The Game of Life

I really enjoy living in the twenty-first century!  I like television, computers, iPad, iPhones, Kindles, DVD players, hot and cold running water, indoor plumbing, Tempur-pedic mattresses, and a host of other things that have been invented over the last one hundred years.  You see, my idea of camping is going to a Hampton Inn that doesn’t have cable.

I especially like all the new electronic devices, and I want my son to be able to enjoy them in time.  However, this year for Christmas, my son received several types of games—Sorry, Trouble with Mater, Cars 2 Operation, Rock’em Sock’em Robots, and Battleship. We have been playing a couple of different games each evening, and I love it.  It’s great to turn off all the electronics in the house and just play a board game together.  We laugh, talk, and interact with each other as we play the game. When someone gets close to winning, the other two players gang up to send the leader back to start, then the trash talk begins.  Sometimes a tickle match breaks out and we have to put the game on hold.  Last night when I was getting whooped, I shot mom with a Nerf gun which led to mom and William teaming up against me (two Nerf guns against one isn’t fair).

We still have our television shows that we each like to watch, computer games to play, and other electronic devices to occupy our time.  However, taking time each night to spend together is great.  I would encourage you to plan a game night each week with your family. The joy of being together is a treasure that I want to enjoy while we are all still under one roof.

As I said before, I like modern conveniences; never-the-less, spending intimate, meaningful time with my wife and son is something I love!

10 Secrets of Many Senior Pastors

One of my greatest joys in life is being a pastor. I absolutely love serving, teaching, and leading those whom God has placed in my care. When you add in the wonderful friendships that come with a loving church family, I can’t imagine there being a better calling in the world (of course I am biased).  In spite of the wonderful blessing pastor’s receive from God’s family, being a pastor is not always an easy calling.  There are many circumstances that can weigh a pastor down and over time steal his joy for ministry.

Ron Edmondson gives us a glimpse into some of the struggles of many pastors in “10 Secrets of Many Senior Pastors.”  I hope Ron’s article gives some insight on how to better pray for your pastor.

I get to hang out and know many senior pastors. I have a great heart for them and understand, firsthand, some of the pressures, frustrations and joys, which are unique to the role of a senior pastor. In my recent blog survey, over half my readers are in ministry and half that number are senior leaders.

I previously shared this post over a year ago after sharing these points at a conference for executive pastors. I was asked to give my perspective as a senior pastor, since each of them report to one. I have revised some of them again and added a couple, so I decided to share it again.

Here are 10 “secrets” about many senior pastors:

  • Leading from this position is overwhelming at times. We know Christ is ultimately in charge, but we also know it often seems everyone looks to us to have all the answers.
  • People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others…many we would rather not know sometimes…and sometimes the weight of others problems we carry is enormous.
  • Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty, which keeps us in prayer, but also makes us question our abilities at times. It makes depression common for many senior pastors. (Need a Biblical example…see 1 Kings 19)
  • Many senior pastors fear the possibility of failing in their role, so they thrive on the encouragement and prayers of others.
  • Sometimes we allow insecurity to cause us to become overprotective of our reputation and our position.
  • We face the same temptations and occasional spiritual dryness as everyone else. This means we need accountability, but are often afraid to seek it.
  • Our spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church and often feels extreme pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.
  • Loneliness can exist for all leaders and many pastors suffer from it.
  • We seldom know who we can trust, which is why we become guarded and appear hard to get to know. Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted.
  • We suspect the staff , church leaders and congregation sometimes talks about us behind our back.

Granted, not every pastor faces each of these, (that’s why I said “many”) and I happen to be in an extremely healthy church, but even still, some of these are real for me at times. Other pastors, for reasons on this post, will not want you assuming these things about them. In talking with dozens of senior pastors each year, I know this is a representative list for “many”.

Senior pastors find joy in our work and, thankfully, most of us know we are in the center of God’s will vocationally. I don’t intend to take anything away from that in this post. We serve in a called position, so we are doing what we have been asked of God to do. When I share any post like this, however, I have come to expect a lecture on the need to depend on Christ for these issues, which only further demonstrates my points.

Senior pastors are to fully rely on Christ’s strength, as is every other believer. This is just a reminder that we happen to also be like Elijah…”a man just like us”. (James 5:17)

Can You Resist the Temptation to Watch this Video?

I have always enjoyed reading articles when people are creative.  In this article by Mike Anderson, we see a creative new way to look at temptation as well as how to better handle them.  I hope this gives you valuable ammunition in your spiritual battles.

To read Mike Anderson’s post and watch the video follow this link: “Bet You Can’t Resist the Temptation to Watch This…!”

Glorifying God in Gray Areas

I have had people ask me on numerous occasions for advice on different topics that are not found in the Bible.  They are wanting to make the right decision; however, the Bible doesn’t specifically answer whether they should take another job, get married, move out-of-state, or which college to attend.  They want to obey and glorify God in their decision, but they just aren’t sure what they should do.

In His article, “Glorifying God in Gray Areas,” John MacArthur gives us seven sound questions to ask before making any decision.  If asked and answered with a heart longing to obey God, these questions will lead us to choose wisely.

If the issue you are wondering about is not specifically addressed in the Bible, then it’s helpful to ask these questions from 1 Corinthians to help you in deciding what to do. Asking these questions (and others like them) will help you make a wise decision based on sound biblical principles.

1. Will it benefit me spiritually? First Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

2. Will it put me in bondage? First Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Any questionable practice that can be habit-forming is not wise to pursue. 

3. Will it defile God’s temple? First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”We should not do anything with our bodies that would dishonor the Lord.

4. Will it cause others to stumble? First Corinthians 8:8-9 says, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” One should refrain from using his freedom in an area which might cause others to sin. For “by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore,” Paul said, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”

5. Will it help the cause of evangelism? First Corinthians 10:32-33 says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” We must think of the effect any practice might have on our testimony to the lost.

6. Will it violate my conscience? First Corinthians 10:25-29 contains three references to abstaining from a certain practice “for conscience’ sake.” And Romans 14:23 says, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” If we are not sure whether an action is pleasing to God, we should not do it. That way our conscience will remain clear and our relationship to God will not be hindered.

7. Will it bring glory to God? First Corinthians 10:31 summarizes all these principles by saying, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

You can find more articles by John MacArthur on his website Grace to You.

The Grace by which I Stand

I found this article by Tullian Tchividjian on Churchleaders.com.  As Christians we will find living the Christian life is easier if we rest in the finished work of Jesus rather than trying to live up to our own man-made lists.

The litmus test that I use for myself is that if people walk away from my sermons thinking more about what they need to do than what Jesus has already done, I’ve failed to preach the Gospel.  The Gospel is the good news that Jesus has done for me what I could never do for myself.  And a lot of preaching these days is “do more, try harder,” like you said.  It’s behavior modification.  We come to church expecting God to give us a to-do list or the preacher to give us a to-do list.  As long as we are given a to-do list, we maintain some measure of control over our lives.  Just tell me what to do.

This message of radical grace, that “it is finished,” is difficult for the human heart, the sinful heart to grasp because we’re so afraid of control being wrestled out of our hands.  So we come to church saying, “Pastor, my marriage is in trouble…my children are going off the deep end…my business is failing…I’m coming to you as the expert to tell me what to do to fix my own life…”  And as a result, our lives get worse, not better, because we’re taking matters into our own hands.

So my job at the end of every sermon—and this is the grid by which I preach—I preach God’s law, and then I preach God’s Gospel.  Both are good.  The law diagnoses my need and shows me that my best is never good enough.  So I’m always trying to help our people realize that they’re a lot worse than they realize and they’re a lot more incapable than they think they are.  But the good news is that God is more than capable, that He’s already done everything we need for Him to do.  He’s already secured in Christ everything we long for.  So my job at the end of every sermon is to, in some way, shape, or form, encourage our people by saying, “Cheer up.  You’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but God’s grace is infinitely larger than you could have ever hoped or imagined.  It is finished.”

And what I’ve discovered is that the people who lean on “it is finished” most are the ones who end up being the most free and whose lives change the most.  It’s the people who constantly demand to-do lists and then preachers who capitulate to that demand and give them to-do lists, those are the people who get worse.  I’ve realized, and I’m only 39 years old, but I’ve realized the more I try to get better, the worse I get.  I’m just realizing I am a narcissist.  I think way too much about how I’m doing, if I’m doing it right, have I confessed every sin.  In other words, I’m thinking much more about me and what I need to do than Jesus and what He’s already done.  And as a result, I’m not getting better.  I’m getting worse.

I’ve come to the realization that when I stop obsessing over my need to improve, that is improvement.  When I stop obsessing narcissistically over my need to get better, that is what the Bible means by getting better.  That’s why Paul was able to say at the end of his life, “I’m the worst guy that I know, and the work of grace in my life is that I’m free to tell you that.”  I think the whole notion of what it means to progress in the Christian life has been radically misunderstood.  Progress in the Christian life is not “I’m getter better and better and better…”  Progress in the Christian life is, “I’m growing in my realization of just how bad I am and growing in my appreciation of just how much Jesus has done for me.”