And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

last night was a great way to end 2008. We used the worship time to reflect on the blessings of God through 2008. I was a time of reading the praise reports that went into the business meeting minutes of 08 and to allow folks to testify of God's work of grace and blessedness in the past twelve months.

As we look to 2009 we are making no plans, Lord willing. We do however purpose to make ourselves available to God by reading through the Bible in a year and memorizing at least 50 selected scriptures.

All this is a focus on developing at our core a passion for Christ. We are seeking to shed the encumbrances we have put on through various means. As I will be wrapping up Ephesians in a few weeks we will also look at what the Bible teaches about keeping the Sabbath holy, and how to do that in today's age. This coincides with our "theme of the year" which is "Be still and know I am God".

Monday, December 22, 2008

Atheists Signs, Nativity Displays, and a Good Apologetic

>For years now there has been a war on Christmas. It is not a simple snowball fight. I get countless e-mails and news about who supports Christmas in advertising and what goes on in the schools. In Michigan they quit putting up Christmas trees in one university library because employees complained. In England they disallowed a cross in a prison chapel as the Muslims “might” be offended. Recently the State of Illinois agreed to allow a nativity scene to be on display in the rotunda, a public forum, in Springfield. This I applauded. However my joy was short lived. To my displeasure, the Atheists added a sign on display also. It reads "Our message at this season of the winter solstice is may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Now we live in a country that is supposed to allow freedom of expression, even when we do not like it. We need to talk a look at what happens when we force people to our ways as opposed to winning their hearts. In the twenties “the church” worked lawmakers into banning alcohol, creating the days of Prohibition. Fighting the war on the wrong front allowed the formation of speak easies, heightened the power of organized crime, bootlegging, etc. (I sometimes joke that we would not have NASCAR if it were not for Prohibition.) In the end, Prohibition was canceled. In essence, the hopes of “the church at large” backfired.

Despite this we can however legislate morality, but not the hearts of men. It is the heart being changed that will cure the moral ills of society. Until this is accomplished, sinners will continue to sin.

The departure of the basic Judeo/Christian values of the founding fathers has led us to such a society as we now have. Mind you, even the theists like Jefferson and Franklin argued exhaustedly for the preservation of the tenants of scripture.

What is wrong with this sign is its placement near the nativity scene. It almost garners the thought that it is included in the celebrations depicted. From my contact with the state capital, I am under the understanding that the rules of displays regulate its location. I am thankful that from the photos I have seen that it is not next to the nativity itself as this wild be a sacrilege attack of greater importance, giving the illusion of being part of the display. It goes to reason that the other displays, nativity and menorah, could use a sign explaining their significance and who has erected them.

It’s a sticky issue. As I said, we can and need to legislate morality for the good of the nation. We need to fight for what is right, such as putting an end to abortion and protecting marriage and the family as God has clearly implied and defended in the Bible. The value of life needs to be upheld. What we also need to consider is this an expression of an opinion or is it a law that affects the whole land. Laws should be looked at for their validity to ensure protection, peace, and prosperity for the people of the land, under the umbrella of what is known to be right not simply opinion. The common good needs to be considered, as well as the long term implications of any law. For example, laws of not littering can be see in this category as litter disrupts property values, creates harbors of disease and other time tested values, laws on global warming would not be as there is insufficient information to warrant need nor effectiveness. Here I see the Atheist sign in the rotunda as a form of verbal assault on the religious expression of others. It is disruptive, even in a visual form. At present the rules allow it, but I don’t like it. It provides no good for anyone.

Lets think about the basis of Atheist driven legislation. Atheist legislation is anarchy. For without God the question needs to be answered, “Who is to say what is right?” It is survival of the fittest? The biggest weapon wins? I see a crumbling foundation here. When God was taken away from the education of the masses it led to this question, Who is to say what is right? That is why we now have the narcissistic view and the slogan “What’s right for you may not be right for me”. Truth is what is right regardless of opinion and feeling. Truth is consistent and stands on its own. (Atheism tends to change the laws of its own intoleration at whim to fit the argument of any given moment. Its arguments often fail under scrutiny and reduce themselves to name calling and poisoning the well.

Laws need to be enacted for the good of the people. Any law that does not conform to God’s laws is not for the good of the people. God’s laws come from love, even for His enemies. The last seven laws of the Ten Commandments are generally accepted worldwide as what is right fro a society to exist. Mind you God first commanded the first three laws to give the other seven authority. Again, without God’s authority for the basis of the laws you have a crumbling of who says what is right and wrong.

For those Christians reading this, remember the purpose of the law is to convict us of sin and to bring us to repentance. We need laws. As the Bible points out, God appoints rules for our good. Mind you there do come times when new can’t see that good such as when Hitler ruled Germany. And we may then even see an need to contradict laws that oppose God’s ways, such as rescuing Jews bound for Auswitz. Christianity requires common sense.

The question should be asked, “Where should this war be fought?” Maybe we should ask a few more questions, such as “What is defending the Nativity about?” and “Who’s job is it to make this truth known”?

Scripture tells us to study to show ourselves approved, and to be ready to give everyone an answer. Unfortunately, most Christians have not taken the Bible and Christianity seriously enough to have a strong apologetic answer for their faith. We too often live on a cheap grace and peddle a Christianity that is more akin to a commercialized product that redemption. The Atheists of the Springfield rotunda say that we should operate with “reason”, but do they? Would they be willing to sit down and hear our reasonings? Let us engage in conversation, but let the Truth speak for itself. No where in scripture does it say to battle the authorities, but to reason with them and show by our lives the Truth that has set us free. We see the apostle Paul when the opportunity presented itself reasoning with Festus and others. This is the entire background of the seromon in Athens on Mars hill, should we not do likewise? Too often the church at large has shirked the command to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel”. Or if we have, we too often present a watered down Jesus, a Christianity lite.

Further, forced morality is putting them on the yoke of the law, not grace. We ourselves can’t keep the law, not to mention those without redemptive grace. We need moral laws to keep the peace. We need the peace of Christ to keep men.

Ultimately, the defense of the Nativity is a defense of the glory of God. It is the spreading of the message of condemned man headed for judgment only to be saved from wrath if they come to know God as Savior, Lord, and Love.

Do we need to express our opinions to our legislators and official, YES! But we also need to meet with Atheists and reason with them as Paul did in Athens. We can not simply say “these are our rules and this is the way it is”. We need to give reason for the hope that is within us. Mind you, there is a time when we may find ourselves casting pearls before swine. But we also need to follow the example of Christ and eat with those “sinners” who are interested in what we have to say. Make sure though that you say what ought to be said in love not condescension.

Christians need to quit living for leisure, retirement, and ease of life. Its not about changing someone to our way of thinking or mindset. Its about redemption. Pastors, quit making the people comfortable to sit in the pews and build more buildings. We need to be teachers, legislators, board members, neighbors, Samaritans. We are not making disciples anymore. We just assume the gospel and give cheap grace. We have become the best country club in town. Henceforth the results we now see. The church in Acts made an impact on society. Revivals thought out history have demonstrated what can happen when the church is the church. I would highly recommend reading Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity and Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

It is not just a war on Christmas, it’s a war against Christ that has taken place before Eve ever saw that fruit. Use the Nativity controversy as an opportunity to have legitimate dialog with your neighbor. This is an opportunity. Seize it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Where to hide?

In the past few hours ministry has had all sorts of challenges. I had a 12:30 am call that someone had damaged the church sign. Mind you the surround of the sign was brick. It must have done a number on their truck.

Then came the heaviness that the mother of one of our members dies suddenly in a house fire. One minute she is laughing on the phone and having cappuccino, and a few moments later the firemen are searching for her in an inferno.

With lack of sleep and a heavy heart, I find it imperative to hide in the shadow of the almighty to gain strength, then to come out, weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, sharing doctrinal truths that set us free.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eleanor Rigby

Here is a little news I sent to our church.

Good Morning! Isn't it a brisk day for soup or coffee? As each change in season brings the joy of change, new holidays, parties, fall colors, and a holyesque whiteness with snow, it brings its problems too, planning travel, rushing to events, winter chores, and sometimes loneliness. Winter can be a lonely time even in the midst of celebrations, joyful songs, and friends that are dear.

Eleanor Rigby is a mystery that speaks to us all.

In 1966 the Beatles released a song entitled Eleanor Rigby. It talks of lonely people, going about their lives with an empty meaningless despair. Now when asked about her, the Beatles said that she was fictional. Yet in Liverpool, near the boyhood neighborhood of one of the band members, a grave was found of an Eleanor Rigby. Recently, a woman with The Sunbeam Music Trust, a charity in England, was looking for a donation from Paul McCartney for their fund raising auction. He sent her a pay ledger from 1911 with a scullery maid's signature E. Rigby. Who was she? Why was she Significant to the Beatles, and now why do so many identify with her in the world? And though she has been given a place in song, she still seemingly represents loneliness despite popularity.

Maybe you can relate to Eleanor.

All this has had me thinking, Despair is that Giant the seeks to destroy us, as in Pilgrim's Progress. We were meant for joy. Yet the question should be answered of "How can you glorify God when you are lacking faith, love, or care"? Pews are inhabited every Sunday Morning by those Eleanor Rigbys just going about life. Because of this, and the doldrums of our spirit, In January I am planning of having a Saturday Salad, Soup, and Scripture time. We will meet at about 9:30 for a time of looking at Being a Christian Even When I Don't Feel Like It. In this I would hope to teach from the scriptures, have a break for Soup and Salad, and answer your questions. Please let me know if you can attend or are interested. We should be wrapped up around 1:00.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rambling Toward Joy

How can a guy write a blog called Persevering Pastor and never have difficulty? The last several days have been those that should qualify me to write such things. I will admit there have been moments of bumps and potholes in the road, and well, even a bridge out or two. What keeps me going is the call of Christ. Concentration for me lately has been as reliable as car I once knew.

But onward and upward. What really keeps us persevering is hope in Christ. Not wishing, not traditionalizing, not even embarrassment of failure, but hope in the promises of God to be true is what will sustain us.

There we find Truth that sets us free and we can go on. E-mail me for encouragement! (your and mine)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sorry I haven't been blogging..

The days are too crazy. But then again, if God, or should I say because God won't give us any more than we can handle does the craziness reveal a lack of abiding? Maybe so, but it could be that this craziness comes as we are too busy for what is most important. I believe much of our trouble is a failure to keep the Sabbath and perspective of abiding in Him.

But other forms of craziness do come. For example, my wife had shoulder surgery last week as a result of a fall in July. Now life takes a turn, a turn God saw all along. Though it turns my schedule and plans around I find that I need to stop and see what His plans and provisions are. Its a test of perseverance. I have fond direction in John Piper's Don't Waste Your Cancer article(see the articles I found interesting section). It may not be craziness, but an opportunity to see God at work and glorify Him. Keep first things first and abide in Christ.

Crazy is only a matter of perception.

On that note, please pray for my wife

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cheap Grace

Sometime Back I wrote our folks about Cheap Grace from Bonhoeffer's perspective. By rereading this I believe it brings deeper reflection and meditation to the Lord's Supper. It goes beyond that. It brings us to see how much we do need a Savior.

Bonhoeffer said “That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and whom sin departs.” “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow upon ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, Grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

I feel I must go on, he also said, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.” “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” “Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: “Ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheep for us. Above all it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.”

Sunday Preperations

As I prepare for Sunday, and the Lords Supper my thoughts run that this should not be taken for granted. But what can be done to make the most out of communion? Too often this act of worship has become cheap grace, as Bonhoeffer would say. It is my desire that every one of my flock leave the service having worshiped and been renewed in a passion for God. Only God can do this in us, but we must be mindful to remove hindrances to the Spirit. So again, how can we go about our week being prepared for the sacrament.

Here are some rough notes I have at present. Enjoy.
There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:4-7)

Last week I introduced the ideas of Indicative and imperative moods o the text.

Indicative is indicating what has been done it is a past tense work, such as grace.

Imperative is a work to be done, such as law

Both of these are relevant. Keeping the law as a Christian is part of our desire to keep close to God and give proper weight to the grace we have been shown. We are grateful for the law as it reveals our sin that we might repent and seek God. But we must not confuse grace and law. Law says obey these rules. Grace says Christ is the fulfillment of the law. When you listen to a sermon or read a book, you will find those that list “imperatives to happiness” and "solutions for a better life" will tend to be law centered as well as man centered. This is what Paul rallied against when the Jews were demanding that the Gentiles be circumcised in order to be saved. However, what sets us free is the grace in what Christ has done, this is indicative as we can ascribe them as being cross and Christ centered. Law will wear you out, grace will fill your cup.

So as we take the Lords Supper today we must see that law works in us to open our remembrance to our need for God and what was to happen to us, and then mount up with grace in adoration of what now will be.

God has created the church to have a nature of self denial in which unity is a notable character. This is based on what Christ has done.

Scripture attests that man is selfish. It also attests that when we become a Christian there is an intrinsic change of nature within us. This change moves us from selfishness to self denial, taking up a cross and following Christ. The one of the greatest evidences of the church is its unity and love for others.

Notice not division, no lack

One Body

One Spirit

One Hope

One Lord

One Faith

One Baptism

One God

One Father

Of all

Over all

Through all

In all

To each grace given

according to the measure (worthy?)

Christ’s gift. The Cross

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What I learned on my prayer retreat

Here is a bit of what I have written to my prayer supporters when I returned from my prayer retreat.

Wow what a week its been. First off I was battling moments of pain that were keeping me from functioning well. The long story is that I may have Celiac disease just as Levi does. So if I avoid all gluten (wheat, oats, etc.) then I should be fine. Maybe I will trim up a bit too?

As for the prayer retreat, it was located at a great bed and breakfast called The Green Tree Inn.
Thankfully many of you were praying for me to not be distracted. Praise God that prayer was answered. For the entire study time my digestive ailments were minimal. Mind you early Wednesday morning became problematic and I left early. But Mr. Coffman, my host had the remote to the TV and God provided me discipline from checking the news.

Much of what God revealed to me covered a variety of things. Here area few bullet points
The village of Elsa, where it is located is much like a step back in time into the 18th and 19th centuries. It is in a very small valley that you can pretty much walk through. So it alone was a distraction.
  • On a issue of pointing out someone's sin I need to wait for God to open an opportunity, rather than create one myself.
  • Our church needs to celebrate salvation, and I am praying for whom to ask in a list of people to ask them to give their testimony on Sunday mornings.
  • I have come away with a greater appreciation for what I have and a lessened desire for worldly trivialities.
  • My heart is longing for our youth to know God, not by gimmicks or tricks. I sense I need to spend time with them talking directly to them about Christ working in them
  • There is so much more I need to roll off onto God and just let it be. I also need to teach this to others seeing that often we have lost the gospel message. We have become so program centered that worship is losing its majesty for trivialities. Included in this is a deep understanding that ...
  • We must return to having a Sabbath. All we do needs to be centered every week on worshiping God. Get our chores done early to worship God. Refuse parties and outing that interfere with God's worship. The Sabbath is made for man, for the purpose of being with his God. I haven't enough hard drive space to write upon this truth.
  • Truth Matters, let us not be afraid to go to the scriptures and show people what God has said. If they still reject it their blood is not on our hands and we have glorified God rather than fain to popularity contests.
  • We need reformation. What I mean by that is seen in the above bullet point. We tend to assume the gospel, and loose our moorings. Paul preached Christ and Him crucified, not how to sermons. Peter did the same as well as the others. Yes they gave direction and church discipline, but all coming back to the cross. We need reformation before we will see revival. We often quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 but do not do it. We fail to search the scriptures for correction. I for one found this to be liberating.
So that is about it. I definately had moments of being homesick and God uses that to always work a greater love for my family. If anything I also saw where I don't need hobbies, but can make parenting and husbandry quite the fulfillment in Christ it is meant to be. This removes so many other false values and distractions for accomplishment.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Provokings from John Piper

I just read these questions from the Desiring God blog, well worth a read.

Desiring God Blog

Job Conference Q&A

Posted: 18 Oct 2008 12:45 PM CDT

(Author: Abraham Piper)

You can now listen to the Q & A session of our conference on Job. (Update: The video is also posted now.)

John Piper addressed the following questions:

  • What language should we use to talk about God's sovereignty over sin?
  • How much did the Holy Spirit have to do with Job's ability to suffer well?
  • As an ancient believer, how was Job's faith different than ours?
  • How could Satan come into God's presence? Does he still?
  • Did God initiate the meeting with Satan?
  • How should we view Satan's involvement in our lives?
  • What is involved in the worship that comes in the moments of deepest suffering?
  • Would it be wrong to express anger and frustration in these moments?
  • How do you lovingly speak the truth of God's sovereignty to sufferers?
  • What does it mean to be righteous?
  • What does it mean for the righteous to suffer when there is none righteous before God?
  • How do we make sure our kids are prepared for suffering when our family has undergone so little?
  • What do you say to a couple who lost their infant and now God seems so far away?
  • How do I help my disabled child understand God's sovereignty when she faces not just physical suffering, but emotional suffering because of continual ridicule?
  • What do you do for an unbelieving friend whose suffering is pushing her away from God?
  • What do you do when you can't see God's good purposes in suffering?

Monday, October 13, 2008


My wife just returned from the True Woman 08 conference in Chicago. ( It has been a long time since she has been this refreshed. Now mind you, she wasn't exhausted to begin with. But when we get away to take time with God, and He reveals Himself to us, we are always encouraged and changed. We most definitely need these times to get alone with God and gain a proper perspective.

Thus with great enthusiasm, I am looking forward to a retreat I am to take in the next several days. I long to just get away with God and meditate His hand is several areas. So as this blog is often personally revealing ,I hope to come back with several entries of what it was like over this time.

Keep watching this space for more news.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pastor Appreciation Month

As a pastor I want to share a few insights that I hope will benefit others. Mind you I could be accused of sharing these thoughts for my own personal gain. But to my advantage, I know that my people know me well enough to not judge my intentions as being self serving. Besides, if we all took such attitude of judgment then we would all go around with a false piety and playing pretend rather than being the true church.

First off, know your pastor (and his wife, don't leave her out, as a matter of fact, include the PK children, they often bear a brunt of ministry suffering too.). Know what your pastor enjoys or needs, don't assume. Find out what his (their) hobby is, look at a magazine dealing with such, and see what the latest trendy gadget or tool is. If you find difficulty in this, provide him with a gift certificate to make his own choice.

In knowing your pastor you can make the expression of appreciation achieve its greatest potential, and you will avoid the fax pas of completely missing the mark. I know of pastors who have hinted to their spouse for something they greatly desired, only to be disappointed by a greater expense being made for something they really did not desire. Don't buy him a set of books of someone who greatly differs in theology. I am a woodworker, one of the best gifts could be several board feet of oak, walnut, or plywood all to let him build to his hearts content. A golfer may be overjoyed at receiving green fees for a select golf course in the area. If he is a sports fan, git him the best seats possible for a major league team.

Next I would like to give a list of things that often make for a convenience in the pastors life.
  • Books are always in demand.
  • Gift certificates to Wal-Mart are a plus.
  • A night away for his wife and he would go along way also, sweeten the deal and provide babysitting and dinner out. One thing our church has done is provide a night out with free babysitting by a rotation of families within our church every month for a year.
  • Give him a budget to redecorate his office, I endured three years of burnt orange shag carpet with brown paneling walls
  • Find a luxury he would enjoy but not purchase for himself, maybe an iPod, GPS, or subscription. Pastors love fine writing instruments, perhaps a Mont Blanc or custom made pen?
  • Is he a history buff? Try going to and get him an antiquated Bible leaf or communion token.
  • Is his wife a scrap booker? Send her on a shopping spree/
  • Thinking about his kids, gift cards here work best, let them shop, or better yet get involved in their lives, take them shopping, buy them a cd or video game and buy them lunch.
  • How about a gift for the whole family, I like grilling, so a bundle of meat for the grill can be a huge boon to your minister (Remember, the Levies were to get a portion of the offerings, meat included)

One of the great markers of appreciation is meeting needs. How about a year's worth of automatic car washes, or four free oil changes? If your church can afford it, how about paying off one of his debts? Does he have any outstanding medical bills? Now this is one of the more difficult areas as pastors will not normally make much of their needs. Someone close to the pastor will need to feel this one out.

Another area of pastor appreciation can be taking the family out to dinner, or having them into you own home. The fellowship is often sweeter than any item.

Now much of what we think of when we talk about appreciation involves gifts. However, many pastors love experiences, kind words by letter, and time with people they love. Seek the Lord in this area, it could pay great dividends.

Let me emphasize that this should not be something just for the month of October. Real appreciation expresses itself in ways every week. Love your pastor, care for Him and God will care for you. Just as Rahab cared for the spies and David would not life his hand against God's anointed, you too will be blessed by any blessing you first give to your pastor and his family.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ray Boltz's Confession and its Effect in the Cornfield

This Week we learned that musician Ray Boltz had divorced his wife last year and has confessed that he is gay. I personally do not know Mr. Boltz, but have been the recipient of many distraught Christian’s remarks on his acknowledgment. Most are in mental shock over this story. Several can’t find how a man who has written “Thank You” and “The Alter” could hold such beliefs. Many are simply praying for him.

Now much research has been done on the subject of homosexuality and we could speculate why this situation is what it is. I want to fathom for a few moments, what we ought to consider in this situation.

First off, even adults should not have human heroes. I lost mine a few years ago when I read an autobiography of a man whom I had been entertained by in a long running television show. His life and language shattered the illusion of quality.

Second, we should fathom if we have played a part in this? What I mean by that is we give rise to a person’s pride when we idolize them and put them on a pedestal that only God should reside. If you look at the entertainment industry, there is an overstock of performers who have been pandered to that lack responsibility or character. I don’t believe they started out that way, but all in all the celebration of who they are by the adoring fans has corrupted them. They think they are a god and fans the acolytes.

Many in the past have gushed at Mr. Boltz’s abilities. Granted, he has written songs far better than I could, and sings much better. But I recall several people given to melodrama who almost fawn at the opening bars of Thank You or the mention of his name. To embellish a person, beyond encouragement, is giving them opportunity to stumble. Saul should have never been king. His pride welled up and it destroyed him. Romans one shows how our prideful thinking can usurp reason and lead us on a destructive path of life making God what He isn’t.

I am sure if I gave it the time I could find more things to learn from this event. They seem to happen with quite regularity. But in my pondering how to respond to my flock, it is imperative we also recognize our own sin. In media as in church discipline, the exposure of another’s sin should always remind us that we too are sinners, bound for God’s loving wrath apart from the cross. May we spend time on our knees, for as James teaches, we are all tempted in some form of lust.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Report from Kenya

Here are a few photos from Pastor John in Kenya!

Friday, September 5, 2008

One of my favorite activities is, The Business Meeting

Yes, I do love the business meeting. It used to be one of my least favorite activities, but one change in perspective has made all the difference.

At one point in ministry it seemed as each business meeting may be my last. Either I would quit or get fired. Things were horrible. But each time God got me through it. After one Sunday evening I went home and began the relaxation process. That is the process of letting things go and just letting your mind unwind. In particular, I used to paint in the basement with oils.

As I was painting a lighthouse from my imagination, I realized with great thankfulness the God was continually providing at every level. It may not have been at a pace I desired, but it was teaching me about God. I needed more time reflecting on Him and seeing His activity. This led to faith building and thankfulness, two essential parts of worship that quite frankly I had lost.

The next step in the heart change came in a friend’s news letter. In it they listed the praises for the month. It had answered prayer requests, unexpected blessings, and observations of truth in scripture. All in all these things were important to remember. But too easily they were forgotten. I needed a way to make the a matter that was to be recalled.

It was shortly after this that I heard Henry Blackaby (The Experiencing God guy) mention that he would have his church record such things in the minutes of the business meeting. What a great idea! This way the generations to follow would see the activity of God. It thwarts discouragement. It gives us a benchmark of where God has been working.

Soon afterwards I began this task. I have found it to be a great stimulant to the church body. Everyone now gets an e-mail reminder to send me their praises. For the noncomputer generation I remind them or this need from the pulpit. The response has been wonderful.

Since we begin our meetings reading correspondence, this sets the tone for all we are about to do. It empties selfishness. Faith in God is prominent over the strength of man. We tend to then have a God perspective on the use of money, time, and other resources. As a pastor I find it encouraging to hear of other blessings that thrill my heart. We become greatly united when we focus on God this way rather than on problems.

At the end of the year, usually the last Sunday night service of December, I reread all the praises of the year to remind us of the faithfulness of God. This in turn puts us in a worshipful mindset to give our hearts into the next year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Can We Know About God

>What we can truly know about God is through what He chooses to disclose to us. We must remember that as Isaiah teaches, “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are above our ways”. (Is 55:8&9) Thus when God communicates to us He speaks to those who are not God, and unfortunately sinners. We are unable to comprehend the magnitude of God. Most of us even are unable to operate the simplest of gadgets. So because we are not God and we are sinners our very reception of revelation is flawed. Keep this in mind. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can grasp some understanding, and often as in the parable of the seed and sewer we fail at receiving the word implanted. It is often snatched away or choked out.

One of the great issues we must reside in would be the sovereignty of God. It is God preeminence over all that makes being God possible. The Greek gods were all flawed and limited (imaginary too), but not Jehovah.

Another construct that many people have is that they make God in their own image. Or when faced with scripture, spoken by God, they can not accept what He has said and thusly they refuse to believe. Many want to perceive God as one whom they can comprehend and compartmentalize. Many are heaven laden with an idea of a God who is all love and no wrath. They make Him to be a kindly forgetful grandfather that passes over all wrongs. Thus look to say He is only love.

We must remember God is holy. His holiness thus dictates both His love and His wrath. Wrath defending His holiness and honorable name. Love with wrath because pure wrath is to be without love, we learn that without love we are nothing.

We also forget that we are sinners. We are the offenders unto God. He has no obligation to save us. We are not so loveable that He must save, all our righteousness is filthy menstrual rags. The Bible itself teaches that while we were yet sinners Christ did die for us. We were His enemy. We perpetrated all that is against His holy name.

Much of the misunderstanding of God today is the result of vending machine theology. Its of the over emphasis that God so loved the world, placing the emphasis on “the world” when the emphasis in upon God, as evidenced by whom is doing the action. We have made God in our own image.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ten Ways You Know You are Looking at a Bad Church.

Disclaimer: all of these things are true in some form or fashion.

The church calls you to come and preach, deliberates for two months, and then give you four days to pack and move.

Upon your first business meeting, you find that the vote to call you was actually twelve to nine.

Your job description includes mowing the lawn.

The offering plate repeatedly contains slot machine tokens.

Members of the church all have keys to the building, and the parsonage.

Classrooms were painted twenty years ago, and still are not finished.

You still don’t have a website.

The former pastor has left you several sheets of fine linen resume paper.

Copies of Watchtower magazine are in the church library.

Upon finally receiving a copy of the bylaws and constitution you realize that it is the twelfth copy from an old mimeograph.

Your church treasurer’s grandson has slot machine tokens.

You throw away copies of Watchtower magazine, only to find them reappear on the library shelf. Your only consolation is that no one reads.

You return from a mission trip to Mexico and a matriarch of the church asks “Pastor, were there many foreigners there?”

The former pastor still attends services.

The financial secretary counts the offering at home.

The good old days the members refer to were the days of the former pastor.

The baptistery is rusted out.

A staff/volunteer keeps threatening to leave, and never does.

Search committee personnel swear they will support you but all leave in the first six months.

Your best friends are outside the church.

You approach business meetings wondering if you will be voted off or if you still have the immunity idol.

Classroom blackboards are consistently found with cryptic messages of doom.

You have to have plainclothes policemen in your service, packing heat. These same policemen escort your wife and kids from the car to the sanctuary.

While in the interview process you call the local director of missions to inquire about the church, he says “Its got potential”!

Several pews are marked with doilies, quilts, pillows, and unread Bibles.

The search committee says they want a “young energetic pastor”.

Your deacons do nothing but give you projects.

Before the worship service you can find half your deacons smoking on the front porch.

In a preliminary interview the church tells you they have 400 members on roll. Upon arrival you look into the records to find that eighty of these members only have a first name listed and thirty others have been deceased for up to twenty five years.

Once you are moved in, the finance committee tells you that health insurance was not part of the package.

While cleaning out a closet you find Sunday school literature older that you are.

They will have a Vacation Bible School, but no one will teach children on Sundays.

People compare you to Joel Osteen.

Bullies, Thankfulness, and Other Tools in life

Bullies, Thankfulness, and Other Tools in life

It was the sixth grade. I had had enough. With all the makings for a classic Hollywood B movie the tension mounted like an over wound guitar string. Leaving the bus my nemesis awaited me. It was all over a football trading card, Mercury Morris to be exact. I don’t recall all the details, but I do remember a kid who outweighed me by 40 pounds flying through the air and knocking all my possessions to the ground. Books, trading cards, and pride were strewn about some neighbors lawn like crabgrass. The crowd disbursed and went home, show over. (I will add that a girl, a pretty girl, stole the culprit’s musical instrument and brought it to me to use as leverage, but I did not take advantage of the opportunity) For the next several years this opponent of mine would haunt me like acne. I daily cried out to God for protection, to move us to another town , or do anything possible to relieve me of this torment. But God kept me there and provided. This evil villain would not be the last bully I would face, but certainly he is the one who has caused the most grief. And for what knowledge I have, he is still the same type of person.

Growing up in life everyone faces some sort of bully. Even today you may have one in the workplace or a neighbor who uses intimidation to get their way. It’s a fact of life. No matter how many laws are passed or dodge ball classes cancelled, there will be bullies.

My life has had its share of bullies. Now I won’t name names here, for fear of being either seen as vindictive or gaining a lawsuit. (Attorney’s can be a form of legalized bullying, ha ha ) But I am sure you can follow along. And its true that in various forms of sarcasm I have engaged in tactics that have rebutted others, all of which I repent.

But a few years ago I faced bullies within the church. Intimidating people, gossips, backbiters, slanderers, the likes of which will not enter the gates of Heaven. It wasn’t a one incident deal. It seemed to take many forms. If you read my article on “Ten Ways You Know You Have A Bad Church” you will get a glimpse of what I am talking about. There even was a three week period wherein every devotional time I had seemed to revolve around God’s faithfulness in times of trouble. I was perplexed as to the extensiveness of what He was revealing. That is until a special called meeting was held one Wednesday night. You can guess what happened.

But in all that trouble, I was reminded by God of David being pursued by Saul. God revealed to me that He had carried me through bullies of all types. He had provided for every financial need in seminary. When I was lonely He was there to comfort. Not a single problem had ever surfaced that God did not provide for to His glory. It was then He opened my eyes to see that had it not been for the bullies I would have quit the ministry. But that daily endurance of oppression had made me trust in Him as my only hope.

James is true when he says to count it all joy knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance and a perfect result. Paul is dead on in Romans 8 when he reveals God’s working out difficulties to conform us to the image of Christ and that nothing will separate us from His love.

I am thankful now for the hardships through bullies I have faced. It has brought in me a desire to remain faithful, letting God be God and giving Him the glory.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Judgment and Eschatological Values (Sermon Notes)

>Judgment and Eschatological values

(Matthew 16:24-28)

Preface: These are simply a few of my notes from preaching last week. Not all that is here was said, and some things were added that did not make it into the notes.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:24-28)

Further passages on judgment

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37)

"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

(Matthew 12:30-37)

"I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.

(Daniel 7:9-10)

Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, "Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. "I thought, 'After she has done all these things she will return to Me'; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. "And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. "Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. "Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception," declares the LORD. And the LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. "Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, 'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD; 'I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,' declares the LORD; 'I will not be angry forever. 'Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,' declares the LORD. 'Return, O faithless sons,' declares the LORD; 'For I am a master to you, And I will take you one from a city and two from a family, And I will bring you to Zion.' "Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.

(Jeremiah 3:6-15)

We left off last week with the rich man and Lazarus as we discussed that Hell is a real place.

Luke 16:19-31 We have to all give an account one day.

Essentially there are two judgments

Judgment for the saved is a giving of an account and then eternal reward in the presence of god. Mt 5:12. Because we are rewarded for our good there, despite the bad, there is inequality in Heaven.

Those who are judged and are unsaved have no recourse. Their judgment is just and they receive damnation for their life.

What are the charges?

I have found a small example of specifics that God has warned us about for His judgments, specific characters that oppose Him.

  • Sin Gal 5:19-21
  • Words we have said Mt 12:26-27
  • False worship 10 commandments, Deu 11:16, Mt 15:9
  • Lack of spiritual power afforded to us, Mt 17:17 & 20
  • Heart attitudes, (anger, deceit, lust)
  • Harm to children as a stumbling block Mt 18:6
  • Idolatry 1 Sam 15:23, Col 3:4-6
  • Faithlessness Hos 10:2, Rom 1:17-18
  • Not being a watchman Eze 33:6
  • Unforgiveness Mt 18:34-35

Certainty of judgment

  • Psalm 1 Day of judgment
  • 2 Cor 5:10F “All appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
  • Rev 2:23 & 22:12 according to our deeds and reward everyone according to works.
  • Rom 14:12 Each shall give an account.
  • Rom 2:4-13 Synopsis of judgments
  • Mt 7:22-23 People cry out “Lord, Lord did we not….”
  • Is 64:4 “All our righteous works like filthy rags”
  • 2 Thess 1:8-10 Destruction of Unbelievers
  • Ps 58:11 “Surely there is a reward”
  • Is 40:10 Behold the lord comes with reward and recompense
  • Mat 5:12 Reward for the persecuted.
  • Mt 6:5 do not pray like the hypocrites to be seen by men.
  • Mt 10:42 Even a cup of cold water given does not lose sight as an act to be rewarded.
  • 1 Cor 3:8 Each receives a reward in accordance to their labor.
  • Rev 11:8 Rewarding both small and great
  • Rev 22:12 To render to every man what he has done.

Remember, salvation is by grace, but works are an evidence of the heart.

Who is heard by God and when?

The unrighteous are never heard by God until they repent. Ps 66:18, Rom 2:5, Rom 1.

Those who are near to God can call upon His name any time. Is 65:24, Rom 10:14

Those who have wandered away must first humble themselves, repent and seek Him to be heard again. 2 Chron 7:14 and Prodigal son story.

But we have a great hope in Christ, as God is a redemptive God.

Romans 8:29-end, Romans 8:1

Illustrated in a Parable

Lets look at Mt 18:15-20 as it deals with the unrepentant and 18:21-35 with the repentant.

Recall that binding and losing has to deal with the authority of the church and the mercifulness of the church.

So Mt 18 15-35 teaches on our being a redemptive people in light of the cross. That we make no small thing of sin, but by vs 18:33 & 35 we react to the repentant. We are to encourage repentance. The church teaches, thus binding sin and losing from sin in repentance. Thus judgment or access to God. The gospel message of the cross is the mission of the church. We are headed for destruction but in Christ we are saved, (Noah’s ark, sacrifices in the temple, Passover, Lord’s Supper, and baptism are teaching examples)

God is findable by those with a repentant heart. W must teach change through redemption in Christ. That we can be set free from sin and have a new nature (2 Cor 5:17) We help those habituated to sin as it is a character that hinders repentance. The long term effect of abiding in Christ is sanctification from believing in the promises of God.

We must also note that a worse condition befalls those who do not forgive. Remember the forgiveness factor in the Lord’s prayer.

So we must ask ourselves, What does Matthew 16:27 mean in light of the cross for living today?

We must live redemptively for the sake of others in the name of God. This is bearing the cross.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:11, Knowing the fear of the Lord…
  • Philippians 3 We press on to he upward call, the prize
  • Matt 25:21 Well done thou good and faithful servant.

It’s a decision that we must make and not turn back from.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

In The Thick of the Summer Slump

Every summer there comes a lull in enthusiasm in a small church that assails the future. Just like to lack of wind for sailors of old called the doldrums, it seems for pastors our winds of encouragement fail also. This goes deeper that the distractions of summer projects and baseball leagues. People are on vacation, the summer economy strikes at giving, and many are worn out after Bible School. I understand their temptations and duties. I am tired too. Seems Satan knows when we are at our lowest.

But alas, it’s a great time to wait upon God. Now mind you, I am a bit fidgety and do not speak as having attained some great plateau of peace. I am looking for it. I have several deadlines at present that I am even drawn to question if certain ministries are still within God’s plan for our church. But the truths that remain are
• God knows the circumstances
• God has solutions planned
• This is quite possibly more for my being built up in faith than in anything else.
• I need to remember all the other triumphs of the past, both Biblical and personal.

Now in a sense of what to do in the meantime, I need to keep in mind a few applications;
• Pray 1 Corinthians 10:13, God will not fail here.
• Look back at what He has been showing me in the scriptures these last few weeks, meditate on how they apply today in Cross Centered Living.
• Work with what He has given me, don’t pine for other pastures.
• Give glory to God. The glory is clearly seen in contrast to the desperation of the situation.
• Ask, Seek, Knock

George Muller did not become a stalwart man of prayer overnight. God worked in him beginnings of which he became a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. Methinks I shall do this. Be watching this blog for updates of the glory of God.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What have we come to?

Not much to say, but when a female can sing "I Kissed a Girl and I liked It" and it becomes a number one hit, something is radically wrong.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Restore, Revise, Refresh

Restore, Revise, Refresh

In a matter of time my family and I will be taking time to be together without the nuances of the urgent. I praise God for places of respite and retreat. It is good for a person to get alone with God. I recently have been enamored by how often in this country’s history God spoke to people when they went away, often for a walk in the woods, to be alone with Him. In a sense that is what we are about to do.

Annually we attend Family Camp. It’s a ministry of Life Action Ministries, at Years ago we attended one camp. It was unlike any vacation ever. We were weary physically, spiritually starved and struggling, and perplexed in the call. But the work of God in that time was what we often hunger for. As a matter of fact we skipped the next year and spent the summer lamenting over our poor decision to stay home.

We have learned a lesson. The family needs time together in the presence of seeking God. Disney is nice, but its no Family Camp. It’s a God centered experience that is much like the bread God gave Elisha that lasted 40 days.

Here are ten things I want to share as to why we go to camp.

1. It’s a spiritual marker. It brings to our hearts the blessings of God over the past year and promotes worship.

2. It restores our perspective on God and what matters most.

3. Camp affords us (Its also affordable) time together that we don’t often get in great amounts to go deeper with one another.

4. The example it give us and our kids brings great encouragement to live for Christ.

5. Opportunities are created for exploring the depths of our Christianity and maturity that otherwise are forgotten in the drone of life.

6. Hope for revival is always there. We always encounter people that are longing for God and revival in the land.

7. There is a refreshing perspective for humility. The conviction of sin and the grace of God are hallmarks of what this camp is about. It always takes a person from self centeredness to God centeredness. Much if this is exuded from the camp staff, their living out faith is always the greatest message.

8. Returning home you yourself carry back a fire that blesses others. You will ignite love within the church because of the sincere meeting you have had with God.

9. God will work through you to persevere. The sovereignty of God becomes evermore real and a doctrine for life.

10. There is transcendence. God is not boxed up. Family Camp opens spiritual eye to perceive a greater God that you had ever imagined before.

Folks, Family Camp is often booked full. If you can’t get in, pray they can expand. But reguardless of all your plans, always make time to be alone with God.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Can I Obey a God I Do Not Fear?

We wrestle spiritually. It’s a Biblical truth. I believe much of our wrestling is because we have wrong priorities and values. In junior high I longed for a Les Paul guitar. The price was astronomical. But I wanted one. It was that which would make me a rock star. It was a grail of achievement. It represented status, power, influence. It was a trophy to be won. (Sounds like idolatry, but that’s another blog) Well for Christmas a few years ago I got my Les Paul. Now it sits in a box. Rarely is it touched or used. It may not even know what being in tune is anymore. Let me suffice to say that once again the illusion of happiness has only served to revealed the futility of things of this world. One good point is, now I do not need to buy that Ferrari.

But this was a wrestle. I would see a Les Paul and drool. I would spend time thinking on how to achieve it. Other issues would be set aside in my pursuit. James puts it well, What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)

Problem is that so often in the Consumer Gospel people see God as a god of vending rather than vengeance. They do not fear God. So little today is preached on sin, and even less is the preaching of judgment. Without fear of God there is no wisdom, no recompense for sin, not woe of sin. Fearlessness in the vision of God leads to treating Him as a common buddy and irreverent worship. This is what C S Lewis would describe as perceiving God as an old grandfather.

Without a fear of God there is no motivation to pursue God. Think about this; prayer is taken out of school. Then the Bible supposedly becomes irrelevant to those being taught. Then God is forgotten and that leads to delineation from morals. Mind you with this vacuum created something winds up filling in, we call this every whim of doctrine. What you then have is chaos in the classroom as there is no enforceable morality and discipline is removed for personal preferences. Thus the education levels are eroded to why Johnny can’t read but he can use a condom. We live in a Midwestern state that threatens the employment of teachers if their kids don’t pass a state test. So all year long the kids are drilled to pass this one test, all at the expense of real education.

I could go on but I am sure that you get the point.

You could say this same experience is within the church. Our people are looking for just enough to get by. They want motivation, self esteem enhancement, friends, music they like without words affecting them, All that matters is in the end that they pass the test. Jesus warned of this in Matthew 7, how at judgment the “faithful in things” would be absent from true saving relationship.

We need to know God. To know Him is to fear Him. The fear of God will also produce a love for God. I believe that as I read the old testament and see His wrath, and the wrath to come, that I have a thankful heart for a God who hates sin so deeply. It opens my eyes to His holiness. I gain glimpses of Him that bring my soul to worship.

There is much to be said of the Old Testament and its worship. We must not be so pharisaical as to say we would not have made the same mistakes as the Hebrews. For God does wonders around us all the time that are to hold us fast, and in this age we have the Holy Spirit. Those who worshipped God in the OT took time to be holy. They celebrated the history of God in festivals and they kept the Sabbath holy. They feared God such that their lives saw that everything was done to the glory of God.

So I ask, Can we worship a God whom we do not fear?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Should a Christian be Bored

Should a Christian be bored?

Last week I went out to visit a man who had visited our church. I received the directions to his place and proceeded the drive out into the country. It may have been the distraction of reading signs or whatever, but we arrived we were immediately awestruck at what we saw when we exited the car. All around us to the horizon were trees. Between us and the trees, freshly cut hay over 195 acres worth, with about 300 cattle grazing under an azure sky. The sun was at that point that things were golden and the clouds highlighted with areas of darkness and brilliant white. It was better than high definition TV. Awe and wonder filled my heart.
Boredom is a state of being tired mentally, but we ought to condition ourselves in meditation of God to have a continual sense of awe and wonder at God around us. Nature is better than a TV.

We often equate boredom with lack of peace. Without Christ as our focus emotions do run. With Christ we should never be bored but fascinated with the Glory of God.

The peace of God comes. Faith in Him is applied to us and it works a humbling within us that we joyfully accept.

Its true we often fight against boredom with entertainment (ask any little boy who’s sitting in a corner) America is the land of the greatest boredom and yet filled to capacity with entertainment devices. What is sad is the American Gospel of affluence has captivated the world in that they want what we have. We are the world leader in distractions. What if America had propagated the True Gospel?

We are distracted from the real issues of the heart. We explain away the awe and wonder of God with pseudoscience. Emotions are labeled by psychologists as brain chemistry. Sin is labeled a sickness remedied by greater self esteem, (read that gasoline on a flame)

The solution is the abiding in Christ. This gives us God’s perspective. Remember, we can’t expect to see God if we are serving two masters, such as self or sin. The Pharisees of Matthew 16 were of a wicked and adulterous generation that could not discern what was going on about them. Sin impairs our peace in that we can’t gaze upon God spiritually.

Seeking God is never boring, but a fulfillment of the joy for which we are created.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Deeper Thoughts Than I

I have been reading Thomas' book The Imitation of Christ. Here are a few quotes that I hope will spur us to persevere.

Why do you look for rest when you were born to work? Resign yourself to patience rather than to comfort, to carrying your cross rather than to enjoyment.

What, indeed, gives more trouble and affliction than uncontrolled desires of the heart?

Many often err and accomplish little or nothing because they try to become learned, rather than to live well.

Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give up our opinions for the blessings of peace.

Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.

The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways.

There is adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is.

He who does not overcome small faults, shall fall little by little into greater ones.

To glory in adversity is not hard for the man who loves, for this is to glory in the cross of the Lord. But the glory given or received by man is short lived.

He indeed, is not worthy of the sublime contemplation of God who has not been tried by some tribulation for the sake of God.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kenya Update

Dear Brother Pastor Pinkley, Sister Kari and sister Tiffany!!
I am so glad and thankful to you all for your prayer support for me to get a bicycle to give me an easy transportation from one place to another to reach many souls with the word God to be healed, saved and delivered from the bandage of Satan and from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God!!
Please receive the attachment of my picture and a bicycle and my back with bible inside on the bicycle!!
And the other picture is I and the pictures of the orphans standing by their uniforms and carrying their bags with schoolbooks. These orphans I’m taking them to the school where they are learning through the help of sister Kari and pastor pinkely church members’ supports!!
I am very glad to get this bicycle and I am still on my knees praying for more and more blessings for all the children who contributed for the bicycle!!
May God bless you all always so that you would send also motorcycle for more easier work for the ministry.
Yours with love and prayers,
Pastor John Kaoto.a

Thursday, May 22, 2008

For Days ....

For Days….
For days the tyranny of the urgent has been knocking at my door. Even this morning at the dawning hours someone came to the church with “business”. And that is how it always will be. There shall constantly and consistently be “beggars for bread” and I have little to feed with at this point.

My greatest need in this hour is to be fed myself. For days it seems I have not dined on the word, only snacked. One night it is only 3 hours of sleep, then one day its meetings. I often arise and set about to nourish my spirit in the Word but even I am a distraction to myself.

The solution is Christ. It is begging Him to do what I can not. It is also a denial of self (indulgence) to develop a habit and character of constantly choosing Him above all else. Some days are obviously harder than others.

So here I write, when maybe I should be reading. But I write from a heart that is being filled with the glory of God. So I am being fed. Coming to mind are His words that I have memorized. The eyes given to me are beholding a beautiful vision of the present sunrise that turns the stormy sky a cobalt blue and the cornfields aglow. Even the scent of the air gives expression of God’s glory.

Though no one may ever read this blog entry, as a tree falls in the forest with no one around may God be pleased with this sound that is for Him alone.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Right Values and Perspective Get Us To The Finish Line

Right Values and Perspective Get Us To The Finish Line
Its well known that even Spurgeon had fits of depression in which he languished. Several of we pastors have had the doldrums at times. I personally have caused my wife no small sense of foreboding in the ministry as at times I truly have wanted to give up. There have been days that if a good job had made itself available I would have quit and moved on.

But the call of God is irrevocable.

So What has turned me around?
First off, let me set the stage. It had been an incredibly hard year. Even worse that previous dealings with embezzlers, liars, and cultists. People were quitting their positions left and right, walking away from the church and God. To this day many of those have never returned. God used that situation to break me. They could quit and thus dishonor the Lord, but could I? Would I really want to live the rest of my life and stand before God with the turning away from Him on my record? Quitting says "God was wrong, God could not keep His promises".

So quitting is not an option. "God will supply all my needs" kept coming to mind. I then began as directed by God to search the scriptures and list promises for His glory. Mind you I was not looking for promises unto me, but those things by which God has said He would stand by and honor in respect to His name and glory. There are a multitude of these in every book of the Bible. But I can clearly say that Romans 8 became my hallmark. God took pity upon me and made that chapter real. It was not just words on a page or intellect, but it was reality for every situation. I could hurl no excuse, lament no problem, I was set free to give everything up to God and let Him bear the burden. What freedom that is.

Let me encourage you, seek the Lord as I did, asking Him to give His perspective and make the scriptures real. So often we read the Bible as to what’s in it for us, but its meant to be read to look at God.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Musings About Persevering Alongside My Wife

Musings About Persevering Alongside My Wife

In all the struggles I have had to deal with in ministry, no one person this side of Heaven has helped me more than my wife. Now God will send along people from time to time who are given for the moments need. However, no one can surpass God’s plan for perseverance in the ministry that the pastor’s wife as a paraclete.

That being said, the marriage of a pastor ought to be of utmost importance. It should follow the joy of the quiet time. Now I am not a perfect husband, but what follows are a few items that have solidified our marriage and added to perseverance in the hardest of times.

Daily have time to talk uninterrupted at levels of planning, rejoicing, learning, and intimacy. Planning means we go over schedules and calendars, concrete things as well as tentative plans.
Rejoicing gives each of us an opportunity to share what wishes for the day and experiences we have had that were significant to us.
Learning gives each of us an opportunity to discover something new as well as teach form our perspective. This is often sharing of scripture and updating one another on the kids.
Intimacy deals with the emotional levels and struggles of life. It also is a time to share wishes and desires.

Pray with your wife. Make it real prayer too. This leads to inspiration and meditation. It lets God bring solutions as Truth that sets us free.

Get her perspective. Wives often have what I call “Radar”. They can pick up on things and perspectives of people and situations that we men can not fathom. They are usually right.
Often let your wife set the pace. I am headstrong and rust to fix everything. Often my wife will give caution to not react till morning. Heeding this advice has saved me from many sorrows.

If my wife gives me a scripture there is usually good reason. I may not need it in that moment, but I will certainly need it before the week is over.

Keep her #2. Nothing will bring perseverance in your ministry like perseverance in your marriage. Without the home following God, we are unfit for ministry. Honor God by honoring the wife of your youth and you will find unhindered access to God.

A Character of Love. If you truly love your wife, your actions will form habits, those form character, and thusly you will have a heart of true love. Much has been written about love languages and such. These have great insights, but give your wife love as Christ loved the church, and your ministry will persevere.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cross Centered Living

Cross Centered Living

In the next few weeks I will be finishing my set of sermons working through the Sermon on the Mount. We will then begin in Matthew 16. The next Matthew passage takes us through several hard questions to apply to our life. The context of it all is the denial of self, the taking up of the cross, and following Jesus. Our church stands at a great moment to be doing so. For even if we are but a match light in a dark cave, we will bring illumination. Not it is the work of God, not of ourselves. But even though the times are dark, we by contrast can show live giving light.

So this list below is a compilation, though not exhaustive, of questions that call us to persevere. As a pastor my doubts and issues must all be held against the cross. If we look at the assailments against us and the daily grind of original sin we can have a much greater perspective on that grace that has been bestowed.

Enjoy the list……..

Cross centered living………
Involves our thinking, what do we think about and to what depth
What values do we have?
What do we consider frivolous.
How different are we from the world?
What power is in our life as it relates to waiting upon God for Him to move and not for our manipulation of situations?
Given that the cross deals with sin, what sanctification is evident in my life? What sin do I long to rid myself of?
What brings me joy?
What moments with God have I cherished?
Name the references of scriptures that guide your heart? If you live by them you will have a kinship with them.
Since I bear the cross, denying self and following Him? Where has He led me and through what trials? What have I learned of Him in my trials that is unforgettable? How was I changed?
How have I denied self? Or what have I given up to gain Christ?
What do we allow into our lives and what do we pour out?
How often do we seek change?
How often can we point to change happening?
Where is my free time spent?
To where does my mind wander?
What is my hope for the future?
What goals do I have? Are they cross centered?
Have I ever taken a stand in the world to speak out against sin? Have I squelched gossip?
Do I Berean my advisors or take everything as gospel?
What is my language like?
Do I understand what it is to worship?
Do I regularly give God glory and credit?
Do I rejoice at righteousness?
Do I desire that others advance just as long as I advance too?
What is my prayer life like? What do I ask for?
What do I do when it comes to repentance?
How often am I at peace?
What is the Sabbath day in my life as compared to scripture?
What entertains me?
What educates me?
If asked, what verse dominates my current thought life?
What investment am I making into the life of my family?
What investment am I making into the life of someone outside my family?
Have I sacrificed?
What pains have I bore and kept silent about a s to not exalt self?
Are the songs I am moved by man or cross centered?
Have I glorified Christ by leading others to faith in Him? How often?
Am I more concerned about His name or someone’s feelings getting hurt?
How easily swayed am I?
What authors have I cherished and how did they finish the race?
Do I find tithing an issue of difficulty?
Do I sacrificially give, expecting no return, and find it pleasing?
Do I limit God by agreeing to act a certain way only if circumstances are favorable?
Have I persevered?
In what way?
Was my perseverance temporary or long term?
Have I understood Foxe’s Book of Martyrs?
Do I have a heart for the persecuted church?
How much time to I give to prayer?
How much time to I give to reading His Word?
What did the preacher preach on Sunday?
What did I teach my children last week?
Do I look forward to Sunday?
How do I show it on Saturday?
How have I trusted my Lord by honoring my pastor?
What was the last lesson God taught me?
What was the last thing God told me to do?
How do I know His voice?
What lengths have I gone to to hide His word in my heart?
What else is in my heart?
To whom have I sought forgiveness?
Where have I ever made restitution?
What does my schedule reveal?
What are the heart plans of my retirement?
Have I ever said “No Lord”?
Do I obey?
Could my children point out that I say one thing and do the opposite?
Can my spouse or children reveal that I act a particular way when people are looking at me and another at home?
What would embarrass me if it were found out?
Knowing Christ, what of my past would I have done differently?
How and I living differently now?
How am I discipline others not to make the mistakes I have made?
Do I call sin as sin, or is it a mistake, problem, ongoing temptation, or other watered down name?
How is my self esteem?
Can you justify self esteem and denial of self?
What do you do with compliments?
What “trophies” do you display?
How long do you spend time in prayer? How deep do yours prayers go before it is time to stop?
Have you skipped meals to spend more time in bible study or prayer?
What keeps you home from church and fellowship with the brethren?
When at home, what do you do?
Where has your computer been to on the internet?
Do you fear God? In what way?
Do you fear death?
What do I complain about?
How often do I complain and what form does it take?
Am I a master at acting before men?
Do I keep on even when I don’t feel like it?
Whom do I aim to please?
Am I dissatisfied with the amount of worship I am involved in?
What awes me about God?
How do you actively love your enemies?