Friday, May 02, 2008

Why We Whisper - The Mounting Financial Cost of Sin

Why We Whisper:

Chuck Colson writes:

"For example, there is the cost in treating sexually transmitted diseases. Research shows that more than half of all Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease at some point. The cost: Some $17 billion in higher taxes and health insurance costs every year. And that does not include secondary costs, like treating cervical cancer, infertility, birth defects, and brain damage. And yet, our government does little or nothing to discourage premarital sex.

And then there are the huge costs of out-of-wedlock childbearing. Welfare costs alone to single-parent families amount to $148 billion per year. We pay indirectly, as well, through costs associated with child abuse—much more common in single-parent homes—and in higher crime rates."

This confirms the clear teaching of Romans 1 and 2 that where sin increases, God's wrath against that sin also increases... not only in the age to come, but in the age we live in.

I am not convinced that these kinds of stats will win any argument, but it reminds me that one tool in our evangelism is to point out what sin pays: slavery and death. Those two words are far more than metaphor.

Ordination Sermon - The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7 - Part Three

II. Rely on what the Spirit Gives -- The Spirit and His Gifts Bring

Power, Love and a Sound Mind

There is some discussion over whether or not the word “spirit” in this verse should be capitalized. Is Paul writing to Timothy that he has been given some inner spiritual condition (state of mind) that is marked by power, love and self-control? Or is he saying that Timothy has been given the Person of the Holy Spirit – and that Holy Spirit is marked by power, love and self-control?

I say our answer to this is of little consequence. Both answers lead to the same conclusion!

In my mind the matter is settled by that little word “us.” “God gave US.” Paul includes himself in this gifting and by deduction I would say he includes all of us who are elders.

More than that, if the Holy Spirit gives a Christian the gift of mercy... that gift of mercy will not have “fear” attached to it! Showing mercy can take enormous courage and love and self-control! So there is a sense where every gift the Sprit gives has these three attributes attached to it. So, I will suggest both: Timothy received the Holy Spirit of power, love and self-control. Timothy also received a gift from the Spirit and attached to it were power, love and self-control.

Let’s consider these three....

A. Ability – Power

In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that we Christians would have our eyes opened to the “immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe.” The longer we follow Jesus the more we understand the resurrection-like power that was required to bring us from unbelief to belief.

This same omnipotent ability to raise sinners from death to life is the same power with which Jesus rules over all creation now – for the good of His church. And since the Holy Spirit is equal in every way to the Father and the Son, it is the same power that marks Him and His gifts to Christians.

If we fear, it is not because we lack true power.

Now, there is such a silly thing as what is called, “power religion” where people get all in a lather to stun the world with great signs and wonders and their yabba dabba doo tricks. But that is not what we are all about. The Spirit is not out to WOW people into the Kingdom – He is much more powerful than that!

Think of how the Holy Spirit shows His power.

He brings life to the dead; He makes Christians: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” “... you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

He kills sin in Christians: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live...” “...walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

He assures Christians they are Christians: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...”

He improves the prayers of Christians: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

He give Christians gifts to serve other Christians: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit... To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

He teaches Christians the Truth: “12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Now, if you stop and think about it, you will see that everything God is calling you to do in pastoral ministry, Julian... every single task, is something that only God Himself through the agency of the Holy Spirit can do!

· Who can save a sinner and make him a Christian?

· Who can put sin to death in a Christian?

· Who can give assurance to a Christian?

· Who can give a supernatural gift to a Christian?

· Who can improve another Christian’s prayers?

· Who can teach the Truth to a Christian?

Well, you. But not you!

Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

1 Corinthians 15: 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

In fact, it was a conscious choice on Paul’s part to model for us the very thing we most need in Christian ministry. A life on fire – not with personal energy or programs or self-advancement – rather, a life set on fire by having been in the presence of God’s glory.

A man who has met with God is purposeful to expend himself, but in the unending strength of God. He is a man intent on making nothing of himself, and much of God... with all of his strength!

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

“With them in fear?” Paul the great apostle? Yes, there was fear, but it was not determinative... it was not controlling... it was not his guide in word or action. Rather than succumb to the fear of not wanting to look dumb to these sophisticated Corinthians, he chose to magnify Jesus. Was that a fearful thing to do? Yes, at one level. But here is the antidote to fear – doing what is right in the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever your particular fears and misgivings you may be certain of this: the Devil will do all he can to remind you of them, to pry them against you, and to trip you up through them so that you will seek...

· a comfortable ministry

· in a comfortable church

· on a comfortable chair

· behind a comfortable desk

· in comfortable loafers.... (well-named after their owner!)

Are you willing to face those fears? To cry out for grace and strength when they rage against your soul? To step forward when gravity itself seems to be pulling you back?

God has not given you a spirit of timidity – but of power.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Grand Theft Decency - Al Mohler Being Wise

Grand Theft Decency:

Commenting on the release of the new video game, Grand Theft Auto IV:

"In some sense, we are what we play. This is not to say that every young male playing 'Grand Theft Auto' is now or will become a violent sexual predator who steals cars. That is clearly not the case. But it is to say that these players are filling their minds with these images and narratives and they are feeling the competitive exhilaration of engaging in immoral acts as players in a game that engages multiple senses and sensations. This is dangerous stuff for the soul."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ordination Sermon - The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7 - Part Two

In Timothy’s case, it was a fear of man (the cowardice that flows out of shame/embarrassment) that fuelled the neglect of his spiritual gifting. He had an ample supply of fear-triggers.

1. Imminent persecution. Paul himself is writing from prison. Deserted, cold and suffering – and this after much public opposition to his work. The same fate always lurked about for Timothy.

2. Older saints opposed to his ministry. It is not always the case, but sometimes, some churches are full of old people who are too proud to listen to a younger man. Timothy was ever conscious of his young age and apparently there were some in Ephesus who were as well. Paul would write in 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

3. Sophisticated false teachers abounded. These wolves in sheepskins were deceptive, slick and always saying enough good to make you think their bad was not so bad. They were a formidable enemy.

4. It appears that Timothy was not altogether healthy and might have worried about his ailments. Or, he might have been so anxious over other matters that it affected his health. Paul would write to him: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Persecution, grumpy old men, false teachers, sickness – lots to be afraid of!

But to all these possible causes of fear and shame – we are given one answer. Julian – to all your triggers to fear and shame, whether the fear of hurting someone, the fear of looking badly, the fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time... to all these triggers you are offered one word. And I want to preach that word to you, my brother! And may God give you grace so that fuel for Gospel courage, that cure to shame and fear – the true cure – marks your entire life and ministry!

The Cure? “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I. Remember what the Spirit does not give -- (Fear

Was Not Attached to the Given Spirit or His Gifts

The Holy Spirit that God gave you – and the gifts with which He has blessed you – are not marked by fear.

That means that any fear in you is man-generated, sin-generated. It is a symbol of our fallenness, not our righteousness. It is evidence of your spirit, not the Holy Spirit.

Saul was a tall and handsome man. He stood head and shoulders over everyone and when the people of Israel saw their new King, they said: “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” But where was Saul before they brought him to the coronation ceremony? Hiding in the luggage. He was afraid.

You are a good looking chap, Julian. People see you as smart and friendly and full of good works. And all that pressure to perform, to not disappoint people, may tempt you to hide in the luggage. To duck back behind books or administration or fellow elders... but that is the fear of man – not a mark of God’s powerful Spirit!

It was not humility that kept Saul in the luggage – but disbelief that gave birth to her screaming child, Fear. Saul had already been assured by God that the Sovereign Lord would be with him. He had been anointed by God to this ministry. He had been given confirmations of this through circumstance and people. He was called to be King – not coward.

And you too have been called, not to a kingship, but the eldership. An office in God’s church that requires you to serve by leading. You will lead by example, yes, but you must also lead by word and action. The best Kings in Israel’s history led their troops to battle; they marched at the front of the lines. Like King Theoden in Lord of the Rings they rushed down to what appeared to be certain death. They took risk for God’s glory. Necessary risk – no one WANTED to fight those Orks, but someone HAD to!

There is no room for the faint-hearted in the leadership of a church. By taking on this ministry you are inviting, at some point, persecution and suffering. You are offering your life to the King as the one who will go into the battle when someone HAS to. You might as well decide now not to fear!

Jesus calmed a raging storm from a little fishing boat. After they woke him up from his nap, He asked His disciples (in the midst of the tumult!), “Why are you afraid?” and then with a word stopped the wind and waves. He did not console them, dry the rain and salt water off their faces... He asked them why they feared. They should not have been afraid since the Lord of Creation was in the boat with them! And the Lord of creation is “in the boat” with you, Julian, in all you do.

The more fear controls your ministry, the less the Holy Spirit is at work.

Although there are plenty of worldly reasons to run away in shame and tremble in the corner – there is never a spiritual reason. God Himself has removed all “triggers to fear” by removing the greatest risk known to man – death. By conquering death, he conquers fear. Perfect love casts out fear.

The presence of God’s Spirit and the gifts of His Spirit in us – are not gifts of fear.

In Paul’s words, God has not given us:

· The Holy Spirit of Timidity!

· The Coward Spirit.

· The Barney Fife Spirit – with shaking hands and wobbly knees.

· The Golly Spirit of Indecision and Second-guessing.

· The Buckle-Under and Roll-Over Spirit

God has not given to us the Spirit of Fear... “BUT” (that lovely little adversative....) BUT, He has given the opposite, something entirely better and different!

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

“The Spirit and the gifts are ours!” Ours through Christ our Lord. Now, tell us about the Spirit and the gifts... how do these impact our fearful tendencies? How do the Spirit and His gifts help us fight off the cowardice that tempts us when sickness, persecution, strife and false teachers attack?

Tax Day! "Give unto Caesar..." | Canadians rush to file taxes as deadline looms:

"TORONTO -- With Wednesday's midnight deadline bearing down, millions of procrastinators across Canada are scrambling to get their income taxes done and filed.

Some waited more than two hours at a downtown Toronto tax service company Tuesday to get their finances in order before 11:59 p.m. Wednesday -- a last-minute trend that comes as no surprise to those in the business."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ordination Sermon - The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7 - Part One

Spending the last several weeks meditating on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (and other passages) has greatly refreshed my own zeal for the ministry which God has set before me. One of my kids asked me on Sunday night how long it took to prepare the sermon I preached as we brought Julian into the eldership. My answer (I think I stole it from somewhere in essence) was 41 years and one week. This sermon in particular had a lifetime behind it - not that I am the pastoral prototype(!) - rather, it is a subject that I have thought about for years.
Anyway, we do not ordain men at GFC... and we have our reasons. But we do confirm their calling to the eldership and the deaconate. What follows are some notes from the first part of my sermon on 2 Timothy 1:6-7 as we set aside a service to confirm the call of God on Julian Freeman.

The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I. There are ways that this passage does not relate to us:

1. Timothy had a unique relationship to an Apostle. “I have no one like him,” “He is a son in the faith.” That is how Paul characterizes this man. Timothy had traveled with Paul, witnessed his persecutions firsthand and spent countless hours being mentored and trained by this apostle.

2. There was something unique in Timothy’s gifting because of this. Today, we lay hands on Julian: “we,” as in Murray and me. But we are not apostles nor do we transfer spiritual gifting via our hands. In fact, Mr. Spurgeon would suggest we are wasting our time! Speaking of this ceremony, he said, “Empty hands on a empty head make for an empty rite” – I think that is how he described this! But we have our reasons to press on.

II. There are more ways this passage does relate to us:

1. It is in the Bible – and all of the Scripture is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This is more than a distant story, some history to be read at arm’s length. It is the Word of God spoken to us to teach, etc.

2. This passage also describes something that is common to the Christian condition – namely, temptation to shame and fear in relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Although Timothy was uniquely gifted by the laying on of hands of an Apostle, he was gifted by the same Holy Spirit that gives gifts to every believer. In fact, the same Holy Spirit that is given to every believer in Jesus. And this Holy Spirit does not change personality or nature depending on whom He indwells! He is the same, yesterday, today and forever – He is the Spirit of love, power and self-control.

III. What’s more, there are several ways in which this Scripture relates to you, Julian, in particular:

1. You share with Timothy a similar family and spiritual heritage.

Like you, Timothy came from a Christian family. They were not always that way, since his grandmother Lois would have been alive long before Jesus was born. She must have been a faithful Jew, who, like her daughter Eunice, repented of sin and put her faith in Jesus when she first heard of him.

You have a similar heritage, Julian. Faithfully taught by your grandmother Marion, and your mother Lynn as a young boy, you were graced with a solid Christian upbringing.

Now, we all know this upbringing is not what saved you! I know that social structures, family background and genetics did not make you what you are... because I was there while you were growing up. I can testify to the entire world that you gave good evidence of being a slave to sin. That you were born with no special propensity or leaning toward Godliness. That you, like Adam, were under sin’s dominion. That you, like the rest of us, were as lost and dead in sin as any other.

Yet, God saw fit to use the means of grace to your conversion.

Parents, use those means! Read the Word. Pray. Evangelize your kids! Don’t fall prey to the temptation to think that conversion is unnecessary or a given – just because you believe in Jesus.

One day as a young High School student God saved Julian. The good seed sown in your life was met with the life-giving water and sunshine of the Holy Spirit and you became a Christian, not because of Mama and Nana, but because you saw your sin as a great offense to a Holy God and you turned in faith to His Son, Jesus.

Like Timothy, you have shown evidence of a sincere, a genuine faith. And it is to the praise of God that He would impart life to THREE generations – and we hope and pray to a fourth with your daughters and any other children.

But let me ask the rest of you: “Has God saved you?” Have you acted upon the facts of the Gospel: Jesus the Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. And that He now calls on all men everywhere to repent from sin and put their complete trust in Him alone for salvation. Have you turned to Christ? I am not looking for pastors here, I am looking for Christians! If you have not turned in faith to Jesus, do so today!

2. You share with Timothy similar gifts.

On the day God saved you, He gave you the Person of His Holy Spirit to dwell in you. He also gave you gifts to be used in His church for her good. Just as He does with every Christian.

Now, there was a council of elders that saw the gifting to pastoral ministry in Timothy. And these elders along with Paul laid hands on him and when they did, or prior to it, they were also given a word of prophecy concerning his life.

Today, the prophets are silent, but the Holy Spirit is not. By putting the desire into your heart to be an elder, and by confirming your giftedness through the Elders of your local church and the members of that local church – we are 100% certain that He has called you to this ministry. In the words of Paul to the Ephesian Christians – you are a gift to the church.

So, you are a gift. And you have been given a gift.

3. You are like Timothy in your need to exercise that gift!

Last year I made a great bonfire at the cottage. It began with soaring flames and intense heat. But that initial burst of energy rather quickly died down and would have slowly smoldered all day had I not tended my fire. I needed to poke at it to give it some air – add dry kindling when the damp wood took over – stir the embers to create more heat – and generally prod, poke and push to keep it burning hot and furiously.

Paul writes to Timothy that the gift he was given by God is much like my fire. It will not extinguish as long as Timothy lives (“the gifts of God are irrevocable!”)... but it can smolder away and become more smoke than flame – fogging up rather than giving light and heat.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”

Timothy’s gift, given as it was by Apostolic hand-laying, still needed to be fanned into flame. How much more your gifts, Julian. And ours!

Earlier, Paul wrote: 1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Fan it into flame... do not neglect it... these warnings mean we can do that very thing. An untended fire throws little light and little heat.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A New Elder at GFC and a Big Promise for Every Pastor to Keep

Yesterday we added another elder to Grace Fellowship Church. It was a remarkable day! We take eldership quite seriously, so this was the end of a long process of training and evaluation. Murray and I are thrilled to have Julian Freeman serving alongside us as a fellow pastor!

