E.M. Bounds on the Powerful Uneducated Pulpit

In E.M. Bounds, The Essentials of Prayer, while discussing the need for man to give his whole self to God in prayer Bounds states this,

Many a praying preacher has been greatly helped just at this point. The unction of the Holy One which comes upon the preacher invigorates the mind, loosens up thought and gives utterance. This is the explanation of former days when men of very limited education had such wonderful liberty of the Spirit in praying and in preaching. Their thoughts flowed as a stream of water. Their entire intellectual machinery felt the impulse of the divine Spirit's gracious influences.

Imagine the uneducated leaning on the Lord in fully-surrendered prayer and finding in Him alone the strength and wisdom to preach powerfully.

On entering the battle without a sword

I spend a good bit of time doing evangelism. For the past few years the majority of this has been in tea shops, partly because I'm obsessed with tea, and partly because the shop owners are usually bored and therefore thrilled to pour me tea and talk for a while. A few months back I realized that I was frequently wanting to quote scripture to the person with whom I was sharing. I'm not particularly good at quoting scripture in general because I tend to remember concepts, not specific words or specific locations. Also, I remember those concepts in English and while I can communicate it's meaning clearly, any of the beauty of the writing is lost when I'm translating those thoughts into the local langugae.

The people I work with highly value the written word. And the Bible translation into this language really is quite fantastic. The more I read it, in fact, the more I appreciate just how well it was done.

Finally I started being convicted that I need to bring my Bible along with me when I go out for the express purpose of sharing. To be honest it's rather embarrassing this never occurred to me before. I suppose the size of my bi-lingual Bible has been some of the reason for not bringing it along, but throwing it in a bag just isn't a big deal. And I've already been impressed at how often I'm able to pull it out and share something from it.

As I mentioned recently on my reading through Edward Payson's writings, I definitely don't treat this book at the all-inspired word of God I believe it to be. And I should.
"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. " - Ephesians 6:16-18
This verse has been on my mind lately. And the idea of a soldier entering battle without his weapon, without his sword, is preposterous. Especially in retrospect, to think through the many opportunities I've had to take out my sword, but haven't had it on me because it was a little big to be convenient to bring along. I'm ashamed of myself.
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12
I believe the Bible is the word of God. I believe it is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. I believe it is capable of piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow. I believe it is capable of discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

If someone told me they could make my evangelism more effective because they had a tool that could do all this, I'd first of all tell them they were crazy. Then I'd ask to see it. Then I'd ask to borrow it and never return it.

A solider should not enter battle without his sword. And likewise when I've been offered the sharpest, most piercing and discerning sword around, I would be foolish to consider evangelism without it.

I keep trying to think of something clever about tracts and the Bible, but can't pull it together. A tract is certainly useful in many situations and I cannot downplay the role they have had in the salvation of many. But an uninspired small booklet, next to the inspired word of the Almighty God? I want to say something like, "That's not a knife, this is a knife." But then again, maybe entering a battle with both a dagger and a sword is not a bad idea.

Missionaries see the Lord in the decapitation of a snake ➙

One day, they told us, an enormous snake—much longer than a man—slithered its way right through their front door and into the kitchen of their simple home. Terrified, they ran outside and searched frantically for a local who might know what to do. A machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and decapitating the snake with one clean chop.
Wonderful brief article from Christianity Today about how the Lord has already won the battle. I also enjoy how this was just a normal part of life for the missionary. My favorite phrase from the piece is, "Love wins." A phrase I hope we don't forever lose into the abyss of stupidity.

Ed Stetzer's thoughts on Rob Bell's Love Wins ➙

My exhortation (to all of us) from the Bell conversation is that we (re)learn how the scriptural truths of the love of God and the holiness of God are held simultaneously in the scriptures. Unfortunately, I think Bell comes up short in considering their partnership and instead pits them against one another. Furthermore, I think that we might consider how our view of love impacts our view of the work of God.
I would only disagree with the encouragement for people to go read the book. Yes, it will be a well known book that becomes a part of the culture around us. No, I don't think that is reason enough to waste our time in it.

