The Privilege of Being a Pastor

John Murray, while giving an ordination sermon for Wayne F. Brauning, stated that the two main functions of pastoral ministry are first, the preaching of the Word, and secondly, pastoral care.

Under the primary responsibility of preaching/teaching the Scripture, Murray warns against allowing other responsibilities to keep the pastor from his time studying and also encourages the pastor to rely upon the Holy Spirit for a proper understanding and proclamation of the Word.

Finally, he mentions the privilege of preaching and teaching the Word of God.

"It is yours to be a fellow of the Gospel - of the glorious, the blessed Gospel. It is yours to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is yours to be the ambassador of the King eternal, immortal, invincible. It is yours to be the ambassador of him who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, of whom you have heard already that He walks among the candlesticks. There is no greater vocation on earth. There is no greater vocation that God has given to any than the vocation of proclaiming the whole counsel of God - proclaiming the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, and proclaiming the unsearchable riches of the Redeemer. Think much of your privilege."

Under the second main responsibility, pastoral care, Murray stresses the importance of shepherding the church of God, giving the audience to your people, and remembering that you are a servant of Christ in the exercise of pastoral care.

Speaking of shepherding the church, Murray writes,

"You do not get your sermons from your people, but you get your sermons with your people. You get your sermons from the Word of God, but you must remember that the sermons which you deliver from the Word of God must be relevant. They must be practical in the particular situation in which you are. It is when you move among your people and become acquainted with their needs, become acquainted with the situation in which they are, become acquainted· with their thoughts, become acquainted with their philosophy, become acquainted with their temptations, that the Word of God which you bring forth from this inexhaustible treasure of wisdom and truth will be relevant and will not be abstract and unrelated. "


Startling Stats & the Need For a Great Commission Resurgence

If you have not visited the Great Commission Resurgence website and signed up to be a prayer partner, I would encourage you to do so.

I used these stats this morning in my sermon that dealt with us as churches and as a convention loosing our focus of making disciples of all nations. I mentioned that loss of focus is clearly seen by our giving towards the accomplishment of the Great Commission.

These stats are startling and seem to speak for themselves. Here they are along with a quote from Daniel Palmer. You can read the entire article here where these stats were taken.

  • 17% of Cooperative Progam giving goes to reach the nations with the Gospel.
  • As Southern Baptists, we sepnd annually $1.31/person to reach every person living in the US and Canada.
  • We spend only $.04/person annually to reach every person living in the rest of the world, especially the unreached peoples of the world.
  • We spend $447 million a year to reach the 340 million people who live in the US and Canada.
  • We spend $243 million annually to reach the 6.4 billion people in the rest of the world.
  • We spend on average thirty-three times more money annually to reach an American than we do an African.

"Southern Baptists affirm that every soul is equal before God, but we spend missions dollars like we value the American soul above all others--the Southern, American soul in particular."

Oh how we need to pray for a Great Commission Resurgence among our Convention and may it begin in each of our hearts!

Historically a Christian Nation? Yes & No

I recently finished reading George M. Marsden's excellent book A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. It's a quick read and a very good summary of Jonathan Edward's life and ministry. The last chapter deals with things we should learn from Edwards.

One of those had to do with the understanding America's paradoxical heritage--at the same time both secular and religious. Marsden addresses what we can understand concerning the popular idea of America's Christian origins from Edwards' life and ministry, whether or not that idea is accurate.

Marsden writes,

"Knowing the story of Jonathan Edwards also helps provide an answer to the much-debated question of the extent to which the United States had Christian origins...Nontheless that observation[a significant Christian presence in 18th century colonial America] needs to be balanced by the fact that ardently revivalist Christians of the revolutionary era were never close to being a majority. They did not think that the new nation or its immediate colonial predecessors were nearly Christian enough--that was why they believed there was such an urgent need for awakenings. They considered their era, despite its many public expressions of Christianity, to be unusually profane and far too influenced by sub-Christian philosophies growing out of the Enlightenment. Even though most of them endorsed the break with Great Britain because they thought the mother country was even more corrupt, the ardent revivalist Christians of the revolutionary era considered themselves to be a beleaguered minority in a nation that was far from being truly Christian."


Coincidence or Providence

A tornado unexpectedly rips through downtown Minneapolis at 2pm yesterday afternoon.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of American holds its annual meeting in dowtown Minneapolis and at 2pm was scheduled to discuss and vote on the issue of whether or not practicing homosexuality should disqualify someone from pastoral ministry.

Read John Piper's assessment here.

I don't believe in coincidences.


How's Your Vision?

As a follower of Christ, is the vision for your life large enough to encompass the need of a lost world?

Is the vision of the church, of which you are a member, large enough to encompass the need of a lost world?

