Confessions of a Pastor: When Preaching “Slumps”

220px-Cal_Ripken_Jr._in_1993As a boy I had the privilege of growing up watching of the all time greats of baseball, Cal Ripken, Jr., while he was in his prime. He was known as the “iron man” because of his consecutive game streak, beating Lou Gerig’s long time record of 2130 games and he still holds this record to this day. Cal’s work ethic and perseverance  to the game of baseball also extended to his defensive abilities — as a shortstop he was equally admirable for his faithfulness. Ripken was unusually great offensively, too — especially for a shortstop — and all of us as boys idolized him.

But I remember one particular year when Cal was in a hitting slump and it was lasting a very long time. I even remember the year – 1992. Cal was trying everything to get out of his slump- that year I recall that he tried three different batting stances, one that was so awkward and unnatural looking that I felt he had a better chance of hitting the catcher behind him than the ball in front of him. As I admiringly observed Ripkin’s baseball career as a boy, I observed several of these occasional hitting slumps. But Cal always recovered from them, faithfully.

In a way, pastors go through occasional preaching slumps, too. At least the faithful ones do. It’s easy to have a collection of 10 or more sermons and preach the same ones all over the country, complete with “zinger” illustrations and everyone lauds you as a great preacher. However, the faithful, expository preacher will sometimes feel a great sense of freedom and power in the pulpit, but sometimes he will not.

I do need to be clear, here. I’m not talking here about the failure to preach the text of God’s Word– a preacher has no excuse for such a failure, rather I’m talking about the subjective element of preaching that many preachers would describe as “freedom in the pulpit.” The Apostle Paul explains it best when he asks the Ephesians to pray “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, (Eph 6:19 NKJ)” Paul must have gone through these “slumps” as well and he knew the power of prayer.

I have a couple of initial thoughts on this toward preachers and listeners:

1. Fellow pastors, we must be faithful to “preach the Word” regardless of whether or not we have a sense of freedom. We are accountable to the Lord for this.

2. Listeners, whether or not your pastor has as much freedom to preach as you have previously observed or not, if he is faithfully preaching the text you CAN glean great truths from it. In fact, I personally feel that one of the reasons pastors might go through preaching “slumps” is to teach God’s people to appreciate the faithful exposition of the Word. Mature Christians know how to feed on the steak regardless of how well it is seasoned.

That said, there does seem to be some causes for preaching slumps and some helps for preachers to get out of them (although I do feel the Lord is ultimately in control of this as the “bestower” of freedom in the pulpit). Likewise, a church member can either provide help for his/her pastor or he can actually make matters worse. In upcoming posts we’ll discuss how a preacher gets into a “preaching slump,” what steps he can take to get out of it (Lord willing), and how a concerned church member can help (and keep from hurting) the situation.

A Timely Book Review: God, Marriage, and Family by Kostenberger


The moral and structural decline of the family in the United States stands undeniable. In recent days, certain states have legalized gay marriage. This has now resulted in the sanctioning for same-sex marriage by the highest court in the land. Nearly every unfavorable result of the breakdown of the family continues to increase despite numerous attempts to provide assistance through the writing of books, the lecturing in seminars, and the establishing of institutions. With an awareness of these unfortunate circumstances, Andreas J. Kostenberger writes a book that both identifies the root problems and attempts to deal with them Biblically.

Development and Structure

Kostenberger begins by identifying the problems within marriage and family as both foundationally important and acutely urgent. He begins by defining marriage and family due to the breakdown of the societal concepts of both. Then he speaks to the urgency of the issue by describing the institutions of marriage and family as “under siege in our world today… our very civilization is in crisis.”[1] In reality, time continues to corroborate both of Kostenbergers assertions.

Problem Identified

Kostenberger quickly moves from introducing the subject matter as both important and urgent to identifying what he views as the deeper problem, one of a spiritual rather than merely societal nature. Kostenberger explains his assertion by suggesting that family provides the battleground of the forces of God and Satan in what he calls a “cosmic spiritual conflict.”[2] While Kostenberger’s assertion carries at least some validity, Kostenberger fails to elaborate on this point, not even drawing from a Scriptural data for his assertion. Furthermore, Kostenberger makes no mention of other potential battlegrounds that make-up cosmic spiritual conflict. For example, he fails to mention that church issues contribute to the cosmic spiritual conflict. While his subject matter narrows to issues with regard to the family, his use of word, cosmic, requires a more exhaustive list of areas that cause spiritual conflict. By employing exclusive language regarding the family’s role, namely, that it stands as the “key arena.” He seems to overlook other areas that may cause the reader to wonder if he will address relationship between the church and the family in his rather lengthy treatment on the family.[3] This of course, does not negate the fact that family matters carry great significance.

