Prayer for Consecration and Worship

In preparation for tomorrow’s worship service, why not pray this Puritan Prayer from the book Valley of Vision?

Consecration and Worship

My God, I feel it is heaven to please Thee, and to be what Thou wouldst have me be. O that I were holy as Thou art holy, pure as Christ is pure, perfect as Thy Spirit is perfect! These, I feel, are the best commands in Thy Book, and shall I break them? must I break them? am I under such a necessity as long as I live here?

Woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, that I grieve this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace! O if He would punish me for my sins, it would not would my heart so deep to offend Him; But though I sin continually, He continually repeats His kindness to me.

At times I feel I could bear any suffering, but how can I dishonour this glorious God? What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings? O that I could consecrate my soul and body to His service, without restraint, for ever! O that I could give myself up to Him, so as never more to attempt to be my own! or have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to His will and His love! But, alas, I cannot live and not sin.

O may angels glorify Him incessantly, and, if possible, prostrate themselves lower before the blessed King of heaven! I long to bear a part with them in ceaseless praise; but when I have done all I can to eternity I shall not be able to offer more than a small fraction of the homage that the glorious God deserves. Give me a heart full of divine, heavenly love.

Grace Living

Living in the grace of Christ is easy to say but sometimes very hard to actually do.  How do you live in the grace of Christ when someone around you does or says something that just sets you off?  How does God’s grace work in this specific instance?  I think there are several things that immediately must come to mind:

1.   Remember, they are not the biggest sinner in the situation.  1 Timothy 1:15 reminds us how to look at our own sin.  If Paul could say he (of all people) was the chief of sinners, I think we certainly should entertain similar thoughts. These aren’t just polite words that Paul was saying, but are words coming from a heart that understood the depth of the love of Christ whereby he was loved contrasted to his sin-laden heart.  No ones sin is worse than mine–no one!  That opens wide the door to the next thought.

2.   The love of Christ must constrain us. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul reminds us what should be behind our thoughts and emotions — Christ’s love.  In fact the very next verse is quite clear: “…He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” We don’t live for ourselves–we live because Christ loved us and died for us! So, that person’s actions cannot have any sway over us. Christ’s love must control even my thoughts.

3.   Think long and hard just how God reacts to me.  How does God always react when I disregard His Word, chose to rebel, and demand from Him? God is long suffering, merciful, gracious, kind, and yet always just.  By just, He cannot over look sin.  This is where the gospel lives and reigns.  In Christ, God’s wrath was appeased. So, God’s justice is always served in Christ–always. This means I don’t have to seek His justice on the person doing wrong. I too can be long suffering, gentle, kind, and forbear even the worse sin. God’s love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Frankly, this kind of love is amazing love…how can it be?

4.   Yearn to see God at work!  Take a deep breath and be still!  God is God.  He is always out for His glory–always. Is. 66:18 For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. His glory will be seen!  It will! Long to see God’s great glory at work in their heart and make sure that you’re angst about what they have done doesn’t get in the way.  God’s Kingdom work is much more important than your angst!

5.   Do not repay evil for evil.  I love what Paul says in Rom. 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If you see Paul’s life (imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead…) you can at least begin to understand why Paul would wrestle with these thoughts.  How often do the first thoughts out of our minds end up being downright ugly, unkind, and vile? God’s love didn’t repay evil for our evil, but produced the biggest gift of grace we could ever have dreamed of.  Once again–amazing.  How sweet this sounds!

6.    Resist the urge to talk to others about it.  Go straight to the person. But…as you go, go seeking to restore, build up, encourage, and ultimately exalt the name of Christ. Sometimes the building up needs to be corrective in nature but it should always be surrounded with care more for the person and the name of Jesus than how hurt you are.

Living in grace is not easy…but yet, it’s easy.  Matt. 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Humanly, its a knock-down-drag-out battle.  With the Spirit of Christ within, His ever-flowing grace makes it easy and light.  Wow–once again, amazing!

Growing Old…er!

It’s an amazing thing to grow old…er.  I was sitting the other night listening to a bunch of young people talk about the 90’s and realized that although I think that was just yesterday, for some of them it was nearly 20 years ago. “Wow,” I thought, “for them that is old.”  For me…not so much.

One of the things about growing older is you begin to understand that time often tells a story. If you watch people much, (which I love to do) you begin to notice several things over time.  You often notice that many, many people struggle with unbelief in God. Many who in their youth claimed to love God never followed Him much after school. You notice many struggle with suffering. All of us do to some degree or another, but many have been given “thorns in the flesh” that just absolutely will not go away.  You also notice that basically, people are who they are and who they have always been.  This is kind of a “well–duh!!!” I know, but over time it begins to be very obvious.

The thing that I am seeing most clearly is the devastation of sin in the world in my own life.  Growing up around hearing about sin and knowing that I am a sinner, you sometimes put sin in its own little box and you think you know what it is.  As you grow old, you see your sin and then as you have children, you begin to see a different angle on your sin as you watch your own children deal with their sin.  You then find that you are a very good teacher of sin because your children pick up on how you like to be “god” of your life and they do much the same thing.  You then see sin bring such devastation to families and life’s relationships over and over again.  Relationships that are supposed to function smoothly actually are the most brittle. Parents, because of their desire to be “god” in their own lives make it very difficult for their children to honor them, love them, or have any decent relationship with them.  Children who are supposed to sweetly obey and honor their parents are crumbling in their own personal relationships and cannot ever seem to make time for family.  It goes on and on. Sometimes, it seems that people insist upon making a wreck of their lives. Time tells this story.

All that to say, there is one redeeming factor.  Jesus.  Jesus came into this world to only heal those who are ill (Mark 2:17). The illness is overwhelming. We are getting! The very fact that we are growing older only indicates our need of redemption–things need to be restored.  This restoration is only found in Christ.  Thanks be to God for His Son! Over time, shouldn’t Christ become even more precious?

That I Might Decrease

John the Baptist knew what he was talking about. He saw Christ for all He was and knew that His job was to prepare the way for Jesus to come. His memorable passion was to decrease so that Christ would increase (John 3:30).

I was listening to someone mention just the other day that they were responding to a situation the way they were because, “That’s just the way I am!” I said to that person, “We aren’t allowed to be who we are! In Christ we are called to decrease for the purpose of us becoming more like Christ!” It was a novel thought to the person.

The work of God in saving us is remarkable, but just as remarkable is the on-going work of His grace that changes us from one glory to the next glory.  John the Baptist got it!  We are a little slow sometimes…Ok, a lot slow (if I can say it that way).

Grace works this way–it always changes us.  To decrease ought to be our prayer, our passion, our goal and yet it shouldn’t stay there, because we should also just as passionately yearn to have Christ’s power and presence in us, through us, and out of us as we live our lives.

May Christ be seen in us.  Nothing novel about it! It’s a glorious purpose to display Him!

Pastors’ Huddle at Heritage Bible Church

This month will end in a very exciting way for me and perhaps many fellow pastors. I will be participating in what we have so far named a “Pastors’ Huddle” at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, SC. We aren’t sure what to call it since there are no shortages of pastoral conferences to attend, but we feel like this is more than just a conference. We aren’t seeking a following or to become anything “national.” It’s just us and we have wonderful relationships with each other. We also have similar goals and passions for Christ and His Church.  That really is about it–nothing fancy, just love for God and love for people.

This is the second year of such a meeting and it is shaping up to be an encouraging time of prayer, worship, fellowship and re-tooling for the pastors attending. It will begin on Sunday morning at HBC with Pastor Danny Brooks preaching. In the evening and each evening following we will hear Chris Anderson from Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. He is a church planter, hymn writer, and a shepherd. Monday through Wednesday there will be times of prayer, worship, discussion, and building of relationships with men who are on the front lines of ministry including many of the HBC church planters. There will also be times for the wives of the attending pastors to meet for prayer and discussion. Here is some basic information.

