Friday, January 11, 2019

Living By The Book

Christians talk of being “People of the Book.”  John Wesley claimed to be Homo unius libri – a man of one book.  For Wesley the one book was the Bible. 

If we are to actually be people of the Book, or if we are to actually live by the Book, then we will need to read the Book.  Each professing Christian will need to establish the discipline of daily Bible reading (or in our day, daily Bible listening).  Personally, I would encourage every Christian to read through the entire Bible every year.  If we are to live by the Book, then we need to live by all of the Book. 

There are a couple of different things that can be done in order to accomplish the task of reading through the Bible in a year.  For instance, there are many Bible reading plans available.  At our church, we provide these plans in our information hallway.  Other plans can be found on the internet. 

Personally, I read straight through books of the Bible.  When I finish a particular book, I choose one of the other books which I have not yet read this year.   Then I plan to read 4 chapters each day. Every day of the week.  I know that there will be days when I will read less.  But I also know there will be days when I will read more.  My goal and purpose is simply to read through the Word of God allowing that Word to shape my thoughts and ultimately my desires and actions. 

For anyone who has not actually developed a good Bible reading habit, I would recommend reading through the New Testament in a year.  Because if you will read 1 chapter each day, you can read the New Testament in 9 months-time. 

Christians who live by the Book, must first be Christians who read the Book.

Friday, January 4, 2019

God-Centered Giving

Our giving, like every other area of our life, needs to be centered on God.  It needs to be informed by and shaped by God’s Word.  However, in many churches the giving is pastor-centered or pastor-driven rather than God-centered or theology-driven. 

A church is healthier if the giving does not ebb and flow because of the like or dislike of the pastor.  A church is healthier if their giving is not an indication of the people’s satisfaction with the pastor. 

On the other hand, if the church’s giving is pastor-centered then the people will give more when they are happy with the pastor. And they will give less when they are unhappy with the pastor.  But this approach is bad for both the pastor and the church. 

It is bad for the pastor if the church’s giving is pastor-centered.  This kind of giving will tempt the pastor to tickle the ears of the church.  This kind of giving will tempt the pastor only to tell the church what makes the people feel good.  At the same time it tempts the pastor to avoid the things, clearly in God’s Word, that will anger or upset the people. 

It is also bad for the church if the church’s giving is pastor-centered.  In the first place, the Bible never tells the people of God to give in this manner.  The Bible never tells the people of God to give when they are happy and to withhold their giving when they are dissatisfied.  Further, this approach is an attempt to control the pastor.  Or more bluntly, it is an attempt to control the message which the Bible brings.  Or even more bluntly, it is an attempt to control the Word of God. 

No church – at least no true church – wants Balaam to be the pastor.  No church – at least no true church – wants the priest at the end of Judges to be the pastor.  We don’t want pastors who offer their services to the highest bidder. 

If we understood this, and believed it, then the giving of church would not be dependent on who the pastor is. 

We want our giving to be God-centered not pastor-centered. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Helping the Nations

There is an old adage that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  The wisdom of this adage is played out in the missions philosophy of Teaching Leaders International – the mission organization which sponsored my recent trip to Liberia. 

The goal of Training Leaders International is to do what the name of the organization says – to train the leaders of the local church.  To accomplish that goal pastors and church leaders who have already received formal theological training are enlisted to go and teach pastors and other leaders who have not had the opportunity for such formal training. 

In my case, we partnered with a local pastor and his church to help train and teach about 65 pastors from around Liberia.  Our focus was on preaching and teaching from Old Testament Narrative.  Specifically we focused on Ruth and Jonah. 

It was a joy and privilege to be used of the Lord in the lives of the men I taught.  It is further joy and privilege to think about how those men will go and teach and preach in their churches for the glory of God.  The little bit of work I did will reverberate through their ongoing ministries. 

And of course, the lessons did not go only one way.  For I also learned more about the Savior through this trip.  I learned more about the church.  I was not only the teacher; I was taught.  What I learned from those men will continue to reverberate on this side of the Atlantic in my ongoing ministry as well. 

In helping the nations, the nations helped me.