Sunday, July 31, 2011


by T. Austin-Sparks

There are few matters which go to the heart of the Lord's testimony more than the matter of fellowship between the Lord's people, and especially where there is particular responsibility for His testimony. The drive of the enemy and all his subtle and diabolical wit, as well as his pressure and his misrepresentations, will be directed toward destroying that relationship of fellowship. He will seek somehow to divide believers, and get in between. And if you are not careful you will resolve all such matters into merely natural problems and say: Well, it is incompatibility of temper! So-and-so is made this way, and the other person is made that way; you can never blend people who are so different in temperament and outlook! If you allow a conclusion of that kind your testimony is gone; you may as well abandon your position in the Lord and go and scour the world for people who in everything see eye to eye. Does it mean that the Lord's work, as entrusted to two or three or more together in one place, can only continue in so far as these children of His are able at all times to get on with one another on a natural basis? The Lord help His work if that is what is required. We have to look deeper than that.

This drive on fellowships and relationships is Satanic. There may be ground, there may be human elements, but those concerned should take this attitude toward one another: The Lord's testimony is bound up with our oneness; the Devil will do everything he can to destroy that, and to strike a blow, therefore, at the testimony! You and I are going to be one in the name of the Lord, and stand our ground against the enemy! There we have something altogether different from the attempt to get on with one another on a natural basis, we have a dynamic for fellowship. We have to get on with one another in the name of the Lord, or else the Lord's testimony is not established. There is something much bigger than a natural or human situation to be dealt with, and when we realise that back of what may truly be natural difficulties there is always something else at work, and that therefore we must keep these natural things in the place of the Cross, and stand together against the enemy, we will get through; but we will never do so by spending a lot of time trying to adjust ourselves to one another, and seeing how far we can work together. Standing shoulder to shoulder against the enemy who is assailing fellowship, we will find the way of triumphant fellowship. Come down on the natural level, and the enemy will soon make terrible havoc of the whole relationship.

Remember, then, that all these things which sometimes seem to be so natural are in principle deeper down, and the activity of the enemy is behind them in his seeking to circumvent that gain, that advance, that increase, that attaining unto dominion, and he must be withstood in these matters.

The Calling is Positive

In every situation and at all times the calling is positive. That heavenly calling is never negative, never neutral, never passive, but always positive. You may not have very much in your daily life to make the calling seem positive. It may be you go to business in the morning and fulfil your daily work, the trivial round, the common task, as we say, with very little variety entering into it. It is the same round day after day, week after week, month after month; the same people, the same surroundings, the same activities very largely. Only on the rarest occasion does something specially interesting come into the daily course. It would be so easy in a situation like that to say: Well, in my sphere of life there is not much of the glamour of a heavenly calling! My work is plain and simple. I have just to get on with it every day, and I see very little else beyond it. Remember that at all times, in all circumstances, the calling is positive.

Every day will provide some opportunity for you to learn spiritual ascendency; some occasion for you to bring in the value of your relationship with the Lord; to put to the test the resources which you have in Christ; to grow in grace; to know victories. How do you know but that in that very uninteresting, perhaps unpromising sphere of life you are on test on some of those great matters, such as faith, patience, or patient endurance. It would be interesting to know exactly what the throne of the Lord is made of. When we come to that throne, I wonder whether we shall find a throne of gold in a literal sense, or whether we shall find it made up of many things? When we come to analyse the throne we may find that it is made up of patience, faith, endurance, and all such moral elements, and that these elements constitute the power by which He governs. It is sharing the patience of Jesus Christ which is sharing the throne. There is something mighty in the ultimate outworking of the patience of Jesus, the faith of Jesus Christ, the endurance. These are the constituents of His throne.

He is working throne elements into us now in the drab, uninteresting life day by day. You may be on test for the throne. There may be bound up with the least interesting course of life some very, very real intention of the Lord. Let us remember that the heavenly calling is always positive, in all circumstances, in all places. We are on test for the throne, as to whether it shall function through us both here and hereafter.


"Today if ye shall hear his voice..." Today, is while there is progress to be made, and while there is opportunity afforded. Progress can yet be made, therefore it is still "today". When the day ends there is no more progress to be made. There is opportunity today. When opportunity ends it will be no longer "today".

The Lord give us a response in our hearts to the call, to the voice, which is, Today!

First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1937, Vol. 16-1

North Park to become part of Mid-City Division of SDPD on September 17th

The Police Department is restructuring its beat districts for the first time in 30 years. On September 17th, North Park will become part of the Mid-City Division instead of Western Division. Lt. Todd Jarvis, Acting Captain of the Mid-City Division of the San Diego Police Department, was the guest speaker at Thursday's North Park Action Team meeting, and he explained how the decision was made to adjust several Division lines. The net effect should be quicker response times and more available police time for the community. A/Capt. Jarvis can be reached at, or 619-516-3035.

Officer Jenny Hall will be the new Community Relations Officer (CRO) serving North Park. She is working with Officer David Surwilo of Western Division to make a smooth transition of Neighborhood Watch groups and programs. Officer Hall can be reached at or 619-516-3009.

The Action Team meets on fourth Thursdays, 5:30 pm, at the North Park Adult Community Center, 2711 Howard Ave. (across the street from the water tower). The North Park Action Team is a grassroots community group proactively working on safety and quality of life issues. Email for more information.

Source: North Park Community Association

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Pastor Has No Clothes:

The Pastor Has No Clothes:
Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ Centered Ekklesia*

By Jon H. Zens

Protestantism carries on with the practice of making the "pastor" the focal point in church. In The Pastor Has No Clothes, Jon Zens demonstrates that putting all the ecclesiastical eggs in the pastor's basket has no precedent in the New Testament. Using 1 Corinthians 12:14, Zens shows the usual way of doing church contradicts Paul's self-evident remark that "the body indeed is not one part" and then goes on to unfold from that Epistle how the living church functions "with many parts." Jon dismembers the traditional pastor doctrine from various angles by combining two new essays and a response to Eugene Peterson's The Pastor: A Memoir, with three past articles and excerpts from his response to Dr. Ben Witherington's review of Pagan Christianity.

*Ekklesia: means, “gathering of the called out ones” from which we get our word, “church”.

Discipleship through Community

Learning to trust others can be the best way of growing in Christ.

6/21/2011        By ~ Stephanie Voiland

My friend Rachel was just walking out the door for a hair appointment when she encountered an interruption—one of the countless changes in personal plans she endures daily while living with fellow believers in an inner-city community house in Durham, North Carolina. A housemate who'd been jobless for several weeks requested to borrow Rachel's car to go to a job interview. Abandoning the haircut plan, Rachel yielded her keys and headed back into the house. But as soon as she opened her laptop to work, she experienced another interruption. This time, it was the single mom living downstairs who needed Rachel's help with a screaming toddler and a smelly newborn.

"I guess God knows some things are more important than my to-do list," she e-mailed me recently, detailing the unanticipated level of growth she's been experiencing since joining this community modeled on the early church's vision of sharing life together (Acts 2:42-47).

Choosing Community

God chose to manifest himself in the form of a tight-knit, core relationship—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And Jesus, during his time on earth, followed this example of mutual submission by building relationships with a select group of people—his 12 disciples and his more intimate group of 3 with whom he shared deeper parts of himself (Mark 5:37; 9:2).

As a reflection of his character and image, God wired us with the need for community. And while our wiring should propel us toward investing the time, intimacy, and self-disclosure required to sustain mutually submissive relationships, we aren't to subject ourselves to the whims of every person crossing our path.

Instead, we need to seek out a handful of key people who walk closely with God and are willing to walk closely with us. Choosing these core relationships, whether formal (mentors, small-group members, accountability partners) or informal (family members, close friends), involves deciding to yield to their authority. These people should be gentle with our vulnerabilities and careful not to gossip about our struggles or deliver self-righteous judgment. They shouldn't gloss over our weak areas or be afraid to speak unwanted truth to us. And most important, they should ask for forgiveness when they fail us—and forgive us when we fail them.

Practicing Vulnerability

I'm blessed to have found such people in an informal small group I've attended over the past seven years. Although we're an eclectic bunch, representing various ages, life stages, and church affiliations, we hold in common a commitment to pray for and be open with one another. Together we've experienced the highs and lows of life—job transitions, financial decisions, dating relationships, parenting dilemmas, and health crises. By submissively, authentically sharing these, we often unexpectedly stretch our spiritual muscles. But the growth pains yield worthwhile benefits as we see God work in ways impossible outside the context of our community.

A few years ago, I shared with this group my apprehension about a series of significant life transitions, including changing careers, moving to another city, and living alone for the first time. After a pause, one group member gently asked me, "Are you afraid God can't handle all your circumstances?" Then for the next several months, she and other friends in the group asked me more tough questions, hugged me, prayed for me, and even bought me "burglar bars" for the windows in my new home. If I hadn't been vulnerable with these friends, I'd have missed the opportunity for them to compassionately call me out on and assist me in overcoming the unhealthy cycle of fear I probably couldn't have conquered alone.

Most of us will probably never live in a community house as Rachel does. But as members of God's family—in a houseful of people or in an apartment alone—we still can grow through the give and take of relationships.

Stephanie Voiland lives in Illinois.


Thursday, July 28, 2011


In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: Maiden Voyage

 "An outstanding sailing, travel and personal adventure book that really delivers"--Mark Sutton, Marine Product Reviews
5 Stars
Lois Joy Hoffman's In search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: Maiden Voyage is a wonderfully written book about an adventure that just about anyone who has spent time on the water has dreamed of. Maiden Voyage is an outstanding sailing, travel and personal adventure book that really delivers with its sailing stories, perspectives cultures and places and incredible photography.

Lois and her husband Gunter circumnavigate the globe from France to San Diego aboard their 43' catamaran Pacific Bliss. The book masterfully describes the voyage across oceans and provides insight into the cultures they experienced over their 8 year and 34,000 mile sailing adventure.

I particularly enjoyed Lois' description of their ocean passages including preparation and provisioning, sea life encountered, peaceful waters and harrowing storms at sea. Lois provides any sailor with great insight to life aboard and all that is involved with offshore sailing.

In search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: Maiden Voyage is a book that you can enjoy just flipping thru the pages looking at spectacular photographs that let you see the sites and cultures that Lois experienced in their travels to 62 countries. The book is packed with hundreds of pictures of the wonderful people, places and cultures they encountered. There are thorough, interesting and thoughtful descriptions of the areas they visited, people, customs and cultures. Lois does an outstanding job of sharing these experiences in a compelling fashion.

In search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: Maiden Voyage is a book that you will thoroughly enjoy and that we'd recommend to any boater who dreams about taking off and sailing around the world. Kudos Lois on your inspiring adventure and on doing an outstanding job of sharing it. Highly recommended!

John Stott Has Died

An architect of 20th-century evangelicalism shaped the faith of a generation.
Tim Stafford | posted 7/27/2011 01:37PM

Editor's Note: John Stott died today at 3:15 London time (about 9:15 a.m. CST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Homan said that Stott's death came after complications related to old age and that he has been in discomfort for the last several weeks. Family and close friends gathered with Stott today as they listened to Handel's Messiah. Homan said that John Stott Ministries has been preparing for his death for the past 15 years. "I think he set an impeccable example for leaders of ministries of handing things over to other leaders," Homan said. "He imparted to many a love for the global church and imparted a passion for biblical fidelity and a love for the Savior." This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Read the Article Here......


John Stott: The Man Who Wouldn't Be Bishop

Discernment and discipline have enabled him to touch lives worldwide.
By David Neff

Legacy of a Global Leader

Less known than Stott's earlier work is his ministry with Langham Partnership International.
By Tim Stafford

Evangelism Plus

John Stott reflects on where we've been and where we're going.
By Tim Stafford

Basic Stott

In this cover story from 1996, evangelicalism's premier teacher speaks on gender, charismatics, leaving the Church of England, the poor, evangelical fragmentation, Catholics, the future, and other subjects.
By Roy McCloughry

The Quotable Stott

Reflections on the occasion of John R.W. Stott's 80th birthday.
Compiled by Richard A. Kauffman

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Cape Town 2010 has been called the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2000 year history of the Christian movement (Christianity Today).  Four-thousand Christian leaders representing 198 countries attended the Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.  The Congress was brought together by a globalized leadership team from Africa, Egypt, Malaysia, India, North America and elsewhere.  Several thousand more leaders participated in the Congress through the Cape Town GlobaLink, Cape Town Virtual Congress and Lausanne Global Conversation.  Learn more about this gathering by watching this short documentary

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Circle of Protection

Today is another intense day of politics at the White House. The debt default deadline is fast approaching. The stakes for the nation are high as politicians can’t agree on how to resolve the ideological impasse on how to reduce the deficit before the nation defaults on its financial obligations.

Yesterday, before Congressional leaders were due at the White House for critical negotiations, I, along with 11 other national faith leaders, met with President Obama and senior White House staff for 40 minutes. We were representing the Circle of Protection, which formed in a commitment to defend the poor in the budget debates. Sitting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, we opened in prayer, grasping hands across the table, and read scripture together. We reminded ourselves that people of faith must evaluate big decisions on issues like a budget by how they impact the most vulnerable.

Continue reading this entry »

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Science cannot affirm the non-existence of God

Archbishop: Church Must Learn Language of Youth

Says Liberty and Science Are Two Dominant Values

MADRID, Spain, JULY 21, 2011 ( To evangelize young people, the Church must understand their culture, in which liberty and science are dominant values, say the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella said this Wednesday during the summer course "Young People and the Catholic Church: Points for a Youth Ministry for Today," which is under way this week at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

The archbishop's talk was titled "Young People and God, Young People and Jesus Christ, Young People and Eternal Life."

One cannot speak to young people of Christ, said the evangelization dicastery president, "without speaking of liberty, as the youth of today has placed it in his culture, but liberty must always be in relation to truth, as it is truth that produces liberty."

At the same time, he added, "one cannot speak of God to young people without knowing the culture of today's young people, which is scientific. Today's culture, its content, is full of axioms of science."

The Italian prelate clarified that the Church is "in favor of science, but the latter must be in favor of humanity and never against humanity."

"The time will come when science itself will ask for help from theology to know the realms of reality more amply, and to be able to give an answer to pain, to betrayal, to death," in short, "to the great questions, the questions of meaning," said archbishop Fisichella.

Archbishop Fisichella pointed out that "the interaction of science, personal life and ethics is necessary," and that one cannot live without the other.

By way of example, the archbishop gave the case of the director of the Genome project, Francis S. Collins, who has gone further into the language of God, because "true science puts you at the doors of the transcendent."

Archbishop Fisichella concluded assuring that one "can be Catholic and scientific at the same time. To experience scientific knowledge does not imply atheism. The scientific has its limits; it cannot affirm the non-existence of God."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Defend and Define Your Faith

Basic ChristianityDefends and Defines the Basic Claims of the Christian Faith
"We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, personally and unreservedly, to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. This is basic Christianity, the theme of this book."

With these words, world-renowned preacher John Stott embarks on a compelling study that first defends the basic claims of Christianity and then defines the proper outworkings of those main beliefs in the daily lives of believers. Here is a sound, sensible guide for all who are seeking an intellectually satisfying presentation of the Christian faith.

Named one of the Top 100 Books of the Millennium by World magazine and listed among Christianity Today's Top 100 Books of the 20th Century, Basic Christianity has impacted countless readers worldwide over the past fifty years. This special new edition continues the Stott legacy and includes helpful Study Questions for group discussion.

"Anything John Stott says is worth listening to. Anything he writes is worth reading. Basic Christianity is not only a classic must-read for every believer; it is truly a blessing preserved on the written page for the enrichment of this generation and those to come." --Anne Graham Lotz

Paperback; 184 pages


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Milk, Meat, and the Malnourished Church

One of the greatest critiques of the American Church today is that it’s malnourished. Some would even say it’s our most pressing problem.

When most people voice this complaint, the focus is on the worship experience. From people who leave these churches, you hear, “I wasn’t getting fed.” Or, “I just want some deeper teaching.” From people outside these churches you hear, “too much milk, not enough meat.”

In some cases, I’m sure this is true. But I really don’t think that’s the real problem. Yes, American Christians are malnourished. But I don’t believe it has anything to do with milk or meat.
Most American Christians aren’t malnourished because of what they’re getting fed on Sunday. They’re malnourished because they don’t feed themselves Monday through Saturday.

So you had filet mignon on Sunday and learned about the mystical union of Christ and the church as it relates to the rapture and the design of the tabernacle in relation to Levitical dietary laws as understood by the Council of Trent. Good for you. Have fun starving yourself the rest of the week and letting your pastor read the Bible so you don’t have to.

So you had some milk on Sunday and learned 37 ways to ________. Have fun having 37 new ways to not obey God during the coming week.

The crisis facing the church today isn’t what people are getting fed on Sundays. It’s what they’re not feeding themselves the rest of the days. Who really cares whether you consume meat or milk on Sunday if it’s the only meal you have all week?

I’m not saying this to get pastors and churches off the hook. It is the shepherd’s job to feed the sheep (John 21). And feed them well based on their needs and faith development. But it’s also the sheep’s job to eat:

13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:13 & 14

Here’s the point.

Churches: we have a responsibility. We should serve up the Word, hot and fresh every single Sunday. As church leaders, it is our job to create and sustain processes and systems that responsibly enable people to grow in their faith after receiving Christ. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing our philosophy and approach of how we do that at Elevation.

People in our churches: you also have a responsibility. If you refuse to study the Word, apply it, pray some during the week, join a small group and dig deeper with others, there’s not much we can do to help you. Your malnourishment won’t be cured by anything we give you on Sunday.

So are you an infant and need milk? Drink it for now, but the only way you’re getting more mature and will be ready for meat is by training yourself. Constantly. Do you want meat? From these verses, it seems like meat is doing the milk. On your own. Constantly.

Not getting it served to you once a week.

Steven Furtick is the Lead Pastor of Elevation Church, an incredible move of God in Charlotte, NC with more than 6,000 in attendance each week among three locations. He is the author of the book, Sun Stand Still. He lives in Charlotte with his wife Holly and their two sons, Elijah and Graham. Visit Steven Furtick at

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Message as Spoken
Reading: Hebrews 5:14-6:1,2; 12:11,12; 2:10; 3:8
It is almost a commonplace with us, that the great feature of the dispensation in which we live is the gathering out from the nations of the members of the Body of Christ, and then the bringing of them on to as full a measure of maturity as is possible. It is not only the salvation of souls, and it is not only the collecting of believers into a spiritual Body. It is afterward, their coming to full growth, which represents the supreme interest and concern of the Lord in this dispensation. I think that is perfectly clear as being a great feature of this time; that maturity is the desire of the Lord for His people; full growth, completeness. Surely this is unmistakable when you read the Word of the Lord along that line. That immaturity is widespread is also, I think, unmistakable. That the Lord is moving in the midst of His own people to bring as many as will go on with Him to fullness, into that fullness, is  also a thing which I think is patent. Many questions will arise, but those we must, for the moment, set aside.

We know the widespread immaturity, we know that there are multitudes of saved ones who are the Lord's people living in the shadows of immaturity, who will not pay the price and go on with the Lord, and we might be tempted like one of old to say, "What shall this man do?" And the Lord would say, "What is that to thee?" In other words, "It is not for you to make the immaturity of other people your standard, but what I desire is to be the thing which governs your own thought and occupies you entirely."

So, this being the purpose and will of God, completeness and fullness, we recognize the meaning of all that the Lord is doing. But before touching that more fully may I come back to one or two simple, basic realities, to remind you of these things. That the child of God, the believer, is a new creation. That the believer has an entirely new set of faculties which are spiritual faculties. That man by nature, in his natural state at its best, has no standing whatever in the realm of the things of God. That the believer is not one who has come to change an attitude and become full of Christian interests of which he or she was devoid formerly, and now all other interests, rather than being personal or worldly are Christian interests and activities. That is not the believer. The believer is one who has become possessed of an entirely new set of spiritual faculties and is a new spiritual entity; a different species of being, an entirely different creature, and that these spiritual faculties by which alone the things of God can be known and entered into, have to be developed, have to grow, have to come to a place of spiritual efficiency, just as in the natural child who has its faculties in birth and there has to be steadily a development of those natural faculties.

The faculties of sight, hearing, have to come under control, and every sense of the child has to be developed and brought to as high a state of perfection as possible. Its understanding, observation, and so on. So the believer, being born from above, a new creation, is born with an entirely new and different set of faculties from that with which we came into this world by nature, and it is those spiritual faculties and senses which have to be developed to make us full grown, spiritually efficient in the Lord.

That is very simple and elementary, and yet it is discriminating in a way that many need to have discrimination made, and it is to these saints that the Apostle Paul writes when he says "to those who have their senses exercised," and he says that to these, strong meat is the right kind of provision. He is deploring that after years they are still unable to have strong meat because their senses and faculties have not been developed. If the Lord is really bent upon — as one of His supreme objectives in this age — bringing believers, the saints, to full growth, to spiritual maturity, then He will consider nothing too great a price to reach His end, and that will explain all the mystery of His ways with His children, and all the strange things which happen which sometimes seem to be God working against His own interests, and to us, very often it looks as though the Lord were working against our interests and doing everything quite wrong. But the Lord is prepared to take risks. I am just putting it that way — risks, even with Himself in the mind of poor finite people whose understanding is so limited, and involving Himself in a good deal of misunderstanding, if only thereby He can reach His end.

He dwells in eternity, not in time. He can afford to ignore the misunderstanding of poor man knowing that He has the end in view, and eternity before Him, and that it is worthwhile using a brief moment of time, even though in that moment He may be entirely misunderstood, so long as He reaches an end which is eternal and justifies Him to the hilt. What did the Lord again and again tell His people of old under the hands of their enemies and His enemies? Those against whom He stood, against whom He had taken an attitude which was beyond reconciliation; yet He delivered His people into their hands, and for years His own were under the tyranny of God's own sworn enemies.

