Any Given Monday

On any given Sunday churches gather all over America and around the globe to worship God, to celebrate the great gift of God to man – Christ Jesus, and His redemption made available to a host of sinners. Songs are sung. Prayers are given. And sermons are preached by myriads of pastors pouring out the fruit of their week-long harvests in the Word. On any given Monday across America and the globe will follow pastoral doubt. 

Yes, Mondays will find many Pastors in their studies questioning their very calling, and roles in ministry. Their preaching abilities. Their vision. Even examining their zeal to carry on. 

“Why am I here?” 
“Why did that family leave?”
“Did I say something wrong?” 
“Why don’t my words seem to have any affect upon nominal holiness?”
“Couldn’t you find someone better, Lord?”

Attacks from outside the Church, from the inside of the Church, and from within the individual are legion and seem only to increase. It is no surprise that pastoral resignations and even suicides seem to top out…yes, on Mondays. At times, it seems a wonder at all that pastors still pastor. 

Both missives to Timothy by the hand of Paul seem to be addressing this very dilemma; they are letters of encouragement to a “Monday” pastor.

By the language employed throughout both letters, Paul is destined to nurture Timothy to guard his faith, guard his doctrine, and feed the sheep – to remain in his calling as shepherd in Ephesus. 

In the initial verses of 2 Timothy 1 Paul presents wonderful encouragement to his protégé.

“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

The picture presented is one of a pastor whose tank is nearing “empty.” In 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul and the elders have ordained Timothy for service in Ephesus. I would think Timothy was excited to change the world for the glory of God. Yet in the course of time, through the battering and the long dry roads, that zeal has settled; the fire has been reduced to the mere remains of a few glowing embers. Paul commands Timothy to “kindle afresh” the gift within him, the ministry to which he was called. The picture is an exhortation to place a few pieces of wood back onto the embers, and with a little breath fuel the fire again. 

The reasoning is found in the following verse: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 

Swindoll promotes that the word spirit in the NASB should be capitalized Spirit, as the reference is to the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer – to this I would agree. The “fuel” with any given leader, or Christian is not their own energy, or drive, or talent, it is, it must be the presence of the Living God within. Sometimes, even the most adept forget this. 

We do not have a compromised, timid, insecure Spirit who has taken up residency within us, we enjoy the presence of the Sovereign, omnipotent Divine.

The astute shepherd remembers the strength drawn upon is not our own. And the well is continually returned to for refreshment, to kindle afresh our ministerial fervor. From this Spirit we draw power, love, and discipline. 

Power– the supernatural ability to carry out the work of God. The same power of the hand of God who created the universe, the micro, the macro, the intricacies of life itself. There is something about authority in those words.

Love– Agape love, the desire and ability to place the spiritual well-being of others above the needs and wants of yourself; a kindness and a generosity that is divinely compelled. The Holy Spirit is all about glorifying God, pointing the way to Jesus – We are only able to love the unlovable as He is loving people through each and everyone of us.

Discipline. The will to remain a disciple. The “Stick-to-it-ive-ness” to keep yourself upon the alter. To have the Divine perspective to buffet your human desires. To allow God to cut clear down to the marrow in sanctification because the desire of self is to crawl off of the altar, to do something easier, certainly something easier than ministry. 

How many of us have found ourselves on any given Monday questioning our call to ministry? Scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to find direction and motivation? 

Could He find someone “better”? The answer in all certainty is, “Yes.” But, He chose you. And before He called you He knew your frailties, and He still chose you for the task. 

God may have called us to desperation, but it is a desperation to be focused upon Him. To think we can do it in humility absent the power of God Himself greatly undermines our success. To those who would expect to “make it” from the depths of their own wells, ministry will be dry in no time.  

To those who have been called, and chosen to walk the path of vocational ministry, the applause of Heaven awaits you (1 Peter 5:4).

To those who surrender their lives to the work of the Kingdom, there is nothing more noble.

To those, all those who choose to live for Christ under the weight of persecution, the fruit of your witness is eternal. 

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). 

Deliver Me From Evil

Make no mistake about it, evil is alive and thriving in the Land of the Free. We may not always see it, because it is so pervasive in our culture that when we stand looking it in the face, it doesn’t even move the needle anymore. We have become “comfortable” with it; but it is out there. What is evil? I would suggest evil is activity, which at the root is demonically championed and is intended to thwart God’s good order–It is that which seeks to make the divine straight, crooked.

I write this, not to sensationalize a story, but simply to communicate the reality of evil in the world, and its affect upon our lives (“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Sometimes, I think we fail to acknowledge that battle even exists.  I would claim to have been face to face which such unfiltered evil 4 times in my life that I can clearly recall. Not the head-spinning, split-pea soup Exorcist type of demonstration, but a clear demonic evil presence just the same.

The first time was when I was a kid, around the age of 6 or 7, close to the time that I would make a profession of faith to follow Jesus Christ. I shared a bunk bed with my brother, I was on the bottom bunk and it was lights out for the night. I was sleeping on my back when I felt an arm come through the bed from underneath, just to my side, my right side. Once it had penetrated the mattress, it curled around my waist and sought to pull me back down, through the mattress below. It was clear that my body was not going to follow, and after just a bit, the presence left. Some may choose to dismiss this, chalking it up to the fanciful machinations of a youthful mind. I must admit, I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the entire incident, but, I do know two things: it did happen, and, I was not afraid. Looking back, the Lord was protecting me, it was as if it was the Lord saying, “Not today, Satan; this little lamb is Mine. Not today.”

The second time was while I was working construction on a secular musician’s mansion; I was on the second floor, when I heard the music begin to play in the studio below me. There was a deep dark spirit coming forth as their wicked words rose from underneath, yet is was more than the deep-seated oppression of mere lyrics. The “odorous” stench wafted throughout the building. Over the course of the rest of the day I continued to observe events around the house, and I realized that I was smack dab in the middle of evil, the place was steeped in it. As the day progressed, my brother witnessed to the man–No apparent response, but maybe a seed was planted. I appreciated that house in our rear-view mirror as we pulled away. Wow! The Great Shepherd is with me, even in the presence of my enemies. “Not today, Satan. Not today.”

