The usual situation is for a pastor to be called to lead a local church. Nevertheless, the thoughts in this article apply to a pastor wherever he may be functioning. As far as the local church is concerned, we start with the assumption that pastor and people have prayerfully and carefully determined that the “match” is God’s will for both. With that in mind, the pastor is supposed to lead the church to be successful. Right? Wrong! A pastor’s responsibility is to be used by God to Spiritually build Christians. If the church is well run and improving we can be thankful, but only if it is the result of maintaining the right priorities. The Spiritual leader or leaders in a local assembly are to be servant-leaders “For the perfecting (maturing, equipping) of the saints, for (doing) the work of the ministry, for the edifying (strengthening, healthy growth) of the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). The “bottom line” is developing disciples. There is to be example, education, exhortation, exposition and evangelism. This would include groups, one-on-one, and the total pulpit ministry. As each individual part of the body is healthy spiritually, so will the whole Body be healthy. Except for legal purposes, the local church is not a business. It is a family and is to reproduce and bring up new spiritual infants “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (From Ephesians 6:4). There is to be an atmosphere of love, encouragement, enjoyment, patience, discipline and training. What a wonderful thing to see God’s children coming into mature spiritual adulthood. How many churches provide this kind of atmosphere? Selah! People are far more important than programs! Ron
Unless Jesus is the focus of our lives, unless He is central to our faith, we have missed what Christianity is to us and for us. The title of this worshipful hymn and of today’s article is the basic motivation for the prayer of a true disciple. He is what captivates our hearts and thrills us with the wonder of His Person. While in a secondary sense, we value the blessings He showers on us, what matters most is He, Himself! Filled with the wonder of His Person, we are awed; we become absorbed in wonder, love and praise for Who He is and what He has gone through to rescue us from what we justly deserve. If our experience of Spiritual rebirth is genuine, we are increasing in our love and devotion for Him and to Him. The hymnwriter captured this well in these words, “Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside, so enchained my spirit’s vision, gazing on the Crucified.” (From “All for Jesus” by Mary D. James). Paul captured it even more in Philippians 3:8, where he wrote, ” ….I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord….” Let the driving passion of our lives be to look “…unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith….” daily, in adoring love. Selah! Be Thou, My Vision! Is that the true prayer of our hearts? Ron
A disciple, first and foremost, is one who has experienced genuine conversion. With that as a given, we realize that there are different levels of discipleship (i.e; becoming disciplined). Some mature slowly, others rapidly, but all who are born again will undergo the maturing (sanctifying) process. What is it in the heart of a disciple that activates this process? In other words, what makes a disciple “tick?” Having seen the seriousness of his or her sinfulness and, as a result, received salvation and forgiveness, he or she is filled with gratitude and love for the One who made salvation possible. A desire for a God-honoring life is implanted in their hearts. They crave to know more about their Lord and Savior. This, in turn, stimulates a determination to learn about Him. This leads to searching, studying and applying God’s Word. This is where Jesus is revealed. It is where God lays out His intentions and designs for our lives. it is here that we find guidance for our daily lives and increasing insight into God’s ways, character, purposes and His love, grace and mercy toward those who are His. Here is the source of our strength, our spiritual nourishment, our means of personal purity and it is where God speaks to our hearts. A disciple’s heart longs to learn about, fellowship with, worship and express gratitude to God. How far and how fast we mature is in proportion to quality time spent listening to and conversing with Him (praying). “How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light.” Psalm 36:7-9). Selah! In the life of faith, there are no shortcuts! Ron
Running close to empty is not wise. If we fell into that trap and made it to a gas station, we were relieved. When we requested the tank to be filled, it was wonderful to be on the road again, full steam ahead. The trip was now pleasure and absent of fear. We cruised along and made progress toward our destination. Coasting along, wondering if we would run out of gas was not fun. It’s far worse to be running on “Empty” Spiritually. No power, no purpose, no progress! Our God has an unlimited supply of power upon which we can draw. He awaits our request to “fill it up.” More wonderful still is that it is all paid for and readily available. Why would we be willing to drift, when such a supply is ours for the asking? God wants us to have a joyous journey and reach home; cross the finish line gloriously and hear His approval. Go to His Word, fill up and move out in His power. Always keep the “tank” full. Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus admonishing them in Chapter 5, Verse 18 to, “be filled with the Spirit.” When God’s Word fills our lives and we are energized by His principles, it’s a great journey. We may have some bumps and even get sidetracked but, if we draw on His power, He will keep us going and moving in the right direction, enabling us to get over the bumps and arrive home safely. Selah! Re-supply 24/7; always running with a full tank of God’s Truth! Ron
When the gas level indicator was at empty, people used to say, “I’m running on empty.” They probably had a little gas left but were close to empty. If they didn’t get gas soon, they would come to a complete stop. In this time period of the church, there’s a little power left but we may be very close to a complete stop. We don’t push the pedal to the floor but creep along trying to conserve what little bit is left. It would be better to stop and fill the tank and run under full power. If we aren’t ready to do that, “gun it” and go as far as we can and maybe find some help. Just drifting along is no way to go. Many in the church have let the power dissipate. They should have “filled the tank” and moved ahead. Now they are down to coasting, hoping to make it. Isn’t this just what Jesus was lamenting in Revelation 3:15? He said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.” In other words, either get down to business or stop playing the game. It fails to bless God, ourselves or anyone else. Just floating along in the Christian life is disappointing to our Lord and leaves us empty of the power He longs to have us experience. His counsel to us is found in Verses 18-19, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Selah! God is at hand ready to replenish our power. If we ignore the need, we will soon grind to a complete stop, empty and immovable. What a tragic situation, when it could have been avoided! Ron
