It’s Feeling Real

I sat in our services this past Sunday and it really hit me, that was the last time I’d sit under our pastor/teacher David Hegg.  I’ll be preaching on Sunday, our last Sunday at Northpoint.  I turned to Michelle and said, “Now you’ll have to listen to me each Sunday.”  She gracious responded that she couldn’t wait.  Thanks Babe!  I sat with our Elders on Monday night and listened as they went around and shared stories and expressed appreciation for my friendship and ministry in their lives.  Then they gathered around me and laid hands on me as they prayed over me.  They prayed for you guys, prayed for my family, prayed for the Gospel to go forth with power in Ohio.  Then Tuesday, the pastors sat and prayed for each other after lunch and I wept praying for my brothers here that have meant so much to me over the years.  I’m thankful for the love of friends, for emotions, and for the heavenly bond that knows no geographical limits.  Pastor David graciously gave me Sunday to preach my last sermon here, I wrestled with what to preach, it didn’t take too long though, how can I not end my time here in Corona with anything other than Jesus!  So to Hebrews 12:1-3 it is, and “Follow Jesus” the title of my sermon.  Thanks for praying for me during this time, I feel it.  I tell people here that it would have to be something I am so utterly confident of God’s hand in to move me from here, something I’m so excited to be a part of for the Kingdom — and I AM!  I believe God has brought the Spansels and Leroy together, that simple.  

Leaving with sorrow … going with joy,

Pastor Mark

A Puritan Pastor (Part 2)

Okay, so again my desire here is to speak of pastoral ministry … the kind of ministry and pastor I am and want.  I don’t hold the Puritans up as “Perfect” … we only had one perfect human and that won’t be repeated again, but they are great men.  And when we find great men, women, movements in Church History that share the same loves we share, we ought to want to learn from them.  I want to learn from the successes, failures, teachings, and experiences of Gospel-men.  These pastors were just that – in love with the Word that unfolds the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, on to the next two characteristics of a Puritan pastor, characteristics which highlight how they approached the Word and the sought to live in the Spirit —

2. Expositors of the Scripture & Educators of the Mind

They had no higher book than the inspired Scriptures and they labored under its teaching.  This being the case they studied diligently to mine the riches of the doctrines contained in the Book.  Verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book developing a theology that was thoroughly God-saturated.  They were simple in their preaching and writing.  They would state the doctrine and then apply it to the conscience.  For them, truth left “hanging” was as dangerous as error.  The Word was given for our teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) and that means we need to KNOW it, so we can APPLY it, so it can TRANSFORM us.  Truth must be felt!  I love that.  That doesn’t mean we base the Christian life on emotions or experiences, it means that Truth produces strong emotions and transforming experiences.  Truth doesn’t bypass the mind, it is grasp in the mind before faith and obedience become possible.  If Jesus’ answer to the great question of Matthew 22:36 includes loving the Lord your God with all your mind, then we would be well advised to welcome the instruction of the Word to change our thinking so it can change our living.  My friends, I love learning, but I love growing more.  I love a good book, but I love holiness more.  I love listening, but I love obeying more.  If we are a good teaching church, that loves the Word exposited, then we will be an obedient, transformed and transforming church as well.  It is my job to display the glories of Christ in the Gospel, not my own learning.  It is my job (and highest joy) to delight in those glories so you’ll want to also!

3. Men of the Spirit & Men of Sincerity

This is basically to say, “practice what you preach!”  And I certainly intend to.  Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “pay close attention to yourself (1 Timothy 4:16)” is the call to walk in the Spirit.  May it never be that I unsay with my life what I say with my tongue.  The Puritan pastor believed he was a dying man preaching to dying men, and his own digestion of the food of the Spirit was what made it powerful (and appetizing) to those under his care.  These were men of discipline, men who loved walking with God, men who longed to see the Gospel transform them first, their people second, their culture third.  And to that I say a hearty “AMEN!”  I will not call you to do something that I am unwilling to do.  I will not preach a sermon to you that I have not preached first to myself.  I will fight the flesh, to keep in step with the Spirit.  I love John Owens word to pastors here, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.  And I love the forthrightness of good ‘ol John Calvin when he said, “It were better for the preacher to break his neck going up into the pulpit, if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God.”  I’ve often prayed that God would take me home before I would do anything to disgrace the name of Christ and disqualify myself from leading His Church.

