Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy to the World!


Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

I sang this song with the congregation at the Abney Street Church of God in Saint Albans last night. What brought tears to my eyes is the phrase

He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found

That is, the curse of sin and its effects. The Lord came to make his blessings flow far as the curse of sin was found. Thank God in Christ, the blessings flow even to me! Even to me!

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Christianity "Fails" Americans

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)
Pastors are well familiar with the "failure rate" of Christianity. Teenagers who grew up in their youth groups head to college and leave their faith behind. Sunday School teachers who once taught others now drop out of church. Friendships, relationships and marriages crumble and churches lose members. It's epidemic.

I think part of the problem in contemporary evangelical Christianity is failure of many professing believers to understand the religion they allege to profess. They expect God to do things he never promised he would do and, as a result, they grow disillusioned with God.

In short, folks today think Christianity is all about them. Their problems. Their felt needs and wants. Their desires and comforts. What's important to them.

It ain't.

Christianity is about Jesus Christ. It is about following him, obeying him, suffering for him.
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18-20 ESV)

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
(1 John 3:13 ESV)

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 ESV)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:12-16 ESV)

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV)
If you think God's primary concern is focused on you getting in the right college so you can get the right job and those promotions so you can make more money, buy a bigger house, nicer car and install a backyard swimming pool then you're kidding yourself. You've been deluded by a false American Christianity. Such petty, pedestrian and bourgeoisie matters don't concern God. God wants to transform you into the image of Jesus.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)
God's primary concern is that you are holy, not happy. And happiness is a by-product of holiness, not an end in itself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

D. A. Carson: The God Who is There—14 mp3 sessions

How do you explain the Bible's storyline to a biblically illiterate person? Carson argues that decades ago the church had to win "Christian atheists"—that is, even people who denied the existence of God had a heritage of Christian information. Today, Carson argues that people are without such a heritage and must be taught even the basic ideas that others took for granted years ago.

Carson wrote a book, The God Who is There, to answer that need. In addition, he recorded 14 mp3 sessions that can be heard for free. I have just finished session one so I may come across things later that I, a Wesleyan, would explain differently than Carson, a Calvinist. However, he is a careful scholar who deserves a hearing.

  1. The God Who Made Everything | MP3 | Video Preview
  2. The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels | MP3 | Video Preview
  3. The God Who Writes His Own Agreements | MP3 | Video Preview
  4. The God Who Legislates | MP3 | Video Preview
  5. The God Who Reigns | MP3 | Video Preview
  6. The God Who Is Unfathomably Wise | MP3 | Video Preview
  7. The God Who Becomes a Human Being | MP3 | Video Preview
  8. The God Who Grants New Birth | MP3 | Video Preview
  9. The God Who Loves | MP3 | Video Preview
  10. The God Who Dies—and Lives Again | MP3 | Video Preview
  11. The God Who Declares the Guilty Just | MP3 | Video Preview
  12. The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People | MP3 | Video Preview
  13. The God Who Is Very Angry | MP3 | Video Preview
  14. The God Who Triumphs | MP3 | Video Preview

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We Find God After God Finds Us


No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
(John 6:44a ESV)


I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
...no, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
'twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
as thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;
for thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
always thou lovedst me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

George Washington: His Thanksgiving Proclamation

Consider George Washington's Proclamation of Thanksgiving for the United States:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Wonderful words. I love his address of God as, "Lord and Ruler of Nations." Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Faith, Promises, Spurgeon and Finney

A particular subject has occupied my mind for years. To introduce it let me quote from "Spiritual Liberty", a February 18, 1855 sermon by Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892):
You are free to all that is in the Bible. Here is a never-failing treasure filled with boundless stores of grace. It is the bank of heaven: you may draw from it as much as you please without let [obstacle] or hindrance. Bring nothing with you, except faith. Bring as much faith as you can get, and you are welcome to all that is in the Bible. There is not a promise, not a word in it, that is not yours. In the depths of tribulation let it comfort you. Mid waves of distress let it cheer you. When sorrows surround thee, let it be thy helper. This is thy father’s love-token: let it never be shut up and covered with dust. Thou art free to it—use, then, thy freedom.
Sounds rather straightforward, doesn't it? Spurgeon seems to say, "Find any Bible promise you want—from any place in the Bible— and claim it." But here's the rub: is Spurgeon suggesting that we find any promise in the Word of God, divorce it from its historical context, and apply it to our situation if we like the words? Can that be done properly? Does the Bible "work" that way?

Revivalist Charles Finney (1792-1875) was direct when he spoke on praying "the prayer of faith" in his Lectures on Revivals. He didn't believe one could pray such a prayer without "evidence" for it contained in a word from God, be it biblical, providential or an inner assurance from the Spirit. Finney believed faith arose by claiming either a general promise in the Bible or a reasonably inferred principal found in the Word:
Where there is a general promise in the Scriptures which you may reasonably apply to the particular case before you. If its real meaning includes the particular thing for which you pray, or if you can reasonably apply the principle of the promise to the case, there you have evidence. For instance, suppose it is a time when wickedness prevails greatly, and you are led to pray for God's interference? What promise have you? Why, this one: "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." Here you see is a general promise laying down a principle of God's administration, which you may apply to the case before you, as a warrant for exercising faith in prayer. And if the case come up, to inquire as to the time in which God will grant blessings in answer to prayer, you have this promise: "While they are yet speaking, I will hear."
Finney continues:
If I had time to-night, I could go from one end of the Bible to the other, and produce an astonishing variety of texts that are applicable as promises; enough to prove, that in whatever circumstances a child of God may be placed, God has provided in the Bible some promise, either general or particular, which he can apply, that is precisely suited to his case. Many of God's promises are very broad on purpose to cover much ground. What can be broader than the promise in the text: "Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray?" What praying Christian is there who has not been surprised at the length, and breadth, and fullness, of the promises of God, when the Spirit has applied them to his heart? Who that lives a life of prayer, has not wondered at his own blindness, in not having before seen and felt the extent of meaning and richness of those promises, when viewed under the light of the Spirit of God?
Yes, but what about taking promises out of their context? Charles Finney seems pretty blunt:
At such times he has been astonished at his own ignorance, and found the Spirit applying the promises and declarations of the Bible in a sense in which he had never dreamed of their being applicable before. The manner in which the apostles applied the promises, and prophecies, and declarations of the Old Testament, places in a strong light the breadth of meaning, and fullness, and richness of the word of God. He that walks in the light of God's countenance, and is filled with the Spirit of God as he ought to be, will often make an appropriation of promises to himself, and an application of them to his own circumstances, and the circumstances of those for whom he prays, that a blind professor of religion would never dream of.
He seems to be saying, Wrench Scriptures out of their historical context and apply/claim them to/for your situation; after all, that's what the apostles did.

