And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Miscellaneous Ramblings, or better put Thoughts Upon Returning from a Prayer Retreat


Thanks for praying for me and the pastors on the retreat.

Wow. What a great time. Every six months I have a great opportunity through our association to take a 24 hour prayer retreat. We travel to Lake Sallateeska and run from noon to noon for a time of rest, Biblical meditation, and prayer. Usually eight to twelve pastors participate in the time. I can truly say it is refreshing, encouraging, and equiping.

Being a bit of a drive from home I usually prepare a day ahead by praying for the time and the men involved. Then I select a few sermons to listen to along the way. This time I traveled with Ravi Zacharias and listened to his teaching entitled, The Spurious Glitter of Pantheism. Being that I have several Hindu friends and have been asked by them to read and understand their teachings, this message presented me with a blueprint of understanding. We can never stop learning if we want to seek to glorify God. My hope is to now use this instruction to be able to help them understand the authentic gospel as well as relate to them in a deeper way.

While fishing (I arrived a bit early in order to do so), I listened to R C Sproul. The things taught on Renewing Your Mind can help us to meditate. Going deeper with a text and the axioms of Christianity is a great way to encourage biblical meditation. Thus R C is always one of my favorites.

I mention Biblical Meditation, and some question what I mean. I loosely define biblical meditation as a fast from distraction with the purpose of drinking in the scriptures and truths of the scriptures in order to renew the mind and live more like Christ. Not being the brights bulb on the Christmas tree, I need help in jump starting my thoughts. Ravi Zacharias and R C Sproul are two of the living men of our day whom I find stimulating towards this need. A few others in that realm would be Michael Horton, C J Mahaney, John Piper, and Don Carson. Another to note of late is Jerry Bridges, his book Respectable Sins is working me over.

That being said, I mention the living guys, but proceed with caution. You never know how a man will finish the race. But the dear departed that I consider friends through their writings would include Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, J C Ryle, Richard Sibbs, Thomas Watson, Martyn Lloyd Jones, A W Tozer, and if I kept going I man never finish this update.

My thoughts take this trail because of a bible study we had on the retreat that involved the topics of Elisha, perseverance, and the value of ministry. We talked at length of the self getting in the way, of how to properly evaluate success, and the need for time with God. Out of the discussion came the question, "Was the death of Jim Elliot worthwhile?" (Jim Elliot and 4 others gave thier life in 1949 trying to reach the Auca Indians of Equador with the Gospel. Following their martyrdom, thousands have cited their sacrifice as a calling card for obedience to the mission field call.) We also talked of one of my favorites Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in a Nazi prison and wrte the book The Cost of Discipleship. Thus the reminder to us all there is always a cost for discipleship, and though we co not see it now it is always worth it.

So it seems the lessons learned for this prayer retreat to be constantly remembered and practiced are these...
  • Ministry is a messy business. It is costly.
  • Because it is costly, and often the cost is life, it is supremely valuable.
  • It gets its value from the glory of God. For anything to glorify God must not be for the glory of self.
  • Thus those who lose their life for the Gospel actually save it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Day at Hand

Forgetting what lies behind, I press on to the goal, the upward call of Christ.
Put behind you the chains of failure, find the Truth that sets you free in Christ, and be free indeed.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Who needs prayer today?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Update

I am finding that as I talk with other ministers and rally through a variety of statistics I am being further spurred on to write. So far I have a working title of Hanging by a Thread: The Current Crisis in Ministry. The only problem is the continual testing. It seems that there is ample opportunity to be questioned and be refined by what I am writing.

Just this morning I thought of three appendix sections to write. They are as follows...
  • 100 Reasons to Not Quit the Ministry
  • 100 Quotes of Ministry Perseverance
  • 100 Scriptures to Press On in Ministry
Please pray for the writing of this book. I have often wanted to quit, but the irony of it says press on.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

God is Glorified in our Perseverance

God is Glorified in Our Perseverance

Scripture is overwhelmingly about the glory of God. It is not about the people, yet God uses the people. The real revelation is found in how God worked in people. Just a quick glance at Hebrews eleven shows a “Roll Call of Faith”. And if we look closely, each person had to deal with adversity. For many, their adversity is their crown.

Thus having preached through Job, and being aware of many persons struggles here at church, I find a balm in the doctrine of perseverance. Romans 8 is well quoted. It gives us reason to hope.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:28-31)

The goal of suffering is refinement. Now no discipline seems pleasant at the time. Those who hope in Christ endure. They are well aware that “Those who endure to the end will be saved”. They fear falling away more than the pain of perseverance. Thus, when they choose to hold onto Christ despite other offerings and temptations, they glorify Him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my “Heroes”. Having fled Germany for the safety of the United States, he simply could not be at peace. He knew that in order to glorify God in the ministry he was to have in Germany, he would need to return and suffer alongside the folks. Thus after only 26 days in America, he boarded a ship to embrace suffering for the glory of God.

So now a bit of teaching, a to do list if you will. (I often rebel at the thought of to do lists as spiritual guidance)

What To Do In a Time of Testing

First should be the setting aside time regularly to pray. Our great temptation is to “Fix It”. Yet God is working, we need to be on His agenda and timetable. Fixing it is not faith unless God has led in the go ahead.

Second, Watch. Usually, right after praying if we do not have an answer we tend to rush into the first possible solution that comes along. (In dating they call it rebounding. It carries the connotation of trying to save face rather than sense.) Watch, do not rush. Look for what God brings your way.

Third, at the risk of being redundant, I advise you to be slow. Do not make fast decisions. This is especially true if you have not been abiding in Christ for some time. Take time to know God and the ways of God. Look for scriptural truth that will set you free for peace in Christ, not necessarily a removal of the situations at hand.

Pray some more. As it has been said, “the battle is won or lost in the prayer room”.

Rejoice. Be doctrinal. In times of testing meditate and vocalize in the precious promises of God. Spend time knowing who God is and His grace. Value the gospel message as your great prize. James says to count it all joy. SO in your trial ask God to open your spiritual understanding. Look for the working of Romans 8.

Then repent. Often we short change the working of God by failing to recognize that problems come when we sin. You may be living as righteously as you know, but check with God on this.

And to complete the cycle, start the process again. The relief of testing is best by the hand of God. Then when the trial is over, worship, make His glory known.