Friday, May 24, 2013

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Proverbs 23:12 “Apply your heart to discipline” NASB.

The Lord Jesus not only expects these Disciplines of us, He modeled them for us. He applied His heart to discipline. He disciplined Himself for the purpose of Godliness. And if we are going to be Christ- like, we must live as Christ lived.
Consider the people who will work hard at learning to play an instrument, knowing that it takes years to acquire the skills, who will practice hard to lower their golf score or to improve their sports performance, knowing it takes years to become proficient, who will discipline themselves throughout their career because they know it takes sacrifice to succeed. These same people will give up quickly when they find the Spiritual Disciplines don’t come easily, as though becoming like Jesus was not supposed to take much effort.
1.     There is danger in neglecting the Spiritual Disciplines.
Nothing was ever achieved without discipline; and many an athlete and many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself grow slack. Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; but he left the army because, in spite of all his erudition, he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without
a degree. He began a paper called ‘The Watchman’ which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: “He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one—the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.” In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said himself, “completed save for transcription.” “I am on the eve,” he says, “of sending to the press two octavo volumes.” But the books were never composed outside Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline. William Barclay
a)     By neglecting the Spiritual Disciplines we face the danger of bearing little spiritual fruit. The mere presence of spiritual gifts, however, does not guarantee abundant fruitfulness. Just as with natural gifts, spiritual gifts must be developed by discipline in order to bear spiritual fruit.

2.     There is freedom in embracing the Spiritual Disciplines.
The Spiritual Disciplines, which many see as restrictive and binding, are actually the means to spiritual freedom. The Disciplines are the “Door to Liberation.”
We can illustrate this principle by observing the freedom that comes through mastery of any discipline. Watching a Christopher Parkening or a Chet Atkins play guitar gives the impression that these guitarists were born with the instrument attached to their bodies. They have an intimacy and a freedom with the guitar that makes playing the thing look easy.
We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom . . . that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to dis- cipline his body by regular exercise and abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endur- ance. With one concerted voice, the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life: Discipline is the price of freedom. Elton Trueblood
 “Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward, of discipline.” Elisabeth Elliot
3.     Freedom is the reward of discipline.
What is this freedom of Godliness? Those who are “free” to quote Scripture are those who have disciplined themselves to memorize God’s Word. We may experience a measure of freedom from spiritual insensitivity through the Discipline of fasting. There is a freedom from self-centeredness found in Disciplines such as worship, service, and evangelism. The freedom of Godliness is the freedom to do what God calls us to do through Scripture and the freedom to express the character qualities of Christ through our own personality. This kind of freedom is the “reward” or result of the blessing of God upon our engagement in the Spiritual Disciplines.

But we must remember that the full-grown freedoms of discipline-nurtured Godliness don’t develop overnight or during a weekend seminar. The Bible reminds us that self-control, such as that expressed through the Spiritual Disciplines, must persevere before the mature fruit of Godliness ripens. Notice the sequence of development in 2 Peter 1:5-8—“and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” Godliness is a lifelong pursuit.
There is an invitation to all Christians to enjoy the Spiritual Disciplines. All in whom the Spirit of God dwells are invited to taste the joy of a Spiritual Disciplines lifestyle. Discipline without direction is drudgery. But the Spiritual Disciplines are never drudgery as long as we practice them with the goal of Godliness in mind. If your picture of a disciplined Christian is one of a grim, tight-lipped, joyless half-robot, then you’ve missed the point. Jesus was the most disciplined Man who ever lived and yet the most joyful and passionately alive. He is our Example of discipline. Let us follow Him to joy through the Spiritual Disciplines.

