“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, October 31, 2005

Reformation Day!

While most folks in the US are celebrating Halloween tonight, we will be focusing on Reformation Day and spending time rereading some Luther. I believe that next year we will have a celebration at the church and discuss what Reformation Day is, and why it is important. Unfortunately, time, or rather the lack thereof, has prevented me from doing all of the things that I want to do.

Anyone stopping at this blog (if anyone does indeed stop by), may already be completely familiar with RD, however I just wanted, for my own sake, to post something about it.

Luther was an enignmatic and conflicted character to say the least, and me being Jewish, he is someone who I find to be unstable in some of his views. However, the hammer blows struck against the door of the church in Wittenberg, as he nailed the theses up, still ring in the ears of those who would have no one tyrannized by man-made methodologies to God.

Luther struck out against a corrupt regime which denigrated God and placed tradition, church councils, and papal authority above the Word of God. This system had created a people who were under the heavy weight of 'working' for their salvation, with the constant fear of not being found 'good enough'.

The sale of indulgences incensed Luther. In Europe at that time, Tetzel, the Pope's PR man, went about putting the fear of God (literally) in people, in order to fill the coffers in Rome for the grand task of building St. Peter's. His methodology was to tell people that they could shorten their time in purgatory, or that they could assist a loved one who was in purgatory by 'sowing' money into the church. The church would then 'put in a good word' for the indulgent to change the position of the purgatorial one. (Yes, this is an oversimplification, but it makes the point)

Another item that Luther rejected was relics. There were enough pieces of the cross, and parts of saints floating around that you could have constructed many crosses out of the splinters, and the bones were so numberous that every town seemed to have a 'piece' of a saint! By paying homage to these relics, one also helped out their situation.

Isn't it interesting how many of the modern televangelists preach this same thing!? Today the Tetzelian message is: "Sow a seed into my ministry, and I will send you a sweat-soaked handkerchief (relic), AND I will pray to God for you and He will give you increase (indulgences)..."

There are several leaders in the modern 'evangelical' movement who exert papal authority over their followers, and the people LOVE IT! They will even pay up to 100.00 to hear one of these modern evangelical 'popes' speak.

Luther's desire was to reform the church in Rome from within initially, and only when that failed did he actively seek other routes. It is interesting that 488 years later, the struggle for internal reformation continues. I just read a good article over at John Hendryx's site regarding people who want to reform their churches from within.

Now, I am not comparing the struggle within the protestant circles with the greater divide between Rome and Wittenberg, however, I do find it poignant that the church is at a place in history where it seems that, once again, we are badly in need of internal reformation.

Mainstream denominations now actively preach AGAINST the grace of God, and FOR the sovereignty of man; they are filled with people who believe that there are books that are equal to, or even surpass the Bible in relevance to the modern person, (witness the PDL movement), and they are giving people a false sense of salvation.

Just as veneration of saints, lighting of candles, and other works cannot provide the assurance of salvation, neither can simply attending a modern church and being filled with a feeling of 'purpose'.

I would pray that this Reformation Day might mark the beginning of a reform in the protestant church. A reform which will bring us back to a biblical understanding of faith... I have much to learn about it, and I dare say that all can grow deeper in their understanding of the Grace of God.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sabbath

Ingrid at Slice of Laodicea recently posted an interesting article describing how a 'church' in New Zealand has preempted their Sunday service with a rugby tournament, and that caused me to think a bit about how we (especially in the West) view 'the Lord's Day'.

I am from a Jewish background, where the Sabbath is taken seriously, and that is what I want to address in this post. I am not attempting to right every wrong, or get into some deep, theological debate over whether or not Saturday, or Sunday is the proper day to worship, there are plenty of those arguments all over the web. Quite frankly, I have my opinion, and you have yours, and it is not about a day, but about a heart condition... I weary of people fighting great theological battles 'proving' their position about the 'correct' day, and even at the end of that battle, STILL not understanding about the rest that is to be found in the Lord.

In an observant Jewish home, the Sabbath (Shabbat) is an honored time of setting aside the cares and woes of this world and getting back to the important things of the Lord. Now, I will not bore you with all of the aspects of a Jewish Shabbat, however, I also will tell you that I believe there are aspects that are wrong-headed, such as making the Shabbat an idol, and there are some practices which are just not proper for one found in Messiah, however the CONCEPT of shabbat is important and something that, unfortunately, is lost on most people in the Church. I have talked to many who say 'I am not under the law, therefore why would I do something like this?" A plain misunderstanding about the shabbat; it is not about HAVING to do something, but taking one day of the week and DESIRING to be found resting in the Father.

What many people mean, honestly, is that they will not divide off one day purely for the Lord. Wal*Mart calls, and the mall is packed on the weekend, and of course there are the movies, football games, and children's sports that must be attended to. So, the real answer is; I am too busy to devote one day to the Lord.

First off, in the Jewish mind, the shabbat is not just another day in the week, but is truly a day MARKED OFF for the Lord. Now, Sunday is NOT the Sabbath, it is Sunday; however, it would behoove you to mark off that day for the Lord if you observe on that day. (Again, please remember that this post is not about whether Sunday is correct or not, it is about something else).

So, on to shabbat -- There are several things that are done to mark off this day as special. First on Friday evening, the fine china is brought out, and the table is set as if one is expecting a very special guest. Candles are brought out and lit, there is an anticipatory mood, even by the children. The man of the home (yes, we are politically incorrect in this), then raises a cup (called the kiddush cup), and says a blessing over the wine, then he blesses the challah (if you have never had challah, oh you poor brother/sister!).

Once the bread is broken, it is passed around the table and everyone greets one another with 'Shabbat Shalom' and usually there is an accompanying embrace. The next portion of the shabbat observance is critical as it is lost in most homes today:

The children and wife are blessed by the father/husband. Then the blessing for the meal is spoken.

Then, as in all good Jewish celebrations we eat!

