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Pastoral Ministry Practice #1

In John 17:4 Jesus refers to the work He has already accomplished.

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

Suffering a sacrificial death and rising in power were not the only assignments given to Jesus.   In John 17:6-13 He lists out the work He accomplished before going to the cross.   These verses serve as an outline of the pastoral ministry of Jesus Christ.  These verses set before us the four essential practices of pastoral ministry.  What Jesus exampled in His ministry and reviews in prayer here before His Father are the essence of being a shepherd to the flock of God.  The first essential work of pastoral ministry is given in 17:6

I manifested Your name to the men You gave Me out of the world.

God’s name is not what He is called, but who He is.  His name is what characterizes Him – it is His nature, His heart.  God is holy.  God hates sin like you hate sickness – you hate what it does to you.  God hates what sin does to people.  When Jesus said that He manifested the Name of His Father to those given Him, He meant that He had brought it into light, caused it to shine, and to illuminate others.  He was saying,

Father, I showed them what You are like!

Jesus showed us the holiness and the love of God.  This is the high calling of ministry.  Your pastoral ministry is far more than explaining the Bible to people.  Your ministry is not only declaring the written Word of God, it is demonstrating the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  The latter is the far more demanding work.  Your week by week declaration of the written Word of God apart from an ongoing demonstration of the Living Word of God is a charade that others won’t put up with for very long.  Nothing hardens the heart of men toward God and the church than declaration divorced from demonstration.

Moses had a revelation of God’s name, whereas Jesus is the revelation, the manifestation of God’s name.  Moses spoke a word; Jesus is the Word.  When Jesus manifested the name of the Father He didn’t take the disciples aside and whisper in their ear a new name for God.  The manifestation Jesus speaks of isn’t information, but incarnation; it’s not what He said to them – it’s what He showed them.  Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father.  His heart’s desire was to see God.  Jesus told Philip that if he had seen Him, then he had seen the Father!  In the person of Jesus, the nature and character of God – His name – could be seen. This has huge implications for what it means to be in ministry.  Jesus said,

As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.

You have been sent to continue the pastoral mission and the ministry practices of Jesus.  How He related to people sets the pattern for how you are to relate to people.  Manifesting the name of God is the first thing mentioned by Jesus.  And if you don’t manifest the name of God, if you don’t incarnate the character of the Lord, your life and  ministry won’t pack much of a punch.  Ministry is life touching life.  But it is not ministry that bears life – it is life that bears life.  And a life bereft of the name of God is not life-giving.  Manifesting the name of the Father is strategic to any ministry seeking to make Christ known.  This is true ministry.  Your effectiveness and influence is made or broken here.

Jesus gave us a full revelation of God – not a theological explanation, but a living demonstration.  This is the need of people in every generation.  Thank God for theologians who can help us navigate through the rapids of theological explanation –  who can help us to clearly understand the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of God and what they mean for today.  And thank God for pastors and men and women of God in whom there is a depth of character – the name of God – being lived out day by day.

Can people see what God is like by being with you?  Do you manifest the holiness of God and the love of God?  Holiness is a separation from the pollution of the world and a separation to God – the opposite of which is carelessness.  Love is pursuit of the hurting people of the world – the opposite of which is callousness.  If you are careless of the call to purity and are callous toward the needs of people, you are falling short of how Jesus conducted Himself in the ministry given to Him.  Many who will not darken the doors of our churches today trace their offense to the carelessness and the callousness of the ministry.

It was said of Napoleon that his personal presence on the battlefield gave the tactical advantage of an additional 10,000 men.  His influence was so great, the confidence of his men was so swelled, that a victory seemed assured.  The influence of a pastor who lives out the name of God is of incalculable value that will only be determined by eternity.

draught

Drought

England is a very wet country. We get some rain almost every day. Those of you in the Pacific Northwest can identify with the climate here. The weather here is so variable, that it is the most common theme of conversation. In fact, I dare anyone in England to engage in a conversation with someone without the weather being mentioned!

All this weather talk gets me thinking. Recently, because of a draught here, the government called for a “hosepipe ban”. In other words, if you use your hose to water your garden or wash your car or whatever, you will be charged a fine of £1000! I found this intriguing especially as I am from California and it never rains there. I guess Californians have the luxury of stealing water from neighbors, but when you’re on an island, this becomes more difficult.

