GOD’S HEART FOR THE WORLD – A MESSAGE FROM THE LATE DR. JOHN STOTT

This message has been transcribed from an audio message from the late Dr. John Stott

Our God is a generous God.  Our God is a missionary God.  Yet the very concept of mission is out of favor in today’s pluralistic world.  Pluralism is the popular ideology.  It affirms the equal validity of every religion.  Whereas we Christians insist that Jesus is unique!  We believe in the finality, and the supremacy and uniqueness of Jesus Christ!  We do not speak of Jesus the Great!  Alexander the Great!  Napoleon the Great!  Charles the Great!  But not Jesus the Great!  He is not the Great!  He is the Only!  There is nobody like Him.  He has successors.  and no competitors.  He is unique!  More than that, as we have already been reminded, missions is rooted in the nature of a generous God Himself.   Continue reading “GOD’S HEART FOR THE WORLD – A MESSAGE FROM THE LATE DR. JOHN STOTT”

Approval

A number of years ago, I came across this entry below from a devotional based on Proverbs 8:35-36.  The story below has stuck with me all these years.  I find its lesson greatly invaluable.  This story illustrates that wisdom of always seeking God’s approval and not man’s.  As Christians, we must always choose to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).  Here it is:

The story is told of a young pianist who was making his professional debut in a famous concert hall in one of the capitals of Europe. The fashionable audience were most responsive to his playing, and at the end of the concert they gave him a resounding, standing ovation and called for an encore. Backstage, the young man refused to return to the platform despite the pleas of the stage manager and the concert sponsors. “But they love you!” they expostulated. “They’re on their feet.” The young man replied, “I know they are, but there’s one man sitting in his seat. He isn’t standing.” “What’s one man in a concert hall full of people?” they replied. Quietly he responded, “He’s the master—my teacher!” The approval that really mattered to the young pianist was missing.

In the human heart there is a thirst for approval, a longing for belonging, a hunger for acceptance. Children seek to please their parents and are insecure if they sense disapproval. Teenagers move from seeking to please parents to seeking peer approval. They must be with the “in” crowd, dress as they dress, listen to what they listen to, and conform to their patterns of behavior—all in order that they might have their peers’ approval.

Men do not easily grow out of this longing for others’ approval.  No one likes to be thought weird, to be socially outcast, to be ignored or discounted. The tragedy is that sometimes the applause of the crowd drowns out the approval of the Master.

Wisdom says, “Happy are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord” (8:35). Approval from the Lord is what matters. No matter how many peers stand and applaud or how many bosses issue good reports, if the Master is not pleased, all is in vain. The whole world can stand, but if the Lord stays seated, all is lost.

How do we gain the Lord’s approval? By listening attentively to what he is telling us, absorbing the truth he proclaims, and making practical application. Problems arise when what he says does not agree with the audience that we wish to impress. Teenagers vacillate between doing what is right and behaving in a way that is “cool.” Businessmen wrestle with doing what is right and doing “what it takes” to close a deal, knowing full well that the Lord does not approve of the methods used.

It comes down to this: Whom do we wish to please? Whose approval do we crave?

“For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

“Holy, Holy, Holy…!”

Holiness is the most distinctive character of God. We are not ready to serve Him until we come to see His holiness which reveals to us our sin and misery; and embrace His mercy which offers us forgiveness and cleansing in Christ. Once we have a clear vision of His glory and receive cleansing from our sins through Christ and His atoning blood, we are inspired/moved to tell the world about Him that the whole world might come and bow before Him who is the King of kings and the LORD of lords!

Click on the PLAY button below more of this in a sermon about the holiness of God from Isaiah 6:1-8.  This sermon was preached at Liberty Bay PCA in Poulsbo, Washington, USA on January 8, 2012.

Play Audio!

Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Why Young Men Don’t Go into the Ministry

Today, I would like to follow up on yesterday’s post, Where Are All the Men, and talk about some reasons why many young men in our day don’t want to go into the ministry.