In all homes that remain true to shabbat, there is no TV, no radio, but there is a study of the Word of God, and singing of songs. I must admit, the closest I find to this is in the Reformed concept of Family Worship.

On Saturday morning, the family gathers to go to shabbat service, and at the end of the service, there is a celebration (again we eat), called an oneg.

Many observant Jewish homes will not even turn on the stove on the shabbat, abiding by the instruction to do no work. I have to admit that I am not THAT observant, but one of the great things about shabbat is cholent, a dish some might call a crock-pot type of dish. It is great, and it seems that everyone makes it a bit different.

At the close of the shabbat, Saturday evening, there is a havdalah service in which the candles are lit, and a mix of spices are passed and inhaled. As the beautiful aroma invades the room, it is a time to focus on the light of the world, and the sweet-smelling aroma that is Messiah Yeshua, Jesus the Christ.

A beautiful celebration, oft misunderstood, but when properly observed a celebration that brings all members of the family into a laser focus on the Lord.

Compare this with the modern church family's 'Lord's Day' (I am generalizing. Please forgive me, if this is not you, then feel free to ignore. However, if this does describe your family, maybe you should re-evaluate your priorities.):

The family rushes around in the morning, shoveling food down the gullets of the kids, and gulping coffee as everyone rushes (because, after all, we sleep until the last available moment, rather than anticipate the Lord's Day), to get dressed, put on their make-up, comb their hair, and ensure that they catch the morning news.

Often there is no Bible reading, nor is there even a reference to the Bible except the ubiquitous, "Has anybody seen my Bible?", and in today's church environment, I am not even sure that is asked anymore!

Everyone piles in the car for a high-speed run to the church, getting there after the music has started (dad doesn't like to sing, so we get here a bit late), and quickly coming in and sitting down.

The family goes through the service, and immediately upon the final 'amen', everyone rushes back out to the car, because, after all, the BIG game is on today, and dad has fifty bucks on the hometown heroes. Once home, mom gets the kids settled in; little Jimmy, safely ensconced behind the pad of a gameboy in his room, Sally on the cellphone with her friends, Bobby in his room playing Doom on the computer, and dad in his 'comfy clothes', chips and beer at hand, to watch the game. She then departs for the mall to 'window-shop' and get out of the house for a bit, letting dad be the responsible adult for a few hours.

When mom returns home, she is beat, it has been a long week, so they all head to McDonald's for burgers and fries, returning home to face another week.

How restful, how peaceful, how focused that is!

It is time to bring back the rest... Stop the games, stop the shopping, stop the madness, and truly bring the family into focus, at least once a week!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday Musings

This Monday I thought I would just ramble a bit... Been a long day/week already!

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I have received emails and read a lot of postings from apologists for the 'seeker-sensitive/emergent' churches regarding the fact that they are thinking 'outside the box' and creating an environment that will make the 'seeker' comfortable; whereas the old stodgy church (such as ours) has failed to keep people 'interested'. However, my own personal experience has been quite opposite to their claims.

I confess that I do not have 20,000+ congregants, but I do have people who love the Lord and are desirous of a closer relationship with Him. These people are coming to an understanding of the Holiness, and Awesomeness of God. They are engaging their minds, and thinking deeply about their faith; they are coming alive before my eyes! These are the very people that many in the seeker-sensitive movement are trying to reach; people who were not raised in churches, who got handed a rubber biscuit by the world and a few who are true hard-luck cases. These people come week after week and listen to sermons preached OUT OF THE BIBLE; they even bring their own Bibles!

Several of the folks who have been attending our church for several years are now teaching other people the great truths of the Bible, reaching their own families in some cases. You might be able to tell that I am proud of this group for sticking it out with me as I stumbled along. As a Body we grabbed onto the truth of God's Word and hung on. That is what carried us through.

I say all of this to refute claims that I hear over and over (almost like a mantra) from the churches who have abandoned the God of the Bible and preach another Christ. Those who feel that communion SHOULD be Starbuck's and donuts, or that it is perfectly acceptable to be crude and vulgar behind the pulpit instead of preaching the Word of God.

Here are some their claims: "People want to have their needs met, and feel better about themselves"... or, "People don't want all of that 'religious' language (like atonement, propitiation, justification), they just want someone they can relate to, therefore we dress like Elvis and relate to them."

And my response? HOGWASH! True enough, those seeking self-esteem are not looking for any of these things, however, people being called and drawn by God ARE hungry for the Word of God to be preached. They search the Scriptures during the week to see if what the pastor said is correct, they hold one another accountable, they want to continue to grow in holiness. These are people who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are now running the race that has been set out for them.

It's not easy to be in ministry, there are times that our leadership would like to run away and hide (me included), because, quite frankly, preaching at a small, outreach church and not resorting to the bag of tricks that are currently being offered by 'successful' preachers is HARD! Lack of resources and hours in the day (I am bi-vocational) are constant challenges. But, I will tell you that it is worth every bit of hardship to see someone's eyes light up as they grasp the Grace of the Lord in all of its beauty and glory!

The ACTUAL issue that I have heard over and over from people is quite the opposite of the claims from the CGM folks. What I hear more than anything else is, "We had a hard time finding a church that preaches the Bible." The people I encounter are not burned out by 'boring' churches, rather, they are frustrated by the lack of real teaching and preaching in places they have been attending.

Don't get me wrong; the emergent and CGM groups have asked some valid questions, but it is their answers that are suspect... Because they do not seek Biblical solutions for God's people they end up 'in the weeds' as my elder is fond of saying.

It seems to me that there are two possibilities regarding the people involved:

(1) The first person may be a pastor in a 'seeker-sensitive/emergent' church whose motives were honorable at the beginning, but as time has gone on, they have had to resort to more and more outlandish 'tricks' to keep hineys in the pews. This is due to the fact that they are NOT seeing real conversions, rather their churches are filled with people who have found a place where they feel comfortable, and not convicted. Many churches are closer to 'Cheers', where everyone knows your name and there's old Norm in the corner!

