Keeping Faith When Life Isn’t Fair

“I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8 ESV)

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A few weeks ago, the wind was blowing so hard that when I opened the door to our Suburban, it grabbed the door out of my hand and whipped it back, causing the hinges to go out of alignment and our driver’s side fender to get damaged. I was deeply frustrated. There are many things I love about life in our small town. There are few things that bother me, but the wind here gets on my nerves.

After realizing that the damage was more than what I could fix on my own, I decided to call the insurance company and file a claim. It was a no-brainer, really. After reading my policy, I was relieved that this should be filed as a no fault comprehensive claim, as an “act of God.”

To my surprise, after spending several minutes on the phone with the insurance adjuster, she said, “I will be talking to my manager to see whether this will be filed as a collision or a comprehensive claim. Everything in my brain stopped. What?! How could this even remotely in a far away universe be filed as a collision claim?

I remained calm. Inside I was furious. I wanted to bless her out and tell her a thing or two about a thing or two. Instead, I politely said, “Thanks for your help. I’d be surprised if this was filed as a collision since no other vehicle was involved. Frankly, I find it weird that you are even considering this.” Apparently, there is a thing called, “vehicle-on-vehicle collision.”

A couple days passed, and finally one of the adjuster minions called and said they finished processing my claim. I would be getting a check less the amount of my $500 deductible. My claim was filed as a collision! I was furious once again. I said firmly over the phone, “I am going to need some sort of explanation. Do you think this was filed correctly?”

Inside, my anger wasn’t about the co-pay that was higher for collision than my comprehensive. It was the fact that this claim might go down as an at fault claim, and it would stay on my insurance record for years. I couldn’t run from it by going to another company. I realized that I was going to have to fight this claim.

Meanwhile, I had to prepare for Sunday’s message. I was preaching through the beatitudes. Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” In my first world life, there a few things more that might cause me to hunger and thirst for righteousness than dealing with insurance companies who deal unfairly in the claim process!

The reality is that my small injustice is hardly petty compared to what many go through on a daily basis. Injustice is a part of life that nobody likes. It is also something that God cares deeply about– so much so that his Son absorbed God’s wrath because of the injustices and sins of this world.

Jesus undestands the weak legal systems on this earth. Even if we give the court system a benefit of the doubt and suppose that lawyers, judges and juries do their best to ensure equity and justice, we know that the right verdict doesn’t always get reached. Sometimes life isn’t fair, and God knows that.

When Jesus came to earth, he came and planted the seed of His Kingdom. Part of following Jesus means that we are following a King who is good and who is just. He knows when we are treated unfairly. He is also powerful, willing, and able to restore justice.

Part of the Christian hope is that righteousness will be restored. But, the Kingdom of God doesn’t come in the way we expect (Luke 17:20-24). Jesus’ plan is much greater than ours. There will be a day, however, when Jesus will return and justice and equity will be restored. But until that day comes, one action that we can take is to pray.

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells a story about an unrighteous judge who was worn out by the persistence of a widow who was treated unfairly. Finally, that judge granted what she asked for. Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater. If the unrighteous judge (one beset with human weaknesses and who is not omniscient) was willing to give justice to the widow, how much more will God who is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) be both willing and able to ensure justice for his people.

The issue isn’t one of God’s ability, but of man’s faith. Jesus says, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Do we really believe that God is going to sort out the right from the wrong? Do we really believe that God is willing and able to make things right?

When we take matters into our own hands, we are showing that we don’t trust God. Not only that but more often than not, and by far, when we do take matters in our own hands, we make a much bigger mess in our life and we make things more complicated.

Do we really believe that God loves us? Do we really believe that God knows and understands what is going on in our life? Do we really believe that he is willing and able to help us? If we do, then we ought to pray to him and seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). He will give us everything we need (Matthew 6:25-33).

After I got off the phone, I prayed and left it to the Lord. I knew that God owns everything. I am just his steward. I don’t have to worry about cost of insurance in the future. I just have to trust that he knows the whole story and he will make things right whether or not the insurance company did.

I received a call from the adjuster hours later. She said, “Well, this claim caused quite a debate in the office today. We decided to do the right thing. We have switched your claim as a comprehensive. It won’t count against you as an at fault accident.” I was deeply grateful and humbled. I was fully aware that often times, it doesn’t pan out this way in life.

What a great reminder to pray, pray, pray, and trust Jesus. That’s the kind of faith that he will be looking for when he comes back. Are you in a situation where you haven’t been treated fairly? What might God be doing for the sake of your faith in your circumstance? Are you willing to trust Him? May God bless you through every difficult season of your life.

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When you get angry, you might be struggling with THIS problem:

I scooted up to the table to begin my morning routine. Coffee house jazz played quietly on Alexa. Steam wisped away off my oatmeal and coffee. The sunlight reflected off the worn pages of my bible. I couldn’t wait to have my morning of solitude and prayer.

That is, until my son John kept saying in my ear… “Hi Will…..Hi Will….” He sat nearby at the same table and flipped through his Lego building instructions creatively dialoguing a story in his head and out loud. My face frowned a little bit in irritation. He was interrupting my solitude.

“Dad. Get me a paper towel” I ignored my daughter’s request trying to focus on the words in front of me. Besides, she shouldn’t talk to me like that. A few seconds later, her voice pierced my ears again, “Dad! Get me a paper towel!!!”

“Get it yourself, Bekah. Don’t talk to daddy like that!” I looked back down at the page I was trying to read now for the fifth time.

I focused even more intently, trying to defy new noises that were now coming from William playing in the background.

“Hi Will…” Faster that John’s words echoed into my ears again, my arm instinctively reached over and my hand grabbed John’s Lego instructions and tossed it across the room. My mouth erupted, “Can’t you see that I’m doing my devotions? You guys need to quiet down!”

My solitude was ruined and it made me angry. I was boiling inside. My son felt ashamed and left his food at the table though he had done nothing wrong.

This embarrassing story is true. I knew at that moment I had failed. I was fixated on my morning ritual rather than being faithful to what God wanted me to do. He wasn’t asking me to read my Bible and pray. He wanted me to practice engagement and love with my wife and children. I had to give everyone an apology. What a disaster I created!

Inside, I knew my obsession with my ritual was damaging my relationships. Ironically, I wasn’t listening to God in that moment, even when I was trying to pursue Him most.

In Luke 8, Jesus tells a simple story used to illustrate a spiritual lesson to the crowd that was pressing in on him. The crowd listened intently about a story about a  farmer who scattered seed. Some seed fell on a path and was eaten by birds. Other seed fell on rock, didn’t take root, and withered away after it sprouted. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop.

The disciples were as confused as the crowd. Jesus explained that God’s word is the seed that is cast among all people. They have all heard it, but for various reasons the seed was not implanted into everyone’s lives so that it was heard, understood and put into practice by everybody. It was only those who had a good heart that retained the seed of God’s word and persevered through the season of their life to produce a crop for the farmer (Luke 8:15).

Jesus then warned his disciples that everything we do in life will be brought to light. We will be held accountable for what we do and who we are. The exhortation to the disciples then was, “Take care then how you hear…(v.18).”

As the crowd squeezed against Jesus, someone yelled out from the back, “Hey, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But Jesus gave a peculiar response:

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (v. 21).

Jesus had a one track mind. He went from town to town to do the will of the father (John 4:34). Doing God’s will was Jesus’ fixation. This is what it means to hear the word of God and do it.

The question in Luke 8:1-21 is, “What is my fixation?” What am I focused on right at this moment? Is it the right thing?

Insisting on doing my devotions, even though my family needed some attention, wasn’t doing the right thing. As a result, I felt like I was losing control. Anger began to build. When my expectations weren’t being met, I blew up. I wasn’t listening very well to what God was really wanting me to do. My morning ritual was leading me, not the Holy Spirit.

When we get angry, our problems may actually be a hearing problem. A listening problem. A problem of application. Are we fixated on what we want to do and not paying attention to God’s voice in the moment? Are our assumptions about God’s voice incorrect in those angry moments? Could it be that when we are angry we are listening more to our voice more than anything else?

If we suddenly find ourselves angry and we aren’t doing well, our problem may be that we aren’t hearing well.

Feeling excluded? What you should know about acceptance.

Luke 7:50 “And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

My blood boiled. I could feel my blood pressure shoot up and my face turned red. “Go to your room!” It took everything within me not to blow up. “When you can be fun to be around and treat people with respect, you are welcome to come back upstairs.”

