Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why Would I Travel to a Preaching Conference?

As I write this, I am in Shelbyville, Kentucky staying with my very cool mother-in-law, preparing for a preaching conference called Expositors Summit, hosted by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Albert Mohler, Alistair Begg, and John MacArthur will share with those of us committed to exposition how to preach in an engaging manner for the sake of transformation, not simply information.

Why would I, a husband, dad of four, and pastor travel by plane 1100 miles east to attend such a thing?

  1. Pastors need refueling!  The demands of ministry are a blessing.  I am grateful for every witnessing opportunity, every time of leadership training, every counseling session, and the three times of teaching (sometimes four)–all for the glory of God, the good of the saints, and for helping us engage with the community.  With preaching that leaves a little piece of us out there every time, the tank gets toward empty.  God provides these opportunities like these conferences in order to keep the tank spiritually full!
  2. Pastors need refreshing!  Part of a pastor’s job is not simply to read the Word nor to explain the Word (that is critical), but as you read Nehemiah 8, we need to by the Spirit’s power apply and inspire!    Pastor’s conferences worth their salt do this as well.  They fire us up to commit to the excellence of the calling God has called us to. 
  3. Pastors need reminding!   Acts 6:4 says that the apostles were to commit to prayer and ministry of the Word.  We need that reminding.  With all the administrative duties that are inherent with our pastorates, that must not overrun the public preaching of God’s Word, the private reading and praying over God’s Word, and the personal counseling of the saints with the Word. 

Thanks so much to Arapahoe Road Baptist Church where I pastor for providing me these opportunities.  Times like this will not only benefit me, but we do pray that this will benefit them in the short and long term.

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ARBC Visioneering: Burden-Bearing Ministry, Part I

On Saturday, January 12, 2013, we will have a Leadership Retreat for all of the leaders in our church (staff, team leaders, team members, Sunday School teachers—anyone in a leadership position or serving on any team). My desire is to go through a book by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community.

At the beginning of one of the chapters, they bring up a case study of a young lady who brings a significant issue to their attention. She told them she was a perpetual self-harmer and even in her 20s it was an established pattern—she even showed them the scars on her arm. How does one deal with this issue as a follower of Christ? One man who listened to this ended up taking some time trying to process why someone would do such a thing? In this, he felt repulsed and protective of her all at the same time. The wife went over to put her arm around her, while he began to pray quietly.

The point of this scenario was to present to us as believers and belongers to a local church, and to explore what the next steps should be.

One scenario is to say that he was not equipped to deal with the problem, since they had no training in the matter. Finding a professional psychologist would be the best—they would even go to the appointment and support as much as possible.

Another scenario would be the following: to admit to being overwhelmed by her story and to admit as well the inadequacy felt. Yet, he is convinced that the best place for this to be worked out is in the church! She could be surrounded by people who love her, who are going through their own struggles, but who could sit under and submit to the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. Then (I love how this is put), “He knows it is not going to be easy. There is no magic wand to wave. But there seems to be no better place to start than with the Word of God skillfully applied by the Spirit of God among the people of God.”[1]

This morning, during our third part of our Visioneering series, we once again revisit our mission statement:

Arapahoe Road Baptist Church exists to worship God; evangelize our family, city, state, nation and world; disciple God’s people, minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others; and fellowship with one another.

And so we explore this aspect. In looking to how to put feet to this, we need to understand that the word ‘minister’ is the word from which we get deacon (diakonia). In Acts 6, there were those who served the people spiritually (the apostles and pastors) and others who served the physical needs (deacons). But in this area, we are all as believers called to minister the gospel in spiritual and physical ways.

It is here that I wish for us to turn to Galatians 6:1-4.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load (Galatians 6:1-4, ESV).

Don Whitney rightly says that there is a hurt in every heart. And those who occupy the pews and the roles of our churches are no different! The key verse is found in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What burdens? Verse 1 refers to “transgressions,” and that spiritual believers should aim to gently and carefully restore them. The burden of one’s sin is a terrible burden. In Psalm 38:1-4, we read:

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,

Nor discipline me in your wrath!

For your arrows have sunk into me,

And your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh

Because of your indignation;

There is no health in my bones

Because of my sin.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;

Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

Our sin affects us more than we recognize—and this is why we sit under the Word, so we would recognize our Savior and thus our sin. We may wonder why our hearts are so heavy, why we struggle. Could there be lingering sin that has yet to be dealt with? We are called to bear one another’s burdens “to fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34). Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ does not simply entail a sentimental love—it is about rolling up our sleeves and investing and getting involved in their journey!

