THE GOSPEL AS IT SHOULD BE…


Spiritual Blog - Power

1 Thessalonians 1:5 – “…our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…” NASU

I never cease to be amazed at how frequently in church, spiritual things, and life, we are willing to accept something less than the best available.  So many times politically we seem to be choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” and in life relegate ourselves to “average” and deem that acceptable.  When it comes to spiritual matters and the church many have bought the idea that the miracles and power that was exhibited in the Old and New Testaments were for another era and are no longer available for today.  I can only ask, “When did Jesus change?”  The Bible clearly says in Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” NASU It also tells us in Malachi 3:6 – “…I, the LORD, do not change…” NASU  Then Jesus said to His disciples and to us generations later in John 14:12 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” NASU

When Did That Change?  I suggest that it has not and that the Power of God is still the Power of God today as it was in the yesterdays of our human history.  God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent today just as he was in the beginning as we read about in Genesis and in the end as we read about in Revelation.  HE DOES NOT CHANGE!  If He confirmed His word with “signs and wonders” in so bygone era will He not do the same today?  I can attest that I have seen the Miracle Working Hand of God demonstrated.  I have experienced personally, seen it come for others, and have two miracles of healing with documentation from medical doctors confirming in my own life.  One was a broken bone and the other was cancer.  I saw my mother healed of a broken back and the paralysis relieved.  I’ve watched people recover from sickness in which the doctors said there was no hope.  I cannot explain God and won’t try.  I’ve prayed for people to be healed and they weren’t and prayed for others and they were.  I can’t explain it but feel like Peter and John as they came to the lame man at the Beautiful Gate and Peter said, “Silver and Gold have I none, but what I’ve got I’ll give to you.”  He then reached out his hand took the man by the hand and lifted him up only to see the power of God flow into his legs and he walked.

I’ve seen hard-hearted giants of men crumble before the power of God’s Word and their hearts melt. Tears would stream down the cheeks of those rock hard men as they wept before the Lord broken and repentant.  I’ve seen homes restored as the Power of God transformed hearts and brought reconciliation.  I’ve seen financial disaster averted by a miraculous supply.  Yes, I’ve seen the POWER OF THE GOSPEL and long for more and more of it.  Not so that I will be noticed but so that lives will be rescued by the Power and Grace of God.  I get angry at what I see the devil doing in lives and cry out continually for the POWER OF THE GOSPEL to be manifest in my life and the lives of those I come in contact with.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

SERVITUDE I CAN ENDORSE…


Spiritual Blog - Righteousness

Romans 6:18 – “Having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” NKJV

The Bible has much to say about our being “servants” or “slaves” to something or someone.  The only two categories that it allows are we are either servants to SIN or RIGHTEOUSNESS.  We either allow the flesh to have dominance or we allow the Spirit of God.   Here the apostle Paul identifies that the true objective of the Christian should be to become a “Slave of Righteousness”.    He identifies that this is possible, and I might add, only possible after we have been set free from sin.  It is only after we have been “born-again” and “transferred from the kingdom of darkness into God’s light” that we can hope to attain this lofty place of servanthood.

The Bible tells us that whatever or whoever we obey we are servants or slaves to that.  So, my objective or goal is to become a true “dulos” to Jesus.  I want to be a “bondslave” to Him and that relationship comes from a willing and surrendered heart.  It is never forced for God will not accept that as an acceptable pathway into His presence.  I want to hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful SERVANT…” when I stand before Him on that final day.  Notice, He used the word ‘servant’ to describe us.  We are called His BRIDE, His FRIENDS, His SHEEP, and His SERVANTS.  We are all that and more through the Grace and Love of God.

So, if you have been born-anew into the Kingdom of God you have been “set free” from sin and as a result, the door is open for you to become a “Slave of Righteousness.”  It is your choice and if you make that choice the Holy Spirit will come alongside and come within your heart and enable you to fulfill that desire.  Will it be easy?  NO!  But it will be the most rewarding life you could ever hope to encounter.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

HELD AND UPHELD…


Spiritual Blog - Foot Slips

Psalm 94:18-19 – “I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up.  19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” NKJV

As most of you have discerned by now I love the Psalms for they convey so many spiritual nuggets in such poetic language it is easy to remember and relate.  David, a man God identified as being after His own heart speaks from life experiences that most of us can relate to and is not afraid to expose his humanity.  I’ve cautioned young people seeking to go into full time preaching ministry to NEVER stop being human.  Too many that occupy the sacred desk in churches feel that they dare not expose the kinks in their armor or the people will turn on them, and sadly sometimes they are right but I could never abide by that philosophy.  I am human, I have struggles and difficulties and God has helped me overcome some pretty incredible things.  I believe that should benefit others to know that the man they are following spiritually has and is facing some of the same struggles they are and point them to God.

David said, “If I say, MY FOOT SLIPS, Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up.”  I make it through life resting in the shelter of the Arms of God.  When I am overcome with things that distress my life I lift up my eyes to the hills and know that my help comes from the Lord and His comfort and strength brings renewed joy and strength to my life.  God is our “present help in the time of need,” but sadly too often we fail to remember that or allow His strength to flood our lives.  We struggle and press to “do it” but there are times when we need to “cease striving” and just allow God to be God in our situation. We cannot do what God can do!

If you feel that your foot is slipping do not despair rather rejoice because God’s mercy and grace will hold you if you will let Him.  If you are overcome with anxious thoughts and concerns, do not despair but rather rejoice because God’s comforting strength will bring a renewal of joy to your soul if you will allow it.  God wants to bring you out of the struggle and difficulty stronger!

Rejoice in the Lord today and rest in His grace!  Blessings as you go through your day!

REAL FREEDOM…


Spiritual Blog - Freedom

John 8:31-33, 34-37 – “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.  35 ” The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.  36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”  NASU

On July 4th we, in America, celebrate Independence Day and reflect on LIBERTY and what it means.  We are cognizant of oppression and express gratitude to all who served and sacrificed to bring or preserve FREEDOM and LIBERTY.  It is a day of reflection, introspection, honor, thanksgiving, and remembering or should be.  It is both a joyous and solemn day.  It is a time for festivities and a time for deeply personal and national introspection.  It is a time to give thanks to God for our Freedom naturally and a time to focus on what REAL FREEDOM really is.

Here in this passage, our Lord identifies TRUE FREEDOM.  It comes from and can only come from God.  It has nothing to do with whether you live under oppression or even if you are in chains it has to do with the heart, the mind, the soul, and the spirit.  Jesus said “IF” and that is an undeniable qualifier.  “IF you continue in My word, THEN you are disciples of Mine; AND you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

The IF, THEN, and AND of the Gospels are important!  So many times, we run across that very situation and fail to read it all and apply it rightly to our lives.  There is commitment involved with the continuation on the path of righteousness and as a result, we are recognized as Disciples of Jesus, and we taste and experience TRUE FREEDOM.  Without Him there is no real Freedom because if we are living in sin we are the slaves of sin and outside the family of God.

Jesus identified that “if the Son makes you free, you will be FREE INDEED.”  The words “Free At Last” could be rightly applied to this passage and the condition of our hearts once we have accepted the Gift of Salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ through our repentance.  The Cross is a most beautiful picture of FREEDOM because it was there that Jesus paid the price for our FREEDOM.  It was there that He bought us back from the dominion of the devil and opened the door for us to be transferred into the Kingdom of God – FREE AT LAST!

I hope that you know REAL FREEDOM today and as you go through this day you go through it with a consciousness of that LIBERTY and FREEDOM that only comes through Jesus Christ.

Blessings abundantly as you celebrate our FREEDOM today!

NO GREATER LOVE…


Spiritual Blog - Love

John 15:13 – “A Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” NASU

Jesus went on to say in the next verse “You are My friends…”  He laid down His life for us.  As John 3:16 tells us His act was an expression of LOVE both by the Father and the Son so that you and I could have access to the Eternal Presence of God.  What love!

To lay down one’s life for another is the highest tribute that could be paid to the individual who has been died for.  I know what it is like to have someone step in front of danger to protect you.  I have experienced that kind of love and commitment and it forever changed me in ways that I am still discovering.  I have heard family members pray to God to allow them to suffer the disease and death that was coming to their loved one.  Why did they do it? Was it out of some false sense of nobility and self-sacrifice?  NO, it was out of LOVE!  They loved enough that if it were possible they would step in and take the death that another was facing.  Jesus did that for us.  He went to the Cross and paid the penalty for our sin, a penalty that He did not deserve or merit in any way but He willingly paid our debt out of LOVE!

When I consider what God has done for me, how could I not LOVE HIM?  How could I not serve Him?  How could I reject Him?  When I came to Christ and received Him as my savior I went through a period of days and weeks in which I was the most condemned and miserable person on the planet.  I knew I was lost and that is the first step to receiving salvation.  You cannot help a man become found that does not know he is lost.  I knew that I was headed for hell and believed the lie that I had done too much to be forgiven.  I won’t say as I heard a person testify in church, “Lord, I’ve broken all the commandments.”  No, but I had done far more than my youthful years should have.  I had survived Vietnam and was struggling with who I was, where I fit in, and what I was to do in life.  I found that nothing satisfied me, for very long not money, not job, not relationships – NOTHING!   Then I fell under such conviction and my heart so condemned me that I despaired of life itself but can honestly say I did not consider suicide.  Now, admittedly, had that state of mind continued for a long period of time that would be the likely thoughts that would come, but thank God I did not go that long.

Through the encouragement of some people who loved me in spite of my meanness I read Proverbs 3:5-6 after midnight on a Saturday night in Palestine, Texas and as I read that passage the light came on and I knew that I could be forgiven.  I experienced God’s forgiveness and love and the world lifted off my shoulders and I felt like I could float in the air.  That was the most incredible night of my life and I have been thanking God for over forty years for that love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, and pardon.  It was LOVE that lifted me.  LOVE spared my life.  LOVE rewrote my life.  LOVE transformed me for the vile creature that I was to a “born-again” child of the King!  I AM SAVED!  Hallelujah!

So, if you are struggling know that God loves you enough that He was willing to allow His Son, Jesus to die on the Cross for you.  Jesus loves you enough that He was willing to endure the Cross.  So, instead of reaching for the bottom lift up your eyes and allow the Holy Spirit to minister the LOVE OF GOD to you right now!

May God be with you as you go through your day!

CLANGING AND BANGING…


Spiritual Blog - Noise

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 – “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never fails…” NASU

 

The most important thing in our Christian Life is LOVE!  Love for God and love toward our fellow man.  We may be the most eloquent of speakers, have the greatest insight, and manifest incredible gifts but without love, the Bible tells us we are nothing more than NOISE.  Some of the things Paul lists as having but not having love seems almost impossible to me but I conclude that while he may not have been speaking literally but metaphorically I will accept that it is possible that one might manifest these things and not have love.  In that case, that individual would be quite the show but nothing more than “rain on a tin barn.”  All foam and no beer, as a friend mine likes to say.  All hat and no cattle or all talk and no walk.

I know some people who are incredibly generous and truly orators but in private I know them to be lacking greatly in the arena of Love both for God and man.  Paul tells us in verses four-eight something about LOVE.  It is patient, kind, not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, is not self-centered, not provoked, does not harbor grudges or rejoice in unrighteousness.  Love seeks truth bears burdens, believes in people and God, has hope, and endurance.  Then he tells us the most powerful thing of all – – LOVE NEVER FAILS….   I hear people talk about “falling in love” like love was a mud puddle.  Love is not something you “fall into” but something you make the choice and grow into.  I love my fellow man, not because I fell in love with them but because I love God and loving God I make the choice to love my fellow man.

So if you are finding yourself deficient in any gift that you once operated in or in an area of spirituality that you believe you should have more proficiency in check your LOVE QUOTENT.  How is your heart in that regard?  Turn to the LORD and ask Him to send forth the Love of God so that it is spread abroad in your heart and as it spreads in your heart it will flow out of your heart into your life and touch others.

May God be with you as you go through this day!

PRAYER IS NOT PERSONAL P.R.


Spiritual Blog - Prayer

Matthew 6:5-8 – “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  NASU

 

 There is far more here than I can deal with so I am selectively drawing on the thought that Prayer is not designed to be your personal public relations vehicle.  This and other passages in the Holy Scripture regarding prayer is why I do not like to broadcast what I am praying.  I am more than willing to ask for specific prayer and even willing to acknowledge specific prayers that I am offering but by and large when I pray I go into the prayer closet, shut the door, and engage in a private conversation and entreaty with God about particular needs.  I don’t like long prayers in public and personally prefer spontaneous prayers to those that are written and read for the purpose of being noticed.  I don’t mind men not noticing my prayer so long as God does.  After all, I am not praying to men I am praying to God and He doesn’t need to be impressed with my eloquence or words.  He is looking beyond all that directly at my heart. 

Jesus cautioned us about using meaningless repetitions and being incredibly wordy in our public prayers or even our private prayers.  If you and I sat down and I wanted to ask something of you I would not ramble on being repetitious and verbose I would come to the point and in as simple language as possible tell you what I desired.  I believe you would do the same with me.  Yet, when we go before the God of all creation many change the inflection of their voice and attempt to impress God with their eloquence or words.  He’s not impressed!  He created language and knows it far better than any of us, even the most eloquent and educated of us.

When we go before God we would do well to remember that He already knows what we need and our petition is not one trying to convince Him of the merits of our petition but aligning our hearts and thoughts with His word and will.  It is allowing God the opportunity to be God in our situation.  Jesus said the Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us openly.

So do not attempt to use prayer as a P.R. tool but as a means of communication with God in an honest and heartfelt manner.  Come before Him with humbleness of heart, and true thanksgiving and watch Him be God in your behalf.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

LOOK A LITTLE CLOSER AT HOPE…


Spiritual Blog - Hope

Colossians 1:25-29 – “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is,  the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”  NASU

In considering HOPE we need to be reminded that farmers operate in Hope!  Not the hope of the world but the hope of the Bible.  Every farmer or gardener, around August/September, gets a Bible (seed catalog).  It shows some of the most unbelievably beautiful pictures of the finished product but you have a ‘blub’ or a ‘plant’. Then, in the sure and certain hope that the book is truthful you put that blub into the ground.  WHY?  Because you believe the book.  You’ve seen the picture!   Then all winter long You Hope!  You know that there is life under the ground where you planted the bulb.  That’s the Hope that we have in Christ!

When I look at my life when I first came to Christ and realize that I have been purposed to be ‘conformed to the image of God’s dear Son’ and wonder.  But, I take the Book (the Bible) and look at the picture it paints of the finished product.  I do not regard my present state or condition but I regard Christ who lives in me and in that I HOPE!  That is not a wishful thinking but a certain expectation!  Life!  The Hope of Glory!  I anticipate it becoming reality in me and at that point, I discover what Christianity is all about!  HOPE!  Therefore, I live constantly in a state of ‘excited anticipation.’  No matter what comes my way, I HOPE, excitedly and expectantly!  Everything God said is going to burst forth in my life!  I expect it, anticipate it, and HOPE in it!

Remember in the Book of Acts when Paul is arrested because he declared that Jesus was the Messiah and that the Promises of the Old Testament had been fulfilled in Jesus?  He stood before the courts of man three times and each time he made reference to why he was there.

Acts 24:15 – – He referred to THE HOPE that he had from God.

Acts 26:6 – – – He declared THE HOPE of the Promised made by God to the fathers and says that it was for THE HOPE OF ISRAEL!

Remember back in Genesis 3:15 God’s promise that one day there would be the seed of a woman.  The seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent!  Remember?  That appeared so remote that many did not truly believe it.  That is all that Adam and Eve had, that promise!  That is all mankind had, that promise!  It was passed on from generation to generation!  Then, Abraham comes along and makes a further promise that one would come who would bless all the families of the earth.  One who would be King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  All they had were ‘words’ and ‘promises.’  They kept reading the Seed Catalog and then in Hebrews 11 we find that they all died in the faith but they kept looking ahead in HOPE!  They could declare ‘We know He is coming!’  They HOPED!  Then in JESUS, He came!  Paul declared, ”That is why I am standing here today.  I am declaring that Jesus is the HOPE of Israel.”

Now that Jesus has come, He has taken up residence in us and in us, He is the Hope of Glory!  We do not have to wait for generations for Him to come – HE HAS COME!  Yet, multitudes of believers live ‘without hope’.  They live in almost utter despair.  They live in a vacuum!  Sadly, many view the Christian experience and life in this way, We have been Pardoned and Forgiven.  Some even press in for a deeper relationship with God through the Holy Spirit and freeze there saying, “I’ve got it!”  We somehow think that ‘we’ve got it’ and there is nothing more.  As time progresses the ‘it’ that we have, drifts further and further back in our experience and we look back on it in fond memory but it is BACK THERE!

