Five questions on being a pastor

One of the high school students in my church is taking a class in which they were to interview someone they thought was successful, so they chose me. Stop laughing.

Seriously, I was glad to help out and the little exercise, which consisted of five questions sent to me, which I then filled out on Pages, turned out to be fun, interesting, and (I hope for you) beneficial. This is an edited version of what I sent. I’ve even made a couple of additions. Let me know what you think.

1. What made you decide to become a pastor?

Old School Me preaching at Pleasant View Baptist Church, where I was Pastor from 2007-2010.
Old School Me preaching at Pleasant View Baptist Church, where I was Pastor from 2007-2010.

Well, I could tell you that I heard the still small voice of God in my head “calling” me to do this, but that’s not really how it works. [Added note: That really isn't how it works. Show me the biblical precedent for being "called" as a pastor and it'll be a first. Read more about this here.]

In 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul writes, “If any man desires to be an overseer [a pastor], it is a fine work he desires to do.” I decided to do it because I wanted to. I desired it. The reason for that begins in the summer between ninth and tenth grade. Being a child of divorce, my youth minister had a great impact on my life. I looked up to him, I loved the Lord, I wanted to serve Him with my life, so I wanted to do what my youth minister did — have the kind of impact of others he had on me.

Fast forward a few years and I had not done anything in quite some time to act upon what I knew in my heart I was meant by God to do. I moved to a new town, started going to a new church, and the pastor there preached the word of God in such a way that things I had never even thought about in the past started making sense. “Of course that’s what the Bible is saying there… Of course that’s what it means” is what I’d say over and over again.

Going back to 1 Timothy 3:1, I desired to do this job because I wanted to have an impact on peoples’ live the way my youth minister affected me, and I wanted to open the word of God to people the way that pastor did for me as well. It all boils down to what the Bible says a pastor is to do — preach the word and shepherd (lead/care/guide/feed) the sheep. That’s what those men did for me. That’s the desire God gave me for others. I only pray, by God’s grace, I do that and will continue to do that. Continue reading

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Religious Liberty Is In Hospice. To Whom Will You Bow When It Dies?

statechurchHospice.

You know the word. And you know what always comes soon after.

Death.

When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1788 it did not do so without controversy — either before, during, or after. As they were concluding their meeting Benjamin Franklin is famous for his response to a lady who questioned him about what the result of the Convention was. He said, “A republic. If we can keep it.”

Indeed, many leaders in the several states lamented the results of that Convention and fought hard against their respective state’s ratification thereof. Only with the guarantee there would be a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution, enumerating certain things the federal government absolutely could not do, was ratification achieved.

The freedom for people to belief as they feel compelled to, and to live in accordance with their beliefs, was considered so absolutely necessary that the very first of those rights enumerated in what came to be known as the First Amendment was that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So inalienable a right was it, and so vital to both state and national interests, that the very next clause in the First Amendment made clear the freedom of speech (inherent in which is the freedom to express oneself).

For over two hundred years then constitutionally protected rights were considered a given, at least as it relates to matters of faith and practice. However, in the twenty-first century, and especially in the last few years, we are living in a new age (at least for us comfortable Americans). Our freedom to believe what we want and live in accordance with those beliefs is no longer a given, and I write this, in particular, for those who share my faith in the one and only God, Father of our one and only Savior, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I write this with respect to those who, like me, believe that God has revealed Himself through the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. I write this to those who, like me, believe God has made Himself plain as it relates to matters of marriage and human sexuality. 

If you believe like me you know that God is holy, holy, holy, and that He cannot, does not, and will not tolerate any sin, at any time, for any reason whatsoever. True, God is patient toward sinners, but every sin that has ever been committed will have been judged in time. 

So then, you also believe, like me (because the Bible is God’s word and it’s not too difficult to understand), that God created man in His image, male and female He created them, and the two of them joined together as one flesh. Thus, homosexuality is sinful state of mind, homosexual acts are sinful acts, and homosexual marriage is a figment of the imagination, a byproduct of a mind hostile toward God, because God, the Creator of marriage, has already defined it (one man and one woman until death do they part, and what God has joined together let no man separate). 

Well, at least you used to be able to believe that, because on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling in the favor of Hobby Lobby in a recent case in which the government was trying to force the owners of that business to violate their religious convictions with regards to insurance coverage for certain contraceptives considered abortifacients, now the President of the United States is signing an executive order prohibiting job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The constitutionally of such an order can be debated at another time. Nevertheless, the order means if you are a business owner and have a government contract, you can’t decide not to hire that man, whose mother named him Chris, because he wears a dress and identifies himself as a woman named Christine. His right to be “transgender” is more important than your right to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ and conduct your business and even hire employees who best represent the worldview you want your business (which you own) to convey.

President Barack Obama’s decision to sign this order is hardly shocking given some of his statements in the past, but the ramifications of such an order, once enforced, are chilling to the mind of us Americans who are used to being comfortable in the land of the free. And should the trajectory of our culture remain unchanged, and I see no reason to believe it will, this order is an ominous portent of things to come.

This is just my opinion, but I believe it to be one grounded in an understanding of the culture, and more importantly the Bible, but things will probably not get better. They will most likely get worse… much worse.

As American Christians we must remember first that we are Christians who happen to be Americans, not the other way around. We are citizens of two kingdoms, but our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20), guaranteed to all believers by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, must trump our American citizenship every time

Once that is understood, we must also remember that freedom, while codified in a human constitution, isn’t guaranteed in Scripture. Many of the believers who received Paul’s letters and Peter’s letters lived under the constant threat of persecution. The Christians in Judea were ostracized by their Jewish kinsmen to the point Paul was collecting an offering for them half a continent away. Herod had the apostle James put to death in Acts 12, to say nothing of church history which teaches us that Peter and Paul were both murdered for their faith around A.D. 67. Even today in this enlightened age to be a Christian in more parts of the world than not means to be under constant threat of some sort of persecution (even death) from a government or other religious group.

Therefore, while we might rightly say religious liberty in America has been taken to hospice, with all signs pointing to its impending death in coming years, the question for you and I becomes: To whom will you bow when it finally dies? Is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ such that we will readily endure suffering the likes of which none reading this most likely have ever truly pondered? Will your knee remained bowed before Jesus the King? Or will you bow to the state and to the culture, thus proving your knee isn’t bowed to Jesus in reality now?

We must, by the grace of God, waste no time in setting our minds (NOW!) on things above, and not on the things of the earth (Col 3:2). Beloved, Satan has attacked us in our comfort here in free America, but the days are coming when I believe he will attack us otherwise. I pray you, I, and we all might remember that “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

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I’ve been avoiding Facebook and Twitter… and loving it

For going on five weeks now I’ve pretty much been on a social media fast, signing on to Facebook only to post sermon links or manage the church page, and avoiding Twitter entirely. I have had the Facebook Messenger app on my phone open for messages, but that’s pretty much it, and even that’s been pretty dry.

I did this because I found myself spending way too much time (wasted time) on both. When I had an idle moment I would reflexively pull up Facebook, or watch the stream on the Twitter Mac app. It got to be mind numbing, discouraging, and affected my productivity.

Since then I’ve noticed a few things about myself…

  1. I think I’ve been more joyful. I haven’t been drawn in by every controversy in evangelicalism, reading each post, liking and commenting and retweeting, and wasting energy on stuff that is ultimately fruitless. I haven’t been carrying around the baggage of a discouraged attitude about the state of the church at large because I’m always looking at it. I’ve stayed informed through podcast and my own reading, but it hasn’t always been in my face.
  2. I’ve been much more productive. Sermon preparation has come easier, and I’ve read more, without the distraction of Facebook notifications and that never-ending Twitter stream in the background. There are enough distractions in the world as it is. It’s been nice to be without these two.
  3. Perhaps most importantly of all, I feel I’ve been more engaged with and attuned to the needs of my wife and children. And it’s not like I wasn’t before, but I’ve come to believe social media creates a subtle drag on even our closest and most important relationships.

There will come a day when I re-engage with the world of Facebook and Twitter. I have no doubt about that. I want to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in both, though, and I know there’s a definitely place for that. But right now I feel I’m best glorifying Him apart from that. I’ll come back in time, but it will be on my terms and it will be more disciplined. Even so, as much as I have enjoyed social media in the past, I don’t yet have any desire to re-engage. So if you’re reading this and you miss me, know you can still send me a Facebook message, and my email address is easy enough to find. You can even find my phone number if you really want it.  I’m not avoiding you. I’m avoiding the drag.

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Mozilla CEO’s [forced] resignation an atomic bomb in the war on marriage

atomicbombThe [forced] resignation of Brenden Eich as CEO of Mozilla, maker of the much used Firefox web browser, should make the bones of Christians chill, for it is a much bigger deal than it seems. The fallout is going to spread far and wide, and the effects will be devastating.

You’ll have to forgive the hyperbole, but this is tantamount to an atomic bomb being set off by the homoterrorists(1) in their war on marriage. And like the two real atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in part, dropped to deter any more from being dropped in the future (a weapon so awful no one would want to use it again), the forced resignation of a CEO is intended by homosexual uber-rights activists to deter anyone who desires any prominent or powerful position from even thinking of giving aid and comfort to the idea that marriage is really between one man and one woman.

Let’s re-visit the facts of the case. In 2008, six years ago, Eich gave $1000 to support the passage of Proposition 8 in California. That measure was passed by that state’s citizens with 52-percent voting for passage. The proposition limited marriage to the traditional (biblical) definition of one man and one woman, which by the way, was a position still support by then presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Since then federal courts overturned Proposition 8, and this past summer the Supreme Court upheld those courts’ decisions, opening the door for the eventual national legalization of “same-sex” marriage.

Eich has since distanced himself from his previous support of Proposition 8 and had pledged to make sure his company was inclusive of same-sex couples and all that goes along with that. But that was not enough for the homoterrorists.

You see, he had some time in his past spoken (with his wallet) against their movement, and that can and will not be tolerated.

Be clear about this. Brenden Eich was not going to be let off the hook for a relatively small amount of money that came out of his checking account six years ago, even though he had seen changed his views to match those of his current persecutors. Why? Because this is an atomic bomb set off by the homoterrorists to deter any CEO, or anyone period, from giving any support whatsoever to those who affirm marriage(2). And that’s where the fallout will be… “Say anything in support, or give any support of the idea, or organizations supporting the idea of marriage being between one man and one woman, and we’ll have your scalp.” The homoterrorists are coming after anyone who dissents with an ideological passion resembles the bloodthirstiness of the French Revolution.

So Christians, if you’re not awake yet, the alarm should have long since gone off. The days in which we will be able to speak or write truth freely regarding marriage are coming to an end. The politics of the situation are not going to improve with an act of God, changing the hearts of people and turning them toward Himself. And, of course, that can happen and that is our desire.

Nevertheless, the days are coming and are already here when the prophets of the new cultural commandment will demand your capitulation, or you will be slain as a heretic. And what is that commandment? Celebrate evil with us… or else.

(1) Credit for that term to James White, but that’s a perfect way to describe the homosexual uber-rights activists.

(2) And by marriage I mean the biblical definition of marriage [God created it to be between one man and one woman until death do them part], which is the only real type of marriage. Qualifying the word marriage with words like biblical or traditional only lends unintended credence to the notion there really is some other kind of marriage. There isn’t.

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Pastoral desires for the church

Note: I originally posted this on my “From the Pastor’s Keyboard…” blog on the Bethlehem Baptist Church web site.

Sometimes the stuff of church becomes routine, even for the pastor. But it’s truly an honor and a privilege, a sacred calling even, every time I get the chance to preach and teach God’s word. I’m commanded by God to faithfully explain His word to you. That’s something I can never afford to think of as routine, and something you shouldn’t take for granted, either.
On Wednesday night I got to preach from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, in which the apostle Paul expressed some pastoral desires for that church. Remember, he had planted the church, but only got to stay with them for three weeks before being run out of town by Jewish persecutors. Still, Paul had a pastor’s heart for these people. That’s the whole letter… his heart being poured out to teach them the truth, and in the process guard them from error. And at the start of what we know as chapter three he turns toward some of his heart’s desires for these relatively new believers.

As a pastor myself (as your pastor if you’re a member of Bethlehem), these are things I desire for you as well. Continue reading

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Matt Privett on the Bible, church, culture, and how it applies to us for the glory of God