Why is the Churched Organized Like it is?

One of the things that has always confused me is why Baptists have organized their churches as they have. I have served in and been a part of several churches in my life, and asked multiple pastors over the years why the church is structured as it is, and instead of getting the answer “Because we have studied the Bible and this is what we believe it teaches,” I’ve heard things like: “Well, it’s not perfect, but it is what it is,” or “I’d love to make changes, but our church is too entrenched in its current system to change,” and even “I’m not sure why we are governed like we are.” None of these answers are acceptable to me. As a pastor, when asked why we do what we do, I always want to be able to genuinely say, “Because we have studied the Word of God, and this is what we believe it teaches.”

The Scripture is clear, there are two offices in the church: elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). In nearly every instance where elders are mentioned in the Scripture, it’s always in the plural. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, the Scripture seems to be clear that shared leadership is God’s design. Yes, there always appears to be a leader emerge among equals as the spokesman (e.g. Moses, Peter, Timothy, Titus), but when it comes to burden and responsibilities of shepherding, there is equality in calling, qualifications, authority, and responsibility.

For nearly two years, I have studied the subject of church leadership/government with twenty men in our church. We studied the Scripture, read multiple books/articles, looked at Baptist history, interviewed pastors and church leaders, prayed, and sought the Lord. The result of our work led to the creation of a twenty-six page booklet that we have called, Rediscovering Church Leadership: A Biblical and Historical Overview. What we discovered is that a plurality of pastoral leadership is biblical, Baptist, and ultimately best for the church. A definition we have grown to love and embrace is that:

A biblical, New Testament church is ruled by Jesus Christ, governed by the congregation, led by a plurality of elders, and served by a plurality of deacons. 

Lord willing, we are seeking to make this transition at FBC Newcastle. Fortunately I serve a church that has a high view of Scripture and truly cares about doing what God has said…so, thus far, our people have responded with great maturity and wisdom (you know Baptists don’t like change :-)). We are going very slow in this transition process though and will walk through this unified, and the result, I pray, is one that will bring great glory to God and allow us to better shepherd all the people God brings to us.

Below is a link to our booklet and a sermon I recently preached. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

BOOKLET LINK:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.cloversites.com/31/316b8d1d-8b04-428c-bbe1-3ff2a39d5d0d/documents/FBCN_Elder_Book.pdf

SERMON LINK:
http://player.subsplash.com/41fcb81

When God Doesn’t Remove the Thorn

The Apostle Paul is largely known as the most influential Christian of all time. Next to the Lord Jesus Christ, no one has had greater impact on the Kingdom of God. Paul hated and was a persecutor of Christians early in his life, but was radically transformed by Jesus Christ, turning him into the one of the greatest Christ-followers the world has ever known. His life and testimony are incredible examples for all believers.

As impacting as the Apostle Paul was, he did not have an easy life. The Bible and church history tells us that he suffered greatly for his Lord, and ended up dying a horrific martyr’s death. One of the most incredible lessons we learn from Paul is how to be faithful in the midst of suffering. Paul was uniquely blessed by the Lord to receive divine revelation from God, but to keep Paul from becoming conceited and proud, the Lord gave him a “thorn in his flesh.” This was a figurative expression reflecting that God put something in Paul’s life that made him dependent on God for strength. 2 Corinthians 12:7 says, “…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.”

There has been great speculation as to what this “thorn” was. Some have speculated that it may have been something physical, like trouble with his vision. Some have stated that it may have been a spiritual problem, or an emotional problem. Whatever the thorn was, it was extremely troublesome to Paul. It was such a problem to him that the Scripture says, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” But, the Apostle Paul’s answer from the Lord was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, God was not going to remove the thorn, but would teach Paul how to trust Him with the thorn.

As I have reflected on Paul’s circumstances, I have learned much from his situation. So often, God does not remove hard things in our lives, but chooses to leave them, in order for us to truly trust Him. Here are three principles necessary for living when God doesn’t remove the thorns in our lives.

First, God’s grace gives endurance, but we must rely on Him!

Much of the Christian life comes down to sheer endurance. God often likes to test us before He uses us. As I heard a preacher say one time, “God never uses anyone mightily that He doesn’t test thoroughly.” Paul was being tested. His situation was not about having faith in God to remove the thorn, but having faith in God, even if He didn’t remove the thorn. God may not always remove the trials in our lives, but He will give us what we need to endure them. We simply must rely on Him. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient, for My power is perfected in weakness.” God may test us, but He never leaves us empty handed. As the above Scripture says, “His grace is sufficient.” If you want to be used by God, which is the desire of every true Christian, prepare to be tested. God wants us to rely on Him and fully trust in Him, even if things do not go how we want or plan. But, we must always remember James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Christians may suffer in this life, but as we endure and rely on the Lord, one day it will all be worth it.

Second, God’s power gives strength, but we must yield to Him!

Jesus said to Paul, “…My power is perfected in weakness.” God’s grace is sufficient for us, but His power is also available to us. God does not just provide what we need to endure, but also what we need to overcome. It is in our weakness that God’s strength is made strong. This is why Paul was able to say, “…I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” There is a certain freedom when a Christian realizes they have no power in themselves. But, a Christian must then yield to the Lord in order to have the necessary power to overcome the trials in their life. James, the half brother of Jesus said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” God’s power is greater than anything we will ever face, and all He asks us to do is yield to Him. When we boast in our weaknesses, His power rests on us and works through us!

Third, God’s presence gives peace, but we must glory in Him!

Paul says that he endures what he endures for the sake of Christ. His ultimate desire was to glorify God. He even went so far to say that he boasts in his weaknesses so that Christ might get the glory through his life. Paul took no pleasure in the pain itself, but rejoiced and received peace knowing that God received glory through his suffering. God loves to display His glory and strength through our weakness, because it is then that He gets immense glory, the glory He alone deserves. We must learn and remember that it is not the absence of problems that brings peace, but rather, the presence of God. When God doesn’t remove the thorns in our lives, He still provides Himself in the midst of our pain, and He is enough.

As Christians, we must rely on Him, yield to Him, and glory in Him. Then we will have the endurance, strength, and peace we desperately need when God doesn’t remove the thorns in our lives!

The Blessing of Suffering

A word that everyone likes to hear is the word blessing. In fact, I do not know of anyone who does not like to be blessed in some way. Christians especially love to use the word blessing. I often hear things like, “I am so blessed,” “What a blessing,” or “God has really blessed me.” While all of these things might be true, I often wonder if we misuse and misunderstand what it really means to be blessed.

For many, blessing is often associated with receiving something that benefits them. Generally, people associate the blessing of God in their lives with certain answers to prayer, or specific provision in their life. People will pray for things such as a job, the birth of a healthy child, or for their cancer not to return, and when those things happen, they declare, “God is good. He has blessed me.” I would contend that in those instances, God is good and He has blessed you, but is getting what we want, or what we pray for on this earth, the truest definition of what it means to be blessed? I think there is a deeper meaning and understanding to the blessing and goodness of God.

Think of it from this perspective: the next time you pray for something, or ask God for something, and it does not happen the way you prayed, what will you declare? When you do not get the job, when your child is not born healthy, or when your cancer returns, will you declare that God is good and that He has blessed you? It is not often that people declare with great boldness and joy the blessing and goodness of God in their suffering or trial. We say things and sing things like “God is good all the time and all the time God is good,” but when things do not go like we want or expect, we are not quick to make such a declaration. Could it be there is actually blessing in suffering? Could it be that we discover the goodness of God in a much deeper way in the midst of suffering instead of in spite of it? I think the answer is yes! The Bible teaches that suffering is indeed a blessing from God.

1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” There is an invaluable blessing, which is gained through our trials. One blessing gained is that our faith is tried and proved. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “The way to try whether a ship is well built is, not merely to order the surveyor to examine her, but to send her to sea: a storm will be the best test of her staunchness.” It is one of the great mercies of God to have your salvation proved to you under trial. Trials prove the genuineness of our faith, and as we remain true to God under trial, we can be sure that our relationship with Him is not mere profession, but real consecration.

Christians in every age of time have always seen the blessing of suffering. They knew that when they suffered for Christ, they were in a way becoming like Him. The early Christians are recorded as being arrested and beaten for their boldness in preaching the Gospel, and after they were beaten, the Bible says they went home praising God because they “counted it an honor” to suffer for their Lord. The Apostle Paul declared that he wanted to know Christ through the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. The Apostle Peter said that we should not be surprised by trials, but should welcome them with joy, knowing that as we share in Christ’s suffering on earth, we will also share in His glory in Heaven. These, and countless others, saw suffering as blessing. They knew they were not storing up treasure on earth, but rather treasure in heaven. They had the right perspective and knew the deeper meaning of blessing.

As you think about the blessings in your life, do you only count the things you can see? Do you measure your blessings based on the things that benefit you? I am convinced that it is time we start seeing suffering as a blessing. It is time we show the world that real faith is not trusting God when He gives you what you want, but trusting Him even when He doesn’t. There is tremendous blessing in suffering, for when we suffer, we discover the goodness of God and genuineness of our faith. Rejoice in those realities!

Suffering: The Servant of our Joy

I recently read something very encouraging from pastor/author Tim Keller, he writes this:
“Years ago I had a terrible nightmare. In my nightmare, every member of my family was killed in terrible fashion. I woke up at 3am panting from the nightmare. It was if I had lost my family and awakened to discover I had them back. I wanted to wake them all up and hug them. I loved them before the nightmare, but not like I did after the nightmare. That nightmare taught me something valuable, and it was this: the joy of finding them wasn’t a joy in spite of the nightmare, but a joy enhanced by the nightmare. Because of the nightmare, my joy was intensified. The nightmare was taken up into the joy of having them back. The nightmare actually punctuated my joy!”

Keller went on to say, “If heaven is a compensation for all the stuff we wanted that never had, that is one thing. But if the New Heaven and New Earth is our hope-and it is-it will make everything horrible we’ve experienced nothing but a nightmare. And as a nightmare, it will infinitely, correspondingly increase our future joy and glory in a way it wouldn’t have been increased if we’d never suffered.”

Keller concluded by saying, “To say that our suffering is an illusion or to say we will be compensated for our suffering is one thing. But to say that the suffering we experience now will one day be a servant of our joy does not just compensate for it, it undoes it! As the Apostle Paul said, ‘Our light and momentary afflictions ARE ACHIEVING/PRODUCING for us an eternal glory that FAR OUTWEIGHS them all.’ There has never been an understanding of suffering that was more hopeful or encouraging.”

Isn’t that encouraging my friends? The evil, pain, and suffering (nightmares) that hurts us now will be the eventual servant of our joy and glory eternally! Pain never gets the final word on believers…God gets the final word! As the Scripture says, “Death is swallowed up in victory!” Beloved, enjoy the hope that our suffering is going to be engulfed, swallowed up. The evil that hurts us now will be the eventual servant of our joy and glory eternally! PRAISE BE UNTO GOD!!!

For many, like me and my family, we are still living our nightmare though…and it can seem that it will never end. We grieve and hurt, but we have to keep it all in proper perspective. All of our hurts are wrapped in the hope that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).” Yes, the pain of loss is so real every day and it hurts beyond description, but in order to endure the pain, we must realize that one day, the nightmare that consumes us now, will be the servant of our joy, which will consume us then. Because I of the pain we experienced on earth, the joy of heaven will even be that much sweeter.

To all my fellow grievers out there…hold on…the nightmare will end…and it will be the servant of our joy! Even so, come Lord Jesus! 

When Cost Becomes Privilege in Suffering

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles on the subject of suffering. I hope to bring encouragement through these writings. Every person I know is suffering in some form or fashion, and I want to speak to God’s perspective, purpose, and provision in the midst of life’s hardships. I will, of course, use the Bible, but I also plan to draw on the experiences and perspectives of others who have suffered well for the glory of God. I pray God ministers to every person who reads these words.

I recently came across a story about a woman named Helen Roseveare. Helen served as a medical missionary to the Congo from 1953 to 1973. In 1964 she was taken prisoner by rebel forces and remained a prisoner for five months, during which she was beaten and raped. Her life of service was portrayed in the 1989 film, Mama Luka Comes Home.

As I read Helen’s story, I was captivated and moved to tears, not primarily by the severity of her suffering, but by her perspective in the midst of such severe suffering. Helen says that the night she was taken captive, she was “beaten, flung on the ground, kicked, teeth broken, mouth and nose gashed, ribs bruised, and held at gun point.” She said that she knew if the rebel guard did not pull the trigger, all that awaited her was more and more severe suffering. She said, “It was a dark night and I felt utterly alone. For a brief moment, I felt God had failed me.”

Helen went on to say that in her dark loneliness, God met her there. She quickly remembered her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the suffering He unjustly received. She said she realized very deeply that “His love for me cost Him His life. He gave Himself in the most significant of all ways, and His sacrifice was the expression of His great love.”

She said, “Suddenly the ‘Why?’ dropped from me, and an unbelievable peace flowed in, even in the midst of the wickedness taking place.” She said that God came to her and spoke a new word into her heart, and it was the word “privilege.” She said, “He offered me the inestimable privilege of sharing with Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. And it was a privilege.” She went on to say, “For that night, cost became swallowed up in privilege.”

As I read these words, I wept. Only God could be so loving and gracious to give someone such perspective and such strength to endure such suffering. Helen powerfully stated, “God wanted my body, in which to live, and through which to love those very rebel soldiers in the height of their wickedness.” She continued speaking of the incredible privilege of showing her accusers the love of God, just as Christ had shown His. After all, it was Jesus who declared from the Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

As angry as we get thinking of those rebel soldiers brutally attacking this sweet woman, we must understand that this is a real picture of what all of humanity has done to Jesus. We are the soldiers and we are the ones who nailed Jesus to the Cross. We are the ones who shouted, “Crucify Him!” The Bible teaches that every human being has sinned and it was our sin that caused Jesus to have to go to the Cross. Yes, there was a cost for Jesus, but I’m convinced He saw His suffering as privilege, because He knew that by His stripes and wounds, people would find forgiveness and salvation. Helen understood that Christ had died in her place, and that her sin had put Jesus on the Cross, therefore she was glad to show forgiveness to others, the way Christ had shown forgiveness to her.

Helen knew, as all Christians should, that her life was not her own. She had been bought at the highest of all prices, with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. She knew that her suffering, while severe on earth, would not even come close to comparing to the glory that awaited her in heaven. As theologian D.A. Carson says, “The more Christians live in the consciousness of God’s presence on earth, the easier it is to anticipate the indescribable delight that will be experienced in God’s presence in heaven!” My friends, it was this reality that caused Helen to set her sights on her Lord, allowing her to see her suffering not as cost, but as privilege. May all believers live with that perspective.

Four Words Every Pastor Needs to Hear

Being a pastor is hard work. Much of what makes the pastorate so difficult is dealing with the many challenging issues people face in their lives. From marital struggles, to addictions, to significant health issues, to tragedies and heartaches of all kinds, and of course, to deep spiritual issues, the work of ministry never stops. As I was reminded this week, the calling to be a pastor is a demanding calling, one that is three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. It is never-ending, all-consuming work.

There are great rewards to the pastorate as well. In the ministry, pastors get to see marriages healed, addictions overcome, healing take place, new life come to families, lives restored, and most importantly, people giving their lives to Christ. There is nothing greater than celebrating the goodness and grace of God with the congregants in your church. Even though the work of ministry is never-ending and demanding, it is also filled with unbelievable benefits and joys.

Just a few weeks ago, I was having breakfast with a church member, which I often do, and this man and I were talking through a difficult issue he was having with another person in our church. Conflict in our church is rare, but it does happen, and when it does, I seek to help church members resolve it as soon as I am aware of it. This conflict was deep and sometimes with such deep conflict, people can take the easy road and just choose to leave the church. I, of course, did not want to see this happen. Every pastor is concerned about his church members, but pastors also recognize that they cannot force people to do what is right, and sadly, sometimes people just choose to leave. Having people leave your church for no good reason, especially without making attempts to resolve things, is very discouraging to pastors.

But, this man said something to me that really ministered to my heart. As we got started in the conversation, he said, “Now pastor, I just want you to know, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’” Did you catch those four words, “I’m not going anywhere?” He went on to say that he loves the Lord, his pastor, and the church too much to let anything cause him to leave. This was such a breath of fresh air to me, and knowing the desire of his heart made our conversation go much better. We talked, worked toward a resolution, and things are fine now between him and the person he was in conflict with, because they have resolved it.

As I reflected on my conversation with my friend, I did not realize how much four simple words would mean to me. Sometimes when I am unsure what a person will do, it creates anxiety and has the potential to make me approach things from a more defensive perspective, but when I know that a person is committed to the Lord, the church, and the church’s leadership, it is amazing the freedom it gives my heart. When two people are on the same team, they need to be on the same page, but if you are not sure you are on the same team, it is easy to never get on the same page. There is simply something refreshing and encouraging when you know, that no matter what, a person is not going anywhere. As in all relationships, when there is deep commitment and trust, those relationships will flourish and grow.

This week, out of the blue, send your pastor a message, whomever he is, and just say, “Hey pastor, I just want you to know, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’” These four words will encourage your pastor’s heart greatly. Now, do not just say them, really mean them. In good times, or bad times, and easy times, or challenging times, make sure your pastor hears these words from you, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Be About the Mission: A Good Follow Up to Easter

I recently went on a mission trip to New York City with twenty-nine students and adults from our church. Spring Break gave our team the incredible opportunity to serve the wonderful people of this great city. Our mission team spent much of our time in Queens, but was also blessed to see many of the other surrounding boroughs. 

 As I have reflected on the week and some of the great things God did on our trip, I realized that while New York City and Newcastle are very different, there are also some similarities when it comes to reaching people in both areas for Christ. Here are three simple, but critical, components of effective Christian living of which God reminded me:

 First, Christianity is relational. We worked with several different churches on our trip, most of which are relatively new churches. The pastors of these churches face the daunting task of reaching people in the most unreached city in America. We discovered that their approach has to be about building relationships with people in their communities. All of these communities are very diverse, and each presents the unique challenge of connecting with all different types of people.

 As I evaluated these churches and communities, I was reminded that whether you are in New York or Newcastle, it all comes down to building relationships with people right around you. When we walked on the streets of New York, there were many “street preachers,” shouting at people. While God can use anything and anyone, most people are turned off by such approaches. But, when we connect with people personally, there is greater receptivity to the Gospel. Christianity has always been about bringing people to Christ, and the best way to do that is by genuinely loving whomever God puts in our path and pointing them to the truth. Truly, the best way to reach the world for Christ is one person at a time.

 Secondly, Christianity is intentional. In order to build the relationships mentioned above, life must be approached with great purpose and intentionality. I was amazed at how these pastors approach their daily life. They are deliberate about everything. From where they shop, to where they eat, to where they live, and everything in between, they are highly intentional. When you are desperately trying to reach people, every conversation matters, and therefore, no opportunity can be wasted. This is how every Christian, no matter where you live, should approach life. As I often say at our church, “Life is too short to live accidentally. Christians must live intentionally.” As Christians, our approach every day, whether in New York or Newcastle, should be that everything we do matters. What if we approached life like that? What if we were intentional about every conversation we had? The impact would be significant. 

 Finally, Christianity is missional. The word missional means “to be on mission.” The last words Jesus gave His Church was to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” In short, be on mission. The consuming thought in every Christian’s mind every day should be the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Gospel consumes the mind, a missional life is sure to follow. 

 The mission is the most important part of the Christian life, but it must be approached with great relational and intentional attitudes. However, it does no good to be relational and intentional without the Gospel. All three of these things go together, and when put together, incredible opportunities to make a difference for Christ are created. Think of it like this: a missional Christian must be relational and intentional if they want to make an eternal difference. Let that thought seep into your heart and life. 

 If you are a Christian, how you are approaching your life? Are you on mission for Christ? Are you being relational and intentional? If not, what changes and adjustments do you need to make? Identify them and do what is necessary to be the person God wants you to be. This week, no matter where you are, seek to approach life with the right perspective. Pray for people. Love people. Point people to Jesus with your words and your actions. As you do this, watch how God uses you for His glory. Being on mission is both the greatest privilege and responsibility a Christian bears, and truly, the absolute best way to change the world for Christ is by living this way. Whether you are in New York or Newcastle, the approach remains the same: relational, intentional, and missional. This week and every week, let’s be on mission.

15 Reasons to Attend Easter at First Baptist Church of Newcastle

1. You will hear the Word of God preached verse by verse! No games, no half-truths, no gimmicks…just the truth!

2. You will see a church that is centered on the Gospel. We often say that the Gospel is what drives and unites us, and that will be evident when you visit. We never tire talking about who Jesus is and what He has done!

3. You will be challenged! There will be a call to action. Life is too short to sit in the stands. You will be called to get in the game and come make an eternal difference with us!

4. You will be welcomed! Not only will you be greeted at the door, but you will receive a nice gift with important information about the church!

5. You will be and feel safe! FBCN has an incredibly gifted security team. From the parking lot, to our state of the art check-in system for your children, you and your family will be safe!

6. You will be ushered into the presence of God through biblical, excellent, and moving music. You won’t get a concert or smoke and lights, but rather a meaningful time of worship of the one true God!

7. You will meet some of the most incredible people on the planet! The members of FBCN are amazing people: humble, gracious, passionate, servant-hearted, focused, loving, and so much more! You will enjoy the people you meet.

8. You will leave longing for more and be eager to come back! FBCN is not a “one and done” kind of church. You will experience God and want to come back again and again! We are not a hipster church that seeks to entertain. We are a biblical church that seeks to truly hear from God and connect with Him! You will want to come back to FBCN for the right reasons

9. You will see that we are a multi-generational church! FBCN has lots of children, youth, and adults of all ages! From little babies to senior adults, our church has a place for everyone.

10. You will meet the best church staff on the planet! Our ministry team loves Jesus and loves people. They work tirelessly for the Lord and you will love those God has called to lead out at FBCN!

11. You will see just how much is happening at FBCN every single week. Ministries and activities for all ages, as well as mission projects all over the world, are going on year-round at FBCN.

12. You will see a unified church that truly loves the Lord and one other! FBCN is family. We do not believe the church is a building, but rather a people, and we love being together.

13. You will see a church that is alive! In a day and age when so many churches are dead, you won’t find that at FBCN! From the moment you step foot on our campus, you will see life!

14. You will discover that FBCN is just a bunch of sinners saved by grace! Yes we have a lot of great things going on, but that’s only because we recognize who we are apart from Jesus and how much we need Him! If you’re imperfect, then you will fit in great at FBCN. We are just a bunch of imperfect people serving the one true perfect God!

15. You will see a church that has a vision to change the world! FBCN is not interested in wasting time or doing things we are capable of doing in our own strength. We walk by faith and believe that our sovereign God can absolutely change the world through His people. If you want to change the world, come help us do it one life at a time! As we often say, “True disciples make other disciples!”

We hope you will join us this Easter!

What I Learned When My Wife Left Me For Three Days!

A couple of weeks ago, my wife (Emily) and her sister went to visit their grandmother in Arizona. While this was a great opportunity for her, it presented a great challenge to me. What was the challenge? Being left to tend to six children, ranging in age from 15 years to 4 months, all by myself. The very thought of this overwhelmed me and still overwhelms me, even as I write this after it has already happened. If you are a woman reading this, do not throw the paper down, or call me a whiny baby just yet. Read the entire column and then decide your response.