Jesus in talking to His disciples in Matthew 9:37 said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…”  Here is what Matthew records for us in Matthew 9:35-38:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Lord Jesus Christ looked around Him and saw a needy people, a people “harassed and helpless” or “dispirited” “like sheep without a shepherd.”  And then He gave His analysis of the situation, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”  I think Jesus’ analysis of the spiritual condition of the men and women in our cities and villages today would be the same.  Though outwardly people look “okay” they are not so inwardly.  All the TV stars that we know, the celebrities, “powerful” people in government, all the multitude of people across the globe, need Christ desperately.  Many of them have been bruised and are being bruised by the effects of sin.  They are looking for peace, happiness and joy in all the wrong places.  Their relative success isn’t cutting it for them – that’s because they need Christ.  Then, they are all the multitude of people all around the world who aren’t celebrities, they aren’t among the “powerful” – they are vulnerable in every way – they too need Christ! Christ alone is the answer to the problem!

Bored Young Men
Bored Young Men - Nothing to Do

Here is the BIG question:  If this analysis is correct (and it is), if Christ is alone is the answer (and He is), then why aren’t we seeing more young men going into the ministry so that they can preach Christ to these people?  I am sure there are a myriad of reasons as to why this is the case.  And, I would also like to state here that I am aware of the fact our individual situations and circumstances are different and that sometimes certain constraints are placed upon us which make it difficult to do what we may have been called to do.  I am also aware that there are exceptions to the general comments that I am about to make.  But I think the following five reasons contribute to the problem:

1.  A Lack of Compassion for Lost Souls – this I am sure is the biggest problem.  Jesus was moved with compassion for the souls of the men and women that He encountered, every time He encountered them.  He was first and foremost concerned about people’s spiritual condition above all else.  When compassion for souls characterizes one’s life – it’s difficult – and I would even say, that it’s impossible to ignore the call to preach, the call to the ministry.  The only response in that situation is:  “Woe is me, if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

2.  A Loss of Confidence in the Gospel and It’s Power to Save Lost Souls – This is a sad reality in our day.  Even those who are in the church (clergy and laity alike) seem to have lost the necessary confidence that they need to have in the power of the gospel.  That’s why you see many churches today replete with all kinds of programs aimed at “supplementing” the gospel – or “improving” the gospel – or making the gospel more “relevant” and more “attractive.”  Why, because many people today do not really believe that the gospel is intrinsically sufficient, relevant or necessary to the human soul.  But Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” Jews and Gentiles alike.  There is a desperate and urgent need for the gospel to get out there NOW!

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

3.  A Lack of Courage to Face the Unknown – Many young men (and old men too), but mostly young men just don’t want to go there!  Too many risks!  Too many unknowns!  Too many uncertainties!  The list could go on and on!  And so what happens is that most of our young men are more concerned about getting those lucrative, white-collar jobs which promise a relative measure of financial security, power and prestige.  I think this lack of courage – this unwillingness to take risks for the gospel and lost souls coupled with a low view of the gospel ministry and its power to change lives for eternity cripples and kills many young people’s ambition and desires to enter the ministry.

4.  A Lack of Good Role Models – I think we really need God’s help here.  We need to do a better job of training our young people and modeling what faithful, God-centered, gospel ministry looks like.  We need to be more intentional too about training and preparing our young people for the gospel ministry from a very young age.  This means that parents as well as pastors should be praying and working together for this causes.  Personally, I think every pastor should have a “Timothy” and every “Timothy” should have a “Titus” if we are to see a significant reversal in the modern trend.  There is biblical precedence for this in the life of Paul (for example) – see 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to Timothy:  “…What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  It would foolish and presumptuous of us to ignore this apostolic precedence and admonition!  The flip side of the same problem is that there just aren’t many good, faithful, committed, strong, Word-saturated, God-centered pastors around!  The “stick-to-it kind” of pastors.  Many of them are “hirelings” who are always marking the EXIT doors and are ready to “jump ship” with the slightest trial and/or temptation.  And, you can understand how difficult it would be for our young people to develop enough confidence in the ministry.  We have given then little or no reason to urge and help embrace the call to the ministry.

