Tag Archives: Ministry

Help Fund An Effort to End Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a major problem in the United States.

Yes, it is an issue overseas…in Asia, Europe, and other countries. But, it is also a problem right here at home. There are numerous websites with information and statistics about human trafficking, so I won’t post the information here…please take the time to go and review the sites – I’ll post a couple below.

But, there is one site in particular that I want to highlight. It is from the Safe House of Hope (SHOH). This organization is located here in Maryland, and I was fortunate to be able to visit them during an open house they had a few months ago.

I attended with my pastor and his bride, and we were able to sit down and speak with the Denene Yates, who serves as the Director of this ministry. She is a really great woman, and after speaking to her for a short time, it is obvious that she loves Jesus and that she has a heart after the lost. She comes from a similar background as the ladies who she has been able to help, and is trying to help, so her desire to see people pulled from this lifestyle is strong and sincere.

This is a video of one of the ladies who has been helped through this ministry.

The SHOH has recently established a “GoFundMe” account with which they are trying to raise money to further help end human trafficking. The “gofundme” site is here. Please take a look at what they are doing. If you are not able to donate, please consider adding them to your prayer list and lift them up before the Lord Jesus.

The SHOH website, located here, lists the following as recommended ways to help end human trafficking:

• NOT buying SEX
• NOT Buying Pornography – One in five images on the internet are of underage girls.
• NOT using ‘pimp’ as a good term
• NOT referring to women as whores, sluts or HOs
• NOT patronizing strip clubs, massage parlors, or places that are known for prostitution.

Also, take a look at the “Do You Know?” section of the SHOH “GoFundMe” site – there are some shocking and extremely disheartening statistics.

The SHOH site has links to other sites to obtain more information. The video at the top of this post is from Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission . Please take some time to review their website as well.

Please keep this ministry in your prayers as they continue to pull more and more victims from this terrible way of life.

Grace and Peace,
John

Advertisements

Manhood and Theology | The Cross (A Guest Article)

cbmw-logo
The Official Logo of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Back in September, I was offered an opportunity to be a part of a series titled “Manhood & Theology” which the MANual section of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) was going to be running over the next few weeks. The offer came from a fellow blogger named Mathew Sims. Mathew runs a blog called “Grace for Sinners”, and back in Feb 14, he published one of my articles on it.

Mathew contacted me via twitter and asked if I wanted to be a part of the series. I said yes, and a little over two months later, I submitted my article for his review and approval. Thankfully, he accepted it as a part of the series.

The CBMW is a site that I have visited a numerous amount of times over the past months. Their content is excellent! The articles are God-glorifying, and so encouraging in matters of faith, adulthood, marriage, and fatherhood – among other things. I never thought I would have an opportunity to write anything for this site, let alone an article for a series they would one day run.

Here is a short piece from the article:

As men, we all wear a variety of hats and titles in life. Many of us are husbands and fathers, church members and church leaders, and various other titles that we hold within our respective lives. Regardless of your title or position, what must be understood, is that the way we perform in our title and position is defined by the cross.

The cross, by means of the Holy Spirit, presses in, convicts our heart, and empowers us in every regard for living as Christian men. It is in the cross that we find our purpose and our reason, our motivation and our encouragement, for living our lives to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). It is in the cross that we see the supreme example of humility in the Lord Jesus Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

I invite you to read the rest of the article here: Manhood & Theology | The Cross. I pray you enjoy it and that you find something edifying within it. Thank you.

Grace and Peace,
John

The Springs of Life

springoflifeIn today’s reading of Proverbs, 4:23 caught my eye –

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

This is a great verse in dealing with the day to day ups and downs of life. As we navigate the various challenges we all face, whether it be in our families, on the job, with our friends, or even in the local coffee shop – we have to be mindful, even intense, about protect our hearts.

Why? Because as the second half of the verse says, “…from it flows the springs of life.” Jesus said in Luke 6:45,

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

This is crucial in understanding the need to protect our hearts.

In this context, Jesus is talking about the fruit that a tree bears. He says that, “each tree is known by it’s fruit” (4:44) – meaning, a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. But, here’s the rub.

The fruit that is born from a tree is produced based on what the tree receives. If the tree consistently receives water and the nutrients in the soil around it are good – good fruit. If the tree never, or rarely, receives water and the soil around it is bad – bad fruit, if any fruit at all. The same is with your heart.

Everyday, we are all going to be treated kindly or harshly – it depends on the person receiving the treatment to judge the varying degree of kindness or harshness. You can’t control what people say, but you can control how you receive what they say.

If someone is kind to you – praise God for their kindness and worship. If someone is unkind to you – praise God for His kindness and worship. This is because, regardless of how you are treated, Matt 7:12 still applies –

“So do whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Those “springs of life” flowing from your heart consists of kindness, graciousness, mercy, understanding, and unrelenting forgiveness – all of which you have been shown in Christ – that you are, in turn, responsible for showing to others.

God, in His grace, showed those very things to us despite the MANY times that we turned our backs on Him – literally and figuratively.  We didn’t earn those things from Him; how and why do we expect others to earn them from us? Guard your heart in Christ, so that His life may flow from it.

Grace and Peace,
John

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

With Your Morning Cup of Coffee

As you sit down with your coffee this morning, enjoy some of these articles that I’ve enjoyed over the past few days.

1. If Jesus Walked Into A Bar, Would Everyone Know His Name? – Mike Leake.

Was Jesus really “buddy buddy” with sinners? Was He truly the “high-fiving” type that He is sometimes portrayed to be? Mike takes a quick look at this portrait of Jesus and sets the record straight.

2. Walking with the Dead: The Character-Shaping Power of Community – Dave Dunham

Well, a new season of “The Walking Dead” has started. So, that means Pastor Dave is back to analyzing each Sunday night episode from a biblical worldview. And as with previous posts from previous seasons, he doesn’t disappoint.

3. New Study Says We Pick Up Our Smartphones 1,500 Times a Week, Stare at Them 3 Hours a Day – Daniel Beam

I thought this article was interesting. I haven’t looked at the other article linked within this one, but the sheer numbers alone are pretty amazing. He even speaks a little about the next upcoming mobile devices – smart watches. (Personally, I’m not seeing the appeal right now.)

4. Where My 90 Hours of Mobile Phone Screen Time In September Went – Bob Stanke

Bob read the above article and tried the test on himself. Pretty interesting results.

5. Busting a book buying myth – Ian Carmichael

I want to show my bride this article. I think it justifies my constant purchasing of books!

6. Three Things Little Girls Need From Their Fathers – Joyce McFadden

I love when articles like this are written by women. Although I’ve read some good articles written by men on the same topic, I honestly don’t think that we can do the subject justice like a woman. This is literally first-hand knowledge.

7. 10 Things You Need to Know About the Bible and Slavery – Graham Veale

I notice that when we think of slavery and the bible, it is usually in the context race and what took place in the United States. This article sheds some light on the biblical history of slavery. Enlightening.

What good articles have you read over the past few days?

Grace and Peace,
John

With Your Morning Cup of Coffee

As you sit down with your coffee this morning, enjoy some of these articles that I’ve enjoyed over the past few days.

1. Why I’m Glad David Platt Is the New IMB President – Russell Moore.

Ok, really – this just makes sense! Perfect choice for such a position.

2. Kindle + Evernote = ♥ – Tim Challies

I love reading. I love Evernote. Both of them together? Yes, please. As usual, Tim does a good job on this article explaining how to integrate them together. Honestly, I was going to write an article along the same lines, but after reading this one – I’m glad I didn’t. I know he did much better than I would have.

3. Walk With God For Joy – Jared C. Wilson

This pastor has such a heart of grace. I can’t think of a time that he has spoken on a social media hot topic and not shown the side of the issue nor getting the attention it deserved. Thank you, sir.

4. Five Tips For Leading Your Small Group – Kevin DeYoung

I am currently preparing the lesson for a small group discussion with the teens in my church. This article has given me some great tips.

5. 10 Things That Happen When You Can’t Put A Good Book Down

I just though this was funny…I know a few people whom this would be quite appropriate for…myself included.

What good articles have you read over the past few days?

Grace and Peace,
John

Do You Journal?

journaling

I’ve been using a journal for the better part of a year, and to be honest – it’s been extremely rewarding. I love the idea that I can pick up my notebook or my tablet and read what has happened over the past few months of my life. Many things that have happened to me – good and bad – are all recorded. I say many things because, admittedly, I do not journal every night as I should – but I’s happy to say that I am more consistent than not.

Journaling is deliberate. I am consciously setting aside a portion of my day, either by placing the time on my calendar or on my todo list, in order to have a meaningful review of what took place that day, and record those events. When you think about it, it’s really my opportunity to take a snapshot of time. Later, in a few months or even years, when I pick up a certain journal,  I can do some self-assessment and see if I’m growing and maturing from past events and decisions. And most importantly, I can asses my growth and maturity in my relationship with Christ.

In my home, my girls have also taken up the habit of journaling. Both of my daughters have their own respective journals, and my bride shares a journal with our youngest daughter. This journal is an outlet for our youngest daughter to have a platform to share things in writing, that she is not comfortable sharing verbally. This medium has worked well for her.

I’ve covered a variety of topics in my journaling. Everything from challenges at work to vacations with the family. I written about disagreements with my bride to Saturday morning breakfast with her. I’ve written about my failures in sin and my triumphs in Christ. Seriously – I think I’ve run the gamut of topics to jot down in my journal…and it never gets old to me. I really do enjoy putting my thoughts down via paper or electronic.

For a few months, I used a moleskine type notebook as a journal. It came in handy…it was useful, and truth be told – that is my preferred method to record my thoughts. But, lately I have been using an app on my phone, and surprisingly – it’s been working out pretty good. (Maybe I’ll write a short review of it later.) The point being – since my smartphone is 99% of the time within arms reach, I really have no excuse for not taking down a note or two about my day.

I think, for some reason, journaling has never really been seen as “manly”. Growing up, it was always the girls that had a “diary” – never the “tough guys”. But, it was always the “tough guys” that wanted to know the what the girls were putting in those diary’s. It’s unfortunate that some people do not realize the many advantages of maintaining a journal until later in life – as I later discovered.

However, I’ve been encouraged by a few of the articles that I have come across over the past few weeks regarding journaling – I have posted two of my favorites below. The authors of the below articles provide good encouragement about the practicality of journaling and some f the subsequent benefits. I won’t repeat the reasons as stated in these articles, but I encourage you to take some time to read through them. Prayerfully, you will see how journaling can be a blessing to you many times over.

Are you already maintaining a journal? How is it working out for you? If not, what are your thoughts about starting one?

Grace and Peace,
John

Why Do You Journal?
7 Reasons to Keep A Journal

 

The 2014 Baptist21 Discussion Panel

On, Tuesday, 10 Jun 14, Baptist 21 held a luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting. As it says on their website, Baptist 21…

…exists to contend for ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3).We embrace our past, believing this faith has been proclaimed in our Southern Baptist heritage. We work in the present, believing the Kingdom effectiveness of Southern Baptists will be in proportion to our fidelity to the Gospel. We cooperate for the future, believing the only hope for the people of the world is the Gospel of King Jesus.

I was fortunate to attend this luncheon and witness the discussion between the guest panel of speakers first hand. The panel was pretty amazing; an almost “who’s who” in the SBC, and there was no doubt that they kept the attention of all those in attendance. I won’t list their names here because Pastor Jonathan Akin introduces them on the video, but believe that the hour spent watching the video and listening to these gentlemen is an hour spent well.

Enjoy!

There’s An App For That!

IMG20145272753HI (1)If you attend a church that is in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, then you are already aware that the 2014 Annual Meeting is next week here in Baltimore, MD. From what I understand, this is the first time in decades that it has been held here. At my church, First Baptist Church of Brooklyn, we are pretty excited to see it happening in our neck of the woods this year.

There have been a flurry of comments and discussion in various articles over the past few weeks about the meeting. Some were on the SBC website, some were in the various posts of the many dedicated blogger in the cyber world, even some select news sites offered updates and feedback about the event.

Well, add to these outlets one more resource – the SBC Annual Meeting App. It makes total sense for a resource like this to be offered. The influence of technology is massive…huge. It’s to the point that to not have an app for something is counterproductive in many cases. An organization’s sphere of influence is greatly decreased without an online presence, let alone without having their an app.

The Baptist Press provides an overview of the app here, so I won’t give an overview. However, since I’ve downloaded the app and played around with it a bit, I will provide some user feedback on a few features. First off, the app is available on both the iOS and Android platforms (thank you! – I’ve seen more than a few times the android version of an app be released significantly later than the iOS version – sometimes not at all!), so I will be speaking from the perspective of using the Android version. I wouldn’t think the iOS version is too much different.

A few features of the app that I enjoy include –

The schedule embedded within it. As I was planning for this meeting, I was wondering how I was going to keep track of what seminars/ workshops/luncheons I planned to attend. However, I didn’t want to populate my personal everyday calendar with this information. I guess I could have hand-written a schedule, but who does that today. I could have typed it out on Evernote as well. But, with the built-in calendar, keeping track of my events is a non-issue.

I like the “Attendee Resources” link. These resources include the SBC Pastor’s Conference Program, a Prayer Guide, the 2014 Annual Meeting Program, and many other documents – all of which are available for download in PDF format, so they can be kept for later reading if you so choose.

There is a “Local Churches” directory. This section of the app lists churches located in one of two areas: 1) Inside Interstate 695 Baltimore Parkway and 2) Outside Interstate 695 Baltimore Beltway. My home church is listed in area number two. I like this part of the app because it gives people who are new to the area an idea of what churches are available for them to attend.

A few more features of the app include a link for YouTube videos of some of the speakers encouraging people to attend the meeting and workshops, there is a list of those organizations and ministries who are sponsoring workshops, there is a link to a “database” of attendees (provided the attendee took the time to complete their profile), and many other resources.

So, if you attend a Southern Baptist church or not, whether you are able to attend the annual meeting or not – It wouldn’t be a bad idea to download the app and take a look through it. I’m sure you will find it interesting in some way; either by watching the videos or reading the PDF resources contained or reading a bit about the Pastors and speakers who will be in attendance. Take some time to get the app. I think it’s pretty good – maybe you’ll agree.

Grace and peace to you always.

If you’ve attend annual meetings of your denomination in the past, was there a similar resource for use? Is so, was it useful? If not, do you think it would have made your experience better?

“The Dude’s Guide to Manhood” by Darren Patrick (Book Review)

DudesGuide-Header-TallFADE

With a society that targets whomever will listen to it’s humanistic rhetoric, now more than ever, we (as believers) need to be chest deep in resources that speak against the culture. When society says “me, me, me”, we have to say “God, God, God”. Society’s message isn’t for the faithful – it’s for the faithless. However, the believer’s message is for the faithless – to show them to whom we must be faithful. 

Fortunately, there are counterweights that give men a picture of to whom we are called to be faithful. I would wholeheartedly include Pastor Darren Patrick’s book, “The Dude’s Guide to Manhood”, on the list of resources that should be used as a counterweight.

When I started the book, I did not immediately like it. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t think the book was bad. It’s not slow moving by any means – with 12 short chapters, the book can be read in a decent amount of time with a bit of effort. And it’s not hard to read – it’s written in a very down to earth and accessible way. I think I was just expecting more out the gate. Looking back, I think was looking for some scripture-saturated, theologically sound advice on how to be a “dude” after God. I mean, the book is written by a Pastor – how else would he present the material.

I was wrong.

Yes, the book is theologically sound, but it’s not saturated (read: dripping) with scripture. And I think that’s by design. I think Darren purposely wrote this book to appeal, not only to believers, but primarily to those who don’t have an interest in being “preached to” in every other sentence. As it turns out, that is one of the reasons I find this book so appealing.

If I’m honest, this book snuck up on me. As I said, I was looking for one thing, but I was taken in another direction. Darren doesn’t beat the reader over the head with scripture. He doesn’t show you how theologically astute he is in matters of the faith. I honestly can’t remember a time that he referred to himself as “Pastor”. He really just comes across as one of the guys. Someone from the block that’s just cool to hang out with.

For the believing man: if you’re someone who has studied scripture for many years and you feel you know your way around the Bible pretty well – this book is for you. Or – if you’re someone who is new to the faith and you’re still learning how to pronounce certain books in the Old Testament and names of some of the characters mentioned in it – this book is for you.

For the unbelieving man: if you don’t like church, don’t think you ever will and you much prefer to relax on the couch as watch ever sports game that is televised on Sunday – this book is for you. Or – if you’ve somehow lost your faith and find yourself returning to the question of what “all this” means – this book is for you.

Additionally, this book meets the reader exactly where he is – as broken man who is trying to do right, but just doesn’t know how. As a man who feels he has it all together, but can’t shake the feeling there is something more. And, the man in the middle who knows there is someone he is called to be and something he is called to do, but can’t figure out how to discover either one.  Darren helps the reader with these uncertainties. And in identifying these uncertainties, Darren graciously tells to reader that it’s not just them. It’s all of us. We all need Jesus to know what is right, to realize how much more is out there, and to discover our calling!

Each chapter contains example after example of everyday situations that all men can relate to. Darren uses everything from sports metaphors to movie references to “water cooler” office talks. Although, I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite chapter, as I probably have at least three or four that I can see myself returning to at a later time for refreshment, I’ll mention two.

Chapter 3, “Train, Don’t Just Try: Become a Disciplined Man” – phenomenal chapter. This chapter was quite an eye opener. It addressed issues I was familiar with, but did so in a refreshing way. A few topics include 1) how pornagraphy is so detrimental to manhood, 2) why we should avoid procrastination, and 3) how being disciplined should “bleed out into every area” of your life, and much more. Here’s a small quote –

“Most men would rather be entertained than be a part of transforming the world, and that erodes manliness and undercuts our confidence. If we can’t control ourselves, then we will be  controlled by everything else.”
Yeah…take some time to let that sink in.

A second chapter I enjoyed was chapter 5, “Get Satisfaction: Become a Content Man”. This chapter is excellent in encouraging the reader regarding what true contentment looks like. I think when we, as men, are truly content in what’s important – namely the glory of Christ – then that contentment will blend into other areas of our life. Here’s one quote from this chapter – 

“At the heart of contentment is an embrace of the present and a willingness to enjoy the good things we have right now. Contentment is freedom from the cares of the past and concerns of the future.”
As the book comes to a close, Darren sums up everything he’s written, and explains how everything he wrote is on display in Jesus Christ – the ultimate “Dude”. This is yet another reason I like the book and would recommend it for man’s unbelieving friends. The unbelieving reader isn’t “pounded” with the Bible as soon as he opens the book. There’s no talk or tone that would lead him to feel as though he is being talked down to for not believing in Christ. There is such grace in this book, that by the time the reader reaches the end of it, there is no doubt about a man seeing his need to stop trying to go it alone…and go with Christ.

Pick this book up – for you and the brothers in your church’s men’s ministry. Use it in a men’s book study. Pick it up and give it to unbelieving family and friends. If you can afford it, hand some out at your next cookout. Whatever way you decide to use it, just make sure you use it for the glory of God and the edification of your fellow men, because I truly believe that is why Darren wrote it.

Grace and Peace,

John