Confession: I used to roll my eyes at the thought of making New Year’s resolutions. After all, how many people actually keep them? I wondered.
Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God . . .
We don’t begin by the Spirit and continue by the flesh (Gal. 3:3). We are not followers of Christ-and-something-else-ianity.
Here we come to the place that we must recognize that it is Jesus who bore the sins of all who would believe and as our substitute, He not only paid for our sins, but has also become our righteousness.
My wife and I are coming off a season of ministry when we had no clue what God was up to in our lives. We were in a very unhealthy situation and it seemed as if we had no way out or way forward.
Do you merely perform religious duties like a pharisee, or is your life the fruit of a changed heart?
While self-condemnation might come off as holy in our churchified contexts, the truth is that self-condemnation is more than a bad character trait; it’s sin in and of itself.
All church planting wives start as generalists. We are children’s ministry coordinators, counselors, graphic designers, web managers, worship leaders, hostesses, and the primary sounding board for the church planter. Multiply this work times years of church planting, and it can make for one exhausted woman. I know, because I was one.
We have to choose - give or take, selflessness or selfishness. We’re given an incredible opportunity to be sacrificial and submissive and Christ-like. Here is what The Prosperity Gospel has done: it has eliminated the choice.
Navigating the messiness of our lives and the mess of others brings about a humility and a unity in us that pleases the Spirit.
No man wakes up one day and instantly becomes the pastor of his home. It takes years of experience to grow into that role and many awkward face-plants while trying to shepherd their family. But here are a few simple habits that will get you on the trajectory to being a healthy "pastor dad."
It is possible to have a fascination with the Bible that does not lead to faith in Christ.
No aristocratic Christ have I to commend to you, but the Savior of the people, the Friend of publicans and sinners.
From watching the organ donation process, I’ve learned how seriously doctors take matching the right donor with the right person in need. They do this because the better the match is across all of their criteria, the higher the chance of a successful transplant. As pastors, we can learn from this.
Our present difficulties do not dismiss God’s future promises.
Here's one personal test I subject my own reading of the Gospels to (which actually works quite well when reading any Scripture): Is it freaking me out?
A punchy little Christmas poem.
Better than all other possible “solutions,” following the Christ you sing about would be the best.
This is the witness of Scripture, the confession of the Church, and the only hope for humankind.
A Christmas poem by C.S. Lewis.
My wife is currently in the throes of a full-blown "simplify" campaign, and I need to be careful—if I place my half-drunk coffee cup down it's likely to be thrown out. Anything not nailed to the floor may very well disappear.
A person’s worldview works the same way as putting together a puzzle. Everyone has corners and borders, and these important starting points frame the rest of the picture.
If God came as a vulnerable, needful, weak baby, we have no need to fear for our own vulnerability, needfulness, and weakness.
Christmas can leave a good number of people feeling more empty than full.
The cradle and the cross can never be separated.
Here are four ways that bi-vocational ministry has been for me a crucible that God has used to refine me personally . . .
“Preaching the word” is marked by these three essentials . . .
The right response to the Christmas story isn’t “oh how cute” but “oh, how gracious.”
The enemy delights in hijacking relational complications for his purpose of disunity.
People leave a church for many reasons. Some are good; some are less than good. Some members disappear without a trace, and others leave a tumultuous wake in their exit. As a pastor, these situations often leave me wishing I knew just what to say.
Our greatest need before conversion is the Gospel. Our greatest need after conversion is the Gospel.
They don’t really want to listen to you. At least it appears to be so.
Jesus Christ makes all the difference in the world.
Your current season may be cold and bitter too, but if you wait on the Lord you will find that the next season is full of the warmth of God’s faithfulness and the sweet reassurance of His constant care.
Your only hope—my only hope—is that God himself would deliver us.
The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience.
I knew when I entered full-time pastoral ministry that I wouldn’t be able to please everybody. I thought my experience in the world of auto claims would prepare me for the times when I would let people down and upset them. Man, was I ever wrong about that.
We will face difficult situations, but none of them will ultimately defeat us because God will keep us in Christ.
And then I look from Judges to my newsfeed, and I see videos of tiny human beings, who have been dismembered, who have been packaged up, sold, and utilized for research. I look to my newsfeed and see the celebration of sexual freedom, that lauds sex without cost or price.
The gospel is uniquely relational—it’s about people. Thus, to separate yourself from people and attempt to survive the turmoil and travail of life on your own is to ignore the gospel altogether.
Why do you suppose He gave us such a gorgeously diverse menu to choose from when we feed ourselves? Couldn't He have fed us simple manna every day?
I actually serve in a small, rural, established traditional Baptist church. It is filled with the old hymns accompanied by a single piano. Sounds sexy, right?
We are held captive until Christ delivers us.
I would like to share with you three ways that bi-vocational ministry has been for me a crucible that God has used to refine me pastorally.
Unfamiliar with the search process, this dear sister asked if, after examining all of the resumes, we would whittle the number of candidates down to two and have them come in to participate in some kind of “Preach Off.” Then and only then would the members vote for the one they liked best.
I wish that I longed for the kingdom of God to come so much that its coming is a heartfelt and genuine request from the deepest recesses of my soul. But I don’t.
Our hearts tremble with love for that we have yet to see—as we long for the day when we see Him face to face.
Here are 9 practical ways to help you and I become disciple-making disciples.
Along with the various sounds of the holidays, there is a tension in the air. And it’s not just the umpteenth repeat of “Christmas Shoes.”
What we see in the wonder of the God-Man is a miraculous extension, not reduction!
So you keep going. Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. What’s the definition of insanity again?
This Fall and this redemption, and the story as a whole, so far as the divine purpose is concerned, are the fruit of the Father’s love to the Son and his delight in glorifying the Son.
Isn’t it God’s mission to hallow His name? Isn’t His grandest purpose in the Gospel to reveal His glory?
Our inability to know our future is a gift from God that teaches us to trust him.
Because the church is people, church can often be messy. It’s never as neat and as ideal as we’d like it to be. We’d like things to run in perfect harmony, but they seldom do.
The bread of Ruth 1 provides more than a theme in the Bible. It provides one of the keys to unlocking the meaning of the text by showing how Christ fulfills the passage.
Through Christ’s teachings on discipleship, I guide my counselees in taking a personal inventory of their current ways of thinking and living so they can discern where their thinking has gone wrong and how their heart has become hardened to biblical truth.
A reader writes to say, "I recently found out that my senior pastor’s sermons are mostly plagiarized. And he doesn’t cite anything or anyone, but acts as if it is all his own. What should I do?"
As I have tried to help guys struggling in this area, and also remain vigilant and creative and fresh in my own Bible intake, I’ve come up with a couple basic ideas that some have found helpful.
Here are 3 ways your family can participate in God's mission by building a God-honoring legacy . . .
Did our Lord chafe during these pre-ministry years? Did he long to get started preaching the kingdom?
This is why I believe so many of us pastors battle depression and discouragement . . .
If I feel like my relationship with Jesus is bad right now I can look to Jesus and remember it's all about Him.
God asks for our faithfulness, but we don't get to choose the shape our faithfulness takes.
"Sending" is churches’ God-given birthright.
What are the songs of Christmas that help you fight off cynicism or even despair? THE ones that remind you of the reason for the hope of Christ?
There is a great danger this Christmas season of missing the point. And I'm not referring simply to idolatrous consumption and materialism. I'm talking about Christmas religiosity. It is very easy around this time to set up our Nativity scenes, host our Christmas pageants and cantatas, read the Christmas story with our families, attend church every time the door is open, and insist to ourselves and others that Jesus is…
Corporate worship is one of the primary means by which God saves you to himself.
If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.
Ultimately we want to honor God with the resources we've been given. These premises are God's before they are ours.
“Daddy, worshipping Jesus makes my heart happy,” her little voice whispered into my ear. “Do you know why that is?” I asked.
While I would like to think my preaching convinced someone in that moment to come to Christ, when I really stop and think about it, I know a lot has happened behind the scenes beforehand.
Does your preaching simply mention Jesus, or does it portray him?
As Christians, we look forward to the perfection or consummation of Christ’s reign, when sin will be defeated and we will enjoy the presence of God forever.
Your identity of sonship isn't founded on performance-based assessment. Your standing before God was not procured by strategy or tribal association. Your preaching did not gain you merit, nor your vision give rise to redemption.
When you genuinely like another person, it’s a lot harder to be mean and cruel when it comes to their ideas.
All wives need to hear their husband say these six things.
There is a strain of the manhood movement in the church that troubles me. It’s a version of masculinity that makes Jesus look more like William Wallace than the King of Kings.
The first Christians made their choices and priorities, and we are making ours.
I've got to be honest: Christian art really bums me out.
At first glance, the worship wars that once plagued the church seem to have died down. So it might be easy to chalk it all up to a problem from a bygone era. Until we walk out of a church service that didn’t meet our own standards. We have become professional critics of corporate worship.
One big challenge is how many people in the community think they know what it means to be Christian
It was a crisis of faith, born under the lights of Friday night Texas football.
Pastors, when it comes to the seasons of the church, especially Christmas or Easter, are you ever tempted to phone it in?
Here are a few biblical principles that we should heed no matter what in youth ministry. My sense is the many youth groups don’t heed them.
A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing -- in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in (gasp!) numbers, but especially in self-regard -- so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.
Are there any weak in faith who come under the denomination of bruised reeds and smoking flax? Let them know that God will take care of them.
It hurts to be gossiped about. Because church leaders are out in front, their lives can be closely scrutinized. They make obvious targets. And no leader is immune, no matter how godly.
Whenever you need victory in your ministry, God gives it.
I've finally come to terms with it. I'm getting a tattoo. But not just yet.
He frustratingly questioned, “If all this is Bible stuff is true, why won’t God just prove that he is real!? Why won’t God just prove he loves me!?”
Unfortunately, on this side of heaven we will continue to have churches filled with quarreling members. In James 4:1, Pastor James asks rhetorically, “And what causes this behavior?” He answers himself, “You quarrel and fight because of what’s in your hearts.”
What are the implications of the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ?
What does it actually feel like to find our identity in Christ in real time and amidst genuine struggle? I was thinking about this the other idea day and jotted down 5 initial thoughts . . .
Let no thought distress you about death's coming to you at an unseasonable hour. Should it come to-morrow should it come now, if your faith is fixed on nothing less than Jesu's blood and righteousness, you shall see the face of God with acceptance.
You have a worship problem.
Your imperfect church is God’s way of loving your idolatry out of you.
"God does not want you to be happy, he wants you to be holy." "It does not matter whether you are happy, as long as you have joy." "Satan wants you to try to be happy, but God wants you to be faithful." Whatever one thinks of this approach in pitting happiness against Christian sanctification, it must be acknowledged that it is a novel perspective among Christians throughout the ages.…
Words are something our Creator loves as well. He spoke the world into existence with words, sent his Son as the Word, and the Spirit breathed perfectly all the words we have in the Bible as Scripture. Thus, the Christian life is a life clothed and shaped by words even as some of those words require hard work to gain their full meaning.
Rather than adopting a "Doomsday Preppers" theology in response to the cultural decline, we must realize the opportunity we have to fashion a message of gospel urgency. Here are three points of emphasis that I think are essential to missional endurance in today's cultural climate.
You’re not there just for your job. You’re not there just for a promotion. You’re not there just to make a name for yourself and build your resume. God didn’t just put you there for you. He put you there for others. He wants to reach your workplace with the gospel through you.
The victory over the fight against sin is not at root due to the muscle of self-control.
For centuries, earnest Christians faithfully following Jesus have experienced a God who seems asleep at times, sometimes for long seasons in their lives. In the disciples' case in Luke 8, He literally was asleep. In my life, it has seemed He slept as I needed direction. Sometimes, He felt asleep as I needed deliverance from a trial. But as time goes on and I can look back, I recognize that…
Money is part of our discipleship. How baptized are our pocketbooks?
“He, near your side hath always stood. His loving-kindness. O! how good.”
A word to my brother-pastors, who every week labor in preparing to teach the Bible in the weekend gathering while the dark cloud of the new cultural downgrade hangs over them:
Brothers, let's not go about our weekly sermon preparation and personal discipleship in sackcloth and ashes. Let's get into the vineyard of God's word, get some holy sweat worked up, whistling while we work, lifting our hearts…
What if someone told your preaching was missing one critical ingredient that could undermine the effectiveness of your entire ministry?
The darkness that seems to hide the face of grace is actually a defeated darkness. It is inferior to the power of God’s unchanging light and grace. That’s like saying that clouds can smother the Sun.
We must constantly look to Christ as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
This is a story about two young men who were friends, roommates, and pastors. In other words, this is a story about jealousy.
Do we have confidence in our savior Jesus? Are we secure in the fact that Jesus will have us?
As I piously read Ahaz’s failure, I began to ponder how we in the church, all too often, act similarly in resorting to the ways of the word while ignoring God’s promises.
From time to time I hear about Christian parents disowning, cutting off, or permanently shunning a son or daughter who adopts a gay lifestyle. Is that the right thing to do? Is this a requirement of biblical faithfulness?
"Don't let them get too close." That was the advice I received from an experienced pastor early in my ministry experience. I knew it to be rubbish then—even more so now.
Practically speaking, how can the church aim for the total up-building of the body for Christ’s glory and the spiritual growth of each individual saint, rather than treating singles like they're a problem to be solved?
Preaching is too consequential to settle for subpar sermons. These five words will help any preacher step up their game.
My self-esteem, good or bad, cannot sustain me. It’s a toothpick house in a tornado.
Here are a few ways that you can tell that you are nibbling at the hook of the prosperity gospel, without, perhaps, even knowing it . . .
I have heard mission agencies, pastors and parents say, “We pray that our people (or students) will be changed” by going on this trip. Their goal in missions is to make us more “thankful for what we have" and to disciple the short-term missionaries. But here’s the deal folks: People around the world are not tourist attractions.
When his dog was suffering a particularly noisome barking fit, Martin supposedly preached this gospel implication to him, exhorting the pooch this way: “Never mind, little Hans . . . Thou too, in the Resurrection, shalt have a little golden tail.”
It is amazing to me that my helplessness before God mirrors the helpless of my two week-old son.
He is not robbed of any glory, but his name is now surrounded with brighter lustre than ever.
When I was a young man, I heard D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comment that he would not go across the street to hear himself preach.
What should you put on that master list for life? Only one thing is necessary: to praise God for who He is and for what he has done for us in Christ.
Peter introduces his letter to God’s chosen people with a glimpse of the front porch light.
Christians are in a battle with the world, a battle that rages continually as we are confronted with promises of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction at every turn. These messages are often subtle, chipping away at our defenses little by little.
Whereas egalitarianism tries to redress real problems by taking away the principle of male headship altogether, complementarianism does so by radically redefining it in light of the gospel.
There are more than a few ways church discipline can go wrong. Here are some mistakes pastors should avoid.
I am weary of this public bragging, this counting of unhatched chickens, this exhibition of doubtful spoils. Lay aside such numberings of the people, such idle pretence of certifying in half a minute that which will need the testing of a lifetime.
Why should a planter be a missionary?
Good conversation went fugitive with the invasion of electronic media. Yet you long for it, and so do those in your circle of acquaintances. Believers in Christ ought to be excellent at it. Even our non-believing friends ought to leave us saying, “That was the best conversation I’ve had for months.”
We familyolaters take what most of us consider the most important thing in our lives and give it the weight of our worship in a way that is both dishonorable and unsustainable. And we end up living "Thus saith the family" rather than "Thus saith the Lord."
For all the celebrations to be remembered, the occasions of suffering are the dates that stick with me. It was then, when the day came that she would call - or we’d get in the car with a warm meal in the back seat. A note would get dropped in the mail, a meal on the doorstep to say: you are loved, you are not forgotten, and neither are they.…
Successful sermons optimally leverage words to explain the meaning of the text and to bring it to bear in the lives of the congregants. Strategically deploying words can strengthen a preaching event, but carelessly letting unhelpful words clutter the sermon will weaken it.
I know that the men and women around me are singing to God while they are struggling in their marriages, fighting cancer, and feeling the uncertainty of job loss. I have come to realize that worship isn’t just something we do; it does something to us.
A friend recently asked me what you do when you are not attracted to your husband. This is an excellent question for both men and women. What do you do if you are not attracted to your spouse?
Ever since I got hyper on Piper towards the end of my high school years, I've found myself growing into a deeper understanding of the doctrines of grace, to the point that now most of my mornings and evenings are happily spent reading men like Charles Spurgeon (see what I did there?).
Like a kindergartner learning his numbers, so do we practice the discipline of counting . . .
The "simple church" is able to cast off that which entangles it, even the religious nets of its own devising for the fishing for men, and follow Christ wherever he may go.
To a great extent in spiritual things we get what we expect of the Lord.
Other than in temporary moments of devotional solitude, there was never a time when Jesus was not with his men. After Jesus called his disciples, he had them with him doing ministry.
The beauty of the gospel is that it hijacks our worship and aims it at the One in whom our worship finds its consummation of joy.
I eventually came to accept the surreal fact that my church could be bankrupt in 4 years.
I bet he was okay having his name decrease so that Christ's name could increase.
The gospel must be what all of our ministries are based on, empowered by, and result from.
I don’t recall struggling consistently with depression before I entered the ministry.
You have enemies as you try to live as a content man. Most of the time we think the enemies are from without—people around us and circumstances upon us. But the true enemies of contentment are within in us, which is where contentment is either fed or starved.
Those of us who are also weary in serving and aware of our limitations can learn five helpful keys to our perseverance in ministry . . .
Faithful church attendance does not earn salvation, nor does it act as a measure to rate spiritual greatness over and against other people. It does, however, reflect a growing commitment to the gospel, the good of the church community, and spiritual health.
This step of humility has a very high success rate because it does one thing right away: it fires our prestigious lawyers.
Effective ministry is not simply saying, “Take this Bible verse and call me in the morning."
It's the wave that provides the power.
Whether you live in the country, the ‘burbs, or a global city, you have the opportunity to honor the Lord and taste the enthralling power of his gospel.
Darrin and Amie have not only written a very provocative call to men to give themselves to their wives and their marriage, but also show us in beautiful and practical detail what that looks like.
Everywhere I look are photos and testimonies about the wonders of this dark spot correcting cream, essential oils, healthy shakes that aid in weight loss, and that body shaping wrap. What strikes me most about these posts is that they are coming from men and women in the church.
Though some denominations historically have wrongly understood the call to moral holiness and perfection to mean that sinners can attain perfection on this earth, the pursuit of holiness is no less important.
Rarely in Christian circles have I found the subject of "cutting" or other self-harm discussed with any depth. I don’t know why that is. But I do know one thing for sure: Christians who self-harm often experience an added layer of the guilt and shame that a self-harmer already experiences. The good news is that there is hope and freedom from the cycle of self-harm in Jesus Christ.
Although I moved in early 2015 to the Midwest, I left a big piece of my heart back in New England, the least-churched region of the nation. I still hear regularly from folks interested in the future of church planting, revitalization, and gospel ministry in the New England states, so the following ten items are meant to help those praying and planning adjust their expectations in one respect or another.…
“We want you to know, we as elders are mere men. We will eventually and unintentionally let you down.”
May it never been that you get to the point where you believe that all things are possible for you—that you can do anything on your own.
Believers haven’t always had Sundays free from work. Though our culture is changing in this regard, it still is largely expected that most of our members will be exempt from Sunday work to give attention to our worship. The earliest Christians did not have such a privilege.
A faithful minister cares little what people think of him.
God has done his mightiest works by the meanest instruments: that is a fact most true of all God’s works—Peter the fisherman at Pentecost, Luther the humble monk at the Reformation, Whitefield the potboy of the Old Bell Inn at Gloucester in the time of the last century’s revival; and so it must be to the end.
Let us listen to wisdom and grow in grace and knowledge as we seek to be the community that God intended for us to be.
On our fourth day, after a few days of rest and detox, we sat at a picnic table under an Aspen tree, next to the Colorado River, and we created our family mission statement. We want to spend our days and our nights on purpose.
Resentment will crush you and your ministry
Most guys fail to parent their children well because they don’t know how to parent themselves.
I often misremember. I’m prone to long for Egypt because I forget the truth about God’s character and faithfulness.
Pastor Ted plops down in his chair, opens his Gmail, and reads a two-sentence email from a church member: “Hey, can we meet? I’d like to talk you about something.”
Over the last several years I have watched my wife prepare for birthday parties, holiday seasons, or other special events. She, like many women, gives considerable time and attention to the details. This is what women do. Men on the other hand, we think function. We reuse our forks, wipe our chin on our sleeves, and pass on the straws. We skim past the details without noticing.
Christian, no one might know what internal fear, insecurity, or idolatry the Holy Spirit is convicting you of and walking you through. And because it’s internal, you might be tempted to put it to the side in favor of something seemingly more flashy and exciting. But don’t neglect His work. Embrace it. Because the storm is coming.
Since I love to help women business owners be effective on social media, I find that a lot of people that ask me for help are those that work from home as a “consultant” or “rep” for a Multi-Level Marking (MLM) company. Here is my short and condensed list of things that you definitely should NOT do if you want to go far with your business.
This is the cosmic love and wisdom of God for you . . .
Through his Holy Spirit, Christ is powerfully present when believers meet together for the purpose of making relationships right.
When we lose the centrality of the gospel, we lose the ability to think straight.
Worship should change us. If we are encountered by the same God Habakkuk speaks of, we will be transformed. We will leave different than we were when we came. If we aren’t transformed, we aren’t worshipping.
While it is tempting to try to join into the current media trend of “whoever yells the loudest must be right,” there might just be a better way
We must become desperate to find favor in the eyes of the LORD.
The next time you enter the church to fellowship with God’s people, go with a sacrifice of brokenness.
In a perfect world all members of a church would be regenerate and would remain so throughout their lives. But we do not live in a perfect world. So it is beneficial that we have strategies in mind to safeguard regenerate church membership.
Why does Christlikeness always go and get in the way of a good two cents?
Becoming more conscious that Jesus walked isn’t perhaps a profound revelation to you, but is necessary for you who fill every moment trying to attain maximum productivity. It isn’t Jesus-like to be harried in life, even if it seems noble to others.
If Christ the King has come, and He has proclaimed that the kingdom has arrived, then where is it?
How does one measure health in the church? This has been a question that has plagued me for years. How do we take a step back and take an honest view about where we are at as a church?
How do we minister to our wives? How do we encourage them, especially when their hearts are weary?
God showed me that my attitude toward email was sinful. In writing short, to-the-point, sometimes brusque emails, I was misrepresenting the gospel. By not seeing the people behind the emails I was essentially elevating myself above them and ignoring an opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.
In my relatively young ministry, I have also developed deeply meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with senior adults. At several different stops in my ministry, I have had the blessing to minister to and receive ministry from seasoned Christian laypeople. It’s difficult to express in words what these relationships have meant to me and my family, but I offer below a few lessons learned in senior adult ministry.
We planted our church over six years ago. There is a church where there used to not be one, yes, but we're still working really hard and sometimes it feels like we're spinning our wheels. When is it going to get easier? When is God going to do something big and miraculous instead of the small and incremental?
A ministry position in a local church is not the only possible work you can do to the glory of God.
For us to better understand the marriage as covenant we need to understand what makes a covenant different from a contract.
I share in the victory of Christ.
"When should we have Community Group?" and "When is it time to start new groups?"
If the emphasis of our preaching is on being more like Jesus and not on the good news of grace despite our not being able to be like Jesus, we end up actually achieving the opposite of our intent. We inadvertently become legalists, actually.
I didn't want to get married. But I knew I was turning away a gift from God . . .
Too many churches still treat church growth as a competition.
I’ve got a personal relationship with Jesus. I spend daily, personal, and private time with the triune God in prayer, petition, study, worship, confession, etc. So why do I need to join a local church?
In an age of information overload, where do we find the real answers we need?
Cursed are you when others love you and accept you and say all kinds of good about you because you have moderate, tolerant views of a safe Jesus.
If you want your deacons to be all they can be, to serve your church, and Christ’s mission well, you should not only pray for them, but you should also encourage them in their work.
I did not know I was depressed until I got married . . .
We are always about ten feet from the edge of that moral failure cliff.
I have a son. I did not father him, nor did my wife give birth to him. Yet, he is my son.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a missionary. But my guess is that you feel ill-equipped to share your faith with your friends. It’s not desire you lack, but training. So how about some advice on contextualizing for your particular mission field?
Believe, I pray thee, and rest thee on the blood-sprinkled words of this wondrous Book.
Recently, I’ve been asked if I have any insight as to how to deal with people who treat their pastors and pastors’ wives disrespectfully. It’s sadly epidemic, which probably surprises most people. The truth is, I have no idea why grown, seemingly mature believers behave this way. It makes no sense to me. Except for this . . .
These are things you can do right away and they will bring immediate impact. As I look back on sermons that have seemed to have the most traction, they have most often been the ones when I have faithfully unfolded the passage, gotten out of the way, and let these 5 friends loose.
The Word of God was and has always been a community experience.
I wonder how many marriages would be saved if everyone could get a glimpse into our email accounts? What if all our private messages were aired for all to see? Would we still have friends?
By God’s all-encompassing grace, fast-forward 5 years and there’s a bit more variety in style, coif, music, gender, and seasons of life at Maranatha.
This is where life on life discipleship happens, where the truths of Scripture are worked out within the lives of those in attendance.
There are many experiences that seminary can tell you about but can't prepare you for.
I know that I have often felt the tug of the Mama Bear inside of me to get the claws out when I feel that my pastor husband is being wronged in some way. Although at times my response may be fleshly, I wonder if I indeed have some role in helping through these times.
Without the gospel all riches is poverty.
Because our churches are filled with, and led by, people who have caved under far less pressure than what Esther faced. We have all been guilty of hiding our heavenly identity and submitting to the faithless systems of life around us.
In order to have great heavenly riches we have to become poor in spirit; now, in order to find comfort, we must mourn.
If we dig into Acts 1:8 we'll unlock a plethora of insight into what authentic "missional living" looks like.
Why is it essential the church utilize biblical theology to help interpret the Scriptures? There are at least three reasons . . .
Life is short. Don’t believe the lie.
Good churches should add “church starting” to the list of ingredients that define their health.
Are you shepherding? As an elder/pastor, are you feeding, leading, protecting, committing, and dwelling with the flock?
The biggest mistake I made in leaving the first church I was a part of was I didn't leave soon enough. I know that sounds awful, but let me explain . . .
Fighting fear out of fear doesn’t work.
God was at work. The Holy Spirit powerfully wielded the Word in that place. I have no doubt that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives and ministries were altered in profound ways over those four days. Then I came home.
The gospel is for all sinners.
There is no training ground for ministry life for the pastor's wife, there is just the doing it. But if I could go back in time and talk to my first-year-in-the-ministry self, this is what I would say.
There is a right kind of worship war, a kind that every Christian -- and particularly, those who are leaders in the church -- should be engaging in on a daily basis.
Let me take you back to Narnia for a second . . .
What should be the goal of community groups?
I come to church and remember how awesome God is, how wonderful my salvation is, and how glorious heaven is, and then, after leaving, I act like my world is falling apart at the first hint of difficulty.
It seems that every week brings more stories of abuse occurring on church premises. We are hearing about this more and more, and there should be no doubt that the problem is actually more prevalent than what we see reported. And quite often in retrospect these cases reveal not simply mistakes made but systemic dysfunctions in a church community and a church's discipleship culture.
The task before the leadership is to disciple these dear people in their understanding that in fact, “we are they.”
Esther's first nine verses make Xerxes out to be pretty intimidating. It's obvious from the lavish banquet throws and the riches he has and the way he micromanages absolutely everything that he is one powerful dude. But then the wheels fall off.
You have likely heard the arguments, becoming more and more common among progressive Christians and others seeking to make same-sex romantic relationships compatible with the orthodox faith. It goes something like this: "Paul and the other NT writers were not condemning committed, consensual, monogamous homosexual relationships." Have we had it wrong for so long?
While the Bible does not provide a fully-developed treatment of child-development, a careful study of the Old Testament reveals several presuppositions about the nature of children which can be applied to questions regarding their readiness for the Gospel.
Though we might rather just have a happy, coffee cup verse of the day, God in his wisdom only gives such hope and encouragement in the context of our fallen reality.
Christian persecution is not something new.
When we understand the Gospel, we are secure with being who God calls us to be. Our identity is never going to be found in the shadows or footsteps of other preachers.
There is a difference between sharing and learning. Don’t confuse the two, thinking you have learned what you have shared.
The importance of repentance is hard to overstate.
As a pastor, I am constantly faced with deciding between what is urgent and what is important. Too often, they are not the same. So what guides me in making daily decisions? How do I plan out my week to ensure I am not sacrificing the most important tasks for the urgent ones?
After the service, we asked one of the pastors, "Does this happen every Sunday?"
Pastor, what do you desire your church to be known for?
Nearly every conversation I had in the first months on my pastorate would bring up the question of how I was “settling in.” There were moments when I could have answered, “I have the Internet and know I need to preach on Sunday” but not much else was settled.
We can look to Jesus and see a Savior who did it the good and right way, and we can be humbled under the weight of His sacrifice and emboldened to feel deeply for others in light of His compassion.
Rest requires faith and is the expression of faith.
"So much content; so little wisdom."
Jay became concerned about his new group. As he would begin to discuss the Harry Potter storyline he noticed that many of the people in the club had not read all the novels.
“Why is community important and why should believers be involved in community groups?”
When you have Christ, you have everything.
Let the Gospel alone and it will save!
He is indeed possessed of infinite majesty . . .
Through years of trial and error, I have come to follow these five keys to taking notes during a sermon.
You may call me foolish or underfoot, you may even accuse me of being blinded by my male leadership, and I am okay with that, because here is what I know . . .
These five boundaries promote an attitude of sexual purity and can keep us safely away from situations which could make it easier to commit sexual sin.
We understand that the One who cut his covenant with the people of Israel is the One who raised our Savior from the dead. He is the unchanging, holy, and eternal God of heaven and earth. So shouldn’t Achan have received some grace?
If we get into the habit of weekly preparing our sermons while forgetting the who of the biblical text, we miss the point of the Gospel.
From a global and epochal perspective, we have a rare privilege! Few Christ-followers have ever enjoyed the level of freedom that God has given to us to engage our neighbors and our government with our Biblical worldview.
When Paul says that Christians belong to Christ Jesus, it means, at least, that the blessings that are Christ’s are the blessings bestowed on Christians right now.
We know we are not Jesus, but we're tempted to believe and act from the idea that we're able to be all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, self-sufficient, without limits, self-existent, and in control of all things. Especially in how we minister to others.
So here I am, pastoring people that have been through trauma and I am doing my best to not mind the shadow. His preaching compared to mine. His promises compared to my unwillingness to make promises. His experience and intellect compared to my . . . well, lack of experience or intellect.
If Adam had a business card, it would have read “Gardener.” Nothing exciting there. And yet the words God used to describe his job are anything but ordinary.
The men and women in college and seminary are studying during an ongoing war–a spiritual war–and often the call of the front lines of full time ministry service in contrast to the present semesterly demands strains one to question if he is really in the right place pursing the right things.
Richard saw the sheer eternal value in getting Christ's everything for his nothing.
Before I let my gospel-centered infatuation cause me to point a judgmental finger at Jonah, maybe I too need to learn a lesson from the shrivelled up plant.
There’s something to place. Something to knowing and being known. There is beauty in surrendering to it, recounting the faithfulness of God down every road.
While I think the regular diet of a congregation should be expositional preaching, I want to make a case for intermittent topical preaching . . .
In the shape of the cross, Paul led people to the cross.
God looks at the available selection, sees that I have no evident talent or ability and that in fact I give all indications of being a liability to the team, not an asset, and says, "I'll take him."
The dominant models in the church today tend to be those of "pastor as pope" or "pastor as pawn." Looking at Scripture, however, we see a better way . . .
How does a busy pastor not only keep up with the fast pace of ministry, but also include his family in that pace, as well as make time for them when nothing concerned with ministry is going on?
There are two types of courage. Both types of courage are required for Christian ministry.
Most of the people in our churches possess rather unimpressive platforms—they aren’t famous or important or even “Christian” famous. They are, however, in good company—by the world’s standards, Christ’s platform was rather unimpressive.
Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no.
As we set our minds on the things above, we are reminded of our freedom from and power over sin, as well as of our future sinless reality.
While Superman is a character of fiction, the battle between selflessness, self-interest, and self-limitations is very real.
Unfortunately, we live in the very present world and waiting is hard. Joining David,
we cry out with the familiar refrain of ‘how long?’
After living a lot of my life passively, I've discovered that pushing through the awkward is better than retreating almost all of the time. Because it's in pushing through the awkward that life gets a little bit crazy and a lot more complicated but also where God gets to come through.
When we attempt to solve our shortcomings on our own, we are doing nothing more than scratching the scales off of our bodies, like Eustace did.
What most men fail to see is that they are in the ring with themselves.
If you cannot explain the gospel in this period of time, then you probably don’t understand it.
Sometimes we think that zinger of a Facebook post or that Twitter tirade is championing a cause, when in reality, all we really accomplish is alienating those who disagree.
Over against the society enamored with spectacle, the church has been given something completely different.
Baptists like us have two ordinances and one sacrament. The ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament is a church-wide potluck.
It seems as though the designation “man of God” has gone the way of the bus ministry and the youth choir—a largely passé referent to a bygone era of church life.
One of the most vivid illustrations and daily reminders of God's grace in my life is my daughter Grace.
He isn’t being lazy—he’s being human. Monday morning depression is a real thing for most pastors.
The cumulative effect of the gospel is affectionate worship of the one true God. The grand design of gospel proclamation, then, is gospel enthrallment, gospel enjoyment.
Are you bitter? Do you catch yourself only giving critique and never giving compliments? Do you find yourself reacting strongly to confrontation but all too willing to enact it yourself?
"This is not a thing to take lightly."
For the those who are thinking of entering the pastorate, there are three things that will help you face the unique challenges in ministry...
To take up the cross is to take up joy—painful joy, but real joy.
Christian, do not stop preaching sin, because sin is what makes the gospel beautiful.
When we come to Christ we are instantaneously swept into a spiritual, life-giving current - even before our conscience minds are aware of it.
Death was a distant cousin to me. I knew he existed, but I knew nothing of him. But this has changed.
When I was Mama to littles, I mothered hard but often only with reward in mind: the end of the day, the occasional morning to sleep in, the dazed stroll around Target. My hope, I'm saying to you, was in false hopes, temporary hopes, lifeless hopes, hopes that were never guaranteed to give me anything.
If we are not a weeping people then we are not the people of Jesus.
What do you suppose it might look like to eat or drink to the glory of God?
Given the variety of difficult circumstances in our lives, recalling and trusting the promises of God can feel nearly impossible. Thankfully, our gracious God provides a model for trust through his gracious Son.
The idea of God’s calling has been over-spiritualized, used to justify one’s own self-made ambitions, and marginalized due to people’s discomfort with the notion of a supernatural prompting by God. Yet, the Scripture is filled with example after example of people whose lives were interrupted by a call from God.
It is possible that your favorite leader could end up with nothing to show for years of labor! It is also possible that he could be rewarded beyond imagination.
In Acts, the disciples set the criteria for who would be chosen, and they land on two possible candidates: Joseph and Matthias. They cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias. This, of course, had to be a downer to Joseph.
Jesus is worth a broken heart. In fact, He’s the only One who can heal it again.
What does Jesus mean when he says, "This is my body which is for you?"
It was not justice for the state to sanction same-sex marriage. It is in fact injustice, because it sanctions as "righteous" what God has called unrighteous.
Paul meets them where they are. The music in your church has the same effect.
The encouraging part of running the Christian race is that we don't have to run it in our own power. At salvation, not only is our heart created anew, which causes us to desire to run for Christ, but we are also empowered by God to run.
How are God's messengers like wind and fire?
There’s nothing really exciting about hitting singles. But a steady string of them can prove more powerful than a home run.
We have no defense against this brilliant triangle offense!
Not only are we a witness to the power of the gospel when we live out the Golden Rule, but we also promote peace and societal flourishing.
These titles for Jesus are unimaginably marvelous, and there are more incredible things about him. He charges us to live in his name, as if he is sending himself to the world through us.
According to James, our tongues are small but powerful firemakers and untamable beasts. They are capable of great danger, and we must pursue maturity and seek to avoid stumbling with our words.
People keep asking me if I am excited to be "moving up" in ministry. I cannot tell you how much I hate that phrase.
Like many of us, young Timothy seemed to suffer with bouts of discouragement. Yet Paul does not write Timothy to encourage him with warm fuzzy thoughts about how awesome he is as a person.
I’m a recovering information addict.
Like Job and his friends, I am often tempted to explain God’s actions through the lens of my assured theological assumptions. I am afraid of saying “I don’t know” to tough questions. But the book of Job makes me less quick to offer assured answers.
Without a break-wall, disaster is only a storm away.
We have a lot to learn from the global church in how to follow God in our current time.
In all the chubby glory of his toothless grin and dimpled cheeks, he desperately needs Jesus to save him. If not, those beautiful feet can only run him away from God.
It isn’t wise to go about moving fences unless you realize why that fence was there in the first place.
Step One: Throw away your illustration books.
If we are grumbling then we can be sure that we are not content. We are essentially saying that God is getting it wrong.
What works with commerce doesn’t work with Christianity.
They can only go as deep as the gospel we give them.
So why should you, pastor, share your pulpit?
In Christ, there is the fullness of a fountain, which proceeds from himself and depends on no one else.
Why do you think Abel's sacrifice was accepted and Cain's was not. Did God just like Abel better? Did Abel know the right religious words or jump through the right religious hoops?
The desire for instant gratification has also crept into the church to combine with this self-gratifying approach to the spiritual life. As a result, we often want an instant spirituality that results in comfort.
The apex of the Father's re-creation of us in Christ is adoption.
How do we function in our communities, then? How do we encourage those fearful ones who hate and face hatred on all sides?
Jesus Christ makes all things new. This applies not only to the personal implications of a life surrendered to his lordship but also to how we understand and relate to the theology of creation.
So according to Jesus things are going to continue to get worse but that shouldn’t be cause for concern for us.
Where the Bible speaks on sexual purity it does not offer suggestions. It provides commands. And these are commands we are to obey.
A message of grace may attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them.
Alvin Reid said recently, “If youth can learn trigonometry in high school they can learn theology in church.” How can we expect to grow mature adult disciples without a solid foundation when they are younger?
For many Christians, myself included, regularly seeking God’s face in prayer, reading his Word, sharing the gospel, and fasting is, at one point or another, one of the most frustrating parts of the Christian life.
It's wonderful to feel the joy and thrill of God's Presence that comes through ministry. But we don't live in a church service or Christian environment 24-7. And neither could we.
We may want to believe that we can do anything if we just believe in ourselves, but we are saved by faith in Christ, not faith in ourselves.
Training men means that you and I will spend much of our time wire brush grinders, chipping away at the rust of hammers left in the grass. Let’s do it with grace, using the opportunity to train men how to avoid mistakes as much as possible how to take responsibility for mistakes when they are made, and how to rest in the grace of our God through it all.
Becoming a courageous witness is not based upon our natural strength or abilities; it is based on faith in the absolute power of the Holy Spirit.
Pastoral ministry is about souls, not stats. If your number of souls grows, fantastic. To God be the glory. Let’s just remember that we are responsible mainly for the care of the souls, not the accumulation of them.
The sun shall not shine, the wind shall not blow, to the church’s hurt.
Atonement is a divine business; its sacrifice is infinite, even as the God who conceived it.
Therefore, the demand of Jesus stands, and there is sufficient reason to obey it with joy and courage. Don't be anxious about the ordinary needs of life, and don't fear the threats of man.
A faith that has no growth will not do.
A desire exists to be famous and live for the applause of others despite reality showing us that the applause does not satisfy. Nor does the applause last.
Must we teach our teens to be responsible, to cherish their purity, and to save the gift of sexual intimacy for marriage? Yes, without question. But so many of our
efforts amount to condemning present affections without that expulsive power of a new one.
Preachers today should seek to emulate Peter by exalting Christ in their sermons.
Good intentions don’t produce good preachers.
God will vindicate his holiness by pouring out wrath on the injustice that disregards it.
It was 2006, I'd been a Christian for just over a year, it was my first missions trip, and it was super-awkward. It wasn't that I didn't know what happened (though I did), nor was it that I was particularly uncomfortable in front of a crowd (though I was). What made it awkward was the way I was telling the story wasn't right.
How do we become holy without becoming 'holier than thou'?
Oh, that I might treat the glory of God like a sunset!
If people were basically good, Jesus would have had no need to talk of the necessity of repentance for all to avoid perishing.
We’re not dirty and sinful because of our sexual desires, and God fights for us as creatures in his image with sexual desires.
I wasn’t thinking about my unwashed hair or the spit up (and coffee) on my clothes or the fact that I honestly couldn’t remember if I had put on makeup that morning. That is, I wasn’t thinking about it until I saw my beautiful friend walking up to say hello.
People that have embraced the mission look at the "issues" a church has as opportunities.
Not only did Jesus endure such injustice from sinners but he did it for sinners.
I’ll never forget my shock the first time I attended a Bible-less church . . .
There is no sin so great that God's gospel is not greater still.
Unfortunately, there are pastors who rarely depend on the Holy Spirit for anything sermon related. Instead, they rely on rhetorical ability or are more concerned with relevance.
"He is, after all, the one about whom the book was written."
A gospel-centered church will grow into a kingdom-mindedness that is a constant reminder that no local church owns anybody and that what is best for every local church is whatever is best for the expansion of the gospel and worship of Christ.
Francis Schaeffer cuts to the heart of the problem with "vaguely Christian" community.
Why is congregational involvement so essential to biblical church discipline?
"So Christ, who 'is in heaven,' has clothed himself in our flesh, so that by stretching out his brotherly hand to us he may raise us to heaven with himself."
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You decide it’s time to pray, so you close your eyes. Fifteen seconds in, out of nowhere, tomorrow’s to-do list pops up and your thoughts are off on a tangent . . .
"I am now a statistic," I thought. I am the percentage they talk about at conferences and church planting workshops.
All of this makes me wonder: If a king doing "what is right in the eyes of the Lord" could miss such blatant idolatry . . . couldn’t I?
As I write, I think of a 26-year old girl struck by a drunk driver less than five miles from my home. In an instant, a man’s carelessness wrecked her dreams and now she clings to life in a hospital bed. Around the world today, ISIS carries out its atrocities, natural disasters riddle lives with heartache, and still we drift forward. Can we find comfort? Peace? Hope?
The ascension is an integral part of gospel doctrine and has many implications. Here are just five . . .
A small compendium of voices, saints of old and new, who will both challenge and grace you with the things necessary for “survival and thrival” in seminary.
The gospel frees me from the pressure to be the hero of the church.
People want to be a part of something God-sized.
How do we preach the imperatives of Scripture without falling into moralistic preaching?
You and I can no more attempt to live this thing called the Christian life without prayer than we can live each second and day without breath. And yet the weakest prayers yield the most grace.
Pain is a funny thing. How I wish I could shield my baby from it all. But that would not be love.
Do we want to guarantee that our children will run in the opposite direction of our most cherished biblical convictions? All we have to do is sterilize our churches.
Is God good? As I reflected upon this question, I had a decision to make. If the answer was “yes,” then that answer had to hold even if God allowed my child to die.
I love the fact that those who populate these institutions will be sent out all over the world to serve as pastors, planters, missionaries, teachers, scholars, and more. Yet, many students find themselves "flaming out" during their time in seminary.
The apostle having established the doctrine of justification, and answered the objections commonly urged against it, now asserts his triumphant conclusion . . .
If Luther was right that "all of life is repentance," then a non-repenter is a non-believer.
From the moment Tristan first stepped into my car on the way to the coffee shop, he seemed burdened. We ordered drinks, sat down, and the whole situation came pouring out. He was confused about why he continued to look at pornography even though he didn’t want to. Together, we began to unpack the broken story he was trusting in.
Do not be discouraged at this daunting task, rather, be encouraged that we have such a tremendously deep and rich resource from which to draw.
This is isn't a post about how I have the perfect formula to manage a busy life in seminary, or how I have this figured out. This is just a post to encourage fellow family men in seminary with full plates.
This mystery is grasp-able because it itself comes near and grasps.
Our valley has been long, and we are still in it. We do not know when we will begin to climb the hills again. But we do know our God.
Knowledge is a hindrance when we allow it alone to guide us.
Singleness might be a waiting season, but it doesn’t need to be a wasted season.
I’m convinced these nine things are must-haves for anyone leading a congregation in song week after week.
The core of every person’s testimony is the exactly the same—grace, which is Christ + nothing.
Introducing our new video interview series.
The religious man often deceives himself in his repentance.
While there certainly should be political and legal discussions about these events, the most important question we must always ask is, “What would Jesus say about it?”
The ministry of preaching cannot be divorced from the ministry of soul care; in fact, preaching is actually an extension of soul care. There are a host of reasons why it is important for pastors who want to preach meaningfully to know their flocks as well as they can, but here are three of the most important.
This is the meaning of existence, if you will accept it and enter in.
You can't just go pick some popular cultural form and insert the Gospel message and think you have thereby come up with relevant worship.
As changing views on gay marriage, among others, go to show, secularization marches on. Traditionalists may be on the losing end of historic real estate, at least for now, as well as booed out of the public square for their views on sex. Down the road, though, they still look to possess something else critical.
The facts demonstrate that Christian people who believe and embrace these kinds of theories are in the same boat as atheists, agnostics, and evolutionists. They have thrown God out of the picture as one who has lost control of his world.
Presenting the gospel in a way people can understand doesn’t mean we water down the gospel.
Instead of obsessing about changing the world, what if we just gave ourselves to living in glad obedience to Jesus in the trenches of an ordinary life?
Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy.
From my perspective, churches in need of revitalization are lacking in three primary areas: godly leadership, generational discipleship, and grace infused works.
One of the great dangers in doing theology is the desire to do all the talking.
I am running on a trail along a lake. I haven't run (or exercised) in months and so I really have to pace myself. But then she passes me. I don't even know who she is. All I know is she is about my age, she's wearing cute yoga pants and she just passed me.
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy . . .
For one thing, don't be weird.
A six pack plays no role in God’s love for you. You being conformed to the physical cultural ideal changes God’s love for you exactly 0%.
Cultural Opposition: Lie Down, Lean In, Lay Low, or Leave?
We must take time to mediate not just on our own pastoring but on the incredible responsibilities that most pastor’s wives have each week.
All men, whether they desire to be pastors or are simply husbands and fathers, need training in 6 key areas. Men who desire to be pastors must then learn to apply these 6 areas to a whole other section of life, a larger family -- their church.
It is my prayer that your church incorporates a practice of ministry sabbaticals. There are enough burned-out pastors. Let us not add more.
Was there ever such love?
We must be careful that we don’t gauge the Spirit’s effectiveness in our church based on how many people feel a certain way.
With an iPod the music is for you. But in worship the music is for someone other than yourself.
I invite her to our women's day retreat. She says no. She describes past experiences of women's events characterized by shallow conversation, girly crafts, and topics never veering far from marriage and motherhood.
Let us therefore be incited, when we hear of such a fullness, not to take the grace of God in vain, but strive to participate in it . . .
Suffering is the gift that no one wants, and yet God chooses to give sometimes nonetheless.
The fear of man leads to hypocrisy. The fear of God leads to courage.
As it pertains to having the living God draw near to us, fear and trembling assume it is truly God and the glorious Christ we have encountered and not some pitiful caricature.
The call to keep your heart is a call to work on your life internally, not merely externally.
I've consistently encountered such misunderstanding, as well as bold-faced attempts to hijack David and Jonathan for the sake of normalizing (and wrongly biblicizing) homosexual relationships.
We had no idea when we named our son Asa, that he would have a disease of the foot. Perhaps it is simply coincidence . . .
This knowledge, or sight of God and Christ, cannot be a mere speculative knowledge . . .
Can a lack of sleep indicate a spiritual problem? Does the Bible say anything to guide us in our sleep patterns?
A perfect vacation is not about the waves, fresh powder, or the length of stay. It is found with your loved ones, by being alone, present, willing, and intentional.
But hatred ends…
Hoping and praying for the largest possible impact for the glory of God is fine and well, but wrapping your identity into the success of your church is a one-way ticket to misery.
The bad reasons for leaving a church are many, but they all share one thing in common—they are born out of the error of thinking that the church exists primarily for me.
It’s so very hard but so very worth it. It's the best of times but the worst of times. Somehow simultaneously.
The pastor should give no harbor to about-talk that avoids to-talk.
Through faith in Jesus, God gives us an eternal country, a heavenly wealth, and the favor of the King of the Universe. These are blessings we did not earn and could never deserve.
Worship in your church does not stand or fall with you as the corporate worship leader. Be faithful to prepare, and lead music and other elements in your gatherings that put Christ on full display for your church. Look to Jesus.
She tries not to be bitter, but he was out late last night for a meeting, and the night before that he was preaching for a nearby church's evening service, and he's missed every lunch for two weeks. She thinks, Is this what God expects of a pastor's wife? Maybe I just need to get used to this.
I was recently conversing with a good friend about the spiritual condition of the Church. He made a comment that I am sure is not exclusive to him, but struck me deeply: “We are not desperate enough yet.”
I know it sounds weird but it is important to clearly lay out expectations. As much as pastors love the people God has blessed them with, it is important that they spend time away during their vacation or sabbatical.
God wants us to experience our messy community when we come together in worship. He is honored by it.
Of course we should be glad when any purveyor of smut shuts down or suffers a setback. But we should not delude ourselves. The culture of porn is financially rich and dangerously addictive.
With each young man still wearing a smile of pride and accomplishment, I poured lighter fluid on each project and lit them aflame.
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, how can we be so unmoved by it?
Oh, how eminently is Jesus thus glorified in His saints!
What does "first among equals" mean on an elder board?
I wonder if, in all our talk of discipleship and mentoring and "pouring into", we've created for ourselves a culture of entitlement.
Now this is proof that Christ is God, the Word and Power of God . . .
The first heart that the preached Word must affect in your gospel-centered community is yours.
The time had come for God’s justice to be laid out on the Amalekites, and King Saul was to be the mediator. But, as often is the case, a simple command gets transfigured into something more palatable between the hearing and the doing.
Do not be always poring down over the imperfections of your own heart, and dissecting your own besetting sins.
What does it look like to boast in the Lord? There is, of course, the most straight forward meaning – that boasting in the Lord is not being proud of your own accomplishments, but instead sharing freely and loudly what Jesus has done on the cross. But is that the only way to boast in the Lord?
Paul in 1 Corinthians 4 lays out six qualities a congregation should expect of their pastor.
According to Tim Keller, virtually all the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share the faith.
My practice has been to try to take one of these passages each day of the week and use it to give momentum to my prayer for my wife. What a joy and weighty responsibility it is to pray on behalf of our wives!
Here are five easy ways that you can engage with the Bible in such a way that you may get a little more out of your daily devotions.
Many church leaders strategize about ways to grow their membership in number and maturity, but how much thought is given to how they are helping their members leave in a healthy way?
I have much insecurity when it comes to the value of my input and wisdom. I always feel there is someone smarter, wiser, more experienced, and better qualified than I to speak on an issue. And the truth is that there is.
Our hope in the face of demonic assault is that the glory of the age to come has already invaded this present evil age in Jesus of Nazareth whose kingdom will not be consummated until the eschaton. The believer must realize that he or she lives in the overlap of the ages
This was no new theology or new idea or new promise; it was a new event in history.
No so-called "expert," when surveyed, associated the good life with being poor, mournful, and meek. But if you asked Jesus that very same question, that’s where he’d start.
A ministry sabbatical is not a glorified vacation, but a time for spiritual reflection, renewal, training, or contribution.
All men face similar sexual temptations, but the Christian man is to think actual thoughts—clear, articulate, intentional thoughts. The Christian man doesn't just feel things in his mind; he says things to his mind.
After months of feeling like my role in our church was nothing more than drudgery, this little book destroyed what had been dragging me down: a wish-dream.
Hellfire and brimstone preaching will not suffice, but neither will a mushy Christianity.
If you want to have your breath taken away by grace, wonder the New Testament in search for what happens to wicked men and women who are “in, with, through, and by” Christ.
Salvation by Christ's work is a gift of grace received through faith. This salvation is total (Romans 8:30) and we see its totality in John 6.
You know the feeling. It’s the one when you find yourself surrounded by people who work more interesting jobs, take more interesting vacations, and live generally more interesting lives. Suddenly, you find yourself shrinking into yourself, very conscious of your normality in light of what’s surrounding you.
To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.
God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances. We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.
Is it possible to be at the same time repentant and also to boldly ask for relief from sin’s consequences? Or does God’s grace for our sin stop only at the point of forgiveness? Are we on our own after that?
I get it. The goal is to acknowledge the value of students and the important role they play in the future of the church. Here’s the problem: it implies that students are not part of the church right now.
What prayer is and what it does and how it works and the ways it changes us and the world is nearly impossible to grasp. So here are just a few thoughts on prayer that have been camping out in my mind . . .
When both our justification and our new life are found in Jesus Christ, then this burdensome, disingenuous Christianity is replaced by Spirit-empowered gratitude.
My encouragement to you is that if you are presently in your Bible college or seminary education, do not study for a passing grade. Remember now why you are studying God’s word.
See yourself taking down those smiling pictures from the wall and taping up the moving boxes, unsure if you’ll ever open them again. Do you see it? Sin doesn’t tell you about those days, does it?
When we face the enemies of God we would be well-served to remember that Jesus commanded that we take up the cross rather than the sword.
Trusting God’s eternal gospel, believing him to be good in the middle of it, will become the fuel you use for the fight that awaits you just on the other side of that supposed cyber meadow.
Being Christian exiles in American culture does not end our influence; it takes the swagger out of it.
A lot of worship diets are like "Oreos for breakfast."
My years of ministry experience tell me that most still feel that the work they do with their hands during the week is inferior to the work of people whose paycheck comes from a church or Christian ministry. Why is this?
If you are a Christian, but bored, maybe you need to lose something
When we are focusing on the grandeur of God’s actual glory, we are freed from superficial stimulation of our emotions. This is actually how we safeguard authenticity in our worship.
For either churches or pastors who refuse to consider a sabbatical period for the minister, the root of the refusal is often sin.
The rainbow symbolizes the gospel, for God has "laid down his bow." To turn it into a symbol of pride, then, is sadly and truly to test God into taking it up again, to invite his wrath.
Church discipline shouldn’t be a taboo topic or action in the church today. It should be talked about and practiced because it ultimately brings the most glory to God and helps us accomplish our God given goal — to make disciples.
I believe we are in an age where pastors and churchgoers alike are at a fork in the road when it comes to the kind of pastor they will be and what kind of church they will serve. And it boils down to a choice between the well-worn road and the road less traveled.
I fear we vastly underestimate the spiritual damage inflicted on our churches by "How To" sermons without an explicit gospel connection.
Beware the temptation of cleverness.
How long will I keep anxiety on a leash pretending I’m not on the end of his?
God delights in children, and since he delights in children, we do too.
While it would be nice for all of us to get a sabbatical to sort through everything, we all still have responsibilities, jobs, families, and friends that we can’t block out for an extended season until we are motivated by the gospel again. In these things, we must learn dependence in our weakness and watch the truth of scripture come to real life around us.
The saying goes that church is not to be a "spectator sport" whereby we come, watch, grab our fill, and leave. We are called to come and be a part of the life of the church, not watching from the sidelines, but getting involved.
Just like our brother Jesus, Anne faced death with a natural amount of fear and a Spiritual amount of faith in the Father who loves her, cares for her, and secures her. Like Jesus, she had abandoned herself to the sovereign grace of God.
Some congregations have turned the phrase "Come As You Are" into "Stay As You Are," while other church bodies proclaim, "Be Ashamed With Who You Are." Neither approach is right.
Countless books are written each year on methodologies and stratagem. But there are few that are written to engage our hearts.
The role of apologetics is not to engage the mind in order to sway it but rather to use worldviews to weave past the mind’s defenses and confront the rebellious soul with the gospel of Truth. Once Christ is proclaimed as Lord within the conversation the person’s mind will engage in every manner of distraction to avoid confronting the uncomfortable truth that they are subject to a sovereign God.
From death to life, from lost to saved, from bondage to deliverance, from captivity to redemption, from guilty to acquitted. All these requested for mercy granted through the death of Jesus on the cross.
The sexual provisions he has provided you in the truth of the gospel and in the body and soul of your spouse is enough for you. It is more than enough for you.
When all is lost, Christ is not lost to us.
If your church is blessed to have another guy or two gifted by God to preach, I encourage you to share the pulpit. It'll be good for you and good for your church.
Make no mistake, whatever your posture towards it may be right now, wherever you are in relationship to the web, it is serious stuff.
In moments of weakness I want to turn aside from saying what I need to say and console myself with the thought that, in the grand scheme of things, my words won’t really make that great a difference. The bracing truth is that this is a lie that our people can’t afford for us to believe.
In the real world of the twenty-first century, the Christian’s sojourn through our contemporary culture is very much like that of the Fellowship of the Ring's journey through the Mines of Moria.
Believing prayer is prevailing, successful prayer.
My parents divorced when I was nine. I’m not a victim, but the break still broke me.
Practically speaking, what does it look like to preach a text and point people to Jesus while faithfully handling the authorial intent of the text itself?
If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit wants you to become a leader. The good news is He stands by ready to empower you in every situation.
When we orient our lives toward God, doing all “to the praise of his glory,” we reap the benefits of all of the spiritual blessings promised to us before the foundation of the world.
My wife and I began to pray intentionally that the Lord would send replenishing relationships that would loosen me up and lighten my load. And he did. This experience has been life-giving.
When one voice tells me that my family comes first and another tells me I'm being selfish and need to sacrifice for the ministry vision, I am torn between which to follow.
Someday, Jesus the Redeemer will return to redeem everything. Fully. Completely. Eternally.
When one generation of Christians decides to downplay or relativize or pragmatize the local church, they just might find that the next generation no longer values the same gospel.
Relationships are costly endeavors, and if you’re like me, it’s a battle many times to get passed that cost. But there is a phrase you can say to yourself that will help you embrace that cost, and it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Why do some guys walk to the pulpit and from first word to last seems to be clicking, dripping with passion, demonstrable brokenness, and a visible burden for their people to ‘get it’? While others are able to deliver a biblically faithful message but seem to lack that extra ‘something’ that makes a good sermon different?
Here is a series of tweets about my very best friend.
Learning from the biblical Aaron’s missteps continues to be a helpful marker for me and leads me to think about a practical three-step process to keep my leaders from self-sabotage
The beautiful thing about the shepherding metaphor is that it instructs us on the nature of pastoral leadership with deep emotive insight. In many ways, this is why the Biblical writers employed the shepherding metaphor for pastoral ministry.
Your preferred adjective when thinking about God is the single most important word in your theological vocabulary.
If you’ve submitted your life to the call of church planting and church leadership, you cannot escape the fact that you’ve entered into a relational work. Your effectiveness in ministry, for better or worse, is going to be influenced by your ability to live out the call from Romans 12 to “as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all men.”
As I was watching Speedweek’s events, particularly the qualifying duels on the Thursday before the 500, I learned something about, of all things, the church.
What should you look for in a church?
Let the news be an instigator to get you involved in all that God is doing in this world that belongs—without hype, sensationalism or slant—to Him.
I don’t know what the hook was that got you “in,” but that won’t be the hook that gets you to stay. Allow me to tell you what nobody else told you when you signed up.
We are pleased to share the video from all the messsages at our FTC Columbus event held last week at The Southern Baptist Convention.
In our defense of the doctrine of depravity, which is right and necessary, we must not forget the transformative grace of the gospel.
If the gospel is truly of “first importance” (1 Cor 15:3), then what are some ways the church can continue to move the gospel to its proper place of preeminence? Certainly there are more ways than one, but according to the Spirit’s words in 1 Corinthians 11, a great way to reclaim the gospel as the focal point of the church is to recover a regular observance of the Supper.…
If it were true that direct gospel ministry and Bible reading are all that matter, that would mean that we waste most of our lives in the meaningless daily stuff of ordinary living.
Whatever you face today, be it a hard conversation or the good report and everything in between, take your trust in the Lord along.
Evangelism is not only winning someone to Jesus by the grace of God in the preaching of the gospel. It is also winning them to the church by that same grace and gospel.
Our churches will experience a super-nova of the Spirit when we stop trading personal and meaningful holiness for what is safe in the world’s eyes.
"The new life in Christ, just like all natural life, must be nourished and strengthened."
Hannah was able to look in the face of her precious boy as she walked away from him for the last time and know that God would win in the end and her loss was not in vain.
According to the Mission Society, approximately 75% of internationals are never invited into an American home. Most internationals come from cultures that put great emphasis on hospitality and yet they find that in America there is little hospitality offered to them.
Let them come with their words, then. Let the devil come with his barrage of lies, even his truths-turned-lies.
The question for you is not, 'Am I one of the elect?' but 'Am I a sinner?'
"I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it."
Unity is not an end in itself.
Every day of ministry brings with it a battle for our minds. And this battle has much higher stakes than that of playing a game. If you lose this battle you are likely to lose your ministry.
When we preach in our own strength, it is easy to come off like a boy band in a self-focused, over-choreographed performance. But if we pretend to have it all together, we rob our people of the comfort of the gospel.
I have learned that “growing a garden” is one of the most enjoyable and fruitful things that you can do in ministry. In fact, I might be so bold as to say that unless you are working to train up and develop leaders in your church plant you probably aren’t being faithful to the biblical calling you have as a pastor or church planter.
He longs to transform their spiritual rubble into complete life restoration because this is His way, the way of Jesus. If they would just let Him.
There was a time when obeying my parents ended. There will never be a time on this earth when honoring my parents will end.
Your church is broken because it’s made up of broken people, including yourself. Abandoning the local church is only acceptable under a few extreme circumstances. Other than in certain circumstances, the people of God have the responsibility to sacrificially love their local churches as Jesus has.
Circumstances may currently be tough, but they are temporary. On the other side of this life, a future glory awaits. Don’t forget that.
Only through His empowering are we able to live together in a way that honors Him.
Christianity recognizes our problem as a matter of character, of human nature.
It is helpful for us to examine our own hearts for signs of legalism, signs of places where we are trusting in or protecting our moral self-sufficiency for our identity.
Like a regular relationship, we have to see the warning signs here in our spiritual relationship. If we find ourselves intentionally avoiding or carelessly neglecting communion with God then we are on a troubling trajectory.
Was your church meeting disappointing this week? Do you find that there seems to be little life in the church? Are there troubles stirring? Are there way too many parking lot conversations? What can you do as a member to make things better?
I love my friend Jesus, because he's sweet in all the ways I deeply need and greatly want.
Some helpful links defining and explaining the importance of gospel-centrality for the church.
I have discovered that there is quite a massive chasm between trusting God to do and trusting God to be. So what's the difference?
The question we must all answer is, are we willing to be thought a fool for the sake of Jesus?
The universe, as I understand logic, demands a creator. But I do not believe the universe itself to be the greatest miracle of all.
"We all must remember who we are in Christ and who we are not without him."
What if I go there to show the love of Jesus; to show some grace? After all, didn’t Jesus hang out with sinners?
If the church’s message seems to be that marriage and parenting bring the "real" issues in life, you may be sending the message that singles are second-class citizens.
We typically think that if given enough time, our sins will work themselves out. Boy, are we wrong.
What gives you the eyes to see and ears to hear the image of God in your fellow man clearly and truly other than the gospel?
I'll tell you why I hope Bigfoot exists -- and why, in a way, I hope he is never discovered . . .
Developing new tastes take time. Instead of being frustrated by the time it takes to grow and love spiritual disciplines, think of time as your ally.
At each new beginning, the centrality of God's authoritative and creative word is reaffirmed and reemphasized. Because our salvation is not born of human will or merit but the powerful word of God, which dissolves darkness into light and raises the dead to life.
Complementarianism is not generally about authority/submission, as if they exist in a moral vacuum. It is about what biblical authority/submission look like. Any man who treats his wife in a neglectful or abusive way is no complementarian; he is a walking perversion of manhood in need of repentance.
As I find myself passing the student ministry baton off to others, I have laid out for them a simple philosophy of youth ministry. Perhaps it will be beneficial to you as well
If you want to be known, served, and celebrated in community, you’ll need to be challenged by that community. And that community will help you live the life you’ve always wanted.
Because eternal life is integral to the gospel's promise, eternal security is an integral blessing of the gospel.
I believe our sinful desire for power, control, and praise are at the root of most church divisions.
I regularly hear conference speakers claim that if someone isn’t nervous before they stand up to declare the words of God then something is wrong. I'm not sure this is right.
Never go it alone.
Your church's vision must become more than just a catchphrase. It should be the embodiment of the way God is driving your church to achieve His mission.
It stands, then, that if Jesus was not raised, Christ’s sacrifice was deficient, that Jesus’ blood was somehow insufficient to pay the full penalty for sin.
They love you, they love you not.
Salvation is for us but ultimately about God.
God can save us, one by one. He can bring the awakening that we need, with all the good side-effects that would follow from it. We’ve always known that, based on Scripture; and now, with each new headline, we can also feel its truth as never before.
I’ve noticed in my own heart is that my definition of ministry success is often determined by what other people think of me. Strong influence, wide recognition, and powerful spiritual authority can be good things. Those things can be leveraged for tremendous impact in God’s kingdom. But often my heart can gravitate towards those things quicker than they do the ultimate goal: honoring Christ.
It would make the preacher’s job a lot easier if these tough words appeared in the mouths of the wicked. Then we could just brush them aside -- "Nothing to see here, folks." So, sure, I get why people don’t preach these psalms. But here are four reasons why you should . . .
What is the relationship between theology and the church?
To mention the idea of a church disciplining its members strikes tenderhearted and naive Christians as weird, mean, and legalistic. So how do we work at keeping the biblical admonition to church discipline from seeming weird?
The power of an effective pulpit ministry is not determined by the rhetorical ability with which one preaches. Nor is it authenticated by the size of the congregation to which one speaks. The power of an effective ministry is determined by the faithfulness with which one seeks clearly, consistently, and courageously to proclaim the whole counsel of God.
Has God clearly impressed upon your heart and life in some way that the only course of life and action for you is to serve the Lord, even to the final drop of blood and the last breath of your lungs in laboring hard for the advance of the gospel? If not, please do something else.
What happens when someone gets lost in the crowd of church? They feel more like a number than a family member.
I’m not against strategies and tools. But what I’ve learned in the last few years is that Jesus hasn’t hidden anything from us. He is not at the Father’s side hoping we are clever enough to unlock the mystery of a healthy church.
Have you considered the wonder of the Doxology?
We now face a bigger, badder “I don’t care.” It’s more complex. Topics of God, church, love, community, spiritual discipline, theological conviction, relational faithfulness, life, work, family, friends, whatever . . . all receive a definitive, self-assured “Meh.”
I'm finding these days that tucking my children in to bed has much more to do with securing the edges of life than the edges of blankets.
The better the ending the less necessary the tension. When I know something will end well, I don’t have to fret as much in the middle.
Let the thrill of ministry die away, and seek the presence of the thrill-giver through communion, solitude, service, and contentment, and you will find a world of new thrills all the time.
We miss out when we fail to act our age. So, take a long range perspective of your church’s journey, and fight for the joy of this particular season in the life of your church.
Should the sermon conclude with an invitation?
Let's find ways to welcome and celebrate diverse cultural expressions among believers. To fail to do so is to rob God of the varying forms of worship due His name.
So when you sing on Sunday, make sure you are raising your hands and heart because of the words that you are singing and not simply because of the emotions that you are feeling.
Augustine of Hippo, the great theologian and North African bishop, said men who “speak the common tongue” need “two other languages for the study of Scripture: Hebrew and Greek.”
Since churches looking for pastoral candidates seem to be all the map when it comes to ordination, does it make sense for aspiring ministers to pursue it?
Evangelism is often a slow process; sometimes it’s enough to stick a rock in someone’s shoe, and see what God does with it.
Since rest is part of God’s good plan for us, I want to be obedient in an overflow of my love for Him. After all, he’s already lived the life I can’t live and paid the price I couldn’t pay for my sin. The culture around us says, “Go work, gain merit, and prove yourself worthy.” The gospel, though, says, “Rest in Christ.”
One of the most valuable sentences in a pastor's arsenal is "I don't know."
Pastor, you primary calling is to the people God has you with now, not who you think you deserve.
For many of my formative years, the overarching and consistent message I received at church was, “Be good." I attempted with everything in me to be good, but my efforts only reinforced what I knew deep inside: I wasn’t good enough and could never be.
Discerning a call to plant a church presents a great challenge. I have been blessed to network with church planters and coach them through discerning their call. The conversation inevitably arrives at a question very similar to this: “I've got this vision that I know God has given me, but I keep asking ‘How do I know when it is time to go?’"
When a minister assumes his first pastorate, it can be an exciting time for everyone. There is so much hope and anticipation. But there is also so much that is mysterious and fraught with difficulty. The following are some bits of advice from some lessons I've learned over the years, some of them the hard way.
The increasing presence of transgender individuals demonstrates humanity’s underlying desire to understand themselves, to achieve a sense of wholeness.
It was probably the most difficult conversation I had ever had. Sitting across from me were two leaders I had a great deal of respect for and a large desire to work with. I couldn't wait to be part of this team, launching a new work with them. And then the bottom fell out.
Again and again we see Paul saying: don’t wait for things to happen. Go minister. Be active. Don’t neglect your gifts; use them. Don’t wait to see if ministry happens; go make it happen.
At the end of the day, loving our spouse through darkness means doing everything we can to make sure they know they are loved. Sometimes this means speaking hard truths to them in love, but many times this means entering into their state as a listener and a lover.
I would say that the chief thing I learned during my relatively short ministry time in Vermont was how to pastor a suffering church. But we learned that God is sweet and gracious and what it actually means for the death of his saints to be precious to him.
We overlook “respectable sins” not only because they are pervasive, but also because they don't seem as bad as others that get more press. But when we turn a blind eye to these "ordinary" sins, they begin to fester.
Basically I was being told, “Evangelism won’t work for us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is for everyone else."
At root, I think a move of the gospel requires many more ordinary moments than we realize—and far fewer grand gatherings. It is in the little moments, the simple times of meals and working and expressing kindness that Jesus is displayed. Such moments are, after all, much more poignant than any sort of spectacle we might produce.
Above all, preach unceasingly the glory of the Kingdom that is here and is to come; it is the only hope we have in these “last days.” We must all “do the work of an evangelist.”
There are things you can do for your pastor that are like a drink of cool water on a dry, dusty day.
We sing because we love God, not because we are the next Whitney Houston. Making a joyful noise is more about the One who makes us joyful than the squeaky noise coming from our vocal chords.
When I am inclined to be frustrated when someone is just not “getting it," I am reminded of Jesus’ gracious and patient teaching by way of reminder among the disciples.
A careful reading of the Gospels reveals it is a non sequitur to argue that Jesus affirmed homosexual relationships. I’d like to suggest six reasons why this form of “Gay Christian” argumentation fails . . .
We have been given a set, predetermined number of days to walk this earth. We should, by God’s grace, make every one of them count.
Is skipping church whenever we feel like really no big deal?