Jesus Preached the Gospel, and Then Some

jesus_teachingIn Mark 1 (also Matthew 4) Jesus began his public ministry. Before healing the sick or calling disciples, Jesus preached his first sermon:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15, ESV)

Jesus preached the gospel. Gospel is one of those words we borrowed from Greek when translating the scriptures. It means good news. You can easily recognize Christians that share the gospel by one simple test: is what they are sharing good news? At the first opportunity, Jesus preached the Gospel. He did not preach a four part message series on having a happy marriage or managing a successful business. The Bible has a lot to say about marriage, business, raising children and so forth. But those things are not of the most importance. Where Jesus spent the balance of his time and energy was on spreading the gospel. Continue reading

What Makes a Good Pastor?

What are the marks of a good church pastor?  I think most people would talk about a foundation of knowledge in the scripture, and hopefully a commitment to the Gospel.  These are great answers, and those qualities will make themselves apparent from the pulpit in each and every sermon.  A pastor is often called to minister, however, at other times than 11 a.m. on Sunday morning.  That’s when the rubber meets the road and we really need more than a good public speaker.

In 2003, my mother suffered a major heart attack.  She had been smoking for over 40 years, and one Saturday morning Dad drove her to the hospital displaying all the classic symptoms.  In the ER she went into full cardiac arrest.  Once they got her heart started again (after 4 shocks from the defibrillator) we learned that she would need a total of 4 bypasses.  Before even driving to the hospital, I called my church pastor to start the prayer chain.  Each person on the list calls the next person and so on, so that with only one call everyone can join in prayer during a crisis.  I talked to him briefly, then called again when Mom went into surgery to give him an update.  I expected him to pray, make a few calls, and that I would see him again Sunday morning.

I was surprised when my pastor, Mike Jones, came into the waiting room. Continue reading

The Internet – Email, Blogging, Social Media – for Church

Chances are that if you were in the “blogging is a waste of time” camp you wouldn’t be reading this one right now.  While I may be preaching to the choir, what I plan to do is share my reasoning on how the Internet is a tool that can be used by churches to support their ministry, build community and share the Gospel.

I have personal friends in real life that have deleted their Facebook accounts because they are a waste of time.  “There’s nothing but junk on there” was the reasoning.  I know Christians that lament having wifi and DSL in their home because it distracts them from studying scripture.  Unplugging your internet is much worse than evangelicals who tossed out their t.v. sets in the 80’s.  Television only works one way; the Internet is a two way street. Continue reading

Lessons from Jonah

There is old saying about quality over quantity.  The old testament book of Jonah is only 4 chapters long, but it has much to teach us.

Lesson #1: Listen to God

Many people spend a lifetime “searching” for God.  Even those who know God still spend much time seeking his will.  God plainly speaks to Jonah, telling him exactly what he wants done.  God has ordained the events of history.  Paul says we see through a glass darkly, so it makes sense to listen to the one who sees all things clearly.  Consider Genesis 50 and Acts 2 when pondering free will.  Man does what he wants, God always gets what he wants.  God had plans for Nineveh, and Jonah was to be the instrument God used.  We could save ourselves a lot of pain (and wasted time, energy and effort) if we would just listen to God in the first place, especially when he makes it that clear. Continue reading

Just Ask the Gardener

not really our gardener

There are certain things you get used to.  When you grow up with electricity in every room, and with hot and cold running water, its easy to forget that most of the world’s population does not have those things.  The same is true in ministry.  On any given day, I will have students in my class from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Thailand and South Korea.  I have had students from Japan, China and Russia, but none right this minute.  Most days I don’t even think about it as this is “normal” where I live and work.

One of the blessings of the ministry I work in is the unique blend of individuals God has brought together to do the work.  My wife and I came from Georgia, but we have friends from Colorado, New Jersey and Alaska.  One couple came to serve with us after spending 16 years on the mission field in Nigeria.  Every person that’s here left behind a church that misses them; all of our fellow missionaries were church deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders and such like back home.  I listened to a good sermon tonight about the three parables in Luke 15 delivered by our gardener.  Yeah I know, right?

If one of my students had a question from scripture, he or she could easily ask our campus minister or Bible teacher.  But would you take the same question to a bus driver?  I happen to be an ordained minister and a school bus driver.  Our gardener plants flowers and designs landscapes 6 days a week, and pastors a small Presbyterian church on the weekend.  He is just as qualified to answer Bible questions as our basketball coach – who has also traveled to Rwanda to teach English and to other countries doing medical missions.

Stephen Tracksel said “I am not a great man of God, I am a man of great God.”  The next time you turn on the tap or flip a light switch, try to remember where all blessings come from.  And the next time I wave at the gardener, I will try and do the same.  May we all be instruments of His will.

Yes, I Have a Pastor

Every now and then I make a reference to something my pastor said or did, and each time I expect someone to ask about that.  Yes I have a church pastor, no that’s not really him in the picture.

In 2003 I was working a full time job, and doing ministry on the side.  I was a church deacon, directed Vacation Bible School, taught youth on Wednesday nights, was one of several leaders on mission trips, volunteered at our local Baptist Center, and preached from time to time. Continue reading

Archives: Who Does God Call?

I don’t make a habit out of running repeats.  Like leftovers in the refrigerator, some old posts keep better than others.  This one is still good.

When Moses encounters the burning bush, he asks of God “Who am I, that I should speak to Pharaoh?”  That’s a legitimate question.  Who am I that I should preach the gospel?  Who are any of us?  We are those called by God into his service.  He calls us, saves us, then equips us to do his work for the Kingdom.  Moses was a herdsman, already wanted for murder.  David was a shepherd when he was called, and only a child at that.  Look at the disciples; blue collar workers at best, rejects and outcasts at their worst.  But look at who God calls; every major character in the Bible was tragically flawed in some way.  God takes the small, the broken and the unwanted and fixes them up.  He then sends us into the world, a world that is fallen and broken.  It may look great at times, but we live in a fallen world affected by the curse.  God calls little children wrecked by sin into his service, to spread the gospel among all his other little sinwrecked children.

Click here for the original post Who Does God Call? (Sep. 14, 2008)

To Ourselves and our Posterity

I’m going out on a limb here.  Maybe it’s getting late and this will just be the Diet Pepsi talking, but I would like to share a thought.

I recently met a blogger named Joe Derbes, author of Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion.  I don’t know how much of an influence Michael Spencer was to him, but his blogroll credits Michael with being his new favorite Christian author.  I have certainly said before that I blog because of Michael Spencer.  I know that one student of Mr. Spencer says the same thing.  How many others are there?  The Internet was teeming with tributes to Michael in the days following his passing.  How many people out there blog, or perhaps blog with a different message or purpose, as a direct result of the original Internet Monk?

I can’t write a new post without considering how Michael would evaluate that installment.  I miss the constructive criticism; he made me a better writer.  He helped shaped my current view of systematic theology.  And tonight I can’t help but think of this: that’s kind of like Jesus.  Jesus taught multitudes of people, and 12 in particular were privy to special teachings, prayers and examples.  Jesus taught them, told them to follow in his footsteps, and then left them.  Two of the disciples wrote Gospels (and perhaps Mark was dictated by Peter).  Peter lead the others in starting the Christian church at Jerusalem.  Paul did just about the same thing.  He planted churches across Asia minor and southern Europe, training leaders and then moving on.  His letters to Timothy still guide church leaders today.

That’s the Christian model.  A teacher, a pastor, a blogger – in this case – not only does his job but teaches others to do the job as well.  Even as Paul was ministering he was training others to be ministers.  Even during his earthly ministry Jesus sent the Apostles out to preach and work miracles.  When the human life is spent the work continues.  The church grows.  The gospel goes forth.  We need to think now about the future generation of leaders that will be following our lead.  Heaven and earth will pass away but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

Can You Really _______ for Jesus?

This is a promotional video for the Light of the World Ballet Company.  I’ve watched two performances today, and didn’t take a single picture or video.

These are professional performers who tour the world, entering places like India and China that perhaps wouldn’t be open to missionaries (preachers) and share the Gospel while they are there.  Perhaps only Baptists would even second guess ballet as ministry.  Are other denominations as critical of dancing?  “A praying knee and a dancing foot don’t grow on the same leg,” I was told by one preacher’s wife.  Very Baptist.

I told our students (private Christian school) that whatever God has gifted them to do, do that for the glory and honor of God.  How many country music singers learned to sing in church, or got their start in the church choir?  But let me open this box: Can you really do anything for the glory and honor of God? David danced before the Lord; Psalm 150 mentions dancing, blowing horns and crashing symbols.  But where is the line?  Can you skateboard for Jesus?  Bowl for Jesus?  Play in a Christian rock band?  Are there things “done for Jesus” that are really just whatever we wanted to do in the first place?  Can you really (fill in the blank) for Jesus?  Or maybe answer this question: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed supposedly done for the glory of God?  I could easily link “preaching baby” again.

Jesus’ Example: Ministry

Jesus-healing-blindI have written many posts under the heading of Jesus’ Example.  So much of what Jesus did during his earthly ministry was to give us the examples to follow.  After washing the disciples feet, he actually told them it was an example and they were to do the same.  It was a dramatic demonstration of humility and service to one another.  We are commanded to imitate Christ by doing the things he did.  It should go without saying that must study his words and actions so that we can model our actions after his. Continue reading