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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hap, Happiest Time of the Year!

Here we go; another Christmas season... I dread the fact that I will have to fight the crowds to pick up ANYTHING during this time of year. However, this is not a diatribe about the consumerism that has poisoned our land; that is old news and been discussed by many who are more capable than I, this is much more a statement about the Christians who bemoan the fact that Christmas has lost all meaning because of the evil surface-dwellers (oh, sorry, I meant the reprobate and lost ones).

We sit around on our collective, and often self-righteous, duffs, complaining about the school not letting our children bring in Christmas cookies with angels on them, or some other tripe, and all the while, we participate in the world's denigration of Christ during this season.

Oh yes, we don't use the dreaded "X" in our Christmas (i.e. Xmas, Xians, etc) but we participate in every other way. Let me provide some examples:

Last night I went to a local big box Christian store, looking for, of all things, some decent Christian literature to purchase for a friend. I had in mind Francis Turretin's 'Institutes of Elenctic Theology", and this store actually does have a fair selection of Reformed books.

Well, they didn't have the book, and the girl behind the counter, (why can't they actually hire at least ONE person who knows ANYTHING about theology?), actually laughed, and asked if I made up the word Elenctic. I admit it is a bit unusual, but just the fact that she would ask that is interesting, considering I did not appear to be joking... As a complete aside, maybe one day I will recommend that this store get a dress code; half of the girls (and I do mean girls, not women) working there had JUST ENOUGH clothing on to ALMOST cover them.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent, where was I? Oh yes, I went to the store to pick up literature, and while they did not have the book I was looking for, they did have some other fairly decent selections. I picked out a few, and headed to the checkout counter. Now, you must understand that I almost NEVER go anywhere in this store outside of the front door >>>>> Book section >>>>>>> checkout counter. However, my wife was with me and she had wandered into sections completely unknown to me. I was shocked by what I found....

Well, I must admit that I was not shocked by what first greeted my eyes; rows and rows of 'Purpose-Driven' junk; books, journals, pens, coffee cups etc., followed by rows of Osteenian junk, and then the onslaught of Narnia materials, NONE of which have anything to do with the story of Narnia (i.e. stuffed Aslan dolls etc.).

But once I had waded through that, the cornucopia of bad taste that assaulted me was unexpected, (maybe I should get out more!).

There were crosses EVERYWHERE; one entire corner of the store was crosses from top to bottom; in every shape and decor that you could imagine. I was amazed at the tawdry and shameful way that this was done. The crosses were nothing more than merchandise to be stacked in a corner. And there was no restraint on bad taste, some of the crosses were hideous in color and design! This instrument through which our Savior paid the price for our sins is now a decorative item to be displayed like so much canned tuna fish!

Then I came across the fish and dove, (Calvary Chapel dove), tambourines... Reeling from this I scrambled into the next aisle which had GIFT BOXES of tracts; and not just any tracts, but tracts for specific people; i.e. tracts for women, tracts for men, tracts for midgets who have halitosis! All priced for Christmas!

I determined (not in a Norm Geisler way, but in an active way) to locate my wife and escape. I found her milling amongst the 'Testamints' and PEZ dispensers, (all attractively adorned with the head of some saint), and we made for the door. That was when I discovered the Biblezine's. Now, I knew of these from many who posted about them on the web, i.e. Pyromaniac, and Steve Camp, so I was not in the dark, but what I was not prepared for was the large SELECTION of these. Wow...

Finally, we were safely headed out the door when I ran across the Christmas sale on, and I am not kidding, The Beverly Hillbillies Bible Studies. Sorry, I had to look; I mean, I watched the BH's when I was a youngster, but for the life of me I could not figure out how Jethro and Jeb would fit into a study of God's Word! I flipped through the book and found the most inane junk that I have ever read regarding the study of God's Word. An example, which is not a quote, but from my remembrance: "When have you given something up like Jeb?" AAARRRGGGHHH!

So, what does all this have to do with anything? Am I telling anyone anything they don't know? Probably not, but next time you are decrying the fact that the lost world has denigrated Christmas to a 'Winter holiday', I want you to look through your purchases and see how many pieces of trviviality that you have bought. I mean, how are we displaying the incomprehensible love of God through the advent of the Savior by purchasing what my lost friends call 'Jesus junk'.

What we are doing by being those types of undiscerning consumers, is lining the pocket of businesses that could care less about Christ, even so-called 'Christian' businesses, such as Nelson Publishing. And we are trivializing the greatest event, outside of the Cross, that ever occurred.

As you pick up a cheap cross to display on your endtable, around your neck, or even in your car, let these words ring in your head:

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.


As you buy your Veggie Tales Nativity Scene please remember these words:

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o'er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day's return,
till thy mercy's beams I see;
till they inward light impart,
cheer my eyes and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine;
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.


I know that many disagree with me, and that is their right, but if you are going to pursue consumerism, please don't attach the name of the Savior to it. Maybe this year, instead of buying some junk, you could sit down with your children and tell them the wonderous story of the advent of the Son of God...

I have a final idea: Rather than buy junk, how about buying a REAL Bible for someone? Or how about purchasing some real literature? Or maybe, just maybe, how about putting an extra nickel into the Salvation Army bucket and let the PEZ dispenser be!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Songs Part II

I will post a final entry regarding songs. As Bob Kauflin stated in his comment; there are some signs of life in modern music. Not all hymns have to be written prior to electricity and gasoline-powered automobiles!

One particular hymnwriter that I enjoy is Keith Getty, both solo and in his collaboration with Stuart Townend (I apologize to Stuart, I have referred to his last name as Townsend on several posts!), he has written some of the most theologically-rich songs in recent memory.

Here are the lyrics to See What A Morning.

See what a morning gloriously bright
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem
Folded the grave clothes tomb filled with light
As the angels announce Christ is risen
See God's salvation plan
Wrought in love borne in pain paid in sacrifice
Fulfilled in Christ the man
For He lives - Christ is risen from the dead

See Mary weeping "Where is He laid?"
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb
Hears a voice speaking calling her name
It's the Master the Lord raised to life again
This voice that spans the years
Speaking life stirring hope bringing peace to us
Will sound till He appears
For He lives! Christ is risen from the dead

One with the Father ancient of days
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty
Honour and blessing glory and praise
To the King crowned with power and authority
And we are raised with Him
Death is dead love has won Christ has conquered
And we shall reign with Him
For He lives Christ is risen from the dead

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music/MCPS

And one more for your enjoyment, from Stuart Townend, called 'How Deep The Father's Love For Us"

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


There are many more young hymnwriters that are out there, and I may one day post about them, but suffice it to say that there is a light at the end of the worship tunnel. Some are growing weary of theologically and lyrically vacuous songs and are writing songs worthy of singing to our Lord and Savior!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Addendum -- Songs

I just popped over to Bob Kauflin's new site today. He discusses the very thing that my last post addressed. The title of the post is Expressing Love to God.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Songs

I was asked to list songs that made the list of 'acceptable' and 'non-acceptable' at our church. I am hesitant to do this as we are nowhere near settled on all songs, but I thought I would put together a sample to show where we are heading. I may add a few more samples as I go forward.

First, before I go any further; understand that these songs may be fine, and maybe you love them, but we have found them to be not acceptable for corporate worship at our church. I will put a few comments next to the songs so that, should you read this post, you will understand my thoughts.

The first song that we removed was one that is popular on the radio. It is done by a band that I like; Casting Crowns. However this particular song is not acceptable at our church for worship.

The song is 'Your Love is Extravagant', and here are the lyrics:

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, is intimate

I feel like moving to the rhythm of your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating, in our secret place

Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ, is the love that covers sin.
No greater love have I ever known; You considered me your friend.
Capture my heart again.

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship is intimate

I feel like moving to the rhythm of your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place

Spread wide, in the arms of Christ, is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known!
You considered me your friend.
Capture my heart again.

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship is intimate


Now, some may say: "What is wrong with this song?" Well, read the words again, and what is the image that is conjured up? Is it God's Holiness, or the Finished Work of Christ, or is it an eros-based love? You see, although many would disagree, I will tell you that words have MEANING. If you put the above words on a piece of paper and removed the ONE mention of Christ from the lyrics, what would the song say to you?

UNDERSTAND THAT I AM NOT CONDEMNING CASTING CROWNS; I enjoy much of their music, some of the songs they have released are among my favorites, but understand that we are talking here about the corporate worship of God's people. The words ARE important, and these words simply do not point at our Lord and Savior in a way that is proper.

Here is another song that expresses the Love of Christ; look at the difference in the focus (whereas the above song is primarily about MY side of the equation, and ME).

Here is love, vast as the ocean
Loving kindness as a flood
When the prince of life our ransom
Shed for us His precious blood
Who His love will not remember
Who can cease to sing His praise
He can never be forgotten
Throughout heaven’s eternal days

On the mount of crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love like mighty rivers
Flowed incessant from above
And heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love


Any questions?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Banner of Truth Part II

There were three additional points in the BoT article entitled, "What Characterizes a Spiritual Song?" I have ennumerated these below with comments, and since Paul asked about a list of songs that are on/off our church's list I may work on that in a future post.

6. We Can Envisage Spiritual Songs Being Part of a Great Awakening - True, worshipful, meaningful, songs should deliver a message about our brokenness prior to the work of our Savior, and then our joy at the freedom from sin which we experience once His redeeming work has been done in our life. The songs we sing should reflect the spiritual awakening that we experience. Let me provide an example:

(There is a Fountain)
Words: William Cowper 1772


There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more

E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die


Could you imagine these words being written today? There is a very well-known mega-church pastor who has removed this hymn from his church's song list. To paraphrase him, "Our people don't want to sing about blood". RIGHT, that is where the problem is in today's church, we want it to be about us and we do not want to focus on the atonement of our Savior! Why is the church tepid and shallow? Because the great truths are not proclaimed. Many people expect revival without understanding, preaching, and singing about the great reality of salvation!

7. Under the Influence of Spiritual Songs, We Can See Christians Being Drawn into Sacrificial Full-Time Work for God - Much of the modern worship music is about GETTING from God, or FEELING about myself, and very little is about giving our lives to the Lord for the work of the harvest. We have become self-absorbed in our worship music. Psalm 51 is a beautiful song, look in verses 10 through 13 and find this:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.


We see a repentant David requesting the Lord work in his life AND THEN he will teach transgressors the ways of the Lord. All too often in modern worship music it is 'Do something for me Lord so I feel better', and that is pretty much the thrust of the song.

8. We Expect to Find Spiritual Songs in Heaven - Two things about this and I will finish (I know my posts are way too long, probably why many may not read them):

First, I have heard many people say, "I get to church AFTER the worship music because we/I don't care for music", or "Hymns, and spiritual songs don't do much for me". Both of these betray a man-centered attitude. First, when we sing at church it is not for us! We sing TO someone! And those who say they don't like music are going to very disappointed when they find out that we will be singing in heaven!

Second, I love how John Blanchard states this, so I will quote him; "Does the music you enjoy suggest that it was arranged for the same ear? Can you imagine it being enjoyed by God the Father? Is it serious music? Does it promote a sense of awe and reverence? Can you imagine it being enjoyed by God the Son?... Can you imagine it being enjoyed by God the Holy Spirit? Does it speak of peace, purity, and a spirit of worship?"

These should be questions that we pose of our worship music.

I pray that pastors, worship leaders, and elders become more versed in hymnody and the proper perspective and role of worship music!

I will try and put together a brief list of songs in a future (soon) post. Not everyone is going to agree with me, but it will be a good exercise to show some of the points made in the last two posts.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Banner of Truth

Like Pyromaniac, I received my BoT in the mail this past weekend (a little late, but I JUST signed up a few weeks ago), and I must admit that for a small magazine, (it comes in at about the size of a 5x8 photo, and 32 pages), it packs a lot more than magazines I recently UNSUBSCRIBED to (and will not name).

I found the first article, entitled "What Characterizes A Spiritual Song?", to be especially good reading. We have been working through the songs that are sung at our church for a long while now, and have been paring down and weeding out songs that simply do not fit as worshipful and/or appropriate. It has been a long process and continues as I write this. We have had to remove some songs that all of us enjoyed singing, but yet, as we examined them they were inappropraite for a Sunday Morning.

I am amazed at how long I attended church, was involved in leadership and even pastored before I actually began to examine the songs with the critical eye of a shepherd. I am not only amazed, but embarrassed by it. There are songs out there that are good songs, as songs go, but that have absolutely nothing to say at all, they are truly the 7-11 songs (the 7 verses sung eleven times), and do not lead the people of a congregation into anything other than some interesting omphaloskepsis.

The BoT article had several points that should be examined when attempting to ascertain whether a song is appropriate or not. The comments after the main point are mine unless otherwise noted:

1. Spiritual Songs Help Us Hear the Word of God More Clearly -- I must admit that I am amazed at how little Scripture is contained in much of the modern worship. It seems that we have been striving for the right 'beat' and 'sound' as opposed to the right MESSAGE! When you have lyrics like the words found in Psalm 103, why do we feel that we need to write something that says the same thing in a watered down way, but with a beat that will get the people 'excited'? I thought it was interesting that the writer stated that some songs are too grand for worship; at first I balked at that, but as I read on, I understood: Some songs are so grand in their presentation that they take away from the message of the words that are to be heard!

2. Spiritual Songs Give Us a Greater Vision of the Glory of God -- Do the songs we sing accurately reflect the greatness of God in His purity, majesty, holiness, and serenity? Many songs that we sing simply do not, rather they elevate the more profance attributes of the creature. Our songs are no more proper than the songs of old that were composed for the pagan gods, assigning them with the same vulgar and profane attributes as the people who sang them.

3. Spiritual Songs Teach a Repentant View of Man's Depravity -- This is almost a completely overlooked aspect of songs sung in the church. Check out the lyrics from a song penned by Luther B. Bridgers in 1910:

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife.
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
stirred the slumb’ring chords again.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—sweetest name I know,
fills my ev’ry longing, keeps me singing as I go.



“He Keeps Me Singing” (1910)


There are many more, and I may post some more as time permits, but we rarely speak of our condition in modern songs.

4. Spiritual Songs Encourage Us to Disciplined Godly Living -- The last portin of this point is so well-written that I would like to quote it in full -- "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are most beautifully equipped to bring the soul to God, to Him who is back of all, above all, before all, first in order of sequence, first in power and glory, utterly pre-eminent, above everything in rank and station, exalted in dignity and honour, the great self-existent One, giving life and form to all things and sustaining moment by moment all he has made; the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit; the one God, and then all things else, whether they be creatures or spirits, thrones and principalities and powers, all exist because of him and for him. 'Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for they pleasure they are and were created'".

5. Spiritual Songs Exhort Us to Be Separated from the World -- In this day and age evangelicalism is running headlong in the opposite direction. The watchword in today's evangelical world is BE OF THE WORLD!

-----------------------------------------

Those are the first five points, I may conclude with the final three points later in the week.

I pray that the church would begin to examine the songs it sings more closely, and evaluate them by criteria a little more heavenly-focused than 'Do we like them?' or 'Do they make us feel good?', or the ever-popular 'Does it attract people?'

Black Sabbath ATTRACTS people, but I am pretty sure than many churches would balk at them playing the main service, opening with War Pigs and finishing up with Iron Man. So, why do we use the criteria cited above? Who are we singing to? Who are we to be pleasing in our singing?

To be continued....

Friday, November 11, 2005

Quick Note

I just received in the mail, the 1689 Baptist Confession (the 2nd London Confession), and have eagerly begun reading it. As I stated before; as I read through the various confessions, and statements, I hope to be able to post some observations.

The depth of thought in the Confessions is amazing! These were not men who developed a statement of faith about their church over their morning breakfast cereal (it seems that many do!).

I also like the fact that they developed a confession built around what they BELIEVE, NOT around what they do not believe! We could use more via affirmativa in our argumentation today. I believe that a balance of both is important, but it seems that we lean too far one way (negativa).

I look forward to reading through these confessions!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Call to Brotherhood

I have been reading with interest some of the recent posts regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I must admit that I have been through all phases of this argument, from briefly attending a heavily charistmatic church (VERY briefly), to attending a cessationist church, and everything in between. And quite frankly the people at our church run the gamut as well.

I read Daniel Phillips observations with interest. While I do not agree with him completely (I am not a complete cessationist), I do respect and track with a lot of his thinking. (BTW, I submitted a name to Dan - I thought Canon Fodder was pretty good) :-)

What I have an issue with is the tenor of most of these discussions:

It seems to me that one cannot disagree with ANY ASPECT of the Charismatic movement at all, or they are immediately branded a (LOUD GASP) CESSATIONIST and sent hate mail etc. Of course, the same is true on some of the more extreme cessation sites as well, albeit this is more of a rarity.

I am very disappointed that my brothers in the Lord cannot even discuss the validity of gifts without resorting to ad hominem attacks. Pyromaniac recently received several of these types of comments when he posted this article.

Now, if you read the post, Pyro CLEARLY provides several caveats. These were simply ignored... Sad state of affairs...

I have seen Charistmatic churches put incredible peer pressure on their congregants, forcing them into silence regarding the questioning of any form of Miraculous Gifts. The Toronto Blessing was well into its lunacy before the church actually said something, as were the KC Prophets and the Brownsville stuff. I have had friends in the Charismatic movement tell me that they are unable to judge Benny Hinn's antics, yet they defame John MacArthur and call him spiritually dead! Amazing to me!!

Anyone who thinks we are not to judge what goes on in the church needs to check out the Scriptures again: 1st Corinthians 5 says that we are not to judge what goes on in the world, rather we are to examine what goes on in the church. And that is but one place where this is listed.

Now, as many have guessed, I do not agree with John MacArthur on the gifts; however I think he is a very good teacher/preacher/pastor. As I have posted previously, when I saw him preach at a "Preach The Word" conference several years ago, he painted such an incredible picture of the Cross that I have never been the same. Do we disagree? Yes, however is he a brother in the Lord? Yes! Do I respect him? Yes, I do! Would I allow John MacArthur to preach at my church -- Are you kidding, of course I would!!!

Alistair Begg recently said 'The plain things [in the Bible] are the main things, and the main things are the plain things'. I find it sad that brothers in the Lord cannot have an intellectual, and Christian discussion over points in which they disagree without resorting to name-calling and straw-man tactics.

Many great men of God have stood on both sides of the miraculous gifts debate, and yet they were able to actually discuss this in a Christian manner. Why are we unable to do that today?

I weary of my Charismatic friends attacks whenever I dare question anything going on in the Charismatic movement (i.e. C. Peter Wagner's 'Apostolic Movement'). Now, remember, I am not a cessationist, yet when I question even the most extreme charismania, I have denied the fact that there can be miraculous gifting. I wonder whether my friends have actually ever read 1st Corinthians in toto, (they are forever quoting PARTS of it, such as 1st Corinthians 12). Paul was NOT accepting the gifts in all forms and modes, raher he was rebuking the church in Corinth for some of its activities.

I have learned from so many wonderful men of God -- on both sides of the gifts debate -- that I have a hard time with the vitriolic attack that is so often launched against anyone questioning any aspect of Charismatic gifting, and by the same token, I have a beef with cessationists who paint all Charismatics as clowns and idiots. If you want to discuss the gifts; do it in a Christian manner!

Why is it that we argue so often about the gifts and what gifts, and when, and we fail to actually exhibit the things that we are told we will ALL receive; that is, the fruits of the Spirit. Where is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our discussions?

We are known by our fruits, NOT by our gifts, for even the reprobate will exhibit gifts -- Matthew 7:16-23: You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'


I would love to see true, honest, and loving conversations regarding the gifts, without the typical rhetoric, anger, and name-calling...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Returning to the Basics

When last I left this blog, I was headed to a B&B for the weekend. I love getting away like that; I bring my books, and while for many that would not be rest, I find it incredibly rewarding and enriching. We had a wonderful time!

During the weekend I was able to get back into my study of the Westminster Confession of Faith; really digging into it and looking at each and every article within the Confession. It is an amazing document, and I have enjoyed how it has pushed me back to the Word of God over and over again to re-examine His Word! I will probably blog on some of this as I go forward. However, today I will simply state that if you have never REALLY studied the WCF then I would highly recommend that you do so.

As anyone who reads this blog knows; the direction that I have been taking is one that is more pastoral in nature. That is not to say that I am attempting to teach pastors in a formal way, there are many who are much more skilled at this than I EVER will be! Rather, I hoping to encourage and share with other pastors, teachers, missionaries, the things that I am experiencing, or learning as I go forward.

Anyway, with that being said, I found an article by Sinclair Ferguson on Reformation21's Blog that really gets to the heart of pastoral ministry. The is part one of a two part that I would recommend reading.

I have heard Sinclair speak many times and he is one of the great preachers/teachers of our generation (IMHO). I think it is time that pastors get back to the BASICS, and leave behind the rest of what passes for modern preaching/pastoring.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on discussing parabolic teaching, and it's misuse in today's society (witness Steve Camp's post on one aspect of this misuse and abuse.) Also note in that article that he provides a reason for the use of parabolic teaching by the Messiah. This is not the exclusive reason (IMHO), but it is a key reason that many overlook in today's 'seeker-sensitive' movement.

So, until I get time to post again; enjoy Sinclair Ferguson and Steve Camp!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pastor?

For Pastor Appreciation Month, my wife and I were given a gift certificate for a local B&B. I will soon take her to the B&B and we will enjoy our twentieth wedding anniversary. Thank you to my wonderful congregation!

That is not why I am posting today, but wanted to set the stage a bit. When I receive recognition during Pastor Appreciation Month, I truly wonder, did/do I really deserve recognition? I look into the faces of my congregation and ask myself,

a) "Have I done EVERYTHING I could do to ensure that my teaching is solid?"

b) "Have I paid proper attention to those hurting, or in need of counsel?"

c) "Have I recognized those unsung workers, who week in and week out, are there, teaching Sunday School, and giving of their time and finances?"

And I find often that the honest answer is less than stellar. I wish I had more time to devote to study (don't we all), and I wish that I was able to spend more time visiting, but truth is, I have a limited number of cycles, and the laws of physics works against me.

In Jewish circles, during the month of Elul (which this year took place around Pastor Appreciation Month), a time is spent in reviewing the past year, and making things right with others. Now there are many things in the concept of Elul which I disagree with, however one of the things that I appreciate about Elul (also called Teshuvah) is that it forces me to look over the past year and see how I have done.

Truth be told, I owe my congregation many apologies for sermons that should not have been preached, or preached with more clarity. I am not sure who Alistair Begg was quoting, but I have heard him say, "We should keep our old sermons to weep over". I heartily agree and have done so on many occasions.

When a pastor preaches a bad/poor sermon and it is recorded for posterity and broadcast on the radio, I try to be understanding; I shudder to think what my life would be like if all of my sermons were broadcast on the radio! Now, there are always exceptions, where a sermon is simply inexcusable, badly researched, or NOT the gospel. However, there are many sermons in which a faux pas is seized upon and blown into a major debate/critique, judging a pastor by one slip that he made.

I have heard sermons by men that I respect greatly, such as John MacArthur and Mark Dever, where I thought that they lacked a bit of grace, or maybe the sermon contained an agenda which I felt was not fully exegeted out of the Scripture. I do not fault these men for that, they are, after all, simply men. They have fed their flocks faithfully for many, many years, and an occasional sermon that misses a bit is going to happen (And besides, that is my opinion, after all).

Sorry, went off on a tangent for a minute -- Back to our discussion: Yes, we all preach sermons that we would like to take back.

Also, I sometimes struggle with counseling; our church is a bit unique in that we are truly an outreach church, working with people who have had some very tough lives, some RIGHT off the street. Sometimes the questions these folks ask fall outside of the counseling techniques and guidance that I learned. I always pray before, during and after counseling sessions, desiring for the Word of the Lord to reign supreme in the session. I must admit that I sometimes miss on this. As emotions raise and discussions get more heated, or emotional (on the side of the counselee, usually), I find myself, at times, desiring to comfort when confronting is what is called for, or vice-versa.

And how do you thank people who are so giving of their time? We are a completely volunteer church, not having any paid staff, and I am always amazed at the work that the people in this congregation will do for ministries. We hold a Passover Seder every year to explain and illustrate the Messiah in the Feast, and the people in the church work for weeks preparing; we will have more people attend the Seder than we have in the church (usually by about double!)

These are examples of what I think about as they recognize me during Pastor Appreciation Month. I know that the Scriptures say that elders are worthy of double honor, but Paul puts a qualifier in the passage that says, "Let elders who RULE WELL be considered worthy of double honor..." And I always wonder: Am I ruling well?

While many, many pastors know, and quote, the 1st Timothy Scripture above, we need to go back and look over what qualifies as 'ruling well'.

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Jeremiah 23:1, 2 - "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: "You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD..."

Am I attending to my flock?

Ezekiel 34 - The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. "As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. "I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD."

Have I fed the flock with proper food? (Thanks be to God that we have a perfect Shepherd, and are simply the under-shepherds!)

2nd Timothy 2:15 - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Have I done my homework? Am I rightly handing the Word of God?

James 3:1 - Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.


Let ME keep that in mind as I labor for the Lord this year!

I pray that this year I will be a more effective, and learned pastor than I was last year! I pray that my prayer life will improve and my handling of the Word will align with the proper handling Paul stresses to Timothy.