Category: Personal Thoughts

Pastoral Calling: an inside look

Men are not led to the Pastoral office as they are induced to select other professions in life they are drawn as a sinner is drawn to Christ by a mighty invincible work of the Spirit. The call of God never fails to be convincing. Men are made to feel that a woe is upon them if they preach not the Gospel. It is not that they love the work for often like Moses they are reluctant to engage in it and love at best can only render its duties pleasant; it is not that they desire the office, though in indulging this desire they seek a good thing; it is not that they are zealous for the glory of God and burn for the salvation of souls for this is characteristic of every true believer nor is it that upon a due estimate of their talents and acquirements they promise themselves more extended usefulness in this department of labour than in any other for no man is anything in the kingdom of Heaven except as God makes him so; but it is that the word of the Lord is like fire in their bones they must preach it or die; they cannot escape from the awful impression which haunts them night and day and banishes all peace from the soul until the will is bowed, that God has laid this work upon them at the hazard of their lives.
– J.H. Thornwell, 1843

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Substituting ideas about God for an Experience of Him

This Spring will mark a special occasion in my life when on my physical birthday I will turn 44 and on my spiritual birthday I will turn 22. It might not mean so much to you but it means a lot to me because 22 years ago the Holy Spirit chased me down to execute a plan of grace that was made at a Triune Table before the creation of the world. The occasion is also significant because it marks exactly half of my life in personal communion with Jesus Christ as well as a passage into Christian early adulthood.

I would define my early Christian life as one of  ACTIVITY including disciplined scripture memory and initiative personal evangelism while my adolescent years were about IDEAS including the study of systematic theology, Greek and Hebrew, attaining a seminary degree and climbing a rigorous denominational ordination process. Reflecting back to my early years, I saw how easy it was for me to substitute spiritual activity for God in the place of a relationship with God. Now since the collision of middle age in my physical life and early adulthood in my spiritual life I see how easy it was for me to accept ideas about God as substitutes for an experience of Him.

Sadly most of us call ourselves Christians based on our belief system more than our experience. Even the celebrated Gospel Coalition movement in which I have participated and appreciate, speaks primarily of the Christian experience and even the Gospel in the forensic language of ideas and philosophy. I am struck by the words of A.W. Tozer who still speaks to our Reformed and Calvinistic churches today,

“We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of religious notions but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there.”

We can even treat God’s love as an IDEA while being void of a personal experience of the heart that encounters His love. God doesn’t just want us to have correct views about him, He wants to make Himself Known to us Personally and Up Close.  His heart through the Old and New Testaments was not just to be objectively known ABOUT. His self-revelation to the Israelites was always in the most personal and intimate language (Cf. Exodus 34:5-7).  The God of the Bible, can’t be known from a distance which was why He bent down from heaven to send His Son to live among us so we could see Him, hear Him and touch Him (Cf. 1 John 1:1-4).

My heart’s desire for my life and the lives of those who will listen is to help navigate an authentic Christian journey that finds a direct, personal experience of God which results in a deep generosity to others.