Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Year: 2011 (page 1 of 3)

The Great Omission

Let the Nations Be Glad!This last month has been incredibly busy, filled with many exciting ministry developments throughout Global Training Network. Because of that, it’s been awhile since I have shared an update on my blog. 

I did want to give you a brief update from the Desiring God National Pastors Conference in Minneapolis, MN that took place this past weekend (Sept. 23-25). GTN was invited to host a booth at this year’s conference for the first time.

Once again, God’s timing is perfect – the theme of this years’ conference was “Finish the Mission,” and we had the opportunity to share GTN’s vision with hundreds of the almost 3,000 pastors and leaders who attended the conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

GTN Booth at DGNCEveryone was challenged to “see the nations” (ethne – or ‘people groups’) as God sees them – in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and of our call to make sure that this message gets out to all who have not heard.

One of the threads that ran through the entire conference was the clear and compelling need to provide quality biblical training to indigenous pastors and leaders throughout the developing world.

Speakers such as Louie Giglio, David Platt, Ed Stetzer, David Sills and John Piper all emphasized God’s heart for the nations.

David SillsAnother exciting part of the conference was the session taught by Dr. David Sills, (pictured to the right with me at the Desiring God conference) Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Throughout Dr. Sills’ session he made the compelling case for teaching and training pastors and leaders in the neediest parts of the world. He said the “Great Omission” of the Great Commission is teachingthem to obey everything I have commanded you.”

He went on to say that if we want “long term results that last for generations, then we must take seriously the task of providing solid biblical and theological training to the pastors and leaders.”

Dr. Sills also pointed out that in our “need for speed” to evangelize the whole nation and see them reached, we have neglected the hard, but necessary work of teaching and training the indigenous pastors around the world.

The fact remains: a church will typically not be any more mature or healthy than its pastor. If we want healthy, vibrant, God-glorifying churches, then we must first begin with developing “healthy, vibrant, God-glorifying” pastors!

I went out of his session and said to several who came by GTN’s booth, “Dr. Sills just made the most compelling case for why the ministry of GTN is so vitally important!”

Reaching and TeachingDr. Sills recently authored a book entitled, “Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience”– published by Moody Press (an excellent book by the way…I highly recommend it!).

Dr. David J. Hesselgrave, who is Professor Emeritus of Mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, wrote the following as part of his endorsement of “Reaching and Teaching:”

“North American missions had no more than gotten off the ground when missiologist Rufus Anderson visited the fields and made an all-important observation. He concluded that, if missionaries were suddenly to be withdrawn, schools, clinics and similar institutions would most likely continue on. The institution that would suffer most would be the church! Why? For lack of adequate leadership.

Both missions and missiology have undergone a sea change since then. But one characteristic persists to this present hour: imbalance! Some missionaries engage in ‘hit and run’ evangelism. Others are intent on eliminating poverty and transforming society. But – and much else- at the expense of raising up responsible, New Testament churches.”

Christopher J. H. Wright, who is the International Director of Langham Partnership International (John Stott Ministries, USA) and author of “The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative,” writes the following in the forward of “Reaching and Teaching:”

“Is there mission beyond evangelism (i.e. teaching and training)? Jesus certainly said so. Great Commission Line 3: ‘Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ That’s how disciples are formed. And disciples (not converts) are what He told us to make. The apostle Paul certainly thought so. His first priority was to preach the gospel and plant churches. But then he worked tirelessly to make sure they grew in depth and maturity. He re-visited them. He wrote letters to them. He answered their questions and challenged their mistakes. He agonized in prayer over them.”

What David Sills, David Hesselgrave and Christopher Wright are saying is right at the heart of why Global Training Network exists!

Ed StetzerEd Stetzer, (pictured to the right with me at the Desiring God conference) President of LifeWay Research and a well-known author, gave this endorsement of Reaching and Teaching:Reaching every people group with the Gospel is the task of the church. In Reaching and Teaching, Sills provides helpful guidance about the pace of the discipleship and training process of indigenous church leaders. With passion, he calls on missionaries, agencies, and the church to make theological training a cornerstone in the work of reaching the nations for Christ.”

It was incredibly encouraging to hear this message being shared over the weekend, and to see an emphasis on the need for pastoral and leadership training worldwide!

The Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy the following words:

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Every pastor that we train around the world is challenged to find a “Timothy” to pass on what they have learned and continue the multiplication process.

This is what our 45+ staff members do in over 44 countries around the world. Our staff brings biblical and theological training to the neediest pastors in the poorest countries throughout the developing world! These pastors have virtually no access to any type of biblical or theological training (including over the internet because the majority don’t have access-much less their own computer-and if they can access it, the speed is pitifully slow).

As the late Ralph Winter said years ago, “There are 2 million functional pastors who…do not have a scrap of formal, theological education – and never will – the way things are going. Access is the problem.”

GTN is actively involved in helping to solve this problem. We believe that one of the most effective ways to see a nation reached and discipled for Christ is to train the “nationals” (the indigenous pastors and leaders) who can then take that training and pass it on to the people within their congregation(s).

This is the day we all look forward to…

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)

 

The Day I Almost Quit

It was the Spring of 1993. The church that God had led my wife, Lisa, and I to plant back in the Fall of 1990, was two and a half years old. Lisa and I were up in the mountains of northern Arizona for a few days of much needed R & R.

 

Where it all started

Before I finish this story, allow me to first take you back to the beginning of our church plant.

I remember talking with Lisa late one evening (in May 1990) about possible names for this “new” church that God had called us to plant. We decided on “New Life Community Church.” The reason we decided on that name was primarily because we had always been heavily involved with Campus Crusade for Christ International and they had a movement that was referred to as New Life 2000. It was a vision to take the gospel to all peoples by the year 2000. We liked the name and we liked the vision. Thus, New Life Community Church was born.

The first year was amazing! It seemed like everyone was inviting new people, volunteers were coming forward left and right, growth was happening, giving was generous and there were very few complaints. I remember thinking during that first year (especially the first six months), “Wow! If this is what church planting and pastoring is like, then I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven!”

This was the dream that God placed in my heart as a teenager – to plant a church in the suburbs of metropolitan Phoenix, where (at the time) there were hardly any churches.

The honeymoon is over

Well, it didn’t take long for the “honeymoon” to fade and reality to come crashing down.

Over the next 12-18 months that followed our “first year honeymoon,” it seemed like everyone began to complain about something. By this time, half of our original launch team had moved on to other churches. Now, all the “Church Planting Experts” had told us …

“Expect that within the first year of a church plant, 50% of the people you started with, will no longer be with you. They will move on to other churches. These people will come with their own (conscious or unconscious) agendas, as well as certain “expectations” and when their agendas and expectations are not met, they will move on. Don’t worry, it’s normal and part of almost all church planting endeavors.”

When I first heard that statistic, I remember thinking, “Thanks for the advice. But you just don’t know the people that form our core team. We know them and they know us. It will be different for us.” (Note… Important Lesson: Listen to those that have been down the road and have studied these things thoroughly…it will save you a great deal of unnecessary headaches and heartaches.)

During our second year and the beginning of our third year, there were various factions vying for “their” particular ministry emphasis to be implemented as part of this fledgling new church plant. On one such occasion, after I had “had enough” with these two feuding groups, I decided to “step in” and try and make peace.

I was in for a surprise . . . In my desire to help each side “calm down” and quit vilifying each other, I suddenly became the target of both groups! The culmination came after a phone call by one proponent who proceeded to verbally shred me and then slammed the phone down, telling me that he “never wanted to talk to me again.” From that day on, they left the church, never to return. (Side Note: Because of these events, I began a nine-month intensive sermon series on what it means to truly “love one another” in the Fall of 1993).

During this time, we also had to deal with the sad and messy fallout of a staff member whom we had to ask to resign. In addition, we were meeting in a tiny storefront space that we rented and were outgrowing. We needed to think about either buying land or building a new building (and therefore raise $10 million for “bricks and mortar” – which didn’t excite me and only made my heart heavier).

On top of these challenges, I was wearing too many “hats.” I had become weary. The church had now plateaued. The “buzz” of excitement and the adrenaline of that first year had worn off and was now long gone. The future looked bleak (at that moment anyway).

Back to the mountains in northern Arizona

Return with me again to the scene of Lisa and I in the mountains of northern Arizona that Spring of 1993. I turned to her with a heavy heart and said, “Lisa, I think the ride is over. I can’t do this anymore. I feel like the dream has died. I feel like I’ve taken this church as far as I can. I really thought I had ‘thick skin’ – I guess I don’t. Maybe it’s time to turn over the reigns to someone else and we’ll move on to what God may have for us next. Maybe I should drop out of ministry and go into business.”

I was so discouraged. I had never been hurt as deeply as I had during those first years of the church. Even though I spent most of my 20’s as a full time Youth Pastor at a large church – filling the pulpit periodically and doing all of the other typical “pastoral” duties, I had never experienced the level of personal pain, rejection and discouragement that were now part of my daily life.

Thankfully, my amazing wife was as supportive, encouraging and kind as you could imagine.

My Journal entries and God’s Word

Right after this conversation, I was reading through some old quotes that I had recorded in my Journal months before, and came across the following …

“Your greatest and most effective ministry doesn’t begin until you have been in one place for at least seven years. Too many pastors quit too soon.” (Howard Hendricks)

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” (A. W. Tozer)

God immediately brought to my mind several Scripture verses that I had committed to memory years earlier (Side Note: another great reason to memorize Scripture – God’s Spirit is able to bring His Word directly to mind in your hour of need). These verses were…

1 Corinthians 15:58“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (NASB)

Galatians 6:9-10…  Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (NASB)

Acts 20:24“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify solemnly of the grace of God.” (NASB)

2 Corinthians 12:9“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NASB)

The next day, I recommitted my life to the calling and the vision that God had placed in my heart years ago to plant this new church. I told Lisa, “No matter how hard this gets and no matter what I have to deal with, I will not quit until God makes it very clear that it is time to move on.”

God’s amazing provision

By God’s providential grace, less than six months after this weekend, He dropped in our little church’s lap an almost brand new shopping center, located right in the middle of the area where we felt called to plant our church!

The property was valued at $2.7 million and we were able to purchase it for $650,000. On top of this, the shopping center had several tenants (an insurance agent, a few doctors, a hair salon and a deli) that provided monthly income greater than our mortgage payment. We went from renting around 3,500 square feet and paying $4,000 a month, to owning a property with a building of 30,000 square feet and no monthly payment; and to top it all off, now had a positive cash flow of several thousand dollars a month!

Exactly one year (in February 1994) after that weekend away, where I almost wrote my letter of resignation, we as a church family moved into our newly built-out facility and celebrated all that God had done. It was a story that became another “rock memorial” for Lisa and I, demonstrating God’s faithfulness through all of the ups and downs of life and ministry.

And just as Howard Hendricks had said, I found that my greatest, most effective years of ministry began after I had been there for seven years. It was during our eighth year as a congregation that we adopted an unreached people group in the northeast regions of India and saw over 15,000 come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ!

The key lesson learned

I share all of this to simply make the following point (which is Lesson #8 in my series on “What I Wish (as a pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago”):

Lesson #8: Determination (i.e. perseverance, resilience) is absolutely essential if you are planting a church (as well as pastoring an existing church).

I was reminded again of the importance of “resilience” when reading a recent “Church Planter Assessment” of a pastor friend. The assessment lists 13 qualities that are important for a church planter to possess (to one degree or another) if they are to be effective. Quality number 12 is stated this way:

Resilience: In other words, this person stays the course in the face of major setbacks, disappointments and opposition. They tend to remain optimistic in the face of setbacks when convinced they are in God’s will. They stay with projects through down times and see them through to completion. They possess the quality of perseverance. They tend to be persistent, even tenacious in accomplishing goals. They bounce back quickly from loss or discouragement. Their emotional down time is adequate, but not lengthy. They show evidence of emotional stability through the joys and disappointments of life. When they experience unjust situations, they do so without lashing out or hanging onto lingering bitterness.”

When I went through my personal “Church Planter Assessment” back in the Spring of 1990 with Dr. Charles Ridley, I can honestly say that I knew “resilience” would be important and needed in planting a church, but I never realized back then how absolutely essential it is.

I would encourage you to do a study sometime on the word “persevere” and “perseverance.” Scripture is loaded with passages that talk about the importance of not giving up (Galatians 6:9).

Just as Jesus “set his face like a flint” (Luke 9:51) on his way to Jerusalem, we need to have that same “resolve” to stay at the task and finish that which He has called us to do.

As someone once said, “The darkest part of the morning is right before dawn.”

In my personal experience, it seems that God always puts me through some of the most difficult tests of faith right before He wants to do something extraordinary. The temptation to quit is always close by. It’s as if during these times, God is purifying my heart (wanting to remove the “dross” in order to leave the gold) in preparation for what lies ahead (1 Peter 1:6-7).

I wish I could tell you that the last time I was tempted to quit was back in the Spring of 1993.

There have been several other occasions over the years where everything inside of me (selfishly) was screaming to “quit,” to “get out” of a hard, painful set of circumstances. But each time it’s as if God reminds me, “Paul, I have called you to this and until I call you to something else, stay at the task…keep your nose to the grindstone…stay faithful and keep doing ‘the next right thing.’”

God’s call to new things and big transitions

Obviously, there does come a time when God wants us to “move on” and “transition” to the next season, task or ministry. For me, it was the Spring of 2004, while sitting on the rooftop of an indigenous pastor’s home in the state of Orissa, India that God’s call came to “transition” from my pastorate to begin Global Training Network.

The desire to give the second half of my life on behalf of under-resourced indigenous pastors in the developing world (who have no access to quality biblical training) became all consuming for me.

When the time comes to transition out of your current role, God will make it clear as you diligently seek His face and are obedient to the light that He gives you each day.

God gives us enough light for the step we are on. Don’t wait until He shines the light on the next 8-10 steps. Take one step at a time and trust Him to show you the next step “in His time.”

So often, we want God to shine light on the entire staircase before we are willing to take even one step. I have found that God leads me one step at a time. Faithfully follow and obey what He shows you each day. He will be faithful to guide you to that place where He wants you. And in the midst of it all, always remember His promise: “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NASB)

Finally, please don’t hear me say that if you “persevere” some amazing, awesome “God” story will result. It could and it might. But it may not. The main reason we “stay at the task” is because it is the right, God-honoring, God-glorifying thing to do – regardless of the results.

Conclusion

Next week I’ll share “Part 2” of this lesson on “determination.” We’ll be talking about the very fine line between “Spirit-led determination” (which is a great, God-honoring character trait) and “flesh-driven stubbornness” (which has the potential to completely dismantle our entire ministry effectiveness).  We’ll talk about a very important question that we should ask ourselves on a regular basis, “Am I being determined? Or am I simply being stubborn?” Stay tuned…

 

Does the Word “Evangelical” Mean Anything Anymore?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ll be returning soon to my series on “What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago.” I’ll be sharing “Lesson 8” (out of 12). My summer has been far busier than anticipated due (by God’s grace) to continued ministry growth and expansion. I need and appreciate your prayers!

I’m looking forward to lesson #8, which will deal with the subject of “determination” (or “perseverance” – Gal. 6:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:58) in ministry. I’ll be tackling the difference between “Spirit-led determination” and “flesh-driven stubbornness.” One is central and vital to long-term, effective, God-honoring ministry and the other has the potential to ruin a person’s ministry and long term influence.

This week, however, I wanted to share an article with you that I think is of great importance and relevance for the day and age in which we are living.

The article, entitled:  “Does the Word ‘Evangelical’ Mean Anything Anymore?” was written by Randy Alcorn just a few weeks ago. Once again, it mirrors similar conversations and thoughts of late and articulates everything far better than I could. I would encourage you to take 2-3 minutes and read the article. Here is the link: “Does the Word “Evangelical” Mean Anything Anymore?” by Randy Alcorn

Lessons Learned from 15 Years of Awkward Ministry and Occasional, Providential Brilliance

 

Next week, I’ll return to my series on “What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago.” I’ll be sharing “Lesson 8” (out of 12). Next week’s lesson is entitled: “Are You Determined or Stubborn?”

I’ll be talking about the difference between “Spirit-motivated determination” and “flesh-driven stubbornness.” The main focus of this lesson will be upon the importance of perseverance, resolve, diligence, ‘grit,’ and not giving up.

Early on in my ministry years, to say that I was “stubborn” would have been an understatement. The problem was that I thought I was simply “determined.” I was trying to be like Jesus when He “set His face like a flint” toward Jerusalem (Isaiah 50:7, Luke 9:51).

As we’ll see next week, determination is a good, godly attribute, and one that I believe is absolutely necessary if a person is to be effective in the “long haul” of ministry. But many times we mistake good determination for fleshly stubbornness. The Israelites were “stubborn” and “stiff-necked.” Not great qualities to emulate.

Stubborn people create many of their own problems. Often times, the negative situations they find themselves in are due to the fact that they are unwilling to “bend,” “adjust,” “compromise” on any issue or position. On the other hand, people who are effective in ministry are determined and persevere through thick and thin. They don’t quit and give up when the going gets tough or God doesn’t seem to be blessing the way they think He should.

There are a variety of verses that relate to this, including 1 Corinthians 15:58, where it says, “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (NASB)

Effective pastors are steadfast, determined and persevere through hard seasons of life and ministry. At the same time, they are always aware that “Spirit-motived determination” can easily become “flesh-driven stubbornness.”

We’ll talk more about that next week.

Today, I wanted to share a great blog post that I came across by Pastor and Author Jared C. Wilson entitled…

Lessons Learned from 15 Years of Awkward Ministry and Occasional, Providential Brilliance

As I read this post, I was saying “Amen!” to many of the lessons he mentions. Here are a few of those lessons he’s learned (you can read the full blog post here)

Becky and I celebrating 15 years of marriage this year (last June 29) helped me to remember that this October will mark 15 years since I was “licensed for gospel ministry” by The Brook Church (in Houston, TX)… and while I am not a wizened veteran pastor, I have learned a few things serving in and working for churches over the last 15-17 years….

I’m a guy who finds landmines by stepping on them. And every success I’ve enjoyed has been mostly accidental on my part, God working providentially and brilliantly perhaps through a little of my guesswork but wholly through his goodness. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years:

  • If you don’t regularly Sabbath, God will force you to take one. And those aren’t the fun kind.
  • 7 times out of 10, the first-time visitor who just loves everything about your church and seems totally on fire for the whole shebang and promises to plug into everything, won’t be back the next week. 9 times out of 10 they drop out after a few weeks.
  • If you take the credit for the increase, you have to take the blame for the decrease.
  • Take the responsibility that’s yours, coach others into theirs, and trust God with the rest. You are so not a big deal.
  • Always be proactive about conflict and conflict resolution. Most times conflicts can be resolved amicably if you act very quickly. Whatever you do, don’t avoid it.
  • It’s never worth offending God to please others. Be faithful first. Unreasonably disgruntled people can get happy in the same pants they got mad in.
  • The people who say “I’m not being fed” are as equally likely to be shallow, superficial Christians who love pop psychology as they are to be stereotypically pharisaical “churchy” people. No one type has a market on consumerism.
  • Also: Sometimes people who say “I’m not being fedaren’t and have legitimate concerns that shouldn’t be ridiculed and written off.
  • Focusing on budgets and butts in the seats is a losing game.
  • You are just as likely to reach burnout through neglect of the Scriptures as you are through ministerial busy-ness.
  • You can’t fix anybody.
  • Soaking in the gospel is amazing for confidence. And for humility.
  • Don’t hesitate to defend your wife’s right to pick her own friends.
  • You can find another local church. You can’t find another family.
  • I believe I’ve learned a lot, and by God’s grace I learn more new things every day, but those are some of the hard-won lessons that stand out.

Next week, we’ll move to Lesson 8 – “Are You Determined or Stubborn?”

 

 

Living a Grace-oriented Life


I just returned from a powerful and refreshing weekend spent with our GTN staff, who traveled from all across the country to attend our annual staff retreat. The transformative work of God’s Spirit was so evident in the stories that were shared. God is truly doing some amazing things around the world in and through our GTN staff! I am humbled that, by His grace, we get to be a part of this work.

On Saturday morning, I began our time together by sharing an overview of this past year and our vision for the coming year (and decade). Part of the morning was spent “unpacking” one of GTN’s seven key values: the idea of being “grace-oriented” in all that we do.

By “grace-oriented,” we mean…

We desire to be an organization that emphasizes grace, both in salvation and in how we live in relationship with one another. We want to be the type of people who are grace-oriented in both our personal and ministry spheres. We recognize that legalism kills, but grace gives life. We desire to be known as an organization that has an unwavering commitment to the grace of God in salvation (we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone), as well as a grace orientation in how we interact in our personal relationships with one another (Romans 14).

I wrote these seven values (as well as most of the thoughts that are written below) back in the Summer of 2004 when GTN was birthed. These values have guided us as an organization through the years. Each year at our staff retreat I like to reiterate our commitment to these values, especially to the value of living a “grace-oriented” life.

I thought I would share with you a portion of my notes from this past weekend on living “grace-oriented.” For those of you that know me, you will realize quickly that these thoughts are not new – I have been sharing them (and trying to live them personally) for most of my ministry life.

There is nothing I would love more than to have my epitaph read, “Here lies a man who never ceased to be amazed at the grace of God in his own life, and therefore tried to always give the same grace to all he met.” I hope these thoughts will be an encouragement and blessing in your life.

Here are my notes on living “grace-oriented”…

The Environment of GTN

One of the things that I am deeply committed to is creating an environment within GTN that is filled with grace (first and foremost) and secondarily, allowing this grace to overflow with genuine partnership (i.e. unselfishness) in how we relate to the larger body of Christ around the world!

Here is how I see a “grace-orientation” being lived out among our team of fellow leaders (servants).

To live “grace-oriented” means that we…

Choose to “major on the majors and minor on the minors.” Satan loves nothing more than to get Christians to either “major on minors” or “minor on majors.”  Either way, he has won the battle.

To clarify, lest I be misunderstood: In no way am I suggesting that we “throw core doctrines to the wind” and embrace as partners in ministry anyone and everyone who claims the title “Christian” (or even “evangelical Christian” – aka Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, etc.). I’m not downplaying the vital and foundational place that correct “sound” doctrine plays in our lives and ministries. I am simply saying that under the umbrella that I refer to as “conservative evangelical Christianity,” let’s keep the big picture in view and not splinter or divide over secondary (or tertiary) doctrinal issues (or worse, methodological issues).

A long time missionary friend of mine told me years ago (when I was still pastoring), that the one thing that broke his heart more than anything else was how bitterly divisive “missions people” are – and the heated arguments he had experienced out on the field weren’t over doctrinal issues, but rather methodological issues! They were missionaries who had graduated from the same seminary as my friend and who worked for the same mission agency, but who would no longer work with him – or anyone in his group simply because their approaches were different. It wasn’t like my friend was doing something that was harming the work in that particular country, let alone doing irreparable damage (it was actually very good and effective work in my opinion).

To clarify again: I’m also not saying that methodological issues are of no importance. They are. Some methods are better than others. But let’s not throw stones at those that “do ministry” differently than we do. Let’s give grace as they grow and learn – just as we want and need grace as we grow and learn (I’m certainly thankful God didn’t “throw me out of ministry” because of “how” I was doing it – which I later learned was probably not the best way of doing it). If we come across a missionary (or other partner in ministry) that we believe is using a method or strategy that is genuinely harming the long term health and effectiveness of the ministry in that region, graciously sit down with that person and try to share with him (or her) some things that you have learned over the years about the most effective ways of doing ministry. Always approach the person and situation with humility, grace and patience.

Being “grace-oriented” means that we choose to believe the best about one another and give each other the benefit of the doubt, rather than (as some organizations do) live in a constant state of skepticism and cynicism about fellow staff member’s motives, etc. Cultures of skepticism and cynicism are death-inducing, rather than life-giving (1 Cor. 4:5).

Being “grace-oriented” means that we choose to above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). You can’t live in relationship with another person for very long without hurts and sins occurring. We take Jesus seriously when He said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another…” (John 13:34-35). We really believe the Apostle Paul when he said, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). And the Apostle John where he writes, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Philippians 2:1-5 should describe how we live in relationship with one another and other ministries…

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:

Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.” (paraphrase of this passage from The Message)

Being “grace-oriented” means that we choose to value and always practice humility in how we treat one another, as well as the pastors and leaders that we serve around the world (Ephesians 4:1-2). Our desire is that we as a staff would be the direct opposite of your average “pastors’ conference” here in the U.S., where there always seems to be a game of “one-ups-manship” going on, with every pastor trying to impress all of the other pastors about how “wonderful” his ministry is.

Over the years, it has always been sad for me to see how (many times) pastors will come to a particular conference and immediately try to determine the “pecking order” (and where they fit in to that order…it’s usually by the size or influence of a pastor’s church or ministry). It’s just like in the business world where an individual enters a room and immediately assesses who the “big dog” is in the room (and how close they are to that “big dog”). Surely this breaks God’s heart!

Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Our desire is that we would be the kind of staff that models the “humble, servant leadership” that Jesus would if He were on our staff.

We also choose to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). When another staff member (or ministry) is blessed, we genuinely rejoice with them and don’t allow jealousy to creep into our hearts and minds. When another staff member (or ministry) receives an $80,000 gift and we only receive an $800 one, we genuinely rejoice with them. Also, when another staff member (or ministry) is going through a hard time, we “weep with them.” We put ourselves in their situation and imagine how it would feel if we were facing what they are facing.

Being “grace-oriented” means that we choose to differentiate between personal convictions and God’s clear black-and-white moral and ethical imperatives (Romans 14). We choose to give respect and grace to fellow staff members who approach ministry a bit differently than we do.

Nothing has shocked me or broken my heart more over the years than the narrow, and at times rabid, divisiveness between mission organizations (and groups of churches) around the world. For some reason, people involved in missions seem to have an even greater propensity to slice and dice (with the tiniest and sharpest razor knife) every aspect of theology and, probably even more so, missions methodology. Everyone seems to think that they know how to do it best and therefore, everyone else is either “wrong” or “unenlightened.” Some of these people seem to wake up in the morning with the express purpose of looking for a new “theological or methodological” fight. All the while, people by the millions are dying without Christ!

It has broken my heart as I have witnessed their unwillingness to work together and be “Kingdom-minded” in their approach. The world looks on and sees these bitter fights and wants no part of this “Jesus.” Surely God’s heart breaks and heaven weeps. Our hearts should break for the things that break the heart of God. Being “grace-oriented” means that we choose to value appropriate diversity, not only in the Body of Christ (as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4), but also with ministry methods and ideas.

We seek to learn from one another in a spirit of humility, respect and grace. We genuinely listen to others who may do ministry differently than we do and seek to learn whatever possible that fits with how God has made us and what He has called us to do, as well as where He has called us to do it.

When we do disagree with another ministry partner (either theologically, philosophically or methodologically), we do so with the utmost of grace and humility.

…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

(John 17:21-23)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

(John 13:34-35)

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

(Ephesians 4:29)

 

 

Stand-alone Post: Hell Yes, Hell No: A Conversation about Love Wins, Rob Bell and Why You Should Give a Rip

Today is my last post (part 3 of 3) discussing the subjects of hell, Rob Bell and his latest book Love Wins.

The above title comes from a sermon given by Dr. Bobby Conway (you can view the full video teaching here).

Why am I taking time to discuss this very difficult and sobering topic?Because we are commanded in Scripture to teach “the whole counsel of God,”(Acts 20:27) and not just “pick and choose” those doctrines that we like and throw out those doctrines that we don’t like. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (literally “God-breathed”). From Genesis to Revelation – it’s all “God-breathed.”

In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul tells us that in the last days people will be drawn away from the faith by teachers that will tell them “what their itching ears want to hear.” In other words, these pastors and bible teachers will only preach and teach subjects that are pleasing to the audience’s ears. These pastors conveniently “skip over” the tough subjects in Scripture.

A word of caution: Always be careful of a pastor, a church or a bible teacher that seems to never talk about certain biblical subjects that are clearly taught in Scripture (and are of importance for people to know). They may talk about Jesus, the gospel, heaven, grace, joy, love, how to have a happy marriage, how to have a happy family, how to be good parents and many other good, biblical subjects. But they may conveniently never mention anything about things like the reality of hell (or other politically incorrect subjects – and there are certainly many more). God commands us to teach, read and study “the whole counsel of God’s Word.” Not just the parts that we like and which make us feel good.

Many people in America today want a God of love, but not of holinessA God of compassion, but not a God of justiceGod is both holy and lovingHe is bothcompassionate and just.

I believe it was J.I. Packer who said that if he were to pick a two-word phrase that best describes God, it would be “holy love.” If you only focus on “holiness” and not love, you do not have the God of the Bible. But equally so, if you only focus on “love” and not holiness, you also do not have the God of the Bible.

I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we would agree that hell is a subject that is not particularly enjoyable to talk about, think about, read about or discuss. I certainly do not enjoy preaching and teaching (and writing) on it. But Scripture makes it crystal clear that hell is real and those that do not come to faith in Christ will spend eternity there.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

In Acts it says (referring to Jesus), “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Jesus talked more about hell than heaven.

I’m convinced that one of the main reasons people cannot comprehend a literal eternal hell is because they do not understand the profound holiness of God and the utter sinfulness of mankind (all of us). I think every Christian should be required to read R. C. Sproul’s book The Holiness of God. Until we begin to understand God’s profound holiness and our utter sinfulness, we will (at best) only have a half-hearted appreciation for God’s love, grace and plan of salvation.

As A.W. Tozer said, “A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils. A high view of God is the solution to ten thousand temporal problems.”

One other reason why people have a hard time comprehending a literal eternal hell is because all they are ever taught is the love of God, the grace of God, the kindness of God. They hear regularly about God’s “immanence,” but rarely ever hear of God’s “transcendence.”

I think it is important to mention here one of Spurgeon’s famous quotes, when he said (I’m paraphrasing): “To preach about hell without a tear in one’s eye is to be inhuman and un-compassionate.”

The truth must be proclaimed, but people must never feel that we are “joyful and happy” that non-believers will spend billions of years in eternal torment with no hope of it ever ending. Just typing that last phrase absolutely breaks my heart (and makes my tiny, finite mind literally hurt).

I know Scripture says that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 18:23) and “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

People will often say today (even people within evangelical churches), “I just couldn’t believe in a God like that” (whatever “that” happens to be – usually meaning a God that could allow seemingly ‘good’ people to spend eternity in hell).”The problem with that statement is this: They are placing what they “think” above what Scripture clearly teaches. Scripture is our final authority for faith and practice.

A person’s belief or non-belief doesn’t make something true or not true. I can say, “I just couldn’t believe in a God that allows anyone to go to hell!” The fact is, it doesn’t matter whether I believe it or not – what’s true is true. And what’s false is false. My belief does not make something “true” or “not true.” I can “believe” as hard as I want that there is no hell after death, but that won’t make “hell” disappear.

As Mark Driscoll has pointed out so well in speaking to a non-believer, “If I am wrong in my belief about heaven & hell, I lose nothing. But, if you are wrong, you lose forever…and spend eternity in hell.”

I leave you with this quote from Spurgeon

“Meet me in heaven! Do not go down to hell. There is no coming back again from that abode of misery. Why do you wish to enter the way of death when heaven’s gate is open before you? Do not refuse the free pardon, the full salvation which Jesus grants to all who trust him. Do not hesitate and delay. You have had enough of resolving, come to action. Believe in Jesus now, with full and immediate decision. Take with you words and come unto your Lord this day, even this day. Remember, O soul, it may be now or never with you. Let it be now; it would be horrible that it should be never. Farewell. Again I charge you, meet me in heaven.”– C. H. Spurgeon, from his book All of Grace

Here are several links to articles and videos that I have found very worthwhile in dealing with this whole subject…

Rob Bell, Hell and Why I Hope I’m Wrong (by Joshua Harris)

Hell Yes, Hell No: A Conversation about Love Wins, Rob Bell and Why You Should Give a Rip (by Dr. Bobby Conway)

To Hell with Hell? (by Mark Driscoll)

A Chronology of Rob Bell on Hell (from Resurgence website)

Why Hell is Integral to the Gospel (by Greg Gilbert – on 9Marks website)

Lloyd-Jones on the folly of thinking God is only love and ignoring punishment and hell (Adrian Warnock)

How Can a Loving God send anyone to Hell? (from Christianity Explored website)

Gospel Coalition Panel on Rob Bell’s book ‘Love Wins’ and Universalism

Doing Away with Hell? Part 1 (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)

Doing Away with Hell? Part 2 (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)

We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)

Love, Holiness, and Eternity: Some Reflections on Rob Bell – Part 1(by Ed Stetzer)

Love, Holiness, and Eternity: Some Reflections on Rob Bell – Part 2 (Ed Stetzer)

Love, Holiness, and Eternity: Some Reflections on Rob Bell – Part 3 (by Ed Stetzer)

Faithfulness Means Full of Faith (by Jared Wilson – from The Gospel-Driven Church blog)

I Hate Hell (by Tim Challies)

Rob Bell and the Controversy over Hell (by Randy Alcorn) (Part 1)

Rob Bell’s “Love Wins,” and the Biblical Doctrine of Hell (by Randy Alcorn) (Part 2)

Follow-up on Rob Bell and the Hell Controversy (by Randy Alcorn) (Part 3)

A Massive Shift Coming in What it Means to Be a Christian? – TIME Magazine considers Rob Bell (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)

The Truth about Hell (by Tommy Clayton of Grace To You radio ministry)

Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins (by Michael E. Wittmer). This is a review done by Douglas Phillips on The Gospel Coalition’s website.

Love Wins – A Review of Rob Bell’s New Book (by Tim Challies)

The New Evangelical Virtues (by Tim Challies)

Bell, Hell and What We Did Well (by Tim Challies)

Q&A: Francis Chan on Rob Bell and Hell (from Christianity Today magazine)

Review of Erasing Hell (by Aaron Armstrong – Gospel Coalition website)

The Reality of Hell (by Chuck Swindoll)

Pastor John Caprine of Summit Ridge Church in Las Vegas did a three-part sermon series on hell. The sermon titles were 1) Getting a Grip on Hell, 2) What is Hell? How Long is it? Who Goes? 3) If Hell is Real, now What?

The Hell Controversy (by Greg Laurie)

 

 

Stand Alone Post: Francis Chan’s “Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity, and the things we’ve made up”

“There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.” (C. S. Lewis)

C. S. Lewis went on to say, “I have met no people who fully disbelieved in Hell and also had a living and life-giving belief in Heaven.” Randy Alcorn adds, “The biblical teaching on both destinations [heaven & hell] stands or falls together. If the one is real, so is the other; if the one is a myth, so is the other. The best reason for believing in Hell is that Jesus said it exists.”

“Too many Christians choose to believe whatever makes them feel good, while they ignore, deny, or reinterpret Scripture when it doesn’t fit culture’s current definition of love and tolerance. Hence, culture and the reader of Scripture become the authority, rather than Scripture itself. Faith becomes merely a collection of fleeting opinions, always subject to revision. That is something very different from historic, biblically grounded Christian faith.” (Randy Alcorn)

This week I want to share a few more thoughts and responses to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.

Of the numerous concerns that I have with his book, one of my greatest is this:

It would be very easy for a person to read Love Wins and come away believing that people will have a second chance after they die to make a decision to place their faith in Christ, and therefore spend eternity in heaven.

Scripture makes it very clear that “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV). We see throughout Scripture that after death, there is no second chance. After death, there is no automatic rewind. What’s done is done. There is no turning back. There is no “I was wrong! What do I have to do now to make it right?” Of all the serious things in life, this certainly is one of the most serious and sobering. It is not something to laugh at or joke about. A person’s eternal destiny is at stake.

Someone could read Bell’s book and easily think, “I’ll have a chance to decide if I believe in Christianity and if I want to trust Christ after I die … so in the meantime, I’m going to continue to live life my way.”

After death, they would be shocked to find out that there is no second chance. No “do overs!” And that person will spend eternity separated from God in a place Scripture calls “hell.” Rob Bell could be misleading hundreds, if not thousands of people, into believing these false ideas. Scripture speaks often about the danger of being “misled” by false teaching (Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 7:15; Galatians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 11:13).

Last week I shared with you Randy Alcorn’s review of Mark Galli’s book, God Wins.

This week I wanted to share with you Alcorn’s review of Francis Chan’s latest book, Erasing Hell. As I said last week, Randy Alcorn (in my opinion) is one of the best biblical and theological communicators in our day. His writing is easy to understand and yet theologically profound (not an easy balance). I have always found his writings to be solid and firmly rooted in Scripture.

