We Must Give Time to God

The following is a devotion from A.W. Tozer found in his book, The Root of the Righteous. I post it here as a challenge for all Christians to go further, grow deeper, and walk closer with Christ. It will come as a challenge to most who sincerely read it and take it to heart, but only when we realize our lack of spiritual maturity can we begin to earnestly pray and work that God would bring this growth about in our lives.

Probably the most persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of a lack* spiritual progress. Why, after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no farther along than when they first believed?

Some would try to resolve the difficulty by asserting flatly that such persons were never saved, that they had never been truly regenerated. They are simply deceived professors who have stopped short of true conversion.

With a few this may be the answer, and we would accept this explanation as final did we not know that it is never the deceived professor who laments his lack of spiritual growth, but the true Christian who has had a real experience of conversion and who is sure that he is this very moment trusting in Christ for salvation. Uncounted numbers of such believers are among the disappointed ones who deplore their failure to make progress in the spiritual life.

The causes of a lack of growth are many. It would not be accurate to ascribe the trouble to one single fault. One there is, however, which is so universal that it may easily be the main cause: failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.

The temptation to make our relation to God judicial instead of personal is very strong. Believing for salvation has these days been reduced to a once-done act that requires no further attention.  The young believer becomes aware of an impact of an act performed rather than of a living Savior to be followed and adored.

The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God. Paul was anything but an advocate of the once-done, automatic school of Christianity. He devoted his whole life to the art of knowing Christ. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death… I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8, 10, 14).

Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of the Triune God in personal experience.  And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent at the holy task of cultivating God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him. Without meaning to do it we have written our serious fault into our book titles and gospel songs. “A little talk with Jesus,” we sing, and we call our books, “God’s Minute,” or something as revealing. The Christian who is satisfied to give God His “minute” and to have “a little talk with Jesus” is the same one who shows up at the evangelistic service weeping over his lack of spiritual growth and begging the evangelist to show him the way out of his difficulty.

We may as well accept it: there is not short cut to sanctity. Even the crises that come in the spiritual life are usually the result of long periods of thought and prayerful meditation. As the wonder grows more and more dazzling there is likely to occur a crisis of revolutionizing proportions. But that crisis is related to what has gone before. It is a sudden sweet explosion, an uprushing of the water that has been increasing its pressure within until we can no longer contain it. Back of it all is the slow buildup and preparation that comes from waiting upon God.

A thousand distractions would woo us away from thoughts of God, but if we are wise we will sternly put them from us and make room for the King and take time to entertain Him. Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it. God will respond to our efforts to know Him. The Bible tells us how; it is altogether a matter of how much determination we bring to the holy task.

Tozer, A.W. The Root of the Righteous. (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, INC., 1955.) Pages 10-13.

* The original text uses the word “retarded” to describe the lack of spiritual growth. Because of current cultural sensitivities, I have chosen to use the phrase “a lack of” in its place.

All Scripture quotations taken from the ESV.

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Thoughts on Worship

I’ve been spending a bit more time this week thinking about why we worship the way we do; why do we sing what we sing, and does what we do in worship (singing, praying, reading, preaching, listening) truly bring glory and honor to God?  Who is the audience of our worship, God or man?  I know it ought to be God, but often it seems that I preach or plan worship for the approval of those in the congregation, rather than hearing the affirmation of the Lord saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 I haven’t had a lot of time to write today, so I thought I’d leave you with some excerpts from D.A. Carson’s essay entitled “Worship Under the Word,” which is part of the excellent book, Worship By the Book.  Keep in mind, these are highlights, and I’ve left out a lot of the supporting arguments, but I think you’ll get a sense of the point that Carson is making about how we go about our worship together.

We worship our Creator-God “precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.” What ought to make worship delightful to us is not, in the first instance, its novelty or its aesthetic beauty, but its object: God himself is delightfully wonderful, and we learn to delight in him.

In an age increasingly suspicious of (linear) thought, there is much more respect for the “feeling” of things – whether a film or a church service.  It is disturbingly easy to plot surveys of people, especially young people, drifting from a church of excellent preaching and teaching to one with excellent music because, it is alleged, there is better “worship” there.