Strangely, we have had some extremely heavy rain storms come through causing flooding over the past several weeks. Wondering if I was able to wash my car, I checked to see if the ban was still on. YES! It is still on. Apparently we received too much rain! The water came down in such volume that it all turned into runoff and hardly any had sunk below the surface.

Enough about British weather… It is a wonder to me that people (including myself) who hear lots of Bible teaching can still have a drought in their soul. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not the volume of Bible that we hear, but rather the depth of penetration what we hear has. I can tend to think a person just needs to listen to more Bible studies, which may actually just turn into runoff. I can hear some people at this point say, “Wait, God’s word doesn’t return void, certainly more Bible is better.” Hear me out.

Jesus said we are to “take heed how you hear” (Mark 4:24-25 NKJV). Hearing the word doesn’t profit us if that word is not absorbed. At best, we get wet on the surface, but the soul is still parched. What our people may need is not necessarily more Bible studies, but rather focusing on the heart’s reception of God’s truth to which they are already exposed.

Recently we decided to use the same text from Sunday’s teaching in our home groups. Our desire is to see the same truth that was heard on Sunday absorbed with the help of community. My thinking is that if our people could learn one truth about God well from his word each week and truly absorb that truth, the drought of soul would be replaced by a well-watered garden. Their capacity for intake would increase. We can focus on how that truth teaches us, rebukes us, exhorts us, and helps us walk with Jesus (2Tim 3:16) both as individuals and in community.

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The Loss of Community

I began a new series of teachings on Mother’s Day at CCEsco called “Reconcile.” The series has grown out of a number of conversations, encounters and times alone in thought and prayer that have lead me to some great [new] realizations for myself and those that I have the privilege of leading at CCE. Primarily I’ve been impacted by the importance of this “ministry of reconciliation” that each of us as believers has been brought into by Christ.

This last week [especially] I’ve been meditating upon what humanity lost in the fall, and how those things are restored to us in salvation. Very little exegesis is needed to identify and account for what was lost in the fall. At the close of Genesis 2, man and his wife were naked and unashamed; 7 verses later everything had changed.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Genesis 3:7

With the fist sin shame entered in, and the glorious oneness experienced by the first humans was devastated. With sin came the loss of community and ever since man has been trying to restore that which was lost by his own sinful efforts. Those efforts took the shape of fig leaves in Genesis 3; today it’s all manner of sinful behavior which is practiced with the fleeting hope of satisfying the inner longing for that which was lost in the fall.

The second loss of the fall is illustrated by man’s response to God’s presence in the garden after he and Eve had sinned, and by God’s question to Adam in Genesis 3:8-9.

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

Genesis 3:8-9

Adam and Eve hid from God because of the shame of sin, and God identifies the separation between He and humanity in His inquiry, “Adam, where are you?” Sin caused separation between man and God, the loss of communion.

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:2

I highlight these losses—of community and communion—as I’ve come to realize that by their loss man is left yearning for them to be restored. Although man may not be able to adequately verbalize his want, it is I believe, the deepest desire of every human soul. We were created to live in genuine oneness with one another and fellowship with God. Of course, this that was lost at the fall is restored by the cross; and we, ministers of reconciliation/restoration, are given the privilege of reintroducing the lost to communion and community.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

 

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Unspiritual Christianity

Today is one of those articles that I am going to try and say something that I don’t really know how to say. I really have struggled over the years to articulate this reality and find myself struggling today again to find the words to express something of value.

My pondering began with a simple question, “How is it possible for Christianity to be perceived as unspiritual?” The gospel is simply the Lordship of Jesus. When a person believes in Jesus, they are indwelt by the Spirit of God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity.There is no Christianity without the Spirit. Yet, as I look around the body of Christ, there seems to be way more examples of unspiritual Christianity then there are spiritual ones. Now when I speak about the need for Christianity to be spiritual, I mean “of the Spirit” in the simplest of terms. Not even necessarily the expression of spiritual giftings. I am talking about the basics of love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness and self control (Galatians 5:23). I am talking about lives that are lived out in the simplest aspects of agape love and service. I am talking about the ‘shalom’ of God being at work and being outworked through the body of Christ. Concepts such as agape, simplicity, service, unity and peace-making are in my mind.

