Musings and Ramblings about Preaching, Pastoral Ministry, Sports and Life in General

Month: July 2019

Why I Write

The writer stares at a blank page or a blinking cursor. The empty space is begging to be filled. The author is compelled to fill the void. In a world where the written word seems to be losing its value (I do not believe this), the question that occurs is why do do I write? There are many reasons, but in the following paragraphs I will enumerate three.

Writing is Cathartic

There is something cleansing about taking the thoughts that fill my heart and brain and sorting them out on paper. There are times when the spoken word is insufficient if there is no one listening. The paper becomes a willing partner to purge or process those thoughts.

The Paper Never Misunderstands

Unlike oral communication, the paper always understands. I realize that it is possible to push the metaphor too far. One’s readers can certainly experience confusion because of what one writes, but paper is a non active partner that always comprehends the author’s thoughts and intents.

The Paper is an Outlet for Creative Energy

In much the same way that physical education is an outlet for pent up energy in a school classroom, so too is a pen and paper an avenue of creative expression for the writer. To not express one’s self through the written word for can cause frustration and confusion that affects other areas of one’s life.

Why do you write?

Three Types of Preachers

H.B. Charles is one of my favorite preachers.  Some time back I read his book  On Preaching.  Today, while thumbing through a notebook of old  writing ideas, I came across this money quote.  It perfectly sums up my heart’s desire as a preacher.

There are three kinds of preachers:  the ones you can listen to, the ones you cannot listen to, and the ones you must listen to.  I desire to be the type of preacher you must listen to. But that requires more than desire.  It requires hard work.  And that hard work never ends, if you take preaching seriously.  H.B. Charles, On Preaching, 10.

Between the Bindings: Lightening Sky

I love history.  Seventy percent of my audience just clicked off of this post.  One of the areas of the discipline that I find most fascinating is World War II.  I particularly love stories of individuals who survived horrific ordeals.  Lightning Sky by R.C. George is one of those tales.  While it is a survival story, it is also a story of a father’s love and his search for his lost son.

This story follows the career of a young Army Air Corp fighter pilot, 2nd Lieutenant David MacArthur from enlistment to the aerial battlefields of Europe in the closing days of the war.  He was shot down during a strafing mission against a German airbase near Salonika that he was not even scheduled to participate in, but was substituted by a commanding officer at the eleventh hour.  George weaves MacArthur’s harrowing experience of being shot down, captured, and his life as a prisoner of war at a series of German prison camps.

Meanwhile, George’s pen carries you on the parallel journey of Lieutenant Colonel Vaughn MacArthur, an army chaplain with the 8th Armored Division of General Patton’s Third Army.  While ministering to the spiritual condition of the men under his care, he was diligently seeking to find his son and bring him home.

This book is filled with joy, sadness, heroism, and the story of a father’s love.  It is worth your time to read.  I give it 4 highlighters.*  Pick up a copy at your bookstore of choice today.

*I have chosen highlighters as my measurement in lieu of stars.

No Man Behind

My office looks like a typical pastor’s office. Books, folders, financial reports, a plastic ficus or two (I haven’t killed them yet.), and my kids artwork are strewn everywhere. The one decoration that invariably draws quizzical looks is a small toy soldier the camps in various places around the office. From time to time someone will ask if my Son has been playing at my office and left his toy.

The truth is that the toy soldier belongs to me. When I was in college I was involved in a discipleship group with a several guys. We prayed together, worshipped together, memorized scripture together and held each other accountable. Our leader was passionate about reaching people with the gospel. He gave me this toy soldier to remind me to be diligent about sharing the gospel. Just like our military men and women strive to leave no man behind on their missions, so too, we need to be diligent to leave no person behind because they have not heard and had a chance to respond to the gospel!

…Do the work of the evangelist… 2 Tim. 4:5.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20.

Practical Advice for Pastors: Stay Connected to the Word of God

I have been doing some reflecting on my life and ministry over the last few weeks.  I am coming up on 20 years of ministry and 12 1/2 years as a Senior pastor.  I have experienced God do some great things, and I have made my share of mistakes.  One of my core philosophies of ministry is to invest in young ministers and give them opportunities like Godly men and brave churches did for me.  While it might seem like the height of hubris for one with such a short time in ministry to be offering ministry advice, I choose to see it as this:  If I can, by my occasional ministerial stupidity, keep those who follow after me from ministerial stupidity, then I will feel I have been successful.  With that in mind, the first place I want to begin is by encouraging young ministers to stay moored to the Word of God.

Stay Connected to the Word of God

The most important lesson that I learned in my pastoral journey is the essentiality of staying connected to the word of God.  This seems oxymoronic, but it is not.  This challenge begins with seminary and ultimately never ends.  At seminary, it is easy to fall prey to neglecting one’s personal devotions, since you are studying the Scripture in each of your classes (If you are not, then let me encourage you to find another seminary.).  You study it each day in preparation for sermons and Bible studies.  It becomes all too familiar.  Like the lion tamer that works daily with the dangerous and deadly king of beasts, must be careful not to allow familiarity to lull him to sleep amid his dangerous work, so  the minister must be careful to remain ever vigilant to not allow himself to operate on solely on past knowledge, learning, and experience rather than staying freshly attuned to the word of God.   To do so invites the danger of becoming desensitized to the urgings and impressions of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, I have learned that ministry can be likened to a pitcher of sweet tea or lemonade.  When ministering to someone in need, teaching, or preaching, one is pouring out of the reservoir of their soul.  If there is no effort to replenish that supply, soon that vessel will be dry and empty.  This leads, at best to burnout, but at worst could lead to sinful choices that damage one’s witness or cause disqualification.

With this in mind, I want to offer three practical guardrails to keep you on track in your personal devotional time.

Guardrail 1

Find a Bible reading plan and discipline yourself to use it.  Vary the plan as well as your choice of translation to keep it fresh (Information on picking a good translation can be found here.).  In the past I have used CSBESV, and NASB  for my devotional readings.  Your plan can take you through multiple parts of your Bible at a time, such as a New Testament/Old Testament plan or you could try a chronological one.  If reading through the entire Bible is intimidating, select a plan that takes you through the New Testament.  Plans can be found easily using a You Version app on your phone, or simply by googling Bible reading plans.  Whatever you use, commit to it and see it through.

Guardrail 2

The second practice that will help you avoid the obstacle of disconnection from the word of God is the discipline of Scripture memory.  You can memorize a verse per week or a larger section such as a chapter or a book.  I would suggest starting small so as not get discouraged.

Guardrail 3

The third guardrail that I would suggest is to frequently read thirst creating authors.  There are legions of books out there, and not all books are created equal.  Each person  has to seek out authors who cause them to hunger and thirst deeply for the things of God.  Find the person who does that and read their work.  Additionally, I would suggest reading authors you do not agree with completely.  God has used authors such as this in the past to send me digging through the Scripture to figure out what it is that made me believe differently from them.

Brothers, it is imperative to drink deeply from the well of the Word of God.  It is the source of our strength.  Stay connected to it and see your relationship deepen with God and your ministry produce much fruit.

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