Friday, March 02, 2007

"And Enlarge My Coast"

Where's Jordan been lately? I'd like to think I've been "enlarging my coast." More on that momentarily.

Although I can think of few joys more enjoyable than the joy of expository exultation, these first two weeks of my current five-week stint out of the pulpit at Grace have,
on several fronts, proven good for my soul. During these weeks I've intentionally limited my output, but I've managed to stay busy enough.

I've often wondered how pastors did it all without being drained? Or worse, doing it all while being drained. And how much more effective they might be if they didn't have to wait until they were drained to take a much-needed sabbatical in order to seek the Lord's face? Not to take a break from the people, but for the people.

To state the obvious, pastors (and all believers) should always be following the Lord and leading His people to nourishing pastures. But when a pastor is afforded a special season to feast upon the Lord apart from his weekly responsibility to feed the flock from the
pulpit it is a double-good; first for his soul, and secondarily, for the people he leads. As he is refreshed, he is more usable in the Master's hand to feed and lead the people. I can only hope more pastors and congregations will enjoy this double-good.

Of course, I'm delighted to be in the midst of just such a season. If you're not at Grace, maybe you will consider the blessing that both he and you might receive by arranging for him to take some much-needed time to repent and be refreshed by the presence of the Lord? (And if you do, let us know. We'd like to join you in serving him by giving him some books (e.g. 1, 2, 3) from old dead guys which may encourage him as he seeks the Lord's face :)

One significant blessing during this season has been hearing (and heeding) both of Nathan's sermons. May God heighten our knowledge of, and love for, our Good Shepherd, as well as our gladness to be built upon the foundation of Christ "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Another massive blessing, and certainly the greatest so far, has been 1 Chronicles. Pow. That's what the punch feels like when I read of the laborious preparations that were made by David for the building of the Lord's temple...even though the preparer never saw it happen! The prayer has become, "May God make GC willing to prepare - even for a lifetime - for the manifest nearness of God among His people in the Mid-South...even if we never experience it!" But, by all means, let us long to experience it during our lifetime, and pray expectantly.

You don't need me to remind you that Jabez's prayer has gotten some serious mileage in recent years. You may have recognized my reference to it in the title to this post?
1 Chronicles 4:10-Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!" And God granted him what he requested.
The name-it-claim-it folk have claimed a nice mint on their exploitation of this verse. For that they will give an account before the Righteous Judge, and it will not be a fair meeting. I'm not happy with what prosperity preachers have done to make our efforts in downtown more difficult by duping the poor to believe their lack of faith is the root cause for their poverty. Its simply not true. The Son of Man was at times homeless. Well, back to Jabez.

During this five-week quest to seek the Lord's face apart from my part of the pulpit responsibilities at Grace I've enjoyed being discipled by J.C. Philpot. After his death, his daughters complied some of his selected writings and combined them into a daily devotional book (which I've found no better) called Through Baca's Vale. It is literally worth its weight in gold. Just the other day, I was reading the entry for February 28 which happens to be taken from Jabez's prayer, and have been praying accordingly ever since. Suffice it to say that Philpot was not milking the verse to his financial advantage. Here's a snippet:
A coast means a boundary line such as divides one territory from another, or terminates a country, as the sea coast is the boundary of our island. Every quickened soul has a coast; that is, a territory of inward experience, which is limited and bounded by the line that the Holy Spirit has drawn in his conscience... But the living soul cannot but earnestly desire to have his coast enlarged. He wants more light, more life, more liberty, more knowledge of God in Christ, more faith, more hope, and love, and to have his narrow, contracted, shut-up heart enlarged in prayer, in meditation, in communion, in affection to the people of God. He is not satisfied with the scanty pasture alloted him, but wants a larger measure of heavenly teaching, to be indulged with the more filial confidence in, and access unto God, and be more delivered from that fear which hath torment...

A marked difference wouldn't you say from contemporary applications of the same text? Perhaps SC will hear from me again before this five weeks is past. Either way, Lord, enlarge my coast!

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