Sometimes I wonder why I ever ended up in the pastorate. From the early days of childhood into high school I desired to be a surgeon, then along came chemistry and I was satisfied in music. Along the way, I’ve become an expert in many subjects and hobbies from illusions/sleight of hand to martial arts. I’ve spent countless hours studying the human mind, quantum physics, defensive logistics, combat theory, chess, and tonal dissonance. Years have taught my body to dance, climb mountains, swim, trackstand on a switchback, and devour ten thousand calories in 24 hours. My mind has learned to foster thought, engage the critics, leave the fight, stay the course, feel the pressure and rest in grace. Skills have prepared me to fix dryers, motherboards, vehicles, bones, restore homes, landscape, hang drywall, frame houses, dig footers, and put in the pipes. I can even sew, hem pants, taper a shirt, prepare a marketing analysis, produce video, graphic design, program websites, and set the clock on the microwave. The point, I’ve done a lot of stuff in my short life and none of it has ever been half-hearted. I don’t understand the purpose of being so-so at anything. Those things that my body did so well have fallen away to a thing called arthritis. What my brain used to manage abruptly wrecked through another harsh and painful experience known as depression. In all of it, I have never found an identity. None.

A common thread has always been stitched into every part of my life. The Word of God, from the earliest of days, has been a source of joy and power for me. It’s a grand example of the grace and mercy of the Lord to work in His children a love for Him through Scripture. For most of my life, I could engage in any forum, any hobby, any point in culture and do well. I’ve learned to shoot, sing, fight, play seven instruments and have done well at a few business ventures but in all of them, I have always found myself in the word, ministering to others, listening and teaching them the truth of Christ. As a matter of honesty, I never really wanted to be a pastor and was content with the idea of being used by the Lord in everything. But God in all His purpose will do with us as He chooses, not how we choose. In the Lord’s “putting” me into the ministry as a vocation I brought a lot of my personality and ‘skills’ to the table. I was taught early on that my ‘tool belt’ was vital to the success of the ministry of the church. Looking to be the best and giving myself the OK to be “all in”, I quickly began to surround myself with successful people who were accomplishing what I felt to be the right fruit.

Historically I have served in many areas of church life having worked with youth, children, music, teaching, seminaries, evangelism, missions, and everything in between. I have witnessed 300 enter the baptismal waters in a year’s time, seen thousands “come to faith” at “services”, and been on staff with church plants and mega-churches, some of the prior becoming the latter. In the end, even “ministry” never became my identity. There is a lot of heartache and pain under my belt for which I am eternally grateful because without it, I would have never truly seen the substance of Christ’s suffering and how we identify with Him. Having written several unpublished works on my journey, I’ve learned it doesn’t really matter at the end of all the suffering if we don’t finish well. I’ve also learned that pain is part of progress and thinking that utopic days are our goal is childish and foolish surrealism. There are a few pain points of ministry though that I’ve learned sting much harder than normal. In all the calamities of sorts, nothing has been more hurtful than when friends and loved ones reject the Lord Jesus and love the world more than ever.

  1. When Family Members Claim Christ but Hate Truth
  2. When the Fan Base Becomes the Mob
  3. When the Brother is replaced with Beligerance 

Suppose that a life without Christ was blissful with no pain. No poetry in the heart from the labor of pestilence and persecution. A life with no rejection, separation, angst, or problems appears on the surface to be ideal, but my experience as well as the experience of the record of history, including Scripture, is that pain becomes part of the joy. It is the darkness in our lives that makes the light so glorious. To leave suffering in life would be to leave the fellowship of Christ, and in turn, bring suffering all the more as it became an eternal certainty rather than a light and momentary teacher. When bridled with agony, I have learned to lean into Scripture and thus into Jesus. Nothing can take the burden like Christ and His gospel of peace. Rest well in the power of Christ through His Word. 

I was always taught that these things were God’s gift for me to use for His glory. Now of course if they are enjoyed they are for His glory, but they are not what is needed by the church. While I have fixed a few computers, renovated a few buildings, and played a few funerals on the saxophone, the purpose of my life is to be a voice that points to the One that matters. Jesus Christ. I had to come to the end of my worth and usefulness and recognize that I was not the powerhouse I was always praised for being. This kind of death is hard on the esteem, but the grace of God, it’s powerful and useful. This means that all those years of training, leadership development, persuasion, influence etc. was all for nothing. Looking back I am thankful for having come through it, but at the time I counted my life as a large failure and a waste of God’s time as far as the ministry was concerned. This type of death makes your ministry history moot. As it should be. After all, didn’t John the Baptist even proclaim that Christ must increase therefore he would decrease? God took his life because the bridegroom gets the bride. So often, the current “church” gets the bride, the groom, the glory and the whole nine yards. They share their programs and people. The music and their measurements as if they are running for Ms. America. After all, isn’t ministry about attracting people to look at us? No. That’s the devil’s job.

Evangelism is one of those terms/practices that has become culturally determined. Just like everything else in Scripture, if not held to the authority of the text, it will become subject to human error and self-glory. I’ve been thinking about this and hope you’re listening too….

 

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I have been asked many times over the last few weeks about what is required to “know” in order to be saved vs. what is considered “growth”.

Scripture speaks of the power of Christ. The power of the cross, the authority of Jesus, the power of the gospel etc. all speaks to the power of Christ. While you may consider the power of Christ the manifestation of miracles, supernatural knowledge or signs, the reality is that the apostles make the claim that the power of Christ most glorious is the transformed heart of the believer toward truth and love for the brethren. Teaching through John’s writings gives us a constant reminder of this fact. That there are many who “live” in a manner they feel is worthy of Jesus Christ in their own eyes, but when they refuse fellowship with others, they, in turn, are displaying “unregenerate” powerlessness. 

Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about the power of Christ. He says that he will know if Christ is in them if they heed the authority of his writing and instruction. Mainly, that they forsake themselves and “COMPLETE” all the restoration between them. This means that they will be intimate, together, free, and in fellowship. 

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Several hours, if not days can be expended on this holistic reality. But for now, let’s say this. One of the primary expressions of regeneration is that we are sealed by the same Spirit. God the Holy Spirit in us brings our unity and because of this, there is NOTHING that can separate us from the Lord and from each other. When factions come between the church and cause people to scatter, it is always wicked. Sometimes it is due to ignorance but most of the time these things happen because of an active and living flesh. IF we have the same Spirit within us there is nothing that would cause divorce amongst the brethren.

In the end, this teaching is extrapolated continually throughout the New Testament through the instruction and commandments for every Christian to be subject to the Word, the Elders of the church, the Assembly (that is the church, only when it gathers) and exercising the gifts God has given them for the benefit of the assembly. We can feel justified in doing “home” studies and “online” sermons, but in reality, that type of existence as a believer is a continual rebellion against the teaching of God. So, in the sense of the text, true regeneration produces a complete unity that nothing will stop and to say otherwise is to refuse to love the brethren, thus, according to John, the Love of God is not in us. 

We may see that all the works of the law, all the dressing of worldly “righteousness” and all the prayers, pleadings, purity and the like are not the measure of the Power of Christ in us. But it is the evidence of TRUTH by the LOVE we have for each other. Love well beloved by the grace that is YOURS in Jesus Christ!  Amen.  While this is not exhaustive, it is truth. Are you listening?

The second commandment is something that many people have questions about often. I wrote an article last year in relation to the question, “Can a Christian Violate the Second Commandment with Pictures of Jesus?” Here is a podcast on that answer.

00Over the last year, I have been inundated with numerous calls per day from unknown numbers, local number, toll-free numbers and even numbers I know only to find a telemarketer on the other end trying to either sell me something or trick me into thinking I had to hear their pitch. The list of ‘blocked’ numbers has grown to over 150 and quite honestly, I have become quite frustrated with the constant intrusion. Due to the fact that I receive a ton of calls every day that are legitimate when you add the garbage calls, it makes a phone a hated tool and sometimes it causes me to miss good conversations.  For 2018, it has been a different story.

I have started answering every call that comes to my phone when appropriate without fail. And in an effort to do all things without complaining and have joy while doing everything for the glory of God, I have found that answering every call as an opportunity to share the gospel is the best way to handle what otherwise is a means to frustration and sin. 

Everywhere we look we see the idea of studying the Bible. Well maybe not everywhere, but in every Circle of Christianity it seems that there’s always someone talking about studying the Bible.  As a matter of fact, most likely every religion in the world has some writing that requires being studied. From study comes knowledge, and from knowledge comes belief. While every truth claim cannot be true. For the Christian, we believe that the Bible is truth. Jesus says in John 17 when he prays that eternal life is knowing the one true God and knowing the son whom he has sent.  So in this line of thinking, studying the Bible is actually the study of God which is actually the knowledge of God which is actually salvation.

 For many churchgoers, however, the study of God’s word has been relegated to just mere pragmatism or topical investigation. Sadly, this type of study that we find very normative in our culture, is not sufficient for salvation. Neither is it sufficient for a right understanding of the gospel of grace. And because the right study of God’s word is waning in our present economy of faith, many pastors and teachers have gone the way of teaching moralism and humanism and calling it Christianity.  All of this type of teaching results in a different type of learning. So that the believer or the professing Christian if I can, have no idea what they’re talking about because they are listening to the wrong information. Now we could go on and on and discuss types of interpretation and different ideas related to what the Scripture is actually teaching. But if we are honest, the simplest syntax of the holy writ is very easy to understand. So when I ask the question, “are you. listening?”,  I am asking if you are truly listening to the word of God.

 Let’s all be very honest, every day we hear thousands and thousands of words. We see hundreds and hundreds of images that teach us something. We are inundated in our society by information overload. Some of which we go and seek and others that are just imposed upon us without our knowledge or permission. Because this is true, many people have developed a worldview that is so foreign in comparison to Scripture, that it’s no wonder that so many congregations do not look like the people of God any longer. The remedy to this is not more teaching about how to be or how to look like God’s people from a humanistic point of view but is direct and simple teaching straight from the Bible.

If many pastors were to poll their congregations they would find very few congregants actually read their Bible every day. Now many people may do a small devotion or read a short paragraph related to some scriptural teaching. And these things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not sufficient for the knowledge of truth. So often when I make a statement like this, people will say,  “I’m not a theologian.” To which I respond, well you should be. A Christian that is not learning is a Christian that is not growing. In the Christian that is not growing, is a Christian that is not living.

There’s much to be said about this particular dilemma and there is plenty inside the Bible that give us a clear picture that Scripture is necessary for the health and joy of every Christian and in turn every congregation.  So as we consider this idea today let us take a moment and hear the word of the Lord written by the apostle Paul to Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:14–17

[14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)

This text shows us that the Bible is enough for a successful Christian life and it’s also sufficient for the knowledge of the truth. No one needs extra-biblical revelation or extra-biblical instruction in order to rightly live for the glory of God. And Sadly, those who look to other sources find themselves in a very precarious position. Either weak and immature in their faith or at worst, totally unregenerate. But we’ll talk about that in future discussions. From this point let me encourage you to pick up your Bible and read it.  It is through Scripture where you will find peace in the midst of frustration and it is there that you will find intimacy with Jesus Christ, the eternal God of Heaven, the creator and savior. So guard your heart and mind to the power of the Holy Bible.  And you will begin to experience what Scripture teaches as the peace that surpasses all understanding.

 If you would like more information about how to study the Bible or if you have questions related to Bible passages or theological issues, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you.  We look forward to hearing from you. soon and until then rest well in the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ who lived a life of obedience and died a substitutionary death for the glory of God the father in the redemption of his people.