The Big Burner

At my church, back about 1965, founding elder Bob Smith often spoke about the main Sunday morning services (which most everyone attended). The sermons which set the pace for the whole church Bob said were delivered up on "The Big Burner." He was speaking of the largest burners on the gas stoves we all had back then. (There were other gas-fired smaller, satellite burners, of course, and a gas-fired oven as well). But the Big Burners were the most powerful. Today's new fangled wonder stoves can't light a candle to what we had back then.

Bob Smith was a wonderful fatherly elder when I came on board. I flunked his Greek New Testament class right away but he was still a godly mentor and friend.

A Model Pastor, by Robert Smith

God gives pastors for what?

It's strange to me that in thinking through the answer to this question the last thing that occurred to me was that we have a Model. My mind went through the whole catalog of methods and programs before the light dawned: how about the Good Shepherd? Don't we have in him the one perfect portrayal of what a pastor should be? How did he operate?

Number one---Well, first, he kept his own life in order. In his own words:

"I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me . . . for I always do what is pleasing to him" (John 8:28-29). That's a good place for pastors to start!

Number two---He had a heart of compassion for his flock: "When Jesus saw her weeping . . . he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and . . . Jesus wept (John 11:3~35). In the Greek of this text it is apparent that our Lord's first emotion was a seething anger at the awful devastation and frustration that death brings; then there was a sudden, quiet flow of tears as his pastor's heart identified with his friends in their grief and unbelief. This picture is especially beautiful when we remember that Jesus then proceeded to bring his friend Lazarus back to life.

Number three---He took his disciples with him, to let them see his actions and reactions in every kind of situation. There was no cover-up; they lived with him and thus had opportunity to observe the intimate detail of his life and ministry. Oh, yes, he puzzled them and stretched their minds and their faith to try to understand him. But what a way to learn!

Number four---He taught them the truth about life. He satisfied their deepest hunger, by leading them to green pastures and still waters. He led them in right paths! And what does God's flock need more than these?

How sad that we should offer them gimmicks and gadgets---the Mickey Mouse approaches and Band-Aid solutions to the deep problems of human life. Only the Word of life will suffice to meet the deep needs of the human heart. How dare we give "sermons" and neat little essays of human opinion instead of proclaiming the Word in clarity and power.

Jesus was a living exposition of life in what he did and what he said. Can we substitute another way and claim to be Christ's men? Have you noticed how many times our Lord said, "Follow me" in the Gospels? Perhaps that's the word we need to begin to take seriously. He's the model----especially for pastors.

But, you say, we need a modern example so we can see how these principles work out in practice---now. Okay, let's look at some, for in my life span I've seen all kinds of evidence, both positive and negative, that we can follow, even twenty centuries later. But we've barely begun to see and employ all the practical value of his way.

Some Basic Essentials for the Twentieth Century

Let's look at some of the ways we have discovered: Keep a constant flow of teaching on the New Covenant concept that we are totally inadequate in ourselves, but completely adequate as we trust in the sufficiency of our indwelling Lord. This is the mainline teaching throughout the Bible---how to walk by faith and enjoy victory through Christ. And it's there in every portion of Scripture.

Complement the central expository ministry from the pulpit with life-related fellowship in sharing type activities as described by Ray Stedman in his book Body Life. Add to this plenty of sharing in Sunday school classes and home meetings, where there is ample dialog for opening up the key issues that are bothering people. There is sharing together in both learning and caring in this kind of atmosphere.

Show and tell

Provide all kinds of how-to-do-it opportunities in which people can be shown as well as told how to function in real situations. This means we offer practice teaching situations, then real-life teaching ministries; training on how to witness, then actual witnessing together to people whose eternal destiny is at stake; counselor training, then opportunities to really help people in deep need. There's no way this approach can be just an academic exercise or "spectator sport."

Making disciples

Have enough concern and commitment to actually disciple our leaders and workers instead of handing them a book and capturing them loose on their own. This means a commitment and priority of spending time with them, just as our Lord with his own. (See Dave Roper's brief, "Making Disciples," in Appendix A.)

And most important---keep our own fellowship fresh and sweet with our Lord by hearing and obeying his Word. There's no way we can be part of the answer when we're part of the problem. Why? Because we have no power in ourselves to effect redemptive changes in people. Our Lord said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Discovering gifts

We can also, as pastors, help people discover their gifts by teaching what spiritual gifts are and giving opportunity to explore various possibilities of ministry...

Research data

We can also do research and teaching on problem areas like abortion, marriage and divorce, women's lib, and other current concerns. It's most helpful if the pastoral staff can lead out in this research together, then teach their conclusions to other leaders and teachers. Pastor David Roper's brief on Principles of the Ministry is a good example.

Resource help

Much can be done to help our people in their personal lives and ministries if we will be available to consult with them on interpretive problems, counseling situations, and the like. We should be ready to back up their ministries any way we can. Incidentally, we have found that much of this can be done on the telephone.

The Big Burner

Total Christian education should be our goal. As one of my colleagues says, it's like a big burner: the expository pulpit ministry is the center of the burner, and the complementary efforts with their greater participation possibilities form the outer rings of the burner. This is the air-conditioning system of a church, maintaining a warm atmosphere and a climate conducive to spiritual health and growth.

Let's light up the Big Burner, not to make things hot for everyone, but to warm up the saints and condition the atmosphere. It can be the means by which we really hear from God, setting the whole tone of the ministry.

In order to do this we must get back to the kind of expository teaching that is dedicated to lifting out and presenting the true sense of the text so that God can reach our wills through our minds. This demands forthright declaration of truth in clarity and power. No wonder the early apostles decided they should "give themselves to the word of God and prayer" (Acts 6:4).

And dialogue, not monologue

Let's use all the creative imagination we possess to provide lots of sharing---of needs and supply, of doubts and faith, of questions and knowledge, of hurts and healing. Let's be willing to listen, talk, probe, debate, yield out of love, or stand firm on convictions in order that "speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love." (Ephesians 4:1-l6)

God's Gift to the Church---Pastors?

One of my fellow pastors said one time: "The best thing that could happen to the church is for all the pastors to be put in jail." Obviously this was said somewhat facetiously and not because he hates pastors, for he is one. The point is that if all the pastors were removed from the scene, Christians would have to count on the ministry of the saints and so learn to trust the Lord to work through them, not just the paid professionals. How far we have strayed from God's original plan for the church, because in most churches the pastor is almost the whole show!

Actually, pastors are God's gift to the church, and his intentions were good. Along with apostles, prophets and evangelists, "...his gifts were that some should be . . . pastors and teachers toward the fitting out of the saints [all God's people] for a work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12, literal rendering). In other words, a pastor is sort of a "playing coach," not just on the bench, but in the game---not just telling the team what to do, but doing it with them so as to show them how.

This is quite different from what happens so often.

To summarize

Pastors should be training people to:

--discover their gifts,

--learn how to study the Bible,

--learn to be counselors,

--learn to teach,

--learn how to evangelize,

--learn to recognize and defeat the Christians' enemies,

--but most of all, how to live in liberty and triumph through Christ: their families, in their work, among worldlings, and in the Christian body.

Know any pastors? Are you one?

Will the Real Pastor Please Stand Up?

I am often asked, "How many pastors do you have in your church? And the only honest answer I can give is "a lot." If they are talking about paid professionals I could give them a number, but if they are dealing with reality, I can't be specific. In reality we do have a lot.

Who is the pastor to the preschool kids? Certainly none of the paid pros are. Most of us never even see the preschoolers unless we happen to have one in our family. Yet the preschoolers don't lack pastors.

I love to tell the story of a young woman I know who was brought up shooting dice with "the boys" in the back room of a bar. Through the loving concern of a relative she got into an adult Bible class and discovered the joy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some time later when she heard a plea for help in a preschool class, she volunteered to help in the emergency. But she remained in that ministry for many years and became the department director for the whole preschool ministry. Who was the real pastor to preschoolers? It's not hard to see that it was this young woman. She and a corps of other teachers were the real shepherds of this "little flock."

Elders are also pastors. Every man in ruling authority must have his personal ministry and area of pastoral care.

"Brother?" again

The only distinction I can see between the paid pastoral staff and the other pastors in the church is that some are financially supported to free them to devote their full time to their pastoral responsibilities. It's great for people to understand it that way: that all of us called to a pastoral ministry, whether paid or volunteer, are co-pastors in caring for God's flock.

God gave many to be pastors and teachers.

"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17).


Ray Stedman at a COBE Conference

I want you this morning to zero in on the power and the glory of preaching. And this will be more or less a lecture presentation this morning. The size of this group precludes any reaction from you, though I never like to exclude that and I always welcome any questions that you might want to ask. So if you have something you would like to present in the line as we go on in this, feel perfectly free to raise your hand. I will recognize it, and we'll see if we can't deal at least briefly with that. But do understand a group of this size makes that difficult. But at tomorrow's session like this I want to take you into what would be a kind of a practical workshop on preparing to preach, expositorily. That is, how to do exposition. What happens in the study. How long it takes, and what steps you go through. And I want to make this as practical as I can. And of course you understand that I must of necessity share a good deal of my own practice in this regard, because that is where I am most aware. In the third session, I would like to address to the accountability of a preacher. This morning the responsibility, the next hour the methods, and then finally the accountability of preachers. And I would like to do this primarily working out of a passage that has been a great help to me in my own ministry.

I now -- as you were just reminded -- have been 32 years in the church that I have been serving in the San Francisco Bay area, Peninsula Bible Church. And I came fresh out of Dallas Seminary to that congregation, it wasn't even a congregation when I came. It was just a Sunday evening fellowship time. But it rapidly grew into a church, and through the course of the years I have been trying to learn how to preach. And all I want to try to do with you is share some of the things I did learn and some of the things I've picked up from others, and some of the deep convictions of my heart that have come about in the process. Having come to a congregation without any previous experience myself as a pastor I have had to try to learn the business of preaching from observation of other men, from reading their ministry and learning from that, and from the study of the Scriptures themselves about the themes of preaching. And it is that that I would like to share with you as much as possible today.

