On Sunday I celebrate fifteen years of leading Servants of Grace, by God’s grace. I wish I could say that this journey has been easy, but I’d be lying. Anyone who has been in ministry, for any length of time, knows that the work is hard, often intense, and demanding. As I’ve reflected on my experience in ministry over the past few weeks, one main truth keeps coming up—relationships are the currency of ministry.
Jesus had twelve disciples whom He called and spent three years with. In those three years, Jesus poured into their lives truths that would help launch the Church and form biblical orthodoxy as we now know it. Even among the Twelve there were three—Peter, James, and John—who were considered Jesus’ closest friends. Among the three closest disciples of Jesus, there was one singled out among them—John—who was called the Beloved disciple. Jesus knew the value of relationships, which is why He called men (a pattern established in the creation mandate, and in the Old Testament) to positions of great leadership and responsibility, as pillars of the church under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the value of relationships as the currency of ministry. As my understanding of this truth has expanded, so has my appreciation for my mentors—both past and present—and my friends. There have been many men and women who have helped me to get to where I am in my Christian life now. What follows is not an exhaustive list, by any stretch of the imagination, but is a simple reflection of my deep appreciation for these people. There was a youth pastor and youth elder in high school who loved me enough to speak the truth in love, and be there for me, through thick and thin, through one of the roughest parts of my life. There have been many friends like Aaron Armstrong, Dan Darling, Brian Cosby, Mike Boling, Jason Garwood, Chris Poblete, Paul Emery, and Craig Hurst (to name only a few), who have listened, prayed for, cared for, and shown me the love of Christ, through tough times. There have been local friends, including Fred Genther, a faithful Sunday school teacher for almost twenty years at my local church.
Then there is Pastor Mike Beaudin (the associate pastor) and Pastor Greg Reider, the senior pastor at the church my wife and I are members of. Along with Fred, Pastor Mike and Pastor Greg have made a big difference in my life. Both Pastor Greg and Pastor Mike would shy away from public notoriety, acknowledging (as I did) their previous mentors, which were many, but in my mind they are a living embodiment of the principle that relationships are the currency of ministry. They continue to demonstrate through their teaching, encouragement, prayers, and care of me over the past three years, the love of Jesus in word and deed. Let me assure you that it has not gone unnoticed or underappreciated. I thank them at every opportunity and honor them as men worthy of respect and imitation for the Christian life and ministry.
Lastly, not lacking in significance to this, is my wife Sarah. There have been many, many times where I have wanted to fold it all up and call it a day. There has been many days where, thankfully by God’s grace, I have not quit ministry work. A huge reason has been God’s grace working through my wife. As someone who gets discouraged and sometimes battles depression, my wife is a constant source of amazing encouragement to me. I have said—and will say again till my dying breath—that without the love of Jesus displayed through my wife, I would not be the man I am today. Her editing has helped make me a better writer, not to mention helping me graduate from seminary with high grades. I love you sweetheart, and am deeply thankful to Jesus for you.
Relationships can be difficult. I’ve learned that dealing with difficult people is not easy—it requires patience, but more than that it requires the gospel. Speaking the truth in love is difficult, especially when people don’t want to hear the truth about how they are living contrary to the gospel. It requires wisdom and grace to speak on volatile issues like abortion, homosexuality, sexual addiction, mental illness, etc.
Over the years, I’ve made so many mistakes and there are so many reasons why I should have probably hung it up and called it a day, except for the grace of God. As I write those words it strikes me as ironic. I sit here before a computer and type out this message, but these are words I’ve uttered, not only on the internet, but also in person to many people over the years. It’s been amazing to see Servants of Grace grow over the years, and continue to grow through our various ministries. I’ve been deeply humbled by the opportunity to write for dozens of Christian ministries, and even to speak for six years on a Christian radio station, reaching into heavily populated Muslim countries.
