The ministry of A. A. Allen was clearly one of the fathers of faith, a revivalists to emerge in the early days of the healing revival and was one who ploughed on with grass-roots healing revivalism for over twenty years until his death in 1970.
Early days Born in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas, in 1911, he grew up with an alcoholic father and an unfaithful mother who lived with a series of men. “By the time I was twenty-one,” recalled Allen, “I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t get a cigarette to my lip with one hand. . . . I was a confirmed drunkard.” (Lexie Allen, God’s Man of Faith and Power, p57, 1954). Two years later he served a jail sentence for stealing corn in the midst of the depression and thought of himself as “an ex-jailbird drifting aimlessly through life.” It was at this point that Allen was converted in a “tongues speaking” Methodist church in 1934He met his wife, Lexie in Colorado and she became a powerful influence in shaping him for his future ministry.
Licensed by the Assemblies of God as a minister in 1936 began an effective evangelistic ministry at a small church in Colorado. After a two year pastorate he spent four-and-a-half years during World War II, as a full-time revivalist. He was the worship leader, musician and preacher but low finances and mediocre results took their toll on this father of four children. He left the itinerant ministry in 1947 when he was offered the security of a pastorate in a stable Assemblies of God church in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Healing ministry begins Soon after moving to Texas he heard news of the revival and read a copy of ‘The Voice of Healing’ magazine which he found incredulous and labelled the revivalists “fanatics.” However, in 1949, he attended an Oral Roberts campaign in Dallas where he was enthralled by Roberts’ power over the audience and left convinced that the revival was from God
Back in Texas, when his church board refused to sponsor a radio program, he resigned and began conducting revivals again with the hope that he too might develop a major healing ministry. In, He sent his first report to The Voice of Healing in May 1950, from Oakland, California, “Many say this is the greatest Revival in the history of Oakland” in what was to become typical AAA style.
He said, “Although I do not claim to possess the gift of healing, hundreds are being miraculously healed in this meeting of every known disease. I do not claim to possess a single gift of the Spirit nor to have the power to impart any gift to others, yet in this meeting, as well as in other recent meetings, all the gifts of the Spirit are being received and exercised night after night. (The Voice of Healing May 1950)
Observing the burgeoning ministry of others he noticed that the evangelists who were drawing the largest crowds were doing so under canvas. In the summer of 1951 joined the ranks of the tent ministries giving a down payment and commitment to pay off the remaining amount as the ministry grew – and it did. He established his headquarters in Dallas and in 1953 launched the Allen Revival Hour on radio. He conducted overseas campaigns in Cuba and Mexico regularly, and by1955 was broadcasting on seventeen Latin American radio stations as well as eighteen American ones.
His inimitable style Allen’s sanguine personality expressed itself in his enthusiastic reports, unparalleled showmanship and startling miraculous claims. He was a persuasive preacher, with a compelling presence and unusual empathy and rapport with the common people. He preached an old-time Pentecostal message with consummate skill. His message of holiness resonated in the hearts of those reared in austere Pentecostalism.
His stage presence and theatrical approach endeared him to the economically deprived working class and also to black communities. Ever the showman he made religion enjoyable and church-going fun.
But, above all, it was the power of God which attracted the huge audiences over the years. Thousands were converted in the midst of dramatic public healings and deliverances from evil spirits. Nothing was ‘done in a corner’ but all was employed to support the message that Jesus was alive and interested in the needs of ordinary people.
Troubles along the way A. A. Allen considered himself the most persecuted preacher in the world. The Assemblies of God were not happy with his apparently questionable, or at least exaggerated, claims. His readiness to publically counter-attack his accusers brought a continual stream of criticism and alienation from mainline Pentecostals.
But the accusation that he drank abusively was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In the fall 1955, he was arrested for drunken driving while conducting a revival in Knoxville, Tennessee. The local press took the opportunity to attack and expose Allen and the beleaguered minister forfeited his bail rather than stand trial on the charge.
Whatever the truth was Allen called the incident an “unprecedented persecution” aimed at ruining his ministry. As always he employed even the worst accusations to reinforce his claims that his commitment to God’s work in God’s way was truly from heaven, despite the fact that the Devil continually tried to destroy his ministry. His Miracle Magazine published his defence:
Allen declares that all this is but a trick of the devil to try to kill his ministry and his influence among his friends at a time when God has granted him greater miracles in his ministry than ever before. . . . If ministers pay the price of real MIRACLES today, they will meet with greater persecution than ever before. The only way to escape such persecution is to fold up and quit! But we are going on! Will you go on with us? (Miracle Magazine October, 1955)
Gordon Lindsay felt that the Voice of Healing had to take “a strong stand on ethics.” Allen resigned from the group, pre-empting their imminent dismissal. He immediately began publishing his own magazine, and, although he affected a cordial relationship with his former colleagues in the Voice of Healing, feelings remained strained.
