Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
My wife, Grace, is both a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife. Her daddy graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with men like Chuck Swindoll. He planted a church before she was born, and remained there for over forty years. In conversations with her over the years, I’ve gleaned a lot about the cost a family pays to be in ministry.
In a few mainly prosperity-oriented, religious-type churches, the pastor’s wife is treated as the first lady, with an over-the-top amount of power and deference. However, in most small churches, the pastor’s wife is treated as the last lady, with an over-the-top lack of love and consideration. As a result, she’s the last lady to sit down for a church meal because she’s in the kitchen, the last one to make it in to hear her husband’s sermon because she’s getting hen-pecked by the needy and religious women, the last person to get help when she’s in need because she’s busy looking after everyone else, and the last person to get her husband’s undivided attention because his phone is always ringing with someone who has randomly decided they are more important than her.
Many pastors have children. On Sundays, the pastor’s wife is basically a single mother. She gets up early to cook a nice breakfast, chat with her husband, and pray for him before sending him off to preach. She then has to get the kids up and ready, get herself ready, and get the family out the door early enough to not be late to church, because everyone will talk if she’s late. She often does not have a designated parking spot as she should, and upon entering the church she is continually interrupted by people wanting to chat—often including rude people, demanding people, and critics of her husband. She tries to keep an eye on her kids during all of this while carrying a diaper bag and other belongings, and eventually she makes her way into the church service, where it is likely she does not have a seat saved for her. Surely the church can do better than this.
Many churches do not factor into the pastor’s compensation the thousands of dollars his family pours back into the ministry. If you want the pastor to live near the church, have a home big enough to entertain, have an extra room for guests, have lots of people over for meetings and meals, and tithe generously to the church, all of that costs money.
On top of that, consider how many birthday, wedding, baby, anniversary, and Christmas presents the pastor’s family has to buy each year. When our church was very young, we spent literally thousands of dollars a year on these expenses, even though the church was not paying us. We had a few thousand people in our home every year and interns living with us, plus a home office. We did so gladly, because we love the church. But we did go into some debt since we had no reserves, and if a car with over two hundred thousand miles broke down, the credit card was our only option.
If your pastor does not work hard and does not give generously, fire him. If he does work hard and does give generously, then compensate him decently and free his family up to be more generous and productive.
On Sundays, the pastor’s wife is basically a single mother.”
One of the worst examples I have seen comes from a small church. The pastor was not paid a full salary because their giving was low. His wife worked a job to make ends meet, and the two of them gave all of their life to the service of that church. One of their elders who ran their books asked me to offer consult to the church, as they had not grown in many years. The first thing I asked for was the giving record of the elders. Only two of the six elders had given any money of any decent amount over the entire year—the lead pastor and the bookkeeper. The other four men on the board—all with decent, steady jobs—gave nothing or next to it. But year after year they were fine with letting the pastor’s wife work a taxing job to make ends meet and open up her home week after week to feed and serve people. She was one of the top givers in the church. It was criminal. It is common.
To be sure, most churches do not have a lot of money. Still, even an effort to take care of the pastor and his family means a lot.
Days off, vacations, and holidays
In the Bible, God commands all of his people to take a day off, called a Sabbath. Certainly, people can and do get legalistic and religious about this issue, but the simple fact is if we do not take a voluntary Sabbath, we will eventually take an involuntary Sabbath, as we break down and end up sick and/or hospitalized. For a pastor, Sunday is a workday. This is doubly true if he has evening services on Saturday or Sunday night. He has to set aside another time as his Sabbath.
So, when it’s his day off or his vacation time with his family (which is so vital), someone else needs to be on call to answer his phone, deal with emergencies, and tend to the flock. A handful of high-drama, demanding church people can ruin an entire pastoral family by constantly calling, dropping by, and otherwise interrupting without due cause during dinner time, days off, and vacations. Such people are selfish and do not understand that when a shepherd has a little flock of family and a big flock of church, he cannot give all his time to one sheep who is just lonely. Such sheep need to hang with the other sheep and give the shepherd a break.
Holidays are also tough times for the pastor’s wife. Unlike most of the women in the church, she cannot enjoy Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and other such holidays by having her family all together and going to church. Why? Because her husband has to work on those days every single year. So, pray for her, thank her, and be sympathetic to the continual sacrifice she makes for the good of the whole church.
Those women are legion. Those women are pushy, demanding, and masters at guilt. They try to make the pastor’s wife be their friend, expect her to be at every church event, have some job description they have dreamed up for her (like running the women’s ministry), demand personal email and cellphone access, expect to be in the pastor’s home whenever they like, and seek to get their hand on the rudder of the church through manipulating the pastor’s wife. Those women tend to be quite religious and difficult to deal with.
The truth is, the Bible has no office or job description called “pastor’s wife.” This is because the pastor’s wife is simply to be a Christian church member like everyone else. Her first priorities are to be a godly woman, godly wife, and then godly mother, after which all other duties fall. If she is busy with her family and the ministry she and her husband have, to their children, and the guests they entertain, her plate is more than full. If she desires to use certain gifts to serve in the church and she and her husband think it’s a good idea, then that is fine, but not to be expected. Perhaps, as her children grow up, she may have more time to be involved in more ministry, if that is what she and her husband desire and feel called to.
The Bible has no job description called “pastor's wife.” The pastor’s wife is simply to be a Christian church member like everyone else.”
I am blessed to have married a woman who loves both Jesus and the church. She has no desire to work after our children are raised, but she does want to teach and train women more than she is able to today. Today, she is busy with five young children and has only a little time for training women and other ministry in the church. When our children are grown she will give more time to formal ministry in the church as an unpaid church member, just like everyone else, as we agree that’s what God has called her to.
Those women need to know that a pastor’s wife is to be friendly toward all people, but should not be expected to be friends with all people. She, like everyone else, has a right to choose her friends. Whom she spends time with, opens her heart to, invites to her birthday party, and allows into her home is her choice to make.
In conclusion, I am urging people who love their church and its leaders to pray for and care for the pastor’s wife, whose ministry is so vital, yet overlooked or assumed. Gifts are a good practical way to love the pastor’s wife, but it is even more thoughtful and loving to give her cash or a gift card so she can get what she needs or wants. The purpose of gifts is defeated if her house is filled with a bunch of things she cannot use but feels obligated to display so that when you come over she doesn’t feel rude. Beyond gifts, tell her thanks. Write her thank you cards. Look for ways to ensure she is served and helped on Sundays.
Thankfully, after some painful years in ministry, Mars Hill Church has matured to a wonderful place where Grace and I are well loved and supported. So, this blog post is filled with things we do not need. Yet many pastors’ wives still do need them, and I am hoping that some of you can help be that blessing.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31–32)
Few passages of Scripture have been more misinterpreted and misunderstood than these two verses. Because of their extreme seriousness and finality; it is critical to understand them correctly.
Jesus first stated that any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men. Although blasphemy is a form of sin, in this passage and context the two are treated separately-with blasphemy representing the most extreme form of sin. Sinhere represents the full gamut of immoral and ungodly thoughts and actions, whereas blasphemy represents conscious denouncing and rejection of God. Blasphemy is defiant irreverence, the uniquely terrible sin of intentionally and openly speaking evil against holy God or defaming or mocking Him (cf. Mark. 2:7). The Old Testament penalty for such blasphemy was death by stoning (Lev. 24:16). In the last days blasphemy will be an outstanding characteristic of those who rebelliously and insolently oppose God (Rev. 13:5–6; 16:9; 17:3).
But even blasphemy, Jesus says, is forgiven, just as any other sin is forgiven when it is confessed and repented of. An unbeliever who blasphemes God can be forgiven. Paul confessed that, “even though [he] was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor,” he was nevertheless “shown mercy, because [he] acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13–14). “Christ Jesus came into the world,” the apostle continues, “to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (v. 15). Peter blasphemed Christ with curses (Mark 14:71) and was forgiven and restored.
