Pastoral Ministry, Not Blogging, and a Devotional Guide

It’s been over a month since I’ve blogged and I have some ambivalence with this. I don’t like it because I like to write and, it seems, God has been gracious to use this blog to help people. A lot of news has happened in the last month that begs for pastoral commentary (e.g. Mark Driscoll, Harvest Chapel, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Robin Williams). I certainly have thoughts and may share them at some point. However, I’ve felt a strange comfort and freedom over the last 1-2 months to not write blogs. Why? My voice is small and I don’t need always need to say something. I’ve been concerned mostly with my family moving into a house and getting settled and my local church ministry in our own congregational as we had our “fall launch” like many other American evangelical churches who notice a slow period during the summer (that’s another blog post!).

But while I have not written blogs, it doesn’t mean I haven’t ben writing. I wanted to share a little eBook I put together called Make the Most of Your Devotions: A Guide to Enhance Your Bible Reading, Meditation, and PrayerThis is nothing revolutionary. It’s simply a compiling of insights I’ve gathered over the years. I would have written this if no one else reads it! But if it helps you or someone you know, too, praise God! Feel free to download and share as much as you’d like:

Make the Most of Your Devotions eBook

Raising Up Leaders in the Church

How do churches raise up leaders who will take the baton and lead faithfully in the next generation?

After my first year of full-time pastoral ministry, this is something I’m wrestling with and seeking to do well. The call to leadership development is clear for leaders in the church: we are told to pass on the faith to others who can do likewise (2 Tim. 2:2) and equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). The power is in the people and the quicker pastors (like me!) realize this and live out of this core, the more faithful and effective the church will be.

While local churches have leaders who specialize in oversight, teaching, preaching, etc., it is clear that “ministry” is not only something that happens for 30-45 minutes on a Sunday morning with one guy talking at everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I highly value preaching and aspire to be great at it. However, traditionally organized church has turned gospel ministry into a once-a-week event in which people come to listen to the “anointed” minister.

Think about Acts 8. After Stephen’s death a great persecution broke out. The believers scattered, but the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. And it was the scattered believers, the “laypeople” (gasp!) who preached the word wherever they went (v. 4). Now, not all Christians are called to be leaders in the church. However, all Christians are called to do the work of ministry in the church and outside the church.

In this helpful video below, Andy Davis, David Helm, and J.D. Greear discuss some of these ideas and how to raise up leaders in the local church.

What do you think? How can the church today raise up leaders and resist making ministry a one-man show?


A Prayer for Christians in Iraq

Arabic-NazareneMerciful Heavenly Father,

We do not know how to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, but we trust that your Spirit prays for us in our weakness. So we cry, How long before you will judge and avenge the blood of your saints (Rev. 6:10)? How long shall the wicked exult (Ps. 94:3)? How long, O God, is the foe to scoff and the enemy to revile your name (Ps. 74:10)? Why, O LORD, do you stand far away; why do you hide yourself in times of trouble (Ps. 10:1)?”

Have mercy on our brothers and sisters and bring this evil violence to an end with justice. Protect your people and give them favor as they seek to flee from the terrorists. Help them to remember that you hear their cries for help (Ps. 5:1-2). For the blameless will not be put to shame in evil times, but the wicked will perish (Ps. 37:18-19). Assure them, by your Spirit, that they are your children and are loved and secure even when they walk in the valley of death (Ps. 23; Rom. 8:15-17). Help them to believe that they are blessed because they have suffered for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10). Help them to be more satisfied in your steadfast love than they have ever been before (Ps. 90:14). Help them to remember that the sufferings of this world do not compare with their future glory (Rom. 8:19). Help them know that they can flee to you as their refuge and strong tower (Ps. 61:3). Help them remain faithful to you (James 1:12), endure to the end (Matt. 10:22), and rejoice that they are counted worthy to share in Christ’s suffering (Acts 5:41; Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13). Help them to remember that here they have no lasting city and that they are headed for the city that is to come (Heb. 11:16; 13:14).

And Father, forgive and have mercy on those who may have recanted of their faith to avoid death, even though they may truly love you. Let them experience a Peter-like moment of repentance so that they might rise and feed your sheep and stand strong in the strength of your might (Eph. 6:10)

For us, Father, as Americans, we may feel guilty that we are not suffering in the same fashion. It may even be hard for us to pray for your vengeance. But that is only because we are not suffering. We are in an air-conditioned facility free from affliction or pressure or even the slightest bit of mocking. Soften our hearts and wreck us with compassion so we might suffer with our brothers and sisters and pray for them (Rom. 12:15). And prepare us for the day when this kind of persecution finds us, because we aren’t immune (1 Pet. 4:12).

But, you O God, aren’t immune either. On the the cross, your Son cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46). Because Jesus was forsaken on the cross, help our brothers and sisters know they do not need to fear being forsaken by you. For you will never abandon them (Ps. 16:10; Heb. 13:5). Would that promise empower them, and us, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, just as you did (Matt. 5:44).

In times of trouble, truly you do not stand far away. Jesus, you are the strength of your people; you are the saving refuge of your anointed ones. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage. For our brothers and sisters in Iraq, be their shepherd and carry them forever (Ps. 28:8-9).

Come, Lord Jesus, come (Rev. 22:20)! Amen.

Note on the graphic above: The ISIS terrorists have been marking this symbol on the homes of Christians in Iraq. It’s the Arabic letter “N,” short for “followers of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Blog Note: Repeat Email Updates

Friends, if you are subscribed to my blog via email through Feedreader, you have probably gotten multiple email updates for the same blog posts in the last couple weeks. I apologize for that and I am working on the problem! In the meantime, if you want to change the way you receive updates, you can scroll all the way to the bottom of this page and click the “FOLLOW” button to receive email updates directly from WordPress.

If you are experiencing a problem with Feedreader, please drop a note in the comments or email me to let me know what blog(s) have repeatedly shown up in your inbox.

Thank you and I apologize for any inconvenience!

Roundup of Posts on Scripture Application Questions

Over the past several days, I wrote several posts about questions to ask to help with meditating on and praying Scripture. Ultimately, these questions help us to aid in heart-level application of Scripture. This is the only kind of application that will have lasting value. Now, these questions are not the only ones we should ask, but they are important ones. For quick reference, here are the links to those posts with a brief summary.