In Times Like These

In 1943, Ruth Jones, a pastor’s wife, was reading the newspaper filled with reports of World War 2 and the casualty lists, rationing, fear, and discouragement. She picked up her Bible and read 2 Timothy 3:1, “In the last days perilous times shall come.” A self-taught musician without formal music training, she began to pen some words and sat down at her organ, putting together a tune that would become a worldwide classic.

She and her husband Bert Jones started a radio program in Erie, Pennsylvania, called “A Visit with the Jones,” then began to do traveling evangelistic ministry. I remember them coming to the church in which I grew up, and they sang this song. It was even published in our teen songbook Youth Favorites. 

In 1968, I was privileged to sing in the Billy Graham Crusade Choir when George Beverly Shea sang this song. This song is timeless for all time, and timely, especially today:

In times like these, you need a Savior, 

in times like these, you need an anchor;

be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds 

and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One.

This Rock is Jesus, the only One.

Be very sure, be very sure,

your anchor holds, and grips the Solid Rock.

In times like these, you need the Bible, 

in times like these, O be not idle!

Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds 

and grips the Solid Rock.

In times like these, I have a Savior, 

in times like these, I have an anchor;

I’m very sure, I’m very sure, my anchor holds 

and grips the Solid Rock. 

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George Mueller—My Mentor in Faith

George Mueller is known worldwide as “The Apostle of Faith” of the 1800s. His life has impacted thousands and perhaps millions. Charles Spurgeon and J. Hudson Taylor were personally mentored by Mueller and patterned their lives and ministries after Mueller’s principles. Others who followed his faith principles included diverse spiritual leaders from all backgrounds: Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest; Amy Carmichael, missionary to India; Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles; Kenneth Hagin from the Word of Faith movement, just to name a few. 

Mueller visited A.B. Simpson, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and told him that his Fourfold Gospel of Jesus Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming, “was definitely from God and he should never change its mold.”

Mueller moved from Germany to London to do Jewish evangelism and ended up living a life of total faith trusting God for everything. He pastored, evangelized, and started orphanages, and trusted God to provide. Hundreds of times, he explained, he would sit down at the dinner table thanking God for the food, when there was no food in the house. But then then there would be a knock on the door—and the food was there. He said that only once in 50 years did he have to wait half an hour for the food to arrive.

When I first read The Autobiography of George Mueller, I thought to myself, “I can’t live that kind of a life of faith.” But George Mueller said that he lived his life of faith to show that it can be done by any believer. I was challenged to begin to take steps of faith as Mueller suggested. When I read it again 20 years later, I thought to myself again, “I can’t live that kind of a life of faith.” 

But then I realized, maybe I have not lived the life of faith to the extent Mueller lived, but I have lived a much greater life of faith because of Mueller’s challenge. I certainly do not do it perfectly, and I have fallen and failed many times, but I have gotten back up again.

He was so immersed in the Word of God that sometimes he would read through the Bible four times in one year. When he was doing Jewish evangelism, he memorized large portions of the Old Testament in Hebrew (something I have never been able to do even after 3 years of Hebrew study). He was saturated in Scripture, bathed in prayer. His example challenged me to read through the Bible every year. Although I have missed a few, or it has taken me more than a year, I have been able to do so more than 40 times (I have lost count). My life has been enriched by receiving the Word implanted (James 1:21).

Some of Mueller’s principles that impacted my life include:

  1. Believe that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)
  2. Don’t start big; start small with “faith-sized” prayers—what you can believe for, then increase that—exercise the muscles of your faith—believe for more. Pray for $50, then when God answers that prayer, believe for $100, etc.
  3. Give abundantly—he said that we shouldn’t look at tithing as a legalistic debt we owe, but rather the beginning point of generosity.
  4. Stay out of debt, “Owe no man anything” (Romans 13:8).
  5. Faith is increased by saturation in the Word of God (James 1:21).

He also taught me a lot about guidance and hearing from the Lord about decision-making. He would always prayerfully list and weigh the pros and cons of a decision, sometimes spending a day or week in prayer. 

