Choosing to Trust

Psalm 56:3 states, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” This was one of my son’s favorite verses when he was in the hospital. I will never forget when he wrote it down and my wife took a picture of it and sent it to me. That verse was great for our son, Trey, but little would I know how much I would need that verse in my own life. There were times I was so afraid when he was in the hospital, and there are still times I get afraid now, even though I know he is with the Lord. When I get afraid, or have fear in my heart, I remember that I must choose to trust the only One who can remove my fear. I like what Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” I have learned and continue to learn that to set the Lord before me is to recognize God’s presence and His constant help, but this is something I must choose to do. Trust is a choice, but it is often a difficult choice to make.

 Why is that? Why is it so difficult to trust God? Deep down we know that God knows best and His ways are best, but yet we often struggle to trust Him in and through all things. As I have reflected on my own journey of learning to trust God, I have identified three things that often keep me from placing my trust fully in the Lord. These things must be combated with deep faith in God. As the famous quote goes, “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.” Even though Christians do know that all things will work out in eternity, we do not know how things will always work out on this earth. As we wait for eternity to unfold, what are the things we must combat on this earth that often attack our faith?

 The first thing to combat is our feelings. Many people are prisoners to their feelings. As their feelings go, so goes their life. We all know that we cannot trust our feelings. Feelings can change like the weather and they are often so very fickle. When we are afraid, hurting, discouraged, sad, etc., we cannot let our feelings be in the driver’s seat of our lives. Instead, a real, deep, abiding faith in the Living God must be in control of our lives. This is a choice though. We must choose to trust in God instead of how we feel. Psalm 56:11 says, “In God I will trust, I shall not be afraid.” Remember this, trusting God is a matter of the will, and is not dependent on our feelings. As we choose to trust God, our feelings will eventually follow.

 The second thing to combat is circumstances. It is hard to trust God, whom you cannot see, when things are falling apart in your life, which you can see. Like feelings, circumstances cannot be in the driver’s seat in your life. Why? Because things change all the time. This is why my favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 4:18 which says, “So we fix our eyes, not on what we CAN see, but on what we CANNOT see. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” As Christians, we must choose to see the unseen, which is only possible by faith. Remember, your world may feel like it is falling apart, but as you trust God, He will provide peace and strength in the midst of your storm.

 The third thing to combat is people. You have to be careful whom you listen to. When you are in a storm, the voice you need to hear most is God’s voice. Yes, God can use people to speak truth into your life, but if you are not careful, you will begin looking to people, instead of to God, and sometimes people can lead you astray. Only the truth keeps you grounded, centered, and hopeful. When you are suffering or hurting, what you need most is the truth. Get in God’s Word and rest in the promises He gives. God is 100% faithful and every one of His promises is true. He, and He alone, can be trusted, but you must choose to trust Him.

 Never forget that trust is not a passive state of mind. Trust is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to embrace the promises of God and cling to them, in spite of the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. This week, choose to trust God. He will never fail or forsake you.

Dying Well

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” There was a time when Christians were known as people who knew how to die well. It was part of Christian concern to be known as people who know how to live and die well. As the Apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Christians for centuries actually believed that and lived that way. Today, the situation is very much different, especially for Western Christians. Not only are many Christians in America not living for the Lord like they should, but many also shudder at the thought of death. For many, death is a very unsettling subject.

I am convinced that the church needs to do a better job at preparing its members to face death and meet God. I am not talking about living morbidly, or with a “doom and gloom” attitude, but rather with an understanding that our days are numbered and that we are all going to die and stand before God. As one pastor wisely said, “You cannot live faithfully in this life unless you are ready for the next. You can’t preserve morality or spirituality or doctrinal purity or faithfulness unless you are living in light of eternity.” When we live in fear of death, we will not have the confidence needed to be effective for the Lord in our life. The Apostle John said, “Abide in Christ, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.” Christians are to face eternity with faith and confidence, not with fear and shame.

In order to get us ready for eternity, the Lord allows difficult things in our lives. God uses suffering, pain, and sorrow in this life to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, and to draw our attention to Himself. The reality is that God does not want us too comfortable in this world, because the more at home we become here, the more we want to stay. The Apostle Peter said that we are “aliens and strangers in this world.” In other words, this world is not our home or final destination.

The point is that we are all under sentence of death. We are all terminal cases. Full acceptance of this truth removes a fair bit of unnecessary shock and rebellion and allows us to escape the modern Western mind-set that refuses to look at death, to plan for death, to live in light of death, and to expect death. For the believer, the time of death becomes far less daunting a factor when seen in the light of eternity. As theologian D.A. Carson says, “Although death remains an enemy, an outrage, a sign of judgment, a reminder of sin, and a formidable opponent, it is, from another perspective, the portal through which we pass to consummated life. We pass through death, and death dies. And the more a Christian lives in the consciousness of God’s presence here, the easier it is to anticipate the unqualified delight that will be experienced in God’s presence there.”

Christians, let us live in light of eternity, so that we are better prepared to die well. When death comes to me, I want there to be a glorious celebration that I am home, that I am finally free! Titus 2:11-14 sums it all up best, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” Living like this will help you prepare to die well. See you next week!

A Frustrated, but Blessed Life

Perspective. It is an interesting word isn’t it? The word means “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” Much of this life for the Christian comes down to perspective. We cannot control many of the things that come into our lives, but we can control how we respond to them. For instance, we can choose to see obstacles and problems, or opportunities and possibilities. It all comes down to perspective, but not just any perspective. We need God’s point of view.

One of the biggest things I have learned in my Christian life is that God enjoys frustrating my plans. He does not do this because He is mean, cruel, or manipulative, but because He loves me, sees the big picture, and knows what is absolutely best for me. He wants me to learn to trust Him, so He often frustrates my plans to get me in a place of complete dependence on Him. Even though I know this about God, it is still difficult to embrace at times.

Recently I was thinking about some of the challenging things I have been through in the past, as well as some of the difficult things I am currently dealing with presently. When I look at these things from a human, earthly perspective, I sometimes get frustrated. There are things that happen that I simply do not understand and that make no sense to me. My finite human mind is limited in understanding, and when things happen outside of my control, even things that I know God is allowing into my life, I do not always respond like I should. However, when I set my mind on God and the truth of His Word, I find myself seeing things much more clearly.

As I reflected on all of this, a thought hit me. Yes, God frustrates many of my plans, but He does this for a purpose, a much bigger purpose than I can see. Because of that, my frustrations are actually blessings. Therefore, I am living a frustrated, but blessed life. Romans 8:28 says, “For God caused ALL things to work together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” In other words, nothing passes into my life except which God allows, and what He allows is for my good and for His glory. What He wants me to do is trust Him completely.

One of God’s greatest blessings in our life is His Word. His Word is full of promises, and each promise is guaranteed, because it comes from a God who is 100% faithful. God can never go back on His promise because He cannot violate who He is. He is God and He is perfect. Therefore, we can take His promises to the bank. Yes, trials and tribulations will come, but they do not have the final say on our life, God does. God is greater than anything that happens in our lives, and even if He allows things into our lives that frustrate us, with His perspective, we can actually see frustrations as blessings. Christian, be encouraged. You are living a frustrated, but blessed life because the God who loves you is in control and He can be fully trusted. As the Scripture says, “Our light and momentary afflictions are producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comprehension.” That is a promise that is 100% guaranteed.

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!


Click to access FBCN_Elder_Book.pdf


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.

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