Worship Is Both an Act and a Lifestyle

Famed radio announcer Ted Malone hosted an early-morning radio show. One day he received a note that had been written by a sheepherder in Idaho. The note said, “Will you, on your broadcast, strike the note ‘A’? I’m a sheepherder way out here on a ranch, far away from a piano. The only comfort I have is my old violin. It’s all out of tune. Would you strike ‘A’ so that I might get in tune?” Malone honored the request and later received a “thank you” note from that sheepherder. The note said, “Now I’m in tune.”

Do you know what it is that keeps you in tune with God? It is something called worship. True worship is not playing church. It is not going through the formal motions of religion. It is not praying a “canned” prayer that is filled with old clichés and worn-out lines. It is not begrudgingly dropping a few bucks into an offering plate. It is not enduring a sermon while you think about what you are going to do after church. It is not listening to a choir special or a solo and picking apart the quality of the singing or the playing. It is not robotically mouthing the words to a hymn while you inwardly yawn. It is not reading your Bible with one eye on the page and the other eye on the television, the cell phone, or the computer screen. It is not resisting the temptation to commit some sin simply because you are afraid that you will get caught if you commit it. Actually, true worship is both an act and a lifestyle.

An act of worship is an singular deed that ascribes praise, honor, and obedience to God. It is church done in the right way. It is a prayer prayed the way a prayer should be prayed. It is cheerfully making a monetary contribution to the Lord’s earthly work. It is mentally interacting with a sermon in a manner that allows you to hear God speaking through the text and the preacher. It is doing the same with a choir special or a solo. It is singing a hymn from the heart, focusing especially on the words you are singing, and not worrying about how you sound doing it. It is reading your Bible with a attentive focus worthy of reading the written word of God. It is resisting the temptation to commit a sin, not because you fear getting caught but because you don’t want to disappoint God.

On the other hand, true worship is also a lifestyle. As someone has said, it is going where God says go, being what God says be, doing what God says do, and giving what God says give. It is to serve God by means of whatever you happen to be doing at any given time. In this way, you turn everything you do — even those acts that we don’t normally think of as worship — into a spiritual exercise.

This lifestyle of worship is what Paul had in mind when he said, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). Paul’s words remind me of that old illustration about the woman who had a little sign that hung on the wall in front of the sink in which she washed her dishes. The sign read: “Divine service rendered here three times a day.” Going back to my opening illustration about that sheepherder, to live out such a lifestyle is to bring your entire life into tune with God’s key.

It has often been noted that the term “worship” is akin to the term “worth-ship.” To worship someone or something is to see that person or that thing as being “worthy.” I especially like the idea that to worship is to classify that person or thing as being “worth it” to the ultimate degree.

Christian, it should be your life’s pursuit to see God as being “worth it” in regards to giving Him your obedience, your devotion, your passion, your time, your energy, your talents, etc. Just start right where you are by performing a singular act of worship to Him, and then keep stringing those singular acts together until you have developed a lifestyle of worship. According to Jesus, God is seeking people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). I guess the only question, then, that is left to be asked is, “Will you and I be such people?”

Posted in Commitment, Discipleship, Faithfulness, Obedience, Priorities, Sanctification, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Submission, Talents, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be an Andrew

The apostle Andrew was the brother of the apostle Peter. Being the brother of a frontrunner like Peter automatically consigned Andrew to a lesser status in terms of history. That does not mean, however, that his service to Christ was lacking. Much to the contrary, Andrew is famous in his own right for one thing in particular. Do you know what it was? Whenever the gospels talk about him, he is usually bringing someone to Jesus.

Scripturally speaking, Andrew’s story begins with the events of John 1:29-42. There we learn that he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Presumably, he was an eyewitness to John the Baptist baptizing Jesus and calling Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29-34). The next day Andrew and an unnamed disciple of John the Baptist — the unnamed disciple was probably John, the modest writer of the gospel — listened to Jesus speak and followed Him when He walked away from the scene (1:35-37). At some point, Jesus turned around and asked them, “What do you seek?” to which they answered, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus’ answer was simply, “Come and see.” John tells us it was 10:00 a.m. when Jesus extended that invitation to Andrew and John, and the three spent the rest of that day together (1:38-39).

Sometime shortly after all that, the Bible says that Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus. John 1:41-42 says:

He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). (N.K.J.V.)

The second instance of Andrew bringing someone to Jesus is found in John 6:1-14. That’s John’s account of Jesus using a young lad’s lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish to feed 5,000 men and an unreported number of women and children. Who was it that brought that young lad to Jesus? You guessed it. It was Andrew. John 6:8-9 says:

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (N.K.J.V.)

The third instance of Andrew bringing someone to Jesus is found in John 12:20-26. In that story, a certain group of Greeks approach the apostle Philip and ask for an audience with Jesus. Rather than take the request straight to Jesus, Philip tells Andrew about it because, evidently, he wants to get a second opinion on the matter. Andrew and Philip then go together and present the request to Jesus. As John 12:22 says:

Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. (N.K.J.V.)

Concerning Andrew, M.R. DeHaan, that famous preacher of another day, said this:

He was not known for his oratory, his literary ability, his unusual personality or popularity. He had no degrees that we know of. He could not sway a crowd, but he could convince a soul. He never wrote a book, but in the Book of Life are the names of precious souls brought to Jesus by Andrew. Give us a few more soul winners like Andrew and we can begin praising God for revival instead of praying for it.

I ask you, Christian, how much “Andrew” do you have about it? Do you bring others to Jesus? Do you point others toward Him? Like M.R. DeHaan said, you don’t have to have a great oratory ability or literary ability to do it. You don’t need an unusual personality that makes you wildly popular. Neither having a seminary degree or being able to sway a crowd is a requirement. If you know the basics of the plan of salvation, if you have a personal testimony, if you are willing to make an effort, Jesus can use you to bring others to Him. Even if you think of your evangelistic abilities as being as small as that young lad’s lunch, Jesus can use you to bless thousands if you will give those abilities to Him and say, “Here I am, Lord. Use me.” Perhaps you’ll never become famous like Peter, but even the Peters of the world need Andrews to get them started with Jesus.

Posted in Evangelism, God's Work, The Gospel, Witnessing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

You Can’t Fool Jesus

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25, N.K.J.V.)

This passage doesn’t seem to align with the rest of the New Testament’s teaching. It seems to be an exception, an outlier, an anomaly. The Greek verb translated as “believed” in the description of what these people did is pisteuo. That’s the classic Greek word that is used over 200 times in the New Testament’s original Greek in reference to how a person gets saved. It’s even the word that is used in the next chapter, John 3:16, in the Bible’s most famous verse on the subject. Despite this, however, the indication is that these people did not experience salvation.

John, the writer of the gospel, provides us with the reason. He says that Jesus didn’t commit Himself to these people because He knew what was inside them. That means that Jesus knew their belief was the product of them being impressed by His miracles rather than His message. They were all aboard for giving their lives to a miracle-working Messiah. Giving them to a Messiah who was going to die on a cross and ask them to pick up their own crosses each day (Luke 9:23) and stick with Him during times of persecution, sickness, and struggle was a different matter entirely. Interestingly, the Greek word translated in the passage as “commit” — “Jesus did not commit Himself to them — is also pisteuo. This has led many commentators to correctly assert, “These people believed in Jesus, but He did not believe in them.”

I will admit that there are some commentators who interpret the passage to mean that those people did actually experience salvation. The majority of commentators, however, do not read the passage that way. For example, Warren Wiersbe calls the people “unsaved believers.” Likewise, Matthew Henry calls them “false coverts.” J. Vernon McGee says their faith was not a saving faith, and Alfred Martin calls their belief, “only a superficial acquiescence in what they saw, not the true belief of wholehearted acceptance.” Herschel Hobbs compares those peoples’ belief to the false belief of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25).

Actually, John records a similar story in chapter 6 of his gospel. After Jesus had miraculously fed a crowd of 5,000 men (plus an unreported number of women and children) with five barley loaves and two small fish (6:1-14), that large crowd was ready to take Him by force and make Him their king (6:15). Jesus escaped that foolish attempt at a coronation by commanding His chosen 12 apostles to take a boat to the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee while He went up to a mountainside to pray (6:15-17). Later that night, after a great windstorm had prevented the apostles from reaching the opposite shore, Jesus came walking on the water to them (6:18-21).

The following day many of the same crowd from the previous day made their way once again to where Jesus was. But Jesus wasn’t impressed by their determination to follow Him wherever He went. Instead, He said to them, “You seek Me because I filled your stomachs” (6:22-27). He also told them, “You have seen Me, and yet you do not believe” (6:36). He then launched into a strange teaching in which He said to them, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (6:53). In the wake of that difficult teaching, many of those followers left Him and followed Him no more (6:66).

Did those people lose their salvation? No, they had never had any to lose. They wanted Jesus as an earthly king, not an eternal Savior. They wanted a miracle worker who could keep them fed, not a God who required their deepest commitment. In this sense, they were the same type of “believers” that John describes at the close of chapter 2 of his gospel.

Our takeaway from all this is that we can’t fool Jesus. He knows whose belief in Him is the right kind, and He knows who is just giving Him lip service. He knows whose faith in Him can get them into heaven, and He knows whose faith in Him can only get them into church. He knows who has an inner relationship with Him, and He knows who merely has an outward religion about Him. Therefore, let each of us make sure that our belief/faith in Him is the genuine article, the kind that produces salvation. In other words, let’s make sure that He believes in us as much as we believe in Him.

Posted in Belief, Christ's Miracles, Discernment, Faith, God's Omniscience, Salvation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11, N.K.J.V.)

Ed Young Sr., using this verse as the text for a daily devotion, writes the following:

In ancient times, when an oriental king gave a banquet and wanted to show how rich he was, he would take apples and cover them with gold, place them in silver baskets, and distribute them to his guests. “Take a golden apple with you,” he said, and these golden apples became prized possessions.

Since the text verse is part of a chapter that begins with the words “These also are proverbs of Solomon,” we might assume that King Solomon knew all about this kingly custom. Perhaps he even practiced it himself. If that was indeed the case, it would explain why he used the custom as an illustration of the wonder and beauty of a word fitly spoken.

I do appreciate the fact that Solomon doesn’t attach a precise definition to the phrase “a word fitly spoken.” I say that because such a word can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, one translation translates the phrase as “a ruling rightly given.” Another translates it as “timely advice.” Others translate it as “a word spoken at the right time” or “a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Certainly such a word can be a word of encouragement spoken to someone who is filled with anxiety. As Proverbs 12:25 says: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes glad” (N.K.J.V.). By contrast, such a word can also be a word of rebuke. As Proverbs 28:23 says: “He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward Than he who flatters with the tongue” (N.K.J.V.). The point is that the word is not only spoken at just the right moment, it is appropriate for the moment. The moment is like a setting of silver, and the word is like the golden apple sitting in the setting. The word and the setting go together like a matched pair.

It takes wise discernment to know when to encourage and when to rebuke. For that matter, it takes wise discernment to know when to say anything at all. Whereas a wrong word spoken at a time when something should be said will not produce a desirable effect, neither will a right word spoken at a time when silence is the best course of action. Isn’t it amazing just how complicated this whole verbal communication thing can be?

Think back over some of your recent conversations, Christian, and be honest with yourself. Have you been handing out any apples of gold? If so, have you been handing them out in appropriate settings of silver? If you can answer, “Yes” to both of those questions, good for you. May your tribe increase! But if you have been using your speech to either hand out ugly apples or hand out beautiful apples during times when they can’t be properly appreciated, you should ask the Lord to help you use your speech more effectively in His service. This much is for sure: The world can always use more people who know what to say and when to say it, and you can be such a person if you will learn how to place your apples of gold in their settings of silver.

Posted in Communication, Criticism, Discernment, Encouragement, God's Work, Influence, Leadership, Service, The Tongue | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Know Jesus as Savior? Or Do You Just Know About Him?

I subscribe to a certain Christian publication that recently featured an old sermon from Oswald J. Smith. Smith was a Canadian pastor/church planter/author who is probably best known for founding The Peoples Church in Toronto and serving as the church’s pastor for almost thirty years. When he died in 1986, his close friend Billy Graham said of him, “There was no equal.”

I thought I’d incorporate a few selected quotes from Smith’s sermon into this post. As you read them, you’ll see what a powerful communicator Smith was. On the subject of salvation, he said:

You are not a sinner because you sin. You sin because you are a sinner. An apple tree is not an apple tree because it bears apples. It bears apples because it is an apple tree. If you were not a sinner, you would not sin. It is because you are a sinner that you do sin. Some people merely lop off the branches. They fail to recognize that the tree itself is bad. They pick off the sour apples, but next year there are more than ever.

