Thursday, May 8, 2008

Did I go or was I sent?

This question has haunted me at times since I began ministering in 1986. It seems as though true success has evaded my grasps in most every area of my life, as a Pastor, Evangelist, and Accountant with my own business, husband, father and child of God. Nothing has ever come easy for me, or my family. It seems there has always been a challenge to succeed, or at least what most consider success. After a while one begins to question whether he/she is in the will of God or not. We live in an era of church ministry that is bombarded with success preaching, dominion theology, ask and it shall be done faith, and God wants His people to be successful sermons. How does the small church Pastor compete with the mega churches of today? Statistics as I understand them point out that 95% of most churches are under 100 in attendance. In recent years, there has been an exodus from the ministry by scores of preachers that have given up, whether because of finances, church splits, personal sin, or whatever, there are fewer and fewer ministers that are sticking with it, refusing to bail out, refusing to crater to hard times or challenges to their ministry.

At times, I listen to and read articles from a website that I really like called Today as I was researching and studying I came across an article that really ministered to me, and to be quite honest it gave me a rebuke that I needed. I’ve included a portion: “What do you focus more on – where is the greatest desire of your heart? Do you seek more after revival or after Christ and Him being formed in you? Do you seek more after signs and wonders or after Christ and Him being formed in you? Do you seek more after ministry and results or after Christ and Him being formed in you? Are you content to never see revival, signs and wonders and give up your ministry counting all these things as dung to become more Christ like? Christ and Christ being formed in us must be our supreme focus and the desire of our heart and only then will these other things flow naturally from our lives and only then can we truly be used of God by the Spirit.”

Oh how I pray to crucify this wicked flesh of mine. That part of me that craves attention, craves worldly success, and even craves to be known as one that “did it right in Jesus”. That kind of thinking is a false humility and craving of the flesh. I pray to be hidden in Christ, to be conformed to his image, which is His greatest desire for our lives. I repent of trying to bring results so others can see what we are doing for the Kingdom. I pray to know Jesus as Lord and King. Lord if I went, and was not sent, forgive me. Lead me into your perfect will and deliver me from the deception of my flesh. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Can God fearing Pastors really survive this generation and continue preaching an uncompromised message of repentance filtered through grace? What if the results don’t come in? What happens if people refuse to listen? Do these things mean we’re not in the will of God? Maybe we did “just go”, and were not sent. What about Noah, a preacher of righteousness who warned the people of his day of a coming Judgment and only his family was saved? And Moses, after he was called from the burning bush, struggled in the desert for 40 years until he was empty of himself and his own ability to deliver the nation of Israel. If Jesus Christ himself were living and walking among us today, how many would follow him? If history repeats itself, as it does so often, it wouldn’t be that many. In His greatest hour only a few remained faithful and continued to walk with Him.

In conclusion, as a minister of the Gospel, one sent by the Lord, I’ve learned that I must leave the results up to God and preach or prophesy in love what the Lord has given me, nothing more and nothing less. “Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Monday, May 5, 2008

We invest in others...Do we invest in ourselves?

This past weekend my wife and I, along with six other couples from our church had the privilege of attending "A weekend to remember" hosted by the ministry of Family Life. This is our second year in a row to attend this conference and we hope to continue attending each year until we see Christ.

One thing we as minister's do very well is invest time and energy into the lives of other families, and one thing we do very poorly is invest time and energy into our own, specifically our marriage. It's one thing to spend time with your children, and quite another to invest in or spend time with your spouse. One thing I have realized as a minister is; I'm more effective for others when my marriage is healthy and flourishing in Christ. My wife and I have had a great marriage for some 27 years now. It hasn't been without struggle, but has been a good marriage. However, three years ago I began to become the man of God that my wife really needed. Preaching, teaching, singing, and leading others to the Lord doesn't qualify me as a man of God. I believe what does is when I become the priest of my home, which demands time spent with my wife. Being a shepherd over her, as well as my kids. Considering her needs and always remembering she needs me as much or more as everyone else does, and that she is honored as my first priority of ministry.

Take time today to bless your spouse. Give your marriage to the Lord and allow Him to build your home. Let Christ and His principles become the foundation of what your home is about. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." Ps. 121:1

The desire for effective preaching

Preaching is one of the mysteries that I have yet to figure out. How does one that is imperfect deliver the gospel without flaw or blemish that it might be understood by the listener, who is imperfect themselves, that they may gain the privilege of entering into an eternity with God?

I understand the fact of scripture that it is the Holy Spirit that leads us or mankind to all truth. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” - John 16:13. The amazing thing is that God chooses to use ordinary people like you and I as funnels or vehicles of His word to a lost and hurting world. Many times when I leave the pulpit after a Sunday morning service, I begin to analyze the message and beat myself with questions “Why did you say such and such, or why didn’t you do or say this or that” as if I was the one that God was counting on to deliver a perfect message so all would come to the full knowledge of Christ that very day.

I realize more and more as I grow in Christ that it is God that exposes the truth to mankind. It is the condition of a man’s heart that causes him to reject or accept the truth of God’s word when it is delivered. It is not my responsibility to change a heart; that is the Lords doing. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do the” - Ezekiel 36:26, 27.

A great description of this concern is addressed by the late Oswald Chambers in his devotional writings “Never sympathize with a soul who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to find out the reason why it is difficult, but so to present the truth of God that the Spirit of God will show what is wrong. The great sterling test in preaching is that it brings everyone to judgment. The Spirit of God locates each one to himself. If Jesus ever gave us a command He could not enable us to fulfill, He would be a liar; and if we make our inability a barrier to obedience, it means we are telling God there is something He has not taken into account. Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God. Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.”[1]

It could not be spoken more clearly. Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God by the preacher and the receiver of the Word. Preachers must depend solely and completely on the Holy Spirit to guide one to Christ through the preaching of the word. It is this awesome thought that brings into focus the blessing of grace, for grace is the power of God that enables one to follow the Lord and do as He says. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” - John 1:12.

It remains my eternal desire as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ that I remain faithful to the calling in which I have been called, and that is to proclaim the good news that is found in the pages of scripture. I realize that the message is a spiritual one and cannot be accomplished without the help of the Holy Spirit; therefore, it is my duty and desire, and should be of every minister of the gospel; to spend time in the presence of a Holy God who enables us to hear and see clearly His message for His people today.

[1]Chambers, Oswald: My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935, S. May 5