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My Wife, My Friend, My Love…My Toughest Critic: Proverbs 27:17 in Action

My wife, Roni, is an amazing woman of God to whom I am greatly blessed to be married to. I could not for one iota of a moment of time thing of a better woman to whom I could be married. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22, ESV) is truly a reality in my life with Roni as my wife.
First, however, my wife was my friend. I am going to skip the riveting story of our meeting and friendship and just say this: She and I got to spend several months building a Christ-centered friendship before the romantic feelings were made known that we had for each other.
Okay, here is the short version: We met in October 2006 over our blogs while she was living in Peru as a missionary and I was living with my parents in South Florida. So, until we met in February 2007, we talked over the internet and over the phone almost daily. We read Scripture together and books together, and prayed together. We built a very strong friendship. We started dating in February 2007, got engaged in May 2007, and married in November 2007. First, she was my friend, and that friendship was centered on Christ.

Roni is now my love. I have loved her longer than we have been married, or engaged for that matter. But, one must know that she was first my friend, and she still is my friend. But, we have been married for eight years this month, and we have three wonderful children that the Lord has blessed us with. And for that, I am so grateful. I thank God daily for the blessings and favor I have received through my wife (Prov. 18:22). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Roni and I are perfect for each other. Our relationship as lovers and friends, as husband and wife, is still centered on Christ, as should all relationships be that are between two believers.
Now, for the meat of this post. While Roni is my friend and my lover, she is also my toughest critic. Before I go any further, my wife is like that of any other wife whose husband is involved in ministry: compassionate, empathetic, involved, and wanting to defend her husband from criticism. However, something that I have realized is that my wife only voices herself in my defense when the criticism is perceived as unfair, and she only voices her concerns to me about it. But, when something is brought to my attention about areas X and Y and that I’m not doing well and am told to do better, and my wife perceives the criticism as fair, she not only becomes my toughest critic, but also my harshest. I don’t know if Roni knows this or not, but there have been many nights where I have gone off and cried myself to sleep after she has not only told me that yes, I’m not doing good in X and Y, but also told me of sub-points A through M of both X and Y as to why I am not doing well.
However, in this, she then asks me, “What can you do to change this?” And she proceeds to talk with me and give me ideas and help me through this. In these many experiences, she exemplifies to passages from Proverbs 27 that I love:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV)
and
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV)
When my wife shoots criticism my way, I know that I deserve it. And, I know that I am about to grow from it, without question. I know that I need to hear what she has to say. I know that I am going to be better for what she says. And this is without any doubt. Even though her criticism is tougher and harsher than any other criticism I have ever received, I would not want to have it any other way…
And this is why Roni, my wife and lover, is my best friend.

Teaching Our Children

Last Sunday, my pastor preached on Teaching Our Children out of Psalm 78:1-8, after the dedication of a baby of a young couple in our church. It was weird, being that it was a break from us usual expository preaching from the Gospel of John(52 weeks in, still in John chapter 6!).

However, I just wanted to share the text from Psalm 78:1-8, and a few thoughts of mine after hearing the sermon.

Psalm 78:1–8 (ESV)
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.  

It was a good and refreshing sermon to hear, in a church where most of our congregation is 69+ years old(more than 80%, I believe). With much going on in the church focused on church growth, revitalization, and youth, my prayers is that the church can keep in step with Biblical principles, such as constantly teaching our youth about God and the older generations teaching the younger generations (Titus 2). I hope they all remember that the Bible is God breathed and useful for all sorts of teaching(2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes, it can be easy to forget these and just move on as fast as you can with ministry, and it ends up becoming more business like, wanting to move on with the status-quo. However, in ministry, we cannot let that happen. If that happens, the ministry won’t grow, because the focus becomes man-centered, and not God centered. When that happens, ministries fail.

So, hearing this word of God brought forth by Pastor Gavin was a breath of fresh air. It was good to hear. And, he is right. We need to get back to teaching our children, training them up in the ways of God, in the Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

…But They Had Everything In Common

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32–37, ESV)

Such powerful words here. Here, The Church took care of itself. They sold everything and provided for each other. Now, before we go any further, we need to have a quick lesson here. What is “The Church”? The reason I ask this is because of the welfare mentality that is so perverse and overwhelmingly spreading throughout our society.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”” (Matthew 18:20, ESV)

Jesus called it a gathering of His people…”gathered in my name…”

In the Book of Acts, written by Luke, it is written:

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,” (Acts 1:15, ESV)     “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41, ESV)

The believers are called “brothers,” some translations say “Brethren”(NASB) and some use “disciples”(KJV). It’s a community of believers. They were added to the Body of Christ, that is, the church.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, ESV). We are members of the body. And, to the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4–5, ESV).

