The Return of The Older Minister

moses-19“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Tim. 5:17). 

Have you ever heard the term-respect your elders? “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:32).  Did you notice the motivation in respect of godly elders in that verse-the fear of God? God takes very seriously how we treat our elders and will punish those who do not respect them. We are to see them greatly honored and blessed by God because of the length of their life and the experience and wisdom which they have acquired. That is what the Bible teaches. That is God’s design for leadership in the church. Even outside of the church people realize the value of older workers.

Companies see the benefits of hiring older workers. They statistically exert a detail oriented, higher quality work. They are focused, punctual, organized, less rattled with problems and have pride in a job well done. They know how to train other workers and communicate better than those younger than them.

Surprised? I am not.

I wrote this article after hearing a leader in a certain denomination say that they want younger men to pastor because older men are set in their ways. That is so disrespectful and unwise! For example, Moses was eighty years old when he started leading Israel and pastored them for 40 years! Caleb was 85 years old when he began to venture out in battle to take his inheritance. I think if I had the choice I would love to be young again, but not to be inexperienced again.  It is my conviction that the middle-aged man is the best candidate for being the Lead or Senior Pastor of a church today.  In a day when men are being dishonored or demeaned, needless the offensive manner in which seasoned citizens are being treated by society this is when a minister is at his best. In fact, it should be the biblical model for us to follow. The New Testament uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably. It refers to an older, seasoned Christian who presides over a church as a pastor.  No wonder the church has more and more issues because of the sophomoric mistakes of younger preachers who are getting job experience in pulpits that in which seminary could never prepare them. Responsiblity is learned through experience. 

In the past few decades, men and women have been entering the ministry at older ages. Most had another career before going to seminary, and by the time they settled into the role of minister they tended to be middle-aged. In a recent study, the median age of senior or solo Protestant pastors was 51. The median age of senior or solo black pastors was 53.

A church would have a great advantage having the Senior pastor training and mentoring younger ministers, who assist him in his ministry and church work. By doing this they gain training. But the bottom line (with some few exceptions) the man leading the church should be no younger than thirty-five years old which would give him at least 20 years experience in ministry training.  Some of you whippersnappers are rolling your eyes. But I am telling you that churches that look for younger pastors are setting themselves up for the many mistakes of inexperience and youth. Now people will tell me that Paul told Timothy, Let no man despise thy youth” (1 Tim. 4:12). But he was at least 35 years old, maybe forty when he pastored Ephesus (Pulpit Commentary). We also have to take life expectancy of the times in view-but I think wisdom and experience trump youth and idealism any day of the week.

The Bible teaches older men should lead the church. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders…” (see 1 Peter 5:1-14). I cannot say it any clearer churches today should desire that their leaders be elders-those who have acquired wisdom with age. 

In this day when we have so many still droning on about the Paul-Timothy relationship it seems we have the Timothy’s trying to tell the Paul’s that they are old schooled albatrosses because the elder reflects the sound doctrine of the Bible from past years while many younger men pant like teenagers with their hormones out of control for new ways of doing things. I am so taken back by the stupid wet behind the ears attitude of men who say the methods have to change but the message stays the same. The message is the cross, the method is preaching. If these young fools would actually read their Bible they would see that their worldview is ridiculous and silly. 

I know many ministers feel useless in the fifty and above crowd. But this is just the devil. God wants to bless others through your life and do not forget it, Your time will come. You stay in the Word and prayer and walk with the Lord and you will grow in wisdom and be a blessing to many of those in need of a fatherly person who can help them grow in Christ.

© 2017 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

WIRELESS CONNECTION

lion“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. 28:1).

I could not in my own strength and power reach my High School. I needed to accomplish God’s will, God’s way. At 15 years old God chose two weapons out of his arsenal for me: prophesying scripture and praying scripture.

One day while cleaning the church I went up a long passage of stairs to the attic and some of the folks were cleaning it out. I was wondering what treasures I would be able to plunder. I saw books! There were two books there. One was called They Teach us To Pray by Reginald E.O. White and the other The Gifts of the Spirit by Harold Horton. They let me have them. It was gold to me. The one prayer book was about the ABC’s of prayer. My favorite chapter was about Moses and the Benefits of prayer and how his face shined with the presence of God, along with Stephen the martyr and most of all, Christ. I wanted people to see Jesus in me. The prospect of having my face shine after I was done with prayer to let people see the reality of Jesus thrilled my soul. I knew prayer was going to be the key in my life. God saved me for his glory, so I could pray and have communion with Him through the Holy Spirit. Prayer was my wireless connection to God through the scriptures.

I was reading The Gifts of the Spirit and the gift of prophecy kept being placed on my heart. I knew the Holy Spirit gave gifts according to his will but since the Bible spoke of, “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31)  I asked God for that gift. I loved preaching and the thought of prophesying, “to edify, exhort and comfort” excited me (1 Cor. 14:3). I did not want it to be me speaking but the Father, Son and the Spirit speaking through me. I began to pray about this gift and God’s will for me. It was then while I prayed it felt like God dropped a large coin in my Spirit. Something happened-and as all of God’s dealings with me anytime he did something big it was at first quiet, like a gentle soft breeze. Then later the results were huge. Prophecy was my wireless connection with God through scripture,“The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).

One summer I met Rev. Loren Wooten. He came for our first revival. I did not know what a revival was but it sounded good. He was an older, seasoned man and they called him an evangelist. He preached different than my Pastor who was an excellent teacher. Brother Wooten seemed to be able to communicate the gospel in another capacity. Watching this man in his late sixties preach with the animation of a young man blew my mind. One night he said something about the account of David and Goliath that I can still recall to this day. He was illustrating how David confronted the Philistine, “He calls him an uncircumcised Philistine. You see what he is saying? I’m a little boy and I have a covenant. You’re a big giant and you don’t have a covenant. I am coming in the name of the God of the covenant and God will give me the victory-I can’t lose!” I had never heard about a covenant before-but it I found it was God’s commitment to us because we belong to Jesus.

He was big on the topic of prayer. He gave us prayer journal loose-leaf and every day of the week had a specific theme which would have a great influence in my prayer time. Brother Wooten would hear me pray and all I would do is quote scripture in prayer and pray in the Spirit. He liked that so much he made me quote 2 Corinthians 10:6 in front of those people. He told the church he had not seen young men like Mike and I so on fire for God in a long time. To God be the glory.

The only time I heard a prophetic Word, or interpretation on tongues was when Brother Chris Olsen would do it. He looked like he was seven feet tall as he reached up with one arm to the ceiling and rocked on his feet to his toes. I remember would say something like, “Yea, the Lord the God is in the midst of thee this morning!” He would weep and I was in awe.  Not long after that during Bro. Wooten’s meetings I prophesied the first time. It was a few short biblical sentences that came to my mind and I thought my heart would explode. I gave the forth telling prophecy taken I believe from John chapter 10 and my Pastor was saying, “Praise God, praise God.” It was both wonderful and frightening. I learned to how speak out the Scriptures in prayer and prophecy by the leading of the Spirit. I was learning to speak the right thing at the right time-a skillful word in season. This would prove to be  invaluable (Prov 15:23; Isa. 50:4).

After that I drove our pastor crazy because I would ask him if I could use to church to pray. I liked being alone in church because I could let out my heart to God in private. He eventually surrendered and made a key for me to get in church. Oh God was so good to me! He gave me the key to his house! We had an altar railing back in those days and I would slump over it and weep. I would pace around the church sanctuary and worship until I felt to pray for others. I began to prayer two or three hours a night. Wednesday nights was intercession night I would get to church early before Bible study. I had a list of 168 people.

Friday night was supposed to be prayer night-but no one ever came, except one night, at one all night prayer meeting.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

Stuck on the Steeple

Recently two men were stuck at a height of 122 feet in a construction bucket which stopped working and lodged against a New Jersey church steeple for hours before they were rescued. These men were working on a restoration project, according to the church’s pastor. Not even the fire department could help them.  As surreal as it seems, the New Jersey State Police dispatched two helicopters to assist those men! After about three hours, the men were taken down by a basket hooked to a crane. The Pastor was thankful and even prayed with those that helped.

I wonder what it would be like to listen to these men tell the story to their friends and family about the day they were stuck on the steeple.

I am not here to blame the pastor for that nightmare, and the breakdown of equipment.  I am not against church repairs. But for the sake of illustration, I wonder about pastors who are more like religious business owners and whose focus is on how tall the “steeple” of the church more than the souls of their people.  There is a sermon  here in fact, it is very possible churches and church goers are stuck on the steeple. I am prompted to advise pastors with the scripture,

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and look well to your herds.” (Prov 27:23)

This passage encourages the pastor to know the faces or the state of his sheep, to put his heart into the condition of those that God has entrusted to his care. The pastor has a job to know the condition of the souls of the people he pastors, nothing else is more important. Soul work is hard work and all the work done in a church should flow the condition of people’s hearts.

Pastors today feel the lure of the new models of religious marketing and church growth. That shining serpent beckons to them and promises them freedom from “old religious ways”  and to attract more crowds to church in the name of love and healing. I am concerned that they may have forgotten their true call, to care for their sheep.  I have seen pastors and churches advertise and market programs and go light on preaching. When they do preach, they are sloppy on the gospel.

There is a possibility of involving people so much in “God’s Work” that they get end up in a dangerous situation. In seemingly thriving churches I have seen adultery, drug abuse and financial controversy. How could this happen? They are stuck on the steeple. Pastors may be putting people  in danger, because their agenda has become their gospel.  We shuld love helping the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry we should do it without a second thought but these things are NOT the gospel. Man cannot live on bread alone. Full stomachs can result in anorexic souls.

I have been part of churches where Sunday after Sunday they push small groups, leadership programs, denominational conferences so much that it becomes forced. It is like an arranged marriage to an ugly partner. The religious peer pressure kicks in and you either get left out or singled out.

The bottom line is not the project it is the condition of people souls! Their souls are more important than any agenda you may have. Is what you are doing, contributing to a dangerous situation for them spiritually?

Many of these pastors seem promote membership and Churchianity.  They preach with passion the importance of attendance and faithful tithing. If only they would preach the cross and exposit scripture with such fire! They quote Hebrews 10:25 and have the nerve to shake their finger at people for neglecting the fellowship. But I wonder, what is the sense of going to church when they nauseatingly preach a man centered message to a gospel hardened people?

I have heard messages that were not messages at all. I have heard pastors talking about sex until it bordered on soft porn. I have hjerad them use vulgarity when preaching. I have heard them preach on finances until you felt like you were going to work and they were about to sell you a new 401k plan. They act like stand up comedians who use the Bible as a punchline. Many look like slobs and act like slobs. They will show movies, plays and concerts in place of what used to be Sunday morning worship. This is a bad dream and “Ouch!” that pinch hurts when you realise you are wide awake.  It breaks my heart. When you confront these things all you hear from these same people is that you are “religious” “judgmental” or pharasaical! That gets old fast mainly because it is so unoriginal.

How many more churches and preachers must be exposed for their malpractice until they repent!  Some men see people problem and clear themselves of the blame saying it is this or that person’s fault. But they say that are praying for them. Oh you will pray for them? Ah, to little too late. 

Recently, the Michael Jackson wrongful death case was blazed in the media. Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty.  He gave drugs to this troubled man who was depressed, full of anxiety and despite all his success and charity was empty inside. The man that should have helped him heal, created the perfect storm in his body and killed him. We do not know all the wherewithal about this case still, but we know that a Doctor who was supposed to keep an oath to care for the welfare of his patient literally gave him the drip of death. We are aghast at this! Yet how much more those who give the drip of death to the soul.

You are being charged with malpractice by the Surgeon General of Souls! If you continue to go against the scripture or only use scripture as a garnish for the toxic candy you serve people God will remove your license to practice. The salt is in danger of losing its savor. Repent now, help those people stuck on the steeple you have made!

Imagine your people stranded to the point where the world has to come in and “rescue” them. We surrender our problematic people and flock to the programs of men, their philosophy, their psychology and counsel. We exalt the counsel of the wicked to help them and because we have laid aside God’s Word, his true grace, true love and true forgiveness. The repair of their souls cannot be found in the hands of those like Absalom who kiss them and steal their hearts from the Lord. People who call themselves Christians live dangerously close to the world and not for the gospel. I watch them dabble in all sorts of witchcraft, violence, idolatry of all kinds and I wonder what are they hearing in church? Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?

Stop using the pulpit for idiocy! You are endangering the souls of your people! Stop being an activities director, a marriage counselor or financial guru and start looking at the faces of your flock. Look at them burned out on the steeple, forced  to work in man-made vineyard and yet neglecting their own spiritual vintage. Start preaching and ministering to their hearts.  Look at your people, they are miserable, on the verge of spiritual collapse stuck on the steeple you sent them to repair. They trusted you as their pastor and you are more like a taskmaster.  Repent now, your candlestick is in danger of being removed!  Look to God’s Word for your guidance. He will show you the path and he will make it clear how to minister to your people. He loves them. He will rescue them. Let God’s glory and their spiritual welfare be your goal. Let God speak to them through you by his Word, and he will rescue them from being stuck on the steeple.

God is sending help to rescue these people from these taskmasters and their steeples. Just like in the Garden of Eden he will expose these lies for what they are and all your fig leaf suits and hiding behind your Bible won’t stop his presence from exposing it!

 (c) 2011 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.

Feed My Sheep 5: For the Love of Christ

 “Lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:16).

Christ’s own people need to be fed by men he has called to pastor his flock. It still amazes me at how Jesus told them simply to feed his sheep.  I thought, “Is that all?” With the whole “Christians are getting spiritually fat and need to work it off” messages I have heard that just does not seem right.

But we have learned that Christ is the spiritual food and drink of His flock (John 6:35). Sheep need guidance into fertile and nutritious pastures (Psa. 23:5; Ezek 34:14). God’s people must be constantly directed and escorted to Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd by his teaching in the scriptures and Holy Spirit working in and through his shepherds (John 15:26).

