Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Watts on Wednesday: Hymn 75-- All Beauties in My Beloved Shine

This hymn (written by Isaac Watts) captures my own feeble attempts to describe the beauty of the Lord Jesus and my love towards him. The first verse describes something I think people who look at me who don’t know Jesus often wonder--“Why should I love my Jesus so: ‘What are his charms,’ say they, ‘above The objects of a mortal love?’” Here is but a brief description, wonderfully articulated, of the nature of the object of my deepest affection--Jesus.

Hymn 75: All Beauties In My Beloved Shine (title mine)Sol. Song v. 9-16

The wond’ring world inquires to know
Why I should love my Jesus so:
“What are his charms,” say they, “above
The objects of a mortal love?”

Yes! my beloved, to my sight
Shows a sweet mixture, red and white:
All human beauties, all divine,
In my Beloved meet and shine.

White is his soul, from blemish free;
Red with the blood he shed for me;
The fairest of ten thousand fairs;
A sun amongst ten thousand stars.

His head the finest gold excels;
There wisdom in perfection dwells,
And glory like a crown adorns
Those temples once beset with thorns.

Compassion in his heart are found,
Hard by the signals of his wound:
His sacred side no more shall bear
The cruel scourge, the piercing spear.

His hands are fairer to behold
Than diamonds set in rings of gold;
Those heav’nly hands, that on the tree
Were nail’d, and torn, and bled for me!

Though once he bow’d his feeble knees,
Loaded with sins and agonies,
Now on the throne of his command
His legs like marble pillars stand.

His eyes are majesty and love,
The eagle temper’d with the dove;
No more shall trickling sorrow roll
Through those dear windows of his soul.

His mouth, that pour’d out long complaints,
Now smiles and cheers his fainting saints;
His countenance more graceful is
Than Lebanon with all its trees.

All over glorious is my Lord;
Must be beloved, and yet ador’d;
His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love him too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Watts on Wednesday: Hymn 37 -- Proclaim Unparalleled Love and Arm With Heavenly Zeal

In Ephesians 5:15-20, Paul exhorts the saints in Ephesus to be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Therein he gives them commands on ways in which one does waste the time, then gives positive examples of ways in which ought to use their hours in these evil, finite days. One of the major ways that Paul commands us to “redeem the time,” and work out our having been filled with the Spirit takes up the entirety of verse 19. Here he lists an expression of being filled with the Spirit as “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,...”

Many of us, unfortunately, only engage in this activity of worshipping God on Sunday morning or Saturday evening. “The time,” Paul refers too is ALL the time--everyday. Therefore we ought to be engaged in the activity of worship on a daily basis, not just in the other forms of worship the Bible refers to (reading the Word, taking care of widows and orphans, preaching the gospel to the lost, prayer, etc.), but also as commanded here in Ephesians--singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.

With that in mind I am going to try something new here. Every Wednesday I am going to post one of my favorite hymns from Isaac Watts. I have been including “The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts” in my daily readings/worship time for awhile now and have found doing so to truly lift my heart in love for God. Here is one I read today that put a “perma-smile” on my face. Watts’s hymns are only numbered not titled, and this particular hymn comes in two parts. If I were to give the first part of this hymn a title it would be a rephrasing of the first line of the third verse--“Proclaim Unparalleled Love.” The second part of the the hymn I would make a separate hymn out of and would give it the title “Arm With Heavenly Zeal” which is taken from the second line of the second verse. The scripture references below each title are the same Watts has listed as his inspiration for the words of the hymn.

Read the lyrics slowly and be conscious of the presence of God as you do so, making them a song of praise to Him, even if your mind isn’t capable of generating a melody to go with the verses. Saying them out-loud is also a helpful way to really make the force of the lyrics come to life. I pray that you are as blessed by this practice as I have been, and that they cause you to see the diverse excellencies of God more clearly and so worship Him more appropriately and make “the best use of the time.”

Proclaim Unparalleled Love (Part I)
Phil. 2:8,9; Mark 15:20, 24, 29; Col 2:15

The mighty frame of glorious grace,
That bright monument of praise
That e’er the God of love design’d,
Employs and fills my lab’ring mind.

Begin, my soul, the heav’nly song,
A burden for an angel’s tongue:
When Gabriel sounds these awful things,
He tunes and summons all his strings.

Proclaim inimitable love:
Jesus, the Lord of worlds above,
Puts off the beams of bright array,
And veils the God in mortal clay!

What black reproach defil’d his name,
When with our sins he took our shame!
He whom adoring angels bless’d
Is made the impious rebel’s jest.

He that distributes crowns and thrones
Hangs on a tree, and bleeds, and groans!
The Prince of Life resigns his breath,
the King of Glory bows to death!

But see the wonders of his power,
He triumphs in his dying hour;
And while by Satan’s rage he fell,
He dash’d the rising hopes of hell.

Thus were the hosts of death subdued,
And sin was drown’d in Jesus blood;
Thus he arose, and reigns above,
And conquers sinners by his love.

Who shall fulfil this boundless song?
The theme surmounts an angel’s tongue:
How low, how vain are mortal airs,
When Gabriel’s nobler harp despairs!

Arm With Heavenly Zeal (Part II)
Matt 5:16

Do I believe what Jesus saith,
And think his gospel true?
Lord, make me bold to own my faith,
And practise virtue too.

Suppress my shame, subdue my fear,
Arm me with heav’nly zeal,
That I may make thy power appear,
And works of praise fulfil.

If men shall see my virtue shine,
And spread my name abroad,
Thine is the power, the praise is thine,
My Saviour and my God!

Thus when the saints in glory meet,
Their lips proclaim thy grace;
They cast their honours at thy feet,
And own their borrow’d rays.

Are we the soldiers of the cross?
The followers of the Lamb?
And shall we fear to own his cause,
Or blush to speak his name?

Now must we fight if we would reign
Increase our courage Lord!
We’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they’re slain;
They see the triumph from afar,
And shall with Jesus reign.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all thy armies shine
In robes of vict’ry through the skies,
The glory shall be thine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do You Truly Love Jesus?

In his short, yet quite potent book “The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ” Thomas Vincent asks the eternally vital question “How may we know whether we have true love to Jesus Christ?” As an answer to this question Vincent suggests four ways in which we prove the truth of our love to Jesus:

1) By your desires after Christ’s presence
2) By your prizing and frequenting those ways wherein Christ is found, and seeking Him therein
3) By your love of Christ’s image
4) By your obedience to Christ’s commandments

Much could be said about all four of these proofs of our love for Christ (as Vincent himself does), but one particular section stood out to me as being deserving of particular and immediate attention--3) By your love of Christ’s image. In this section the wise-hearted Puritan states that the medium wherein we primarily view the image of God is His Word. It seems apparent, then, that the other three proofs hang on this proof, as we neither learn about the promise and nature of Christ’s promise but by this Word, nor can we obey His commands unless we know them, which comes by reading His Word. And certainly the major way “wherein Christ is found, and seeking Him therein” that is to be prized and frequented is God’s Word.

Yet what is so large in God’s Word that it truly magnetizes our affections, pulling us with an irresistible and massive gravity? Is it not Christ, from beginning to end? Vincent says it in his own, well articulated and thorough Words:

“Do you love the image of Christ on His Word? As Caesar’s coin bore Caesar’s image and superscription, so the Word of the Scriptures, which is the Word of Christ, bears Christ’s image and superscription.

Do you love the Scriptures because of Christ’s image which is upon them?

Do you love the Word of doctrine in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s truth and wisdom upon it?

Do you love the Word of precepts in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s holiness upon it?

Do you love the Word of threatenings in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s righteousness upon it?

Do you love the Word of promises in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s goodness, grace, and love upon it?

You have Christ’s Words in your Bibles, and sometimes sounding in your ears, but does the Word of Christ dwell in your hearts? You receive Christ’s word in the light of it; do you receive His Word in the love of it?”