Purpose Reiterated

The book continues by affirming the purpose of the book, also essentially articulated in the subtitle. Kostenburger and Jones purpose to reestablish the Biblical foundation of marriage and family. Their intent clearly includes construction of a Biblical theology of marriage and family. They also designate their intended audience range from the single and unmarried persons to those who are marred and have children. Finally, they identify homosexuality and divorce as the greatest societal threats to marriage and the family.

Commentary on Culture

The next major section of this chapter occupies itself primarily with a commentary on current culture including the listing of five negative consequences resulting from the breakdown of the family. These five negative consequences include an increasingly high divorce rate, pre-marital and extra marital sex, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, and gender-role confusion.

While all of these items are negative aspects of family break down, the fifth, gender=role confusion is really a cause and result of the breakdown of the family unit, rather than merely a result from family breakdown. For example, a man’s failure to fulfill his proper role in the home contributes to the breakdown of the family rather than results from it. This resulted in part from the feminism ideology that was largely successful in destabilizing the gender roles of the family within society.

The Thesis and Explanation of It

Directly after Kostenberger and Jordan’s commentary on society, the thesis statement is stated: “An integrative, biblical treatment of marriage and the family is essential to clearing up moral confusion and to firm up convictions that, if acted upon, have the potential of returning the church and culture back to God’s intentions for marriage and families.”[4] Before proposing their approach to they book’s composition, they point out that the majority of what contributions made to marriage and family issues place the Bible as tangential rather than central. Additionally, they view many of the authors who specialize in marriage and family issues also exhibit deficiencies in theology and Biblical interpretation. Kostenberger and Jones team up to essentially write a Biblical theology of the family that also handles and emphasizes the cultural problems families face. It argues that one must first have an accurate conceptual foundation of marriage before moving on to more surface issues.


While the over-all purpose, thesis, and approach to the book proves valuable and this chapter proves structurally sound, an analysis of three key areas will aid in proper assessment of this first chapter. First, the chapter’s organization, though essentially sound, could use some improvement. There appears a moving back and forth between the problem and the solution rather than developing the problem thoroughly and then revealing the solution succinctly. For example first chapter elucidates the thesis between a commentary of the problems of the culture, and a commentary on the problems of current proposed solutions. It would seem more coherent to develop the problem and need for the book before moving onto the solution.

Second, the content of the chapter, though also valuable, also places the entire cause on the breakdown of the family on a lack of Biblical understanding of the family conceptually. While this significantly contributes to the problem, the greatest contributor to the demise of many families is sin and failure to apply the gospel. A person or family may know exactly marriage and family’s function thoroughly and still fail due to sin and failure to apply the gospel as the remedy to the problem of sin.

Third, the writing style consists of high quality. Each paragraph is formed cohesively with clear a clear topic sentence, sufficient supporting material (accept where otherwise mentioned), and contains tight, concise prose. Among the most notable qualities of the writing style is the fact that the author wastes no words and every sentence proves clearly intentional.


Kostenberger and Jones write a convincing first chapter that will compel the reader to continue reading in the hope of finding real substantive answers to the problems that trouble current United States culture. For the individual who sincerely desires to place the Bible at the center of his thinking, and values depth rather than quick fixes, this book will prove greatly profitable. Kostenberger and Jones generally achieve success in accomplishing their objective. They do this by taking the themes of Scripture relating to marriage and the family and running them through the Old and New Testaments, observing the contributions each passage of Scripture makes to a given work. It carries more exact relevance to current US culture than an average theology would because it addresses specific issues that this culture is facing. Every believer who seriously desire substantive answers to the important and urgent societal and spiritual issues of the marriage and family should place God, Marriage, and Family on his reading list.

[1] Andreas J Köstenberger and Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010), 15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A cursory reading of the table of contents will quickly demonstrate that the author will indeed address the relationship between the family and the church in the thirteenth chapter, but since government was at least alluded to earlier, his failure to mention the church in this context may cause the reader to wonder.

[4] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Crossway, 2006), 17.

7 Initial thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Decision to Legalize Gay Marriage

94307-004-B97FF4161. We must not react, but we must think.