Through it all there has been heaps of God’s amazing grace, mixed with tons of godly people who have prayed, invested in me, and who (most importantly) have believed in me. Today I stand on the grace of God, and on the shoulders of my mentors—both past and present. My future is in God’s hands, along with all of my life. I’m looking more than I ever have to the hope I have in the grace of God; so thankful that God has seen me through this far, and will bring to completion His work in and through me.
With a few days left remaining before Servants of Grace—and by extension me being in ministry—reaches the fifteen year milestone, I’ve often found myself reflecting (as I do often) on the amazing grace of God that has sustained me thus far in my Christian life. After almost thirty years of following Jesus through the heights and the valleys, I’m still amazed by God’s grace. I’m fired up about the future, and trusting the Lord who promises to never leave us nor forsake us, to do what He says He will do: to save the lost, make disciples, and built His church for His glory.
As this article comes to a close, let me encourage you, friend. Your labor for the Lord is not in vain. You will never know the full impact on this side of eternity that your ministry has had on people. This is why you should consider every relationship that you have as an opportunity to display God’s love and grace to people. As my pastor would say, “Befriend people and impart truth to them.” This, my friends, is at the heart of the ministry Jesus has called us to—to speak the truth in love, seasoned with grace, so that people’s eyes and ears may be opened by God’s grace to the person and Excellency of Jesus Christ. So, friends, let’s stand by God’s grace in who we are in Him, all the while declaring that our great God and King is soon returning. After all, Jesus alone is mighty to save, sanctify, and glorify a people for His own possession, for His own glory. Let’s know the good news so well that other people can see it radiating out of our lives to the glory of the Risen Christ.
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I have to admit when I first heard the title of Dr. Whitney’s new book “Praying the Bible” my very first thought was that it was all about preaching the gospel to myself. Praying the Bible is a lot like preaching the gospel but it’s also totally different. In preaching the gospel to ourselves, we’re seeking to apply the truth of Scripture to our lives. In praying the Bible, Dr. Whitney says we’re, “taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through your heart and mind back to God. By this means his words becomes the wings of your prayers” (32).
Dr. Whitney wrote this book to help people with their prayer lives. Often times in our prayer lives we can focus only on saying the same things over and over again. So, Dr. Whitney writes to help us deal with our wandering boredom in prayer and to help us saturate our prayer lives in the Word of God. He states, “The Holy Spirit causes all the children of God to believe that God is their Father and fills them with an undying desire to talk to him” (14). The solution to a routine boring prayer life according to Dr. Whitney is to, “When you pray, pray through a passage of Scripture, particular a psalm” (27).
Dr. Whitney notes that praying the Bible is not engaging in hermeneutics (34-35) but is prayer (35). He explains that, “Bible reading is secondary in this process. Our focus is on God through prayer; our glance is at the Bible. And we turn Godward and pray bout every matter that occurs to us as we read” (35). When we’re praying the Bible, we are reading the biblical text but with a view to take what it says and pray through it. Praying the Bible is another way to take what we see in the text and apply it to our lives. We do this by thinking God’s thoughts after Him as we read His Word and pray them back to Him. The goal of praying the Bible is that Scripture would shape our prayer lives and every part of our life. As Dr. Whitney says, “When you pray the Bible, you aren’t just praying ordinary words you are praying words of spirit and life” (43).
While chapters one through four sets out the problem with our prayer lives, the solution, and the method, chapters five and six looks at praying the Psalms, and other parts of the Bible. Chapter seven calls readers to pray “through a psalm for at least seven minutes” (64). In chapter eight the author helps us to evaluate our experience with praying the Bible while chapter nine helps us to understand what we’ve learned so far from this book. The book concludes by looking at how George Muller, one of the great prayer warriors in the history learned to pray the Bible in addition to exploring how Jesus prayed on the cross, and the early believers in the book of Acts. Praying the Bible has two appendixes. In the first appendix, the author gives a Psalms of the Day chart that helps the reader to know which chapters to read in the Psalms on the specified day of the month. Appendix two looks at how to pray the Bible with a group.
When I first heard about Praying the Bible I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it. Having read this book last week and reflected on it over the weekend, I’ve become convinced that this is a powerful and helpful little book. I read this book in two readings which is pretty rare for me to sit down and read even a small book that fast. My normal reading preference is to read a chapter at a time and digest what the author is saying and how they unfold what they write about throughout the whole book. All of that to say this is an excellent, well-written, and very helpful primer on a topic that many Christians will likely not have given much thought to. I highly recommend Praying the Bible and encourage Pastors to pick up several cases of it for their parishioners and hand it to out to people in their church so they can learn to pray the Bible. This would also be an excellent book for Bible College and seminary students to read as they regularly read through the Bible in their various Bible and theology classes. Praying the Bible is an excellent and helpful book that will help Christians to grow in their love of the Lord by learning to love the Lord of the Word of God and the Lord of their hearts—Jesus Christ.
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To download or view the the issue as a PDF please click on: Til Death Do We Part The Truth About Marriage
The past decade has seen an increase of attacks on the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman for the rest of their lives. Marriage was designed by God to be a covenant between one man and one woman, but in this day and age attacks from theological progressives, political liberals, and with increasing frequency from those who oppose the Biblical view of sexuality, have brought us to the point of no return on the traditional definition of marriage.
Those who hold to the pro-gay marriage view believe that homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals. Instead of only pushing for rights for themselves to be acknowledged as couples, those who support “gay marriage” have brought the issue to such a point as to suppress the view of those who hold to the traditional (Biblical) definition of marriage. Under the old definition of tolerance, people could discuss issues and have a conversation about important topics. When a conservative Christian now attempts to discuss issues regarding gay marriage and how the Bible is not in support of it, he/she is shouted down and ridiculed for actually believing and applying what the Bible teaches.
Whenever I write or spoke about homosexuality, I am immediately peppered with a barrage of questions. Most of these questions center around the lack of Bible based Christian churches and the desire to find such places of worship. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of churches, however, who have not bowed the knee to theological progressivism, with its socially-acceptable shifting-sand approach to theology.
As Christians, we have the Word of God which is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient for faith and practice. Believing that the Bible is authoritative for faith and practice means that we’re not free to do as we wish. Instead our faith and our practice—what we believe, what we say, and do—must match. Theologians call this orthodoxy (what we believe) and orthopraxy (what we do and how we practice our Christian faith). The sad thing is many “Christians” who say they believe the Bible, dismiss biblical orthodoxy (that is what the Bible teaches) and thus call for a practice (homosexuality) that the Bible itself doesn’t support. To get there, they do gymnastics with their hermeneutic (how they intercept the Bible).
As Christians we have one Word (the Bible), one Lord in Jesus, and have been called to proclaim the gospel in faithfulness to God’s Word. This means that what we believe must inform our lives and our practice. When people minimize or deny what they believe, and then people call to support a practice the Bible doesn’t support, they are not being honest. Instead, they are intentionally misleading people away from the revealed Word. Christians can have full confidence in the Word of God. In this issue, we want to help you to grow in your confidence in the authoritative Word by helping you to deal with those who hold to wrong ideas about marriage, and especially homosexuality. This issue isn’t going away, rather it’s becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives and experience each passing day.
My prayer is that this issue will help build your knowledge base and equip you to serve the Risen Christ, by helping you grow in your confidence in His Word, and thus in the work of the gospel.
For the Glory of Christ,
Executive Editor, Theology for Life
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This is our weekly roundup of posts for 7/20/2015-7/25/2015. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
The Presence of God reviewed by David Dunham http://servantsofgrace.org/the-presence-of-god/
The Practice of Puritan Meditation by Tim Nargi http://servantsofgrace.org/the-practice-of-puritan-meditation/
The Righteousness of God by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/the-righteousness-of-god/
The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/the-pastor-theologian-resurrecting-an-ancient-vision/
Two Ways To Deal With Garbage Mouth Syndrome by Mike Boling http://servantsofgrace.org/two-ways-to-deal-with-garbage-mouth-syndrome/
Five Pitfalls for Young Leaders by Dan Darling http://servantsofgrace.org/five-pitfalls-for-young-leaders/
Morality and a high view of God by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/morality-and-a-high-view-of-god/
Basil of Caesarea reviewed by Jonathan Tomes http://servantsofgrace.org/basil-of-caesarea-by-marvin-jones/
The Omniscience of God by Jason Garwood http://servantsofgrace.org/the-omniscience-of-god/
Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey reviewed by Craig Hurst http://servantsofgrace.org/finding-truth-by-nancy-pearcey/
God’s Omnipotence by Jason Helopoulos http://servantsofgrace.org/gods-omnipotence/
Trusting Christ to Provide by Nick Batzig http://servantsofgrace.org/trusting-christ-to-provide/
Active Spirituality – Grace and Effort in the Christian Life reviewed by Jonathan Tomes http://servantsofgrace.org/active-spirituality-grace-and-effort-in-the-christian-life/
You Are Worth More Than Your Social Stock Says You Are by Joey Cochran http://servantsofgrace.org/you-are-worth-more-than-your-social-stock-says-you-are/
Why Pornography and Internet Shaming are Basically the Same Thing by Scott Sauls http://servantsofgrace.org/why-pornography-and-internet-shaming-are-basically-the-same-thing/
For the Love of God’s Word reviewed by Mike Boling http://servantsofgrace.org/for-the-love-of-gods-word/
On Those Missing Verses In Your ESV and NIV Bible by Mike Leake http://servantsofgrace.org/on-those-missing-verses-in-your-esv-and-niv-bible/
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Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones one of the greatest preachers and theologians of the 20th century taught that a high view of God leads to a high view of Jesus. Popular culture flaunts its belief that man in all of his glory is the beginning and the end of all things. The Bible does not begin with man but rather with God and His work of creation. The Bible continues by teaching man about God’s work of redeeming man from his sin. Furthermore, the Bible stands in judgment of men never do men stand in judgment of the Bible.
How important is a high view of God and Jesus? Since the Bible begins with God and ends with God then it is vitally important that we have a proper understanding of God Himself so that we might know who He is and what He is like. Dr. Harold Bergman professor of law at Harvard University in his book The Interaction of Law and Religion notes that one cannot have workable rules for behavior without religion, because only religion provides an absolute base on which morality and law can be based. In other words, what Dr. Bergman is arguing is that western society is doomed to relativism in law because of the loss of absolute. He explains that when men break away from the idea of an authoritative religion and even from the concept of God they break away from the possibility of absolute truth. Their only remaining source is a slippery, unstable, and ever-changing base on which no authoritative system of law or morals can be built. Religionless law can never command law.
When God is abandoned, the truth is abandoned; and when truth is abandoned, the basis for morals and law is abandoned. A consistent, coherent legal system cannot be based upon philosophical humanism, on the principle that right and wrong fluctuate according to man’s ideas and feelings. If there is no religious absolute there can be no basis for real law. People will not respect or long obey laws that are only judicial guesses. An evil, godless society, floating about on a sea of relativism, realizes that it has no foundation, no anchor, and no unmoving point of reference. Law becomes a matter of preference and order a matter of power. A democracy where power is ultimately vested in the people is particularly vulnerable to chaos.
Is there an absolute basis for truth, for the law, for real right and wrong; and if so what is it? Those questions are the essence of what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:17-20. The absolute, He says, is the law of the eternally sovereign God. God has laid down His absolute, eternal, abiding law and made is known to men. And as God’s own Son, Jesus declared unequivocally that He did not come to teach or practice anything contrary to the law in even the slightest way, but to uphold it entirely.
We continually hear the idea that because times have changed the Bible does not fit our day. The truth is the opposite. The Bible always fits, because the Bible is God’s perfect, eternal, and infallible Word. It is the standard by which true fit is measured. It is the world that does not fit the Bible, and not because the world has changed but because the Bible has not changed. Outwardly the world has changed a great deal since the biblical days but in its basic structure and orientation, it has always been opposed to God and has never conformed to His Word. The world has never fit Scripture.
The argument is also proposed that Scripture is but a collection of various men’s ideas about God and about right and wrong. One person’s interpretation of the Bible is therefore just as good as another’s, and there is no place for dogmatism. Men have been left free to believe or not to believe, to follow or not to follow, any or all of Scripture as it suits them. Each person becomes his or her own judge over Scripture and the end result is to disregard it altogether.
It is impossible to take Jesus seriously and not take Scripture seriously. It is impossible to believe Jesus spoke absolute truth and not to consider Scripture to be that absolute truth, because that is precisely what Jesus taught it to be. If Jesus was mistaken or deluded on this point then there would be no reason to accept anything else that He said. At the outset of His ministry He makes clear that His authority and Scripture’s authority are the same; His truth and Scripture’s truth are identical and inseparable.
God’s revealed Word, Jesus says, not only is it the truth, but is truth conceived with absolute, inviolable authority. It is in and with the authority of His Word that He came to teach and minister, and it is through that authority that He commands His Kingdom citizens to bow and obey. For thirty years, Jesus lived in privacy and obscurity. Only Mary and intimates to the family would have remembered the miraculous events that surrounded His birth and early years. As far as His friends and neighbors were concerned, He was but a unique Jewish carpenter. It was when He began His ministry, when He was immersed in the Jordan by John the Baptist and started to preach, that all eyes suddenly turned on Him. At that point, even the leaders of Israel could not ignore Him.
Jesus’ meekness, humility, gentleness, and love marked him out in great contrast to the proud, selfish, and arrogant scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests. His call to repentance and His proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom made people listen, even if they did not understand or agree. They wondered if He was just another prophet or a false prophet. They wondered if He was a political or military revolutionary who might be the Messiah they anxiously awaited, who would break the yoke of Rome. He did not talk or act like anyone else they had ever heard or seen. He did not identify Himself with any of the scribal schools or with any of the sects or movements of the time. Nor did He identify Himself with Herod or with Rome. Instead Jesus openly and lovingly identified Himself with the outcasts, the sick, the sinful, and the needy of every sort. He proclaimed grace and dispensed mercy. Whereas all the other rabbis and religious leaders talked only about the religious externals, He taught about the heart. They focused on ceremonies, rituals, and outward acts of every kind, whereas He focused on the heart. They set themselves above other men and demanded their service while He set Himself below other men and became their Servant.
What will having a high view of God and Jesus mean? Having a high view of God will help believers to stand firm as the battle over gender neutral language in the Bible heats up and also as the institution of marriage is attacked and defamed. Having a high view of Jesus will help the believer understand what the gospel is, what it demands, and how to live by it. Furthermore having a high view of God and the work of Jesus has been a means the Lord God has used in the past to bring revival and renewal to His church. Therefore, having a high view of God and of Jesus is vital not only for the sake of the believers’ growth in the grace of God, but also for the renewal of local churches.
Having a high view of God and of the work of Christ relates to morality because how one views God will affect how they live. How one understands the work of Christ will affect whether they go to heaven or hell. Furthermore, understanding morality and God is important in order to have a biblical understanding of marriage, gender roles, and more. In other words, morality must be dictated by the Word of God because man left to his own devices has proven that they are destructive and unworthy due to his sin and sin nature.
Lastly, the Bible makes it clear that when man walks his own path he walks the way of the fool not the path of righteousness (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 12:15). The only way to be moral is not by thinking one is a good person or defining oneself by one’s good deeds. Basing one’s identity, worth and value on how good one is or on how great they have performed is not a basis for evaluating moral behavior. The gospel is God means of evaluating man’s moral behavior. The gospel addresses man’s desperate state and provides the solution to man’s sin with the promise of reconciliation to God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The only hope for man to be moral and for man’s behavior to change is not through good works but by believing in and on the works of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
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