The Gift Preached To The World

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Ever since Resurrection Day, we can continually celebrate the greatest Gift ever—the death and resurrection of Jesus! 

After making His bodily resurrection abundantly clear, Jesus ascended back to heaven. And now we await His second advent. But here’s an important question: If Jesus ascended back into heaven, where is our Gift now? Quite simply: If you have invited Jesus into your heart, YOU are the gift! 

Remember on Good Friday I talked about what Jesus perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished!” It was an inside job. He came to change us at our core—we have been brought into at-onement with God and we stand in His presence just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. 

But there is one more step, an ongoing process called sanctification or as I like to say it, “saint-ification.” 

Even as we are in this process, Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to Go…preach (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). That means “as you are going” or “wherever you go” tell everyone the good news of the greatest Gift ever. 

Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be effective at this preaching (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Notice that in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will BE My witnesses,” not you will do witnessing. The Holy Spirit empowers us to BE God’s gift to the world, and to use Christ’s authority properly. 

The apostle Paul echos this. He tells us how everyone can receive the Gift of Jesus. Paul then notes that people hear about this Gift because those who have received the Gift are preaching to them (Romans 10:8-15). 

We are all preachers or proclaimers of the Greatest Gift. Don’t confuse preaching with being a pastor. Preaching is a lifestyle for all Christians, whereas pastoring is an office that only some Christians are called to. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.” 

Here are three things that I think preach unmistakably. 

(1) Loving, practical service to those in need (John 13:34-35; Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus said it pretty simply: If someone is hungry, give them something to eat. This practical love is an unmistakable sermon. 

(2) Loving, practical service to those you dislike—or who dislike you (Luke 6:27-36) 

Anyone can do loving things for people they like, but when you bless people who are mean to you, another unmistakable sermon is being preached. 

(3) Jesus-exalting fruitfulness (Galatians 5:19-25) 

Paul contrasts the fruit of those who haven’t invited Jesus into their hearts with those who have. Our fruits of kindness in an unkind world, or self-control in a hedonistic world also preach an unmistakable sermon. 

(check out all of the above Bible verses by clicking here)

If the Gift of Jesus is in you, then your life IS the sermon. Preach it well! 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find all of them listed here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Lifelong Preparation

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

Dace asked me what I wished I had learned earlier on in my pastoral career. The answer that sprang quickly to my mind is this: God takes me through things on purpose. 

At the time we may not be able to see what God is teaching us, but He wastes no opportunities. Everything we have gone through has a purpose.

How true it is: God doesn’t prepare the path for me, but He prepares me for the path. 

The same is true for you, my friend! You may not know why during the time of your difficult trial, and you may not even know why on this side of Heaven. But God’s Word assures us that He is using every single thing to prepare us and to bring Him glory. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is proof of this! I never thought God would call me to pastor a church—let alone write a book about pastoral leadership—but as I wrote the book, the Holy Spirit brought back to my remembrance so many lessons that I learned along the way. 

I’ve already shared several clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview which you can find by clicking here, and I’ll be sharing more clips soon, so please stay tuned. 

Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Preeminent Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

There is only one Jesus, but He is presented to us in the Bible with many facets, and we get to pray in all of those facets of His name! 

One of the facets of Jesus is His preeminence. The dictionary defines preeminent as “above and before others; superior; surpassing.” 

The Bible uses the word preeminence to mean “holding the first place.” The apostle Paul uses this idea of Christ’s supremacy when He describes Him this way—

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN over all creation. For in Him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things have been created through Him and for Him. He is BEFORE ALL things, and in Him ALL things hold together. And He is the HEAD of the body, the church; He is the BEGINNING and the FIRSTBORN from among the dead, so that in EVERYTHING He might have the SUPREMACY. For God was pleased to have ALL His fullness dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:15-19, emphasis mine) 

Therefore God exalted Him to THE HIGHEST PLACE and gave Him the name that is above EVERY name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, emphasis mine) 

Praying in Christ’s preeminence means that we never have to settle for less than God’s best! 