At this point, let’s take a look at the types of burdens we are to help bear. These burdens found in us are not comprehensive—but they are the type of burdens and sins with which many Christians struggle. Maybe this is a burden with which you struggle.

Bear one another’s burdens. What types of burdens are we talking about?

Before we talk about others, let’s talk about ourselves as believers for a moment! We know from Scripture that God has supplied each of us with gifts. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that he has given the church the gifted leaders to “equip us to do the work of the ministry” so we will all grow toward maturity and unity!

In Romans 12:3-8, we see another truth come to the fore:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

These gifts we are given are intended to build up the body of Christ, and can all be boiled down into either speaking gifts or serving gifts. And the body needs everyone functioning as God created it so that the rest of the body can move forward!

After the men’s conference yesterday, I went in the backyard of the youth house and started throwing football with Steven and Mark Horton! Had a great time—until I went to get a thrown ball in my tractionless dress shoes. That little slip affected things just enough to where the ball jammed my thumb. I was done! Put some ice on it, wrapped it up. But you don’t realize how much you need your thumb until it’s injured. Buttons, opening a bottle, tying shoes, writing—it doesn’t go smoothly. Other parts of the body have to compensate until the injured part is healed.

This, friend, is ministry! Equipping and encouraging the saints to unity and maturity! We rejoice in the victories and as they grow in maturity, but we also come along to bear one another’s burdens! And do we ever have sinful burdens that we deal with! Ever We rejoice in the victories and as they grow in maturity, but we also come along to bear one another’s burdens! And do we ever have sinful burdens that we deal with! Every burden we have is an issue of worship—do we worship ourselves and our desires, or will we worship Christ who rescued us from the penalty of those desires?

[1]Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 127-28.

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Maturing in Christ: Grow in the Knowledge of our Lord Jesus

Grace and knowledge are very much intertwined. John MacArthur rightly says, “Because of His grace, God forgives the sins of His children. They in turn feed on Scripture and commune with Christ, thereby increasing their knowledge of him.”[1]

But knowledge, you may say? We cannot understand God’s grace without having a knowledge of what He has revealed in His Word. In fact, we can go deeper and say that we understand God’s grace when we understand his Law. Why do this? Aren’t we as Christians, as that old hymn says:

Free from the law, O happy condition,

Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;

Cursed by the law, and bruised by the fall,

Grace hath redeemed us once and for all.[2]

Again, keep in mind the context: false teachers were coming along. They were questioning whether the Lord would return—and thus afflicting the minds and hearts of the followers. He tells them, “You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” He reminds them of how through His Word, he created all things and that judgment will come to the ungodly—once with water as in the days of Noah, but them one day through fire. They overlooked that fact, and thus we must not overlook the fact that God will preserve His people, bringing all the elect to salvation and will come as a thief in the night.

Why do I bring this up? Because if we are to grow in knowledge, and Peter is continually alluding to ‘facts,’ where does this knowledge and these ‘facts’ come from that we are supposed to grow in? Scripture! The false teachers came to twist the Scripture to mean what they wish it to say, and thus we need to know what God has said in His Scripture and to rightly divide this Word so we aren’t taken away by falsehood!

What is the law? The law is the moral law given to man by God, as summed up in the Ten Commandments, but fleshed out in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). While the ceremonial, civil, and dietary laws were fulfilled in Christ and no longer apply, the moral law does apply to all! It sets up the boundaries that God reveals to us.

So where does this knowledge come in, in regards to the Law? For one, the Law cannot save. That was never its intention. God’s revealing of His law was such that it showed how fallen we are. We do not have the spiritual equipment to keep God’s law. Our righteousness is, as Isaiah tells us, filthy rags.

So, Romans 3:20 tells us that “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” What’s the purpose of law? The purpose is to expose our inability to keep God’s law (the epitome of sin). The law exposes our sinful hearts! So there’s a disconnect between a perfectly righteous God who demands righteousness from people who wish to be right and have forgiveness and eternal life. But none of us are perfectly righteous and sin free. Yet, he commands us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He also commands us to “be holy, as he is holy” (1 Peter 1:17).

One cursory view of God’s Word makes it clear that perfection and holiness are impossible for even five seconds. And we also see numerous times in Scripture when God shows up—people feared for their lives, lest they be consumed. The holiness, glory, and majesty of God can be a terrifying thing to behold!

So if we cannot even stand in his presence, if we cannot be righteous or holy, if we have no hope in this manner—what can we do? We trust in the one whose righteousness on which we can rely—Jesus Christ!

[1]John MacArthur, 2 Peter and Jude: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press), .

[2]Philip P. Bliss, Free from the Law, O Happy Condition. Public Domain.

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Maturity in Christ: Grow in His Grace

(This is Part II of our Visioneering Series here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.  You may listen to this as well as Part I on Magnifying Christ at .) 

Have you ever had anyone ever tell you to grow up? That’s not a pleasant thing to hear at any point in our lives. As children, we may have exasperated our parents to where they say something like this to us. We may play a prank on a friend, and they are exasperated with our actions—and they say, “Come on, man! Grow up!”

While we may not be crazy about other people saying this to us, do you believe that this is something God would ever say to his people? If so, we know this—there would be nothing malicious about it. Knowing the character of God, we know that He is holy, perfect in all His ways. So has there ever been times when God spoke to His people and told them to “grow up”?

In 2 Peter 3:18, the apostle Peter closes this second letter this way: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” God has called His people to grow. And those who are truly God’s people, who have been saved by our Lord Jesus Christ, will want to grow in Christ. They will want to know Him as he is magnified in their lives, and the maturity comes when Christ becomes more magnified and more predominant in their lives.

In our mission statement that our church adopted 18 months ago, we see again:

Arapahoe Road Baptist Church exists to worship God; evangelize our family, city, state, nation and world; disciple God’s people, minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others; and fellowship with one another.

God calls us to “go and make disciples” in the Great Commission. A disciple is that of a student, a learner who sits at the feet of the Master. Much like an apprentice who not only learns by hearing but also learns by watching and doing. A disciple identifies with the Triune God, and also spends time teaching everything that they have learned from Jesus. It is a perpetual growth. The writer of Hebrews communicates this clearly when he says:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need mile, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity (Hebrews 5:11-6:1a).

So, taking 2 Peter 3:18, let’s breakdown what it means to grow forward, being disciples of Christ who disciple others. And discipleship is the key. I love what Steve Lutz shared in a deacon’s meeting a few weeks ago on this subject when he said that discipleship “is taking someone from one stage of spiritual maturity to another.” We all expect this to happen in life, but it’s happening less and less.

Immaturity looks as one content in remaining a ‘child’ in the faith. And what do children look like? Self-absorbed (“That’s mine!” “I want to be first!”), against authority (“Johnny, make your bed, please!” “I don’t want to!”), and irresponsible for their own actions. In fact, we can go back to the Garden of Eden. They saw the fruit was pleasing to their eyes, they wanted to be like God knowing good from evil, and then when caught, they played the blame game.

As we as parents have the responsibility to help our children stay safe and function in society, so has God birthed the church and all her members to grow up into maturity. While the world appeals to the 15-35 demographic and ignores that which is mature, God is calling for grown-ups!

Grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to ‘grow in the grace… of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’? I would imagine that the majority of people who think about grace merely think of this in terms of when someone comes to Christ—only on the plain of justification! Not so! Everyday we must grow in the grace of Christ.

Notice the context of why Peter wrote this. The first word of verse 18 is the word “But….” In verses 14-17, Peter seeks to encourage the saints. False teachers are prominent. Peter calls them “ignorant and unstable” because they come in and twist the Scriptures. This is nothing new—the Apostle Paul dealt with false teachers constantly in his ministry.

What motivates false teachers? For one, power! They love making rules for people to follow that will show everyone how devout they are. Which breeds fear in the followers! Jehovah’s Witnesses have a quota for their followers of how many doors they knock on. Mormons have rules ranging from abstaining from caffeine to being baptized for the dead. The good works that they do from the outside look so wonderful—but inside is destructive because they are counting on their own righteousness to bring eternal life.

Another is greed. In 2 Peter 2:2: “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” In all of these area, it’s their fallen, selfish nature that is fueling their earthly walk—whether they do good deeds or evil deeds.

