Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From all of us at The Chapel, we wish you a joyous and love filled Christmas. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you as you worship Him with holy devotion. Peace be with you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alone With God... Part 2

First, let me apologize for my delay in writing the second half of this post. I have been quite sick in my body (flu/shingles), yet joyful, peaceful, and satisfied in my spirit. In other words, my light and momentary affliction has not kept me from communion with my God and I must say that it makes me very happy.

I ended my last post by noting that Jesus found strength in rising early to be with His Father, by getting alone in a solitary place, He prayed. This is where I want to pick up on my thoughts about prayer.

Please remember that I am on a journey and do not have all the answers as it pertains to the depths of this topic. I am but a traveler on the road of discovery to a place that my spiritual heroes have talked about, but I have never been. I think I am possibly learning what it means to walk with Him and really be with Him; to be spiritual and not just religious. I think I understand what John Michael Talbot meant when he penned the words, “God alone is enough, whoever has God wants for nothing at all.”

Today I would like to try to explain “solitude”, or at least what it means to me in the midst of my busy life. The dictionary defines solitude as the state or situation of being alone. For many of us in our hectic lives, being alone seems like only a dream or a wish, but how many of us can say that we are busier than Jesus was when He walked the earth? I daresay that none of us can even begin to compare our lives with the life of our Lord, yet He got alone and there He met with His Father.

If our excuse for not getting alone with God is the “demands” on our life, then maybe it’s time for us to take a good look at that which is taking priority over satisfying the One Who’s name is “Jealous”.

For some, the thought of being alone seems boring, lonely or even weird, but, the kind of “being alone” that I’m talking about is far from boring and being lonely and is certainly not weird. It is so delightful that words cannot express what I feel. You see, solitude is not really being alone at all; it’s being with Him and once we understand this kind of aloneness, we will desire it over any party or social gathering. For to be alone with God is to never be alone at all. It is, as I have said, at times, breathtaking, convicting, gentle, surprising and peaceful, but never lonely.

In his book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, Brother Lawrence wrote about solitude, “I drive away from my mind everything capable of spoiling the sense of the presence of God.... I just make it my business to persevere in His holy presence... My soul has had an habitual, silent, secret conversation with God.”

There in solitude I find Him and He is all I really need. I used to think that my greatest ambition should be to do more for God; to be a great husband, dad, preacher or a great missionary, but I am finding that anything good that comes from my life is simply a byproduct from my time alone with Him. To do anything, even in ministry, apart from “abiding in The Vine” is by all means a futile attempt to appear spiritual apart from true spirituality.

I have preached in many churches, spoke at many conferences and sat with scores of people throughout North America. There, I have found many who seem to be extremely impressed with certain well known preachers, popular books, cool programs, courageous missionaries, anointed worship bands and impressive worship centers, but very few have told me how amazing God is. NO ONE, that I can remember, has ever raved about their churches prayer meetings or how wonderful it is to get alone with God and breath in His beauty… no one.

It was Leonard Ravenhill who said, “No man - I don't care how colossal his intellect - No man is greater than his prayer life.” He also said, “The true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer

So what’s our problem? Why isn’t being alone with God enough for us? This has been part of the journey I am on. I’m trying to discover what it was that captivated our spiritual fathers and mothers, for the only thing that they seemed to rave about was God Himself. They spoke of solitude, contemplation, and simply being alone with Him. Yes, even in the midst of their busy lives they found the secret of being alone with Him and it was the very thing that marked them and set them apart in their generation. Please don’t misunderstand, they weren’t seeking to stand out, they simply wanted Him and He was found to be all they needed and wanted. He was their All and all they did was for Him and because of Him. Their greatness had little to do with them. The greatness the rest of the world witnessed through them was God Himself being spilled from a clay pot. I used to want to be like them because of what they did, but now I want to be like them because of who they were and Who they knew.

In my times of prayer (petition, solitude and contemplation) I am learning some things about myself that are a bit uncomfortable for me to share, but I will humbly do so, in hopes to make you thirsty to pray yourself. I have learned that in prayer, I talk too much, listen too little and have found that I am not near as deep as I thought I was. That’s always exciting to learn; in ministry for twenty years, with shelves filled with books, several passports filled with visas from over 60 missionary adventures and I’m just learning that I’m not very deep, or at least as deep as I thought I was? But discovering this is not at all condemning or belittling, but rather it is a hopeful and exciting revelation. Prayer is teaching me that depth is not measured in what we do or how much we know, but rather, Who we know. It’s not so much about knowing as understanding and not as much about doing as in being… being alone with Him.

Next week I would like to share with you some of the benefits I’m gaining from prayer and being alone with Him. For now I would like to share a few “tips” about finding “moments” alone with God. No matter how busy I have been, I am finding that these simple (yet not easy) exercises are helping me:

1)   Find a quiet place to be alone.

2)   After you have worshipped Him and voiced your petitions, be quiet.

3)   Do your best to drive out all the clutter and demands of you life and time.

4)   Be still.

5)   Do that for twenty to thirty minutes in the morning.

6)   Throughout the day, simply whisper his name.

7)   Spontaneously declare your love to Him.

8)   Look for a “moment” to be alone with Him. Secret places to be alone, even for a minute or two (please not the bathroom).

9)   Before you close your eyes at night, bid Him “good night”, the same way you would your family or close friends.

10)Remember He likes that, because He loves you. He is jealous for you.

These are just some ways that I am learning how to “get alone” with Him. As a person in full-time ministry, I also take all day on Tuesday (from 8am – 5pm) to be in prayer (not work). I need this time each week to be with Him and learn what He is asking of me. It has become the best day of the week for me.

I hope this has encouraged you in some small way and that it makes you hungry to be alone with God. He desires to be with you… in silence… even for a moment!

Tom Zurowski

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Over the years I have had many people ask me about what books have helped to shape me in my spiritual life. I thought it might be neat to share my "Top Ten" (not including the Bible) list with you, in case you might want to purchase these books for your family and friends for Christmas.

1) "Tortured For Christ" - Richard Wurmbrand (any of his books)
2) "Foxe's Box of Martyrs" John Foxe
3) "The Knowledge of The Holy" - A.W. Tozer (any of his books)
4) "Why Revival Tarries" - Leonard Ravenhill (any of his books)
5) "The Doulos Principle" - James Garrett
6) "Humility" - Andrew Murray
7) " The Practice of The Presence of God" - Brother Lawrence
8) "Surviving The Anointing" - David Ravenhill
9) "Through Gates of Splendor" - Elisabeth Elliot
10) "The Way of The Heart" - Henri Nouwen

There are so many more that I could share, but if a person obtained, read and lived what these books promote, I'm sure they would be well on their way to living the normal Christian life. What a great gift this would make for someone you love! (Disclaimer- Just because I mentioned the titles of these particular books, does not mean that I agree with everything pertaining to the author.)

Tom Zurowski

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Alone With God... Part 1

For approximately the past year I have been on amazing journey of exploration and discovery. It has been exhilarating, mysterious, surprising, frustrating, uplifting, convicting, at times breathtaking and always leaves me wanting more.  As I consider sharing my thoughts, I feel somewhat overwhelmed. For I know at best, my attempts to explain my journey will be feeble.

The thoughts I would like to share with you are more like journal entries from a trip as opposed to an analysis from an expert. My thoughts are simple, yet to me, very deep. To be honest, I want to talk about something I'm not exactly sure how to talk about.

Andrew Murray explained it like this, "It is as natural and joyous as breathing. It is the true spiritual life. It is the inhaling of the true spiritual atmosphere." It is something that all of my spiritual heroes knew, loved and that which set them apart. That which I am talking about is prayer.

Augustine said, “What can be more excellent than prayer; what is more profitable to our life; what sweeter to our souls; what more sublime, in the course of our whole life, than the practice of prayer?”  

If I asked you today, "What is your prayer life like?" What would you say? You might say good or bad, depending on how much time you spend in prayer, or based on how you feel emotionally when you are done praying or based on what you gained from your time in prayer. This is the way I would have responded too, but that is changing.

Over a year ago I gathered my family and told them what I wanted written on my tombstone. I know what you're thinking, "Your tombstone??? Are you planning on dying or something?!" Well, quite honestly, the answer is... yes. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't mean that I'm planning on dying anytime soon, but I am very aware of the fact dying is a part of living and we are all headed in that direction. Like my friend says, "I don't know about you, but death runs in my family!"

I told my wife Elli and my kids that if and only if it were true, that I would like my epitaph to simply read, "He walked with God". I meant it, yet when I said it, I knew what I was saying was my desire, but not necessarily my current reality. Either way, it seems that God took me seriously and I began an amazing journey with the Holy Spirit that led me to where I am today. An amazing journey, that is, after twenty years of full time Christian service.

You might be thinking, "Are you telling me that after twenty years of ministry you are just now starting to pray?" No, but I THINK I am finding out the difference between what it means to be religious and what it means to know God. You see, since my conversion, I have been passionately in love with all that I knew about God. I loved His sacrificial death on the cross, His miracles, His mercy, His forgiveness, His grace, His word and His resurrection. You see, in twenty years of ministry you learn a lot about God and as a result, you know a lot about God and can even give fiery speeches about God, but that is not the same as knowing God.

The only way I know how to describe what I am going through is with a picture. Imagine with me that I am walking carefree on what appears to be an icy frozen tundra. I am not cold or uncomfortable. On the contrary, I like where I am. As I walk though, I become thirsty. I have no water, so I begin looking. Soon, my search for something to drink becomes somewhat frantic. And then I find it... a small crack in the ice and in the crack I see water coming up. I put my finger in the crack and pry the ice loose, only to discover that beneath the ice I am standing on is the ocean... the ocean of God Himself.

This is a picture of my prayer life with God over the past twenty five years (I became a Christian 25 years ago. What a wonderful encounter). I traveled happily just knowing about God, doing missionary work, living off past spiritual experiences (walking on the frozen tundra) and hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit from time to time (the water in the crack in the ice). Little did I know that I was only scratching the surface of the enormity of God Himself. Now I know that drinking from the ocean is not good, but drinking from the ocean of God is wonderful. Please let me try to explain.

My prayer life has consisted primarily of my words. I would pray until I ran out of words and then my prayer time would be over. If I had a lot to tell God, then my prayer time would be longer than the times when I had little to say. You see, my time with God was based on what I had to say. You know, like a one way conversation. But is that really all there is to prayer? Isn't prayer supposed to be intimate communion with God? Isn't it supposed to be a two way conversation?

You might be saying, "Tom, how's it all work?" Well, I'm not sure that I have the answer, but I may be able to point you in a good direction. Start by following the example of our Lord. Mark 1:35 simply states, "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed." This was a common practice of Jesus (I encourage you to do your own study on this). Let's observe.

First, we see that Jesus rose early. Notice that Jesus' view of restoring His strength was not sleeping in late, but rising early. Second, He found a place to be alone (solitude) and third He met with His Father and He prayed. If Jesus, being God, needed to get away to a quiet place and pray, what makes us think that we can effectively serve Him without doing to same? Jesus Himself stated in John 5:30, "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me."

Just take a moment and ponder some things today: What defines your prayer life? Do we really think we need Him, or do we just say that we do? Can we get along without Him? Is our prayer life just a one way conversation? Does your prayer time end when you run out of words to say? Is that all there is to communion with God?

More to come.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let our hearts burn for you! Let our minds be set! Let us never be satisfied!

“Lord, let our hearts burn for You, let our minds always be set on You, and let us never be satisfied!”
Yesterday I was praying for God to move at The Chapel (the church I attend) while we had all day prayer. When I was praying, I felt the words that are written above stir in my heart. These words were said as a prayer, but I also felt like God gave it to me as a word for the people who attend the Chapel.
The more I thought about it, I also believe that it applies to all our lives. I’m not going to write down some big post about this. I’m just going to write down my prayer for all of us. Here it goes……
“God, let us be known as people with burning hearts for You! People that long for nothing of this world, but long for You and Your Spirit! Let our minds be heavenly minded! That we would remember this world is only a dressing room for eternity! And Lord, please help us to never reach a false finish line. Let us never be satisfied! In Your Holy name, Jesus, I pray. Amen!”
Be Unashamed!!!
God Bless,
John Zurowski

Friday, November 4, 2011

Renewal... It's What We Need.

With a gentle smile on his face he said, “Young man… have you ever heard of the Holy Spirit?” I responded, “Well, yes I have.” He said, “Good… because you can’t serve God with a lukewarm heart, you need a heart on fire!” (A conversation between an Irish Catholic priest and me as we traveled in a five seat plane into Sudan in the late 1990’s)

Back in the early 70’s and mid  to late 80’s, a spiritual renewal swept through our land. It touched Presbyterians, Catholics, Pentecostals, Methodists and many other denominations. In fact, this move of God seemed to have nothing to do with denominations whatsoever. It was a true work of the Holy Spirit and no man could take credit for it. You either “got in” or you got left out. People who were bound by their traditions and denominations missed this move and have no recollection of it.

One thing was for sure and that is that this renewal touched all who were hungry for more of God. The Holy Spirit showed no partiality. For those of us who experienced this wonderful outpouring, we can say one thing without a doubt and that is… it was real. It was as if we all experienced a taste of Pentecost. The fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit seemed to flow freely from the most unlikely people in the most unlikely places. Home Bible studies, prayer meetings, and simple Christian gatherings became portals for heavenly outpourings. Park benches became pews and living rooms became cathedrals. A person with a pure heart, an acoustic guitar and a few simple choruses could usher in the God’s presence like few Christian artist (with all the lights and hype) can today. Those were the days!

Two things stand out in my memory that I can’t seem to forget. Number one: there was true unity among all who were touched by this move of God. We were simply Christians. Our only label was Jesus. We were God hungry people who stopped at nothing but God Himself. No one tried to outdo anyone else. Personalities and egos took a backseat. It was a humble time in church history.

Number two: it was a time of true conversions and sweet salvation. Anyone who remembers those days will agree that lives were being radically transformed. Drug addicts, alcoholics, and other serious sinners were coming to Christ and not turning back. The days were marked by transformed lives and deep (yet simple) spirituality. Baptisms were incredible celebrations and declarations of the born again experience. It was truly an outward sign of an inward change. People were concerned only about pleasing God and walking in the Spirit. Repentance, restitution, joy, deliverance and freedom were the norm and those who followed Him shamelessly spoke the precious name of Jesus. The things I am speaking of were commonplace during this renewal. I miss it!

So what happened? Why did God seem to lift His hand and the Holy Spirit stop moving? I’m not sure. I only know that “big names” started to take center stage and before long it seemed as though we were left on our own. That which once seemed so simple, now became difficult. Instead of pure worship, basic Bible studies and simple devotion, church leaders seemed to turn to church growth seminars and the latest leadership gurus. Growing in numbers took the place of growing in depth. The church went from a gathering of serious, yet simple saints, to assemblies catering to “seekers” (which there seems to be little proof that these folks were seeking God at all). Sharp marketing schemes (used to draw crowds) seemed to replace the drawing of the Holy Spirit. True conversions were replaced with lighthearted “decisions”. Baptisms became more of a medal to be worn by the church than a watery burial of “the old man”. Men of God traded in their prophetic mantles for a CEO status and humility was replaced with spiritual pride. I could go on and on, but I won't. It is far too depressing to ponder at length about where we were to where we are today.

Even as I write this, my heart is longing for another move of God. It does us little good to dream about days gone by, for they are just that… gone by. Those days are history and though we can reflect on them and learn from them, we cannot live in the past. One thing we can do though is pray; pray that the winds of renewal will start blowing once again. The church desperately needs a touch from heaven. We need a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let’s hit our knees in desperation and seek the Lord for a fresh move in our day. Renewal… it’s what the church needs.

By Tom Zurowski

Friday, October 28, 2011

Make Time And...Be Still

"The first and chief need of our Christian life, is fellowship with God. The Divine life within us comes from God, and is entirely dependent upon Him." ~ Andrew Murray

"Be still and know that I am God." ~ Psalm 46:10

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." ~ Jesus (John 15:4&5)

Lately, our Lord has been leading me into what I call "the deeper life" with Him. Something deep within me is becoming more and more detached from this world and is longing for intimate communion with God Himself. 

