The Sum of It All

 

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Grace Baptist Church, Bluefield, WV (4th-6th Grade)

Ministry.  That really sums up my life.

Having grown up in a pastor’s home, that’s basically all I’ve known.

I have fond memories of moving from town-to-town in my school days.  (We lived in ten different towns and fourteen houses, and served in nine churches.) Although I did not like to leave my friends, I always made new ones in the next move.   And, oh the many precious souls who impacted our lives during those years!  How marvelous to see many precious ones of all ages come to the saving knowledge of Christ!  Oh, the joy of seeing answered prayer on so many fronts!

Of course, I remember many of the difficulties of ministry as well.  When I was in the third grade, the church took up a petition one Sunday morning while we were out of town and voted my dad out of the church. Why?  Because he preached salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and my mother played the piano with too much gusto, or as they said, “She put too many runs in the piano.”

I could write a year’s worth of blog posts about ministry, but . . .

Ministry . . . is Jesus (Mark 10:45).

Ministry . . . is the continuation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (Acts 1-2).

Ministry . . . is following Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 19:10).

Ministry . . . is making much of Jesus—-He’s the issue; He’s the complete reason; He’s the “celebrity;”  He’s the cause; He’s the only -ism; He’s the message (Colossians 1:15-18, 27-28).

Ministry here on earth has its share of delights and disappointments, fun and failure, joy and jams, selflessness and selfishness,  relationships and rejections,  blessings and battles, etc.

The only way to see ministry biblically fulfilled and to run the complete race of ministry until the Lord calls you Home is wrapped up in one word:  submit (Galatians 2:20; James 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:5-10).  Submit every facet of ministry, including what is mentioned in the previous paragraph and . . . yourself to Jesus everyday.

John the Baptist said it so well when he spoke of Jesus, “He must increase; but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

That sums up ministry.

Praise the Lord for the Interruption!

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Men’s Prayer Advance 2018, Roanoke, VA

Sunday evening while we were worshiping the Lord in song as a church family, I received a text from a dear church member whose husband was in the hospital in severe pain. As soon as the song was finished, we took the opportunity to pray for this dear man and his wife.

During my visit in the hospital today, I expressed my appreciation for her taking the time to send a text so we could pray.  Immediately she apologized with a bit of embarrassment for the interruption.

At that moment, the Lord brought something to my mind which I shared with them.  Prayer never interrupts our Heavenly Father. Prayer never interrupts the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Prayer never interrupts the work of God.  Prayer never hinders the goings on in Heaven.  Therefore, why should stopping to pray be an interruption in our church services.  We have, I’m afraid, come to the place that in too many of our church services/gatherings our formalism has drowned out the Holy Spirit’s leading to change the service order so we can pray.

When I shared these thoughts with this dear lady and her husband, he without hesitation declared, “AMEN!”

Our churches would be so much better off, enjoying the presence of God, seeing His power at work, watching souls come to Christ, believers being revived, and enjoying the blessings of unity around the Throne of Grace if we prayed more (Psalm 85:6; Acts 2:42; 12:5; 16:16; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1).

Prayer is never an interruption!

Just Give Him Praise!

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Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!  
(Psalm 150)

Steven Cole asks an excellent question, “I wonder how many of us could honestly say, ‘Praising God characterizes my life’?”

Personally, there’s something special about being around people who love to praise the Lord!

Such was the case Tuesday night as a group of us attended the Bristol Revival in Bristol, VA.  This is the first week for these meetings under the gospel tent.  With around 2,500 or more in attendance, the praise did flow!

What a blessed time it was to gather outside the tent with around 200 men to pray before the service. With men crying out to the Lord, hands raised in supplication (1 Timothy 2:8), it was a blessed time in the presence of God asking for the power of God to change hearts and lives through the preaching of God’s Word

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The praise and worship continued as the service began with joyful, full-hearted singing.  Once again, there was shouting, rejoicing, and brighten countenances all around.  These folks were praising God for Who He is and for what He had done!

What stood out to me were the young folks seated around me.  Next to me was a nine-year-old boy in our group who at one point nudged me on the leg and pointed to my hands.  They weren’t clapping with the music, and he did not want me to miss out on the blessing of praise!

In front of me were two young folk, ages 12-15, who seated next to their father, were more than engaged in rejoicing and making connections throughout the whole service.  It was a delight to see them so engaged.