Later in his writings, Peter echos the command of Christ to the “under-shepherds” of his day, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:2-3). This is one of the most direct biblical commentary’s we have on Christ’s command.  Peter tells these elders that it is a blessing not a burden to feed God’s people. There was a reason he needed to say that. To “feed the sheep” is the shepherds loving response to Christ. They should not feel sluggish but ready and eager to serve. The ministry of the shepherd is to lead by example and not by dictatorship. They are to excel at serving. They are not busy telling people what to do, but showing them how to do it.

“I know” you think, “it sounds good on paper but in reality pastoring people is difficult.” There is no doubt about it, but we must do it for love of Christ despite what people do.

As pastors we are not to do things from constraint. The word for constraint here in Greek describes a person who feels burdened by sickness or looking for relief from trouble. Understandably, pastors become drained and even “sick of” people and ministry with all its daily challenges.  It is easy to forget whom we serve when we feel unappreciated. We are reminded, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24). So if we take the Apostle Paul’s words and use them in light of what Peter is teaching he is telling us to feed the flock heartily, literally out of your very soul with the certainty you serve the Lord Jesus Christ not human beings.

Gill says, feeding the flock, “should be done with all a man’s heart and soul, and should spring from pure love to Christ; for no man is fit to feed Christ’s lambs and sheep but those who sincerely love him.”

When pastors become weary they can make the mistake of looking for their reward elsewhere. They look for recognition, power and even wealth. This was the great fault of the Pharisees (Matt. 6:1-6; Matt. 23; Luke 16:14). Christ calls its hypocrisy. It is amazing instead of feeding the sheep they will begin to feed off the sheep which is forbidden by scripture (Ezek 34:10). There is a fair warning here from Christ and he does not coddle us when he says, “they have their reward”  over and over again. (Mt 6: 2, 5. 16). That’s what they want, that’s all they will get and yelling, “Lord, Lord” in eternity will not save them from God’s payback for their sin.I

I realize we have all been in a job we hated at one time and we begin to feel unappreciated and underpaid. The ministry needless to say is the toughest job in the world. Yet Peter exposes the pitfalls of doing ministry for money or recognition. The minister of the gospel and those who labor for the church show Christ they love him by feeding and tending to, “his people and the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 110:3).

A.W. Pink comments, “It is only those who truly love Christ that are fitted to minister to His flock! The work is so laborious, the appreciation is often so small, the response so discouraging, the criticisms so harsh, the attacks of Satan so fierce, that only the “love of Christ”—His for us and ours for Him—can “constrain” to such work.” Is this not a reminder why and for Whom we do what we do. We serve others for Christ. We do it because we love him.

That clears it up.

You have no business in ministry if you do not love Christ. Some presume they love Christ because they are in ministry, but that means nothing. If a pastor stays in this lethargic, lazy condition the quality of ministry, or spiritual nurture he administers will be not only be soured but it will be as though the people are served a low grade, stale, spiritual food. They will be made to eat something other than the bread of life! Christ will contend with you on this. Christ cries out, “Give them to me!” or even better “Come unto me!” (Mt. 11:28).

The energy with which the shepherd works is directly connected to their love for Christ and the awareness that Christ is among the flock that is among us (Col. 1:27-29). I realize the most sincere pastor becomes weary, and they may make the mistake of looking to other things for their reward or other ways of making things happen in the place where they pastor, so they feel successful in their endeavors. This is a terrible mistake.  Christ never promised pastors they would have great success or large congregations. Some do, most don’t. Christ desires their faithfulness not their fame (1 Cor. 4:1-2).

They forget that their positions may be that of a shepherd but they are only sheep themselves and as such need to look as much and even more to Christ.

After the miracle of the great catch in John 21 Jesus calls to them, “Come and dine.” (Jn. 21:12). From this we draw the analogy that the fisherman catch the fish and Jesus feeds the fisherman with his own stash of fish.  Christ made them fish for breakfast that had nothing to do with the fish they caught. It is like Jesus is saying, “I still have meat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32). I gave you the fish out there and I cook the fish here. I don’t need your fish I have my own. I will feed you, you will not need to feed me. This reminds me when God says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.” (Psa. 50:2).  It seems Christ is demonstrating that our ministry is not about performing and appeasing men but it is all about how much you love Jesus. Jesus insists that there is nothing that you accomplish that I have not given your the power to produce. Thus shepherds feed the sheep and Christ feeds the shepherds.

Christ had no problem showing his first shepherds affection (John 13;1). Christ will give you dear pastor, all the love, attention and joy you need if you will come and dine with him. There is coming a time where every good and faithful servant will receive praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:5). Faithful shepherds see the opportunity to help others as though they were helping, feeding, clothing and visiting Christ himself (Mt. 25:31-46). We ought to see his face in the faces of our congregations. It should be our prayer that we ask God for the strength we need to serve for the sake of Christ and our love for him.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care. Updated 2017

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Feed My Sheep 3: Meeting the Real Need

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ ” (John 21:17)

The service or ministry Jesus tells Peter to perform was to feed his people.  Notice the analogy, sheep, pastures and shepherd. Christ cares for our needs. Jesus Christ came to serve and give (Mk. 10:45). He went about doing good and met the needs of people, especially those of the household of faith (Acts 10:38; Gal 6:10).

Being a shepherd is a ancient and noble calling. The Bible speaks of the first shepherd Abel who guarded the sheep (Gen. 4:2). He was listed with the prophets (Mt 23: 29-39; Luke 11: 47-51) and receives honorable mention in the “hall of faith” (Heb. 11:4). Moses appointed Joshua so, “that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (see Num. 27:16-18). The second king of Israel David (2 Sam 7:8) was a shepherd. He protected his sheep from predators (1 Sam 17:34-37) and he saw the people of God as the flock of the Lord (2 Sam 24:17).

Notice how Christ was concerned about the sheep being fed. 

He did not say, “lead my sheep.”  Peter and others like him were to follow Christ’s leadership as only sheep themselves (1 Peter 2:21) and the sheep should follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). The Apostle Peter reiterates, “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:3). The did not need to boss the sheep around, just lead by example. Christ is the only Lord.

He did not say, “breed my sheep.”  He was not concerned about the “flock” growth, how many “purpose driven sheep” as the measure of success. Christ will build his church (Matt 16:18). The Lord knows those that belong to him (2 Tim. 2:19) and Christ will add to the church, “daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). Being overwrought with the size of a church is not a concern for souls! Imbibing too much of this church growth, “Red Bull” will only end up creating a “Golden calf.”

He did not say, “weed my sheep.”  Some people want to weed everyone out. I have developed a new phrase as of recent and it is, “theological neurotics.”  For them there is always “sin in the camp” and “Achan’s” to throw rocks at and bean them off the top of the head.  They are so busy trying to be pure and to mould people into their religious template that they become sterile.  If you don’t speak their certain Shibboleth you will be weeded out (Judges 12:6). This is spiritual snobbery and arrogance of the worst kind!

Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. I am the Good Shepherd.”  I will take care of my flock.  You just feed them. You serve them and by this show you love me. This is not to oversimplify matters but we are limited to help people physically and we cannot help anyone spiritually. We cannot comprehensively meet their real needs. We can help them in the morning and later that day they are a mess. I know people act crazy. I know they do not listen. I know they get in trouble despite the warnings. That is between them and God. There is no need to have an apoplexy or have a breakdown. Just feed the sheep and pray, Christ will take care of the rest.