Even a believer can blaspheme, since any thought or word that sullies or defames the Lord’s name constitutes blasphemy. To question God’s goodness, wisdom, fairness, truthfulness, love, or faithfulness is a form of blasphemy. All of that is forgivable by grace. Speaking to believers, John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
There is one exception, however: blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Even the person who blasphemes Jesus, who dares to speak a word against the Son of Man … shall be forgiven. Son of Mandesignates the Lord’s humanity, which He experienced in His time of humiliation and servitude during the incarnation. A person’s perception may not allow him to see more than the Lord’s humanity, and if he only misjudges at that level and speaks against Him in His humanness, such a word against the Son of Man can be forgiven. When a person rejects Christ with less than full exposure to the evidence of His deity, he may yet be forgiven of that sin if, after gaining fuller light, he then believes.
But the blasphemy against the Spirit was something more serious and irremediable. It not only reflected unbelief, but determined unbelief-the refusal, after having seen all the evidence necessary to complete understanding, even to consider believing in Christ. This was blasphemy against Jesus in His deity, against the Spirit of God who uniquely indwelt and empowered Him. It reflected determined rejection of Jesus as the Messiah against every evidence and argument. It reflected seeing the truth incarnate and then knowingly rejecting Him and condemning Him. It demonstrated an absolute and permanent refusal to believe, which resulted in loss of opportunity ever to be forgiven … either in this age, or in the age to come. Through this age (all of human history), such rejection is unforgivable.The age to come implies that through all of eternity there will be no forgiveness. In the age of human history and in the age of divine consummation, no forgiveness.
Scripture is clear that during His ministry on earth our Lord was submissive to the Father (John 4:34; 5:19–30) and empowered by the Spirit (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1, 18; John 3:34; Acts 1:2; Rom. 1:4). Peter said that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth “with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38).
Those who spoke against the Holy Spirit were those who saw His divine power working in and through Jesus but willfully refused to accept the implications of that revelation and, in some cases, attributed that power to Satan. Many people had heard Jesus teach and preach God’s truth, as no man had ever taught before (Matt. 7:28–29), yet they refused to believe Him. They had seen him heal every kind of disease, cast out every kind of demon, and forgive every kind of sin, yet they charged Him with deceit, falsehood, and demonism. In the face of every possible evidence of Jesus’ messiahship and deity, they said no. God could do nothing more for them, and they would therefore remain eternally unforgiven.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
There is nothing in the whole creation the mind can contemplate, the eye look upon, or the hand lay hold on, but what proclaims the Being of God.
Monday, March 14, 2011
This Latin phrase found on the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland, encompasses the purpose of both the original 1560 Geneva Bible and the new Reformation Study Bible: to bring the light of Scripture to a darkened world. Today there is a constant assault on the integrity of Scripture, which has served to undermine people's confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible. The Reformation Study Bible is a valuable tool in the defense of sound doctrine and clear understanding of the truth.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Rev. Richard Johnson, a thirty-two year old Englishman, and graduate of Cambridge University, arrived in New South Wales with the first fleet in January 1788. As the first, and for some time the only Christian preacher in Australia, Johnson had sole responsibility for the spiritual needs of the infant white population.
His flock numbered over one thousand souls and was made up of the governor, Captain Arthur Philip with his staff, and a large number of convicts (568 males, 191 females with 13 children).
Within a month of Johnson’s arrival the first service of public worship in Australia was organised for Sunday, February 3, 1788 at 10am with Governor Philip ordering that ‘No man to be absent on any account whatever.’ That first service was held by ‘a great tree’ close to the harbour with Johnson preaching from Ps.116:12,13 “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.’
While no record of what Johnson said on that historic occasion exists, Lieutenant Ralph Clark, who was present at the service, reported. “We had a very good sermon . . . the behaviour of the convicts was regular and attentive.” Moreover in the first piece of Christian literature written in Australia, Johnson tells us of how he preached to his congregation : “I do not address you as Churchmen or Dissenters, Roman Catholic or Protestants, as Jews or Gentiles . . . But I speak to you as mortals and yet immortals . . . The gospel proposes a free and gracious pardon to the guilty, cleansing to the polluted, healing to the sick, happiness to the miserable and even life for the dead.”