It is not reformation that you need, but regeneration, a new life. Your old Adamic nature is bad throughout. You are a sinner and a sinner needs a Savior. God put it this way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6)…..Note God’s comparison. He does not compare us to dogs or horses; they can find their way home again. He compares us to sheep. When a sheep is lost, it is lost. When it strays away, it can never find its way back. Someone must go out in search of it. The shepherd must find it and bring it home.

A knowledge of God’s salvation will not save you any more than a knowledge of food will save you from starvation. You must partake of it if you are to be saved. A knowledge of water will not quench your thirst: you must drink it. A knowledge of medicine will not cure you: you must take it. You may know all the teachings of the Bible and still be lost. A knowledge of God’s redemption and an understanding of His plan do not mean that you are a Christian. There must be a response on your part, a turning to God, an acceptance of His provision.

I especially like that last quote about how merely having a knowledge of salvation won’t save you. This, in my opinion, is the fatal flaw in what many professing (professing as opposed to authentic) Christians call their salvation. Oh, sure, they’ve heard the story of Jesus, and they even believe the facts of it. But they’ve never actually bowed the knee and submitted to Jesus as Savior. As Smith correctly described the situation, there has been no inner regeneration, no impartation of a new life by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit creating the new birth inside the person. Therefore, because of the lack of spiritual life, all the person’s attempts at church attendance, Bible study, prayer, repentance, etc. must be classified as attempts to produce salvation by works of reformation rather than as salvation’s fruits that will earn heavenly reward in the afterlife.

I pastor in a rural county of about 15,000 people. We are located in the mountains of western North Carolina, mountains that are part of the Appalachian Mountain chain. We are solidly in the “Bible belt” region of the United States, and we have a church on every corner and up every “holler” to prove it. As such, it’s hard to find anyone around here who hasn’t heard the story of Jesus. For that matter, it’s hard to find anyone who will look you straight in the eye and say, “I’m a lost sinner who has never accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.” Everybody in these parts has been to church at least a few times. Most people attended a local Bible school when they were young. Most have been baptized and have their name on a church roll somewhere in the county. But have their eternal destinies, daily lives, typical deeds, ingrained opinions, and obvious priorities been changed? Well, that’s another story, and in many cases the answer would have to be, “No.”

Look, I’m not trying to play eternal judge, jury, and executioner here, and I’m not trying to promote some kind of Christianized sinless perfection, either. For one thing, there really is such a thing as a babe in Christ (Hebrews 5:12-14), and babies don’t always do what they should do. For another, there really is such a thing as a carnal Christian (1 Corinthians 1:1-3), and carnal Christians definitely don’t always do what they should do. For yet another, there really is such a thing as a backslidden Christian (1 John 5:16), even one whose sinful behavior merits excommunication from the church congregation (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). And frankly, I’ve always had difficulty differentiating the babes in Christ, the carnal Christians, and the backslidden Christians from the normal lost people. That’s why I leave that assignment to God.

What I’m saying, though, is that it is obvious that there are a whole lot of people walking around out there who honestly think they are Christians, when in reality they are not. I might not have an exact list of their names, but I don’t doubt for one second that such people exist. That’s why I would advise anyone, even the professing Christian, to take the apostle Paul’s advice by examining one’s self to see whether or not he or she is truly in the Christian faith (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 11:28). If your salvation is genuine, it ought to be able to pass such an examination, and if it isn’t, that’s obviously something you need to recognize and take measures to fix right away.

Posted in Assurance of Salvation, Backsliding, Baptism, Belief, Church, Church Attendance, Church Discipline, Evangelism, Heaven, Repentance, Salvation, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Aquarium

Job 42:2 begins Job’s apology to God after he has challenged God’s wisdom and justice in allowing him to suffer so much tragedy. Call it a confession or call it repentance, but the verse signals the end of Job questioning how God was running the universe. Translators have had some difficulty coming to full agreement on how the last half of the verse’s original Hebrew should be translated, but the differences in translations aren’t enough to obscure the basic teaching of the verse. Here’s how the verse reads in a variety of translations:

  • I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. (K.J.V.)
  • “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” (N.K.J.V.)
  • “I know that You can do all things, And that no plan is impossible for You.” (N.A.S.V.)
  • “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (E.S.V., N.R.S.V.)
  • “I know that you can do all things: no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (N.I.V)
  • “I know that You can do all things, And that no thought or purpose of Yours can be restrained.” (Amp.)
  • “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.” (N.L.T.)
  • “I know that You can do all things. Nothing can put a stop to Your plans.” (N.L.V.)

