Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Election 2016...What Should We Do?

So.....what should we do?  We have an election coming up where there is not a candidate worthy of our vote, not a candidate worthy of the office, not a candidate worthy to be the leader of our land, not a candidate worthy of our trust, and certainly not a candidate that inspires us to be the best we can be for the glory of God and the good of our country.

We have two major parties and a very minor party who through their vetting process have presented us with unqualified people from which to choose for our next President; but at the same time the vetting process was participated in by fellow citizens who voted on who they wanted to represent them and their interests in this election cycle.  We can certainly throw rocks at the political parties involved, but we need to save the biggest rocks for the American citizenry.

The root issue at play here is not the political parties or the political system, it is not the moral fiber or lack thereof in the candidates themselves, as the root issue is the lack of moral fiber in our citizenry; and that is reflected in the candidates that have been chosen.  It is our citizenry who condone abortion, it is our citizenry who condone sexual immorality, it is our citizenry who either have class envy or an elitist mentality, it is our citizenry of every color that are guilty of racism, it is our citizenry who despise and reject authority, it is our citizenry who are guilty of the idolatry of greed, it is our citizenry who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and pleasure, it is our citizenry who call good evil and evil good. If the citizenry of our country did not condone all of these things, then none of them would be pervasive in our land; but, alas, they are the status quo.  Just as Paul tells Timothy that people will not put up with sound doctrine, but collect for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, so the citizenry of our country are collecting for themselves leaders in accordance with their own desires.

Is it any wonder then that we have candidates who reflect who we have become as a nation?  When we look at them...Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson...we are looking at ourselves as a nation.  Pretty ugly and disgusting isn't it?

So.....what should we do?  We are not voting for a party, we are not voting for Supreme Court nominees, we are voting for a person and what that person stands for...all of what that person stands for...who that person is.  When they take office they will lead in accordance with who they are, regardless of the party they are affiliated with, regardless of the platform their party supposedly stands for.  When the election is over and they are not pandering for votes, they will decide and direct in accordance with what they believe, because you cannot separate a person's behavior from what they believe...as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils, in this case three.  There is only the reality of evil and where it will lead us as a nation when it has secured its victory in the election.  We have watched it do just that over the last eight years.

Yes, we are not voting for Pastor-in-Chief, and we need to participate in the democratic process; but in considering this particular election we need to have a greater allegiance than an allegiance to a particular party or particular philosophy, we need to have a greater allegiance than to our flag and our country, we need to have an allegiance to the Supreme moral authority and support Him and what He stands for.  Patriotism does not equate with righteousness, loyalty to a political party or philosophy will not stand the test of serving the Lord and bearing spiritual fruit, but will be but wood, hay, and stubble, and burned before the judgment seat of Christ.  We will not be advancing the cause of Christ or righteousness in our vote, and let's not be mistaken about that.

So....what should we do?  My answer is.....vote, but write in a person who is worthy of our vote, a person worthy of the office, a person worthy to be our leader, a person worthy of our trust, a person who inspires us to be the best we can be for the glory of God and the good of our country.  Don't be sucked in by the fear-mongering, don't be intimidated by the guilt-trippers, don't be misled by the supposed evangelical prophets who have misplaced priorities and have sold out for a mess of pottage. Don't participate in the promotion of more and greater evil, instead have your vote count for something good.

I realize that many who read this might disagree, and maybe disagree heartily.  That's okay, such is the religion of politics.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Value and Necessity of Reminding

In Titus 2:15-3:1a, Paul lays out for us several responsibilities for the Pastor in regards to his preaching.  All of the verbs here are present imperatives, which mean they are ongoing commands, not just for Titus but for everyone who occupies the pulpit.

If you have studied what are called the Pastoral epistles of Paul, and followed his ministry through the book of Acts, most of what is listed here should not come as a big surprise, in fact, the commands are the usual suspects when it comes to preaching the word of God.  We understand that we are to be continually speaking the word, and with the word to be continually exhorting and reproving.  We understand that when we speak the word we are speaking it under His authority, and therefore with His authority.  We also know of the importance of never letting anyone disregard or blow us off as we deliver His word.  However, have you ever thought about how a part of our responsibility as a pastor is to be continually reminding our people about what the word says?

That's what Paul says right there in the very first word of verse one of chapter three...be continually reminding them.  It is the last of the commands, and magnifies and reinforces all the others.  When you remind someone, what you are doing is bringing to their remembrance something that they already knew.  It is not giving them new knowledge, but is the re-giving them of something already taught.  It is the re-telling of Biblical truth.  It is the re-explaining of Biblical principles.  Reminding is for remembering and therefore reinforcing.  What are we to remind them of?  What the Scriptures say, and what they already know to do in light of what the Scriptures say.  We are commanded to remind, so it must be important.

The Lord is big on reminders, from Genesis all the way through the rest of the Bible.  We have memorials and altars.  We have covenant reminders.  We have feasts that were to be held every year, and rituals to be continually followed (Hebrews 10:1-3).  In the New Testament we have the Lord's Supper, which is to remind us of His death and our covenant with Him.  In baptism we are visibly reminded or our union with Christ and our new identity in Him.  So why is reminding so important, and why does He remind us so often?  So we won't forget or be neglectful.

There are three primary words in the New Testament that are translated remind:

The first is hupomimnesko, and it just simply means to remind, to bring to remembrance.  We see this word use in II Timothy 2:4-14, II Peter 1:12-13, and the purpose of being reminded here is to remind them about the things concerning salvation and sanctification.  In II Peter 3:1 it is so that they would be stirred up to remember the Scriptures.  In Jude 1:5 it is used so as to remind them about the judgment of God upon those who do not truly believe.  In Titus 3:1-2 it is used to remind them how they are to be behaving as Christians.

The second is anamimnesko, which means to remind again, to re-remind, if you will.  It is used in
I Corinthians 4:17 it is used to remind them of Paul's example, his teaching and its uniformity.  In II Timothy 1:6 it is used so as to strengthen and encourage Timothy.

The third is epanamimnesko, which means to strongly or greatly remind, so as to never forget.  Paul uses this word in Romans 15:15-16 to tell them that he has written this great epistle to them so that they will never forget the gospel.  In other words this epistle was written so that the gospel would be forever etched in their minds.

Additionally, in Philippians 3:1 we see Paul telling the Philippians that to write the same things again is a safeguard for them.  So we see that reminding is also for our protection.

So we see here in these verses some of what reminding is intended to accomplish.

You see, going to church, studying the Bible, and listening to sermons is not always about hearing or learning something new, but many times it is to be reminded of what we already know. We are never too old in Christ or too old in years to learn something new, and we will never reach a place where we have heard it all or know it all.  However, we will never reach a point or ever reach an age where we won't need to be reminded. You see, so much of our Christian life is about being reminded.  We, being the weak frail creatures that the Scriptures tell us that we are, need to be reminded. We need to be reminded so we won't forget.  We need to be reminded so our faith will be reinforced and strengthened.  We need to be reminded so as to be refreshed when we grow weary.  We need to be reminded to be reproved for not doing what we know to do.  We need to be reminded so as to be revitalized so we will fight the good fight and press on in our faith.  We need to be reminded so we can be restored when we have been wounded or brought low.  We need to be reminded so as to be renewed to a greater state of Christlikeness.  Sometimes we just simply need to be reminded that we need to be reminded; and, if you think about it, many times we are the most blessed by hearing a truth that we already hold dear.

So, fellow pastors, let us not forsake, neglect, or forget our responsibility to remind our people about what the Bible says.  Let us not be afraid to remind, for we are in the reminding business.  Those of us who preach should love to tell the story, again and again.  Indeed, that is our charge.

And how is the best way to do this, so that it doesn't grow stale from the repetition?  Preach through the Bible verse by verse, book by book.  This is one of the beauties and benefits of  sequential expository preaching.  This way you will present the same truths and cover the same themes, but in different contexts and from different angles; and, in doing so, the gospel will be kept fresh, both for you and for your people.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Thinking on the Incarnation

Christ said, "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father."  Colossians tells us that in Christ resides the fullness of Deity.  In Christ God came to man, because man in his sinful state could not come to God. Thus the blessedness and joy of contemplating on the incarnation; God in Christ reconciling man unto Himself.  What grace, what mercy, what love!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Politics and the Pulpit

I have been very disturbed over the past many months with the number of pastors who have come out in support of, endorsed, or campaigned for people running for President of our country.  Even if we had two people of reputable character running for president, which we don't, I would not feel any differently.  One of the things that has bothered me deeply, is that when endorsing the candidate they have chosen, pastors and religious leaders act like or make statements to the effect that their particular choice of candidate will deliver our country.  No man or woman, not the Republican, not the Democrat, not the Libertarian, not the Green Party candidate can deliver our country from the morass of problems that beset us, for there is One and only One deliverer, and that is the Lord. 

The root issue in our country is that we have lost our moral moorings.  In other words, the root issue in our country is a spiritual one which is manifesting itself through the different crises we are seeing and experiencing.  The enmity and hatred behind the racial clashes is a spiritual issue.  The sexual assault on college campuses, which has been called an epidemic, is a spiritual issue.  The sexualization of our culture is a spiritual issue.  The degradation of women is a spiritual issue.  The glorification of violence is a spiritual issue. Pornography of every type is a spiritual issue. Drug use and abuse is a spiritual issue. Public anarchy and its manifestation in rebellion against law and order is a spiritual issue.  Heavy handedness by law enforcement is a spiritual issue. Moral relativism is a spiritual issue.  Islamic assault against us is a spiritual issue.  Class envy is a spiritual issue.  Abortion is a spiritual issue.  Human trafficking is a spiritual issue.  Greed and avarice are spiritual issues.  Immorality is a spiritual issue.  These issues are the root causes of the problems that beset our country, and why would anyone think that our political system or a person can solve the basic issues of the human soul, especially those who should know better....pastors and religious leaders, those who are charged with knowing the word of God.

Neither politics nor politicians have the power to deliver anyone.  They cannot empower anyone as they have no inherent power to give. They cannot change the heart. They cannot enlighten the mind nor give eyes to see or ears to hear. They cannot provide forgiveness nor promote mercy or compassion.  They cannot prevent bribes.  They cannot bridle the tongue, season our words with salt, and bring words of peace and healing. Nothing they can do, nothing that can be passed through the system will have any affect on the heart of man.  The best that politics and politicians can do is put a Band-Aid on the symptoms, but they cannot provide a cure for the root problem. Therefore, they cannot fix the mess we are in and there comes a point where the Band-Aids just aren't big enough to cover the wound anymore.  Ultimately, all politicians and elected officials can do is stir the pot; and why certain pastors and evangelical leaders continue to put their faith in a man or woman to right the wrongs and lead us to the Promised Land, and encourage us to jump on their bandwagon and do the same, is past credulity. Honestly, they should all know better; but the very fact that they are putting their faith in man shouts loudly about why the church in our country is in the condition that it is in, and why it has become contaminated salt that has lost its saltiness, and now is only good for the manure pile.

As pastors, our job is not to be political commentators or cultural watchdogs, but it is to be heralds of the Lord God, Himself, by preaching and teaching His unchanging and unerring Word.  There is only one Promised Land for the people to be led to, and that is the coming new heavens and new earth.  There is only one kingdom worth promoting and that is the kingdom of heaven; and there is only one King to pledge allegiance to and endorse, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Lord that removes kings and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21).  It is the Lord that determines the times and boundaries of the nations (Acts 17:26).  There is only One who delivers all men from their spiritual bondage, and it is Jesus Christ.  It is Him and His kingdom we should serve, not the leaders and kingdoms of this world.

Maybe, just maybe, if the pastors and religious leaders would work just as hard and be just as vocal in preaching repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, the issues troubling our country would be resolved and lessened.  But, that is not as popular nor as easy, and will be met with greater resistance, because of the hardness of the human heart towards the things of God. 

Ultimately, we as pastors need to remember that we are but aliens and sojourners in this world and our time upon this planet is so very brief, and that it is our duty and our charge to lead people up to Christ, not down to the politicians of this world.  It is time for the church in our land to repent of our worldliness and dependency on human solutions to spiritual problems, and it needs to begin with us, the pastors and shepherds of the flock of God.  Let us lead forward in repentance and ask God to have mercy on us and on our nation.  Please, Lord, make it so.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

A Simple Outline of Romans 6-8

In chapters six through eight of Romans the main theme is that of sanctification, the being set apart from sin and set apart to God.  Sanctification, both as a position (being set apart as holy to the Lord) and a process (growth in personal holiness before the Lord), is not a doctrine that is espoused in the church much anymore; but its neglect is to the ruin and harm of the church, as Hebrews 12:14 tells us without sanctification, no one will see the Lord.  So sanctification is obviously a crucial issue for us all, and describes what is to be going on in the life of someone who has been saved.  So this is an important doctrine,a foundational truth of the gospel, and it is important that we understand it.

 There is a flow of thought in these chapters that I would like to give a simple outline so as to  give a handle on what is going on in these crucial chapters.

6:1-10  What God has done for us in Christ
                  The power of sin has been broken, and we are no longer its slaves.

6:11-23 Our response to God's breaking the power of sin
                  We present ourselves as slaves to God, as instruments of righteousness.

7:1-13    Our new relationship to the Law
                  The Law fulfilled its purpose, and is holy, righteous and good.

7:14-25   The presence and pull of sin is still there, and will remain
                  Although sin's power is broken, we must still do battle with it.

8:1-27     The presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
                  The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of someone who is truly in Christ.
8:28-39   The purpose and predominance of God
                  The plan and purpose of God is predetermined, cannot be hindered,
                  is carried out in Christ, and we cannot be separated from Him.

What we can see in this outline is that our sanctification begins with God breaking the power of sin, His giving us power over sin through the Holy Spirit, and His purpose for us being impossible to not be carried out.

Obviously, there is much more going on in these chapters, but this will give us a framework from which to view and understand this most important section of what many consider the constitution of our faith.

Thinking of What is Ahead

The completeness of Christ's victory over sin and death
has become ours, and we see it now only dimly; but
when He comes and we are united with our incorruptible
and immortal bodies, then we shall know fully!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

God's Nearness, Our Good

But as for me the nearness of God is my good.
Psalm 73:28

How blessed is the one whom You choose
and bring near to You to dwell in your courts.
Psalm 65:4

But God, being rich in mercy because of His
great love with which He loved us...made us
alive together with Christ (by grace you have
been saved), and raised us up with Him and
seated us with Him in the heavenly places
in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7

God's nearness is indeed our good.  In fact, the closer we draw near to God the better it is for us, and the more joy and delight we have in Him and He in us.  The question, though, for all of us is,  "How indeed do we draw near?" How do we as physical and sinful creatures draw near to the Creator who is Spirit and Holy? 

The answer is that we draw near in Christ.  And how then do we draw near in Christ?  Because we are baptized in Christ (Romans 6:3-4).  We have been placed in Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit's baptism are united with Him (Romans 6:5); and because we now have a spiritual union with Christ, we remain in Him (I Corinthians 6:17, II Peter 1:4).  This is what water baptism pictures for us, the spiritual immersing of us into Christ by the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent oneness that we have.

The term united in Romans 6:5 is an organic term as compared to a mechanical term.  So instead of being bolted to Christ, or glued to Christ, or welded to Christ we are planted in Christ and grow in Christ, thus picturing a planting and growing together as one.  We are not a part to be added to Christ, nor is He part that has been added to us, but we live and grow in Christ.  It is a picture of a progressive and intimate relationship  

Once again, we see the wondrous provision of God, in giving to us from Himself and of Himself what we cannot possibly provide or accomplish on our own.  Terms such as immeasurable grace or unconditional love do not capture the fullness of what He does for us. So let us rejoice today, and marvel in the nearness we have with the One who has created it all. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pastoral Leadership and Consistency

Consistency, sounds pretty boring doesn't it?  And, actually, many times it is.  However, when considering traits that should be present in pastors, and required elements for pastoral leadership, this is usually one of the most overlooked. 

There should be a consistency of character, a consistency of philosophy, a consistency of theology, a consistency of mission, a consistency in his walk, a consistency in his preparation, a consistency in his growth, a consistency in how he makes decisions, a consistency in how he deals with others, a consistency in how he communicates, and a consistency in how he expresses himself.  In other words, there needs to be a thread of consistency that permeates who he is, and therefore what he does.

Why is this important?  Because it gives stability to his church, and his ministry.  It gives security to his people, his staff, and the leadership he works with, as it make him reliable, and even predictable.  I once had an upper level manager tell me that his goal was to be so consistent that his people would know the answer before they asked him.  Not a bad trait, in fact, it is a great trait to have.

Think about the comfort and security it gives to those who you work with, do ministry with, and live with when they know they can depend on what they know about you.  Think about the frustration that is caused by having to deal with those whom you never know how they will react, or those who always seem to be changing their mind, ministry direction, or ministry philosophy. 

Have you ever noticed how consistent the Lord is?  We call it immutability or unchangeableness; but have you ever wondered what it would be like to serve a Lord that you were never sure how He was going to react, how He wanted to be worshiped, what His standards for holiness would be, or what His requirements for salvation would be? Would it be a little unnerving, kind of like an eternal insecurity instead of an eternal security?

I take great comfort that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8); that He, the Lord, does not change His mind, and therefore I am not consumed (Malachi 3:6); that with Him there is no variation or change like the imperceptible shifting of a shadow (James 1:7); that even from eternity He is I am (Isaiah 43:13), that of old He founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of His hands.  Even they will perish, but He will endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing He will change them and they will be changed.  But He is the same, and His years will not come to an end (Psalm 102:25-27); that His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him (Psalm 103:17); that He has one eternal purpose that runs through the ages that is carried out in Christ (Ephesians 3:11), and that He has declared the end from the beginning, saying, "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10).  This consistency in the character of God and the acts of God give me security in my relationship with him, it gives me confidence in my relationship with Him, and it strengthens and solidifies my trust in Him.

You see, I believe that as pastors, as spiritual leaders, we must be consistent; and it is us being like the Lord that gives us that consistency. If He is consistent, then we must aspire to be consistent as He is consistent.  The same comfort, confidence, security, solidity, and trust that we draw from our relationship with the Lord because of His consistency is the same comfort, confidence, security, solidity, and trust that our people, staff, and leadership should have in their relationship with us.  Consistency provides the stability that is needed in every leader, and is a key component of pastoral leadership.  Let's aspire to be more like our Lord in this area.