Fighting Fear
Nov10

Fighting Fear

The weather is changing in Phoenix. This last week I was running (if you can call what I do running) with one of my daughters and my sunglasses began fogging up. After a few minutes I had to take them off and wipe them clean – I was completely blind. It is a sign of the changing seasons, and a reminder of the seasons we go through in our life.  Last year I experienced a season of fear. The fear stemmed from medical problems that started small and then proceeded to snowball out of control.  At first I tried to ignore my fear. I looked away from the problems and ignored the issues. This resulted in a mountain of problems that were even more fearful and overwhelming.  Next, I tried to hide my fear. I tried to silently endure believing that this was better for everyone around me. The result was isolation and depression, which introduced more fear.  Finally, I turned to Jesus; trusting in Him and being honest with others.  Psalm 56:3 reads, When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  My honesty with my fear resulted in many people expressing deep disappointment. In fact, one of the most hurtful criticisms said to me was, “I thought you were a man of God?  I expected more from you.” The individual that made this comment assumed my faith in God’s grace was totally inadequate because I was afraid. They pushed this position on me, and sent me through a period of deep doubt in my faith, wondering if I can have any assurance of being saved. Then it dawned on me, my faith was not in question, God’s grace was not in short supply – this was just simply a case of the season changing and my glasses digging up.  I temporarily lost sight of my goal and purpose, but this didn’t mean that I was going to stop running.  The loss of vision certainly doesn’t mean that you are running the wrong race.  If you were running the wrong race there is greater possibility that your glasses wouldn’t fog up at all – the enemy would leave you alone to run a worthless race. What the fogging means is that you need to take a moment to clear your vision – wiping your glasses clean. I like how John Piper captures this in Future Grace “When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our...

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Navigating Through Ministry
Apr30

Navigating Through Ministry

At times I am asked for advice from pastors who are frustrated or hurting. I assume they ask for my advice because they have witnessed my mistakes and desire to avoid similar pitfalls.  Recently, I was privileged to have a man I greatly respect share some challenges with me that he is facing in ministry. The thrust of the challenge is the frustrating clash between biblical pastoral ministry and modern church ministry.  How would you encourage pastors who are neck deep in frustration but clearly have a strong love and devotion to the Lord, to His word, to His mission, to His church, and to the gospel?   Not knowing how to respond, I prayed and then shared the advice below.  Church planting is not always the answer. No church is perfect, even the one you may plant. It will always fall short of your dreams and will be beyond your control and influence. This is because you are not Jesus. Theology matters. All of it. I understand that you may be fully committed to a theological system (see Calvinistic, TULIP, reformed, Armenian).  Nothing wrong with loving and preaching your conviction. Keep in mind, theology impacts everything in your life and has a way of sneaking into areas that most never anticipate. Make sure your theology has settled before you make decisions to change.  Live your calling apart from the machine. Most of us will deal with some level of frustration in ministry on a regular basis. I believe this is because many pastors have adopted a philosophy that modern ministry is biblical ministry (I.e., biblical service unto the Lord). Although this is the example we see in the bible and the first couple of centuries, this is not the reality gleaned from Christian history. If you serve a church, part of your “ministry” will always be a job. Don’t be surprised if the job portion is 70% or more. You are being paid to do a job whether you theologically agree with that or not. Do the job and look for areas where your ministry calling overlaps with the job and praise the Lord for His mercy and rejoice! I also work a job, with almost no overlap.  Consider alternative ministry settings. If you are called to a more pure form of gospel ministry, consider a parachurch ministry (your own non-profit: I.e., DesiringGod.org, Living Waters Ministries RelevantGospel.org). In a parachurch ministry there is no church to shepherd and no meetings to discuss. It is almost purely apostolic.  Trade your frustration for joy. This is not easy. Find what you enjoy in your ministry. What in your current ministry...

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Fight for Joy
Apr30

Fight for Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.                                           -Psalm 16:11 Joy can be elusive. Sometimes it seems like the main focus of the enemy is not to lead us into sin for the sake of sinning, but to influence for the purpose of stealing our joy.  So how do we keep our joy?  In his book, “How Shall We Fight for Joy?” John Piper lists 15 strategies to fight for joy.  Let’s pray for strength, pray for resolve, and saturate our hearts and minds with the word of God; determined to keep our joy.  Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt — how to fight like a justified sinner. Realize that the battle is primarily a fight to see God for who he is. Meditate on the Word of God day and night. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence. Get the rest, exercise, and proper diet that your body was designed by God to have. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (witness and mercy). Get a global vision for the cause of Christ and pour yourself out for the...

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