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

 

Overwhelmed is a good word.

6675771445_c81ce29198_zOverwhelmed is a good word.

A little over a year ago my sweet wife and I had no idea what was coming.  In many ways I am glad that we did not know.  To this day there are things that I am quite certain we will not understand any time soon.  And that’s ok.

Today we find ourselves in awe of the ways in which God works in our lives.

Overwhelmed is a good word.

We have been overwhelmed by things outside of our “control.” Our recent memories are actually filled with words like concern, confusion, and at times… crushed.  I’m not sure that he realizes it, but our oldest son Nathan was great encouragement to our family when he said, “Even hard things are a matter of perspective… Where do we keep our focus?  On the difficulty or on the Lord?”

Overwhelmed is a good word.

Those overwhelming things have actually been the way God has been preparing us for major unexpected change.  When you finally recognize that God is in control (and not you) it is overwhelming to see His hand of providence, His unfolding purpose, and His plan for your life.

Did I mention that we are in awe of the ways in which God works in our lives?

We were not looking, we were not asking, and indeed we did not even realize that God was preparing us for a whole new chapter in our life.  Until now.  I have been asked and I have accepted the call to come and serve as the senior pastor of the South County Bible Church in south St. Louis County Missouri.

Overwhelmed is a good word.

We (our whole family) are excited about this new adventure.  We are thankful for the rich history and godly men who have served at SCBC.  We are eager to work with the team that God has in place and continues to build there.  We are overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord, the grandeur of God, and the opportunity to serve Him.

 

“Overwhelmed” By Big Daddy Weave

I see the work of Your Hands

Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross

Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

And all that You’ve done is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You

In the Glory of Your Presence

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

And God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful

Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful

You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful

Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful

You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious

Oh God, there is no one more Glorious

You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious

I delight myself in You

In the Glory of Your Presence

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

And God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

There is no one more Beautiful

You are the most Beautiful

Songwriters: YOLANDA YVETTE ADAMS, RYAN KENT BELCHER, RODNEY L. EAST, ERROL W. JR. MCCALLA, MARCUS ECBY

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)

IFCA Cultivate 2014

So pleased with Nathan & Jordan’s MTA at last weeks IFCA Cultivate!  Great job guys!

 

My prayer for Ukraine…

A week after 9/11 (2001) a small group of us spent two weeks in Kiev and Odessa Ukraine with Slavic Gospel Association.  It was… incredible.  (Though no-one prepared me for being greeted with “a holy kiss”…over and over and over…everywhere we went.)

The pastors we met were dedicated (and godly) men who love the Word, cherish the Son, exalt the Father and yearn for their friends and neighbors to come to Christ.  Whole communities came out for the 3-4 hour long services that often included 2-4 sermons.  People arrived early, quietly prepared their hearts before the service and tearfully sang with rapturous joy in their hearts.

We also visited orphanages full of children.  I will never forget the little boy Uri who approached me and in broken but clear English said, “My name is U-ri. Vhat is yours?”  I wish someone could have taken a picture of his expression when I said, “Clegguart” (pronounced clay-gert) … I was ready to adopt him on the spot (along with the rest of the children).

I often find myself praying for the pastors we met and the churches in which we ministered.  One in particular stands out in my mind. Outside of Odessa and down rough dirt roads (I’m being generous) and across several fields lay a tiny little village where church was held every week, in a garage.

Packed in like sardines and using a little Casio keyboard for accompaniment, we gathered for worship.  After the service we walked a short distance down the road to a pile of rocks (not finely crafted bricks – random rocks).  The enthusiasm and anticipation was almost unbelievable.  This was to be their new church building.  They were building, stone by stone, piece by piece, mostly with their bare hands, a church.

I don’t know the political ups and downs of the current situation in Ukraine.  I do know that God is still on His throne and the Gospel still saves.

My prayer for Ukraine: May God’s people be faithful, God’s Word be proclaimed, God’s Spirit be unleashed, God’s Son be exalted and God be glorified!

To my pastor friends in Ukraine… Remember: Preach the Word, love the people and trust the Lord!

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Praying for Pastors tonight…

pulpit_frontPraying tonight for those men who stand in the pulpit to give faithful exposition of the word of God… most of us will spend our lives in earthly anonymity.

That’s OK!

Tomorrow is Sunday. The Lord’s Day. The gathering of the brethren in order to feed on the word, to hear from the Lord, and to commune with one another. Most important of all they will gather in order to engage the heart, ready the mind, and prostrate the soul in worship of the living God.

Brothers: Preach so as to please God, not men!

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober- minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Additional Food For Thought:

Isaiah 6:1-8; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 15; Revelation 4:10-11; 5:8-10; 7:11

Christmas: Sorrow & Hope

christmas-candles-wallpaper-290x290Tis’ the season to be jolly, right? While the entire world seems to glitter in tinsel, some people will be sitting in caves of sorrow during the holidays. It’s easy to forget that grief does not take a vacation at Christmas.

Chances are someone you know has lost a loved one in the past year. This Christmas will be the first one since their death. Everything will be different. All the celebrations will actually prompt mourning. And the family gathering won’t quite be complete. It’s a challenge to muster up seasonal vibes when all you can think about or feel is the loss and grief from the past year or more.

The challenge? Make sure that we mourn with those who mourn – even during the holidays.

Stop for a moment and think of those who might feel as if they have less reason to rejoice than others. And when the Lord has brought them to mind, think about how you might remember, include, bless, or serve them in some way.

Remember, what began in a manger culminated in a cross where Jesus “destroy[ed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). One day God will put an end to all pain, suffering, loss and tears.

Our great hope is that Christ will come again, not as a helpless baby in a manger, but as a magnificent king on a throne! A king who will be close enough, and gentle enough, to wipe every tear from our eyes. He will personally put an end to everything that has brought his people pain. He will “raise the sons of earth” by transforming “our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21) to live with him forever on a gloriously renewed earth.

What do you see? SHEEP!

Many people look at the people around them in their church and see:

often confused,

easily wandering,

mostly dirty, 

sometimes gullible,

always needing to be hand-fed,

SHEEP.

This is more like what I see…

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If all you see when you look at your brethren in Christ is their mistakes and missteps – then you are not looking at them as God looks at them; through the soul-cleansing blood of Christ.

From God’s perspective His children are clean, colorfully unique and on their way to heaven.  Not because of anything that we have done in order to earn heaven, but rather because of what God has done through His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (see Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10; 1 John 5:10-13).

The Apostle Paul, speaking to and about the PEOPLE in Thessalonica, said: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not YOU? For YOU are our glory and joy.” 1 Thess. 2:19 (emphasis added)

Are you kidding me, Paul?  People should be our glory and joy?

Yes.

The only thing we can take with us into eternity are other sinners – by grace alone, through faith alone (see Ephesians 2:8-10).