What all of these translations are describing is a God who is big enough to bring His thoughts, purposes, and plans to pass right over the top of all objectors. Job is saying that God is an irresistible, all-powerful deity who can plow His will straight through any resistance it might encounter. He’s saying, “Lord, if You want to do something, no one can stop You from doing it.”

But hold on a minute. Isn’t the Bible filled with stories involving people who actually did prevent God’s purposes, plans, and will from being done? It all started with Adam and Eve. If God’s plan was for them to continue endlessly in sinless perfection, they certainly thwarted that plan, didn’t they? Then along comes Cain. If God’s plan was for him to bring the right kind of sacrifice and love his brother Abel, we know what became of that plan. Furthermore, following Cain’s murder of Abel, he went out and fathered an entire line of descendants who were all rebels in regards to God’s purposes, plans, and will. In the end, all of that rebellion culminated in the entire human race, except for Noah and his family, being killed off by way of the great flood.

The point is, we can’t even get through six full chapters of the Bible without encountering literally millions of people who never conformed to God’s plans for their lives. This shows us that an individual’s freewill does factor into the equation of God’s dealings with that individual. The only other conclusion to be drawn is that God actually willed Adam and Eve to eat that forbidden fruit, willed Cain to murder Abel, and willed the human race to reach a state of depravity worthy of almost complete annihilation. That alternative conclusion, of course, cuts completely against the hundreds and hundreds of Bible passages that teach that God is a God of love, compassion, mercy, and grace.

So, how exactly should we interpret Job 42:2? Well, obviously, if God is dead set on doing something and nothing can change His mind about it, He can do that something anytime and in any way He wants to do it. I mean, He’s not GOD for nothing!!! What’s fascinating about Him, though, is the fact that He desires voluntary worship and submission so much that He not only builds a spiritual/moral freewill into each individual, but actually allows each individual to exercise that freewill arbitrarily. Even if that individual uses the freewill to thwart (restrain, stop, prevent, undermine) His will, God won’t recreate or rewire that individual in order to produce obedience. As the classic line goes, “God doesn’t want robots who have to obey Him.”

The illustration of a home aquarium has always been helpful to me when it comes to understanding this balanced relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill. Imagine an aquarium that sits on a stand in the living room of a home. This aquarium is filled with water, and within all that water the fishes swim around in a world created especially for them. This world includes: gravel, rocks, plastic plants, a miniature sunken ship, a small treasure chest resting beside the ship, and a beautifully painted background. The aquarium also features an air pump, a filtering system, a light, and a heater.

Sometimes the fish in the aquarium get along with each other, but other times they fight and chase each other around. Sometimes the bigger fish even eat the smaller fish. Through it all, though, the owner of the aquarium is never threatened in any way. Regardless of what goes on among the fish inside the aquarium, he remains sovereignly aloof and in charge. He can do whatever he wants to do concerning the aquarium because the whole operation belongs to him and he’s the one who keeps it in operation.

Do you see how this illustration can be applied to God’s relationship to individuals? Even when people refuse to voluntarily submit to God’s plans, purposes, and will, He always remains in charge of the universe in which those individuals live. I don’t want to stretch the illustration too far, but wouldn’t it be something if the entire universe, including this earth and all the life upon it, is just an aquarium sitting in a corner of heaven? That, perhaps, is a good way of interpreting Job’s comment about God’s omnipotence. God, as the eternal, universal aquarium keeper, can do whatever He wants to do concerning life in the aquarium, but He allows individuals (fishes) to swim the course of their own choosing. For that matter, Jesus did compare evangelism to fishing, didn’t He? Now that I think about it, maybe that comparison was more appropriate than we have ever realized (lol).

Posted in Calvinism, Choices, Creation, Evangelism, God's Love, God's Omnipotence, God's Omnipresence, God's Sovereignty, God's Will, Man's Freewill, Rebellion, Sin, Submission, Witnessing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Serving Behind the Scenes

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3-4, N,.K.J.V.)

Recently, I listened to a Father’s Day sermon by a certain preacher whose televised programs I sometimes record. During one part of the sermon, this preacher used the ministry of A.W. Tozer as an illustration. I was especially interested in that illustration because Tozer, who died in 1963, is about as legendary as they come in terms of 20th century preachers.

