Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

Church Life Archive

Friday

9

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

First Commandment- “No other gods before Me”

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn our last post introducing the Ten Commandments, we established these words were not suggestions.  They were given as merciful words of life, and as authoritative words from the God who is.

The account of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt is amazing. Once this nation of slaves was freed by the hand of God, we find them gathered at the base of Mt. Sinai by God’s direction and appointment.  From this mountain, God speaks to His people and gives to them His Law.

The first commandment is one of priority as God establishes a foundation for His people by declaring, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Before we learn other things about what God demands, we need to know who He is and who we are in relationship to Him.  God goes on record by saying that He refuses to share worship that is rightly to be given to Him. (more…)

Tuesday

6

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

There is a Shark in the Tank, And For Good Reason

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

635576994451396582-great-white-1I once read of a British fisherman who would troll the North Sea for mackerel. His fishing expeditions would yield abundant catches, but because it was before refrigeration, many of the mackerel would die on his trip back to market.

On one particular trip, the fisherman caught a small shark in one of his nets and had to dump it into the tank along with the other fish. The shark chased the other fish and kept them moving throughout the remainder of his voyage to shore.  When he arrived back, the fisherman discovered to his surprise that there was not a single dead fish in the holding tank. The mackerel had been forced to move around to avoid the shark that they didn’t have time to die!

I will always be amazed at how God places sharks, as it were, into the tank of our lives.  To be a follower of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that we will be carried to skies on flowery beds of ease. In fact, one of the most unpopular promises given to believers in the New Testament is that sometimes following Christ means trials, persecution, sufferings, and excruciating loss. (more…)

Tuesday

12

September 2017

0

COMMENTS

Suing Saints

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Faith & Culture

Image of LawsuitsI did a lot of highway travel this summer and have been amazed by the glut of attorney advertisements along the interstates of this fruited plain. I began to think that if I were a visitor from another country (or another planet), and I was trying to determine what was important in this culture, billboards and television commercials would indicate that having an aggressive attorney is one of the most important resources that I could have.

We live in a lawsuit-crazed culture where advertisements for attorney services appeal to your right to file a suit against another. The appeals are incredible, and at times shameful:

“Have you got your check yet?”

“I love my lawyer!”

“After you have been injured, there’s only one place to turn…”

“I will fight for you!”

An attorney is often the first person someone calls after any scrape or conflict. Without question, there are times and circumstances when we need an attorney, but for the Christian there are many things to consider with regard to lawsuits, especially when it pertains to another believer. (more…)

Friday

27

May 2016

0

COMMENTS

I’m Not the Master of My Fate, Nor the Captain of My Soul

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Childlike FaithWilliam Ernest Henley was an influential poet, critic, and editor in the late 1800’s. His life was marked by sorrow and struggle. His greatest battle was with tuberculosis which eventually took his life at the age of 53.

Henley was best known for his 1875 poem, Invictus, which I remember reading for the first time in a college dorm room. One of my friends had a large poster on his dorm wall that proclaimed Henley’s humanist creed.

Out of the night that covers me,

 Black as the Pit from pole to pole,      

 I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul. (more…)

Thursday

21

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

Resurrection +

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

Image-ResurrectionFollowing the invasion of Normandy in World War II, many historians chronicled the Allies progress through Europe as D-Day + (the number of days from June 6th 1944). For the Christ follower, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most important weekend in the history of the world and in reality we are living our lives in a “Resurrection +” mode.

This post comes about a month removed from Resurrection Sunday, and I was reminded this morning of the promised power given to believers because the tomb is empty. This is a tremendous encouragement of hope as we navigate the challenges, demands, and sorrows of this world. (more…)

Thursday

21

January 2016

1

COMMENTS

Take Hold Of That Which Is Truly Life

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Leadership

Version 2For the last few months I have been sharing pastoral reflections from twenty-two years with the same congregation. In previous posts we have discussed Gospel centrality; the priority of prayer; spiritual leadership; spiritual sweat; and healthy relationships in church life. Each of these posts mirrored the Apostle Paul’s instruction in the pastoral letter of I Timothy.

In this sixth and final post, there is strong challenge to live in light of eternity. In other words, a living out of Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount “to lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” and to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:20,33)”

The Apostle Paul, in a similar charge, calls Timothy to warn those under his care of the dangers of loving money and living for this world. For me, this theme is an ongoing challenge of the pastorate to give an impassioned plea to invest our lives in eternity, to lay up treasure in places where moths can’t destroy and thieves can’t steal. (more…)

Monday

14

December 2015

0

COMMENTS

Healthy Relationships in Church Life

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Leadership

Healthy Relationships in the BodyTimothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp  have written a helpful book entitled Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.  In one of their chapters, they ask the question, “Why bother?” Of course, they are asking “why bother” with relationships at all in light of how they are often painful and troubling. Lane and Tripp argue strongly, and biblically, that instead of calling for a détente on all relationships, we should see them from this perspective:

God wants to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we would see our need for a relationship with him as well as with others. Every painful thing we experience in relationships is meant to remind us of our need for him. And every good thing we experience is meant to be a metaphor of what we can only find in him. 

I mentioned in the first post of this series (Here) that there have been pains and struggles in the pastorate. Not only have I had to deal regularly with my own sinful attitudes and tendencies, which makes life hard, but I have had to work through painful relationships in the course of living my life as a Christian.

God’s plan is not to avoid problems, but to work through them by his grace and for his glory. The relationships in a local church become the training ground for all believers to learn to love as Christ loves us (Ephesians 4:31,32).  We are prone to speak in generalities about loving others. We prefer to love people from afar where they can’t mess up our comforts and preferences. Truth be known, the following describes us well,

To dwell above with the saints we love, Oh that will be glory;

But to dwell below with the saints we know, Well, that is another story! (more…)

Monday

23

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

Spiritual Sweat

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Leadership, Uncategorized

Image of spiritual sweatFrom the age of five until I was twenty-two, I spent most of my time either on a ball field or in a gymnasium.  Through my youth, I was involved in hundreds of practices and games.  Athletics was very much at the center of my life, and from those experiences I learned the importance of commitment, teamwork, and discipline.

When I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 20, I discovered that what was true in athletics was also true in living the Christian life, namely that to live for Christ is a call to discipline and training.  I knew that I could never work to earn salvation or even to contribute to it, for salvation comes by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8,9). I understood that God would not love me more if I prayed more, or gave more, or went to church more.  However, as I read the Bible, I discovered straightforward commands and disciplines that believers were to embrace into their lives. If I was going to grow in my walk with Christ, then I needed biblical intake on a daily basis. I needed daily times of God-connecting prayer. I needed personal and corporate worship. I needed to share my faith regularly. I needed to give of my time, money, and resources for Kingdom advancement. I needed to serve others and be united in a local body of believers.

In this fourth post on pastoral reflections, I come to I Timothy 4 which underscores the need for every believer to embrace spiritual discipline as a means of grace to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul gives a directive to Timothy, which comes to every believer. The Christian life is described in athletic terms as the New Testament describes a race (Hebrews 12:1-3) and a battle (2 Timothy 4:7; Ephesians 6:10-17).  For this contest, followers of Jesus Christ are called to “discipline themselves for the purpose of godliness” (I Timothy 4:7). (more…)

Monday

9

November 2015

2

COMMENTS

Spiritual Leadership

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Leadership

Spiritual Leadership-LionThis is the third installment of articles that are pastoral reflections on twenty-two years with the same congregation. I am following a series of themes that emerge from Paul’s pastoral letter of First Timothy and have found this New Testament letter to be crucial in forging my ministry philosophy as well as our church’s practice.

From Gospel centrality (I Timothy 1) and the priority of prayer (I Timothy 2), we move to spiritual leadership (I Timothy 3). Charles Spurgeon once said, “The most suicidal thing a church can do is compromise on leadership.” By “compromise” Spurgeon was referring to the biblical character qualities outlined in Scripture as they apply to those who would serve as pastors and deacons.

The selection of spiritual leaders is one of the most vital tasks facing a local congregation. Sadly, the criteria considered for such an all-important decision is anything but the character of the man under consideration. Often in a superficial assessment, the church notices things like popularity, or personality, or familiarity, or one’s reputation in the business community or financial status.

Interestingly in I Timothy 3, the apostle Paul speaks of none of these as qualifications for service as a pastor or deacon in the church of Jesus Christ. Instead, he provides a list of character qualities that serve as a guide for every church in the calling of spiritual leaders.

The reason spiritual leadership comes to mind in this reflection is because no church can function properly on the spiritual gifts of a single pastor, and no church can thrive for long with a leadership that undercuts the witness of the church. (more…)

Friday

9

October 2015

0

COMMENTS

The Priority of Prayer

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Leadership

Christian kneeling in prayerSome years back, I had a friend who was serving on the pastor search committee of her church. She shared with me her discouragement with the whole search process as she bemoaned the fact that the team commissioned by the church for this very important assignment seemed devoid of any commitment to pray. When she expressed her burden that the committee spend a season in prayer, one member said, “We don’t really need to pray, one pastor is just as good as another.”  Her heart sunk, and needless to say, the search process did not go well, and the church was hindered by poor leadership.

In reading I Timothy, we find a crucial blueprint for establishing pastoral ministry in a local church. The apostle Paul had placed Timothy, his young protégé in Gospel work, in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was a spiritual war zone (Ephesians 6:10-20), and Timothy was commissioned to establish sound doctrine with this goal in mind, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (I Timothy 1:5)

With Gospel centrality and biblical authority as the foundation for church life, Paul establishes the priority of prayer in I Timothy 2 as a matter of first importance. Notice the language, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” (I Timothy 2:1)

Timothy received seasoned counsel that would be essential to fulfilling his ministry. Namely, he was to make prayer the priority of his life and lead the congregation to embrace a commitment to prayer—-about everything and for everyone.

The terms Paul uses in v. 1 range from general prayer to specific petitions. Paul was describing the type of prayer that becomes the aroma for every gathering of God’s people. Prayer that is specific as a local church prays for every subdivision, apartment complex, trailer park, law enforcement personnel, elected official, local school, and business. Prayer that manifests concern for others and for their struggles and needs that we see every day. Prayer that seeks Christ for the global triumph of the Gospel in an Acts 1:8 concentric all the way to the unreached people groups of this world.  (more…)