Sunday, November 22, 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Questions

  Chapter 29: The Gifts of Prophetic Insight Imperative Today – Part II


As a part of this study we are asked, each week, to consider 5 questions.  It is helpful if we can spend a day or two thinking about them prior to answering them.  Some weeks questions seem to be easier than others, but they are always helpful in processing the material.  Perhaps, this week, you might imagine sitting with a friend and having a discussion.  Your friend completely out of the blue asks you:

1.  Have you ever “heard” directly from God? What was his intent/message?

How might you answer? 

Or perhaps they know you are engaging in this study and they ask about this week's experience


 2.  What are you hearing or otherwise learning from God through the experience of this study?

Or maybe even...

3. What do you think would God have you change about yourself to become more like he wants you to be?

It's helpful sometimes to consider how we would answer others who ask such questions rather than just asking ourselves the question.

And then...

4. What impact might these changes he seeks in you have on your work, your relationships with others, your time and efforts in your congregation, your neighborhood, your family?

And as always, after you have considered all of this, what is the bottom line in your relationship with the Lord, concerning the matter of intimacy, hearing from Him, discerning His will for you, here and now or...

5. What is God saying to me about all of this? 

I hope you will take the time to consider these questions.  If you've read this far, I'd love to hear your comments, constructively critical, encouraging, or otherwise.  You may feel free to comment anonymously, but it'd be helpful, for context, if I knew a bit more about you.  

-Soli Deo Gloria





The world cries out...

Tozer, in this weeks reading, lifts up the idea that:

"Today, the religious situation cries out for the skilled moral physician who can diagnose our ills and prescribe wisely for our cure...It is imperative right now that we have the benefit of the piercing discernment of the Spirit. We must not only know what God has said; we must hear what God is now saying." [p. 111]

As I implied in the last post - it is a shame that preachers so often simply go through the motions, following an idealized lectionary to ensure a balanced treatment of the scriptures rather than seekng to carefully discern the particular needs of the congregation.

I have struggled with this very issue this week as I prayerfully sought a sermon topic, scripture lesson, or issues that I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to address.  When all else failed I went to the lectionary passages for this Sunday and voila I was convicted. (So I'm not saying the lectionary has NO value rather that it needs to be seen as secondary.)  It's a message that the world so needs to hear today, republican, democrat, socialist, communist, federalist, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Agnostic, rich, poor, sick and well.  It has to do with "sacrifice." Sacrifice is a word rarely used today.  In our "me first", "I need", "I deserve", "I want", entitlement oriented world, we have lost the concept of sacrifice. Our success often, if not always, comes at the expense of others.  We refuse to see success as necessarily being a matter of personal failure, personal sacrifice, personal emptying. Success is seen as getting rather than giving.


In Ezekiel 34:11-17 and Matthew 25:31-46 (pre Revised Common Lectionary passages) we find the matter of judgement, sheep, and goats.  The Ezekiel passage plays with the idea that the judgement will take place between the sheep themselves.  Those sheep which have thrived at the expense of the others, the fat, healthy, and strong sheep will be destroyed.  The stray, weak and injured sheep will be provided for.  And the question becomes whether or not the sheep are watching out after one another; whether or not the Shepherds are playing favorites with the sheep. The True Shepherd is coming to search for these lost and scattered sheep.  And he's coming with a Ricky Ricardo, "Lucy, you've gotta lotta splainin' to do" attitude.

Jesus, the Shepherd of whom Ezekiel spoke, clarifies this judgement even further with the thought that our own actions will judge us.  We who are aware of the situation and don't act, don't stand up, don't protect and defend...we who allow the goats to flourish at the expense of the sheep, or even some sheep to suffer so that other's may succeed, who scatter the sheep...

In our own situation today, we tend to see a lot of control and manipulation in the name of self interest/self love, "what will help me to prosper", "how do I get my way" attitudes.  Even when we hear the call to provide for the scattered, the injured, and the weak, it still seems to be put on others to provide for them, or "it's the government's job to care for them", or a "let's pay for it from the church's budget".  It's rarely a "this is my responsibility."  And in Jesus' parable those guilty of not providing, caring, encouraging are proclaiming ignorance of the needs while the blessed are claiming ignorance of their own personal helpfulness...as if personal sacrifice for the sake of the other was so natural and ingrained they never even realized they were helping.  The lesson here is that if we think we're doing things to help others, we're probably doing it out of selfishness.  Real help comes from those who are oblivious to the amazing job they are doing.  Those are the kind of people we need today...NOT those who have a plan to address it, or an idea of how to address it, or a solution to the problem, but people who are the solution because of the way they live... Are we living like healthy sheep at the expense of the other sheep, or are we sacrificing our own well being, and becoming the poor, the lost, the weak, for the sake of the other sheep.  Will we, like Jesus, sacrifice everything we have, becoming poor in so many ways, in order to prosper others? When He comes, will he find us well fed and cared for but damned or wandering, scattered, and weakened by our service for Him.

Are we ready to assume the role of becoming less so that He may become more in other's lives [John 3:30]?

Monday, November 16, 2020

Cause or Effect

 

The sentence that leapt off the page for me in this week’s reading was this:

“The effects of revival are being mistaken for the causes of revival.”

I recall the Willow Creek Association (now the Global Leadership Network) in its initial days. The Willow Creek Church had grown in an almost unprecedented way. Everyone in the midwest wanted to know why. Every church wanted to harness that power, that process, that means. And Willow Creek set up a “school” of sorts to teach other churches how to do what they had done. And to be sure some churches were able to harness those productive processes and grow, but not like Willow Creek. Too often, in so may similar cases, effects are mistaken for cause.

Christian Book Stores’ shelves are lined with books on “7 Steps to Renewal”, “12 Habits of Effective Preachers”, “How to Position Your Church for Revival” or similar titles. The problem is, while there certainly are elements of our lives which need to be in line with the Spirit if we are to experience revival, any specific, particular methodology is rarely successful. The Spirit blows where it will.


Preachers need to be able to discern the need of their particular congregations. Individual members need to be able to properly discern their own spiritual standing and hunger. And that takes hard work.

As Tozer rightly points out:

“The critical need in this hour of the church’s history is not what it is so often said to be: soul-winning, foreign missions, miracles. These are effects, not causes. The most pressing need just now is that we who call ourselves Christians should frankly acknowledge to each other and to God that we are astray; that we should confess that we are worldly, that our moral standards are low and we are spiritually cold. We need to cease our multitude of unscriptural activities, stop running when and where we have not been sent and cease trying to sanctify carnal projects by professing that we are promoting them ‘in the name of the Lord’ and ‘for the glory of God’… And this must be done in our own lives first and then in the churches of which we are a part.” [p. 112]

We have become of the world by being to deeply engaged in worldly affairs. I believe that for many Christians it very likely is a time to simply “tarry in Jerusalem” and to closely examine what we are holding so fast to, until the Lord clearly sends us on our way, recalibrated, renewed, revitalized, and refreshed. I know in my own life just how much this past year of struggle, discernment, and patient, prayerful contemplation has meant to my own spiritual growth.

As we move into the homestretch of this study let’s keep in mind that there is no quick fix to our predicament. Our patterns of behavior are deeply ingrained. Habits are easy to form and hard to overcome. But with patient endurance and prayerful discernment, the Lord, who is always faithful, will reveal, restore, and revive us.

 


 

 


Friday, November 13, 2020

Questions

Tozer: The Size of the Soul Chapter 28 

The Gifts of Prophetic Insight Imperative Today – Part I  


1. In what ways do I see God’s ability to speak to his church limited or hampered by sin?


2. In what specific ways do I see God speaking to or otherwise addressing the current moral and spiritual needs and conditions of his church?


3. What kind of prophetic works do I see being done in the church today?


4. To what extent and in what ways is my experience helping me to speak a prophetic word to the congregation of which I am apart?


5. What is God saying to me about this?


Monday, November 9, 2020

The Gift of Prophetic Insight Imperative Today Pt.1

 Tozer raises a HUGELY significant matter in this week's reading. It might be paraphrased as:

He likens today's pulpiteers' sermons to mechanized expositions of scripture devoid of contemporary contextualization. I find this to be spot on as I review pastor after pastor who does nothing more than "follow the lectionary passage for this week" and then try, sometimes desperately, to force the "theme" into a fabricated potential contemporary application.  Gone are the days, or so it seems when: men of God - proclaimed the Word of God - to the people of God - so as to enable them to become the righteousness of God.

These days, it seems that pastors are far too comfortable in their "presbytery protected pay packaged profits" customized just for preaching a soft and fuzzy, warm and affirming, encouraging and endorsing, counselor type message.  The hell fire and brimstone, the judgement which begins with the household of God;  the "sit down, shut up and listen" preachers have given way to the sin-affirming, culture conforming, scoundrel supporting  consultative, huggy feel goods permeating and feminizing our pulpits with messages of the 1960's hippy "god loves everyone" sing-song that sends people on their way to hell feeling oh so good about their choices. We seem to have the form of godliness without the power [2Timothy 3:5].

If you accept the ordination of women to preaching positions, then where are your Deborah's?  If you don't then where are your Isaiah's? I'm not talking about someone who is no more that a mouthpiece for the government, a nationalist, federalist, idolater (who loves laying their hands on the president and affirming his ever-so-less-than-righteous-lifestyle because it so closely matches their own profligate prosperity gospel) but one who would preach the same message to their sons and daughters, their jailers, their accusers, their employers, and those holding guns to their heads, knowing that the church of Jesus Christ is ALWAYS and forever above and beyond earthly judgement, that prophets need to tell any person in leadership to "sit down, shut up, and listen to the word of God without respect to their office. Done, of course in Christian love and appropriate deference, because God is no respecter of persons [Acts 10:34]

We need new kind of religious leader. 

He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. He will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce, and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.

There are leaders out there like this, but too few. They rarely appear in pulpit finery, and even more rarely in denominational settings.  These are the ones that refuse to compromise the gospel for income, refuse to soften the Word of God for popularity, who refuse the counsel of the "friends of Job" that so often make up denominational commitees and boards.  These are the ones to whom we need to look and to listen.


“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:12]

Friday, November 6, 2020

Questions

Not Papal Infallibility But the Witness Chapter 27

 

1. In what ways do I see common knowledge evident in both Christians and non-Christians where I am? 

I see references to explanations of earthquakes, causes of distress and war, understanding of mathematics and general scientific principles, teachings on environmentalism and all sort of attempts to explain the political situation in the USA (with presupposed understanding that lacks spiritual insight)...


2. Do I see any evidence of knowledge received by faith amongst my non-Christian friends, co-workers, or students? If so what? If not, why not?
 
I see a certain level of conviction regarding the need for compassion and grace amongst many non-believers as well as believers. But, generally speaking, I sense a strong disconnect between the interpretation and understanding of things as they are and as they should be between between non-believers and believers.  Non believers generally are constantly focused on what is or what society thinks should be or what the consensus is, whereas believers are focused on what is in light of what God says should be the reality and what God's Word proclaims to be the consensus that matters.

3. In what specific ways has the Holy Spirit convicted me in the past?
 
Of where and when to go (but rarely how, just to go) of particular messages to be preached or to be given to people, of excitement regarding things that are to take place (re: today and the mail I received), and always the words "I love you."
 
4. In what ways is the Spirit convicting me regarding my time spent and work efforts in these trying times?

That I am to be still, to be patient, and to watch His glorious plan unfold!

5.  What is God saying to me about all of this? 
 
Abide in me and be still...watch and see the great work He is about to do in my life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Statistics...

I'm often surprised at who stops by this blog -  5 October - 4 November:

  • United States                   386
  • Germany                          134
  • Russia                                17
  • Thailand                             12
  • United Kingdom                   8
  • Canada                                7
  • United Arab Emirates           6
  • France                                 6
  • Netherlands                         6
  • Ukraine                               5
  • Finland                                2
  • Hungary                              2
  • South Korea                       2
  • Luxembourg                        2
  • Norway                              2
  • Oman                                 2
  • Poland                                2
  • Turkmenistan                      2
  • Brazil                                 1
  • Other                               38

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

"It's Complicated"

Tozer gets rather deep in this week's chapter.  It is difficult to get through without a broader reading of Tozer's materials in books such as The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God's Pursuit of Man to name but a few. He mentions "three degrees of knowledge open to Christians."  

1.  "The first is the common knowledge shared with all persons, namely the data furnished by the senses and by reason operating upon such data."

2.  "The second is the knowledge received by faith. It consists of all data given by divine revelation and received by the believing mind without proof.  

3.  "The third kind of knowledge is that given by direct spiritual experience...It has nothing to do with the senses and so it is not physical or natural data It has nothing to do with ethics or doctrine so it is not moral or theological knowledge."

Now before we get too far into the weeds some background on this type of discussion is in order. Traditionally, Reformed Christian theology has put forth two types of Revelation (that is means by which God reveals Himself who is Truth)

1.  The first is General Revelation - information about God which is discerned through nature and reason - 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
[ Psalm 19:1-2]

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God
has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, 
his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived,
ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. 
So they are without excuse. [Romans 1:19-20]
 
General Revelation includes a consciousness of God (though that may be denied) and includes a general awareness of one's sinful estate.
 
2.  The second is Special Revelation - information about God which is discerned through supernatural means other than reason -
 
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
[Psalm 19:7-9]   
 
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that 
brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:
 “The righteous will live by faith.” [Romans 1:16-17]
 
Special Revelation generally refers to God's self revelation through Holy Scripture (which is only properly discerned through the presence of the Holy Spirit in one's life).
 

 So, when Tozer begins talking about this third means of knowledge he sets the conversation into what, I would suggest has more to do with the actual spiritual experiences or convictions which, though in line with Scripture, are beyond simply the words of scripture and which may not otherwise be generally discerned.
 
Academics, Theologians, Biblical Scholars, and Preachers may tell us all about the contextual setting of the Biblical passage, they may exposit the passage, they may interpret the passage, they may apply the passage, but, if I understand Tozer correctly, it is the the actual conviction that comes to individual believer, that comprises this third level of knowledge.  It is the certainty, the conviction itself, not the information which is convicting which comprises spiritual experience. 

My sense is that if we could get Martin Luther, Johannes Calvinus, and others in a room with Tozer, they might agree that this third level of knowledge is a part of Special Revelation but who knows.  The may argue for hours and never come to a conclusion.

What I do know is this:

1.  The whole of nature declares the Glory of God and the sinfulness of humanity;
2.  Scripture provides us the context for God's work in Christ to redeem us;
3.  Only those who are truly born again and Spirit filled, are able to properly discern the will of God for their lives, and that is a life-time task.

I pray that this study opens conversations for you, wherever you may be, which ultimately lead to the advancement of the Kingdom for the Glory of Him Who Reigns!
 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Questions

 

The Problem of Numbers Chapter 26


1. Can I name a time when I was guilty of religious snobbery? Describe it.


2. In what ways do I see the integrity of my faith being sacrificed for the sake of accomplishing a goal?


3. In what ways do I see others sacrificing the integrity of their faith for the sake of accomplishing a goal?


4. In what ways has my home church or denomination sacrificed the integrity of the faith for the sake of making a few feel good or for the sake of keeping people happy, or for the sake of attracting new people?


5.  What is God saying to me about this? 


MIA

         November 23-27, 2020 for Thanksgiving!