He Saved in the Power of the Fact He Would Not Save Himself

G. Campbell Morgan commenting on Mark 15:31

“Though they did not understand it-even the disciples themselves did not understand, but presently the light came, and ever and anon these men who wrote the records reveal in some passing phrase their past ignorance and their new illumination – the truth is this, that all those whom He (Jesus) had already saved, He had saved in the power of the fact that He could not, in that final way, save Himself.

“He had opened blind eyes, He had healed palsied limbs, He had driven fever away, He had restored physical conditions; but He always did these things upon the basis of His passion and His atonement.

“The writers came to know it, I repeat, and one memorable passage comes to mind, in which Matthew tells the secret of a wonderful eventide by the side of the sea. They brought unto Him from all the countryside the sick fold, and He healed them all.

“If Matthew had written his record that night, he would have written with wonder and amazement; but later on the publican saw things as he had never seen them; and in the light of the resurrection, when he wrote his record afterwards, this is what he said: He healed them all, ‘that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases.’

Behind all His physical healing, was the spiritual passion of the Lord. I reverently declare that the Man of Nazareth would never have healed a sick lad or lass, man or woman, but in the power of that hour, when they mocked Him and scorned Him.”

Israel and Hamas

In light of recent events in Israel I wanted to share some valuable resources. They come from the website www.standwithus.com.

I would not claim Israel to be entirely innocent in all of their dealings, however, they are misrepresented in the western media and sadly many Christians do not know the whole truth.

I encourage you to study these resources and let the facts speak for themselves. A good starting point is this booklet: “25 short answers

You can go here for many more resources to get you started: http://www.standwithus.com/resources/

“Striken, Smitten, and Afflicted”

- by Thomas Kelly

1. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
‘Tis the true and faithful Word.

2. Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

3. Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

4. Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built

Two that Were “Of God”

Have you ever wondered why Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ but Luke includes it after the baptism of Christ?

Matthew writes to a Jewish audience with a key goal of convincing his readers of the rightful claim of Jesus Christ to the throne of Israel. He also writes, of course, to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Matthew traces the line of Christ, then, back to Abraham and in so doing proves Jesus as the Messiah for the world and also the King of Israel.

Luke writes to a Greek audience with the intent of proving Jesus Christ is the perfect Man and with the same goal as Matthew of demonstrating that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. So he traces the line of Christ all the way back to Adam. In so doing he reveals that Jesus is the rightful king of Israel, and He is the last Adam, the Perfect Man.

What really struck me, however in reading Luke 3 is Luke’s arrangement of the baptism of Christ and the genealogy of Christ.

In verses 21-22 we have the baptism of Christ by John. At that event we see the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from Heaven and the Father’s voice making a loving declaration, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”

In verse 23 Luke records that people presumed Jesus was the son of Joseph, but as the voice from Heaven revealed, He was truly the Son of God, Jesus was God and was of God in His incarnation.

Then follows one of those genealogies we sometimes struggle with. Joseph was the son of Heli, Heli was the son of Matthat, Matthat was the son of Levi and so on for generations, all the way back to Adam. But when we reach Adam we find a change in the formula. We do not find Adam having an earthly father, but instead we read that Adam was the son of God. Adam was of God.

And so the genealogy begins with Jesus, who was of God, and ends with Adam, who was of God.

Thanks be to God that although the first Adam, made and beloved of God, failed, the Last Adam, the only begotten and beloved of God, succeeded.

Adam failed the test of righteousness and humanity fell with him, but Jesus Christ purchased redemption for humanity and in Him we are restored.

Ever Word of God is given for a purpose, and every order of revelation is carefully placed for our teaching and edification.

Luke beautifully demonstrates through this genealogy, and order of revelation, that Jesus Christ became one of us in order that He might redeem us!

The Resurrection-The Litmus Test of True Faith

Nearly everyone will celebrate Christmas in some fashion. Most religious people will acknowledge during the Christmas season the birth of a baby named Jesus. Very rarely will you hear of someone arguing the birth of Jesus.

Many will recognise Jesus on the cross. The cross, with Jesus portrayed on it or not, receives recognition in much of the world and certainly it permeates the West. For the most part people accept the death of Jesus.

