Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Preach the Cross

"Although the pulpit is intended to be a pedestal for the cross, even the cross itself is sometimes used as a mere pedestal for the preacher's fame. We may roll the thunders of eloquence, we may scatter the flowers of poetry, we may diffuse the light of science, we may enforce the precepts of morality, from the pulpit. But if we do not make Christ the great subject of our preaching, we have forgotten our errand and shall do no good. Satan trembles at nothing but the cross: at this he does tremble. And if we would destroy his power and extend that holy and benevolent kingdom, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, it must be by means of the cross." - John Angell James

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I Have Pastors Prayer Partners

The following is a condensed version of the message I brought to my prayer partners at our annual banquet this week.

Why do we have a Pastors Prayer Partners Ministry at First Baptist Church? It's very simple - because I believe in the power and the necessity of prayer. Let me read some verses from the Apostle Paul and then make some observations.

1 Thes. 5:25 "Brothers, pray for us."

Col. 4:3-4 "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."

2 Thes. 3:1-2 "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith."

At least three times in Scripture Paul asked the churches to pray for him. He said, "Pray for us." "Pray that God may open a door to preach the Gospel." "Pray that we will be delivered from wicked and evil men." Pray that my preaching will be as clear as possible." This tells me that pastors need prayer.

Paul said, "Brothers, pray for us." Paul was addressing churches that he either planted himself or that those whom he led to the Lord started. He asked these churches to pray for his ministry, his deliverance, and his preaching.

As a pastor, I look at this and I see the greatest preacher in church history, the greatest church planter in church history, and the greatest theologian in church history, and he’s saying, "I need my churches to pray for me." That says something to me as a pastor. It tells me that I need my church praying for me. I understand that I cannot do what God has called me to do without the prayers of the people God has called me to pastor.

There is something within the heart of God that when His people call on Him on behalf of their pastor, God responds. There is power in that kind of praying. Paul understood that as well. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."

Paul said, We’ve had some tough times, even to the point of death, but God delivered us because of your prayers and God will continue to deliver us because of your prayers. There is something powerful in the prayers of God’s people when they pray for their spiritual leaders.

The reason I started the Pastor’s Prayer Partners is because I know that if I’m going to be effective as a pastor, it’s going to take not only my prayers, but the prayers of the people God has called me to lead and shepherd.

Pastors Have Limits
Paul knew that there were areas in his life that if he was going to be effective, it was only going to be because of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the power of God working in him and through him. He asked the church to pray for his limitations and his weaknesses.

Prayer for Preaching
Paul specifically asked for prayer for his preaching. He had a burning desire to preach to as many people as he could. He asked for prayer in three areas concerning his preaching.

1. God would open doors for opportunities to preach.

Col. 4:3 "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains."

Paul was under house arrest in Rome when in wrote these words. He wanted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as he possibly could. He was praying that God would bring many people to him or that he would be released to continue preaching. God did both.
Preaching was Paul’s passion. Preaching is also my passion. I love to preach. My desire is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many unbelievers and believers as I possibly can. I need my church to pray that God would continually open doors for me to preach to lost people here at home and around the world.

2. That his message would be clear.

Col. 4:4 "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."

Why? Because if listeners can’t understand what’s being said, they won’t be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When my prayer partners receive the monthly prayer sheet, always the first thing that I request prayer for is my sermon planning, preparation, and proclamation. I want the messages that I preach to be easily understood. I want people to understand the truth of God’s Word and it’s implication and relevance for their lives.

3. That his message would be proclaimed boldly.

Ephes. 6:19-20 "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

I need that prayer as well. I want to fearlessly and boldly proclaim the Gospel in the face of an increasingly hostile attitude toward the Gospel in our culture. I want to proclaim it boldly in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.

Pastors Need Protection and Delivering
Paul was under house arrest when he asked the church to pray for him. He needed deliverance. Paul faced opposition from outside the church - the Roman authorities, and from inside the church - those who were preaching false doctrine and making accusations against Paul and stirring up problems.

2 Thes. 3:2 "pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith."

Pastors face attack from outside the church.

1 Cor. 4:11-13 "To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."

2 Cor. 11:24-27 "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked."

Pastors face attack from inside the church.

Philip. 1:17 "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains."

2 Cor. 10:2 "I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world."

When you pray for me, pray that God’s hand of protection will be upon me. Pray that when I am attacked, judged, and criticized that I will have a loving, forgiving spirit along with the wisdom and discernment to know how to handle it. Pray that I will be bold enough to stand up for what is right according to God’s Word and pray that I will not back down from what I know God’s will is because the devil is stirring someone up against it.

Pray that God will keep us united and together as a church and that God will keep Satan from using immature church members to stir up dissension against me, the staff, or anyone else in the church. I ask for this because if the Apostle Paul had to ask for prayers of protection from inside the church, what in the world makes me think I need prayers for this any less than Paul?

Paul told the church at Corinth,

1 Cor. 1:10-12 "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

One of the biggest problems that a pastor faces in the church is when the church is divided over an issue and people are lining up and picking sides. They did that even in Paul’s churches. This kind of attitude destroys churches. I praise God that we’ve not seen that here at First Baptist Church in my years. But I do know this - it must remain a constant prayer for us that God will keep us united, if we are to stay united.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Mark of Suffering

In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time, after a while I have had to look away. And in imagination I have turned instead to the lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Great White Throne

This Sunday I continue my series of messages on "The Second Coming and the End of the Age." I will be preaching from Revelation 20:11-15 on "The Great White Throne" judgment. I came across this thought from an unknown author.

In coming into the world He confirmed God's promises. In coming into the world He revealed the Father to us. In coming into the world He was able to become our faithful High Priest. In coming into the world He was able to put away sin. In coming into the world He destroyed the works of the devil. In coming into the world He gave us an example of a holy life. In coming into the world He prepared for the Second Coming! If Christ had come the first time in the way we look for Him the second, He could only have come in judgment. Our sins would not have been atoned, we all would have been lost and without God and a Holy Messiah could only have come to destroy.

Just a Thougth!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Church Wants to Know

I am thinking about a series of sermons for this summer entitled, "The Church Wants to Know." I am asking people to submit questions they would like to have answered from God's Word in a Sunday morning message.

Do you have a question about God, Jesus, the Bible, or theology?
Have you ever needed help understanding a Bible verse or passage?
Are there any spiritual issues in your life for which you need advice or counsel?

Submit your quesitons or topics. If I get enough responses, I plan to start this series around the middle of May.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Free Will or Election?

The best explanation I have heard to the more and more fequently asked question these days, "Are we chosen to be saved or do we choose ourselves to be saved?" According to John McArthur the answer is "Yes." Wait, what? Listen to his explanation. John MacArthur speaks on the tension that exists between these seemingly contradictory biblical teachings as well as the dangers of seeking an unnecessary and unbiblical middle ground which ultimately results in the compromise of both truths.

Thanks to Donnie Gipson for putting me on to this video.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Knowledge of the Holy God

"The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the knowledge of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is." - A.W. Tozer