Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“And Them That Mourn” —Celebrating Christmas in the Face of Grief and Sorrow

The following is an excellent word about the hope that we have in Christ - even if we grieve for loved ones we have temporarily lost . . .

"Families across the Christian world are gathering for Christmas even now, with caravans of cars and planeloads of passengers headed to hearth and home. Christmas comes once again, filled with the joy, expectation, and sentiment of the season. It is a time for children, who fill homes with energy, excitement, and sheer joy. And it is a time for the aged, who cherish Christmas memories drawn from decades of Christmas celebrations. Even in an age of mobility, families do their best to gather as extended clans, drawn by the call of Christmas.

And yet, the sentiment and joy of the season is often accompanied by very different emotions and memories. At some point, every Christian home is invaded by the pressing memory of loved ones who can no longer gather—of empty chairs and empty arms, and aching hearts. For some, the grief is fresh, suffering the death of one who was so very present at the Christmas gathering last year, but who is now among the saints resting in Christ. For others, it is the grief of a loss suffered long ago. We grieve the absence of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings. Some, with a grief almost too great to bear, suffer the heartbreak that comes with the death of a child.

For all of us, the knowledge of recent events of unspeakable horror and the murder of young children make us think of so many homes with such overwhelming grief."

To read the entire article by Albert Mohler, click here.

Picture used courtesy of Pexels

Make Me a Child Again

See this Christmas Eve poem - Make Me a Child Again.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Simple Ways to Remember Christ this December

I hope that as you go about the final week before Christmas, you will take time to worship Christ in your spirit - and take opportunities to share Him with others.
Some simple things that help me experience Jesus in the midst of a busy December . . .
1.  Make sure and start every day with the Lord - with some prayer and Bible meditation.  I often remember Johnny Hunt's words, "If you give your time to the Redeemer, He will redeem your time."
2.  I love Christmas music, as does my family.  However, in the midst of the "fun" holiday music, I keep a CD or two in my car or computer of Christmas music that says a lot about the Lord.  For my personal tastes and wiring, no Christmas music helps me worship Jesus any more than the classical kind.  I keep CD's handy of The Robert Shaw Chorale and the St. Olaf Choir.  They bless me greatly  as they sing classic Christmas carols about the Lord - His redemption, incarnation, birth, holiness, etc.  My tastes may not be yours - but find something that helps your spirit worship Jesus - even in the midst of holiday rush.  Today I was listening to BEAUTIFUL STAR by The Centurymen.
3.  I keep some easy reading handy - on my desk, in my bathroom, in my backpack, in our den.  By easy reading I mean Christian writing that is not too elaborate.  I have a few simple books by Max Lucado, Jack Hayford, and others that contain simple meditations that can be read in 2-5 minutes.  I read one this morning over breakfast on Jesus being the Bread of Life, and my mind and spirit have meditated on it all morning as I have been doing other things.  One of my favorites is Come . . . and Behold Him! by Pastor Jack Hayford.
4.  It always helps me in December, after everyone has gone to bed, to sit down by the lit tree for just a few minutes and "be still and know that [He] is God."  A few quiet moments to reflect, give Him thanks, and perhaps read a few Scriptures.
Perhaps these simple things may help you, in the midst of the holiday rush, to connect with Christ.  It is as we connect with Him that we have something to share with others. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013


After Christmas last year, I decided that during December of 2013 I would read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to my family.  Somehow at age 41 I have never actually read the story, though I have enjoyed numerous television and movie takes at the classic Christmas story.  My favorite is still the 1980's George C. Scott Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dickens' written tale is, perhaps surprisingly, a blatantly Christian story.  It is a story of a conversion to a Christian worldview (though not as blatant as an evangelical gospel tract).  Of course, our modern Hollywood and Disney takes on the conversion of Ebenezer leave out the Christian details, but it is obvious nonetheless in the book!  Here Jacob Marley's lamentation of having a selfish heart when he lived as a human . . .

Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?

The story challenges us all, will we live self-absorbed lives or will we live our lives loving and serving others?
 Ebenezer was a man very rich according to the world’s standards of money, business, and commerce.  A self-absorbed man.  A man with a shriveled, cold heart.  A miserable, pitiful wretch of a man.  A man who did not seem to enjoy the world, its people, and its pleasures around him.  But also a man who changed in the latter years of his life and became a totally different person.

Ebenezer Scrooge experienced the transformation of a lifetime, becoming a beacon of goodwill and cheer after his visits from the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future.  Most everyone has heard of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  We enjoy at least one of the television renditions yearly.  

Many people do not realize, though, that Dicken's original story is one of Christian conversion..  A miserly, self-ruled man who submits himself to the Christ of Christmas.  Replete with biblical-Christian language and references (which are ignored in our modern and secular retellings of the story), Ebenezer comes to know His Creator in a real way, and the One born in a manger changes his life.  (Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?  - Jacob Marley)  Scrooge spends the rest of his life making amends to those he has wronged, spreading goodwill and compassion, and keeping Christmas every day in his heart.
Ebenezer, though late in life, allowed God to forgive him, change him, and use him.  A man who became a source of goodwill, selflessness, and generosity to many others.  And his eternity secured by the Babe of Bethlehem, enjoying His Presence, goodness, and blessings.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Refusing the Scrooge Spirit

Every holiday season, I enjoy and appreciate the thoughts of Pastor Jack Hayford as they relate to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He has written and preached much over the years about sanctifying, redeeming, and celebrating the holidays.

Here is a portion of one of his many articles available on his website about Christmas.  This particular one is called "Refusing the Scrooge Spirit."

"Over the years, I've encountered an amazing number of people who have decided not to celebrate Christmas. They've been taught it was designed after a pagan holiday. Or they say that nobody knows when Jesus was born, so it's hypocritical to celebrate on December 25th. It is true, of course, that we don't exactly what day Jesus was born. But the fact is, we don't know it wasn't December 25th! At issue isn't which day, but that there ought to be some day. And Christmas on December 25th is the day that has been celebrated for a long time.

Many people were raised in a "good Christian home" where they were told, "We don't celebrate Christmas because it's commercial, and it compromises the truth of the gospel and who Jesus really is." And built into them is a deep resentment toward anything that has to do with church and God and Christ and the Bible. Sadly, they pass that along to their kids.

In other cases, it's not that people don't like Christmas, but the season carries with it certain demands that may cause them to heave a sigh and think, "Celebrating the season is going to be a lot of work." If we have a family and kids, there's the decoration of the house and the tree, plus shopping for and wrapping presents. There's extra cooking that goes on, invitations to the homes of friends, and special events at the church."

To enjoy the entire article, read here.

Christmas Gift Recommendations

I know during this season we all look for appropriate gifts for others in our lives.  If you know me well, you know that I love books and that I enjoy giving books to people.  Reading a book to me is like sitting down with a person and listening to their testimony, receiving their counsel, learning from their life experiences.  So, when I give a book away, I feel like I am giving away a portion of that wisdom and testimony.  (My theology professor in seminary 16 years ago exhorted the young men in the room that we should plan on spending at least $2000 a year on books in order to be well-read pastors!).  Many people have said before, "Readers are leaders."
It has also been said that five years from now (apart from divine sanctification), there are only two things that will make you a different person - (1) the people that you meet and (2) the books that you read.
If you are still looking for a timely gift for persons in your life, here are two recommendations:
One of the unfortunate realities that you see in life, church, and ministry is that many people allow their emotions to control them in very unhealthy ways.  Patterns of putting too much stock in what they feel often lead people to embrace lies in their minds that lead to destructive patterns of behavior.  I have seen it sadly way too many times.  This year Charles Stanley came out with a book for such situations:
Secondly, everybody has been hurt by somebody.  That is life.  We all have hurts - some worse than others.  The truth is, we can choose to move forward and heal, or we can stay stuck in the same patterns of rejection and isolation for years.  Stephen Arterburn wrote an excellent book I highly recommend about choosing to heal.  (I gave this to one man several years ago when he went through a divorce.  He told me numerous times that he read that book over and over during the aftermath of the divorce and it helped him greatly.)


Monday, December 9, 2013

Fun in Lynchburg, Virginia

My family enjoys visiting Lynchburg, Virginia!  Several years ago we began an annual trip in early December to enjoy Liberty University and to attend The Virginia Christmas Spectacular at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Symptoms of Disorganization

Gordon MacDonald shares the symptoms of disorganization in his helpful book Ordering Your Private World.

There came a time in my own life when I wanted to make sound decisions about the budgeting of my time, and I wanted to be free of that frantic pitch of daily life in which one is always playing catch-up. 

Symptoms of Disorganization

1)         My desk takes on a cluttered appearance. 

2)         The symptoms tend to show themselves in the condition of my car.

3)         I become aware of a diminuition in my self-esteem.

4)         There are a series of forgotten appointments, messages to which I failed to respond, and deadlines I have begun to miss.

5)         I tend to invest my energies in unproductive tasks.

6)         Disorganized people feel poorly about their work.

7)         Disorganized Christians rarely enjoy intimacy with God.

8)         The quality of my personal relationships usually reveals it.  I may become irritable.

9)         When we are disorganized in our control of time, we don’t like ourselves, our jobs, or much else about our worlds.

Time must be budgeted!  We must resolve to seize control of our time.  The disorganized person must have a budgeting perspective of time.

MacDonald’s Laws of Unmanaged Time

Law #1:          Unmanaged time flows toward my weaknesses

Law #2:          Unmanaged time comes under the influence of dominant people in my world:    

Law #3:          Unmanaged time surrenders to the demands of all emergencies

Law #4:          Unmanaged time gets invested in things that gain public acclamation

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quote of the Day - Indiscipline

Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline.  Never did so great a mind produce so little.  “Coleridge had every poetic gift but one – the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.”  The books were never composed outside of Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out.  No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.  – Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, on Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quote of the Day - Disorganization

The world is full of disorganized people who have lost control of their time.  Behind the talk can be a lot of wasted time and energy.  And so sometimes we meet people who do not keep their promises, finish what they start, or back up their verbal intensity with dependable performance.  Reason: They do not know how to match their time with appropriate performance.  . . . .[T]o prevent that from happening, it is necessary to understand how we can command the time God has given to us.  - Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, "Symptoms of Disorganization"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quote of the Day

The articles and books that will be read decades from now were written by men and women sitting at a desk and forcing themselves to translate profound ideas into words and then to let those words lead them to even more ideas. Writing can be magic, if you give yourself time, because you can produce in the mind of some other person, distant from you in space or even time, an image of the ideas that exist in only your mind at this one instant. - Michael Munger

10 Tips On How to Write Less Badly

The following contains some excellent advice for people who want to improve their own writing and thus bless others!

"Most academics, including administrators, spend much of our time writing. But we aren't as good at it as we should be. I have never understood why our trade values, but rarely teaches, nonfiction writing.

In my nearly 30 years at universities, I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn't, or didn't, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write.

It starts in graduate school. There is a real transformation, approaching an inversion, as people switch from taking courses to writing. Many of the graduate students who were stars in the classroom during the first two years—the people everyone admired and looked up to—suddenly aren't so stellar anymore. And a few of the marginal students—the ones who didn't care that much about pleasing the professors by reading every page of every assignment—are suddenly sending their own papers off to journals, getting published, and transforming themselves into professional scholars."

Read the entire article by Michael Munger.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Three Habits of Healthy Church Members

Hebrews 10:19-25

Last week we saw that giving up our preferences and serving others is the essence of discipleship. 

Church membership is about being a born again follower of Christ who understands that church is about glorifying God through obeying Jesus, serving others, and growing with God’s people.

Life-Lesson:   Healthy church members pray for their pastors, trust God, and worship together.

1)         Healthy Church Members Pray Regularly (10:19-22)

Healthy Church Members Pray Regularly for their Pastors and Leaders 
Col.    1:9-14

70% of pastors battle depression regularly; 80% of pastors believe the ministry negatively affects their families; the pastoral profession has one of the top 3 suicide and alcohol-drug abuse rates of any profession; 56% of pastors’ wives say they have no close friends; 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their ministry; 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month; #1 and #2 reason they are leaving - #1 – tired of trying to meet the expectations of others, #2 – difficulty in providing well financially for their families (Sources: Pastors at Greater Risk by H. B. London; Barna Group; Focus on the Family)

* The South CarolinaBaptist Convention (SCBC) has the single-highest rate of forced terminations and suicides of pastors of any state in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

God, in ways we don’t understand fully, works through the prayers of believers.  We are church members.  We will pray for the protection of our pastor and other church leaders.  We will do all we can to keep our pastor out of the devil’s traps.  – Thom Rainer

Healthy church members need to pray daily for their pastors and spiritual

The ministry is a matter which wears the brain and strains the heart, and drains out
the life of a man if he attends to it as he should.  – Charles Spurgeon to his pastoral

So, who will love God, the church, and the pastor enough to pray the life back
into him? 

a) Pray for them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (9)
b) Pray for their walk with the Lord (10).

                                    - a fruitful walk                      - a maturing walk
c) Pray that they will be strengthened with God’s power (11).
                                  - patient endurance                 - power for joy
d) Pray for them to be protected from and strengthened through Satan’s attacks.

2)         Healthy Church Members Trust God Regularly (10:23)

            The church needs examples of real people trusting God.

3)         Healthy Church Members Worship Together Regularly (10:24-25)

Why go through the trouble of getting ready each Sunday morning when we could relax and take the day off?  It’s not because of a preacher, a teacher, or because we may see our closest friends.  It’s because we gather to worship our Great High Priest.  We should have a convictional desire to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship God. - Travis Fleming

The early Christians yearned to arrive at the Lord’s Day, knowing that if only they could survive the week, they would once again hear the preaching of the Word of God and fellowship with the saints of God.  They thought, “If we can only survive the week, we will make it to the Lord’s Day together.” 

One problem with much of our thinking about the Lord’s Day is that it is natural for us to think of it as an imposition in our busy schedule.  And yet we are to be faithful to gather together, making it a priority of our lives to be with God’s people.  We gather together to prepare for eternity, to be confronted by the Word of God, to edify one another, and to yearn for that eternal rest that is promised to us by the mercy and grace of God.        - R. Albert Mohler, Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the Ten Commandments

We meet Christ in a special way in corporate worship. – Kent Hughes

Love for Christ and His church should compel us to gather regularly.

We are a family that must gather for worship.

We are a family that must help one another persevere in Christ.

Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to neglect the assembly of the saints.  Instead, we are to gather and encourage one another more and more as we await Jesus’ return.  The public assembly is meant for edification, the building up, the growth of the Christian.  Neglecting to participate in the corporate life of the church or failing to actively serve and be served is a sure-fire way to limit our growth.  When we serve others in our church, bear with one another, love one another, correct one another, and encourage one another, we participate in a “spiritual maturity co-op” where our stores and supplies are multiplied.  The end result is growth and discipleship.  – Thabiti Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 9 Marks

We need to meet regularly so that we can encourage one another to continue in the faith, to keep trusting God, and to be encouraged so that we do not give up.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Studying the Bible as a Family

Parents who are serious Christians want to influence their children positively for the Lord and impart the basics of biblical discipleship.  Larry Fowler shares excellent, practical advice for teaching our children diligently from God's Word.

"My first church service in Kazakhstan was an eye-opening experience. For one, the gathering lasted three hours and included three sermons! As a guest preacher, I sat on the stage facing the audience. I could see up into the balcony, where all the children sat. A few adults sat scattered among them. I wondered why the children weren’t learning in a more age-appropriate setting.

Later, I asked my hosts, "Don't you have a Sunday school for the children?" Their blank look revealed that they didn't understand my concern. "Their parents teach them" was their simple explanation.

At the time, I thought that answer was . . . well, weird. Didn't the church want to teach kids the Bible? But maybe their approach wasn't really so strange. After all, the Bible states that it is the responsibility of parents to impress God's Word on children."

Read the entire article here from Focus on the Family's Thriving Family.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Main Reason People Leave a Church

Thom Rainer writes an excellent blog post on this important subject.  I believe the problem he addresses is one of the main sources, if not the main source, of lack of health in the church in America today.  I have seen for years in the Southeast that there is a deeply ingrained entitlement mentality among many people who go to churches.  Rainer hits the nail on the head in this one.

"Numbers of gifted persons and organizations have studied the phenomenon of the church “back door,” the metaphorical way we describe people leaving the church. And there will always be the anticipated themes of relocation or personal crises. We should recognize those issues, though we can respond to the latter more than the former.

But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.

But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality."

Read the entire article here.

Ten Things Pastors Desire in a Church Member

1.    Vibrant prayer life. “While I do want church members to pray for me specifically, I really want them to pray faithfully in all matters."
2.    Spirit of unity. “I want our church members to be uncompromising on cardinal issues, but I also want them to be willing to yield to others on minor issues and issues of preference.”
3.    Respect of pastor’s family. “It’s okay if my family is not given preferential treatment by the church. We really want it that way. But I don’t want church members to have unreasonable expectations on my wife and kids just because their husband and dad is the pastor.”

Read the rest of the list here on Thom Rainer's blog.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Southern Baptists and Mormons - Discerning the Times

You really should take the time to read the following.  It is a copy of the address that Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently made at Brigham Young University (a very Mormon school).  It was actually a historic moment worth noting, when the leaders of the Mormon University invited one of the most visible and articulate Southern Baptists to speak to them.  This has rarely happened in history.
Two things worth noting. 
1) Because of the peculiarity of our times - the increasing resistance to people of faith who have traditional beliefs about marriage and the impending waves of persecution (whatever form or intensity we don't know) against these people of faith who hold to the traditional view of marriage - peoples of very different faith such as evangelical Christians, Catholic Christians, Mormons, and Jews, are beginning to understand the need to band together in these times for political-social reasons.  This has hardly happened in the past 100 years, when these people of faith have tended to keep their distance from each other.  Now, BGU asks Dr. Albert Mohler, who some consider to be the most influential evangelical thinker-writer of our day, to speak to them!  That is really amazing.
2) Please notice Dr. Mohler's apologetic - his defense for the gospel.  Given that opportunity, he knew that the secular media could easily begin saying that Southern Baptists now accept Mormon theology.  Knowing that and knowing the great differences in the two theologies about salvation, Mohler very respectfully, lovingly, and truthfully address the differences.
The most notable quote from the address is as follows.  It is truly a moment worth noting in our changing times:
This is what brings me to Brigham Young University today. I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.
I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together. I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences. Your faith has held high the importance of marriage and family. Your theology requires such an affirmation, and it is lovingly lived out by millions of Mormon families. That is why I and my evangelical brothers and sisters are so glad to have Mormon neighbors. We stand together for the natural family, for natural marriage, for the integrity of sexuality within marriage alone, and for the hope of human flourishing.
In this city, I am honored to come among those who, though of a different faith, share common concerns and urgencies. I come as a Christian, and I come as one who is honored by your kind and gracious invitation. I come in the hope of much further conversations, conversations about urgencies both temporal and eternal. I am unashamed to stand with you in the defense of marriage and family and a vision of human sexual integrity. I am urgently ready to speak and act in your defense against threats to your religious liberty, even as you have shown equal readiness to speak and act in defense of mine. We share love for the family, love for marriage, love for the gift of children, love of liberty, and love of human society. We do so out of love and respect for each other.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Crisis of Parenting

Focus on the Family has released the results of a new study looking at how many young people born between 1980 and 2000 are actually leaving the church.  For several years there has been a lot of talk with statistics thrown around about how few young people who grow up in church actually stay serious Christians after leaving high school. 

The new study offers some encouragement and hope!  And it actually shows what the church should have known all along - children who grow up in homes where faith is seriously, routinely, and vibrantly - though not perfectly - practiced are very likely to become serious Christian as adults.    And the reverse is true - children who are taken to church by their parents but who do not see those same parents engaged in a habitual, loving, and obedient relationship with God day in and day out are very likely to be church and faith dropouts. 

As we have started a church the past 2 1/2 years, one thing we have emphasized routinely is that the church can only reinforce what children should be receiving at home.  The primary place for discipleship, according to the Scriptures, is the home.

"This is not a crisis of faith, per se, but of parenting," the Focus on the Family study noted.

You can read a summary of the study, Millennial Faith Participation and Retention, here from Focus on the Family.  Also, the website allows you to read the entire report.

Also, Baptist Press released a good article today summarizing the report. . . .

"The idea that young adults are abandoning their faith in droves may be widely accepted but isn't fully accurate. So says a Focus on the Family study that casts light on trends among young adults that may contradict doomsday predictions for the Christian faith.

The study, titled "Millennial Faith Participation and Retention," tracked the religious trends of Millennials (usually those born between 1980 and 2000) and found that only a fraction are leaving their childhood faith -- usually because they may not have had much of one to begin with.

The study utilizes data from the Pew research sources and the National Science Foundation's annual General Social Survey."

Read the entire article, "Young adults who abandon faith may have 'lukewarm' upbringing," by John Evans here.

Dare to Ask

Have you ever made a mistake in life?  Forgot or failed to seek the Lord and use wisdom and discernment before plunging into a decision you later regretted?  Haven't we all?

The following is an excellent word of encouragement by Ginger Garrett for us to dare and ask God to redeem our failures.  I love it when an author shows me a gold nugget of truth before which I have never seen in an old familiar Bible story.  Reading Garrett's article was for me one of those "ah-ha" moments. . . .

"A friend of mine suffered serious burns on her arm during an accident. The pain was excruciating. She broke out in a sweat, her vision blurred, and she could think of nothing but getting immediate help. God gave the human body a pain response for just those moments. Without it, we would not seek attention for the wound. But there’s one pain that many of us prefer to hide, and it comes from the wound of failure. Like Adam and Eve, when we’ve sinned or blundered in some important way, we choose to hide. We don’t seek out the healing attention of our Great Physician.

The Old Testament hero Joshua would challenge us to rethink that decision. You may know him best by the miracle he was granted. During a raging battle, he asked the Lord to hold back the sun so the fighting could continue. Scripture says, “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped . . . There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel” (Josh. 10:13-14).

This was a miracle, but unless we understand the context it occurred in, we miss the greater gift. You see, Joshua and his men never should have been in that battle. Earlier, God had commanded them to refuse all covenants of peace with nearby nations, including the Gibeonites. But the Gibeonites were afraid of the Israelites and desperate for a pact. So they decided to try a trick."

Read the entire article here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blackaby - after his father was found

The following a great testimony by Richard Blackaby recalling the events of his father's disappearance and homecoming last month and the lessons they learned of God in the process. 

 "As you may be aware, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind in the Blackaby family. It began on Thursday September 19th. My mother was getting her nails done in preparation for a trip to Maui where my father and son Mike and I were scheduled to speak. Mom was almost finished her appointment and called my father at home to pick her up. He never arrived. She finally caught a ride home. Dad was nowhere to be found. She assumed he had gone to get her and arrived late. He’d be home soon she thought. He wasn’t.

At 7 p.m., my mother called me and my brother Mel to alert us that dad was missing. His cell phone was sitting on the dining room table. He was unreachable. My mother contacted the police who filed a missing person report. The officer explained that a teenaged, frequent run away had flown the coup once again and was considered a higher priority than our 78-year-old father who had appeared to be doing fine the last time someone spoke with him.

A vigil commenced. We waited at the house, vainly hoping every time we saw headlights shimmering in the window that it was dad, finally making his way home. It never was. At 1:30 a.m. we collapsed into beds to try and get some rest. No one slept. The next morning, there still was not a trace. My father had simply disappeared. To make matters worse, dad is a type 2 diabetic and he did not have his insulin with him. His blood sugar would be skyrocketing. As far as we knew, he was somewhere in the huge city of Atlanta, driving along its freeways at night, with elevated blood sugar levels, unable to navigate his way home."

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Being a Memorable Leader

Read this tremendous article where Chuck Lawless shares about his alcoholic father coming to Christ late in life - and exhorts leaders to make positive memories with their families. . . .

I don’t often write extensively about my story, but it seems right to do so this week. One year ago, my father passed away at age 73. Frankly, I could not have written this blog five years ago, before he became a Christian. Now, though, I can write these words while celebrating the last few years of his life—a life dramatically changed by the transforming power of the gospel.

You see, my first memory is being a frightened three-year old as my father destroyed our home in a fit of anger. Now almost fifty years later, I remember that event as if it happened yesterday. I can still show you where the lamp is broken, the picture frames are knocked from the mantle, the chairs are overturned, and the door window is shattered. I also remember where my sister and I hid that day until our mom arrived home. I hated my father that day.

Alcohol was a factor that time, but my father’s anger remained long after he gave up drinking. Many are my memories of his losing control, hollering loudly, throwing something, and then quickly moving beyond the event as if nothing had ever happened. It was strange, actually, how rapidly his rage would erupt and then disappear. For years even as a pastor, I struggled with loving my father as I knew I should.

Read the entire article by Chuck Lawless here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Own Anne of Green Gables!

How Do I Respond?

Wayne Barber, in his workbook Life Principles from the Kings of the Old Testament, asks the question, "How do you respond when God confronts you with your own sin?"

I avoid thinking about it.

I get angry with the messenger.

I avoid God, church, godly friends, and the Bible.

It breaks my heart, and I turn to God in repentance.

I’m upset with myself and determine to try harder.

I compare myself with others and decide I’m not that bad.
How we consistently respond to sin is one of the best indicators of our spiritual growth.  It is evidence of God’s work in our lives and our response to Him.  The temptation to avoid truly dealing with sin can be a subtle snare.  Sin always has consequences, but it seems that the greatest consequences are for the failure to repent when we are directly confronted by the Lord with our sin.  -   Wayne Barber, Kings of the Old Testament


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blog Address Change

On October 21, this blog will change addresses!  Faith, Family, and Friends will then be located at www.rhettwilson.blogspot.com

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ever Feel Like a Comma?

I closed the lid to my laptop, putting it to sleep for the night. Sleep is what I needed, too, but I doubted I would get much.

I pushed my chair away from the desk at the head of my bed, turned off the desk lamp, and crawled under the covers. I was tired, tired of trying to figure out where I fit in this world of writing and editing and marketing. What was my purpose? Did anyone care what I had to say? Why on earth had I spent the last two hours struggling with rules governing comma placement?

I wasn’t the only writer who struggled with the issue, but knowing that didn’t help. How many critique sessions had I participated in where writers struggled with where commas fit and when they were better left out?

Read the rest of Ever Feel Like a Comma? by Bonnie Rose Hudson at the My Writers Conferences website.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Remember to Show Appreciation to Your Pastor(s) this Month!

Lifeway offers some excellent Ideas for Pastor Appreciation Month as well as a good reflection on The Importance of Honoring Your Minister.