The image and presence of Christ is made manifest to our souls when we are born again (John 14:21), and from then on our souls see Him “face to face” as Moses did (Deut. 34:10) in some measure. At the same time it is by the Word of God that we come to see many of the infinite facets and the diverse excellencies of the one our souls have come to rest in. We know that we really love Jesus because the same Spirit that causes us to love His (Jesus’s) presence within us is the same Spirit that breathed out the Scriptures. The Spirit that first moved men to write is, in fact, Jesus Himself (Romans 8:9) and so we MUST love His Word as much as His presence.

The Word should cause us to love Jesus in us more, and Jesus in us should cause us to love His Word more till we are caught up in this endless cycle of love for our savior Jesus.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hymns of Hosannah

Here are a few hymns from Isaac Watts singing hosannah (please help, save) to Jesus our King:

Hymn 89

Hosannah to our conquering King!
The prince of darkness flies;
His troops run headlong down to hell,
Like lightening from the skies.

There bound in chains, the lions roar,
And fright the rescued sheep;
But heavy bars confine their power
And malice to the deep.

Hosannah to our conquering King!
All hail, incarnate love!
Ten thousand songs and glories wait
To crown they head above.

Thy victories and thy deathless fame
Through the wide world shall run,
And everlasting ages sing
The triumphs thou hast won.

Hymn 42

Hosannah to king David’s Son,
Who reigns on a superior throne;
We bless the Prince of heav’nly birth,
Who brings salvation down to earth.

Let ev’ry nation, ev’ry age,
In this delightful work engage;
Old men and babes in Sion sing
The growing glories of her King

Hymn 43

Hosannah to the Prince of grace;
Sion, behold thy King;
Proclaim the Son of David’s race,
and teach the babes to sing.

Hosannah to th’ incarnate Word,
Who from the Father came;
Ascribe salvation to the Lord,
With blessings on his name.

Hymn 44

Hosannah to the Son
of David and of God,
Who brought the news of pardon down
And bought it with his blood.

To Christ th’ anointed King
Of David’s ancient blood!
Behold, he comes to bring
Forgiving grace from God:

        Let old and young
        attend his way,
        And at his feet
        Their honours lay.

Glory to God on high,
Salvation to the Lamb
Let earth, and sea, and sky,
His wondrous love proclaim:

        Upon his head
        Shall honours rest,
        And ev’ry age
        Pronounce him bless’d.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jesus Cast A Look On Me

Here are the lyrics to a beautiful hymn written by John Berridge I was listening to today from an excellent arrangement by Red Mountain Church on their album “Depth of Mercy”:

Jesus Cast a Look on Me

1. Jesus cast a look on me,
Give me sweet simplicity
Make me poor and keep me low,
Seeking only Thee to know

2. All that feeds my busy pride,
Cast it evermore aside
Bid my will to Thine submit,
Lay me humbly at Thy feet

3. Make me like a little child,
Of my strength and wisdom spoiled
Seeing only in Thy light,
Walking only in Thy might

4. Leaning on Thy loving breast,
Where a weary soul can rest
Feeling well the peace of God,
Flowing from His precious blood

5. In this posture let me live,
And hosannas daily give
In this temper let me die,
And hosannas ever cry!

Monday, April 11, 2011

As The Sun is Full of Light

I love the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is the most overlooked and misunderstood person of the Trinity. Some ignore him altogether whereas others portray him in the most horrible and fanatical way. Most, who are Christians, seem to have him relegated to this passive, inactive presence that supposedly exists within them from the moment they profess Jesus to be Lord, but then are completely unaware and oblivious to his presence from then on. How it is possible to have the Spirit of God--the Spirit of Christ--living IN you and not be aware of him is completely beyond me. I dare say it is impossible.

Though much more can be said about the beautiful, glorious Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would be better for us to have than for himself to stay; I have been reading this prayer/poem from “Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions” that says it all very well:

O Holy Spirit,
As the sun is full of light,
the ocean full of water
Heaven full of glory,
        So may my heart be full of thee.
Vain are all divine purposes of love
and the redemption wrought by Jesus
except thou work within,
        regenerating by thy power,
        giving me eyes to see Jesus,
        showing me the realities of the unseen world.
Give me thyself without measure,
as an unimpaired fountain,
as inexhaustible riches.
I bewail my coldness, poverty, emptiness,
        imperfect vision, languid service,
        prayerless praying, praiseless praise.
Suffer me not to grieve or resist thee.
Come as power,
to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme and keep me thine;
Come as teacher,
leading me into all truth, filling me with all understanding;
Come as love,
that I may adore the Father, and love him as my all;
Come as joy,
to dwell in me, move in me, animate me;
Come as light,
illuminating the Scripture, moulding me in its laws;
Come as sanctifier,
body, soul and spirit wholly thine;
Come as helper,
with strength to bless and keep, directing my every step;
Come as beautifier,
bringing order out of confusion, loveliness out of chaos.
Magnify to me thy glory by being magnified in me,
and make me redolent of thy fragrance.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No One Knows the Hour: Warnings Against Apocalyptic Predictions

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
(Mark 13:32-37 ESV)

Over countless centuries seemingly innumerable Christians have used verses such as “There will be wars and rumors of wars...” (Matthew 24:6 and Mark 13:7) as a basis for interpreting current events of their times to indicate that the end is at hand. In every generation of the Church there have been those who have looked at the evil around them and supposed that it has never been worse. They point to the so called “glory days” of the church, lost values, etc. and begin to extrapolate that their days are quite a bit more evil than the better, more obedient years that have gone before and begin to state that because of this the judgment of God is drawing close.

What is worse than this, however, are those who state, apart from all of these facts, that God has revealed to them dates and times regarding the end of the world. A quick google search with the terms “failed end time predictions” reveals a multitude of people who have stated dates and times of either the end of the world or major catastrophes. One such site lists over 200 people who have predicted the end of the world and/or major catastrophes who were wrong. Many of these “prophets” go on to justify their failed predictions by flipping the script and saying that they misinterpreted God and that He only meant that something else that happened that year was the real thing God meant would happen. If they don’t resort to trying to backtrack on their story to not look like fools, they just change their predicted date and continue in their delusions.

Here is one such story from the 1700’s during the Great Awakening when many people truly thought that, because of so many people being born again, that the end was coming and the millennium was being ushered in:

“They also began to make much use of visions and dreams, and in 1763 [George] Bell went so far as to prophesy the end of the world and to set the date: February 28 of that year. The prediction was given wide publicity, and when it failed, the fiasco--since it was some of [John] Wesley’s people who were involved--caused embarrassment to Wesley himself.”

A footnote to this section also states the following:

“Thomas Maxfield says that Wesley was especially embarrassed by Bell’s prophecy since he himself had made a similar mistake. In 1682 Edmund Halley had calculated (or so it was believed) that the comet he had discovered would return toward the earth in 1759. As that date approached there was great excitement and many speculated that the comet would strike the earth. Maxfield says that Wesley preached ‘...from one end of the land to the other’ on the forthcoming catastrophe and prophesied the comet’s effect as ‘...scorching and burning up all the Produce of the Earth, &c, &c. Then, lastly, executing its grand Commission on the Globe itself, causing the Stars to fall from Heaven...’”

Now it must be noted here that John Wesley, the great revival preacher, had a practice of casting lots to “confirm” a Word from the Lord. On several occasions Wesley erred deeply with this practice of confirming visions and such that he thought he was receiving from the Lord. There were many others at the time who were predicting the destruction of England because of England’s “slump into godlessness” from it’s former “godly state.” Again this is much in err, as England had never had a stable history wherein there was holiness about the land, but as in all ages and in all places the land was filled with evil as the church struggled to proclaim the gospel.

Such is the case, also, with the current state of America. There has never been a period in American history where one (who reads history enough) could point and say “those were the glory days.” Even the first Great Awakening under Whitefield was soon washed away shortly after his death. Knowledgeable of this long history of reformations not lasting, the deist Benjamin Franklin even writes to George Whitefield stating “O that some method could be found to make them lasting! He who discovers that, will, in my opinion, deserve more, ten thousand times, than the inventor of longitude.”