How can it be that we claim to worship such a great, incomprehensible God, and yet the vision for our life and the churches of which we are members are nowhere near that great and easily achieved in our own strength?

"Any church that is not working hard to further the accomplishment of the Great Commission has forfeited her right to be a church."--Oswald Smith

What Kind of Legacy Are You Pursuing?

I came across this quote today from cnn.com concerning a recent interview with Jenny Sanford concerning the happenings surrounding her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford's, affair. The quote is extremely startling and accurate. Commenting on the mid-life crisis that her husband seems to be going through, Mrs. Sanford remarked,

"Midlife aging is different for men than for women," she says. "Mark is worried about what his next job is. He worries about making money, running for office again, his legacy. I know my legacy is my children. I don't worry about that."

What a remarkable difference would be made in the families of America if both mom and dad saw their most important legacy as their children and invested in them accordingly.

Jenny Sanford is to be commended for the legacy she is pursuing.

I am so thankful for a wife who sees her main legacy as that of our children and I am praying that as a Dad I will follow her example.


Timely Reading & Future Grace

I am currently reading Ed Welch's Running Scared: Fear, Worry & the God of Rest. It is an extremely timely read considering where our family finds itself right now. Dont' get me wrong, I am extremely thankful for the kindness of God in how He is providing for us right now. However, there is an ever present temptation to worry and fear about what the future may hold 4 months from now.

Questions such as, "What happens if God hasn't opened up another place of ministry for us to serve?" "What if the house doesn't sell when we need it to or for the amount we need it to?" Not to mention the worry of compounding medical bills/debt and knowing that in 7 short months, we will have another baby!

Welch points out that living in the Kingdom of God does not mean that God always opens up the next opportunity when you think He should. Living in the Kingdom of God does not mean that God always makes the house sell when and for how much you need it to.

However, living in the Kingdom of God means that God always gives you grace for whatever lies ahead and what delivers us from the anxiety, worry, and fear that we experience today in anticipation of what tomorrow holds is confidence or faith in God''s future grace.

Welch explains future grace with a great illustration. Imagine walking into a class in college and on the first day of class, the professor hands you an exam to take. You look at the exam and there are all of these questions that you have no idea what the answers are and you begin to freak out.

Then the teacher alleviates some of your worry by telling you that the exam you are holding is your final exam that you will take at the end of the semester after you have gone through a semester of class. The professor assures you that by the time the class is over you will actually know the answers on the test and you will be amazed at how well prepared you will be.

Welch writes,

"Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Nothing has really changed. There will be a final exam at the end of the couse, and you would fail it if you took it now, but you have no worries. When the time comes to take the test, you will have received the 'grace' that you need to do well.

Are you worried about the future? You are looking at tomorrow as if it was a final exam and you haven't yet taken the class. Of course you panic at the thought. But you haven't considered that you will go throught the class before you have to take the final. You will be given all the grace you need when you need it.

What form might that grace take? Be careful here. When we try to imagine grace in some future situations, we might still be resting in ourselves. We want specific confirmation that there will be grace, and we want to calm ourselves not by trusting in the Gracious One but in seeing the future. If I am called to drown, I don't know what grace I will receive. Having never had it, I can't imagine it, and since God gives much more than we ask my prediction no doubt would fall short. It is enough to know that I will receive grace. I will know the presence of the Spirit and I will die, or be rescued, in a way that pleases the Lord."

So here's to enjoying the course and trusting that when the final exam comes, whatever that may be, God will have prepared us and will give us the grace we need to pass with flying colors.


Hopefully this gives some perspective to whatever "suffering" we go through for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, or for that matter any suffering we endure. It's an account of the recent killing of three pastors in Northern Nigeria.

A thirteen-year-old Nigerian Christian has told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) sources how she was forced to watch her pastor’s murder, and has also spoken of her four-day ordeal as a prisoner in the besieged compound of Islamist group, Boko Haram.

On 26 July, Mary was in church with her pastor, his brother and an older Christian woman when a group of fifty militants broke in. She and her pastor hid as the group killed the pastor’s brother and dragged the older woman out of the room. On discovering their hiding place, the militants cut off her pastor’s hand to stop him holding on to her, then hacked him to death with machetes before setting him on fire.

The girl and the woman were dragged to Boko Haram’s compound in Maiduguri’s Railway district, and were placed in a room with around 100 other Christian women and girls. They were all asked to renounce their faith or face continued imprisonment, while Christian men were given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying.

Mary vividly describes how she was forced to wash the blood stained clothing of Boko Haram fighters. She was in the camp for four days, but managed to escape with a few others when military forces intensified their attack on the compound.

Mary’s pastor was one of three Christian ministers targeted and killed by Boko Haram during last week’s violence. Photographs showing the corpse of one murdered pastor from the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Rev Sabo Yakubu, indicate that his heart may have been ripped out.

