Hiatus

I have decide to stop writing for a while (at least publicly) – probably until the new year. Life is changing and I want to be as open and responsive to God as possible – leaving my blog for a while is part of giving more time and attention to my Lord. Do feel free to keep in touch via rdcramblings(at)gmail(dot)com – I doubt that I will use Facebook much (if at all) during this time.

Thank you for reading what has appeared to date, in the meantime I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a 2013 knowing the peace, love and grace of the Lord God Almighty.

Robert Raikes

I am thoroughly enjoying reading John Ortberg’s book, Who is this Man? In it Ortberg describes the impact Jesus, and therefore his followers, have had in shaping society through the two millennia since his birth, death and resurrection.

Ortberg tells of the development of Sunday schools like this:

Many people have heard of Sunday school. Most have no idea where it came from. In 1780 a Jesus follower in Great Britain named Robert Raikes could not stand the cycle of poverty and ignorance that was destroying the little children, a whole generation. He said, “The world marches forward on the feet of little children.” So he took children who had to work six days a week in squalor. Sunday was their free day. He said, “I’m going to start a school for free to teach them to read and write and learn about God.” He did, and he called it “Sunday school.”

Within fifty years there were 1.5 million children being taught by 160,000 volunteer teachers who had a vision for the education of a generation. Sunday school was not a privatised, optional program for the church kids. It was one of the great educational volunteer triumphs of the world.

Besetting sin

In my preparation for preaching I looked at Hebrews 12 and thought about the verse describing, “the sin that clings so closely,” or as the NIV puts it, “the sin that so easily entangles.” I read this section by an old Puritan writer here. It is and is powerful and challenging and allows us to gave clearly at our sin as well as stimulating us to repentance:

As an aside Puritan writer Thomas Watson has some interesting points regarding the nature of a “besetting sin”…

Take heed of your besetting sin, that which your nature and constitution most incline to. As in the hive there is a master bee—so in the heart there is a master sin. “I kept myself from my iniquity.” Ps 18:23. There is some sin that is a special favorite, the darling sin which lies in the bosom—and this bewitches and draws away the heart. O beware of this!

[1] That sin which a man most nourishes, and to which all other sins are subservient—is the sin which is most tended and waited upon. The Pharisees’ darling sin was vainglory, all they did was to feed the sin of pride. When they gave alms they sounded a trumpet, that they might admired by others. Matthew 6:2. If a stranger had asked why this trumpet sounded? The answer was, the Pharisees are going to give alms to the poor. Their lamp of charity was filled with the oil of vainglory. Matthew 23:5. All their works they did to be seen by men. Pride was their bosom sin. Oftentimes covetousness is the darling sin; all other sins are committed to maintain this. Why do men equivocate, oppress, defraud, take bribes—but to uphold covetousness?

[2] The sin which a man hates to be reproved—is the darling sin. Herod could not endure to have his incest spoken against; if John the Baptist meddles with that sin, it shall cost him his head.

[3] That sin which has most power over a man, and most easily leads him captive—is the beloved of the soul. There are some sins which a man can better put off and repulse; but there is one sin which he cannot deny—but is overcome by it: this is the bosom sin. The young man in the gospel had a besetting sin which he could not resist, and that was the love of the world; his silver was dearer to him than his Savior. It is a sad thing a man should be so bewitched by a lust—that he will part with the kingdom of heaven to gratify it!

[4] The sin which men use arguments to defend—is the darling sin. To plead for sin, is to be the devil’s attorney. If the sin is covetousness, and we vindicate it; if it is rash anger, and we justify it, saying (as Jonah 4:9), “I do well to be angry,” this is the besetting sin.

[5] That sin which most troubles a man, and flies in his face in an hour of sickness and distress—is the beloved sin. When Joseph’s brethren were distressed, their sin in selling their brother came to remembrance. Gen 45:3. So, when a man is upon his sick-bed, conscience says, “Do not you remember how you have lived in such a sin, though you have been often warned—yet you would not leave it?” Conscience reads a secret lecture upon the darling sin.

[6] The sin which a man is most unwilling to part with—is the darling sin. Jacob could of all his sons, most hardly part with Benjamin. “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and you will take Benjamin away.” Gen 13:36. So says the sinner, “this and that sin have I parted with; but must Benjamin go? Must I part with this delightful sin? That pierces my heart!” It is the Delilah, the beloved sin. Oh, if sin is such a deadly evil, dare not to indulge any bosom sin, which is the most dangerous of all; and, like a cancer striking to the heart, which is mortal. One darling sin lived in, sets open a gap for Satan to enter.

Recent Tweets

These were posted between November 2-19.

