Category Archives: Questions

People familiar with the matter say…

I have an article here in front of me from the Wall Street Journal, dated March 24, 2014, regarding the potential deal between Apple and Comcast.  This article was of particular interest to me because I am an Apple stockholder and a user of all things Apple (iPhone 5, iPad mini and MacBookPro).  I also am a Comcast subscriber, not by choice but because there is no competition in our area for cable.

As I was reading this article with interest, I came across the following phrases at least eight different times in the article

people familiar with the matter say

the people familiar with the matter say

said one person familiar with the talks

this person said

one person familiar with the talks

I understand about freedom of the press and the right to protect one’s sources. What I am trying to understand is if this story made the front page of the Wall Street Journal, then why were people afraid of being quoted? It made me wonder if no one could be directly quoted, then would this fall under mere speculation or a rumor mill?  I know that news like this between two publicly traded companies can affect both companies’ stock prices.  I also wondered about fact checking.  How can facts be checked when there are no sources?

Hopefully a journalist or two or three will read this article and enlighten me!  Comments are always appreciated.

On a side note, I recently started subscribing to the Wall Street Journal and I enjoy reading it.  I do recognize some of the liberal slants/biases. I appreciate the broad spectrum of articles and that it is not just another boring financial paper.

Do we really need another McDonalds?

This is more of a local interest story for those living in the West Metro suburbs of Minneapolis, MN

Many of you may have noticed the construction that is taking place rather rapidly on Hwy 55 in Plymouth, MN near Medicine Lake Dr. where they are building a new McDonalds across from the The Waters and adjacent to Fourth Baptist Church.  Not that I or anyone else can do anything about it, but it does beg the question:  Do we really need another McDonalds?

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The reason why I ask the question is because if you were to travel two miles west on Hwy 55 near Northwest Blvd, there is a McDonalds near the WestHealth complex (still in Plymouth)and if you travel east two miles on Hwy 55 and then turn left on Winnetka there is another McDonalds (in Golden Valley).  So why are they building another one in between the two locations?  From a business perspective, I am not sure this makes sense putting another location this close to two other ones, unless they are intending on closing either of the locations that I mentioned.  That does not appear to be the case at this point.

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I guess this is one of those things that makes you go hmmmm…

I am not a big fan of McDonalds except for their Egg McMuffins at breakfast and they have really good french fries.  Not my first choice for dining options.  I wondered why they didn’t put in a Panera Bread here instead of McDonalds.  The only thing that will happen in this area is that traffic will increase exponentially during breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I can imagine that it will be convenient for people living at The Waters and for those attending worship services at Fourth Baptist Church on Sundays and Wednesdays… With Fourth Baptist Christian School nearby, wonder if that will drive some traffic to the new McDonalds? I am not quite sure when they are scheduled to open, but I can see that they are working six days a week to get everything ready for opening.

Any ideas?

 

Photos courtesy of Terry Lange – taken November 23, 2013.

Matthew 1:21 – A Familiar Text with Great Truths

I have been a Christian for over 25 years and have read through the Bible multiple times.  I was reading different Christmas texts before the holiday just meditating on them when I came to Matthew 1:21.  I have read this verse multiple times and even memorized it in school and college.  As I was reading these various texts I was thinking about them pastorally (even though I am not currently serving as a pastor) and wondering what I would do if I was tasked with preaching during the Christmas season.

As I came to Matthew 1:21, this text really grabbed me and I have been thinking about it for several days and the profound truths that are contained in this short verse that might be very familiar to many people.  Forgive me in advance if this is not homiletically correct or logical, sometimes it helps me to write/type things out to get them from my brain into written form to be read and meditated upon for future study.  I may not have covered every facet of the text, but rather I am expressing what I have been meditating upon these last several days.

Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

And she will bring forth a Son” – this refers to the fundamental truth of the virgin birth.  A truth that some have a lot of trouble accepting and believing, while others believing this truth by faith.  This is a foundational truth to the Christian faith.

and you shall call His name Jesus” – Jesus,  the name that was appointed by God.  Joseph and Mary did not have a choice in this matter.  This is a divine name and a name of power (See Acts 4:12; Acts 5:31; Luke 2:21; Philippians 2:9-11).

for He will save His people from their sins” -  For indicates the beginning of the purpose clause.  The divine purpose for which God the Son came to the earth in the form of human flesh. Jesus Christ did not come to bring political reform to the Roman Empire, although some wished that He had.  He came to bring life, abundant life  See John 1 and John 10.   “He will save” - the life-giving act of the sacrifice of the Son of God for the sins of the world (See John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:2; Acts 4:12).  “From their sins” - it is a universal fact that man is a sinner and this stems from the fact that Adam sinned and that sin has passed down to all generations (See Romans 3:10, 23; 5:8; 6:23) with only one exception – Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin, was born with no sin.  Mankind is hopelessly depraved and lost in sin without Christ.  If you have children, you will definitely see and experience the doctrine of total depravity !  The Gospel is the solution to the problem and ever-present fact of sin.  No one else or nothing else can save me from my sins except the substitutionary atoning death of Christ and His bodily resurrection!