The third time I felt the cool caress of evil was when I was on vacation in Hawaii. On a week-end drive my wife and I had pulled over to check out a “yard” sale. Things seemed normal, as far as yard sales go, but once we made it over toward the garage where a guy was sitting in a little room with the door open, things felt a little weird–like hair standing up on the back of your neck weird, a cold breath across my shoulders kind of weird; again, this was in Hawaii, balmy Hawaii. My wife and I kept moving toward the house. Once inside the house we looked at each other and asked, “Did you feel that?” We agreed that we had both experienced something sinister, and curtailed our time at the sale. We headed out, trusting that the Lord has made it clear that there were no bargains needed there that day. “Again. Not today, Satan; these are My sheep. Not today.”

The fourth time, oddly enough, was at a church leadership meeting where the elders had scheduled a meeting with a disgruntled individual who had left the church. It is, in fact, the only time I felt that I was staring right into the netherworld. I recall my fellow elders addressing the situation incredibly well, as the person levied some pretty confused rantings.  I could not believe my ears. Character was being assaulted. The fabrications being expressed were indeed lies, from “Hell,” from the Devil, or maybe just from carnal nature, but they were conveniently packaged to promote his own “holiness.”

My heart pounded; I realized that there was a very real and dark presence in the room that was not of human origin.  I believe that the Lord allowed me to see through a window: the Accuser, the Father of Lies was in full control of the individual, pulling every “marionette” string.  My heart began to race, and I began to visibly shake. Fortunately, I was seated at the far end of the table, off the radar. I thought to myself, “How could I have ever trusted this person?”

It obviously had me questioning my own theology. Was he an unbeliever? How was he, as a believer, able to transmit that level of spiritual darkness? How was he even able to do that?! Was he so spiritually blind that he could not see the truth? Was he willfully acting as a conduit to this level of deceit? Did he even know his willingness to be a pawn to the underworld? It was a rare time that I felt I was staring “demons in the face.”

It has taken me some years to digest the events. But, I have come to realize that evil is part of the package of shepherding the flock of God. Heresies, evil actions, ambushes, lies and distortions will never be in short supply in the Enemy’s arsenal. Satan is constantly seeking to devour the soft pink flesh of God’s flock. He uses any willing or unwise agencies to secure that ground. Looking back, I feel that God was allowing me to learn something of what it takes to be a true shepherd; a shepherd who is not a hireling, one who would not run. Rather, one who would see it through for the health of the flock, even at his own loss.

Such words of Jesus Christ are found in the Book of John:
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep” (John 10:11-13).

Satan was looking for a hired hand who did not care about His flock. Satan sent a wolf, to drive me away so the sheep may be scattered. I wish I could say that I pulled through with the highest of marks–that was anything but the case; but I did pull through–I did not leave. And, I am still here.

“Not today, Satan. This is His flock. Not today!”

Some pretty unusual events to say the least, but they did not, and they do not define me; I am who I am in Christ! In every case, God had me, all along He had me. He was allowing me to be tested, but He had me, dead center in the palm of His hand. He has authority over all the spiritual forces of darkness, yet, for His divine purposes He permits some levels of intersection from time to time. But, every step of the way He oversees His true sheep, His true shepherds, and His true flock.

“For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work his woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.”

“The Prince of Darkness grim,—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,—
One little word shall fell him.”

“Not today, Satan. Not today!”

Warped

 Near the end of his letter to Titus, Paul reminds his lieutenant of the very real danger of wolves who will seek to disrupt the kingdom work on the island of Crete.

The text is found in Titus 3:9-11: “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

Paul’s words are a reminder to keep focused on the main thing, sound Gospel doctrine. The ministerial role is difficult–thorns, distractions, criticism, and wolves are all part of the daily grind. The challenge is keeping the main thing, the main thing: loving God, and building up the Church.

As the doctrine of the Gospel is great, and pours grace over the island of Crete there are three distinct theological distractions Paul addresses: foolish controversies, genealogies, strife and disputes about the law. In verse 8 Paul has described the proclamation of the Gospel “good and profitable for men.” Here, the debates on controversies, and genealogies are not profitable and produce no fruit; these are “unprofitable and worthless.”

Paul makes it clear that there are people in the mix of mankind who are trouble makers, and simply desire to derail ministries. There are those who continue to introduce controversies, “genealogies”– “authenticating” faith outside of real faith, and strife. Paul says to give them ample warning and be done with them, to retain them will cause disruption.

The NASB renders verses 10-11 as, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

We seek to extend grace, and yet, there are those who would seek to take advantage of that grace, and cause trouble. Grace only goes so far…

It is difficult to know if this “factious” posture is doctrinal or behavioral; it seems to include both. It is difficult to know if this man is a believer or an unbeliever, however, it addresses the kind of individual… the logical conclusion is that it seems to be both–anyone who is causing any kind of division within the sacred community. Sometimes we cannot rightly discern if a person is regenerate, but we can determine if there is any fruit, or if the behavior is in line with how a person should act biblically. The seeds of division and heresy are devastating to the Body. This promotion of division can be public, or subversively silent, behind the scenes, and yet, in either case tears the Body apart.

The idea in Titus is very much an abbreviated measure of Matthew 18, though Matthew is solely addressing disobedient believers the command is to shun them and treat those who promote poor doctrine or behavior to be cast out, rejected for the sake of the flock, because confusion is not something that fosters health in the sacred community. While there is tension because we want a person to come to Christ, or come back to Christ, we do not accept their detrimental behavior when it is intended to control, or destroy, or disrupt the work of the Lord.

The ESV translates these verses as, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).

This person who devises division is presented as “warped”, which communicates that one is perverted in character, not seeing straight, being mentally twisted, spiritually bent.  It is the idea of a piece of lumber or wood which has become so convoluted, and twisted that it is nearly irredeemable–so gnarled that without the work of the Holy Spirit they truly are irredeemable, which pretty well puts us all in the same camp, though not all are seeking the demise of Gospel ministry.

The term “sinful” means willfully and knowingly persisting in sin.  And “self-condemned” means that the actions of the person provide the basis for his or her own removal through their own antagonistic behavior–again, a parallel to Matthew 18. The warped person is in-the-present-tense sinning, and has brought about his/her own conviction.

In any instance, those who seek to infect the Body with poor behavior or doctrine should find no grace to do so. They are to be shunned, and rejected.  It is a relief and an act of protection for the flock. Paul says to have nothing to do with them, offer them no seat at the table until such point as they come into alignment. We leave the door open to repentance.

From here until glory people will be trying to destroy Gospel teaching, and abiding churches; they will endeavor to loft red-herrings in order to mislead. Real people. Real names. Real consequences. They ruin entire households (Titus 1:11). These people will drain our energy, and spiritual health.

Protection is a pretty common theme in the Scriptures. As shepherds over the flock of God, Ezekiel 34 casts a pretty strong admonition; we are to be a first line of defense to those over which we have been entrusted as stewards. Acts 20:28-30 carries that out to its logical conclusion:

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).

 “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out,
Even strife and dishonor will cease”– Proverbs 22:10

Lord, have mercy!

Fear No Evil

“They’re out there. They are under the bed. They are in the closet. And they are out to get me.”

Most of us remember these thoughts of horror as we imagined unwelcome guests in our bedrooms at night. “Did I hear something? I thought I saw something move.” The problem with our bashful childhood nocturnal nemeses is that they failed to reveal themselves very clearly. Yes, we may have seen a flash of light from their “eyes,” we may have heard a rustle of papers from under the bed, but in reality it was a very deficient affirmation we gleaned of their presence. In addition to that, we failed to grasp the full scope of their intent of evil for our lives. So, all in all, who these denizens were was greatly a mystery.

Most of us could be reassured by our well-intentioned parents that those which lurked in the darkness were only figments of our imagination, and most of the time they were right…until maybe the next night.

For those of us in pastoral ministry it seems we have often relived these suspicions of doom and despair; we have imported these memories of paranoia of sorts into our ministerial vocation. “Did I hear something? I thought I saw something move.” Of course, it is not in regards to any given monsters, at least none of the ogrely type, yet, it applies to those, unexplained events, unnerving rumors, and odd actions of individuals observed in the context of our sacred community.

Of all the things communicated to me in seminary, I never heard, “They are out there. They are under the bed, in the closet and they are out to get you!”  No professor ever cautioned me that some of the greatest threats to my pastoral longevity could be those seated in the pews, or worse. Please don’t get me wrong, I loved my seminary days, but I could fill a book with the things I never learned in seminary…well, sort of. You know what I mean. Sometimes, you just end up learning in the school of life and experience.

The truth is that not all of those seated (and nodding) are on your side. Not all of those on the membership role are pulling for you. Not all those in the orbit of the church are even saved. In fact, yes, in fact, some are actually subversively seeking to expedite your demise. If you do not believe me, this will come as a great shock to you when (not if), it happens. Let me be the one to tell you, “They are out there, and they are out to get you”; it’s how the enemy works.

I don’t communicate this to alarm anyone, solely that one may be aware, and alert in regards to those in the congregation which may not have our heavenly interests at heart. We worry that we are hearing things, or seeing actions which do not add up. “Gee, that person seems to be acting oddly.” Or, “Why did he say that?” Or, “What in the world is going on around here?!”

Unlike those mysterious denizens lurking under the bed these menaces are indeed real and seek to derail the most devoted of ministerial efforts.

We would rather my words were in error but Scripture would affirm them. We would love to believe the visible church on earth was filled only with the redeemed. But Jude cautions otherwise–the entire book has much wisdom to commend to the unsuspecting Christian leader. We would love to live within the insulated walls of the church absent of spiritual adversity, but that is not a real world. At times, those menaces are unwittingly part of a nefarious scheme. Satan performs some of his “best” work within the walls of the Church. And…it gets worse.

Lest you think I overstate my case, let’s see what Paul says to the Ephesians about it.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:12).

Wow! That’s a lot of adversity; I am simply flesh and bones, what chance do I stand against this sort of enemy?

Isn’t it just grace that this verse (verse 12) falls well absorbed in the context of God’s provision? Look at the verses that precede it, and follow it.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Before we even get to verse 12 we are exhorted to be strong in the Lord and His might, His armor–my “cape” never had anything to do with it. However, our obedience to put on the full armor has everything to do with it. And the armor doesn’t work in just some instances, but against the schemes of the devil. Not just his weak schemes, or his “less than” schemes, but his schemes.

Yes, verse 12 could cause us some angst, but in case we missed verses 10 and 11, verse 13 follows it up as another assurance of God’s divine oversight.

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

Just note that we do not eradicate evil. We do not destroy it. Even Christ sent Satan away, though it was in His divine power to snuff him out for good, He did not (Matthew 4:10). God has a time and a plan for the termination of evil. Our knees may shake a bit, our heart rate spike, but we stand firm.

The divine heart of God prayed for our deliverance, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one”(John 17:15); and He provided the means.

“They’re out there. They are under the bed. They are in the closet. And they are out to get you.” And they are powerless to affect you as you are insulated in the power, and the full armor of the Lord.

Suit up!

Beneath the Waterline

Anyone who has observed an iceberg has beheld a thing of massive beauty. It may not seem all that complicated, or majestic, but it is an amazing thing to behold. Some may have seen it pass as they stood on the shore, or sailed along on a cruise ship, or observed from the air, but in each case one could not rightly state that they had seen the entire iceberg. One could not categorically hold that they had observed it in its entirety for an iceberg is only partially seen by those above the surface. We know this; an iceberg is only 10 percent above the surface; 90 percent is below the waterline. In other words, the iceberg in its solid state is less dense than in its liquid state, so 10% or so rises above the waterline (following Archemede’s Principle of Buoyancy). The molecular structure assures this truth every time. We have a good idea that the portion above fairly accurately represents that which is unseen below, but we do make that conclusion based on logic.

