Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Churches: Strive For Excellence, Not Competition

I'm tired of competition in the Church. I'm tired of one congregation afraid she will lose members to another group (perhaps a sister congregation) in the community that has become the "It Church." The flavor of the month. "Hot."

It's so worldly and we Christians are supposed to be anti-cool, anti-slick, anti-commercialized. We are to be the very antithesis of "relevant" (whatever that means) but, rather, timeless. We rebuke society's fallen values, not applaud them.

Let's face it: not every church budget is created equal. Not every pastor will see the "success" of Francis Chan. Not every worship leader will be the next Darlene Zschech. Not every church will have an annual Passion Play with a cast of dozens and complete with live animals and multicolor lighting hitting angels as they descend (via wires) on the garden tomb.

Not every church will be a mega church. (And thank God for that. Seriously.)

No, not every church can compete with one another. But every congregation—whatever her size, whatever her budget, whomever her pastor and worship leader—can strive for excellence.

As Paul told the Philippians:
Finally, brothers...if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (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.
Strive for excellence. Have you ever seen it? Or heard it? Years ago a girlfriend took me to see pianist Jim Brickman in concert. He walked out onto the stage, sat down and began playing his song, The Promise, from his "Simple Things" CD. I was a novice to Brickman and didn't know his compositions but when The Promise began flowing from his piano I was instantly mesmerized, transfixed. I was haunted by its simple beauty. I whispered to my girlfriend, asking her for the song's name. I experienced excellence that night.

A high school English teacher told my class that when she laid her eyes on Michelangelo's "David" at Florence, Italy she began crying. Excellence can evoke that response in a person.

Here's the good news: Worshipers can experience excellence during your worship service this Sunday.

As Ecclesiastes instructs us, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might..." (9:10 ESV). God doesn't berate your preacher for not being John MacArthur; he should just strive to be the best preacher he can be. God never called your music ministry to compete with Hillsong Church. They should just work with what they've got to the best of their ability.

Reasonable people don't demand perfection but they have a right to expect excellence.

If it seems to a congregation that a preacher is just phoning in a sermon with a half-hearted slop job effort then the saints have been cheated.

If the church thinks the worship leader has just picked worships songs out of the hymnal that Sunday morning at random then they have been cheated.

If a Sunday School class or small group gets the impression that the teacher/leader just took a peek at the lesson a few minutes before the meeting then they have been cheated.

Do you best, whatever that is, and pray the Holy Spirit fall upon you and your efforts with Awakening Power.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

If a church is trying to sell herself like a product to a carnal world then she has prostituted her ministry and brought shame to the gospel of Christ.

I Hate "Slick" Christianity


I hate "slick" Christianity. That is, I hate it if I think a church is trying to be slick. It's hard to define but recognizable when seen. It's a gut feeling. When I see a website for a church that's trying to be slick it screams,
Look at us! Come to us! We're cool! We're relevant! We're happening! You won't have to be ashamed around your buddies to admit you come here! We're popular! Since we're cool then you'll be cool if you hang with us!
Sick. And slick.

When a church won't put on her website what denomination/affiliation she belongs to. Because she seems ashamed of them. Because they're not cool like she is.

When a pastor wears jeans with an un-tucked button-down shirt. And doesn't preach but talk. And the website says his sermons are "relevant" for your life. Affectation.

When a church tries to project an aura of being deliriously happy.

When the name of the church might as well become trademarked because it seems so commercialized, stylized and accessorized.

When the church and her leadership becomes a product to get you to buy week after week. And sell your friends on buying, too.

I actually heard of one church that passed out free beer to increase attendance! It worked. But Jesus wasn't smiling.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unbelief Or Faith?

In his book, Faith Aflame, Victor Glenn gives us a marked contrast between unbelief and faith:
What problem did unbelief ever solve? What worthy cause has it ever espoused? What good purpose has it ever served? Unbelief has marshaled an army of followers, yet its altars are drenched in the blood of things that might have been.

On the other hand, faith is a builder of monuments, an ennobler of purposes, and a creator of heroic courage. Someone has well stated that our faith will get us to the end of our journey faster than our own footsteps.
This sentence haunts me:
Unbelief has marshaled an army of followers, yet its altars are drenched in the blood of things that might have been.
What a word picture! Sad, but true.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

William Harney: A Revival Scoffer Was Struck Blind

The Wesleyan evangelist, the late William J. Harney of Wilmore, Kentucky, told of a sobering event during one of his revivals. The Holy Spirit struck a person temporarily blind for mocking the awakening. Harney recounts from his 1915 book, Praying Clear Through:
It was a bitterly cold winter afternoon, deep snow covered the ground. The thermometer was hovering around 28 degrees below zero, the church was packed, a great revival was sweeping the town.

