March 27, 2020
“… the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
The prophet Habakkuk lived in one of the most difficult times in Hebrew history; a time when watchtowers were manned with soldiers listening for the dreadful sounds of the Babylonian army. As the Babylonians were about to conquer God’s people, God gave Habakkuk a prophetic message.
This little prophet witnessed the terrible ways the great prophet Jeremiah was treated when he preached his message. As a simple choir director Habakkuk could only imagine how he would be treated if he assumed the role of a prophet.
He therefore came up with a clever literary form. He proclaimed that he was going to build a spiritual watchtower and ask God all the difficult questions that were on their hearts at that time. Questions like, “Why will you use a people more sinful than we are to chasten us?”
He told them that when he heard from God he would tell them what God said in answer to these and other questions. His literary form was like a talk show in which he was the host and God was the Guest being interviewed.
God’s answer was that the wickedness of the Babylonians would be their undoing, but the just would live by their faith. Originally this meant faith in the prophecy of Jeremiah that they would return from the Babylonian captivity. By application these seven words, which are quoted three times in the New Testament, were also used to inspire the Reformation.
People say God does not speak today as God did then. The truth is we do not listen for God as Habakkuk did.
Do you have a spiritual watchtower? Do you listen for God and expect to hear from God?
Dick Woodward, 30 March 2012
March 3, 2016
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
Humility is a standard Peter sets for leaders. He writes that leaders should lead as examples and not as lords over the flock they shepherd. Humility is a challenging concept. If we think we are humble we are probably not humble. You probably heard of the church that gave their pastor a medal for humility, but had to take it back because he wore it every Sunday.
In Scotland a young seminary graduate was about to give a sermon as candidate for a church that had an elderly pastor about to retire. The pulpit was one of those old elevated ones where you had to climb many steps in order to preach. With a pride that bordered on arrogance the young man climbed up to preach. He had a disaster of a sermon. When he came down in tears the old retiring pastor said to him, “Lad if you had gone up the way you came down, you would have come down the way you went up!”
I Peter 5:6 describes a covenant with God’s part and our part. Our part is to humble ourselves. It is God’s part to exalt us. C. S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins. “To live above with the saints we have loved Oh that will be glory. But to live below with those we know that’s another story.” As a veteran pastor I can tell you that when there is a sharp dispute among two disciples a pastor will often find somebody’s pride at the bottom of the dispute.
Humble yourself. That’s your business. Exalting you is God’s business.
Dick Woodward, 16 August 2013
August 21, 2013
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel… ” (Philippians 1:12)
Paul is in prison as he writes to his favorite church. While he was free he preached the gospel with passion and great zeal, but when he was put in prison and could not preach other men in the Church at Philippi began preaching. That rejoiced the heart of the apostle.
In the New Testament when you study the letters of Paul and others you find that the early churches had pastors. Anytime the word pastor is found it is in the plural unless it is referring to Jesus Christ. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep; otherwise, churches have pastors. Strictly speaking you will not find a precedent for “Dr. Pete Bunny the pastor of the First Community Church of Chicago” in the New Testament.
I am convinced that the first churches also had a plurality of preachers. That’s why the fact that many men in the Church at Philippi were preaching rejoiced the heart of the apostle. Church is a team sport. Based on their cluster of spiritual gifts some are called and equipped to preach. They should preach. Some should heal, some should teach and some should evangelize. All of this should result in the furtherance of the gospel.
Our churches would be more effective in furthering the gospel and we would solve so very many problems if we took our blueprints from the New Testament. We would not need as many retreat centers for burned out pastors if we did.
When will we ever learn that when all else fails we should follow the directions?