The Puritans were men, sure they had their faults and misplaced passions, but they were men committed to the Word shaping the mind and transforming the life.  Pastors intent on walking in the Spirit, living dependant and sincere lives before God so they would be of great value to men.  They are heroes of the faith!  And for me, a pastor, their writings and their lives call me to a life lived completely under the Word of God … and that’s why I love them.  I hope you’ll learn to love them as well.

A Dying Man Delivered by Grace,

Pastor Mark

A Puritan Pastor (Part 1)

I believe the best way to see the Puritans is as those who did for the Church and Christian Life what the Reformation did for the Gospel and Theology.  Between 1550 and 1700 they sought for, as their name indicates, purity in the Church of England and in the hypocritical religiosity of their day.  They engaged their culture for the Gospel and the Gospel for their own life and family.  They were radicals for sure, but first and foremost, in preaching the glory of God to their own souls.  They pursued God in His Word, and they labored to work out Godliness in every area of life … and they wrote more than seems humanly possible during their time.  Some of the notables:  John Owen, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, and Thomas Goodwin.  Their influence crossed the Atlantic and became a major force in the early Americas at the pen and ministry of Jonathan Edwards during the time of the Great Awakening.  These giants were pastors and theologians who cared about the Church and the souls of men.  The Puritan movement, in all its forms, was essentially a movement for church reform, pastoral renewal, evangelism, and revival. Man, who doesn’t want to see all of that! If you’re interested in reading a great survey of the Puritans, check out J.I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness where I also am drawing the following description of the passions of these men as pastors.

1.  Physicians of the Soul

They trusted the Word of God and its healing power for the souls of men.  “Truth obeyed will heal,” was a clear teaching of the Puritan pastor.  No matter what the age, maturity level, or spiritual condition – the Word of God understood and applied was the remedy.  This is not to paint the Puritans as careless or superficial teachers of the Bible, as though by throwing a Bible verse at someone and telling them to memorize it they will be “better”.  Packer says they were as “humble-minded and warm-hearted as they were clear-headed, as fully oriented to people as they were to Scripture, and as passionate for peace as they were for truth.”  They have coined a phrase that I love in describing pastoral ministry – “the care of souls.”  And in a day were psychology and medications become the primary remedy for the soul, the Puritans do well to remind us that the Word still has power to heal the souls of men.  All that to say, as a pastor, as your pastor, I care about your souls.  I see my role as one who applies the ointment of the Scripture to bring health to our souls, not just knowledge to our minds.  The Church is a hospital, there are no perfect people, and anyone can relapse at any time, therefore we all must grow skillful in examining our own hearts and applying the remedy of Gospel truth for the care of souls.

Healed to Heal,

Pastor Mark

 

 

Spiritual Authority

Okay, I wrote it – Authority.  Many of you might find that a bad word. You might have personal experience of someone in authority over you treating you in a such a way that tainted your love for this God-concept. Maybe a parent, an employer, dare I say … a pastor.  It’s no surprise to any who have paid attention to the news over the past few years that religious leaders abuse authority.  The Catholic church has spent millions trying to “settle” the sinful abuses of their leaders. News of “big-time” pastors involved in sex scandals, misappropriating funds, or just changing truth to fit their own desires aren’t things of fiction, but a sad reality.  A reality that I, as a religious leader, am very well aware of – many in the world start from a place of mistrust, a place of skepticism, and I can’t blame them … I would too if that’s what I saw.  

I’d much rather be under authority than lording it over others.  Come to think of it, that’s how a leader keeps from lording it over those he serves.  I AM A MAN UNDER AUTHORITY.  I am called by God to shepherd His people, with eagerness setting an example for the flock to follow (1 Peter 5:1-3) so that you find it delightful to imitate my faith (Hebrews 13:7).  Jesus Christ is the leader of His Church, He is the Senior Pastor, He is the One we all follow.  Any spiritual authority the elders of the Church have (of which I am one) is delegated from on High for the good of the people.  Being a man under authority is what gives me spiritual authority … and in understanding this, I thank my Puritan predecessors who so diligently labored to lay out a model of pastoral authority and function that I embrace whole-heartedly.  Listen as J.I. Packer describes it,

“Spiritual authority is hard to pin down in words, but we recognize it when we meet it.  It is a product compounded of conscientious faithfulness to the Bible; vivid perception of God’s reality and greatness; inflexible desire to honor and please Him; deep self-searching and radical self-denial; adoring intimacy with Christ; generous compassion manward; and forthright simplicity, God-taught and God-wrought, adult in its knowing-ness while childlike in its directness.  The man of God has authority as he bows to divine authority.”  AMEN!!

Over the next few posts I’ll do my best to describe this Puritan model of spiritual authority as it plays itself out in pastoral ministry.

Joyfully Submitted to God,

Pastor Mark 

I Love Sundays

Man do I love Sundays!  It’s not that one day is more holy than another … the Gospel has made every day a day of worship (Colossians 2:16).  It’s not that the Word has more power to pierce our soul Sunday than the other six days, it’s always ready to undo us (Hebrews 4:12).  And it’s not somehow that we get more grace, favor, or blessing by coming to church, He is always ready to lavish His grace upon us whenever we ask (Hebrews 4:16).  It’s just that on Sunday we call our hearts and minds away from lesser things to set our hearts on the greater thing (Colossians 3:2), we rehearse here for that great and glorious Day to come(Revelation 5:11-14), and as we set the LORD before us we are reminded that in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:8-11).  My Sundays start early – coffee, quiet, prayer, anticipation, reflection, dependence, more prayer, the smell of the church building, the empty space soon to be filled with precious believers, the desire to see many embrace the Gospel for the first time, the joy of corporate worship, kids running around, the sweetness of the preached Word, the weary built up, the burdens of the week lifted, the weight of sin repented of, the hope of heaven sought, God exalted in the midst of broken pots … WOW, it’s a foretaste of glory divine!

Can’t wait to enjoy Sundays with you all,

Pastor Mark 

I’ll be Listening

I have no agenda, strategy, or outline for these posts … just talking with my friends in Lake County.  So, I get asked the question out here, “What are you going to do when you get to Ohio?”  Let me share one of my (most important) answers.  I’ll Be Listening.  No really, I want to hear, learn, really listen to you.  Let me be more specific:

What I don’t want to Listen to –

1.  I don’t want to listen to people complaing about what they don’t like about the church.

2.  I don’t want to listen to complaints or criticism about leaders, past or present.

3.  I don’t want to listen to selfish agendas for church programs that don’t really help us move forward in reaching a lost world.

4.  I don’t want to listen to ANY bad-mouthing the Anaheim Angels.

5.  I don’t want to listen to you making apologies for the weather 🙂  I know what I’m getting into … and am excited about it!

What I really want to Listen to –

1.  Your Story.  How God has been at work in your life to rescue you, transform you, and make you into the person you are.  I want to hear the stories of God doing what He does best – graciously changing lives. 

2. Your Dreams.  I want to hear what you’re burdened for in the world.  I want to hear how you think the gifts and resources of Leroy can be used to accomplish great things for the Kingdom.

3. Your Struggles.  I don’t expect perfect people, nor run from the humanity of personal pain.  I want to hear how your own sin is driving you to love Christ more, need Him more, desperate for His grace, so that together we can delight in His promises to grow us!

4. Your View.  I have ideas, opinions, and experiences that have shaped who I am and how I view the world, I want to hear how you view the world, how you think about justice and compassion.  We won’t agree on all those things, but we will only grow in love for one another as we understand each others perspectives.

So, get ready to speak … I’m listening

Pastor Mark