Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Biblical Ministry in the 21st Century: Why I Write What I Write.

ABOUT ME- I am only a sinner saved by grace.   Jesus Christ is my life!

It is my conviction that the Lord loves the Church and therefore so should we (Acts 20:28).  In this vein, I am a committed churchman.  I love the bride of Christ and have done everything I can to reform our local church ministry (Colossians 1:28-29) according to the perfect precepts of Holy Scripture (per Titus 1:5f).  However, I am not without my own warts and blemishes.  Those who have served alongside of me in the ministry trenches can attest to this.  "By the grace of God I am what I am."   I pray that like Paul I can humbly say to my people, "Imitate me as (much as) I follow Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).   I am not an uber gifted pastor-preacher but I am striving to be an uber faithful servant of Christ!  To the praise of His glory, God has been revitalizing the First Baptist Church of Freeport.  To Him alone belongs the highest praise!

ABOUT THIS BLOG- These blog stories have been somewhat vaguely told in order to not say more than is necessary. The 'goriest of  ministry details' are often best reserved for personal conversations with God and with those directly involved in one's local church ministry. Much restraint has been exercised as I have written and edited these stories.

None of the articles that describe sinful conduct or speech have been written about current members. We all know how cowardly it is to stand behind a bully pulpit (or a bully blog) and point fingers instead of dealing with people directly. The Biblical process of confrontation/restoration is summarized for us in Galatians 6:1-4, Luke 17:3-4, 1 Thess. 5:14, Matthew 7, and Matthew 18.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Adversity, Betrayal and Christian Ministry

Few things in life are more painful than personal betrayal.  I have found that those who have experienced ministry mutinies first hand are far more sympathetic than those who have not endured a Psalm 55:12-14 experience.  The following quotes by D.A. Carson and Spurgeon are quite insightful:  "One is not long in ministry before one observes some curates, assistant ministers- whatever a particular denomination labels them- subtly trying to undermine their senior minister, wickedly trying to assume power, covering the operation with a gauze of pious verbiage and a veneer of humility." D.A. Carson.

C. H. Spurgeon, "Ten years of toil do not take so much life out of us as we lose in a few hours by Ahithophel the traitor, or Demas the apostate."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mighty Men of God

Photo Credit: vineyardmeridian.com
“The man makes the preacher. God must make the man. The messenger is, if possible, more than the message. The preacher is more than the sermon. The preacher makes the sermon. As the life-giving milk from the mother's bosom is but the mother's life, so all the preacher says is tinctured, impregnated by what the preacher is. The treasure is in earthen vessels, and the taste of the vessel impregnates and may discolor. The man, the whole man, lies behind the sermon. Preaching is not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make the man. The true sermon is a thing of life. The sermon grows because the man grows. The sermon is forceful because the man is forceful. The sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon is full of the divine unction because the man is full of the divine unction."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Organic Discipleship: How To Foster Discipleship In Your Local Church

Photo Credit: pinecrestchurh.org 
Organic Discipleship: How To Foster Discipleship In Your Local Church.  This was the topic of discussion at a recent pastors' round-table event led by Dr. Jerry Wragg.  A number of questions were posed at the onset of this meeting.  Like:  How do you create a disciple-making culture in the life of the church?  What are some of the most common challenges?  What are some of the things you have done in your ministry context to work through those difficulties?  What are some of the best ways to mentor others towards spiritual maturity?

The heartbeat of discipleship is found in principle as one surveys all the New Testament one anothers (examples include encourage one another; pray for one another, teach one another; serve one another; bear with one another; confess your sins to one another; regard one another, etc).  The model and mandate for discipleship are found in biblical texts like 2 Timothy 2:2 and Titus 2:1-5.

Common challenges to formal and informal life on life discipleship include:
A) Busyness
B) Laziness
C) Confusion as to what to say/do
D) Not understanding the proper motivations behind intentional relationships.
E) A shortage of older Titus 2 men and women (who are willing and able to disciple others)
F) The proliferation of dual income households (which can contribute to excess busyness and/or to misplaced priorities (note Titus 2:4-5).
G) Complacency
H) Finding and making time for life on life discipleship especially during certain seasons of life (eg. Godly and spiritually mature mothers with young children can feel overwhelmed).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

4 Practical Benefits of Expository Preaching

Photo Credit: enonlinebibleschool.blogspot.com
In today's post Dr. Paul Lamey highlights the practical benefits of expository preaching for preachers and hearers alike.

"I believe preaching best suited for lasting fruit is expository in nature. It is preaching that is firmly rooted in God’s Word. Expository preaching means that the text of Scripture is the starting point of the message. The text provides the basis for the sermon’s theme and shape. It also means that the meaning of the text is the goal of the sermon as any application must be rightly related to what God intended to convey in His Word. In simple terms, the point of the passage is the point of the sermon. God wants people to hear from Him, not us.

Christian preaching is expository preaching; that is, it endeavors to explain the biblical text in its literary and historical context and applies the message to the needs and problems of the audience. Put simply, the goal of preaching is to explain the intention of the biblical author for the building up of the congregation (Scott M. Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors, 160).

However, don’t think that expository preaching is a mere methodology or a formula to follow. It is not an exegetical lecture or a meandering through a passage merely rehashing the arguments of commentaries. It is a philosophy of preaching that sees the goal of the sermon as conveying the truth that the Spirit intended in giving the Word. The result is the Spirit uses our sermons in ways that we could never anticipate.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Unintended Consequences

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Today's blog post highlights a few of the tragic, unintended consequences that a "reprobate" mind has on "we the people of the United States of America."

Last week President Barack Hussein Obama pushed his radical LGBTQ agenda on the children of our nation.  The message our Liberal President sent was clear, "Accept transgenderism or else."  Even though these public school bathroom guidelines do not carry the force of law the Obama administration threatened to withhold financial aid to public schools that ignore this imperial decree.  In view of this, Dr. Mohler wrote an excellent commentary piece titled: The (Im)Moral revolutionaries present their demands: unconditional surrender. (see also Obama's Outrageous Decree).

As was true with "the gay rights movement" politicians and judicial activists who advocate Progressive ideology have a powerful ally in the popular world of entertainment; (remember Brokeback Mountain)?  In 2015 the Danish Girl sought to romanticize in film "a love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer."  Like Brokeback Mountain this pro-Transgender movie received an Oscar nomination; (see also How did we get here: Desensitize, Normalize, Demonize, Idolize, Legalize, Victimize).

Here are a few of the unintended consequences of Liberalism, LGBT ideology, and the Feminist movement:

1) If carried out to it's logical conclusion, the Transgender movement will destroy Title IX and female sports as we know it.

Among many things, the Feminist movement has worked hard to eliminate role distinctions under the banner of equality.  Some of the advancements that have been associated with this movement have been good.  Such as, helping women earn the right to vote in public elections.  Having said that, certain positions and goals of the Feminist movement are antithetical to the teaching of Scripture; (examples include abortion on demand, the ordination of female pastors, etc).

In the blood-sport, that is better known as UFC, the allowance of transgender fighters threatens the health and well being of female athletes.  Even Ronda Rousey (who cusses like a sailor and who is anti-conservative) has spoken against male athletes fighting as females, calling it, "an unfair competitive advantage).  Recently this fear came to fruition when a transgender fighter destroyed her female opponent in the form of a concussion and broken eye socket.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

"Black Tuesday: 'Et tu Brute?'"

In a previous journal article I referenced John MacArthur's candid interview with Mark Dever where he said, "I have learned to embrace the suffering and to embrace the criticism and the failure and the pain as probably the most productive work of God in my life....Their is a sense in which the best things that have ever happened to me are the mutinies that have occurred in my church, the disappointments, the criticisms, and the misrepresentations."   In this very candid 9 Marks interview MacArthur goes on to describe a devastating staff uprising that occurred against him early in his pastoral ministry. MacArthur refers to this attempted mutiny today as his Black Tuesday.  Albert Mohler opened up his pastoral heart in a very similar manner here.

Concerning betrayal R.C. Sproul writes, "When I hear that word, I get an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach, because betrayal is one of the most devastating experiences any human being can endure" (John commentary, p. 342).  C. H. Spurgeon makes this same point in his famous Minister's Fainting Fits lecture.

As I find more articles on the subject of church revitalization and as I privately interact with more pastors who are waist deep in reformation type ministries it is clear to me that the triumphs and tribulations that are summarized in this blog journal are not totally unique.   What David graphically describes in Psalm 55:12-14, Jesus Himself experienced in Luke 22, as did Paul in Corinth (note 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11), and Moses in Numbers 16.   Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, What has been will be again, which has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

The pain of personal betrayal is probably the deepest pain that one experiences in pastoral ministry and in life in general.   If you doubt this assertion, why do you suppose so many hymns and contemporary praise songs highlight this experience with song lyrics like this: Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Danger of Making Hasty Judgments!

Photo credit: NBC Sports
Life lessons you learn from sports:

If you watched the end of the Spurs-Thunder game the other night you know that the initial reaction was national outrage.  The Spurs were robbed because a Thunder player clearly pushed the defender (Manu Ginobili) on the final play of Game 2!  Even the unbiased sportscaster (Webber) was up in arms.  "Foul! Foul!"

Unless you hate the Spurs (as I do) you likely went to bed feeling jipped.  However, the next day the NBA showed that before the infamous push Ginobili first committed a violation against the Thunder.

This sports article (here) is good reminder of the danger of knee-jerk reactions and/or the risk of making hasty judgments.  Sometimes we do not have the full story.  This is true in all arenas of life.  Sadly, we've all been there before (Prov. 29:20) both on the giving end and on the receiving end.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When a Church Repents

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When a local church is growing numerically and financially they may be in a very dangerous position (1 Cor. 10:12).  As with our personal lives, when everything is going well we Christians are (more) prone to wander, drift, or grow lukewarm and NOT EVEN REALIZE IT.  Anyone who has been in Christ for a long time will testify to this reality.  Proverbs 30:8-9, Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches.  Feed me with the food that is my portion.  That I may be full and not deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.

Word-driven believers do not pray for trials and hardships but we do learn over the years to "kiss the waves that throw us upon the Rock of ages."  In time we come to "consider it all joy when we encounter trials of various kinds KNOWING that the testing of our faith produces many good things" (James 1:2-6).  We come to view the discipline of our Father as being a gracious act of love. Hebrews 12:9-11 puts it like this, "Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

What is true individually is also true corporately.  Seminaries and local churches have a tendency to drift, grow lukewarm, and compromise without even realizing it.  Consider the sad story of Fuller Theological Seminary or the joyous turn around at Southern Seminary.  After many decades of compromise Fuller is sadly one of the leading Liberal training centers in America.   In God's grace, Dr. Mohler helped "save" Southern seminary from a similar fate- but not without first shedding blood, sweat, and tears.  If you are involved in true reformation and/or revitalization work their is a price to be paid!  Anyone who has led such efforts has the personal scars to prove it.  I wish I would have been better prepared for what was in store for me when I became the lead pastor of a church that was once "sick" (which is one of the reasons why I started this blog).

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How To Prepare an Expository Sermon: From A to Z

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How do you prepare an expository sermon?

I generally begin by reading the portion of Scripture that I am going to exposit over and over again. I prayerfully ask God to help me come to know and love Him better as a result of my expository study. I also read the larger context asking, “how does the immediate literary context- the passages on both sides of the text-inform the meaning of the text? How does the passage fit the larger section? What was the historical situation faced by the original audience?” 

If the passage is short I try and memorize it. Regardless of size it is important to prayerfully meditate upon your sermon text throughout the week.  I try and have a blank sermon notebook with me so I can write down observations, questions, key quotes, potential illustrations, and thoughts from Tuesday to Saturday. 

Next, I examine the Greek text often utilizing my Logos Bible Software and Bibleworks tools. My grammars, bible dictionaries, and lexicons on Logos help with grammatical, syntactical, and lexical analysis. During this stage I often do key word studies as well. As I study God’s Word I am prayerfully trying to discern what the flow of the text is, how it is interconnected, in order to figure out what the main point of the passage is. The main idea of the text is generally the main point of your sermon exposition.  At this point I often develop a tentative outline. The goal of course is to move from exegesis to exposition.