Of course, this ruling is discouraging on many levels and we are tempted to respond in unhealthy ways that may be displeasing to the Lord and potentially harmful to His purposes. I’m calling us to think through things calmly, rationally, and most importantly, Biblically. The “I’d rather not think about it” approach should not be an option for the Christian. We’ve got to understand why this is happening, why people are making these choices, and why they think that these choices are acceptable alternatives. We must think about it and we will be asked what we think. I’m planning some articles that will help us think deeply about these issues.

2. We must not compromise, but we must stand.

One wrong reaction would be to “cave” by choosing not to state our beliefs. We might be tempted to think that it is better to skirt the issue, change the subject, or even resolve the conflict by rationalizing that “it’s ok.” Scripture does not allow for that and neither should the Christian.

3. We must not despair, but we must pray.

This ought to motivate us to pray for the hearts and the souls of men and women (and those who don’t want to be what God has made them to be). We’ve depended on political action and strategy for far to long… they have their place, but what we really need is prayer. We are utterly powerless and helpless to change people’s hearts. Only God can do that.

4. We must not asceticize, but we must mobilize.

Yes, I did make up the word, asceticize. Asceticism espouses purity through avoidance. It suggests that the best way to deal with a problem is to avoid it. The temptation for many of us is to gather our family into a cave to wait out the impending storm we know is going to occur from the moral decline of this country. But this is a time where people need see that there is a better way to live! We’ve got to live out the gospel and the way of Scripture in front of them. The end of sin is destruction — we as Christians need to be on the other end of people’s destruction — ready with the gospel of Christ.

5. We must not assume, but we must articulate.

For far too long we have assumed that people understand the Christian worldview. We think they understand the gospel simply because they have access to it and we think that people are Christians just because they claim to be. Inviting people to church is not enough. A 15 minute canned gospel presentation is not enough. We’ve got to learn to use the Word like a scalpel rather than a machete. But you can’t use what you don’t know how to use– to do so could do more harm then good. We’ve got to know the Word and know how to articulate it.

6. We must not isolate, but we must insulate.

For the Christian, isolation from the world is not an option. But the issues of gay marriage and the transgender phenomenon are uniquely new issues. Never in the history of our civilization have these kinds of sin issues surfaced in this way. I’m preparing a blog article that will suggest ways that we can protect our kids from these current problems and equip them to face these kinds of challenges. To be candid, I’m still thinking through these issues myself, but i will try to offer some help in this area.

7. We must not panic, but we must be prudent. 

Despite the assurance of the pundits on the news, I do think that there will be legal challenges that Christian businessmen and churches will face. I’ll discuss how Christians and churches should plan on protecting themselves for as long s possible.

“Stay tuned” for more articles to come and if you have questions or concerns regarding this important cultural issue please let me know!

What’s On the Horizon?: Implications of the SCOTUS ruling on Gay Marriage

UnknownWhy am I weighing in? I’ve always avoided addressing political issues and getting into political debates on social media. Why now? As I scroll through my news feed of Facebook, I’m often seeing  one of two extremes from Christians. On the one hand I’m seeing an un-Christlike, trite, often inflammatory, and usually underdeveloped response that falls short of goals that would truly honor Christ. From other Christians, I’m seeing little or no response at all. The latter is safer and more understandable than the former and I don’t desire to condemn silence since there are multiple motives for silence– some noble and some not. But SCOTUS has put Christians, and particularly pastors in a very difficult position by essentially linking religion and state. So as a Christian, I hope to provide a balanced, kind, and well-developed Christian perspective.  As as pastor I pray that these posts may be used as a resource to equip God’s people to prepare, think, and respond appropriately. Because I’ve been asked various sincere questions by Christians, some of whom are members of the church I’m privileged to pastor, and because silence carries its own potential consequences, I  really feel I can’t keep silent on this, though I respect the decision of other Christians who may have that luxury.

I appreciate much of the sentiments in this blog:

Dear Homosexual, I’m Sorry: An Open Letter from a Christian

After my initial post, which was intended merely to provide some guidance for responding correctly as a Christian (and how not to respond as a Christian). I’ve been thinking through all of the various implications of the SCOTUS ruling. I want to address this issue in a reasonably comprehensive manner, so in order to do that, I need to continue to address, in a very general way, the various implications of this verdict before getting into the details in future posts.

