Category Archives: Personal growth

Clean Hearts in a Dirty World

Is holiness possible today?

We might agree that holiness is an essential characteristic of God. We might also agree that Scripture says that we are to be holy. But if we are honest, we don’t think that we can ever be holy ourselves.

When it comes to holiness, there are many misconceptions. We have the idea that holy people are religious fanatics, and we don’t want to be thought of as “holier-than-thou.” We believe that a lifestyle of holiness will cause us to be miserable. Former quarterback Joe Theismann allegedly explained to his soon-to-be-ex second wife why he had an affair: “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.” Holy people are hypocrites, or so we believe. A hypocritical Boston tycoon once told Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the top of Mount Sinai in the Holy Land and read the Ten Commandments aloud.” “Why don’t you stay right home in Boston,” suggested Twain, “and keep them?”

Scripture calls us to live holy lives. In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we are told to set our hope on Christ and live a holy life. I don’t believe God sets us up for failure. If he gives us a command, it is with the expectation that it is possible to do it.

Verse 13 begins with the word, “Therefore …” I was always told that anytime you see the word, “therefore,” you need to find out what it is “there for.” What Peter is saying is that in light of our great salvation (1-12), we are to live differently. Salvation should have an impact on our lives. In fact, Peter points out five areas where salvation changes how we live.

  • Mental outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God.
  • Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives.
  • Worship (1:17-21). We are to live life governed by reverence for God.
  • Relationships (1:22-25). We are to love one another.
  • Spiritual disciplines (2:1-3). We are to be nourished by spiritual food.

Today, we are looking at the first two areas. We will examine the remaining three areas after Easter.

Mental Outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God. Peter begins with the idea of having a steadfast hope. This is much more than a wishing well kind of hope. “I hope it doesn’t snow this week. I hope my team wins the World Series.” It is a confident expectation of what God is going to do. By linking it to verses 1-12, Peter is saying that on the basis of what happened when Christ came the first time, we are to put our full confidence in what will take place when he comes again.

We are to act like we mean business. We are to prepare our minds for action. It literally says, “gird up the loins of your mind.” It pictures someone wearing a long garment. If they wanted to move quickly or run, they would gather up the garment and tuck it into their belt. Today, we might say, “Roll up your sleeves and get to work.” We are to have a sense of intentionality about how we think. We need to gather all the random, disparate thoughts and focus them on God and his kingdom.

John Brown, a 19th Century Scottish theologian said, “Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wils.”

In addition, we are to be sober-minded and avoid mental intoxication. Rather than live a life of self-indulgence, we are to live discipline and self-controlled lives.

What distracts you from focusing on God? Are there other things that you place your hope in? If you really believed Christ would return today, how would you live? Wrestling with these types of questions will help us to focus our thoughts and hope squarely on Christ.

Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives. Holiness refers to purity or moral integrity. It involves separation from all that is morally impure and evil. It is dedication to a life of righteousness. As these verses explain, God has called us to a life of holiness. It is NOT optional.

Rather than command us to be obedient, Peter says we are to act like obedient children. In essence, we have an obedient nature and should act in light of that.

We are to actively resist our own temptations. Rather than be controlled by our desires, we are to control them. As unbelievers, we were ignorant of God’s standards. Now that we know better, we should live differently.

Holiness should permeate every aspect of our being. We are to be holy in the classroom, on the playground, at work, at home, in our workplace, in our schools, in our homes. Holiness should pervade every area of our lives and personalities.

In pursuing holiness, we demonstrate the family resemblance. God is the ultimate model of holiness and we are called to be like him.

As we evaluate our lives, we should ask ourselves several questions. Does this activity conform to the character of God? Is it the natural outcome of a life that has benefited from salvation? Will it stand up to God’s scrutiny in that final day when we stand before his presence?

We are to set our hope on Christ and live holy lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Questionable recruiting

I received this email note last night.

Hi Mark,

I’m Steve, CEO of Restless Bandit, and we work with companies to find top talent. We saw that you have experience as a Senior Pastor at First Central Baptist Church. Our matching algorithms identified you as a great candidate for Davisville Church’s open position: Youth Pastor. Your skills and background make you a great match; if you’re interested, you can see the job description and find all the details to apply here.

If you want to learn more about me you can check out my LinkedIn profile by searching for Steve Goodman or by clicking here. You can also learn more about Restless Bandit by checking out our press page here.

We want to bring you the best jobs. If this was not a good match, update your information here so we can improve your results.

Thanks for your consideration!

All the best,

Steve Goodman

CEO, Restless Bandit

33 New Montgomery Street

San Francisco, CA 94105

P.S. To ensure you continue receiving great job opportunities, please add us to your trusted senders.