The point is that good times never last in the history of the Church. Even during the “good times” there is distinct and widespread evil so much so that whatever good had been accomplished, in a short period of time it is undone. So all that is to say that looking at our current times and stating “Surely these are the end times, look at how far we have fallen!” is a serious error and presumption and is no doubt caused by demonic deception.

Careless people who do not know the Word and have not studied it well have been drawn away by so called visions and messages from God throughout all of history and have declared various passages of Isaiah, Daniel, Revelation and etc. to be fulfilled by certain current events that were unfolding at the time. But God does not clearly mean one thing in His Word then contradict Himself by a word or vision from the Holy Spirit that breathed His Word!

In D.A. Carson’s indispensable book on biblical interpretation entitled “Exegetical Fallacies” he states:

“Critical exegesis [biblical interpretation, drawing out the meaning from the text as opposed to putting it in] is opposed to merely personal opinions, appeals to blind authority (the interpreters or anyone else’s), arbitrary interpretations, and speculative opinions. This is not to deny that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, or to argue that piety is irrelevant; it is to say rather that not even piety and the gift of the Holy Spirit guarantee infallible interpretations. When two equally godly [which I, Joe, would personally add must be judged according to a biblical definition of godly] interpreters emerge with mutually incompatible interpretations of a text, it must be obvious even to the most spiritual...that they cannot both be right.”

There are many today, such as Harold Camping who predicts the return of Christ on May 21st, that have determined through their own interpretive methods, using biblical “data” that come to conclusions that are completely contrary to others who perhaps use more comprehensive and logical methods. Camping uses one statement in the Bible such as “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day” and built an entire system that led to his prediction of Christ’s return date. Other more serious scholars (as Camping has no formal training at all; an unfortunate trend among predictors of the end times) who have more knowledge of biblical symbols, metaphor, literary devices, etc. would state vehemently that Camping’s prediction is complete and utter nonsense.

But Camping falls within a different “camp” (pun intended) than many predictors of end-time events. Most “doomsdayer’s” claim some special revelation from God. Sometimes this involved stating that God told or showed them something (a vision, dream or “impression”) and other times this special revelation comes in the form of God supposedly revealing the meaning of a text that was previously unknown to generations of Christians. The most common place for such people to find special revelation from the Holy Spirit is in Revelation. The interpretations that people have claimed to have from the Holy Spirit about the diverse imagery of Revelation are innumerable. Most of these people never question whether or not their interpretations or prophecies are from the Spirit and (as Wesley would do) perceived they had some divine, unquestionable confirmation. Of course a well versed and cautious Christian would know that Satan is a master of deception, whom the Bible says poses as an angel of light and knows very well that Christians seek “confirmation” for “words from the Lord.” In a book entitled “Conversations with God” a man even claims to have actually seen and talked with God and received supposed confirmations for his visions, but what he says God told him is in complete contradiction to the infallible Word of God.

As a footnote to D.A. Carson’s above statement, where he says that two contradicting interpretations of a passage can’t be right, he tells this compelling story:

“Almost twenty years ago I rode in a car with a fellow believer who relayed to me what the Lord had “told” him that morning in his quiet time. He had been reading the KJV of Matthew and I perceived that not only had he misunderstood the archaic English, but also that the KJV at that place had unwittingly misrepresented the Greek text. I gently suggested there might be another way to understand the passage and summarized what I thought the passage was saying. The brother dismissed my view as impossible on the grounds that the Holy Spirit, who does not lie, had told him the truth on this matter. Being young and bold, I pressed on with my explanation of grammar, context, and translation, but was brushed off by a reference to 1 Cor. 2:10b-15: spiritual things must be spiritually discerned--which left little doubt about my status. Genuinely intrigued, I asked this brother what he would say if I put forward my interpretation, not on the basis of grammar and text, but on the basis that the Lord himself had given me the interpretation I was advancing. He was silent a long time, and then concluded, ‘I guess that would mean the Spirit says the Bible means different things to different people.”

It is a tricky and dangerous thing to say “Thus saith the Lord” and in my time among Pentecostal’s, Assemblies of God churches and other more “charismatic” churches I have heard many people put forth prophecies of all kinds that they said the Holy Spirit revealed to them and confirmed in such and such a way. Unfortunately, none of their predictions came to pass. Some of these predictions, in fact, were aimed straight at me and did not come to pass. In his book “Counterfeit Revival” Hank Hannegraff catalogues a plethora of such “revelations” and “confirmations” that never came to pass as well, some from very prominent televangelsists and others from normal, everyday people.

When these people are challenged, it is usually a pointless endeavor. They typically respond by being very sure of themselves, state that you are being used by the Devil to try to get them to disobey or doubt God, and can’t for one moment think they are being deceived because if they allow that they think God will punish them for their doubt. I have learned the best thing for these people is to let them be, let their predictions fail then be there for them after such a failure to try to show them where they were in error.

The Bible is serious about false prophets and yet tells us not to despise prophecy. In all cases it tells us to test things and to test it by the Word. Isaiah says “to the Word and to the testimony, if they do not speak accordingly to this word it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). In the following verses from Isaiah (21-22), and in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and Ezekiel 13:1-9, 22 serious consequences are stated for uttering words on behalf of the Lord that do not come from the Lord. Those who think they are messengers from God should know these passages well and be filled with a great deal of reverential fear on account of them.

A wise Biblical teacher once said that we must interpret the unclear parts of Scripture in light of the clear parts. The Bible is very clear that we will not know the day or the hour on which Christ will return and thus anyone wishing to make predictions relating to the end times should keep their mind focused on the clear parts of the Bible--the proclamation of the gospel, making disciples of all men and calling all to repentance from around the world. Because we do not know the hour, we labor hard because we do not know when our Master will return. Those who have an unhealthy interest in end times or claim to have visions from God typically get so obsessed that they begin to neglect these clear commands of God in the Bible. Though they begin to call out “repent” they do not truly preach the gospel in its glorious entirety and typically never tell people how they need to be born again, but simply that they should stop doing overt sins like drinking, swearing, watching certain movies, etc. and confess Jesus is Lord and they will be saved from the wrath to come. This lulls people into a false acceptance of Christianity.

I do say with the beloved John, writer of Revelation, “Come Lord Jesus, come” but I think it is a serious, distracting error to state that one has word from the Lord that contradicts God’s clear word that no one will know when the end will come, not even the angels. I also think, from a biblical perspective and from experience, that any people who claim to have words from the Lord are typically being deceived by demons and Satan posing as an angel of light. I pray God will show them the deception they have fallen into once their false visions and predictions have failed them and that they will then come to a deeper knowledge of God’s infallible, clear and sealed Word that never fails--The Bible.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Life and Soul of True Religion

Lately much of my personal study time has consisted of studying the Great Awakening of the 1700’s. During this time many souls were awakened to the glory, majesty and beauty of God as well as the horrible, wretched and completely vile state of their sinful souls. Now, if the combination of these two compounds did not create an explosion large enough to shake the souls of men; the addition of the good news that such a holy, perfect, beautiful, and yet inexplicably offended God had sent His Son, Jesus, to forgive, and redeem such miserable creatures, deserving of wrath was the catalyst that resulted in a blast of emotions and change as had not been seen since the time of the Apostles.

Men of all ranks, genders, class and age began to sing themes of “Amazing Grace” before the song was even written, and such was their joy that many of the clergy of the time began to criticize the move of God’s Spirit as being the product of animal passions and mere enthusiasm. Though it is quite true that there was an ungodly, counterfeit faction at the time that delighted in fever-pitched, manufactured emotions rather than the legitimate affections and sorrow that are the natural fallout of such an explosion of God’s majesty, man’s sin and God’s grace; this was but a small faction.

Nevertheless the whole movement was often held in disrepute by many of the ministers of the time. In response to such criticism of the raw affection and sorrow that was bubbling up both in America and across the pond in much of the UK, Jonathan Edwards wrote a work entitled “Thoughts on the Revival, &c.” In it he logically, scripturally and passionately (as such was his style) defends such affections in the following manner:

“There are many exercises of the affections that are very flashy, and little to be depended on; and oftentimes a great deal appertains to them, or rather is the effect of them, that has its seat in animal nature, and is very much owing to the constitution and frame of the body; and that which sometimes more especially obtains the name of passion, is nothing solid or substantial. But it is false philosophy to suppose this to be the case with all exercises of affection in the soul, or with all great and high affections; and false divinity to suppose that religious affections do not appertain to the substance and essence of Christianity. On the contrary, it seems to me that the very life and soul of all true religion consists in them.”

