In a time of political and national upheaval, turn to the Lord!

“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:2)

In a time of political and national upheaval, the Psalmist’s reminder this morning is appropriate. Our help is from the Lord. Politicians and leaders come and go. They promise one plan of action and do another. They let us down routinely either in action or character.

The Lord, however, is not another politician or leader. The Lord is the One who fashioned the heavens and the earth. He keeps His promises and has the power to bring about that which He wills.

Instead of turning to man, we should turn to the Lord as our help. He does not sleep or slumber (vs 3-4). He is always alert. He knows everything that happens. He is our protector, promising to watch over and keep us on a daily basis, keeping us from evil and destruction (vs 5-8).

We can and should put our life in the Lord’s hands. We can and should trust He will always do what is right. We can and should rest in His ability to accomplish His perfect will.

In a time of political and national upheaval, turn to the Lord!

11 Thing to Pray for a Deeper Prayer Life

Men, Lead Out In Prayer!

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Ti 2:8)

According to Paul, men are to put away petty differences and anger. Instead of fighting, they are to pray with one another. Paul gives this command to the men instead of the women because as one commentator says,

“As a general rule, men are more likely to agitate the church…they are critical and competitive. They tend to argue first and listen later. They would rather be right than be reconciled. They get angry when they don’t get their way. So the Bible reminds Christian men not to fight.”[1]

Competitive and Dominate

Men, you know this is true. Being competitive and dominate is what comes naturally. When we don’t win or come out on top, we are more likely to get angry and fight with one another. As Christian men, however, we aren’t supposed to fight and burst out in anger at one another. Instead, as Paul tells us, we are to be spiritual leaders, who lead out in prayer.

Freed by the Gospel

While being a spiritual leader who leads out in prayer might be difficult and unnatural, it’s possible because the gospel has changed us. It has freed us to love others more than ourselves, to forgive and let go, to lift others up and work alongside them.

What the Church and Country Needs

Honestly, prayer is what the church needs. It especially needs men who are willing to lead spiritually, and specifically, to lead in the area of prayer. Men, we can’t abdicate our responsibility any longer to the women in the church. We must lead as God has called us to lead.

I am sure other pastors in other times have said this but I am going to say it now in our time.

Men, if we want our country and community to change, if we want to see people come to Jesus, we have to be spiritual leaders who are leading out in prayer.

I am not just talking to Pastors, Deacons, and Sunday School teachers. I am talking to all men. All of us need to be spiritual leaders, who are leading out in prayer.

Challenge

With that in mind, then, let me issue a challenge to the men in the church. The next time you are with a group of men, your family, or your church family and the conversation turns to a discussion about what needs to change in this country, instead of joining into that discussion, I want you to stop and lead them in prayer. I want you to do that because just talking about what needs to change isn’t going to change anything, but you praying with others will.

Jeremiah Lanphier

If you aren’t convinced, consider the story of Jeremiah Lanphier. He lived in New York City in the 1850’s. New York City wasn’t much different then than it is today. It was a place full of sin. Corruption, gambling, greed, atheism, and apathy toward God ran rampant.

Instead of continuing to complain, Lanphier decided to do something. Believing in the power of prayer, he put an ad in the newspaper calling for a weekly prayer meeting. The first meeting began with six men praying that the Lord would do a work in their city and the world. As they continued to meet, something amazing happened. Within six months, over 10,000 people were gathering daily, instead of weekly, to pray over the lunch hour for their city and the country. Their prayers lit a fire of mass revival [2].

It all started with on man’s burden and an ad calling others to join him in prayer. You see, prayer is powerful. It changes things. So men, let’s be the spiritual leaders God has called us to be and lead out in prayer. The gospel has freed us to do that, so let’s do it.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you realize the gospel frees you to be a spiritual leader?
  2. Are you leading out in prayer in your family and church?

Resources

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[1]  Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Timothy, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Daniel M. Doriani, and Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 78.

[2] Adapted from this article: http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/577

Men, Don’t Make Your Wife Lead Your Family!

