Drawing Near

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

Church Life Archive

Friday

27

May 2016

0

COMMENTS

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

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

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…)

Thursday

24

September 2015

0

COMMENTS

Gospel Centrality

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Leadership, Theology

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing a series of articles on pastoral convictions that have been forged in the context of local church ministry. In my case, a twenty-two year journey with the same congregation.

These brief articles will be based on the book of I Timothy where the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy on how to fulfill faithful ministry in a local body. In what seems to be his purpose statement, Paul wrote to his spiritual son,

“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”                                                                                  ~I Timothy 3:14-15

Paul explained to Timothy that he desired to come for a personal visit, but that he was writing in case that didn’t work out. He wanted Timothy to have specific instruction and guidance on how to lead a local church, specifically, “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God.”

In reading the New Testament, clearly the Church is not a civic club but a redeemed family with an eternal purpose. In God’s redemptive plan, the local church is the hope of the world because of the message that is to be proclaimed through the ministry of God’s word and the lives of God’s people.  (more…)

Tuesday

15

September 2015

2

COMMENTS

Reflections on 22 Years With the Same Congregation

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Leadership

Today I pass my 22nd year pastoring the same congregation. This is really an answer to prayers offered long ago as Gwynne and I walked around our seminary campus. As we were finishing our time of ministry preparation and seeking God’s direction, we asked the Lord to lead us to a place where we could invest our lives with a people and where we could grow together in the obedience of faith.  First Baptist Church Gonzales (FBCG) has been an answer to that prayer.

Serving as a pastor of a local congregation has been a rich and fulfilling experience that has brought me great joy and a sense of God’s pleasure. I have never been bored, and the call to rise each morning and get to the task at hand has never been in question for me.

As John Piper quipped, in his work, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, “God loves a cheerful pastor.” Piper’s adaptation of 2 Corinthians 9:7 has been like a well-driven nail into my thoughts and attitudes about local church ministry that has served me well. At this point in my journey, I am more energized than I can ever remember for Christ to receive his rightful glory in his church and among the nations.

However, there have been times in ministry where I have wanted to quit, times that were not joyful, but excruciating. That feeling could be articulated as an impulse to move to Montana and work at McDonalds. Those moments have always been short-lived for me, and I have come to see that the pain in ministry has been God’s sanctifying hand chastening and conforming me into the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-30). (more…)

Friday

21

August 2015

1

COMMENTS

Life is Short, Don’t Have an Affair

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Faith & Culture

One can only imagine the panic Tuesday’s revelation brought throughout the world when hackers announced that they were going to post online the client data from Ashley Madison, a web company that facilitates adulterous connections globally. This data leak is now available for download and includes: full names, street addresses, email addresses, and financial information of some 37 million users.

Make no mistake about it, the fallout will be devastating to millions of families, and serves to remind us of the dangerous secret lives that are being lived out in epic proportions on the Internet. We could rightly call this week’s Ashley Madison debacle a category 5 with regard to moral storms, and its effects most certainly will be catastrophic.

The explosion of Internet immorality into multi-billion dollar business seems to have come together like a perfect storm as spiritual decline coupled with the jettisoning of biblical truth merged with the rapid advance of the Internet.
(more…)