So, we are officially 2 weeks into 2019. How is it going so far? How are your resolutions (if you made any)? Have you broke that diet, yet? Have you already spent that money you said you were going to save? What about that Bible reading plan? Are you already having to play catch up? Continue reading “What If 2019 Isn’t The Best Year Ever?”
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” | Proverbs 4:23
I woke up Wednesday morning and, just like many others, was shocked with the news of the passing of Billy Graham. It was a tragic celebration. As believers in Christ, we know Billy Graham is celebrating with his late wife and, more importantly, Jesus Christ in Heaven.
My social media news feed was flooded with the many people that had been impacted with the life and ministry of Billy Graham. When I, like many other pastors and preachers, answered the call to ministry, I had many people tell me, “You never know, you may become the next Billy Graham.” This is a desire that some of us have, to be like Billy Graham. He had an amazing platform, known across the world as the greatest evangelist, preached the Gospel to thousands upon thousands.
However, the world does not need another Billy Graham.
As pastors and preachers, God did not call us to be like Billy Graham. God called us, through our own personalities and characteristics, to be like Christ. We will preach differently. We will shepherd differently. We are each individually unique. Even though Billy Graham was one of the best, we are not called to be the next Billy Graham. We wouldn’t be able to do that. Billy Graham was Billy Graham and the best one that ever lived. God, however, has called us as pastors and preachers to be who we are through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
I, who once wanted to be the next Billy Graham, know that I will not, and cannot, fulfill that role. As of right now, God has not placed me in large stadiums, next to Presidents, talking to Hollywood actors and actresses. No, He has graciously placed me in a small Southern Baptist Church in a small rural town. God has blessed me with a great Church to shepherd. And even though I do not have the platform Billy had, I pray I have the zeal and the faithfulness he had to the Gospel.
Billy Graham preached to thousands upon thousands. Some of us only preach to 100 or less a week. Success in ministry is not found in the amount of people we get to preach to, but in being faithful to the ministry God has placed us in. Be faithful where God has placed you. Don’t look to the future of where God may place you next, or where you feel God is sending you. Where does He have you, today? Are you in a small church or a large church? Are you a small group leader or a youth pastor? Be faithful where you are. God has you there for a purpose.
We are not held to the amount of people we lead to Christ. God does not hold us accountable to the amount of people who respond to the gospel we preach. No. Billy Graham once said, “My job is to proclaim the message. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to do the work, period.” So, not only are we to be faithful where we are, we must also be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ that we preach. One thing I loved about Billy Graham is his persistence, his commitment, and his obedience to the gospel. Whether you are preaching to one or thousands, preach the gospel.
I am thankful for Billy Graham. Heaven gained what the world lost; a great man and a soldier of the gospel. I pray as pastors and preachers, even though we aren’t called to be the next Billy Graham, we seek to learn from him and the legacy he left, because, what this world needs, is not another Billy Graham, but pastors and preachers who will pick up the mantle and continue to preach the gospel that has been entrusted to us.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. – 2 Corinthians 7:10-11
If I were to tell you that you can find joy within your conviction, you might think I’m crazy. As a believer in Jesus, conviction is a gift from the Holy Spirit that lets us know when we have offended God by disobeying Him. I’m not talking about that feeling you get becauseyou did something bad. I’m talking about that feeling you get when you realize you have offended God.
Paul calls it, here in 2 Corinthians 7, “godly grief.” A feeling of grief or sorrow that we have disobeyed our Master. You know that feeling if you are a believer. It’s not a fun feeling. How is it that we can find joy in our conviction?
My son, Jaiyden, is at the end of his terrible 2’s and about to enter his terrifying 3’s. Everything is “no” to him. So, when he disobeys,we place him in time-out. But we tell him that he’s in time-out, not because of the action he did, but because he disobeyed mommy and daddy. Our conviction of our sin is not just because of what we have done, but also because of who we did it to. So, Paul shares with us in 2 Corinthians 7 about convictionand even how we can find joy in it.
Conviction produces repentance
We can find joy in conviction becauseit leads us to repentance. I am thankful for conviction because it allows me to know when I have done wrong and that I need to repent and turn to Jesus. I had a 90 day review one time at my first full time youth pastor position. It went fairly well. However, a couple things were pointed out to me that I needed to work on. I was thankful for that opportunity to learn where I have failed so that I can change.
Martin Luther’s first thesis that he nailed to the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517 said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”
Conviction produces repentance that leads to growth
We can find joy in conviction because it leads us to repentance which then leads us to spiritual growth. Paul calls it salvation in chapter 7, but he’s referring to maturing as a believer. As we repent of our sin, we grow to be more like Jesus. Our greatestdesire in life should be to look more and more like Jesus.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Conviction produces repentance that leads to growth that gains a zeal for godliness
We can find joy in conviction becauseit ultimatelyleads to a stronger zeal for godliness. As we repent of our sin and grow to be more and more like Jesus, we can an eagerness to be more and more like Him. When we begin to see the results of godliness in our lives, the more eager we get to see more of it!
True conviction that produces repentance is a mark of a true believer
We can find joy in conviction because it is a mark of a true believer. If there is no conviction of known sin, and no repentance, there is no salvation. Even though conviction hurts, it’s a blessing. As the Holy Spirit convicts you, and He will, remember it’s a gift from God so that we may grow to be more like Jesus.
“If we sin, we shall feel the weight of God’s hand. We ought to thank Him for this, for though it brings great sorrow, yet it brings great safety to us.” – C.H. Spurgeon
Did you know that 87% of Americans who own a pair of running shoes do not run? Continue reading “Run Hard After Jesus”
I love to read. As a pastor, I find my time reading more non-fiction, but I love to escape into a good piece of fiction at times. In fact, for every 2-3 works of non-fiction I read, I squeeze in a work of fiction.
At times, my friends ask me, “How do you read so much?” Hopefully, this will help you as you seek to read more books.
1. Schedule a time to read.
Make sure you schedule a time in the week in which you are going to read. First, schedule the days you will read. Monday through Friday? Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s? All 7 days? Schedule it. Second, schedule how long you want to read each day. I try to squeeze in one hour a day to read. You may find that to be difficult. Try 20 minutes a day, then work your way up! Thirdly, schedule when you will read within that day! Will it be when you wake up? During lunch? During break? Before bed? Set aside the time, and do it!
2. Be intentional about what you read.
Time is valuable and there’s nothing I hate more than wasting my time on a book that isn’t worth reading! Be intentional about what you read. As a pastor, I pick between Pastoral leadership, theology, religious biography, and specific fiction when reading. I am not just picking up a random book. If it’s something I need to learn or focus on, I pick it up. If it doesn’t capture me within the first 2 chapters, I set it down. Be intentional! I tend to read books that are recommended by authors and pastors I respect.
3. Set a goal.
A couple years back, my goal was to read one book a week! I barely made it. I failed at scheduling a daily time to read. Make your goal reasonable at first! Maybe it’s to read 10 books in a year, or 1 book a month. Set a goal that is reasonable to reach at first, then after that goal is reached, set a new one.
4. Read without distractions.
Find a time to read where you can set your phone aside, where you have no responsibilities, and where you won’t be distracted. I tend to read in the mornings while my family is still asleep, but if I can’t in the mornings due to meetings or visits, I’ll make time in the afternoons to read.
Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day. Keep reading, keep going, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day! It’s possible to read more. Good luck!
Today, my wife and I are celebrating 7 years of a wonderful marriage! Not every year was a “wonderful year.” We had a rocky start, but we pushed through it, learned many lessons, and are much closer today than we were 7 years ago.
Here are 7 things I have learned in 7 years of marriage:
- Marriage takes sacrifice.
- Marriage takes selflessness.
- Marriage takes strength.
- Marriage takes sentiment.
- Marriage takes surprises.
- Marriage takes support.
- Marriage takes softheartedness.
1. Marriage takes sacrifice.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… – Ephesians 5:25
I have learned through the past 7 years of marriage that I need to put my wife’s needs, desires, and self before my own. Marriage is always about sacrifice. You will find yourself not always able to do the things you want to do for the sake of the happiness of your wife. But, more importantly, marriage takes sacrifice in the fact that, we may need to give up things for our spouse. Maybe it’s our jobs, possessions, lifestyles. We make sacrifices. We need to be sure we love our wives in a way that says, “I’m willing to give up everything, even my very existence, for you.”
2. Marriage takes selflessness.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church… – Ephesians 5:28-29
It’s not about me. I am here to serve my wife, not expect her to serve me. I learned how selfish I am, and still am, and I am daily learning how to be more selfless. If I were to take my selfishness, and turn it to selflessness, imagine what I could accomplish as a spouse! I’ve learned that I need to be more selfless. I need to make sure she’s taken care of, that she’s happy, that she’s not burdened with too much to take care (especially since we have a kid, now). I fail at this, often, but I’ve recognized it, and I’m learning.
3. Marriage takes strength.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3
In order to lead a home well, the husband must be under the headship, and lordship, of Christ. Husbands, are you leading your wives towards Christ, or away from Him? Are you praying with them (something I am still learning)? Are you reading your Bible with them? In order to lead, we need strength to do so. We find that in our own prayer and devotion. We must be seeking Christ, following Him, in order to lead our families towards Him.
4. Marriage takes sentiment.
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, – Ephesians 5:33
I love my wife. There’s nothing in this world I love more than my wife (except Christ, of course). My love for my wife is expressed through not only my words, but my actions as well. Love is a verb. Marriage takes a strong kind of love, a sacrificial kind of love, a love that surpasses all other kinds of love!
5. Marriage takes surprises.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love… – Ecclesiastes 9:9
I love to surprise my wife. It gets harder as the years go on because you seem to get comfortable with the way things are, but surprises are always special and keep things alive. Husbands, we need to strive to surprise our wives. Even if it’s by cleaning house, or cooking dinner, or taking her out to dinner, marriage takes surprises.
6. Marriage takes support.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. – Ephesians 5:31
Marriage is a team. You work together in the good things and the bad. Your spouse is placed above all other people (even your own parents). You fight for your spouse. You are now one. You fight for her holiness, for her health, for her happiness. You fight to make sure that your marriage is where it needs to be. Men need to be fighting on their knees in prayer for their wives! I’m learning this more and more. You’ll never understand how much you grow to love someone until you begin praying for them, daily.
7. Marriage takes softheartedness.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. – Colossians 3:19
Marriage is going to be filled with mistakes. You are going to mess up as a spouse. Marriage takes grace, forgiveness, and softheartedness. There needs to be room for that. Don’t expect your spouse to be perfect (mine is!) because they aren’t. Give room for mistakes to happen. I’m speaking, not as a husband who has had to forgive his wife, a lot, but as a husband who has needed grace for the mistakes he has made in his marriage. I am thankful for my wife and the love and grace she gives me. Marriage is definitely an expression of the Gospel in the fact that we are two sinful people expressing the same grace and love that God has given us through Jesus Christ.