5 Posts from July 2013

The Rewards of a Life of Integrity

This week I’m posting my thoughts to you via video.

I recently shared to the Dallas Seminary chapel some seminal insights on “The Rewards of a Life of Integrity.”

Those of us engaged in ministry cannot afford to sidestep this Christlike quality. And we certainly don’t want to miss the rewards of cultivating it.

—Chuck

 

Questions Only You Can Answer

I want to ask you four questions that only you can answer:

  1. Do you give the people in your congregation the freedom to be who they are?
  2. Do you let others go, or do you smother them and control them?
  3. Are you cultivating spontaneous, creative, celebrants—or fearful captives?
  4. Do you encourage, build up, and affirm those to whom you minister?

These four questions really boil down to one:

Are you one who models and ministers grace?

It’s time to take off the gloves, rip off the masks, knock off the rationalizations, and face the truth head-on.

Is the ministry you’re leading the result of your own flesh, energized by your own gifts and strengths? Are you relying on your charisma to pull it off? Do you often have a hidden agenda?

How about your motive? With a captive audience hanging on to your words and following your ministry (and your Tweets) with unquestioned loyalty, do you exploit them . . . do you use your power for your own purposes? Is the enhancement of your image of major importance to you, or can you honestly say that your work is directed and empowered by the Spirit of God?

Again, I ask you:

Are you one who models and ministers grace?

—Chuck

Our Calling: What We Fight For

Our calling as pastors includes fighting.

I don’t mean we strap on the gloves and go toe-to-toe with our elders and congregational members. I mean, as pastors, we’re called to defend the faith.

As time passes, we will see our orthodox faith in Jesus Christ attacked more and more. We will find that the things of God are increasingly viewed with suspicion . . . addressed with cynicism . . . and, eventually, banned completely.

When we entered ministry, whether we knew it or not at the time, we entered a war zone. The pastorate is a battleground, not a playground.

This is why Paul included in his first letter to Timothy these sober commands:

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12–13)

As pastors, it is never appropriate for us to earn a reputation as a fighter, in the sense of being argumentative or a bully. That’s the last thing the body of Christ needs—another angry, bullheaded preacher pushing his agenda.

No, here’s the type of “contender” we need to be:

  • We must have a strong determination mixed with keen discernment.
  • We must refuse to allow anyone to intimidate us in our convictions.
  • We must fight against those things that can damage the flock.
  • We must have a tough hide and a tender heart.

Paul commissioned Timothy to pastor the church at Ephesus. Interestingly, the letter Paul penned to that local body echoes with battlefield metaphors. Because our battle is a spiritual conflict, our weapons also are spiritual (Ephesians 6:11–17). May we never forget that our adversary is the devil, not our congregations. Speaking of our adversary, here are a few reminders:

  • He is wily, clever, and brilliant.
  • He stands against everything you stand for.
  • He will despise the times you preach the truth.
  • He will want you to soften your blow.
  • He knows you better than you know yourself, making a study of every chink in your armor.

The battleground of ministry always reminds me of Martin Luther’s ageless hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Take a moment now, lean back in your chair, and sing these verses out loud and clear.

And I mean sing! After all, we’re in a battle.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe—
His craft and pow’r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He—
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him—
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thro’ Him Who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also—
The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still:
His kingdom is forever.¹

—Chuck

 

Endnote:

  1. Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” in The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship (Nashville: Word/Integrity, 1997), hymn 151.

Our Calling: What We Follow After

I wrote you the last two weeks that the ministry is not our job. It’s our calling.

That calling requires that we flee from certain things.

However, along with fleeing from those things, we need to follow after other things.

I love the double action stated here. While we are fleeing from certain things, we are at the same time following after other things. The word that appears in my Bible is pursue (1 Timothy 6:11). The tense of the original term indicates that we should keep on pursuing these things.

Paul lists five pursuits for Timothy—and for us:

  1. Pursue righteousness—another word for integrity.
  2. Pursue godliness—a reverence for God and a hatred for sin. May that always be true of us! Don’t hold loosely your relationship with God. Samson did that and we all know what happened to him as a result. Hold very closely your relationship with Christ.
  3. Pursue faith—a deliberate refusal to walk by sight. You will be tempted repeatedly to let your sight guide you. You’ll be surrounded by others who will choose to do that. Don’t go there. Trust God . . . lean on Him . . . rely on Him. Have Him fight your battles for you. Have Him clear your mind of things that are disturbing you and distracting you from your calling.
  4. Pursue love—“seek the highest good of others” (the best definition of love I’ve ever read). Be affectionate in season and out of season. When you feel like it and when you don’t. When you’re younger or when you’re older. When it’s early or when it’s late. When they like you or when they don’t like you. When the church is growing or when your ranks have plateaued. Perseverance in love should mark your life.
  5. Pursue gentleness—another word for meekness. May you be known as a humble man of God, giving others the credit they deserve and always pushing that credit away from yourself.

Keep on pursuing these things. As you do, you’ll honor God.

Next week, I’ll talk about the right kind of fighting.

—Chuck

Our Calling: What We Flee From

Our calling as pastors includes running. Lots of it.

I’m thinking in particular of Paul’s words in his first letter to Timothy: “You, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from . . .” (1 Timothy 6:11 NLT).

The word run comes from the Greek term pheugo. We get our word fugitive from it. It may sound strange at first, but we who are called to minister are like a fugitive. We should be constantly fleeing from evil.

Paul’s letters contain certain things that the man of God is to run from. In fact, you and I will be running from these for the rest of our days:

  • Immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).
  • Idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14).
  • Arrogance and conceit (1 Timothy 6:3–4).
  • Covetousness (1 Timothy 6:6–10). Guard against every temptation to covet your parishioners’ salaries (you will rarely make as much as they do) or longing for the things they own.
  • Youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • Quarrelsomeness (2:24). I urge you to be known as a person who keeps the unity of the Spirit, rather than one who disturbs the peace of God’s saints.

An older man in ministry once shared with me four common things that cause a minister to fall: silver, sloth, sex, and self.

Flee from those things as they relate to evil. That’s right. Run!

May the things God calls us to flee from never be associated with you . . . or with me.

Next week, I’ll write about what we should follow after.

—Chuck