Simply put, Edwards is agreeing that not all affections or passions are the product of holy things, but all things that are holy are founded and grounded in great affections--love. Edwards continues with thorough and thunderous argumentation:

“Charity, or divine love, is in Scripture represented as the sum of all of all religion of the heart; but this is only a holy affection. And therefore, in proportion as this is firmly fixed in the soul, and raised to a great height, the more eminent a person is in holiness. Divine love or charity is represented as the sum of all the religion of heaven, and that wherein mainly the religion of the church in its most perfect state on earth shall consist, when knowledge, and tongues, and prophesying shall cease; and therefore the higher this holy affection is raised in the church of God, or in a gracious soul, the more excellent and perfect is the state of the church, or in a particular soul.

If we take the Scriptures for our rule, then the greater and higher our exercise of love to God, delight and complacency in him, desires and longings after him, delight in his children, love to mankind, brokenness of heart, abhorrence of sin, self-abhorrence for it; the more we have of the peace of God which passeth all understanding; and joy in the Holy Ghost, unspeakable and full of glory: the higher our admiring thoughts of God, exulting and glorifying him; so much the higher is Christ’s religion, or that virtue which he and his apostles taught, raised in the soul.

The absence of such great affections and violent movings of love for God, the church and those who do not know him is the cause of much stagnancy in the church. As a result, many seek to stoke the flames of revival with increased theology on one side and so called “miracles” on the other. Both of these are attempting to accomplish something similar--a revelation of God. Unfortunately, however, what ends up happening is that the affections of many are fixated on theology and “miracles” and not God himself.

A true revelation of God must excite the affections of the soul towards God, producing satisfaction in him and him alone. When the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, with a mind for revealing the beauty, majesty and holiness of God (displayed especially in Christ’s work of bringing man back into relationship with such ineffable splendor through the forgiveness and pardon of sin) then it is most certainly aimed at and will produce great affection as God works through us to reveal that glory. Words such as “beauty,” and “majesty” are words particularly aimed at invoking awe-filled affection.

If the church desires to see an awakening again in our time, it must understand that the souls of sleeping, dead men and women will only rise so far as our own affections for God rise. The life and soul of our entire faith, and the proclamation of it consists of an unfathomable love for and satisfaction in God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Spirit.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Right Kind of Revival

For the decade or so that I have been born again I have fellowshipped with a wide variety of those who call themselves Christians from various denominations. I have seen the whole spectrum of Christian activity from hyper-conservative/fundamentalist, to “uber-charismatic” and everything in between. During that time I had pretty wide exposure to the charismatic side of the church and observed what they call “revivals.” What I always found most interesting about these events is that one could plan people repenting and being born again, but therein lies the problem.

What is a revival? What is being revived? Is “revive” even a correct term to describe spiritually dead people coming to life for the first time? Can you revive what was never “vived” to begin with? Much of the “revival” movement finds its roots back in what contemporaries of the movement called “the awakening.” This took place largely in the mid to late 1700’s starting in England and gradually flooding over much of the western world.

There is little debate amongst Christian historians that at the forefront of this amazing time period was a preacher from the Church of England by the name of George Whitefield. Whitefield was in his early twenties when he began to preach and was, at the time, the youngest “given orders” (allowed to preach in the Church) at the time. Whitefield, in his time, was the household name of the western world. Young George’s preaching drew thousands and thousands of people which resulted, generally, in many people weeping and being concerned for their souls and the glory of God.

Following Whitefield’s visit to Scotland, where he preached to ten’s of thousands, there awoke a deep desire in the Scottish people for the things of God and answers for questions about their eternal state. This deep awakening for a knowledge of the things of God and the Scottish people’s concern for their souls climaxed at a meeting in the small town of Cambuslang on February 18th, 1742.