After the sermon, I asked Julian to stand and respond to the following statement. This statement is a result of surveying the New Testament and considering some of the unique requirements and qualifications given to an elder. Just assembling this was a humbling and yet, encouraging task.

The references are included:

Called to the Office of Elder – The Promise

Having repented of sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ;

Having been baptized by immersion in water and made member of this local church;

Having faithfully served for many years in many capacities;

Having prayed and studied and read and grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus;

And having aspired to the office of elder and having been approved and affirmed to that office after careful examination by all the elders and members of Grace Fellowship Church;

Will you now promise,

Hebrews 13:7

- to lead a life worthy of emulation

Hebrews 13:17

- to joyfully watch over the souls of this flock as one will give an accounting for each of them to God

James 3:1

- to always preach with the Day of God’s Strict Judgement for Teachers in mind

James 5:13

- to pray believingly for the sick

1 Peter 5:1

- to shepherd God’s flock allotted to you willingly, eagerly, seeking to model first what you ask of them

Acts 20: 17

- to serve the Lord with both joy and tears

- to resist every temptation to shrink back from declaring the whole Gospel (whether in the privacy of someone’s home or the public square)

- to preach repentance and faith in Christ alone

- to willingly accept suffering, should God call you there

- to value the calling and Gospel of Jesus Christ above your own life

- to guard the church as the blood-bought possession of Jesus Christ, and thus to care for her as His most valuable possession

- to stay alert at your post, even willing to rebuke fellow elders who preach or teach any doctrine not found in God’s Word

- to live as if, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

1 Corinthians 14:29

- to carefully weigh the words of the preached Word

2 Corinthians 11-12

- to willingly suffer for Jesus’ sake hardship, physical torture, betrayal, inconvenience, exposure, disappointment, persecution, sovereign weakenings, calamities, and daily pressures of concern for the church

1 Timothy 4:6

- to value the Word of God over an argument won

- to train yourself for godliness

- to labour and strive with persistence in the work of your ministry more than any before you, giving God all the glory for any success

- to address men’s lives as well as minds; calling others to follow your personal growth in godliness and sanctification

- to keep close watch on your life and your doctrine

1 Timothy 6

- to purse righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.

- to never quit, give up, swerve from or slack off in your effort to fulfil your ministry; not even when you are middle-aged, tired, and suffering

- to despise the allure of riches in this world and live for the eternal wealth of Christ’s presence in heaven

- to guard the sacred deposit entrusted to your care

Titus 2

- to teach the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that old men, old women, young men, young women, and children will understand how to adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ with good works

- to value Jesus above your wife, your children, your church, your ministry, your knowledge, your self, and anything else in this world

- to speak to God’s people with gentle authority

- to be zealous for good works

2 Timothy

- to not be ashamed of the Gospel or the Saviour, regardless of the audience

- to flee youthful sins and run toward being a man who handles the Word of Truth accurately

- to correct with gentleness, not quarrelsomeness

- to preach the Word of God; in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with complete patience and teaching

- to entrust your soul to the Faithful Creator no matter the blessing, the trial or persecution

If, in the sight of God and these witnesses you do now set your heart to make this pledge, promising that when you fail you will seek both forgiveness and restoration as soon as is possible, then I call upon you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom to answer, “I do.”

Julian, because we believe

- the Holy Spirit has gifted you to this ministry

- and made you a gift to this church

- and trust that we have not acted in haste, but in prayerful dependence on Christ

Therefore, it is our joy as the council of elders of this local church to lay hands on you and call upon God Himself to seal to you this ministry for your life and His glory.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Interview - Justin Reimer : The Elisha Foundation

Interview - Justin Reimer : - The Elisha Foundation

It was great to read this online interview by Tim Challies of my good friend Justin Reimer. I will be heading out to Oregon in May to teach at the next Elisha Foundation Retreat. You can get a good idea of what that is all about by reading this article.