What is your opinion on these matters?

1. Are we "free to all that is in the Bible"? Is Spurgeon right when he says, "There is not a promise, not a word in it, that is not yours"? Is Finney right when he alludes to the nature of the prophetical and its often dual fulfillment as a reason to treat all promises the same way?

2. Must we wait until we think the Holy Spirit has impressed us to lift a promise out of its historical context before we can claim it? Could not our imaginations deceive us in this manner?

3. Is it faith or presumption to use the Bible in this way?

4. Can it not be abused in absurd ways? For example, Paul told the Corinthians that "all things are yours" (1 Cor 3.21b) but that cannot mean that I am free to steal anything I want because all things are mine!

5. Yes, it's a given that we must pray according to the will of God (1 John 5.14-15) but have we cheated ourselves by not using the Bible promises in their "length, and breadth, and fullness...when the Spirit has applied them to his heart?"

6. Is the Bible a spiritual grocery store from which we may fill our carts up without "let or hindrance" or does such an approach to violence to sound hermeneutic principles?

There's no doubt that God powerfully used Spurgeon and Finney—and the Lord continues to do so long after they are dead. We, on the other hand, probably will be forgotten by the passing of time. Was it their faith that enabled them to do exploits for God? Let me slap my own hand for typing this but, pragmatically speaking, did such an approach work for them?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Hypostatic Union of Christ

Don't you love technical terms? In a nutshell "hypostatic union" is used by Christian theology to describe the dual natures of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ—divine and human—existing in one person. Russell Byrum explains:

The questions must inevitably arise, Is Christ God or man? If both God and man is he two persons or one? If he has two natures in one person how are they related to each other? Attempts to answer these questions resulted in various theories, some of which were very objectionable because of giving place to either the human or divine element at the expense of the other. At least six heretical theories of the person of Christ gained prominence before the church came to general agreement on the statement of the doctrine. For a century and a half, or beginning prior to the Council of Nicea and continuing until the Council of Chalcedon, 451 A. D., the church was torn by controversies concerning the person of Christ.

The Nicene statement of faith was concerned principally with the defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. The symbol formulated by the Council of Chalcedon has to do directly with the Christological doctrine. It is the result of the best thought of many good and wise men who in defense of the faith had thought profoundly, and honestly endeavored to represent all the relevant facts of Scripture in proper relation. Even though humanly formulated creeds do not necessarily have divine sanction, yet probably no clearer statement of the doctrine of the person of Christ has been constructed.

It is given in Schaffs Creeds of Christendom as follows:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable (rational) soul and body; consubstantial (coessential) with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeable, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning (have declared) concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

This statement clearly sets forth the different elements of the doctrine and shows their harmony, but no attempt is made to eliminate all mystery from the doctrine.
Byrum gives an intriguing last line, "but no attempt is made to eliminate all mystery from the doctrine." There are things about God that we struggle to understand. It doesn't mean we can't accept them by faith but that we can't fully understand them.

It's hard for me to wrap my mind around the hypostatic union of Christ though I do accept it by faith. Over the years I've gravitated toward Christ's deity in my mind. How his "Godness" relates to his humanity is a deep mystery.

I think one problem for humans is our inability to think of a sinless human person. For example, Christ got hot, sweaty and tired as the sun beat down on him while he journeyed to towns around the Sea of Galilee. We can relate with that. However, he never snapped at anyone in crankiness. We can't relate with that.

As a man Christ felt the effects of testosterone and found women attractive. But he never lusted in his heart.

Christ became angry at injustice around him. But her never punched a kid at the playground.

Christ "continued to obey" (Luke 2.51) his parents. But he never disobeyed them.

Christ surely won any Bible-quoting contest he entered (if they had such things). But he never wanted to stick-it-in-the-face of another contestant.

Christ experienced rumbles in his stomach from hunger. But he never rushed to get the last piece of cooked fish before Nathaniel could grab it.

It's a mystery.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

There is a reason why Jesus was murdered. The Darkness hates The Light.
Yahweh never promises an easy life but a life worth living.
Holiness has a beauty about it, a shimmering glory. It is the luminescence that lights the Christian's way Home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wimpy Christianity


I listen to CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) on the Internet or over the radio...sometimes. I confess, though, that a good chunk of it is a turn-off for me. Why? Because too often the guys singing love songs to Jesus sound so metrosexual. Wimpy. Whiny. Ugh.

Don't get me wrong; the classic hymn, My Jesus, I Love Thee, is an unabashed love song to Jesus. It's also one of my favorite songs. Nothing wrong with that. Still, I want to shake the dudes on the radio and yell, "Man up! Stop sounding like a lovestruck chick!"

Offensive? Well, I mean it. Take some hints from Newsboys who can be tender toward the Lord but not sound so metrosexual about it.

Another thing that bugs me is religious art. How many depictions of angels have we seen that resemble a fairy godmother? Or babies? Give me a break! These are the celestial beings who are supposed to protect the elect? Really? With one POSSIBLE exception angels manifested themselves as men whenever the Bible mentioned the appearance of gender. Yes, I know angels are neither male nor female. But they manifested as men.

Is some dainty little rosy-cheeked cherub going to conquer a demon in combat? The archangel Michael doesn't strike me as a dainty dude. Or the angel with a flaming sword who guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden. Or the angel that struck down the firstborn of Egypt. Or the angel that...

Man up! It's a dangerous spiritual world out there!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Listen to God and Not Discouragement



The mighty Hebrides revival (of which Duncan Campbell was a servant) broke out because two ladies got hold of God and refused to hear defeat. Do the same.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Surrendering is Harder Than Fighting

the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. (Daniel 11:32a)

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32 ESV)
Here's my thought for today:
Capturing my heart and forcing its surrender to Christ's will is a greater exploit than capturing a city and forcing its surrender to mine.
I Surrender All
by Van DeVenter & Weeden

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Too Insignificant To Be Used?


