To have our prayers answered, we must keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, for this is the continuing action of the Greek verb in Matthew 7:7, 8 and also of Luke 11:5-13, the story of the man who wanted bread at midnight, and kept asking until he got it. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged, keep asking. Why? The only reason I know is that prayer changes me because I am in His presence, and then I either begin to change my requests, or I become able to cope with my circumstances which may or may not change. Ros Rinker
Because His great heart of love longs and yearns to give us all that we need, whether that need is spiritual, mental, emotional, physical or material. I believe He gives us all He can give, without our direct asking; but when we are consciously in His presence He softens our hearts and our minds, and we find ourselves being changed and enabled to receive. When we pray together we become bold and honest, and ask for things we never intended asking for at all. Ros Rinker
Because as we pray the Spirit of our Lord has our attention. He is always conscious of us, but we need to focus our attention and our consciousness upon Him. Then He can whisper to us the love plans He has for us. Sometimes these directions come to two or more persons in the group at the same time. We find ourselves in total agreement in all that we are asking. This leaves no room for wavering, for double-mindedness or for doubt. We have agreed in His presence, and He Himself has given us that agreement. Ros Rinker
I have been enjoying Jonathan Powell’s book The New Machiavelli: How To Wield Power In The Modern world. Jonathan Powell was Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff, as well as a student of Machiavelli. He skillfully weaves Machiavelli wisdom into his book and here is a taste of it:
Machiavelli argues that in resisting the temptations of flattery a prince must show that he is not afraid of hearing the truth. He therefore gives advice that holds good to this day, saying that ‘a prudent Prince should follow a middle course, by choosing certain discreet men from among his subjects, and allowing them alone free leave to speak their minds on any matter on which he asks their opinion, and on none other. But he ought to ask their opinion on everything, and after hearing what they have to say, should reflect and judge for himself.’ It is important ‘that each and all of them may know that the more freely they declare their thoughts the better they will be liked’
“Never should we try to answer Satan with our good conduct but always with the Blood. Yes, we are sinful, but, praise God! the Blood cleanses us from every sin. God looks upon the Blood whereby His Son has met the charge, and Satan has no more ground of attack. Our faith in the precious Blood and our refusal to be moved from that position can alone silence his charges and put him to flight (Romans 8:33,34);
“The blood can wash away my sins but it cannot wash away my ‘old man’. It needs the cross to crucify me. The blood deals with the sins but the cross must deal with the sinner.”
I have, over the past few days, been reading one chapter a day in the morning of Watchman Nee’s book A Normal Christian Life. I have really been enjoying it and getting blessed by his insights and wisdom. I will pop a few of the quotes I have underlined in the coming days. Here is the first one:
“No matter how many sins I commit, it is always the one sin principle that leads to them. I need forgiveness for my sins, but I need also deliverance from the power of sin. The former touches my conscience, the latter my life. I may receive forgiveness for all my sins, but because of my sin I have, even then, no abiding peace of mind”
The preacher’s first and the most important task is to prepare himself, not his sermon. Any man who has been any length in the ministry will agree wholeheartedly with me concerning this. It is something that one has to learn by experience. At first one tends to think that the great thing is to prepare the sermon – and the sermon, as I have been saying, does need most careful preparation. But altogether more important is the preparation of the preacher himself.
Martin Lloyd-Jones: Preaching and Preachers
[Preaching] cannot be taught. That is impossible. Preachers are born, not made. This is an absolute. You will never teach a man to be a preacher if he is not already one. All your books such as The ABC of Preaching or Preaching Made easy should be thrown in to the fire as soon as possible. But if a man is a born preacher you can help him a little – but not much. He can perhaps be improved a little here and there.
How can that be done? Here I am probably going to be somewhat controversial. I would say: Not in a sermon class, not be having a student to preach a sermon to other students who then proceed to criticise matter and manner. I prohibit that. Why? Because the sermon in such circumstances is being preached with a wrong object in view; and the people who are listening to it are listening in a wrong way. The message of the Bible should never be listened to in that way. It is always the word of God, and no one should ever listen to it except in a spirit of reverence and godly expectation of receiving a message.
Martin Lloyd-Jones: Preaching and Preachers
What is a crusty christian?
For starters, it’s an attitude. It’s a demeanor where being Calvinist or paedobaptist or inerrantist (three things I am gladly) are put on like armor or wielded like weapons, when they are meant to be the warm glow of a Christian whose core radiates with love for Christ and the gospel. I believe in theological distinctives—I believe in them and I believe it is good to have them—but if the distinctives are not manifestly the flower of gospel root, the buds aren’t worth the blooming.
A second mark of crusty Christians is approachability, as in, not having any. There is a sizing up-ness that makes some theological types unnecessarily prickly. They are bright and opinionated and quickly analytical. They can also be incessantly critical. Crusty Christians are hard to be around. They are intimidating instead of engaging and growling instead of gracious. They are too willing to share their opinions on everything and unable to put any doctrine in any category not marked “absolutely essential.”
—Kevin DeYoung, “The Crust and the Core,” in The Good News We Almost Forgot (Moody, 2010),
When the apostle Paul warned us to “keep [ourselves] unspotted from the the world” he was not talking about some abstraction. If the Christian is to apply this injunction to himself, he must understand what confronts him antagonistically in his own moment of history. Otherwise he simply becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ.
|Let us consider the unflattering words of God which Scripture addresses to shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep.You consume their milk and cover yourselves with their wool; you kill the fatlings, but my sheep you do not pasture. You have failed to strengthen what was weak, to heal what was sick, and to bind up what was injured. You did not call back what went astray, nor seek out what was lost. What was strong you have destroyed, and my sheep have been scattered because there is no shepherd.
This is spoken to the shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep; it speaks of their concern and their neglect. What is their concern? You consume their milk and cover yourselves with their wool. And so the Apostle asks: Who plants a vineyard and does not eat from its fruit? Who pastures a flock and does not drink from the milk of the flock? Thus we learn that the milk of the flock is whatever temporal support and sustenance God’s people give to those who are placed over them. It is of this that the Apostle was speaking in the passage just quoted.
Although he chose to support himself by the labour of his own hands and not to ask for milk from the sheep, the Apostle did say that he had the right to receive the milk, for the Lord had established that they who preach the Gospel should live from the Gospel. Paul also says that others of his fellow apostles made use of this right, a right granted them, and not unlawfully usurped. But Paul went further by not taking what was rightfully his. He forgave the debt, whereas the others did not demand what was not due them. Therefore Paul went further. Perhaps his action was foreshadowed by the Good Samaritan who, when he brought the sick man to the inn, said: If you spend any more, I will repay you on my way back.
What more can I say concerning those shepherds who do not need the milk of the flock? They are more merciful; or rather, they carry out a more abundant ministry of mercy. They are able to do so, and they do it. Let them receive praise, but do not condemn the others. The Apostle himself did not seek what was given. However, he wanted the sheep to be fruitful, not sterile and unable to give milk.
I know that the bishop obtained a ministry (which is for the whole community) not by his own efforts or through people or out of vanity but in the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am impressed by his forbearance; he accomplishes more through silence than others do by talking. For he is attuned to the commandments as a harp to its strings. Therefore my soul blesses his godly mind (well aware that it is virtuous and perfect), his steadfast character, and his lack of anger, as one living with all godly gentleness. Therefore, as children of the light of truth, flee from division and false teaching. Where the shepherd is, there follow like sheep. For many seemingly trustworthy wolves attempt, by means of wicked pleasure, to take captive the runners in God’s race; but in your unity they will find no opportunity. Stay away from the evil plants, which are not cultivated by Jesus Christ, because they are not the Father’s planting. Not that I found any division among you: instead, I found that there had been a purification. For all those who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop, and all those who repent and enter into the unity of the church will belong to God, so that they may be living in accordance with Jesus Christ. Do not be misled, my brothers and sisters: if any follow a schismatic, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. If any hold to alien views, they disassociate themselves from the passion. Take care, therefore, to participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup that leads to unity through his blood; there is one altar, just as there is one bishop, together with the council of presbyters and the deacons, my fellow servants), in order that whatever you do, you do in accordance with God. My brothers and sisters, I am overflowing with love for you, and greatly rejoice as I watch out for your safety—yet not I, but Jesus Christ. Though I am in chains for his sake, I am all the more afraid, because I am still imperfect. But your prayer to God will make me perfect, so that I may attain the fate by which I have received mercy, since I have taken refuge in the gospel as the flesh of Jesus and in the apostles as the council of presbyters of the church.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch To The Church in Philadelphia
Other Christian leaders express anxiety concerning the tendency of theology to create division and conflict within the church. J.I. Packer, one of evangelicalism’s most influential and wise voices, has written of the problem of “entrenched intellectualists” – “rigid ,argumentative , critical christians, champions of God’s truth for whom orthodoxy is all.” I think we all know people who seem to have an obsession with what Packer calls “winning the battle for mental correctness” and little interest in any other aspect of the Christian faith. They may love God, but they seem to have problems loving other people – especially when they disagree with them. It’s not always easy to discern how this fixation on theological correctness links up with the gospel accounts of the ministry of Jesus of Nazarath. Surely the better way is to pursue a generous orthodoxy, seeing disagreements in the context of the greater disagreements which bind us together?