Rev. Richard Johnson, an Englishman, an Anglican, and Australia’s first preacher not only believed the biblical gospel but preached it in all of its glorious fullness.
In December 1788, Rev. Johnson along with his wife Mary, celebrated their first Christmas on Australian soil.
It can hardly have been the happiest of festive seasons for them both. Life in the colony was hard and the Johnsons fully shared in those hardships. Life in the colony was hard and the Johnsons fully shared in those hardships. In October 1788, they had moved into their ‘first’ home, a hut made from cabbage tree palms and rushes (it would be three years before they lived in a brick house) at Sydney Cove and it was there in that same month that they buried their first child.
Nonetheless the Johnson’s persevered in their adopted homeland and on that first Christmas we find Australia's first preacher going about the Master’s business.
His journal entry for Sunday, December 28, 1788 informs us that he “Rose about 4 o’clock. At five took boat; went to Rose Hill; arrived about eight o’clock; between nine and ten began public service. Preached from 2nd chap. Eph.17. After sermon I distributed some books among the convicts. Returned about three o’clock, and arrived at Sydney about eight. Bless God, O my soul, for this day’s mercies and protection.”
Johnson’s text at that service was Ephesians 2:17. It reads “And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh”. It is a text whose chief subject is the Lord Jesus Christ. In particular, it refers to Christ in his role as our mediator. As mediator, Christ is the one who makes peace between God and man. He is the mediator who reconciles man to his holy God.
As Hebrews 2:17 declares concerning the Saviour “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”.
Christ in his role as our great high priest has made reconciliation for our sins. On our behalf and to our eternal benefit he has obtained peace with God for us.
But Johnson’s text not only alludes to Christ as the ultimate priest who obtains peace with God for us but also declares him to be the prophet who comes and preaches peace to us. How can this be as Christ was bodily absent from the earth in the time of the apostles and remains absent to this day? How does Christ preach peace to sinful man who is at enmity with God? He does so through his church. He is with his church always and particularly with its faithful preachers.
Men like Australia’s first preacher, Richards Johnson, who set forth Jesus Christ as humanity’s only hop and emphasised in their preaching the necessity of saving faith in Christ. Through such pulpiteers of the past and preacher of the present Christ comes and preaches peace to all.
Today, as you have read this article, let me ask you,
Do you know Richard Johnson’s Saviour?
Are you at peace with your God?
Are you trusting in Christ and his finished cross work for your salvation?
We encourage you to do so and to hearken to the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
When you do so you will discover for yourself that Christ is not only the priest who obtains salvation, and the prophet who proclaims salvation, but the king who governs the recipients of salvation. With the Hymn writer you will be able to say,
King of my life, I crown thee now,
Thine shalt the glory be;
Lest I forget thy thorn-crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.
May God give you the grace this day to take Jesus for your Saviour and crown him King of your life.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Letter from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones To Mr R. C. Sellers, 24 May 1962.
With regard to your question, the answer is this. It is made clear in Romans 3:25, 26 that God’s forgiving and passing over the sins of people in the Old Testament was in the light of our Lord’s death. Then there is a parallel statement of this in Hebrews 9:5–15, and especially verse 15. You have the same point, of course, in verses 39 and 40 of Hebrews 11. Then there is the crucial statement in John 8:56: ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.’ When you take that in connection with Romans 4:17–24 and Galatians 3:6–29, it is clear that there is only one way of salvation, and that it is always in and through Christ and His work. Acceptance of and submission to the sacrificial teaching under the old dispensation was an acceptance of God's way of salvation. They realised that these were but types of something that was to come. The fact that their understanding and apprehension were incomplete makes no difference.
God announced from the very beginning that there was but this one way of salvation. That is why everything in the Old Testament points forward to this. I do hope that this will be of some help to you. Please do not hesitate to write to me whenever you like, or if I can help in a conversation at any point I shall be more than delighted.