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)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My One Resolution for 2012: Holiness

As I have spent the last several weeks ruminating about the
accomplishments, the position, and future of my life. After some 40+ years,
like many men, I forecast and speculate that I have much to answer to God
for. Many men of my age hit a mid life
crisis and play the “Woulda, Shouldda, Coulda game”. This is that depressing period of life where
they look back at the glory days of high school and wonder “Why did I not
conquer the world, achieve my dreams, or stand above all others”? It is a terrible bog to wallow in.

Personally, I find myself thinking about standing before God
is judgment, wondering what I have to show for my Christian walk. I have missed so many opportunities. I have read countless books and failed to
heed the warnings within. Though I have
grown and have had some great highlights, I am starving for more of God and
want to gain many more wins in my struggle against all forms of worldliness
(read that sin). So over the last
several weeks I have been seeking God for a definitive direction. I believe
that God has clearly provided me with a compass through the scriptures.

The answer to all my dilemmas is the pursuit of
holiness. Consider it a personal
striving for personal revival. I want
this. I want it greater than
anything. In reflecting over my life
from earliest memory to the finish line of life that I want to be able to
cross, Holiness is the key.

Therefore, I would like to share with you my reasoning for
why holiness will be my objective of 2012.
These are thoughts that are forming within me a renewed way of thinking
about life and the opportunities that God will allow this year.

Holiness is the only fitting response to trials. James and Colossians talk of working out and
being sanctified in trials. It adds much
to our lives by de-cluttering our thinking and our heart. Holiness is what causes us to count it all
joy when we face trials, for we are thankful for the perfection it moves us

In all things we are to glorify God. If God is not honored by the prayers of one
who cherishes his sin, then He is not honored by the acts or works of someone
who is not holy. (PS 66:18, Col 1:10, 3:17) Repentance and scripture application play a
huge role in the sanctification of the soul.

Worship requires a holy preparation. I have spent a lot of time considering the
tabernacle and the things that went into its daily service. This leaves me convicted that my worship
should be first met with preparation in a solemn way. I should never casually or flippantly regard
the name of God or my opportunities to meet with Him.

If I am holy I spend less time correcting the sins of others
and place that resource on my own sanctification. True, I am to be my brother’s keeper and to
shepherd the flock, but I must do so without any beams or planks in my eye to
help them remove their specks of sawdust.
Along those lines, If I am seeking to be holy myself, I am putting my
efforts into someone I can do something about rather than not. This should produce humility. It also causes me to experience the struggles
and exertion required to walk closer with God.
Therefore, I am better able to help others in this same pursuit without
dispensing pat “Sunday School” answers to problems like pray, repent, read your
bible, and go to church.

Holiness provides a distinction apart from the world. It causes us to abide in Christ and to
therefore be at peace and produce spiritual fruit. Being separate from the world is an act of
worship. It also fulfills the admonishment
to let our light shine before the world and do our good acts that they would
praise our Father.

Jesus said to be holy because He is holy. This alone is the foundational reason for a
child of God to seek holiness. Putting
to death sin is a grand honor unto God.
It is a choosing of all He is above all the temptations and offerings of
the world. (Lev 20:7, 1 Peter 1:16)

D. L. Moody once said “The world has yet to see what one man
completely sold out to God can be used for”.
And I wish to echo the truths of revivals of old, without holiness no
one will see the Lord.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reading Other's Resolutions in the News

Last night I read an online survey about new years
resolutions. A local news agency had
placed upon their website the question; “What are you going to try to do
differently in 2012”? Participants were
allowed to leave their actual resolutions rather than check off boxes with
suggestions. Aside from the rabble of
rude bravado of some, several responses interested me in their sincerity. The most poignant resolve for next year was
“I am going to try to go to church more”.
This came up at least a third of the time.
In a day and age that seems to be losing its spirituality,
this news comes as a form of hope. What
I see being revealed is that there are genuine folks out there that see the
need for attending church, and I hope for worship. The apparent growth of assaults against
Christianity in the workplace, schools, and media are really nothing new. We just seem to hear of them more because of
the rapid communication devices of the day, and because the news media can
evoke an emotionally charged story.
But as the called people of God, let’s take this good news
as a sign for action. Like a new gym
membership, January may be the month they make the effort to go to church. Make every effort to personally connect with
the new faces. The church is called to come
to these folks and aid them in the underlying motivation for attending
church. That would be, meeting the
hunger of the spirit. Only we can
provide them with spiritual food that satisfies. Let’s feed them the Bread of Life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glory, Wonder, Treasure

The evening was cool as the first few stars began to shine. A thin wisp of red loomed to the west as Joseph laid a branch and straw upon the fire. Mary’s contractions were getting stronger. Oh how she longed for Elizabeth her cousin to be there. For nine months she had endured the physical and emotional pains of the pregnancy. Worse than the aches, the morning sickness, and even the journey to Bethlehem, were the thorns of ridicule she had endured. Having returned from the hill country to Nazareth she was pregnant. Her parents ostracized her. Friends became fountains of ridicule. Some would not even sell to her in the market place. She had to draw water alone. Joseph at first considered divorce, but God intervened. Because of the angel speaking to Joseph as he had to her, her marriage would last. Each painful infliction was driving them closer to each other. At least in him she had comfort.

As the contractions increased, Joseph went to get help.

Just a few miles away the pastures of the lower hills saw the shepherds bringing their flock into the pens for the night. The stone walls were short but tall enough to protect from beasts and wind. These fields were home. It was all they had and even this did not belong to them. They were despised by society as thieves and liars. The property they would look after was not even their own. Because of their reputation they constantly had to give an account for their efforts. It was a life of one day resembling the other without hope for anything better.

Mary twisted in agony. With a huge sigh, Anna the only woman who would help Joseph announced “You have a son”. She laid him on Mary’s chest. Mary relaxed as her husband dobbed her brow with cool water. Looking into each others eyes, they shared both compassionate peace and an abounding excitement. This had been the hardest three months of their entire lives, and now they praised God for all they had experienced. Joseph placed his hand upon the boy and prayed.

A brilliant light shown just in front of Andrew, son of Matthias. It immediately sent him into a defensive retreat. The angel compassionately announced, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord”. Awestruck, the others awoke and looked upon this visitor.

As Gabriel was speaking, the heavens burst into a brilliant hue of pure white. He shared that they were invited to go and see the child. He would be found in a pen, lying in a manger, wrapped in cloths as was the custom. Suddenly as if they could not longer refrain from speaking, an angelic shout was made announcing the glory of God. Though Gideon and his men had shouted and won victory over the Midianites, this shout declared victory over the curse upon mankind.

As Mary leaned against a pile of hay she ate her first bit of food in several hours. Anna had gone to tend to her home and just she and Joseph cared for the child. Joseph stood and took the child from Mary to lay him in the only safe bed they could create, an old discarded wooden trough. “Sleep now Mary, get your rest” Joseph said. She lay there trying to rest, and through closing eyes saw Joseph, kneeling at the manger, arms outstretched, and weeping as he prayed.

It was then six of them stumbled into the corral. Dressed in various pigments of brown, these shepherds were gasping for breath and excitedly talking, regardless of turn. Speaking to Joseph, they told of the angel and the message they had been given. Then casting their glance to Mary they asked forgiveness for intruding. “But, may we please see the child”, Andrew said.

Joseph again placed baby Jesus upon the lap of Mary. It seemed as if time stopped. No one spoke and a hush fell upon this solemn night. Thoughts raced through the minds of the shepherds as they wondered about all that had happened that night. Was this truly the Messiah, the chosen one of God? How could this little child ever throw off the bonds of Rome and fulfill all that God had promised Father Abraham? Their concentration was broken by the bleating of a small yet pure year old lamb which they offered as a gift.

The visitors said their farewells and departed for the fields. They were simply struck with awe and wonder. Yet Mary pondered as now Joseph slept, this was to be a treasure that would carry her through for eternity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Ten Best Books I read in 2011

The Ten Best Books I read in 2011

(In no particular order)

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul Tripp

20,000 Legues Under the Sea, Jules Verne

Warnings to the Churches, J C Ryle

Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin

Holiness, J C Ryle

Just the Way I Am, Krista Horing

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Waterson

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, John Piper and Justin Taylor

Lectures to my Students, C H Spurgeon

Practical Religion, J C Ryle

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blue Christmas

Today is a day of prayer.

Over the last 48 hours I find that God keeps bringing me to pray for several who are facing their first Christmas without a mom, dad, or spouse. I think of Diane, Scott, Wanda, Greg, Gary, and others. I rememer how Jesus was often moved with compassion. I pray for that same compassion to be felt within the heart for these saints.

Also I am compelled as others may have lost someone in recent years and are still saddened by the loss.

Though not a family member, I lost a significant friend this year also. She was 99. We won't be caroling at her house this Wednesday. Nor will she greet us with cookies right from the oven.

I am also burdened to pray for and encourage many whom are battling cancer, facing the season of giving without anything to give due to job loss, and those who struggle in difficult divorce situations.

But I can offer hope. For this is a season about birth. It is about all things new. It is a season to remember the covenant of God through His Son. As my son Ben and I were talking last night, this world is a world of great pain. Because of sin and separation from God, no one goes for long without scars and wounds. These truths are painful. Yet our hope is not here. Our hope lies in the Peace announced by the angels. That though we were captives, Christ can set us free. And one day, a glorious day, all this suffering will be past. I will see grandma and grandpa again. Grace will be seen in its true value. I will relish in the joy that God has made up for me the wrongs that I inflicted upon others. I will never again be separated from God and the gospel will have been fulfilled.

