Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

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Discerning Your Call to Ministry

I received a copy of Discerning Your Call to Ministry by Jason K. Allen recently.  I had heard about this book while listening to the Rainer on Leadership podcast.  I was intrigued by what I had heard on this book.  I believe that the content of this book covers some thoughts that those who are wrestling with what God is wanting to do in their lives wrestle with.  Below are some of my thoughts about this book.

At the beginning, Allen jumps right into definition mode.  In the introduction, he shows the difference of being called to minister, called to ministry, and called to the ministry.  This is an important distinction that I believe many do not see.  Allen does a good job of showing the difference and importance of each term.

The meat of the book is divided up into 10 chapters.  Each chapter deals with a question to help the reader better see what God may be doing in his or her own heart.  He uses Bible verses, thoughts from Christian ministers of the past, and personal stories to help the reader wrestle with each question.

The conclusion of the book helps the reader by giving points to pursue in relation to what the reader has discovered about himself or herself through the questions.  It is good that Allen not only helps those who come through the questions still feeling that God is calling them to the ministry of the gospel, but he also shares encouragement for those who do not sense that call.  Allen does not devalue those who are not called to the ministry, but he encourages them to be faithful to what God is calling them to.

As one who has felt the call to the ministry, I remember the times of wrestling and trying to figure out what that meant.  I also remember hearing the stories of many who wrestled much longer with what God was doing in their lives – those who were called to the ministry and those who were not.  I am grateful to Dr. Allen for the work that he has put forth here in Discerning Your Call to Ministry.  I believe that this small book will have a big impact on many men and women going forward who are wondering what God is up to in their lives.

If you sense that God might be up to something and calling you to a deeper service… if you find yourself wrestling with what God is wanting you to do with your life… I would encourage you to get a copy of Discerning Your Call to Ministry and let this great tool help you discern what God is doing in your life.  It will be money well spent.

rapture

There may be one event that Christians are looking forward to more than any other.  It is an event that is called the rapture.  This event in history is unlike anything that has ever taken place.  This event takes place as Jesus keeps His promise to return and take every believer to be with Him for eternity.  What an event!

While this may be one of the most anticipated moments in all of history, it has shocked some to find out that the term “rapture” cannot be found in the Bible.  If the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, why do we expect it so much?  We look forward to this event because while the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, the teaching of the rapture is all over the New Testament.  It is interesting that the terms “Trinity” and “missionary” are also not found in the Bible, but the teaching of both of these terms is saturated throughout the Bible.

The term “rapture” actually comes from the Latin term rapio meaning “to seize or to carry away.” One of the clearest references to this event is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  It is this event that brings great hope to the people of God.  I want to look at four “hopes” that the rapture brings to those who trust in God.

4 Hopes of the Rapture

  1. The hope of reuniting.

At the rapture event, there is a great reunion that takes place. First (and foremost) there will be a reuniting with our Savior face-to-face.  Can you imagine it?  In the blink of an eye, all of our hopes and questions about Christ will be revealed and made plain.  I know that it has not been common practice of a Baptist to dance, but I just have to believe that there will be a little “cutting of the rug” going on at this moment.  We will see Jesus face to face and experience His fullness like never before.

If that weren’t enough, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone on before us into glory.  I’m sure that we all have someone who has been dear to us that we have had to let go far too early. The beautiful hope that a Christian has is that there is never a “good-bye” for believers.  It is simply a “see you later.”  There is coming a day when we will be reunited with our loved ones who have trusted in the Lord and gone before us.  What a day that will be!

2.  The hope of God’s revenge.

Revenge is a strong word and seen by many to have some negative connotations to it.   We are taught from an early age that we should not be vengeful… that we should not seek out our vengeance against another.  Romans 12:19 tells us “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

There may be times when we are wronged and want to get even. Our vengeance will never bring about the result that God desires.  This in no way says that we are to be anyone’s doormat, but rather we have One that will take up our cause and bring about the perfect result in due time.

