Friday, June 17, 2011

Abortion in America

I am currently taking a class in Old Testament prophets.  In a recent forum discussion on how Christians should tackle the social ills of today I wrote this reply to one of the posts that addressed abortion and wanted to share my response with you.  As a side note this response is just the tip of the ice burg.

Another verse to consider regarding abortion is Exodus 21:22-23. The passage clearly indicates that if during an altercation between two people a woman is struck, gives birth prematurely, and the child dies as a result of the actions of the men then they are guilty of murder and their life is required of them. God sees the murder (abortion) of children in the womb the same as he sees the murder of any man or women (Gen 9:6) and the punishment is the same.

If God sees abortion as such a serious crime then we should as well.  Our response should be swift and sure and yet many Christians are to focused on their own needs to do more than pay lip service to this serious black spot in our culture. So where do we begin: We vote. I am surprised at the number of Christians who will vote for the candidate that will support workers rights (disclosure: I am in a union), or want to see single mothers given special help, or is concerned about the elderly and their medical care, yet their record on the abortion issue is abysmal.  If a candidate is really serious about life, and not serious about life in the womb, then they are living in darkness and should not be in office.  This is not strong political speech, this is strong biblical and moral speech and until Christians, churches and pastors stand up with a loud voice and proclaim that abortion is wrong then we in America will continue to head in the wrong direction.

Mother Teresa said it well in her speech at the 1994 National Day of Prayer Breakfast"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?"

What else should we do: support mothers who chose not to abort.  Many of these women will be single moms who have given birth because of sex out of marriage and they should be shown grace and mercy, just as we have been shown grace and mercy.  A few of these mothers will give birth because of rape or incest and they will need help in the healing process of the great crime committed against them.  All of these mothers have been duped by a twisted world view and only by God's grace have they come to some knowledge of the great crime of abortion and they need our love and support.


David Peterson © 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

God Desires our Loyalty

God desires our loyalty and mercy not just ritual sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).   Hosea preaches a word against the nation of Israel for her murderous and immoral behavior.  The priests were no longer leading the people towards God.  Instead they were leading them away and practicing lawlessness themselves (Hosea 4, 5). When trouble came along instead of seeking God they sought refuge from other nations (Hosea 5:13)   In response to this indictment the people appear to want to go back (Hosea 6:1-3) and serve God.  But God reminds them that they have gone astray once to often (Hosea 6:4-5).  God is not looking for fair weather Christians either.  As we seek to follow God we are called to love God with all our heart, mind and soul (Matt 22:37; Deut 6:5).  Christians can go to church every Sunday and Wednesday, they can walk the Isle, be baptized, take communion but they should be careful lest this become just ritual or “a sacrifice of time.”  As Christians we should truly enter into a relationship with God and seek to be just and merciful to the widows, orphans, and those in prison  (James 1:27; Matt 25:34-40)


David Peterson © 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

God's Grace for All

God's grace is available to all who will repent and follow Him.  God called Jonah to preach a message of woe to the Ninevites (1:2).  Jonah's running away from God and the Ninevites (Jon 1:2) is not what I would have expected from a prophet of God.  Later we see the same attitude in Jonah's response (Jon 4:1) to the contrite and repentant hearts of the Ninevites after hearing God's message (Jon 3:10).  After having been shown great mercy by the pagan sailors when they found out that he was the cause of the great storm (Jon 1:12-13) I would have thought that Jonah would be more merciful to others.  I have worked in the city of Detroit for many years and every day I see those who are in need God's mercy.  They range from drug dealers to  mothers who allow their children to live in filthy houses, or fathers who cuss at their children.  I often look at them and think not them Lord, and then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me “Yes, even them David.”  And then He reminds me of my sin and that I am no better than they are.  As I look at my heart and the deep sin within I shall be open to share God's salvation message with others.


David Peterson © 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

There's No Where to Hide

Running away from God is futile, God is everywhere. After receiving a word from God to prophecy a message of woe to the Ninevites (Jon 1:2) Jonah decided that he would attempt to hide from God so that he would not have to share God's message with the Ninevites, a people he greatly despised (Jon 1:3).  But God did not let Jonah get away that easy, He threw a great storm at Jonah which violently tossed the ship about (Jon 1:4).  Jonah discovered that even deep in the hull of a ship bound for the end of the world that God was there (Jon 1:6) God is calling us to share his message of woe and salvation with the grocery clerk, a co-worker or our neighbor next door.  Maybe God has already or will soon call us to go on the mission field to take His message to people we do not even know or like (Acts 9:5, 16).  We may try to hide in our work, our family, or other obligations, but sooner or later God will cast a storm in our life if we disobey.  Instead we should run to God and trust him for the mission he has called us to.  We should step out of our comfort zone and share with our neighbors, and all we meet the love of Christ.


David Peterson © 2011

God is Sovereign

The Lord is sovereign over all the earth, all events and all time and those who trust in him have nothing to fear.   God in Amos 3:6b asks a simple question: if a disaster occurs in a city is it not the Lord who has caused it. The expected answer from the reader is “yes, of course.” In Psalm 147 we are told that God is the one who sends the snow, frost and ice. And the storm which struck the boat Jonah was on (Jonah 1:4) was caused by God, and He is the one who can calm the storm (Psalm 107:29). In the beginning God causes all thing to be created by the word which he had spoken. And Satan could not harm on hair on Job's head with out God's permission. In recent years preachers all over the United States could be heard proclaiming that God had nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina, or F5 Tornado's that wipe out whole towns. Are these preachers afraid that if the people find out that God is in control of the universe they will run from him. I believe the opposite is true. We should be willing to tell the truth. Our God is a big God who is in control of all that happens and we can trust him with our life for eternity.


David Peterson © 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to make Bible Study Personal Again!

I recently ran across this short video on how to make Bible study personal again for those who feel burned out on studying the Bible.  I found Dr. Powlison's remarks timely and helpful.  If you are struggling with studying your Bible this may be a good starting point to refresh your reading and personal time with God.

Dr. David Powlison - Making Scripture Personal from CCEF on Vimeo.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Make a Day with Your Daughter Special!

I recently took my daughter out of school for the day (they were going to a play about a little girl who whined a lot).  This was our Daddy-Daughter day and we had a great time.  Not only do I get the joy of spending time with my daughter, but I also instilled in her a sense of security.  I hope that as she grows up she will see me as someone who loves her and only wants the best for her.

So how do you make your Daddy-Daughter day special.  Here's just a few ideas.

1.  Do something you will both enjoy.
My daughter is 6 and I'm 45.  Playing dolls does not sound like fun to me and fixing cars is not her idea of a good time.  My daughter loves strawberries and is studying space in school.  We took some time to make "space food" by drying strawberries.  We spent time going to the store to buy the berries, cleaning the equipment, cutting the strawberries and the waited for them to dry.

2.  Play a simple game they like.
While the strategy behind "Candy Land" is not very complex you can still have fun playing a couple of rounds.  The game is even better if they get to win.

3.  Don't sweat the small stuff.
While my daughter and I were at Burger King getting our drinks she accidentally knocked the try and spilled the fries (my fries) all over the floor.  I could feel the anger well up inside, I really like fries.  But then I remembered why we were there and it was not to eat fries.  We were there because I love her and wanted to spend time with her.  I also took this as an opportunity to teach.  Instead of asking for more fries, which I'm sure they would have given me at no charge, I explained that because it was our mistake we would just have to go without.  We had a great time.  Grace and Mercy go a long way.

I'd love to hear please your own stories or ideas.  And for more ideas try a search of father daughter at your favorite search site.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

God Can Still Use You!

Our church along with four others in the area just finished up our yearly Missions Conference.  The final message was a simple one from Matt 6:21 "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  A major part of the message was the testimony of a man from Russia named Roman.  In terms of worldly evil Roman was a very bad character and yet God looked down on him with grace and mercy and is now using Roman in amazing ways to share the Gospel in Russia.

While listening to the various missionaries and seeing all their pictures this weekend I was reminded of the depth of my sin.  Listening to Roman's testimony I was reminded of God's great love and how much He has given that I might be forgiven, and that I can still be used by Him for His work (Eph 2:10).

So what next?  Where is my treasure?  I believe God is calling me to a work bigger than I can ever imagine.  For now I am waiting and preparing.  By I am storing up my treasure in the form of Prayer and Money in God's work, where I hope that one day my heart will follow.  What about you, where are you storing your treasures?  We must remember that we must be either goers or senders!  There are no other options.


Friday, March 4, 2011

How to Start Family Devotions!

Do you have a desire to start family devotions with your children and just don't know where to begin.  If so then here are four easy steps to help you get started.

1. Get Family Devotions, or Family Devotions 2 by Josh McDowell.
2. Get your children together just before bed time.
3. Read the devotion scheduled for that day.
4. Pray with your children and send them to bed.

I realize this is a bit over simplified, but to be perfectly honest this is what my wife and I did.  My children were 4, 5, and 7 when we began.  I had delayed family devotions for some time because I felt that my children were just too young to fully understand and sit still.  This will be a personal decision for each family.  Pray and seek God's wisdom for the proper time for your family.

I finally decided that the oldest two would be able to handle sitting still for 15 minutes, and the youngest would just have to learn from the others.  Since then hardly a night goes by without spending this time together.  On a few occasions my wife and I have been too tired to have devotions and the kids beg us to have them anyway.  Our time together studying God's word is very important to them and has become a very special time for us.  My prayer for you would be that God would give you the opportunity to share God's word with your children in a special and meaningful way.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Shadow of Your Wings

Time for reflection and meditation is a precious commodity.  Finding time is very difficult and when we do find time attempting to calm down from our daily activity can be a difficult task.  I've found that listening to meditative music is helpful and one of my favorite albums to listen to is The Shadow of Your Wings by Fernando Ortega.

As you listen to the music reflect on the greatness and grander of God, His mighty works in creation and salvation in His Son Jesus.  I pray that God will bless your time as you listen to the still small voice and find yourself refreshed by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Beginning of Something Bigger - A Book on Leadership?

I've recently taken a class in Biblical Foundations for Leadership.  In an attempt to sum up the class I wrote this paper.  While quite lengthy for a blog, I found the word count of 1000 - 1200 words (this is closer to 2000) to be woefully short of what would have been necessary to do the class justice.  The topic of leadership itself would require much more, but here is my paper none-the-less.  As I look at the work, I see the beginning of a book which I may write someday on leadership.  Until then I will just keep adding to my blog what I learn.  God Bless and feel free to comment I would appreciate others perspective and wisdom.

In the course of history hundreds, no thousands of book (maybe more) have been written on the subject of leadership. You would think with so many books that we would know how to lead by now. But there still seems to be many questions about what makes a good leader, how one goes about learning the skills of leadership, what are the important elements of leadership. The amazing part about leadership is that what we truly need to know about leadership can be found in the Word of God. An ongoing study of God's word will lead us to the greatest understanding of leadership and give us a biblical foundation which all the books written on the subject can never match.
As we begin our journey on establishing a biblical foundation for leadership we should take a look the greatest leaders of all time Jesus. In a span of three short years Jesus began a ministry which has lasted over two thousand years and is ongoing today. He began this ministry with just twelve men who in themselves amounted to little in the world and instilled in them the ability to lead in some of the most difficult situations imaginable.

Jesus as Our Example
Jesus began his ministry with a perspective that put the the Father's ultimate plan as his end goal. Jesus speaking in John 6:38 says “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” And what was the will of the Father, Jesus goes on to say in vs 40 “that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” For Jesus ministry was about what his Father was doing in the world. We need to lead with a heavenly perspective. As we minister to those around us we need to pray and ask God to show us what he wants to do in our life and the lives of others, we need to read and study his word to see what his plan is and then act upon the insight we are given through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus also led with rhythm as he took time to heal, teach, rest, spend time with his disciples, rest and pray. Life is full of rhythms in which we must live and when we fight against the rhythm of life we tire ourselves out, when we work with the rhythm we find ourselves refreshed and ready for what God brings our way. The most basic form of rhythm was established by God at the foundation of the world when he created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. While God did not need to rest he was setting an example for us in how we should live because he knew our limitations and knew what we would need. The resting on the seventh day is not just a cessation from work but should include worship of God, and meditation on his Word. Jesus tells us in Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” What a wonderful gift God has given us when we remember that the Sabbath does not have rule over us, instead the Sabbath was made for us.
Jesus also took action. We might first think of his healing or teaching as some of the actions that he took, but his most important action was the action of prayer. And as leaders this is where we must begin. Before taking any other action we need to be in pray for God's direction for our life and ministry. In the high preistly prayer Jesus prayed for you and for me specifically when he said “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” As Jesus prayed for my joy, perseverance, sanctification and ministry. We should let this be a model for us in our ministry as we take action to carry out God's plan of redemtion.
Have you asked any good questions lately. Jeus was famous for asking questions. The questions that Jesus asked often brought out the true motives in peoples hearts or caused them to look deeper into the question they were asking. The questions we should ask ourselves should challange us to reflect on our life and ministry to make sure our motives are proper and the direction is the direction God would have us to take. In this short review we have just scratched the surface of Jesus as a leader. There is much more to write about but I would like to touch on several other topics in the are of leadership.

Where We Lead
In a basic journalism class we would learn to ask the five “w's”; who, what, where, when, and why. We can use these same questions when talking about leadership. We will start with where do we lead. Leadership can exist in five directions: leading self, leading up, leading peers inside, leading peers outside and leading down. When we lead we must begin by leading ourselves. In leading ourselvs we must learn to take care of ourselves emotionally, phsically and spiritually. We must also lead ourselves in personal development: growing in our understanding of the Bible and our part in God's ministry.
Leading up seems to be an odd direction to lead but we can and should lead those who lead us (with humility). This can be accomplished in several ways. By asking good questions concerning our position, or by recommending reading or listening material we can help those who lead us to begin to think about what we do and how they might be better able to understand our job. We can lead our peers within the organization as we get together and mentor each other. The Psalm 27:17 tells us that as “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” We can also lead others outside our organization as we meet with people in like postions who are not working where we work: pastors breakfasts, youth pastors from the local area getting together and swapping ideas. And the last and most obvious direction we lead is down as we lead those we have authority over. Leading in all five directions take time, but in the end will be well worth our effort as we build a team around us and work towards the sames goals.

What we Lead
As we begin to expore what we lead we should start with God and how he leads us. God leads us using four methods. First God leads by the power of the Holy Spirit in our life. From the time he calls us to our dying breath God has given us the Spirit to teach us (Acts 1:8). Second God leads us through his word (2 Tim 3:16-17). Third God uses circumstances in our life to give us direction (Acts 10). And last God uses others to lead us and one of the greatest examples from the Bible is found in Paul leading Timothy and others in the ministry. We should take note that in all these methods of leading God never forces us to follow. Leadership influences but it does not manipulate. God has built us with the ability to think, feel and choose and he works with these attributes as he guides and directs. As a professor, Michael Holt, from my college days once told me “God is a genteman, he will never make you do what you do not want to do.”
There are several ways you could influence others as you lead. One way is to resources them. I have a very dear friend who does a great job at research. She can come up with the most amazing resrouces from the internet. By sharing these with others we can lead them to be more like Christ, whether the resource is an inspirational musician or a great new Bible study.
We can also influence people by getting out of their way if what we are doing is hampering there efforts, we can add something to their tool box if we have something they don't (maybe some good questions to ask). The ways to influence are endless requiring only our own thoughful prayers and actions to bring them to light so that we might act upon them.

Why We Lead
The last of the W's I would like to tackle is why we lead. There are many reasons why someone would enter into a positon of leadership. Some good and others not so good. But as we consider our positions as leaders we need to deeply examine and take seriously our motive. Our motive will influence our thoughts and actions as we lead and could possibly be the greatest stumbling block to our leadership.
Before we begin to discuss the good motive for leadership, lets discuss the wrong motive. I believe the wrong motive for leadership can be boiled down to one word: pride. We see the greatest display of pride from Satan. Satan says “I will make myself like the Most High” ( Isaiah 14:14). From this starting point Satan leads a host of angels aways from God and is still attempting to lead others away to this day.
Our motives are to be the exact opposite of Satan's. Paul states our motives well in Romans 16:17 “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” Our movtives for leadership should be an acknowledgement of who we are in light of a soverign God. We should be humble, seeking to give God all the glory for everything we do, for we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). Are we seeking our own good or that of others, and ultimately God glory.
When I was a student at CIU a young man had arrived on campus early. He noticed one morning that one of the toilets was clogged and needed to be plunged. Not seeing a plunger and not knowing what else to do he called the front office to report the problem. After about fifteen minutes he noticed a workman in the bathroom fixing the problem. He though little of the event until several days later. While sitting in chapel he saw the janitor who had fixed the toilet introduced as the president of the school. Now that is what I call leadership. Are we ready to get down and dirty for the minstiry, to do what ever needs to be done, to humble ourslelves and serve others.

I believe we have just scratched the surface of a foundation for biblical leadership. There is so much more to be written. I would like to leave on this note and that is that our leadership should be based on faith, hope and love. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The opposite of faith is fear, and we need not fear for God has taken away our fear. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations . . .” (Romans 4:18). The opposite of hope is dispair not believing that God will carry us through to the end.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Cor 13:4). The opposite of love is lust. Lust is me getting without regard or care for others around me. Only though a biblical foundation can we find true leadership that will succeed, not man's definition, but God's. To God be the glory and may we never stop searching for him as we lead his people.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Principles of Ministry: Ministry is Reproducing

2 Timothy 2:2
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

I recently saw the quip "Never make yourself irreplaceable, you'll never get promoted."  This short phrase got me to thinking about what I am doing in my church.  Am I so irreplaceable that I can not be moved else where.  Currently I am the only one who works the sound system.  The youth pastor and a few others can muddle through when I'm out sick, but they need more. The church needs someone who is trained and can work the board well.  I have started training one of the teens to do the job.  Just like Paul, I want to train others to do the work of the ministry.

Paul journeyed through many parts of the world spreading the gospel.  His goal as he stopped at each town, made disciples, and planted churches was to be able to move on to the next town to plant another church.  He could not accomplished this goal if he became irreplaceable.  He needed to train others to lead the churches he planted.  Paul also passed on the advice to Timothy.  As Timothy led the church at Philippi he was to train other faithful men who would continue to pass on the teachings of the word of God and lead the church.

What about you, are you making yourself irreplaceable.  I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nathan an executive pastor at a church in Virginia.  He was brought on board at his church for the express purpose of replacing the senior pastor at some time in the future.  Until that time he was in "training."  What an awesome example of 2 Timothy 2:2.  How many pastors do you know who would consider such an action as to make themselves replaceable.  My pray for each of us is that we are always looking for the "Timothys" in our lives so that we may train them to carry on the work of the ministry.  Someday we will all be promoted to our heavenly home and God has given us the responsibility to train others to carry on the work of the ministry.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Christians Get Depressed Too

Christians Get Depressed Too by David P. Murry is a wonderful book for those suffering with depression or those who know someone who is.  Pastor Murry has done a wonderful and thoughtful investigation into the difficult subject of depression.  He comes at depression from a well balanced biblical perspective allowing for causes which could stem from heart, body or soul.

In six chapters he discusses why we get depressed,  how to study the topic of depression, what depression is and then covers different methods to deal with depression.  He discusses the physical, spiritual, mental approaches which have been taken up in the past and explains the strength and weaknesses of each.  In his last chapter he address caregivers (spouses, pastors, friends) and gives timely advise on how we can help those dealing with depression.  This is a great resource and I am glad to have this book on my shelf.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dad's Like to Have Fun Too, Just for Laughs

Every once in a while we just need a good laugh.  And hey dads doesn't this look like a fun activity to do with your kids.

Thanks Mike for the laugh.


Friday, February 4, 2011

10 Tips to a Great Sermon by Pete Scazzero

I just ran across "Ten Distinctives of Emotionally Healthy Preaching" by Peter Scazzero.  I would highly recommend taking a few minutes to read them.  Listed below are the highlights.

1. Is my “heart at rest?”
2. Have I spent adequate time with the Father so that I am not preaching from a reflected sense of self?
3. Have I allowed the text to go deep beneath my own iceberg?
4. Am I eager for a “live encounter” with people?
5. Am I living with integrity?
6. Have I finished editing and simplifying the message?
7. Am I fighting or surrendering to God’s process?
8. Am I being prudent, thoughtful and honest in my preaching?
9. Have I honored the principle of walking “two by two,” i.e., the power of community exegesis?
10. Is my life different as a result of this Word before I stand up?


Principles of Ministry: Ministry is taking a Sabbath

When the TI-30 calculator first came out I was in my early teen years and I got one for my birthday (thanks dad).  In the back of the manual there were calculations for determining your biorhythms.  Supposedly you could figure out when you would be at your peek physically, emotionally and intellectually, not that this ever did me any good.  I think the teachers scheduled the test when I was down intellectually.  Interested in math I had fun with the calculations, but I never took them seriously.

But there is a  rhythm in life we should take seriously and that is the rhythm that God established from the foundation of the world.  The calculation is very simple: 6W + 1S = 1C.  In Genesis 1:1-2:3 Moses describes the basic cycle (1C) of life.  God worked for six days (6W) and took a Sabbath on the seventh (1S).  God did not rest because He was tired but as an example for us in how we should conduct our own affairs.

While there are many cycles in life, the most critical is the cycle that ends with the Sabbath.  Our body, mind, and spirit needs a time of refreshing and renewal.  Without this period of rest we will run ourselves into the ground.  Take time each week to rest, really rest and fix your mind on God, meditate on His word, communicate with Him in true worship, in spirit and in truth.  Then you will be ready for the work which God will bring into your life for the next week.  May God grant each of us the wisdom to know how to take a Sabbath.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Principles of Ministry: Ministry is Change

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

The disciples gathered around Jesus on the road into Jerusalem.   James and his brother John, looking for an opportunity to further their position in the kingdom, asked if they could sit at his right and left when he tossed out the Romans and reestablished the kingdom of Israel.  What the brothers failed to realize was that Jesus had not come to establish a political kingdom.  The kingdom which Jesus had come to established was beyond anything they had ever imagined or thought.  Jesus had come to establish a kingdom based on ransoming His life for those who would repent and follow Him.

I imagine the disciples were shocked when Jesus said that he had come to serve, and to ransom Himself for many.  They were even more shocked when Jesus demonstrated what he meant as He washed their feet during the last supper.  And can you imagine their surprise when they saw Him crucified.  This is not what they had left their families, friends, and business' for, they were following the man who was to reestablish the Kingdom of Israel.

What the disciples would experience over the next couple of months was profound change.  This change was based on the realization of what Jesus had been teaching them, and the culmination of their experience came with the empowering of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).

What about us, do we have any ideas of ministry that need to be changed?  Are we looking to the Word of God to guide us and direct us in our ministry or are we trying to follow the whims of the world, the latest fad, or the programs of some mega-church?  When we make the Bible the functional authority for our ministry (1 Tim 3:16-17) we align ourselves with God's game plan for our lives and our churches.  We must continually evaluate our ministry and make sure that what we are doing aligns with God's word and if necessary make any changes to keep with the His plan.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Principles of Ministry: Ministry is Messy

Proverbs 14:4 
Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
 But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.

I've often had the thought that ministry sure would be a lot easier if there were no people involved.  As soon as you let people in things can really get messed up. Everyone seems to bring in their own ideas, opinions, baggage, troubles, sins, you name it, they bring it.  Yet without these people, my ministry is meaningless.  One of the key principles of ministry is Ministry is Messy.  

Solomon understood that the profit in our life's work only comes with a little mess. Can you imagine a farmer trying to plow his field by hand.  He'd never get enough plowed to make a living unless he has an ox.  And if he has an ox he'll have to muck out the stalls.  That's not a job to many people want to do, but that's the price to be paid if the farmer wants to get the work done.

Our ministries work the same way.  We can try to do it all by ourselves and keep the ministry nice and neat.  But we would accomplish a whole lot more for God if we let people help, even if ministry does get messy.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Abortion, the Greatest Crime in America

David Peterson © 2011
5788 soldiers have lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001.  This number pales in comparison to the 3300 children murdered through abortion every day in America.  Step into any elementary classroom and count the children in the class.  For every 20 children you see remember that there are five more who should have been there, they are not because they were aborted.  This tragedy needs to end now, but it can not end unless we stand up against this tragedy.  We can start by understanding what God's Word has to say about human life (Psalm 139:13-16, Job 10:8-9, Eccl 11:5) ,praying, and calling our elected official.  Lets end this tragedy.

Here are a list of other resources.
The Least of These: What Everyone Should Know About Abortion, Curt Young, Chicago: Moody Press, 1984
52 Simple Things You Can Do To Be Pro-Life, Anne Pierson and Carol Risser, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1990.

Websites: Caution some of these website contain very graphic images and video.
National Right to Life
Right to Life of Michigan
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Elephant That's Not in the Room

Humility is a subject that is difficult to talk about especially if you are speaking of your own humility.  We can often talk about someone else's humility, but if they're in the room you have an awkward situation in which they attempt to deny that they are as humble as you make them out to be.  Often, humility's best advocate is the display of humility.  So then how do we discuss humility.  Our best example is to be found in Jesus.  Philippians 2:8 tells us that "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  II Corinthians 8:9  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."  Jesus has set the example for us in humility, the question then becomes what am I willing to give up to share the gospel with a lost world.  My prayer for us is . . .


Change is About Loss and Grieving

 In the last article I spoke about the inevitability of change with balance.  Along with that change we must also consider loss.  As we move forward we will leave something behind and what we leave behind will result in loss.  The loss may be a specific program, music, or tradition which has meant a lot to members of the church as they have grown up through the ministry.  The loss may be a church building which the congregation has out grown.  Whatever the loss we need to allow for grieving.  So often we come up with phrases to shame people into the change without allowing for the grief, phrases such as "it's not about you", or "God is doing a new thing."  And with such phrases we shut down the emotions of those who need to grieve.  Grace in our leadership should always provide room for grief and a time to reflect and remember the past.  Grief and mourning will allow for acceptance of the new, acceptance will bring change with a joyful heart and the rhythm of life will continue.  May God grant us the ability to grieve and the ability to change as His plan for our lives unfolds before us.


Change is About Balance

Do you remember as a child playing on a see-saw.  There was always someone who would jump off while you were on the high side or shift the balance so that you were stuck up in the air. 

As we look at change in the church we need to be careful that we're not that kid.  We need to maintain a proper balance within our ministry even in the midst of change.  As leaders we have been evaluating necessary changes over a period of time, while others may not have had that luxury.  We need to give them time to catch up.  We also need to have the courage to implement change while maintaining a compassionate spirit towards those who are having a difficult time with change.  And, we need to maintain a proper scriptural balance as we change.  We often find it easier to go to extremes in one direction (or the other) than to find the center of biblical tension.  Change is inevitable, just look at the church 50, 100 or 2000 years ago.  We have changed and often that change has been bloody and dishonored God because balance was not maintained.  My prayer is that as we grow and change we will seek to honor God in our change by seeking His balance in the change.


Building Unity Out of the Differences

1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us that "even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ" (NASB).  In attempting to bring unity to the body of Christ we should take care not to destroy the uniqueness that is found in every person. Instead we should build up the body of Christ with these unique qualities, personalities, gifts, and talents which God designed in each of us so that we may fulfill the different functions within the church.

The implication to this concept could be fleshed out in many ways.  For example: in a small group ministry at a church the pastor could train leaders to facilitate small cell groups, provide them with resources for worship, teaching, fellowship, etc.  But instead of directy specifying what each small group would do each week the pastor would allow his small group leaders to decide based on the needs, desires, and gifts which each small group will look like. One group may have a good piano player and would like to spend more time singing praises to God and in prayer for the church, missions and each other.  Another group, lacking in vocal talent, might decide to forgo singing and spend more time studying God's word.  And yet a third group may have a strong desire to serve and chooses to spend time working in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.  All have fulfilled functions of the church in their own way.  The key to an effective ministry such as this will be an ongoing evaluation and reflection as the pastor and small group leaders meet for training, prayer, and fellowship on a regular basis.

While this is only one idea I believe that Unity and Uniqueness are not mutually exclusive ideas and we need to think creatively as we attempt to move forward with the mission of the church.  My prayer for us is that God would grant us the wisdom as we move forward day by day in His work  with Him for His glory.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How Lovely are the Feet of Him

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7

God could have chosen any method He desired to spread the Good News of salvation to the world.  He could have had angels announce the message to every person on earth instead of just the shepherds.  He could have announced the Good News by aligning the stars in the sky to clearly spell out the message so that all men would see and understand instead of just the Wise Men from the west.  He could have . . . well, you just imaging the most spectacular method and God could have done that and so much more.  Instead he chose you and me to communicate His message to the world.  But we are often hindered in His work by our own busy work, fear of building relationships, the sin in our lives, our unwillingness to pray just to name a few.  Instead of fear we need to step out with the confidence that the God who began a good work in us will perfect it (Phil 1:6) as we go out to spread His message to a lost and dying world.  Through prayer and intentional interaction with those in our sphere of influence we can begin to see the church grow in number and depth.  My pray for us is that God will grant us the courage to open up to others the message of salvation.


What is God "Wholehearted" About?

One day a Sunday school teacher asked her class "what is gray, fury, and has a long tail?"  Peter quickly raised his hand and shouted out "JESUS!".

What is God "wholehearted" about?  Redeeming a lost and sinful race is the first answer that comes to mind (John 3:16).  The King of the universe allowed his very own Son die a dreadful death on earth among the filth and the rabble all for the love of the people He had created.  If God would be willing to do all that, what are we willing to do to take His message of salvation to a lost world?

God is "wholehearted" about our growth.  The Holy Spirit indwells each believer to help us as we grow to become more Christ-like.  What paths are willing to go down to help other believers grow in their faith? (Gal 5:16)

God is "wholehearted" about His church.  The Holy Spirit gives gifts to each of us so that we may bring a common good to the Church in the work of the ministry she is to carry out. (I Cor 12:7).

My prayer for us is that we align our heart with God's as we seek to bring glory to His name.


The Work of the Holy Spirit

David Peterson © 2011
 A complete study of the Holy Spirit would require volumes, but that should not cause us to avoid studying His work in our life.  And as with any journey our study should start somewhere.  When we look at the life of the church in light of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives we can see that He provides gifts which allow us to work together, not for our own benefit, but for the "common good" (I Cor 12:7) of the church as they seek to minister the word of God.  The five roles of the church (Worship, Service, Body Care, Discipleship, Witness) are best served by those who are gifted to work in each area.  If we find that we as a body are missing some of these gifts we should ask the Father (I Cor 12:31) that He will move to provide these gifts so that  we might bring glory to His name as we carry on the work of the church.  My prayer for all of us is that our heavenly father would grant us the gifts within our church that we might worship Him, serve our community, care for each other, grow in faith, and carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Overlook Women in Ministry and Leadership

There are various views on women in leadership and ministry.  And no matter where you stand on these views there is one fact that we (men) would do well to remember: God created women in His image, the same image that He used to create men.  Not only that, but Jesus died on the cross to save men and women from their sins.  He loves all of us the same.  That being said, I do see strong evidence in the Bible (1 Tim 2:12-14, Eph 5:22-24) for male leadership of the church (not necessarily the para-church).  The sad part is that often women feel they have to step up and take charge because men are shirking their duty and refusing to do the work which God has set aside for them.  Men, to you I say that we should stand up and be counted among the faithful who are willing to carry out God's plan for His Church.

But what then is the role of women in the Church?  Can a women be on the Christian Education Board, the Trustee Board, assist in the planning committee for a new church plant? Yes they can  and much more.  Women have talents, abilities and insight that complement that of the men.  Their wisdom is just as wise as any man's when exercised with the grace of God.  Women can serve in more areas than they are often allowed.  I believe the only area which God has placed off limits is where they become the spiritual authority over men in leading the church and teaching men (as opposed to boys - age to be determined).

I believe I have just scratched the surface of this conversation, and would love your input so feel free to comment.  May God grant us the grace to love each other and love Him.


After some discussion with other brothers and sisters in Christ I decided to add a bit to this blog.

I would like to make one thing very clear before I begin this discussion on women in the Church. The issues I will be discussing are of secondary importance when we consider them in the light of the salvation message. I believe we will be glorifying God together in heaven with other who old a different opinion on this matter.

The key scripture verse we need to consider when dealing with women in leadership roles in the church is found in 1 Timothy 3:9-15. In this section of scripture Paul is dealing with the issue of women in the church on several fronts. The first is in the area of dress. Paul in vs 9 speaks of a woman dressing modestly and discreetly, not using gold jewelery made of gold to dress us her hair. Vs 10 goes on to qualify this state addressing the positive and more specificly addressing character: a woman is to adorn herself with good works which are proper for a woman to be doing. While there is a undertone of cultural issues in play, I believe Paul is speaking to an issue at the time which was more character based. 

Verse 11 becomes a little more problematic as we see hear Paul stating that women should be quite and receive instruction. The idea of being quite has been hotly debated and I think I understand the idea better when I remember a story told in my family. Often when my Grandfather and Grand mother were out with friends my Grandmother would begin to talk to much and begin to gossip. My Grandfather would simply look at her and in front of every one gently say “Alida be quite.” My Grandfather was not saying that she could not speak, just that she was going to far. So is Paul then addressing a problem of gossiping women in this passage, or women who were speaking out of turn. To be fair, this is not just a problem for women, men can do the same thing. So in verse 11 we seem to have Paul addressing a situation. 

Verse 12 and 13 gets to the heart of the matter for this discussion. Paul clear states here that he does “not allow a woman to teach or have authority over men.” As we look back at vs 9-10 Paul seemed to be addressing an issue of character, in vs 11 Paul was addressing an issue of sin (gossiping). Both these issues were being played out within a time and culture But here in vs 12-13 Paul adds a phrase which should cause us to pause. “13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” Paul has taken us beyond time and culture with this thought. He has transported us to a time when God's creation was perfect, and he points to the order of creation as his underlying warrant for addressing the position of leadership in the church. Paul is not addressing ability, quality, or desire, rather he is addressing a God ordained order from the foundation of the world. And while I do not fully understand God's reason for this choice my response should be “Yes God.” While there are other passages which should be considered at this point I will hold off for now. Two reasons: Time. I just don't have enough time to work on them. Second. The other passages do not deal directly with women and the church and are either supporting scripture secondary to the issue, or are historical narratives which are normative in nature due to the genre of the writing.

Fifty Trillion and DOA.

As the doctor entered the waiting room he was visibly upset and bearing bad news. Facing the family and in his most professional voice he said "Joe is dead." "But how can he be dead?" Joe's oldest son asked with a quiver in his voice "He's got 50 trillion cells in his body."

Go to any pastor's conference and one of the most common questions you will here is "So, how many people are in your church." But is this the real measure of the life of a church or is there some other method we should use to evaluate what God is doing.  Maybe we should begin to look at the vital organs and see if they are functioning properly.  For the church Robertson McQuikin outlines these organs as worship, making disciples, body care, compassionate service, and evangelism (both near and far). As we evaluate the depth to which our churches are growing and participating in these five areas of ministry we will begin to get a better look into the health of our ministry.  And while we are applying these to the church in general, we can also apply them to ourselves.  So how are you doing, are you growing in Christ, are you healthy or are your 50 trillion cells in your body DOA.  May our Lord and Savior grant us the wisdom to properly diagnose our own health and grow in Christ likeness as we see the need for Him to grow deeper into our lives.


Time to Take a Break!

I just needed to take a break and thought you might enjoy this video of David Pendleton.  Hope you can use it in your ministry.



Are You Asking a Lot of Good Questions?

What would you do if a new visitor to the church asked to meet you for lunch at the local bar to discuss your latest sermon.  Or maybe a you found out a deacon in your church likes a beer during the Sunday afternoon football game.  What about the new heavy metal alternative rap Christian music band that just hit the scene that all your youth are listening to?

As we proceed through life we will encounter different people, events and circumstances.  These encounters will often challenge us and our thinking about what we know to be true.  When that happens we will need to ask good questions to determine the best course of action.  By defining the basic idea, gathering biblical data, and reflecting on the data we can begin to come to a conclusion for the proper direction we should take.

The first step in the process of asking questions is to define the problem or situation.  What are the basic ideas in question, what are the definitions we and other have regarding the issue.  Take time to thoroughly investigate so that you are clear on what idea you are truly trying to resolve. The second step is to gather data from the Bible using key biblical passages, words and ideas. Once we have located the essential passages we need to study to determine whether they require, prohibit, or give general principles which will apply to the ideas we have defined in the first step. The last step is to reflect on what you have learned in light of the people, events and circumstances you find yourself in and to determine what action you should or should not take based on your studies. Once you are finished asking all the questions be ready to start all over again.  As we can never fully learn everything, we must always be asking questions to continually align our perspective with Gods. 

My prayer for all of us is that we would be willing to allow God to teach us continually through His word and that we would always be willing to revisit the questions of the past in seeking God's will for our lives.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Past, Present and Future

Do you manage your time well? Do you spend to much time dwelling on the past or looking towards tomorrow? The past is gone, never to be retrieved, relived, only remembered. But there is some good that can come from the past. After Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River twelve men, at Joshua's command, went back into the river bed and collected twelve large stones and set up a memorial on the shore. Joshua had a purpose for these stones, they were to be a memorial so that when the son's and daughter of Israel saw them they would remember the day that the Lord brought them into the promised land by parting the waters of the Jordan (Joshua 4:1-7). The future is what we look forward to when we will see Jesus face to face in His city, the future is the hope that is within us (2 Timothy 4:8).

The present is where we live, the here, the now. We must take advantage of this time, but taking advantage does not always mean another meeting, teaching, or ministry opportunity. Some times we need to take advantage of the time to meditate on God's word, to seek and enjoy Him. In the past this has been called the sabbath. The first record of a sabbath was God's resting on the after the six days of creation as an example for us. We are commanded to keep the sabbath in the Ten Commandments (#4). Jesus clarified what keeping the sabbath could mean when he allowed his disciples to pick grain, and when he healed. The pharisees where angered, Jesus was not keeping the sabbath according to their rules (Mt. 12:1-14; Mk. 2:23-28; Lk. 6:1-11). Jesus told us that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27) So are you taking time to refresh, recharge, spending joyful time praising, worshiping, meditating the One who loves you. My prayer for us is that God will develop in us a desire to take a sabbath rest that we might be better prepared for all that God has planed for us the other six days. 


Friday, January 14, 2011

Withstanding Hardship and Adversity

Greg Lamond - 1989
One of the most amazing races in the world is the Tour de France. In the spring of each year cyclists from all over the world descend upon France to compete in a ride that takes place over 21 days and covers 3,471 miles. Each days ride in itself is a test of endurance whether they are traversing the difficult terrain of the Alps or riding at 35 MPH for an extended period of time in a time trial. The ability of these men to endure for 21 days is just amazing. So how do they endure? Training, training and more training. This is not just a one time event, but they prepare throughout the year and compete in other events.

For the Christian endurance is the ability to withstand hardship or adversity as we seek to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in a world that is hostile to His message (John 7:7). James states very clearly how we are to prepare and ultimately endure with all joy as our faith is tested through various trials (James 1:2-3). We often see the difficulties in our life as punishment for our sins, an inconvenience to our daily lives, someone else's problems that we got stuck with. In reality what we have is the opportunity to exercise our faith muscles as the Father prepares us for the difficult ride ahead of us. The result of our endurance training is that we will be made perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3). Does this mean that we will be perfect before we die? No, but we should be continually growing to be more like our Savior until we meet Him in heaven. Pray then that these trails would not be taken away, but that our faith would grow though them as we are tested in our faith and we will learn to endure until the Day of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leading in the Darkness

David Peterson (C) 2010
I recently had the pleasure of taking a father and his two sons on a backpacking trip into the Huron National Forest. We arrived at the trail head at 10:30 pm and had a one hour hike to the first camp site. With just our flash lights to illuminate the trail in front of us (Psalms 119:105) we headed out into the dark pinewood forest. Had I not hiked this area the previous year this could have been a recipe for disaster. We lead best when we are familiar with the landscape before us. As Christian leaders do we practice the disciplines of the Christian faith (in the word daily, intercession, fasting, witnessing, etc.)? Are the fruits of the Spirit evident in our lives? Before we can effectively lead others we must be traversing the terrain that God has set before us. Paul boldly stated in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul was by no means perfect and his ministry encountered problems along the way (Acts 15:36-40), yet Christ had called and empowered Paul for good works (Eph 2:10). We do not have to be perfect in regards to the spiritual disciplines, nor can we expect that the fruits of the Spirit will always be ripe on the tree, but we can be confident in saying to others “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” if we are, in the power of the Holy Spirit, practicing the spiritual disciplines, seeking to grow the good fruit of the Spirit.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thirty Seconds to the Ultimate Answer

Subtitle: Thoughts from an Article: “Leadership Seeks Essential Perspective” by Dr. Roy King.

David Peterson (C) 2010
How would you answer the question “what is the Christian life all about?” in thirty seconds. When I've contemplated this question in the past many ideas and thoughts came to mind and all of them fell short of an eternal perspective. In an article by Dr. King he points out three elements that sum up what life should be for Christians: faith, hope and love. Do you have faith to move forward in your ministry knowing that the Holy Spirit will empower you to do the will of God. If not maybe you are experiencing fear. Fear of rejection, failure, or people could be crippling your ministry (Heb 11:1-40 , Rom 4:1-25). What of hope, are you willing to sacrifice short term relief for long term benefits. The marathon runner paces himself for a 26 mile run because of hope that all his training will carry him to the end. Only in despair does the runner give up as the difficult miles drag on. Our hope is in the God who can do all things. We need to learn not to despair, but continue to hope (Rom 15:1-33, 1 Cor 15:1-58). There are various kinds of love in the Greek language: Eros (sexual love), philia (brotherly love), and agape (love by choice). While all three are appropriate within the bounds set by God; agape love is the love we should desire the most. This is the love that gives willingly. The opposite of agape love is lust.  Lust takes for itself without thought of others (1 Cor 13:1-13, 1 John 1:1-5:21). So what is your eternal perspective? May God lead us all to faith, hope and love as we strive to lead and serve others.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Leading The Great Diversity Found in A Small Fellowship

Subtitle: Thoughts from an article: “Biblical Foundation of Leadership” by Dr. Roy King

A wonderful aspects of being one of the leaders in a small fellowship of believers is the opportunity to interact with many different cultures. Now you may be asking yourself how many cultures can be represented so well in a small congregation. Don't we need large churches to experience a great diversity. Not always. During one Sunday morning worship service in my small church in St Clair Shores Michigan I interact with men and women, young and old (and the in between), German, Benin Africa, and people from many different economic strata (our church has less than 150 members).

Within this great diversity I have the opportunity each week to help young children memorize God's word. This interaction lets me into their world as we joke around, discuss the meaning of God's word, how it applies to their lives and I learn about their hurts and joys. I also have a great relationship with a man who grew up in Benin, Africa. Simone has become a good friend and I enjoy learning about life from the perspective of someone from another culture. As we share and discuss what we are learning in our Bible studies I find my eyes being opened to a new dynamic as I listen to biblical application from a different point of view. My relationship with the elderly of our church helps me better understand what growing old is like and gives me insight into the joys and wows from a those who have gone before me.

Leading in this diverse culture has many challenges. The question then becomes: am I prepared, as one of the leader within the body, to meet the needs of all the different groups, help transition the flock from one stage of life to another, help people from the American culture understand someone from Benin, teach the Bible in a dynamic, relevant, life changing way so that everyone grows in Christ. This is what God has been teaching me and what I hope to continue to learn as I grown in Christ. I often feel as though I've come a long way and the more I grow the more I see my great need for God's grace and mercy in my personal life and in my ministry. So what has God been teaching me: small is good, and even if you find yourself in a mega-church you can still surround yourself with a small fellowship of people whom you can lead, love and grow with in Christ. My pray then would be that God would grow each of our ministries (not necessarily in size) but in Christ likeness that we may have more leaders of small fellowships who produce more leaders . . . well, you get the idea.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Foundational Principles for a Biblical Church Ministry (The Five Smooth Stones)

For those who are looking to add life, vitality and a solid biblical foundation to their ministry Robertson McQuilkin has hit the proverbial home run with The Five Smooths Stones.  While the principles will apply to many aspects of everyone's life and can be a great resource for lay persons, McQuilkin has targeted the book to those who are leading the local church.  I would like to interject one caution; for those who are comfortable where they are with God this book might cause a bit of discomfort.  They say the best antiseptic is sun light and McQuilkin uses a lot of Son light to establish the principles in The Five Smooths Stone which will bring life to any church.

With the authority of the Bible (Stone #1) as the foundation McQuilkin describes the other four stones: The Church, The Holy Spirit, The Plan of Redemption and The Lordship of Christ.  The church (Stone #2) is presented as God's vehicle for transforming the world as they move forward with the Gospel message through worship, disciple making, caring for members and the welfare of the community.  Stone #3 is the Holy Spirit and His work in the life of the believers through spiritual gifts and prayer.  With the the plan of redemption (Stone #4) we venture forth into a discussion of missions and God's plan to reach the world both “near” and “far” through the local church. The fifth stone explores leadership under the lordship of Christ with a stern warning for leaders to lead as Christ did and not lording their authority over the congregation.

While this appears to be another how-to-book for ministry McQuilkin does take time in chapter 19 to discuss what change should look like and the pitfalls of a change that is handled in an un-Christ like manner (pg 192-193).  McQuilkin is not advocating a new method of doing ministry, but helping others to see how they can put into practice biblical principles for ministry and leadership.

I would highly recommend The Five Smooth Stones to anyone looking to refresh their spirit, who is seeking direction in their ministry, or just wants to see what God has to offer in His Word concerning our life in Him.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Emotionally Healthy Church

In The Emotionally Healthy Church Peter Scazzero has brought to light principles concerning emotional health and spiritual maturity that have long been forgotten by many in the evangelical church in America. The thesis of his book is "emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable" (pg 10). We often hear Christians talk about aspects of spiritual maturity such as Bible memorization, scripture reading, prayer, church attendance (just to name a few), but our emotional health is often neglected. We over work ourselves attempting to accomplish more than is humanly possible, we neglect our families, and even ourselves. Our excuse is that the ministry of God is important, more important that everything else. But everything else may also be our ministry. Pastor Scazzero demonstrates out of his weakness the truth of his journey to emotional health and spiritual maturity and provides a guide for us in the process. Pastor Scazzero's words spoke volumes to me as I recalled my own failings in ministry. When I realized that "The Gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope because Jesus lived and died in your place" (pg 83) I found a freedom to serve in my weakness instead of strength. The Lord, through Pastor Scazzero and The Emotionally Healthy Church, can lead you down a path in ministry which I believe could bring about a "Copernican revolution" (pg 52) in your ministry. I hope, as I begin to implement the principles espoused in the book, to see a change in my ministry.


What I Want You To Know About Me As A Leader

I have found myself in various leadership positions throughout the years.  In high school I was a student leader in charge of the schools main frame computer system for a quarter.  As a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force I was in charge of several junior enlisted members.  But the toughest leadership role I ever found myself in was as a youth pastor.  Leading in a church environment was very different from my high school and military experience.  Leading people who have to follow you is much easier than leading those who choose to follow.  Those who choose to follow can also choose not to follow if they so desire.

My experience as a youth pastor was a mixed blessing.  There were very good moment and several not so great time.  I loved the youth I worked with, the ministry we engaged in, the short term mission trips, seeing many of the students grow in their faith.  On the other hand, the comparison with the previous youth pastor, conflicting comments and ideas from others about how the ministry should run, the difference of opinion between myself and the senior pastor about what youth ministry should look like were difficult to bear and soon brought and end to my ministry.

I have learned along the way what a leader must be, but I feel that I have a long way to go as I journey forward in God's plan for my life.  I hope through my class in Biblical Leadership at Columbia International University to develop a grid on which I can place principles and practices of leadership as I grow in God's grace.  May God's glory show through my weakness as I venture forth in leadership for Him.


Saddle Up

Welcome to Agape Notes.

This latest dispatch of blogs is being undertaken as part of a class I am talking at Columbia International University on Christian leadership and will lend (at least for now) some direction to Agape Notes. I hope you enjoy these posts. Feel free to comment on any of the posts and keep reading and come back often to see what is happening as we journey on this leadership adventure together.

Let me take a moment to fill you in on the title of this post. "Saddle up" was a phrase first spoken by Sgt John Striker (John Wayne) in the movie Sands of Iwo Jima. With some hard nosed tactics and a little creativity the Duke leads a squad of men through training and into battle in one of the most difficult conflicts of the South Pacific during WWII. Many dislike him at first, but when Sgt Striker dies near the end of the film his men find a letter in his pocket addressed to his son. The letter puts in writing what Sgt Striker could never say in words. With a better understanding of Sgt Striker, the man who resented him most sees the compassion which was in Sgt Striker and takes up the battle cry leading the squad to their next confontation with the words "Saddle Up."

While some aspects of Sgt Striker's leadership style may leave something to be desired, he did get one thing right, he led by example. I have found myself in many leadership roles through out the years and I have made many (too many) mistakes. I hope, through this course, to develop a more biblically centered leadership style where I can say as Paul did "follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

One of my other favorite leadership qualities I have adopted is exemplified in the movie White Christmas. Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), when remembering the greatness of Major General Thomas F. Waverly, commented "We ate, then he ate. We slept, the he slept." I've never forgotten this phrase and have made a practice of this quality when I find myself in a position of leadership. I am reminded through the exercise of this quality to consider other better than myself (Philippians 2:3), and to be a servant leader (John 13:5).

I am looking forward to this class and learning from all of you as we march down this path together in our desire to be Christ followers and servant leaders in Christ's church and ministry, so saddle up!


Saturday, January 1, 2011


I like to build with wood. While working on a project today I had to cut a piece of wood to fit in an irregular spot. No amount of measuring could get me the exact numbers to cut the wood to the correct dimensions the first time. So I slowly cut and sanded away at the wood creeping up on it until I finally got the right fit. The process took several hours and a lot of fitting, refitting, cutting and sanding to achieve the final result.

Robertson McQuilkin, in his book The Five Smooth Stones (chapter 10), speaks of a similar trial and error process as we work to discover our spiritual gifts. As I read the Bible I can find several lists of spiritual gifts, but no formula, no ruler for determining or measuring spiritual giftedness. In Psalm 37:4 the psalmist reminds us "Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart." Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:31a "But earnestly desire the greater gifts." Ultimately, our desire should be for God and the work He is doing in the world. As we enter into a new year let us challenge ourselves to pray for God's gifts and earnestly desire the greater gifts that we might do great and might works for God and bring glory to His name.

We can be sure that as God leads us He will give us the gifts necessary to carry out His tasks, His plan of redemption "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).