1. Biblical: The US law of the land clearly contradicts Scriptural truth (again).

Addressing this Biblically is more involved than meets the eye. Three realities need to be considered. 1)Personal experience, rather than the Bible is the basis of authority for many. 2) Professing Christians have misused the Bible in the past to propagate non-moral agendas that have now created a barrier. 3) Some advocates of homosexual marriage are now openly attacking the Bible by misusing Scripture to undermine its own authority. Example: The citing of polygamy in the Old Testament to undermine the frequently stated Biblical definition of marriage. This then is going to require its own blog article.

2. National: This decision has confirmed that we are no longer a Christian nation.

I think many Christian’s have had the mindset that the gospel will help us “take back America.” While this could be an inadvertent result the gospel’s work in the lives of individuals, this was never the intention of the gospel. God has never called Christians to establish a Christian nation. Furthermore, God has never promised to restore the United States to a God-fearing nation. It is high time that Christians live the gospel and proclaim the gospel, not for the purpose of restoring America, but for the furtherance of God’s heavenly kingdom as He sovereignly sees fit.

Recommended article: 4 Things Jesus Did Not Die For

3. Legal: The Supreme court has reached new heights of “over-reach” by choosing to re-define marriage.

The five supreme court justices essentially acted as an oligarchy, establishing a law, and re-defining an entire concept that does not exist in the constitution. This has essentially established a precedent that even homosexuals should be very concerned about. We are losing our democracy. Dr. Al Mohler has done an excellent job in explaining the far-reaching implications of this decision. I’ll refer you to the following blog articles:

First article from Al Mohler

Second article and audio briefing from Al Mohler

4. Cultural/Social: The problem of viewing people within a country according ethnic and social communities.

There is currently this euphoric sentiment that the SCOTUS decision promotes unity, peace, and harmony. It does not.

Our culture has shifted from promoting the need of “individual rights” to promoting the need for the rights of various ethnic and social communities. This move is a shift from viewing every individual citizen (including those who have chosen a homosexual lifestyle) as a part of a unified country to a nation that is fragmented by various “communities.” This is a “divide and conquer” approach, by those with a socialist (not necessarily homosexual agenda) and will not bring true unity, despite all of the celebrating. The best examples are the decisions of President Obama and Hillary Clinton to endorse gay marriage after stately opposing it in the past. I submit that these recent decisions do not result from evolution, but pragmatism.

The decision has also sanctioned one of these communities as the “gay community.” I’m going to argue that this is not merely a result of gays lobbying for freedom and equality, there is another agenda here and way of  thinking that has been accepted over time. How did our culture move this direction?

This video interview addresses this very well: Is Gay the New Black?

5. Liberty: This ruling will require Christian state officials, responsible for approving marriage documents to either violate their religious conscience or resign.

So what if a state official has a religious conviction against gay marriage? Rule of law dictates that he must issue the license. The state official has already lost his/her liberty. But it won’t end there. It will move next to any organization receiving federal funding. Rule of law will require them not to discriminate, they will surely loose federal funding.

What about religious institutions such as churches? We might be ok for a while, but when this verdict fails to actually bring the harmony and unity that it so desperately desired, the culture will go after those they view as the source of the problem and churches will likely lose their tax exempt status — for starters.

Will pastors be penalized for refusing to sign a marriage license of homosexuals? The Supreme Court says no, and the news pundits say no. They have protected our right to teach our own beliefs. But what currently hangs in the balance is not our freedom to teach, but our freedom to live and practice in matter consistent with our teachings. This verdict has made marriage a right, not just a liberty under rule of law. This may require pastors and churches to be either Biblical or lawless.

Ultimately the Christian should expect persecution and trust that God will give us the grace to handle it as it comes. However, we certainly ought to live as prudently as possible. We’ll explore various options.

6. Family: Children face (inevitable?) exposure to ideas they may not be ready to process, and schools will likely be required to educate students on all of the options. 

To my knowledge no civilization in history has attempted to define marriage the way the SCOTUS has and we don’t know the ultimate impact it will make on society. I’m most concerned for my children and what they will be facing in the days ahead. How do we protect, prepare, and equip them?

7. Unknown: Because the SCOTUS verdict is unprecedented, there are certainly unforeseen implications. 

We rely on history to warn us of the future consequences of the decisions we make. But no history exists to project potential outcomes. It is a bit scary.

I’ll be addressing much of this in further detail in coming posts. Until then, let’s remember some simple yet profound words from Scripture:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Pro 3:5-6 NKJ)

Book Review: Carson’s Call to Spiritual Reformation

Review of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation – This book will help you with your prayer life. 


Donald A. Carson, in an effort to encourage and inform the church on both the theology and practice of prayer, writes this work which serves both as an exposition of some of Paul’s New Testament prayers, as well as primer on the practice and discipline of prayer. This book review will provide a summary of Carson’s work as well as assess his work. Then it will suggest a range of readers that will find this work valuable.

Summary of Content

Carson introduces his work by presenting several urgent needs of the church today, citing purity, mission, and expository preaching, to name a few.   After raising these urgent needs in the church, he raises his belief that knowledge of God stands as the greatest need of the church at large. He asserts, “The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.
[1] Then Carson delimits his writing objective explaining that he does not intend to take on the challenge of meeting this need entirely, but he desires to facilitate that cause by addressing one of the first steps to knowing God, namely, “prayer–spiritual, persistent, Biblically minded prayer.“[2] Carson proceeds to lay out his method by purposing to work through several of Paul’s prayers in order to gain a working theology of prayer.

After his introduction, Carson proceeds to present some very practical advice for those who would endeavor to give themselves to prayer. After his practical chapter, Carson expounds upon Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1 for the next two chapters. The first of these chapters establishes the importance of praying with thanksgiving and a grateful spirit, while the second focuses on petitions that aid the believer in knowing the content of appropriate petitions. Carson deviates from his Pauline exploration in the fourth chapter to discuss intercessory prayer and in this chapter he discusses the importance of prayer with a genuine concern for others.

This theme of focusing on the needs of others intensifies with Carson’s exposition of 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. Here Carson asserts that believers and church leadership should actually possess a passion for people, and by that, he means a passion for the spiritual progress of people. The prayer for the spiritual growth for others continues into the next chapter when Carson interprets and applies Colossians 1:1-14.

Then, Carson deviates, again from his exposition of Paul’s prayer to discuss the matter of people making excuses for not praying. Among some of the excuses is busyness, contentedness with mediocrity, and ashamedness. This chapter, though a deviation from his exposition really provides the impetus for reading his next chapter, which is an exposition of Philippians 1:9-11 and discusses overcoming hurdles.

Once more Carson will provide an excurses from Biblical exposition in the ninth chapter to synthesize the nature of God as both sovereign and personal.   He establishes the need for seeing the harmony in these two attributes as well as raises some valid questions regarding this issue that he answers by working through Ephesians 1:15-23. Carson posits that a view of God as both high and personal will aid in a richer prayer life.

Finally, Carson teaches from Ephesians 3:14-21 and Romans 15:14-33 to demonstrate how to pray effectively for ministry both in ability and in opportunity.  Most notably he points out how good God is to go beyond what we pray or think. Carson accurately establishes prayer as essential in ministry.

Assessment of Content

Carson’s book serves as an excellently balanced treatment of Paul’s view of prayer. While Carson’s reputation as an exegetical scholar precedes him, Carson’s work here, is neither esoteric nor highly technical. Rather, Carson composes a book that readers will find Biblically based, practically beneficial, and highly motivational.

Carson’s Biblically Based Approach

Carson’s work stands highly commendable because it seeks to find the answer to the most urgent need of both the church and the individual believer in the Bible. While plenty of books offer churches advice on the latest methods, programs, and ideas, this book differs greatly. While Carson could have ascertained some level of application for the church by presenting a study of some other Scriptural genre such as Old Testament narrative, he most appropriately studies Paul’s prayers who were written to actual New Testament churches. This approach is of the most Biblically appropriate level. The refreshingly Biblical nature of this book differs greatly from many other books on prayer who err to the point of mysticism and a mishandling of the text.   Conversely, Carson’s loyalty to an accurate interpretation of the text results in a book with solid exegetical backing.

Carson’s Practically Beneficial Approach

Carson’s approach proves not only Biblical, but also beneficial practically. His practical chapters on prayer lessons, interceding for others, and his chapter on excuses prove extremely helpful beyond understanding the concept of prayer. With these chapters he provides experiential advice on the actual practice of prayer including setting aside times of prayer, developing prayer lists, having prayer partners, etc. In a world where an insufficient amount of mentoring occurs, these chapters may provide exactly the advice needed for implanting a solid, fervent, consistent prayer life.

