Category Archives: thoughts

Heading to Texas

Dallas at night

Dallas at night

Next week, I am headed to Texas on business.  I am looking forward to the trip. Coupled with this trip will be some scouting/house -apartment hunting in the evenings.  Our house hunt will begin in earnest on Friday AM.  We are asking for God’s wisdom and direction as we undertake this task.  Right now it is a monumental one because the apartment vacancy rate in the DFW area is between 4-6% (Source – Biz Beat Blog – Dallas Morning News)

In addition to looking for a place to live, we are also looking at schools and churches.  We have an appointment at a Christian school and are trying to get a tour of a charter classical school.  We found out that charter schools are very popular, especially those that use the Classical education method.  We are currently 46th on a waiting list at one charter school.

I have also updated my speaking page as well.  I am available for speaking opportunities within the context of the local church.  See my speaking page for more details.  It would be an honor to be able to serve your church while in the DFW area.

I am looking forward to the trip and seeing how and what the Lord will do as we seek His will in this situation.  It is not easy to think about leaving MN because it has been our home for quite some time, but I also realize that there are no real substantial opportunities for full-time vocational ministry here either.  I “hung out” for three years now and I am not any closer to being in full time vocational ministry.  So it is potentially time to move on to see if maybe some opportunities manifest themselves in a new environment.

photo credit: Definitive HDR Photography via photopin cc

Moving around

Talking with my late mother several years ago, I found out that she moved around a lot as a child.  I never really found out why they moved so much, but it was funny when we were driving around different places in Southern California and she would point out where she had lived as a child.

Not until recently, did I think about the fact that I have moved several times myself.  When I was a kid we moved a few times before I was two and then we lived in the same place for 7 years and then my parents divorced and my mom decided to move to Reno, NV where I stayed for 3 years and then went to live with my dad for 7 more years until going off to college.

While in college, I stayed in the same place for 3 of the 4 years and moved to a campus house (non dormitory) for my senior year.  Once college was completed, then I lived with some guys in a house in Jacksonville.  Then I bought a place and that ended up being a disaster (long story), Moved into an apartment where I stayed until I moved to MN in 2002.

When I was thinking about moving, I calculated that I have moved over 14 times in my life.  That is a lot of moving!

Well, our family is going to move again.  We moved once shortly after my son turned 1, because we needed a larger place.  Now with two kids, we are out of room in our current place.

Lord willing, at the end of July we will be moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  There are several reasons for this move for us as a family:

  • I have been out of seminary for three years this coming May and nothing is happening with regard to ministry.  One can only march in place for so long.
  • The current company I work for has a large office there and incidentally both of my bosses are based out of that particular office.  This could help my current career.
  • The cost of living is much cheaper in Texas and there is no state income tax.
  • Maybe moving to a new area, finding a new church will bring opportunities that do not exist currently.
  • We will be closer to my in-laws while they are away in the winter.

This comes with some challenges and caveats.  If we are unable to secure housing by the end of May, then we will not move in 2013.  One of the biggest challenges besides housing is finding a good local church.  My wife and I have been members of our current church for over 10 years. I came to MN for seminary and the eventual goal of being in full-time vocational ministry.  As much as I would like to stay, I feel that I must move on because there are no opportunities for full-time ministry here.   This is the only church that my kids have ever known. My son is currently in a Christian school and in DFW we noticed that Christian education is much more expensive than here in MN, so finding a new school is a challenge as well.  Moving is also going to be an expensive venture.  Since this is a voluntary relocation, the company will not fund it and I never expected them to do so anyway.  I am thankful that I am able to make this type of a move without having to go through the ordeal of job hunting as well.  One thing we will be getting used to is trading winter for summer.

We spent seven days in DFW in October and we got to see and do quite a few things.  I wanted my family to experience it first-hand.

We know that the Lord is able to provide exactly what we need.  We are trusting God in this endeavor.  He has provided an open door and we are walking through it at this time.  We would love to stay here in MN and that would be easy for us since we have been here for so long and we are somewhat established.  God gives us opportunities to grow us and stretch us outside of our comfort zone.

Please pray for us.

Processing some things

Tuesday morning, I heard some things that got my attention and shook me to my core.

The first one was Tuesday morning. As my normal routine is, I listen to Pathway to Victory while on my way to work each morning. This morning, Dr Jeffress said something that caught my attention. He was talking about a call and as he was speaking I was thinking about it more in terms of an equation:

Call = Burden + Passion + Opportunity

Hearing this and eventually writing it down really shook me!

I was thinking about this while I was driving. I was thinking back to when I had publicly expressed a “call” of God on my life to preach the Gospel. I was probably the last person that would ever be called to preach. I am not a dynamic speaker. I do not have a commanding or charismatic personality. I would consider myself more of an introvert. I stumbled through memorized speeches that we had to give in high school. I never thought that I would be involved in any sort of public speaking at all. I remember preaching my first sermon and apologizing to my English teachers in advance for all the trouble I had given them during the delivery of those memorized speeches each year. All I knew at the time, was that I had a burden to communicate the Bible to others.

Someone once said, “A call to preach is a call to prepare” So, off to Bible college I went in 1988. Along with the burden, I gained a passion while I was in college as I went through my classes and serving in the local church, I began to grow in my Christian life.

So I had a burden and passion, but was lacking in opportunity. I preached wherever I was given an opportunity. Rescue mission, prison, nursing homes, etc. Then I graduated from college and was ordained shortly after. Ordination was/is a big deal because it is a local church’s endorsement of your calling and gifts. I was ordained but there were no opportunities on the horizon.

Fast forward ten years to 2002. I had resigned my position at a mission agency where I had been for 3 1/2 years and moved to MN to attend Seminary.

Fast forward eight years to 2010. I finished seminary with two degrees.

Fast forward three more years to 2013. I have sent my resume out to over 40 different churches and ministries, looking for an opportunity to re-enter full-time vocational ministry with one interview and a lot of rejection letters. The main reason I have been given is that I do not have any pastoral experience. When I graduated from college in 1992, I was told rather curtly, I was too young and had no experience. I was stunned, while watching my classmates who were the same age and also have no experience, leave college and go into various ministry positions. My home church, although they ordained me, did not attempt to hire me at all. When I finished seminary, I realized that I am in the same boat as I was when I finished college, except for the fact that I am older and married. I am still lacking the experience that most churches are requiring.  I was told by someone that if you are looking for a pastoral opportunity within a church, that most church committees will not take into consideration any experience while serving in a non-pastoral capacity. Honestly, that does not make sense, but it is what I have experienced these last three years.

As I was listening to Dr Jeffress, I was processing my life and realizing that I have a burden (and have had for years), passion (it has been waning in recent years), but the opportunities are non-existent. Then it hit me, the opportunities are no longer present. I thought back to 2010 where I did an unusual amount of pulpit supply and then that came to a halt in September 2010 and I did not preach again until late last year in August of 2012 where I had two preaching opportunities (both pulpit supply) back to back and then as quick as they came, they have disappeared again. Pulpit supply does meet a need, but it is a poor way to learn how to preach and it is a poor way to preach with any consistency. Pulpit supply is not the experience that most churches are looking for. The opportunities are scarce in pulpit supply and in my case non-existent. It is the proverbial catch-22, you have to have experience to get hired by a church, but no one wants to give anyone the opportunity to gain the necessary experience. It should never be this way in a local church.

When I got to work our main computer system was down, so after processing email and doing everything that I could do without our main computer system, I remembered that Jason Meyer was going to speak this morning on the subject of Pastoral Transition after a 32 year ministry. I had the time because our system was down and there was nothing else to do, I listened to the live stream of Jason’s message. If you did not know, Jason Meyer is the new Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the successor to John Piper, who was the previous Pastor of Preaching and Vision for 32 years.

As I listened to Jason’s story recounting the process and how he spoke many times about the supernatural and the sovereignty of God. I was struck by the fact that nothing of a supernatural nature has been taking place in my life related to ministry since I graduated. It shook me when I had that thought! I started asking myself where I went wrong, was there sin in my life that I needed to deal with, was God chastening me for some reason? I could not identify any one particular thing but as I kept listening, my discouragement increased. I also noticed that Jason had made an impact on several people as evidenced in this video

When I finished seminary and there was no available opportunities for pastoral ministry, I had prayed regarding further education, a PhD or DMin possibly. I found myself in a quandary, I was not academically qualified (grades were not high enough – competition is too strict) and then I found out that I could not get into any DMin program because I lacked the three years of post MDiv ministry experience. So my formal education came to an abrupt halt and I realized that at this point I would not be able to teach in any institution of higher learning with just an MDiv. to teach anywhere, one would need a Doctorate. So teaching in a college or seminary was out.

I was also struck by the fact that John Piper poured his life into Jason Meyer. Jason started his role in August and I can imagine that he has spent numerous hours with John Piper, learning and observing the ministry. Now, the church voted again in December for Jason to become the Pastor of Preaching and Vision effective January 1, 2013. This represents a four month transition. One can only imagine what kind of intense mentoring that took place during those four months and what will take place from January until April when John Piper will step down as the Associate Pastor of Preaching and Vision.

Recently, I had a good friend who was in a similar situation. He was in full-time ministry and was let go by a pastor/church over money issues. He did nothing wrong, he served with honor, but the church and pastor were not obeying 1 Timothy 5:17-18. He found himself out of the ministry and discouraged. He was faithful and had a desire to serve God in full-time ministry and went over ten years with no prospects and a healthy amount of disappointment. The turning point in his life was an area pastor he met who took an interest in him and kept in contact with him. This pastor eventually recommended him to a church nearby and last Sunday he preached his first sermon as the new Senior Pastor of that particular local church.

What I am noticing is a common denominator in these situations: People took a real interest in an individual. It was not a casual interest, but rather a committed one. It embodied the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2

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.

I was also struck by the involvement of the local church in the life of Jason Meyer and the life of my friend. Acts 13 is a text that reaffirms the role of a local church with regard to its responsibilities of sending out those within its midst who are called and affirmed by the local church for Gospel ministry. Too many local churches take the passive approach and abdicate this responsibility to a Bible college or a seminary. Does the local church that you attend have a method or process for recognizing and affirming those who have expressed a call to ministry?

In the end, I am reminded of the Scripture found in 1 Timothy 3:1

If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good thing.

I am also reminded that I am not getting any younger either.

Still trying to make sense of what I heard on Tuesday morning and wondering how it all fits in the context of my life.

26 years

Last Sunday evening, I was serving communion in our church.  If you asked me 26 years ago what I would be doing, that would probably be the furthest thing from my mind.

26 years ago on a Tuesday evening, in a small classroom adjacent to the church auditorium, I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.   26 years ago I was in my senior year of high school not sure what I was going to do with my life.  26 years ago, I was confronted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I was baptized seven months later that same year.

Life has not been a life of ease since that time.  It has and still does have its blessings and its challenges.  I am thankful that I have been a member of three different Baptist churches in three different locations.  I have had five different men in those churches whom I have called “Pastor”.

I had the opportunity to go away to Bible College, graduated after four years, then found myself at the age of 23 again faced with the prospect of not knowing what I was going to do with my life.  I had already expressed a call to preach shortly after salvation.  Bible College served as a preparation and a training.  What I did not realize was that when you are 23 and unmarried, no one wants to hire you.  I am not a dynamic speaker and do not have a charismatic personality.  I had a desire to serve God and a degree.  I was also ordained by my home church in 1992 after I had completed Bible college, seemed like the next logical step for the church to validate and affirm my gifts and abilities to serve in local church ministry.  I could not go back home because the economy was in shambles (sound familiar), so I stayed where I was at the secular job that I had and did not particularly like, but I needed it to pay the bills, always having a longing to fulfill the calling on my life that I had made public back in 1987.  In 1999, I had an opportunity to go into full-time vocational ministry at a missions agency.  I was excited about the opportunity to go into ministry, a bit scared because of the drastic cut to my income, and wondering if this was going to be it for me.

Serving at the missions agency was a good and bad experience.  Good because it made me get out of my comfort zone and I was able to travel and do some preaching.  Bad because there was a lot of dysfunction within the organization (it existed long before my arrival).  As I served, I detected that I needed further training. I had always wanted to pursue  more education beyond my Bachelors Degree, but the opportunities were never available in the context and location where I was at the time.  Through a series of events and circumstances, the Lord opened a door for me to leave my position at the mission agency and move to MN to attend seminary.

I left Jacksonville, FL 14 years to the day I had arrived.  It was a bittersweet departure.  I was excited because I was embarking on a new journey, but at the same time I was leaving a place that was like home to me since I had spent almost half of my life there.

Seminary was a different experience for me.  When I started, I learned that there was a lot that I needed to learn.  I had not been in a classroom in a formal education setting since college, ten years earlier.  I also was in the process of really trying figure out what I really believed instead of parroting what I had been taught without thinking through both sides of the theological issues that I was confronted with in my seminary classes and in my life.

Fast forward a bit, I met my wife while in seminary and we were married in 2004 and had our first child in 2006.  Lost a child and my mother later that same year. Almost quit seminary at that point because I was overwhelmed.  Glad that I did not quit, I graduated with my first degree in 2008 (M.A. in Theology).  Continued on to finish my MDiv. in 2010.  I honestly did not think that I would finish.  I was working 40-50 hours a week and taking a low class load, but the Lord allowed me to finish.

Now, almost three years removed from finishing my last degree, I find myself in a similar situation that I was in back in 1992.  In 1992, I was 23, unmarried and had no pastoral or ministerial experience.  Now in 2013, I am 43, married with two children, and too far removed from my last full-time vocational ministry assignment and no pastoral experience.  When I finished college, people told me that I was  too young and had no experience.  Now 20 years later, I am older and still have no pastoral experience.  Churches now are setting the standard much higher with any hire that they make, most are looking for a minimum of 5 years of pastoral ministry experience and that is even for an assistant or associate pastor.

I look back from where I am now and realize that it all started on that day in February where I was confronted with my own sinfulness and depravity and under great conviction called upon the Lord to save me and that was the beginning of the journey that I wrote about above (omitting lots of other details)

 

 

 

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.