Some think that corporate worship is good because it is lively where it had been dull. But it may also be shallow where it is lively, leaving people dissatisfied and restless in a few months’ time. Sheep lie down where they are well fed; they are more likely to be restless when they are hungry. If you wish to deepen the worship of the people of God, above all deepen their grasp of his ineffable majesty in his person and in all his works.

For worship, properly understood, shapes who we are. We become like whatever is our god.

It is a fundamental truth of Scripture that we become like whatever or whomever we worhsip. When Israel worshipped the gods of the nations, she became like the nations – bloodthirsty, oppressive, full of deciet and violence.

Pray then for a massive display of the glory and character and attributes of God. We do not expect the garage mechanic to expatiate on the wonders of tools; we expect him to fix the car. He must know how to use his tools, but he must not lost sight of the goal. So we dare not focus on the mechanics of corporate worship and lose sight of the goal. We focus on God himself, and thus we become more godly and learn to worship – and collaterally we learn to edify one another, forbear with one another, challenge one another.

Of course, the glories of God may be set forth in sermon, song, prayer, or testimony. What is clear is that if you try to enhance “worship” simply by livening the tempo or updating the beat, you may not be enhancing worship at all. On the other hand, dry-as-dust sermons loaded with clichés and devoid of the presence of the living God mediated by the Word to little to enhance worship either.

What we must strive for is growing knowledge of God and delight in him – not delight in worship per se, but delight in God.

Excerpts from: Carson, D.A. editor Worship by the Book (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2002) pages 30-34.


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Reaching the Unchurched

For the readers of this blog who are also members of Lennox Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, know that your Elders are deeply committed to leading the congregation in becoming more outreach oriented. While our congregation has a strong history of mission involvement and support around the world, often the hardest mission field is in our own back yard.  We’ll send missionaries around the world to bring the Gospel to the lost, but we struggle to share that same Good News with our neighbors. Your Elders have been praying for God’s grace to bring renewal and revival to our community, and searching for opportunities to get invovled “outside the four walls of the Church,” so that we may reach the unchurch with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Along those lines, I read the following on the PCA’s Mission to North America website on Church Renewal that I thought interesting and helpful.  I’d encourage you to check out the other articles and resources by clicking here.  Will you join your Elders in praying for and engaging in evangelism?  And for those readers who are not members of Lennox Ebenezer, please pray for your Church’s leadership and encourage them in outreach ministry!

Becoming An Evangelistic Church

Most churches that are committed to being or becoming an evangelistic church, who want to reach the lost with the gospel, normally start to think of training in personal evangelism or even various strategies for attracting the lost to church or getting the gospel to the lost. But before those things are pursued there are some very obvious, “simple” things that a church can and should do first as it seeks to become more outward faced and effective in evangelism. These things do not require lots of money or great or extraordinary levels of commitment. All these things take is a fundamental commitment to be a church that strives to “seek and save that which is lost”. Some of these are:

  1. Mobilize to pray. Pray for the vitality of the church, for the community itself, for a specific list of lost people supplied by the members (family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.). This prayer can take place in small groups, in a monthly or weekly prayer gathering with for this particular purpose, in a Sunday School class, and by individuals.
  2. Build into the pastor’s job description and schedule 5-10 hours a week to spend with non-Christians and visitors to the church including networking in the community.
  3. Become visitor friendly. Things such as adequate signage, a warm and helpful greeting, a clean and orderly nursery, and a simple but attractive facility will go along way in opening doors for the gospel. Without them many visitors simple don’t return and the opportunities are lost.
  4. Preach in such a way that Christians will invite their unsaved, unchurched friends and associates.
  5. Serve your community. Identify and find ways for your congregation to be active in the community addressing real and tangible needs. People are often much more receptive to the gospel once they see your concern, your care for them as individuals and as a community. Encourage your congregation to be active members of the community, serving on boards, participating in the schools, taking advantage of park district activities, etc.

Once these pre-requisites are taking place in the life of the church any training that the church members receive will be much more enthusiastically embraced and will be all the more effective since many doors of opportunity will normally be generated and the congregation will have much more of an outreach mindset.

Some resources that can be considered for training/equipping the congregation include:

  1. “Building Bridges, Tearing Down Walls” by Jerram Barrs (available through Covenant Seminary).
  2. “3-D Evangelism” by Randy Pope (available through Perimeter Church, Atlanta).
  3. “Christianity Explored” by Rico Tice.
  4. “Evangelism Explosion” (still an excellent tool).
  5. “Breakout Churches” and “The Unchurched Next Door” by Thom Rainer (+ “Surprising Insights From the Unchurched”).
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Portable Worship

I offer to you today another gem from A.W. Tozer which speaks to what, I fear, is a common view of worship today.  “Worship is something we do when we go to Church… worship will start in 15 minutes…” If this is our notion of worship, it is a falsehood, and we are still missing what it means to draw into the presence of the Holy God in worship.

Why is it that when we think of worship, we think of something we do when we go to church? God’s poor stumbling, bumbling people; how confused can we get, and stay confused for a lifetime and die confused. Books are written confusing us further, and we write songs to confirm the books and confuse ourselves and others even further; and we do it all as if the only place one can worship God is in a church building we call the house of God. We enter the house dedicated to God, made out of bricks, linoleum and other stuff, and we say, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all kneel before Him.”

I personally enjoy starting a service that way occasionally. But it does not stop there. Come 9:00 A.M. Monday morning, if you do not walk into your office and say, “The Lord is in my office and all the world is silent before Him,” then you were not worshiping the Lord on Sunday. If you cannot worship Him on Monday, then you did not worship Him on Sunday. If you do not worship Him on Saturday, your worship Sunday is not authentic. Some people put God in a box we call the church building. God is not present in the church any more than He is present in your home. God is not here any more than He is in your factory or office.

…If God is not in your factory, if God is not in your store, if God is not in your office, then God is not in your church when you go there. When we worship our God, the breath of songs on Earth starts the organs playing the heavens above.

The total life, the whole man and woman, must worship God. Faith, love, obedience, loyalty, conduct and life – all of these are to worship God. If there is anything in you that does not worship God, then there is not anything in you that does worship God very well. If you departmentalize your life and let certain parts worship God, but other parts do not worship God, then you are not worshiping God as you should. It is a great delusion we fall into, the idea that in church or in the presence of death or in the midst of sublimity is the only setting for worship…

Worship pleasing to God saturates our whole being. There is no worship pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. I cannot departmentalize my life, worship God on Sunday and not worship Him on Monday. I cannot worship Him in my songs and displease Him in my business engagements.  I cannot worship God in silence in the church on Sunday, to the sound of hymns, then go out the next day and be displeasing to Him in my activities. No worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in us that is displeasing to God.

Without Jesus Christ, there is no goodness, and so I do not apologize at all when I say that your worship has to be all-inclusive and take you all in. If you are not worshiping God in all your life, then you are not worshiping Him acceptably in any area of your life.

Tozer, A. W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. (Bethany House Pub., Bloomington, MN, 2009) Pgs 125-128.
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We Are Hollow Men

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; 

and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”
(Psalm 115:4-8)

We are hollow people.

We have filled ourselves with food so that there is an obesity epidemic; but still we hunger for purpose and meaning in life.

We pride ourselves in the knowledge of the trivial and technological, but we have lost the basic understanding of how to relate to one another.

We supply our homes with comfort and entertainment, but the saccharine fluff leaves us desolate and rotting inside.

We are bombarded with breaking news every minute, but the truth of what is really happening eludes us.

We are surrounded on social media with “friends,” but we are isolated and feel like know one really knows us.

We chase after the desires of the flesh with no thought of lasting consequence and wonder why we are left feeling empty, broken, and lost.

This generation has more than any age that has gone before, why then are we plagued with emptiness? We read almost everyday of another life lost to suicide, bound by addiction, or even worse; of those who take up arms to inflict violence upon the unsuspecting.

And this is nothing new. T.S. Eliot penned the following in 1925:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Could it be that after generations of planting the seeds of idolatry, its hollow fruit is finally coming to harvest? While giving lip-service to the God of Scriptures, have we not chased after the idols of gold and silver, those things of earth and man which offer no hope of life or salvation?

We pursue a career, advancement and success; but feel betrayed when the cold wheel of industry eventually rolls us over.

We have made the individual the arbiter of truth so that everything is subjective, denying the authority (and even existence) of our Creator; and we wonder why the world is full of lies.

We cast of the restraints of antiquated morality for the sake of individual fulfillment; only to find ourselves alone and abused by those we’d hope would bring us pleasure.

All of this is evidence of the truth of Psalm 115. We have laid ourselves low before the false-gods of this world, and we are amazed that we have become like them! We are “shape without form, shade without color; paralyzed force, gesture without motion…” When we see a world filled with violence, deception, and indulgence, isn’t it because that’s what we’ve been worshiping all this time: power, self, and pleasure.

We are hollow, empty people, longing to be filled with that which brings us life; and that is why we need to hear the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ. Quit starving yourselves on the empty and vain things of this world. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread… Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food” (Isa 55:2). Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:48), and He gives the water of eternal life (John 7:38). In John 10:10, Jesus said that He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. He alone is way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

Jesus Christ came to bear the wrath of God to take away our sins, and to give all who believe in Him the gift of forgiveness and pease with God in eternal life. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He has purchased salvation, the reconciliation of those who had “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Rom 1:23). His is the only name given, in heaven and on earth, by which we must be saved… (Acts 4:12).

O hollow ones, if you are longing to be filled with life, with peace, with meaning – won’t you come to Christ Jesus the Lord and Savior. Beloved, if your heart breaks for the lost, if you hear the cry of the madding crowd – won’t you share Christ Jesus your Lord and Savior!


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Is God a Stranger In the Land?

“O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be as a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?” —Jer. 14:8

Every now and then I read an old sermon that seems to bring me under conviction. I came across this sermon by Robert Murray McCheyne entitled, “Why is God a Stranger in the Land?” In the message, he highlights the spiritual stupor that had come over much of Scotland in the 1800’s, and the found the root of that stupor in the failings of Scotlands ministers, believers, and even the unconverted.  I offer here the first two points of the sermon, addressing the Ministers and the Christians; reading in this message many things that apply even in our day.

Caution: no one comes away from this reading without at least some rebuke!

In most parts of our land, it is to be feared that God is a stranger, and like a wayfaring man who turneth aside to tarry for a night. What are the reasons why God is such a stranger in this land?

I. In ministers.—Let us begin with those who bear the vessels of the sanctuary.

(1.) It is to be feared there is much unfaithful preaching to the unconverted. Jeremiah complained of this in his day: “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Is there no reason for the same complaint in our own day? The great part of all our congregations are out of Christ, and lying night and day under the wrath of the Lord God Almighty; and yet it is to be feared that the most of the minister’s anxiety and painstaking is not taken up about them, that his sermons are not chiefly occupied with their case… There is little of this persuading spirit among ministers now. How can we wonder that the dry bones are very, very dry—that God is a stranger in the land?

(2.) It is to be feared there is much unfaithfulness in setting forth Christ as a refuge for sinners. When a sinner is newly converted, he would fain persuade every one to come to Christ,—the way is so plain, so easy, so precious. He thinks, Oh, if I were but a minister, how I would persuade men! But oh, how little is there of this among ministers… Many do not make it the end of their ministry to testify of Jesus as the hiding-place for sinners… We do not invite sinners tenderly; we do not gently woo them to Christ; we do not authoritatively bid them to the marriage; we do not compel them to come in; we do not travail in birth till Christ be formed in them the hope of glory. Oh, who can wonder that God is such a stranger in the land?

II. In Christian people

(1.) In regard to the word of God. There seems little thirst for hearing the word of God among Christians now. As a delicate stomach makes a man eat sparingly, so most Christians seem sparing in their diet in our day. Many Christians seem to mingle pride with the hearing of the word. They come rather as judges than as children.