One of the passages that has meant very much to me as a guideline along this line is found in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, 1st Corinthians chapter 2 and then chapter 4. I would like to begin with chapter 4, where the apostle is summing up his own ministry as a preacher. As you know -- I'm sure many of you are familiar with these letters -- they are very relevant to our own time. I just not long ago finished preaching through the two Corinthian letters, and I have frequently referred to them in my own congregation as first and second Californians, because I believe that we live in Corinthian conditions here in California. Corinth was not quite as degraded as California is, but almost. And what they had to face we have to face. And therefore these are most up to date and relevant passages. And I found therefore the words of the apostle to the Corinthians were most helpful in dealing with the conditions that we have to face today.

Now in these first three chapters the apostle is dealing with the divisions in the church at Corinth, and with their view of Christian ministers. And as you know they were divided up as many people are today following after certain pet preachers. Some liked Paul -- he was the founder of the church, and they held to him, and were loyal to him as a preacher of the truth; some liked Peter, who had evidently come through, and a certain segment found him to be tremendously significant in their lives, probably because he was one of the original twelve apostles whom the Lord himself had chosen. Paul could not claim to have associated with the Lord in the days of his flesh, so Peter in their eyes had a bit of an edge over Paul. And then there were those who loved the eloquence of Apollos, and they gathered about him, appreciating the rhetoric with which he spoke, the ease and the oratory that he exhibited. So there were stylists in that day, and there were loyalists, and there were purists; there was the group that said, "We like Christ! A plague on all these others! We go back to the Lord himself, and we only take his words!" And so the church was divided over this.

You find the same kind of divisions today. In almost every congregation there are those who have their pets; they only listen to certain men, their tapes, their books are what they read. And you can hear people talk like they did in Corinth in almost every church today. Now Paul says this is all wrong. This is evidence of carnality, of immaturity, and he sets in contrast to it his own view of the ministry. That is why this passage has been very meaningful to me.

In chapter 4 he begins with these words: "This is how one should regard us: as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover," he says, "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful." Now I have been greatly strengthened in that, especially in taking the two words the apostle uses of Christian ministers, and trying to understand fully what he means by the words. The word "servant" is an unusual word, it is not the ordinary word doulos or douloi that is frequently employed. It is a word rather infrequently employed, it is huperetes, the under rower. They are the servants of Christ. And then the word for "stewards" is an interesting word; oikonomos, the "housekeepers," the ones in charge of a household.

Now I think in these two terms the apostle has gathered up the word that describes, first, the accountability of a pastor or a preacher. He is a servant, an underrower of Christ; I want to look at that fully on Friday morning. And then the second word which I would like to zero in on today is the word "steward:" a steward of the mysteries of God. I find that to be one of the most challenging statements in the New Testament. And it is a theme that is developed more fully in many of the other books of the New Testament. Our Lord spoke of it; "A good steward," he said, "is one who takes things out of his treasury, both new and old." And the apostle speaks of this very frequently. A steward, of course, is one who has been entrusted with certain commodities which he is responsible to dispense to others. When I flew down here yesterday on the plane (as I am sure many of you experienced as well) there were stewardesses -- or as in the case of many airlines today since men are demanding equal rights with women, there were stewards on many airplanes. Now an airline steward is almost exactly fulfilling the role that is expressed here in this word from the New Testament. An airline steward is responsible to dispense both information and certain commodities to the passengers: They tell you where to sit, how to buckle your belt, where the restrooms are, where to smoke, where not to smoke, and so on, they give you arrival information and so forth; and furthermore they have trays of food and of beverages which they dispense to those who are passengers on the plane.

Now that is exactly the idea that is here. A minister of Christ, a preacher of the word, is a steward, he has been entrusted with something. You remember how the apostle in writing to Timothy speaks in several of his letters, he says, "Guard the deposit that has been entrusted to you." And he speaks in other places of the necessity to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, the treasure that is given into our care. Peter speaks about the exceeding great and precious promises which have been entrusted to us -- not for our own enjoyment, but to give out to others. And all through the New Testament this theme is enlarged upon. Peter calls it the "oracles of God." And you remember in that amazing 13th chapter of Matthew, our Lord spoke to the disciples in rather startling terms, and said that they were chosen of God to be made stewards (he doesn't use this term there, but the idea is there), stewards of the things which have been kept secret since the foundation of the world.

Now I think all these phrases should challenge us to view our ministry as preachers of the word of God at a very high level indeed. And it is one that I have taken very seriously in my own ministry. I find nothing is more challenging to me than the thought of dispensing these amazing concepts from Scripture to my congregation. I count it the highest honor of my life that I was ever privileged to be put by God into such a ministry. And rather than reflecting many of the ideas that are around today about the irrelevance of the church, and the uselessness of the church, I find that these concepts and these phrases highlight for me the extreme relevance of the church.

It would be interesting if we had time this morning to know what flashes into your mind when you hear the term, "a minister," or perhaps more purposefully what flashes into the minds of the people in your congregation when they hear the word, "a minister;" or even more to the point, what crosses the minds of the people out here in the streets of San Diego when they hear the term, "a minister of Christ." I was talking with Os Guinness not long ago. I was in England and visited with him at Oxford University where he is doing some doctoral work right now (this week he is up in our area, in the Bay Area, doing some ministry) -- but I was asking Os what is the attitude of the students there at Oxford about Christian things. "Well it is interesting, you know" he said. "I asked one of my professors the other day who is not a Christian. I asked him, 'What do thinking non-Christians think about Christian thinking?' And his answer was, 'Not very much.'" And I think that is the standard approach of many today with regard to the church; it is not regarded as an influential body at all in our country any more; its opinions are not asked for, its declarations are not listened to; when it raises its voice it is either ridiculed or ignored.

I read a recent contemporary description of the church put in rhyme by a contemporary secular writer, who put it this way:

Outwardly splendid as of old, Inwardly sparkless, void, and cold; Her force and fire all spent and gone Like the dead moon she still shines on.

Well, that is the way a lot of people are thinking about the church. And the reason is because they really haven't heard Christian thinking, even in church. What they often get, as Jim Boice said so well this morning, is a kind of a watered down, bland, pabulum. A glazed-over Christian philosophy and words of secular thought, rather than the word of the living God. Now it has challenged me in my own ministry to understand what this tremendous deposit is that I am responsible to dispense to others.

And if you turn to the 2nd chapter of 1 Corinthians, you will find that the apostle Paul has put this in very striking terms. Here he is defining again his own experience when he came to Corinth in the opening words: "When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God," or as some versions have it the "mystery of God." Marturion is "testimony," musterion is "mystery," They are very close together and some texts have one, and some the other. And if it is "the mystery of God" which he originally wrote, then it is right in line with what we have just seen in the fourth chapter. He says, "This is how I want you to think of me: I am a steward of the mysteries of God." Then he describes how he felt when he came to Corinth. He wasn't full of a sense of power. He felt weak and trembling, and his speech and his message were not in high flown rhetoric or beautiful phrasing, but they were in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Then beginning in verse 6 -- if any of you have a New Testament, I would invite you to turn with me to this -- he begins to describe what is the content and nature of this amazing stewardship with which we have been entrusted. Yet among the mature, he says, we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. You know throughout this first chapter the apostle has been contrasting what he calls the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. The world by wisdom -- that is its own wisdom -- does not know God. And he sets these in sharp contrast. I think it is very important for us as ministers and teachers of the word of truth, to understand that the Bible nowhere ever puts down human knowledge. We are not against the accumulation of knowledge. I preach under the shadow of one of the great universities of our day, Stanford University. And as I go over there I am impressed by the tremendous knowledge that has been gathered together in that great university -- tremendous libraries, great research laboratories, the largest atom smasher in the world, two miles long, the linear accelerator, running back into the hills back of Stanford, a great law school, business school, and so on -- a vast accumulation of human knowledge. It is always wrong for Christians to put down that in its importance, or in its contribution to human life. It is wrong to do so. The Bible everywhere encourages us to search out the mysteries of God around us in the universe, to explore the design of God, and to seek to find the answers -- and that's all that human knowledge does.

But what the Bible stands against is human wisdom. Now wisdom is the use of knowledge. Now see that's where the secular world goes astray. It takes all the wonderful knowledge that has been accumulated in most impressive array and doesn't know what to do with it -- uses it in abysmally wrong ways, and creates more problems than it cures. I have here in my hand -- I don't have time to read it -- a listing I took out of a secular magazine not long ago, in which the writer is pointing out nine inventions and discoveries of men, which when they were first introduced into human life were received with great enthusiasm and acclaim as solving many of the problems of our day, and making life much easier, modern achievements of technology and so on. Then in a parallel column he lists all the results of the use of these in human society and documents down the list how these have in turn become the basis for dehumanization, the creation of widespread despair among peoples, separating and polarizing groups from one another, giving rise to disproportionate distribution of the economic goods of earth, and creating far more problems than they ever solved. That which was hailed as wonderful achievements of technology have now been seen to be the cause of many of our problems.

Take the automobile, for instance. I can remember as a boy some of the early automobiles - I remember riding around in a Model T Ford -- that's the way I first went to high school. And it was regarded as a tremendous achievement. Now the automobile gluts our streets, pollutes our air, disturbs our calm. Every time we go out I'm convinced now that God has designed the automobile as a test of an individual's spirituality. And how many of us flunk it when we get behind the wheel? And it has created tremendous problems in our day. Now that is the wisdom of man versus the wisdom of God.

Now here is what the apostle says about that. He says first, the wisdom of this age is doomed to pass away. In other words, it is only temporary. It is impressive only for a while, and then it disappears.. While the wisdom which we're going to talk about -- which he goes on to describe in very impressive terms -- which has been given to us to dispense to others, is the wisdom that never passes away. Here he is emphasizing the relevance of the word of God for our times. I hardly have to detail for you what he means by the fact that human wisdom passes away. I think the example I've just employed sets that out in a most remarkable way. But listen to what he calls the wisdom of God. He calls in verse 7 a secret and hidden wisdom. In verse 10 he calls it the depths of God, the deep things of God. In verse 11 he calls it the thoughts of God. A little red book that contains not the thoughts of Mao, but the thoughts of God. In verse 12 it is the gifts bestowed on us by God. In verse 13 it is spiritual truth. And in verse 16 a startling word: it is the very mind of Christ.

Now that is what we are called to dispense to our congregations. Not our own opinions, but to reveal these hidden secrets which will never be irrelevant. There are 3 good reasons for that. First, because God always remains the same. The 139th Psalm is a wonderful exposition to establish that for us. God never changes, he never varies in any way, from age to age he remains the same. Second, man never changes. This is one of the most remarkable things that we need to recall today -- that all of our technology has made no difference in the men and women who employ them. They are still the same people they were hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago. And you can read literature to see that people in the days of ancient Greece three or four hundred years before Christ were struggling with the same basic problems we face today: excessive taxation, the intrusion of government into the affairs of the individual, international warfare and conflict, widespread famines because of poor distribution of goods, racial tensions rising on every hand: same problems. Where is the progress that we want so? You see, man never changes -- that's why the gospel is always relevant. And third, the word of God never changes. Not only God himself but the revelation he gives of himself never changes. That's why a congress such as this is of such great importance.

I had this highlighted for me by a story someone told me about going to see an old friend of his who was a retired music teacher. And when he knocked on the door, he greeted this friend with a rather flippant, modern saying: he said, "Well, what's the good news today?" The old man didn't say a word. He just walked across the room, picked up a rubber hammer, and struck a gong there. And the note A sounded out through the room. The old man said, "That is A. That was A a thousand years ago. It will be A a thousand years from now. The tenor across the hall flats on his high notes. The lady who plays the piano next door strikes disharmonies. And the man who lives downstairs tries to sing in the bathroom and can't carry a tune. But" -- and he hit the gong again -- "that is A, and that is the good news for today."

Now that is what the New Testament is saying. God never changes. We are declaring something that is always up to date, because it is dealing with humanity as it always is -- and we ought to understand that. Second, says the apostle, the nature and purpose, in what I regard as one of the most amazing verses in all the New Testament, is right here. "But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages" -- now listen to this -- "for our glorification." I grew up in the Presbyterian church and on the Westminster Covenant. I was taught very early the aim of man, the reason for man's existence, is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever. The purpose of man is to live for the glory of God. But this passage declares that God lives for the glory of man. Isn't that amazing? "For our glorification." Now eventually of course that is what glorifies God.

And here we have to think very briefly about what glory is. I've discovered that glory, true glory as the New Testament uses it, is a manifestation outwardly of the inward possibilities of a thing or person. The hidden virtues brought out into openness. We look at the sun and say that it is a glorious body: why? Because it's taking that with which it is made and manifesting it in brilliant light. That makes for glory. And when a person does that, when that which is hidden inside, all his abilities and possibilities become demonstrated in activity, we say he has done something glorious, he has achieved a glory. Now this is what God has in mind. And what this is saying, brothers and sisters, is that the message that we are to declare from our pulpits is designed to complete our humanity, to bring it to wholeness. I love that word -- it's a much better word than the word translated in our New Testament "holiness" -- they come from the same root. Holiness, Wholeness. And what God is after is a whole person: balanced, capable, able to cope with life, well-adjusted, not subject to panic. That is what he is talking about. And the business of preaching is to produce that kind of people in a congregation. And it has the possibility of doing that very thing. Here we have this stressed so strongly.

Now what I am seeking to convey to you is what I regard as the supreme and paramount value of preaching. There is nothing like it. The preacher or teacher has no rivals, either in the scientific laboratory, on the psychiatrist's couch, or in the philosopher's study. That's why Paul goes on to say in an expression of the uniqueness of this, none of the rulers of this age understood this. If they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. That is amazing. When he says "the rulers of this age" he means more than just Pilate, and Caesar, the governmental leaders. He means the leaders of thought, the mindbenders, the shapers of public opinion, the philosophers, the teachers of any generation. You won't find this kind of truth, he says, in any secular body of knowledge. And that is a great encouragement to me as a preacher.

I know that when I stand up on a Sunday morning in Palo Alto under the shadow of Stanford University, and I open the book of God, and speak to my congregation, in which are found not only a whole lot of what many would call plain vanilla Christians -- I don't think there are any such things -- but there are also many that the world highly regards: physicists, scientists, philosophers, psychiatrists, doctors and lawyers, and captains of industry and so on; and I know that when I open the book of God and preach to them, I am giving them essential knowledge that they do not have from any secular source or any secular writer. I am giving them basic facts about life and about human nature which they never learned in their secular college or graduate school. I am giving to them understanding about themselves which is not available from any other source -- so that they can fulfill their humanity and be whole persons in a broken, fallen world. Now that's the glory of preaching. And it is something we ought never to forget. It is the business of the preacher to change the total viewpoint about life of every member of his congregation, and to challenge the secular illusions of our day, and strip them of their deceitfulness, and show people how human wisdom fails, though human knowledge is quite acceptable, and point out to them what that failure is doing to them if they follow it. The instrument is the exposition and proclamation of these mysteries of God.

Now in the remaining time I want to look with you briefly, but more particularly, at some of these mysteries Paul says are our deposit, entrusted to us, with a responsibility to give it out to our congregation. How many of you have ever gone through the New Testament and the Old and preached on the mysteries of God, the specific areas on which these mysteries are detailed for us? Now they are not merely subjects of interest in the Bible -- they are themes that run throughout the whole Bible from beginning to end. They appear under various terms -- and it would be a mistake to limit yourself only to those places where the word "mystery" appears. For instance, take the most frequently mentioned mystery in the Bible: it is called the mystery of the kingdom of God. It appears also for instance in Paul's 11th chapter of the letter to the Romans, where he speaks of the mystery of the blindness of Israel. This is part of the mystery of the kingdom of God. Or the mystery of Babylon the Great in the book of Revelation; that is part of the mystery of the kingdom of God. What do we mean by that? Well, the kingdom of God, of course, is God's control of history. It is the business of the preacher to help the congregation to understand that the events that they read about in their daily newspaper is an accounting from a secular point of view of what God is doing, and to explain from the Bible what He is doing, and what he hopes to achieve in these affairs. That's preaching the mystery of the kingdom of God. It is not just a spiritual matter which they enter into only by faith in Christ -- that's part of it, and that ought to be very much a part of our preaching. But we must help them to see that God is charge of daily life. And the events they read about in their papers are simply accountings of how God goes about what He is doing.

How many of you in the days of the Vietnamese war preached on what God was doing in Vietnam? That's a proper subject -- to take from a passage of Scripture to show how God uses war to judge all the nations involved in it. What I heard during that period of time -- if it was mentioned at all in evangelical pulpits, it was to chose sides and join the polarization of American society which almost destroyed us during that period, and take either the side of the hawks or the doves, and say one of these is right and the other is wrong. Now the Bible's approach is never that way. If we're preaching biblically and thinking Christianly, we must deal with what the Old Testament and the New Testament alike says what God uses war for in human history. There is ample evidence in both testaments to deal with that in extended ways, to open the eyes of people to see that God can close a nation down, shut it down, to accomplish a purpose that can never be accomplished by leaving it open to the gospel.

I remember in the 50's when the missionaries were kicked out of China, everybody was heartbroken. We all were beating our breasts and wringing our hands and saying, "Oh, what a terrible thing has happened in China! God has allowed the communists to kick the missionaries out, and the gospel is excluded. China is closed." Now 30 years later we know that wasn't true. And the amazing thing is that we go back into China and discover that the church has increased -- has increased sevenfold during those thirty years. How many of us preached that as a possibility in the days when the missionaries were kicked out of China? It is because we don't understand the secret wisdom of God, and how God works. That's why I find the church so weak today, because we're not teaching it biblically. We're not opening the Scriptures and letting them speak to help us understand the events of our own day.

Take another mystery: the mystery of lawlessness. This is the mystery of the perpetuation of evil. Everybody in your congregation -- including the young people, especially the young people -- are asking every day, at least in the secret of their own hearts, why is this world such a mess? I watched Phil Donahue interview a couple of punk rockers the other day. They were dressed very bizarrely. They had on strange clothes. They were wearing make-up that made their face look like it was dead. They had black lipstick on -- the boy and the girl wore black lipstick. And they had this strange, bizarre dress. And Phil Donahue was asking, "Why do you do this? Why do you live like this? Why do you dress like this? Why in your gathering together do you often resort to violence and even shed blood deliberately? You even puncture your own skin. Why do you do this?" These were ordinary kids. It was obvious from listening to them that they were like everybody else's kids. But what emerged from that was the revelation that they believed that life was not worth living, that there was no use going on. And they sunk into these bizarre reactions to express a hopelessness about their day and age.

Now you see it is the business of Christians to explain why the world seems hopeless, why evil perpetuates itself over and over, and seems to be triumphant all the time. And there's no doing that apart from the revelation of Scripture that we are up against the mystery of lawlessness. That panoply of evil beings headed by the devil who as Paul describes them are called the rulers of the darkness of this world -- spiritual wickedness in high places -- who are master manipulators, and who have access to the inner thoughts of mankind, to guide them in ways of which they are totally unconscious, but which make men do what the devil wants -- to mangle and twist and destroy and obliterate all God's goodness among mankind. Now if we're not preaching that, we're not explaining life to the people of our congregation.

And more than that we need to explain the tactics of the devil, how he seeks to bring about discouragement, and despair, hostility, and fear, and the manifestations of these in our day. We don't live in a different world from the New Testament world; the first century and the twentieth century worlds are very much alike. And if we believe that, we can help our people detect the same struggles and problems and intrusions into human life that was visible and present in the first century as well. We need to understand this. Psychiatrists can't help here; psychologists can't. Only the Bible gives that answer.

Let me share with you a quotation I ran across some time ago, by Carl Jung, the great noted Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist. He says, "We stand perplexed and stupefied before the phenomenon of Nazism and Bolshevism because we know nothing about man." Isn't that an amazing statement from a leading psychologist of our day? We know nothing about man. "Or, at any rate," he said, "have only a lopsided and distorted picture of him. If we had self-knowledge that would not be the case. But we stand face to face with the terrible question of evil and do not even know what is before us let alone know what to pit against it." And even if we did know we still could not understand how it could happen here.

You watch the newspapers and the magazines -- Time magazine and others -- I was so glad Jim Boice is reading Time magazine -- every now and then tremendous admissions on the part of secular leaders of their almost complete ignorance about world affairs -- that they don't know the answers. Listen to this: When U Thant, the Burmese statesman, was secretary-general of the United Nations, before a distinguished panel of some 60 world leaders, and before an audience of some 500 people gathered in the United Nations to explore the ways to international peace, he said these amazing words: "What element is lacking so that with all our skill and with all our knowledge we still find ourselves in the dark valley of discord and enmity? What is it that inhibits us from going forward together to enjoy the fruits of human endeavor and to reap the harvest of human experience? Why is it that for all our professed ideals, our hopes, and our skills, peace on earth is still a distant objective, seen only dimly through the storms and turmoils of our present day?" What a poignant cry from an honest heart, crying out, "What is missing? Why can't we make progress? Why is every generation doomed to deal with the same problems over and over again?" And I want to say to you that is only the preacher of the word of God that can answer those questions. He has the answer. This is why Paul concludes the paragraph by saying, "He that is spiritual judges all things." And he has even as he said the mind of Christ. Now that isn't just any Christian, that's those who understand the word of God -- who deal with it, and work with it, and think it through, and come to begin to reflect God's thoughts after him. They can deliver that.

Take the answer to the mystery of lawlessness-- probably the greatest secret revealed in the Scriptures -- what Paul calls in 1 Timothy "the mystery of godliness." That remarkable revelation which is the secret of vitality in the Christian life, which Paul says in his briefest description in Colossians, is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." In you, dwelling there, imparting to you his own life, his own power, in righteousness. And it's the business of preachers to help people understand that they are to confront their daily struggles in the light of that revelation. Christ in you, the hope of glory.

There's the mystery of the church -- God's new society, what God is doing in the world today, how the facades and scaffolding of the old creation are breaking down and tumbling all around us. And in the very midst of it, unseen by the world, is rising a new structure which is a holy temple for the dwelling place of God and the Spirit, which one day the curtain will be opened and the world will see, standing in its midst, absolutely mindboggling in its glory. That's what we're involved in. This is the business of preaching. It is what we call in our congregation the big burner concept-- that fire underneath everything else that keeps people's minds aflame, and young people's hearts challenged and eager to grasp life with these concepts as weapons to handle what's coming. If you want to turn on the young people in your congregation you begin to set forth in vivid language the mysteries of God, and you'll see them come to life.

I sat at a dinner table not long ago and we got to talking about some of these things. There were present around the table a number of young people in their teens and early twenties, as well as several older people in their fifties and sixties. And as we discussed some of these things I observed the reactions of the people around the table. And you know what I saw? Those who were over 50 were obviously bored by what we were talking about. Those who were under were stirred and alive and their eyes were shining, and they couldn't wait -- they couldn't get enough of what we were talking about. Because the older people were hearing it in terms of familiar words that they had never thought through in terms of the context, while the younger ones were grasping the exciting ideas behind them, and capturing the glory of the secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God has designed for human glorification -- to make us whole beings, which every young person longs for.

Then there is the mystery of resurrection -- that most remarkable power that is quietly at work in every congregation, which has power to raise things from the dead. That's its most remarkable attribute. When everything is dull and dead and listless, and apathy has set in, it's like a cemetery -- that's where resurrection power works best.

They took a survey at Stanford University not long ago -- they discovered that 90% of the student body is neither for nor against apathy. That's what happened to our campuses. All the violence, all the commitment, all the fiery-eyed zeal that was there 20 years ago or 10 years ago has faded. They've settled back into the old ruts again. But resurrection power takes no note of either of those qualities. It doesn't need anything to make it effective. This is what the New Testament tells us over and over again is the power committed to the people of God. "Now unto him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think, according" -- to what? -- "according to the power that is at work within us." Paul says, "In him we proclaim warning and teaching with all wisdom that I might present every person mature in Christ" -- grown-up, able to handle life -- "for this I toil with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me."

Now how many Christian congregation know this? How many are given access to these vital truths, and compelling words backed with the passion and power of a convinced heart to go out and begin to be different kinds of people in the ordinary affairs of life? That's the business of preaching -- that we might be stewards of these mysteries of God, faithfully dispensing them to our congregations that we might like Paul have a burning fire to declare the whole counsel of God, and not to leave this earth until we have fully stated before the ears of all who will hear the amazing secret and hidden wisdom of God which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. I tell you when you faithfully preach as a steward of the mysteries of God you will find your people alive, excited; you will find your place packed out all the time, because this is the most compelling truth in the world, it explains humanity, it explains as much as we can understand of the majesty and mercy and might of our God. It begins to set things in perspective so people can have guidelines to life -- and to know what are the absolutes, and what are not. That's what we're called to, brethren -- "This is how we would have men regard us -- as stewards of the mysteries of God."

Now tomorrow I want to start there and work through with you as much as possible how do you get ready to do this. How do you find this kind of truth in the Bible, and how do you go about proclaiming it. You understand that in an hour's time we can do no more than survey the subject. But I want it to be very practical, and I want to use the overhead projector so you'll have some help in this.

Can we close with just a word of prayer?

Thank you, our Father, for calling us back again to a look at an amazing calling that has been given to us. You have placed us, Lord, right where you want us to be, among the people you want us to labor with, amidst the problems that you want us to be engaged with. Now grant to us now, Lord, a new conviction of the glory of our calling, a new sense of the possibilities and potentials that lie in the preaching ministry. And may we be found, Lord, as faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen.

The Glory of Preaching: EXPOSITORY PREACHING

Big Burner, Big Stew?

It's instructive indeed tracing the theme of the Big Burner and the Kettle of Stew stewards of God down through the ages who have dished out food for us to consume.

God wants His people eating right, a balanced and wholesome diet of truth from the Word of God. Good stewards always serve a balanced diet of Word and Wisdom.

"Man shall not live by Bread alone, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus said He was the very Bread of Life. This subject is vast!

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:26-40)

People helping themselves indiscriminately to good food is uncool. And example of this self-serving can be seen in the sons of Eli the priest while the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were at Shiloh:

Sons of Eli

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.”

And if the man said to him, “They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires,” he would then answer him, “No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force.”

Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord." (1 Samuel 2:12-17)

Later in history there was the certain pot of stew cooked up for the servants of Yahweh, but that stew found to be poisoned.

Elisha Purifies the Poisoned Pot of Stew

And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. 2 Kings 4:38-41

Life in ancient Israel did not get better and better, but worse and worse--for the next few hundred years. Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah, came on the the scene. By this time (586 BC) food cooked and stashed out by the leaders had given way to a burned-out kettle of stew--left on the big burner until the contents were reduced to carbonize and ton ashes--and to bones. It was totally unfit for human consumption!

In Ezekiel's day God gave a vivid series of teaching lessons featuring God pleading with the people to return to Him. Ezekiel was personally involved:

His beloved wife died on the same day the city of Jerusalem fell. (the 9th of Av).

Symbol of the Burned-Out Cooking Pot

Again, in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, write down the name of the day, this very day—the king of Babylon started his siege against Jerusalem this very day. And utter a parable to the rebellious house, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God:

“Put on a pot, set it on,
And also pour water into it.
Gather pieces of meat in it,
Every good piece,
The thigh and the shoulder.
Fill it with choice cuts;
Take the choice of the flock.
Also pile fuel bones under it,
Make it boil well,
And let the cuts simmer in it.”
‘Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Woe to the bloody city,
To the pot whose scum is in it,
And whose scum is not gone from it!
Bring it out piece by piece,
On which no lot has fallen.

For her blood is in her midst;
She set it on top of a rock;
She did not pour it on the ground,
To cover it with dust.

That it may raise up fury and take vengeance,
I have set her blood on top of a rock,
That it may not be covered.”
‘Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Woe to the bloody city!
I too will make the pyre great.

Heap on the wood,
Kindle the fire;
Cook the meat well,
Mix in the spices,
And let the cuts be burned up.

“Then set the pot empty on the coals,
That it may become hot and its bronze may burn,
That its filthiness may be melted in it,
That its scum may be consumed.

She has grown weary with lies,
And her great scum has not gone from her.
Let her scum be in the fire!
In your filthiness is lewdness.

Because I have cleansed you, and you were not cleansed,
You will not be cleansed of your filthiness anymore,
Till I have caused My fury to rest upon you.
I, the Lord, have spoken it;
It shall come to pass, and I will do it;
I will not hold back,
Nor will I spare,
Nor will I relent;
According to your ways
And according to your deeds
They will judge you,”
Says the Lord God.’ ”

Also the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead; bind your turban on your head, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man’s bread of sorrow.”

So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded.” (Ezekiel 24:1-18)

Jesus spoke of the restoration of all things, the palingenesis

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration (palingesis) when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." Matthew (19:23-30)

Jesus is on His way back now as the rightful leader of all the nations. He'll be bringing His Bride (the true church) with Him
The entire planet is to scheduled be healed, saved, restored!

Isaiah 40

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The Word of God Stands Forever6

6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said,“What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
The Greatness of God

9 O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”

10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.

11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?

13 Who has measured[g] the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?

14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.

17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?

19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.

20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood[h] that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.

21 Do you not know? Do you not hear r?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;

31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Extra Credit

There is more! Studying the Great Themes of the Bible brings a gold-mine of treasure! For Extra Credit (EC) may we suggest the subjects of Clay Pots, Cracked Pots, Treasure in earthen vessels and the Refiners' Fire where metals are smelted.

Pots, Potters and Clay

The Potter and the Clay by Ray Stedman

Fit to be Used by Ray Stedman

The Cracked Pot

A Water Bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and one half pots of water in his master's house.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the Water Bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The Water Bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologize to the bearer for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We re all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father's table. In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste. So as we seek ways to minister together, and as God calls you to tasks He has appointed for you, don't be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and allow Him to take advantage of them, and you, too, can be the cause of beauty in His pathway. Go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness we find His strength, and that "In Him every one of God's promises is a Yes."

Choice Vessels in the Household of King Jesus, (2 Timothy 2:1-21) by Ray Stedman

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.

Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

Instructions to Priests, by Ray Stedman

The Refiner’s Fire (Malachi: The Great Day of God

“For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

Hannah’s Prayer

And Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
“No one is holy like the Lord,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
“Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.
“The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.
“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
“For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He has set the world upon them.
He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
“For by strength no man shall prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”

(1 Samuel 2:1-11)

June 25, 2019

Lambert Dolphin's Place