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Archive for the tag “ministry”

Take the first step

Proverbs 1:7 – Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.

I’ve been silent for a very long time on here. I lost a lot of followers because of it. But it hasn’t been without reason or without merit.

I sometimes have a tendency of speaking first and using wisdom later. That isn’t always the best choice, especially for a ministry professional.

I’ve spent the past few months simply seeking God where He has me and not trying to place God in my own purposes.

Today, though, it was like God was telling me to write and giving me very clear word pictures in my dreams and mind.

Let me back up a little.

Since you last heard from me, a lot has continued to happen. My dad moved down to Maryland to be closer to us. My wife lost her job and has been searching for a new one. My ministries have been ebbing and flowing as ministry usually does. Our kids are growing up even quicker now than they were before (that is the byproduct of pushing 50).

Meanwhile, I had hoped to be David Platt’s “mini me” by now. I had hoped to have all these churches asking me to come and preach on Sunday. I had hoped to have the likes of Ed Stetzer, Louie Giglio, and others asking me to write the forward for their books.

Man, I was looking at the top of the staircase!

But last night I was asleep. I was actually awakened this morning by my dream.

By the way, God, when you go to wake someone up from their dreams, next time can you make it on a day that I have to be up early? Not a day that I am able to sleep in? Thanks.

My dream started with me standing in from of this large staircase.

Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

When you go into a building and see an impressive staircase, do you immediately look at the first step? No, you look to see where the steps lead and you focus on the top of the steps.

That’s what I was doing.

This staircase was ornate. It was gorgeous! But it was also weathered and aged. It was like I went into a preserved mansion from the 1800s or something.

When I saw the staircase in front of me, I took in the panoramic view, but my eyes fixated on trying to see the top.

But what I realized is that the last step never came into focus. I couldn’t see the final step that would get me to the top of the staircase. All I could see are the steps leading up to it and I wanted to fix my gaze as high up that staircase as I could.

But then the steps started to disappear. From the upper parts of the staircase down, the steps slows disappeared. It was like watching the Avengers movie after Thanos did his snap. The steps just faded away into dust and blew away.

I felt my anxiety rise as I watched all these beautiful steps disappear!

By the time all the dust had blown away, I was left with one lone step in front of me.

The first step.

God was removing the distraction of all the other steps to show me that the first step is the one that matters.

The beauty of ministry (or the job search for my wife, or the struggles that anyone is going through with marriages, drugs, alcohol, or anything) is not in walking across that final step.

The beauty of ministry et al comes in taking the first step and learning all you can while standing on it.

When I stepped onto the fist step in my dream, the walls around me came alive!

There were portraits on the walls. They were kind of like in Harry Potter when the portraits moved and they are vivid scenes. Mine were from both ministry and family life. While they showed me the bumps in the road, they were exceedingly beautiful!

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

The first step isn’t writing a forward to David Platt’s next book.

The first step involves the printers in children’s ministry breaking down because of the new WiFi system and having several new teachers and some of the veteran teachers calling out. The first step involves I Sunday service with a lot of moving pieces that had several technical glitches along the way. The first step is not seeing people in the service who normally attend because they don’t like the topic that was discussed on that Sunday. The first step involves seeing someone you, and others, have been working with intently making the decision to get baptized and having the baptismal set up because your senior pastor felt God was telling him to do it.

The first step is the minutia.

The first step is the stuff that ministry is really made of.

Mark 5:2 – And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.

When Jesus went to go and seek the lost, the first step involved Him taking several steps to get to them. But for the person on the other end of the conversation, the first step was simply accepting Christ.

I realize that the Bible says we need to have a vision because if we don’t then the people will perish.

I still have a dream of one day writing the forward for one of my favorite author’s books. I still have a dream of getting the call from Moody Bible Church, Saddleback, Camino de Vida or many others and having them ask me to come preach one Sunday morning.

I still dream.

But the dream is becoming more well-rounded now that the focus is off the dream and is on the people who are walking with, beside, and around me at this time.

The first step is seeing people take the first step of their own.

The first step is resting in that place that God has you.

The first step is contentment with what you have and who you are, knowing that being content is truly the dream come true.

1 Corinthians 14:40 – But all things should be done decently and in order.

Things I Wished I Learned in Seminary

2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

A few months ago I stepped into a full time ministry position. It is truly a dream job. I had been chasing that dream since the end of 2013, so, almost 6 years. It took so long for several reasons, but, suffice it to say, God was preparing me for the ministry.

The position I took is a Director of Ministries role at a solidly medium-sized church. We run about 200 each Sunday and have over 65 people each week engaged in growth groups, which is an amazing percentage!

As Director of Ministries, I find that my role encompasses a lot. We only have 2 full-time staff: the pastor and myself. This means we both wear a lot of hats.

In all churches the staff wears many hats, but that number of hats you wear goes up exponentially as you get smaller. But I have found that the number of hats follows a sine curve. When the church is very small, the pastor wears all the hats, but the number of things that pastor is responsible for from a production standpoint is minimized simply because one person cannot do it all.

Then, on the other side of the curve is the megachurch. These churches typically have someone for almost every position in the church and the only reason someone would have to wear another hat is when they are transitioning between leaders.

Then you get to the mid-size churches. These are the churches that are between 200-400 people. In those churches you don’t have the congregation size to pull for every ministry that the church wants to do yet these churches are really starting to expand their community relations, build their worship teams, and see guests coming each week to check out the church.

It is in these churches, which don’t have the income to support full staffs, that the team is tasked with wearing several hats all at once so that the ministries continue to grow and the Sunday worship experience is on par with churches of larger size.

So when I went to seminary, I was told that the most important thing to understand was the Bible.

I still don’t doubt that.

Knowledge of God is the most important piece of ministry. I spent thousands of dollars studying a single book, The Bible.

But after seminary I feel woefully unprepared for many of the day to day parts of ministry.

Seminary is preparing people to be Ed Stetzer, Steven Furtick, David Platt, Louis Giglio, and many others. They aren’t preparing people to be the day-in and day-out shepherds of a congregation that can be challenging, amazing, beautiful, maddening, heartbreaking, and powerful. It also doesn’t prepare you for the operational aspects of ministry.

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men

So what I would like to do is give a list of classes that I wish I had a chance to take in seminary. Seminaries don’t offer most of these classes, just so you know. These are things that you would never see in an MDiv or MAR.

  • Rigging 101

The past couple of days I have been helping the pastor plan the 4 services we are going to have this Easter weekend. The first service is Good Friday at 7 PM. For this service, we are moving a huge, close to 200 pound, cross from its normal place on the stage to hanging it from the ceiling in the middle of the room. This is requiring chains, aircraft cable, and a lot of prayer. If this thing falls in the middle of the sanctuary, it won’t necessarily be a “good” Good Friday.

  • Graphic Design

One of my first tasks was to prepare a brochure for the church that was to be used in the business meeting. Our goal was to make it something that looked professional yet didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I had the brochure almost completely done when I found one of our congregants has graphic design experience. I showed it to her and was almost laughed out of the room. I handed it to her and, within a week, she had something that was absolutely hands-down amazing. I wish I had that skill!

  • Application of the Fruit of the Spirit

We all know the fruit of the Spirit. It is laid out in Galatians 5. Each one of those fruit will be tested by the congregation. They will be attacked by Satan. It would be amazing to hear from pastors who have stood the test of time to give a class on how to maintain the fruit of the Spirit while in ministry. The other day my pastor and I were talking about how I have a very corporate mindset and how I like to tell someone what to do and expect them to immediately do it. Unfortunately in ministry, it doesn’t work that way. It is much more relational. This is definitely a skill I need to learn more from him, and I am. But imagine if seminary had prepared me for this.

  • Sound & Lighting

I realize that for those who take a worship track in seminary get a lot of this, but during my time at seminary it wasn’t even an option for me to take. I guess they figured that I was going for church planting and therefore would not have need for a worship team? (please note the sarcasm in that question). I am thankful that I studied it when I went to college, but that was in the 80’s and 90’s, so things have changed…a lot.

