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 Tuesday

Began the day with a cup of coffee and the Word!

Was encouraged and blessed by a daily Bible verse text from a dear brother in Christ.

Ministered the Word to two still-grieving hearts; shared from what I had read earlier in the morning.

Spoke an word of encouragement to one whose world has been shattered.

My wife and I attended the adoption ceremony at the county courthouse for a precious foster child who is now the daughter of one of our church member’s.

Made a Dunkin run for this first day of peppermint mocha coffee!

Reminded myself to think biblically.

Visited one of our church family who is recovering from heart-valve replacement surgery. Thankful for Psalm 4 and prayer!

Helped my wife pick up some things at Sam’s Club.

Fought my flesh.

Dropped off some books, a DVD, and a thank you note to a long-time Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16) in my life.

Listened to Adrian Rogers preach as I traveled to Kingsport.

Reminded myself to think biblically.

Experienced another “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17) men’s book lunch where we discussed a biblical theology of work, shared life events, and prayed together. A transparent, honest exchange among men.

Connected with a missionary friend via Whatsapp.

Listened to Chip Ingram teach on prayer as I traveled for my next appointment.

Met with our assistant pastor for our weekly ministry meeting. Another time of “iron sharpening iron.” God met with us in a very special way.

Received a text from my wife that her cousin has maybe a day or two left on this earth due to cancer. I called my wife on my drive home to come alongside her and hopefully bear her burden.

Was reminded that Jesus could come right now as I was exiting the interstate and saw the view from the top of the hill.

Received a humorous phone call from my oldest daughter that produced a needed “belly-laugh.”

Fought my flesh and the attacks of the devil.

While waiting for and helping with supper preparation, I answered texts and emails, called a church member to sing Happy Birthday, and chatted with my wife as I caught up on other events of the day. So very grateful for my wife who faithfully serves at home to make our home a place of refuge from this world. The meal was delicious comfort food.

Reminded myself of God’s promises.

Spent the evening helping my wife who was not really feeling well. Also, answered and read more emails, read some helpful blogs and worked on prep for Wednesday and Sunday’s messages.

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [c]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you [a]therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead [b]at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (2 Timothy 2:22-3:5; 3:13-4:2)

Another day of experiencing the sufficient grace and eternal love of God!