Tozer pastored several churches during his more than forty years in the ministry, most notably serving for thirty years as the pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago. He is, however, best known for his work as an author. In particular, his book The Pursuit of God is considered an all-time classic among Christians.

I was surprised, though, to hear the t.v. preacher use Tozer’s life as an illustration of how a good man can be a bad father. To make his point, the preacher explained that Tozer’s wife, Ada, remarried following Tozer’s death and wasn’t shy about saying that she was happier with her second husband than she had been with Tozer. Her second husband’s name was Leonard Odam, and she said of him, “Aiden (A.W) loved Jesus Christ but Leonard Odam loves me.”

Since I had never heard anyone throw an ounce of criticism Tozer’s way, I set myself to the task of online researching why Ada would say such a thing. What I learned was that she had good reason to say it. Tozer, for all of his godly qualities and gifting, was a far better preacher and author than he was a husband and father.

The Tozers had seven children together, and A.W. left the raising of them to Ada while he spent countless hours alone in prayer, meditation, sermon preparation, and writing. His travel schedule was also quite extensive. In the early days of his ministry, he would accept preaching engagements at a moment’s notice and hit the road, leaving Ada behind to catch up to him later. To make matters worse, A.W. exhibited a lifelong refusal to purchase an automobile, a conviction that oftentimes left Ada and the children to either walk or take buses or trains.

To say the Tozers lived frugally would be an understatement. Ada had to learn to do a lot with a little because she typically didn’t have an excess of money at her disposal. Why was the money in short supply when she was married to one of the most famous preachers in America? It was the result of A.W. caring little for wealth. He associated it with worldliness and therefore frequently returned half his salary to the church, refused pay increases, and donated much of the royalties from his book sales to charitable causes and people in need.

One writer summed up the Tozers marriage this way: “Most likely, A.W. Tozer was never purposely ill-intentioned toward his wife and family, but he was so singly focused on spiritual matters that his managing of practical matters bordered on insensitivity.” Another writer was more harsh, asking the question: “How did Tozer reconcile his passionate longing for communion with the Triune God with his failure to love passionately his wife and children?” One thing we can say for certain is that all the spiritual benefit that millions have derived from A.W. Tozer’s sermons and books came at the expense of Ada Tozer affording him the time, energy, and unencumbered solitude to prepare those sermons and write those books.

In the end, what A.W. Tozer’s shortcomings as a husband and a father show us is that no one, not even a devout Christian and outstanding minister such as Tozer, is perfect. But we don’t have to study the life of Tozer to learn that. We can learn it just as easily by studying the Bible’s numerous characters who were spiritual giants in some areas and spiritual babes in others. Samuel, for example, was a resounding success as a Judge and a prophet, but he was a failure as a father. Likewise, Solomon built the Temple and had more wisdom than any other man, but he foolishly took hundreds of women for himself and allowed them to lead him into idolatry. These are just a couple of scriptural examples from a long list of them.

The old saying says, “God can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” How thankful we should be that this saying is true because there are, after all, no totally straight sticks. Let’s keep this in mind anytime we hear that Christians whom we have held in high regard aren’t all that we thought they were. Oh, and let’s also not forget that every Christian who faithfully serves “behind the scenes” without recognition or fanfare in this life will be openly and eternally rewarded in the next one. My guess is that Ada Tozer earned a lot of heavenly rewards while she served in the shadow of her famous husband, and she started enjoying those rewards the moment she died on July 8, 1987. The world may not have known much about all the “secret” service she rendered to allow A.W. the opportunity to do everything that he did in service to Jesus, but Jesus surely did.

Posted in Children, Family, Fatherhood, Husbands, Marriage, Ministry, Pastors, Preaching, Priorities, Reward, Service, Wives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What God Thinks About the Emasculation of Men

This past Saturday morning I woke up, put on my clothes, and started making my way to the kitchen to get breakfast. As I walked through our living room, my twenty-year-old son, Royce, was sprawled out there on the couch. He was holding his New Living Translation Study Bible that Tonya and I bought him for Christmas a few years ago. He said, “Daddy, listen to this passage.” Then he read the following words from Deuteronomy 25:11-12:

If two Israelite men get into a fight and the wife of one tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man, you must cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

How’s that for a little Bible study to kick off your weekend? I chuckled and said, “Royce, I’ve read the Bible through, but I don’t recall that being in there.” Then it dawned on me that I had used the K.J.V. translation when I had completed one of those charts that guides you through reading the Bible in a year. As it turns out, the K.J.V. is much more discreet in its wording of that passage. The K.J.V. says:

When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.