Alister McGrath The Passionate Intellect
This challenging quite comes from James Payton Jr’s book Getting The Reformation Wrong:
Even so, the multitudes of church splits which have ensued in Protestant ranks – beginning already in the 16th century, increasing in frequency subsequently and achieving breakneck pace by the early twenty first century – have unquestionably managed to undermine the integrity of the gospel. The converse of what Jesus Christ prayed for (John 17) has come to pass: our lack of unity has rendered the gospel less credible in the eyes of the world. In this regard, we have sown the wind and have reaped the whirl wind. pg 257
Whenever we suffer some distress or tribulation, there we find warning and correction for ourselves. Our holy scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and repose, but tribulations and distress; the gospel is not silent about scandals; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved. What good has this life of ours ever been, from the time of the first man, from when he deserved death and received the curse, that curse from which Christ our Lord delivered us?So we must not complain, brothers, as some of them complained, as the apostle says, and perished from the serpents.What fresh sort of suffering, brothers, does the human race now endure that our fathers did not undergo? Or when do we endure the kind of sufferings which we know they endured? Yet you find men complaining about the times they live in, saying that the times of our parents were good. What if they could be taken back to the times of their parents, and should then complain? The past times that you think were good, are good because they are not yours here and now.If you have now been delivered from the curse, if you have now believed in the Son of God; if you are now well versed or trained in sacred scripture, I am surprised that you should reckon Adam to have had good times. Your parents carried the burden of Adam as well. Indeed it was Adam who heard the words: In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, and you shall work the ground from which you were taken; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you. He deserved this, he received this, he was given this as the result of God’s just judgement. Why then do you think past times were better than yours? From that Adam to the Adam of today, toil and sweat, thorns and thistles. Have we forgotten the flood? Have we forgotten those burdensome times of famine and wars? They were written about to prevent us complaining of the present time against God.What times those were! Do not we all shudder to hear or read of them? So we have rather cause for congratulating ourselves than grounds for complaining about our own times.
Fil Anderson has written a fascinating book called Running On Empty. It tackles the dangers of busyness in ministry. He writes…
My life—like the Learjet on autopilot—had become a ghostly journey as I maintained a deadly course with an incapacitated soul. My ability to see clearly had become nil, outside efforts to get me to change course were refused, and my last bit of fuel was being depleted. I was obsessed with helping others have the kind of relationship with God that I had never known. I wasn’t able to name my longings or express my yearnings. My life was filled with doing things for God rather than pursuing intimacy with God. I had perfected busyness but failed miserably at stillness. I worked constantly, averaging seventy to eighty hours per week, but I didn’t have a clue who my Boss was. Although I knew facts and ideas about Jesus, I didn’t know what it meant to be his friend. I had confidence in my ability to do the work of God, but I was clueless when it came to letting God work in me. I could talk easily with others about Jesus, but I knew nothing about how to sit still long enough for Jesus to talk with me. I was comfortable around others who knew God, but the thought of being alone with God was enough to keep me occupied with the demands of ministry. The idea of sitting alone in a room with God made me nervous.I was in over my head, but I would rather die than admit that, so I learned a simple lesson that seemed to provide the direction I needed: Just stay busy. In the church, as long as you appear busy, people rarely question your knowledge or effectiveness. They assume wherever there is a cloud of dust, meaningful activity must be just ahead of it. So I started kicking up perpetual clouds of dust..As I kept busy, I also learned that ceaseless activity earned me tremendous praise. Desperate for recognition and approval, I worked even harder. But by the end of my first year I was suffering from fatigue and constantly feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. But I kept at it, and by the end of my second year I got a promotion. I was named the pastor of a fledgling church. At age twenty-one I was unable to distinguish between my activity and my identity—and so my activity determined my identity.
I have been reading Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist. A wonderful book so far. Here is a snipet:
He seems so frivolous and so careless, but he gives money to beggars, not frivolously or carelessly, but because he believes in giving money to beggars, and giving it to them “where they stand”. He says he knows perfectly well all the arguments against giving money to beggars. But he finds those to be precisely the arguments for giving money to them. If beggars are lazy or deceptive or wanting a drink, he knows only too well his own lack of motivation, his own dishonesty, his own thirst. He doesn’t believe in “scientific charity” because that is too easy, as easy as writing a check. He believes in “promiscuous charity” because that is really difficult. “It means the most dark and terrible of all human actions—talking to a man. In fact, I know of nothing more difficult than really talking to the poor men we meet.” He says that if we really believed in democracy, we would not be debating about what we should do with the poor; the poor would be debating about what to do with us.
Pray continually for the rest of humankind as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope for repentance. Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds. In response to their anger, be gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble; in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be steadfast in the faith; in response to their cruelty, be civilized; do not be eager to imitate them. Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, to see who can be the more wronged, who the more cheated, who the more rejected, in order that no weed of the devil may be found among you, but that with complete purity and self-control you may abide in Christ Jesus physically and spiritually…
It is right, therefore, that we not just be called Christians, but that we actually be Christians, unlike some who call a man bishop but do everything without regard for him. Such people do not appear to me to act in good conscience, inasmuch as they do not validly meet together in accordance with the commandment
Apostolic Fathers – Ignatius
According to a study conducted by Robert Feldman, in a ten-minute conversation we tell an average of 3.3 lies-once every three minutes or so. The most shocking study I have ever seen concluded that we are lied to every five minutes, or an average of two hundred times a day. Author Ralph Keyes, who has written an excellent book on lying, concludes that “some form of deception occurs in nearly two-thirds of all conversations.”• Many wealthy parents take their kids “diagnosis shopping.” That is, they go to multiple doctors until they find one who will say their child has a slight learning disability because “an official diagnosis of disability will allow their kids more time on the SATs.” A better score may get them into a better college.• Personnel officers estimate that nearly 25 percent of the information they see on resumes is not just “padding” but “gross misinformation.”• As many as two million Americans have illegal offshore bank accounts they use to evade taxes.• Thousands of Americans are knowingly “pirating” cable TV.“Americans are now stealing $6 billion a year worth of paid television.”• A 2002 undercover sting operation in New Jersey found 350 examples of fraudulent practices at auto repair centers, “mainly for the performance of unnecessary repairs. Some estimates of the cost nationwide of auto-repair fraud run as high as $40 billion a year.” By the way, they only examined six auto repair centers.
• Many wealthy parents take their kids “diagnosis shopping.” That is, they go to multiple doctors until they find one who will say their child has a slight learning disability because “an official diagnosis of disability will allow their kids more time on the SATs.” A better score may get them into a better college.• Personnel officers estimate that nearly 25 percent of the information they see on resumes is not just “padding” but “gross misinformation.”• As many as two million Americans have illegal offshore bank accounts they use to evade taxes.• Thousands of Americans are knowingly “pirating” cable TV.”Americans are now stealing $6 billion a year worth of paid television.”• A 2002 undercover sting operation in New Jersey found 350 examples of fraudulent practices at auto repair centers, “mainly for the performance of unnecessary repairs. Some estimates of the cost nationwide of auto-repair fraud run as high as $40 billion a year.” By the way, they only examined six auto repair centers.
Charles Spurgeon said: If people are determined to go to hell at least let them leap over our (Christian witnesses) bodies to get there.