Though we suffer now, for a little while in comparison, we have this hope, His name is Immanuel. God is with us.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Pastor's Wife in Persevering

In honor of my wife loving me, and celebrating over eighteen years of marriage, I wanted to repost this article from a while back.

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.
  • Scripture. 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.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting the Most Out of Christmas

Dearest Saints of HSBC,

I am at my desk today and working through my annual desire to get the most out of Christmas. Often I find myself wanting to provide for my family and others in ways that would make Christmas extra meaningful for them. As I have been praying today and pondering how to present Christ this season, God has hit me hard. Over the last 24 hours I have encountered people and stories of pain, hurt, and rejection. May "Dreams" have been cruelly dispersed. Christmas can be a difficult time. Many I know are out of work. Some are facing the first season of holidays without their long time spouse. And God is speaking to me. Today I am finding power in prayer for these friends. God has enabled me to talk to some, others text, and to be an encouragement. This is the church being the church. Will you join with me in a few things...
  • Spend extra time with folks and seek their prayer needs. Sincerely pray with them.
  • Be open to God's promptings of the spirit to encourage others.
  • Send me your prayer needs. ( I do love to pray for you all. I regret that there seems to never be enough time for fellowship. It is in fellowship that we bond and support. So please let me know how I can pray for you this Christmas season.
  • Lastly, please let me know what God is working in your life and through scripture. Are you taking the challenge to share the gospel by January 27th?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I Find Myself Supporting Tim Tebow

After all my years of teaching my kids why they should not to idolize athletes, musicians, actors, and any other celebrity I find myself “supporting” Tim Tebow. For years I have been thankful for many Christians in the public spotlight, Kurt Warner, John Rhyes Davies, Phil Vischer, George Bush, and only a thimble full of others. And when I say thankful I wish to imply that I have a joy to hear of them sticking to Christ as their hope and joy in the public spotlight.

But, in an awkward sense I am finding myself on the Tim Tebow bandwagon. I am not a football fan, but I am a great fan of not compromising your love relationship for Christ for a few dollars or the spotlight. Over and over I have been disappointed, disillusioned, and just plain dissed by those who say they love Jesus and then accept sponsorships by Budweiser or take on character roles that degrade the personhood of their Savior. (Alas my Devil’s advocate friends will have a few things to say about where a person is in their walk and how I ought not to judge. But we can handle that topic in another post. Let me suffice to say, love sinners, even Christian ones, but don’t take lightly the Name of God.)

Tim has set a great track record thus far. I n many ways I believe that I would have faltered where he has stood strong. There are Tim Tebow haters on Facebook. Websites abound producing false gossip and counterfeit photos. Many of the sports headlines are twisted just enough to create doubt to his character. He is under an attack by the world in ways that I myself am not prepared to stand strong against.

And through it all, Tim seems to handle public pressure well. And that is why I am supporting Him. My support is through prayer. It also involves not listening to gossip, nor making him out to be what he is not. Tim is just a fellow Christian. He is not a “Superstar” or some other fantasy figure. What I believe he is though is someone who is committed to Christ and taking an opportunity to not be ashamed of His Christianity when given the chance to glorify God. We all can attain to that victory.

So when I pray for Tim, I pray that he perseveres. I pray he does not succumb to the hype of his fans or the urges of his handlers. I pray that he remain humbly fearful of God, bold and wise in witness. I pray he has wisdom for each trial and learns to count it all joy, and that the office he holds does not become a burden.

Here is a link that illustrates what I am sharing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sermon Notes for Sunday: Getting more out of the Christian life by letting experiences and words sink into our ears

Sermon Notes for Sunday November 27th

Saints and friends, As I try to do from time to time, I attempt to provide you with my rough notes for the day's sermon. Often the actual message diverges from the notes to some degree. But as always I am providing you with these as a means of being a tool for your own study during the week. REMEMBER: God tests us weekly on what was preached in the Sunday sermon. It is our choice to participate in preparation through the worship service. And, as always, I pray we all have a victorious week.

Getting more out of the Christian life by letting experiences and words sink into our ears. Luke 9:37-45

Today is our last in our study of Luke till after Christmas. For December, I hope to go deep with the meaning of Christmas in a short series of messages. Then, Lord willing, we will take on a short series at the beginning of the year as to the Basics of Being a Church. This will be from Romans.

Last time we encountered the Mount of Transfiguration. The point that Peter and the others were to get was “This is My Son, My Chosen One, Listen to Him!”

