Category Archives: Pastoral Ministry

Thinking About The Speeches of Job

This is an excerpt from my introduction to the Elihu speeches. I have been wrestling with this text for weeks. Here are some things I think I have learned.

I have been thinking and praying each week trying to figure out what these texts mean. As I pondered over the big picture yesterday, I thought again how hard the speeches were to understand. Much of the difficulty comes from the fact that the speeches were written in Hebrew poetry, but not completely. The other main reason for struggle is that people are complicated, especially when we are hurting. Job’s pain and suffering cause confusion because these things cloud his mind with darkness. He oscillates between hope and despair. We can’t remember our own discourse with people much less all that they say. Our memories fail us no matter how young and smart we may think we are. We begin our argument and find that we lack adequate resources to debate so many words. From chapter 3 to the end of 32 we have about 12,000 words exchanged. The human element is obvious. It’s not a matter of whether the writer of Job can write for us words that are comprehensible. Rather, he seems to let stand the difficulties of conversations among men. I say all of this because I want to understand what Job says. I want to understand so that I can make clear to you what Job is saying. It’s hard to apply God’s word if we don’t know what it’s saying. Yet, I think that is a point in Job (the difficulty of the speeches). Understanding this helps me. I hope it helps you. I asked this question of the text because I realized the YHWH speeches are not so hard to understand. They are written in Hebrew poetry too. So, I conclude that God is far more clear than man. And we are to see a contrast between the speeches of men and the speeches of God. I’m looking forward to walking through those next week!

Job 23:10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” May this be so of us!


Discipleship: The Forgotten Means

The Gospel According to Matthew has multiple purposes. We should see the Great Commission at the end as giving us one of these purposes (possibly the most important one). That purpose is “go and make disciples.” Making disciples consists of “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded and that he is with them always.”

It is in this Gospel (and the others) which gives us our understanding of baptism. It is here that we see more clearly the doctrine of the Trinity. The teachings of Jesus are abundant. However, not only do we read what Jesus taught but how he taught it. If we are to teach the disciple all that Jesus commanded we need to look back to what preceeded the Commission.

In discipleship, content and method are the essential elements. We see Jesus teaching and then showing the disciples how to do it by way of example. So, teaching the disciple to observe is not merely repeating facts. And this cannot happen if the teacher is not with the disciple. By this I think I mean two things: (1) The teacher with the disciple and (2) The Teacher (through the Holy Spirit) with the teacher and disciple.

Over the next few months, we will walk through the Gospels attempting to see various aspects of discipleship. Now let’s observe the content and methods used by Jesus. I hope to point out the big picture items and the methodology of Jesus beginning in Matthew.

Here are a couple observations from Matthew 1:1-17 (written by one of Christ’s disciples)

  1. This is not the beginning but the revealing of the Promised One. Therefore, we should work hard at teaching fulfillment in Christ.
  2. This is proof enough that disciples should read the whole counsel of God. Reading and hearing the word is vital in discipleship.

Acts 19:9-10 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

This is our hope and desire of discipleship.

~Jason
 


Be a Source of Encouragement

In my reading through the Word, I saw some beneficial applications for us as a body. Also, any time I write an email I try to have this in mind (quoting Bruce Ware) “for all that misses the mark, I pray for his forgiveness and correction. God alone is worthy, and so to him be all praise and worship, both now and forevermore.”

When I read Number 13 and 14, I did not readily relate the result of the report of the spies as discouragement. I didn’t see this until Numbers 32 when Reuben and Gad want to settle in Gilead and Moses recounts what happened some 40 years prior to this event. Moses says, (Numbers 32:6-9) “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? 7 Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? 8 Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. 9 For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the LORD had given them.”

As before, I did not relate this discouragement to unbelief as Moses does in Dt. 1:32. Moses recounts the story again but says, (Deuteronomy 1:25-33) 25 And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.’ 26 ¶ “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. 27 And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. 28 Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”‘ 29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.”

The author of Hebrews writes concerning these events: Hebrews 3:19 – 4:2 9 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. ¶ Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
Hebrews 3:12-13 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

There are numerous things that could be pointed out but allow me to mention a few.
1. These things are written for our instruction. Rom. 15:4
2. They are written in the context of the community
3. We may be tempted to think discouragement as a small thing but it is not a small thing–especially within the common-unity
4. In the context of the story, the spies told the TRUTH about what they saw. It was their absence of faith that discouraged the people. Therefore, you can look truthfully at a situation and see the possible discouragement within the situation. However, you can acknowledge that and decide to trust Christ with the situation. We see from this text that He can be trusted and He will fight for us.
5. Discouragement can lead to rebellion and rebellion to unbelief which results in not entering His rest.
6. The leadership needs to be encouraged (Dt. 1:38) for they are susceptible to many more dangers (Mt 23) and stricter judgment (Jam 3)

Therefore, stop right now (if you are able) and pray to the Lord asking Him to guard our leaders from discouragement and think seriously how you might contact every member of our churches (and others too!) and encourage them in some way.This is not to say no one is encouraging one another. Nor do I mean for us to do it in some Pollyanna way. But may this become the norm with us all in Christ’s church–not just a challenge this week. I would also add that we try not to be easily discouraged ourselves. There are some things that ARE discouraging. And there are some things that we should not let discourage us. O LORD bear the fruit of encouragement in our lives through the Gospel! Romans 15:5-6 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Christ is Our Passover Lamb

We have remained steadfast in our discipline of “Family Friday Night.” It began while we were in seminary because time was very limited and very valuable. So, on Friday night, Dad stopped studying at 5:00 pm and did not start back until Saturday at noon. The Saturday morning was a time my wife could actually have an uninterrupted quiet time (husband, you should add up the amount of time your wife is spending with the kids…she needs a break!). And we are still keeping the Family Night though we are not as busy. That is the history and context of Family Night.

Therefore, we plan each Friday night on Wednesday (or further in advance if we are doing something that needs extra preparation). It usually involves everyone’s input. However, when the Holy Days of old roll around, we incorporate them into our family night. I would like to encourage you to consider using these holidays as a teaching tool for your kids. They are rich with imagery that will help your kids develop categories of theology.

So, we have planned the next several weeks to teach our kids about the Passover, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Booths. If you are going to attempt this, check out the material available through Jews for Jesus. They have some excellent resources. You will want to spend some time thinking about this and how Christ is our Passover Lamb before you do this. I hope to post my devotions for the kids as I take the week of our scheduled Passover to lead them in our family worship time each night.

I hope you will be encouraged to use these holy days to point to Christ (and learn yourself) in the following days. Also, don’t think you have to do them on their scheduled dates. It can be overwhelming for someone to do all of them. We have been doing them for a few years now, so it takes time to develop a strategy. You can spread them out or just pick one for the year and focus on it and do it well. May you and your family be blessed!


Truth: How Did That Happen?

I once had no idea!!! As I encounter things that differ from what I believe to be true, I try to remember that I too did not know the truth. Whatever truth you might think of, often it is believed to be not true any longer. I have to be careful the way I write this post. For, I believe truth is truth–it does not change. However, things that were once true are now believed to be false. In fact, there is a new truth that has taken its place.
That does not mean the truth has changed. It simply means that truth is no longer believed and something false has taken its place.
I think an example will help (in this post I am not attempting to prove the following–yet). Many believe today that the local church is to have only one pastor (not elder or bishop). Yet the New Testament pattern plainly shows the pattern is to be a plurality of pastors. The New Testament also teaches that pastor, bishop, and elder are speaking of the same office in the church. So, when someone teaches the Scriptures and this topic arises many may think it is false because they have a different belief in its place. Therefore, the truth is now thought to be false and what is false is believed to be true.
In response to this teaching, some counter with, ” We can barely afford to pay one pastor, much less two.” Or, that part of Scripture is “for the Presbyterian or some other denomination that believes that way.” “We are a Baptist Church.” These are merely pragmatic excuses for not believing truth.
Now, I will go along way with those who do not believe things the way I do IF they give me biblical evidence. I think the former complaints to be pathetic.
I do not know exactly how truth gets distorted. I would not be surprised that due to such reasons given for not believing now resulted in the abandoning of it in history. Nevertheless, truth is truth. We must embrace what is true whether we have believed what is false for decades.
If you find yourself in this position what should you do? Well, the many times I encountered similar situations through seminary I would talk it out with my brothers in Christ. I would pray over the word and read it carefully. I would listen to sermons on the verses dealing with a particular issue. And I would move slow but remain teachable. We all have blind spots…which really bothers me. I hope I remember my own history.
Also, no matter which side you are on the delivery of truth is painful. It is painful to receive and painful to deliver. Imagine someone believing a superstition that ended the life of their child. Not only is it hard for that parent to hear the truth but it is also hard to tell that truth when it reveals an unnecessary deaf. Truth delivered and received with compassion is the proper way–God’s way!


Ruth the Moabite

It is of profound significance that we see Ruth the Moabite in great contrast to many Israelites of her day. It was a dark time in the period of the judges. The cycle of apostasy, servitude, supplication, and salvation is extremely clear. Yet, when many in Israel were turning to the idolatry of the nations (or worse mixing their idolatry with God’s ways); nevertheless, Ruth is turning from her gods, abandoning her family, forsaking her inheritance, and turning to the one, true, and living God. This is amazing!
I wonder why Ruth is being drawn to this God who delivered this famine, took her father-in-law, and left her a widow? I have a theory. I believe Ruth was hearing that God had standards and with Him it is not “anything goes.” Yes, I perceive that the gods she worshiped growing up were like the ones king Adoni-bezek in Judges 1 worshiped. This tells me that God revealed Himself through punishing sin.
I assumed Elimelech (that is, one of many) is dodging repentance and thus feminine is in the land (Lev. 26:3-4). If God looks over the sin of His people then He appears to be like the mute idols of the nations. Praise be to GOD for His holiness and jealousy for His name. May we be as zealous for holiness as He that we might bear fruit for God (Rom. 7).


Opportunities to Share the Gospel #2

Last week a man came in the workplace. He asked me if we had any receptacles. I actually did not know if we did, so I went to look. Unfortunately, we did not. I knew this man would be hanging around for awhile as he replaced our security system. So, by the providence of God my boss asked me to make a run to the bank and post office. I needed a few items from our local hardware store, so I stopped in and picked up the things I needed and a receptacle. When I returned to the workplace the man was still there. So, I gave him the item he so desperately needed. He tried to pay me the 60 cents I paid for it, but I refused. We were both busy with our work, so we went back to work.
However, I as mused over the turn of events I realized (as it stood) I would receive the glory from this man. Therefore, I made my way back to the front of the store so that I could turn the glory from me to God. I began by telling him the receptacle was a gift from God and that his salvation was bearing fruits of kindness towards him. I then explained how I was not a good person but that Christ was good and this salvation was reflecting the kindness of God to him. He stood there dumbfounded.
Be intentional about sharing the gospel. Don’t miss any opportunities that might present themselves. Praise be to God for his steadfast love endures forever!


Seminary…things I wish I knew 4 years ago!

As I ponder the last four and half years, I have learned a ton at seminary, yet I have found myself in some extremely difficult places while studying. I am grateful for the men God has placed in my life to teach me how to rightly divide the Word! His Word is the bread of life by which I live. It has not been easy, but it has been a joy.
Here are a few desires for upcoming students:

  1. Be a churchman not merely a seminarian!
  2. Be in a growing relationship with your pastors…at the church that sent you to seminary and at the church you are currently serving in.
  3. Do not study for a grade…the bar is much higher than that.
  4. Encourage your pastors to ask you hard questions about your life…how are you paying for school, how are your relationships (wife, children, family, friends, etc.), and how are you growing in Christ-likeness through the Word and prayer?
  5. Ask your pastors to look over the Syllabus for your classes…they can suggest a schedule and warn or encourage (whatever the case may be) concerning the books you are required to read.
  6. Encourage your pastors to read your papers…this will help as you wrestle with difficult issues.
  7. Do not waste your time but do not be in a hurry to finish…finishing is not the priority but remaining faithful to the Lord everyday…not four years from now!

These suggestions are an attempt to bring the church and the academy to a proper relationship. The academy should be a servant of the church and the student/churchman must work hard to stand firm in this.


Dear Pastor,

I have realized something today much more clearly than ever before. I have been preparing myself for future ministry. In fact, I am constantly wrestling with issues that arise within the local church. My brothers and I discuss them quite often. You can imagine the issues that may come up around a theological seminary. For example, we have discussed the issue of divorce and remarriage numerous times. Some of us have come to conclusions on the issue. However, some of the conclusions differ even among my group of brothers at work. The issue of divorce is not the topic of this post, but the process of coming to conclusions.

In a pastoral setting (and professors need to make this aware to their students), people do not need your conclusions only. They need for you to “show your work.” Any math student knows that you cannot merely write the answers done for the homework; you must show your work. Too often, pastors arrive at the church with most of their conclusions and when faced with the issue simply state their position without working through the issue within the church body. How can this be? What is the biblical way to state our positions?

I Peter 5: The pastor should lead the sheep. He should build fences for the sheep with the sheep and give them reasons for building fences. He should not send the sheep to build the fence until they know how. Thus, the shepherd should be showing the sheep how to build a fence. This fence is for their protection and the process of building a fence is necessary for the sheep to know why they are in need of protection. Remember pastor, you are a sheep too. Therefore, all conclusions to the issues that arise in the local church should be sought in the Word of God. This will take time and much prayer with the church.

The fence is not an option. You will have to work through issues such as divorce within the church. The fence makes a clear statement of the conclusions wrought from Scripture. This will make clear where someone will stand–inside the fence or outside the fence. There will be times when a wolf in sheep’s clothing makes his way inside the fence. This wolf must be removed and placed outside the fence. If you do not have a fence you will have no place to put the wolf. If you do not have the process of building the fence you will have angry sheep who cannot understand why the wolf was placed outside the fence. Therefore, the biblical pastor will lead the sheep through a study and discussion possibly for a few years before the fence is built. Then the biblical pastor and the biblical church will stand within the fence together on a foundation.

The other side of this thought is necessary too. When you (anyone in the church) encounter a sheep outside the fence, then you can explain the fence and maybe rescue the wandering sheep. If you encounter a wolf outside the fence, then you will know how to defend yourself. STAY INSIDE THE FENCE! Now, do you believe the fence is important? Let me know what you think.