The rapture event is not just a deliverance for us as believers, it is an indication to creation that the holy God of the universe is not going to let sin go unpunished.  In the rapture, God removes His chosen children out of the way of where His wrath will be poured out.  We should praise God for the ways that He looks out and cares for us.

3.  The hope of release from a troubled world.

This world in which we live is filled with trouble.  It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that we face trouble around every corner in this world.  Jesus told us that it would be this way in John 16:33 = “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are times that our hearts seek out relief from the troubles of this world.  You may be at a point where all you see around you is trouble.  That is one of the effects of sin that entered in the Garden of Eden.  We seek deliverance because something in our hearts tells us that this isn’t right… we weren’t created for misery … there has to be relief.  There is, and that relief is found in Jesus!  When a person comes to faith in Christ, the troubles may not evaporate before them, but the sting of our troubles vanishes before the peace that comes through the Holy Spirit.

The rapture event is a reminder that the troubles that we face here in this world are for but a moment. There is strength for the battle today, but there is coming a full deliverance when our Savior splits the sky and calls us home, and no trouble will ever be able to touch us again.

4.  The hope of unending life.

When a person places their faith into Jesus Christ alone, he or she is promised what the Bible calls “eternal life.”  This is a life that never ends.  This body may one day stop breathing and the heart may stop beating, but this is not all that there is.  Life goes on past the grave.  Each and every person who has ever lived is still alive today in heaven or hell.  Now hell is called the second death because it is the eternal experience of God’s judgment on our sin.  But for the one who has chosen to allow Christ to pay their penalty, and trusted in His going through hell on behalf of us, that person experiences life forever in heaven.

The rapture event is the reminder to all who place their faith in Christ and follow Him only that eternal life is not just something that we sing about or talk about in church services… it is a reality.  Paul taught about this event in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.

The Rapture for Today

Is there any wonder why Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 that we should “comfort one another with these words?”  The rapture event is a hope-filled event that will take place in the near future.  To know that we have not been forgotten… that we have not been abandoned… Praise the Lord!

But what about today?  The rapture event has not taken place yet.  We look forward to its coming.  The hope that the rapture brings us, we are to comfort and encourage one another with these words as 1 Thessalonians 4:18 tells us.

As these words, straight from the heart of God, come to us, we are not only to “pick our heads up” but we are to have courage build up within us to carry out the mission that God has given us as His children.  That mission is to take the gospel that makes this all possible to those who need it.

Just as Christ will one day come and call us out of this sinful world, He has already called us out of the world to be shining lights in the darkness. For those who have already placed their faith in Christ, He has seized you out of the kingdom of darkness and brought you into His kingdom of light.  He has commanded that each of us to live out the reality of His power through word and deed before others so that they can experience it for themselves.

There is no sitting and waiting. There will be no opportunities after the rapture to share your faith with someone so that they may receive the gift of eternal life.  That is a task for the here and now.  Jesus is coming back, and when He does, our opportunities to do what He has commanded will be over.  Those opportunities that bring about the words that every Christian should long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” are only found prior to the rapture event.

While we anticipate the return of Christ and our hopes made sight, there may be some who for the first time realize that they aren’t ready.  Larry Norman (Christian musician of the 1970s) had a famous song, “I Wish We All Been Ready” that spoke about this event.  They are not ready because as they examine their hearts, they realize that they have never truly followed Jesus Christ.  They have not called out to Him in confession and with repentance given themselves to Him wholly.  The beautiful thing about this is that you have been given another opportunity to respond.

For others, you might have made that decision already but you realize that you have been lazy with your faith.  You have answered the call for you to come and receive God’s salvation, but you have turned a deaf ear to what God is calling you to do now.  You know that you should be sharing your faith… you know that you should be following Him in all areas of your life, but you haven’t been.  God has graciously called out to give you another opportunity to answer His call of “follow Me.”

This post was adapted from the sermon that I shared at the South Calhoun County Revival at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Calhoun City, MS on October 26, 2016.  

At the church where I serve as Pastor, we have been studying 1 Timothy on Wednesday nights. This has been so good to look at for our church. This letter was written by an experienced pastor (Paul) to a younger pastor (Timothy) to encourage him.

As you come to the second chapter, one can see that Paul makes a shift in the focus.  Chapter 1 focused on the gospel and battling false teachers from outside. In chapter 2, Paul turns his attention to the work within the church.

When you think about all of the “ministries” that could be in the local church, it can be a little overwhelming. There can be ministries of preaching, teaching, small groups, youth, children, senior adults, music, and on and on…  What is the most important ministry of the local church? What would be the one ministry that the church could not do without?

Paul starts 1 Timothy 2 out with a very clear phrase: “first of all” (NASB). Paul uses this phrase to show the importance of prayer in the local church. It is interesting to me that he did not mention any of the other “ministries” right here, but he centered in on prayer. It’s not that other ministries are not important. It is the fact that if the church isn’t praying, the other ministries will not function properly.

It is sad that in many cases where a local church has different services throughout the week, the one that is typically least attended is the prayer meeting. There are various excuses that people give, but what I’ve heard most is that “there’s not much going on in the service.” I believe that this reveals a consumeristic mindset that is present in many congregations.

The truth is prayer is so much more than a filler or tradition. Prayer is the power cord of the church. Without the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the church cannot do anything. They may go through some motions, but for anything to truly happen, the Holy Spirit has to be behind it. The way this happens is when the church prays faithfully. Paul knew  this and reminded young Timothy to prioritize prayer in the local church.

Does the local church that you are a part of prioritize prayer, or is it more of a religious filler? 

On Wednesday nights at Bethany Baptist Church, we have started a series where we are going through the New Testament letter, 1 Timothy.  I thought that I would share a little of my notes from what I shared with our fellowship.  This is what we talked about this past Wednesday.

In the passage that we will look at tonight, we will see how Paul focuses on the truth of God’s gospel.

1 Timothy 1:12-14 = Gratitude for God’s grace

In verses 12-13, Paul gives thanks to God for the grace that has been shown to him in his life.  Paul remembers how Christ came to him and showed him great grace.  You may remember that Paul was on his way with papers in hand to arrest Christians when Jesus confronted him on the Damascus Road.  Not only did Christ save Paul, but He also called Paul to be His servant taking the gospel to people who had not heard it.

Paul admits that he was the last person whom God should have extended grace to because he blasphemed the name of Christ and persecuted the church.  That is the beautiful thing about grace.  It is getting what we do not deserve.  Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that we did not deserve God’s grace, but He extends it anyways.

As we are reminded about the amazing grace of God shown to us, are we thankful?  Does our lives demonstrate a gratitude for this grace that has been shown to us?  Do we take this grace for granted, giving a tip of the hat towards God and then going on about our merry way?  We should take time frequently to remember the grace shown to us and live a life of gratitude because of it.

Illustration: Dog adopted from the pound.  There was a boy that was taken by his father to the local pound to get a new dog.  When he saw this little puppy, the boy knew that it was the one.  He gave $50 and took the dog home.  The boy would take the dog to a local park and play with it often.  Many people would comment at how well the dog was trained.  The boy would reply that he had no obedience class training.  This dog would wait by the door for the boy to get home from school each day and would jump up and down when the boy got home.  This dog showed his love and appreciation to this boy because he rescued him from certain death.  If a dog can grasp this concept, shouldn’t we?

1 Timothy 1:15 = The Gospel in a Nutshell

In this verse, Paul gives one of the simplest presentations of the Gospel.  He states that Christ came to save sinners, and I am the worst of them all.  Paul is reminding Timothy to remember the mission.  Helping people realize their need for Christ is hard sometimes.  We may want to try different gimmicks, but it all comes to remembering that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, and Christ has come as that Savior.

This was also a means of identifying the false teachers that were trying to destroy the church.  If a person does not recognize their sin and the fact that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior and answer, then one should not give them any time.  Those who want to add things to the gospel like earning God’s favor by doing good works or other things are not from God.

