Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Archive for the category “Spiritual Formation”

Today, Live Today! by Max Lucado’

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“Today, I will live today.
Yesterday is past.
Tomorrow is not yet.
I’m left with today.
So, today, I will live today.

Relive yesterday? No.
I will learn from it.
I will seek mercy for it.
I will take joy in it.
But I won’t live in it.
The sun has set on yesterday.

The sun has yet to rise on tomorrow.
Worry about the future? To what gain?
It deserves a glance, nothing more.
I can’t change tomorrow until tomorrow.

Today I will live today.
I will face today’s challenges with today’s strength.
I will dance today’s waltz with today’s music.
I will celebrate today’s opportunities with today’s hope.

Today.
May I laugh, listen, learn, and love today.
And, tomorrow, if it comes, may I do so again.”

– Max Lucado

The Waiting Game

imageWaiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”

I recently read, again, this quote by one of my favorite Christian writers in church history, G. Campbell Morgan. And each time I read these words, I am floored! The primary reason for my overwhelmed response is because I realize that if there is anything I hate to do, I hate to WAIT. I hate to wait for anything. A flight. At a restaurant. An appointment. A movie. Anything… Well, anything except my imminent appointment with death. That can wait! But anything else…I wouldn’t mind kissing Miss. Wait goodbye… Another reason I am taken aback by Morgan’s statement is because it always seems to find my location. It is just my luck – I always find myself behind the person, out of all the bank lanes, who needs a deposit slip, then a pen, then another deposit slip for another account and has a host of questions for the teller. I’m the guy who stands in the grocery line behind the clerk who is with a customer who forgot an important item. Yes; that’s me! My final reason for being overwhelmed by Morgan’s statement is the fact that waiting seems universal. ALL of us must wait. In fact, when we came in this world, someone had to wait for our arrival. Regular people and prominent people all must wait too. Why? Because waiting is our universal reality.

So many of us are waiting on God to move. I run into so many people who fill out job applications, but it only leads to another rejection. There are persons I know who serve in a ministry field that doesn’t seem to fit into the vision they’ve imagined; and God just seems to keep them there with no way out. I know of others whose biological clock is ticking, and there seems to be no prospect of finding their “happily ever after” with a loving spouse and well-behaved children. I could go on and on. But here is another reality – when you’re waiting, and it seems as if God isn’t moving, or as if He doesn’t care; and the wicked are flourishing and succeeding. It can be disheartening when you’ve been standing in line, placed your order, paid your bill and standing to the side, while others behind you do the same, but they recieve their order and depart while you continue to wait.

Morgan says that waiting on God is not passivity or apathy. Like a good waiter or waitress, waiting on Him requires paying attention to every delicacy, detail, whim and need. A good waiter or waitress will not leave their guest disappointed because of menial service. The waiter is alert! The waiter is marked present! In like manner, if you are a child of God, it is your Christian duty to pay attention to every spiritual delicacy your Father has while you wait on Him to move. It’s His party; and it’s His table. He leaves and He will move when He gets ready. None of us are “off the clock” until He says so. The question, then, is how are you conducting yourself in the waiting room? Are you focusing so much on your next level that you are mismanaging your current level? Are you so intent on getting others straight and getting even that you haven’t grown in your own faith-walk with God? Have you sought comfort with all of the worldly things that the world offers in an effort to take your mind off of the reality that you’re still waiting?

This week I am reading and studying through Psalm 13. Psalm 13 and therabout seems to chronicle the period between David’s anointing at his father’s house and his future elevation as the king of Judah. He is living in the court of king Saul and Saul despises him. He is waiting. And David is perplexed in Psalm 13; and he doesn’t hide his overwhelming frustration with how long he’s been waiting for God to make His next move. First, it is important to lay your sorrow bare before the Lord. (Psalm 13:1-2) Second, Psalm 13:3-4 teaches us that the only place to carry our heaviest burdens is on our knees, in our prayer closet, in supplication before God. Finally, Psalm 13:5-6 shows us that David confirms future victory with the receipt of a rejoicing heart.

i have to be honest, however…I’m glad God is faithful, even when we mismanage life in the waiting room. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject; and invite you to share this blog with family and friends, if it’s been helpful to you. Blessings!

