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Category Archives: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries

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.

 

Coming this fall to First Central

Below is a letter mailed out to the congregation of First Central Bible Church profiling four events and programs coming this fall to the church.

 

A family of characters in love with Jesus

For the past 32 years, I have been privileged to be part of the faculty of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. There are over 25,000 instructors spread out through 151 countries around the world. This past week, there were 50 of us who met at the WinShape Retreat in Rome, GA, for InstructorFest 2019. The four-day conference was part information about where the ministry is headed, part encouragement and challenge as to what each of us can and should be doing to help the ministry grow and be effective, and part training as we participated in a workshop on leadership development.

Any time the WTB family get together, there is laughter, tears, prayer, teaching from the Scriptures, good food, and encouraging conversations. As Phil Tuttle, the President of Walk Thru, said, we all share a common DNA—love for Jesus, passion for communicating truth, and at least one screw loose. It is an energetic, creative, passionate group of folks, and I am deeply grateful to count them as friends and compatriots.

The workshop on leadership was a condensed version of The Heart of Leadership by Mark Miller. It was led by one of the WinShape staff. (The WinShape Foundation is the non-profit arm of Chick-fil-A.) The final activity was a Rube Goldberg challenge where each team was given a variety of tools and resources with which we were to build a machine that activated a “That’s easy!” button. As you can see from the video below, I was fortunate to be part of the winning team.

One of the highlights of every instructor gathering is a recommitment ceremony. Each one is to look the leader in the eye and say, “By God’s grace, my life is sexually pure and by God’s grace my life will stay sexually pure until we meet again. I will live my life and ministry with integrity as long as I live.” It is truly a “holy moment.” Knowing that I need to make that statement and be accountable to my brothers helps me say “No” to temptation because I never want to be ashamed in one of those gatherings.

 

#LiveGod’sWord #InstructorFest2019

 
 

Russia 2019 – March update

Dear friends,

I am grateful for your support, encouragement, and prayers for my upcoming trip to Russia. It is only through your intercessory efforts that I am able to do what I do. Thanks so much!

I hope to apply for my Russian visa in the next couple of weeks. The LOI (letter of invitation) from Moscow should arrive next week. Once I receive it, I will head for the Russian visa office in New York City to apply in person for the visa. I will be applying for a humanitarian visa for religious work, in order to be above board on what we are doing and not take a chance in getting in trouble with the authorities. Please pray that the process goes smoothly and without complications.

I completed the third round of editing my notes for the Harmony of the Gospels course. As I mentioned previously, the challenge of teaching through four gospels is deciding what NOT to say. After cutting the material in half through the editing process, I still have a bit too much. Until I teach through it the first time, I won’t know for sure. Please pray that I have wisdom to know what to include and what to leave out.

Please pray for the students who will attend the course. They are currently working on the preclass assignment. They are to read through one of gospels and write down their questions. They are also to answer two questions: (1) What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23)? How do you do that personally? and (2) How did Jesus fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)? Should Christians follow the Law today?

Please pray for Carol and me over the next seven weeks—safe travel, good health, wise use of our time, boldness to share with people, etc. Next week, I will be in Atlanta, GA, for a Walk Thru the Bible faculty conference. When I return, Carol heads for the west coast to visit her parents and sisters and to see two of our children. In early April, we will attend a SonScape pastoral retreat in Colorado. It will be a time of rest, refreshment, encouragement, challenge, and planning for the future. In mid-April, we will be involved in our Easter outreach here at the church. The week after Easter, I leave for Russia. As you can see, the next seven weeks are filled with many opportunities for ministry.

Thanks for your support, encouragement, and prayers. I’m in your debt.

 

The Three Chairs

In the 1730’s, the Pioneer Valley was the center of The Great Awakening when Jonathan Edwards preached in Northampton, MA. According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are tied for the top spot in least churched states in America. They are closely followed by Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut. How did New England go from godly to godless in 300 years?

Why do godly parents sometimes have rebellious children?

When I became a Walk Thru the Bible seminar instructor in 1987, I was introduced to “The Three Chairs Principle.” It looks at three examples in the Old Testament that help answer the questions above.

The principle is seen best in what happened in the generation that follows Joshua. Joshua 24:14-15 contains Joshua’s farewell message to Israel.

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:31 and Judges 2:7 explain what happened in the next generation.

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.

And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel.

Judges 2:10-12 reveals what happened in the third generation.

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

Joshua had a firsthand experience with God. Miracles were part of his daily life—crossing the Jordan, seeing the walls of Jericho fall down flat, praying for the sun and moon to stand still to give him a longer day to achieve victory, to name a few. The elders who followed Joshua had a secondhand knowledge of God’s power. Joshua did the great works while the elders saw the great works. The third generation did not even know the stories about God.

Firsthand experience develops convictions—“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Secondhand knowledge develops beliefs. While the elders believed God was powerful, the opening chapters of Judges reveal they did not trust him to drive out the enemy. Consequently, they gave a half-hearted effort and did not obey completely. No knowledge or experience develops opinions, namely that God was not worth following. Judges 21:25 sums up their philosophy, as “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The second example is seen in the family line of David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). While he was far from perfect, he acknowledged and confessed his sins when he was confronted (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51). In contrast, Solomon had a half-heart for God. He compromised every command given for the king to obey (Deuteronomy 17:14-17; 1 Kings 4:26; 10:14-29; 11:1-10). Rehoboam, David’s grandson, took it one step further as he had no heart for God and rejected wise counsel and pursued his own agenda (1 Kings 12;1-24). David was primarily concerned about pleasing God. Solomon was focused on pleasing others. Rehoboam was solely concerned about pleasing himself.

The third example is seen in the family line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The key insight in this example is tracing the words “altar” and “well” through Genesis 12-28. “Altar” represents the idea of worship while “well” represents the idea of work, since these men were shepherds. The first thing Abraham did when entering a new region was to build an altar. The first thing Isaac did was to dig a well. Jacob offered to build an altar, but only if God delivered him from his problems. Abraham’s first priority was worship; Isaac’s was work; and Jacob’s was wealth. Abraham’s theme was God; Isaac’s theme was me and God; Jacob was all about me, until God broke him and gave him a limp.

1st Chair

2nd Chair 3rd Chair
Firsthand experience Secondhand knowledge

No knowledge

No experience

Convictions

Beliefs Opinions
Whole heart Half heart

No heart

Please God

Please others Please self
Worship Work

Wealth

God

Me & God Me
COMMITMENT COMPROMISE

CONFLICT

Many of us did not have the greatest role models growing up. Perhaps you weren’t raised by a first-chair Christ follower. That’s ok. The key is to remember that the legacy you leave is more important than the heritage you receive. You can make the choice to sit in the first chair and to raise first chair kids and grandkids.

What do you do if you are in the first chair, and your kids and grandkids are in the second or third chair? While they need to make the choice to change chairs themselves, you can nudge them in that direction. Place them in situations where they are forced to make choices to trust and depend on God. You can also expose them to other committed first-chair kids. The key thing you must not do is rescue them and bail them out. While this goes against our nature as parents, sometimes God’s best lessons are learned through crisis and difficulty.

I spent the first half of my life seated in the second chair. I grew up in a Christian home, trusted Christ as savior while I was a child, and generally was a “good” kid. After college, I realized I did not know how to live by faith because I never had to. When I went to seminary, I wrestled with whether God wanted me in ministry or whether I was just trying to please my mother who wanted a son in ministry.

Halfway through seminary, I bottomed out. The Bible had become an academic book. I stopped praying. I was in a spiritual desert. I came to realization that I either had to walk with God or walk away, but I would not be a hypocrite. So I made a conscious choice to change chairs.

This does not mean I am perfect today. Ask my wife and kids and they will tell you the truth. But it means I fasten my seat belt and five-point shoulder harness to keep me in the first chair. If I don’t constantly recommit myself, I will naturally slide into the second chair of compromise. I can focus more on pleasing people than pleasing God. One reason I keep going back to Russia is to place myself in situations was I have to take risks and depend on God.

Questions to consider:

  1. Which chair best describes your condition today?
  2. If you choose to do nothing, which chair will your child(ren) most likely occupy?
  3. What is one measureable change you can make which will help you or your child(ren) move to the first chair?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 3, 2019. It is the final message in a series on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
Image

Don’t “kill” time

 

Of Ministry & Milestones

September is an anniversary month for me. It’s a time when I look back and celebrate the grace of God in my life. It’s a time when I look forward and recommit myself to following God. It’s a time when I once again declare 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 almost 45 years. But I started getting paid for it in September 1986, 31 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 as 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 – Pastor of Christian Education (9/86-7/89), and over 14 years at Crossroads Bible Church, Bellevue, WA – Associate Pastor—Singles, Adults, Missions, Senior Associate (2/90-6/04).

In September 2004, I was called as a Senior Pastor and have now served 13 years in that role. I served almost 8 years at United Evangelical Free Church, Seattle, WA (9/04-3/12), and the past five years at First Central Bible Church, Chicopee, MA (9/12-Present). If God should tarry, I would like to keep going and reach the goal of serving as many years as a senior pastor as I did as an associate pastor.

In addition, I have served as an instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 30 years (1987-Present). I also led or participated in 18 ministry trips (13 to Russia, 2 to Ukraine, 2 to Spain, and 1 to Nigeria). I also have the privilege of mentoring students as an adjunct professor 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 32nd 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).

As I reflect on another ministry milestone, 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 at First Central. I thank God for grace.

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

 

 

There is a Redeemer

Church historian Clair Davis describes the Christian life as a “combination of amnesia and déjà vu.” He says, “I know I’ve forgotten this before.” In other words, as we follow Christ we keep needing to learn the same lessons over and over because we keep forgetting them. And each time it happens, we suddenly remember that we have had to relearn these very same lessons before.

Of all the things that God wanted Israel to remember, the most important was their exodus from Egypt. God sent plague after plague against the Egyptians, culminating with the death of the firstborn, until finally Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go. It was a rescue to remember.

To make sure that his people would never forget their salvation, God gave them a special memory aid: Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast was meant to be an annual celebration.

To understand the flow of Exodus 10-11, it helps to see it as a combination of narration and explanation. The author tells the story and then periodically steps back to explain what happened. Narration (10:28-29), explanation (11:1-3), narration (11:2-9), and explanation (11:10).

Moses tells Pharaoh six facts about the final plague. There will be one more plague (11:1). It will happen at midnight (11:4). All the firstborn in Egypt will die, both people and animals (11:5). It will be a time of national distress, never experienced before or after (11:6). However, Israel will be protected (11:7). Afterwards, the exodus will begin (11:8).

In Exodus 12:1-20, God gave Moses instructions about the Passover (12:1-14) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:15-20). The Passover lamb was to be a perfect, one-year-old lamb (12:5). The event would occur on the 14th day of the month at twilight (12:6). The blood of the slain lamb would be spread over the doorposts and lintel of each Israelite home (12:7). The meat was to be roasted (12:8-9) and eaten completely, saving no leftovers (12:10). The meal was to eaten in haste, ready to leave at a moment’s notice (12:11). The angel of death would move throughout the land, sparing only those families who had the blood over their door (12:12-13).

Behind the instructions for the Passover is the concept of OBEDIENCE. There is no magic in the day, time, or procedure. There is no merit in the blood of the lamb. The question was, Would Israel follow God’s instructions and place their faith and trust in his provision?

After Moses communicated the instructions to the people (12:21-27), they bowed down and worshipped (12:27), and obeyed the commands (12:28).

The events unfolded exactly as God foretold. After Pharaoh’s own son died (12:29), he summoned Moses and Aaron and told them to leave the country (12:30-32). The exodus officially started (12:33-42). The chapter closes with instructions about how to celebrate the Passover in future generations (12:43-51).

I find it fascinating to compare the Old Testament Passover with the cross of Christ in the New Testament.

Principles

Old Testament Passover

New Testament Passover

Instruction to sacrifice

“Take a lamb . . . and kill it.”

(Exodus 12:3, 6)

“Behold, the Lord of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Condition of sacrifice “Your lamb shall be without blemish.”

(Exodus 12:5)

“. . . the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

(1 Peter 1:19)

Application of sacrifice

“. . . take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses.”

(Exodus 12:7)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

(Acts 4:12)

Reason for sacrifice “I will execute judgment.”

(Exodus 12:12)

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

(Hebrews 9:27)

Result of sacrifice

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.”

(Exodus 12:13)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

(Romans 8:1)

Remember the sacrifice “This day shall be for you a memorial day.”

(Exodus 12:14)

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

(1 Corinthians 11:24, 25)

“For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7b)

(Chart adapted from Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament Live Event)

Like Israel, each one of us must make the choice as to whether or not we will obey God’s instructions and place the blood of Jesus over the doorposts of our hearts.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 30, 2017. It is part of a series of messages on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Expanding my resume

Two months ago, I added another job title to my resume—Professor. For the past 8 weeks, I taught an online class for Regent University in Virginia. Other than family members and my references, I chose not to tell anyone for a couple of reasons, which I will explain shortly.

When I pursued my doctorate in the 80’s, it was with the idea that I would be on staff at a church for 5-10 years, and then teach at a college or seminary. However, God had other ideas. My passion for the local church increased and my love of academia decreased. Over the years I have explored various teaching options, but God always closed the door and kept me in the church.

Last fall, I applied for a position as an Adjunct Professor (fancy term for “part-time”) at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. It is a leading Christian University started in the late 70’s.

During the fall and winter, I went through the application process, including an interview and reference check. The process was completed in February just after I returned from New Zealand and I was approved as an Adjunct Professor. Shortly after that, I was invited to teach an 8-week course on Christian Ministry from March 13 – May 6. I quickly learned Blackboard, the instructional software used for online classes. The class started … the day after I left for Russia. The class just finished this past weekend. This course exposed the students to the philosophy and purpose of the church, something I know a thing or two about.

I chose not to tell anyone what I was doing for two primary reasons. One is that some might question my sanity for adding one more responsibility to my plate! I admit that I had the same thought and I wanted to see if I could do it before letting people know.

As it turned out, the class required about 2-3 hours of work per week. Other than the time difference and sporadic internet, it was not difficult to manage while I was in Russia. Regent designed the curriculum, assignments, tests, and textbooks. The assignments were of the read & report type with two papers to be written. My role was not to teach per se, but rather to mentor the students, giving feedback on their reading assignments and papers. Since the assignments were due on Thursday and Sunday evenings, I did my work on Saturday & Monday.

The second reason I didn’t tell folks beforehand was that some might worry I was planning to leave my current ministry and this was part of my exit strategy. Far from it. While I am committed to be the pastor of First Central Bible Church, I also desire to have a broader and deeper impact in the larger body of Christ. It is why I continue to teach for Walk Thru the Bible, go to Russia once a year, and write a blog. As I have shared before, I have no plans or timeline for retirement.

While I would like to continue, I don’t know what Regent’s plans are for the future. I suspect it will be later this summer before I am contacted about the next school year’s classes. We will see what God does and how he leads.

 

A 30 Year Walk

Earlier this month, the week before I left for Russia, Carol and I were in Atlanta, GA, for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries InstructorFest 2017. It was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and compatriots and to be trained in WTB’s newest event, OTLive.

I was recognized as part of the “Class of ’87”, a group of instructors who have now served for 30 years.

This morning, I gathered all the notebooks for the various seminars, classes, and events I have taught for WTB for the past 30 years. It is quite a collection.

As I have written on previous occasions, I owe a debt of gratitude to Walk Thru, and I still love teaching the events. During our time at the conference, Carol thanked Phil Tuttle, the current president of the organization, for Walk Thru “being a rock.” Over the past 30 years, Carol and I have gone through many challenging, difficult, stretching seasons of life. Walk Thru as an organization, and as a family of caring individuals, has been one of the rocks we have leaned on.

#LiveGodsWord

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Photos, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries