Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Hold Fast

July 11, 2016

We prefer to talk about the abundant life that God has for us.  We enjoy the many blessings that we receive.

How do we respond when things don’t go as we would hope?

What do we do in the face of tragedy?

I.  Job

A.  Do What is Right:  Job 1:1

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

This is a good model for us.  We should fear God and shun evil.  We should seek to be blameless and upright.  We know that we cannot be perfect, but we should seek to live as God wants us to live.

Just because we are serving God doesn’t mean that we are exempt from hardship.  In a single day Job suffered the loss of all his great wealth and the tragic death of all ten of his children.  It just doesn’t get any worse than that.

His response has become a classic line.

B.  Response to Loss:  Job 1:20-22

 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

He mourned the loss and worshiped God.  These words were uttered long ago, but they have been repeated by countless other believers who have suffered loss.  If we turn to God, He is able to bring us comfort in times of tragedy.

Some might say, at least he still had his health.  That was the next to go.  He was stricken with painful boils that made him physically miserable.

    C.  Hold Fast:  Job 2:9-10

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

In times of hardship.  Hold fast to your integrity.  Actually, hold fast to your faith in God which is the true source of integrity.

If we are facing the loss of material things or the deterioration of our health we can still trust that God is with us.  He will help us through the difficult times.  A better day is coming.  If not in this life, then in the life to come.

Hold fast.

II.  Endure Hardship:  II Timothy 2:3

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I served in the United States Marine Corps.  I have often said that that experience prepared me better for ministry than my years at Bible college.

Why?

A marine is not allowed to quit when the mission becomes difficult.  It doesn’t matter if you are tired, hot, cold, hurt, or whatever.

Accomplish the mission!

Our devotion to God should be even more of a commitment than a marine’s commitment to his/her duty.  After all, a marine is serving an earthly kingdom, while we serve a heavenly kingdom.

There have been many times when I have been tempted to leave the ministry.  There are far easier ways to make a living.  However, it is the desire of my heart to be faithful to my calling, to accomplish the mission that God has given to me.

Never quit!

It is appropriate to ask ourselves some questions when hardship comes our way.

Is this hardship the consequence of a bad decision, or mistake on my part?  If that is the case, then learn from your mistakes.

Is God trying to get my attention?  Have I been following the direction of God?  God sometimes allows things to go badly for us so that we will get back on track.

If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, if we are serving God to the best of our ability, then we can recognize hardships as a test or trial of our faith.  We should hold fast and press on.

III.  Count it all Joy:  James 1:2-4

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

God uses the tests and trials of this life to mold us into the people that we are called to be in Christ.  We can rejoice in the knowledge that God is working in us.  The difficulties that we face actually can strengthen our faith and help in our development as Christians.

In addition  to the work that God is doing in us, God can use difficult experiences for His glory.  How we handle bad experiences can sometimes be the very best testimony that we give to unbelievers.

We can also rejoice in the knowledge that even in bad times, God is with us.  We can rejoice in the Lord.  He loves us and will help us.  His grace is sufficient for us.  (II Corinthians 12:9)

So, when we are called upon to suffer hardship;  hold fast to your faith, endure hardship, and count it all joy that God is working both in you and through you.

These are the sermon notes from 7/9/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.  All scripture quotes are from the New King James Version of the Bible. 

 

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Philosophy and Religious Faith

November 22, 2011

I was asked by a student the other day whether or not I had problems being both a pastor and a philosophy instructor.  I told the student that, actually, for me, they work together very well.  They both address similar questions.  When studying philosophy we examine alternative approaches and answers to questions.  This enhances the understanding of the complexity and range of the issues that are addressed.  As a pastor I propose answers to those questions.  This can provide a solid foundation from which to deal with the complex questions of life.  A solid foundation, with a breadth of understanding, is a good thing.  I have greatly enjoyed being both a pastor and a philosophy instructor and believe that I will continue to expand my knowledge and understanding in the years to come.

Don’t Stop

April 28, 2011

Saturday is the day that I will participate in my very first 24 hr run.  I am looking forward to it.  I expect to be physically challenged in a way that I have never experienced.

The advice that I was given by an individual who has participated in over twenty of these events was “Don’t Stop.”

Apparently you should alternate between running and walking, but don’t stop.  If you stop you will quickly stiffen up, the pain will set in, and it will be very difficult to start again…so… don’t stop.

It’s kind of like my overall approach to ministry and life.  I have been pastor of the same church for over twenty years and every day I get up and work at those things that need to, should be, or could be, done.

Don’t stop.

Of course there is a difference.  In life, I take breaks.  I observe a sabbath rest.  I go on vacation.  There are periods of rest, but I don’t quit.  I don’t give up.  A key verse to remember for continuing in Christian service is Galatians 6:9

“Be not weary in well-doing for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not.”

I hope to complete 100 kilometers in this race.  If I do, I will get a plaque.

More important, I hope to complete the course that God has set before me.  I want to hear the words.  “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

That will be worth way more than any plaque.

Gleaning Souls

February 3, 2011

I pastor a small church.  There are times when it bothers me that the church has not shown significant numerical growth.  Recently God allowed me to look at this situation with a different perspective,

I am gleaning souls.

In Biblical days, harvests were gathered by hand.  The workers would cut the standing grain,  and then bring them to an area for threshing.  During the gathering  process some heads of grain would fall to the ground.  The custom was to allow the poor to come after the workers to pick up the fallen grain.  This process was called gleaning.  It gathered up what was missed, so that none was lost.

The large churches do not reach everyone.  Everyone is important.  The small churches, like mine, are gleaning souls, so that none are lost.

Half-Way There!

November 16, 2010

When I was in my teens, I would go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a few days almost every summer.  I was relatively small in stature, but wanted to prove that I was stronger than I looked, so I would volunteer to carry the canoe across the portages.  By the time I was sixteen, I could carry a canoe, while wearing a backpack, across the trails.

On long portages,  they would have places set up where you could lean the canoe, without actually setting it back on the ground.  This would give you an opportunity to rest and catch your breath.

The portages would be marked on the map with their distance.  It was always nice to know when you were at the half-way point, because it gave you an idea of how much further you had to travel.

I believe that I am likely at the half-way point of ministry.  I began my role as a lead pastor twenty years ago and, should Jesus tarry, and my health holds out, I imagine that I will continue in full-time ministry until I am seventy.

It is a good thing that I enjoy a challenge.  It has not been an easy portage, but I am at the half-way point, and it is well worth it.

Within Our Limits

August 18, 2010

The other day I was out for another long run.  By long,  I mean ten miles.  After the run I commented to a guy at the gym that I had achieved four out of five objectives.

1.  I survived.  (That is always a good thing!)

2.  I made it back on my own, no one had to come get me.

3.  I ran the entire distance without having to walk.

4.  My time was better than the last time.  (The last time, I had to walk part of the time.)

5.  I did not make the goal of averaging either nine or ten minute miles.

I felt pretty good about the run.

While running I try to pay attention to what my body is telling me.  I really don’t have a death wish and so if I need to slow down, or walk or even quit, I will make adjustments as necessary.

It is important to recognize our physical limitations.

I once read that “the key to accumulating wealth, is to live well within your means”.

I have sought to live within my means for all my life, not because I seek to accumulate wealth, but because I want to avoid financial hardship.  Many of those hardships are caused by poor financial planning or decisions.

It is  important to recognize our financial limitations.

When I was young, I had a tendency to over-commit.  I would stuff my schedule so full of  activities and commitments that I would run myself down and have to quit abruptly.  Over time I have learned how much I can handle.  I still try to do too much, but I have become better at selecting what needs to be done, and have not crashed…yet.

It is important to recognize our limitations of time and energy.

God however, is not limited.

The challenge in doing the work of the ministry is to have the wisdom to recognize when we must stay within our limits, and when it is time to allow God to stretch us, to go beyond ourselves.

If we operate only within our limits then we may not realize the fullness of God’s plans for us.

If we go beyond our limits on our own initiative, and not by the direction of the Holy Spirit, then we, and others with us,  may suffer serious consequences.

May God grant us wisdom to run the course that is set before us, to achieve the full potential of his calling in our lives.

Stability and Depth

June 9, 2010

I’ve been too busy to have a mid-life crisis. 

Still, it is appropriate to reflect on what has been accomplished in my nearly twenty years of ministry.  From a purely statistical approach, the results would be disappointing.  We have remained roughly the same size for the vast majority of those twenty years.  However I believe that the effect of ministry is not reflected by so simple a means.

I believe that our church encourages people to have a faith that thinks, feels, and acts.  It is important to think about our faith, what we believe, and why we believe it.  We should not shy away from difficult questions that challenge our faith and our way of thinking.  It is also important to have a faith that impacts our emotions.  Our encounters with God, and with each other should provide emotional, as well as intellectual support.  Finally, our faith should propel us to act in a way that is christ-like.  After all, a faith without works is dead.

After twenty years of ministry, I cannot say that we are cutting edge, trendy, or particularly exciting, but we do offer stability and depth.  For some people, that is enough.

Need to or Should do?

May 6, 2010

I am a very good money manager.  I understand budgeting, planning and the difference between needs and wants. 

I am not as good at managing my time. 

For almost two years I have posted a new article Monday through Thursday pretty consistently.  That may now change.

I am going to try to apply the same reasoning to my time management that I do to my money management.  Need versus Want: that expresses my understanding of money issues.  It is translated into: Need To, Should Do and Want To when it comes to time matters.

I am going to do what I need to do first each day.

Then I will do as many of the things that I should do that I can find the time or energy to accomplish.

I will fit in the things I want to do when possible.

Writing new articles is something that I should do, as I feel that it is an extension of my ministry, but it is not something that I have to do, so there will be some days that it does not happen. 

We’ll see how it goes.

In His Presence

February 18, 2010

Back in the seventies I played percussion in a gospel group called the Christian Life Singers.  I had the opportunity to play in a wide variety of places over the three years that I was with them.  I even had the chance to play with some recording artists at a couple of concerts.  I greatly enjoyed all of those experiences.

As it turned out, I entered the ministry as a pastor, who happens to also be a musician, as opposed to specializing in music ministry.  So, for going on twenty years, I have played as a part of the worship team of a small church, in a small town. 

Last night as we were worshipping the Lord through music, I had a revelation.  I imagined that I was playing in the throne room of God.  Instead of the small group of believers who were gathered, I thought of the presence of Almighty God, not as if He was in our presence, but as if we were in His.

What a difference that made in my appreciation of that worship experience!  I was playing In His Presence, and it was wonderful.  For years, I have quoted the verse “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”, but the idea of my being In His Presence, was somehow, more inspiring.

How different would our worship be, if each of us thought of ourselves as worshipping in the throneroom of God?  Of worshipping In His Presence?     

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Adjust

October 26, 2009

As a pastor, I am paid after the last Sunday of the month.  We made this arrangement years ago, when I was working a full-time job outside of the church.  The church set my salary at what they would like to pay me, and then paid me at the end of the month, after the bills were paid.   If there was money available. 

 It was my idea.  I was, and am, willing to trust God to provide for us.

 Sometimes I got a full check, and many times I did not.  Over the years, the church has become financially more stable.  I went to working a part time job.  (My wife also works outside of the church.)  The months that I did not receive a full check became less and less.  Now it is a rarity, but it still occurs occasionally.  ( Twice this year, so far. )

I practice what I preach. 

When the income drops, I adjust the family budget for the month.  Need versus want,  is applied as the budget must be adjusted.  Hard decisions about where the money will be used must be made if our monthly budget is to balance.  I am thankful that God has blessed me with a wife who is willing to live within a budget, and who volunteers ways to reduce our spending, that affects her personally.

God provides enough for us, even as I blogged earlier in a post titled “Enough”.  Not only do I practice what I preach; I believe what I preach.  Our church income this month was significantly reduced.  We will adjust.  It will not be without sacrifice, but  it will be enough.