Monday, November 20, 2006

What I Love About The Church

You know, when we look around at the Church as a whole sometimes we can see many things that sadden us. That can be depressing...unless you look at the Word of God.

There we see in Revelation 17:1 the unfaithful church, and in Revelation 21:9 the faithful church, the Lamb's wife. I love to take certainty in the inevibility of it. The great thing is that we know who wins. Christ will have a spotless Bride, that is unfailable, inevitable and certain. The Church can look as motley, weak and confused as anything, yet Christ will have His Bride.

False prophets can preach false doctrine and drag away souls from the true faith and yet Christ will have His own. The greater the gates of deception that are built, the greater glory God will have when they are stormed. The truth will have to be contended for as never before in the coming days, but the truth will prevail. I can take comfort in that.

Even if friends of mine veer off, or even if I were to veer off the truth would still prevail. That effects me in 2 ways: firstly, it encourages me to make sure I am on the side of truth, that I walk with God. Secondly, it means that I don't have to worry about the state of other areas of the Church, I just need to tend the area God has given me. I just need to be truthful and honest to those in my sphere of influence.

Glory to the Lamb of God!

Elias Letwaba - An Exceptional If Little-Known Man

You probably have never heard of Elias Letwaba, even though was a man of exceptional ability and character. There are several reasons for his not being well-known. Firstly, his ministry was in rural Africa, the Upper Transvaal in the first half of the twentieth century. That on its own would take him somewhat out of the lime-light. When you couple that with the fact that he was blcak and that his own denomination, the AFM, followed a policy, at that time, where non-whites were second-class members of the church it becomes even more easy to believe that he would not be well known.

He was one of John G. Lake's early converts and many believe he was the one that received Lake's mantle for healing. He is credited with over 10,000 healings and miracles during his ministry. Lake himself, wrote of one incident where a baby had a broken neck and he had no faith to see it healed, so he left so as not to rob Elias of his faith. The baby was healed, and Lake had to repent of his unbelief. He realized that his greater medical knowledge of the seriousness of the condition was actually a hindrance in this case.

He started a Bible School called Patmos Bible School in Potgietersrus, this school trained thousands of Christian workers that spread the Gospel throughout the rural areas of South Africa. It was never formally recognized as a Bible School for training Pastors, by the AFM, so most of its graduates were forced to do the ministerial work without any recognition by their denomination.

Elias was obviously a man of exceptional humility. Most people who have worked that many miracles and are doing a good work for God would have a hard time staying in a denomination that held separate baptismal services for whites and non-whites, and as a structure made it clear that the non-whites were second-class members. Yet Elias not only stayed true, but he refused to be sidetracked from what he believed his call was to dabble in politics, or fight against the racism in his denomination.

That's the thing I like best about him and why I thought he should be better known. Don't let anything sidetrack you from your call. If people are unfair, ignore it, do what God has called you to do. He's the one we are working for after all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Is Someone Watching You?

I know you are probably thinking that you already know what this post is about. You probably think that I am going to write about God always watching you and walking in the fear of the Lord. But I won't. That is important, but in this post I want to cover 3 other groups of spectators.

In 1 Cor. 4:9, Paul says, "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."

The language here has to be understood in the time of that day. Most of us today do not understand the concept of public excecution, but in the days of the Apostle Paul when a man was condemned to execution, he it was public and many people would stand and watch. The word "spectacle" meant one who's death was on display. One on who all could gaze and wonder how will this one die? Will he cry for mercy, will he be defiant, will he mock his fate? What will he do?

In another place Paul says that he was like the offscouring of the earth, like the filth that is scraped off of cooking pots and thrown away when they are washed. That was the contempt with which Paul was treated. How did he undergo this? Why did he endure it?

Part of the secret lies in the second part of our text, he was a spectacle to the world, angels, and men. He had others watching him. Firstly, he had the world, he was placed on display by God to bear witness of the truth to the world. He had to always act in a manner which showed Christ, in life or death. He had to overcome the world through his faith. He was on trial here, a trial by ordeal.

Secondly, he was being watched closely by angels, both good and fallen. Paul writes in Eph. 3:8-11, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The Lord has an eternal controversy with His adversary. Fallen angels are greater in power and strength than man, they have a wisdom that is beyond man's as well. They should conquer us in any degree, but when we manifest the wisdom of God as Christians, God enables us to defeat them. This gives God glory and humiliates them. It reproves them for their own sin against God, which they committed without a tempter. It reproves their self-will, because here are creatures of a lower stature and weaker will yielding to God. When we trust in God and endure difficulties by God's grace, we stop the adversaries mouth. It also is part of the process that qualifies to rule in the world to come which God has not given to angels (Heb. 2:5).