In some ways independence suited Allen. His daughter recalled:
The Knoxville event also led to Allen’s separation from the Assemblies of God. It was suggested that he “withdraw from the public ministry until the matter at Knoxville be settled.” Allen’s response was to surrender his credentials as “a withdrawal from public ministry at this time would ruin my ministry, for it would have the appearance of an admission of guilt.”
The independent road By the mid-1950’s many of the more moderate ministers tried to continue to work with the Pentecostal denominations – or at least to remain friendly – but Allen repeatedly attacked organized religion and urged Pentecostal ministers to establish independent churches which would be free to support the revival. He charged that the Sunday school had replaced the altar in the Pentecostal churches and that few church members were filled with the Holy Ghost:
“Revivals are almost a thing of the past. Many pastors, and even evangelists, declare they will never try another one. They say it doesn’t work. They are holding “Sunday School Conventions,” “Teacher Training Courses,” and social gatherings. With few exceptions the churches today are leaning more and more toward dependence upon organizational strength, and natural ability, and denominational “methods.” They no longer expect to get their increase through the old fashioned revival altar bench, or through the miracle working power of God, but rather through the Sunday School.”
The Miracle Revival Fellowship In fall 1956, Allen announced the formation of the Miracle Revival Fellowship, an alternative fellowship intended to license independent ministers and to support missions. Theologically, the fellowship welcomed all who accepted “the concept that Christ is the only essential doctrine.” Allen urged laymen as well as ministers to join his fellowship, through his “Every Member an Exhorter plan.” Although Allen announced that “MRF is not interested in dividing churches,” he also disclosed that “the purpose of this corporation shall be to encourage the establishing and the maintenance of independent local, sovereign, indigenous, autonomous churches.” The fellowship listed more than 500 ministers in its “first ordination
Advance through the storm Interestingly, as other ministries were struggling and the revival was waning, Allen’s charisma and ministry skills coupled with well-staged revivals and an amazingly gifted team, enabled him to re-establish his ministry and rebuild a substantial and effective work.
Miracle Magazine was resounding success. At the end of a year’s publication in 1956, it had a paid subscription of about 200,000,and, according to Mrs. Allen, was “the fastest growing subscription magazine in the world today.” In 1957, Allen began conducting the International Miracle Revival Training Camp, an embryonic ministerial training centre. In 1958, he was given land in Arizona where he began building a permanent headquarters and training centre. At the height of the 1958 crisis in the revival, Allen announced a five-pronged program for his ministry: tent revivals, the Allen Revival Hour radio broadcast, an overseas mission program, the Miracle Valley Training Centre, and a “great number of dynamic books and faith inspiring tracts” published by the ministry. In 1958, Allen purchased Jack Coe’s old tent and proudly announced that he was moving into the “largest tent in the world.” His old-time revivalism, up-beat gospel music and anointed entertainers continued to attract the masses.
Allan died at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, California on June 11, 1970 at the age of 59. Some claim that Allen died an alcoholic because the coroner’s report concluded Allen died from liver failure brought on by acute alcoholism. Others know that he had battled with excruciating pain from severe arthritis in his knees, for over a year. It is true that Allen had undergone surgery on one of his knees and in June of 1970, was considering surgery on the other knee. They believe that the Coroner’s Report of “fatty infiltration of the liver” was a result of the few times he used alcohol in his last days to alleviate the excruciating pain of his arthritis.
Whatever is true of his death the life of A. A. Allen was one of extraordinary commitment to Jesus Christ which brought victory over the enemy of mankind. A. A. Allen was a true survivor. Even though the revival was declining in the late 1950’s and 1960’s his commitment to old-time faith-healing campaigns ensured the continuing testimony of signs and wonders to the next generation. He may have had his personal ‘quirks and foibles’ but the testimony of thousands of the blessing they received, the enduring love for God that resulted and the demonstration of the power of the Gospel are good reasons to give God thanks for such an amazing life!
Tony Cauchi November 2011
Bibliography: D. Harrell, Jr., All Things Are Possible (1975); Art: S. Shemeth, International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (2002).
Some people seem to start their day on the “wrong foot.” They feel all right when they wake up, but as soon as something goes wrong they lose their footing and walk with a “loser’s limp” the rest of the day. Once they are off to a bad start, it seems they never catch up.
If someone offends us early in the morning, our anger can keep us defensive all day. If we start the day rushing, it seems we never slow down. But today our feet can be firmly planted in God’s Word. There will be no “bad day” when God’s Word supports, strengthens, and directs us.
Prayer Starter: Lord, I lift my day up to You and ask for Your help to get off on the right foot. Help me to go forward with a clean heart and a positive mindset focused on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The Lilly Endowment invested $84 million over 10 years to study and support the practices that allow Christian pastors in America to sustain excellence over the years. They funded 63 projects across 25 different denominations and traditions. Each organization made a similar discovery: relationships with peers are the key factor to pastoral longevity.
I’ve worked with and provided pastoral care for pastors in various forms for the last seven years. For the last five I’ve helped nearly one hundred pastors develop the characteristics they need to stay happy and healthy in ministry. My results aren’t as scientific as the Lilly study, but I concur: Pastors need real, intimate, vulnerable friendships, if they are going to last in ministry.
Yet pastoral isolation is common. Sometimes it’s self-isolation, either out of a fear of being known or a fear of being hurt again by those he considers friends. More often, though, it’s a public isolation, caring for and befriending many, with very few friends to care for him. A pastor can seem like he’s known by many — he reveals a bit of himself each week to hundreds or thousands — while he’s really known by few. Revelations of himself during sermons are often like revelations over social media: Controlled vulnerability that keeps people at a distance either through over- or under-sharing.
It’s tough to blame them. Pastoral work can be dehumanizing. People know and appreciate you for the work you do — the sermons you preach, the care you give, the prayers you pray, the visionary leadership you provide — more than who you really are. Since you perform publicly every week, appreciation can be a fickle thing. Good counselors guard against dual relationships, knowing it’s nearly impossible and often unethical to have a personal friendship with a professional client. Pastors experience some of that reality as well.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that loneliness and isolation impact our spiritual health as well: “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:1). We weren’t meant to live in isolation; we — pastors included — need daily, meaningful affirmation from others if we are to be successful in fighting sin.
In Psalm 25:16, David asks God to be near him, for he is “lonely and afflicted.” David models the right response to feeling lonely: a longing for intimate relationships. That longing is not a sign of selfishness or weakness. It’s simply an acknowledgement that you are human. God never intended for any of us to live in isolation. God doesn’t live in isolation; there is perfect communion within the Trinity. Created in his image, we are made for relationships, with him and with others. That’s true of all of us, including pastors.
Made for Relationship
We — pastors included — were made for relationships, with God and with others.
Like anyone else, a pastor’s relationship with God must be primary. If a pastor doesn’t have a relationship with God that is continually growing in intimacy, he will demand more from his relationships with others than they are capable of giving him. Therefore, a pastor must constantly work to deepen the intimacy in his relationship with God.
The Bible, prayer, and the sacraments are the means God gave his people to grow closer to him (Acts 2:42). They are not only tools a pastor uses to do the work of ministry; they are also the God-given means to deepen the intimacy in his relationship with God.
But God didn’t create us to live only in relationship with him. He created us to also live in community with others. That larger community is found in the local church, which the pastor leads. And this leadership can often seem isolating; it’s really tough to be both a friend and a leader. This leaves the pastor with a relational need — a relational need that is too great for a wife to carry by herself.
A pastor needs his wife as his friend, but not his only friend. She often feels isolated and alone, carrying ministry secrets and her husband’s secret doubts and struggles, ones that are not disqualifying sins, but also are not things that should be shared indiscriminately.
A pastor also needs more than ministry partners or co-workers. They are helpful. They can provide companionship. But you can have a lot of co-workers and still be lonely. Friends don’t just partner on projects; they partner in life.
Friendship Takes Intentionality
I’ve found the people best suited to be a pastor’s friend are fellow pastors, most often those in a different church. It’s easy for pastors to look at other pastors and borrow the phrase C.S. Lewis says is at the start of every friendship: “You too?” Pastors are usually willing to take the next step of vulnerability with another pastor and continue, quoting Lewis, “I thought I was the only one.”
For a friendship to grow from there, it requires intentional effort.
To put in that effort, you must view friendship not as a luxury, but a necessity. When David writes, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1), he is both celebrating the gift of friendship and encouraging us to think back to Eden when everything — including friendship — was good, just as God designed it to be. The Psalm ends with “life forevermore,” encouraging us to think forward to eternity when everything will forever be as it should be (Psalm 133:3). Friendship isn’t a luxury; it’s a blessing God gives us now because he loves us. God is, as Lewis wrote, the one working behind the scenes to make our friendships happen and help them last.
Not only are friendships good for our health and longevity in ministry; they also are essential to our perseverance (Hebrews 3:12–13). It is wise to have friends (Proverbs 17:17; 27:9–10, 17). It is right to need friends. Paul, in the midst of an incredibly hard time, found real comfort when Titus arrived (2 Corinthians 7:6–7). At the end of his life, Paul lamented his loneliness and asked Timothy to come visit him before he died (2 Timothy 4:9–16). The greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, experienced the gift of friendship with John. John was more than just a partner in ministry; he was the friend Jesus loved (John 13:23).
The intentional effort required for friendship can be described as making room in your life for others. It means you will make room in your schedule, budget, ministry goals, and family life for friendship. Friendship can’t be squeezed into an already tight schedule; it requires intentionality and it requires sacrifice.
Pastor, friendship will cost you time, money, and the opportunity for more ministry achievement. And it will require vulnerability, which means you probably will get hurt. Vulnerability can come as you admit your need for friendship: take a risk to give and receive the gift of friendship. It will be worth it. Blessing — for yourself, your family, and your people — is bound up in your friendships.
Well, the Bible says in the last days the world will be overrun by people who will be lovers of self. Perhaps it’s not a stretch to say that in the end, people will be lovers of selfies and selfie-sticks? But really, when do our social media project a corrupt self-love at work inside of us? That’s today’s question. “Hello, Pastor John, my name is Ed, a 22-year-old Filipino. I read in the Bible, ‘But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty, for people will be lovers of self’ (2 Timothy 3:1–2). Based on this passage, do you believe vlogs, selfies, and self-focused social media are a cultural sign of this self-love emerging in our culture? What warning would you sound to Christian smartphone users tempted in this self-promotive way?”
Yes and No
Let me answer with a double yes and no — two yeses and nos.
“God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with.”
First, yes. Vlogs, selfies, and self-focused social media are often (not always) an expression of the self-exaltation, self-preoccupation, and self-fascination of these last days. But no, these new technologies are not the emerging of such final experiences of sin. They’ve always been there. The new technologies are giving new ways to express old sins.
That’s my first yes and no: Yes, these are the manifestations of the end-times self-love, and no, they’re not just now emerging.
Here’s the second yes and no. Yes, these are the last days, and we should be looking keenly and expectantly and hopefully and joyfully for the coming of our precious, longed-for, all-satisfying Lord Jesus. But no, these are not yet the very last days. But they are very much like the last days that began two thousand years ago in the first century.
Beginning of the End
Now, let me try to explain. When Jesus came into the world as the long-expected Messiah, he declared the arrival of the kingdom of God, which the Old Testament anticipated as part of the last days.
“The judge is standing at the door. Be ready. Be alert. You’re going to be called to account.”
When Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and tried to explain the extraordinary events of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he said, “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’” (Acts 2:16–17). In other words, these events that you’re looking at right now (AD 33) are the fulfillment of promises made for the last days.
The last days were there in the first century right after Jesus had come. Take Hebrews 1:1–2, for example: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
The coming of Jesus is the beginning of the last days. First Peter 1:20 reads, “He [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.”
Two Thousand Years of Selfies
Ever since the time of Jesus, 2,000 years ago, we have been living in the last days, looking expectantly to Jesus, who stands at the door. We know this is the way that Paul was thinking even in the very text that Ed quoted about self-love.
Paul says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). Then he says to Timothy, “Avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:5). Whoa — I guess they’re here. They’re not just coming 2,000 years later.
In other words, Paul is talking about Timothy’s own situation. This kind of person comes in the last days. Now, Timothy is to avoid them because these are the last days, and the people are there.
You shouldn’t be surprised or swayed by them. Well, besides saying that the judge is at the door, we should be always alert and ready to give an account to the Lord Jesus when he comes. Ed asked me what I would say to people on vlogs. That’s what I want to say. The judge is standing at the door. Be ready. Be alert. You’re going to be called to account. That’s the first thing I’d say.
Longing for Happiness
Then here’s the last thing I’d say. God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with. He gave us a self, not to be the object of our joy, but the subject of joy. That is, not to be the focus of happiness in front of the mirror or the selfie, but the furnace of happiness in front of Jesus.
“Our desires are meant to lead us to God, in whose presence is fullness of joy.”
He gave us a self not as an instrument of self-worth, but as an instrument of worship. The self is and is meant to be a desire factory. The point of all those desires is that there is a joy outside ourselves that they point to.