  • Children

I have kids. I haven’t been the best father in the world. I will never win any dad awards. But when you have several other children and yours are grown, and children were never a strength of yours, it takes a lot more focus and energy for me to deal with children than it does for someone who is good with kids. I don’t know how to put together a lesson plan. I don’t know how to control a classroom (unless the people in it have already been through puberty). A basic class on classroom management for dummies would be awesome.

  • Construction Techniques

Much of my job is working with people to keep the church from falling apart. The church is old. At least 40 years old for the main section. This means there are things that are breaking, falling apart, and not efficient. If I knew how to build, fix, and update all the things in the church for cheap it would be awesome!

  • Keeping your marriage strong during ministry

This is another one of those things that I think would be an amazing class to have ministry couples teach a class about the storms, the tests, and the trials you will face as a ministry couple. There are times that I can see strain between us for things at the church. I am thankful that I have a pastor that has been through that storm and is a great resource for me.

So these are a few of the classes I wish were available at seminary. And I know that some seminaries do a better job at some of these than others, but for the most part, many of these aren’t even on the radar of seminaries to prepare future pastors for the calling.

Pastors and ministry professionals have a high burn-out rate and a high turnover rate. Perhaps if we spent more time in seminary preparing people for both the knowledge of God and the intricacies of bathroom cleaning, then we might see that turnover number go lower.

Jeremiah 3:15 – “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Fear of Succeeding

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 – 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.

Last week I mentioned that I accepted a position as the Director of Ministry for a local Baptist church (fcbc.church). The first week has been a whirlwind! It has been amazing, difficult, challenging, and exciting all in one!

The gifts and talents that I bring into the ministry here seem like they are complementary to the gifts and talents the other staff and elders have. After the first week it seems like an amazing fit!

A lot has happened this past week with the ministry. There have been some deliveries of benevolence funds to people, helping someone find a new job, helping people get food at a local food pantry, and working with local organizations to see if they would be a good fit in our building during the off-hours.

Then there are those items that I have been doing for many years in the business industry: writing training programs for ministry leaders as well as church-wide, doing needs analysis of ministries, and studying up on topics I know very little about (when I started in the coffee industry about 15 years ago I had no clue what coffee really was, the same holds true today with ministry).

I sat down over a couple days and created some training programs. They need work, but I think they are pretty decent programs.

Then fear set in.

Proverbs 18:3 – To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.

How much prayer and seeking of God’s face did I do before working on these? I honestly couldn’t remember!

I knew I had prayed at least a little bit, but I couldn’t honestly say that I was putting God first as I put together those programs.

I hope I didn’t just do something successful without bringing Christ into it!!!

I know that ministry is tough. The first week here has been full, but not tough. I am wondering if I am missing something.

But what IS tough is keeping Christ at the forefront of the ministry.

Some tasks are simple. A door is broken, let’s get the door fixed. Not a lot of prayer time required to make sure I make the right decision.

But what about the benevolence and food pantry and job help. If I get those wrong, then more than my own ego would be in jeopardy. I honestly can’t remember how much prayer I put into them all.

Psalm 5:3 – In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

So today I started something a little different. Instead of coming in and immediately getting to work, I am taking the opportunity to dig into the Bible for a few minutes and then go to prayer. Then, when I am about an hour or so from leaving, I go into the sanctuary and pray.

This is the reason that ministry is a calling and not a job. It is very easy to get caught up in the job aspects of the ministry, but if we look at everything as some aspect of “the job,” then we will never grow and excel in Christian ministry. But, on the flip side of that, if we spend all our time in prayer, fasting and dying to ourselves, then the little details like taking out the trash, setting mouse traps, and cleaning toilets will never get done.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 – Encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

I have had several jobs in my life. Every single one of them eventually gets boring and repetitive. I am sure ministry will be no different in many ways. But the call of ministry, if we see it as such, will carry us through the doldrums and bring us into exciting high winds to fill our sails.

So here’s to hoping that I don’t see only success. Here is to hoping that I fail a little. Here is to hoping I don’t get bored on the repetitive tasks and am able to enjoy the diversity of ministry.

And here’s to hoping that this journey will bring the discomfort to me and my family that causes the awakening that God so sorely needs in this world today.

Freedom of Captivity

What do you think of when you hear the name Paul from the Bible?

Many think of the world’s greatest missionary or the world’s greatest evangelist. Others think of the guy that wrote most of the New Testament. Still others think about a Pharisee turned Christian.

But Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, wants us to remember that Paul was imprisoned just as much as he wants us to know he planted a lot of churches. Almost 25% the book is devoted to Paul’s final arrest and imprisonment. If you add all of the information about Paul’s issues in Philippi then you have almost a third of the book dedicated to Paul’s legal problems.

Luke explains, in Luke 21:12 that Jesus prophesied that His people would be imprisoned for their evangelistic efforts.

Luke 21:12 – But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and …

Later, in the book of Acts, Luke shows us the fulfillment of this prophecy. Paul was not only one of those who were imprisoned, but he was done so because of Jesus’ call in his life: to both carry Jesus’ name to the Gentiles and Jews and to suffer for Christ. Paul’s ministry would not only be far-reaching, but it would be filled with suffering.

So, in Paul’s time, why were people imprisoned? There were really several reasons: to protect them from being hurt, to stop them from running away, to hold them while awaiting a trial or execution, or to force them to help in a judicial case.

Unfortunately, the prison system was very backed up and people would be imprisoned for long periods of time. Defendants were put into custody based on their charge. It was also based on the social status of the person. So, for example, if someone murdered another person, that would be serious. But if someone had a low status a lesser crime could be seen as serious.

If a Roman citizen was a high-status offender, they would be treated better than those who had a low status or were not citizens. There were several options available to the magistrates: prison, military custody, trusting to a higher-ranking sponsor, or release to their own reputation. There was a lot of corruption, even though there were laws in place to prevent it.

There is no greater example of how the system worked than Paul’s experiences in Philippi. Paul had removed a demon from a girl there and her owners, upset with the financial turmoil that it caused, have Paul and Silas taken to court where they are accused of being serious criminals.

Acts 16:16-24 – As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The apostles are seen as low-status strangers. They are considered “these Jews.” The owners of the slave girl accused Paul and Silas of undermining the Roman culture and subverting the religion. They were told they were “advocating unlawful customs.” The owners of the girl use their influence as Roman citizens to get special consideration from the court.

Paul and Silas stay quiet.

For the longest time I wondered why they stayed silent. All they had to do was tell the court that they, too, were Roman citizens. But in this case claiming to be a Roman citizen would hurt the message of the gospel. If they would have said, “we are Romans” would have meant they would have to deny Jesus.

This led to Paul and Silas being publicly stripped, severely beaten, chained, and then put into stocks in an inner prison cell, the cells that were used for dangerous and low-status criminals.

While they don’t turn their back on their faith, it doesn’t mean they aren’t angry from the treatment they have received.

Acts 16:35-40 – But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

When the courts find out they are Romans, Paul and Silas stage a lock-in until the magistrates escort them out of the prison. The magistrates are fearful for the treatment they gave to Roman citizens, which is a serious crime in itself, and they go and escort the apostles out of the prison and ask them to leave the city.

In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and chained twice at the Jerusalem temple. The commander tries to find out what Paul’s citizenship status is and what crime he has committed. Paul says he is both a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus.

But, yet, what crime has he committed?

The commander sees Paul as a low-class citizen and an overall troublemaker.

Paul is the guy cops don’t like to pull over. They ask for information and get half-stories or no story at all.

He is ordered for interrogation by flogging.

The commander ended up being wrong about Paul’s status.

Acts 22:25 – But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”

The interrogation and flogging stops. The commander is even worried when he learns that Paul’s citizenship status is higher than his own. You see, the commander bought his citizenship while Paul was a citizen at birth.

The commander had a socially superior person flogged!

They remove Paul from the chains and placed in the centurion barracks where he is allowed to receive visitors.

Acts 22:29-30 – So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

Paul is then transferred to Caesarea where he stays for 2 years. But what this shows is how your custody is handled is based on your status and your crime.

The Romans bring out a sizeable portion of their army to transfer Paul to ensure his safety. The same commander that had flogged him sends a letter to the governor, Felix, and changes the facts so they don’t show that he had a Roman citizen from birth flogged for no reason.

He says that Paul’s issues are Jewish in nature and that his charges do not warrant death or imprisonment from a Roman standpoint.

Acts 23:29 – I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.

Felix orders Paul to be kept under guard in his own palace.

Acts 23:35 – he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.

Felix hears the side of Paul and the Sanhedrin. After that he determines that Paul should be kept under house arrest but be able to have friends over and have some other freedoms.

Acts 24:23 – Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

More than likely while under arrest Paul was chained.

Over the next several days Felix meets with Paul, hoping he would offer him a bribe. But he wouldn’t. And this shows that Paul’s resistance to judicial corruption was the reason for his 2-year confinement.

Acts 24:26 – At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.

Felix leaves Paul in confinement as “a favor to the Jews.” In reality, what this did is that it made Paul suspect in the future in case the Jewish leaders wanted to bring other charges against him.

In the meantime, Felix gets replaced by Porcius Festus and his confinement is left in his hands. Likely the Jews attempted to influence this new magistrate through corruption. This led to Festus suggesting a change in the place of trial from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Paul is not happy.

He cries out for an appeal to Caesar himself!

Acts 25:11 – If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

His appeal is granted.

Paul goes from Jerusalem to Caesarea to Rome. He is a citizen who is under the charge of the Roman centurions. Once he reaches Rome, where citizenship is the norm, Paul goes from an entire garrison down to being chained to a single soldier. He can live on his own and rent a place, which he does for 2 more years.

Being that rental properties in Rome are expensive and very few people could actually afford to rent a private house, Paul most likely found a place in one of the tenement buildings throughout the city. Paul most likely could not afford to continue working as a tentmaker at this time as those tools were costly and security in the area he would have lived was scarce. Since he was a citizen, he would have been eligible for grain rations, but otherwise he was in need of support from others.

Philippians 2:25-30 – I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Paul was in minimum security in Rome. He was able to welcome anyone and everyone to his place and preach as he saw fit, which would have been boldly.

Acts 28:30-31 – He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Paul would have basically had a house church.

After his third missionary journey, while on the way to Jerusalem, Paul was warned by the Holy Spirit that captivity and difficulties awaited him.

He didn’t care.

Acts 20:23 – except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

It was in Rome that Paul told the Jewish leaders that he was in the state he was in because of Jesus.

Acts 28:20 – For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.”

Imprisonment and captivity was not a disqualification for ministry. It was an expression of it!

In his captivity letters, Paul said he was captive for a higher purpose. He is a prisoner for Christ. He shares in His sufferings.

Paul was an ambassador in captivity who preaches the freedom found in Christ.

Stepping Out

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

A few months ago, I told myself that I was going to step out in faith and quit my high paying job to go out on my own and start a franchise company while turning my focus to serving the Lord. I had to laugh when a month later, my old job called me and asked me to come back as a consultant and travel to NYC weekly.

This opportunity came at a great time as I was trying to get my business started.

Well, the business started very slow. My tithe went from quite a lot to quite a little, still above the 10% usually.

I was worried. I knew I had enough funds to last until about July for both the business and personally. Needless to say, I was a little worried.

But you know what? God never let me down. The opportunity at my former job helped to pay the mortgage every month. It gave me the ability to enjoy my time as my company got started and ministries got started.

But then something happened.

God happened.

Ministries began to grow.

I wasn’t really planning on that.

I mean, I did. Just not now.

I expected everything to happen in MY time. Why does God have to plan things outside MY time?

John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

I started leading the young adult ministry. Then missions took a turn that I didn’t expect. Now I am on the newly formed mission board at church.

Again I ask, why won’t God work in MY time.

And then I remember the initial reason I left my high paying job. You see, when I left, my prayer was to dedicate everything, the good and the bad, to God.

I am quite sure that I failed a test of some sort. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think the consulting gig was provided to me to see if I would truly give everything to God. To see if I was ready to just make the jump.

I failed.

I took the thought that God HAD to be providing me this opportunity to get the business started. But that isn’t how the Bible works with regard to stepping out in faith.

I took the role of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus told this dude to give up ALL of his possessions and when he realized it, he went away sad because he realized it would cost too much to follow Christ.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

I’ve been through a tough season in my business. I haven’t been able to tithe as much as I planned on tithing by this time. I am wondering if my tough season could be because I walked away from the promise I made to God to give Him everything.

Jesus told the rich, young ruler that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. There are a couple of things here that need defining before I come up with a plan for the future.

First, a camel going through the eye of a needle. Of course a camel can’t go through a needle’s eye, right? It is at this time that you might be saying that God was alluding to the idea that no one who is rich can ever enter the kingdom of God.

There are plenty of theories as to what Jesus meant by the “eye of a needle.” The Biblical statement from Jesus is similar to one shared by the Persians that talked about an elephant going through a needle.

The first theory revolves around the Needle Gate in Jerusalem. This was an after-hours entrance to the city and was small for security purposes. A camel could only go through it if you stripped it of all saddles and it crawled through on its knees. The main problem with this theory is that there is no evidence that this gate ever existed.

The second theory is that the Greek word for camel (kamelos) should really be the word for “cable” (kamilos). Then it would say that a rope or a cable would be going through the eye of a needle. However, believing this breaks the whole idea of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

My view is that Jesus is using hyperbole, a figure of speech that uses exaggeration for emphasis. He was no stranger to this form of speech such as when he talked about a plank in one’s eye or swallowing a camel.

Basically, Jesus is destroying the notion that the rabbis held that the rich were blessed by God and therefore were more likely to go to heaven. What makes it difficult for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven is that the rich are typically very proud individuals.

I have to admit, I was proud of the fact that I started a business. I was proud of the fact that I could be rich even before I put a dollar in the bank. It is hard to think that I could have missed my spiritual poverty while chasing physical riches.

But now, let’s get to the second definition needed, the kingdom of heaven. This is a phrase used throughout the New Testament over 77 times in its variations of kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God. If we compare the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, it is fairly clear that these two phrases can be interchanged (Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20).

I like a couple of definitions that other theologians have given. First, there is Graeme Goldsworthy who said it is “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”

Another definition is from Anthony Hoekema who said it is “the reign of God dynamically alive in human history through Jesus Christ….”

This got me thinking. If I would have not been the rich, young ruler, could I have entered into those definitions of the kingdom of God? Would my testimony of God be stronger? Would the ministries be better served? Would my business have been more mature?

I can’t help but think that God’s blessings would have poured out if I would have given everything to Him in the beginning. He never let me fail. I am still paying the bills and tithing, but I can only imagine what would have been if I would have simply been faithful.

James 1:5-7 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord

So here is the plan.

July 6th I am leaving the consulting gig. So the guaranteed income is now gone.

But here is the thing. I am not worried. God has continued to take care of me and He won’t stop now. The business will pick up. I have complete faith that will happen.

But more importantly, the ministries will flourish. I already know that.

I look forward to seeing what God will do. And I am much less scared than I was in January when I left my job originally.

Do you have something you need to give completely over to God? Just do it. Don’t think about it. Sometimes our thoughts betray us. Didn’t that happen to Adam and Eve? They thought about how God could be lying to them and ate of the apple. And what happened? Well, the rest of history as we know it.

I can only imagine if all Christians, everywhere, gave everything over to God completely. We would see such a beautiful society that would shine the light of Christ.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Into All the Digital Universe – Part 4: Blogging

Habakkuk 2:2 – The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it.

So we have covered Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the need for social media in the church today.  It is a very media-centric world.  God calls us to be in the world but not of it.  Today, being of the world means finding past lovers on Facebook, over-contextualizing the Gospel on Twitter, and risk losing the title of “above reproach” on Instagram.  But we are called to be in that world.  It is how souls will get won.  We need to meet Satan in the trenches on the frontline of the battle, and this is one of those fronts.

One more of those fronts is blogging.  There are many out there who say the blogging world is dead today.  The next generation of blogging is coming and that this is a thing of the past.  If that is the case, then why are there still so many readers of blogs around the world?  It is because there are blogs about every little thing out there.  You want a blog about applying makeup?  There are plenty.  You want a blog about improving your golf swing?  Yep, there are those.  You want a blog about how to eat a Maryland blue crab steamed and spiced with Old Bay?  You got it.  And if you want to find blogs about Biblical topics?  You can find more than you would ever be able to read in 10 lifetimes.

And guess what?

Not all those Biblical blogs are, well….biblical!

Romans 1:26 – For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;

You can find someone somewhere blogging about things that they believe and fitting the Bible into their beliefs, not their beliefs into the Bible.  You see, THAT is the danger with blogging.  Once you post your views, they are on the world wide web for everyone to see.  When I started writing this blog series, my blog had been read in 58 countries worldwide.  As of today, that number has grown to 62.  That means that if I post something heretical, then it gets seen in as many as 62 different countries currently.  That is a lot of pressure to put any preacher or saint under!!!  I’m blessed to have a seminary degree under my belt.  But not everyone that has a blog that posts about Christ graduated seminary.  (lol, that can both be a good thing and a bad thing, by the way)  There are numerous blogs out there that preach not just incorrect information, but flat out rebellion to Scripture.  With the potential to reach billions of people, it is no wonder that there is danger in posting.

But with the majority of young adults getting their Biblical teaching from a blog that someone posts in a tweet or on a Facebook wall, the need is great for us to get deep-rooted Scriptural teaching in the hands of everyone.

This means that all pastors need to blog.

I understand the need for time.  It is a precious commodity.  Especially for pastors who not only need to spend 20 hours preparing a sermon, going to visit people in the hospital, performing weddings and funerals, running Bible studies, but also have to make sure all the toilets in the church are unclogged, the windows are cleaned, and all the bills are paid.  And this happens while they are growing their family who needs them as well.  As a matter of fact, I am writing this at almost 12:30 AM on a Monday right now.

While blogging can be both time-consuming and potentially dangerous if unbiblical views are posted, there are many reasons that pastors should blog.  First, blogging creates in the writer spiritual formation.  Many Christians do not study their Bibles.  Unfortunately, many pastors don’t study, or even preach from, the Bible.  When I blog, I find a single verse that I study before writing.  I will do a systematic theological study of that verse with other verses it is tied to in the Old and New Testaments.  I spend about an hour studying the Greek and/or Hebrew meanings of the words.  This is all forming in me a knowledge of the Bible.  It is creating a spiritual discipline in me.  Not only does this help me understand Scripture deeper, it will hopefully help others to research the verses I use in my blog.

Next, blogging develops my leadership skills.  While I am studying and writing about my topic, I have occasionally sent off previews of my blog to others around the world to get their thoughts before I post.  It opens up conversations with others around the world, from different denominations and even faiths, to hear their point of view.  It has also been used as a resource to others.  At least 4 times my blog has been cited in some seminary student’s research paper.

Finally, blogging provides outreach to billions of people worldwide.  There are communities in the world that have no access to a Christian missionary, but they may have a computer.  This gets the Word of God into their village.  This is a great tool for engaging others and shaping conversations internationally.

So pastors should blog.

All Bible-believing, Holy Spirit-led pastors should blog.

I pray this series has sparked some thought in you.  Thoughts that perhaps you can get online and increase your ministry reach.  In today’s world, it is so very important that we have a presence in it and not fall to the fringe of those who let technology stop the spreading of the faith.

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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