Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Well Beloved Gaius

III John 1:1  The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
Who was this recipient of the 64th book of the Bible? Not everyone gets their own book of the Eternal Book! So, what do we glean from his testimony?

The letter from the Apostle John to this man is the only New Testament book not containing the name Jesus or His title, Christ. Yet this man is a prime example of Christlikeness. There is no doctrine mentioned, yet, this is a man of truth by word and deed. Interestingly, his letter was added to the canon of Scripture later than any other. If it were not for the direction of the Holy Spirit, it might not have been included. Yet, we are enriched by Gaius' example.

It is possible that this Gaius pastored the work at Pergamos. (See Revelation 2:12-17)

Some things we find about this good brother:   
1. He was well loved - 1
Imagine, among the notes on your resume' is the notation that the apostles and their protégées think so highly and lovingly you!

2. He was part of the truth band - 1
A primary link between John and Gaius was the truth. Their relationship was based in the truth of Jesus and His Word. Unity requires the foundation of truth. All other glues are faulty and will eventually fail.  

3. His soul was healthy -2
John wished prosperity and health upon his friend and co-laborer, just as his essence; his mind, will and emotions, were strong.

4. He exercised hospitality - 3, 5
It is believed that Gaius was a man of some substance. He had the ability to room and board traveling saints. The sacrifice of his abundance for the propagation of the gospel is noteworthy. He willingly opened his home, pocketbook and pantry to the gospel troubadours passing through his locale.

5. He was fruit of John's ministry - 4
What a spiritual heritage! There would be no arguments about election, the sinner's prayer, the Roman's Road, repentance or Lordship salvation. He was a child of the King and spiritual offspring of the last living Apostle. Whatever prayer or posture, Gaius was a truth-walking/talking disciple of the disciple of Christ.

6. He was charitable - 6
Love is one thing, but love in action is key. Charity demonstrates love with its work boots on. Gaius' ministry to the church was more than mere words or emotions. It was something that visitors saw and bore witness of.

7. He was generous - 7
Nobody was in want when exiting Gaius' presence. Their bellies were full, as were their pockets and spirits.

8. He was warned about such as Diotrephes and encouraged about those like Demetrius - 9-12.
There are those brethren, like the latter, who will enhance the life of a servant like Gaius. Then there are those false church types who will poison a brother's spiritual life and health, like the former. Evil communications corrupt good manners, said the Apostle Paul. Avoid the divisive, dissenting, self-serving types and sidle up to those with sterling reputations. Soar with eagles rather than strut with turkeys.

God, grant us brothers like Gaius, open-hearted and open-handed. People who serve in the trenches, blessing their fellow servants with spiritual fellowship and physical care. Count us worthy to merit mention in the annals in which your recording angels are making entries even now. Amen!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Beautiful Life

Ps 68:19  Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

Selah – Think about it!

That’s what I am doing today, thinking about the beautiful life the blessed Lord has bestowed upon this unworthy servant. Day by day He loads and overloads me with more beautiful goodies. Where do I start?

We are blessed with a beautiful home in a beautiful little cul-de-sac with a beautiful yard which houses a beautiful wife and beautiful kids. We get to drive our beautiful cars, listening to our beautiful gospel music to our beautiful jobs/ministries (Lynn – asst. principal, me – preacher) where we are blessed with beautiful people with whom we labor.

We have so many beautiful friends with whom we have such beautiful fellowship and beautiful experiences.

We get to heavily support many beautiful missionaries and other beautiful ministries as well as our beautiful home church filled with so many beautiful church family.

The Lord allows us to live in a beautiful neighborhood of a beautiful city in the most beautiful country on God’s beautiful green earth. To boot, He has promised us a beautiful mansion in His beautiful heaven.

The beautiful Lord we serve, Who bestows on us all this beauty, far outshines all of this other beautiful stuff and these beautiful people.

Thank you, Lord, for all this beauty and for your beautiful majesty which we worship in the beauty of your holiness. 


Monday, August 25, 2014

To God be the Glory!

                                                            26 years ago - so thin!!!

Yesterday marked the completion of 36 years full time for me in the ministry for our wonderful, faithful Savior. I have enjoyed the journey so very much. Please allow me to relish in my lot for a bit.
I really wish there were more to show for the labor, but I will leave that up to the count of the One Who counts when He reveals what is gold, silver and precious stones and what is wood, hay and stubble.

I have to wonder, if I hadn’t answered the call to ministry and set off from Goat Roper, Colorado to Los Angeles back in August of ’78 in my Chevy Nova, what would I have missed out on?
A beautiful and wonderfully gifted wife of who I am unworthy, a wonderful set of children whom I love with all my heart, a fantastic church of “salt of the earth” saints who allow me to be their under shepherd and so very much more.

I think (with a very grateful heart) of the souls that have professed Christ as Savior over these 3 and a half decades, and I got to have some small part in introducing them to the Redeemer.
With great fondness and appreciation, I think of all the wonderful servants of God with whom I have had the high privilege of rubbing shoulders. These are people you could “ride the river with.” Saints, every one of them! I have more friends than any man could ever deserve or hope to enjoy. The fellowship with these people down here serves to heighten my imagination of what Glory will be like when we will talk and reminisce and worship and praise side by side for all of eternity.

Then there are the places, and the things that happened in those places! If it hadn’t been for the ministry, I can’t imagine I would have been at all those youth camps, on those foreign mission fields, in all those churches, hundreds of them, big and small, meeting ten thousands of His saints. I admit to having a great wanderlust. Novel places, new people, different cultures, fresh experiences…these things serve to crank my engine. I will never forget visiting the chapel in Canada made completely of whiskey bottles, kneeling at the base of Mt. Calvary or baptizing a new believer in the world’s largest baptistery, the Pacific. Laying down in the back seat of a taxi under cover of darkness while sneaking through Palestinian strongholds, that is a nerve-wracking, thrilling experience I will always treasure. 

Ministry has afforded me the opportunities to travel the moonscapes of West Texas, watch whales from the bow of a ferry in the Sea of Cortez, stand atop the sacred Ute Mountain where whites are forbidden, stare in wonder at the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, drink coffee in Bedouin tents, dig a baptistery in the mountainous jungle, wind my way through volcanic coffee plantations, ride out Central American earthquakes, view erupting volcanoes, sing on stage in Branson, walk on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.  

Still, I have to go back to the people. They are what make the past 36 years so worth the incredible journey. Preachers, mentors, missionaries, church folk, friends, family, colleagues and average Joes who have enriched my life and His ministry beyond measure; these are the champions of my life’s story. Good, godly, gracious and giving. I love those with whom I serve our Lord. I so appreciate those in chaplaincy and who are part of our law enforcement and fire-fighting community for their collegiality. I adore my family who see not only my public persona, but the real me, and yet love and support me so.

But, the greatest Hero of all is the One Who makes it all possible and worthwhile, and He, of course, is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be all glory, honor and praise. He gives reason and rhyme to chaotic lives. He provides purpose to an aimless existence. He chooses the base, the vile, the unable, the dregs, the introvert, the cast off. He makes of them comely instruments of the orchestra which play the symphony of His glory. For 36 years, this clarinet has squeaked and squawked in that holy band, proud to be a small part of something so grand, so eternal.
Thank you, Jesus! Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your work and for the grace to make a small difference.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Casting My Cares

1Pet 5:7  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10  But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

The enemy is out and about. His claws are sharpened, his steps are cautious. Saliva drips from his canines as he sets his sights for his next victim. Sheep meat is his favorite. He much prefers it to goat. Sheep cannot defend themselves against his cunning and raw, savage, ravenous power.

The sheep's only recourse is to cast his cares on the Lord, for He cares deeply about His sheep.

He is the God of all grace Who calls us, perfects us, stablishes us, strengthens us and settles us.

That is not to say that we don't suffer for a little while. But that suffering is for our good that we might learn to pay attention, walk circumspectly, be sober and vigilant and continue to cast all our cares upon the One Who cares for us.

Has the enemy slithered under the fence into your pasture today? Are his beady yellow eyes fixed on you? Does he aim to have you for his next meal?

Jesus is your answer, your defense. Run to the Word for answers, hasten to His throne for grace and help in this time of need, linger at His feet in worship. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Shepherd's Plea - I Peter 5

I Peter 5:1  The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Peter, who beheld Christ in His glory, with Moses and Elijah by His side, and knowing what he knew about heaven, encourages elders (pastors, bishops, presbyters) to lead and feed the flock well.

1. Feed the flock. The Word of God is milk for the young and meat for the mature. The pastor must skillfully prepare and serve those who come to the table. It is the flock that is "among you." There is no sense in trying to feed the ones who don't show up to dinner. Care for the ones who care enough to answer the dinner bell. When you may avail yourself to do so, leave the ninety and nine and chase down the strays. In the meantime, take care to care for those present and hungry for a good spiritual meal. The meal must be attractive, palatable, healthy and digestible. Make their trip to the dinner table worth their while. Spice the meal up with applicable verses, substantive illustrations, possibly even humor which suffices to get the point across.

2. Seize the oversight. Be the leader. As the bishop, you are the overseer. As presbyter, you are in charge. As an elder, you earn the respect. As pastor, you are the guard and guide of the flock of God.

The captain of a ship does not receive his orders from his crew or passengers, he is submissive to the ship’s owner. The waters do not dictate his course, at times he must head directly into the teeth of the storm. He must take the oversight to care for his charge: the ship, crew, cargo and passengers. When the ship begins to lilt, he must do what is needed to right it. When it is knocked from its course, he brings it to bear once again. He alone is capable and knowledgeable of the intricacies of the ship. Though one seaman may man the crow's nest, he may have no clue as to what is taking place in the engine room. The helmsman, though aware of many of the ship's workings, does not have the interests of all at heart as does the captain. It is the captain who inevitably will go down with the ship if the worst case scenario plays out.

And so the pastor, under the guidance of ingrained biblical principles and the Holy Ghost, takes the oversight of the Old Ship of Zion, the church of the living God. It is his charge and his privilege, granted by God Himself, to see the vessel safely to the other shore.

3. Motives must be proper. As under shepherd of God's flock, the man of God must be driven by pure motives. One's own advancement, popularity, ego, desires and remuneration must be vigorously shunned. He must, of his own volition and of a prepared, informed, studied mind see to the nourishment, protection and needs of Christ's bride.

The man who is "in it for the money" attempting to fleece the sheep for his own dark purposes is, at best, a hireling, and, at worst, a wolf aiming to devour the flock.

If such an individual were to make it through the pearly gates, the greater condemnation would rest on him at the judgment, according to James 3:1.

4. He must be a servant/leader. The paradoxical nature of the Christian comes into full play for ecclesiastical leadership. The pastor, though a leader, serves as example, not as a lord over God's heritage. We learn from our Lord that to know how to win, we learn how to lose. To have any hope of being first, we must go to the end of the line. To be lifted up, we must first humble ourselves.

Many are the tongue-lashings a pastor endures without retaliation. Oft times he finds that sheep bite, and they bite hard. But he must be above retribution. Servant-leadership loves, but deals firmly, when hateful actions are taken against it. He suffers quietly; knowing that it is God Who is keeping notes and arranging rewards.

His is not to drive the sheep, but to lead. The shepherds staff may serve to lovingly and patiently nudge, but is not used to beat ovine creatures. Frustration is sure to ensue when he has led well, nudged in love and still, sheep stray to their own peril. Yet, leading by example he faithfully continues to do.

5. Generous rewards await the faithful elder. At the appearing of the chief Shepherd, a shimmering, priceless, golden, jewel-studded crown will adorn the brow of the good pastor...but only temporarily. Upon realization that our good, great and chief Pastor is the only One truly deserving of such honor, our crowns will be heaped at His feet which appear as burnished brass.

It seems odd that we would cast our crowns to the base of His throne. Normally, we would treat such treasures with great care, gently placing them on velvety pedestals. But not so in Heaven at this reward ceremony. You see, a sea of saints with innumerable crowns cannot possibly individually approach the God of Glory to carefully place their crowns. No doubt, they must come only as close as is physically possible and merely cast their rewards as best as they can toward the mountainous heap of bejeweled coronas and tiaras bestowed back to our gracious Shepherd, Who alone is worthy to receive glory and honor and power and blessing.

Stay faithful, weary and bedraggled pastor. Keep feeding the flock, taking the helm, leading faithfully. Minister with a Spirit-filled willingness.

Peter got a glimpse of Jesus in His glory and a premonition of what awaits God's choicest servants and he gives us the heads up that “Great is your reward.”