Today, the Lord called us to Las Vegas!
I’ll have the privilege of serving as the Lead Teaching Pastor at Twin Lakes Baptist Church ministering in the heart of this Send City. Retiring Pastor Norman Lourenco and the Twin Lakes family have been proclaiming the life-giving message of Jesus for decades and we cannot wait to join hands with this loving church. Today, the Lord turned the page.
The journey to this point has been one of a thousand small steps toward God. Perhaps, at some distant point, we will pen a reflection. But for now, the best posture is one leaning toward the future with a heightened expectation of God’s favor. God has given us a new start, and for that we are eternally grateful!
Before stepping into this new future, Heather and I can’t help but express our deepest gratitude to those who have walked through this time with us. You know who you are. More importantly, the Lord knows who you are. Your prayers, phone calls, text messages, notes of encouragement, cards, and gifts helped buoy us this past year. My dear friends, you were an agent of the Lord in our lives. Thank you for believing in us, praying for us, and putting legs to your prayers in practical ways. Blessed are you who have shown mercy, for mercy will be shown to you.
For those that have watched our journey from afar, let me invite you to be a part of what God is doing here in Las Vegas. If you’re interested in knowing more about how you can impact the frontier for Christ, please drop me a note in the comments section or on social media. The fields are ripe and you can be a part of the harvest!
Here, on 11 October 2020, we raise our Ebenezer. An Ebenezer marking the end of our waiting. An Ebenezer commencing the next phase of our ministry. An Ebenezer declaring the victory of God in our lives. It’s by His help we’ve come. And we hope, by His good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
[Photo by Guido Coppa]
Photo by Jack Sharp
In his book, Pastoral Ministry, Deron Biles posits Ezekiel 34 as the quintessential guidebook for the Shepherding functions of the Pastor. Biles reminds the pastor that preaching is only one of his important duties. He writes, “One can feed en masse from a distance, but one only strengthens up close and one at a time.”
The call to pastoral care is fundamentally an incarnational task. Internet sermons and blog posts can achieve only so much. And when rightly understood, caring is an obligation for every Christian, not just the pastor. While pastoral care in the 20th century suffered from an entanglement with the secular healing sciences, a renewed effort has arisen to recapture pastoral care as was practiced for centuries. Namely, bringing the truths of God’s Word to bear on the lives of fellow saints–a true love of Christian neighbor.
As we begin to emerge from the cocoons we’ve erected during this Coronavirus pandemic, I pray we will once again lean into the up close and personal ministry of pastoral care. I pray we will find the scriptures sufficient to address the problems of our day and the sin that encumbers our witness. I pray the church once scattered-in-place may become the church now gathered in worship.
“Pastoral Care has been viewed mistakenly in the past as superficial do-goodism; as a crutch for life’s cripples; as God’s psychiatry aimed at ‘peace of mind’; or as a form of faith healing that might save us from suffering, fear, and death.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“Freudian psychoanalysis turns out to be an archeological expedition back into the past in which a search is made for others on whom to pin the blame for the patient’s behavior. D. Elton Trueblood’s indictment does not seem too strong: ‘The entire basis of human responsibility is undermined.’” –Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel
“Before Freud, the study of the soul was thought of as a spiritual discipline. In other words, it was inherently associated with religion. Freud’s chief contribution was to define the human soul and the study of human behavior in wholly secular terms. He utterly divorced anthropology (the study of human beings) from the spiritual realm and thus made way for atheistic, humanistic, and rationalistic theories about human behavior.” –John MacArthur in Counseling
“Today clients in swelling numbers seek therapy not because they feel bad but because they do not feel good.” –William Clebsch in Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective
On the interaction between psychotherapy and the cure of souls – “The empiricist has no meager service to render, but the religious guide has no reason to go into retirement.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“God’s truths turn man’s wisdom upside down.” –John Babler in Counseling by the Book
“But for the attainment of full health of personality, man must find a harmonious relationship in the realm of spiritual values. The primary obstacle to his entrance into this realm is what the Bible calls sin.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“We see here [The New Testament] more vividly than elsewhere that the cure of souls is never merely a method, even a method derived from a doctrine, or a task for certain hours in the week, but that it involves both the faith we live by and all our daily activities and contacts.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“Humanity’s true identification resides in the heart of God and was reflected in the face of Jesus Christ.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“The Christian preacher’s goal is to challenge boldly all of human life with the truth of God’s Word.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“Christian pastoral care is the mutual concern of Christians for each other and for those persons for whom Christ died.” –C.W. Brister in Pastoral Care in the Church