What We Can Learn From Lamar Odom Ordeal

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Confession is good for the soul; even if it’s not good for the reputation.

I’m a Los Angeles Laker fan.

There.
I said it!
I can’t really say how I became a fan, considering there’s no one in my immediate family or friendship circle growing up who liked the Laker franchise. Nevertheless, I like them!
One of my favorite Lakers is Lamar Odom. Yes…I said that too! 

On October 13, 2015, Odom was hospitalized after being discovered unconscious at the Love Ranch, a brothel in Crystal, Nevada. Those who are real fans, not only follow members of their team while they play, but after they have departed. And, those who are Christians, even pray for these current and former members of their respective teams. I’m no exception. It is alleged that Lamar Odom has struggled with substance abuse for the past few years. As a result, many have ascribed the constant turmoil in his life, in recent years, to many of the personal struggles he has with drugs. An abrupt marriage (marrying Khloe Kardashian after a month of dating), being traded from the Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks and then by to the Los Angeles Clippers, the list goes on and on, those who already didn’t know him coming to know him through a popular reality show; in a very public divorce; losing his best friend a few months ago; the list goes on and on.
One thing I think is certain – Lamar Odom needed help!

It leads me to make a few observations and/or ask a couple of questions.
1. Where are the roots?
2. Why are many Christians quick to believe we will not deal with our daddy’s demons or our mother’s mess?
3. Why do some manage life’s adversities better/worse than others?
4. Lamar Odom has always seemed to be a very nice/respectable/decent young man. But nice people are still human; and we must realize that we all have some things with which we wrestle and must work to overcome.
5. Can you help someone that doesn’t want help, feels they don’t have a problem or will not listen?

Because I am a Pastor and a minister, I cannot help but see how the aforementioned apply to not only our families and those in our friendship circle, but also within the Christian church. Acts 6 is the perfect example of leadership coming to grips with everyday human issues and struggles within the church. We are a spiritual entity; but we are also physically human. Any casual study of the Corinthian church would result in the obvious analysis that we can be gifted and struggle with human issues.
I am convinced that Jesus specialized in the study of human psychology and human behavior. And if the church is going to ministry effectively to those who are struggling with addictions, issues regarding their sexuality, family frictions, relational issues, etcetera, then the church must, by and large, bridge the gap that exists between what we proclaim on Sunday and how we manage life Monday through Saturday night.
Christian leaders commit suicide.
Deacons struggle with insecurity.
Choir members lie.
Trustees steal.

i can go on and on….

Are these just simply to be thrown to the logic of “we all have something we have to live with”? When do we decipher what is our “thorn” and what needs to be identified, confronted, biblically handled, prayerfully removed or corrected and the person changed?

Whenever there’s a “thorn” or habit that causes me to keep telling God, “I’m sorry”, it is probably a clear indication that there is something that needs to be crucified and not resurrected again. There are many things we are trying to resurrect that God wants to die in us. In like manner, there are many things that we are trying to kill, that God wants to live. Unfortunately, when there is unconfessed sin, it can be difficult to decipher between the two (Reference James 4:3; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 2:3–6; 3:7–10). I think that a strong, biblical congregation moves toward a biblical understanding and practice of Eldership; and also a strong, unwavering and biblical stance on church discipline.
As I pray for Lamar Odom to have a complete turnaround in his life, marriage and career (with his influence, there is life beyond playing basketball on the court… that at 35 years of age, he would see this as an opportunity to turn a minus into a PLUS. Because, after all….after being in a coma; reports that he would be a vegetable, etcetera…he has now awakened, off of life-support and is now walking and has been moved from the ICU in a Las Vegas Hospital to rehabilitation in Los Angeles, California.
May those of us who are apart of Christ’s church specialized in taking those who’ve been in a spiritual coma because of failures and setbacks, and nurse them back to spiritual health, victory and restoration.

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Sunday Reflections

God be praised for another Lord’s Day!
imageThis past Sunday I was out of the pulpit at the Mt. Salem Church. I had the privilege of preaching the 55th Church Anniversary of the Galilee Baptist Church in Shawnee, Texas, where my good friend Rev. Tony Rhone serves as the Leading Pastor. In a very real sense, God knows exactly what you need and when it is needed in one’s own life and, for the Pastor, in ministry. Not only are Tony and I kindred spirits, it has been refreshing to see somewhat similar congregations where we Pastor; and to see how his is flourishing and being strengthened through the pastoral leadership and diligent teaching of God’s Word. Ultimately, I’ve been encouraged by God’s faithfulness to a pastor and people who will follow Him as He leads them to fulfill the plan and purpose He has for His own church. Galilee and Pastor Rhone are a testament of this residing truth. And to see them receptive to God’s Word and to his leadership, was a great encouragement that my own congregation is moving in the right direction, to the glory of God. 

My sermon was “Dealing with Life’s Faltering Foundations”, an exposition of Psalm 11.  

Being a faithful student of Biblical exposition is more than a notion; and supersedes any given style. I believe that the best way to communicate God’s Word is in drawing out the meaning of the text. The meaning of the text gives birth to the meaning of the sermon. It’s that simple! AND…it’s just that hard! What makes it even harder, is when you are dealing with a writer who is apparently saying the same thing in a different way; and it is up to the expositor not to deviate from the point being made, in an effort to be different, eclectic or more interesting. The Psalms, I am learning, can be a bit repetitive, and can often seem redundant in nature. Psalm 11 is no exception. Nevertheless, the Psalter is dealing with renewing his confidence and trust in God, in the face of wickedness and evil.  

I am looking forward to standing in my own pulpit this coming Sunday; and to continue our study in the Psalms. Prayerfully, I am hoping to pick up in Psalm 12.  

In other news, my Cowboys are not doing well; but all is not lost. Lamar Odom, one apart of my Lakers, was found unconscious less than a week ago; and is said to have come out of a coma this evening. Unfortunately, the Houston Astros (the Houston team I love) is no longer a contender toward the eventual World Series. And, I am told, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. are in talks to fight again. This has been some kind of week. I have said to myself privately, time and again, that my goal is to blog each day; and more recently atleast more than once a week. But then, there have come the challenges of a more active family life at home, growing ministry at church, more responsibilities in chaplaincy….where does the time go? I am actively praying for more discipline and a secretary. On a more serious note – I am seeing some changes needing to take place in moving toward full-time ministry, and concentrating more on writing. I need every person I can find to lift me in prayer….for more discipline and…..a secretary. God be praised. I would love to hear your thoughts, about your week and for you to share this blog with others, if it is helpful to you. 

Blessings!

 

My Thoughts

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It has been some time since I’ve last blogged.  Four months to be exact!  Since blogging back in April, my world and our world have not failed to keep on moving.

  • More unarmed minorities have been killed by law enforcement officers.
  • Crimes against those who protect us have tragically resulted.
  • Gay marriage has become the law of the land, getting its stamp of approval from the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex partners have a constitutional right to marry, sweeping away state bans on gay unions and extending marriage equality nationwide.
  • Bruce Jenner has become Caitlyn Jenner.
  • Floyd Mayweather defeats Manny Pacquiao.
  • Bobbi Kristina, the only daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston together, has died.
  • Kermit & Miss Piggy have broken up. (I can’t make this up!)
  • Ashley Madison (a Canada-based website who promised discreet encounters to those in committed relationships) broke their promise and were hacked! (note: Ed Stetzer predicts that 400 pastors will resign this coming Sunday because their names surfaced in the hack)
  • Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running for POTUS!

On a personal note, I have just been taking some time away from blogging.  To be perfectly honest, I have no excuses.  Yes, I have growing sons who’ve consumed my Summer, preparations for making my printed publication a reality (long overdue), attempts to begin Ph.D. work (now halted), 15 year anniversary trip with my wife (check), the list goes on and on.  But I am discovering excuses are relative and they are inexcusable.

An old friend of our family, the late George O. McCalep, would commit an hour each day to just write.  He would sometimes find himself unclear on the direction of his writing matter…but he would write unencumbered by any distractions.