But we are not simply to grow to fight back the outward falsehoods. We grow in grace to fight the flesh. We fight against the sin that still lurks in our hearts. Karl Menninger in his book Whatever Became of Sin? wrote back in 1973:

The very word ‘sin,’ which seems to have disappeared was once a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. . . . But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?[1]

D.A. Carson noted that when one attempts to do evangelism in universities, students generally do not have any idea of sin. “They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin.”[2] But the Apostle Paul says that our sin is great! But that God’s grace is greater. Grace by its very definition is not earned! So we are to grow in God’s grace. How? Look with me at Matthew 11:25-30:

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

God’s gracious will was to give knowledge and understanding because of his “gracious will.” The only way we can know the Son is because the Father chooses to reveal the Son to us. We can’t earn it, we can’t climb there, we can’t obtain it by our effort. We don’t have that equipment. But to those whom the Father reveals the Son, he says, “Come.” Are you laboring in this life? Are you laboring for the love of Christ through your own obedience—but failing? He will give you rest. At the beginning and all during your Christian walk, “rest” is this: trusting in the work of Christ for your salvation and growth rather than yourself.

Whereas false teachers and atheists actually have something in common with many Christians. Again, the false teachers are there through power, greed, and sensual desires to use other people to feed their own desires. It’s all about self. Then you have the Christian church member who struggled with whether they are good enough for God to love them. So they work: they get on every committee, they show up at every church service, and are busy, busy, busy for the Lord. Is this bad? It depends on your motive. Are you doing this because you are resting in Christ’s work, and doing it out of love? Or are you doing this because you are working for your own rest, so Christ will love you for all you do?

Or what about the Christian who operates on fear? They know what Christ has done for them, and they know others need to hear—but they are afraid. Why? They look at themselves and their skills, their energy, their own resources and say, “I can’t do it!” So again, instead of resting in Christ’s work and His energy and resources, they look at their own. In all three of these cases, each person is relying on themselves and not on Christ. The gospel needs to grip their hearts not just in becoming a Christian—but as a believer.

Eugene O’Neill insightfully wrote, “Man is broken and needs mending. The grace of God is the glue.” Growing in God’s grace is growing continually in the reliance of His work in us, of Christ being formed in us. But the grace of God is missed, even in those who call themselves Christian.

You have one who attends church everytime the door is open. He wants to be at every event, be on every team, and wants to absorb everything preached, taught, and conversed. On the outside everything looks good. But what about on the inside? On the inside is a desire to try to earn God’s love and to show God that we love him. Rather than relying on God’s grace as a motive, we are putting in our works and drawing from our own energies and resources.

[1]Karl Menninger, Whatever Happened to Sin? (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1973), 14-15. Quoted in Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007), 17.

[2]Peter Barnes, “What? Me? A Sinner?” The Banner of Truth, April 2004, 21. Quoted in Bridges, 18.

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Our Lives Identify What We Magnify: the Example of the Samaritan Woman

Nestled in the Gospel of John is an encounter Jesus with woman from Samaria. In John 4:4, the gospel tells us, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” Did this mean this was the only route? No, not at all. He could have taken the route of other devout Jews at the time and simply walked around the perimeter. Yet, he had to walk through Samaria. He had an appointment that would change the course of the world!

Jesus takes something tangible, a drink of water (4:7) to springboard into a conversation about a spiritual conversation regarding ‘living water’ (4:10). When she inquired how he would draw out this living water with no instrument of any kind, she (she) brings up Jacob, since he dug that very well. Jesus said, “That water will make you thirsty, but the water I give will not only never thirst, but will provide a well inside the heart of the one who drinks up to eternal life.” She wants this living water. Do you blame her?

But then Jesus exposes an area in which her life contradict her desire to have this living water. Remember: when Jesus is magnified, our thirst is identified.

In December 2011, God called me to pastor a church in the Denver metro area of Centennial, Colorado. Having lived the majority of my life east of the Mississippi, altitude was never a problem. But living in the desert near the mountains in the Mile High City was an adjustment. The amount of sun we would get in an hour back east, we get in five minutes. Plus, the altitude obviously makes the air thinner, causing some significant adjustments: nosebleeds, breathing issues, dizziness, etc. It took me about 3-6 months to fully adjust.

The solution? The mantra for all those who are visiting or who have just moved to Denver is this: drink lots and lots and lots (and lots) of water. Otherwise, you’ll get dehydrated and very sick. Some heed the advice, while others don’t. In regards to those who do not, I guarantee this: they do not feel dehydrated. And if they do feel sick, dizzy, etc., they may not realize the cause of this is thirst. They need a physician to identify the issue.