One of our kids had pinched the other, causing her to scream and cry. I was deeply frustrated because I felt hopeless to help my child change his behavior. I had tried everything under the sun, including spankings.

But something was different this time. I learned just how much my child despised being separated from the rest of the family. Eventually, he was allowed to come back upstairs when his attitude changed and he was willing to apologize.

Isolation is one of the severest forms of punishment. God created us to enjoy relationships with others. That’s why it is such a big deal that our sin has separated us from God and caused division with each other. Our inner fiber longs to find acceptance by the community.

When we aren’t accepted by others, we do anything and everything to find a way “in.” When Jesus accepted the invitation to dine with the social elites of his day, what happened next would change everything about what it meant to be accepted by others. In Luke 7, we can see more clearly just how important this is:

“Would you like to join us for dinner?  We would like to get to know you.”

Jesus accepted the Pharisee’s invitation. As he entered the home, he was not treated by the customary foot washing or anointing of oil. Jesus overlooked the offenses, knowing the deeper issue. Jesus was keenly aware that he was under the microscope of his hosts. It didn’t bother him.

It wasn’t long after the Pharisees (religious leaders who thought too highly of themselves) starting sizing up Jesus when they found the first offense in him. It surely wasn’t possible that this miracle man was a true prophet. To their astonishment, Jesus was accommodated by the “town sinner,” a woman who was known for her patronizing of Roman soldiers for pay.

The elite host evaluated his guest of honor, noticing that Jesus allowed this woman to touch him. She let her hair down. She was weeping and began wiping his feet with her hair. “Doesn’t this ‘Prophet’ know that this woman is coming on to him? He is a fraud. He is unclean.” The host determined that this sinner that was now desecrating his home and reputation had no part here – or in this town for that matter– and neither did this Jesus.

Knowing this Jesus challenged what was in the “clean man’s” heart. Jesus tells a short parable in order to teach the Pharisee the correct standard for accepting others. The woman’s tears were tears of joy and humility because she had acceptance with Christ. Jesus was encouraging the Pharisee to accept the woman because of her new found faith in Him, and she wasn’t to be rejected because of her past.

As the reader of this story, we can see the irony. The “clean man” (the religious zealot), is not really clean at all. In his pursuit of purity, he had offended his own rules in the way he treated Jesus. He neither offered Jesus the refreshment of anointing or clean feat. He also didn’t  extend the proper esteem and protection to the reputation of his guest. But his problems were actually worse.

The Pharisee was legally blind to his sin. He could see the external mistakes in his life that necessitated his religious rituals to keep him “right with God.” But he could not see into the depth of the wretchedness of his own sin that was fully manifested in his maltreatment of Jesus Christ. He could never enjoy forgiveness in the way the sinful woman did.

The woman enjoyed her acceptance and fellowship with Jesus because she had been forgiven much. She knew the weight of her own sin and shame. She felt the pain of being excluded from the community, with all its scornful looks and hidden chatter. Yet, her faith kept her close to Jesus.

There is nothing like the joy of being included. Offenses are the key reasons we become excluded in society. We don’t dress right. We don’t used the right language. We don’t have the right political party. We don’t have the right connections in life, and the list goes on. When someone on the outside is allowed back on the inside, there is peace. That’s true in the life we live, and it is also true of the spiritual life.

Each one of us has offended God. We have hurt others. We have been hurt by others. We are isolated in many ways. We are outsiders because of our sin. It has caused division with God and consequently with our family, friends and others who are in our life as well. But the Good News is that there is a way to come back in to the community of God.

That way is Jesus Christ. It is his shed blood on the cross that is the cleansing agent of people of faith. His blood is also the payment that makes amends with God so that He will forgive us from our offense. Our faith in Christ– that his grace is sufficient in our weakness– is the basis of God’s forgiveness and our reconciliation with God.

When Jesus set foot in the home of the Pharisee, he challenged the rules of cultural engagement. He clarified the rules for spiritual acceptance.

