From the Pen of A. W. Tozer

December 16, 2010

Great is the  mystery… God was manifest in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16 

The birth of Christ was a divine declaration, an eternal statement to a race of
fallen men and women.

The advent of Christ clearly established:

First, that God is real. The heavens were opened, and another world than this came into  view.

Second, that human life is essentially spiritual. With the emergence into human flesh of the Eternal Word of the Father, the fact of man’s divine origin is confirmed.

Third, that God indeed had spoken by the  prophets. The coming of the Messiah Savior into
the world confirmed the veracity  of the Old Testament Scripture.

Fourth, that man is lost but not  abandoned. Had men not been lost, no Savior would have
been required. Had they been abandoned, no Savior would have come.

Finally, that this world is  not the end. We are made for two worlds and as surely as we now inhabit the one, we shall also inhabit the other!



Consider What Great Things He Has Done For You

November 23, 2010

 

“Consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24)

There is a remarkable scene near the  beginning of the book Never Cry Wolf. The author is standing alone in the midst  of the Alaskan wilderness as the plane that brought him fades into the distance.  Overwhelmed by the rugged beauty, he finds a voice within him struggling to cry  out for expression. “I wanted,” he says, “I wanted to shout thanks to  someone.”

History
The first recorded celebration of Thanksgiving in North America was in Newfoundland in
1578. An English minister  named Wolfall presided. There are records of another held in Maine in  1607.

In December 1619 thirty-eight men landed safely on the banks of the James River near Jamestown in Virginia. The English captain, John Woodleaf, read  a directive from his charter declaring that the day of their arrival “shall be  yearly and perpetually kept as a day of thanksgiving to God.”

It was the  Pilgrims’ settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts, that is most often remembered  as the site of the first Thanksgiving. Governor Bradford ordered a three-day  celebration in October

1621.  In keeping with the biblical instructions in  Leviticus 23:39 for the Feast of the Ingathering, its purpose was to give  prayerful thanks to God for the blessing of the harvest. The Christian  commitment and spiritual motivation of this little group of people are   inspiring.

Importance
The desire of an individual to offer thanks to God goes back to the early chapters of Genesis: “Noah found favor in  the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 NASB). And God said, “I will establish My  covenant with you” (Genesis 6:18 NASB). When Noah left the ark, having been  saved by God, he “built an altar to the LORD . . . and offered burnt offerings  on the altar. And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma” and promised, “While the  earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:20-22 NASB). Noah modeled the  importance of saying, “Thank you.” And God blessed Noah and said, “Be fruitful  and multiply, and fill the earth. . . . Every moving thing that is alive shall  be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:1, 3  NASB).

The experience of corporate thanksgiving finds expression in the  annual harvest festival, that is, when Moses directed the people of Israel to  observe a full week of thanksgiving
after the ingathering of the harvest: “When  you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the  LORD for seven days” (Leviticus 23:39 NASB). David and Solomon continued the  tradition, declaring special times of celebration and thanksgiving to God. After  years of captivity the great leader Nehemiah called the people together to thank  God, thereby reinstituting the instructions from Leviticus regarding the harvest  festival. It is recorded that there was great rejoicing (Neh.  8:17).

There are at least 140 passages of Scripture that deal with the  subject of thanksgiving from a personal or corporate point of view. The word  praise is used many more times.  Praise means “to appreciate,” “prize” and  “consider precious and worthy of honor.” Thanksgiving is a combination of words  joined to express thanks to God.  It is gratefulness followed by expressions of  that gratitude. By far the most familiar passages of praise are found in the  Psalms: “With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD” (Psalm 109:30  NASB); “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations  what he has done” (Psalm 105:1); “Enter his gate with thanksgiving” (Psalm  100:4).