I believe that these pastors may actually be hostages of their own success. They have created a 'monster' that needs to be fed (not in the Biblical way), i.e. HVAC, Staff Personnel, Rent/Lease, Bills, etc.

Ever see "Little Shop of Horrors'? In the movie, the innocent, well-meaning, Seymour takes in a dying plant. This plant feeds on Seymour's blood, but soon has grown to the point where it no longer is sated with a few drops from his finger, but instead Seymour is eventually forced to resort to homicide to sate the beast that the plant has become. Now, I am not trying to draw any great theological thread out of Little Shop Of Horrors, I am simply trying to say that some pastors may have started out a little like Seymour; attempting something good for God's Kingdom, with very little knowledge of what they were handling, and as the beast grew it demanded more and more. They are now either too afraid to draw the line, or they have been consumed by the monster and lack the ability/authority to stop it.

(2) The second type of pastor (I hesitate to use that word with these wolves) is one that I have no respect for. This is the one who set out to make money using a pseudo-Christian guise with just enough of a veneer to make the organization 'appear' to be legitimate. There are many pastors out there that fit this bill, including several who 'inherited' the mantle of leadership from their fathers. I have never figured out the ecclesiology of these dynastic churches.

These people KNOW what they are doing, and are in no way innocent, or caught in a trap. These are men that Peter spoke of: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 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. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

I believe that there are pastors in the emergent/CGM movements that KNOW they are in the wrong place. I would ask that we, as people of God, pray for these people and for their congregations. Pray for their strength to stand against the world and its sensuality, and return to the true Gospel of Christ!

We are called to confront bad teaching/false doctrines/heresy and blasphemy, and I believe that is done quite well in many places on the blogsphere, by people much more eloquent than I, but let us never forget to pray for these men and women. Pray that they would be truly regenerated, or renewed. What a statement it would make if one of the well-known pastors in these worldly movements returned to Biblical preaching and teaching and refuted the nonsense going on!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Great Link

Here is an excellent commentary on Antinomianism from James Henley Thornwell, (1812-1862). Thanks to Michael Bremmer for putting this up!

Antinomianism

Here are a couple of snippets from the article:

"When, after a dreary night of Arminian darkness and of legal bondage, the doctrines of grace are proclaimed with clearness and power, there are always found men who, unable to endure the light which reveals the folly of their slavish toils and unchristian schemes, pervert the Gospel and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness."


"The Gospel, like its blessed Master, is always crucified between two thieves -- legalist of all sorts on the one hand and Antinomians on the other; the former robbing the Saviour of the glory of his work for us, and the other robbing him of the glory of his work within us."

His cogent thought regarding Antinomianism is a welcome oasis in the desert of modern thought.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Pastor Appreciation Month

In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, I wanted to honor my pastors:

No pastor is an island, to paraphrase an old saying, and we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.

This list of pastors contains folks from several denominations and from both the Reformed and Arminian side of the house. Even though I disagree with some of these men, they have helped shaped my life in profound ways.

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Pastor Dan - This man took in a skeptic, filled with arrogance, and showed him what a pastor should look like. Dan loves his congregation, and it shows! He was patient and kind, overlooking the many faux pas, and gently, but firmly leading me. It was through Dan that I understood the fact that Christians are not a cult, but actual people working thier way through life. Dan has been a huge influence on my pastoral style.

Pastor Philippe - Pastor Philippe tag-teamed with Pastor Dan. However, what I learned from Pastor Philippe was to study to show myself approved. He is a diligent and dedicated student of God's Word. Recently we have come down on opposite sides of some issues, but I found Philippe to be a kind, and knowledgable friend throughout, and have learned and benefited from our discussions. I am proud to call Philippe one of my mentors.

Pastor Babu - From this man, small in stature, but huge in his love of the Lord, is sacrifice. Babu LIVES what he preaches in a very real way. He is absolutely given over to the Lord, and I have been the beneficiary of his teaching for many years. Under Babu I also learned how to preach with passion!

Chris - Chris is my co-laborer at our current church, but was also an elder at a previous church where we served together. From Chris I have learned so many things that I cannot list them all here. He is constantly challenging, and encouraging me. I have much to learn and I thank the Lord that he put Chris in my path to be a friend, and my pastor when I need it.

The above men have been involved in a very personal and up-close relationship with me, the men below are well-known, but have had a profound influence on my life.

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Alistair Begg - I first met Pastor Begg at a Preach The Word conference several years ago in Anaheim CA. We were staying on the same floor in the hotel and I ran into him in the breakfast area. We spent a couple of mornings visiting briefly and I found him to be exactly as he is on the radio; funny, engaging and passionate about the Lord. I have sinced attended his Basics conference and have learned volumes about pastoring from him. Pastor begg does not know me, but has definitively impacted my ministry.

John MacArthur - Truth be told, when I heard Pastor MacArthur preach at the same Preach The Word conference, I was no fan. I did not like him, but tolerated my wife listening to his broadcast! However, he preached on the cross at that conference, and I still remember the sermon. That one sermon influenced me more than any single sermon before or since. I have become an avid fan of Pastor MacArthur's teaching. I saw him again last year at a local Pastor's dinner, and again, he spoke very eloquently and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

J. Ligon Duncan - I have never met Pastor Duncan, but through his teachings I have learned a tremendous amount. He is one of the men who have opened my eyes to many aspects of the Reformed Faith that were, for so long, misunderstood by me.

Derek Prime - I met Pastor Prime twice at conferences. He is a wonderful man. He is a great speaker, and he has preached sermons that have had a definitive influence in my life. When I cornered him at the conference, he patiently visited with me for a bit, and very kindly answered my questions and gently pointed me in the right direction on a few things.

Mark Dever - 9Marks.org, that is all I need to say!

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None of these men read my blog, nor, I suspect, will they ever, but I wanted to publicly aknowledge the ones who helped shaped my ministry. Obviously, Christ is all in all, the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of my faith, but he has used these men to do a wonderful work in me!

BTW, I could have named many others, but, for sake of time and room, I put down the ones that MOST influenced me; I cannot forget Bryan Chappell though, his writing has been a light for me.

Thank you for being faithful to the lord and working with one who oftentimes has more passion than knowledge!

Monday, October 17, 2005

What's On Your Lips?

Recently I posted about what we, as pastors, read, and view, and in this post I would like to say a few words about watching our heart and speech. This is the most difficult of the posts to write as I struggle here as much as anywhere else. It is not that my speech is laced with a healthy dose of expletives, it is more the tenor of my speech and the heart attitude that is associated with it. Much more than watching what we say in some moralistic manner, this post will be about what our speech says about our heart condition.

I know that Luther liberally sprinkled his writings and sermons with some questionable, and strong speech, and as he grew older and more bitter, he got worse, so this is not a new phenomenon, but I am still struck by what I have heard lately from pastors. To list a few, without naming names:

1. A pastor stating from the pulpit that his lust over a car is 'God-ordained sex'.
2. A 'pastor' who has a web site called 'godhatesfags'.
3. A pastor, from the pulpit, does a full broadside aimed at his fellow believers.
4. A pastor, again from the pulpit, preaching from Harry Potter.

First, a pastor making a covetous statement from behind the pulpit is completely unacceptable. People already struggle with materialism, so when a pastor makes an ignorant statement from behind the pulpit, it reinforces their materialistic attitude, and stands in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Messiah. This reveals a heart that is covetous (IMHO) and denies the sanctifying work of the Spirit in one's life.

Second, a man, masquerading as a pastor who not only spends all of his time in teaching hatred, but PROMOTING a violent attitude towards others is unacceptable. This reflects very clearly what is in his heart, and it ain't pretty!

Third, I may have a quaint, some may say quirky, idea as to what is to be said from behind the pulpit, however I do not believe that Sunday morning is the time to express our disdain for our fellow Christians in a fiery diatribe that is not even Biblical, but simply a defense of tradition. This results in confusion for the congregation as they are told that many solid men of God are blasphemers. Pastor, if you are going to make that claim, it had better be correct! This can be a matter of a heart filled with pride; pride in tradition, or maybe pride in 'success'.

Finally, a pastor who teaches from ANYTHING other than the Bible when behind the pulpit is saying something about his faith in the Bible as the Word of God. This type of pastor has forgotten Psalm 119!

Now, understand that I believe that there is nothing wrong with healthy debate over the issues of our faith; there is absolutely nothing wrong with a strongly worded, and decisive stance against false teaching, cults, or that ilk. We are instructed to be firm in this area. However, when involved in these discussions, we should always ensure that our words come from a pure and honest heart, letting our speech "always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." .

Let me quote C.H. Spurgeon as he spoke of a man he strongly disagreed with theologically, "Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitfield and John Wesley."

To this day, many have faulted Spurgeon for this statement, believing that he was a false 'Calvinist' and actually promoted a dangerous ecumenical spirit. This statement is a complete refutation of Spurgeon's life; he fought for his reformed beliefs at the expense of shortening his life, and was the banner carrier in England for most of his ministry. However, he also understood that men who loved God also disagreed with him.

I think that John Wesley was WAY off the track as well, but I also appreciate what Spurgeon said regarding him. Today it seems to me that pastors are not proclaiming the gospel as much as they are proclaiming their traditions, or showing how 'relevant' they are. This reflects a heart issue, and not so much a speech issue. It is displayed in their speech, but this starts inside a man. This is spiritual pride in its finest hour! By attempting to say something unique, profound, or relevant, we reveal the motives of our heart. I am not pointing fingers indiscriminately, I struggle with this as does every pastor that I know.

As I stated in my post regarding our viewing habits, I believe that we oftentimes believe we can have a double standard, including in our heart and speech. We cannot have one standard for speaking from behind the pulpit, and one used when 'no one is watching'. As a matter of fact, I believe that we reflect from behind the pulpit what we sound like in our day to day discussions, so therefore we should guard our heart at all times.

This actually goes much deeper than simply making attempts to have 'clean humor' and a lack of cussing. Some pastors gets caught in the moralistic trap of mentally 'washing their mouth out with soap'. The problem starts long before that, and again, as I have posted previously, it has to do with the work of sanctification in our lives. If you are attempting to be a 'good' pastor by simply doing, and saying moral things, then you have missed the point. Ghandi did, and said, good moral things, but I would not have him preach at my church. The regeneration of a man starts the process and it is a continual renewal of the mind. This is where the root of the heart and speech attitudes are located. We cannot simply refrain from cussing and believe that we somehow are living a sanctified life. We must examine our heart attitudes about EVERYTHING, and constantly be washed in the water of the Word.

I believe the problem facing the pastorate in this area today is that we, as pastors, live worldly lives for 5-6 days of the week, and then work ourselves into a 'holy' froth for Sunday morning. This ties very closely into the last several posts. Our walk with the Lord is much more than reading the Bible throughout the week to simply prepare a sermon, or listening to hymns as we drive our car to and from church on Sunday morning.

Of course the opposite reaction is equally incorrect; this is the concept that we are simply 'one of the guys', and should not show any signs of a life given over to the Lord. This is commonly misrepresented by being 'real'. Yes, it may be who you really are, but it is not correct. If this is your attitude, you may want to consider another line of work (just a suggestion). A Pastor needs to review the qualifications of the position again if they think that being real means that they are to be as crude and crass as the world. How many Pastors could say, as Paul did to the Church in Corinth -- "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ"?

To give some grounding for this post let me quote a Scripture:

Proverbs 4:23-27: Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

I like this proverb as it covers all the areas. (1) WATCH your heart, (2) WATCH your speech, (3) WATCH your eyes, (4)WATCH your walk. We see that these four things are tied together. A BAD heart produces BAD speech etc. If we would do these four things, we, as pastors, would avoid SO MANY pitfalls! I speak from experience, not from the lofty tower of perfection! James addressed this in his letter. Read James 3!

The giants of our faith were marked by lives that were completely focused on the Lord. They turned their hearts over to the Lord, and He worked in them a mighty work. These were men who stood out in the crowd, not only in their speech, but in their lives! And this all starts with the heart, and flows from there.

Now, I am not saying that people like Spurgeon, or M'Cheyne, or Whitefield were perfect, they would be the first to object to that, but I am saying that they spent much more time with the Lord than many of the modern pastors do, asking Him to work in them a new heart. No doubt this is due in part to the times; there was no Internet, TV, Radio, or the modern media blitz that we deal with. They also lived in a time when the pace of life was far different. However, this is a somewhat lame excuse; in many instances, we simply WON'T spend the time with the Lord that is required to break and change us. When we look at pastoring from the perspective of a CEO, as is popular in today's world, it removes the impetus to spend time being broken by the Lord. We now 'administer' our churches rather than 'pastor' them. This results in our language being that of the world, we no longer speak with words salted with the Lord's teaching, but with secular, worldly words. Read some of the work produced by people like M'Cheyne, Owens, Flavel, and then compare it to modern writing. When was the last time you heard a man speak as eloquently as M'Cheyne about the Lord?

Here is a suggestion for you: Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Pick up Memoir and Remains and look at this man's life. I cannot imagine him dropping the line 'God-Ordained sex' from the pulpit when referring to material goods!

Pastors who spend all of their time in secular thought, and very little time in prayer will have a speech that reflects that. The pulpit today is no longer the place where we hear from God, it is now where we hear from men, and often in coarse and vulgar ways. Our speech is coarse because our heart is coarse, which is because we spend too little time with the Lord, and too much time being 'creative' or ensuring that we are relevant, or any of the other activities that passes for pastoring in our day.

What should we do? Here are a couple of suggestions. These are not exhaustive, but simply a start.

1. Spend less time with the magazines, papers, Internet and TV remote. Stop trying to be relevant and be clay in the Potter's Hands. This does not mean that we become illiterate about current events, it is vital to be informed, but we should not be SO consumed with current events that we forget THE event that happened on a hill in Jerusalem several thousand years ago. The relevance we bring is not to preach about a hurricane and its theological meaning, but Christ and Him crucified!

2. Get on our knees and ask the Lord to remove the pride, covetousness, and other filth from our hearts and renew them. We need to be broken before the Lord!

2. Stop worrying about our reputation, and start thinking and praying about what our Lord and Master has directed us to be doing.

3. Get into the Bible and read through the Psalms. What a devotional the Psalms are. Then, get into the Hymnal and read through the Hymns of our faith.

4. Get with other brothers who will make you accountable, and give them the authority to do so. Part of the problem is that many pastors have opted for a bad ecclesiology, which renders them the virtual despot of the church (or worse yet, the CEO). This does not give a plurality of leadership which is so badly needed in a day when accountability is at an all time low in the pastoral ranks.

I believe that what we read, view, listen to, and say, affects our congregations more than we realize, and while we will always say something that we regret, we need to be diligent to watch our lives, and our words.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What's on Your Entertainment Center?

I had a friend who attends another church ask me an interesting question a while back. He asked, "Does it matter what a pastor watches in his 'private' time?"

I thought that this was an interesting question to be asked out of the blue, so I asked him what had spawned the question.

It seems that he as he had grown closer to his pastor over time, and his pastor was more open with him, he had discovered that his video collection contained, almost exclusively, very questionable R-rated and ABOVE movies. Now, understand that my friend is no prude, so he was not over-reacting to this; he even named a couple of the movies, and I looked them up on the web. VERY questionable!

He asked if I thought it mattered what pastors watched in their 'private time'. I will share in this post my response:

YES, it matters what ALL Christians watch (and listen to for that matter)!

Unbelievably, this is something that has put me at odds with some of my pastor friends. They feel that as long as they watch, or listen to, questionable material in the privacy of their own homes, they are fine. They then recite Romans 14:20, 21, stating they would never watch, or listen to, anything in the presence of a brother/sister that would make said brother/sister stumble.

The Bible is very clear about these things:

1st John 2:15, 16: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.

Psalm 119:36, 37: Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Matthew 5:28: But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

James 1:14, 15: But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

My question is; why would a man of God go down this path? How is it that we have bought off on the concept that what we do is OK as long as we don't do it in front of others? No wonder that there is such a problem with pornography amongst the pastorate! We have not thrown away things that are unprofitable, rather, it seems that, in many cases, we have embraced them, all in the name of Christian 'liberty'.

I am appalled that there would be sermon series playing off of a raunchy TV show, or sly little (wink, wink, nod, nod) innuendos coming from behind the pulpit. Yet, this is what happens when we no longer keep our eyes from evil things, nor guard our hearts! I don't watch TV, but that does not make me any better than anyone else, I have the Internet, so anything that you can see on TV, you can get more of on the Internet. I have to guard my heart, just like any other person, and yes, at times it is a struggle.

I do not believe that you overcome this problem by simply FORCING yourself to NOT turn on the TV, or Internet. That is moralism, plain and simple, and that is not effective as a prophylaxis against this problem. What we need is the mind of Christ.

Ephesians 4:17-24: Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! -- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


Colossians 3:5-10: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

These Scriptures do not speak of moralism, but of death; death to the old man and life in the new birth. It is not about forcing yourself, with all you have in you, to not turn on the filth; rather it is killing the desire at its core and taking on the mind of Christ. It is death to us and life in Christ. It is a renewed mind, a new birth, a new life!

I must say that I believe that this moralism is caused, in many cases, by the easy believism which infects much of the evangelical world today. People have been (dare I say this?) coerced into saying a prayer with ALL HEADS BOWED and ALL EYES CLOSED, to ask the Lord into their hearts, and they have been assured that once this 'magic' prayer is said they are OK. Unfortunately that is as far as it goes in many instances, no one stands by this person and helps them walk in the ways of the Lord, no one explains the depth of the new birth, they simply tell you, "You are saved now, welcome aboard." As if this is one big Six Flags ride and they uttered the magic password to get in! Many reacted to an 'altar call' out of emotionalism, or peer pressure, or some other reason other than the call of the Lord. These poor people are in bondage to either moralism, or license; neither of which describes the new birth. They are now 'saved', but STILL in bondage to sin, and they are taught either that they must FORCE themselves, through their own strength, to overcome sin, or, they can do whatever they want, they now have fire insurance! What a horrible thing to do to someone!

Truth be told, when our eyes are fixed on the author and finisher of our faith, and we have the mind of Christ, we do not have to duct tape our TV remote in an out-of-reach location, or disconnect our DSL, rather our DESIRE will not be for the trash of the world.

Yes, we all fail, I do, you do, and everyone I know has. Paul speaks of it when he says that he does what he does not want to do, and what he wants to do he does not do. Yes, that is the struggle, but we have sold our people a bill of goods, and many of us as pastors have been sold a bill of goods, when we have taken the path of easy believism and are trying to make a go of it through our own strength, or worse, simply believing that it does not matter what we watch.

The other fallacy that I find being touted is that pastors feel they need to watch, or listen to, trash to be 'relevant'. What does that mean? That we have to be OF the world to reach the world? I think that we can only be relevant to a lost and dying world by NOT partaking in their ways. How can we be salt and light, when we look JUST LIKE the world. The modern church has mistaken being worldly for being relevant. And that is an incredible tragedy in a world so desperately in need of the only real relevant truth out there, the truth of Christ!

Brothers, let us examine our hearts, our minds and our lives. Let us put on the mind of Christ, and die to ourselves. It is only when WE, as pastors, offer ourselves up as living sacrifices, that our flock will begin to do the same!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More on Reading

I have received several personal queries as to why I believe that it is important to get back to reading the Word of God and using the tools I listed in Monday's post.

The line of reasoning that people use for reading junkfood is as follows: "I don't understand the Bible, therefore I like how Pastor X explains it for me", or "Yes, I know that this author is out to lunch on most areas of the Gospel, but he has some really thought-provoking, and beautiful stories in his book; he is inspirational."

These are two very weak reasons to be spending time in the junkfood section of your favorite Christian bookstore.

The first reason above: "I don't understand the Bible..." is interesting on several fronts:

First, it makes me wonder if I am failing in my role as Pastor (when these are my congregants). I am examining this currently, ensuring that Scripture not only saturates me, but that I give proper exegetical emphasis to it every Sunday.

Second, if you do not understand the Word of God, I would ask WHY; what is it about the Word that do you not understand? I am not referring to the weightier arguments that theologians spend time looking at, but simply the message of the Bible itself, what is it about the Bible that you do not understand? I think, truth be told, that people in many instances are simply illiterate, it is not the Bible they do not understand, but actually it is the written word that they are incapable of grasping.

Reading has taken a backseat to all of the other input around us; I mean, why read when I can have it given to me via a video, skit, drama, podcast, streaming MPEG? This is painfully apparent in the absolute idiocy, and blasphemy that passes for church in many places in our country. Their methods of communication are, at best, badly done, and worst, blasphemous. As I have stated before, I am not a Luddite who believes that we should sing only hymns and then, with only a pipe organ for accompaniment. I believe there is a time and place for using various methods of communication, BUT the emphasis needs to be on God and his Word, NOT on entertainment. It seems to me that many churches out there are going for the laugh, like some cheap stand-up comic on open-mic night (and honestly most of these people are NOT funny anyway). There was a time when the centrality of God's Word, and it being read, defined WORSHIP. Today, worship is defined by entertainment, in which the Word of God, if accidently mentioned, is relegated to a supporting role.

Third, If you do not understand the Bible, how do you know that Pastor X is properly 'explaining' it to you? Many pastors today are equally illiterate in Biblical areas; why would you want them explaining anything, ESPECIALLY something of eternal weight to you? Now, this is not to say that we, as pastors, are not to exegete the Scriptures and explain them, but there is a responsibility on the reader, and that is to be like a Berean and ensure that what we are saying is true. The situation today harkens back to the days when the Priest was the only literate person in town and therefore he was the sole party capable of expounding on the Scriptures. This led to abuse of power and many other negative things.

Also, the current method of Scriptural referencing in many books is to quote the first half, or more familiar portion of a passage, and then, either leave off the last half, or rephrase it. For example, in a popular book where the armor of God is being referenced, the writer says that we are to don the shoes of peace, and then goes into a lengthy explanation on being peaceable, and being peacemakers etc. While the concept of being a peacemaker is not incorrect, the use of the Scripture is, as it actually says that we are to put on the shoes of the GOSPEL (εὐαγγέλιον) of peace. What keeps us, as soldiers, holding our ground? It is the knowledge of the Gospel, knowing our position, that we are at peace with God through the atonement of His Son. That is the peace that keeps you on solid ground. Yes, there is more to this, but I am not trying to exegete the entire passage, rather I am simply trying to show how leaving a word or two out of the passage changes the emphasis.

The second reason for reading junkfood is this "...there are beautiful and thought-provoking stories in there..." OK, but does that make them true? NO! Also, is it profitable? When you claim to have little, or no time for the Word of God, how is it that you have time to be reading lovely little stories about how little Jimmy saw angels when he was pressed under the garage door? I get innumerable emails from well-meaning, and wonderful people, quoting some apocryphal Internet 'Christian' legend about angels showing up and talking to children and dogs. Many of the people who send these simply need a link to snopes. And the tragedy is this; while the story may be beautiful from a human emotional perspective, many times it is simply unbiblical in its principles.

Friends, the Christian community has never been as illiterate as they are now, and this only leads to error. This is why the draw to the Roman and Orthodox churches is being felt by many protestants. The Roman church is full of folks who will tell you what the Bible says, and they have wonderful, tear-jerking stories, and LOTS of tales about angels and saints talking to children. Plus, they have a beautiful, and intricate liturgy, and some semblance of a historic faith that they stand on.

Today, what can be expected in many protestant churches is: (MAYBE) a quick drive-by of the Word of God, and then time spent watching a mime perform on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, followed by communion (donuts and Starbucks), and then several hundred repetitive choruses about US, and then a time of candle-lighting, followed by a walk through the 'reflection' maze...

Pastors, we need to get our congregation into the Word of God, it needs to be preached from our pulpits week in and week out. We also need to be saturated with the Word of God, not with the latest growth concepts and secular ideas.

Christians overall; step away from the drivel that is being spewed forth from the Christian publishing industry and get back to the Word of God. Spend time there, and when you begin to understand the principles of our faith, then you may find that your favorite author is in the weeds, or worse, an out-and-out heretic!

Monday, October 10, 2005

What's On Your Bookshelf?

While I am not as prolific, or witty as many of the other bloggers that I so enjoy reading in blogsphere, I do enjoy this medium as a way to express concerns and ongoing issues within the modern church as I see them. I write from the perspective of a small church pastor (maybe one day a larger church pastor) :-)

I am not trying to portray myself as anything other than a pastor, and one that is still learning. However, having said that, you should know that I believe pastors should be theologians as well.

That title is not something that is acquired simply by having a sheepskin on a wall, nor by tenure. I believe that it is PRIMARILY acquired by having saturated yourself with the Word of God, and grappled with the hard questions, combined with diligent study of the writings of others who have grappled with the tough questions. Don't get me wrong, having tenure, and a degree from a SOLID Seminary, certainly contribute to this end, but they are not the sole attributes required.

I am not a 'professional' theologian; I do not possess a doctorate from a distinguished seminary, nor have I written any books on Theology. When I say a pastor should be a theologian, I am referring to the fact that he needs to have a solid, working knowledge of theology. And he should never stop reading, praying, and studying the Word. There are many people out there in this world that are more articulate, and insightful than me; I am really addressing the current trend whereby pastors today consider words such as theology and doctrine 'bad'. This is counter to what Paul wrote in his epistles to Timothy and Titus. The real bad is that theology and doctrine have taken a backseat to FUN and popularity, leading many down a path fraught with deception, and at its end, the gates of hell. The Messiah addressed this in Matthew 7.

Today I would like to address reading materials. This is primarily addressed to those in ministry, and as always are my opinions. Without further ado:

My primary reading sources, outside of Holy Scripture are, as Phil Johnson so eloquently says, 'A bunch of Dead Guys'.

I believe that there are few writers today who have thoughts as deep as, say, John Owen, or Jonathan Edwards. As a matter of fact, if you read Calvin's Institutes and nothing else, you would have a more solid grasp of Theology than if you graduated from many of the modern seminaries.

It is not that the last great writer passed on in the 18th century, go read Van Til, or Francis Shaeffer.

There are several 21st century writers such as, (not exhaustive) J. Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, James R. White, Philip Ryken, who are excellent. But even these excellent theologians and writers recognize and reference the works from our collective past, building upon this corpus of work, and not tearing it down in favor of some feel-good, Dr. Phil-derived pablum. Witness one example of good work here.

The problem with most 'modern' so-called Christian writers is that they believe somehow that they have 'discovered' something that EVERYONE else missed. And this 'secret' has nothing to do with God, but everything to do with US. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun! A few examples of this type of Christian pulp are, HAPPY LIFE!, or machismo Christianity.

Now, I am not going to go into what I believe is wrong with this type of writing, if it is not self evident, there are plenty of more seasoned, and knowledgeable writers who have dealt with this, such as here, and here.

This genre of writing, usually found under 'Self-Help' (an oxy-moron in a Christian Store IMHO), or Christian Living, in your nearest mega Christian bookstore is characterized by a man-centered theology, built by people with a superficial understanding of God's Word. This combined with the cavalier attitude towards the handling of the Word, (i.e. 'proof-texting galore'), makes for the equivalent of Christian junk food. It makes people spiritually fat and lazy; Christian couch potatoes!

Now some would say that these books were not written for the 'professional' Christian, i.e. theologians, pastors, but for the 'common' Christians (whatever that means!) I would counter with the fact that the Puritan writers were also writing to the common Christian. The difference is that the 'common' Christian in the 18th century is very UNCOMMON in today's society. As a matter of fact, some Puritan writings that were developed for young people are the very books that today are wrestled with in seminary. So, what a 16-year-old in, say 1676, would read, is now college or grad level reading material.

Nowadays, many pastors teach from such pulp as the aforementioned junk food, but that is not enough for some of them, they have had to reach into the realm of secular children's literature that is based upon witchcraft and fantasy to build their sermons. There are several churches that I am aware of that have built sermon series around Harry Potter!

Part of the problem is obvious; we have too much convenience at our fingertips. Why study to show myself approved (2nd Timothy 2:15) when I can pull up a website and 'cut and paste' into my sermon. Nowadays, you can even have the sermons completely done for you, such as here.

That appears to be what a recent sermon preached by a well-known SBC pastor was built around. This is a man who is called 'Doctor', yet his sermon was apparently built around another person's work, and the Scriptural texts used were actually not only out of context, but incorrectly quoted! No, I do not have a link to his sermon, I don't even want to give him the time of day by advertising his nonsense. I will say that throughout his sermon he not only misused the Word of God, and misrepresented others in the faith, he also denied his own statement of faith! So much for pastoral diligence and thoughtfulness!

Now, I am not condemning those who would assist, or otherwise write sermons for 'busy' pastors. I would much more question those 'busy' pastors as to what they are busy with? Is it their latest book, or a paid speaking engagement? Now, if you are at a larger church and have staff that can prepare and deliver sermons while you work on other things, that is fine, but to prioritize other work over feeding the flock that God has entrusted you with is unacceptable to me. Maybe I am a bit naive, or even myopic in my view, but what is more important than the care and feeding of the flock?

We are called to equip those under our care for works of ministry, not to be blowhards, self-promoters, and peddlers of the Word of God. It is time for pastors to return to their calling. It is time for us to critically look at what we are reading, what we are watching, and what we are saying. When we, as pastors, do that, the Church will rise about the filth of the world and actually be KADOSH (Holy)!

It is with that in mind that I circulated the enclosed list to my congregation this weekend, telling them to put away other books and reacquaint themselves with the Word. The list is not exhaustive, but a start. My prayer is that we will build UNCOMMON Christians for the work of ministry!

====================

Bible Tools

Bible in several versions
ESV, NKJV, NASB, HCSB

Strong'’s Concordance

Bible Dictionary

Systematic Theology/Bible Doctrines
i.e. Millard Erickson's Christian Theology, Wayne Grudem's Bible Doctrines

Devotionals - (Morning and Evening by C.H. Spurgeon)

Foxe'’s Book of Martyrs

Puritan Books
i.e. Precious Remedy'’s for Satan's Devices - Thomas Brooks, Holy Spirit - John Owen, http://www.puritansermons.com/index.htm

Hymnal

===============

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Morning Musings

I have heard it said that pastors should not make comments on Monday morning, the DAY AFTER as it were, but I am going to throw caution to the wind!

Being a bi-vocational pastor at a small church can sometimes cause one to ask questions on Monday morning, such as, "Why do I do this?", and "Who really cares?" This is especially true after one has had an unusually trying day. I must admit that I have gone through phases like this, and may well again. However, I think if we examine what we are doing in the light of Scripture, our hearts and minds can be revived with the import of our calling.

The issues and problems that a pastor at a small church, (and almost all pastors start at small churches), can, nay WILL, face, are manifold, and at times quite painful personally; there are friends who leave, and/or attack you for decisions that are made, the (seeming) lack of growth in some individuals, and the (seeming) lack of growth in the church overall. We are also inundated with SUCCESS books written by men who pastor (or rather ADMINISTER) MONSTER churches and have 'discovered' the secret to pastoral wealth, happiness, and fulfillment. All of these and many other things come at us, and cause us to doubt our calling!

I believe that if we are not careful, we can begin to lose what the church, and pastoring really is. In the post-Christian era we live in, the church has BECOME many things it was never intended to be. Nowadays, it is a health club, a social club, a nightclub, or any number of other 'clubs', but rarely is it considered to be the Bride of Christ, the Body here on earth, a place made up of living stones. Today church 'success' is calculated using tithe dollars, 'consumers' attending, book sales, building/compound size, 'saved' individuals (read that emotionally-charged, but intellectually, and spiritually-devoid decisions) coming forward by the hundreds', and sadly little else. If one is successful in these areas, then they are often free to spout any type of heresy imagineable. The centrality of Christ, and the Word has been replaced with worldly stories and light shows.

Truth be told, there are many churches and pastors out there who would be unable to 'have' church if the power failed in their building. They would, like the Grinch (rarely will I use Dr. Suess to make a theological point), stand amazed at true worshippers, muttering to themselves, " How could it be so? It came with out ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

We need to remind ourselves what the church is!! We forget, or ignore, that the early Christians worshipped in the catacombs, or that the church in China worships in underground hideouts whispering their songs of praise to the Father. I daresay that the Lord was/is honored in those places much more than in some of the lightshow-driven, sound-amplified, arenas that pass for churches in this day. The church is the BRIDE of Christ, called to be holy, and separate; worshipping the Father, and working/singing/preaching/ministering for HIS GLORY! We are not called to be ENTERTAINMENT for the lost!!!

The pastor at the small church can forget that it is not the success of this world that we seek, nor require; rather it is the approval of our master. It is He who issues the "Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant", and no one else. We can also forget, if not careful, that the heavens rejoice when ONE comes to a saving knowledge of the Messiah, or that Noah preached for 120 years and never reached more than his immediate family (and that is speculative, regarding HOW MUCH he reached them), or that the prophets spent their years of ministry alone, and often cast out of society.

We also can fail to grasp the incredible task set before us. To speak the Word of God, week in and week out. We should reflect on Paul's words; 2nd Corinthians 2:14-3:6 -- "...But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."


It is not our sufficiency which we should be looking to, rather it is the sufficiency found in Christ and Him alone! Our discouragement often comes from a false sense of self in our ministry, an attitude of pride that has often been inculcated into pastors from seminary on. A sense of pride that forgets that at the end of the day, "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us..."

I say these things not to discourage, but encourage others (should any read this blog); let me finish the quote I started above, found in 2nd Corinthians 4:7ff: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

If we can get a proper perspective of the role of pastoring, and what the church really is, we will approach it in an entirely different light; some may leave the ministry (and probably should), some may take a break to refocus, and yet others will remember that the task we have been called to is so much greater than the clay vessels that carry it out, and will get on their knees and seek the Lord, asking for HIS strength and wisdom in the carrying out of their pastoral duties; approaching the pulpit in an entirely new manner next week. I pray that for all pastors!

Yes, pastoring a small church is sometimes a pain in a temporal way, but in the eternal it is of surpassing joy that we speak these things of God that even angels wish to look in on!

I would like to close with a final thought: This weekend one of the persons at our church came up and told me that two of his uncles and one aunt had come to a saving knowledge of Christ. They thanked him for his consistent witness (often without saying a word)! Pastors, remember that our job is to edify the saints for works of ministry; it is NOT for us to be the center of attention in the church. Preach the Word in season and out, and the Lord will do His work through the surpassing power of his Word and Spirit!

My brother pastors, we may be afflicted, but we are not crushed, we may be perplexed, but not driven to despair, we may even be persecuted but we are not forsaken! We are called to a wonderful and awesome task, let us put our hands to the plow, and not look back.