Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grandmaster Satan

Some years ago, while I was in the Air Force, I had the opportunity to study Tae Kwon Do. Tae Kwon Do is a Korean form of karate. From start to finish, I studied under various instructors for 14 years. I was awarded the rank of second degree black belt and was able to open my own studio for a couple of years the second time I was stationed in Utah.

One of the differences I saw between beginners and experts was the way they fight. Part of Tae Kwon Do training is called "free fighting." That is where people pair off with a partner and fight without being told what to do. They can do any technique they can. White belts, beginners, will set up in their ready stance and when the referee calls "Fight!" they charge in with a kick or a punch and then fall back into their ready stance and then go again. One technique, then ready, then another technique. Punch, break, kick, break, punch ... and so on it goes.

Not so with black belts. They set up in their ready stance and when the command is given to start, they let loose with a barrage of techniques on each other until one person scores or his opponent is driven out of bounds. When they get the chance to attack they keep on attacking until they are defeated or until they get the victory.

Our adversary, the Devil is not a black belt. He is a Grandmaster. He attacks us constantly. The Apostle Paul says that we are not ignorant of Satan's devices. We know his strategy and his schemes. He would turn us against God and drive us out of bounds so that we are no longer in the fight.

I could write a book about the kinds of things Satan does to cause us to turn against God and give in to the flesh. It is enough to know that whenever you see anger (not the righteous kind), and strife, envy, backbiting, gossip, selfishness, frustration, harshness, meanness, unbelief, hardness of heart, sinful addictions, indifference to the things of God ... these are symptom of Satan's attacks. He attacks us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every second of every minute he is after us. He attacks from every angle with a variety of approaches. Some are subtle. Others are more blatant. But always he is after us.

Out defense is to draw near to God. The very things that help us most are the things Christians struggle the most to do. Simple as it sounds, Bible reading and prayer are still the best defenses against Satanic attack. Faithful church attendance is another one. The assurance of your salvation and believing the promises of God in the Bible are indispensable helps.

Satan is an expert. He is very good at what he does. He does all he can to get us to give into sin and to turn against God. He is ever out to defeat and depress us so we are ineffective in the battle against the forces of darkness in this world. he is every offering us substitutes to God. Things to give first place to in our hearts. Be careful. Be watchful. When you see signs of Satan's work, in your life or in the lives of those around you, reject it. Go to God in prayer and reject the works of Satan.

We live in bad times. Christians are under attack from within and without the church. We need to learn again that it is not the world and other people who are the enemy, it is one far older and more dangerous than all those others put together. And we need to learn again how to fight him. If we don't, we are already out of the battle.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prayer

In any relationship, communication is essential for success. In a marriage, spouses have to talk to each other to ensure the success of the marriage. When we are dating, when we are trying to learn about each other, talking is essential. When we are trying to raise our children to be good and godly people, communication is necessary. At work, at church, in our recreation, in every area of life, good communication is essential for the success of that endeavor.

It is the same way in our relationship with God. Communication is essential if we are to have a living and growing and deepening relationship with God. Prayer is talking to God. Prayer is how we talk to God. Prayer is conversation with God. In it, we speak to God, pouring out our heart to Him. He also speaks to us in the still small voice by which His Spirit speaks to our hearts about the issues between us. It has been said that prayer is oftentimes more about changing us than about changing God's mind.

But most of us do not pray as we ought. We neither devote enough time to prayer or we do not pray for the things we ought to pray for. A lot of times our prayer becomes a list of sins we want to be forgiven for and things we want God to do for us. And even those prayers are short and not given our true attention. Think for a moment about how you pray over your food. Many Christians do not even put any thought into their meal blessings. Yet, even those prayers are moments when the Christian is talking to Almighty God. So how then should we pray?

First, prepare your heart to pray. Prayer is talking to God. Get ready to approach God and to talk to Him. Make your heart ready to pray. Second, make your prayer time a time of worship. Worship God in prayer. Don't make it something you want to do and get over with as quickly as you can. Use your prayer time to draw closer to God. Third, let God speak to you. Be ready to have your heart changed by the things God brings to your mind during your times of prayer with Him.

Consider the Lord's Prayer (found in Matthew 6:9-13). Use it as a model of your own prayers. It has a section of worship, of petition (asking), of repentence, and closes in worship. Or you might use this outline P-R-A-Y. Each letter stands for a portion of your prayer. There is Praise (worship). There is Repentence (confession of sin). There is Asking (making our needs known to God). There is Yielding (purposing to respond to God in obedience). Maybe you have a way to pray that works better for you. And set aside a time to pray. Make it (as best as you can) around the same time each day. That way praying at that time of the day will become a habit. Determine not to let anything interfere with your time with God.

As a Christian we need breath and we need food to grow. The Bible is our food. It is manna from heaven. But prayer is our breath. It is life to us. We dare not neglect it. When the disciples watched Jesus, they saw He had power. He had power with God. He had power with people. They approached Him and of all the things they could have asked for, they said "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1). Prayer has power with God. It can change us and it can change our circumstances. It is the one discipline that brings us closer to God and to His heart. Yet, it is often the most neglected discipline that God has given to us.

