Thursday, January 13, 2011

Praying for India

Next week I will be traveling to India with a group to work with M's on the ground with the hopes of partnering with their work in the future. Thanks to all of you who have offered support already through prayers, encouragement, and financial giving.

Here are some specific ways you can be praying:

1. Travel: Any way you slice it, we are going to spend a lot of time in transit from the US to our final destination in India. Please pray that everything goes smoothly with customs, layovers, etc.

2. Adjustment to Culture: It is bound to happen...culture shock. Being thousands of miles away from the US has its effects (as does spicy Indian food). Please pray that these would be minimal and would not hinder our opportunity to minister.

3. Open hearts for those we encounter: I have been praying this for months now. God already knows who we will come into contact with while we are there. Please pray that we would have opportunity to share the Gospel and that hearts would be opened.

4. Teaching/Training: Most of our trip will be focused on teaching and training pastors in remote villages who have had little to no theological or ministry training. The topics we have been given are vast and could change at any time. Pray that God, through the Holy Spirit, would give us the exact words we need to say and that the pastors would be receptive.

5. My Family: I am grateful to have an opportunity to go on this trip and yet the hardest part will be to leave my family. Please pray that God would protect and provide for them while I am away.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I will post updates as I am able so please check back!

Grace and Peace

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reflections From My Ordination

This past Sunday night I was ordained as a pastor. It was an event that I will not soon forget. I was overwhelmed by the encouragement of my family and my church and my God. I was also challenged and convicted by the Holy Spirit through the words that were spoken.

My uncle, who is a pastor, delivered the charge and challenge to me. I thought about taking notes but I didn’t want to miss anything. However, the three main points that stuck out to me were…

1.) Don’t forsake your relationship with God. This is counsel that I had heard before, by my uncle’s personal reflections encouraged me to think deeper. There truly is so much that can distract me away from my own relationship with God. But without out a deep and growing relationship my desire to lead the flock will fall short. I needed to be reminded of this. It is simply too easy for me to say, “I will get to it later” or “I will study and pray when its time for sermon prep.” God help me.

2.) Don’t forsake your relationship with your family. It was in this part of the service (along with others) where I began to weep. My biggest fear is that the church will come between my family and I. Not suddenly and overtly, but slowly and subtlety. Again, my uncle’s personal reflections and exhortations hit me deeply. He challenged me to love my wife well and then worry with the kids. Again, I needed this. I want my children to grow up with a love for Christ and a desire to pursue him above all else, not to be bitter and resistant to everything that has to do with the church. God help me.

3.) Do forsake self. Okay, so I was crying during this part too. My uncle cautioned against being selfish. Seems standard enough, but the warning especially hit home. As he said, that temptation is greater in ministry and at the same time the consequences are greater. Selfishness will hurt my relationship with God, with my family, and with my church. God help me.

As I listened and reflected that evening, I was overwhelmed with the task ahead of me. How can I do all of these things? I have already fallen short in so many ways. So, the Holy Spirit gently smacked me on the head and said, “You can’t do it, you must rely on me.”

And there it is. If my ministry is marked by self-dependence, then I will not have God’s best for me and I will do more damage than good. But if my ministry is marked by dependence on God in all things, then by his grace an impact can be made in the kingdom of God.

“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pragmatic vs. Practical

For years some churches and ministries lived by the motto, “If it works, let’s do it.” In other words, they operated under pragmatism. If a particular ministry or method worked or was successful, then more time, money, and energy was spent on it. If it did not work or was not immediately successful then it was zapped.

I understand this is a broad generalization. However, I have been told by more than one person, “If we are supporting a missionary who hasn’t seen a conversion in many years, then we will seriously consider not supporting them any longer.” That is certainly an extreme case but in the end, the legitimacy of a ministry was determined by results only.

Thankfully, in seminary we were taught that there would be ministries worthy of support and funding but that may never have the results that make it appear successful. This is of course true. For example, a missionary may be in a spiritually dark area for years faithfully sharing the gospel. However, in their lifetime the may never see a convert. Was their life wasted? Certainly not. God has promised that his word will not “return void” so we can be confident that even if fruit was never produced, the seed was definitely planted. But that takes perseverance on the part of the missionary and on the part of his or her supporters.

It’s not all about results; it’s not all about pragmatism.

But there is an extreme to the other side as well. An extreme that I have often found myself falling into. That is, being skeptical of and avoiding all “methods” or “strategies” for fear that they are all about pragmatism. Anything that speaks of a “method” or “strategy” that has worked for them makes me immediately nervous because I want to avoid pragmatism. However, this extreme is also wrong.

So, is there away to be wise in what is a best practice but avoid extreme pragmatism? I think so. And, it begins with understanding a difference between being pragmatic and being practical. Pragmatism says, “If it works, we will do it. The ends justify the means.” Being practical says, “The means that we use matter. We want things to work, but we will not compromise on our values to achieve results.” Pragmatism is after results. Practicality is also interested in results (we don’t want to waste time, money, or energy) but recognizes that there are things we are called to do whether we immediately see the results or not.

So, pragmatism should be avoided. But, asking the question of “What works?” also has its uses if we begin with, and remain committed to, our values. So we should be practical.

Begin with the question, “What has God called us to do?” Then seek the best way to do that. God has given us intelligence and resources to make sure we are using our time, money, and energy in the best way and even if we don’t see results in this lifetime, our methods still matter.

So in my own life, when I read of a new method or new strategy, I ask, “Is this results focused or is it seeking to do what God has called us to do in the best way possible?” There is a difference. Our methods matter.


For an example of being practical I have found this post (and no doubt the future posts) at Timmy Brister’s blog very helpful.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Standard for Music

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

I like old hymns that bring honor and glory to Christ. I like new songs that bring honor and glory to Christ. When people ask me, "Do you prefer traditional or contemporary?" my response is that we should not care how old or how new a song is, we should care about the content of the song. The question that should be asked is "Does this song bring glory to Christ and is it theologically sound?" Unfortunately, there are songs, new and old, that do not pass this test.

But, this blog post is not really about new versus old, traditional versus contemporary. It's about a observation that have made through worship experiences in many different places. It's an observation that I have made for many years but was very obvious at a conference I attended recently where the majority in attendance were college aged.

During our time of worship through music we sang some new songs and the words were clearly displayed on the screen. Then we switched and sang two or three hymns in a row but for some reason the words were not displayed. Nonetheless, when we started to sing the hymns it was as if the size of the crowd had doubled. The singing got much louder and more confident and we sang multiple verses of each song without ever seeing the words on the screen. But wait, wasn't this a bunch of college kids? Don't they have a disdain for hymns?

Again, this is not a new observation for me. I noticed this often during chapel at Hardin-Simmons and at Grace Bible Study (a college bible study of about 700 students). When we sang hymns it just seemed like the voices were louder. Why does this happen? There could be many reasons. In most of these cases the crowd was made up of college students who, generally speaking, grew up in the church singing hymns. So, they are familiar with them and have sung them enough that they know the words by memory.

Another factor (or at least I hope it is a factor) is that my generation is not bound to new or old but to the content and to music that leads to true worship. We have an appreciation for old and for new. We want it to be done well and not to be something that is checked off as we move down the order of service.

Sometimes it seems to me that the "worship wars" will never be over. But I hope and pray that as my generation moves more and more into positions of leadership and influence in the church (as they already have) that the standard for music will not be age or style but content and theolgy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stock with God

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
-Ephesians 2:1-3

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good, not even one.

- Psalm 14:3

Recently I was watching a show on TV where a woman’s brother was near death. Not being a religious person, she went to the hospital chapel anyway to pray to God. One of her friends asked, “What are you doing?” She responded, “I am trying to pray, but I don’t have much stock with God so I am not sure if he will hear me.”

The truth is that no one has stock with God, “not even one.” We are all dead in our sins and are “children of wrath.” None of us are able to come to God and expect that he grant us grace or mercy. In fact, our expectation should be punishment and death. But too often we think this way: “Well I have had a good week and haven’t sinned too much. I really wanted to cuss out that guy that cut me off today but I didn’t do it. I have read my Bible almost everyday this week. So, I have some credit built up with God so now would be the perfect time to pray and ask him to help me get that promotion and whatever else I really need right now.” It sounds silly, but we often think this way. The better I have been the more God will listen to me. Yet, the fact remains, we are children of wrath.

In reality, the only hope any of us has is in Christ. Apart from Christ, God would not hear our prayers and God would not show us grace or mercy. Our salvation is conditional. It is conditional upon the perfect life, the atoning death, and the victorious resurrection of Christ on our behalf. It is only through Christ that, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We should rejoice that our salvation is not dependent upon us but rather on the work of Christ. Never should we come to God with pride in what we have done and in the “stock” that we have built up with him. Rather, we should cling to Christ and his promise of salvation for those who repent and believe.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Desiring God Pastor's Conference 2009

Here are links to the messages given at the 2009 Desiring God Pastor's Conference. Mark Dever and Matt Chandler are two men I greatly respect and it is clear that God has gifted them for the church. I have listened to most of these and they are very powerful.

The Need for Evangelism -- Mark Dever Audio Video

A Shepherd and His Unregenerate Sheep -- Matt Chandler Audio Video

The Pastor and Evangelism -- Mark Dever Audio Video

The Church and Evangelism -- Mark Dever Audio Video

Missions as Fasting -- Michael Oh Audio Video

Question and Answer Session -- Audio Video

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Patience of Job....or....Joseph

A very wise woman (also known as my wife) tells me to be careful praying for patience because God just might test you on that. Well, she is probably right, but patience is something I desperately need right now and thus it is something I am praying for.

When we think of patience in the Bible we usually think of Job. He is certainly a great model to look at as God tested him greatly and nonetheless Job responded with “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” There are others who have dealt with what seems like the slow-delivering hand of God.

One of those is Joseph. His brothers didn’t care for him much so they sold him off to some traveling traders. After serving faithfully and righteously for one man, he is betrayed and thrown in jail. In jail he meets two guys who used to work for the king. He interprets some dreams for them and only asks that when they are released they speak well of him to the king. One of these two guys is hanged and the other completely forgets about him.

Then we get this notice in Genesis 41:1, “After two whole years…” The writer makes it clear to us that it was not one and a half years or even one year and eleven months, but two whole years. Finally, after two whole years of Joseph sitting in jail wondering if God had forsaken him, the king’s man remembers him. Joseph is released and once again serves faithfully and righteously. He could have turned bitter. He could have said to God, “Oh now you deliver me. After two whole years of sitting in that jail cell. Well forget you God; I am going to live the way I want to live.” But he didn’t do that. He picked up where he left off and continued to serve God faithfully.

I pray that God would give me the grace to have patience like Joseph had. And, when God puts me where he wants me that I will not be bitter, but that I will faithfully serve him.