Looking at it from one standpoint you would say this is a contradiction, and surely these enemies of the Lord and all others looking on who hated the Lord would say, "You see the Lord could not do what He wanted with them so He has washed His hands of them — the Lord was unable to get His own and so He has abandoned them." That is what Moses brought to the Lord on one occasion. He, the Lord, took that risk. He let the heathen laugh and jeer and look on and sneer at Him and say He has proved a failure, unworthy of trust, while He let His people remain in the hands of the enemies again and again. Jerusalem trodden under foot and every one passing by saying, this is the result of their trust in Jehovah. The Lord reproached by what He did, and yet He considered it worthwhile that all that should be in order to get His ends.

The ways of the Lord are past finding out and they must never be judged according to our human standards; and the Lord allows catastrophe to overtake, but with an end in view, something which when it comes will justify Him up to the hilt, and you will see what we thought was the weakness of God, has proved His strength; the breakdown has proved His supremacy; the foolishness of God has proved His wisdom, so He will be justified in the end. So in this question of growth by exercise you have that whole principle involved. This exercise is not introspective self-analysis. Some people think that when they have turned their eyes inside and become self-conscious, self-analytical, and studied their inside a great deal, circling round their souls, asking questions about themselves — that that is exercise. That is not spiritual exercise. That is what we have said it is — it is all self-consciousness, and all self-consciousness leads to paralysis, bondage, weakness and defeat.

If you look at this word where the exercise is referred to, you will find that this exercise is that which comes upon us in experiences which God produces. "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." By what? By the chastening which God takes up with them. God deals with you as with sons if you suffer chastening. As sons He brings you to maturity. The way the Lord handles you; that is the exercise.

The Lord may get you off activities and shut you up to inactivity, and you go through an awful time and say the Lord has forsaken you, all has gone wrong. What really is it? Why, it is growing pains! Has it not proved to be growing pains? In the long run it was not all wrong, it was all right. You came to know the Lord whereas before your whole life was taken up with things. You have been shut up and you came to know the Lord inwardly and you have come to a state of spiritual efficiency which is so much greater that you can now meet the external situation. He has been misunderstood, but He was working unto your efficiency, exercising us unto efficiency. These, the growing pains, are terrible. You cannot help anyone who is suffering from growing pains, and you must stand aside and see them going through.

So through numerous and various directions this growth takes place by the painful exercise produced by the way the Lord is dealing with you. Chastening — a poor English word. It is child-training or discipline. Take the word disciple; one who comes into association with someone in order to learn, and the Disciples were chosen that they might be with Him in order to learn. That is discipline, learning. We do learn through suffering. Even the Lord Jesus was made "full grown" in this sense, complete, through suffering. We take the same way unto full growth. It is child training, discipline, learning by way of experience. That is chastening. Making us sons out of children, full grown men out of infants. I feel that we want to have more faith in the dealings of God with us along this line. It is painful, sometimes anguish. What is the Lord doing? Why is it there is so little space between one thing and another? It does seem that the Lord is pressing to get us quickly to full growth, to get us to the place where we learn something.

The right attitude to take towards every trial which the Lord allows to come upon us, every fresh and difficult thing, is — what is it that the Lord has in view for us to attain to by this experience? It is not to destroy, but to build up. Not to take from, but to increase. Not to restrict, but to enlarge. Down in the deep place is some treasure of the Lord to be discovered. Some of us can say "Yes, we have found it like that." We have gone into deep places, found fullness there and come to know the Lord. Do you see the one thing that is in view in this passage on exercise? "To discern"; it is spiritual intelligence that the Lord has in view. There is a spiritual history going on for some which is the counterpart of that illustrated in the days of the Lord in His flesh. The Disciples with the Lord as their Head are gathered out a little company to Himself. In fellowship to learn. Then He gave to them, conferred upon them official authority, jurisdiction, to go out and exercise His Headship in the creation. To fulfil His government; to administer His government in the world. There you have, in brief, the whole of the meaning of this dispensation. The only real thing was that the Lord was Head, but as for them, everything was merely official, not spiritual. They broke down on that point, but it seems the Lord has set up an illustration of what was to come spiritually afterward — the Church which is His Body — and a spiritual training by discipline, chastisement, to know Him in order that by that maturity and spiritual intelligence He might form for Himself an administrative instrument by which He will govern the universe in the ages to come.

