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Category: » Preaching - Blasted Gourds

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Prayers for a Pastor

JohnWilburChapmanI ran across an encouraging story today about pastor and hymn writer John Wilbur Chapman.  He has left us with several hymns including “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” and “One Day”.  If you have never heard of these hymns I would encourage you to go and listen to the comforting words of “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” set to a new tune by David Ward.

John Wilbur Chapman was tireless in his work of spreading the gospel.  His ministry began pastoring two churches, on in Ohio and one in Indiana.  By the end of his ministry he preached across the country and world, including Canada, Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, England, Wales, Ireland, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, and the Fiji Islands.  His devotion and fervor for the Gospel may be best summarized in his own words,

 “The rule which governs my life is this: anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”

But his life was not without trials and difficulties.  His first wife, Irene, died just four years after their marriage.  With his second wife, Agnes, they lost their first born son, who died in infancy.  Agnes died after 19 years of marriage.

His ministry would eventually lead him to preach with DL Moody and Billy Sunday.  However, it must have began very ordinary.  It is said that in one of his earlier pastorates, on member once told him, “You are not a very strong preacher, but a few of us have decided to gather and pray every Sunday morning for you.”   And we know from history that his ministry was loved and flourished.  

Behind every effective ministry you will find pray.  Pastors covet the prayers of the people.  It serves both parties well, it serves the gospel well, it serves the lost well.  Pastors are mere men, and the task they are given is beyond them, but with God all things are possible.  Even ordinary, not so strong, preachers are used mightily by God when his people pray.

Jesus! what a strength in weakness!Let me hide myself in him; Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my vic’try wins.

Updated Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices: Device #4

(Still working on editing)

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DEVICE 4: By showing our souls the sins of very good men, and by hiding their faithfulness; by showing our soul their sins, and by hiding from our soul their sorrows and repentance. For instance he shows our soul the adultery of David, the pride of Hezekiah, the impatience of Job, the drunkenness of Noah, the blasphemy of Peter, etc., and he hides from the soul the tears, the sighs, the groans, the emotional pains, the humblings, and repentings of these precious souls.

Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That God in his Word has been equally as careful to draw attention to the saints’ repentance and turning from sin, as He has to note their falling into sins. David falls greatly—but by repentance he rises sweetly. ‘blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  ; For I know my transgressions,  and my sin is ever before me.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. ;Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation’ It is true, Hezekiah’s heart was proud under the abundance of mercy that God had poured out to him; but it is as true that Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon him, nor upon Jerusalem, during Hezekiah’s lifetime. It is true, Job curses the day of his birth, but it is as true that he rises by repentance: ‘Behold, I am vile,’ says he; ‘what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken—but I will not answer; yes twice—but I will proceed no further. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear—but now my eye sees you; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 40:4, 5; 42:5, 6). Tertullian says that he was born for no other purpose but to repent.

Peter falls horribly—but rises by repentance sweetly; a look of love from Christ melts him into tears. He knew that repentance was the key to the kingdom of grace. At one time his faith had been so great that he leaped out of a boat into a sea of waters to come to Christ; now his repentance was so great that he leaped into a sea of tears, because he had denied Christ. Some say that, after his sad fall, he was continually weeping, and that his face was even furrowed with continual tears. As soon as he took in the poison he vomited it up again, before it got to his vital parts; As soon as he had touched this serpent, he turned it into a rod to punish his soul with guilt for sinning against such clear light, and strong love, and sweet discoveries of the heart of Christ to him. Luther confesses that, before his conversion, that the most displeasing word in all his study of the things of God was repent—but afterward he took delight in the word. Clement writes that Peter so repented, that for the rest of his life, every night when he heard the cock crow, he would fall down on his knees, and, weeping bitterly, would beg pardon of his sin. Oh, souls, you can easily sin like these saints—but can you repent with the saints? Many can sin with David and Peter, but cannot repent with David and Peter—and so must perish forever! Theodosius the emperor tried to force Ambrose to let him eat the Lord’s supper, excusing his own sinful act by David’s; to which Ambrose replies, You have followed David transgressing, now follow David repenting, and then you can come to table of the Lord.

Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is to seriously consider that these saints did not make a  habit of sin. They fell once or twice, and rose by repentance, so that they might remain close to Christ forever. They fell accidentally, occasionally, and with much reluctancy; but you sin presumptuously, obstinately, readily, delightfully, and customarily. The saints cannot sin with a whole will—but with a half-will, an unwillingness; not with a full consent—but with a dissenting consent. By making a habit of sinning you have brought on yourself a kind of curse that causes you to keep sinning.  To stop sinning is now the same to you as to cease to exist. Sin has become so familiar to you it has become your nature, which you cannot, which you will not cast off; even though you know that if you do not cast off your sin, God will cast off your soul forever.  You know that if your sin and soul are not torn apart, Christ and your soul can never meet. You make a habit of sin, and say—Didn’t David sin like this, and Noah sin like this, and Peter sin like this? No they did not! Their hearts turned aside to folly one day—but your heart turns aside to folly every day (2 Peter 2:14, Prov. 4:6); and when they had fallen, they turned away by repentance, and lived by faith in  Christ crucified. But you fall, and don’t have strength or will to rise—but wallow in sin, and will eternally die in your sins, unless the Lord is merciful to your soul. Do you think this is good reasoning? — These saints only tasted poison once, and yet narrowly escaped; but  you think you can daily drink poison, and somehow escape.  This is the crazy reasoning of proud souls. David and Peter sinned once terribly and deeply; they tasted poison only once, and were sick to death; but you taste it daily, and somehow think you will not taste of eternal death. Remember, O souls! that the day is close when self-flatterers will be found self-deceivers, yes, self-murderers! Though sin dwells in the regenerate, it does not reign over the regenerate; they rise by repentance.

Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That though God does not, nor never will, disown his people for their sins, he has severely punished his people for their sins. David sins, and God breaks his bones for his sin: ‘Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which you have broken may rejoice’ (Psalm 51:8). ‘And because you have done this, the sword shall never depart from your house, to the day of your death’ (2 Sam. 12:10). Though God will not totally remove his loving-kindness, or allow his faithfulness to fail, or break his covenant, or change what He has decreed or commanded, yet he will ‘visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes’ (Psalm 89:30, 35). The Scripture if full of examples of this. Everyone who is familiar with scripture knows this, and to cite more scriptures to prove it would be like lighting  a candle to see the sun at noon. Josephus reports that, not long after the Jews had crucified Christ on the cross, so many of them were condemned to be crucified that there were not places enough for crosses nor crosses enough for the bodies that were to be hung on. The Jews have a proverb, ‘That there is no punishment that comes upon Israel in which there is not one ounce of the golden calf’; meaning that that was so great a sin, God remembered it in every plague; that it had an influence into every trouble they fell into. Every man’s heart may say to him in his sufferings, as the heart of Apollodorus in the kettle, ‘I have been the cause of this.’ God is most angry when he shows no anger. God keep me from this mercy; this kind of mercy is worse than all other kind of misery.
There is an expression once used in a friend writing to a friend: ‘I account it a part of unhappiness not to know adversity; I judge you to be miserable, because you have not been miserable.’ Luther says, ‘There is not a Christian that carries not his cross.’ It is mercy that our affliction is not execution—but a correction. He who has deserved hanging, should be glad if he escape with a whipping. God’s corrections are our instructions, his lashes our lessons, his scourges our schoolmasters, his chastisements our admonitions. And to note this, both the Hebrews and the Greeks express correction and teaching by one and the same word (Musar, Paideia),*** because the latter is the true end of the former, according to that in the proverb, ‘Smart makes wit, and vexation gives understanding.’ Therefore, Luther correctly calls affliction The Christian man’s divinity.’ So says Job (Chap. 33:14-19), ‘But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in bed. He whispers in their ear and terrifies them with his warning. He causes them to change their minds; he keeps them from pride. He keeps them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death. Or God disciplines people with sickness and pain, with ceaseless aching in their bones.’ When Satan shall tell you of other men’s sins to draw you to sin—then think of the same men’s sufferings to keep you from sin. Lay your hand upon your heart, and say, O my soul! if you sin with David, you must suffer with David!
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there are only two main ends of God’s recording the falls of his saints.  And the one is, to keep those from fainting, sinking, and despair, under the burden of their sins, who fall through weakness and infirmity.
And the other is, that their falls may be as landmarks to warn others to take heed lest they fall. It never entered into the heart of God to record his children’s sins, that others might be encouraged to sin—but rather that others might look to themselves, and cling more tightly and closely to Christ, and avoid all occasions and temptations that may cause them fall, as others have fallen, when they have been left by Christ. The Lord has made their sins landmarks, to warn his people to take heed how they come near those sands and rocks, those snares and baits, that have been fatal to the choicest treasures, namely—the joy, peace, comfort, and glorious enjoyments of the bravest spirits and noblest souls that ever sailed through the ocean of this sinful troublesome world; as you may see in David, Job, and Peter. There is nothing in the world that can so notoriously cross the grand end of God’s recording of the sins of his saints, than for any from thence to take encouragement to sin; and wherever you find such a soul, you may write him Christless, graceless, a soul cast off by God, a soul that Satan has by the hand, and the eternal God knows where he will lead him. I have known a good man, says Bernard, who, when he heard of any that had committed some notorious sin, he would say to with himself—he fell today, so may I tomorrow.

Protect Your Minister of God’s Word

The intent of sharing this is not self-serving, but for the good of all Christians. There is nothing more healthy or important for a Christian than to protect the authority of God’s Word in their own life. One of the means, in fact a major means, of the activity of God’s Word in our life is to be the preaching of God’s Word. Protect that context. If you under the care of faithful teaching, do not take it lightly. Do not assume you can treat the church lightly in one place and expect to find depth in another place. Do not assume you can be critical of a faithful minister of the gospel and expect to be well fed.

Calvin, commenting on 1 Timothy 5:19:

None are more exposed to slanders and insults than godly teachers.

This comes not only from the difficulty of their duties, which are so great that sometimes they sink under them, or stagger or halt or take a false step, so that wicked men find many occasions of finding fault with them; but added to that, even when they do all their duties correctly and commit not even the smallest error, they never avoid a thousand criticisms.

It is indeed a trick of Satan to estrange men from their ministers so as gradually to bring their teaching into contempt. In this way not only is wrong done to innocent people whose reputation is undeservedly injured, but the authority of God’s holy teaching is diminished. . . .

[T]he more sincerely any pastor strives to further Christ’s kingdom, the more he is loaded with spite, the more fierce do the attacks upon him become.

And not only so, but as soon as any charge is made against ministers of the Word, it is believed as surely and firmly as if it had been already proved. This happens not only because a higher standard of integrity is required from them, but because Satan makes most people, in fact nearly everyone, over credulous so that without investigation, they eagerly condemn their pastors whose good name they ought to be defending.

—John Calvin, Second Corinthians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1996), p. 263; emphasis added.

HT:JT

Critical Hearing brought to you by Mister Rogers

I recently read a convicting and humbling article on 8 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor which contained a brief story about Mister Rogers under the heading of “Cut the Criticism”.   Sadly, I have to admit, I have been on both sides of this story.

Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, creator and host of television’s “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” recently gave an address describing the time he was a student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and attended a different church each Sunday in order to hear a variety of preachers.

One Sunday he was treated to “the most poorly crafted sermon (he) had ever heard.” But when he turned to the friend who had accompanied him, he found her in tears.

“It was exactly what I needed to hear,” she told Rogers.

“That’s when I realized,” he told his audience, “that the space between someone doing the best he or she can and someone in need is holy ground. The Holy Spirit had transformed that feeble sermon for her—and as it turned out, for me too.”

Ephesians 4:1-3

1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Proverbs 15:33

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,and humility comes before honor.

What a lesson in humility.  We are often tempted to listen with very “me” centered ears to a sermon, which can often turn into being overly critical.  Notice there was nothing that was said in the sermon that Mister Rogers could say was in biblical error, but rather, to him, it seemed poorly crafted.  There are times when we must point to truth if a teaching is in error, but this too must be done in grace.  In this case, there was no error and God was at work in the life of the one seated right next to Mister Rogers.  This lady was hearing the same sermon he thought was one of the worst he had heard and yet was dramatically impacted.  What if the tears had not been there?  What if he had started in on how poor of a sermon he thought he had just heard?  What if he had criticized the preaching of the Word of God that was at work in this lady’s heart?

When we enter into such criticism we often become agents of disunity.   We hinder the work of the Word of God in the lives of others in the body, undermining it’s authority and the authority of those called to preach.   One individual or a small group in a church pick apart the preaching of the Word.  Later they complain that the Spirit is no longer in attendance.  Is there any wonder why?  Let us be careful with our criticism and be humble in our hearts.  If this pride in hearing has crept in, ask for forgiveness,  for humble ears, and for a vision of the advancement of the gospel beyond oneself.

Alistair Begg on Tone in Preaching

[audio:http://www.blastedgourds.andylutz.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/tone-in-preaching.mp3]

 You need to listen clear to the end of this short audio clip.  Here is the whole sermon.  He is dealing with the text where Jesus prayed, “Not My will but Yours.”  Just prior to this he addressed the issue of the Christian Radio voice.