The passage we are looking at  must be a reference to both spiritual and physical needs. People need food for the body and the soul.  Sheep get sick, afflicted in mind, persecuted, lonely and in financial distress. True ministry means to serve, to care for someone’s needs.  We serve God by serving his people. But it is not real ministry unless it leads them to Christ as their sole resource. The need above all other needs is Christ. A true Christian and a true undershepherd leads people to Christ in whom all their needs are met.

By all means and with all your power seek to feed the hungry but especially feed the spiritually hungry. You may feed people stomachs, but that is never enough.  Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy and reprimands Satan saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ ” (Mt. 4:4).   We realize spiritual food is more vital because as Moses told Israel, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you…” (Deut 8:3). God humbles us so we see our real need and then feeds us his food that brings genuine satisfaction for that need and teaches us that He supports us.

Everytime the Israelites bellies gurgled they wanted to go back to Egypt.  God knew that they had too much Egypt in them. It is amazing that Egypt could be painted in many different ways such as “the evil world system” but here it was simply a place where they could get their needs met without trusting God. It was the place of trusting man and the power of the flesh!  But to remedy this God ordained that they be empty for a time. He blocked and frustrated their path. He showed them that the stinking fleshpots of Egypt could never satisfy (Ex 16:3)!  They must get out of a “needs orientation” into a “God orientation.”  He brings a humility of soul, as we endure trials so that over and over again when the trial ends we will see him as our sole resource and provider.  Every time we have a a physical, emotional or financial need and it extends over a period of time, we become miserable!  Let the emptiness become an opportunity to see God fill that emptiness. Life is a constant series of  becoming empty of self and being filled with God.

I do not have time to go into the dynamics of Satan’s temptations and Christ’s resistance to them. It is obvious that Christ was not about to eat anything Satan told him to eat, especially rocks. Satan is a salesman who sells shortcuts, even religious ones. He promises a time-saving direct route that does not require faith, patience and character.  It is as if Satan says, “The need of the world is so great someone who can turn stones into bread can surely help the world.  Meet their needs and they will flock to you.” Christ knows this is not true (John 6:26-27) and he realizes there is no satisfaction in earthly things! He says, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). Christ’s sheep will be fed with his bread, it is the only bread that can sustain them. He is that bread, Christ is our meat and drink (John 6:35, 55).

I pray with David, “Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” (Ps 28:9).  Lord let our emptiness be filled with you and only you. Take the whole world but give us Jesus because only He satisifes!

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Feed My Sheep 2: Christ our Guardian and Guide

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’  ” (John 21:17).

Christ’s command to Peter is pastoral.  It is given as a true shepherd. The word “pastor” and shepherd” are words that are used interchangeably and rightfully so.  It describes the role of a man who is responsible for the care and feeding of sheep.  God declares that He takes sole responsibility for his sheep and despite the errors of men and churches- He tends them well. “The Prince of Pastors” (1 Peter 5:4DR) gives orders to Peter and all under-shepherds to care for his flock. We will speak of this in the next article.  But for now we must see that Christ  is concerned for the sheep. We fail to appreciate the pastoral role of Christ as the great Pastor of the sheep (Heb. 13:20). 

Christ is the shepherd that cares (1 Pet. 5:7) for us and  He says, “I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.” (Isa. 34:15NIV).  You are his, always and he will always care for you. Rev. Barnes says, “Friends on earth, the great, the frivilous, the noble, the rich, may forget you; God never will. Remember that you will never be entirely neglected. Father, mother, neighbor, friend, those whom you have loved, and those to whom you have done good, may neglect you, but God never will. You may become poor, and they may pass by you; you may lose your office, and flatterers may no longer throng your path; your beauty may fade, and your admirers may leave you; you may grow old, and be infirm, and appear to be useless in the world, and no one may seem to care for you; but it is not thus with the God whom you serve. When he loves, he always loves.” There is none like our shepherd Jesus.

Christ is the Good Pastor-Shepherd (John 10:11).   The literal rendering is,  “I am the shepherd, the good one.”  I like that. In the Latin Vulgate it reads, “Ego sum pastor bonus bonus pastor…”  Bonus is Latin for good and the Latin Vulgate emphasizes that he is good twice.  He is the very Good Shepherd, his actions are good, he went about doing good and laying down his life for his sheep was good. There are many shepherds but he is the GOOD one!  The word for good here is kalos, which in ancient writings refered to outward beauty. Thus Christ’s beauty is his character and nature as our Shepherd.  Of Christ,  the Holy Spirit says, “thou art fairer than the children of men.” (Psalm 45:2). Who is like this Good Shepherd?   His beauty is seen in his generosity, as he gives a gift that words cannot describe (1 Cor 9:15) and he gives his life.  He is the apex of all that is loveable and admirable and his sheep find they are irresistibly drawn to him (John 10: 26-27).

Jesus Christ takes up his rightful role in our lives and our Guide and Guardian. God claims sole ownership and care for his flock, his church.  All others who are called pastors are inferior to him. Yes, men who are pastors are gifts from the Son of God to his church (Eph 4:8) but Christ is the Chief Shepherd and the Guardian of the souls of his people (1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4). When expecting a Lion John saw a bleeding Lamb (Rev. 5:6) and when expecting a shepherd we see a leading Lamb. Even in eternity Jesus Christ is, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd.” (Rev. 7:17ESV). He is a Strong yet gentle Savior!  But here is another proof that we are not only rescued in his grace but kept by his grace. Grace, love, mercy are not just some force, or element or virtue separate from God. It is Christ himself who in his grace, mercy and love  guards and protects the souls of his flock.

Christ  is always concerned with the welfare of his own people and desires to nourish their souls.   That is the distinguishing mark of the Lord our Shepherd. The Bible says that, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isa 40:11).  Notice from that passage that Christ feeds, carries and leads his people as his vulnerable flock, his young lambs. He alone is the source of their nourishment and guidance. It says that he guides them with the wisdom of a shepherd, bearing them with his strong protective arm and gently bringing them close to his chest. Paul says, that  “our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 4:3).

He is the Lord is our Shepherd (Psa. 23:1). How often have we read Psalm 23 and failed to see Christ in whom all our needs are met.  Christ is all  (Col. 3:11), therefore all we need.  God has ordained this so that as he says, “thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:14).   There is none, we should not want because of him, we should want no other because of him.  He makes us to rest and guides us into peace.  He is the one who changes the direction of our lives into a paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even if the path leads through the valley of death’s shadow-not only the possibility but the eventuality of death, we do not need to fear because Christ bears us in his powerful hands all the way to the path of glory and heaven! Those that hate us even our enemies shall see the wonderful provision of the Lord for us, the oil of his presence in us. There will be such joy that our lives will overflow with goodness and mercy and we prepare in this life to spend eternity with our Shepherd.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Can you spell “Laodicean?”

dj lrspellingbee0531 19Recently a young lady from Kansas, Kavya Shivashnakar (which is hard for me to even say, much less spell) won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after spelling the word “Laodicean.” 

Smart kid-especially in a day when we all rely heavily on spell checkers.

If you are not familiar with this word Laodicean it means to have have a “lack of concern for religion and politics.” (Merriam Webster).  It is associated with the apathy and indifference of  a church in the Bible that Christ confronts after he ascended into heaven.

I thought this spelling bee and young Kavya’s winning word was ironic! 

It is reminder of the Bible text found in Revelation 3:14-22 where Jesus Christ says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

This is a staggering rebuke from God’s Son!

I recall the insightful warnings about this spiritual state proclaimed by men of God in our churches in the past when I was a young convert and they warned us that we should not allow material wealth,  popularity and various successes to be a barometer for our spirituality.  But I think it is much deeper than that-because you can be poor and still be lukewarm toward Christ.

The Bible also warns about apostasy and some believe that it is going to be typical of the “last days” in the “church” but it does not have to be because Laodicea and its ministry were called lukewarm two millenia ago. I am not going to focus on the eschatological settings of this scripture.

Are these persons Christians and their spiritual fire is smoldering and their spiritual life is at a low ebb? I am sure it does apply to that.  As the LBC states, “And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.” (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62).

Are these unsaved or lost people who only appear to be Christians? It can apply to them as well. They are described as the hypocrite or the one who is only a church goer and trusts in their own morality.  Like the Laodiceans they do not know the danger they are in, for they soon perish in hell. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14).

Let me attempt to paint a picture about the Laodicean condition.

If a woman cheats on her husband she may be married to him but her affections belong to someone else. She alienates her husband while still married to him because she is indifferent and cold to him and her heart belongs to another. He becomes resentful, suspicious and jealous.

This is what the Laodicean pastor and his church  are guilty of: cheating on the Lord.  That is why God says, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.” (Jer. 3:14).  They are guilty of spiritual adultery because they want the security of being married to the Lord and be in bed with the world at the same time. God accuses them of spiritual adultery and says that anyone who is a friend of the world system is an enemy of God. (James 4:4).   Like Israel they vex and they irritate and grieve his Holy Spirit and “he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” (Isa. 63:10).

Some are you are incredulous at this statement: God turned out to be their enemy. How could an all loving God be at war with people?

God is a jealous God. I know Ophrah Winfrey does not like that (and she has a twisted understanding of that concept) but Christ has set his armies in array against the arrogance of those who defy his word!  What kind of war are we speaking of? Jesus Christ says to lukewarm church people today that if they do not repent he will fight against them with the sword of his mouth (Rev. 2:16). What does he mean? Hosea answers that: “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth;  my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Jesus Christ says that he will send the ministers of his Word, who preach the truth and they will come at you with the two-edged sword of his Word until you change your cheating ways!

How can you tell if you are lukewarm?  Instead of going through a whole list describing what this person does, it can simply be summed up in one word-you do not have a whole hearted, passionate, devotion to God. Loving God with all your heart soul mind and strength is devotion (Deut 6:4-6).  Lukewarmers  do not have a strong regard, dedication and love for Christ and the things of God. They think they are devoted to God  because they give some things to God. The read their Bible every once in a while and even pray. They attend church, give in the offering and may even be a small group leader. They say they have received Christ but they are not devoted in any sense but their relationship is much too casual with God. Like Ananias and Sapphira who “kept back part of the price”  (Acts 5:2) when it came to serving God they hold back on their relationship with God.  John MacArthur says, “They’re just hypocrites touched in someway by Christianity but not belonging to Christ.  And there is something obnoxious about them.  They nauseate Christ.  They make Him sick.”

The Lukewarmer lives in a state  the Bible calls a “divided heart.” (Hosea 10:2).  James says that these people are guilty of being “double minded” which can mean “double souled”  (James 1:8; 4: 8).  The Bible says they are “double hearted” as well (Ps. 12:2). Thomas Manton says that the Hebrew term for double hearted is that they have “a heart and a heart.”  They struggle between “two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and hobble like a crippled man with a cane at a crossroads, not sure of which road to take.  Like ancient Israel, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods.” (1 Kings 17:33).  Imagine that. They worship God on Sunday and bow low to their idols the other six day. Two minds, two hearts and two opinions and it seems like such a understatement to describe them as lukewarm, but not to Christ, it grieves him so he gets ill! 

mooringYou must understand Lukewarmers are hard to catch because backsliding is not an overnight thing it is a slow drift away from God where the knot of the soul loosens its grasp on the cleat and the mooring to the shore of obedience (Heb. 2:1).  They can still say the right things, go to church, give in the offering, even preach behind the pulpit but they make Christ nauseous. That is the difficulty.  They may have a past with God so they feel that they have a present with God. But as the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…” (Eccl. 7:8).

The thing that most people who I have heard comment on this passage is that they direct its message toward the church-but it is actually directed toward the angel of that church as the other prophecies to the seven churches of Asia.  This does not refer to those spiritual beings who worship God in heaven above. This is another way of referring to the pastor of  that church.  This message is a direct communique from Christ  to this lukewarm pastor and the ones of today.

Some believe this pastor to be Archippus the son of Philemon of whom Paul’s letter to Colosse found its way and was read in Laodicea (Col 4:16). Paul told him to,  “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). The Lukewarm Pastor of today needs to hear those words as well. You are supposed to be a man of the Word, a man of prayer not an activities director or pulpit psychiatrist.  They are messengers so it must be implied that their message has become lukewarm, emetic or vomit inducing.  Christ employs the language of the Older Covenant which says, “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.” (Lev. 20:22). He is about to remove this pastor from his place and he will remove the lukewarm pastor out of his position as well.  God says that he will remove men who do not speak as his messengers-he will spue them out! Christ says, “You pastors who compromise with the world make me sick!”  

Instead of giving all the theological ramifications of this passage let me relate it to you in another way: the state of lukewarmness  is like a steaming bowl of soup that cools off or a cold glass of ice tea that melts and becomes room temperature.  In the same way a person who professes to be a Christian Pastor has either cooled off or become “world temperature”  in their heart.  They no longer preach the word with zeal, pray with ardor, worship with passion, but are perfunctory in their duties.  They will burnout at the church office and play the role of CEO and CFO but they are at a point where they do not know they have lost the sweet sense of Christ’s presence as the one who walks among the churches and all they can do is manufacture churchianity by media, music and motivational topics.

jesus_of_nazarethI am sure they were surprised at Laodicea when this sharp written rebuke came from Christ when all on the surface seemed to be going well. This means they had no spiritual faculty or sense to discern their true condition. They were deceived. The church was flourishing with people, the city was prospering but Christ saw their pastor and congregation as diseased, impoverished and pathetic despite their success and wealth (Rev 3:17). In fact, they could not discern their own spiritual state and Christ has to use this harsh language in order to open their eyes.

Like many in today’s church, Christ is sicknened at their lack of love for him he says that are not hot or,  “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) or “aglow and burning with the Spirit.” (AMP). They do not pray or seek God and do not have the fire of devotion in their lives (Song 8:6; Luke 24:32).   They are not cold or they do not refresh the people of God being like a cold drink of water (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; 2 Tim 1:16; Phil. 1:7) and they are dried up wells and clouds without water (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 1:12).