The people were so stirred and moved, so wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, that about three hundred came to one service held at three o'clock in the morning. Imagine folks leaving their warm beds and warm homes and trudging through a wintry night to that service, and some walkingin about two miles from the country.

There were from forty to fifty seekers at the altar nightly. Scores were being saved and many sanctified wholly. The afternoon service we spoke of in the first paragraph was a most wonderful service. The manifestation of God's Spirit was great. Some of the Christians were so flooded with glory that they became quite noisy and a Mr. John Matthews sitting far back in the church began scoffing. We said to him, "Please do not do that," but he made a face at us. There was a large crowd of young folks near him, and we realized he was influencing them and they might consent to scoff with him, so we called the whole congregation to prayer. We prayed: "Our Father who art in heaven, this is Thy work, Thou art giving it Thy sanction, Thy Spirit is upon this meeting in marvelous power, now, we pray Thee, show this young man his sin by destroying the optic nerve for a few hours."

This prayer was breathed in us by the Holy Spirit, and we felt we must utter aloud that which was breathed into our innermost being. Right after praying this prayer, we felt that God would have us dismiss the congregation, and John with the others went his way, and we went to our room. We had not been there long, however, until Dr. Daugherty, the oculist, came running to our room, crying: "Oh, Brother Harney, John is blind, he is screaming out there in the street, the doctor is working with him. They are going to mob you." Instantly the Holy Spirit gave us the assurance and confidence that He was at work. He was answering prayer and we could rely on Him, He would see us through, so we calmly and quietly answered, "Tell the mob to come, but be sure you tell them that the first one who puts his hand on the yard gate will not only be struck blind, but paralyzed from head to foot as well." Did that mob come after such a statement as that? Never, they were afraid. They knew the Almighty God was working with John and they knew that He would protect His son,

The doctors worked eight or nine hours before John could see anything. God heard and answered the prayer of His children, As a result of this, great power fell upon the service and upon the people. They came from every direction, some of the Christians prayed all night, some fasting two or three days at a time. There was a tremendous spirit of soul agony upon the saints. One could hear the voice of prayer in almost every home, and no man dared to mock or scoff at the work of the Holy Ghost. The God of the Hebrew children, of Daniel, of the saints of all ages, was with His people. He was answering by fire.

Oh! do pause to obey the Holy Spirit, to live in such close touch with Him that He can whisper His thought into your soul and then you will dare to step out and proclaim His messages. Will you not do this? May God have the glory!
Makes you think, doesn't it? How many today would have the faith to pray this out loud?

The Never-Married Pastor


A friend who works at CNN (and is a deacon in her large church) sent me an email today about an article in the New York Times that irked her. It centered, in part, around Mark Almlie, a 37-year-old pastor who felt churches wouldn't hire him because he was a single man, never married.

Here is the NY Times article, Unmarried Pastor, Seeking a Job, Sees Bias

Also, Almlie wrote a two-part article about his problem:

Are We Afraid of Single Pastors? (Part One)
Are We Afraid of Single Pastors? (Part Two)

Almlie writes frankly in part two:
When I press people on why they think single pastors are treated with suspicion, 99 percent of the time I get a list of fears rather than actual evidence:
“What if he’s gay?”
“What if he flirts with all the single women at church?”
“What if he tries to steal a married woman for himself?”
“There must be something wrong with him because he’s single.”
“Aren’t single pastors more likely to molest our children?”
Fear. That’s what binds these comments together. Especially the fear of human sexuality/desire. As if human desire is a monster that can only be tamed by marriage. This fear certainly doesn’t come from being bombarded by national sex scandals involving protestant single pastors! So where does it come from? It is the cockroach of prejudice creeping around in the dark corners of our mind. It’s an irrational assumption that singles lack self-control, while married people do not.
This story resonates with me. I am a 40-year-old never-married minister. And yes, one honest church directly told me that they turned down my résumé because I am single and they were looking for a husband/wife team. This is in contradiction with the Scriptures because Paul, himself single, never made marriage a qualification to be a pastor.

LET ME BE CLEAR: I very much want to be married; I've prayed often for a wife. I just haven't found her yet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Confession of St. Patrick

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the
faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so
many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the
land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing
him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders
before every nation under heaven.