Now the text Luke 9:37-45 Story telling mode

This is a dynamic situation. Many had heard about Jesus, now they could see Him


  • Jesus
  • Peter James John
  • Other disciples
  • Father
  • Possessed son
  • The gathering crowds

The disciples could not cast out the demon, even though a few weeks prior they had been able. (Matthew reveals that this one required prayer, which is another sermon altogether)

Jesus notes and expresses pointed things

  • This is a faithless generation
  • It is a twisted generation
  • “How long am I to be with you and to bear with you?”

The crowd wanted a show. They want to be amazed. They were missing the person of Christ and looking for a show.

Jesus rebukes the evil spirit

Jesus heals the boy.

Jesus restores him to his father

The result is that all were astonished at the majesty of God. It took the sight of something spectacular. They were surface level people. This is not faith. They were not awed by Jesus, only by what He could do for them.

You can see this often in people’s prayer. They ask God for things, they thank God for things, but they rarely do they worship God or embrace the awe of God for God just being who He is. Yes there is a connection of being and action. However, too often we dwell on the stuff and not on the person. For Christmas to be Christmas we must steep ourselves in the person of Immanuel.

EXAMPLE Jerry prayer story: challenging congregation to praise God for being God. To pray and not ask, but to dwell on the person of God. This is where love works. It isn’t about the gift, but about the holiness of the giver.

Notice, while this is going on Jesus pulls the disciples into a teachable moment.

Let these words sink into your ears.

Son of man to be delivered into the hands of men.

· Even though the crowd marvels, one day they will turn on Him. Their praise is as deep as their entertainment.

· Failure to know Him is failure to go deep.

· The common man fails to be in wonder of God unless there are miracles and evidences to prod them on.

The disciples did not understand

The meaning was concealed from them, by God, that they might not perceive it. (That the Son of Man is to be delivered)

They were afraid to ask.

· When we don’t understand we must seek out the answers.

· God, in His time gives answers. He gives the picture to go along with the pieces of the puzzle.

What happens each time Jesus tells of His death?

  • They rebuke Him
  • They don’t understand
  • They do not ask
  • They handle things from a fleshly viewpoint.

By asking and seeking (Matthew 6:33) we shift from a flesh standpoint to a Holy Spirit standpoint. We must make the effort. In the same way we must ask of God to reveal Himself in our own life situations. This is to His glory and your love.

EXAMPLE: My family went to a lighthouse on vacation. You can choose to remain on the ground and "be in awe". (Fleshly) OR you can ascend to the top and be in awe. (Spirit) Do we choose a ground worldly perspective or choose to seek out God's viewpoint?

Remember as I shared last Christmas: Shepherds marveled, but Mary Treasured.

Here is the point:

Jesus is God’s Son, His Chosen One. We too must listen to Him.

We must Let these words sink into our ears. (Spiritually)

The Holy Spirit rewards with revelation those who abide and seek Him first.

This is the only way to grow and to not be like the crowds, but to be a disciple.

Every thought, every decision, every bit of thankfulness, of awe, of wonder, of science, of economics, of personal relationships, of raising your kids to be adults, of dad’s being courageous, of “Tim Tebowing” is the disciples joy, their love for God in action that fulfills the purpose of life.

We truly were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanksgiving with “the Indians”?

When I think of the first thanksgiving I dwell on the wonderful blessings of God’s providence. In that celebration feast the “Indians” came to the pilgrims to feast over three days. God was glorified. The Indians were honored for their service to these newcomers, and a precedent was born.

This Saturday my family and I get to have our turn at one of several “Thanksgiving” meals we will soon celebrate. Over the years we have adopted several international students who attend the local college. Often they visit us at home, come to the kids basketball games, and are included in many of our family events. Saturday we will find ourselves sharing the story of the pilgrims with Nigerians, Ethiopians, and Indians, as well as students from Viet Nam, the Philippines, and Dubai. By the way, the Indians are actually from India, not North America.

The students love this meal. Before we dine, we take time to share the story and meaning of Thanksgiving. We also share around the table what we are thankful for. Then my wife, a Tennessee gal, serves us some southern cooking. We will have turkey, real cranberry sauce (Not can shaped), biscuits, and a huge favorite with those from India, gravy! There will also be pumpkin pie and the students all time delight, sweet potato casserole, heavy on the marshmallows.

I get excited at our family’s turn in playing host to folks far from home. In many ways it is like the first Thanksgiving. There is an essence of glorifying God by involving our lives for the gospel benefit of others.

As a sad postscript, none of our friends from India were able to make it to the meal. However, we were thrilled to add a student from Hong Kong. I had originally written this article some days ago, and the essence is still worth posting. My thought remains, “if God has commanded us to go to the nations and share, if they are in our back yard we ought to invite them on in”. Thus I write to encourage you, reach out to those who are different, those who are from other lands, do this to the glory of God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thought of the day

"When a person’s tongue is extensively wrong, it is absurd to say that their heart is right." ~ J.C. Ryle

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blog articles I need to write……

I have been busy with school, and celebrating my wife's birthday. Added to that is the beautiful weather these weeks that has afforded time with my kids at the par 3 golf course. In the mean time I have been crock potting a few ideas of things I want to blog about. Hopefully in the weeks coming I will actually write these posts. In the time between, please ruminate on these topics.

Title: The Problem with Youth Ministry Today.

Gist: The problem lies in the thought that youth ministers are to train our kids. This is an abandonment of the biblical command for parents to train their children. Youth ministries are a supplemental reinforcement not a means.

Why I have not written it yet: I struggle to find the right balance of understanding.

Title: Why I wear a suit

Gist: How I dress ought to reflect my respect of God.

Why I haven’t written it: I don’t want to come across as condemning others. This is just a personal preference I enjoy and have thought through.

Title: How to Work October, Pastor Appreciation Month

Gist: Make the whole month an encouragement for the entire pastoral family.

Why I haven’t written it yet: I would all too easily come across as fishing for favors.

Title: How I do my Personal Bible Time

Gist: I want to provide mechanical helps for folks in their study time.

Why I have not written it yet: Some areas are inconsistent.

Title: Perseverance in the Old Testament

Gist: How God enabled leaders in the Old Testament not to quit

Why I have not written it yet: My understanding is too limited

Title: Perseverance in the New Testament

Gist: How God enabled people in the New Testament not to quit

Why I have not written it yet: The answer is so vast it would become a book. Hummm perhaps I ought to……(I am actually working on this one)

Title: My Personal Choice of Internet Filter: And why you should use it too.

Gist: It only makes good protective sense to have not only a computer filter but a whole house filter.

Why I have not written it yet: No time.

Title: In an Age of Pop Music Why am I becoming a Fan of Classical?

Gist: Having once been “addicted” to rock music God is creating in me a sense of the beauty of Classical music that I never thought I could have.

Why I have not written it yet: My lack of knowledge in this area is a stumbling block. I want to be informative as well as creating a desire in folks to give The Classics a try.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What I Pray for When I pray For Our Church

Have you ever wondered about your pastor’s prayer life? Have you ever wondered what does he pray about most often for us? Maybe you have heard him pray and it sounds different than anything you have ever heard. Do you know he is at church praying and desire to know how he can pray for so long or why he seems to just know what to pray? His prayers will give a grand outline to the question of his heart’s desire for the church. Paul in writing to the Colossians has been my inspiration. For many years now I have taken a personal directive to pray specifically according to a prayer that Paul himself prayed for these beloved people. He shares this prayer with the church by writing,

Col 1:9-14 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul’s pastoral heart has sparked my heart in ministry. Often one of my greatest joys is praying through the church directory. I also have on my desk a stack of index cards. These cards have the handwritten prayer requests of several members here. And I can not forget Facebook. When I check my account I often have “real time” news of what the saints are going through. Each of these venues provides me with opportunities to pray specifically. I can therefore imagine Paul, receiving news by a messenger of the church stopping to pray. Or maybe as I have had occasion, fondly looking at some memento from his flock and then praying for those whom he loves.

True pastoral ministry will have its strongest influences by the bible and by prayer. And prayer itself is to be directly influenced by the bible. Show us a man who prays and I can show you one who believes the Word of God.

So as I looked at these verses years ago I found Paul teaching me. First off I learned that he never ceases to pray for them. As pastor I need to do the same. Those whom we love we will pray for. Thus as a pastor I find that as my love for folks grows I pray in greater earnest.

When I pray I agree with Paul that we all need to be filled with knowledge in spiritual wisdom and understanding. This is not just to do a better job or have a comfortable life. This is knowledge to see things from a God centered and exalting perspective. If we are not first and foremost living in the glorification of God then all we do is doubly worthless. However, when we obey the command to do all things to the glory of God, then we actually worship. Remember, worship is in Truth and Spirit. By gaining personal knowledge of God and His will we also will have the benefit of growing in love for God. If we love God and desire His glory, most of our attitudinal and heart problems are cured in rapid fashion. Pastors love to see this sanctification of the flock

Paul makes me aware that I must ask in my prayers for the church to be strengthened. This keeps me aware of the daily struggles within and from outside that weaken us. This prayer is not so that we look good or to have a nice day. As a matter of fact I ask that our sufferings bring us joyful wisdom in God rather than a turning to the world’s solutions.

