Let’s talk about loyalty


One of my favorite lines in any movie is the line in the Princess Bride, when Vizzini repeatedly says, “Inconceivable.” That’s not the line. The line was in response, when Inigo Montoya (played by the incomparable Mandy Patinkin) said, “You keep using that word! I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There’s another word being thrown around in Washington, and that’s loyalty. Yet, after hearing how some use this word, I do not think it means what they think it means. The basic definition is, “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.” When it comes to Washington, the question is, “Allegiance to what?” Here are the options:

  • To the party, keeping the party line at all costs.
  • To a person, pledging allegiance to that person, whether in truth or in lie.
  • To the Constitution, you know, the laws that govern our Republic.

For Christians, our loyalty is found in the Great Commission and Great Commandment:

  1. Love the triune God with everything you have. He never changes in His steadfast love and faithfulness.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself–not just who lives next door to you, but according to Luke 10:25-37, everyone, friend or enemy, is your neighbor.
  3. Lifestyle of making disciples.

In earthly administrations, loyalty is often seen as covering up a lie or a problem that could expose inappropriate relationships or behavior, which is a problem. Churches could be ones who cover up inappropriate relationships or behavior in order to keep their reputation in place. Any whistleblowers will be dismissed.

Our primary allegiance is to Jesus, to His Word, and to the truth. We love God, love neighbor, and make disciples based on loving truth as found in His Word. The Spirit comes alongside us to make this possible.

Jesus is enough to be loyal to the right things.


How 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is a prayer list to pray for your pastors


In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, we see the qualifications for a pastor (overseer) that must guide every church in selecting their pastors and elders.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Looking at these qualifications, we see nothing of looks or education.  As D.A. Carson once said, “The remarkable aspect of these qualifications are how unremarkable they are.” With the exception of being “able to teach” and being a “recent convert,” every qualification must mark the Christian.

Pray for your pastor in these five areas:

  1. Strong character.  
  2. Strong competency in teaching the Word.
  3. Strong homelife.
  4. Strong, mature faith.
  5. Strong reputation outside the church.

Will you take time to pray for your pastors?  Pastors, will you take time to pray in your closet about these matters as well?

Everyone will put expectations on their pastors that may or may not be anchored in Scripture. Let’s reboot and make sure they are, so they are free and unhindered in ministering the gospel of Jesus inside and outside the church.

Six things to do when making changes to an existing ministry

Pastors of established churches often come in to said established churches with varying ideas, cultures, and agendas–ready to unleash these ‘incredible’ ideas on the church. Regardless of how needed or solid these ideas are, pastors of these churches should take a couple of breathes and consider these steps before making changes:

  1. Pray, seeking God’s wisdom. After all, it’s His church!
  2. Find out the history of the particular ministry. If that person who began that ministry is still in the church, talk to them and tell them your heart as their pastor. This goes a long way into them seeing that your thinking is not simply arbitrary, and you show them you care about them, not just your vision.
  3. See if the initial purpose of the ministry is being met either in that ministry or somewhere else. Every program or ministry has a shelf life. Many fall in love with the program for its own sake, even if that shelf life has expired. Talk with other key leaders to see if this ministry is being met elsewhere.
  4. If not, can we find ways to meet that need in another way or in another lane that refreshes this Great Commission purpose? If you have two missions programs or ministries, bring them under one umbrella. If you have Sunday School and small groups, find a way to marry them or to pour into one or the other.
  5. How do we communicate this lovingly and well? Teach about the purpose from Scripture. See, change is tough for established church members. Communicating lovingly and thoroughly is critical for the unity and harmony of the church. Not everyone may understand the need for the change, no matter how well the pastor or leaders communicate.
  6. Listen to the heart of the people. Many times, leaders only hear what their parishoners are saying, rather than what they are saying. The ‘thing’ that may be upsetting them may not be the main ‘thing.’ Established churches have history. And with that history comes fear, hurt, and every other kind of painful emotion because of the various ups and downs that happen. The longer the history, the more probability for hurt. Plus, every ‘thing’ that any pastor does looks similar to a hurtful ‘thing’ that happened in the past. Reminders are everywhere, good and bad. Listen to the heart of your people. Love them. Pray with and for them.
  7. Once change takes place, move forward, going at the speed of God. If the changes does take place, continue to look back at how this is in line with everything the church stands for in the Great Commission and Great Commandment, but look forward and move on to the next area and repeat these steps.

What steps have you taken that helps move change along in established churches?

Does Sarcasm Belong in a Preacher’s Arsenal?

Sarcasm: \ˈsär-ˌka-zəm\ Function:noun Etymology:French or Late Latin; French sarcasme, from Late Latin sarcasmos, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer, from sark-, sarx flesh; probably akin to Avestan thwarəs- to cutDate:  1550 1: a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain2 a: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, andoften ironic language that is usually directed against an individual b: the use or language of sarcasm.

