Archive for September, 2009

Communion Journal

I woke up today ready to get to work, but I reminded myself to spend a few minutes reading and praying. These few minutes turned into several hours of writing prayerfully.

I have been experiencing doubt as a result of so much of the church disagreeing with us about the Christian life. Today, I was refreshed in talking with a man who probably knows almost no reformed doctrine, yet he knew about and worshiped God for almost everything I said. Walking with God is not a foreign concept to people who know him regardless of religious training. If experiencing God is foreign to a church it is not my place to change God’s way of salvation for their sake.

1 Chronicles 21

My devotions today where in 1 Chronicles 21. This is the story of the aftermath of David’s pride in taking a census of God’s people. As a result of this sin, God made David choose between 3 woes that were not to be poured out upon David alone but upon the Israelites (1Ch 21:11-12). We see here the seriousness of sin and the sovereignty of God over both Satan (1Ch 21:1) and our own sins (2Sa 24:1), yet we—as David—maintain moral responsibility for our own actions (1Ch 21:8). We see also that sacrifice must cost (1Ch 21:24), as religion that costs nothing is worth nothing (Luke 14:26, Luke 14:33, 1Jo 2:15, Luke 5:11). Yet these are not the particular things wherein I worshiped this morning. Instead I saw God in these:

The Fear of God (1Ch 21:20-21,23)

Ornan, who not only paid homage to David but was eager to donate his own property, was not an Israelite but a Jebusite: a people devoted unto destruction (Deu 20:17). Why was he so willing to help the cause of David? Because the fear of the LORD was upon him. He saw God’s sword and this compelled him to hide and to offer up his own property to his rightful enemy all in the name of appeasing such a God as this. Those who have seen God are willing to go to great lengths to assuage him and promote his causes. Would that God’s own people live up to the example set to us in this man. This is what the man acts like who sees Jesus as this man did.

Assuaged Wrath (1Ch 21:26)

Herein is the gospel thinly veiled: In the very time the wrath of God was pouring out upon the people of God as a result of David’s sin, God turned the force of his anger onto the sacrifice instead. So too with us: As a result of Adam’s sin did the anger of the LORD burn upon all (Rom 5:12), yet Christ in our place was consumed by the fire of the LORD that we might be reconciled to God (Rom 5:18). What a God is our God to hide his work for all to see.

Godly Zeal (1Ch 21:30)

Here we see the haste that the fear of God’s wrath put David to. Likewise, Aaron ran to make atonement for the Israelites (Num 16:47). When the wrath of God is the issue, we must make haste. Eternity is at stake. But what of God’s own law? There was one place alone where God permitted sacrifice to be made (Deu 12:13-14, Jos 22:29). Will God set aside his own law at times such as these? We would do well to remember that symbols are subservient to what they symbolize and thus not pit God against his own law. The altar was a symbol of the unity of worship, and that symbol cannot be made into the thing that opposes the worship which David was restoring. David’s altar, like Moses’ serpent (Num 21:8), was not raised in opposition to God’s law but for the fulfilling of it (Mat 5:17).

A Smiling Face (1Ch 22:1)

Here we see God’s smiling face that was hidden by a frowning providence. In the midst of all the woe and destruction God lays the foundation for his temple which will soon hold his glory. The eternal remembrance of this story will not focus on David’s sin nor on God’s wrath, but in God’s great kindness in giving his people a temple unto his own glory and unto their good. As the temple then was inaugurated by David, so now a cornerstone of the Church has been laid. It too was laid in the midst of sin and wrath. Yet those very things provide a backdrop that highlights the great grace of God in saving such as us. We see here God triumphing over all obstacles to save his people. He triumphs over sin. He triumphs over Satan. Never let us say then that anything is worth our faithlessness. These very things that tempt us to doubt will soon be cause for rejoicing—even our own sin.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

-William Cowper
 God Moves In A Mysterious Way

Communion Journal

Today, so far, has felt like a series of unfortunate events. My communion with God has definitely been weakened by the exasperation of such. Yet I have been enabled to fight and to cling, to not give up and call the situation hopeless, to not feel sorry for myself or say “woe is me.” I feel instead the might of my sin—knowing that I’m denied no good thing—but wickedly unable to happily praise my savior in delight. Praise God for the ability to wage war and fight in the midst of sin like mine. Praise him more that the fight is not ours, but his—and he is faithful.

Don't Heal Too Lightly

How hard it is not to heal the wounds of those you love and are trying to minister to? Yet often those wounds are the first-fruits of grace. To see a soul in the first fears of the Lord and the first desperate pleadings for God’s help is a wonderful thing. Why do we then—after working so hard and lovingly—cut down the fruit when first we see it? Let grace have its work, strive not against it.

Jeremiah 6:14

14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.

Jeremiah 4:10

10 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God, surely you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ whereas the sword has reached their very life.”

Jeremiah 5:12

12 They have spoken falsely of the Lord
and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
nor shall we see sword or famine.

Jeremiah 23:17

17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

Ezekiel 13:10

10 Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, (ESV)

Communion Journal

Why does my soul rail against my God’s will? No Matter how much we perceive the church might be mistreating us—we can never be so mistreated by it as he was. I think myself better than my master when I think I deserve better treatment than he received.

Lay Pastors: Uneducated Implements of God

I have a theory that God delights to use uneducated men as shepherds in situations where we turn the pursuit of God into the empty traditions of religion. Here are some examples of such men:

  1. A.W. Tozer
    • Highest education: a few weeks of high school
  2. John Bunyan
    • Learned only to read and write – no formal higher education of any kind
    • Never learned Greek or Hebrew
    • “The Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘next to the Bible, perhaps the world’s best-selling book . . . translated into over 200 languages.'” -Piper
  3. Dwight Moody
    • without higher education, founded three schools;
    • without theological training, reshaped Victorian Christianity;
    • without radio or television reached 100 million people.
  4. Charles Spurgeon
    • Little formal education (some college)
    • Began preaching at 16
  5. William Carey
    • No formal education – self taught
  6. Andrew Fuller
    • Farm raised
    • “He had no formal theological training but became the leading theological spokesman for the Particular Baptists in his day.” -Piper
  7. Hudson Taylor
    • No theological education
    • Some medical education
    • Gathered missionaries which other mission societies rejected as too uneducated
  8. John Newton
    • 2 years of boarding school, after which he went to sea with his father
    • Self educated in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew
  9. David Brainerd
    • Expelled from seminary in his third year
  10. Leonard Ravenhill
    • Educated at Cliff College in England
    • Said it was advantageous for pastors to not attend Bible school
    • Yet taught himself for a time at Bethany College of Missions

John Owen (who not only attended but taught seminary) believed that the first and main purpose of all of a student’s studies and meditations is to cultivate communion with God. He says that the study of scriptures, “should always be conducted in order to learn from them our duty and, understanding that, let it proceed to practice holy communion with God as we experience to the depths of our souls the power of the Spirit mightily manifesting in us His grace and light.” Without this, he says, “our studies are useless.”

If there were seminaries which taught God-besottedness (such as Owen desired of all theological learning), I wonder if Christ’s Church would so often stand in need of uneducated lay-ministers. Regardless of my speculations, we can be confident of this: that if seminaries will not produce such men, then God will supply his Church with them out of his own stores. As Richard Baxter puts it;

As to supply of pastors, Christ will take care of that. … He who himself undertook the work of our redemption, and bore our transgressions, and hath been faithful as the chief Shepherd of the Church, will not lose all his labor and suffering for want of instruments to carry on his work … he will provide men to be his servants and ushers in his school, who shall willingly take the labor on them, and rejoice to be so emplyed, and account that the happiest life in the world which you account so great a toil, and would not exchange it for all your ease and carnal pleasure; but for the saving of souls, and the propagating of the gospel of Christ, will be content to bear the burden and heat of the day; and to fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ in their bodies; and to work while it is day; and to do what they do with all their might; and to be the servants of all, and not to please themselves, but others, for their edification; and to become all things to all men, that they may save some; and to endure all things for the elect’s sake; and to spend and be spent for their fellow-creatures; though the more they love, the less they should be beloved, and should be accounted their enemies for telling them the truth. Such pastors will Christ provide his people, after his own heart.

Or if you prefer, consider John’s teaching to the religious teachers of his day;

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Perhaps best of all is the teaching of Jeremiah:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

God promises to raise up the men he needs in order for his church to succeed. Sometimes he raised them through seminaries, sometimes he doesn’t. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

A.W. Tozer on The Pursuit of God

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day.

But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders. Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.

I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: “Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is a proof of this.”

Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.


Taken from the preface of The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer.