Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Evidence, Circumstance, and Relevance...

I chose the above words simply because they seemed to fit nicely together. They are indicative of the questions we will ask at the end of the week, so stay tuned...  

Tozer, in Chapter 34, talks about the "evidence "of faith, albeit indirectly.  He discusses people's approaches to evangelism and strange methods of convincing someone they must be saved since God wouldn't cast them out, as if it were a question of human logic. He almost alludes to the question of "notches" on the belt for those we have led to Christ. And comes to the conclusion that we are only pointing the way.

"No one can lead another to God.  All he can do is to lead the inquirer to the door of the kingdom and urge him onward...There faith must make its leap of pure trust into the arms of God crying with Job, 'though though slay me, yet will I trust in him'." (And yet might argue that we can lead people astray...)

We urge people to repent. We urge people to trust. We urge people to believe but that is all we can do. It is only the Spirit of God that can do the necessary work within them. "If the repentance is genuine and the faith is real, all human confidence will come crashing down and the humbled soul will be forced to make its leap of faith alone."

Those of us who have had that encounter with the Divine, don't doubt the genuineness of the event. There is an ongoing humble confidence that even though we fail to live up to His standards, He still loves us. Pointing the way is simply a reviewing, for others, of the road we took, the decisions we made, and hoping that our experience will be sufficiently compelling for them to seek that road.

The mystery of the new birth is exactly and forever that - A Mystery - enjoyed by the called, longed for by others, and simply denied by so many.  Ultimately it is God who chooses to whom and  when he will reveal himself.  Thanks be to God!

So, to what, or to whom, does your life point?



Saturday, December 26, 2020

Questions

It Is Essential That We Think Like God: Chapter 33


1. In what ways have I failed the Lord by not taking the time to thoroughly examine his word?


2. In what ways have I been blessed by an uncanny in breaking of the Holy Spirit to bring me illumination far beyond my own capabilities?


3. What does this say about my dependence upon the Holy Spirit?


4. What can I do to carry my share of the weight in the struggle for a more godly understanding of Scripture?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In the homestretch...

 

Just 10 chapters left...

The matter this week re: theological "truth" is brought home by a sermon recently preached by an "Arminian" minded local pastor whose church is growing in wonderful ways.  His commentary was on the word "election" in the scripture. He briefly defined "election" as "what we just had" (referring to the Nov political elections).  It's a choice we make, he said.  He then proceeded to refer to Calvinists as "blasphemers."  Not being a staunch Calvinist, I wasn't offended by the verbiage so much as the reality that he seems to misunderstand both Calvinism and the scriptural term for "election."

Tozer would suggest that irrespective of what theologians may say about predestination versus pre-determinism and the Sovereignity of God versus free will, we can be certain that, biblically, election refers to God's choice not ours.  This does not so much, necessarily, refer to predestination (though some may want to make that case) as it does to God's choosing to reveal himself, to express himself, his passion, and his desire to include us in his plan. Throughout scripture in "election", God makes the choice.

Accusations of "blasphemy"  do little to advance the kind of healthy discussions that may well help us more fully experience that conviction of the Holy Spirit that God provides us through His church (the body of Christ).  Pontifical accusations such as the one mentioned tend to place the person making them not in the category of confident or even well-informed, but of arrogant and self-righteous. What if God chooses to reveal himself so that we can respond? What if God does elect to create us even though he knows we will refuse to respond? Are we able to force God's mind to save us by something we do? Can we believe if we haven't first heard? All these are wonderful questions to be asking and to be contemplating.  If some of the greatest minds of the reformation seemed to be confused on the matter, do we see ourselves as being so independently wise as too have no need of others to help us more fully understand just how this gift of Salvation comes about? And can we simply be so thankful that, by whichever way we may have been included, we simply rest in the assurance that we are saved? Even that God chose to incarnate himself?

God calls us to a spirit of humility where we can correct one another and he admonishes us to do just that, to hold one another accountable, but it is intended to be in the bond of peace and in the spirit of love.