We must also consider what many pastors today are unwilling to consider-that some of these folks who sit in their church, despite the morality, involvement in programs  and positions in leadership are not saved.  Some pastors, elders  and ministers should be questioning their own salvation. John MacArthur says again, “”It is the sickening condition of thinking you are spiritually rich when you’re bankrupt, of thinking you are beautiful when you are wretched, of imagining you are to be envied when you are to be pitied, of believing you see clearly everything when you see nothing.  You are stone blind…a feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery and you are stark naked.” 

They need to start doing business with Christ! There is no other way. Like the foolish virgins they must go to those that sell and pray the door is not closed upon them and they are treated as unwelcome guests (Matt. 25:9-12). He wants to be their spiritual broker and make them invest in eternal gold for he says,  “Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.” (Prov. 8:18). He sees them like Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21) and desires to clothe their nakedness as their tailor and give them a makeover for their shabby wardrobe  and give them beautiful white raiment for their burned out religious ashes (Isa. 61:3). He wants to be their Great Physician to help with their poor eyesight and give them the balm of Gilead for a  prescription for medicine that will help them see their true state correctly (Jer 8:22). A lukewarm person is oblivious and in a dense fog about their true state before God because they are so busy trafficking in the sinful flesh and the world system they do not not realize are broke, busted and disgusting spiritually.

Jesus warns, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Jesus Christ tells them they better be zealous or very enthusiastic in their repentance because he is about to bring his board of education to their seat of understanding! They are lost if they do not repent-period. No repentance, no restoration. Those among that group who belong to him he will chasten, because he will only chastise his own children (Heb 12:6).  They are in desperate need of Christ attentive correction.

Christ tells them that this letter is not just a writing but a knocking on the door of this church that is locked to him.  His presence is not among Lukewarmers. They have form without godliness. In todays’ American Churchianity it seems image is everything but it does not fool Christ. He is not even a visitor. But he gives a final opportunity for them to turn from their worldliness. Christ says that there are those among them he loves. He is calling them out of their apostate starvation to enjoy a meal at the table of fellowship with him. Sit down with Christ today and start discussing your spiritual portfolio over a good meal.

How do you spell L-a-o-d-ic-e-a-n? Do not know how? Then you may want to try the word “I-c-h-a-b-o-d” because the glory departs from people who are not devoted  and are lukewarm (1 Sam 4:21-22).

Good Friday According to the Confessions of the Church

XIR16014THE 1563 HEIDELBERG CATECHISM ASKS AND ANSWERS:  What dost thou understand by the words, “He suffered”?  That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice,  he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.

THE 1619 BELGIC CONFESSION STATES: We believe that God– who is perfectly merciful and also very just– sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.

THE 1646 WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and perfectly fulfilled it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto him. 

THE 1560 SCOTS CONFESSION: [So we confess, and most undoubtedly believe] That our Lord Jesus Christ offered himself a voluntary sacrifice unto his Father for us, that he suffered contradiction of sinners, that he was wounded and plagued for our transgressions, that he, the clean innocent Lamb of God, was condemned in the presence of an earthly judge, that we should be absolved before the judgment seat of our God; that he suffered not only the cruel death of the cross, which was accursed by the sentence of God, but also that he suffered for a season the wrath of his Father, which sinners had deserved. But yet we avow that he remained the only, well beloved, and blessed Son of his Father even in the midst of his anguish and torment which he suffered in body and soul to make full atonement for the sins of the people. From this we confess and avow that there remains no other sacrifice for sin; if any affirm so, we do not hesitate to say that they are blasphemers against Christ’s death and the everlasting atonement thereby purchased for us.

THE 1742 PHILADELPHIA CONFESSION OF FAITH SAYS: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.

No Pajamas In Church, Please

pajamasI recently visited a church near where I live and sat down with my son in my normal Sunday suit. It actually fit this time of year. It was just around Christmas time and the church was practicing for worship service before Sunday, which I have understood is the worship leaders last resort because he works with people that do not even know how to spell s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e in making out during the week and preparing. 

It is noisy and takes away from settling in, praying and reading your Bible so your mind is on God. It is like going to a wedding and the music is always too loud and you have to literally scream in your neighbors ear to say, “Can you pass me a tithing envelope, please?” I wonder if it could be said, “My house is a house of prayer but you have made it a den of noise.”

But I am just a visitor so I grin and bear it.

The first thing I beheld (which the pastors wife later explained to me was for a Christmas play later that day) was that the altar area. It was surrounded by cardboard candy canes, cut out gingerbread men and enough cotton balls to gag a wise man’s camel. In the middle of it was a communion table.

There they practiced, guffawed and one girl even gave the worship leader and nice shoulder massage.  With recent events, I began to think I am in hell (for you neo-evangelicals that is eternal hell not annihilation).  I had been pondering recently the lack of reverence for God and the picture preachers paint of Christ that he is giddy and fun loving. I know some people will think I am Pharisee, Sadducee etc. go right ahead call me whatever,  but I guess that is better than Heresy.

I manufactured an artificial smile and began to quote the love chapters in my mind and my teenage son was looking at me for some response but he saw it in my eyes and that was enough. I  prayed I could keep my mouth shut in such a situation which would be a modern day miracle, for sure.

Then, during service the Pastor walked in (a large man) wearing pajamas and a robe with the Yankee insignia. I was hoping it was an object lesson and I was praying, “Oh, Lord let this be an object lesson.”  But it was not, it was an advertisement for the Christmas play that night and they invited everyone to come with their pajamas on at 5pm. Then there were comments from the seats about baseball teams and other foolishness.

He showed a Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon for a introduction. Rats, he even preached, took the offering and served the Lord’s Supper in his pajamas and at last, the Pentecostal Pajama party was over.

After that service I could identify with Chuck Brown. I wonder if he were a professing Christian  looking for a church that actually preaches the Bible without all the shiny bows and pretty wrapping of religious commercialism. Where is that scripture toting Linus when you need him anyway.

So, here we have it.  Christ tells us, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35ESV).  Pajama clad sleepy Christians need not apply. The American Church has an empty, lifeless false advertisment  by offering people a pillow padded life full of positive self esteem as they ignore, delay or set aside repentance from actions that lead to a dangerous sleepy death. God says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you  to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11).  Oh God ,wake your people who are asleep and save those who are wandering lost in sin! The visible American church needs to wake up and not hypnotized by the world and its bait of entertainment.

“Wherefore he saith, ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ ” (Eph 5:14).  How are we going to get  American Christianity out of its ecclesiastical sleeping bags  into a well armored unit ready to fight off the temptations of this evil age?  Sadly, it is not walking in the Spirit, it is sleep walking. This is the where great work of the Sovereign Lord of the church will be seen!

Nothing wakes up the church like the Word of the Lord being preached in power! He says, “Wake up!”  It takes the power to raise the dead and he says, “Rise From the dead!”  It takes drawing back the curtains of dullness, and let the blistering white hot light of Christ shine on them.  he says, “And Christ will give thee light!”  Preacher preach, Preach with all your might the word of Christ! Preach loud, preach hard but in the name of jesus Christ rise up and walki into that pulpit without the lameness of man’s methods and preach the Scripture and let all of its force weigh down on the consciences of the hearers. The power of his presence is still available to the obedient man who is not a captive slave to the opinion of men!