I have found myself praying more fervently and with more patience; with less words and more silence (listening). I wish I could say that this has been easy for me, but it hasn't. Since I became a follower of Jesus, longing for more of God, that I can remember, has never been my issue . It's the being quiet and being still part that is tough for me. 

People who know me might label me as a pretty "active" guy. If I'm awake, then my mind is racing with all kinds of thoughts and ideas. Whether it's about my family, the church (nationally and locally), our work in Sudan (through Global Response Network), dreaming or personal relationships, my brain rests very little. I'm a "thinker" and it's tough for me to put things out of my mind and simply focus on hearing from God.

In this fast paced world that we live, SOLITUDE is something we need to fight for. If we are hoping to FIND the time, then we may never truly enter in to pure communion with the Lord. No, solitude is something we need to MAKE time for and that's not easy.

As a spiritual leader, it is my "job" to abide with Christ and to walk by the Spirit (and might I add that it is my greatest joy), but even I struggle at times to "be still" and be alone with Him. The demands on my life at times are overwhelming. If it is difficult for me, then I know it must be very challenging for stay-at-home moms, business leaders, college students, doctors, athletes and everyone else with a demanding schedule. Yet, being still and embracing a life of prayer and solitude is not optional for the Christian.

So, how do we do it? First of all, we "MAKE" time. I remember years ago waking up and finding my wife Elli in the laundry room crying out to God. She needed to "make" time before the children woke up. I remember seeing her sitting on the floor, leaning against the drier and weeping for lost people. It was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. Today, she is in a new season of life and has had to adjust to make time to be alone with the Lord.

Here is what I believe is the key - desire and discipline. Everything worth having is going to cost us something. Being alone with our Father is no different. Leonard Ravenhill put it this way, "We all have as much of God as we want of Him." That stings, yet we all know it is true. If we want to be alone with God, it will cost us. It will mean saying "NO" to other things and slipping away and finding a quiet place to meet with Him. So, in simple terms, the way we say "yes" to being alone with God is saying "no" to the distractions and other allurements of this world.

When is the last time you got alone with God? When is the last time you were "still" before His majesty? When is the last time you even heard the word or thought about "solitude". My encouragement to all of us is to examine our lives and take a deep look at the way we spend the time God gives us. Then, after we get honest with ourselves and we MAKE time, find a quiet place to be alone with Him. Shhhh......  Quiet yourself. Say nothing. Read nothing. No music playing. Complete silence. Listen. Be still and know that He is God. And once you know you have entered that secret place with Him, then.... speak... if you can.

By Tom Zurowski

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Commitment To Love

On Wednesday nights, I get together with other men from the body of believers I worship with at The Chapel. We have been having wonderful times together. We have challenged one another, confessed to one another, trust is being built between one another... it's really a beautiful thing.

Last week we were discussing a topic that has stemmed from the sermons that Tom Zurowski has been sharing on for the past couple of weeks. We got into commitment to the body. Commitment to one another.

My mind and heart is in turmoil and unrest over this idea of commitment. It feels as if never before in my years as a Christian have I considered commitment to the body (church) like I am going through now. It's possible I have been challenged in this area in the past at other church fellowships, but it has never hit me like it is now.

The thought of committing to a "church" is almost disgusting to me. I'm not sure why. I guess the thought of committing to an institution has no life in it, at least that is how it seems to me. I guess I have the misconception such that when I hear "church," I hear "building," or "programs," or "institution." And I have no desire to commit to that. 

Commitment to a person, or a people... now that's a different story. There is life in that to me. Of course, "church" is people. I've heard it said before that we live in a generation where little Jimmy and Susie were dragged to "church" when they were young, and so this generation of Christians think church is something you go to rather than something you are.

And so we discussed commitment to one another. What does that commitment look like? What does Jesus require? What is God's command in terms of commitment to one another? As I looked at my brother's last night I inquired, "What does Christ command in our commitment to one another?"

