Spirit of the Living God, Break Me in Pieces

Holy Spirit 2

For all the “broken” people who know the reality of need:

“You see,” Dr. Iverson said, “If you are broken, you don’t have to ask to be used.  God delights to use broken people.  That’s the only way to be filled [with the Spirit] and it’s the only way to become useable.”

See this link for the article: Spirit of the Living God, Break Me in Pieces

How We Destroy Spiritual Formation at its Initiation

Question:  How significant in your discipleship process is the teaching that Christ is coming again and that we ought to live today as if Christ might come today, everyday?

Source: How We Destroy Spiritual Formation at its Initiation

How Harvard Shaped the Nation (long ago)

The following historical time-capsule is from Kairos Journal. It is a great reminder that great beginnings do not necessarily end well. Harvard had a great evangelistic thrust for the gospel at its inception but not so much anymore. Whatever the gain for the nation in terms of its present structure, it is a loss for the nation that such a spiritual heritage has been abandoned. 

All things spiritual tend to a downward spiral without constant spiritual and doctrinal vigilance. And that is a good lesson to learn for denominations, churches, and individual Christians too.

harvard-universityThe Rise of the Pastor-Scholar

When Sir Walter Mildmay founded Emmanuel College in Cambridge in 1584, he planted a seedbed for a new sort of minister: the preacher/scholar/pioneer. Wave after wave of committed graduates, who initially made vigorous attempts to reform the English church, soon set sail to settle colonies in America committed to the glory of God.1 The vision of Emmanuel College took root on the shores of the New World. Harvard College, the first university in North America, was greatly benefited by John Harvard. An Emmanuel graduate, John Harvard bequeathed half his fortune and his entire library to the school to ensure that an educated clergy served the needs of these intrepid pilgrims. The commitment of a university in service to Church and society contributed greatly to the brimming promise of the American experiment and ongoing renewal in England.

Emmanuel College emerged at just the right time. The Church of England was in dire straits at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth I (1558). In the first full decade of her reign, an ignorant clergy often prevented the clear preaching of the gospel of Christ.2 Across England: “virtually everywhere preaching resources were inadequate and over-stretched.”3 Godly leaders drew attention to the need for able pastors. The problem was clear: from what well would the hundreds of competent preachers spring? The answer was simple: the universities.

For various cultural and political reasons, evangelicals gained control of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the 1560s. Realizing the importance of these institutions, they quickly placed their best theologians in teaching positions. Young men were schooled both in the Scriptures and in the budding theological writings of Calvin, Bullinger, and the confessions.4 Moreover, in Cambridge several new colleges were established to train godly clergy: Emmanuel (1584) and Sidney Sussex (1596).

The situation in England changed quickly and dramatically. In 1568, one bishop could write of the “abundant crop of pious young men in our universities.”5 By 1573 Cambridge could claim to have trained 450 preachers and by 1600 half the clergy in England were graduates.6

Of course, universities alone could not provide an educated ministry. Christians in Britain began schools to produce qualified candidates for ministerial service. Consequently, literacy increased dramatically; both pastors and people could actually read their Bibles. Their American counterparts took the project even further. When Second Church in Boston sought to call Michael Powell, a pious and literate but not academically prepared man, as their pastor, the Puritan town fathers opposed the move. “[I]f such men intrude themselves into the sacred functions [of the ministry],” they concluded, “there is danger of bringing the profession into contempt.”7

Thanks to the efforts of these 16th century English Reformers, pastors became the most respected thinkers in their communities. They realized that education matters, especially for those whose charge is to rightly divide the word of truth. Within a few decades, they turned England around and set sound foundations for America, in great measure because they harnessed the power of theological education. It is imperative that pastors today regain this ancient perspective—that they be dynamic, well-informed leaders of their churches and communities; if not, they risk being further marginalized to the boundaries of the culture.

Footnotes:

1  This exodus began to take place in the early decades following 1620.
2  For example, in 1560, a survey in the diocese of Peterborough revealed only nine competent preachers from 166 clergy. See Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 268.
3  Ibid., 268.
4  For more on the expansion of Calvin’s influence in England and broader Europe, see Alister McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 196-202.
5  Haigh, Ibid., 270.
6  In the words of Reformation historian Christopher Haigh, “the supply of educated evangelists boomed.” Ibid., 271.
7  Town father, Richard Mather, as recounted in Harry Stout, The New England Soul (New York: Oxford University Press), 57

Sunday Musing

What I’m Thinking about This Evening

Green Fields in Allegheny Mountains

“It is true that those in the first flush of faith often are given unusual graces of the Spirit, just  like a new baby is cuddled and pampered. It is also true that some of the deepest experiences of alienation and separation from God have come to those who have traveled far into the interior realms of faith. But we can enter the bleak deserts of barrenness and the dark canyons of anguish at any number of point in our sojourn.”

Since there is no special sequence in the life of prayer, we simply do not move from one stage to the next knowing, for example, that at stages five and twelve we will experience abandonment by God. Of course, it would be much easier if that were the case, but then we would be describing a mechanical arrangement rather than a living relationship.”

—Richard J. Foster
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 19

I preached on Psalm 51 today at the Chinese Christian Union Church in Chinatown, Chicago. It is always a sobering text. David describes his remorse and his desire for forgiveness in raw language that lays bear his soul and reveals that he has come to grips with the evil and wickedness of his choices. 

He had lusted, committed adultery, murdered, and covered it all up. But God had seen it all. He knows his sin has the character of Pesha–an open rebellion against the will and ways of God. He uses the word Chata–a moral failure to do the righteous thing. And finally, he uses the word Avon–a deliberate choosing to go in the wrong direction. He examines his heart and finds out that he has been this way (a wayward, rebellious, and a moral failure) all his life and so he asks that God might blot out his transgressions and hide His face from all of his sins (vs. 8). He asks God to give him a completely new heart, creating something that was never there before (cf. vs 5 with vs. 10).

I want a heart like David’s. 

I just don’t always like the process it is going to take.

Men and women of God who mean business with God take sin very seriously (Jeremiah 4:1-4). And when they find sin in their heart, they do what David did:

  1. They plead for mercy  (1-2)
  2. They confess their sin (3-6)
  3. They request forgiveness (7-9)
  4. They express a desire for renewed relationship (10-12)
  5. Express a desire to be different (13-15)
    and when they do those things
  6. They gain a new perspective on life (16-17) and a
  7. New vision for life (18-19)

And that means a life of prayerful confession, a life of constant seeking after God, a relentless pursuit of holiness through all the battles of life. Through the battles that are thick with moment and importance and through all the mundane moments, the everyday-ness of life.  

I’ve written about the constancy of the battle in other places, most notably perhaps in a post titled, Why I Hate Prayer

David knew the battle was constant too. That’s why he prayed, “renew in me a steadfast spirit (vs. 10b). 

Let’s wake up every morning called “today” and pray the same prayer.

Haunting Quotes Filled with Truth

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Madeleine L’Engle.

“O God, give me grace to be a light to the world. Give me joy in showing mercy and the humility that is appropriate for a sinner who has no righteousness apart from the righteousness of Christ imputed to me. In Jesus name and for His glory I ask it.”

You Aren’t Growing as a Christian Because You Don’t Need Him

Originally posted in September of 2010 but still a problem in the church (and in my own life). The reason we aren’t progressing, growing and becoming more like Jesus will shock you.

You aren’t growing as a Christian because you don’t need him. “But,” you say, “I do need him. Without Christ, I have no forgiveness of sins,…

Source: You Aren’t Growing as a Christian Because You Don’t Need Him