Isaiah 6:8b (CSB), “I said: Here I am. Send me.”
God has called you, He has sent you, He is glorified through you. Remember that as you serve His Bride.
Isaiah 6:8b (CSB), “I said: Here I am. Send me.”
God has called you, He has sent you, He is glorified through you. Remember that as you serve His Bride.
I’ve been a senior pastor for almost 12 years and on a church staff for the rest of my 23 plus years of ministry. I’ve pastored in several states both in the North and the South, urban, rural, and suburban. During that time, I’ve seen a flurry of changes as the church has come into the digital age and the culture has drastically shifted nationwide.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our inherent sinfulness and our reaction to change. Most of us don’t like change (unless we are involved in it), yet change is a certainty in life. Thankfully, some churches and leaders have successfully pushed past the resistant bullies and are seeing the fruits of their work. However, with so many churches plateaued or declining, subtle and not so subtle battles are taking place in churches all over. Bullies, ingrained in their traditions and positions, threaten the survival of churches themselves, and sadly, hundreds of churches close their door each year because the church didn’t respond to their community with the gospel.
So what is a leader to do? Start over? Take over? Leave? None of the above? Lots of options here, but something needs to be done (NOTE: check out Thom Rainer’s podcast for this great insight). Also, I’ll write more on the how and what to do in another post, but here’s some reasons why leaders need to press on despite the bullies:
Hope this encourages you you as we go into the greatest weekend of the year leading up to Resurrection Sunday. May you do His gospel work through His power as we remember that Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rise again!
How do you grow in your love for God? Sure, love Him with your heart, soul, and strength, but what about loving Him with your mind?
It’s more than simple mental assent, to know the facts about Jesus, to understand the basics, to hold dear the concepts of the essential and even non-essential doctrines. But is this love? Hardly. Studying without heartfelt application is an academic exercise, not much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those that Paul explains in Rom 1 who “suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.”
There is a sense, however, of knowing and doing God’s will. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We love God by being transformed by what we know of God to understand the perfect will of God. This means that bible study is to be applied for His Kingdom’s sake. We grow to show ourselves approved to Christ. We do this as a daily sacrifice to glorify Him.
So read the Word, study it, devour it in fact, and always apply this not for the sake of knowledge, but for a greater glory in Christ.
Until next time,
Like several people I know, I track my steps on my phone. The reason for this is so I can make sure that I don’t sit too long and miss out on a daily routine of staying active. I also work out, and though my schedule has changed, I am working on trying to get a routine where I can can get into my favorite place on a regular basis and sweat for an hour or so. These are important things to me, because being physically fit will in theory let me be around longer to enjoy life, my family, and worship here on earth.
To love God with all your strength means to be present with Him daily. It means that you are willing to physically follow through with what your head and heart has said is true. I come to worship, I read my Bible, I pray, but I don’t just do it, I do it with all my attention and focus. In other words, being present with God is an intentional, disciplined act of love.
I think that this is seen so much in scripture. Think about Abraham’s sacrifice in moving his family to a land God was to show him. Think about the physical love shown by Rahab as she hid the spies then hung the thread out her window. Think most of all, about the example of Jesus, hung on a cross willingly, in agony, in glory. Think about it and your physical sacrifice that you can do for Him as an act of love.
Pray for God to show you a way to focus on Him today. I know that He can show it!
In a sense, our creation in the image of God is trinitarian in nature. The bible says that people are made of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess 4:23, Heb 4:12). Above that, we also know that in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are new in Christ to become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:17, 21).
This is why Jesus was very clear that when we love, we are to love in a deeper sense. We relate to the Lord and to others within our soul, in an indescribable relationship that transcends the physical, emotive, and cognitive. Of course, you can never love God nor the things of God until you are born again, but when you are reborn, you are restored and ready to love with a new dimension of love.
Look at David as an example. Even though he had blown it with in case of Bathsheba and Uriah, he knew of God’s grace and trusted in it. David, once was so caught up in his sin, remembered God as the One who forgives and restores. He would later write,
“To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust” (Ps 25:1-2)
You who are forgiven, love God back with the soul that He refreshed. Take time to thank Him for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness! Most of all connect with Him and with others with a humility in the kindness of the Lord like never before.
Next post: Love God With All Your Strength
Loving God with all your heart is impossible to do in your natural state. It’s true that “We love because God first love us” (1 Jn 4:19), and that God sent his Son, so that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). You cannot truly love God unless you surrender yourself to Him, denying yourself, repenting of your sins, and receiving the great gift of eternal life paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the first and greatest thing that needs to happen, and if you have never done this and need to, contact me immediately.
If you have received Christ, you already have God’s love! However, many of us have seen times when this love can get cold, dry, even routine. This is where you need to change things up a bit, like dedicating yourself to prayer more, worship corporately in a different spot than where you normally sit, or even take time for a personal retreat (with no phones!). These are practical ways to change things so you can get out of your routine and focus on who truly matters, the Christ Himself.
That said, if you are growing in your love for God, then you need to be sure to grow in your love for others. John the apostle wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). For example, take a chance and love on that grumpy grouch that you encounter, by praying for them, talking with them, and loving on them. If they stay grumpy, at least you can move ahead and stay positive, focused, and ready to love the next person. Remember, Jesus says to love people more than you love yourself (even the grouches), so let your love of Christ shine to others no matter their response!
The point is this: never settle for a mediocre existence of life without a deep love for God and people. He commands it, He has proven it, and He desires it in you. Reciprocate God’s love and share it liberally with all you encounter!
That’s it for now. Next post: Love with All Your Soul (spiritual).
Jesus, in answering a lawyer’s question, affirmed in Luke 10:27 that you are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” These two great commandments, He would also say in Matthew 22:40, “depend all of the Law and the prophets.”
This is huge, to say the least! I see so many different dimensions to these commands. First, we interact with God on the four levels of heart, soul, mind, and strength. In the same way, we interact with people on these four levels. For example, when one of these four levels in a marriage relationship is broken, the relationship suffers like a four-cylinder car running on three. This is why every relationship should be healthy emotionally, spiritually, physically, and even cognitively (the mind).
For my next few posts, I am going to spend time on how you can love God and people more in each of these areas on a daily basis. Keep in mind that no one is going to perfectly love God and people, but if you sincerely desire to put on love, you can do this greater today than you did yesterday, and tomorrow more than you did today!
Next: Love with All Your Heart
I have just finished a little over a nine-year pastorate at a church that I have absolutely loved. Leaving on the best of terms, I feel good about the future for this church and her work of the gospel. One thing I do want to say about pastoring is that it is hard work, and a pastor who serves is serving a very difficult and challenging calling. As a result, I will always appreciate the local church pastor. That said, whatever your role in the church, here’s a few truths that I want to share with our pastors but that I think that everyone should hear.
Pastor, remember this:
Obviously, this is not a complete list and maybe I can add to it much later. However, I hope that this is encouraging and helpful. Let’s all pray for our pastors, as they lead the church!
About three weeks ago, I received a phone call to see if I was open to discussing a possibility of serving in a full-time position that would involve ministering to churches and pastors throughout the Upper Midwest region of our country. Although I was not at all looking to leave Mt. Healthy, I did want to be faithful and seek the Lord’s leading in this. After several helpful conversations, Teresa and I took the time to pray, read the Word, seek advice, and again, seek His leading through more prayer. Ultimately, I felt God reminding me that my life is not mine to live, and whatever I do, I must be faithful to go enthusiastically to where ever He leads.
My brothers and sisters, it has become clear to me that God is leading me to serve Him in this new ministry. In this capacity, I will have the chance to serve and love on hundreds of pastors and churches in several states throughout the Upper Midwest. I will have the chance to focus on disciple making and a chance to affect thousands of lives with the gospel. As you can imagine, this is an amazing and exciting opportunity to see many, many lives being changed by the Lord!
That said, leaving you is not easy. Teresa and I love you as our family and we struggled with our decision to leave! You can take comfort that I am not leaving with any negative feelings whatsoever- I am not mad, upset, pressured, or angry in any way. To the contrary: I am leaving with the joy of the Lord and with my gratitude and love for you! I can truly say that it’s been nine wonderful, memorable, uplifting years of fulfilling the gospel work!
As I prepare to finish my last Sunday on April 2nd, I want to share some words of encouragement. First, be assured that both the deacons and church staff have already begun planning for this time of transition so that everything can run as smoothly as possible during this interim period. Your leaders need your confidence, prayers, and cooperation during this time. You have wonderful, godly leaders who love the Lord and His church, so trust them!
Second, know that I will be your biggest cheerleader and greatest prayer partner. I am already praying for you as you seek the Lord for a new pastor, and I have already begun to pray for him as you receive him in love. In the same way, please pray for Teresa and me as we serve Christ in this new way. It will be an honor to love on our sister churches and pastors as I help them to serve Christ more fully.
Thank you, my beloved church family, for these past nine years. I will always treasure this time of our sweet blessings and steadfastness in Christ. I love you all. Watch this blog for updates of God at work in and through this new ministry for us. May the Lord bless you and may the Lord bless the gospel work of His church!
In Christian love,
Have you ever heard the expression, “like a bull in a china shop” before? The expression brings to my mind the image of a person recklessly breaking precious dishes and cups as he or she rushes through the store to get to wherever he or she is going. This expression is almost always used in a very negative sense, of course, but I think that there are times when the person who is the “bull” has no clue that others are hurt. In other words, the sins of a bull can be unintentional.
This image makes me think of a bull in a slightly different way. In the Old Testament, when an unintentional sin by either the priest or the people was committed, repentance and restitution needed to be made. The Law of Moses was very specific on how to do this and by whom this sacrificial offering was to be made:
Leviticus 4:2-3, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the LORD a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.”
Of course, we live in the age of the New Covenant, yet there is an application here for God’s church. Our unintentional sin which results in pain might even result in death, and while we don’t sacrifice too many bulls today, perhaps we need to be more aware of that serious damage that our sins might bring to others.
James 1:19 tells us that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Unfortunately, we have seen quite a bit of the opposite in our nation and social media, yet we as Christ’s church need to be different. This is not the time to be callous or bullish to our traditions, practices, and structure, especially if it gets in the way of our task of reaching people. This is the time to do what our society has not been willing to do: denying ourselves and following Christ in all things. in other words, people should know you less for your political rhetoric and more for your commitment to speaking the words of the gospel.
So we are left with a choice before us: are you a bull, stubbornly charging, creating discord, and making all sorts of noise for no eternal meaning or purpose? Or are you going to be different: humble, caring, and willing to see people as Jesus did? Even more, are you willing to build bridges and even to deny yourself to serve God no matter what it takes? The way of the bull is sinful and leads to death and the way, the greater way, leads to life. Sacrifice your bull and deny yourself. Take up His cross.
Choose love and life. God would have it no other way.