Christ serves as the one who, when we see him in all His glory and in immense detail, our thirst is identified. And we react. We either say, “Give me some water to drink,” or we say, “I don’t know about that—I’d like a second opinion.” Or we can just not come near to Him—because if it’s not identified, we delude ourselves into thinking that we are not thirsty at all.

Another principle found here is this: our lives identify what we magnify. This woman is intrigued by this living water that will prevent her from coming to the well to drink. But why? Because Jesus is about to unlock an area of her life that she wishes to keep hidden from him. Everyone is aware of her past, so the less she has to come out and encounter those who stigmatize her because of this, the better. If she could get this water without it costing her any sort of change in direction in her life—yes! Sign me up, she says.

This is where so many of us trip up. We want the living water, but we don’t want the soul thirst that exists in us to be identified or taken away. Our lives scream to the world what our values are and what means the most to us. Sunday morning Bible study and church cannot erase what our lives exalt on Monday through Saturday. Most of us keep things close to the vest—and the moment that we find ourselves vulnerable even among our brothers and sisters in Christ, we become mortified in the aftermath and even feel the need to apologize for allowing ourselves to let down and lose control.

John Piper has famously said, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him.” C.S. Lewis noted something significant in his marvelous book The Weight of Glory.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.[1]

Look at Jesus next words: “Go, call your husband” (John 4:16). Attempting to hid this aspect of her life, Jesus exposes it not to be facetious but to provide her freedom! But we cannot be free until we recognize what keeps us in bondage. He does not set us free in theory or philosophically, he sets us free realistically and practically! She has little choice but to respond:

“I have no husband.”

Technically, she was correct (which Jesus acknowledged at the end of verse 17). But Jesus comes to have us deal with our past, to expose patterns, and ultimately to expose the life mechanism of our hearts. He doesn’t just get to what we do, but the what and the why. What are we magnifying? What is big in our lives? And why? Because the why exposes the motive. But this type of expositional witnessing was Jesus showing His love, not based upon race but upon grace.

“You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” In alluding to Lewis’ quote above, one could try to give her an out by saying, “This woman’s temptations were too strong! Her desires are too strong.” No, they are too weak. She gave in. She thought this would fill the relationship-void in her heart—but that didn’t work, did it? As we will see, she knew something of the Scriptures—at least the Torah.

This is a big Savior standing before this woman—and He’s a big Savior that stands before us. Jesus just magnified the areas in her heart that are hidden. She has had five husbands—but they are no longer her husbands either by death or divorce. And now she is living with someone else. Maybe she blamed the institution itself for the issue! Even so, this woman was decimated—when God says that the two shall become one flesh when he joins them together in marriage, breaking that union is not just devastating as far as society is concern—it decimates spiritually! Married couples are joined spiritually, and Satan loves divorce because it wrecks those affected spiritually.

Ever since the garden of Eden, we’ve been hiding from our Creator. We’ve been naked and ashamed (see Genesis 2:25; 3:7-8) and our greatest fear is being exposed—not just physically, but spiritually. So we hide from God, ignore him, redefine him, or repent before Him.

So when Jesus unveiled her heart, she had to deal with him. “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet.” Then she starts a theological argument. A diversion? A serious inquiry? Both, I would say. It’s always easier to spar theologically than to stare at ourselves spiritually. So she asks about the proper place of worship, Mount Gerazim or Mount Zion. She is trying to put the inquiry back on Jesus and on something other than what it should be focused on: the condition of her heart.

In Titus, the apostle Paul warned him,

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-10).

So the apostle Paul is talking about those already in the church who should be pointing to Jesus, but instead are pointing to peripherals, simply trying to win an argument. Earlier, he tells Titus to be clothed in the doctrine of God (Titus 2:10). When winning arguments about a fine, peripheral point means more than winning someone to Christ, we have issues.

But when it comes to someone who doesn’t know Christ, we are talking about a different matter. If they bring up an issue, it’s an opening to share Christ and His work on our behalf. So how does Jesus answer this theological inquiry? Where should they worship? Mt. Gerazim or Jerusalem’s Mt. Zion?

Neither! He brings her back to what needs to be magnified in her life. At the end of all things, the worship will not take place in a geographical location but in a spiritual one: true worshipers will not need to make the thrice-a-year pilgrimages in order to properly worship. The Messiah has made His pilgrimage to us so that we may worship “in spirit and truth.” We worship in spirit because God is spirit—not a building (the Temple), not a box (the ark of the covenant), but spirit. In fact, Jesus not only said that He would be the Temple raised in three days, but that we as His body would become the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the place where God would dwell (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

In the end, she put off her pretenses of being able to control her own life, being able to understand the direction she had for it, unwittingly or no. “When [the Messiah] comes, he will tell us all things.” Underlying all this was a hope—a hope beyond sex, false companionship, and well-water. She directed this in a wrong way, but Christ set her on the proper path. “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26).

We need to adjust the magnification in our spiritual lenses. If you have looked through a microscope or a telescope, you know the necessity of a magnifications that, for a telescope, can go up to 50X or 100X power which brings the object in closer and with more detail.

What type of magnification do our spiritual lenses have? “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” She comes to a fine point—there is someone who is coming that will put it all into perspective. We have come from water in a well to living water. We have come from a controversy of Gerazim vs. Zion to a confrontation about whether worship takes place in heart.

Now, the Christ has gone from a future hope to a present reality.

Now look at what she says to her fellow Samaritans:

Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

Come, see. Adjust those spiritual lenses and really see the one. He brought to the surface all of her junk, all of her weaknesses, all of her need. There’s an old song, “He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.”

When the disciples asked about Jesus’ food, he says, “My have food to eat that you do not know about. . . . My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Now see how Christ looks to adjust the magnification of our spiritual lenses: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

Here’s where the magnifying affects the maturing, ministry, and mobilizing. The Samaritan woman knew some of the Bible, but it did not affect nor connect with her life at all. The lack of magnifying the things of God led to a lack of maturity. There was no knowing the Lord, thus there was no growing in the Lord.

But once she knew Christ, her eyes were opened. And once the disciples began to grow in Christ, they’re eyes are opened.

Are our eyes opened? Is Christ big before your eyes? Then the lost will be as well. Without Christ as #1 in our lives, we can walk out this door and people will only mean what value we place on them. With Christ, we will see the lost as He sees the lost.

[1]C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 1-2. Quoted in John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1996), 17.

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What Does It Mean to Magnify Christ?

When I was a child, magnifying glasses fascinated me. With the naked eye, you could see an ant crawling across our deck and think, “Yes, that’s an ant.” But when you take the magnifying glass and put it up near that ant, you noticed that what you thought was a little bug without much to it suddenly turned into a magnificent creature with very detailed features. You see the antennae, the eyes, the head, the thorax, the abdomen, the legs—you become amazed at what this little bug is truly like. And I remember running and telling my mom to come look! I had to show her what I had seen.

Before anything of consequence may happen in a local church or in the life of the Christian for that matter must flow from a Christian’s magnification of Christ alone. Before a church can look inward, outward, or move forward, she must look upward. Notice how the beginning of Scripture begins: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Before we address the nuts and bolts of creation and history and all the warts and wrinkles therein, Scripture directs us upward first. This understanding is critical to everything that our lives entail.

In a culture from the academic elite to the water cooler who hold to the notion that our lives are random with no design, direction, nor purpose behind it all, Scripture begins with the very first verse by saying in essence, “Everything you see? God made it, designed it, purposed it, is directing it. From the molecular to the galactic level, the chance element is absent. And the world craves for this reality, whether they realize it or not.

Our view of God affects everything that we do, everything we say, everything we think. Richard Lints tells us the importance of our theological vision in regards to life and church:

A theological vision allows [people] to see their culture in a way different that they had ever been able to see it before . . . Those who are empowered by the theological vision do not simply stand against the mainstream impulses of the culture but take the initiative both to understand and speak to that culture from the framework of the Scriptures . . . The modern theological vision must seek to bring the entire counsel of God into the world of its time in order that its time might be transformed.[1]

When it comes to our worship times, I think of two verses out of the Psalms. The first is this from Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” This deals with our attitude! For the Christian, an enthusiasm exists in coming before the Lord and before His people. And when we come into this kingdom outpost to worship, much of what we get out of it depends on what we put into it! It is here that we exalt Christ, we encourage others in Christ to exalt Christ in their lives. Here, we learn about the Word of God by the Spirit of God. Everything that takes place in the live of the church does so to make much of the crucified and risen Son! We have His word, His Spirit, His called leaders in the church, His people—and an empty cross and tomb to anchor it all!

