“God will make their names break forth as the light”

Posted by Rural Missourian on Jul 19th, 2008

When I first came into the ministry many years ago a good brother and fellow pastor in the Lord, who oversaw and helped me in the early days of pastoring, gave my wife and I excellent counsel, which has proved immensely helpful. Among the many things he shared there were two that stood out.

First, he said that sometimes those whom you help and risk the most for will hurt you the most later. My wife and I have learned this painful lesson more than once and likely will for years to come, as it is one of the unavoidable hazards of the ministry. It’s a risk for anyone who makes themselves vulnerable in helping people in need. The Apostle Paul surely had his share of painful experiences. “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:9-10). I believe this also one of the reasons that some eventually leave the work of the ministry in seeking to distance themselves from the pain and frustration that comes from betrayal.

Second, he said that no matter what you say or do slander will eventually come and the temptation will be great to spend hours in angst trying to defend your name and honor, a futile effort and tremendous waste of time. His advise to us: “Do not waste one minute seeking to clear your name with those that slander you for it is better a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly” (Pro. 17:12). The more one tries to clear their name, the worse it gets, like sinking into quicksand.

This advice has proved quite valuable. I also greatly appreciate the sage council of Jeremiah Burroughs, a well-known Puritan preacher of the 1600’s, who came under all kinds of suspicion (from “bad reports” . . . slander) back in the “good old days” of the Great Reformation, Let not men therefore who are of public use, having their consciences clear, yet because they under suspicion, throw off all in anger. Such a temptation many lie under, but let them know this temptation cannot prevail but upon the distemper of their hearts, the exceedingly sinful forwardness of their spirits. They should trust God with their names, their esteem, and their honor, and go on in their work. The only way to deliver themselves from suspicion is their constant industry and faithfulness in all opportunities of service which God puts into their hands, and the more quietness of spirit and the less noise they go on with, the sooner will the suspicions they were under wash off and vanish to nothing. God will make their names break forth as the light. Those weeds, having no ground to take root, will wither and die away. This gem comes from an excellent book by Burroughs, Irenicum, Healing the Divisions Among God’s People, which I highly recommend.

Burroughs’ counsel is truly sound, as it is biblically proactive in preaching and living out the Gospel, which glorifies Christ, and not reactive, which leads to nowhere and glorifies no one. We must learn to extinguish the nagging fear that as the slander continues and goes unanswered the less likely one will ever recover from it. What hurts the most, however, is the slander made against one’s family and congregation. Even though we were warned by the Apostle Paul that persecution would come, Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12), it’s hard to believe that any blessing will come of it, especially when one is aware of their own sin and weaknesses, as though we deserve the slander. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake (Mat. 5:11). I believe the blessings come when we truly surrender our name, esteem, and honor to the Lord and leave them in His hands, something that I am slowly learning to do, which comes with great peace. Though the thought occasionally crosses one’s mind to move to the remote regions of Australia’s Outback to live a quite life of a mule farmer, it is, nonetheless, always right to stay under the humbling hand of God where He has you, no matter how painful or difficult. One is nowhere safer than in the middle of the will of God.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)

One last observation: in the spiritual battle we are all called to fight we are told by the Apostle Paul to take up the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. I think many of us primarily think of these darts as those aimed directly at us, but we also must learn to extinguish those slanderous darts aimed at others that come to our ears, less we receive them and thereby be poisoned against them. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body (Pro. 26:22). We must never think that we are exempt from the warnings of God’s word, as though we can eat the tasty treats of a talebearer and be unaffected by its poison. — The Rural Missourian

A Good Thunderstorm

Posted by Rural Missourian on Jul 18th, 2008

Our resident Mizzurah poet, good friend, and sister in Christ, Jan Wyller, knows how much I like a good thunderstorm, which we have plenty of here in the show-me-state. Below is a poem she wrote for me about them. It’s an awesome sight to behold a furious thunderstorm roll through at night from the balcony seat of an upstairs window of our home. The incredibly spectacular light shows and deafening booms thrill me, as I know my Maker and Lord ordains these storms. They not only speak to me of His absolute majesty and wonderful glory, but also of His humbling justice and holiness.  Thanks Jan.

¡THUNDERSTORM!

God’s gracious countenance

Shines often

on us,

BUT

I love a good thunderstorm!

to let its winds whish ’round,

pummel me with tepid rain,

to hear heaven’s rifles crack –

BOOM!

not reporting (whom, or) what they shot,

Echoing away, Deeper volleys encoring . . .

I love to see, sharp against the bullying dark,

some distant

torched tree a-sizzle,

Love laughing, watching your hair

frizzle, stand erect

in electric air!

Ozone’s fruity fragrance teases

nose-zones.

Greening above announces: ¿HAIL!?

YES!

Under grey-yellow skies,

we picked (and ate) from flat green grass

its icy globes

dropped just for us!

I’m grateful His summer cycle’s

not tight,

Its clean freewheeling blessing’s

Bright, warm—

But

I still love a good

THUNDERSTORM!

“Evil Will Not Let You Alone”

Posted by Rural Missourian on Jul 14th, 2008

There is a quote from Charles Spurgeon that has had real meaning for me lately. You must either be overcome of evil, or you must yourself overcome evil: one of the two. You cannot let evil alone and evil will not let you alone. You must fight, and in the battle you must either conquer or be conquered. The words before us remind me of the saying of the Scotch officer to the Highland regiment when he brought them up in front of the enemy and said, “Lads, there they are: if ye dinna [don’t] kill them, they’ll kill you.” So does Paul marshal us in front of evil, and like a wise general he puts us on our mettle by saying, “Overcome, or be overcome.”

One thing I can really bear witness to is that evil will not let you alone, no matter how much you seek to live a quite life of peace as a follower of Jesus Christ (2Tim. 3:12). This has been painfully true in the small community I live where taking a stand for the Lord in the public square, especially in seeking to establish a just government accountable to the people, has brought a nonstop attack by a small handful of individuals obsessed with lighting fires of slander and lies fueled from whole cloth to stir folks against each other and to cause a constant state of hatred and confusion. The level of verbal attack by these human agents of hell tells me that our simple desire to see an honest and upright government established here and the fact we have taken real steps to see it through is something the enemy of God greatly fears and resists vigorously.

We are confronted with two choices. We can either stand our ground in fear and trembling before the Lord, looking to Him to make the way . . . or retreat in pragmatic compromise, driven by fear to placate those who hate God in hope they will leave us alone and grant us a measure of “peace,” of course temporal, which I believe American Christendom has been guilty of for the last several generations. But the fact of the matter is that evil will not let you alone. The peeling veneer of peace between true Christians and the rising God-hating paganism that dominates our nation is growing ever thin. Though one can still flee to the relative quietness of an isolated rural life, the battle is at the door whether one likes it or not, and someday soon there will be no where to flee the spiritual battle.

I believe the day is soon coming when Christians will greatly regret having not undertook the battle when they still could come together to take a stand. That their shameful efforts in blending in with our pagan society so as not to “rock the boat” in hope that evil would pass by them (so they could live their lives without conflict while preserving their little financial kingdoms) will be repented of by them in agonizing heartache and pain, as they find themselves alone and surrounded with few, if any, who will stand beside them because the risk to do right is too costly. I speak from the little but costly experience I have had here; true liberty and good government comes at a huge PERSONAL price that most people are unwilling to pay.

I thank the Lord for the saints here that have come together in standing the ground given them by the Lord . . . standing, as it were, back to back in pressing the cause of Christ in the public square. Yes, we are greatly outnumbered here, but numbers have never been as issue with the Lord, only with the Lord’s people who, through fear and compromise, will quickly settle for the lesser of two evils if they can win a “majority.” As few as my fellow brothers and sisters are here, they have stood their ground faithfully, and I am honored and humbled to be amongst them.

Does this mean the fires of slander have taken away our peace? No, the peace that God gives His people is not dependent upon the absence of conflict. Does this mean we are without fear? No, we are not so foolish to think that our cause does not present real risks, but perfect love casts out fear, something we look to the Lord to perfect in us who tremble as we press up the steep slopes of reformation. Does this mean we are without hope? No, on the contrary, we are learning that the hope of the true Gospel of the Kingdom prevails no matter what the gates of hell can throw against it. Does this conflict mean that our success is guaranteed? No, but whether the Lord grant us victory or not, the duty is ours, and we hope to see it through by His mercy and grace. Nonetheless, we believe more than ever that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give His people the kingdom, but this doesn’t happen in the mythical vacuum of peace and tranquility, but in the hot crucible of real spiritual battle, for we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.

The Lord strengthens, establishes, and settles His people through those sufferings He ordains for them. We know that the few trials and fiery conflicts we are engaged in here have been are ordained of God. In as much as I would prefer to live without them, I know they are for our good, as He uses them to strengthen and toughen us for the long hard days of repentance and reformation that are ahead for us, as it is for all His people. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:10-11). — The Rural Missourian