As a pastor, I am very busy. I realize many people do not understand the demands placed on a pastor, but the pastorate is very demanding and never-ending work. I always say that being a pastor carries with it the greatest of all blessings, but also the greatest of all burdens. My wife helps me to be a successful pastor. She frees me up to do the things God has called me to. That means many early mornings, late nights, 24/7 accessibility, mission trips, etc. She has never once made me feel guilty or bad about answering the demands of the ministry. She handles much of the day-to-day stuff with the kids and truly allows me to focus on ministry. Do not get me wrong, I help in lots of ways at home, but she simply does so much I do not have time to do. I am beyond grateful for her.

As she prepared to leave for her trip, the challenges of ministry did not stop, but the added responsibilities mounted up, as I had to maintain my regular duties, as well as all the things she normally does. Let me just say this, while we survived without her, I would never want to have to do that on a consistent basis. I thought I knew all the things that Emily did, but there was a lot I did not know.

As I have reflected on the three days I had to be both “dad and mom,” here are a few things I learned from my wife’s absence:

First, moms are a true gift from God. God has wired women so differently than men. That unique design is essential to the health of the home. Dads can try to do what moms do and be what moms are, but it is clearly not the same. There is simply no substitute for the woman’s role in the home. Both my children and I saw firsthand how much we need Emily in our lives.

Second, parenting was never designed to be done alone. I have a great deal of respect for single parents and what they deal with on a daily basis, but we must remember how important it is for moms and dads to stay together. God has designed the marriage and the family in a special way, and both parents are needed. There are things I do that Emily cannot, and things she does that I cannot. Satan has attacked the family and continues to divide it. We must fight for our marriages and our homes and seek to follow God’s design for the family.

Third, ministry requires me to be gone much, as do many men’s jobs. I knew this, but was made glaringly aware of how hard it is for my wife when I am gone. This reality has caused me to be more selective with my travel, recognizing the burden it places on her. I have several upcoming trips, and will be more aware of how my absence affects her, and will be more conscious of encouraging her when I am gone.

Fourth, it is the little things that often go unnoticed, but are so essential to peace and harmony in the home. I normally do not think about the kids’ homework, lunches, laundry, etc. I was made aware of how many little things Emily does that I am unaware of, that simply keep things running smoothly at home. I will be more attentive as to how I can help and more encouraging to her because of what I have discovered.

Finally, and there are many other things I could say, but I was made aware of how much having my wife in my life makes me better in every way. The Bible says, “He who finds a good wife, finds a good thing.” I have found one and I am hanging on to her with all I have. Emily, if you are reading this, I love you and thank God greatly for you.

Three “Loves” to Avoid

Recently, I preached a message from Second Timothy about the danger of having “self” on the throne of your heart instead of God. As I studied for my sermon and preached it, God spoke some tremendous words of encouragement and warning into my own heart. Here are three loves all people should avoid.

First, we are to avoid the love of self. This is called narcissism, and a narcissistic person has the desire “to be.” The way Christians combat the love of self is with a denial of self. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” The antidote for narcissism is humility, which leads to a true love for God and others. Jesus said that the two greatest commands are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Second, we are to avoid the love of things. This is called materialism and a materialistic person has the desire “to have.” The way Christians combat the love of things is with the giving of self. Jesus said, “What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?” He was in essence saying, “You find your life as you give it away.” Narcissism and materialism often go hand in hand. When self is in the throne of the heart, a desire for things naturally follows. The antidote for materialism is generosity, which leads to a detachment from the things of this world and a proper focus on the eternal.

Finally, we are to avoid the love of pleasure. This is called hedonism, and a hedonistic person has the desire “to feel.” The hedonist says, “If it feels good, do it.” This is a dangerous way to live. A Christian does not seek pleasure, rather, they seek God, who is the source and supply of true pleasure. The way Christians combat the love of pleasure is with the control of self. As the writer of Proverbs said, “Guard your heart, for from it flows the issues of life.” The antidote for hedonism is integrity, which leads to a life of self-control and self-discipline.

In our day and age, the world is full of narcissistic, materialistic, and hedonistic people. What is needed are humble, generous people, who seek God and live lives of integrity. This week, do not let anything replace love for God in your heart. Crush the love of self, things, and pleasure by putting Christ and a genuine love for Him at the center of your heart. See you next week!

 

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