Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Public Sin Should Cause Us to Beware

There has been a lot of conversation about the revelation that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had been having an affair. I think one of the most important thing those of us at a distance should do in these situations is to take them as warnings to ourselves.

The most recent newsletter from Shepherd Press (ministry of Tedd Tripp) discusses this very helpfully. The newsletter takes up the point that Gov. Sanford mentions that this relationship began innocently as he counseled this woman regarding problems in her own marriage. Here then are some excerpts:
Talking with another person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse about intimate relational issues, without open and immediate accountability, is dangerous. It is not innocent; it is a high risk activity. When there is open discussion of intimate relational details with someone, there is always the possibility of things going horribly wrong. Christians have an enemy who is like a lion looking to devour the foolish of heart. The flesh is deceitful and it is at war with the Spirit. It cannot be trusted.

... Enjoying conversations about intimate relational struggles, with a woman who is not your wife, is not guarding your heart. Rather, it is the precursor to disaster. God has provided the family and the church for protection for God’s people. The marriage relationship must be guarded with relentless diligence. Don’t have conversations that you cannot speak openly and freely about with your spouse. As soon as intimate issues come to the surface in such conversations, be like Joseph—flee!! Urge the other person to speak with someone who can truly, objectively help him or her. Many relational failures in the church community happen simply because hearts are not being faithfully protected. Trying to help someone else’s marriage by talking privately with one of the spouses is asking for trouble.

Read the whole thing.

This is sound counsel and especially important for those of us in leadership who will have to counsel people in marital difficulty. Men, we must involve our wives at these points. Plus, this is another reminder of the great value of having other elders laboring alongside you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Charge to New Pastors of Grace Church

As I mentioned in the previous post, we had the privilege of launching a new church, ordaining two new pastors, installing a third to serve with them this past weekend.

I had the opportunity to give the charge to these men, and thought I would share it with you as well. I love ordinations where I have full confidence in the men being ordained, and it is a struggle to know which text to take up in addressing the situation since there are so many great texts. So, here I sought primarily to bring together many of the key texts using as much as possible the direct words of Scripture to charge them with their task.

It is always a challenge to me to revisit these texts. Perhaps it will be edifying to you as well.

Gentlemen, I do not come today to tell you of your duties, thinking you do not already know them. If we did not think you knew your duties and were equipped and desirous of fulfilling them we would not be here today. We are convinced of your gifting, calling, and willingness. It is still fitting, however, at this significant point for me to charge you with these duties before God, this church whom you will serve and this church who sends you forth.

So, I do 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. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. But you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Indeed, keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

So I exhort you, elders, 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 5:1-4)

Keep watch over their souls, as ones who will have to give an account. (Heb 13:17)

And you may rightly say with Paul, “Who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor 2:16)
But also lay hold of the confidence Paul has saying with him, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:4-6) You are ministers of the glorious New Covenant of Christ! Unworthy, you say? Of course you are! So revel in the wonder and amazement of the call of God, and in gratitude to such grace fulfill your calling caring only for the approval of this Great God!

So having this ministry by the mercy of God, do not lose heart. But renounce disgraceful, underhanded ways. Refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth commend yourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if your gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what you proclaim is not yourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with yourselves as servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in your hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:1-6)

And men, remember the Psalm that says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). To cite a lesser source, you must indeed all hang together or you will all hang separately. In many ways the security and health of this new church depends on the depth, power and health of your friendship. And friendship is not a word I use lightly. With some people you can afford simply to get along or merely to have a good working relationship. Not so here. You must love one another deeply as men who go to war together. For you truly do so, and you must have complete confidence in the one who has your back. Labor to develop and maintain this sort of relationship between you. In so doing you guard the flock, build the kingdom and protect your own souls.

Lastly love your people, this congregation, deeply, fiercely, tenderly- as Christ the Great Shepherd does. Grow to say of these people as Paul did of the Thessalonians:
“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (2 Thess 2:19-20)
Then your people may say of you as they did of Baxter, “We take all things well from one who always and wholly loves us.”
Imitate your Lord who said:“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Launch of New Church

I am privileged this morning to assist in leading a special service to launch Grace Community Church (SBC) in Martin, TN a church plant from Cornerstone Community Church (SBC), where I serve. In this service we will officially constitute the new church, ordain two new pastors and install Chad Davis, who has been serving as a pastor at Cornerstone, to serve there as well.

This is an exciting time and culmination of many years of labor, frustration, patience, growth and learning on the parts of many. God has been faithful and has provided in ways different from and well beyond what we expected. Thanks be to God.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Reading, A T Robertson

In light of recent posts here on reading and particularly on reading history and fiction, I thought this comment from A. T. Robertson was pertinent. Robertson was a giant in the land as a scholar and a preacher. This quote comes from an interview with Frank Leavell in “The Baptist Student” in 1932.
“ ‘For diversion I read History, Poetry, and Biography. When sick, or on vacation, I read novels. I love them – revel in a good novel. That does not mean this modern stuff. It is mighty easy for me to get a dose of this modern sex stuff! I read Dickens, Thackerary, Scott, or George Eliot. She is rather melancholy, George Eliot, but I like here despite that.’”
This is a good encouragement to us today to take in history, poetry, biography and fiction.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crabb on the need for involvement in people’s lives

Since college I have appreciated the writings of Larry Crabb. Today I read a note from a friend in which he included an excerpt from Crabb’s book, Inside Out. I have pasted in below a smaller portion of the excerpt where Crabb makes the point that exposition alone is not enough for our pastoral work. This is one of the chief concerns of this blog. We must be involved in the oversight of souls not just proclamation. Proclamation is crucial but it is supposed to be wed with real, personal involvement with our people.

Perhaps it is time to screw up our courage and attack the sacred cow: we must admit that simply knowing the contents of the Bible is not a sure route to spiritual growth. There is an awful assumption in evangelical circles that if we can just get the Word of God into people’s heads, then the Spirit of God will apply it to their hearts. That assumption is awful, not because the Spirit never does what the assumption supposes, but because it has excused pastors and leaders from the responsibility to tangle with people’s lives. Many remain safely hidden behind pulpits, hopelessly out of touch with the struggles of their congregations, proclaiming the Scriptures with a pompous accuracy that touches no one.

May God give us the grace to move boldly, graciously, with the Gospel into the lives of our people. Anything less fails to be pastoral ministry. Lord willing, I will speak to this issue at this upcoming conference at Union.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reading Fiction

I have frequently at this blog commended broad reading including fiction and have defended and advocated the reading of fiction in other venues. I was pleased then to find (via Justin Wainscott) this article by Mary DeMuth titled, “Why Should Christ-Followers Read Fiction?” DeMuth deals with common arguments against “wasting” one’s time on fiction.
I also recommend Doug Bond’s lecture “Teaching Truth with Fiction.” Bond’s fiction is wonderful and I have commended it often at my other blog.

So this summer take up some good fiction and read. If you don’t have any ideas on where to start with your fiction reading I mentioned some last summer in a post of ideas for summer reading. Here are a few more fiction books that I have greatly enjoyed:
A Tale of Two Cities, C. Dickens
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
John Buchan’s novels: The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast, Courts of the Morning, Huntingtower, etc.
In the Reign of Terror, G. A. Henty
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (a more profound book than movie representations suggest)
The Great Divorce, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc., C. S. Lewis

The list could go on and on (feel free to suggest some in the comments). There are many good options. Take up and read!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Readers’ Greek NT, Again

I am really enjoying reading my copy of The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition which I have already commended. Along the way I realized another potential use of this edition. I did not at first realize that it has a glossary at the back of all words occurring more than 30 times in the NT. This makes it also a great way to review your basic vocabulary. Since this glossary is 22 pages long, then by reviewing one page of vocabulary each day you will rehearse this essential list in less than a month. You would then cover this list more than 16 times a year at this slight pace.

This is my favorite single tool for using and learning NT Greek.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Preaching Apocalyptic

Last week Justin Taylor posted a link to a booklet by David Helm on Preaching Apocalyptic. I have printed it and looked it over. It looks really good and I commend it to other preachers. Interestingly, the Sunday before this was posted Chad Davis, one of my fellow pastors, preached on Daniel 7, an apocalyptic passage. Chad’s sermon is a good example of handling these difficult passages well. Even though he had not had yet seen Helm’s booklet he made several of the same points in his introduction. Rather than getting bogged down in speculations about things the scripture does not tell us, Chad pointed us to the grand truths which are the key concern of the text- evil powers will continue to rise and assault God’s people, and we must hold fast knowing that the day will come when Christ will subdue the all powers and crush his enemies.

I commend this pamphlet and sermon to you as helpful resources as we seek to preach faithfully the whole counsel of God.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Difficult Ministry

This week I came back across some scribbled notes that had come to mind in the midst of a sermon. I find sermons to be very stimulating to my thinking. A main point will send me off thinking of application in different areas. So, while listening to a sermon on 1 Samuel on a time of difficulty in David’s life, I began to ponder the difficult places of ministry so many brothers find themselves in from time to time. I am not actually in a difficult place at the moment, but I often talk to brothers who are. Thinking of them in light of the text this is what I jotted down:

Is it the Lord’s will that I suffer so at the hands of difficult people? That I labor to so little result amongst non-responsive people? Would not the Lord use me? Is such pain and uselessness the will of God?

Consider Moses, the promised Deliverer. He ended up fleeing for his life which led to 40 years of watching sheep in the desert. Yet, God was at work preparing him for use.

Consider also David, the promised King. He had to suffer rejection, conspiracies against his life, living on the run and hiding in caves before God placed him on the throne.

Consider also Jesus, Himself, who accomplished his great work precisely in the midst of his great suffering.

God is at work, and we must relinquish the demand to see the results in our own time. We may be blessed to see the work of God flourishing in our hands (and if so do not fail to recognize what a blessing that is!). Or we may be called upon to labor faithfully never seeing the result. Either way let us labor faithfully, believing that what we see is not all there is (2 Cor 4:16-18). Let us trust God and say “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Video Teaching on Nehemiah and Exodus

Jeremy Rasnic has now posted the video of two January Bible Studies I have done. All seven sessions of a study through Nehemiah a few years ago (at FBC Columbus, MS) is available and the first and last sessions of a study through Exodus done this past January at Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, TN is available. Jeremy, whose business did the work of recording, lighting and editing, is selling the complete Exodus study.

Nehemiah is, I believe, the account of a great reformation among the people of God as they returned to the word of God. In the seventh Exodus session I was particularly struck with Moses and Aaron as positive and negative examples of pastoral ministry in and around the golden calf incident. Perhaps some of these will be useful to you.