And, in Paul(And Timothy’s) letter to the Christians in Colassae, Paul wrote that Christ is the head of the body, that is, the church, in Colossians 1:18:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:15–23, ESV, emphasis mine).

Summing that up, the definition of “The Church” is not a building, or a small group of people(i.e. the pastors and deacons), but all believers. All professing Christians, that is those elected by God to salvation through His infinite mercy and grace when we deserved it not, are The Church. So, now, we can move on now that we(hopefully) have a good understanding of what the church is.

Going back to our passage from Acts chapter Four, it is noted in verse 34, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (Acts 4:34, ESV). There was not a needy person among them. Why is that? Because The Church was taking care of it’s own, of itself. Everyone was selling their stuff, just as Jesus had told the rich young man to do(Mark 10:17-31), and its as being distributed to those who had need(Acts 4:35). Why did they do this? To take care of themselves. They recognized themselves as not only brothers and sisters in Christ, but as brothers and sisters who need to take care of each other. As family. Now this wasn’t just monetarily. They helped each other as a community of believers in everything that was needed.

Now let’s fast forward to now, 2014(skipping past 2,000 years of important Church history, which is, for the points I am working towards, not entirely relevant). Why can’t we do things like this today? Why is the church seemingly more like a business rather than a community of believers nowadays? Commercialism. The need to have bigger churches(rolls, “members”). Money. I can think of many other reasons, but, in the end, too many churches(not all), have become more business like, wanting to see good numbers from attendance, membership, and money coming in. And, they are too afraid of running out of these that they don’t want to let any of it go out. They don’t want members to leave to do something else in ministry, in fear of the church having no members left. They don’t want too much money out to the needy because they don’t want to run out of money or, *shudders in sarcastic wit* not have enough money to pay for their new multi-million-dollar building expansion, complete with fancy light and sound systems and all the bells and whistles that go along with it. What has happened to the church? The church has moved away from the gospel, from God’s word. It has moved away from sound doctrine and believe that true theology, the study of God, doesn’t matter as much. In reality, Theology Matters. A lot. Good sound doctrine matters. A lot. Without these things, people end up going to hell because they are lead to believe things that aren’t Biblical. Things that lead them to a different god than the One True God of the Bible.

One of the things I pray for daily, and will until the day I die, is that the church returns to it’s roots, realizing that it isn’t a building or a group of men who lead the flocks of God. I pray that it comes to realize, once again, that the church is made up of believers, faithfully serving Christ. That serving others, evangelizing the lost, discipling believers to create more believers, and building up leaders within the church to multiply churches is what the church is all about. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful, passionate churches with sound doctrine and theology who do just this. But, there aren’t enough. The last person I asked about what he thought about Christians(he was not a Christian himself), he told me he saw us as elite, stuck-up snobs who think they are better than those that don’t go to church. Too much of society see the church as archaic and mundane, outdated and not needed. I remember reading throughout history how churches basically began social services. What happened to that? Churches have become to self-glorifying and not God-glorifying.

Now, where am I going with all of this? I strongly believe that this change, that this return to our Biblical roots will start with individuals and families. I believe that we need to be proactively looking for where we can help those within our church. That we need to proactively look for those to minister to within our communities. And, when people ask what you are doing, don’t just tell them “I’m handing out food,” or “I’m helping clean this person’s yard,” begin to tell them about Christ, and how the church takes care of itself, and you are doing this to the Glory of Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

*EDIT*
Let me say, I am not saying we need to sell all of our stuff to take care of each other. If that’s how you feel God is leading you, then, by all means, do so. However, what I am saying is we need to look outside ourselves to the needs of others and, where we can, help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. To those that are lost, we need to evangelize. Even the disciples understood that, “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” (Acts 6:2, ESV).

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…and Why We Need It All

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16–26, ESV)

Something that I have noticed while working in the various vocational ministry positions which I have held(House Parents, ministry director at my church) and as just a volunteer and congregant within the churches we have attended, is that too much nice stuff is taught to our children, and not enough of the bad and ugly. We spend so much time teaching the things about God that we deem as lovely, excellent, and necessary, amongst other things, that they should know. However, too often, “we” leave out what the Bible deems as lovely, excellent, and necessary: That is, everything in the Bible, the Word of God. The good, the bad, and the ugly, we need it all, and, to be honest, it’s all good, to our benefit, in the long run. And, this is not just true of youth, but, all people within a church, young and old.

Recently, we have been teaching The Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 to our young children within the church(mostly my kids and the pastor’s kids, as we have a small young population in our church). We have been going over them one a week on Wednesday nights. And, it’s nice. Now, this particular group is a bit too young to understand some of the sins listed in the preceding verses, Galatians 5:19-21, however, as time progresses and they get a little more mature, it is something that I am going to not skimp on(Right now, I don’t want to have to explain to them what orgies are). However, it is something that they will hear from me sooner than later. With the older youth, however, it is something that I am going to teach upon. Right now, I don’t have any regular preteent/teens that come on Wednesday nights(12 years of age and older), but, when they start coming, I am going to go over the Fruits of the Spirit with them, two a week probably, as I am with the younger kids. But, when we finish with them, I am going to go back and talk about Galatians 5:16-26, the entire passage, including the bad fruits. It is something that I am going to hammer home with them and let them know, that by the litmus test of Jesus, Matthew 12:33-37:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”” (Matthew 12:33–37, ESV)

That by the litmus test of Jesus’, people will look at them and say “That person CAN’T be a Christian with how they act,” or, conversely, “Wow, look at that person, they have something I want, I mean, they must be Christians” or something like that. I will tell them plainly that, if you live a life that looks more like Galatians 5:19-21, that they are probably not really a Christian, because in a true Christian, there is a heart change, an attitude change, and a complete 180 degree turn in wants and desires. Selfish to selfless. Loathing to loving. Taking to giving. They need to hear it. Badly. Even it it comes to their own detriment.

Some people will read this and think that I am crazy, telling kids that they are sinners and that sin is the root of all the problems and that they cannot do good on their own. To those people, I leave you with this passage of Scripture from Romans, where Paul is quoting much from Psalms and Isaiah:

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Romans 3:10–18, ESV)

And, for everyone, I leave you with this from Isaiah 55:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,” (Isaiah 55:8–10, ESV)

 

Soli Deo Gloria

He Who Dies With The Most Toys…Still Dies

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6–10, ESV)

HeWhoDies

He who dies with the most toys….still dies. Yup, I had this poster when I was a teenager, hanging up on my wall to the left as you walked into my room. Next to my bed. 

However, recently, being underemployed, I have learned much about b) and various aspects of it.

First, I have realized that I need to be conent with what I have, especially now, as I, and my family, face the blessing of financial hardships. Currently, and take this in no way as a complaint, I have only a part time job at our church, North Fort Myers First Baptist Church. There, I am the Director of Family Ministry and Outreach, a position that I love. I pray that my position will become full time sometimg in the coming years, however, I am seeking a full-time job.

Secondly, I need to make sure I am content with what I have next time I do have money. Thus, I need to remember 1 Timothy 6:7, “…for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anyhting out of the world.”(ESV). When I was born, I was naked and had nothing with me. When I die and arrive in Heaven with my Lord Jesus, I will have nothing. It will be just me. For many, it is a hard pill to swollow and an even harder lesson to teach younger generations. My daughter asks for us to buy her something everywhere we go, eve at places that don’t sell things(like when we are at church or at home). And, we let her know that the more she constantly asks for stuff, the less she is going to get from us. And, albeit slowly, she is learning the lesson. 

I have come to expect materialistic behaviors from unregenerate people, those without Christ.

However, the materialisitc attitudes that I constantly see among professing evangelical Christians is so rampant, that sometimes disgusts me. And I am not even talking about the “Prosperity Gospel” heresy, either. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spoke about the cost of being a disciple. He said:

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23–25, ESV)



What does it mean to deny oneself? To deny ones desires and wants and put Jesus and God’s will in front. To follow Jesus is to give everything to Him. For Jesus to be Lord of one’s life means to surrender all of one’s life to Jesus’ control. Not some. Not most. Not almost all. ALL of it. Keeping nothing for oneself. And yet, that is our struggle. We struggle with it every day, with ever decision. I struggle with it. You struggle with it. Your pastor struggles with it. Your spouse struggles with it. Your children struggle with it.

However, what happens, is people put their desire for stuff before God, and it becomes an idol, and they are breaking commandments. They aren’t loving God with all they have. They have an idol, stuff, that is before God. They are(probably) coveting other peoples’ stuff.

