Category Archives: Ministry

Living By Three C’s

Prior to preaching for the first time, my pastor gave me some advice which I call “The Three C’s” –

1. Be clear.
2. Be concise.
3. Be consistent.

He advised me to keep these points in mind every time I sit down to prepare a sermon. Additionally, these points should also be in the back of my mind as I am standing before God’s people delivering His word.

Over the past few months, as I have had further opportunities to preach, I’ve kept this advice close to me, and in doing so, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only in a preaching or ministerial context that these questions apply. These concepts can also be applied to my day to day activities, and ultimately, to my life in general.

1. Am I Clear?

Ambiguity breeds confusion – it is a friend of no one. It is important that those around me understand where I am coming from. At least, I think it’s important. Whether it’s verbal or non-verbal communication – clarity is important. I’m sure we’ve all seen cases in which a message was communicated, but it was so unclear that the desired results were way off the mark.

So, I take this thought process into my interaction with the major relationships in my life, i.e. my bride and my children. I am myself – am I clear regarding how I feel about God? How I feel about our family? How I feel about them? Am I doing our dating anything that would cause them to question my love for them or my desire to see their relationship with Christ continue to develop and grow? When further with day to day interaction – do I give them my time and attention when they need or want it, or do I give it when it is convenient for me? And really, similar questions can apply to the other relationships in my life, i.e. extended family, friends, people I meet throughout the day, etc.

2. Am I Concise?

“Stop talking me to death!” was a phrase some friends and I adopted when I was a teen. This phrase was our way of telling someone that they were doing too much talking; the listener was being “killed” with all the unnecessary talking being done. Admittedly, I find myself still using the phrase sometimes. Albeit, more in a joking manner than not.

But, I have to examine myself in light of this second point; am I guilty of doing the same to others? Do I unnecessarily drag on a conversation past the point of interest? Do I wear out my welcome when I visit with people? Do people find it a delight or a chore to talk with me? I can’t stand wasting my own time, so I try to be extra cautious when it come to other people’s time. When you really think about it, the long and short of it is this: we all get the same 168 hours each week. I don’t want to take up more time that someone is willing to give me. Everyone’s time is valuable – I don’t want to waste it. In return, I believe that I am showing people that I value the time that they did give me.

3. Am I Consistent?

One of my many desires is to be unwavering in what I believe – especially when in hard times. I’m sure we’ve all met people who confused us regarding their stance on a topic. They were pretty indecisive when it came time to “choose a side” on an issue. People who stake claim in this camp breed confusion in everyone with whom they associate.

So again, I have to do some self examination – am I guilty of the same thing? Do my family, friends, and even co-workers know where I stand with my worldview, or do I jump to the side of convenience when my convictions are tested? Do I hesitate voicing my views because I know they might be in the minority? It is in the times of struggle and strife that our beliefs are tested, and in that testing, we truly realize where we stand on the things that matter. So I feel strongly enough about something to “fall on my sword” about it? Regardless of the subject matter, and regardless of the environment or audience – do I maintain the same principles and standards? Even further, am I the same person at home as I am in public? These things are important.

Am I Successful?

No – I’m not. Sitting here right now, I can’t tell you that I’ve been clear, concise, and consistent in everything I’ve done. I know that I haven’t been clear, concise, and consistent in everything I’ve said. I’d be lying if I claimed to have been. Without naming all the factors that contribute to my inability to success in my efforts, the underlying reason in all the factors is sin (Romans 3:23). However, I’m thankful I serve a God who is clear, concise, and consistent – always has been and always will be!

Am I Committed?

All of this is well and good, but it means nothing if I am not committed to living this way. If I don’t actively pursue God and trust Him to strengthen me as I strive to live these guidelines, then what am I telling the world I am trying to reach with the gospel?

What am I telling my family?
What am I telling my friends?
My co-workers?

I’m telling them that they can go alone and be alright. I’m telling them that, in and of themselves, they can make sense of their life and live it trusting in their own power. But, that’s not what God says.

When we want to be clear about who we are, God speaks to us in Galatians 1:10. When we want to be concise in what we say, God speaks to us in Proverbs 10:19. When we want to be consistent in our actions, God speaks to us in 1 Corinthians 15:58.

I pray you’ll seek God in guiding you, just as I seek Him in guiding me, to be committed to a life of being clear, concise, and consistent. Let’s trust in, and lean on, Him and His everlasting word. I believe it is possible, but only with the grace He provides to allow it to happen.

Grace and Peace,
John

Advertisements

Discouraging Encouragement

discourage-encourage-stuart-milesEncouragement is a must! No one can live day to day without receiving some kind of encouragement in some kind of way. Some of us see it as a necessity. Why? Because we are a needy people. Because not everything in life is easy. Because God made us dependant on each other. And there’s nothing wrong with being a needy person going through a rough patch who needs someone to come along side them with a kind word or gesture.

Encouragement comes in different ways. There is nothing like face to face encouragement; however, technology affords us the opportunity to be encouraging to someone whom we have never met and whom is living hundreds of miles away. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the encourager, their well meaning words or actions of encouragement can come across as discouraging.

I am a member of a few groups on Facebook. They range in topics from tips on being more productive to praying for others to fighting temptation. A few weeks ago, someone in the group about fighting temptation posted a picture that was rather disturbing. Mind you, the picture will not be displayed here. However, to give you a general idea of what it entailed – it was a face composed of various body parts arranged in a manner to depict the face of a demon…or possibly even Satan. I won’t get into any more details of the picture, but let’s just say that posting it could have easily backfired into leading someone into temptation, vice the intent of leading someone from temptation.

I am sure the brother who posted the picture had good intentions. When I commented with my thoughts on the picture, he responded that if someone was able to look at that picture and be “turned on” by it, they were “indulging” in their sinful lusts. Honestly, I appreciate the brother’s willingness to be an encourager to those whom are struggling with the sin of lust. However, as I explained to him (as best I could via social media) that picture could do more harm than good.

Bottom line – the picture was pornographic.

It is crucial for us to be discerning in our encouragement. We must understand that the depravity of man has effects far more reaching than we could never imagine. We must understand that despite our belief that a certain sin in our life seems to be under control, that same sin could be running rampant in the life of a fellow believer. We cannot assume that since we are no longer a slave to a specific sin, that a brother or sister has had the same victory in Christ as we have. Overcoming certain besetting sins is a process that take longer for others.

Encouragement via social media can be tricky. Encouragement face to face can be intimidating. Either way – encouragement is needed. Life doesn’t get any easier and times are only getting worse. You never know what an uplifting word or a simple hug will do for someone’s day. On the other hand, if we are not discerning in our words and/or mindful of our actions, they could back fire and not do the good we hoped.

Be discerning in giving encouragement – a person outlook on their situation depends on it.

 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness,” – Hebrews 3:13

Prayer Point: That our encouragement would be edifying to, not only the person whom we are encouraging, but to all who may see and hear how we encourage.

Question: Has anyone ever tried to encourage you, but unintentionally discouraged you? How did you handle it?

A Right View of the Power of God

Preparation Timewpid-20140213_082025.jpg

Last night, as I sat at my dining room table working on homework, I couldn’t help but think about the impending storm. I thought about how everyone, myself included, stopped at the store on their way home from work to stock up on food and supplies just in case the storm left us to deal with the worst. I thought about those in Georgia and other southern states that were already dealing with the beast that was yet to reach us here in Maryland.

As many of us watched the news for updates, I wondered how many of us were thinking about the storm in terms of the destruction that was potentially about to take place. Were our thoughts with those who were going to be without electricity because of damaged wires from fallen trees? Were our thoughts with those who were going to be stranded in their vehicles when the roads became too dangerous to travel? Were our thoughts with those whom were without a roof over their heads during one of the biggest storms of the last few years?

It’s Here

This morning, I was one of the many people whom were out shoveling their cars from under the snow. From our front doors to the street, my neighbors and I trudged the many inches of snow that had fallen over the past few hours. As we steadily shoveled away, my neighbors and I held casual, yet cordial conversation with each other. It was nice. I made the comment that shoveling snow with others at nine o’clock in the morning is much better than shoveling snow alone at four thirty in the morning. It genuinely is better.

I’m sure we were all thinking about family and friends whom were affected by this storm system. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering how others were doing. I saw a few Facebook posts about some who did lose their power. All we can do from here is pray for them. But, I also wondered about how many of us thought about God and how He controls nature (Psalm 29). Do we look at this storm as a nuisance or as a display of God’s power? Do we look at this storm as an inconvenience or as a testament to His greatness? Yes, if our power goes out because of fallen trees, we see it as a nuisance. Yes, if we are stuck in the house because the streets are too bad to travel, we see it as an inconvenience. It’s a natural reaction for a natural people who have natural wants and needs.

My First Thought

We have lived in our current home for almost a year and a half. Since being here, we have lost power multiple times. We usually lose power because of extreme weather, i.e. a rain or snow storm. I guess that’s normal. Other times, we’ve lost power because something somewhere overheated. I guess that’s possible. Once we lost power for a reason that no one could explain. You can guess I was upset. In times like that, I am quick to complain. My frustration comes out pretty quickly. Honestly, I try my best to stay positive and maintain composure for the sake of my family. You know, do my best to set the right example, but deep down – I’m mad and I know it.

It is times like this that I have to be reminded, in some way, that God is sovereign over everything (Psa 115:3). As a believer, I am never outside of His hand (Jn 10:28). He is my shield (Psa 5:12). So, why are my first thoughts negative? What is it that causes me to develop a thought process that doesn’t bring God any kind of glory?

A New Vision

It’s sin (Gen 3:6). It’s ever present with me (Rom 7:21). It causes me to shift my focus from God, who is eternal, and place it on my situation, which is temporary. I lose sight of He who made heaven and earth (Gen 1), and zero in on the problem that holds no worth. It’s a wrong vision of what’s important. My priorities are shifted.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t deal with our circumstances. We must deal with them. If we don’t address them, there’s the potential for them to fester and possibly grow unmanageable – depending on the issue, of course. Our problems must be dealt with head on, but we must deal with them with God taking the lead. As stated earlier, He is in control of all things – including the things that bother me on a daily basis.

Who am I to think that God isn’t concerned with what troubles me? Better yet, who are we (as a people) to think that God isn’t concerned with what troubles us? We’re made in His image (Gen 1:26), He’s given us dominion (Gen 1:28), in the midst of our sin, He still cares for us (Gen 3:21), and most importantly, He’s given us a way out of our sin to be reconciled back (Eph 2:16) into a right relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ (Matt 27, Mk 15, Lk 23, Jn 19)

How can we presume to know what God is not concerned with regarding His children (Eph 1:5)? Let us no longer presume anything regarding the mind of God, but let us hold fast to that which He has promised us in His word – deliverance on the day of trouble (Psa 50:15). God is awesome. He is magnificent in all things. So, let’s not forget that because of God’s power, Christ’s work on the cross was sufficient to save us (Jn 3:16) and allow us to now be members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). Amen.

In Christ,
John

How do you view God’s power in your life? Do you see the problem first or God’s power first? Share it below. Thanks.

The Doctrines of Grace

“…the center of God’s will is the safest place in the world…”

-John Piper

7:06. That is the length of this video. That is how long John Piper will take to introduce to some, and reemphasize with others, why “the doctrines of God’s grace has been [his] life…”.

I have a deep and sincere appreciation for the Doctrines of Grace. In them, I am able to see the magnitude of who God is and the sovereignty that God claims. A magnitude that is unmatched by anyone and a sovereignty that He is duly owed. The Doctrines of Grace have shown me how utterly dependant I am on God and I am thankful for it. How can the creation be or do anything without the Creator? What is the use of a product without a Producer?

I don’t say these things to degrade our worth, but so that we look to the one who defines our worth, in Himself.

I enjoy this video not for the speaker, although I do enjoy John Piper’s ministry; but, I enjoy this video because of whom the speaker is speaking – God. The Holy, Sovereign, and Majestic One. Perfect in all His ways. Righteous in all He does.

“The Gospel Project” on Android! YES!!!

logo-defaultIt seems as though everyone in the “reformed” camp are *Apple fans. Nowadays, it’s commonplace to see everyone from Pastors to rappers communicating on their iPhones and preaching or speaking from their iPads.

Most, if not all, of the apps developed by reformed ministries are released on iOS before any other platform – including Android. I have to admit, as an Android user, it is quite frustrating. I can’t tell you how many apps are currently on the iOS that I would love to see on the Android platform. Take a look through the comments section of the many of the articles that introduce a new app released on the iOS platform – Android users are screaming for some love!

Enter “The Gospel Project” finally released on Android. I first learned of this project from the The Gospel Coalition website. I am extremely excited about it and I am grateful to Lifeway Christian Resources for releasing it on another platform. Lifeway is a great organization. Their resources are always biblically-focused, Christ-centered, and grounded in the gospel! As the education arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, they are dedicated to providing first-rate material for evangelical Christians. I’m sure you’ve seen the Lifeway Christian Stores in your area.

For those unfamiliar with this initiative –

The Gospel Project is a Bible study resource that invites Adults, Students, and Kids of all ages to dive deeply into God’s story of redemption through Jesus Christ. In every lesson, participants are immersed in the gospel and learn how when the gospel works on them, they become a part of the story, too, the very hands and feet in God’s gospel project.

Led by General Editor Ed Stetzer and Managing Editor Trevin Wax, The Gospel Project is designed to unify an entire church under a single Christ-centered curriculum. Separate study plans for adults, students, and kids ensure the proper focus and depth for each age group.

– The Gospel Project Website

Again, I am extremely excited about this program finally making its way to the Android platform and I look forward to eventually incorporating it in my family’s devotional time, as well as my personal devotional time. When you get a chance, take a look at their site and see how this resource can fit into your devotional life and even the life of your church. Grace and peace to you.

In Christ,
John

*I love my brother and sister Apple users. Y’all are good people! 😉

24 Jan 14 – Update: On 21 Jan 14, I made a comment on the original blog post regarding getting an message in the Google Play store about the adult app not being compatible with my device. (I am running a Galaxy Note 8.0 w/ Jelly Bean 4.2.2 – the app requires 4.0 and above.) My post was answered the same day and I was informed that someone was looking into the problem. Today, a Gospel Project (GP) representative (Erica) responded saying that the adult app should be fixed. It was! Thanks to the GP Team for such a prompt response and appropriate fix to the issue. Just another reason to pick up this app – the response time from the GP Team is remarkable!

Are They Talking About You As Well?

I look at the The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website every morning. For the past year or so, the TCG site has been for me, what CNN or Fox news is for others. It’s the site that I sit and read while I have my morning coffee and bagel. I have found numerous articles that have educated, encouraged, and enlightened me to ideas and topics to which I was not familiar.

There was one day in particular, that when I went to open the web page for my morning reading, I saw the post for the below video. I couldn’t wait to watch it. I saw three biblically faithful men having a round table discussion about people like me. The new preacher. The young preacher. The preacher who can count on one hand the number of sermons he has delivered. The preacher who wants to absolutely nail ever sermon he delivers straight out the gate. The preacher who so desperately wants to be faithful to God and fears compromising the text.

If you are like me, and you are new to preaching – or – maybe you’ve been preaching for a while, but need some pointers – I pray that this video is helpful. In my walk as a young preacher, I am always looking for advice and encouragement. I have been blessed to find that encouragement primarily in my Pastor and my church family. I have also found a decent amount here in this video. Especially the gallery metaphor that Pastor Tullian brought up. Enjoy!

The participants are:
PastorTullian
Russel Moore
Voddie Baucham

Pray for the Nations!

Prayer is central to the Christian faith. There is verse after verse after verse in scripture that calls us, as believers, to pray to our God and King on behalf of ourselves, family, friends, those in authority, and even strangers. One of the most common bible verses on prayer known to believers and unbelievers alike is James 5:16. We trust the bible implicitly about what it says regarding “the prayer of a righteous person”.

unreachedA few months ago, I came across an app in the Google Play store called “Unreached of the Day”. This is a wonderful app and it is available on both the Google and iOS platforms. This app is sponsored by The Joshua Project. According to their website, the Joshua Project “is a research initiative seeking to highlight the ethnic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ.”

I really like this app because it is a simple and bare bones product, but yet it contains so much information. There is a different people group to pray for during each day of the year. The information listed for each people group includes population numbers, primary religion, a summary of the people, ministry obstacles, a map of their area, language, etc.

However, I think the main draw of this app is the prayer focus. There is specific focus on how to pray for followers of Christ (if any) within the people group, a specific focus on how to pray for the group as a whole, and a specific scripture to pray regarding the group.

This app is great to incorporate into your personal morning or evening devotionals. Personally, I have incorporated it into my morning devotions and we use it as a family at night during the prayer portion of our family devotions. It’s a good app and it’s free. Download it and feel free to let me know what you think about it in the comments. Thanks. Grace and Peace.

In Service to the King,
John

Don’t Get Left Behind in the Future of Ministry

“Real communication is happening in the digital world, on the Web, and on the smart phone in your pocket. Real information is being shared and globally disseminated, faster than ever before. Real conversations are taking place, through voice, words and images, connecting people and conversations all over the world.

If the leader is not leading in the digital world, his leadership is, by definition, limited to those who also ignore or neglect that world, and that population is shrinking every minute. The clock is ticking.”

The Christian Leader in the Digital Age

Personally, I can’t think of too many people who do not own a piece of technology. Everyone has a laptop, a desktop, a tablet, a smartphone, a streaming TV, a streaming blue-ray, or an iPad…and in some cases – they have all of them. Even if a person only owns one to two of these devices, there is no denying the drawing power of how useful these devices are – nor can we deny the fun to be had by owning one.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., who serves as the current President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an excellent article on how technology affects and influences the church and the Christian Leader serving the church.

Social media is ridiculously popular – everything from Facebook, Foursquare, and Flickr to Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter – there are not many people whom are NOT virtually connected with friends and family. Dr. Mohler not only speaks to this growing popularity, he speaks to some of the “dangers” as well. Enjoy.

Grace and Peace,
John