Reformation Now!

martin20lutherHappy Reformation Day! is not the usual greeting you expect on October 31st. But it is this day in history over 490 years ago that began a spark that turned into a blaze when Dr. Martin Luther challenged the existing form of Christianity with the Holy Scriptures. Sadly, the real meaning of this day in history has been ignored or forgotten by the evangelical church with its harvest festivals to substitute for the secular celebration of Halloween. In a day when the study of church history is either revised or ignored we are tempted to relegate the chronicles of the Christian church and things like the Protestant Reformation to the place of insignificance. 

 

In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, the church was living in a Babylonian Captivity or under a religious slavery for over a thousand years! The people of God could not even read the Bible or pray in their native tongue in those days. The scriptures, written in Latin, were chained to an altar for a thousand years and prayers prayed directly to God by ordinary people were forbidden. People were told that absolute unquestioning obedience was the only way to be saved from hell. People could not partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. People lived in fear of a vengeful God and forgot the mercies and love of God.

 

But God heard the cries of his people groaning under this tyranny and began to light the torch of the Protestant Reformation. Through men like John Wycliffe, John Huss and William Tyndale who set the foundation for this movement, Martin Luther arose.

 

Through a simple, innocuous act on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a proposal on the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the erroneous doctrine and practice of indulgences or paying for the forgiveness of God as a tax to release people from a mythological place called purgatory a place where sinners went after they died to pay for their sins and be purified by a “temporary” punishment that could last from hundreds to thousands to millions of years!

 

People were taught that gazing at relics would shorten their time in purgatory like purchasing an indulgence or a payment for pardon for sin. A relic was some body part or clothes of a dead saint. A saint was a person who seen as having a superior holiness and virtue above other people in the eyes of the Roman Church. People were taught that the viewing of these relics promised to reduce their time in purgatory just like paying for an indulgence. This entire tradition that existed for hundreds of years, was based on the false doctrine of a metaphysical “treasure chest of the church,” which supposedly contained the merits of Christ and the extra spiritual credit of the super-saints. They were like leftovers of good works that these super saints did not need for their own salvation. The Roman church taught that this surplus could be used vicariously or used on the behalf of others. The Pope was entrusted with this surplus and could draw on it as if it were a bank account for the use of others.

 

The Pope at that time, Leo X, used this tradition for to raise funds for St. Peters Basilica and to fill the empty bank accounts of Rome. He appointed a Dominican monk name Johann Tetzel a fast talking religious salesman, who went through the cities and villages of Germany to promote the sale of indulgences. This monk produced live infomercials that manipulated people to buy indulgences to get forgiveness of personal sin and amnesty for a loved one or a relative who had died and whose soul was in suffering in the flames of purgatory. It was a fast growing Christian marketing technique that some people bought hook, line and sinker. Others were disgusted by it. It was confusing and was a major turn off to Germans and a blatant double-cross of true Christian faith and teaching! Pope Leo X approved as long as money kept rolling in.

 

Thus Dr. Luther was strategic in his choice to nail his 95 theses to the Castle Church doors. Since the Castle Church faced the city of Wittenberg’s Main Street, the church door operated as a public bulletin board and was the best place for posting important notices. It was All Saints Eve and indulgences and relics were particularly sanctioned. This one document exposed the rats hiding in the Church of Rome’s basement! Martin Luther’s life had been completely changed by the discovery that the scripture taught that being made right with God by grace alone, through faith alone and by Christ alone. He began to scrutinize other practices of the Roman church in light of scripture at that time and the more he investigated the practices of the church he saw this religious business as a symptom of an ever-growing deformation of the Church. We could say more but time does not permit. But let me ask you a few questions.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO INTRODUCE A NEW REFORMATION INTO THE CHURCH? Do you even think American Christianity needs to reform? This church needs an overhaul and restructuring! By this I do not mean peripheral issues of church government, styles of worship or denominational distinctiveness. But we should break down the idols of the new church growth movement and focus in on growing the people we pastor. What we need are men and women who are attentive to the illumination of the Holy Spirit upon Holy Scripture. God is calling us to respond to the words of Christ who said, “I will build my church!” (Mt. 16:18). Christ will build his church and he word of Christ should dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16). You must let God’s Word shape the church you have been called to pastor. God created the world by his Word (John 1:1) and he can build his church with it! You must read, preach and pray the scripture and let it by itself interpret itself and it will change lives. It should hurt you to see the preaching of the gospel substituted with motivational humanistic messages. Media and religious entertainment have replaced the spiritual gifts. The church is spiritually sick. People are wounded, hurt, and guilty and slaves to destructive, overwhelming sins. The church today focuses on behavior modification, psychology, marriage seminars, step programs, principles and keys for success instead of having the heart changed through an encounter with the one who turns the heart of stone into a soft heart! Where are those shepherds willing to pour in the stinging wine of truth and correction where there is disease? Where are the men and women who comfort not with false hope but with the application of the balm of mercy and forgiveness to heal them after their repentance?

 

THE CHURCH MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT IN ORDER TO REACH THE WORLD. Consider what God sees in the world and says that, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease.” (Zech 1:15MKJV). The people in your community are not terrified at their coming day in court for eternal sentencing in hell. They are rushing headlong into it! He is grieved with what is happening in the world. Today is much like the days of Noah, human wickedness is becoming more and more unrestrained and the earth has become a cesspool of sin. We live in the last days! Seven years have passed since 9-11 and even then after the short lived flood of souls into our buildings, it showed us that the church is not ready to bring the masses of hurting souls to Christ! Mobsters and madman control entire countries. Terrorists unafraid of killing others and themselves are brainwashed in thinking their eternity is secure if they will annihilate themselves for their religion. The global economic collapse around us is a wakeup call to the corruption that is rampant in the government and corporate America and smacks of a certain inclination to having the man of sin ushered into power. Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord and we have lost our credibility. Oh that the church would return to the Lord their God with fasting and weeping in his presence! You must lead and be an example in that repentance.

 

LET GOD OPEN YOUR EYES TO THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE. Like King Josiah who rediscovered the scriptures you may be shocked at what you see (2 Chr. 34:14-21)! How things change when the word of God is really understood! In certain periods of history the church’s beauty has gone to its head and made her vain and apathetic. But the people of God who think they are rich can be miserable, poor, blind and naked (Rev 3:17-18). Many churches and preachers are backslidden. The religious and societal pluralism and multiculturalism of our day has made the people of God in danger of unknowingly exchanging their God for other gods and ensnaring them in the trap of Satan. All the compromise with the world has left the church of America powerless and we sit outside begging for the blessings of God like Lazarus did for the crumbs of the rich man (Luke 16:21). Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord. Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of the church, not atheism or liberalism. The children’s bread has been given over to the dogs, the pigs trample the pearls of biblical spiritual truth and we have forgotten the blueprints that scripture gives us for a simple pure love for Jesus Christ. Instead of being beside themselves for Christ, consumed by a love that breaks their heart for the lost people in the world (2 Cor. 5:11) people in church are selfish and cold. The people of God are living dangerously close to the world in these last days! No matter your beliefs about prophecy we are not to take this lying down. Can you handle the truth about yourself and the church? It is a special grace to love the truth! That is why,

 

YOU MUST BE WILLING TO REPENT OF PRAYERLESSNESS AND NEGLECT OF SCRIPTURE. This is the pastor’s greatest sin and a gravest error! A preacher must be a man of prayer. Do people see you as someone they would call for prayer? There are not many preachers that we would call for prayer but we know some mothers among us we would call first. Satan would rather you do anything other than pray. He will begin to see if can distract you by urgent issues and will even viciously oppose you and try to stop you by guilt, fear, loneliness, accusation and anxiety. The scripture is our food and sustenance and if we do not feast upon it we cannot feed others. We cannot give a drink of living water to anyone if we have not tasted of the powers of the age to come on a regular basis. You have not had a call on your life since you were born to throw it all away because you are unwilling to spend time with God in solitude and secret prayer. You will become cold, dull and lifeless and Satan will lull you into a stupor and a conceit where you won’t even know you are dead. Nothing can satisfy us like being in the presence of the God who loves you. We were set aside that we might be with him (Mk. 3:14). Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), but it is not what we have done that Christ looks for but if we knew him (Mt. 7: 21-23). Our greatest asset in the kingdom is that we know him (Jer. 9: 23-24). A person who knows the Lord is a vessel meet for the Master’s use. No matter how animated and skilled in speaking you are it does not matter. That is not the anointing only man fueled talent. On the other hand, your messages are not dull and ineffective because of your personality, but because they are not delivered with a burning heart ignited by the Spirit of God. Where have all the men of God gone? The Bible says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” (John 1:6). To be a man or woman of God you must come from his presence in prayer to be sent out to the world. When we pray with all our hearts we will find him (Jer. 29:13) that is how,

 

WE LET GOD REMOVE ALL OF OUR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HIM. God says, “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.” (Jer. 4:22NIV). We cannot be valiant for the truth if we do not know the Lord ourselves (Jer. 9:3). This can only happen as we pursue to know the Lord intimately, personally and let him remove all our mistaken beliefs about him by the study of scripture and learning about our relationship to Christ (Hosea 6:3)! What we understand about God will impact our personal lives and the relationships around us. Job said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). Men and women of God how we need to know the Lord! Dr. Luther had many issues but despite all his faults and sins he was the vessel God chose to use in his day! An unknown monk, the product of the religion of his day who shuts out all other counsel and turned to the Holy Scriptures for guidance about his guilt ridden soul, his misconceptions about God and found out that a merciful loving Christ was a man forsaken by God and crucified to make us right with God. We must do the same and that revelation will shake us to the core (Psalm 1:1-3). God tells us,

 

YOU ARE A SERVANT OF CHRIST AND MUST PREACH THE ENTIRE SCRIPTURE IN ORDER TO PLEASE GOD. You cannot pick and choose what you think will help people, or what you think will meet their needs. A man pleaser cannot be a servant of Christ (John 12: 43; Gal 1:10). You are first and foremost a messenger that gives what God says, not what you say. God can replace the preacher who refuses to preach his Word with someone who can do it much better. There is a homeless man drunk sleeping on a park bench somewhere that God can save and fill with his Spirit that can preach better than you. God speaks through his Word and Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, is very interested in what is being taught in your church (Rev 2:14-15). We have been wrung out of truth by the tightening grip of men who refuse to preach the Word of God, the Bible (Rom 1:18), and let it loose to do its work despite the consequences. They are disappointing clouds that have no rain and that cannot quench spiritual thirst! These rebels are wandering planets who cannot be trusted for direction because they do not proclaim hearty, wholesome biblical truth. They have a look of godliness that denies the power of the Word and the power of the spiritual gifts (2 Tim 3:5)! No wonder the Bible says, “And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them.” (Jer. 5:13).  They seek to meet the felt needs of people but sell those souls religious products and principles rather than giving them Christ-God’s unspeakable gift! God says their need is the preached Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit at work among them! It is only the spoken Word and the Holy Spirit that can slay the spirit of antichrist that has run amuck in the United States with the sword of his mouth and the brightness of his coming among the people of God. How we need men like the prophet Elijah in the scripture who had a voice like a thunderclap and a heart like a raging inferno!

 

YOU MUST DETERMINE TO BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. What if men and women of God, pastors, and churches, decided this Sunday that enough is enough? The Bible is not just a sermon book but a book that is living a powerful to reveal the God who saves, heals and fills people with the Spirit of God (Heb. 4:12)! What if right now you developed a courage that is completely fueled by heaven? A courage that despite all your fears of what your people in your church or community will do or say or act that you will determine to preach what God gives you through your intense prayer and study of scripture every time you stand behind the pulpit. This decision you are about to consider has danger. It may cost you. Courage is not the absence of fear but right action in spite of fear. It is at times these that God has a man or woman to speak the heart of God to the Church and bring them back to him. You must determine to be that person. The religious spin doctors, powerful leaders in the community, even some positioned in your church are far more agile and powerful than you and they will oppose you. God will be with you, do not be discouraged and depressed or fearful (Josh 1:9). The Spirit of God will give you a mouth, or ability to speak and wisdom that your enemies will not be able to withstand or contradict (Luke 21:15).

 

YOU MUST RECOGNIZE THE CLEAR TRUTH THAT THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IS WHAT SETS THE CHURCH APART FROM THE WORLD! The place of religious amusement and pretending end with this truth: Christ among us and in us and as us. The church is the body of “Christ members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”  (Eph 4:30). Should we not begin to ask, “Saw ye him whom my soul loves…My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Song 3:3; 5:6). Without the scripture being the center of our lives and preaching how can we say he is among us? Jesus among his people is the real acid test of the Christian faith. For he says, “there am I in the midst of them!” (Mt. 18:20). Is it unreasonable theology to believe that Christ walks among his churches (Rev. 2:1)? There is a unique, biblical experience other than omnipresence (Acts 17:28) that Christ actually manifests himself in the life of obedient Christian individuals and church gatherings (John 14:21-23). Where is the preaching that talks about Christ as the scripture portrays him? Where are those who preach about Jesus Christ and who he is? Where is the message that Jesus saves and Jesus heals and Jesus fills with the Holy Ghost! The beauty of Jesus among his people is our main message! The old chorus we used to sing was, “Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime, Jesus when the sun goes down!” That was the secret of the apostles-it was a full diet of Jesus! We are poverty stricken without Christ’s abiding presence. It is time to seek the Lord! It is time to stop the wheels of religious machinery from turning and fill the altar of our churches with weeping! We must pray that God cleanses our hearts from sin, prayerlessness and disregard of his Word! The hammer of Martin Luther that tapped so long ago the Wittenberg Church is now drowned out by a louder knock of Him who seeks entrance to this lukewarm, tepid, church in America! How long will we leave him outside covered with the dew of the night as we live sterile lives, focused on self and success rather than on those who need the message of the scripture! We need a Reformation Day of our own.

 

God Bless you as you go to prayer and the Word to seek him!