What is the Bible worth? (Edward Payson)

Last night I began reading the book I just suggested by Edward Payson and I'm a little more than blown away by the clarity and power of his writing. Here are a few examples, all from the first sermon on the value of the Scriptures.
These objects, though distinct are intimately connected; for if we can be induced suitably to prize the Sacred Scriptures ourselves, there will be little difficulty in persuading us to aid, in communicating them to others; and there is but too much reason for presuming, that he, who is not desirous to impart this treasure to all around him, knows nothing of its real value, nor of the temper which it is designed to produce.
If you're not blown away by the weight of the Scriptures and desiring to tell others all around of it's ungraspable value, then you yourself probably don't understand the value of the Bible.
This too is the book, for the sake of which our pious ancestors forsook their native land and came to this then desolate wilderness; bringing it with them as their most valuable treasure, and, at death, bequeathing it to us, as the richest bequest, in their power to make. From this source, they, and millions more now in heaven, derived the strongest and purest consolation; and scarcely can we fix our attention on a single passage in this wonderful book which has not afforded comfort or instruction to thousands and been wet with tears of penitential sorrow or grateful joy drawn from eyes that will weep no more.
This is the book from which our ancestors, and "millions more now in heaven" have drawn strength. And we keep it under our side tables with nary a thought.
To this volume alone it is owing, that we are not now assembled in the temple of an idol; that stocks and stones are not our deities; that cruelty, intemperance and impurity do not constitute our religion ; and that our children are not burnt as sacrifices at the shrine of Moloch. To this volume we are also indebted for the reformation in the days of Luther; for the consequent revival and progress of learning; and for our present freedom from papal tyranny.
And think of where we'd be without it!
Who then can doubt, that he who formed the sun, gave the Bible to be “ a light unto our feet, and a lamp to our path.” Who, that contemplates this fountain, still full and overflowing, notwithstanding the millions who have drank of its waters, can doubt, that it has a real, though invisible connection with that river of life, which flows forever at the right hand of God?
Me. I can doubt like an idiot. I can treat the Bible as just another book, or one which probably has less to teach me than Tozer, or C.S. Lewis. But as good of writers as both of those guys were, their writing was not inspired. Their writing is not a gift directly from God.

I only read half way through the first sermon last night, and I woke up more excited to get in the Word than I have been in a while. Thank you Payson.

The Elaborated by Tim Ricchuiti ➙

I've been a fan of Tim's writing ever since we argued years ago about the Pericope Adulterae. He's moved himself off of Blogger, through tumblr, and now in to Squarespace. I'm a fan of the new layout and that he's getting back into more long-form writing. He also got a fancy new domain theelaborated.net which is substantially easier to remember than trying to spell his last name in ricchuiti.blogspot.com.

His blog reeks of a Gruber knockoff but in a good way. Gruber has a good thing going, and I've definitely picked an idea or two about design and blogging from the man. Anyhow, give Tim a look see and add him to your RSS reader. Between his love for Apple, his Masters from Dallas Seminary, and his teaching math to 8th graders he should be an interesting read.

Edward Payson, on Evangelism, and a free Ebook of Sermons

The 9 Marks Blog has a great and brief article about evangelism with an extended quote from Edward Payson a congregationalist pastor from the early 1800's in Massachusetts.
We all deserve damnation, a thousand times, for our stupid insensibility to the situation of those, who are perishing around us. We profess to believe the word of God; but can you prove that you believe it? Do you act, as if you believed it? Do you believe that many of your acquaintances, your children, are in danger of the fate, which has been so vividly described in the bible?
This was enough to make me interested in the guy (I've not previously heard of him). And since his writing is old enough, it is available in the public domain. Google Books will allow you to download an EPUB file (convertible to Kindle format, or readable in Stanza on your iPhone). I've downloaded this book of his sermons.

A Theology of Work ➙

My friend David left full-time ministry to be a rancher in rural Washington. He said God was calling him to do it. At the time, I didn’t quite get it. I was still working under the assumption that God calls people into the ministry, not out of it. Leaving the ministry didn’t make sense.

But it does now.
This is something I've been teaching for years here in the field to people who felt they have no value since they weren't called to full-time ministry. The whole series is worth a look. Especially if you're in a dead-end job wondering how on earth you honor the Lord flipping hamburger patties all day long. Even more interesting if you're in full-time ministry and look down on people who aren't.

Brian Fulthorp: On being a Christian ➙

I was thinking a bit about what it means to follow Jesus today (that is, to be a Christian) and wondered how can we say we are Christians if we won’t go where Jesus leads us, even if it is to undesirable places such as in the way of suffering or poverty?  If we don’t or won’t go in the way he leads us, how can we say we are his disciples, or that we are following the Lord, or that we are indeed Christians?
Being a Christian means actually following Jesus. Not just saying we do, but actually going where he tells us to go. Doing what he tells us to do. Being like him. I feel like this was more obvious to followers of Confucius (become like the teacher) than it is to a lot of Christians.

Help! In the belly of a whale. ➙

On God's will, straying from it, and how we call for help from our God when we're desperate. From a larger series on Jonah.
As a Christian, you’re Christ’s slave. That’s why you feel so desperately uncomfortable when you stray from the will of God. Something in your heart says, “You really shouldn’t be doing this.” The voice belongs to your new owner. He troubles your conscience. 

On praying big prayers. For the city. For the nation. For the nations.

For almost nine months now I have been leading a team focusing on reaching and transforming a city for the glory of Jesus' name. I believe I've mentioned more than once that this is an overwhelming task (to say the least). And the nature of the impossibility of city transformation drives our team to prayer regularly. Five days a week start with an hour of prayer. We pray for the people we've met, we pray for the events coming up, we pray for our leadership, we pray for wisdom in what and how we do things, and we pray for this city.

But how do you pray for a city? It's difficult to pray for a city because a city is so BIG. If you're anything like me you feel impotent when praying for something which requires so much power. This is clearly a misunderstanding on our part, because we know the truth of the fact that it is the Lord who has the power to change the city. My prayer itself is nothing if not answered by the Almighty Creator. And if I truly believe He created this earth and He answers when I pray, then what is a city for Him? If He truly created the stars above and, "heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him" (2 Chron 2:6), then our prayers have power because the one backing the prayer is more than powerful. He is the creator of power itself.

When I can wrap my head around a big God (or at least grasp the idea in theory), I then wonder if I even should be praying for the city. And if I'm to be praying for the city, should I also be praying for the nation? Is that even too small? Should I be praying for the whole world? Certainly if my faith is weak for a city, my faith for the whole world is weaker.

Lately I've spent a lot of time dwelling on the Lord's prayer and in light of this I noticed the second verse says, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10). This includes the friends around me I'm already praying for. This includes my family, and this city, and this nation. In fact Jesus, when teaching us how to pray, fit in a sentence on praying for the world in its entirety. The whole world. Not just our family, our friends, our ministry, or even our city and nation. We pray for the Lord's Kingdom to come in this whole earth. That's big. And it is the model Jesus gave us.

If you delve deeper in the Bible you see it's riddled with scripture about the earth, and every nation turning the Lord. "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession," says Psalm 2:8. If God can offer this to His servant, then why do we not ask for the ends of the earth to be given back to Him for His glory?

So I implore you — pray for your city, for your nation, and for our world. Ask for revival. Ask for the Lord to open up heaven above this place and reign down His Spirit. Ask for people to hear the truth in visions in dreams. Ask for more laborers to be sent out into the harvest. Ask for the missionaries in the field to see fruit from their evangelism and discipleship. Ask for those disciples to grow in maturity and share with others. Ask for local believers everywhere to rise up and reach their neighbors, co-workers, families, friends, and cities. Ask that the smile on the faces of the believers throughout the world would ignite questions and challenge those without faith to be shocked by the hope we've found. Ask the Lord for His people to live upright lives and bring glory to His name. Ask for faith for your city. Ask for faith for your nation, and the earth. Ask the Lord to teach you to pray BIG prayers.
"And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts." - Hag 2:7 
Lord shake the nations. Bring the hearts of the people, Your treasure, in every nation to You. Fill Your house with glory.
"Hasten and come,
all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there." - Joel 3:11
Lord gather to Yourself the nations. Bring them now, call them now, turn their hearts to You even now.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." - Matt 24:14 
Lord we beg that the gospel of the Kingdom would be proclaimed throughout the whole world. Make Your name known to all nations, everywhere. Raise up missionaries to go to new lands, raise up locals to tell their neighbors, challenge Your people everywhere to boldly proclaim Your saving truth. Lord, make Your name known in this city, in the capital, in every village, hamlet, and home. Let Your gospel be proclaimed in every last corner of the earth.
"He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations." - Psalms 111:6 
Lord show us Your power by hearing our prayers for the nations. Make Yourself known now in the ends of the earth. Embolden us to pray by showing us Your power in our prayers. Give the nations as a spiritual inheritance to us, that Your name would be glorified everywhere.
"So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." Phil 2:10 
Lord we pray for every nation, every people, every city, everyone, to turn to You. That in knowing the power of Your name they would bow before you in unity throughout all the earth.

And there are many many more. Some are here below.
"For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations." - Isa 61:11  
"For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea." - Hab 2:14 
"All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble." - Isa 43:9  
"All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you." - Psalms 22:27 
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!" - Psalms 46:10 
"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.'" - Gal 3:8
The point is we are to pray big prayers. The Lord has the nations in His sight, and our role in this is to bring them before Him in prayer. 

Happy (belated) Great Missionary Day ➙

On St. Patrick:
Upon entering a pagan clan, Patrick would seek to first convert the tribal leaders and other people of influence. He would then pray for the sick, cast demons out of the possessed, preach the Bible, and use both musical and visual arts to compel people to put their faith in Jesus. If enough converts were present he would build a simple church that did not resemble ornate Roman architecture, baptize the converts, and hand over the church to a convert he had trained to be the pastor so that he could move on to repeat the process with another clan.
Perhaps celebrating great missionaries with beer should be more widespread (and the use in moderation more widespread too).

Rob Bell on MSNBC ➙

I haven't read the book. At this point I do not intend to, no offense to Rob Bell, but apparently my faith might be better nurtured reading something else.

A few other thoughts:
  1. Count me among those who never heard of Rob Bell before the controversy. Maybe this points to my cluelessness, or his good marketing, I'm not sure.
  2. If people have a chance of being converted after death then my labor in a third world country is very disappointingly pointless. I'd much rather be around good burritos and beautiful scenery than where I am now, and post-death salvation rather negates the need for me and my profession.
  3. Jesus died on the cross for the love of a damned people. If we weren't damned then it was just a nice, but ultimately unnecessary gesture. I'm fairly certain my faith has no room for that option.
Either way, kudos to do the guy doing the interview. He was on top of it.

Jesus. Our Joy in Missiology.

Seven months ago I left town and moved to a new city and in my stead I left a local leader of whom I think very highly. He is a man who is truly after the heart of the Lord in a unique way I cannot say about many other people. But he's failed pretty miserably with the things I entrusted to him.

There are a lot of reasons why he may have failed. Of the team of five I left to support him, 2 were shipped off (by their day jobs) to foreign countries for most of the year and thus were not around to help in any way. Later he too was shipped off to another part of the country for several months. That left behind people who were probably capable of leading in his absence, but were not given the freedom to lead. And there are two or three other good reasons why he hasn't succeeded in leading or growing the ministry. While not everything fell into complete shambles, he had little to do with holding it together.

Sadly the biggest reason for his failure is probably that I didn't equip him well enough. I had great intentions and he had great vision but he lacked the ability to communicate with his all-female team (among other things). He loved the ministry, but with the other male gone from his support team he was unable to move his wonderful ideas into purposeful action. And I can't help but think if I had better prepared him, he would have been fine. If I had followed up more frequently with him to see how things were doing he might have pulled everything together. At one point one of the ladies working with him called me and told me the whole thing was an absolute disaster. I then called him and asked how everything was going and he shrugged and said he thought it was doing pretty well, although he admitted he was having a hard time communicating with the women. And things have slowly disintegrated since then.

I'm pretty bummed about it to be honest because I love this man and I wanted to see him succeed at something he was passionate about.

A large part of my frustration is that I either wrongly believed he was ready or my method for turning things over was simply bad.

I'm a pretty passionate guy and I get excited about what I'm doing. I also generally believe the way I'm doing things is the best way around. I would do something different if I didn't believe in my methods. But then, once in a while, something comes along and challenges all my thinking — like my friend failing, or a book coming out with new research that calls all the old research bunk. Today what I believe may be very different or even opposed to what I believed yesterday.

But my fear that what I'm doing today, I may tomorrow consider wrong is pretty lame. Because while my job is largely strategy, my leader (God) knows I'm strategically incompetent. Even at my best, God's foolishness is wiser. But He has chosen to work through me despite my incompetence. He has chosen to do wonderful things despite my friend's failings. He has chosen to use that situation to teach me lessons about turning over leadership to locals and He is making His name known through me — a foolish man.

I rejoice that I will make mistakes, that I could do things better, and should do things better, but the Lord has grace enough for me. Jesus is the reason for my mission. Jesus is the reason for my missiology. And He is my joy in my strategy. Jesus is my joy in my successes and failures.

I do missions, and I constantly dwell on missiology because the glorification of the name of Jesus is my goal, and His patience and willingness to work with and through me is my joy.

NOT the Great Commission

And The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to us. Go therefore and make scholars of all nations, baptizing them in the name of PhD's, teaching them to observe all that Gruder's Systematic Theology has commanded you. And behold, we are with you always, to the moment you graduate (for then you are officially qualified in God's eyes to enter the pulpit).

NO

And Jesus came and said to them, “Some of the authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all people groups (however you see best fit to define them), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then leave them in charge as fast as you can. And behold, I will appear to you immediately after you've done this, and I'll take you to heaven where you no longer will have such burdensome responsibilities.”

NO

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore send your money to make converts of all nations, baptizing them if you get to it in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and conversion and baptism are probably good enough. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

NO

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and build ornately beautiful churches with stained glass windows, and seeker friendly churches in warehouses that serve coffee, and grow those churches to outrageous numbers, teaching people all about heaven, lolipops, and sunshine, don't worry about mentioning hell. And behold, people will be saved no matter what they believe.”

NO

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

YES!

I'm afraid I could have gone on forever, but you get the idea.

In Defense of the Christian Worldview

We live in a world where the only thing that is completely intolerable is the person who believes their view is better than others. You can like your shoes, your glasses, your computer, your friends etc... in fact you should like the things that you have chosen. However the moment you decide to tell others of your opinion you have crossed a line. If you tell people a Mac is more usable than a PC there will be a reaction. If you say a certain shoe brand is substantially better than another it is inappropriate. You are welcome to believe anything you want, but you are not welcome to share that belief unless directly asked about it.

But the problem is keeping your mouth shut is difficult. We inherently want to tell others that after we discovered this brand of shoes our back pain went away. Or after we switched optometrists our headaches ceased. When we find things positively change our lives it is difficult to not want to share that with others. We love our friends, and even those we don't love it seems deserve at least a nudging in the direction of a better life. A simpler life. A more pain-free life.

And this is the problem for the Christian. He genuinely believes that what he has found is better. He doesn't believe it is equally as good as Buddhism, he believes it's better. He doesn't believe it's equally as good as atheism. He believes it's better. He genuinely does. Maybe he's tried Buddhism, or maybe he hasn't, but he absolutely from the bottom of his heart believes that what he has found is the very best thing in the whole wide world. And the difference here is not that he found a shoe brand that takes away back pain. Because while that would be a wonderful thing to share with other people, at the end of the day if they should so choose to live with back pain it is just back pain after all. The difference with Christianity is the Christian believes what he has chosen has saved him out of eternal suffering. The fires of hell in the next life - yes. But also the vain striving for purpose, for meaning, for satisfaction in this life. The Christian sees everyone else around them seeking but not finding joy. The Christian genuinely believes he has found the solution. And that choosing something other than Jesus means damnation in the future, but also the utter absence of hope in this lifetime.

Thus the Christian is stuck.

But now it is important to discuss for a moment what is actually NOT the Christian worldview. For example hatred is not a Christian value. There are people out there who claim to be Christians and hate everyone around them who thinks differently then they do. But take note that this is not at all the Christian worldview. The Christian faith is absolutely, at its most fundamental, a religion of love. The Christian does believe that his view is exclusively the path to salvation, hope, love, life, satisfaction. The Christian believes that there is no hope at all for anyone outside of Jesus. But he should never hate the non-believer. Mourn them perhaps, even attempt to change their minds, or buy them coffee and sit quietly. But never hate.

The Bible is also very clear that while it is the Christian's job to tell people about Jesus, it is not the Christian's job to convert people.

I am an evangelist for a living. And at first when I started sharing about Jesus this wasn't something I really grasped. I believed so strongly that Jesus is the only way, it was hard to know when to shut-up and stop sharing. Sometimes people simply don't want to hear about Jesus and it is the job of the evangelist to understand when such a person is choosing to say no and then drop the issue. To love someone in sharing about Jesus is to share only as much as they are willing to hear. Yes - to stop short of Christ, Christ crucified, the resurrection, and salvation is hard, and it may well mean death for the person. It is, however, their choice to choose death. And it is not a rejection of the evangelist, but a rejection of Christ.

Christianity is absolutely, without question, a religion of love. It may lead the Christian to draw conclusions that certain things are wrong (abortion, homosexuality etc...), but it cannot (should not) lead the Christian to hate. Only to lovingly oppose - and sometimes knowing what that means is difficult. This is harder than it sounds in the world we live in. Tolerance would be a much easier path. Believing Jesus was not the only way would be much easier to believe because it would mean the Christian doesn't have to express his opinion of Jesus being superior in a world that doesn't want to receive such a message.

But a person who truly believes Jesus is the only way simply cannot do that.

The Christian believes that Jesus is the only way because he believes Jesus is God. And Jesus said He was the only way. The Christian then tells others about Jesus because he believes Jesus is not only the exclusive way, but also the BEST way. The Christian wants to tell you about Christianity because he believes his faith in Jesus Christ gave him an eternal hope he never previously experienced.

The Christian wants to tell you about Jesus because he genuinely believes this is the most loving thing on earth he can do.