Harshness vs Expressing One’s Feelings

Take a look at this hot mess that someone might call a ‘book review’:

For so long, the gospel of God has been assumed in our churches. We now stand on the cusp of the gospel being denied from those who grew up in church and yet was never taught the fullness of the gospel and the full council of the Bible. Nevermind, the true gospel being scoffed at from the unbeliever–we know that would happen. We now have the gospel assumed or even worse yet, taught something that is the gospel is not: namely, Jesus is a good example, Jesus is just a Lord, Jesus provides wealth, health and prosperity or we have to take the part of God and make all things right by him by transforming our world.

By God’s providence and will, we now see a small yet vocal group of Western churches boldly proclaiming the gospel (the rest of the world like China or all throughout Africa is years ahead in proclamation of the gospel). This is wonderful. In turn, many other churches are catching wind and claim to proclaim the gospel as well.

What I have experienced is the word gospel being tossed around but I yearn for teachers, preachers and saints to dive right in and explain the gospel of God. More than that, when pressed to explain the gospel, I see too many other Christians with their deer-in-highlights expressions as if to say, “please don’t pick me to answer that question.” I don’t say that to criticize the saints but to extend grace to them because those who are called to office have not done a great job equipping them to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).

We haven’t done a great job before. Instead of kicking ourselves of sucking, now is the time to turn the ship around. Martin Luther makes the call, “Beat the gospel into their heads continually.” First, we must clearly and simply answer the question:

What is the gospel?

Those who are called to equip, answer this question and teach the answer to the saints. To the saints, go forth and proclaim this Truth of truths to the captives, the blind, the deaf, the sick and the dead that is there is One who has brought freedom, sight, sound, health and life!

Buy this book. Study the verses well. Led by the Holy Spirit, repackage and teach this well. Buy a case and give it away.

With His blood, He has saved me
By His power, He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things he has done

Perhaps if I was a studied theologian. Perhaps if I was a seasoned pastor. Perhaps if I beheld a crown of silver upon my head, I could get away with saying some of the things here.

I would go as far as calling myself a pompous ass (rightfully so):

Perhaps I was a bit harsh on myself. Truth be told, I was deeply embarrassed for this and anything else I have written with the same tone. You know the one: comes from a semblance of authority but oneself without any authority.

I am embarrassed for being a Mr. Know-It-All. I am embarrassed for telling other people what to do and I am not even in a position to do it myself.

I was a hypocrite.embarrassed-monkey

I could have come with a lot more humility and a lot less arrogance.

I am embarrassed.

I am sorry if anything I have ever wrote or said ever hurt you.

I am sorry.

Dangerous Calling: God Will Give Us What We Want

Sometimes, we think of God as a pragmatic god. We think we do exactly as he says, we make it appear that all is well, and do everything to please him, he will give us whatever our heart’s desires.

Wait, what if my heart’s desires are for something not Him? What if I want more money, more sex, more work, more security, more of anything out of God but not God himself? Why in all of creation would God give me something not God when my heart desires not God. Logically and theologically, that does not make sense.

In one true sense, God is a pragmatic God. That is, if he has given me His soft heart and now my heart’s desires are for Him and His glory. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.1 Okay, I am going to ask God for God and His glory. Guess what, He will not say, “No”, to me. He will give me exactly what my heart desires.

Likewise, God may be pouring His blessings on you, in you and through you despite you. Jesus said, “God shines the sun on the evil and good and pours rain on the just and unjust.2 When someone close to you, be it your wife or your best friend, calls you out on your crap, we cannot dare think that just because everything is going awesome doesn’t mean it is awesome in your soul. Pragmatism should be the alarm, not the process, that something might be going on in your heart.

“I would say to Luella (and this is embarrassing, but important to admit), ‘If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?’ God was acting as he was not because he was endorsing my manner of living but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. And God has the authority and power to use whatever instruments he chooses in whatever way he chooses to use them. The success of a ministry is always more a picture of who God is than a statement about who the people are that he is using for his purpose. I had it all wrong. I took credit that I did not deserve for what I could not do; I made it about me, so I didn’t see myself as a man headed for disaster and in deep need of the rescue of God’s grace.” 3

Notes:

