Monthly Archives: May 2012

You’re Not Alone–God is Fed Up with Unfaithful Pastors As Well

Pastors in our day are considered about as trustworthy as car salesmen, politicians, and lawyers.  In other words, pastors do not hold much credibility among our culture.

Sadly, many pastors have fueled that perception.

While there are pastors who faithfully preach the gospel of God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, God’s rescue mission in Christ, and what our response should be (something highly offensive to our world, see 1 Corinthians 1:18-21), other pastors are in this vocation for some very bad reasons.

So the culture is not the only one sick of unfaithful, wicked pastors–God is fed up with them as well.

In Ezekiel 34:1-10, the shepherds of Israel were a joke!  Well, I take that back–jokes are funny, these shepherds had nothing funny about them.  The only laughs that took place were how these shepherds fleeced God’s people and got away with it–or so they thought.

In picturesque, agricultural-laden OT language, these “shepherds” (quotations intended) were “feeding themselves” (34:2).  How?  Read 34:3-6:

  • They clothed themselves with wool
  • They slaughtered the fat ones
  • They failed to strengthen the weak
  • They failed to heal up the sick
  • They failed to bind up the injured
  • They failed to bring back those who went astray
  • They failed to seek out the lost
  • They ruled with force and harshness

These shepherds used God’s flock to neglect and to benefit at their expense.  In our day, it would look something like this:

  • Some pastors feel entitled: “I’m the pastor.  This is my church.  This will be led my way.  Do what I say and get out of the way.”
  • Some are cowardly: “Well, I don’t want to rock the boat.  Preaching this might offend, and we can’t have that!  We need to have peace at all costs.”  Compromise, they name is scaredy-cat!
  • Some are apathetic:  “Whatever!  God will take care of it!  Where’s my headphones and my commentary?”
  • Some love projects more than people: “I hope these people don’t get in the way of my plans.  If so, those people have to go!”
  • Some see pastoring as a job among other jobs: “After all, pastors only work 1-3 hours a week.  This is a sweet gig.”
  • Some use their churches to climb the denominational ladder: “If I can get the three B’s in place–buildings, budgets, and bodies in the seats, I can land a great job in my state or, dare I say it, national convention?  Maybe even teach at a seminary?  Gotta dream, baby!”

God is fed up with this type of thinking among the shepherds of our churches!   God has placed faithful pastors to be used of Him to produce gospel-gripped churches.

Churches are not stepping stones, but saturated with saved sinners in need of sanctification.  This takes care, commitment, and courage in battling both from outside the church as well as from inside.

God commissions churches to send gospel-gripped leaders into our world.  He does not commission seminaries or missions boards–churches!

Dear pastor, will God need to come and rescue His sheep from you (see Ezekiel 34:7-10)?  Or has He called you and entrusted them into your faithful care?

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They Matter to God, They Must Matter to Us

“Don’t tell me you lost them!”

“No, I didn’t lost them! I distinctly remember putting them right here in my bookbag. Just give me a second!”

“Well, please hurry. We’re almost to the ticket counter and our plane leaves in 45 minutes.”

Guess what? They were not there. No matter how hard I looked, they were not there. You see, these were not just any plane tickets. These were tickets to Jamaica. We were not going there for a little vacation— oh no! This was our honeymoon. I had one responsibility — to keep those tickets with me at all times. But they were not there.

Now, I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box, but I know a problem when I see one. So Cindy stayed at the counter while Wes, the Delta representative, sympathetically tried to help us out. I went to the phone and called the hotel, asking them to check our honeymoon suite to see if there were any tickets. Five minutes later, she told me there were on the nightstand. I told her, “I will pay you handsomely if you can get to Louisville International quickly.” I barely got the words out and she was off.

With 5 minutes to spare, she pulls up. I pay her, she gives me the tickets and I was OUTTA THERE. I made it there with seconds to spare. As Cindy and I sat in our seats, I looked at her and said, “Well, I guess things can only get better, right?” Then we had a good laugh.

Have you ever lost anything? All of us have. John Kramp, in his book Out of Their Faces and Into Their Shoes, says,

“A search always reveals your values. If we lose something and choose not to search for it, we essentially say we place little value on that item. Actions, not words, reveal our values.”

When we read Luke 15:1-7, we see who Jesus values.

Jesus said in Luke 19:10 that He came to “seek and to save those who were lost.” That must be our mission as well. Why?

1. The lost matter to God, they must matter to us!

Does this surprise you? Does it surprise you that you are of value to Him? If it surprises you, then maybe it is because we often place our own thoughts and ideas and prejudices upon God that think that He thinks and feels as we do! As we talked about last Sunday night, too often we believe that God accepts our worship when we go through the motions of worship and attend all the services and hear all the preaching and go to all the Sunday School times — yet if our hearts are not desiring to obey Him in reaching the lost, our worship comes up short of what God intends.

See in verse 1 that “all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.” This description described how the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, viewed those who were outside the Kingdom of God. They were considered unclean and unworthy to be loved and ministered to. And while even the religious folks turned away from these ‘lost sheep,’ Jesus presence and personality and compassion seemed to attract them to Him.

Edwin Markham wrote a poem which says:

​Some draw a circle that shuts men out;
​Race and position are what they flout;
​But Christ in love seeks them to win,
​He draws a circle that takes them in!

Vance Havner once said,

“Evangelism is to Christianity what veins are to our bodies. You can cut Christianity anywhere at it’ll bleed evangelism. Evangelism is vascular — it’s our business. Talk about majoring in evangelism, you might as well talk about a doctor majoring in healing. That’s our business.”

Few would disagree with Bro. Havner’s assessment. Evangelism is what Christianity is about. Evangelism, coming from the Greek word euaggelion which means “gospel, glad tidings or good news”, is the process of we as a Great Commission people performing the basic task that Christ purposed for us — to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Yet, the problem for many of us in the church is that we have been Christians for so long, that we have forgotten what it is like to be without Christ. I have noticed that those who are rather young in the faith are very zealous.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, whom do we represent? Are we like those Pharisees, who look down upon sinners and the unseemlies of the world

2. If you are lost, God searches for you.

Jesus tells His listeners, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4, NKJV).

To many of us, this seems rather strange. Why would someone risk their lives over one weak, feeble, lost sheep when they had ninety-nine strong ones that were able to keep up with the pack? In our day of “survival of the fittest,” we would just leave that weak sheep out with the elements and carry on.

I’m so glad that God does not operate the way we often do. The religious leaders of that day taught that God would receive sinners who sought His forgiveness earnestly enough. But this parable shows God being the One seeking the sinner. In the Middle East, the shepherd was responsible for every last sheep — none must be lost killed or injured.

Or if you subscribe to Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” The strongest survive because they have the tools to survive. The strength of a species depends on those who are strong to help carry it on. The weak hold our species back, won’t survive — so maybe they should be left behind.

Yet, look with me at 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:

[26] For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. [27] But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; [28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, [29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Our world says, “You must be rich, be productive, be beautiful, be muscular, run fast, be popular.” Yet, in God is not calling those who are wise and powerful by the world’s standards — He actively sought out the foolish, the weak, the despised in order to advance His Kingdom. The people that Jesus hung around are the ones who will bring glory to God because they have nothing in this world to glory in.

And we who are Christians must be careful when we say, “I’m so glad I found God.” Yet, this story shows that we are too weak, too feeble to look for God. When we are lost, we are just that — lost, with no way to know how to get to God. Yet, this parable shows that the Good Shepherd searches us out. He takes the initiative. We have found him only because He first found us.

I’m thankful that God is not a Darwinist. If so, all those who are weak, no-account, lost, feeble, and worthless would be of no value to God. Yet, God’s Word says something far different. He puts out an A.P.B. to all of those who are lost, weak, and wounded in heart.

Do we have God’s heart? Thom Rainer did research on unchurched and recently unchurched individuals and found that 83% of those who were recently unchurched but are churched now came to church because someone invited them. Think of that! The harvest is ripe — will we go and be instruments of God’s use and search them out?

3. When you are found, God rejoices over you — and so must we!

And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:5-7).

The Pharisees mumbled and grumbled when Jesus welcomed the unwantables in that society. Yet, God rejoices when those who are unwanted and lost come to heaven. It says that there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

How often do you hear folks say, “I am so glad I found God”? Yet this passage speaks volumes in showing that it is not the sheep who find the shepherd, but it is the shepherd who finds the sheep! The sheep that was left behind was weak, unable to keep up, had lost his way.

If you are without Jesus Christ, do you feel as if God doesn’t nor couldn’t ever love you? Not only do you matter to Him; not only does He conduct an all-out search for you; but God throws a party for you. Think about it: the party is not for those religious leaders. That party is not for the Billy Grahams or the Charles Stanleys of the world who preach to millions of folks. That party is for a sinner who was an enemy of God in open rebellion before Him who has been found by the Great Shepherd and brought into the fold.

Now, right now, you may be sitting there in your seat feeling something going on in your heart and in your gut— as if someone is drawing you to God. That is the Holy Spirit. God is ready to throw a party for you and to embrace you as the father did the prodigal son later in Luke 15. All the heavenly host will rejoice over you if you will turn from your sin and self and trust in Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd who has searched for you and will bring you into the sheepfold of His Kingdom.

Conclusion

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy
​Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you
​Full of pity, love and pow’r.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden
​Lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry ‘til you’re better
​You will never come at all.

Will you arise and go to Jesus;
​He will embrace you in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior
​O there are ten thousand charms.

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ARBC Visioneering: The Spiritual Aspect of a Great Commandment Education

 

Overview | Biblical (Heart) | Spiritual (Soul) | Doctrinal (Mind) | Missional (Love neighbor as self)|

It’s been a couple of weeks since I have addressed by (in)frequent posts on ARBC Visioneering in regards to a Great Commandment Education. My vision and desire is to have our education ministry (a label I am still working through–see the last full paragraph) at ARBC anchored in Great Commandment that Jesus gave in Matthew 22:37-40:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (ESV).

In regards to loving God with all of our soul, Jesus is calling us into the spiritual aspect of our Christian walk. Even the Jews understood the thrust of this command, given from Deuteronomy 6:5, for they would repeat this twice daily–it expresses the need for total devotion to God in every aspect of our being.

Why is this so crucial? Because our spiritual aspect, our souls, will live on long after our earthly bodies have finished their course.

Don Whitney, in the introduction to his very helpful book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, insightfully wrote, “Where eternal life through Christ does exist, there should be not only health but also growth.” He then proceeds to quote the venerable Jonathan Edwards:

Christians are Christlike: none deserve the name of Christians that are not so, in their prevailing character . . . . The branch is of the same nature with the stock and root, has the same sap, and bears the same sort of fruit. The members have the same kind of life with the head. It would be strange if Christians should not be of the same temper and spirit that Christ is of: when they are his flesh and his bone, yea are one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17), and live so, that it is not they that live, but Christ that lives in them.

The idea behind this is not simply getting a bunch of people to “walk the aisle,” but to cultivate by the Spirit of God a vibrant, healthy crew of disciples who seek to unite, identify, learn, and be unleashed into the world (Matthew 28:19-20).

But this starts inwardly with the heart and soul. One way to help bring this into our minds is to understand the classical spiritual disciplines, brought forth from Scripture itself. Again, Donald Whitney has been extremely helpful in this area with his two books on spiritual disciplines: one for the Christian life and the other for the church. The spiritual disciplines are:

  • Scripture reading and meditation
  • Prayer
  • Worship
  • Evangelism
  • Serving
  • Stewardship
  • Fasting
  • Silence and Solitude
  • Journaling
  • Learning

Others may be included, but these represent clear distinctions culled from Scripture that all believers would do well to practice.

It must be said that there is nothing magical about these. Beware of thinking, “If I do this for ‘x’ minutes a day, I will become a super-Christian.” We must always guard our hearts and check our motives.

  • Are we doing these disciplines because of some material benefit we may receive?
  • Are we doing them to be seen by men (see Matthew 6:1-8)?
  • Are we merely doing these out of duty, rather than seeing the delight that will come from communing and drawing closer to our risen Lord?

For this reason, I hesitated (and still have some hesitation) in calling this ‘education.’ In our more traditional circles in our denomination (of which I am from and in which I still serve to a degree), we have had staff members in our churches with the title of “Minister of Education.” Yet, as I look at the NT more and more, the goal is not education (that is, the mere learning of facts), but discipleship (taking what Christ and the Word teaches and showing as well as modeling what He has taught–in other words, application). For this is the end result of everything a church must do, “Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

So I am grateful for you prayerfully journeying with me as I visioneer for ARBC. May God lead His church by His grace and for His glory through His Word.

 

Categories: church, church growth, Church Life | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Jesus is Still on the Throne

Back in June 2009, I flew down to Charlotte, NC from Lexington, KY to see my niece graduate from high school. I did not fly regular, but flew standby. If you have never flown standby before, I must tell you that it is wonderful if two things happen: you know someone who has worked at an airline for a considerable amount of time, and that there are enough empty seats on your desired flight.

If you fly standby, ‘buddy passes’ are given by those who work for an airline to their buddies. The flight itself costs nothing, save only the taxes and fees. You reserve the flight you want, show up at the counter, and if there are extra seats no one has purchased, and if you have a pass from a buddy with seniority, you rise higher on the list, giving you a better chance to get on your desired flight.

I had no troubles flying down, even going through Atlanta. I was to fly back Saturday afternoon to make it back in time to preach at Boone’s Creek. But when I went to the Charlotte airport for my 3:30 pm flight, I was #22 out of 31, with only 9 seats available. The 6:00 pm flight was no better–17th out of 28 on the list with only 6 seats available. So, I called a deacon and put him in the bullpen. I had a chance to get on a 6:00 am flight that would put me in Lexington at 10:15, just in time for 11:00 service. It too was full. So, mom and dad drove me back (which is what we should have done in the first place).

The reason I go into this story is to reinforce something we already know: from our vantage point, airports look like pandemonium. From scrambling to unload out front, getting bags checked in, going through security, getting on the flight, then getting off the flight and going to baggage claim–total mayhem.

Until you get to the control tower.

In the control tower, you see there is a method to the madness, a purpose and a plane are in place.

Revelation 4-5 show us the control tower of the universe. While many read Revelation for various reasons, we cannot neglect the context. The Revelation is that of an unveiling, a pealing back of the curtain of heaven. The apostle John, the one who received this revelation, was very, very old. He had seen the rest of his fellow disciples systematically executed by the Roman machine. He himself was on the island of Patmos–5 miles wide and 10 miles long out in the middle of the Mediterranean along with other criminals of the Roman system. He had seen churches have varying degrees of faithfulness. Some stayed faithful, some had gone worldly, some had been lukewarm, apathetic to it all. He began to lose hope.

It was at that point that heaven opened up. John needed to see that all was not lost. Yes, on the ground all seemed to be mayhem, spiraling out of control. God graciously gave John a glimpse into the control tower of the universe.

As we read through this, one word keeps appearing. In fact, in 24 verses, this word shows up 17 times. This word shows us the central object in the entire book of Revelation–and even in the entire universe! It is that of a throne. The Spirit wanted to show Him what would take place–and he brings him to a voice and a throne, and one seated on that throne.

Notice the appearance: He had “the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of emerald” (4:3). Can you picture this? To be honest, me neither. We could go into the ins and outs of what all this could mean, but I believe the point of this is that the picture around the throne is indescribable–this was the best that John could do! But there is more:

Imanating from the throne were flashes of lightning and horrendous peals of thunder. What is John communicating: of all the things we see about God in His Word (his love, mercy, grace, and his wrath against sin), we see that God is a God of splendor and majesty and terror! This is not a politically correct view of God, but our interest is being biblically correct! God is not one to be mocked or trifled with. In fact, the book of Hebrews describes God as a consuming fire.

We also see that there are 24 elders around this throne. Who are they? We can speculate lots. Are they the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles? Why aren’t they identified? Because they are not the point, are they? But we can see what they do: they are clothed in white garments with crowns! There were some in the church at Sardis who, as John writes, “have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). But each of them have crowns on their heads… golden crowns. These represent the clothing and crowns of victory–victory that has been won for them by Christ. And Revelation 4:10 says that in praise they perpetually cast these crowns at his feet. They fall down, submit, and have surrendered! The identity of the elders are not important–especially not to them. What is important is that we know the identity and the person who is important: the one who sits on the throne!!

What about the living creatures? These are of the angelic order of the cherubim, the ones who attend and stand with the King on the throne.

What are they saying about the One on the throne? What they have been singing for all eternity: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Isaiah caught that vision of these angels singing. And we must catch that vision now. He is not only thrice holy, but he is of utmost worth:

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:11).

We are seeing the point of these two chapters: to put firmly in our minds that, even though our lives seem chaotic, that our culture is becoming more hostile to Christianity, that more and more of those who call themselves churches and even Christians are denying the truth of Scripture or even the existence of God himself–none of these opinions and authorities has a chance aganst the sovereignty, holiness, and worth of our Lord and God who sits on the throne. He “created all things… by [His] will.”

Revelation 5 brings to our attention a scroll. This scroll has seven seals on it–and where is it? Located in the right hand of the One who sits on the throne. This scroll, as the Word says, had writing on the inside and on the outside. With Roman documents, such as a will or other orders being given to an army, the full directions were given on the inside while the summary of the documents ingredients were on the outside. The seals showed ownership, and could only be broken by someone specific, someone able.

The seven seals will, as you read in Revelation 6, unleash untold devastation upon the earth against those who have chosen to stand against Christ. We must remember that everything on earth is a spiritual warfare. As 1 John 2:15 outlines that unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil that war against the things of the Spirit. It is a second-by-second warfare–and those that shake their fist at their Maker and reject His Son will receive exactly what they ask for. This is a mission that was put in place from the foundation of the world–and the time has come to execute that mission.

So the “strong angel” asked the question of the moment: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Here is a great reason why we are introduced to the white robed elders, the four living creatures, and even all of the population of Heaven. They are mighty. They are impressive. They are imposing. But they are not worthy! At this, what did John do?

He wept! Given the information he had, he did not see anyone who could keep this going. Remember in Revelation 4:2, these are things that “must take place.”

Dennis E. Johnson puts it well:

If the scroll stays sealed, the consequences are even more serious than the confusion in the vindication of his servants and the unchallenged establishment of his dominion on earth, as it is in heaven. The angel’s question is … “Who is worthy to carry out God’s plan?” (Triumph of the Lamb, 105).

John wept, but one of the 24 came up and said, “Weep no more!” Why? “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” This lion of Judah was told of all the way back in Genesis 49:8-12 who would rule like that lion with strength and fortitude. The root of David comes from Isaiah 11:1-2:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

This One who is worthy is not just mighty, but Almighty. What distinguishes him from every other person not only in heaven, but also on earth is that he has conquered. But conquered what? And why?

He was told to behold, and behold he did. Located between the four living creatures, but among the elders, John saw “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6).

I remember sitting in a Fazoli’s off Man O’War Blvd. in Lexington, Kentucky reading over this passage. This verse really caught my attention because I never noticed this, but when I did, tears came to my eyes. This Lamb, as though it had been slain, was standing. I immediately thought, “Slain lambs don’t stand–yet this One does.” Every other lamb that was offered as a sacrifice for sin were slain, but they did not stand. This one does! This is no ordinary Lamb. But this was part of the conquering!

And he took that scroll! And the sorrow turned to joy! And what was their reaction? Singing! Shouting!

Last Sunday during our Student Led Sunday, Katie Shoun led us in some incredible songs. What uplifted my heart as I sat in the congregation being fed by these songs was that many of you–lots of you–didn’t simply go through the motions, disengaged with what’s going on. It’s easy to do, isn’t it? People can be leading us in worship, and we can have our minds wander, look at the bulletin, look at other people–and be here, but not be here, not engaged at all with what’s going on. The only thing that some of us may be engaged in is the time.

But when we are confronted by the Lamb that was slain, the Root of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, we cannot help but sing and shout. We don’t worry about what Sister Sue or Brother Bill thinks about us. When we come across the victory that was secured on our behalf by the Lamb who is ever present and sees everything completely–even seeing us completely–and he still willingly conquered?

What did these 28 sing about?

We have to be very careful about the books that are on the shelves of our bookstores talking about heaven. In fact, there’s a book about a man who spent an hour and a half in heaven (I won’t mention the name of book). I began reading this book, but I confess I stopped after page 35.

Many of the old hymns and choruses I had sung at various times in my life were part of the music — along with hundreds of songs I had never heard before. Hymns of praise, modern-sounding choruses, and ancient chants filled my ears and brought not only a deep peace but the greatest feeling of joy I’ve ever experienced.

As I stood before the gate, I didn’t think of it, but later realized that I didn’t hear such songs as “The Old Rugged Cross” or “The Nail-Scarred Hand.” None of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus’ sacrifice or death. I heard no sad songs and instinctively knew that there were no sad songs in heaven. Why would there by? All were praises about Christ’s reign as King of Kings and our joyful worship for all he has done for us and how wonderful he is.[1]

I confess, I put the book down and never opened it up again. And even now, books that are out on heaven that are primarily based on an experience that someone had, be it a toddler or a Baptist pastor or anyone else, without looking at it through the litmus test of Scripture I just don’t have time for it all.

Why? First, look at what they all sang and shouted about. It was about victory! It was about what was conquered!

… for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, so you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

Look at what the angels shouted in a “loud voice.” Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! This is the basis of his conquering. This is the basis of him being able to take the scroll and accomplish His mission.

And with all due respect to Don Piper’s experience by him saying they weren’t singing sad songs about his death… don’t you believe they who populated heaven knew why they were there? Yes, at the time and even now, it is the greatest miscarriage of justice that ever took place–but it is also the only way that the door of heaven could be opened up to us.

Now the chorus of believers in heaven and on earth shout: “To him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

So what do we see happening?

First of all, the Christian needs to see that, regardless of what happens on earth–no matter what happens in your family, no matter what the government pronounces, no matter what others may say or do–Jesus is still on the throne! He is not simply working to conquer–the Word says He has conquered. He is not simply mighty, he is Almighty. So when Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body what you will put on. … Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:25, 33)–you now see the vantage point from which he is talking. He is sitting on the throne as the center of the universe.

Secondly, for those of you who have reject Christ to this point, both in your thinking and, ultimately, in your living: Christ was the lamb who was slain, and ransomed “people for God” (Rev. 5:9). Ransomed from what? Ransomed from their captor–ransomed from the sin which enslaves. Ransomed from that sin nature into which we were all born due to Adam. Ransomed the wages of that sin, which is eternal death away from God in a place called hell. Who did he ransom? From every tribe, and language and people and nation. No exclusion with God. No racism with God. No partiality with God. From every people, every geographical location, every societal structure, from the penthouse to the poorhouse–he calls out a people to Himself.

This worthy Lamb was slain. This is the atrocity of our sin! This is the audacity of our sin–thinking that our sins are merely personal choices, but God accepts us as we are. God meets us where we are, to be sure–but He loves enough not to keep us that way.

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Preachers, Be Touched by that Word You Handle

“The preacher who handles the Word must first be touched by that same Word. Doctrinal preaching has an impact within both the cognitive and the emotive sectors. Preaching that leaves the cognitive untouched produces hearers who may leave the sanctuary feeling better but without having been helped by the deep doctrinal truths of the Scriptures. Classical rhetoricians attempted to be holistic in the speech act: enlighten the mind, touch the heart, and move the will. Preaching that avoids head engagement will lead to blindness, and preaching that ignores heart engagement–the emotive realm of the believer’s existence–does so at the cost of boredom and dullness, which prevents the result of an engaged hearing for a transformed life.”

–Dr. Robert Smith, Doctrine That Dances

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Preach the Why, Not Just the What

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” My friend Mark Hallock, pastor at Calvary Church in Englewood, Colorado passed this gem along to be that will prove to help out not just preachers of the Word, but anyone who makes any sort of presentation.

What think ye?

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How to Leave Your Old Church and Start at Your New One

Kevin DeYoung provides two insightful posts on How to Start at Your New Church and How to Leave Your Old Church that help one maintain obedience and grace in the midst of those transitions.

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Three Keys to a Good Hospital Visit

In seminary, Don Cox served as our evangelism professor. He not only taught the biblical principles of this, but he modeled it for us as well. I am grateful on how he kept us accountable in sharing our faith.

At the time I took his class, I had just started pastoring a small rural church in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. I needed pointers in a hurry, so my ears perked up when he said he would give us some priceless advice on how to make a hospital visit.

These visits are difficult for a number of reasons. No one comes to a hospital for the sheer pleasure of it, so approaching these visits with sensitivity and care is of the utmost importance.

So, in this class I grabbed my pencil ready to do some serious writing on the matter. Here is what Dr. Cox said:

Be bright, be brief, and be gone! (Not much lead spent on that one.)

You know what? He is right.

Be bright. Patients in a hospital do not need help feeling bad–they are already there, both physically and emotionally. Come in, being bright–but not over the top. Let them know you love them, that you will listen to them, and then pray for them, encouraging them that others at your church are praying hard as well.

Be brief. While we must beware of staying too short a time, staying too long is far worse. Many struggle with pain, nausea, and other physical issues–not to mention fatigue. Staying longer than 10-15 unless asked will wear them out and not endear them to you later on.

Be gone. Hospital visits are not home visits. You are there to show you care, have prayer, then get out of there. I hope I am not coming across as callous. Some of the most wonderful visits I’ve had have been in hospitals visiting with families of patients in the waiting room. That’s different than in the room speaking with a patient struggling with various issues. Be sensitive to the quality and quantity of your stay. Better to be there too short than too long, in my opinion.

What think ye?

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North Carolina Pastor Deserves Reprimand by Christians, Too

Once again, Christians are in the news–no, not for all the good they do in the world, for that is not newsworthy. It’s when a leader of a church does or says something so reprehensible that words barely describe it.

You may have heard of Charles Worley of Catawba County, NC who went on a rant about how homosexuals should be gated up with an electric fence in order to die off, since they cannot reproduce (says Worley). Naturally, outlets like MSNBC, CNN, and Anderson Cooper among others caught wind of this–and this video has gone viral.

You may ask, “Why don’t you put the video up on this blog post?” To be honest, it was all I could do to link to it. Frankly, I don’t want this man who claims to be an ambassador of the gospel of Christ who says such irresponsible and vitriolic things disgracing this site.

Now, those against Christianity and our stance regarding homosexuality are using this as leverage to show that all of us (Baptists especially?) are hateful and malicious.

“Rev.” Worley does not speak for me nor for the majority of Christians who believe that all of us are made in the image of God, all of us are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God, and are in need of rescue by God only through Jesus Christ (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 3:23; Acts 4:12). We do not wish the death sentence on anyone, for all of us outside of Christ are under a death sentence. We need to be ransomed by one who can pay for that which leads to eternal death (Romans 6:23).

We are about life, redemption, rescue, and atonement for sins. No matter our sin, outside of Christ we have no hope.

“Pastor” Worley does not speak for me. Instead of simply drawing a line, offer a lifeline!

Where’s the grace? The Bible speaks on that as well!

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When a Prodigal Son Stays At His Post: The Elder Brother Complex

When we think of the “prodigal son” from Luke 15:11-32, we usually think of the son who left the father’s house! Much ink has been spilled about his plight, for sure!

Yet the elder son diligently stayed at his post with his father–and showed he was further away from his father than was his younger brother. And it is of this Colorado Baptist pastor’s opinion that many who attend and serve in our churches are indeed prodigal sons and daughters who have stayed at their proverbial post. They are ones who may be near to the father and his work geographically, but have run away from the father spiritually.

Look at Luke 15:25-32:

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)

Notice the tipping point that exposed the true attitude of this older brother:  the mercy that the Father extended to the son who returned.   The elder brother wanted justice.  This showed that he truly did not understand his father’s heart.  Why?

First, he was angry.  Yes, he was angry at his brother’s misdeeds, but he was angry at his father’s kindness.  When God shows mercy to those we believe do not deserve it, how do we react?

Secondly,  he refused to go in to the party.  Whereas everyone rejoiced at the son’s return, all he could think about was himself and his own standard of how things should be.  Does our standard get in the way of the sweet joy of seeing someone return to faith or come to faith in Christ?

Thirdly, he saw his father as a taskmaster.  “All these years I’ve slaved for you” is how it reads in the original.  He saw his relationship to the Father as something he had to do to earn his true favor–all the while missing that he already had it (as shown by his reaction to the return of the younger brother).  Why do we serve our Father?  Are we trying to earn points, all the while missing the thrust of the gospel in that God has already shown His love to us through Christ (Romans 5:8; 8:31-32)?

Fourthly, he didn’t see where he needed to improve.  He felt he had obeyed perfectly.  Just like that old song: “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”  At least the younger brother saw his relationship to his father, and knew he could come to him in repentance.  The older brother didn’t believe he needed repentance.  By what standard are we living?  Do we believe we have it all figured out, or are we like Luther said, in need of daily repentance?

Fifthly, he wanted the big party, but missed the daily fellowship with his father.  The father even said, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  He, even at his post in his father’s house, missed the daily fellowship with his father.  The younger brother recognized how joyous it would be to be in his father’s house even as a servantAre we at our proverbial pious post and yet not experiencing the sweet daily communion we could be having with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ? 

All too often, I hear of people telling others who, having missed church for a number of Sundays (even years’ worth), upon seeing them say, “You’re here?  The roof will cave in?”  They may laugh, stay for the service, leave–and never come back!  Those comments may seem funny to the ones making them, but it’s an Elder Brother Complex–you are communicating, “It’s about time you came back!  Where have you been and why are you so unspiritual?”

Are we Elder Brothers, at our post every week, yet failing to come to the Father’s feet for fellowship and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16)?

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