For my devotions this morning, I read Psalm 10. I prayed that Psalm for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Northern Nigeria. I hope you will take a few minutes to pray for them as well and let this story put things in perspective for you and your suffering.

Psalm 10:

10:1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses [1] and renounces the Lord.
4 In the pride of his face [2] the wicked does not seek him; [3]
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
8 He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9 he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.


Dieing In Our Religion Or Dieing In Our Devotion?

Here's David Platt's sermon from this year's Pastors' Conference. Find 35 minutes and watch it. You won't be the same afterwards.

David Platt: SBC Pastors Conference 2009 from Todd Thomas on Vimeo.

Collin Hansen recently interviewed David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL. You can find the entire interview here at Christianity Today. If you are not familiar with David Platt, you should be. If you have not listened/watched his message from this year's Pastors' Conference of SBC, you must. It is quite possibly the best message ever preached at the Pastors' Conference and undoubtedly the most timely.

Here are a couple of quotes from the interview that resonated greatly with me, not to mention challenged me as well.

In answering the question, "How did you develop such a deep understanding and passion for Scripture, David responds,

"God by his grace provided men in my life who poured the Word into me and taught me the supremacy of his Word, that any power in walking with Christ, even more so leading a church, is dependent on understanding God in his Word.

Coming into this role, I have nothing to bring to the table apart from his Word. This is the first church I've pastored. I don't have a lot of wisdom that life experience would bring. We're going to trust that his Word is sufficient and that any authority I have to lead in the church is dependent on the authority of God's Word and my attachment to it. There's no question that anything good is completely attributed to, dependent on, and accredited to the power of his Word. The Word does the work."

Later David explains how instilling in people a greater biblical and theological knowledge is not just about making them smarter, but rather helping them to be conformed to the image of Christ:

"The purpose of God's Word is to transform us into the image of Christ. The Word radically changes the way we live. This is why it's more important for me to preach Leviticus than to give them tips on parenting. The reality is that Scripture is not a guidebook for a lot of the things folks are going through. It's given to us for one purpose: to make us look more like Christ. When we look more like Christ, then when we're walking through grief or a parenting challenge, we find ourselves in touch with Holy Spirit of God, who is able to walk us through those things we're battling day in and day out. No other book in the Christian bookstore can get them in touch with the Holy Spirit of God."



Desiring To Be Unflinchingly Faithful to the Word of God

In a letter to one of his opponents, John Calvin once wrote,

"You yourself know, or at least ought to know, what I am; that at all events, I am one to whom the law of my heavenly Master is so dear that the cause of no man on earth will induce me to flinch from maintaining it with a pure conscience."

Calvin was not only a man who said those words of committment, but who also lived them out practically. In response to a group of libertines who, despite their sinful life, desired to continue to be members in good standing with the church and receive the Lord's Supper, Calvin refused to indulge them. Instead he called for their discipline and refused to extend the Lord's Supper to them. The City Counsel felt otherwise and demanded that they be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper with the rest of the church.

Well, assuming that the libertines were in attendance (which as it turned out, they were not), Calvin remained firm in his committment to not compromise the Scripture for safety and peace. He guarded the Lord's Table and exclaimed,

"These hands you may crush; these arms you may lop off; my life you may take; my blood is yours, you may shed it. But you shall never force me to give holy things to the profaned, and dishonor the table of my God."

Praying that God would make me unflinchingly faithful to Him and His Word in both words and deeds.


God Knows What We Can Do: Nothing

I've been reading T.H.L. Parker's Portait of Calvin the last couple of days. It's a great quick read on the life of John Calvin. Here's a great quote from Calvin on our constant need of God to continue fighting the fight of faith and persevering even when things seem insurmountable:

"We see a great number whose heart fails them when they see that the work is greater than their strength: 'Oh,' they say, 'how shall I be able to do that? I feel that I am so weak and I can see that is a great burden and beyond my bearing.' No, no; let us just work, however difficult things may be, and God will work for us. And since St. Paul in talking of things that surpass the strength of men never fails to exhort them to do them, we must understand that it is no excuse to plead that we have been shocked and dismayed because we see that we are unable to bear the burden that God lays upon our shoulders; for He knows what we can do--nothing at all. And moreover, He will not fail us while we walk in humility, and undertake to subject ourselves to Him and to put ourselves entirely in His hands."

We Have Polluted the Seat of Justice

Calvin on the importance on who we elect to public office and how we are to go about doing so:

"...when we are going to elect men to some public position, we must set about it reverently and carefully. For we shall provoke God's anger if we pollute the seat of justice, putting men in it who have neither the zeal nor the interest to honor and serve it..."

Oops! Maybe next time we will get it right.


A Great Prayer At A Great Time

Francis Chan dares us to pray Proverbs 30:7-9: