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Tag: Jesus

Unity Amongst Believers

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV)

This particular Proverb has held a unique place in my heart, as it yearns within me to be more honest with myself, my wife, my family, my friends…with anyone really. However, today, after listening in on a conversation between some friends of mine (I was included, however, due to circumstances, I could not really participate), this kind of takes on a new meaning to me. It’s not a new meaning at all, really. This verse, in all reality, before it encourages me to do what I have mentioned above, is about the Christian and his or her relationship with their neighbors.

 

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” (v.36). And here is His response:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, ESV)

Proverbs 27:6 falls under that part of this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” A major point in this is unity. Unity amongst one’s family. Unity amongst the church. But, most importantly here, unity amongst believers with the aim to see His kingdom reach all of those around us.

Now, I am not going to go into any details, as I do not want to betray a confidence. However, I am going to talk about unity, and disunity.

  1. All Christian have (and should know) the same, common goal: The Worship of God. We need to worship God and God wants us to be used to share the Gospel, thus, Lord willing, bringing more into the class to worship God. (Matthew 22:37, Matthew 28:16-20). As we can find in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, it begins as such: Question 1: What is the chief end of man? Answer 1: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, (1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 11:36) and to enjoy him forever. (Ps. 73:25-28).
  2. No two people in this world are ever going to agree on all the same things 100%, regardless of what they are (religious, philosophical, etc.). If you find me a person, man or woman, who says they have found someone who believes in everything they believe in 100%, I’ll show you a person that is looking at themselves in the mirror as they say that.

With that being said, disunity happens in so many ways, and one of them is slander and gossip at the result of two people or groups not agreeing 100% on certain things. When the disagreement become apparent, one group gets upset at the other, and things are said, statements are made, and they cannot be taken back. The damage is done. It’s okay to disagree on things. For example, reformed Baptists and Presbyterians (uh oh! I’m bringing up the Baptism debate!) have a HUGE disagreement on Credobaptism (Believer’s baptism) versus Paedobaptism (infant baptism). (If you want to know more about this, google it, as I am not going to start a discussion on just that). Baptists and Presbyterians disagree on the sign and seal of the covenant and how it is administered. However, it is not a salvific issue, i.e. someone can be saved and not get baptized. I have seen numerous debates online regarding this, always with a messy outcome. Despite these differences, Baptists and Presbyterians work together on the mission fields, in the local churches and their surrounding communities. The common goal the have is to see people be saved by God through His grace. For worship. And they strive together.

So, when issues such as this come up and cause division, it is not a God-made divisiveness. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,” (1 Corinthians 14:33, ESV). The new Christian Standard Bible reads, “since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33, CSB).

So, it saddens my heart and drives me to prayer when I see this happen over a disagreement. People aren’t maturing about things like this anymore as they grow older in age. Instead of walking over (or calling) the other person, they made light of the situation in a manner that does not reflect the Glory due to God the Father. It causes pain to see a brother in Christ weep over a lost friendship and ministry opportunities.

So, what to do? First, we need to check our pride at the door. As Christians, once we bring our pride into it, as soon as pride rears its ugly head, we just pushed God out of the way and put the religion of self in His rightful place in our lives. Secondly, we need to be like the Bereans were in Acts 17: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, ESV). And what happened as they heard new things? They opened their Scriptures to see if Paul and Silas were right. And they were. And God changed their hearts and, “Many of them therefore believed,…” (Acts 17:12a). Where they could have let personal differences, or something, keep them from being ministered to, they instead did what we are called to do by their example: Pull out the Bible, God’s Holy Word, and see what it says. The Bible is our standard and should shape our thought processes. So, when we disagree with someone about a theological/doctrinal matter, the best thing we can do is God the Word of God and see what He tells us. For we must remember that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV).

In the meantime, what am I going to do? Pray. I am going to pray for all those involved, as well as those reading this post who may need help with unity. I implore you to read the Bible each and every day that you may grow in Christ and NOT in self.

-Soli Deo Gloria

A Hope Deferred…

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
-Proverbs 13:12, ESV

Just the other day, I did something that I was not expecting to do: I declined an invitation to preach in view of a call to be the senior pastor at a small church in another state. Why was I not expecting to do this? Because I feel a strong sense of calling to the pastorate and this is the first church that has considered me for a pastoral position. And I really wanted to make it work. Now, why didn’t I go? No peace. None at all. I was having no peace about it and I was full of anxiety and stress. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a level of anxiousness that goes with most anything new, whether it be a job, a child, or anything. However, the anxiety I was feeling was almost to the point of an attack. And thus, it because overly stressful. There are many other reasons that go with the totality of circumstances as to why I did not go to this church that I am not going to discuss here, needless to say when all was said and done, there was no real peace about it.

Now, to the Scripture that is above, Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the hearth sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” My hope, my desire is to pastor a local church somewhere, at some point, whether it be as an associate pastor or senior pastor, I don’t know. But, that is my desire, my “hope deferred” if you will. If you look at the Hebrew of the words for “hope” and “deferred,” you see two starkly contrasting words. The word “hope” is “tohelet” (I hope I don’t offend some language scholar out there, I’m still figuring out how to do all the accents and other markings). And it means an expectation, a hope, and in this sense, of future events. It is my hope and expectation that, in the future, I will be, Lord willing, shepherding a flock of Jesus’ people. The word for “deferred” is “msk” which means to seize, to carry off. And in this case, I carried myself off.

However, my ultimate desire, one that is more important than that to become a pastor, my ultimate desire is to be obedient to God’s Will and His Spirit’s leading on my life. So, my “desire fulfilled” is that I strongly believe that I am being 100% obedient to God’s will in my life and for that of my family in the decision that I made. The Hebrew for “a desire” is “taawa” (once again, Hebrew scholars, don’t hate me. Leave a comment and help me learn!). This word means a longing, wish, yearning; a craving even. I, as a follower of Christ, need to be craving God’s will for my life.

So, as I am here, sitting in my nearly empty bedroom as we are getting ready to move, having turned down what I think would have been a sure bet at a bi-vocational pastorate position in a small Southern Baptist Church. And now, I am still relying on God, following His will for my life, where ever that may lead. Is it easy? No. Is it rewarding? Yes. God is providing and His provision is more than we need, even when we don’t think it is.

 

“And then comes Monday.”

“Then comes Monday.”

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A while back, I read Jared C. Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification,” which was an excellent read, and I think that it would be edifying to more than just a pastor or lay leader, but to involved members and attendees of the local church.

The following excerpt from The Pastor’s Justification has been stuck on my mind for months now, and this is so true for any type of ministry, from preaching to teaching Sunday School, from law enforcement to child welfare work, and everything in between. It’s not always going to be Mondays that come, it might be any day of the week. However, we must be ready for that time of shepherding or ministry when it comes, when we are exhausted, when we might not really want any part of it.

“Then comes Monday. Many pastors take Mondays off because of the Sunday hangover. I do not. It is my worst day, so I refuse to give it to my family. Instead I work through it. It is a slog. Monday morning is when the e-mail inbox and telephone mailbox are thickest. Monday morning is when people still have questions or concerns or criticisms about Sunday. (They are starting their week full, remember? They came to church for the pick-me-up, and most of them got it.) Like everybody else, pastors are taking stock of what all must be accomplished in the week ahead. But Sunday was not a day of filling up for pastors, but pouring out.
On Monday mornings I enter my office at about 8: 00 a.m. and find that, like Sisyphus, the stone I spent the previous week pushing up the hill lay at the bottom again, ready for another go. Monday morning I must pastor. But what kind of must?
I am faced with this challenge: will I shepherd under compulsion, or willingly, as God would have me?
My first instinct is to make my shepherding contingent on my energy level. But really, my ability to exercise oversight willingly flows from my vision. No, not a vision for an “awesomely bold” church— at least, not at first— but of my God and for the flock of God that is among me.
How we see God on Monday morning will affect whether we oversee his church willingly or under compulsion. And how we view the people in our church will affect whether we oversee them willingly or under compulsion.
Our omnipresent Savior is waiting for me in the office on Monday morning. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” he says (Matt. 11: 28). I am plum tuckered on Monday morning. I face ample temptation to wallow. But Jesus promises rest. I may be a shell of a pastor at this time each week, but God is no less God. His might is no less mighty. His gospel is no less power. His reach is no less infinite. His grace is no less everlasting. His lovingkindness is no less enduring.”
(Wilson, Jared C. (2013-07-31). The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry (pp. 33-34). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

This has been greatly convicting to me, in my spirit, because I have been there, not pastorally, but in other areas of life and ministry. I have faced this very temptation to take that next day off. And, I must admit, that I have succumbed to that temptation from time to time. My prayer for myself and everyone is that we face our “Mondays” with the strength that God will provide for us and not hide from them in our own weakness.

 

 

 

The Longest Week…

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So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

-1 Corinthians 10:31

(Author’s note: our friends have gone through an unspeakable tragedy, one that I was there to witness unfold before my very eyes. This is not written in any way to take a focus off of them, or to take focus away from Jesus, who is ultimately glorified throughout this entire situation. Writing is often my way of processing things that I have been through, things that I have experienced).