4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be
hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in
whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught;
and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the
Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father,
indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and
invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was
received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every
name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we
look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the
dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out
his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality,
which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and
co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the
Trinity of holy name.

5. He himself said through the prophet: Call upon me in the day of'
trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.' And again: It
is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.'

6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and
kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my
soul's desire.

7. I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: You
destroy those who speak a lie.' And again: A lying mouth deals death to
the soul.' And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: On the day of
judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.'

8. So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling,
this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or
hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins
before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord.
_________________________________________________________________

9. And therefore for some time I have thought of writing, but I have
hesitated until now, for truly, I feared to expose myself to the
criticism of men, because I have not studied like others, who have
assimilated both Law and the Holy Scriptures equally and have never
changed their idiom since their infancy, but instead were always
learning it increasingly, to perfection, while my idiom and language
have been translated into a foreign tongue. So it is easy to prove from
a sample of my writing, my ability in rhetoric and the extent of my
preparation and knowledge, for as it is said, wisdom shall be
recognized in speech, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in the
learning of truth.'

10. But why make excuses close to the truth, especially when now I am
presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth
because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own? But
who will believe me, even though I should say it again? A young man,
almost a beardless boy, I was taken captive before I knew what I should
desire and what I should shun. So, consequently, today I feel ashamed
and I am mightily afraid to expose my ignorance, because, [not]
eloquent, with a small vocabulary, I am unable to explain as the spirit
is eager to do and as the soul and the mind indicate.

11. But had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should not
have kept silent, and if it should appear that I put myself before
others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it is
written: The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and
distinctly.' How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it is
said: You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth
. . . written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the
living God.' And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic life was
created by the Most High.

12. I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently
unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for
certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep
mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and,
indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from
there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great
favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot
measure.

13. Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men
of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned
me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the
law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in
this world, he inspired before others that I could be--if I would--such
a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint,
would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave
me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with
humility.

14. According, therefore, to the measure of one's faith in the Trinity,
one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the
gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God's name
everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind,
after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in
the Lord in so many thousands.

15. And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his
humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after
captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour in these
people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor
imagined.
_________________________________________________________________

16. But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day
and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God,
and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that
in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a
like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the
mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in
icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any
slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at
that time.
_________________________________________________________________

17. And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a
voice saying to me: You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your
home country.' And again, a very short time later, there was a voice
prophesying: Behold, your ship is ready.' And it was not close by, but,
as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew
any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man
with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who
directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I
reached that ship.

18. And on the same day that I arrived, the ship was setting out from
the place, and I said that I had the wherewithal to sail with them; and
the steersman was displeased and replied in anger, sharply: By no means
attempt to go with us.' Hearing this I left them to go to the hut where
I was staying, and on the way I began to pray, and before the prayer
was finished I heard one of them shouting loudly after me: Come quickly
because the men are calling you.' And immediately I went back to them
and they started to say to me: Come, because we are admitting you out
of good faith; make friendship with us in any way you wish.' (And so,
on that day, I refused to suck the breasts of these men from fear of
God, but nevertheless I had hopes that they would come to faith in
Jesus Christ, because they were barbarians.) And for this I continued
with them, and forthwith we put to sea.

19. And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days
journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and hunger
overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: Why is it,
Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you
not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed
that we shall ever see another human being.' In fact, I said to them,
confidently: Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God,
because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food
for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he
abounds.' And with God's help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of
swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them,
and remained there for two nights, and the men were full of their meat
and well restored, for many of them had fainted and would otherwise
have been left half dead by the wayside. And after this they gave the
utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that
day they had food abundantly. They discovered wild honey, besides, and
they offered a share to me, and one of them said: It is a sacrifice.'
Thanks be to God, I tasted none of it.

20. The very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me
violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body; and
there fell on top of me as it were, a huge rock, and not one of my
members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in
the spirit, to call upon Helias'? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in
the sky, and while I was crying out Helias, Helias' with all my might,
lo, the brilliance of that sun fell upon me and immediately shook me
free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my
Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me, and I hope that
it will be so in the day of my affliction, just as it says in the
Gospel: In that hour', the Lord declares, it is not you who speaks but
the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.'

21. And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the
first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a
divine prophecy, saying to me: You shall be with them for two months.'
So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their
hands.

