Tuesday, 30 November 2010

"If the word do not dwell with power in us..."

A preacher cannot faithfully preach to others who has not first preached to himself. If we who are preachers are not feeding ourselves on the glorious truths of Scripture, then we shall be in no place to feed others. This is a conviction that John Owen held deeply, and which shaped his life and ministry. We would do well to listen to what he says:
A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. (Works, XVI, p. 76.)
May we, who have the immense privelege and responsibility for feeding others through the preaching and teaching of God's word, not dare teach others before we have taught ourselves. May we be pressing home and applying the words of Scripture deeply to our own hearts before we do the same for others.

Tuesday Teaching: Making Known the Manifold Wisdom of God Through Prison and Prayer (Ephesians 3)

For this week's Tuesday Teaching we're going to look at John Piper's sermon from Ephesians 3:1-21 at the recent Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation in South Africa. Here we go:

Monday, 29 November 2010

"Do your utmost for the preaching of the Gospel in Ireland"

The English Puritan John Owen had a great concern that the gospel be spread and be adorned with holiness. This was a concern he held, not just for his own nation of England, but for the work of the gospel abroad also. In 1650 he returned from a trip to Ireland, where he had seen Cromwell's forces decimate the Irish. Upon his return he preached to the English parliament and pleaded with them for a different sort of warfare. This is what he said:
How is it that Jesus Christ is in Ireland only as a lion staining all his garments with the blood of his enemies; and none to hold him out as a Lamb sprinkled with his own blood to his friends? ... Is this to deal fairly with the Lord Jesus?—call him out to do battle and then keep away his crown? God hath been faithful in doing great things for you; be faithful in this one—do your utmost for the preaching of the Gospel in Ireland.

Quote: Only One Life

Only one life,
' twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Hymn: How Firm A Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sweating Over the Text

The fact that the only way we can understand Scripture is if God gives us understanding, does not mean that we do not have to study hard to understand the Bible. The two go together. Paul tells Timothy to "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." (2 Timothy 2:7). We do need to be those who sweat over the text, dilligently wrestling with it until it gives up its blessing. Yet at the same time we must be doing so in complete dependance of God, who alone can give us understanding. Don Carson has these helpful words to say on the importance of dilligent study of the Bible, and the danger of neglecting it:
Careful handling of the Bible will enable us to "hear" it a little better. It is all too easy to read the traditional interpretations we have received from others into the text of Scripture. Then we may unwittingly transfer the authority of Scripture to our traditional interpretations and invest them with a false, even an idolatrous degree of certainty. Because traditions are reshaped as they are passed on, after a while we may drift far from God's word while still insisting our theological opinions are "biblical" and therefore true. If when we are in such a state we study the Bible uncritically, more than likely it will simply reinforce our errors. If the Bible is to accomplish its work of continual reformation - reformation of our lives and doctrine - we must do all we can to listen to it afresh and to utilize the best resources at our disposal.
D. A. Carson, from the introduction to "Exegetical Fallacies".

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Two Things

The more aware we are of two things the more we will grow as Christians. The more we think over two things the more our prayers shall flow easily. What are these two things? Listen to what Charles Simeon has to say:
By constantly meditating on the goodness of God and on our great deliverance from that punishment which our sins have deserved, we are brought to feel our vileness and utter unworthiness; and while we continue in this spirit of self-degradation, everything else will go on easily. We shall find ourselves advancing in our course; we shall feel the presence of God; we shall experience His love; we shall live in the enjoyment of His favour and in the hope of His glory. . . . You often feel that your prayers scarcely reach the ceiling; but, oh, get into this humble spirit by considering how good the Lord is, and how evil you all are, and then prayer will mount on wings of faith to heaven. The sigh, the groan of a broken heart, will soon go through the ceiling up to heaven, aye, into the very bosom of God.
We must never lose sight of two things: our sinfulness and God's grace towards us in Christ. We must never 'move on' from these things. Let us make it our daily habit to spend time letting these truths sink in deeply and greatly affect us.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Part 5

This is the 5th and final sermon by Dr. Don Carson looking at Matthew 27 and the 'Ironies of the Cross'. If 'save the best till last' was ever true it's today. Enjoy!

