Sunday, October 28, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
The Lord in His sovereign wisdom and providence has brought us, this morning, in our ongoing study of 2 Corinthians to a text which is absolutely appropriate to the Shepherds Conference. It is 2 Corinthians chapter 2 verses 12 through 17 and I would invite you to open your Bible and turn to that rich and wonderful Scripture.
I continue through the years to be startled and grateful at how the Lord seems to go ahead of us and prepare just the right word for just the right occasion, and this morning is certainly no exception to that. If I were to title the text of 2 Corinthians 2:12 to 17 I might title it, "Restoring the disheartened pastor's joy...Restoring the disheartened pastor's joy."
The call to ministry is certainly an invitation to blessing. It is certainly an invitation to unequalled privilege. But that is not all. The call to serve the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is also an invitation to discouragement, to difficulty, to sorrow, grief, pain, and even despair. What pastor among us, what pastor at all while understanding the privileges and the blessing of his calling has not also had his heart broken? We all have. There are times when we are disheartened and downcast and discouraged and despairing.
Let me read you a letter from a pastor to his beloved friend. "Dear Jim, I'm through. Yesterday I handed in my resignation to take effect at once. And this morning I began work for the Land Company. I shall not return to the pastorate. I think I can see into your heart as you read these words and behold not a little disappointment, if not disgust. I don't blame you at all, I'm somewhat disgusted with myself. Do you recall the days in the seminary when we talked of the future and painted pictures of what we were to do for the Kingdom of God? We saw the boundless need for an unselfish Christian service, and longed to be out among men doing our part toward the world's redemption. I shall never forget that last talk on the night before our graduation, you were to go to the foreign field and I to the church. We had brave dreams of usefulness and you have realized them. As I look back across twenty-five years I can see some lives that I have helped and some things which I have been permitted to do that are worthwhile. But sitting here tonight I am more than half convinced that God cannot use me as a minister. If He could, I'm not big enough and brave enough to pay the price. Even if it leads you to write me down as a coward, I'm going to tell you why I quit.
"Throughout these years I have found not a few earnest, unselfish, consecrated Christians. I do not believe that I am specially morbid or unfair in my estimate. So far as I know my own heart, I'm not bitter. But through all these years a conviction has been growing within me that the average church member cares precious little about the Kingdom of God and its advancement or the welfare of his fellow man. He is a Christian in order that he may save a soul from hell, and for no other reason. He does as little as he can, lives as indifferently as he dares. If he thought he could gain heaven without even lifting his finger for others, he would jump at the chance. Never have I known more than a small minority of any church which I have served to be really interested in and unselfishly devoted to God's work. It took my whole time to pull and push and urge and persuade the reluctant members of my church to undertake a little something. They took a covenant to be faithful in attendance upon the services of the church and not one out of ten ever thought of attending a prayer meeting. A large percentage seldom attended church in the morning and a pitifully small number in the evening. It didn't seem to mean anything to them that they had dedicated themselves to the service of Christ.
"I'm tired. Tired of being the only one in the church from whom real sacrifice is expected. Tired of straining and tugging to get Christian people to live like Christians. Tired of planting work for my people and then being compelled to do it myself or see it left undone. Tired of dodging my creditors when I wouldn't need to if I had what is due me. Tired of the vision of a penny-less old age. I'm not leaving Christ, I love Him. I shall still try to serve Him. Judge me leniently, old friend, I can't bear to lose your friendship. Yours as of old, William."
How sad. That's a real letter. When a man called, gifted, leaves the ministry not because of sin, not because of self-centeredness, not because of indifference, but because of discouragement. We all face that temptation, even the most gifted and the most faithful.
As we approach our text this morning, it is in that very state of mind that we find the Apostle Paul. That's encouraging, isn't it? To know that no less than he was discouraged? To know that there's a certain fellowship in his sufferings? Paul knew deep penetrating, disheartening disappointment. In this case, over the Corinthian church. They had broken his heart by shallowness, by sin, by indifference, by outright rebellion. And the fact was the Corinthian church had greater potential than any other church in Europe. Their city which had been restored by Julius Caesar after being in ruins for a hundred years was sitting at the crossroads. It was more open to the gospel than the other cities of Europe. And the Apostle had great success in founding the church there and making even the resident Jews jealous. Over 18 months he had labored day in and day out in that evil city and he had built a church and he had built great affection and love for the people there. Because he loved them so profoundly, because he loved them so deeply, they had the potential to hurt him severely.
And they did...sin upon sin upon sin upon sin, spiritual disaster after spiritual disaster marked that church to the point where Paul could say, "I have been whipped, I have been beaten with rods, I have been stoned, I have been shipwrecked, nothing brings the grief that my heart feels over the concern for the church."
All of the lashes that went across his back, all of the stones that tried to crush out and effectively did so his own life didn't bring him the pain that he felt inside over the unrequited love that he was pouring out toward the Corinthians and over their spiritual defection. It was more difficult than any other kind of suffering. They possessed, you see, all the gifts. They came behind and no gift. And he had given them so much of himself and they were so well taught, but they were divided and they were selfish and they were disorderly and they were worldly. Sin stained the Lord's table. They fought with each other. They sued each other. They took sexual advantage of each other. And they were proud.
In fact, conditions in Corinth were so bad that the great preacher Apollos when asked by the Apostle Paul to go there, refused to go. He didn't want to be exposed to what was there. He didn't want to bother to even bring ministry. Though Paul urged him, please, to go.
Additionally, as if the sin and the spiritual scandals weren't enough, some false teachers came to Corinth and they managed to deceive members of the church into a mutiny against Paul himself...their desire being to destroy the credibility of Paul and then to take his place as the teachers and teaching damning lies. And sadly, there were many Corinthians who bought into the deception.
Paul's character was blasted. His controversy with Peter recorded in Galatians 2 was no doubt exploited and they were supposedly representatives of Peter and pitted themselves against Paul. Doctrinal issues arose, doctrinal issues all mixed with personalities and jealousies. They perverted the spiritual gifts so that someone would even stand up in a congregation and curse Jesus Christ in an unknown language and someone would think it was the work of the Spirit. They winked at incest. They abused their marriages. They were drunken at the Lord's table. They went to demon feasts. What a church. Certainly a church to bring grief to a pastor's heart.
It is that very grief that we feel in the text before us. Would he ever be welcome at Corinth again? Could he ever go back? He already planned a trip and then changed his mind in chapter 2 because he really didn't want to have another sad visit. He wasn't up to it. He couldn't take any more pain. The last brief visit that he had there was very short and very painful.
On top of all of this as we find the Apostle Paul, he has been in Ephesus and in Ephesus things weren't going very well either. Some think he may have had a serious, even potentially, fatal illness because he said, "We carry about in our body the dying of Jesus Christ." Others think it was just the relentless persecution. It all culminated when a riot started that could have taken his life in Ephesus, so things weren't going well where he was and they were certainly going terribly where his heart was.
It's not then hard to understand that there is some pathosin this letter, there's some grief in this letter. There's some ache in his heart as he writes. Let's read the text, verse 12: "Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother, but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God."
The text divides itself very clearly into two sections. The first two verses are discouragement, the last four verses are encouragement. And in this text we see the disheartened preacher find his joy. We see his sadness turn to peace, tranquility, happiness. Let's look, first of all, at his discouragement and let's look at little deeper into what is burdening his heart.
Verse 12 notes, "Now when I came to Troas..." He left Ephesus on his way to Troas. Troas was to the north. You could go there by boat or you could go there by land. It was a seaport city on the Aegean Sea in western Asia Minor, right at the mouth of the Dardanelles. It had been founded in 300 B.C., it had been founded ten miles from the great ancient city that is famous throughout all of European history, the city of Troy. That's where it got its name Troas. The ancient Troy was only ten miles away. It was in a province known as Mysia, and Augustus had made it a Roman colony.
The Apostle Paul's departure was perhaps prompted by the riot and realizing that work as such was now done in Ephesus and not wanting to linger around until he did lose his life, he embarked on his way to Troas. But there was something beyond just the riot that drove him there and that was an intended rendezvous with Titus. They had arranged to meet in Troas.
Where was Titus? Titus was in Corinth. Paul had dispatched him there to find out the condition of the church because Paul had written to them two letters...1 Corinthians and the second letter which is not in the Bible, but it's known as the Severe Letter. In both of those letters he had confronted their sin and their iniquity and their defection and their deception and he was eagerly waiting for Titus to come back and tell him how they responded to those letters. Until he heard word from Titus, he thought the worst. And the grief of his heart was so totally oppressive that it debilitated him in any ministry, as we'll note in a moment.
And so he goes to Troas perhaps under compulsion but as well to meet Titus who is coming back at a rendezvous point with word about the Corinthians' response to the letters that he had written. The letters, as you know, 1 Corinthians, very strong, very much an indictment, very confrontive, even sarcastic, they're so confrontive. And Paul was concerned about their response.
Now Paul had been to Troas before. Acts 16 records his first visit there in verses 8 to 11 and apparently on that occasion he did not found a church. It is also true that in Acts 20 and verses 6 to 12 we read that there is a church in Troas. There was not church there the first time he went. There was a church there in Acts 20. We assume then that the church was planted on this visit. It says, go back to verse 12, "I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ." To evangelize the city which was the way you started a church. He had come with a purpose of evangelization, not just to meet Titus.
Now he may have come early because of the pressure from Ephesus. Titus may have missed his boat. And so while he is there waiting for Titus, he purposely evangelizes. And then he adds in verse 12, notice the last phrase, "And when a door was opened for me in the Lord." Stop at that point for a moment before we finish that sentence.
He had commented about an opened door in Ephesus in 1 Corinthians 16:8 and 9. He loved opened doors. He said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:8 and 9, "I have to stay at Ephesus because there is an open door and even though there are many adversaries I have to stay because the door is open." Well it's the same thing, here's an open door in Troas. It wasn't opened by human ingenuity, will you notice verse 12, it was opened for me in the Lord...by the Lord, in the power and strength of the Lord. The Lord had given him a tremendous opportunity there.
Now in order to know that he must have already preached. He must have preached with great blessing and success. And many people must have come to hear and some believed and more interested. How else would he know the door was open unless he had tested it? So we can assume when he arrived he started to preach and people believed. But he really was preaching with a broken heart. He was a very distracted preacher. He was having a ministry in a place he didn't want to be. His heart was so overwrought and burdened by the Corinthian situation that he had a very difficult time pouring himself into a ministry that was wide open to him. It was the discontent of his own heart that cut him off from that opportunity.
In fact, he was looking at just the kind of marvelous situation every servant of God would long for and every indication was that Paul would literally pray for these kind of opportunities. These would fulfill the passion of his heart. But look what verse 13 says, "The door was opened but I had no rest for my spirit." He had no rest in his spirit. He was deeply troubled. Chapter 7 verse 5 says, "We were afflicted on every side, conflicts without, fears within. Our flesh had no rest." And in verse 6 he said we were depressed. Fears on the inside that all of his efforts at Corinth have gone to naught. He was depressed about it. He had no rest, this troubled, agitated, anxious heart.
Would the church ever embrace him again? Would they love him? Would they listen to him? Would they repent? Would they deal with the divisions, the incest, the quarrels, the confusion regarding marriage and divorce? Would they deal with the issue of idols, the Lord's supper, sexual sin? Would they discipline the man who boldly and shamelessly confronted and indicted Paul in public? Would they confront the false apostles? All the churning of all of that in his own heart created the anxiety that debilitated him. He didn't know the answer to the aching questions and he had no freedom to minister. So he said I have no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus, my brother.
Without some kind of word from Titus, he was really useless he was so troubled. And I'm sure he imagined the worst. So here we find this marvelous man in the pits. "It's a dangerous hour for the preacher," writes A.T. Robertson, "his heart is in danger of rebellion. Then when the door is closed, the door that opened to large fields of usefulness, resentment can harden the heart. There was no happiness...writes Robertson...for Paul in Troas, he had lost his zest for work and idleness was despair. Everything seemed to have gone wrong. There was no joy anymore for Paul's restless spirit."
Then, writes Robertson, "One of the charges made against some ministers today is just this restlessness of spirit here shown by Paul. One is seized with a feverish desire to go elsewhere, to resign this field, to move on to pastures new. There comes a sense of drudgery in the tasks of every day life, the goal is at the end of the rainbow and here is only steady, plotting toil in a rather humdrum ministry. The temptation may even come to give up the ministry and enter some other calling. At such a time one is over sensitive and imagines all kinds of slights and insults. The real difficulties and problems of the ministry are magnified out of all proportion to the facts. In such a case a minister is in jeopardy. He's in danger of becoming bitter toward the world, jealous of other ministers, disgusted with his own task and thus he will lose his compass and drift out to sea," end quote.
Now that's where Paul was. Anxious, burdened, overwhelmed, no heart for ministry, discouraged. And frankly, time lost in nourishing a broken heart is time lost for eternity. How many pastors have been so beset that they have become debilitated?
So he turned away from the open door. Verse 13, isn't it amazing, "But taking my leave of them..." Them? Who is them? The church that he had planted there, the baby infant church, the believers and those who eager...were eager yet to hear. "I turned my back on them and went on to Macedonia." You notice the absence of any prompting of the Holy Spirit here? You see, he knew the route that Titus would take, it was a five-day boat trip across the northeast corner of the Aegean Sea, he could leave Troas and be where he needed to be and then get on the trail. And in ancient times when people traveled they made sure that everyone knew their travel plans and they could be tracked and they sent word ahead and left word behind about their movements. Paul set out then on a gloomy journey trying to intersect Titus. He couldn't wait any longer. He had to know. He had to know.
So here's the dark side of the man's life. Whoever was leading this Corinthian conspiracy, he identifies in chapter 12 as a messenger from Satan who is like a stake driven through his flesh. Let me tell you something. Paul was on the edge. But he wasn't like our friend William who wrote the letter, he didn't quit. In chapter 4 verse 8 he says, "We're afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed." He wasn't ready to cave in yet. It was a time of weakness but not the end. Discouraged but not defeated, still holding on to hope. And you really do see here, don't you, that the love that he had for the Corinthian church, how could they ever have questioned it? This isn't the heart attitude of a fake or a fraud or a self-serving profit seeker or a pleasure hungry man. This is a man who loved so deeply his heart is being cut in half by how they have acted.
So he's discouraged but he's not done. He's not finished. He could have turned the wrong way but he turned the right way. And we come to verse 14, which way did he look? You tell me. Up, right? "Thanks be to God." He wasn't going to be like Peter who trying to walk on the troubled sea looked down and almost drowned. He looked up. It is interesting to me that there's nothing between verse 13 and 14 and you might at first say...how do we get him out of the pit of verse 13 into the joy of 14 so quick? And somebody will say, "Titus came." That's true, Titus did come before the letter was written. It's true Titus came and chapter 7 says by the coming of Titus Paul was comforted because the news was generally good. People were sorrowful over what they had done. They did repent. They affirmed their love for Paul.
He doesn't mention that here because I don't really think that played into the...into the point of his joy here. The light did dawn when Titus came and there was joy in the morning. Titus did say some very encouraging things about the condition of the church there. A good report. But I don't think it was that report that was the key to his joy or he would have said that. He reserves the report for clear over in chapter 7. You see, he knew that no matter what good had happened due to the two letters and the visit of Titus, no matter what good had happened there was still a minority of people there who were buying into the deception. There were still a minority of detractors there and there were still the false apostles there and he also knew that there was still the tremendous impact of a wretched pagan vicious ungodly culture pounding in on that church. He further knew that the Corinthians having been fickle once could as well be fickle twice, right? And that the whole problem had been solved and Titus was coming to tell him it was all solved, then why would he have spent another thirteen chapters defending his integrity? Which he spends in the second letter written to them after the report from Titus. No. No, there was always still cause to worry and to be disheartened and to wonder, even in spite of the wonderful report of Titus. There was still reason to be concerned. If the problems were all solved, it would be hard to imagine why he would have written all this second letter.
No. While I think the report of Titus was a time of comfort, it was a moment of joy and respite and relief and he knew they were then on the right track and some of the people had responded appropriately, that really wasn't where he looked to find his comfort. You can always look in your church in the moment of the darkest hour and find some faithful folk, can't you? And they might even be, have you noticed, the majority? And you might even hear some repentance and you might even have some body come and say, "Pastor, we're really sorry, we do love you and for whatever grief we caused you, we ask your forgiveness." But down deep in your heart you know that the people can be fickle and that looming around the corner is the potential of another such disaster and you don't just want to live on the ups and downs of the response of your people. You've got to go somewhere else to find your deep profound joy in the deepest hour of your pain and that's exactly what the Apostle did. Verse 14 says he turned to God. Instead of looking at the troubled sea and drowning in it, he lifted his eyes toward God and what turned him around was a thankful heart.
At this moment it would have been very difficult for him to be thankful for the Corinthians, thankful for the difficulties. But there were some things he was thankful for. And he got lost in those things and they lifted him out of his despair. It is then in verse 14 that we move from discouragement to encouragement.
Now let me give you a little background. Paul draws this encouragement out of a very graphic historical event that occurred in his world. He uses that as a backdrop to what he is going to say. You see words there like "triumph, aroma, fragrance," those are all words that speak of a very unique event, particularly the word triumph. The Romans had what was called a Triumph. That's what they called it. A Triumph was when the Roman government and all of its people honored a great general.
The honor could be bestowed on a victorious Roman general only under certain conditions. Before he could win it he must have been the actual commander-in-chief of all the troops in the field. The campaign must have been completely finished, the region completely pacified and the victorious troops brought home. At least 5,000 of the enemy must have fallen in one engagement. A positive extension of the territory of the kingdom must have been gained and not just a disaster retrieved or some attack repelled. A victory must have been won over a foreign foe and it could not be in a civil war. And now and then, maybe once in a life time a general might have that kind of Triumph given to him as his honor. In the actual Triumph there would be a procession through the streets of Rome to the capital where an offering would be made to the gods.
First there would come the state officials and there would come the senate in this great Triumph. Then there would come the trumpeters. Then there would come those carrying the spoils from the conquering, all the wealth and the treasures. Then there would come the white bull which was to be offered in a blood sacrifice to Jupiter. Then there would come the captives, the prisoners in chains who would be headed to prison and to death. Then there would come the priests. The priests would be swinging censers full of incense that was smoldering and smoking and the fragrance of the incense would fill the air all along the way. And in addition, women would line the street and throw garlands of flowers to be crushed under the hooves of the men on the horses and thus the fragrance would mount. In the homes of the people they might light incense lamps so that the fragrance would fill the entire city. Then there would come the general himself and he would be riding a chariot pulled by four horses and he would have a purple toga marked out with golden stars and over it he would have another purple robe, it would be embroidered with golden palm leaves. In his hand he would have an ivory scepter crowned with an eagle. And all the people would shout, "Triumph, triumph, triumph, triumph."
That's the picture in Paul's mind. And what a contrast it is to the gloom of his heart. He goes from the despair of what is happening in the Corinthian situation to the exhilaration of marching in a triumphal parade. And the truth of the matter is, from a human viewpoint he looks like he's been defeated, not like he's been the conquering hero. But it is when you turn from the vicissitudes and the failures and the difficulties of ministry in this life and you look at the triumphant calling and privilege to which you've been called that you get your perspective back. And he begins to give thanks.
First, he gives thanks for the privilege...for the privilege of being led by a sovereign God. He gives thanks for the privilege of being led by a sovereign God. Look at verse 14, "But thanks be to God who always leads us." there is never a time, there is never a moment, there is never an occasion when God is not leading. What a great confidence that is. He could well think that the whole plan had somehow gotten unraveled, that the whole operation in Corinth had been ripped out of the hands of God and now Satan was in charge. And so he affirms the great reality whatever may be happening in Corinth, whatever may be the gloom and despair of my heart, this one thing I now recognize and I affirm it again to my own troubled heart and that is this, that God the great victor, the great God of all gods is leading us at all times. That confidence in sovereignty is the undergirding strength of any ministry and anyone's joy.
The privilege of belonging to the ranks of the sovereign Lord, the privilege of marching behind the Commander-in-Chief in the parade as one of his lieutenants, the privilege of belonging to the victorious troops, the privilege of being under that kind of leadership, a leader who always leads to victory, the privilege of being chosen by God to be a soldier of Jesus Christ, to bear His name, to wear His uniform, to serve His cause, that's enough to bring back the joy no matter what may be happening. Paul says it was Christ Jesus our Lord in writing to Timothy chapter 1 who strengthened me. I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor and yet I was shown mercy. And not only that, Paul says I was the chief of sinners and He made me His minister. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever amen, and praise fills his heart.
Don't look at the circumstances. Don't look at the difficulties. If you want to turn your discouragement into joy, look at your privileges. And you have the privilege of being led by the sovereign God who is involved in every detail of your life and ministry. Just the contemplation of the privilege of being led by the greatest Commander-in-Chief and being associated with the Lord Jesus Christ and being in the ranks of others who have served Him through the years also under His sovereign leach...leadership should be enough to bring back the joy.
And then Paul gave thanks for a second thing, gave thanks for the privilege of promised victory in Christ. Not only the privilege of being associated with Jesus Christ under the sovereign leadership of God but the privilege of promised victory with Jesus Christ. Look at it, verse 14, "God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ." He's not only always leading us, but He's always leading us triumphantly. We're always marching in the great parade. We can never lose. We follow the conquering Hero in the victory parade through life, not as captives, not as prisoners headed to judgment, but as co-conquerors in the great triumph over sin and death and hell.
It's just wonderful to be a part of the triumphant parade, even if I just shot one guy over the corner and he was only barely wounded. It's just wonderful to be associated with the victory, isn't it? Jesus Christ is a conqueror and in Him we are more than conquerors and He came into the world and He conquered sin and death and hell and triumphantly He will march the redeemed troops into eternal glory and you and I will be behind Him in His train as those who were with Him in the battle. And the issue is not how many we got, the issue is the triumph and we're swept up in the victory parade, we're swept up in the glory moment. The triumphant soldiers bring the spoils of war, the souls of men and women chosen from eternity past and gathered out of time, are led out of Satan's kingdom into the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of light and here come those great souls behind those who fought the battle. Jesus Christ wins and we win. Jesus said, "I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." And if you're with Him in His church building, you're a part of the triumph.
We don't have to win every little struggle along the way, it's enough to know that we'll be triumph in the end. It's enough to know that we'll be there as part of the marching army, part of the lieutenants of Christ in the day when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.
And then Paul thinks of a third reason to be thankful as he has in his mind the image of this Triumph. In such a victory parade some would be carrying censers filled with strong fragrant incense, as I noted, and then there were women throwing flowers that were crushed and this became a smell, an aroma that just enveloped the city. Paul borrows from that imagery and says there's a third thing I'm thankful for, "I'm thankful for the privilege of influence for Christ...of influence for Jesus Christ." Not just the privilege of being led by Him, not just the privilege of triumph, but the privilege of influence. It is just a remarkable and inexplicable, an amazing reality that I, this human wicked sinful blaspheming violent aggressor against God and Christ could be so transformed and called as to be used by God to have some influence for His kingdom. That's what he says in verse 15. "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God."
But look back at verse 14 at the end, not only to God, but manifest is the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place...and here's the key phrase...through us. The key thought here is that God in wonderful condescending mercy has chosen to manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Jesus Christ everywhere through us. He has, as someone said, desired to press the gospel through human voice...to put it another way, to use the human throat as the channel of salvation. Incredible. Through us...through us. Paul said, "How shall they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach except they be sent?" And then borrowing from Isaiah, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news."
When God planned to manifest the knowledge of Christ in every place, and send forth the sweet aroma, the fragrance of the gospel, He planned to do it through us. Are we worthy? No. Do we deserve the honor? No. Paul never got over that. Neither should you or me. Then will you belittle it? Will you like our friend who wrote the letter say I don't like the results, I quit? Will you belittle that calling and that ability to be the very one through whom the fragrant aroma of the gospel moves to every place? Will you belittle that because you don't experience your own definition of success or your own definition of popularity or your own ambitions? Your own desire for reputation?
I hope not. It should be enough, it should be enough just to preach. It should be enough that you have an influence, however small, that you have an influence at all. Thanks, thank You, God, for the privilege of having an influence for Jesus Christ, I don't deserve it. Thank You for the privilege of being in the triumphant parade as You gather out Your redeemed from the kingdom of darkness, no matter how small my little part might be. Thank You for leading me sovereignly in every aspect of my life to do what You want me to do.
That's enough. You don't measure it by results. You measure it by privilege. The disheartened preacher is disheartened because he looks at people. The joyful preacher is joyful because he looks at God. The disheartened preacher considers the difficulty. The joyful preacher considers the privilege.
Fourthly, coming down into verse 15 and 16, he gives thanks for the privilege of pleasing God in Christ. We are a fragrance of Christ to God. Whoa... As I read that earlier just to plant it in your mind, we're not just a fragrance to men, the aroma of the gospel, but to God Himself. The great emperor seated on the high throne at the capital at the end of the parade would smell the wafting fragrance. It was not only sweet to the victorious troops who had been the means by which the smell of victory had come to pass, but it was very sweet to the emperor himself. And God is pictured as smelling the wafting fragrance.
We don't really preach to men, do we? Although we give them the gospel it is God who is our most important audience. We offer spiritual sacrifices unto God, don't we? Wherever the preacher's mission advances, wherever the preacher is faithful and allows the manifestation of the knowledge of Christ to come through him as a sweet aroma, that sweet aroma ascends to the very throne of God and it pleases Him. It pleases Him.
That was the passion of Paul's heart, 2 Corinthians 5:9, we have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him. That's all he ever wanted. I just want to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be pleasing to Him. That's all. He said to the Galatians, "Do I sound like a man pleaser?" As we preach the knowledge of Christ is spread like sweet fragrance along the way and men can smell it and then it rises to God as well. It is not results and numbers and popularity and fame and the size of the church, it is that God is to be pleased with the fragrance of the message because it is true and it is pure and is faithfully proclaimed.
Paul says it is a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. That's interesting. Those who are being saved, present participle, those who are headed for full and final glorification. Those who are perishing refers to those who are headed toward damnation. And here is another dimension of this fragrance. The smell of victory in that procession, in that parade would come to those who were entering into the triumph. But the same smell to the prisoners headed to prison and education would be a smell of death, wouldn't it? When you preach the gospel, when you preach the truth, when you preach the Word, as John Calvin said, "The force of the gospel is such that it is never preached in vain, it is effectual leading either to life or to death."
Paul further explains it in verse 16, "To the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life." And he borrows there from the usage of Hebrew superlatives to emphasize the effect of the preacher's preaching. It is an aroma of death to death to those who reject the message and are headed for doom and destruction. It is a message of life to life to those who believe. It's very much like 1 Peter 2, to those who believe Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone and to those who reject He is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. The same aroma, the same sweet truth, the same gospel brings life and death.
And may I be so bold as to say to you both please God, for He is pleased with the expression of His mercy and He is pleased with the expression of His justice. Sometimes we don't get the results that we think we should get. Sometimes our messages aren't as often an aroma of life unto life as we wish. But even when they fail to be an aroma of life unto life, they please God by being an aroma of death unto death. And what if God willing to demonstrate Himself chooses to punish sinners? Can we question that? That too is part of His nature. He has no pleasure in it and yet it expresses who He is.
I don't think we very often think of it that way and we might evaluate our ministry on how many people to come to Christ and God might be evaluating it simply on the dual criteria of life unto life and death unto death, the Word of God, Isaiah said, going forth always accomplishes...what?...the purpose to which God sent it.
What a privilege it is to preach the truth and please God. To those who hear believe, it is a life unto life aroma. To those who hear rejected, is a death unto death aroma. The Jews in the ancient times wrote of the Torah, the Law, as a bee reserves her honey for her owner and her sting for others, so the words of the Torah are an elixir of life, som hiem(??) and a deadly poison, som homoweth(??). The sun shining on a tree brings life to some branches and death to others. If a branch is vitally connected to the tree and the tree is grounded and rooted in the soil, the sun will bring life. On the other hand, if the branch has been cut off, the sun will burn it, wither it, scorch it to death. The sun is a savor of life unto life, and a savor of death unto death. The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.
Every time we preach these two things are occurring. Every time we preach there is life unto life and death unto death taking place. God is at work and God is pleased.
What a privilege, what a privilege to live a life that renders a duty that pleases God, to render a duty that influences others for Christ, that is a sweet aroma of saving truth. What a privilege to know that we triumph in Christ, we are always victorious, more than conquerors. What a privilege to be associated with the King of Kings and always led by Him. What a privilege to those of us who are utterly unworthy.
And then lastly, in turning from the discouragement of his heart to find his joy, Paul gives thanks for the privilege of power in Christ Jesus...for the privilege of power in Christ Jesus. The end of verse 16 he said, "And who is adequate for these things?" Who is hikanos, competent, capable? Who has sufficient human ability? Who has what it takes in himself to render service to the almighty God? Who has what it takes to influence the world for eternity? Who has what it takes to be triumphant? Who? Nobody. Nobody in his own strength, absolutely nobody.
Down in chapter 3 verse 5 he follows that thought up by saying, "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God who also made us adequate." Who is adequate? Not us. First Corinthians 15:10 he says, "I am what I am by the grace of God." It is the grace of God with me, so I preach and so you believe. He says in Colossians 1:29, "I labor but it is the power of God working in me." Paul is not adequate, he doesn't claim to be adequate. He is not adequate. He is utterly and totally dependent upon the power and the enabling grace of God. He knows all that power comes from God. Repeatedly he alludes to that or says it directly in his epistles...Ephesians 1, Ephesians 3, Philippians 2. The power all belongs to God, Galatians 2. And wanting to make this divine adequacy a strong point, look what he says in the last verse, verse 17, "For we are not like hoi polloi(??), the majority, the many." What does he mean by that? False teachers, "Peddling the word of God."
We are not peddlers of the Word of God, it's from a Greek verb kapeleuwhich means to corrupt. It came to refer to a con man, a street hawker, a pitch man, somebody selling by his ingenuity and his cleverness and his deception and his trickery a product that was a cheap imitation of the real thing. A kapeloswas a huckster, making a profit at the buyer's expense. The most common ones were those who sold watered-down wine...although wine was generally diluted in those times, they diluted it down far more than it should have been diluted and people paid a high price on the sheer power of their selling cleverness and bought an inferior and useless product.
You say, "What's the point here? How does it connect with the end of verse 16?" Just this, when men operate in their own inadequacy they become corrupters of the Word of God. He says we're not like the hoi polloi, we're not like the majority, we're not coming in our own human wisdom as he says in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. We're not coming with cleverness of speech and human brilliance. We're not coming with some deceptive talk like the false apostles who are there. That's the best they can do is just peddle a watered-down degraded adulterated product, mixing a little bit of divine truth with Judaistic tradition and paganism to get people to pad their pockets. Dishonest men seeking personal profit at the expense of divine things and the souls of men, fraudulent, adulterators of God's Word.
We still have them. The liberals and the cheap gospeleers and the prosperity, health, wealth preachers and the sacramentalists and the legalists and the pragmatists and the manipulators of people. We're not doing that, he says. That's what happens when you operate in your own strength. That's what happens when you operate in your own power and your own flesh. But verse 17, we're not like many, we're not like the majority. We come preaching a word for which we are not adequate so we come as from sincerity as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Sincere, eilikrinia, not by human cleverness, oratory educational brilliance, not deceptively, we come with sincerity, we come real. Look at us, examine us, hold us up to the light. It means to judge by the sun. Hold us up and see if there's a pot that's cracked and we've covered it over with wax that will melt the first time you use it. Look, and look in the sun and see if there's something wrong. And you'll find that we're real, and that we're genuine and we come from God who is the single source of our message, unmixed and unadulterated and who is the single source of our power. And we speak in Christ in His person and in His power and we speak also knowing that we are in the sight of God. We are very much aware of His all knowing sovereign scrutiny. Paul is saying you don't have to suspect me, you need to suspect them of the chicanery of which they're guilty. Anybody can preach a whittled down gospel, anybody can preach some kind of a deal where you take a little dab of biblical truth and slap it together with human wisdom and contaminate it with your own cleverness and your own views. But if you do that, you are a hawker and a huckster. Any man is adequate for that, but the man who preaches unmixed divine truth pure and clean can only do that in power that is given from on high.
So Paul found his way out of the gloom, didn't he? Out of the gloom of a broken heart and he found his way back to thanksgiving, began to focus on God and realize that he had to go back to the privileges and not to the problems. The privilege of being associated with the King of Kings and have Him as a leader, the privilege of a promised triumph, all through his life he's victorious. The privilege of influencing men and women for eternity. The privilege of being pleasing to God. The privilege, the great privilege of having power in proclaiming the truth.
You never measure a man's ministry by earthly measurements. William Carey(?) in India for thirty-five years and only then did he see a convert. Would anyone question the virtue of his life? Let God be the judge. Let's bow together in prayer.
Father, what a blessing it is to crawl into the very heart of the Apostle Paul this morning and feel what he felt. We're so sad about the man who wrote the letter and said he was through, who never made it through the crossroads cause he put his eyes on the people and not the privilege. We are engaged in an exalted privilege of which we are not worthy. We're not even worthy to do it let alone have it accomplish anything, but it does for eternity. We thank You that our ministry however small and however humble when it is faithful and true to Your Word and unadulterated and unmixed will be an aroma of life to life and death to death, not only to men and women but to You and You'll be pleased. Thus do we render You our spiritual service with joy and thank You for the honor in Christ's name. Amen.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
Saturday, September 01, 2012
Another Killer sermon... Read and enjoy!
Now the man's name, Diotrephes, is interesting. It means "reared by Zeus...reared by Zeus," or "nursed by Zeus. And it was a name, as far as we can tell, it was found only among nobility in ancient families. So it may have been that he had a self-importance problem because he came from some noble family. Perhaps he was aristocratic in his background and because he had a little bit of an aristocratic background, thought more highly of himself than he ought to think. But that really wasn't his problem. It doesn't really have to do with his background. His problem is clearly identified in verse 9, he loved to be first. That's the issue. There really are not environmental contributions to this issue here. This is not a circumstantial situation. This isn't because of the way he was raised. This is a man who's greedy for power because he loves himself. He's guilty of spiritual pride of the rankest kind. And he's worked his way into spiritual leadership in the church. He's not humble. He's not selfless. He's not loving. He's not compassionate. He certainly doesn't have the mind of Christ. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," Philippians 2:3 and following.
And you will notice "he loves" is in the present tense. This is a pattern for him. This is habitual for him. He's driven by personal ambition, this is so hard to deal with in the church, particularly in small congregations where these people are entrenched. As I've said, we've picked up the pieces of many heart-broken young men who go out and are chewed up by Diotrephes here and everywhere.
Not only was he perverted by ambition, but it led to perverted action, verse 10, "I will call attention," he says, "if I come to his deeds which he does." It's not just an attitude. You can't contain an attitude anyway, whatever an attitude is becomes an action. John says, "For this reason, because of the fact that in his self-love and in his longing to be preeminent, he doesn't even accept what I, and Apostle of Jesus Christ, have to say, because of this, for this reason, if I come I will call attention to his deeds which he does." I'm going to expose the man if I come. I will not forget, John is saying, I will not forget. I will bring up the subject of Diotrephes' conduct and I will make it an issue in the church because it is an issue for discipline. And the question always arises, and I've had this question with so many young pastors, what do I do? There's a guy in my church, he's like Diotrephes, he has the preeminence, what do I do?
And I encourage them, I encourage the leaders who are supportive of the pastor, you must take the power away from the man. If you do not take the power away from the man now, then you're going to lose the pastor you have and you're going to lose the next one and the next one and the next one until you finally do what you have to do. Churches seem so reluctant to do that. Why? Because these people are manipulators, they didn't get into power for nothing. They didn't get there by just rolling out of bed. They worked their way into that. And Johns says, "When I get there, I'm not going to overlook this. This man is challenging my authority as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. This man is forbidding believers to be hospitable toward faithful preachers. I'll take disciplinary action." All the verbs here are present tense...does, accusing, does not receive, forbids, puts out, all present tense verbs. This is the habitual work of this man who has worked his way into position of power in the church by deceiving people.
Monday, August 06, 2012
The first mark of a dynamic and effective church is a plurality of godly leaders. A plurality of godly leaders. The Bible teaches that there is to be in the church leadership that is godly, and that there are to be multiple of leaders. That is the heart of the church. That is the top of the church, and from there comes the direction for the church.
Second thing, a dynamic church will have functional goals and objectives. That is, it knows where it's going and it has delineated the procedure to get there. It has functional goals and objectives.
Thirdly, a dynamic church has a strong emphasis on discipleship. And by that I mean making people Christians, bringing them to Christ, and then nurturing them so that they can in turn reproduce. That the view of the strong church is a concerted effort to teach and bring people to grow and reproduce.
Fourth, a dynamic church will have a strong emphasis on community penetration. The style, the program, the approach may vary, but in all successful churches, dynamic churches, there is a strong concerted effort to penetrate the community. To reach the unsaved. To make a dramatic effect upon the society in which that local assembly exists.
Fifth, a church that is effective will have an aggressive, active, ministering people. It will not be a church where the paid people do everything. It will not be a spectator-type arrangement.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
~ Lewis Smedes
Sunday, December 25, 2011
"“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 16:18-20)
It is crazzy what people will do for possessions. They are treated like treasures and too many people bestow too much worth than it deserves for it. Just today on the TV it showed hoards of crowds running, stomping each other for... SHOES of all things. Can you imagine that? Who would value something like shoes over the welfare and health of a fellow human being? Shoes are more important to these folks than the well being of someone else. How silly? It was so concerning that the manufacturer issued a request to purchase their item in a safe manner. And shoes are not worth anything if it can be stolen, or destroyed by moths are other things.
But Mr. Bilson has seen crazzy things in his past. Who can forget the day when his pastor friend who ran a youth group and was really struggling financially... It started when his friend goes to a fellow congregation member's house. The parents wanted to celebrate with him and their kids the new construction of a 'man cave'. They constructed an additional room, or cave, in their house with a brand new TV, state of the art sound system, video games and consoles, new fridge and furniture, plush flooring and upholstery. It easily cost over $10,000. The kids did good in school and were well behaved and the parents wanted to reward them. Now there is nothing wrong with rewarding kids and treated those who do well. But it got crazzy when one of the parents came into the office of the youth pastor with a complaint. It had to do with an event the youth pastor prepared. The pastor was struggling financially and put together a retreat event for the youth to come out. He knew that most of the members of the congregation were struggling financially so he lowered the price of the event that would cover, food, transport, speakers etc. He did this so that more people would be able to afford to come out. The pastor would personally pay and absorb the actual cost from his own wallet. It got crazzy when the parent came in, who built the man cave complaining that the $60 fee was too much. Sure it was an event that would develop the spiritual life of the young people and count for eternity but that didn't seem to register. This parent believed that his 'man cave' was worth the investment and treasured it more than the retreat. That man cave is as valauble as any treasure that can be stolen or destroyed. It is crazzy when parents model the wrong value system over their own children. What is the world coming to? Who knows?
Well, this Christmas, lets keep our values in check and in the right priority. Lets invest in things that count for eternity. An experience with Christ is worth far more than any earthly possession. Man caves and shoes are never more valuable than an encounter with Christ and knowing him!
"Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Monday, September 19, 2011
There was so much to take in and alot to talk about but what was quite notable was that a great number of young South Asians are entering into full time Christian ministry. It was even more startling to hear that some have left or even post poned getting into schools and careers in the marketplace for ministry.
It was even more alarming to hear that there are almost record number of South Asians entering seminary and bible college for Christian service. This can only mean one thing. God is up to something new. Who can resist it?
Thursday, July 07, 2011
The Preacher was talking about how families tend to gravitate towards a common interest. He listed a couple of examples. Some include:
In Mr. Bilson's own circles, he has found these examples. Can you think of any?
Monday, March 07, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Well, well, well..., here we are again... at the end of another year... called 2010. It is that time again. Sounds like a rap song huh? Anyway, time to reflect on the highlights and pitfalls of this year.
Overall it has been a wonderful one. A year where God would close doorways and open up new ones. As you may or may not know, Mr. Bilson became the unwilling victim of corporate downsizing. Yes it is true! In the midst of a global economic downturn, yours truly was laid off from about a decade of involvement at PMC. It was memorable, emotional but also inevitable. Now all that is left are the memories. The doorway was finally shut here but as many believers have shared with Mr. Bilson in the past, it means that God is opening a new doorway. The doorway to a Sabbath or also a sabbatical. It was long awaited and well earned one. Now, Mr. Bilson is known for being a bit of a workaholic and can sometimes bite off more than he can chew. But after much prayer and meditation, it seemed God had finally called him to unwind, relax and take a breather, a hiatus or sorts. Normally, Mr. Bilson is a bit stubborn towards being put to rest until he started to see and reap the benefits.
So here we go to review 2010 and see those benefits. We'll begin with a word on Sabbath.During the year, Mr. Bilson would awaken to taking on a Sabbath/Sabbatical which meant time in worship and hearing the word. There were many memorable preachers. Some key ones are John MacArthur and his many sermons about his favorite saint Paul. Mr. Bilson was more intrigued about his comments on running the Church and the organization of Deacons in it. A must listen... Also his Q and A sessions were also quite stimulating.Not also was MacArthur a key preacher but there was also David Jeremiah and Joel Houston.
David Jeremiah gave awesome sermons describing how America put the world into a economic down turn and how it all could fit into Biblical prophecy. What was noteworthy was his comments on how America was not mentioned in Biblical prophecy. He quoted his earlier book that it may be because most of the nation may have already been raptured up to heaven in the last days but now wanted to entertain the possibility that the nation may turn in itself in a moral meltdown in response to harsh economic times. Quite fascinating!
The other preacher worth mention was Joel Houston. He talked about having momentum in our walk with God and how some people lose it. They may have met some major disappointments in life and come to a place where they stop taking leaps of faith and become stagnant not wanting to be a leader who can make the hard decisions. What a warning we all should heed!Joel is a preacher from a Church also known for its worship. Mr. Bilson is speaking of Joel Houston, who is the pastor at the famous Hillsong Church in Sydney Australia. If you don't already know, it is a world famous Church that is known for it's powerful worship music that has circled the globe. Mr. Bilson's favorite song was, "Forever Reign" which was one of the beautiful songs that he frequently played in the mornings when he'd wake up! It is still a killer tune.... or should I say life giving one!
Other great songs of the year came from another awesome band called Anberlin. There are a couple of believers in that one and their new song, "Impossible" was one that anyone can identify with. It expressed the pain of having broken relationships and not being able to figure it out. Who could not identify with that one? But to my friends in Anberlin remember He, "...heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)
And who can forget the powerful songs by Al Gordon and Paul Bolouche. Al wrote, "Glory" and Paul wrote, "Our God Saves" and "Hossana" which were songs anointed by the powerful presence of God when sung and Mr. B's old and new Church, CLA. It was the Church Mr. B belonged to long before he ever heard of PMC and to comeback after 10 years was nothing short of a breath of fresh air. The revival is still on and the presence of God so powerful after being in the desert for toooo long. CLA welcomed Mr. B with open arms! God bless them! But also God bless the gift of those worship leaders for leading Mr. B into the powerful presence of the Almighty.2010 was also a year where Mr. Bilson experienced incredible blessing and answered prayer through CLA. For years Mr. B was praying for his brother, A-Bomb to experience the powerful presence of God and to have a deeper hunger for the Word. About ten years later at CLA, he'd finally see his prayers come true. A-Bomb would wake up and get ready quickly on those Sunday morn's to rush to CLA and soak more of His presence and Word. He started craving it. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing years of prayer answered. It just proves true that when disciples, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. " ( Matthew 7:7-8)
Oh, and who can forget the trip to India? Did I mention that one? Mr. B and his Pops when back to the motherland to catch up with old family members. It was one word: HOT! No really! There was a heat wave of +50 C and it didn't change at nighttime. Mr. B found himself becoming almost senial to the point of laughing and talking to himself... it shocked his aunties. But the hightlights was seeing the place where Mr. B Pop's grew up, the school he attended, meeting distant family relatives and drinking hot Chai in the hot weather. Most memorable. And who can forget the house boat cruise overlooking K.P Yohannan land. It was short of breathtaking.
There was also the swing over to Dubai to enjoy the company of family again and see the sights. The dune bashing was most exquisite and the fine dining. The Burj Khailifa, the tallest building in the world, was not open at the time but no worries, we'll catch up to it next time.There was also more answered prayer. Mr. Bilson remembers the frequent prayers made out at the Millennium amphitheater to bring an evangelistic event there. It finally came true in 2010 where his favorite preacher's son and a favorite band would eventually come. Franklin Graham brought his friends from Skillet to lead in a mayjor youth rally leading nearly 1000 youngsters back to Christ. Most memorable it was! Thank you Jesus! You always hear the cry of our hearts!
O, and what else was there? Oh! The trip to the interior. We had some fun meeting up a former youth pastor from England who showed us the beauty of interior B.C. We hung out at the different beaches, floated down a river on inner tubes and ate to our hearts content. They were so hospitable and kind. They were true followers of Jesus. It was a refreshing weekend.And finally, to top it all off! ISRAEL and JORDAN. Dreams came true as God allowed Mr. Bilson to fullfill some dreams of going to the promised land with some fellow saints. More will be posted on that in the near future. In the meantime, here are a bunch of photoes!
Well, thanks again for journeying with Mr. Bilson on his escapades... But before we leave we want you to think about... What is next? What is in store for 2011?We'll see you in the New Year!
Monday, September 06, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."
- Jack Norworth
The Toronto Blue Jays came by at a time when it was A-Bomb's B-Day. The timing was perfect so off to Seattle for some of the festivities. It was a memorable game. At the bottom of the 9th, the Mariners came back from a Canadian lead. Watching the game in person is far better than on TV. What a way to celebrate!
You've got a diamond
You've got nine men
You've got a hat and a bat
And that's not all
You've got the bleachers
Got 'em from spring 'til fall
You got a dog and a drink
And the umpire's call
Let's play ball!
Blue Jays (Blue Jays)
Let's (Let's) Play (Play) Ball!
Is that a fly ball
Or is it a seagull
Coming in from the lake
Just to catch the game?
It's the last inning
Our guys are winning
Dave's put down a smoker
And you've got no doubt
Let's play ball!
It's a beautiful evenin', fans
At the ballpark
Warm summer breezes
Sun's goin' down
And it's all dark
At the ballpark
But that's okay…it's a night game
Let's play ball!
Bring on the White Sox
Bring on the BoSox
Bring on the Brewers
The Rangers and the Yankees too
We'll beat the Indians
We'll beat the Tigers
We'll beat the A's so bad it'll make
Let's play ball!
- The Batboys!
Here we are in SafeCo. It was my 2nd Jays game there. The Americans were extremely friendly and kind. The first time we went, we'll never forget the bad looks and unwholesome comments. Oh but the Jays won that game unlike this one.
This was the NewsBoys concert. I got free tickets. I miss their old lead singers. Tait is just a different guy....
If things pan out, we'll be going to Safe Co's field's next door neighbor... That is if Bono's back holds out and if I have $$$! Hope to see you there!
Friday, May 14, 2010
I got some good advice from a millionaire the other day. He gave me 4 things to remember:
1. Work hard - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Col 3:23)
2. Save allot - A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Prov 13:22)
3. Give allot - In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (Acts 20:35)
4. Stay out of debt - Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts (Prov 22:26)
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I've attended church for almost ten years now. I've been involved in Church ministry for about eight and have notice something about the, 'good' pastors. I've noticed that Pastor's who are able to stay in the long run and grow and multiply and even release disciples in a church definantly have a gift of leadership. They can mentor, inspire, cast vision, rally people behind a cause, keep communication easy and simple and consistent, and resolve and bring correction in the midst of conflicts.
Than there are those pastors who are better at preaching/teaching than leading. They usually don't go as far and keep a church running healthy and on target. That doesn't mean they are good for nothing but have a weakness like anyone else.
Ideally, the 'good' pastor can do both! But when is even more ideal would be to have a couple of pastors who can specialize in one of the two departments. It gets even better when they work in harmony with each other and can devote all their time and energy in specializing in their departments. And what makes this a better ideal is that in fulfills the need of a pastor to be in relationship with another person. We are all built with this need. It is beautiful when this occurs in a healthy way and is modeled to the church.
So what makes a Preacher credible? Well, the ones who seem to get it are the ones who preach in front of large audiences or pastor 'mega' churches. Then there are those who are world famous or know world famous people and may even minister to the world famous. If they are famous, it could have come from writing a popular book that sold millions. There are also those who are quite educated. We like to hear those who know what they are talking about and can prove it. A good education can do this for a preacher. But I like the ones God esteems:
"For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." (Isaiah 57:15)
Can you believe some of these preachers out there? There was on this past Sunday. He came back from preaching at an 'ethnic' church. He mentioned how ethnic churches don't cater across the board. Mr. Bilson thinks he knows what he was getting at. Christians are called to spread the gospel across the world. Some preachers assume that ethnic churches only target one people group and compromise the great commission. But what is interesting is that some of these preachers who preach against this practice the very same thing. The proof is found in the languages that are represented and serviced in their home churches. Mr. Bilson has found that alot of these preachers usually (but not always) come from churches that only speak one language. Did you know that there are a multitude of languages in the world? Yeah, in fact there are more than one of them out there. Did you know that the whole doesn't speak English but there are other languages as well. What these preachers forget is that the ethnic churches they rebuke actually cater to this need that there home church may not address.
But the ideal situation is to have a Church who can cater across the board by servicing all the languages represented in the community. And some actually do. They have translators who translate sermons as they are being preached. All an attendee has to do is put on an ear piece and dial into the right channel of their language of choice and there you go. This is the model that all churches should go for. After all, Jesus says that his house will be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7). Let's reflect this vision by building churches that represent the languages of the world. It can start with one and move to others that better represent the linguistical needs of local communities and continue to expand needed.
So to all those preachers out there... Please don't look down at 'ethnic' churches and label them as not catering across the board. They are serving a vital purpose! And also no that if your church doesn't meet the linguistical needs of your community, you to are being ethno centric!
In order for the Church to become effective in mission and evangelism, its theology must understand its connection with the kingdom .(pg 13) . The church is not the kingdom but is called to be the kingdom community. It faithfully maintains the polarity between church and kingdom by living out the reality of God’s reign now, in it’s weaknesses and imperfections but in certain hope of ultimate triumph. In doing so it avoids the twin dangers of triumphalism, acting like the kingdom had already come in fullness, and ghettoism, turning inward and acting as if the kingdom were totally irrelevant for the present world.
The mission of the church, then, is to “raise signs of the kingdom”; to be a sort of demonstration project of what the kingdom will look like when it is fully manifest. This is a difficult calling, for it means being in but not of the world. It means being salt and light in ways that its unique flavor and glow come from Jesus Christ and yet really do penetrate society. (pg 150)
It is essential that churches form strong missional leadership who practically guide the community of God’s pilgrim people as the sign and witness of what happened to the world in and through the incarnation of Jesus Christ . Like Jesus, this leadership requires spirituality that is in close relationship with reliance and directions of the Father through the Spirit which require regular spiritual disciplines and ecclesial practices. This means imitating Jesus model by demonstrating the nature of his reign and teaching about its meaning. This was done by the apostles at Pentecost when the Spirit inspired the new community of God’s reign and sent the community of the resurrected Christ into the world.
The key function of the church as the body of Jesus Christ calls for his disciples to continue the works he began. Yet, if the works are truly done in Christ, they are not the disciples’ works but God and disciples are, “… created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance… to do.” (Eph 2:10). Christians must be clear that they do not bring or build the kingdom, but neither are they to wait passively for its full realization. Christians are kingdom workers not kingdom builders. They live and serve in the confidence that “it is God who works in (them) to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil 2:13). (153)
Kingdom Conscious Christians are the community gathered around Jesus in faith, love and service to him and to all people . This happens when Christians experience the first fruits of the kingdom through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come – namely the kingdom and its fullness which includes eternal life. Through Jesus, Christians already experience “the powers of the coming age” (Heb 6:5) Christians are to live in the power of the Spirit in service to the One who came to serve others and bring justice on the earth (Isa. 42.4) thus fulfilling the church’s mission. God equips the community with gifts of the Spirit that it may carry out its ministry of worship and witness with supernatural results. Kingdom communities, therefore, not only affirm the ministry of all believers, but they also share in a life through which gifts are encouraged, called forth, and put to good use. (155)
The biblical picture is not the church instead of the kingdom, but rather the church as witness to the demonstration of the kingdom as the just reign of God over all things. A clear understanding of God’s kingdom is essential to a proper conception of the mission of God’s people, the church. The church needs a biblical kingdom consciousness. Sensitivity to the priority of the kingdom will mean at least four things for the church’s role in missions and evangelism.
First, kingdom consciousness means living and working in the certain hope of the final triumph of God’s reign. Christians are those who in the face of all contrary evidence affirm that God is in control and that the victory send in his birth, life and death, resurrection, and reign of Jesus Christ is so powerful that it will eventually swallow up all evil, hate, and injustice. This gives Christians and unworldly audacious confidence that enables them to go right on doing what others say is impossible or futile in missions and evangelism.
Second, understanding God’s kingdom will expand the scope of what Christians view as the mission field in many different levels. It mean that the line between “sacred” and “secular” is erased. Rather than secularization of society or the sacralization of religious concerns, God’s kingdom means that all things are within the sphere of God’s sovereignty and, therefore, of God’s concern. No room for compartmentalized thinking here. Economics, ecology, politics, the arts, social and family life – all these are kingdom topics. So kingdom Christians bring a Jesus perspective to every area of life broadening its scope is missions.
Thirdly, this understanding will also expand the mission field to encompass all activities. It will require the church to have kingdom awareness. Kingdom awareness means that the ministry is much broader than church work. Christians who understand the meaning of God’s reign know they are in the kingdom business, and not the solely church business. They see all activity as having kingdom significance, so they strive together to bring all things under the Lordship of Christ. They know a secular job may be kingdom ministry if it contributes toward kingdom realities, but are ready to shift job, career, or venue if kingdom priorities so dictate (154).
Fourthly, the kingdom perspective will expand to unite concerns for justice with evangelistic witness. An awareness of God’s kingdom, biblically understood, resolves the tension between these two vital concerns. Kingdom Christians want to win people to personal faith in Jesus Christ, for the line of kingdom allegiance runs straight through every human heart. They are also committed to peace, justice, and righteousness at every level of society because of the circumference of the kingdom includes “all things in heaven and earth.” (Eph 1:10) and the welfare of every person and everything God has made. For the kingdom is, above all, a kingdom of love. Christians concerned with justice want to see as many people as possible come to faith in Jesus Christ and fidelity to his kingdom, while Christians concerned with evangelism want to see justice realized in all areas of society so the gospel will be made visibly credible. A kingdom perspective puts no split here.
Not also, should the church understand its connection with the kingdom but it must always make Jesus a constant reference point and be defined by him. It is Jesus who determines the church’s mission and methodology in the world, and therefore the church’s sense of purpose and mission comes from being sent by him into the world. (142-143).
This involves adopting incarnational mission in which the church takes the shape of the cultural group it is trying to reach. Mission in the incarnational mode is highly sensitive to the cultural forms and rhythms of a people group, because these are the means of meaningful relationship and influence. Incarnational mission thus engages within its cultural expression. Once this essential missional listening, observation, connecting, and networking has been done, then the forming of Jesus communities can take place. This is the only way to ensure that the Christian community truly incarnates itself and is fully contextualized.
Only in this way can the church actually become part of the cultural fabric and social rhythms of the host community. Once it has achieved this, it can therefore influence it from within. And it doesn’t matter what group that might be. In our neighborhoods there are literally hundreds of different “tribes” that can be meaningfully reached by such means. Through missional-incarnational approach, Jesus is introduced into the imaginations and conversations in a really evocative way (143-144).
Discipleship needs to be at the core of a church’s theology of mission and evangelism. C.S Lewis rightly understood the purpose of the Church was to draw people to Christ and to make them like Christ. Jesus initiated this by the simple acts of investing his life and embedding his teachings in his followers and developing them into authentic disciples. A commitment to resolute discipleship was the key for the remarkable growth to five hundred churches in a few short years by Neil Cole of Church Multiplication Associates (CMA). This started when the Associates wanted to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple. (102 – 105) with this in mind they developed the concept of Life Transformation Groups (LTGs), a very simple duplicable disciple making system that was eventually used worldwide because if its simplicity and reproducibility. It involves a staple of bible reading, story telling, personal accountability, and prayer. It is an ongoing commitment for everyone involved at CMA including leadership at every level.
What made discipleship so successful for the CMA was that they squared best with the five phases in the transmission of ideas through missionary movement. Steve Addison, a researcher of the nature of movements, discerns five phases in the transmission of ideas through missionary movements, discerns five phases in the transmission of ideas through successful missionary movements. They consisted of having white hot faith, commitment to a cause, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization and dynamic methods. White hot faith means having a direct and personal encounter with the living God, followed by social renewal. This is found in Paul, Wesley, Luther, Mother Teresa and other great Christian leaders who founded a movement or transformative movements which started with a direct and transforming encounter with God. This is followed by a commitment to a cause in which people are touched in such a way by God to give their lives to the cause as articulated by the movement. Commitment levels tend to be significantly high and catalyze a certain kind of synergy that comes through mutual cooperation and commitment. Contagious relationships refers to the network of relationships that become ‘contagious’ allowing powerful ideas like the Gospel to pass from one person to another and extend themselves beyond a narrow network of people and a single generation. Rapid mobilization refers to an apostolic type of leadership and organization that develops to be able to coordinate and maximize the efforts of the adherents of the movement. Dynamic methods involve the use of new and innovative methods and techniques to communicate their message. (104 -106).
The Church truly becomes missional when hunger comes with our familiarity with Jesus . This will help counter the current trend of Churches to artificially develop an ecclesiology, determining first where to meet, what songs to sing, what to preach, have to have small groups and leadership structures. Instead, becoming familiar with Jesus will inevitably birth a heartbeat of mission and force a rising for appropriate structures for worship, communal life, and leadership.
This kind of church will have four core components needed to establish appropriate structures. It will be Trinitarian in theology, Covenantal in expression, Catholic in orientation, missional in intent. It will be Trinitarian in looking at the interpersonal fellowship and interaction of the three persons of the Trinity and learning and participating in the community the Trinity model.
It will be covenantal in expression in committing to celebrate Christ’s presence, to share life with each other, and to embrace the mission together. This is more than a promise or pledge but a marriage and union centered on shared values and commitments.
Not only will it be covenantal but it will also be catholic in orientation. It involves gracious recognition of the small part a local community plays in the millennia – long project of a Christian mission. There is an eye to the connectivity with other brothers and sisters.
It is missional by first having proper understanding of Christ himself, leading to an appropriate commitment to mission which forces a development of the means of common life together.
These theologies on missions and evangelism have many practical implications. The missional-incarnational approach was adopted by a mission agency called the Third Place Communities (TPC). During the time spent away from home, work or school, people of TPC would gather with non Christians at social places such as pubs, cafés, hobby clubs, sports centers etc. for missional engagement. It would require following Jesus in engaging meaningfully with the lives of others . This means pursuing the poor, confused, struggling and the lost. It requires a high spirituality of engagement as marked by Jesus in going through all towns and villages and preaching in synagogues and healing every sicknesses and diseases (Matt 9:35). It also means looking for where God is already working and it may be in some unlikely places. We see Jesus eating with tax collectors and playing with children. This may lead Christians to find God working in the bar or biker gang, or strip club or casino. In over three years, they have seen some come to active faith in Jesus and many others close to it. Many of these relationships have become deep and intimate as they experience life together through the celebration engagements, weddings, birthdays, births and life in general. Bridges are built through weekly hospitality around tables, serving community together, raising money for those in need, sharing ideas about life, praying together, and exploring the stories about Jesus in the context of life. For all these people, whether they realize it or not, Jesus now inhabits their worlds in ways that are meaningful and tangible. (145).
Christians must understand and practice evangelism as proposing rather than imposing Christ . It must not be coercive or manipulative or forced on non Christians. Christians are truer to the faith when, like the suffering servant Jesus Christ, would propose rather than impose faith on others. The God of Israel and Jesus Christ makes himself known by entering into vulnerable relationship with his creatures. This does not force people to faith but attempts to persuade them to faith.
Genuine proposing means that evangelism is honest persuasion, a matter of fully informing others and allowing them to choose as they will. It means the church must renounce any attempt to make or manipulate others into wearing Christian shoes, accepting the Christian way of life. Christians instead are willing to affirm our willingness to suffer the consequences of opposition to Christian culture. This approach alone both certifies the seriousness of our convictions and proves our willingness to let others have their say. And so it opens the door to relationship and dialogue at the very moment it faithfully presses forward the aims of evangelism.
Here we make no mistake about the matter: genuinely proposing the faith usually entails an ongoing relationship, continuing conversation, with those now outside the faith. It definitely entails dialogue rather than monologue, that the Christian evangelist not only speak but also listen to learn how words and actions are being interpreted. And it entails, yet again, that the evangelist be apart of and be able to point to a community worthy of attention and respect, a way of life that prompts curiosity, questioning and a new searching. (170-171)