Archives For Shepherding

Norma McCorvey passed away at age 69 on Saturday.

Her journey to notoriety began in June 1969 when she attempted to get an abortion. Her lying failed to secure legal permission, and her scheme to obtain an illegal abortion also ended unsuccessfully. She then gathered a diabolical duo of fee-hungry attorneys to gear up for a protracted legal fight. Fortuitously, the baby reached full term before the menacing lawsuit did, and in 1970 the suit was filed under the alias Jane Roe. The Dallas County DA was Henry Wade, and thus the infamous case was christened Roe v. Wade.one missing

By the time the case popped out of the Supreme Court, the law was on the side of executing unborn people, a monstrous legality that began to rapidly and incessantly devour millions of unborn babies. Legally.

The rest, as they say, is history. And a bloody one at that.

But in 1994, Norma McCorvey flipped sides. She made the acquaintance of pastor Flip Benham who ran a pro-life outfit based adjacent to the pro-choice reproductive health clinic (read: infant abattoir) where McCorvey was working.

On her outdoor smoke breaks she would engage in heated banter with the pro-lifer next door. She eventually began to see him as a caring man, and even agreed to visit his church. Within a year she publicly declared that she had converted to Christianity, and was baptized in a backyard pool on national television.
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February 17, 2017

Forgiven People Forgive

by Mike Riccardi

ForgiveWell, we’re back to our series on dealing with sin in the church from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. If you haven’t read the other posts in this series, I’d encourage you to do so. We’ve been moving through the stages of faithful, successful discipline, and have seen three of them so far. First, there is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary; second, there’s the corporate discipline itself; and third, there is, we hope, genuine repentance. The fourth stage, after there has been genuine repentance, is comforting forgiveness. Paul says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

Here we glean a principle that needs to take root in the soil of every Christian’s heart: where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When a sinner repents, the church forgives. And though the original events of this text lead us to apply this principle first of all to cases of corporate church discipline, we all need to hear this point in light of our own duty to forgive those who sin against us personally. When a sinner repents, Christians forgive.

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RepentanceToday we continue in our series on dealing with sin in the church, in which we’ve been looking to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, which we’ve said provides us with five stages of successful church discipline.

The first of those stages is the sin that makes discipline necessary. In examining Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5, we focused particularly on the corporate nature of sin in the church: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.” Even though the conflict was primarily between one man and the Apostle Paul, sin’s harm is never restricted to the offender and the offended. Because of the essential interconnectedness of the body of Christ, sin in even one part of the body brings sorrow to the entire church (1 Cor 12:26). The spiritual health of the body as a whole depends on the spiritual health of each member, and unrepentant sin in the body of Christ is a spiritual cancer. If left unchecked, sin will infect the whole body until it destroys all spiritual life. Because sin is so serious, it must be confronted and dealt with.

The second stage in this process is the discipline itself, “the punishment which was inflicted by the majority” (2 Cor 2:6). This “punishment” (epitimia) is a legal term that refers to an official disciplinary act, and it is to be carried out “by the majority.” The church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline. If there has been no repentance, the church is instructed to remove the man or woman in question from the fellowship of the body (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:5, 13; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; Tit 3:10). While some might think this to be spiteful or harsh, it is the most loving thing that the church can do for a sinning brother. He needs to be made to feel the error of his ways. Though it may be painful, excluding him from the life of the church may be the only way to induce that godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

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DisciplineOver the past couple of weeks, we’ve been examining what the New Testament says about dealing with sin in the church. To learn how the church is to deal with sin in its midst, we’ve turned principally to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. There, Paul discusses his dealings with a sinning member of the Corinthian church who has now repentant and seeking restoration to the fellowship of the church at Corinth. However, the church is struggling to accept this repentant brother because of the severity of his sin and the way it has affected Paul himself. Paul writes to encourage the church to restore him. In that passage, Paul outlines five stages of successful church discipline (or perhaps better termed, church restoration). Two weeks ago, we took a look at the first stage, which was the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This week, we look to stage number two, which is corporate discipline.

2 Corinthians 2:6 says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.”

The word that gets translated “punishment,” is epitimía. It’s a technical, legal term that in secular Greek refers to an official disciplinary act. And this official act of discipline was carried out “by the majority.” That is to say, the church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline.

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old school immigrationSo, I have never done this before, but I just received an e-mail from a friend who is a politician in the USA, and I punched out a quick reply that I thought I’d post here for your comment to help me think through the issue of refugees, immigrants (legal & illegal).
Disclaimer: I am not American, but am married to one and father of four of them, so I have a keen interest in what happens on the other side of the pond. Naturally, I am removed from all the nuances of the debate, which is why I’m hoping your comments can help elucidate the issue for me.
Another disclaimer: I typed this out 20 mins before the blog went live, so it hasn’t even been proofread by my editor!

Hi Clint,

Have you blogged on the U.S. refugee crisis? If not, are you able to share your thoughts? I’m conflicted on role of church in U.S. versus role of government in this situation. Generally supportive of recent measures to limit refugees based on national security. But empathetic to arguments on the other side. Thoughts?
My reply…

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Pastoral prayer—the part of the worship service where a pastor stands before the congregation and leads them in prayer as part of the worship service—seems to have fallen on hard times.

By pastoral prayer, I mean a pastor (someone whom has been ordained, and is being paid by the congregation for pastoral ministry; 1 Tim 5:17) praying a deep prayer over/for/with the congregation on the Lord’s Day.

Terry Johnson—who wrote When Grace Comes Alive and When Grace Comes Home (two books about theological prayers), points out that through church history, pastoral prayers have been a mark of healthy churches, but particularly during the Reformation. They are common today because they remain embodied (if neglected) in most liturgical churches.   Continue Reading…

SurgeryLast week we began a series on dealing with sin in the church. And as long as there are sinful people in the church—which is to say, always, on this side of heaven—the church needs to be equipped to deal with sin according to the instructions the Lord Jesus left us. And we turn to Paul’s directives in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11 to observe five stages of faithful and successful church discipline and restoration.

This week we come to that first stage, and that is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This passage teaches us that all sin is harmful to the body of Christ. Paul says in verse 5: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.”

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January 18, 2017

Love & Irritability

by Eric Davis
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It was a typical night waiting tables in the fine dining room of the country club. Napkins were creased, flowers centered, and tables angled just right. Then my manager came to me with a warning I’ll never forget.

“Ok, Eric. Mr. So-and-so has a reservation tonight at 6pm.” Since I was newer, I did not know Mr. So-and-so. “You need to be warned about a few things. He doesn’t handle it well if things are not done his way.” The dining room manager proceeded to list a myriad of aesthetic and culinary requirements for Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience. The napkin had to be this way. The waiter had to approach him and his table a certain way. The water had to be poured in a particular manner. He had to be addressed in a certain way and tone. The food had to be set with a particular method. From start to finish, Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience came with several fiery hoops through which the dining staff must flawlessly leap. I was amazed. Working for a bit in fine dining, I was familiar with customer preferences and particularities. But this exceeded them all. “And if you do it wrong,” my manager warned, “you will anger him.”

As bad as all that is, I see too much of Mr. So-and-so in myself in various ways.

“Love…is not easily provoked” (1 Cor. 13:4,5).

Often we think of love in terms of a feeling or emotion. But here, God describes it as a demeanor in which we are not easily provoked towards potentially irritating people and circumstances. This is tough. Life is never lived in the sterile confines of a sinless, utopian laboratory well-removed from the Curse’s numerous provocations. This side of heaven, we are either about to be provoked, being provoked, just having been provoked, or some combination of the three. Everything inside and outside of us has the potential to provoke in one way or another.  Continue Reading…

Dealing with SinA couple of years ago, our church had the privilege of hosting a number of law enforcement officers from our community for morning services. More than 100 police officers who patrol the city of Los Angeles responded to John MacArthur’s invitation to join us for a Sunday morning that, in part, honored their commitment to protecting our society and gave them the opportunity to hear what the Word of God has to say about them: the civil authorities. Pastor John preached on the various institutions that God has raised up for the sake of restraining evil and maintaining order in a society: the conscience, the family, the government, and the church. Each of these God-ordained institutions, he explained, serves to restrain evil and maintain order in a society.

As would be expected, Pastor John focused on the institution of government that morning. But there’s reason to focus on the fourth of those institutions as well. Just as there is a great need for law and order to keep the peace in a civil society, so also is there a need for such law and order in the church. A civil society that has no laws, or that has no system of order to enforce those laws—no system to punish and rehabilitate offenders—is doomed to chaos. So severe is the nature of human depravity that a society of depraved human beings unrestrained by law and order is just unthinkable.

And the same is true of the church. Now, it’s true that our depravity has been overcome by the work of Christ on the cross. It’s true that we who are believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of us, directing our desires and causing us to strive against the flesh, and leading us to walk in righteousness. But those realities are not true for all who enter through the doors of the church on Sunday. Even within the visible church, there are those who believe that they’re saved, but who have not yet turned from their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for their righteousness. And for those who have been born again—even though we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin through the Gospel—we have not yet been set free from the presence of sin in our flesh. Galatians 5:17 reminds us: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Paul says elsewhere, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:21–23).

And so even though we who belong to Christ have been declared righteous in God’s sight on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, we nevertheless strive against the presence of remaining sin in our flesh. It is unhappy but all too familiar reality: Christians sin. And that means that the church needs to know how to deal with sin in its midst. There needs to be law and order in the church—a process for identifying, disciplining, and rehabilitating sinners.

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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Though he was facing a brutal death before the ink could dry, I imagine that the apostle Paul had great joy at the time he wrote those words. Nothing could’ve been more thrilling to him than to be able to finish well. Nothing could’ve put him at greater peace prior to execution than having faithfully run the race in biblical ministry.

I recall sitting before our elders and professors just prior to launching into pastoral ministry: “You are going to have to keep a long obedience in the same direction.” With only eight years of pastoral ministry in the church I serve, I often think about the need to endure, especially as I see men in my generation disqualifying. And even more especially as the Lord shows me my own weaknesses.

For help in ministry longevity, it makes sense to look to those men who, by God’s grace, have weathered decades of the normal ministry storms without sinking. In our day, one of those is Dr. John MacArthur. This February, Dr. MacArthur will have been faithfully shepherding Grace Community Church for 48 years. That’s about 576 months or 2496 Sundays.

Whatever an individual with that track record has to say about ministry longevity is going to be valuable. In a sermon that I have found particularly helpful, Dr. MacArthur draws from the apostle Paul’s life, giving nine characteristics of an enduring ministry (each point will be summarized):

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