Faces

The first time I heard it many years ago, I was deeply moved to tears. It was as though I had written the lyrics. Ever since, Faces, has caused a mental review of nearly 37 years of ministry that stirs my heart and brings the tears.

I was reminded of Faces while ministering in Thompson, PA, Sunday, September 27th. The afternoon service was dedicated to the commissioning of Carl Butler, the new pastor of Thompson Baptist Church. Indeed, it was a joyful occasion! This congregation, without an under-shepherd for three years and now small in number, had weathered many storms. This day brought God-size hopes for the future.

The occasion at hand also gave the church family an opportunity to express their appreciation for every pastor and layman in attendance who had filled the Thompson pulpit during those waiting days. These men came from all around, some haven driven over the mountains on narrow roads to minister to God’s people over the years. Many probably came at their own expense. Some had to return to a bi-vocational job on Monday such as driving a dump truck hauling bluestone.

These men, the majority of them unknown to the Twitter feeds, podcasts and speaking circuits, have simply been . . . faithful. They have used their talents (Matthew 25:23) to serve their Lord in their God-appointed fields. As I stood in the midst of them as we gathered around Pastor Butler to pray, my heart was moved again. These are God’s faithful men. They have seen multiplied days of joy, thanksgiving, sorrow, testings, wonderings, answered prayer, misunderstandings, death, sickness, miracles, salvations, . . . and through it all, remained faithful “to plow the field and plant the seed.” They have remained faithful because God is faithful (Psalm 33:4; Lamentations 3:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; 1 Peter 4:19)

One day, on the other side, they will see the faces because they will be standing face-to-face with the One Who paid the price and accomplished the work through these faithful men (Matthew 25:23; John 15:1-5).

I dreamed my life was done
I stood before God’s Son
It was time to see what my reward would be
With love he reviewed my life
To count what was done for Christ
For that is what will last eternally

See I’d done my best to share
That Jesus really cares
And he would save if they just believe
Oh, but seldom did harvest come
And so few did I see won
Until the Lord said, “turn around and see.”

[Chorus:]
Then he showed me the faces of the ones who’d come because of me
So many faces that my life had led to Calvary
All those years I thought nobody saw as I labored in lowly places
That’s when Jesus smiled and showed me all the faces
.

He said though you did not see the yield,
You were faithful to plow the field
At other times you helped me plant the seed
No matter how small the task, you did just as I asked
And thanks to you these souls have been set free.

[Chorus:]
Then he showed me the faces of the ones who’d come because of me
So many faces that my life had led to Calvary
All those years I thought nobody saw as I labored in lowly places
That’s when Jesus smiled and showed me all the faces
.

Songwriter: Rodney Griffin

Sung by: Greater Vision

The Monday After

“We had six saved today, three baptized, ten join the church, the house was full, and I had great liberty in preaching!” (A fake tweet that parallels the statements of some pastors on Monday after they have had “a ready good” Sunday!)

“We had a small crowd, no one came forward at the invitation, a section of the church was empty due to a group who left the church this past week, and I bombed my sermon.” (A fake tweet that parallels the feelings of too many pastors on Monday after a “rough” Sunday.”)

Before social media, I heard both of these kind of statements when I attended a local preacher’s fellowship or read a bi-weekly preacher’s newspaper. Now it’s in real time on Sundays and Mondays.

Oh the joys and heartaches, the delights and discouragements, the successes and failures, and the highs and lows of Sundays for a pastor!

But every Monday, I have to come back to the Truth. I cannot listen to myself. I must preach the Truth to myself.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
7 In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
(Psalm 62:5-7)

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

For without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Romans 12:15-16)

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:5-11)

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)

The “tweet” that will really matter is when we stand alone before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema, and we hear His declaration about the ministry that He entrusted to us. That’s when it will matter.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

So men, let’s press forward today in the grace of God as we keep the end in mind rather than our viewpoint or other’s tweets on Monday! Christ’s evaluation will be right and eternal.

A Pastor’s Monday

The rambling thoughts of a pastor looking back over a Sunday . . .

I wish I had said that better.

Did I do my best?

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Was the Lord pleased?

Did I handle the text accurately?

Will that message stand at the Bema?

Lord, what would you have me preach next Sunday from Mark 12:35-40?

Sure was good to see them back again!

Why didn’t anyone respond to the invitations?

I hope they will not be hurt in any way because I failed to recognize them.

That song was powerful. How challenging, convicting, and Christ-centered!

I should not have let that get me down.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Heb. 12:3)

Those testimonies were so encouraging!

Lord, I need You.

How uplifting were his words to my heart!

Why don’t folk return on Sunday night?

Lord, forgive us for our pride
When our faith becomes a show,
Dressed in righteous deeds to hide
All the stains below.
We have judged Your sons and daughters
For the sin that is our own.
May we now forgive each other
And lay down our stones.
Forgiven, forgiven,
Through the blood of Christ
We are forgiven.
(Forgiven, Brittany Born, Kate DeGraide, Rebecca Elliott)

Thankful for the Spirit’s illumination of Christ during the Lord’s Supper.

I never got to speak to that visitor.

How awesome to see that prayer answered!!

Satan is attacking it seems on every front.

Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

They’ve been gone for two Sundays now.

Thankful for the Word to share with a hurting, confused heart.

Lord, I need You.

What a blessing to see how the Word and worship affected biblical change!

What trials will come my way this week?

You prepare a table right before me
in the presence of my enemies
though the arrow flies and the terror of night
is at my door I’ll trust you Lord
Surely goodness, surely mercy,
right beside me all my days,
and I will dwell in Your house forever
and bless Your Holy Name
(Psalm 23 Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy; Shane & Shane)

I missed them today. Need to follow up.

Sure grateful for all those who are so faithful.

Must get some exercise today.

I did a poor job communicating that announcement.

Lord, how can we reach out to that hurting family down the street?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8)

I should have taken the opportunity to shepherd the flock better at the end of the members meeting.

God gave grace again.

Lord, I need You.

I’ll be back next Sunday, Lord willing.

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Facing Opposition

Image result for congregational pew boxes images

While preparing to record my weekly radio broadcast, the Lord led me to this illustration and used it to speak a needed word of exhortation to my own heart. Hence, I share it below in hopes it will encourage you, especially pastors and their flock.

When he was appointed as the pastor of a church in Cambridge, England, in 1783, Charles Simeon was delighted. The people of the church did not share his joy. Many of the prominent members of the church opposed his convictions on reaching the lost with the gospel. To show their displeasure they locked their pew boxes during the service and left them empty so that those who came to hear Simeon preach had to stand or sit in the aisles. Eventually God began to work, and Simeon’s ministry had a powerful influence on the nation of England and the world through his efforts to encourage missionary work.

Image result for congregational pew boxes images

During the dark days of opposition Simeon wrote: “In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience…. It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would on the whole be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times, when without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burden.”

Opposition does not mean that we are doing things wrong—often it is evidence that we are doing things right. If we allow ourselves to be deterred from doing anything unless we have complete approval, it is certain that we will never accomplish anything of value. Rather than being discouraged by opposition, we should take comfort in God’s faithfulness and keep on doing what is right.

( https://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/standing-strong-in-the-face-of-opposition )

A Much-Needed Reminder

This past weekend was a much-needed refreshment for my soul. Ministry in the past year and a half has been difficult. While seated by the lake at the Wilds, the Lord pointed out this passage to me. Reluctantly, I must say that I had forgotten some of the ingredients of gospel ministry, of following Christ. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reminded me last Saturday morning.

But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

Pressing forward in His grace!

God Is Looking For A Man

Dad-Army

Recently while looking through a stack of papers that had collected on the bookshelf in the garage, I found something precious, challenging, and meaningful to my heart.  Immediately I recognized the handwriting on the stenographer’s note paper as being my precious dad’s penmanship.

At the top of the page were the words, “Jer. 5:1,2  Search for a Man,” and in the right corner, he had penned my name.  This was one of his many ways of encouraging his son, of being a mentor to me.  The writing is below.

God is looking for:

  1. A man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd.
  2.  A man of convictions who is willing to say “no” when all others are saying “yes.”
  3.  A man who is upright, pure, and generous.
  4.  A man that’s not a coward in any of his parts; no fear of man.
  5.  A man with balanced character, conviction, and consecration.
  6.  A man who wants substance rather than show.
  7.  A man who will be the conscience in his society in which he lives.
  8.  A man who delights in the privilege to glorify Jesus Christ.
  9.  A man who is dogmatic in his loyalty to the Bible, even if it costs him his friends.
  10.  A man who is determined to stand for Christ even if it becomes unpopular cause.
  11.  A man who denounces sin without apology in high or low.
  12.  A man who has a desire to fellowship with good men.
  13.  A man who displays compassion for lost souls.
  14.  A man dominated by the control of the Holy Spirit.
  15.  A man who knows how to discern between love that is based on truth or mere  sentimentality.
  16.  A man who has a decisive desire to build a strong Christian home.
  17.  A man who walks in the will of God.

Thanks, Dad, that even after departing this earth sixteen years ago, your influence is still strong in my life!  Thanks for being that kind of man. By God’s grace and for His glory, I want to be that man, too!

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
    look and take note!
Search her squares to see
    if you can find a man,
one who does justice
    and seeks truth. (Jeremiah 5:1)

I Want To Be That Man

Sandwiches & Stories

“You used a Black & Decker drill to perform surgery on a man in jail?”  That was my response a few years ago as an OB-GYN doctor serving in medical missions in Africa told her story while we were gathered around our dining room table.  Even better was the fact that this man later came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13).

This story was one of probably a thousand or more in my lifetime! Growing up in a pastor’s home provided many opportunities for evangelists, college presidents, pastors, and missionaries to put their feet under our kitchen table and/or sleep in our guest bedroom.

I can remember as a grade school aged boy sitting at the kitchen table after an evening church service listening to all kinds of ministry stories.  Those memories are also a part of my junior and senior high school days as well as college.

With eyes wide open and ears open even wider, those narratives told me that life was full of blessings, fun, hardships, trials, laughter, questions, burdens, answers to prayer, rich in Bible knowledge and application, and tears to name a few.  But no doubt about it, those stories from real Christians revealed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and an unshakable faith in an awesome, faithful, promise-keeping God!

Interesting enough, I did not learn until long after I had left home that it was my dad who invited most of those folks home.  My mom really did not like duty in the kitchen.  That was just not her “cup-of-tea.”  I share this to encourage you.  Our meals were usually very simple.  The table was not elaborately set.  Mom used what she had, and in our early days at home, that was not much.

You see, it was not the food at the table I remember or how the table was decorated that has left an indelible impression upon me.  Most assuredly, it was all those hours in the presence of simple servants of the Lord.

How grateful I am that many, many times, my folks would let me stay up on a school night way past bedtime to sit under the influence of such godly men and women.  The eternal influence in their eyes was always more important than the temporal influence.

May I encourage you to host missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and other servants of the Lord in your home?  How cool it is to have a faithful missionary from a far-away land while eating dessert share accounts of God’s grace, protection, and answers to prayer!  What an impact it is to listen to a preacher tell about a lost soul receiving Christ as his Savior or expound the Word while eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  Oh, how wonderful to hear a college president while enjoying a bowl of corn chowder share how the Lord provided the school’s needs at just the right time!

Parents, your children need to experience this!  They need to experience it often.

Prepare the guest room, fix some sandwiches and invite a servant of the Lord into your home.  By the way, be sure to open your ears, too!

Life Is Never Boring

Back yard

A peek into my Thursday:

Up at 5:30.

Dunkin Donuts coffee, time in the Word and prayer on my back porch while watching the fog roll in. . . and then out.

Write in my journal.

Send out a few texts to encourage others.

See pictures of a new grandbaby of one of our church family.

Take coffee to my wife.

Read the newspaper, my wife and daughter’s blog, and a few tweets.

Add a few pictures to our church Facebook page.

See what’s been happening in the world via World Magazine site.

Receive an encouraging word from an “everydayer” texter.

Communicate with a missionary concerning an upcoming visit in September.

Talk to a guest speaker who is coming this Sunday night to preach.

Send anniversary greetings to one of my dear friends.

Help my wife a bit in the kitchen as she prepares food to minister to a burdened soul.

Rejoice over answered prayer!!!  Watch God at work!!

Put some of the final touches on Sunday AM’s message.

Leave a “Love is . . . ” cartoon for my wife on the towel covering the freshly baked bread.

Receive a phone call that brings tears of joy!!

Lunch on the back porch.

Begin working on Ephesians study.

Hurt for the tragedy in Barcelona, Spain.

Get rid of a stack of stuff that is not necessary.

Answer emails.

See some church family in the parking lot of a local store.  The smiles on their boys’ faces was priceless.

Listen to, counsel and pray with two lives that are bent and broken under the load of sin.  Grateful for the healing balm of God’s Word.

Watch others minister to the hurting.

Disciple a new believer.

Listen to a song that causes my heart to rejoice because the song repeats the phrase, “In the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Share a few thoughts for Sunday’s bulletin.

Enjoy an Ale-8.

Count blessings.

Reflect on some of my reading from this morning in 2 Kings 3 where Elisha tells King Jehoshaphat, For thus says the LORD, . . . This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD (3:17-18).

Have watched God at work all day through the mundane and the important.  Nothing is too hard for our God. It is always a light thing for Him because “in the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Every week ministry is filled and enriched by God’s grace.  No matter what kind of week it has been, grace has been sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and overflowing (2 Corinthians 9:8).  Here’s another peek into some of the grace coupons I clipped in recent days.

COUPON #1:  COUPLES’ ADVANCE

couples-8d522a49

Several years ago, I attended my first Men’s Prayer Advance, and I have never been the same since.  The MPA is the highlight conference for me each year.  Last week, my wife and I attended our first Couples Advance.  The fact that is was held in Pigeon Forge, TN, made the event that much sweeter!  How we love East Tennessee and the Smokies!  More importantly, how wonderful to come apart for three days and intentionally work on our marriage by the grace of God.  This past June we celebrated our 35th Anniversary, and we both love the gift of marriage and love being married!  Seriously, sometimes I feel like we are still on our honeymoon.  But, because we are two sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), we need the searchlight of God’s Word to show where we must grow and change to be more like Christ (Ephesians 5:18-33). Of course, the Word works (Hebrews 4:12)!  What a blessing to get honest with God and each other.  The marriage triangle says it all:

marriage-triangle

COUPON #2:  PREACHING THROUGH REVELATION


He that can toy with his ministry and count it to be like a trade, or like any other profession, was never called of God. But he that has a charge pressing on his heart, and a woe ringing in his ear, and preaches as though he heard the cried of hell behind him, and saw his God looking down on him–oh, how that man entreats the Lord that his hearers may not hear in vain! – Charles Spurgeon

Preparing to preach from this awesome book every Sunday takes considerable time, prayer, and digging.  To mine out the truths and deliver them without a sensational spin as well as be true to the text is a chore but a delightful one. I often think of a line from the movie, Sheffey, when he preaches his first sermon and runs out of the church in fear.  Shed McCombs, in the face of Sheffey’s protests and not willing to let him quit, declares, “Tis a fearful thing to preach the Word of God!”  Indeed it is, but I must say, how grateful to be grace-enabled to preach Revelation in these last days!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Returning to the Place I Meet with God and Study His Word:  How blessed to be able to take advantage of the grace gift of a place to study and prepare messages for each Sunday!  A place of no distractions, very limited cell service, a place to be still and listen to the voice of God speak through His Word and in prayer.  Why do I go there?  The greatest burden I bear each week is the preparation to preach the Word on Sundays and Wednesdays.  My wife asked me yesterday, “When have you stepped out in faith?”  I said, with a chuckle, “When I married you!”  And that is the truth because we have had to lean on the Lord every day of our married lives. Then I followed it up with a more serious answer, “Every week when I prepare to preach.”  Handling God’s Word is no light assignment, and I want to give the sheep I shepherd good grain each week.  Therefore, this new place of study has become very, very dear to me.

Pastor’s Pals:  For years I’ve had the children in the Sunday morning service come up front and sit on the floor with me while I share an object lesson, work with Buddy Bear, sing songs, and teach truths for life.  How precious are these kids . . . many of whom are now in college and/or married. What an awesome privilege and responsibility it is to minister to these little hearts.  My passion is for them to serve the Lord today and to grow up to be more than just good.  I want them to see them be godly and follow the Lord all their days!

A Day With My Wife Getting Our “Batteries” Recharged:  Since coming back from our August Sabbatical, the ministry calendar has been full of the expected as well as the unexpected that is not unexpected with the Lord.  Having planned for this day back in the summer, it came at a great time.  How wonderful to go to one of our favorite get-away places, Dollywood, and hear good Southern Gospel music from two of my favorite groups, Greater Vision and Karen Peck & New River.  How our hearts were stirred and revived as we listened to music that pointed us to Christ, His atoning work on the cross, His power to save and heal, as well as the promise of Heaven.  One song, among many, that encouraged my heart was written by Rodney Griffin. Here are the lyrics and a link if you desire to listen to it.  As a pastor, you’ll understand why it ministered to my heart.
Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is
Preacher,I’d say it’s been a while since you heard this request,
but my spirit is tired and I need rest.
I want to hear from Heaven a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.

(verse 2)
I’ve been hearin’ other preachers say I don’t have to change.
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I’m okay.
But it hasn’t eased my conscience and I know it’s not the truth.
So when you stand before us, can I count on you?

(chorus)
Oh Preacher, you say you want to be my friend,
don’t be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And Preacher, tell me I can overcome,
but it’s only by the blood of the Lamb.
Don’t tell me like I wish it was, Preacher tell me like it is.

(verse 3)
So open up the Word and let the Spirit lead,
Preach until I’ve heard God speak to me.
Don’t worry ’bout my feelin’s, don’t worry ’bout my shame,
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I’m to blame!

(chorus)

(bridge)
Life is quickly passing, the world is fading fast
and the foolishness of preaching is the only hope we have.

(chorus)

http://www.letssingit.com/greater-vision-lyrics-preacher-tell-me-like-it-is-7d3h74r#ixzz4NgBsMm6S

YouTube video: Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is

 

Just continuing to clip “grace coupons” every day!!!