Constant Voice of Encouragement

IMG_456519113-2“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”

~ Ephesians 6:4

My all time favorite movie, Gladiator, begins with this epic battle scene, in which we see Maximus riding a horse before his men who are about to enter the battle yelling out,  “Hold the Line! Stay with me!” A reminder to them to stay steady, trust their training, trust their plan, don’t waiver or give up. As I thought about writing something for Fathers Day, this scene popped into my head, you see in my life my dad has played the role of Maximus, always reminding me to “hold the line!”

Through the years this has played out in various different ways, most recently as I went through a season in my life where I found myself unemployed for several months, my dad was the constant in my life reminding me daily that everything we face and go through is all prep work. Whatever we face the Lord is teaching us something and preparing us for something in the future. My dad would also constantly tell me this season is rough, but learn what the Lord is trying to teach you, or you may have to go through it again.

I have learned so much from him, here are a few things I am thankful for this Fathers Day:

  • How to be a Man of God – My dad is one of the most Godly men I know, and I have seen over 33 years that this isn’t an act, the man you see at church, work or where ever is the same man I saw at home. I have seen him spend time on his knees before the Lord, I have seen him bypass lesser things to spend time in God’s Word preparing to preach.
  • How to be a Godly Husband and Father – When I read in the Word of God what the Lord would call a man to be as a husband and father and examine my dad’s life, it lines up.
  • How to Work Hard – My dad is one of the hardest workers I know. Between working at a refinery, being a pastor and also having lawn care business, he is always going and working, and willing to help anyone out who may need it.
  • How to Set Priorities – In a day in age when we are all being pulled in a million different directions, and priorities are always changing, I have seen my dad set the Lord as priority over everything in our families life and that has remained constant. Sometimes that meant driving over an hour to church on Sundays and Wednesdays (even if a school night) and never missing. Sometimes that meant if I was playing in a sport and practice or a game was scheduled on Wednesday or Sunday that I was going to miss, and this wouldn’t be discussed. All these years later I don’t remember missing practice or games, but I remember that the Lord was priority over all in our families house, and for that I am thankful.
  • How to Faithfully Love and Shepherd a Flock – For a majority of my life my dad has played some role in ministry, as my youth pastor and for the past 11 years as a pastor. And in this I have seen him faithfully love the flock the Lord has placed before him. I have seen him weep over them, pray over them, proclaim the truth to them. To be bold and take stands because that’s what the Word would call him to do; and to spend time alone with the Lord to be refueled to pour himself out all over again. And in this he has also taught me that we are all a small part of the Lord’s greater flock. To remember this and pray for those of other churches and celebrate what the Lord is doing in their midst as well as ours.

Through the ups and downs of life, my dad has always been that constant voice of encouragement to me, always pointing me towards Christ, and for that I am thankful. Happy Fathers Day!


Dad, I have learned so much about my Heavenly Father, simply by watching you. Thank you! 

#PrayforYourPastor

“Must be nice to only work 3 hours a week!”

“What do you really do all day?”

“Oh you are a part-time pastor!”

With these statements and many more like them we reveal how difficult we feel that of being a pastor really is. After all we really only see them “at work” on Sunday’s and perhaps on Wednesdays, for an hour or two at a time; what do they do the rest of the week? Read the Bible? Play Golf? Fish? Sleep in? Who knows, while we are clocking in and out and putting in 40+ hours a week at our job, what is our pastor doing? So we kid with them about what they do all day, prehaps only as a joke or as a coverup when we really want to know.

As the son of a pastor, and someone who has been in ministry or close to those in ministry most of my life, can I beg you to pray constantly for your pastors, elders and deacons the Lord has placed as overseers and shepherds in your life. Theres a weight involved in being a pastor that is heavy and the burden for those people in their church that is unbearable at times. Your pastor isn’t a super-Christian that doesn’t face life’s difficulties, stresses, temptations and hurts. Your pastor needs wisdom, discernment, endurance and strength that can only come from the Lord if they are ever going to accomplish that which the Lord has called them too.

Some things to remember when wondering what your pastor does all day:

  • Thanks to the advance/curse of technology they are on call and reachable 24/7 – there is no “part-time” ministry
  • Rarely when someone says “Hey pastor can we talk” is it good news or to thank them
  • Pastors constantly step into the worse of life’s circumstances that are affecting the people of their congregation
  • They are not only trying to faithfully lead their families, but also a whole congregation of people
  • Bearing the weight of James 3:1
  • When they aren’t meeting with someone they are thinking of their next counseling session
  • The weight of reading, studying and preparing to teach the Word of God

A lot of this post comes from reading the following last night:

“From a variety of sources, ranging from the Fuller Institute to the Barna Research Group and Pastoral Care, Inc., we find these sobering numbers:

– 90 percent of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week

– 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families

– 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands

– 80 percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged

– 90 percent of pastors say the ministry is completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry

– 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job

– 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression

– 70 percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started

– 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend

– 40 percent report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

– 33 percent confess having engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church

– 50 percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living

– 70 percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid

– 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years

– Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form”

~ From Jared Wilson in The Pastor’s Justification

I share these stats as a means to show the stresses and thoughts some of our pastors face.  And to ask us to constantly hold our pastors and staffs up before the Lord in prayer, asking the Lord to sustain them, encourage them and help them be faithful to their calling, that can only be completed by the Grace of God.

Your pastor loves you and is constantly thinking of you and the congregation, lets not neglect to lift them up in prayer as they faithfully lead us.

Missing Link

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“There are only 3 kinds of Christians when it comes to missions:

Zealous goers, zealous senders and the disobedient.”

~ John Piper

According to the International Mission Board website (imb.org) there are currently 2,987 Unreached and Unengaged People Groups in the world. That is People Groups where there are no current plans to reach them, no missionaries living among their midst for the purpose of reaching the Group with the Gospel, and no Bibles available in their language.

If roughly 2000 years ago a Commission was given to go and make disciples of all nations, why are there still 2,987 People Groups who haven’t heard, and with no plan to reach them? I know we have heard the illustration but it is spot on, if Coca-Cola has been around for 127 years and is available all over the world, what’s the missing link in the spread of the Gospel to all Nations?

I have been thinking about this the past few weeks and this is a simple stab at what is missing.

If…

                        A  + B  + C  = Missions Task is Accomplished

A & B will be Constant Variables (variables that cannot change)

C will be an Independent Variable

A = Gods Commission to Go and Make Disciples of All Nations

B = Power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task given

So far we have:

            Commission Given + Holy Spirit + C = Missions Task Accomplished

Jesus states that all authority in Heaven is His, and has given the command to Go and Make Disciples of all Nations (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20)

Then in Acts we get the promise of the Holy Spirit coming that will provide the power needed to accomplish the Great Commission (Acts 1:8). The Disciples are told that once they receive power from the Holy Spirit they will be His Witnesses to the end of earth.

So if Jesus has given his Commission for the Spread of the Gospel among all Nations and has provided the Power needed to accomplish this task. What’s the missing link? We know the Lord has a plan to have His Gospel to all the World then He is going to come back (Matt. 24:14); and we know His plans will not be thwarted (Job 42:2). What is Our Independent Variable? I believe the independent variable in our simple equation here, which determines the accomplished task finished date is:

            Commission Given + Holy Spirit + Believer’s Obedience = Missions Task Accomplished.

I believe our obedience, or lack thereof, directly affects the pace at which the Gospel spreads into all the World.

I believe that God is Sovereign over all, and that He will accomplish His task, even of it takes using the rocks to do this. But He has provided all that we need to accomplish His Commission.

The question I’ve been chewing on this past week or so is this:

            “If we really long for the return of the Lord and a new heaven and new earth,

            as much as we say and sing; then why not give our lives to the one task that

            this happening hinges on?”

The Accomplished Task of the Spread of the Gospel to All Nations Needs Believers Who:

  • Are obedient to sell all and GO when God tells them to sell all and Go.
  • Will be obedient when God tells them to move to an inner city to part of a Church Plant.
  • Are obedient to stay where they are and live life on mission daily where they are if God tells you to stay.
  • Will be obedient and be generous with the funds God has blessed them with for the advance of the Gospel, among all Peoples.
  • As parents who are obedient and train up their children to love Christ rightly, and teach them about God’s heart for the Nations.
  • Will be obedient and plant and lead churches in the hard areas where they are or where ever God will lead them too.
  • Will be obedient till the end of their race on earth, and give their lives to the advancement of the Gospel to the ends of their earth.
  • Are OBEDIENT!

The bottom line the advancement of the Gospel requires one thing from us, and that’s obedience. He has given the commission, provided all we need to accomplish it, and promised He will complete the task. Its just on us to trust and obey.

Church, the world should not be better at providing the world with a drink than we are at providing the world with the Gospel.

Is It Not Enough?

095k_sandown_pulpit_view_med I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

~ 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

Paul’s urge to Timothy was to PREACH the WORD, to be ready! To reprove, rebuke, and exhort? How? By preaching the Word. I fear that often times in ministry we spend as much or maybe even more time in preparing other parts of our service, that we neglect the Word.

  • We worry about how to draw a crowd
  • How to keep a crowd
  • Lets make sure they are entertained
  • Make sure everyone is comfortable

These things aren’t necessarily bad by themselves, but the focal point of any and every ministry ought to be to Preach the Word. In the end we must remember that the Gospel alone has the power to save! It’s the Gospel alone that has the power to sustain! It’s the Gospel alone that has the power to sanctify! The Gospel has the power to draw men to Christ! The Gospel alone has the power to convert someone from death to life!

Let us not neglect giving the Gospel! We ought to be ready in season and out of season, meaning we should always be ready to present the Gospel. If we gather together in church, at a conference or some other gathering and the Gospel isn’t presented, have we wasted everyone’s time if the Gospel is not the focal point? I wonder this a lot when I attend conferences and other youth events, as I have worked with youth ministry for the past ten years in some shape or form. There seems to be a huge push of what can we do to get the students to come? How can we best connect with them? What will make want them to come back and bring a friend? All good questions again, we should want them to come and connect and bring a friend; whats better at doing that then the Gospel? Often times at these events it seems the attraction is the band or the funny speaker. It breaks my heart when after these events when talking to  students there or seeing the Facebook and Twitter post and they are all about the band or the speakers funny stories, have we missed the point? Have we done our best attempt at drawing students in and left them empty? Maybe liking a cool band or only remembering the speakers funny stories, other than walking out going, “WOW God!” If the main thing remembered from a conference is the band or jokes, have we missed our opportunity? In an attempt to draw and to connect, do we allow these things to become the focal point of our ministry / event? Again, its ok to have bands, its ok to have a funny speaker, but if the funny stories are remembered and the passages taught and points made aren’t remembered, then the stories have become larger than the Gospel in our presentation.

No matter how cool or how funny, lives will only be changed by the power of the Gospel.

We must not forget this!

A few examples from Heroes paving the way before us:

Jesus

If there was ever someone who could draw a crowd it was Him, but yet how many times do we see Him teach in such a way that the people who were only there for the show turned around a left sad, as He continued to pour into the ones who were serious about following Him, into the good soil.

In John 6, we see a large crowd following Him after He just fed 4000 people, and He turns to them and tells them you are only following me because I fed you; so unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot follow me. The crowds went away sad. Then He focused on teaching HIs 12.

Jesus, performed many miracles, and did many signs, but were these for the sole purpose of getting the crowds to come? Or were they to point to who He was, and the ones who were searching and believed He poured into them.

Paul

The one we started with charing Timothy to preach the Word at all times, and may the preaching of the Word be the way that we go about reproving, rebuking, and exhorting one another.

I think you can sum up Paul’s aim in ministry in two verses:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

~ Colossians 1:28-29

 Paul used all his energy, all his strength that the Lord worked in him for the purpose to teach will all that he had in order to present everyone mature in Christ. This has become my ministry verse. What a goal, to be able to present all those that you have taught and poured into, as mature in Christ! Only the Gospel has the power to mature us in Him!

 Charles Spurgeon “The Prince of Preachers”

A man who has quickly become a favorite to read, a man who who continually points me to Christ and makes me want to understand and love Him more. I came across this on Justin Taylor’s blog on The Gospel Coalition website last week:

Why Spurgeon Thought the Plain Preaching of the Gospel Was Sufficient to Grow a Church

Spurgeon:

Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.

Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!

In this house we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. We beseech the people of God to mark that there is no need to try doubtful expedients and questionable methods. God will save by the gospel still: only let it be the gospel in its purity. This grand old sword will cleave a man’s chine [i.e., spine], and split a rock in halves.

How is it that it does so little of its old conquering work? I will tell you. Do you see the scabbard of artistic work, so wonderfully elaborated? Full many keep the sword in this scabbard, and therefore its edge never gets to its work. Pull off that scabbard. Fling that fine sheath to Hades, and then see how, in the Lord’s hands, that glorious two-handed sword will mow down fields of men as mowers level the grass with their scythes.

There is no need to go down to Egypt for help. To invite the devil to help Christ is shameful. Please God, we shall see prosperity yet, when the church of God is resolved never to seek it except in God’s own way.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563

John Piper

He has constantly over the past 5-10 years of my life pointed me to Christ, through his books, sermons, and blogs,  to love Christ more and find joy in following Him. I have written in the front of my bible a tweet he sent out almost two years ago:

“Every person who hears me preach will very soon be in Heaven or Hell. There is a seriousness that goes with this truth” 

When asked about takeaways from speaking at Passion, Piper states that:

“In my 17 years with Passion I have never heard a joke or seen a silly skit from the stage. And that’s remarkable when you really think about it because a lot of student leaders think you have to yuck it up with college students and be as silly as the latest comedian or the latest talk show host in order to make them feel like your real. And Louie’s not like that and neither is Passion and 60,000 students are coming to a God honoring singing and preaching event that exalts Jesus Christ.”

Is it enough? Is the Gospel enough to draw, save, sanctify, and grow?

Yes let’s do our part to the best of our God-given abilities to draw in and connect with, but let us not forget that it’s the Gospel that saves! And if we are not giving them that, we are simply having a fun time with people who will soon be in Heaven or Hell, leaving happy, but perhaps not eternally satisfied!

As Paul would say to Timothy:

 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

________________________________________________________________

* All Scripture taken from English Standard Version (ESV)

* The Gospel Coalition site of Justin Taylor’s blog: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/01/10/spurgeon-church-growt/

* Link to Piper interview: https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/john-piper-passion-2013