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RSS Robot

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  1. It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the three months since we entered 2020 and our church began the theme “Reaching Forth.” The theme phrase comes from Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” But when I chose it back in the summer of 2019, I had no idea how our life routines would be interrupted in the spring of 2020 by COVID-19. Here were are now, many of us under shelter-in-place orders, thinking about “reaching forth”! Let’s remember though that the apostle Paul penned these words while under Roman imprisonment, most likely house arrest. So if you feel that you are under “house arrest,” trapped in your own home, or if you’re wondering how you can make real progress during this period of waiting, I’d like to suggest eight daily activities: Thoughts for Your Daily Schedule: 1. Rise on schedule. Set an alarm, and get up and dressed. It will set the tone for your day. 2. Reach out to God. Study His Word, worship Him, and give thanks for your blessings. 3. Exercise. Take a walk, do an in-home exercise program….keep moving. 4. Work in place. If you’re working from home, finish projects and commitments; stay accountable. If you’re home but not working, choose a project to tackle—perhaps something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. 5. Reach out to others. Stay in touch with neighbors, the elderly, and your church family. 6. Minister grace to your family. Make this a time when you draw closer to one another, giving one another grace. (I preached on this topic Sunday evening. You can watch or listen to the message here.) 7. Discipline your media impact. Limit your screen time; govern content biblically. If you watch the news all day, you are likely to become anxious and depressed. 8. Rest. Physically, get sleep. Spiritually, rest in the all-wise, all-good sovereignty of God. View the full article
  2. Very few things challenge your efficiency and process like a nation-wide crisis. In this bonus episode of Spiritual Leadership Podcast, I discuss seventeen efficiency management principles that I have been reflecting on and asking the Lord to help me to use. I hope they will be an encouragement to you. If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  3. In the past two weeks, as COVID-19 has worked its way across our nation, it has turned our lives upside down. No one has remained untouched by the effects of this situation. From job losses to quarantines to social distancing, no one’s life is the same as it was two weeks ago. Even school children have had significant changes as their schools have transitioned to online learning and, in many cases, Mom or Dad are now working from home. And in the midst of this, the difficulties we already faced remain. I think of people in our church family going through chemotherapy right now and others dealing with various health, family, and personal trials. In a time of difficulty that seems to take over so many aspects of your life, it is easy to lose your bearings and spin your wheels in worry or distraction. Sometimes, however, we just need to go back to the basics. Here are five musts every Christian should do today: 1. We must believe. God has a purpose for allowing this virus and all the changes it has brought with it. I believe He is working in ways that are far greater than we can see. His love for us has not changed, and His promise to work all for our good and His glory remains. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28 2. We must pray. Worry is often a signal that we are not casting our cares upon the Lord as we should. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the outcomes of COVID-19 is a renewed prayer life among Christians? Pray for God’s protection, your family, your church family, your pastor, those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions. Pray for missionaries depending on financial support. Pray for God’s purposes to be accomplished in your life. Pray for opportunities to serve others and to share the gospel. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7 3. We must rest. If we’re worried and stressed, we won’t have the clarity to make wise decisions, and we won’t be ready or able to help others. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is get a good night’s sleep. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.—Psalm 127:2 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.—Psalm 4:8 4. We must eat well. It’s easy at a time like this to load up on unhealthy foods. The whole nation is trying to stay healthy by avoiding a virus, but we’re not all being as careful to stay healthy by eating a balanced diet with nutritious meals. We could literally make ourselves sick while we’re waiting for everyone to get well. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31 5. We must encourage others. There is someone near you right now who is having a harder time than you are. Ask God to lead you to them. Ask Him to bring to mind others you can encourage and to provide opportunities to share the gospel. Don’t wait for an organized church event to share the love of Christ and the gospel of Christ. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.—1 Thessalonians 5:11 Sometime down the road, COVID-19 will be behind us. But right now, in the middle of it, is when we will determine if it will be a time when we fell apart and lost focus…or if it will be a time of growth in our faith, prayer, health, and ministry to others. View the full article
  4. Our world is gripped today in health concerns related to Covid-19. Yet, God has called us, as spiritual leaders, to lead through these moments of crisis. How should pastors, in particular, lead through these moments? In this episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, I’d like to share with you some principles God has blessed in my life over the years as we have faced challenges and crises. I pray these truths will help and encourage you: If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  5. For many Christians in America, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was something happening “over there” just a few weeks ago. And now this weekend, many of us are holding services online because we can’t physically assemble as normal, due to social distancing. Truthfully, though, churches in the first century and even around the world today have faced challenges related to large assemblies, often due to persecution. Their example—as well as dozens of passages in the New Testament—reminds us that the church is so much more than an assembly.* As I teach in our new members class here at Lancaster Baptist, the church is not a building, but a called out group of people. We are the church. Now, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to function as local church bodies, even when our times of assembly are different than normal. Now, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to function as local church bodies, even when our times of assembly are different than normal. Click To Tweet The local church does so much more than assemble. Below are eight specific functions every member of every local church can participate in: 1. Pray—God invites us to bring every need we have to Him in prayer, and in this moment, we have many needs to bring to Him in prayer. But don’t just pray for yourself—pray for one another in your church family. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.—Philippians 4:6 2. Witness—Christ specifically commissioned the local church to share the gospel everywhere—in their communities and around the world. With the social distancing concerns of COVID-19, our efforts in sharing the gospel may be different than normal. But we are still called to do it. Perhaps God will give you an unexpected opportunity to talk with a neighbor or co-worker about salvation and eternity. Perhaps you can inclose a gospel tract in a bill you mail out or share your testimony on social media. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.—Acts 1:8 3. Carry one another’s burdens—This is a time for churches to reach out to widows, elderly members, and those with underlying health conditions. Although we need to follow the recommendations for social distancing, this doesn’t mean we can’t help others. Buy and deliver groceries for a widow. Reach out with a phone call. Ask God to help you bear someone else’s burden. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:2 4. Fellowship—Local church fellowship has always been around shared doctrine. This fellowship can’t be large gatherings right now. But it can be a phone call, text message, or note in the mail to let someone know you’re thinking of them. Fellowship can also happen online. Beginning this Friday at 10:00 a.m. (PT), I’ll be hosting a weekly online prayer meeting for our church family. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—Acts 2:42 5. Follow Christ as disciples—When Christ called His disciples, He gave them no expectation of ease or comfort. In some ways, the next few weeks will be a test of our discipleship. Will we continue to follow Christ in the midst of a global pandemic, even without the weekly physical meetings of the church body? And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.—Luke 14:26 6. Worship—What an amazing time in history we live in to have the availability of so many venues for online or live stream church services! And yet, in some ways, it may be more of a test of our priorities than ever before to make those living room streaming moments a focused time of worship and spiritual growth. As you remotely assemble with your church family around screens, be sure to give your attention and your heart to the worship and preaching of God’s Word. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.—John 4:23–24 7. Give—God has designed the work of the local church to be carried out through the grace-filled giving of His people. Even through times of crisis, the work of the local church—both locally and around the world through missions—must go forward. So give faithfully. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…—1 Corinthians 16:2 8. Serve—You may not be serving on a greeting team, helping as an usher, singing in the choir, or teaching a Sunday school class this week. But that doesn’t mean there are not opportunities to serve those same people. Perhaps think of five people you ordinarily see as you usher, and call them this weekend to see how they are doing? If you are a small group or Sunday school teacher, reach out to every member of your class to check on them. …by love serve one another.—Galatians 5:13 We are right now in a moment of great opportunity for local churches to be the church. Let us pray, love, give, and witness with patience as we look to Jesus! *Several years ago, I wrote a Bible study curriculum on the New Testament functions of a local church. It is titled Real Church, and Striving Together Publications is offering a free download of the leader guide through March 21, 2020. View the full article
