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Daily Distinctives, March 26, 2015 (Confirmations)

March 26, 2015

Daily Reading:

[1Ti 3:1 NKJV]
This [is] a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

[1Ti 3:3 NKJV]
not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;

[1Ti 3:4 NKJV]
one who rules his own house well, having [his] children in submission with all reverence

[1Ti 3:5 NKJV]
(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);

[1Ti 3:6 NKJV]
not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the [same] condemnation as the devil.

[1Ti 3:7 NKJV]
Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Daily Distinctive:

I love my devotional time because it is so flexible. I am not bound by any rigorous structure in my devotional time, I don’t have to be scheduled or even organized with it. The only thing I have to do really is be faithful to do it. Now this is not to say that I don’t have structured times in the WORD of God, or that I am not organized in my studies, but there is a distinct difference in my devotional time and my study time. My devotional time is more of a time of reflection and it is more fluid. My pastor would probably call my approach to devotions very “hippie.” Ha! The truth is that before I begin my devotional time I pray that the LORD would give me the material that He wants me to have that day, even moment. I reflect on my day, and previous days to draw from my experiences in this season of my life, and I read the Bible and other godly materials to inspire me and get me in the writing mode. Now I choose to write my devotionals down (or type them) because I have found that it helps me personally. I can refer back to my devotional time and see marked growth over time. A side benefit is that others might read this benefit from it is as well.

Often times the fodder for my devotional time comes from the messages that my pastor teaches. I love the way my pastor teaches most of the time. I can tell when he has had a solid quality time with the LORD, and when his week has been overwhelming, all by the way he teaches. I have no doubt that he is dedicated to preparation for his sermons, but he is human after all, and so I can usually tell when the burdens of being a husband, father, and employer have distracted him. Most people don’t consider these things when they listen to their pastors. They think that pastors are super-human and have one function; to give them a good sermon. Ha! But I have to say that my pastor always gives good sermons because I know he is dedicated to faithfully preserving and presenting the WORD of God. And so nights like last night when he taught on the life of Gideon had some great nuggets that challenged me personally.

I say “challenged” not because they were convicting me of anything I am doing wrong, but “challenged” in that he touched on a the subject of being a pastor and the calling, a topic that I have been wrestling with for years now. I tend to agree with my pastor on most things because I know that he is walking in the Spirit too. Still, there were some generalizations that he made that didn’t seem to fit my experiences. These caused me to question myself and my motives, yet again. Not that I mind; the fact is that when I wrestle with these things the end analysis is always the same. They only serve to me as confirmations.

In his sermon last night he was referring to the men of Ephraim who reprimanded Gideon for going off to battle without them. He said…

Jealousy always hinders the work of God. It always does. You know many people have never gotten to be useful to God because they strive constantly trying to get that top position, the top spot of something. I would say that they’re hungry for it; it’s all that they think about; it’s all that they can dwell on; every time they turn around; it’s like…if one day I could be the “top dog, ” the C.E.O., the boss, the pastor, the lead army in this case. And I would say that is not a calling, you know, a lot of  people always ask, “How did you know you had a calling?” And one of the things I hear from a lot of pastors is, when you’re called to do something for the LORD, especially for me, I can only speak really for myself and a few of the people I’ve talked to, but I remember when I felt called to be a pastor; I didn’t want to be a pastor. I remember when I got saved, I didn’t have a desire. One of the first things I said was ‘I’m never going to preach the Gospel; I’m never going to share it with homeless people on the street corner; I’m never going to be a pastor and teach a Bible study; I just need fire insurance.’ And a few months later, the next thing I know, I’m studying and there is this desire and I’m all ‘Nah, that’s not for me, I don’t want it, I would rather do this, I would rather be a Christian because I could be out in the open, I could be out doing this stuff, and being a witness for the LORD.’ And a lot of people have this weird desire just to really be in charge of something. Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a leader. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a manager or a boss or any of that stuff, but as a Christian you should be called to do those things. And so the key word there is “called,” not, “Hey I’m gunna do it, and I’m gunna fight my way into it. So you know, in the school of ministry I’ve known many guys that said they were called to be a pastor and they’ll tell you themselves that their called, that’s cool, if they say, “hey, you know, I feel called to be a pastor, what’s that like?” I’ve had people tell me that, “I feel called to be a pastor,” and I’m like, “That’s awesome!”…Anyway, the call is cool, and it is cool when you tell someone you have a calling but when that person is out, or when your out trying to market yourselves, or yourself as a walking commercial of being a pastor or being a bible study teacher or being a C.E.O., or being the manager, it’s not good. It’s not good at all.

And so as I listened intently to what he said, I had to stop and ask myself, why is it that I want to be a pastor? I am certainly not jealous of those who are already fulfilling that calling on their life. I know the pressures and hardships that must come along with that function of ministry. I am not striving for that top position, because the reality is that it is the bottom position, more of a foundation for the church than a pinnacle of success. And while the pastor of a church is usually in the spotlight, literally, it is because they have that unique gifting, one that I know the LORD has given me as well, to teach the Bible.

Now I would agree that I am hungry for it, it’s all I think about, and it’s all I dwell on, but speaking for myself only, it is not because I want to occupy my day consumed with this inexplicable desire to teach the Bible and pastor a church, but no matter how hard I try to suppress it, it won’t go away. When my wife and I travel, I see the passing road signs and wonder, “what if the LORD were to call me here? Who would I teach, cows?” I think about how impossible it will be to do this because of my circumstances in life. I don’t even know how, when or where. I am probably the most ill prepared “wanna be” pastor on the planet. But I know this, if the LORD said jump, at that instance I would jump!

I have long abandoned any doubts that the LORD is calling me to this life and there is no pretense in my motives. But unlike what my pastor experienced, I have pretty much always known in the back of my mind that this was going to happen some day. Even before I was saved, my parents and friends (even the ones who where along side of me when I was a complete hellion) would tell me that I would one day be a pastor. I wrote them off. And so perhaps I can share in my pastors experience and those that he referred to who did not want to be pastors, at least to some degree. But after I was saved, and I felt the call, even more so today, I have embraced it with passion and zeal. I have even told my pastor that I felt the calling and asked him to test it. I have not brought it back up again to him, but he has mentioned on several occasions without any provocation on my part of my desire to be a pastor. And so when I hear things that run counter to my experience I feel challenged to learn why the LORD would give something to me that others are saying is not norm. I read a blog recently from Robert Mohler (I know, he is Baptist and probably Reformed, still, he made a great point) where he wrote….

One key issue here is a common misunderstanding about the will of God. Some models of evangelical piety imply that God’s will is something difficult for us to accept. We sometimes confuse this further by talking about “surrendering” to the will of God. As Paul makes clear in Romans 12:2, the will of God is good, worthy of eager acceptance, and perfect. Those called by God to preach will be given a desire to preach as well as the gifts of preaching. Beyond this, the God-called preacher will feel the same compulsion as the great Apostle, who said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” [1 Corinthians 9:16, ESV]

I can certainly relate to this. I don’t look at surrender to the will of God as something difficult. Rather, I try to embrace it. I wish this were the case for everything in my life. Sometimes it is hard to surrender, but other times, as with the case of of my calling, I have no trouble embracing it, even recognizing the hardships that will come with it. Counting the cost, I know that regardless, God will allow me to have the strength and the wisdom to do what He has called me to do. He has given me the desire, He has given me the gifts, and He has given me the will. And so I can certainly relate to Paul, and other pastors who understand, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” And so what I find is that I am in a lonely place. On one side is a world that wants nothing to do with the Gospel and certainly does not want another pastor, and on the other side a church that is fearful to entrust such a noble calling to someone like myself, evidenced by the lack of godly men willing to guide me and help prepare me, men whom I have vocalized this calling to. In all fairness, I understand the apprehension. One only needs to look at my life and say, “Yeah, right, Nick a pastor…lol.” But that does not change the fact that God is calling me. Perhaps the season is not right. All I have to go on is His WORD and whether or not I meet the qualifications laid out before me in my daily reading above.

John Newton, famous for writing “Amazing Grace,” once remarked that “None but He who made the world can make a Minister of the Gospel.”

One thing I know for sure is that God is doing a mighty work with regard to my life. There will be no doubts that God will receive glory through me, because He has the impossible task of fulfilling this calling that He has placed on my life. I am just “along for the ride,” so to speak. And though this passion burns inside of me, I can only go where He leads. He has allowed me to be where I am, and has placed me under the authority of the church where I have been planted. As He sees fit, He will move. Until then, I am content with serving where I am planted, in any capacity. Sure, I desire to teach. And where the church does not provide that outlet to express the gifts of the Spirit the LORD has given me, they still flow, even through these pages. After all, the church is not limited to the four walls that I attend.

I can only gauge the effectiveness of my teaching ministry by the fruit that this produces. Being a web guy (my trade) I have to analyze behavioral statistics and data on websites, looking at performance and ROI for my clients. I am in marketing for a living. The LORD has given me these talents and I use them as my “tent making business.” As a marketer, I am inclined to use these talents in every area of my life. Not that I am trying to market myself, and or the Gospel, but sometimes it may appear that way because I am naturally inclined to use these skills that the LORD has given me as a I do all things heartily as if unto the LORD. And so naturally, I would evaluate anything web related to the same scrutiny that I pass all of my work through. And so when I looked at the analytical data for this site to see if there was any fruit being produced, I was pleasantly surprised to see that of the mere 37 sermons I have on this site, they have been downloaded a total of 5,807 times, an average of 156 times per sermon. The most popular sermon is Revelation 16:1-21 The Game Changer, which has been downloaded 244 times. Now I have only been doing this for a year. I share this not to boast, because I know by comparison that other sites with pastors who are used of God in ways far beyond me make these stats look novice, but they confirm to me that God has used the gifts He has given me to reach at least 5,000 people. The neat thing is that I have not promoted this site like I do my clients sites. I have not done any SEO, and I don’t even engage this site in the social networks where I know there is much action. Still, the LORD is using this and me to reach the world with His message. And so, the LORD has blessed my work beyond what I asked. You see, when I first gave my life to Christ, I asked Him to allow me to reach at least one person every day with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now I am reaching hundreds and even thousands of people with the message of the cross. This is encouraging.

The realist in me says, “Yeah Nick, but a lot of those statistics are from robots, spammers and hackers.” But then the LORD reminded me of the story of the man who was in prison who had nothing to use for toilet paper and so he tore the pages out of a bible. After a while of sitting there attending to his business, while he waited, he started to read his “toilet paper,” and a result he ended up getting saved!  I have even heard tales of men who used Bible pages as rolling papers for their pot or cigarettes and end up reading it and getting saved. And so if God can use toilet paper, cigarettes and pot to reach people, then imagine what he can do with me. I am immediately reminded of the LORD says in the book of Isaiah…it says….

[Isa 55:11 NKJV]
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper [in the thing] for which I sent it.

My old pastor, Ron, used to say sharing the WORD of God is like being a waiter; our job is to get the food from the kitchen to the table without messing up the order. The chef is God, the food is His WORD, the waiter is me, and patron is you! Believe me when I say, you don’t want me cooking for you; I can burn salad!

And so my devotional today only serves as further confirmation of what it is that the LORD is calling me to do. My only prayer is that He will make it happen already! LOL. If not, at least take away the desire…please!!!!

Daily Muse:

As providence would have it my wife brought up her devotional reading of Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, today. Now I have to tell you that I love Oswald Chambers, so much so that if I have another son, I am going to name him Oswald Chambers Covanes (we will probably call him Ozzy for short)!  I am fascinated by what he writes and am equally impressed with his wife, who if not for her transcription of Chambers works we would be left destitute of it. But the topic of the devotional today was “Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity.” In it Chambers writes…

Purity is not innocence- it is much more than that. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God. We have to grow in purity. our life with God may be right and our inner purity unblemished, yet occasionally our outer life may become spotted and stained. God intentionally does not protect us from this possibility, because this is the way we recognize the necessity of maintaining our spiritual vision through personal purity. If the outer level of our spiritual life with God is impaired to the slightest degree, we must put everything else aside until we make it right. Remember that spiritual vision depends on our character- it is “the pure heart” who seeGod.”

God makes us pure by an act of His sovereign grace but we still have something that we must carefully watch. It is through our bodily life coming in contact with other people and other points of view that we tend to become tarnished. Not only must our “inner sanctuary” be kept right with God, but also the “outer courts” must be brought into perfect harmony with the purity God gives us through His grace. our spiritual vision and the understand is immediately blurred when our “outer court” is stained. If we want to maintain personal intimacy with the LORD Jesus Christ, it will mean refusing to do or even think certain things. And some things that are acceptable for others will become unacceptable for us.

A practical help in keeping your personal purity unblemished in your relations with other people is to begin to see them as God does. Say to yourself, “That man or that woman is perfect in Christ Jesus! That friend or that relative is perfect in Christ Jesus!”

And so it is that the LORD uses many things to reach me and teach me. Here I am reminded of those whom the LORD has called me to minister to. We are all imperfect people in need of our Savior, still we can look at others perfect in Christ Jesus because we are His workmanship. He is the perfecter of our faith and the author of our salvation. He is the One continually at work in us to do His will and bring us into His image. And so, If I am ever to be a pastor, I need reminders like this to show me that it is not the teaching that is the “be all end all,” but it is the people that I must concern myself with. After all, any spiritual gift that is used without love is “a resounding gong and clanging cymbal.

Daily Prayer:

LORD, I will let my words be few today as I will pick back up this prayer in my personal time with You, but for the sake of those who are reading this today, my prayer is that You would allow this to be an encouragement to those who are struggling with their callings. LORD I pray for affirmation for us all, who desire to earnestly serve You with our lives in the function of being a pastor and teaching Your WORD. May You be an encouragement to us all that Your hand is upon us and that You are carefully allowing it all to come together in Your timing, for Your glory and Your purposes. I ask this in Your name. -Amen

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