In the New Testament we read how Jesus constantly gave thanks to  the Father and one year risked his life to celebrate the thanksgiving festival.  Paul began nearly every one of his
letters with an expression of thanks and  urged us to give thanks in everything (1 Thes. 5:18). In Romans 1:21 he  describes those under the judgment of God as people who “though they knew God,  they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks” (NASB). The writer of Hebrews in  Hebrews 13:15 tells us to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise�the  fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Celebrating
The Bible  tells us to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks;  for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:16-18 NASB). There  are many ways to give thanks; a number of ideas follow.

As a Hebrew proverb tells us, “Put something where you can see it so your eye will remind  your heart.”  Hang a cluster of Indian corn tied with an attractive bow on the front door. Remember the thankful spirit  of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

Lovingly assemble a harvest display with seasonal produce as your centerpiece.

Place a colorful leaf at each person’s place  at the holiday meal. On each leaf  sprinkle several kernels of dried corn. Before  the meal is served, take time to remember the hardships of the Pilgrims’ first  winter in the New World and how with God’s help they overcame great  difficulties. Take turns expressing your own gratitude for God’s mercy.

Encourage children to make lists of all the  things for which they are thankful.

Through a church or Christian agency, discover local needs. Decide together how you will help. This is the season to share with others.

The real celebration of Thanksgiving is thanksliving. The best way to thank  God for the gift of life is to live your life in a spirit of gratitude.

Deut. 8:10 says, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you” (NASB).  The chapter warns that when everything is going well, there is a tendency for your heart to become proud and thus forget the Lord. Take time to thank God for all of the good gifts that you enjoy. Live out the words of Deut. 8:18, “But you shall remember the LORD your God”  (NASB).

References
G. Gaither and S. Dobson, Let’s Make a Memory (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983); J. Santino, All  Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life (Urbana: University  of Illinois
Press, 1994);
S. W. Shenk, Why Not Celebrate! (Intercourse, Penn.:  Good Books, 1987); D. Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer (New York:  Paulist, 1984);
M. Zimmerman, Celebrate the Feasts (Minneapolis: Bethany House,  1981);
M. Zimmerman, Celebrating the Christian Year (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1993).



Where Are the Men and Women?

October 25, 2010

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” Ezekiel 22:30 (NKJV)

It is one week before Election Day; I am weary of being bombarded with political ads on   television, my mailbox being filled with political direct-mail pieces, and my home phone ringing with recorded campaign propaganda to interrupt the evening.  Truthfully, it all leaves me with questions about the options that are before us.

So let me ask you…

Where are the men and women today who cannot be bought, bribed or coerced into compromising truth or sacrificing their honor? (Psalm 15:2)

Where are the men and women today who are speaking out against our hedonistic indulgences; our exploitation of the less fortunate, and our vulgar materialism? (Not hypocritically for political gain)  Even at the risk of being ostracized? (Ephesians 5:11)

Where are the men and women today who are assuming their Biblical roles as servant-leaders within the home, thus helping to ensure a solid foundation for succeeding generations?  (Colossians 3:19, 21; Ephesians 6:4)

Where are the men and women today who are outraged at our moral corruption; who are taking a stand in a culture where expressing strong opinions or taking resolute positions are often viewed as piggish (“politically incorrect”); where virtue and nobility are mistaken for  weakness? (Matthew 21:12)

Where are the men and women today who cannot be  intimidated or coerced into conforming to society’s slogging mediocrity?  (Philippians 4:8)

Where are the men and women today who have determined  to live by eternal, rather than by temporal values? People who inspire us to  stand taller? People who choose to light the way for a frightened, confused  world? People who can still fire within us the desire for
greatness? People who  know the truth and speak it? People who experience His love and share it?  (Romans 13:14)

Where are the men and women today who understand that  their highest calling in life is to know God their Savior, and who, by the power  of their example (and word) are unashamedly making Him known in every arena of  their lives. (Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:28, 29)

So, let me ask you:  Do you choose to be that man or woman? May God grant us strength and  resolve.

Pastor Tim



What Is Real Faith?

September 17, 2010


Jesus had a great deal to say about faith. He healed followers who  had it (Mark 2:5; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50) and rebuked those who didn’t have  enough of it (Matthew 6:30). Where it was absent, his miraculous works were  restricted (Matthew 13:58); but faith as tiny as a grain of mustard seed, he  said, was sufficient (Matthew 17:20).
 

In the Bible, faith is a necessity.  God asks for it, and then he provides it. The faith needed for our salvation is  not a blind leap into the dark; it is standing on the one thing we can be  absolutely sure of�God’s loving goodness to us.

Faith is needed at the  beginning of our Christian walk. We come to God in faith. Believing, we confess  our sins and ask for his forgiveness. God has promised to cleanse us and save us  from our sins, blotting out all our transgressions and giving us new life in  him. We can depend on him to do just that; there need never be a moment of  doubt.

Faith is also needed as we continue to walk with Christ. After we  are saved by grace through faith we often get into areas that require difficult  decision making. Although the Bible is unmistakably clear about how to come to  Christ, it is not always explicit about every choice we must make afterward. We  thus need to live by faith daily, knowing that God keeps us, helps us grow in  him, and prepares us for heaven.

Sometimes we have difficulty sorting out  when to act in faith, and when to let go and let God do the leading. Our  confusion may stem from confusing the faith that saves us and the faith that  keeps us. The famous text that changed Martin Luther’s life, “The righteous will  live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4) makes it clear that faith deals with our daily  living as well as with our initial salvation. We must live by faith in God  daily.

Faith is believing with our whole hearts that God loves us, cares  for us, and has our best interests in mind. Now some people figure that because  God loves us so much, he’s going to give us anything we want. This is not so. He  loves us far too much for that. In fact, often because of his great love, he  will withhold things from us or even send us trials. Scripture bears this out in  many instances. For example, the apostle Paul had his “thorn in the flesh” (see  2 Corinthians 12:7-10). In the great faith chapter, Hebrews 11, we read accounts of miraculous things done by individuals who had unbending, unwavering faith.   But although some people even saw dead loved ones raised to life again, others  were tortured, mocked, scourged, stoned, and killed. The faith of the Christians  who were persecuted was just as strong as that of those who were rewarded, and  those suffering Christians will be rewarded. So God does not necessarily respond  to genuine faith by meeting all our desires. Still, in the midst of all kinds of  trials and difficulties, faith is what hangs onto God, knowing he has our best  in mind and will see us through. Great faith in God means humility, obedience,  and growth. Its results are not necessarily success, good health, popularity,  prestige, or financial blessing; its most obvious result is the fruit of the  Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). Our faith, then, should not be measured by what we  have but by what we are.God’s highest priority for his followers is our  salvation�our safe entrance into heaven and a refined and purified nature. He  works in our lives the way he sees best to
achieve these goals. True faith says,  “I believe God in spite of whatever the world or Satan might do. No matter what  my circumstances, I still believe God loves me, has saved me, and will get me  through to glory.”

The three men in the fiery furnace said, “If we are  thrown into the blazing furnace, the God
we serve is able to save us from it,  and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” Then in the next breath they  added, “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not  serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18).  Even though they believed totally that God was capable of rescuing them, they  still left the outcome in God’s hands, trusting him that whatever happened, it  would be for their good and his glory.

Real faith can be the acceptance  of hard things, not the demand to be delivered from them. In faith we cling to  God for his grace and strength while facing our trials. In faith we say, “God, I  give this�my plan, my future, my ministry, my business�to you. You take it and  do with it whatever you see is best for me, for others, and for the glory of  your name.” Instead of asking him to bless our plans, we give them to him to do  with as he wishes. Real faith in
God does not give orders. Sometimes we hear  people say, “I believe God can (heal me, deliver me from this financial burden, lead me forward in this venture, bless me in the business I have chosen), and  therefore he will do so.”  Real faith says instead, “I believe, so I can leave it  totally to God to do as he wills.”