I’m not sure what algorithm they are using, but I certainly question the accuracy. 1) After 14 years as a Senior Pastor, why would I want to be a Youth Pastor? 2) Who would want to hire a 63-year-old youth pastor anyway? 3) Their info is not correct since we changed the name of the church to First Central Bible Church almost two years ago. This tells me their research is not accurate and doesn’t give me much confidence in the rest of their note.

Needless to say, I unsubscribed from their mailing list.

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Posted by on March 14, 2018 in Ministry, Personal growth


The comfort of God’s Word, or, the benefits of memorizing Scripture

I have felt down the past couple of days. Tuesday evening was a more difficult PT session. My leg was more tired which made it harder to do the therapy exercises. Thursday morning I was discouraged as I was doing my therapy routine. My mind was filled with doubts. “What made me think I would be ready to travel in April? I have four weeks to get ready. There’s no way I’ll be able to walk by then. How naïve was I to think I could go to Russia so soon after my fall? What will the ultrasound show on Monday? I’m hopeful the blood clots are gone, but I’m fearful they are not. What if …?” My faith wavers and falters.

In the midst of my doubts, the Holy Spirit reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He also brought Matthew 6:34 to my mind. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow.”

Rather than worry about what ifs, I need to rely on God’s grace and seek his kingdom today. God will take care of the rest. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

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Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Health, Personal growth, Scripture


Avoiding grade inflation

One of the challenges of serving as an adjunct professor for online courses is grading papers. Each week the students submit a 300-500 word post on the week’s discussion question as well as comment on two other student’s posts. They also take a weekly quiz. In addition, they turn in a 1200-1500 word paper during the seventh week. While the quizzes are automatically scored by the computer, it is my task to evaluate and grade their posts and term papers.

I use a rubric with several different categories to help me grade the assignments. They include content, research, original thinking, spelling and grammar, use of Scripture and textbooks, and much more. The papers are also evaluated by SafeAssign, a program which measures how much of the document is original and how much is copied.

With all the evaluation tools at my disposal, I still have to make a judgment call on the quality of the assignment. Do I put in under a microscope or do I give it a general once over? Do I criticize every jot and tittle or do I give an “A” for showing up? On the one hand, I don’t want to be too critical and fail every student. On the other hand, I’m not doing them any favors in praising mediocrity. While I have to identify and point out errors, I also try to suggest what they could do different next time to improve.

Ultimately, I want all my students to succeed. But it means I need to be honest with them and challenge them to grow and improve.


Who are you cheating?

Well over a decade ago, I read a book by Andy Stanley entitled, Choosing to Cheat: Who wins when family and work collide? The book was later retitled, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping your job from cheating your family.

The premise of the book is that all of us have a limited, finite amount of time. Consequently, we must cheat to be successful. You have to cheat your family if you want to be successful in your career, or, you have to cheat your career to be successful in your family responsibilities. We have to determine our priorities and decide who is going to get the most amount of time.

While the book focuses on work and family, the principle holds true in every area of our lives. You cannot be equally successful at home, work, school, church, friendships, sports, etc. You have to make difficult choices where you will invest your time and energies. You have to give yourself permission to get a “B” instead of an “A.” You have to be satisfied with being an employee rather than a manager or an owner. You have to be content with having an apartment instead of a house, or a house and car rather than a house in the city, a cabin in the country, and two cars and a boat.

At some point in time, you have to wrestle with the question, who are you going to cheat? But spend much time in prayer before you make that choice to insure you make the right one.

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Posted by on March 6, 2018 in Books, Culture, Personal growth


Parking perplexities

I attended a funeral on Saturday. As I pulled into the church parking lot, I headed for the handicapped parking. A car arrived just before I did and pulled into the spot closest to the handicapped entrance. I parked in a normal parking spot two spaces away. Four people got out of the car in the handicapped space and walked normally (without crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchair, limping) to the front of the church. I got out of my car and used my cane to limp to the handicapped entrance and elevator.

Just because you have a handicapped placard, should you park in the space if you really don’t need it? Just saying.


Posted by on March 5, 2018 in Personal growth


The next step

Rehab is progressing and exercise is paying off …

From a walker to two crutches to one crutch and now to a cane. With each step forward, I have to use new muscles and relearn how to walk all over again. Each phase takes effort and practice. I go from awkward and painful to easier and more natural, and then I start all over again. I have to practice long in private before showing new skills in public.

Walking with a cane, however, makes me look like Yoda when he walks with his stick. Related image

One day (hopefully soon), I will be back on my own two feet. God is answering prayer!

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Posted by on February 26, 2018 in Health, Personal growth, Star Wars