Wednesday Wisdom: Unwelcome Changes

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I haven’t done a Wednesday Wisdom post in a very long time. And I don’t plan on picking it up regularly again, at least not for awhile. But, I heard this today and I just had to share it. It is so profound and describes our current Christian culture so well, that I had to revive Wednesday Wisdom, if just for this week!

This was shared in John MacArthur’s sermon Why We Believe the Bible is True. (By the way, this is the same sermon which I linked to in April’s Bible Challenge Newsletter.)  He quotes J.I. Packer from his introduction for Puritan Theology. I hope that you will take the time to read this whole thing. It is so insightful and helps us to understand just exactly what is wrong with this modern day Christianity we find ourselves in.

J.I. Packer (as quoted by MacArthur) says this–

He said this. “It does not seem possible to deny that the Puritans were the strongest just where evangelical Christians today are the weakest. Here were men of outstanding intellectual power in whom the mental habits fostered by sober scholarship were linked with a flaming zeal for God and a minute acquaintance with the human heart. All their work reveals this unique fusion of gifts and graces. Where the Puritans called for order, discipline, depth and thoroughness, our temper is one of casual, haphazardness and restless impatience. “We crave for stunts, novelties and entertainments. We lost our taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplines, meditation and unspectacular hard work in our study.

“Again, where Puritanism had God and His glory as its unifying center, our thinking revolves around ourselves as if we were the hub of the universe.” And so he writes, “In evangelizing we preach the gospel without the Law and faith without repentance, stressing the gift of salvation and glossing over the cost of discipleship. No wonder so many professed conversions fall away. “And then,” he writes, “in teaching on the Christian life, our habit is to depict it as a path of thrilling feelings rather than of working faith and of supernatural interruptions, rather than of rational righteousness.

“And in dealing with the Christian experience, we dwell constantly on joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction and rest with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7, the fight of faith in Psalm 73, or any of the burdens of responsibility and providential chastenings that fall to the lot of the child of God. The spontaneous jollity of the carefree extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living, and jolly extroverts in our churches are encouraged to become complacent in carnality while saintly souls of less sanguine temperament are driven almost crazy because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner.” End quote.

Unfinished Houses

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As we traveled through the Ukrainian countryside, I took in the scenery with amazement. For there, dotting the countryside in great numbers, were unfinished houses. Some of these brick structures were only half-built, but most looked almost finished, slowly fading in the Ukrainian sunlight as they waited for owners to fill them with life.

When I expressed my wonderment at this unusual sight– for there were many of these houses, not just a few– whoever I asked just shrugged their shoulders and said that the owners ran out of money. Apparently, after the Soviet Union broke apart, these bricks and other building supplies were available at deeply discounted prices and so lots of people started building these beautiful homes. But a functioning house is much more than the lumber and bricks of its shell. And so funds ran out and the owners walked away.

Because they did not count the cost.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago in our Sunday School class. We are doing the Radical series by David Platt and he was talking about Christianity as Jesus defines it in the Bible.  It is very different from the cultural Christianity that demands nothing– that requires no sacrifice– that only needs a prayer to declare oneself as officially in the Lamb’s Book of Life. He used the following quote by John Stott. Actually, this is a bigger portion than he used, but it’s all so good, I wasn’t sure what to eliminate–

Jesus never concealed the fact that his religion included a demand as well as an offer. Indeed, the demand was as total as the offer was free. If he offered men his salvation, he also demanded their submission. He gave no encouragement whatever to thoughtless applicants for discipleship. He brought no pressure to bear on any inquirer. He sent irresponsible enthusiasts away empty. Luke tells of three men who either volunteered, or were invited, to follow Jesus; but no one passed the Lord’s test. The rich young ruler, too, moral, earnest and attractive, who wanted eternal life on his own terms, went away sorrowful, with his riches intact but with neither life nor Christ as his possession…The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half built towers—the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so called “nominal Christianity.” In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism…The message of Jesus was very different. He never lowered his standards or modified his conditions to make his call more readily acceptable. He asked his first disciples, and he has asked every disciple since, to give him their thoughtful and total commitment. Nothing less than this will do”
John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity

I guess the deeper my relationship grows with Jesus Christ, the more I realize that much of what passes today as Christianity isn’t really true Christianity. This is such an unpopular message. And I can understand why! Because true Christianity costs us something. Yes, it’s a free gift, but it costs everything. But when our hearts are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives are transformed. This isn’t a begrudging obedience to God’s laws — a list of do’s and don’t’s that plague us and keep us from having any fun.