  1. Luke 11:9
  2. Matthew 5:45
  3. Paul David Tripp. Dangerous Calling (Kindle Locations 330-336). Crossway.

Dangerous Calling: Blind to My True Condition

“You see, sin is not first an intellectual problem. (Yes, it does affect my intellect, as it does all parts of my functioning.) Sin is first a moral problem. It is about my rebellion against God and my quest to have for myself the glory that is due to him. Sin is not first about the breaking of an abstract set of rules. Sin is first and foremost about breaking relationship with God, and because I have broken this relationship, it is then easy and natural to rebel against God’s rules. So it’s not just my mind that needs to be renewed by sound biblical teaching, but my heart needs to be reclaimed by the powerful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification). Seminary, therefore, won’t solve my deepest problem— sin. It can contribute to the solution, but it may also blind me to my true condition by its tendency to redefine what maturity actually looks like. Biblical maturity is never just about what you know; it’s always about how grace has employed what you have come to know to transform the way you live.”

Paul David Tripp. Dangerous Calling (Kindle Locations 301-309). Crossway.

Dangerous Calling: Where’s The Grace?

Lectures. Speaking engagements. One-on-one counseling. Teaching. Preaching. Speaking. Whispering. Is it possible to continuously proclaiming the glorious, loving, gracious gospel of Jesus Christ? What if I preached to myself His gospel? What if I continuously filled my mind not with mindless entertainment but with His glorious revelation? What if I stepped into the world and loved the world in the way He did? What if I could get ever moment of my life to proclaim His goodness and grace? What if?

“You are most loving, patient, kind, and gracious when you are aware that there is no truth that you could give to another that you don’t desperately need yourself. You are most humble and gentle when you think that the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. When you have inserted yourself into another category that tends to make you think you have arrived, it is very easy to be judgmental and impatient. I heard a pastor unwittingly verbalize this well. My brother Tedd and I were at a large Christian-life conference listening to a well-known pastor speak on family worship. He told stories of the zeal, discipline, and dedication of the great fathers of our faith to personal and family worship. He painted lengthy pictures of what their private and family devotions were like. I think all of us felt that it was all very convicting and discouraging. I felt the weight of the burden of the crowd as they listened. I was saying to myself, ‘Comfort us with grace, comfort us with grace,’ but the grace never came.1

Notes:

  1. Paul David Tripp. Dangerous Calling (Kindle Locations 262-270). Crossway.

Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp: A Review

I like this book and I am not even a pastor. And I am not going to preface this review with any sort of calling that God has on my life or whatever He might be walking me through. I think this book is suited for any Christian for we are all saints who are being equipped for the work of the ministry. 1 But I think it would be a shame for any Christian to look at the cover, dismiss it because “Oh I am not a pastor”.

I consider those saints who are called by Christ as Pastor-Shepherds to be the Jedi Council of the Christian world. They have masterful way of looking into your life by the words you are speaking and be able to clearly see what is going on in your heart. The good ones don’t judge the heart but instead, ask a series of voodoo questions that helps you see what’s going on in your own heart. This is a skill, gift, and an anointing I do not possess but will always appreciate and will forever admire pastor-counselors and be in awe of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and through their lives.

Me? I have to work hard to shepherd well. I have to study my butt off just to half-way counsel others in the gospel of Christ. So, whenever the Biblical Counseling Prof from my seminary writes a book pertaining to pastors, most certainly I will seek this book out.

I initially suspected that this is a book that would help those who feel lead to serve His Bride in some sort of Pastor/Teacher calling. Oh, the book does that but Tripp isn’t simply satisfied with examining your calling. In the omnipotent reaching power of God alone, Tripp is interested in what is really going on in your heart. I mean, really, going on.

If the gospel pertains to the many facets of the diamond that is the life and finished work of Jesus Christ, then Tripp does a masterful job in uncovering the many facets of your heart. Except, if I can speak for my own heart and life, there is no diamond to uncover but rather a coal mine that knows no limits to its depths.

When it comes to your heart, Tripp does not pull punches. For the sake of the gospel, His Bride, my bride, my family, my heart and my soul, I certainly glad he did not.

The easy read yet a read that cuts deep. You can’t do much better than that.

Pick up this book and don’t let it collect dust on the bookshelf with the rest of your other unread books. Read it right away.

Notes:

  1. see Ephesians 4:11-16

Shepherds Not Called By Christ Are Wolves

Anyone who tries to be a shepherd without coming through Jesus is illegitimate and destructive. Which means that only Jesus can call and gift true shepherds. You must be called by Jesus to be a shepherd.

This is not speaking solely of senior pastors. This truth applies to all who function as shepherds, particularly those on the pastoral staff. Even lay leaders in the church frequently function as shepherds. But none can receive that calling except through Jesus.”

Robert Morris. The Blessed Church: The Simple Secret to Growing the Church You Love. WaterBrook Press, 2012. 44.

Calling of God Versus Going Up the Corporate Ladder

“That’s why you should only seek the role of senior pastor if you’re sure you’ve been called to it. Supernature grace and enabling come to those who have been truly called by the Great Shepherd. But without that grace, it can be brutal. I encourage associate pastors to thrive in that vital and fulfilling role until they are absolutely sure they have been called and are ready to be a senior pastor.

This message tends to hurt some feelings and ruffle some feathers. This is America after all. We’ve been conditioned to view every organization as a corporate ladder that must be climbed until we reach the top. In our worldview, every Number Two must aspire to be Number One. But this is a trap. If it’s not your calling to serve a senior pastor, you don’t want to do it.

Robert Morris. The Blessed Church: The Simple Secret to Growing the Church You Love. WaterBrook Press, 2012. 44.

Feed The Sheep, Beat The Wolves

[On John 10:1-10] “Note that Jesus leads His sheep by going before them. He’s not standing behind them, shouting and driving them with a whip. He’s not driving them before Him by poking them with sharp sticks. He’s in front of them with His shepherd’s staff. He demonstrates the path. In other words, the true shepherd models where he wants the sheep to go. He leads by example.

There’s a powerful lesson for pastors in that. By the way, the shepherd’s staff is for fighting off wolves and other wild predators, not for beating the sheep. True shepherds lead the sheep and fight the enemy.”

Robert Morris. The Blessed Church: The Simple Secret to Growing the Church You Love. WaterBrook Press, 2012. 70.

Feeding Is Of The Utmost Importance

“I feed and lead. But if I had to choose only one as my top priority, I would say feeding is most important. I suspect many pastors would choose differently. Many would say that leading is a pastor’s primary function. I disagree. Why? Because you cannot lead malnourished people into battle. You feed them and ensure that they grow to be strong, alert, and equipped. Then you have a group you can lead.

‘Feed My sheep’ is a life call from God for me.

Robert Morris. The Blessed Church: The Simple Secret to Growing the Church You Love. WaterBrook Press, 2012. 63.

I Have A Job For You

“Jesus looks around at Peter’s fishing boat and tackle. Peter has gone back to the old life again, unsure what to do with himself next. Jesus says, ‘Simon, son of John, when I first met you, you were a fisherman, and I called you to be a fisher of humans. You were very happy then to come with me and work alongside me. Now you are back here again. Do you love me more than these?’ Peter is a bit nonplused and doesn’t know where this is leading, but manages to say: ‘Yes, Lord – you know I love you.’ ‘Well,’ Jesus says, ‘I have a job for you. Feed my lambs.’

Peter doesn’t know what to say to this, but Jesus goes on: ‘And Peter, you remember how you said you would go with me even to death? How even if all the others left me you wouldn’t? It didn’t work out that like that, did it? I heard you that night, as you know. You told them you didn’t even know me. Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter hangs his head. There is no denying it now. ‘Yes, Lord,’ he says, ‘you know that I love you.’ 

But Jesus isn’t finished yet. There is no point in getting someone to see themselves as they really are if you don’t show them where to go from there. ‘Don’t you see, Peter?’ he says. ‘That’s not the end of the story. Peter, the next day they took me outside the city and they crucified me. They watched me die while you hid away somewhere. ‘But don’t you see what it means? I was despised and rejected by everybody. I had nothing but darkness and pain and death. But Peter, I bore all your griefs. I carried all your sorrows. I was wounded for your transgressions. I was bruised for your iniquities. Upon me was the punishment that made you whole. As they beat me, you were being healed. You were straying away like a lost sheep, Peter, but God laid on me the punishment for all your sin. Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

Peter, feeling that the tears in his eyes tell the truth anyway, says, ‘Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.’ And Jesus goes on to tell him of the new life he must lead, a life of serving God, a life of suffering and death, a life of following the Master.

The story hardly needs applying further. Christian faith begins (or it may begin) with understanding what Peter understood that morning. It is as we see Jesus, dying so that his people need not die, completing on the cross the work of our salvation, wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, that we see clearly the love that God has for us. It is also the point at which we begin to love God in return.”

N. T. Wright. Small Faith–Great God. 2nd ed. IVP Books, 2010. 72-74.