February 20, 2016
It’s a Great Thing to Be a Pastor
By Fred T. Balbuena
As I reflect on my upcoming trip next week to India, one thought that keeps rushing through my mind is this– It’s a great thing to be a pastor. It’s a calling from God to demonstrate his excellency above everything in this world. Pastoral ministry is altogether different from other professions. We learn it from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. He says, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) What makes pastoral ministry great is that its aims are eternal and spiritual. It is all about the proclamation of the greatest reality in the universe.
Here are seven reasons I love being a pastor.
1. It is a great thing to be a pastor because I get the opportunity to demonstrate the greatness of God’s glory, the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45:5) “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:11) God loves his glory more than anything. He loves it with all of his might and he is committed to display it in everything he does. It is for this purpose Jesus died on the cross. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” (Romans 11:36) Pastors are given the privilege to declare this message that will never fail.
2. It is a great thing to be a pastor because I get to teach about hope, love, peace and joy that are out of this world. The Scriptures guarantees it through Christ’s death on the cross, and God gives it to those are willing to forsake everything in the world by faith. Pastors get to preach these great promises of God.
3. It is a great thing to be a pastor because I get to teach about real transformation. The most fundamental problem in the world is that all of us, God’s creatures, have sinned and have fallen short of his glory and are now condemned under his omnipotent and righteous wrath. Pastors get to speak that condemned sinners are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” This is the most breathtaking transformation anyone will ever experience.
4. It is a great thing to be a pastor because my qualifications are defined by God- not the expectations of the world. Pastors are called to suffer. Jesus promises that, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) We also know that this will not be fulfilled without difficulty and suffering. As Paul describes, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (1 Corinthians 1:8) Pastoral afflictions are graciously designed by God to make us rely on him and not ourselves.
5. It is a great thing to be a pastor because it puts me ever deeper rich in debt to God’s grace. Not only am I undeserving of his grace—neither does he need me to advance his purposes. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25) Pastors cannot pay God back through their ministry services, but the greatest thing in the world is that God keeps his grace sufficient in pastoral ministry. In fact, what it does is to keep me needy in spirit. This is exactly where he wants me to be for all eternity.
6. It is a great thing to be a pastor because I can be involved in impossible aims. This requires me to be dependent in prayer to God for the things he alone can do. Leading lost people to Christ is not easy, it is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Heaven is a great destiny and hell is a great danger. Helping people to get to heaven or escape hell is not possible through my efforts and ingenuity. However, the Lord’s servants can be assured that “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:26-27) What a joy it is to be in the ministry of the word.
7. It is a great thing to be a pastor because I can exercise biblical exposition as a means to the exultation of the glory of Gospel. People are yearning to see the greatness of God but this becomes obscured by man-centered, argumentative, or boring sermons. Likewise, John Piper said, “Our hearts will not be drawn out to worship if someone just dissects and analyzes the worth and glory of God but does not exult in it before us.” It is a great thing to be a pastor because I have the opportunity to exhibit my love for the truth of God’s word and for God’s people through gladness in preaching.
I covet your prayers as I travel to India in two weeks and spend a week long training with about 50 pastors in Andra Pradesh with Vijay Sastre and the staff of Reach All Nations. My desire is for the pastors in that region to get a deeper sense of joy in pastoral ministry. This is a great task, and I’m humbled with this opportunity to speak to them about the attributes of God and their implications for pastoral ministry. As Richard Baxter, one of the Puritans, says, “It is the first and great work of ministers of Christ to acquaint men with that God made them, and is their happiness: to open to them the treasures of his goodness, and to tell them of the glory that is in his presence, which all his chosen people shall enjoy… having shewed them the right end, our next work is to acquaint them with the means of attaining it.” I look forward to this time of being in the word with leaders in India. I yearn for God’s glory to be magnified and that we may be able to serve him with our strengths and to cherish him and enjoy him with our hearts and minds together.
February 13, 2016
[Lilias Trotter (1853-1928) was an accomplished English artist who spent the last forty years of her life as a missionary to Muslims in what is now Algeria. Beth and I saw a new film about her, Many Beautiful Things, Thursday night. The following is taken from the third chapter of The Way of the Sevenfold Secret (1926). Trotter wrote this book (originally in Arabic) to reach out to those involved in a mystical branch of Islam, Sufism. Note particularly the clear presentation of the Gospel and the uniqueness of Christ, all the while showing respect for her readers. We can learn much from her – Coty]
We have considered . . . the words of our Lord the Christ, — “I am the Light of the world.” Now . . . there comes through Him by the light the revelation of another wonderful secret: the secret of access to God. This access is the next step to that union with Him which is eternal blessedness. . . .
In the words of Christ [“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7)], we have the step of drawing near to God set forth to us by the symbol of a door— the door into a sheepfold.
Now a sheepfold is a place of safety in the midst of danger: the wilderness may be all around, and wild beasts may be heard growling only a stone’s throw off, but the sheep in the fold are as safe as if no enemies were there. They have entered in and they are saved.
So, in this new secret, God makes known to us that there is a place where even now in the wilderness of this world with evil prowling all around we may rest in safety as sheep within the fold. There is a place of nearness to God where the devil dares not venture that he may snatch the soul away; there is a salvation that is here and now.
We know, our brothers, that this is to you a new thought. Your belief is that no one can tell with certainty that he is saved until the day of account. You feel yourselves like sheep that may at any moment become a prey. Listen, for Christ speaks of a sheepfold right here in the wilderness, and of a door whereby we may enter in.
Now the symbol of a door of access to God is also to you a new thought. You think of man as separated from Him by the seventy thousand veils; and you hold that of these, ten thousand are abolished at each stage of the road: so that the state of access will only be bestowed by God’s grace when you have accomplished the long journey.
But the door is something different: it implies an entrance that needs but a single step, as we all know in daily life. No one thinks of a gradual progression in entering by a door: one moment he is without — the next he is within.
There is another great difference in the two symbols. Your thought in the veils is that it is the ignorance and imperfection of man that separates him from God. But the idea of a door implies a wall, and we find in the teaching of the Holy Book, that man is separated from God, not so much by his ignorance and infirmity, as by his sin: as it is spoken by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” [Isaiah 59:2]
This wall has arisen, not as a veil under which we were born, but by our own building. It is true that the foundation of the wall between man and God rests on the sin of our father Adam, but it has been raised by the million sins of his race. The foundation of our sinfulness lies buried, so to speak, in the sinful nature that is our heritage, but since our childhood the wall has been built up by stone after stone of personal sins, great and small, that are uncounted by us, but counted by God. . . .
If indeed any ray of light has come to you, my brother, from Him who is the Light of the world, then you will see this wall of your sins to be great and high. What then is to be done to find the way of access? Man may go round the wall that he has built, seeking entrance, but he finds none. He may seek, as it were, to loosen the stones, that is, he may think that he throws down a stone from the wall of his sin when he performs a good action, but in truth he only replaces one stone by another, for even our good deeds are full of sin before God, and our very repentance needs to be repented of. [Like Paul in Acts 17:28, Trotter here is quoting a saying of the people she is writing to.] He says in the Holy Book, “In all your doings your sins do appear.” [Ezekiel 21:24]
Man’s repentance cannot undo his sin, and even the intercession of the saints and prophets is unavailing in this, for they shared our sinful estate. Neither our own repentance nor the intercession of others will move the wall, and the sin that has built it must be taken away if we are to find entrance.
You cannot get to God till you have found someone who can take away those sins, just as you cannot get through a wall except by finding some means of taking away that with which it was built
This brings us back again to the symbol of a door, . . . a door broken through in a wall that stands strong and high. If the wall is of brick, you must take away the bricks; if the wall is of stone, you must take away the stones. If the wall is of sin, a means must be found by which sin can be taken away.
Now Islam, my brother, shows no way by which these stones of sin can be removed: there is no revelation set forth in it showing a ransom whereby sin can be put away.
So this is the next of these seven secrets: God has found a way in Jesus Christ for the taking away of sin. It is said of Him,— “Now once, in the end of the world, hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” [Hebrews 9:26] He could do this, for He was of another nature from us, one with God, pure and sinless. “Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” [1 Peter 3:18] “He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin”. [1 John 3:5]
The way in which this was accomplished was foretold in prophecy by the prophet Isaiah, when he said, —”All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid upon Him (that is, on the Christ) the iniquity of us all.” [Isaiah 53:] This word was fulfilled, and Christ gathered the sin of the world on Himself, though its touch must have been agony to Him, and “His own self bare our sins in His own Body on the tree”. [1 Peter 2:24] He bore them six hours till their burden and their darkness shut Him away from the Presence of God, and at last His Heart broke, and death came, when He could say, “It is finished.” [John 19:30]
In those hours God identified Him with our sin in His sight, as it is written.—”He hath made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin”. [2 Corinthians 5:21] And so when He went out of the world by death, with His Heart broken, the sin of the world was borne away from before God, and the door was left. [John 1:29] Christ Himself by gathering our sin on Himself and taking it away, has become the Door. Praise be to His Name.
Now see the words that follow: “I am the Door, by me if any man enter in He shall be saved.” [John 10:9] This does not mean only that he shall enter heaven after death. . . . These words mean that the man who takes Christ as his Door can pass here and now from the state of danger, shut out from God and a prey to Satan, into a state of shelter and rest as of sheep within the fold.
This is the rest and the nearness for which you long. You have wearied yourself to find the door by many efforts, by prayers and meditations and fastings. . . . But this new secret is that nearness may be yours to-day. If you have come to see that your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and that you need a Mediator who is not of this earth, then you are on the threshold. Take one step more and trust yourself to Christ in faith that His death for you has broken down every barrier, and that He brings you into reconciliation with God, here and now.
Fear not, for the word “if any man enter in” must mean you, for no exception is made of race, or creed, or state: you cannot be outside that number. It is not over-boldness when we enter in, just as we are, through this wonderful door. The overboldness would [be] seeking for some way other than the way God has appointed.
There is no other way: the sheepfold has only one door. You may go round about it, and you will find but the one opening. Christ says not “I am a Door,” but, “I am the Door.” God has but one door to the fold and that door is Christ.
Make haste to enter, my brother, for whilst you are yet outside, even on the threshold, you are still within reach of Satan, who “as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. [1 Peter 5:8] Dare to “enter in.”
With one more word from that same verse we end this chapter. The verse ends,— “He shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.” [John 10:9]
For when we have come to this state of salvation, we can, if we are under the guidance of the Good Shepherd, go back with Him, so to speak, into the world, to help those who are still outside the fold, and to find in this our joy. He does not mean our lives to be spent in idleness when we are saved or even in reading and meditation, but in seeking that we may follow His steps “Who went about doing good.” [Acts 10:38]
February 5, 2016
How is your memory?
Some of us remember every movie we have seen. Others remember details of meals they have eaten.
But all of us tend to forget God. All of us tend to forgot who God is, what He has done, and what He tells us to do.
Thus the repeated warnings in Scripture:
- Do not forget!
- Set up memorials!
- Remind yourselves!
- Teach your children!
This file includes a compilation of dozens of Scripture passages about forgetfulness. I encourage you to read them over and meditate on them. Here is one way to summarize these warnings and exhortations:
We Naturally Forget God Over Time and Over Generations:
Deuteronomy 4:9 Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.
Psalm 78:5-7 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.
Wealth and Ease Especially Lead Us to Forget God:
Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-18 Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . . 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Hosea 13:4-6 But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. 5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; 6 but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.
Forgetting God Leads Necessarily To Some Sort of Idolatry:
Judges 3:7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
(In the Deuteronomy 8 passage above, the people’s own power and might become their idols, the source of their welfare.)
Thus, Forgetting God Leads to Our Deserving Punishment:
Jeremiah 13:24-25 I will scatter you like chaff driven by the wind from the desert. 25 This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, declares the LORD, because you have forgotten me and trusted in lies.
Ezekiel 23:35 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.
Yet In His Mercy We Are Ransomed for Him, Redeemed by Him – And We Must Not Forget!
Isaiah 51:11-16 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 12 “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, 13 and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? 14 He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall his bread be lacking. 15 I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name. 16 And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
So the Lord Jesus Gives Us the Lord’s Supper to Help Us Remember:
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So May We Say With the Psalmist:
Psalm 119:93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.