- Servant Leaders
- Pastor’s Corner
The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy who was left in Ephesus to pastor and shepherd the flock. His letters, First and Second Timothy gives the reader some warnings, instructions, and reminders. No doubt the Church of Jesus Christ has come on some hard times recently. The average church in America is approximately 80 in number. COVID has also
had some devastating effects on the Church, with some members choosing not to return.
We get a close-up view of what the Early Apostolic Church looked like from the writings of 1st and 2nd Timothy. Do our churches today resemble the early Church at all?
Here are some Warnings, Instructions, and Reminders given to young Timothy and us today:
• First, the great Apostle Paul who planted the Church in Ephesus and labored there approximately two years had some very specific warnings for Timothy. Even as Paul was departing from Miletus, he sent for the Elders of the Church in Ephesus and gave this warning – “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you Overseers to care for the Church of God…I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock and from among your own selves will arise men speaking ‘twisted things’, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30)
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy often of the dangers of false teachers infiltrating the Church of God. (See I Timothy 1:3-4, 20 and 2 Timothy 4:14-15)
False teachers with their teachings were evident then as they are now (see Matthew 7:15-20). Therefore, we must be vigilant in Christ’s Church, especially Pastors and Elders.
• Secondly, Paul gave instructions for the Church of Christ. This gives us some framework for what the Church then and now should be concerned with.
1. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (I Timothy 1:15) This is one of Paul’s trustworthy statements.
“God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved.” (I Timothy 2:4) The Church should be praying for the lost to be saved.
The Church is called to be His witness to a lost world (Acts 1:8).
2. The Church should be praying privately and corporately. Are we? (See I Timothy 2:1, 8; Matthew 6:5-15)
3. The Church should be a “pillar and foundation of the Truth.” (I Timothy 3;15)
Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Does the Church know?
4. The Church should be a place that teaches and exemplifies godliness, character, and integrity. Christlikeness “in speech, conduct, love, faith, purity” – “practice these things” (I Timothy 4:12, 15)
Is the Church practicing these things?
5. The Church is to have order and structure through godly leadership. (I Timothy 3:1-13)
These qualified servants are to teach, equip, and serve the community of believers. “For our God is a God of order and peace.” (I Timothy 5:1-22)
• Thirdly, Paul gave reminders – Timothy was to remember his calling and his good confession before the Church (I Timothy 1:18-19)
Timothy, remember to “share in suffering as a good soldier.” (I Timothy 2:3)
Remember Jesus Christ risen form the dead.
Remind the people of these things and to charge them not to quarrel about words which do no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (I Timothy 4:2-3)
If this was the case back in their day (64-65 A.D.). How much more should we be careful of what goes on in Christ’s Church in 2022?
Let’s not reinvent the Church but instead learn from the early Church.
Living Before the Face of God
Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher
Despite warning signs, many American Christians fail to recognize the dangers and even fewer know what they can do to resist. Meanwhile men and women who survived communist oppression have been sounding the alarm that their souls and their liberties are already at stake.
In his excellent book, “Live Not by Lies”, Rod Dreher explains why it is so hard for us to recognize the threat of totalitarianism in our own time. He lays out the steps for resistance and shares stories of modern-day dissidents who preserved their faith and their integrity during a time of tyranny.
Dreher, based his title from Russia’s Aleksander Solzhenitsyn words and writings, “How to Live Not by Lies”. The basis for this book is found in the opening pages, “We cannot hope to resist the coming ‘soft totalitarianism’ if we do not have our spiritual lives in order.” This is the message of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the great anti-communist dissident, Nobel Laureate, and Orthodox Christian. He believed the core of the crisis that created and sustained communism was not political but spiritual.
I highly recommend all Americans and Christian believers read this book and be informed to act.
“When A Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany” (Part 2)
By Erwin Lutzer
In Lesson #1, “When God is separated from government, judgment follows.
Lutzer quotes Hitler’s remarks to Rev. Martin Niemoller, “You confine yourself to the Church. I’ll take care of the German people.”
It should be noted that one of the great dangers to any nation, then and now, is for Christian citizens to become distracted or preoccupied with oneself or the Church thus allowing, permitting government officials no accountability to its citizens they serve.
The following is an eyewitness account of how some members in the Church in Germany reacted to Nazism in their time. Ask yourself the question, “what would you have done?”
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. we became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars!
Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.
Years have passed and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.”
Lutzer then quotes A. Dostoevsky, the former Russian writer and Christian thinker, “When God does not exist, anything is possible.”
We, as citizens in America, are quickly entering into a new realm of a godless society and loss of freedoms. Will we wake up before it is too late? – that is the question.
May we once again ponder the words, of Sir Edmond Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil – is that good men do nothing.”
Early in Jesus’ ministry, he spoke the following words to a small group of His disciples describing how they and we should live:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
When A Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany (Part 1)
By Erwin Lutzer
This little book of 141 pages was given to my wife from a friend to read and return. I ended up reading it cover to cover in a few days. I made the mistake of reading it with my highlighter in hand. I have since bought a replacement copy from Moody Press to return to her friend.
I have always enjoyed listening to Erwin Lutzer speak and his writings. His historical research in this compelling book is amazing.
“Soul searching, troubling, challenging, concerning…” All words that come to mind as I read this book. If you are into a good romance novel to allow your mind to escape to another time, this book is not for you! But if you are a concerned Christian citizen of America, concerned for the Church, concerned for your future and the future of your children – then this book is a MUST read!
We are living in the day when history is being re-written and revised to reflect what some on the left would have us believe and embrace. A people that “forgets” or are “ignorant” of past history are bound to permit and repeat the same mistakes. This book is about learning from the history of the German people and the German church.
The Seven Lessons described in this book are as follows:
Lesson #1: When God is separated from government, judgement follows.
Lesson #2: It is always the economy.
Lesson #3: That which is legal might also be evil.
Lesson #4: Propaganda can challenge a nation.
Lesson #5: Parents – not the state- are responsible for a child’s training.
Lesson #6: Ordinary heroes can make a difference.
Lesson#7: We must exalt the Cross in the gathering darkness.
It is my desire to elaborate on these Seven Lessons from “When A Nation Forgets God” in upcoming articles.
What Christian is not familiar with the famous parting words of our Master before He ascended back to His throne in heaven:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” ~ Matthew 28:19
Throughout the centuries of the Christian Church, this has been referred to as the Great Commission. Jesus is commissioning His original eleven disciples who then passed the mantle of Disciple-Making to the Apostolic Church. But do we really believe it? If we do, wouldn’t we be making disciples on a regular basis? Has the Church in America fallen into the trap of expecting the “full-time” workers and staff to be taking care of this business while it is enough for the rest to just show up for the programs and sing along?
The Apostle Paul sheds even more light on what Disciple-Making should look like in the Church when he writes to his young protégé, Timothy:
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Let us break this down to try to understand what the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy. We know that Paul had a unique mentoring relationship with Timothy who was now overseeing and putting in order the churches that Paul and the team had planted. Timothy is being encouraged to find “faithful men” to teach/disciple who in turn will teach/disciple others.
Let me illustrate with a relay race in the 400 X 4. The lead runner runs his race and passes the baton to the second runner who does his best to pass the baton to the third runner who also does his very best and passes the baton to the finisher who brings the baton home. The baton is the Gospel/Disciple-Making. This is how the early church grew in numbers even under the rule of the Roman Empire.
Apostle Paul → Timothy → Faithful Men → Others
My question to you is where are you in the relay race of Disciple-Making? Are you in this relay race called Disciple-Making or are you cheering others from the sidelines?
Why not ask the Lord to direct you to someone who needs Christ and the Good News and then give yourself away in Disciple-Making.
Of course, you must know Him first and it certainly helps to know His Word of Truth. Therefore, pay attention to the preaching of the Word and give yourself to reading and meditating on the Word of God regularly. Be part of a local church that teaches the Bible!
Let’s get to work!
Make Your Own Bed (Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe The World) by Admiral William McRaven
This book is a New York Times Best-Seller!
Admiral McRaven served in the Navy with great distinction. Thirty=seven years as a Navy Seal, he commanded at every level.
This is a summary of his commencement remarks shared with the 2014 Graduates of the University of Texas in Austin.
Admiral McRaven shares 10 Lessons he learned from basic Seal Training that can be of value to you as you move forward in life.
I am going to mention 5 of these lessons that impressed me the most and that will pique your interest!
Lesson #1: Start Making Your Bed
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. The Seal Trainees would have their beds inspected every morning by their drill instructors.
Lesson #2: If You Want To Change The World, Find Someone To Help You Paddle
During Seal Training, the students were assigned boat crews, consisting of three students on each side of the rubber dingy with the coxswain to guide the boat. You cannot successfully paddle alone! You need the help of others and you cannot change the world alone!
Lesson #3: Measure A Person By The Size of Their Heart, Not The Size of Their Flippers
It was not always the biggest guys or the strongest that finished at the lead. It was the heart and will of the man. Often times it was the smallest Seal students with the biggest hearts!
Lesson #4: If You Want To Change The World – Don’t Back Down From Sharks
The author describes the stage of training in which the trainees are flown down to San Clemente Island, off the coast of San Diego. They must complete a series of long swims, one of which is at night. According to their instructor, the only thing they have to look out for is the great White Sharks! This is a known breeding ground! The instructor assured the young trainees that no student has ever been eaten by a shark -at least not recently!
McRaven writes, “There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim, you will have to deal with them.”
Lesson #5: The Seal Training Brass Bell
In Seal Training, there is a brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit is ring the bell!
** Ring the Bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 AM.
** Ring the Bell and you no longer have to do freezing cold swims.
** Ring the Bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the physical training.
** Just Ring the Bell!
The instructor told the trainees, “If you quit and ring the bell, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Quitting never makes anything easier.”
Of all the lessons McRaven learned, this one was them most important. Never quit, never ring the bell!
McRaven lists 10 Lessons, which are applicable to most of us no matter how young or old we are, in his #1 New York Times Best Seller.
I highly recommend this great read to learn more about these important 10 Lessons.
I have recently been preaching through Romans Chapters 1-4. The first three chapters can be quite rough and challenging to the reader. I entitled two of my messages “The Roman Road Can Get A Little Rough” and ”Romans Road – Rest Stop”.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) In this verse, the Apostle Paul lays out His gospel of grace (1:16-18). But first, he must show the reader why the Gospel is so necessary. He convincingly shows the reader that the Gentile world has “suppressed” the truth about God by their sinful, idolatrous lives (Romans 1:18-32). But Paul does not stop there! He continues by quoting the Old Testament extensively (Romans Chapter 2; 3:9-18) showing how God’s chosen people, Israel, have also sinned repeatedly throughout history. “Therefore, all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23)
After Paul calls to the witness stand his star witnesses, Abraham and David (Romans 4:1-6), he begins to show the reader the absolute necessity for faith/righteousness. Abraham first believed God and was declared righteous (Genesis 15:6). Abraham’s works of righteousness did not occur until Genesis 22 when he offered His son Isaac as a sacrifice. Paul establishes the Biblical precedent of faith first with works that follow (see James 2:14-26). What was Paul’s point in developing this story? Romans 5:1-2 explains “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into His grace in which we now stand.”
We and the saints of old, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Rahab… have in common that we all are/were sinners that can be reconciled to a holy and sovereign God only by His grace and mercy through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-24; Hebrews 11).
What are you standing on? If it is not God’s amazing grace, it is a faulty foundation. (See Ephesians 2:8-9)
Captured & Kept by His Grace,
Millions of Americans spent billions of dollars on candy, costumes, and consumable beverages to celebrate a popular holiday last evening. We now call this holiday Halloween. Grown adults spend countless hours decorating their front lawns with ghouls, ghosts, and celebrations of death. By the way, I ate two Kit Kat bars and think most children have fun dressing up appropriately.
Before Americans surrendered to such pagan ideas, Christians would celebrate the lives of faithful saints who died heroic deaths for Christ and the Gospel. I have told the story in times past of the early Christian martyr, Polycarp, who was an early disciple of the Apostle John. During the Roman Empire, soldiers were ordered to arrest Polycarp and bring him to “justice”. The 3rd century historian Eusebius describes what happened. “Polycarp greeted the soldiers and asked for an hour of prayer, ordered a table to be laid for them and invited them to eat as much as they liked.”
