If (book review)

Amy Carmichael was a committed follower of Jesus Christ! She served as a missionary in India, where she operated an orphanage, for 55 years. During all that time, she never took a furlough, but remained at her post, faithfully loving Indian children with God’s love. She wrote a number of books, but perhaps the most hard-hitting is a little book simply called If.

This isn’t a book for everyone. In fact, Amy herself wrote, “It is clear, I think, that such a booklet as this is not meant for everyone, but only for those who are called to be undershepherds.” By ‘undershepherds,’ Amy is referring to those who feel God has called them into full-time vocational ministry.

(A little side-note. I feel the Bible is clear that all followers of Christ are to be involved in ministry [see Ephesians 4:11-16], but God has appointed some to positions where their ministry is also their vocation. These ‘undershepherds’ [see 1 Peter 5:2-3] will have to give account to God for the handling of their vocational ministry [Hebrews 13:17]. It is to these folks that Amy writes.)

Amy set the bar high for herself. She expected to be continually growing in her level of commitment to Christ, and she expected that her outward life would continually show greater devotion to her Savior. If comes out of Amy’s personal introspection in the Holy Spirit’s presence on how she was progressing in her faith-walk with God.

If is written as a series of challenges that all follow the same format: “If I don’t measure up to God’s standard in this area … then I know nothing of Calvary love.” I realize this sounds challenging. In fact, this book smacked me right between the eyes! This is why If is only for a small segment of people.

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How To Respond To Bad Pastors

God has ordained that His leaders oversee and administer His ministry. But problems arise in the church when humans change the “His” to “my.”

I read a statistic that 75% of people who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of a problem with their boss. In other words, 3-out-of-4 people didn’t quit their job, they quit their boss. In my personal experience this is equally as true in the church world—Most people don’t quit their church, they quit a bad pastor.

Sadly, those who do quit their church usually do so the wrong way. As a result they become either de-churched (they don’t attend anywhere), or cynical in the next church they do attend.

Who is a bad pastor?

  • One who is no longer effective because he is stuck in an old way of doing things
  • One who is theologically off
  • One who is unwilling to admit an error, ask forgiveness, and make amends
  • One who uses his position to build his kingdom instead of God’s kingdom

We have a great example of how to handle a bad spiritual leader in the story of David and Saul (see 1 Samuel 24). David had done nothing wrong, yet Saul was trying to kill him. At one point David’s men urged David to take matters into his own hands, and he almost did. He got close enough to Saul to cut off a corner of his robe, but quickly discovered that was too close. Immediately after doing so David was conscience-stricken!

Then look how David responded:

  • David rebuked his men as he reminded them that Saul was their “master” and “the Lord’s anointed.”
  • David “bowed down and prostrated himself” before Saul as he apologized.
  • David called him his “master,” “father,” and “the Lord’s anointed.”
  • David said he would leave the matter in God’s hands, allowing God to “judge between you and me.”
  • And twice David declared, “My hand will not touch you!”

This humble reply got Saul’s attention. Saul wept as he said, “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.” Saul then asked David to be kind to his descendants.

Then this conclusion—David gave Saul his oath, and then went away to a safe place.

The New Testament captures these same ideas for today’s Christians. We are told not to lightly entertain an accusation against spiritual leaders (1 Timothy 5:19), but to submit and obey to biblically-correct leaders (Hebrews 13:17).

The Bible gives us only two options for dealing with spiritual leaders…

SUBMIT & OBEY or WALK AWAY

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Responding in an unscriptural way to an unscriptural pastor’s way is just as wrong as what the pastor was doing wrong in the first place!

So give the bad pastor your oath that you will not lay a hand (or a word!) on them, and then remove yourself to a safe place. Submit and obey, or walk away and leave them in God’s capable hands.

What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

Can A Christian Lose Their Salvation?

As a part of our annual Q Series, this was a question that was turned in: Can a Christian lose his or her salvation?

Check out the video below…

Some of the Scriptures I reference in this answer:

For other Q&As from this series, check out discussions here and here.

10 Great Reasons To Go To Church Regularly

Without exception, all human beings have exactly 168 hours in a week. No one gets any bonus time and no one has any hours taken away. We’re supposed to get 8 hours of sleep a night, and most of us work about 40 hours each week. So let’s do the math…

168 hours per week
– 56 hours for sleeping
– 40 hours for work
=72 discretionary hours

In those 72 hours there must be time for eating and taking care of chores. But what about going to church? The problem for many people is looking at church attendance as just another “chore” or item on their “To Do” list.

But instead of thinking of going to church as “I have to,” how about if you looked at all of the “I get to” benefits?

Here are 10 great reasons for going to church regularly. I get to…

  1. …draw closer to my Heavenly Father, just like Jesus did (Luke 2:49)
  2. …be an example to others (1 Timothy 4:12)
  3. …hang out with some really great people (Hebrews 10:24)
  4. …get to know Jesus and my brothers and sisters better (1 John 1:3)
  5. …reaffirm the priority that God is first in my life (Matthew 6:33)
  6. …learn to better understand Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15)
  7. …join with a choir of God worshipers (John 4:23-24)
  8. …grow spiritually (1 Peter 2:2-5)
  9. …complete the Body of Chris (1 Corinthians 12:12)
  10. …avoid becoming isolated and possibly lost (Proverbs 18:1)

“Sometimes we make it sound like we’re making a sacrifice to go to church, but think about the very real sacrifice Jesus made so that we could meet together as brothers and sisters!” —Scott Troost

How about it? Do you think you could invest an hour or two of your 72 discretionary hours in a local church this week?

My thanks to my brother, Scott Troost, for sharing such a timely message!

Why Did Jesus Take Your Punishment?

“Christ lived the life we could not live and took the punishment we could not take to offer the hope we cannot resist. Why? Jesus was angry enough to purge the temple, hungry enough to eat raw grain, distraught enough to weep in public, fun-loving enough to be called a drunkard, winsome enough to attract kids, weary enough to sleep in a storm-bounced boat, poor enough to sleep on dirt, radical enough to get kicked out of town, responsible enough to care for His mother, tempted enough to know the smell of satan, and fearful enough to sweat blood.

“Why? Why would heaven’s finest Son endure earth’s toughest pain? So you would know that ‘He is able…to run to the cry of…those who are being tempted and tested and tried’ (Hebrews 2:18, AMP). Whatever you are facing, He knows how you feel. When you turn to Him for help, He runs to you to help. Why? He knows how you feel. He’s been there. He’s not ashamed of you. Nor is He confused by you. Your actions don’t bewilder Him. Your tilted halo doesn’t trouble Him. So go to Him.” —Max Lucado, in On Calvary’s Hill

Becoming Spiritually Fit

To me this sounds weird: Jesus grew spiritually strong. Think about that: Isn’t He already God?!

When Jesus came to Earth as a man, the writer of Hebrews says He was made like us humans in every way. So just as you and I have a spiritual health to maintain, so did Jesus while He was on earth.

Dr. Luke noticed this as well when he noted that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Luke notes His spiritual growth by saying Jesus “grew…in favor with God.” In other words, God was more and more pleased by what He saw developing in His Son.

Yesterday I listened to Pastor Josh Schram explain the parallels between our physical health and our spiritual health. He said that we all know what we need to do to grow physically strong—eat the right food, exercise, get proper rest, and have some way of monitoring our health.

It’s exactly the same way spiritually! We need…

…a good dietMan does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus repeated this truth when He was confronted by the devil, and lived it out every day.

…proper exercise—All the health food in the world won’t do us a bit of good if we just sit around. It’s the same with the Bible: we can read it, memorize it, and talk about it, but if we don’t exercise it we won’t get spiritually fit. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).

…the right amount of rest—We can’t be in perpetual “go” mode if we want to be healthy physically or spiritually. Jesus knew the value of rest, and frequently He would “withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

…to monitor our progress—James talks about the Word of God being a mirror for us, and Paul advises us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

But here was the most important takeaway for me in Josh’s message…

Health is not just one big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.

A good question for all of us to ask ourselves: Am I making good daily choices which will help me grow spiritually fit like Jesus.

I so enjoy sharing the teaching duties with a couple of really solid pastors-in-training in our church. They have helped me develop this series called Wholly Healthy, and have taken part in sharing messages in various aspects of this series. Please watch how Josh lays out the plan for our spiritual fitness.

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