Christ came for a single purpose that was expressed in many different ways.  He came to save His people from their sins.

Have you ever put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ?  Jesus said in Mark 1:15 “Repent and believe the Gospel”  Has there ever been a time where you have done that?  For me, I was converted in 1987 at the age of 17. Share your testimony of salvation in the comments.

 

From My Wife -Part 2

I thought that our earlier question would illicit some discussion.  Even though it did not, I will answer the question from our perspective.

1.  We understand that this represents change from our own tradition of what we are used to.

2.  What we found in our experience was that it created several things

  • A competition-type mentality -where the best singers are in front of the congregation.
  • A distraction at best because the volume is turned up to the level of a rock concert where one hears and feels the bass and cannot hear the words.
  • A plethora of “7-11 songs” – modern songs where we would sing the same 7 verses 11 times.  Not sure of why this was done, but it is the practice of many churches.

3.  We do not attend church for the “worship experience” but rather for the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.  It seems like churches that employ worship teams do so to create some sort of “worship experience”

I understand that some churches have worship teams because they may not have a music director to coordinate the musical aspect of their worship services.

Personally, with what I have seen that I do not prefer a worship team because it blurs the lines of distinction between a church service and a rock concert.

A Good Question – From My Wife

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting a church in the DFW area.  As we were leaving the church, my wife asked me a question that I had never been asked before, but it was one that got me to think and we had a good discussion about it for a while.

The question is/was:

Why do some churches feel it necessary to have a “worship team”?

I would be interested to hear your answers and opinions on this subject before I disclose the answers that we come up with in the course of our conversation that started that day and continued for a while.

Start the conversation here by leaving a comment…

The question is:

Why do some churches feel it necessary to have a “worship team”?

I am interested to hear your answers before I give the answers that we came up with in our conversation.  Let’s

Does it pay to work hard anymore?

Today, I received my pay stub for Friday which is our payday.  Our quarterly incentive bonus was paid on this check.  Let me start out by saying that I am thankful to my employer for paying out this bonus every quarter if we meet certain expectations.

What upsets me is that I paid an unbelievable amount in taxes because of the Federal Government feels that they are entitled to take an additional portion of my money because I did well (could we call it a tax on prosperity?) They withhold at 28% on any residual income (bonuses, etc).  Then withholding is taken for Medicare and Social Security.  Last but not least in my case, the State of Minnesota took $115.00.

Please understand that I am not against paying taxes. I believe that every citizen should pay taxes and the Bible reinforces this in several places as well.

What bothers me is that I worked hard for the bonus that I received only to watch the various Government entities take more taxes than usual and leave me with less money.

The Fair Tax is looking much more attractive right now…

Do you think the Government penalizes people for working hard (earning bonuses, etc.)?

Trying to solve a Catch-22

Here is my dilemma or Catch-22:

I have been searching for a full-time vocational ministry position upon completing my graduate education in 2010.  I have been searching since January of 2010. Recently, a pulpit committee from a church in the Eastern US contacted me and sent me a questionnaire.  I completed the questionnaire and submitted it along with several other pieces of pertinent information.  I received an email back from them after a month that I am no longer being considered a candidate for Senior Pastor.  This did not surprise me because I have been rejected 33 times since January of 2010 for various ministry positions, not just senior pastorates.  I have always wondered what the specific reasons for rejection were.  I have asked and all of the committees have refused to answer this question, except for the one that I just heard from on Monday.

I will summarize the response:

They gave me high marks for being a servant, but said that my background had too much on administration and that there was lack of experience.

I never thought that administrative gifts would be a liability, but that is not the dilemma. Ultimately, I am being rejected or denied opportunities, because I do not have experience. It is true that I do not have any paid, official experience as a pastor. I have served as a pastoral intern, and have served in a wide variety of roles within three different local churches since 1987.  None of them have been paid, official positions.  I currently serve as a deacon in the local church I am a member of now.

The big question is:   How do I ever get experience, if no one is willing to give me a chance to gain the needed/necessary experience?