“The faithful ministers of Christ must not lightly give up on anyone.” –Martin Bucer in Concerning the True Care of Souls
Mutual Edification and Fraternal Correction as a characteristic of Protestantism “has often been erroneously interpreted as religious individualism.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“…our Lord Jesus, now in his heavenly nature, is with us and rules and feeds us from heaven; this rule and feeding, that is, the work of our salvation, he exercises among us through his ministers, who he calls, ordains and uses for that purpose.” –Martin Bucer in Concerning the True Care of Souls
“Timeless, in this case as in many others, is a reward for taking the past seriously.” –William Clebsch in Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective
“The deliberate absence of symbols” in marriage vows or creedal statements “does not dispel the demands symbolized” –William Clebsch in Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective
“The more you are detached from ignorance, the more you are attached to willful disobedience. It is nothing but willful disobedience which destroys the fear of God.” –Tertullian
“Public offenses require public repentance” –John Knox
“The difficulties of discipline have led to its too easy surrender by the churches.” –John McNeill in A History of the Cure of Souls
“The weight of Ministerial responsibilities renders the work apparently more fitting to the shoulders of angels than of men.”  –Augustine
The work is daunting, the reward minimal, and the weight eternal. The Pastor’s only hope is to have an awe of God, a rock-solid sense of His calling, and the empowerment of the His Holy Spirit. Previous posts have emphasized the practices of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership. This post features quotes from the field of Pastoral Theology—the Pastor’s relationship with God and ministry on His behalf.
Perhaps the practical too often supersedes the relational. The machinery of ministry encroaches at the expense of divine intimacy. The attempts to work for God are done in one’s own strength. The anecdote for all that ails is a fresh view of God. Allow these quotes to pierce your soul and awaken your thirst for Christ. Minister in the days ahead out of an overflow of gratitude and a renewed filling of the Holy Spirit.
“Seduced by the lure of modernity (‘whatever is latest is best’), we find ourselves awash on the sea of pragmatism (‘whatever works is right’), indifference, and theological vacuity. The results are all about us: Church rolls stuffed with so-called ‘inactive members’ no one has seen or heard from in years, trendy sermons which lack both biblical depth and spiritual power, a generation of young people uninstructed in the rudiments of the faith, fractious controversies which sap our strength and strain our fellowship, shallow worship services geared more to the applause of men than the praise of God, a slackening interest in evangelism and missions, all amidst a hurried activism steeped in this-worldly priorities.” –Timothy George in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition
“In our postmodern culture which is TV dominated, image sensitive, and morally vacuous, personality is everything and character is increasingly irrelevant.” –David Wells in No Place for Truth
“It is a palpable error of some ministers, who make such a disproportion between their preaching and their living; who study hard to preach exactly, and study little or not at all to live exactly.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Leave me as I am; for the one who enables me to endure the fire will also enable me to remain on the pyre without moving, even without the sense of security that you get from the nails.” –Polycarp’s Prayer cited in The Apostolic Fathers
“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy Scriptures ever have the preeminence. Let Scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“The loss of center in Christian education is arguably due to a serious default of pastoral leadership; when the teaching elder does not teach, the effect is felt throughout the entire Christian congregation.” –Thomas Oden in Pastoral Theology
“To live among such excellent helps as our libraries afford, to have so many silent wise companions whenever we please.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Every generation brings forth a company of Stalwart Champions who assume that they alone are the true custodians of truth, and who by a blustering manner and a swaggering rhetoric induce the undiscerning to accept them as special agents of heaven.” –Charles Jefferson in The Minister as Shepherd
“Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Alas! can we think that the reformation is wrought, when we cast out a few ceremonies, and changed some vestures, and gestures, and forms! Oh no, sirs’! it is the converting and saving of souls that is our business. That is the chiefest part of reformation, that doth most good, and tendeth most to the salvation of the people.” – Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor
“Protestants now recognize that the Reformation itself had deeply pastoral roots. The concern was not for the reformation of doctrine and the church as such, but for the care of people in their lives before God, with the realization that thinking wrongly about God leads us to live wrongly.” –Andrew Purves in Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition
“Be no respector of persons in reproving a man who is in fault, for riches can have no power with the Lord, nor does the Lord give more honor to dignities, nor has beauty any advantage, but there is equality of all these things with Him.” –Translated from the Syriac The Didascalia Apostolorum
“The power of example remains one of the most potent influences in men’s lives and is of crucial significance for the work of the pastor.” –Derek Tidball in Skillful Shepherds
Referring to Titus 2:13 and 3:6 – “The theology of mission intimated here is a rich one and parallels the teachings in the acknowledged Paulines: God is the initiator of mission and Jesus Christ is the agent of his redemptive plan. There is a historical and a future perspective in the message of the gospel; we proclaim the saving work of Christ as a historical event and hold up Christ’s future appearing and the promise of eternal life as the hope of every believer.” –Chiao Ek Ho in Entrusted with the Gospel edited by Wilder and Köstenberger
 Augustine, Onus Angelicis Humeris Formidandum
I’m privileged to serve on the Board of Trustees at Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU). HLG is a Christian University affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention and located in Hannibal, Missouri. The school is a wonderful place to bring a distinctly Christian worldview to bear on degree programs from Nursing to Business Administration. If you are interested in Christian higher education, let me encourage you to consider HLG.
Today, we held our Spring Trustee meeting and I was afforded the opportunity to bring a word of devotional. I’ve included that devotion below in the hopes it would encourage you. As always, thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement. The devotional begins with a passage from God’s Word:
“I called to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.
I cried out for help from deep inside Sheol; you heard my voice.
When you threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas,
the current overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me.
And I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight,
yet I will look once more toward your holy temple.’
The water engulfed me up to the neck; the watery depths overcame me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
I sank to the foundations of the mountains, the earth’s gates shut behind me forever!
Then you raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God!
As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love,
but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving.
I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Perhaps when you heard the words of that prayer, you might be inclined to think it came from one of the great psalms of the Psalter. Perhaps a prayer from David at the end of his rope. Or maybe even Moses interceding on behalf of a disobedient people. But, in fact, the prayer you just heard was breathed by the prophet Jonah and found in his second chapter.
Jonah is no hero. He hated the people he preached to. He is an anti-hero and accidental prophet. However, Jonah is proof that God can use a crooked stick to hit a perfect lick.
Perhaps the prayer of Jonah’s desperation smacks of a familiar desperation in your own prayer life. You find yourself in uncharted waters, ministering through the seas of a pandemic which are causing the boat of your life to rock. You’re not sure which news is fake news and you’re not sure what life will look like on the other side of this crisis, much less next week. You seek to operate is God’s wisdom, but you can’t find a verse of scripture to give explicit instruction for pandemics. Your spiritual disciplines and daily routines have been reconfigured. Perhaps, it’s even possible, your routine and productivity have been exposed as the idols they were all along. Then to you my friend, let me say: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”
Have you ever considered that the very thing representing immanent death might actually be God’s deliverance? For Jonah, in any other circumstance, the great fish swallowing him would have been his doom. If the water didn’t get him, the compression of the fish’s jaws or the acidic composition of its digestive tract certainly would have. But the very thing that represented certain death actually served to move him from a stormy sea, to a cry of desperation, and finally to dry land. Instead of Death, there was Deliverance.
Perhaps the pandemic is the great fish in your existence. The thing which looms and represents catastrophe is the very thing God is using to bring deliverance. To bring deliverance from ministry idols. To bring deliverance from overcrowded calendars with no margin for family or margin for friendships with lost people. To bring deliverance from programs and ministries that were sacred cows instead of sanctified service. Perhaps this pandemic and God’s sure deliverance isn’t even about you, but about getting the gospel to the people of your Nineveh.
The great fish of 2020 will be used by God to work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. So, in this moment of seeming crisis, when your world has been upended and tossed into the sea, let me remind you that God can use even you—crooked stick. He will use your imperfection to convey his message. That as Sovereign, He has appropriated you to aid him in reigning over His Kingdom.
So, don’t allow yourself to be held captive by what you don’t know; what you can’t do; what you’re not able to discern. Allow the Holy Spirit to work thru you to be a light to a dark world that is seeking to understand their own mortality. Demonstrate to them the hope that is in Christ Jesus and the love that He promises; the Love that He is. The perfect love that casts out all fear.
For I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea, Heard my despairing cry,
From the Waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love Lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love Lifted me!
 “Love Lifted Me” by James Rowe
Photo: William “Iron Mike” Leftwich at the Marine Corps Basic School, Quantico, VA
Christian leadership is the antithesis of secular leadership.
The transition from military to pastoral leadership has been the gradual reformation of my leadership paradigm. I’ve written about some of that reformation here. While judgment, moral courage, and self-discipline serve as assets in the spiritual arena, their application is markedly different. The motifs of shepherd, servant, and slave seem so counterintuitive to a military where rank has its privileges. To this day, I am confronted with military leadership instincts which lead down the wrong ministerial path. This truth, as I’ve experienced it, is why pastoral leadership models that lean heavily on secular principles are often doing it all wrong. Brothers, we are not flag officers.
Not all pastoral leadership books are created equal. Instinctually, I tend to discount anything written within recent memory. After all, leadership is validated over the long haul and not in a conceptual test tube. But it wouldn’t be fair to discount everything based on youth or validate solely based on tenure.
You’ll notice many leadership books are written by wonderful Christians who serve in parachurch or academic ministries. In fact, many of the quotes below are from such men. Yet, let me encourage you to pay special attention to the counsel of men who serve in the pastorate. Leading a church is like pushing a rope; it’s an organism, not an organization. The men who lead churches are acutely aware of this reality and speak from an overflow of having undertaken this difficult task.
The quotes below represent the surface of an ever-growing bibliography of pastoral leadership sources. I hope you enjoy as you reflect on the ministry of Pastoral Leadership.
“If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them. the world would be turned upside down. How do we know? Because that’s what first century Christians did, and the world is still talking about it.” – Blackaby in Spiritual Leadership
“the most powerful leaders among us are the teachers among us.” – Gary Bredfeldt in Great Leader Great Teacher
To help readers in “becoming the leader God intends me to be rather than doing the leading God intends me to do.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“Success is the breeding ground for pride.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“The last fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Self-discipline refers to the self as the object of discipline rather than its source.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“It is reprehensible for any Christian leader to expect discipled behavior from the unconverted.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“God would rather demonstrate his presence through a humble leader than through a thousand cathedrals we might build to house him.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“Christian leadership and worldly leadership are markedly different. They are not the same, never have been the same, and stand in stark contrast to each other.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“But the issue, the key issue, is motive. The aroma surrounding our actions—the unmistakable aroma of Jesus Christ—is what marks real servant leaders.” – Jeff Iorg in The Character of Leadership
“Leaders enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.” – Jim Kouzes in Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge
Ministry is: “about preaching the historic Jesus, who is both Lord and Messiah, in words and actions, enabling people to respond to his message, enter his kingdom, and grow in appreciation of this gospel, its depth and its implications, and grow to maturity in Christ, in the new community of which he is head, whatever circumstances they face, by people who are qualified in gift, understanding and holiness, working together with others, for the glory of God’s name” – Derek Tidball in Ministry by the Book
“Here is one of the rich ironies in the history of salvation: the heavenly Jerusalem, it turns out, was all along as much anticipated by the deserts and dispersions of the community’s journey as by the earthly city bearing its name. In both experiences the Shepherd-Lamb was teaching them to follow him to their real home.” – Tim Laniak in Shepherd’s After My Own Heart
“The greatest crisis in the world today is a crisis of leadership, and the greatest crisis of leadership is a crisis of character.” – Aubrey Malphurs in Being Leaders
“The ability to see faults is a cheap and common gift” – Gene Edwards
Commenting on James 4:15 – “What James warns us about is that our freedom to make plans is not a license to live free from God.” – Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book
“Spiritual goals can be achieved only by spiritual people who use spiritual methods” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“True Greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True Service is never without cost. Often it comes with a painful baptism of suffering.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“We can lead others only as far along the road as we ourselves have traveled. Merely pointing the way is not enough. If we are not walking, then no one can be following, and we are not leading anyone.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight; But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“A Vision without a task makes a visionary. A task without a vision makes drudgery. A Vision with a task makes a missionary.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, and intelligence the development of reason, wisdom is heavenly discernment.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“The spiritual leader must outpace the rest in prayer.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“Our problem is not too little time, but making better use of the time we have.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and to train one that is spiritually younger.” – J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
“Prayer moves the arm that moves the world to bring deliverance down.” – Unknown
“Give me a man of God–one man, one mighty prophet of the Lord, And I will give you peace on earth, Bought with a prayer and not a sword.” –George Liddell
“God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s Support” – Hudson Taylor
“Every church needs to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through through worship, and larger through evangelism.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“A long pastorate does not guarantee a church will grow, but changing pastors every few years guarantees a church won’t grow.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“Ministry must be both faithful and fruitful. God expects both from us.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“You only believe the part of the Bible that you do.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“Transformation will not happen by chance.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“People give to vision, not to need.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“There is no method, program, or technology that can make up for a lack of love for unbelievers.” – Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church
“Reading makes a broad man, but writing makes an exact man.” – Francis Bacon
Life is constantly moving despite being at a pandemic standstill. I’ve provided an update on some of our journey here. Recently, I’ve completed the coursework for the PhD program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; only a comprehensive exam, prospectus, and dissertation remain. While I’m grateful to have taken my last class, there is a sobriety in knowing the most treacherous part of this academic journey lay ahead.
As I prepare to sit for my comprehensive examination later this summer, I thought I would take the opportunity to pass along some of the quotes which have ministered to me these past few years. Having been permitted the opportunity to read and engage with some of the brightest minds and scholars in the fields of pastoral studies and preaching, I feel a debt of gratitude and an obligation to steward these pearls of wisdom. With that, expect several of these posts in the future with quotations of note as I continue my preparation.
May the Lord bless you and keep you during this season of Pandemic. May He make His face to shine upon you. May these quotes from the saints of bygone eras provoke your thoughts and affection for a wonderful God.
“The test of Leadership is what happens when you leave.” – John Bisagno in Pastor’s Handbook
“The Church is the mirror that reflects the whole effulgence of the divine character.” – Charles Bridges in The Christian Ministry
“He stands best but who kneels most. He stands strongest who kneels weakest. He stands longest who kneels longest.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“When the chariot of humanity gets stuck…nothing will lift it out except great preaching that goes straight to the mind and heart. There is nothing in this case that will save the world but what was once called, ‘the foolishness of preaching’.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“Pastor, preach for a verdict and expect it.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“To love the Word is to love God. To receive the Word is to receive God. To believe the Word is to believe God. Spiritually, to know the Word is to know God.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
On good preaching: “The difference between a bore and a good conversationalist is that the bore has not discovered the distinction between what interests him and what interests his hearers.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
Take time for prayer and study and preparation. If the message is of little cost to the preacher, it will be of little value to the congregation.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“You cannot live on skim milk during the days of the week and preach cream on Sunday.” – R.G. Lee quoted by – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“A short pencil is better than a long memory.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“Christ did not come to develop programs to reach the masses, He came to develop men whom the masses would follow.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“The only investments I ever made which have paid constantly increasing dividends, is the money I have given to the Lord.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“It does not take great men to do great things; it only takes consecrated men.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“The greatest, finest, noblest sermon any pastor ever delivers is that of his own example.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“Luther wrote in his commentary on Galatians, ‘Every minister of God’s Word should be sure of his calling, that before God and man, he may , with a bold conscience, glory therein, that he preach the Gospel as one that is sent, even as the ambassador of a king glorieth and vaunteth in this, that he cometh not as a private person, but as the king’s ambassador.’” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“We go further on our knees than by any other way.” – W.A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors
“Indeed, he is a poor and unskilled physician, who aims at healing others but is ignorant of his own ailment.” – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“Fear must moderate the desire of compassing authority, and when this is attained by one who did not seek it, let his way of life recommend it.” – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“For no one does more harm in the Church than he, who having the title or rank of holiness, acts evilly.” – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“Wherefore, the man gives testimony against himself that he is not desiring the office of a bishop, if he seeks the glory of that honour, but not the ministry of a good work.” – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“The pastor is the more easily delivered from temptation, as he is the more compassionately afflicted by the temptations of others.” – – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“The seed of the word does germinate promptly, when the kindness of a preacher waters it in the hearer’s heart.” – – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“the mind of the elect must maintain patience, lest, being stirred by the wind of impatience, it lose in addition all the good they have performed.” – – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“What unhappiness is that of people whose state deteriorates by the progress of their neighbor.” – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“Good should be loved for its own sake, not pursued under the compulsion of established penalties.” – Gregory the Great in Regula Pastoralis
“If we lose the sense of wonder of our commission we shall be like common traders in a common market, babbling about common wares.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“The absence of the sense of vocation will eviscerate a man’s responsibility, and will tend to secularize his ministry from end to end.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“A man may be dealing with ‘gold thrice refined’ and yet he himself may be increasingly mingled with the dross of the world.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“We may be professors but not pilgrims. Our studies may be workshops instead of ‘upper rooms’.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“The worldly spirit of compromise is just the sacrifice of the moral ideal to the popular standard, and the subjection of personal conviction to current opinion.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“We may be more concerned to have a swelling membership-roll than to have the names of our people ‘written in Heaven’.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“Yes, you will find that when your spirit is impaired, your Bible, and your lexicons, and your commentaries are only like so many spectacles behind which there are no eyes: you have no sight!” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“We are not going to enrich our action by the impoverishment of our thought. A skimmed theology will not produce a more intimate philanthropy.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“Cases are not won by jaunty ‘sorties’ of flashing appeal, but by well-marshalled facts and disciplined arguments marching solidly together in invincible strength.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“Preaching that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. If the study is a lounge the pulpit will be impertinence.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“There is nothing mightier than the utterance of spontaneous prayer when it is born in the depths of the soul.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“Let the music be redeemed from being a human entertainment, and let it become a divine revelation. Let it never be an end in itself but a means of grace, something to be forgotten in the dawning of something grander.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“Multitudes of ministers can fish with a net who are very reluctant to fish with a line.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“I believe that what the old world needs just now is not so much the multiplication of organization as the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“Brethren, your calling is very holy. Your work is very difficult. Your Savior is very mighty. And the joy of the Lord will be your strength.” – J.H. Jowett in The Preacher: His Life and Work
“If we have not the Spirit which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which Jesus gave” – Charles Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students
Dear friends, thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and generosity. The text messages, notes, cards, and occasional monetary gifts have blessed our souls. You have sustained us and reminded us of God’s presence during this time. For that, we are especially grateful. Some have asked what resources I might point them to during this time of pandemic. Two of my favorite preachers are Steven Smith from Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock and H.B. Charles of Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, FL. Mac Brunson of Valleydale Church in Birmingham features a great morning devotional, and there are many others to check out during this time of sheltering in place. Of course, you’re welcome to peruse this website to listen to my sermons as well. Simply search for a text or keyword under the Preaching and Writing tab.
Just a word of update on our family: The kids are growing! We can’t keep them in shoes. We can’t keep them in clothes. Milk and Cereal don’t stand a chance! Augustus has recently begun helping me mow the yard and is a great helper. Lucius has been really good at bible verse memorization. Maximus has excelled in his math, and Alessia is a constant reader. They’ve been exceptional at handling this season of transition.
As always, Heather is doing a wonderful job turning our house into a home. We’ve recently rearranged the living room and tinkered with our setup to keep things new and fresh. I’m very blessed to have her as a helpmate and consummate supporter. Life, in some respects, remains unchanged. Heather and the kids continue in their homeschooling. I continue to work on my PhD studies. In fact, I’ve just completed the research paper and reading required for my final semester of seminars. The only hurdles remaining are my Oral Comprehensive Examination this summer and a completed dissertation.
Allow me to offer a word of devotional for you during this time of pandemic. Consider the book of Ecclesiastes chapter one. It says:
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.
“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.
“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”
What does a person gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets;
panting, it returns to the place
where it rises.
Gusting to the south,
turning to the north,
turning, turning, goes the wind,
and the wind returns in its cycles.
All the streams flow to the sea,
yet the sea is never full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are wearisome,
more than anyone can say.
The eye is not satisfied by seeing
or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
As you reflect on this time in the world, it’s very tempting to think we are navigating uncharted waters; as if the Coronavirus is the first pandemic to ever distress humanity. But we are reminded by the author of Ecclesiastes there is truly nothing new under the sun. In fact, if you were to look a hundred years ago at this time, you would find pastors, teachers, and governing officials attempting to navigate the Spanish flu pandemic coming out of World War I. If you were to make your way to the United Kingdom in the mid-1850’s you would find the formidable Charles Spurgeon pastoring his congregation through the cholera outbreak.
There is truly nothing new under the sun.
The world has seen these times before. And so, the question is “How is the Christian to react during such a season?” Firstly, we are to reflect the hope of Jesus Christ. We reflect a reality that we are not long for this world, but that Jesus Christ is going to make all things new again. In fact, creation groans for him to do just that. Secondly, this pandemic reminds us of our own mortality. It is good and right for us to urge people to Christ as they consider their finite earthly existence. They will truly know us by our hopeful love during this season. We have a hope in Jesus, so live as people with hope!
Practically, there are some things that we should probably refrain from, and also, some things we should probably do. In that spirit, let me suggest a few to consider:
- Turn off the TV. It’s good to watch the news and to be informed. However, there is quite a difference between being informed and being stirred up. Get your thirty minutes of news a day. Understand what’s going on in the world. But don’t be afraid to turn that TV off. Sometimes watching the news on a 24-hour loop can lead us to a place of worry and anxiety.
- Treat this time as a Sabbatical. I would encourage you to do those things during this season you have been putting off. Do those projects around the house or take care of the yard work requiring your attention. Get out and take a walk in the refreshment of Spring or grab a book you’ve been meaning to read. Perhaps there is something that God is calling you to do now that your schedule has been cleared. Embrace this as God’s provision in your life. As Mark 2:27 reminds us, “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”
Let me also give you some specific prayer requests for us.
- Pray for our health. It was just two years ago that Heather was coming through a season of difficult health challenges. God has demonstrated his kindness in restoring her health in many ways, and she is miraculously in a much better place. But we continue to pray that the gains that have been made will continue to be maintained for the sake of the calling in her life. Continue to pray for her health specifically, but also for the health and wellness of our family. We know that God is providing for us supernaturally, but every time someone gets a boo-boo on the trampoline you hold your breath. Pray that God would continue to give us health even during this season transition and pandemic.
- Pray for my studies. Pray that God would help me during my preparation for my upcoming comprehensive exam. It is a two-hour oral examination that tests me on everything I’ve learned in the PhD program. I’ve recently put together a study guide which is over 700 pages. The exam is a daunting task that you are permitted only two attempts to pass. In these days as we await our next ministry calling, I’m committed to sinking my teeth into my studies, knowing that life will get busy when a church does call. Please pray that the Lord would grant retention and recollection in a supernatural way.
- Pray for our next ministry. Pray for us as we wait for the Lord to open that next door. We’ve had the privilege of being considered by a number of great churches. In fact, we’ve continued in faith by closing the door on opportunities which we didn’t believe the Lord was in. Our commitment is to go where the Lord directs our path. Many have our resume and some made preliminary inquiries. We have great confidence that our resume is in the hands of those God will direct in our journey. We will accept nothing less than His perfect call and will for our life.
- Pray for our finances. Reading the story of the feeding of the five-thousand reminds us that the Lord can multiply the provision of our fishes and loves. Let me assure you that He has done that over and again during this season of transition. His provision has included the prayers and gifts of His people, and has exceeded anything we could have imagined. We have not lacked for anything which is a testimony to God’s goodness. Continue to pray for our daily bread.
Let me conclude with this thought from the end of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands.” When all has been said and done with a Coronavirus, our responsibility in the matter is to fear God and keep his commands. Do the next right thing. Pray more and worry less. Be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. Enjoy the nearness of His presence in this season of uncertainty. Embrace the sabbath that God has given you!