The vaguely religious have little invested if they simply accept the birth and death of the man Jesus.

Where the religious/superstitious forever part ways with those of true faith occurs at the tomb.

True believers see not just the birth of a baby at Christmas, but the incarnation of God Himself.

True believers see not just the death of a man on the cruel, Roman tool of the cross, but they see the vicarious suffering and death of the Messiah on behalf of His creation.

And at the tomb true believers see not a missing body, or imagine the abducted body of a substitute, but we find the bodily resurrection of Jesus by the action and power of our Triune God.

Celebrate Christmas with me if you will. Acknowledge Jesus Christ on the cross. But if you would be my brother or sister in Christ, if you would journey with me to the presence of God, if you would be a true believer and know the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, then meet me at the empty tomb and worship our risen Saviour.

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

- 1 Corinthians 15:12-22

Waiting for Revival

Here are some comments on preparing and waiting for revival by Arthur Augustus Reese:

Some short-sighted people imagine that because as yet there has been no great noise amongst us, nothing has been accomplished-but has the farmer done nothing when he has tilled the ground, and sowed the seed? Are all prayers lost that are not at once answered?

Wait till the autumn, and you will see that tilling and sowing are not to be despised. Says the apostle James-“Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits, and hath long patience for it”.

I have no wish to run before God, and so catch the shell, I prefer to walk behind him, and so get the kernel.

Ultimate Preaching Rules

I have been having a digital clear out this spring of nearly two decades of collected material. One file was labelled “Ultimate Preaching Rules”. I did not write them and have no idea where I found them, but they made me smile. I thought some others might enjoy them too:

Ultimate Preaching Rules

  1. According to your congregation, there are bad sermons and short sermons but there are no bad short sermons.
  2. A life saver mint will last 22 minutes exactly if left lying between the cheek and gum during the normal course of talking. This is a helpful hint to time your sermon. Just don’t make the mistake of putting a button in your mouth instead of a life saver before you get up to preach.
  3. It never fails that when an “Awesome Sermon” is preached, members of the congregation cannot remember the scripture citations or what the sermon was about when the service is over.
  4. When you reach a weak point in the sermon, raise the pitch and volume of your voice to compensate.
  5. Have the congregation stand for the last hymn before the message, to assure everyone starts out awake.
  6. Have a good opening. Have a good closing. The middle with take care of itself if you quote enough scripture.
  7. Every good sermon must contain two good parables and a scripture, or two good scriptures and a parable.
  8. The number of faithful tithers in a congregation and the amount in the offering plate is in direct inverse proportion to the number of sermons the pastor delivers on stewardship and tithing.
  9. The likelihood that someone will walk the isle drops by a value of 10 percent for each minute the sermon goes into overtime.
  10. The louder the congregation sings the longer the preacher should preach.
  11. It is a well kept secret among Music Ministers that the offering total goes up 5 percent each time the third verse of a hymn is skipped (so, that’s why they do that).
  12. Contributions to “special” or “dedicated” funds go up and contributions to the “general” fund go down in direct proportion to the pastor’s popularity.
  13. Almost everyone is capable of being a Pharisee from time to time.
  14. The purpose of a great sermon is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The latter is preferable to the former.
  15. No matter how hard you have studied and prayed, some sermons seem to barely get out of your mouth before they drop on the floor in front of the first pew.
  16. Whatever scripture you quote and whatever your sermon outline, remember that your verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
  17. If you wear a big shiny watch, when the congregation starts to doze off you can wake them up by catching light from the back window and reflecting it into their eyes (with a little practice). For extra amusement with some additional skill you can get an extra bounce off of bald heads.
  18. When the congregation starts to lose interest and doze off you can awaken them by saying loudly, “And Finally” or “In Conclusion.” This will only work about four times per sermon.
  19. A good sermon should NEVER generalize.
  20. No matter how hard you may try, sometimes a scripture just will not fit in the sermon you wanted to use it in.
  21. Analogies in a sermon sometimes fit like feathers on a snake.
  22. Murphy must have been a preacher, but at least he was an optimist.
  23. When you lose your place in your sermon notes, a well placed prayer can help distract the congregation and give you time to get things back on track.
  24. If you have repeated yourself more than three times in a given sermon it is time to quit.
  25. Have a good opening point. Have a good closing point. Keep the two as close together as possible.
  26. The quality of a sermon can be judged first by the number of people who walk the isle, and second by the number of people who are willing to stand in line for 15 minutes after the service to shake hands with the preacher and tell him what a great sermon he preached.
  27. You can judge the length of your sermon by the length of response from your SPOUSE to the question, “How was my sermon, honey?” Examples: “Fine” means Way too long, “It was okay” Means A bit lengthy, “It was really good this week, I gained a blessing dear!” means Just about right
  28. If you’re going to preach on Sunday morning, do not eat onions on Saturday night.
  29. Take advice from the rooster. One day, a hen expressed the ultimate ambition of her life, which was to lay an egg in the middle of a busy express way. So the rooster took her there. When they got to the edge of the road, and traffic was whizzing by, the rooster gave her this advice: “All right now! Make it quick, and lay it on the line!”
  30. You know your sermon is not connecting when the choir begins their final number and you haven’t reached your last point yet!
  31. Always remember, those nods of agreement from our silvery-haired friends may just be nods!
  32. A good sermon is similar to a good sandwich. It has two ends: the bread and lots of meat in the middle. However, unlike a sandwich, the two ends of a good sermon should be as close together as possible.

