10 for 10

Over the past ten days, my wife and I have enjoyed many blessings of ministry of which here are ten. They are shared here for God’s glory and appreciation for His kindness to us in these days of such sin and sorrow!

1. Officiating and directing a wedding! Wow! How special to see two lives brought together in the will of God! The wedding was Christ-exalting and so very romantic! I love weddings!! (Side note: In respect of the newlyweds, I will not post any pics until they do.)

2. Providing a place to rest in our home for two days for a fellow servant in ministry! Quiet walks, prayer, porch time, mountain drive, sharing scripture, etc.!!

3. In 2014, my wife and I had the joy of leading the Missionary Teen Retreat in the Basque region of Spain. We have kept up with several who are now young adults. Daniel and Jessica celebrated their first anniversary with a return trip to Gatlinburg, TN. Their anniversary celebration included worshipping with us in both Sunday gatherings plus a meal and afternoon spent at our home. What a special treat! I call that “clipping grace coupons”!!

4. Preaching the Hebrews 12:12-19 passage in the morning gathering at BCBC!! What a solemn and joy-filled honor it is to prepare and preach the Word of God verse-by-verse!! The Word works!! (2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2)

5. Leading and teaching the Biblical Counseling Elective on Sunday mornings!! “The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.”

6. Follow-up visitation of church visitors. Made to feel so at home with these folks!!

7. Having coffee with a young man from our church who just finished his first year of college. My heart was greatly encouraged to see how he has grown both spiritually and as a young man!!

8. Discipleship with another man in our congregation. Met for lunch and read together through a chapter of Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes. Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

9. Small Group gathering on Thursday night! What can I say?!?! A highlight of every week! Singing, prayer, transparent testimonies, Bible study, fellowship around the bar counter and in the living room, laughter, tears, bearing burdens, and rejoicing in answered prayer!!

10. Attending a high school graduation of a young man that has attended BCBC through his teen years. Another opportunity to encourage a young man to follow Christ, not his heart!!

That’s only 10! There were so many more!! Oh! How marvelous is the goodness and grace of God!! And, I got to share in all of these with my wife, except for #8.

It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it. (Proverbs 10:22)

Practice, Brother!!

The oft-spoken adage and biblical advice for preachers is, “Practice what you preach!”

Well, since having completed an eleven blogpost series on overcoming discouragement in ministry, my wife and I put Post #7 to practice.

Last week we “got out of Dodge” and headed for a week of rest at Edisto Island, SC.

To make the week purposeful and full of memories, we took the word “READS” and used it as an acrostic for each day’s goal. After all, you usually spend time reading when you get away like this.

Here’s a sampling of our time with the hopes of encouraging you to “practice what you preach.”

R – REST

  • Each day, we did not let ourselves be driven by a clock. We had quiet, leisure mornings on the deck overlooking the golf course with our Bibles, journals, study books and coffee. We did read a lot on the beach, too!
  • When we went to the beach, which we had basically to ourselves, we just sat or strolled along the shore. One day I looked at Denise and said, as if I was being asked by someone at home, “Well, preacher, what did you do on vacation?” “Nothing!”
  • Wherever we went in the car, it was slow driving; no hurry.

E – EXERCISE

  • Although I did not get to run on the beach, I really enjoyed running through the Ocean Ridge Wyndham property!
  • Denise and I walked around the property hand-in-hand in the evenings!

A – ADVENTURE

  • Played Putt-Putt golf (Denise won, made four hole-in-one’s, just missed two others). So I bought her an ice cream cone for her “trophy”!)
  • Botany Bay shoreline at high tide with a storm brewing!
  • We have always said that the vacation begins when we leave home and ends when we arrive back home. Therefore, our “out-of-the-way” trip to Charleston, SC, was a great adventure: Handy & Hot Restaurant, King Street shopping, and strolling along King and Meeting Street to view the historic homes.

D – DINNER

  • We had seafood every day!! Some of the best was at Roxbury Mercantile (Twice), Edingsville Grocery Restaurant, and Pressley’s!!
Roxbury Mercantile

S – SPECIAL

  • The historic Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island is a must see! There is a small Prayer Chapel on the property. We stopped on Tuesday and Thursday (National Day of Prayer) for a time of prayer together that was very special!
  • Since we love ice cream, each evening I served Denise mint chocolate chip accompanied by a mint chocolate chip cookie served in a tall stemware glass. Cheap ice cream, Aldi’s cookies, but served up in special way.
  • Cheese sandwich picnic!!
  • Sunsets
Prayer Chapel

Practicing can be fun when you have your best friend, wife, and sweetheart of 41 years alongside!

Now! That was a great way to stay away from or overcome discouragement!!

Do you need to practice what you preach?

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #9

McAfee Knob AT

Do you feel a sense of guilt when you take time to go on a date with you wife?

Does guilt grab ahold of you if you are playing in the backyard with your children and a church member drives by?

If that church member stops to say hello, does a feeling of guilt lead you to give a reason or excuse for taking time to enjoy your children?

Does guilt consume you while on vacation?

When the day is done, do you deal with guilt because you didn’t get all of your boxes checked or those visits made?

GUILT….an emotion that can create ongoing discouragement in ministry.

How do you deal with it?

1. If you have started your day in prayer seeking the Lord’s will as well as surrendering your plans to His leading, then rest in His sovereign care and direction.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand (Psalm 37:23-24).

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose (Proverbs 16:1, 3-4a).

2. Live to please the Lord, to glorify Him, and realize that you will never be able to please everyone in your congregation. Furthermore, they cannot always please you either. Yes, you are an example to the flock and they are watching you, but if you live to honor the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31), then you have lined up with the highest standard. So respond with humility and grace. Neither pastor nor parishioner should have a standard for the other that they themselves are not living up to. Be gracious and give others some latitude.

3. Your freedom from the fear of man will be a testimony to your people as you interact with them in love and compassion. Lead them to see that for all of us, our expectation, our hope must come from the Lord (Psalm 62:5).

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25).

4. Your identity is in Christ alone in Whom you are accepted. Spend some time soaking your soul in Romans 6-8 and Philippians 1.

To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Ministry friend, remember that we live in a sin-cursed world that will never work right. So, rest in the promises of God, rest in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and rest in Matthew 11:28-30, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [f]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#7)

Hiking is so much like life! Constant ups and downs, wear and tear on your body, hidden and exposed roots that cause you to stumble, stony trails that cause your feet to burn and twist, steep climbs that seem to last forever, stinkin’ socks and fellow hikers, the burden of 25-40 pounds on your back, sloshing through a rain-soaked trail, and wishing you could carry your bed from home in your backpack in exchange for the ground or a shelter floor!

As I stood on one of the many awe-inspiring, give-God-praise views on the Appalachian Trail this week, I proclaimed to my hiking buddy, Rick, “And you ask me why we love to hike????” (Besides the fact that we just love being outdoors in the mountains!)

Men, one of the reasons we are prone to become discouraged in ministry is the view. Ministry can be like what I described in the first paragraph. While carrying the weight of “your church” on your shoulders, all you see are ministry deadlines, the constant burdens of others, unmet expectations, another sermon to ream out, your body wearing down, the battle of your flesh, and a mind full of stinkin’ thinkin’!!! Just like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” You need to change the view.

How?

Learn to rest! Most folks in ministry do not know how to rest! We are on the go 24/7 with our foot on the accelerator pushed to the floor. Even on vacation, we are still thinking ministry, taking calls, answering texts, and thinking about next Sunday’s sermon.

Rest breaks are crucial while hiking. As we climbed up the mountain to McAfee Knob and trekked the distance over to Tinker Cliffs, periodic rest breaks for water and a protein snack gave energy and heart to press forward. Even along the way, we enjoyed other views as we dropped our packs and briefly rested. We knew the extraordinary views were coming!

Your rest breaks could be . . .

  • a drive in the country with your wife (no ministry discussion allowed)
  • a walk or bike ride in a nearby park
  • 15 minutes on the back porch singing and swinging
  • reading the Psalms or Philippians for your heart’s sake and not for a sermon
  • no phone at supper while remaining at the table with your wife to chat for 15-30 minutes at the end of your meal
  • your prayer closet
  • a power nap
  • watching something humorous to get you laughing
  • a cup of coffee or tea and a healthy snack
  • calling your wife and talking to her like you did when you were dating (seriously)
  • Facetimeing one of your grandkids . . . that’ll lighten up your heart

Ministry friend, learn to rest. Remember, Jesus went to the mountains and the wilderness to get away (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). You need those rest breaks more than Jesus did. You are not the Messiah!

The “hike” in ministry calls for periods of rest. The “views” will be much better when you do!

GOTCHA!!

Everyday you will see something like this in the news media:

  • Latest News: Chicago Could Be Inundated by Lake Michigan (Weather Channel)
  • NASA Spots “Godzilla” in Space (Weather Channel)
  • Christmas 2021: Experts anticipate most expensive in decades as inflation, supply chain crisis lingers (Fox News)

Gotcha!! Fear-filled headlines draw you in. They capture your thinking and cause your mind to race and your heart to skip-a-beat! These well-placed, frequent headlines lead you to worry, be stressed, to try and control your future on the spot, and keep you attached to whatever news source has your attention. Fear sells; it makes millions at your expense both physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Would you sink your tap roots into the following eternal, life-changing truths? Would you meditate on these words from God Who has everything under His sovereign control? Would you dwell on divine viewpoint rather than human viewpoint?

Isaiah 41:10Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Philippians 4:4-8Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatevr is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

2 Timothy 1:7For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

I have given you seven scripture passages. Take a one passage a day for the next week. Please think the truth; meditate on the truth; memorize the truth; share the truth with someone. God never intended for us to live in the land of fear but the land of faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Has fear “gotcha” or is the truth continually setting you free (John 8:31-32)?

Blessed Quietness

Noise is everywhere! Music blaring over the speaker system in the clothing stores, loud diesel pickup trucks billowing their smoke as they scream by your house, parents hollering threats at their children as they make their way through Wal-Mart, phone notifications and text messages keeping us on edge, etc.

Sadly, too many of us do not know how to be still or even how to deal with “awkward” quiet. For far too many, our lives are characterized by rush, running, and racket.

While being on sabbatical this month, one of the blessings that has come our way has been times of quiet and stillness. They have come to us seated by the lake at Watauga Point for the afternoon, enjoying the gardens outside Boone Tavern Inn after breakfast, outdoor supper by a quiet brook at Pottery Barn Cafe & Grille, on our back porch, in our family room, and on the deck and the upstairs window seat of a friend’s lake cottage to name a few.

Blessed Quietness, a hymn from yesteryear, speaks to that which alludes so many. How can you know and experience that blessed quietness?

The fourth stanza says, “What a wonderful salvation, where we always see God’s face! What a perfect habitation, what a quiet resting place!” First of all, you must have the chaos in your sinful heart and soul quieted by the resting work of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ alone. On the cross when Jesus was crucified, He declared, It is finished, and He bowed His and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The work of salvation was complete (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9). The greatest rest for man comes with the complete assurance of full salvation through the complete work of Jesus Christ. Take time to read the following: John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28; 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13.

Second, meditate and operate in life through the familiar words of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (1-4).

In Hebrew, the words for ‘still waters’ in Psalm 23:2b are “Mai Menochot”, meaning literally, “restful waters”. Our Shepherd wants to lead us to a place of rest, a place of trust, a place of confidence, a place where you rely on Him and focus on Him without anything that will distract you. He wants to take the “heavy load” from your life and replace it with His everlasting peace and rest. (Moran, Hope4Israel.org)

Begin each day with quiet in the presence of your Shepherd. Bathe your soul in the Word of God and prayer. Rest in Him as you read. When you pray, talk out loud to God, but then stop and listen to Him speak quietly to you. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 42:1; Philippians 4:6-8).

Men, you take the lead. Discipline yourself to have times of uninterrupted quiet with the Lord. Designate a place at home, in the woods, on a walk, or by a creek where you can read the Word and commune with the Lord. Here’s a helpful resource.

Husbands, make sure your wife has times of solitude. She is your first ministry.

Dads, teach your children how to be still before the Lord even when they are young.

We will always have noise around us, but don’t let it rob you of the stillness of salvation and your relationship with The Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Exchange the rush, running and racket for blessed quietness.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
what assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me,
how the billows cease to roll
!

21 Days of Prayer (Day 1)

21 Days Of Prayer | Devotional Reading Plan | YouVersion Bible

Psalm 145 is glorious psalm of praise acknowledging Who God is and what He has and is doing, James Montgomery Boice said it this way, “Psalm 145 is indeed a monumental praise psalm, a fit summary of all David had learned about God during a long lifetime of following hard after the Almighty.”

Today, as we begin this journey of 21 Days of Prayer to Resurrection Sunday, may I encourage you to give these days to following hard after the Almighty, the God of Majesty, Love, Holiness, Righteousness and Compassion?

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (Mark 1:35). Jesus said that He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He followed hard after the Almighty.

Today, find a solitary place where you can get alone with your Heavenly Father to pray.

  • Bring your Bible, a journal (book or tablet), and a hymnbook.
  • Read Psalm 145 out loud with heart and devotion to your Heavenly Father.
  • Go back and pray through the psalm, taking your time to meditate on a line or a verse; stop and listen to the Holy Spirit speak to you. Don’t be in a hurry. You can’t know the heart of God on the run.
  • As you pray and are silent at various intervals, write in your journal what the Spirit is saying to you.
  • When a verse speaks of blessing the Lord, choose a song and sing it Him!
  • When a verse speaks of praise, tell the Lord how great He is and thank Him for what He has done.
  • Perhaps record in your journal five things about Who God is and five things He done.
  • When you return to your family, share with them what God has revealed to you about Himself and about you. Have them share with you about their experience in the solitary place with the Lord.
  • Make this time in His presence all about praise and thanksgiving . . . no requests! Just enjoy following hard after the Almighty, being in the presence of the One Who loves you unconditionally, eternally, and immensely!

Psalm 145:18 says, The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. May you be greatly encouraged as you spend time with the One Who sought you out and adopted you for a love relationship that is real and personal. Follow hard after the Almighty!

Brief Retreats

Last week I celebrated my 62nd birthday tucked away with my wife in a cottage on Watauga Lake in East Tennessee. Besides acknowledging another year of life and my wife making the day special, we went away for other reasons, too.

First of all, just as Jesus went withdrew Himself from the crowds (Matthew 14:23) and went to the mountain to pray (Luke 6:12-13), we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to do the same (Matthew 11:28-30). Two days removed from cell phones, internet, normal life, distractions, and responsibilities is an investment in your walk with Christ that is more than worth the effort. You have time to pray, listen, write, read, and be still. All you need is your Bible, journal, a ready heart, and a quiet place.

Second, marriages need maintenance like many other things in life. No matter if your marriage is humming or in need of a tune-up or a major overhaul, you and your spouse need brief times away to talk, plan, be attentive to each other, pray, read, play games, take a walk, laugh, sit on the porch swing, take a hike and share what God has been teaching you. All you need is place to get away and leave everything else behind.

May I encourage you to plan a brief retreat in the next six months? You need it in your walk with God and your marriage needs it. Sometimes, it’s good to retreat before you can advance.

COVID Counsel #3

Keep Your Eyes on the One Who Walked on Water

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

These lyrics written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., came to my mind Monday morning as I sang along with the instrumental version playing through Alexa. The bold lines struck a chord in my heart.

Indeed, COVID has been one of “life’s billows” (a great wave or surge of water) that has tossed us in so many directions that we have been or are today tempted to be “discouraged, thinking all is lost.” How interesting our minds and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) work at moments like these.

The battle is not with COVID but with our thinking.

Is all really lost? Note the phrase, “thinking all is lost.” Is that true? What does God’s Word say about COVID or any circumstance of life?

The songwriter got it right when he said, “So amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all.” That is absolute, eternal truth!

Colossians 1:16–17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, today, do not listen to your thoughts but think His thoughts. Do not listen to yourself; preach the Truth to yourself.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Count Your Blessings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FZECFq4BvRQ

COVID COUNSEL

Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You wouldn’t say it out loud, but you probably think you are the most intelligent creature on the planet. Why? Because you listen to yourself more than anyone else.” By the way, do you ever have a conversation with yourself or with someone else in your mind?

This preacher went on to say something very needful. “Instead of listening to yourself, you need to preach to yourself! You must preach the Truth to yourself!”

David does this in Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

For sure, COVID and 2020 has been filled with inconsistencies, false information, cancellations, deaths, life-altering illnesses, disappointments, fear, anxiety, abrupt changes, and unfulfilled plans and expectations.

Where do you run? Where do you hide? Where do you find rest for your weary soul? Where do you find strength to take the next step, to live the next day? The answer is found in the aforementioned scripture passages. Read and meditate on what David is saying. Put yourself in the passage. Preach the truth to yourself. Do not listen to yourself, your doubts, your confusion, your pain, your sorrow, your fears, etc.

The help of His countenance (42:5) will always be the help of my countenance (42:11; 43:5) as I hope in my God and praise my God while preaching the truth to myself. Counsel your heart.