April 15, 2014 Leave a comment
If you have ever wondered how the stone sealing the entrance of Jesus’ tomb could be rolled away, watch this. It will probably make more sense afterwards.
A FellowTraveler in God’s Kingdom
April 9, 2014 2 Comments
Four videos, four Scripture readings and three sermons intended to lead you to the cross of Jesus. You are welcome to use these as you prepare for Holy Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
Stop ONE: The GARDEN of GETHSEMANE
Stop TWO: The MOUNT of OLIVES
Stop THREE: CAIAPHAS’ HEADQUARTERS
Stop FOUR: GOLGOTHA, the PLACE of the SKULL
A Scripture reading from Mark 15:33-39.
March 26, 2014 Leave a comment
While in seminary, I was given a book written by Dr. Paul Powell, former pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX. The book was called “Shepherding the Sheep in the Smaller Church.” There was a little hidden gem in the back of the book that I have never forgotten.
Dr. Powell encouraged anyone shepherding a smaller (or any size) church to do things that didn’t need a vote. He encouraged pastors and ministers to do the little things that didn’t need money or permission to be done. Little things that as a pastor no one could say yes or no to like starting a small group in your home or visiting shut-ins.
Over the years in ministry I keep going back to that little mantra – “do things that don’t need a vote.” I have added a few other suggestions to my list like…
1. Send hand-written thank you notes. Those still catch a surprised and grateful eye.
2. Send small group leaders a mid-week encouragement email as they are studying for Sunday. Their study and teaching preparation is as important as yours. Don’t you love it when someone writes/calls and says “I’m praying for you as prepare.” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It goes a long way.
3. Personally invite people to come to your church. Invite your friends. Invite your family. For me, I invite my students all the time. When you brings guests, it encourages others to do the same.
4. When preaching, communicate vision and direction in where you see the Lord moving. Tell your people what you see happening. While the church newsletter or blog is fine to share vision dates and details, your “face-time” on Sunday morning should be used wisely in casting the direction. You only have their undivided attention for the first 5 minutes of the message, make it count in moving the ship forward.
5. Pray for people who come to the altar by laying on hands. If you believe in the power of prayer (as I do), encourage your people by praying over them. If possible, invite some others to join you in praying for their needs. There is nothing more unifying and humbling.
6. Walk the isles before worship and spend time with your people. Dr. Ken Hemphill called the 10 minutes before worship the 10 most important minutes in ministry. Don’t seal yourself off in your office or “green room.” Be among your sheep. Talk with them. Visit with them. Sit down and pray for them if they ask you to. Trust me, they all know you are thinking about the sermon and the service, but you have been called to be their “pastor”, not their professional Bible teacher or speaker. A pastor spends time among their sheep.
I could go on and on.
I feel like church leaders, especially in smaller or mid-sized churches, feel as if they have limited authority in leadership. While there might be policies and procedures in place for spending larger amounts of money or specific steps to take in securing prime real estate on the church calendar, there is much ministry that can be done without any red tape.
Spend your energies doing those little things that don’t need a vote and you will find greater success in your overall ministry leadership.
March 17, 2014 Leave a comment
It was just a passing comment from our tour guide Andy while teaching on Mt. Arbel overlooking the region of Galilee. As we looked down on the valley floor below, our eyes rested on the fertile fields of west Galilee or the Jewish region. Then he directed our eyes to east Galilee, on the other side of the lake, where he explained lived a majority of Greek Gentile pagans in the time of Jesus.
One side of the lake was primarily Jewish settlers; the other side was primarily Greek Gentiles or pagans.
He kept saying “pagans,” “pagans,” “pagans.” And it hit me, all Gentiles were pagan idolaters. All of them.
Every time the phrase “Gentile” is used in the Old or New Testaments, it is referring to someone who was not monotheistic, but someone who worshiped false gods. It is meant to describe someone who bowed down in pagan temples, who sacrificed in the name of idols. Every single time the word is used, it is meant to tell you something specific about the religious practices of that person. A Gentile is a pagan. Only the Jews, and later the Christians, were monotheistic in the biblical narratives; every body else was a pagan idol worshiper.
Our American, 21st century understanding of the term “Gentile” is neutered of its biblical meaning. Today we hear it simply as a non-Jewish person and that’s about it. We do not attach any additional meaning to the term. We see the Apostle Paul as sent by God to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles and in our minds those Gentiles were basically non-Jewish unbelievers living in the Ancient Near East.
But they were much more than that. They were worshipers of others gods, other idols. They worshiped Greek gods, Roman gods, mythical gods, ancient Egyptian gods. They worshiped Roman Emperors as gods in human flesh. They worshiped statues crafted by human hands, images standing in great temples. They were pagans through and through.
In summary a Gentile in the Bible is a pagan and a pagan in the Bible is a Gentile. This basic truth has peeled back a layer of blindness from my eyes and uncovered how my postmodern mind has inserted atheism and agnosticism into the world of the Bible. But those worldviews are simply not there. Either you worshiped the one true God or you worshiped pagan gods. There was no other option – Jew or Gentile.
This truth may be obvious to everyone else, but it was a breakthrough for me.
March 15, 2014 Leave a comment
Over the past days, I made my second pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan. I entered the state of Israel for the first time back in 2010 and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2011. Both earlier trips were huge in shaping my passionate love for Jesus, the Holy Bible and the lands in which God’s presence has dwelled throughout both the Old and New Testament.
Another trip to Turkey and Greece in 2012 set this flame ablaze again as we journeyed through the Book of Acts, into Paul’s letters and to all 7 Churches of the Revelation. I snapped more pictures on those trips than I could ever look at.
For all three of these journeys I have been primarily a tourist. There is nothing wrong with being a tourist. A tourist takes a lot of pictures. A tourist needs to see the ancient sites with their own human eyes to supply their imagination with visual images and landscapes.
A tourist on these kind of trips is like a baby getting to eat ice cream for the first time – they are not sure what it is, but it is sweet and cold and wonderfully good and they can’t seem to eat it fast enough. A tourist arrives at one site and is so excited about what they see, they anxiously rush to the next, and to the next, and to the next to keep getting their fix. I love being a tourist; there is nothing quite like it.
For this trip, however, I was no longer a tourist. I became a pilgrim. A pilgrim moves slower. A pilgrim is calmer. A pilgrim takes pleasure in seeing the giddiness of the tourist, but doesn’t have to feast at the buffet line of experience. A pilgrim selects 2 or 3 things and relishes in their goodness, their completeness, at a deeper level.
The pilgrim’s journal is filled to the brim but their camera SD card…not so much.
This time I was a more of a pilgrim and less of a tourist. And I liked that fact very much. I moved at a different speed. I sat down at the sites. The texture of the trip for me wasn’t like an over-excited, crazy-wild Jack Russell Terrier, it was more like a solemn owl nestled atop of branch overlooking the beautiful forest.
What is a Pilgrim?
P – Pauses often to breathe and truly see.
I – Is in the moment, not the traffic.
L – Lingers in silence.
G – Grateful for pictures that others take because the camera sometimes doesn’t come out.
R – Reads, writes and reflects a lot.
I – Itinerary is not even on the radar.
M – Measures the experience not in days, stops, sites, or miles traveled, but in meaningful encounters with God, with His Word, and with others.
There was a simplicity to the study and depth of the trip. My eyes were filled but more so my heart. I love being a tourist, but being a pilgrim in the Holy Land is far more gratifying. I hope I can continue growing as a pilgrim.