Wednesday, March 27, 2013


“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1 NKJV)

One commentator aptly notes concerning this verse:

A needful preface to what follows: for the office of a bishop or overseer in Paul’s day, attended as it was with hardship and often persecution, would not seem to the world generally a desirable and “good work.”[1]

I will never forget walking into a homiletics class at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and on my first day being confronted by Dr. Kenneth Ridings with these arresting words, “If you can do anything other than preach, do it!  If you do not know God has called you, leave the class.”  There was a lot of nervous shifting in the seats and indeed some would not make it beyond the week.  Others would fall by the wayside and about half the number who started finished.  Years later, only a handful are still in ministry.

It is a good work, but nobody said it was an easy work!  For me, however, there really is nothing else I can do, or want to do—for it is a faithful God who has called me to this good work and I am honored to serve.

Should anyone be considering whether God is calling them and they have an idea that it is a job laden with perks and privileges, they are bound for disappointment.  That is not to say that being a pastor is unattended by blessings—there are many—but the reality is that there are also many burdens, buffetings and bruises. 

The critical matter is the call of God.  If this is thrust upon a man he has been invited into the highest of honors to shepherd the flock of God.


Almighty God,
You never call us to rigor without providing resources.  Thank you that your grace is available for each demand placed upon Your servants.  This is a faithful word.  Your word always is and we rejoice that You have called us to faithfully proclaim it!  You have given us a good work and we want to do it well.  Fill us with gratitude for the opportunity to make an eternal difference through the church.
In the Name of the Living Word, Jesus,

[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1 Ti 3:1). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


(This is a re-post from last year.  Hope it moves you to get up and go to Sunday School tomorrow!)

"when all Israel assembles in the presence of the Lord your God at the place He chooses, you are to read this law aloud before all Israel. Gather the people-men, women, children, and foreigners living within your gates-so that they may listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 31:11, 12 HCSB)

Three of the most dreaded words, a teenager ever hears, were just spoken to my son mere minutes ago: "Time for school!" I felt the same way. Now, of course, my perspective has changed. There is a recognition on my part of the necessity of education--the benefits that come to those who learn.

I suppose that's the way we feel sometimes when the clock goes off on Sunday mornings. Did you hear the story about a fellow who refused to get up, despite his wife's persistent pleas? "Get ready for church!" He rolled over and put the pillow over his head. She continued to yell up the steps, "Time for church!" Her voice was like fingernails raked across a chalkboard at that early hour. His grouchy response was, "I don't want to!" His wife said, "You have to!" He yelled, "Tell me one good reason!" She replied, "Because you are the pastor!"

Been there, done that! But, not often. Most of the time, I am eager to get to the house of God. I realize the blessings and the joys that come when I go to the house of the Lord. It is true that I have a job to do--the one day when some people think I have to work. But, I was going with eagerness to Sunday School before I became a pastor. It wasn't a job, but a joy. I had been born again--and I was like a baby craving for the milk of God's Word. His saving grace put a hunger in me that remains to this day. I must feed on the Word, and now I have matured to the place that I am privileged to feed others!

Sunday School, small groups, cell groups--whatever terminology you use and whenever or wherever you meet, this education in the Word of God is indispensable. One of the last things Moses did was to underscore this fact. When people know they are about to die, they dispense with the trivial and stress the essential. Listen up!

We need to ASSEMBLE. All Israel was to gather to be instructed in the Scripture. They gathered in the presence of the Lord. While it is true that God is everywhere, there is a particular expression of His presence that we can know when we meet with His people in anticipation of hearing from Him. Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20 HCSB) God reveals Himself in His Word. All ages were to gather for instruction. From the youngest child to the oldest member, we always need, and never outgrow, the instruction of Scripture. Fundamental truths are like seed sown in a youngster's heart, which will later bear fruit. It is cultivated as we grow, and there is constant weeding and pruning as long as we live. In later years, we may start to droop and need to be "staked up" with God's promises. What I have found is that in every season of life, there is a relevant message from the Bible. Even the foreigners were to come and learn. We might equate this to the evangelistic thrust of Sunday School and the need for invitation and assimilation of the lost into our Bible studies, prayerfully trusting the Holy Spirit to use the powerful Gospel to dispel spiritual darkness and bring conviction of sin.

We must be ATTENTIVE. Moses told the Jews to listen and learn. One may be physically present in the church building and yet be mentally "out to lunch." Listening is not an easy task. Learning is not automatic. It requires effort. There is the additional barrier in that our sinful hearts are resistant to the truth, our exposure to the world's deception clouds our thinking and Satan is like an evil bird ready to swoop in and devour the seed before it can germinate. So, we are trying to hear commands from the Captain of our Salvation, while surrounded by "the fog of war." Jesus exhorted us, "Therefore take care how you listen. For whoever has, more will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him." (Luke 8:18 HCSB) Be prayerful, asking God to open your eyes, and be prepared by expecting the Holy Spirit to speak. Have your Bible open, pen and paper in hand, with an open mind and heart. It should be added that the teacher and preacher have a responsibility in this also. We must be engaging and enthusiastic to be effective. If the communicator isn't excited about his or her subject, then we can hardly expect the audience to be. Moses prayed what every teacher needs to seek, "Let my teaching fall like rain and my word settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants." (Deuteronomy 32:2 HCSB)

We respond with AWE. Moses said the result of hearing the Word of God would be to learn to fear the Lord. This has to do with inward transformation and is a matter of attitude. The more we hear God's Word, the closer we are drawn to Him and in the light of His holiness we see the depth of our sinfulness. We are gripped by the majesty of God's nature, are captivated by the wonder of His person and are brought to brokenness before Him. If we do not learn to fear the Lord, then we may rest assured we have not encountered Him in the Word.

We respond with ACTION. This is the true test. We are not mere hearers of the Word, but become doers of it. Moses warned, "be careful to follow all the words of this law." This means that true inward transformation has occurred, for it yields outward application. You have not learned to drive by simply studying a driver's education manual, as important as that is. You have learned to drive when you can put that knowledge to work by getting behind the wheel and operating the vehicle. Some think that to have a head full of Bible facts is the sum total of Christianity (and we do want heads full of truth). It is hearts full of love and hands full of righteous deeds that are the product of real learning.

So, get ready teacher. Be prepared student. Study preacher! Plan to attend church member. In a few hours, the alarm will signal, "Time for school!"

Thursday, March 14, 2013


I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Choose life so that you and your descendants may live... (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Every day, and throughout each day, we make a myriad of decisions.  Some of these are of small importance and a few of great significance—decisions that are trivial, such as what will I eat for lunch and what color shirt will I wear; decisions that are monumental—what career path will I choose and whom shall I marry. 

Ultimately, there is a big decision.  It involves blessing or cursing.  The implications issue in life or death. What will our decision be?

That is the choice God presented to Israel.  They should have known He meant business; they had seen their parents die in the desert for their foolish disobedience.  God allows these spiritual shipwrecks to remain visible to us on our journey that we would not crash upon the reef of unbelief and sink in the sea of sin.  God doesn't fool around.  But, Israel did.

The people of God chose a curse instead of a blessing.  While there have been periods of obedience to God's principles that have brought down showers of blessing on the Jews, their history is filled with disobedience and the resulting horrors that have come to the nation.  We reap what we sow.

America's fate will be no different.  This good land God has given us—the privileges we have enjoyed—have been due to His grace and the choice of our founders to establish our country on the truths of Scripture.  No nation has known such Divine favor as the United States.  We became, in rather short order, the most powerful and prosperous people ever to walk this planet.  So God promised and we have experienced.

Now, that is changing.  There is a certain grim foreboding that we feel as we see what looms in the future.  A storm is about to break.  We have watched the dark clouds gathering.  We have seen intermittent flashes of lightning and heard occasional distant rumbles of thunder.  Faithful preachers of the Word of God have been sounding a warning for decades, like the prophets of old—and like those prophets, their warnings are mocked and their pleas ignored.

Blessing or cursing; life or death?  God—this God so patient, merciful and kind—longs for us to choose life!  He finds no pleasure in bringing down wrath.  It does not have to be.  We can repent and return to God!  If we do, then once more America will be crowned with good from sea to shining sea.  But, if we don't seek Him urgently, out of those seas, tsunamis of terror are going to flood the land.  It's our decision.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1 NKJV)

The office of elder in the church is reserved for a God-called man.  God has established roles and responsibilities for human institutions—and some of these are gender specific.  Men are to be leaders in their family and among God’s flock.

It must be stated emphatically that this has nothing to do with one sex being superior to the other—that is a misguided notion of subordination.  The Spirit is subject to the Father and the Son and the Son is eternally submissive to the Father.  Yet, each Person of the Godhead is fully divine and equal in their standing, although having a different role and being a distinct Person.  There is perfect harmony and equality.

Note these verses:

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  For “He has put all things under His feet.”  But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.  (1 Cor.15:24-28)

Women may serve in many capacities in the church—and thankfully so many do!  As they serve in submission to their husbands and/or elders their gifts are incredibly useful in building up and extending the Kingdom.

We are equal, as men and women, but different.  That is by God’s design and extends to the Garden of Eden—before the fall.  However, since the fall and because of the curse of sin, the battle between the sexes still exists.  Yet, Christ came to redeem us from the curse and part of that extends to redeeming sexuality.  It is vital that the church portray a redeemed community and proper exercise of authority is a facet of that.

Men are hard-wired to the side of objective thinking, as a general rule; likewise, women are instinctively more subjective in their thoughts and feelings.  Both aspects are essential, yet better suited for particular roles, both in the home and in the church.  Because of this, men are better fitted to teach Scripture authoritatively and guard doctrine against heresy.  This is crucial for the church and therefore the elders who are to insure this are to be holy men of God.

Just before Paul gave these qualifications for the pastors and deacons in chapter three, he wrote the following words and this helps us understand the context,

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.  Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.  (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

I know such thinking is not politically correct, but our aim is to be theologically correct.   The purpose of this brief post is not to discuss all the dimensions of this complex and, in the present day, controversial nature of gender roles.  My heart is to charge men—and young men in particular—to be open to the call of God and if the Lord is dealing with them about Gospel ministry to devote their lives to His church.


Lord, You are Sovereign over the Church.  You appointed Your Son as Head, and the Church is His Bride.  May we submit to the Spirit’s order for how the church is to be led as given in the Word.  Thrust out men into the fields that are ripe and ready for harvest.  Oh, Lord of the Harvest, the laborers are few!  Give us men of God.  Father, make me a holy man of God.  Thank you for the inexpressible privilege of serving You and Your flock.  In the name of the Your Son, Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, March 09, 2013


[I am re-posting this article from last year.  I believe it is as TIMELY for today as it was then.  Read it and see!]

You are to bring there your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tenths and personal contributions, your vow offerings, and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.  You will eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the LORD your God has blessed you.  (Deuteronomy 12:6-7)

The psalmist said, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”  But, he never had to face a "time-change Sunday"!  While it is a wonderful thing on the first night of Daylight Savings Time to gain that extra hour of daylight, it is tough to lose the hour of sleep the night before.

Will you be on time?  Will you turn in early, so you show up gladly rather than grouchy?  It is important.

The commands given to Israel underscore this.  At the center of their camp was the tabernacle. Wherever they traveled in their pilgrimage, they pitched their tents around the house of God.  As Moses instructed them in anticipation of entering the Promised Land, where a temple would be built, he reminded them that worship would still be at the core of their experience.  They were being readied to cross into Canaan, and that demanded they be ready for worship.  Will we be ready for worship?

There are several requirements if we are to be ready.  We must go to the place of worship.  We must know the pattern of worship.  We must show the preparation for worship.  We must bestow the provision through worship.

WE MUST GO TO THE PLACE OF WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 12:1-14). You can worship God anywhere. You should. But, most often you won't. I hear that excuse sometimes for why people don't attend worship. They say, "When I'm in nature, I feel so much closer to God." Really? How much time do you spend focusing on the Father while fishing? How much singing to the Lord do you do while splashing in the lake? While you are hunting is heaven on your mind? The creation ought to inspire us with awe and is meant to direct us to the Creator. Our problem is that our minds, darkened by sin, begin to worship the creation itself (see Romans 1:18-25). This is why Moses forbids the Jews from going out to the hills, and under the stars, then constructing their own altars. If we spend time with the saints at the house of God engaged in corporate worship, it affords the needful corrective to our wandering hearts which tend to devise a god of our own imagination instead of the God of revelation. Father God may give way to Mother Nature, if we aren't cautious. The first commandment tells us to have no other God.

WE MUST KNOW THE PATTERN OF WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 12:15-13:18).  You can't worship God anyway you want.  The second commandment prohibits images in worship—not just the correct Person to worship, but the correct pattern is important.  Particularly note 12:30, "Do not inquire about their gods, asking, 'How did these nations worship their gods? I'll do the same.'"  God said, "You must not do the same to the LORD your God..." (v.31).  Jesus taught us that the only acceptable worship is in spirit and truth (see John 4:23-24).  Let us bring that kind of worship to God—nothing superficial, no sham—not ritual, but reality.  The congregation has the responsibility to safeguard that only the truth of God is proclaimed.  In Israel, false prophets were dealt with severely (13:1-5).  It isn't a matter of one man's opinion—one can be mistaken or just have an ax to grind—but a body of believers led of the Spirit can insure truth is spoken in worship.

WE MUST SHOW THE PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 14:1-21).  The dietary restrictions on the Jews doubtless had health reasons, but those were secondary to the main purpose—to remind them that they were to be different from the pagans.  They belonged to the Lord—and that extended to every dimension of life—from outward expression (v.1-2) to inward digestion!  They were not to be governed by their passions but God's precepts.   To eat to live is one thing, to live to eat another.  Only a people whose hands were clean could lift them to God in praise.  Only those whose lips were pure could open them in prayer.  One must not come to a holy God in worship carelessly, casually—but reverently.  It is when we are spiritually prepared for worship that we encounter God in powerful ways.  You cannot ignore Him all week, doing as you desire, and then flip a switch and expect something transformative on Sunday.  Are you ready for worship?  By all means adjust your clock, but also adjust your soul—orient it to God in submission.

WE MUST BESTOW THE PROVISION THROUGH WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23).  Have you ever heard someone say, "I didn't get anything out of worship today."  But a better perspective would be, "What can I give today?"  I have found that the best way to receive a blessing is to be one.

This has to do with liberty (15:1-3; 12-18).  God wants to set the captives free.  He might well use you to proclaim that liberty.

This has to do with generosity (14:22-29; 15:4-11).  Whether providing for those in ministry or for those in poverty—a liberal hand is an indicator of a loving heart.

This has to do with priority (15:19-23).  God demanded the first and the finest.  Worship that is content to give God the leftovers of our time, treasure and talent is a pious fraud.

So, are you ready for worship?  The clock is ticking.  Don't keep God waiting!


“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1 NKJV)

Occasionally some young man will approach me and say, “I believe the Lord is calling me into the ministry.”  Why does he think that?  How does he know?  For that matter, how can I be sure God has called me?  I don’t want this to be a case of the blind leading the blind!

Periodically, it is good to return to the Word of God and examine the standard God has set for those who would shepherd His flock.  This is serious business for the sheep are His—and bought at such a high price—the blood of His dear Son!

Paul, in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 sets forth the shepherd’s standard.  Even today, as I read them, I am challenged by these impeccable qualities and called to elevate my lifestyle—to see if I have let any matter slip and take corrective action.

These are not optional, but essential qualities.  Though there may be some times of struggle and shortcoming to fully exhibit them all, these characteristics must mark the pastor’s lifestyle.

Paul begins with, “This is a faithful saying.”  Five times Paul uses this expression in the Pastoral Epistles to highlight a particular truth.  All truth is, of course, important, but these matters seem to be underscored by the Apostle in terms of their strategic significance to the church.  In this case, the priority of having a man of sterling character to mount the pulpit each Lord’s Day is given emphasis.  If the man who leads is not a man of God, then the church is in trouble!


Lord, You are my Shepherd—and in Your Son, we see the Perfect expression of the Shepherd—and now by Your Spirit generate those qualities in me and in all Your pastors as we look intently into the mirror of Your Word.  At times I struggle to attain them in the measure You demand.  I repent and seek Your grace to keep my vision clear and my steps steady in this course You have established for men of God.  In the name of the Good Shepherd, Amen.