Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Poem

A few years ago I wrote a poem to be read to our church at Christmas. I read it for our new church last night at our Christmas Eve service. I hope it will minister to you as well.

The Night that Changed the World

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,
And man was created; from God came his birth,
Woman would follow from the rib of the man,
And they’d walk together through the garden, hand in hand.

But then came the serpent; craftier than all,
He tempted the woman, and caused her to fall,
Deep into sin and Adam would follow,
The fruit was forbidden, but now they would swallow.

Satan had won, at least it would seem,
And God was defeated and this was his scheme,
But God was aware of all that would come,
He had prepared to send forth His Son.

The promise of death would be their reward,
For turning on God and on His great word,
Now there is the promise of the One who would be,
Greater than all; than Satan you see.

When He comes He will crush Satan’s head,
And redeem the creation; that’s what God had said,
The curse would be great and all would be hurt,
And man would now die, and return to the dirt.

But with every child came the hope of the One,
When would He come?  Where is the Son?
But as time went by it seemed God had lied,
He turned on His creation and many had died.

Slaves in a land; it’d last for so long,
But nowhere was one to be found that was strong,
Enough to destroy the stronghold of sin,
That stained every man from entering in,
A relationship with God like before,
 So still man would wait for One to adore.

And then there was Moses, he was so great,
He must be the One; it was God’s fate,
But Moses would pass and still there was sin,
So the people rebelled against God once again.
But Joshua came and he gave them more hope,
But soon it would fade and they could not cope.

We need a judge; he’ll be our king,
To him we will glory, to him we will sing.
But that’s not God’s plan and soon they would see,
That God was the Judge; He’d set His people free.

David was a man after God’s heart,
He’d lead all the people; he did his part,
But they would reject Yahweh once more,
And face exile from their land, and live with the poor.

Now comes the prophets, their message was hard,
“Repent from your sins! Return to the Lord!”
Nebuchadnezzar can’t stand against God,
And soon he would fall with only a nod.

The Creator had promised, and soon it would come,
God’s chosen people would return to their home.
And more and more prophets would come on the scene,
At last there was Malachi, and what he said he did mean.

Then there was Mary, so young and still pure,
She was engaged, but her future was sure,
To be unlike any other person we’ve known,
For she would give birth to God’s very own.

Joseph was righteous;  he'd keep her from shame,
He’d divorce her quietly and cause little pain.
But God would send word that would change Joseph’s life,
“Do not fear to take Mary as your wife.”

So they both went on and the time did draw near,
The Creator of all was about to be here.
No where to go; no room in the inn,
His name will be Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin.

Mary gave birth to her firstborn son,
And now the Shepherds heard what God had done,
A bright light shone and angels filled the sky,
Giving praise for the One who was born from on high.

God became flesh, who would have thought,
That God’s Son would die so that all could be bought,
With the precious blood of God’s Son the King,
The One who was born, eternal life He did bring.

So that night was unlike any other in history,
The Word became flesh, revealing the mystery,
Christmas time is about His great name,
So let’s join in and spread His great fame.

Two thousand years have now past us by,
But still we recall that the Savior did die,
Think of His birth; and this we will herald,
As we recall the night that changed the world.

By Rev. Randy Alston

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve Service

This is my first Christmas in SWFL, so we are learning new things with our new church. Tomorrow, God-willing, I will participate in my first Christmas Eve Service at 6:00 PM. Cypress Lake has been used to this for years, but for us it's a first. We will not be in NC for Christmas this year, which is the first time for me in my life! With that being said, I am extremely excited to gather with my church family, friends, and relatives to worship Christ together. If you are in the Fort Myers area, we'd love to have you come visit with us tomorrow night.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Goal

This past Sunday I preached a message that was aimed at helping us think through why we are here in Fort Myers, FL. Obviously, we are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not decide what that means in the ultimate sense, but I wanted to challenge our church to take seriously a few commands in Scripture. I set my message up around what I hope to be our mission: We exist by the grace of God to make disciples of all nations, through treasuring Christ above all things, for the glory of God at all times. If you're interested, you can hear the message here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I have much to be thankful for in my life. I am thankful for my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, and most importantly my Savior, Jesus Christ. However, I also want to say as clearly as possible that I am extremely thankful for my new church family. We have been here for almost 3 months now, and the Lord has been overly gracious to me.

Last night we had our Thanksgiving Dinner together. They have done this every year for many years. However, this was a first for my family. In fact, this is the first Thanksgiving that we've been too far away to make it back 'home' if we wanted. I found myself thinking through the importance of realizing that Cypress Lake Baptist Church is our family. By God's grace, these are my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. I am overjoyed at what the Lord is doing in my life and I am truly thankful to call this my family of faith.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Mission

I posted this on the blog for our church, but thought I'd post it here as well.

This past Sunday evening I mentioned that I have been talking with the deacons about a new mission statement for our church. From the beginning, however, I have stated that we do not NEED a mission statement. What I mean by that is that we already know the calling that we have and the commissioning that we have from Christ. The clearest 'mission' of the church is found in the Great Commission. It is our mission to make disciples of all nations. However, I also stated with both the deacons and this past Sunday night that a good mission statement will help us to remain true to what we believe Christ has called us to do. With that being said, this is what I am recommending we embrace as the mission of CLBC:

We exist to make disciples of all nations, through treasuring Christ above all things, for the glory of God at all times.

I hope we will see to be true to what the Lord has called us to do.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Love Fort Myers!

Palm trees, warm weather, the beach, and a ton of other things would attract many people to Southwest Florida. In fact, I must confess I love those things. I also love the fact that there are thousands of luxuries all around. There are restaurants all over the place, there are thousands of activities to do, and, have a I mentioned this, it feels great!

However, that is not what makes me love this area. As I travel around this town I realize how many people there are in need of Christ. I realize that we have a great opportunity to reach people with the gospel. I love this city because I believe Christ is at work here and means to use His people to do great things. With that being said, it's not simply this city. I love the fact that God has providentially placed me in Fort Myers, FL, but I also long to see all of Lee County and all of SWFL reached for the glory of God. I have heard that around 93% of Lee County is unchurched! That was perhaps the greatest statistic that drew my heart to come here. God is at work in this place. He means to use His people to proclaim the good news of Christ. He means to draw many people unto Himself. And through this, I am able to be here. I love Fort Myers, FL!

It's His Church!

I have heard several times over the years people talk about the church as though we can pick and choose what/who makes up the church. For instance, this past week I overheard a conversation between two men. One of the men was white while the other was black. They were talking about the difference between preaching in a 'white' church and a 'black' church. The conversation was friendly and both agreed there is more excitement in the 'black' church. However, as I listened (they were quite loud so it was really just about impossible not to listen) I wondered if the definition of the church was a correct definition.