Now, in no way am I saying that having stuff is wrong or anything. I have plenty of stuff, and there is plenty of stuff that I wouldn’t mind having. However, I don’t make it my life-long pursuit to get that stuff as so many other people have and continually do.

Later on, Jesus spoke again of the cost of discpleship:

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–33, ESV)

This is really summed up in the last verse of this passage, Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This means so much to the life of a true Christian. We must give everything to Jesus and be willing to sacrifice everything. We aren’t supposed to hate our families, our spouses, our children. However, compared to our love of Christ and our desire to follow Him, our love for our families would not, no…COULD NOT compare. Ever. Not. Even. Close.

So, when Jesus gave us The Great Commission, it was a command, not a suggestion. Not a passing thought. Not an idea. A command. Something we must do. We shall do. There are many ways in which people can and do participate in this(which we won’t be discussing here).

Now, let me leave you with this:

“And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”” (Luke 18:18–27, ESV)



Now, remember, it is not a sin to have stuff. It is not a sin to want more stuff. It’s not even a sin to have enough money to buy the stuff you want. It becomes a sin when your desire for your stuff takes front seat in the car. It becomes a sin when you aren’t willing to give up your stuff for God and His calling on your life. Remember that. Remember that well.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

4 Steps to a Great Start in Youth Ministry

My wife found this and had me read it, as we are new at our church and I am a ministry leader who will be working a lot with the youth. This is a great read and is a plan that I feel we are going to follow to a great degree. That, and lots of prayer. The original posting can be found HERE.

______________________________________

by James Lankford

It’s your first week at your new church. You’ve unpacked all your boxes and set up the office in a way that makes it feel comfortable. You’ve met several of the youth, a few parents, and are beginning to know the rest of the church staff by first name. Now you are sitting at your desk with a cheap promotional pen from some company and a notepad and aren’t really sure what to do next. If this description hits too close to home for you, here are some tips to help you get your first year in a new church off to a strong start.

Step 1: Develop a Focus

Begin by working on the youth ministry’s focus rather than youth ministry events. Many youth ministers, especially those new to youth ministry, begin by looking at the old youth ministry calendar, getting some ideas from some friends in other churches and then start to fill up the youth calendar with events. But event planning isn’t a good starting place. Back up one more step: Think through first what you need to do to help your students grow into healthy followers of Jesus.

Step 2: Meet Everyone Involved

Sit down with your pastor and talk about the youth ministry. He has a vision of what a healthy youth ministry looks like. Hopefully, the two of you match up in youth ministry philosophy. But if you don’t, start moving toward his philosophy, or make sure he is with you every step of the way in your planning. Have the humility and foresight to see that his years of experience may have taught him something about ministry in the local church. Also meet with your parents, youth workers and church staff to get a feel for the key issues your youth ministry will need to address

Step 3: Brainstorm What You Need to Accomplish

As you’re meeting with all those who have a significant interest in the ministry, brainstorm around three areas every youth ministry will need to focus on:

  • What youth will need to know (doctrines)
  • Who they will need to be (morals/values)
  • What they will need to do (spiritual disciplines)

In each of the three areas, brainstorm all the things that your youth must be taught. There will be many biblical truths to consider, but narrow your list to the ones your youth will especially need to understand and practice before they leave high school. As you brainstorm, be sure to allow for free discussion, since there will be disagreement on the truths the youth ministry should teach and practice. Make the list as long as you can in each of the three areas. Then, when you’re alone in your office the next time, put your cheap promotional pen aside, type up the list of priority truths and mail it to everyone.

Step 4: Follow Up and Start Planning

After your first meeting, plan a follow-up meeting to narrow the list to no more than 36 issues. When you finish this second meeting, you should have a list of priority truths the youth ministry will work to teach over the next three years.

Next, choose 10 to 12 items, a few from each of the three areas, for year one, year two, and year three. These topics now become the foundation for next year’s events. Before you plan an event, have an idea of how it will accomplish the key teaching you’re working with.

When one of the topics comes up in the Sunday School materials during the same month, teach that topic on Wednesday nights and maybe even Sunday nights. This will ensure that it receives special emphasis since it is a focal truth for that year. If you plan a DiscipleNow study or a retreat, don’t just get the newest materials out. Instead, select topics based on the goals for that year and the best way to teach that goal.

So, as you’re sitting at that new desk, keep in mind that God did not call you to a title or a church. He did not call you to an office or a city. He called you like He called the disciples. At some point you heard God say, “follow me,” and today “follow me” means that you are serving as minister to youth in this church. God may leave you there for 30 years, or He may move you tomorrow; but for this moment, use these tips to help you find out how make the most of your time there.

James Lankford is a veteran youth worker and the Student Ministry and Evangelism Specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

My first two weeks….

So, it’s been two weeks now since I was voted into my first vocational ministry position within a church, that church being North Fort Myers First Baptist Church. And, things are going well, with the exception of one personal frustration that I have, even though I know I shouldn’t have this frustration. I know that a position to help grow a church, which is what my job is as Director of Family Ministries and Outreach, is totally dependent on God’s timing, and it’s usually a longer timetable than anything I would ever have in mind. What does that mean? I’m impatient. There are things I want to do and get done, but, I cannot beings things take time. They aren’t instantaneous.

2 Peter 3:9–10 (ESV)

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Yup, right there. That sums it up in two verses. Now, I don’t mean to compare what I am doing as an outreach director to the Lord coming like thief in the night. However, I’m using it to describe how this process is, as I see it, going to be. Slowly and surprisingly. Now, as we know, nothing is impossible with God(Matthew 19:26), so, it could happen overnight, but, in my experience, that is not how God works. Our God is a sovereign God(See Romans 9 and Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21) and anything can happen, however, I believe it is going to be a time-consuming process, and not an immediate one(as much as I want it to be instant, as I know we all live in a world of instant-gratification).

However, I know that through much prayer, hard work, sweat, labor, and love, we will see the fruits of our labor. I can totally see our family, Our Family Baptist, North Fort Myers First Baptist Church, coming together as a church with many generations of families, from newborns and toddlers all the way through their parents and grandparents(and maybe great-grandparents!), Lord willing.

Now, another thing to address, beyond my impatience, is some things that I have recently been studying and thinking over in my mind are really coming into play(or I see them coming into the play in the near future). Things such as the Regulative Principle of Worship versus the Normative Principle of Worship(RPW is only allowing what the Bible says is allowable versus NPW which allows things that the Bible allows plus other things that the Bible does not prohibit). Another being the 2nd Commandment(Exodus 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”) And how the Second Commandment affects teaching children(i.e. children’s coloring pages in the nursery, etc.). Some people have said that a coloring book page to use to teach a simple Bible concept to a young child is fine(which I agree with), while others have said it’s just as bad as having a crucifix in the sanctuary. There are lots of things that I keep on my mind, however, it’s something that I enjoy and love doing and wish I could do full-time(it’s bi-vocational, so, I am distracted by a job-hunt at the moment).

I’m sure there are more things going on in my little, finite mind that have been changing and revolutionizing in the past two weeks, however, these are two of the bigs ones. As more things come to mind and more experience I have serving at my church, I will blog about (some) of them. And others, I’ll just give God all the glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Easter Excitement

Matthew 28:1–10 (ESV)

The Resurrection

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Too many times have I gone to Easter Sunday services at a church and the only person really excited about what’s going on in the sanctuary is the Pastor. To make matters worse, there have been a few times where even the Pastor was begrudgingly preaching the “mandatory” Easter message, because it’s been preached so many times before. And, finally, to add insult to injury, I am one of those who has been in the congregation, listening to the same relative message year after year, Easter service after Easter service. However, something really struck me this year as I was at our church’s Easter Egg Hung while Pastor Gavin was giving a short message and object lesson to the kids about the symbolism of an empty Easter egg and how it relates to Jesus and the empty tomb. Pastor Gavin was excited about this, and so were the kids(I’ll admit, the anticipation of candy might have added to their excitement), however, seeing my pastor shepherd the flock which God has entrusted him in his ministry through Easter with excitement caused me to have a real gut check. And then again, this morning, during our Sunrise Service at 0700, with excitement, out in our parking lot, facing east and the rising of the sun here in Southwest Florida. With excitement, Pastor Gavin reminded us that the tomb of Jesus is empty. And that the tombs of other “religious leaders” such as Mohammed, Confucius, and Joseph Smith are not empty. And this is something that we, as Christians, adopted children of the one true LIVING God, need, no, MUST be EXCITED about.