Discretion aside, we are left to wonder why God would include such a harsh piece of law in the Mosaic law. (For the record, this is that law’s only instance in which mutilation is the decreed punishment.) I mean, was this problem of women grabbing men in this way commonplace in ancient Israel? Were Israelite wives classically trained to defend their husbands by using this crude but admittedly effective method? For that matter, how often did Israelite husbands get into brawls and how often did their wives interject themselves into those brawls? It’s hard to believe that these situations were rampant enough to require that a specific law be devoted to them.

What God seems to have done by way of this law was convey a larger general principle. That principle was: A man’s ability to procreate and carry on his family line is of great importance because God places a premium upon families and children. It’s certainly no coincidence that this command comes directly after Deuteronomy 25:5-10, another equally strange section of law regarding a man’s obligation to produce a son for his deceased brother. Since I originally quoted the other passage from the New Living Translation, I’ll use that same translation to quote Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Those verses say:

If two brothers are living together on the same property and one of them dies without a son, his widow may not be married to anyone from outside the family. Instead, her husband’s brother should marry her and have intercourse with her to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law. The first son she bears to him will be considered the son of the dead brother, so that his name will not be forgotten in Israel. But if the man refuses to marry his brother’s widow, she must go to the town gate and say to the elders assembled there, “My husband’s brother refuses to preserve his brother’s name in Israel—he refuses to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law by marrying me.The elders of the town will then summon him and talk with him. If he still refuses and says, “I don’t want to marry her,” the widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face. Then she must declare, “This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children. Ever afterward in Israel his family will be referred to as “the family of the man whose sandal was pulled off”!

Reading such passages ought to make us glad that God no longer requires us to live under the Mosaic law, right? Still, though, we should keep in mind that 2 Timothy 3:16, a New Testament passage, says that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. And since those words “all Scripture” definitely include Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and 11-12, what would God have us learn from these two passages?

First, as I’ve already mentioned, we should learn the value that God places upon procreation, children, families. etc. To God, family lines being propagated are a BIG deal. That was true in ancient Israel and it is still true today.

Second, we should learn that God makes males to be males, complete with male sex organs, and He is very much against anything that might be classified as emasculation or an attempt to rob a male of his maleness. This, of course, aligns perfectly with God’s numerous condemnations of homosexuality in the both the Old Testament and the New Testament. How pathetic it is that we have now reached a cultural level in which homosexuality, transgenderism, and all other attempts to blur the God-designed lines of sexual distinction are celebrated as social “progress.” God help us.

With this in mind, Christian, let me encourage you to continue to stand true for God and His written word. By doing so, you will shine spiritual light into this world of spiritual darkness. Even though we don’t live under the Mosaic law, we can glean valuable principles and lessons from that law, and we can apply them in New Testament ways each day. Just as Royce’s Saturday comment led to this Monday blog post, who knows what positive effect you can have for the Lord simply by studying His word and bringing it into everyday conversations? As was the case with me and Deuteronomy 25:11-12, those conversations might take you out of your comfort zone a bit and lead you to some rarely discussed topics, but you never know when one of those topics will be God’s way of using you to draw someone closer to Him.

Posted in Bible Study, Children, Courage, Current Events, Family, Fatherhood, God's Word, Husbands, Influence, King James Only, Lesbianism, Parenting, Personal, Scripture, The Old Testament Law, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Attempting to Define Faith

Faith is one of those things that is hard to pin down to a simple definition. As evidence of this, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary offers the following definitions:

  • “allegiance to duty or a person” (as in, “lost faith in the company’s president”)
  • “fidelity to one’s promises”; “sincerity of intentions” (as in, “acted in good faith”)
  • “belief and trust in and loyalty to God”
  • “belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion”
  • “firm belief in something for which there is no proof” (as in, “clinging to the faith that her missing son would one day return”)
  • “complete trust”
  • “something that is believed especially with strong conviction (especially a system of religious beliefs)”

Because the word “faith” can be used in a non-religious way, many of these definitions have nothing to do with Christianity. However, even if we try to define faith in terms of the Christian having faith in God, the definition still doesn’t come easily. Someone might say, “But the Bible’s definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things seen'” (N.K.J.V.). Yes, that is the Bible’s definition of faith, but I’ve always found that definition difficult to apply to real-life situations. It’s like it’s filet mignon from an expensive restaurant when I’m looking for a can of Campbell’s vegetable beef soup. In other words, it’s a little too poetically lofty for the day-to-day grind of my lunch-bucket life.

Any casual search of the internet will produce “faith” quotes from famous Christians, and some of the quotes are quite good. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King. Jr.
  • “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” Corrie Ten Boom
  • “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Phillip Yancey
  • “The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.” R.C. Sproul
  • “True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God has said it.” A.W. Tozer

One other definition that I really like comes from Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, the renowned pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel for almost 30 years. In a sermon entitled Spiritual Depression, Jones defined faith in an exceedingly practical, down-to-earth way. I’ll offer his definition as the close to this post, and hopefully we can all put the definition into practice as we walk each day with Jesus. Jones said:

Faith is a refusal to panic. Do you like that sort of definition of faith? Does that seem too earthly and not sufficiently spiritual? It is of the very essence of faith. Faith is a refusal to panic, come what may.

Posted in Adversity, Belief, Commitment, Doubt, Faith, God's Sovereignty, Trials, Trusting In God, Worry | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why the World Is Like It Is

Satan (Lucifer, the Devil) wasn’t the only angel who once rebelled against God. Revelation 12:3-4 uses symbolic imagery to tell us that one-third of all the angels aligned themselves with Satan during that rebellion. Those verses depict Satan as a great, fiery red dragon whose tail swept up a third of the stars of heaven. According to the symbolism, those stars were other angels.

The good news is that one-third is a minority. This means that no matter how much damage Satan and his fellow fallen angels do, they will always be outnumbered by God’s unfallen angels. But this raises the question: If God’s angels have Satan’s angels outnumbered, why is the world so messed up spiritually and morally? The answer is: Even though God’s angels outnumber Satan’s angels, Satan’s children outnumber God’s children by a wide margin.

Yes, the Bible really does describe lost unbelievers as being Satan’s children (Matthew 13:38; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:10). The notion that “we are all God’s children” might be a heartwarming one, but it is flatly contradictory to scripture. Actually, in light of what Jesus said about few people finding the narrow gate that leads to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14), it’s a marvel that the world isn’t even more of a moral wasteland. That must surely be a testament to just how much salt and light us Christians really are (Matthew 5:13-16).

Of course, we could be even more salt and light if a great many of us weren’t backslidden, rebellious, immature, and undiscerning. Sadly, such Christians oftentimes do more of Satan’s bidding than God’s bidding. Imagine two armies, Satan’s army and God’s army, engaged in warfare. Satan’s army is vastly superior in sheer numbers to God’s army, but the situation is made even worse by the fact that a sizable percentage of God’s army helps carry out the battleplans of Satan’s army. Welcome to our modern world.

Getting back to God’s unfallen angels, even they don’t get to do their work unencumbered by Satan’s fallen angels. One of the Bible’s proof passages on this is Daniel chapter 10. There, we read how for 21 days a powerful fallen angel called “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” withstood one of God’s angels and kept that angel from delivering a message to Daniel. Only when Michael, God’s archangel, joined the angelic fight was God’s angel able to get the message through to Daniel.

So now let’s put all this information into the blender. First, one-third of all the angels now align themselves with Satan and do his bidding. Second, that minority group of angels aren’t about to let God’s majority group of angels do God’s work without resistance. Third, the number of lost people (children of Satan) worldwide is disproportionately high to the number of saved people (children of God). Fourth, even a sizable percentage of the saved children of God aren’t submitted enough, obedient enough, mature enough, and discerning enough to really do God’s work rather than Satan’s work. You see, by blending these four pieces of information together, we concoct the lethal cocktail that has created the global status quo. And while I realize that none of this is very comforting, it at least provides us with an explanation for why the world is like it is.

Posted in Angels, Backsliding, Current Events, Demons, Depravity, Discernment, Disobedience, God's Work, Government, Problems, Rebellion, Salvation, Satan, Sin, Spiritual Warfare, Submission, Suffering, The Devil | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment