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!

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#2)

In this quest to overcome discouragement, let’s begin on the first day of the week, the “biggest day” of the minister’s calling.

How do you begin your Sunday morning? Do you make sure you get a good night’s rest? Friend, sleep is good; it’s needful. Sunday requires much from you mentally, spiritually and physically. Don’t underestimate the rhythm that God has given your body. Also, make it a habit to pray with your wife before you drift off to sleep.

Do you get up early and have a designated time with the Lord in prayer and surrender to the Christ in you as you prepare to join Him in His work? S.D. Gordon said, “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing; but it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; not those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time and pray.” Also, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Let me add that if you have a family, it’s a blessing to hear them prayer in the car on the way to church. Now that my wife and I are enjoying the empty nest, she always leads in prayer on our way down the road to church. It’s so sweet to hold her hand and share together in preparation for the day through intercession before the Throne of God! When our girls were young, we would have prayer in the van in the church parking lot before entering the building. These were some very precious times, especially hearing a toddler pray!

Next, how about a time of prayer with others before the day of ministry begins. This could be an announced time set aside every Sunday morning to gather with the men, elders and deacons, church members, etc. Hearing others pray for you, calling out your name, can be a rich source of encouragement to you and your heart can be blessed as you pray for others, getting the focus off of yourself.

Have you noticed an emphasis here? How easy it is to “get in gear” and run 70 mph through a Sunday or any day because you have ministry to be done, people to see, etc. May I encourage you to soak your soul in Psalm 23 and let the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4) shepherd your soul throughout your Sunday? You need Christ to be all you need, to quiet you in His green pastures and still waters, to restore your soul and to lead you in His righteous paths (Psalm 23) throughout the day.

Perhaps one of the reasons we get discouraged is that we are so prone to think of ourselves as THE shepherd, THE pastor, THE man of God, and forget to surrender throughout the day to the CHIEF SHEPHERD Who dwells in us. He is the only One Who has the right to say, “I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18).

Ministry friend, prayer is “the declaration of our dependence upon God” (Ken Collier). Read the Psalms, and you will see that when David was discouraged, he prayed and praised God. Please do not underestimate the need, the power, the fellowship, and the dependency of prayer!!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
(Psalm 34)

“A sermon steeped in prayer on the study floor, like Gideon’s fleece saturated with dew, will not lose its moisture between that and the pulpit. The first step towards doing anything in the pulpit as a thorough workman must be to kiss the feet of the Crucified, as a worshipper, in the study.” (Thomas Armitage)

Crazy Busy

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Rest. Quiet. Relaxed. Tranquil. Unhurried. These are terms that you do not hear much in these days in which we live.  But, quite often you sure hear the following:

  • Life has just been crazy busy!
  • I didn’t have time . . . .
  • I just can’t keep up.
  • Hurry up! We’ve got to grab a burger for supper so we can get to your sister’s cheerleading practice and then take you to your soccer game and get home in time for youto get your homework finished.
  • If I just had more hours in the day!
  • It has been crazy busy around here today at work! (The new buzz word.)
  • Your Dad won’t be home until Friday. He’s got a busy week out on the west coast.

I love the quote from Tim Challies in his review of the book, Crazy Busy.  He says, “Busyness is a funny thing. We have a love/hate relationship with it, so that when we are not boasting in it we are apologizing for it, and when we are not overwhelmed by it we are wanting more of it. We hate what busyness does to us, how it keeps us from friends and families and how it skews our priorities. On the other hand, we love that it validates us, as if the fact that we are busy someone proves our significance.”

Having just completed a 31-day sabbatical, the term crazy busy, when heard, shouts out to me like a frustrated football coach on the sidelines!  Hence, I have a few observations.

  1. We all have the same amount of time every day. So that does away with, “I wish I had more time.”  If we were given more time, we would still need more time.
  2. What we do with our time, which is a gift from the Lord, is a personal, daily, throughout the day, decision.
  3. God designed our bodies to have a sabbath, a time of rest (Genesis 1-2).
  4. We are commanded to redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16), and this is every day of our existence.
  5. The Lord invites the weary and worn-out to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

So, where do we begin in dealing with this critical issue of life?  How do we move away from being crazy busy!  At the start of everything, we need to take Genesis 1:1 to heart, In the beginning, God . . . .  At every beginning, all day long, we must begin with God.  Therefore, I would suggest that you understand that each day must begin with God, the Giver of life, breath, mental capabilities, time, strength . . . everything!  You must begin your day sitting at the feet of Jesus, Who is life (John 14:6).  And then, though out your day, as Brother Andrew said, “Practice the presence of God” by consciously thinking on Him and praying for wisdom at the many “beginnings” of your day.  Listen closely.  The Holy Spirit will bring Scripture to mind and speak in the still small voice.  Sometimes, He doesn’t need to say anything because you already know the answer.  Just obey and rest in Him.

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (Mark 1:35).

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 gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

That doesn’t sound like crazy busy, does it?

Friday’s Findings

What can you find today?  What will you find today?

The Lord GodBut from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 4:29)  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Rich TreasureI rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure (Psalm 119:162).

Knowledge of God  If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:4-6).

Wisdom I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me (Proverbs 8:17).

GoodHe who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he (Proverbs 16:20).

Answered Prayer“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

RestCome 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 gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 28:28-30).

LifeFor whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:25).

An Empty TombBut they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly[a] perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments (Luke 24:2-4).

Weakness of my FleshFor I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find (Romans 7:18).

Sufficient GraceLet us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

So, as you go throughout your Friday, what will you find?  What are you looking for? That depends on where you look, the surrender of your heart, and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.  God is pursuing you today.

 

Here’s something else you will find to be helpful.  Looking so forward to Evangelist Aaron Coffey and the team being with us March 15-20, 2015.  This powerful message was delivered last night at Bob Jones University.  Listen here: January 15, Aaron Coffey.