Friday, March 13, 2015

Encouragment for Pastors and Their Members

If you are like me you often find yourself seasons of spiritual droughts or discouragements. When I find myself in these times I can trace them back to a couple of things. First, I find myself lacking in my own personal devotional life through the reading, praying, and meditating on the Word of God. Secondly, I find myself being inward focus on myself, rather than Christ and His Bride. The remedy for a spiritual drought and discouragement begins with being renewed in the Word and placing my eyes upon Him, rather than self.

However, there are times during these spiritual droughts and discouragements that God uses other men's writings to encourage my soul. Therefore, I have taken the liberty to add some links to articles that have been very beneficial to me as a pastor, but also just as a Christian. So, these articles address pastors, but can be a guide for church members to know how to pray for their pastor, as well.
 I pray you find these articles as encouraging to you, as they were to me.

Click here for the articles:

"What to do when people leave your church" by Brian Howard

"The Long View of Pastoral Ministry" pt.1 by Dr. John MacArthur

"The Legacy of Long Term Ministry" pt.2 by Dr. John MacArthur

"Stay As Long As You Can" by Stacy Lamey

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"The Lord Has Fought For You"

Deut. 1:30-32 "The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God, 33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go."
I remember growing up being told the story of "The little boy who cried wolf." The story of a little boy who told lies in order to draw attention to himself and then when the wolf came no one cared to listen. In today's reading we find Moses receiving instructions and promises from the Lord to speak to Israel. And of the promises Moses received was "The Lord you God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes." What a great promise and reminder for the children of God.
As the child of God we are not alone, God fights for us. We may often feel or think we are alone in our battles in this fallen world, but take courage it is God who fights for us. Notice also, he says, "...just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ He wants them to remember God's faithfulness to them in the past. One of the greatest blessings of being God's child is being able to look to our past and see how God has fought and delivered us. He has delivered us in two ways:
1) "from Egypt" This is metaphorically speaking of our captivity and bondage of our sin. God delivered us from our sin through the atoning work of His Son Jesus Christ. Thereby, setting us free from the penalty our our sin, which is death.
2) "and in the wilderness" God has fought and delivered His people out of spiritual wondering. God has made Himself known to His people by the fire by night and cloud by day. However, He has revealed Himself to us today by HIs Word, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
But, Notice verses 32-33. The people of God although they had known and heard the promises of God failed to believe Him. What a tragedy. The people of God whom He had set His affections upon and delivered and provided for them time and time again failed to believe the word of the Lord.
Are we any different today? We have God's revealed Word in sixty-six books of the Bible, but to believe what He says? Do we remember how God has delivered us and fights for us? Do we trust in His promises? Most Christians would say, "yes." However, their lives say, "well, I am not sure." We may not say it audibly, but we don't have to. We say it with our lives. I had lunch yesterday with another brother in Christ and we were sharing our struggles, as it pertains to being Christians. I told him the hardest thing about being a pastor or a Christian is living what we preach and believe.
God told Israel he would fight for them, but they failed to believe Him. Today, God has not only fought the battle with our enemy, but the battle has been won. The victory was sealed when God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on flesh, live a perfect life fulfilling the law of God, being betrayed, mocked, ridiculed, insulted, beating, crucified, hung on a tree, buried, and by rising the third day. Your victory today will not be won by you, but the victory has already been won by the finished work of Jesus Christ. Do you believe this today? Are you living this today? May you take encouragement that the Lord has fought and won the battle for you today.
Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Delight Yourself in His Word

 This morning I began reading in the book of Numbers (Click here for BibleGateway daily reading: Honestly, when in the last time you read through the book of Numbers? I know it's not really the book we chose for our devotional reading. However, it is God's inspired word given to us to read, meditate, apply, and delight ourselves in. So, I challenge you subscribe to this helpful website, which once subscribed you can receive e-mail reminders of your reading, or you can get their free app on your smartphone, which will send you a reminder as well. I want to encourage you to read your Bible and ask God the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you in His truth. Ask Him to show you how to apply it in your daily life, as your seek to submit to Him. Beware, this may may require some hard work and diligence to do, but it worth it.

Let me suggest a few helpful reading tips for reading the Bible (especially the Old Testament):
1) Ask for God's help to understand what you are about to read. If He does not reveal to you the truth of the text you nor I will ever know the truth. He must reveal it to us.
2) Consider who originally wrote the text and the original audience whom it was written to. In other words, it is helpful to know the historical context of the book you are reading. Many Bibles now offer a summarized introduction to each book.
3)) When I read I want to make sure I am following the narrative (story) closely by observing each scene change, or a change in the conversation between characters. This will help you follow along in the narrative as you seek to find the main point.
4)) As I read I am looking for repetition that the author uses, which often "jumps off" the page that will solidify the main point of the passage.
5) After I have read the passage, I am asking myself these questions so what did God intend for the original audience to receive out of this text? Which in return will tell me what God intends for me to receive from the text.
6) As I am reading the text I am reading through gospel lenses. In other words, one can not make sense of the Old Testament separated from the gospel, which we have through the New Testament. All the types, shadows, and prophecies found in the Old Testament were fulfilled by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
7) After seeking to know the original authors intent in writing the text, following the narrative closely, looking for repetition, seeking to find the main point or message in the passage, seeing how it relates to the gospel, then and only then do I ask, "so what?" How does this passage apply to me? What does God want me to do now? I found found the meaning to the text in its original context, how it relates to the gospel, and now I pray asking God the Holy Spirit how and to help me apply what He has revealed to me through His Word.
8) After I am finished reading my passage, and pray for God's help to apply what He has revealed to me, I sit and write a half- full page in my journal. This my apply to the passage I just read, maybe a prayer concern, or just a thought of what God is doing in my life.

So, this is the way I read devotionally in my quiet time each day. I am not saying you have to do it "MY" way, but just do it some way. I cannot stress enough the importance of daily bible intake. I know for pastors we are constantly studying, reading, and preparing sermons. However, we need to take off our "work boots" and put on our "house slippers" by delighting and enjoying God in reading His Word devotionally. I want to encourage Christians to set aside 30 minutes a day, preferably at the beginning of your day, to seek the Lord through reading His Word devotionally. I have often heard Christians who talked about their devotional life and was jealous because I lacked the discipline to do it on a consistent basis. Let me encourage to start today, by spending time with the Lord in His Word. You won't regret it!

Let me know how it goes or if I can assist you in anyway. Blessings!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"No Big "I's" or Little "You's"

Leviticus 24:1-4 "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,“Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the Lord regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the Lord regularly."
It has been said, "that 20 percent of the people in the church do 80% of the work in the church." I am not sure if I whole-heartedly agree, but I do find a trend within the church of a small portion of individuals who give themselves fully to the Lord's work. God in His divine wisdom has not called a small group of people to take on all the work of ministry as it relates to the kingdom of God. How do we know this? 1 Corinthians 12:14 reminds us, "For the body does not consist of one member but of man."
In our text this morning, the Lord commanded the people of Israel to gather the oil for the lamps. This was to ensure the priest in the temple were able to minister non-stop. However, the Lord gave Aaron a task, as well. He was to make sure this lamp was arrange from evening to morning.
Many believers today would say, "oh, well it is just olive oil," or "Aaron has got it covered. Let him take care of it." That was not God's intended purpose. God desired all of His people to be actively involved in ministering unto Him. The sad reality is this; many Christians miss a tremendous blessing by not serving in the body of Christ, known as the Local church.
So, where do you serve in your local church? Do you consider it a blessing and a privilege to serve the living God of the universe in being apart of His work and plan? **I would love to hear how God is using you.
If you are not actively serving in your local church, I encourage you to repent, pray, and seek out church leadership asking how you can be apart of serving in your local church.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Humility and Substitution

Genesis 50:17-21, "‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."
Through out the narrative of Genesis one finds Joseph's life pointing the reader to the coming of Christ.The final verses of the book of reminds us of the humility and substitution of Joseph on the behalf of his family. This reminds the reader of Christ's humility in Philippians 2:5-11, "where Christ humbled himself to the point of death, death on the cross." Christ being fully God and fully man was unconcerned about keeping his God-given attributes, but desired to fully keep the Father's will by coming to a sin cursed world, keeping the law fully, and bearing the wrath of the Father by humbling himself under His heavy hand.
Not only did Joseph's life point us to the humility of Christ, but also to the substitution of Christ. "He who knew no sin, became sin for us..." (2 Cor.5:21). The substitutionary death of Christ can be seen in the life of Joseph, as he substituted himself for his brothers. He was willing to stand in the gap for his brothers as they were desperate and hopeless in their situation. This is where poor sinners find ourselves. We are hopeless and helpless in our sin. And unless Christ stands in the gap for us we are doomed. We find ourselves in the place of Joseph's brothers who were evil and in need of forgiveness.
Do you find yourself in the place of Joseph's brothers? Evil. Transgressor of God's holy law? Think about how evil men killed God's Son and you could place yourself there at the crime. For had you and I been there we would have yelled, "crucify him, crucify him," unless God had opened our eyes to see him as the substituted Savior. Have you repented and believed upon the only One who can save? Have you asked him to forgive you this day of your evil and transgressions? "Call upon the name of the Lord and thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:13)."

Friday, June 27, 2014

"My Journey So Far..."

"My Journey So Far..."
     This blog page has been largely reserved to share the gospel and to give hope to those who are in need of Christ. However, I want to take a moment to encourage others, especially pastors to take control of their lives physically. After moving to northern Tennessee almost 5 years ago I tipped the scales at 290 pound wearing a size 46 pant. After a year and a half of pastoring, facing trials of various sorts, and alot of stress I felt as though my life was spinning out of control. I went to the doctor for a check up where he said I was borderline diabetic, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I needed to DO something.
     That is when I began walking. The journey started out by being unable to walk a half a mile. However, I kept pressing forward and being as consistent as I knew how. I did this for several months and signed up for my first 5K. By this time I had worked my way up from walking to jogging and losing a few pounds. After completing my first 5K life happened and I quit for a few months. But, I quickly realized I needed this discipline for my life. So, I began to research and study more about running and set a goal to run a 'half marathon.' It was then I started running more consistently in order to finish my first 'half marathon.'
     This past October ('13) I did finish my first 'half marathon' in 2:31:50. Not real good, but I did finish in the cold rainy weather of TN. After completing the 'half' I hurt so, so, bad and everywhere. I had cramps and felt terrible all day long. I knew I had not trained properly for this event. I mean 13.1 miles is a long way! So, I spent some time considering what to do now. Of course, after I healed up. I thought I wanted a new challenge. Maybe a marathon?  Maybe triathlon? But, I knew one thing. I didn't know what I was doing.
     That is when I decided I wanted to find someone to help me in training and weight loss. I stilled weighed around 260 pounds when I contacted Chris Borden. Chris Borden is a dentist in Haleyville, AL, but is also an endurance athlete who helps coach others. You can read his blog here: . His wife and I went to the same high school together in the 90's (shhh...don't tell anyone that I'm that old!). He came recommended to me from an ex-boss of mine who had just completed his first Ironman (140.6 miles), which Chris helped in his training. So, I began the journey with Chris to become a better runner and lose more weight. Since joining his team I have lost 55 pounds in about 6 months and I have become a more proficient runner. I finished my second 'half marathon' in Tuscaloosa, AL in March with a time of 2:02:12 and I didn't hurt like I did after my first 'half.' That was a great blessing from training properly.
     So, after few months of run training I ended up buying a used bike to do some cross training. This helped give my legs a break from all the pounding. After riding for a little while I  thought I would compete in a triathlon (swim, ride, run). And so, I signed up for my first sprint triathlon called 'Storm the Fort' in Kingston, TN.

Me, Chris, and Dylan prior to race
 Thanks to this guy in the last 6 months I've went from a 11:00/mile to 7:40/ mile today in my very first triathlon. Not to mention I've dropped 60 lbs. since December too. He's been an awesome coach answering all my silly questions, from equipment to nutrition. Not only does he answer my questions, but he works as hard in his own training, as he crushed 'Storm the Fort' half IronMan finishing 1st place overall. He helped me out during my pity party Thursday before the race, when I told him I wasn't comfortable swimming 600 yds. He told me I might not need to do the race (reverse psychology, I think?), lest I drown. Since running my first half marathon I desired to try and complete a triathlon and he has helped me to do that very thing. By the Lord's grace I finished today without drowning! Although I didn't earn any hardware (medals), I finished 8th in my age division and with an overall time of 1:31:23 (600 yrd. swim, 13 mile bike, 4 mile run). Who knows I might try an Ironman one day? I am grateful most of all to Samantha Smith Beck and the Beck boys for cheering me on along the way. It was a great Father's Day weekend!        

Me and the Beck boys

My precious wife who supports me so well.

YES! The finish line of "Storm the Fort"

I understand most people will never have a desire to run 'half marathons' or do a triathlon, but if I could encourage just one person to get out and be active it would be worth it all. The benefits of my physical activity has been incomprehensible. Here are a few things I have personally benefited from by being active:

1. For starters, it has caused me to be more discipline in my time. I always said, "I didn't have time for exercise. I am a pastor and people needed me. However, I realized how much time I wasted on trivial things. Someone asked me, "how much time do you spend on exercising?" I said, "less time than most people spend watching television in a day." However, I have to spend my time wisely and be focused on what I am doing. So, exercising has become one of my priorities in my life and has helped me immensely in my time management. I encourage you find 30 minutes a day just to get out and walk. Make it a priority. Just like my quiet time in daily reading of Scripture, or the time we set apart to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, set your time for exercising, as well.
2. I have been able to incorporate my family in a healthy lifestyle. When I ride my bike for 20-30 miles I will stop by the house afterwards and they will do a cool down ride with me. We don't go fast, but we are able to talk and enjoy our time together. When I go to swim they go with me. My boys love to swim, just not like I do! So, we enjoy the ride there and back. When I run sometimes they are able to go with me for a mile or two or catch me on my cool down walk. My wife has even began walking along with me. I encourage you to get out and go for a walk with your children or your wife in the evening.
3. I have benefited in losing 85 pounds since I began this journey 3 and a half years ago. Needless to say I am no longer borderline "anything." I feel better than I can every remember. Plus I have more energy than ever before as well. Exercising and nutrition is the key to a healthier lifestyle. My family and I are have been blessed to use a all-natural botanical superfood which we receive all the nutrition we need and don't get in our processed food. It is call "moringa." For more information click here:
4. I have learned as well that is alright to set goals and to work toward them.
Here are few goals I am tossing around in my head now. I will do 2-3 more triathlons this season. My next race will be Clarksville, TN on August 23rd. Next May 2015, I want to do the "Half-IronMan" in Panama City, FL, where I will swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. My long, long, long term goal is to do a full "IronMan" (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile, 26.2 run).
5. The last, but not least and most important benefit is I am closer to the Lord today than I was 3 and a half years ago. As I am exercising, I often meditate on the passage of Scripture I will preach the coming Lord's Day. Or I will pray for my people who the Lord brings to my mind. Sometimes I will stop and talk to neighbors around our community as I am running. I am also taking care of the temple in which he has entrusted to me. I want to prolong my days and to be used for God's glory wether its preaching the gospel, visiting shut-ins, or doing triathlons. I have more energy than before enabling me to do the work I have been called to and to do it with great joy!

     I pray this blog I "threw" together would be a blessing to God's people, especially for pastors who have busy schedules and find time to take care of themselves. May the Lord receive the glory that is due Him!
Let me know what you think?

"The Faithfulness of Elijah"

Today's chronological Bible reading is taken from 1 Kings 17-19 (click link to read).

There are many events in these chapters one could focus on. However, the Lord has drawn my attention to the overarching theme of Elijah's faithfulness. Elijah served as a prophet of God to heal and speak on behalf of God. God used Elijah to heal and give hope to the "widow of Zarephath." God used Elijah not only heal her son, but to bring her to faith in God.But, Elijah was used to heal and speak for God, but also to confront false prophets of the day. He not only confronts King Ahab, but challenges the peoples false worship of Baal. Elijah calls out their false worship by challenging the false prophets of Baal and defeating them. Elijah's was a "man's man." He drew his strength from the Lord to stand in the midst of a wicked generation.

But, like most men of God there comes time where they become weary in well doing. Elijah not only was used to heal and confront false prophets, but there was tremendous resistance against him. While he is serving the Lord by healing the dead, and confronting idol worship, Jezebel is ready to kill him. Elijah has been faithful and now his life is on the line. How can this be? Elijah says to the Lord, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” Elijah is saying how can this be? I have been faithful and now my life is being sought after. And the Lord tells Elijah, "yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” In other words, Elijah, you are not alone!

Have you ever felt like Elijah? You have served the Lord faithfully, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor, and standing for truth, but you are being attacked by everyone. Be of good cheer. You are not alone. For the child of God to serve the Lord there comes the blessings of trials, tribulation, and persecutions. Yes, I said the blessings. Listen to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." You are blessed when you suffer for Christ. Unlike Elijah you may not be persecuted for your faith by being fearful for you life, but you co-worker may want to speak with you because you shared the gospel or family member ignore you because of your love for Christ.

As I close I want to direct your attention to the lovingkindness of God to Elijah. He gave him a helper in the midst of his struggles. His name, Elisha. The Lord is gracious in given us other brother and sisters to come along side of us in midst of our struggles. But, greater than brothers and sisters, He has given us Himself (Gal.2:20). He has given us the Holy Spirit, which resides in every true believer. The Spirit enables us to persevere, to pray, to worship, and believe by faith in the Son of God who never leaves us, nor forsakes us. The Spirit gives us the ability to be faithful in the times of great struggles and persecution.

So, today what is your great struggle? How will you over come it? By the arm of the flesh or by the Spirit that lives inside of you as a believer? May I encourage you and myself to remain faithful to the Lord walking in the Spirit and not the flesh. 1 John 4:4, "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."