25 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 5

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson opened the Synod today with preaching from I Timothy 1:1-3. He gave five ways in which this text relates to Gospel ministry (both elders and pastors).

What can we learn?

1. Have a heart for ministry.
2. Have unashamed fidelity to Jesus Christ.
3. Have a love for orthodoxy.
4. Have faith without hypocrisy.
5. Have Gospel grace, peace, and mercy.

24 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 4

Dr. Spear opened with devotions this morning. He brought us four texts to consider as texts that have been used of God in his ministry.

Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring.

Every day is a gift from God and we need to keep this in view as we think about what the Lord Jesus Christ has called each of us to do.

2 Timothy 2:2 What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul shows us the great responsibility of passing down faithfulness to other men. Dr. Spear said, "I did not seek to be an innovator at the seminary, but to be faithful in giving what has been entrusted to me."

2 Timothy 2:24-25 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.

A servant of Christ is called to minister in a very specific way. We see the way in which he is to minister. How? With out quarreling. This word has to do with a sword. We are not to be people who just seek to win arguments. He is to be gentle. This is just a reflection of Jesus who is gentle to us. He tells us that he is gentle. Jesus will not quench and break. As pastors and elders we are not to as well- we are called to gentleness. He is called to correct as well. This is a broad word that includes nurture, training, instruction. It is what we do with children. Our children are not prepared to be mature at age three. It takes a lot of work. Pastors and elders must also be willing to work as a parent.

Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

We are called to finish our race with joy and this takes agonizing work. That's the Greek word. We are called to run the race and finish well. And the way in which we do this is to realize that Christ is the one who has set the race and that he is the one who has already run the race!

"At the heart of the Gospel we seek to know Christ and to teach others to know Christ. This is the Christ of the Scripture; not the Christ of tradition; nor the Christ of the philosophers; nor the Christ of the latest fad; but the Christ of the Bible."

We closed with singing Psalm 71: 16-24 (selection C).

23 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 3

"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

This morning Dr. Jerry O'Neill preached on Philippians 1:8-11. He spoke about how biblical knowledge needs to be along with biblical discernment. He said that the fruit of righteousness is that which comes through Jesus Christ only.

He also gave a couple of very quotable remarks:

"Many of us would identify ourselves as Calvinists. But did you know that when John Calvin died, he left a portion of his meager estate to an orphanage ... are you laboring to be a light on a hill? Salty salt? Are you laboring to make a difference? Let us pray for an abounding love bearing fruit in a life of righteousness."

"I wonder if we love Christ as much as our forefathers did. Our fathers were salt and light in a way that I am not seeing today. Are we preaching and teaching and striving to be that salt and light? Is God using us, and is that our goal? Let us be salt and light in a profound way in our day in our neighborhoods, our churches, our counties, and perhaps our state, nation, and world."

22 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 2

Dr. Bruce Stewart opened the meeting of Synod with a sermon from 2 Timothy 2. He asked the presbyters to ask ourselves what our motivation for ministry is. He focused on "doing our best to be approved workmen in Christ's kingdom."

The challenge before us was to ask ourselves these three questions:
1. Is the Lord well pleased?
2. Is the work well done?
3. Is the Word well used?

This was great encouragement as we begin to do Christ's work this week.

15 June, 2010

Why We Should Read Outside of Our Comfort Zones

If I told you that John Updike as well as Lauren Winner have helped shaped my view of God would you call me a liberal?

If I told you that the phrase "Aslan is on the move" gives me chills when I read it, and also strengthens my postmillennialism, would you say that I am being un-Reformed?

I am afraid to admit that sometimes as Reformed believers we read too narrowly. We have our own Oprah's Book Club- but we only read that which has been released by Banner of Truth, Mentor, and Reformation Heritage. We look for the Keller, Beeke, or Ferguson blurb in place of Oprah's seal. Friends, we must read more deeply. We must read more broadly. We must read both to grow and to understand those outside of our own little camps.

John Piper, reflecting on what he has learned from reading everything save one book that CS Lewis wrote, said that Lewis has taught him to, "Think hard and write poetry. Argue for the resurrection and compose hymns to Christ. Smash an argument and then hug a friend. Demand a definition and use a metaphor."

Brothers and sisters, read far and wide. Read with discernment. Read with the humility to learn from those who may not be comfortable worshiping in your congregation.

14 June, 2010

This is Dedicated to the One I Love

Hebrews chapter one tells us that in these last days that God speaks to us by his Son. The primary way in which God speaks to us is through the Word of God (compare John 1 with Hebrews 1). If we are Christians who are dedicated to God and the things of God in Christ, then we need to be people that are in communication with God.

This can only be done through having a spiritual life that is filled with God's Word. We are not able to say that we love God and that we love Christ if we are not in communication with Him. How many people who are married and do not speak to their spouse? You would not call this a healthy relationship. In the same way if one professes to be a Christian and he is not reading the Word of God and in communication with God through that Word- how healthy is that relationship? Are we able to say that there even is a relationship?

God the Father has purchased a relationship with the Church. That was purchased with the blood of his own Son. The Book is signed in blood and dedicated to the one he loves. How do you respond to this invitation to be in a relationship with God? Do you read what he has written to you?

10 June, 2010

You Talkin' To Me?

Preaching is not merely an academic exercise. Of course, preaching needs to be academic- but preaching also needs to stimulate the heart as well as the mind. The purpose of preaching is both an increase of the knowledge of the Word, as well as a greater love for THE Word. As preachers apply the Word and minister to the heart- the people of God should grow, not only in their understanding of the Scriptures, but in love for the Christ of the Scriptures.

Anthony Selvaggio wrote a great article today that points to the heart of the problem: are preachers preaching to people? Check out the article here.

Is Your Pastor In a Pressure Cooker?

The pastoral life is one where you are never off duty. Often families feel the pressure of the 24/7/365 life, as well as the weightiness of the vocation of their father and husband. It is essential that pastors learn to rest. One of our great duties as preachers of the Word is proclaiming the spiritual rest from our works that we may have in Jesus Christ through faith in his atoning sacrifice. Do we work as one's who are in that rest?

Here are statistics that may help you to better pray for your pastor. They come from a 2009 Fuller Report on Pastoral Ministry:
  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 50% have considered leaving the ministry in the last months.
  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
For the record, I serve a very wonderful congregation, but we must be on guard against these pressures and pitfalls. Pray for your pastor.

09 June, 2010

Hidden Promise Revealed

A murderous grand mother
should be showing love
A loving nurse maid hidden with a child of promise
A promise appears to be broken
Where is the line of David?

Six Years Pass, the faithful know God's Word
A child-king arises
God's Word to David fulfilled
Pointing ahead to a child-king
who will lead the world to eternity

07 June, 2010

Here I Am Lord, Send Me! Please! Pick Me! Lord... Right Here!

Often when young men are converted they see the ministry as a viable option for their lives. This is good, of course, but it does not mean that each should pursue the ministry. God calls men to work in all fields of life. And he calls men who are theological, dedicated, and committed to him to serve in all areas of life. God does not call all men to serve in pastoral ministry, but he does call some.

At the root of why many new converts see the ministry as their only option for life can be many things:

  • It could be that out of love for Christ the young man wants to serve him full time.
  • It could be that he sees no earthly skill or trade as being something that would bring lasting happiness.
  • Maybe it is because they have a "Romish" view of vocation and believe that ministry will bring them closer to God.
  • It could also be that people keep telling him, "You should be a pastor".
There are many reasons why one would want to enter into pastoral ministry. No matter what your reason is, I would suggest that you spend time reading through this post before you spend your money (or your parents money) on seminary education: