Being Still and Knowing God

I have had some good discussions since Monday’s posting on Psalm 46:10. One of these was with my dad – who constantly challenges me with what God is teaching him. He noted that one of the ways we really get to know God is through exploring the ways He knows us. Psalm 139 is rich with ways that God knows us. He initiates and we respond in worship.

Psalm 139

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

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Be Still

Why is it so hard to slow down and be still? I think part of it is the spirit of this age and part of it is our own self absorbed nature. We love to do things because it makes us feel better about ourselves and look better to others. The problem is that some of us never really get to know God. There is nothing so humbling to this flesh than stopping what we are doing—yet it is in quietness and simplicity that we come to know God. Even running through a daily checklist for devotions may even be contributing to our problem because often God isn’t a part of it at all.

We need to learn to slow down and be still, to be alone with Him, spend time with him, and enjoy it. We need to come to the place where we really take the time to glory in His perfections and respond in wholehearted worship—with a thirst for more. The Psalmist said, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (46:10). I feel this needs to be shouted into my life on a regular basis because even after all these years, I can tend to fill up my life with activity rather than with Him.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Looking Ahead

One of the primary reasons I write on a blog is that I feel a great sense of responsibility to the next generation. I believe God in His sovereignty and grace has placed me in a unique position that allows me to help young men and women in ministry. More and more I see new ways I might encourage a generation that really seems to “get it.” I am as excited about this as anything else I am doing right now in ministry.

Today I think a lot about ways we can help move young people forward. Sharing about the things we got right can be helpful, but we also need to be honest about the things we didn’t get right—the things we got wrong. As we look back, we see that some corrections and adjustments are in order. With every generation there is a tendency to amalgamate theology, culture, and pragmatism into one set of beliefs. At first “our own world of belief” seems very natural, but as time goes on the problems are exposed.

This generation is sorting out how a biblical church should look in 2012 and we need to help them process this without protecting “our own world of belief.” I have found that young people really are eager to dig into the Word and find out what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). They also appreciate a healthy discussion and want to learn from us.

Those who have a few decades of ministry experience now have an incredible opportunity—not to widen the gap with this next generation, but to close it. When we sit down with our sons in the faith, we can take confidence that God’s Word is sufficient to guide all of us from where we are to where we need to be. Let’s be honest, humble, transparent, and elevate the Word with this next generation. Then we can be part of something much bigger than what we’ve ever known.

JFK at Clearwater Christian College

I was with Jack and Cathy Klem this weekend at Clearwater Christian College. Jack follows Dick Stratton as the fifth president and was inaugurated on Friday. Over the last ten years we have felt a very strong connection and shared philosophy of ministry with Dick and the people at Clearwater. We have also shared a great love and respect for Jack over the years and are very excited to see him step into this role. His challenge at the end of the service made me want to stand up and shout. He reminded us all that our institutions are here to serve the church. Amen!

Focus Week at Northland with Tim Jordan

Tim Jordan is our guest speaker for Focus Week. He started off preaching in I John and Paul Whitt said after Tuesday morning’s message, “Awesome message! Needs to be preached in every Christian college and school across the country.” I could not agree more. Tim has a unique way of opening the text and driving home the truth in very clear ways. You can find the messages posted at our website.

My Thanks to the Patz Family

This past week I had another opportunity to meet with the Patz family. Northland’s founder, Paul Patz, is with the Lord, but his children have also been engaged with the ministry from the very beginning by leading, building, serving, and giving. They have literally poured their lives and resources into Northland in sacrificial measure and still care deeply about its future. Ten years ago they handed me a trust and stewardship. It has always been incredibly important to me how they see things. I could not have gone away from this last meeting more encouraged. They have been very supportive of me as a president.

I thank the Lord for our founder. No man could have been more perfectly fitted for this calling—God gave him children who carried the vision, the passion, and the balance. This gives those of us at Northland even greater confidence as we press on toward a healthier, more vibrant ministry—preparing a new generation to ignite gospel movements worldwide. We not only share a gratitude for the past but a renewed excitement for our future.

Thank you, Patz family.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Mercy Me

Today Paul Tripp emailed out his weekly “Wednesday’s Word” and I found it encouraging. Since it comes in an email format and is not posted on his website I’ve included it below for you to consider.

It was one of those moments you want to take back. It was one of those times when you go where your desires and emotions are leading you. It was one of those situations when you know you should stop or walk away but feel you can’t. And it was one of those moments when afterward you are confronted with the sin that still lives inside of you. Yes, it was one of those moments.

It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live every day. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision.

We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.

So I knew I couldn’t back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. “I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation.” These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

Isn’t this interesting? Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. No, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.

Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because when you’re convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I’m in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument.

I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am.

But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, and it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!

God bless

Paul David Tripp

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Fishing with Howard

Here is Howard Patz with one of the three nice size Bass he caught on our annual fishing trip this summer. Howard is chairman of the board here at Northland and has taken me fishing every year since we moved to Wisconsin. It has been a great time to fish, fellowship, and catch up on life. We even talk a little business. Then we enjoy a fish fry right in the boat! It is quite the event.

As much as Howard loves to fish, there is something he enjoys much more—fishing for men. Whenever we get together there is always another story of someone coming to Christ. I am so blessed to work for a man who always keeps before him what matters most! For Howard, every day is a day for fishing.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

On Controversy

A good friend passed along something he read from John Newton not all that long ago. Reading this was a great challenge to my heart and I found it quite appropriate when considering many of the controversies within Christianity and the world. The original source of this post can be found at the Ligonier blog.

A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied as follows:

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

Consider Your Opponent

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

Consider the Public

By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

Consider Yourself

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.

Excerpt from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.”

Meeting with Good Brothers

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to speak at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC, where Stephen Davey is pastor. While I have known Stephen for many years, and still remember when he planted this church, we have not done a good job in staying in touch. This was a great reconnect and a very encouraging day for both Diane and I. We were extremely impressed with the ministry of the church and were also surprised with how many people we knew! It was especially encouraging to meet up with a number of Northland alumni.

Sunday evening we drove up to Virgina Beach, VA to spend a couple of days with my parents. I was able also to enjoy some good fellowship with my friend Daniel Davey (Stephen’s brother). Daniel is pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Virgina Beach. It was another uplifting time. As we head home, my heart is full of thanksgiving to God for two brothers who have great passion for Christ and His church.

Here is what I found common with both of them:

  1. A high view of Scripture, theology, and expository preaching
  2. A serious and meaningful approach to worship
  3. A commitment to Great Commission work both at home and abroad
  4. A demonstration of servant leadership
  5. A serious and intentional approach to preparing young men for ministry through seminary training.

I am thankful for these brothers!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.