  1. Is it God’s work? Is it something God wants done? Is it a good thing or a God thing?
  2. Is it my work? Is it something God wants me to do? Has He called me to it, or someone else. God told David that his son would build the temple, not him.
  3. Is it God’s timing? Does God want it done now? Or later? What stage or priority is it in God’s “to do” list.
  4. Is it God’s way? God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Where we often miss it is in God’s timing or God’s way. We have heard from God that He wants it done and wants us to do it. But we get ahead of God, or we plunge forward with what we think is God’s way, not what we have heard from God that it is His way. George Mueller continues to mentor me through his example and his words.

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The Journey of the Incredible Christian

A.W. Tozer describes the paradoxes of the Higher Life of The Incredible Christian:

That Incredible Christian believes that in Christ he has died, yet he is more alive than before and he fully expects to live forever. He walks on earth while seated in heaven and though born on earth He finds that after his conversion he is not at home here. 

Like the nighthawk, which in the air is the essence of grace and beauty but on the ground is awkward and ugly, so the Christian appears at his best in the heavenly places but does not fit well into the ways of the very society into which he was born.

The Christian soon learns that if he would be victorious as a son of heaven among men on earth he must not follow the common pattern of mankind, but rather the contrary. 

That he may be safe he puts himself in jeopardy; he loses his life to save it and is in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it. He goes down to get up. If he refuses to go down he is already down, but when he starts down he is on his way up. He is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strong. 

Though poor he has the power to make others rich, but when he becomes rich his ability to enrich others vanishes. He has most after he has given most away and has least when he possesses most. 

He may be and often is highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he is most conscious of sin. He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge. 

He sometimes does most by doing nothing and goes furthest when standing still. In heaviness he manages to rejoice and keeps his heart glad even in sorrow. He believes that he is saved now; nevertheless he expects to be saved later and looks forward joyfully to future salvation. 

He fears God but is not afraid of Him. In God’s Presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, yet there is nowhere he would rather be than in that Presence.

He knows that he has been cleansed from his sin, yet he is painfully conscious that in his flesh dwells no good thing. He loves supremely One whom he has never seen, and though himself poor and lowly he talks familiarly with One who is King of all kings & Lord of all lords. 

He feels that he is in his own right altogether less than nothing, yet he believes without question that he is the apple of God’s eye and that for him the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of shame.

The cross-carrying Christian is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist like found nowhere else on earth. When he looks at the cross he is a pessimist, for he rejects every human hope outside of Christ because he knows that man’s noblest effort is only dust building on dust. Yet he is calmly, restfully optimistic, for the resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. 

Through Christ all will be well at last and the Christian waits the consummation.

Incredible Christian!

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Join Me in the Journey in the Higher Life!

Greetings and Happy New Year!  As we start this new year, the Lord has put on my heart to rekindle afresh the life of the Spirit and the calling He has put upon my life to press lead others into the higher and deeper life in Christ—to press on for the high calling of God to “Come Up Higher”!

I retired last fall from full-time pastoring, but as there is no such thing as retirement for a minister of the gospel, I like to consider myself as “semi” retired. One of my mentors has told me that I belong not just to one local church, but to the entire body of Christ. As another has said, quoting John Wesley, “the world is my parish.” So now I am a pastor to the church at large and a pastor to pastors.

I am not a techie and I am not up on the latest techniques of mastering ministry via social media, so I may not yet have the finesse and polish to do this flawlessly, but I will be obedient to the Lord to share what He puts on my heart.

So I invite you on this journey to a higher life in Jesus Christ—the Apostle Paul’s desire in Philippians 3:10-14, to know Jesus and to know Him and love Him more intimately, more fully, more deeply, to know the power of His resurrection more intimately, more fully, more deeply, to know what it is to share His sufferings more intimately, more fully, more deeply, in order to life that resurrection life—to live in the heavenly places while are feet are still stuck in the muck on this earth.

I will share posts and videos, on this Facebook page and others—Higher Life Alliance Heritage, Rekindle the Flame & blogs at kingsroundtable.wordpress.com. 

I would like to put together Zoom meetings and Bible studies. If you are interested or have ideas of things you would like me to share, please let me know. I invite you to join what A.W. Tozer calls “The Fellowship of the Burning Heart.”—a heart burning for God.

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Silence in Heaven

“”When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. “–Revelation 8:1

I have just spent a wonderful half hour of silence with the Lord. I began doing that on quarterly retreats a couple of years ago, and the insights I receive from the Lord and the inspiration and productivity of the Holy Spirit are amazing. Sometimes there are things that I cannot share, but the Lord has impressed me to share with you just a little of what I have seen freshly in this time today.

For many of us, silence for half an hour seems virtually impossible. We have people to see, things to do, kids to care for, phone calls and emails to answer, etc. But if there was silence in heaven, it must be significant. How can we even imagine silence in heave for half an hour? And even if it happens in heaven, how do we do it on earth?

In some environments, it may be impossible to have total silence, but we can tune out the noise, the static, the interruptions–have a spiritual white noise machine, as it were. The way Susanna Wesley did it with 16 children was to put an apron over her head–her children knew not to bother her time with the Lord when the apron was over her head.

How can we get the silence today? Turn off the radio, the TV, the MP3 player, the cell phone, close the laptop, find a little corner somewhere, or even just sit in our car–there are any number of ways.

A half hour of silence seems an awful long time. What will we do? “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Or as Martin Luther would phrase it, “Be silent and let God mold you.”

In the silence this morning, God brought to my mind when I would take my young son to the barber to get his haircut, he would wiggle. The barber would say, “Be still,” but he would continue to wiggle. He would wiggle so much that inevitably the barber would make a slip and cut some hair he didn’t intend to cut. Then he or she would have to reshape the haircut. Sometimes we are so wiggly with God and won’t be still with Him that that molding becomes misshapen with nicks not intended by God at all, but we have brought it on ourselves.

Sometimes the silence also reveals things we have not heard before. A couple of nights ago it was raining real hard, so much so that it woke me up in the middle of the night. And then it stopped. Everything got silent. and then I heard a faint scratching sound. Then it stopped. I waited in silence. Then the scratching started again. I realized it was a mouse in our house taking refuge from the storm. I would not have known about the mouse without the silence. Sometimes to “be still and know God” means knowing God’s exposing Presence, in the silence exposing what needs to be removed from our lives.

God revealing who He is today. He is the gentle exposer. Yahweh Rohe—the God who sees. God sees so much—in fact, everything. He sees our past, present and future. He watches out for us—He sees what we need and provides. He sees our sin and gently exposes it, brings it to the surface, brings it to the light to deal with it.

Create some time to be still and know God today. If a half hour is too hard, start with 5 or 10 minutes, then build up to half an hour over time. Usually it takes me a couple of days to decompress before the insights start to flow, but then they gush forth from the Holy Spirit–out of our inmost being shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-39).

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A PRAYER FOR THE NEW YEAR–by A.B. Simpson

What shall I ask for the coming year?

What is Your will to do?

What would You do for me, dear Lord?

How can I best serve You?

Lord, I would ask for a holy year,

Spent in Your perfect will;

Help me to walk in Your very steps—

Help me to please You still.

Lord, I would ask for a trustful year;

Humble, and yet so high;

Help to bow at Your holy feet, 

And in Your presence lie.

Lord, I would ask for a year of faith;

Give me Your faith divine,

Taking my full inheritance,

Making Your fullness mine,

Lord, I would ask for a year of love,

That I may love You best;

Give me the love that fails not, 

Under the hardest test.

Lord, I would ask for a busy year,

Filled up with service true;

Doing with all Your Spirit’s might

All that I find to do.

Lord, I would ask for a year of prayer—

Teach me to walk with You;

Breathe in my heart Your Spirit’s breath;

Fill me with Your power to do.

Lord, I would ask for a dying world;

Stretch forth Your mighty hand;

Scatter forth Your Word—Your power display

This year in every land.

Lord, I would ask for a year of joy,

Your peace, Your joy divine,

Springing undimmed through all the day,

Whether of shade or shine.

Lord, I would ask for a year of hope,

Looking for You to come,

And hastening on that year of years,

That brings us Christ and Home.

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Taking Inventory of 2020 and Reconciling the Books

I am taking a break for a couple of days from sharing about my mentors from past generations to focus on the New Year. For tax purposes, at the end of each year, I take an inventory of the books I have sold through the year and the existing inventory I have in stock. Hopefully, it will be easier this year since I have sold many fewer books because of COVID, but inevitably, each year I cannot get the inventory to balance. In some cases, I seem to have books missing, in others, I have more left than what my records show I have sold. Sometimes I take hours trying to reconcile the books and balance the ledgers.

Spiritually, end of year is a good time to take inventory of our life and try to reconcile the books and get our life into balance. It has been my practice for decades to do so such an inventory of my life at the end of each year. I keep a journal in which I record the significant happenings each month of the year. I make a list of the greatest trials or difficulties of the past year (not hard to do this year for any of us). Then I make a list of the greatest blessings or joys of the year (sometimes we have to work at this). I do the trials first, get them out of the way and concentrate on counting the blessings and joys. 

I also make a list of the goals or desires I want to accomplish for the coming year, as well as assess if I accomplished my goals and desires for the prior year. And if not, why not? (COVID provides a good excuse for the why nots this year). As I am doing all of this, I am praying and assessing the year as a whole—what I have learned, what I didn’t do so well and why, what I did well and why, and what is God saying to me through it all. Then I make a list—very tentatively of what I want to accomplish in the coming year—focusing on not what I want, but what God wants.

COVID has thrown a wrench into everything this year, but we have to be careful that we don’t blame everything on COVID. What it really comes down to is, are we better spiritually and emotionally through all of the roller-coaster ride? Are we finishing the year well in our spiritual growth and our attitudes? Are we adapting in Christ-like ways to the drastic shaking within our lives? Are we forgiving and being forgiven? Are we maintaining hope in the midst of the chaos around us? Are we overcoming our losses and focusing on gaining Christ (Philippians 3:1-14)? Are we looking forward and not backward? The jury is still out on some of these in my life. 

The important thing is to let God pick us up from our failures and blows that have knocked us over. Let God breathe a breath of new life into us when we have had breath knocked out of us. Let God heal the hurts, right the wrongs, recover the losses. Trust God to cause all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28). He who has begun a good work in you will complete It until Christ returns (Philippians 1:6).

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John MacMillan—My Spiritual Warfare Mentor

I mentioned in an earlier blog my living mentor Ron MacDonald who began my training in deliverance ministry when I was in youth ministry at 20 years old. He was the first, but not the last, to refer me to John MacMillan’s classic original book The Authority of the Believer. His book has impacted thousands including people from a wide variety of theological backgrounds, He was known for pioneering understanding of our authority as a believer in Christ and how to exercise that authority in spiritual warfare ministry, especially in the casting out of demons.

John MacMillan was a Canadian Presbyterian lay elder and businessman who in mid-life became a missionary to China and the Philippines with The Christian and Missionary Alliance in the 1920s. Then he became an itinerant minister, magazine editor, and professor at Nyack Missionary Training Institute (now Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary). 

I have had several spiritual warfare mentors, both living and dead, but none as rich and extensive as John MacMillan. I was mentored so much by MacMillan that I wrote a 600+ page doctoral dissertation on his life and spiritual warfare ministry. The book that emerged from the dissertation is entitled A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan.

I felt I got to know John personally, reading through his personal diaries, given to me by his daughter-in-law. I read of his prayer life, his battles with the dark powers, his moments of victory and defeat, and his struggles and sorrows, especially his wife Isabel’s death. 

As a professor at Nyack Missionary Training Institute, MacMillan taught principles of the authority of the believer and spiritual warfare decades before it would be taught in colleges and seminaries. Just last year I was asked to develop a course in spiritual warfare for Crown College. 

MacMillan’s former students and ministry associates told me of their personal experiences with his teaching and training. He mentored dozens of students practically in spiritual warfare by developing deliverance teams, having them observe and assist him in deliverance sessions. I talked with numerous former students who were trained by MacMillan to discern demonic powers and to cast out demons. They had fascinating stories to tell.

He was a quiet, humble, soft-spoken man, but powerful in dealing with demons. He spoke and wrote of the reality of the demonic, even among believers. Even some students had been infected with demons through involvement in the occult, generational bondage and curses, counterfeit supernatural manifestions, transfer of unclean spirits, festering bitterness and unconfessed sin. Even though in some ways a veteran in casting out demons, he was still a pioneer, and thus encountered tough situations that sometimes took multiple sessions of exorcism for even months, in which hundreds of demons were cast out. 

He found over time that some cases of demonization could be resolved without casting out demons, but rather through repentance, faith confessions, and the person learning to exercise his or his personal authority as a believer, binding and rebuking spirits—a form of self-deliverance. 

This would be the technique that Dr. Neil T. Anderson, founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries, would call “truth encounter,” based on John 8:32: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Neil acknowledges: “John MacMillan’s published work on the authority of the believer greatly influenced the development of my own thinking.” I myself make frequent use of Neill Anderson’s approach, which involves taking people through seven steps to freedom in Christ through repentance, renouncing our past and the lies the devil and others have told us, and making faith confessions of the truths of Scripture and who we are in Christ. 

After dealing with people who would get partially delivered but were not willing to do what was necessary for full victory and freedom, MacMillan commented, “I am not sure I am called to go all over the country trying to deliver them.” For more than thirty years he had battled the forces of evil into his 80s, Though he wanted to help everyone, he realized he could not

A few of the many insights I learned from MacMillan include the following:

  1. You don’t have to be somebody special to exercise the authority of the believer. Every believer can if you are walking right with God.
  2. Learn to discern, first of all, whether something is from God, of the flesh, or of demonic original. All that appears supernatural is not of God.
  3. Don’t assume something is demonic. Learn to discern whether something is really demonic. There is a lot of unhealthy deliverance ministry theology and practice. 
  4. Learn to discern the level of demonic involvement. There are degrees of demonic influence or infestation in a person’s life. Casting out demons is not always necessary.
  5. Exercise your authority as a believer. Learn to bind spirits and loose people from spirits. Learn when it is appropriate to bind or loose and when it is not; when it is effective and when it is not.
  6. You don’t have to shout to do deliverance. It is not about how loud, but about the authority we have in Christ. MacMillan sometimes dispelled demons with a whisper, firmly, but quietly.
  7. Pray protection over yourself and your family according to Psalm 91,
  8. Don’t try to do deliverance in every situation. If a person is not ready to do what is necessary to be totally free, they will be demonized again. The person may get partially free, but then not be willing to deal with a particular issue or let go of an idol in their lives, and thus become enslaved again.
  9. Just because someone uses the name of Jesus doesn’t it is of God. A young woman kept repeating that she wanted to be “a Jesus girl.” MacMillan noted that though she claimed to be a “Jesus girl” she did not mention the name of Christ.  He discerned that she had been infested with a false “Jesus spirit” (2 Cor. 11:4).
  10. We can discern through asking the spirit manifesting through the person, “Has Jesus Christ come in the flesh?” If the response is negative or evasive, you know that a demon is involved.
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Andrew Murray—My Revival Mentor Leading Me into the Holiest

In my book Moving Mountains: Lessons in Bold Faith from Great Evangelical Leaders, I have a chapter on Andrew Murray, in which I tell the story of how Murray almost quenched a revival. He, his father, and his church had been praying for revival, but it arrived in a form he never imagined—people were praying loudly and emotionally all at once, some of them even trembling and swooning, unacceptable in his staid Dutch Reformed background. 

He was trying to stop them, but someone told him this is what was happening in the revivals in America with Charles Finney, Phoebe Palmer, and others. Instead of quenching the revival, he realized this was God at work. He stepped out of his comfort zone, and instead embraced the unusual move of God. He became a revivalist himself, leading his entire denomination in revival, and being elected as Moderator of his Synod.

Andrew Murray was a Scotsman who became a Dutch Reformed missionary to South Africa. He has written many devotional books on prayer, Christian living, and the deeper and higher life in Christ. I was first introduced to Murray as a teenager by my Aunt Lois King, who had been a missionary to Angola. She gave me a copy of God’s Best Secrets and Day-by-Day with Andrew Murray. They were the first year-long devotional books that I ever read. 

From there, his books on prayer enriched my prayer life: With Christ in the School of Prayer, Abide in Christ, and Waiting on God, which I have read over and over. Along with A.B. Simpson, he mentored me in the higher and deeper life in Christ. At a time when I already had a copy in my library and didn’t think I needed it, a veteran missionary thrust into my hand his little book Humility. Oh, how I did need it then, and still do now. Other convicting, challenging books have been The School of Obedience and Absolute Surrender. 

When I needed professional Christian counseling from ministerial burnout as a 32-year old, the counselor assigned me to read Murray’s Be Perfect to help me through healing my legalistic, perfectionist past. I could not understand why I should read a book on perfectionism when I was a recovering perfectionist. But as I read, the lights came on, and peace flooded my heart as I came into a real understanding and encounter with Jesus that what God wanted and expected was not someone who does not blow it, but someone who has a heart that seeks God. 

In one sense, when comparing the writings of Murray and A.B. Simpson, they are almost like twins—you read one thing from Simpson and find almost the same thing from Murray in different words—on two separate continents. I like to call them “The Holy Spirit’s Universal Sunday School Lessons.” 

Murray’s Divine Healing and Simpson’s The Gospel of Healing are like that—you read one, you have read the other. Of course, each brings out their own insights and perspectives. They each had their own personal experience of God’s divine healing power. For Murray, he had lost his voice for two years from constant preaching and strain on his vocal chords. He spent three weeks at Bethshan Healing Home in London, founded by William Boardman who started the Higher Life movement. During that three weeks, he received constant prayer, what today we call soaking prayer–as well as soaking in the Word of God and worship, faith confessions of Scripture, anointing with oil. As a result, he was healed, never to have problem with his voice again.

Although not about healing, another of his books played a large part in my healing from 3rd stage rectal cancer—The True Vine, a 30-day devotional on John 15. The day after being diagnosed with cancer, I went to a used book sale (You can’t keep a preacher and professor away from a book sale, even when he has cancer!). I already had 15 of Murray’s books, but this one I did not have. It was as though God said to me, this is your key to get through this—Abiding in Jesus, the Vine. I read from that book every day, over and over again throughout the ordeal—learning to abide in the presence of Jesus was key through it all. In the end, God healed me.

Like other mentors, Murray wasn’t perfect and I didn’t agree with everything he taught. Yet I have learned so much from Murray. Like Simpson, he taught Covenant theology—that as spiritual Israelites we have covenant or redemption rights and privileges. This theme is found all through Murray’s writings, but especially in The Two Covenants

The Holiest of All, his expositional devotional preaching from Hebrews, along with Simpson’s Christ in the Tabernacle, brought me into a deeper, fuller understanding of what it means to draw near to Christ in the Holy of Holies, the abiding place with Jesus:

“We have Jesus as our Forerunner into God’s presence, with all the power of His death and resurrection-life working in us and drawing and lifting us with divine energy into the Father’s presence. Yes, Jesus with His divine, His heavenly life, in the power of the throne in which He is seated, has entered into the deepest ground of our being, where Adam, where sin do their work, and there is increasingly carrying out His work of lifting us heavenward into God’s presence, and of making God’s heavenly presence here on earth our portion.”

Murray describes that life in the Holiest Place as one who has been there, no, not just been there, but stays there. His words lift me up into that Holy of Holies, and I pray they will for you too:

“Oh the blessedness of a life in the Holiest! 

Here the Father’s face is seen and His love tasted. Here His holiness is revealed and the soul made partaker of it. 

Here the sacrifice of love and worship and adoration, the incense of prayer and supplication, is offered in power. 

Here the outpouring of the Spirit is known as an ever-streaming, overflowing river from under the throne of God and the Lamb.

Here the soul, in God’s presence, grows into more complete oneness with Christ and more entire conformity to His likeness. 

Here, in union with Christ, in His unceasing intercession, we are emboldened to take our place as intercessors who can have power with God and prevail. 

Here the soul mounts up as on eagle’s wings, the strength is renewed, and the blessing and the power and the love are imparted with which God’s priests can go out to bless a dying world.

Here each day we may experience the fresh anointing, in virtue of which we can go out to be the bearers, and witnesses, and channels of God’s salvation to men, the living instruments through whom our blessed King works out His full and final triumph. 

O Jesus! Our great High Priest, let this be our life!

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Mentored by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship

When I was a freshman in college, I was accosted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not in person, of course, but by his challenging and convicting book The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who conspired against Hitler during World War II and was executed for treason—paying the ultimate price of the cost of discipleship.

As I read page after page of the book, I was struck by his poignant words again and again. Going over my old copy, which I still have, I rediscovered I had underlined a half page there, a quarter page here, three-quarters page there. So much was standing out to me. Here are just a few of the words that spoke so strongly to my heart:

  • “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”
  • “When Christ calls a man He bids him to come and die.”
  • “Only when we have become completely oblivious of self are we ready to bear the cross for His sake.”
  • “Only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ.”
  • “The call of Jesus teaches us that our relationship to the world is built on an illusion.”

Not a popular message today with the “ME” generation. But they were transforming to me, infusing into me the passion to be a serious life-long disciple of Jesus Christ, not content just to be a believer with “cheap grace” as Bonhoeffer put it, but to be a disciple, a real disciple—and the passion to be a real disciple-maker. 

Bonhoeffer’s book also brought me to the point of realizing I could not live that life of discipleship in my own efforts; I needed the power of the Holy Spirit. I experienced what in holiness terms is called “the crisis of the deeper life.” Out of the overflow of the Asbury College revival of 1970, I experienced the sanctifying baptism in the Spirit, the power to be a witness (Acts 1:5, 8).

After my sophomore year, I dropped out of college to join the staff of Young Life, taking a step in the cost of discipleship to live by faith. For me, sometimes that meant eating only bologna between two pieces of bread without ketchup, or not eating at all. I learned to fast anywhere from one day to a week, not always for lack of food, but to engage the discipline of fasting, as I discovered that you can be disciplined without being a disciple, but you cannot be a disciple without discipline

Then also the cost of my discipleship meant for me that if Jesus could be born in a stable, I could live in a stable—I actually lived in the tack room of a stable for a year (I did have running water, a shower, and deodorizers). 

When on the staff of Young Life, I was engaged in youth evangelism. We saw dozens of teens profess faith in Christ, but I watched half of them drop out in their faith. Then I realized I needed to focus, not on merely on conversion or decisions for Christ, but on discipleship. I read John 8:31 with new eyes: 

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I saw in this passage that not all who believe are disciples, only those who continue to abide in The Word are real disciples—costly grace, not cheap grace. And only those who continue to abide in the Word of God know the truth and the truth sets us free. We may be a believer but not know the truth and therefore not be free.  So I turned the direction of my ministry to discipleship—getting people into the Word and getting the Word into people—and that has been my focus ever since.

Getting people into the Word is hard enough; getting the Word into people is much tougher. The call to come and die to ourselves in order to experience Christ’s resurrection life is not a popular one. Self-help books don’t say much about that. After all, self-help books are meant to help self, not die to self. But Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship has endured the test of time. Enough people have had the courage to read the book to keep it in print. Enough people have realized that the cost of discipleship is worth it.

I guess Bonhoeffer has rubbed off on my son Chris as well. He researched his Ph.D. dissertation on an aspect of Bonhoeffer’s theology. He has become somewhat of a Bonhoeffer scholar, invited to participate in Bonhoeffer scholar conferences in Basel, Switzerland; Berlin, Germany (and visited Bonhoeffer’s home and office); and Capetown, South Africa. But he too has been mentored in the cost of discipleship—a story for another day.

We both want to carry to the next generations the message that the cost of discipleship is worth it—come and die so you can experience the resurrection life of Jesus Christ.

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