Special Music by Ashleigh and Rebekah

Tonight was a very proud moment for me as a father and pastor. My daughter, Ashleigh (8) and one of her friends in the church, Rebekah (7), sang a special in church. They have been practising for weeks and have asked repeatedly if they could sing together.

Ashleigh and Rebekah were saved at a similar age and baptised in the same service. They love God and as they sang this evening I know it was a blessing to everyone. Click the link to hear them sing:

 

God has given us
a book full of stories,
Which was made for
His people of old,
It begins with the tale of a garden,
And ends with the city of gold.

But the best is the story of Jesus,
Of the babe with the ox in the stall,
Of the song that was
sung by the angels,
The most beautiful story of all.

There are stories
for parents and children,
For the old who are ready to rest,
But for all who can
read them or listen,
The story of Jesus is best.

For it tells how He came
from the Father,
His far-away children to call,
To bring the lost sheep
to their Shepherd—
The most beautiful story of all.

- Maria Penstone

It is an old and wonderful hymn from one of the hymn books we use.

Cubits, Curtains, Sockets and the Mercy Seat

Do you ever sit down and open a set of architects drawings and read them for enjoyment? Have you have opened the local phone directory and started reading the names to relax? No. Neither have I.

Unfortunately this is the way some people approach their reading of certain parts of the Bible. I am currently reading through the description of the Tabernacle given to Moses. You could say these are God’s architectural drawings for the building of the Tabernacle, and even worse for most men, it seems to cover interior design too.

But is that all this is about? And later when I reach the lists of names, is that just like a phone directory?

If that were the case then why not skip those bits? Why do we need to know about cubits, curtains and sockets?

Well, when you read carefully, and when you read devotionally, you will see that this is not just about architecture or just lists of names. Each element of the tabernacle featured for a reason. Each name in a list demonstrates what John MacArthur describes as a “Genealogy of Grace”.

I encourage new believers to start with certain books of the Bible, such as John, or Ephesians. But if we are to grow in grace and knowledge then, if we are able, we must read every book, chapter, verse and word.

Here are just two reasons to keep reading:

  • Hidden Treasures

Sometimes there will be a treasure hid among a list. There will be a name you recognise and connect with another story that adds depth or understanding. Among the curtains, and types of materials used, you see the Holiest place, and you remember the description in the New Testament of that curtain of separation being torn when Christ died on the cross. Or perhaps you read something you have read a thousand times before, but on the 1001st time the chapter or verse opens up like never before. Sometimes you have to dig for treasure.

  • Habit Forming

If you determine to read every book, chapter and verse it begins a good habit – that of daily reading God’s Word. If you start to skip verses and chapters you establish a habit of skimming through passages and in so doing you will miss many blessings. You have also established a habit of judging what God should and should not have included in His Word. Just imagine this thought process when you break it down. You read a few verses, figure there is nothing in it for you and so move on to the next chapter. In essence you have said, “Why did God include this in the Bible? It doesn’t need to be there. God got it wrong. I am smarter than God.”

So, let me encourage you keep reading, every book, every chapter, every verse and ever word. It will be worth it.

Why Christian Workers to the UK Struggle to Raise Support – 2 of 2

Yesterday I began a post on why Christian workers struggle to raise support and get to the UK. As I prepared to write the post I took an unofficial survey of some missionaries I know and asked them what struggles they faced in raising support to come and work here. Most of the responses included similar items, and many included struggles of the missionaries own making. Today I want share 6 more reasons why Christian workers struggle to get to the UK. Some of these reasons are applicable for missionaries going to any field.

1. Because supporting churches or pastors opposed the missionary working as part of a team

This may or may not be something unique to Christian workers coming to the United Kingdom. The New Testament does not lay out direct commands on the process for planting churches. However, by example it does seem to demonstrate a good practice-working as a team. Paul very often worked with another individual, a couple or a group. But for some reason missionaries today often face opposition when they attempt to follow the same practice as the Apostle Paul.

Numerous missionaries shared that when they expressed the desire to work as part of a team a pastor opposed them. Some churches give the impression that US churches can have a pastor, assistant pastor, song leader, treasurer, cleaner, Sunday School teachers, treasurer, deacons and secretaries, but the missionary overseas must do it all alone.

Do you realise everything your missionary does in a new church plant? He evangelises, preaches and teaches, yes. But with the support of his family he also has to do everything else. Many missionaries become talented in graphic design because they have to design their own materials to use in evangelism. They constantly learn new skills because there is no one else to take on the labour (there’s maybe a point there for supporters to get more involved in a practical way, check here for some practical ideas: http://www.pioneersenders.org/).

One missionary shared with me that he would love to work as an evangelist for an established church in the UK, but that his supporting churches would not support that. They wanted him to be the pastor.

Teamwork on the field, amongst other things, can provide fellowship and encouragement for your missionary, it provides a division of labour to allow more to be accomplished and it promotes accountability.

2. Because circumstances at the local church hinder them from supporting more missionaries

Sometimes a missionary schedules a meeting with a church months in advance. The pastor speaks positively about taking them on for support and the missionary looks forward to the visit. But then a week before the scheduled meeting a tornado destroys the church’s buildings, the pastor dies, a national tragedy such as 9/11 puts the country into turmoil or a business meeting goes bad and the spirit of the church is distracted. Sometimes a missionary visits a church and the church just is not in a position to take on a new missionary.

Other times it is not the timing of the visit, but a case of secondary separation. It becomes known that a missionary did or did not graduate from a particular Bible school, or they have books on their shelf by a certain author, or the missionaries sending pastor once had a falling out with the pastor the missionary is visiting, or the church the missionary is visiting does not like something about your mission board.

Let me encourage pastors and churches to support the man and his family. Judge each man on his own merits and not on people with whom he has a connection. Of course there may be exceptions, but as a rule, judge the man before you and nothing more.

Lastly, sometimes if a church faces a trial or general busyness around the time of the missionaries visit, the missionary ends up forgotten. It is not about an inability to support the missionary or any malicious intent, but in an almost administrative error the church forgets about the missionary that made a visit.

Some of these reasons for not supporting a missionary are unavoidable, but others can be avoided. What could your local church do to ensure you take on the missionary that visits regardless of some current events in your church or community?

3. Because of unrealistic expectations on missionaries and their families

Sometimes a church hesitates to support a missionary because the family does not seem to support the husband/father.

Now, some families thrive on deputation and furlough. You know them when you see them. As the van rolls up to the church you can hear them singing their favourite hymns. As the family unload you can hear the children reciting memory verses. You hear the husband praising his wife for teaching their teens calculus during their 16 hour drive that day. One of the children accidentally drops their suitcase on a sibling and the sibling lovingly forgives them and they move on. During the service the family sing a special and all the children play a different instrument. Then the father shows a flawless presentation of the country to which he is going with just the right combination of statistics and moving human stories. Then he preaches and expounds the Word, demonstrating an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures and a deep, personal walk with the Lord.

