Religious Liberty – American Christian’s Most Important Pursuit?

I’ve had a lot of response from my post about Kim Davis and my opinion about what she’s doing. I thought it may be beneficial if I share the underlying truth that drives me to my conclusion. This especially since the topic brings much debate and because some Christians may struggle to understand why I said what I said. (If you haven’t read that post you may want to take time to read it by clicking here).

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Why does he preach like that?

bible in hand

Every now and then the question comes up: why do you preach the way you do? The question is never about style, it’s always about content. Like, why do I preach series instead of just stand alone messages and why do I preach through books of the Bible?

The reason comes from my own conviction which comes from the Bible itself. Paul warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 that the day was coming when people with their ears itching would “heap” up for themselves teachers and try to persuade them to tell them what they want to hear; “suit their own passions.” But, Paul tells Timothy not to fall for that but instead preach the inspired Word of God. And by the way, it’s all inspired. I read today a blog post that explains very well why I do what I do, so let me share it with you.

This is straight from the “Grace to You” blog and is written by John MacArthur. I have copied the post titled “Preach the Word: Because It Brings Depth and Balance to Ministry”in it’s entirety because it explains as well as I ever could why I do what I do:

“One frequently overlooked benefit of consistent Bible exposition is that the preacher’s faith and practice is tested by every text. Over the long haul, everything I have ever taught has had to survive the scrutiny of the Scriptures. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to teach through every verse of the New Testament (using the Old Testament as support and examples). Both my doctrine and my life have been radically shaped by the Word of God, as they have had to stand the test of every single text.

In the big picture, preaching verse by verse, book by book brings a divine balance to ministry. It keeps the preacher from leaving things out or from getting on a hobby horse and riding it to death. It forces him to deal with topics he might not naturally be drawn to if not for the fact that the next verse he is preaching addresses them. Put simply, it requires him to teach God’s truth in the way God revealed it. And that’s the best way to teach.

Some preachers allow their audience to determine what topic they will address. As one popular pastor has written:

Adapt your style to fit your audience. . . . The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text, expecting the unchurched to be fascinated by it. You must first capture their attention, and then move them to the truth of God’s Word. By starting with a topic that interests the unchurched and then showing what the Bible says about it, you can grab their attention, disarm prejudices, and create an interest in the Bible that wasn’t there before.[1]

But such a bait-and-switch approach is really just a recipe for compromise—tempting pastors to tickle the ears of their audience or water down the gospel in an effort to be more appealing. In essence, this approach says that God’s Word is irrelevant, and makes human ingenuity the key to getting sinners interested in the gospel. It is therefore an approach that should be categorically rejected. As James Heidinger writes

Evangelical pastors and theologians can learn from the mainline experience of placing relevance above truth. We must avoid the lure of novelty and soft sell, which, we are told, will make it easier for moderns to believe. Methods may change, but never the message. . . . We are called to be faithful stewards of a great and reliable theological heritage. We have truths to affirm and errors to avoid. We must not try to make these truths more appealing or user friendly by watering them down. We must guard against a trendy “theological bungee jumping” that merely entertains the watching crowd.[2]

We are called to preach the Bible consistently and accurately, fixed on the text as the revealed Word of God which, through the work of the Spirit, alone has the power to save and sanctify souls. When we do this, we can be confident that God is pleased, since our preaching will be in keeping with His Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:154:2).”

Heart Healer

broken heart

Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:36 what the greatest commandment is. You probably remember His answer; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Do you think that’s a lot to ask? Really? God wants me to love Him with all that’s inside me?

Well, before we can come to any conclusions about how this can happen we need to deal with a couple of truths about the heart. First, we all have a heart that’s under attack! That’s right, your heart, as is mine, right now, as your eyes are reading these words is under an attack.

In his book “It’s Your Call,” Gary Barkalow explains that there are three aspects that every person who encounters Jesus Christ through His Gospel will live out:

1. The Truth

Every person is faced with the truth of God through general revelation and then more directly through the special revelation of God the Son. In Psalm 19, the psalmist tells of how the creation speaks of who God is and all the people of the world can see, or hear, this truth. Hebrews 1:1-2 states, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” We are all faced, at some point in our lives with the truth.

2. The Heart

Did you know that you and I were born with a broken heart. Maybe you’re like me. As I read Jesus’ words that I must love God with all, I instantly know that in and of myself I’m unable to love anyone with all; except maybe myself. That’s because we are all born with hearts that are separated from the One who gave us our heart, soul and mind. Thank God, He came after us so that can be remedied!

3. An Assault

Then, those who respond to the Gospel of Jesus and place their faith in Him, both for eternal life and this life now, will undergo an attack from the Evil One himself. The Devil wants to disrupt our relationship with God through Jesus Christ in any way he can. (By the way, that’s why it’s so important to armor up!)

So, how does a broken heart love anyone, much less God, with all?

That brings us to the second truth; it’s a process. Paul Tripp says it this way, “God has chosen that our growth be a process, not an event.” 

How do we begin on the process to love God will all? As stated above, first, armor up with God’s armor to deflect the fiery darts of the devil. (Ephesians 6) Secondly, realize that you and I have a serious tendency to compartmentalize our hearts. That is, we will choose to only give God certain parts of our heart; the parts we feel comfortable giving Him at the moment. If you’re wondering how this works just remember, we’re all master of compartmentalizing our time too. We’re very good and deciding that God only deserves a certain amount of our time. So it is with the heart.

Where do we start?  By remembering that God is the great heart healer. You can trust Him with your heart! As you realize the parts of your heart, soul and mind that you’re not giving Him, learn to trust Him with those parts too. And remember, God is always the great heart healer and He will never, ever break your heart.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

His love is greater than any broken heart.

Encouragement for the Criticized

Fear_of_Criticism

For those who do what I do, you understand the pressures that come with being a pastor  or a leadership position that requires you to lead a lot of people. Like any position of leadership, there are always critics and the critics are rarely critical because they want to help. We all know that the negative kind of critic can cause us to hurt, second guess our decisions and even, at times, second guess our calling. So, this short post is intended to be an encouragement to anyone who is discouraged in what they’re called to do. (I’m not grinding any axes here.)

One truth I always try to remind myself is that I am really working, serving, preaching and leading before an audience of one. That is, when this ministry and life are all said and done, I will stand in judgment before the One who has the right to call me out on everything I’ve done; and He will. So, my purpose and goal, ultimately, is to please Him.

That’s a pretty good goal isn’t it; to please Him?

But, we all have those days when we’re down because someone has complained publicly about us or lied about us or expressed (again publicly) their dissatisfaction with us. I was very encouraged the other day when I read these words from Theodore Roosevelt in regard to the critic and to our calling. I hope you’ll find them as inspiring as I have.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

To my brothers and sisters who are battling in ministry and leadership and even struggling through criticism; keep on! What you’re doing is eternal in value which means it’s eternal in weight. But, the majority of the load of that yoke is carried by our Savior. Remember, most critics are doing nothing. That’s why they have time to criticize.

To my critics, I ask you to remember that I’m as human as you are. What I’m doing is by divine call and I have a Master whom I desperately want to please. If you join me in that pursuit, you may find less reasons to criticize.

Kingdom Trajectory

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What’s your trajectory? That may seem like a strange question, but it’s an important one.

Matthew records some pretty major teachings of Jesus in that last several chapters of his gospel. (Not that all of Jesus’ teachings are less than major.) But, Matthew records a series of teachings that Jesus did between His last entry into Jerusalem and His crucifixion; and these teachings are significant.

Much of these teachings are parables that begin with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” In these parables, like the parable of the wedding feast found in Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus is desperately trying to get His audience, which is you and me now, to get their trajectory pointed toward His coming Kingdom. In effect, He’s asking you and me, “What’s your trajectory? Is it toward my Kingdom?”

So, how do you know if your trajectory is a Kingdom trajectory?

  • Jesus begins with simple desire. The story goes like this: A king is throwing a wedding feast for his son and there’s been a lot of the people of the kingdom invited. So, the king sends out his servants to tell all invited that it’s time for  the wedding. The only problem is those invited don’t care about the invitation. Apparently, they don’t think the wedding feast will be a very good party, so it’s not worth going.

This is probably Jesus’ first point; you’ll miss this Kingdom if you have no desire for it. Here’s the truth, you’ll have no desire if you think the Kingdom to come is no big deal. Just don’t miss this truth, the Kingdom to which Jesus is inviting you is far greater than anything on this earth; anything!

  • For those invited to the wedding feast there was also a problem of disregard. Some who were invited were indifferent. They just had better things to do. As Jesus tells the parable, some just went to their own businesses and farms. Others became flat out indignant as if they were saying, “You’re not going to tell me what to do!” So, they put a beat down on the servants who came to call them to the wedding. How crazy is that?!

Here’s the next truth: those invited just had a plain disregard for the king and his son. Your desire of God’s kingdom will rise and fall with how you view God; and His Son.

In the end of the parable, those who were invited but refused to attend were counted unworthy of any longer being called to the wedding. This is not because of the type of job they had or because their marriage failed or because their kids didn’t behave well. The reason they’re considered unworthy is because they have no desire or regard for the wedding, the king or his son. They have a trajectory of self and not a trajectory of the kingdom.

So, let me ask you again: what’s your trajectory?

God is inviting you to the great wedding feast. You can read about it in Revelation chapter 19. He’s also inviting you to be a subject of His great Kingdom. You can read about it in Revelation 20 and Ezekiel chapters 40 – 48; as well as other places. How do you know if you have Kingdom trajectory? When you have a desire and high regard for the King and His Kingdom to come.

This is why you would have desire and regard for it. Because the value of the Kingdom is in the value of the King; the Son. I hope you accept the invitation and spend your life with a Kingdom trajectory! That way, when the call comes for the invited to come you won’t have anything better to do.