God is Sovereignly at Work

August 19, 2010

God’s sovereignty may seem a dry theological topic to some, but the working out of His sovereign will can be seen in practical ways  in our everyday lives. Sometimes we see it even as it works; sometimes it is years before we realize what God has been doing.  God, without in any way taking from us our responsibility for making decisions, overrules in such a way as to answer our basic needs. This shows that God’s lordship is not remote but  is involved in our individual lives. I might add here, lest you get the wrong idea, that this divine involvement is as real when you cannot see what God is up to in your life as it is when you can.  God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean we are robots; that we are not free to make our own decisions and answer for them.  It certainly doesn’t mean we are not free to commit or not commit ourselves to other people. People misunderstand God’s sovereignty because they suppose that  a God who is sovereign must be a remote God.

What sovereignty means is that God is in control all the time, and nothing happens apart from His will.  He is not remote or unconcerned. The God who calls us to love Him is the God who cares for us. He made us with the power to make our own decisions and commit
ourselves in  love to others. He doesn’t override our humanity in His dealings with us. He  doesn’t treat us like sticks and move us around at His pleasure. He comes to us  person to person; He addresses our minds by his Word; He draws out of us the  response of love and affection. That’s always His way in dealing with human beings.  God’s Will

GOD’S WILL

OUR RESPONSE


Sovereign Decrees 
“All may have eternal life.” “All may choose to accept or reject me.” “All  who reject or ignore me will be punished.”

We trust him and obey.

Conditional Intervention  “If you want my opinion, ask me. I’ll be glad to help.” “If you need a miracle, ask me. If I agree, you’ll get it.

We pray.

    Natural Law  “Apple trees produce apples, not turnips.” “Smoking produces lung damage.”

We plan accordingly.

God’s will actually functions on three different levels. The sovereign decrees and natural laws are nonnegotiable; there’s not a whole lot we can do about them. But in the middle   lies an area of human affairs in which our attitudes and actions can make quite a difference.

We sometimes don’t understand which level is involved in our various questions. We often want guidance on something that has been settled  by a sovereign decree or a natural law, and we just haven’t done our homework.  But in many other areas, our requests for guidance are legitimate.

Does  God Really Care About You?

God does care. He created us. He gave us other Christians to love us. He sent Christ to
demonstrate his great love in terms we  human beings could understand. Some Bible people experienced times when they  wondered if God really cared or if he had simply forgotten them. Joseph sat in  prison for a crime he didn’t commit, waiting on God, wondering what would  happen. David, the anointed king of Israel, was chased through the mountains by  Saul who wanted to kill him out of jealousy. Nehemiah prayed to God beside the  ruins of the glorious city of Jerusalem. These men experienced what we often  experience the feeling of “Where is God when I need him? Does he really care  about me?” But look at the results. Joseph was prepared with great wisdom and  faith in God in order to run Egypt  and bring his family there. David was always  protected from Saul and eventually
did become Israel’s greatest king. Nehemiah’s  faith in God allowed him to supervise the rebuilding of the walls of  Jerusalem.  We may go through trials and frustrations that cause us to feel as  if God doesn’t care, but he is always with us, working for our ultimate  good.

Does God Really Want Good Things For You?

What do you mean  by “good?” Yes, God wants what is good for you but He looks at what is  ultimately good. The good things He gives you are not necessarily wealth,  material possessions, or happiness by the world’s standards. If that’s what  you’re looking for, then you may be disappointed.  Instead, God has given you  Himself. His love for you caused Him to send his Son to die for you so that you  could be saved. He has given you the promise of eternal life in heaven. You need  never doubt God’s love and care for you. He
created you and knew you before you  were born (Psalm 139). He delights in you as you follow Him (Psalm 37:23).  Nothing can ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:38, 39).