Later, Polycarp stood in the Coliseum, which I visited recently . The Governor pressed Polycarp to recant his faith in Christ Jesus before thousands. Polycarp responded, “For eighty-six years I have been Christ’s servant and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” As they were preparing to burn him alive, Polycarp offered up prayers of faith and praise. In the following years, believers would gather annually at his grave site remembering his faithful witness unto death! As the years passed, believers began to honor and remember all martyrs for their faith and the Gospel.
As parents, we can choose to celebrate death and horrors of hell or we can teach our children about the real heroes of the faith who died for what they believed. Now that you know – What will you do?
[Excerpts from Chuck Colson’s 2007 message, “Honoring the Witness” are used in this article.]
The Big Three
I don’t know that I am much different in my thought process than most, but my mind and thoughts often work in threes. This may stem from the fact that I played a lot of baseball when I was younger and always hoped for an additional strike instead of just three. It seems to me that in the Scriptures when something is mentioned in threes the Lord is trying to get something across to us! We would be wise to take heed. Let me give a couple of examples from scripture.
First, the Triune nature of the sovereign God! God as the Father, God as the Son and God, the Holy Spirit, three in one. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
A second example of biblical threes is the Apostles teaching on Faith, Hope and Love. (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3) No doubt the apostles wanted the church to understand and embrace these big three doctrines in their lives.
A third example worth considering is found in Romans 1:24,26, 28. Three distinct times the Word of Truth mentions that, “God gave them up”! This is an alarming message that should stop us in our tracks if we are doing things that displease God. It is always wise to read a portion of scripture like this in its context, so as to minimize distortion of the text, starting in verse, 18-23 we read that “ the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” “God Gave Them Up” may be the most frightening words a human could here. It actually means that the Lord lets them go to do what they want and live with the consequences. He pulls off the restraints! “For the wages of sin is death.”
Our final example of threes that caught my attention for the first time is found also in (Romans 1:21,28)
1. “They did not honor Him as God.” When we do not live for the Lord but for ourselves and our pleasure, we are no longer honoring God. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a
price. Therefore, glorify God in your bodies”.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
2. “They did not give thanks to Him”. Throughout Scripture it stresses how much the Lord desires His people to be thankful for it counters our natural tendency to complain.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
3. “They did not see fit to acknowledge Him.”
Jesus said, ”Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
As we ponder upon THE BIG THREE, let us take to heart and put into practice the truths of His Word!
I have been so encouraged by reading and preaching through the Book of Acts this summer. Having just completed chapters 19 and 20, we see the writer Luke detailing the establishment of the Church in Ephesus.
The Apostle Paul having spent the better part of three years teaching and preaching “in public and from house to house anything that was profitable” (20:20). In verses 17-38, the Apostle Paul calls for the elders of this young Church and gives and impassioned farewell address with pleadings, warnings and prayers for his beloved Church (20:20, 24, 28-32).
Yet years later, Jesus Christ, the Risen and Ascended One, sends another personal warning to the Ephesian Church: “I know your works, your toil and patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil…I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name sake and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:2-4)
Pretty sobering words from the true Head of the Church. Paul’s third missionary journey (53 AD) to the writing of the Book of Revelation is but a few decades and we see this vibrant, young Church cooling off in its love for God and each other!
As I pondered this fact in my preparations to preach, I sensed through the Spirit of God three key words of protection against the effects of the Ephesians Church. I simply refer to them as the Triple A Protection Plan for the Believer:
Acknowledge Him always! “Trust in the Lord with all my heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways “acknowledge” Him and He will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of a Savior.
Awareness of His Presence! “I am with you always to the end of the age.”
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Once you acknowledge His Presence, His promise to “never leave you” will sustain you.”
Abide in Him! “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine.” (John 15:4)
We are still responsible to abide in Him through our prayers, reading of His Word and being in fellowship with others.
Though there are no guarantees in this life, I hope that the Triple A Protection Plan can cause you to always remember:
Awareness of His Presence
Abide in Him
Have a great summer and carry with you the Triple A Protection Plan wherever you go!