 

Look at  Mary and Mary in Matthew’s account of the resurrection in Matthew 28:1-10. What they saw and heard and felt…it was Exciting. Rereading that passage, probably for the 100th+ time, thinking about today and it’s significance…was exciting. And it’s exciting blogging about it here. An earthquake and an angel with the appearance of lightening(v.2). The empty tomb!(v.5-8). And then Jesus Himself!(v.9-10). Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-15, ESV). We have this faith and believe and the Spirit of God living within us, God’s people, that we need to tell others about it. Mary and Mary told the disciples about it, knowing that they would not immediately be believed because of their status in life in that time and culture. Why did they tell them? Because they believed and they spoke. They were excited! I am excited! We need to realize that, as Christians, we celebrate the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ every day we live and serve Him. We need to be excited.

 

We, God’s elect, know the story. Many more than that even know the story. Not everyone who knows it knows what it means and the ramifications about that. However, unfortunately, there are billions of people in this world who don’t know the story of Easter. Who don’t know that there is a living God, God the Son Jesus Christ, whose tomb is empty. They’ve never heard of Him. I, for one, am excited for the role God has in my life in helping spread the excitement of the empty tomb to those where I serve in North Fort Myers, Florida. Now, the question is, are you excited about where God has you to minister? Are you excited at the possibilities of where God wants to send you to tell people about the empty tomb of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ?

Logos Bible Software

So, I recently purchased the Logos Bible Software, and so far, I love it. There is still a lot that I have to learn, however, I love the customizability of the program. You can have it simple or complex, or a combination of both. And, how you can save the layouts and everything. I think it’s great!

 

So far, I think that my favorite feature is creating custom collections and guides. Here are some videos about it that explain it better than I can:

Creating a Custom Collection

and

Creating a Custom Guide

So, yea, I love it so far! I can’t wait to get more out of it and to start taking classes with it at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary(taking some online courses).

 

An Open Letter to Foster Agency Case Workers

Dear Case Worker(therapists, case workers/managers/supervisors, etc.)

When you are sitting in your home, with your family/loved ones, drinking coffee in the morning or having a snack and family time in the afternoon, or even dinner in the evening, is it okay with you if I stop by unannounced and walk into your front door without knocking or ringing the doorbell? Or, if I do knock or ring the doorbell, enter immediately thereafter without waiting for you to have the courtesy to answer the door?…I can only imagine that your answer to these questions would be “No.” And, I would hope that would be true, as well.

So, now that we know you (probably) don’t want to have random people at all hours of the day(and sometimes evening/night) walk into your home, let me ask you this question: Why do you do just that to foster homes? Is there something different? Are they not a normal family? I work in a group home, which, yes, is not a “normal family setting,” however, something we try to instill into our residents here is how a home works. And, one of the ways it does NOT work is having people just walk into the house, relatively unannounced. That is not normal, for if it were, then you should not have any problem with me, or anyone else for that matter, just randomly walking into your home.

But why, you might ask, my clients are there. My foster kids, of whom I am their legal guardian, are there? There are many reasons, in my opinion, and here, I will go over just a few of them.

1. Normal people and normal families generally don’t allow or like it when random people that they know or may not know walk into their homes. If someone were to walk into my of duty apartment without knocking first or waiting for me to answer the door, I would have some serious words with that person. And, in some instances(not foster homes and this is not meant to be threatening), people have been killed for that(Google Florida Stand Your Ground laws).

2. Safety. Safety should be about the most obvious one of them all. If I don’t recognize someone who is coming into the home I work and live in with my family, and they identify themselves as case-worker this, or therapist-that, I ask for identification. Why? Because people can lie. Yes, people lie. And, in those lies, someone could easily get into a home without even having to lie. Why? Because many of you like to walk right into the house like you own the place. Use your imagination on this one.

3. Common Courtesy. It really is just a common courtesy to knock and wait for the door to be answered. I don’t care if it’s storming out, snowing or there’s a lot of wind. If you’re worried about that, you should have prepared beforehand. Or called ahead and asked if you could walk in when you get there. It’s not like we’re gonna say now. We aren’t cold hearted people. Why do I suggest this? Because I do it myself.

This morning, before anyone else was out of their rooms and beds, as I was reading my Bible, the doorbell rang, and then the person who rang the doorbell just opened the door before I could even stand up out of my chair, setting off our home security alarm. Now, I know that the door shouldn’t have been unlocked, however, at 7:30am on a day during spring break, someone shouldn’t just be walking into a home that’s not there own(nevermind the fact that she was at the WRONG HOUSE).

Ok, now that we have gone over those, remember this: We aren’t going to deny you entry. We can’t. You’re the legal guardians of those we care for. We just ask that you show the same common courtesy to us that you would expect from us if we came to your residence. Is that too much to ask for?

Sincerely,

Jon Bradley,
House Parent

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