Monthly Archives: May 2009

Noise vs. Silence


The Still Small Voice

Be still, and know that I am God.

Ps 46:10 (ESV)

Why does silence and quiet make us so afraid? Why do we drown out the stillness with all our electronic gadgets? Why do we feel so awkward during a still moment during a Sunday morning service of worship? Could it be that we are afraid that God might actually speak? Are we nervous about what he might say to us? What issues he might correct in our hearts? What commands he might give? Are we concerned that he might embarrass us with an outpouring of his love?

Silence has long been a characteristic of the Church’s worship. Leaving room in a service of worship for God to speak personally and corporately should be the goal of every worship leader. The pregnant pause in a worship service could be the very moment the Holy Spirit comes in power.

Some of our services are far too formal, respectable and dull. At the same time, in some modern meetings the almost total loss of the dimension of reverence disturbs me. It seems to be assumed by some that the chief evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is noise. Have we forgotten that a dove is as much an emblem of the Holy Spirit as are wind and fire? When he visits his people in power, he sometimes brings quietness, silence, reverence and awe. His still small voice is heard. Men bow down in wonder before the majesty of the living God and worship. ‘The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him’ (Hab. 2:20).

John Stott, Balanced Christianity (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975), 39.

Spontaneity vs. Discipline


Sloppy vs. Focused Spiritual Life

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.

1 Tim 4:7 (NASB)

Our fleshly, sinful nature takes our basic needs and turns them into obsessions. Our flesh (i.e., fallenness) yearns the govern us and divert us from intimacy with God. Our flesh cries out for attention and desires to rule our lives. Our sinful nature is an idolatrous over-desire that arises from our being: a heart that is afraid of disappointment, fears that God will be unfaithful, worries about unmet needs, and yearns for control. Discipline is not the favorite word of our flesh (Prov. 23:12 NASB). Discipline says to the flesh, “No more control.” Discipline looks to the Holy Spirit to work in us what Christ did for us on the Cross. The Holy Spirit imparts sanctifying grace to enable us to say, “No,” to worldly passions and unrighteous desires (Titus 2:11-14). Freedom is the reward of disciplined trust in the Holy Spirit. We depend on his grace to make godly choices and there we find release from the flesh’s bondage.

‘Discipline’ has become a dirty word in our culture . . . . I know I am speaking heresy in many circles, but spontaneity is greatly overvalued. The ‘spontaneous’ person who shrugs off the need for discipline is like the farmer who went out to gather the eggs. As he walked across the farmyard toward the hen house, he noticed the pump was leaking. So he stopped to fix it. It needed a new washer, so he set off to the barn to get one. But on the way he saw that the hayloft needed straightening, so he went fetch the pitchfork. Hanging next to the pitchfork was a broom with a broken handle. ‘I must make a note to myself to buy a broom handle the next time I get to town,’ he thought . . . .

By now it is clear that the farmer is not going to get his eggs gathered, nor is he likely to accomplish anything else he sets out to do. He is utterly, gloriously spontaneous, but he is hardly free. He is if anything, a prisoner to his unbridled spontaneity.

The fact of the matter is that discipline is the only way to freedom; it is the necessary context for spontaneity.

John Guest cited in Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 236.

Psychiatry vs. the Cross


No God vs. Being Beneath the Cross

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards,according to what their actions deserve.

Jer. 17:9-10 (NLT)

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.

The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.

Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.

In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.

The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness.

The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 5 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1996), 155.

HT: Between Two Worlds

The Mind of God for a Perplexing Situation


The Word of Wisdom

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them,”Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Matt. 22:15-22 (ESV)

The spiritual gift of a word of wisdom is insight given by the Holy Spirit into a present situation for the purpose of solving a perplexing dilemma. When caught in-between a proverbial rock and a hard place caused by either people or circumstances, the Holy Spirit gives understanding showing the way out of the predicament (1 Cor. 12:8, Dan. 2:21-22, Luke 21:15).

The word of wisdom is a spiritual utterance at a given moment through the Spirit supernaturally disclosing the mind, purpose, and way of God as applied to a specific situation.

Jack Hayford, NKJV Spirit-Filled Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 1736.

An example of a word of wisdom:

Richard Cunningham, leader of University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, in response to the question whether the gathering New Word Alive is “narrow, schismatic, conservative.”

‘It’s only as narrow theologically as the gospel demands, but as culturally broad and generous as the gospel permits.’

HT: Desiring God Blog

He Didn’t Say It


Preach and Live the Gospel

Faith comes by HEARING and HEARING through the WORD of CHRIST.

