Archive for category: Ministry (Page 2)

Praying for Missionaries

29 Mar
March 29, 2016

3-27

During the month of March my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Sunday, the 27th:

Missionaries
1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 (NLT)

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

Reflection

Paul the Apostle is one of the church’s greatest missionaries. He knew the scriptures, had a confidence in his calling, and saw tremendous results wherever he went. And yet he had troubles, he had suffering. He was blessed to receive these messages of support and love from the churches.

During my family’s time in South America we loved our calling, but there were times when it was difficult being so far from home. We missed family, friends, and a culture that we understood and could navigate with confidence. One of my favorite memories from those years was the day I discovered our mailbox crammed with letters all addressed to me! My youth group back home in the States had showered me with notes of encouragement, tangible reminders of their prayers and thoughts of me even from so far away. In the words of Paul, it gave me new life and encouragement!

Some are called to serve abroad, others are called to serve in the local church, but we are deeply connected and part of our calling here at home is to be both strong in our faith, and to encourage our brothers and sisters called to serve far from home.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for our missionaries serving throughout the world, that they would be encouraged, that they would have new life, and that they would know and feel our support and earnest prayers for them. Please give them the strength and wisdom to continue serving You in this way. Amen.

Praying for Unity

29 Mar
March 29, 2016

3-25

During the month of March my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Friday, the 25th:

Unity
Philippians 1:27 (NLT)

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Reflection

It’s amazing when you stop to think about it. The Christian believers in Philippi were experiencing persecution and suffering in a way that we will most likely never fully understand. And yet, over and over throughout his letter to them, Paul drives home the importance of unity. It’s almost as if he is saying, yes, the suffering, the death, the torture – that’s all hard, but the real challenge is putting aside our personal desires and being united!

The easy way out when we disagree, when we are uncomfortable, when we do not get what we want, is to leave. To find a church or other Christians who do line up with us … until they don’t. But on those incredible occasions where a body of believers can truly stand together with one spirit and purpose, it is a thing of beauty! Mother Teresa once said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” God has placed us together for a reason. Our unique gifting and collection of passions combined together in the unity He intends can accomplish great things.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for unity. We ask for the wisdom and ability to put aside differences and focus on the calling You have given us as a church. Amen.

Praying for Church Finances

25 Mar
March 25, 2016

3-23

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Wednesday, the 23rd:

Church Finances
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NLT)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives
cheerfully.

Reflection

Years ago I attended a rally where evangelist Luis Palau, the Billy Graham of our time, was speaking. When it came time for the offering, he asked everyone to stand, reach forward, take the wallet from the back pocket of the person in front of them, “and give like you have always dreamed of giving!” I loved it!

And isn’t that something we long for? To be able to worship God with our giving without distraction? Without worry? To be generous with what He has given us for His Kingdom? God calls us to give, not because of church heating bills or curriculum needs, but as a way of demonstrating love to Him. When we sacrifice, it reflects a heart of worship. Our joy in giving is seen through a church that is able to meet the needs of our region, to live out the calling God has given each of us as a body both locally and globally.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the finances of our church. We ask that You would continue to provide the resources needed to fund the ministries to which You have called us. Help us to honor our commitments, continue to grow in our impact, and most importantly, give glory to You with cheerful hearts as we give. Amen.

Praying for Financial Guidance

24 Mar
March 24, 2016

3-21

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for this past Monday on financial guidance:

Financial Guidance for Those Out of Work or Laid Off
Matthew 6:25-27, 31-33 (NLT)

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Reflection

Some passages are harder to live out than others. It is easy to say not to worry when surrounded by security, but seasons of difficulty can test the limits of our faith and our patience. The stress from uncertain financial and career status can spill over into family life, relationships with friends, even our health. Often times we like to refer to Job, a righteous man according to God. We hold him up as a silent example of long-suffering; but when we actually read through his prayers to God, it’s shocking how blunt, how real, how deep his hurt and anger were – and yet he was a righteous man! Somehow he was able to be incredibly honest about his suffering without sinning.