Tozer concludes the chapter with a powerful statement that:

There is no danger that we go seriously astray from the truth if we walk humbly, trust completely, search the scriptures daily, expect divine illumination and lean not on our own understanding. Most assuredly the Holy Spirit will take control of our minds and help us to think like God. Then will be fulfilled the Scripture which says, "But we have the mind of Christ." [ICorinthians 2:16]

Humility combined with meekness gives one the inner strength and conviction to leave in God's hands, that which rightly belongs to Him, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.   Thanks be to God!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Questions

 

It Is Essential That We Think Like God: Chapter 33


1. In what ways have I failed the Lord by not taking the time to thoroughly examine his word?


2. In what ways have I been blessed by an uncanny in breaking of the Holy Spirit to bring me illumination far beyond my own capabilities?


3. What does this say about my dependence upon the Holy Spirit?


4. What can I do to carry my share of the weight in the struggle for a more godly understanding of Scripture?


5. What is God saying to me about this? 



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Seasonal Thoughts...

 
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
    until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
    to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace[
[Micah 5:2-5]


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14
 
Micah, prophesying about the same time as Isaiah, has a message similar to Isaiah's, that there would be a time of turmoil, a time when people would seem to have been forsaken by their God, when Israel itself would be forgotten by much of the world, this once great nation would be come greatly not so great.  For four hundred years there would be a prophetic silence, a lack of godly leadership, a time of captivity, a time of neglect, a time of getting by. But that  was to be just the beginning of something big.

Bethlehem, a small town in Judah, neglected in many ways, would be come the birthplace of the Savior of the world.  This Savior was going to shepherd his flock, in the strength and majesty of the Lord. Israel, God's people would, in this coming day, live securely BECAUSE in this shepherd, in this Savior, the greatness of God himself would reach to the ends of the earth. And He would be their peace, not just the source of their peace, their actual peace!


And then it happened.  700 years later.  In that small town of Bethlehem, seemingly forgotten, of little account, in a stable - nothing more than a cattle stall - a birth took place that would forever change the world. Time itself bears witness to the event.  And in the fields just outside of Jerusalem a star shone brightly, A messenger of God Almighty appeared and the very glory of God himself shined brightly. So much so that the shepherds were terrified. The glory of the Lord does that. It's powerful. It's illuminating. It's intimidating. But one not need be fearful, for the message was and still is, simple - Good News! Good News for everyone. A Savior was born. The Messiah. Not A messiah. THE Messiah. And he would be found as a baby wrapped in ragged cloths, lying in a feed trough. And a group of the very hosts of heaven surrounded these shepherds singing glory to God, praising Him and declaring peace to those on whom God's favor rests, His people, those whom he, by faith, has claimed to be his own.

A young maiden, a hard working man, an untimely and miraculous pregnancy, a long and perilous journey, and finally birth in a barn.  Out of chaos, out of untimeliness on our end, but in God's perfect timing and i God's perfect way, the Savior of the world comes forth.

Irrespective of our circumstances, the Savior still comes at Christmas, seeking to be born anew in our hearts. He comes, unbidden, seeking a place to be born yet again, in a heart not perfect, one not yet clean, not even fit for such as this.  But he does come ad he does seek to be born anew within us.  Will you open your heart to him this Christmas, or will you turn  him away because there is no room for such a presence in your life?  Will you let him be born, yet again, in your life?  Perhaps you have wandered, straying from his direction. Perhaps you have tried again and again, to live in your own strength and power.  Israel did and for years they were abandoned.  Abandoned but not forgotten. This year what package will you open. Just another bobble? Just another trinket? Just another symbol of worldliness? Or will you open your heart to the Savior, the One who still comes and knocks gently saying:

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." (Rev. 3:20)

He stands ready to rebuild our lives, to rebuild our communities, to rebuild that which has been abandoned and forsaken.  The only question is whether or not we will invite him in...

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Questions

 

The Shadow of Consequences Chapter 32


1. A time when my sin was forgiven but I was left to face the earthly consequences of that sin was…


2. In what ways am I currently holding back my obedience to Christ?


3. Is my worldview determined by an understanding which I gain from obedience to God’s word or is my obedience to God’s word determined by my worldly circumstances? How so?


4. In what ways have I compromised my faith to keep a job, stay popular, or gain respect?


5.  What is God saying to me about this? 


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Where Once...

Where Once a Chapel Stood

The Seaside Gospel Chapel, a small building and a refuge for a few stalwart Christians on an island known as THE party destination for the Abacos, Bahamas once stood here. And next to it, the Fellowship Hall.  Neither were big enough for the dream God had for the island, and in Hurricane Dorian, the chapel was destroyed, the Fellowship Hall became, and continues as, a distribution center for food, and interest in faith took a significant leap forward.

The Fellowship Hall looking toward the Chapel foundation
 
The dock was destroyed but the hopes and dreams of this small congregation held fast. 


For the past year and more this group of hardy souls, encouraged by relief workers has begun to develop into a movement...of sorts. Today, they worship at the Orchid Bay Marina pavilion, their third home since the hurricane. They've been offered this refuge for as long as they need it.  But they dream of replacing the church building. Drawings have been made, and commitments are in the "offing."  It is a realizable dream.  But time moves slowly on the island.  Permits take persistence, and fortitude. But that is the character of this group of hardy souls with which we are becoming acquainted.

Yesterday a group of children organized by visiting missionaries picked up trash around the island. Tomorrow Carol and I will join members and non-members in packing food bags for the itinerant workers and others in need, again. And on Sunday this gathering of believers and non believers will come looking for a word of hope this Christmas season... 
 
I'll preach on Isaiah 61:1-4 and Luke 4:14-21 - and hopefully and prayerfully the Spirit will enable me to:
 
provide good news to the poor in spirit, 
 freedom for the prisoners of despair, and 
recovery of sight for those blinded to God's grace in all of this...
 
Please pray with us that those:
 
 oppressed by fear and anxiety may be set free, and 
that I might proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor 
- to those who have walked in this darkness...


       


 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Tozer Chapter 32

Tozer writes:

 “To obey when it costs us nothing and refuse when the results are too costly is to convict ourselves of moral trifling and gross insincerity.

The temptation to gear our lives to social consequences is frightfully strong in a world like ours, but it must be overcome all the way down the line.”


The clear implication of this seems to be that the question of whether or not we will do the right thing based on the earthly consequences of that decision makes a shambles of our faith. That the question of earthly consequences versus moral rightness is not the kind of question the godly person asks. Whether or not we will share the gospel based on whether or not we may be arrested for it is  classic example of this conundrum. When the question of profit or even the avoidance of discomfort supplants the question of rightness Christ is dethroned in our lives.

The godly person rightly asks: “Is it right?” "Is it truthful?” “Does it honor God?” 

The ungodly asks "Will it comfort me?" "Will it cause me to become uncomfortable?" "Will it benefit me?"

These latter are the worst questions to ask of a moral quandry.

“A good deed done for earthly gain is an evil deed at the bottom. Motive imparts moral quality, and without a holy motive there cannot be a holy act.”

I have a good idea how this question would resonate in the business world where the primary motive is profit. But as I look at my own life I wonder how many times I have compromised the gospel by making a decision on the basis of whether or not I am willing to take the risk, which at it's core is the question

Do I trust God? Or am I willing to pay the price of faith?

Much here to think about this week as we consider the price of following where God rightly leads...

 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Not a Christian, but...

 

Another morning in Paradise.  How can one be the least bit sorry for suffering such madness as having to awaken to a view such as this?  This is the day which the Lord has made. We can rejoice and be glad in it.

Yesterday evening, on a walk back from Mike Puopolo's, house a man sitting on a golf cart stopped me and said he wanted to show me something I had never seen before. It was his business card.  He was a builder from Nassau, helping in the re-construction effort. A conversation ensued in which  he shared the following.
 
"I am not a Christian, but as I have read the Bible I have begun to pray, and I notice that when I pray in Jesus's name things happen, just as the Bible teaches. There is power in his name.  Now I have to confess my faults and too often they are many.  But so too, I am so grateful that he provides me opportunities to do more than I could.  It amazes me.  His name is like a secret password..."

I told him that he had more faith than many people I had met along the way who considered themselves to be Christian. I encouraged him and invited him to church on Sunday.  A friend of his, on the back of the cart told him is was HER church and he should come... So we will see.

It is in these kinds of encounters, that the seeds of faith are planted, the new growth nurtured, and even the old growth pruned. Through this one person's change of direction, his life, the lives of those he encounters, an entire nation's redevelopment may change.  Or maybe, just maybe it will be something far smaller, but just as significant.  The man sitting next to him was awfully curios about our conversation and was simply saying, your God is so good...
 
Today we will be boating over to Man of War Cay and meeting some folks there who are supporting this church planting effort.  We'll visit a craft market (much to Carol's delight) and see if we can find some postcards.  In the rebuilding efforts around us, such trivial trinkets are uncommon. There is no real need to cater to tourists when those residents are hardly equipped to provide for themselves.

Tomorrow's sermon will be based on Isaiah 40:1-6 and Luke 3:3-6, "Preparing the Way".  I'll connect that with the Parable of the Prodigal Son and talk in terms of Christmas being a return to Christ, a recognition that even as we turn toward Him, our loving Father has begun to run down the road to welcome us. 

It seems folks here are tired. Tired of the empty promises of help - NGO's which seem to come and go. They're tired the lack of support of the Bahamian government - Great Guana Cay provides 40% of the tax/tourist revenue for the entire Bahamas and receives only a pittance of support and an abundance of excuses.  Fifteen months after Dorian, roofs are still missing, cisterns still need cleaning, and people are tired... Pray for their encouragement, please.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

Thanks for helping to make our future ministry here possible.

Glen

For more information on our efforts here click this link: Give-Send-Go

 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Questions

 

  We Are All Heretics by Nature Chapter 31


1. For well over 1800 years Christian doctrine accepted the scriptures as having plenary inspiration (complete). This implied infallibility by design and inerrancy as a consequence (not a quality) of inspiration. How does faith in the scriptures as the all-sufficient Word of God lead me to find it trustworthy?



2. In what ways has my lack of biblical knowledge restricted my spiritual growth?



3. Has there been a point in my life where the Holy Spirit has so convicted me of the truth of Scripture that my life was radically changed? Describe it.



4. Do I allow Scripture to define my faith or is my faith defined by my view of Scripture? What are the implications of this?



5.  What is God saying to me about this?


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Scriptural Integrity


In chapter 31 Tozer makes the case that natural theology or general revelation is insufficient to fully grasp an understanding of God, to fully comprehend the mystery of faith. And yet believers have a certain level of confidence in Jesus proclamation that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but through him. The difference in our understanding and attitude is to be found in the scriptures - the very Word of God.

 "The certainty of the believer...springs from his faith in the scriptures 
as the full and true revelation of the mind of God to men."[p. 119]

"The most stubborn dogmatism is not found among those who quote the Bible
 to support their convictions, but among those who quote no one and claim for 
their spiritual authority nothing higher than their own opinions."[p. 119]


Scripture is indeed a gift of the manifold grace of God in speaking his mind to us that we might fully comprehend the mysteries of faith, the why's, how's, the who's,  what's, and when's. Every particular need we have for understanding is there.  That which is not revealed is not necessary.  This confidence of the believer, however, is contrast with that of the modern day "sensibility" and "intellect" of the non-believer.

Tozer then puts forth three tenets of the contemporary (ir)religious credo.

1.  Everyone is capable of discovering for himself the true way to heaven and that one man's belief is as good as another's.

2.  No one has the right to question the belief of anyone else or to try to influence him in any way in religious matters.

3.  We should practice complete tolerance toward every expression of religious belief, however base or ill-founded it may be, and accept it as someone's way of worshiping God even if it isn't ours.

Consider that this we penned some 60-70 years ago...

There is little that the believer can do, except pray, live with integrity, witness openly, and love fully.  Our confidence should be hope-filled, not arrogantly asserted...

Much to think about this week!

Hallead Day Inn, Abacos

Today, we had a wonderful visit with former missionary colleagues, Ron and Denise Hamme, from Thailand whom we hadn't seen since 2006!...