Instead our stone hearts start beating with love for the Father and following His will not only becomes a pleasure, but our main priority.

This brand of Christianity sounds so foreign to most of us. Even as I write, I realize this. And I wonder– what does this mean for all of us in this day and age? How does this kind of Christianity look in a Western culture where indulgence and comfort reign supreme?

All I know is that I am not walking away from an unfinished house. I will keep working and building until I die or my Lord returns. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, there is sacrifice required. Great sacrifice. There is turning away from the world, being unpopular with people, doing what’s right at all costs. It means we love and forgive even when we don’t feel like it. It means we stand alone if we have to. And that our time and resources are no longer our own. This does not sound all that appealing, does it? But when we read in the New Testament, we can’t help but conclude that this is what it’s all about.This is what Jesus demands of His disciples.

And, honestly, the costs for us are really nothing compared to so many of our Christian brothers and sisters. I can’t help but think of them as they give up homes, loved ones, and even their lives for the sake of Christ. I can’t help but wonder how comfortable, indulged America would respond in the same situation. Oh, may we be found faithful if (or shall I say when?) that happens to us!

If you have started your house of faith but are ready to walk away, please don’t. If the enemy of your soul is throwing arrows and you are just so tired, hang in there. Open your Bible and read Ephesians 6, put on your armor, and beg the Lord for strength to keep going. Let’s keep our eyes focused on eternity instead of the here and now. And, remember, God’s great power is shown best through our great weakness. You aren’t alone. Don’t give up. Keep building.

 

The Pitfalls of Living by Feeling

The following is written by Erwin Lutzer. If you are struggling with loving someone, forgiving someone, or a bad habit you just can’t seem to kick, this is well-worth your time–

Before I suggest how you can cope with your emotions, I want you to consider what happens when you live by the dictates of your own hunches and whims. A life based on desires is an invitation to the sin of disobedience. Often our feelings run counter to what God requires. In fact, most sinful habits are developed by simply following the path of least resistance, by doing whatever we feel like doing. Many of our struggles can be traced to sensuality, and by that I mean being controlled by our physical senses. This spawns defeat, self-absorption, and unbelief. Many people who think they cannot obey God’s commandments simply don’t feel like obeying. Occasionally they have days when they wake up wanting to do what God requires— but not often. Our fallen human nature never feels like obeying God; usually it wants to do its own thing. This attitude comes from Satan as he suggests to us— as he did to Eve— that God has asked us to obey commands that we cannot or need not keep. If we think we can’t obey God until we feel like it, we will never get off the ground in our spiritual lives.

Let’s be specific. In his book on overcoming difficulties in marriage, Jay Adams writes of a particular counseling situation in which all love had been drained from the marriage and the partners had already agreed to a divorce. Neither one had committed a serious sin against the marriage. They just didn’t feel in love anymore. They went to the counselor hoping he would confirm their decision that since there was no feeling left, they should divorce. The couple was shocked to find the counselor saying, “If you don’t love each other, there is only one thing to do: You will have to learn to love one another.” The couple was incredulous. “How can you learn to love someone? You can’t produce feelings out of thin air!” The counselor explained that in the Bible, God commands us to love one another. When the husband was told that he should love his wife as Christ loved the church, he gasped. He could never do that. But the counselor persisted. He explained that the husband should begin on a lesser level. The Bible also commands us to love our neighbor, and since his wife is his closest neighbor, he should love her. But even so, the husband rejected the idea that he could love his wife that way. Then the counselor explained that he was still not off the hook, for God had commanded us to love even our enemies! This couple had made a common error; they had equated love with feelings. In the Bible, love is not a feeling. We can learn to love, even though we begin with little or no emotional impetus. In other words, we can choose to love. And God gives us the grace to do so.

Love is not an emotion; neither is forgiveness. The Bible commands us to put away all bitterness (Eph. 4: 31); we are to forgive others whether they solicit our forgiveness or not (v. 32). Yet many Christians believe that they can’t forgive until they feel like it! They think that if they forgive when they don’t feel like it, they are hypocritical. However, if forgiveness were an emotion, God would be commanding us to do the impossible. We cannot switch our emotions on and off. We cannot develop the right feelings on our own. But God is not mocking us when He tells us to forgive; we can choose to do so, whether we feel like it or not. Never try to skirt God’s commands under the pretense that you don’t feel like obeying Him. A second danger of living by feelings is that you may tend to derive your doctrine from feelings. If you believe God is with you just because “He feels so close,” you will also believe there are days when He forsakes you because “He feels so far away.” The assurance of God’s presence does not come by feelings, but by faith (Heb. 13: 5). Fortunately, you don’t always have to feel God’s presence to be in fellowship with Him and to make spiritual progress.

Lutzer, Erwin W. (2010-01-01). Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit (p. 104). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Sovereign Over Us

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If you follow my blog, you will be aware of the fact that I haven’t had a Wednesday Wisdom post on here for a very long time. I decided to focus on a few other areas of writing instead. But a friend who is going through some very deep waters sent me the following lyrics. I had actually heard the second half of this song recently and had wanted to look them up and, lo and behold, this morning my friend sent them to me in an e-mail.

I am sharing them with you today, with the awareness that someone else out there in the “blogosphere” may need to read this today.

SOVEREIGN OVER US

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
[x2]

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory
[x2]

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
[x2]

You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

 

Written by Aaron Keyes, Jack Mooring, Bryan Brown

Performed by Michael W. Smith

Daily Blessings

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How often we forget just how blessed we are as believers, resting in the shadow of the Almighty God. No storm can blow or fire burn that removes us from His protection. No trial can touch us outside of His will and nothing can separate us from His love. This knowledge should fill us with praise and gratitude each new morning.

I share with you today a poem written by Amy Carmichael. While I do not have a big love for poetry, I find Amy’s poetry profoundly beautiful.

Daily Blessings

For the love that like a screen
Sheltered from the might-have-been;
For that fire could never burn us,
Deeps could never drown or turn us;
For our daily blessings, Lord,
Be Thy name adored.

For the gentle joys that pass
Like the dew upon the grass,
New each morning, lighting duty
With a radiance and a beauty; 
For our daily blessings, Lord
Be Thy name adored.

Many a storm has threatened loud,
And then melted like a cloud,
Seeking to distress, confound us,
Met they great wings folded round us;
For our daily blessings, Lord,
Be Thy name adored.

By Amy Carmichael

The Parallel Mission

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Verax Institute recently did a video series with my brother, Pastor Dean Good, regarding the big picture of what’s going on in the church right now. I know that many of you not only have questions about what is going on in the big picture, but, closer to home, what is going on in your own local church.

Some of you have a vague uneasiness about the fact that clean water and feeding the poor has taken on a more important role in your church than expositing God’s Word. You feel uncomfortable that your worship service is akin to a rock concert with a brief devotional thrown in for good measure. You see worldliness in the form of drunkenness, sexual sin, and gambling being defended under the guise of “freedom in Christ” and scriptural teaching about holiness and sanctification being totally ignored.  I know there are other concerns. In fact, there are so many, I probably couldn’t list them all here. And, while we can determine from God’s Word what is wrong with some of this,  many of us can’t figure out exactly why some of these trends bother us, we just know something isn’t right.

This series of videos will help you understand what exactly is wrong and why. The first video is especially helpful in defining the mission of the church from God’s Word and from there, we can better discern what is going on with the current trends in the church.

You may not agree with everything in this video series, but I encourage you to take the time to watch it. My brother is very knowledgeable and has the gift of sharing that knowledge in a very understandable way.

1) The Biblical Mission of the Church

2) Satan’s Mission: One World Society

3) The Infiltration of the Church

4) The New Age Movement

5) The Church as an Instrument to Bring in the New Age

6) Parallel Message, Aim, and Strategy

7) Parallel Spirituality

 

So Who Knew?

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So who knew that for the past two thousand years the church fathers were so wrong? I mean if we believe what the modern day “Christian” leaders tell us, they got more things wrong than right —

–7 Literal Day Creation (Genesis 1)

Modern Approach: They had that all wrong. God just starting the ball rolling and put it in motion. They weren’t literal days.

–Women should not be in church leadership (I Timothy 2:11-12)

Modern Approach: That was all about the culture of the time and has no bearing on today.

–We should separate from the world (I John 2:15-17; James 1:27)

Modern Approach: The exact opposite, we actually need to be like the world to win the world.

–We should be holy (I Peter 1:15-16)

Modern Approach: Holiness isn’t any big deal, it’s love that matters.

–There is a literal hell (Matthew 10:28)

Modern Approach: A loving God would never send anyone to hell.

–Church is designed to grow and encourage believers (Colossians 3:15-16)

Modern Approach: The church is a very hip, safe place to bring our unsaved friends, where they won’t feel judged or uncomfortable and may (or may not) hear the true gospel.

And the most recent— Homosexuality is a sin before God (Romans 1:24-27)

Modern Approach: We may have gotten that all wrong. After all, gay “Christians” are some of the nicest people around.

