Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abba! Father!

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:15-17
The only reason that we can stare our worst fear in the face and stand is because we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" We are sons and daughters of God. We are heirs with Christ. The knowledge and experience of that reality in the depths of our hearts will swallow up any fear.

I've been really enjoying Sovereign Grace's latest release called Sons & Daughters, an entire album about the doctrine of adoption! My favorite song on the album is called "You Made Us Your Own," which I posted about last week. But a close second for me is a song entitled, "The Father's Love."

The Father's Love - Sovereign Grace Music

How has the sinner been forgiven
How has the rebel been made clean
Or blinded eyes been made to see
How have the orphans been adopted
Who hated Your love and ran from grace
Despised and rejected all Your ways

How wonderful the Father’s love
The Father’s love for us
That He would send His only Son
To come and rescue us
He has saved us, called us blameless
Guides us now and will sustain us
Oh how wonderful the Father’s love

Your mercy floods our lives with kindness
Your grace has colored all we see
And You have promised not to leave
You freely give Your Spirit to us
So we can be sure we’re sons of God
And rest in the hope of what’s to come

Though sufferings may fill our lives
We’re confident we’re heirs with Christ
And so we cry, “Abba, Father”

My favorite part of this song by far (without fail, I want to jam like I'm playing the drums every time I hear it!) is the three line bridge that is clearly rooted in the truths the apostle Paul writes of in Romans 8:15-17. These are not light-hearted lyrics. They are deeply sobering and at the same time indescribably joyful.

If we truly are heirs with Christ, suffering will fill our lives, Paul says. And that suffering is meant to magnify our hope of the joy that is to come when we are glorified with our elder brother Jesus because we know that we really are sons and daughters with Him and not illegitimate children.
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
1 Peter 3:5, 6 (emphasis added)

As a child of God, the reality of my life is that there are countless things that truly are frightening and that I will naturally be inclined to shrink back from in fear rather than look them in the face and stand. Peter acknowledges that there really are frightening things (he's specifically addressing women here. But also for men!)! But the good news of the gospel is that God has given me the Spirit of adoption so that I can stand up, look my worst fears in the face, and cry "Abba! Father!" because I know that the thing that I have most to fear has been removed: the wrath of God. And because of that, one day all my other lesser fears will be fully and finally swallowed up as I experience the fullness of joy in God's presence and eternal pleasures at the right hand of Jesus (Psalm 16:11).
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If we are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness [in full when we are glorified with Jesus, Romans 8:17].
Hebrews 12:7-10

Monday, September 28, 2009

Faith Stares Its Worst Fear In The Face...

...and stands.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (emphasis added)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me;
Psalm 23:4 (emphasis added)

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
Psalm 112:7
We are amazed and perplexed, as men that meet with some new and strange thing, when God cometh to try us in our sweetest earthly comforts, and to blast that which is dearest to us--as credit, liberty, life. We should make these things familiar to us before they come. But, alas! we are secure when trials are nearest us, as the disciples were astonished when God was about to smite the shepherd and scatter the sheep, Matt. 26.31. We are ready to dream of much worldly ease and comfort: Acts 1.6, 'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?' We get a little breathing time from trouble, and promise ourselves perpetual exemption: Ps. 30.6, 'In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved;' so loth are we to forecast for trials, or to put ourselves out of our fool's paradise. We promise ourselves too much when we dream of nothing but pleasure and contentment, as if we would go to heaven without exercise, without warrings within and fightings without. God hath but one Son without sin, but he has none without a cross. We must all be tried before we get to heaven. Partly, that we may try how we can bear them in imagination. It is good to suppose the worst; it hurts not. See the suppositions of faith, Ps. 23.4, 'Yea, though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.' He compares himself to a sheep. Suppose I should be like a poor sheep wandering in the night when beasts of prey come out, ready to be devoured every moment. Presumption is a coward, and a runaway; it cannot endure to think of evil, or to look the enemy in the face; but faith meets it in the open field, provides for it when evil is not present; it makes suppositions: Hab. 3.17, 'Suppose the fig-tree should not blossom,' &c. Suffer fear to prophesy, that faith may be the better prepared. Suppose the Lord should turn the tables, and bring on such a sad condition--nothing to help me, no friends to stand by me, all my children and near relations taken from me, all the supports and comforts of the present life should fail me,--what then? Thus faith supposeth evils that are feared, and then they are more comportable [suitable]. Before we take up a burden we poise it, and are wont to make an essay of our strength, that we may fit our back and shoulders to it; so it is good to poise our burdens before God lays them upon our backs. What if God put me upon such a trial?

--Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 14, p. 357-358.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Hebrews 11:17-19

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seeing The Son

He is the radiance of the glory of God...
Hebrews 1:3
On labor day weekend, some of my friends and I went to Yosemite to hike Half Dome. We didn’t originally plan to but somehow we ended up starting our hike at like 2:30am. It was a full moon that night so the sky was pretty well lit. But even with a full moon, we still needed flash lights for four hours until the sun came up because no matter how much light the moon provided, it wasn’t enough. And even with flash lights, I can tell you without any hesitation that it was much easier to hike that trail after the sun came up than it was for us to hike without the sun. I was so happy when the sun came up not only because was it hard to see without the sun, but it was cold without the sun. With the sun as my light, my hike was significantly better in more than one way.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 8:12

It doesn’t matter who you are. Without Jesus as the sun at the center of your life, you’re walking in total darkness. And you’re probably in the cold too. At best, you’re walking around with only a flash light. And there’s something else that I didn’t tell you about those first four hours of our hike when we had to use our flash lights. No more than an hour and a half into the hike, my flashlight went out. I had light one moment. And then in a moment my light was gone. And no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to come back on. You don’t want to live your life in dependence on the cheap flashlights of human wisdom that are dependent on batteries and will eventually go out. Some of you might have the flashlights you’re using go out tomorrow. But the light of Jesus will never go out and shines ten thousand times brighter than the best flashlight you can buy. And best of all, it’s free.

An excerpt from the message I preached at the large group meeting for the InterVarsity fellowship at San Jose State University. You can read the whole message here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Clarion Call For Preachers

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
"Behold your God!"
Isaiah 40:9
The following excerpt is the entire concluding chapter from a small book called The Supremacy Of God In Preaching by John Piper. Though it is one of Piper's smallest books, it might pack one of the biggest punches. I can't count how many times I've read this chapter. It never grows old. It challenges me to the core every time. I don't think there is anything else I've read outside of the Bible that more concisely, comprehensively, and biblically gives me a sense of the burden of Christian preaching.
People are starving for the grandeur of God. And the vast majority do not know it. Those who do say, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Ps. 63:1). But most do not discern that they were made to thrill at the panorama of God's power and glory. They seek to fill the void in other ways. And even those who go to church--how many of them can say when they leave, "I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory" (Ps. 63:2)?

The glory of God is of infinite worth. It is the heart of what the apostles preached: "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). It is the goal of every Christian act: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" ( 1 Cor. 10:31). It is the focus of all Christian hope: "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). It will someday replace the sun and moon as the light of life: "The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light" (Rev. 21:23). And even now, before that great day, "the heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). When people discover the worth of God's glory--when God says, "Let there be light," and opens the eyes of the blind--they are like people who find a treasure hidden in a field and, full of joy, sell all they have to buy that field (Matt 13:44). They are like Moses, who cried to the Lord, "Please show me your glory" (Exod. 33:18).

This is the heart pang of every human being. Only a few know it. Only a few diagnose the longing beneath every human desire--the longing to see God. If only people could articulate the silent cry of their hearts! Would they not say, "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:...to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD" (Ps. 27:4)? But instead, people "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" and do "not see fit to acknowledge God," and even many who name the God of Israel have "changed their glory for that which does not profit" (Rom. 1:18, 28; Jer. 2:11).

Christian preachers, more than all others, should know this truth--that people are starving for God. If anyone in all the world should be able to say, "I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory," it is the herald of God. And as we look out over the wasteland of our secular culture, must we preachers not ask, Who but us will say to this people, "Behold your God!"? Who will tell the people that God is great and greatly to be praised? Who will paint for them the landscape of God's grandeur? Who will remind them with tales of wonder that God has triumphed over every foe? Who will cry out above every crisis, "Your God reigns!"? Who will labor to find words that can carry the "gospel of the glory of the blessed God"?

If God is not supreme in our preaching, where in this world will the people hear about the supremacy of God? If we do not spread a banquet of God's beauty on Sunday morning, will not our people seek in vain to satisfy their inconsolable longing with the cotton candy pleasures of pastimes and religious hype? If the fountain of living water does not flow from the mountain of God's sovereign grace on Sunday morning, will not the people hew for themselves cisterns on Monday, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer 2:13)?

We are called to be "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). And the great mystery is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). And that glory is the glory of God. And "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful"--faithful in magnifying the supreme glory of the one eternal God. Not magnifying like a microscope that makes small things look bigger, but like a telescope that makes unimaginably great galaxies of glory visible to the human eye.

If we love our people, if we love the "other sheep" that are not yet gathered into the fold, if we love the fulfillment of God's global purpose, we will labor to "spread a table in the wilderness" (Ps. 78:19). People everywhere are starving for the enjoyment of God. For as Jonathan Edwards said:

"The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."

--John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p.107-109
There's no more glorious task in the universe. And there's no more difficult task in the universe ... than to make God supreme through the preaching of His Word.

Oh great and glorious God, be more supreme in my preaching! But more importantly, be more supreme in and through every aspect of my life, mind, and heart because unless You are supreme there, You will never be supreme in my preaching. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Made Us Your Own

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are [!].
1 John 3:1
I have a hard time believing that the apostle John ended that sentence with a period and not an exclamation point.

We learned this song at church for the first time last Sunday. We sang it for only the second time yesterday. I'm hooked. I love this song. I haven't been able to stop singing it since yesterday. May our hearts never stop singing and being amazed by this reality: We're God's children now. He's made us His own.

You Made Us Your Own - Sovereign Grace Music

We were ruined in our sin,
We were guilty, and undone,
When Your love reached down with sovereign hands,
And beckoned us to come.

You sought out the wanderers,
Made the prodigals come home,
With a lavish feast You welcomed us
For You made us Your own.

You have loved us like You loved Your Son.
We are heirs with Christ, bought by His blood.
Oh, how great the love that we've been shown.
We're Your children now, You made us Your own.

We are strangers to this world,
But no strangers to Your throne
We draw near You now with confidence
For all our fears are gone.

And when Christ, our King returns,
We'll meet saints we've never known.
And forever we will be amazed
That You made us Your own.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Gospel Of Mercy: From Grasping To Giving

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."


And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
Matthew 4:17, 23-24
The totality of Jesus' gospel isn't one or the other: truth or mercy. It is both.
The social gospel [mercy but no truth] dooms people to hell. But in the final analysis, so too does a so-called "biblical" gospel that gets penal substitution, justification, repentance and faith correct but never moves us to preach it, teach it, spread it, apply it, and risk it and ourselves in caring for the needs of people perishing in sin and disease and hunger and war and poverty and illiteracy [truth but no mercy].
That is an excerpt--and I would say the bottom line--from a blog post written by Thabiti Anyabwile on Tuesday called South Africa, AIDS, the Social Gospel, and the Gospel (I added the phrases in the brackets and the emphases). The post is excellent. It's deeply convicting. And every fiber within me resonates with everything he's written in it.

I don't say that flippantly. I spent essentially the entire month of June after the completion of my year-long pastoral ministry class on Romans and Galatians asking myself if I really grasp the gospel. The result was a paper I wrote called The Gospel of Mercy: From Grasping To Giving. The only reason I mention it is because the paragraph that I quoted from Anyabwile's post articulates the very same (and tremendously disturbing) idea that it's possible for us to have all the right theology and still not grasp the gospel. Here's most of the introduction from my paper:
For almost ten months we spent each class period pretty much the same way. We would work our way through as much of a chapter as we could, trying to understand Paul's thought process as—under divine inspiration to express the mind and heart of God—he explained the gospel. But we did something different for two of the last three weeks of our class. We watched a documentary detailing the realities of modern day human trafficking of humans for sex, work, and war slavery. Then we watched a movie that was an accurate depiction of how women are trafficked as sex slaves in and out of the United States. In addition to watching these two films, we attended a two day conference about how we can be abolitionists of this modern day human trafficking epidemic that victimizes more human beings than the African-American slave trade of centuries past.

Now I love discussing theology and I love to study the Bible. But when you hear about ten year old girls who are sold as sex slaves to adult men because it’s the only way that the rest of the family will be able to eat, there is a way that theological discussions begin to feel really insignificant. I begin to wonder if this is all just an intellectual exercise. For parents who don’t know how they are going to feed their kids, young men who are being treated worse than work horses, and little girls treated like sex toys, would I really be helping them by being able to explain to them the difference between justification and sanctification? And that’s assuming that they are even literate in the first place. When you are no longer in a land of affluence, teaching through biblical concepts and arguments inevitably must encounter never before seen challenges.

This is the world we live in: a world filled with slavery and poverty and illiteracy and disease and affliction and injustice of every kind. And it is this very world of brokenness that the gospel of Romans and Galatians breaks into. These are two things I know for sure. To say it another way, I hate that the world is filled with injustice and evil that causes indescribable pain for men, women, boys, and girls who are created in the image of God. And I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and believe with all my heart that it is the only hope for a world that is groaning in myriads of ways due to the pervasively devastating effects of the curse of sin. But the question for me is: specifically in his letter to the Romans (since it is more comprehensive), how do these realities fit together in Paul’s—more importantly, God’s—unfolding of the gospel? I feel the urgency and priority of setting human slaves free after going to a conference on human trafficking. And I know that this kind of liberation is a significant part of what Jesus came to accomplish through the gospel (Luke 4:18-19). But I don’t think that I would feel the urgency and priority of liberating human slaves if our last three weeks of class didn’t involve those movies or that conference. And that bothers me. Because the fact of the matter is that if our class wouldn’t have done things differently those two weeks, I would be pretty confident that I had grasped the gospel even though I wouldn’t have any thoughts of the millions of slaves that the gospel is meant to redeem. And I just don’t understand how I could be blind to that aspect of the gospel after spending so much time in Romans. In Romans, I saw that the gospel removes wrath. It removes guilt. It removes shame. It removes condemnation. It removes slavish fear. What I didn’t see was that the gospel should also remove affliction due to injustice. The gospel should also remove pain. The gospel should also remove bondage. The gospel should also remove poverty. The way that it does this is that as the gospel produces effects in me, it should also be producing effects through me. In removing guilt, shame, condemnation, and wrath from me, the gospel transforms me to be one who removes affliction, pain, bondage, and poverty from others.
I wrote this paper for the sake of my soul, to make sure that I really grasp the gospel. May the Lord help us all to better grasp the glorious gospel of His mercy and grace so that in more deeply grasping His mercy to us (because none of us grasps it deeply enough), we will all the more freely offer that same mercy to others (because none of us offers it freely enough), especially those who are most desperate for it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Foolishness and Investments

If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.
1 Corinthians 3:18,19
When I look back on my short two weeks in Kenya this past summer, perhaps the most defining part of the trip for me came at Alliance High School as I stood before a chapel filled with young men at this boarding school, exhorting them to use the first-class education and opportunity they are receiving in such a way that when the world sees what they do with it, the world will call it a foolish waste. But not because it really is a waste but rather because the world doesn’t understand. It cannot understand.

The reason that experience was so significant for me is because I could see myself in those young men. It wasn’t that long ago when I was in boarding school as a high school student, just like them, receiving a first-class education, just like them. So as I stood there preaching to those young men, what I was really doing was preaching to myself, calling myself to use the first-class education and opportunity I have received in such a way that when the world sees what I do with it, they will call it a foolish waste.

As I reflect on that experience, it’s almost as though God’s calling on my life is embodied in that night. He’s calling me to defy the world and its wisdom by leaving America to go and stand before a group of Kenyans. But I’m not just to stand before them. I am to call them to the very thing that He is calling me to: forsaking the pursuits of the world in favor of the passionate pursuit of Jesus and His kingdom. As I do so, I am not just preaching with my voice. I am preaching with the testimony of my life, in all of my preaching saying, like Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

And so it was through this trip that God has laid on my heart a burden to serve His church specifically in urban Nairobi (the capitol of Kenya), where I will come into contact with many men and women who I can in some sense see myself in, who I will be able to in some way relate to and who can relate to me; and to call them to join me so that we can together forsake the pursuits of the world in favor of the passionate pursuit of Jesus and His kingdom.