As I survey much of the Christianity around today, I don’t see much of this. So I started to wonder why. Why is so much of Christianity look so little like the life of Jesus? I see much personal politics, attack-dog disagreements, sin cloaked in religion, bickering, jockeying for position, niches and cliches. It is so common for people to rise up in churches if they are charismatic or sychopantic rather than having a Jesus-formed character.

So I am going to list a few reasons why this may be the case. Instead of commenting on each of them, I will simply list them and let you all have fun with them.

1) When information is king
2) When theology is not translated to the street level
3) Classic Self-salvation plans
4) Cultural Idolatry
5) A lack of any focus on spiritual formation (true biblical discipleship)
6) A western individualistic focus rather than community formation
7) Prayerlessness
8) The Curse of Affluence
9) The Influence of Business Practices upon Church Leadership
10) Tax-exempt status
11) Church as entertainment

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Comfortable Christianity?

If there’s one thing my own heart has convinced me of, and my interactions with other Christian’s has taught me time and time again, it is that many Christians in the west expect God to provide us with a comfortable Christianity.  We gauge whether or not God is calling us to serve Him by cost, comforts, and conveniences we may have to sacrifice. If we feel called to something that will cost more money than we’d like to spend, think we have, or can provide, we conclude the feeling must not be from God. If we sense the nudge of the Holy Spirit toward a project or person that would cause us discomfort (physically or emotionally), we back out. If serving some way is just inconvenient, either at church or elsewhere, many Christians conclude God must not be leading, or things would just go smoothly.

Comfortable Christianity Slogans

Here are some of my favorite statements I hear, and some I’ve said, which demonstrate our expectation of a comfortable Christianity:

 “If I’m stressed out, it means I’ve taken too much on and need to let something go.” (Comfort)

 “We want to come to church, but we live fifteen minutes across town.” (Convenience)

 “We want to tithe, but money’s a little tight right now.” (Cost)

 “We’d love to go to a small group, but I have to rush home, eat quickly, and get the family packed up in a hurry, and by that time we’re just stressed.  Going to Bible study as a family shouldn’t be stressful.” (Convenience/Comfort)

 “I meant to come to the once per quarter discipleship event at church, but Saturdays are when I sleep in.” (Convenience)

 “I know those people need help, but my kids can’t miss their nap.” (Convenience/Cost/Comfort)

 “We haven’t been at church in three months because it’s SUMMER!” (Convenience/Comfort)

God’s Not a Kill-joy

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying all of the above statements are sinful every time they’re made.  For instance, sometimes a kid just needs a nap. But too often, these kinds of things become excuses for not wanting to suffer in any way, to be part of the body of Christ, or serve people. The truth is, biblical Christianity includes the call to joyfully suffer. If our Christianity is the Christianity of the Christ, it will mean great cost at times, to us and our families. It will mean inconvenience, and it will mean discomfort. It will include things like only camping two weeks in the summer with your family instead of ten, specifically so you can serve your church and community on the other weekends. It may include kids going without naps, stressful drives to the prayer meeting, spending money you don’t have because God promised to provide, and sacrificing days off on the couch, for days off in the trench serving God.

Jesus and the Apostles

Consider a few verses, and ask yourself if they represent legitimate potential experiences in your life, based on how you live out your version of the Christian life:

Matthew 8:19-20: Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’” That’s right. Jesus was telling this dude that he may have to sleep on the street to follow Jesus faithfully. What if following Jesus meant that for you? Would you write off His call to sacrifice as the voice of the Devil? Some would conclude that  Satan was the one speaking if they were merely being asked to give up a spare room to a guest, let alone their entire house.

Matthew 16:24-25: Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” That’s a tough cost to ponder. As John Piper reminded a group of students in regard to this passage, “The cross isn’t some annoying person sitting next to you in history class. The cross is the place where you die with nails driven through your hands and feet, while the crows eat your eyes out.” Jesus’ point is that truly following Him will feel like that spiritually at times for us all. And for some, they will literally be called to die for the faith, as He did.

Acts 5:41- “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” This was the response of the apostles when they were persecuted for their faithfulness to Jesus and His gospel. Most of us would think God was punishing us if He allowed us to suffer for Christ.

1 John 3:16- By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” This one is brutally plain, but true, and needs no elaboration.

What about You?

So, does your version of Christianity demand comfort, or is it real and biblical Christianity? Christians worship the crucified Christ, a suffering Savior. If you follow Him, you should expect to meet His experiences. And yet, the mystery of Christ is that He can grant a greater joy in giving, and suffering, than we experience when we avoid such things at all costs. The paradoxical thing is that when we avoid cost, inconvenience, and discomfort, we actually avoid joy, blessing, spiritual maturation, usefulness, and sanctification, which, at some levels, the Holy Spirit only uses the tool of suffering to provide.

I leave you with two quotes to pray over today:

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”[1] The Apostle Paul

 “We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when His command, His call to absolute discipleship, is appreciated in its entirety. Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets His yoke rest upon him, finds His burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. ‘His commandments are not grievous’ (1 John 5:3). His commandments are not some sort of spiritual shock treatment. Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster it, strengthen and heal it.”[2]Dietrich Bonhoeffer


[1] 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 NKJV

[2] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Page 38.

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To What End?

Thought:

When I stand before the Lord, and present my life’s work to Him, I picture Him leaning toward me and asking (as my life’s “work” is being tried in the fire), “Tell me…what was the end you had in mind when you did this?”

Question:

“To what end am I walking in those good things He has prepared for me beforehand to walk in?”

I am either:

1) Strengthening the things that remain

or

2) I am shoring things up.

Jesus says to the church in Revelation 3:2 “Strengthen the things that remain.” And yet, the snare that is so easily sprung upon me is the one where I slip from “strengthening” to “shoring”.

When I am shoring things up, ministry is very subjective. It is mostly (if not all – trying to be kind here). It is primarily filtered through MY circumstances and MY situation; not through the vision that God has for me personally and those He has given me to equip for the work of the ministry…and that is a horrible and destructive place to be…to myself and those around me.

I begin TO say things from the position God has given me…but I DO NOT model them.

I expect things FROM people because they SHOULD be doing them…but I don’t expect anything FOR them.

yikes…my time is now spent shoring up the ministry so it doesn’t fall apart.

God began to ask me to do things that are “impossible” because I had forgotten that God does the impossible!  I had forgotten that God did the impossible in my life! He asked me to step out and trust him, despite all my fears, my questions and my apprehensions. He wants me to walk in simple obedience. All He wanted to know then, as He does now, is “Do you trust Me?”

And that is moving back into the rightful place of Strengthening the things that remain.

I should be doing what I am doing so that by my walking in simple obedience to do the one thing the Lord has asked me to do, it would provoke/stir up the Body to love and to good works. And that out of my passionate love towards God, that my obedience would display itself in a greater love for the Body in desiring to equip them, sharing with them the things I discover along the way, and would then overflow into other believers lives, and that would spill into increased areas of ‘ministry’ for the Body to walk in.

The ministry could be so much more effective, and far reaching if I would multiply myself by pouring myself out into others. They would be strengthened. The ministry would be strengthened. The kingdom will expand.

 

 

Article - Josiah

One Last Revival?

I’ve been thinking about and praying for a revival. For years. Specifically, and more so even lately, I’ve been praying and hoping for a Josiah revival.

What’s a Josiah revival? It’s a last ditch kind of revival … one more mighty move of God before judgment falls. And fall it most certainly will.

Consider the sin of Sodom. Usually, we equate the sin of Sodom with overt and aggressive homosexuality. Yet those were only the final symptoms of their sin. God Himself describes what they in Sodom had done:

“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. {50} And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

First, Sodom was proud. Pride is a reflection of self-sufficiency, that somehow we have accomplished or gained what we have on our own. President Abraham Lincoln ascribed this meaning of pride to the United States, mired at the time in a brutal Civil War which would ultimately take the lives of as many as 750,000 Americans. In his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, Lincoln wrote of the untold blessings that our nation had received. After citing what he called the choicest bounties of heaven, he mourned:

“…We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” 

That is precisely what Sodom had done. They were a successful city-state, rich with agricultural and commercial success, wealthy and prosperous. But they thought they’d done these things themselves. They were proud, fat, and with much discretionary time on their hands. Their work week was short, they were materially satisfied, and so they turned their attention to pleasure and the lusts of the flesh. And because the flesh can never be satisfied, they devolved further and further from Divinely ordained sexual relations between a husband and wife. They ended up with total sexual confusion and perverted expression of their sexuality.

We (in the United States) are much like Sodom. Our lust and will to live without truth and accountability to the God who made us has led us to unimaginable national sin.

At the top of the list of our national sins has been the holocaust of abortion. This holocaust has claimed the lives of at least 54,000,000 innocents since 1973. How large is this number? It represents 1,367 million babies per year that have died. That number is far greater than ALL casualties of war from every war in which the U.S. has been involved since 1775.

President Lincoln believed that the Civil War was God’s just judgment for the sin of slavery. A former professor of mine once queried our class, “If the blood atonement for the sin of slavery was the Civil War, what do you suppose will be the blood atonement for the sin of abortion?”

It is evident to many that judgment is on its way (remember the Billy Graham quote, “If God does not judge America, He owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah”?).

But … perhaps … there can be one last mighty move of God prior to that judgment falling. A Josiah revival.

Josiah was the grandson of Manasseh, and the son of Amon. Manasseh reigned in Judah for fifty-five years, and Amon for two. The spiritual wickedness that accumulated in those years is unimaginable. Even though Manasseh repented and was forgiven, the damage had already been done. The LORD spoke through Jeremiah to say that judgment was inevitable, and that it would be horrible.

Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. {2} And it shall be, if they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you shall tell them, Thus says the LORD: “Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.”’ {3} And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction,” says the LORD: “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. {4} I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.”

After Manasseh and Amon, Josiah became king when only 8 years old. Somehow, by the sovereign grace of God, he was cut out of a completely different bolt of cloth. At age 16 he began to seek the God of his father David, and at age 20 he began to aggressively purge idolatry from Judah and Jerusalem. And at 26 he was exposed to the Word of God through Hilkiah the priest and Shaphan the scribe.

What happened then was amazing and incredible. Covenants were made, purging and repentance continued, Passover was observed, the Word of God spread. All told, Judah experienced the effect of Josiah’s reign from the time he was twenty to the time he died at thirty-nine.  The land which had been so full of sins and idolatry of every kind was now a nation under God. Such a drastic change could only be produced by God Himself, using His Word and anointed leadership.

After Josiah died, they lived once again with no fear of the LORD. It was only a matter of time before the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity.

A Josiah revival.

One last time when someone … when many some ones … begin to seek God with all their hearts.

One last time when idolatry and sin is purged.

One last time when the Word of God is discovered, preached, taught, believed, and obeyed.

One last time before the inevitable judgment of God falls upon America.

Can we pray for revival? Should we hope for revival? Is it possible that one last Josiah revival will come?

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Circumcision Saturday – What are your thoughts?

I received this question after teaching of about the Sign of the Covenant. An interesting way to look at it.

What do you think?

Please tell me is you think i’m pressing the bible text with these thoughts. I think the Holy Spirit was impressing upon me that 1) Abraham was, in circumcision, making himself a living sacrifice in that in response to God’s directive he and his chosen people were offering themselves to the covenant promise wholeheartedly. They were self-purifying before there was a sacrificial system, but using their personal body as a foreshadowing of what Jesus would later do. Abraham was preparing himself to beget God’s chosen seed in Isaac. And he and his household were in faith and deed commiting an act in belief that set them apart as God’s chosen. I realize that Jesus was the first and only man to offer His body to God to show personal dedication to the will of God, and the initiation of the New Covanant started as a response to that (Heb. 5,10,16-20, esp. 20). Do you think circumcision could be an OT foreshadowing of Jesus offering His body to establish God’s chosen people?

God’s Kingdom and the U.S.A–separating the transparencies

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that culturally and politically, the U.S.A. is in the midst of radical change.  And as with all change, a segment of people rejoice at what’s “finally” happening while others are absolutely disgusted with the way things are “these days”.

And although there is a huge division among those who are viewing the changes, there is unity regarding the fact that fundamental change IS taking place.

Below is an illustration that I believe is one of way of describing what’s happening.  In my next post, I’ll share what I believe is the proper way for followers of Jesus to view these changes and how best to respond.

Not too long ago, businesses, churches, and many other types of organizations used what seems like an ancient form of visual media to communicate in a group setting.  That visual media tool was called an overhead projector.  It was a revolutionary invention which is actually still in use in many parts of the world.

The actual information that this wonder of modern technology projected on to a screen or a blank wall had to be placed on a transparent sheet of glass or a sheet of plastic-type material.  (When I first began attending an evangelical church back in 1981, the words to the worship songs were either typed or hand-written on these sheets of plastic that many of us referred as “overheads” or “transparencies”).

One of the coolest aspects of the era of transparencies was that you could  have information on one transparency, lay it on the projector and project it up on the screen, and then lay another transparency with more or different information on top of it so that it looked like there was just one transparency that was being shown on the screen.  In other words, two separate transparencies with different information on each could be layered together in such a way that the audience would conclude that what were they were viewing actually came from one source.

Now…please keep the layering capability of transparencies in your mind and the reality that transparencies can present what are separate sets of facts in a way that gives the appearance of absolute unity.

Shifting gears, I’d like you to also begin thinking about the documents that form the foundation of the United States of America.  Specifically, think about the Declaration of Independence and the constitution, especially the first 10 amendments that we refer to as the Bill of Rights.

We know for a fact that many of the founding fathers were real followers of Jesus and absolutely believed that the bible was God’s word and that it contained truths and principles that if relied upon and put into practice, would benefit all of mankind.  We also know that although some of the founders were not followers of Jesus and therefore wouldn’t agree that the bible was fully inspired, they did recognize that the “worldview” derived from the bible and the truths and principles contained within the bible  were probably the best foundation for a truly representative type government to be formed upon.

Now imagine that overhead projectors and transparencies existed when the founding fathers were wrestling with constructing the framework that our government was built upon.

On one transparency, they might have listed the truths and principles that govern the Kingdom of God that are contained in the bible.  This list would have contained certain words and phrases that were taken directly from the scripture, maybe even including the specific biblical references they were drawn from.

When the list was finished it would have been clear to everyone present that what was described on the transparency was actually an attempt at giving expression to the Kingdom of God as depicted in the bible.  But, they also would have recognized that only those who truly know, love, and serve the King of Kings, whose Kingdom is not of this world, would truly desire and attempt to live as described.

Since that would have been the case, then clearly, what that transparency describes would not be respected or followed by those who haven’t already surrendered to the King of Kings.  At the same time, they also would have recognized that many of the principles and truths were capable of standing alone.  In other words, they would have understood that these principles and truths are also a description of what basic goodness is and therefore are universally true. In a sense, they are “generic” principles and truths that anyone from almost any back round could easily embrace.

At that point, they may have grabbed another transparency and then created a new list of selected portions from the first transparency.   But on this one, none of the principles or truths summarized were written in a way that clearly shows their origin is actually found in the bible.

This second transparency was then fine-tuned, agreed upon by all, and the foundational document the country was built upon was projected for all to see, marvel at, and implement.

But here’s what happened:

1.  Those that love the King of Kings and live in His Kingdom recognize that the the principles and truths written on the transparency that the U.S. government is built upon have a biblical foundation even though the documents themselves don’t indicate that.

2.  So these people pick up the first transparency, the one that contains principles and truths from the Kingdom of God, the one that wasn’t really useable to base an earthly government on, and they lay this transparency on the one that the founding fathers created for the formation of this government.

3.  Because the information in both is so similar, so seemingly compatible, so apparently non-contradictory, they began believing, thinking, and acting as if what is written on the two transparencies actually describes the same entity.  In other words, in their minds, based on what they see projected on the wall, the Kingdom of God and the United States of America….are one and the same!!!

4.  And eventually they come to believe and act as if the Kingdom of God is somehow dependent upon or helplessly influenced by the things that are taking place within the U.S.A.  That because the two are one and the same, if the U.S.A. collapses culturally or economically, the Kingdom of God will struggle and potentially even cease to exist if the U.S.A. ultimately ceases to exist.

Keeping the layered transparency illustration in mind, it is my conviction that God is permitting things to unfold in such a way as to make clear to His people and to everyone else, that His Kingdom and the U.S.A. are not the same thing.

And that He has decided that His people that live in this country have lived long enough under a deception that has actually crippled them and left them incapable of caring about and actively participating in what He is really doing in this world.

Since so many of His people seem incapable or unwilling to distinguish between the two transparencies that they have chosen to project and view as one, He has chosen to begin the incredibly painful but completely necessary process of forcing the transparencies to be separated.

I’m convinced that this separation of the transparencies is going to continue at an even faster pace….for everyone’s good and God’s glory.

 

Good Shepherd

The Four Essential Practices of Pastoral Ministry

Without controversy, the greatest work accomplished by Jesus Christ was His death and resurrection.  Yet these two events don’t exhaust the full scope of the assignment given to Him by His Father.  They are the pinnacle of His life, but there’s a lot of mountain underneath.  Though the essence of His mission was redemptive, we can see in the practice of His ministry His shepherd’s heart, His pastoral concern for the people He came to save.  He is not only the Redeemer of His people, He is our Shepherd, too.  His death was redemptive and His life was pastoral.

Though the focus of the gospels is clearly on the last week of Jesus’ life – His death and resurrection – there is much material devoted to His pastoral ministry among the people.  The death and resurrection of Jesus are the main themes of the gospels, but not the only themes.  Without His pastoral ministry among the people, the hostility of the Jewish leadership would be without context.  The gentleness of Jesus and His care as He moved among the people were in stark contrast to the indifference of the career minded, ego-driven religious leaders.  His pastoral ministry emphasized the twin virtues of servanthood and humility, virtues sorely lacking among the clergy of His day.

In John 17:4 Jesus refers to the work He has already accomplished.

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work  which You have given Me to do.

Some might argue that Jesus is using the proleptic here, that He is referring to a future event as already accomplished – that He is summing up the whole of His life in one grand statement – that He is referring to His death and resurrection as past events, though future.  If suffering a sacrificial death and experiencing a resurrection in power were the only assignments given to Jesus, that might be an attractive interpretation.   But the work God had given Him to do, though culminating in the cross and empty tomb, were not exhausted by them.  In referring to the accomplished work in John 17:4, Jesus is looking back on the work He completed as a Shepherd among the people.

We are not left in the dark about the work that Jesus accomplished.  In John 17:6-13, Jesus reviews the work He completed whereby He glorified God.  They outline the pastoral ministry of Jesus Christ.  These verses set before us the four essential practices of ministry.  What Jesus exampled in His ministry and reviews in prayer here before His Father are the essence of being a shepherd to the flock of God.  Whatever our ministry training and ongoing theological education is, let’s master these four essential practices of pastoral ministry first.  The mature pastor and effective spiritual leader will be one who follows the pastoral example of Jesus and mimics the rhythm and patterns of His life.

Many who are reading this will, no doubt, find that they are already practicing the four essentials.  These practices of pastoral ministry do not exhaust the full scope of pastoral care, but, eliminate any one of them, and you will cripple the shepherd and impoverish the sheep.  OK – what are the four essential practices of pastoral ministry?

#1                 Manifesting the name of God –

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.   John 17:6

#2                 Giving the Word –

I gave them Your word…   John 17:8

#3                 Praying for the people –

I ask on their behalf…   John 17:9     

#4                 Guarding the flock –

I was keeping them in Your name…I guarded them…  John 17:12

#1 has to do with the messenger whereas #2 has to do with the message.  If the messenger is rejected, the message will probably be rejected, too.  If we don’t manifest the character of God we become ineffective in speaking the word of God.  There is more to preaching than insight and delivery.  #3 is largely private whereas #4 is very personal as we get one-on-one with people and rebuke and challenge and encourage and weep with them.

In my next four blog pieces I will enlarge on each essential pastoral practice.