The good  things He has given you are far beyond anything you could ever ask or  think.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

If God is all-powerful, if God  can do anything to bless His children, why doesn’t He seem to bless you? You are  not an “only” child. God’s care involves all of His children, not just you. It is a childhood fantasy to believe that God exists only to serve your needs.  There is no question about what God can do He can do anything. But He lets  difficult things happen to us so that we might grow up in character. If He gave  us everything we wanted, He wouldn’t really love us. Why? Because many of the  things we want are not good for us. And He is always working for the best, not  just good. Difficult times build character. Not having everything we want  teaches us perspective and helps us to trust. When we face hard times, we are  better able to serve others. When we can go without things we think we must  have, we become spiritually mature.  The “good” thing may have been to not have  the problem in the first place. The “good” thing may be being blessed with what  we want. But the “best” thing is to grow in character and learn to trust God  more. We have indeed been blessed, but in ways that are wonderfully unexpected.

 



Biblical Perspectives on Healing

March 2, 2016

During the worship service this past Sunday, we anointed with oil and laid on hands in prayer for the healing of a lady who is in need of God’s intervention. One man said that it was the first time in his many years in church that he had ever witnessed such an occurrence.

In the Bible health is first and foremost a divine gift. When sickness occurs, the sick turn to God, the Physician of his people, for healing. God and God alone is the ultimate source of all healing. “I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26), says the Lord to Israel. In the New Testament we see that healing is a crucial and integral part of Jesus� earthly ministry. It is estimated that one-fifth to one-third of the Gospel record is related to healings.

As Matthew says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching   the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). And because the biblical view of health is holistic, biblical healing includes the entire person. Thus in Jesus’ healing ministry, he was concerned not only with restoration of physical health but also, indeed primarily, with restoration of relationships with God and others. Because Jesus also believed that sickness and disease may result from an evil agency or demon possession, his healing through exorcism indicates the presence and the power of the kingdom of God. In this new order people are set free from the power and bondage of evil in all its forms and restored to personal wholeness in all its dimensions�physical, mental, relational. Thus, biblical concepts of healing and salvation are integrally related.

In the New Testament, and especially in the healing ministry of Christ, faith is a dominant human factor. In many instances the faith of the sick or someone else’s faith on his behalf appears to be almost a prerequisite for healing (for example, Matthew 8:13; Matthew
9:2,  22, 29; Matthew 15:28). There is also indication either that Jesus cannot heal or that his healing is delayed due to people�s lack of faith (Matthew 13:58;  Matthew 17:20; Mark 6:5-6). Not surprisingly some people today are very preoccupied with the role of faith in healing.

A careful analysis shows that out of the twenty-six healing accounts in the Gospels, faith is mentioned in only twelve. In a number of cases the sick person was not even present when  Jesus was asked to heal him or her. Rather than say Jesus heals where there is faith, we should say that his healing ministry provides an opportunity for human faith to express itself as an indication of the sufferer�s desire to be healed.  This is different from saying that Jesus’ healing power requires the cooperation of human faith or is subjected to human manipulation through faith or the lack  of it. God heals primarily out of mercy (Matthew 14:14; Matthew 20:34; Mark  1:41; Luke 7:13), out of compassion in response to a cry for help (Matthew  15:22; Matthew 17:15; Mark 9:22, 27; Luke 17:13), as a manifestation of divine  glory (John 4:54; John 9:2; John 11:4) and on a few occasions as a fulfillment of Scripture (Matthew 8:16-17; Matthew 11:2-6; Matthew 12:15-21; Luke 7:18-23).  It would be a grave mistake to ask ourselves whether or not we have enough faith  for a certain healing to take place. This is to base healing on our faith and not on God.  One’s faith is not in a healing taking place but in God’s faithfulness, goodness, power and mercy. Our task as healers is to commend the  sick to the Lord, trusting in his loving goodness; our task is not
to predict  what the Lord will specifically do.