There was a man that ‘wrote down’ his religious experience and called it “My Blessed Experience”.  He kept it in a box in the attic of his home.  Anytime a visitor would come by he would bring it down and read it to them saying, “This is what happened to me.”  Then one day a visitor came and he sent his daughter up to get his blessed experience so he could read it but she came down in a panic with terrible news – The rats had eaten his blessed experience!

A significant portion of the church is almost suicidal.  Consider some of the songs of the church, some I no longer sing.  I really don’t want to fly, fly away because I am enjoying this life in Christ and want to fulfill ALL that Christ has purposed for me to do In This Generation!  Too many are looking for an ‘escape’ when we should be looking for the fulfillment of God’s purposes in our generation.  Christ in us, the hope of glory!  The Hope of Glory is in this life not the sweet by and by.  The pardon that we received is to enable us to interact with God through the Holy Spirit NOW!

When I first came to Jesus I would have been satisfied with just being PARDONED.  But, as I walked with Him and studied the Bible I realized that everything God has promised is MINE!  Yet, when I first came to Him I did not know what He had promised… God gives, and gives, and gives, and continues to give!  We live in HOPE!

May God be with you as you go through your day!

THERE MUST BE FAITHFULNESS FOR SPIRITUAL WARFARE…


Spiritual Blog - Faithful

2 Timothy – 2:1-2 – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  NASU

 

Over the past couple of sessions, we have considered some aspects of what Paul was telling his son in the faith, Timothy.  The charge was for Timothy to find, teach, train, and impart that which was in his heart, received from the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul.  This was critical to the founding and grounding of the New Testament Church.

There are Three Critical Areas in which Faithfulness is Key:

  1. Faithfulness to God is Absolutely Essential.
  2. Faithfulness in Relationships is Vital.
  3. Faithfulness in Service is Indispensable.

FAITHFULNESS TO GOD.

This needs little explanation or discussion as most would readily acknowledge the need and essentialness of this.  However, if we are genuinely faithful to God it will be manifest in the other areas or dimensions as well.

FAITHFULNESS IN RELATIONSHIPS.

This is an area that most Christians do not work on and need to give attention to!  Remember Timothy’s mistake or potential mistake – ‘Choosing people who were possibly qualified and influential but UNFAITHFUL.’

FAITHFULNESS IN SERVICE.

This is absolutely indispensable!  We must learn to be SERVANTS.  We must learn and become willing to do what is asked when it is asked and how it is asked even when the flesh rises up and resists or the ego says that is beneath me.  Even when your ego raises its ugly head and declares that is not using my gifts or abilities to the fullest.  Even when you feel that you are not appreciated and recognized as you should be.

God’s way is to first ‘make the man’ then He ‘releases the ministry’.  Tragically, the Church has gotten the cart before the horse too often.  We recognize ‘gifts’, ‘charisma’, ‘talent’, and ‘ability’ and immediately SEND FORTH into ministry!

PERSONAL TESTIMONY.

I was released wrongly but God taught me the necessity of SERVING.  I was almost immediately sent out because people could see the hand of God on me and God gifted me with passion and ability to convey the message.  The response of those over me was GO OUT!  I should have been sitting and being nurtured but within weeks after my conversion, I was sent out.  Being released too soon is a problem that I observed in Bible College and have observed it in my 50 years of ministry.

The church has a tendency to release someone who is called or God uses them in some degree or measure of success and instills a vision in their hearts along with His promise.  Many if not most who are called as I, develop the mistaken idea that they immediately should be released to pursue that vision but they are not ready.  God can and will overcome the problems of early release but we need to remember that those who are novices and new in the faith have some issues to deal with.

  • They are overcome with the VISION.
  • They expect to be RECOGNIZED.
  • They become more SPIRITUAL than anyone.
  • They make sure everyone knows they are ANOINTED, APPOINTED, CALLED, and COMMISSIONED.
  • They demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to listen to others without a CRITICAL ATTITUDE believing in their hearts they could do a better job or they just know better.

 They have not learned one of the key traits for LEADERSHIP – – SERVANTHOOD.  If we do not learn how to SERVE we are not qualified to LEAD.

God bless you as you go through your day!