He is no longer dead! Have you seen Him? Oh, yes!!! He can be seen! He is alive! Well, you ask, where is He so that I can see this Man who was dead? You won’t see Him as He was when He vacated the tomb. However, you can see Him anytime, as often as you want to and for as long as you want to, as you go to where He is found. He is found in your Bible! It is in the Scriptures that He is viewed from Genesis through Revelation. It is not the paper or the print; it is in the message. It is not the message as a recounting of numerous facts; it is the message activated by the Holy Spirit. The meaning and implications of the message impact our hearts and minds, causing us to realize that we are interacting with One Who was dead but is alive evermore. To the Spirit renewed mind, He is more alive than any other person that we can see with our physical eye. Unsaved people cannot grasp this. The genuine Christian knows Him in a very personal way. As God’s Word is discerned by us, we become conscious of His Presence in fellowship. It’s not history, it’s 24/7 current events. This is because the Spirit opens our hearts to gaze upon Him, as we devotionally spend quality time with Him. “In Him was (and is) Life; and the Life was (and is) the Light of men.” (John 1:4). Selah! He is alive and dwelling in the hearts of all who have had a valid conversion. Ron
Guest Article By A.W. Tozer
Why does the gospel Christian of today find the reading of great books almost beyond him? Is the intellectual capacity of the evangelical of today inferior to that of his spiritual progenitor of two hundred years ago? The answer to the first question is somewhat complicated, but the second can be answered easily and correctly with an emphatic No. Intellectual powers do not wane from one generation to another. We are as smart as our forefathers. Any thought they could entertain we can entertain if we are sufficiently interested to make the effort. The major cause of the decline in the quality of current Christian literature is not intellectual; it is spiritual. To enjoy a great religious work requires a degree of consecration to God and detachment from the world that few modern Christians have experienced. The early Christian Fathers, the mystics, the Puritans, are not hard to understand, but they inhabit the highlands where the air is crisp and rarefied and none but the God-enamored can come. Rather than climb the mountain we choose to dig our shallow caves a few feet above the floor of the valley. Our spiritual moods and emotions are degraded. We eat and drink and rise up to play. We take our religious instruction in the form of stories, and anything that requires meditation bores us. And writers and publishers contribute to our delinquency by providing us with plenty of religious nothing to satisfy our carnal appetite.
O ye Americans, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged!
“Give attendance to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13, KJV).
From “Warfare of the Spirit”-Moody Press
Guest Article By A.W. Tozer
Guarding the Heart
The reading habits of the average evangelical Christian in the United States, as far as I have been able to observe them, are so wretchedly bad as actually to arrest the spiritual development of the individual believer and block the progress of the faith he professes to hold. So powerful is the effect of the printed page on human character that the reading of good books is not only a privilege but an obligation, and the habitual reading of poor ones a positive tragedy. Of course I do not here refer to the output of the yellow press. I think we may safely assume that no true Christian would stoop to read the under-the-counter literary obscenities of the corner newsstand or the hole-in-the-wall bookstore. By “poor” books I mean the religious trash being turned out these days by the various publishers under the name of Christian. Tons of this stuff are produced each year to satisfy a market which a previous output has in large measure helped to create. This religious rubbish is mostly fiction and serves three ends: It helps to fatten the bank account of the evangelical “novelist” who writes it; it keeps the publishers in business, and it feeds the depraved, or at least underdeveloped, appetites of the demi-Christians who find serious reading hard going but who lap up the denatured pabulum of the press as avidly as a kitten laps cream. And if I were allowed a choice I would go along with the kitten, for cream is both tasty and nutritious, while the average religious novel is wholly lacking in nutriment and is found palatable only by those persons whose taste buds have been debauched by prolonged exposure to Christian literature which is, if the truth were told, neither Christian nor literature.
From “Warfare of the Spirit”-Moody Press
By “we” I mean those who are born again. We are alive, but how many are oblivious to the enormity of God’s amazing engagement with us? We are recipients of some of the most astounding miracles ever to be worked! However, to look at many of those who have been the objects of these miracles, you’d think too many of them don’t seem to have a clue. Why, for example, should God love us? Born, spiritually dead, did we or could we reach out to God, if He didn’t seek us first? Who do you know that would sacrifice what God sacrificed to rescue us? Who else could deliver us from spiritual death? These are just the beginning of amazing miracles. He takes us into His family. He puts His very own life in us, honoring and blessing us with His power and Presence. He gives us daily perfect guidance for all that living entails. We have a manual (the Bible) to show us how to live life to the fullest. He uses us to help and bless others. One day, He will take us to a perfect environment, there to live forever. This doesn’t even take into account His watchcare and provision all through our lives. How can we possibly fail to be thrilled to the core of our beings for these gracious manifestations of God’s love? “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. for scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ….if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His Life.” (From Romans 5:6-10) Selah! Do we need Someone to shake us awake to these marvelous realities? Ron