When we began this series, I mentioned that there were some people who misuse the words of Jesus. Specifically the phrase where Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 15:16, 16:23). They have taken this as license to ask for things for their own comfort, or claiming that praying “in the name of Jesus” means that we never have to experience pain, poverty, or any setbacks. 

But preeminence ≠ prosperity! 

Prosperity wrongly says Christians will never have trouble, never experience poverty or lack, and can claim and obtain lavish things just by invoking “in the name of Jesus.” 

Preeminence correctly says that Christians may have trouble, or poverty, or even martyrdom, but that Christ’s preeminence gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Jesus didn’t pray to be removed from trials. The godly apostle Paul experienced ample trouble, and so did the heroes of faith (John 12:27-28; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Hebrews 11:35-38). Yet even in all of these troubles and pain and hardship, Christ’s preeminence prevails! 

As Paul said in Colossians 1, Jesus was the “firstborn from among the dead,” meaning that He is now preeminent even over death! Jesus said that His followers will—not “may”—experience persecution here, just as those heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 did, but that the rewards in eternity are beyond compare (see 1 Corinthians 15:55, 57-58; Matthew 5:11-12; Hebrews 11:39-40). 

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. One of the stanzas reminds us:

Though satan should buffet though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul

Praying in the name of the preeminent Jesus does at least four things for us: 

  1. Gives us a surpassing victory—Romans 8:31-32, 37 
  2. Keeps us humble and God glorified—2 Corinthians 4:7
  3. Detaches us from earthly things that would take our eyes off of Jesus—Philippians 3:8
  4. Keeps us focused on Heaven—2 Corinthians 4:17

(check out all of the verses listed above by clicking here)

Let me say it again: Praying in Christ’s preeminence means that we never have to settle for less than God’s best! 

God’s best is not awaiting us here on earth, but it is our promised eternal reward for persevering to the end. It may seem tough at times, but our preeminent Savior walks with us every step of the way! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find links to all of those messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Divine Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I was teaching a class for my team members, and at one of the breaks a new employee came up to me to say how much he was enjoying the day, and to tell me that he would like to do what I was doing. I asked him, “But do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” When I explained that I read about 10-12 books for this training time, and that it took me about 40 hours to prepare for our 4-hour class, he didn’t seem as interested. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the results. As Christians we need to remember these words from William Penn: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” 

The human Jesus understands and empathizes with our painful struggles, and the divine Jesus helps us endure through these painful struggles to get the rewards on the other side. 

What do we mean by divine? The dictionary simply defines it as things relating to God or gods, so we need to use some context to help us understand who this divine Jesus is. After all, the New Testament refers to both Jesus and Artemis as divine (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 1:1-3; Acts 19:27). 

One way we can distinguish is by doing what the writer of Hebrews advised: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). We see that the so-called worshippers of Artemis were more interested in their own financial gain than they were her divinity (Acts 19:23-27). In contrast, the apostle Paul demonstrated a totally Jesus-focused lifestyle: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). 

Paul was following Jesus, and called all Christians to do the same. He noted that Jesus gave up all of His divine privileges to become our human Jesus, but because of this obedience, God made the divinity of Jesus shine more gloriously than anything else in creation! Then Paul transitioned to a word specifically for Christians: 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13) 

In essence this is like Jesus saying, “I want you to have what I have, but you will have to do what I did to get it: That is, go through the painful struggles of life. But I will be right here with you every single step of the way!” 

The writer of Hebrews echoes this idea by reminding us that Jesus was made perfect through suffering, and so are we. So he calls us to “not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” He also reminds us that although the times of suffering are not pleasant, there is an unimaginable reward on the other side (Hebrews 2:9-11; 10:35-39; 12:1-11).

I especially like this conclusion: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

The divine Jesus has made it possible for us to be rewarded as He was rewarded! His divine power leads to our divine nature. And His divine power helps us defeat the world’s weapons (2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 10:4) 

Jesus asks, “Do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” The power of the divine Jesus can help us be perfected, but we only get to this perfected place by suffering as He suffered. That’s why we need to know our human Jesus understands, empathizes, and helps. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the rewards. Our divine Savior helps us work out what God has worked in us. He helps us get the rewards! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Year-End Review (2021 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. And nor just teaching, but reminding folks of whatwe have learned too. The apostles Peter and Paul both saw the value in this as well.

So here are all of the sermon series that I shared in 2021. Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Foundation Stones—Any architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise…[and] make no headway because they build without foundation.” We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but more than just having them listed there, it is important to discuss them.

Be A First Responder—There is a line in an old hymn that convicts me every time I sing it: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Why are we so slow to drop to our knees in prayer when trouble strikes? It seems we fool ourselves into thinking the problem is small enough to handle on our own, or we think God isn’t concerned with something that may seem trivial, or we’ve been-here-done-this before and know the way to go. But this isn’t what our Heavenly Father desires; instead, He wants us to come to Him before we try anything else. Instead of making prayer our last resort, why don’t we strive to make it our first response!

Confessions Of A Dying Man—In our justice system, rarely will a judge allow hearsay testimony to be introduced in court. But there is one notable exception: a dying declaration. A dying declaration is the statement of a mortally injured person who is aware he or she is about to die. This statement is admissible testimony in court on the theory that a dying person has no reason not to tell the truth. Jesus was nailed to a Cross. Mortally injured, unable to escape, He had no reason to lie. In His dying moments, struggling to get enough air in His lungs to be able to speak, Jesus choked out seven statements that still have a profound impact on us today.

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

X-ing Out Anxiety—Two brothers—one a doctor and one a pastor—addressed the prevalence of anxiety in our culture. They wrote, “A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” Anxiety can negatively impact our relationships, our ability to think creatively, our physical health, and even our relationship with God. Thankfully, one of the titles given to Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Join us for this freeing series called X-ing Out Anxiety, where we will be learning what God’s Word says about getting free from the anxiety that is robbing us of life, and replacing that anxiety with His peace.

People Will Talk—Sometimes celebrities and other people in the public spotlight will hire a publicist to help promote their cause, build their brand, or present them in the best possible light. If you wanted to stretch the terms, you could say that some of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament disciples could have been viewed as the “publicists” for Jesus. At least, that’s what critics might point to. But despite the best efforts and high salaries of publicists—both ancient and modern—they cannot control the “word on the street.” What people are actually saying about the one in the spotlight is usually the best evidence of who that person truly is. As we celebrate this Advent season, we are going to look at what the people on the street were saying about Jesus at the time of His birth. Before He ever performed a miracle or presented a parable—before any of His “publicists” could try to make Him look good—people were already talking. And what they said about Him is truly enlightening.

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2022, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Standing Firm

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Standing Firm 

     Superficial brilliance is always afraid of fire, but gold is not. The paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true diamond fears no test. People who have a kind of confectionery godliness will wish to be preserved from temptations, for they cannot endure them. But the Christian counts it all joy when he falls into different trials, knowing that ‘tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5). My dear friends, if your faith is only a sunshiny faith, get rid of it! … 

     So our gracious God, beloved, glorifies Himself by permitting His people to be subjected to trials and by enabling them to endure the strain. We would never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched. We would never enjoy the juice of the grape if it were never trod in the winepress. We would never discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten. And we would never know the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The excellence of the Christian is brought out by the fire of trouble. The wisdom of the great Workman and the glory of His skill and power are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. … 

     Depend upon it, beloved, those who suffer as I have described are the children of God, for they show it. They show it by the way in which they bear their trials. In the worst times there is always a clear distinction that marks them as separate from other men. If they cannot shout, ‘Victory!’ they bear patiently. If they cannot sing to God with their mouth, yet their hearts bless Him. There is a degree of light even in their worst darkness…. If they get into the mire, they do not perish there. They cry for help when their woes surround them, and in the very nick of time, when everything appears to be lost, their heavenly Father hastens to their aid.

From The Believer Sinking In The Mire

I shared a series of messages called Thankful In The Night. Another psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). 

Notice that this psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. 

Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. IN those nights, we can learn to say, as Spurgeon did, “I believe in my Lord because He is a God who cannot lie. He is faithful and true to His every word and, therefore, let the whole creation go to rack and ruin, my faith will not waver or give up its confidence.” 

Amen! Let us stand firm in that confidence.

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Faith To Stand

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

“…If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9). 

These words were spoken to King Ahaz and his people when they heard that enemies had allied themselves to attack. Their immediate response was, “And his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (v. 2). These are the people to whom God says, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” 

In Hebrew this phrase is really just the same Hebrew word repeated twice: aman aman. It amounts to this: if you don’t stand, you won’t stand. 

Stand on what? Your faith. 

Faith in what? Isaiah tells us, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says” (v. 7). Jehovah Adonai is the final word. He calls the two conspiring enemies “smoldering stubs of firewood,” and He states definitively of their plans, “It will not take place, it will not happen” (vv. 4, 7). Fittingly, several English translations of this verse say, “Their plans will not stand.” 

When God speaks his final and decisive word, my faith-filled response should be exactly what He commanded the Israelites: “Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart” (v. 4). 

I must deliberately and repeatedly silence the saber rattling of the enemy by standing in faith on God’s decisive word. My faith comes from hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). 

This is why I am a huge proponent of not only reading God’s word, but turning His decisive word into prayer. Reminding myself—and repeatedly re-reminding myself—of what Jehovah Adonai has said is the only way to stand firm in faith. If I don’t stand firm in faith on His word, I will not be able to stand at all. 

I recently shared some faith-filled decisive promises from God’s word in another post. If I can help you find a word of God on which you can stand in faith, please reach out to me. 

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Complaining To God

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

One of the things I love about the minor prophets is the reminder of the historicity of the Bible. Habakkuk, and the other prophets, lived in an actual moment of history. Check out some of the key dates during the ministry of Habakkuk: 

  • 605 BC—Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah and carries off Daniel and his friends 
  • 597 BC—the Babylonians attack Judah again and take 10,000 exiles back to Babylon, including the prophet Ezekiel 
  • 586 BC—Judah is besieged and defeated, and all remaining residents are exiled to Babylon 

Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk, preached to faithless Israelites, imploring them to return to God, while Habakkuk attempted to encourage faithful Israelites to continue to trust Jehovah. 

Habakkuk recognized that he was delivering a heavy word. When he opens this book by saying this is “the oracle” that he received from God, that word is better translated “burden.” Part of this burden may have been due to the fact that Habakkuk had something on his heart that we often have: a complaint. 

Can we complain to God? 

Habakkuk complained to God—twice!—and God doesn’t reprimand him, so there must be a right way to vent about our frustrations and confusions. Here’s what we can learn from Habakkuk’s two complaints: 

  1. Instead of making accusations, ask questions. Habakkuk asks God eight questions in his two complaints. I think this is an attitude issue. Complaints are saying, “God I disagree with what You’re doing,” while questions seem to be more like, “God, I don’t understand what You’re doing.” 
  2. Desire God’s glory to be seen. At the conclusion of both of Habakkuk’s complaints he uses the word “therefore” (1:4, 16). His conclusion is something along the lines of, “God, if You let this continue, it appears that Your glory is being obscured by the activities of wicked people.” 
  3. After your complaint, close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. After Habakkuk’s first complaint, God tells him to “look” at all He is going to do. And after the second complaint, God tells him to “write down the revelation” God gives him and then “wait for it” to be fulfilled” (2:2, 3). 

Then Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere else in the Bible outside of the book of Psalms: he calls for us to Selah pause three times! 

Habakkuk shows us that our best response to what God reveals to us should be worship: 

  • Selah (3:3)—pause to consider what God has done 
  • Selah (3:9)—pause to stand in awe of His very present glory 
  • Selah (3:13)—pause in anticipation of His righteous justice and awesome glory that will be revealed 

Key phrases from Habakkuk are quoted in the New Testament, and at least three of them are directly tied to these Selah pauses:

  • The earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (2:14), is echoed in the way all of humanity will see the glory of the risen Jesus.  
  • The righteous WILL live by his faith” (2:4), is quoted as a Christian’s ongoing interaction with the indwelling Holy Spirit. 
  • I WILL rejoice in the Lord my God … I WILL be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18) figures prominently in Mary’s song after she realizes that she is pregnant with the soon-to-be-born Savior. 

(Check out all of the above biblical references: Habakkuk 2:14, 2:4, 3:17-18; Revelation 1:5-8; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-39; Luke 1:46-47, 54-55) 

Can you air your complaints to God? Yes, but do it the right way. Then silently listen, patiently wait, and then eagerly tell others about the coming judgment that they can avoid by having their sins forgiven through faith in Jesus our Savior. Only then can we also echo the “I will” statements of Habakkuk that are echoed in the New Testament—I will live by faith, I will look forward to the glory of God being fully revealed, I will continue to rejoice in God my Savior every day, and I will tell others how they, too, can live this way themselves! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons we find in the minor prophets, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Perspective On Persecution

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Around the world we hear of Christians being persecuted for their faith in Jesus: Afghanistan … N. Korea … China … even in the USA, Christians like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman are being persecuted for standing up for what they believe. 

Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: In times like these, we need to remember there have always been times like these. Especially because the psalmist Asaph, Jesus, and the apostle Paul all forewarned us about persecution (Psalm 83; Mark 13:9, 12-13; 2 Timothy 3:12-13). 

Jesus said that our persecution should only come “on account of Me.” And Asaph notices the same thing in his prayer, using phrases like “Your enemies,” “Your foes,” “they conspire against Your people,” and “they form an alliance against You.” 

Asaph also recognized that times like these call for a Selah pause—a pause to calmly consider. 

I think the first thing we need to consider is our part in bringing on the persecution. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if I may have been the trigger to the anger of these wicked people. If I have done something, I need to repent, ask forgiveness, and see what I can do to make restitution. 

Next, we need to Selah to consider this: It might look desperate, but God has handled these kinds of evil people before. Asaph mentions several enemies of God’s people whom God decisively defeated in the past. Our Selah pause will help us recall that God is the same today as He was yesterday—He is more than able to handle these persecutors. 

With all of these bullies ganging up on Israel, you can understand why Asaph cries out for God’s strong action against them. But I want you to notice that the call for judgment is NOT vindictive but redemptive. Asaph asks for punishment “so that men will seek Your name, O LORD” and that they may “know that You, whose name is the LORD—that You alone are the Most High over all the earth. 

In other words, this isn’t a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, but a “Save ‘em, God” prayer! 

We’re not looking for relief for ourselves—that’s only temporary—but we’re looking for glory for God—that’s eternal!

Jesus and the apostle Peter both tell us that God’s desire is for no one to perish apart from a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:9). 

The reason we need to Selah and ask that introspective question about our words or actions triggering our persecutor’s anger is because God will use our righteous response to persecution as a testimony. 

Jesus said our persecution should be because of Him, but He also told us that there would be a blessing in it (Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17-19). And Paul tells us that this reward isn’t just a silver lining to a dark cloud, but a reward beyond compare (Romans 8:18). 

Asaph went to prayer when Israel was attacked, and that should be our first response too. 

But let’s Selah in that prayer to make sure we’re not the trigger, and then may our prayer be more for God’s eternal glory than it is for our temporary relief. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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