Have you ever felt that you were too insignificant to be used powerfully by God? I'm afraid we in the Church world can give that impression as we elevate some people into superstardom and bypass the rest like unwashed masses. If you think you are a nobody in God's kingdom then please be encouraged by this story, taken from the classic book on prayer, The Kneeling Christian, from an anonymous writer:
Some little time ago, a Chinese boy of twelve years old, named Ma-Na-Si, a boarder in the mission school at Chefoo, went home for the holidays. He is the son of a native pastor.

Whilst standing on the doorstep of his father's house he espied a
horseman galloping towards him. The man--a heathen--was in a great
state of perturbation. He eagerly inquired for the "Jesus-man"--the
pastor. The boy told him that his father was away from home. The poor
man was much distressed, and hurriedly explained the cause of his
visit. He had been sent from a heathen village some miles away to fetch
the "holy man" to cast a devil out of the daughter-in-law of a heathen
friend. He poured out his sad story of this young woman, torn by
devils, raving and reviling, pulling out her hair, clawing her face,
tearing her clothes, smashing up furniture, and dashing away dishes of
food. He told of her spirit of sacrilege, and outrageous impiety, and
brazen blasphemy, and how these outbursts were followed by foaming at
the mouth, and great exhaustion, both physical and mental. "But my
father is not at home," the boy kept reiterating. At length the
frenzied man seemed to understand. Suddenly he fell on his knees, and,
stretching out his hands in desperation, cried, "You, too, are a
Jesus-man; will you come ?"

Think of it--a boy of twelve! Yes, but even a lad, when fully yielded
to his Savior, is not fearful of being used by that Savior. There was
but one moment of surprise, and a moment of hesitation, and then the
laddie put himself wholly at his Master's disposal. Like little Samuel
of old he was willing to obey God in all things. He accepted the
earnest entreaty as a call from God. The heathen stranger sprang into
the saddle, and, swinging the Christian boy up behind him, he galloped
away.

Ma-Na-Si began to think over things. He had accepted an invitation to
cast out a devil in the name of Christ Jesus. But was he worthy to be
used of God in this way? Was his heart pure and his faith strong? As
they galloped along he carefully searched his own heart for sin to be
confessed and repented of. Then he prayed for guidance what to say and
how to act, and tried to recall Bible instances of demoniacal
possession and how they were dealt with. Then he simply and humbly cast himself upon the God of power and of mercy, asking His help for the
glory of the Lord Jesus. On arrival at the house they found that some
of the members of the family were by main force holding down the
tortured woman upon the bed. Although she had not been told that a
messenger had gone for the native pastor, yet as soon as she heard
footsteps in the court outside she cried, "All of you get out of my way
quickly, so that I can escape. I must flee! A Jesus-man' is coming. I
cannot endure him. His name is Ma-Na-Si."

Ma-Na-Si entered the room, and after a ceremonial bow knelt down and
began to pray. Then he sang a Christian hymn to the praise of the Lord
Jesus. Then, in the name of the Risen Lord, glorified and omnipotent,
he commanded the demon to come out of the woman. At once she was calm, though prostrate with weakness. From that day she was perfectly whole.

She was amazed when they told her that she had uttered the name of the
Christian boy, for she had never heard of it or read of it before, for
the whole of that village was heathen. But that day was veritably a
"beginning of days" to those people, for from it the Word of the Lord
had free course and was glorified.
Ma-Na-Si's age wasn't important, or his experience—or himself—but what was important was his God. God used Ma-Na-Si and he can use you, too. Be available.

Monday, September 20, 2010

License Plate Evangelism

Last week I was leaving a hospital parking garage when a West Virginia license plate caught my attention. The tag read "PSALM 51". It got my mind whirring. It's a penitential psalm where King David confesses the sin of his adultery with Bathsheba before God. If you remember your Bible history then you'll know that David committed adultery with the beautiful—married—woman and she became pregnant. To cover his sin David conspired in the murder of her husband, Uriah, a faithful soldier in Israel's army. In punishment God killed David's son born of adultery (see 2 Samuel 11-12.23)
Psalms 51:1-19 ESV
(1) To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
(2) Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
(3) For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
(4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
(5) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
(6) Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
(7) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(8) Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
(9) Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
(10) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
(11) Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
(12) Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(13) Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
(14) Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
(15) O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
(16) For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
(17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(18) Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem;
(19) then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
The question, of course, is what did the driver mean to convey? was he:
1. Announcing to the world that he had been forgiven (scandalous?) grave sin?
2. Announcing to the world that they, too, can be forgiven of grave sin?
3. All of the above?
Whatever the original meaning behind paying the fee for the vanity license plate I do wonder how many people instantly got the gist of his witness...or went home and looked up Psalm 51 to see what he was saying?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Restoring the Covenant Name of Yahweh

Recently I have begun restoring the covenant Name of God in my sermons/lessons in the Old Testament. Let me explain. Whenever you see LORD or GOD (all caps) in your printed version of the Old Testament it is a (mis)translation of the Hebrew, Yahweh, יהוה, or Yah, a shortened form of the name. It dates back to an old Jewish custom. Because Jews didn't want to blaspheme whenever they came across the covenant Name of God in Scripture they pronounced the word Adonai instead, the Hebrew word for "Lord." I believe Christianity should discontinue this practice. While noble it wasn't a Hebrew practice from the beginning; it developed later in Jewish history.

God's covenant Name is important to him and it is used extensively in the Old Testament. In Hebrew thought a person's name reveals his character, his essence. God revealed himself as YHWH, the Hebrew name for the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It comes to us from the Old Testament and means, "He Is"—that is, God's presence is with his people and, thus, all his blessings that come with him. (cf. Exodus 3:15).

Written Hebrew didn't provide vowels, simply consonants (Y H W H, sometimes called The Tetragrammaton, The Four Letters), so there is uncertainty in how it should be pronounced. The American Standard Version (1901) is admirable in its attempt to restore God's Name but it used Jehovah to do so. (The "J" is to be pronounced as "Y".) Modern scholarship is generally agreed on Yahweh (pronounced as yau'whay) but, of course, we have no audio recordings from ancient times to substantiate the view.

I believe we should honor the name God of great covenants with people and substitute LORD from the Old Testament versions with Yahweh. If some are sensitive about getting Yahweh wrong—as the ASV got Jehovah wrong—then the printed Bibles could spell it YHWH or YaHWeH.

Restore God's covenant Name to the pages of the Old Testament!