Lastly we have the great cloud of witnesses looking on(Heb. 12:1). Those who have run their race are cheering us on. I think heaven will be a wonderful place. The communion of the saints will be very real there. There are some saints that by God's grace I am going to meet and thank for the impact their writings had on me, even though I never met them. I am part of their reward, and they have an interest in my race. They desire that we press further than they did, because it is part of their reward.

One day in heaven, we will see each other, and we will there know what we went through on earth was worth it. We will be able to talk of what the Lord brought us through and give thanks to God. We will be able to see our scars we received for the Gospel and remember that we followed Christ in the day of that battle.

May we all be able to rejoice on that day, because we have wholly followed the Lord. And may we hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Being An Ambassador

There are some people that I sincerely pity. I enjoy the study of history and once while reading a book called, "The Guns Of August" I came across a man whose situation I truly found pitiable. I fail to recollect his name, but briefly this is his story:

He was in the Prussian diplomatic corp, they posted him to Turkey, just in time for the Uprising by the Young Turks. The whole diplomatic corp had to be evacuated. Then they sent him off to China, right on schedule for The Boxer Rebellion. He had a souvenier from that one, it was an ash tray with a bullet hole in it, from when he was under seige. Then they sent him to Belgium, he liked Belgium and used to entertain his guests with stories of his adventures and end off by saying, "But this is Belgium, and nothing ever happens in Belgium." Then on August 2nd, 1914 came the fateful telegram...

It ordered our ambassador to deliver an ultimatum to Belgium, one he knew would be refused, war would be declared and yet again he would have to leave the country he was posted in. I am sure he had some reservations, it certainly would not be a duty that he relished, but he was an ambassador and that means he does not give his own opinions or feelings, but he speaks on behalf of another.

The Apostle Paul brings out the fact of our being ambassadors in 2 Cor. 5:20, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God."

As ambassadors we are not at liberty to declare our own feelings, we are bound to declare what we are told by the one we represent. If we have Biblical reason to feel that God is angry with someone, we cannot tell them that they are fine and God is happy with them that is being a false ambassador. If our Prussian friend had done that, it wouldn't have helped Belgium at all, and it would have gotten him in deep trouble with his superiors.

We need to tell the world, "you are at war with God, you are God's enemies... You need to be reconciled to Him." Show them God's ultimatum.

One interesting example of an ambassador calling for surrender is found in 2 Kings 18:17-25. Now this ambassador represented the most powerful nation of his day, but he denied the power of the God of Israel and it was his undoing. But notice how he calls for surrender, he looks at every source of hope and trust the people could rely on to resist him and he discounts it.

This is somewhat like what Jonathan Edwards used to do, take every possible excuse someone has to think they are good enough to make it to heaven apart from Christ and show them its impossibility. Show them the futility of fighting God, and show them they have no option but surrender.

I recently heard a preacher giving an interview, and in that interview, when asked if those who do not believe in Jesus can go to heaven. He said, "They have no assurance of heaven."

I am sure this was done so as to sound more friendly and kind to the unsaved. But if salt doesn't sting it, it ceases to be salt. People who refuse to believe in Christ go to hell. I didn't say that He did. Telling people they are alright or have a chance without Christ is being a false ambassador. Those people will not thank you for soothing them with lies when they stand before the Judge of all.

Let's be true ambassadors. We don't have to be obnoxious about it, but firm.

Philipp Jakob Spener - An Advocate Of Holiness

In this article I am going to briefly trace a movement and see how God can use one man to start a chain of events. In this article I am going to look a little bit at Philipp Jakob Spener and Pietism. Spener is known as the Father of Pietism, this was a movement in Germany, that was really part of a larger move of the Spirit of God calling His people to holiness and practical Christianity.

In France this movement was lead by Calvinistic Roman Catholics called Jansenists. In Germany, the Lutheran holiness movement was called Pietism, this influenced the Moravians, Zinzendorf was Spener’s god-son, who in turn influenced John Wesley and the Methodists and Alexander Mack and the Brethren.

These groups differed greatly in some respects of their theology, but what they all had in common emphasis in a need for a personal holiness and obedience to God in the daily walk of life.

Phillip Jakob Spener was born in 1635 in Upper Alsace. In 1651, he went to Strasbourg to study. After his studies he became a tutor, before visiting other universities in Basel, Tübingen, and Geneva.

He returned to Strasbourg in 1663, and became a lecturer. In 1666, He became the chief pastor of the Lutheran church in Frankfurt. Here in 1675, he wrote the work which gave Pietism its name, Pia desideria, or Earnest Desires. He underwent a lot of opposition and persecution for his beliefs. The one which apparently upset the orthodox Lutheran academics of his day most was that one needed to experience regeneration before you could truly be a theologian. The fact that this was so controversial shows something of the state of the church in Germany at this time.

In 1686 he encouraged August Hermann Franke in his dream of a Collegium Philobiblicum, in which graduates met for regular and systematic Bible study and exegesis of the Scriptures in a practical way. In 1694, he helped to found the University of Halle. In 1695, the theological faculty in Wittenburg charged him with 264 various theological errors, the disputes dragged on and ended only with his death in 1705.

