"Let nothing disturb you, nothing dismay you; all things are passing; God never changes. Patient endurance attains all that it strives for; those who have God find they lack nothing. God alone suffices." -St. Teresa of Avila
I am so excited that I can't possibly wait until September 26th. Along with my worship leader, John Burroughs, I am going to be getting on a plane and heading to Minneapolis, MN to a conference that I have always wished to go to. The Power of Words and the Wonder of God Conference is one of the many annual conferences that John Piper's ministry, Desiring God puts on.
I am excited to get to hear from many ministers and Christian leaders that I have long looked up to and have gleaned so much wisdom from. The line-up for this years conference is: John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Bob Kauflin, Sinclair Ferguson, Paul David Tripp, and Daniel Taylor. I am getting excited as I write this. I am not that familiar with Daniel Taylor, but it appears that he is the master of storytelling.
If you have the opportunity go over to the Desiring God website and check it out. It is going to be such a great time, and I am sure that I will be confronted with sin in my life and areas in my ministry where I need to improve. I am looking forward to both, due to the deep desire I have for personal growth as the pastor of a church, as a husband, and as a child of God. This is sure to be a time of great fellowship for John and I, but also a time for great spiritual growth in my own Christian life. Please be in prayer for our safety, as well as that we will be alert to the Savior's voice calling out to our souls for a closer relationship with the Father. May I become more satisfied with God, so that in turn, He will be most glorified with me.
"On the most basic levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to the basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist.
Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with the fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness. ...This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him!...
Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply loose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes to not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus."
Yesterday, our church joined together with about six other churches to put on an event for outdoors enthusiast. My dad has been putting this event on now for six years, and this years was the best. There were about 900 people who came out to join in on the festivities, as well as to hear the gospel. The cool thing was that 80% of these guys would never step foot inside of a church, so we bring the church to them. At the end of the event before the door prizes are given out, there is a service where the gospel is presented by a well-known sportsman who happens to be a Christian. At the end of the event 54 people decided to follow Christ, and 20 0thers felt the need to recommit their lives to following Christ. It was awesome to see the power of God at work in our community. This was an awesome way to begin the weekend.
Today was an awesome day at church. We had a wonderful time of worship in the morning service. Johnny B did a tremendous job leading us in praise and worship, in preparation for what God was going to reveal to us through the teaching of His Word. We finished our study on the Lord's Prayer, ending with learning how to defeat temptation and the importance of submitting our lives totally to God. Then we ended with exalting God who is powerful and deserves all the glory forever and ever. It was a great service and I really felt like God was at work in everything that took place.
Tonight I was involved in my first church budget meeting. We have been praying that God would direct us according to His will for our church in regards to how we will spend the money that has been given to accomplish the mission He has called us to. Much to my surprise it was a pleasant and encouraging experience. I have heard a lot of stories from other pastors that had different outcomes, but I am so proud of my congregation for having proposed a budget that is definitely based upon faith and not on what we think we can accomplish. I am looking forward to see how God blesses the obedience of our church, and seeing Him glorified in our obedience to His mission for our church. We are going to be pursuing more opportunities to reach out into our community and serve those around us. I am absolutely excited about what God has in store for our church in this upcoming year.
All in all this has been an absolutely wonderful weekend. I can say that even though I personally struggled with having faith in what God can do through His people, I am absolutely in awe of how faithful He is. I pray that He has been glorified with all that has taken place in my life this weekend, and He deserves the honor for it all.
It astounds me as I look around at the world and see so much evil, see so many hurting and crying out for help. Then I take a look at the 'inside' of our churches and see people who appear to be so happy and satisfied in their lives. I begin to wonder just where the gap is. Are we missing something, or have we found something that takes away our desperation and needs, and offers us hope that those on the outside seem to be lacking?
I know that the Sunday School Answer to that question is: Those people within the church have found their hope and happiness in the only One who can provide it, Jesus Christ. This would be an acceptable answer, however, if this is true then shouldn't those who have hope, the key to all their problems, share the 'Good News' with those on the outside? Aren't they called by the One who provides this 'New Element' in life to go and share this hope?
The answer is, yes they should! The question still remains then: Why does it seem as though this is not happening in most places? Why do we not see people desperate to share this hope? Why does it seem like there is so much indifference in the body of believers? Where does God and His will and word fit into this picture?
The truth of the matter so it seems, is that there really isn't much room for Jesus in our Christianity. How can this be? Well, how much of what we do in our lives and in the life of our churches really has do with Christ? How many of us can say that Jesus is truly the Lord of and over our lives and our churches?
Stagnation seems to be spreading in the lives of our churches and those 'Christians' who fill them. We have adopted what seems to be a consumeristic approach to how we do church. We work on providing what people want. We try to offer 'programs' for every age group in our churches. We have changed or transitioned from presenting an uncomfortable and offensive gospel, to presenting a more comfortable and non-offensive tips to living life. This is tragic! We seem to tell people what we perceive to be what they want to hear. What we fail to do as pastors and leaders is to teach them what they need to hear. We fear that if we tell them the truth, they will be offended and leave. So we tend to cater to what they want instead of what they need.
What we then develop is a safe and comfortable place for 'Christians' to settle in and feel at home. In doing this, we are sending the message that life and church is about us, and begin to develop a complacent attitude about our current situation.
(Side Note: Church is not only about non-believers. Church is also a place where Christians are discipled as well. This was not the point I was trying to make, but I feel as though I need to clarify my stance.)
The problem with this is that life and church is all about God and His glory. The church should be a place where those who do not know Christ should feel comfortable and welcomed. However, when we create an atmosphere just for Christians, those who are not feel like outsiders instead of welcomed and wanted guests.
It is of utmost importance that we stop creating comfortable places for Christians and begin to allow Christ to be the Lord of our churches and our lives. We need to create an environment that says, 'Come as you are, filth and all, and meet our Lord Jesus Christ.' Instead of being complacent and indifferent, we need to be desperate. People all around us need a Lord who is much bigger than them and their current circumstances. The only way they will be introduced to this Lord, is if we Christians begin to invest in peoples lives, and offer them the hope that we have found in Christ.
We should move back to proclaiming the uncomfortable and offensive gospel in love, and challenge one another to not be discouraged but begin to follow Christ and go where He went. It is certain that others will come to know Him and in the process we will see spiritual growth in our own lives and the Kingdom of God will grow numerically. Most important is that if we were to approach life like this, God will be glorified and honored. That is our ultimate goal as followers of Christ.
"Jesus shocked the established authorities by being a friend to - not only to the destitute and hungry, but also to those rich extortioners, the tax-collectors, whom all decent people ostracized... The shocking thing was not that He sided with the poor against the rich but that He met everyone equally with the same unlimited mercy and the same demand for total loyalty.
If we look at the end of His earthly ministry, at the cross, it is clear that Jesus was rejected by all - rich and poor, rulers and people - alike. Before the Cross of Jesus there are no innocent parties. The cross is not for some and against others. It is the place where all are guilty and all are forgiven." -Leslie Newbigin
"Any step that is taken in any way, by strength not immediately from Christ, is one step towards hell. He first takes us by the arm and teaches us to go, until he leads us on to perfection. He hath milk and strong meat to feed us; he strengthens us with all might, and is with us in our running the race that is set before us." -John Owen
Perry Noble has posted some great thoughts on the role of the pastor over at his blog. He has listed three things that we need to do and think about as we prepare to speak and as we speak. This has really touched me in a special way in the season I find myself, and I think they would be helpful to you all as well. Please take some time to read through his blog, and know a head of time that you will be challenged in a big way.
I am really excited about this upcoming Sunday. I am going to be finishing up our study on the Lord's Prayer. We will be looking at how we need to pray and ask for protection from the evil one, and we will be turning to James to find out how the Bible explains how we are to defeat the temptation that comes from Satan. We will be addressing two important questions:
1.) Why do we often find ourselves giving into temptation and committing sin? 2.) What is the secret to defeating temptation?
James 4:6-8 says:
"But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
There are two actions that a follower of Christ must commit to doing in their everyday lives in order to defeat temptation.
1.) Submit: We must totally surrender our will and life to God. This cannot be accomplished apart from a personal relationship with Christ. This simply means that it is imperative that we spend time conversing with God in prayer and through reading scripture.
2.) Resist: In our own power this is impossible. Since we are sinful by nature and do not have the power to resist Satan on our own, we must rely totally on the power of God living in and through us. Jesus resisted Satan's temptation was by quoting passages of Scripture. We must not miss this point and must apply this discipline to our own lives.
We must conclude then, that the only way one can and will defeat the temptation that comes from the evil one, is by submitting to the One who has the power to defeat Satan, and resist the evil one by using the Word of God as our weapon of choice. The only way one can do this is by maintaining a personal relationship with Christ and putting to memory those things written in His Word.
D.A. Carson says about the petition found in Matthew 6:13: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.":
"This petition is a hefty reminder that, just as we ought to consciously depend on God for physical sustenance, so we ought to sense our dependence on Him for our moral triumph and spiritual victory."
I am excited about this message because there are so many who are so discouraged about their inability to defeat the temptation that comes into their lives. I know that I am at times. I pray that by revealing this simple truth, that others will find hope and realize that they are incapable of defeating Satan in their own power. We must realize just how desperate we are for the power of God in our lives. This is the hope of the Gospel and I am excited about proclaiming this to others.
I am currently reading a great book by Jim Collins entitled, Good to Great. In the first chapter the author discusses the different levels of leadership. Level 5 leadership is the the one that we all should aim to achieve in our lives as leaders. Under this heading he says that those who posses this level will confront the brutal facts, but will never lose faith. He makes reference to this concept entitled the Stockdale Paradox. The following is the definition that he gives of what this concepts entails:
"Stockdale Paradox: You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
As a leader this is a difficult thing to do, but is an attribute that I hope to master. How well do you as a leader confront the brutal facts of your current situation? Do you find it hard to do so and at the same time keep the faith? I look forward to hearing some feedback on this one.
I have to tell you, it was great getting back and serving in my church today. I was encouraged greatly today by all those who told me they had missed my teaching the past week. Thank you to those of you who prayed for Allyssa and I as we were on vacation and all you who have been so encouraging to us as we minister to you.
This morning was phenomenal! We were privileged to have with us a local folk/bluegrass band leading our worship service. I am not the biggest bluegrass fan, but their music was tremendous and their music was so God-centered. The members of the band presented the church with a couple of challenges, and encouraged the church to be obedient to what God has asked of them. Thanks to the guys of "Just Us", and I hope to have you guys back soon.
Tonight, I got the opportunity to finally get to preach again. God has really been working in my life over the past week and I was able to express those things to the church. I spoke about the Rich Young Ruler's encounter with Jesus. Many people use this passage in Matthew 19, to tell people that Jesus requires you to sell all your belongings and give it to the poor. This ideology and understanding really misses the point. Jesus here calls the guy out on his sin, which is the fact that things and doing good has become his false god. Jesus calls him to get rid of his false god, and come and follow the one true God. I challenged the church to rid themselves of the false gods that have taken the role of GOD in their life, and begin to follow Christ. Even though in the world's eyes we may be last, we will be considered first in the Kingdom of God. We are to live our lives with the motivation not to gain rewards and recognition, but to bring glory and honor to God and obey Christ commands just because we desire that His name be lifted high and exalted. There is nothing we can do in our own merit to earn God's favor, but with God working in and through my life anything is possible.
This passage has really challenged and convicted me about letting things, people, and thoughts take the place of God in my life. I need to rid my life of these false gods and begin to follow Christ. I want my life to show that what Jesus did on the cross was not meaningless but in fact was totally necessary. May God be glorified because I am most satisfied in Him (John Piper).
"Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you is a branch sticking out of the edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and seems more than strong enough. How can it save you?
If you're certain the branch can support you, but don't actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If instead your mind is filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. How?
It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is totally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch." -Tim Keller
When we returned home from our vacation, I went to the post office to pick up our mail from the last week. To my surprise I had a free book in the mail (this is always an exciting time). It was from a great speaker and author named Jarrod Jones. The book is entitled, 13 Ways To Ruin Your Life: A Practical Guide For Guys. This book is on how sexual sins, pornography and lust to be exact, can ruin a man's life.
I have just read the intro, but it looks to be a very promising book. It is designed not only for individual reads, but mainly for small groups of men to follow along and become open about their struggles. I am excited about reading this book, and I am already in planning mode on how I can incorporate this book into the lives of the men in my church.
Men, if we are honest, there is not a man out there who has not or who does not struggle in this area in some form. This is the primary area that the enemy tries to get a hold of us, and it is about time that we become open about it and begin to fight back. I believe that this book will be a great place to start. The author has used Proverbs 7 as his biblical focus, and if we are to follow what Christ modeled, we need to fight temptation by responding with scripture. This is exactly what Jarrod has done in this book.
More to come soon, after I finish reading the book. Check it out.
Here are a few of our pics from the last day of our vacation at Disney. Animal Kingdom was one of the coolest places I have ever visited. The safari was incredible, and Expedition Everest was an interesting ride.
To end the day, I took my wife to her favorite restaurant, Rainforest Cafe. This was my first time eating there, and it was amazing. I had the 'pot roast', and it was (sorry mom) the best pot roast I have ever eaten. It was a great way to end the vacation. So I suggest you go to the nearest Rainforest Cafe as soon as possible, but watch out for the thunderstorm and the wild monkeys.
We are having a great time at Walt Disney World. We have now visited three of the four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. We are making our way tomorrow to Animal Kingdom, and looking forward to riding Everest. Here are just a few of the pictures we took the past couple of days just to give you a taste of what we are experiencing. We are a little sad, because tomorrow is our last day in the park, and Friday we fly back to Nashville.
We have decided that the next time we come, we are going to do eight days in the park, instead of six. It is so much easier when you can spend two days in each park, and it also allows you to experience everything and not feel rushed. We did this for Magic Kingdom and Epcot. This is the absolute best way to experience Walt Disney World.
Allyssa and I arrived in our resort on Friday evening. We had a great flight, especially since we got to fly with a cool group of guys from the band, By The Tree. They were very friendly and I knew people that some of them knew. So that was a great and memorable experience. We have spent the last couple of days at Magic Kingdom, and we have been loving it. We are now awaiting the parade and fireworks show, which I have heard are great.
I will be posting more about our vacation, as well as some of the great photos that my wonderful photographer wife Allyssa has taken. Well off to continue experiencing the magic and the wonder. More to come soon.
Allyssa and I are packed and ready. My mother-in-law and father-in-law are picking us up at 10:00 in the morning to take us to Nashille International to fly to Orlando.
We are so excited to finally get to take a vacation together. Disney World is Allyssa's favorite place in the world. This will be my first time to visit, but I am excited to go and see Allyssa's beautiful smile. As you husbands know, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing your wife extremely happy.
Please pray for our safety and that the weather will alow us to enjoy our tripp.
"I must not only wash in Christ's blood, but clothe me in His obedience. For every sin of omission in self, I may find a divinely perfect obedience ready for me in Christ. For every sin of commission in self, I may find not only a stripe or a wound in Christ, but also a perfect rendering of the opposite obedience in my place, so that the law is magnified, its curse more than carried, its demand more than answered." -Robert Murray
Mark Batterson has posted an excerpt from his new book Wild Goose Chase, at his blog. He poses an interesting question, 'Are churches in today's society creating caged Christians?' The following is the excerpt in which he describes his thoughts on this issue:
I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do the animals. We try to tame them in the name of Christ. We remove the risk. We remove the danger. We remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian. Jesus didn't die on the cross to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at th end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.
His observation really resonates with me, because I have experienced this first hand. It seems as though many churches want to create an environment that is safe for Christians. I do not believe this is Biblical at all. I believe that the church needs to create an environment that is safe for those who are not following Christ, but not for Christians. Jesus said that He did not come to save the healthy but the sick. I feel as though this should be the approach that we take in our weekly worship services at our churches.
Many churches are doing their members a terrible disservice by teaching that the life of following Christ is safe and comfortable. In my experience it is the total opposite. What we have in our churches are Christians who look at our God as a big teddy bear in the sky, who is willing and able to meet our every demand. What happens when people start thinking this way is they no longer approach a Holy God with fear and reverence. However, they begin to approach him with their laundry lists of things they want Him to accomplish, and if He doesn't they are discouraged and confused.
This is a terrible place to find yourself. When I look at Jesus' life, it doesn't appear as though he lived a very safe and comfortable life. It appears to be the total opposite. So it would be worth our while when someone receives Jesus as their Savior, that we teach them the 'costs' involved with following Jesus. Many of my experiences in church are the opposite. The pastor guilts people to come forward and pray a prayer and then we leave them hanging. When we are talking with someone about their need for Jesus, we also need to explain to them what it means and what it costs to follow Christ.
What do you think? Do you find that you are living a comfortable and safe life as a Christian? Pastors, are you trying to create an environment that is safe and comfortable for your members, or for those who are not currently following Christ?
As I was preparing for our mid week service, I was reading through 1 Corinthians 1 and came across some interesting and challenging verses. The following verses really popped out and caused me to pause and consider not only my calling into ministry but also as a follower of Christ.
"For consider you calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord"." -1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (ESV)
"Know Jesus. Sit at His feet. Consider His nature, His works, His sufferings, His glory. Rejoice in His presence; commune with Him day to day. To know Christ, is to understand the most excellent of all sciences. You cannot fail to be wise if you commune with Incarnate wisdom; you cannot lack strength if you have constant fellowship with God."
I read recently an interesting article in the September/October Issue of Rev! Magazine on why 1500 pastors leave the church every month. One of the suggestions it provided to those pastors who are feeling discouraged was to 'refocus your vision'. The following is the excerpt from the article:
"Focus is a process of holding on and letting go. When facing adversity without focus, we tend to let go of what we need to hold on to and hold on to what we need to let go of. We're prone to hang on to and obsess about someone's negative statement or a picture of failure and shame, while letting go of the vision of our ultimate healing destiny. When you've gone through a leadership experience that's fueled a crisis of doubt, it's crucial that you root yourself in the undisturbed stillness and poise that comes when you focus on the power of God in your life. Know that you will always be divinely guided. Anchor yourself in Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God." Believe that you will always take the right turn in the road. Believe that God will make a way where there seems to be no way. Desired results are always the product of sustained expectations. When you're vulnerable to doubt, it's essential that you don't let other people define who you are. Envision the kind of pastor you believe God has called you to be, and let this be the focus of your dreams and prayers. (-written by Ralph Earle and Ken Wells.)
As a pastor, I am often prompted by the Spirit to return to Psalm 46, and just be still and know that God is God, and that He is still in control of everything. As a leader, it is easy to get discouraged by comments that people make or the lack of impact that it seems you are making, but I must remember that these distractions need not take my focus off the vision God has placed in my heart, soul, and mind. However, it is always helpful to take those comments and look for the merit in them and decide if there is something that needs to change in my approach that I am taking. This article and passage of scripture really encouraged me this past week, and I hope you find encouragement in it as well.
What are your thoughts on this one? Anyone else struggling with taking your focus off what is important, and focusing on those things in which you can't control? What are some ways that you deal with these struggles?
Wow...I can't believe that it has been almost 5 months since I last blogged. However, my life has been tremendously busy, but I am enjoying the ride. Since my last post, I have been serving as pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church now for about 6 months, a director of a non-profit for about 5 months, and am now officially a senior in college (It has only taken me 9 years to get there. :) )
I am looking forward to begin blogging again. I hope that I can keep it up, because I have a lot of things to throw out there for discussion. My wife and I are currently getting ready for our first vacation/honeymoon of our marriage (it has only taken us a little over 5 years), and we are totally excited. We are heading off Friday to go to Walt Disney World (or as my wife says 'the mouse house'). She is so cute!!!
Well that is all I got for now, but look forward to some interesting topics to come. Also, be on the lookout for some pictures of our vacation.
I am a 28 year old struggling student, director of non-profit, pastor, of a wonderful church in Athens, TN. I currently live in Tennessee with my wonderful wife Allyssa, who is expecting our first baby (Ayden Tayte) and my totally insane dog Toby. I enjoy the outdoors, indie music, thought provoking books and movies, but my heart longs to help people seek God and not religion.