Monday, September 9, 2013

Public Obedience

Speculation can be a dangerous thing and I enter this discussion with caution.  After discovering the connection between the church at Colosse and Paul’s letter to Philemon am I the only one who wondered what happened?  Remember, Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who had both stolen from him and ran away.  During his flight he met Paul who had become an important figure in Onesimus’ spiritual life.  At some point Paul discovered the situation in Colosse and the falling out between Onesimus and Philemon.  Onesimus arrived at the conclusion to return to Philemon asking for forgiveness.  Paul penned (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who intended for this letter to become part of our Bible) the letter to Philemon wherein he vouched for Onesimus and asked Philemon to forgive him and welcome him back as a brother. 
We have no idea what happened.  We do know that Philemon did not have the option to sit and listen to the letter and simply absorb information.  He had to choose: either respond to the situation with forgiveness and reconciliation or know that he was intentionally disregarding God’s instruction.  How many other people watched Philemon, probably a leader in the church, waiting to see what decision he made?
What a testament to God’s grace if Philemon publicly forgave Onesimus!  I know this is speculation but if Philemon forgave Onesimus the entire Colossian church would have witnessed a man being genuine in his faith.  Obedience affirms your faith is genuine. Moreover, obedience always glorifies God.  As pastors we should live a life of public obedience, not to glorify ourselves, but to prove our faith genuine and bring glory to the one who blesses us with the opportunity to serve Him in the church. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Disciples on Display - Sermon from Mark

Follow the link above to watch me teach on Jesus's desire for His followers to be a noticeable presence in their environment.

Must Read Review: The Cross of Christ by John Stott

New feature on The Timothy Chronicles - "Must Read Review."  Occasionally I will feature a short review (not 15 page seminary review) of a book I have read that has been insightful or helpful.  The review will be include a brief description of the book and important contributions.  This must read review will examine The Cross of Christ by John Stott.

If anything Stott attempts an exhaustive approach to an inexhaustible topic: the cross of Jesus.  He discusses the Cross theologically, soteriologically, philosophically and applicationaly.  In just over three hundred pages Stott turns over many neglected stones pertaining to the Cross and its implications.

The book is divided into four sections: Approaching the Cross, The Heart of the Cross, The Achievement of the Cross and Living Under the Cross. Each of which address the Cross from a different angle presenting and affirming orthodox Christology while at the same time interacting with heterodox and heretical thoughts about Jesus and His Cross.  But do not think Stott has authored a dry theological treatise, his book will challenge you intellectually while inspiring you devotionally.

In fact this is one of Stott's greatest contributions, his theology is not dry but inspiring.  He forces the reader to recognize the centrality of the Cross in the Christian experience.  This occurs by addressing issues often unaddressed.  For example he includes a lengthy discussion on Jesus as God's self substitution.  Stott concludes that God satisfies His own justice by becoming His own sacrifice in order to redeem His fallen creation.

Stott's book is a classic.  Quoting D.A. Carson, "There are not many 'must read' books - books that belong on every minister's shelf and on the shelves of thoughtful laypersons who want a better grasp of what is central in Scripture - but this is one of them."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Money, Meetings and Feeling Unspiritual

     Confession - I rarely enjoy finance committee meetings.  Usually I dread them, attend, and then walk away uttering something like, "That was not really all that bad."  I have attended finance committee meetings in large and small churches, churches that are over budget and churches that struggle to meet budget.  My complaint is that it all seems so unspiritual.  We (or at least I) must be careful not to develop the idea that money is a necessary evil to ministry.  Never adopt the mindset that it would be nice to do ministry without money, but we can't so let's just bite the bullet and figure out how to pay for all this stuff we want to do.  Conversely, we must not seek to spiritualize money by praying for the sake of prayer and bathing the meeting with words like stewardship and blessing just because that sounds more Christian than, "Hey, we took in more than we spent, what do we do with the extra?"

     So as I sit and ponder I realize that money is neither good nor evil, material nor spiritual.  Money is like many other things in this world - a reality thereof which we have the opportunity to submit to The Lord.  So I will go to the next finance committee meeting determined to feel neither worldly nor spiritual, but to be a Christ follower seeking to best handle a reality attached to ministering in my context.

     I will attend as a pastor refusing to passively let the money people do their job, but insisting they out of redeemed hearts submit all decisions to Jesus.  It is after all His money and we are entrusted to reflect His heart for His money.  This is not spiritualizing, it's reality.  Reality taught in Scripture and reality is that any board (I.e. finance committee) is given the task to act best on behalf of the share holders (I.e. the people who have invested, I.e. Jesus who through His people's giving has provided the funds for His church).  So when we decide to increase spending or decrease spending, we must be both finance minded and Jesus minded.  He doesn't want us to mismanage money, nor does He want us to manage it without seeking His guidance.  As a pastor I should be the catalyst of connecting the two.

    I will attend as a pastor who realizes the atmosphere of the church is impacted by the budget.  If we give lip service to missions giving, but "spend more" on paper goods for the kitchen that we send into the world to spread the gospel, our decisions do not reflect or stated values.  However if people in the congregation see that their giving is being used to propagate the gospel they will seek to give out of compulsion to fund the kingdom not just buy stuff for the church.


Monday, July 1, 2013

The Ministry of Prayer

I am part of a new generation of pastors, a generation full of untold potential and revolutionary ideas.  This generation is seeking to transform ministry paradigms and one so accustomed to change that ministry without it would be excruciating.  My pastoral generation can be described as the replacement generation.  Many of us have replaced our navy blue JC Penney Stafford suits with blue jeans from the GAP and button down shirts from American Eagle (which we wear un-tucked just to annoy our predecessors).  We have replaced our pocket calendars with iPhones, and our Rolodexes with contact lists.  We have replaced Bill Gaither with David Crowder and Billy Graham with…, well we still love Billy Graham.  But in all this replacement my generation of pastors must remember that we can never replace the role of the pastor’s personal ministry of prayer.
We must never replace the ministry of praying for our people with something more productive
Church leaders have more to do than anyone can imagine. Most pastors preach twice or three times a week, sometimes more. We have meeting to attend. We have visions to cast. We have visits to make. We have wives and kids, soccer and dance. Plus most of us like to sneak in a round of golf. Time is precious and productivity is necessary if we are to survive. Satan will try to tell you as a church leader that spending extended periods of time praying for people is too idle for your action oriented occupation. Refuse to listen to Him. Pastors are called to take their people before the throne of God and agonize over them there. We must never replace this divine call with something that promises more “results” and seems more productive.
We must never replace the ministry of praying with our people with conversations geared more personally
Go to any city in the country and you will find the coffee club. In some places the coffee club consists of older gentlemen huddled around strong black coffee served in decade old white cups. In others the coffee club is a group of twenty to thirty somethings lounging with paper cups shielded by cardboard holders (preferably with green writing on them). In either case you will find groups seeking personal interaction, though the first group would die if you even used those words at their wooden table.  Pastors must seek to be part of this interaction. But we must never replace the moment when we go together with those same people into God’s presence through prayer. We must never neglect praying with God’s people.
We must never replace the ministry of praying over our people with words offered more prophetically
As a pastor you will be invited in people’s deepest tragedies and most glorious moments of joy. You will go to the hospital in the middle of the night as someone’s husband passes away with a heart attack. Then join that same lady as her first grand son is born. In those moments you feel very pastoral. In those moments you feel like you should offer some words of wisdom, some prophetic utterance from the throne.  In those moment’s people do ont need your wisdom, they need to hear you as you take their pain or joy before the throne as stand in the gap as God’s representative in their life. Pray over them and cover them with your prayer. Replacing prayer with prophetic words will rob those hurting or rejoicing people of the one thing they need most: to know you are representing them before the throne and calling God’s presence into their life.
I look at how much differntly I minister than did the pastors of previous generations.  Imagine pastoring with out Facebook to keep us connected, or Twitter to keep us informed. In the ministry world full of new ideas prayer is one that can never become outdated and repalced.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Callings Not Careers

It's pretty exciting to get a new office, definitely when it is your first one.  I remember putting my books on the shelf, arranging my desk just right, placing my diplomas on the wall, hanging my wife's picture in just the right place.  As I sat down behind the desk and surveyed the room I felt so important, so very, very important.  I envisioned the next forty years, the church where I served growing, writing a book, becoming more important, more prominent, more famous.  I knew God doesn't make all pastors famous, but it happens to some, and hey why not me? I had made it, I was no longer working a job, I had started a career.

Somewhere along the way, and thankfully so, I made a monumental discovery - as ministers we have been given a  calling, not a career.  For those who have careers life is about moving forward and moving up.  Becoming better at what you do so you can make more cash and gain more influence. It's about prominence and promotion, working hard and getting ahead.

But callings are different.  A calling is about humbly being and faithfully doing.  It is about glorifying the one who has called you.  We have a calling.  God does not give us the ability to minister so we can become famous, but so that we can make Him famous.  He does not gift some of us with amazing preaching abilities so we can draw a crowd to amaze, but so that we people will be engaged with His Word.  He does decide that some of us will be awesome at organizing what would be chaos so that people will be impressed with our ability, but so that people will be effective in working together in the kingdom.  He does not give some of us such an intellect as to confound even the wisest in the world, but so that through our foolishness His wisdom might be glorified. We do not have careers, we have callings, and life will never be about us; if it is about the right thing it will always be about Him.


Welcome to The Timothy Chronicles. We, like Paul's young protege Timothy, are learning what it means to be agents of the gospel.  Some people call us pastor, some reverend, some preacher; but you and I know in our hearts that we are men called by The Lord to spread the gospel and make disciples.

You might be serving in a traditional rural church or in a cutting edge suburban ministry, but in the end the work is the same - love people, preach the gospel, follow Jesus and make disciples.

This blog is a chronicle of my discoveries on the road of following Jesus and making disciples.  I have been blazing the path of vocational ministry for over ten years,  but the newness of The Lord and what He does in my life and the lives of those around me is still amazing.  I invite you to walk with me, learn with me, interact and share some of your own discoveries.

Just as Paul poured into Timothy, let's pour into each other.  Be what God has called us to be, serve Him faithfully, and when we meet Him together in glory be amazed at all we discovered along the way.