Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Fisher of Men or a Keeper of the Aquarium

“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

The disciples had little education, little spiritual depth, and little religious training. If you study their lives, you will find that many times they were self-centered and inhospitable. When the multitude walked a long way around the Sea of Galilee to be with Jesus and were hungry, the disciples thought only of sending them away on their own to buy food (Matt. 14). When some little children were brought to Jesus for blessing, the disciples rebuked those who brought them (Matt. 19:13).

Even on the night of Jesus' betrayal, as their Lord agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James, and John could not stay awake with him (Matt. 26: 40, 45). The disciples at times were selfish, proud, weak, and cowardly. They showed little potential for dependability, must less for greatness. Yet Jesus chose them to be his inner circle of twelve.

They were just like us, and they were like other people we know. They are real and living characters we can identify with and understand. They were prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failure. Even Jesus said that they were slow learners and spiritually dense (Luke 24: 25).

Yet, with all their faults and character flaws, these men carried on a ministry after Jesus’ ascension that left an indelible impact on the world. Common folk – people like you and me – became the instruments by which Christ’s message was carried to the ends of the earth.

When they understood their calling, they displayed character qualities like integrity, trustworthiness, respectability, unselfishness, humility, self-discipline, self-control, and courage. That’s the character God is looking for in His “fishers of men.”

Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.” He wasn’t stating it as a suggestion or one among many options. His statement was an imperative command. It literally means, “Come after me.” Jesus was saying, “Your place is coming after me.” That’s exactly what he says to us today.

In his book People Sharing Jesus, Darrell Robinson outlines the mandate behind “Follow Me”:

Obedience – Without it, can there be genuine Christianity.

Repentance – The preceding message in Mt and Mark.

Submission – Placed under the authority of another.

Trust – Do you really believe “He’s All I Need?”

Perseverance – It’s not just a door to enter; it’s a path to follow, and that to the end. David wrote about it in Psalm 119: 112, “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.”

That’s it. A fisher of men is one who follows Christ to the end of everything. A man was walking on the beach early one morning. He noticed someone walking ahead of him. It appeared that the person ahead was picking up objects off the beach and throwing them back into the ocean. Curiosity got the best of him, so he quickened his pace to catch up with the person ahead of him. He discovered it was a teenage boy. The boy was picking up starfish left by the high tide throwing them back into the ocean.

“What are you doing?” the man asked. “I’m throwing these starfish back into the water. If they stay here on the beach until the sun shines on them for a while, they’ll die.” “Young man, this beach goes on for miles. There could be millions of starfish lying out on it. What difference do you think you can make?”

They boy looked carefully at the starfish he was holding in his hand. Then he threw it back into the water and said, “Well, all I know is that it makes a difference to this one!” That’s what fishing for men is all about – winning the world for Jesus Christ – one heart at a time.

We have a tendency to look at all the lost in the world and feel helpless about making a difference with so many. But we change our world one person at a time. I want to offer you a challenge today. On behalf of someone that you know, would you consecrate your life that he or she might be saved? Are you willing to commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ and commit that person to prayer and commit yourself to sharing the gospel with them that they may come to know the Lord?

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek


This Thursday we will have between 800 – 1000 people attend out Fall Festival. It will be awesome. One of this year’s attractions is a big slide that is totally awesome! I can’t wait to get on it and … let me restate … the kids can’t wait! However, if you want to see me on it, come a little early!

We will have hundreds of unchurched on our north campus (FBC) and that affords us an opportunity to show a little love to our community. In preparation for the event we will be prayer walking our parking lot this Wednesday night, starting at 6:00, and then praying over our grounds. I am praying that our property will have Holy Spirit anointing all over it, and every person who steps foot on the anointed soil will sense the presence of God! So, we needs folks who will come and pray Wednesday night, and we need folks who will be ready to share Christ on Thursday night between 5:00 and 8:00 PM.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Precious In His Sight

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

Julie and I met Bill and Eloise Terry approximately 9 years ago. Bill was on a pastor search committee assigned to locate the worst preacher he could find and that landed him at my door. What began as a casual acquaintance early one morning in Kentucky turned out to be a friendship that will one day be renewed in heaven. Let me restate: it will be perfected in heaven.

Friday, after a battle with Alzheimer’s, Bill laid down his battle, closed his earthly eyes, and marveled at the brilliance his eternal destination. He has seen the face of Jesus. Perhaps even now he is talking with Adam about Eden, with Noah about the Ark, with Moses about deliverance, with Elijah about chariots of fire, with Lazarus about the resurrection from the dead, with Paul about the Damascus Road, etc. Bill always had a deep love for Biblical preaching. He may be talking with Adrian Rogers today!

Bill, age 76, lived his life for the glory of God. He used his profession as a urologist to advance his real desire, and that was to share the love of Jesus Christ with others. Bill loved people and wanted to see them connect to Jesus Christ in such a way that it altered their lives forever. He constantly encouraged men to be godly. Here is a paragraph from his obituary:

He was instrumental in organizing the local Christian Businessmen's Committee and starting the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. He served as the chairman for the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast for 10 years. Upon giving up that chairmanship, he devoted his time to meeting with men to share with them the importance of being a good husband and father. He hosted several Dad the Family Shepherd conferences for men as well as Biblical Portrait of Marriage seminars for couples and financial seminars teaching couples the importance of managing their money and staying out of debt. If asked his purpose in life, his reply would have been, "To go to heaven and to take as many people with me as I can."

That describes the heart of Bill Terry. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He was a Sunday school teacher, a deacon, a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One day Bill, in the early stages of his disease, walked into my office and asked me if I liked to listen to preaching. He said he had a few sermon tapes that he wanted to give me. The truth is Bill had heard me preach for about 3 years and knew I needed all the help I could get. Later that afternoon he dropped off two boxes crammed with taped sermons by Adrian Rogers and John MacArthur (my two favorite preachers). He had given me a precious gift. To this day I never reach for a message that my friendship with Bill Terry doesn’t flood my mind.

I love Bill and Eloise Terry. Their love for one another was magnetic. Their marriage served as a model for young couples to emulate. Their home was constantly warm and inviting, with every picture a message about faith and family.

Bill constantly reminded me to keep my priorities straight. He would often say, “Pastor, don’t forget your family! Spend time with them because you will only have them for a little while.” He constantly reminded me that a shepherd focuses on faith and family before the flock. Thank you Bill for helping me understand my role as “Dad the Family Shepherd!”

Bill loved Jesus Christ. He longed to see His face and to behold the eternal marks of redemption on His body. In closing, I share this poem I came across in honor his honor:

God’s Perfect Lamb

“Mary had a little lamb, His soul was white as snow.

And anywhere His Father sent, the Lamb was sure to go.

He came to earth to die one day, the sin of man to atone.

And now He reigns in heaven above, He’s the Lamb upon the Throne.”

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Journey to Heaven

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." (Revelation 4:8-11)

John sees a door open in heaven and is immediately caught up in the Spirit to the very presence of the Lord God Almighty Himself. He describes the majesty and glory of the only One worthy of our worship. He sees the 24 elders seated around the throne take the lead of the four living creatures and fall down in worship. John sees them cast their crowns before the throne. The focus of heaven is clearly on the worship of God!

Who are these “elders” and what are they casting before the throne? The Greek word is “presuteros”, and it is where we get the word Presbyterian. So, does it mean the elders are Presbyterians and not Baptist’s? That is for another debate. Actually, the 24 elders are a picture of the redeemed of the ages: perhaps 12 representing the O.T. saints and 12 representing the church age saints. Why do they represent the redeemed? As we studied yesterday:

Their Position - They are seated! The fact that they are seated lets us know that they are at rest. The battles are over and they find themselves seated before the throne of God at perfect rest and peace! Thank God a day of rest awaits the heaven bound saint today!

Their Purity - These elders are robes in "white". This is always a symbol of holiness and purity. White is symbolic in Revelation of the righteous acts of the saints (3:4-5, 18; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 19:8). Their crowns – (stephanos) are victors crowns (cf. 2:10) for the redeemed, not angels. What an honor!

Their Prize - Each of these elders wears a "crown". This crown in not like the crown that Jesus wears, Rev. 19:12. His crown is a "diadem" - a king's crown. The elders wear the "stephanos" - a "victor's crown".

Notice that they cast their crowns at God’s feet? In Escape the Coming Night David, Jeremiah observes that there are 5 different crowns mentioned in the NT that are available to believers:

Imperishable wreath - (I Cor. 9:25) This crown is given to those who run the race successfully. They “receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Crown of Life -Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, He will receive the crown of life which the Lord promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12) This crown is given to those who successfully endure the sufferings associated with temptation.

Crown of rejoicing - “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (I Thess. 2:19-20) The people we led to Christ and nurtured in the faith are a “crown.”

Crown of glory - “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed. … And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (I Peter 5:1-4) This is an expression of reward for faithfulness.

Crown of righteousness - (2 Tim. 4:6-8) All Christians receive the righteousness of Christ. This crown is a special enjoyment of righteousness because of the love of Christ. Paul wants us to understand that a love for Christ will attract HIS attention.

They cast their crowns at His feet! Will we one day? You bet! I wonder what things God would have us cast at His feet today? Our time? Our talents? Our treasures? And what difference should a knowledge of eternity make in the way we worship today? Will worship continue to be just a Sunday-only experience, or will worshiping God become our everyday lifestyle experience?

Worshipping is not about pleasing you and me, but expressing our appreciation and love to our Lord and Savior. I like what someone said: “Your problems aren’t too big—perhaps your worship is too small."

There’s a recent song that was written by a young man who led the worship at church. He was an extremely talented singer, but the preacher there took him aside and told him that he could not lead the singing at church until things changed, because he saw that he was more interested in the attention he received than in worshipping the Lord. This young man was angry at first and yet the words of the preacher were true, and he knew it. Six months later he wrote a song and taught it to the church there. The words are these:

Heart of Worship
(words and music by Matt Redman)

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is yours
Every single breath

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Leader's Rewards

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 5-8)

I hope you have enjoyed our review of Henry Blackaby’s leadership masterpiece. The last chapter of Spiritual Leadership deals with the leader’s rewards. He describes them as both spiritual and personal. The spiritual rewards: God’s affirmation, and the fulfillment of our calling. He summarizes both by stating: “No other reward could possibly equal the joy that comes from knowing almighty God is pleased with you and what you have done with your life.” It just blows my mind to think of all God had in store for me when He called me into ministry as a teenager!

What about the personal rewards of leadership? Blackaby groups them into four categories: the rewards of integrity, of having made a contribution, of relationships, and the influence that God allows you to have on others. The personal fulfillment that comes from ministry is hard to put into words. There is an enormous satisfaction that comes from knowing you are walking in the center of God’s will. There is a tremendous blessing that comes with knowing God has used your life to move others forward in their quest for Christlikeness.

My greatest fulfillment comes when I get to share Christ and see people transferred from darkness to light, from death to sin to life in Christ, from hell to heaven, from separation to surrender. I enjoy listening to people share their faith story with me as they prepare for baptism. I enjoy watching the lights come on when the Word is preached and people get it! I enjoy listening to children quote Scripture. I am thankful that families allow me to minister at bedsides when a loved one is exiting this life.

I would never have dreamed I would get the privilege to shepherd so many wonderful people over the course of the 29 plus years since I surrendered to the call of God on my life. Blackaby is exactly right when he says, “Leadership is not about positions, but about relationships – with God and people.” Some of my dearest friends are the direct result of God allowing me to be their shepherd. I can truly say that moving people onto God’s agenda is a greater endeavor and honor than I ever imagined.

I pray that I never stop growing. I pray that I never stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I pray that I never stop loving the dear ones God has entrusted to my care. I pray that I never cease to proclaim the excellencies of the One who saved me and called to a life proclaiming the name of the King of Kings.

Two weeks ago, I attended my thirtieth high school class reunion. Just the sound of that makes me reach for cholesterol and arthritis medication. One of my dearest high school friends that I had the honor of performing his wedding ceremony and later preaching his deacon ordination message, shared with me that he has officially retired from his career after some 25 years. As I drove back to Jacksonville later that night, I could not help but reflect on my almost 30 years of ministry. My prayer then and my prayer now is that I never grow weary of the demands of ministry, and that I will recognize when I need to allow a younger man to take the reins when I can no longer keep up the demands of multiple services.

Today, will you pause and thank God for the privilege of knowing Him? Will you praise Him for the grip He has on your life? Will you honor Him for the all the close relationships you have as a result of being united with His spiritual family? Will you thank Him for the honor you have to serve His church in whatever capacity God allows? Until Heaven calls, will you commit your life afresh and anew to the upward call of Christlikeness?

Casting Future Crowns,

Dr. Derek