Wanted: The Perfect Pastor

Many moons ago I used to enjoy Crimewatch, a TV program that specialized in using Identikit software to produce composite pictures of criminals based on various eyewitness accounts. It was fascinating to watch the picture  put together on screen; first the hair, then the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the ears, and so on. With the reach and leverage of a TV program, the criminals were often rapidly identified and the following week the real picture was placed beside the composite, usually revealing remarkable similarity.


So, what if we put together a composite of the perfect pastor; what would he look like? Here’s a composite of the best bits of the best pastors I’ve known.

Mind: He is educated in the Scriptures, the historic Confessions, and contemporary issues. He’s not only educated, though, he’s also wise and remains teachable; quite a rare combination.

Eyes: His eyes are focused upon Christ. He looks to Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith, and never takes his eyes off Him.

Ears: He listens to God’s voice in the Word, in conscience, and in providence. But his ears also also open to the cries of the sheep – the hungry, the injured, and the lost.

Mouth: He speaks the truth in love, in public and in private. He speaks clearly, consistently, and as simply as he possibly can even when talking about the most profound truths.

Nose: He is sensitive to heresy and sniffs it out quickly when it threatens the sheep.

Conscience: He strives to maintain a clear conscience; but if he wounds it by sinning, he takes it to Christ’s blood for cleansing and healing.

Will: He is determined, persevering, and resolute, even in the face of opposition.

Hands: In one hand he has the staff of the Holy Spirit, leaning his whole weight upon Him. In the other Hand, he has the Word of God, a lamp to his feet.

Watch: His watch has one word stamped upon it – ETERNITY.

Feet: He walks the narrow way, turning not to the right or left.

Nerves: He has a sensitivity to the suffering, the sad, and the weak. He feels what they feel.

Backbone: God has put steel in His backbone so that he will not bend in the prevailing wind of popular opinion or the storm of persecution.

Clothes: He keeps his clothes unspotted from the world.

Heart: He loves God and sinners, preaching passionately and visiting compassionately.

Soul: He has a spiritually exercised soul, a lively inner life that battles temptation, communes with Christ, examines himself, and continue to repent and believe day by day.

Lungs: he breathes the air of prayer. Prayer oxygenates his whole life. He cannot live without it.

Although we’ll never be all this and we’ll never find all this in any mere man, it’s still a great ideal for pastors and those who train them to aim at.

And it’s a reminder of the only Perfect Pastor, who was more than a mere man, and who surpassed all expectations in every part of His perfect person.

Check out

Angels and the Promise of a Greater World
Joel Miller argues that we must include angels in our worldview.

The Shorter Catechism Set to Music
“The Gospel Coalition is excited to announce a new music project aimed at helping kids learn about God. In partnership with James and Dana Dirksen and their Songs for Saplings collection, we have made 111 songs adapted from the Westminster Shorter Catechism available for free streaming on TGC’s website.”

9 Lies The Media Likes to Tell about Evangelicals
Frank Viola identified nine common lies perpetuated by people in the media.

Scowling at The Angel
A beautiful story about Christ’s grace shining brightly in a tested marriage.

What Causes Burnout
Brad Hambrick: “Burnout is never caused by a single area of life. Burn out is a function of our total life management. One area of life cannot get out of order without overt choices of neglect being made other areas of life.”

Associate Degrees: Bang for your Education Buck
Infographic that might challenge some of your assumptions about further education.

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament

Is God’s Law Really Our Greatest Enemy?

We live in days when God’s law is often regarded as humanity’s greatest enemy. We’re not surprised when an unbelieving world longs to burst God’s “bands” and cast away His “cords” in the unbridled pursuit of “liberty” (Ps. 2:3). What is surprising, however, is when Christian voices assail God’s Law and portray it as the Christian’s greatest enemy.

The puritan pastor Ralph Venning seemed to have encountered similar misguided attacks upon God’s Law. In his book, The Plague of PlaguesVenning wrote a “just vindication of the Law of God.” He based his remarks upon Romans 7 where the Apostle Paul wrestled through the question of how something as good as God’s Law proved so deadly to him. “Did that which is good bring death to me?” (v. 13).

As he developed his argument, Venning said that the Apostle answers his own question “by way of negation and abhorrence, ‘God forbid!’ Far be it from me or anyone else to think so! No! By no means! To find fault with the law would be to find fault with God. The law is not to be blamed. What is, then? for something is to be blamed.”

He then explained “that sin is the true cause of death. The commandment condemns, or is death to man, not of itself, but because of sin.”

In good puritan fashion, Venning then clarifies the issue with a simple illustration.

It is as if a criminal said to the judge, Oh, my Lord, how cruel and unmerciful you are to condemn me to die!

No, says the judge, it is not I, it is the law. I am only the mouth of the law.

No, says the law, it is not I, it is sin. If you had not sinned, I would not have condemned.

So, by the commandment, sin appears to be a desperate, malignant thing, the proper, true and only cause of man’s condemnation and death.

From this brief yet clear account of the text and context, Venning draws the following conclusions:

  • The law of God as a whole and in every part is good. It is not only not sin, but good.
  • The law, good though it be, when abused condemns and kills.
  • Though the law condemns man’s fault, and man for his fault, yet still the law is good and not to be blamed. The law is as good as ever it was; it is to be justified by man, even when it condemns man.
  • It is not the law, but sin, that works man’s death and ruin.
  • Sin works man’s death and destruction by that which is good, namely, the law. When sin has used man to break the law, it uses the law to break man, to undo him by condemnation and death.

If I could bring this into the 21st Century a bit: Just because the 9/11 terrorists used plastic box-cutters to threaten and subdue the airline pilots and passengers, doesn’t mean we should direct a barrage of hostile verbal ammunition on box-cutters. Box-cutters are good and helpful; terrorists are evil and destructive. Lets stop targeting a friend and ally, save our hostility for sin, and send barrages of vocabulary against it.

Venning leads the charge with the following fusillade: “Sin is a most hideous, devilish and hellish thing, the most wicked, mischievous, virulent, villainous and deadly thing that ever was. Sinful sin! Worse than the Devil!”

Sin is our greatest enemy, not the Law. Time to re-direct our fire.

This post first appeared at The Christward Collective


Superachievers Secret Power
Want to know what it is? Humility! The meek truly do inherit the earth. Well not quite. June Price Tangney, is a psychology professor and leading researcher of moral emotions and cognitions at George Mason University. She argues for a pride-humility balance and describes what she considers to be true humility this way: “Having the ability to acknowledge our mistakes and limitations, having an openness to new ideas, and being able to maintain a realistic perspective of our place in the larger world.”

Not quite the virtue of Christian humility, but still intriguing how God has so ordered the world that Christian virtues also coincide with our own self-interests. Just a pity the article rounded off with the example of…Alec Baldwin!

Miracle of Science
65 diseases are now being treated with adult stem cells. Biotech advances could make destroying human embryos for research a relic of the past. Although the scientists are still cautious about the outcomes, it would appear that Christian Medical Association CEO, David Stevens’s words in 2010 are coming true: “Compared to the speculative, controversial, and dangerous embryonic stem cell research that the [Obama] administration insists on funding illegally, iPS cell and adult stem cell research is a cheaper, faster, safer, more efficient and quicker path to the cures we need.”

US Pregnancy Rate Reaches 12 Year Low
Some good news and some bad news in a new government report.

  • The U.S. pregnancy rate has fallen almost continuously over the last decade and reached a 12-year low in 2009 (latest year for which stats are available)
  • The U.S. pregnancy rate fell 12%, from 115.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1990, to 102.1 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2009.
  • The total number of pregnancies in 2009 was about 6.3 million, which resulted in 4.1 million live births, 1.1 million induced abortions and 1.1 million pregnancy losses.
  • Women ages 25 to 29 had the highest pregnancy rate whereas in 1990 and 2000, the pregnancy rate was highest for women ages 20 to 24.
  • The age group with the biggest decline in pregnancy rate was 15- to 17-year-olds, for which the pregnancy rate dropped 53% and reached a new historic low in 2009.
  • The abortion rate in 2009 was 32% lower than in 1990 and was the lowest in more than three decades, according to the report. In 2009 there were 18.5 abortions per 1,000 women, down from 27.4 abortions per 1,000 women in 1990.
  • The 2009 abortion rate for teenagers was 16.6 per 1,000 women, a more than 50% reduction from 1990, when the rate was 37.4 per 1,000 women.

The study did not examine the reasons for this decline but two possibilities are the recession which began in 2007, and the fact that teens are more likely to use contraception when they first have sex.

I also wonder about the impact of the morning-after pill on reducing birth-rates among teenagers especially.

The Righteousness in Hobby Lobby’s Case
An Op-Ed in the LA Times no less argues that business leaders should not have to check their faith at the door. Referring back to the law President Clinton signed, the report says: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act reaffirmed an idea that is deeply rooted in America’s history and traditions — namely, that politics and policy should respect and, whenever possible, make room for religious commitments and conscientious objections.” 

New York Times: 100 Notable Books
What a revealing window into our culture. What I find notable is that the great majority of the books deal in dark and dismal themes. There are some exceptions, but a quick scan of the titles and descriptions give a frightful insight into the sex, violence, chaos, and  is pouring into the minds of the educated. It’s HBO for the educated.

It’s a long way from the Apple Store to one of the largest electronic waste dumps. The article’s photos are even more shocking than the video. I think I saw someone sleeping there in my first computer. Seriously, though, it certainly makes you think twice about the wastefulness of our society and its devastating impact on others.

Check out

Role Playing for Jesus
An evangelism tip on how to deal with aggressive skeptics.

6 Questions To Ask Before You Share the Gospel
More helpful teaching on being a wise witness for Christ.

Answering Four Street-Level Arguments for Immorality
I seem to be in a bit of an argumentative spirit today.

Jesus, The Theological Educator
Long but very worthwhile Themelios article about how Jesus is the goal, the model, and the means of theological education.

5 Gossips You Will Meet
If you fancy some self-examination, click this one.

The Buffett Formula- How To Get Smarter
When asked how to get smarter, Warren Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said “read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”