Archives For Shepherding

Dear (usually young) single male,

I have been asked this same question by many of your ilk. To be more honest than I’d be if I were posting this answer on a blog, I confess I have made that same enquiry myself. The conventional wisdom I received was that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is true, but some beholders are idiots. I was one of them.couch potato

The answer is now so obvious to me; but it is because I can still remember the days before I got married twelve years ago that I don’t want to make too much fun of you. so, here are five principles I’ve learned you might find helpful.

 

1. Know Thyself

As the ancient Delphic maxim goes, you must have self-awareness to avoid much frustration. One mentor proffered this rather opaque aphorism:  “If you want to shop on aisle ten, you need to stop looking like you belong in aisle one.” I’m still not sure exactly what that means—is there a rating system to the aisles in grocery stores?— but I stewed on that wisdom til I realized he was saying: “If you want to date a cute, smart, well-dressed, well-groomed, intelligent gal, then lose the earring, get a haircut, wash your clothes more often than you do, stop stuffing your face, trade your PlayStation for a library card, and try breathing through your nose.”

Many young men are oblivious as to what league they are trying out for. If you want to marry a godly woman, start by becoming a godly man. And if you’d prefer her to be easy on the eyes try becoming a bit more presentable yourself.

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There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

candle burnt out1. Burn out.

Some men don’t last in the ministry because, as Maverick was warned in Top Gun, “You ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.” In their defense, most pastors who burn out are demanding more from their bodies, not out of ego, but out of zeal for the ministry.

George Whitefield, for example, was told by his doctor to take it easy and refrain from preaching to preserve his extremely precarious health. That night he was invited to preach the gospel to an audience in the house in which he was convalescing. He promptly hauled himself out of bed, and preached his guts out at full tilt to a packed house until the candle burned out. He then retired to bed and died.

Whitfield had responded to the chiding of his doctor, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” Which brings us to another way pastors lose their pulpits.

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When other people treat us badly, or backstab us, or wrongly speak ill of us, how are we to respond?

Jeremiah Burroughs, in The Rare Jewel of Contentment, answers that question by reminding us that, even when others mistreat us, it is no excuse for growing anxious, angry, or discontent.

He says this:

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“I think I could be content with God’s hand,” says one, “So far as I see the hand of God in a thing I can be content. But when men deal so unreasonably and unjustly with me, I do not know how to bear it. I can bear that I should be in God’s hands, but not in the hands of men. When my friends or acquaintances deal so unrighteously with me, oh, this goes very hard with me, so that I do not know how to bear it from men.”

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August 15, 2014

Law and Grace

by Wyatt Graham

Schütte_&_Pöppe_Fabrik_hauswirtschaftlicher_Maschinen_Hannover-Linden_Rechnung_1909-01-16_Rückseite_Detail_IIIIIIIIIIBalancing God’s grace with his commands can overload even the most sincere Christian. And it’s not only lay believers who struggle with this balance. Recently, Christian leaders vigorously debated how to balance law and grace in the Christian’s life. Some argued that Christians should live their life solely by grace, while others advocated that both grace and law should guide a person’s life.

You’ve probably experienced the practical side to the debate in your life. Recall sinful behavior that you struggle with, and which you want to overcome. Perhaps you struggle with pornography, recurring anger, or even slothfulness. Whatever your struggle is, you’ve probably tried many different ways to overcome it. Do you rely on grace and turn to God’s commands in the Bible or create a system of rules that guide your eyes away from your ailing sin? Or, do you turn solely to God’s grace to overcome this sin? Put another way, do try to find some command in the Bible to tell you what to do, or do you rely on God’s grace even if you accidentally do something against God’s will?

I have seen both tactics take place in lives of people around me. I have observed people struggling with bitterness run to Scripture and locate all of the verses that directly apply to that area and hang them around the house, and start to memorize them. These verses often are commands to put off, followed by a command towards the opposite godly trait. After creating these “rules”, grief and remorse can often roll down upon them and refuse to leave—taunting them that they the uttermost sinner who will only ever wallow in this sin and never conquer it.  Continue Reading…

At the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) annual meeting last October the membership voted to change the name to Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). While a name change is not that significant, the attitude and approach of the organization has been refreshing. People’s problems are solvable only through the truth of God’s word and this ministry is poised to help those in need.

Under the new leadership of Heath Lambert, ACBC will launch a conference at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. Scheduled for October 6-8, this conference will speak to the critical issue of our day: “The Gospel & Mental Illness.”   Continue Reading…

I came to faith in Christ when I was eighteen-years-old. I knew that the previous way I had handled dating relationships was sinful, and I also knew that I was not spiritually mature in any real way—and thus I was not ready for marriage.

So instead of finding a wife, I set out to find other Christians my age who were in love with Jesus, and who really wanted to maximize their singleness for the glory of God. We formed a group that was committed to NOT dating, so that we could be fully committed to serving the Lord in the church. Our pastor referred to us as—you guessed it—“bachelors till the rapture.”

In fact, he (jokingly?) gave us a code of conduct to live by.

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In today’s post, I would like to briefly consider one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of the most popular verses in American evangelical culture today.