And beloved, the believer is not just a machine that is going to be taken hold of by the Lord and made to do things. People seem to think it is the height of humility to say you are just a cog in the machine. What does it do? A cog goes when everyone else goes, and has to do what the rest do. You are not a cog in a machine. We are chosen individuals to make us individually the centres of His own spiritual intelligence, to know Him for ourselves; not detached from one another, but it does mean we know the Lord, and if we are all governed by the same Spirit we shall not work at variance, we shall work together with one mind if the one Spirit is triumphant in all of us. But He wants His children to be individually the centres of His own spiritual knowledge, spiritual intelligence, and then bringing us together in the one Spirit, working the one work, thinking the one thing, He will get for Himself an instrument to govern the nations in the ages to come: an intelligent instrument which has come to know the Lord's heart by experience.

For that, the faculty of spiritual perception, understanding is necessary. The natural man cannot know these things, only the Spirit discerns. This faculty of spiritual intelligence, spiritual knowledge, the inwardness of everything, has to be developed so that we know the Lord within. Every experience deeper than the last so that we are out of our depth, we have not the resource in ourselves to meet the situation and therefore, in the deep experience, we come to receive the more that is in Christ and having received it by sheer necessity of the situation we have grown that much.

Exercise can produce growth or hardness — the forty years in the wilderness were forty years of exercise. "When they tried me," etc. God brought them under discipline, a regime of child-training, into situations where no human resource could meet the need and everything had to be out from Himself, and a great opportunity of discovering the Lord, and so therefore a greater administration of the Lord in meeting the situation which men could not meet. All that which was intended to develop in their case worked out a hardening. Their attitude was, "these difficulties prove You are cruel and unkind, everything but that You are dealing with us in love." And so they hardened their heart under the exercise that was to prove them. You cannot come into a large place unless you have capacity. We can pass through deep experiences which the Lord allows, and we can take the attitude "This is not kind," "It is cruel of the Lord."

We can take one of two attitudes toward the ways of God with us; we can get bitter, sour, hard; or we can have the enlargement by exercise, development by exercise, to develop capacity, to bring us into the large place that we may be intelligently His instrument for governing under His Headship in ages to come. Things that enter into our history we cannot always fathom, but the explanation which we can give is that, whatever there may be as second causes, the Lord is Sovereign and He thinks it worthwhile sometimes to allow what the world would call the most terrible thing to overtake for the time being, and it would seem that His Name and interests suffer through that thing, but through that thing He brings His people to a place of maturity and they get to know the Lord for themselves. Through these terrible things we find the Lord produces something that is very much more worthy of Himself in the life of His children. That is His justification, His vindication: if He could do it in any other way He would.

In the long run He does get spiritual maturity among His people, where they know Him. He would get us to a place where we know the Lord and we have our senses exercised to know. The Lord give us grace to accept all His dealings with us in the light of His great purpose.

First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Mar-Apr 1933, Vol. 11-2

Saturday, July 9, 2011

a man's perspective

Ayn Rand Led Me to Christ

How the anti-Christian philosopher prepared me to hear the gospel.
by Bishop Edward S. Little II
Ayn Rand changed my life. When I embraced her philosophy, Objectivism, the conversion was far more dramatic than my decision, several years later, to follow Jesus Christ—more dramatic, but in the end transitory. Yet Rand, the novelist, philosopher, and uncompromising atheist, inadvertently opened a door for the gospel. I don't believe dead people spin in their graves, but if they did and she could read these words, I imagine Rand would be twirling violently.

As many have noted, Rand's ethic of rational self-interest is incompatible with the gospel, and leads to social as well as spiritual disaster. "Most observers see Rand as a political and economic philosopher," wrote Gary Moore last year in Christianity Today. "I believe that she was first and foremost an anti-Christian philosopher." A six-foot dollar sign wreath towered over her casket, Moore pointed out, an icon of the false gospel she labored to proclaim. I agree entirely that Christianity and Objectivism are utterly incompatible. But my gratitude to Rand remains profound.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bachmann, Palin, and the Trouble with 'Evangelical Feminism'

July 8, 2011

Feminists say Bachmann and other conservative women can't join their club. I say the club needs some new ground rules.

When I heard rumblings about Michele Bachmann’s run for the presidency, I got nervous — though not the reasons you might think.

