Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Couple Book Suggestions...

Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself
I finished this a little while ago, but plan to read through it again. Good stuff! Excellent outlook on claiming the promises of scripture and reminding ourselves who we are in Christ.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
I also finished this a little while ago before this semester started up. What a testimony Bonhoeffer had! What a witness to the power of God working in someone's life! What a legacy! I am now coveting his complete works! Christmas is coming! : )

If only I had more time to read! Reading lots for school right now on Genesis, and also on Evangelism and Church Growth. Excited for Christmas break to dig into another book! If you don't read, start! If you don't have time, make some!

Blessings!

Monday, September 19, 2011

What I have learned after a year in ministry…

First of all, I’m not dead and I haven’t stopped blogging, it’s just that certain things take precedent in life sometimes and other things tend to fall by the wayside. This blog has been one of those things. Nevertheless, I am back!

As of the second week in July I have been preaching every Sunday for a year. What started out as a few months has become a year and looks like it will continue for a while. Light of Christ Church in Waynesburg, Ohio is where I have been serving and what a blessing it has been! It has been great to watch God work. Having this year under my built has caused me to reflect a bit on what I have learned. Here goes:

1) I have a lot to learn! The me from about 2 years ago would have told you that I was totally ready for a full time ministry position. No, I don’t think I was. I don’t know everything. I don’t know how the perfect church should run. I don’t deliver the perfect sermon. I am not the perfect pastor. But God is gracious and infinitely patient.

2) I need to prepare to be a pastor and not just prepare to deliver a sermon. Because of the busy nature of my life, I am often scrambling for time throughout the week to prepare my sermon and I unfortunately have often neglected preparing my heart to pastor. When I am not putting anything in or not allowing God to work anything into my spirit, than I don’t really have much to offer.

3) Make the main things, the main things.  How quickly can I let myself spend my time and efforts focusing on the smaller issues of the church and how I think it should be running rather than spending my time praying that the people will come to know Jesus better! I heard someone quote D.A. Carson recently and what Carson said was basically, “what you believe is not just what you say you believe, but what you emphasize and live is what you truly believe.”

4) I need to love my wife and prepare my heart for the awesome responsibility of being a father someday, should God bless me in that way. What an important thing the family is and should be to a pastor! The sad thing is how easily they can slip to the back burner, because pastors can assume that they are the ones who can take the neglect or at least lack of attention. Anna and I feel as close as we have ever felt to the very real possibility of having kids and I want to prayerfully consider that amazing privilege. I want my kids to see that their father loves Jesus, loves their mother, and loves them.

5) I can’t do everything! At least I can’t do everything well. I have had to learn this the very, very hard way. It is very hard for me to say no, but God is helping me in that. There is great wisdom in focusing on exactly what God has called you to. I think your life and your ministry are blessed by trying to do exactly that.

Peace and chicken grease!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Are you a Christian Hipster?

I have been reading the book, Hipster Christianity: When Church + Cool Collide and it has been interesting to see how I personally have been influenced by this craze that has bled into the Christian realm. I highly suggest the book, but first, find out if you are indeed a Christian Hipster by taking the following quiz:

http://hipsterchristianity.com/quiz.php

I have taken it a couple times, because I am always second-guessing quizzes like these, but each time I ended up in the 60s. You will soon find out that, that means I am only a Christian Hipster at like a 6th grade level : )...darn!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freedom!

I have crawled out of the cave that is my MDIV…for the summer at least. This semester has truthfully been brutal. The classes were not any harder…it really had nothing to do with the school work. I’m just tired. Do you ever have those seasons in life where you just feel like tapping out because it just feels like it is all just a bit too much? I have a year left in school and I will be glad to get to the end.

What have I learned? When things get busy and the pressure is on, I fall apart inside. My spiritual discipline is prone to crumbling. It really exposes my weaknesses. Boy is that uncomfortable and hard to swallow! However, despite all that, there is good in this. I am so hungry for God. I am excited to read, to pray, to Sabbath and to commune with Christ. I am also excited to not only do this personally, but I am excited to do this with my wife. She pays a hefty price for my time in school and she sacrifices a ton if not more at times than I do in this time of preparation for ministry. So I am excited for us to get back on track and see my weak points and build better habits.

It is hard to switch gears in the rhythms of life, but it is very necessary! I am praying for a deeper reliance on Christ, a richer prayer life, a hunger for the scriptures and for Christ’s strength to be made full in me.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I have always been drawn to this verse, because it brings such great hope. However, I don’t think that I have always let the truth in this passage be made real in my life. I read this and say “yes God, I am weak, please give me your strength,” and then I go back to trying to fight with my own power. And I wonder why I get so exhausted, feel defeated and frustrated! I am praying that God, in His power, will help me to build reliance on Him. I have felt this at times in my walk with Christ, when I have let myself rely on Him and there is such freedom in that. Funny thing is, is that I am pretty sure God wants our reliance to be on Him. He doesn’t just want it and then stand with His hands on His hips waiting for us to “get there,” He actually helps us get there. And getting there is not getting to a place of peace and comfort that is brought on by happy circumstances in our lives, but in unwavering trust and joy that is deeply rooted in Him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Adding to the Noise

There is a song by Switchfoot called, "Adding to the Noise." Essentially, the premise is if what they are saying is meaningless or doesn’t profit anything to the listener, don’t listen. They comment on the fast pace of our culture and they don't want to be just adding to that. I will be honest, I have not completely bought into the social media thing. I am not condemning those who have, but I guess its just not for me. However, a blog used to BE social media a few years back. Ah, the good old days! Think about it though, anyone can have a blog. You don’t actually have to have anything worthwhile to say. I am sure that the Internet is filled with stuff that we really just don’t need or care to know about. However, our culture has shifted in a way that Susie is posting on her (Insert Social Media vehicle) page that she is feeling (Insert emotion) today because her job is stressing her out today. People are actually spending time to post this stuff on the Internet! What separates this blog from that? Why should you really give a rip about what I have to say? If you have read this far, something has held your attention.