5.  Spiritual Apathy – Defeatism.  O, what a deadly disease this is!  What a plague on the modern church this has become!  Frankly speaking, many of the people who frequent the church today – and yes, even those who frequently preach (pastors) – many of them have already given up the fight – tragically.  They are no longer fighting “the good fight of faith.”  They are walking by sight and no longer by faith as they (and all of us Christians) should.  And what do they see around them?  More apathy!  More rebellion against God!  More people drowning themselves in the pool of sin and indulging themselves in the deadly pleasures!  On the other hand, they see dwindling numbers in many of our churches, lack of commitment to the truth claims of Christ and His Word.  They see Christians fighting over nothing and churches splitting because they couldn’t agree on whether the main entrance should be on the north or the south side of their church building.  They see the church engaged in this and several other trivialities and they want nothing to do with the church let alone the gospel ministry.

We need to repent of this and seek God’s help.  And we need to heed Christ’s call!  Let’s “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).  Only He can do it and we want Him to do it – not we ourselves apart from Him.

For those young men out there who may be considering the gospel ministry, I have some good news for you:  It’s the highest calling any man can receive from the LORD!  If you have any inclination within you towards the gospel ministry, I urge you to seek the Lord faithfully and diligently in prayer and in the study of His Word.  Talk to your family members about it – ask them to pray with and for you.  Talk to your church leaders – seek their counsel and prayer support.  Talk to your friends (the good ones – the ones you can trust).  Be open to the possibility and be on the look out for God’s leading in that direction and be ready to take the first step when He calls!  You will never regret!  More on this later!  Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)

‘Why I want the right to die’ in Scotland

I was greatly shocked when my wife shared this article with me this afternoon.  Al Jazeera published this article on their website.  I encourage you to read it here.  Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Margo MacDonald has launched a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die – which in my mind is outrageous and grossly immoral, cruel and careless.  It totally degrades the intrinsic value of human life as given by God the Almighty, who is our Creator (Genesis 1:27) and the Creator of heavens and earth!  This “End of Life Assistance” Bill sets out that anyone over the age of 16 could request assistance to die if that person was diagnosed as terminally ill and that he/she finds life unbearable.  Ms. MacDonald tried to get this bill passed in December 2010 but it was defeated.  According to the Huffington Post (UK), “A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.”

I find Ms. MacDonald’s arguments flawed and unconvincing – but that’s not all that disturbs me.  The bill that she is pushing is in direct violation of the Sixth Commandment:  “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  This bill seeks to give man the legal freedom to take one’s life or that of another with impunity.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Assisted Suicide (“Mercy Killing”) – currently banned by law in Scotland & the UK:

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, it is currently a crime to help someone end his or her own life. A doctor who injects a patient with lethal drugs in order to kill them could be prosecuted for culpable homicide or even murder.

Margo MacDonald wants that legal ban repealed:

“If it came to the worst and I was faced with a very bitter and protracted end, I should have the right to ask for help to end my life earlier than nature intended,” Macdonald told Al Jazeera.

She added: “I would like the insurance policy of knowing that if it gets near, and I would like to shorten it, I would not be putting my family at risk. It is not about pain, it is about making sure you are still yourself.”

Margo wants autonomy not dignity – She has a warped view of “dignity” according to what she says here:

She told Al Jazeera that the same debate is going on all over the world and if her bill is passed: “Scotland would be seen as a place where humanity, above all, and individual autonomy is respected. This legislation is really about the right of a person to see their life through and keep their dignity to the very end.”

Some church leaders are fighting against this:

When this issue was last debated, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, told a special Mass for Healthcare workers: “Laws need to be objective in their statement of principle. It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.”

Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told Al Jazeera: “Nothing has changed. Deliberate killing, even when assisting someone who is in a state of despair, is always wrong.”

Many doctors are concerned:

Many doctors are also concerned that legalizing assisted suicide could lead to frail or elderly people being coerced into taking their lives.

My Thoughts:

I hope that this bill is defeated once again in the Scottish Parliament.  I also hope and pray that Christians in Scotland and around the world will continue to speak out against this and similar violations of God’s law and order for His people.  From a human stand-point, Ms. MacDonald seems “unstoppable.”  She probably thinks so.  She is quoted as saying:

Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I’ve received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees.

But those of us who believe in the Sovereign LORD who rules over the universe, know that the LORD is ultimately in control and that He has the power to stop this and all ills that have plagued Scotland and the world (see Proverbs 21:1).

Why Am I So Concerned for Scotland?