Next I pray about their journey, walk, with Christ. It is my desire that in a daily fashion we all take every thought of our being into the realization that we have been bought with a precious price. Too often we “move on to the next big thing” or shiny object of distraction unaware of what we are trading off. Because of this we rarely dwell on the great things of God. My prayer is that we all revel in His glory in every facet of the day. For us to do everything to the glory of God we need to value the work of God. Again, we need to know God. I pray that we will not fall in false theology as Satan persuaded Eve. Some do this by reading books without discernment. Some simply overschedule and squeeze God out of their lives. I can be faulted here also. Our walk ought to be in the understandable knowledge of God. I pray that this truth is captive in our minds all day long. Oh Father, may we be God centered people in everything.

I often pray 1 Corinthians 10:13 for myself, and I do it for our church. Temptations often grip us even unaware. I pray that it is by His might that we are strengthened. Sufferings are a means of us getting beyond our experience and personal resources in an opportunity to walk by faith. The challenge for us Americans today is that so little faith is “required”. We have convenience, lines of credit, and ample freedoms. Due to all of this we have lost the urgency of prayer, waiting upon God, and faithfully acting. We depend more on economic and technological resources than Almighty God. My prayer is not that we become Luddites, but that we properly cry out to God before turning to resources or giving into temptation. I pray that the promises of God are implanted, able to save our souls.

So I then pray for endurance and patience. Again I find that this is affected by our easy lifestyles in America. Granted the sour economy has awakened many to their return to God, yet we still have a dominating “I can do better elsewhere” mentality. So we don’t endure, we move on. This ideology in our social lives is often carried into the sanctuary. As a case in point, church hopping is easy. Finding a nondemanding church is easier. The sad thing is that these fallback gathering places may not constitute a New Testament church. Committed Christians persevere. Thus there is something to persevere against. If you never suffer for your faith then it is most likely that you do not have saving faith. We glorify God when we love on difficult people, even in the church. Speaking to the idea of staying in a church through difficult times ought to be a sermon series. Unfortunately, the less mature majority would see this as self serving to the pastor and staff. Let me surmise that the church ought to be revolutionizing the integrity of the believer that they are stalwart people of perseverance. Prayer is the key tool to God working in His people this way.

And I pray for joy in these sufferings. James in his first chapter gives us guidance. Joy above circumstances, with suffering, is glory unto God. It says that the Christian’s hope is in the personhood of God. It makes much of His promises. It strengthens the church as a whole. Yes we must pray for people’s joy, but pray that joy is in the difficulties of life. This builds character and glory.

If we are joyful we are thankful. And in thankfulness we give credit to whom it is due. It can be said that thankful people are worshipful people. And this is God’s desire. As I read in Romans two many moons ago, I saw how God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. This truth led me to realize my sin, and yet His forbearance and grace. It welled up within me a sense that it is only therefore just and joyful to give my life evermore to Him. Thus, though I do fear God, I find I am more motivated to love and serve Him by means of appreciation for what He has worked through the cross. This is what Paul prays.

Paul prays that we would have this revelation. To give thanks to God who has delivered us from darkness to light.

Though Paul wrote these words they are the words of God. They are a truth that sets me and you free. Thus as pastor and fellow sinner I too pray these for us all. May we glorify God in this pattern.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Flesh Profits Nothing

This past week at church we saw God working and folks making commitments. Today as I pray for these folks I am reminded of a key obstacle to success. My reminder came by way of yesterday’s struggle to connect with God. Many moments passed in my morning discipleship before I ever had a sense of assurance, of joy, or connectedness with God. I could not understand why my commitment to the things of God was so immobilized.

Often I have made commitments and failed. I have made a follow up commitments, and failed at those one too. The successes have come when one key ingredient is at hand. Whether it is the renewing of the mind, overcoming sin, or joy in the Lord that lasts, they all come only by the Holy Spirit. My disconnectedness with God was all in the fact that my Bible time was being done in the flesh. It was an attempt to either appease God or demonstrate my worthiness to Him. It may have even be some other issue of the heart. But regardless, I needed to be in the Spirit for any entrance to His presence.

John 6:63 teaches that the flesh profits nothing. If I make a mental commitment it is fleshly. If I am under conviction by the Holy Spirit, not a group mentality or a sense of duty, then my success rate increases exponentially. You see, by the Spirit God gets the glory. By my efforts it is merely a fleshly ordeal. Truly the flesh profits nothing. But if by the Spirit I am putting to death the deeds of the flesh, He gets the glory. And that is how it works. If God is central, set up to receive glory they the odds are in His favor, and thusly ours. It is a submissive appeal to God based upon His glory and being, not my worth or deeds.

John 14 through 17 teaches us much about abiding in the Spirit. We also see this in Romans 8 and Galatians 5. We must seek the Spirit. At Jesus ascension in Acts we are told the disciples needed to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to act. When troubles came the church turned to the word of God and prayed. As a matter of fact, they never acted until God, by His Spirit, led them to act specifically.

A quick survey of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament will quickly reveal our need for abiding in Him. Success and growth will never come apart from Him. Neither will God’s glory, worship, or the faith that marks us as His. The listening to sermons, memorization and reading of scripture, and even prayer becomes an exercise in aggravation if we do not have the Spirit. We try and “it doesn’t work”. It does not work my friend for you or for me if it is done in the flesh. It only promotes dry lifeless religious formality. But in the Holy Spirit the simplest verse or uttered prayer can connect us to Almighty God.

So before we set about an action plan for achievement, let us first seek to abide in the Spirit. For it can even become an idolatry of our systems and methods to live “as Christians” if we do not abide in Him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It is Official

Thanks for the prayers church members and blog friends. As of yesterday afternoon, I received word that I have been accepted as a student at Southern Seminary in the Dmin program.

If you have ever seen Mr. Bean, then you can envision my "Happy Dance".

Monday, August 29, 2011

Waiting for News

This could be a big week in another way too. (See previous post) By weeks end I should know if I have been accepted into the Dmin program at Southern Seminary. If so I will begin a concentration to further my work in Biblical Counseling.

Expecting Big Things

Yesterday God showed up at church. It was evident.

Between the Sunday School classes praying and the impact of a testimony given, one that admitted sin and failure and turned to God, I believe God showed up yesterday. I saw His hand in the body of believers who's hearts were stirred to their covenant as church members. I saw folks surrendering to serve. I learned of Sunday School classes broken before God. God worked in the hearts of a couple who lost a child yesterday by miscarriage. Yet they posted "The Lord's way is perfect, and for that we are thankful!"

I saw God working even before Sunday. People were pursuing the scriptures. People were surrendering for service.

Every week can be like this. If we walk with God throughout the week with spiritual eyes and ears open, and a heart longing for Him we ought to expect Him to show up.

It is now Monday. I expect that every one of us whom made a commitment yesterday to be tested relentlessly today. But I expect God to show up today. For He is a God of compassion upon His sheep.

Let us abide in Him and bear much fruit. Let us therefore expect that when we abide in Him through the week we will meet with Him as a body on Sunday.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Learning From My Failures

This summer I have been blessed with the experience of having an intern. Truly this experience is teaching us both many things. Being a smaller church, I never expected to have an intern. It find it a pleasant experience while yet personally revealing.

Our intern is a young man who is skilled in leading bible study, but lacking experience in the practical things of everyday ministry. He is a member of a much larger church that would not be able to afford him the latitude that he is now getting. It is my prayer that in his time here we would serve him well. Honestly, no seminary that I have found can fully prepare you for the ministry life in a typical church. As an intern he is getting a chance to make morning announcements, prepare and serve children’s sermons, and make the usual rounds.

By making the rounds I mean he has been thus far able to attend funerals, make hospital visits, nursing home visits, and in home visits. He has had to deal with changing schedules and cancellation of meetings. Part of his intern experience has him heading up a mission trip that we have next week, and generally dealing with all the responsibilities of wearing multiple hats in servanthood. I greatly look forward to his preaching his very first sermon in a couple of weeks.

Because of all I am trying to pour into my friend in this time, I find myself reflecting heavily on my past fifteen years of being a pastor. There are many, many events that I look upon and have learned from. One of my biggest concerns for this young man is that he not make the same mistakes that I have made. Thus, in my reflections I find these things to be what I would most do differently had I had the opportunity to do over many decisions.

First off I would have begun journaling from day 1. It would have benefitted me to have a book to look back upon in reflection of my experiences and especially the things God has revealed to me. If I had such a journal I would perhaps turn it into a playbook on persevering in ministry. I would have titled it So You Got Your First Church, Now What? There is much this ole mind has forgotten, and I wish I had a means to reflect and learn even more.

The second thing that comes to mind would honestly be that I need to be cautious with whom I trust and to get my facts straight before responding. James has much to say about this in his first chapter. In several situations I was gullible to listen and believe people whom had a hidden agenda. Their gossip and opinions captivated my attention ant thusly I never gave their victim a proper chance. In this lesson I also found that some will turn on you if their way is not heeded. It is sad. It is true. My poor wife once had to endure a business meeting being accused of unfounded gossip by someone whom that morning had tried successfully to bait me with an issue. My lesson learned is to listen with caution, create opinions based on facts and redemption, and pray much before acting.

Along these lines, I have shared with our intern that there will be difficult people to deal with. I have often made the mistake of being inexperienced and aloof. My advice to our intern is being more open for people to come to you with problems and listen. Follow up with them. Give them every opportunity to peacefully talk with you. By doing so you may diffuse many situations. However, some people are hard to deal with. Take the shots that need to be taken and find your peace in God. As much as depends upon you, be at peace with all men. Also I have advised him to work with your deacons in this situation. Often they are wise in “tribal knowledge” and can greatly pilot your ship in treacherous waters.

The next thing that comes to mind is the obvious shortcomings I have wrestled with. In my “do over” situation I would have played far less video games. Not that the games are bad, but I look at life and see that much of my time has been squandered. As a matter of fact, now the only games I usually play are those with my kids. Television viewing goes right along with video games. I find it has been too much unprofitable time. Other things that have wasted my time are owning a home that has more repair needs than I can handle and not sequestering myself for deeper bible study. These at present are still struggles but I am finding much victory.

My advice to our intern, budget your time and stick to it. Don’t evaluate an opportunity by saying “what is wrong with it”, ask instead “Will this glorify God?”

Sounding like an oxymoron, I advise our ministry student to relax vigorously. When we relax it ought to be to the glory of God. It should not be a time of our mind wandering to our “to do” list, nor should it be multitasking. I have spent too much time failing here. Now, as I advise our intern, plan ahead to relax. Turn the cell phone off. Keep home as much a place of respite as possible. Rise early and walk with God. Let the truth of scripture care for your situations and responsibilities. Some time relaxing may mean leaving the house and going to a park or museum. And there are certain time that we need to go away to pray. Prayer refreshes the soul and gives it relaxation.

The next area is an area I believe I have made both mistakes and advances in. It is an area we all need ongoing refinement. This would be in communication and perception. I have made countless mistakes in communicating my ideas. Such mistakes can have far reaching implications. One day I was visiting a member who had a typical cold. As I left I said, “Miss W, hope ya get better. I don’t want to be doing no funerals”. A year later in the aforementioned “Business meeting”, I came to find that a rumor was circulating that I refused to perform weddings, funerals, or visits. All this was despite several eyewitness to my involvement in wedding, funerals, and visits. Some things I have said could be said more politely. Many could be said with grace. Some should have never been said at all.

My advice to our intern, think deeply. Consider your audience. Choose your battles wisely. Listen, listen some more. Find the right words. Don’t e-mail what is best said in person. Let many things go. Read books like Rosalie Maggio’s How To Say It. Also read Peter Post’s book on Manners for the gentleman. Over the yeas, and even this morning, I find that the most difficult thing to do is have the right word in the right timing. But by the grace of God, we can have this wisdom. It must be daily gathered as was manna.

The last lesson of my list would be to not handle things too rapidly. This would be the close cousin to the previous advice. Stated another way, don’t jump to conclusions quickly and don’t act on first impulse. As I alluded to before, the apostle James puts it this way, Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

Even if what you are doing is not “volatile” let it crock pot. Articles, decisions, and sermons need time to marinate and go through revision. Often a next day read through illuminates confusing points and references. Plans change. Giving people plans and itineraries that are subject to change can lessen your credibility and the participation of others. Don’t reveal or start something that has not had time to be solidified. Repeated instances of such mistakes will surely be a detriment.

Thus as I look aver my years I find I am still learning and seeking. To have this opportunity with our intern has been a blessing of self introspection. I do not find that I have arrived, or am even worthy to be training this young man. Perhaps he will benefit from my mistakes and thus bring about some further value to my ministry.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Notes for Sunday


Here are my rough notes for the sermon of July 31st. I hope these will help you go back throughout the week and garner the specifics God has for your life.

Where is your faith?

Luke 8:22-25

This is not a trite nor complete answer to your storms. But it is the first and general step in gaining the right path to abiding in Him for living.

Please note: we can not walk by faith if we are too busy, not giving God the priority of our lives.

Those that walk by faith do not trifle with God.

Describe the situation at sea.

Describe similarities to life.

Show parallel in John 11 with the death of Lazarus “Lord, If you had been here”

Faith is now a running theme in Luke

  • Centurion had great faith as Jesus had not seen in Israel.
  • John Baptist faith was weak and Jesus said to look to evidence he had given by example.
  • Woman weeping at His feet was forgiven.
  • In Ch 9, He will send out apostles by faith.

We often amble in life. I do- this is what happens when we are not pursuing God by faith but at a minimum by religion.

Faith requires that we address God as He is.

3 Steps to Faith Building

But notice lately 3 components of the Christian life keep coming up


1. Read the word and look at the world. (Word aspect) See God in all of it.

Your past, in nature, and in hope.

2. Apply the promises of God to your life. (Prayer aspect)

Get specific from the time in the word to apply truths to your needs.

Pray the scripture you have found.

Exercise Trust

· In God’s holiness

· In God’s provision

· In God’s fighting your battles

· In God’s right judgment upon your enemies.

· In God’s providence.

3. And thank Him for what He has done. (Worship aspect)

  • Take notice when promises are fulfilled
  • Take notice of battles fought.
  • Take notice of bad things working out for good.
  • Take notice of the forgiveness of your sins and of ann the second chances the day has provided.