We aren’t accepted by God because of our moral performance, and we don’t accept each other because we can talk the right talk, perform a religious ritual, or because we know a secret handshake. Our standard for acceptance by God is faith in Jesus Christ alone, and the more we can understand the gravity of our circumstance because of our sin, the more we will enjoy the extent of our forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

If you happen to be a “sinner,” just as was the woman with Jesus, and like I am, welcome to the club. We have no secret handshakes or dress code. We only have Jesus. I am with Him, and if you are with Him, then you are also with us. Welcome!

Get to know your past sin, not so that you can be chained by guilt and shame or participate in it, but so that you can have a much greater joy in what you have been forgiven. It will keep you from becoming self-righteous. It will also keep you near to Jesus, and you will find yourself alongside others who are doing the same. We are so glad you’re here!

Who Should Read “Winning on Purpose”?

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Early this week I finished my third book for the year called, Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser. Kaiser uses the analogy of a soccer game in order to give a picture of what should be happening in accountable ministry at the local church.

Just as a soccer game has components such as boundaries to the field, a goal, a score board, score keepers, referees and a purpose that by playing within the rules, the winning team is the one who is able to score the most goals in a the given period of time, so also ought the church operate itself in a similar manner.

Winning on Purpose was a gift sent to me by the the director of our regional church association. As I begin to institute these principles at the church I serve, I believe that I will find a deeper appreciation of the gift I have found within its pages.

Kaiser suggests that the role of lay people is to do the work of the ministry. Staff, whether they are paid or unpaid volunteers, exist to help train and equip the members to do ministry work. The Pastor leads the team through the teaching and equipping of staff and laity, leading mission and vision, and reports to the board.

The board is the accountable leadership that functions as both the referees and cheerleaders to the pastor, and makes sure that the mission and vision is being accomplished within the boundaries of the rules. The rules are what Kaiser calls Guiding Principles. Together, when everyone faithfully executes their position, they become a team that works to accomplish the goal in the church, which is the Great Commission.

Some of the ways that Kaiser’s accountable leadership model will benefit your church is that it marries responsibility with authority and accountability. It will promote church unity to accomplish one purpose in a meaningful way, no matter what your role is on the team. Mission and vision become the driving force of the church, and not policies and programs.

This book is not a book for everyone, but is beneficial for pastors, elders, deacons or equivalent leaders. This book might also be beneficial for boards of non profit organizations to glean from to make sure that their leadership is both accountable and effective.

If you are a church leader and find yourself wondering each week why your church exists or why you are doing certain programs that seem to be exhausting and provide little return on investment, this book is for you. If you wonder what the relationship of the board should be to the pastor and what accountability should look like, then this book will help. If you have been hired to do ministry and do not feel empowered by your church, then this is a must read for you and those you report to.

The church is the place where unity ought to be found and a great purpose should be proclaimed and lived out. Too often it is an embarrassing culture of back biting and fighting and people aimlessly wandering through church doors wondering what they are doing week after week. If you are a leader in the church and that is your weekly experience then don’t delay any longer and pick up a copy of Winning on Purpose and find those you minister with and work together to establish these biblical principles as the bedrock for how leadership is performed in your church.

Disunity is terrible. Unproductiveness toward the mission and vision of the church is inexcusable. Let’s get to work!

 

Book Review: 5 Reasons Why You Must Read Randy Alcorn’s Book {If God is Good}

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When I studied at Dallas Theological Seminary and took a course on suffering and evil with Dr. Larry Waters, Randy Alcorn’s book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil was one of the required texts. At the end of the semester I signed off that I had read this book in its entirety.

However, I used the term “read” loosely. Yes, every sentence was visualized and streamed through by my eyes. However, what I did miss out was adequately digesting most of what I read. Have you ever been so hungry that you gulped down a chunk of meat or food without really chewing it properly? You can literally feel your throat stretching as it cinches its way down your esophagus. You think, next time I need to chew that better. Well, that’s kinda how it was when I initially read this book. So I bookmarked it in my head to return back to it one day. Well, that day finally came mid January.

I have been working on reading this book since then, and while it has put me behind on my goals, it was worth the sacrifice of time to properly enjoy the feast of truth that is densely packed in this book.

This book is no comic book, but for the one who is disciplined to stay the course in reading through the nearly 500 pages, he will be rewarded with encouraging insight that will both challenge the doubting heart and strengthen the longing heart that seeks to find a final answer and cure for the problem of evil and suffering in our world.