This passage in the Gospel of Matthew records the words of Jesus as an encouragement to us. Our big picture can be different from God’s big picture, and Jesus gently reminds us that as much as we may worry or fear, God will take care of our needs. The challenge is in how we navigate those times of uncertainty.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for patience, endurance and peace for those impacted by layoffs and financial struggles. We pray for our church, that we will be an encouragement, blessing, and resource to those in need in our region. We ask that You would use us for Your glory. Amen.

Praying for Hurting Marriages and Families

23 Mar
March 23, 2016

3-19

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Saturday, the 19th:

Hurting Marriages and Families
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Reflection

Author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “I am convinced that if we as a society work diligently in every other area of life and neglect the family, it would be analogous to straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.”

If we as a church work diligently in so many areas of faith, but ignore the realities of living in a broken and fallen world, and the stresses which that puts on marriages and families, we would be missing the heart of God’s vision for the church. We are one body, united together; when one suffers, we should all feel that pain. I love the challenge by the author of Hebrews to motivate one another to acts of love and good works, to encourage one another!

We need to be the type of church that is honest with one another, speaking to the challenges we have each had, so that those presently suffering feel safe in reaching out for help instead of pressure to hide and project an illusion of harmony. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot turn a blind eye, but need to reach out in loving concern when God shows us cracks in each other’s facades.

Prayer

Lord, we lift up the marriages in our church, that these couples would grow in strength and love. We pray for those who are struggling that they would have the courage to reach out for help. God, help us be the type of church body that cultivates an environment that fosters honesty and being real. Amen.

Praying for Deacons

22 Mar
March 22, 2016

3-4

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for the first week on praying for Deacons:

Deacons
1 Peter 4:8-11 (NLT)

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Reflection

The office of deacon was created in the New Testament to take a leadership role in serving the church body, enabling the pastors to focus on prayer and teaching of the body. In many ways, the roles complement one another, working together in common vision and direction for the good of the church body. Our deacons are called to serve and help this church with all the strength and energy that God supplies, as this passage in 1 Peter describes.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” The challenges of leadership are great. Standing like a rock can come at great cost, often times without anyone knowing the depth of the challenges. That is why in 1 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul tells us to pray for our leaders.

Prayer

Lord, we lift up the twelve men that serve on our Board of Deacons. We ask that You would give them wisdom, direction, strength, clarity, joy in their service, and peace. Thank You for giving us leaders committed to our church and Your Kingdom. Amen.

Book Review: Gospel Centered Youth Ministry

21 Mar
March 21, 2016

youth ministry guideThe Gospel Coalition’s new book, “Gospel Centered Youth Ministry,” is a great resource for youth leaders and volunteers. Fourteen different authors each contributed to put together a book that sets out to address both the theological depth of the gospel and student ministry, as well as give practical ways to live that out. Where so many youth ministry resources tend to skew either only into the practical, or only into the theological, this is an exciting merging of the two.

The book is split into three sections; (1) Foundations for a Gospel Centered Youth Ministry, (2) Practical Applications for a Gospel Centered Youth Ministry, and (3) The Fruit of a Gospel Centered Youth Ministry. I appreciated the progression of the book; each of the authors were tasked with chapters that fell under those broad headings, building over the course of the book a great overview of a gospel centered youth ministry.

It is a strong work; the authors have done their research, cite their sources, and take an academic, yet very approachable methodology to their writing. They cover a wide range of topics, giving strong presentations on the underlying theology supporting their views before diving into the practicalities of living it out. Definitely a great resource for youth leaders; also a great training tool for student ministry teams and interns.

Praying for Student Ministry

09 Mar
March 9, 2016

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In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. Today’s devotional was one I wrote on our church’s student ministry:

Matthew 17:24-27 (NLT)
On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”

Reflection
It’s incredible to think of all the disciples accomplished for God’s Kingdom. A seemingly defeated group of poor fishermen, tax collectors and others of low reputation, they led the beginnings of a movement that has grown throughout the world for two thousand years! Perhaps this is an odd choice of scripture for student ministry. It’s a passage that many scholars point to as the strongest hint we have about the age of the disciples; the temple tax was required of males over the age of twenty. Because the silver coin was only enough for Jesus and Peter, the theory is that the other eleven must have been under the age of 20 – I’ve heard some jokingly say that Jesus led the first youth group with his teenage disciples!

The Bible is full of stories of young people displaying incredible faith and accomplishing tremendous things for the Lord and His Kingdom. Some of the great heroes of the faith were adolescents! Too often in today’s culture we are guilty of setting the bar too low, of not seeing the incredible potential for leadership and spiritual gifts that God has placed in all the members of His church, including the young people!

Prayer
Lord, we pray for the students in 6th-12th grade, that they would see Your calling in their lives, that they would develop a lifelong faith, and grow as servants and leaders in our church body today. Thank You for blessing our congregation with young voices committed to You! Amen.

Why do we look up to this kind of failure?

05 Feb
February 5, 2016

behindeverymaskthereisacrosstobear

Maybe I’m too biased. I’ve seen all too close the destruction an unbalanced person in ministry can cause while being celebrated by those around them. But it pushes my buttons.

This past week I read the story of Hezekiah Smith, an 18th century Baptist “hero.” Between his work in a Baptist college, his numerous evangelistic tours and crusades, his incredible service to the Baptist church, and his pastoral giftings, he is credited with doing much to both reach the lost and expand the Baptist church, as well as make major inroads for religious liberty in America.

He would often travel for months at time, leaving his family behind to work their farm, orchard, and rental properties they owned. We don’t know much about his wife, but it would seem that she was not a fan of religion – she is described as being a “stranger” to it. He would write her letters asking if she had “yet found the comforts of true religion”.

Franklin Graham recently celebrated the legacy of Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, two incredible organizations. Behind the scenes, though, he left a family in chaos. He spent most of his time away, and seemed to resent the handful of weeks a year he had with his wife or daughters. The emotional damage and scars he left, consistently choosing ministry over family even in times of crisis was devastating and had lasting impact.

But the church routinely celebrates these kinds of men! Their failings at home and in the care of their families are discounted because clearly, Satan attacked them harder than he would others because of their impact. These men’s failings in their families and marriages are portrayed as almost unavoidable because of their importance for God and the resulting spiritual warfare.

I think we do God a disservice if we think significant ministry accomplishments justify unbalanced lives. We ignore God’s values if we celebrate a Hezekiah Smith or Bob Pierce and instead advance the values of the world – the ends justify the means! Hezekiah’s wife resenting religion and God is a small price to pay for all the lives he reached. Pierce’s failed marriage, and destructive relationship with his children is sad but worth the children throughout the world being reached.

I’m biased. I grew up in a family where my father had decades of ministry, but in the end lost the relationships with his wife and children. I read these stories, I see the authors gloss over the failings, focus on all the good that was accomplished. It frustrates me to no end. They do it by discounting the family. They do it by ignoring the sins against these spouses and children. I don’t believe for a moment that that kind of telling honors the heart of God for ALL His children. It IS possible to do incredible things for God AND honor His sacred calling to our families. We need to as a body of believers stop celebrating unbalanced approaches to ministry.

FREE Six Year Student Ministry Curriculum

03 Feb
February 3, 2016

disciple-6-curriculum-students

This is pretty incredible to me; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has created, through their students and staff, a complete six year discipleship curriculum for middle school and high school students that they are making available completely free to churches to download! It looks like a great resource, and definitely a gift to churches! You can learn about it and download it here. Here’s their description of it:

Southwestern Seminary desires to see teenagers who, for the glory of the Father and in the power of the Spirit, spend a lifetime embracing the full supremacy of the Son, responding to His kingly reign in all of life, inviting Christ to live His life through them, and joining Him in making disciples among all peoples.

To that end the seminary has presented a gift to the churches. That gift is a comprehensive, six-year curriculum to be used with those specific teenagers who want to be disciples of Jesus. The studies are grounded in Scripture and include the content areas of:

Apologetics Core Doctrines Servant Leadership
Biblical Interpretation Ethics Spiritual Disciplines
Biblical Relationships Evangelism and Missions Worldview

Teenagers share in the leadership of the sessions. They prepare to disciple believers now and for a lifetime, nearby and to the ends of the earth.

The Disciple6 curriculum is available as free PDF downloads and free smartphone/tablet downloads. Southwestern Seminary believes every teenager and every church deserves the best discipleship resources, regardless of economic situation.