During the preaching of the very devout and reformed minister Rev. William McCulloch (though known to be quite dull in his preaching; the opposite of Whitefield), those gathered became so concerned for their souls and God’s honor that great waters sprang forth from the rocks of people’s hearts, so to speak, and flooded down their sorrow stricken faces. These events continued for some time under the ministry of a man who had never seen such things before and was certainly not known for emotionalism. Skeptical, well respected ministers from all around came to observe what was happening in the little village to verify that it was, in fact, a work of God and not just manipulated enthusiasm. A report from one of these ministers,I think, should serve as a template for what true “awakening’s” or “revivals” ought to look like:

“I found a good many persons under the deepest exercise of soul, crying out most bitterly of their lost and miserable state, by reason of sin; of their unbelief, in despising Christ and the offers of the Gospel; of the hardness of their heart; and of their gross carelessness and indifference about religion...I heard them express great sorrow for these things, and seemingly in the most serious and sincere manner, and this not so much...from fear of punishment as from a sense of the dishonour done to God...”

Another report from one of the most respected, yet also most critical ministers, John Willison of Dundee, reads similarly:

“...some who had been very wicked and scandalous, but now wonderfully chang’d...very rude and boisterous before, they had the meekness of the lamb...Though I conversed with a great many, both men and women, old and young, I could observe nothing visionary or enthusiastic about them...Upon the whole I look on the Work at Cambuslang as a singular and marvellous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

It is important to note, in these most griping reports, that this followed not a ministry of miraculous healing, signs or wonders, but the faithful preaching of the Word of God and in particular the Gospel of Reconciliation! And what were the results? Not faintings and fits, but tears of sorrow, repentence, changed lives and a legitimate desire for the honor of God! Men and women more concerned for the dishonor and spite they had shown towards so loving and merciful a God than the state of their theretofore damned souls...oh how my heart explodes with a desire to see this right kind of revival!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Guidelines for iPhone Use

About 2 weeks ago now I purchased and received an iPhone 4. As a long standing Verizon customer I had been waiting for this day to come and already had in mind all sorts of uses for it most of which had to do with productivity, Bible reading and other spiritual disciplines (or Joys as I call them). Despite my overwhelming desire to use the iPhone to the glory of God, I knew before I bought it that I, like everyone else, have a tendency to become easily distracted, especially by technology.

With that in mind, about a week or so before ordering my iPhone, I first prayed about it, then created a list of “10 Guidelines for iPhone Use.” I then read this list out-loud to my wife so that she would know them and hold me to them. Here is the list I came up with that I think covers everything. It is a work in progress, but it has already served me well and I can already see good habits forming for how I use this wonderful piece of technology. The guidelines, for me, are an application of 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Ephesians 5:15-16. Here they are:

IPhone Usage Guidelines:

  1. 1. Use for the glory of God in as many ways as possible including: spiritual disciplines such as prayer, scripture memory, bible reading, godly books, theological memorization (catechism), biblical languages, evangelism, etc. (1 Cor. 10:31).

  2. 2. Not to be used when on a date with Kendra unless it benefits the date/relationship

  3. 3. Games should only be played after praying first about it and only in circumstances where nothing more productive or godly can be done with the time.

  4. 4. Should not be used in the evening or morning when it is time to be with the kids and Kendra.

  5. 5. Should not be used when taking the kids out for one-on-one or during family outings unless necessary.

  6. 6. Only apps that help with godliness, edification of the saints, education, productivity and helping with daily life should be downloaded with the exception of rule 7.

  7. 7. Some apps for entertainment should be allowed but must comply with rule 3.

  8. 8. Use in church should be limited to Bible apps, note taking, prayer requests and other such things as are fitting use in God’s house. Playing games does not qualify, nor does internet usage that is not for the sake of helping others or answering a biblical question.

  9. 9. Common courtesy should be observed when using iPhone: no using apps, texting or emailing in situations where it could inconvenience, frustrate, be perceived as rude by, or threaten the safety of another person.

  10. 10. Must not be used during meals with other people present unless absolutely necessary.