Our self is an endless manufacture of desires for something beyond the self. This factory of desires is not the dream. This factory has a dream. It isn’t the dream. It is producing all these desires because, out there somewhere, there’s a dream.
They’re all meant to lead us outside ourselves — indeed, outside the world, because nothing in this world finally satisfies. The desires of the human self are meant to lead us to God, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
That’s what I’d say to the self-absorbed user of social media. The self was never meant to satisfy us. The self was never meant to find satisfaction in the perception or promotion of self. The self was made for God.
FIVE LAWS OF GROWTH IN RELATION TO CHOIR.
1. Discipline: The great Structure any choir has in this world is based on discipline.
2. Constant Training: There must be a frame work that will help the Church music minsters to input special session of training in their activities. At the long run guest instructor must be called for check and balance.
3. Constant Programs (Monthly worship concert and also quarterly Choir Fiesta): Growth begins when an external party comes to any of our well organized program, what they see might make them stay to be a full time member of the church. As it were constant programs increases the growth of a church.
4. Rehearsal: Constant rehearsals helps every music team of a church, it helps and it gives the team a better strength
5. Prayer: a key note to every successful being is prayer in any form. We have inherited the supernatural grace of God through Christ Jesus to pray and to receive answers. It is very paramount for every choir member to be subjected to Fasting and prayers which is our strength has Christians.
In 1677, twenty-seven-year-old Henry Scougal wrote this to a friend: “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” (The Life of God in the Soul of Man, 20). It is among the most penetrating sentences in the English language (or any language).
It is a devastating sentence. It lays us bare. For, as John Piper says,
The soul is measured by its flights,
Some low and others high,
The heart is known by its delights,
And pleasures never lie. (The Pleasures of God, 4)
Pleasures never lie. We can fool ourselves and others in many ways, but pleasure is the whistle-blower of the heart, because pleasure is the measure of our treasure. We know that what we truly treasure is what we truly love because Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). So it’s “not what we dutifully will but what we passionately want [that] reveals our excellence or evil” (The Pleasures of God, 4). Pleasure is the joy we experience over a treasure we love that makes us willing to sell everything else to have it (Matthew 13:44).
Henry Scougal was wonderfully, devastatingly, biblically right: the object of our love, the treasure we passionately want, measures the worth and excellency of our souls.
Search Me, O God
If we agree with Scougal, his penetrating sentence forces us to do some soul-searching. What do our pleasures really tell us about what we love? What do our loves tell us about the condition of our souls? What do we passionately want?
These are necessary questions, but the truth is, our own introspection and self-evaluation are typically not enough. We are usually poor physicians for our own souls, often failing to see the root causes or symptoms clearly. We swing from thinking far too highly of ourselves one moment to beating ourselves down with condemnation the next.
What we really need is to allow — to invite — Jesus to search our souls. We need the diagnosis and treatment of the Great Physician. We need to come to him and say with David,
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! (Psalm 139:23–24)
What Jesus Asks of Us
Jesus is the master soul-searcher. It’s what he did with Peter after their post-resurrection seaside breakfast (John 21:15–19). Just days before, Peter had tragically failed to love Jesus, denying that he even knew Jesus three times. And so that morning, after lovingly serving him a meal on the beach, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He asked this question three times.
Jesus accomplishes so much in this brief, but life-altering conversation. We watch him beautifully restore, commission, and prophesy over Peter. But we also see him expose Peter. Peter’s denials were real and horrible failures. Jesus repeating his question three times wasn’t merely to allow Peter to affirm his love for every denial. He was also probing deep into Peter’s soul, into the painful place of shame, and calling forth a love stronger than before, one that would endure the future opportunity for Peter to fulfill his pledge to lay his life down for Jesus (John 13:37). I think Peter’s grief after the third question is evidence that Jesus was hitting home (John 21:17).
Have We Lost Our First Love?
And we, like Peter, have also failed to love Jesus. Perhaps we have denied him publicly at times. We certainly have denied him thousands of times privately, choosing to pursue other treasures because we believed they held greater pleasures. These failures are real and horrible — worse than we might realize.
The question is, how true is this now? Are we living in failure, allowing the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of sin to choke out our love for Jesus (Matthew 13:22; Hebrews 3:13)? Have we grown accustomed to talking abstractly and dutifully about loving Jesus while passionately wanting and pursuing other things? Have we given ourselves permission to consider our lack of love for Jesus to be normal because lots of other Christians seem content living this way?
