Pastors – great article as you evaluate your ministry.

Pastors, Great article about evaluating our ministries.  At this time of year we all think about the last year and look to the future.  Sometimes it can be discouraging.  Mike Glenn, Senior Pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church has a good perspective for us.

http://thomrainer.com/2012/12/22/showing-up/#.UNiEB2_LSSo

Confessions of a Normal Pastor

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Okay…here it goes:

  • I post pictures of bugs on my FaceBook page.
  • I’ve memorized every word in Tom Cruise’s movie, “The Last Samurai”
  • I take a sleeping pill at around 9:00pm most nights (yes, it is over-the-counter)
  • I work at really weird hours sometimes.
  • I tend to procrastinate and be unorganized.
  • I can skin a muskrat.
  • I sometimes go to Wal-mart in sweat pants, flip-flops, and unshaven (and always see someone I know even when trying to avoid it!)
  • I like to kayak.
  • I love Long John Silver’s fish.
  • I once took a 4ft lighted Santa to a pastor friend’s house on Christmas morning at 5am and left it on his porch (just to kind of freak him out).
  • I read books other than the Bible, “My Utmost For His Highest,” and Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”
  • I once mowed the lawn in my underwear.
  • I like BlueGrass music, and the Newsboys, and “Crown Him With Many Crowns.”
  • I think Cream of Wheat may be one of the best foods in the world.
  • I like squirrel gravy.

Oh also,

I invited 8 people to church in the last two days, I’ve given out a dozen Gospel tracts this week, my latest book purchase was, “Ancient Greek Papyri, Volume II”, I’ve spent about 6 hours so far this week studying the Bible for the upcoming Sunday message, I wept over the shootings last Friday, I talk to my accountability partner every day,  I prayed over everyone in our congregation this week, I love to talk about the Bible, my wife says my mind never turns off about “pastoring” and church stuff, I drive around our neighborhoods praying for people and dreaming about the best ways to reach them for Jesus.

Here’s the deal. Most pastors are normal people (well, if you can call those things listed above normal).  The majority are not Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Max Lucado, or Bill Hybels – and neither am I.  And by the way, those guys would all say they are pretty normal also.

We have families, quirks, bad habits, temptations, experience joy and sadness, hobbies, etc.  Most of us are as normal as Folgers coffee.  We want to be good examples, exemplary pastors, students of the Word too; but we’re pretty much just normal people that God called to preach, teach, and lead in the local church.

So I’m normal; however, I have a huge passion to live for Jesus, reach other people for Him, see them grow in Christ, and see them eventually learn to repeat the same thing.  I bleed for those things. I pray for those things. I love to see people encounter Jesus and learn new things about following him.

I want the world to get saved!  I live everyday believing that someone I encounter (or that you encounter) could and might come to faith through a personal witness for Christ.  Yes, I believe you or I could walk across the street, share Jesus with someone, and they could get saved over a cup of coffee – now.

I dream about those conversations and love the work God has called me to.  I love pastoring.  I love reading and studying the Bible. But then, I also like to go crappie fishing once-in-awhile, attend a HS wrestling match, and eat a bowl of homemade ice cream.

I would love to talk with you about Deutero Isaiah, the issues around open theism, and the documentary hypothesis; but I would really rather discuss how to reach your neighbor for the Lord.  After those discussions, I would also love to hear from you the best place to find morel mushrooms (I would REALLY like to talk to you about that!).

I want any church I pastor to know that I’m a normal person.  I’m approachable.  I’ll give them good counsel from the Word and I’ll pray for them and I’ll get them plugged into ministry.  But I’ll also eat a grilled hamburger,  throw a Frisbee, or laugh at the movie “Elf” with you.

So what’s the point?  God uses normal people like me, you, and pretty much everyone else for Kingdom work.  He wants to use you.  He wants to use me.  Let’s not wait until we think we’ve got it all figured out.  Walk across the street and have that cup of coffee today.

Oh yeah, and that “mowing-the-lawn-in-my-underwear” deal – there’s a good explanation for that.  Really.

Pastors – in a rut or dry spell? Here’s some help.

http://pastors.com/4-questions-for-preachers-in-a-dry-spell/

Pastor Friends…helpful article on getting out of that “rut” or “dry-spell”.

Visible Grace

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Acts 11:23 “When he (Barnabas) came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”

Grace is like air, gravity, coldness, or amoebas.  You don’t readily see these things, but they certainly exist.

There are aspects of God and other theological terms we don’t expect to be visible.  Grace is one of them.  However, when Barnabas came to Antioch it says he “saw the Grace of God.”  It is the only place in Scripture where this phrase is used.  What did he see at Antioch which made grace appear from the shadows? What was it that enthused him to go back and get Paul?

Before we answer that, I had an intriguing thought while reading the passage.  What if Barnabus came to the church I worship with?  Would he see the Grace of God?  What if he came to your church –  would he see the Grace of God?  Just what is it about a church that make’s God’s grace become visible: the name on the sign – Grace Fellowship Church?  The type of music or the clothes people wear?  How about the “associations” it cooperates with?  Just what is it about a church that would make someone say, “I saw the Grace of God in that place”?

I believe the passage makes it clear. We see four characteristics of a church with visible grace:

1 – Jesus’ name was being lifted up.  The passage says they were, “…preaching the Lord Jesus.”  The name of Jesus Christ was being communicated to everyone: Jews and Greeks.  He was being spoken about out in the open, regardless of the crowd. They were bold and direct about sharing the name of Christ.

2 – Faith: people were being converted.  The passage says, “…and a great number believed and turned to the Lord (v21).” People were being saved by the message being communicated.  The Holy Spirit was moving and people were believing on Christ.  It was obvious to all who were in the proximity.

3 – Teaching of the Word of God.  After Barnabus came, the first thing he did was to send for a “teacher”, namely Paul.  It says, “…they assembled with the church and taught a great many people (v26).”  The teaching, studying, and learning of the Scriptures were important in this place of visible grace.

4 – Testimony.  Verse 26 makes an important statement, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”  The community saw these followers living for Christ and called them “Christians”.  This was a label given to them by outsiders not themselves.  The people watching what was going on gave them the most appropriate term they could imagine, Christians, which in essence meant: little Christs.

I recently shared with our church that I would like us to be known as “living out loud!”   That is, living our “faith” out loud.  Not “out weird”; but OUT LOUD.  This is what comes to mind when I read about the church at Antioch.  They were known for what was happening in their midst.  People were attracted to it; hearing the message; getting saved and joining the work.

If a church lifts up Jesus, helps people come to faith, studies the Word, and has a bold testimony – I think they will experience “visible Grace.”  May God raise up churches in our community, including ours, that are “living out loud” for Christ.

27 Murders After Breakfast (?)

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A deepening sense of sadness is growing within me this week. It is a sadness which is welling from my spirit for the families who are heart-broken by Friday’s shooting.  The grief and loss they are dealing with is beyond expression.

I am also saddened by some of the foolishness being seen on social media.  Amidst the heartfelt sympathies, there are glib comments, arguing over silly issues, and a hardness shown by those with a point to make that is disturbing (both liberal and conservative.)

I am saddened for our country.  How can we live in a land where these things happen?  As a pastor, I know the spiritual reason. But really, how does someone murder 27 people after breakfast?  How do we have a society where such an act can happen? I mean – the building was secure, safety procedures were being followed.  But this young man was so intent on slaughtering children that he blasted his way through a door and window to begin the killing spree.  Why?

It would be so easy for me to slip into my “preacher-mode” here; and, in a sense, that would be appropriate.  And to some extent, that is what I’m doing.

But would you please think with me…

Why?

Is it guns?

Is it video games?

Is it the fervency to remove God from anything “public”?

Is it a lack of education?

Is it liberal fanatics?  Or conservative?

Is it?

If all of these were “fixed” to the degree society found acceptable, would that prevent further massacres? Would it?

I don’t think so.  In fact, I know it wouldn’t. No, definitely No. No matter how much I wish the solution was that easy, fixing those things is not the answer.

Our problem is not a lack of education or social civility.  It is not a lack of police or the proliferation of weapons. It is not entrenched political beliefs at either end of the spectrum.  It is also not a biological problem that can be fixed with chemicals.

If every gun, machete, axe, hunting knife, and common steak knife were removed from the homes of America, people would still strangle each other in the night.  But, we would feel better about it, because the carnage would be less.

The problem is much deeper and more pervasive than any of those listed above.

It is a problem which causes our universe to groan, both the human and the physical aspects of it.  There is something fundamentally scarred within the human spirit.  This scar extends to every molecule and atom in existence.

It is rebellion against our Maker and it started in Eden. Don’t like that answer? Just look around you, the evidence is overwhelming.  A rebellious creation groans under the consequences of shaking our fist in the face of God.

I am sad.

I am sad because the solutions that will be offered to prevent this carnage will not address this fundamental problem.  I am sad because the voices with the solution will be suppressed by the powers-to-be.

I am sad because the solution has already been found, offered, and is still available.  But most will reject it.

The solution is before our eyes.

In the midst of Christmas marketing schemes, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Santa Claus, Tinsel, and trees – the solution is hidden in a manger.  Most will miss Him.

The solution to mankind’s shaking our collective fist in the face of God; was for him to offer a perfect God-man, born to a virgin, in the lowest of conditions: an animal enclosure.

He is the solution.  But we must remember that Christmas was only part of the solution to this scar.  The manger of Christmas is connected to the cross of Calvary. Don’t like that answer either?

Then keep relying on police, social programs, education reform, disarming the public, and chemical fixes. Let’s see where that gets us – so far it hasn’t worked.  What we need is not “reform” but a “rebirth” from within.

So, America and the world, when you tire of those Band-Aid solutions to the bloodletting, consider again the solution found in the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the pages of Scripture…

18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,  19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you  21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.  (1Pe 1:18-21 NKJ)

Mandy Patinkin Blames America for Terrorist Attacks

Mandy Patinkin

I rarely watch Colbert’s show and last night it took me about 3 minutes to be reminded why.  While flipping channels, I happened to see Colbert interviewing Mandy Patinkin of CSI and Homeland fame – so I thought I would watch it for a few minutes.   They were discussing (if you can call it that) terrorism, the wars in the Middle East, etc.  So here’s how the dialogue went…

Colbert: “So you blame America for the terrorist attacks (against her)”?

Patinkin: “Yes, of course. And I blame them; but I blame America also.”

Colbert: “So what would you do?”

Patinkin: “I would talk to them. Before ever picking up a weapon, I would sit down and talk with them.  I would take some people like you and me and talk.  I would talk myself to death.”

The ludicrousness of that view is almost beyond comprehension.  It’s offensive, infantile, void of understanding the terrorist mind, among many other things.  So would he also say…

Rape – “It was the woman’s fault because she dressed provocatively”

Holocaust – “It was really the Jews fault; if they hadn’t been so greedy, covetous, and insistent on worshiping in their own way.”

Robbery – “It was the victims fault; he shouldn’t have been walking in that neighborhood after dark.”

Pearl Harbor – “America deserved to be attacked by a country they had not provoked.”

The thinking is so obviously ridiculous that it numbs the mind.  The idea that you can “talk” with someone who has committed an act of terrorism is likewise ridiculous.  They don’t want to talk to you; they want you to accept their agenda (whatever that is) with no qualifications and they’ll use violence to accomplish their goals.

While most people abhor violence and want to avoid it at almost any cost, the reality is we live in a world where evil exists – and Evil cannot be reasoned with.  It must be stood up to, defended against, and squashed.

Brief Message from a Short Bus Ride

Brief message to Grace Fellowship Church in Des Moines, IA