How many pulpits in America would be vacated if Pastors were required to mount the scales before they mounted the pulpit?
Recent research reveals that obesity among Pastors is greater than obesity among the overall population. The church does not tolerate the sins of gossip, greed, or false witness. They should not tolerate obesity due to the intemperate and undisciplined consumption of food and a lack of discipline in exercise and physical fitness. Failure in these areas reflects poorly on the message of the Gospel.
According to Pulpit & Pew, an interdenominational research project on pastoral leadership, clergy work was considered one of the healthier professions in the past, just below teachers in terms of low mortality rates.
Follow the link to a color map of the USA showing the Obesity rates by State.
However, recent data has found the obesity rate in clergy members has climbed to 30 percent.
One of every three American adults is obese
By 2015, 75% of adults will be overweight; 41% will be obese
Google BMI = Body Mass Index. Find out how you are doing in the “Battle of the Bulge!”
Social Media is a blessing and a cursing. Blessing – there is an infinite opportunity to exchange messages with a host of people, some redeemed and some not. That is great. Cursing – this infinite opportunity includes many who are not biblically literate and in fact downright heretical. Their thinking is shaped by some of the influences promoted on this same tool.
Here is where the conflict enters the picture. The text of Scripture, Titus 1:9 includes a command for those who are Elder/Pastor/Shepherds to teach/instruct in SOUND DOCTRINE and to REBUKE those who contradict it.
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
When correction is offered regarding unorthodox or heretical postings the conflict rages. What one regards as a proper REBUKE, others regard as a WITCH HUNT. The Strange Fire Conference hosted by John MacArthur at Grace Community this past October turned a brush fire into an inferno.
REBUKE has many nuances in the original language; bring to light, expose, convince, reprove, rebuke, punish (A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition, p.464, note 42).
The following are my thoughts offered during one of the Social Media Exchanges.
A Word about the “Witch Hunting” accusation that is appearing with greater frequency in Social Media among professing Christians.
First, there are some who are attracted to controversy like bugs to light. There is excessive criticism and perhaps hatred in their post. This should not be.
Second, great (faithful) Leaders are commanded to teach Sound Doctrine and Rebuke those who teach otherwise (Titus 1:9). Doing so IS NOT WITCH HUNTING – - IT IS OBEDIENCE TO THE CLEAR MANDATE OF SCRIPTURE.
Third, a primary test is motive and manner. When I encounter false teaching I must first examine my own heart/eye and make sure there are no LOGS present. Then, I must speak/write with absolute accuracy based on sound exegesis of the text. Then, I must carefully and honestly ‘rebuke’ the offending party/parties.
Fourth my Brothers and Sisters, compassionate and consistent fidelity to the commands of Scripture is NOT “Witch Hunting”. I call upon all who are using this nomenclature to cease and desist. The fall out will be intense but the task is not conditioned by the response of those we speak to in love.
There is Pathology in Theology. When error however obscure is not challenged it ALWAYS grows and eventually explodes into damaging heresy and apostasy.
Responses solicited and welcome. THANKS!
Follow the link to acquire additional insight into this false accusation that exegetical precision is “Witch Hunting”. Anything but.
The following text was written by a Pastor friend of mine (35 years) as he prepared his Sunday morning message. Well worth reading. This kind of friend is a gift of the richest fare!!
Preparing for Sunday’s Message and wrote out the following thoughts on “Following Jesus.”
Just recently, I joined a new gym. I spoke to Andre and he explained the terms of membership. It was much like my previous gym. I could get a basic membership for $25 per month but for a few dollars more I could use the massage machine and bring visitors with me for free. The same approach is used by Amazon; you can sign up for free, but for about $100 a year you can get Amazon Prime that allows you many extra privileges such as free shipping and access to a variety of Movies and Music. For the avid reader you can sign up for Kindle Unlimited that gives you access to hundreds of thousands of Ebooks; you can read and listen to them for $9.99 a month. For another $15 per month you can join Whispersync for voice and seamlessly move between reading and listening to a book. There are probably other services they offer that I still haven’t discovered.