I understand commitment in marriage, and then there is commitment to family. Maybe even commitment to friends. But commitment to those I worship with? 

The model I am used to seeing in many ways is if I don't like a church, if I get hurt or offended, it's OK, I'll just pack my bags and head to a new "church" until it happens all over again there. It seems we can leave at the drop of a hat these days when it comes to church. Oh yea, I'm committed, until... someone hurts my feelings, or, doesn't do things my way, or the pastor doesn't give my family or I enough attention...

All the while "church" is more an institution, and a place where I come and get what I want, as opposed to giving my life away.

And, so, commitment to brothers? Commitment to the body? What does it look like? What does God require?

But wait. Maybe. Just maybe...

...the question or turmoil goes deeper than that. Maybe the question isn't regarding what God requires in terms of commitment to others in the body.

Maybe... Maybe it's more about what God requires concerning love.

Maybe commitment is implied in love, stems from love, flows from love...

By John Follman (The Chapel)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christian or Chameleon?

“Why suffering?” is a wrong question. No right answer exists for a wrong question.” (Richard Wurmbrand)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” 
(Paul’s letter to the Romans; chapter 8, verse 18)
I remember listening to “gospel” radio one day many years ago and hearing a well-known preacher say, “If the apostle Paul understood covenant, then he would not have had to suffer what he did.” Oh, how foolish and arrogant we have become! We have believed the lie of the man-centered gospel (which is no gospel at all) that makes us believe that God was created for our good pleasure, rather than man being created for His.
How could we get so far off? Is it any wonder that there are so many well-meaning self-seeking “decision makers” filling the pews of our worship halls these days? They have come to find out how to get the most out of Jesus. Suffering or trials are no longer a part of the Christian equation.
I remember spending time with a pastor friend, in Sudan, who was captured by Muslims. He was taken to a torture chamber; where demon possessed people beat him. They hog-tied his wrists and ankles together and repeatedly hoisted him 15 – 20 feet off the ground then let him fall on his face onto a concrete slab. He was kept in a steel container for 15 days in the hot sun. He was put in water up to his nose and forced to stand in it for days. Lastly they dug a grave for him and his friend and threw the two men into the graves. My friend’s colleague died. When the authorities found that my friend lived through the night they exclaimed, “surely your God must be a living God”, and released him. This dear brother never became bitter, or asked the question “why God?” He had already counted the cost of following Christ on the day of his conversion. Through out his time in custody his family didn’t know if he was alive or dead. While he was tortured, he preached Jesus to his persecutors. He is still preaching today.
If only someone would go to our brothers and sisters and tell them about the covenant they have with God, maybe they wouldn’t have to suffer for His namesake (sarcasm). In many persecuted countries around the world, the radio preacher I mentioned earlier would be rejected and labeled a heretic. Yet, in America, we embrace such a teacher, buy his books, and send money to keep his radio show on the air.
The Bible makes it clear that if we desire to live Godly in this present day and stand against the spirit of the age, then we will suffer persecution. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves in the free world is “why don’t we suffer?” Maybe the reason we don’t suffer is because we have become chameleons in our culture. May we not forget that chameleon’s true colors will be revealed at the judgment seat. We must never fit in. If we fit into the world, then we may not fit in to heaven.

Tom Zurowski

* PICTURE... Me with James Jeda. 10 year old boy burned from his ears to his ankles for not rejecting Jesus and becoming a Muslim. This all occurred after his family was killed for loving Jesus. Southern Sudan 2001.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Busy Yet Barren

The doom oh the doom of barren trees. They shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. God will deal with them as men deal with dried trees that cover the ground. He will mark them by some signal token of His displeasure. He will cut them down to death, and cast them into the fires of Hell, a fire blown by the billows of God’s wrath and fed with the wood of barren trees.”
(M. Henry)

“Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”
(Corrie Ten-Boom)