In the end, after I finished the last sentence, I felt that I had climbed a theological mountain that has satisfied and strengthened my faith and better prepared me for the much harder journey that life eventually will bring my way. I also found myself wishing that I had taken others along with me on the journey through this book. People who are staggering in their faith. People railed by anxiety and depression because circumstances beyond their control have bitten the joy from their life because of suffering. People who are angry and irritated with God or who are angry and irritated at those who believe in him because they cannot possibly fathom a loving and powerful God who allows such terrible suffering in this life.

If you are on a journey where the sweetness of your adventure has been sabotaged by the wretchedness of evil, then this book is for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are well grounded in the faith, are new to the faith, or think that faith is a crutch created by man thousands of years ago, this book will stretch your thinking beyond the walls of your religion 101 class you took in college. In the following, I present 5 compelling reasons why you should read this book.

  1. When it comes to solving the problem of evil and suffering, you owe it to yourself to consider which flavor of Kool Aid you are drinking. Whether you think you are a person of great faith or if you have no faith at all, once the bitterness of injustice, or suffering or death have crept into your life, you too will question if God is good or if he is all powerful.  We must evaluate the conclusions we arrive to when we try to answer such difficult questions on our own or whether these answers have been spoon fed to us by a professor who has an agenda to capsize the faith of his students and to promote naturalism. Too often, the idea of science and faith are presented as exclusive to one another rather than complementary. Some of the most brilliant scientists today and in history are believers in God who have all suffered. Yet, they do not drink the Kool Aid that says that there is no God in the midst of evil and suffering. Randy Alcorn’s book pours us endless cups of the wine of God’s grace in his discussion on the issue of evil and suffering. It is a much better alternative than the cheap Kool Aid that is given to us at some of our higher institutions of learning or media.
  2. Your eyes are jaded and you are not able to comprehend the problem of evil and suffering on your own. One of the biggest problems in our culture and church today is that when evil and suffering hit so close to home, one of our natural God given instincts is to take flight from what threatens us. Consequently, we isolate in our thinking and we are unable to adequately explain or understand our own situation. This inevitably leads us to doubt God. If God is Good gives you an “outside” perspective on your difficult circumstances that is informed by extensive research and a community of people whose personal stories of faith through suffering have substantiated the truth that this book so profoundly explains. Before you complete your evaluation of your personal suffering, this book will certainly be helpful to open your eyes to new and different possibilities to help you have a more accurate understanding of evil and suffering in your life.
  3. You need hope. Let’s face it. We love to party. We love the thrill of ups and downs on a roller coaster. But eventually the ride ends. We get off and the amusement park closes. Living life apart from God is fun and enjoyable at times- much like a roller coaster. When God doesn’t interfere with your life by giving you all those pesky and irritating rules of life, you get to do what you want. And mostly you seek pleasure. You go up on the roller coaster. Eventually, you go back down. The problem is that what once brought you pleasure doesn’t satisfy like it used to. On to the next ride: To the next man or woman. To the next sexual experience. To the next chemical “high”. To the next video game. To the the next entertainment that will distract us from the emptiness that is inside. To the next research project that you can use to disprove God. To the next ______________ (fill in the blank). All in order to justify your lifestyle and to deny your need for God’s existence. All to numb the pain of your isolation and emptiness that you feel when the ride is over. And we do this throughout our entire life. But one day the park closes. We leave this life. And you and I need to know that our life is meaningful and justified. Randy Alcorn’s book gives us a basis for understanding evil and suffering, takes a good look at its origins, nature and consequences, brilliantly rebuts the non-theist view, and provides a strong framework for understanding the world around us. If you buy into Alcorn’s argument, I promise you will have what you need most in this life: hope.
  4. You need and want the God that Randy talks about in this book. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or Atheist. Every human heart seeks to avoid the pain of evil and suffering and tries to explain the world that we live in. We all want to live a life of significance and worth, knowing that our life mattered. We all want to be loved, knowing that we are valued and valuable. We all want justice, knowing that our sacrifice and suffering is worth it. Knowing that perpetrators of evil will be held to account for their actions. Knowing that the faithful and righteous will be rewarded. Nobody likes it when the enemy wins. There is good news. If God is Good, provides a solid answer to the problem of evil and suffering. If you have ever wondered how God’s sovereignty can allow the meaningful choices of man to exist, wait until you read about the Drama that Randy describes in this book. A God who is exhaustive in power, knowledge, goodness and love. Who works through the unpacking drama of history to bring about his redemptive plan to completely and ultimately deal with the problem of evil: heaven and hell. Heaven- a place of eternal grace to unworthy but grateful children. Hell- where eternal sovereign justice is exacted upon evildoers.  Randy shares helpful insight into why God doesn’t seem to do more to restrain evil and suffering. Why God delays justice. Why God doesn’t always explain his reasons. Why God allows suffering. And how to live meaningfully in suffering. In the depth of your soul, you truly long to have the idiot evil people in this life done away with, and you truly long to be set free from the garbage and filth that we experience in this world. The God that Alcorn describes is a God who will do just that. He is the one you are longing for, whether you know it or not.
  5. You want a better answer for your problems than the one you have. I guarantee you that the answer to evil and suffering that is given in this book is better than what you have on your own. You might not believe Alcorn’s answer, even after you read. But at least you will have the satisfaction of further cementing your own interpretation and answer to evil and suffering. And for that reason alone, it might be worth your while to seriously consider the thoughtful and careful words you will read in this book. I challenge you to take a highlighter and pen and take notes as you read. I don’t know if it is the “best” answer ever recorded to the dilemma of evil and suffering that we face, but it certainly is one of the best that I have discovered in our time today. Even if you are an atheist, wouldn’t you like to know your opponents playbook? Have you ever taken the time to see if there is a better answer to your questions than the ones you have right now? How many of us assume an answer and then commit to it because someone agrees with, and thus, substantiates our position? We all do that. But when it comes to your journey to discover the answer to something so great, isn’t there always room to discover and learn more? You might have a great answer to the problem of evil and suffering, but I promise If God is Good will help you even more to the answer you commit yourself to in regards to this question. You will have a better answer than what you currently have.