Specifically, I sense God leading me to begin a new church plant in an urban area of Nairobi. I don’t know a whole lot about church planting, I don’t have a seminary degree, and I don’t in any way feel qualified, but I have the treasure of the gospel of Christ (as a dear brother reminded me this past weekend) and I know that God loves to use weak jars of clay to carry that treasure in order “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Part of the reason I feel so excited and eager in this calling is because God is not calling me to this by myself. Unbeknownst to me, it appears that when He called one of my dearest brothers in the Lord, Chris Kiagiri, to move to Kenya two years ago, He was only sending him on ahead of me. On my last night in Kenya in July, I told Chris about my desire to plant a church in Nairobi and asked him to consider/pray about partnering with me. And as we’ve sought the Lord together over these past couple of months, God has been confirming for us both that this is the direction He would have us go in. I love the fact that Jesus still sends out two by two (Luke 10:1)!

But I guess it’s actually more than two. Chris was recently engaged and I was able to meet his wonderful fiancĂ©e, Wavinya, during my trip to Kenya this summer. The two of them were such a joy to fellowship with and, Lord willing, I will be the best man in their wedding this December! I couldn’t be more excited as I look forward to witnessing their union in the Lord and partnering with them in the work of the gospel.

So up next in this journey: Lord willing, a trip to Kenya in December that will be a little longer than the one I took this summer. After watching Chris and Wavinya tie the knot, my hope is to continue to pray, listen, learn, and do more ground work by connecting with some local pastors/churches. I also hope to explore possible job opportunities during that time because I would like to begin my ministry in Kenya as a tentmaker. I know it sounds ambitious, but my goal is to be in Kenya by next summer (2010). When God, in His perfect timing and wisdom, grants me the right job opportunity, after wrapping up the responsibilities for my current position at Adobe, I’m ready to move.

So please pray:
  • That I would remain focused and unhindered as I continue on this path. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
  • I’ve been enjoying learning Swahili through Rosetta Stone. Please pray that God would keep me disciplined in a regular rhythm of doing my lessons every 1-2 days.
  • That I would use the time in Kenya this December wisely and fruitfully and, specifically, that God would grant during that time greater clarity concerning the who, where, and how of church planting in Nairobi.
  • That God would provide me with a job opportunity in Nairobi that wouldn’t consume me because I want to be consumed with gathering for Jesus’ church and planting.
  • That God would bring together a core of people for the plant and raise up more partners who would want to be a part of the plant, there AND here.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’
Matthew 25:20
This servant had to risk losing five talents in order to gain five talents. And some might have called him a fool for risking. But this parable is proof that the men and women who make the most “profit” for Jesus are the men and women who risk the most for Him and, in so doing, look like the biggest fools to many.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jesus Christ, God's Supreme Speech

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...
Hebrews 1:1-2
The problem for us all, non-Christians and Christians, isn’t that God hasn’t spoken to us. The problem is that we want God to speak in a certain way. But God has spoken to us. He’s spoken to us all. He’s spoken to us plainly and clearly in revealing Himself to be perfect, wise, loving, powerful, good, gracious, and merciful. He couldn’t be more plain or clear. And there’s nothing more that He needs to say or can say to reveal Himself to us.

Think of it as though we all have radios and there are many different stations that we can tune into to try to hear from God. But out of all the stations on the radio, only one of them comes in clear. All the rest are fuzzy and, even though you might be able to hear a voice coming through, you can’t hear what the host is saying. But it’s only on this one station that you can hear him clearly. So often we want to tune into every station except for the one that comes in clear. It’s almost like we get sick of it and need something new. But my prayer tonight is that God would re-tune your radio to the one station on which He comes in most clearly and perhaps, for some of you, that you might tune in for the first time.
That's from the introduction to the message I preached last night at the large group meeting of the InterVarsity fellowship at San Jose State University. You can read the whole message here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Lecrae: One Of God's Men In This Day Of God's Power

It's Christ or nothing...Go hard or go home.
Amen, brother. Couldn't have said it any better myself. And, even more importantly, it sounds alot like the way the apostle Paul talked.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith--that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:7-11

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Where Are God's Men In This Day Of God's Power?

Early Friday morning, I read this hymn (written by John Wesley I believe), while continuing to make my way through volume one of George Whitefield's biography:
Shall I, for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit's course in me restrain?
Or, undismayed, in deed and word
Be a true witness to my Lord?

No; let man rage! since Thou wilt spread
Thy shadowing wings around my head:
Since in all pain Thy tender love
Will still my sweet refreshment prove.

The love of Christ does me constrain
To seek the wandering souls of men;
With cries, entreaties, tears, to save,
To snatch them from the gaping grave.

For this let them revile my name,
No cross I shun, I fear no shame;
All hail reproach, and welcome pain,
Only Thy terrors, Lord, restrain.

Give me Thy strength, O God of power,
Then let winds blow or thunders roar,
Thy faithful witness will I be-
'Tis fix'd! I can do all through Thee!

--John Wesley, as quoted by Arnold Dallimore in his biography on George Whitefield, Volume 1, p. 376
A couple of hours later I read this blog post at Christ Is Deeper Still:
"Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap and be faithful even unto death? Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ's sake -- flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously and be reckless in his service? Where are his lovers -- those who love him and the souls of men more than their own reputations or comfort or very life?

Where are the men who say 'no' to self, who take up Christ's cross to bear it after him, who are willing to be nailed to it in college or office, home or mission field, who are willing, if need be, to bleed, to suffer and to die on it?

Where are the adventurers, the explorers, the buccaneers for God, who count one human soul of far greater value than the rise or fall of an empire? Where are the men who are willing to pay the price of vision?

Where are the men of prayer?

Where are God's men in this day of God's power?"

--Howard Guinness, Sacrifice, pages 59-60.
George Whitfield, John Wesley, and Charles Wesley were God's men in a day of God's power as the work that God did through them in England and beyond will testify to. And that's why Charles Spurgeon, a century later, would pray for the Lord of the harvest to grant more of such men to His church:
We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gift of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the alter, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land. . . .

--Charles Spurgeon, introductory pages to his Autobiography, Volume 1
Spurgeon was an answer to his own prayer. And the dire need of his day is a dire need of our day. Where are God's men in this day of God's power?

So, Father in heaven, for the sake of Your Son and His church and His name being exalted among the nations, please give us more of Your men in this day of Your power. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Make It Clear (Declare It Plainly)!

For people who speak thus make it clear (declare it plainly) that they are seeking a homeland.
Hebrews 11:14
They declare plainly that they seek a country. There was not only a verbal, but a real confession; for by dwelling in tents they did more openly acknowledge their desires for another country. They did not go up and down, and tell men that they were strangers and pilgrims; but by dwelling in these poor movable habitations, when the Canaanites dwelt in cities, and built houses, hereby they declared to all that lived about them, that they looked for another country. So, christians, your business is to declare plainly that your journey lies towards heaven; you should discover your hopes more in your lives than you do, by walking suitably and answerably thereunto, and as those that are not ashamed of their country, that so you may draw in others to be companions with you in your journey to heaven. When all your cares, griefs, desires and endeavours are for civil and carnal things, you declare plainly that you savour of the world; but when the heart is taken up with better things, and the face of our conversation lies another way, then you declare plainly your journey is for heaven. And this is it which is meant everywhere by walking worthy of God and worthy of our vocation, that is, answerably and suitably to, and becoming your great hopes, and that kingdom and glory to which God hath called you. A christian should not live unsuitably to his hopes, but should discover them in his life, that all that see him may know that his heart and his hopes are above, and that God hath called him to his kingdom and glory: 1 Thes. 2. 12, 'That you would walk worthy of God, who called you into his kingdom and glory.' This will discover whether you have a heavenly mind, yea or no.

--Thomas Manton, The Works Of Thomas Manton, Volume 14, p. 338.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing...
2 Corinthians 2:14,15 (emphasis added)
Heavenly Father, everywhere we are, everything we do, please let us smell of the knowledge of You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Humility and Hard-Working Ambition

They go hand in hand.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them (ambition), though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (humility).
1 Corinthians 15:10