Integrity in Pastoral Ministry

If you could mold the perfect pastor, what would he look like? Would he be a great expositor? Would he be able to give practical and biblical solutions to any problem that was brought before him? Would he deliver humorous anecdotes in his sermons? Would he love his wife to the way Christ loves the Church? Would he love his children and model the role of our heavenly father by being kind and showing loving leadership to his children the way God does for us?

Unfortunately, sometimes when a pulpit committee tries to decide on a pastor they don’t answer those last two questions first. This is why you have so many people who are excellent preachers, but they are horrid pastors. When you see a church goer that is satisfied to go to church on Sunday and live like hell Monday through Saturday, then there’s a good chance that they have a pastor that does the same.  This is why character is so important as a pastor. Pastoral ministry always starts in the home. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 tells us “He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”

Your home is a private sector that’s limited to you and your family. It’s easy to avoid dealing with your sin at home because you are under the impression that your home life is your business and you can keep it separate from your church life because you treat your church like a source of income instead of treating it like the Bride of Christ. If you let your habitual sin control you in the home, it will control you in the church. James tells us that sin is simply a slow and painful death.

“But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.” – James 1:14-16 (NRSV)

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Pastor of Cross Church of Fayetteville, and author of 10 Things Every Minister Should Know said that personal holiness seems to be a forgotten commodity in the church today and he’s not wrong. Names of famous pastors are popping up almost every week in the news and why? It seems like there’s a sin epidemic that going around and reality is that you, I, and everybody are all susceptible to it, but at what point to go from just being susceptible to being victims of the epidemic? In the passage we just looked at in James, what’s going on? You’re tempted by your desire. You’re lured and enticed by your desire. Your desire conceives, and then all at once, you’re in sin before you know it. It’s when you allow your desire to conceive with the allurement of ungodly affections that you give birth to sin. So, what’s the answer? What can possibly keep us from allowing sin to grow in us?

When we were justified, we received the Holy Spirit. According to Acts 1:8, we were granted power by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. In Peter’s second epistle, the Apostle breaks down for us what it means to have that power.

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.  For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:2-8 (NRSV)

The Holy Spirit gave us divine power, and according to the Apostle Peter, that power is all we need for life and godliness. Why? Because that divine power produces a divine nature within us. Because we are harnessing a divine nature, we must make every effort to make our faith active with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. We’re not fighting this battle against sin alone. Jesus declared victory over sin when He stepped in bodily form out of the tomb, and soon God will declare our final victory over sin when all those who have God’s Spirit dwelling inside them will rise triumphantly to meet Jesus in the air.

Reflections on Psalm 2

“Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king

    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];

    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
– Psalm 2:1-12 (NIV)

So, I’ve been trying to pray through the Psalms for the last couple of days and I just wanted to share my reflections with you on this passage. I’m going to try not to get into the deep theology of the text, and just get to what I felt that God was trying to show me.

This morning as I as was getting ready to the open the store that I work at, Psalm 2:1 just kept going through my mind. “Why do the heathen rage? Why do the people imagine a vain thing?” (I think Scripture in KJV because I was raised on it.) What is the psalmist really asking here?

In this passage, the psalmist is addressing kings and leaders that would try to overthrow the dominion of God in the earth. In Colossians 1, we read about how Jesus has created everything, sustains everything, and is ruling all of creation. Any power or authority that anyone has politically or otherwise comes from God.

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”
– Romans 13:1-2 (NLT)

So, what does all this mean on a practical level?

Revelation 1:6 tells us that we are kings and priests unto God. Because we are kings and priests unto God, we always answer to Him for everything we say and do. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures are clear that we will have to give an account for our works (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 12:36-37; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). When we don’t surrender our lives under the full authority of Jesus Christ we become just like these foolish rulers that David is addressing in Psalm 2. When we try to direct our lives without God we are simply plotting in vain and setting ourselves up for disaster.

