It is More Blessed to Give than to Receive!

heart of fireSince 2009 Living Oaks Baptist Church has been working with McAuliffe Elementary School for their meet the teacher night. We provide a snack supper and drinks for the students, teachers, and parents. We also donate bicycles, skateboards, razor scooters, footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls as door prizes for the kids that show up and register. We have also been able to provide every student in the school with a brand new backpack to start the new year. It is always a wonderful night at the school and they are so kind to allow us to work with them.

I share this because I just received several hand-made “Thank You” cards from the students. They are so appreciative that someone would generously give them a special gift. As a church we decided years ago that we wanted to give ourselves away and expect nothing in return. That is how we started this ministry at McAuliffe. Little did I know how much I would personally get from giving without expecting anything in return. But today when I read through the children’s beautiful expressions of gratitude  I understood more clearly what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The Joy of Family

Church FamilyBy Bob Pittenger

Wherever you go as a disciple of Jesus you will find family. Regardless of whether life leads you to a new city, state, or country you will always find a Christian family waiting for you at the nearest Bible believing church.

Yesterday, we closed out our study of Philippians with the sermon “The Joy of Family.” In the sermon we looked at several of the reason why Paul’s Christian family gave him such great joy. Paul found those who served with him indispensable because they were a vital part of his Christian family.

To listen to the sermon and learn more about how you can experience the joy of family please follow this link: The Joy of Family.

Feed My Sheep

heart of a servant leaderEarly in ministry I heard a well-respected pastor say, “If you’re going to be a shepherd, you have to smell like the sheep.” Often times pastors struggle to know exactly what their sheep (church members) need. We want to obey God in leading and teaching exactly what He has commanded, but at the same time we can’t help but wonder if we’re meeting the needs of those entrusted to our care.

The good shepherd knows his sheep. He doesn’t just recognize them as a group of people who are members of the congregation; but instead, he knows them personally. He spends time with them, listens to them, strives to meet their needs. He is a shepherd who confidently walks out in front of the sheep and leads them to still waters and green pastures. He is not a sheep dog that tries to frighten the sheep into going a certain direction. He is the shepherd who calls his sheep unto himself and they follow him because they know him and his love for them.

In his article “9 Heartfelt Things Church Members Would Like to Say to their Pastors,” Dr. Thom Rainer helps clarify how we pastors can better lead, feed, and know our sheep.

Dr. Rainer writes:

I am among the most blessed men in the world. God has graciously saved me and sustained me. I have an incredible family. The place and ministry where I serve vocationally is a gift from God.

And then, as if I should be blessed even more, God has allowed me to serve and hear from church leaders across the world. In this article, I share some insights I heard from church members via social media, emails, blog comments, and personal conversations.

The following nine statements are heart matters for many church members. For the most part, these members are not the perpetual critics and the business meeting naysayers. These are men and women who truly love their pastors. But many of them do have some words from the heart they would like to share with their pastors. But many are reticent to do so, because they know their pastors often receive criticisms and inordinate demands for attention.

So, hear these heartfelt words from church members who love their pastors, from men and women who truly desire the best for them.

  1. “Let me know you really care for me.” That does not mean you call me regularly or that you visit me on demand. It is more of a disposition, or maybe words from the pulpit that demonstrate your love for the members. We can tell if you really care for us and love us.
  2. “Teach me the Bible.” I know you are inundated with requests, and the expectations for your time are often unreasonable. But please do not let those people distract you from your time in the Word. I am hungry for biblical teaching and preaching. Please spend time studying the Word so you can teach us well.
  3. “Help me deal with change.” This world and culture are changing so fast that I find myself dealing with fear and uncertainly. Help me understand the steadfastness of God in a turbulent world. And understand that my fear of change in the church is often related to my fear of change in the world. So lead me gently as you lead change in the church.
  4. “Don’t lead too far ahead.” I do want you to lead us. But don’t get so far ahead of us that we mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the rear. I know change is necessary, but learn the pace of change that is best for our church.
  5. “Help me deal with family issues.” Some of us are in struggling marriages. Some of us are lonely whether we are single or married. Some of us have problems with our children. Some of us are dealing with aging parents. We hurt deeply when we have hurts about our families. Show us biblical truths about these issues. And show us your pastoral heart and concern for these issues.
  6. “Be transparent.” We know you are imperfect, but the critics sometimes cause you to hide your faults. For sure, we don’t want every nitty gritty personal detail about you and your family. But we do want to know that you have some of the same struggles we do. It helps us to identify with you better. It helps us to pray for you more.
  7. “Don’t get defensive when I offer constructive criticism.” I know that this one is tough. You get so many criticisms already; many of them are petty and self-serving. But there are many of us who love you and will, on rare occasions, offer some words that we think are best for you. Hear us without being defensive. Pray that God’s Spirit will help you discern when you should listen and when you should ignore.
  8. “Pray for me.” Please let me know that you love your church members so much that you pray for us regularly. Let us know that you consider prayer for the members to be one of your highest priorities.
  9. “Give me hope.” This world confuses me. This degenerating culture scares me. Show me how God has dealt with such hopeless times in the past that they may be times of hope for me today. Show me Christ’s possibilities, His hope, and His encouragement in difficult days.

Pastors, your task is not easy. Indeed, it is impossible without Christ’s strength. You have many church members who love you. They are often the silent members and, thus, the disregarded members. Hear these words from healthy church members that you might be even a better pastor to them.

What would you add, church member? What would you add, pastor or staff? How do these nine sentences resonate with you?

My blog post this coming Saturday: “Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members.”

Source: www.thomrainer.com

Which Jesus Will You Choose?

drapedOnTheCrosstitleWhen you think about how excited the crowds were as Jesus triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem on Psalm Sunday, it is hard to believe the way they demanded His crucifixion just five days later. What could have happened that would change public opinion so drastically? Why did they choose Barabbas over Jesus? The Savior they were looking for was within their midst, and yet they chose someone else. Why? Answers to these questions can be found in our Easter Sunday sermon, “Which Jesus Will You Choose?

I hope you will take the time to listen to the message and then examine your own life to see which Jesus you have chosen to follow. To hear the message please follow this link: “Which Jesus Will You Choose?

Purity Required

Dwelling In God's PresenceAs a Christian, I have very strong beliefs about God’s definition of what is righteous or unrighteous, right or wrong, pure or impure. God has made it clear that those who love sin, unrighteousness, or impurity will have no part in the kingdom of heaven. He has even specifically spelled out the practices that will prohibit you from getting to heaven.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, His presence in your life will compel you to live according to His way. As Christians we live our lives daily within the presence of God; therefore, He has certain requirements that will be seen in our lives if we have moved from worldly living to Christ-centered living.

This past Sunday as we looked at the Tabernacle we examined a few of these requirements for dwelling within the presence of God. We do not try to live according to these requirements so that we will be acceptable to God, but because we have been declared acceptable by Him. His Spirit dwelling within changes us. We no longer are shackled to our fleshly desires. We have been set free, we are a new creation, and we cannot find satisfaction in anything except God.

To hear more about living a pure life, pure worship, and a pure walk I would encourage you to follow this link and listen to the message: “Dwelling in God’s Presence.”

If we have truly become followers of Jesus then we will look different from the world. We won’t ask the question, “How far can I go before it is sin.” Because of the Spirit living within we will know God and His holiness, and therefore flee from that which is sinful.

I hope the message “Dwelling in The Presence of God” leads you into a closer relationship with Christ.