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Test for Joy

Short video clip from the sermon on Testing Your Faith by Testing for Your Joy!

Here is the sermon in its entirety

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Examine Yourself

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How Does A Pastor Cry?

After over 16 years in ministry, I have determined that the best of devices of preaching for me is the Holy Spirit of God as He wrings me through the meat grinder of my own depravity and pours me into the cup of His grace.  It is from there that I am a nothing of a man crying out to a people who should tremble at the holy hand of God and repent and believe for the salvation of their souls and the joy of their existence.

As I reflect over the last four years of preaching and teaching and praying and studying for the glory of God, it’s very evident to me that the longer I remain a shepherd of the flock, the harder it will become to look and gaze at the emptiness in so many hearts who are always hearing but never hearing.  It amazes me that so many for so long can be so idle and never shaken by the Word of God into a stable lover of Christ resulting in a foundation of extreme joy.  So how does a pastor cry for the sheep?  How does he mourn over the souls of misery who cannot smile due to the life that has choked joy from their hearts?  How does the pastor cry out for the sheep to God without being broken beyond use never leaving the floor of petition?  How can one who declares “thus says the Lord” every stop crying out to God for mercy on those who sit under the word and never flinch except in hardness of heart.

These never-ending questions are the silent current of my soul leading me to the exposure of these cries that terminates in the pulpit of the church.  Standing in front of souls, who except by God’s grace will perish before the sermon is done, and begging and pleading for all to hear and believe and see the glorious beauty of God’s eternal grace and glory in the face of Jesus Christ, His holy Son… this labor is without a doubt one that no man can hold an empathetic ear lest he has stood in those shoes with a call from God.

How does a pastor cry?  He cries for himself, he cries for his sin, he cries for his soul and he cries in worship.  These cries move to the pages of scripture and through the pen of his journal, they move through his lips by the power of grace to the ears of people who are in the hands of God.  How does a pastor cry?  He cries in the power of Grace with no other hope, no other message, no other means except to prepare his heart to lean wholly on the power of the Almighty and trust that those who sit before him each week will, in the timing of God, come to faith.

Let us be thankful for the grace that keeps the pastor’s tears from consuming his soul.  Let us be thankful for the grace of God who uses ordinary men to proclaim the truth of repentance and mercy.  Let us be thankful for the cries in the closet and the cries of the preacher who never holds back but shows his affection through generous emotion and eternal faith in a righteous and loving God.

I am thankful for being called by God to pastor His people and to be used up, in all ways, for His glory.

Staying Stupid – James

“It does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men’s hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion in their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already. ” — Jonathan Edwards

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under-Sheepherds are NOT Jesus!

Yes, I know that I have “mispelled” [sic] shepherds as “sheepherds” because I want to make a point about the role of a pastor/shepherd among the church.  Often I talk with fellow pastors who continually tell me that they cannot meet the demands of the congregation.  When I ask what they mean, they reply with, “I am unable to meet the emotional needs of individuals in the church.”  To this I reply, “if you keep trying, you are unfit for the ministry.”  There seems to be a severely misaligned view of what a pastor is or should be and how his ministry should look.

Although there is much to be said about how to measure successful pastoral ministry, let me boil it down to one word: faithfulness!  A man of God is called to feed, tend and care for the sheep of which he is a part.  Pastors are not the SHEPHERD but an undershepherd or “sheepherd” that should be pointing the flock to trust and rely on the True Chief Shepherd who is Christ.  When any one person feels that a pastor is their “personal” pastoral counselor and chaplain, they have placed themselves above the church of Jesus Christ and in turn, placed their pastor in a place of perpetual failure.

Pastors main role is to POINT and provide opportunity for the sheep to grow to MATURITY, not be their savior.  The main problem is that tradition has clouded the reality of God’s word when it comes to the purpose of the church and the role of the pastor.  Although some pastors are gifted in certain areas and called to different ministries while they shepherd, the primary and foundational role of a pastor is the point to Christ through the faithful prayer, study and teaching of the word of God so that through the word of God, lives are brought to faith and equipped and strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus so that God receives glory.

Just a little thought for the day…

James Tippins

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-5:4 ESV)

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Thoughts on Rob Bell’s Theology by James White

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Disciple Making or REBELLION

The reality of the work of God in the lives of His church is that we will make disciples of all nations, starting with each other…

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Discussion on Prayer

Tonight I have found myself in a superb discussion on prayer with several people in two places. As we have dialoged, I have searched for succinct thoughts by reputable teachers of the Word and found Dr. DA Carson talking on the matter. Hope you enjoy.

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Superb Resource on the Scripture

I rec’d this from Ligonier Ministries a few months back and it is a superb walk-through of the whole of scripture with sound doctrine and theology. I am even using this with my children at home for their studies.

Get your Ligonier $5 Friday Items

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A great short video from one of my brothers in the Lord.

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Reflection of Life. Pondering Worship

When I began writing online many years ago I had one honest goal: to be heard. What a joke. As I have been peeling through the layers of my life over the last few months, I remember what a wise-fool I have been through the years. The irony of this is that when I started this blog, I named it Being Wise and More Stupid as it was during a life-changing moment for me.

I had discovered that although I thought I knew so much, I realized just how impossible it was for my wisdom to have any effect on life at all. I discovered at that time that I was really only becoming wise in the wisdom of my stupidity, or at least the acknowledgement of it. Looking back over the last five or six years (just a short breath), it has hit me again that humility has not always been one of my strong points. However, God has been faithful to break and mold and measure my heart against His holiness and in turn, I find myself yet in another low but joyous point in my life.

It’s a low point like never before. Not a lowness of spirit or a low point emotionally where I have no hope. It’s not like my depression season where I could not determine any good from anything, it’s a lowering that results from God’s affection and my realizing just how unworthy I am of His grace. This low point, I pray, will get lower and lower, because I truly believe it is where the children of God are supposed to live; broken and humble. Not to say I am humble, which I wish I could be more, but to say that God’s humbling of a man is something that no one can accomplish on his own. Praise be to God for His infinite grace which lowers each of us in His timing.

In this low point I have discovered several key things that might be helpful for others to consider, they surely are for me:

  1. That all that we learn and glean is never enough to place us as experts or “wise” because all true learning and wisdom comes from God so that we have no boast except in the work of the Lord.
  2. That no matter how God uses us in His work, we are not the one’s who deserve the glory or the crown, but rather our lives are owned by Him even before He saves us so there is no boast except in the Lord.
  3. That all believers, no matter how God uses them are His children and are where He desires them to be for His timing.  We are never “better” than another child of God because we have all been given the same grace.
  4. Our affection for the “least of these” is not an obligatory affection because of God’s commands, but a true supernatural love that only God can give.  Maturity is truly measured by our worship to God in all things and our affection toward each other with humility and honor for the Lord.
  5. Just because we understand something does not make us wise, it is only God using that knowledge in His glorious way does it become wisdom and even when it is wise, our hearts try to accommodate room for pride which is of the flesh, so we must be in a continual state of reflection and of course repentance.
  6. As I write and you read this, we might agree with this wisdom in our souls, however, we must always be aware that tomorrow, we might be allowed to see, by God’s grace, just how foolish we are today and thus have relied once again on His never-ending grace.
  7. That there are much more lessons and reflection that could fill the world from God’s people, but we must also go into the world and make disciples of each other for His glory.
  8. That our affections, as much as we “think” Christ is our highest, are often shown differently, even our ministries and worship can become idols.
  9. … for God’s future grace.

As for this low place, I embrace it and look forward to how God might humble me in the next 60 years if I live that long.  As for now, I also stand in the place of JOY because all the growth that God does is a reason for joy.  He is the treasure of our souls and nothing, absolutely nothing can stand in His way nor the way of our affections for Him.  A broken and contrite heart you do not despise oh Lord!

May God continue His plan as He promised He would.  For His Glory,

Pastor James

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