I have had many good people say, “Go out and start something”  I would, but I know my gifts and abilities and that is not how God has gifted me.  I would not thrive in that environment. I know a college professor who tried to start a church and he was not wired in that way and the church never got off the ground.  He is now in an area where he is thriving and doing well because he is working within his gifts and abilities.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Last time I checked it was the local church

Recently I have been reading a book that has captured my attention and really helped to mold and change my thinking about the role of the local church in sending men out into ministry.

As you know, I have been praying, looking and searching for a place to serve the Lord in full-time vocational ministry since January of 2010.  Recently, I had the opportunity to pick up a copy of the book Test, train, affirm & send into ministry.  I had the opportunity to speak with the author recently regarding my situation and I had been reading his blog.  I am not writing a book review per se (although I might take on that task at a later date), but I want to share with you some quotations from this book along with my thoughts that will hopefully align your thinking regarding ministry and the local church.

Most of us probably thought that once we completed our training (Bible college or seminary) that it was incumbent upon either of these institutions to place us in ministry.  It seems very logical, but yet it is unscriptural.  “God has not ultimately commissioned these institutions to fulfill this responsibility” (Croft, pg. 31) Churches have abdicated their responsibilities because of the plethora of institutions that exist to provide training and education for future ministry.  The churches should take the position that they need to partner with these institutions rather than give up what rightly belongs to the church.  I am not against seminaries or colleges, I graduated from two such institutions. What I am against is the local church exempting itself from the testing, training and affirming of men who are called to ministry.  It is easy just to send someone to a Bible college or seminary and hope that they turn out right, but why not take an active approach in that training?

It is the local church that God has appointed to be the agent to test, train, affirm, and send those who are called.  Because of this truth, the local church must embrace this enormous responsibility (Croft, pg. 33)

What does the Bible say about this?  Look at Acts 13:1-3

Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers:  Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (NKJV)

By reading this passage, we see that the local church was the sending agent and instrument of affirmation of Barnabas and Saul.  The local church cannot shirk away or deny this crucial responsibility.

Here are some quotations that really impacted my thinking in this area:

No church, therefore, which neglects the proper education of her ministers, can be considered as faithful, either to her own most vital interests, or to the honour of her divine Head and Lord” (Croft, pg. 52)

Without the proper instruction of God’s Word in the church, not only will those called into ministry be confused and the church lost in its responsibility in the external call, but spiritual life will also be lacking in the church.” (Croft, pg.53)

The situation I am currently in is a bit unique.  I graduated from Bible College in 1992 and was ordained shortly after graduation (If I had it to do over, I would have not been ordained so soon) I spent 7 years in the secular workforce wondering where I would end up.  I ended up at a mission agency for 3.5 years (1999-2002) and then came to seminary in 2002.  I have been a member of the same local church for almost 10 years now.  I currently serve as a deacon.  I cannot go back to the church that ordained me and expect any help because there are some doctrinal and philosophical differences that exist between us.  We have a great and a cordial relationship,  I go back to visit when I can and the people are always kind and gracious.  At the same time, I recognize that there are differences.

In order to test, train, & affirm a man for ministry it requires tangible involvement on the part of the pastors or elders of that particular congregation and the members of that congregation as well.  How will a local church send a man off to ministry if he has not been given opportunities to exhibit his internal calling within that church?

 

Mentoring or discipleship – Is there a difference?

Recently, I was asked by someone if I would mentor them.  I was flattered by the opportunity but at the same time was overwhelmed with a great sense of inadequacy because of the struggles in my own life.  When I initially responded to the inquiry, I almost turned it down because I was allowing my own struggles to take over.  I realized that no one is perfect and that even though mentoring is a big word and is thrown around a lot in the business world, that it is nothing more than discipleship.  Allow me to make my case

The definition of mentoring is:

Taken from the New Oxford American Dictionary:

Noun – an experienced and trusted adviser; an experienced person in a company, college, or school who trains and counsels new employees or students

Verb – to advise or train (someone, esp. a younger colleague).

We see this word used (or as I said earlier, thrown around a lot).  Doing a quick Google search yielded over 42 million hits on the word mentoring alone.

As I was meeting with my mentee via Skype and we were concluding our time.  I made mention of the fact regarding the word mentoring and that I think that it is essentially the same thing as discipleship.  What does the Bible say about it?

2 Timothy 2:2 (NKJV) And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

Discipleship or mentoring is just taking what you have learning and pouring it into the lives of other people.  Notice Paul gives a command (commit) and he tells us to whom we are to commit what we have heard – to faithful men.  Why? because they will be able to teach others also.

If someone asks you to mentor them, consider it an honor and a challenge!  Do not get hung up on your own inadequacies and struggles, because no one is perfect or by any means infallible. We all have struggles, some people do a better job than others in hiding and masking them instead of being transparent.