Sarcasm is a powerful literary device.  In fact, as I googled “examples of sarcasm,” I had the distinct privilege (sarcasm intended) of coming across an organization called the Sarcasm Society.  As you could imagine, they are all for this:

Sarcasm usually requires a quick wit, and the ability to extract the
minutest points of weakness in a conversation. So it is quite unlikely
that it is the lowest form of humor as some would like to call it. Perhaps not being able to enjoy sarcasm is directly related to not having the ability to come up with sarcastic comments, which in turn creates a feeling of inadequacy, which in turn can spawn a Napoleon complex, that can cause someone to logicise that sarcasm is the humor of the stupid.

According to them, HouseThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report are prime examples of those who make frequent use of sarcasm.

The question is, does sarcasm belong in a preacher’s arsenal?  The answer is an unequivocal “No — if it is directed toward a person!” Groucho Marx used to say, “I never forget a face — but in your case I’ll make an exception.”  That’s sarcasm that is personal, attacking a specific feature on an individual.  Remember this rule:  humor at the expense of someone is never funny.

Yes, we can also answer that sarcasm can be used.  While comedians may use this and generate a laugh, by definition sarcasm is intended to exploit “points of weakness in a conversation” and cause “pain.”  Preachers should work to exploit flaws in logic when it comes to doctrinal issues.  An example: they include a quote used by many preachers:

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” – Anonymous

This is a poignant quote which exposes the weakness of someone who believes going to church makes you a Christian.

What do you think?  Do you believe sarcasm belongs in the conversation or even the sermon of an expository preacher?

A tough test for a missionary candidate

A great story from Charles Spurgeon:

From some one or other I heard in conversation of a plan adopted by Matthew Wilks, for examining a young man who wanted to be a missionary; the drift, if not the detail of the test, commends itself to my judgment though not to my taste. The young man desired to go to India as a missionary in connection with the London Missionary Society. Mr. Wilks was appointed to consider his fitness for such a post. He wrote to the young man, and told him to call upon him at six o’clock the next morning. The brother lived many miles off, but he was at the house at six o’clock punctually. Mr. Wilks did not, however, enter the room till hours after. The brother waited wonderingly, but patiently. 

At last, Mr. Wilks arrived, and addressed the candidate thus, in his usual nasal tones, “Well, young man, so you want to be a missionary?” “Yes, Sir.” “Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?” “Yes, Sir, I hope I do.” “And have you had any education?” “Yes, Sir, a little.” 

“Well, now, we’ll try you; can you spell ‘cat’?” The young man looked confused, and hardly knew how to answer so preposterous a question. His mind evidently halted between indignation and submission, but in a moment he replied steadily, “C, a, t, cat.” 

“Very good,” said Mr. Wilks; “now can you spell ‘dog’?” Our young martyr hesitated, but Mr. Wilks said in his coolest manner, “Oh, never mind; don’t be bashful; you spelt the other word so well that I should think you will be able to spell this: high as the attainment is, it is not so elevated but what you might do it without blushing.” The youthful Job replied, “D, o, g, dog.” 

“Well, that is right; I see you will do in your spelling, and now for your arithmetic; how many are twice two?” It is a wonder that Mr. Wilks did not receive “twice two” after the fashion of muscular Christianity, but the patient youth gave the right reply and was dismissed.

 Matthew Wilks at the committee meeting said, “I cordially recommend that young man; his testimonials and character I have duly examined, and besides that, I have given him a rare personal trial such as few could bear. I tried his self-denial, he was up in the morning early; I tried his temper, and I tried his humility; he can spell ‘cat’ and ‘dog,’ and can tell that ‘twice two make four,’ and he will do for a missionary exceedingly well.” 

Now, what the old gentleman is thus said to have done with exceedingly bad taste, we may with much propriety do with ourselves. We must try whether we can endure brow-beating, weariness, slander, jeering, and hardship; and whether we can be made the off-scouring of all things, and be treated as nothing for Christ’s sake.

— Lectures to My Students, Kindle Location 760 (only 99 cents on Kindle).

Impositional Preaching: When We, the People Supplant He, the Power

Preachers struggle with the temptation to cultivate sermons according to the times rather than according to the text of Scripture.  This is nothing new.  In fact, even at the founding of our country, the politicians did not serve as the greatest influencers—the pastors and preachers did.  In their zeal to break away from the Crown of England and from King George II’s tyrannical rule, they saw that liberty and a democratic republic had to be God’s order to government.  Influenced by John Locke of the enlightenment philosophy, that reason could well rule the day rather than revelation from Scripture, this theistic rationalism  began to permeate the culture. 

One way it soaked in to the psyche of the colonial mind during the American Revolution and beyond was the organization of where the power behind our rulers came from.  Below is a quote from Gregg L. Frazer’s book The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution.  This serves as an example of how the ideas of the culture may skew our interpretation of Scripture to suit our own worldviews.

