Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pastor Appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month and I am not sure where that came from but it is not a bad idea to be reminded that we should be grateful for those “keeping watch over our souls” as it says in Hebrews 13:17. 

As a custom many people give gifts to their pastors to show their appreciation and some are good gifts and some are well, ok I guess. Most of us have plenty of Bibles. Coffee mugs and gift cards and plaques and cards are all good things to show your pastor that you care but are they the best gift you can give your pastor? Being a Pastor myself I began to think of truly great ways to show a pastor how much he is appreciated for his laboring. Here are, in no particular order, four easy but really meaningful ways someone can show a Pastor that he is loved and appreciated.

1. Pray for your pastor. This is probably the most important one on the list. Your Pastor NEEDS your prayers. Many people have no idea the stress that pastors endure. From preaching prep to counseling to dealing with church issues, it is stressful. Your Pastor needs you to go to the Throne of God on his behalf and plead with God to strengthen and uphold him as he leads you. Pray also for his family. Your pastor’s family also needs your prayers because they too deal with the stresses of his role. And let him know that you are praying for him. This is great encouragement. I have men in my church that constantly let me know that they are praying for me. What a blessing. 2 Cor. 1:11

2. Tell him thank you. Most pastors work extremely hard to prepare sermons each week. They are also pretty much on call 24-7 to go to the hospital when you are sick or answer that phone call late at night. Many that I know also do things that others never know about, like emptying the trash that was forgotten or changing the bulb that was out or unlocking and ensuring that the church is comfortable for everyone’s worship. Although your pastor would probably never ask for it, it is encouraging to hear a thank you. This goes a long way of lifting the spirits of a pastor.  1 Cor. 1:4-9

3. Give feedback. Believe it or not most pastors love to have some feedback from members. Sometimes we wonder if people are really listening because we hear little from members about what we teach or preach about. Now we also know that we are not that great expositors of the Word where all of our listeners questions are answered before they are asked so ask questions. Most true loving pastors love to hear from members about what they teach and preach on. It shows a true interest in the Word of God and the direction of the church. We are not perfect and we do make mistakes and it is the church that is to hold us accountable that we preach and teach correctly. If you have questions, email or call. We don’t mind. Psalm 1:1-2

4. Tell others about what God is doing in and through your church. What pastors love most is when the members of their church get involved in making Jesus famous. Nothing is more encouraging to pastors like seeing the fruit of their teaching and leading through members. We love partners in the Gospel and to partner with us is to just talk about not what your pastor is doing but what God has, is and will do in and through your church. Eph. 4:11-12

Material gifts are great and pastors love them but I bet your pastor would really cherish one of the four mentioned things or something very similar as well. And this just doesn’t have to be in October.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

May we not live and die in vain

Wednesdays is a day that our church leadership has set aside and pray specifically for missions. As I sat at my desk early with a cup of coffee and prayed, I could not help but ponder a conversation I had with a young man the day before. He shared with me how he and his family surrendered to The Lord to missions. Not just any missions but he explained that he has a heart for unreached people in closed countries, and in particular Muslim people.
As I prayed for him and the people he might deliver the Gospel to I also could not help but think of all the uproar in the media of Christians being murdered by radical Islamic followers. I thought of the horrific stories of Christians in these difficult places being beheaded and children being persecuted for their faith and their families’ faith. Our culture has developed a hardened attitude towards these radicals. We are appalled at how they could believe and do such things, and don’t get me wrong, what they are doing is wrong and horrific. Our hearts should break for their victims and our knees should be calloused in prayer for those suffering and persecuted. But what about the ones wielding the knife and sword and rifle? Does your heart break for them as well?

We are quick to condemn and blame them for their impure motives but let me offer a different angle on looking at things. Do they know any different? Is it all their fault? Are we as professing Christians across the globe maybe just a little bit responsible as well? The Apostle Paul says in Romans 10:12-15 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. "For everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"

God commissions believers to continue Christ’s unfinished work by proclaiming the finished work of Christ on the Cross. In other words God commands believers to be instruments of delivery of the life changing Gospel. We are to carry the Good News to people that don’t know it. I would say that these guys we see in the black pajamas don’t know Him. So how do they get to know Him? Look again at the words of Paul. He asks some great questions. How are they to believe unless someone preaches the Gospel to them? How are they to believe unless someone is sent to share truth?
Before we completely write them off as hopeless, let us not forget about the guy that penned the words in Romans. He was a guy that persecuted Christians for their faith in Jesus and God did a mighty work in and through him.

 As I began my day praying for missions may we continue, and I urge you to join me in praying that God would send and save. That the Gospel reach these that we see as lost and wicked and the grace of Jesus redeem and make righteous. May our knees be calloused and our lives be sacrificial to the commission of making disciples of all nations. May we not live and die in vain.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Seeing the beauty through the ugliness of the Cross

I had the opportunity to sit under the preaching of  Tullian Tchividjian  yesterday as he spoke about our need for the gospel every day. When he finished the worship leaders came up and we began to sing a far millibar song. The lyrics go like this. "To see You high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory. Pour out your power and love, as we sing Holy, Holy, Holy."

As we sang that song and I pondered the words of Tullian I could not help but think of the Cross. All of us were joyfully singing "To see You high and lifted up". I remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah in 52 where it speaks of Jesus high and lifted up yet His appearance was so marred, beyond human resemblance but He will sprinkle many nations and kings will shut their mouths. All at the Cross.

To me it almost seemed absurd that we as believers were joyfully singing those words "To see You high and lifted up". Should we be excited about Jesus being beaten and tortured and lifted up on the Cross? On that day many were shouting very similar words  as Mark 15:13 says "They cried out again Crucify Him". They wanted to see Jesus high and lifted up on the Cross. The majority of the crowd saw Jesus as a fool and did not see Him as who He really was. Because He threatened their self righteousness they eagerly shouted those words and demanded that this Jesus be tortured, beaten, spit upon, mocked and laughed at. The Cross was an ugly death by itself. Combined with it the flogging and mockery and crown of thorns, the picture is horrific. Flesh exposed and torn, nails in wrists and feet and then to he "high and lifted up" on a cross to suffocate to death in agony. This was an ugly death for a guilty man, but Jesus was innocent. 

They shouted out Crucify Him! In other words with clenched fists they screamed, we want to see you high and lifted up. Should this be the cry of the believer? Should we sing with joy about Jesus being pierced and lifted up? Absolutely we should. The cry and shout should not change but the motivation behind cry is completly different. To the believer the cry is not one with clenched fist but open uplifted hands. It is a cry that is filled with tears and conviction of one's own sin and one of longing for overwhelming grace and mercy that only comes from faith in the one that was lifted up that day. It is a cry of worship to the only one that was worthy to endure the ugliness of the Cross on our behalf and overcome the grave. 

To the believer there is great beauty in the ugliness of the Cross. Because Jesus was high and lifted up that day, He is high and lifted up today and Shining in the light of His glory and our only response is to cry Holy, Holy, Holy. 

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Are we prejudice with the gospel?

As "Christians" comfortable in our churches and denominations and social classes and demographic areas, are we subconsciously prejudice with the gospel? Take a step back and look at your circle of Christians. How many are of not only different races but different socioeconomic areas of society? I bet to say that not too many are. The question is why is that? The reason I see is comfort. We are creatures that like comfort. We are comfortable in holy huddles that are people similar to us and to step outside that huddle would cause some discomfort.

Now most, if not all of us would deny this but I ask that we again take a step back and look inward. Jesus commands believers to take the Gospel to all nations. We have heard this all our lives right? Think about what that means. Believers are commanded to take the Good News of Jesus not only to the peaceful, kind peoples that are similar to us but this means to take the Gospel to the door of our enemy.

As I listened to a message that spoke of Stephen and Saul of Tarsus who later became the Apostle Paul, I began to contrast the two. God chose to save Stephen, to be an heir with Christ Jesus (Romans 8) and this was determined at the beginning of all things. But what about this Saul of Tarsus who held the cloaks of those that bludgeoned Stephen to death with stones as he prayed for their forgiveness? What about Saul who cheered on the murderers and then earnestly pursued others who God chose and had faith and drug them away and threw them into prison? As we see Jesus seeks him out and saves him too.

What this means is God chose to call Paul a child of His, before the foundation of all things. Proof of this is in Gal. 1:15-16 "15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; " 

Fast forward a few days when God comes to Ananias and tells him to go to Saul, this persecutor of Christians and welcome him into the fellowship of believers. Ananias' response is really no different than any we would probably give. He asked God if he really wanted  Saul. I could just hear him asking God "are you sure that guy".

Here is my point. How many times do we consciously or subconsciously ask God, that guy? Really? When we do that we are really saying to God they are not worth saving. But in reality are we? Salvation is up to God and God alone. Romans 9:15-16 says For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

If God can save and transform a guy like Saul and make him the apostle Paul that penned so much of the New Testament, then how could we ever say or think "that person, really?" We should never underestimate the power of the Gospel and God's plan from the beginning of all things. We should just trust Him and look for ways to tear down and prejudices we may have and make Jesus famous.