Miraculous healing is a special case  of divine providence when the natural order of things is set aside for a particular purpose. In this regard, Christian attitudes are much divided.
There  are those who believe that miraculous healings belong exclusively to the apostolic age and cannot be expected to take place today. If there are miracles to be worked, it is human beings who must work them. At the other extreme are those who believe that healing, including miraculous healing, will always take place if there is faith. In this view Christ has already won these blessings for us through the cross, and all we have to do is to apply the fruits of the redemption to our lives (Matthew 8:16-17; 1 Peter 2:24; compare Isaiah 53:4-5). Christ’s atonement is effective in overcoming both sin and sickness, and
healing  is therefore a birthright of all Christians. The healing ministries of Jesus and his apostles are extendable to our present time through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church. In this most extreme form of triumphalism, the relationship between prayer and healing is absolutely unqualified, with human faith as the only limiting factor.

In between these two poles are those (of which I am one) who take the middle of the road (which I believe is the biblical path), acknowledging the loving goodness and sovereignty of God in healing. This position does not see miracles as impossible.  God can and will   perform miracles when he sees fit to do so. But there is doubt as to God’s desire and intention to perform such healing as a matter of course. The kingdom of God has come and is yet to be consummated, but we have been assured of the final victory over all our diseases and sickness in the final bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15:50-57). At times God heals dramatically, as in the case of Lazarus, but at other times God does not heal at all, as in the case of Paul’s thorn of the flesh. The general will of God is that humankind should be
made whole. But this wholeness may include the shaping of character and
spiritual advancement though the occasion of sickness and
suffering.

Pastor Timothy Mann
Providence Church



Members of the Body

July 31, 2010

As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Table together this coming Sunday, I  am reflecting on what it means to be part of the Body of Christ…even more  specifically what it means to be a member of a local body of believers. In the  early church becoming a Christian meant joining a despised and persecuted sect  in an all-or-nothing way�often with considerable risks involved. 

Today,  in our culture characterized by throwaway  relationships, membership is  something tried on, exchanged, or not practiced  at all. In the United States,  church is treated as a commodity. Many people shop around for the best church  and when they find it, join it, remaining only as long as the church maintains  the excellence of its product�contemporary
worship, good music, great preaching  and a womb-to-tomb program. For their part, many church leaders conform to the  culture and adapt their product to gain a larger share of the market.

For too many people, choosing a church home is like trying to choose a  product as we wander through a supermarket: often we end up relying on  “marketing” to tell us what to do. Most people opt for trying out a number of  churches by attending Sunday services.  Usually this involves taking the  spiritual temperature of the people by assessing the quality of worship and the  friendliness of the people and by tasting the sermon. This method of  discernment is just as illusory as assessing the prospects for a spouse by  attending a series of high-school dances. Worship is much more than worship  services. Worship is not even intended primarily for our benefit and pleasure.  And true fellowship is experienced not in a handshake at the door and a hug  during the service but in sharing all the dimensions of life with other  believers. Sermons are meant to evoke faith, not to entertain.

Tragically, many professing Christians and churches seem to think  membership means simply putting your name on a list that comes with a set of  offering envelopes. Church membership is not for selfish people to use the  church for their own agendas and felt needs. Church membership is not simply a  voluntary, casual association like membership in a country club or civic  organization.

Church membership is for people who have surrendered to  Jesus, love Jesus, love the church, and want to help bring the love and truth of  Jesus to the world. The Bible speaks of church membership in relational terms – as members of one body and as members of the household of God – so that God’s  people live as a gospel community and help one another grow in Christ and reach  others for Christ. (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph.
2:18-19; 3:6; 4:25;  5:29-30.)

Church membership is a commitment made by the believer-member  to the church and by the church to the member. It is a public mutual commitment  to participation in a community of ministry and mission. Members invest their  passion, service, resources, and relationships for the kingdom. They commit to a  life characterized by integrity and
confession of sin. The commitment to  membership means active participation in
ministry, in worship, in fellowship,  and in service for the mission of the
church, along with generous giving and  evangelistic living. Church membership
needs to be reinvented today by returning  to our source document, the New
Testament. It starts with joining God and  continues with joining God�s people.
It continues through a process of  continuous joining as the local body we join
alters and is altered even by  ourselves. This issue of membership turns out to
be a profound spiritual  discipline since it raises important questions about
ourselves, our relationship  with the gospel and the Lord of the gospel.