This blog post comes with grateful thanks to fellow blogger Tony Reinke, whom I have never met, but who has served up something that blessed me so much I have HAD to stop and send it out. There are a few more of you good people who have signed up to this blog in recent times, and I am SO grateful for your kind words and comments and support of this yet-fledgling ministry.
I’ve been busy typing text on all manner of things elsewhere on the internet – but my own blog has been a little neglected of late. However, as I continue to set my thoughts towards ordained ministry, I realise that God has been holding me in the starting blocks to effect a work in my life – a very powerful and extremely necessary work. You see, dear reader, six years ago there were two main speakers at a youth congress in North Wales – something deemed a very successful spiritual event at the time. Their ministry brought winds of change to the North England Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists – and while some aspects of that legacy are open to debate, others most certainly are not.
Two senior, high-profile men of God, travelling the globe. I looked at them, learned from them, and I remembered being inspired to make a goal to shoot for a PhD in theology and one day take up my place in a similar sort of itinerant ministry.
There is a long story here which I will attempt to compress by quoting the following Scripture:
New Living Translation (NLT)
2 Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
This morning, I have awoken a new man – another period of revival has taken place in my life. For the first time, I admit in a public forum such as this that my ministry career has not panned out in the manner and at the speed at which I would have liked. This has been a source of major confusion – until now. For some time God has been putting the pieces together in my life, answering James 1 and proving ever-faithful, but when I see what has happened to these two men, both of whose careers I have wanted to emulate – I see that this could have been me.
What is it that has happened? It grieves me to have to say that they have both had to resign the ministry due to falling foul of the seventh commandment.
My choice of wording: “both of whose careers” is quite deliberate. I had major issues with these two brothers at times, and their actual personalities were part of that. I did not want to emulate their lives – I only wanted their careers. And given that it seems to be that the period in which they have fallen in recent – this year 2011 – and I only learned of their respective situations in the space of the last eight days or so – I have been forced to reflect on my desires for a ministry career with grim and sardonic humour. They failed a major test of character. How was I going to be any different?
I have been aghast to see how many of my fellow Adventist brethren have responded to this situation. In this past week, I have to say publicly that I am a Seventh-Day Adventist because my heart and my MIND are abolutely convicted that Sunday can never be the day of rest that the fourth commandment requires, that the biblical interpretations of other Sabbath-keeping denominations do not match up as far as I can reason, and that the way in which this church teaches Bible prophecy is unparalleled from what I have seen. But here in the UK where I live, the way in which many SDAs live, work and interact is often so far away from the New Testament church that it is not surprising that folk can like what we teach but hate how we live. I don’t like a lot of Seventh-Day Adventists. I could not choose them for friends. I could not recommend them in a crisis. This has been true for all my adult life. I had thought that it was improving – and I think that it actually is improving, but the skewed ways of thinking about almost everything are one of the reasons why our capacity to connect to others is so limited – and thus, our witness is weak, ineffectual and inconsistent.
But – the truth remains the truth, despite the lifestyles of so many so-called adherents. We are told ‘judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Matthew 7:1) but also that ‘judgement must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). I am starting with myself, knowing that despite the good work that God has been doing in my lift, the spiritual challenges facing ministers of the gospel have never been greater, and if such serious men of God could fail in such a way, then I must take even greater care of my spiritual life than ever before. God has known that I have needed a humbling and testing period, which has included others being preferred over myself in ministry, in order to see what was in my heart. If I am on my way to a more serious public ministry, then I need the strongest character that I can forge. At least one of the two men I have referred to had a serious reputation for moral rectitude, which makes the fall all the more tragic.
Simply put, the morality that suffices for so many Christians – and so many Seventh-Day Adventists – is simply not enough. If the Reformation had been left to us, we’d have failed completely and world Christianity would have continued to be dominated by Rome. With all due respect to my RC brethren, it is only a good thing that this is not the case – because the theology of the Reformation is very, very different in so many ways – and such crucial ways at that! Seventh-Day Adventists have a unique message – one I believe in wholeheartedly – and I say that God knows exactly what He is doing and I am simply going to wait on Him to use me as He sees fit from now on without questioning, comparing or analysing. Much as I’d love to do more within Adventism right now, there is a wider missio Dei and I will just press on with whatever comes up and trust that God knows how it will come together in the end. Because it will come together!
So, to the ‘positive’ part of this post. A.W.Tozer is one of the most spiritually formidable authors of the last century. A man with less degrees and titles than myself, his prophetic ministry is something that truly humbles me. I have not reached anything like this level of spiritual connection to God, but I know this is where I want to be and am going to be – in Jesus’ Name! Below, courtesy of Brother Tony, you will see the prayer that he prayed on the day of his ordination. It is a prayer that has changed my life and my concept of how I relate to God as I seek to step forward in the work of ministry to which I too have been called. It may be entitled “For Pastors Only,” but I hope and trust that my own candour before God and your dear selves this morning, and the incredibly profound words of this prayer will impact your life in some way and inspire you to seek God more deeply.
For Pastors Only – Prayer of a Minor Prophet
By A. W Tozer
This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Saviour in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him. And he said:
O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou are about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, our Lord, Thou has stopped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man takes this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.
My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine but Thine. Thou hast said, “I knew thee—I ordained thee—I sanctified thee,” and Thou has also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.
Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.
It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to distinguish the false friend from the true. Give me vision to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager—but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that I could make my life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I shall have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that it will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.
And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven. Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.
Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.
-As quoted in A Passion For God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett (Chicago, IL; Moody, 2008), pp. 65-68.