Sunday, July 31, 2011

Big Step toward New Work

Today was a difficult but important day. Over the last few months the Lord has been stirring Blair's and my heart to plant a new church in Beaumont, Texas. The heart can be deceptive but we have been exhaustive at seeking counsel from others (particularly trusted pastors), praying, and seeking guidance through the Word. Ideas have become journaling which has become a plan. This plan has found favor by other pastors who plan to lead their churches to partner with us to start this new work. We've talked to friends and the deacons at Memorial. After their counsel and support I announced our plans to the church this morning (we had a Q&A tonight). I will continue as their pastor for the next five months and conclude my ministry at the end of the year. Concurrently we will work on gathering together a core group and begin to lay the ground work for the new church. I hope to use this time not only to do the necessary "advance work" of planting but also to help guide Memorial through the transition and prepare them for future leadership. Blair and I covet your prayers that the Lord will use two churches-- one new and the other nearly a century old-- to glorify His great name and bring the gospel to men and women in the Golden Triangle.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lifestyle Evangelism

Though this is aimed at pastors, it is practically helpful for any Christian in thinking about personal evangelism:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Don't be a "Wine-Tasting" Christian

The shepherd's (pastor/ elder/ overseer) charge... "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." -Acts 20:28

The flock's response... "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you." -Hebrews 13:17

I'm struck by the symmetry of these statements. Being part of a church is to be earnestly invested in one another. There is no hint in the New Testament of the "wine tasting" Christianity that is so prevalent today. I am no oenophile and have actually never had any interest in wine (Dr. Pepper and sweet tea are my drinks of choice) but there are many wine lovers out there who attend wine tastings. They go for the social scene get a bit of the ambiance, the flavor, the aroma, and move on to another activity. Too many Christians treat the church the same way. Some come to taste the music program or the youth program. Others (who think themselves more spiritual) come to taste the preaching or the excellent Sunday School teacher. Still, they are just tasters. It is one "experience", one activity, one event on their week's schedule.

The church is an investment of your life and all that entails- time, talents, treasures, and trust. The pastor or pastors are there to commit themselves to you. My responsibility is to bring God's Word to bear on my fellow church members and to watch over their application of its truth. Before I was a pastor it was men like Jay Gross, Cliff Mayton, Greg Wallace, and Joe Worley that stood watch over my soul as I sat under their pastoral leadership. Even now there are church members who I trust to watch over me and fellow pastors in the community who hold me accountable. Who is holding you accountable? Are you invested in your church and submitting to pastoral oversight? Are you giving loving accountability to other members of your church family? Or is the Sunday worship assembly just a "wine-tasting" event for you?

If you are not invested then you are not examined. You and I need others to help examine us to make sure we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5; Gal 6:1-2) and make sure we are producing spiritual fruit. It is possible to have a lot of Biblical knowledge and not be growing spiritually. This happens when we are not invested in a local church and submitted to Biblical oversight from others. Don't taste the wine... drink heartily from the riches of Christ by investing totally in the lives of other believers in covenant together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (7-19-11)

  • What does the Bible mean when it talks about rewards in Heaven? Justin Taylor responds.

  • Is "family worship time" Biblical? Jerry Owen says it is helpful but not mandatory.

  • The Trinity is clearly taught in Scripture but is 1 John 5:7-8 teaching it? Daniel Wallace with the textual issue of this passage.

  • Tullian Tchividjian argues that while the gospel is news, it is news lived out before our neighbor.

  • Some of you know that John Piper's preaching and writing ministry has had a tremendous impact on my life (we're even naming our daughter Piper!) and it is because of these kinds of instruction that I'm appreciative for his labor in the Word.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Burn-out or Faith?

John MacArthur is a freak. I mean that as the highest compliment. He is exceptional as a pastor and preacher having served his congregation for over 40 years-- with no inclination to stop! He has been a faithful expositional preacher from the get-go and has recently completed preaching through the entire New Testament verse-by-verse. That is amazing for its dedication and longevity. The Lord has clearly had his hand on John MacArthur's life and ministry. While I do not agree with every secondary or tirtiary doctrine that MacArthur does I admire him and seek to emulate him in his faithful and enduring expositional preaching ministry.

The other day as I was listening to one of his Q&A sessions he does on Sunday nights I was struck by a piece of his pastoral wisdom. Over the course of 40 years you might expect him to have gone through burn-out a time or two. We would understand if there were ever seasons he simply lacked the passion to climb behind that pulpit and preach. He's faced a good amount of difficulty and opposition during his lifetime after all. So what about burn-out? Not a bit. He challenged me (though I think he is exceptional in this area) that burn-out is most often the result of pride. We build up these expectations for our ministries and develop a sense of entitlement that when not met leads to depression or burn-out. This is contrary to faith. We do not put our hope in men but in God. We should expect no praise but be thankful for the encouragement. No I can attest to being discouraged or hurt when the enemy attacks but I'm challenged to make sure that hurt gives way to faith rather than burn-out. No man can by his own flesh be so enduringly faithful to a ministry centered on Scripture alone as John MacArthur has been-- it is by faith alone in the power and grace of Christ alone... and this is to the glory of God alone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gossip Kills

“…Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

That is Ephesians 4:24-31. Pretty straightforward stuff right? Yet we (with me at the top of the 'we list') have an awfully difficult time obeying these crystal clear instructions. Gossip is not simply spreading lies about another person. It comes in the form of venting disagreements and displeasure with another in a manner that is not motivated by building up the Body of Christ or glorifying God. I've recently had to confront this issue on two fronts-- being the target of "corrupting talk" and being the proliferator of "corrupting talk". When the former is concerned it is appropriate to do three things: 1) Consider where my own sin is instigating such talk-- even though there's no justification for "corrupting talk" rather than only be offended and hurt (which is natural we should seize the opportunity for personal examination; 2) Respond with kind confrontation-- sin needs to be addressed and not ignored but I have to guard from fueling the fire by couching justifiable confrontation with unjustifiable "corrupting talk"; and 3) Prayer for the person or persons who are participating in such behavior-- the Enemy would love to divide the Body and cause me to have anger or even hatred for a brother or sister but we cannot give him that. A battery has already been fired but do not yield the battlefield! Now to the latter-- when I am the corrupting talker-- there is two things to do: 1) Repent-- slandering the people who are slandering you does not defeat slander-- stop it and set an example of Christ-like behavior; and 2) Believe on Christ-- have faith that He will deal with those on His own and does need me taking matter in my own hand (or mouth).

Is it every appropriate to discuss "beefs" you have with another person to a third party? It is helpful to seek prayer support and seek wisdom from those who are trusted to give it. Be careful you don't go to a fool for wisdom-- they will only accompany you in your foolish tendancies and you'll just have a 'gossip and gripe' buddy. Also test your heart and make sure your motive in sharing with others is accompanied by a true desire to heal the rifts or strengthen the Body of Christ. Are you just looking for pity and are you only feeding your sense of entitlement (how you feel you deserve to be treated)? Be careful. Gossip kills. It kills joy. It kills mission. It kills fellowship. The Lord has been teaching me greatly on this and I pray we will always keep the clear instructions in Ephesians 4 as non-negotiable so that we build up the Body and glorify the LORD who endured far worse than "corrupting talk" from us to redeem us to God.