Category Archives: thoughts

An article that needs to be read

Are you a pastor?  Then you need to read the article that I am linking to.

Are you called to preach?  Then you need to read this article also.

It is a severe indictment against our churches if an article like this has to be written.  I am thankful for Brian Croft writing this article. He has written what many people are probably thinking.   Hopefully some churches and pastors will put into practice what he has written about.

With those brief comments…..read here

After you have read, then please feel free to comment.

Are you in a church where other men outside of the pastor and staff are not given opportunities to preach and refine their preaching skills?  If so, I would like to hear your story.

Reflecting back and looking ahead

Now that you have seen the WordPress report of the blog, I can maybe go into some detail as to what I will be trying to do in 2013.

2012 was a good year, I received a promotion of sorts, a new job with the same company.  I was able to travel to Carrollton TX and also went to Richmond, VA for Six Sigma Greenbelt training.  I also have a new boss and director and I enjoy what I do (still looking for full-time ministry, but I am at least at a place of contentment for the time being!)

As a family, we were able to travel to Dallas, TX for a mini-vacation/scouting trip.  We are looking at the possibility of relocating to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the summer of 2013.  Please pray for us as we are still in the decision-making process.  At the time of writing this, we are wrapping up our vacation in FL.  We have been here since the 19th of December.  I have worked one day (20th) and the rest of the time I have been on vacation.  I am thankful that my job allows me to work pretty much from anywhere even though I am in the office 99% of the time.  It has been nice to enjoy doing nothing and not feeling a bit guilty either!  I have enjoyed spending time with my wife and children along with my in-laws, nieces, and nephews as well.

I am not one to set New Year’s Resolutions only to be disappointed in not reaching them.  I would rather call them Goals and work at them all year long!

I have had plenty of time to pray and think about my goals for this year.  Some are private goals that I won’t list here, but the goals I choose to list I hope to obtain over the course of the year.  Some goals will take all year to reach, others could be reached much sooner. By listing these, I am hoping that many people will hold me accountable.

Goals for 2013

  • To read through the entire English Bible in one year
  • To read through the entire Greek New Testament in one year
  • Lose 20 lbs – in order to do this, I need to exercise a minimum of 15 mins each morning and 15 mins each evening at least 6 days a week

I have other goals but I am going to concentrate my focus on these three and pray that I will honor God in the process, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, be a better husband, dad, co-worker, church member as well.

What are your goals for 2013?  Please feel free to share them in the Comments.

 

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.

 

Accountability is not a bad word…

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts recently.  I realize that if I want people to read, I have to post!

I have been thinking a lot in recent days about accountability.  Some people are quite negative on the subject,  I do not understand why, but they are entitled to their opinion.

There are various facets of accountability – family, job, church, etc.

Accountability is defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. [Definition taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary-Online]

I am thankful for the various facets of accountability that are in my life.  I am thankful that I am held accountable for my actions on the job.  I have to abide by a code of conduct and I am given a performance review each year that holds me accountable for certain tasks and goals.  I am thankful for familial accountability.  I have certain responsibilities as a father and a husband.  It is not enough for me to be there for dinner each evening and make sure the bills and obligations are paid on time.  I need to shepherd my family.  This is a role that I am becoming more aware of and I am working in the new year.

One aspect of accountability that I am aware of but seems to be misunderstood or lacking is that of accountability among brothers and sisters in Christ within the local church.

Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering , for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

When was the last time you exhorted someone or you were exhorted when you were in attendance at your local church?  I am not referring to the preaching of the Word, but rather one on one ministry between you and another believer.  When was the last time someone encouraged you regarding love and good works?  Church membership has fallen on hard times, especially in the Bible belt where “everyone is a church member or in church”.  Is church membership to resemble a country club membership or a social club?  Unfortunately, I think that church membership has declined in our culture and partially due to a lack of understanding of the true meaning and purpose.

Is it wrong to hold other church members accountable?  No, in fact it is one of the keys of church discipline (Mt 18:15-17).  Most church covenants have a statement or two regarding mutual accountability.  The church I currently attend has the following statements:

.. to walk together in Christian love;

We further pledge to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy of speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation…

How can we accomplish these things effectively if we really do not know anyone or have meaningful relationships within the local church?  We talked about this in our Men’s Bible Study last week.

Unfortunately, we hear about a brother or sister in Christ who has fallen into sin and their fellowship is broken with the Lord and eventually with the local church. When you hear about these things, pray for the person(s) involved, then ask yourself this question, “Is there something I could have done to prevent this from happening?”    There are people around us who do not feel that church membership is not important and as a result they resist accountability of any sort and most times do not possess a teachable spirit.  The Bible does give us an admonition regarding how we are to handle such persons.  Again, we see that it involves a form of accountability.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

 

So as we look to the end of 2012 and to the beginning to 2013.  How are you executing your responsibilities as a believer not only to be accountable, but to also hold others accountable as well.  Not in a Pharisaical manner, but rather in a loving Christ-like manner.

I would like to hear from you.  Has someone held you accountable within the context of the local church?  Was it a positive experience?

 

 

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

I am going to do something I have never done before

… review a book partially before I finish reading it.  You may say that is foolish to review a book before finishing it.  Well there is a good reason for it!  The author makes so many compelling statements in the first 15 pages I wanted to share these with you in hopes that you will read the entire book as I am endeavoring to do.

Here is the story…

My wife works for a Christian radio station where she is a production assistant. One of her duties is to set up interviews with the authors of books that the stations receives.  I look through the books when they come home and will peruse a few of them before they are sent back to the station for interviews.

I was looking through a recent stack that she brought home and saw a book that intrigued me.  I am drawn to any type of book on ministry, leadership or mentoring and this was no exception.

The book I am talking about is Protege – Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders by Steve Saccone.  I had never heard of the book or the author prior to seeing the book in a stack of books. I picked it up and started to casually read the Introduction not knowing how far I would get.  I did not get very far before I started reading some things that really resonated with me!  My wife happened to come into the living room and I read some of these things to her and told her that this was unbelievable, that I had been waiting for someone to write something like this!  She could tell that I was pretty passionate about what I had been reading.  I told her that what I had read and had drawn me in was just within the first 15 pages of the book!

Before I share the quotes that arrested my attention and compelled me to read the rest of the book, I want to share a bit of my story.  I have been looking for an opportunity to serve in full-time pastoral ministry since January 2010.  If you have read here , you would know that my search has been highly unsuccessful.  I have submitted my resume over 30 times to 30 different ministries since 2010 and have yet to be granted an interview.  I had stopped searching while we were expecting our second child because we were unable to travel if called upon to candidate.  I have since resumed searching but the results are still the same.  This book really hit home because it addresses some of the core issues that I have been dealing with since launching my search for an opportunity for full-time pastoral ministry.

Here are the things from the book I wanted to share:

I think back to when I was nineteen years old, when I initially stepped into ministry and had no idea where to begin. Someone decided to help me figure it out…  Not only that, he spend time coaching and mentoring me with insight and compassion because he believed in God’s call and gifting in my life.  He believed in who I could become as a person, communicator and leader (pg.12)

Wow, what a powerful example of mentoring and coaching!  It gets better.

Throughout history, if someone wanted to learn a particular skill, he or she would find a master or mentor to guide them.  This person seeking to learn and grow is called a protege.  And like any skill or trade, ministry leadership involves a set of abilities that must be developed and cultivated.  (pg.13)

There are countless proteges simply waiting for an experienced master of their trade or wise mentor, but they so often become lost in the deficit of strong and developmental leadership that is so absent and misprioritized in today’s culture and today’s church.( pg. 12)

The author speaks about seminary – he is in favor of theological, academic training but also realizes that there are some shortcomings as well.

I’m profoundly convinced that attending seminary without also receiving “on the job training” is the equivalent of a physician attending medical school without ever practicing their skills in clinical rotations.  And this dilemma is not solved with a simple field education course, as good as it may be. Think about it.  Can you imagine being treated by a physician who possesses all the medical knowledge in the world after just graduating from several years in school but has absolutely no hands-on experience?

The author has hit the nail on the head!  I have used the same example also in some of my writings on the subject as well.

He continues on:

Many proteges who attend seminary as their sole preparation end up stumbling around the church upon graduation and battling confusion and frustration.  Why? Because they initially believe they’ve been properly prepared, trained, and equipped for the demands ahead, but they soon realize it’s not true.  In actuality they were, more often than not, only given information instead of personalized and intentional development.(pg. 14)

This is true also of those of us who have served and are serving in the local church.  My seminary experience was not just merely academic.  I was involved in service within the local church while in seminary and even now.  I also served as a pastoral intern in my local church as a graduation requirement.  I have also found out that having two Masters degrees (M.A. and MDiv) along with over 25 years of practical Christian service in three different local churches will not cut it with churches looking for pastors, whether a senior pastor or assistant pastor.   The expectations have been raised so high now that most seminary graduates do not have much a chance in finding a church ministry unless they were able to serve in full-time ministry on a church staff while completing their seminary training.  Most seminary students have to work a secular job to take care of their needs and after that, there is not much time for anything else.   I speak from experience because the entire time I was in seminary from 2002-2010, I worked a full-time job at minimum 40 hours a week, many times a lot more hours along with studying and other academic responsibilities.

The author also talks about training indigenous leaders:

And if we’re going to become the movement we long to be as the church, we must begin by raising up indigenous leaders rather than just looking outside our own backyards for people who are already where we want them to be. In the short-term, it may be easier to hire a ready made leader; but in the long-term, we not only do a disservice to all the hungry proteges around us, but to the church’s future.  Her future will be shaped significantly by how we as leaders choose to engage the development process of the next generation of ministry leaders”  (pg. 16)

I do not think that there is much more that I can say than what the author has already said in the first sixteen pages of the book.  I think that the church really needs to step up and take responsibility for the proteges in their midst.  We see the church taking a vital role in the development of leaders (see Acts 13).

I look forward to reading the rest of this book

What are some ways that the local church and its leadership can contribute to the training and development of the proteges in their congregations?

 

 

 

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.)?

Tax Time – Numbers, Numbers, and more Numbers

I am glad that my taxes have been done for sometime and that we have already received our refunds and unfortunately they have been spent (on good things like education and debt reduction.)

I noticed that the White House released the President and Vice-Presidents tax returns.  I took a moment to scan the returns and noticed something very interesting.  I noticed that the President gave over $172,000 to charity which is about 22.5% of his income and the Vice-President gave $5,500 to charity which is less than 5%.  Even though I disagree with our President in many areas, I am thankful that he seems to have a pre-disposition to give generously to charities (I may not agree with what he supports, but he seems to give generously).

What can we learn from this?  What is important to us, will be reflected in what   and how we spend our money and what and how much we give away.  If we say God is important to us, then does our checkbook reflect this priority? I am not getting into the tithing debate in this post, but want to challenge each reader to give generously!

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.

 

Difference Maker: John Piper

Recently, I have been reading the Festschrift for John Piper entitled For The Fame of God’s Name – Essays in Honor of John Piper, edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor.  While reading this book I came across a couple of different stories that go along with the theme that I have written about in the past, people who make a difference in the lives of others by asking them a question that changes their life, giving them opportunities to serve, etc.  My desire is to share these stories to be an encouragement to others who may be searching and also to say thanks to those who have been a difference-maker in the lives of others.  I have written about Thabiti Anyabwile and how Mark Dever made a difference in his life (not sure if either of them will read that article) and writing this one about John Piper (not sure if he will see this either).

The first story comes from Jon Bloom who is the President of Desiring God, he writes:

In 1991, about a thousand people were attending Bethlehem.  Pam and I didn’t know the Pipers personally.  So a phone call in January caught me off guard.  It was Noël Piper. “Johnny and I would like to know if you and Pam would be interested in renting our basement apartment.” I think my jaw dropped to the floor.

In the spring of 1993, as we were preparing to move out of the Pipers’ house into our first little home, I heard from Jim that John was contemplating hiring his first full-time administrative assistant.  He wanted a male, someone who could travel with him and uniquely care for the growing number of inquiries and ministry demands.  This news landed on me with the same weighty sense I had about the apartment.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  At age twenty-seven, an administrative assistant position may have appeared an unwise career choice.  But I knew I was supposed to do it.  This was the next step.  A few days later I walked upstairs to John’s home office and simply asked him to consider me for the job.  He did.  I began in July.(Pg. 502)

What a story!  I am not sure that I would have the boldness to ask for a job like Jon Bloom did, but now he is the President of Desiring God.  But it all began with a simple question regarding the rental of a basement apartment which eventually forged a friendship and relationship which has grown and been nurtured over these many years and still continues to thrive today.   In my own world, I have sent unsolicited resumes for opportunities that I was aware of that I was interested in, but I did not receive those positions.  The difference was the fact that I did not have a close enough relationship with the person making the hiring decision to warrant consideration.

The second story comes from Tom Steller.  Tom is the Academic Dean at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He writes:

As much as Dr. Piper loved investing in college students, his growing desire to preach to all ages in all situations in life the glories of Christ that he was seeing in his study and in the classroom became overwhelming.  A short while later, we received another letter from Dr. Piper, saying that Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis called him to serve as their pastor.  The next sentence changed my life forever.  “Would you like to come and serve with me?”

There is a bit of a back story that I did not include in the above quote that I think will give some context to the overall story.  Tom was a student of John Piper’s at Bethel College and had taken seven classes from him.  He also attended Fuller Seminary because of John Piper’s influence.  Tom was the one who founded The Bethlehem Institute which eventually morphed into Bethlehem College and Seminary.

Again another great story of someone making a different in the life of another person by asking a simple question.  I like what Tom Steller said before disclosing the question that John Piper had asked him, “The next sentence changed my life forever”.  As I sit here and write this post, I think about what that would be like to get a phone call, email, or have a personal conversation with someone that had the ability to put another person in a position that would eventually lead to unparalleled passion and fruitfulness and a great growth potential.  If I received a call from men like John Piper, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, I would probably fall over in shock!  I have never met John Piper personally. I met Albert Mohler once while on the SBTS campus in 2008, and I have traded a couple of emails with two of Russell Moore’s assistants, never meeting him in person either.

As a side note, I have answered a lot of questions this week regarding not being in ministry from various people (church members and co-workers).  Never an easy question to answer, but one person that I spoke with this week got it.  He said that it sounds like you are in a catch-22, churches refuse to interview or hire you because they say you do not have enough experience, how do they expect you get obtain the needed or necessary experience?  I have had a lot of conversations on the subject of not being in ministry, but this person really understood what was going on.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I will get a call, email with a question like Tom Steller received?  Until then….

Thanks to John Piper for being a difference-maker in the lives of these two men and in the lives of others who have not shared their experience in print.