Why I Didn’t Do a New Year’s Resolution and What I am Doing Instead

Every year it always happens. End of December comes and in those last few weeks you start to flip through the memories of the past year and evaluate the areas where you fell short. I do this every year.

Then January 1 comes and you make a declaration to resolve to accomplish some very specific things in your life. I have done that before and more often than not my resolution gets derailed by mid February. Usually this is because of a back injury. Why does a back injury derail my resolution?

Because usually I am trying to lose weight, and an old college back injury seems to flair up when I start running. It seems like I look at food and put on weight. I don’t have the blessing like some of you of eating anything and everything and never putting on a pound. My metabolism went into reverse when I hit 30. So this year is different. I am not doing resolutions and it all happened because of a road sign I saw in Michigan when my family visited in late December.

The sign said, “Daily devotion is better than New Year’s resolution.” And that though hasn’t left me. So instead of coming up with some grandiose ideas that I will fail to achieve, this year I am going to focus on one word: “Abide.”

Instead of resolving, I am going to abide. I will never achieve what I have resolved to do unless I abide daily in the small moments. My health and the other areas in my life that are lacking have deteriorated by poor day to day decisions. I would love to take a pink drink to help lose weight. I would love to buy a magic machine that would transform my abs. I would love to go to the conference to fix the parts in our home that I am not proud of. But those will not accomplish what I wish to resolve. Daily abiding will.

This year I took a good hard look at areas in my life that need to improve. I specifically evaluated certain categories of my life and wanted to zoom in on areas where I have been lazy and unintentional. So, in these categories I set some goals where I am going to work daily to abide in the little decisions. By this I hope to both accomplish my goals and to set some permanent habits that I hope and pray will be transformative in my life. So far so good.

If you are interested in what I am aiming for, just read below. What are some areas in your life where you have been unintentional or plain lazy? What do you need to abide daily in?

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Jeremiah

 

2016 Goals

Spiritual

Daily devotions 5 days per week

Memorize 52 verses (1/week)

Share the Gospel 1 time per week

Invite someone to church once per week

Record every instance I cuss and its occasion

Physical

Log food daily for an entire year

Exercise 15-30 min/ day for 4 days per week

Walk dog daily

Drink recommended Oz. of water per day daily

Complete at least 2 cleanses this year

Sleep an average of 7 hours per night

Professional

Create annual church preaching calendar by end of first week

Have weekly sermon manuscript rough drafts completed by Wednesday

Attend 1 church conference

Write 1 short blog post weekly

Read 2 books per month and write a book report

Have someone new over for dinner twice per month

Marriage

Plan 4 weekend getaways (Sun-Mon)

Date nights 2 times per month

Intentional in intimacy

Write Samantha 12 letters throughout the year

Family

1 on 1 time with each child for at least 1 hour 1 time per month

5 minute family devotion daily

Discipline disobedience and sinful living immediately each occurrence

Plan 2 weeks away: 1 with family; 1 with S & J

Financial

Close on house in Dallas

Keep credit cards paid off

Tithe a minimum of 10%

Save 10% of income

Create a 401K and Roth IRA

Thoughts on The New Pastor’s Handbook by Jason Helopoulos

After my first six months of vocational ministry, my wife gift wrapped this 51+0hi1iWeL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_spectacular gift for me to open on Christmas. I could immediately see that The New Pastor’s Handbook by Jason Helopoulos was much more worthy for excitement than the pajamas I opened on New Year’s Eve as a kid. There was no disappointment whatsoever when I unwrapped this treasure.

Whether you are just getting your feet wet in vocational ministry like me, or whether you have tread in the safer waves of the first few years of ministry, this book is jammed packed with helpful wisdom that will provide refreshment to the palate of your ministry soul.

Helopoulos loads 47 chapters of joy saving, strength building, and faith encouraging insight in no more that 203 pages. That means you find the delight of a new chapter every few pages. If you are like me learning to tread the waters of Church ministry, you will find the succinct and pointed information in each chapter to be like floaties on a kid until he learns to swim freely in the depths.

After a few chapters of being reminded of the nature of the pastoral calling, you will enjoy wading through refreshing encouragement for a significant portion of this book. As I read through Helopoulos’ encouragements, I was challenged to read more often and more broadly. I reflected on my own use of time. I found assurance for areas I was starting well in ministry. And I was reminded of some of the challenges that lie ahead, including learning to become a better listener, embracing the ministry that God gives me, and learning to suffer in a way that will honor Jesus Christ.

Helopolous will teach you to avoid the pitfalls of young pastors that can cause us to drown in discouragement and pain. There were moments when I had to honestly evaluate my own start to ministry. I was grateful for the advice to be careful to get to know my congregation and its history as I consider and encourage change. One of the most resonating chapters was a gentle admonishment to not take myself too seriously. I am not Jesus. Helopolous writes, “…we are not indispensable. We are critical, but we are not essential.” Every pastor could stand to take a bite of that wisdom, swallow it and allow it to feed to the fringes of his ministry.

You will finish this book before you know it, being aptly reminded of the great joy and privilege of ministering to others.

If you are in your first five years of ministry, then I highly recommend this book to you. You will find that even in your busy schedule, you will want to make time to get through these pages. I promise! The chapters are short. The spaces between each line on the pages are generous. So that means you get to get the “short and skinny” quick and to the point and easy to digest.

So do yourself a favor and invest some of your budget into this gift of wisdom that you too will greatly treasure. Blessings to you my co-laborers in Christ.

What’s Next On Our Horizon? – Part I

In case you missed it….

Jeremiah Krieger

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you have been praying for us, some for years, regarding our next step in life. For me (Jeremiah), the 13 years I have dedicated to patient care, while being rewarding, has ultimately felt like a season of discipline, bringing fruits of reproof, instruction and training for my life. Thus, for those of you who know us and have walked with us on our journey, you know that we have been prayerfully seeking for me to give up my nursing career in hopes of pursuing something that will better suit my gifting and natural aptitudes. This is the very reason we moved to Dallas in the Spring of 2006.

This Summer marks the 3rd anniversary of my graduation from Dallas Theological Seminary. Immediately after graduating I applied to various ministries but stopped applying as we expected the arrival of Hannah and then a year later…

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Is Your Church’s Worship Good?

Jeremiah Krieger

relevant |ˈreləvəntadjective closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand: the candidate’s experience is relevant to the job. DERIVATIVES relevance noun.relevancy |-vənsēnounrelevantly adverb ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as a Scots legal term meaning legally pertinent): from medieval Latin relevant- raising up, from Latin relevare.

I was just wondering if your church had good worship? Now, you might wonder, what do you mean by worship, and what do you mean by good?

In this case, by using the term worship, I am referring not to the concept of the lifestyle of the believer whereby he offers his life as a continuous sacrifice as an act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2)- though the believer’s lifestyle is vitally connected to worship, and though this is my favorite way to refer to worship in the life of…

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Is Your Church’s Worship Good?

relevant |ˈreləvəntadjective closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand: the candidate’s experience is relevant to the job. DERIVATIVES relevance noun.relevancy |-vənsēnounrelevantly adverb ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as a Scots legal term meaning legally pertinent): from medieval Latin relevant- raising up, from Latin relevare.

I was just wondering if your church had good worship? Now, you might wonder, what do you mean by worship, and what do you mean by good?

In this case, by using the term worship, I am referring not to the concept of the lifestyle of the believer whereby he offers his life as a continuous sacrifice as an act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2)- though the believer’s lifestyle is vitally connected to worship, and though this is my favorite way to refer to worship in the life of the believer.

I am thinking of the Church worship service where the believer offers up gifts and sacrifices before the Lord.

Hebrews 13:15-17 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Is the time- when you corporately gather with other believers- when you formally devote yourself to offering up your praises to the Father and present your gifts to His body good?

You might think, “Yes! We have awesome worship music!” “We sing contemporary songs.” “Our worship is rooted in the bedrock of truth in the hymns of old.” Whatever your style is, your worship may or may not be good.

For a church service to be good it must be relevant.

The idea of relevance is a legal term, that when traced back to its root etymology (of re + levo) means to lighten the load or to relieve from evil, hardship; to comfort, refresh or console. 

Relevant worship should lighten our load in life.

When we offer our sacrifices of praise, our burdens are lifted. This is consistent with Scripture. You might recall some phrases:

My yolk is easy and my burden is light…

Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…

If the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed.

So you might wonder, what kind of worship is relevant? What kind of worship reckons me free from the weights of this world?

Worship that is relevant is connective between two parties, providing reckoning of a disparity (sin) and freeing from bondage. Relevant worship is a legal transaction between believers and the God of the universe! (In the New Covenant, this legal transaction is a declaration by God that believers are free because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.)

Relevant worship is connective. It must not only affect me but satisfies God.

Rom. 12:1   I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Heb. 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…

If your worship service at church is good, then it is acceptable to God. This is in line with Jesus’ words:

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Relevant worship, worship that is connective between man and God, worship that is reckoning of the sin in our life, worship that is freeing from bondage is rooted in spirit and truth.

Relevant Worship is Transformative

Worship in Spirit effects the heart, emotions and will. Worship in Spirit is moved by desire. It is pushed by emotions. It fuels our will to act. This part of worship is rooted in the Spirit of God, whereby he fashions and remolds our hearts to move toward Him.

Rom. 2:29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Relevant Worship is Traditional

Worship in Truth must be true. It must be rooted in tradition. By tradition, I mean truth that is passed down from generation to generation. Truth is the scalpel that God uses to cut our heart so that it responds to Him.

Acts 2:37   Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

So what does this mean for my Church? For yours?

If your worship is relevant then it is good. If the worship at your church is connective between you and God in such a way that brings transformation for you and satisfaction for God because the message has been rooted in the truth of the Gospel, then God is satisfied and your life is relieved from the burdens and weights that keep you down. Then yes, your worship is relevant. Then yes, the worship at your church is good.

Does this mean we have to sing funeral dirges all the time? Do we need to sing hymns? Must we sing contemporary songs that repeat themselves over and over in order to be relevant?  No. No. And no.

But maybe, sometimes. Music is an instrument. It is something created by God, often used by this world, and can be redeemed to be used again to sing of His glory. It doesn’t matter the form so much as the message encrypted in that form and the way it is used.

I have been in contemporary service where emotions were absent because truth was lacking. I have been in traditional services where truth was abundant and hearts unmoved. And this is also probably true for you. But what we want in our churches is, whether our sacrifice of praise is offered to the tunes of young or old, the heart has been fueled to draw near to God because it is gliding safely on the truth of His proclamation in Scripture: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, is the worship at your church good?