22. On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather
every day, until on the tenth day we came upon people. As I mentioned
above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-eight
days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no food.
_________________________________________________________________

23. And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents
[kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that
after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere
else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I
saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with
innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the
beginning of the letter: The Voice of the Irish'; and as I was reading
the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice
of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western
sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: We beg you, holy youth,
that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung
intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke.
Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them
according to their cry.

24. And another night--God knows, I do not, whether within me or beside
me-- . . . most words + . . . + which I heard and could not understand,
except at the end of the speech it was represented thus: He who gave
his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.' And thus I awoke,
joyful.

25. And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was as
it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me--that is, above
my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course
of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be
who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed
to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the
Apostle's words: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we
know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for
us with sighs too deep for utterance.' And again: 'The Lord our
advocate intercedes for us.'

26. And then I was attacked by a goodly number of my elders, who
[brought up] my sins against my arduous episcopate. That day in
particular I was mightily upset, and might have fallen here and for
ever; but the Lord generously spared me, a convert, and an alien, for
his name's sake, and he came powerfully to my assistance in that state
of being trampled down. I pray God that it shall not be held against
them as a sin that I fell truly into disgrace and scandal.
_________________________________________________________________

27. They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence I had
confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in my
sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated on
a day--nay, rather in one hour--in my boyhood because I was not yet
proof against sin. God knows--I do not--whether I was fifteen years old
at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, nor had I
believed, since my infancy; but I remained in death and unbelief until
I was severely rebuked, and in truth I was humbled every day by hunger
and nakedness.

28. On the other hand, I did not proceed to Ireland of my own accord
until I was almost giving up, but through this I was corrected by the
Lord, and he prepared me so that today I should be what was once far
from me, in order that I should have the care of--or rather, I should
be concerned for--the salvation of others, when at that time, still, I
was only concerned for myself.

29. Therefore, on that day when I was rebuked, as I have just
mentioned, I saw in a vision of the night a document before my face,
without honour, and meanwhile I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me:
We have seen with displeasure the face of the chosen one divested of
[his good] name.' And he did not say You have seen with displeasure',
but We have seen with displeasure' (as if He included Himself) . He
said then: He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye.'

30. For that reason, I give thanks to him who strengthened me in all
things, so that I should not be hindered in my setting out and also in
my work which I was taught by Christ my Lord; but more, from that state
of affairs I felt, within me, no little courage, and vindicated my
faith before God and man.

31. Hence, therefore, I say boldly that my conscience is clear now and
hereafter. God is my witness that I have not lied in these words to
you.

32. But rather, I am grieved for my very close friend, that because of
him we deserved to hear such a prophecy. The one to whom I entrusted my
soul! And I found out from a goodly number of brethren, before the case
was made in my defence (in which I did not take part, nor was I in
Britain, nor was it pleaded by me), that in my absence he would fight
in my behalf. Besides, he told me himself: See, the rank of bishop goes
to you'--of which I was not worthy. But how did it come to him, shortly
afterwards, to disgrace me publicly, in the presence of all, good and
bad, because previously, gladly and of his own free will, he pardoned
me, as did the Lord, who is greater than all?

33. I have said enough. But all the same, I ought not to conceal God's
gift which he lavished on us in the land of my captivity, for then I
sought him resolutely, and I found him there, and he preserved me from
all evils (as I believe) through the in-dwelling of his Spirit, which
works in me to this day. Again, boldly, but God knows, if this had been
made known to me by man, I might, perhaps, have kept silent for the
love of Christ.

34. Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day
of my temptation, so that today I may confidently offer my soul as a
living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather, what
is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so
that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify
your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune,
but even in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad,
I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed
to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will
encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to
undertake so devout and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate
one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be
heralds of his Gospel to witness to all peoples to the ends of the
earth. So are we seeing, and so it is fulfilled; behold, we are
witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places
beyond which no man lives.

35. But it is tedious to describe in detail all my labours one by one.
I will tell briefly how most holy God frequently delivered me, from
slavery, and from the twelve trials with which my soul was threatened,
from man traps as well, and from things I am not able to put into
words. I would not cause offence to readers, but I have God as witness
who knew all things even before they happened, that, though I was a
poor, ignorant waif, still he gave me abundant warnings through divine
prophecy.

36. Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither
knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the so
great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though I
should lose homeland and family?