We are faced with icebergs in the church every day. What does that mean, Kelly? It means that people are floating through the waters of the church every day. We see them, we monitor them, we evaluate them. We have to make judgments and decisions, in regards to those icebergs. The problem is there is a lot more to those “icebergs” than meets the eyes. So, how can we do that?

From an aerial perspective above, one can view a much larger mass of being, buoying the mere representation above–the tip of the iceberg; the matter below is often very different in shape than the mass above.

We may be forced to just consider the upper 10%, and we often do. But, sometimes those decisions land us in hot water.  We may simply guess at what lies below the surface, or we may be graced with divine discernment, Solomonic discernment.

Spurgeon stated that, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Unfortunately, the real estate between the two is razor thin, and sometimes you only get to choose once.

Discernment: intuition, the idea that something is just not right, a gut feeling, a check in your spirit. The problem with discernment is trying to take all the facts that you know and make sense of them. Sometimes all the facts in the world just don’t add up. Discernment in leadership is having to decide based on all the variables that are observed, understood and known, the problem is we never have that luxury. Making decisions in leadership is like assessing an iceberg. We need to evaluate regarding the whole iceberg even though we can only see the top 10%. We need to evaluate the entire structure, having only a fraction of observable DNA. In the case of people, we have to make decisions based upon what we know, what we see, and perhaps some referrals. The problem is we are failing to see 90% that is below the surface. To make matters worse, sometimes the person being assessed may not be all that compliant and …transparent.

So, the challenge before us each and every day is to read between the lines, to see behind the curtain, or below the waterline. Discernment is making a judgment based on things not seen, listening to that check in the spirit, that gut feeling, that something is not reconcilable. The true gift of discernment is figuring out what is going on beneath the surface: Solving the unseen by measures other than empirical certainty.

Could we suggest that check may be divinely issued? Could we say that God has placed that caution within our spirits so that we may protect the flock? We may not have a chapter and verse, but maybe that yellow flag is an alert to step back, take some time and continue the observation.

Unfortunately, making judgments based on mere discernment, is one of the more difficult actions to justify, especially when it is not so popular with those around.  I have had times when the level of discernment needed was well above my pay grade; haven’t we all?

We cannot see how people act at home with their spouse and children. We cannot observe them at work. We do not know who they are at the computer screen, nor how they may talk in a group of friends. We are ignorant of their conversations in the shadows. We cannot see their motives. Yet, we need to make decisions as to how they might safely, and effectively fit into the local body.

Failure to discern can get us into much trouble.

Joshua and his crew had some heavy positive momentum going on, until they met up with the Gibeonites. Joshua 9:14…they were hoodwinked, bamboozled, and tricked into issuing a covenant to these grifters. In order to avoid decimation, the Gibeonites concocted a scenario whereby they may be able to avoid being wiped out; the plan was to feign impoverishment and perhaps, receive mercy. The Israelites saw with their eyes and not with their hearts. They did not discern, and they did not seek the will of God, the same mistake they made as when they sought to destroy Ai. And they paid dearly for it.

The divine mandate was to destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan. And yet, as they failed to discern wisely, and seek the Lord, they covenanted with those whom they were to destroy. In the end, they commissioned them to be hewers of wood and drawers of water; not only would they be spared annihilation, but they would be employed in the service of the Tabernacle.

Joshua and the leaders made a decision based upon the top ten percent, and they failed. If discernment is the ability to “see below the waterline”, to have a clearer picture, either by the gift of divine understanding, or discernment–What exactly did they do wrong? How did they fail to discern what was going on beneath the waterline?

Three strikes the Israelites committed in the exchange which set them adrift from their divine directive. One, they did not seek the counsel of the Sovereign Commander; literally the “mouth” of the Lord. They had open access to the mind, the will of God, and they failed once again to exercise it.

Second, the decision having been made absent of any appeal to divine counsel, Joshua and his comrades assessed the situation by their own eyes, through compromised human mechanisms. They adjudicated based solely on the presented 10 percent.

Third, the move they made came without patience. They imputed some level of urgency to process this situation when no such urgency existed.

Finally, after they had failed in all respects, they offered a deal to the charlatans which was not part of the divine mandate to categorically clear the land, nor did it appear to be a request by the Gibeonites. They ultimately disobeyed the direct specific command of Yahweh.

We cannot fault the Gibeonites as they were merely seeking to stay alive; they were willing to connive in whatever way they could to sustain their existence.

So how does this connect to the present day?

First, let us remember that our pastoral commission is to tend and feed the sheep, to guard against false prophets and christs.  We observe, we evaluate, we look for fruit which is visible, and we plead to the God of Heaven for divine counsel. Our leadership, our decisions, will have an effect on the health of our flocks and even upon our own spiritual health. If we are not careful, discerning and wise, we could wind up in hot water.

Second, let us understand that, in this fallen world, we will never see the 100% we desire. And let us also understand that not all bergs are bad, or even trying to hide something below. Still we can move methodically seeking guidance along the way. And yet, still we will not get it right 100% of the time.

In Heaven we will have 20/20 clarity regarding truth and discernment. In the here and now we must take clues, actions, and words as our understanding and we are limited to make decisions and actions based upon those minimal clues. Let us not leave the Sovereign God of all truth out of the equation.

The Pillar of Truth

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul writes to his protégé, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

Paul’s intent is to visit Timothy in person, but in the event that he is delayed, he desires to remind Timothy in this letter of the privileged position of the Church.

Paul makes an incredible assertion regarding the mission of the Church; it is to be “a pillar and support of the truth.” A pillar is something which elevates, or holds high for all the world to see something which is on top. To support is to be a rock-solid foundation of those truths. Continue reading “The Pillar of Truth”

We Made It!

