Friday, March 29, 2013

The Gift of Exhortation

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
each of us is to exercise them accordingly:  if prophecy, according 
to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he
who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation...
Romans 12:6-8a

The gift of exhortation is considered one of the speaking gifts, and its Greek root means to come alongside of so as to help.  So it is a gift that enables one to give aid to another, to come alongside and give aid by speaking to the need of the moment.  It is a gift that enables one to speak truth, God's truth, the truth of Scripture, into the life of a fellow believer.  It is the gift to be able to speak the truth, and speak it in love.

Sometimes this will be a word of encouragement and sometimes a word of rebuke, sometimes it will admonish and sometimes it will strengthen, sometimes it will correct and sometimes it will comfort, sometimes it will convict and sometimes it will affirm.  It will always aid in helping the fellow believer press on in the faith, to press on in Godliness, to be encouraged to live a more Christlike life, and to see the truth about themselves and the situation they are in.

It is an important and necessary gift to the body of Christ, and is important in discipling and mentoring; and those who exercise this gift should be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Keeping Our Focus on Christ

There is an old adage in sports, and it is "Keep your eye on the ball!"  This is the first fundamental in all of sports, because the game revolves around the ball, and each player has responsibilities relative to their position to the ball.  So if a player loses track of the ball, he cannot and will not function properly.  This seems relatively simple; but because it is simple, it easy to get sidetracked into putting your attention on all the other activities or movements that are going on around the ball so that the ball no longer has your attention.

There is a similar fundamental in the life of the church in that the life of the church revolves around Jesus Christ, and the minute any church takes its eyes off of Christ, removes its focus from Christ, and Christ ceases to be its priority, then it ceases to function properly even though it might be generating a lot of activity.  If you read through the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, what you will see as a common thread among the churches that were chastised is that, in some fashion, they had taken their focus off of Christ and put it somewhere else.

This is what Paul warned the Corinthian church about in II Corinthians 10:3 "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."  This deception that takes a church's eyes off of Christ is a common, but effective tactic of the enemy; and he deceives us with many churchy, well meaning, feel good, even popular/missional du jour type of things; and it is so easy to be led astray by these things.  Because of this, we must be vigilant and fight tenaciously to keep our eyes and our focus upon Jesus Christ and keep Him central to all that we are and do.

We must make sure that Christ is the center of our attention and the focus of our devotion.  This is fundamental to all that we do as a church.  So, just as good sports teams do, let us make sure that we are spending time focusing on the fundamentals, really The Fundamental, so that what we do as a church will be pleasing to the Lord, and our lampstand will not only remain in place, but its light will shine brightly.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keeping our Preaching in Perspective: Why no Preacher should Boast Before God

For I am not ashamed of the gospel,
for it is the power of God for salvation
to everyone who believes...
Romans 1:16

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
so that the surpassing power will be of God
and not from ourselves.
II Corinthians 4:17

For this reason we also constantly thank God
that when you received the word of God
which you heard from us, you accepted
it not as the word of men, but for what it
really is, the word of God, which performs
its work in you who believe.
I Thessalonians 2:13

For consider your calling, brethren, that 
there were not many wise according to
the flesh, not many mighty, not many
noble; but God has chosen the foolish
things of the world to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things 
of the world to sham the things which
are that no man may
boast before God.
I Corinthians 1:26-29

When we preach the gospel, and see it bear its fruit by bringing life to the dead and sight to the blind, and see it strengthen the knees that are weak and the hands that are feeble, and see it save the lost and edify the saved, let us not believe it is because of us and our preaching or persuasion that this is happening.  For that would be like the shovel taking credit for digging the hole, or the violin taking credit for making the music.

No, let us rejoice that God has chosen to manifest His power through feeble vessels, that God has chosen to accomplish His redemptive work through the most ordinary of instruments.  Let us rejoice in the power of God.  Let us rejoice in His gracious choice of using us.  Let us rejoice that we are being used as His means of bringing glory to Himself through the preaching of His word.  Let us thank the Lord for the blessing of being used by Him in His great work of salvation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Pastor as Leader and Servant: A Pastoral Application of Matthew 20:25-28

Pastor's, how do we lead our people?  Simply, we lead them by serving them.  And, "How do we serve them?" you might ask.  Let me list a few basics, and these all fall under the umbrella of spiritual oversight.

1. We serve them by preaching to them.
2. We serve them by praying for them.
3. We serve them by watching over them.
4. We serve them by guiding them.
5. We serve them by caring for them.
6. We serve them by listening to them.
7. We serve them by planning.
8. We serve them through the staff we hire, both lay and ministerial.
9. We serve them through the elders and deacons we appoint.

If you look closely at this list what you will see is that service, being a servant to your people is the motive that undergirds and guides what we do as pastors; and I truly believe that this is the underlying motive that Christ was talking about in Matthew 20:25-28, and that re-surfaced in Matthew 23:11.  The point is that our heart is to be about serving our people in what we do as a pastor.  In essence, our love for our people is manifested in our service to them.

So throw all that silly corporate vision-casting nonsense into the trash pile where it belongs.  Run from the pastor as leader/CEO model.  Stop worrying about growing the church, and start being concerned and aware of serving the church. Make serving your people your main priority, and see the position that the Lord has called you to as one which has multiple ways for you to serve His people and to manifest His love for them through you.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Testing and Blessing, Ours and the Lord's

Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of His praise be heard, 
who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us;
You have tried us as silver is tried. 
You have brought us into the net;
You laid a crushing burden on our backs;
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet You have brought us out to a place of abundance.
Psalm 66:8-12

There is much to say about this great Psalm of praise, but let our focus be on this section of praise as the Psalmist praises God for His testing and refining them, His keeping them during the time of testing, and His bringing them out of the testing into a place of spiritual abundance.

God has put their spiritual mettle to the test as one would test silver.  How is silver tested?  It is tested by turning up the heat until its impurities and infirmities come to the surface.  As the infirmities and impurities come to the surface the silversmith scrapes them off and then heats the fire even hotter to remove those that are more deeply imbedded in the metal .  He does this until he can see his reflection in the silver.  That is when he knows the silver has been thoroughly tested and purified.  This trying of silver not only purifies the silver but strengthens it as well; and it serves to prove the genuiness and quality of the silver.  The higher quality, the fewer the impurities; and a lesser metal, metal that is not genuine silver, would not be able to stand the heat.

God, the master craftsman of our faith, is about the task of testing and refining our faith.  And He uses that testing and refining to bring us to a place of spiritual abundance.  He uses the very testing He puts us through to broaden our faith, deepen our faith, and purify our faith; and in the time of testing He will not let the faith of the true Christian fail (Philippians 1:6).

This is why the Psalmist is praising God before the peoples.  He does not keep his praise silent or to himself for he wants to share the greatness of what the Lord has done for his soul (Psalm 66:16).  

We are to give thanks in all things.  Why?  Because the Lord is working for our great good in all things, leaving nothing unused to make the image of Christ shine in our life more brightly than ever.  Let us bless the Lord, privately and publicly, for His testing, His keeping, and His blessing us with spiritual abundance.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Filled with Righteousness

having been filled with the fruit
of righteousness which comes through
 Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:11

 As those who are indwelled by Christ, as those in whom He abides, we are filled up, yes literally crammed full, with righteousness.  Overpowering thought, isn't it?  But that is the truth.  This is our new self, our born-again self, our regenerated self, which in the likeness of God has been created in the righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:24).  

This is why we can no longer practice sin, but will practice righteousness (I John 3:7-10).  In other words, we just can't help but be who we are, and we are now the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.

Yes, I know we don't always live up to this, but this is the work of salvation that God has begun in us; and it is our outworking of this righteousness that we have been filled with that brings glory and praise to God as we act more and more like Him.