What I mean by this is that the church is the church. The church is the bride of Christ composed of those who believe from every tribe and language and people and nation. I think we do a great injustice to try to say anything different. Some say they're white church, others say their black churches. Some say they're traditional while others are contemporary. Some are old churches (as in their members) while others are young churches. The list can go on and on and on. In fact, often times church 'experts' will tell you that you need to have a 'target group' that you are trying to reach.

I have a huge problem with this because IT IS HIS CHURCH! The target group is pretty clear to me. We are to go and make disciples of all nations. We are to seek to see those from every tribe and tongue and language and nation become followers of Christ. I understand language barriers. I do not understand how we can justify having different churches based on color.

I heard of someone who once stated they didn't want to go to two services with one being contemporary in style and the other traditional because it says the world watching us that we are not really united. Our preference of music is enough to divide us. I wonder, are we not stating the same thing when we make excuses for not worshipping together based on the color of skin? Are we not saying something like this, "We believe in Jesus. Jesus has reconciled us to the Father and to one another. We are united by faith in Christ and the fact that the Holy Spirit now dwells in each of us. However, our color of skin is stronger than that unity in Christ!" Maybe I'm wrong, but that conversation has been in my mind for several days now.

Beloved, the gospel is more than enough to unite us together. Does our practice show that truth or hinder that truth?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Studying Colossians

I have found the book of Colossians to be a great book over the years to teach when coming to a church. Paul covers several important truths in this book (as he does in every book!) that help to lay a foundation for many things to follow. When coming to Cypress Lake I had no intention of teaching through this book right away. However, I wanted to lay an important foundation for the place of the gospel in the life of the church. In Colossians 1:6 Paul tells the church that the gospel “is bearing fruit and growing.” I wanted our church to see from the beginning that the way in which we would see the church of the Lord Jesus Christ grow was through the proclamation and application of the gospel. I still find that truth to be extremely important and foundational for the church.

However, the following week I wanted to make sure that our people knew that not only does the gospel bear fruit and grow, but it is the responsibility of followers of Christ to as well. In Colossians 1:10, as Paul talks about his prayer for the church, he prays that they would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” We, as the church, are also called to bear fruit and increase. This happens as we seek the Lord and seek to be His church. Christ has promised to build His church, and He has promised to lead His people. I hope that we will grow in grace and increase in our knowledge of God as the gospel goes forth bearing fruiting and growing.

With those two things being said and taught on Wednesday evenings, I decided I may as well go ahead and work through the book of Colossians. So far we have made it through Colossians 2:15. If you are in the area, we would love to have you come and grow in grace with us as we seek to work through this precious book on Wednesday nights together.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Blog for CLBC

This blog is my personal blog. It may or may not reflect things about my church. With that being said, I have started a new blog for Cypress Lake Baptist Church. You can find it here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Book Recommendation

A while back I posted about a good friend of mine, Wil Owens. I have known Wil for many years now and can say with confidence that he's a man who pursues Christ and wants to see Christ's name exalted among the nations. You can check his blog out here. Also, I am very glad to point you to a book of his that has just been published. Wil is a great expositor of the Word, and this book is a collection of his sermons through Philippians. I haven't read it, but I've read a couple of other books by him, I've heard him preach many times (we've been overseas together and served together for 18 months with a church plant), so I can have confidence in recommending this book to you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Minister of Mercy: The New Testament Deacon

This Sunday I plan to preach on the office of deacon in both my morning and evening sermons. The morning sermon will be out of Acts 6:1-7 while the evening sermon will actually be a call for all of us to follow Christ's example of serving others by laying down HIs life in Mark 10:42-45. We are coming up on recommending new deacons for the church, and I have this opportunity to look at this office from a Biblical perspective.

Having just arrived at Cypress Lake, I must say I already have enjoyed getting to know my deacons and spending time with them. I look forward to growing together with them for many years to come. I alos want to make sure I am helping to prepare our deacons to honor Christ with this office. I just ordered all of us the book, Minister of Mercy: The New Testament Deacon by Alexander Strauch. I've heard good things about this book, but I've never read it. I hope to learn much, and to be challenged with the deacons to serve our church well.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grieving the Loss; Rejoicing in Christ

As I type this, we have just recently received good news, and then bad news. The good news came last Thursday night. My wife took a test at home that told us we were having our third child. This was a complete surprise to us. We hadn't planned on having a child at this time. However, we were overjoyed that the Lord had seen fit to grant us this blessing. However, on Monday morning that good news turned bad as I took my wife to the ER. We were soon told what we already knew, which was that the baby was gone. There were many emotions going on through that time, but I want to get to that in just a moment.

In the meantime, between the good and the bad news, I began preaching through the book of James with my church. The first sermon was James 1:1-4. In that text James says something that sounds good, but is very difficult to do. In verse two he writes, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." I would love to say that when I meet trials of various kinds (some simple, everyday trials, others extremely difficult trials) that I do so joyfully. That is simply not the case often times. As I preached this sermon, however, I stated that trials were coming and we ought to prepare now for how we will face those trials. Little did I know that we were going to face a very difficult trial in less than 24 hours.

As I preached this text, I found myself thinking deeply about how I reacted through a tough trial a few years ago. It wasn't the loss of a baby, but it was still difficult. When I look back I do not think I counted it as joy. I do not think I was able to see the hand of God working through that trial at the time. I had friends who tried to point me to Christ through that time, but I do not think I listened well at all. This time I wanted it to be different. Based on my evening sermon from James 1:5-8 I prayed that the Lord would grant me wisdom through the trials that were to come. I believe He answered that prayer. However, back to the morning text, I stated in my sermon that the way in which we may face trials with joy is based on verses 3-4, "for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Perhaps my main emphasis from this was that God is not unaware of your trials. He is very aware and is still true to His promise that He will never leave nor forsake those who are His. And not only is He aware, and with those who are His, but He means to accomplish something through each and every trial. He means to complete something in our lives that will enable us to be more like Christ. He means to draw us to Him through the trials. So I stated that the only way we can face trials of various kinds joyfully is to know and truly believe that He is accomplishing something for our good and for His glory through every trial.

When 3:00 Monday morning came around, I was about to take my wife to the ER. I was afraid for my wife. I was afraid for my baby. But at the same time the Holy Spirit was gracious and brought to my mind what I had just preached the day before. I began immediately meditating on this text and the truth of what was said. When the news came that we had lost the baby, I began to grieve. I never knew what thousands of women/couples had gone through with a miscarriage. It's not easy. It's heart breaking. It's devastating. However, God is faithful.