Romans 10:17

Mark Galli posts an excellent essay on the Christianity Today website that dispels the notion that Francis of Assisi taught, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” Galli refutes the modern idea that talk is cheap and living the truth is the only requirement of preaching the gospel. However, Francis preached, Jesus taught, and the Apostle Paul declared the saving truth of salvation by faith through grace AND they lived holy and exemplary lives.

I’ve heard the quote once too often. It’s time to set the record straight-about the quote, and about the gospel. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough-that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it. The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age. . . .

“Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. . . .

That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel” Christianity Today magazine, May 2009 (Web only).

How Did You Know That?


The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

1 Cor 12:7-8 (NASU)

A word of knowledge is insight given to a believer into another person’s past which ministers God’s present love into their current problems and struggles. A word of knowledge reveals heart-felt secrets that only our omniscient God could know for the purpose of displaying God’s care and concern for that individual’s needs.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

John 4:13-19 (NIV)

Just Christ


Just Christ

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

1 Cor. 1:30 (ESV)

Jesus Christ is the very enfleshment of God. Fully God and fully man in one person and will be so forever.

When we speak of wisdom, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking about Christ. When we are speaking about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking about Christ.

Bishop Ambrose of Milan

The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 KJV). This shows us something very clearly. What is the way that God has given us? It is Christ. What is the truth that God has given us? It is Christ. What is the life that God has given us? It is Christ. Christ is our way, Christ is our truth, and Christ is our life. Through Christ we go to the Father. In God’s eyes, everything that has to do with God is Christ, who is His Son. This is why our Lord said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” What God has given us is just Christ; He has not given us many things apart from Christ.

Watchman Nee, Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1973), 7.

Gift of Different Languages



I [Paul] thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.

1 Cor 14:18 (NLT)

A special ability from the Holy Spirit to speak in a language never learned: earthly or angelic. Unintelligible speech directed in praise and prayer toward God for the edification of the speaker and for the building up of the people of God. Speaking in tongues is normal, but not normative. That is to say, do not be surprised to experience the gift of tongues upon being renewed in the Holy Spirit. However, the experience of this blessed gift is not a requirement, but a grace-gift from God to assist us in praying when we do not know how to pray.

(1 Cor. 13:1, Gen. 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-11).

Tongues is “a way of responding to the inexpressibility of God, a way of crying to God from the depths and expressing the too-deep-for-words sighings of the heart.”

The gift of tongues cuts at our pride. Receiving this gift surrenders our speech to the Lord and makes us like little children: humble, dependent and trusting.

The gift places us in unfamiliar territory and requires us to be childlike in prayer. But this may be why tongues are important. It is a means God uses to challenge strategies of control. It is a humble but also a humbling gift to which we should be open.

Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 172-173.

Worship Is For God. Duh!


Public Worship Is For God Not People

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Rev 5:11-14 (ESV)

The public worship of the church is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving directed, not to people, but to God. This approach is a paradigm shift from the current presentational notion of worship. Today worship is frequently seen as a presentation made to the people. . . . But the ancient church did not design (a contemporary word) worship to reach people, to educate people, or to heal people. Yet in their worship, which was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving offered to God, people were indeed led into contemplation of God’s mighty acts of salvation and stimulated to live a life of participation in the life of God in the life of the world. The point is, of course, that how we pray shapes who we are.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 161-162.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

Discernment of Spirits (Part Two)


Evaluate, Discern, Distinguish, Weigh the Use of the Spiritual Gifts

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world

1 John 4:1

It is the responsibility of the congregation to judge, weigh, discern, evaluate all prophetic words and teaching to discern whether the gift, ministry, or miracle is from God, demonic, or self -generated (i.e., the flesh) (1 Thes. 5:19-22). A prophetic minister should welcome evaluation and accountability for a Jesus-saturated ministry is a submitted ministry.

False teaching can be judged by comparing it with Scripture, but false spirits can be judged only by the true Spirit’s gift of discernment. That gift may be called the Spirit’s gift on gifts, because God uses it to reveal to His church whether or not a manifestation of the other gifts is of Him. All imitation of the gifts is not demonic. Much of it is simply the work of the flesh, carnal Christians trying to serve the Lord in their own power and for their own benefit and glory. Summarizing, it can be said that the gift of discernment is given to tell if the other gifts are of the Holy Spirit, if they are merely natural imitations, or if they are demonic counterfeits. I believe God still empowers some of His people to unmask false prophets and carnal hypocrites. He gives them insight to expose imitations and deceptions that most Christians would take as genuine.

The gift of discernment, however, can easily deteriorate into a critical, proud, and self-righteous spirit. It can be judgmental instead of corrective when it is imitated in the flesh. But rightly used it is a great protection to God’s people.

John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: First Corinthians [CD-Rom] (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984).