One warning—don't treat the name Yahweh as magical. Years ago I came across a guy on the Internet. As memory serves he quoted Psalms 81. 14b, "I will protect him, because he knows my name" (ESV). The man treated Yahweh like a magical incantation, a verbal talisman or charm which, if you use it, God provides special blessings that he wouldn't give others who don't. I strongly reject such thinking. The Religion of Yahweh—the covenants governing their times—is not Magick. Jewish exorcists of old were sought after because it was believed they knew how to pronounce Yahweh properly. Such superstition and Occult dealings have no place in the worship of Yahweh.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post I became aware of the New Heart English Bible (YHWH Edition), a public domain translation, that has restored Yahweh in the place of LORD.  You can download it for free here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Upcoming Revival at Middle Grave Creek Church of God


I am excited about an upcoming revival I will be holding at Middle Grave Creek Church of God in Moundsville, WV. The pastor is Dave Sessums, a college buddy. Pray that the Holy Spirit falls upon us in power!

Friday, September 24 at 7 P.M.
Saturday, September 25 at 7 P.M.
Sunday, September 26 at 11 A.M.

Directions:

GPS coordinates: N39. 53.580' W080. 42.101'

Come 3 miles east out of Moundsville on Fourth Street ( Middle Grave Creek Road ).
The Church will be on the right.

RD 3 Box 309A
Moundsville, West Virginia 26041

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The 1970 Asbury Revival



Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
(1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Intolerance of Tolerance



One of my favorite New Testament scholars, D. A. Carson, explains how the definition of "tolerance" has changed with the shifting of the philosophical viewpoint of modernism to postmodernism. It foretells bad things for biblical Christianity which proclaims that there is such thing as absolute Truth, and that such Truth is knowable.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why I Am Pro-Life


For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalms 139:13-16 ESV)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Propitiation

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10 ESV)
The English word propitiation is a funny-sounding one but it is rich in theological content. It is from the Greek, ἱλασμός (hilasmos), and it means an expiation, an appeasement. Noah Webster defines expiation in part as
The act of atoning for a crime; the act of making satisfaction for an offense,by which the guilt is done away, and the obligation of the offended person to punish the crime is canceled; atonement; satisfaction.
It is similar to another word rendered propitiation from the Greek:

...for all [Jews and Gentiles] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25a ESV)

Here propitiation comes from ἱλαστήριον (hilastērion), which Thayer defines as:
1) relating to an appeasing or expiating, having placating or expiating force, expiatory; a means of appeasing or expiating, a propitiation
1a) used of the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated); hence the lid of expiation, the propitiatory
1b) an expiatory sacrifice
1c) a expiatory victim
Pulling the terms together, one finds in the New Testament that Christ is the sacrificial victim slain to appease (to turn aside) the wrath of a holy and just God offended at sin. In other words, Christ satisfied the Divine Judgment by taking the wrath of God against sin by dying on the cross and, in this way, a human sinner can go unpunished and be forgiven. We who trust in Christ do not receive the punishment our sins deserve because Christ stood in our stead and bore the wrath that God's justice demands. A Christian cannot be punished for that which has been forgiven through the atonement of Christ!

Praise God!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Perseverance

You were running beautifully! Who was it that cut into your way and kept you from obeying the truth? (Gal 5:7 WmsNT)
Therefore, as we have so vast a crowd of spectators in the grandstands, let us throw off every impediment and the sin that easily entangles our feet, and run with endurance the race for which we are entered, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the perfect leader and example of faith, who, instead of the joy which lay before Him, endured the cross with no regard for its shame, and since has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Yes, to keep from growing weary and fainthearted, just think of the examples set by Him who has endured so great opposition aimed at Him by sinful men! (Heb 12:1-3 WmsNT)
Often it's relatively easy to start the Christian life well; it's ending well that's more difficult. We get tired. People wear us out with their sin, their fickleness, their opposition, their junk. Sometimes it seems doing good in a world of compromise is exhausting. We cramp up as the lactic acid of the world's allurements build in our spiritual muscles.

To keep ourselves on track the Bible teaches us to keep "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12.2a ESV). The word translated "founder" is ἀρχηγός and it can mean pioneer or trailblazer. Christ is the Daniel Boone of the Way to Heaven, he is our captain who we follow to our heavenly Home. As the refrain of the song Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus goes:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Christianizing the Calendar

(No, this blog entry isn't to be taken very seriously!)

You know how our current calendars (months and days) were named after pagan deities? What if we renamed it with a Christian emphasis? Here are my suggestions:

1. Months

I'd rename the months in honor of the Apostles. Using the order given in Matthew 10 as a guide, I have...
January = Peter
February = Andrew
March = James
April = John
May = Philip
June = Nathaniel (Bartholomew)
July = Thomas
August = Matthew
September = Thaddaeus (Levi)
October = Simon (the Zealot)
November = Matthias
December = Paul
Since there are two apostles named James both of them share one month. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas' vacant apostolic seat. To round off the list I honored Paul with the last spot, no less an apostle than any of the previous ones.

2. Days

What of the days of the week? I would've been neat if I could use Jesus for Sunday and then his earthly family for the rest of the week. However, Joseph and Mary had a son named "Joseph" so I'd have to say something like Lordday, Josephday, Maryday, Jamesday, Josephsonday, Simonday and Judeday (Matthew 13.55; Judah wrote a NT book called Jude. He is also called Judas in the Matthew passage. Jude, Judas and Judah all mean the same thing.)

Here's a possible list including Christ and early workers in the Church:
Sunday = Lordday (Jesus Christ, obviously)
Monday = Markday
Tuesday = Titusday
Wednesday = Lukeday
Thursday = Timothyday
Friday = Judeday
Saturday = Stephenday
You can substitute this list with various other workers. You could use the 7 men selected to see to the distribution of food to the needy widows (Acts 6.5). You could use OT prophets' names. The possibilities are extensive!

What names would you assign?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Called to Preach by Jesus

I never had a "dramatic" call to the ministry. I just felt compelled from within and surrendered to the call. I guess most people are this way. However, some Wesleyans have had dramatic experiences. Take Uncle Bud Robinson. In his book, My Life's Story, he recounts his vivid call to preach the night he was saved. It happened, of all places, under an ox wagon at a campmeeting:
During the night Jesus came under the wagon and called me to preach. I could see His beautiful face with a crown of thorns on His brow. I could see the sweat and blood mingled on His face, and the old purple robe over His shoulders. He was so real to me. I can never forget my first meeting with Jesus. He told me that He wanted me to preach His gospel while I told Him that I would go. I had no idea, that night, what it meant to be a God-called preacher of the gospel, but after forty-seven years of preaching almost day and night, living a lonely life, sometimes spending only one week at home during a whole year, I have learned that when God calls a man to preach, God really has something for him to do.
Methodist Evangelist Albert Jacobs was entirely sanctified but didn't know God's will for his life. In God's Guiding Hand he shares:
It was Thanksgiving night, the church was full. Among the number were several preachers. The one that preached was a Free Methodist. After I got through seating the people, I took a chair in front of the altar. The meeting was opened to testimony and the people were enjoying themselves, telling what the Lord had done for them. After listening a while, I joined in and began to tell them how the Lord had sanctified my soul I was pointing to the very spot at the altar when a great joy came into my soul causing me to shout and jump. I then sat down on the chair where I had been sitting previously. A deep sleep came over me so that I did not hear the sermon.

