Weekend and Week long Reading

I will be taking the first week of July off from writing. I will return to post some new material on July 8th. Between now and then I have several articles for you to read that I have enjoyed. I hope you like them too.

3 FRIENDSHIPS THAT CAN WRECK YOUR MINISTRY – these apply to anyone who is trying to serve the Lord.

5 REALLY SMALL HABITS THAT PRODUCE BIG RESULTS

DID GOD COMMAND GENOCIDE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT? – An important concept the think through and understand.

7 Ways to Persevere in Your Senior Years

You Need to Be Inconvenienced for Your Church

Christians, Let’s All Stop Doing These 15 Things on Social Media

I’m A Recovering iChristian

Seth Godin is so insightful. Not a believer, but still good stuff.

The solo marathon

Eleven votes

Of course it could be better

100 compromises

Even if it’s not graduation week for you

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Quantity or Quality?

Should you spend more time doing it? Should you spend less time, but make sure it is a meaningful time?

The answer is yes. You should try to do both, but if you have a choice, make sure it is quantity.

The problem with the question of quantity versus quality question is you never know when something of quality will happen.

If I talk to my spouse an hour every day, there will be many, many nights that nothing significant happens. Then one day, your hearts and minds will connect in a deep and meaningful way you never expected. You will be surprised by how intimate you become without anything artificial to force your feelings.

If you spend time with your spouse, one day you will deeply connect. If I spend lots of time with my children, one day you will be surprised. If you spend countless hours reading your Bible. One day your mind will light up with new thoughts and ideas. If you attend worship every week, one day, God will speak to you clearly. If you keep doing the right things repeatedly, then one day, you will encounter a quality of experience that you never expected.

As we head into the week of the fourth of July, many people who live near me will be given some extra time off from work. The best way to spend that time will be bingeing. Not on food or TV, but on time with the people in your life and on things that matter. Who knows what beautiful thing might happen?

The Five Most Common Conversations I Have as a Pastor

One of the drawbacks of being in full-time ministry is that you say the same things over and over. Solomon was correct when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Sometimes it gives me this awkward feeling because I don’t know if you have heard this before or not. These are the essential conversations the occur for me repeatedly.

  1. One Verse Evangelism. I use Romans 6:23 to explain the good news of Jesus. I probably use this one passage with the drawing at least 30 times a year. It is the easiest way to help people understand what the story of Jesus is all about. If you have been around me, you know precisely what this explanation looks like from me.
  2. God’s Grace is Big Enough for You. Repeatedly I talk with people, and they tell me about a horrible episode in their life. Often it has just occurred but occasionally it the baggage from a past failure. I explain to them that God’s grace is big enough to handle that sin. Usually, I tie this concept to some story in the Bible like Paul as the murderer Saul, the adulterous David, or the failure Peter. If God can forgive them, then he can forgive anyone.
  3. How to Fix Your Marriage. Every married couple struggles. Every single one! This conversation can lead to counseling or to a book that might be helpful. Frequently the issues have gotten quite large before a couple comes to me, but I offer all the help I possibly can in a single conversation.
  4. Watch Out. This is always an uneasy conversation. As a pastor, I might see that you are walking down a road that leads to destruction. This includes decisions people are making about the opposite sex, their children, or their spiritual life. The phrase, “You need to be careful with …” is a regular occurrence in these conversations.
  5. Thank You. Numerous people are very complimentary of how the Church I lead has helped them. They are grateful for the help they received physically or spiritually. There are so many great stories that have been shared with me through the years of people demonstrating the love of Jesus to those around them. For me, these are the most uncomfortable conversations as people will direct their thanksgiving at me. I want everyone to know that anything good I have done or my Church has done under my leadership is because of the presence of God. He gets ALL the glory.

These five conversations comprise over half of the conversations I have on any given week. The only one I might add to my list is the “how can I pray for you” or “I will pray for you” one as people tell me about their problems. Many times those words are said after one of the first four discussions I mentioned above.

This is a glimpse into my life, and it is also part of what it means to be a believer. We are always trying to help explain the life of faith to people in a way that impacts their life.

Is there anything you would add to my list? What do you frequently discuss as a Christian?

The People of Proverbs

Reading through the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament this year, I made a list of the people who are mentioned inside. Each one of them is a way that people respond to the good and evil as it is described in God’s word.

  1. The Simple – They are also called naive. This is a person who does not know what is right and wrong (often due to a lack of experience) and they make choices not understanding the consequences.
  2. The Fool – This person knows the right and wrong thing to do, and they chose to do what is wrong thinking there will be no ramifications.
  3. The Mocker – This person knows what is right and wrong, and they make fun of anyone who would choose to do what is right. They find joy in the foolishness and failure of others.
  4. The Wicked – This person knows what is right and wrong, and purposefully does the opposite of what is right. Their choices do not consider or care about what is right.
  5. The Adulterous – This is a person who entices other people to do evil. Usually, this is attributed to a woman who leads a man into illicit sexual behavior. It can apply more broadly to anyone who leads others astray, especially when it involves idolatry.
  6. The Wise – This person knows the right thing to do and then does it. Their steps are calculated and thoughtful while they move forward in the will of God.

The book of Proverbs labels people so that we can see the actions of others and ourselves more clearly. The primary question is which category do I fall into the most? The challenge of that book, along with the rest of the Bible is, “Will you live as a wise person?” Is your life marked by wisdom or something else?

I hope you will find this helpful as you read Proverbs, but more than that, I pray that you will be seen by others as living the wise life that God desires for you.

Keep Doing the Work

It is Monday. Mondays are always tough. This week it is especially true after taking some time off last week. It is difficult to come back to the office. It is challenging to focus my thoughts and write something fresh.

I once saw an article titled “It’s the grind that gets them.” I loved the title, and the point was clear enough. The difference between success and failure is not usually based on one big event or moment, but rather the daily discipline to keep working.

Church history has labeled the regular participation in prayer, fasting, meditation, and scripture reading as the “Spiritual Disciplines.” These are actions that require a steadfast commitment to doing the same thing over and over again. Developing your soul requires discipline. It is not the result of one big event or moment. People with weak and shallow faith are those without the discipline to put in the daily work. They have great intentions and idea, but without regular engagement, they are lost.

Mondays are days that I remind myself that I must stick to my commitments and keep doing the work. I will not be able to grow my soul without a level of resolve. I will not be able to serve the Lord in various ways without perseverance.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Counting the Cost

In Christian circles, when we speak of counting the cost, it is usually a reference to the price of following Jesus. Today I want to use it in another way. I want you to think about the cost of decision making. There is an expense paid with every choice we make, even when we chose to be indecisive.

Lately, I have watched several people make a mess of their lives because they failed to think through the ramifications of their choices. Here are five areas you need to consider when you make your next major decision.

  1. The Financial Cost. This one is the most obvious. Almost every choice will impact you in some way financially and that, in turn, will affect other things.
  2. The Time Cost. Saying yes to some things will require you to give up your time and energy. Time is our most limited and also the most valuable resource. One example, a job may pay much more but require more time from you. Is the money worth our time?
  3. The Relational Cost. How will the decision impact the people around you? Will it affect my connection with my wife and kids? What will this mean for my relationship with my parents? One poor choice can leave much collateral relationship damage.
  4. The Emotional Cost. You will carry with you the weight of this decision. A poor choice will be like a massive bag of rocks that you carry around for the rest of your life. Without thinking about this part of your life through completely, you can end up living with numerous areas where you second guess yourself and live with regret.
  5. The Spiritual Cost. If you choose to step outside of God’s will, there are always consequences. Quite often, those costs are not felt immediately. Some of the choices we make drive a wedge between God and us, and one day, the weight of those will weigh heavy on our lives. They may cause feelings of despair and shame that we never thought possible.

Most people fail to evaluate at least one of these areas when they are making a decision. Then they jump into a new phase blindly. Often it is not until the damage sets in that they begin to process these ideas. My encouragement to you is clear: If you are on the edge of making some big decision in your life, then be sure to give a thorough evaluation of what it might cost you. Hindsight might be 20/20, but a little foresight is far more valuable.

The Similarities in My Ministry Over the Last 25 Years

(This is the second of a two-part series – the first part was yesterday)

Yesterday I wrote about all the changes in ministry. I have also noticed that several things have not changed in the last 25 years. Here are a few things that remain at the center of the Church and my ministry.

  1. The Church is about people. As a pastor, I have the privilege of leading people and not just any people, but those who want to worship God and know Jesus. Sometimes these people are wonderful, and other times they are a challenge.
  2. The Need for the Gospel. The people who come to Church are broken and struggling to be the kind of person God wants them to be. The internet has changed some of the temptations, but there is still this overwhelming need for Jesus. We need grace and mercy today perhaps more than ever.
  3. Preaching is at the center of what I do. The communication of the word of God is still primary in the Church. People need to know what God’s word says, what it means, and how to apply it to their lives. The biggest thing I do every week is preach to people the gospel message they need to hear.
  4. Discipleship is still a struggle. While it is not easy to get someone to Church and make a commitment to Jesus, the most difficult task is to get people to grow in their faith. This includes having them know what the Bible says, and then getting them to obey what they know.
  5. All fellowship involves food. This goes beyond the Church in its application. If you want people to spend time talking, getting to know one another and have fun, then you must provide food. It doesn’t matter when or where you meet for fellowship to happen; food is an essential ingredient. I often think that the Church has kept the crock pot and casserole dish makers in business for years.

Other than our focus on Jesus, these are a few of the things that have not changed in the last 25 years. I am guessing these will never change. What would you add to my list?