"Clergy Appreciation Month is a special time that congregations set aside each year to honor their pastors and pastoral families for the hard work, sacrificial dedication and multiple blessings provided by these special people. It is typically scheduled in October, but can be held at any time that is convenient for the church and the community. It is also important to remember that appreciation, affirmation and prayer support of our spiritual leaders is appropriate throughout the entire year.

The nature of the service provided by pastors and their families is unique. God has entrusted to them one of the most precious of assignments — the spiritual well-being of His flock. When a pastor becomes ineffective, the very souls of his or her parishioners are endangered. When eternity is in the balance, we should all be concerned.

Pastors and their families live under incredible pressures. Their lives are played out in a fishbowl, with the entire congregation and community watching their every move. They are expected to have ideal families, to be perfect people, to always be available, to never be down and to have all the answers we need to keep our own lives stable and moving forward. Those are unrealistic expectations to place on anyone, yet most of us are disappointed when a pastor becomes overwhelmed, seems depressed, lets us down or completely burns out."

Read the entire article at Focus on the Family's Thriving Pastor site under Clergy Appreciation.

Focus on the Family offers a "Guide to Clergy Appreciation Month" on their Thriving Pastor website.

20 Exhortations to Spiritual Leaders

1. People do not like to follow; you have to show them why doing so is a good idea.
A pastor wrote, “You said preachers should be leaders. But what if the congregation does not want you to lead? What if they do not respond?” I answered, “Then you have a bigger job of leadership to do. The people have to be taught.  Lead them to want to do something for the Lord.”

2. You start pastoring small churches in difficult locations for good reason. It is good to bear the yoke in your youth.  (That’s Lamentations 3:27).
When I announced to the family God had called me into the ministry–I was 21 and a senior in college–my coal-miner dad said, “Well, that’s fine. But son, start with smaller churches so you can learn how to do it before moving to larger ones.”  I type that and smile, “As though we had a choice about it, Pop.”  That’s how life works.  Faithful in small things, trusted with the larger (Luke 16:10).

3. If you are in the ministry as a career, get out now.
After 2006′s Hurricane Katrina brought so much destruction to our part of the world, a young pastor said to me, “I worry about what this setback will do to my career.”  (Yep. He actually said that.)  I said, “In the first place, as a minister of the gospel, you don’t have a career. You have a calling.  And secondly, put your eyes on the Lord Jesus and He will take care of these matters.”

Continue reading the rest of Joe McKeever's advice in 20 Things Many Pastors Do Not Get and Should.  His advice is very good for anyone who loves a pastor - or anyone in a position of spiritual leadership and influence.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blog Address Change

Beginning September 15, the address for this blog will change.  Faith, Family, and Friends will change addresses.  The old address is www.downoutoftheboat.blogspot.com.   The new address will be www.rhettwilson.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Worthy of Double Honor

October is set aside by some people as Pastor Appreciation Month.  But does the Bible teach us to honor our pastors? 

The apostle Paul said in one of his pastoral letters,  Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.   For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

John MacArthur gives excellent explanation and exposition of this text in his sermon Restoring Biblical Eldership.

"He's going to discuss four things...honoring elders, protecting elders, rebuking elders, and selecting elders. And these four things when properly understood and properly implemented will restore to the church a biblical eldership, a very very vital vital portion of Scripture. I wish we could take it, as I said, in the whole, but we must take it as it comes in part and fully understand it because of its tremendous implications.

Number one, the first thing on Paul's mind in verses 17 and 18 is the matter of honoring elders...the matter of honoring elders. And I want to say at this juncture, please, a bit of a disclaimer. I feel a little bit awkward up here telling you that you need to honor elders of which I am one. Obviously I could be accused of a conflict of interests and I could also be accused of having a self-serving motive and I could frankly be accused of trying to get myself a raise because I am going to talk about paying the preacher in a little while. So I want to put in an immediate disclaimer on any of those things. I'm trying to teach you the Word of God. I am not seeking more of anything. I don't want to be elevated in my position. I don't want anybody to buy me a robe or a backward collar or a special hat. I don't want anybody to give me a raise, if they do I'll turn it down. I'm not seeking any of that except to teach the Word of God for all of our instruction and edification that we might better be able to honor those godly pastor/elders that the Lord has put in our life. That is my whole purpose and my heart rests at ease before the Lord because He and I have gone over the matter of my motives several times this morning and if you'll accept that I have worked it out with Him, then you can handle me. All right?

First of all, then, honoring elders. Now I want you to know what he says in verse 17, it's very simple. "Let the elders that rule excellently be considered worthy of double honor, specially the ones who work hard in preaching and teaching." That's a rather literal translation. The key word here is the word "honor." You might just sort of mark that in your mind, or in your text. That's what he's really saying. This verse calls for honor to be given to pastor/elders in the church. Those who serve the church, leading the church, as it were, fathering the church by way of example and leadership, feeding and teaching in the church are to be given honor.

This is not a new concept in the Scripture. It has appeared in other places. A couple of books earlier in the New Testament Canon we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, "We beseech you, brethren, to know them who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you." That would be your pastors, your elders. "And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." Those who are over you in the Lord who minister among you, you should know them, you should love them, you should esteem them for the work which they render. In Hebrews chapter 13 verse 7 it says, "Those who have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the Word of God, you follow their faith." And then in verse 17 it says, "Obey them, submit yourselves to them for they watch for your souls as they that must give account that they may do it with joy and not with grief for that's unprofitable for you." Love them, esteem them, know them, remember their lives, follow their pattern, obey them, submit to them and do it all with joy so that they may have joy. If they don't, then their ministry will be unprofitable for you.

So the New Testament has enjoined us on several occasions to give proper honor and proper respect to those that are over us in the Lord. And there are other passages with which we will intersect in our discussion this morning, also.

Now I want to just remind you that the term "elder" is a general term referring to those in leadership in the church. They can be called shepherd, pastor, same word. They can be called overseer, as in chapter 3 verse 1, they are referred to, or elder. The term pastor refers primarily to the shepherding function; the term overseer to the authority and the leadership responsibility; and the term elder has to do with their role in maturity as a father or as the senior member of the congregation, senior members I should say since there are many. There's no such thing, by the way, as a senior pastor. There's no such thing as a senior pastor and his staff. There is simply a plurality of godly elders and in that shared leadership there may be varying responsibilities but there's no hierarchy or pecking order taught in the New Testament. So the pastor, overseer, elder as we know is the same person, one in the same. One emphasizes the feeding responsibility, one emphasizes the leading responsibility, one emphasizes the maturity of his position in leadership.

Now, we assume that these elders who are to receive elders are qualified. We don't have to go through that. We're basing that on chapter 3. If an elder is tested against the principles of chapter 3 and is qualified and therefore continues to be an elder, he is to be honored. He is a man, obviously, based upon his qualifications who is blameless, who is a one-woman man, who is temperate, who has his priorities in order, who is good in his behavior, who is committed to the love of strangers, who is skilled in teaching, not given to wine, not a violent man, he's patient, he's not a striker or fighter, he's not covetous, he rules well his own house, has his children in subjection with seriousness, he's not a novice. He has a good reputation among outsiders. It's that kind of man who qualifying to be an elder is worthy of honor. So we're assuming then elder here, or elders, as it's always in the plural except when Peter refers to himself as an elder and when John twice refers to himself as an elder, every other time it's a plurality because the assumption is the church will be led by a plurality of godly elders.

So we see then here that when it says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor," it means elders who are qualified. If a man is qualified to be an elder, he is qualified then to receive honor. We could say then generally that underlying this verse is the idea that elders are worthy of honor, okay? Elders are worthy of honor.

Now what do we mean by honor? Well the word is time, basically it means respect or regard. It's so used in chapter 6 verse 1, "But as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor." That doesn't mean a servant is supposed to pay his master, it means he's supposed to give him respect. So the word timecan relate to respect or regard. But also it can relate to remuneration, that is money. Back in chapter 5 we used it that way in verse 3 as Paul had that in mind, "Honor widows that are really widows." And what we saw there inherent in the word honor is the idea of financial support. It includes, along with respect and high regard, the idea of remuneration, salary, whatever. In fact, in our English language we have a word that tells us that, it's the word honorarium. Honorarium is a form of the word honor which relates to giving someone money. When I go out and speak sometimes people will give me an honorarium. When I fill out my Income Tax every year I put down a category called "honoraria," which has to do with people who showed me a certain amount of regard in a financial way. And so the word meaning that originally has come down in the English form to mean that even today in some regard.

So when we read about honoring these elders, we are talking not only about respect, but also talking about remuneration. In fact, the word time is translated in several places in the New Testament by the word price. So it is not a word disassociated from money. You will find it so translated, for example, in Matthew 27:6 and 9, Acts 4:34, 1 Corinthians 6:20. So what Paul is saying is give honor but let that honor have within it remuneration, if need by.

By the way, honor in the Old Testament, I just thought of that, also contains that same idea. For example, in Proverbs 3:9 it says, "Honor the Lord with your substance." What does that mean? That means honor the Lord with your respect and your regard as demonstrated by giving Him your money. And then it further says, "With the firstfruits of all your increase." So there honor carries the idea of giving money to God in an offering. Also in verse 31 of Proverbs 14 it says, "The one who honors the poor by having mercy on him," it refers to one honoring the poor through mercy that has the idea of giving them something to supply their needs.

So, Paul here is saying then that you are to make sure that one who is over you in the Lord, who feeds you and leads you, is honored. An elder is to receive honor, that is respect and remuneration as fitting and necessary. That forms a true estimate of his worth in a tangible way.

You say, "If Paul meant that why didn't he just say money?" Well, because money is such a crass expression he would rather deal with the motive behind the money than just deal with the money. How much nicer is it to say, "Here's your money, fella?" You wouldn't appreciate that. If someone could say to you, "We want to honor you with this gift." There's a big difference in that expression. And Paul was want to do that almost on every occasion. In fact, you're hard pressed to ever find Paul actually talk about money.

Let me give you just a little insight into that. In writing to the Romans and the Corinthians, he referred to money on one occasion as service. In writing to the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Philippians, he referred to money as fellowship. He referred to it again to the Corinthians as grace. In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 he called it liberality. In 2 Corinthians 8:20 he called it bounty. In 2 Corinthians 9:5 he called it blessing. In 2 Corinthians 9:8 he called it a good work. In Galatians 6:6 he called money good things. In Philippians 4 he called it a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 he called it a seed, in the same verse he called it a harvest of your righteousness. In Philippians 4:17 he called it a gift, and here he calls it honor.

In other words, rather than dealing with the crass nature of the money itself, he wants the money to convey a heart attitude, a motive, a sense of love and intimacy and spiritual significance. So he puts it in terms other than just the crassness of the terminology of money itself.

So what he is saying here is to honor. And he's really dealing with the motive which will result in remuneration. So the bottom line here is that an elder is to be cared for, he is to be honored in terms of respect and he is to be honored in terms of remuneration. Every elder is to be so honored, every elder is to be so respected. That's implied in this verse. Now some elders may have greater needs than others, those needs are to be met. Some pastors may earn their own living. There are pastors who do that. There are pastor/elders in this church who choose by God's direction to subsidize themselves, they work outside. They do not need to be paid by the church but they are to be honored by the church. If they are called by God to give their whole life to the service of Christ, then they are to be remunerated as well. A man may make a choice in that regard.

Such a choice, I believe, is expressed in several places in the New Testament. But look back to 1 Corinthians chapter 9 for just a moment, to what is a very helpful insight here. The church has the responsibility to honor all who are elders. Somebody might say, "Well, does that mean we have to pay all the elders at Grace? Should all the elders who are pastoring our church quit their jobs and be paid by the church?" Not necessarily. The question of subsidy has nothing to do with whether you're a pastor or an elder. There are many pastors of small churches around this country and around the world who are subsidized by their own employment and they carry on the ministry beyond that. There are some who are subsidized through their ministry. That's not the issue.

Let me show you. Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians, Paul says, "Am I not an Apostle?" He has some need to establish the right to support here and that's what he's attempting to do. "Am I not an Apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord and are not you my work in the Lord? And if I be not an Apostle to others, yea doubtless I am to you for the seal of my apostleship are you in the Lord." In other words, is there any doubt in your mind that I'm an Apostle? My message, my usefulness, my having seen the risen Christ...you know because of those things and the seal of my apostleship the fact that you were converted to Christ that I am an Apostle. "My answer to them that do examine me in this is, Have we no right to eat and drink?" In other words, if I'm an Apostle, don't I have a right to food and drink? "Don't I have a right to lead about a Christian sister as a wife, as well as the other Apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas or Peter?" Don't I have a right to eat? Don't I have a right to be married? Don't I have a right to have a family? "Or I only and Barnabas, have we no right to forebear working? Don't we have a right to give ourselves to ministry and be supported by that ministry and not have to work?"

"Don't I have a right to stop making tents, or stop doing leather work?" As was his trade. After all, verse 7, he says, "Who goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and eats not its fruit? Who feeds a flock and eats not the milk of the flock?" I mean, there are some things that have in them built in remuneration. You don't go to the war and try to hold a job on the side. You don't raise a crop and not eat the results. You don't have a herd and not enjoy the milk. "Say I these things as a man," these are just human things, "but doesn't the law of God say the same? Doesn't it say in the law of God, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain? Does God take care for oxen?" If God says in Deuteronomy 25 verse 4 you're supposed to let the ox that treads the grain eat, don't you think He cares about the one who provides your spiritual food as the ox provides your physical food? And isn't a man more valuable than an ox? And isn't a preacher more valuable than anyone?
If we have sown, he says in verse 11, verse 10 rather, or saith he it all together for our sakes, for our sakes, no doubt, that it is written that he that plows should plow in hope, and he that threshes in hope should be a partaker of his hope. You work and in your work is built in the hope of your remuneration. "If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it such a big deal if we reap your carnal things?" In other words, if we give you the things of God, is it wrong for us to have back the things of this world so that we might live? "If others be partakers of this right over you, are not we rather who preach to you the Word of God (implied)? Nevertheless we have not used this right." How about that. Twelve verses to have established the right to be paid and then he says, "But we don't want it." He says we have a right to it and I want to lay that down, but I choose not to take it so we don't hinder the gospel of Christ. There was some exigencies in Corinth, there were some reasons why he didn't want to be chargeable to them. He felt it would be better for the ministry so he said we have a right to it, and he establishes the right of every preacher and teacher in the future, every pastor and elder, every apostle and prophet in the future to be supported. But here he defers from that because, he says, we don't want to hinder, and there were some reasons why in his mind that would be a hindrance so he cared for his own living. And as he says in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, "He robbed other churches." In other words, he took money from other churches to fund himself to minister to the Corinthians because he didn't want to be chargeable to them. If you know anything about their church, you might understand that. They were a tough bunch to work with and he didn't need anything that might cause more criticism of his ministry. He was being very harsh with them, as it was, he didn't want them accusing him of a money motive.

But verse 13 he picks up the same thought, "Do you not know that they who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? They who wait on the altar are partakers with the altar? Priests function in their priesthood and are supported by that function itself. Even so....and here's the climax...has the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel." That does not mean, as you hear so often, if you preach it you ought to live it, that means if you preach it you ought to be supported in your preaching of it. You ought to be able to earn your living in your preaching.

So, here Paul affirms the idea that those who minister are to be supported in that ministry. However, he says, if you choose, as I choose-implied, that you can defer from that support for whatever reason you might have. For example, in writing to 1 Thessalonians, writing to the Thessalonians in the first letter he says, verse 9 of chapter 2, "You remember, brethren, our labor and travail, laboring night and day because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." We didn't want to be chargeable so we worked night and day. He had to work his ministry all day, and he had to earn his living all night, but he did that because he chose to do it to make the gospel more palatable to them.

So we can safely say then that while the text of 1 Timothy says that the one who is an elder is to be honored, and that implies both respect and remuneration, there may be those circumstances when by God's design and the prompting of the Spirit and the will of God there is a pastor/elder who chooses to earn his own living and that by God's design certainly has a place in the plan. Should the time ever come when he feels that he would desire to pour himself whole-heartedly, totally and consume his life in the ministry, the church then should take over that remuneration. But as long as he feels it is the direction of God for him to be in employment where he is, the church has no obligation. The point here is we are to honor and give respect and remuneration where remuneration is due and where it is necessitated.

Now let's go back to 1 Timothy chapter 5 and see if we can't follow a little bit further through this thought. And I've just laid really the sort of the implicit underlying truth that elders are to be honored. When a man is an elder, just because he's an elder or a pastor, same thing, he is due respect and whatever remuneration is fitting to supply his needs and expedite his level of service just because he is a pastor/elder. Now that is the underlying point, now mark this, but that is not Paul's point here. That just sort of lies beneath the surface. What Paul is doing here is contrasting, or really comparing that with this, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, specially the ones who work hard in preaching and teaching." The underlying assumption is that all pastors are to be honored, but Paul's talking about the kind that are worthy of double honor, by contrast to the general category of pastors who are to be honored on a single honor level.

Notice the little phrase "double honor," what does that mean? Well, it basically means generous ample pay, generous ample respect. The intent here is to show a difference between general category of pastors and a unique category of pastors who rule with great excellence and who work very hard in the preaching and the teaching. They are worthy of double honor. Double honor assumes as its comparative honor, so we say honor for elders, double honor for excellent hard-working elders.

That's the idea. The Spirit of God knows that among those who serve the church there will be a great group of faithful men who will serve the Lord with blessing, but there will also be a group of men who will serve the Lord with a greater effort and a greater commitment and a greater excellence and they are worthy of a greater acknowledgement, of honor from the congregations they serve. It's not a mathematical equation here to figure out what the normal elder gets and double it, it's the idea of ample generous support, remuneration and respect. All elders are worthy of it, some are worthy of more.

Now who are these who are worthy of double honor? Look back at verse 17. First of all, the elders that rule well...the elders that rule well. Now the word "ruling" means oversight, taking charge, giving leadership, having responsibility. Proistemi, the verb, means to stand first. They're first in order in terms of leadership. It is a word used to speak of the father and the husband in the family, he is the leader. He is the one who stands first. He is the protector, the provider. So the elder is the one who leads, who stands first, giving the task of leading the church. It's a tremendous responsibility, beloved, by the way, for all the privilege that is there you're really overwhelmed by the accountability. As Hebrews 13:17 says, "We have to give an account to God for what we've done."
But the emphasis is not on the verb ruling, the emphasis is on the adverb - well. And that adverb means with excellence. The elder, the pastor who leads with excellence. Now what would that be? How would we define excellence? I suppose we could go back to chapter 4 and we had in chapter 4 from verses 6 to 16 at least a pretty good insight into what excellence would be in leadership as Paul instructed Timothy. He said, verse 6, "If you put the brothers in remembrance of these things, you'll be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine, refusing profane and old women's tales, exercising yourself to godliness." And he talks about down in verse 11 teaching and commanding, in verse 12 living out an example, verse 13 giving your attendance to explaining the Word of God, verse 14 using your gift, verse 15 concentrating on all these things and into verse 16 summing it up, taking heed to yourself, your personal life, to your teaching, continuing in them and so forth. If we were to go back through all of that, which we did over several weeks, we would find the excellence of ministry is there. It is bound up in quality leadership. It is bound up in godliness in the life. It is bound up in teaching and explanation of Scripture and exhortation, setting a model and example and pattern that others can follow.

When a man excels in his ruling, in his leading, he is to be given double honor. Now the point here, keep it in mind, is not to make a distinction between two kinds of elders, one kind who rule and one kind who teach and preach, there's no such distinction made in Scripture. It is a contrast between elders worthy of honor and some elders worthy of double honor because of the excellency of their ministry. All serve, all lead, all teach and preach to one degree or another. Some may preach more than teach, some may teach more than preach, some may lead more than preach or teach, but they all do all of those to some degree. The contrast is not between ruling and teaching elders, there's no such dichotomy, the contrast is between the general group of men and those who are a cut above because of the excellence of their ministry. I mean, double honor assumes honor. It's not a contrast between all good elders and bad elders. The New Testament knows nothing of bad elders. As soon as you're a bad elder you're not an elder. As soon as you've sinned, you're disqualified. So he's not comparing holy elders and sinning elders because if holy elders were worthy double honor, then sinning elders would be worth honor. But since sinning elders are worthy nothing, you can't be making comparison between sinning elders and excellent elders because if sinning elders are worthy nothing and good elders get double that, they get double nothing which is nothing. I mean, every way you look at it, and I'm pushing the point, the contrast is not between good and bad, it's not between ruling and teaching, it's between those elders who are faithful, worthy of honor, and those who are excellent, surpassing the others in their ministry. He is comparing the respect and remuneration due to all elders with those due to unusually committed and diligent pastor/elders.

And the verb "let be considered worthy," which is the Greek text, reflects on a mental estimate. You evaluate them and let them be worthy of double honor. Now what he's saying here is this isn't a gift, you're not saying we want to give this as a gift, we want to give you this as a reward, we want to give you this as an act of grace. The idea is they deserve it. Consider that if they do an excellent job, they are worthy of that. It's not something you're giving out of grace as a gift, it is something they have really earned, they are worthy of that because of the excellence of their leadership.

Now please understand me. Again, this sounds so self- serving, even in my own mind. And I don't want you to get the wrong idea. You people pay me too much already, please know that. And I have refused to take raises many many times and I always have a little trouble with the elders. Recently they said they insisted and I told them I didn't want a raise. And so they said, "Why?" And I said, "Because I have more than I need." And they said...I said, "If you give me more than I just have more of more than I need to deal with." And they said, "Well, we want to give you more because we want to see what you do with what you don't need." So, I said that's fair enough. So the same thing happened again this year. And they said no, we insist and they watch me. But it's been a wonderful thing. I guess in a real sense you have to expect that if they trust you they would just as soon trust you with God's money as anyone else, right? If you're the kind of a person that walks with God they would assume that in your life you would be a steward of what God provides. And I pray, God, that that's true. I face my own unfaithfulness day in and day out because money is such a captivating reality, but the task before me is to be faithful in my ministry. And in this particular point in my life at this church to say to you, "Please, you have demonstrated honor above honor, you're into the triple category already, that's enough." I'm not asking for anything. I don't think this is a license for indulgence. I don't think this means you're supposed to set your pastor apart by giving him the biggest house in town and buying him a Rolls Royce and sending him all around the world on vacations or whatever. I don't think that's the idea. The idea is that he is to be provided for amply so that you show generosity, so that you show love and so that you free him up from being constrained in the ministry to have to earn his bread and therefore take himself away from needful things to do things less needful to support himself.

Then he adds a further thought here, just capping it off, "Especially...malista...it means chiefly or particularly when you're considering who is to get double honor, chiefly the ones who work hard in preaching and teaching." Now the assumption here is that there will be some elders who will not work as hard in preaching and teaching. That's a fair assumption from the text. In other words, their role may be less prominent in teaching. They may be more involved in the leading role, although they all teach and we insist, of course, that all elders and pastors at Grace Church be involved in teaching and preaching God's Word, and they are. Many of us do it more than others. For me it is a totally consuming way of life. And for those who teach the most and work the hardest at it, there is to be that double honor.

What does it mean working hard? Well it's that very familiar and almost ubiquitous word in the vocabulary of Paul, that word kopiaowhich means to work to the point of fatigue, to grow weary in work, to work to the point of exhaustion. And what he is saying is, "Look, when there is a godly elder who fits the qualifications and he models a ministry according to the divine standard and he does his ministry with excellence and he works to the point of fatigue and weariness in teaching and preaching the Word of God, that is the man to be identified as worthy of the double honor, the person who works so hard in excellent service to give...as to give a maximum self-sacrificial effort." It's not stressing the amount of work, it's not stressing even the content of work, it's stressing the effort...the effort. A man's reward is designed by God to be in proportion to the excellence of his work and the effort in the toil that he makes. And that's a wonderful parallel. There are a lot of people who can do things that are surpassing and have external excellence and they can do it without much effort. Have you noticed that? There are some people who slave and slug and hack away to get the job done well. There are others who have those innate gifts, those natural gifts and those compelling gifts of the Spirit of God who enable them sometimes to do things with excellence without much effort. But the combination here is so wonderful. On the other hand, there are those people who slug and slave away and not much of what they do would be considered excellent. But here is that wonderful combination of the church recognizing that excellence and that diligence that when they come together mark out a man who is worthy of double honor.

And I have to confess to you that in my own heart the standard is so high that I don't believe that even those of us who have received from you honor upon honor are at the level of honor that Paul is talking about here. This has to be a surpassing kind of quality and character to that which we know, which I know of my own heart.

But when we find people like this, we must honor them. If we are to restore, beloved, if we are to restore to the church a biblical eldership, we must find these kind of faithful diligent excellent godly men and grant them the honor, the remuneration, the respect that is due to that kind of effort. And then we begin to restore to that place that kind of man that God would have there.

On the other hand, and I don't want to belabor the point, do you realize how churches can literally destroy good godly diligent faithful men? It's a sad sad tale. We talk so often about the defection of pastors but we need also to talk about the defection of churches from loving esteeming obeying submitting to following honoring and remunerating their pastors. It's sad some times to see young men coming out of seminaries starry-eyed and ready to go out and conquer the world for Christ and literally be devoured by people who dishonor, discredit, speak evil of them because they don't do precisely what they want done in the way they want it done or because they go against the grain of some would-be diatrophies(??) who has risen to prominence in a self- appointed position in some church. There's a balance here. And the church if it's going to restore a biblical eldership has to give back to that position its honor. You can't expect a pastor who comes in as a whipping boy for a board of laymen who don't have the spiritual knowledge, insight or commitment that he does to function in a way that's going to bring the respect that that kind of office demands from the statement from the Word of God.

So, restoring a biblical eldership, part of that is giving honor to whom honor is due. All elders then teach and preach, all elders lead. But some elders are worthy of double honor. All elders are worthy of honor. Elders are worthy of honor in two ways, respect and remuneration. Hard-working and excellent elders are worthy of the double honor, especially if they major in the teaching and preaching which is the particularly worthy thing. Preaching, by the way, is logo, just means speech, it includes exhortation, admonition, the prophetic kind of proclamation. It has mostly to do with the one who proclaims to the heart and calls for commitment, calls for a response to God. Teaching, didaskaliahas to do not with the content again but with the act of teaching. And it speaks mostly to the mind and whereas the preaching part calls for a response from God, the teaching part bulwarks one against heresy. Both are crucial, both are essential. And where you have men whose hearts are totally given to these things and their ministry is excellent, they are to receive honor.

I wish I could give this message to a lot of congregations who don't seem to understand that. And then they wonder why they have an unhappy church because they have an unhappy pastor whose doing what he does with grief and not with joy because they are an unsubmissive people. We can see then the high point of Christian ministry from the viewpoint of the elder or the pastor is to exhaust oneself in diligent careful constant preparation and preaching/teaching of the Word of God and in excellent leadership by life and example."