Where Revival Begins

21 Aug

“We shall never be revived until we realizingly feel our absolute and entire dependence on God – until we can heartily and without reserve say, ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.'”

Edward Griffin

Setting consciences on fire

20 Aug

“We are not sent into the pulpit to shew our wit and eloquence but to set the consciences of men on fire.”
Solomon Stoddard

Competing views of liberty

5 Aug

It wasn’t long after the American Revolution that France experienced a Revolution of its own.

At first, many American pastors seemed to welcome the French Revolution. One of the reasons being, they thought it meant the defeat of Catholicism. But, as they came to better to understand what was happening in France, their attitude changed. Though the French were fighting for freedom, they saw the kind of freedom they were fighting for as something entirely different than the freedom they were seeking in America.

In his book, A Field of Divine Wonders, David Kling explains, “Liberty, as Americans knew from their own experience, meant many things, and it was imperative for the survival of the Republic that they get it right. Dwight was quick to point out that the ‘liberty of the Infidels was not the liberty of New England.’ What was the difference? On the one hand, the person who embraced the liberty of the infidels was ‘a mere beast of prey.’ Infidel liberty was ‘licentiousness,…the spring of continual alarm, bondage, and misery.’ On the other hand, the true liberty of the American republic was characterized by restraint, ‘by equitable laws, by the religion of the Scriptures.’ This kind of liberty was ‘far less burdensome and distressing than the boasted freedom of the Infidels.”

He continues,

“True liberty was restrained liberty, by which citizens understood ‘the perfect consistency of being free and being governed.’ Enlightened political leaders, steeped in classical authors and in seventeenth-century English and radical Whig political theorists, and evangelical Calvinists immersed in Scripture, while drawing their views from different sources, reached similar conclusions. Together they embraced the classical republican definition of liberty. The New Divinity contributed to the larger national debate that raged in the 1790s over competing visions of liberty. How was the nation to interpret republican ideals? All agreed that liberty was the prized possession of the people. But according to the classic republican view, the will of the people was not ‘every man doing that which was right in his own eyes,’ but the expression of virtuous behavior. Liberty was ultimately grounded in virtue, the willingness of individuals to sacrifice selfish desires for the good of the community. A more liberal, Lockean conception of liberty clashed with this conservative, classical view. ‘Instrumental, utilitarian, individualistic, egalitarian, abstract, and rational, the liberal view of liberty,’notes Joyce Appelby, ‘was everything that the classical republican concept was not.”

I wonder, some two hundred years later, in the average American’s mind, which view of liberty do you think has won? Has the American revolution become the French one?

There are problems and then there are PROBLEMS….

3 Aug

Please pray for our brother, Newton Chilingulo as he is looking to move back to Malawi this August.

He’s been up in Malawi recently with some pastor’s conferences, and I just received his newsletter, in which he reflects on his experience, saying:

“Malawi has serious problems but poverty is not one of them.

No, No, No…I am not saying there is No poverty. There is.

Lots of it.

But Malawi’s greatest problem is that it is a country that has given animism a Christian jacket. While most people profess to be Christian the culture here is not infiltrated with a Christian worldview. While ‘Christians’ are not visiting witchdoctors, they are actually doing so by visiting the ‘anointed’ man of ‘gold’.

There is a place for conferences in Malawi, no doubt. But I am persuaded that is not the greatest need Malawi needs.

Malawi needs a theologically sound church planting movement. While there are a
plethora of churches there are not many gospel witnesses. Of course, there are few
exceptions. Lilongwe’s population keeps growing hence
the need for church planting.”

One great idea

2 Aug

If people listened to you speak over a period of years, I wonder what particular theme would dominate your conversations?

One of the scholars who spent years studying Jonathan Edwards, summarized what drove him very simply: Jonathan Edwards was a man of one idea and that idea was God.

“He believed in the absolute priority of deity, the complete dependence of men upon God, God’s glory as the aim of all creation and man’s highest end.”

In the midst of all the activity that is going on all around us, may we learn to be relentlessly God-centered as well.

The Specifics of Loving Others Well

28 Jul

To help us think through how to love others better, Matt Perman gives six specific suggestions of what it means to love others that I thought I could share with you and ask you to think carefully about:

1. Have real goodwill towards the other person.

“The essence of love is having real goodwill towards others – that is, truly wanting the best for them and delighting in it.”

