Where the essence & essentials…
of discipleship, worship, & walking-worthy…
meet & commune…
a dance of Holy Love.
Where the essence & essentials…
of discipleship, worship, & walking-worthy…
meet & commune…
a dance of Holy Love.
In seeking to please and appeal to consumers, man conceived of and “improved” upon that which God created (Gen 1:11-12) and, behold… seedless fruit! … easier to enjoy but serving no other purpose.
Contrastingly, the fruit of the True Vine will always be fruit bearing the Seed of the Vine… the Spirit Himself whereby more fruit can and will be produced as the branch bearing the fruit continues to abide in the True Vine. (John 15:1-5; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9)
May we never be content with seedless fruit! Come, Holy Spirit!
Psalm 73 provides us with a great reminder that is both refreshing and exhorting. In times of frustration and sheer disbelief at the ways in which people… all sorts of people — especially leaders, whether in politics or the press or business or academia — seem to get away with wickedness, we need to hear this.
The psalmist begins with context and perspective. (Ps. 73:1) We must never forget the character of God… He is good.
Then the psalmist begins reflecting on his own flaws and sinful inclination. (Ps. 73:2-3)
Over the course of the next few verses, he complains profusely of the apparent “good times” the wicked are enjoying as the continually get away with everything. (Ps. 73:4-12) We can taste the frustration building…
The psalmist then utters words that should send a chill through us… yet, they are words we have to admit may have echoed in our minds before. He regrets that he ever bothered with righteousness! (Ps. 73:13-14) What did he gain? Why bother?
Then his tone takes an immediate turn and we realize that he has been recounting his thoughts — sharing his heart with us. (Ps. 73:15-16)
But what brought him back to his spiritual senses? The psalmist “entered the sanctuary of God” and there found discernment. (Ps. 73:17) When we’re coming to the end of ourselves and can’t make sense of circumstances and events — that’s no time to fade away from God. Then we must seek Him even more earnestly — we must chase after Him and find fellowship with other believers as we pray and worship the Lord together! (Heb. 10:24-25)
Now the psalmist begins speaking with God directly. We are assured that those who persist and remain in wickedness will suffer their just end. (Ps: 73:18-20) And we see the progression from the psalmist’s bitterness of soul to conviction. (Ps. 73:21-22)
Through the remaining verses (Ps. 73:23-28) we see proclamation of hope and victory as the psalmist praises and gives thanks to God.
Let these concluding words from the Word echo in our hearts…
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
My mind and heart ache — conflicted with anger, horror, and deep sadness at the escalation of brutal injustice and flagrant immorality lately. Not just here in America; but it is coming home for us as Christians here — suffering for us has yet to compare to that of our brothers and sisters in many other countries.
Hear these words…
My soul cries out, My soul cries out for You
These bones cry out, these dry bones cry for You
To live and move cause only You can raise the dead
Could lift my head up
My soul cries out, my soul cries out for You
Jesus You’re the one who saves us, constantly creates us
Into something new
Jesus surely You will find us, surely our Messiah
Will make all things new, will make all things new
—Dry Bones (Gungor, Creation Liturgy)
Pray with me…
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Come, Spirit of Holy Love!
Father fill me with your fullness.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!
That which is most natural — in its purest, originally created sense — is precisely that which honors and worships the Creator as God alone. As the Apostle Paul began his theological treatise to the Church in Rome, isn’t it interesting that the Old Testament is not his initial or explicit point of reference? Rather, he argues from the natural revelation of God — declaring that mankind had always had all that was necessary to honor and worship its Creator. But humanity rejected God as He had revealed Himself to them in nature — choosing their own foolish wisdom, denying the glory of the Creator and worshipping mere creatures, denying the truth about God in favor of a lie. Because they rejected the naturally clear revelation of God, in His wrath He gave them up to the unnatural … “to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Ro. 1:26-27) And not only this, but all manner of ungodliness and wickedness.
Here we stand, thousands of years hence — the benefactors of the manifold revelation of God, not only in nature, but in Scripture and the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Christ and His Church and the Holy Spirit … and the rejection of God as He reveals Himself continues and increases ever more pervasively and perversely. The world has fallen so far away from the goodness and glory in which it was created that the plague of deception can no longer even be recognized by many if not most. That which is truly and rightly natural, as God intended, is so far from where creation is today. This is clearly evidenced by behavior that is against or contrary to nature, including sexual perversion such as homosexuality. Not only is such behavior prevalent, the efforts to celebrate and normalize such seem to prevail increasingly.
If the unnatural lifestyle is what you have chosen, repent and confess your sins to God Who is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you — making you His own in Christ and filling you with His Spirit of Love.
Christian brothers and sisters, the call remains today as it was to the early Church — stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught (2 Th. 2:15); stand fast through faith (Ro. 11:20); stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Co. 4:12); hold firm to the trustworthy Word (Ti. 1:9); hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory (Ja. 2:1); hold fast to the hope set before us (He. 6:18); hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful (He. 10:23).
God’s promise to Joshua is ours today — “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (He. 13:5). Jesus assurance stands eternal — “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Does sin break your heart? Does it make you angry? When you look around you and see undeniable, unmistakable evidence … when you look within — if you dare … and you must. Do you react to those emotions? Do you merely allow that reaction to demonstrate — to reveal more of that which is broken within you? Or, do you choose to surrender that reaction to the will of the Spirit of God — of Holy Love? Do you choose to respond — making the sacrifice of yourself an offering — an act of worship to the One Who alone is Lord and God?
As I reflect on the state of our nation and the most recent SCOTUS decision, I find myself going through this process. I hear and read declarations of victory and celebration that homosexuals may now wed one another legally. Decades ago, there were similar declarations of victory and celebration that women could choose to murder their unborn children legally. My indignation builds as evil is called good and good is called evil (Is. 5:20-21). How can we rightly respond in Holy Love?
The mix of sadness and anger I feel are both an immediate and lingering reaction. Most heartbreaking of all is to see this deception increasing amongst those who claim the name of Christ. Both marriage and life are sacred gifts from God, our Creator — not to be tampered with at the whims of the proud, rebellious, and ignorant. I cannot remain silent in the face of such blatant perversion and devaluing of the sacred. Neither Jesus nor any of the prophets or apostles — who were all His personally ordained spokespeople from Genesis to Revelation — were in any way silent about sin.
So a few things must be declared here and now. We have not been given a ministry of condemnation — condemnation is already upon the sinner by their own words and deeds (Matt. 12:37; Mark 16:16; John 3:18). Continuing in sin is not the required or righteous response (John 8:11; Rom. 6:1). Men and women in all their wisdom may seek to rationalize their way out of acknowledging the sin of which they should confess and repent; yet the wisdom of all the men and women of all time remains but foolishness before the Almighty (1 Cor. 1:20-25). As the end of the age draws near, God’s response to those to those who refuse to love the Truth, but choose to love pleasure, will be to turn them over to their own desires and delusion (Rom. 1:28-32; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
God forbid that we should not proclaim that forgiveness and freedom from condemnation is for all who will confess and repent and receive the cleansing of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. But for those who rebel and refuse and persist in sin, judgment is certain and unavoidable. (Heb. 10:26-31)
What could be more unloving — indeed, more hateful — than to know Truth and keep silent?! With all diligence, may we do everything that is within our power to obey God rather than man, faithfully following His highest command to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourself. And pray for God’s mercy and grace as we compassionately love and forgive those who hatefully and spitefully use us. This is the true outflow of the Holy Love with which we were first loved by Him.
Let us therefore walk worthy of our Lord — in Holy Love!
As I have friends and family with close ties to the United Methodist Church, I continue to be prayerful yet distraught over the worldliness to which this denomination and many others increasingly fall prey.
The message of “A Way Forward” indicates that the authors/signers do not affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture to address homosexuality as moral sin that the Christian is to abandoned. Further, public polling research favors treating immorality as normative—now there’s a headline for you! Moral sin does not fall within the the ranks of those things about which “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Sin is sin—cease and desist from all the foolish equivocation. Is it not glaringly obvious whose voice is being headed? “Did God really say…?”
As for the right response of the Body of Christ to a sinful world—we are to make disciples, proclaiming the true Gospel—truly loving both God and neighbor. Only the enemy of our souls would declare that sin isn’t sin or simply that sinful behavior doesn’t need to be avoided and abandoned. That’s not love or truth or the good news—that’s hatred and deceit! Jesus response to those bringing the woman caught in adultery to Him is often referenced when actions or words are identified as sinful—“neither do I condemn you”—yet the rest of His statement is ignored—“go…and sin no more.”
“A Way Forward” simply resolves to plant one foot in the narrow way and the other in the broad way—and the UMC as a denomination is somehow to survive this? This amounts to nothing more than a froward way—a wayward way—that will lead to destruction.
My recent departure from the UMC came about after months of prayerful consideration of where God was leading us as a family and, more particularly, me as a ministerial student preparing for licensure/ordination as a preacher. I arrived at a couple of conclusions toward the end of 2013 and summarized them back then in my journal—the beginning of that entry is as follows:
Denominational concerns have not subsided, but continue to persist and grow. To describe a couple:
1.) Homosexuality is tolerated, equivocated, and even endorsed by too many within the district, conference, and the highest levels of the episcopacy. Even seeing that leaders in NA have authored language that would weaken the UM position stated in the Discipline regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality …
Having some friends who have also departed the UMC, yet many others who remain, the announcement of the dismissal of the Ogletree case today (2014-Mar-10) is both sickening and saddening. (http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/new-york-conference-court-dismisses-ogletree-case) The libertine, permissive, and dismissive inclination of the UMC has led to “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. Open to whatever, wherever, whenever, however—just don’t violate the integrity of the unity.” It’s hard to believe that an official UMC split isn’t imminently forthcoming.
Even having departed the UMC these few months ago, I feel strangely tied to this. This is a deep spiritual divide. The enemy knows all too well that the Church in America is fraught with a pervasive spiritual anemia. Entertainment, good works, and moralistic (relatively speaking, of course) behavior are religion enough for the masses. Oh, the abyss we’re headed for when “evil is called good and good evil” not just in the world itself (that’s to be expected), but from within the Body!
I don’t want to merely bemoan the morass of this situation. The state of the church in America is truly mournful. There is such a desperate need for repentance and holiness. We cannot truly love God or our neighbor if we’re so preoccupied with religiosity, serving inoffensively, etc. that we walk him/her right down the “primrose path” to Hell believing that sin need not be acknowledged, confessed, and repented of nor abhorred and abandoned.
Kyrie eleison. Kriste eleison.
Kurt Tucholsky, a German-Jewish writer of the early 20th century, once said, “A country is not only what it does – it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates.” History tells us how corrupt, God-less leadership along with an indifferent, deluded, and/or ignorant populous led Germany to the reign of Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust.
I can’t help but then think, what has America become already?
We have our corrupt, God-less leaders.
We have our indifferent, deluded, and/or ignorant populous.
We have our -isms.
We have our holocaust—57 million murdered babies and counting since 1973.
What will America become?
Of even greater and eternal consequence is the sad reality that this speaks to the Church as well … what have we become already?
We have our corrupt leaders who only serve and worship the god of this world, teaching what appeases their own conscience, appeals to the flesh, and draws a crowd—or at least doesn’t offend too many. Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, states “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
We have our indifferent, deluded, and/or ignorant populous that has no knowledge of being born-again in Christ Jesus or being sanctified and transformed in the Word and Spirit. What passes for Christianity is comfortable for them—makes them feel good or at least better about themselves. Yet, Almighty God will have nothing to do with what they offer as service or worship. Cain had his own ideas about worship and found them unacceptable to God. Nadab and Abihu offered unauthorized/illicit fire in worship of God and were killed on the spot. Jesus tells of those who will stand before the throne of judgment declaring their great works in His name, only to discover that He never knew them. Similarly, He tells of those who, whether in religious piety or pure self-interest, failed to lovingly care for their neighbors and find themselves banished into eternal punishment.
We have our -isms … and factions and divisions and cults and, ultimately, there will be the apostate church.
We know what will become of all humanity for God declares the end from the beginning in His Word. The eternal question, then is, what will become of me? Where is my citizenship? Is the Kingdom of God the Kingdom of my Father in Heaven? Does God know me as His child?
If my citizenship is where it belongs, then my King has made my mission clear. “[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) “[T]he hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)
In understanding how my citizenship is to be lived out, I hear Paul’s admonition to the churches of Ephesus. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:10-18)
Lately I’ve been reading the manuals, disciplines, articles, etc. of various Protestant church organizations. It’s interesting how much is in “black & white” vs. how much the average attendee or member knows, acknowledges, or adheres to. Admittedly, I haven’t done extensive surveying of attendees or members—so my opinions are based on exposure and experience. Regardless, I’ve been rather interested in how the role of pastor is understood along with other ministerial roles and, correspondingly, what the processes and requirements are for these roles. Each of these documents has its own feel—one carries the weight of many years of litigious adjustments; another reads more like a draft or 1st edition of a corporate governance document; others flow naturally and feel more sincerely developed, theologically sound, and spiritually authentic. It goes without saying that the history (i.e. origins, influences, mergers, etc.) of these organizations and whether they function as denominations, associations, fellowships, etc. influence the content and structure of these documents as well.
This all led me back to rediscovering a New Testament portrait of the pastor/shepherd. Although I still believe my work to be unrefined and less than complete, it awakened in me a new regard and burden for how prayerfully dependent I must be upon Him Who has called me. Rightfully so, it strikes me with a deep sense of unworthiness and inadequacy. What follows is that portrait—or better, a sketch—with all the indulgence and influence of the heart and hand and mind that set forth to create it
Pastoral Ministry: Role & Purpose
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ carries tremendous responsibility and requires the willful choice to be continually dying to self so as to live unto Christ alone. However, there are those disciples that are called by God to a more specific role and purpose. As such, pastoral ministry shares its designation and purpose with the other roles identified in Scripture as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. It begins with equipping (i.e. preparing/training to be fully qualified) the saints (i.e. those who are holy, pure, dedicated, consecrated) for the work (i.e. deeds, activities) of ministry (i.e. service, contribution). It continues with building up (i.e. making more able, edifying, strengthening) the Body of Christ. The measures and objectives of the equipping and building up are identified as the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, spiritual maturity, and measuring up to the example of Christ, all so that we—for we are all the Body of Christ—are thoroughly grounded in our faith and able to defend it against worldly doctrines, human cunning, and deceitful schemes.
Whether the circumstance or timing is opportune and favorable or otherwise, the pastor must be prepared and persistent. He must refute, rebuke, correct, expose, disapprove, encourage, plead, warn, command, denounce, and urge his flock with all patience, humility, calmness, and kindness. He cannot fall prey to the temptation to water-down the Truth of the Gospel so as to mollify or placate regardless of who the dissenters or opposition may be. He must unwaveringly accomplish completely his service and ministry.
In exercising the oversight that the Holy Spirit has called him to do, it is necessary to lead by direct involvement, demonstrating eager willingness without being domineering or seeking selfish gain. When the irreverent, profane, and godless banter arises, he is to reject and not associate with it. Rather, he should discipline and train himself to be devout, pious, and godly—making that a much greater priority than physical/bodily discipline or training which is only temporal rather than eternal.
Whether older or younger, he must confidently set an exemplary model of behavior (i.e. speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity/morality) for other believers whether they respect his age or not. The pastor must be devoted to publicly reading the Scriptures, exhortation, encouragement, and teaching. Any spiritual gifts he has received must not be neglected. He must practice, meditate on, and immerse himself in all these things making his progress publicly notable. Both he himself and others will be saved, healed, and rescued from danger, if he persists in all this—guarding himself and this teaching carefully.
John 21:15-17 (ESV)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Feed: cause to eat, herd, graze
Tend: guide, help, rule via direct involvement
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
attention: be alert, watch out, be on guard
overseers: guardian, supervisor, keeper
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
apostles: special messengers, envoys; understood to be a restricted/select group
prophets: proclaimer of God’s utterances
evangelists: proclaimers the Gospel
shepherds: pastors, ministers
equip: prepare/train to be fully qualified
saints: those who are holy, pure, dedicated, consecrated
work: deed, activity
ministry: service, role, contribution
building up: making more able, edification, strengthening
1 Timothy 4:7-9
7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
nothing: reject, not pay attention to, not associate with
irreverent: profane, godless, irreligious
silly: of old women
godliness: religion, piety, devout practice
1 Timothy 4:11-16
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
despise: scorn, look down on
example: image, model, pattern
purity: moral virtue
exhortation: encouragement, comfort, consolation
Practice: meditate on, keep thinking about, plot/plan
immerse: be, exist
save: rescue from danger, heal
2 Timothy 4:1-5
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
preach: announce in an official capacity
ready: prepared, persistent
season: opportune/favorable time
reprove: refute, expose the fault
rebuke: denounce, express strong disapproval, command, give warning
exhort: ask earnestly, plead, urge, encourage
complete: utmost, great
patience: forbearance, calm
sober-minded: self-controlled, clear-headed, not drunk
endure suffering: endure hardship, withstand trouble
work: deed, activity
evangelist: proclaim the Gospel
fulfill: accomplish completely
ministry: service, role, contribution
1 Peter 5:1-3
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
elders: old man, community leader
shepherd: guide, help, rule via direct involvement
oversight: take care of, guard against, exercise oversight