Oh, dear brothers and sisters, how we have strayed so far from the Word of God. We are relying on the tainted words of so-called leaders to shape and form our doctrine. We listen to songs and popular authors and they redefine what we think about God and His Word. It happens so slowly we don’t even realize it.

In the last fifty to one hundred years, the modern “church” (and I use quotes because I do not believe it is the true church) has turned away from almost every basic doctrine of scripture. The only thing that is left is love and the cross. And some are even turning away from the cross, encompassing anyone who believes in anything as heaven-bound.

Does anyone else find this incredibly disturbing?

But it is also refreshing. And here is why–

I was thinking about this as I read this article about the Jars of Clay band, that is supposedly a Christian group. One of the group members had a series of tweets that very clearly showed that he believes scripture is irrelevant when determining morality. You can read about it yourself, but something someone said in response to him is very worth sharing here–

“This issue will separate the true Bible believers from those who put experience or personal relationships above Scripture, and while it might result in some real challenges for those who hold to the Word, this could be just what the church of America needs today: a wake-up call to arise from our apathy and man-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, and a determination to follow Jesus regardless of cost or consequence,” Brown said.

We desperately need this wake-up call. For way too long we have straddled the fence, trying to play both sides. The time for that is over. We either believe what the Bible says or we don’t. We cannot have it both ways.

John MacArthur puts it this way in the monthly letter I receive from Grace to You–

But now, with the facade of cultural Christianity crumbling, true Christianity is starting to stand out in a way it hasn’t in our lifetime. Scripture teaches and church history confront that the Body of Christ is most potent and most effective when it simply speaks and lives the gospel without equivocation or apology. With the mask of superficial Christianity gone, I believe the best days of the spread of the true gospel are ahead of us.

The gospel advances by personal testimony to Christ, one soul at a time. When the church acts like the church; when shepherds preach Scripture and confront error with clarity and boldness; when believers are sanctified, built up, and equipped in truth; people are saved. And that’s when the culture truly changes — nothing transforms the culture like genuine conversion.

For far too long we have lived in the muddy waters of a shallow Christianity in this country. As long as you said “the prayer” you can do or be whoever you like and still consider yourself saved. But this is not what scripture teaches. And as the chasm between true Bible believers and those who follow their own man-made, people-pleasing God widens,  we can and should expect that life is going to get a bit harder for us. We are no longer mainstream and we are going to need to adjust. We are quickly and consistently getting slapped with labels like “intolerant”, “prejudiced” and even “dangerous”.

Buckle your seat belt and hang on, because I am pretty sure we are in for a rough ride. But just you watch and see God work in amazing ways! I am already seeing Him work in individual lives, drawing them to Himself. He is real and alive and He is faithful!

And, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, get into God’s Word for yourself.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

If you enjoyed this post, would you consider sharing it and letting others know about Growing4Life? Thanks! :)

 

 

“This issue will separate the true Bible believers from those who put experience or personal relationships above Scripture, and while it might result in some real challenges for those who hold to the Word, this could be just what the church of America needs today: a wakeup call to arise from our apathy and man-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, and a determination to follow Jesus regardless of cost or consequence,” Brown said.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/05/pro-gay-jars-of-clay-singerschooled-by-christian-leaders/#D9KgrlTsxROeuJsc.99
“This issue will separate the true Bible believers from those who put experience or personal relationships above Scripture, and while it might result in some real challenges for those who hold to the Word, this could be just what the church of America needs today: a wakeup call to arise from our apathy and man-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, and a determination to follow Jesus regardless of cost or consequence,” Brown said.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/05/pro-gay-jars-of-clay-singerschooled-by-christian-leaders/#D9KgrlTsxROeuJsc.99

Wednesday Wisdom: ‘Tis Wonderful To Me

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On this day before Thanksgiving, I present a poem written by Amy Carmichael, one of the great heroes of the faith. Let’s contemplate our Heavenly Father’s amazing love for us this day and offer grateful hearts to Him.

Brooding Blue

Lord of the brooding blue
Of pleasant summer skies,
Lord of each little bird
That through the clear air flies
‘Tis wonderful to me
That I am loved by Thee
 
Lord of the blinding heat,
Of mighty wind and rain,
The city’s crowded street,
Desert and peopled plain,
‘Tis wonderful to me
That I am loved by Thee
 
Lord of night’s jeweled roof,
Day’s various tapestry,
Lord of the warp and woof,
Of all that yet shall be,
‘Tis wonderful to me
That I am loved by Thee
 
Lord of my merry cheers,
My grey that turns to gold,
And my most private tears
And comforts manifold,
‘Tis wonderful to me
That I am loved by Thee
 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Lord Will Be My Shepherd

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I thought that, after the two long posts on Monday and Tuesday, I would just do a short post for Wednesday Wisdom today. I don’t know about you, but I am still processing the story of Casa de Pan!

I heard this beautiful paraphrase of Psalm 23 several months ago. As I searched for the lyrics online, I had a very difficult time finding them. But, eventually, after a little work, I came across them. I can’t even remember the tune (I wish I could!) but what great comfort and wisdom in these words. 

THE LORD WILL BE MY SHEPHERD

The Lord will be my shepherd, He knows my ev’ry need.
He renews my faith each morning with the promise of His peace.
As I rest in a quiet meadow, or beside a clear blue stream,
the Lord will be my shepherd, I will follow where He leads.
Though the shadows of darkness surround me, I will never be afraid,
for I know the Lord will protect me from the dangers I must face.
When there’s anger or trouble around me, and I want to run and hide,
I will find Him near to calm my fear, always at my side.
The Lord will be my shepherd wherever I may go.
He will fill me with His kindness, He will strengthen me with hope.
When my day at last is over, He will come and take me home.
The Lord will be my shepherd, I will never be alone.

Wednesday Wisdom: Sham Compassion

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One of the biggest concerns I have regarding modern missions is the focus on the physical needs of man without care for the soul. 

Mark 8:36 says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” This is in the context of gaining material wealth, but I believe it can also be applied to our mission philosophy. 

I know this is an unpopular stance to take, but Mark 8:36 makes it clear: all of the clean water, used clothing, and healthy food in the world isn’t going to make a difference eternally.  All of the educated masses, peace projects, and new buildings are not going to save a soul. Unless they are accomplished alongside sharing the truth about God and His way of salvation. For what do we accomplish enduringly if we don’t share the gospel? It is my opinion that all Christian mission agencies should have sharing the gospel as their primary purpose.

I have been so disappointed to see many “Christian” mission agencies relegating what should be their main purpose to fourth or fifth on their list or, for some, to not even making evangelism a part of their purpose, choosing instead to encourage the false religion that is already embraced in the foreign country for the sake of diversity and unity. I recently read a pamphlet by a Christian mission agency that actually put it something like this– “We exist to provide clean water, education, and care for {the people} and we teach them about God’s love, too.” Not exact words, but close. 

My thought was that this is a rather new occurrence in our modern day messed-up church. But, alas, Catherine Booth was running into this same problem in the 1800’s as she and her husband started the Salvation Army. This short excerpt is from her book Popular Christianity. She goes on to expound on the different errors that we make in our human take on missions and it is an excellent piece, but much too long to offer here. And so I will share her introduction and her last paragraph. Both of which are full of wisdom when it comes to this topic of missions, whether they be at home or on foreign soil. Let’s keep first things first!

Benevolence has come somewhat into fashion of late. It has become the correct things to do the slums, since the Prince of Wales did them; and this general idea of caring in some way or degree for the poor and wretched has extended itself even into the region of creeds, so that we have now many schemes for the salvation of mankind without a real Saviour.

Do not misunderstand me. I have no objection—nay, I rejoice in any real good being done for anybody, much more for the poor and suffering—I have no objection that a large society of intelligent Christians should take up so noble an object as that of caring for stray dogs, providing it does not interfere with caring for stray babies! I desire not to find fault with what is good, but to point out the evil which, to my mind, so largely diminishes the satisfaction one would otherwise feel in much benevolent effort being put forth around us. As I said at the beginning, the most precious stone given instead of bread is useless to a starving man.

Surely nobody ever cared for poor suffering humanity so much as Jesus Christ. He gladly put forth His mighty power for the healing and feeding of the body, and He laid it down most distinctly that all who were true to Him must love the poor and give up their all for them in the same practical way in which He did; but all this real brotherhood did not prevent His keeping the great truths of salvation ever to the front, and applying them as relentlessly to the poor as to the rich, and vice versâ.

But now in the name of Christ we are asked to believe either that the truest way to carry out His intentions is to ignore men’s souls and care only for their bodies, or else to join with this sort of material salvation some theory that will practically get rid of all serious soul-need.

And she closes with this final statement–
Let no benevolent projects, no magnificent phrases deceive you. The good done to mankind by the poor fisherman who spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, has surpassed all the achievements of modern philanthropy as far as the noon-day sun surpasses the rushlight.

If you want to elevate the masses, go and ask HIM how to do it, and if the answer comes, “Take up thy cross and follow Me,” OBEY.