“We should be more concerned with reaching the lost than pampering the saved.” David McGee

“Habits are to the soul what the veins and arteries are to the blood, the courses in which it moves.” Horace Bushnell

“Jesus always comes asking disciples to follow him–not merely “accept, believe or worship” but to follow: one either follows Christ, or one does not.” Lee Camp

“The supreme proof of a true conversion is holy affections, zeal for holy things, longings after God, longings after holiness, desires for purity.” Jonathan Edwards

“The dullness that overshadows a passive person is increased by the mounting number of times one doesn’t respond to the promptings of God.” Greg Manalli

“You will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice.” Eric Liddell

“I surrendered unto Him all there was of me; everything! Then for the first time I realized what it meant to have real power.” Kathryn Kuhlman

Welcome Jesus

Matthew 13 and 14 give to great examples of how people responded when they encountered Jesus.

13:51-58, And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his home town he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his home town and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

14: 34-36, And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent word around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

What a massive difference. I can’t help wondering if some of the people in Jesus’ hometown wanted to honour him, they saw him for who he really is – and yet the pressure to conform held them back. In Gennesaret there was no such problem – it seems everyone wanted Jesus to be there.

I have been to churches where Jesus does not appear to be welcome. I hope you noted my choice of words, does not appear… Yet the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord, he is head of the church, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords, his is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved, he forgives sins, heals the sick, gives strength to the weak…

And yet in many church services we barely hear his name mentioned, we barely hear glory and honour given to him. It is a trend that can easily be followed by the people who are the church, we can forget him, fail to honour him, be afraid to praise him because of what others might be thinking, saying or doing.

God is revealed through Jesus. Come and worship Jesus this week – it could change your life.

Going deep

Two great quotes from AW Tozer in his essay on The Deeper Life.

“It has been the unanimous testimony of the greatest Christian souls that the nearer they drew to God the more acute became their consciousness of sin and their sense of personal unworthiness. The purest souls never knew how pure they were and the greatest saints never guessed that they were great. The very thought that they were good or great would have been rejected by them as a temptation of the devil…They were so engrossed with gazing upon the face of God that they spent scarce a moment looking at themselves…

“How can any man believe a command? Commands are to be obeyed, and until we have obeyed them we have done exactly nothing at all about them”

At home with AWT

Anyone who reads these ramblings with any degree of regularity will realise that AW Tozer is a regular source of stimulation to me. As a man of God, a prophetc voice for his (and our) times, I find him powerful speaking out of the heart of God.

Recently I read this on Tim Challie’s blog regarding his Tozer’s family life – it was part of his review of A Passion for God by Lyle Dorsett (a brief biography of Tozer).

Tozer was a man who loved Scripture and loved nothing more than preaching its truths to all who would listen. “A.W. Tozer heralded biblical truth. He loved the Bible and unflinchingly preached what he believed people needed to hear, regardless of what they wanted.” Yet he was a man who neglected the mission field in his home. “On and off over the years, Aiden exercised his role as head of the family by encouraging times of family devotions. These never lasted more than a few weeks. As one son explained, the children just did not want it and they were seldom all together for extended periods in any case.”

Tozer was a man who dedicated himself to reading, study and prayer and who delighted to be in the presence of God. “There is no way to measure the hours he spent in a typical day or week reading books and wrestling with ideas, but it was substantial. In a similar vein, we know that he increasingly devoted many hours each week praying, meditating on Scripture, and seeking deeper intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ. During the 1930s Tozer read voraciously, and he also developed a magnificent obsession to be in Christ’s presence—just to worship Him and to be with Him.” Yet he was a man who was emotionally and spiritually distant from his own wife. “By early 1928 the Tozers had a routine. Aiden found his fulfillment in reading, preparing sermons, preaching, and weaving travel into his demanding and exciting schedule, while Ada learned to cope. She dutifully washed, ironed, cooked, and cared for the little ones, and developed the art of shoving her pain deep down inside. Most of the time she pretended there was no hurt, but when it erupted, she usually blamed herself for not being godly enough to conquer her longing for intimacy from an emotionally aloof husband.”

These strange inconsistencies abound. Tozer saw his wife’s gifts for hospitality and encouraged her in them; yet he disliked having visitors in his own home. He preached about the necessity of Christian fellowship within the family of Christ; yet he refused to allow his family or his wife’s family to visit their home. For every laudable area of his life there seemed to exist an equal and opposite error. This study in opposites leaves for a fascinating picture of a man who was used so greatly by God, even while his life had such obvious sin.

One might draw many conclusions from such comments, and those made by Dorsett in his book – others far better qualified than me have already done so, do a quick internet search and you can find them for yourself.

I stand before the above comments of others as a man who tries to love God and his family, and as a man who regularly fails in both. I realise I am not alone in struggling – yet I will not give up, I will not cave in to a substandard unconjoined worship-family life. Now all I can do is cry louder for grace, cry more passionately and urgently that I might be filled with the Spirit of God, plead that Christ in me might enable me to live as father, worshipper and godly example within my family – and by doing so lead them to love Jesus more and more.

Praying for your children

I loved these suggestions from JD and Kim Crowley, originally posted by Andy Naselli, on how they pray for their children, grand-children etc. (My three youngest are pictured here.)

Faith

  1. Grant them a heart of repentance from sin.
  2. Give them faith in Christ from an early age.
  3. Fill them with your Holy Spirit, and may they bear the fruit of the Spirit.
  4. Lead them to be baptized into your church.
  5. Make them members of a strong church with godly elders.
  6. Give them spiritual gifts for use in the church, and help them faithfully use them.
  7. Lead them always to increase in holiness.
  8. Keep them within the orthodox faith of Christ and the apostles.
  9. Protect them from false teachers and false teaching.
  10. Make them fruitful proclaimers of the gospel, filled with love for all.
  11. Make them humbly committed to daily prayer.
  12. Give them hunger for daily Bible reading.
  13. Fill them with love and forbearance toward others.
  14. Help them endure trials with faith and joy.
  15. Help them guard their conscience.
  16. May their lives be like the sun that rises stronger and stronger until the full of day.

Wisdom

  1. Give them hearts that constantly overflow with thankfulness.
  2. Make them peacemakers.
  3. Give them a vocation/skill/work that provides for their family and is useful to society.
  4. Give them a sense of purpose and joy in their life work.
  5. Rescue them from the fear of man.
  6. Provide for them a good education.
  7. Help them apply themselves diligently to their studies and other work.
  8. Rescue them from laziness and dishonesty.

Influences and Relationships

  1. May they be quick to forgive.
  2. Give them godly friends all their lives who will influence them to love God.
  3. Give them godly influences from “uncles and aunts” and “substitute parents,” especially as our influence wanes.
  4. Don’t let them go through a time of teenage rebellion.
  5. Help them remain pure and enter marriage as virgins.
  6. May they marry only strong believers.
  7. Save, sanctify, and bless their future spouse.
  8. Keep divorce away from their lives and their children’s lives for many generations.
  9. Give them the gift of children and the grace to raise them up in the faith of Christ.
  10. If they are to remain single, make them unusually fruitful for God’s kingdom.
  11. Protect them from predators.
  12. Protect them from deviant sexual desires.

Physical

  1. Heal and protect them from sicknesses and diseases.
  2. Protect them from accidents.
  3. Give their country peace in their lifetime.

Aiming high

I do not think of myself as a good husband – it is a very difficult part of my life but I am learning, and hope to continue learning up until the day I depart for glory. Personally I thought this was a brilliant piece giving advice to married men (and those who hope to marry someday) on how to ensure you love and cherish your wife whilst working in ministry. It encourages us to aim high.

CJ Mahaney is a leader within Sovereign Grace Ministries and has been married to Carolyn for at least 37 years – he knows a thing or two! For the full video go here. Below are some extracts Andy Naselli’s notes taken from the full sermon. I know it looks longer than things I usually post but it is well worth the time and effort in reading and applying some of the truths contained within it.

CJ Mahaney suggests three ways that husbands can nourish and cherish their wives (particularly in the context of ministry).

(Husbands you might also look at this article by Perry Noble.)

1. Care for her soul.

  1. CJ cared for the children in the morning for a period of time so that Carolyn could have an unhurried devotional time and get ready for the day. This service at the outset of her day made all the difference in the rest of her day.
  2. CJ sought to help Carolyn with her spiritual diet. When the children were young, he shared books that emphasized objective spiritual truth.
  3. CJ sought to weekly give half of his day off to Carolyn – three to five hours of unhurried time to read, reflect, shop, whatever; but it was a fixed time that she anticipated and benefited from on a weekly basis.
  4. CJ wanted Carolyn to have a monthly time with her girlfriends.
  5. CJ arranged for Carolyn to have a 24-to-36-hour retreat twice a year. These served her soul big-time.
  6. CJ protected Carolyn re her involvement in the church. Your wife is not the associate pastor. Help her identify her gifts and her capacity, and protect her from discouragement when her responsibilities in the home (e.g., when you have multiple small children) mean that she can be only minimally involved in the church. She is vulnerable to discouragement, so protect her. She can easily feel that what she is doing is insignificant compared to all that’s happening in the church. Be aware of her world. Encourage her that what she is doing is more important and difficult. “The most effective way you serve this church is by your personal example as my wife and the mother of our children.” There are limitations on her because of this season of life, but the most effective way she can serve the church is to flourish as a wife and mother.

