is All in All, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, and all that is between! He is both poles, the Positive and the Negative. He is the East and the West, North and South, Up and Down. He is the Bitter as well as the Sweet, the Hot and the Cold. He is unbearable Sorrow and unspeakable Joy. Past, Present and Future, complete and real at all times. He was, is and shall be forever. The only things not found in Him are darkness, sin; and these are nonentities, deprivations, merely the absence of light and righteousness, which must result in positive wickedness and death, all of which will ultimately be abolished, and be no more.

In spite of all these contrasts, He is always the same. They may not be explained by divided aspects of His personality. He is “simple” (II Cor. 11:3) One undivided Whole. He is always everything He may ever be known to be, irrespective of how He is perceived at any time. Nor may these contrasts be explained by “stages” that He went through in the history of redemption. Neither are they “modes” which He assumes from time to time. He has always been what He ever shall be. We indeed see and know Him progressively (II Cor 5:16), yet He was All in All from our first glimpse of Him.

Here indeed is the True Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the True Vine, the Real Bread from Heaven, Who has condescended to identify with us in whatever state of circumstances we may find ourselves (Hebrews. 2:14-17, 4:15). He is at the same time, in the same Person, lowly enough to identify with, but Mighty enough to deliver us and be our God (Psalm 113).

This Same Jesus will descend as literally as He ascended, unchanged, but revealed yet greater, higher, more glorious than we have ever yet known Him to be (I Cor. 13:9, 12; I John 3:2). And we shall be like Him!

-Conrad Murrell

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