Rise Up O Men of God!

“This is not a moment for timid souls. Boldness comes easily when you are in the presence of those who agree with you; it is difficult when you are standing alone in the midst of people who seek your demise. Boldness behind a pulpit is one thing; boldness in a city council meeting is another. Boldness is seen most clearly when you have burned the bridge that would have enabled you to retreat to safety.”

Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Cultures Assault on Christianity, 120.

We are at a critical point in the history of the world and the Church. Should the Lord tarry, our children will look back on these dark and trying days and judge whether we were courageous in the face of great opposition or see evidence of compromise and capitulation. What will make the difference? Can I suggest a few things from Acts 4:8-12, where the disciples ran into their first major confrontation with aggression?

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)

1. The disciples were filled with the Spirit.

This is the only way a group of Christ-followers who were cowering behind locked doors only a few days before could be so radically different. Courage and boldness is not for those of this type of personality. Boldness and courage filled the hearts of those filled with the Spirit.

2. The disciples testified to Jesus Christ.

The evangelical church is scattered and divided about a lot of things today—spiritual gifts, baptism modes, music, methodology, women in ministry, and more. Don’t get me wrong, hese are all incredibly important things. But the primary need for standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy is the gospel message. The heart and focus must highlight the cross of Jesus Christ and the atoning work accomplished. Everything else must be seen in its subordinate place.

3. The disciples upheld the importance of the resurrection of Christ.

The resurrection points to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is not tangential, but central. The resurrection of Christ points to our own future resurrection and glorification. If you grasp this, then courage is sure to come because nothing—NOTHING—can stop you. Not even death.

4. The disciples never forgot that Jesus was rejected too.

If you forget that they hated Jesus, you might be tempted into the sin of seeking to please man. But if you remember that they hated our Lord and crucified the Lord of glory, then we will not be surprised when they hate us as well—no matter how winsome or loving or kind we might be.

5. The disciples knew that there is no other hope for the world than Jesus.

If a person could be saved through Islam, or Mormonism, or liberation theology, then it would be much easier to just quietly practice our faith privately without any care about others because they’ll eventually get to heaven too. But the message of Jesus was clear—He is the only way to the Father. And that should embolden us because although some people might want to silence us or shout us down, we can’t be silent if we truly love them.

Brothers and sisters, don;t lose heart. Jesus is coming soon, but we have work to do and we can’t allow the shouts of the world to drown us out.

Examining the Fallacy that Being Like the World Will Attract the Worldly to Christ (weekend repost)

“Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. And the world should see us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after-all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Read the rest here: Examining the Fallacy that Being Like the World Will Attract The Worldly to Christ

Dealing Honestly with Criticism in the Ministry (weekend post)

Criticism is a hard thing to deal with. This past week as I was digging through some old files on my computer I found a file that I had labeled “problems.” I currently have a paper file labeled the same in my desk drawer where complaint letters are kept. Thankfully it doesn’t have too many letters in it…yet.

Going back to the other day, I knew that I shouldn’t open the file and look inside, but curiosity got the better of me and I did. Inside I found some letters from when I was a pastor in California. The memories of those occasions had mercifully faded, but the letters instantly brought back those difficult days.

Read the rest of the post here: Dealing Honestly with Criticism in Ministry

How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Attitude in the Present Circumstances (part 1)

In his famous hymn “This is My Father’s World”, Maltbie Babcock wrote these comforting words:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget/ That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav’n be one.

This stanza pulls together two truths that confront us in this world—“the wrong seems oft so strong” and “God is the ruler yet.” In the next three post I want to address this from the biblical perspective of Psalm 75. Over each of the next three posts I will lay out a total of Nine Ways in Which the Sovereignty of God in Dealing with the Wicked Affects Our Attitude Toward our Present Circumstances. Let’s begin…

1. It Makes us Aware That God is Always Near Us (v. 1A)

Psalm 75:1a “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.

The reason for the psalmist’s thankfulness was that the “name” of God was near. The “name” of course, points to the presence of God himself.
David wrote about this nearness in Psalm 139:1-12 when he spoke of the Lord intimately knowing mankind from when he knit us in our mother’s womb as well as every other aspect of our lives. There is nowhere that we can hide or be hidden from his presence.

This is a comforting reality in times of need and pain. God really is right here with us. He hears your prayers. He sees your enemies as they attack. He sees it all.

2. It Gives us a Thankful Heart (v.1b)

Psalm 75:1b “We recount your wondrous deeds.

Along with his nearness was a legacy of remembering that brought forth a thankful heart.

Remembering and reciting aids in developing a thankful heart. We are forgetful people, aren’t we? The Lord knew this, and so he constantly calls his people throughout the Scriptures to remember, even instructing them to set up memory aids, special dates, rites, and festivals. In the Church Age, Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper to be done “in remembrance of him.” Why? Because as monumental as the cross of Christ is for our eternity, we still forget about it if left to ourselves.

Psalm 78:4 speaks about the need for parents to recite these memories to their children. It says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

We can grow anxious and weary when we forget that God is in control. We can begin to see ourselves as helpless, awash in the chaos of the world, victims of chance. But if you sit down and read through the pages of Scripture, you will quickly begin to see that God has always been in control. Reminding yourself of this fact will change your outlook radically.

3. It Teaches Us Patience (v. 2)

Psalm 75:2 “At the set time that I appoint, I will judge with equity.

Here we have a change of speakers—the song has moved from Asaph speaking (or the priest who led the singing) to God himself speaking. The Lord says that “at the set time that I appoint…” This language in Hebrew refers to seasonal time, not clock time. Clock time spins fast. Seasons don’t work by a clock. Fruit doesn’t ripen according to your watch. God doesn’t punch-in to work.

Let there be no mistake, God will judge—he says so. But he will judge at the set time that he appoints. We can’t say “Amen” to God’s sovereignty and then be impatient when he doesn’t act on our schedule, can we? We can’t be like Martha, Lazarus’ sister, who got so upset that Mary wasn’t helping her prepare the food in the kitchen that she stomped right into the middle of Jesus’ teaching time and demanded that the LORD command her sister to help her! It appears Martha thought Jesus needed a little help leading the world. He doesn’t.

When you become impatient and wonder when God will judge, remember that God is in control as he has always been. Be still and know that he is God.

The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 5)

Ministry can be a lonely place. Sometimes there are very few people that could understand what you re going through, and there aren’t many that you can share your thoughts and struggles with. Ministry partnerships and fellowship can definitely help alleviate this, but there is still the reality that the road of ministry leadership is sometimes still fraught with times of isolation and discouragement.

In the last four parts of this series, I have been laying out six areas of the Lord’s provision for those in ministry. These have included the provision of co-workers, financial support, focus, boldness, and souls saved. You can read the first four parts of this series here: The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 1), The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 2),Part 3: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1834, and Part 4: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1842

Finally, The Lord Provides for ministry when he gives us encouragement.

He Gives Us Encouragement

“And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10, NASB95)

Think about the English word, “encouragement.” It has the word “courage” right in the middle of it. This English word originally was, in-courage, and it meant “to give courage.” And that is what the Lord is doing in verses 9-10. In a vision one night, the Lord reminded Paul what he often told his prophets in the Old Testament, “do not be afraid!”

In Exodus 3:2, as God called Moses to redeem his people from Egypt, He told him that He would be with him. In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses told Israel to trust the Lord as they entered the promised land. In Joshua 1:5, 9, the Lord encouraged Joshua that he would be with him as he was with Moses and that he needed to be strong and courageous. In Isaiah 41:10, the Lord told the prophet Isaiah that he is not to fear or be dismayed, because the Lord God will strengthen him, help him, and uphold him. And in Jeremiah 1:8, when Jeremiah was called to go out as the prophet of the Lord, God told him that he was not to be afraid of them because the Lord was with him to deliver him from all dangers.

Paul needed that kind of supernatural encouragement as he faced the daunting task of the ministry the Lord had given to him. And so he gave Paul these instructions:

“Don’t be afraid any longer”…When we react in fear we are lacking faith in the Lord our God who is our strong tower. In our fear we must trust the Lord and turn to him by faith to accomplish his will.

“Go on speaking and do not be silent”…Fear of persecution often silences the faithful witness. Paul needed to be courageous and keep on speaking the truth, in spite of the high probability that he would continue to suffer greatly for the gospel.

And then he gave him three encouragements:

For I am with you”…Paul was never alone. God was always with him. Just as he was with Moses, Joshua, Israel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Habakkuk, and so many others.

“No man will attack you in order to harm you”…No one can touch us if God’s protective hand is upon us. This would be limited to the time that Paul was evangelizing in Corinth until those God would save had been saved. It wasn’t a promise that Paul would never be attacked again. But it was an assurance that for a while, Paul would be able to do the work of the ministry without violence breaking out in Corinth for a while.

“I have many people in this city”…The Lord was saying to Paul, “there were many people left who would be saved. Go find them!” When the time to move on had come, the Lord would let Paul know. He was to be encouraged with the fact that there was a good harvest of souls right there in that city.

We know how the Great Story ends, don’t we? No matter how dark things get, no matter what twists and unforeseen trials we encounter, in the end, Jesus has already won! Therefore, we need to be encouraged and see with the eyes of the Ascended Christ. He is not dead and in the tomb. He is seated at the right hand on high. He is coming again. And he has given us work to do. 

Let your hands be strengthened with this truth and carry on with the Lord’s work. Look at our last verse, verse 11: “And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:11, NASB95). Do you see the result of these provisions? God had provided co-workers, finances, focus, boldness, souls saved, and words of encouragement. And Paul continued on and so we must carry on as well.