Click here to read Randy’s review of Francis Chan’s new book, Erasing Hell.

I highly recommend both Galli’s book (God Wins) and Chan’s book (Erasing Hell).

Stand Alone Post: God Wins: Heaven, Hell and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins

This week I’m taking a break from my series (12 Lessons…) and thought I would share with you a very important and highly relevant blog post from Randy Alcorn (www.epm.org). I have always considered Randy to be one of the best writers in evangelical Christianity today. He has a very sharp theological mind and a strong, robust grasp of Scripture.

Many of you are aware of the recent book authored by Rob Bell, entitled Love Wins. In Bell’s book, he promotes a form of Universalism (Bell’s description is that virtually everyone will get into heaven – no matter what they believed here on earth and that people will have a second chance after they die to turn to Christ if they didn’t do so during their lifetime). There were numerous aspects of Bell’s book that were very troubling.

In response to Love Wins, there are two new books being released in the next few weeks. One is by Mark Galli (senior managing editor for Christianity Today magazine) entitled: God Wins: Heaven, Hell and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins.

The other book is by Francis Chan and is entitled Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity, and the things we made up.

I highly recommend both Galli’s and Chan’s books.

This subject (eternity, heaven, and hell) is of utmost importance! Satan loves nothing more than to get people distracted away from the seriousness of the question of eternity. As A.W. Tozer wrote…

“The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unheeded.” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

A few days ago, Randy Alcorn posted his thoughts about Mark Galli’s new book, God Wins, on his blog. It was so good that I thought it would be well worth passing along to as many people as possible.

To give you a brief taste of some of what Alcorn writes in this post, here is an excerpt…

“As I read Rob Bell’s book, I kept saying to myself what I’ve said while reading other recent “evangelical” books—that the God revealed in Scripture is not a love-only, single-attribute God. Vital as his love is, the seraphim in his presence do not cry out day and night, “Love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty.”

Love—as moderns narrowly define it, in the sense that everything should turn out well for everyone—certainly does not win in the biblical narrative. Rather, as Galli’s title aptly puts it, God Wins. And not just any God, but the true God. The Father who is both loving and righteous, the Son who is full of both grace and truth, the merciful Spirit who has the word Holy in his very name. God’s attributes aren’t a menu from which we may choose only what we wish. He is all that he is, all the time. The universe exists not for Love’s glory, but for God’s glory.”

Here is Randy’s blog post in its entirety – I believe it’s well worth 2-3 minutes of your time to read.

(If you would like to read more from Randy Alcorn, you can go to his website at www.epm.org, or directly to his blog post at www.epm.org/blog. Randy’s website is filled with hundreds of the best articles and resources available anywhere on the web. You can download virtually all of them for free.)

 

Lesson #7f: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago

Today we come to Part 6 (and the final segment) of “A Humble Life.”

As I wrap up “Lesson 7” in this series on “What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago,” I want to add seven more characteristics of “Proud People” vs. “Humble People” to the list I shared with you last week. This list has come primarily from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book entitled, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives.

Before you read this, could I ask you to do one thing? Promise that you will not focus on how this applies to anyone else except your own heart:

Here they are:

Have you noticed that people typically do not like “proud, arrogant people?” Nor do they enjoy being around them. And yet, even though we know this to be true, we find ourselves (at times) somewhere on the left side of the above list. This is part of maturity and growing in Christ. None of us have “arrived” in our sanctification process (nor will we this side of heaven).

The prayer I would encourage all of us to pray on a regular basis is… “O Lord, I need your grace today! You promise grace to the humble. Help me to avoid looking at everyone else’s life to determine who is proud and who is humble. May I only ever examine my own heart, and choose humility each and every day.”

Tom Hovestol, in his book entitled Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees, writes the following:

“The more spiritually alive and mature we are, the more we recognize how far short we fall of the glory of God. The closer we get to a mirror, the more clearly we perceive our imperfections. The mirror for Christians is Christ. Therefore, it should not surprise us that those who have known Him best have been most aware of their imperfections and most appreciative of His love and grace.”

Alan Nelson, in his book Embracing Brokenness: How God Refines Us Through Life’s Disappointments, writes the following about “seven tests of true humility.”

TESTS OF TRUE HUMILITY

There are several ways to detect humility in yourself or in others. Here are seven common ways to spot a humble spirit.

  1. Humility does not demand its own way. If you think “It’s my way or the highway,” or if you often feel the need to defend yourself, chances are your humility level is low.
  2. Humility exudes an attitude of service. You are there to help people, not to be helped. Jesus said, “I came to serve, not to be served.” It is not a consumer-oriented atmosphere where you shop around for who or what can give you the best deal.
  3. Humility does not seek attention or credit. It is not concerned with having its name placed in the program, or on the dedicatory plaque, or even spelled correctly. There is almost a feeling of awkwardness that comes over humble people when the spotlight shines in their direction.
  4. Humility forgives when offended, but is hard to offend. Perhaps the best way to avoid being offended by others is to become humble. Humble people do not read into others’ responses. Therefore, they are free to be honest and innocently naïve to the hate generated by others. At the same time, when hate is overt and obvious, they are at liberty to forgive, to release others from a false sense of obligation to love a certain way.
  5. Humility does not criticize others. Finger pointing, opinion giving, and condemnation rarely emanate out of a pure, selfless attitude. Most criticism is personally oriented and seeks to punish another. Yet, humble people are not confined by the fear of speaking up for truth. They can be authoritative without being authoritarian because God is their motivation for making suggestions.
  6. Humility produces a teachable spirit. Good leaders are learners. That is why leaders need to learn humility. Humble people know that they do not know everything, and recognize the multiple nuances that operate when more than one perception is involved in a situation. Humble people practice one of the most important behaviors of learning—they listen a lot. Beware the proud leader claiming to have all the answers. Humble people ask questions more than they give answers.
  7. Humility is gracious and thankful. Perhaps this is a lost quality in our culture. We are all too aware of our rights and demand them even beyond what normal law affords. If you received a coin with humility on one side, thankfulness would be on the other. It is very hard to be truly gracious and proud. Jesus told the parable of the ten lepers, where only one returned to say, “Thanks.” The New Testament reminds us to give thanks, always.

