Tongues of Grace

In preparation for this weekends sermon on Chosen by Grace from Colossians 3:12, I wanted to share a Gospel Prose that has been of great encouragement to me. Paul declares that we who are in Christ are continually being renewed in the knowledge after the image of our creator; that is the new man in us is becoming what we are beholding. That is Christ and the truth of who He is as confirmed by Scripture and the testimony that is in us, the Holy Spirit. We are growing in the knowledge of the truth!

One of those great truths is that we have been elected by God from all eternity past for the praise of His glory and demonstration of His love (Eph 1:5-6; 2 Tim 1:9). This truth drives our praise toward God and desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s no getting around the fact that truth will drive our behavior. This truth drives our worship.

One who encapsulates this truth is Milton Vincent and his work “A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s love.” This little booklet is a daily read for me as I wash in the gospel daily and seek to be humbled by God’s gospel.

Here is an excerpt that should be on every Christians tongue as they consider God’s work in Election:

Apart from Christ Jesus
and His saving cause:

I carry sins guilt
and am gripped by sins power,
held fast to it’s
various lusts every hour.

Deserving of flames
both within and without,
and sliding toward Hell
as I toss all about.

Too reprobate even
to play a small part,
in clearing my record
or changing my heart.

To pacify wrath
and be worthy of grace,
to make myself lovely
and win God’s embrace.

Completely condemned by
God’s law in it’s whole,
I’ve nothing to offer
to ransom my soul.

But wonder of wonders
so great to behold,
My God chose to save me
with method so bold.

What I could not render,
God fully has done,
and doing, He rendered it
all through His Son.

He sent Christ to die
on the cross for my sin,
To suffer my anguish
my pardon to win.

Amazing as it is, when I
stop to regard,
that God would consent
to an anguish so hard,

Surrendering His Son
unto mayhem and death,
to torturous writhing
‘til His final breath.

“Why does God forsake Me?”
alone Jesus cried,
Yet God left Him hanging
until he died.

That Jesus was willing
His life to lay down,
be scouraged and insulted
and wear thorny crown,

For such as I
who had spited God so,
Amazes and blesses
and makes me to know,

That greater a lover
is no man than He
Who laid down His life
for a sinner like me.

– Milton Vincent

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Three ways Christians can Toil for their Church

What keeps you awake at night? Many of us, to include myself, have trouble falling asleep due to the many pressures that come with living in this life. Bills, new duties at work, deadlines, etc. There is no shortage of issues that can cause anything but a restful night.

What about the church? What keeps you awake at night in regards to the church? When was the last time that you laid awake at night, concerned about the saints in your local church? Maybe your concern is with their continued absence from Sunday morning. Maybe its their lack of service to the body. Maybe your fear is that they aren’t growing in their relationship with Christ. These are real and as a pastor, I really do count sheep at night. Christ’s people are constantly on my mind.

Paul who was known to at times be a biovocational Apostle, writes that he “toils” and “struggles” in his ministry to the church (Col 1:29). What in the world was he doing that would cause so much energy? He wanted Christ’s people to be mature and steadfast in the faith. He wanted to see their faith active in the lives of believers so they could serve each other and defend the gospel of Christ.  He writes:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

(Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)

His work in the church and dependance on God is an example yes, but it also points to Christ in how He provided for us as well. Philippians 2 states that Christ humbled Himself in adding to His divinity humanity. Not just in that, but He also went to the cross and died a sinners death for those who would believe in Him.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 3 being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Colossians 1:29 ESV)

Here we have the example of the ultimate servant. Who served us to the end. What should be our response then to such a wonderful work?

Here is how you can participate in a holy toil today for your church.the_struggle
Be committed to praying for your pastors and members of your local church. That they would be digging into the Word of God and seek opportunities to proclaim the gospel to self, neighbor, and co-workers.
Be committed to serving the your local church with the gifts the Holy Spirit has deposited in you. The church needs your gift and Christ has given it to you for the express purpose of serving Him in His church.
Be committed to the study of doctrine. Yes doctrine! Doctrine is nothing more than God revealing Himself through the Bible. What the Bible says about Him and how he has communicated His salvation to us. We must not only proclaim the gospel, but also to defend it. There is a battle for the truth and we are ambassadors of truth to this world. Servants of the light. Bringing God’s truth to a fallen world. Know your Lord!
Can anyone else think of ways to serve in this way?

Redeeming your time

I have been of late, convicted about how much time I let go by without taking advantage of the minutes given to me, by the grace of God. We are ever drawing near to the end of life, and we should be redeeming every minute. The principle prayer and aim of Christians should be that we “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10 ESV). There are ways that we can grow doing some of the most mundane things like working at our desks, running or biking down the trail, or even driving to work.

Here are a few of my favorite sites to help me accomplish this:

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 9.14.06 AM.pngThe Center for Public Theology – Latest episode focuses on death in the age of endless living. More is written about ageless creams and living your best life now then on preparing for death and dying well. Christians may fear the processes of death, but we do not fear death itself. Jesus has conquered death and we are going to be with Him.

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Doctrine and Devotion -Joe Thorn and his elder candidate Jimmy Fowler discus church doctrinal issues and why these things matter in the life of a congregation. Or does it? Their playful banter lightens the air and helps the listener to engage the current topic. Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 9.26.47 AM.png

White Horse Inn – Here is one of my favorite sites. The White Horse Inn is a 1 hour broadcast hosted by Dr. Michael Horton, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, and Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. Each contributor working in the field of higher Christian education or in the ministry at some level. Each episode, like Doctrine and Devotion, seeks to mine the depths of church history and how these topics should affect the life of the individual Christian and the church as a whole.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-34-08-amThe Briefing – This is your answer to the secular mainstream media’s “news” outlets. Dr. Albert Mohler gives a 30 minute briefing of current news events, then provides commentary from a Christian perspective, as a Christian intellectual, to help God’s people shape their worldview; applying a biblical mindset. Instead of turning on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, grab your coffee and listen to The Briefing.

I hope this helps in finding ways to fill “your time” throughout the day. Knowledge is important for us as long as it leads to our understanding God and living a life that seek  to please Him. Let this drive you to “make disciples” of Christ, being informed and giving an answer to a world with many questions.

Gospel Gratitude

As a church we have been plowing our way through Pauls epistle to the Colossians. The major thrust of Paul’s message is addressing false teachers in the church,  promoting false ways to God through any means other than the message of the gospel; the person and completed work of his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. These false teachers causing many within the church to experience doubts to what Christ had accomplished for them. Their doubts impregnating a lack of assurance, a lack of gratitude, and giving birth to immaturity; a perfect open door for false teachers to bring out their whiteboards of hearsay. (Col 2:8; 16-18; 4:12)

If this were true, that man could earn his way back into a right relationship with God (that is to have their sin taken away, pacifying God’s wrath for good, and making himself favorable with God) then God would have answered His own Son when He called out for Him in the garden!

One of the most vivid pictures of God declaring our condition and need of a substitute was seen in Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:35-36 ESV).

Jesus foreseeing His destiny of going to the cross for sinners, fell to His knees and prayed,

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.”

(Mark 14:36)

The Son himself, seeing the cup that He was about to drink to it’s very dregs, prayed to God in Heaven this prayer. If anyone was more worthy to have his prayers answered, it was Jesus Christ. As recorded in Scripture…there was no answer from Heaven.

The same heaven that was ripped open at the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ with the Father racing to brag about His Holy Son, declaring  his Holy microphone ““This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” was silent in the garden.

The same heaven and same voice thundered forth when Jesus and a few of his Apostles proceeded to the mountain, in which Jesus allowed His Apostles to see just a glimpse of His glory, was silent in the garden (Luke 9:34-35).

Jesus then, hearing the deafening sound of the Fathers silence, loving us to the end declared,

“Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

Then Jesus was nailed to the cross, the world around Him would become a frightening  and deaf darkness, matching the inward darkness within Himself and all of man’s sinful hearts, would cry out,

“My God, my God, why hast tho forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

As that wonderful Christian confession in one song states, “I’m forgiven because you were forsaken. I’m accepted, You were condemned”

Heaven wouldn’t be silent much longer. The curtain in the temple was torn (ripped asunder) by the Fathers hand as a declaration of the satisfaction of the Son’s work of propitiation. Taking away our guilt and bring us access to Him as our Father.

Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is the good news that God has demonstrated his amazing love, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is to bring Him glory, and gratitude to all the hearts of those who are in Christ.

A lack of gratitude in any situation, is a reminder that we may have gospel amnesia. Go once again to the cross, and hear loud and clear what God has done for you in Christ. Heavens declaration of God’s love for His glory, His Son, and for sinners.

 

The Painful Side Of Leadership:: A book review

Dr. Jeff Iorg is becoming one of my favorite advisers on the discipline of practical pastoral leadership. If you’re like me, you want something on the shelf closest to your desk, to grab for that inevitable crisis that attends the pastoral ministry. Because much of pastoral ministry as Dr. Iorg states is ministering from “crisis to crisis” we need to seek those wise men in our life that can guide us through those turbulent waters. Dr Iorg provides that wisdom through years of pastoral ministry experience. David Platt, Former pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, AL and now President of the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote in the front fold, “I have only been a pastor for three years, and I wish I could have read this book three years ago!” The books main purpose is to highlight specific problem area’s and corresponding actions one can take to deal with those crisis’s.

How does this book differ from other books on leadership::

This book has a very unique take on the topic of leadership. Many of the books that I have read on this subject, take a “how to” and a “build you up” approach. While needed, I think many of us are looking for something that we can shake our heads to and see both the problems with our followers, and those problems within ourselves. Any real evaluation of leadership, has to put many of the fingers in our own chest. We are leaders, and we have agreed to this job. This is where this book takes a different approach. Mainly due to the fact that the author writes from first hand accounts; it was his hands that made many of the mistakes! And he’s not shy about painting his mural of many failures in pastoral ministry. But more than just telling a story, this book is immensely practical and theological. From the beginning, Dr. Iorg reminds his audience that leadership is painful, because you are leading sinners. Christians make sinful choices. There is some residue that clings to the garments of Christians even after post conversion and this complicates leadership. With that laying the foundation, Dr. Irog then lays out some general strategies for managing situations that may be painful. Everything from dealing with disappointment to taking courgages stands; the advice is extremely helpful and encouraging.

My favorite chapter::

When I read a book, I find that I value that which speaks to me the most…currently. Dr. Irogs chapter on Understanding Criticism has really encouraged and challenged me. Lets face it; we all hate criticism. Whether we are giving it, or on the receiving end. Dr. Irog reminds us that criticism is all part of being a leader, and we should expect it to come when we least expect it, and at times, from those least qualified to give it. Welcome to ministry! So, we must deal with it and move on toward the goal.

A bit about the author::

Jeff Iorg is the President of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Northern California, and a former pastor. He writes, “My leadership scars, not my success are the source for much of the material in this book and are often my most compelling life message.”

I am thankful that I get the privilege of digging into this book before my first three years begins.

Purchase the book here: Painful Side of Leadership

To submit book review requests, please email pastorkeystonechurch@gmail.com

Replant:: A Book Review

This book could be summed up by the word Faithfulness. A Faithful God in the preservation of a church, and dispatching preservation minded men of to continue His faithful work. God has promised to build his church (Matt 16:18) and the church in this story, is a testimony to that promise. As a pastor, this gets me excited.

When this book was first commended to me to read, I honestly thought I would be reading a how to manual on taking a struggling church back from the brink of death. I was pleasantly surprised that this was far from anything I expected. This is what I found.

First, God’s faithfulness in preserving the local church:

Replant focuses in on a storied church in the middle of Kansas City Missouri once named First Calvary Baptist Church, now Redeemer Fellowship. Even though the transcendent ceilings were high, and one would feel very small walking through the historic sanctuary, man had become the central figure piece in this church for many years. But like many churches in this country that had their glory days in the beginning, Calvary was experiencing what many baptist churches are now in the throws of; a declining membership and dilapidated facilities; the years of gospel neglect, preaching its sermon through a dying building. But God wasn’t done with Calvary. He was bringing the right man with the right set of tools to once again shore up the foundation of this historic centerpiece of gospel ministry in Kansas City.

Second, God’s faithfulness in dispatching preservation minded men:

The Lord brought Calvary Dr. Mark DeVine, a former professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and current Associate Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School as an interim pastor. Dr. DeVine, familiar with the strategic location of this church and unwilling to “assume a benevolent, hospice-care attitude”, determined to stick it out and eventually seek out Darrin Patrick and the Acts 29 Network to shepherd Calvary until the right man was brought in for long term shepherding. Both men contribute to telling the story of Redeemer. DeVine writing from first hand pastoral experience, and Darrin providing footnotes to help the reader understand the facts associated with dying churches and what must take place in order to turn a church from death to life.

And lastly, God’s faithfulness to build Christs church:

The book ends on a very encouraging note. The name was changed, the gospel brought back, and a man of God; Kevin Cawley now the new shepherd of this revitalized congregation. One can’t help but trace the faithfulness of God through the entire project there at Redeemer. It is very easy to take the men that God used in this church and highlight their work as the formative reason for the churches success. While I do applaud these men, the rightful and right direction to look, is at the faithfulness of God. My heart rejoiced to see the wisdom and intentionally implemented during the entire transition, but I rejoiced more to see that God was powerfully working to keep his footprint in the community of central Kansas City. This book encourages me to take on such a task. Knowing that in the end, it is the Lord’s work. Unless he builds the house, those who dare to build, labor in vain (Psalm 127:1)

The man of God must believe that replanting churches is akin to reclaiming territory for the glory of Christ. He must drive gospel stakes into the ground and declare to the community that “This is Christs!”