The point is, if I don’t have anything worthwhile to say, why bother? I have thought long and hard about the purpose and the eternal value of this blog. That’s a good thing to measure things up to…does it have eternal value?


Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” – Revelation 14:6-7


Jesus Christ is eternal and the good news, the Gospel that He has made possible is eternal and has eternal benefits. Should not someone who is eternal and who provides people with the prospect of spending eternity with Him receive glory?


“It will take an eternity to exhaust the glory of Jesus Christ.” – John Piper


I hope if I have something to say on this blog that it has eternal value to you. Not because my words are of any worth, but the Word, namely Jesus Christ, is of of absolute worth. If I can even hope to dimly reflect some of His glory in this blog via His Word or via experiences with Him, I am content with the purpose of this blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Your vocation is to belong to Jesus

While reading for school, one of the commentaries that I am reading on Hebrews mentioned the above quote from Mother Teresa. This idea has been swirling around in my head and heart for a little while now and coming across this quote really affirmed what I have been thinking. I had a conversation with a mentor of mine, had a conversation with my wife, randomly read things, randomly listened to sermons and now I have come across this quote. The common denominator…all the same topic, which is how my calling, my gifts and my current situation are coming together. So what does that mean? Is that some sort of cosmic accident? Doubtful. This is usually a good sign that God is telling me something. The funny thing is, is that I know the answers in my head, but I am having a difficult time matching my head and my heart up on this one. So by this point I have placed you right in the middle of my thought process and you are probably clueless as to what I am talking about. I have this future out there in my head of how things are going to be. I can’t really define it and couldn’t completely explain it to you. I know a few things, but not many. However, it seems that I really have more of a detailed future set up in my mind than I think. I joke sometimes that at age 85 I am going to be saying that I am in a transitional period because I have always said that in every small stage of life that I have experienced thus far. There are things about my life that I am currently having a hard time accepting that they may be there to stay for a bit, which means that I am kept from being in “full time” ministry for that much longer. I used to have a very clear understanding of the fact that God had placed me specifically in the jobs that I had and among the people I worked with for a reason. It is almost like I am avoiding that now. It’s silly though, because I have obeyed God in the relationships and circumstances at work up to this point. So it is not as if I am totally going against Him, but I am not exactly surrendered totally to His will.

Here’s the deal, God has placed both you and me wherever we both are at RIGHT NOW! In a worldly sense we may feel like we are in a transitional period, but to God, there are NO transitional periods. Our entire lives are transitional and formative in terms of our walks with Christ. That life is what matters anyways…right? He uses every experience, every relationship, every job, every minute and He wastes nothing. Even when we steer away from His will in something, He is still there molding and shaping us through that experience. Therefore, it becomes very real that our vocation is to belong to Jesus. That means through everything! That means His will be done, not ours. What a scary prayer that is! What if I really meant that…what if we really meant that? We would be immensely different.

I am setting to the task of working hard to make this something that I am committing to the Lord in prayer. I really want to be in this place of accepting His will, living it and not living according to my own. If this is at all applicable to you, I encourage you to do this as well.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.


“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” - John 17:20-26

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Being Thankful, Out of Season

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

I am thankful. Yes, I know that Thanksgiving has long been filed away in the basement, not to be brought out until next year, but I am thankful nonetheless. There is no law at this point that keeps me from being such outside of the month of November. I have had the privilege of having numerous godly men in my life that have guided my walk with Christ. Even before I knew Christ, God had both friends and mentors in my life that did know Christ and who planted seeds with me. When I was 19, God made himself known to me in all of those conversations, friendships and examples that I had previously experienced. But he did not leave me to myself at that point. In the course of my 7+ years walking with Christ, I have had men who have poured into my life in exceptional ways. I am grateful for their patience with me and their love for Christ. I have friends, very dear friends, who know, love and serve Jesus Christ and I am blessed to be surrounded by such brothers and sisters in the faith. In both those whom I consider a mentor and those whom I consider to be my friends, the verse above from Proverbs rings true. Many have sharpened and added to my faith and in the process they have taught me how to do likewise for others that God puts in my life. After all, that is what discipleship is. So friends and mentors, some of you know who you are and some have no idea that their lives have affected me so deeply, to all of you, thank you!

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. – Psalm 31:10-12

But, there is one in my life that I am exceedingly grateful for. There is someone that has been for me someone that God has used in ways that are inexpressable. As many people say, everyone’s conversion experience looks different and for me, my wife was one person that God used in tremendous ways as He brought me to faith in Jesus. She is my best friend and in many ways my pastor. I listened to a sermon from Tim Keller once, Marriage as Commitment and Priority, and he talked about how he never would have known the depths of his sin if it were not for his wife. No he didn’t make all sorts of dumb “husband talking about his nagging wife” jokes, he instead talked about the institution of marriage being part of our sanctification. I loved his words, because I resonate with this so deeply. Neither myself or my wife are perfect in the sight of God, but God deemed us to be perfect together that we might grow in Christ alongside one another. I am truly unable to do justice to the worth and value that my wife has had in my walk with Christ, my life, my spirit and my purpose. She has sacrificed much, loved much, encouraged much and prayed much for me. Together we are trying to discern God’s will for our lives and where He wants us to go. I cannot imagine going through any of this without her. Honey, I love you and I thank you!