    John MacArthur, in commenting on 2 Corinthians 4:7, writes…

    “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, in order that [a purpose clause in the Greek] the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”

    That is why God puts the priceless treasure in clay pots, so that no one has to ask where the power comes from! In comparison to the glory of the eternal God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, in comparison to the magnificence of the New Covenant expressed all through chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians, in comparison to Christ’s shining glory, the preacher is nothing!…

    A clay pot is a clay pot. It is without value, but it is useful. Clay pots in ancient times were used for a number of things. Sometimes something important was in a clay pot, like the Dead Sea Scrolls…But in the home they…were used for garbage and waste, to carry out what was unmentionable…

    So we can better understand 2 Corinthians where Paul says, “We have this treasure in a garbage can, a waste bucket.”

    We are common containers for the most humble and dirty uses; never, ever fit in ourselves to be brought into public. That’s how it is in the ministry.

    Our only value is as containers. It’s the treasure that we bring that has the value. That’s why the Lord didn’t choose many mighty or noble.

    He has chosen the humble, the base, the common. This is the essence of spiritual service. They accused Paul: “You’re weak; you’re unimpressive; you’re not a good communicator…” His response was this: “I know; I know. I’m just a pot – but do I have a treasure!”

    The New Testament was not written by the elite of Egypt. It was not written by the elite of Greece, or Rome, or even Israel. . . . The most distinguished philosophers were at Athens; the most powerful leaders . . . of men were at Rome; and the religious geniuses were in Israel’s temple – and God never used any of them! He just used clay pots. . . .

    We have peasants and fishermen, smelly guys, and tax collectors, clay pots, who were chosen to hold and to proclaim and to write the priceless treasure of gospel truth.

    God is still doing it that way. He is still passing by the elite… God is finding the humble who will carry the treasure of saving truth…

    If you want to be used mightily by God, get yourself out of it. Learn to see yourself as a garbage pail, or, in the words of Peter, clothe yourself with humility.

    It’s not you; it’s not your personality; it’s the Word of God. He doesn’t need the intellectuals. He doesn’t need great people, fancy people, or famous people. Because the people aren’t the power. The power is the message!

    We ministers are weak, common, plain, fragile, breakable, dishonorable, and disposable clay pots who should be taking the garbage out – but instead we’re bringing the glory of God to our people.

    The amazing thing is that such weakness does not prove fatal to the gospel, because the gospel is not out of us. The great reality is, this is essential to the gospel, because it makes crystal clear where the power really lies.

    We are unworthy servants, but God has given us the treasure of the gospel. What a privilege!

    (John MacArthur, “A Reminder to Shepherds,” in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, edited by Don Kistler (Soli Deo Gloria, 2002), p. 279-285.)

    I leave you as I close out this “lesson” on humility with the following Scripture verses…

    “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom!” (Proverbs 11:2)

    “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor!” (Proverbs 15:33)

    “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

    “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted!” (Matthew 23:12)

    “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land!” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

    “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word!” (Isaiah 66:2)

    “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

    And finally…

    Augustine once made this statement:

    If you ask me what is the #1, #2, #3 most important quality of a Christian, I will answer by saying: Humility, Humility, Humility!”

     

    Lesson #7e: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago

    The more I study humility

    • the more I realize how far I need to go to be a truly humble person.
    • the more I understand why pride is considered the “chief” of all sins.
    • the more I realize that Jesus is the perfect and complete embodiment of what “true humility” looks like.
    • the more humbled I am at my own pride.

    In a recent article in Christianity Today, Gordon MacDonald wrote about the biography of Samuel Logan Brengle, a commissioner in the Salvation Army. In the article MacDonald writes…

    “If Brengle lived today, I wonder how he would have coped with the celebrity status that often adorns gifted communicators and clever authors who are packaged by marketing, development and publicity strategies. Toward the end of his ministry, Brengle wrote:

    “If I appear great in their eyes, the Lord is most graciously helping me to see how absolutely nothing I am without Him, and helping me to keep little in my own eyes. He does use me. But I am so concerned that He uses me that it is not of me the work is done. The axe cannot boast of the trees it has cut down. It could do nothing but for the woodman. He made it; he sharpened it; and he used it. The moment he throws it aside, it becomes only old iron. O that I may never lose sight of this.”

    And then MacDonald goes on to write: “Brengle’s view of himself (humility comes to mind) as God’s servant might not make it in the celebrity-driven venues today. But I believe that we could use a dose of his humble spirituality in our contemporary Christian world.”

    One of the most helpful tools that I have come across that helps to clearly distinguish between Proud, Unbroken People and Humble, Broken People is a list that Nancy Leigh DeMoss (from her book Brokenness: The Heart God Revives) put together from her study of Scripture and her experience in both life and ministry.

    There are dozens of items on both the “Proud” side and the “Humble” side. Today I want to share with you just six of them. Here they are:

    Have you ever noticed the link between “wisdom” and “humility?” In James 3:13 it says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

    Has it ever occurred to you the way that Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:28-30? It’s the famous passage we love to quote, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden…” But did you ever notice what Jesus says in the next verse? “…for I am gentle and humble in heart. The very Son of God, who flung the stars into space (Colossians 1) and created everything there is, modeled for us what “humble in heart” looks like.

    Max Anders, in his book The Good Life, clarifies some common misconceptions about humility:

    “Humility does not mean you must see yourself as a pitiful excuse, a lowlife, a piece of refuse at the bottom of the human pile.

    “Rather, it means you see yourself as God sees you: you have infinite and inherent value (given by God), but no more value than anyone else. It means being willing to accept God as the authority over your life, rather than insisting on being your own supreme authority. And since you accept God as the supreme authority over your life, and because you are of equal value but no greater value than everyone else, you are willing to order your life in such a way as to be a servant to others.

    “When Christians do this, we meet each other’s needs in a context of harmony and love. When we fail to subordinate ourselves to others and are concerned only with meeting our own needs, we live a life of individualism and isolation — a state in which the Christian cannot be satisfied. We are not created to be loners. We are part of a family!”

    Humility is one of those strange characteristics, in that when you know you have it — you’ve lost it! It is one of those virtues to be highly sought after but never claimed; because once you’ve claimed it — it’s forfeited!

    I leave you this week with these very profound, but very sobering verses on humility:

    The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1-2, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility…”

    Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

    “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth!” (Numbers 12:3)

    “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

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