John Wesley said: ‘In plain terms, wherever I see one or a thousand men running into hell, be it in England, Ireland, or France, yea, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, I will stop them if I can: as a minister of Christ, I will beseech them, in his name, to turn back, and be reconciled to God. Were I to do otherwise, were I to let any soul drop into the pit, whom I might have saved from everlasting burnings, I am not satisfied that God would accept my plea, ‘Lord, he was not of my parish”.
William Law writes:
Prayer is the nearest approach to God and the highest enjoyment of him that we are capable of in this life.
I wonder how many believers, how many ministers, can truly say these words are true?
John Donne preached a sermon on the first Sunday of Lent to King James I. I was especially convicted of his prayer – sinnes which I have so laboured to hide from the world, as that now they are hid from mine own conscience, and mine own memory… . WOW!! Here is an extract (in old english):
FORGIVE me O Lord, O Lord forgive me my sinnes, the sinnes of my youth, and my present sinnes, the sinne that my Parents cast upon me, Originall sinne, and the sinnes that I cast upon my children, in an ill example ; Actuall sinnes, sinnes which are manifest to all the world, and sinnes which I have so laboured to hide from the world, as that now they are hid from mine own conscience, and mine own memory ; Forgive me my crying sins, and my whispering sins, sins of uncharitable hate, and sinnes of unchaste love, sinnes against Thee and Thee, against thy Power O Almighty Father, against thy Wisedome, O glorious Sonne, against thy Goodnesse, O blessed Spirit of God ; and sinnes against Him and Him, against Superiours and Equals,and Inferiours; and sinnes against Me and Me, against mine own soul, and against my body, which I have loved better than my soul ; Forgive me O Lord, Lord in the merits of thy Christ and my Jesus, thine Anointed, and my Saviour ; Forgive me my sinnes, all my sinnes, and I will put Christ to no more cost, nor thee to more trouble, for any reprobation or malediction that lay upon me, otherwise then as a sinner. I ask but an application, not an extention of that Benediction, Blessed are they whose sinnes are forgiven ; Let me be but so blessed, and I shall envy no mans Blessednesse: say thou to my sad soul, Sonne be of good comfort, thy sinnes are forgiven thee.
- “When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.” A C Dixon
“Oh, how we need to wake up to how much “nothing” we spend our time doing. Apart from prayer, all our scurrying about, all our talking, all our study amounts to nothing. For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer.” John Piper
There is a constant pull to try to keep people around rather than truly lead the faithful who remain. When my church was started, I used to tell my wife that I didn’t care if we only had ten people, as long as they really loved God and desired to worship Him with all of their hearts. Where is that conviction now?
I sometimes wonder what I would have done if I were the pastor of the church in Laodicea. We’re all familiar with that church in Revelation 3:14-22. It’s the “lukewarm” church that Jesus said He would “spit out” of His mouth. Would I have been strong enough to overcome the prevailing attitude of the entire church? Or would I have eventually been sucked into its flow and fate? I like to think I could have stood alone, but I’m not so sure.
Last summer I came to a shocking realization that I had to share with my wife: If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People would leave His church to attend mine because I call for an easier commitment. I know better how to cater to people’s desires so they stick around. Jesus was never really good at that. He was the one who said, “He who loves father or mother … son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:37 NIV) I’m much more popular than Jesus.
Leaders make the greatest hypocrites because of their ability to persuade and deceive. Rarely is there a pastor whose character exceeds his reputation. If I were to ask those closest to you about your relationship with God, what would they say? If I were to ask God the same question, what would He say? If your family, friends, and congregation have better things to say about you than God, it’s because you give them that impression.
Francis Chan has written a wonderful and convicting article recently from which I am going to post a few quotes in the coming days. They are small quoters but encourage you think through what he says carefully!
I wonder if the inconsistency in my walk with God has anything to do with the fact that I can lead a “successful” church in America without being in love with Jesus. I’m sure I could blame American church culture, my position, or a busy schedule for my lack of reverent intimacy. The truth, however, is that my sin and hypocrisy is a result of me.
From Michael Green’s book Evangelism In The Early Church:
I argue in the book that neither the strategy nor the tactics of the first Christians were particularly remarkable. What was remarkable was their conviction, their passion and their determination to act as Christ’s embassy to a rebel world, whatever the consequences.