Through the trial of that morning, and the few days that have come since, I have found myself at times crying in grief over the loss of my child. I have found myself extremely concerned for the health of my wife. But I've also been overjoyed in the midst of grief that the Lord has been with us. He is accomplishing something great through this trial. He is drawing my wife and I ever closer to Him. He is truly good and turns all things for good for those who belong to Him. I think, perhaps, I've finally felt what Paul did when he wrote that he was sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. We grieve the loss, but we rejoice in Christ.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. The Lord is faithful and good.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Update Overdue

It has been a long time since I last updated this blog. I thought it would be appropriate to let you know that it's not because I do not desire to blog, but because I have been unbelievably busy over the past several weeks. Let me give you a quick snap shot at what I mean:

Tuesday Evening, Aug. 31 - Loaded up the U-Haul (after the 'professional' moving company failed to show up for the second day!), with help from several friends in Pulaski, VA. Left our house around 9:30 PM and drove to Matthews, NC to stay one night with my family.

Wednesday, Sept. 1 - Drove the U-Haul 700 miles, pulling my car behind on a dolly, having a tire blow out on the dolly, and finally arriving in Fort Myers, FL around 11:15 PM.

Thursday-Friday, Sept. 2-3 - Drove around with my chairman of deacons looking for a house all over Cape Coral and Fort Myers.

Saturday, Sept. 4 - With the help of new friends we unloaded the U-Haul and put everything in storage.

Sunday, Sept. 5 - I had the great honor of preaching at my new church, Cypress Lake Baptist Church.

Monday, Sept. 6 - Went to the airport to fly to NC to see/pick-up my family. We had a great day visiting my grandmother and my mom's side of the family. However, my 5 year old daughter fell off a foot stool on the front porch at my grandmother's house and broke both bones in her arm just above her wrist.

Tuesday, Sept. 7 - A nice, relaxing day! That evening Abigail and I went to one of my closest friend's house for a cookout.

Wednesday, Sept. 8 - We had a great time in Pageland, SC visiting my father's side of the family.

Thursday, Sept. 9 - Had family time with Shannon's side of the family, and again with my mom's side of our family.

Friday, Sept. 10 - Loaded up the van and drove to Rocky Mount, NC where we spent the weekend seeing several friends.

Sunday, Sept. 12 - I had the opportunity to preach for my good friend Justin Nale at Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC. Afterwards we had a cookout on the church grounds with many of the local pastors and their families. These men are dear friends of mine. It was a great blessing. Then we left, and began driving south to FL.

Monday, Sept. 13 - Drove the final 450 miles to Fort Myers. EXHAUSTED!

From that point until today we have been busy looking at houses, setting up my office, trying to settle in, and getting to know the people of Cypress Lake. When (If?) I get caught up, I will blog again. Thanks for your faithfulness in reading my blog.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Discipleship Materials?

As I am about to shift to a new church, I want to make sure I take seriously the call to disciple God's people. There are a couple of books/curriculims that I am looking over and reading through. One book I'm presently reading is The Walk. This has already been a great read and one I plan to implement as I work to disciple others. Another resource I plan to look over is Design for Discipleship.

What other resources have you used or would you recommend?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Your Best Life Now?

I don't think Jesus would agree with this easy-believism that leads to having an easy (best) life today:
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

Matthew 16:24-28 - I plan to preach this text this coming Sunday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Hectic Schedule

Over the next several weeks I have a crazy schedule. I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

This is my final week as the pastor of FBC. So this week I'm packing and trying to be faithful in shepherding our people here.

On Monday, August 30, the moving company will load our things (God-willing) and I'll drive down to Fort Myers, FL to unload and look for a house. While there I will also begin setting up my office and will preach both AM and PM on Sunday, September 5, at my new church, Cypress Lake Baptist Church.

On Monday, September 6 I will fly from Fort Myers to Charlotte, NC to be with my family. For several days I'll hang with my side and my wife's side of the family. We are greatly looking forward to this time!

On Friday, September 10, we plan to leave the Matthews area and drive to Rocky Mount, NC where we hope to see some friends. I am also going to preach the AM service at Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church for my friend, Justin Nale.

After the service on Sunday, September 12, my family and I will drive back down to Ft. Myers where we hope to settle in and start building relationships with our brothers and sisters there.

Thanks in advance for your prayers.

The Pursuit of Holiness

As I am packing up my books in my office, I started to thumb through The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. This is a fantastic book. I highly recommend this book for every believer. As I was thumbing through it, I came across this quote on pages 97-98:
Discipline toward holiness begins then with the Scriptures--with a disciplined plan for regular intake of the Scriptures and a disciplined plan for applying them to our daily lives....So we see that we must discipline our lives for a regular healthy diet of the Word of God. We need a planned time each day for reading or studying the Bible. Every Christian who makes progress in holiness is a person who has disciplined his life so that he spends regular time in the Bible. There simply is no other way.

Wouldn't this simple plan help us be better disciples? Wouldn't it help us to make better disciples?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making Disciples takes Time

Many people are familiar with the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28. Many are also aware that the main verb in that text is to make disciples. However, where should we look to see this actually take place? I think we could say it's best to look at the model of Jesus. This again is nothing new, but I think it's often times talked about more than it's actually put into practice. Jesus spent time, lots of time, with his disciples. He was teaching them, leading them, loving them, and training them. After spending three years with His disciples He then commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations.

What does this mean for us today? I know in my own life I have not been very diligent at making disciples. I have not put the time into people as I ought. However, while I've been the pastor of FBC I did something different than I had at any other church. In the Spring of this year I began meeting with a group of 4 others every Thursday morning. We read a book together and talked about what it meant to follow Christ as we shared life together. I didn't think much about 'making disciples' as we had our breakfast, but I can honestly look back and see a couple of positive outcomes to our meetings.

The first thing I noticed is the fact that I had bonded with those 4 (sometimes up to 6) far more than others. It's not that I didn't love the others in my church, I did (do!), but these few began to grow in grace together with me. As I am preparing to leave the church for a new ministry, I can see more fruit in them than I can in others. It seems that our learning together about the implications of the gospel actually helped create a community of faith!

The second thing I noticed is how easy it was to spend the time with them. This was not difficult. I enjoyed our time together. I looked forward to getting up on Thursday mornings and meeting with them. I couldn't wait to hear their thoughts and interact with them through this book. By the end of the meetings I rejoiced to hear some of the suggestions that they were making about putting into practice the things we were learning. They were truly beginning to follow after Christ.

The bottom line of this is the fact that I had only just started. There is much more work to be accomplished. We are called to make disciples. We are called to invest our lives in the lives of others that they may become devoted followers of Christ (and that they will be able to lead others as well). We are called to do exactly what Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, "what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

Making disciples doesn't come over night. Making disciples takes time.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our Move

Tonight was a difficult one for me with FBC. I have only been here for 22 months, but I have come to love the people in unbelievable ways. They have been far better to my family and I than I could have ever imagined. It was tough, however, because I was explaining to them that I am leaving after August 29. This was a difficult decision, but I think the right one. Before I say anything about where we're going, I want to make it abundantly clear that it was not because I felt I had to leave FBC. There was a time when I felt that, but not lately. In fact, lately I thought maybe I would spend my life there. The church loves the Word, and really was open to being led by me as their pastor. I will miss them greatly!

There was a time when I really felt I was going to church plant. That was my dream. In fact, I started working hard at figuring out how, when, and where that would happen. Every time I started moving forward I felt the doors close. However, there was a stirring in my heart that I couldn't shake. I sent my resume out to several churches and had many respond to me. However, most of them I knew weren't right. Others I thought maybe, but proved to be wrong as well. When this church sent me the first response through email, I almost didn't answer them. I had filled out several questionnaires already. I knew nothing about Fort Myers, FL. After several days I responded and the conversations went from there. Over the weekend of August 8 my family and I flew down to FL to check out the area, the church, and the possibility of a new move. We came back not sure if the Lord was in it or not, but after a short time of prayer felt it was of the Lord. The following Sunday (August 15) the church voted and called me to be their pastor.

I am excited about the opportunity ahead of us. There are many challenges, but we truly feel this is of the Lord. God-willing, we hope to give our lives to reaching the over 93% of unchurched in Lee County and seeing Cypress Lake Baptist Church become (continue to be) a church devoted to making much of Christ and seeking to make disciples of all nations.

Evangelism and Discipleship go Together

It seems strange to me that many people (churches?) seem to separate evangelism and discipleship as two distinct ministries. Of course, I understand that they are not the same thing, but they certainly go together. It's crazy to me to think that it's possible to not see that. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is clear that our task is to 'make disciples.' That is, we are to make followers of Christ Jesus as we 'go', 'baptize', and 'teach'. How is it possible for us to think we fulfill the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations if we neglect to teach them to obey all that He has commanded?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Walk

After reading Thabiti Anyabwile's review of this book, I decided to purchase it. It just came in the mail today so I'm anxious to dig into it. I hope it will be useful as I seek to help make disciples of all nations.

You can order 'The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus' here.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Recently my good friend Justin Nale blogged about blogging for the glory of God. After thinking through some things, he changed his blog and refocused his blogging. Actually, I have wondered for quite some time why I was still blogging. The truth is blogging became more of a burden than a joy. However, there are occasions that I really like to blog and things I think would be very helpful for others. Therefore, I am redirecting my focus. As I work through exactly how this will be, I'll be sure to post. My guess is that I will focus primarily on the idea from the Great Commission and what it means to 'make disciples of all nations'. This will include a focus on missions and discipleship. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christ will Build His Church...Go Make Disciples

I am preparing for some upcoming teaching and have really started reflecting on a couple of truths. The first one is found in the statement by Christ in Matthew 16:18, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Let it be known upfront that I do not affirm that Jesus meant He would build His church on Peter. Rather, I think He's referring to the truth that Peter had just professed in verse 16, "Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'." Anyway, what I want to mention is the promise that Jesus says He will build His church. This is a great promise. In a time and age when we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of ideas and gimmicks to 'build the church' or 'grow the church', I find it refreshing that Jesus didn't ask us to build the church. Jesus promised that He would build His church. There is no way to stress enough that we must rest assured that Jesus is sovereign and able to do all that He has proclaimed.

The second truth, however, helps us to see the means by which He will build His church. When you look at Matthew 28:18-20 you will read what has become known as The Great Commission. In this passage the emphasis is on making disciples of all nations. That is the command from Christ. We are called to make disciples. But doesn't that put the emphasis on us doing the work? How is it that Jesus can say He will build the church AND tell us to be the ones who go and make disciples? This question misses a very important connection. First of all, making disciples (verse 19) is rooted in the fact that Jesus has all authority (verse 18). So, Jesus has the authority to send us out to make disciples. Now, if we think that it's our going out that will enable us to grow the church, we have once again mistaken. I say that because Jesus has already stated that He would build His church, and then at the end of the Great Commission He promises that as we go and make disciples that He will be with us! We are not the ones building the church with our creative ways of reaching the culture. We are the instruments used by Christ, but He is the One building His church! Beloved, may we not ever think we can build His church. May we trust that He will build His church trough us and that we are simply called to be faithful in the proclamation of the gospel (which is how we make disciples!).

Now, more could be (and needs to be) said for what it means to 'make disciples of all nations.' For this post, however, I will mention just a couple of things. First of all, it does not mean that we need to get someone to pray a prayer. That is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Secondly, we do not need to get people to 'do' something for their salvation (in terms of any kind of work for their salvation). Finally, we do need to proclaim the gospel and call people to repent of their sins and thrust themselves completely on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. We need people to know that Christ has all authority over them. We need them to see that they've offended the Holy God of the universe. We need them to see that apart from Christ they have nothing to offer God. And we need them to see that becoming a disciple is about becoming a follower, or pupil, of Christ. That is why we teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded. He is Lord! He builds His church by His power and authority. We are simply instruments or tools in the hands of the redeemer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We Need the Gospel

As I'm finishing up my sermon prep this morning, I've been reading through Daniel Doriani's book on the Sermon on the Mount. My text for this coming Sunday is Matthew 5:33-37, which deals with oaths and telling the truth. It's a great call for the disciples of Christ to be truth tellers who are trustworthy in all their dealings. However, Doriani suggests that Jesus continues to call us to more difficult tasks as the Sermon goes forth. Indeed, this is true, as we see a great command in Matthew 5:48, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." It appears that Jesus is setting us up for an impossible task. That is why we need the gospel. The following paragraph is how Doriani addresses the issue:
We need the gospel. It teaches us to ask the one who gives the standard to forgive us for breaking it. We ask the one who kept the standard in perfect righteousness to give us his righteousness and clothe us with it. And the Lord does it. He accepts us as his children and grants us the family resemblance that he requires. For the hardest command is also stated in a way that gives hope. Translated literally, Matthew 5:48 states, "You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." We rightly read the words "You shall be perfect" as a command, yet, reading it again, we notice that it hides a promise: you shall be perfect.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two Glorious Truths that Must go Together

This morning I read through some of 1 Kings and saw two verses of great truths that ought to be taken together and give great hope to the church. The first verse is in 1 Kings 8:39. This is in the midst of a prayer by Solomon. He is asking the Lord to fill the place that Solomon has built for God and to remember the people of Israel when they fall way, but repent and call upon the Lord. in a parenthetical remark Solomon says, "for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind." No matter who you/the are, lost or saved, the Lord knows your hearts. Of course, this is NOT a good thing for those who are unbelievers disguising themselves as believers. It is also scary news for those who understand the depth of sin in their own hearts. However, when taken with the second verse that I've been meditating on this morning, it's amazing.

The second verse comes after the prayer of Solomon. He finishes his prayer, and then he stands up and speaks to the people his benediction. In 1 Kings 8:58 Solomon says, "that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded to our fathers." The Lord, the Lord alone, knows the hearts of all the children of mankind and He alone has the authority and power to incline our hearts to Him.

This truth must go together in our evangelism, our ministry, our shepherding, our leading, our loving, our very lives. It is great to know that He knows every heart AND that He is able, completely able, to incline the hearts of man to obey God.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lloyd-Jones on Sin and Evangelism

I realize I have not given a good D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote in a while, so here is one on the importance of the doctrine of sin from his commentary on Matthew 5:27-30:

There is no evangelism without the doctrine of sin, and without an understanding of what sin is. I do not want to be unfair, but I say that a gospel which merely says, 'Come to Jesus', and offers Him as a Friend, and offers a marvelous new life, without convicting of sin, is not New Testament evangelism. The essence of evangelism is to start by preaching the law; and it is because the law has not been preached that we have had so much superficial evangelism. Go through the ministry of our Lord Himself and you cannot but get the impression that at times, far from pressing people to follow Him and to decide for Him, He put great obstacles in their way. He said in effect, 'Do you realize what you are doing? Have you counted the cost? Do you realize where it may lead you? Do you know that it means denying yourself, taking up your cross daily and following me?' True evangelism, I say, because of this doctrine of sin, must always start by preaching the law.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Church Planting Network

I had the opportunity to talk with Timmy Brister today about a new church planting network. I believe church planting is at the heart of God. There have been several good networks popping up over the country lately, and this one is as well. I would encourage you to check out PLNTD. As it develops it will be a great tool for churches to plant churches and for planters to find resources, relationships, and future residencies. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Definition and Video of Missional

Ed Stetzer writes in Planting Missional Churches, "Missional implies taking the approach of a missionary – being indigenous to to culture, seeking to understand and learn, adapting methods to the mission field – but winding up in the biblical form of a church.”

This is a great video demonstration of missional:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 4

I'm finally getting around to this post. This is part four in a series of post that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. You can read the first three here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

In this post, I want to quickly show that God expects the elders to rule the church. I am probably less congregational that many of my friends (even though I'm in a very congregational church!), but I want to look at Scripture for this. Before I do, however, I do believe the congregation should be involved with many significant issues within the church. When it comes down to it, however, I still believe there is authority, much authority, given to the elders.

To deny that there is some form of ruling aspect given to the elders is hard to do since Paul tells Timothy, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching" (2 Timothy 5:17). Some would argue that the way they rule is through preaching and teaching. That is certainly true and is important. In the last post I stated that the primary calling for the elders is the ministry of the Word. However, I do not think that is the extent of their authority. In Hebrews 13:17 the author tells the saints to "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account." To deny that a great deal of authority have been given to the elders is very difficult when one just reads the New Testament text.

It could be misunderstood here, so I want to be clear about something. One of the reasons many people object to this is that they are in a single elder church and this seems odd dangerous to give one elder this kind of authority. I understand that, which is why I think it's important to have a plurality of elders (who are qualified) as soon as possible. It is also important to stress that these elders are qualified! If they are not, they will mislead the church or take advantage of that leadership and authority. This too will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the congregation and will be unhelpful at best.

Elders who are qualified will take seriously the charge that Peter gives in 1 Peter 5:1-5:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble."

A church with a plurality of humble, godly elders, and a church who submits to them and follows their authority, will honor Christ and live for the glory of God.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Two things happened this morning that are amazing. The first is the fact that I'm a father, and this is the first Father's Day with two children out of the womb. We are presently with my in-laws, so they allowed my wife and I to sleep in a little this morning and they took care of the two kids. When I woke up and walked into the living room my daughter (almost 5 years old) saw me and said, "Daddy, Happy Father's Day" and went and picked up a card that she made just for me. There is nothing better for a daddy than that! Right about the same time, my son (almost 10 months) was playing in the floor with his nana. He saw me and immediately started crawling to me saying over and over again, "Daaiiy" It's so cute hearing him say daddy without the middle 'd' sound. I realized once again how amazingly blessed I am to have been gifted with these two gifts.

Another thing happened this morning. If you know my past (childhood) then you know that I didn't grow up around my father. Without getting into the reasons for that on here, this morning I called him for the first time I can remember to tell him Happy Father's Day. The reason this is a big deal is that it's only because of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are talking again. I am thankful to God for what He's accomplished in my life and the life of my father. This has truly be a great Father's Day already.

And it would not be fair to not mention my father-in-law. When I asked him if I could marry his daughter over 10 years ago, he said only under one condition. That condition was that he would be able to treat me like the son he's never had. He has done that! I am thankful for him in my life as well. And I'm thankful to spend today with him.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jesus Fulfills the Law

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount:
What then is the relationship of the Christian to the law? We can put our answer in this form. The Christian is no longer under the law in the sense that the law is a covenant of works. That is the whole argument in Galatians 3. The Christian is not under the law in that respect; his salvation does not depend upon his keeping of it. He has been delivered from the curse of the law; he is no longer under the law as a covenant relationship between himself and God. But that does not release him from it as a rule of life. Now I think the whole trouble tends to arise because we become confused in our minds as to the relationship between law and grace. Let me put it like this. We tend to have a wrong view of law and to think of it as something that is opposed to grace. But it is not. Law is only opposed to grace in the sense that there was once a covenant of law, and we are now under the covenant of grace. Nor must the law be thought of as being identical with grace. It was never meant to be something in and of itself. The law was never meant to save man, because it could not. Some people tend to think that God said to the nation, 'I am now giving you a law; you keep the law and it will save you.' But that is ridiculous because no man can save himself by keeping the law. No! the law was 'added because of transgressions'. It came in 430 years after the promise was given to Abraham and his seed in order that it might show the true character of God's demands, and that it might show 'the exceeding sinfulness of sin'. The law was given, in a sense, in order to show men that they could never justify themselves before God, and in order that we might be brought to Christ. In Paul's words it was meant to be 'our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ'.
p. 171

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

J.C. Ryle on the Unity of the Old and New Testaments

In J.C. Ryle's commentary on Matthew, when dealing with Matthew 5:17, he writes:

First, let us beware of despising the Old Testament, for whatever reason. Let us never listen to those who tell us to throw it aside as an obsolete, antiquated, useless book. The religion of the Old Testament is the germ of Christianity. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud; the New Testament is the Gospel in full flower. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the blade; the New Testament is the Gospel in full ear. The saints in the Old Testament saw many things through a glass darkly; but they all looked by faith to the same Saviour, and were led by the same Spirit as ourselves. These are no light matters. Much unfaithfulness begins with an ignorant contempt of the Old Testament.

p. 29

Monday, May 31, 2010

Busy Times

I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted. Over the past couple of weeks I've been quite busy running around. We had the great opportunity to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, travel out of town, welcome the birth of our niece, and several other smaller things. It has been a very good, but very busy, couple of weeks. I am working on part 4 of the series of posts called "Expectations, Fears, and Hopes." You can read the first three here: part 1, part 2, part 3. Thanks for you who are faithfully hanging with me on here!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Great Tribute to Wayne Grudem!

I saw this on the Desiring God Blog and loved it! If you have seen the movie "Grease", and if you've read Grudem's Systematic Theology, you'll know exactly what this is about.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Call to Rejoice in Persecution

In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus calls His followers to rejoice and be glad when they are persecuted for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of Christ. Daniel Doriani helps us see how in The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple:
The call to rejoice in persecution demands that we reappraise our values. Jesus asks us to detach ourselves from this age and to recalibrate our ideas about time. We should tell ourselves, "Our time on earth is short; eternity is long. If we endure insults or privation in this life, they are short-lived in comparison to eternity. If we should die because of persecution, then we meet the Lord and taste his goodness earlier than we anticipated."

Jesus summons us to compare this life with eternity. The Bible affirms the value of this life. It teaches us what we need to know to life well on earth. It enables us to lead a morally upright and personally satisfying life. God tells us that he gives us his commands and decrees "for your good" (Deut. 10:13 ESV).
But Jesus also states a vital qualifier. Sometimes our "reward" for living well is persecution. Sometimes warriors scorn peacemakers. They are angry and want to stay that way, so they despise peacemakers. Jesus warns us that we may do almost everything right, and yet the only payoff may be opposition or persecution.

Evaluating this truth, and the truth of the Beatitudes, J.C. Ryle writes:
Let us learn how the teaching of Christ is sadly different from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? There is too much reason to fear that many baptized people are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament commands.
I pray the church will seek to be a people who know and take seriously the commands of Scripture and seek to live them out for the glory of God!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mondern-Day Gospel vs. Biblical Gospel

Many of you have heard about David Platt's new book Radical. I am reading it slowly right now. If you have subscribed to his podcast, then you've heard much of this. Even if you have, however, this book is a great book and I highly encourage you to read it. This paragraph is a quick jab at getting back to the Bible, especially in terms of salvation.

The modern-day gospel says, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved." Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, "You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do."

The former sells books and draws crowds. The latter saves souls. Which is more important?

p. 32

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Here are a few quotes from Sunday Morning's Sermon:

J.C. Ryle: He means those who use all their influence to promote peace and love on earth, in private and in public, at home and abroad. He means those who strive to make all people love one another, by teaching the Gospel which says, ‘Love is the fulfillment of the law’ (Romans 13:10).

John Calvin: By peace-makers he means those who not only seek peace and avoid quarrels, as far as lies in their power, but who also labour to settle differences among others, who advise all men to live at peace, and take away every occasion of hatred and strife.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Why are peacemakers blessed? The answer is that they are blessed because they are the people who stand out as being different from the rest of the world, and they are different because they are children of God.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 3

This is part two in a series of post that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. You can read the first two here: Part 1, Part 2.

I want to begin with this post looking at the expectations that God has for the elders of His church. There will probably be 2-3 posts dealing with this particular aspect of expectations, but today will begin with a pattern that I think is developed for the leaders of the church in Acts 6. To see this, however, one must realize that the ministry of the apostles is in some ways given to the elders today. Acts 6:1-6 says:

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 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. 3 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. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

I believe this is the beginning of the deacon ministry, which later will be recognized as an office in the church. While some do not hold to that view, the point I want to make from this is not really concerned with that fact. However, in this passage you see the primary responsibility of the apostles in verses 2 and 4. The first thing we see is that the apostles recognized that there was a need being overlooked. The Hellenists complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The apostles did not say, "Well, that's not important. We really don't care." Rather, they seemed to agree that this was a problem because they wanted to see it taken care of by others. That is why it says in verse 3 to pick seven men who could take care of this problem.

Why wouldn't the apostles take care of it themselves? Why didn't they drop what they were doing and make sure the widows were cared for? The answer in verse 2 is that they were to continue to focus on the preaching of the word of God. As I stated in the last post, it is right to realize that the pastors of the church need to be concerned about the ministry of the word. That is the primary, fundamental calling upon their lives. The apostles realized it was important to care for the physical needs of the widows, but not at the expense of the ministry of the word.

Years ago I served in a church with several staff members. I heard comments about the 'Senior Pastor' being a pastor (based on how he loved the people, visited the people, etc.), but that our 'Associate Pastor' was a preacher (meaning he was able to proclaim the Word). There is a flaw in the thought process of that statement. The pastors calling is to minister the word! While this does take place in more places than just the pulpit on Sunday mornings, it still is the calling up a pastor's life. In other words, you are not a pastor if you do not minister the word. The Bible does not separate those two things into categories. Being a pastor means ministering the word. And perhaps the primary way of ministering the Word is through the public proclamation when the church gathers.

The second thing pastors should be devoted too (based on Acts 6:4) is prayer. Pastors are called to lead the flock that they've been placed over, and yet they are to lead as God wills for them. The only way pastors can faithfully do this is by praying for themselves and their flock. Pastors cannot change hearts. The Holy Spirit must move like the wind and change hearts. The Holy Spirit must move with the ministry of the Word to help people to grow in Christlikeness. The bottom line from Acts 6 is that the pastors of the church must take seriously their calling to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. The other needs of the church are important, but they are secondary at best to those two things.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Sermons

I recently transferred my sermons over to Sermon Audio if you're interested.

I should have said that the sound quality hasn't been the best. We think we finally have everything worked out so that it will be better. The last message preached seems to be the best quality.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pure in Heart

This coming Sunday I plan to preach Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In studying for this sermon I read The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple by Daniel Doriani. These two paragraphs help us see the importance of being single-minded in our pursuit of Christ in His holiness:

To be pure in heart means to live without compromise. Studies of World War II have shown that some American industries did a profitable business with Nazi Germany until the final stages of the war. IBM and the Holocaust, by Edwin Black, shows that Hitler's regime used American technology to organize slave labor and to manage death camps. IBM facilities operated in Germany throughout the war. Indeed, IBM's chairman, Thomas Watson, received Germany's Merit Cross for his contributions to German industry during wartime. Other researchers have show that IBM was hardly alone. ITT sold components for V-1 "buzz bombs." Ford and General Motors sold trucks; Standard Oil sold oil. RCA, Chase Manhattan, and others did the same, selling what they could. William R. Hawkins says that when national security and profits collide, expect businessmen to be businessmen.

Now so with you, Jesus says. In Jesus' house, men and women seek purity and single mindedness. We shun dual loyalties. We do not serve two masters, God and mammon. To pursue the Lord is to pursue his purity.

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 2

This is part two in a series of post that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. You can read Part One here.

After talking about what I've seen in my limited exposure to churches (primarily in the SBC), I now want to look at the side I'm a little more familiar with. In this post I want to briefly look at the expectations many pastors have on themselves for the church. Before I do, however, I also want to say that while I think this observation is true, I also think there is a growing movement towards a more balanced ministry approach.

I see often times pastors fit in one of two scenarios. The first goes back to what I've heard from several church members in various churches, "Our Senior Pastor is a pastor, but not really a preacher." In other words, he loves us, visits us, cares for us, but doesn't really bring the Word very well. The reason many churches (though not all) feel this way, I think, is because of the way the pastor sees his 'job' before them. I know many pastors who think that is exactly what the people want, therefore that is what they focus on. In these cases pastors often neglect the ministry of the Word and attempt to justify it by saying that the people are most important and that Jesus cared about people. Certainly Jesus cared about people. Certainly people are important. Christ died to purchase 'people' from every tribe and language and people and nation. However, a pastor who places the expectations on himself of being a good 'pastor' without being a good 'preacher' has missed a very important aspect of his calling to the church! We'll examine it more later, but when there arose a need to minister to the widows in Acts 6 the apostles said it wasn't right for them to give up their ministry of the Word and prayer.

The second that I have seen is a reaction to this one. These pastors see that their main calling (and rightfully so) as a pastor is to shepherd the flock through the ministry of the Word. However, often times they think this means that we only prepare sermons in our study so we can preach better sermons. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying there. Preaching is absolutely important! The Lord's Day gathering is crucial for the church and the preaching of the Word must be central to that gathering. The problem is that the ministry of the Word goes beyond that. As I said in part one of this series, the visiting and other aspects of pastoral ministry are important. They are important because they are times of ministering the Word of God to others. The ministry of the Word is not only through public teaching, but also through private teaching. Where I see many of these pastors going wrong is when they neglect actually trying to help their people grow in Christ by getting to know them, holding them accountable, discussing the Bible with them, and encouraging them (even exhorting them!) to get in the Word more.

One of the greatest books on this subject is The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. Pastors need to examine the Scriptures (which I'll attempt to do in part 3) and see what expectations God has for them in this office. Pastors are called to shepherd the flock that God has given them. This is not something to take lightly brothers. God has placed us in positions that are vitally important to the health of the church, which Christ died to purchase!

My answer based on what I believe the Bible teaches is that this is not an either/or situation. God calls elders/pastors to minister His Word to those who belong to Christ so that they might know Him better and be conformed into His image.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. It is rooted in the fact that I see a disconnect in many churches between the expectations they have of the pastor, the pastor has of himself, and what the Bible sets out to be the expectations of God for pastors. Of course, there is no way I will be able to do justice in playing out every thought, but I hope to think through a few things.

With that being said, I will begin with what I see far too often in the denomination I am a part of, the Southern Baptist Convention. In our denomination most churches have a Senior/Solo Pastor position which is distinct from every other pastor position in the church. If a church is large enough to support multiple staff, then the Senior Pastor is usually over that staff. The rest of the staff may be called 'pastors', but often they are called 'ministers'. Regardless of what they're called, the 'Senior' pastor has more authority and is still in a position by himself. I see this as a great problem theologically and practically.

Mark Dever has a helpful booklet called 'By Who's Authority: Elders in Baptist Life' that I recommend for those in churches that do not practice a plurality of elders. He can argue that far better than I can in this particular post, so I defer to him for that. There are many other resources out there as well that will argue for a plurality of elders from the Scriptures.

Understanding that I believe a plurality of elders to be the Biblical pattern for the local church will help understand why I also feel the expectations of most churches for their pastors is unrealistic. Again, I will speak mainly from what I see in the SBC. Seeing that many churches have a solo pastor mentality, their expectations are for that pastor to be the one who does all the shepherding. In fact, many churches do not see the ministry of the Word as all that important, as long as he's a good 'pastor'. What is meant by this is that the expectation of many churches is that the pastor be there to pray for them when they're sick, visit them in the hospital, marry their children, bury their loved ones, administrate in the office, be at every church function, and a thousand other things. Are these things bad? Not always, but they should not be the most important thing the pastor does. If he can deliver a good message that is a plus, but that's not what's most important in these expectant churches.

If a pastor gives all his time to doing these things, there will be very little time for the ministry of the Word. I will argue in a couple of posts from now that the ministry of the Word is the main calling of a pastor (and that is good shepherding!), but for now I want to simply say I think the expectations of many churches are not Biblical. After all, can we go to the Scriptures to prove any of those things I just mentioned are of greater importance? Churches need to go to the Bible and see what God calls His elders to do, and let that drive their expectations for him (them!).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lloyd-Jones on Being Merciful

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, referring to Matthew 5:7, writes:

This Beatitude follows all the others; therefore I put it in this form. I am poor in spirit; I realize that I have no righteousness; I realize that face-to-face with God and His righteousness I am utterly helpless; I can do nothing. Not only that. I mourn because of the sin that is within me; I have come to see, as a result of the operation of the Holy Spirit, the blackness of my own heart. I know what it is to cry out, ‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?’ and desire to be rid of this vileness that is within me. Not only that. I am meek, which means that now that I have experienced this true view of myself, nobody else can hurt me, nobody else can insult me, nobody can ever say anything too bad about me. I have seen myself, and my greatest enemy does not know the worst about me. I have seen myself as something truly hateful, and it is because of this that I have hungered and thirsted after righteousness. I have longed for it. I have seen that I cannot create or produce it, and that nobody else can. I have seen my desperate position in the sight of God. I have hungered and thirsted for that righteousness which will put me right with God, that will reconcile me to God, and give me a new nature and life. And I have seen it in Christ. I have been filled; I have received it all as a free gift.

Does it not follow inevitably that, if I have seen and experienced all that, my attitude towards everybody else must be completely and entirely changed? If all that is true of me, I no longer see men as I used to see them. I see them now with a Christian eye. I see them as the dupes and the victims and the slaves of sin and Satan and of the way of the world. I have come to see them not simply as men whom I dislike but as men to be pitied. I have come to see them as being governed by the god of this world, as being still where once I was, and would be yet but for the grace of God. So I am sorry for them. I do not merely see them and what they do. I see them as the slaves of hell and of Satan, and my whole attitude toward them is changed. And because of that, of course, I can be and must be merciful with respect to them. I differentiate between the sinner and his sin. I see everybody who is in a state of sin as one who is to be pitied.

pp 86-87

Friday, April 23, 2010

Applying the Gospel

I woke up this morning with a glorious thought. The thought came with mixed feelings as I thought more about it, but nevertheless the overwhelming feeling is gratefulness and joy. The thought was that every sin I will commit today was paid for on the cross by Christ! When the Scripture says, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God", it means all the sins I have ever or will ever commit. Jesus truly did pay it all!

However, I said there were mixed feelings this morning. While the truth of the gospel needs to be believed and applied in my life today, the fact remans that Jesus DID die for those sins. In other words, I am also broken hearted because the sins I commit today Jesus paid for on the cross. Every time I sin today, tomorrow, and everyday for the rest of my life, is a reminder of the suffering that my Savior, Christ Jesus, went through to purchase me and reconcile me to the Father. That is a sobering thought. That is a heart breaking reality. That makes me want to fight against the inclinations to sin in my own life and seek to obey Him who is worthy.

So that glorious thought this morning comes with joy, and with great sorrow. Thank you Jesus for purchasing such an unworthy sinner!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm a Good Person...

Actually, I'm far from a good person. However, that is the thought that runs through our minds often, isn't it? I would never say that of course, but deep down I have the same tendencies as many people. The fact is, I am a sinner and I need the gospel to be applied in my life constantly.

Externally I do seem like a good person to many people. I justify myself by comparing myself to others. After all, if I look hard enough I can find something in anyone and everyone that I'm better at than they are. For instance, I have never actually murdered anyone. I have never actually cheated on my wife. I have never actually done many things that others have done. Of course, anyone familiar with the teachings of Jesus will know I have done those things. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is very clear that I'm guilty, but externally I still appear better than those who've been caught in such actions. Those are clear examples, but most often that's not where I fall into sin. I usually fall into sin when I start comparing myself to other 'Christians' and see how much better I am. This, of course, is pride and is a great sin. Maybe since I've been educated in the Bible I know more and therefore am better. Maybe since I'm the pastor I'm better and they should all know that. Maybe...I could throw out thousands of examples to make me appear better than others.

The fact is, I'm a very competitive person. Whatever I'm playing, I play to win. Back in the day it was sports. Now it's sports AND church. My pride (competitiveness) wants the bigger church. To be fair (to try to justify), I want the church to be healthy and making disciples of all nations, but I still want the bigger church! I want to be known. I have to fight this temptation daily because it is so clear in my own heart. In fact, it is so strong that I can create this image of myself that externally looks really good. Right there lies the problem. I am a Pharisee at heart. I want the praise of man. I want people to acknowledge me. I want...I want...I want...

What's the answer? The gospel is the answer! Knowledge of a few things is important. Knowledge of God's expectations is important. Knowledge of my own depravity is important. Knowledge of the gospel is important.

First of all, God expects me to reflect His glory in all of life. I am to be holy and perfect as God the Father is holy and perfect. I am to submit my every thought and action to His Sovereign control. But I haven't done this! I have rebelled. When I compare myself to others I may seem like a good person, but when I compare myself before God I realize how utterly depraved I am.

That is the second point. Just because I haven't actually cheated on my wife or murdered anyone, doesn't mean I'm innocent. Jesus is very clear that I have murdered when I've been angry with a brother (which I have been!). He is clear that I have committed adultery when I look lustfully at another woman other than my wife (which I have!). I need to go further still. When I know the expectation of God, and I know how miserably I've failed at glorifying Him in all things, then, and only then, do I start to sense the depth of my depravity. At that point I also begin to realize that though I have not externally fallen into murder, my depravity is such that I am actually capable of murder and many other things.

The third thing I need to know, and this is key, is that Christ died for my sins. The gospel that Christ came and became sin on my behalf is the only answer for fighting against my own flesh that wants to says, "Randy, you are a good person." No! I am not a good person! I am a wretched sinner. I have rebelled against the holy God! I have sinned repetitively and am capable of far more than I may have actually done. If it were not for His grace and His sacrifice, I would have no leg to stand on before the Creator. Jesus became my sin, and through faith in Him, I have been declared righteous. His righteousness has been credited to me!

Knowledge of God's expectations and my failures, joined with the depth of my depravity, leaves me without hope unless the gospel is true. When I begin to realize this in my own life, then, and only then, I may start realizing I am no better than anyone else. I am no better than the one who seems worse than I. I am a sinner, saved by grace, and kept only by the Sovereign King! I need the gospel.

The Answer is Jesus

Last week I was in Louisville, KY for the Together for the Gospel conference. It was a great conference. The messages were fantastic and the music was too. One of the things I loved was the opportunity to see many old friends, and meet many new ones. My first night there I had a chance to meet Jared Wilson and a few other guys. Jared's post from yesterday (well worth the read!) reminded me of one of my points from my sermon this past Sunday at First Baptist.

I preached Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." In this verse, some have argued for a very general application of righteousness. In other words, some have said this is a longing for all kinds of righteousness (including the desire to see righteousness/justice done in our world today). My answer in that sermon was that we are not after changing the way the culture behaves, but rather we are after getting the gospel to those around us, praying the Holy Spirit blows like the wind and opens hearts to believe, and then we will see the culture change. We are not after seeing people 'act' differently, but rather we want to see people changed by the marvelous truth that Christ died for sinners.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Few Quotes for Sunday

This Sunday I plan to preach Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." with FBC. Here are a few helpful quotes for you to think about on this verse and the implications for your life, your church, and the world.

"He means those who desire above all things to be entirely conformed to the mind of God. They long not so much to be rich, or wealthy, or learned, as to be holy." - J.C. Ryle

"If we know our spiritual poverty, if we mourn over our sin, then our hunger for righteousness should lead us to do something to pursue holiness." - Daniel Doriani

"These people hunger and thirst, not only that they may be righteous, but that justice may be done everywhere. All unrighteousness grieves them and makes them homesick for the new heaven and the new earth - the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). Satisfied with neither personal holiness alone nor social justice alone, they cry for both: in short, they long for the advent of the Messianic kingdom." - D.A. Carson

"If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again." - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

As I've prepared this message I have realized more and more that I have a long way to go to honor Christ as I should. I pray the Spirit causes me to hunger and thirst for righteousness and that He works in my life to fulfill that desire.