1. Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it; and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it , which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer.
Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality
One of my favourite missionaries is John Paton. When Paton wanted to be a missionary to New Hebrides, one of the men in his home Church famously criticised his desire saying, “You will be eaten by cannibals!” In reply John said:
Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.
John Piper has an excellent summary of the biography of John Paton.
We are called to be like Christ. How so? We’re not Jewish itinerant preachers. We’re not saviors of the world. But when the Bible talks about our similarity to Jesus, it talks about us taking up the cross like he did.
Ways we practice the cross
The cross informs the way we live. Not “WWJD” but “WITWOTCITS” (What is the way of the cross in this situation?).
- Selflessness — Philippians 2
- Perseverance in suffering — I Peter 4
- Generosity — II Cor 8, I John 3
- Patience with other believers – Romans 1
- Humble leadership — Mark 10
In a sense, every small act of service is a preparation for martyrdom in that it’s a dying to self. Many of us would die for Christ but won’t clean up after other Christians joyfully.
It’s rather sad that these two terms are not thought of today as complimentary. Instead, there’s a tendency of some theologians to speak down to others, boasting about their study and knowledge. Those of us who aren’t Theologians, in the technical sense, can also be a bit arrogant when we dismiss anything that sounds theologically complex as irrelevant. After all we aren’t religious geeks, why do we need to know anything about all those big words that end in “shun” (propitiation, expiation, redemption, justification etc)?!
In his book, Humility, True Greatness C.J. Mahaney, suggests that reading and studying theology is one practical means to cultivate humility. In particular he recommends focusing on God’s incommunicable attributes (there’s some more big words). He quotes from R. C. Sproul on the self-sufficiency of God:
The grand difference between and human being and a supreme being is precisely this: Apart from God, I cannot exist. Apart from me, God does exist. God does not need me in order for Him to be; I do need God in order for me to be. This is the difference between what we call self-existent being and dependent being. We are dependent. We are fragile. We cannot live without air, without water, without food. No human being has the power of being within himself. Life is lived between two hospitals. We need a support system from birth to death to sustain life. We are like flowers that bloom and then wither and fade. This is how we differ from God. God does not wither, God does not fade, God is not fragile. (pp. 88-89)
Good theology won’t give you a big head – if anything, it will make your head feel very small and empty. Good theology leads to humility and worship.
Some good books to help you think about theology.
- The Bible
- Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem (Chapter 11, 156, “How is God different from us?“)
Wayne’s lectures in MP3 are available for free. Start with No 31-34
- The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer (PDF download)
- The Everlasting God by Broughton Knox
Charles Stone introduces his book, ‘Five Ministry Killers and How to Kill Them‘ with an account of how a Church fired their Pastor. As I started the first paragraph, I thought it was a fictional parable used to kick off the main topic of the book. Wrong!
I read a little further and started to feel a little uncomfortable with the issues being mentioned. Then comes the surprise (for me anyway). The pastor in question is a real person and he is talking about real struggles that defeat many men and women who are in Christian Ministry.
The pastor in question, faced difficulties with power struggles, salary controversies, questions about his leadership style. His visitation policy was considered questionable and he was accused of “not loving the people.” Why? Because he made a decision to concentrate on the strengths and gifts of his ministry and prioritize his time on preaching and teaching instead of following a routine visiting program.
After some time, one particular man lead a factional revolt that would eventually see the pastor fired from his job. The pastor, unhindered by this, then made a decision to introduce changes in the Church policy regarding the expectations of the character of those that wanted to become Church members. He was called to question for this stance and the other matters. He was threatened with losing his job. He stood his ground and they fired him.
Stone closes off this account of the pastor, called “Jonathan”, as follows:
Ten years later, because Jonathan had so graciously responded to his critics and his dismissal, one of his main detractors admitted that pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity had caused the contention. The pastor’s handling of his ministry crisis left such and impression that eventually the church publicly repented of their actions, exactly 150 years after they sent him packing.
Who was Jonathan? Jonathan Edwards, arguably America’s greatest theologian.
Dear Pastor friend, if it happened to Edwards, chances are you will face similar challenges. Are you ready to meet them with a godly, gospel oriented approach?
Dear Church Member friend, if you have a Pastor that has different ideas about leadership style and ministry emphasis are you able to model gospel oriented flexibility and serve alongside him for God’s glory?
Also (post-edit) check out this recent post by Don – a supplement to the comment he made below.
Firing Your Pastor
I wasted many years listening to and believing comments made by leaders and teachers about how much “potential” I had to do this, that or the other thing.
Instead of figuring out what my gifting and calling was I chased after whims and ideals in areas where I had “potential” to accomplish something significant. I think, in part, this pursuit was driven by a desire to please others. I was kept very busy and I did accomplish lots of important valuable things. I saw people come to faith in Christ, I encouraged believers and was extremely busy in ministry. But I was preoccupied with the potential instead of the actual.
By God’s grace I want to leave that behind and pursue Christ – not what others think is my “potential“. That might mean setting aside things that are good, or nice, or popular, or even needful. Many make the mistake of doing “good things” instead of pursuing the “best thing!“
Don’t make the same mistake. Driscoll had some good comments on this in one of his recent sermons from Luke that expands this idea.