RSS

The compelling call of ministry

Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll has written a very encouraging article on the call of ministry. “The Most Magnificent Life” is found in the Summer 2019 edition of DTS Magazine, the publication of Dallas Theological Seminary.

Dr. Swindoll affirms the experience of many, including myself, of the compelling sense of “having” to do ministry because nothing else would satisfy.

I often think that most who study at DTS are here because they can’t help it. It was the great preacher of the Victorian era in Great Britain, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said, “Do not enter the ministry if you can help it.” If you can’t, you are entering into something as permanent as marriage, till death separates you. You are in it for the long haul . . . for life.

A calling of God fuels the passion of the one going into ministry. He’s the One who lights our fire and fans the flame. There is no magic in these buildings, in the desks, in the library, or in the books. Seminary is extremely hard work. Students think more in-depth than ever in their lives. They endure rigorous testing. They don’t casually arrive or come on a lark—they pray about it. They seek advice, and because they can’t help it, they come. They are in it because they can’t stay away. They are compelled by the Spirit of God to be here!

I can’t imagine being fulfilled doing anything else other than ministry. Could I be successful in doing something else? Maybe. Could I find fulfillment? Never. It’s the most fulfilling, the most rewarding of all callings. The most magnificent life a person can have is to be in the nucleus of God’s will, and for those who decide to study at DTS, that’s called preparing for a lifetime of ministry.

 Click on the link to read the rest of the article.

 

 
 

Trust God for the unseen

The African Impala is a beautiful animal that can jump over a height of ten feet and a span of 30 feet. But it can be kept in a zoo enclosure with only a three-foot wall. The reason is that the impala will not jump where it cannot see where its feet will land.

Faith enables us to trust God and to venture into the unknown and the unseen. Hebrews 11:1 explains, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Don’t let fear of the unknown or unseen keep you a prisoner. Trust God and take a bold step of faith.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 23, 2019 in Faith, Hebrews, Scripture

 

Continue the Education

“If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow” is the first of the seven maxims in Prof. Howard Hendricks’ book, Teaching to Change Lives. To be an effective teacher/preacher, Hendricks argues, you must be a lifelong learner.

One of the occupational hazards of ministry is that it is easy to fall into the trap of only studying for the next lesson or sermon. You have to be intentional about widening your field of reading and learning or else your field of interest and expertise will become far too narrow.

Over the past couple of years, I have personally benefitted from some of the online courses offered by Dallas Theological Seminary. I am able to learn from different professors as they teach on a topic or book of the Bible. I recently finished the course on the book of Acts and am now starting Understanding God’s Covenants. The courses are free to everyone.

I also try to listen to audiobooks, lectures, or sermons while I am exercising. I just finished listening to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, a classic tale of revenge and redemption. I just started listening again to The Best of Prof, a collection of sermons and lectures by Dr. Howard Hendricks.

I also try to read eclectically. I am working my way through Knowing God, by J. I. Packer, in order to sharpen my theological understanding. In addition, I am in book five, Grail, of the six-volume series, The Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen R. Lawhead, which is a retelling of the King Arthur stories. By reviewing books for different publishers, I am exposed to new and different authors. Through the courses I teach for Regent University, I become acquainted with various authors and textbooks as well as having to answer questions of students.

The online courses, audiobooks, theology, and novels is in addition to studying the book of Hebrews which I am preaching through on Sunday morning. I am also developing lessons on leadership development for a conference in Moscow in October.

I want to continue my education and growth so that I have something to offer. I don’t want to fall into the trap of relying on old lessons and greatest hits. I want to stay fresh and growing.

 
Image

Apologetics Conference at First Central Bible Church

 
 

Keeping heredity at bay

As I was exercising one morning last week, I was struck with the fact that the older I get, the harder I have to work to keep my heredity at bay. In that sense, my parents did not do me any favors by passing on their genetic makeup to me.

My father had high blood pressure all his life. When I was in my 20’s, our family physician told me never to get heavy if the condition was hereditary. Now that I am in my 60’s, I have to pay more attention to what I eat and how much I exercise. On top of that, my dad had glaucoma and my mother had cataracts. I have to get my eyes checked on an annual basis to keep track of those potential conditions.

At to that my recovery from a broken leg/hip two years ago. I continue to do my therapy exercises trying to regain more strength and mobility. I feel like Frodo Baggins at the end of The Lord of the Rings where he tells Samwise Gamgee that some injuries never heal completely. Despite all my efforts and exercises, I wonder if my leg will ever be 100% again.

If I go to this much trouble and effort for my physical health, how much more attention should I pay to my spiritual health? In the same way that I have to exercise and have annual physical checkups, I need to exercise spiritually as well. Colossians 3:5-17 instructs me to allow my old sinful habits and practices to die. In their place, I need to cultivate healthy spiritual character qualities. I need to stop my old bad habits and cultivate some new healthier habits of the heart.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Whether spiritual or physical, I need to work hard to ensure good, healthy habits.

 

Don’t Be A Dropout

During my sophomore year in high school, some friends on the tennis team talked me into going out for the cross-country team as a way of getting in shape for the tennis season. They didn’t tell me I had to run two miles—every day! I was the slowest man on the team. In the nine races I competed in that fall, I dropped out of three, came in last in three, and came in second to last in three (my personal best).

Partway during my time in seminary, I came close to dropping out. The Bible had become an academic textbook. My prayer life was non-existent. I distinctly remember sitting on a bench in Fair Oaks Park and wrestling with whether or not I was going to be committed or if I would walk away from the faith.

Scripture is very clear that if we drop out and walk away from Christ, we will suffer loss. If we remain faithful, we will receive rewards.

In Hebrews 10:19-25, the author of the book encourages his readers to draw near to God, hold fast to their faith, and to encourage one another. In 10:26-39, the author gives a strong warning to those who are tempted to do the opposite. He explains that a true follower of Jesus not only lives a life of obedience to God but also endures and is faithful in the midst of persecution. We can avoid God’s judgment by staying faithful.

This is the fourth of the warning passages in the book of Hebrews. In 2:1-4, he warns of the danger of drifting—Don’t drift from the Word. In 3:7-4:13, he warns of the danger of unbelief—Don’t doubt the Word. In 5:11-6:8, he warns of the danger of immaturity—Don’t become dull toward the Word. Now in 10:26-31, he warns of the danger of continued sin—Don’t despise the Word.

Do not continue to sin (26-31). The author uses the pronoun, “we,” to show he is writing to believers and that he includes himself in that category. He warns that if Christ followers not only disobey but make deliberate sin the habit of their lives, they are in grave danger of God’s judgment. He is not saying that a believer can lose their salvation but rather that God will use fire to test the quality of their life (1 Corinthians 3:13).

If someone faced the death penalty for violating the Law of Moses, how much greater punishment will a Christ follower face if they walk away from the faith. They damage their testimony by attacking the person and work of Christ, as well as the person and work of the Holy Spirit. They need to understand that not only does Christ have the right to judge, he will do so.

Remain faithful and persevere (32-39). Rather than give up in the midst of persecution and walk away, the author challenges his readers to remember the past (32-34) and to respond well in the present (35-39). The readers are to look backwards to remember their conversion (32a), how they demonstrated courage against persecution (32b-33), how they showed compassion by identifying with their brothers and sisters in prison (34a), and how they willingly gave up their possessions because they had the conviction that greater rewards were waiting for them (34b). The readers are to respond well in the present by maintaining their confidence (35), serving with endurance (26-37), living by faith (38), and standing with perseverance (39).

As you think about this passage, ask yourself some penetrating questions: Where am I going in my spiritual life? Am I drawing nearer to God or drifting away from him? Am I standing firm in my confession of faith or shrinking back toward destruction? Am I gathering frequently with God’s people or forsaking the assembly? Am I actively stimulating my fellow believers to love and good works or damaging their walk?

Avoid God’s judgment. Stay faithful.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 18, 2019. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Too proud to feel shame

One of the marks of the downward spiral of a culture is the lack of shame. That lack of shame will lead to their downfall. That is God’s indictment of the nation of Israel. Twice in the book of Jeremiah (6:15; 8:12), God says,

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:12).

In Romans 1:28-31, the apostle Paul gives a grocery list of the sins which God condemns. He concludes with the statement,

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32).

Not only were people not ashamed, they took pride in their ability to applaud the sinful practices of those around them.

This summer, my wife and I were introduced to several BBC Television programs.

  • Downton Abbey – portrays life among British aristocracy from 1912-1926.
  • Merlin – British drama set in the era of King Arthur.
  • Robin Hood – another retelling of the classic tale.
  • Poldark – British drama set in Cornwall shortly after the American War of Independence (1780s – 1790s).
  • Endeavour – British drama about a young Inspector Morse set in Oxford in the 1960s.

These BBC dramas illustrate the downward spiral of culture in Britain over the past 200+ years. What was considered scandalous behavior in Poldark is tolerated when practiced behind closed doors in Downton Abbey and is acceptable when practiced openly in Endeavour. If you added a modern-day BBC drama such as Sherlock, you’d see the behavior is not only acceptable but considered normal.

We have become so modern and enlightened that we no longer know how to blush at sin. We are drawn to it like moths to a flame. May God have mercy on us and help us to wake up to the horrors of sin.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 15, 2019 in Culture