The Preacher Who Walks with God: Why Walking With God Precedes Speaking for Him
Originally posted at PreachingSource.com on July 18, 2018
The honor of being asked to contribute to Preaching Source was soon followed by the daunting task of the topic: “Why Walking with God Precedes Speaking for Him.” At the risk of sounding like a subject-matter-expert on walking with God, let me first confess that I feel inept and unworthy. To speak of walking with God is to “aspirationally” espouse an obedient relationship that I fall so very short of, only hoping to attain. Nevertheless, I write not as one who has perfected walking with or speaking for God, but as one who sees the great purposes of God in obedience and preaching.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that walking with God isn’t essential to speaking for him. No, I’m not arguing against the premise of the topic. I’m simply acknowledging up front that the power of the preaching is in the Word of God. Paul is clear in Philippians 1:15–18 that not all preach from right motives. Yet he is also clear that the proclamation of Christ, regardless of the authenticity of motive, is worth rejoicing over. In recent days and over the span of history, we’ve seen a rash of men used mightily of God in the pulpit who have fallen outside of it. Their public ministries saw scores come to Christ, even during periods when they privately walked apart from Christ. People were saved even when they lived in sin.
As John Bradford said, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” For all of us, there are two sobering realities to confront. The first is that even in our redeemed state, we are frail creatures. We are prone to preach from wrong motives and from shallow walks. We are prone to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ publicly while not spending any time searching for Christ privately. And the second reality is that the power of preaching is in the Word—the Gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. The preacher and his pulpit prowess are not unimportant. Men should seek to preach with sincerity, fervency, and persuasiveness. Yet, it is the Word of God that is of supreme importance. It is the Word of God that is inspired. And we know this because of the Bible’s own testimony and—as A.T. Robertson said—because it has withstood “so much bad preaching.”
Given the power of the Word and the frailty of the preacher, what then shall we say of the necessity for godliness? Walking with God Precedes Most Effectively Speaking for Him. Not that God can’t speak for Himself or speak thru imperfect prophets, but we are most effective in preaching when we are most obedient in private. Consider the Herald and the Spirit.
The Herald: The message is most important. Paul’s admonition in 2 Timothy 4:2 was to keruxon the Word—to herald the Word. In short, the King has a message, and your job as a preacher is to herald that message. Not spice it up. Not water it down. Not alter it in any way. As a text-driven preacher, you are to preach the substance of the text in a manner consistent with the structure and spirit of the text.
The best heralds are those who are trusted by the King and believed by the kingdom. The trusted herald isn’t out to displace the King from his throne or establish his own kingdom. Perhaps many of us could be reminded of this on occasion. The trusted herald obeys and serves the King. Further, the worthy herald is believed by the audience. It won’t take long for a discerning subject of the king to sniff out an imposter. A lack of authenticity in this generation won’t be given the time of day. The need for ethos in a herald existed well before Aristotle coined the term.
The Spirit: The Spirit and the Word hold hands in God’s triune economy. Woe to the preacher who tries to divorce one from the other. From the inspiration to the proclamation, the Spirit’s role and presence is foundational. So what does this have to do with the preacher’s walk and effectiveness? Everything.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul writes, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit.” Interestingly enough, Paul didn’t admonish the church in Ephesus to get sober. Rather, he admonished them to “be filled” by the Spirit. There is this sense from the text that the indwelled Spirit of God is given more capacity to fill if we simply rid ourselves of disobedience. Almost as if you’re peering into the x-ray of a smoker’s lungs and seeing the air he breathes is limited to those portions of the lung which aren’t damaged by tar. The same is true for us. We give the Spirit room to move to the extent that we remove the tar of sin from our walks. Whether that tar is drunkenness or your favorite flavor of sin from Romans 1, we must be committed to stopping disobedience in order to be fully filled. A Spirit filled man of God, preaching the Spirit inspired Word of God, is a powerful thing to behold.
Preacher, when you step into that pulpit on Sunday morning, you’ve just declared war. And if you hope to withstand the attacks of the enemy, you better make sure you don’t have any cracks in your armor. And if you hope to be effective in attacking him, walk softly and carry the big sticks of the Holy Spirit and the Word. Walking with God Precedes Most Effectively Speaking for Him.