Monday, 22 November 2010

"Let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other"

True Christianity can be summed up as 'Jesus only, Jesus always'. Why is this? This is because Christ alone is all-sufficient. If we have Him we have everything. If we are in Christ, then God has blessed us with "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3). If we have Christ we need not look anywhere else for anything, all we need for all eternity is found in Him. We dishonour Him as the all-sufficient Saviour if we are looking for satisfaction anywhere else other than Him, if we are putting our trust for anything anywhere else. Here's what the reformer John Calvin has to say:
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
John Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.19.

Why the Church should be more like a Gay Bar: Part 2

Following Friday's post...Below is a short interview with Alex Earley the pastor who planted a church in a "gay friendly rock and roll bar". Enjoy!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Hymn: A Mighty Fortress is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

By Martin Luther

Friday, 19 November 2010

Why the Church should be more like a Gay Bar

In his book 'Church Planter', Darrin Patrick gives the example of a pastor who couldn't find a venue for his church to meet.
One day he saw that the local Gay Bar was advertising for bar staff, so he applied and got the job. Over a period of time the owner (an atheist lesbian) began to ask him about his faith and his plans to plant a church and by God's grace she offered him the use of the bar on Sundays to hold services, and they have been there ever since!

The reason why I think this story should resonate with us is because the church and the Gay community are (in some ways) quite similar.
For most homosexuals, the gay community is a refuge, a safe haven from the bitterness and rejection of society, parents and peers... it is a place where you don't need to pretend to be someone you're not. This means that being gay is not just about sexual preference, it's about being accepted for who you are in a community where love and affirmation are supposed to eclipse fear and rejection.

But does it work?
Reality tells us that the answer must be, 'No'.

Acceptance within the gay community is not unconditional, entrance is granted on the basis of 'coming out', which often means breaking any relationships that would hinder being 'out and proud'... including marriage. This is not only painful for the person but also for those who love them.

Hollywood portrays homosexual relationships as long lasting and monogamous, but reality is far different. Promiscuity, violence and suicide ravage the gay community with the result that people again feel the rejection and pain they once tried to flee from.
(If you think this is a caricature, Tom Schmidt in his book 'Straight and Narrow' offers some startling statistics from a range of non-Christian sociologists on the topic.)

Why should the Church be more like a Gay bar?

Homosexuals feel an acute sense of different-ness which means that who they are is not fully realised without reference to the gay community.
Similarly, 1 Peter 1 tells us that the Church is a gathering of aliens and strangers, people who feel a disconnection with the world around them. This is because they have been made members of a new community in Christ.

The church can offer a love and acceptance which transcends that of the gay community because it is not based on sexual preference but on Christ's finished work on the cross.
This is the radical message of the Gospel; that Christ comes and eats with tax collectors and sinners and then dies to give them a new life in him. Am I saying the church can cure homosexuals? No, God can, but even if he doesn't, the life we live by faith in Jesus is more free and flooded with more love than the gay lobby could ever dream of offering.

If this were fully realised in our churches, homosexual Christians would not sit in our pews scared of coming forward for support and counsel for fear of rejection. Instead we would comfort the sexually broken with the arms of the gospel and help homosexuals to grasp what it means to be godly men and women in Christ.
If this were true of our congregations non-Christian homosexuals who look at us and say "see how they love one another" because they would see that affirmation is not on the basis of sexuality but on being an image bearer of God, made alive in Christ, loved and accepted by their heavenly father.

Does this mean that the Church should sweep the Bible's teaching on homosexuality under the carpet? No of course not, God's design for sex and marriage is clear and homosexuality does not fit that paradigm.
However the Bible's teaching on sexuality is only one part of our identity as human beings and we must not succumb to the wisdom of the age which defines people primarily by their sexual preference. If we do we reduce ourselves to mere parts and functions.
Rather the identity of the Christian is 'in Christ', united to him and to other believers. This non-transient fact gives more security, affirmation, love and acceptance than any other relationship homosexual or heterosexual.

So why should the church be more like a gay bar?
Because the Church is a community of misfits who have been made alive by the death and resurrection of Jesus and as a result feel out of place in the world. Therefore we are able to empathise and reach out to others who also experience that acute sense of different-ness. However the Gay Bar can only dream of offering that which Christ offers. It’s cheap counterfeits of identity, love and community don't last and don't satisfy but in Christ they are a fully realised part of the transformed Christian life.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Putting the Bible in the Driving Seat

What is expository preaching and why should we bother with it? The following video is a 15 minute introduction to expository preaching from David Jackman, former president of the Proclamation Trust. This is both a great introduction for those starting out in a preaching ministry, and an excellent refresher for seasoned preachers. It is a great spur to us to put the Bible in the driving seat of our ministries, and helps us to think through what this will look like.

Untitled from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Article: Singleness with Purpose

Over at the Gospel Coalition blog Brooks Waldron has written an excellent little article on singleness, focussing especially on the purpose of singleness. It is a great supplement to our current series on battles singles face (part three is coming soon - apologies for the delay!). This is well worth taking the time to read whether you're single or married. It will greatly help us in our thinking about how the single person can magnify Christ in a way that married people cannot, and is a great spur to live out Christ-exalting single lives. Here's how Brooks starts off:
How many times have you heard someone say, “He’s such a great guy, how is he still single?” Or, “She’s such a catch. When will she get married off?” The implication behind such questions is that great men and women get married, and those who are not great do not. For many, being single imprints upon them a meaning that touches their very identities: They are defective, second-rate, somehow less than others who marry. In response to this message, Scripture teaches that single Christians are not defined by their singleness, but by their union with Jesus Christ. Singleness, like marriage, is a God-given calling, not an identity. The calling of singleness does not stamp upon the single person an identity any different from a married person. It does, however, imprint a meaning. That meaning communicates a message not about the single person, though, but about God himself. Uncovering the meaning that God ascribes to singleness, singles will experience greater joy in their calling, and those who minister to them will be better prepared to encourage them to live that calling out.
You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Memorising Scripture with Songs

One of the best ways to saturate ourselves, our thoughts and lives with the Bible is to memorise it. Memory verses are not just for children in Sunday school, it is something that all of us ought to be doing throughout our Christian lives.

A great way to memorise Scripture is through song, just think how easy we find it to the words of a hymn. Recently I came across this video which has put a Bible verse to song, I don't know anything about the group that produced it, but it's quite catchy and makes a great resource for memorising Scripture, especially in a family context. If you've not started memorising Scripture for yourself or as a family why not start here?

Quote: Rutherford on Christian Ministry

Here's what the Scottish Puritan Samuel Rutherford had to say about the nature of Christian ministry:
Suffering is the other half of our ministry, howbeit the hardest.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Part 4

In this fourth session Don Carson looks at 'doubting' Thomas from John 20... enjoy!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Grafted into Christ

William Tyndale gave his life to translationg the Bible from the original languages into English for the very first time, and it cost him his life. He was made an exile from his own country for doing so and eventually captured, strangled and burned at the stake for doing so.

One of the things that drove Tyndale to risk everything for the translation of the Bible into the ordinary language of the people was the recognition that if the Bible is locked away from people then the gospel is locked away from people. He knew that our only hope is found in the gospel of God's grace.

Tyndale had the rock-solid conviction that we are utterly helpless apart from the sovereign grace of God revealed in the gospel. We are in bondage to sin, blind, dead, damned, and helpless. We are utterly helpless and unable to do anything for ourselves apart from the grace of God, shown towards us in Christ, and revealed in the gospel, which we can only access to through Scripture.

Listen to how Tyndale describes conversion and how it shows both our utter helplessness and God's all powerful sovereign grace in Christ:
By grace . . . we are plucked out of Adam the ground of all evil and graffed [grafted] in Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began and reserved us unto the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel: and when the gospel is preached to us openeth our hearts and giveth us grace to believe, and putteth the spirit of Christ in us: and we know him as our Father most merciful, and consent to the law and love it inwardly in our heart and desire to fulfill it and sorrow because we do not.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Hymn: Arise, My Soul, Arise

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Don't let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

by Charles Wesley

Friday, 12 November 2010

Pray for Our Brothers and Sisters in Iraq

If you've been following the news over the last couple of weeks you will know that there have been some extremely violent attacks on Christians in Iraq from muslim groups. Many have been killed and many others injured. This violence is set to continue, The muslim group Al-Quaeda have announced that Christians everywhere are "legitimate targets". Many Christians are unsure what to do, whether they should stay or go.

Please join us in praying for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. We shouldn't be suprised at such violence against Christians, Jesus promised that His people would face opposition and persecution from the world around them. In God's soverign purposes it is often when the church is most viciously persecuted that the gospel spreads the most (Acts 8:1-8).

Please pray that our brothers and sisters would continue to stand firm and not be ashamed of belonging to Jesus, even if this means death; that by the way they endure such suffering they would testify that Jesus is more precious than life itself. Pray that this terrible violence might serve to advance the gospel like never before in Iraq. Also pray that the Iraqi Christians would have great wisdom when to stay and when to go.

Here are a few links giving more details on what has been happening in Iraq to help you pray more informedly:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

See the Big Picture

Seeing the big picture will help keep us from the fear of man, from worrying about what others think of us and about our 'status' in the eyes of others. Charles Spurgeon recognised this. This is what he said to his pastors college:
O brethren, we shall soon have to die! We look each other in the face to-day in health, but there will come a day when others will look down upon our pallid countenances as we lie in our coffins ... It will matter little to us who shall gaze upon us then, but it will matter eternally how we have discharged our work during our lifetime.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Adversity Gospel

We've all heard of the prosperity gospel (which is really no gospel), this is the teaching that if you become a Christian your life in this world will get better. Your bank balance will soar, your car will become faster, your house will get bigger and more comfortable, and life in general will get much easier. But that's not biblical Christianity.

Instead of the prosperity gospel, the Bible teaches the adversity gospel. It teaches us that affliction is God's good gift to his people. This is what the Psalmist of Psalm 119 recognises. In verses 65-72 he spells out why the adversity gospel is such good news. That is, why affliction itself is a good gift of God to his people.

Throughout this section there is an emphasis on the goodness of God. Notice the repeated words that draw attention to this (v. 65, 66, 68, 71, 72). He is delighting in the goodness of God towards him and inviting us to join with him in doing the same.

But how has God been good to him? This is where we get a suprise. God's goodness is shown to him by afflicting him. In v. 65 he affirms "You have dealt well with your servant". Having had this taste of God's goodness he hungers for more, praying "Teach me good judgement and knowledge" (v.66) which only comes from the word of God. This is not just head knowledge, but a whole life transformed by the word of God to walk in the way of the word. But how has he tasted this goodness? He continues in v. 67: "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word." It is precisely by afflicting him that God has been good to him. Affliction is God's good school for teaching his people His word. It is this truth that led Martin Luther to describe suffering as one of the exegetical keys to understanding the Bible. When we are afflicted as Christians, it is God's goodness to us that we might know and live out Scripture more deeply. Therefore, the Psalmist is able to say: "You are good and do good; teach me your statutes" (v. 68). So also, when we are afflicted (whether it be persecution or sickness or any other trouble), we also ought to be able to join with him saying "You are good and do good".

In verses 69-70 the he spells out a little more what his affliction looks like. He is smeared with lies because he delights in the word of God. Notice the contrast in these verses between the Psalmist and his opponents. They (v. 69) smear him with lies, slandering him with all sorts of untruths about him. They have hard hearts (v. 70), hearts that are unfeeling like fat. Their hearts are hardened to the word of God, therefore they oppose those who love the word of God. On the other hand, the Psalmist strives to keep God's word with his whole heart (v.69), an obedience to God's word that comes from a deep delight in it (v. 70). The contrast in these two verses shows us that the more we delight in Scripture, the more we shall be opposed by those whose hearts are hard, and refuse to submit to the word of God.

This does not give the Psalmist cause for despair. No. Rather, it leads him to exactly the opposite. He rejoices. He knows that this is a good thing. He says: "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." (v. 71). The affliction that God has sent his way is a good thing, because it teaches him God's statutes. Look at the result of his sufferings, he is brought to say: "The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces." The more he suffers the more precious the word of God becomes to him. It ought to be the same with us. The more we face affliction and suffering, whatever form they take, the more we are thrown upon the promises of God as our only hope in the midst of a fallen world. When we lose our job for holding to biblical values, when family reject us for becoming a Christian, when the doctor breaks the news to us that it's cancer, when the finances don't stretch - when all of these things come upon us they ought to open our eyes even wider to the all-surpassing preciousness of the word of God, which alone gives life. Affliction does not give us cause for despair, instead it ought to bring us to delight in, and cling to, the word of God.

All this means that when affilction strikes we can fall down on our knees and thank God. As the tears roll down our cheeks, our mouths can be filled with praise. Our suffering, painful as it may be, is a good gift from our Heavenly Father and serves to teach us His word and bring us to an even deeper Bible delight. Surely, as a watching world looks on, this is a testimony like no other to the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ, the one who stands at the centre of the word of God, the one in whom all the promises of God find their yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Distant Horns of Your Salvation

I was listening to a talk by Tim Keller yesterday entitled "How sin makes us addicts" in which he encourages us to remember the 'Distant Horns of our Salvation'.

He draws this from a section in J.R.R. Tolkein's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. In the scene Pippin, one of the hobbits, finds himself face to face with the Witch King, the commander of the forces of darkness.
All hope is lost as the demon king bears down on Pippin ready to devour him. But, just as Pippin stares death in the face he hears the call of distant horns! The cavalry, the Riders of Rohan have come to Pippin's aid... to his salvation.

In that moment Tolkein writes these words, "From that day on Pippin could no longer hear the sound of distant horns without breaking down into tears"
From that day on every time Pippin heard the sound of distant horns he was reminded of the day he was rescued and his greatest enemy defeated.

Keller's point is simply this:
What are the horns of your salvation?
Those places, people, books, memories, scriptures which bring you back to the cross and to your rescue?
Because finding your horns will help to eclipse those besetting sins of your present experience and bring you back to that hill where you salvation was won and your greatest enemy defeated.

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Session 3

Have you ever wondered when reading John 11 why Jesus doesn't immediately run to heal Lazarus but deliberately waits until he's dead? Not just dead but decaying! If you think that's either a little odd or just plain unloving then set aside the next hour...

First an Apology:
Sorry to those of you who logged on last Tuesday morning eagerly expecting the next installment of Don Carson on the Cross and Resurrection... I forgot to upload it!

However normal service has resumed; so stick the kettle on, fire up the coffee machine and settle down for this third sermon looking at the raising of Lazarus in John 11.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

"A Man of Prayer"

On the 29th of December 1849 the Scottish minister Andrew Bonar spent some time looking back over his life and ministry over the past year. What he has to say in his diary as he examines the past year is a great challenge to us, especially to those of us in Christian ministry. Read these words and spend some time examining your own life and ministry:
Solemn view of last year. I get slowly, slowly on in grace. I am creeping by the shore only, not thrusting out into the deep. My chief desire should be on this day to be a man of prayer, for there is no want of speaking and writing and preaching and teching and warning; but there is need of the Holy Spirit to make all this effectual. The Lord help me to pray for the eyes of believers being opened to see the Lord's Coming. Help me to pray for my poor flock! Help me to cry for my wife's growth in grace as truly as she grows in kindness and attention to me! Help me to be a blessing to the whole earth next year.
May we be men and women of prayer. May we be those who give themselves to wrestling with God in prayer. If we continue in the work of the gospel without devoting ourselves to prayer, we are arrogantly saying that we can do this work in our own strength and with our own resources. This is a lie, we can do nothing by ourselves. Jesus says "...apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5). Yes it is vital that we are proclaiming the gospel as revealed in Scripture and devoting ourselves to dilligently teaching the whole counsel of God from Scripture. But we need also to be giving oursleves to persistent prayer. The work of the gospel is the work of "...prayer and the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4). It's both...and, not either...or. Yet we so easily let the vital importance of prayer be forgotten in the work of the gospel. Let us be those who are men and women of prayer.

Monday, 1 November 2010

"Have Your Souls Happy in God"

What do you see as the most important business of each day? What is the one thing that you say, "If I do nothing else today I must do this"? George Muller was a pastor of a church in Bristol, alongside the heavy slog of caring for a church he founded many orphanages, set up schools for teaching the Bible to adults and children, was involved in Bible and tract distribution and supported missions; all alongside being a husband and father. However, in the midst of all these various things calling for his attention he had one clear priority that he knew he must give himself to daily:
According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord's work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.
Mueller knew that the one thing that we must give ourselves to daily is seeking to be satisfied in Christ alone, to grow to know and love and delight in God alone. Only if this is our priority will everything else fall into their proper places. Let us be those who give ourselves daily to making Jesus our delight and pleasure, the one thing that satisfies us. The way we do this is by giving ourselves to dilligent study of the Word of God and dependant prayer. What is the one thing I must do today? If I do nothing else today I must give myself to seeking satisfaction in Christ alone.