Posted by Gary on October 7, 2009
Ephesians 4:11-13 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
A few Sundays ago as I came through the narthex of our church there was a line of people standing talking. I decided to shake the first hand I came to as I was on my way and then felt I should shake the next and so it went. After four hands or so I started to feel like a politician and upon arriving at one of our dear senior saints I jokingly said, “I am running for president.” Without delay this dear lady replied, “That would be a demotion for you wouldn’t it?”
While my immediate response was to laugh with her for she chuckled some as she said it, I thought, “Dear lady, I don’t know if you know just how profound a thing you just said.” Along with this thought was this one, “She is right Gary, the call to shepherd God’s people is the greatest and highest calling God can confer upon a man.”
Never as much as it should does this truth come to my mind, “Gary, you have been granted the greatest privilege that a man can ever receive from God.” Sometimes I sit and think about what it would be like to be the president. I think about all the decisions I would make that would set things right and how great it would be to have such power and privilege. Then the glass of cold water splashes in my face: “Gary, would you trade your calling for the power of this world?” “Could you do as much good as president as God in His grace works through His servants through the gospel?” “Do you think being the president would be a promotion for you?” My reason returns to me, I chide myself for my foolishness and embrace and rejoice in my calling once again.
My crock pot is still boiling after having heard former pastor Mike Huckabee say in January 2008 that he left the pastorate for politics because he felt he needed to “get his jersey dirty”. This is a slap in the face with a leather glove, you might as well say something about my mother. Pastors have clean jerseys? Politicians are doing the real work of helping the world? Ha! Just remember Mike, everything accomplished in the realm of politics will one day end when this world is consumed in fire. The work of God’s shepherds will endure forever, their labor will pay dividends while unending ages roll. Mike, if you had a calling from God to be a pastor then get back where you belong, why would you willingly pursue and embrace such a demotion as the one you have taken?
Perhaps there is a brother out there who in discouragement has lost sight of the privilege that God has conferred upon him to be a pastor in the Church of Christ. Look at the passage from Ephesians 4 at the top of this post, do you not see your position listed alongside prophet and apostle? Hold on brother, God will lift you up, remain faithful and never forget that God has placed upon you a calling that is higher than president or king.
1 Timothy 6:12-16 “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”
2 Timothy 1:13-14 “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”
2 Timothy 4:1-2 “I solemnly 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, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
1 Timothy 6:20 “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you,”
Posted by Gary on February 26, 2009
I regularly read from a book of quotations from Charles Spurgeon. I come back to this book over and over and am always challenged, encouraged and reminded of the hope of my calling. Here are few gems.
“My mother said to me once, after she had long prayed for me and had come to the conviction that I was hopeless, ‘My son, if at the last great day you are condemned, remember that your mother will say “Amen” to your condemnation.’ That stung me to the quick.”
“It is shocking to reflect that a change in the weather has more effect on some men’s lives than the dread alternative of heaven or hell.”
“When men talk of a little hell, it is because they think they have only a little sin, and they believe in a little Savior. But when you get a great sense of sin, you want a great Savior, and feel that if you don’t have Him, you will fall into a great destruction, and suffer a great punishment at the hands of the great God.”
Posted by Gary on January 14, 2009
Isaiah 1:15-18 "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
There is an eternity’s difference between coming into the presence of God and mere religious formality. Few things have more potential of being formality than political events with a clergyman’s presence. To come into the presence of God means to recognize His holiness, our sinfulness and to lay the heart bare before Him. Religious formality requires none of these things, it only requires religious language.
How do we know the difference between the two? Religious formality takes place without any humbling, soul searching effect on the participants. A prayer is offered and no one is challenged, humbled or offended. To rightly come into the presence of God one must be willing to come to terms with their sins against God and they must also by His grace be willing to part from them.
Religious formality may make reference to sin (more likely the words “faults” or “weaknesses” will be used) but the sins that are most offensive to God and that we most need to acknowledge are never mentioned and participants come away from such a prayer thinking about the sins of others, not their own, hence the avoidance of offense.
Most often at political events prayers with any confession list things we as men do against each other (violence, prejudice, neglect of the needy) but almost never include a list of sins that we commit against God (which all sins are against God by the way). A confession of man’s wrongs against man will be tolerated gladly for in the end most of us convince ourselves that we are not guilty even of these.
All this prayer takes is a man who knows Biblical phraseology and he can slither away just fine. He can mention “reaping what we sow” while never getting specific about what we are sowing or what we will reap. He can confess that we “have turned away from God” but will not be specific about which God we are guilty of turning away from.
Amazingly, all it seems to take to quiet the concerns of today’s evangelicals is a few Biblical phrases and then a conclusion that is in Jesus’ name or some equivalent that those of us who know the Biblical phraseology know means Jesus, “Prince of Peace”, “Wonderful Counselor” or “Good Shepherd”. “He used the phrases” evangelicals trumpet gladly and never ponder that we all escaped the shining light of God’s truth and have offended and angered God by our prayer not honored Him.
O come on Gary, do you really think more than this could be said in an inaugural prayer? Well the question is, what are we after? If we are after formality, avoiding offense and the satisfaction of having offered a prayer then we couldn’t push for more than this. But if we are actually intending to come into the presence of the one, true, living God then something much more penetrating and confrontational is necessary.
Pray that God gives Rick Warren the faith and courage to be His true messenger on January 20.
Posted by Gary on January 9, 2007
There is a great danger that accompanies the privilege of standing before people to preach and teach on a weekly basis. The pitfall I am referring to is pride, how great is our tendency to think highly of ourselves and to begin to think that we are something in and of ourselves. The pastor is a man who needs to keep a great watch over himself in regard to this matter. A microphone, multiple ears and compliments added to our sinful nature can have a disastrous effect. Thinking about these things brought to mind a series of quotes from Charles Spurgeon:
“Our God takes care always to have security that, if He works a great work by us, we shall not appropriate the glory of it to ourselves. He brings us down lower and lower in our own esteem…Some trumpets are so stuffed with self that God cannot blow through them.”
“You may rest quite certain that, if God honors any man in public, He takes him aside privately, and flogs him well, otherwise he would get elevated and proud, and God will not have that.”
“Many a man has been elevated until his brain has grown dizzy, and he has fallen to his destruction. He who is to made to stand securely in a high place has need to be put through sharp affliction. More men are destroyed by prosperity and success than by affliction and apparent failure.” (Quoted in Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. Iain Murray p. 18).