I hope you see the point. In the market place it is not all or nothing but you can decide which services you want and ignore the others. As the consumer, you decide what is good for you and without penalty ignore the parts that are not a fit. This climate has in many ways filtered into the church in America. Many churches have become Amazon clones and offer a variety of services that you freely choose to use or ignore, no questions asked. The lines become a bit blurred here and it is easy to feel the marketing shadow creeping in to shape membership commitments in the church. It is not so easy to say whether this is totally right or wrong.
Let’s take this one step further and ask if there are such options for “Following Jesus.” Can you sign up for the basic package with minimal commitment and be guaranteed a “fire escape clause” but for a bit more get a measure of joy, a sense that life has meaning, and a guaranteed future in heaven. For the really hard core you can sign up for the full membership with discipleship, scripture memory, and even some suffering for Jesus. It is clear that many approach following Jesus much as they choose their Amazon options. Has Jesus offered us these options or are they marketing ploys that religious franchisers use to sell Jesus?
Matthew’s Gospel makes it quite clear that following Jesus is quite different than the familiar marketing model. In fact, it is all or nothing! Jesus said if anyone wants to come to me the terms are not negotiable. You can’t sign up for basic or premium discipleship. You are either in or out! You either follow Jesus completely or you follow your own path (which is really Satan calling the shots without really understanding how he is using you). Every one who chooses to follow Jesus must exercise self-denial, kill the sinful passions that constantly pressure you to conform, and purposely and intentionally follow Jesus without reservation. Luke’s Gospel makes the demands even stronger, unless you hate mother, father, children, and even spouses you cannot be his disciple. Isn’t this a bit too radical??? Don’t we need some balance?
Almost eighty years ago D. Bonheoffer wrote, The Cost of Discipleship to combat such cheap grace. There is no basic membership offered by Jesus but for those willing to follow him at all costs there is life that throbs with his presence and Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I awoke lat night and had difficulty getting back to sleep (unusual for me). I turned on the TV and went to the ‘Church Channels’ on Cable TV. Ugh!!!
Channel after channel presented a wretched distortion of the Truth of the Gospel. There was a clear theme and purpose on every channel with only one exception. That theme was “sow your seed = $$ and get the anointing!” The claim was if you sow into ‘our ministry’ God will multiply your financial condition a 100 fold. The statement almost always was prefaced by ‘I believe’. What some huckster believes is of no importance, especially when that conviction is a total perversion of God’s Word.
For the sake of simplicity and brevity I list what I observed as characteristics of these charlatans.
1) No biblical text – no honest and accurate exegesis of the text.
2) Rabid emotionalism – loud, frenetic and consistently implied threats if you do not do as they ask.
3) High Pressure Tactics – go to your phone NOW; God only acts in the ‘heat of that moment’.
4) A false concept of God’s Anointing – it is so much more than $$ and for His glory not my riches.
5) Distortion of God’s Word – they cite Luke 6:38; pressed down, shaken together, running over.The context of this verse is a command to avoid judging and condemning others. The overflow is God’s marvelous grace and kindness – NOT NOT NOT – $$ filthy lucre.
6) A violation of 2Peter 1:20-21 – private interpretation of Scripture with wretched distortion.
7) Grace Abused – Isa. 55:1-3 God’s gracious call to sinners; Free Grace!
”Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:1-3).
Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror On Every Side. For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword. (Jeremiah 20:1-4) ESV
This passage is classic. Most Pastors that have served more than 5 years in Pastoral Ministry have found themselves immersed in this mind set. Jeremiah charges the LORD with deceiving him (20:7). He threatens to no longer speak the word of the LORD because no one wants to hear it. Pashur had the title of priest but he was a phony. His message was corrupt. His message led the people down the path to destruction and rejection by the God they claimed to love and serve.
Pause for just a moment. Consider the numerous descriptors I listed for ‘church’ in the News Letter. Giving away a Jeep is consistent with the LORD of Glory and the Gospel?
How does the church in which you serve function? Are your people engaging in the marketplace or do they simply ‘invite people to church’ and call that evangelism? Worth thinking about. You may be more like Pashur than Jeremiah. Not good, not good at all!!!
God has always expected His people to read His word
It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes Deuteronomy 17:19 (NASB)
This was speaking of kings in Israel, that they must read the Old Testament Law every day! Obviously, not many of them kept this law, but this was what God wanted.
When do you read the Bible?
Do you read the Bible every day? What about maybe 3 days a week? Do you only read it when you are at church? I know of a number of people who leave their Bibles at the church building where they attend. While some may have other Bibles they use during the week, it is often a sign that they do not read at all during the week. Does that describe you?
If you read every day, how much time do you spend reading? You can read through the whole Bible in a year with only reading about 15 minutes a day, but shouldn’t we give God more time than that? This is how He talks to us! We need to be listening.
We just mentioned one reason—God speaks to us when we read the Bible. This is how we know what our King wants. We must read if we are to know what God wants us to do. We cannot guess what He wants, and we shouldn’t rely on the preachers to tell us what God wants. We can have God speak to us personally through His written word that was made for each one of us.
But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Matthew 22:31-32 (NASB)
Do you see what Jesus said to these people who were living hundreds of years after Genesis was written? It “was spoken to you by God.” The Bible was written to you! Don’t you want to know what it says?
In reading the word of God, we get help in overcoming temptations. There are so many temptations in this world, but if you have a good relationship with God and have been paying attention to what He has to say, you will be equipped to fight them with His help.
If you do not read the word of God, you will never be equipped to help others understand it. How sad would it be for someone who claims to follow the Son of God to live out their lives never able to help another person come to Him. You need to get into the book and learn for yourself.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. Hebrews 5:12 (NASB)
Do you want to know what God wants you to know? Do you want help in fighting temptation? Do you want to help others who are dying in their sins? Read your Bible every day! Learn! Grow.
From Kevin DeYoung – timely and important.
Christians in the West are familiar with apologetics as an intellectual or worldview exercise. We are less familiar with apologetics as a legal defense. This is an unfamiliarity that needs to be quickly remedied.
With pastors facing subpoenas for their sermons and wedding chapels being forced to conduct same-sex services under threat of imprisonment, Christians need a theology of defending themselves in the courts. While we certainly must turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love our enemies when faced with personal offenses (Matt. 5:38-48), we must not assume that defending ourselves—strenuously and sometimes even defiantly—before the governing authorities is inconsistent with being a follower of Jesus or antithetical to the propagation of the gospel.
We think of Acts as the great missionary book of the Bible. And it is: from Pentecost to persecution to Paul’s missionary journeys, we see the word of God go forth from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. But in addition to being a narrative of great missionary advance, Acts was written as a legal defense. Luke was at pains to demonstrate to most excellent Theophilus (likely a Roman official or a member of the societal elite) that Christianity was not hellbent on overthrowing Roman rule and was not in violation of the religious provisions of Roman law. Five times in the last main section of the book (chapters 21-28) we see Paul defending the spiritual and legal legitimacy of his gospel and his ministry: before the mob in Jerusalem (22:1-21), before the council (23:1-10), before Felix (24:1-27), before Festus (25:1-12), and before Agrippa (26:1-32). In these chapters we repeatedly find the word (or some variation of the word) apologia as Paul makes his apology or defense (22:1; 24:10; 25:8; 26:1ff., 24; cf. 19:33). The Apostle Paul in Acts is a missionary, a pastor, and a cultural apologist.
We should note four things about Paul’s defense, in particular about his first defense in Jerusalem (21:27-22:21).
First, Paul had reason to give a defense.
There was strong opposition to the Apostle Paul and his ministry. Part of this was owing to the serious theological differences between the Jews and the Jewish Christians. Part of the opposition was due to personal animus against Paul and part was owing to slander and misinformation. People were ready to believe the worst about Paul (or ready to make up the worst about him). They thought he had brought a Greek into the temple (21:27-29). They thought he belonged to a revolutionary guerrilla group called the Assassins (21:38). It was a perfect recipe for hatred and violent attack.
You can see why Paul was so thankful for those who were not ashamed of his chains (2 Tim. 1:16) and why it was such consolation to the persecuted Christians in Hebrews that Jesus was not ashamed to call them his brothers (Hebrews 2:11; cf. 10:33). There was a cost to associating with people like Paul. Like Jesus, he was controversial, embattled, and embroiled in legal wrangling. Paul did not float above the fray. He never found a way to be so comprehensively nice and invested in social justice (Gal. 2:10) that his enemies patted him on the back, or even left him alone.
Second, Paul was eager to give a defense.
There are times in the epistles where Paul refuses to defend himself (and then goes on to defend himself anyway). He understands that sometimes we get into more trouble by trying to respond to every accusation thrown our way. Jesus didn’t do much to defend himself. But that may not be the best example because his specific mission was to die an atoning death for our sins. The point is: no one should (or even can) defend himself against every opponent, every injustice, or every hurt.
But every is not the same as none. In fact, in the final chapters of Acts, providing a defense for his gospel ministry is Paul’s singular concern. When dealing with the Romans, he does not hesitate to claim his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29) or to let people know he hails from the impressive city of Tarsus (21:39). And when dealing with the Jews, he makes no qualms about emphasizing his Jewish credentials—that they are his brothers and fathers (22:1), that he can speak their language (v. 2), that he was trained by the most influential rabbi of his time (v. 3), that he was full of zeal (v. 4), that his conversion was attested by a devout and well respected man (v. 12), that like the prophet Samuel he was praying in the temple and received a vision (v. 17).
In his first defense in Jerusalem before the Jews, just like in his subsequent defenses before Roman magistrates, Paul is keen to show not only that his message is consistent with the Jewish religion and by divine commission, but that he has not broken any laws and does not deserve the mistreatment he is receiving. The same Paul who was not afraid to suffer in Jerusalem and did not count his life worth anything so long as he could preach the gospel (Acts 20:22-24), was not about to let his legal rights be abridged and the harshest allegations against him go unanswered. Paul understood that to quietly accept injustice could have been simpler and perhaps even personally satisfying (Acts 5:41), but in his case (as in an increasing number of our cases), an unwillingness to defend himself would not have served the cause of the gospel. His silence would not have strengthened Theophilus in the faith and it would not have helped the fledgling church. Paul wanted to show that this new faith was not anti-Jewish and was not inciting rebellion against Rome. Paul claimed his citizenship and challenged the likes of Felix, Festus, and Agrippa so that he might finish his course and bring the gospel to the heart of the Roman Empire. He knew that at times defending the faith means defending your rights.
Third, Paul’s defense was often ineffective.
In Acts 22 we see how monumentally unsuccessful Paul’s brilliant speeches could be. Paul can’t even finish his defense without the crowd crying out for his death (v. 22). He had truth on his side, but truth doesn’t always win out in a court of law, let alone in mob rule. True, Paul had more success making his case to the Romans than before his own countrymen, but even then he never received the strong vindication he deserved. His defense may have been convincing to the Roman magistrates, but they were still content to put political expediency above personal integrity. Acts 28 ends triumphantly with the gospel going forth (v. 31). And yet Paul is still under house arrest (v. 30) and will eventually be killed a few years later under Nero (2 Tim. 4:6).
Fourth, Paul used his defense as an opportunity to preach Christ.
It may look like Paul is obsessed with giving his testimony in the last chapters of Acts. But the only reason he wants to give his testimony is so he can testify to Christ. Time after time, when put on trial, Paul found a way to talk about the resurrection of Christ, about faith and repentance, and about the Messianic identity of Jesus. We can be quick to say “Let’s stop all this fighting, all this controversy, all this culture war stuff, and get on with the work of evangelism” as if Paul’s defense was not also evangelism! More than ever, we must be ready for someone to ask us a reason for the hope that we have–even if they mistakenly believe our hope to be hate.
For Paul, defending the faith was just as important as preaching the faith because he did not see the two as different tasks. He was a missionary at heart. His passion was the proclamation of the gospel. If that meant death, he was ready to die, so long as it was his death and not the death of freedom for the gospel to go out boldly and without hindrance.
Paul was willing for his life to be cut short if the work of the gospel could go on. But so long as the gospel itself was maligned, misrepresented, and unfairly marginalized, he wasn’t about to submit himself to slander or surrender a single civic right. He would keep preaching the Christian gospel. He would keep on defending the religious and legal legitimacy of the Christian faith. And he would not believe for a moment that the two tasks were aimed at different ends.
In the year 1521, Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms, an assembly that was conducted over a period of time for approximately four months.
On April 18th, 1517, when asked to recant his writings, Martin Luther gave this quiet but famous response:
”Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. May God help me. Amen.”