Another verse out of the Psalms is that of Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Unity in what? Some say it’s simply unity in fellowship—in other words, you simply like being around this group of people, and this is the extent of unity. Yet, there is nothing distinctive about this. You can find that type of fellowship at a bar. You can find that at a ball game, where 80,000 people are cheering for a Broncos win! You can find that at a rally of a common cause. But there is more to it: we are unified in the truth! Unified in Christ and what He has revealed in His Word.

Yet, just because we come to a church function or even to our worship gathering here, does not mean we are worshiping! You can be here, but not be here all at the same time. Our body may be occupying space in one of the benches, but our minds and hearts can in a galaxy far, far away.

Psalm 34:3 says:

Oh, magnify the LORD with me,

And let us exalt his name together!

Literally, the Psalmist is saying, “Let’s make the Lord’s name grow and expand in our midst and in the world.” God desired for this attitude and expectation to pervade His people, but His desires did not always manifest themselves—in fact, most of the time they were absent!

The fundamental activity and attitude of the believer and, also, churches is to magnify Christ. Magnifying Christ is to make him bigger in our eyes, to know him better, and to show him more brilliantly to others who need to see him.

[1]Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 316-17. Quoted in Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 18.

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Politicking in the Pulpit—a Caution to Pastors

Brian Lee writes a cautionary piece to preachers who are encouraged this election season to be openly political in regards to particular candidates. 

That’s what Jim Garlow and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are urging preachers to deliver. ADF is promoting October 7th as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” and is asking ministers to dedicate their sermons to explicit politicking. According to an online pledge, sermons should evaluate the presidential candidates according to “biblical truths and church doctrine,” and make a specific endorsement. Launched in 2008, over 500 pastors signed last years pledge, though promotion of the event seems to peak in election years.

Mixing politics with religion is a slippery slope.  A line should be drawn.  If a candidate makes a remark or a political party has a platform that the Bible addresses as true or false, this should be acknowledged.  Many have said that abortion is a ‘political issue,’ and thus should not be preached from the pulpit.  I disagree—this is an issue that the Scriptures directly address and should not be hijacked by political figures and , thus, make it off-limits to preachers.  God has spoken, and thus we should speak.

But for those who stand up and say that God supports a particular party’s platform and all that it addresses is treading on thin ice and, in my opinion, is squandering his biblical authority. 

But Lee closes this article with a spot-on message for us as ministers, and for all believers who walk into church and might be subject to another political advertisement behind the pulpit.  Read and heed!


Furthermore, the New Testament offers no encouragement for direct political action. When Jesus was asked a trick question about the propriety of paying taxes — is there any other kind? — he asked whose name was on the coin, and told his followers to “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Later, when on trial for his life, he did not deny his royal authority, but instead claimed “My kingdom is not of this world.”

At a time when the major issue in Jewish politics was the overthrow of the oppressive regime, neither Christ nor his Apostles had a word to say about it. The Apostles surely could not conceive of a democracy, or shaping imperial Roman policy, yet they urged submission for the Lord’s sake “to every human institution.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul twice called the deeply flawed governing authority of his day — that of Nero, persecutor of Christians — a “minister of God” for good and evil. With Jesus, he urged for this reason the paying of taxes that were owed, along with honor and respect. Clearly, loss of tax-exempt status may be an injustice as well as a threat to our constitutional liberties, but it poses no threat to the well being of the church.

The primary message the New Testament commends to preachers — “Christ, and him crucified!” — is scarcely a political one. But this doesn’t mean preachers should be constrained from speaking politically. One care barely open one’s mouth on a moral question of the day without giving political offense, and no one would suggest God’s word has nothing to say on these matters.

But the further the minister of the word ventures from the claim of “thus sayeth the Lord,” there is a spiritual and political price to be paid. We risk squandering moral authority and offending the politically disaffected. The Gospel we are commanded to preach to all reaches a precious few, and the heavenly respite of worship becomes a good bit more earthly. Almost a century ago, J. Gresham Machen voiced a similar concern with the rise of politically progressive pulpits:

The preacher comes forward…not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

The minister doesn’t speak for himself; the title means “servant.” Perhaps preachers should ask themselves, before they step up to the pulpit this Sunday, whether they’d feel comfortable reading on behalf of their boss the standard campaign disclosure when they’re finished:

“I’m Jesus Christ, and I approve this message.”

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