Thursday, July 23, 2009

“How Should We Then Live” in a "What Would Jesus Do World?"

The 20th century saw many books come and go and unfortunately, many that should have went stayed and others that should have stayed seem to have passed on in the forgotten world of print. There are two books in particular I presently have in mind. The first though originally written and released one chapter at a time in 1896, did not seem to find the light of full publishing until early in the 20th century. The title to the book was In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon. The popularity and influence of the book is without question, and some estimate that early in the 20th century it was outsold by the Bible alone. The book tells the story of a pastor by the name of Henry Maxwell who catches a vision for the radical transformation of society in challenging his congregation to evaluate every decision that they are faced with using the question: What would Jesus do? The book was unfortunately “re-popularized” in the early 90's when it was rewritten and offered to the public again, this time by the great grandson of Sheldon, Garrett W. Sheldon. Many of you have probably read and been greatly influenced by the work as I was early on in my own growth in Christ. It danger is that it encourages an extremely moralistic ethic and mystical approach to discerning the will of God that a detached from the will of God clearly set forth in the Scriptures. Church history has proven its dangers in demonstrating Sheldon’s socialist leanings with his impact on the rise of the Social Gospel movement with Walter Rauschenbusch, feminism, liberal Christianity, his kinship with the deeper life moved, and his influence on the rise of the carnal Christian doctrine in the church of today. The impact that his work and ideas have had on the contemporary Evangelical movement with its mystical ethic may have to wait a few more generations to be fully known.

In Sheldon’s own words Jesus was to be seen as “the standard of human conduct for the entire human race.” In a vision at the end of the book Sheldon has the pastor Henry Maxwell who is enveloped in a dream like trance envision seeing the motto “What would Jesus do?” inscribed over every church door and every church members heart. He saw Christians forming societies all over the world marching and carrying banner which read “What would Jesus do?” This, Sheldon believed, would lead to nothing short of what he referred to as...“the regeneration of Christendom.”

What’s the problem: this is not the gospel! This is not the banner of the Church! This will not lead to the regeneration of Christendom. It will lead her into moralism - which in the end will lead to her discouragement, decay and eventual demise. Or on the other hand, it may in fact lead to her deception, self-sufficiency, and pride.

Before this turns into a book review of Sheldon’s work - I need to make mention of another title from the 20th century. In 1976, Francis A. Schaeffer wrote, what is probably his best known work, How Should We Then Live? In the opening lines of Schaeffer’s work we read these lines:

There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind - what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo’s chisel, and it is true of a dictators’s sword.

People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. Peoples’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions.

“As a man thinketh, so is he,” is really most profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world. Then, having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world and thus influence it. People are apt to look at the outer theater of action, forgetting the actor who “lives in the mind” and who therefore is the true actor in the external world. The inner thought world determines the outward action.

Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what world view is true. When all is done, when all the alternative have been explored, “not many men are in the room” - that is, although world views have many variation, there are not many basic world views or basic presuppositions.

Schaeffer advocates a life that springs from a world view and the world-view to which he refers is the Christian world-view. A view of the world that is saturated with God-centeredness. A view of the world that sees man as inherently sinful and incapable of “following the example” of Jesus apart from a radical work of transforming grace. Notice that the title to Schaeffer’s work is not “How should we live?” But rather: “How Should We Then Live?” Everything hinges on the “then.” Then - then after seeing our present state, then after seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ that is help out for us in the gospel, then after having come to a point of radical life transformation in the great work of Christ in the gospel - then and only then - can we effectively answer the question with any hope of truly fulfilling what we hear in the word-saturated answer. At the heart of Schaeffer’s question is not “What Would Jesus Do?” Rather - at the heart of his question is a radically redirected thought: “What Did Jesus Do?” The truth of the matter is - I can’t do what Jesus did - that was why he came - to do what only he in fact could do. And it is what he did that needs to be the consuming passion of my life to see, savor and rejoice in that I might, by that very reality, be transformed through having my mind renewed with the beauty of the gospel and then be moved and empowered to live in a way that pleases God and demonstrates the glory of his power, not simply my personal resolve.

