Click here to read Justin Taylor’s tribute to this great champion of the faith!
Monthly Archives: July 2011
[Taken from Tozer Daily Devotional by Literature Ministries International.]
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. –1 Peter 5:8
Some misguided Christian leaders feel that they must preserve harmony at any cost, so they do everything possible to reduce friction. They should remember that there is no friction in a machine that has been shut down for the night. Turn off the power, and you will have no problem with moving parts. Also remember that there is a human society where there are no problems–the cemetery. The dead have no differences of opinion. They generate no heat, because they have no energy and no motion. But their penalty is sterility and complete lack of achievement.
What then is the conclusion of the matter? That problems are the price of progress, that friction is the concomitant of motion, that a live and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties as a result of its life and activity.
A Spirit-filled church will invite the anger of the enemy. This World: Playground or Battleground?, 112-113.
“Lord, thank You for the many signs that we are alive! Satan must see real life, and I guess that’s a good sign. Give us victory though, that we might not succomb to his attacks. Amen.”
I am preaching through Acts at my church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY) and have come to Acts 6:1-7, which I will preach this coming Sunday (July 31, 2011). In verse 1, we read that, in the midst of the blossoming of the church, “a complaint arose from the Hellenists.” What was the complaint? You’ll have to read up on that—and come on Sunday!
Yet, there are three ways to deal with a complaint! To be clear, I don’t have any particular episode in mind, just some general reflections from 20 years of ministry and 40 years (come October) of living.
Ignore it. Just don’t address it at all. Say to yourself that any complainer must be carnal and move on to those who don’t complain because non-complainers are Spirit-filled and love Jesus. That’s not only bad leadership, that just plain silly. (Of course, one has to take into consideration if this is coming from a Son-of-Diotrephes effect, of which Joe McKeever deals with beautifully.)
Internalize it. Here is the polar opposite of ignoring it. Take every complaint to heart, because regardless of what happens at a church or any business, if you’re the leader, it’s always a reflection on you and therefore your fault. Another way to internalize it is personally: every complaint you hear is equally valid. One complaint about a program or a direction in the church grinds everything to a halt. This is especially true if the aim of the church is to make everyone happy, forgetting that the aim of the church is to glorify God and produce Christ-like, Spirit-filled disciples.
Investigate it. Yes! This one! No blanket categorizing need apply here! See the nature of the complaint—it may teach you something! I shudder at times when I have not listened to a complaint when I should have! Sort through the complaint and see if it’s just a personal preference or if it’s a significant issue that could effect the spiritual direction of the body of Christ. This is what the apostles did—and what we as leaders must do!
Ultimately, we serve Jesus Christ! And the role of a God-called leader in the church is to meet folks where they are and take them where Christ is, and there are may ways this can be (see Jude 21-24). If complaints arise because some expect leaders to serve their personal preferences, then one can go from serving Jesus to serving people very quickly. Pray for God-called leaders to serve Jesus first, having in mind the things of God rather than the things of men (Matthew 16:20-28).
What think ye?
A few days ago, I began a series on “What Should a Pastor Look Like?” I have already written two of the six parts, using the acronym for the word ‘pastor’ as a guide:
- Preaching and Teaching
- Apologetics, Engaged in
- Shepherd of the Flock
- Training and Equipping Leaders
- Reverent in Worship
In this case, we look at how a pastor is a shepherd.
Back in May of 2010, I went to Hodgenville, Kentucky, to the birthplace of Jefferson Davis. He had an interesting life. Born in Kentucky, he graduated from West Point in 1828, was married to Zachary Taylor’s daughter, became a senator from Mississippi as well as President Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War. But he’s most known for being a reluctant president of the Confederate States of America during her short life from 1861-1865. He struggled with the various ventures in his life and died in 1889 at the age of 81.
On Memorial Day weekend, we remember and honor the many men who gave their lives for their country. Not all have agreed (as we certainly saw in the Civil War). But as I was at Jefferson Davis’ birthplace, I truly wondered, “How incredible are those made in the image of God who feel so strongly to give their lives for a cause!”
As Christians, God has called all of us to lay down our lives for a cause. This cause is not political in nature (although politicians hijack various areas of Scripture, and thus we as Kingdom people must address those issues), not is it exclusively denominational in nature (although God may use those structures to do so). It is both spiritual and physical in nature. It is spiritual in that we are being led by the great Author of the cause of Christianity, and we use our physical Temples to accomplish those spiritual means as God leads.
Over the past few weeks, it has become more and more clear to me that I cannot pastor this church any longer. Matthew Perry cannot be the point person of this church. Now, before you get too shocked, please understand that I am not resigning.
No, what I mean is that Jesus is and must be the pastor/shepherd of this church. Have you ever wondered what it would really look like if Jesus was truly the heartbeat of this church? Would it look any different?
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus utters a five-word phrase that is absolutely stunning. He said, “I will build my church.” Over the years, I’ve heard statements such as “This church doesn’t feel like ours anymore with all these changes.” If it’s any consolation, this church never belonged to you or to any of us. Boone’s Creek Baptist Church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, and He must be the one to lead and shepherd this church.
What does this mean?
1. Jesus will personally build His church.
Jesus says, “I will build my church.” Jesus here is involved, personally tending to a church which is known by many things: his body, his building, his bride, among other descriptions. In other words, Jesus is working from the top down.
Violinists play all sorts of models of violins, but playing a rare and priceless Stradivarius is a rare and priceless act. Those who know how to play can tell the difference between a fake and the real thing. Same with Ferraris and Corvettes. In fact, some of you have Bibles where some are Genuine Leather, others are Bonded Leather—they are both leather, but you can tell the difference between the true product and the imitation.
One should be able to tell the difference between a church built by Christ and one built by man. Just as man cannot live by bread alone, so too cannot church live on man-made business principles or programs alone. We live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Jesus personally builds His church by His Word and for His glory.
Our natural inclination is to view the church with our own eyes, and then assume that our view is God’s view. But consider the word ‘church.’ The word used for ‘church’ is the word ‘ekklesia,’ which means, “called out ones.” Jesus is the one who calls out those from darkness into His marvelous light. Yes, we plant the seeds, but God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:8). The church is made up of those that Christ personally called out from the kingdom of this world and into the kingdom of God.
Now one may say, “Wait a minute! I chose to come to this church and join as a full member.” John 6:44 says, “No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent me draws Him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.” God is calling and drawing and saving His people from their sins and sending them on the road to sanctification.
Why do we need to know this? Because we need to be relieved of the pressure, the burden, and yes, even the pride of saying, “Look what we built!” In Revelation 1, we see Jesus walking in the midst of the seven messengers (likely the pastors of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation), showing the Apostle John that regardless of how the circumstances look inside and outside the church, Jesus is still moving through His church.
2. Jesus will certainly build His church.
Jesus says, “I will build my church.” Have you ever had your doubts about this part? Have you really ever had your doubts that Jesus would build His church? North America is the only continent where the church is dying. We hear statistics about baptisms being down convention wide and we wonder, “Did Jesus get this wrong?”
No, he most certainly did not. He builds his church in various ways. This is actually found in our mission statement: “Spreading the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations.” The glory, the splendor, the majesty, the weight (which is what ‘glory’ actually means) is to go out in the person of Christ, who is the glory of God (John 1:18). That glory, that weight, that splendor resides in us through His Spirit. And that glory in His church goes forward from our neighbors to the nations!
Yet we move on by saying we do this by strengthening the people of God. I grow so encouraged by hearing of people who hear the Word of God in this place and they are nourished, encouraged, challenged, and strengthened. That is what we aim to do is strengthen the people of God. Other Christians are strengthened by visits, phone calls, and cards that are sent out. They do this because they have been strengthened themselves by God’s Word and God’s people! God is continually moving and working in His church.
Now you may say, “Wow, I sure don’t feel as if anything is growing in me. I love the Lord and I want to grow.” I hear recently about a gravesite in England that had something very interesting happen to it. This particular gravestone had a rather large tree right in the middle of that stone, which had caused that stone to split. How did this happen?
About 600 years earlier, that 1,000 slab of concrete or marble was planted into the ground. But right underneath that slab was a tiny acorn. Now consider, which seemed to be more intimidating, the 1000 lb slab or the acorn? At first, the acorn. But that acorn turned into a shoot, and that shoot turned into a tree, and that tree grew to such an extent that that 1,000 lb gravestone was no match.
Christ strengthens his church, but its gradual. And we have to patiently trust that He is working in our hearts and remain faithful to His faithfulness! Right now, you may wonder: will God grow His church? If we remain faithful to the faithfulness He has demonstrated through His Word. We keep the cross of Christ always before us as a reminder of His faithfulness.
1. Jesus will carefully build His church.
He will build His church. In other words, He has a plan. He builds the totality of the church, as well as the parts of the church (you and me) so we can be a witness to those who are around us. He strengthens us to share His gospel to His creation.
How does Jesus carefully build the church? By giving us the “keys to the kingdom.” What does this mean? The keys to the Kingdom is the gospel, the good news that through the reconciling, atoning work of Jesus, we go from aliens to His Kingdom to being adopted into His Kingdom! The gospel of being redeemed from our sins and declared righteous before a holy God through the blood of Christ unlocks the door for entry into the Kingdom of God.
Through the Word of God that we read and heed, we begin rebuke, exhort, challenge, and even discipline the children of God (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Jesus gave us the instructions to build His church—and He expects us through the Holy Spirit to take great care in building His church.
He builds his church with such care that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. The strength and endurance by which Jesus built His church shows how he is the Great Shepherd of this flock. As Peter says:
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Christ shepherds His church! Pastors serve as the undershepherds tending the flock of Jesus until He returns. Yet even during this time, Christ is shepherding His church through the Word and the Spirit as proclaimed by God-called shepherds who pastor our local church faithfully!
For those of us who may not know James Cagney, you have missed a true legend of stage and screen.
In this clip, the American Film Institute gave Cagney a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1974. I found him to be very engaging, well read, and possessed an incredible delivery. And notice the well-placed humor. He’s a legend for a reason!
I do not believe that you Christians believe your own creed–for if you were persuaded that things really are as your Bibles teach, and that we poor lost people were really going to such a dreadful place as you say Hell is–then you would act more humanely toward us.
If you saw our houses on fire–you would run and help us to put the fire out; or if you saw us in danger of death–you would try to do something to save us. But you pretend to believe that we are going to Hell, and that Hell burns with fire and brimstone forever, and that once there we can never get out–and yet you talk to us about all sorts of things–but never say one word to us about saving our souls from this terrible doom!
So I have reasoned thus: either you Christians don’t believe what you say–or else you must be the most hardened and unfeeling wretches in the universe! Now, as I don’t believe that you are such cruel, hardened, and unfeeling people as this supposes–then I must conclude that, with all your talk–you Christians don’t really believe what your Bibles teach!
For if you really believe what you say about sin, and Hell, and our danger–then you would act differently; and if you have a spark of kindness in your hearts–you would try to save us from such a dreadful doom. And, on the other hand, if you do notbelieve what you profess–then you Christians cannot be honest; and to say the least, there must be a great deal of hypocrisy among you.
Now, I honestly tell you that these are the things which have stumbled me more than anything, and until I can see you Christians act differently–I will not be persuaded to believe what your sort of folks say.
I enjoy Bob Newhart’s humor. Here’s a clip from his show from the 1980’s Newhart. Enjoy!
Everyone at some point in their lives wants to fit in and contribute—or at least having others think just as much. When baseball players take steroids, they do so so they will heal more quickly to return to the field or court to contribute to the team’s success (and not lose their jobs in the process). Those in business may risk stealing ideas from a co-worker and taking credit for something that brings them many accolades.
The same temptation happens in church world—especially in the South. For the longest time, the culture in the South was, “If it’s Sunday, you should be in church.” It was the thing to do! In other parts of the country, it is not culturally acceptable to be in church. So many respond to what is culturally acceptable, depending on the region of the country.
Ananias and Sapphira fell into this trap. In Acts 4:32-37, we see that the majority of those in the early church did not consider what they had as something that belonged to them. This was not a precursor to Communism, because Communism is mandated by the government and therefore involuntary. This giving was fueled by all that Christ had given them as outlined in His Word. Great power and grace was on the church.
Ananias and Sapphira, however, felt they needed to give a pretense of this same type of self-sacrifice, but secretly they plotted to keep some of it back.
5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (ESV).
Peter makes the point that they did not have to give everything, but they had said they would, and thus they lied to God and to the church. This reminds one of the story of Achan in Joshua 7 when he stole some of the devoted things and hid them in his tent. His theft caused sin to come into the camp and it affected everything, even as they went into battle against an inferior enemy. Achan, Ananias, and Sapphira were dealt with strongly—executed even—to keep sin out of the community and causing great fear to come upon those inside and outside the church!
Take inventory of your lives! Are you associating with those whom you are because you just want to fit it, or because it’s the right and true thing to do? No one is immune to this temptation! Otherwise, we’re not just lying to God or to our group of people we fellowship with, but we are lying to ourselves as well.