Others do not thrive quite so well. This time as the family roll up to the church car park you only hear the rattling of the exhaust that partly fell off on the way there. As they unload nobody says a word to each other. In fact, you catch the occasional glare between the husband and wife. As the husband steps out he does so straight into a puddle and lets out one of those Christian swear words “Good grief!” or “Good night!”. You know the ones. Then a sibling bumps into another sibling and they start to fight and fuss. They manage to get into the church and the service begins. The youngest child starts to cry and so the mother takes the child out. Now with dad in the pulpit there’s nothing to stop the little pagan children in the pew from whispering and rustling papers as the service continues. Then the presentation starts… and then stops. The software the missionary used to make the presentation is not compatible with the church’s computer. The sermon is adequate, but nothing to write home about.
Sometimes churches expect every missionary family to be like the first family described, but then how do you respond to the second? This could be the same family, just on a different day.

Understand the pressures on your missionaries on deputation or furlough. Sometimes the family stay at home because the children’s education is suffering due to all the travelling. As their time to move to another country arrives perhaps they need to spend some visits with grandparents. Normally they have just taken a step of faith and financially they are struggling. I have heard numerous stories of missionaries who only had enough money to purchase the fuel to get them to their next meeting, but they had no way of paying to get home. They simply trusted the Lord.

Have you read any books on parenting or education? How many recommend spending hours in a car every day? How many recommend using a hotel room or the back seat of a car as the class room? Yet this is the life your missionaries may have for several years.

Missionaries on deputation face trials and struggles most people could not imagine. I want to encourage you not have unrealistic expectations of your missionaries and their families. Instead try to anticipate their needs, provide them with an ideal environment and I guarantee that will go a long way toward enabling them to be the family you hope they are.

4. Because of a lack of training on how to raise support

Do you know there are books on the deputation process and on how to raise support? I did not. Not until I had learned many hard lessons anyway. Some missionaries struggle to raise support simply because they do not know the process. They do not know that once all the material (introduction letters, prayer letters, website, bookmarks, display table material, etc.) is designed and printed they to need send out an introduction packet to the churches they want to contact. Then they need to start making phone calls. They need to make dozens and dozens of phone calls. Everyday. They need to keep a record of the conversations. They then need to send out letters acknowledging the contact they had with the church. If a meeting was booked they will sometimes send out a letter the week before the meeting. Then they have the meeting and include all the elements required and expected of modern missionaries. After they leave they send a thank you letter. I did not know any of that.

Sometimes they have a good process, but they are just not good fund raisers. They do not communicate their burden effectively to the congregations and pastors. They can preach and teach and evangelise, they just do not seem to be able to grip pastors and churches with their need.

Maybe a church can compassionately and constructively give feedback to the missionary on what would have helped them. Certainly the missionary must constantly evaluate his means and methods and always be ready to learn.

A good resource by Pastor Austin Gardner is “The Deputation Manual for Missionaries” and I would highly recommend it.

5. Because missionaries have returned discouraged and defeated

Sometimes a church is deterred from supporting missionaries to the UK because of previous bad experiences. Maybe one missionary raises support but then does not go. Maybe around the same time one who has raised support reaches the UK, but then shortly thereafter returns home. Maybe another family you support seems to be taking a long time to complete their goal. There could be valid reasons all these missionaries did not go or did not stay. Each situation must be judged on its own merits.

I would encourage churches to express understanding. Do not turn your back on a whole country because of what you may decide are bad experiences. Perhaps it should show you that you should redouble your efforts to the UK and similar countries. Perhaps where you see discouragement and defeat you should make a determined effort to contact missionaries there and encourage them. Seek out missionaries going to that difficult field and truly get alongside them.

6. Because of red tape – the UK Border Agency

All I will say is this. Red tape exists, but it is not stopping missionaries from entering the country. It is another layer of administration, but it is not a barrier to entering the country.

In Conclusion

There is much a missionary can do to improve their chances of raising support and reaching the field. But there is much more that potential supporting churches and pastors could do to help them. I trust these two articles would have been a help to supporters in understanding missionaries trying to raise support to come to the UK, or any other nation.