Don’t Waste the Hot Water

“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:18 (HCSB)

For those of you who know me well, know that I pray the most when I’m in the shower. It seems like that’s the only time that I can get alone and with God. (Besides, he’s not afraid to see me naked. :P) Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that I have a problem. It seems like I have an ADD prayer life. I get in the shower and I’ll start praying, and then I’ll start thinking about something else. Maybe not something that’s bad, but something that steals my attention. I can’t seem to focus when I pray. When I get in the shower, I use u all the hot water because I want to stay in there longer with just me and God, and when I get distracted I waste the time that I have thinking about other things. Maybe you’re reading this and you have this same problem. You may spend 30-45 minutes in your prayer time with only 3 minutes of actual prayer and the rest of time just thinking because your mind got distracted. Honestly, I don’t know how to fix this problem because I don’t even know I’m doing until I feel the cold water run down my back and I realize I’ve wasted the hot water on issues that don’t mean a thing when compared to eternity. I challenge you today, as I challenge myself also. Don’t waste the hot water. Don’t waste your prayer time being distracted. I realize that it’s easier said than done. Pray for focus. Pray for guidance. Pray for God to bring issues to your attention that need prayer and consideration. Time is a depleting resource to those of us on this side of the veil. Don’t let it go to waste.

Don’t Believe Everything They Tell You

“but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” – 1 Timothy 5:6 (NRSV)

 “Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
– Luke 9:23-26 (NRSV)

As young boys growing up, we’re told things like “You need to grow up big strong so you can be a firefighter or a policeman.” “You need to become a doctor or a teacher or a scientist so you can help people and make a difference in the world.”

All those things are good. All of those professions are honorable professions that do help and do make a difference in the world. But what’s happening to our children is they are being trained to chase the ‘American dream’ and make a kingdom all on their own and their being taught to be the king of their castle.

When you really step back and examine what’s going on, you see that parents are trying to encourage their children to be their own god. Don’t get me wrong, we must encourage our children to follow the dreams that God has given them but we instill in this upcoming generation a love and a passion for Jesus Christ.

This morning as I was praying in my devotional time the passage in 1 Timothy 5 came to mind and I thought and mulled over it a few minutes and I came to the realization that even though that particular passage was directed at widows, it applies to us to. We are dead if we live for our own pleasure. I taught over this passage yesterday in Sunday School and I made an illustration that the widow who is living in an income-based apartment and clipping Clorox coupons may look poor but if she’s one of those crazy old ladys that have two million dollars stuffed under their mattress for a rainy day then they have no right to be financially taken care of by the church.

Our problem is that we have this mentality that we must have the cars, the houses, and all the material things that we can get our hands on but the reality of it all is just that we need Jesus.

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you today.

You are loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

The Lord of Our Dance

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
– Psalm 139:14-17 [English Standard Version]

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
– Jeremiah 1:5 [English Standard Version]

“The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent andmake no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17 [Amplified Bible]

“Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!”
– Sydney Carter, The Lord of the Dance

Today in church, I heard a hymn that I’d never heard of before, The Lord of the Dance. As I sat and listened to words, I thought about how much God loves us. As a matter of fact, it occurred to me, God doesn’t just love us, He’s in love with us. We are His creation. He thought about each and every one of us long before creation and even now. He thinks of all of us and according to David and Jeremiah, the thoughts that he thinks about us are good thoughts of peace, prosperity, joy, and loving kindness. I know this sounds like a subject that Joel Osteen would preach on but stick with me here. Think about it, we’re sinful human beings. Sinful to our very core. About our nature, The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states the following:

“Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body…From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”
– London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

Looking at that, I wonder how God could possibly love me much less want to dance with me. I’m humbled when I remember that even though I am sinful, He sees me sinless through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ. There’s a song that I used to sing in church that says “When He sees/He sees the blood of the Lamb/He sees me as worthy yet not as I am/He sees me in garments as white as the snow/For the Lamb of God is worthy and He’s washed me, this I know”. God sees beyond our fault and looks to our need. When He saves us, He brings us back to life with his dance of irresistible grace and after that we are forever His and He is forever ours.