February 26-29, 2012

Theme:  Cultivating a Healthy Church, Home, & Heart

Purpose: To provide a time of spiritual and physical refreshment through helpful discussion and strategic planning for our future ministry together in establishing and strengthening local churches in all the world.


Cultivating a Healthy Church – The Centrality of the Gospel – Danny Brooks

Cultivating a Healthy Mind – Christ Gives us Truth – Matthew Hoskinson

Cultivating a Healthy Discipleship – Knowing and Showing Christ – Eric Sipe

Discussion to include:

What Keeps Us From Resting – Life in the Ministry

What Keeps Our Homes Healthy – Life in the Pastors Family Life

What Defines our Mission – Our Theology

If you or your pastor is at all interested in coming, please feel free to comment here, email me, or contact HBC. The cost is minimal but the investment is for life.  See you there!

Legalism and Pendulums

I grew up in an environment where many people would today call it “legalistic.” I am sure many of you would perhaps give that same label to your background. What is most often meant by that label is we were instructed to live a certain life style, have our devotions, get our hair cuts (if we were male) or not get our hair cut (if we were female), do not go to movies, do not, do not, do, do, do not…etc. You get the drift.

In all of that doing/not doing there was a sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit teaching that we were then accepted, or we were “good” and well favored. Really very few questions were ever directed to the heart and accountability was most always a surface accountability, meaning, dealing with only what was on the surface of your life. I could go on and on, but that is not my point. God was good to me in my past and I am grateful for where God has brought me and am constantly learning His glory in my weaknesses and the weaknesses of those around me.

There is a lot of talk in just about every “circle” about legalism. I have noticed some things about this chatter. It has been bit by the “pendulum” bug. In other words, in running from legalism there seems to be a jettison of many of the clear commands and disciplines of the Word.

This is really nothing new and shouldn’t surprise us. In his book, “Living the Cross-Centered Life” C.J. Mahanney explains legalism: A legalist is anyone who behaves as if they can earn God’s forgiveness through personal performance. (p. 112) [Legalism is] a danger that we’ll never outgrow in this lifetime. The tendency for legalism exists for each of us each and every day—because of the pride and self-righteousness of our indwelling sin. (p. 114)

But as the pendulum swings on our Grandfather clock in our living room, so do reactions against certain things. Sometimes they swing needlessly too far. Fear usually is what drives this. The fear of being legalistic has swung over to the point that anything that looks like discipline and self-control or pursuing holiness and actually seeking to live out the righteousness of Christ is seen as legalism. This is unfortunate. It is almost like those who live in fear of legalism are legalistic about their not being a legalist.

Paul exhorts his good brother Timothy to be strong in the grace in Christ! He then explains it in 2Timothy 2:1-7 to:

  • endure hardness
  • don’t entangle yourself with the non-essentials
  • strive for masteries lawfully
  • labor as a good husbandman

All of this falls directly in line with the grace that Christ provides.  These must be done in the grace, but they must be done and they take careful disciplined work. We cannot automatically assign legalism to following the commands of Scripture.  We do so joyfully not in order to gain forgiveness but because we are forgiven!

Don’t be swinging the pendulum, but be Spirit-filled–and pursue it!

How Blind Are You???

Having had eye surgeries, sight has become a very precious commodity. I find myself looking intently at stairwells as I ascend or descend to make sure that where I am putting my feet there is actually a step there. Eye sight is important. I take a test every year that measures the blind spot in my left eye to make sure it hasn’t grown. Good news this year–it’s shrunk just a tad! The doctor said it is probably the work of the medicines that I put into my eyes–three different ones every day.  Fun!
How much more important, however, is spiritual eye sight. How blind are you…to your spiritual well being? How blind are you to sin and do you then consequently see God’s amazing grace? How is your blind spot? Have you been tested recently? 

Here’s what I mean.  When a message is preached is there something inside that opens your eyes to the truth from God’s Word? No? Hmmm….

So many times we are thinking of other things. Things like, “This really applies to so and so;” or “You know? That is interesting;” or “What’s cooking for lunch this afternoon;” or “The music was really bad today…I don’t like that new song.”  Maybe you are simply day dreaming and not thinking of anything.  Beware: You may be blind and don’t even realize it.

Another idea for blindness could be simply ignoring God.  It could be insensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit. This is often seen by someone who when confronted by a pastor/shepherd about a sin that is displayed, instead of running to repentance and faith in Christ they quickly try to deflect it by pointing out the deficiencies of the church. It most often is not a doctrinal deficiency but a personal preference they fear is violated. Blindness is revealed.

It could be that a hardness has set into your own heart that is simply pride. You will only see what you want to see!  It may very well be years and years of hiding or running from God and the light of His transforming truth.  The tragedy is that blindness is very devastating over time.  Marriages are crushed because one spouse is blind.  Families crumble because of blindness from a child or parent.  Businesses collapse because of a CEO that refuses to see.  Empires have vanished because of blind leadership.

It’s funny though, or sad, maybe, that spiritually sight-challenged people insist that they actually can see. Amazingly they run into brick walls over and over again yet they can get very upset if someone suggests to them they have a “sight issue.”  Relationships all around them are bleeding and torn yet they insist that they see fine.  They see what they want to see and consequently fail to see what really is.

The good news is that Jesus is light!  John calls Him the light of men (John 1:4).  The psalmist writes in Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”  How blind are you?  Really? How well do you see God? Be honest, where are your blind spots?

Run to Jesus!  Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Steps for Approving Missionaries

We all love Missions. We love the Great Commission and seek to be churches who work hard at getting missionaries to particular field, keeping them there, and enjoying the eternal fruit of their ministry. For many, however, the process is a bit clunky–often impersonal and even random.
The elders here at CBC have put on paper a process that would help us in discerning just who God would have us partner with. Like everyone, we wish we could help all of those who God puts us in contact with. I get on average 4-5 inquiries from prospective missionaries and the expectations are all there. These good people are wanting an opportunity to share their ministry with us. It’s a tough job to wade through the information and seek God’s direction. So we put it on paper to help guide us. Here is where we are at this moment. We want to continue to review the process and make sure it is doing what we think it will do for. I would love your input. It’s probably not ideal, but it seeks to place out in front of us the priorities that God has given us.

Process for Approving New Missionaries

God has created us relational people and has given us two great commands: Love God and Love People. Getting to effectively know missionaries is vital to a ministry relationship. Our goal at CBC is not merely to give a monthly check to our missionaries but to partner with them in the ministry that God has called them to. This means that the people of CBC, starting with the elders, should have a personal relationship and ministry knowledge of the people with whom they are partnering.

The process of getting to know the missionary in the present state of missions is a difficult task. The deputation mandate that is necessary for a missionary to garner the necessary support makes the relational process even more problematic. However, to work through this, the Elders of CBC seek to place the emphasis on establishing a ministry relationship of transparency and accountability with each missionary we support. In order to make this happen, a process is necessary to help mold our relationships for better partnership in missions.

Step One:  The Introduction

Typically a missionary makes the first contact. This is usually accomplished by written documents, emails, or phone calls. At this point, the missionary is asked to send any written documents that they have concerning who they are, where they are coming from, what they believe, where they are going, who they are going with, and what mission agency they are going out under? While this doesn’t give all the needed information, it is the place to start if there is no previous relationship with them in the past. These documents often give substantial information that is helpful to discern their doctrinal and philosophical values but does not tell you all you need to know.

This process is rarely skipped, but can be if there is an existing relationship with an elder.  However, a file on this missionary family should be started in the office that will have all the necessary information on them and the church secretary should keep this file up to date.

Step Two: The Interview

After the written documents are read, a person-to-person meeting is then set up at a time when the missionary can stop by Columbus.  Usually this will be a lunch, coffee, or just a stop by the office. Elders are invited to come to this part of the process if they are able. Extra eyes and ears are important in this key area of the process. This is not a step that should ordinarily be skipped. The goal of the interview is get to know the missionary in four areas of importance:

1.    The Missionaries Love For God. Stemming from the first of two commands that God gives all believers it is vital to discern the missionaries’ love for God (Mark 12:30). We will ask questions regarding:

a.   His/Her Salvation

b.   His/Her personal walk with the Lord

c.   His/Her relationship with the church

It is an undeniable fact that people who love their God talk often about their God. This certainly ought to be true of a missionary. The conversation should include much about God, the person and work of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit and less talk about their work, their life, or their ministry. God and His Kingdom work should not be merely “understood” or even a buzz-word but should be an intentional part of the conversation.

2.    The Missionaries Love For People. The second commandment is just as important – we are to love our neighbor (Mark 12:37). Love for people shows itself in two areas.

a.   A general love for people – Is there a general passion for people that the missionary shows?  How are their people skills? What is motivating them for ministry? Who are they discipling at this time?

b.   A specific love for people that they are called to – This will show itself in more than just a knowledge of statistics about culture and country but specifically with names and persons of whom they are working with or are praying for and discipling. It ought to be common for the missionary to speak of by name the people they are personally discipling.

3.    The Missionaries Family. It is preferable to have at least the husband and wife there together. If the children can come that is good but often they are with grandparents or friends in the area. How does the husband treat the wife? How does the wife respect her husband. Is the husband more intent on speaking of his ministry or is he taking care of his family?  Is the wife jumping into the conversations and correcting the husband at awkward moments? Are they at ease with each other?  Are the children controlled, obedient, and respectful?

4.    The Missionaries Mission. What is their view of their mission? Is there a plan? Is there a plan in place about deputation? Is there a plan for the first few years of ministry? What are the tools of ministry he/she will need to fulfill the plans? What is the philosophy of ministry that will carry them? This will apply whether or not the missionary is going as a pastor/church planter or he is going in some support capacity.

Step Three: The Visit

If there is good agreement from the elders then a meeting is scheduled for the missionary to attend CBC with the hopes that the missionary will get acquainted with what God is doing in the church and the church as a whole can get acquainted with the missionary.  It is important that solid relationships can be built so ministry can be accomplished with a team effort. Good relationships are forged through a unity of the Spirit in mind and understanding of God’s Word. This is a vital step in the process.  However, this process may be skipped if the elders sense there is already a good relationship being built and there is a good fit for ministry.  The missionary then could go directly to step four.

Step Four: Deputation Meeting

The missionary is asked to set up a meeting when they can come and present their ministry to the church as a whole. This is best done on a Sunday. We would ask they would come and possibly speak to a Sunday School class, attend and enjoy the morning worship service, eat a lunch with several families (if possible), and then take the speaking part of the evening service to speak to CBC.

The missionary will asked to do two specific things:

  1. Preach a short challenge. This is to reveal his heart for God and for people. Ideally this is not a time of merely statistics, but more of a God-focused, Christ-centered view of missions and ministry and revealing his passion for what God is passionate about.
  2. Show Presentation.  Here is where the missionary speaks to his burden that God has placed on him for the people and land to which he is called. The purpose is to demonstrate a God-focused, Christ centered view of people, their greatest need, and how their ministry will address the need.

A love offering will be taken for the missionary. This is a prime opportunity for the people of God to express their love for the missionary. A healthy church will be a generous church.  However, it is often the case that if the missionary has not been effective, it can show up in the offering as people will react to what they have seen.

Step Five: Elder Recommendation

The elders at some point will meet to make a recommendation regarding the missionary. This will include a review of the steps above, a review of the budget, and a recommendation either for support, postpone support, or no support, or a timed support.

Step Six: Congregation Vote

If there is elder agreement and recommendation it then goes to the congregation for vote. Like everything else that is done through the budget process, there must be sufficient proof that the budget can support the candidate. The congregation then votes on the candidate.  The candidate should receive 75% vote approval.

Step Seven: Mutual Accountability and Ministry

If a recommendation is given the following should be then understood:

  1. The missionary and the elders both become accountable to each other for ministry. The missionary should regularly communicate to the elders/church of their work.
  2. The elders/church should begin to schedule trips to visit with the missionary with the goal of seeing first hand the growth of the missionary and the growth of the people they are discipling.
  3. After a period of time if a missionary is not working sufficiently from his prescribed philosophy then the church reserves the right of altering the financial agreement with the missionary.  This accountability should be looked at by the missionary not as a threat, but as a simple aid to his effectiveness at reaching the people God has given to him.
  4. A meeting with the Elders of CBC should be arranged when home on furlough by the missionary and possibly with the church to give a report on what has happened in the ministry.
  5. If after several conversations and visits there seems to be an obvious turn from the stated philosophy or if the missionary is no longer effective in his mission, the church elders will make a recommendation to the church for a change in the financial agreement. A simple majority vote will alter this agreement.

It is the goal of CBC to support a team of missionaries who seek to be biblical in every area as well as gifted to do the work God has called them to. CBC realizes other countries and cultures often dictate very different methods and the results will vary.  However, CBC relies heavily upon the Holy Spirit and discernment to make good decisions regarding the stewardship of the finances and ministry God has given to them.

Stop Studying Your Bible!

Have you ever said that to someone? It seems contrary to Scripture. In some ways, it is. I have said it and I meant it. Why would I say this?

One of the key elements in genuine discipleship is discerning people and their reflection of Christ (or lack thereof). Humans tend to like what they like. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except when it becomes their only thing.  Paul told the Corinthian church that “‘knowledge’ puffs up but love builds up” (1Cor 8:1). So, if you love knowledge and look into the word of God to gain mere knowledge and you absolutely love doing it to the exclusion or ignoring of everything else, you may be “puffed up” and indeed not “building up.”

People who are filled with pride and self-adulation are the most difficult people to disciple. They love themselves and what they think and will be the first to correct everyone around them and set them straight.  Over time, this person actually won’t be discipled because they have all the answers. Listen to them, they’ll tell you so. They are puffed up. Consequently, they in fact don’t love God and they don’t love others and are not then building up people. Tragically, their family is the first to be affected by the puffiness. Oddly, the puffy person is ultimately more concerned about who’s right (themselves) then they are concerned about what’s right. Because they have knowledge, and of course, no one else has it like they do, they will sacrifice everyone around them to be able to prove their rightness. So, thinking they are helping by delivering their “knowledge” and are right in doing so, they are in fact tearing down and thus, are wrong to do so.

Puffiness rips and tears. Puffiness pushes people away. Puffiness divides. Perhaps even more critical is the fact that puffiness portrays a small gospel and devastatingly distorts God’s glory.

To the puffy I say, “Stop studying your Bible.” Go on a quest for Jesus.  He is the Word! Study Him, not it.

God, by your great grace, keep us from puffiness.

Shepherding – It’s messy work!

The heart of a pastor/shepherd often carries burdens for sheep that weigh on him. This truly is part of the design by the Great Shepherd. Sin makes a mess of life and helping people often mean getting messy. There are many opportunities for the messes:

1.    The sin itself.  Sin has effects that are devastating. Sin divides, contaminates further, tears and rips and the hurt is deep. Sin deceives and blinds and sometimes is barely detectable. Sin simmers and then boils over scalding all those it comes in contact with.  Messy.

2.    The people in sin. Because sin is so deeply rooted in the heart of people it effects every area of living for people. So people in sin often leave a trail of it in the story of their lives. It can be passed down to generations so much it can be a way of life, habitual, and difficult to overcome. Messy.

3.   The pastor in sin. The pastor/shepherd has sin as well. He deals with the effects of sin in his life, his family and now in the lives of other people.  He has particular “weights and sins” that easily beset him and when confronted with sin and its frustrations in the lives of the sheep the mess can be hard to bear. Messy.

In all three situations, there is hope! The hope is found in the Great Shepherd. He alone is without mess. We run to Him to be cleansed.  We run to Him for help.  Even under shepherds need Christ. Sin is never too messy for Christ to clean. So, sin is defeated.  People must not run from being shepherded, but must run to the Great Shepherd and He has chosen to use imperfect under shepherds. Pastor/shepherds must not lose heart but must rest in the perfection of Great Shepherd. He alone is good!