Carson’s Highly Motivational Approach

Carson demonstrates quite well the urgency of the matter of prayer. His introduction immediately arrests the reader’s attention and causes him to realize the severe need for prayer in his own life and in the church. By listing other urgent needs and then positing that the most urgent need is a greater knowledge of God, he positions the reader to embrace the need for prayer as a significant step in meeting that urgent need. By shedding light on Paul’s emphasis on prayer, he substantiated his high elevation of the practice of prayer. Additionally, by providing practical advice for the implementation of prayer, Carson makes the practice of prayer seem attainable at least on some level and thereby, adding to the motivational value of this book.

At first Carson’s book may seem to lack a logical flow from one chapter to another. It appears that he shifts gears from an exposition of Paul’s prayers, which he states as his objective, to the practical, back to exposition without reason. But Carson evidently does this to keep the readers attention throughout the book by introducing topics related to prayer and then working through those topics by means of an exposition of one of Paul’s prayers. In this way Carson effectively keeps his reader engaged, motivating him to read the entire book.

Value of Content

This book will prove valuable to a broad range of Christians. First, the average Christian who desires to enhance his prayer life will benefit from reading this book. While Carson possesses the intellect and education to write for a more advanced reader, his simple, readable style will benefit nearly any Christian. Second, because of the ecclesiastical emphasis of this book, the church leader, such as a pastor, may find this book to be inspirational, informative, and instructional. Finally, the Bible student will also find this to a good source for material on the subject of prayer in the epistles as he endeavors to gain a fuller understanding of the scope of prayer throughout the Bible.

Not only will this book prove beneficial to a broad range of people, it will also prove beneficial in two specific areas. First, the book is valuable for its benefit to the heart. For example, Carson places emphasis both in the need to have a thankful and grateful heart in prayer, and he also expresses need to have a passion for people. Second, the reader will find benefit for the mind.   Since Carson presents such Scripturally based truth, it is sure to inform the mind.


Without question, the needed posture for a believer today is to be on his knees. Carson surely succeeds in his goal of encouraging, motivating, and informing believers on the incredibly important subject of prayer, to the degree that people read, retain, and apply its concepts. Those who read it will surely benefit greatly.

[1] D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker Academic, 1992), 15.

[2] Ibid., 16.

Why Everybody Wins When It’s Not “All About the Kids”: 3 Dangers of a Child-centered Home

IMG_1525So in honor of my wedding anniversary, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on marriage and family. Christian newlyweds hear much advice about the family, both Biblical and practical. As time goes on you realize that some pointers sound good conceptually, but they don’t work. Others sound good and do work. Here is one that has stood the test of time for us – don’t let your family become child-centered. Here are three reasons:

1. A child-centered home is harmful for your marriage.

Homes that place a higher priority on the kids than the marriage end up hurting the marriage over time. I recall a Christian counselor recently reporting that he does most of his marriage counseling prior to 3 years of marriage and after 15 years of marriage. While the children are young, spouses who love their kids would never think about leaving and may not even realize that they are unhappy in their marriage. Reality strikes when the kids become less dependent and they realize they don’t even know their spouse very well. Busy parents, then, must spend time alone with their spouses. Often this becomes very difficult if young couples don’t live in close proximity to their extended family, that’s why we’ve developed a ministry at our church entitled, “Dine without the Whine,” which is a date-night co-op (see Bethel’s ministry page). Sometimes I’ve observed that moms seem to have a hard time “lettijng go” of their young children. it seems as though they feel they are so indispensable that they can’t be away from their kids, even babies for a few hours. This may be the case when a baby is first born, but as parents of three, it has been our experience that your baby will do just fine without you for a couple of hours IF you start them young enough. Perhaps the only natural desire/instinct that is stronger than maternal instincts are survival instincts. Your baby/child will do just fine if they are in capable hands – and remember, they are in God’s hands, too!

2. A child-centered home is harmful for your child.IMG_1517

I’ll try to be brief here, but when a child learns he is the center of attention in the home, self-centeredness is a natural result. Combine this with our own natural tendency toward self-centeredness and catastrophe occurs. Our grandparents had a philosophy that the child should adjust to the parents schedule, not the other way around. This is wise advice, unless of course you are looking to raise self-centered, inflexible kids. They will already naturally those tendencies as we all do, they certainly don’t need help!

3. A child-centered home is harmful for God’s purposes.

When the “end game” is the well-being of the kids, it is not best for their well-being. However, when the “end game” is the furtherance of God’s kingdom through service to Christ, it results in the child’s well-being. The only win-win scenario for the Christian family is to view it a “ministry team” where we are serving the Lord together. This is why the family needs the local church as much as the local church needs the family!

So I’m looking forward to a nice date with my wife tonight–without the kids!

Want to know more about God’s plan for the family? You can follow this link to hear a message from God’s Word by clicking on the following link.

4 (more) Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist (part, 2): How to avoid becoming weird.


Well, the last post I offered 4 dangerous temptations that pastors must resist. Here are 4 more.

1. A pastor must resist the temptation to be preoccupied with the ministry to the exclusion of fun and friends.

I’ve heard it said that good pastors make poor friends. Once my wife observed, “It seems like pastors ‘get weird’ over time.” (She’s qualified to say this since she used to be a “PK” and now she is a “PW”).  There is probably a lot of truth to that, but learning to have a little fun along the way will probably make me a better friend and help me avoid “getting weird.” Although the picture to the left might indicate that it is too late!

I could easily spend every waking moment working in the ministry. There is always something profitable to be done. But exercise and fun are necessary in their proper place.  A man in my church has reminded me of this repeatedly. He’s taken the time to teach me how to play tennis (he is a very patient teacher), get our two families together for various activities, etc.

Two helpful hints here: 1) Pastor Dan Trayer, who was my pastor growing up, gave me this advice: “Guard your day… Sunday is the King’s day (Jesus) and Monday is the queen’s day (your wife).”  Guard a day off as much as possible for family, friends and fun!. 2) I’m also learning to find a few other “pockets” of time in my schedule throughout the week. I might be the oldest guy out there playing a pick-up game of basketball, but if the young guys will have me, I’d like to try to avoid “getting weird”– if that is possible.

2. A pastor must resist the temptation to think that his ministry is the only viable one in the area.

Of course we think that our ministry most closely models the New Testament model, right? Well, if we know anything about the churches in the 1st century, we know that they faced most of the problems we face in the 21st century. A cursory glance at Revelation 2-3 will demonstrate this. But we do tend to think we’re right on our ministry philosophy — after all, if we had the wrong approach to ministry, we’d change! Of course, there are essentials that every ministry ought to have — gospel clarity, discipleship goals, and expository preaching, to name a few. But the Lord has used a variety of ministries over the years to accomplishHis kingdom purposes. It may be that a pastor just loves God, loves people, and wants to help them know Jesus. He may never have been taught “expository preaching” as a specific discipline, and he may not have detailed the same discipleship goals as I have, but if he loves God, His Word, HIs gospel, and HIs people — God can use him in a way that is unique to his personality and giftedness. My ministry and church is not the only viable one in my area and I must remember that I’m not building my own kingdom, but I’m cooperating with other local gospel preaching pastors and churches to build God’s kingdom.

3. A pastor must resist the temptation to isolate himself from other local pastors.

Well, my previous point already touches on this, but suffice it to say, I’m thankful for pastor friends that the Lord has provided in my life. I value their counsel and their perspective.  I appreciate that they understand, first hand, the unique challenges of pastoral ministry. While I don’t always agree with them, and I wouldn’t always do things they way they would, I’m thankful for them.

4. A pastor must resist the temptation to isolate himself from the accountability of godly men.

Pastors struggle with insecurity just like everyone else. This is why it is vital for a pastor to constantly remind himself that his value is found in Christ and not contingent upon the opinions of others (please see previous post). Also, no one wants to be “nitpicked” or lose the freedom to minister because he feels he is always under someone’s thumb. But there ought to be at least a couple of godly men in his church that he looks to for reasonable accountability.

There are two reasons a pastor may be tempted to resist reasonable accountability — one is unacceptable, the other is understandable. 1) He’s trying to hide or cover up his own failures. When a pastor makes a mistake, or does wrong, he needs to own up to it. If the accountability he has is reasonable, they will understand that he is going to make mistakes. 2) He’s afraid of accountability because he’s been burnt before. I would imagine anyone who has pastored for any length of time has been falsely accused, misunderstood, and/or misinterpreted — many of us, on more than one occasion. It’s enough to cause any man to become “gun shy” to accountability. What helps me with this concern is to understand that my own experience has hopefully prepared me to choose men who won’t abuse their roles as accountability partners. A seasoned pastor advised me years ago to weight the concerns of others based upon their level of spiritual maturity — this is wise counsel. But those who shun all accountability are putting themselves in a very dangerous position.

Well, there’s 4 more Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist. What do you think? Do they may sense? Or maybe I’m just weird.🙂

Want to know more about the Biblical role of the pastor? Click on the following link:

4 Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist (part 1).

Jonathan_EdwardsSo with only a little over a decade of ministry experience, I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on pastoral ministry. I have, however, noted over the years several temptations either by taking stock of my own thoughts or observing the pitfalls of others in ministry.

1. A pastor must resist the temptation to make his ministry his idol.

There is no question that ministry is important, the spiritual needs of people are great, and my responsibility before the Lord is real. But I must be careful not to make the ministry the Lord has given me an idol in my life. How can I avoid this, you ask? Avoiding the following temptations will help.

2. A pastor must resist the temptation to make his position his identity.

I’ve seen this. A pastor finds his identity in his position, rather than maintaining his identity in Christ. The pastorate is my calling, my responsibility, even my position, but it can not be my identity. My value is based on who I am IN CHRIST, not based upon the fact that I’m a pastor. The size of my ministry does not equal my value.

3. A pastor must resist the temptation to worry about people in his care.

I’ve always been a little envious of those who have “happy-go-lucky” personalities who don’t usually struggle with worry. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Add the legitimate care of the ministry to the equation and it is sometimes hard to balance concern and worry. The answer is prayer. When I’m tempted to worry about church members, I must pray instead, and take action as God directs. I recall from my childhood singing a little chorus: “Why Worry When You Can Pray. This is sound advice.

4. A pastor must resist the temptation to focus on God’s working through him to the exclusion of God working in him.

Counseling, preaching, teaching, advising, and leading are all energy expenders. It is easy to desire for God to work through me, which is godly desire, unless it is to the exclusion of desiring God to work in me. Time alone with God and thinking, reading, and praying for personal, devotional enrichment is a helpful antidote to this pitfall. Jesus had to get alone with his Father and away from the crowds, how much more do we as pastors need this.

Coming soon… 4 more Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this–whether you are a pastor or not!

Is your life complicated? Are there issues in your life that are confusing? Here’s some advice from the greatest of all counselors.

NKJ 2 Timothy 2:4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (2Ti 2:4 NKJ)

When problems arise we must deal with them humbly and wisely. But we must also resist the temptation to be ensnared by them through entanglement. We must keep our eyes focused on pleasing God.

Blogging on Purpose: avoiding another cyber “stream of consciousness”

pic of laptopWell, I’ve stated what I’m not planning for my blog, i should probably explain what my intentions are. So here is what I hope to accomplish with my blog:

1. To provoke thinking – I hope I will be able to offer a perpective on various issues we face in life that will cause people to think deeply. How should Christians interface with our culture? What redeeming qualities are left to gleen? How can we ensure our thinking is rooted to Scriptural truth?

2. To provide resources – Through various book reviews, references to sermons, and Bibliography recommendations, I hope that this blog will provide helpful discipleship resources.

3. To answer questions – The more I work with people, the more I realize that people have questions… sometimes they are embarrased to ask them. I pray that God will use this blog to help people who are looking for answers.

4. To inform, influence, and help people for the sake of God’s kingdom – As a Christian, this is embedded in everything I do.

5. To have fun – As my kids get older, my family is able do more fun activities and explore more fun places. I’d like to have a place to record and share these experiences through photos and videos.

In the interest of full disclosure (because everyone who posts prose on the internet fully discloses everything), I’d like to mention a few personal goals.

1. To grow in my ability to write. I’ve primairly written on an academic level, but my hope is to keep up my writing skills, while broadening my style range.

2. To grow in my ability to communicate. As a pastor, a lot of what I do requries an ability to communicate. I think that communication is like a lot of other disciplines in life– “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Also, I don’t think you ever “arrive” when it comes to communication skills — there’s always room for further development.

3. To increase my website, photography, and videography skills. While I think I can generally hold my own in the world of “tech,” at least as an amatuer, I have always wanted to do more with photography and videography in addition to writing. I hope a blog will fill the creative void deep in my soul that has been longing to break free! Actually, nothing so dramatic– I just think it will be a good platform for developing these interests.

4. I like to read enriching, thought-provoking books. But I’d like to retain more of what I’m reading and have more of it benefit others — I hope this blog will accomplish that.