I know that you have a lot of choices, and you have many things flowing into your email..So, I appreciate your reading of theshepherdspen every once in a while.

July 20th marks the 1-year anniversary of the blog,  5 days a week. Next week we will shift to new posts on Saturday (to the best that I am able), and a repeat on Wednesday. Maybe, every so often I’ll through in a little something on Mondays, For Good Measure.

Feel free to share, or post the articles as you wish, and please tell your friends, and if you would, please sign up to begin receiving the posts directly to your email address. I am not sure how long this social media route will last.

The Next Shepherd

Shepherds come and shepherds go. Some are around for a few years and some have the privilege of serving in a single congregation for the duration of their ministry. Some just simply move along but, inevitably the need to call the next shepherd comes around.

I remember as a young boy watching an associate pastor at a reception. He was going off into lands unknown to serve the Lord. I used to think that the local church should be static. Why are we letting this person go? If he is so good, let’s keep him. But the Body, and the work of the Body is anything but static. Just like Paul who served in Ephesus for a time, and then, it was time to go. Another shepherd was needed. And so, it goes.

The next shepherd may be in the fields, like David tending to his father’s sheep. Or in “Midian” waiting for the call to serve. In other words, in seminary, across town, or across the country serving another flock. Continue reading “The Next Shepherd”

The Happy Prophet

Don’t get me wrong, I love serving in ministry, but the status of “happy” does not normally dot my skyline. Like others in the pastorate, I have my days. I have my ups…and my downs. I am not depressed or angry. I do not lack motivation, or clarity of purpose, and at times in little bursts along the way, there is some joy. But, happy? Mmmm, not so much.

I would contend, that across the many pages of Scripture, one would be hard-pressed to locate a “happy” prophet. How about Moses? Not exactly. Jeremiah? Mmm, No! He was the “weeping” prophet. Jonah? On every level, just No! Continue reading “The Happy Prophet”

Feed the Sheep that Come

Doing church in a geographically-remote small town presents no small amount of challenges, none of which is more obvious than the mere numbers of people available for any given church event. Relocating from a metropolitan church which was itself larger than the entire town to which I moved, one could imagine a certain “adjustment” would be required. Looking over the congregation from the pulpit on my very first Sunday, I could see this was an understatement. Continue reading “Feed the Sheep that Come”

The Myth of Pastoral Authority

Buried deep within the pages of the letter to the Hebrews is a verse which is all too often overlooked in its significance…Yet, in its brevity, it describes the pastoral relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, the pastor and the congregants. At one extreme, it touches on pastoral authority, at the other, it affirms the sobering shepherding responsibility of the pastor.

The verse is Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Continue reading “The Myth of Pastoral Authority”

Not So Fast!

One of the mistakes. Let me rephrase that, one of the many mistakes that I have made in the course of my years in ministry is the premature appointment of individuals to leadership. Whether it was to a position of worship leader, a teacher in a Bible study, or even teaching from the pulpit the consequences were…not always so good. We all want to have those positions filled, for back-up, for “variety,” or just to take a little pressure off from us; but at what expense? I do confess, I missed a few of the “obvious ones” along the way, some of them desiring to serve from clearly wrong motives, but I didn’t miss them all. Continue reading “Not So Fast!”

No Less Evil

Blaise Pascal, the famous French theologian and philosopher,  had an adage: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” 300-plus years removed from the quote, I am not certain to what degree he was speaking, but I would still affirm this statement. How often I have seen this played out in the arena of faith! How often have I witnessed evil couched in the raiment of a Pharisee!

Evil is alive and well under the auspices of “Religious Conviction.” Sadly, I must say, though it is not every day I sense myself slogging through the mire of such human depravity, when I have it has often been a little more closely connected to the confines of “the church,” rather than the wallowings of secular environs. Several times I have found myself the target of malevolence cloaked in the auspices of religious piety. People in whom I had trusted. Relied upon. Invested in. And loved. Continue reading “No Less Evil”

Savage Wolves

We should not be surprised by this phenomenon of wolves in the Church, or even caught off-guard. We should just be prepared.

Paul was well aware of this experience. He would see it happen in Galatia as wolves would come in teaching an augmented Gospel contrary to the Truth. And, in years to come he would see his dear Ephesus attacked and hurt. Paul had gone to great lengths to warn the leadership in Ephesus while en route to Jerusalem at the tail-end of his final missionary journey. Paul is desiring to get to Jerusalem, and rather than sail directly to Ephesus, he summons the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him in Miletus. Rather than simply send a letter, he wanted to meet with them, to exhort them face to face. Continue reading “Savage Wolves”

What Does the Wolf Say?

When I was a child there was an engaging learning device put out by a large toy and game manufacturer; it was called the See ‘n’ Say. In effect, it was an analog playback device that, with the pulling of a string, would emit a recording of various sounds in an effort to instruct children. The ones I remember most are the ones with animal sounds. A great little device for house-bound, or city kids who may not have had the opportunity to engage personally with such wildlife or farm animals.

As I think about it one of those animal sounds which was absent from that device was the sound of a wolf. Now, obviously an entire generation did not grow up ignorant of the call of a wolf, but, here on this toy, it was curiously absent. Hey! Incidentally, do they growl? Howl? Yip?…Bark? I am not quite sure…though, I do know they have a call. Continue reading “What Does the Wolf Say?”

The Big Bad Wolf

Over the course of history, throughout the vast ages and pages of literature, the wolf has ravaged its way through the landscape of human events. Wreaking havoc all the way, through various iterations this apex predator has appeared in many fables and faerie-tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, and the Wolf and the Lamb, to name just a few. 

