Covenant Keepers

Do we really take the covenants in
our lives seriously?

I’m wondering, in this modern age, do we really take the covenants in
our lives seriously? The first question this statement might generate is, “What covenants?” I can think of four: The New Covenant, The Marriage Covenant, The Parent/Child Covenant and the Church Membership Covenant. The second question might be, “what is Covenant?” A covenant is an agreement between two parties, but it’s much more than a contract.
The covenants I have listed are divine in nature. They are agreement
made before God; and thus they are sacred and not to be taken lightly. 
The most important of all the covenants is the New Covenant.
This is the unilateral agreement from God to us that He has provided a
way for us as sinners to be completely forgiven.
That is the way of grace by faith. This, of course, is the new birth, the very act of salvation. What is our part then in this covenant? Is it not the glory of God?
When we understand predestination, that God in His divine omnipotence has redeemed us for His own purpose, we realize that this purpose is in
fact His glory. We agree with God that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
That Savior is Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost.
Those who are indeed redeemed by grace are sanctified or set apart
to a holy use, God’s glory. I think sometimes we forget that.
Salvation becomes all about us and a free ride to heaven.
In reality, the point of the covenant is that we as the people of God
might live by the power of God to the glory of God. We need keep this
truth ever before us.
The next covenant most of us have entered into is the Marriage Covenant. This covenant is a man and a woman coming together before God and
human witnesses, pledging to “Love, Honor and Cherish until death do us part.” When a man and a woman are united in marriage, it’s not about the ceremony, it’s about the covenant. A sacred agreement. When we understand this, we realize that it’s not just about staying married; it’s about
what it is to “be” married. That means dying to self to live for another.
It’s not easy. It’s something we have to work at and take seriously or it
decays. Marriage cannot stand on love alone. It must be a three-legged
stool, love, honor and cherishing one another. We so easily walk away for our marriage covenant in our culture. The world absolutely doesn’t get it; but God’s people should. This is a life time endeavor. It’s not about our
happiness or contentment; it’s about the covenant, and the glory of God.
If we get the New Covenant right, it’s much easier to get the Marriage
Covenant right. If our relationship with God isn’t right, then most likely
our human relationships won’t be either; but when we get the Marriage
Covenant right, then we will get our third covenant right as well, that is
the Parent/Child covenant. 
Most Christians make a public declaration before the church of pledging
themselves to raise their children in a God fearing home and with godly
principles. This should not just be a ritual, it should be an act we take
very seriously. At our church, we call this our Parent/Child dedication
service. Within that service, actual vows are made. 
  1. Do you desire to publicly dedicate your child to the Lord, to be His special possession and to be used for His Glory?
  2. Do you covenant before God to teach your child the Holy Scriptures and to seek to lead your child to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
  3. Do you dedicate yourselves in praying for divine guidance in raising this young one
  4. Do you dedicate yourselves to set an example to live by and look up to, the example of godly parents?
  5. Do you by these promises dedicate this child to God?
I hope we take these vows seriously. The spiritual life of parents deeply
affects their children. Parents together pledge themselves to model Jesus
for their children. That means that they have to get discipleship right.
That means taking up their cross daily to follow Jesus. There is no room
for selfishness here. We commit ourselves to something much bigger than ourselves that will indeed live beyond our lifetimes. 
The fourth covenant encompasses all the rest in that it holds us
accountable for our part in the covenants we have entered into. The fourth is the Membership Covenant. It’s more than just joining the church, it’s
identifying with a body of believers and being willing to be transparent
and accountable about our conduct in our Christian lives, our marriages
and our parenting. I hope we take this seriously. Too often, we just think
that church membership is about voting on stuff.
Certainly, it is important in making congregational decisions, but that’s
not its purpose. The purpose of membership is identification with a body and a level of accountability. So when members begin to live outside the
bounds of their covenant, then the elders need to reach out and seek to
reconcile the situation. In violating their membership covenant, they
were also violating all their other covenants as well. You see, they are all
interconnected! If we don’t take our membership seriously, we really
aren’t taking Christ seriously.
So dear Christians, it really is good for us examine to our lives, our commitment to Christ, and our commitment to the covenants we have pledged
ourselves to; because in the end, it’s all for the glory of God. 

Career or calling?

Make no mistake! If you are a shepherd of God’s people, this is not your career.

One of the great misconceptions of American Christianity is that the pastorate is a job and pastors are employed by the church.  This is not how Jesus set up the church.  In fact, just the opposite. Those who lead must serve. 

Let’s consider John 10:11-13: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

Jesus makes a clear distinction between one who is simply a hired man and one who is actually the shepherd of the sheep.  Now to be clear, He is obviously comparing Himself with the religious leaders of Israel, who were serving their own agenda rather than bringing their nation to God.  However, the principle helps us.  The shepherd cares for the sheep because he loves them, not because he is being paid.  If we are the under shepherds of God’s flock, then we must love the flock as Jesus did.  It’s not about a job or a career or employment.  It’s all about the calling and gifting of God, and the love of God’s flock!

The American mindset that the pastorate is a career has greatly harmed the church.  It has allowed those who are not called or gifted, but simply have a college degree in theology, to become shepherds of God’s church.  That means that there are those who are leading the flock who may not be appointed or approved by God.  They are elevated to this position by men.  Often, this leads to flock drift because the leader was never really designed by God to shepherd the church. 

Certainly, the church is instructed to monetarily support those who shepherd. 

1 Corinthians 9:14, Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 

Galatians 6:6, Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

There is a distinction between support and employment.  Support is what the church does so the pastor or pastoral staff can function full time in ministry without the burden of an outside job. Employment is when you are hired to do a job.  While it may all look the same, it’s not!  Employment suggests that the pastor is the hired hand, the guy who works for the church.  Support, on the other hand, is the church acknowledging that this man (or pastoral staff) is called of God; and they are willing to give to that ministry so that the Word of God can go forth and the shepherd can lead without encumbrances.

What confuses us is the government wanting churches to issue W2 forms to their pastors rather than 1099.  In my opinion, the pastor is a 1099 guy all the way.  He fits the definition of an independent contractor because he sets his own hours and has his own tools.  I loved it when we just got a 1099 instead of a W2; but alas, that isn’t what the system seems to be able to understand so we complied.  But that doesn’t mean the church should view their pastor as an employee.  When they do, they miss the point of who and what a shepherd is. 

The pastorate is all about the calling and gifting of God.  Now, I’m not minimizing the need for a high-quality Biblical education.  It is a must.  But a diploma or a degree does not a pastor make.  It is the God who calls us to know Him who likewise calls us to shepherd the flock and with the calling comes the gifting.

Ephesians 4:11-12, And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Note the wording, “He himself gave.”  He is the supplier for the needs of the body.

When we look at Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, we see the characteristics God requires the church to evaluate before they affirm someone as a shepherd of God’s church. 

It’s all about our mindset and the mindset of the local church.  It’s not about “working for the church” nor is it about “working for God.”  It’s all about God working through us for His glory and the edification of the body. 

A Protocol for church planting

How do you know when a community needs a new church?

Where the church meets in Buffalo Montana.

Webster defines protocol as “the established ceremonial forms in official dealings.”  That’s not what I mean here in speaking of a protocol of planting a church.  The word protocol is also used of the order of things.  What begins and what comes next.  It is in that sense that I use the word in connection with church planting.  What follows is a brief account of how God saw fit to plant a church in Three Forks Montana, and how we accomplished that.  In looking back there were five steps we followed.  (1) Assessing the need, (2) Planning the birth, (3) Birthing the Church (4) Organizing the church, (5) Letting go.  This was our protocol, and if it can be of help to you in your ministry then we are gratified.

The rest of the post can be read here:

Once these goals are met, you have done the job God has called you to.  A church has been born!  Now what will God do with it as the years go by?  Hopefully it is a group of people God can use to His glory! 

Reading List

My 2019 reading list

Some books the congregation might enjoy

I thought this might be a good place to give you some book suggestions for books your congregation might enjoy reading.  This was my 2019 reading list for my flock. We live in far northwest Washington State so reading during the “rainy” season is a great way to help our spiritual growth. 

Saving My Assassin, Virginia Prodan.  This is the true story of a woman coming to know the Lord and the persecution she endured for her faith.  From her own words: “I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.”

Same Kind of Different Me & Working Our Way Home by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  These two books are an autobiography of the lives of a rich white guy and a black homeless guy, how their lives intersect and what God does with it.  A fun read!

Paul Tripp is one of our favorite authors, so we have three new books by him for the coming year.

New Morning Mercies.  This is a daily devotional book.  It is rich!  You will be blessed daily by his insights and challenges.

Suffering.  This book is about the Gospel hope we have when life doesn’t make sense. 

What Did You Expect? This is a book for married couples at any stage of life.  With all the problems in marriages these days, this book will bring you back to the core issue and solution. 

Unimaginable.  This is a book by Jeremiah Johnston.  This book examines what the word would be like without Christianity.  I think we take for granted all that we have, but the author puts it all in a new perspective.  Without Christianity, this world and certainly our culture would be far different. 

Discipline: the Glad Surrender.  This is a book I’ve read several times by Elizabeth Elliot.  It’s an older but timeless book.  My fellow elders and I will be reading through and working through this book this year.  Maybe you would like to experience it as well!