Another 20th century writer J. Gresham Machen in his work: The Virgin Birth of Christ, once stated the following along these lines:

It seems never to have occurred to the adherents of this religion [an imitation of Jesus religion] that there is such a thing as sin, and that sin places an awful gulf between man and God. But those convictions, though they are unpopular at the present time, are certainly quite central in the Christian religion.

From the beginning Christianity was the religion of the broken heart; it is based upon the conviction that there is an awful gulf between man and God which none but God can bridge. The Bible tells us how this gulf was bridged; and that means the Bible is a record of facts.

Of what avail, without the redeeming acts of God, are all the lofty ideals of Psalmists and Prophets, all the teaching and example of Jesus? In themselves they can bring us nothing but despair. We Christians are not interested merely in what God commands, but also in what God did; in a triumphant indicative!

The life that we are called to is not a life of merely imitating Christ - the imitation of Christ is not the gospel. I don’t need a Jesus rooted in history and one who works out redemption in history to “imitate Jesus.” The imitation of Christ does not depend on trustworthy history - but the work of Christ in the gospel does depend on true and factual history. It is this historical work of Christ, that we call the work of the gospel, that must so capture my mind and heart that I become rooted in it as I seek to move forward in following Jesus.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Sabbath of the Great King

Once there was a great king who built a splendid city. In the middle of the city, the king designed a delightful park which was laid out with ponds, fountains and springs, magnificent trees from all over the world, gorgeous aromatic plants, inviting stretches of lawn, pathways and benches where people and families might walk and sit together, and a spacious amphitheater for public meetings. Weekly the king met with his subjects in the park. His people delighted in the time with him and one another.

One day the king had to go away. In his absence the rulers he left in charge began to let the park run down. Although they still held civic events at the amphitheater, these rulers had little interest in the park. They did not truly have in mind the king’s interests. Soon the park was overrun with weeds, the trees were not pruned, the exotic plants died, and the pools of water stagnated. The park was in ruins.

After a time a new group of rulers came into authority in the city. They were genuinely concerned about the park and began to restore it to its former beauty. They pulled out all the weeds, replanted all the gardens, pruned the trees, repaired the pathways and the benches, and opened the streams so that fresh water again flowed through the park. These rulers, however, were fearful that the park once again would fall into disrepair. In order to protect the park, they made it a memorial to the king, rather like a museum. They continued to hold meetings at the amphitheater, but they put a fence around the park’s border and along the pathways so people could look at the beautiful sites in the park, but could not actually use it.

They continued to hold meetings at the amphitheater, but they put a fence around the park’s border and along the pathways so people could look at the beautiful sites in the park, but could not actually use it.

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, the king’s son came to the city. One of the first things that he did was to tear down the fence. He exclaimed to the rulers, "Enough of this! This park was built for the people of the city to remember my father and to enjoy, but you have kept them out of the park." So after removing all of the fences, he invited the people to come and meet with him and with one another in the park.

Because the king and his son are still occupied throughout their great kingdom, they have appointed leaders in the city. Regrettably, of late, these leaders once again have allowed to the park to become unkept and trampled down. Again, weeds overrun it, the trees are not pruned, and the ponds have become stagnant. Because it has lost much of its charming beauty, people no longer come to it. Admittedly they have kept the amphitheater in good repair and continue public meetings, but increasingly the people are losing interest. The park is so unattractive that they see no need to go there at all.

Recently, developers, seeing the land unused, have begun seeking to put up an amusement park. The Historical Society is opposing them, wanting instead to restore the park and preserve it for the sake of tradition. But there is a third group who wants to restore it to its original purposes. To make matters more confusing, all parties are claiming to act on behalf of the interests of the king and his son. Meanwhile, as you might imagine, the king’s subjects are thoroughly confused.

If you have read Joseph Pipa’s The Lord’s Day, then you probably recognized the story above. When I first read this "allegorization" of the Sabbath it was a breath of fresh air. What insight and delight God can move men to set forth with a pen. It is my hope and prayer that as we study together, as well as prayerfully on our own, that our experience and that of our brethren, will be one of passion for the true interests of the King and His Son. May the worship of Watts become ours as we press on in our delight in the Sabbath of God...

Sweet is the work, my God, my King, to praise Thy Name, give thanks and sing,
To show Thy love by morning light and talk of all Thy truth at night.
Sweet is the day of sacred rest, no mortal cares shall seize my breast.
O may my heart in tune be found, like David’s harp of solemn sound!
My heart shall triumph in my Lord and bless His works and bless His Word.
Thy works of grace, how bright they shine! How deep Thy counsels, how divine!
Fools never raise their thoughts so high; like brutes they live, like brutes they die;

Like grass they flourish, till Thy breath blast them in everlasting death.
But I shall share a glorious part, when grace has well refined my heart;

And fresh supplies of joy are shed, like holy oil, to cheer my head.
Sin (my worst enemy before) shall vex my eyes and ears no more;

My inward foes shall all be slain, nor Satan break my peace again.
Then shall I see, and hear, and know all I desired and wished below;

And every power find sweet employ in that eternal world of joy.
And then what triumphs shall I raise to Thy dear Name through endless days,

For in the realms of joy I’ll see Thy face in full felicity.

Isaac Watts, Hymn from Psalm 92
"A Psalm for the Lord’s Day"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Finding A Wife

I know having a title like that on a blog entry is dangerous at best, but bear with me please. You need to notice that the title does not read - Looking for a Wife, but rather Finding a Wife!

Today the words of the writer of the proverb were on my mind: He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

There are many ways that I would say that my gracious Savior has blessed and favored my life, but few ways would be greater, save knowing Christ himself, than the blessing he gave me when he gave me a wife. Nineteen years ago today this blessing became mine. Today was our aniversary! We celebrated with the normal things - waking up in a house with a bunch of kids, letting oatmeal overflow in the microwave, taking the boy to physics class, pining as I drove by the book store wishing I had more time, doing some work at the church, helping a person in a providential encounter, taking the prized treasure of my wife to lunch at the Cotton Patch where we got some shrimp and chicken, coming back home and picking up baby Averie, our niece who is staying with us for a while, going to JC Penny to get a whole whapping four inches cut off my sweeties' hiar (WOW - she is pretty), coming home, cooking supper, jumping on the trampoline (no - not me - the kids!), watering the yard, and trying to make an entry in the blog while I am kicking my wife out of the office so she can't see what I am doing.

All that to say, it was pretty much a normal day at the Montgomery's castle in which my wife, the "good thing" I have received from the Lord, reigns as the Queen. Most of life around our home is just that - full of normal things - nothing really spectacular - just normal. It is in those normal things for the last nineteen years that I have grown to appreciate something of the treasure that I have in my wife. She is a picutre to me and I think a good one to many of the devotion the church is to have to Christ. She has loved me with a love that is amazing these many years and humbled me greatly when I know what she has to endure from me at every turn. God has been very good to me in "finding a wife" to bless me and show me his great favor.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Sabbath: A Confessional Approach

Herein is presented an examination of the doctrine of the Sabbath as it is found in the confessional standards of The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. This confession has been the standard confession among Reformed Baptist brethren for over 300 years. This paper seeks to examine our confessional standards, in particular, its doctrine of the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day in light of Scripture, history, theology and Christian practice. If we are to agree to walk together in Christian love, it must be around the truth of the word of God, agreeing together upon its meaning and import for the benefit of the church, and uppermost, to the glory of our great God.

We would surprisingly find agreement with our New Covenant Theology brother, Fred Zaspel, when he writes that

  • It may be an oversimplification to say that disagreements regarding the subject of divine law are all settled on the question of the Sabbath. Then again, (he adds) perhaps in some sense this is not oversimplification at all. It is common knowledge that disputes concerning the subject of divine law eventually and almost inevitably make their way to this subject and often with considerable energy (Zaspel, 211).

We hope and pray that this energy will be well spent for the cause of Christ and for the good of his beloved church. Our prayer is two-fold, first that we might once again, as our brethren in past ages have done, grow to a point for the glory of Christ where we will again taste and see the goodness of God in the precious gift of the Sabbath. Second, we pray that we might come to a point primarily in our hearts, but also in our practice, where the words of Isaiah will ring true within:

"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day
of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
[14] then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Isaiah 58:13-14 (ESV)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why On Sunday?

O. Palmer Robertson

This question can be embarrassing, can't it? Why do you worship on Sunday? Doesn't the Bible say that the seventh day is the time God consecrated for his people? Where does the Bible say that Christians should sanctify the first day of the week, rather than the seventh day?
It's a good question, you will have to admit. It's also a question that needs an answer. So what can be said?

Creation and Redemption
Begin by considering the evidence of the Old Testament. The Sabbath in the Old Testament was not merely a special day that was to be recognized once a week. It had much richer significance. It pointed forward to the future "rest" of redemption that God would accomplish for his people. The Sabbath was not only a reminder of the rest that came after the six days of creation. It also was celebrated because God had delivered his people from slavery in Egypt.
God repeated the law for Moses after Israel had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, just before they entered the land of promise. When God repeated the law that had been given at Sinai, the Ten Commandments were the same. Not one of the original ten commandments had been changed. But another reason for observing the Sabbath was given. At Sinai, God's people had been told to keep the Sabbath because God had rested after the six days of creation (Ex. 20:11; cf. Gen. 2:3). But in Transjordan, God told Israel to keep the Sabbath in view of their redemption from Egypt (Deut. 5:15). Not only because of creation, but also because of redemption, the people of God were to rest one day in seven.
We know that Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the Passover lamb was only a shadow, a prophecy, of the deliverance that would come through the sacrificial death and powerful resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament saints were looking forward to the coming rest from the burdens of sin, just as each week they looked forward to their rest from work on the Sabbath day.
The Promised Land
So when Israel entered the land of their "rest" under Joshua, they marched around Jericho for seven days. Then on the seventh day they marched around the city walls seven times. When they had completed the march around Jericho the seventh time on the seventh day, the walls came tumbling down, and the people of God began to enter their rest in Canaan. The taking of Jericho was a picture of God's people entering into their Sabbath-rest.
In a similar way, the seventy years of Israel's captivity pointed toward the "rest" of the redemption that was to come to the Promised Land. For the seventy years of Israel's captivity in Babylon, the land "was enjoying its sabbath rests" (2 Chron. 36:21).
These Old Testament experiences showed that God's people were looking forward to the rest, the redemption, that would be accomplished by God's Messiah one day in the future. They worked six days in the week, looking forward to the rest that they would experience in the future. They looked to the land of promise as the place where they would enter into their rest from all the burdens of life.
A New Perspective
But now redemption has been accomplished. Jesus has come as the fulfillment of prophecy. By his death and resurrection, he has brought his people into their redemptive rest. We look back to the salvation that has been completed through Christ. "It is finished" was his cry from the cross, and so we know that everything has been done for our deliverance from sin, death, and all other evils in this world.
So now the Christian has a new perspective on the "rest" of redemption. For the resurrection of Christ is an event as significant as the creation of the world. By his resurrection, a new order of the universe came into being. A new way of life for man came into existence. The stone was rolled back from the door of Jesus' tomb to let the disciples in, not to let Jesus out! Because of his new form of existence in his resurrection body, he could pass through stone walls and locked doors without needing to open them.
The Resurrection of Christ
So it should not be surprising to find the disciples following a new pattern of worship and work. They began their week assembling with the resurrected Christ. Consider carefully the following evidence that the redemption accomplished through Christ's resurrection determined the day for Christian worship:
1. Jesus Christ arose on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1). He entered into his rest from labor, not on Saturday (the seventh day), but on Sunday (the first day of the week). As Jesus entered into his rest on the first day, so he encourages us to begin the week by resting in the confidence that he will provide for all our needs for seven days with only six days of labor.
2. Jesus Christ appeared to his assembled disciples on the first day of the week, as well as to Mary and to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (John 20:10; Luke 24:13). By these appearances on the first day of the week, the resurrected Lord set a pattern for meeting with his disciples. They began expecting to meet with him on the day of his resurrection, which is the first day of the week.
3. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples one week later on the first day of the week, with doubting Thomas present this time (John 20:26). Already a new pattern of assembly for worship was emerging. God's new covenant people were making it a habit to assemble together on the first day of the week, the day of Christ's resurrection. Jesus honored these assemblies by appearing to the disciples at this time, and encouraged their faith in him as the resurrected Lord.
4. The resurrected Christ poured out his Spirit on the assembled disciples exactly fifty days after the Sabbath of the Jewish Passover, which was the first day of the week (Acts 2:1; cf. Lev. 23:15-16). The word Pentecost means "fifty," referring to the fifty days after the Sabbath of the Passover. Forty-nine days would span seven Jewish Sabbaths or Saturdays, and the fiftieth day would then fall on a Sunday, the first day of the week. So it would appear that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came on the first day of the week, when God's new covenant people were assembled for worship. So the pattern would be established more firmly. Both the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit occurred on the first day of the week.
5. As Paul spread the gospel of Christ among Jews and Gentiles throughout the world, the first day of the week was used as the time for Christians to assemble for worship. In Greece, Paul and Luke assembled with the people of God to break bread and to hear the preaching of God's word on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). This was the day that the people of the new covenant assembled to hear God's word.
6. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to establish the pattern for their presenting of offerings for the service of the Lord. He ordered the Christians in Corinth to follow the pattern that had already been set with the churches in Galatia (1 Cor. 16:1). On the first day of every week they were to consecrate their offerings to the Lord (1 Cor. 16:2). This schedule for honoring the Lord had become the pattern for God's people throughout the churches. The churches were not to present their offerings any time they wished. Rather, on the first day of each week, all the Corinthian Christians were to follow the pattern that had already been set among the Galatian churches. The first day of the week was the designated time for the presentation of offerings to the Lord.

The Lord's Day
7. The apostle John, now aged and perhaps the only living member of the original twelve apostles, had been banished to the island of Patmos. In this circumstance, he could not assemble for worship with the people of God. But the apostle informs us that "on the Lord's Day" he was "in the Spirit" (Rev. 1:10). The significance of his being "in the Spirit" seems quite clear. He had entered into the presence of the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was offering his adoration to him.

But what is the meaning of the phrase "on the Lord's Day"? In one sense, it may be said that every day of the week belongs to the Lord, and so might be called the "Lord's day." But John is referring to something more specific. He does not speak merely of "a" day that has been consecrated to the Lord. Instead he speaks of "the" Lord's Day.
That one day that may be called "the Lord's Day" was the day in which he proved to the world that he was Lord. On one particular day, Jesus made the universe understand that he was Lord of all. That day was the day of his resurrection. On that day, he conquered the last of the sinner's enemies, which is death. On the first day of the week, he showed that his power could overcome all enemies, even death itself. That day is "the Lord's Day."
So by the end of the lifetime of the first apostles, Christians knew about one day of the week that was called "the Lord's Day." On that day, they celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That day became the time for their assembly as they rejoiced in the resurrection of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Honoring God
So it is the same today. The original commandment to honor God by worship one day in seven still holds, since this requirement was a part of the Ten Words laying down the moral standards of God for men. One day in seven must be consecrated for worship and service to him. Both creation and redemption show that God must be honored in this way.
From the creation of the world until the coming of Christ, that day was the last day of the week. People in the days of the Old Testament were looking forward to the rest that the Savior would bring.
But now Christ has come. He has risen victoriously over all his enemies. This victory he won on the first day of the week. On this day he meets with his disciples as they assemble to commune with him.
So we are to celebrate the rest he has won for us. We are to taste and anticipate his rest by offering our worship on the first day of the week. For it is the only pattern demonstrated in the Scriptures of the new covenant for the worship of God's people today.

The author has served as a pastor and a seminary professor. Presently he teaches at African Bible College in Malawi and Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2003.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Foolishness of God

Can God really build his church and establish His ever glorious kingdom through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments alone? Doesn't he need my help? Listen, be broken, be encouraged.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God

July 18, 1504 was the date of the birth of a man who would in years to come rise to be one of the most influential theologians of the Protestant Reformation. Heinrich Bullinger, successor of Huldrych Zwingli the Swiss Reformer, as head of the church in Zurich and pastor at the church known as the Grossmunster.

Bullinger is the author of the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith [] originally written as a personal statement of faith it later developed into one of the leading and most well respected confessions or the Protestant Reformation. According to Joel Beeke and Sinclair Ferguson in their harmony of the Reformed Confessions the Second Helvetic Confession written by Heinrich Bullinger in 1562 stands as a "compact manual of Reformed theology, containing some thirty chapters and extending to some twenty thousand words." For a little comparison, the 1689 confession is a little over 12,000 words. This was no small work.