By DONALD WHITNEY, Navpress, Colorado Springs

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Exposition of 1Peter 5:1-4

1Peter 5:1-4 ESV
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory

Have you ever wondered, what are the terms of service for your pastor? Some of you do not quiet know what we do within the week. I remember a relative of mine, asked me,  "What do you do?" "A pastor", I replied. "And what do you do within the week – a pastor works only on Sundays!" 
So, have you ever wanted to know what is it that the Lord expects of me as a pastor in as far as you are concerned?
There is evidence to show that the care of pastors to their flock will be proportional to their care of the Lord. This is why Peter himself describes Himself as a fellow elder being a witness of the sufferings of Christ and a partaker in the glory that will be revealed. It is also worth noting that, where Peter confessed his own love for Christ is also where the Lord charged Him to shepherd the flock of Christ. Love for Christ will always rekindle love for Christ’s sheep since these are the ones for which He died. Love for the Lord will always motivate pastors to imitate the care of the Good Shepherd.
You need to know what is expected of your pastors, for a number of reasons:
1.     You are expected as a church to choose your pastor – therefore, you need to know who qualifies and who doesn’t, . The qualifications are laid down in the pastoral letters so that members also may be able to know who is fit to be their pastor. It is also a parameter through which a man may evaluate themselves.
2.     Secondly, you ought to know what each one of them is required to do - if we are fulfilling our roles as your pastors so that you may be able to evaluate us.
3.     Finally, the Lord may be leading you into the office of the eldership and so it is always good for you to consider what is expected of you.
As your elders, we are expected by the Chief Shepherd who owns the flock to be shepherds over the church in His instructions:

1.   To shepherd the flock of God

Pastors are called upon to do the work of a shepherd to the people described as the flock of God. Shepherding is the word from which we get the word pastor. This means that they are to provide for the needs of the sheep. Very central to the work of the shepherd is the feeding of the flock – whereas false shepherds are always condemned for taking from the flock to feed themselves (Ezek. 34:3), Good shepherds, who are the under-shepherds of the Chief-Shepherd who owns the flock, strive in order to lead them where there is green pastures and still waters. The food described here is faithful Biblical teaching by which the sheep grow.
Peter earlier on said that, “…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” and this is the good news or the gospel that is preached to you (1:23, 25). So that, Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (2:2)
The shepherds also protect the flock from the enemies. Elders are to guard against the wolves (false teachers), who at times creep stealthily to steal, kill or destroy the flock. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to guard against the wolves that circle the flock and may appear in the midst of the sheep. These are the false teachers who twist the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. It is therefore the work of the elders to be there to help the flock from the marauding enemy who is the devil – he is ever prowling around looking for someone to devour.
The shepherd will be there, always to care for the flock that He has been entrusted by the Chief Shepherd. Like David the shepherd, he will kill any lion or wolf or bear that attacks the flock of Christ. He will risk his own life for the sake of the flock. He will always carry the rod and the staff for these two functions. Faithful shepherds do more than care for the flock in the fold, like the Saviour, they are seeking with Him those lost sheep. They witness to those they interact with and seek to bring them under the fold of the Lord – the church.
And because He has been entrusted with the flock, he is to tend the flock in the manner that the Lord has by His instruction prescribed. He is to do it with all humility knowing that he is an under-shepherd who will at some point give an account for all the work done towards the flock of Christ. This involves binding the broken-hearted, the lame, the sick, the injured, those who have been attacked by the enemy or by other sheep. He is to be on the look-out for the sake of the sheep.
How do you evaluate your pastor? By his willingness and eagerness to serve you even when it is inconveniencing him! He is to feed, protect, seek and tend the flock very willingly and eagerly. A pastor is not forced to tend the flock – he does it willingly and eagerly. He is happy to do His work without complaining about time spent, or the resources put into it, or the discomforts that come with it. Pastors who grumble and complain over their work are unable to do what the Lord wants of His flock. It is for this reason the exhortation is, exercising oversight, Christ very willingly lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). You should always ask if we are being good shepherds for you as seen in our willingness to serve you. It is also shown in our eagerness not to serve you without asking for money as we see these days. When I mention that I am a pastor, many think that the next thing would be to ask for money from them, especially when I give them my phone number!
On the same passage in John, the Lord went on to say that he knows His sheep, and the sheep know Him well enough just as He is known by the Father and knows Him! Then He added that a good shepherd will also look for more sheep that are missing. The point is that the pastor is engaged in the work of tending the flock that the Lord has given him and also adding some more to them.

2.   To shepherd the church by exercising oversight over the flock as God wants

The second duty outlined for pastors is to provide oversight over the souls of the flock. We read that the manner in which the pastors are to shepherd is by, exercising oversight. It is from here the word overseer or bishop is obtained. Pastors are not only to feed and protect the flock as well as add some more, but they are also to function as overseers or bishop. That is exercise God-given authority to make sure that the church of Christ is run in an orderly and disciplined manner.
What does it mean to exercise oversight? This is actually the manner in which he is going to shepherd the flock – it is by exercising the authority of Christ by His Word. Authority is given to pastors by the Lord and so the church is called upon to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. (Heb 13:17). They keep watch over you as men who will present your accounts. Do we think of our pastors as those who will stand before God and explain why they let you be the Christian that you are? Do you see the reason why you are to obey what they tell you? Serving as overseers, is an awful thing especially you are to do it in a manner that that is ‘as God would have you’. There is a way that God wants His church, described in this passage as the flock of God. This is exactly the way the elders are to rule the church to become. It is for this reason you are to obey, respect and honor your elders in word and deed.
The staff and rod that the pastor rules the church is the Bible in which is the rule of Christ. If those in church authority add or subtract from the Word of the Lord they are unable to fulfill this function, and most of the time end up making themselves lords over the conscience of others as it happened in the Roman Catholic. But we are told that we are not to exercise the oversight in a manner that is domineering or lording it over the believers. We do not control your lives – the Holy Spirit does. We are no tyrants or taskmasters. We are fellow heirs of the glory to be revealed. We are here to help you become what Christ would like you to become. This is only possible through use of the Scriptures.
But a true elder serving the Lord is far from being a lord or master. He is to serve not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have him. He humbly obeys the Lord who He is serving in His church. He is not to take an advantage of the flock by obtaining money from them in a shameful manner. This is what is happening with pastors all over the world – they are ever asking for this money or the other – love offering, wave offering, free will offering, ‘seed’, anointing offering, the priests offering etc. Shockingly, people give them!
I have always said as a rule of the thumb that, any pastor who keeps on demanding this or the other money from his congregation is a false teacher – he is too occupied with money that it is not possible to be faithful by definition. Paul warns of the last days when preachers will be exactly that:
“… there will be times of difficulty, where people will be lovers of self, lovers of money … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. … For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, (2Tim 3:1-6) We are very clearly told what to do – we are to avoid such people.
Where you see a preacher or a pastor who is calling people to “give, give, give…” like a leech, beware that such may be the ones being described by Paul in this passage. They are cunning bloodsuckers who capture weak people and convert them into their ATM machines!  
Some translations call shameful gain, filthy lucre because it is filthy – it is a soiled means of gain. How is it not soiled money if a person will ask you to give him money so that he could pray for you – prayers for sale? How is it not a shameful gain where people are called to give money because someone has purported to perform a miracle? At best they should know that free they have received and free they shall give (although I think that mostly, there are no miracles performed).
Peter calls Jesus Christ the Shepherd and the Overseer of our souls (2:25). This means that Peter thinks of oversight in terms of a shepherd’s tending the flock. It is shepherding in terms of a shepherd’s watchful care for the sheep. He is the Guardian. Pastors are bishops because the Holy Spirit has appointed them as we have it in Acts 20:28, Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”  Therefore, the pastor is exercise this mandate as one sent of God to do His will – to care for His flock or heritage.
The work of pastoring is particularly difficult because the pastor is called upon to rule flock very graciously, with love, with care, very gently and yet with authority. The administrative work in the church, more than anything else is the most tasking. It is far easier to preach than to deal with many difficulties that affects the flock. It is particularly at this is the point where many elders fail because instead of being those who oversee the souls of people, they become task masters by domineering and lording it over the sheep. This comes because of pride that can be so tempting because it comes unnoticed.
Nonetheless, submission to the elders is needed for the good of the whole church. Christ has called some men to be those who rule under Him so that order and discipline is maintained in the church. You notice that where there is no willingness to submit to this rule, leaves the elders very discouraged.
There is a time when I have felt like quitting the ministry – because I have wondered, why a brother or sister in Christ may be so uncooperative when all I am seeking to do is make him/her a better Christian conformed to the likeness of Christ. Why would someone love sin even when instructed that it is going to bring him to destruction is not clear to me. But then this is why the Lord gave some the grace to be willing to serve others in the church.

3.   To shepherd the flock by providing an example to the flock

This passage describes the work of the pastor and is a progression of thought in the manner in which the work is done. The work itself is described as being done by shepherding or pastoring or tending the flock of God. As you do the pastoring work by exercising oversight by the elders being examples to the flock.
Being examples means being models of excellence in speech, in word, in deed, in faith, in love, in management etc. This is not to say that the pastors are excellent and perfect, but it is to say that they have very deliberate efforts in order to be good examples to the flock.
No one should be ordained or set apart to be a pastor who has gaping holes in his life. He who has his life in disorder will lead the church in confusion. One who mismanages his family will run down the household of God. He who has no reputation will shame the church and the name of Christ. He who is drunkard, will corrupt the church of the Living God.
Writing to Timothy, Paul told him that he has provided him an example in terms of his teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions and sufferings. He then told Timothy to “… set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1Tim 4:12 ESV). He wanted him to continue in these things (2Tim. 10-11a, 14). He continued to exhort him to be sober-minded, to endure sufferings and to do the work of an evangelist. In an earlier letter he had encouraged him to keep a close watch on himself and on the doctrine. To persist in the truth so that he would save both himself and his hearers.
What is the manner in which this work is to be done?
To be honest with you it is a tall order to be called to the ministry. You meet with sheep who are not willing to be shepherded – they are unwilling to heed the formative shepherding in the word of God that is brought, so that the same truths have to be repeated privately. There is no difficulty many times when there are no problems, but when problems come and we gently rebuke you, that is when you start to develop a negative attitude and if pushed, it becomes a bigger problem. I know a lady in the church, who I have rebuked many times having caught her in sin, so that she no longer greets me (I wonder why she still wants to remain in the church because with such an attitude, it is virtually  impossible for her to benefit from my ministry).
 Always be assured of our genuine love and care for your spiritual well-being. Never doubt our motives we know that we are here to serve you. There are those who are not willing to heed this exhortation and so after spirited efforts to bring them back to the truths, you realize that they are not eager to come back, and so discipline has to be recommended by the elders, and is executed by all. They will neither heed the word nor see the deed in the example given.
I beseech you to know that the reason why we pursue you, is not because we have the proverbial axe to grind –we have far too much to do to engage in that. Rather it is because we are concerned for your welfare. You need to know that we have your welfare at heart. We want to present you to God unblemished and without wrinkle. But when you have fallen in love with sin or the devil, you are blinded so that you do not see the good that we are wishing you.
You need to realize that we are watching over your souls as those who will give an account before the Father. What are we going to say when you make it so difficult for us that you will not eagerly accept to be corrected? What would be the effect on the pastor where the flock is not heeding the teaching, the correction, the rebuke and the training in righteousness? He will be discouraged and depressed because in as far as he is concerned, he is doing the best to present you worthy before the Chief-Shepherd.
You therefore need to consider how you can be an encouragement to us as your pastors. I thank God for many of you. This last week I got a call from one of the brethren to encourage me because some incidence so much discouraged me and he knew about it. He understood what I was going through and he called to tell me that he was with me in prayers through the situation. How many times have you ever sort to encourage your pastor in word and in deed? Even to say that you are praying for him?
Pray for me that I may be able to do the work that the Lord has called me to do with all diligence. It is particularly difficult for us when you come with accusations. Most of the times it is because you did not quite understand what was meant. But when you are hundred percent sure that we have your welfare at heart, then you would be more supportive.
May the Lord help us to be faithful in His service as we bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things and to never be tired to do the work knowing the reward that the Lord has for us. This is because the joy of the pastor is not that he will get a salary at the end of the month (although this is your way of showing honor to your pastors). The joy of the pastor is first to endure sufferings with Christ and then to be a partaker of the glory of God – and then to receive unfading crown of glory when the chief Shepherd appears (v. 4). The joy of the pastor is to see the flock becoming competent in godliness and good works. My joy as a pastor is to see you taking up responsibilities in the church to help other because that shows growth, it shows maturity, it shows your commitment to the Lord. I need to look forward to the time when I will appear before the Lord, give a good account of how I worked for your spiritual good and receive this wonderful reward of the unfading crown of glory from the owner of the church.
I finish by telling you like Paul, that “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2Cor 1:6)