37. And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears, and I
offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a good
number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them nor
deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in
me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to
preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers; that I might
hear scandal of my travels, and endure many persecutions to the extent
of prison; and so that I might give up my free birthright for the
advantage of others, and if I should be worthy, I am ready [to give]
even my life without hesitation; and most willingly for His name. And I
choose to devote it to him even unto death, if God grant it to me.

38. I am greatly God's debtor, because he granted me so much grace,
that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after
confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the
masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the
earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: To you shall the
nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, "Our fathers
have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no
profit."' And again: I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that
you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth.'

39. And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never unfulfilled,
just as it is promised in the Gospel: Many shall come from east and
west and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.' Just as
we believe that believers will come from all the world,

40. So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently,
just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, Follow me, and I will
make you fishers of men,' and, again, through the prophets: "Behold, I
am sending forth many fishers and hunters," says the Lord,' et cetera.
So it behoved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng
might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who
baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord
says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I
have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time.'
And again he says: Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all
creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who
does not believe shall be condemned.' And again: This Gospel of the
Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to
all nations; and then the end of the world shall come.' And likewise
the Lord foretells through the prophet: And it shall come to pass in
the last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all
flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men
shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my
menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit
and they shall prophesy.' And in Hosea he says: Those who are not my
people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call my
beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, "You are not
my people," they will be called 'Sons of the living God."'
_________________________________________________________________

41. So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge
of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they
are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God;
the sons of the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the chieftains are
to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.
_________________________________________________________________

42. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born
noble Irish [Scotta] woman of adult age whom I baptized; and a few days
later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had received a
prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that she should
become a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to God. Thanks be
to God, six days from then, opportunely and most eagerly, she took the
course that all virgins of God take, not with their fathers' consent
but enduring the persecutions and deceitful hindrances of their
parents. Notwithstanding that, their number increases, (we do not know
the number of them that are so reborn) besides the widows, and those
who practise self-denial. Those who are kept in slavery suffer the
most. They endure terrors and constant threats, but the Lord has given
grace to many of his handmaidens, for even though they are forbidden to
do so, still they resolutely follow his example.

43. So it is that even if I should wish to separate from them in order
to go to Britain, and most willingly was I prepared to go to my
homeland and kinsfolk--and not only there, but as far as Gaul to visit
the brethren there, so that I might see the faces of the holy ones of
my Lord, God knows how strongly I desired this--I am bound by the
Spirit, who witnessed to me that if I did so he would mark me out as
guilty, and I fear to waste the labour that I began, and not I, but
Christ the Lord, who commanded me to come to be with them for the rest
of my life, if the Lord shall will it and shield me from every evil, so
that I may not sin before him.

44. So I hope that I did as I ought, but I do not trust myself as long
as I am in this mortal body, for he is strong who strives daily to turn
me away from the faith and true holiness to which I aspire until the
end of my life for Christ my Lord, but the hostile flesh is always
dragging one down to death, that is, to unlawful attractions. And I
know in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other believers,
but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am
not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love
of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by
God's favour, I have kept the faith.

45. What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not
keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown
to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who knew
everything, even before the beginning of time.

46. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who frequently
forgave my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance so as not
to be violently angry with me, who am placed as his helper, and I did
not easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit was
urging; and the Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of times,
because he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was ignorant
of what to do in view of my situation; because many were trying to
prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves behind my
back, and saying: Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among
enemies who know not God?' Not from malice, but having no liking for
it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity. And
I was not quick to recognize the grace that was then in me; I now know
that I should have done so earlier.

47. Now I have put it frankly to my brethren and co-workers, who have
believed me because of what I have foretold and still foretell to
strengthen and reinforce your faith. I wish only that you, too, would
make greater and better efforts. This will be my pride, for a wise son
makes a proud father'.

48. You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my youth in
the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the heathen
among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show them trust.
God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider it, for the
sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring about]
persecution for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord's name be
blasphemed because of me, for it is written: Woe to the men through
whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.'

49. For even though I am ignorant in all things, nevertheless I
attempted to safeguard some and myself also. And I gave back again to
my Christian brethren and the virgins of Christ and the holy women the
small unasked for gifts that they used to give me or some of their
ornaments which they used to throw on the altar. And they would be
offended with me because I did this. But in the hope of eternity, I
safeguarded myself carefully in all things, so that they might not
cheat me of my office of service on any pretext of dishonesty, and so
that I should not in the smallest way provide any occasion for
defamation or disparagement on the part of unbelievers.

50. What is more, when I baptized so many thousands of people, did I
hope for even half a jot from any of them? [If so] Tell me, and I will
give it back to you. And when the Lord ordained clergy everywhere by my
humble means, and I freely conferred office on them, if I asked any of
them anywhere even for the price of one shoe, say so to my face and I
will give it back.

51. More, I spent for you so that they would receive me. And I went
about among you, and everywhere for your sake, in danger, and as far as
the outermost regions beyond which no one lived, and where no one had
ever penetrated before, to baptize or to ordain clergy or to confirm
people. Conscientiously and gladly I did all this work by God's gift
for your salvation.

52. From time to time I gave rewards to the kings, as well as making
payments to their sons who travel with me; notwithstanding which, they
seized me with my companions, and that day most avidly desired to kill
me. But my time had not yet come. They plundered everything they found
on us anyway, and fettered me in irons; and on the fourteenth day the
Lord freed me from their power, and whatever they had of ours was given
back to us for the sake of God on account of the indispensable friends
whom we had made before.

53. Also you know from experience how much I was paying to those who
were administering justice in all the regions, which I visited often. I
estimate truly that I distributed to them not less than the price of
fifteen men, in order that you should enjoy my company and I enjoy
yours, always, in God. I do not regret this nor do I regard it as
enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more. The Lord has
the power to grant me that I may soon spend my own self, for your
souls.

54. Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am not
lying; nor would I write to you for it to be an occasion for flattery
or selfishness, nor hoping for honour from any one of you. Sufficient
is the honour which is not yet seen, but in which the heart has
confidence. He who made the promise is faithful; he never lies.

55. But I see that even here and now, I have been exalted beyond
measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy that he should grant me this,
while I know most certainly that poverty and failure suit me better
than wealth and delight (but Christ the Lord was poor for our sakes; I
certainly am wretched and unfortunate; even if I wanted wealth I have
no resources, nor is it my own estimation of myself, for daily I expect
to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion
arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I
have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere.
As the prophet says: Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain
you.'

56. Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for
whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of
persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the
least of his ministers.

57. For which reason I should make return for all that he returns me.
But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I,
alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me. But let him
search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it, even too
much, and I am ready for him to grant me that I drink of his chalice,
as he has granted to others who love him.

58. Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his
people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he
gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a
faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.

59. And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my
God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood
for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left
unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by
dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the
air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had
saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we
shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of
Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs
of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for
him and in him.

60. For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command, but it
will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who worship
it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not
die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never
die, no more shall he die who has done Christ's will, but will abide
for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father
Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now
and for ever and ever. Amen.

61. Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my
confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God
and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and
his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had
previously escaped with difficulty.
_________________________________________________________________

62. But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to
examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned
sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my
ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that
was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have
been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.

Focus 40 — Day 1

Lord, help me get rid of the old wineskins in my life—the empty, dried up spiritual disciplines, or lack thereof, that are no more than just going through the motions. Replace them with your fresh, new wineskins filled with the new wine of the Spirit of God in fresh anointing, new miracles, new intimacy, and fresh power from your throne. Amen! — Randy Montgomery

40 Daily Devotionals (PDF)

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Facebook Challenge


Here's a wonderful Christian discipline; pick one of your facebook friends—be it from high school or college, a work associate, family member or just a friend—and pray for that person's salvation every day. (I placed my person's picture as my cell phone's background image and it reminds me to pray for my friend throughout the day.) Determine how long you are going to pray for the same person, such as indefinite, a week, a month, the season of Lent, etc. Keep the identity of your prayer friend anonymous. Try it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dr Lloyd-Jones Documentary on George Whitefield



As a Wesleyan it's obvious who I would have made a biography of but what interests me is that the Doctor narrated this account.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Birthday King James Version!

For vnto vs a child is borne, vnto vs a Sonne is giuen, and the gouernment shalbe vpon his shoulder: and his name shalbe called, Wonderfull, Counseller, The mightie God, The euerlasting Father, The Prince of peace. Of the increase of his gouernment and peace there shall be no end, vpon the throne of Dauid & vpon his kingdome, to order it, and to stablish it with iudgement and with iustice, from henceforth euen for euer: the zeale of the Lord of hostes will performe this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
For God so loued ye world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life. (John 3:16)
While I do not use the King James Version as my pulpit or devotional Bible—I use the ESV (and John Wesley thought the KJV was biased toward Calvinism)—I must acknowledge that it has been the most influential English book in history. It turns 400 years old this year!

