Archive for the 'Church Heroes' Category

12
May
09

A Life Well Lived

photoYesterday, I received a phone call I knew would one day come.  The call told me to hurry to my grandmother’s bedside.  The doctor said the body was a lot like a computer, and grandma’s was in the process of slowly shutting down.

I jumped in the car and met the rest of my family there.  We sang songs, read Scripture, told stories, laughed, and cried.  The whole time she sat there with her eyes barely open, unable to speak, but you knew she was listening and enjoying the attention.

She gave her life to God’s service.  She married a preacher and followed him faithfully in support, love, and prayer.  She was a worshipper, a prayer warrior, a friend, a listener, and a pillar of faith.

As I sat by her bed to say goodbye for what I think will be the last time, I looked in her eyes and said, “Grandma, I love you.  Thank you for staying faithful to grandpa, and playing the organ for him all those years, for listening and supporting him while he preached the gospel in good times and bad.  Thank you for the love you showed, for all the fried chicken you cooked for so many, and for the grits and bacon.  Thank you for your example and constant prayer.  I’ve been so fortunate to have you in my life.”

Here was a life well lived and now she’s going on to her greater reward.  May we remember that our lives are so short, and may we live our lives in light of our eternal home!

2 Timothy 4:6-8 – 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

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21
Apr
09

A.W. Tozer’s Education

I hear people say sometimes, “I wish I was smarter than I am.”  I’ve actually said the same thing. Did you know you can be if you want to be?aw_tozer2

One of the greatest pastors and authors of the 20th century was AW Tozer.  31 years of his ministry was spent pastoring the Southside Alliance Tabernacle in Chicago.  While serving there he wrote 9 books.  The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy were his greatest works, and are growing in popularity still today.  He had a weekly radio program – Talks From a Pastor’s Study.  He was a well-known conference speaker, and he served as the editor for the Alliance Witness – the main publication for the Missionary Alliance denomination.

Amazingly, AW Tozer never graduated from high school.  He tried it for a few weeks, but he figured he could learn more on his own.  And that he did.  He was a voracious reader; gobbling up everything he could get his hands on.

Part of his weekly routine on Monday and Wednesday was to take a trip to the local library.  His arms would be loaded down with books, either returning them or bringing back a new batch to digest.  One church member reflected, “You could tear the house down and Tozer wouldn’t know it.” (The Life of AW Tozer, James Snyder, pg. 68)

His great spiritual strength though lay in his desire for God’s presence.  When he preached those in the congregation could sense the power of God.

So, college or no college, you can be smarter.  Choose today to be a life long learner!  Remember leaders are readers!

19
Mar
09

What Paul and Tyndale Wanted Most

2 Timothy 4:13 – When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.115553-004-d76bbf3a

Paul, in the final chapter of his meaningful life, was in a cold, Roman prison cell awaiting execution.  Writing to Timothy he makes a personal request for his coat.  He then asks also for the books, and then, “above all the parchments.”

Their books were not bound books like you and I have.  Their books were scrolls.  We don’t know for sure, but probably Paul’s scrolls contained the earliest portions of the gospels.

The parchments were more than likely the Hebrew Scriptures.  When copies of the Old Testament were made great care was taken.  Those sacred words were written on special parchment made from animal skins.  This tells us a lot about Paul.  In his darkest moment, facing death, he wanted the Word of God more than anything . 

William Barclay, in his commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy, makes an interesting historical connection, showing how history often repeats itself.  1500 years later William Tyndale was in prison, awaiting execution.  Tyndale lived in a day when there was no modern English translations of the Bible.  It was all in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin.  The average person couldn’t read it.  People didn’t have Bibles in their homes, and the established church wanted it that way.  Tyndale knew that wasn’t right.  So, he had the nerve to translate the entire Bible into Modern English.  He then used the newly invented printing press, and made copies in mass.  For the first time Bibles were everywhere.  For this Tyndale was arrested, imprisoned, and convicted as a heretic.  He was then strangled to death while tied at the stake, and his dead body was burned.

While waiting his execution William Tyndale wrote to a friend and this is what he asked for – “Send me, for Jesus’s sake, a warmer cap, something to patch my leggings, a woolen shirt, and above all my Hebrew Bible.”

When pressed by life, the spiritual giants wanted the Word of God more than anything because they knew it would strengthen and encourage their souls.  When life presses you, what do you reach for?  Something to just numb the pain, distract you for a few hours.  God’s Word can be a friend to you.  It is always there – the Word of Life.  It will not just numb the pain.  It will feed your very soul.  

28
Jan
09

Let’s Be Links in the Great Chain

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  (2 Timothy 2:2)supply-chain

Paul says, “Take what you’ve learned and entrust it to faithful men who can then teach others also.”  For Christianity to survive this “passing along” has to happen.  We have to continue building the chain. We are actually links in a chain that stretches all the way back to Christ.

I read a great example of this from Kent Hughes commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy.  He writes about how in the early 17th century Dr. Richard Sibbes wrote a little book about Christ called The Bruised Reed.  A copy of that book somehow ended up in the hands of a tin peddler, who then gave it to a boy named Richard Baxter.  Richard Baxter read that and was so influenced by it.  He later became one of the greatest Puritan pastors in all of church history.  Baxter then wrote, A Call to the Unconverted.

Philip Doddridge read that in the early 18th century, and then he wrote, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.  William Wilberforce read that book, and it so changed his life that he wanted to lead the fight for the abolition of slavery.  And that’s what happened, Just three days before his death, Wilberforce had such an impact on British culture that slavery was outlawed.  Today, Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, looks at Wilberforce as one of his greatest heroes and sources of inspiration. 

Do you see the chain?  For Christianity to survive this chain has to be maintained and added to.  We have it to pass it on to others.  God works through generations.  I want to encourage you today to be faithful.  You may never preach a sermon or write a book, but your life, your words, your actions are sending a message.  You can be a part of this great chain, passing the Christian faith on to future generations.   

17
Sep
08

Seek Not Great Things For Yourself

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was the greatest preacher of his generation.  Interestingly though, Spurgeon was never college trained, and was never officially ordained.  He did have a voracious appetite to read, and his mind retained almost everything he studied.  Most importantly, he had a passionate love for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and a desire and gift to preach.  At just 17 years of age he became the pastor of a little Baptist church in the village of Waterbach.

He was really happy serving in that little country church.  Many were coming to know the Lord.  But Charles’ father, Joseph Spurgeon, an experienced pastor, wanted something more for his son.  He wanted him to attend Stepney College, the leading Baptist College in England.  Graduating from Stepney would put the stamp of approval on Spurgeon’s ministry.  Spurgeon didn’t want to go.  He loved that little village church, but reluctantly he followed his father’s advice.

To be accepted into the program, prospective students had to be interviewed by the college principal.  Charles set up his interview and arrived one time.  A maid answered the door and brought him into a sitting room.  He waited there for a couple of hours with no sign of the principal.  Frustrated, he left the room and found the maid only to discover that she had shown the principal into another room on the opposite side of the house.  The principal had waited and waited, but finally left to catch a train.  Charles’ interview never happened.

He left that day, and as he walked and thought about what happened he heard the voice of the Lord in his heart, “Seekest thou great things for thyself?  Seek them not!”  Right away his heart felt a peace.  He knew that he was God’s minister already.  God was sending him back to that little village church to preach.  Worldly praise and attention wasn’t something that was to drive his life.

Interestingly enough, just a short while later Spurgeon would receive the invitation that would forever change his life.  He was invited to preach and later to pastor New Park Street Baptist Church in London.  He would spend the next 40 years of his life ministering in that church.  A great revival would breakout in that church that would touch all of London.  Because Spurgeon listened to God, walked humbly, and didn’t seek great things for himself, he was free to step into this divine opportunity.  Spurgeon would later refer to that missed interview as, “the Lord’s hand behind the maid’s mistake.” (Spurgeon – A New Bigoraphy, Arnold Dallimore, 2005)

God help us to be humble.  God help us to submit our plans to him, and then allow him to change them as he sees fit.  What a tragic thing to forge our own path and miss God’s best.  May we, like Spurgeon, seek not great things for ourselves.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?

Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing…”

10
Sep
08

Lessons From the Life of Peter Cartwright

I want to tell you the story of a man who had a heart to reach the lost.  His name was Peter Cartwright.  Peter was born in southern Virginia, right next to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  After the revolutionary war his family moved to Kentucky, to Logan County, just a mile from the Tennessee state line. Peter grew up in a tough area.  It was known as “Rogues Harbor” because there were a lot of crooked people living there – horse thieves, bandits, and killers. (http://www.jonasclark.com/Peter_Cartwright.htm)

Like the Cartwrights, many moved west for more affordable land in the early 1800’s.  But, as people headed west, the churches stayed back, and the reason why is because they didn’t have enough ministers.  To be a minister in the mainline churches that were prominent at this time, the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, you needed a seminary education.  Their seminaries were unable to produce enough ministers to keep up with the fast expansion westward.  So, the people in Rogues Harbor and in other communities in the untamed west had no strong churches around.

The Wild West literally became a wild place in some areas, with very little knowledge of God, the Bible, or spiritual things.  Drunkenness was a huge problem.  One pastor wanted to show the dangers of strong drink.  He placed a worm in a glass of wine.  It wiggled.  He took the worm from the wine and placed into a glass of whiskey and it curled up and died. “There,” the pastor said. “What does that tell you?”  A man in the crowd shouted, “It shows that if you drink whiskey you won’t have worms.”  It was a really dark time for the west.  Who would reach these people? (http://chi.gospelcom.net/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps085.shtml)

It was about this time that a new movement began to take shape – the Methodists, under the leadership of a circuit riding preacher named Francis Asbury.  Asbury would travel most of his adult life on horseback, building the church for God in America.  They operated a little differently. 

To be a minister, no seminary education was needed, just a love for Jesus and the Bible.  The times were too desperate.  When someone gave their life to Christ and felt called to the ministry Asbury gave them a Bible, a hymn book, a copy of the Methodist disciplines, and a strong horse and sent them out to preach. 

In hopes of reaching as much of the west as possible they created circuits for these ministers to travel.  They became known as the circuit-riding preachers.  The average circuit covered about 100’s of miles and it took many months to travel as the conditions were often very treacherous with bad weather, swollen rivers, and rough terrain.  The circuit riding preacher endured going from town to town proclaiming the gospel, gathering new Christians in fellowship, and into small groups that would eventually become Methodist churches.

Peter Cartwright grew up in Rogues Harbor and became a wild teenager.  He loved to gamble, dance, and party his life away.   But, his mother was a strong Christian and prayed for him often.  In a camp meeting at 16 years of age, convicted of his sins, he gave his life to Christ and at once joined the Methodist movement. Within two years he became a circuit-riding preacher.  (http://www.famousamericans.net/petercartwright/)

It wasn’t easy.  There was not a lot of money in it.  It was often discouraging.  After preaching to crowds Peter Cartwright was often overwhelmed with discouragement over his own lack of education, and weak speaking skills, so much so that he wanted to quit.

Also, in these wild towns there were drunks and rebels who wanted to cause trouble, especially at church meetings.  They were called “rowdies”. Often rowdies disrupted Cartwright’s meetings threatening to whoop him.  When they disrupted his meeting, with threats of violence Peter would often respond, “Let’s step out into the woods and see you do it.”  He was a wilderness man and knew how to take care of business. (http://chi.gospelcom.net/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps085.shtml)

Crowds soon flocked to hear him. Throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois, Cartwright preached to crowds, speaking three hours at a stretch, several times a week.  They estimate that 10,000 came to Christ through his ministry.  Thousands were baptized.  He was used mightily of God to help save a nation from itself as it moved westward, because he responded to the opportunity that came divinely to him.  The Methodist church at first in America was ridiculed and despised, frowned upon.  But in a few years the Methodists would grow to be the largest most influential movement in America because of the desire to reach the lost at any cost through men like Peter Cartwright. (http://www.forgottenword.org/cartwright.html)

Today, we don’t have to face rowdies disrupting church, just an occasional cry from a screaming kid.  We don’t have to wait for a circuit-riding preacher to come through town. Churches are all around.  We have nice homes and paved roads, schools, and businesses.  So much has changed, and yet I believe our community is still a lot like Rogues Harbor where Cartwright grew up.  People today are just as lost, just as empty, just as desperate, just as needy, just as sinful, and under the judgment of God, trying to fill the emptiness inside with worldly things.  We just hide it better.

Maybe you feel under qualified.  Remember Peter Cartwright.  The man was from the sticks.  He had no education, but his heart was for the lost.  God took what little he had and saved thousands of souls.  God can use you too!  You may not save thousands, but what if you could reach one?  What could be more important than that?  Nothing in this world.

Col. 4:3-5 – 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity