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Category Archives: Personal growth

Defining Moments

It seems that each generation has a defining moment, a time when the axis of one’s life shifts and you are never quite the same again. It is an event that often rallies and unifies people. It is often marked by the phrase, “Where were you when …?” or “Remember the …”

For the people of Texas, it is the siege of the Alamo during March 2-6, 1836. The phrase, “Remember the Alamo,” became the watchword for Texas independence from Mexico.

“Remember the Maine” reminded the nation of the sinking of the battleship, U.S.S. Maine in the Havana, Cuba harbor on January 25, 1898. The phrase became the rallying cry of the Spanish-American war.

For my parents’ generation, it was the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. “Remember Pearl Harbor” prompted the USA to enter into World War II.

For my generation, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, or the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. Both were momentous, life-altering events.

For my children, it was the attack on September 11, 2001. On that day, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. A fourth attack was thwarted by the heroic efforts of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93. The phrase, “Never Forget,” is used to remember those who lost their lives in those attacks. “Never forget 9/11” prompts a new generation to remember that the battle for liberty is ongoing.

“Remember when” or “Never forget” are teachable moments where we can share with our children the events, people, and values that shaped our lives. It is also an opportunity to talk about how our faith in Jesus Christ helps us to respond to crises such as these. We can follow the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to teach our children so that they do not forget about God.

For Christ followers, the ultimate life changing event is summed up in the phrase, “Remember the cross.” It prompts us to reflect that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our freedom. If we put our faith and trust in him, we can be free from the penalty, guilt, and power of sin.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Personal growth

 

Celebrate the Milestones and Keep adding to them

Yesterday, I celebrated another ministry anniversary and milestone. If God allows, I want to keep adding to them.

September is a month when I look back and celebrate the grace of God in my life and look forward and recommit myself to following God. It’s a time when I am reminded how much I need his grace and strength in my life.

September is a milestone month for me because it is when I began my first full-time, paid position in ministry. I’ve been doing ministry for over 46 years. But I started getting paid for it in September 1986, 33 years ago.

I began serving in ministry during my freshman year in college in 1973. From 1973-86, I taught Sunday School for kids, served as a youth sponsor, discipled high school students, led ministry trips, sang in choirs, coached sports teams, chaired committees, did a summer internship, participated in evangelism outreaches, and other ministries I have long since forgotten.

I taught one class in each of two semesters in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Lay Institute from 1983-84, and even got paid for the privilege. I also served one year as a part-time intern at Nutwood St. Baptist Church in Garden Grove, CA, in the mid-80’s.

In September 1986, I was called to be the Pastor of Christian Education at College Church in Wheaton, IL, and began my full-time career in ministry. I served the first 18 years as an Associate Pastor. I served three years at College Church, Wheaton, IL, as the Pastor of Christian Education (9/86-7/89), and over 14 years at Crossroads Bible Church, Bellevue, WA as an Associate Pastor—Singles, Adults, Missions, Senior Associate (2/90-6/04).

In September 2004, I transitioned to the role of Senior Pastor and have now served 15 years in that role. I served almost 8 years at United Evangelical Free Church, Seattle, WA (9/04-3/12), and the past seven years at First Central Bible Church, Chicopee, MA (9/12-Present). If God should permit, I would like to keep going as long as possible. I will keep serving and preaching as long I am healthy and effective.

In addition to my pastoral ministry, I have served as an instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 32 years (1987-Present). I also led or participated in 20 ministry trips (15 to Russia, 2 to Ukraine, 2 to Spain, and 1 to Nigeria). Since 2011, I have gone to Russia once a year to help train pastors and emerging leaders, teaching a three-day course on a book of the Bible. Carol and I will be heading to Moscow next month on yet another ministry trip. Since Spring 2017, I have had the privilege of mentoring students as an adjunct professor, teaching online courses at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.

Somewhere along the line, I developed the following purpose statement for my life.

My Mission is to serve the purpose of God in my generation, thus bringing glory to his name. My Life Vision to train and equip others through preaching, teaching, writing, and leadership development. I want to bring all to maturity and many into leadership.

To be starting my 34th year in ministry says more about God’s grace than my ability. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed nor the smartest person in the room. I am a plodder who strives to run the race God called me to run (Hebrews 12:1-4). I want to serve God faithfully and use all of my gifts for his glory (Matthew 25:14-30). I want to finish well.

I thank God that he called me to be one of his children. I thank God that he called me into his service. I thank him for the privilege of serving him in a wide variety of ministries—at First Central, Walk Thru the Bible, Regent University, and in Russia. I thank God for grace.

May God grant me the grace and strength to continue serving him for many more years to come.

 

The power of a good example

St. Francis once called to one of his young monks, “Let’s go down to the town to preach.” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, quickly obeyed. They passed through the principal streets, turned down many of the byways and alleys, made their way out to some of the suburbs, and at length returned by a winding route to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention. “You have forgotten, Father,” he said, “that we went down to the town to preach!” “My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!”

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2019 in Personal growth, Preaching, Quotes

 

Continue the Education

“If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow” is the first of the seven maxims in Prof. Howard Hendricks’ book, Teaching to Change Lives. To be an effective teacher/preacher, Hendricks argues, you must be a lifelong learner.

One of the occupational hazards of ministry is that it is easy to fall into the trap of only studying for the next lesson or sermon. You have to be intentional about widening your field of reading and learning or else your field of interest and expertise will become far too narrow.

Over the past couple of years, I have personally benefitted from some of the online courses offered by Dallas Theological Seminary. I am able to learn from different professors as they teach on a topic or book of the Bible. I recently finished the course on the book of Acts and am now starting Understanding God’s Covenants. The courses are free to everyone.

I also try to listen to audiobooks, lectures, or sermons while I am exercising. I just finished listening to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, a classic tale of revenge and redemption. I just started listening again to The Best of Prof, a collection of sermons and lectures by Dr. Howard Hendricks.

I also try to read eclectically. I am working my way through Knowing God, by J. I. Packer, in order to sharpen my theological understanding. In addition, I am in book five, Grail, of the six-volume series, The Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen R. Lawhead, which is a retelling of the King Arthur stories. By reviewing books for different publishers, I am exposed to new and different authors. Through the courses I teach for Regent University, I become acquainted with various authors and textbooks as well as having to answer questions of students.

The online courses, audiobooks, theology, and novels is in addition to studying the book of Hebrews which I am preaching through on Sunday morning. I am also developing lessons on leadership development for a conference in Moscow in October.

I want to continue my education and growth so that I have something to offer. I don’t want to fall into the trap of relying on old lessons and greatest hits. I want to stay fresh and growing.

 

Keeping heredity at bay

As I was exercising one morning last week, I was struck with the fact that the older I get, the harder I have to work to keep my heredity at bay. In that sense, my parents did not do me any favors by passing on their genetic makeup to me.

My father had high blood pressure all his life. When I was in my 20’s, our family physician told me never to get heavy if the condition was hereditary. Now that I am in my 60’s, I have to pay more attention to what I eat and how much I exercise. On top of that, my dad had glaucoma and my mother had cataracts. I have to get my eyes checked on an annual basis to keep track of those potential conditions.

At to that my recovery from a broken leg/hip two years ago. I continue to do my therapy exercises trying to regain more strength and mobility. I feel like Frodo Baggins at the end of The Lord of the Rings where he tells Samwise Gamgee that some injuries never heal completely. Despite all my efforts and exercises, I wonder if my leg will ever be 100% again.

If I go to this much trouble and effort for my physical health, how much more attention should I pay to my spiritual health? In the same way that I have to exercise and have annual physical checkups, I need to exercise spiritually as well. Colossians 3:5-17 instructs me to allow my old sinful habits and practices to die. In their place, I need to cultivate healthy spiritual character qualities. I need to stop my old bad habits and cultivate some new healthier habits of the heart.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Whether spiritual or physical, I need to work hard to ensure good, healthy habits.

 

Don’t be a snowplow parent

As parents, we often want to protect our children from hardship. We want to spare them from pain and difficulty. We don’t want them to go through what we did. However, instead of helping our children, we may be hindering their growth. That is the conclusion of an article in Sports Illustrated entitled, The Rise of the Snowplow Sports Parents.”

The author of the article explains the term, snowplow parenting.

The phenomenon also reflects what’s happening in the rest of society, says psychologist Madeline Levine, an expert on the topic. “It used to be helicopter parenting,” she says. “And now it is snowplow parenting, which is much more active: It means you are doing something to smooth the way for the child. It’s not just that you’re hypervigilant—it’s that you are actually getting rid of those bumps, which robs kids of the necessary experience of learning and failing.”

Towards the end of the article, hockey agent Allain Roy realized he was not doing his son any favors by being overly involved in trying to advance him in sports.

Two years ago, hockey agent Allain Roy was flying home with his teenage son after spending several thousand dollars to take him to a weekend baseball showcase to improve his chances of getting a college scholarship. He started wondering, Is this worth the investment? How much is too much involvement? He started typing out his thoughts into a post for his agency’s blog, writing, “As we rush to fix every little blemish in our kids’ lives and try to influence their way to success, we cause more irreparable damage than we know.”

In contrast to that, I remember a statement I heard some years ago when Carol and I were helping our youngest daughter, Caitlin, get settled into the dorms at Gordon College. During one of the sessions for parents, Dr. Judson & Mrs. Jan Carlberg shared some words of encouragement. Jan Carlberg used the phrase, “Struggle is a holy word.”

As parents, our desire is to smooth out the path for our children. We want to shield them from pain. When a child calls home to say they are not getting along with their college roommate, we want to storm the administration to demand a change. When that same child says they are unhappy after the first week of school and wonder if they made the right decision to go away to college, we want to jump in the car or on a plane and bring them home forthwith. Yet, when we do that, we often stunt our children’s growth because we don’t allow them to struggle.

Jan reminded us that God uses trials as a catalyst to help us grow. As James 1:2-4 says in The Message, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Struggle is part of God’s strategy to help us and our children grow to maturity. Avoid the temptation to be a helicopter and/or and a snowplow parent. Struggle is a holy word.

 

Does a Pastor have to Fit a Certain Profile?

Some years ago, I came across a writer who insisted that all successful pastors matched a certain profile. Much of it related to personality and leadership style. It left me with the feeling that I didn’t measure up. I wondered why God called me to a task but did not equip me with the gifts, personality, and leadership style needed to be successful.

I greatly appreciated the statement made by Pastor Scott Patty in his essay, “My Church Has Outgrown My Gifts” in the book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, edited by Collin Hansen & Jeff Robinson Sr.

We often assume that to be effective in ministry, we must have a certain personality type or work with a specific leadership style. But is that really true? Does God make all pastors alike in personality and leadership style? Jesus didn’t choose apostles who were all alike. Church history doesn’t show one ideal pastoral type that was most effective. We need wisdom to see that God calls and equips different kinds of pastors with various leadership styles because there are many types of people in the world and in the church. People respond differently to different pastors. Particular situations call for unique pastors. Knowing this reality will help us get our expectations under control and may lead us to see that we really don’t have a problem after all. We can lead our congregation as we are because we may be exactly what our congregation needs.

I find great encouragement in his words.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2019 in Books, Ministry, Personal growth, Quotes