The preaching of Evangelist CT Townsend was powerful and penetrating.  Oh the praise and joy that rolled as we were challenged to consider the blood that has redeemed us, reconciled us back to God, purchased our pardon, and set us free from our bondage to sin (Exodus 12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14-22; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

The praise continued as lost souls walked forward at the invitation to receive Christ as their personal Savior!  As their names and ages were called out, the believers rejoiced with those in Glory (Luke 15).

“Psalm 150 gives us the where, why, how, and who of praise. Praise can be expressed through singing and music (including clapping, dancing, lifting our hands, kneeling, lying prostrate, etc.), through testimony and thanksgiving, prayer, sacrificial service, and giving.” (Cole)

Is your life characterized by praise?  Are you obedient to Psalm 150:6?

God is eternally worthy of all our praise!

A dear friend of mine in ministry is often heard to say, “Just give Him praise!”

Watching the Body at Work

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As we entered the hospital room, we were greeted with the sin-curse of death.  Another child of God was soon to “drop this robe of flesh” and rise to meet the Lord.

With hearts touched by the reality in front of us, we surrounded the bed and read Scripture.  Then we broke into song.  “In the Sweet By and By,” “It is Well With My Soul,” “When We All Get to Heaven,”  “Blessed Assurance”  and a few more.

As we sang, one would be overcome by emotion for a bit and their voice would fade or quiver.  It was at that point that someone else would carry the lead.

After a song or two, some other folks dropped by and joined the bedside choir.

Standing there, I was reminded that this is how the Body of Christ operates.

First of all, we are to sing to one another. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:16-17).

Second, when a brother or sister is faltering, overcome by emotion, or in various situations of need, we do not criticize them, we just “take the lead” and help them bear their burden.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Third, what a  blessing it is when others refuse to just stand back and intentionally join the choir! Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord (Romans 12:11).

May I also add that the lady in the room next to us heard our singing which opened a later door for her to hear the gospel the next day.

To be a member of the Body of Christ and serve with others in His Body is the greatest privilege on earth!!

Snoozing in the Pew and in Life

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No doubt about it, I’ve contributed to too many folks’ early Sunday nap while I have been preaching on a Sunday morning.  I know how it feels.  You are tired, you try to stay awake, and in a moment, you see two preachers standing in the pulpit instead of one, and next thing you know, your head’s-a-bobbin’!!!  Then you look around to see if anyone saw you . . . especially the preacher!

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What concerns me so much more than this are the folks who sit week-after-week in a Bible preaching/teaching church and are never moved by the Word of God. They hear the truth, but in their heart they are snoozing in the pew.  The Word does not reach their heart and subsequently their will.

Perhaps they have never been born again. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Perhaps they have been converted but need the exhortation found in 2 Peter 1:3-11.

According to God’s divine power, we have been given everything that pertains to life and godliness (1:3) including exceeding great and precious promises that enable us to be daily partakers of the divine nature (1:4).

Based upon this deposit and a personal, growing knowledge of God, we are then exhorted to be diligent!  We are to give every effort to add to our original faith the list of virtues found in verses 5-7.  Quite frankly this is simply maturing in the faith.

When you give diligence to this growth, then you as believer will not be . . .

Useless (barren, 1:8) This means to be stuck, stalled, ineffective, lazy and apathetic in your Christian life.  We are asleep.

Unfruitful (1:8) Too many believers remain spiritual infants throughout their Christian life (1 Cor. 3:1).  They are satisfied to stay on the bottle, drink milk, rather than feeding on prime cuts of meat in God’s Word (Hebrews 5:12-14).  They remain unfruitful because they are worldly wise not godly wise.  We are asleep.

Unseeing (blind, 1:9) We are unable to discern our true, present spiritual condition or to live with an eternal perspective.   We are asleep.

Unmoved (forgotten, 1:9)  There is never a day that should go by that we are not reminded of the pit God brought us out of through the gospel (Ephesians 2:1-9).  That same gospel should have a daily effect upon because Christ’s death, burial and resurrection touches every facet of our everyday lives (Galatians 2:20).  Are you asleep?

Then Peter adds that we are to be diligent in making our calling and election sure (1:10) In other words, your life should be lived in such a manner that no one would ever say, “I wonder if he/she is really a Christian?  Is he/she sleeping?”

The word sure (1:10) means “to show the receipt.”  Our transparent, honest walk with Christ should be a proof of purchase (a receipt) that we have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

If we are diligent to grow in our original faith and in making our calling and election sure, we will enjoy a grand, rewarded entrance into heaven (1:11).

So, when you hear preaching, are you “snoozing in the pew” or diligent to gain all that God wants to teach you?  Have you become useless, unfruitful, unseeing and unmoved?  The key is to be diligent to hear and quick to obey.

Calling Godly Men!

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Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. . . . I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8).

Please note the following about this passage.

The Priority of Prayer (2:1)
The second chapter of 1 Timothy contains instructions for public worship. Paul has something urgent on his mind by using the word exhort as given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). This urgency is directed to the need of giving preeminence to prayer in public worship, and may I add, to life in general (Luke 18:1). In other words, prayer is to be first in rank, to take first place in importance.

What place does prayer hold in your life or home or school or business or recreation or marriage?

What place does prayer hold in the life of your church? How about in the Sunday worship gatherings? Mid-week gatherings? Evangelism? Discipleship? Sunday School classes and small groups? Deacons’ Meetings? Awana’s? Small group meetings in homes? Men and Ladies’ gatherings? Etc.?

You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed (A.J. Gordon).

The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray (S.D. Gordon).

The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray (Samuel Chadwick).

The Person in Prayer (2:8)
After acknowledging the only Meditator between God and man for salvation as well as prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ (2:4-6), Paul returns to public worship and the role of men (2:8).

Who are to be the leaders in prayer in our churches today?

How thankful I am for all the dear precious ladies who have given themselves to the ministry of prayer over the years! But, the church should be and must be known for the men who pray, not the ladies first. Quite frankly, the church is too feminine in many ways, and that is not a knock against ladies. Here, the exhortation is clearly laid upon men.

Men, it is time for us to be the prayer warriors, the prayer leaders, the prayer intercessors, the person in prayer!

Men are the ones to pray . . .

Everywhere – That’s exactly what it means, in every place.

With earnest desire – Lifting up hands in prayer is a natural response, a natural indication of earnest desire. Sometime take note of all the places in scripture that show the lifting up of hands as a part of praying (1 Kings 8:54; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalms 28:2; 141:2; 143:6)

With clean & committed lives – The word for holy hands refers to moral purity as well as a devoted life. Prayer is null and void if sin is unconfessed, and we not totally committed to Christ.

Without anger – Interesting that anger is mentioned here. If men are to be faithful prayer warriors, the sin of anger which so easily besets too many men must be overcome by the power the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word of God (Galatians 5:17, 20, 22-26; Ephesians 4:26, 31-32; James 1:20). Anger is a major mental distraction to prayer. The best way to overcome anger is to pray.

Without doubting or dissension – Furthermore, when it comes to prayer there is to be unity and harmony and a proper mental attitude of faith-believing.

Men, our greatest example of prayer is the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. See Him praying in Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 14:23; 19:13; 26:36-44; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 11:1; Hebrews 7:25, to name a few.

At the very next prayer gathering in your church, men will you lead?

The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day (E.M. Bounds).

God’s cause is committed to men; God commits Himself to men. Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans (E.M. Bounds).

Who Will You See Sunday?

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My family and I are fans of the Andy Griffith Show.  To this day, we watch an episode or two practically every week.  Those shows are full of good down-home humor with many connections to life even today.

In one scene of the episode, “The Sermon For Today,” Aunt Bea and Clara Johnson are found in deep discussion on the phone about what they were going to wear for church that morning. This was of great concern to these two dear ladies because a visiting preacher, Dr. Breen from New York City, would be delivering the sermon.  They wanted to make a good impression upon the special “sermoner” from the big city!

Who are you preparing to see this Sunday?

As was noted in Wednesday’s blog, Christ is the Church. He is the Head, the Architect, the Chief Shepherd, the Master Builder, the Owner, and the Transformer of Lives in His Body, the Church.

Christ also is The Face of the Church, not the pastor, the deacons, the denomination head, or anyone else.

So, when you prepare for the worship gathering this Sunday, make it all about Christ.

  • Christ goes with you because He dwells in you (Colossians 1:27), and He is your life (Colossians 3:3-4).
  • Christ is the reason the Church exists (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:14-22; 3:10-11)
  • Christ is One Who is read in print (Bible) and electronically (Bible app) and is preached about from the pulpit (John 1:1, 14; 2 Timothy 4:2).
  • Christ is the Savior of all who gather, those who have received His free gift of salvation as well as those who have yet to do so (John 1:12; 3:16; Romans 3:10-25; 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Christ is the Truth, the main topic of conversation, as you share with others in life-on-life discipleship (Ephesians 4:15).
  • Christ is the only One Who is worthy of all the attention on Sunday (Colossians 1:18-19).
  • Christ is the One you are looking to show-up with great fanfare at any minute (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Church is not about what the ladies (Bea & Clara) are wearing, or where the preacher is from, or how long the sermon lasts, or any other peripheral issue.

The Church is the body of Christ of which you, as a born again believer, are a member (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  So as you prepare to gather on Sunday, be looking for Christ in every facet of ministry.  If the church you attend is a solid Bible-believing, preaching church, Christ will be there.  Look for Him (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He is the One you really want to see, to fellowship with, and to hear from in Church!!

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, these things says He Who holds the seven stars in His right hand, Who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (Revelation 2:1).

The Face of the Church

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Every church has a face.

Mention First Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA, and immediately Dr. Charles Stanley comes to mind.  Reference Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, VA, and you think of Dr. Jerry Falwell.  Of course, many other examples could be given.

Perhaps, if I could mention the churches you have attended in your past, what face would come to mind?  The face of a pastor, deacon, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, youth leader, etc.?  When you think of that face, it probably brings joy or sorrow, contentment or criticism, or a variety of other emotions.

Truth is, the face of every true, biblical church is Jesus Christ.  The church is the Body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:27 states, Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

A church is to grow into Christ in such a way that it fulfills the provision and mandate of Ephesians 4:11-16, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I totally understand that when you look at a church you see people.  But in reality, you should see Christ . . .

  • Saving depraved, darkened, desperate, repentive sinners (Luke 13:5; 19:10; Romans 3:10-23; Colossians 1:12-14).
  • Transforming His children into Christlikeness as they look into the mirror of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 3:18) and humble themselves under mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6b-7).
  • Interceding for His children as they pour out their hearts to God in prayer (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
  • Carrying on His ministry through His servants (Acts 1:1-2 and following) albeit they are weak and needful of His daily, sufficient, sustaining grace (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
  • Nourishing and cherishing His church as the body submits to the Chief Shepherd and to one another (Ephesians 5:23-30).
  • Gathering His people together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16), and the numerous “one another’s” (Romans 12:9-16; 15:7, 14; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Peter 4:9; to name a few).
  • Restoring broken homes and marriages (Romans 5:1-21; Ephesians 5:18-33).
  • Being the life of the church (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:14; Colossians 3:4).
  • Chastening, cleansing, and identifying those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-15).

There is so much more that could be said, so much more that Christ wants to do in His Church.  Even when we mess up, act like little immature children, make wrong choices, complain, criticize, get angry, etc., in the church, the sovereignty of God and the gospel can work through the sin and selfishness to accomplish His redemptive plan for His glory and our good.

The face of the church is Christ; the Christ who transforms, transcends, and triumphs over all sin and man (Romans 5:20; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Look for His face not man’s.

That Church . . .

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  • Just doesn’t feel right; is not the right fit.
  • Hurt my family years ago, and I will never forgive them!
  • Is so unfriendly.
  • Is too big.
  • Is too small.
  • Doesn’t meet my (our) needs.
  • Is too contemporary.
  • Is too conservative.
  • Doesn’t have a kid’s ministry.
  • Is full of hypocrites.
  • Comes across as being full of perfect people.
  • Will judge what I wear.
  • Sings music that’s too loud and too worldly!
  • Sings only the old songs.
  • Just wants your money.

And I have just covered a few of the gazillion statements I have heard over the years in reference to church.

My dad pastored ten churches over the course of his fifty year ministry.  I personally trusted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of five in Marietta, Ohio.  Church has been my life for fifty-nine years.

Oh the stories I could tell about church, good and bad! Perhaps as I continue to write about this subject, I’ll share some of them.

Today, my heart is simply to say this, our perspective on church is totally skewed if we look at the church through the lens of finite, temporal man alone.  Furthermore, the only correct view for all of life, including the church, must come from absolute Truth, the Word of God.

Consider the following:

The Church is God’s idea, not man’s.

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Jesus Christ is the “Master Builder” of His Church, not man.

Jesus said He would build His church and that no power of hell could destroy it.  Jesus Christ’s definitive statement recorded in Matthew 16:18 says, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Church belongs to Jesus Christ alone, not man.

I will build my church (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, not man.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Colossians 1:18).

The Church is Christ’s body, not man’s.

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Church is to be built upon Christ, not man.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Therefore, in EVERY discussion, attitude, action, response, and thought about church, you must begin with Christ, not man. To come to the right conclusion, you must end with Christ in mind, not man; His Word and not man’s perspective.

Tomorrow, I will continue these thoughts.  In the meantime, look back at the list statements mentioned at the beginning of this blog.  Where is the consideration, counsel, and wisdom of Christ seen in any of them?

Principle:  You cannot have a high view of Christ and a low view of His church at the same time.