Another idea that the preachers clearly borrowed from liberal democratic theory rather than the Bible was the notion that rulers are accountable to their people.  The distinction is a function of the difference between popular sovereignty and the sovereignty of God. Biblically, rulers are accountable to God because they receive their authority and legitimacy from Him.  In contrast, the preachers adhered to the liberal democratic principle that rulers receive their authority and legitimacy from the people; consequently, it follows that they should be accountable to the people.  As Samuel Cooke put it, “Those in authority, in the whole of their public conduct, are accountable to the society which gave them their political existence.”  Similarly, Simeon Howard described the magistrate as “the trustee of the people” who received his power from them; so, “to them he ought to be accountable for the use he makes of this power.”  Samuel Langdon also drew the logical conclusion that, since, “every magistrate and officer” received his power from the people, “to the people all in authority are accountable.”

We must beware of impositional preaching: where we impose our ideas onto Scripture; where the current of the culture controls the current of the canon of Scripture, and not vice versa. 

In what ways do you see our culture influencing the pulpits of our day?

Why Must I Be Baptized?

The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) defines baptism as:

“Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.”

  1. Outward sign of an inward faith. Baptism is, in essence, an outside sign of an inward faith. When one surrenders to Jesus, the old self dies and the new life in Christ takes over. Thus, immersion. Not only des the word ‘baptism’ mean to ‘immerse’ or ‘dip,’ this serves as a picture of dying and resurrection.  That’s what the sign signifies–a washing away of our sin, a dying to self, and being raised in Christ.
  2. You are witnessing to others about Jesus. When you take the step of being baptized in front of others, specifically your church, you are testifying that Jesus is enough for you, no matter what others may say. Sure, you will be wet, you may slip on a stair going in, your hair will be messed up, etc., etc.  But this is all a part of telling others, “I do not care how I look, I do not care the cost, I will testify of my Lord and King, and count all things as loss.”
  3. It is the first step of discipleship.  No, you do not need to be baptized to be saved (that’s for another blog post), but if you have pledged your allegiance to King Jesus, then doing the first and basic step He asks of you is a launching into a lifestyle of discipleship, of sitting at His feet and doing what He calls you to do out of love for Him.  If you refuse to follow in baptism, why? Why disobey the first thing He told you to do? Are you then really a disciple if you refuse to do this first step in living a life in Jesus?

Have you followed in believer’s baptism?  Tell me your story.  If you haven’t followed, why not?

If you don’t journal, start today!

I have found that one of the best developments in the area of sermon preparation for me is journaling. In fact, I have begun to use a Moleskine journal in order to write out my sermon notes before I even touch a computer. Here’s how one looks:

My Large Ruled Moleskine Notebook
My Large Ruled Moleskine Notebook
My sermon notes on Psalm 23
My sermon notes on Psalm 23
Notes in my moleskine for a recent Deacon\'s Meeting
Notes in my moleskine for a recent Deacon

For the last nine, I’ve journaled through my sermon prep.  How has this helped my walk with Christ in general and my sermon preparation specifically?

  1. I begin reading the text from which I shall preach devotionally. Journaling helps me to read the passage personally so the Word can soak into the fabric of my being. If I expect my people to come before God in his house and soak in the Word being preached, I must put myself before God beforehand so his Word will soak into me. This practice of journaling has really transformed this. I am not merely reading the Bible so I can get ‘stuff’ for my sermon. I’m seeing what Howard Hendricks notes in his book Living By the Book that Bible study is for life-change. With this, I am fully engaged in the “so-what factor” — I always leave room in my entries to seek God in apply His Word, i.e., application, i.e., the ‘so-what factor.’ “This is what the Bible says? Great! So what?” I am able to prayerfully brainstorm some implications.
  2. I think better with pen and paper than I do in front of a computer. Speaking of Moleskine: I am hooked, and I have Joe Thorn to blame for it. I was a Mead Composition Notebook guy, but found that the paper, the wide ruled nature of the layout, and the ease with which it falls apart made me begin to look for other options. So, I tried a Moleskine, and now I love it and am hooked on journaling, especially when it comes to sermon preparation. I find that if I write out my research in this journal rather than type it out on a computer, I absorb the content a bit more and the sermon becomes more personal to me as well.”
  3. It’s portable. I do laptops, but are they ever a burden to carry, especially around an airport. But, if I need to travel and do some sermon preparation, I take my ESV Personal Size Bible, my Large Ruled Moleskine Notebook or legal pad, my Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Pen, Fine Point .07 mm, clear barrel, black ink, photocopies of sections of commentaries from which I will be preaching, stick them in a manila envelope, and I am set. Then, when I get to a computer, I can just start typing.
  4. It actually helps my penmanship. Computers not only hinder my thinking, but also kill my penmanship. I am just stunned at how sloppy my writing became.
  5. It leaves a legacy. For more on this, I would recommend reading through Don Whitney’s Simplify Your Spiritual Life. He notes that in 100 years, your relatives may not know about you at all — except if you journal.

Do any of you journal as part of your sermon preparation? If so, what are some methods you use? We can always learn from each other.

Breaking in a new moleskine!
Breaking in a new moleskine!