Archive for March, 2010

Roughly three and a half years ago I vividly remember an extremely trying week.  The following is a brief narrative of that week and how God brought me through it.  

I’ll never forget that week.  I felt personally attacked as students within my youth ministry made terrible decisions, a fellow youth pastor fell into sexual temptation, I was told a man of God who I greatly respected had committed adultery, parents called me on the phone to complain about my style of ministering, and all the other details that only someone in full-time ministry can truly understand appeared to happen. It felt as though every day of the week was accompanied by another piece of bad information that I did not want to hear.

By the time Sunday came around, I did not want to be in church. My frustration had hit an all time high and I honestly felt as though I did not have anyone to talk to. Yes, I am married and have a great relationship with my wife, but I did not feel it would be fair to her to have to endure the issues of my soul wrenching week. After all, she was busy potting training our toddler and changing the diapers of our infant. In my mind, that was enough for anyone to deal with.

Well, Monday morning came and I once again went to my office and sat down in my chair in front of my desk. I picked up my Bible and for whatever reason I turned to the book of Galatians. When I started reading, I was only intending to read a couple chapters before I started on my weekly to do list. However, the next thing I knew, I had read the entire of Galatians and while I was contemplating about what I had just read, I had typed out six pages of observations on my computer.

I now know it was not mere chance that drew me to the book of Galatians. It was God. As I read the book, I closely evaluated every word that the apostle Paul so carefully wrote down for the Galatian believers. The thought then hit me like a ton of bricks: the Apostle Paul knew exactly what I was going through. I was not alone in my frustration of sinful decisions that believers seem to continually make.

The Apostle Paul had me right from the beginning as he made the statement that the letter he wrote was not just from himself but from “all the brethren who were with me” (Galatians 1.2). It appears as though the Apostle Paul in his frustration was spending time with other church leaders who all had reached the same conclusion: the church was in serious trouble. He and other leaders had worked so hard. They had given everything they had only to watch as those they so passionately and compassionately cared about “quickly desert” (Galatians 1.6) the Lord and Savior for something that was contrary to Scripture.

This church which was once persecuted for their faith (Galatians 3.4) was now subscribing to false doctrine. Paul and the other believers watched as the Galatian church went from being service oriented and compassionate (Galatians 4.14-20) into a state of self-centeredness and slavery. Paul spends most of the time in this book refuting false doctrine and voicing his frustration at the church and his disdain for the false teachers.

Paul reached a point where many of us in ministry often find ourselves. He says in chapter four verse eleven, “I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” We pour our hearts and souls into lives just to watch them time and time again explode and implode from an apparent lack of understanding and caring of the principles of the Word of God. Far too many of us let this question of did I labor in vain, linger in our minds, especially Monday mornings after we have been eaten up during our weekends of ministry.

Fortunately, Paul did not end his letter questioning whether or not his time invested into the churches of Galatia was merely a waste of time or actually something that was beneficial. Rather in chapter six, we see that Paul makes a shift in his writing. He appears to pause in his writing and directs the letter at himself and the leaders that he represents rather than at the church members who had wounded him. He stops with the you statements and shifts to the we. He says this, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6.9,10).

This is when it hit me, “Jon stop focusing on Galatians 4.11 and start focusing on Galatians 6.9 and 10.” Questioning whether what I was doing was in vain should not have been an option for me. I know and many of my fellow Christian servants know, that what we are doing with our lives is the call of God. He called me to minister and pursuing God’s calling is never a waste of time.

Paul had an eternal focus in chapter six. It was almost as if he was saying, “I am going to keep fighting because I can’t wait to see what God will do.” At least this is what Paul said to me as I read Galatians six. This would also be my admonition to fellow Christian laborers who are questioning God’s call as to whether or not what they are doing is in vain. The answer is NO!!! Keep fighting, for in His time God will produce the fruit.

This week I am seeing the fruit. In fact I just received a phone call from one of my students who wishes to share with the rest of the youth group some of the principles that she has recently learned through her study of the Bible. Sure I can choose to be frustrated, but I am choosing to focus on how God is going to raise up a new generation of Christian leaders and I do not know about you, but I am excited because “in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6.9)

If Peter Drucker were here to sit down with your organization, he would ask, “What is your mission? Who is your customer? What does your customer value? What are your results?” and “What is your plan?” 
 
I wonder how the typical church would change if Mr. Drucker served as chairman of the board?  I have to believe severe change would be in order.  Well, severe changes would be in order for at least 80% of the churches in America.  Statistics teach us that 80% of the churches in America have either plateaud or are shrinking.  Surely this would not be ok for this man who devoted his life to the study of leadership and management and was a self-prescibed “social ecologist”. 
 
I know this an extremely hypothetical question.  After all Mr. Drucker died in November of 2005.  He won’t be sitting in at your next board meeting.  However, I believe his question should be asked at each and every meeting that religious organizations and entrapenurial organizations have.  Why?  Well, having vision, a plan, and a genuine knowledge who you are along with who your target group is, will only serve to make you more effective. 
 
Very few Christians will argue with me if I state that we must pursue excellance in all that we do.  One of the ways we can pursue excellance is ask Peter Drucker’s five questions at our next meeting and then answer them honestly.
 
 
 

 

After reading Hebrews 11 today, I came to a realization that I have never had before. Hebrews 11 sometimes known as the Faith hall of fame or the faith chapter contains a strong undertone of reconciliation and perhaps this chapter is less about people’s faith and more about God’s grace. Have I been missing the point all this time?Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David are among the many faithful and faith filled believers listed in Hebrews 11.

If one chose to focus on the negative, this is what they would find.
 
Abraham was a wimp. He allowed his wife to be taken into captivity and lied to save his own hide. He doubted God along with his wife. Yet he shows up in the list of the faithful.

Jacob was a con-artist and a liar. Not only did you trick his brother but he outright lied to his father’s face. Yet he shows up in the list of the faithful.

Moses had a temper problem. Not only did he smash his staff on a rock but he killed someone out of anger. He is also the only man in Scripture who took tablets from God and then smashed them in a blind rage. Yet he shows up in the list of the faithful.

Rahab was a harlot. A prostitute. Someone who slept around for cash! Need I say more. Yet she shows up in the list of the faithful.

Gideon doubted God. He feared for his life when God gave him a task. In fact he even told God what to do. You may remember the old “give me a sign routine” that he pulled. Yet he shows up the list of the faithful.

Samson committed adultery against his God with foreign women. It got so bad that the consequence of his sin led him to a life of slavery and mockery. He even had his eyes gouged out. Yet he shows up in the list of the faithful.

David gazed (lusted) at a beautiful woman (naked). He committed adultery with her. He impregnated her and then proceeded to kill her husband. Yet he shows up in the list of the faithful.

Perhaps I just ruined your view of the Faith Hall of Fame chapter. That is not my intention. My intention is this, see it from a different perspective. I mean how is it possible that God could use these “losers”. Con-artists, liars, sex addicts and murderers. Wow, God you sure picked some good ones!

To say that God picked losers and be sarcastic in addressing God regarding His choices might seem downright sinful. It is! And if this is true, then why are we so quick to write people off in our churches. People who have fallen into sin, people who do not lead stellar christian lives and people who just don’t live up to our personal standards.

Perhaps it is because we forget that even God’s best were at one time people that we wouldn’t even look at. I wonder if Hebrews 11 is less of a narative on those who were great in the faith and more of a statement from God saying, “I can use anybody.”

Next time you are temped to give up on someone stop and read Hebrews 11. Let’s be honest, most of us have given up on people who were alot better off than most of God’s faithful of Hebrews 11.

God’s Grace Is Sufficient And Reconciliation Is ALWAYS Possible!!!!Originally Written August 2008

Do you remember the pull-ups commercial from TV? The catch phrase was “mommy wow, I’m a big kid now!” Well, pull ups are training diapers. They are pulled on like underwear for children who are being potty trained and unlike normal diapers they allow the child to “feel” wet when they wet their pants.

Yesterday evening, I took a wet pull-up off of my son Matthew and asked him to use the potty. After he finished his expedition to the potty chair he came back into the living room where I had gotten out a new pull-up and pajama pants. I asked him nicely to please put them on and then walked into my room. Not thirty seconds later my bedroom door opened and my wife asked, “Why is Matthew naked?” As you can imagine I was wondering the same thing. After all I had specifically asked my son to get dressed. I went out into the living room and spoke to my son and offered to help him get dressed. He then started to yell “I want to be naked” over and over again and proceeded to run out of the room.

Once I had finished laughing at this statement and had relayed my boy’s message to my wife I gathered up his pajamas, socks, and pull-up and started to dress him despite his very vocal protests regarding his need for nudity. Somehow this sly little guy did an evasive maneuver and escaped wearing nothing but a pull-up and pajama pants. Once again he started running around and yelling about the benefits of being a nudist.

This time my wife had the idea of let him run. After all, we both knew that it would be a matter of time before our little guy learned his lesson. And guess what happened; not two minutes later my son was holding his shirt because he was chilly and was requesting my help.

You see my son is two and a half years old and as I sit to write this and it is January. Not exactly the best nudist or topless weather (not that nudism or toplessness is ever good). Also he is a little young to be deciding what is best for himself in regards to clothing choice. This funny little parenting episode led me to thank my God that He does not let me always get my own way. God has said no to many of my requests and I have to wonder if He hasn’t chuckled a little bit, shook His head, and said, “kids!” “If you only knew what you were asking for you wouldn’t ask.”

I mean think about it. Matthew was just looking at the now. This will be fun, now. I can experience freedom, now. Being naked is a good time, now. But then something happened. He got cold and realized Daddy wasn’t just a big meany. Daddy knew he would be cold and was looking out for his son’s best interest.

So here is the challenge, next time God says, “NO”, realize that your Daddy is looking out for your best interest. Just because we desire something that is good does not mean that we desire something that is good for us. Just as I knew the outcome of my son’s nudist running: he would get cold. So does our God know the outcome of our desires and if that outcome can harm us or harm our relationship with God, then there is a good chance God will say no.

Originally Written January of 2008

Why write a blog?  Is it about shameless, self-promotion?  Not really.  If I wanted that, I would open a twitter account. 

The reason I have chosen to enter the blog writing adventure is I want people to have the chance to learn lessons from life and Scripture that my God has blessed me with.  My writing is rarely conceptual but rather it is fairly practical material that God has used to challenge my life.  So that is it.  I want to provide practical life and Scripture lessons that you, the reader, can use to encourage and challenge you in your spiritual journey.

Please leave feedback.  If you do, I will try to make sure I respond.  God Bless!