2. Put the other person first.

“…putting others first is not simply an outworking of the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is even more fundamentally rooted in the gospel itself. We are to seek the interests of others first precisely because this is how Christ loved us.”

3. Be eager in meeting the needs of others, not begrudging and reluctant.

“Don’t just do good works; be zealous, energetic and eager in doing them.”

4. Be proactive, not reactive in doing good.

“Here’s how the great preacher Charles Spurgeon put it: ‘Let us be on the watch for opportunities of usefulness; let us go about the world with our ears and eyes open, ready to avail ourselves of every occasion for doing good; let us not be content till we are useful, but make this main design and ambition of our lives.”

“…If we aren’t readily seeing other peoples needs, it is not simply a technical failure in the Christian life, it is selfishness. Edwards captures this well: ‘A selfish man is not apt to discern the wants of others, but rather to overlook them, and can hardly be persuaded to see or feel them. But a man of charitable spirit is apt to see the afflictions of others, and to take notice of their aggravation, and to be filled with concern for them, as he would be for himself if under difficulties. And he is ready, also, to help them, and to take delight in supplying their necessities, and relieving their difficulties.”

5. Avoid a self-protective mindset and take pains to do good for others.

“This means the Christian life involves risk. The fact that something is risky isn’t an indication that God isn’t in it. Sometimes that is the very indication that he is in it. Don’t excuse yourself from doing good because it is risky or hard. We are to go to extremes to help others because Jesus went to extremes to help us.”

6. Be creative and competent in doing good, not lazy and shoddy.

If we are going to love others as we love ourselves, obviously we aren’t going to be content with just merely getting by. We are going to go overboard and be especially careful and generous, because that is how God has loved us!

Love Driven Productivity

28 Jul

I, for many years, found talks about productivity extremely boring.

Whenever someone would start mentioning how to lay out your calendar or organize your desk or plan out your next few months, my mind would begin to drift and I would miss most of what they were saying.

I had a number of reasons I would give myself.

“I am not that administrative.”

(Really, I think this is more, I am a bit lazy. I have no doubt that some people think more in details than others, and some are better at the bigger picture, but please, I don’t think anyone is born organizing their pencils. This is a skill and it is one that can be learned, if you are willing)

“I am going to die anyway.”

(It sometimes seems hard to think about the color of the carpet when you know in forty years the color of the carpet isn’t going to matter at all to you. But I am not sure this is how an eternal perspective is really supposed to impact me. I don’t think that it is supposed to be an excuse for not doing my best right now.)

“I just want to love people.”

Now here it is. I have noticed that some in their drive to be organized become so focused on being organized and productive that they actually lose sight of people. What I have come to understand in recent days however, is that shouldn’t necessarily be the case.

At all.

In fact, my attitude towards careful planning and concern for details and learning how to get things done is changing, and it is changing primarily because of this, it is changing because I am realizing that careful planning, concern for details and learning how to better get things done is ABOUT LOVING GOD AND LOVING PEOPLE.

In his book, What’s Best Next, Matt Perman writes,

“The essence of Gospel Driven Productivity is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God, and this is the most exciting life. To be a gospel driven Christian means to be on the lookout to do good for others to the glory of God, in all areas of life, and to do this with creativity and competence. Further, being gospel-driven also means knowing how to get things done so that we can serve others in a way that really helps, in all ares of life, without making ourselves miserable in the process through overload, overwhelm, and hard to keep up systems.”

I can’t tell you how paradigm shifting this is for me.

Thinking about next actions and my calendar and details is becoming more and more exciting to me, because it is about LOVING MY NEIGHBOR BETTER! And this shouldn’t just be exciting to me, it should get all of us excited as Christians.

Because as Jonathan Edwards has written, “As a principle of love is the main principle in the heart of a real Christian, so the labour of love is the main business in the Christian life.”

Why are we concerned about productivity? Because we are concerned about the main business of our lives as Christians. It’s that simple, really.

I am concerned about productivity because I want to become better and better at the main business of my life basically, which is working at loving God and loving others better.

It’s not so much about having our calendar just so or having things in order the way we like, but instead its about the glory of God and the good of people, and working on becoming excellent in the ordinary, basic matters of getting things done will help us to become better and better at loving them and glorifying God as well.

(Please, if you get the chance, purchase Matt Perman’s book, What’s Best Next! It is so incredibly helpful, practical and potentially life-changing!)

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