Saturday, August 31, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Example of Godliness

“A bishop then must be…of good behavior…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
If we are going to lead people in the church, there is no better place to begin than with our personal example of godliness.  The most obvious thing people will see and know about us is our behavior.  Such will either undergird or undermine our message.  What kind of model am I providing?

Goodness is related to godliness.  That is an attribute of God which we may—and we must—emulate.  What we will then display is love, mercy, kindness, righteousness, justice and veracity.  Our conduct will parallel our communication.

The ESV translates this word as, “respectable.”  Only those who live righteously are worthy of respect.  No one respects a hypocrite—they loathe them.  Such respect cannot be demanded based on our position, but must be deserved based on our practice.  Consider this poem by Edgar Guest:

I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day:
I'd rather one would walk with me than merely tell the way.

The eye's a better pupil, and more willing than the ear,
Fine council is confusing, but example's always clear.

The best of all the preachers are men who live their creed,
For to see good put into action, is what everyone needs.

I can soon learn how to do it, if you let me see it done,
I can catch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast my run.

And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lesson by observing what you do.

For I may misunderstand you in the high advice you give,
But there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.


Righteous One,
You provide the impeccable standard of behavior.  All You do is right.  That righteousness is bestowed upon me by faith in Your Son, and is expressed by Your indwelling Spirit.  Please help me to practice what I preach.  May people see a sermon fleshed out in my faithful conduct each day!
In the name of the Sinless Savior,

Friday, August 30, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Mindset of Shepherds

“A bishop then must be…sober-minded…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
Those who would shepherd God’s flock must have the proper mindset.  They must think straight.  Their character develops out of Biblical convictions and those convictions are formed from being immersed in the study of God’s Word and commitment to live accordingly.  This is being “sober-minded.” 

Note that the qualifications do not mention seminary training or possession of any particular spiritual gifts.  Instead they are character qualifications.  Spiritual leaders are to be the kind of person that Christian teaching is intended to produce. [1]

The fact is that seminary is intended to be a tool to help develop the quality of being, “sober-minded.”  It is not, however, a guarantee that will be the result, and neither does the absence of such formal education prohibit the preacher’s growth in Biblical thinking.  Irrespective of a Master of Divinity or such degree, there must be a determined choice for the pastor to saturate His mind and surrender His will to lessons learned from Scripture.  He must be mastered by Divinity!

There is much that can be gleaned from the experiences of our elders—whether it is a professor in seminary or an old deacon in our church family.  The Holy Spirit will teach us in the classroom of life if we will listen.  If we won’t learn, we cannot lead.

Jesus promises that the truth will set us free.  Our minds, constrained by Biblical conviction, actually channel the pastor’s energy in a liberating usefulness to be all God designed us to be. 
The potential God works into us can be unleashed through thinking Christianly and behaving accordingly.


Father of Truth,
Everything I need to know, Your Spirit will teach me.  You have given us the mind of Christ.  What promise I find in those words!  But I must listen to Your voice and learn Your ways.  I cannot absorb the message until I am willing to apply it.  To think as the natural man is to be degenerate in understanding and I confess it is so easy to succumb to that.  Please help me!  The wisdom of this world sounds so right and is so appealing.  Yet, it is warped!  But, Lord when I hear it shouted from so many and so loudly, I mourn how enticing it is to me.  God, put my head on straight!  Drive me continually to Your Word for answers! 
In the name of the Wonderful Counselor,

[1] Richards, L. O. (1991). The Bible reader’s companion (electronic ed., p. 835). Wheaton: Victor Books.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Quality of Prudence

“A bishop then must be…sober-minded…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
This quality of the pastor is translated, “prudent” in the NASB95 version.  Prudence is characteristic of someone who is thoughtful and wise.  They think things through and do the right thing, the right way, at the right time, and for the right reason.

Similarly, the NRSV renders it, “sensible.”  The man who would lead the church must possess sanctified common sense!  That seems an attribute in short-supply among preachers these days!

Then, the NLT has it, “live wisely.”  The pastor who has such a lifestyle has received this wisdom from God.  It has come to him through prayerful, persistent meditation on God’s Word and consecrated application of its principles.  These truths have become woven into the fabric of his daily life.  You both hear it and see it in the man of God.

Warren Wiersbe notes, “it suggests that he knows the value of things and does not cheapen the ministry or the Gospel message by foolish behavior.”[1]  This underscores that a pastor must be wary of gimmicks and foolish behavior that turns the pulpit into a carnival and transforms him into a clown!  Such methods may be well-intended—to draw a crowd to hear the Gospel—and yet they cheapen the very message that is conveyed.

Consider this additional word, “A ‘prudent’ man is disciplined, knows how to properly order his priorities, and is serious about spiritual matters.”[2]  The pastor needs to stay on task.  Satan would get us side-tracked on side-issues—lesser things, even good things—that hinder us from doing the main things that yield maximum impact.  Prudence helps the Lord’s servant avoid such pitfalls.


Omniscient Lord,
You know all things.  You have promised wisdom for the asking.  I have Your Word as a Lamp unto my feet and a Light for my path.  Thank You for Your sweet Spirit to instruct me in the way I should go.  I will foolishly take the Devil’s detour unless You guide me.  Oh Lord, my Shepherd, direct my steps that I might then lead Your flock in a prudent way. 
In the name of the Lord Jesus,

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (1 Ti 3:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 3:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Seriousness of Responsibility

“A bishop then must be…temperate, sober-minded…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
When we stack these two characteristics in succession, the seriousness of the shepherd’s responsibility is underscored.  Warren Wiersbe adds this: “‘keep your head in all situations’ (niv).  A pastor needs to exercise sober, sensible judgment in all things.”[1]

A leader must think clearly.  He must be able to process information and come to a sound decision.  Standing in the middle of a spiritual war zone, he keeps his cool under fire.  Calm and confidence in Christ must be conveyed to the army he leads.  There can be no evasion of duty.  If he goes into a foxhole for a moment, it is only to pray and collect his thoughts.  Surrender to a fortress mentality is forbidden—sulking in despair—when the fight must be taken to the enemy!  If the man who answers the call to pastor a church does not recognize the seriousness of his responsibility, both he and those he leads are sitting ducks for the Devil!

Being sober-minded means that the shepherd of God’s flock takes spiritual matters seriously.  It does not suggest that he goes around with a long face, somber voice or that he is forbidden to use humor, but that his heart is saturated with the seriousness of his duty.  He must not be casual or careless about the work of God.  He dare not be irreverent concerning holy things!

A good shepherd has taken up the burden of the Lord—willfully and even joyfully.  But, he must do so seriously.

There will be tears.  He will have a heart that is broken over the things that break the heart of God.  His mourning over the sufferings of the sheep will be evident.  That weeping flows from the well of connection with the Man of Sorrows and compassion for His people.  How can the pastor help but be sober-minded?


Dear Gracious God,
How can we look at Calvary and fail to understand the seriousness of our work?  After all it cost You and Your Son, dare we grieve the Holy Spirit who mourns for straying sheep by being irresponsible and irreverent in our calling?  God forbid!  May we always hallow your name and handle with care the holy task You have thrust upon us.  Today, let us be gripped by the gravity of our assignment on earth and our accountability in eternity!   
In the name of our Blessed Redeemer, Jesus,

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (1 Ti 3:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Friday, August 23, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Oversight of Sheep

“A bishop then must be…temperate…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
The first time I read this verse was in the King James Version.  It translates this trait as “vigilant.”  An overseer must oversee!  The shepherd must watch out for the sheep.  He must take the duty seriously and carry it out responsibly.  Souls are at stake.  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).   It is interesting that these verses follow on the heels of Peter’s admonitions to those who shepherd the flock of God.  Every believer needs to be watchful, but sheep, being what they are, need a shepherd’s oversight.

One of the ways a ferocious beast assails his prey is with fear.  The lion’s roar is meant to strike fear into the sheep and drive them into the jaws of other lions waiting quietly in the bushes.   The shepherd must calm the flock, when panic sets in during a crisis.  Thus, the Bible Knowledge Commentary renders this, “well-balanced.”  The pastor keeps his head in a crisis.  Not lukewarm or apathetic but steady.  If a man is rash and impulsive, it will only be exacerbated in a crisis, and the entire flock is imperiled.

Changing the metaphor, when a storm comes to the ship of Zion, a steady hand must be at the helm.  In our own strength, we would fail, but an unseen, almighty hand rests atop ours if we will—the Captain of our Salvation!

To change the metaphor again, while retaining the same meaning, this spiritual quality in a pastor means he is not only a shepherd watching over the flock, but he is a sentry posted on the wall.  The book of Ezekiel pictures spiritual leaders that way in chapters 3 and 33.  The pastor must ever be on the lookout for breaches in the spiritual defenses of the church.  The enemy will exploit the tiniest opening.  He is not only a shepherd watching over the flock, the pastor is a sentry at his post on the wall.  The book of Ezekiel pictures spiritual leaders that way in chapters 3 and 33.

The good pastor keeps his head when the enemy attacks, or the rout is on.  The army will flee, be hunted down and destroyed piece-meal.  The stable leader rallies the troops to stand their ground.


Great Shepherd,
You have been vigilant over me all my days—from the womb to the tomb, Your eye is upon Your sheep.  If you watch over the sparrows, then I know you watch over me.  Still, in Your sovereign purpose, You appoint human shepherds to the oversight of Your flock!  May we embrace our responsibility continually.  Help us keep our eyes open—never letting our guard down.  These little lambs are Yours.  You bought them at such a great price.  We dare not be asleep when the lion charges.  Oh God, watch over Your shepherds that we not fail to watch over Your sheep!
In the name of our Good Shepherd, Jesus,


Thursday, August 22, 2013


From my morning devotions in “A Leader’s Heart” by John Maxwell, August 22, 2013


There is surely a future hope for you,
And your hope will not be cut off.
(Prov.23:18 NIV)

One of the greatest gifts leaders can give to those around them is hope.  Never underestimate its power.  Winston Churchill was once asked by a reported what his country’s greatest weapon was against the Hitler’s Nazi regime. Without pausing for a moment he said: “it was what England’s greatest weapon has always been—hope.”

People will continue working, struggling, and trying if they have hope. …It is a leader’s job to hold hope high, to instill it in the people he leads. …Battle of Verdun hero Marshal Foch observed, “There are no hopeless situations: there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.” (p.245)

It is my prayer that I can lead you to look up to Jesus, and that whatever challenge you are facing today, no matter how deep the valley, and dark the path you walk, that God’s promise of hope will break through to light your way and lift your spirit.

May Pole Creek Baptist Church ever be a place where you can find hope!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Stability of Soul

“A bishop then must be…temperate…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
The International Standard Version renders “temperate” as “stable.”  That is, there is a solid nature—a stability of soul—that is required in a pastor qualified to lead the church.  This keeps him from being driven by his own passions or dominated by the pressures of popular opinion.

His roots go deep; his anchor holds.  The pastor is not subject to the prevailing winds raging about him.  He sets the agenda based on Scripture, instead of letting others and their self-centered whims set it for him.

The pastor is to be a thermostat and not a thermometer!  He sets the spiritual temperature, rather than reflecting it.

Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest, translates this word as, “calm.”  There is no sense of panic in the pastor.  Zeal? Doubtless.  Urgency? Of course.  Panic? Never!

On the battlefield, the general must, “keep his head” and direct his troops by remaining calm, even in the midst of chaos.  Otherwise, the rout will be on!

The Greek word is, “nephalios,” which is the opposite of intoxication.  While it is true that the pastor ought not to be a drunk (that is dealt with later in this text), this means not to have clouded thinking, blurred vision, garbled speech and uncertain gait, in terms of our leadership in the church. That is stability of soul.


Blessed Rock,
On You I find sure footing.  Deliver me from any instability concerning my thoughts, emotions or decisions.   I desire to lead Your flock on solid ground.  May we never be spiritual tumbleweeds, blown about by the latest doctrinal fad or the pet passions of carnal church members.  We are weak—but, You are strong.  Infuse us with Your stability!
In the name of our Sure Foundation, Jesus,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Fruit of Self-Control

“A bishop then must be…temperate…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and the pastor must exhibit this fruit in abundance.  That happens when the man of God experiences the fullness of the Spirit (Eph.5:18).  According to the Apostle, a man can choose to be full of self—and consequently, intemperate, or full of the Spirit, and thus, temperate.

One who is intemperate will allow passions rather than principles to reign over him—usurping the heart’s throne from the Savior and establishing self as sovereign.  He will overstep his authority, issuing dictatorial decrees—saying things that are out of bounds.  This will hurt people rather than help them—and does great damage to the cause of Christ.  This man will act in ways that show his intoxication with power and pleasure—and sooner of later is exposed as the egotist he is, with a life of excess that makes the church a laughingstock.  He provides the bullets for the enemy to fire at the church.

The pastor must be temperate.  This is to be disciplined.  By the grace of God, we are cautious about what we allow to penetrate the portal of our eyes, lest it lead to thoughts and feelings that are improper.  The disciplined sentinel allows no Trojan Horse into the citadel of his soul.

But, there is more—the pastor must have a discipline to direct his thoughts toward God and his glory.  This buttresses our defenses—putting iron bars of conviction in place and cementing more bricks into the wall of holiness, reinforcing self-control.  We rely upon the Holy Spirit to seize the reins of our tongue and speak that which exalts the Savior and edifies the saints.  Our entire being is harnessed for God’s purposes—and our passion is for His pleasure.  Our hands are surrendered to His tasks, our feet directed to His mission.


Holy Father,
You have a heart for reaching the world with truth and I will never be able to accomplish that task if the world has reached my heart with its vile passions.  Lord, deliver me and reign over every facet of my life.  As I once surrendered my body to serve sin, I now abdicate the throne of my heart, and say, “Lord Jesus, I surrender all!”  Yet, my flesh resists discipline.  Carnal thinking finds it repulsive.  Worldly desires promote sinful delights.  With the hymn writer, I confess, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love: Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”
In the name of Jesus our Lord,

Monday, August 19, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Faithfulness at Home

“A bishop then must be…the husband of one wife…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
While we have previously stated that a man must be faithful to his wife if he is to be a leader in the church, several questions arise.  Would this require that a man be married if he is to serve as a pastor?  Does this mean that if a man is divorced that that he could never serve? 

The sense of the Greek language is that the pastor must be a one woman kind of man.

The literal translation is, “a man of one woman.”  The words, when used of the marriage relation come to mean, “a husband of one wife.”  The two nouns are without the definite article, which construction emphasizes character or nature.  The entire context is one in which the character of the bishop is being discussed.  Thus, one can translate, “a one-wife sort of a husband,” or “a one-woman sort of a man.”  We speak of the Airedale as a one-man dog.  We mean by that, that it is his nature to become attached to only one man, his master.  Since character is emphasized by the Greek construction, the bishop should be a man who loves only one woman as his wife.[1]

Think of the home as a laboratory where character is developed.  While there is much to learn in marriage, it does not require that a man be married to build such character.  A single man may build strong character, just in different ways.  To say that a man must be married to be a pastor would mean that neither Jesus nor Paul would have qualified—and that is unthinkable!  Of course, the nonsense that service to God demands celibacy as Rome teaches is contradicted here.  It is plain that most church leaders would be married, though not mandated that they be.

This would not necessarily preclude a man who was lawfully divorced and remarried—or widowed and remarried even—from being a pastor, if the other qualifications are met—providing he is demonstrably a “one woman kind of man.”  In the impetuosity of youth some made rash choices of a mate who proved unfaithful.  It might be that the man and his wife were both unconverted at the time.  Later, after the marriage ends, circumstances change—and particularly if a man is regenerated and senses God calling him to preach, then with an added level of scrutiny, it may be that he becomes a legitimate candidate for the position if he is exhibiting faithfulness at home in this marriage.  


Faithful God,
You have ever shown faithfulness to us, even when we have been unfaithful to You.  Thank You for being such a patient and loving God.  May we be molded likewise, and may our marriage be a microcosm of Your devotion to us displayed in our devotion to our spouse. 
In the name of Our Lord Jesus,

[1] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (1 Ti 3:2). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Fidelity to Marriage

“A bishop then must be…the husband of one wife…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
Our vows before God are serious.  That includes our marriage vows.  Faithfulness to God and faithfulness to others is indispensable in Gospel ministry.  The call to preach is a call to fidelity.  If a man is not faithful to his wife, how can it be expected that he will be true to his other commitments?

The choice of a proper mate is crucial, if you have not already married.  A pastor’s wife will either be the wind in his sails or an anchor to his ship—but, she will make a huge difference in propelling his ministry forward or holding it back.

I know a man—a very gifted preacher—who has never been able to accomplish what he might have done because of a wife that undermined that possibility.  To his credit, he has remained faithful to her through all her issues.  He is to be commended, but one may only wonder what might have been had she supported him instead of burdened him.

So, if you are in a marriage that brings more heartache than help, cast yourself upon the Lord.  His grace is sufficient.  Be faithful and trust Him to make you fruitful.  God can use a difficult spouse to refine our character, and teach us to love those tough to love.  Church work has those in ample supply.

If you aren’t married, seek God’s will before you walk down the aisle.  My hope for you is that should God want you married that you will find a mate like the one I have found!  I am so thankful for a wife that loves God, loves me, prays for me and supports the church!


O Lord of Love,
I praise You Sovereign Shepherd for leading me to find someone who is just suited to me.  What a gift I have in my dear wife!  Lord, bless her today and care for her.  May I always be faithful to my marriage vows.  Keep the Destroyer away from our home!  Guide each single shepherd and help him serve you as a single man or find the spouse you have for him.  Strengthen each struggling shepherd who is in a difficult marriage.  Pour grace into his life and his wife.  Turn things around!  Do not let him entertain unfaithfulness and use the problems as an excuse for it.
In the name of Jesus our Bridegroom,



[This is a re-post from last year.  I think it a timely topic to address.  Maybe it will help some preacher of the Gospel.]

“So they took Jeremiah and dropped him into the cistern of Malchiah the king's son, which was in the guard's courtyard, lowering Jeremiah with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.” (Jeremiah 38:6 HCSB)

Ministry is a marathon. It isn’t a sprint to the swiftest, but a grueling race of endurance to the strongest.

As Paul was coming to the conclusion of his marathon, he challenged the next runner who will take up the baton of truth—young Timothy—that he must run with endurance. He let him know that he can forget about being popular with the crowd, if he is going to be pleasing to Christ. The Apostle spoke from experience. Paul wrote of the marathon of his own ministry with vivid detail in a letter to the church at Corinth:

“But as God's ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardship, by difficulties, by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors,
by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the message of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; as deceivers yet true; as unknown yet recognized; as dying and look—we live; as being disciplined yet not killed; as grieving yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing yet possessing everything.” (2 Cor.6:4-10)

He knew the race would require great rigor, but in the end there would be glorious reward. The servant of the Lord must maintain that view, if he is to complete his race.

There will certainly be hardships that will test his endurance. That is the nature of a marathon. Jeremiah is a case study on this topic.


“Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchijah heard the words Jeremiah was speaking to all the people: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever surrenders to the Chaldeans will live. He will keep his life like the spoils [of war] and will live.”

This is what the Lord says: “This city will most certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon's army, and he will capture it.”’

The officials then said to the king, ‘This man ought to die, because he is weakening the morale of the warriors who remain in this city and of all the people by speaking to them in this way. This man is not seeking the well-being of this people, but disaster.’ King Zedekiah said, ‘Here he is; he's in your hands since the king can't do anything against you.’” (Jeremiah 38:1-5)

Jeremiah told the uncomfortable truth they did not want to hear—a message of judgment. He didn’t originate it; he only proclaimed it. If he would be faithful to God, he could not tell them what they desired to hear. Love demanded that he tell them what they needed to hear. That is not the path to popularity, but it is the pathway to persecution.

So, they basically accused the prophet of treason—and called for the death penalty. It sounds like what they did to Jesus, doesn’t it? Jesus said He was a King, and they branded him an enemy of the state. Pilate’s response paralleled that of Zedekiah—washing his hands of it—and letting the mob have its murderous way. Let justice be hanged on the cross of expedience. Remember, Jesus warned the servant is not greater than his Master. If He was so treated, we can expect no different. The marathon takes you up the Calvary Road.


“So they took Jeremiah and dropped him into the cistern of Malchiah the king's son, which was in the guard's courtyard, lowering Jeremiah with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.” (Jer.38:6)

They didn’t want to just kill him; they wanted him to suffer first. Picture this old prophet, in a dark hole, waste deep in cold mud, shivering—it was torture. He would not die quickly, but would wish to die every second that seemed like an eternity. Such is the hate of those who hate God. That is the rage against the preacher that is rooted in the rejection of the Word.

We have brothers and sisters who are being brutalized this very hour. In dark places in our world, they are incarcerated in horrid conditions. Torture is inflicted on them in an attempt to cause them to deny Christ. There is no mercy, just mockery—no sympathy, just scorn. The wicked cannot reach up to heaven and attack Christ, so they reach out and afflict His ambassadors. They can’t stop the message, so they silence the messengers. The word martyr literally means witness. We associate it with those who have died for their faith. That is because the price of witness may result in a death sentence—it has for many.

What if the finish line for our faith is in a cistern? What if our marathon takes us waist deep into mud? Will we still speak out? The spiritual depravity of our world today—should it continue on this steep decline—makes intense persecution seem likely.


“But Ebed-melech, a Cushite court official employed in the king's palace, heard Jeremiah had been put into the cistern. While the king was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melech went from the king's palace and spoke to the king:

‘My lord the king, these men have been evil in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have dropped him into the cistern where he will die from hunger, because there is no more bread in the city.’

So the king commanded Ebed-melech, the Cushite, ‘Take from here 30 men under your authority and pull Jeremiah the prophet up from the cistern before he dies.’ So Ebed-melech took the men under his authority and went to the king's palace to a place below the storehouse. From there he took old rags and worn-out clothes and lowered them by ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-melech the Cushite cried out to Jeremiah, ‘Place these old rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.’ Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern, but he continued to stay in the guard's courtyard.” (Jer.38:7-13)

Life and death are in the hands of God. Pontius Pilate thought he was deciding the fate of Jesus. He wanted Jesus to give him a reason to spare Him.

“So Pilate said to Him, ‘You're not talking to me? Don't You know that I have the authority to release You and the authority to crucify You?’

‘You would have no authority over Me at all,’ Jesus answered him, ‘if it hadn't been given you from above.’”  (John 19:10-11a)

The Lord still had more work for Jeremiah to do. We are immortal until our ministry is complete. Only God knows where the finish line of the marathon ends. He determines it. Jeremiah thought he was all alone, but the Lord had someone to stand with him.

God bless old Ebed-melech! The compassionate, courageous black man was in the right place, at the right time, with the right words. Then look how tenderly, he helps lift the old preacher out of the pit. The eunuch would be rewarded for his kindness.

“Now the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah when he was confined in the guard's courtyard: ‘Go tell Ebed-melech the Cushite: This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill My words for harm and not for good against this city. They will take place before your eyes on that day. But I will rescue you on that day’-- this is] the Lord's declaration—‘and you will not be handed over to the men you fear.
Indeed, I will certainly deliver you so that you do not fall by the sword. Because you have trusted in Me, you will keep your life like the spoils [of war].’ [This is] the Lord's declaration.” (Jer.39:15-18)

God marks down every good deed done for His servants. It is an investment with eternal dividends. Jesus promised:

“The one who welcomes you welcomes Me, and the one who welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. And anyone who welcomes a righteous person because he's righteous will receive a righteous person's reward.

And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple—I assure you: He will never lose his reward!" (Matt.10:40-42)

Ministry can be tough. We may think of dropping out. I know I have—numerous times. But, God has always sent someone to lift me out of that darkness. When I was in a waterless well, someone placed a refreshing cup of water to my lips. So, I preach on! Thank you to all those who intercede for me with the King, and who intervene for me when I am attacked. You have made a difference in my life on earth and your compassion will make a difference in your life in eternity!


“King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the Lord's temple. The king said to Jeremiah, ‘I am going to ask you something; don't hide anything from me.’

Jeremiah replied to Zedekiah, ‘If I tell you, you will kill me, won't you? Besides, if I give you advice, you won't listen to me anyway.’” (Jer.38:14-15)

The king did not listen. Jeremiah told him to surrender and the city would not be burned, his household would be spared, but if not, there would be no escape. Zedekiah resisted the will of God, made a run for it—but did not escape. Judgment fell on Jerusalem.

The sinful heart of man is as stubborn as ever. Noah begged the people to flee to the refuge of the ark before the judgment descended. They mocked him—and drowned. Prophet after prophet was sent to warn Israel to repent and they beat them and butchered them—and Israel was carried into captivity. John the Baptist called for repentance and they cut his head off—but Herod is in hell today. Jesus took up the same message and they crucified Him—and Jerusalem was ravaged in AD 70 as the Lord predicted would happen if they rejected Him. So, the story goes. Men of God still cry out to flee the wrath to come. Their message is still that salvation is found in surrender to the will of God. Yet, man relies on his own wisdom. He follows his own twisted reason and seeks his own way of salvation. All he finds is judgment.

“At Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered Zedekiah's sons before his eyes, and he [also] slaughtered all Judah's nobles. Then he blinded Zedekiah and put him in bronze chains to take him to Babylon. The Chaldeans next burned down the king's palace and the people's houses and tore down the walls of Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, deported the rest of the people to Babylon-those who had remained in the city and those deserters who had defected to him along with the rest of the people who had remained.” (Jer.39:6-9)

Imagine—the last visual image forever burned into Zedekiah’s mind was the memory of his sons being killed.  He would carry that horror for the rest of his days. One of the worst things about hell will be memory—to recall forever with regret what might have been had one listened to the preacher.


“[Speaking] through Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon gave orders concerning Jeremiah, saying: ‘Take him, look after him, and don't let any harm come to him; do for him whatever he says.’ Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rab-saris, Nergal-sharezer the Rab-mag, and all the captains of the king of Babylon had Jeremiah brought from the guard's courtyard and turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, to take him home. So he settled among [his own] people.” (Jer.39:11-14)

The pagans appreciated Jeremiah’s ministry more than the people of God did! I can verify this paradox. There have been a few occasions where sinners have attacked me, but the greatest hurts I have ever endured have been delivered by church people. The attack of the world is a frontal assault, when it comes, and can be anticipated. The knife in the back, through the treachery of those you considered friends, plunges in the deepest.

Jeremiah was nevertheless vindicated and liberated! He was free to pursue his ministry. God’s man acknowledged God’s hand. The Sovereign God was in control and moved even a heathen king’s heart to provide for his welfare. There is great freedom in knowing that God is in charge—whether we are in the darkness or in the daylight, safe at home or stuck in mud. Paul, in prison for preaching the Gospel said it this way,

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in [the cause of] Christ. Most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly. To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice because I know this will lead to my deliverance through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don't know which one I should choose. I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better—but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith [that comes from] the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance-and this is from God. For it has been given to you on Christ's behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.” (Philippians 1:12-30)

His hands were in fetters—yet his heart was utterly free! He finished his race with joy! So can you. Pray that I will…many have stumbled and fallen.

Friday, August 16, 2013

THE SHEPHERD’S STANDARD: The Foundation of Character

“A bishop then must be blameless…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
A house is only as stable as its foundation, and a pastor’s ministry is only as strong as his character.  No matter how hard he works and what he tries to build, eventually it will crumble with a lack of character at the foundation. 

People are going to find fault with a leader.  Critics will abound. If a man seeks to do the will of God and lead the church forward in her mission, the Wicked One will raise up those who will vehemently oppose him—and their weapon of choice will be the wagging tongue. What we must seek to do, as men of God, is to give them no real reason for these personal attacks.  Our character needs to be unassailable.  False accusations hurt, but they will not stick if we have the Teflon of truth and integrity coating us. 

On occasion, even the best of men will mess up—so then, let us ‘fess up.  Yet, by God’s grace, may we strive to be as stainless and scandal-free as we can.  If there is a chink in the armor of our character, be certain the Enemy will exploit it.

“The qualification of being “above reproach” frames the other qualifications (3:2, 7); this was an ancient way of emphasizing that the qualifications focused on this issue.”[1]

A foundation, a framework, a focus—all this is about the virtues flowing from a godly life.  The man of God is essentially a man who reflects God’s character.  This is not optional.

must. The use of this Gr. particle stresses emphatically that living a blameless life is absolutely necessary for church leaders. above reproach. Lit. “not able to be held” in a criminal sense; there is no valid accusation of wrongdoing that can be made against him. No overt, flagrant sin can mar the life of one who must be an example for his people to follow (cf. v. 10; 4:16; 5:7; Ps 101:6; Php 3:17; 2Th 3:9; Heb 13:7; 1Pe 5:3). This is the overarching requirement for elders; the rest of the qualifications elaborate on what it means to be blameless. Titus 1:6, 7 uses another Gr. word to mean the same thing. [2]


O Righteous One,
I worship You—flawless in Your character.  Yet, you find us in our filth, lift us from the mire, and cleanse us by the blood of Your Son.  Now, the Holy Spirit can generate holiness in us as we yield to Him.  Lead us away from temptation and when it finds us, deliver us from evil!
In the name of Jesus and for Your Glory,

[1] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Ti 3:2–3). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 3:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


“imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12)

I was thinking the other day of old G.W. Jameson, one of our former pastors—a dear friend and devoted servant of the Lord—who would have celebrated his 91st birthday had he lived until August 2nd.  Now, he doesn’t miss us, I’m sure, being with Jesus in that beautiful place called Heaven, reunited with his darling Lillie.  But, I miss him.

Yet, in many ways, he is still with us.  We have a spiritual heritage which has been handed down to us from faithful pastors and people who have gone before us and blazed the trail for us to follow.  Scripture enjoins us to imitate their lifestyle.

Homecoming Day, September 8, is an opportunity to reflect on that heritage.  We must ever be mindful of those who planted the trees under which we find shade and enjoy fruit today. 

I recently read a few lines in John MacArthur’s book, “The Truth War,” that sadly states, “The traditional, nominal devotion to ideals and moral standards derived from Scripture is dying with the senior generation.”  That does not mean there are no young people who are holding firm to the truth—there are!  But, the numbers are small, and so as the older population fades, so does the influence of the church in our culture as a force for good.  It may be that even among our dedicated young people, there is not the appreciation given to the legacy of faithful Christians of the past.  We may look at Homecoming Day as old folks singing old songs thinking about the good old days.  What we ought to do is celebrate and be grateful for that godly past, and imitate them!

But, we mustn’t stop there.  If we do, we miss the point of what heritage is about—and that is to inspire hope.  On the foundation of the past, for which we are thankful, we look to build in the future, for which we are hopeful!  You can’t go forward while looking backward, or you stumble.  So, along with our remembrance of those saints who’ve passed on, we are challenged to take up the baton and run our leg of the Christian race, in view of transferring the torch of truth to another generation to come.

With that in mind, we look forward to hearing Perry Brindley, our new Director of Missions for Buncombe Baptist Association bring us God’s Word that morning as the service starts at 10:45. His wife Della used to be one of our church secretaries, and their son, Ricky is one of our fine young deacons.   In the twenty first century, we cannot fulfill our mission with the methods used in the twentieth, but we must never compromise our message.  Some day, the happiest of homecomings will arrive—when Jesus comes for His bride, the church!  Until then, Pole Creek must continue in the heritage of faith to the Gospel, with a message of hope for the world!

THE SHEPHERD'S STANDARD: The Pursuit of Holiness

“A bishop then must be blameless…” (1 Timothy 3:2 NKJV)
The requirement for a pastor to be “blameless” may stop many potential candidates in their tracks.  If I must be sinless to stand in the pulpit, then how can I qualify?

But, it isn’t perfection that is required; it is purity.  That is, there needs to be evident the pursuit of holiness in my life.  Where and when I have sinned, there has been repentance.  Confession has brought cleansing.  The pastor has his sins under the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).  This also means—to the degree possible—that we have righted wrongs done to others.

Being blameless means that no one can blame us—being able to rightfully point a finger of blame at us concerning some glaring moral flaw and brand us a hypocrite—calling others to repent while we show no evidence of the same.  If someone looks at the pastor and immediately thinks of scandal, he will be incapable of the moral authority required to lead.

This character quality calls for an incredible amount of grace.  God’s Holy Spirit must ignite a passion in us for holiness, and then His Word fuel that pursuit.  We must never allow the flame to diminish, lest the tempter take advantage of our carelessness.  Tend the sacred fire!

Plainly, pastors need to pursue holiness—not that other members of the church don’t, but the leader must set the standard.  Our competence is required, but our character is non-negotiable.  It is foundational to ministry, and that is why it leads the way in this list of requirements.


Holy God,
You are holy, holy, holy!  We join the seraphim with that cry!  With the prophet Isaiah, we also confess our corruption as we stand in Your glorious presence!  As You called the prophet to go speak for You, so You still call unworthy instruments—save for the fact that You cleanse us when we confess our sin.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy, or none of us could stand behind the sacred desk!  Yet, let us never presume upon Your grace to accommodate sin.  As we once pursued sinful pleasure, material prosperity and worldly position, may we now relentlessly pursue holiness and its accompanying desire for Your pleasure, eternal reward and humble service that constitutes greatness in Your Kingdom.  With Robert Murray M’Cheyne let us pray, “God make me as holy as a saved sinner can be!”
In the name of Your Holy Son, Jesus,


Tuesday, August 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)
Shepherding God’s flock is good work.  It is:

literally, “honorable work.” Not the honor associated with it, but the work, is the  thought (Ac 15:38; Php 2:30; compare 2Ti 4:5).  He who aims at the office must remember the high qualifications needed for the due discharge of its functions.[1]

The pastor isn’t demanding to be placed on a pedestal and given honor, but is to conduct himself honorably commensurate with the honorable work.  His manner and his motives are to be to honor his Master and help the members.  It is a labor of love.

Make no mistake about it—this is LABOR!

There is no room for laziness in the work of the Lord.  Being a pastor isn’t about perks and privileges.  Paul isn’t saying that we choose this vocation from among other options because it is a cushy job.  You better be ready to roll up your sleeves, as inspiration translates into perspiration.

“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  (2 Tim.4:5 NKJV)

Old Matthew Henry states: “It is a good work, a work of the greatest importance, and designed for the greatest good: the ministry is conversant about no lower concerns than the life and happiness of immortal souls…”[2]


Lover of Our Souls,
What a privilege it is to be called to such an honorable work.  Although we are creatures of flesh—so frail—you have poured Your treasure into these earthen vessels!  It is a marvel of Your grace that You would not send an angel from heaven, but a human—redeemed sinners reaching sinners with a message of redemption.  Strengthen us for work that is too much for us to accomplish, but which we can fulfill in Your mighty power!   Deliver us from sloth!
In the name of 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.
[2] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (1 Ti 3:1–7). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Monday, August 12, 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)
So, what is a bishop, anyway?

The Greek word is episkopes from which we get the word, “Episcopal.”  It means, “visitation; supervision.”             There is this insight: ἐπισκοπή episkopē; from 1980a; a visiting, an overseeing:—office(1), office of overseer(1), visitation(2).[1]  The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says it is, “an intensive construction…denotes continuing or careful scrutiny.”

How can a shepherd care for his flock unless he is among them?

He must go where they are.  He cannot isolate himself in his “ivory tower” enveloped in books and blogs, but instead must immerse himself in the people’s lives—although there is certainly the need for study, that he might feed them and lead them effectively.

In secular Greek usage, a form of the word was used for a building supervisor who would oversee the construction project.   A pastor’s duty, similarly, is about the building of the church—not the bricks and mortar of a place of worship, but the spiritual construction of the people of God who are the church.  We must guide the work and call for progress of the church according to the Biblical blueprint.

Another vital dimension of oversight is the safeguarding of the sheep.  There are wolves that would destroy them.

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:28-29)


Blessed Father,
Thank you for sending Your Son to walk among us as a real man.  You are not detached from us—aloof in the wild blue yonder.  Instead, You are intimately acquainted with all our ways.  Help Your shepherds to be every mindful to be among your people—to invest time being with them, listening and loving.  Never let us look at people as problems to avoid, but opportunities to serve.   
In the name of Love Incarnate,

[1] Thomas, R. L. (1998).New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.

Saturday, August 10, 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)
I remember an old preacher, Cecil Fox, telling me about his struggle to surrender to the call to ministry.  He said, “God can make you want to do what you ought to do.”  He did not want to preach, but circumstances broke him and backed him into a corner.  That was his experience—and it is with many.  But, it was not so with me.  I did not run from the call, but ran to it!

“What one does voluntarily is more esteemed than what he does when asked (1Co 16:15).  This is utterly distinct from ambitious desires after office in the Church. (Jam 3:1).”[1]

After my conversion, God began to work into my heart a great desire to serve Him in the church.  He placed me among others of like mind, and iron sharpened iron.  Yet, whatever I did, there always seemed something elusive—just beyond my grasp—that needed to be done. 

Sometimes I would have a vivid image in my mind, of standing before God’s people, delivering the Word of God, and could feel the thrill of seeing souls respond to it.  God’s Spirit worked this deeply into my heart—and into my wife simultaneously to support this—and we came to the place of surrender to the will of God under the preaching of the late Dr. Stephen Olford.

He gave the invitation, “Lord Jesus—anything, anytime, anywhere—I am ready.”  We took each other by the hand, stepped out in faith and yielded our lives at the Ben Lippen Bible Conference, July, 1976.


Gracious Lord,
Your Son, Jesus, willingly stepped out of the Ivory Palaces and came into this world to preach good news.  Thank You for allowing us to follow in His steps.  Work into men whom You choose the desire to embrace Your will and surrender with joy to the call to Gospel ministry.   
In the name of 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.

Friday, August 09, 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)
Paul lets young Timothy know that half-heartedness in a pastor will be a fatal flaw.  He underscores the word “desires” twice in this verse to point to the passion a pastor must have—the very passion of God.

The Lord is our Shepherd.  It is His heart that must intertwine with ours, if we are to give ourselves to the flock, as Jesus gave Himself for the church.

John MacArthur notes:      

Two different Gr. words are used. The first means “to reach out after.” It describes external action, not internal motive. The second means “a strong passion,” and refers to an inward desire. Taken together, these two words aptly describe the type of man who belongs in the ministry—one who outwardly pursues it because he is driven by a strong internal desire. [1]

Let it be said that there is a fire that God must kindle in our hearts—not one that we build ourselves.  It is like that which Jeremiah described, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” [2] 

If God has ignited that flame to preach His Word in your heart, you will not be content to do anything else.  Should this desire to this office be kindled by any other person, or tainted by any other motive—do anything else, but preach.  If that fire is real, but has diminished over time, ask God to stoke the flame hotter than ever!


You are the Lord our Shepherd.  In the incarnation of Your Son, we see the Perfect Shepherd as He walked among men.  A holy fire—zeal for You—consumed Him.  Please, fuel that fire in those You have called to this crucial task.  Forgive us, where we have grown cold.  Fire us up once more!  Thank You for the passion You give that keeps us serving when others would silence us and circumstances would dampen our enthusiasm. 
In the name of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus,

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 3:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Je 20:9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.