1611—2011



Planned Parenthood's 'Truth Tour" Does Not Mention the 332,278 Abortions It Performed in 2009 | CNSnews.com

Planned Parenthood's 'Truth Tour" Does Not Mention the 332,278 Abortions It Performed in 2009 | CNSnews.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Who Are My Readers?

I update my website because I want to spread the word on conservative Wesleyan theology and the need for a new Great Awakening. I'm curious; who are my readers? I'd like to ask you to do something. Please send me an email and tell me if you read my blog. You don't have to give me your last name or life story if you don't want to. I'd just like to know if I'm filling a need in the blogosphere.

Also, if you'd like to suggest a post (or series of posts) on a topic I'd be glad to hear about them. What would you like to hear about? I need your help; give me your opinion. :)

Pray for me,
Larry

Friday, March 4, 2011

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Video Interview

Wayne Grudem on Prophecy and Miracles Today

Recently I found a two-part interview between blogger Tim Challies and Wayne Grudem on cessationism vs. continualism (Do "miraculous" gifts still operate today or have they stopped?).

Grudem is interesting because he holds strong academic credentials (B.A. Harvard, M.Div. Westminster, Ph.D. Cambridge) and teaching history (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Phoenix Seminary). He is the author of the über popular Systematic Theology (which I own), among other works. Grudem was heavily involved in the making of the English Standard Version, my favorite Bible translation. He is both Reformed (Calvinistic) and a continualist.

We in the Church of God (Anderson) are open to spiritual gifts and miracles though we tend to get suspicious of what many people claim to be the gift of tongues.

Read it for yourself!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Doesn't Revival Come?


But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV)
In 1946 the director of "The Wesleyan Hour" broadcast, A. J. Baughey, accused the Church in his work, The Ministry of Prayer:
True prayer is a powerful ministry in itself. It is a neglected ministry. We often hear of some who desire to "work for the Lord," and say they are "willing to do just anything He tells them to do," but too often the case is that of someone wanting to preach, be Sunday School Superintendent, or teach a class rather than become engaged in the ministry of prayer. By careful observation, I know it is easier to get people to sing, testify, teach, or even attempt to preach, than it is to pray. Announce a fifteen-minute prayer service before the regular service in any church and notice how many will respond! Very few indeed; however, thank God there are some exceptions. There are some folk who will rally for a little while, but to call together a good group who will unite in prayer continually, is practically out of the question. Is it any wonder the churches are cold and powerless?
God, forgive us!

A. J. Baughey: Thanksgiving and Healing

Don't neglect the important aspect of worship in prayer. Wesleyan preacher, Aaron J. Baughey, in his book, The Ministry of Prayer, shares an exciting incident from one morning's prayer session:
Although petition does not have first place in our prayers, it does have its place. It means, "that which is asked or supplicated" in prayer. If you will excuse a personal reference let me say, it has become a habit with me to begin my prayers "with thanksgiving." This always blesses us when we begin giving thanks to God for what He has already done for us, and soon we are in a good spirit of prayer, and know better how to make our petitions known to God.

This experience will throw some light on the thought: I retired on Saturday night with a sore throat; upon arising for my early prayer the next morning, I discovered my throat was still sore although before retiring I had asked the Lord to touch me. I had begun to pray however before I paid much attention to my feelings, and was thanking the Lord for His manifold blessings when I noticed I still had a sore throat. At once I was impressed to ask God to touch me, but I realized if I did, it meant I would have to stop thanking Him for all He had done, and I had not finished as yet with praising God. The Spirit seemed to check me at this point, so I continued praising the Lord, and by the time I got through with my praises I discovered to my delight that the soreness was gone from my throat. Probably had I broken off my praise and prayer of thanksgiving to petition God for my throat, I would not have been relieved as quickly; however, you see God knows our needs and granted my petition before I asked Him, for He knew I was going to ask Him to touch my throat after I had finished praising and thanking Him.
Praise the Lord! Worship God! Thank him for who he is and what he does!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

H. E. Baker and His Holy Spirit Vision

Free Methodist Church evangelist, H. E. Baker, knew experiences in the Holy Spirit. In his book, Modern Visitations of The Holy Ghost, the preachers shared some special times of refreshing. As he described in one place:
...we must have continual baptisms, or (you may call it) fresh anointings. On one occasion these waves of glory swept over my soul like an incoming tide from three o'clock in the afternoon until nine o'clock the next morning. I rolled on my bedroom floor until time to preach, staggered down the street to my pulpit, and preached on my knees for thirty-five minutes, while every person in the audience wept and cried, and there was not one sitting: all were on their faces crying unto God.
Brother Baker shared a detailed account from a July 1978 campmeeting in which Doyle Sadler preached:
Then, on Wednesday night, the great manifestation of the Holy Ghost was revealed. It was only 7:00 in the evening and thus no lights were yet needed. The evangelist as yet had not started to preach. The spirit of that service was high. In the beginning, as waves of old time power swept over the service, many were praising God and were drunk on the new wine. As the preacher began, I was sitting not more than eight feet from one wall and six feet from another since I was near the corner of the tabernacle. With my eyes on the preacher and my heart and soul drinking in the truth of the message, I noticed something strange, that where I sat, (and I sat alone in the corner) it was much lighter than the rest of the tabernacle. But being caught away now by the message, I kept my eyes upon the evangelist. Then the light increased and my peripheral vision caught sight of what appeared to me as one effulgent ball of fire. Without taking my eyes off the preacher, I gazed with my peripheral sight to see if any new wires had been installed or if any lines ran along the top plates next to the roof or upon the floor, but there was none. Still I had never taken my eyes off the evangelist. I sat there for twelve to fifteen minutes trying to figure out in my mind what this light was. Then, as the preacher paused for a moment, I turned to look. And as I turned, I saw before my eyes a blazing bail that was as bright as the sun. It was about as large, I would say, as a honeydew melon. At this there came a flash and then a sound like that of two hot or live electric wires touching one another and then the Holy Ghost was gone as far as the light was concerned. Only His power remained to help and to bless the people of God.

After the service, with no lights yet turned on, I left my seat and took about five steps and stood under the place where God's light had appeared. I noticed how bright and clean the rafter was. And as I stood there I wanted to reach up and touch the place where the Holy Ghost had appeared, because it was whiter than the other rafters, but I was afraid that the power of God's Spirit would drop me to the floor so I turned and went my way.

I said nothing to anyone. But the ecstasy that took hold of my being was indescribable. As waves of glory swept over my soul, I could not contain it all. I felt that I would die if God did not lift His hand. After a great service, with a great many finding victory, I went to my room. I thought when I retired that now having seen God the Holy Ghost, I would die during the night. But at 6:00 the next morning, my body still weak from the night before I went to early prayer.

At 11:00 A.M. we had another service and the power of God came on the people like rain. The preacher carried us out in the Spirit. The altar was full of seekers and among them were a number of preachers seeking for the baptism of the Spirit. I did not go up around the altar, as I felt that God was holding me back; for what, I did not know. But I remained in my seat.

After about twenty minutes, and no one had gotten the victory; God said to me, "Now go over, and take hold of that young preacher's hand who seeks the second blessing." So I arose as I was told to do and went to him. I was standing and as I put my right hand into his, I said, "Stand to your feet;" and as he did the Holy Ghost baptized him with fire and power and he shouted the victory. And whenever my eye caught his, the glory would -- I praise God -- come again. God then sent me to others at the altar, about seven or eight more, and that same thing was repeated over and over again. And this was carried on into the rest of the camp. I cannot say how many that God brought through to victory that way.

After going to bed one night, someone called me to the place of prayer where they were waiting, and as my hands touched the seeker, God's power fell and victory came. Now I was not alone in this. Others saw the same ball of fire, though as yet I had not told anyone. But they saw what I had seen the night after, and the next night.

There is a lot to tell you yet, but I will leave the rest to others. Only let me say this in closing. I was all but exhausted by the last service and to get away from the weight that I felt up front, I went to the back of the tabernacle, and sat there almost unable to sit up as I am eighty two years young. But once more the Holy Spirit said, "You go up to the front and take that woman who is seeking by the hand as you have others, and tell her to look up and stand up." I said, "O God, I cannot walk down there, but O God, if you will give me strength now I will obey you." In just one moment I was up and heading for the altar. Again I did as God told me. I took her by the hand and said, "Sister, stand up." and as she did so God the Holy Spirit filled her soul as she shouted the victory and entered into what we as Methodists (old-time) call the second blessing. And great was her joy in the Lord. So I say, "Glory be to God the Father, God the Son and God, O God the Holy Ghost world without end."
May God forgive us! In our church services we have much talking but so little power. It doesn't have to be that way.