August 9, 2008
In tomorrow’s sermon, I’ll be referring to the race that is shown beginning 3:25 into this video – the 1954 Commonwealth Games mile final, between the first two sub-four minute milers, Roger Bannister and John Landy. Look carefully at Landy’s head as Bannister pulls up beside him.
August 8, 2008
(This is a summary of the fifth sermon in the six-part series, “God Gave Pastors and Teachers,” preached on July 13, 2008. The audio is available here.)
What roles does the congregation play in the leadership of the church?
Do the pastors/elders have all authority, which the congregation must always follow?
Or is the congregation the final authority on every issue, able to overturn any decision of the elders/pastors?
How should a member of the congregation think about the pastors and elders?
Today and next Sunday we will look at several biblical passages that shed light on this question. We will see that the Bible clearly teaches that members should honor, respect, indeed, love their leaders. And they must submit to them.
But in the end it is the congregation as a whole that is responsible that the church teaches right doctrine. Elders are sheep, and some will wander from the truth – and will attempt to lead others astray. The church not only may but must deal with an errant elder.
We’ll look at four responsibilities of members of the congregation, which will serve as our outline. Next week’s sermon on how to deal with disappointments in elders will continue this theme.
The congregation must honor and esteem the elders 1 Thes 5:12-13, 1 Tim 5:17
The congregation must imitate their elders Heb 13:7
The congregation must obey/submit to their elders Heb 13:17
The congregation must watch over the teaching, purity, and unity of the church Read more
August 8, 2008
(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)
In Sunday’s sermon (text, audio), I discussed my love-hate relationship over the years with interval training – running a set distance fast, repeatedly, with a short, timed rest between runs. In my high school and college days, I hated these workouts; I worked hard at them only because I knew they were necessary if I were to improve as a runner. Yet by the time I was 35, I had grown to love interval training. It was still painful – perhaps more so at age 35 than at 20. But I came to love the mental discipline of pushing myself through the pain, of maintaining good form despite tiring legs, of completing a hard workout well.
In our sermon discussion Tuesday morning, Albert brought up a particularly helpful application of this idea in our Christian lives: Many of us know that we should share our faith. We want to be people who witness. And yet we also don’t want to do so. We fear rejection; we think we won’t know what to say, or how to answer questions. So we too end up with a love-hate relationship with witnessing.
My attitude towards interval training changed when I began to see those workouts as a fulfillment of my identity has a runner. A runner is mentally tough. A runner does have control over his weakening legs. A runner will experience pain, but will nevertheless continue and overcome the temptation to quit.
We, too, need to see the sharing of our faith as the fulfillment of who we are as Christians, as those who delight in Jesus above all things. Consider: Read more
August 7, 2008
Will my children remember their mother reading the Bible consistently? Will they picture in their minds a straw basket with Bible, Valley of Vision prayer book, journal, and prayer notebook? Will they picture their mother swinging gently on the porch swing, Bible in hand or curled up in the wing chair in the music room, head bowed. Will it be a consistent memory?
It is certainly not just for the memory in my children’s minds that this consistency is important. Oh no. It is vitally important for now, for every day, for wisdom and discernment, for knowledge and understanding, for contentment and spurring on. It is as vital to my life as an Olympic athlete’s consistent training is. No, it is more vital. Because, unlike the Olympic athlete who may only take his gold medal as far as the grave, the benefits of consistency in walking with God are eternal.
Coty said in the sermon, “consistency makes a statement to yourself, ‘I am a child of God‘.” That’s who I am. Spending time in the word is simply what a child of God does, like running is what a runner does. I can’t live without it.
August 7, 2008
This is a summary of the fourth sermon in the six-part series, “God Gave Pastors and Teachers,” preached on July 6, 2008. The audio is available here.)
What is a senior pastor, and why do we have one?
In this series, we are exploring what the Bible says about the role of pastors and elders in the local church. These are vital truths, often misunderstood in the church today, which are key for us to understand if we are to build a church that brings glory to God.
Let me remind you of some of what we’ve seen in first three sermons:
The first sermon focused on the centrality and necessity of preaching. The most solemn exhortation in all of Scripture precedes Paul command to Timothy to preach the word. God calls men to a preaching ministry, in part because naturally we don’t want to hear the Word – instead, we want to gather teachers to tell us what we like. A man who will preach the Word faithfully in season and out of season, whether people like it and large crowds come or whether they walk out, is a gift to the church.
The second and third examined biblical teaching on elders/pastors/overseers (which are all the same office.) The Holy Spirit makes them overseers, not man. They exist to help the church fulfill its threefold purpose:
- To Express joy in Christ
- To Spread joy in Christ
- To Deepen joy in Christ.
Elders accomplish this through shepherding/pastoring. So think of shepherding/pastoring in the terms of Ephesians 4:12: Equipping believers for the work of ministry so that that we all might express joy, spread joy, and deepen joy in Christ. We saw that shepherding or pastoring is a comprehensive term for all that elders do: Preaching, teaching, and exhorting are all parts of shepherding. Indeed, the emphasis biblically in direct commands to elders is on prayer and the public aspects of ministry, though it is also clear that caring for the flock as individuals is important also.
We also noted that in calling us sheep, the Bible is not flattering us. Sheep are quite stupid; they are in desperate need of a shepherd. We have that shepherd, the Great Shepherd, Jesus Himself.
We also noted that human pastors/shepherds are actually sheep too. They must depend on the Great Shepherd, or they will accomplish nothing.
Finally, the ultimate goal of the pastors/shepherds is not healthy sheep, happy sheep, or well-fed sheep. Instead, the goal is for all of us to become the kind of sheep Jesus is: a sacrificial lamb. So the central task of the elder/pastor is to prepare you for sacrifice, to prepare you for laying down your life.
So: How do elders function together to accomplish this? Are there different types of elders? Are there authority relationships among elders?
The Bible doesn’t provide us with detailed instructions here, but it does give us some necessary guidelines. My goal this morning: To look at those guidelines, to describe how Fred and I understand them, and to communicate how we as a church will try to live that out, now and in the future. Read more
August 7, 2008
(This is a summary of the third sermon in the six-part series, “God Gave Pastors and Teachers,” preached on June 22, 2008. The audio is available here.)
What is shepherding and why must elders do it?
When you read in Acts 20:28 that the elders are to shepherd the church of God, what images come to your mind?
What tasks that pastors or elders do constitute shepherding?
Since this is a serious biblical command, we had better understand it well.
To understand it well, we need to look at how the Bible uses the term
What is shepherding, biblically? Read more
August 7, 2008
Have you ever stepped out in faith? Have you ever made a hard decision, decided, “Yes I will follow God!”? What happened next?
We love stories like that which continue: “And it didn’t seem possible, but by God’s grace I was able to do it!”
Praise God for such stories. Praise God for that way of displaying His faithfulness.
But do you also love stories that proceed differently? What if the rest of the story is: “I fell flat on my face.” Or “there was a great deal of pain and suffering, and no success that I could discern.”
Think of the Apostle Paul in that regard.
Paul wrote his 2nd letter to Timothy from prison. He was cold. Several former co-laborers were now ashamed of him; they did not want to have their names associated with him. So they deserted him. At his preliminary trial, no one came to his defense. He knew his legal case was hopeless; his execution would come soon.
His is not a story that, on the face of it, inspires confidence. Indeed, Paul even reminds Timothy of his persecutions and sufferings.
But he doesn’t say, “I’ve made mistakes in being too public, in irritating religious and government officials, in inviting persecution. Be careful to avoid persecution so you can have a fruitful ministry.”
Quite the contrary. He says, “all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). And he tells him:
Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (1:8).
Furthermore, he tells him, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).
Paul tells Timothy to expect pain and, in a sense, to embrace suffering.
What should we expect in our own lives?
Surely we should expect that pain and suffering are a normal part of some Christians’ lives. That much is clear. But Christians over the years have made at least two big mistakes when thinking about pain.
· Some have said: “Pain is a necessary step to becoming like Christ. So I should pursue pain! I should seek pain.” With this in mind, over the centuries, some have whipped themselves, or sat on poles, or gone to other extremes. That is NOT the biblical message.
· Much more prominent in our country today is the second mistake: That is, saying, “Of course, Paul suffered, Jesus suffered, and Timothy was going to have to suffer. The political powers of their day opposed them. But today, we don’t face such persecution by our government, and God wants us to be free from pain. He wants us to prosper. Just believe! Have faith! And He will give you good success.”
This morning, I want to approach this subject of pain via the analogy between running and living the Christian life. For pain plays an important role in running. Someone who says, “My life should be free from pain; I should avoid anything that will cause me pain,” will never succeed as a runner. However, that’s also true of the one who seeks pain. He, too, will fail as a runner. Read more
August 2, 2008
Check out this video to hear the best American marathoner, Ryan Hall, discuss the themes of tomorrow’s sermon: the parallels between the pain and joy of running, and the pain and joy of running the race of faith. The most relevant section begins at about the 11 minute mark.
(Edit Sunday 8/3: The section I quoted in this morning’s sermon begins about 5:25 into the interview)