This past week has been a long and difficult week for many. And for many, far more difficult and painful than for myself. Here is my story…

It began on Monday, with a text from a friend who had some paperwork that needed to be picked up. My family and I were going to be heading towards where she and her family lived later that day, so, I texted saying we would stop by and pick it up. Later, we confirmed a time, and she said any time after 3:00pm.

We were driving down the street her family lives on, and there were cars stopped. I couldn’t see what was ahead, and said “What are we stopping for?” As we were just a few scores of yards from our destination. “Oh my god, there’s a child on the road!” gasped Roni, my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat of our van, with our children unaware in the back seat.

Thus begins the seemingly endless nightmare…

I pulled off onto the side of the road, put the van in park, and got out and raced towards the scene, seeing our friend rush out to find her youngest child laying in the road. Still. Quiet. Almost peaceful, yet inexplicably agonizing. A stranger was there, with his body over the young child, in what looked like an instinctively protective pose, wanting to make sure no one came and tried to move him. His mom, our friend, took over, speaking to her child. Loving on her child. Praying, no, crying out to Jesus from the pits, the depths of her being.

The next couple of hours was a blur of activity. Police officers, Paramedics, EMTs, Pastors, the Medivac Flight Crew, any many more. Many worked on the young child. Many sought to serve the family. Prayers were cried out. Children were corralled into the home. Phone calls, texts, emails were made towards filling the heavens with entreaties for this young child.

“He has a heart-beat, and we are helping him breath,” stated one of the paramedics as they loaded him on a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance while they awaited the helicopter that eventually took him to a hospital some ways away.

And with that, he was whisked away into the heavens by helicopter, with his parents in tow on the ground, driven by the local law enforcement.

My family and I lingered for a while, to make sure the rest of our friend’s children were being taken care of by family and friend, as we were a ways from our home. They were cared for, they were loved.

Finally, my family and I continued our journey for that day, having a small bit of family time out before returning to our home.

That evening, and for the next few days, in my mind’s eye flashed over and over the things that I witnessed that day. Such difficult things. Such loving things. Such pain and agony. Such love and caring. This time has been difficult and hard. Many tears have I shed.

I praise the Lord that I was able to be there with my family, providentially timed to be there at the right moment. I praise God that I was able to pray with my friend and her family. That my wife was able to help with the children to keep them from having to see the unimaginable. I praise God knowing that He is sovereign, despite our inability to see beyond our own pain and suffering.

And then, something strange happened to me. People that are close to me began to minister to me. Almost immediately after we got home, close friends called to check in on me, wanting to make sure I was okay. My boss. My pastors. My friends. When this time began, I thought I would be the one God used to help a friend. And I’m sure I was able to help that friend. However, never did I imagine that my friends, as well as the grieving family who lost their son, would help and minister to me.

Fast forward a few days to today, Friday, August 12, 2016. This morning, we, and I mean the family, my family, and so many hundreds of others, gathered to celebrate the life, regardless of how short it was, of the young child that was struck by a vehicle only days earlier. The family is loving on the young man driving the fateful vehicle that hit their son, wanting him to sit with them at the Celebration of Life. The family taking food to the first responders who responded to the accident. The calls for the gospel being shared at the Celebration of Life, and how God is using such a tragic even that was allowed to happen to change lives, to change hearts, to enlarge His Kingdom.

Our friend told me today that she was praying that those images form Monday would leave my mind, that I wouldn’t have to see them anymore. They are, albeit slowly. I see them less and less. But, in the long run, I know that God has been glorified not only through this young boy’s life, but also through his death, and people have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

And with each day, with each passing thought about what happened this week, what Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth comes to mind, and it is something that is for all who were involved; for all who were affected; for all who have lived through this longest week:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–7, ESV)

While many hurt and agonize, God will heal. Healing takes time, maybe even a life time, but, God is faithful. God will be there.

Soli Deo Gloria.

The “irs department”

Today, while at church, my phone began vibrating in my pocket, and the displayed “number” was “No Caller ID”. Being that I work in child welfare, I figured it was a CPI (Child protective investigator) from one of my open cases. They left a voicemail, and I stepped out to check it, because a Sunday morning call is usually the sign of something wrong.

Nope. Not a CPI with DCF. It was some guy who I think called himself “Janice Jackson,” though the first name could have been “Janet.” He claimed he needed to talk to me “now” because of some back taxes that I’m supposed to be taking care of. (Um, I’ve never owed back taxes, ever).

And, to top it all off, there is no way anyone could take this guy as seriously working for the Internal Revenue Service…take a listen for yourselves….

 

Now, though I have no clue who this guy is, I sincerely pray that someone, somewhere, where ever he may be, reaches this man with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He, as we all do, needs it.

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