“The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.”
– John 10:27, 28 [Amplified Bible]

Thanks for reading, and remember that you are loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 4

I’ve decided that I’m going to do something that I’ve not done in a really long time and that is finish a series. So, if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a series called, “It’s All About Jesus”. The title is self-explanatory. The material that we’ve been going over is found in Ephesians 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

According to this passage of Scripture there are nine things God has done for us and they are:

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Let’s get started where we left off:

6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)

In the ESV, Ephesians 1:7, 8 read like this:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight – [Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV]

The word ‘lavished’ implies more than enough. It tells me that God didn’t just give me enough grace to get by on but he gave me grace for every day. He gave me more than I needed. He didn’t have to give me more than enough but he did anyway because He really loves me. Just to think that God has shown that kind of love for each and every person is incredible and unfathomable.

7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)

When Paul is talking here, he’s telling us about the mystery of the will of God. How can this mystery remain a mystery if it’s made known to us? To be honest, it can’t. Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just had to talk in Ephesians 3:6:

“And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.” – [Ephesians 3:6 CEV]

We, who were rejected and kicked out in the cold, are now welcomed by God’s wonderful grace to be his elect people.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – [1 Peter 2:10 ESV]

8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)

This great inheritance that Paul speaks about is our salvation. God gave this to us as a free gift. I’ve heard a lot of Baptists express this as God giving us a box wrapped in paper and all we have to do is accept it but I’m with RC Sproul on this one:

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

A dead man can’t receive anything. God has to be the one to bring you to life. Jesus says in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – [John 10:10 ESV]

A lot of people use this to preach on living a blessed and abundant life. That’s all well and good but people seldom realize that you must have life before you can have abundant life and that’s what our inheritance is: life.

9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

I love what Scofield has to say about this in his commentary.

The Holy Spirit is Himself, the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture, a seal signifies:
(1) A finished transaction; (Jer_32:9); (Jer_32:10); (Joh_17:4); (Joh_19:30).
(2) Ownership; (Jer_32:11); (Jer_32:12); (2Ti_2:19).
(3) Security; (Est_8:8); (Dan_6:17); (Eph_4:30).

After reading and studying what a seal was and its purpose, I understood what Paul was communicating. Our salvation is a done deal. God owns me. I’m secure. I’m not going to lose my salvation at the drop of a hat. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will never let me go.

I hope that God absolutely blesses your socks off today. Remember, that you are loved by the Creator of the universe.

The High Priest of Hebrews

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” – [Hebrews 9:11-12 KJV]

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” – [Hebrews 9:11-12 ESV]

“But.” this three letter word can the tone of any sentence and, if used correctly, can bring good news out of bad news. The ox ford says that this three letter word is used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned. In this passage of Scripture, found in the letter to the Hebrews, the writer starts describing the setup of the temple and in verse 11 he gives us the reason that we don’t have live under works and the law any more. He begins teaching us about the hope of eternal redemption through Christ’s blood. The Old Covenant system wasn’t personal enough. The Old Covenant system never dealt with the issue of your sin it only rolled it back. It didn’t have the power to give you victory over sin and relieve your conscious.

“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.”- [Hebrews 9:8-10 ESV]
“They related mainly to outward and ceremonial rites, and even when offerings were made for sin the conscience was not relieved. They could not expiate guilt; they could not make the soul pure; they could not of themselves impart peace to the soul by reconciling it to God. They could not fully accomplish what the conscience needed to have done in order to give it peace. Nothing will do this but the blood of the Redeemer…The idea here is, that those ordinances were only temporary in their nature, and were designed to endure until a more perfect system should be introduced. They were of value “to introduce” that better system; they were not adapted to purify the conscience and remove the stains of guilt from the soul.” – Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament

When Christ came He made a way for us to personally go before the throne of grace and ask of Him exactly what we need. What a thought! We, a people that deserve death and Hell, have the privilege of coming before our Heavenly Father and asking for anything that we might need.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” – [Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV]

Out of this passage of Scripture I noticed three ‘T’ words that stood out to me:

1.) Touched

2.) Tempted

3.) Throne

I’ll probably post more about this later but the thought occurred to me: Jesus, our High Priest, was TEMPTED so He could be TOUCHED at the THRONE of grace.

Thank you so much for reading this. I hope you were encouraged or blessed in some way. Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings!