This was just too good not to share from my reading today.
It would be less than accurate to say that the power of God is always experienced in a direct and unmediated form, for when He so wills the Spirit may use other means as Christ used spittle to heal a blind man. But always the power is above and beyond the means. While the Spirit may use appropriate means to bless a believing man, He never need do so, for they are at best but temporary concessions made to our ignorance and unbelief. Where adequate power is present almost any means will suffice, but where the power is absent not all the means in the world can secure the desired end. The Spirit of God may use a song, a sermon, a good deed, a text or the mystery and majesty of nature, but always the final work will be done by the pressure of the inliving Spirit upon the human heart.
In the light of this it will be seen how empty and meaningless is the average church service today. All the means are in evidence; the one ominous weakness is the absence of the Spirit’s power. The form of godliness is there, and often the form is perfected till it is an aesthetic triumph. Music and poetry, art and oratory, symbolic vesture and solemn tones combine to charm the mind of the worshiper, but too often the supernatural afflatus* is not there. The power from on high is neither known nor desired by pastor or people. This is nothing less than tragic, and all the more so because it falls within the field of religion where the eternal destinies of men are involved.
To the absence of the Spirit may be traced that vague sense of unreality which almost everywhere invests religion in our times. In the average church service the most real thing is the shadowy unreality of everything. The worshiper sits in a state of suspended thought; a kind of dreamy numbness creeps upon him; he hears words but they do not register; he cannot relate them to anything on his own life-level. He is conscious of having entered a kind of half-world; his mind surrenders itself to a more or less pleasant mood which passes with the benediction, leaving no trace behind. It does not affect anything in his everyday life. He is aware of no power, no presence, no spiritual reality. There is simply nothing in his experience corresponding to the things which he heard from the pulpit or sang in the hymns.
Aiden Wilson Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007). 90-92.
* afflatus /əˈfleɪtəs/ noun formal a divine creative impulse or inspiration. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Walk the Aisle | Christian History
Walk the Aisle
Popularized by frontier camp meetings and Charles Finney’s “anxious bench,” the altar call became an evangelistic staple of American churches.
Douglas A. Sweeney and Mark C. Rogers
Walk the Aisle
The pastor closes his sermon: “The Holy Spirit bids you come. The congregation, praying, hoping, expectant, bids you come. On the first note of the first stanza, come down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles. May angels attend you. May the Holy Spirit of God encourage you. May the presence of Jesus walk by your side as you come, while we stand and while we sing.” And come they do. Week after week, in churches all across the America—and other parts of the world—scenes like this play out at the end of thousands of sermons. The congregation stands and sings “Just As I Am” or “Come Just as You Are.” Sinners walk the aisle and pray for salvation.
This common evangelistic method, known as the altar call or the public invitation, has not always been around. Successful evangelists such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley never gave an altar call. In fact, they did not even know what it was. They invited their hearers passionately to come to Christ by faith and regularly counseled anxious sinners after their services. But they did not call sinners to make a public, physical response after evangelistic appeals. So where did the altar call come from? When did it begin?
As always, a thought provoking article from MacDonald. Good reading for the new year on the whole.
I would suggest the Pursuit of God to help with this quest.
Take Time to Be What? – LeadershipJournal.net
Take Time to Be What?
A classic hymn shows why holiness is scarce these days.
by Gordon MacDonald
In the early 1880s, William D. Longstaff wrote a poem that later became a hymn called “Take Time to Be Holy.” In my branch of church tradition, we often sang this hymn. As a kid I considered it uninspiring (sorry, Mr. Longstaff), and I groaned whenever the song leader announced it. Today, decades later, I have taken a fresh look at the song and reconsidered my earlier appraisal. There’s substance here.
Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord,
Abide in him always,
And feed on his word.
Make friends of God’s children;
Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing his blessing to seek.
There are three more verses to Longstaff’s hymn, and the second verse is also worth quoting:
Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret
With Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus
Like him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct his likeness shall see.
Baptist Press – Why revival tarries – News with a Christian Perspective
Why revival tarries
Posted on Jul 2, 2007
ATLANTA (BP)–Ezekiel 18:31b-32 is the heart cry of God to His covenant people, Israel: “‘… why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore, turn and live!'” God had just reminded His people that if “a righteous man turns away from his righteousness … and dies … it is because of the iniquity that he has done that he dies” (Ezekiel 18:24-26, 26).
Wreck the Roof – LeadershipJournal.net
Wreck the Roof
Are you willing to take apart the church to bring people to Jesus?
by Mark Buchanan
I’ve never met a pastor who didn’t agree in some measure with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian during WWII. From his cell in the Flossenburg concentration camp, he wrote, “The church is only the church when it exists for others.”