Quite a fitting metaphor of evil and destruction, these efficient denizens of despair have adapted quite well. Wolves are incredibly designed; they are stealthy, corporately conniving, and deathly efficient. Moving in silence, forty-two razor-like teeth perfectly placed in those powerful jaws can make pretty quick work of most prey. Singularly, or as a pack, their goal is the same: to seek, bring down, execute, and devour any target, and at that, they are incredibly skilled. When the prey they seek is soft pink flesh with minimal defense mechanisms, they are seemingly invincible. Continue reading “The Big Bad Wolf”

The Call of “Shepherd”

Image courtesy of The R. A. Fox Society

The Call of “Shepherd”

In my office upon the wall, near the door hangs a picture; it is a gift I received from a friend shortly after entering the pastorate. It serves as a sober reminder of the privileged call which God has placed upon my life. It is a reminder as I leave for the day, and as I return from the battle in which I am engaged – a battle which is consuming, in time and energy, and at times, in casualties.

You see it is a simple picture, perhaps from the early 1920’s of a sheepdog, perched upon a rock formation intently monitoring a flock of sheep, perhaps thirty or so in number, in the dell below. The sheep are intently gazing to the north, the setting sun falling behind the outcropping of trees in the distance. It is a picture by R.A. Fox entitled “A Reliable Guardian.” So, why would a picture like this affect me so?

It is a reminder of the calling God has placed upon me to be an under-shepherd to the flock of Christ. It is a sober alert of the ever-present threat upon the body of Christ in our post-Christian culture, to protect the flock, from the outside, from the inside, and even from themselves.

When God called me to be a shepherd, I believe he was not looking simply for a “leader”; he was looking for a shepherd. He was not looking for a great communicator, speaker, or an orator, catalyst, strategist, CEO type who has been a part of Fortune 500, or facilitator; or even a teacher. He was looking for a pastor who could effectively handle the word of God in his communication, and walk alongside the sheep for the journey. He was not looking for a “strategist to conceptualize, implement and assign analytically synthesized congregational components conducive to systematic holiness paradigms” – once again, he was looking for a shepherd to foster a love of God and others. I am not saying those gifts aren’t useful, or that they may not eventually translate into effective shepherding, but they are not in themselves, shepherding. A shepherd shepherds.

Congregants are not simply components of a church equation, they are people whom God has placed under our care, custody and authority – to love, nurture, and grow into the image of Christ. I think of a Shepherd dog, Lydia, here in Bishop. As a shepherding dog with shepherding in her DNA, and being around livestock it was her routine to surround and motivate all able parties in her scope of influence to move toward the shepherd of the home, my friend Laura. As Laura would walk, or even when she sat Lydia herded chickens, pheasants, cattle, other dogs and yes, even toddlers closer and closer to her master. I remember she even tried to herd me closer to Laura. That was her task, and she took it seriously. Half of the time, I don’t think all those creatures even realized she was very intentional to bring everything around closer to the shepherd of the home, but she did.  I have been reminded of that commission more than once, that it is my privilege as under-shepherd to move God’s sheep, a little closer to the Chief Shepherd.

“Tend my lambs,” “Shepherd my sheep,” “Tend my sheep.” Taken to heart, these are some of the most sobering words of pastoral commission to fall upon any shepherd’s ears. These words of Christ to Peter in John 21:15-18 are still an unfathomable conundrum to me. The difficulty is not solely in understanding their content, but in understanding their desired conduct to affect that obedience; how I am to obey them – feeding and shepherding the sheep in God’s flock.

Somehow, I’m guessing that I am not alone; an understanding of our own great deficiencies hits us all too often.  You don’t have to be in pastoral ministry too long before you become keenly sympathetic to those who have pioneered before you and decided that teaching is more the preferred calling. Or that writing is more in line with leading a serene and peaceful life. It comes as no surprise the discouraging statistics of pastoral “wreckage” strewn alongside the highway of ministry that cause some to find employment in a more secular vocation. If we were to rely on statistics alone, they are certainly against us. Suffice it to say that the career lifespan of a pastor is a challenge.

Coming out of Bible college, or the Academy, I felt that if I could just exposit the word with authority; if I could rightly divide God’s word, people would flock into the church and willfully surrender to the transformational truths of biblical teaching. Coming out of the Academy, we are naively ready to launch into virtually anything shepherding has for us.

I loved seminary, yet one thing it often fails to identify is that the sheep in the Kingdom are a very specialized hybrid-highly intelligent, at times carnivorous, and have an incredible desire to exercise their free wills. I have been lied to, lied about, maligned, ignored, gossiped about, slandered, and threatened, and that’s on a good day – what pastor hasn’t? Moses dealt with this. In Exodus, he is advocating for the sheep who God is desiring to terminate. Yet, only chapters later he is crying out to the Lord to deliver him from the stiff-neck people.

The truth is that, in our humanity, we sometimes minister to people daily who we may not particularly like so much, care for, or are drawn to. We are seeking to lead sheep who do not want to be led; to feed sheep who do not want to eat, and to tend those who by no means want to be tended to. I find it interesting how congregants want to hold pastors to some measure of biblical leadership, yet disallow themselves to be held to any measure of biblical discipleship or stewardship. So effectively, people who do not want to be taught or led, nor accountable. We are discouraged by the empty seats on Sunday rather than encouraged by the one which is filled. We have difficulty recognizing true transformational growth in the flock.

Like Moses, we ask, “Lord, why did you call me?” Sometimes we get to the point where we ask ourselves, “What am I doing?” “What am I doing here?” Or maybe,  “What did I do wrong to get here?”

Like Peter we affirm our love for Christ, yet are ill-equipped to fulfill with complete integrity and faithfulness the mantle of service to the Lord and His flock.

Be that as it may, what an honor it is to be called to feed the sheep that come. Still, we know we have received a privileged call to shepherd his sheep, to walk alongside, to walk them home. But we can’t change the sheep – that is up to the Holy Spirit and the obedience of the sheep. We can’t change the culture of the church, at least overnight. So, we need to be content to change that which we can.

Maybe you are just beginning your sojourn of ministry. Maybe you’ve been on it a while, a little closer to the goal line.  Maybe you’re in a time of blessing, or a time of challenge. Maybe you found the title of this blog intriguing or simply found it because some well-intentioned soul meant to encourage you. Either way, The Shepherd’s Pen is intended to help you, even encourage you in your pastoral journey, and hopefully let you know that others have walked, and are walking the same terrain.

