Through Broken Vessels

“It has been well-said that before God uses a man greatly He must first break him breakly. God works best through broken vessels who have been crushed by the hammer blows of the devil. The more we desire to be used by God the greater must be our willingness to suffer for Him. There are no easy paths in ministry. Every assignment is a killing place.

This quote and brief sermon jam comes from Dr. Steve Lawson’s ministry during the 2010 Shepherds’ Conference in California at Dr. John MacArthur’s church.

During this time of trial and troubles, I would be remiss if I did not admit that I struggle with fears of my own. I fear for family, for friends, and for churches. Yet, down through the ages of church history, persecution has always given the church wings to grow and be refined as the Bride of Christ.

If you also have fears, look to Jesus and be a broken vessel fit for the Master’s use.

The Tailspin of Civilization

Tailspin – the word is used to describe the motion of an aircraft that is in a diving descent combined with the aircraft spinning around and around. It is a problem that has caused the crash of many aircraft when the pilot cannot recover.

Cambridge English Dictionary defines tailspin as – “A situation in which something starts to fail or lose value and gets more and more out of control.”

Our society and culture is in a tailspin. Our country is in a tailspin. To be honest, I believe that western civilization is in a tailspin.

There are myriads of situations where things have either started to fail or have lost value. This has caused our country to get more and more out of control. Here are a few of the many reasons why this is true.

1) God is no longer considered relevant.

The atheist Voltaire stated (as have others in various forms), ““In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”

The west has long abandoned seeking after God and there is nowhere this is more evident than in so-called evangelical circles. Men and women proclaiming themselves to be messengers of God have twisted the Scriptures to mean whatever they want them to mean. The number of evangelicals who believe the fundamentals of the faith has dropped drastically and even the Scriptures are no longer held up as the authority for all that pertains to life and godliness.

2) The Scriptures are no longer revered.

The Bible is the ONLY book inspired by a holy God. ALL other books that are proclaimed to be “holy” are bogus. They were written by men who had no true love for the almight God of the universe. ONLY the Bible changes lives, and ONLY the Bible offers hope to all of mankind who will come to the foot of the cross and place their faith in Christ alone. PLUS NOTHING and MINUS NOTHING.

3) The laws of God are ignored.

When Jesus Christ (Yeshua) walked this earth, He fulfilled every aspect of the law. During His ministry, He gave two laws that all are to follow or they stand in defiance of God and will remain separated from His holiness.

First, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and body. Simply stated, if there is anything that you love MORE than you love God, then are willfully, deliberately, and wickedly defying the first command by creating idols of your own choosing.

Second, we are to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves. Our world has twisted this on its head and tells us that we don’t love ourselves enough. The world says we need to think more highly of ourselves before we can care and love others. However, the Bible says that we are NOT to think of ourselves highly, but in lowering ourselves in humility, we are to esteem and raise others up.

4) Morals are no longer considered absolute.

Doris Day sang her way into many homes when she sang “Que Sera Sera.” Loosely translated, it means “Whatever will be, will be.”

Today’s society and culture considers as acceptable everything that is opposed to the holiness of God. They flaunt their wickedness in the faces of true believers by the trampling underfoot of Biblical marriage, the Biblical roles of men and women, the Biblical definition of family, the Biblical definition of government, the Biblical definition of life, etc.

To be clear, per the Word of God:

A) Biblical marriage is between one man and one woman for life. It is NOT between two men, two women, a human and an animal, a human and an inanimate object, etc.

B) Biblical roles are defined by God. This means that if you were born a man that you will die as a man. If you were born a woman then you will die as a woman. NO amount of mutilation or medicine will ever change that.

C) Biblical families are families that consist of one man and one woman having children and raising them to the honor and glory of God.

D) Biblical government is one that recognizes the sovereignty of God and seeks God for wisdom and understanding so that they may know how to govern rightly.

E) Biblical definition of life is that it is given by God for He alone creates life. This means that abortion for ANY reason undermines the sanctity of life as given by God.

Conclusion:

Currently in America, there is much destruction taking place because a black man, sadly, lost his life. We have something due process of law in this country. This means that the court system and jury of their peers will be charged with determining whether the police officers involved were to blame.

However, despite all the destruction, I see NOBODY protesting at the loss of life that takes place due to gang activity every single week in cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit.

Despite all the looting and burning, I see NOBODY protesting at the loss of life that takes place by the tens of thousands every year in predominantly African-American communities when pre-born infants are MURDERED.

The looting, protesting, burning, destruction of property, endangering of the lives of innocent individuals has NOTHING to do with a single individual who lost his life. ALL of this is taking place because of the total depravity of the heart of man.

