Monthly Archives: December 2010

2011 New Year’s Resolutions for Pastors

  1. Be a man of prayer! 

“It is impossible for the preacher to keep his spirit in harmony with the divine nature of his high calling without much prayer.  That the preacher by dint of duty and laborious fidelity to the work and routine of the ministry can keep himself in trim and fitness is a serious mistake.  Even sermon-making, incessant and taxing as an art, as a duty, as a work, or as a pleasure, will engross and harden, will estrange the heart, by neglect of prayer, from God.  The scientist loses God in nature.  The preacher may lose God in his sermon” (E.M. Bounds, Preacher and Prayer).

“It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle ax and weapons of war” (Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students). 

2.  Stay anchored to the Scriptures!  The Scriptures are not a springboard for whatever topic you wish to discuss—but the anchor for that which God has already revealed.

Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.  “What!” is the appropriate response, “than ten hours over your books, on your knees?”  (Benjamin Warfield, quoted in John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.)

3.   Be clear regarding the gospel—both to Christians and non-believers.  Both believers and non-believers need to be saved from the law.  Unbelievers risk believing they are saved by what they do—and believers risk believing they are kept by what they do.  It’s all based on what Christ has done!

An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship.  It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God has accomplished for us in Christ.  The biblical gospel, by contrast, is like fuel in the furnace of worship.  The more you understand about it, believe it, and rely on it, the more you adore God both for who he is and for what he has done for us in Christ (Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?)

4.  Tolle lege (Take up and read):

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments (The Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 4:13)

Read, but not to remember everything. Read because that 1% that you remember has to potential to change your life (C.J. Mahaney). 

5.  Train others up in the ministry (whether full-time or lay ministry):

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority” (Kenneth Blanchard).

“Be careful with whom you spend the bulk of your time.  A leader influences many by investing in a few and letting those few influence the rest. . . . You will want to make sure that these key people are shepherded, developed, equipped, and empowered so that they are excited and believe deeply in the vision.  They in turn will influence others” (Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last). 

6.  Determine to stay the course and protect your calling.  Remember the promises of God, his steadfast love, and the power of the resurrection!

Sadly, toughness and determination are often lacking in church planters and pastors.  It is staggering to see the number of pastors who end up divorced and the number of seminary graduates who leave the ministry within the first five years.  The average tenure for a pastor at a church is about three years (and less than two years for a youth pastor).  While there are, of course, wonderful exceptions, the sad truth is that pastors do not make it for the long haul (Darrin Patrick, Church Planter). 

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Why Just Any Book Won’t Do: Why We Preach from the Bible

God’s plan for pure churches comes from God’s written, holy, and inscripturated Word. This collection of books we have in this Bible is a library of truth. Sixty-six books, written over a span of approximately 1,500 years by forty different authors, comprise what we call the Bible, the Holy Bible, the Scriptures, and appropriately the Word of God. A.W. Pink was right when he began one of his books, “Christianity is the religion of a Book. Christianity is based upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture. The starting point of all doctrinal discussion must be the Bible. Upon the foundation of the Divine inspiration of the Bible stands or falls the entire edifice of Christian truth.”[i]

However, some question whether these 66 books are truly authoritative. Why those books? Other books attributed to some of Jesus’ disciples were floating around. In Trinidad, I became acquainted with some Rastafarians. I read about them in preparation for helping a church in Trinidad plant a church, and noticed they held to some Christian roots. Yet, in reading Dennis Forsythe’s authoritative work on Rastafarianism, quotes a number of “Christian” scholars who claim that Christ was a mystic. [ii] Christ sought to reveal the spiritual mysteries of knowledge to just a select few—tipping his hand to a clear Gnostic tradition![iii]

Yet, God sought to reveal His truth to all who would hear and hear clearly, not through self-awareness as a starting point, but with God as a starting point making His Word clear to all who believe. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Cor 2:11-13)

B.B. Warfield noted:

Any book or body of books which were given to the Church by the apostles as law must always remain of divine authority in the Church. That the apostles thus gave the Church the whole Old Testament, which they had themselves received from their fathers as God’s word written, admits of no doubt, and is not doubted. That they gradually added to this body of old law an additional body of new law is equally patent. In part this is determined directly by their own extant testimony.[iv]

In Titus 1:2, we see an interesting phrase that Paul used in his opening to Titus: “. . . in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. . .” The emphasized portion is translated from the word (apsuedes) which means, “free from falsehood, without lie.” Therefore, not only does God choose not to lie, he cannot lie. [v] Given that this is God’s nature, we trust that what He says from that nature will be truthful in every part. Paul sought to give Titus both general instructions, but also instruction that addressed issues in his specific context.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The word ‘breathed out’ is qeo,pneustoj (theopneustos)—God inspired/breathed out His Word. And as God stands, so does His Word stand. The word for this principal is ‘infallible,” which, as the root implies, means that the Word cannot fall. This truth fueled the Reformation, whose fire was lit by Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. Take note of the last stanza:

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.[vi]

At times, this truth is put to severe scrutiny. French atheist Voltaire (1694-1778) boasted, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” Yet, not twenty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society bought his house for printing the Bible, and later became the headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Societies, which stored and distributed Bibles throughout Europe.[vii] Truly the Psalmist was correct when he wrote, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).

We must not forget Emperor Diocletian who in A.D. 300 ordered an edict seeking the removal of all Christians from every government position, and ordered the Christians’ houses of worship and their Bibles burned. Some Christians refused to turn over their copy of the Scriptures and were thus tortured and condemned to death.[viii] He declared extincto nomene Christianorum (Latin for “the name of Christians will be extinguished”). Yet, in A.D. 313, Emperor Constantine replaced the pagan symbols with the symbol of the cross, and as a result the Empire gave protected status to Christians. Even with the various viewpoints as to whether this ultimately helped or hurt Christianity, the point is clear: God would not permit his Word to be extinguished!

Paul also reminded Titus of God’s truthfulness for a very practical reason. In his specific ministry context, he struggled with false teachers infecting the church. In Titus 1:10-14, Paul warned Titus of the nature of the deceivers:

10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

We must see that his ministry context was on the isle of Crete, the very place whose inhabitant were described by one of their own prophets as “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v. 12). Paul described those coming into the church as “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (v. 10). Titus needed to understand the culture to whom he ministered, but he also needed to recognize how diametrically opposite God is to the unbelievers on Crete. Yes, they may lie, but God “never lies.” He His holy—deception is not in his nature. Christians can trust every word He breathes out!


[i]Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976), 5.

[ii]See Dennis Forsythe, Rastafari: Healing of the Nations (New York: One Drop Books, 1999), 11-43.

[iii]For more information on Gnosticism, see Matt Slick, Gnosticism, accessed 7 Jan 2010, available at http://www.carm.org/gnosticism [on-line]; Internet. Here is a small definition: “The word "gnosticism" comes from the Greek word "gnosis" which means "knowledge."  There were many groups that were Gnostic and it isn’t possible to easily describe the nuances of each variant of Gnostic doctrines.  However, generally speaking, Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge (gnosis).  This knowledge usually dealt with the individual’s relationship to the transcendent Being.” Salvation starts with a personal self-knowledge, differing this from orthodox Christianity which stays that salvation begins with the Lord (Jonah 2:9; Eph 2:8-10) and that man does not have the equipment due to the fall to pursue God on their own (Romans 3:10-12).

[iv]B.B. Warfield, The Authority & Inspiration of the Scriptures, ed. Shane Rosenthal. Accessed on 6 January 2010; available at http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwauthority.htm [on-line]; Internet.

[v]The Scripture reference is from the ESV as it is throughout, but it is the opinion of the author that this translation should be stronger. Other translations such as the KJV and the NAS translate this as “God who cannot lie.” While the end result is the same (God is and remains full of truth), the ESV’s translation implies that God never lies, but could if he wanted to. An example would be, “John never goes into the dirty movies.” Yet, that is a far cry from, “John cannot go into the movies.” One is about choice, the other deals with their moral and ethical nature. According to the Greek, not only did God choose not to lie, it is a moral impossibility for him.

[vi]Mar­tin Lut­her, A Mighty Fortress is our God, 1529; trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ic H. Hedge, 1853.

[vii]Michael C. Bere, Bible Doctrines for Today, ed. B. Horton (Pensacola, FL: A Beka, 1996), 23.

[viii]Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2001), 104.

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Trailer for Upcoming Sermon Series at Boone’s Creek

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Does Old Age Lend One to Compromise?

This past Sunday, we looked at 1 Kings 11 and the compromise of King Solomon, who through treaties and other longings of the flesh, married 700 wives and also had 300 concubines.  The issue came about “when Solomon was old” (1 Kings 11:4). 

Sam Tullock provides supplemental notes to the LifeWay Explore! Adult Sunday School materials through Founders Ministries that are very helpful!  Below, I give an excerpt to last week’s notes which relay a conversation he had several years ago with his then mentor, the late Ernest Reisinger, which is followed up by his own insights now that he is a senior adult.  Very insightful!  I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

During my early years in the ministry, I had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time conversing with Pastor Ernest Reisinger. Among the many bits of wisdom I received from Ernie, I most remember his concerns about growing old. Though my senor by thirty-six years, I marveled at his ability to communicate with an inexperienced, immature, youthful pastor. On more than one occasion I heard Ernie pray that he would not live, in his senior years, in a manner that would undo the work of his youth. My mentor was right about the unique temptations of later life. Many years have passed, and, no doubt, I stand nearer the end of my journey than the beginning. Ernie’s prayers and Solomon’s example provide ample warning for those of us who no longer relish the promise of youth. I note several dynamics at play as I grow older.

Inertia: Older saints often do not possess the energy that once characterized their service to Christ. The natural processes of aging, coupled with some health problems, may contribute to spiritual lethargy. How easy to leave the Lord’s work to those who are young and energetic.

Disillusionment: The accumulated disappointments of life may rob older saints a sense of hope and usefulness in God’s kingdom. Seniors have lived long enough to have seen the dark side of church life. Human failings, among God’s people, may break the spirit of older Christians, and they may become disheartened. Furthermore, I wonder if other Christians, as they age, see the world differently than in younger years. In my youthful enthusiasm, I saw the world in very “black and white” terms, but, as I grow older, the “gray areas” seem more prominent. This trend, as I observe it, may cause the older saint to doubt the certainties that characterized younger years.

Pride: High-achieving persons may waste their senior years with unseemly smugness. Solomon may have fallen into this trap. His impressive achievements may have contributed to a failure in watchfulness over the condition of his soul. Moreover, his great wealth seems to have promoted a sense of pride, and, perhaps, he did not rest in the Lord as his portion and inheritance. Affluence carries a dangerous price tag.

“Youthful” passions: Clearly, Solomon’s sexual desires remained high—he surrounded himself with a teeming harem of beautiful women. Many men succumb to the passions of youth, when they reach their senior years.

 

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Merry Christmas from Gripped by the Gospel

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Merry Christmas from Gripped by the Gospel

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Can Anyone Tell Me What Christmas is All About?

Linus can!

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Bob Kauflin on Whether Music is a Gift or Our God

Bob Kauflin recently gave a talk about “Music: Gift or God?” at a conference in November.  I found what he presented very compelling and right on the nose with so many who attend our churches in this consumeristic age. 

  1. We choose to attend a church or a meeting based on the music rather than the preaching of the gospel and God’s word.

Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the church is to gather around music. We gather around the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

2.   We can’t worship in song apart from a particular song, style, leader, or sound.

Anytime I say, I can’t worship unless X happens, or X is present, unless X is the death of our Savior on the cross for our sins or the power of his Spirit, we are engaging in idolatry

3.  We think music leads us into or brings God’s presence.

Here’s what music can’t do. Make God more present. Bring God’s presence down. Bring us into God’s presence. Manipulate God.

4.   Poor musical performance leads us to sin against other band members or the musicians leading us.

We’re hardly representing God’s heart when we get angry, frustrated, or impatient with musicians who don’t play up to our standards. God’s standards are perfection, and they’ve been met in Jesus Christ.

5.   A love for music has replaced a love for the things of God.

It’s possible to listen to music that’s destroying your soul and be completely dull to it. To become enslaved by an idol and you feel like you’re breaking free.

Go here to read the entire article.  Read and heed, dear church.

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A Video That Convinced an 11th Grader That Theology is Important

 

(Thanks for passing this along, Morgan!)

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Sunday Night Reflections From The Creek (12.19.10)

What a wonderful day yesterday!

  • We had someone come forward and share that they sense God calling them to full-time missions work.  Please pray for this young man.  He will share more about this in January!
  • We have raised $9736.68 toward our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.  Our goal is $11,500. This leaves us $1763.32 toward our goal!  God’s doing some amazing things through us!
  • Our Adult Choir did an amazing job with the musical.  Praise God for our Minister of Music, Ron Chaffins for his directing, his writing, and the great make-up work on our ‘homeless man,’ Alex Marshall Jr.  The costume was so convincing when he walked in the service that some were wondering why no one was helping him—not realizing he was part of the drama!
  • Our Children’s Choir did a dynamite job in presenting “Christmas Hangups.”  I’m in my eighth year as pastor here, and it’s so neat seeing how these children have grown up!  They were clear about the gospel—always a good thing.  It never gets old hearing that beautiful narrative.  Thanks to all the parents who entrust their children to our care. 

Don’t forget:

  • Our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service is this Friday, December 24 at 6:00 p.m.  The weather may be a problem, but we will have a time to make up this special time should we have to cancel. We will keep you posted.  But please come out and take part in this—it’s a great tonic to the treachery that this season can be.
  • Our Trinidad Missions Team will be meeting on Saturday, January 15th at 10:00 a.m. to begin preparations for our trip March 31-April 8, 2011.  We will follow up with a missions lunch for this on Sunday, January 16th.  More information will come soon!  The deadline for signing up for Trinidad will be Sunday, January 9, 2011.  The cost for the ticket as well as other expenses will be around $800-850.  This is not counting passports (new ones cost $135, renewals $110).  I can’t wait to meet with you all.

Have a very Merry Christmas!  See you Christmas Eve!

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