I’m not nervous about the political leanings of the Minnesota senator and conservative Lutheran mother of five. In fact, I often agree with the way she votes. Instead, I’m nervous about ensuing conversations in my circles of feminist friends. As a fish-out-of-water, conservative feminist, I know what awaits the presidential hopeful.

Feminists don’t exactly have the best history of supporting politically conservative women. Even as Elizabeth Dole, Arizona governor Jan Brewer, and Sarah Palin sought to shatter some of the last panes of the American Glass Ceiling, they were derided among secular feminists, and others, for supporting traditional moral and economic values. Essentially, they belonged to the wrong party. And women who charge Democratic men with criminal actions certainly get a different response from those who charge Republicans: think Paula Jones’s reception versus Anita Hill’s.

Feminists of the Jesus-loving persuasion aren’t always much different from their secular sisters, if a recent Washington Post guest column by Rachel Held Evans says anything. The author of Evolving in Monkey Town writes, “As a Democrat, an evangelical, and a strong supporter of women’s equality, I can’t bring myself to call Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin ‘evangelical feminists.’ ”
I want to give the witty and wise Evans the benefit of the doubt, especially since in the paragraph before this, she calls evangelical feminism — the new media moniker for us conservative feminists — “meaningless.” But her “as a Democrat” affiliation seems to support the notion that feminism is a Democrats-only club.

In fact, Evans left me scratching my head even harder when she states, “If [Bachmann’s and Palin’s] ambitions force the evangelical community to confront the mixed messages being sent to young women in churches across this country, then I think their presence in this election is a good thing.”

Evans is right that exposing hypocrisy or mixed messages in our churches is good. But she misses something huge: the opportunity for the feminist community to face its own hypocrisy and mixed messages. Frankly, there’s so much of it, it’s no wonder Bachmann herself has rejected the feminist label.

While Evans may even be right about the meaninglessness of the term evangelical feminist, she’s wrong about why. What might make evangelical feminist meaningless isn’t the evangelical part. Some of us were actually raised evangelical Christians and feminists right in the same buildings: in our churches, our Christian schools, and our Christian homes.
Rather, if evangelical feminism lacks meaning, it’s because feminism today lacks meaning, drifting far from its original goals and tone.

When I was little, my teachers, pastors and Sunday school teachers, mom, mom’s friends, and friends’ moms told me that I could freely use my God-given gifts, form my own thoughts, and create my own stories. These early “feminist” influencers broadened my horizons. They opened up words and worlds for me. They offered huge vistas of what it meant to be a woman, and a Christian. I didn’t have to think or feel or worship or vote a certain way to be both.

Now, instead of being liberating and expansive, feminism offers women something quite narrow, at least politically. Contemporary feminism assumes all women must support and strive for unlimited access to abortion and birth control. Large chunks of today's feminism also support the idea that women should use their sexuality — not their gifts and intellect — to gain power in the corporate and political arenas. Any deviations have to be carefully constructed. Where feminists once fought to fling open doors and even escape hatches, it now busies itself putting women back into tidy boxes.

Whether it’s a conservative evangelical box telling us what or where a real Christian woman is, or whether it’s Rachel Held Evans’s box telling us how a real feminist votes, Christian women — whether or not we call ourselves feminists— must resist attempts to exclude women from full participation in public life. Instead, we must encourage one another in sisterly Christian love. Which, getting back to topic, is what evangelical feminism should mean.

In her Washington Post article “”A privilege to be an ‘evangelical feminist,’ ” Anne Graham Lotz writes that while the term evangelical feminist is new to her, Lotz identifies with it, “if it describes women who are strong, bold, free-spirited leaders inside and outside of their homes, unashamed of their faith in God, his Word, his Son, and his Gospel . . . .”

I concur, but would take it few steps further.

As Christians we are called to lift each other up in the loving and dignifying spirit of Christ, calling out each other's God-given gifts. Combine this with the sort of old school, bare-bones feminism that believes that women are made in the full image of God, therefore deserving to be treated with dignity and equality, and you have the potential to change the world.

In the political realm, evangelical feminists can change the world by encouraging and supporting other women, even when our opinions differ. They can engage in civil discourse and debates, assuming the good about one another even as we disagree. But maybe most importantly, evangelical feminists can change the world by offering the very thing God created us to offer: telling women across the globe that God loves them no matter what, that Jesus' cross frees us from shame and degradation, and that the Holy Spirit transcends restrictions and equips all of us with fearlessness and power, even those among us who have much to fear and little power.

Women reaching women with the Good News of a God who loves them — no matter what they think or how they vote — is the feminism Jesus modeled for us.