This has NOTHING to do with race, politics, or whatever reason you want to put in the blank. Man flouts the law of God, corrupt governments let it take place, and the results are being seen on the nightly news.

When morals are whatever you determine them to be, then the strife, hatred, confusion, etc. that we are currently seeing take place in America is justified.

When God is not honored and worshipped, then life is meaningless.

When the laws of Christ are hated, then mankind will use any and all excuses they can to ruin the lives and properties of others. Anarchy will reign supreme and people will live in fear.

When the rules that govern life are devoid of the Bible, then the rules are meaningless and will change daily to suit the whims of those seeking to enforce them.

Those who are true believers need to pray for wisdom. We need to humble ourselves before God and seek forgiveness for ALL the areas in which we have walked contrary to the laws of God. Our churches need to seek forgiveness for failing to uphold the truth of God’s Word and proclaiming that it is good and right for ALL that pertains to life and godliness. We need to pray for revival and seek God’s face.

ONLY then will the world sit up and see that there truly is a difference and a joy that comes from loving and following Jesus.

The Humble Coronation of King Jesus

Regardless of the situation in the world, this time of year should be a beautiful reminder that Spring is coming. With the Spring, comes what the world calls Easter. However, for true believers, we are preparing to celebrate Resurrection Sunday!

Matt 21:1-11 records the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ the Messiah into Jerusalem. This is the lead-up to Passion Week where we remember what Christ suffered and that culminated in His death and burial.

1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

In this short message, John MacArthur brings this passage in Matthew to the forefront of our hearts and minds.

Charles Spurgeon on the So-Called Free Will of Man

sheep-found-1005-115From his sermon, “The Holy Spirit in the Covenant,” preached on a Lord’s Day morning, 1856

What a vain pretense it is to profess to honor God by a doctrine that makes salvation depend on the will of man! If it were true, you might say to God, “We thank thee, O Lord, for what thou hast done; thou hast given us a great many things, and we offer thee thy meed* of praise, which is justly due to thy name; but we think we deserve more, for the deciding point was in our free will.” Beloved, do not any of you swerve from the free grace of God, for the babblings about man’s free agency are neither more nor less than lies, right contrary to the truth of Christ, and the teachings of the Spirit.

How certain, then, is the salvation of every elect soul! It does not depend on the will of man; he is “made willing” in the day of God’s power. He shall be called at the set time, and his heart shall be effectually changed, that he may become a trophy of the Redeemer’s power. That he was unwilling before, is no hindrance; for God giveth him the will, so that he is then of a willing mind. Thus, every heir of heaven must be saved, because the Spirit is put within him, and thereby his disposition and affections are molded according to the will of God.

*Meed = reward, fitting return, recompense

 

More of Spurgeon on God’s Sovereignty

Brethren, if God does not rule everywhere, then something rules where he does not, and so he is not omnipresently supreme. If God does not have his will, someone else does, and so far that someone is a rival to God. I never deny the free agency of man, or diminish his responsibility, but I dare never invest the free will of man with omnipotence, for this were to make man into a sort of God, an idolatry to be loathed. Moreover, admit chance anywhere, and you have admitted chance everywhere, for all events are related and act on one another. One cog of the wheel of providence disarranged or left to Satan, or man’s absolute freedom apart from God, would spoil the whole machinery. I dare not believe even sin itself to be exempted from the control of providence, or from the overruling dominion of the Judge of all the earth. Without providence we were unhappy beings, without the universality of the divine power providence would be imperfect, and in some points we might be left unprotected and exposed to those evils which are, by this theory, supposed to be beyond divine control. Happy are we that it is true, “the Lord doeth as he wills in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”

Spurgeon, Charles, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 16, (Albany, OR: Ages Software) 1998.

The Absent Family in Prayer

Here was our conclusion from “Shaken in Prayer.”

Romans 8:28 is not a standalone verse. It comes AFTER we begin to pray with the mind of the Spirit that we can then claim verse 28. Why? Because those who love God will have all things work together for good. Why? Because we are called according to His purpose. It is His way and His will that matters. Prayer is NOT about us and our wants and even our needs. It is about learning to pray in a way that matches the will of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

Sadly, too many who claim the name of Christ prefer to pray like this: “God, please do and accommodate my will in heaven as I want it to be done on earth.”

We go to church and say that we want the power of God to fall in our midst. Yet, we could not stand if it actually did. And the reason it does not fall as the Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing is that we have asked amiss. We ask the wrong questions, pray for the wrong things, and then stop praying and consider it a waste of time because we don’t get the answers we want from God.

Now, we raise our children to ignore prayer because they see no fervency in our times of prayer. Let me expand on this a few minutes.

For years our family have gone to prayer meetings in various churches that I pastored or where we were members. Apart from our children, I can count on both hands the number of children I have seen through the years in attendance. Our family believes firmly that if church is important enough to attend, then our children (even when they were little) should be sitting with us and learning why we pray.

As with many church services, the number of people in attendance drops drastically from a Sunday morning to a Sunday evening. Even more dramatic is the drop-in attendance from a Sunday to a mid-week prayer meeting.

When I pastored in England, we had some dear brothers and sisters who would come to mid-week prayer meeting. With not one week’s exception during our years there, the request would always come in to pray for wayward children to come back to God.

As disheartening as this will sound, I am convinced that one main reason that children flee from church and have no interest in the things of God is because that is the way they were raised.

English churches are no different than the ones here in America. Excuses were always given that it was too late because of school or whatever to attend anything other than a Sunday morning. Yet, having visited many homes I knew that many of those children that were supposedly getting ready for bed and then school were actually playing video games or watching television with the parent who chose to stay home.

What are they actually teaching their children? Let’s make this more personal. What are WE teaching our children? At no point have they engaged in prayer apart from the perfunctory blessing over the meal. At no point have they realized the wonder of God and the truth that He delights to bless His children AND He delights to hear the prayer of those who walk in righteousness before Him.

When your children are absent from times of collective prayer, you are teaching them that prayer is not important. You also teach them that you believe life is possible without having to resort to that old-fashioned notion of humility before the throne of God.

So, here is the order of events.

1) Send our children to junior or children’s church so they never learn to sit through worship and give attention to the Word of God being faithfully proclaimed.

2) Keep our children at home for any other scheduled events. Don’t get me wrong here. I know there are reasons why littles might be kept home if services are late. However, as they get older, they should be learning the true meaning of worship.

3) Refuse to keep them in during times of communion (like they do in England). Instead of being able to observe the testimony of believers one to another in the solemn rejoicing over the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the children have no idea why this little addendum to a service once a month is vital to our remembrance of the Savior.

4) During times of prayer, allow them to run around or play instead of paying attention to the prayers of the saints. This allows them to grow up without knowing the blessing of seeing prayers being answered.

5) As they grow older, let them “make their own decisions” as to whether they want to go to church or not.

6) Come to church prayer meeting as an older adult and mourn. Complain loudly that you don’t understand why they don’t know God. Cry for them to return to the fold.

Oh, my dear, dear readers. The reality is that they were NEVER in the fold. We taught them everything they know and don’t know about church because gathering collectively was not important to us.

Worshiping God and praying humbly before Him was not a priority.

Many times, I have visited churches and heard them invoke the reply of God to King Solomon about the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 and claim it for themselves or the church at large. While the principles of this verse can be found throughout the Scriptures, what we fail to comprehend is the requirement for God to hear us is that WE MUST PRAY!

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Prayer meetings are not usually humbling because we have grown accustomed to lives of ease. We trot our little wish lists, make a show of coming before the Almighty God of all creation, and then quickly leave so we can go about our lives.

It is as though we come to the foot of the cross just briefly, stand back up and with a backward glance, we call out, “Thanks God for listening. I’ll just pick up my burdens and take it from here again!”

Why, oh why is prayer so hard?

We will look at these in-depth in another post, but here are four reasons.

First, prayer is hard because it requires true humility that can only come from God.

Second, prayer is hard because it requires true confession of sin before God and before those whom we have offended.

Third, prayer is hard because it requires true dying to self daily.

Fourth, prayer is hard because it requires true faith that God does answer prayer. He does and will not always answer the way we want or like because His goal is not our happiness and our satisfaction. God answers in the manner and timing of His choosing so that He may be glorified in Himself.

Let’s close with these words from James 4:6-10 and a brief word of exhortation.

6 But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Parents, you are to be an example of Christ to your children. We are to be a witness to our own households. We must be taking time to pray or learning to pray if we have done little before. When you go to church and if there is a prayer time, INCLUDE your children. They have plenty of time to play and do games, but there will never be enough time in prayer.

If prayer is not important or you have no desire to humbly approach the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then you may need to do a heart checkup and see whether or not you are one of His children.

In the meantime, I encourage you to watch this video and maybe for the first time in a long time – Behold Your God!

—- To be continued —-

Don’t Be Offended

Years ago, I heard a testimony by a man who said that he was determined to not get offended. At the time, I thought that was an interesting goal but not one I’d ever considered. The older I get, the more I realize what a worthy goal that is. How many relationships have ceased, or at least been greatly strained, because one person became offended over something another person did or didn’t do.