They add that it was "written against the background of the definitive edition of Calvin’s Institutes in 1559, as well as the Counter-Reformation assembly at Trent...It formulates Reformed theology in a comprehensive summary. Beginning with Scripture it moves through the loci of systematic theology, striking characteristic Reformed and (what they refer to as) Calvinian notes." These Reformed and Calvinian notes demonstrate that it is "a mature statement of Reformed theology...well received internationally, it was translated into Dutch, English, Polish, Italian, Turkish, and Arabic (among others). In the opening statement of the Second Helvetic Confession entitled "Of The Holy Scripture Being The True Word of God" we are presented with the following text:

Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven.
In a day when the words of the preacher are often seen as nice ideas, suggestions, the opinions of men or something else in the category of "take it or leave it" the words of the Second Helvetic Confession have a high view of preaching indeed. Furthermore it is a consistently Reformed view of preaching. And most importantly, it is a thoroughly Biblical view of preaching. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue of hearing the very word of God in the preaching of the word of God when he writes in Romans 10:14 - How are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Here the Apostle Paul, effectively demonstrates that preaching is the means that God has chosen through which Christ gospel word is to be heard, the heart stirred to a deeper love for truth, and the life changed into conformity of his image. May we continue to preach and continue to receive the word of the gospel for what it is in truth - the very word of Christ!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Associational Beginnings!

Last week held the first official meeting of the Texas Area Association of Reformed Baptist Churches. We had Arden Hodges from CA come and preach. Here is a link to his encouraging message on Church Unity from Ephesians 4:2-3.

The Gospel: A Feast of Rich Food

Daniel Rowland, one of the Calvinistic Methodist Fathers I have been reading about (pictured at the right - in case you thought that was me), preached on the following gospel text from the prophet Isaiah:
Isa 25:1-9 ESV O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. (2) For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners' palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. (3) Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. (4) For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, (5) like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down. (6) On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. (7) And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. (8) He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. (9) It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

The book I have been reading was written in the 19th century about the state of the country of Wales in the 18th century and the impact of the Spirit of God on that region during that time through the preaching of the word. It takes a look at that period of church history by way of biography. One of the most influential early preachers of the period was Rowland. There is a record of him preaching on this very text, in particular, v.6. The one who heard him preach was John Williams and he said of that occasion:

You never heard such a thing in your life. He began to tap the barrels of the covenant of grace, and to let out the wine well refined, and to give to the people to drink. It flowed over the chapel. I also drank, and became, as I may say, quite drunk. And there I was, and scores of others, in an ecstasy of delight, praising God, having forgotten all fatigue and bodily wants.

This brother had just walked 60 miles to hear Rowland preach the gospel. And from the sound of things – it was worth the effort. Of course the gospel is always worth the effort isn’t it? May God give us many times of refreshment – getting drunk – at the table of the gospel feast.

Friday, January 16, 2009

What I am reading...

The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, by John Jones and William Morgan. This is a new translation and reprint by Banner of Truthand was first published in 1890. Jones and Morgan were two Calvinistic Methodists from the 19th century. Yes, that's right - Calvinistic Methodists! The following is taken from inside the dust jacket:
It was the French novelist Anatole France who, when feeling tired and discouraged, said, “I never go into the country for a change of air and a holiday. I always go instead into the eighteenth century.” For an entirely different purpose, the great Welsh preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, frequently borrowed France’s words when speaking to his fellow Gospel preachers: “Go to the eighteenth century! In other words read the stories of the great tides and movements of the Spirit experienced in that century. It is the most exhilarating experience, the finest tonic you will ever know. For a preacher it is absolutely invaluable … There is nothing more important for preaching than the reading of Church history and biographies.” His own biographer, Iain Murray, says that for “sheer stimulus and enjoyment there were no volumes which he prized more than Tadau Methodistiaid … the lives of the fathers of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism. They were constantly in his hands.”

I am looking forward to a trip back in time myself. Recalling God's work in the past, praying that he might so work again in our day.
Psa 77:11-14 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. (12) I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. (13) Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? (14) You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.