If so, if our pleasures are blowing the whistle that our hearts are not enthralled with Jesus, that we don’t love him supremely, it’s time to come to him and repent and invite him to search our hearts and ask us his probing question, “Do you love me?”
Whatever It Takes, Lord
The wonderful thing is that we don’t need to be afraid, for Jesus knows exactly where we’re at, just like he knew where Peter was at. He knows our failures to love him. He knows that they are sin. But he also knows his death and resurrection purchased the full forgiveness of those sins and the power for us to be changed from lukewarm to white-hot lovers of God. And he wants this for us — he’s eager to give it to us!
Our Lord Jesus,
We confess our horrible failures to love you. Our pleasures have not lied, and they reveal how we have not pursued the triune God as our greatest treasure. We don’t want another day to pass allowing our love for you to languish in a tepid place in our hearts.
So we ask you, Great Physician, to come search our souls and know our hearts. We present them to you; address every grievous way in us. Ask your probing questions. We will hold nothing from you. Do whatever it takes to revive our love for you! We do not want to give our souls rest until you are our first love (Revelation 2:4).
We want this more than anything: to love the triune God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Matthew 22:37). We believe the greatest affection is love, and we believe you are the greatest object of our love (1 Corinthians 13:13). And we believe we’ll never be happier and the excellence and worth of our souls will never be greater than when we love you supremely. For you are the wellspring of all that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19; John 14:6).
So we ask you to revive our love for you, O Lord, whatever it takes. And we ask it in your name, Jesus, and for your glory, Amen.
The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a journey of ten million steps.
Day after day, and year after year, we put one foot in front of the other as we flee the wreckage of our sin and follow Jesus on the path of life. We step away from self-protection toward love, away from darkness toward light, away from foolishness toward wisdom. Step after step after step — ten million times.
“The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a journey of ten million steps.” Tweet Share on Facebook
But unless we stop every so often, and take a careful look backward and forward, our feet will gradually drift from God’s paths and stumble onto others. Like a hiker who never checks his compass, we’ll set out in the right direction and end up miles off the mark. Slowly, subtly, and perhaps imperceptibly, we’ll exit the narrow and hard path that leads to life and merge onto the wide and easy way to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14).
The new year is a time for course correction — a time for taking out the map, consulting the compass, and heeding Paul’s command to “look carefully . . . how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15).
In Ephesians, Paul commands his readers five times to “walk” — in good works, in a manner worthy of their calling, in love, in light, and in wisdom. As we consider three of Paul’s “walk” commands, take a look backward and forward: Where have you drifted off the path? What steps might you take this year, with God’s help, to follow Jesus down these hard but happy roads?
Walk in Love
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
For Jesus, love meant nails through his hands and feet and a spear through his side. Love meant climbing onto a cross and offering himself up as a sacrifice. Love meant inconvenience and sorrow and an excruciating death. This is the love that breathed life into our dead lungs (Ephesians 2:4–5); the love that is broader, longer, higher, and deeper than the galaxies (Ephesians 3:18–19); the love that is washing every stain of sin from our souls (Ephesians 5:25–27); the love that God commands us to imitate — even if our strongest love is a whisper compared to his symphony.
“Jesus knows how to repay everything you lose on the path of love.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Therefore, walk in love — go low to lift others up. Spend your time with the lonely. Bend your body to bear burdens. Ransack your imagination to meet needs. Give your presence to the grieving. Fix your attention on the forgotten.
Such love will cost us, of course; we’ll have to relinquish handfuls of time and comfort and convenience. But in the end, Jesus knows how to repay everything you lose on the path of love, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). Go low in love, and Christ himself will lift you up. Walk in love this year.
Walk in Light
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)
When the light of Christ broke into your life and dispersed your constant midnight, he shone on you so that his light might make its home in you. The God of light made you a child of light — a little candle lit from the sun of Christ.
Therefore, walk in light — drive out the shadows from your soul. Train your tongue to heal others instead of cutting them up. Relish the deeper pleasure of purity instead of giving yourself over to sexual immorality. Grow in gratitude for all that God has given instead of stewing over all that he’s withheld. Ache for “all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9).
You can walk in these paths of light this year because you already are light in the Lord. The dark version of you died with Jesus at the cross, was laid with Jesus in the tomb — and will never rise again. Even if you feel like a smoldering wick right now, if you are in Christ, your destiny is to “shine like the sun in the kingdom of [your] Father” (Matthew 13:43). And that transformation will happen as you keep on stepping out of the shadows, repenting of the specific darkness that still grips you, confessing it to God and others, and shining the light of God’s word upon it. Walk in light this year.
Walk in Wisdom
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)
Every path in this world cuts through our enemy’s backyard. We don’t yet walk in the safety of the new heavens and new earth; we walk in “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), an age where the devil stalks the earth with a quiver of burning arrows, his eyes keen for careless travelers (Ephesians 6:16). If we do not apply God’s wisdom to how we are walking in every area of life, the devil will be more than happy to chart the course for us.
“Grow in gratitude for all that God has given instead of stewing over all that he’s withheld.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Therefore, walk in wisdom — seize your days from the devil’s hand. Clutch onto every opportunity in your life, and turn it in a Godward direction. Make a plan for your marriage this year. Go to work on your parenting. Gauge the health of your friendships. In each of these areas of life (and every other), ask, In this part of my life, how can I live like Christ is precious, the gospel is powerful, the Spirit is inside me, and eternity is coming?
God has already broken the devil’s spell on you. He has already handed you a shield to extinguish his arrows and a sword to swing back (Ephesians 6:16–17). These days may be evil, but you don’t have to be — no part of your life has to be. With a lot of careful looking, and the Holy Spirit’s help, you can make the best use of these evil days. Walk in wisdom this year.
God’s City of Joy
One day soon, you will not need to look carefully to how you are walking. Perfect love will course through the veins of your resurrected body. The light of God’s righteousness will radiate from your every thought, word, and action. Unclouded wisdom will rest upon your immortal shoulders.
Until that day, 2018 is another year to “look carefully . . . how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15). Walk in love — go low to lift others up. Walk in light — drive the shadows from your soul. And walk in wisdom — seize your days from the devil’s hand. These are three roads that lead us to God’s city of joy, where our journey of ten million steps will finally end.
Congratulations we made it to the New Year 2018, where God is set to uplift and deliver the captives in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Triumphantradio is set to bring to you this new year more programs that will transform and bless lives, more ease in service delivery for all our customers around the world. As we all know music is the food of the soul, we believe to improve our service delivery system, bringing you new songs from around the world.
This New Year Shall be our year of pleasant surprises in Jesus Name. Amen
Hello everyone, we are almost in a new year and I hope you are as excited as I am to be in ‘that time of the year’. That time of the year when everyone has a reason to smile, love and be loved. That time of the year people make promises to be better versions of themselves in the next year. That time of the year when people plan on how to succeed in their diverse fields in the coming year. But we should not forget nothing can be achieved in the absence of harmony.
When Haman conspired against the Jews, Esther proposed in her heart to go into the inner court of the king to plead against Haman’s plot. That was a really brave move but she did not obtain favor in the sight of the King just because she was courageous. She instructed Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan to neither drink nor eat for three days (Esther 4:1-17). They unitedly prayed for her and this brought about their safety.
Genesis 11:1-9 speaks about the people of Babylon. They agreed to build a mega city where everyone would dwell under one leadership and a tower that would ascend into heaven. Their action displeased the Lord because He wanted the people to dominate every part of the earth and this compelled Him to scatter their language. Since they could not understand each other, they could not agree and without unity, they could not work together (Amos 3:3).
Hebrews 12:14 tells us to follow peace with all men but this cannot happen without the establishment of unity.
As a microbiologist, I am aware of the great harm or benefit microorganisms can achieve in colonies. Some microbes often go into mutualistic relationships to thrive in environments they could not naturally. If the tiniest things can understand the essence of cohabitation, how much more we with highly developed brains.
2018 will definitely be a greater year than 2017 but don’t forget you can only attain little on your own (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Happy new year in advance.
We’re just days away from Christmas, and no doubt last-minute presents are being purchased, shipped, and wrapped. Perhaps you’re multitasking gifts as you listen. Of course, this is the biggest holiday in the States, at least for giving and receiving gifts. I just read that the average American shopper will drop $1,000 on gifts this Christmas season. Wow. And of course you can send your gifts to Pastor John and me at 2112 Broadway Street . . . I’m joking. Don’t send us gifts. Your audience is our gift.
But seriously, this leads to a question especially valuable during this season. It’s from a podcast listener named James. “Pastor John, hello, and thank you for the podcast. Often I hear that we are to love God for who he is, not for what he does for us — to love the giver more than the gifts. How can we know that we are doing this, especially during Advent and the Christmas season? When I examine my own heart, so much of what I know about God seems to be in relation to what he has done for me, like the sending of his Son in the incarnation. How do I interact with him on the basis of him, and not simply on the basis of the gifts he has given me?”
Well first, I think it is absolutely crucial in pursuing that interaction with God to get really clear in our mind and in our heart that there is a huge and important difference between enjoying a person who gives gifts and enjoying the gifts instead of the person (or more than the person). And I think we need to clarify this and get it fixed in our minds, both from experience and from Scripture.
An Engagement Ring
Let me give an example of what I mean from experience. What if you give an engagement ring? So you’ve been in love for two years maybe, and now you’re going to move this thing decisively forward.
“There is a huge difference between enjoying a person who gives gifts and enjoying the gifts instead of the person.” Tweet Share on Facebook
You give a ring. I’m assuming you’re a man, but ladies, you apply it in the appropriate way. So you give your fiancé a beautiful diamond ring, and she spends the rest of the night and the following weeks bragging about this gift. She takes it and shows it to everybody. But she never calls you. She never looks at you. She never takes you by the hand and looks you in the eye. She’s just thrilled with this diamond, but your intent in giving her that ring was totally missed. How would you feel about that?
You wanted her to look at it. Oh yes, you wanted her to love it. You wanted her to be thankful for it. You wanted her to enjoy it, and then you wanted her to put it on her hand, take your hand across the table, and look you in the eye and say, “I would love to spend the rest of my life with you. You are ten thousand times more precious to me than this beautiful ring.”
Treasure, Father, Friend, Savior
We understand from our own experience what it means when gifts are loved more than the giver. We get that. There’s no excuse for not getting that. We get it in our experience. Then we get it from the Bible when it comes to God because it’s all over the place.
So 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” That’s why he died — to bring us to God.
In Romans 5:11, after saying that we rejoice in the hope and the glory of God, and we rejoice in tribulation, then he adds in Romans 5:11, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Or Psalm 73:25–26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
“God does everything for us to be with us as our all-satisfying Treasure and Father and Friend and Savior.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Or the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus in Luke 17:11–19. Remember, all ten end up with no leprosy. Awesome. Healed! They all run away, but one of them — a Samaritan — comes back praising God and falling down at Jesus’s feet. What’s the point? The point is, the other people missed it. They just missed it. This is about Jesus. This is about God. Deliverance was a means to that end.
So we know from experience and we know from the Scriptures that there’s a difference between enjoying a giver through his gifts and enjoying gifts instead of the giver. We know that. We get that.
We know that the goal of all God does for us is designed to make it possible for us to be with him and him to be with us. God does everything for us to be with us as our all-satisfying Treasure and Father and Friend and Savior. Getting that clear is the key, I think, to experiencing God in and through all his gifts.
The Gift Is the Giver
And here’s one more key to help us experience God this way during the Christmas season. We should realize that every gift — every good thing of any kind that comes into our lives as a token of God’s everlasting kindness — all of it was bought by the sacrifice of Jesus, the blood of Jesus.
Here’s the logic of Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” So all things are coming to us as believers because he didn’t spare his Son.
Here’s the effect this has. All giving and getting, especially at Christmastime, becomes a reminder of the death of Jesus. Now, what effect does that have? What effect does God intend for his Son’s death to have on us when we think this way?
On the one hand, Christ is the Father’s indescribable gift (Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 9:15). And Christ is his own gift. Over and over, the New Testament says Christ gave himself (Mark 10:45; Ephesians 5:2; 5:25; Galatians 1:4; 2:20; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14). Christ gave himself.
Think of it. If God gives his Son, and the Son gives himself for you and to you, then it doesn’t even make sense to say we love the gift more than the giver. The gift is the giver; the giver is the gift.
Key to Giving
So, since every gift shared at Christmastime is possible only because of the death of Christ for us and thus directs our attention to the death of Christ, therefore, every gift takes us through the cross to the gift who is the giver.
“All giving and getting, especially at Christmastime, becomes a reminder of the death of Jesus.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Or here’s the other way of seeing it. In Romans 5:8, Paul says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So behind every gift that we get or give at Christmastime is the death of Christ, and that means that every gift is the overflow of the gift of God’s love, because that’s what he shows when Christ dies. When you think of God’s love, it is inseparable from himself, isn’t it?
When John Piper talks about enjoying God, I don’t mean, “Oh, but you can’t enjoy his love.” His love is not a gift — it is what he is, right? When real love binds two persons together, they don’t say, “Hey, where’s the gift?” They say, “You’re the gift. You are my love. Your love is yourself given to me.”
So it seems to me that Romans 8:32 is the key to God-centeredness in giving and getting gifts at Christmas. Every good in our life as Christians is owing to the death of Jesus, according to the logic of Romans 8:32. And that death is the gift of God himself for our everlasting joy and the gift of God’s love, which is also the giving of himself to us.