Missions: God is Worthy

GlobeIt has been reported that twelve hundred missionaries quit every year. Just let that sink in for a moment.

1,200 missionaries quit every 12 months.

Let’s back up in our thinking for a moment. Why do we engage in missions? We know that Jesus commissioned the Church to “go into all the world” and we certainly want to honor and obey His instruction. So, some people pack up and move to another place on the planet and some people stay, send support, and pray. Why?

God is worthy.

Missionaries are just like you and me. They are not super-heros, super-human, or super-christian. They have bills to pay, health issues, and their own unique family struggles. They have spiritual needs, physical needs, emotional needs, and fellowship needs.

Missionaries spend themselves learning a new language, a new culture, raising support, seeking appropriate training, and traveling (a lot). They have to figure out an entry strategy, base of operations, cross-cultural communication, and how to raise a family in a foreign environment. Ultimately they say “good bye” to their extended family and go where they typically don’t even have friends. Why?

God is worthy.

I do not know why so many missionaries quit every year. I imagine the reasons are as numerous as the people involved. Mission work is hard. It is challenging. It is dangerous. It will hurt. And for any number of real reasons, some will quit.

What I do know is that we can make a real difference. We have an obligation and opportunity to pray, support, and offer shepherding care (love) to our missionaries. Yes they need money. Yes they need intercessory prayer. They also need personal support, a listening ear, and a kind word. They need us to care about them, their children, and even (without condemnation) how they are coping with temptations, stress, or burnout.

My prayer is that our missionaries will feel more than “at home” at SCBC. My prayer is that they will feel safe, loved, nurtured, and edified. I pray we take our responsibility for them and to them seriously. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want any of our missionaries to become a statistic. Why?

God is worthy.

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Godly Leaders Don’t Grow on Trees

12036802_1094551717223742_3280681672672402708_nStanding on a hilltop near Pacoti, Brazil, the incredible view before me was breathtaking. The endless green canopy, stretching as far as the eye could see, was dotted with an innumerable number of fruit trees. A dozen or more heavy clumps of ripe bananas were, quite literally, within arms reach. A half-dozen more other fruit trees were within walking distance. The view was amazing and the fragrance overwhelming as I thought too myself, “It’s too bad godly leaders don’t grow like bananas: in clusters on (seemingly) every tree.” Church leadership is a high and holy responsibility to be taken seriously and exercised faithfully for the good of the people and the glory of the Lord.

A church without godly leadership is not a healthy church. A church that is not interested in training a new generation of leaders is both unbiblical and unfaithful. When the Apostle Paul wrote his final letter to his “child” in the faith Timothy he stated plainly, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men” (2 Tim. 2:2). It is unfortunate that so many churches struggle in the area of leadership development.

Whenever personal preferences become the measure of evaluation, preparation, and installation of men into church leadership, the people suffer. While a church may experience some stability for a time, the often-unanswered question is whether or not God will bless the mere efforts of men. It is unfortunate when local church leadership is weak and filled with men who do not know that they do not know how to lead. As Fred Smith put it, “these people rarely recognized their lack of ability. They assumed leadership was a position when in fact it is a function.”

The Bible is filled with examples and specific directions when it comes to godly leadership in the local church. The Apostle Paul left Titus behind on the island of Crete so he might “put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5). Regardless of the country, culture, or occasion, throughout church history the need for godly church leadership has always existed. Thabiti M. Anyabwile says, “The joy, peace, unity, and faithfulness of the local church depends in part on having a cadre of faithful table servants who are present when needed, eager to serve without being intrusive.”

The spiritual health and well-being of a local congregation is directly and inseparably linked to the spiritual lives of its leaders. Where there are godly men in leadership, the church can thrive. Where men are lacking or spiritually weak, the church suffers.

Untitled.001Paul Seger, executive director of Biblical Ministries Worldwide, offers an excellent definition of a godly leader when he writes, “A leader is a godly servant who knows where he is going and inspires and equips others to follow.” In truth, all men should aspire to grow in godliness by the grace of God. All men should be praying for opportunities to exercise servant-like leadership at some level. Today the biblically defined roles of deacon and elder seem more often ignored or misunderstood than embraced and elevated. Every local church needs men who provide logistical services and men who focus on the ministry of the Word of God and prayer.

One of the earliest examples of men being carefully chosen to fulfill a ministry of service and assistance is found in Acts 6

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” v2-4

These servants were specifically selected in order to do whatever was needed to free the apostles so that they could fulfill their responsibility of shepherding and teaching the church. After the Apostles, the Lord has specifically given “evangelists” and “shepherd-teachers” (see Eph 4:11) whom He has charged with teaching, praying, and leading His Church in all spiritual matters.

Shepherding is a wonderful picture found throughout Scriptures of the one who is charged with caring for the spiritual needs of a local congregation. The Apostle Peter exhorted elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” and goes on to charge the elders to “be examples to the flock” (see 1 Peter 5:1, 2, 3).

In Acts 20:28 the Apostle Paul said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” The shepherd is commanded to keep an eye on his own spiritual well-being and those whom he is charged to lead and feed; those whom Christ purchased with “his own blood.”

The genuine affection of a shepherd is inseparably connected to his ability to “teach.” Using the picture of a shepherd tending his flock, he must “feed the sheep.” If the sheep are malnourished, fed rotten food, or allowed to become dehydrated they will become weak, sickly, susceptible to disease, or dead. A godly leader is a good follower of Christ. He is a disciple who loves, leads, serves, and feeds the sheep in the local church.

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Yes – It is a shame that godly leaders do not simply grow on trees. Thabiti M. Anyabwile said, “Without godly, faithful, replicating leadership, churches suffer deeply.” And yet by God’s grace godly leaders can grow in every church that is committed to the Scriptures and praying for the Lord to bless His Church.

Local church leadership is a high and holy responsibility to be taken seriously and exercised faithfully for the good of the people and the glory of the Lord. If we, therefore, do not hear or do not heed His instruction we are either ignorant of the Scriptures or self-deceived into thinking that we can do a better job on our own. Any church that finds itself in a place where God’s Word is not the highest authority for its leadership is a very unhealthy church.

 

Excellent Leadership Resources:

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Selecting Elders: A Biblical Guide to Choosing God’s Shepherds Dave Deets

Sticky Teams Larry Osborne

Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership From the Life of R. C. Chapman Robert Peterson & Alexander Strauch

Chief: Leadership Lessons from a Village in Africa Paul Seger

 

Stick with your work.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.  (Psalm 19:14)

Stick with your work.

Do not flinch because the lion roars.
Do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs.
Do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits.

Do your work.

Let liars lie.
Let sectarians quarrel.
Let critics malign.
Let enemies accuse.
Let the devil do his worst.

But see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you.

He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed.
He has never bidden you defend your character.
He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself)
which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle,
or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation.
If you do these things, you will do nothing else.
You will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep at your work.

Let your aim be as steady as a star.
You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered,
wounded and rejected, misunderstood, or assigned impure motives;
You may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends,
and despised and rejected of men.
But see to it with steadfast determination,
with unfaltering zeal,
that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being
until at last you can say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”

– Anonymous

The Incomparable Christ

2154-shepherd-silhouette-220w-tn-jpgMore than nineteen hundred years ago, there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived; that was during His exile in childhood.

He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and had neither training nor formal education.

In infancy He startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the waves as pavement, and hushed the sea to sleep.

He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His service.

He never wrote a book, and yet perhaps all the libraries of the world could not hold the books that have been written about Him.

He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined.

He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.

He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired.

He never practiced psychiatry, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near.

Once each week multitudes congregate at worshiping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him.

The names of the past, proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone. But the name of this Man multiplies more and more.