Sister C____ was sitting in front near me and they tell me she touched me on the knee saying, "Mr. Jacobs, are you sick." I made no answer. Another lady spoke to me but no answer came. Wife came to me after the sermon was over saying, "Albert, what is the matter!" I began immediately to clap my knee shouting "Glory! Glory! Glory!" While shouting I stretched out, my chair went from under me and I lay on the floor for a few minutes like a dead man. It caused a commotion. The preachers all but the Free Methodist left the church with most of the people. The lawyer with whom I was studying law said, "O, he is excited." Some of the church members asked wife if I had fainted and needed a doctor; while another was wanting to throw cold water on me and rub my hands and arms. A young man came rushing up from the back of the church saying, "Is he drunk." "Yes," said the Free Methodist preacher, "he is drunk with the new wine that came upon the disciples at the day of Pentecost."

In spite of all, they began to rub my hands. Wife told them to stand back. This was in answer to prayer and that I was in God's hands. They all went to prayer for me. I got a view of Heaven and saw Jesus standing. I was so carried away with the brightness of his face that I watched Him with amazement. The human tongue cannot express the beauties of that scene. How sweet and sympathetic Christ looked with his arm outstretched and his finger pointing in the direction of a mass of humanity struggling to get one above the other. The agonizing cries were touching to hear. It seemed they all wanted to be on top and as fast as one would get up, the others would pull him down and so on it continued. I could not understand until I heard them singing "I'll go where you want me to go dear Lord." I said "Yes Lord I will go." Then the Holy Spirit made it plain that my Heavenly Father wanted me to preach the gospel or preach Christ to the people.
Yes, Jesus is alive and still calling people to preach his gospel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

T. M. Anderson and His Supernatural Ministry

Tony Marshall (T. M.) Anderson was a teacher at Asbury College and a strong holiness preacher. He also had visions and moved in supernatural power. Let him speak for himself from his book, Prevailing Prayer. He had a habit that to us may seem strange, perhaps unwise:
In the covenant of grace we have a Great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. He is the only Mediator between God and man; and He is seated on His mediatorial throne at the right hand of God.

We must follow the pattern of the worshipers in Israel, and turn our faces toward heaven, where Christ is seated on His mediatorial throne at the right hand of the Father. When we say, "Our Father which art in heaven, we should have a mental picture of these facts as revealed in the plan of Salvation.

I find it impossible to pray in faith until I have first formed a mental image of these fundamental facts. I must envision the Savior seated on His mediatorial throne to have a basis for praying in faith. I must see Him in the office of the Great High Priest before I can ask for the things I need.

***

It has been stated previously that the approach to the throne of grace is through Jesus, our High Priest. I have also said that it is important to form a mental picture of the Savior seated on His mediatorial throne, which is the throne of grace. If one does not have a Scriptural concept of the mediatorial throne, he will find it difficult to pray because his mind will have no certain resting place. Wandering thoughts are due to a lack of concentration.
Okay, I'll admit that this makes me nervous. Visualization techniques make me wary but he claimed some stories that make me wonder:
I was praying in the quiet hours of the morning in February, 1950; when I formed the mental picture of the Savior on His mediatorial throne, and presented my request, I was enabled to see certain facts about the person for whom I was praying. By a power never before known to me, I was enabled to see into the past lives of persons, and remind them of certain incidents in their past that affected them in their spiritual lives. I certainly did not seek gift of spiritual discernment, if this was such a gift. But in more than a hundred incidents I have not been mistaken at any time.
Today we may call that words of knowledge. Anderson had remarkable experiences in the Spirit whereby he confronted a woman who resisted a mighty move of God:
There was a young woman who was unmoved by the power of God manifested in the great revival at Asbury College, in 1950. She told some of the students that it was nothing but emotionalism and excitement, and that she would have nothing to do with it. Several students requested me to join them in prayer for the girl to be saved. About four o'clock in the morning I presented this girl before the throne of grace. I did not know the young woman, but the moment I began to pray for her, I saw her running out of a lighted building, and running toward the darkness. The vision so impressed me, that I told some of the students to inform the young woman that I had seen her running from God.

About nine thirty that night, the young woman came to my home. She sat on a small footstool in front of me, and in anger told me that she wanted no part of the revival, that it was all emotionalism and religious excitement. I could not reason with her; for she was very angry at me for sending word to her about running from God.

In my own mind, I was convinced that her attitude toward the revival was a pretense, and that she was covering her sins. I told her I could find her real reason for rejecting the Saviour; and I began to pray for her. When I presented her before the Saviour, I saw a large hall, and an orchestra, and the leader of the orchestra standing before a microphone. But my attention was drawn to a young man playing the piano; I knew he had something to do with this girl's attitude toward Christ. When I asked the girl about the young man, she began to cry; and confessed that she had been attending the dance, and was at one time planning to marry the piano player. She said it was a secret, and was amazed that I knew it.

I began to pray again for her, and I saw a lighted room, and a table set with glasses for liquor: and I saw this young woman filling the glasses with liquor. When I asked her if she drank liquor, she began to scream, and said, "That is a cocktail party given in my home, and I gave a preacher's daughter her first drink. I have damned her, I have damned my best friend." She confessed covering her many evil deeds by pretending that she did not believe in the revival. She had no more fight against conviction left in her; she was completely broken in spirit, and was contrite of heart. Once more I took her to the Saviour in prayer; and I obtained mercy for her at the throne of grace. The merciful Lord saved her instantly; and she shouted with great joy for deliverance from sin.
Anderson helped an old man regain assurance of his salvation:
An elderly man was seeking help at the altar. He was in deep despair, and discouraged by the trials which had beset him in recent months. He was distressed by his doubts, and had given up his testimony of salvation. He was eighty-five years of age, weak, and sick in body. It was my joy to take this man before the High Priest, who can be touched by the feeling of our infirmities. Knowing the truth, I came boldly to the throne of grace, and lifted this man up before the sympathetic Christ in prayer. I saw a little white church situated in a grove, out in the country. I saw a young man converted at the altar in that church; I could see him shaking hands with the people, and rejoicing with them. I saw the young man had dark hair, and a little mustache; and in some way, I knew that the elderly man at the altar was the young man I had seen in the little church. He told me that he was saved sixty-five years ago in the little white church in the country. He said, "My hair was dark, and I had a little mustache."

When I told him that the Lord had shown me these things, and that he had been converted in the little white church. The Savior blessed this humble man, and his doubts departed, and the joy of the Lord filled his heart. It was a time of need in the life of this man, and a merciful Savior had answered prayer, and given help in the nick of time.
He had a vision of his daughter, Ruth, being saved:
My daughter Ruth, lived more than a hundred and fifty miles from my home. Ruth was unsaved, and my heart was greatly burdened for her. I took her on my prayer, and presented her before the Savior at the Mercy Seat. I saw the Savior lay His hand on her head, I could see her curly hair between His fingers. I told my wife about the vision, and we wept before the Lord, and gave Him thanks. The next morning when I prayed for Ruth, I saw kneeling by her bed in prayer; I saw the same thing the third morning. But the fourth morning when I prayed, I saw her standing, and knew that she had been saved by grace.

In a letter she said that the Saviour had put His hand on her head, and her mind was cleared of all confusion, and she recalled the truth of salvation, and had been saved by grace.
Anderson also had Christ tell him of the Asbury College teacher's son's salvation:
I was in a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, in March, 1950. In the quiet hours of the morning I prayed for my son, who lived three hundred miles from where I was praying. I presented my unsaved boy before the Saviour at the Mercy Seat. The Saviour spoke to me, and said, "I will save your boy tomorrow, kneeling at the couch in your living room in your home." I called my son by phone, and asked him to meet me at my home the next day. He gave me no assurance that he would come; but when I arrived home, my son was there to meet me as I had expected. The Lord saved him kneeling by the couch in my living room at my home according to His promise to answer prayer. My Father which seeth in secret had rewarded me openly.
What are we to make of all this? I don't know but I do realize that anecdotes of this sort weren't confined to T. M. Anderson. May we walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit's ministry.

(Photo courtesy of Classic Holiness Sermons. All Rights Reserved)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deepak Chopra Gets Shot Down By His Own Reasoning



For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." (1 Corinthians 3:19-20 ESV)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thomas Goodwin on Visitations of the Holy Spirit

The Puritan pastor-scholar, Thomas Goodwin, spoke of occasional visitations of the Holy Spirit that are life-changing. This would be part of his "experimental" Christianity:
The Holy Ghost comes down into our hearts sometimes in prayer with a beam from heaven, whereby we see more at once of God and His glory, more astounding thoughts and enlarged apprehensions God, many beams meeting in one and falling to the center of our hearts. By these coming downs or divine influxes, God slides into our hearts by beams of Himself; we come not to have communion with God by way of many broken thoughts put together, but there is a contraction of many beams from heaven, which is shed into our souls, so that we know more of God and have more communion with Him in a quarter-hour than we could know in a year by the way of wisdom only.
I would to God that every believer have experiences like this! D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones may have called this the "immediate and direct witness of the Holy Spirit." I call it glorious!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prophesying Is Not The Same As Preaching

In my Church of God (Anderson) heritage it has been common to consider prophesying indistinguishable from preaching. Our best-known Greek scholar, the late Reverend Doctor Boyce W. Blackwelder, translated προφητεύω (literally "I prophesy") as "persuasive preaching" and such like. For example, in his Letters of Paul translation for 1 Corinthians 14.5:
Now I might wish that all of you could speak in foreign languages. But I much prefer you to be persuasive preachers.
There are problems with equating a prophecy with a sermon. Church of God heritage hymn writer D. Otis Teasley wrote in his 1901 work, The Holy Spirit and Other Spirits:
The gift of prophecy embraces two things: (1) The foretelling of future events. (2) The expounding of the Word of God. The gift of prophecy did not cease with the Old Testament prophets, but was carried over to the Holy Spirit dispensation.
While I disagree with his second definition I quote Teasley to show that he understood prophecy to be more than preaching. What is prophesying for?
On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.(1 Corinthians 14:3 ESV)
A prime example would be in the life of an approved and recognized early prophet, Agabus, who lived in the time of the Apostles. He predicted a famine to strike the Roman world and the capture of Paul:
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30 ESV)
And the capture of Paul:
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:10-12 ESV)
Note careful what happened; Agabus was held in esteem and his word was trusted. In each case the church responded to his message by believing it and trying to act accordingly. Concerning Agabus Teasley wrote:
It is also clear that the New Testament prophets possessed the ability to foretell the future…We are not certain whether Agabus was a preacher or not; but he is supposed to have been one of the seventy disciples chosen by Jesus to go before Him into all the cities of the Jews.
William Dale Oldham, the first preacher of the Christian Brotherhood Hour, believed in prophetic dreams. In his autobiography, Giants Along My Path, he mentioned Church of God evangelist W. F. Chappel received them.
I have already told you of my complete confidence in Brother Chappel’s prayers. But may I add that he was the only one whose dreams ever received my full attention. When W.F. Chappel had what he termed a significant dream, I waited eagerly for his interpretation. Now, don’t laugh, for if you had known him, you would have paid attention, too.

One morning, shortly after our run-in with Pastor Monk, Brother Chappel told John and me he had dreamed an important dream the night before. “I dreamed that I was out there in the pulpit preaching a woman’s funeral.” (Of course all of us know that in the New Testament prophetic writings a woman represents the church.) “She was lying in the casket right in front of the pulpit,” Brother Chappel continued, “and a sizable audience was present. Suddenly, as I was speaking, this dead woman spoke. ‘Let me out of here,’ she said. I looked down at her and admonished, ‘Be quiet; don’t you see that I’m preaching your funeral?’ However, a minute or two later the woman sat up in her casket to say rather strongly, ‘Help me out of here.’ Her unusual attitude irked me, for it was spoiling the occasion. So, when she continued to interrupt, I went down out of the pulpit, put my hands on her shoulders and tried to press her back into the casket, whispering, ‘Sister, you’re dead. I am preaching your funeral.’ This really roused her and she said, ‘Now you listen to me, Brother Chappel, I am not dead. If I were dead would I be sitting up in this casket talking to you?’

“Well, that sounded reasonable enough, so instead of returning to the pulpit, I gave the good sister my hand and helped her out of the casket, whereupon, there was great rejoicing among all the people. You see, boys, in my preaching I have been trying to bury this church. Instead, the Lord wants me to cooperate with him in resurrecting it. I am changing the direction of my preaching, beginning tonight.”

As he did, attendance in our meetings immediately increased. Two or three mornings later Brother Chappel told of another dream which had come to him the preceding night. He said, “Boys, the break is coming. We are going to have a great revival. Last night I dreamed I was fishing, pulling them in as fast as I could bait the hook.” That night thirty-three persons bowed at the church altars to yield their lives to Christ. I pay little attention to my own dreams and probably wouldn’t think yours to be of any particular significance, but when Brother Chappel dreamed I gave heed to his interpretation.

Oldham, Dale. Giants Along My Path: My Fifty Years in Ministry. (ANDERSON, IN: Warner Press, n.d), 85-86.
A prophetical dream isn't preaching. But it's interesting!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Preachers Come From Humble Beginnings

Today at the annual General Assembly meeting of the West Virginia Church of God (Anderson) the chairman related a hilarious event. Before his very first sermon he hit a car, was thirty minutes late to the church but—wait for it—the service still let out early!

Never forget that preachers (and all church leaders) are just as human now as they've ever been. They are just as human as you.

Scary, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What if God got only as excited about you as you got about him?

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Good Old Days Weren't Perfect

As I mentioned in my last post I am an old soul. I yearn for the transparent joy in the Holy Spirit that those who came before us basked in. However, it's easy to sentimentalize those days while disparaging our own. Honesty demands fair-handling. The good old days weren't perfect—far from it. We had some problems in our more demonstrative years.

1. Legalism

Not fun to look at but it's true; legalism went far beyond the boundaries of scriptural holiness and imposed more rules. For example, early in the 20th century my reformation movement of the Church of God (Anderson) had a controversy over neckties. Yes, neckties! Since we didn't want to dress in a worldly fashion some of the saints took a dim view of neckties. A necktie wasn't functional, only fashionable and, thus, vainglorious. We can laugh now at the silliness but God's holiness children of a century ago weren't laughing.

2. Bad Doctrine/Poor Scholarship

Last night I listened to an mp3 of a holiness preacher from years ago, I don't know the date. He was giving some reasons why holiness churches have "protracted meetings" but they don't turn into revivals. One reason, the good brother informed his audience, was because women in pants were praying for revival! He quoted Deuteronomy 22.5:
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
There are big problems with condemning women who wear pants today by appealing to this verse. First, this verse probably had to do with a pagan practice that the Lord refused his Israelis, not that God is condemning the modern fashion industry of today. Second, as Gentiles we aren't under the Law of Moses. The Torah was for Jews, not Gentiles, and it's been abolished as a covenant, anyway.

Over the years I've seen some poor handling of the Word of Truth. Verses taken out of context can place people in bondage to something God never commanded. In this regard inadequate scholarship can lead to legalism. Lack of scholarship and education led to some lousy theological points. Sloppy interpretation makes for bad doctrine.

Let me give you another example. A common appeal for entire sanctification has been taken from Paul's command to the Thessalonians:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:
(1 Thessalonians 4:3a ESV)
Fair enough but the preachers need to quote more Scripture in that passage to get the gist of Paul's specific thought:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV)
When all of these verses are read together in context it shows that Paul isn't giving general instruction about entire sanctification but speaking of believers living in holiness involving sexual matters.

Let's seek entire sanctification...and use proper Scriptures to support the doctrine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm An Old Soul

Today I helped my father install a new air conditioner in his camper at Rippling Waters, the West Virginia Church of God (Anderson) owned campgrounds. I had some extra time so I walked the short distance to the beautiful chapel by the lake and went inside. I snapped this picture with my cell phone while standing at the pulpit.


I prayed for the campmeeting that begins this Monday, August 2, and runs through Sunday, August 8. I want a Great Awakening to begin this week on those grounds.

I'm an old soul. I'd rather learn of accounts of revival from 100 years ago then read the "It" book that will be published by a Christian bookseller next week.

Recently I listened to a 30+ year-old recording of an old minister exhorting a convention congregation to be entirely sanctified. He wasn't scheduled to preach, just exhort the crowd. God took over and an altar response ensued. The Spirit moved.

It made me feel sad, though. Not because it was sad but because I miss the days when saints shouted praises to God. I miss the days when people actually prayed at altars. I miss the days when we weren't so terribly concerned with looking educated and sophisticated and were so terribly concerned with God moving in the services.

What happened to us? What happened to the holiness people? I suppose it's the same thing that happened to our sermons on entire sanctification. The sermons disappeared...and then our fire did, too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arguing With an Infidel

Apologetics is the defense of the Christian Faith. People like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel have put much time into presenting arguments for the veracity of Christ and Christianity. Apologetics has its place; Justin Martyr of the 2nd century is famous for it. However, the great British Baptist preacher of the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, gave interesting advice on how to reason with a hardened skeptic.
Another very great obstacle to soul-winning is unbelief. You know that it is written of the Lord Jesus when in "His own country that "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." This evil exists in all unregenerate hearts, but in some men it takes a very pronounced form. They do think about religion, but they do not believe in the truth of God which we preach to them. Their opinion is to them more weighty, more worthy of belief, than God's inspired declarations; they will not accept anything that is revealed in the Scriptures. These people are very hard to influence; but I would warn you not to fight them with their own weapons. I do not believe that infidels ever are won by argument; or, if so, it very seldom happens. The argument that convinces men of the reality of religion, is that which they gather from the holiness and earnestness of those who profess to be Christ's followers. As a rule, they barricade their minds against the assaults of reason and if we give our pulpits over to arguing with them, we shall often be doing more harm than good. In all probability, only a very small portion of our audience will understand what we are talking about; and while we are trying to do them good, most likely we shall be teaching infidelity to others who do not know anything about such things, and the first knowledge they ever have of certain heresies will have come to them from our lips. Possibly our refutation of the error may not have been perfect, and many a young mind may have been tinctured with unbelief through listening to our attempted exposure of it. I believe that you will rout unbelief by your faith rather than by your reason; by your belief, and your acting up to your conviction of the truth, you will do more good than by any argument, however strong it may be.
Spurgeon gave a personal story:
There is a friend who sits to hear me generally every Sabbath. "What do you think?" he said to me, one day, "you are my only link with better things; but you are an awful man in my estimation, for you have not the slightest sympathy with me." I replied, "No, I have not; or, rather, I have not the least sympathy with your unbelief." "That makes me cling to you, for I fear that I shall always remain as I am; but when I see your calm faith, and perceive how God blesses you in exercising it, and know what you accomplish through the power of that faith, I say to myself, 'Jack, you are a fool.'" I said to him, "You are quite right in that verdict; and the sooner you come to my way of thinking, the better, for nobody can be a bigger fool than the man who does not believe in God." One of these days I expect to see him converted; there is a continual battle between us, but I never answer one of his arguments. I said to him once, "If you believe that I am a liar, you are free to think so if you like; but I testify what I do know, and state what I have seen, and tasted, and handled, and felt, and you ought to believe my testimony, for I have no possible object to serve in deceiving you." That man would have beaten me long ago if I had fired at him with the paper pellets of reason. So, I advise you to fight unbelief with belief, falsehood with the truth, and never to cut and pare down the gospel to try to make it fit in with the follies and fancies of men.
Spurgeon's view reminds me of Jesus' warning:
"Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6 ESV)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dragons and Unicorns


I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. (Job 30:29 KJV)

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? (Job 39:9 KJV)
Folks, there are reasons why we need to update our translations from time to time. Getting rid of dragons (except in Revelation when used symbolically) and unicorns is one of them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Am Not An Animal


Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.(Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)
Godless evolutionists tell me I am an animal, nothing more than the sum total of macro mutations from the primordial ooze. If I believed I am an animal with a cosmic accident for a beginning and no future to speak of,
If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Corinthians 15:32b ESV)
But the Word of God tells me that I have been created in his image. While the Scripture doesn't define what "image of God" means (though we conjecture that it meant that Adam and Eve were created with great characteristics such as freedom of will, self-aware intelligence and moral responsibility) it does show that I am distinguished from all of the other living things on this earth.

I'm special and so are you.

People get it all wrong when they ask (or imply), "How much can we get by with without getting into trouble with God?" This is a wrong way of thinking. Rather than wanting to toe the line to the outermost boundaries of acceptability we should ask ourselves something else. "How can I glorify God and reiterate the loftiness of my creation?"

Can you glorify God by cursing out another person created in his image? Or your car when it doesn't start?

Do you reiterate the loftiness of your creation when you indulge in sophomoric bathroom humor?

Do you announce to the world that you believe you are God's special creation (and live to glorify him) when you watch a dirty movie where people are behaving like animals and not special creation of God?

This is why I don't agree with committing sin.
This is why I don't agree with drinking.
This is why I don't agree with smoking.
This is why I don't agree with cursing.
This is why I don't agree with acting like an animal, led by base instinct.

This is why I believe in love.
This is why I believe in treating others rightly.
This is why I believe in holiness.

Because God created me and you as noble beings. We were created for the highest and the greatest of noble aspirations. We were created for heaven, not the gutter.

If you want to prove the evolutionists right—that you are nothing more than an animal—go ahead. I believe I was created for better things.

As Paul said,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
The word rendered "excellence" is ἀρέτη and it is an important word. William Barclay spoke of it this way,
In classical thought it described every kind of excellence. It could describe the excellence of the ground in a field, the excellence of a tool for its purpose, the physical excellence of an animal, the excellence of the courage of a soldier, and the virtue of a man. Lightfoot suggests that with this word Paul calls in as an ally all that was excellent in the pagan background of his friends. It is as if he were saying, "If the old pagan idea of excellence, in which you were brought up, has any influence over you--think of that. Think of your past life at its very highest, to spur you on to the new heights of the Christian way." The world has its impurities and its degradations but it has also its nobilities and its chivalries, and it is of the high things that the Christian must think.
What he said.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do you Really Want to Know the Truth?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)
If the Holy Spirit asked if you would allow him to enable you to understand the Bible—all of the Bible—with perfect doctrinal clarity would you take him up on his offer?

Would you say, "Yes!"

Really?

Many professing "Christians" wouldn't want him to do that. God's truth would be too inconvenient for their choices, lifestyles and habits. They'd rather play their version of church (and Christianity) without God being so rude as to bother their consciences with the truth.

Many "Christians" are guilty of the sin of idolatry. They create a graven image, an idol, a false messiah, another "Jesus" and another gospel to affirm their heresies and sins rather than the real Jesus who confronts them with the truth.
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29 ESV)
Doctrine is not based on what I want to be true. It's not centered on what I hope is true. Doctrine must only be formulated through careful interpretation of the Bible. God doesn't care what I want to be true. God only cares about what is true! It doesn't matter what I want Paul or Peter or James to mean; what matters is what Paul and Peter and James meant!
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (1 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV)
If you can't defend what you believe based on a careful examination of the Word of God then you don't have justification enough to believe it. Let me say that again: If you can't defend what you believe and approve based on a careful examination of the Word of God then you don't have justification enough to believe and approve it.

It's time for school to be in session. You must be like the Berean Jews after hearing Paul and Silas proclaim Christ:
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11 ESV)
I have a passion to understand what the Bible really means. What did the authors mean when they wrote to their original audiences?
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
This passion was borne from humbling experiences in Bible college where God showed me that some cherished doctrinal positions I believed were wrong. The Lord had to wreck me; he had to knock down faulty scaffolding and build new foundations. God had to deconstruct me before reconstructing me. And he did, trust me. Now I want to know the truth [hard gulp] no matter what.

Who cares if some of God's truth in the Bible offends my stupidities? God doesn't care. There is enough in the Bible to offend everyone. So what? There is enough offensive truth to get "Christians" angry at preachers who dare to tell them that truth.
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9 ESV)
Would you really want to Holy Spirit to reveal a doctrinal error to you—a doctrine, perhaps, that you hold near and dear to your heart, a theological falsehood that you derive comfort or even identity from? Are you willing to be disabused of a false notion? Or are you willing to be convicted of a wrong action that you've tried to tell yourself is okay? Are you willing for your life to be gloriously wrecked because God decided you needed deconstruction and reconstruction?

Are you loyal to the truth—whatever it is and wherever it leads—or your opinions, desires, prejudices and conveniences?

Do you really want to know? Really?