A Tribute To Our Faithful Four-Legged Companion “Buddy James Manwarren”

Just a couple of days ago, late in the evening on Labor Day, our family said goodbye to our dog Buddy. We adopted him from the local animal shelter just days before they had to close it. That was 9 years ago. During those 9 years we had a lot of adventures with Buddy. While there were days when he greatly annoyed us, we all grew to care about him, especially my oldest daughter Alexis. Buddy was her best friend.

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, we buried him. I asked everyone in the family to share a memory they had about him. Everyone did, including myself. You might think that’s strange but you see, I believe animals are great teachers. Also, when we read the Bible, we are often encouraged to learn about God and life from the animals. Remember Proverbs 6:6? Or remember Matthew 6:26-27? Just to name a couple.  As I have personally reflected on his time with us, here are some things that Buddy has taught me and I hope I never forget.

  • Live life to the hilt – Buddy was not, by any means, a lazy dog. He lived life to the uttermost. In fact, when we picked him out at the animal shelter he was with several other puppies. The rest of the puppies were laying there but Buddy was jumping and scratching and doing his best to get out of his pen. That habit never broke. We gave up trying to keep him in a pen or crate. Every time we came home, he had somehow broken out and was at the door to greet us. This teaches me much about my Christian life. A verse I meditate on frequently is Colossians 1:28-29, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” As Christians, we are to live to the hilt for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be living sacrifices who are solely and wholly committed to Him.
  • Enjoy people – There are two kind of people in the world: here I am or there you are. A “here I am” person waits for others to come to them but a “there you are” person seeks other people out. Buddy was a “there you are” dog. He loved people. Although a large dog, he always wanted to be a lap dog. He wanted to lick your face. He wanted to play with you. No matter where we went as a family, he would sit near us or with us or on top of us. When friends visited, he (often to their annoyance) would smother them with attention. This reminds me of Jesus who was a master of people-work. He loved and cared for and enjoyed people. He sought people out and pointed them to salvation in Him.
  • Guard what’s important – As much as Buddy loved people he also was a great guard dog. When unfamiliar people came to the door he barked and growled ferociously – especially at the UPS delivery guy. Valerie and I enjoy going on walks together. Before we leave, Valerie would often say to Buddy, “Guard the kiddos.” And he did. Sure, sometimes his barking would drive you crazy but he was defending us and there was a comfort to knowing when we were walking that they would have to get through Buddy first. This causes me to think of the duty of Christians and the church at large to defend the truth of the Bible. It also brings to my attention of how God defends and guards his people.
  • Always watching – You could count on it. Before we even pulled into our driveway, there was Buddy’s head and beady eyes poking up over the window ledge. When one of us would go away, such as Lexi to school or Valerie to get groceries, Buddy would sit at the window and watch. Are we not called as Christians to watch and pray for the Lord’s return? Are we not also called to watch out for false teaching and to watch out lest we waste our days and time?
  • Death is inevitable – Buddy was a mixed breed of Boxer and Labrador. The veterinarian told me Monday night that the longest she had seen a Boxer live was to the age of 13. The average lifespan of Boxers I am told is 10-12 so Buddy was at the end. He was not long for this world. But even in his death he is teaching us. The Bible teaches that death entered this world because of sin and so Buddy dying painfully but importantly reminded my young family that death is real. It is their first real experience of loss. I am a pastor so my kids have been to more than their fair share of funerals and seen people lying in caskets but it didn’t phase them because they didn’t know them. But Buddy’s death got their attention and God is teaching us that we live in a sin cursed world that groans for its Creator (Romans 8:19-24). Buddy is teaching us to look to Christ who conquered sin and death and Satan.

With all of that I can say, “Thank you Lord that you are sovereign over all and can use anything to teach us and grow us in You. Thank you for giving to us our faithful four-legged companion (who Valerie called “Buddy James Manwarren” when he would get in trouble and it just kind of stuck). He has taught myself and my family some important lessons. Help us to remember and keep learning. All glory to Your name.”

When is the last time you prayed for persecuted Christians?

Today I was reminded of the need to be praying for our brothers and sisters who are in chains for Christ. It is reported that in North Korea Christians are being used for chemical experimentation and having their heads crushed by steamrollers in front of their families. This is distressing and compelled me to pray for them and others all around the world. Here are some things I brought to the throne of grace that I thought I would share with you to encourage you in your prayers:

  1. That they would not be surprised by such suffering – 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12
  2. That they would remember that suffering is a privilege and they will be wonderfully rewarded – Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 25:23
  3. That God would flood their hearts and minds with his promises and his character not the least of which is that God is forming Christ in them – Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13
  4. That God would use their sacrifice to strengthen and advance His church – Read the whole book of Acts but at least Acts 8:1-8.

There you have it, four ways to pray for our persecuted church family. Now start praying!

John Calvin On The Christian Life

I just read this and had to share it. It resonates deeply with my soul. After quoting Romans 12:1-2, Calvin writes:

This is a marvelous thing – we are consecrated and dedicated to God to the end that we might not think, speak, meditate, or act unless it be to His glory. The sacred can’t be put to profane use without injustice to God. If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, let us forget ourselves and our own interests. Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us – in every way in all our lives – run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own – who’s taken rule and dominion away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor to want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord. – John Calvin, A Little Book On The Christian Life, pages 22-23.

Admittedly, some days my progress in the Christian life is little more than staggering, limping, and crawling but I press on and praise Him for any and all success!Let us all who name the name of the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fix our eyes on the goal of being wholly and solely committed to God’s glory. May it be our sole pursuit!

The Most Powerful Platform In America

For my pastoral ministry class I recently completed reading The New Guidebook for Pastors by James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson. Although there are a few things I would quibble over, all in all I profited spiritually and practically from it. One of my favorite chapters was chapter 3, “The Pastor and His Preaching.” Below are a few quotes from it that encouraged me and I hope will encourage you.

All through the Word of God and down through the annals of history, when God has moved it has almost always been attended by the preaching of the Word. There is no task more important, no calling any higher, and no work more noble than preaching the Word of God. – page 31

 

Too often our desire to reach numbers, people, and crowds has caused us to sacrifice the Word of God on the altar of drama, theatrics, and entertainment. While there is nothing wrong with skits, great music, PowerPoint presentations, and even appropriate videos, there is something tragically wrong when we do anything other than make preaching the Word of God central in the service. You cannot separate the Word from worship. – page 34

 

John Albert Bengel, speaking of the Word of God in preaching, said, ‘When the pulpit is in strong health, the light of Scripture shine bright; when the church is sick Scripture is corroded by neglect, and thus it happens that the outward form of Scripture and that of the church usually seem to exhibit simultaneously either health or else sickness; and as a rule the way in which Scripture is being treated is in exact correspondence with the condition of the church.'” – page 35

 

The centrality of the Word of God is of utmost importance. Whenever a preacher steps into the pulpit, what he does with the text influences the health of the church. If there is any hope of winning the lost to Jesus Christ, if there is any hope of maturing the vast majority of those in the pews who are in desperate need of growing, then the preacher must preach the Word! The only thing that twill relieve the famine in our land is commitment to content. Preach the Word!

 

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood, and it will consume them” (Jer. 5:14 NASB). Think about that for a moment. When you preach the Word of God, it is like fire that sets people aflame. No U.S. president in any state-of-the-union speech can claim that. No Hollywood writer, actor, or producer can do anything like that. No athlete in any winner’s circle can make a speech that sets the audience on fire. But the man of God has the promise of God that when he speaks the Word of God, it is like fire that burns and like a hammer that shatters rock (Jer. 23:29).

The pulpit that is on fire with the Word of God is the most powerful platform in America and all over the world. Pastor, is your pulpit aflame with the truth of God’s Word? Is your heart still on fire for God?

1 Timothy 4:13 – “Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.”

Are You A Patient Person?

I will be honest. I am not. In fact, as God graciously and perfectly conforms me more into the image of Jesus, I am learning that impatience is probably my greatest weakness. I am not happy about this. Patience is required for godly leadership. “The Lord’s bond-servant” says Paul, “must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged” (2 Timothy 2:24). Those who preach God’s Word are to do “with great patience” (2 Timothy 4:2). Not surprisingly, this impatience leads to misunderstanding and confusion and frustration not only in my own life but in my family and ministry.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 rebukes my impatience:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 

In this familiar passage, Solomon talks about times and seasons. He begins by stating a thesis, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (v. 1). He then proceeded to illustrate it and prove it to be true (verses 2-8). Clearly, God has a fitting time for each thing to be done. Timing is critical in everything. Timing is something that has to be God-directed. This is why I am more and more convinced that one of Satan’s greatest ploys is to rush us. Noise and haste are usually of the devil.

Added to this are a few more very fitting verses on waiting:

  • Psalm 25:21: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.”
  • Psalm 37:7: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him…”
  • Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

God’s Word to you and me over and over is to wait on the Lord!

The supreme example of this is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who saw and understood his entire life was on God’s sovereign schedule (see John 12:23, 27; 17:1). There was no noise or haste in his life. He did not succumb to Satan’s ruse to rush him (see Matthew 4 and the wilderness temptation). Jesus perfect patience rebukes my impatience.

So here I am rebuked – graciously, lovingly, opportunely – rebuked. How about you? God’s timing is nothing like ours. W must learn to be still and quiet and to wait on him through prayer and study of God’s Word. This is not wasted time. There is no better way to determine God’s timing and grow in the perfect patience of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

An Ox Stands Between An Altar And A Plough

This week’s lectures from Dr. York on Pastoral Ministry focus on the call to a specific ministry. How does one know if they are being called to a specific ministry?

Sanctified Common Sense

Does the ministry fit my skill-set, personality, gifting? Is this a good place for my kids and family? Dr. York strongly emphasized that it is not wrong to think about these things but they are not the primary reasons.

God Works On Your Wanter

The Lord causes you to fall in love with where he would have you to minister. Since Dr. York is on a mission board for Southern he shared a couple of illustrations of young families desiring to leave the States and go minister in the jungle where it is dangerous. Why would anyone do that? Because they love Jesus and God is causing them to fall in love with surprising places.

Overall Passion

Is your overall passion to glorify Jesus and to honor him, then make your best decision! It cannot be wrong. If the supremacy of Christ is what you really care about then that is what God wants you to do. This then is the ultimate reason for why one should choose a ministry. If you pray, Oh, Holy Spirit help me to be a great preacher” or “Help me to pastor a great church” the Holy Spirit will say, “No. I am not interested in doing that for you.” But if you cry out, “Oh, Holy Spirit, I want to make much of Christ” then the Holy Spirit will help you do it. There is no doubt. To be sure, glorifying Christ might be desperate, lonely and hard but we are to bloom for God’s pleasure. Whether God allows you to bloom where nobody notice or where everybody notices is entirely up to Christ!

Ready For Eithermissions

At this point Dr. York shared an example of the old American Baptist Foreign Mission Society’s seal of an ox standing between an altar and a plough. Written above it are the words, “Ready for either.” What a perfect picture of submission to God’s will! Ready for sacrifice or ready for service. This should be the heart-motto of every Christian, whether called to pastoral ministry or not – a pure and complete devotion to Christ, wholly and solely surrendered to Jesus for obedience, duty, and sacrifice.

 

11 Encouragements Not To Be A Prayerless Christian

Why eleven? Just to drive you perfectionists crazy, that’s why! No, not really. I am making my way through On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. Most recently I read the fourth chapter titled “Prayer.” I was so encouraged by it that I decided to post a few snippets from it with the hope that God will use it to build up your prayer life also. It just so happened that it was eleven phrases/paragraphs that I highlighted.

More important than being a shepherd or teacher is being a son of God. Prayer is the principal expression of our relationship to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. No privilege is greater than being able to call God “Father,” and knowing that it is true. – pg. 62

 

A prayerless Christian is a contradiction in that if our life is under the control and influence of Christ’s Spirit, we pray to the Father with delightful confidence. – pg. 62

 

Prayer is our principal and main work. It has priority over the ministry of the Word in that it must come first. It is by prayer that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is effectively unsheathed. Prayer perfectly complements the ministry of the Word. – pg. 65

 

It is one thing to say that prayer is an undisputed priority and another thing to practice it. – pg. 65

 

Prayer is crucial because of the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. The importance of a shepherd and teacher’s work automatically makes him the target of the enemy of souls. Like a Christians, we know a constant struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. The strength of Jesus Christ, obtained through prayer, is the necessary and sufficient resource for victory. As spiritual leaders, some of the temptations we experience will be unique to our tasks, and it is through prayer alone that we find insight to recognize them and power to avoid them. An unrelenting foe demands unrelenting spiritual watchfulness through prayer. Satan delights to make casualties of those who have encouraged others to fight the good fight of faith. Satan places an amazing variety of temptations in our way, and it is foolish to imagine that we know them all already. He will try to overwhelm us by the sheer magnitude of our task of shepherding and teaching, especially when people are a disappointment to us. He will try to sow the seeds of discouragement as we realize how hard the hearts of men and women can be toward God and His truth. He will do his best to make us focus on our weakness and limitations. But prayer can thwart all Satan’s attacks. Through prayer, disappointments turn into opportunities to prove God. Through prayer, the hardness of men’s and women’s hearts melts. Through prayer, the limitations of our human nature are countered. The primary way to overcome Satan is on our knees. – pg. 66

 

Every time we find it difficult to maintain prayer, we will be helped by remembering that this is simply an indication of its key importance in the spiritual battle. It is sheer foolishness to pray only when we feel like it. – pg. 67

 

Called to be shepherds as well as teachers, we must be intercessors for the members of Christ’s flock entrusted to us. Prayer is one way in which we keep watch over the spiritual well-being of the lambs and sheep of the flock. If no one else prays for them, we must. It is significant that the ministry of intercession is the one ministry that our Lord continues in heaven now on our behalf. We are never nearer to His heart than when we bear up in our prayers the concerns and well-being of His flock. – pg. 69

 

No prompting to pray is to be ignored, and often we discover later that there was an acute need in the lives of those for whom we prayed. – pg. 72

 

It is as impossible to understand the Scriptures without the Spirit’s help as it is to read a sundial without the sun. pg. 74

 

Shepherds and teachers need the prayers of God’s people and should not hesitate to ask for them. “Pray for us,” the writer of the letter to the Hebrews urges his readers (13:18). – pg. 80

 

No Christian knows how much he owes to God for the prayers of others, and not least shepherds and teachers. – pg. 81