It has been printed on posters and inspirational wall art. A quick internet search reveals that you can buy key chains, rings, buttons, t-shirts, stickers, postcards, bracelets, handbags, and other Christianized trinkets with the words of this verse emblazoned, embroidered, or embossed upon them. This verse even gained some notoriety among college football fans a couple years ago when a championship quarterback sported the verse on the glare-reducing strips he wore under his eyes.all_things_football

But the irony is that, by taking this verse out of context, many people have actually turned it on its head—making it mean the opposite of what it actually means. They have turned it into a slogan of personal empowerment—a declaration of self-achievement, ambition, and accomplishment. For many, this verse has been trivialized into some sort of motivating motto for material prosperity, career advancement, or athletic success.

But in reality it is nothing of the sort.

By now, you may have guessed that the verse I am describing is Philippians 4:13. There, the Apostle Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Now, if we read Philippians 4:13 in isolation, apart from its context, it’s possible to see why so many take it as a declaration of personal empowerment.

Out of context, the “all things” seems like it could refer to whatever someone might want to accomplish—from winning a football game to losing weight to getting a new job to gaining material wealth. Out of context, it is often treated like a spiritual boost of self-confidence that can be applied to any ambition or aspiration in life.

But in context this verse has a very specific, defined meaning—one that most Americans don’t want to hear about, but one that is very important for us to remember as believers. Continue Reading…

Church discipline (Matt 18:15-20) is often messy, costly, and accompanied by damage. The pain experienced is typically unmatched when a professing believer must be publicly put out of the local church.

Even so, when practiced biblically, it is consistent with biblical love, care, and obedience to Christ. Mark Dever rightly says that church discipline is “a loving, provocative, attractive, distinct, respectful, gracious act of obedience and mercy, and that it helps to build a church that brings glory to God.” Along those lines, a friend of mine was biblically disciplined out of a large church and to this day he confesses that it was one of the best things that ever happened to him. But more importantly, it’s a matter of non-negotiable in God’s kind of church.

perilousNow, the existence of church discipline in a church does not mean that church is a biblical church. It’s a process that is sometimes abused. However, a refusal to practice it is a certain red flag. It’s one thing if a church leadership has not been practicing church discipline and is attempting to implement it. But it’s quite another thing if a church refuses to practice it. That refusal is symptomatic of other problems, making it an unsafe church.

Here are 10 perils common among churches that will not practice church discipline on you:

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I doSince becoming a pastor I have had the privilege of conducting countless weddings. The first few were easy decisions: I checked my schedule and if I was available, I agreed to perform the ceremony. That’s because the first weddings I was asked to do were young, chaste, Christian couples in our church whom I knew well and I was delighted to be part of their joyful day. But then I began to receive requests from complete strangers whose situations required some more discernment than a simple, “Yup, I’m free that Saturday.”

Although we covered the theory in seminary, it wasn’t until I was in the trenches, with no professor to grade my answer, that I was faced with deciding which weddings I would consent to do and which I would not. When there were families and friendships involved, I began to realize this wasn’t theoretical, or target practice anymore; we’re playing with live ammo. And taking a stand can set off some explosive emotions.

Here’s seven scenarios I’ve encountered in ten years of doing weddings, and where I stand on saying “I do…”

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September 1, 1939 was the first day of Autumn in Europe. It was also the first day of World War II. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, a series of defence treaties catapulted the Allies–Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Egypt, and later USA– into an inexorable confrontation with the Axis (Germany, Austria, Italy, and later Japan).sprouting

One visible sign that the United Kingdom was at war was that key government buildings in London were fortified with thousands of sandbags, meant to absorb enemy gunfire, and protect the walls and foundations from the percussive shock of bomb blasts. Armies were mobilized, theatres were closed, night life was put on indefinite pause, and the population of Europe nervously awaited Hitler’s next move.

And do you know what happened next? Nothing. For all of September Hitler did nothing aggressive so the Allies did nothing defensive. Perhaps Chamberlain had been right and Hitler, like an overfed dragon, was now appeased by the hearty chunk of Europe he had already consumed.

And do you know what happened in October? Nothing. Then, November, December, January, March, and April all ticked by, uneventfully (although Norwegians would rightly decry my definition of “uneventful”). Compared to what had been anticipated after the First World War, all was quiet on the Western front.

In France Edward Daladier was given near dictatorial wartime power to conscript labor, but he elected not to. Factories that could have been making ammunitions, still cranked out civilian consumer goods, food remained un-rationed, as did gasoline, ski slopes were reopened to tourists and the Cote D’Azure resorts and night clubs in Paris were soon back in full swing. French soldiers were even granted leave to go home until they were needed.

sandbags in londonIn London, well into 1940, idle soldiers were seen napping on deck chairs in Hyde Park and casually feeding the ducks. King Lear was still on show. The Times newspaper had nothing to report about the war and turned it’s attention to the return of migrating swallows and cuckoos to the British Isles.

Alfred Duff Cooper made his fatuous announcement to an American audience that Britain and France had, “found a new way to make war without loss of human life.”  One unpopular Cassandra was Winston Churchill, who passionately warned the Allies not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

And then, one day in May 1940, after nine months of almost no action… something ominous occurred in London: the sandbags, which had fortified the walls of government buildings, all began spontaneously to burst.

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