(2.) In regard to prayer. There is much ploughing and much sowing, but very little harrowing in of the seed by prayer. God and your conscience are witnesses how little you pray. You know you would be men of power if you were men of prayer, and yet ye will not pray. Unstable as water, you do not excel. Luther set apart his three best hours for prayer. How few Luthers we have now!

It is to be feared there is little intercession among Christians now. The high priest carried the names of the children of Israel upon his shoulders and breast when he drew near to God—a picture of what Christ now does, and all Christians should do. God and your conscience are witnesses how little you intercede for your children, your servants, your neighbours, the church of your fathers, and the wicked on every side of you,—how little you pray for ministers, for the gift of the Spirit, for the conversion of the world,—how selfish you are even in your prayers!

It is to be feared there is little union in prayer. Christians are ashamed to meet together to pray. Christ has promised, “If two of you shall agree on earth, touching something that ye shall ask, it shall be done for you of my Father.” Many Christians neglect this promise. In the Acts, we find that when the apostles and disciples were praying together, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Oh, how often and how long have we despised this way of obtaining the outpouring of the Spirit! Do not some persons speak slightingly of united prayer? Here is one reason why God commands the clouds that they rain no rain on us. He waits till we seek Him together, and then He will open the windows of heaven and pour down a blessing. Oh that all Christians would lift up the cry, “Oh the hope of Israel!”

 McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.
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The Sovereignty of God

As I prepare for my upcoming series on the Will of God and the Will of Man, I thought I’d offer here a word in advance on the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God.  This is from Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology:

Sovereignty is not a property of the divine nature, but a prerogative arising out of the perfections of the Supreme Being. If God be a Spirit, and therefore a person, infinite, eternal, and immutable in his being and perfections, the Creator and Preserver of the universe, He is of right its absolute sovereign. Infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, with the right of possession, which belongs to God in all his creatures, are the immutable foundation of his dominion.

  • Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
  • Daniel 4:35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
  • 1 Chronicles 29:11″Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”
  • Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”
  • Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.”
  • Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?
  • Matthew 20:15 “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”
  • Ephesians 1:11 “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
  • Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

From these and similar passages of Scriptures it is plain,

  1. That the sovereignty of God is universal. It extends over all his creatures from the highest to the lowest.
  2. That it is absolute. There is no limit to be placed to his authority. He doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.
  3. It is immutable. It can neither be ignored nor rejected. It binds all creatures, as inexorably as physical laws bind the material universe.

This sovereignty is exercised,

  1. In establishing the laws, physical and moral, by which all creatures are to be governed.
  2. In determining the nature and powers of the different orders of created beings, and in assigning each its appropriate sphere.
  3. In appointing to each individual his position and lot. It is the Lord who fixes the bounds of our habitation. Our times are in his hands. He determines when, where, and under what circumstances each individual of our race is to be born, live, and die. Nations, no less than individuals, are thus in the hands of God, who assigns them their heritage in the earth, and controls their destiny.
  4. God is no less sovereign in the distribution of his favours. He does what He wills with his own. He gives to some riches, to others, honour; to others, health; while others are poor, unknown, or the victims of disease. To some, the light of the gospel is sent; others are left in darkness. Some are brought through faith unto salvation; others perish in unbelief. To the question, Why is this? the only answer is that given by our Lord. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”

Although this sovereignty is thus universal and absolute, it is the sovereignty of wisdom, holiness, and love. The authority of God is limited by nothing out of Himself, but it is controlled, in all its manifestations, by his infinite perfections. If a man is free and exalted, in proportion as he is governed by enlightened reason and a pure conscience, so is he supremely blessed who cheerfully submits to be governed by the infinite reason and holiness of God. This sovereignty of God is the ground of peace and confidence to all his people. They rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; that neither necessity, nor chance, nor the folly of man, nor the malice of Satan controls the sequence of events and all their issues. Infinite wisdom, love, and power, belong to Him, our great God and Saviour, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print.

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