FLATTERING TITLES…


Spiritual Blog - Flattery

Job 32:21-22 – “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22 For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.”  KJV

I’ve been called many things in my years as a preacher and minister of God’s word most of them good.  Most of the times, it was out of their respect for either me or the ministry and the calling of God.  Some of the times it was an attempt to flatter.  I am uncomfortable with flattering titles and have long instructed people that it is okay to call me Roy because that is my name.  Kim Clements called me out in a meeting years ago and said over and over with no explanation, “flattery, flattery, flattery.”  At first, I wondered what he meant and why that’s all he said and before I could approach him I sensed in my heart this was a warning from heaven.  People had been lauding me regarding my preaching and attempting to elevate me to a lofty position among them.  I realized that it was the Loving Hand of God protecting me with a gentle warning.  I later told a group of men from the church I was leading that the highest title of honor or distinction they could use would be to call me brother.  Being a member of the Body of Christ, a fellow-heirs with those identified as the laity as well as those identified as the clergy moves my heart.

Here in the Book of Job and the speeches of his so-called comforters or friends, there is little wisdom to be gleaned in their superfluous diatribe and their self-righteousness and lack of understanding of the character of God.  However, Elihu offers a nugget that I find relevant to every generation.  He declared that it was sinful to give flattering titles to mortal men and that he always restrained himself in that area.  If you understand that flattery is rooted in deceit and egotism you understand why God would not approve of it.  Elihu said, that by refusing to give flattering titles to man, he was refraining for saying things about men that were not true in order to build them up, stroke their egos, or win brownie points.  He declared that God would judge that and deem it sin.  That is a very strong statement.

In the New Testament, when people called Paul and Barnabas ‘gods’ because Paul had been used of God to heal a cripple man, the apostles reacted strongly and were repulsed by that ascription.  When King Herod allowed people to call him a god, God judged him quickly and it cost him his life.  In Proverbs 26:28 we read, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  Proverbs 29:5 it declares, “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”  It is a snare and one that we can easily avoid.

Please understand, I am not condemning, nor do I believe Scripture condemns the use of the title “Pastor.” In Scripture there are references to the pastor, elder, bishop, etc. and that is not that to which I am referring.  What I am speaking to is the apparent need of individuals to self-identify by a title not earned through education or given biblically by the Spirit of God or the church.  In my early years of ministry, it was a common practice of preachers to call each other “doc” although few of them had earned a doctorate educationally.  It was done with malicious intent but something that became a fad and as a result, I witnessed a number of preachers referring to themselves as “Doctor” when they do not have the educational credentials to back that up.  Please know that I am not downplaying education, I have quite a bit of it myself but have not earned a doctorate educationally although experientially I may have gone through enough battles, struggles, trials and life experiences as well as biblical study to experientially deserve the title.  What am I saying?  Simply if you are comfortable calling me or any preacher by Reverend, I can live with it, although I would prefer you simply referred to me as a brother.  I have been called Pastor and the title was not meant to flatter but respect and I appreciated it.  I have been called various titles because of the Gifts of God operating in my life and I resist them because what I do is a function, not a title.  (That’s my personal view).

The greatest honor you can give me is to identify me as a brother in Christ.  We are members of the same body.  In 1 Corinthians 12:27 we are identified as Christ’s Body and individually members of it.  I would recommend a careful study of 1 Corinthians 12 and the functions of the various parts of the body.  I believe it will help you to have a greater appreciation of the other members of the Body of Christ.

I’ve had people speak good things about good about my preaching to my face and although they were sincere, most of the time, if I internalized their comments it would be flattery.  I am simply a messenger, not the message. Like John the Baptist, “He must increase but I must decrease.”  I have instructed churches that I led to NEVER focus on me and ascribe to me such a lofty position that they got their eyes off Jesus.  I attempted to teach them biblical truths and right focus so when I departed that congregation they would not be focusing on me, how I did it, or what I preached or how, but JESUS!   We, who lead congregations, are simply the under-shepherds.  I’m quite sure I’ve had people, behind my back, say very unflattering things about my preaching and my person.

If you are a child of God you are my brother or sister in the LORD and when I identify you as brother or sister, I am not trying to flatter you but recognize Him who makes you special.  I am recognizing His work of grace in you.  If we focused less on position and titles and more on function, I believe we would touch the world much more powerfully.  I’ve said, although not original with me, regarding labels, titles, and tags, “if you go up they’ll fall off and if you go down, they’ll burn off.”  I like the song of the Hinson’s, “I don’t care what you call me but when He calls me, call me gone!”   Give honor to whom honor is due and tribute to whom tribute is due, but do not give flattery it has no redemptive purpose.

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!