The Anvil of God

On the surface an anvil may not be all that impressive to look upon or technologically advanced, yet this fundamental tool is indispensable to the master craftsman in performing his work. This device is sturdy and intended to make that which is unyielding, yield. With its various shapes and contortions it is the foundation used to mold material into the shapes desired. The end product is a fine work of art, glorifying the artisan.

Growing up I remember my pastor affirming that the Word of God was “the anvil against which our lives were hammered out.”  What beautiful imagery, and how true are those words! God uses His Word as that beautiful delicate instrument of precision to mold us into the vessels He desires. As disciples it is all about Spirit-led biblical Word-of-God formation. The Bible informs us about the person of God, and how we are to live before Him. As we read God’s Word reforms us into new creations. The image into which we are being conformed is the image of Christ. And the change is not superficial but exhaustive- it is transformational, a new creation! Continue reading “The Anvil of God”

Out of Season

I remember well one of the first “big dates” with my wife; it was to a restaurant located on a ship near the beach – a beautiful setting. It was a chilly December evening and we promenaded around the deck beforehand in our formal attire. As I recall we shared the chateaubriand special-for-two as the stewards stood at the ready to attend to our culinary demands. Company, great! Meal, superb! Coffee, amazing! And at the end of it all a complementary “dessert tree” was delivered to our table filled with sumptuous delights which included large, plump, juicy, perfectly formed chocolate-covered strawberries- one of my wife’s favorites. The perfect end to a perfect meal. Continue reading “Out of Season”

Alexander the Coppersmith

If the truth were told, I am sure I would rather write about the sovereignty of God, or the glory of God, or the sufficiency of Christ, or the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If the truth were told I would rather write about the victory we have in Christ, or the living hope that is irrevocably perched upon the horizon of our faith. If the truth were told I may not choose to write about those people in the Bible whose lives were altogether tragic shipwrecks. If the truth were told I may not choose to write about such nefarious individuals as Nadab and Abihu, or Ananias and Sapphira. But, if the truth be told, those stories are placed in the pages of Scripture for our benefit. Continue reading “Alexander the Coppersmith”

Tinkers to Evers to Chance

Back in the early days of the game, baseball enjoyed some pretty special, memorable figures, some of them pretty dominant figures. Most notably perhaps are the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio. Going even further back the likes of Honus Wagner, and Cy Young come to mind. Most of these made their names great on an individual level. For others, it was more of a team effort, like the Dodgers, Giants, or the Yankees.

For a particular trio of men on the Chicago Cubs, it was definitely an elite fraternity of “Tinkers to Evers to Chance.” The order is the call of a baseball announcer navigating the progression of a baseball through the course of a double-play. Tinker was the shortstop, the first to field the ball who then threw to the second baseman, Evers for the first out, and on to Chance at first-base for the second out–double-play. They became such the fodder of double-play lore that they were eulogized in a poem, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” by – Franklin Pierce Adams

These are the saddest of possible words “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs and fleeter than birds Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble
Making a Giant hit into a double
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

They had begun their trio on September 13, 1902, turning their first double-play two days later. They played together with the Chicago Cubs, until 1912. Tinkers and Evers and Chance led the Cubs to the National League pennant 4 times in those years.

Having executed multiple double-plays, they became quite infamous and the poem only added to their popularity; one would think that the comradery between them was something special, that there was a bond both on and off the field, but sadly that was not the case. In fact, there was tension between each other off the field. Relations between Tinkers and Evans were strained; having engaged in a fistfight on the field in 1905, they played 7 more years together winning two World Series, yet not speaking a word to each other… until they patched things up in 1937.

One has to applaud them for the faithful execution of their assigned duties, but could hardly commend them for the way in which they demonstrated unity. I am certain that the fissure between them was felt among the entire team. They worked to perform their task but they did not get along…sad.

How sad it is when those sorts of situations occur in the Body of Christ, when we have been called to work together in concert for the glory of the Lord, and we may do so in part, but…we fail to genuinely demonstrate love for one another. We may be applauded for the faithful execution of our assigned duties but…

In some measure, Christ addresses this component of teamwork, of being in unity. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). The kind of love to which Christ refers is not a synthetic façade of window dressing, but a true love, an authentic regard for the well-being of the other individual. According to these verses, our recognized identity as a follower of Christ is that we love one another.

I am not sure how things look from your corner of the world, but from mine, this kind of love is not happening all too often. If we think we are doing great things for the kingdom of God, gaining victory after victory, but we loathe our “shortstop,” or our “second-baseman,” we are sorely deluded as to our true obedience in Christ.

The first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians 13 are an indictment of this action.

 “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

Obviously, this text covers a broader swath of truth than this article addresses, but we need to evaluate our deeds of service, and our giftings in light of these verses. The pinnacle of service does not solely rest in external acts, but true love. Paul communicates that the fruit of such folly, working together in such a fashion absent of love for our brother, is that he himself is nothing! May I suggest this means a certain element of absolute insignificance to the cause and mission of Christ. May I say that all you do, which is done absent of love, leads to a culmination of nothingness, insignificance…producing no net gain; obviously, failing to meet that high bar of divine command.

Let’s face it church, the great apologetic, the best defense in favor of the Gospel, that God, Yahweh, is the only true God, and has sent Jesus Christ His Son to offset the effects of sin in this world, is the demonstrated unity of the body of Christ (John 17). If the world cannot see that in us, what are the chances that they will believe in the transformational power of the Gospel for their own lives?

I know it’s a pretty high bar, but grab a glove and get into the game.

The world is watching!

Beyond Betrayal

I am convinced that certain things can only adequately be communicated through the eyes of experience. If you have not experienced the fresh air of a tropical island, heard the joy of a baby’s coo, if you have not experienced the loss of a loved one, or even a splinter yourself, then you will find it hard, more so impossible to accurately express that to others. I am convinced the same is true, that one could not adequately communicate the pain of betrayal unless one has walked that very road.

Unfortunately, most of us have tasted of some form of betrayal in our lives, when someone in whom we have invested, someone whom we have trusted, someone whom we have loved, has decisively turned on us. Someone has taken liberties, or broken confidentiality, and intentionally done us harm. For those of us in ministry it may have been an elder, or a cohort in ministry. It could have been someone whom we had placed in a ministerial position. Perhaps, it was someone from the congregation speaking in the shadows. Perhaps our greatest level of betrayal was perpetrated by a family member, even a spouse. Continue reading “Beyond Betrayal”

Come on Now

I get a kick out of the descriptions placed on the back of coffee bags, and wine bottles. In an effort to lure you into buying them, it seems as though some wordsmith is stuck in a tower somewhere stringing together adjectival chains and adverbial superlatives to “communicate” the highest values of any given commodity. Check these out: Continue reading “Come on Now”

All Systems Go

What an amazing sight to see the snow on the Sierras and the Whites. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that although they are very gorgeous on their own, they are also part of a bigger system, the universe. Just think of it, our God is a systematic God. He is the Creator of everything and His creation has such incredible order. Our God loves order!

The snow pack we receive is not just beautiful to look upon but there is purpose. God gave us the mountains. They are a little higher up than the rest of the earth, where it is colder. These mountains are able to sustain the snow pack, sometimes through the entire year. God allows the earth to receive sunlight melting some of the snow. This part of the ecosystem provides much of our water. These mountains are actually part of the entire ecosystem of earth. Along with the rain they function to provide us enough water to drink. What a system! Continue reading “All Systems Go”

Rule of Faith

[This is a piece that I co-authored with my very dear friend, Ed Kruger who has gone home to be with the Lord – I praise the Lord for Ed’s example and heart for the Lord!]

I love working with wood… I remember working on a project with a friend. We were designing a very special piece made from very expensive clear, solid oak. Before I knew it he had glued a few of the pieces together and had them clamped up to dry. Come to find out he had failed to use a square. Anyone who has worked with wood knows if you begin with a project which is “out of square,” it will not be square in the end. Which means that each subsequent addition to the project needs to be individually custom fit costing valuable time and compromising the overall integrity of the effort. It will not be the desired masterpiece, but a hideous eyesore, and a very expensive piece of firewood. Continue reading “Rule of Faith”

Abyss of Accountability

For better or worse, one of the identifying characteristics of Americans is our rogue independent spirit. We pride ourselves on migrating across the sea, establishing our own country, pioneering west and conquering the elements with no one to thank but our humble little old selves (thank you very much). A little arrogant to say the least, and we continue to wave that banner of self-reliance to the world, refusing to be conquered by any, and accountable to no one; my heart grieves to suggest this takes place in the Christian realm as well. Continue reading “Abyss of Accountability”

The Aroma of Christ

One of the true graces of God is the amazing physical world in which we live. Accordingly, the Lord gives us the senses by which we appreciate that world. Eyes to see the millions of shapes and colors. Ears to hear the whispers and tones. Taste buds to savor the savory.  Yet, perhaps one of the senses taken most for granted is the sense of smell. What wonderful smells fill our world!

Fragrances which remind us of a person; just a whiff of the cologne my father used to wear bathes me in memories.

Scents which draw us back to our childhood remembrances; I remember the smell of the fruity vitamins wafting as I opened the bottle.

Scents which call to mind an era; I can still recall the innocence of childhood wonder as I inhaled the smell of freshly baked bread as I toured the factory in grade school. Aromas which prompt our salivary glands to react. Continue reading “The Aroma of Christ”

Chocolate “Colored” Sprinkles

Recently my wife pointed out to me a rather pathetic, but amusing example of how minimal our culture has become. She had received as a gift what we understood to be those great tasting little chocolate sprinkles that you put on top of ice cream or cakes or whatever. Now sometimes, as we all know, those splendid little morsels are not always pure chocolate; sometimes those rascals put mere chocolate flavoring in those things. Well, that’s okay for the most part, in fact, sometimes you cannot even tell the difference between artificial and the real stuff. But these things were simply brown colored grease that made the roof of my mouth slimy.

Come to find out, these are not chocolate sprinkles, or even chocolate flavored sprinkles, but these are chocolate colored sprinkles. You read that right. They were not bursting with real chocolate flavor, or even synthetic chocolate flavor. In fact, they had no flavor whatsoever. All they had to offer was the color of chocolate. This little rip-off in the cake decoration section was only a bottle of brown lard sprinkles. Someone at the corporate level had determined to cut costs, or hassles or whatever, and be so intentionally minimalistic, they offered nothing even close to the real thing. Continue reading “Chocolate “Colored” Sprinkles”

Whack-A-Saint!

Have you seen those games in the arcades or the amusement parks where the little moles pop their heads up from the plastic turf, and the waiting assailant stands ready to pummel the ascending rodent back into terra firma oblivion with a mallet? It’s called “Whack-a-Mole.”

The game begins as the moles slowly appear at irregular intervals at different locations, yet one at a time. The action proceeds to intensify as the varmints pop up at increasingly accelerating intervals, and in multiples. The intent of the assailant is to clobber as many as he can, increasing his score until the moles stop coming up and the game is over. Pretty funny game albeit a little violent perhaps. Continue reading “Whack-A-Saint!”

Fissures of Men

Scripture is particularly clear of the value which the Lord places on unity in the Body of God’s people. Psalm 133:1 gives us just a taste: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” John 17 is the Great Apologetic speaking to the fruit of that unity. In His High Priestly prayer Christ is praying for the unity of the apostles, that it may bear witness to Himself…“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

Note that our unity is anchored in the Godhead, and that evidence of our unity is an evangelical witness to the world of the veracity of Christ…so that the world may believe! The Church grows, in part, as a result of our witness of fellowship! Continue reading “Fissures of Men”