His influence and the influence of Pietism lived on. It was largely responsible for George Muller’s work among orphans, as well as all the other movements I mentioned earlier.

Here are His six main proposals he made in Pia Desderia:

1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("a church within the church").
2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church
3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement
4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them
5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life
6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life.

With that I close.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thomas Chalmers - A man who loved the Church

Thomas Chalmers was a well known Scottish Theologian, who became the first Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. He is best remembered for his being one of the first in modern times to espouse the Gap Theory of Genesis. He also is known for his influence upon men such as William Burns, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Horatius and Andrew Bonar.

He was born in 1780 in Fife. At 12 he began his studies at the University of Saint Andrews, he finshed after 7 years and was licensed as a preacher at the age of 19, the usual qualification of 21 years was waived due to his "rare and singular qualities."

The ironic thing is that at this time Chalmers was unconverted. The church in Scotland was at a very low ebb, and Moderatism was the main form of Christianity. Moderatism basically was a preaching which emphasized practical morals, but avoided preaching on the atonement or justification. It's main tenet could be summed up as a "don't upset people" approach to Christianity.

For several years Chalmers studied and lectured in Mathematics, Chemistry and Economics. Then sometime in 1810-11 he became converted. It was a noticible conversion that drew accusations that he had lost his mind. By 1815, he was preaching in such an effective manner at Tron Church in Glasgow, that many merchants would leave work for an hour to listen to his Thursday sermons, some giving their workers this time off as well.

He devoted much time and effort to the erection of new churches in areas of Glasgow that did not have them. He was transferred to one of the new churches (St. John's) in 1819. During his time there he was involved in devising good ways to tend to the poor in the community and succeeded admirably.

In 1823, He became a lecturer of Moral Philosophy at the University of Saint Andrews. The University was not evangelical, but it hoped that students would come to hear Chalmers. His popularity drew students from all over Britain. He was determined to teach a Christianity which embraced economics, and indeed every aspect of life.

Not only were students encouraged in home missions and social needs, but visiting missionaries from China and India imparted vision to the next generation of the need for the gospel to go to the uttermost parts of the earth. Among the missionaries who came from this group was Alexander Duff, who left for India.

In 1828 He moved to Edinburgh and became a lecturer of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, it was during his time here that he influenced Robert Murray McCheyne and the Bonar brothers. They would be influential in the Evangelical movement that was beginning to take shape.

An Evangelical revival was beginning to take place in Scotland and some of the ministers were not overly happy with the disruption of their quiet and peaceable, if somewhat fruitless, lives. The Evangelical party became more and more distanced from the Moderates.

The break came in 1843, when after years of attempting to resolve the differences with the State. At the time pastors were appointed by the wealthy lords in the parish. If the congregation was unhappy with the choice they could vote against it. But it became clear that the State was not going to allow objections, in several cases they upheld the appointments regardless of the misgivings of the parishioners. Since the State subsudized the church it felt that it had a claim to a say in the placement of ministers.

Chalmers and those who followed him realized that an issue of the Gospel was at stake. Would they continue to take State money and compromise on principle, or would they take a stand and cast themselves on an uncertain future, and trust God to take care of them.

Chalmers had been moderator of the Church of Scotland, and had once said words to the effect that he was interested in the course of action which most promoted the Christian good of Scotland, not just his particular denomination. The greatest Christian good was that Christ and not the secular power should be Lord of His Church. Therefore his only course of action was to leave the established church and start another one.

Cynical newspapers stated that those who would risk their fixed salaries for a point of prinicple would be few and thought that those who would leave would be at the most 100, but on the day of the 18th of May 1843, it was over 450 ministers that voluntary resigned there positions on the priniciple that the church had the right to ordain its own ministers.

This was the beginning of the Free Church of Scotland. these men became influential in the 1859 revival in Scotland and in Moody's later revival meetings.

Chalmers was appointed the first moderator of the church, he set up a system whereby the smaller struggling churches could be helped by the larger ones. Four years after the Disruption, Chalmers passed away, having established the Free Church on good footing, ready to be an instrument of God's revival in Scotland.

What I like about Chalmers was his earnest desire for Christ's kingdom to be advanced even if it didn't advance his own cause or his own organization. The other thing he showed was a firm resolve to not let any intruding power reign in the church, but Christ alone, through His chosen ministers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Grind On O Wheel Of God

Grind on, O wheel of God,
Thou stone of God's own mill,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
Fine wheat, make finer still

Grind on, O wheel of God,
Grind thou night and day,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
In grinding grind away

Grind on, O wheel of God,
Remove all dirt and grime,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
And make me wholly Thine

Grind on, O wheel Of God,
And happy I will be,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
And form thou, Christ in me