2. Cultivate consistent communication.

  • Your wife wants to talk. Your wife needs to talk. Your wife wants to talk to you. Are you making time for talking? If you don’t set aside time for talking, it normally doesn’t happen spontaneously.
  • I am an advocate of a weekly date night, and this is informed by 37 years of rarely missing our weekly date night. Over the years we have derived a disproportional benefit from that weekly investment of time. Setting aside one evening a week has made a massive difference in cultivating our relationship and romance.
  • Carolyn says, “I can wait to talk if I know there will be a time to talk.” So it serves her to know that there will be a consistent time to communicate in anunhurried, distraction-free way when the husband is fully present. Our wives need this.
  • You need to take an interest in her world and draw her out about her world.
  • You need to tell her about your world. You may want to forget about your world, but your wife wants to be informed about your world. She is praying for you and can counsel you. It is a form of selfishness not to tell her about your world.
  • You need to tell her not just about your world but about your heart.
  • Carolyn said in passing to CJ, “A woman is more eager to make love to a husband who is eager to communicate.”
  • You can’t deepen your relationship with your wife without this time.
  • You need to relate to each other, not just relax together. There is a place for relaxing together. But if your times together are primarily about relaxing and not relating, then you should be concerned.

3. Create romantic memories.

  • Husbands, it is our privilege and responsibility to romance our wives.
  • Too often romance becomes a casualty of pastoral ministry. But it does not have to be. With the husband’s intentional, informed leadership, romance can be a deepening and growing reality and not a distant memory.
  • I would include a weekly date night in the romance category as well – it is my privilege and responsibility to create a memory with my wife.
  • This is informed by studying your wife. You need to know by studying her what would be romantic for her.
  • I’m sharing from 37 years of experience. I don’t want any husbands to be paralyzed by guilt. But I do want you to be inspired to do something. When is the last time you planned and executed a romantic memory for your wife? If it’s been longer than a month or two, it’s been too long. You’ve got work to do. You’ve got something to look forward to.
  • If you don’t know what to do, study her and ask her.

Conclusion

Here is a simple weekly practice that makes quite a difference in our marriage. I’ve been doing this for many years, normally on Monday morning at a Starbucks:

  • I think about my roles as husband, father, grandfather, and how I serve in Sovereign Grace.
  • I think about these categories in relation to those roles: (1) How can I serve? (2) How can I surprise?
    • What are the most important ways I can serve Carolyn this week?
    • How can I surprise Carolyn this week? I always like Carolyn living aware that I am planning a surprise.
  • This is a simple practice that takes 15-30 minutes. That little time has birthed so many ideas that have made a significant difference in our marriage, and it has protected us from being overextended in ministry. It helps me devote my life to what is most important. If I don’t prioritize and plan, the urgent will overwhelm and overtake the important every day of my life. Every day there will be more demands made on my life then I can possibly fulfill; I must say No to a certain number of people each day.
  • Husbands, without exception there was a time when it was obvious to everyone whom you were uniquely passionate about. You couldn’t stop thinking about her or stop talking about her and with her. You were always spending time with her and spent serious money on her. Is it still obvious? Ask her, “Do you feel more like a mother than a wife?” The most effective mothers are the most cared-for and romanced wives.

I fear for the cross

Along with my friend Steve Moore, I am re-reading The Cross Centred Life by C. J. Mahaney – it is a short, simple and powerful exultation of the necessity of living your life focussing upon the cross and Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is based upon a simple *fear* that we no longer live such lives. In chapter 2 Mahaney introduces the three main tendencies which draw our hearts away from living with the cross as central to our lives – he suggests they are:

  1. Legalism, which means basing our relationship with God on our own performance.
  2. Condemnation, which means being more focussed on our own sin than on Gods grace.
  3. Subjectivism, which means basing our view of God on our changing feelings and emotions.

Each of these are so easily followed, consider the following untrue statements and how often such thinking pervades our living – God is more delighted with me when I have a quiet time in the morning, God loves me more when I don’t sin, God is closer to me when I feel closer to him. Undoubtedly God likes us to spend time with him, to mortify sin in our bodies and wants us to have a lifestyle (heart, mind and body) which are conscious of his presence each day. But we have to make sure our lives are God focussed, filled with grace and God’s power, not with our own self effort.

A life surrendered to God means living by faith in his gracious provision in Christ – once you have surrendered you can take up the power of the Gospel and live a God pleasing life in the way he intended. Try it today!

In the following chapters Mahaney goes on to expound each issue and helps believers to refocus on the cross. He also quotes D.A. Carson, words which are a salutary warning to modern Christians and churches:

“I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed for idolatry.”

In pondering the centrality of the Gospel in my own life I then looked up some other quotes about the cross and Gospel – they are well worth pondering;

“The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.” Jerry Bridges

“The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.” Tim Keller

“All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them.” E. M Bounds

“The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a Savior from Hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.” Arthur W. Pink

“The Law saith, Where is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction? The Gospel saith, Christ is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction.” Patrick Hamilton