Though time has spread nineteen hundred years between the people of this generation and the mockers at His crucifixion, He still lives. 498838448_1280x720His enemies could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.

He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the risen, personal Christ, our Lord and Savior.

 

(Quoted by Ray Stedman, the author of this article is unknown)

The Unseen Player

cutemouse1Imagine a family of mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. To them in their piano-world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony.

At first the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was Someone who made the mice—though invisible to them—above, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see.

Then one day a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano and returned very thoughtful. He had found out how the music was made. Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths which trembled and vibrated. They must revise all their old beliefs: none but the most conservative could any longer believe in the Unseen Player.

Later, another explorer carried the explanation further. Hammers were now the secret, numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world. The Unseen Player came to be thought of as a myth.

But the pianist continued to play.
(from an old article printed in London England)

“War on Christmas”?

The lights are starting to flicker. Decorations are starting to appear. The shopping has begun. Favorite movies commemorating family, joy, and tradition are being advertised.  December is upon us!

Happy holidays!  Or, um, Merry X-mas!  Wait, what?  How about we enjoy a rich dark cup of coffee in a nondescript, red-paper-cup!

wpid-Photo-20151110062811890First: That whole Starbucks cup thing was, at best, a total misrepresentation of Christianity. At worst it was a holiday hoax perpetrated by anti-christian media.   Maybe, and I know I’m going out on a limb here, maybe Starbucks just has an incredible advertising and marketing team.

christmas-18Second: In the original language of the New Testament, Greek, the word for “Christ” is a word that begins with the Greek letter that is pretty much the exact same letter as the English letter X.  So originally, Xmas was simply an abbreviation of the word Christmas.  It was not a grand conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas.

game-planThird: How about we develop a game-plan for having a wonderful, joyful, incredible, family holiday season?

Here are some suggestions to get you started…

  1. Forget about any supposed “war on Christmas”.  Just celebrate with your family.  Read the original story and rehearse the significance of Jesus’ birth together.
  2. Go ahead and wish people a very Merry Christmas. Even people whose nick-name may very well be “scrooge”.
  3. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  This is a great time of the year to share God’s love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  4. Pray that Christians in general will focus on things that matter.  Pray that we would be peaceful warriors in the culture war!

A Box of Chocolates

7098_dtEvery year around the holidays my grandmother would purchase Russell Stover boxes of assorted chocolates.  Lots of them.  (Wow, just thinking about this makes my mouth water.)  Anyway, she always had the chocolates out for family and friends who happened to stop by for a visit.

Motivated, of course, to help my grandmother resist these tiny temptations I would eat as many as possible on every visit.  I had actually become so familiar with these delightful sweets that I could identify them by color, shape, swirl, or just looking at the edges.  Of course the very best way to identify them was to  gently press your finger into the bottom of each one.

Those chocolates were amazing!  (I had to beat my sister to the box in order to get the good ones.)  Some of them had soft creamy centers and some had hard candy centers.  Some had peanut butter, some had caramel, and some had toffee.  Some of them even had peanuts, almonds, or walnuts in the center.

Now let’s be honest here. That pretty well describes any local church family.  Some people are hard, some people are soft, and some people are just nuts covered in chocolate!

One of the key strengths of the Church is that we are not all identical.  Why do I say strength?  Because the watching world looks at this local group of drastically different individuals and marvels at our unity and the deep affection we have for one another (see John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4).

How is this unity amidst such diversity possible?  It is only possibly through the blood of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul said, “For in Him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

Through the precious blood of Jesus Christ we now share the same heavenly Father (John 1:12-13), the same Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), the same Body (the Church; Ephesians 1:22-23), the same heavenly Destiny (Revelation 21:1–4), and we share the same holy Calling (1 Peter 1:16)!

  • Do you know God’s peace? Romans 3:10-23; 5:8; 6:10-11, 23; 10:9-10, 13
  • If you DO know God’s peace: Romans 12:18; Romans 14:19; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:15; James 3:18

Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Day!

fairfax-fare-egg-and-cheese-english-muffin-with-bacon-2Friday morning has become something of a special treat in our house.  It’s “Bacon, Egg, & Cheese (did I mention bacon?) Day”!  I did not intend for it to happen, but I have become the unofficial cook on Friday mornings.  Honestly, it just doesn’t get much better than a hot cup of coffee and sizzling bacon, so I’m not complaining!

On this particular morning however, three of our children are not feeling well, nobody in our house got much sleep, and everyone was exhausted.  Even my coffee seemed to be dragging its feet this morning.  It’s been a long week and nothing has really gone “as planned,” at all.

So there I was, bacon on the griddle, bread in the toaster, skillet warming, eggs ready and music playing in the background.  I even had Noah contentedly sitting in his bouncy seat so Jenny could take care of some laundry.  Picture perfect. Until…

The bacon wasn’t cooking, Caleb was coughing and begging, others were wandering around in the kitchen (in the way), a couple kids disappeared, and I even tripped over the baby’s seat, twice (he did not notice and he was not injured in any way).

Hannah let me know that I’d been turning the griddle down not up.  Grace informed me that she was “starving to death.”  The egg pan got too hot.  I burned the first round of toast.  Apparently there was even a lego controversy that morning; should the castle tower have a door or not?  Oh, and Caleb informed mommy that “daddy would not give him a drink of water.”

Eventually everyone did enjoy their, albeit crispy,“Bacon, Egg, & Cheese” breakfast.

Here is the point: Go and hug your wife (and your mom), tell her how amazing she is and how much you genuinely appreciate her.  Express your love and praise for her clearly and audibly.  Believe me, you do not do this enough.

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”

The Spring

5981072921_85f00f6334_zHere is the spring where waters flow, 

To quench our heart of sin:

Here is the tree where truth doth grow,

To lead our lives therein:

Here is the judge that stints the strife,

When men’s devices fail:

Here is the bread that feeds the life

That death cannot assail.

The tidings of salvation dear,

Comes to our ears from hence:

The fortress of our faith is here,

And shield of our defense.

Then be not like the swine that hath

A pearl at his desire,

And takes more pleasure from the trough

And wallowing in the mire.

Read not this book in any case,

But with a single eye:

Read not but first desire God’s grace,

To understand thereby.

Pray still in faith with this respect,

To bear good fruit therein,

That knowledge may bring this effect,

To mortify thy sin.

Then happy you shall be in all your life,

What so to you befalls:

Yes, double happy you shall be,

When God by death you calls.

~ From the first Bible printed in Scotland, 1576~

Ferguson & Friday

8316fdf799cf77f5891fbddc5177c47eIt’s true.  I typically start listening to Christmas music in October.  I start thinking about putting up a tree in early November.  I can’t help it.  This time of the year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with gratitude, great food, a sense of anticipation, deer hunting, gift wrapping, and snow (yes, SNOW) it is my favorite time of the year.

This year, at least for now, I have a heavy heart.  I’m writing this on the eve of Thanksgiving Day.  The past two nights have openly displayed the raw depravity of man’s heart.  How?  Ferguson.

Listen, we in America are conditioned to accept rioting and looting on Thanksgiving weekend.  It’s called “Black Friday.”  You know, that day when people are lured into stores so they can trample anyone and everyone in order to get the stuff you want. (Sorry, I meant to say, “take care of their Christmas list.”)

My heart is heavy watching buildings burn.

My heart is heavy listening to the “race” narrative.

My heart is heavy feeling the simple reality of sin unleashed as it destroys all in its path. (Ferguson or Friday)

In the background Christmas music is playing… “And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”

This world is a mess.  We human beings are a mess.  Why?  Because of our sin (Romans 3:23; 5:12).  If we don’t understand that, then we will not understand this: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11