  6. These next few weeks are going to hold changes for all of us as our communities work through the challenges posed by COVID-19. In the midst of these uncharted times, we who know Christ, can still proactively practice faith. And even when our world is turned upside down, we can trust that God is in control and that He is working. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.—Psalm 46:1–2 With that in mind, here are seven activities that can help you make the most of this God-ordained time: 1. Pray—Take time to cast your every burden on the Lord every morning and throughout the day. Parents, take time to pray with your children and to spend time with them around the Word of God each day. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your boss or co-workers. We can worry, or we can pray. 2. Help—Help a senior or a widow. Perhaps this means just dropping something at their doorstep, perhaps writing a note or a card. I’m thankful for the deacons of Lancaster Baptist who are checking in on nearly one hundred widows throughout these upcoming weeks. All of us should jump in to help those who have special underlying needs at this time. 3. Read—If you’re quarantined or otherwise spending more time at home, this is an excellent opportunity to enrich your life through reading. 4. Love—Love your family. Be kind to your neighbors. Encourage your coworkers. Reach out to your friends. 5. Worship—Most churches are finding creative ways to assemble through live stream venues or smaller gatherings. (Lancaster Baptist will be doing services via live broadcast at lbclive.tv. A schedule of the services is available here.) Although your church’s normal schedule or meeting location may be disrupted, make worship with your church family a priority. 6. Continue—The local church is so much more than just an assembly (although it does include assembling). But even when assembly times are unusual, you can still participate as part of Christ’s local church body as you pray, serve, give, and reach out to others. 7. Plant—A time like this is an opportunity to plant seeds. Just as many of us will plant seeds in a garden in the upcoming weeks, fully expecting a harvest later, so we can use this unusual season to plant seeds of prayer and kindness. Be sure you’re using this time to sow, because God will bless faithful labor for Him. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”—Galatians 6:9 View the full article
  7. Dear Lancaster Baptist Family, God has been so good to us, and I am thankful that He is always in control! I also believe that prayer truly makes a difference in needy times like these. In light of the Coronavirus/COVID-19, I wanted to give a few updates regarding our church services. We are thankful that at this time, there are no cases of the Coronavirus here in the Antelope Valley. We have consulted with Mayor Parris and local health officials and are continuing to follow their recommendations. With these things in mind, I wanted to share our updated schedule for this week. Sunday morning—In order to comply with the 250-person gathering recommendation from the Health Department, we will meet at 10:00 a.m. in our Connection Group locations this Sunday morning. Although we’ll not meet in the main auditorium, we’ll be making each Connection Group location a live stream venue, and I will be teaching the classes via this technology. (If you do not normally attend a Connection Group, click here for a list of locations.) This will be a very important gathering. In addition to our morning message, I will be explaining how we will communicate with the church through these next weeks or months of the Coronavirus challenges. If you have an underlying health condition or, because of your age, have concerns for the current virus epidemic, or if you are a caretaker of someone who may be vulnerable to the virus, let me encourage you to join us from home via live stream at lbclive.tv. Sunday night—We are not canceling our 5:00 service, but we are changing the location. Rather than gathering in the main auditorium, we are encouraging you to gather with your family or a few friends and watch the live stream services from your home. You can do this by going to lbclive.tv. This will be a special service as we all gather for the first time in our homes to watch, listen, and grow spiritually via live stream. We’ll give you more information on Sunday morning about this special opportunity. Wednesday night—Until further notice, our Wednesday evening service at 7:00 p.m. will be conducted as a live stream venue. Join Pastor Chappell for these special services online. Additionally, you will have an opportunity this Sunday morning to register for these services and receive extra updates along the way. Additionally, here are a few things I want our church family to be aware of going forward: Always—As always, all of our campus facilities, including childcare locations, are deep cleaned after every use. We have recently placed additional hand sanitizers throughout the property. We also encourage you to follow standard hygiene practices to stay healthy. These practices include washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding contact with sick individuals. Live Stream—Each week, we will be notifying our church family via email and text regarding the church schedule. Every service of our church will be live streamed at lbclive.tv, and all services will have a downloadable outline. We are establishing a help desk line should you need help with this technology. You can access this by calling 661-946-4663, ext. 2190. Online giving—Although the next few weeks will likely involve unique formats and scheduling of our services, the ministry responsibilities, both locally and around the world, will continue. Let’s be faithful in our giving, whether that be in person on Sunday or electronically. (You can give securely online at giving.lancasterbaptist.org or through text at 661-250-6982. You may also mail a check directly to the church at 4020 E. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster, CA 93535.) Member Needs—If you have a question about the service schedule, have a need related to a ride or delivery of food related to the Coronavirus, please call our church office at 661-946-4663. We’ll have someone available to answer questions during normal office hours, and our church will do our best to help in any way we can. Of course, always feel free to reach out to your adult connection group leader as well. Updates—I’ll share more thoroughly on Sunday morning special ways our staff is putting together to help our church family stay connected and updated through this season. Anytime, however, there is a change to our service schedule, we’ll be sure to post it on the church website as well as on Facebook and Twitter accounts. Let’s continue to pray for one another as well as those who have been affected by COVID-19. I’m looking forward to our services this Sunday and to sharing with you the unique opportunities we have for both worship and ministry during this time. Remember, Jesus told us in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Although this is a challenging time, we who know Christ can keep our confidence in Him! Your Friend, Paul Chappell Pastor P. S. This would be a great time to download the church app for push notification updates. This app is available in both iOS as well as Android platforms. View the full article
  8. I’ve spent a lot of time this week hearing from advisors, listening to our leaders, and considering the spiritual and practical implications of COVID-19 virus for our church, school, and ministry. I’ll share more thoughts on Sunday via livestream at 10am as well. I ask you to read this post carefully and prayerfully, and premeditate your response as a follower of Jesus. Also, consider sharing this email. We want to make sure our whole church engages in a godly response to our present situation. How do Jesus-followers respond to hard stuff? 1. Jesus-Followers Respond Prayerfully and Hopefully Our church family has studied much recently (during our emotional health series) about biblical responses to fear and worry. You might be encouraged by some of those messages of hope. We’ve also recently studied God’s strength. We belong to a good God who promises to meet our needs. In this, I encourage you to be at rest psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. You are no less secure in Christ than you were a month or two ago. The gospel is designed for times like this. This is when our hope matters most! I encourage you not to descend into divisive, political, or pointless rhetoric and not to be captured by the rampant panic, fear, and conjecture. Rather be prayerful and be hopeful. How can we pray? Please pray for those impacted by this illness. Pray for those at risk, those who are sick, those who are fearful and anxious. Please pray for medical professionals and governing leaders who are under much stress, long hours, and intense public scrutiny. Pray for lost hearts to turn to Jesus. Pray for God to protect our nation, our region, our church family, and our ministry. Finally, pray that hearts will open to the gospel. (In that light, I am meeting with a small group of men at 8am tomorrow at our church just for prayer. Feel free to join us if you would like to pray with us for a short time.) “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6) 2. Jesus-Followers Respond Missionally and Intentionally As I’ve studied various leaders’ responses online and elsewhere, I have been struck by the absence of gospel intentionality. I’ve heard many pastors concerned about their church’s financial giving. I’ve heard only two mention the potential of gospel ministry in times of crisis. I’ve heard none mention concern for how this virus will impact members of the church family either in health or in financial fears. The first century church was resilient because of the resurrection. They viewed hardship as opportunity for the gospel. Indeed, the rapid expansion of 1st century Christianity was a result of believers spreading the gospel in response to crisis. God often uses fear to help people see their need for Jesus. People around us are scared and this is no time to panic. It’s time to speak. It’s time to let others know of the hope that is within us. My friend, Pastor Josh Teis well wrote, “Take one minute—imagine what it would be like to not believe in an omnipotent God. Imagine the terror and uncertainty that so many are feeling tonight. Could this be our moment? Could this be our chance to demonstrate true peace and genuine faith to a world in panic?” Let us pray together that God will help us speak the gospel into a fearful world! Only Jesus ultimately resolves fear. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15) 3. Jesus Followers Respond Lovingly This is not a time to hoard, but a time to serve. This is a time to unify for the purpose of loving others. Who do you know that is vulnerable? Who do you know that is afraid? How can you serve and help to care? Would you be willing to grocery shop for a widow or high-risk neighbor? Is there someone God would have you help to serve or bless or comfort. Likely, within your reach, there is someone God would call you to love. As a church we want to help team up those willing to serve with those in need of help. If you are a part of our church that is at risk or in need of help with something like a trip to the store or child care, please contact the church office. If you are willing to be a helping hand in this way, please email derrick@ebcnewington.com so we can coordinate these needs. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14) 4. Jesus-Followers Respond Practically and Reasonably Because of the possibility of overwhelming our health-care system, our governing leaders have asked us to limit public gatherings. This pains us all, as Sunday is probably our favorite day of the week! And yet, I believe it is wise and responsible to heed the direction of those God has placed into leadership. Regardless of your personal persuasion as to the nature of this threat, it is wise to be cautious and to act responsibly as a church family. (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13) Here’s our plan for this weekend. (Beyond this weekend, we will be communicating on a week by week basis regarding future scheduling of services and events.) Sunday Worship—We will livestream one service at 10am at the church with our worship team, our pastoral staff, and a full Bible message. We encourage you to gather your family or even consider gathering with one or two other church families to engage in the livestream together from home. We will promote this service as an online event called “Fearless—Finding Real Confidence in Crisis Moments.” We encourage you to share and invite fearful friends and unbelievers to engage in this service and simple gospel presentation. People are looking for a hopeful message right now, and we want to speak into that cultural need. You can find the livestream at https://ebcnewington.com/live/ or on our church Facebook page. Our pastoral staff will be responsively engaged on the livestream starting at 9:45am, so jump on early and join the “good morning” conversation. (The service video will continue to be available after the service so you can share with others.) Our staff will also be responsive to phones and church email during the service time. 5. Jesus-Followers Respond Patiently, Flexibly, and Faithfully Like you, I have no clue how this will develop or how long it will last. I ask you to pray with me that it will pass quickly. That said, it is impossible to know about the status of future events except on a week to week basis. Please stay connected with email and church social media accounts and website for the most current announcements and information. We will postpone our Vision Offering and reschedule it after this crisis has past. Personally, I have prepared my offering and am excited to give it to the Lord’s work at the right time. I pray you will be seeking the Lord’s direction in this as well. Finally, when it comes to provision, both for your family personally and for the whole ministry, we are all tempted to fear. I encourage you to remember—God’s got this! He’s got us. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added…” (Matthew 6:33) Keep Him in view. Sometimes He provides weeks or months or even years in advance, but at other seasons He provides day to day or week to week. Whatever He chooses to do, be at rest in His protective promise. He will care for you, and He will care for us. In fact, it’s going to be exciting to see just how He will show Himself real and trustworthy to each of us in these times. I know this, it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18.) As for me and my house, we will continue our regular giving patterns in love and trust. Being that we are not gathering, I encourage you to engage in giving online, text to give, or feel free to drop your offering by the church any time the office is open. I know God will continue to be faithful to us and through us. For more information about giving options during season, visit https://ebcnewington.com/give/ 6. Jesus-Followers Respond Calmly and Confidently In closing, pray that God will lead us forward, calm our hearts, and sustain our needs. Pray that He will use us to be loving light as darkness grows. Pray that He will intersect our path with seeking and fearful hearts. Pray that He will make us courageous and confident to share the hope of the Gospel in the midst of such hopelessness. I love you. I will miss gathering on Sunday. I can’t wait to see how many of you engage on livestream, and how many of our friends will do the same. God is at work around us and in our world. We are His, and He has called us for “such a time as this.” May we not shrink from our calling, but step into it with real faith! Let me know how I can serve you! Your friend, Pastor Cary “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:” (Hebrews 6:11) “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13) View the full article
  9. In recent days, we have been wisely encouraged by medical professionals to practice social distancing to help avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Social distancing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) involves “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance.” The idea is to exercise caution and “put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.” This advice is challenging for any community with schools, businesses, and other gatherings. It is especially challenging to those of us who are believers, because assembling, discipling, baptizing, and even partaking in the Lord’s Table, as Christ calls us to do, cannot be done effectively when our paradigm is on social distancing. How is the church to function during a crisis like this? How do we resolve the tension between being cautious and being faithful? Here are five ways: 1. Leaders must communicate. Let your church family know what you are doing as a church in response to a crisis, and let them know how they can help. Our church staff has been closely following the CDC recommendations as well as those of our local health department. I sent an email to our church family this week communicating these steps and asking for their help. (The letter is also posted here.) 2. Leaders must be willing to adapt the ministry schedule. We must be ready and willing to postpone or cancel special events. (For instance, our ministry made the difficult decision to cancel the Spiritual Leadership Conference Asia for this very reason. We did our best to thoroughly explain the steps that led to this decision to those involved.) Another way to adapt the ministry schedule would be to create smaller venues for worship and teaching if the need comes to your community. 3. Churches must use technology. Churches today have the ability to easily live stream their services through various venues, including Facebook Live. Live stream can help members who are home sick, avoiding spreading their symptoms to others. Be sure as a church to communicate the live stream availability, especially if you are going to have a churchwide service by way of live stream. This is also a helpful time for churches to have online giving options and to communicate those to the church family, educating members that whether we assemble in person or not, our worldwide gospel mission continues. 4. Churches must pray. During a time of crisis, prayer should always increase. I think of when Peter was in prison in Jerusalem during a wave of persecution that had just seen James beheaded. Acts 12:5 records, “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” This is a good time to organize prayer teams, perhaps through adult Bible classes or the deacon ministry. Prayer can also bring peace to our hearts when we become fearful. Philippians 4:6–7 admonishes and promises, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 5. Members must remain connected. During a time when people may be leary of social interaction, we can certainly contact our widows, absentees, and Sunday school classes by way of telephone or text visitation. It is imperative that a church stay in touch one with another during a time of social distancing. The local church is “one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5). Although it is true that we, as believers, find ourselves in a challenging moment to minister in a society that is practicing social distancing, we need not be discouraged or fearful for the ability of the church to continue. For Christ promised, “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus prophesied that there would come times when “…great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences…” (Luke 21:11), so the current situation certainly does not take Him by surprise. As Christians, rather than responding in fear or giving up on our responsibility to minister to one another and continue to proclaim the gospel, we should be wise and proactive. And we should be so committed to our mission that we can be flexible and adaptable in finding ways to carry it out. View the full article
  10. Resurrection Sunday is not only a time to celebrate the gospel; it is also a great opportunity to share the gospel. There are very few days of the calendar year that offer as great an opportunity to invite someone to church and to share the powerful truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with them. In this new episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, I sat down with Gabriel Ruhl, our executive pastor, and we discussed how to prepare for a great Easter weekend. Specifically, we noted that for our Easter outreach to be effective… 1. Our reach should be intentional. 2. Our schedule should be flexible. 3. The truth should be central. 4. Our invitation should be relatable. 5. The experience should be enjoyable. I trust these thoughts will be a blessing to you and your ministry as you prepare to celebrate and share the life-changing message of the gospel with your community. I pray this podcast will be a blessing and an encouragement to you. If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  11. According to my plans, I was supposed to be preaching in the Philippines today and hosting Spiritual Leadership Asia Conference next week. A few weeks ago, however, I was disappointed when we had to make the difficult decision to postpone the conference due to the coronavirus. (Read a detailed explanation of this decision here.) There were thousands of pastors, missionaries, Bible college students, and ministry leaders from over fifty countries who were registered to attend the conference. I, along with many others, had been praying that the Lord would use this conference to make a sizable impact across Asia for the sake of the gospel. The 10/40 Focus Nations, which we were targeting through this conference, includes over 5.3 billion people across the continents of Asia and Africa, a vast majority of whom have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel. It is a region that is home to all of the alternate religions, intense spiritual warfare, much persecution, and a scarcity of Christian workers and resources. Since the postponement of the conference, however, we see another—perhaps even greater—opportunity to impact this region of the world with the gospel. And that is through the power of prayer. We are asking Christians around the world to partner with us in a week of prayer, March 8–15, 2020, concentrated on the spread of the gospel throughout the 10/40 focus nations. Who knows but that the difficult cancellation of the conference may be a tool God uses to renew the fervent prayers of multiplied thousands of His people for those who have never heard the gospel? If you have a heart for missions and a heart for souls in this region, we would like to invite you to partner with us in this week of prayer for the 10/40 Focus Nations. Here’s how you can be a part: 1. Sign up. Visit the conference website to sign up for daily emails with five specific prayer points each day. You will also receive computer and phone screensavers, that can serve as prayer reminders throughout the week. 2. Set your phone alarm. We are encouraging people to set an alarm for 10:40 a.m. or p.m. as a daily reminder to a season of fervent prayer. 3. Invite others. Share this blog post or the signup link with others, inviting them to join you in this coordinated prayer effort. If you are a pastor, consider engaging your church family this Sunday in a commitment to pray with us. Join me in a week of prayer for the 10/40 focus nations. Sign up here: Click To Tweet 4. Pray. God promises us in James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Please pray with us that the Lord will raise an abundance of labourers to take the message of the gospel throughout this region of the 10/40 focus nations. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.—Matthew 9:37–38 View the full article
  12. Spiritual leaders desire that Christ would be lifted up and glorified in all things, especially through their ministry in the local church. That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.—2 Peter 4:11 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.—Ephesians 3:21 But how specifically does that happen? What choices do we as spiritual leaders make that magnify God’s glory? There are many, but below are seven specific ways we can glorify God in our ministry. We glorify God when we… 1. Die to Self This is what John the Baptist so humbly pointed out. He must increase, but I must decrease.—John 3:30 We can say that we want God to be glorified one minute and then make self-serving, self-promoting choices the next moment. But giving God glory requires a conscious choice to die to self. Giving God glory requires a conscious choice to die to self. Click To Tweet …I die daily.—1 Corinthians 15:31 2. Discover Our Identity in Christ Death to self should lead us to the experience of a renewed joy in the fullness of Christ. We are “in Christ”…and that changes everything. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20 What does our identity in Christ include? Here’s a shortlist: In Christ… I am accepted (Ephesians 1:6). I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15). I have been justified (Romans 5:1). I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1). I have been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14). I am complete (Colossians 2:10). I am free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1–2). I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). I can find grace and mercy in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18). I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15:1–5). I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:6). I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12). The more you remember who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will reflect your true identity. As Christ’s life then lives through you, He is glorified. 3. Develop Fruit for Christ One of the ways Christ’s life flows through us is when we abide in Him, our vine. As we remember our source of power and sufficiency is only of God and as we draw near to Him, we pray for fruit, and we become bold in our witness. The result of this is that we bear fruit…for the glory of God. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit…—John 15:7–8 4. Discipline Ourselves to Plan Many of us are good at having great dreams of big things we can do for God’s glory. But we’re not always as good at creating a plan and disciplining ourselves to live by it. I believe God is glorified when we pray Ephesians 3:20 prayers. But we should remember that He often uses us as His instruments to do “exceeding abundantly above.” God is glorified when we pray Ephesians 3:20 prayers. But we should remember that He often uses us as His instruments to do “exceeding abundantly above. Click To Tweet Discipline and diligence enable us to serve God in ways that He blesses. After all, a dream without a plan is only a wish. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.—Colossians 3:23–24 So plan your week. Plan your day. Set goals, and plan how you will reach for them. And when the inevitable slump kicks in after the adrenaline of planning has worn off, stay the course—remembering that you are doing it for the glory of God. 5. Disturb Our Comfort Zones It’s easy to get into a predictable rut of ministry. This rut usually includes spiritual lukewarmness, apathy for souls, and a lack of discipline in our personal lives. If this describes you, ask God for a renewed fervency that will pull you out of your comfort zone to serve for His glory. Stir up the gift of God. Rouse yourself for action. Ask God for a renewed fervency that will pull you out of your comfort zone to serve for His glory. Click To Tweet Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God…—2 Timothy 1:6 6. Demonstrate Commitment to Christ When we face difficult days and the temptation to throw in the towel, we can remember that perseverance glorifies God. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.—2 Timothy 2:3 Jesus Himself endured suffering, and He calls us to look to Him and run our race with patience. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2 When we face difficult days and the temptation to throw in the towel, we can remember that perseverance glorifies God. Click To Tweet 7. Deflect Praise to Christ Incredibly, when God blesses our labor for Him, we are sometimes tempted to take the credit. If pride didn’t keep us from abiding in Christ, witnessing, reaching past our comfort zone, or remaining committed through difficulty, it can still creep in at the moment of a God-given victory. How do we defeat this pride? We start by remembering that any blessings or goodness are not of us but come from God alone. But more specifically, we proactively praise Christ for what He has done. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.—Ephesians 1:6 That in all things He might have the preeminence.—Colossians 1:11 And remember that God inhabits the praises of His people. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.—Psalm 22:3 So give Him glory, honor, and praise! View the full article
  13. The gospel itself is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). But for those of us who have believed the gospel and received Christ, the gospel has life-changing implications. And for those of us in ministry—which should be every Christian, even if not in a paid, vocational position—the gospel is our very motivation. “For the love of Christ constraineth us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The classic chapter on the gospel’s implications of ministry is 2 Corinthians 4. Through both instruction and personal testimony, Paul tells us in this chapter how we are to live as gospel ministers and what gospel ministry looks like in the trenches of daily service. This chapter is rich, and I would encourage you to read it in its entirety…multiple times. But for this blog post, we’ll just look at the first five verses and from them draw five implications of gospel ministry: 1. Faithful like Jesus Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;—2 Corinthians 4:1 How is it that gospel ministers can determine not to “faint” or give up, in spite of the obstacles?They have received God’s mercy, and it enables them to continue in steadfast service—like Jesus. In fact, looking to Jesus enhances our faithfulness. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.—Hebrews 12:2–3 Looking to Jesus enhances our faithfulness. Click To Tweet 2. Separated from deceit But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness…—2 Corinthians 4:2 Gospel ministry isn’t about tricking someone into salvation. Even as we use the term “soulwinning,” we know that we don’t “win someone over” to Christ. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who uses His Word to bring conviction that wins souls. We are simply the mouthpiece. And since the gospel itself has power (Romans 1:16), we can renounce all “dishonesty” and “craftiness” as we present the gospel. This is what made Paul’s ministry so powerful. He simply preached the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:23). Remember, however, that the “power of the gospel” goes with the “afflictions of the gospel.” Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;—2 Timothy 1:8 Some of the “things of dishonesty” and “walking in craftiness” of ministry in our day comes in the form of churches unwilling to give a forthright answer or take a solid position on the moral issues of the day. Don’t be ashamed of the “stigma” of being a Bible-believing, truth-preaching, gospel-proclaiming minister. 3. Sound in the Word …nor handling the word of God deceitfully—2 Corinthians 4:2 What do we do instead of handling the Word of God deceitfully? We divide it rightly! Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15 It is the Word of God—not our clever phrasing—that has power to convict hearts (Hebrews 4:12). Thus we must study God’s Word diligently and use it faithfully. This is why our church has committed that every aspect of our ministry—from children’s ministry to adult connection groups—must be based on Scripture and on equipping our church family to know and apply God’s Word. Our goal in church ministry is not simply to have coffee and activities, but to ground people in the Word of God. If you want to have gospel-driven ministry, know and use God’s Word. If you want to have gospel-driven ministry, know and use God’s Word. Click To Tweet 4. Living the truth …but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.—2 Corinthians 4:2 Paul’s lifestyle matched his message….and those he ministered with and ministered to knew it. To Timothy, he wrote, But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,—2 Timothy 3:10 And to the church at Corinth, he wrote, For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.—2 Corinthians 1:12 Thus, on both ends of Paul’s ministry—those joining him in service (Timothy) and those who received his ministry (Corinth)—saw Paul living the truth he preached. Our lives can be a manifestation of the truth, or they can obscure the truth. 5. Spreading the gospel But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.—2 Corinthians 4:3–5 It may seem obvious, but a gospel ministry is one that actually spreads the gospel. It is not simply a ministry in which the people in it believe the gospel and talk about how to live the gospel, or a matter of simply attaching the word gospel to everything we do. In fact, we could say that a determining indicator of if you are living a gospel-centered life is if you are living a gospel-sharing life. According to the verses above, it is a contradiction to say that our lives are centered on the gospel if we are not actively sharing it with the lost. It is a contradiction to say that our lives are centered on the gospel if we are not actively sharing it with the lost. Click To Tweet Gospel ministry takes place when we share the gospel with people and then help them reshape their lives according to the gospel’s implications. View the full article
  14. Any view of Christian ministry that doesn’t take the opposition of Satan into account is a naive view. He is, after, all the primary enemy of every Christian leader (Ephesians 6:12). But Satan has many weapons in his arsenal, and he uses them with great subtlety. This is why Ephesians 6:11 warns us, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” So what are some of the weapons Satan aims at spiritual leaders? We could name many, including some of the more obvious ones such as financial or moral failure. But even those are usually not the beginning place of destruction. Below are seven pitfalls that all of us easily fall into and need to guard against: 1. Wrong Focus We know—and readily say—that there is only One who is worthy of our focus. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2 But we easily take our eyes off of Him, don’t we? We so easily shift our gaze to other people or even to the work of the ministry. I’ve been guilty of both…and I know that both are unsatisfying and unsustaining. In Jesus, we find our example (Hebrews 12:3, 1 Peter 2:21) and our acceptance (Ephesians 1:6). He is our life (Colossians 3:4). 2. Hurry I’m not speaking here of a fast-paced day, but of a disordered life. After all, there is a difference between scheduled tenacity and unplanned idiocy. When we get to the point where we are living from one cyclone to the next, we lose any sense of rhythm or rest in our spirits. We even lose the ability to plan well and get sucked into the tyranny of the urgent. Sheer hurry and busyness is not the sign of productivity and spiritual health, and it can be counter-productive to it. Sheer hurry and busyness is not the sign of productivity and spiritual health…and it can be counter-productive to it. Click To Tweet We rarely hear God’s voice in the rush of life; it takes time and intention to be still and listen to Him. Be still, and know that I am God:—Psalm 46:10 3. Worry Some of us are by nature “problem solvers”—which is another way of saying that we see details and can easily become distracted and burdened by what isn’t going right. Some of this is legitimate. I think of when Paul said, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). But there is a fine line between care and worry. And we need to daily cast our cares upon the Lord. Always remember that God never called you to bear His responsibilities…and He offers to carry your burden. God never called you to bear His responsibilities…and He offers to carry your burdens. Click To Tweet A few years ago, my daughter gave me a small plaque that sits on my nightstand and reads, “Give it to the Lord and go to sleep.” It’s good advice. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.—1 Peter 5:7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7 4. Comparison Comparison will kill you every time. Not only does it lead to pride or discouragement, but it is usually based on a false perception of other people’s reality. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.—2 Corinthians 10:12 God gives each of us different responsibilities and opportunities. When we compare to others, we miss the joy in how God is using us. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.—1 Corinthians 3:6 God gives each of us different responsibilities and opportunities. When we compare to others, we miss the joy in how God is using us. Click To Tweet 5. Skimming Spiritually As spiritual leaders, we are constantly exposed to the Bible, often through our own preaching, teaching, and counseling. Between this constant exposure and the hurry of life and ministry, it is easy to get to the place where our own devotional life is nonexistent or surface. But spiritual fruit and a walk with God are not sustained by skimming spiritually. God calls us to seek Him. This takes time and intention. It involves genuinely seeking His face through His Word and in prayer. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.—Psalm 63:1–2 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.—Psalm 27:8 Spiritual fruit and a walk with God are not sustained by skimming spiritually. God calls us to *seek* Him. Click To Tweet 6. Lack of Solitude Solitude is a chosen time of separation for the refining of your soul. And it is one of the best ways to combat the hurry addiction we so easily get caught up in. Even Jesus—in His busiest seasons of ministry—needed time alone with the Father and put a priority on carving out solitude. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:35 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.—Matthew 14:23 Wise spiritual leaders create rhythms of solitude—daily, weekly, and perhaps quarterly as well. Wise spiritual leaders create rhythms of solitude. Click To Tweet 7. A Critical Spirit Leaders who are out of sync spiritually—often due to one of the six areas listed above—will develop a critical spirit. It may be manifested internally toward one’s self, family, co-workers, or church; or it may be manifested externally toward the culture at large or random strangers. If we don’t have rest in our own spirit, we’ll simply be looking for something to criticize. Additionally, unguarded discernment can become a judgmental spirit. While we are called to be discerning (Philippians 1:9–11), we are also instructed to trust God to be the judge. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.—Romans 14:10 How Well Are You Fighting? What makes these enemies particularly insidious, is the way they encroach upon our lives without us even noticing. Take a moment then to look over this list again, and rate yourself on a scale of 1–10: Wrong focus Hurry Worry Comparison Skimming spiritually Lack of solitude A critical spirit Do you see any of these gaining ground in your life? If so, don’t be discouraged. But recognize the enemy, and fight it! View the full article
  15. One of the great joys of pastoring is officiating weddings for the members of our church. It’s a special blessing to me when two young people who grew up at Lancaster Baptist Church fall in love, desire to serve the Lord together, and ask me to perform their wedding. Another blessing is when I have the privilege of conducting the wedding for the son or daughter of those I united in marriage twenty or twenty-five years ago. But as special as a wedding day may be, it is not the marriage. It is only the beginning of a marriage. And whether or not that marriage will be healthy and growing over the years has much to do with the continuing practices in which the couple engages. Whether or not a marriage will be healthy and growing over the years has much to do with the continuing practices in which the couple engages. Click To Tweet As a pastor, another privilege I have is helping couples who are struggling in their relationship to find help in the pages of God’s Word. Marriage counseling is not as exciting or approached with the joyous anticipation of a wedding. And often (although not always), couples come to the point where their relationship is no longer healthy because they are neglecting the continuing practices that make a marriage strong. We could list many of these habits or practices, but the three below are core. As a husband, these three are ones I have to continually work at; they don’t come naturally. And as a pastor, these three are ones I have consistently seen as key to building or rebuilding a healthy marriage relationship. 1. Surrendering to the Lord A union of two selfless people is made of two surrendered people. A union of two selfless people is made of two surrendered people. Click To Tweet Surrendering to the Lord is the beginning place of being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and being filled with the Spirit is an absolute necessity for a Christ-centered, God-honoring marriage. A marriage where two people live by the dictates of their flesh is a selfish relationship, with each spouse demanding (vocally or in silent exception) their way, their rights, their gratification, regardless of what that means for the other. But a marriage where two people are surrendered to the Lord and walk in the Spirit is a Spirit-filled relationship, with each spouse ready to serve the other. This kind of surrender to the Lord is not just a one-time decision (although it starts there). It is the daily dying to self and yielding to the Holy Spirit. And the best part of it is that regardless of what your spouse does, you benefit when you surrender to the Lord. Not only will your marriage be stronger than it would be if neither of you were yielded to Christ, but your relationship with the Lord flourishes when you walk with Him in the practical, daily discipline of surrender. 2. Yielding to your spouse Because of the instruction directed to wives in Ephesians 5:22—“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”—some Christian husbands assume that yielding to the other is a one-way street. The verse prior, however, says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Husbands are to provide leadership in the home, and in any healthy relationship, the person who is not the leader submits to the person who is. That is the context of verse 22. But in any healthy Christian relationship, marriage included, both parties delight to serve one another and to submit to the desires and needs of their spouse. That is the context of verse 21. In a healthy Christian marriage, both the husband and wife are making dozens of daily choices to yield to one another. To not have to win an argument, to not have to prove who is right, to serve the other before they serve themselves, to listen, to care, bear one another’s burdens…to yield. In a healthy Christian marriage, both the husband and wife are making dozens of daily choices to yield to one another. Click To Tweet 3. Forgiving one another A good marriage is made of good forgivers. A good marriage is made of good forgivers. Click To Tweet Too often, however, couples gunnysack offenses committed by the other. Then, when there is a repeat offense, the other spouse pulls out past offenses (verbally or internally) to emphasize why the offender is unworthy of forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, is not something we offer because the other person is worthy. It is because we have been forgiven. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). The potential for relationship-corroding bitterness is real. This is why God commanded, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19). Like surrender and yielding, forgiveness is not a one-time requirement for only the greatest of offenses. It is practiced in the daily decisions of a Spirit-filed Christian who chooses to forgive for Christ’s sake. And it’s one of the strongest elements of a great marriage. The healthiest marriages are not made in a moment. They are forged over years by couples who practice the daily disciplines of surrender to Christ, yielding to one another, and forgiving as Christ has forgiven them. The healthiest marriages are not made in a moment. They are forged over years by couples who practice the daily disciplines of surrender to Christ, yielding to one another, and forgiving each other. Click To Tweet View the full article
  16. My son—it is a phrase Paul used no less than eight times in his epistles, sometimes with an adjective inserted: “My dearly beloved son” or “Mine own son.” The expression gives us a glimpse into the closeness of relationship Paul shared with Timothy and Titus, in particular. He poured himself into their lives, and they received his mentoring and instruction. I’m thankful for the mentors the Lord has given me over the years, including men like Dr. Don Sisk, who continues to be a trusted source of counsel and spiritual help. Additionally, I’ve been thankful for the people the Lord has given me the privilege to invest in and mentor. Like any other relationship, a mentoring relationship can be something you take for granted, or it can be something you treasure and through which you learn and grow. So how do you get the most out of a mentoring relationship? 1. Realize you need a mentor. Everyone needs a mentor, but not everyone wants one. Many people want discussion, but not instruction; they want to push back, but they don’t want to be pushed. No one knows everything, and most of us know less than we think we know. Be humble enough to seek out those who are wiser and more experienced than you, and welcome their insight, instruction, challenge, and correction. 2. Choose a ministry mentor of like faith and practice. We all learn from a wide variety of people in a variety of venues (books, podcasts, etc.) and with varying levels of influence. But when it comes to someone you would think of as a mentor in ministry, you want to choose someone who is further along on the same road you want to go. 3. Allow your pastor to be a cherished mentor in your life. Even if you spend more time with others than you do with your pastor, give him the entrance into your life as a mentor. As a pastor, I can tell you that I have a care and burden no one else can have for those I am privileged to undershepherd. So, although there may be other mentors and will certainly be other influences in your life, remember that God has placed your pastor in your life, and value his perspective and influence. 4. Do not allow internet or social media influence to dominate your development process. Today, as never before, there are so many voices and sources of influence available to anyone anywhere. And most of them are as accessible as the phone in your hand. I’m thankful for the electronic tools we have at our disposal both to share and receive help. When it comes to mentoring, however, it is wise to have a small core of people who know you and whose input has the greatest weight to you. If you are simply using your mentor as one of many from whom you shop counsel, you are wasting his time. That is not to say you can’t learn and receive from others, but it is to say that the others should serve more of an auxiliary role. 5. Try to understand your mentor’s communication style. Most mentors will be older than you—sometimes significantly so. While they may use electronic-based communication, they may not use it the same way that a millennial does, and they may prefer voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication for weighty discussions or easily-misunderstood topics. 6. Question respectfully. Healthy relationships have room for disagreement or questions. But be careful not to take a defensive or condescending attitude in your questioning. Remember that you wanted that person’s influence because you saw something good in his life. So question respectfully. 7. Listen. And don’t listen just for what you want to hear. Be open to receive, and listen to learn. 8. Don’t assume you know what your mentor will think or what he is going to say. If you find yourself thinking, “Well, I’d ask about _________, but I already know what he’s going to say,” that’s a good indication that you are assuming. And it is a good reason to ask…and then listen to learn. Over the years, I have often been surprised by the counsel my mentors have given me, even in areas where I thought I knew what they would say. In fact, one of the very reasons we need mentors is because we don’t already know what they know. So ask and listen; don’t assume. 9. Value the relationship through humility. If something comes between you and your mentor, care enough about that relationship to fix it. If you have wrongly judged your mentor (or your mentee, for that matter), be willing to admit it. Pride severs relationships, but humility saves them. 10. Respect the experience of a mentor. Don’t ask questions if you’re not sincerely valuing your mentor’s answer. If he gives you time, respect that time; and if he gives you counsel, receive it. You won’t always do everything exactly like your mentor does, but weigh your mentor’s experience into your decision-making process. The mentoring relationship is one of God’s great gifts. Thank God for the people He has placed in your life with wisdom and insight, and treat that relationship with intention and gratitude. View the full article
  17. To listen to many American Christians, you would think the Constitutional rights which we hold dear are life, liberty, and the pursuit of complaining about the government. We are blessed to live in a country in which we as citizens are responsible for electing our leaders, and I believe it is the duty of Christians who live in such a country to not only pray for their leaders (1 Timothy 2:1–3), but to vote and stay engaged in issues that matter. But there is a danger that in our political engagement we forget two factors: 1. We are citizens of Heaven. Let’s not get so caught up in this world and this election cycle, in particular, that we forget we are only “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Our primary citizenship “is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Thus, while we, as patriotic Americans, care about our nation and preserving liberty, our affections are above (Colossians 3:2), and our greatest energy on earth is invested in obeying the Great Commission of Christ (Matthew 28:19–20). There is a real danger in getting so wrapped up in politics that we fail to even share the gospel. 2. We are commanded to give thanks. Let’s not get so caught up in what is wrong with our nation that we fail to give thanks for the good—and to be people characterized by gratitude to God. God commands us, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (2 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul told the Philippian believers that murmuring and complaining would negate their Christian testimony: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14–15). Yet so often our voice is heard only in an outcry against what is wrong or negative. Some are so critical of our leaders, and our current president in particular, that they can’t be grateful even for the good things he does. For instance, in the past fourteen days, President Trump has Taken steps to safeguard students’ constitutionally-protected right to pray in public schools. Proposed rules to ensure all religious organizations are treated equally by the Federal government. Proclaimed a National Religious Freedom Day. Made the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision a National Sanctity of Human Life Day. Spoke at the March for Life rally (the president to have done so). Over the past three years, President Trump has championed religious freedom in numerous ways: During his first year in office, President Trump signed an Executive Order upholding religious liberty and the right to engage in religious speech. President Trump signed an Executive Order recognizing the essential contributions of faith-based organizations and establishing the Faith and Opportunity Initiative. The Administration continues to unequivocally stand up for religious liberty in the courts. President Trump reversed the Obama-era policy that prevented the government from providing disaster relief to religious organizations. Last year, President Trump hosted a Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom event at the United Nations and called on the international community and business leaders to work to protect religious freedom around the world. The Administration has stood up for religious liberty around the world, partnering with local and faith-based organizations to provide assistance to vulnerable religious minorities. Yet, to listen to the news, and even to the political conversations of many Christians, you would have no idea that the current President has done anything good! To be sure, there are many challenges facing our nation—including a disintegration of morals, the advancement of ungodly agendas, and a turning to paganism. My only hope for America’s continuance as a place of freedom is if God sends a revival, and I pray daily that He will. But meanwhile, let’s be people who see the good and give thanks for it. Let’s give thanks, first of all to God, for the blessings of freedom and the opportunity to openly proclaim the gospel. And let’s give thanks to our government officials too—local and national. Let’s make sure that the only time they hear from us isn’t when we are registering a complaint. Yes, we are pilgrims and strangers on this earth, but while we sojourn here, let’s be good and grateful representatives of our King. View the full article
  18. One of the things I love about the apostle Paul is his singular focus. Paul preached the gospel across the Roman empire, personally led many to Christ, planted and then gave continuing care to churches in multiple cities, discipled young converts, mentored future ministry leaders, and so much more. But he didn’t allow the greatness of his responsibilities keep him from the singularity of a focus on Christ. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13–14 Our theme at Lancaster Baptist Church this year is two words from the verses above: “Reaching Forth.” To consistently reach forward, however, we must have clarity of focus. Notice that Paul didn’t say, “These many things I do,” but “This one thing I do.” He didn’t allow his activity for Christ to distract him from his focus on Christ. Don’t allow your activity for Christ to distract you from your focus on Christ. Click To Tweet How do we gain and maintain this kind of clarity of focus? Whether you are looking to strengthen your personal focus on Christ or your church-wide focus and ministry steps, Hebrews 12 shows us the way: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.—Hebrews 12:1–3 1. A Clear Focus To maintain a Christ-ward focus, we have to set aside specific distractions. Hebrews 12, using the analogy of a runner in a race, calls these distractions “every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” We cannot focus on Christ if we insist on carrying the baggage of unrepentant sin or anything that habitually turns our focus from Jesus onto ourselves. These weights may be our holding on to a wrong that was done to us, or they may be an activity or thought pattern that steals our Christ-ward momentum. Whether it is a sin or a weight, if the Holy Spirit has convicted you of it, lay it aside. It is the only way you will be able to focus on Christ. We cannot focus on Christ if we insist on carrying the baggage of anything that habitually turns our focus toward ourselves. Click To Tweet 2. A Personal Focus I love the phrase in Hebrews 12, “Looking unto Jesus.” Although there are others we look to for example or spiritual direction, there is only One who is worthy of our complete focus. Although there are others we look to for example or spiritual direction, there is only One who is worthy of our complete focus. Click To Tweet The word looking in this passage mans “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.” Do you “look to Jesus” as a sideward glance in your peripheral vision, or do you gaze upon Him? Do you glance occasionally, or do you fix your focus on Christ the way a runner looks to the finish line of his race? Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one who purchased our redemption and made us His own. He intercedes for us at the right hand of the throne of God. He is our everything. If our focus is not on Christ, our forward spiritual momentum will be lacking. We’ll be spiritually distracted and easily dissatisfied even with things of God. But when our focus is on Christ, our spirits will be settled and our hearts satisfied. 3. A Contemplative Focus Hebrews 12 not only tells us where to look, but it tells us how to do it: “Consider Him.” Looking to Jesus is not done in the few moments of resolve while reading a blog post such as this one. It is done in the ongoing moments that fill our days as we meditate on Christ. It is done as we read God’s Word and discover Jesus throughout its pages. It is done, as is specifically mentioned in this passage, as we consider Christ’s suffering and learn from His endurance. This kind of contemplative focus, as we meditate on Christ, renews our minds and keeps all suffering in perspective. It is in this way that the gospel is our motivation. If our focus is on ourselves, everything else is out of focus. And this self-centered focus will eventually shrink our capacity for deeper relationships, gratitude, and a meaningful life. If our focus is on ourselves, everything else is out of focus. Click To Tweet But when our focus is on Christ, God renews our minds, refuels our hope, and satisfies us with Himself. View the full article
  19. There’s nothing quite like the clean slate of a new year. On January 1, we’re filled with optimistic passion for our newly-set goals, and we often have a renewed desire to be specifically used of God. But then January 13 rolls around. Or maybe for you it’s March 3. In any case, the passion of the new year doesn’t always last. We need something greater than new year energy to keep us consistently motivated in the areas of responsibility and opportunity that God has placed in front of us. Godly passion always begins with the Who, not the why. This is what Paul expressed as he said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Godly passion always begins with the Who, not the why. Click To Tweet Thankfully, maintaining this passion isn’t beyond our reach and is actually the result of some basic spiritual disciplines. 1. Do all for the glory of God. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31 This is so basic, that we easily give it mental assent without actually practicing it. But when we purposefully do every action of our lives for God’s glory, it adds value and meaning to even the mundane or routine. Do you want to renew your passion for what is on your to-do list today? For the goals God laid on your heart at the beginning of the year? Purpose to do them—not for self-glory or the joy of accomplishment—but for the glory of God. 2. Give thanks for the gift of each day. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.—Psalm 118:24 One of the best ways to refuel your energy is to pause and give thanks. And one of the best times to do it is right when you wake up in the morning. When you give God thanks for the gift of a new day, it clarifies your perspective and renews your desire to give that day back to Him in service. When you give God thanks for the gift of a new day, it clarifies your perspective and renews your desire to give that day back to Him in service. Click To Tweet 3. Remember to disengage. God made our minds and bodies to work in a twenty-four-hour, seven-day rhythm. If we never rest, we demand an energy of ourselves—physically, mentally, emotionally—that God never intended for us to exert without having replenishment. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.—Psalm 127:2 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:—Exodus 20:10 We’re not under the Sabbath law, and there are times in all of our lives and ministry responsibilities when we miss optimal times for rest. During those times, we rely on the extra measure of strength God gives. But if we proudly think we don’t need rest, we will eventually run out of passion. When we spend time waiting on God in His presence and replenishing our physical and mental needs for rest, God refills our passion. If we proudly think we don’t need rest, we will eventually run out of passion. When we spend time in God's presence, He refills our passion. Click To Tweet Even Jesus told His disciples they needed to come apart for rest: “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). In that particular instance, the crowd followed them, and they didn’t get the rest they planned. But the intention of Christ here is still instructive to us. The capacity for passion is a gift of God to us. It allows us to anticipate and enjoy what we do for Christ. But our passion doesn’t remain static. Like a gas tank, it must be filled in order to fuel our progress. Passion doesn’t remain static. Like a gas tank, it must be filled in order to fuel our progress. Click To Tweet Does your passion need to be refueled? Do all for the glory of God. Give thanks for the gift of each day. Remember to disengage. As you practice these disciplines, you will be able to re-engage in the work of the Lord with vision and passion. View the full article
  20. Fulfilling. Consuming. Exciting. Challenging. Parenting is all of this, and more. And it is one of the greatest privileges of my life. The Lord gave Terrie and me four children who are now married and all serving the Lord with their spouses and are raising our eleven grandchildren for the Lord. As a parent, and now a grandparent, I know that there is an immense responsibly of training a young life to follow God. While raising children, there can be a pull to simply create a checklist and assume that if enough godly standards or Christian experiences are in place, a child will grow into a godly individual. Resist that pull. I believe in the importance of living a godly, holy life, and I’m all for surrounding children with church activities and the input of godly Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. But embracing these external factors is not the goal in raising children. Jesus is the goal. We want to raise children who first and foremost have a personal relationship with Christ and a life that is centered around Him. We want to raise children who first and foremost have a personal relationship with Christ and a life that is centered around Him. Click To Tweet How does that happen? There are many helpful resources in raising a family, including many good books. But what are the necessities? We see three in the life of one of the first-century church leaders, Timothy. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.—2 Timothy 3:14–17 What I love about Timothy is that his home situation was far from ideal. He apparently had a Christian mother but an unbelieving father. Yet God gave his godly mother (and grandmother) the wisdom to point Timothy to three necessary components of a Christ-centered life: Scripture Timothy didn’t begin learning the Bible from the apostle Paul. He began learning from his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Children and teen programs at church are a help in the way they come alongside and help a Christian family. But church programs are not a replacement for godly parenting. Church programs are not a replacement for godly parenting. Click To Tweet Raising Christ-centered children requires Christ-centered parents who teach God’s Word in the home. Raising Christ-centered children requires Christ-centered parents who teach God’s Word in the home. Click To Tweet God uses and blesses written His Word in our lives to point us to the living Word, Jesus Christ. Salvation There is no greater way to influence a child than to help them to Jesus. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16) There is no greater way to influence a child than to help them to Jesus. Click To Tweet One of the most important reasons for teaching the Bible in your home is that the Scriptures “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Bible reveals to us our sin and our inability to save ourselves. And best of all, it reveals the gospel. As we see in Timothy’s life, even a child can be saved. Salvation is not passed down from one generation to the next. Each person must make a personal decision of faith in Christ (Romans 10:13). So yes, have rules in your home to protect your children. And yes, make decisions for your family based on what you believe would please the Lord. But remember the power of the gospel in a heart. You cannot raise truly Christ-centered children without them having personally received Christ. Sanctification Once we trust Christ as our Saviour, God begins the ongoing process of sanctification in our hearts as He conforms us to the image of Christ. This is a life-long process, and it begins at the moment of salvation—even for a child. The primary tool God uses in this process is His Word. That’s why Paul told Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Once again, then, we see the importance of making God’s Word central in the Christian home. This happens as Mom and Dad make the Bible central in their own lives and as they diligently teach God’s Word to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). The most practical way I know for a family to develop habits around the teaching of God’s Word is through daily family devotions and faithful attendance and involvement in the local church. (I wrote some tips on having family devotions here and compiled a resource available here.) The Goal Is Jesus If you are a parent, your child is a trust given to you by God to raise for Him. Success is not measured solely, or even primarily, by your child’s achievements. It is measured by your child’s heart for God and obedience to Him. Your success as a Christian parent is not measured by your child’s achievements, but by your child’s heart for God and obedience to Him. Click To Tweet May God give you grace to raise Christ-centered children who obey the admonition of 2 Timothy 3:14 to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” View the full article
  21. I’ve written in the past about setting goals for the new year and about vision casting for your church family. But sometimes people question setting ministry goals in particular out of a concern that they are presuming upon the power of God. Although the concern can be valid, I disagree that setting ministry goals is necessarily presumptive. If our goals are motivated by a love for Christ and based in an awareness of our need for His power, they can spur us to greater faith and greater efforts to obedience. Here are three reasons I encourage pastors and ministry leaders to set goals for the new year: 1. They can be an expression of faith in God. Setting goals shouldn’t be the same as writing out a to-do list. Setting goals shouldn’t be the same as writing out a to-do list. Click To Tweet In fact, whatever ministry goals you set, should require faith. Are you reaching into the new year with a heart of faith in God? Do you believe that if you challenge yourself (and if you are a pastor, your church family) in the areas of outreach, giving, and serving, that God would use your enlarged efforts to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)? Faith is not an abstract quality that if we sit and just “believe enough” changes the future. Faith is believing God enough to obey Him. When we look at the commands of Scripture and then plan for how we might obey these commands with more purpose and energy, that is faith. And that is also faith-filled goal setting. Faith is not an abstract quality that if we sit and just “believe enough” changes the future. Faith is believing God enough to obey Him. Click To Tweet When it comes to setting goals, we need to pray with the disciples, “Lord, Increase our faith” Luke 17:5). 2. The Holy Spirit still works through the local church. Our obedience is nothing without God’s power. So yes, I have a goal for how many times I want our church family to canvas our community this year. I have a goal for my personal giving in the new year. I have goals for practically every area of my spiritual walk and our church family’s ministry. But I am under no illusion that we can reach these goals in our own effort. We could saturate our community every month with the gospel…and see no fruit without the work of the Holy Spirit. Godly ministry goals require humility to depend on the power of God. We can (and I believe, we should) set goals for sharing the the gospel, following up on guests, leading new Christians through discipleship, involving our church family in the work of the ministry, and more. But without God’s power, it’s empty—perhaps even prideful—ideas on paper. Godly ministry goals require humility to depend on the power of God. Click To Tweet Only the Holy Spirit can convict a sinner of their need for Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can change a new Christian’s life. Only the Holy Spirit can sustain our church family in service. But the good news is, the Holy Sprit can and does work in those ways! As Paul testified in Acts 20:23, “The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city….” That means He witnesses in your city. There are people right now in your community on whose hearts the Holy Spirit is working, preparing to hear the gospel. So if you believe that the Holy Spirit still works today through the local church, set faith-filled ministry goals in dependance on Him. If you believe that the Holy Spirit still works today through the local church, set faith-filled ministry goals in dependance on Him. Click To Tweet 3. God is worthy of glory. If you are setting goals to look like a better leader or to convince your mentors or peers or church family that you are capable and your ministry is successful, skip it. Skip the entire process. If you are setting goals to look like a better leader or to convince your mentors or peers that your ministry is successful, skip the entire process. Click To Tweet Why? Because God resists the proud. But if you are setting goals for the glory of God, not the glory of self, then you can count on the grace of God in your efforts. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). I believe a grace-filled Christian leader will yearn to do more for the cause of Christ and will hunger to declare His gospel and make a difference for Him. So, – if you are praying for increased faith, – if you believe the Holy Spirit stills works today, – if you long to lift up the name of Jesus, I encourage you to set aside some time this week to prayerfully set faith-filled goals for the new year. View the full article
  22. Of the 5.11 billion people who live in the 10/40 window, fewer than 5 percent have reason to celebrate Christmas this year, because they do not know Christ. In fact, at least 60 percent have never so much as heard the gospel message.¹ It’s unlikely that any of these unreached people will come to the Spiritual Leadership Conference Asia we are hosting in Manila, March 10–12, 2020. But I can say with confidence that, by God’s grace and through His power, many of these people will be impacted by the conference. How? Each time we have hosted this conference, the Lord has used it to powerfully affect the furtherance of the gospel in this needy region of the world. To date, we have seen over 250 surrender their lives to the ministry and follow God’s call to serve Him anywhere in the 10/40 region, and just in the past week, we heard of two more who have begun deputation to go out as missionaries to restricted access nations in the region. Additionally, current pastors and missionaries already laboring in the 10/40 window have been encouraged personally and equipped to help their congregations share the gospel. That is why I’d like to invite you to help sponsor an Asian national pastor with limited resources to attend the 2020 Spiritual Leadership Asia Conference. Many are willing but do not have the financial means necessary to go. Here are three ways you can help: Registration Sponsor: The cost of providing the conference is roughly $80 per delegate. However, these national pastors from the Philippines and South Asia are not in a position to afford the full registration fee. Your $50 partial sponsorship allows us to provide conference registration to these pastors for $30 each. Domestic Travel Sponsor: A sponsorship of $100 per person will be used towards subsidizing travel cost of national pastors from provençal areas of the Philippines. Meal Sponsor: National pastors from provençal areas of the Philippines will be housed in local churches. Your sponsorship of $100 will be used to cover the costs incurred by these churches. Would you consider giving this Christmas season toward sending the gospel to the 10/40 window? You can visit slconferenceasia.com for more information on the conference and for the opportunity to sponsor a national pastor. As we celebrate Christmas this year and rejoice in the great grace of God, let us not forget that there are billions of people still waiting for us to bring them the glad tidings of great joy for all people. As we rejoice in the great grace of God at Christmastime, let us not forget that there are billions of people still waiting for us to bring the glad tidings of great joy for all people. Click To Tweet Send the gospel to the 10/40 window this Christmas Click To Tweet 1. These statistics are of the expanded 10/40 window upon which we are focusing and are provided by the Joshua Project at https://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/10_40_window. View the full article
  23. Isn’t it a bit of an inconsistency that in the season we most emphasize the reality of Emmanuel—God with us—we spend so little time with Him? To be sure, the Christmas season is full. And it is often full of good activities—even special opportunities for outreach. The busyness of the season, however, means that without intention otherwise, our month can become a whirlwind of movement with little worship. It means our schedules can be full, our hearts distracted, and our joy empty. So what is the answer? It’s more simple than you might believe. And it is more available than you might think. It is to be still. Be still. When we believe the lie that we must remain in a perpetual state of motion to accomplish spiritual fruit this month, we forget the truth that Christ is the source of all of our fruit. He is the vine, and we are but the branches (John 15:4). When we believe the lie that we must remain in a perpetual state of motion to accomplish spiritual fruit this month, we forget the truth that Christ is the source of all of our fruit. Click To Tweet This month, as I preached the great truth of God with us from Matthew 1, I was reminded of how little we ponder its reality. God stepped into our world. Yes, we should tell others this glad news. Yes, we should create special family moments to celebrate Christ. Yes, we should participate in special outreach opportunities to share Christ with others. And yes, we should take time to linger in His presence. After all, if Jesus came down to us, should not we draw near to Him? If Jesus came down to us, should not we draw near to Him? Click To Tweet We so often hurry through this season when we need to settle down and consider Christ. There is a reason that Psalm 46:10 links being still with knowing God: we cannot know God on the fly. Be still, and know that I am God:—Psalm 46:10 Mary understood something of both the hurry of Christmas and the importance of pondering. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.—Luke 2:19 In all the pressures and uncertainties of the season, Mary found time to ponder. We all have a tendency to experience “hurry sickness” in busy seasons. And the cure for it is simply to be still. Are you doing that this Christmas? Are you keeping a daily time of meeting with God through His Word? Are you making time to meditate on the greatness of God with us? Are you finding time to worship Christ? View the full article
  24. Servant leadership is often discussed today, but it is not natural to any of us. In fact, this topic is one that I have had to learn over the years and still find myself needing to grow in. Yet, this is the model that Jesus gave us and wants for His church. As leaders, our mission is not to draw followers to build ourselves or our positon; it is to use our position and give of ourselves to serve others. Because servant leadership is biblical, it can (and should) be practiced in many settings—not just in church. On this episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, we get to hear insights on servant leadershp from the unique perspective of a military general. In this interview with General John Teichert, we discuss how he applies biblical principles of servant leadership in his current role of Base Commander at Edwards Air Force Base. We discuss leadership styles and principles as we talk about mission-frst or people-first leadership. I enjoyed hearing General Teichert’s view of mission sustainability through building and investing into the leaders around you. I pray this podcast will be a blessing and an encouragement to you. If you cannot see view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  25. One of the first discoveries I made as a pastor is that Sunday’s always coming. If you’re a pastor, you know exactly what I mean. In one sense, Sunday is a repeated deadline—for sermon preparation, ministry details, and administrative obligations. And as soon as you pass the deadline, Monday morning rolls around, and the clock resets. Of course, that’s not all that Sunday is—a deadline. Ideally, our focus as pastors on Sunday is primarily a day for corporate worship of God and preaching His Word to needy, hungry hearts. So what can a pastor do to balance the tension between the reality of the Sunday deadline with the desire for a prepared heart and spirit to worship with God’s people? Here are several suggestions: 1. Study throughout the week. Your primary ministry as a pastor is “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). If you wait until Friday night or Saturday morning to begin your sermon preparation, you will not only feel stressed, but your sermons may be biblically anemic, filled with surface applications. Beginning your sermon preparation early in the week, however, allows you to saturate your mind in the passage you will be preaching, provides time for thorough study, and allows the Holy Spirit to guide you in biblically-grounded applications for those in your congregation. Beginning your sermon preparation early in the week allows you to saturate your mind in the passage, provides time for thorough study, and allows the Holy Spirit to guide you in biblically-grounded applications for those in your… Click To Tweet 2. Pray for your church family during the week. The prayer closet is where a pastor’s heart is formed. As you pray for your church family by name, your role as a pastor becomes something far more than an job with duties of preaching, counseling, and administrating. It becomes an opportunity to serve people you love. Additionally, I find that as I pray for our church family, the Lord lays specific people on my heart to reach out to throughout the week. As I obey these promptings, I often discover needs or burdens I’m able to help carry. The prayer closet is where a pastor’s heart is formed. Click To Tweet 3. Take a weekday off. Sunday is not a true day off for pastors. So take a weekday off to spend time refueling not only spiritually, but also physically, relationally, and emotionally. Get exercise. Spend time with your family. Replenish. 4. Finish office details by Saturday afternoon. For many years, it has been the practice of our family to keep Saturday evening free as much as possible. I find that if I’m working late on administrative details into Saturday night or scrambling to put together meetings for upcoming events, my mind is not clear heading into Sunday. 5. Follow up on your outreach list and contacts. Whether it is a visit, text, or call, Saturday afternoon is a great time to reach out to prospects who earlier in the week committed to attend this Sunday. 6. Review order of service and announcements. Our songs for Sunday are chosen early in the week, and the order of service is usually settled by Thursday or Friday. But I review these Saturday afternoon, especially in light of my now-finished sermon. Occasionally, I’ll make a change. But either way, it helps me to look them over again ahead of Sunday. 7. Reconcile any issue with God or others. If the Holy Spirit has been convicting you of sin, if there is unresolved conflict between you and your family or anyone else, reconcile those issues before Sunday. Don’t go into the pulpit Sunday morning with unconfessed sin or ongoing relational conflicts and expect to preach God’s Word in the power of His Spirit. Humble yourself before God and others to make things right, and expect to preach with an outpouring of His grace (1 Peter 5:4–6). Don’t go into the pulpit Sunday morning with unconfessed sin or ongoing relational conflicts and expect to preach God’s Word in the power of His Spirit. Click To Tweet 8. Review messages. In my Saturday night message review, I’m not racing to find new cross references or add in illustrations. I’ve done that throughout the week. I’m just prayerfully going over the message, allowing the Holy Spirit to preach it to me and to cement the progression of thoughts in my mind and heart. 9. Quiet your mind. I’m a Type A person with my mind constantly spinning, often in several directions. There are times and places when this can be a strength. But there are also times and places when it can be a liability. I have found that if I will obey the admonition of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” on Saturday evening, I enter Sunday with a renewed awe of God. And that is the perspective I want to bring into Sunday morning’s worship. I have found that if I will obey the admonition of Psalm 46:10 on Saturday evening, I enter Sunday with a renewed awe of God. Click To Tweet 10. Rest Saturday night. No pastor can predict Saturday night emergencies. But we can all do our best to plan a Saturday evening that includes getting to bed early enough for several hours of sleep. Without a doubt, I have a sharper mind after it has been reset with a good night’s sleep. Sunday is a gift for every child of God, including pastors. It is a gift of corporate worship, fellowship, and the preaching of God’s Word. Yes, Sunday does have some unique pressures for pastors. But when you approach the day with a prepared heart, life, and messages, it is a day to rejoice in God’s greatness and His willingness to use you as an undershepherd for His flock. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.—1 Peter 5:2–4 Sunday is a gift for every child of God, including pastors. Ten ways to be ready to receive that gift as a pastor... Click To Tweet View the full article

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