Unfortunately, many women become the leaders of their families by default because their husbands have either deserted the home or abdicated their God-given responsibility to lead. This is another side of the impact of the fall.

C.S. Lewis observes that most women instinctively understand that there is something wrong when they must be in charge.

“There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule.”

When those who are called to be in leadership vacate the role, they leave a vacuum that must be filled by another. Why is this the case? Leadership is difficult. Leadership is a responsibility, and sinful selfishness resists responsibility or accountability. “Paradoxically,” says Ash,

“it may not be the challenges of secular feminisim that pose the greatest threat to God’s order of marriage, but the pathetic abdications of sinful males who will not take upon ourselves our God-given reponsbility to exercise headship in our marriages and in our home.”

The way to relieve our wives of the temptation to take over is to recognize that leadership is our responsibility and to step up in obedience to be the loving, sacrificial leaders he has called us to be.

Question for Reflection

  1. Men, are you leading your family to know God, accomplish His purposes, and glorify Him?

Resources

The Shepherd Leader at Home, Timothy Witmer, 85

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Authority Isn’t A Bad Thing

Authority. The first thing most people do when they hear the word is cringe or prepare to reject it at all costs.

Rejecting authority is our natural reaction. It has been ingrained in us since the beginning. Our first parent’s Adam and Eve rejected God’s authority for their own, leading us to do the same ever since. So it is only natural we buck at the idea of authority.

Everyone is Under Authority

While that is our natural reaction, God tells us everyone is under authority.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11:3).

God’s authority structure is arranged so that:

  • The head of every man is Jesus Christ.
  • The head of every wife is her husband.
  • The head of Jesus Christ is God.

An Objection

Immediately, upon reflecting on this list, some, especially those in the feminist movement, look at this structure and say, “God thinks woman are less valuable than men because they are subjected to them.” But that is not true. God’s structure isn’t based on worth, it’s based on roles.

Tax season ended several months ago. I don’t know about you but that is one of two seasons I don’t look forward to — summer in Texas being the other. But, as we all know, those are two seasons you can’t avoid, because they come back year after year.

When you finally sit down to fill out those dreaded tax forms, one question that appears on your form is: Are you the head of the household?

When the IRS asks that question, they don’t mean to imply that your children, or even your spouse, is of lesser value than you. They simple want to know the role you play in your family.

In a similar way, God’s authority structure is also based on the role we play in our family, which means men are not of greater value than women, they just play a different role. A role assigned by God, as the head of the family.

Digging Deeper Into the Structure

As we dig deeper into God’s ordained structure, we learn:

(1) Men must submit to Jesus

Men are not given absolute authority. Instead, men must act under Jesus’ directive because He is our head.

With Jesus as our head, we must allow Him to guide us, to lead us. As well as we must exercise our role of authority as Jesus would.

A good example of how Jesus exercises His authority is found in Ephesians 5:25-30

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Eph 5:25–30)

Ephesians 5 teaches men several things about leadership – how we are supposed to lead and what our role as the head of the family looks like.

According to Ephesians 5, men are to love, sacrifice for, provide for, care for, and protect their families, their wives. We aren’t to dominate them with a heavy hand. Nor are we to abuse, or use them. Instead, we are to love them as Jesus loves the church, giving of ourselves for them. We are to do everything in our power to care for them, protect them, and provide for them. We should also nourish them with the Word of God, leading them spiritually.

We should do all this, while at the same time allowing Jesus to lead us. He should continually be our example of headship, as well as our leader.

(2) Wives must submit to their husbands

I am fully aware that this is a controversial statement, especially in this day and age. But we are going to tackle it anyways.

What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband?

Let me start with what it doesn’t mean, because I think that will clear up some misunderstanding.

  • It doesn’t mean you are to be dominated by your husband.
  • It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with or even challenge your husbands ideas.
  • It doesn’t mean your husband can use and abuse you and you must take it willingly.
  • It doesn’t mean you can’t call your husband out on his sin.
  • It can’t mean any of those things because a husband is supposed to lead like Jesus.

Instead, what it means for a wife to submit to her husband is that:

  • She willingly accepts her God give role as her husband’s helper.
  • She willingly allows him to lovingly lead her, as Jesus is leading him.
  • She willingly accepts his decisions, as he seeks to do what is best for his family both physically and spiritually.

We know this is what it means for a wife to submit to her husband because her submission is based on Jesus’ submission to His father.

A wife’s submission is modeled by Jesus 

Even though Jesus is equal with the Father and God Himself, He willingly accepted His position as the Son, submitting to His Father. In doing so:

  • He accepted His role as Christ — the One who died for the sins of mankind.
  • He willingly allowed the Father to lead and guide Him, even to the cross.
  • He willingly accepted the Father’s will, allowing His decisions to be final.

Just as a husband is to be led by Jesus as he leads his family, a wife is to be led by Jesus as she submits to her husband. We are to live in obedience to the roles we are given in God’s authority structure.

Submission As A Reflection of the Gospel & God’s Wisdom

When both husband and wife submit according to God’s good design, two things happen.

(1) We Reflect the Gospel – by sacrificing our will for God’s will, just like Jesus sacrificed His will and His self for us.

(2) We Reflect God’s Wisdom – by showing the world that things go well when we function within our roles.

Before I accepted my first full-time pastorate, I worked for a staffing and recruiting company based out of Atlanta.

Relatively early in my tenure, I had the opportunity to move to Dallas and help open the companies first satellite office. When we moved, the owners did something I would never do. They didn’t appoint a manager for the office. Their thought was that a leader would naturally rise to the top that others in the office would follow. When that happened, they would promote that person to office manager.

In theory, that sounds good. In reality, it didn’t work. The result was an unproductive work environment that kept the office from thriving.

No one knew who “really” was in charge, who they were supposed to take orders from, or even their own role. The result was chaos, conflict, and an office that didn’t run as a well oiled machine.

Likewise, there is chaos and conflict in the family, when individual family members operate outside their God given roles. On the other hand, when we function within our God given roles, things run smoothly.

When we really think hard about it, we realize authority isn’t such a bad thing, it is instead a good thing that shouldn’t be despised, cringed at, or rejected. It’s something that should be embraced as a means of grace by which God provides for His people.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you think of God’s authority as a means of grace?

Resources

Post adapted from my recent sermon God’s Authority Structurewhich can be listened to in its entirety here.

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Surviving the Challenges of the Pastorate

If you think back over your life, there are bound to be a few days you hold as special; days that have shaped you. In my life there are a little more than a handful of days that are extremely special to me; days I will never forget.

Those days include: High School, College, and Seminary graduation. The day my wife and I were married. The birth of our two sons – Camden and Bryson. My call to the pastorate, and the day I was ordained. Those are all special days for me. Days I will never forget. Days that have shaped my life.

While each of those days were joyous occasions, each also brought with them new challenges. One day, or one journey, that has been joyous yet challenging is the call to the pastorate.  I have been extremely blessed by the people I pastor, but I have also been extremely challenged.

For the those who are thinking of entering the pastorate, just starting out, or are seasoned pastors there are three things that will help you survive the challenges of the pastorate.

Surviving the Challenges of the Pastorate

(1) Love Jesus

You must love Jesus above anything else in your life. When you love Jesus more than anything else, you will pursue Him more than anything else. It is necessary that you pursue Jesus because you will need Him to strengthen you for the task at hand.

There will be times when you will have to console those who are hurting, pray for those who are sick, apply godly counsel and wisdom to sensitive and difficult situations in the church, and much more. You can’t do those things in your own power, nor must you attempt to. Doing so is the surest way to set yourself and your church up for failure.

So in order for you to serve the Lord in the way He has called you to serve Him, you will need to love Jesus more than anything else in your life, so that you will pursue Him to a greater extent than anything else in this world.

When I talk about pursuing Jesus, I mean for you to pursue Him in prayer, Bible study, and worship. Which are all necessary if you are going to lead and serve the church according to God’s Will.

In order to know God’s will, you must be in His Word as often as possible. In order to apply His will, you must pray. In order to grow in your love for God so that you will continue to pursue Him more and more in prayer and Bible study, you need to worship the Lord, so that your affections are stirred for Him more and more each and everyday.

Let me encourage you to make it a point to read God’s Word as often as you have opportunity. Not just for sermon preparation, but for personal devotion. Allow God to nurture your own soul as you meet with Him daily in His Word.

Pray each and every time you have a question to answer, a situation to handle, a decision to make, or a sermon to write.

Be involved in the worship service, attentive and worshipping alongside your congregation. It is easy to find projects to complete, people to talk to, or notes to review before you step in the pulpit. Avoid doing those things and worship alongside your congregation, not only as an example to them of the importance of worship, but also for your own soul.

As well as take moments throughout your day to worship the Lord for the many ways He is working in your life, for the awe of His creation, and the prayers He has answered in your life and the life of your church.

(2) Love Your Church

Love is an interesting word in our modern vocabulary. By it people often mean they have a certain feeling about someone or something, which usually arises because that something or someone makes them feel good. So for instance when I say I love coffee. What I really mean is that it makes me feel good, so good that it invokes a response out of me.

However, when I talk about loving the church, I don’t have that same type of love in mind. Instead I have in mind the love that Christ has for us. In 1 John 3:16, we read,

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 Jn 3:16)

Jesus’ love for us is self-sacrificial, and it is not based on feelings or what we can do for Him. We know that is true because Jesus died for us while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:7-8).

It is important we have that type of love for the church because there will be times when the church doesn’t make us feel good. But here is the thing, we aren’t called to serve the church, to love it’s people, to only give of our time, money, and resources when they are making us feel good. Instead, we are called to love the church at all times regardless of how it makes us feel.

Unless you love your church with the same self-sacrificial love that Christ has for us, you will not stick in there. The first bout of controversy, difficulty, or lack of perceived success that can easily creep in will cause you to give a little less of your time, your emotions, and your heart to the people you are called to serve. It might even cause you to start looking elsewhere for greener pastures.

(3) Love Your Family

With all the demands that are put on you in the work of ministry, the one thing that is easy to but something you can’t do is neglect your own families. You must love, care for, and continue to nurture them, even while you are loving and serving the church.

In fact, you should see your family as your first church. The way you love, serve, and minister to them should be a reflection of how you will love and serve your second church – the one you are called to pastor. So don’t neglect your families to do the work of ministry.

This is something I have had to learn in my ministry. I love pastoring, teaching, and preaching.  In the past, I have neglected my family to do those things. Thankfully, by the grace of God I learned quickly that was not the way things should be. As a result, I quickly set some parameters. Parameters my wife helps me to keep.

So yes, love your church, sacrifice for and serve your church, but don’t do it to the neglect of your family because your family is your first church and there is nothing more important than taking care of them.

I am convinced that if you do these three things – (1) Love Jesus, (2) Love your Church, and (3) Love your Family – you will be an effective pastor, who will serve the church well for many years to come.

Question for Reflection

  1. What advice would you offer to those facing the unique challenges of pastoral ministry?

Resource

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On the Need to Preach the Whole Counsel of God’s Word

The sad decline in the quality of Christian life and witness in our country is largely due to the fact that the evangelical church has for several generations been a huge nursery, not only for infant babes but, much worse, grown-up babes…thus laying them open to all the carnal excesses and sectarian and heretical influences around them.

This is largely because [they] regard the Bible as the book which contain the Gospel message. Although they generally hold the whole Bible to be the inspired Word of God, they far from draw upon the totality of its inspired writings. All their search is for the simple Gospel, and if they don’t find the simple Gospel in its pages then it is politely, even reverently set aside.

There is nothing so sorely needed in the world today as the Word of God hammered home to people’s minds, hearts, and wills [through a consistent diet of expository preaching, covering the breadth and depth of God’s Word.]

Question for Reflection

  1. Pastor, do you recognize the need to feed your people with a consistent diet of expository preaching that covers the full counsel of God’s Word?

Resources

William Still, The Work of the Pastor80-82, 89.

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