What will we say when we see Him? Will we, like Adam, blame the gift that God has given us for our disobedient and barren lives? Adam blamed Eve, God’s gift to him, for his rebellion. Will preachers blame “the ministry” – God’s gift to them, for their prayerlessness? Will businessmen blame their businesses – God’s gift to them, for their lack of intimacy with the Creator of the universe? Is it possible that we, too are busy, yet barren? Who will we point the finger at for our barrenness? When the dead wood of our lives is collected what will our excuses be?
It is in the place of prayer and solitude that the barrenness of business is turned to true fruitfulness. We can blame no one but ourselves for not abiding in the Vine that produces perfect fruit. The scary thing is that many people think they are fruitful when in fact they are barren in the eyes of Heaven. Oh, that we would abandon the business and once again be still and know that He is God.
“Oh, Lord light these idol sticks of my life that I might burn for thee!”
(Jim Elliot)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Spiritual Transaction

“But Saul met Christ and heard His voice. Then when the fire eating Pharisee, whose stormy soul was corroding with the acid of religious bitterness, was met by Deity, Saul was turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God."

That day the history of man took a new turn. One can summarize Paul’s spiritual transaction in this way:

It was an exchange of life – “Not I, but Christ.”

It was an expensive life – “Suffered the loss of all things.”

It was an exciting life – “Fought with wild beasts.”

It was an explicit life – “This one thing I do.”

It was an exemplary life – “What things you have seen and heard in      me, do.”
"Paul had found rest – and yet he became the most restless man who ever lived. He had found joy – and yet he was in continual heaviness and sorrow of heart for the lost. He had found peace - but he waged an unending war against all the powers of darkness.”(Leonard Ravenhill, from his book “Meat For Men”)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Ride of Life

The sign read, "Bull riding, September 26th at the fair grounds." That was just what my son John was waiting for; a chance to ride a real live bull calf. By the time Friday night rolled around, John was fired up and ready to go. With cowboy boots on and his heart beating through his shirt, John walked into the bull riding ring and straddled three hundred pounds of restless cowhide.
The goal was to stay on for eight seconds without falling off. When the gate opened and the calf took off, John held on with everything he had. When the dust settled and he picked himself up off the ground the clock read 2.8 seconds. The beast had not only thrown him off, but he also stepped on him. Fighting back tears of pain and limping toward me he said, "I want to try that again!” That’s my boy! He got knocked down, but not knocked out.

Life is kind of like a bull ride; the goal is to stay on without falling off, yet many of us seem to spend a lot of our time holding back tears and dusting off our britches. Life takes some unexpected turns at times, and no matter how hard we try to hold on, we often times find ourselves face down in the dirt with a bruise on our backside. 

Throughout the New Testament, we are warned that our journey will be difficult and trying (for example Matthew 7:14). Jesus never promised us a rose garden. God also knew that we would fail at times so He gave us accounts of how men failed but got back up and finished strong. 

Peter stands out as one who thought he could hold on for the whole ride only to find himself face down and fighting back tears of remorse for denying the Lord (Matthew 26:75). He meant well, but when the pressure was on he came face to face with his fears and failed. Later, this same coward would die a fearless martyr’s death.

In Proverbs 24:16, it says that, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” The devil’s plan is to defeat us, but that is not God’s plan for us. In the times when our humanity throws us off in our journey with God, we have only one option; humbly pick ourselves up, wipe away the tears, dust ourselves off, learn from our failures and limp toward our heavenly Father saying, "I want to try that again!" Then get back up and ride.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Repentance vs. Remorse

“No man has truly repented until his sin has wounded him, until the wound has broken him and defeated him and taken all of the fight and self-assurance out of him and he sees himself as the one who nailed his Savior to the tree.” ~ A, W. Tozer

“Never mistake remorse for repentance; remorse simply puts a man in hell while he is on earth, it carries no remedial quality with it at all, nothing that betters a man. . . Repentance is not a reaction, remorse is. Remorse is – I will never do the thing again (but it is only a temporary emotion without any power to change). Repentance is that I deliberately become the opposite of what I have been. . .the disposition of the Son of God can only enter my life by the road to repentance”. 
~ Oswald Chambers
How often have we heard it said “Just believe in your heart and confess with your mouth in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

So quickly we quote this scripture hoping to give someone the illusion that by simply saying a prayer that acknowledges Jesus as Lord that they are now saved and on their way to heaven. The only problem is that few people ever explain what accepting Jesus as Lord really means.

To believe that Jesus is Lord is to accept that you no longer have rule over your life. It means that you must repent (change your mind and actions) and turn away from the old life. It means that you have lost your rights. It means that your life must undertake a radical transformation. It means that Jesus will have permission to do with you whatever he wants. In other words, your life is no longer yours… It’s over.

Without repentance there is no salvation. The devil believes that Jesus is Lord and is convinced without a doubt. Believing in the case of Romans 10:9 is more than mental assent. It is understanding and making a choice to die to yourself and live for Him.

I know that this may not bring as many people to the altars, but at least those who come will be making a willful decision to buy the “Pearl of great price." They will be more ready to take up their cross and follow Him. They will be ready to think of the world they left behind as rubbish. They will be ready to live as pilgrims and strangers here on this earth.

It is true that no one is perfect, but there is a big difference between someone who’s born again and someone who’s not. The man who is not born again lives a “life of sin”. A true Christian lives a “life of repentance”. After all, “the evidence of the new birth is a new life”. (Dr. Michael L. Brown)

This is why water baptism is such a big deal and not just a nice doctrine of the church. In baptism, a person is publicly saying that their life is over. They are ready to put their hand to the plow and not look back. They are bidding farewell to the old man and his lifestyle. They are passing from death unto life. In other words, by saying that we believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are saying of our old life, “It is finished!”

Yes, true repentance leads to an entire new life. Old things pass away and we become new. This new life brings great freedom and joy with it! Remorse simply makes a man more miserable than he already was. It makes a man sorry who has no intention of changing. Remorse is nothing more than a living lie. 

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19) 

By Tom Zurowski

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simple Servants of Our Master's Mission

“For Him and Through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

Amid his soarings into the superlative splendors, just when with eye undimmed he is strengthened to gaze into the excellent glory, the word “Son of man” falls on his ears, sobering the heart which else might have been intoxicated with the honor conferred upon it. Such humbling but salutary messages our depressions whisper in our ears; they tell us in a manner not to be mistaken that we are but men, frail, feeble, and apt to faint.” (C. H. Spurgeon, from “Lecture to my students”)

There is a tendency in all of us that is quite troublesome. I find that so many of us want to claim bragging rights for the good things God has done through us (or should I say in spite of us?) as if we were the reason for any good that has come out of us.
In Romans 11, Paul makes it very clear that it is only through Him (God) that we accomplish anything of lasting significance for His kingdom. The gifts we have are “of Him” and those gifts are only used correctly “through Him;” thus all glory must go “to Him.”
Many men have become quite famous and have built ministries because of an act of God. Soon thereafter, the man becomes the center of attention instead of the Lord Himself. This is a tragedy and is the result of broken trust between God and his servant. God does not need more ministries that will exalt or stroke the ego of a man; on the contrary, God is looking for dead men to do His greatest works.
Before we became Christians, we were full of ourselves. At conversion we were supposed to be emptied of ourselves and filled with His spirit (attend our own personal funerals and rise to life again). Why is it that so many people are longing to be recognized for what “they” have done in Jesus name, as though the credit should go to them? I, of all men, would be most pitiful if, at the end of my life, I was credited for anything good that has come out of my weakness. This is one reason why it is healthy for us to share the stories of our born again experience with others; so we never forget where we have come from.
We only have one thing to say in regard to our service to Him; “I have only done what a servant should do!” Oh, and by the way, God sees through false humility. As much as He doesn’t need another man exalting ministry, He sure doesn’t want any more Pharisees either.
Let us run the race with simplicity of devotion, blazing hearts and emptiness of self, for God will share His glory with no man. The greatest fulfillment of a love slave simply comes from serving the vision and purposes of his Master. The slave’s deepest desire is not the praise of man but the words of his Master spoken loud and clear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Let us humble ourselves by realizing that we are but needy men (and women), frail, feeble and apt to faint. With this attitude and posture we will remember our need to abide in Him and in doing so, He will receive glory from our lives.

By Tom Zurowski