I can’t say that I have mastered this but it is something that I am asking God’s help in. I find that, often, the person who caused the offense does not realize they have done so and, in this age of not wanting to offend others, the offended does not follow the Biblical principle of going to their friend to let them know they’re hurt or offended. This is so sad!

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One thing that helps me is realizing that I am not always easy to get along with either. There really is something to showing the grace to others that you would like to receive in return.If someone has offended you to the point that it is affecting your relationship, I would recommend that you go to that person and talk to them. Explain that you were offended by their actions and how you would like things to play out in the future.

If they listen and are willing to work through things, you have saved your relationship. If they aren’t, then you may need to distance but at least you did what you could. Then ask God to give you a pure heart toward that person. If you continue to let it fester, it could turn into bitterness, which may affect other relationships and will hinder your relationship with God. Pray too that God will give you an open heart if you are struggling with bitterness over a damaged relationship. Humility is the best path to pursue when striving to walk the path toward the future.

Thoughts on Fear

I’ve been pondering lately what makes people afraid. To fear is to not trust God but the average person would not give that as a reason for their fears. I know, in my life, my biggest fears have been due to thinking God would not intervene in a bad situation. The bottom line was that I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to accept the fact that God may not give me what I wanted. (How selfish is that!)

In talking with a friend recently, I realized that fear in some people may have to do with knowing that one is not right with God. Maybe they fear God will do bad things to them because of how they are living, or maybe they’re afraid of dying because they know that they are not ready to meet Him.

trustinggod

If this is the root of your fear, it is not too late to repent of your sins and ask God’s forgiveness. God did not give you that spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He desires for you to walk in faith and victory, completely trusting Him in everything! This is not impossible.

When one knows that there is nothing hidden in their life that is displeasing to the Lord, he or she can lay down that fear and walk in complete trust, knowing that God will take care of them. Sure, disappointments will still come. We will still face financial stress, sickness, death, and a myriad of other things but we will also be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

I am praying for strength to trust Him more than ever this year. This past few years, I’ve dealt with more fears than I remember dealing with previously, but I know in reality that nothing can happen to me that my God doesn’t allow. I am continuing to learn to rest in that. I pray that you are too.

Speak the Truth in Love

I don’t know what your first thought was when you saw the title to this post, but my emphasis is going to be on two small, but very powerful words: in love.

We live in a world where people are willing, and often way too eager, to give their opinions on things. Gone are the days when people would weigh their words and find a way to be gracious toward others (at least to their face).

Although there is a need for honesty in a time where it’s near impossible to know who to trust, many forget that, if they don’t have love, they are merely a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). If something needs to be said, there is a way to say it, and that way is with grace and humility.

One could argue that Jesus was not always graceful when He confronted sin, but I don’t feel like this gives us the right to get in people’s face, tear them down, call them names, etc. Jesus taught His disciples to love each other and to think of others as better than themselves. If you truly believe that the person you are confronting is better than you, you will consider your words carefully before you say them.

truthinlove3

People are more likely to receive a rebuke if they know you love them and truly care about them. If you are more concerned with being right than you are about the other person being right with God, then hold your tongue and do not attempt to address the issue. More often than not, you will just make things worse, and they may harden their heart even further and never repent.

I see this in doctrinal debate too. I love being around people who are strong in their faith and know what they believe, but some have a hard time having strong beliefs without condemning those who have different beliefs. Within the Church, there are different callings, gifts, and, yes, even doctrines. Just because someone believes differently than you do does not mean they do not love Jesus. If you are a true Believer, you are most likely at a different place in your spiritual walk than you were ten years ago. We should all be constantly learning and growing, so learn to bear with those who are at a different place than you are.

In John 17:21, Jesus prayed that we would be one, just as He and the Father are one, but that unity will not come by fighting each other. You are responsible to study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15), but there is a way to do those things, and the answer is lovingly.

I leave you with these words from the apostle Paul: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). That is my prayer for all of us. Don’t let the enemy use you to bring strife and division among God’s people. Instead, encourage each other to love and good works and, if rebuke is necessary, ask God to help you to do it in love.

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, emphasis added).

As I was reading the Beatitudes the other day, this verse especially jumped out at me. It seems like the verses on purity and holiness are the least-quoted verses any more, but I am challenged by this verse.

I wonder how many people on earth are truly pure in heart. It is a rare person who doesn’t at least struggle with lust, jealousy, anger, etc. Yet, these are some of the things that can keep us from seeing God.

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Despite popular belief, we have no reason to be proud. We should be constantly asking God to search us and try us and show us those impure thoughts and motives. We should be daily drawing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be blessed. I want to see God. I want to be pure so that I don’t stand before Him full of shame and disgrace. I want to hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” I expect that I will be more aware than ever before of how holy He is and how wretched I am. But I praise Him that He saved a wretch like me, and I will continue singing, “More like the Master I will ever be. More of His meekness, more humility. More zeal to labor, more courage to be true. More consecration for work He bids me do.

The Pastor – Chapter 6, The Use of Titles

How men love titles! Does your “pastor” like to be called “doctor” or even “pastor”? Are such titles biblical for the gathered people of God? The Solaauthor gives this peek into today’s message:

Now to grasp another nettle. Titles. The New Testament never uses any title for any man in the church. What is more, it categorically forbids it. Nowadays, however, most Christians do use titles – or one in particular – and do so without turning a hair, even though it contradicts Christ’s plain command. Complaining of the scribes and Pharisees who loved ‘to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi”’, Christ said: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call any one on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:1-12). But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call any one on earth your father… And do not be called teachers… But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (NKJV).

Chapter 6 can be found here.

Chapter 5 is here.

Don’t Quit

Sometimes I wonder why God still bears with me when I still struggle so much. After so many years of serving Him and seeing His hand at work, there should never be a time that I doubt Him. But then I don’t think I doubt Him as much as I doubt myself. Even in that, I am constantly learning and hopefully growing. I expect this will be the case until He takes me Home.

God said that He would not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3), but the Psalmist noted that God will not despise a broken and a humble heart (Psalm 51:17).  We will never be perfect this side of Heaven (although we need to continually strive to be so); yet, when we fall, we must be quick to humble ourselves, admit our failure, get up, and try again. The Bible is full of imperfect people that God used but He knew their hearts were turned toward Him. If we never struggled, we may become full of pride, at which point we would be totally useless.

qualified

If you are struggling today and feel like a failure, ask God’s forgiveness. Realize that the enemy is trying to bring you down in order to render you totally ineffective for the Kingdom. I wish I knew who said that “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” That is definitely true in my life, and I expect it is in yours too.

So today, I just want to encourage you: Don’t quit. Keeping running the race. Do the best you can to faithfully do what God has called you to do. If He wanted it done perfectly, He could do it without you. All you need to do is do your best and let Him take care of the rest. Thank Him that He still has a work for you to do. After all, if He didn’t, you would not be here.

What Would Jesus Fly?

From a secular writer, this article at Huffington Post says it all. If you follow the teachings of a man like Dollar and think he is a true man of God, then you have been duped by Satan himself. This man is a fraud, a shyster, nothing more than a carnival side-show trying to masquerade as a messenger of the Most High God of heaven.

jet-gulfstream-g650-8

Here is what the apostle Paul has to say about people like Creflo in 2 Corinthians 11.

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

The article includes this choice tidbit – “World Changers Church International said, ‘A long-range, high-speed, intercontinental jet aircraft is a tool that is necessary in order to fulfill the mission of the ministry.'”

How strange – the tool Christ found necessary to fulfill the mission of the ministry was a rough, blood-soaked crown of thorns and a wooden cross!

For the record – the Savior HUMBLED Himself and found Himself despised and rejected by men. He found nowhere to lay His precious head and did not lay up treasures upon earth. Creflo can have all he wants down here because this is all he will ever have because judgment is coming in the next.

Why I’m a Calvinist, and Not a Jerk!

We welcome a guest blogger to Defending Contending. George Alvarado may be known to some of you as the author of the book Apocity. I hope that we can learn from the attitude he portrays on what is often a sensitive issue and one that is not always found with a great degree of humility.

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Imagine someone drowning and gasping for air as they are gargling water trying to cry for help. Just before they black out, their lungs fill with water, preventing them to give a final cry, and their body sinks to the depths. As they black out, they feel nothing but the cold water surrounding them, and hear nothing but a deafening silence that welcomes them to their watery grave. Then, they wake up and find themselves underneath the pressure of someone administering CPR. As their chest is compressed and their lungs fill with air from their rescuer, they begin to regain consciousness and the breath of life is once again restored to their own control. When they take their first, deep breath, the adjoining exhale is filled with overwhelming gratitude towards the person that resuscitated them from certain death. Now, imagine a local journalist reporting on this incident asking this person their thoughts on this event, and they say, “I am really glad I chose to come back to life. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I didn’t take my first breath.”

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Continue reading

Self-elevated little popes!

A gem from A. W. Pink:

Self-elevated little popes!

(Arthur Pink, “Private Judgment” 1950)

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.” Matthew 23:8

In every generation, there are those of an officious spirit who aspire to leadership, demanding deference from their fellows. Such men insist upon unqualified subjection from their followers. Their interpretation of the Scriptures must not be challenged, their dictates are final. Everyone must believe precisely what they teach, and order all the details of his life by the rules of conduct which they prescribe–or else be branded as a heretic.

There have been, and still are, many such self-elevated little popes in Christendom, who deem themselves to be entitled to implicit credence and obedience, whose decisions must be accepted without question. They are nothing but arrogant usurpers, for Christ alone is the Master of Christians; and since all of His disciples are “brethren,” they possess equal rights and privileges.

“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father–He who is in Heaven.” Matthew 23:9. This dehortation has ever been needed by God’s people, for they are the most part simple and unsophisticated, trustful and easily imposed upon. In those verses, the Lord Jesus was enforcing the duty of private judgment, bidding believers to allow none to be the dictators of their faith, or lords of their lives.

No man is to be heeded in spiritual matters, any further than he can produce a plain and decisive, “Thus says the LORD” as the foundation of his appeal. To be in subjection to any ecclesiastical authority which is not warranted by Holy Writ, or to comply with the whims of men–is to renounce your Christian freedom. Allow none to have dominion over your mind and conscience. Be regulated only by the teaching of God’s Word, and firmly refuse to be brought into bondage to “the commandments and doctrines of men.” Instead, “Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free,” yielding unreservedly to His authority alone.

God does not require the minds and consciences of His children to be enslaved by any ecclesiastical dominion. Each one has the right to exercise his own judgment.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care . . . not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3. Instead of lording it over God’s heritage, preachers are to be “examples to the flock”–personal patterns of good works, holiness, and self-sacrifice; models of piety, humility, and charity.

Love of power has been as common a sin in the pulpit, as love of money, and many of the worst evils which have befallen Christendom, have issued from a lusting after dominion and ecclesiastical honors. Such is poor human nature, that good men find it hard to keep from being puffed up and misusing any measure of authority when it is committed unto them, and from not doing more harm than good with the same. Pastors are to make self-abnegation, and not self-exaltation, their constant aim.

The right of private judgment does not mean that each Christian may be a law unto himself, and still less lord over himself. We must beware of allowing liberty to degenerate into license! No, it means the right to form our own views from Scriptures, to be in bondage to no ecclesiastical authority, and to be subject unto God alone. Two extremes are to be guarded against:
1. slavery to human authority and tradition, and
2. the spirit of self-will and pride.

Private judgment does not mean private imagination, but a deliberate conviction based on Holy Writ! Though I must not resign my mind and conscience to others, or deliver my reason and faith over blindfold to any church–yet I ought to be very slow in rejecting the approved judgment of God’s true servants. Self-conceit is to be rigidly restrained. Private judgment is to be exercised humbly, soberly, and impartially, with a willingness to receive light from any quarter.

Ponder the Word for yourself; but mortify the spirit of haughty self-sufficiency, and be ready to avail yourself of anything likely to afford you a better understanding of God’s truth. Above all, daily beg the Holy Spirit to be your teacher! And always accord your brethren the same right and privilege, which you claim for yourself.

HT: http://gracegems.org/Pink/private_judgment1.htm

Quotes: Charles Spurgeon on Humility in the Pulpit

From the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, in his work “The Soulwinner”:

“In the matter of soul-winning, humility makes you feel that you are nothing and nobody, and that, if God gives you success in the work, you will be driven to ascribe to Him all the glory, for none of the credit of it could properly belong to you. If you do not have success, humility will lead you to blame your own folly and weakness, not God’s sovereignty. Why should God give the blessing, and then let you run away with the glory of it? The glory of the salvation of souls belongs to Him, and to Him alone. Then why should you try to steal it? You know how many attempt this theft. ‘When I was preaching at such-and-such a place, fifteen persons came into the vestry at the close of service, and thanked me for the sermon I had preached.’ You and your blessed sermon be hanged, – I might have used a stronger word if I had liked, for really you are worthy of condemnation whenever you take to yourself the honour which belongeth unto God only. You remember the story of the young prince, who came into the room where he thought his dying father was sleeping, and put the king’s crown on his head to see how it would fit him. The king, who was watching him, said, ‘Wait a little while, my son, wait till I am dead.’ So, when you feel any inclination to put the crown of glory on your head, just fancy that you hear God saying to you, ‘Wait till I am dead, before you try on My crown.’ As that will never be, you had better leave the crown alone, and let Him wear it to who it rightly belongs. Our song must ever be, ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake.'”

How Dare You Keep Me Accountable to That!

ACCOUNTABILITY
Accountability is a funny thing. When we become Christians we eventually come around to knowing that we need accountability. More often, however, we make it our priority to get really good at holding others accountable. We are very serious and committed to the accountability of others regarding their faith, their witness, and their obedience. From time to time our friends will come to us and return the favor and it is very difficult to accept. It is never easy to be on the receiving end of the accountability stick.

In all our efforts to ensure our loved ones (and acquaintances…and total strangers) are toeing the proverbial Christian line, I believe that we routinely miss the 2 most important Christ-like behaviors. In all our zeal and good intentions, there are 2 areas to which we never call others to account. I want to focus on these 2 traits that Christ exhibited that truly require our utmost attention in holding ourselves and others accountable. Bear with me as I put the microscope on each of us (author included) and shoot very close to home here. I expect this to sting a bit because it stung greatly as it was revealed to me. We are very quick to call others to account, but are we holding them accountable for what is really important?

**Disclaimer – this article is directed towards our efforts in the accountability of others and not targeting our personal convictions. Many may hold strong convictions in the areas listed below, which I do not intend to criticize in any way. My concern is strictly with what we are missing in our accountability. **

As we sit back and ponder the ways to which we can leave our mark on the accountability factor for all those we know, we must think of the most Christ-like traits…several come to mind immediately:

1. Accountability to how we dress and modest feminine clothing.
2. Accountability to what we watch on TV and the music we listen to.
3. Accountability to having a TV at all!
4. Accountability to what preachers we listen to…or who that preacher has associated with at one time.
5. Accountability to proper doctrine!
6. Accountability toward homeschooling, women in the workplace, who we vote for, holidays we do or don’t celebrate, how much we give and where we give.
7. You name it and we will keep you accountable to it!

We are so good at calling these out when we see it. Are we definitely getting towards Christ-likeness with these? Are these common topics bringing the beauty of Christ to mind? I must say, they do not. Do these things really jump out as the Christ-like traits? They do not. Are these the behaviors that really resemble Christ? Are these the behaviors that our sanctification is leading to? Sanctification is the process of squeezing us through the meat grinder so that when we come out the other side we look more like Christ. Is this what it looks like? I think not. Each of these may require accountability as will drugs, alcohol, sexual impurity, and lying. But we are still missing 2 huge ones that are vital to our witness.

CHRIST-LIKENESS
So, what are we missing? We are so quick to hold others accountable, yet we miss these. I propose that the 2 traits most Christ-like requiring an increase in attention for accountability are:

1. Demonstrating humility.
2. Loving one another.

1. Humility: Was Christ humble? Yes – infinitely so! In Philippians 2:5-9 we see that Christ humbled Himself by leaving his glory in Heaven and emptying Himself to be in the form of a servant – a human. He had to be come nothing to be like us. He was humble to the point of obedience in death on the cross. Christ was infinitely humble. In Zechariah 9:9 it was prophesied that He was to come humble, on a donkey. He didn’t come like the king that He is, with an entourage, trumpets, majestic horses, and great fanfare. He came on a donkey, lowly and humble, a man of no reputation.This is a Christ-like trait that we should be demonstrating as Christians. We should be known as humble. Is that our reputation? Is this one of the things that people say of you?

Now, with focusing on humility, I don’t mean that we need to be humble when we come to hold others accountable on the laundry list above. I mean we need to HOLD others accountable to being humble! We need to come to our brothers and sisters and encourage them to be like Christ – lowly, humble, gentle, and kind in all things…even in our strong and bold defense of the gospel.

Paul, James, and Peter get in the act as well in 1 Corinthians 10:1, James 4:6-10, and 1 Peter 3:8, 5:5-6, where we are told to humble ourselves, be tenderhearted, like Christ who was meek and gentle. “A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not extinguish.” (Isaiah 42:3)

Are we urging each other to be humble? Are we stirring each other up towards humility? Are we seeking a humble spirit? Christ was humble and we should be humble. We need help being humble since it is contrary to the sinful pride and arrogance buried deep in our hearts.

2. Love: Was Christ Loving? Yes, of course, infinitely so! This is a touchy subject, however, because talking about Christ and His love can quickly brand you as a liberal with no backbone. I address this below. One of our tenants is “I love you enough to tell you the truth.” This is admirable in many many cases and horrendously unloving in many others. Do we sense the balance and do we see the line enough to not cross over it like a bull in a china shop? The line – the distinction – is defined by trait number 1. If we approach others with humility and true love for that person then it will be profitable. If we approach them in pride and arrogance then we are just hiding behind the word LOVE while we feed the self-righteous monster inside us. Do we truly demonstrate the Christ-like love we are called to?

Again, I’m not speaking of holding others accountable to the laundry list above in a loving way, I’m talking about HOLDING others accountable to love one another. We must love one another as followers of Christ.

All the laws and commandments are boiled down to two: Love God will all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mat 22:34-40). The commandments come down to truly loving our neighbor. In John’s first epistle, he summarizes a long passage about love by stating that this is what we were commanded: “believe in the Lord Jesus and love one-another.” (1 John 3:22-24). We are commanded to love one another. Why is this overarching commandment the one least discussed? I suggest a reason below.

Are we seeking a spirit of love towards one another? Are we stepping out of our obsession with ourselves long enough to actually love one another? Are we calling each other to love? Are we holding each other accountable: a) in love, and b) to love? Are we placing love for one another as the primary commandment and law between mankind where it belongs?  We should be. We need helping in loving one-another. We have to stop loving ourselves if we are to love one-another.

YOU LIBERAL
How dare you hold me accountable to that! Shouldn’t we be bold with the truth? Yes, if you can do it in a Christ-like manner with love and humility. Don’t we have a responsibility to call out the unrepentant sin, false doctrine, and immodesty? Yes, if we can do it in a Christ-like manner with love and humility. I can hear some shouting and the computer screen, “That’s weak! That is classic liberal, touchy feeling, God is love, ecumenical, mumbo jumbo!” Or, maybe you aren’t vocalizing it but if we are honest, those of us in the fundamental and reformed camp must admit that we cringe at the “God is love” crowd and the “peace and love” crowd. Isn’t this all for the hippy Jesus freaks and the ecumenical crowd? If we are honest, our impulse is to recoil from the suggestion that we must hold each other accountable to Humility and Love as the utmost importance.

But, let’s not recoil. Instead let’s make our greatest desire to be Christ-like. Let’s give into the sanctification process and let our attitudes be conformed into the image of Christ who was infinitely humble and infinitely loving. He commanded us to love. These concepts aren’t owned by the emergent church and Rob Bell. Love and humility is owned by Christ! He is the founder of such things. Take it back. Let us be known as those who are truly humble and truly love one-another…even our enemies and those who disagree with us.

If we want to be like Christ, we must humble ourselves in the form of a servant and to the point of death, while loving one another preemptively and sacrificially to the point of death.

We need to help each other in this.

Let’s together hold each other accountable to be more like Jesus.

Quotes (860)

“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum up all in one word – what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and loves also the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible bodies, looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.”  – Mathetes – Epistle To Diognetus, 5-6

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35

Quotes (797)

“Be ye separate” – 2 Cor. 6:17

The Christian, while in the world, is not to be of the world.  He should be distinguished from it in the great object of his life.  To him, “to live”, should be “Christ”.  Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he should do all to God’s glory.  You may lay up treasure; but lay it up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves break not through nor steal.  You may strive to be rich; but be it your ambition to be “rich in faith”, and good works.  You may have pleasure; but when you are merry, sing psalms and make melody in your hearts to the Lord.  In your spirit, as well as in your aim, you should differ from the world.  Waiting humbly before God, always conscious of His presence, delighting in communion with Him, and seeking to know His will, you will prove that you are of the heavenly race.  And you should be separate from the world in your actions.  If a thing be right, though you lose by it, it must be done; if it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your Master’s sake.  You must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.  Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity.  Remember, O Christian, that thou are a son of the King of kings.  Therefore, keep thyself unspotted from the world.  Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in His beauty – let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets – let not those hearts to be filled with pride and bitterness which are ere long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

-C.H. Spurgeon

1834-1892

Quotes (750)

“He humbled Himself.” – Philippians 2:8

Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart.  We need daily to learn of Him.  See the Master taking a towel and washing His disciples’ feet!  Follower of Christ, wilt thou not humble thyself?  See Him as the Servant of servants, and surely thou canst not be proud!  Is not this sentence the compendium of His biography, “He humbled Himself”?  Was He not on earth always stripping off first one robe of honor and then another, till, naked He was fastened to the cross, and there did He not empty out His inmost self, pouring out His life-blood, giving up for all of us, till they laid Him penniless in a borrowed grave?  How low was our dear Redeemer brought!  How then can we be proud?  Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed; see the thorn-crown; mark His scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and His whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in His outward frame; hear the thrilling shriek, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it; if you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know Him.  You were so lost that nothing could save you but the sacrifice of God’s only begotten.  Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you, bow yourself in lowliness at His feet.  A sense of Christ’s amazing love to us has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt.  May the Lord bring us in contemplation to Calvary, then our position will no longer be that of the pompous man of pride, but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much because much has been forgiven him.  Pride cannot live beneath the cross.  Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.

– Charles Spurgeon

1834 – 1892