December 31, 2012 by
Categories: Prayer | Resources
Prayer. It’s a discipline of the Christian life that we all agree is important yet few believe they sufficiently practice. When measured against God’s Word we all too often miss the mark.
- “pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
- “praying at all times in the Spirit…making supplication for all the saints” Ephesians 6:18
- “pray for one another…” James 5:16
- “in everything by prayer…let your request be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
Perhaps considering these passages, along with others, leads you to resolve or re-resolve to grow in the discipline of prayer in 2013.
For your encouragement, Tim Kerr has written many helpful posts this past year on the topic. We've linked to these below for your benefit:
May we further "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" this coming year. (Philippians 3:14)
December 28, 2012 by
Categories: Articles | Transfer
Psalms has a lot to say about the need to pass on to future generations God’s plan and purpose. Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart from generation to generation.” Psalm 78:4 & 6 says, “We will not hide them (God’s words) from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done…that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God...” Passing on the glory of God’s plan and a vision for his will and purpose are not optional.
Transfering What We Treasure
For myself, I am 60 years old and have four kids and 12 grandkids. All my children are actively involved in our local church. My concern has now gone to the next generation and the ones to follow. In the 60’s and 70’s God gave us a great burden and vision to see the church fulfilling his purpose in a greater and greater way, and planting churches that will continue to do that. Now 40 years later that vision and desire has not abated but only shifted to the coming generation, my kids and grandkids. Conferences like, New Attitude and NEXT and now Transfer, have been a big part of imparting that vision. I want them to share a glorious vision for the grand purpose for Christ's church and see her impact our cities and culture. Christ and His church are the only things from this earth that are going to remain in eternity, and the only things worth giving our lives for. This is a burden and vision we must transfer and not lose. May God give us grace to see the coming generations filled with the Spirit and vision to take up the mantle, not only for themselves but the generation that follows them until Christ's return.
Consider joining us May 25-28 in Orlando, FL for Transfer, a four-day gathering hosted by the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries to celebrate and proclaim those biblical truths that are most important to pass on from one generation to the next.
Lynn Baird has pastored for 30 years in both Arizona and California. He serves as the associate pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Pasadena (CA). In the mid ’70s he was involved in planting a church near Phoenix, Arizona. Then in 1986 Lynn planted another church in Tempe, Arizona as a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Lynn moved out to California to serve on the staff of SGCP in 1991. He and his wife Terri have four children (three of whom are married).
December 27, 2012 by
Categories: Articles | Transfer
The Time We Have Left Is Important
Now that Christmas is over we've got a new year just around the corner. As a younger guy, New Years Day was a bonus holiday tucked close into Christmas. But as I get older, each turn of the page over to a new year brings with it a greater realization that the time I have left is important.
So I’ve been thinking more seriously about my New Years resolutions. While losing a few pounds will likely make my short list, along with a Bible reading goal, I’ve been looking to add a book study I can do with my wife.
Resolve To Do Something Significant
I was reading through Psalm 71 a week or so ago, when I found a kind of New Years resolution I thought I would pass along. The anonymous writer of the psalm begins by speaking a prayer of faith toward God in the midst of his troubles, saying, “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge.” We learn from verse 9 that he is an older man who is both reflecting on his past life and resolving to do something important before he passes.
Proclaim God's Might To Another Generation
His resolution, offered as a prayerful request to God, is found in verse 18. He says, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” It is interesting to note that after a long life of serving God, what is most important to the writer of Psalm 71 to accomplish is to pass on his knowledge of God’s wondrous deeds to the next generation. While this man’s desire has nothing to do with New Years, God saw fit to immortalize his resolution on the pages of Scripture, which makes it important for us to think about.
As you plan your New Year’s resolutions, whether you are twenty or eighty, take a pointer from the words of Psalm 71 and ask the question, “How am I planning on passing the gospel to the next generation?” For some, the context is obvious; parents are called to disciple their children, grandparents their grandchildren. But for others – singles and young married couples without children, you too should plan on sharing the truth God has given you to the next generation. You could serve your younger siblings or join your church’s ministry to children.
So, go ahead and resolve to lose a few pounds, and schedule in a Bible reading plan. But in addition to those time tested resolutions, consider how too might pass along the wondrous deeds of the Lord to the next generation; his power to those who have come after us.
Consider joining us May 25-28 in Orlando, FL for Transfer, a four-day gathering hosted by the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries to celebrate and proclaim those biblical truths that are most important to pass on from one generation to the next.
* This post originally appeared on the “Further In” blog of Covenant Fellowship Church.
Marty Machowski leads the children's and youth ministries at Covenant Fellowship Church and is the author of The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, and Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family To God. He received a Bachelor of Science in industrial design from the Philadelphia College of Art. Marty resides in West Chester, PA, with his wife, Lois, and their six children.
December 26, 2012 by
A Gathering of SGM Pastors for Polity Conversation
Fifty Sovereign Grace pastors from the northeast region gathered eariler this month for a discussion of the polity proposal recently presented by the Polity Committee. This was the first of four such meetings scheduled for northeast region SGM pastors.
Organized by Mark Prater, and fueled by a panel of four SGM Board and Polity Committee members (Ian McConnell, Ken Mellinger, Jared Mellinger, and Paul Buckley), this four and a half hour conversation was a significant step in the pursuit of clarity and unity.
It was an extraordinary gathering of committed godly men who love the gospel of Christ, the Word of Christ, and the Bride of Christ. I have been in ministry for 30-plus years but cannot recall ever sharing a moment of more profitable interaction between not-always-agreeing pastors. It was a sacred moment of humble, holy, and helpful conversation.
There were clear points of openly expressed disagreement between the men present, with an exchange of those disagreements without tension or rancor or discord. Views were voiced with manifest respect for each other, and with careful attention to the concerns being expressed. This is why I’d term the conversation humble. I can’t read hearts but I can hear tone and words. The tone and the words of all the men who spoke were marked by humble grace. The result was a real sense that gaps had been closed, love had been enhanced, unity had been strengthened.
The conversation included many voices all calling for a polity that is biblical and missional and relational all at once. In other words, these pastors were concerned that SGM polity reflects the values that God has. That is just another way of saying: these men want our polity to be sanctified by God’s Word, bathed in God’s love, committed to God’s purposes, all for God’s glory. It was, in this light, a holy conversation; a sacred moment in which consecrated goals were expressed in a godly way.
The 270 minute conversation was filled with meaningful ideas, careful nuances, clarifying questions, specific suggestions, and unifying conclusions. In other words—the conversation was extremely helpful. The members of the Polity Committee and Board that were present surely left the occasion with concrete help in their ongoing work. I believe that all the men who attended were helped by explanations given and ideas exchanged. The moment bore fruit.
Two Take Homes for Me
If I could be indulged a little bit of more personal and subjective commentary on the event, I would say that I carried two take-homes out the door with me:
- The people behind the polity will determine the effectiveness of the polity, and
- The future has arrived.
The People Behind the Polity Will Determine the Effectiveness of the Polity
A number of guys voiced concern about whether the future of SGM will be as relationally tight and missionally vibrant as it has been in the past. The consensus was that it all depends upon the people behind the polity. Polity documents are only paper and ink and words and letters. They are by definition policy and procedure heavy. What they do not, and cannot offer is the face or relationship or leadership of those who will fill the various roles for which they call.
Brothers: SGM will strengthen its relational bonds and answer its missional calling only if men rise up at every level to pursue these with heart and zeal; with a passion to reach the lost in the context of ever-deepening relational bonds of love. The polity paper can only map a guide and create a structure. It is SGM people who will determine whether or not we are led with wisdom, relate in love, and reach the world with grace. Polity is necessary but not effectual. Polity does not do ministry, build relationship, or plant and build churches. People do. The fundamental question is—should this polity be ratified—will we as the pastors of SGM rise to the challenge involved at every level and in every sphere of our partnership together? This is sobering and exciting: the effectiveness of this polity will rest upon God’s grace functioning through our ownership and application of its content!
The Future Has Arrived
One final thought before I sign off: the future has arrived. This type of event is groundbreaking in the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries—and I hope and believe it will be duplicated time and again in the decades to come. I say this because in this meeting we saw an example of the very relationship-rich procedure to which the polity proposal calls us.
Fifty men who are friends and brothers gathered to discuss SGM theology, methodology, and mission. Dozens of pastors pooled ideas, interacted with opposing points of view, came to clearer understanding, drew on each other’s wisdom and experience—and went away better men, better pastors, and better leaders as a result.
This is the future to which the Polity Proposal calls us; one in which local pastors, Regional Assemblies, and Councils of Elders all have a meaningful voice in shaping what SGM believes, molding who SGM is and becomes, and determining how SGM lives out its mission. It’s a future in which men who love the Word and Bride of Christ will have to—and will get to—make an even more sacrificial commitment both to have something to say and to say it—because it matters for the future of a whole family of churches.
Based on this one conversation alone, I, for one, believe there is every reason to think that the future is here, and it is bright. And God-enabling me, I’m going to hang around long enough to enjoy it.
Tim Shorey serves as the Church Planting and Care Assistant for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has been in full-time pastoral ministry since 1982, and was a founding pastor of Trinity Fellowship Church. Tim received his formal training for ministry at Northeastern Bible College, formerly of Essex Fells, NJ. He and his wife, Gayline, were married in 1978. They have six children and nine grandchildren.
December 25, 2012 by
Categories: Articles | Christmas
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation.
Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us.
The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell among us.
Sometimes we sentimentalize Christmas
Sentimentalism is focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas that give us good feelings. Dazzling decorations, fresh baked sugar cookies, poinsettias, family get-togethers, gift shopping, twinkling lights, Christmas carols, cards from friends, tree-cutting expeditions, wrapping presents. Of course, all these Christmas traditions are an expression of common grace, for which we can joyfully thank God. My family has developed a few of our own over 30+ years and I look forward to them every year. But man-made traditions aren’t the whole story, or even the main story of Christmas, and they fail to solve our deepest problems or fulfill our deepest needs.
Sometimes we sanitize Christmas
We sanitize Christmas when we only present a picture-perfect, storybook rendition of what took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Kind of like the picture above. The straw in the manger is fresh and clean. There’s no umbilical cord to cut and no blood. It’s a “silent night.” The surroundings are strangely free from the pungent odor of manure. Joseph and Mary are calm, cool, and collected. Everyone gets a good night’s sleep. There’s no controversy or gossip surrounding the birth. It’s a pleasant, appealing way to think about Christmas, but obscures the foulness, uncertainty, and sin that Jesus was born into. We forget that rather than coming for the put-together, well-to-do, and self-sufficient, Jesus identified with the rejected, the slandered, the helpless, and the poor.
Sometimes we spiritualize Christmas
Spiritualizing Christmas is ignoring Christmas as earth-shattering history and using it simply to promote general virtues like brotherhood, peace, joy, generosity, and love. And tolerance, of course. Again, it’s evidence of God’s common grace and a reason to give thanks that our culture sets aside a time of year, however commercialized it might be, to celebrate and commend loving your neighbor. But the fruit of Christmas is impossible to achieve or sustain apart from the root. We understand what love is by looking not to ourselves and our good deeds, but by considering Jesus, who came into the world to lay down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Preaching or singing about peace without recognizing our need for the Prince of Peace, is a shallow peace indeed.
By this time, most of us have already made our choices about what Christmas means to us and how we’re going to present it to others. But Christmas comes every year. And it’s not too early to start thinking about next year.
More importantly, the glory of God becoming man was never meant to be marginalized to a few weeks. It means something cataclysmic every day.
- Jesus, the eternal Son of God who before time was worshiped by countless angels, set aside his glory and entered the world through the birth canal of a young woman he had created.
- He came not into a 21st century environment with trained doctors, sterilized instruments and fetal monitors, but into a 1st century cave filled with flies, animal excrement, and filth.
- The fullness of deity took of residence in the body of a baby gasping for its first breath.
- The one who spoke the universe into existence lay silent, unable to utter a word.
- He came by choice and with the sole intention of redeeming a fallen and rebellious race through his perfect obedience, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection.
If we have the privilege of leading others in corporate worship at Christmas, let’s be sure to help them understand why nothing is more wonderful about Christmas than Christ himself.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
Begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. (Nicene Creed)
The incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word)
He deigns in flesh t’appear, widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, and make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know, for God is manifest below. (Charles Wesley)
The Son of God descended miraculously from heaven, yet without abandoning heaven; was pleased to be conceived miraculously in the Virgin’s womb, to live on the earth, and hang upon the cross, and yet always filled the world as from the beginning. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, xiii, 4)
See the eternal Son of God, immortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this! See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is, and in a manger lies! (Charles Wesley)
Herein is wisdom; when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery, he came,
God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me. (The Valley of Vision)
Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. (Charles Wesley)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
O come, let us adore him
* This post originally appeared on Bob Kauflin's website, Worship Matters.
Bob Kauflin is the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. His responsibilities include equipping pastors and musicians in the theology and practice of congregational worship, and contributing to Sovereign Grace CDs. He is a pastor and one of the worship leaders at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, KY. He is the author of, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness. Bob blogs at Worship Matters and hosts the bi-annual WorshipGod conference.
December 24, 2012 by
Categories: Evangelism | Christmas
On Sunday morning, December 21, 1856, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon to prepare his growing church for the coming Christmas season. He titled it “Going Home,” and the aim of the message was to encourage each member of his congregation to humbly, wisely, and appropriately find opportunities to share their personal testimony with family and friends.
Spurgeon had become the pastor of New Park Street Church in April 1854. At that time the church had 232 members. By Christmas of 1856 the membership had risen quickly to around 4,000. A large number of newly converted Christians needed to be prepared for their return home for Christmas.
Spurgeon’s sermon text was taken from the dramatic account of Jesus healing the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5:1–20. Spurgeon focused his attention on Jesus’s commission to the man after he was healed: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v. 19).
After explaining the demoniac’s radical life-transformation by Christ and his commission to go home, Spurgeon commissioned his church to return home. In the remainder of the sermon Spurgeon develops several practical points:
- Christmas is suited for sharing the gospel with family and friends.
- Aim to share the story of God’s grace in your life.
- By sharing we edify believers.
- By sharing we reach lost friends and family.
- Be alert for one-on-one opportunities to share your story.
- Don’t expect this sharing to be easy.
- Overcome this fear by sharing to honor your Savior.
- Share your story with gratitude to God.
- Share your story with humility.
- Share your story truthfully—don’t embellish it.
- Tell your story seriously—don’t share it flippantly.
- Don’t neglect your personal devotions during Christmas.
- Rest upon the Holy Spirit’s help to share.
- Remember that this story you share over the holidays is the story that will be on your lips eternally.
What follows are a few excerpts taken from the message that have been slightly modified and rearranged for readability.
A pdf of this post is available here (7 pages). You are free to download, email, print, or copy this file as you wish.
May the Savior be glorified this Christmas season as we gather with friends and family.
Going Home: A Christmas Sermon
December 21, 1856
The demoniac’s story
This poor wretch, being possessed with a legion of evil spirits had been driven to something worse than madness. He fixed his home among the tombs, where he dwelt by night and day, and was the terror of all those who passed by. The authorities had attempted to curb him; he had been bound with fetters and chains, but in the paroxysms of his madness he had torn the chains in sunder, and broken the fetters in pieces.
Attempts had been made to reclaim him, but no man could tame him. He was worse than the wild beasts, for they might be tamed; but his fierce nature would not yield. He was a misery to himself, for he would run upon the mountains by night and day, crying and howling fearfully, cutting himself with the sharp flints, and torturing his poor body in the most frightful manner.
Jesus Christ passed by; he said to the devils, “Come out of him.” The man was healed in a moment, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, he became a rational being—an intelligent man, and what is more, a convert to the Savior.
The demoniac’s commission
Out of gratitude to his deliverer, he said, “Lord, I will follow you wherever you go. I will be your constant companion and your servant, permit me so to be” [Mark 5:18].
“No,” said Christ, “I esteem your motive, it is one of gratitude to me, but if you would show your gratitude, go home to your friends and tell them of the great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.”
Christmas is suited for sharing the gospel with family and friends.
True religion does not break the bonds of family relationship. True religion seldom encroaches upon that sacred—I had almost said divine—institution called home. It does not separate men from their families, and make them aliens to their flesh and blood.…
Christianity makes a husband a better husband, it makes a wife a better wife than she was before. It does not free me from my duties as a son; it makes me a better son, and my parents better parents. Instead of weakening my love, it gives me fresh reason for my affection; and he whom I loved before as my father, I now love as my brother and co-worker in Christ Jesus; and she whom I reverenced as my mother, I now love as my sister in the covenant of grace, to be mine for ever in the state that is to come.…
For my part, I wish there were twenty Christmas days in the year. It is seldom that young men can meet with their friends; it is rarely they can all be united as happy families….I love it as a family institution, as one of England’s brightest days, the great Sabbath of the year, when the plough rests in its furrow, when the din of business is hushed, when the mechanic and the working man go out to refresh themselves upon the green sward of the glad earth.
Aim to share the story of God’s grace in your life.
It is to be a story of personal experience: “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”
You are not to repair to your houses to preach. You are not to begin to take up doctrinal subjects and expatiate on them, and endeavor to bring persons to your peculiar views and sentiments. You are not to go home with sundry doctrines you have lately learned, and try to teach these. You are to go home and tell not what you have believed, but what you have felt—what you really know to be your own; not what great things you have read, but what great things the Lord hath done for you; not alone what you have seen done in the great congregation, and how great sinners have turned to God, but what the Lord has done for you. And mark this: there is never a more interesting story than that which a man tells about himself.…
Go home, young man, and tell the poor sinner’s story; go home, young woman, and open your diary, and give your friends stories of grace. Tell them of the mighty works of God’s hand which he hath wrought in you from his own free, sovereign, undeserved love. Make it a free grace story around your family fire.
By sharing we edify believers.
If you want to make your mother’s heart leap within her, and to make your father glad—if you would make that sister happy who sent you so many letters, which sometimes you read against a lamp-post, with your pipe in your mouth—go home and tell your mother that her wishes are all accomplished, that her prayers are heard, that you will no longer chaff her about her Sunday-school class, and no longer laugh at her because she loves the Lord, but that you will go with her to the house of God, for you love God.…
Cannot you imagine the scene, when the poor demoniac mentioned in my text went home? He had been a raving madman; and when he came and knocked at the door, don’t you think you see his friends calling to one another in affright, “Oh! there he is again,” and the mother running up stairs and locking all the doors, because her son had come back that was raving mad; and the little ones crying because they knew what he had been before—how he cut himself with stones, because he was possessed with devils. And can you picture their joy, when the man said, “Mother! Jesus Christ has healed me, let me in; I am no lunatic now!”
By sharing we reach lost friends and family.
I hear one of you say, “Ah! Sir, would to God I could go home to pious friends! But when I go home I go into the worst of places; for my home is amongst those who never knew God themselves, and consequently never prayed for me, and never taught me anything concerning heaven.”
Go home to them, and tell them, not to make them glad, for they will very likely be angry with you, but tell them for their soul’s salvation. I hope, when you are telling the story of what God did for you, that they will be led by the Spirit to desire the same mercy themselves.
Be alert for one-on-one opportunities to share your story.
Do not tell this story to your ungodly friends when they are all together, for they will laugh at you. Take them one by one, when you can get them alone, and begin to tell it to them, and they will hear you seriously.…You may be the means of bringing a man to Christ who has often heard the Word and only laughed at it, but who cannot resist a gentle admonition.
Don’t expect this sharing to be easy.
For I hear many of my congregation say, “Sir, I could relate that story to anyone sooner than I could to my own friends; I could come to your vestry, and tell you something of what I have tasted and handled of the Word of God; but I could not tell my father, nor my mother, nor my brethren, nor my sisters.”
Overcome this fear by sharing to honor your Savior.
I know you love him; I am sure you do, if you have proof that he loved you. You can never think of Gethsemane and of its bloody sweat, of Gabbatha and of the mangled back of Christ, flayed by the whip: you can never think of Calvary and his pierced hands and feet, without loving him, and it is a strong argument when I say to you, for his dear sake who loved you so much, go home and tell it. If Christ has done much for you, you cannot help it—you must tell it.
Share your story with gratitude to God.
No story is more worth hearing than a tale of gratitude. This poor man’s tale was a grateful story. I know it was grateful, because the man said, “I will tell thee how great things the Lord hath done for me.” A man who is grateful is always full of the greatness of the mercy which God has shown him; he always thinks that what God has done for him is immensely good and supremely great.
Share your story with humility.
It must be a tale told by a poor sinner who feels himself not to have deserved what he has received. Oh! when we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with deep sorrow, remembering what we used to be, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things. Why, then, my eyes began to be fountains of tears, those hearers who had nodded their heads began to brighten up, and they listened, because they were hearing something which the man felt himself and which they recognized as being true to him, if it was not true to them.
Tell your story, my hearers, as lost sinners. Do not go to your home, and walk into your house with a supercilious air, as much as to say, “Here’s a saint come home to the poor sinners, to tell them a story.”…
Do not intrude yourselves upon those who are older, and know more, but tell your story humbly; not as a preacher, but as a friend and as a son.
Share your story truthfully—don’t embellish it.
Do not tell more than you know; do not tell John Bunyan’s experience, when you ought to tell your own. Do not tell your mother you have felt what only Rutherford felt. Tell her no more than the truth. Tell your experience truthfully, for one single fly in the pot of ointment will spoil it, and one statement you may make which is not true may ruin it all.
Tell your story seriously—don’t share it flippantly.
Let them see you mean it. Do not talk about religion flippantly; you will do no good if you do. Do not make puns on texts. Do not quote Scripture by way of joke. If you do, you may talk till you are dumb, you will do no good, if you in the least degree give them occasion to laugh by laughing at holy things yourself. Tell it very earnestly.…
Perhaps when you are telling the story one of your friends will say, “And what of that?” And your answer will be, “It may not be a great thing to you, but it is to me. You say it is little to repent, but I have not found it so; it is a great and precious thing to be brought to know myself to be a sinner, and to confess it, do you say it is a little thing to have found a Savior. If you had found him too, you would not think it little. You think it little I have lost the burden from my back; but if you had suffered with it, and felt its weight as I have for many a long year, you would think it no little thing to be emancipated and free, through a sight of the cross.”
Don’t neglect your personal devotions during Christmas.
When you are at home for Christmas, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if your friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them, and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God.
Rest upon the Holy Spirit’s help to share.
Do not be afraid, only think of the good you may possibly do. Remember, he that saves a soul from death has covered a multitude of sins, and he shall have stars in his crown forever and ever.…Let your reliance in the Holy Spirit be entire and honest. Trust not yourself, but fear not to trust him. He can give you words. He can apply those words to their heart, and so enable you to “minister grace to the hearers” [Ephesians 4:29].
Remember that this story you share over the holidays is the story that will be on your lips eternally.
When we go home to our friends in Paradise, what shall we do?
First we will repair to that blest seat where Jesus sits, take off our crown and cast it at his feet, and crown him Lord of all. And when we have done that, what shall be our next employ? We will tell the blessed ones in heaven what the Lord hath done for us, and how he hath had compassion on us.
And shall such tale be told in heaven? Shall that be the Christmas Carol of the angels? Yes it shall be; it has been published there before—blush not to tell it yet again—for Jesus has told it before, “When he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Poor sheep, when you shall be gathered in, will you not tell how your Shepherd sought you and found you? Will you not sit in the grassy meads of heaven, and tell the story of your own redemption? Will you not talk with your brothers and sisters, and tell them how God loved you and has brought you there?
Perhaps you say, “It will be a very short story.” Ah! It would be if you could write now. A little book might be the whole of your biography; but up there when your memory shall be enlarged, when your passion shall be purified, and your understanding clear, you will find that what was but a tract on earth will be a huge tome in heaven. You will tell a long story there of God’s sustaining, restraining, constraining grace. And I think that when you pause to let another tell his tale, and then another, and then another, you will at last, when you have been in heaven a thousand years, break out and exclaim, “O saints, I have something else to say.” Again they will tell their tales, and again you will interrupt them with “Oh, beloved, I have thought of another case of God’s delivering mercy.” And so you will go on, giving them themes for songs, finding them the material for the warp and woof of heavenly sonnets.
December 21, 2012 by
Categories: Board updates | Church Updates
The pastors of Covenant Life Church have informed us of their church's decision to end their formal relationship with Sovereign Grace Ministries. Though we are deeply saddened by this news and would prefer that Covenant Life Church remain with us, we respect their prerogative to do what they believe is best for their church. Though no longer in formal association, we remain inseparably linked together in Christ and our common gospel mission for the glory of God.
We were able to meet with the CLC pastoral team this week and convey to them our respect, affection, and gratitude. We also were able to communicate our desire that they remain or consider returning at some point, trusting that any differences could be resolved. Additionally, we expressed our mutual commitment to support each other as we continue to walk in the gospel of grace. We are deeply indebted to CLC for the role they played in the founding of SGM, for hosting our Pastors College for the past 14 years, and for the many other substantial benefits of our long time gospel partnership. This church has played a special role in the history of SGM and will always have a special place in our hearts.
With sadness but also deep gratefulness and love, we wholeheartedly commend CLC to the Lord. We pray for their future faithfulness to the gospel and fruitfulness in its proclamation.
December 21, 2012 by
Categories: Articles | Prayer
A Praying Generation
Many years ago, when I was still a teenager, my dad pastored a church that had a weekly prayer meeting of about 50 people. What made that prayer meeting somewhat unique was that it was filled with people who prayed as their ministry in the church. Many of them were single women who were very powerful in prayer.
One of those ladies was a woman by the name of Evangeline Paisley. She was a thin little wisp of a woman—not more than 80 pounds. She had had surgery to remove cancer on her nose so half her nose was missing. She was in her eighties and prayed for hours every day. When she started to pray, the atmosphere in the room changed!
Then there was Miss Cork and Miss Cullin. They lived together for most of their lives. I always felt Miss Cork prayed with such an authority! She asked with such a bold confidence and seemed to be on such intimate terms with her God. I had never heard anyone pray that that!
All these dear friends have passed away and are now with the Savior they loved so dearly.
What stirs my heart when I consider them is: “Where are the praying ones of this generation to fill the gap that they have left?”
Future Generations That Seek God In Prayer
How do these kind of people emerge in our churches? If they do not exist right now, can we do anything to develop them? Where do these people come from?
In Matthew 6:6 we find instructions from Jesus to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father”. This is the priority of personal prayer. Then later in Matthew 21:13 Jesus tells us “My house shall be called a house of prayer”. That’s the priority of corporate prayer.
My friends, we have many believers in our churches who have never moved from the “room” to the “house” of prayer!
I believe the key to this lies in a place that is going to make us feel somewhat uncomfortable. It lies with those of us who are pastors.
Pastors That Lead In Corporate Prayer
Corporate prayer meetings allow our congregations to see and hear us praying—for praying is more caught than taught! Thankfully, the great gift of the gospel is the Holy Spirit, and he helps us with our struggle in this area!
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). There is a grace for prayer and a grace through prayer - “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased” (Psalm 138:3).
Is it possible to grow a new generation of people devoted to prayer? While only God can do this, here are a few suggested “grace-steps” to position us for God’s activity:
- Pastoral teams devote a quarter of their meeting times together to praying together. Talk with God, not just with each other.
- Pastors starting to pray with their wives 1-2 times a week for 20-30 minutes. Connecting our marriages to instant grace!
- Pastors beginning a corporate Prayer Meeting in the church where all the pastors and their wives participate (unless the children are very young). What a value this communicates about what matters!
- Have the corporate prayer meeting once a month or twice a month to begin (Prayer Meetings need to be given time to develop momentum—walk first, then run)
- Keep the Prayer Meeting to one hour initially. Include singing, short teaching on prayer (10-15 min), and 30 minutes of solid prayer.
- Give clear instructions about how to pray (if in a large group “speak up” etc). Give clear instructions about what to pray (“for the next 5-7 minutes we want to pray about our need of revival using the following three promises of Scripture”)
- Train small group leaders to guide people in prayer using simple instructions. Sometimes break into groups of 5-8, sometimes groups of 3-5, and sometimes groups of 2-3 depending on the content.
- Remind everyone often of the gospel provisions for prayer—The Holy Spirit, the Word of God, other peoples examples, and even prayer itself. Like driving, we learn to pray in the doing more than the studying of it!
- Teach the church to pray specifically. This requires faith. This makes the answers that come all the more precious!
- Regularly remind them of answers to prayer. Have people share testimonies of answer to prayer in church services and at Prayer Meeting. These build faith!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the present younger generation in Sovereign Grace churches grew into powerful people of prayer in their senior years?! We will be what we are becoming---so let's plan today for that tomorrow!
Tim Kerr is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church, Toronto. Tim grew up in Kolkata, India where his missionary parents were involved in church planting and teaching at the Calcutta Bible College connected to the historic Carey Baptist Church. After marriage, Tim and his wife Joanne served in Japan for 12 years as church planters. When they returned to Canada, Tim led a one-on-one mentoring ministry for several years that greatly impacted Christian businessmen, pastors, and church planters in Ontario. This strong mentoring ministry has continued in the Sovereign Grace Church, which he planted in 2004. Tim and Joanne have 4 children aged 17-24.
December 20, 2012 by
Categories: Leadership Team updates
As we work together in our mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to inform you of a change in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Leadership Team. Dave Harvey has made the decision to resign from our Leadership Team so that he can resume his full-time role as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. Dave made a public statement yesterday explaining this change on the Covenant Fellowship Church blog.
As Dave communicates in his post, this change does not reflect any lack of support for the direction or leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Dave is, in fact, excited about our future mission and the benefits our new polity will bring to this work. He has expressed hopes of possibly returning to SGM service someday in the future. As Dave states, “…the story on this is not about what SGM lacks but what one pastor needs right now…It is one of those times where local and family needs must take priority over extra-local relationships/ministry.”
This brief update provides insufficient space to adequately thank Dave for his outstanding contributions leading us in church care, church planting, and international expansion since 1995. These past 17 years Dave has played a vital role in keeping Sovereign Grace’s mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ at the forefront of all we do both domestically and internationally. His proactive development of an SGM church planting group served to prepare future church planters for their calling. His model of church care in the Northeast region both strengthened individual churches and SGM as a whole. Covenant Fellowship Church, where Dave served as senior pastor for 18 years, has influenced SGM in countless ways through its example, teaching, and generosity. And Dave’s vision to further equip church planters through his focused writing and preaching on the topic will serve pastors for years to come. Please join us in thanking Dave for the unique role he has played serving us as a family of churches.
We are grateful that his influence and service do not end here. Though transitioning from our Leadership Team, we look forward to Dave’s continued investment in the mission of SGM through his service as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church this year. Please join us in praying for Dave and his family during this transition.
Finally, we want to you know that the SGM Board looks forward to communicating the plan to cover Dave’s responsibilities as part of our transition to the new polity, pending ratification.
December 19, 2012 by
Categories: Conferences | Music | Latin America
Thank you for praying for your Latin American brothers and sisters as we hosted a Pasión Por Dios Conference in New York City earlier this month. We had the privilege of hosting Pasión Por Dios 2012 in Argentina, Puerto Rico, and now New York City. Each time, we've been encouraged by how God uses our feeble efforts to proclaim the gospel and see lives transformed for His glory.
When we arrived in Manhattan, we spent the first couple of days rehearsing and preparing for those who would join us for the conference. Friday night kicked off with a time of worship and a message. On Saturday we continued with three more messages and a few more times of singing. On Sunday we concluded with a concert. The place was packed.
I am so grateful to God for pastor Freddy Noble, Freddy Noble Jr., and for our brothers from PIBHM for all the hard work they are doing to serve the Latin American community of New York City.
And I want to thank God for Sovereign Grace, especially Sovereign Grace Music, for all you are doing to serve us as we proclaim and sing the good news of the gospel at events like Pasión Por Dios. Mauricio Velarde led our times of singing and gave an exemplary conference message. Mauricio’s participation blessed us richly as we sang songs he wrote with Sovereign Grace Music. Thank you!
A Latin American philosopher once said: "In New York you can find the worse and best of the word." In 1930, when Diectrich Bonhoeffer arrived to New York City, he said the following about the believers he found there, "... In New York, they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life." The German theologian martyr shared his impressions when he came to study at Union Theological Seminary. Eighty years later the situation has not changed. On the contrary, it has grown worse. Despite this, many from this city clearly heard the gospel and were affected by the message of salvation through Jesus Christ at Pasión Por Dios. And, thanks to technology, additional Spanish speaking brothers and sisters from around the world watched the conference online.
I'd like to thank Bob Kauflin and Mauricio Velarde for supporting us through Sovereign Grace Music. Sovereign Grace, thank you for producing worship albums that serve your Spanish speaking brothers and sisters. It is my hope that God will allow us to continue doing things together in the future for His glory.
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
" Psalm 115:1
Gracias por orar por sus hermanos Latinoamericanos durante nuestra conferencia Pasión Por Dios en Nueva York este mes. En el pasado hemos tenido el privilegio de llevar nuestra conferencia a Argentina, Puerto Rico, y ahora a Nueva York. Cada vez somos animados al ver como Dios usa nuestros débiles esfuerzos para proclamar su evangelio y ver vidas transformadas para Su gloria.
Cuando llegamos a Manhattan los primeros dos días, los pasamos ensayando y planificando para servir a las personas que nos acompañarían esa noche. El viernes empezamos con un tiempo de adoración y el primer mensaje. El sábado continuamos con tres mensajes y más tiempos de alabanza. El domingo concluimos la conferencia con un concierto a casa llena.
Doy gracias al Señor por el pastor Freddy Noble, Freddy Noble Jr. y por los hermanos de la PIBHM por el trabajo que están haciendo con la inmensa comunidad hispana de la ciudad de New York. Quiero agradecer al Señor por Sovereign Grace y en especial por Sovereign Grace Music por lo que están haciendo para servirnos mientras cantamos las buenas nuevas del evangelio en eventos como Pasión Por Dios. Mauricio nos lideró en los tiempos de alabanza y dio un magistral mensaje en la conferencia. La participación de Mauricio nos edificó en gran manera mientras cantamos canciones de Sovereign Grace Music. ¡Gracias!
Un filósofo latinoamericano dijo: “En New York se puede encontrar lo peor y lo mejor del mundo”. En 1930, cuando Diectrich Bonhoeffer llegó a la ciudad de New York dijo acerca de los creyentes que encontró allí lo siguiente: “…predican prácticamente sobre todo, tan sólo hay un tema que no tratan o que, de hacerlo, es tan rara la vez que hasta el momento no he podido escucharlo, y es el evangelio de Jesucristo, la cruz, el pecado y el perdón, la muerte y la vida." El mártir y teólogo alemán dejó ver sus impresiones cuando vino a estudiar al Union Theological Seminary. Ochenta años después la situación no ha cambiado. Por el contrario, está peor. Sin embargo, la sana doctrina de Cristo, sanó muchas almas tanto en los que asistieron al evento como a todos los que en más de 10 países nos siguieron por la web.
Gracias Bob Kauflin y Mauricio Velarde por su apoyo a través de Sovereign Grace Music. Sovereign Graace, gracias por producir música en español que nos permiten servir mejor a nuestros hermanos de habla hispana. Espero que Dios nos permita trabajar juntos en el futuro para Su gloria.
"No a nosotros, oh Jehová, no a nosotros, Sino a tu nombre da gloria, Por tu misericordia, por tu verdad." Salmo 115:1