Just for the same reasons that I would be concerned if this was happening in any other country primarily because it goes against the will – it goes against the Law of God clearly stated in Scripture.  That’s the main reason why this disturbs me.  But there is more:

As one who has not in the least sense benefited from what the Lord has done through Scotland over the years, I cringe when I read this kind of stuff about Scotland or coming out of Scotland.  I feel a special affinity to Scotland for various reasons.  Let me mention three:

1.  The first missionary to bring the gospel to my home country (Malawi) was Scottish.  His name was Dr. David Livingstone.  Malawi is replete with monuments in honor of Dr. Livingstone and his work there – not the least of which is Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital which was named after Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland where Dr. Livingstone was born.  I had the privilege of visiting Blantyre (Scotland) a few years ago and saw the house in which Dr. Livingstone was born and raised.  This house is now the home of the David Livingstone Center.

2.  As a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian and church minister, I owe a lot of that to what the Lord has done through Scottish men like John KnoxSamuel RutherfordRobert Murray McCheyne, Professor John Murray, from centuries gone by (just to name a few) – but also from contemporary theologians and preachers like Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Alistair Begg, etc.

3.  I am now a gospel minister with a denomination that is rooted in Scotland, the Associated Presbyterians Church (APC) – and I feel for so many of my dear brothers and sisters in Scotland as I consider all the challenges and the spiritual battles that they face in their pursuit of Christ, His will and purposes.  I am concerned and this moves me to pray more fervently for the work of the gospel across Scotland and the UK.

Let’s Pray for Scotland, the UK and the World

Prayer is ultimately the answer – and our sure hope.  “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Please join me in praying that God’s will may triumph over evil and that Scotland may be turned back to the Lord.  He has done it before, He can do it again.  Even though it seems like a dark cloud is hanging over Scotland and much of the western world, the LORD God can change that.  May the Light of Christ once again shine in Scotland even from the “farthest” corners of the world (like Malawi and such places where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is now flourishing).  Perhaps it’s time to send missionaries back to Scotland!  Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can ever ask or imagine according to His power which is at work in us (see Ephesians 3:20-21).

Faith Beyond Circumstances!! Please Pray for This Brother in Christ & His Family!!

This morning, I got the following e-mail from a “prayer chain” that I am a part of.  The e-mail said:

Please begin praying for this dear sister in Christ- Carol Poston.  Carol is the wife of the pastor of Rainbow Community Church in Fallbrook, CA. (about a half hour north of Escondido).  One minute she’s the healthy wife of a pastor, the mother of 5 beautiful daughters… next minute attacked by bacterial meningitis to her brain.  To read about this tragic situation and the unwavering faith of her husband, go to: http://carolposton.blogspot.com/.

I immediately went to the blog to read more about this.  I was shocked and amazed.  I was shocked because of the gravity of the situation.  I was amazed by the strength and courage with which Craig (the pastor/husband) is handling this fragile situation.  This afternoon, another pastor friend and I prayed for Craig and his family and committed them to the Lord.

For me as a husband, father and also as a pastor, my heart goes out to my brother in Christ, Craig.  I was greatly touched by something from his most recent blog post.  This is what he wrote:

“I do not yet have emotional energy to read Scripture to Carol but still can only cry to the Lord, Please Have Mercy!  Those are the only words I can find to say to God.  But I trust Him.  God will be glorified through this whole horrible tragedy.”

What faith!  Faith beyond circumstances!  Faith in spite of circumstances!  Craig is so candid as to admit his weaknesses.  He is emotionally weak and yet spiritually strong at the same time.  This is because he is resting in the Lord and in His sovereign purposes.  I really can’t say much more about this, except to say that it moved me, challenged me and encouraged me in at least the following two ways: 1.  to pray for this brother in Christ (whom I have never met before), but mysteriously enough, I feel a special connection to him.  I will pray for him, his wife and kids.  I will pray for his congregation – it must be hard for the congregation to see their pastor, his wife and kids suffer so much, 2.  to exult in the sovereignty of God which Craig I am sure understands and is resting on.

If you are reading this, would you please take a moment to pray for Craig, Carol, their kids and congregation?  Thank you – may the Lord richly bless you through Jesus Christ!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).  “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).