God has given us a gospel that, though it is simple, is sufficient.  The grace of God shown through Jesus Christ coming to save us from our sins is all we need.  That is the message that God has given to His church to experience and share with the world.

1 Timothy 1:16-17 = God’s Purpose in Mercy

Not only did God show great grace towards us, but He also has shown great mercy.  Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.  In verses 16-17, Paul shows Timothy (and us) God’s purpose in mercy = to be an example to show others.

Our sin deserves the full wrath of God.  God has chosen to pardon those who come to faith in Him through Jesus Christ.  This mercy is not just for our benefit though.  It is to show others around us that God is patient and can turn anyone’s life around.  The mercy that God has shown to you is a testimony that someone around you needs to hear.  It is the answer to someone’s question about “Can God do that for me?”  Are we allowing the mercy that God has shown to us to be shared with others so that they can experience this wonderful gift?

1 Timothy 1:18-20

In the final verses of chapter 1, Paul encourages Timothy to fight the good fight.  It is interesting because here Paul talks about the good fight at the beginning of Timothy’s ministry, and Paul will share about the good fight in the last letter that we have that he wrote – once again to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7 = I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.)

The life that God calls His followers to live is not easy; it is a fight.  It is a fight against the flesh, sin, and the forces of darkness in this world.  You do not experience victory in a fight by just standing around.  You have to fight.

In verse 19, Paul shares how we are to fight this fight.  He simply says to cling to your faith in Christ.  The word “cling” in this verse means “to seize or hold strongly in one’s hand.”  This would be like the young child who holds on to his or her “comfort toy.”  You do not easily pry it away from them.

Paul shares examples of two men who did not hold tightly onto the faith and who were removed from the church (Hymenaeus and Alexander).  We are not told as to what exactly they had done, but they apparently were not clinging to their faith in Christ and paying the price for it now.

If we want to experience the victory that Christ has given us in Him, we must cling to Him and follow Him with all that we have.  You cannot go into a battle half-hearted.  When someone does, that is when they fail.  The Bible calls us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and if we hold to the faith that saved us, we will experience that victory.

Recently, I was asked to check out a new book that was written for church leaders.  I love to read.  I love the church.  Reading a book that talked about how to develop leadership both within and outside of the church?  Now you got my attention.

41mpzgq5sl-_sx331_bo1204203200_This book was Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development.  

Eric Geiger serves the local church in a couple of ways.  First, he is the Senior Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church.  Second, he serves as one of the Vice Presidents of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Kevin Peck is the Lead Pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX.

In this book, Geiger and Peck look to address the issue that one reason for which the church was created is to be a springboard of leadership.  This leadership was not just intended to impact what took place in the “walls of the church,” but it was to effect every aspect of life.

Local churches should not be outpaced in developing leaders who bless the world and advance His Kingdom. (p.9)

I think that this is one major thing that set this book apart from many that would fall under the heading of “church leadership.”  Many books share about ways in which churches can do better at doing church the way that it has been done for a while now.  Some of these books are helpful in developing some leadership skills in pastors/servants, but others are… let’s just say not so helpful.

Designed to Lead was intended to show that the church is not supposed to be about what takes place “inside the walls,” but that the church is supposed to impact the world around it. I really believe that this is an important thing to look at for the church today.  There are too many churches that are trying to run away from the world instead of impacting and redeeming it with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Geiger and Peck put forth a framework to help churches work on developing leaders that lead both within and outside the church.  This framework begins with conviction, moves through the culture, and creates constructs to make it happen (p. 14-15).  These three elements make up the three major sections of the book.

If you are a leader in the local church and have been feeling that there has been a leadership vacuum both within and outside of your church, then I would encourage you to check out Designed to Lead. Geiger and Peck have written this book for leaders to reproduce leaders and impact this world for Jesus Christ.

Giveaway

I have received a few copies of Designed to Lead, and I would like to bless some church leaders with this book.  If you would like to be considered for this giveaway, please leave a comment in the comment section of this blog (not on Facebook).  I will choose from the comments the winners on Monday, September 19th.