But We’ll Be Late! | The Pastor’s First Ministry

There she was, sleeping so soundly. After a very draining week emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, my wife was snuggled securely in bed in a deep slumber.

“What time is it? What day is it?” Those were her words when I awakened her.

Slowly she crawled out of bed and began to make herself ready for the day.

What day was it? Sunday.

What time was it? Suffice it to say, she had overslept!! Didn’t hear her alarm either.

We have pre-service prayer meeting on Sundays at 8:30. As I watched the clock and began to fix her a to-go breakfast, she came down the stairs. My wife was ready to go to church on the outside, but I could see that she was not on the inside. And based upon my ever present “I’ll fix this situation” manhood, I declared, “I’ll go on ahead, and you can come in your Jeep.”

Wait a minute! It’s raining, she’s fighting off a migraine, and she is definitely not crusin’ along on all eight cylinders.

It was then and there that my first ministry captured my attention. Serving my wife was more important than being at prayer meeting on time. She had no business driving by herself. She needed her husband. She needed her pastor. She needed her friend.

Pastors, Christian leaders, missionaries, we are so prone to put the ministry above our wives, leaving her in the dust with her brood as she carries seven diaper/book bags, Bibles, a purse, and wearing her “running shoes” to keep up with you. I mean, after all, you are the pastor and you must be there to open the door and lead in prayer! What will people think if you are late!!!

Men, you know the words of Matthew 22:37-39 quite well. May I encourage you to remember that your wife is your neighbor. She is to be loved more than your church congregation (Ephesians 5:25). Your ministry to your wife, and your church member, I might add, is an example to all the other believers. She is your first ministry.

Fighting the urge to drive a bit more aggressively and take some of the curves on two wheels, we had a nice, easy and enjoyable journey.

Interesting enough, folks gathered for prayer as always, and . . . we were the second ones in the parking lot. No harm done. Compassionate, caring love shown to my wife.

Thank You, Lord, for stopping me in my tracks and reminding me what is of greater value.

“C’mon, Hon. Take your time. I’ll wait. Let’s go together.”

Let’s Just Settle Down

My dad had many sayings. When my friends and I got rowdy as a kid, he would sometimes utter, “You boys need to settle down.”

Now in my 60’s and having been exposed to so much in the Christian and religious world for these years, could we as pastors/Christian leaders just settle down?

My background is one of . . . growing up in a pastor’s home (My dad was Church of the Nazarene until his Army days in Korea, and then came to understand the security of believer in Christ, thanks to a godly chaplain who taught him the Word!); The Wilds Christian Camp (Doc Hay, Rock Royer, Major Brooks, etc.); Bob Jones University (college and seminary plus a host of its graduates including all of its presidents to date, Bible Conference speakers, faculty, etc.); Tennessee Temple University graduates; the Sword of the Lord crowd; my Southern Baptist grandfather who pastored in Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the GARBC; the many men who fellowshipped in what was for years known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (Now Foundations Baptist Fellowship); Dallas Theological Seminary grads; being mentored personally by the likes of J.B. Williams, J. Robert Martin, Randy Patten, Reynold Lemp and many others; plus being influenced from a distance by the likes of Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, David Jeremiah, and more.

In more recent years, my background continues to be of the many mentioned above plus Men’s Prayer Advance, 9Marks, T4G, CoRE Conferences, plus many, many books authored by Tripp, Ortlund, Wells, Bridges, Payne & Marshall, Thomas, Huegal, Ryrie, Walvord, Pickering, etc.

“What’s the point?’, you may ask.

Well, I want to say that for all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out; none of us knows all the facts about everyone or every situation; none of us know more than our God; none of us have the absolute right methodology; none of us are the standard; and none of us have arrived!

For all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out . . . none of us have arrived!

We all come from various backgrounds and are all influenced by a diverse group of people, churches, institutions and movements, but we are saved by grace through faith alone in the cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We are made complete in Christ. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are children of the living God!

Therefore, understanding that there are clear, biblical points of separation and the application thereof, such as preeminently, the Gospel (Galatians 1:1-10), may I say that we need to . . .

  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
  • Be gracious and kind.
  • Stop making fun of our brothers on social media whether you agree with him or not. (No wonder the lost world doesn’t want our Jesus, seeing the way we lampoon one another.)
  • Throw away our Pharisaical microscope.
  • Give one another space to grow in sanctification.
  • Cheer our brother on when he’s down. When revival breaks out where he pastors but not where you serve, rejoice and praise God with him!
  • Personally call up the brother we have issue with instead of talking about him behind his back or on social media.
  • Exchange the time of criticizing and posting for time on our knees in prayer.
  • Let God handle error by His righteous standard rather than us being “the enforcer.”
  • Meet with your brother for coffee; get to know him and disciple each other.
  • Confess and repent of our arrogance and pride.
  • Exercise grace.
  • Remember, we will live forever together in Glory!

Throw away your Pharisaical microscope.

In times past, I have jokingly said, for instance to a group of four men, “There are only four people in the world that’s perfect. That’s me and you three, and . . . I am doubtful about you three!”

Proverbs 22:4 recently challenged my heart again . . . By humility and the fear of the LORD (not man) are riches and honor and life.

May I suggest that we soak our soul often in the truths of Colossians 1:15-18 and go deep in meditation and prayer in Philippians 1:1-2:18?

Let’s join Paul in prayer . . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Let’s just settle down.

Staying Power

44 years.

38 years.

48 years.

These numbers represent folks who Denise and I had the joy of sharing in sweet fellowship this past Saturday and Sunday in two different locations.

For 38 and 44 years, Seth and Linda, now retired, have labored for the Lord in the fields of Christian education.

For 48 years, Bacilio and Eunice has labored faithfully in the mission fields of Hispanic nations. Although the years have taken its toll on him, he said to me, “Dale, I am busier now that I have ever been.”

As I have pondered their lives after our recent visits, my heart was once again encouraged to finish well; to have staying power over the long haul.

Seth & Linda (Gray & maroon)

How does someone in full-time vocational ministry “stay by the stuff” until the end?

What’s the “glue” that helps us “stick-to-it”? Having been involved in ministry now for over 41 years as well as growing up in a pastor’s home, I share these with a bit of experience, yet knowing that my race has not been finished.

  • Keep your heart fresh in your walk with the Lord by living life in the awe and wonder of Who God is! (Psalms 34:1-3; 63:1-4; 91:1-2; 145:1-21)
  • Live a life of prayer, not a prayer life. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Memorize and meditate on Scripture so when you talk to yourself, rather than listening to yourself, you have something really worthwhile, transformative to say. (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)
  • Learn to rest spiritually, mentally, and physically. There is no virtue in having your “foot-to-the-pedal” 24/7. (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 6:31; Philippians 4:6-8)
  • Make daily investments in your marriage; more deposits than withdrawals. Outside of Christ, your wife needs to be your best friend. (Proverbs 5:15-23; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Song of Solomon 4:9-11; Ephesians 5:18-33)
  • Enjoy the journey! Laugh a lot! Have fun! Don’t take yourself so serious! (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 15:15; 17:22; Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • Love people as Christ does. (Matthew 22:37-40; John 15:9-17; 1 John 4:21)
  • Expect to be disappointed and suffer at the hands of people. Why should I be treated any better than Jesus was? And, make sure you do not live with a martyr’s complex! (Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:10)
  • Live a life of gratitude. (Colossians 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 12:28)
  • Remember, few men cannot stand the applause. (1 Corinthians 10:31; Proverbs 16:18)
  • Your identity is not in a successful sermon or project but in Christ alone. (Philippians 3:4-14)
  • Surround yourself with godly, encouraging, edifying, loving, transparent friends inside and outside your ministry. (Proverbs 27:17; Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 2:19-30)
  • Live with the Bema in view as well as eternity. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Revelation 21-22)
  • Live the gospel and share the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 1:27)

One final thought comes to mind as I consider these four faithful laborers.

At this late date in their lives, they still have such a winsome personality, a sweet disposition and a joy-filled heart in spite of the aging process and current physical hinderances.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

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)

How To Talk About Your Church

  • “Well, I walked into church, and no one spoke to me!” 
  • “Every Sunday, my heart is stirred, and I leave knowing I have met with my Lord!” 
  • “Our preacher (fill-in-the-blank)!” 
  • “All our church knows to do is ask for money!” 
  • “Our kids’ ministry is awesome!”

These and a whole host of other statements, both positive and negative, true and false, have been and continue to be said about the local church. In connection with yesterday’s post, Covid’s Speech Lesson, I want us to consider what is said to others about the local gathering we attend. Let’s look at one of them.

“Our church (or, That church) is so unfriendly!”

There’s a quick remedy for that one. Proverbs 18:24 reminds us, He that has friends must himself be friendly.  Next Sunday, before you get out of your car, pray by yourself or with your spouse or your family, “Lord, I surrender to You, Who dwells in me, to be friendly, compassionate, listening, and caring to all we meet. And, lead us to the seats in the auditorium where You want us to sit today that we may help move folks around one step toward Christ.”

Think about it. If we are given to say that our church is not friendly, then perhaps we are not friendly because we are the church. We as born again believers are the body of Christ. Therefore, when we gather, we are more than just friendly on “the outside.” We desire to go deeper by showing mercy to those around us. We greet others with a firm handshake or a fist-bump or with raised eyebrows (for mask-wearers) and a word of greeting. Try to refrain from the norm, “How you doing?” and move on.

If you are greeting a visitor/guest, stop, speak to them, give your name, listen for their name(s) and use their name(s) immediately so you can begin to remember it. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider how you can make them feel at home; as if they were entering your living room. As you chat with them, don’t be in hurry. Introduce them to those serving at the Welcome Center. Ask questions and give guidance to the auditorium or nursery or fellowship area. Pray with them.

Sometime during the week, send a thank you note or a text or give them a call to let them know you have prayed for them. Make sure they know you genuinely care.

True friendliness is grounded in the person of Christ. He spent time with His disciples and others (John 3:22). He initiated conversations (John 4:7-42). He came to serve others (Mark 10:45). He prayed for others (John 17). He visited in homes (Luke 19:1-10). He reached out to sinners (John 8:1-11).

Since we can do all things through Christ as He lives His life through us, we can ignite a culture of biblical friendliness in our local congregation that will be contagious for Christ and to others!!

“That congregation is so friendly! They are genuine; they really care!”

In the School Of COVID

“Sometimes we have to experience misunderstanding from unsympathetic friends in order to learn how to minister to others.” These were part of Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Job 16:4, that resonated in my heart.

Seated by the fireplace reading, grounded again for the third Sunday in a row due to COVID, I found myself replacing the words “unsympathetic friends” with “COVID.”

“Sometimes we have to experience COVID in order to learn how to minister to others.”

How blessed I have been to be healthy for over two years with no colds and only my typical back issues. I’ve been hiking, running, navigating ministry through the pandemic, on and on and on! Then . . . everything changed in one day. Symptoms which led to a positive test, feeling miserable, infusion, recuperation.

What did I need to learn again? I needed a fresh reminder of what it looks like to be a minister of mercy/compassion just like Jesus as demonstrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ (Luke 10:34-35).

What does that look like? Well, here are some thoughts, in random order, that I jotted in my journal to remind me in the days to come.

  • Life changes so quickly . . . live in the moment. That may be all that’s left here. (James 4:14-15).
  • If the Lord nudges you to minister to someone, go. (Luke 10:34)
  • There are times when you are feeling so bad you do not have the energy to pray beyond, “Lord, help me!” If you are strong physically and spiritually, be sure to pray for those who are weak and weary. They need your intercession (James 5:16). Perhaps, call them . . . not to chit-chat but to simply say, “I want to pray with you, and then I’ll end the call.”
  • Ask the Lord to give you wisdom as to something beyond “If you need anything, call me!” 99% won’t call (I’m usually one of those); don’t want to be a bother or an inconvenience. Here are a few acts of service that I was blessed to receive recently: 1) Bring a meal. 2) Send a text saying, “I’m out at the store. What can I bring you?” or “I’m at Dunkin. Want a donut and coffee?” 3) Do some project around the yard or house. It was a refreshment to hear the lawn mower crank up in the front yard. 4) Drop by with some cookies/snacks or leave something in the mailbox or on the front porch.
  • Having said that, accept other’s offers to minister to you. The other night a meal was brought to our front door. Before departing, the gentleman said, “It sure feels good to be on this side of the door” (the giving side).
  • Send a text every other day or so. Sometimes the one who is suffering may not have the strength to read it and respond, but don’t be afraid to reach out, either. Perhaps a card of encouragement in the mail.
  • Store up the Word of God in your mind for times like these, when you’re too sick to read or listen to anything.
  • Consider the caregiver. He/she has picked up the ball for two people all the while serving the ill. They need encouragement and help, too.

How blessed to have a wonderful wife, our dear immediate family and loved ones, close friends, and our precious church family!! Most of all, oh, the goodness of God in the midst of stuff like COVID!

Yes, “sometimes we have to experience “COVID” in order to learn how to minister to others.” Thank You, Lord, for being patient with me and teaching me again to be moved with compassion.

Marriage Moment #4

An enduring moment began in a house trailer many years ago.

Denise and I, like every couple, are a study of contrasts. Whoever came up with the idea that you find a mate just like yourself in every way to be your spouse? That would be boring!! Nevertheless, one of the many ways Denise and I came into marriage as opposites is in reference to the subject of coffee. To me, it was one the best aromas in the world but one of the worst in taste. To her, she loved both, aroma and taste.

Even though we started out as opposites in reference to coffee, it has now for many years become a daily, traditional, special moment. Her love for coffee every morning worked its way into the cravings of my life, and now I am an all day coffee drinker who anticipates this moment every morning!

Since the early days of our marriage, I have prepared the coffee each morning. First, I choose one of my wife’s favorite cups. You see, drinking coffee is an event, and the cup is very important as well as the process. The cream goes in first, then I use the frother because she likes a lot of foam. Then I slowly pour in the coffee all the while making sure the foam is rising. You see, I’m building up to the moment for the best part which is to come. As I hand my wife her cup of tasty warmth, that daily, ongoing marriage moment happens! It is when we . . . share three kisses that continues to brew love in our hearts for each other and says, “I love you!” (Three words, three kisses.)

Wow!! Coffee and kisses! What a moment!!

Rejoice with the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:18)

Teammates

Whiteface Mt. New York

A dear friend recently said to me, “Every time I pray for you, I pray for your wife. You two are a team!”

He’s right! We are!

We became a team on June 20, 1981. We have worked through marriage, parenting, ministry, and the stuff of life as a team. That teamwork has had a strong presence in our lives in the past week or so.

Last Monday, while on our way for a supper date, I ran my car through the car wash. As I pulled up to clean out the inside of my auto, I noticed a dear pregnant lady struggling to vacuum her built-low-to-the-ground four-door. Denise and I looked at each having the same thought. Gently I approached the lady and asked if I could vacuum her car. I quickly pointed to Denise to help ease the situation. She was a bit reluctant but then gratefully received my invitation. While I worked through the debris in this lady’s automobile, Denise introduced herself and began a gospel conversation. Every once-in-awhile, I would look from my task and say to myself, “I’m so glad we are teammates!”

Thursday through Saturday, Denise had the rich privilege of ministering God’s Word at Wolf Mountain Camp, Grass Valley, CA. The three days were peppered with texts, photos, and phone calls between us. We prayed, wept, laughed and rejoiced together as we saw God’s grace in action from a front row seat! During her speaking sessions, I prayed. While sharing Christ on the plane with a 39 year-old, I prayed. While Denise listened and counseled with these ladies of many nationalities, I prayed. While leading a dear lady through the plan of salvation and witnessing her transformation by the power of God from darkness to light, I prayed. I’m so glad we are teammates!

The past two and a half years have been a steady trial, and it continues. Some things occurred on Sunday that I permitted to create a spirit of despondency in my heart on Monday. Denise is my cheer-leading teammate. Throughout Monday and Tuesday, she prayed, cared, encouraged, and ministered to my heart. Her cry to the Lord Tuesday morning was, “Lord, would you fulfill Jeremiah 33:3 for Dale today?” By noontime, that prayer had been answered in an Ephesians 3:20 way. Furthermore, when I came home for supper, she had prepared an appetizer to enjoy while she completed her final meal prep. That was her way of saying, “I love you. I’m for you.” I’m so very glad we are teammates!

May I strongly encourage you husbands and wives by the grace of God—be teammates. Work through your conflicts together. Pray together. Serve together. Worship together. Parent together. Play together. Walk through this life hand-in-hand. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33). This is teamwork as God planned it. I’m glad Denise and I are teammates!!

Grace to Go!

Stretching out his hand and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Soon this hand will touch the hand of my Jesus.”

These words were spoken last Saturday by a dear man of God who has given his life to faithfully proclaim and live out the excellencies of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Bud Parker has been diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor that is affecting his mobility and vision. As I sat by his side in his humble mountain home, the affects of cancer were readily seen, but the grace of God was much more manifest. It didn’t take long to realize I was seated in the presence of a man who is ready to go Home to Glory!

There were many more times of rejoicing than notes of sorrow as we conversed. During his lengthy stay in the hospital, the Lord enabled him to share the gospel with many, and three precious souls came to salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We talked of the ministry joys of past years, the privilege of preaching the Word of God, the joy of mentoring so many men in the ministry, as well as rejoicing in all the folks who had come by to visit.

With his precious wife, Mildred, seated across the room, he looked at me and then her and said, “I am ready to go to heaven, but I don’t want to leave my bride of 58 years. The other night, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. She was My bride before she became your bride. She is the apple of my eye’.”

Especially at a time like this, the Word of God is the very best comfort, assurance, and hope. While reading 1 Peter 1:1-8, Pastor Parker’s eyes would glisten and then fill with tears. Some of the passages he quoted along with me as best he could. At one point, he raised his hand to rejoice!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Near the end of our visit, I noticed that his wife, two of his daughters and other family members were on the front porch. I invited them to gather in the living room, and we sang a medley of songs about heaven. My, what a glorious time we had as we lifted our voices and hands in praise to our great God! Indeed, what a day it will be when our Jesus we will see!!

Watching the grace of God in its total sufficiency from my front row seat was an honor and a blessed encouragement! This dear man of God is living out the words of Tom Hayes’ song, New Grace.

All of grace is my story
All the way from earth to glory,
Since by grace He lifted me from sin and woe;
Living grace He has extended
As on Him my heart depended,
And He’ll give new grace when it’s my time to go.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

VERSE 2:
There’s been grace for every trial,
There’s been grace for every mile,
There’s been grace sufficient from His vast supply;
Grace to make my heart more tender,
Grace to love and pray for sinners,
But there’ll be new grace when it’s my time to die.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

Grace to go!!

Taking the Scenic Route in Marriage #11

pothole

OH, NO!!  I tried to avoid it, but….

Nailed it dead center! Yes, that huge pothole in the road.  It was pitch black at night, raining and I didn’t see it in time.  After about needing to see a chiropractor due to the jarring we received and a loan officer to pay the tire bill, I learned again that potholes are definitely to be avoided!!!

Continue reading “Taking the Scenic Route in Marriage #11”