God has said that His house shall be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7). The church is the house of God. It is a place of prayer for all people. If that is so, shouldn't we be about this very important business of being praying people in God's house? Let's purpose in our hearts to start today. Because ... if not now, when?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Believe ...

Here is my confession. I don't know much, but these are the things I know and put my hope in for life and the life to come.

I confess I have a vision of what a church and what a Christian ought to be like. My vision is based on what I believe a great, sovereign miracle working God can do. Let me share a few things with you ...

I believe that God is God, that His will is reality in heaven and on earth and that no one nor nothing can stop His mighty power when He sends it forth.

I believe He is holy and that there is no darkness nor shadow of darkness in Him at all.

I believe man is far, far beneath God.

I believe man is utterly lost and without hope in his sin, dead to the things of God and a slave to every thing that works against the holiness of the Almighty Majesty.

I believe there is no bottom to how low man can see himself when he is compared to the Infinite, Majestic, Almighty, Most High God.

I believe every single jot and tittle in the Bible is the God inspired Word of God given through the minds and pens of His inspired writers, to men.

I believe that if man is going to be saved (from the coming wrath of God) that it must be God that saves him.

I believe salvation is a life changing encounter between a helpless and dead sinner and the Sovereign King of Life.

I believe the gospel is the only hope of humanity, in this life or the next. It has power to change the lives of those who believe it's message.

I believe God has called me to be faithful to scatter the seed of the word of God far and wide, to everywhere I can. The results, who gets saved, is in His hands.

I believe in a church where truth is believed and Christians accept and love one another in genuine holy affections just as the Bible teaches us.

I believe none of us are sinless but that we can learn from Christ and learn to live well as Christians, in the church and in the world.

I believe the God who lives in us all (all of us Christians) walks and talks with us and points us to the Holy Scriptures, which is His true voice to men.

I believe Jesus will one day return to gather all His people to Himself, so that we can spend eternity with Him, where He is.

I believe prayer first and foremost changes us, but that, in the mystery of prayer, it pleases God to answer the prayers of His children.

I believe it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

I believe (again) that this world's only hope is the good news of salvation and reconciliation with God through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

These things I believe. Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Calvin at 500

Yesterday, July 10th, was the 500th birthday of John Calvin. Calvin is one of those enigmatic figures in church history. People either love him or hate him but very few people who know of him are passive about him.

John Calvin was only 8 years old when Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany (October 31st, 1517). While Luther went on to lead the way in the Reformation, it is Calvin's name that is most often associated with "reformed theology."

Calvin's chief contribution to the Reformed cause was his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This monumental book explained, in clearest terms, the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers. The original version of the book followed the outline of the Apostle's Creed. It was revised and updated several times before it's final edition was released. It is still widely read among Christians today. My own copy is within easy reach of my right hand as I type these words. Calvin was a Christian model of piety, hard work, zealousness, evangelical passion, and study of the divine word. As John Piper describes it, Calvin's two chief passions were the majesty of God in the word of God and the glory of Christ in salvation. These two thoughts were the foundations of everything he taught and wrote.

Many people charge that Calvinistic theology kills an evangelistic impulse in the people who hold it. In other words, if you are a Calvinist, then you will not want to win people to Jesus. Yet Calvin trained hundreds of evangelists. More than 500 were sent back into Calvin's native France, where many were martyred for the faith. Others travelled to other European countries carrying the Reformed doctrine with them. Calvin maintained a correspondence with almost all of them.

But Calvin's zealousness also surrounded him with controversy. Chief among these was the infamous burning of the heretic Michael Servetus. Servetus denied the Trinity and was condemned by the Catholic Church and sentenced to be executed. But he escaped from his captors and made his way to Geneva to confront Calvin. Calvin recognized Servetus and had him arrested. The city leaders also condemned Servetus and sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Calvin argued that Servetus should be beheaded, but to no avail. Calvin spent much time arguing with Servetus trying to get him to profess faith in the Trinity, thus changing his method of execution, but also to no avail. The day Servetus was executed, Calvin spent in private prayer for Servetus' salvation. History however, has laid the blame for Servetus' death at the doorstep of Calvin.

Calvin spent much time also in conflict with the city leaders and with the libertines in the city (those who loved their sinful lifestyles). They would threaten his life and do things to frighten him and confuse him. They would play loud music outside his house, or fire guns over the roof of his house.

Calvin's writings have influenced western thought in the areas of education, government, philosophy, charity, finances .... in fact, it is hard to think of an area of life that has not been touched by Calvinistic thinking. Now, many sources report that Calvinism is having a resurgence in the church and the world. Time magazine has reported that the resurgence of Calvinism is one of the top ten influences shaping 21st century life in the United States.

At 500 years Calvin is still relevant to the Church and to the world. This is not something that is easily done. We often say in church what God could do with one man who has the devote and zeal of an Apostle Paul. Calvin was one such man. 500 years after his birth, he still touches our lives. One man, utterly devoted to the majesty of God in the word of God. One man, utterly devoted to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners. One man, 500 years old, still being used mightily of God. Would that we all had a little bit of Calvin in us.