Think back to how you came to Christ, how someone took the time and effort to share the Gospel with you.  They made an investment in your life.  Are you making that same investment in the lives of others?

You may say, okay, I will accept the challenge to mentor/disciple someone else, but what do I do?  I found myself in the same situation, not knowing what to do?  I prayed about it and what we do is quite simple, it works and the best thing is that it can be changed  as needed.

We meet once a week – on Saturdays (we started meeting in the afternoons via Skype) but we have changed recently to early mornings on Saturdays due to our schedules and family needs.

We go through an accountability worksheet – the one we use, I obtained as a PDF from Desiring God  They are the accountability questions that John Piper uses with the elders at Bethlehem Baptist.  We don’t use all of the questions because some of them do not apply to us.  The questions over all are thought-provoking and convicting.  They are a good exercise of mutual accountability.

We are reading a book together, currently we are reading A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson.   This book is a great read on the discipline of prayer and what we should be praying for instead of what we commonly pray for.  We read a chapter a week and discuss it.

We are also reading the Bible together.  We read aloud a chapter of the Pastoral Epistles (today was 1 Timothy 5) and we discuss that in light of us being men who have a desire to return to full-time vocational ministry.

We pray and share prayer requests.

Nothing fancy or formal, but a commitment of time and a commitment of obedience to the Scriptures.  Today instead of doing our accountability questions, I asked for my mentee/disciple to tell me about his week. We also read an article that was a blessing to both of us regarding the search for pastoral ministry opportunities instead of our chapter in the book. My point is do something redemptive and practical.

I think that mentoring is the same as discipleship, even though we may use different terms.  Discipleship as a term may not be a functional term in the business world, but the concept is still the same- investing in others.

Who are you investing your life in?

An unusual day…reflections regarding work

Today started out a bit unusual, because I was able unable to make it to work due to the freaky snowstorm that we had here in the Twin Cities.  I went down and cleared off my car and attempted to back it out of the parking spot, except I was not moving because of the ice underneath the tires and the wet, heavy snow surrounding the car.  I tried a couple of times and decided that it is better not to burn rubber and the transmission at the same time.  The snow won that round.  I went back inside to regroup.  I called into work and left a voicemail regarding my dilemma. I figured that as soon as our parking lot and street were plowed that I could get into work. Well, we did not get plowed until 11:00 am and by that time the traffic was still bad and the snow was coming down.  So I took my first snow day in 9 years. I do not ever remember missing work because I could not get there!

Even though I enjoyed being home with my family, I still felt out of sorts because it was Wednesday and I am normally at work.  I was able to get some things scanned into Evernote and filed and my desk is staying cleaner than usual.  Now that I am almost at the end of the day (church was cancelled for this evening)  I am watching cars out the window come in and out and the road is very treacherous because of the slush and that will only get worse as the temperature drops below freezing.  I have been reflecting throughout the day about work and its place in my life.  I realize that we cannot escape work because work has been a part of our lives since Genesis 3:23.  As we read the Bible, we will see things like Proverbs 11:18 – The wicked man does deceptive work (NKJV) and where God calls people to a specific task (Acts 13:2 – Barnabas and Saul).  We also see in 2 Thessalonians 3 where Paul reminds the Thessalonians about the importance of hard and honest work.

We know that there are extremes with regard to work.  Undoubtedly, either we know someone who is a “workaholic” or maybe we are guilty of being one ourselves? On the other extreme, there are those who are lazy and insolent in regard to work.

I am currently in a position where I am employed by a company where I am not tethered to my job with a company issued laptop or smart phone.  I do not have the capability to bring work home or to work from home on days like today.  When I leave each day, I make a sincere attempt to leave work and its related problems and challenges at work.  They will be there when I return the next working day.

I was also having a conversation with someone earlier in the week with regard to worker productivity.  I shared with this person that it is tough in some areas (ministry) to measure productivity because most pastors do not have an expected output,etc.  Where I work, my work is tracked from beginning to end and there are audits of my work, reports telling how much work I have completed/accomplished, etc.  I think that goals can be set for everyone in the workforce, but they cannot be viewed in a “cookie-cutter” mentality. They have to be attainable, reasonable, measurable,specific, etc.

Work is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is tough when one does not necessarily enjoy what they do.  It becomes more of an economic necessity or as some would term it a “necessary evil.” For me, if I was financially well-off, I would still be involved in some form of work, because I would have a hard time sitting around doing nothing or doing aimless things all day just to pass the time.

All of this to say, that I am glad things happened the way they did.  It gave me a chance to attempt to understand the relationship that I should have with my current vocational employment and possibly ministry employment in the future and how that relationship should be shaped and formed around what the Word of God says.