I love to write.  My biggest obstacles are procrastination, writer’s block and wanting things to be perfect.  The more I live, the more I am convinced that God gives many of us with limited ability more ALONG the WAY than He does before we start.  So that is my renewed commitment….to just start writing!

I am now 37 years of age!  Going into five years of pastoring the Mt. Salem Church, 15 years of marriage, my eldest son on the brink of being a teenager, approaching 22 years of preaching….I’ve seriously been evaluating where I am in ministry; and where God is taking me.  I can honestly say that I’ve viewed people’s attempts to see what’s next of what God has in store ahead, sometimes, as vain and narcissistic.  But the older I become, the more I realize it is necessary; and something I’ve actually been doing all of my life.  I don’t have time to waste!  It is my prayer that God grants me many years of life… But I am more interested in making my life count.  My focus is to leave my mark, and be as much of an original as I can, rather than a cheap imitation of someone else’s life, ministry and legacy.  That is where I am!  That is my focus!

Currently, I have been preaching through the Psalms.  At the beginning of the Summer with Psalm 1, I am now on Psalm 8.  My focus is to complete Psalm 8 in the morning, and then move forward.  What began as our “Summer in Psalms” may continue for a while.  I’m enjoying the challenge and the luxury of some predictability in my preaching preparation.  I love leaving one verse and going to the next.  In ways, for me, it is much easier but also more of a challenge.  I love it!

I am praying for every Pastor who leads God’s people; and every proclaimer who shares God’s Word faithfully, consistently and accurately.  This is no small endeavor.  Leaders are being attacked.  I’m not necessarily referring to those leaders who were hacked.  But good men and women who are just trying to serve the Lord, love their families, do right by God and His people….they are being attacked; and they are discouraged.  My prayers are with them, as well as those who are guilty of failing and falling.  I pray we never fail to realize that Shepherds BLEED, and healers are often WOUNDED.

May God faithfully reveal His grace and strength to them and all who need His care!

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Sunday Reflections

God be praised for another day and week celebrating the presence of Christ; and fellowshipping with His saints. This past Lord’s Day and week have been both phenomenal and busy. December has, for our congregation, been a time of rest. Well….atleast that was the intention. We canceled all church activities for the entire month of December. My sentiment was this: “We will hit the ground running in 2015.” Passing the halfway mark of January, I can attest to the fact that this was and is true in the case of our congregation! I have adopted something I began years ago in my first pastorate—instituting in our church a theme/emphasis for each month. January has been our “Month of Renewal.” While this is not a new concept to myself; it is fairly new to our congregation. I suppose it is typically an unspoken…for January, in the least. Most people try to begin the new year in renewal. This month I have decided to forego our typical Spring Revival; and have decided to do a local concept of “Wednesdays in the Word.” During our regular midweek activities, we have canceled our regular activities; and we have invited a Pastor and Congregation for one of our sister churches to be with us throughout the month of January, each Wednesday night. This has been phenomenal!!! Thus far, we have been blessed tremendously. This past Wednesday, Rev. Kevin VanHook, Sr., and the St. Peter’s Church of Victoria were our special guests.

Since the new year began, I’ve been led to share from the Book of Joshua. My major emphasis has been to show how God has called the Body of Christ to transition in the midst of the recurring changes in our world. Pastoring a congregation that will celebrate 144 years in a few months, I envision seeing our church ‘age gracefully.’ On this past Lord’s Day, I shared from Joshua 2:9-19.

Here is the outline:
Title: How God Uses Trouble
I. God uses the unlikely, Vs. 1
II. God uses the what’s available, vss. 2-7
III. God uses our faith, vss. 8-16
IV. God uses us where we are, vss. 17-21

I somewhat enjoyed preaching this passage that recounts the steps of Rahab; and how God uses her to make an eternal impact on a generation. But I would have enjoyed sharing it much more had I better utilized my study time throughout the week. Unfortunately, my time was spent earlier in the week doing other things that vied for my attention and focus. Fortunately, God is faithful to His Word, and not my human deficiency.

This has been an unusual time in the life of our church and for me personally. Personally, I am trying to organize my own personal spaces in order to be more free to function and become more effective in all aspects of what I seek to accomplish in 2015. 2014 was a good year; but a rough year! I want to be more organized and functional this year. In addition to completing the 2015 Program Plan (Annual Booklet/Pamphlet that contains the pastoral vision, mission of our congregation, calendar, etc.), I am trying to work on submitting my application for Board Certified Chaplaincy while also submitting my doctoral application prior to deadline. Can you say “Torture”?

It is an unusual time for our church because growth, for us, is possible…but there are natural roadblocks to this growth, as with any congregation over a hundred years of age. At the end of 2014, I was faced with a real dilemma – do I continue to ignore the things that must be altered for the sake of unity and harmony (even though it isn’t growing us) or do I confront the challenges head-on and assume the position of Pastor, knowing God’s vision is our preferring future. Well…whatever else I know about myself, I know that if I continued to do the former, I would eventually surrender and move on. And that if I would do the latter, there would be possible backlash; but the end result would bring about the growth that God envisions for us, and a place I would enjoy pastoring all the more. Well…I’ve begun the process of the latter. Already, I have begun to see the positive effects, as well as the resistance to change. For me, this has been a time of growth for me.. I am naturally. A person who is intolerant of resistance and have never had a problem walking away and moving on. But in pastoring, especially pushing 40, I am moving to the point of not caring who doesn’t like a change when 1) it pleases God and 2) my heart is right. All in all…what we seek to do must always be in the best interest of Christ’s church; and with a love for souls, both inside and beyond the walls.

All in all, I am looking forward to seeing what God is up to; and what He is doing in the life of my family, the ministry He has entrusted unto me; and for the congregation of Mt. Salem. The best is really yet to come!

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7 Things to Avoid as a Commuting Pastor

In FIMG_2038.JPGebruary of 2011, the Lord abruptly altered my life; and called me to serve as the 11th pastor of one of the oldest African-American congregations in Victoria, Texas. Victoria, right between Corpus Christi (the place of my birth) and Pearland (my home), is where the Lord would call me to serve the precious people of Mt. Salem Baptist Church. A small congregation in size, I didn’t realize my assignment would require commuting, at the time I accepted the call. Mt. Salem is an historic church; and has had a long history of fully supporting their pastors well. I do not recall a pastor there who was ever bivocational. However, my arrival followed a storm within our church. As with the rubbish of a New York following “9/11”, we were at ‘Ground Zero’. What the church was realistically able to give me in compensation would not meet the financial demands of my life, at the time. Fortunately, God was opening a clear and unexpected door with Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in healthcare; and God (to my wife and I) affirmed that we were where He wanted us to be. I knew nothing, however, about commuting.

Commuting is traveling from one town or city to another; and there are many pastors who have done this. Growing up, my father pastored in Goliad, Texas for a couple of years while we lived in Corpus Christi. I knew of a few pastors and friends who did the same. But if you would have told me 10 or so years ago that I would be a commuting (or even a bivocational) pastor, I would have humbly told you, ‘I don’t think so, Lord willing!’

But here I am. I now have learned to love what I once loathed. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the course of my time as a commuting pastor, in hopes that someone may be helped through my reflections. I write this in the form of things you should not do if you are a commuting pastor.

1. Do not go a day without prayer & wise counsel.

Prayer is so important in the life of every pastor. The commuting pastor is, by far, no exception. For the commuting pastor, you have the opportunity to strengthen your devotional time with the Lord. My commute to my church from home is about an hour and a half. Doing this twice a week, on most occasions, is a minimum of 6 hours during the course of an average week. On Wednesdays, I am by myself. And during the course of my pastorate, my prayer life has gone to another level. It has also given me time to think through (uninterrupted) what I am going to teach or preach. Lately, I record myself in teaching and preaching on my smartphone. Before I delete or upload it to my database, I head my headphones and literally listen to myself preach or teach on the way home. This is torment; but it is helping me to sort through all of my speaking fallacies; and pray through how God wants to use me in the future. It has also given me the opportunity to call trusted friends and seek counsel while I am on the road. I encourage every commuting pastor to make this a time of refreshing; and to take advantage of the silence and the road.

2. Do not go a day without knowing you’ve been called there.

It is important for every preacher to know they’ve been called to preach. It is as equally important for every pastor to know that he has been called to the work. The commuting pastor is absolutely no exception. For one, there will always be people who will seek to suggest you are less than a pastor because you, in many instances, are forced to commute. At other times, some will suggest you are being selfish and not ‘stepping out on faith’ because you have chosen to remain bivocational for various reasons. Then, in many instances, even the members may feel neglected or forsaken. Perhaps, there will always be some ambitious pastor in town who befriends your members like a wolf in sheep’s clothing; and suggests to them you aren’t as faithful as you could be. This is why knowing you’ve been called to the congregation is so important and essential. It is something about a captain who establishes the direction of the watchtower on the sea. Any wind or wave may seem intimidating and distracting; but knowing the direction of the watchtower and the watchman gives a sense of resolve, peace and assurance. Never let others distract you from the work God has called you to and the family God has given you, being your wife and children.

3. Do not avoid time with your family.

I am convinced that God’s greatest gift to us, after Calvary, is our family. Why would God give us a wife and children; and then call us to a local ministry that negates our family? Please know, I am not suggesting that the early Christian martyrs, disciples and followers of Christ weren’t called to give their lives (literally) for the cause of following Christ. I am also not suggesting that we should deny speaking requests, limit our time in church ministry, etc. What I am suggesting is that they must work in harmony with one another. The pastor’s wife doesn’t have to be the co-pastor to partner with her husband in ministry. The pastor’s children do not have to be Stepford kids to have a great relationship with their father. When it comes to the commuting pastor, allow your wife and children see how they fit in the ministry. Thank them for traveling with you, when they do. Reward your kids, every now and then, for riding in the car with you to your assignment. Every now and then, break free from the sermon you have to deliver, and spend time on your ride asking them about their lives, their week, their day and hear what they have to say. In addition, find ways to go away with them. I am trying my best to spend a week away by myself with God, a week away with my wife and a week away with my children. This is difficult, with being a Pastor and a Chaplain. But…these are legitimate goals.

4. Do not go a day without determining who the little pastors, movers and shakers are.

For every new pastor, one way to get booted out is to actually think you are the pastor! Pastors who go to new churches are often told by the new congregation, ‘Pastor, you’re it. Come make us a better church. Come and make us a bigger church.’ This may be true of some. But for most, even if that is what they profess, that is not ‘really’ what they mean. Every new pastor does good to remember three things: 1) It takes time. 2) It takes time. 3) It takes time. Really….it does! In their mind, that was their church FIRST. And, from their perspective, it will be their church after you’re gone. So what should the new pastor do? Of course, the new pastor must remember that the Holy Spirit is the real Pastor. But in another sense, every church has someone who has gained the influence, respect and ear of the entire church. At times, this person may not even be ‘liked’ by everyone in the church; but they can often be the strongest influence in the church. Many times, this is more than one person. It can be your predecessor; your predecessor’s widow; your predecessor’s family or children; the deacons; the mother in the church, etc. Find out who they are! This is so important for the commuting pastor because you are not there, often, throughout the week. So find out who these people are; and draw close to them. Often these people are good people. Sometimes, they may not have direction but, if they grow to love and respect you, they will follow you. Hence, if they follow you, others will. Bounce things off of these people. Say to them, ‘You know…I was thinking about such and such, and about this and that. Honestly, what do you think about that; and how do you think our church would respond.’

5. Do not be foolish.

Wisdom is everything. And, for the commuting pastor, wisdom is everything even more! Even with the aforementioned regarding bouncing things off of influential people in the church, be careful. Be very careful. Were you that person’s choice? Did that person cause problems with the last pastor? Does this person want to see you fail? Therefore, everything must be saturated in prayer. Wisdom says it doesn’t hurt to ask for their advice, even if you don’t follow their advice. It doesn’t hurt anything (but maybe your pride) to ask.

6. Do not let discouragement defeat you.

For every pastor, he will often ask himself, “am I doing enough?” For every bivocational or commuting pastor, the same applies. I have asked myself, “how much more effective could I be if I lived in the neighborhood or down the street?” This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis. Pastors will often deal with discouragement. Discouragement doesn’t mean depression. It means discouraged. And discouragement is inevitable. However, it is defeatable (I made the word up). Trust in the promise of God’s Word; and keep them near your heart.

7. Do not regress.

I am naturally lazy. I struggle with it. Being bivocational brings its own series of challenges. Being bivocational and a commuter….that’s in an arena all its own. One must avoid the temptation to take shortcuts, preach sermons online, neglect study, etc. It is just a fact – you must work harder than ever before. Most who commute are traveling to rural areas or small congregations. There is the notion that these congregations don’t demand much, in terms of content in preaching. This is not always true, as with my congregation, but it is probably the overall consensus. There is the temptation to slight the people and just ‘give them a little something’. The challenge I have given myself is to give deliver the greatest quality message/sermon I can in a way that is simple, succinct and portable to the hearers. This is must more difficult for me. With my last congregation, I pastored physicians, dentists, lawyers and engineers. For a young seminarian who loves words, there was a comfort in sharing what I knew with this group. And while the congregation I serve now is very intelligent (as in intelligent as the previous group), their lives are simpler, much more practical and resides in the context of an entirely different arena. How can I communicate the profound realities of God’s Word in a simple way? And how can I grow to be a great preacher and expositor when I am traveling on the
road? I must refuse to go backwards.

Please note. While I am a commuting pastor, I make no claims to be the consummate pastoral expert on commuting or pastoring. These are merely my thoughts and experience in something I’ve been doing for almost four years now. If you are a pastor who commutes, I’m interested to hear of your experiences, thoughts, instructions and encouragement. What do you think?

 

God’s Standard of Measurement

measurementImagine if a person decided to take a sheet of paper and tear it in half; and then attempted to measure one of the torn sheets. With a tape measure, it measures at 4 ½ inches. With an office ruler, it measures at 4 9/16 inches. Checking it with an Engineer’s scale, it measures around 4.58 inches.   Careful measurement with a steel scale under laboratory conditions reveals it to be 4.577 inches. But there is a more accurate standard. In Washington, at the Bureau of Standards, there is a platinum bar that is used as the standard meter for all measurements in the United States. It is approximately 39.37 inches long. This bar is kept in a high vacuum at a constant temperature. An argument about the measurement of any object must be settled, ultimately, by comparison with the standard meter in Washington. If the standard platinum yard says the sheet is measured at 4.5774 inches, that is it. If your bar differs from the one in Washington, it is in error. If your bar is exactly the same as that in Washington, you can say that your bar is without error. But it would be wrong to say that the measure in Washington is without error, for that mean that you are constituting yourself the judge—measuring the Washington meter by some other standard that is above it. We must come to the conclusion simply that the Washington meter is the ultimate standard, and that it cannot be judged.

God has given us His Word. It stands as the only infallible and indisputable rule of faith, precept and practice. Our lives are tested by its truth. All of our thoughts and philosophies are tested by the Word of God. If we find a human thought that is opposed to what is set forth in the Bible, we are called to renounce that human notion and deem it as in error. If we find that the human thought is in agreement with what is set forth in the Bible, we say that the human thought is truth. Every little particle of human thought must be judged by the entire revelation of God’s truth. But the Bible stands alone as the final court of appeal.

Isaiah 40:8 speaks powerfully toward this end: “The grass will wither, and the flowers will fade, but the Word of God will stand forever.”

God’s Gratuity

Rev. Thgrace3omas Spurgeon was a 19th Century Reformed Baptist preacher, most notably known as one of the two non-identical twins of the great Rev. Charles Hadden Spurgeon. Following the death of C.H. Spurgeon, Thomas followed his father in the pulpit, pastoring there for about 15 years at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in London. A notable preacher in his own right, I came across some inspiring words about God’s grace. And while it is free, this in no way diminishes the eternal fact of how much it cost. Today, these words bless me, when I reflect on salvation, my eternal security, His pardon and God’s gift to me through Jesus Christ, and His love that held Him to that rugged cross.

Thomas Spurgeon said…

“Salvation by grace is appropriated by faith. Grace is the fountain, but faith is the channel. Grace is the life-line, but faith is the hand that clutches it. And, thoroughly and finally to exclude all boasting, it is declared that the salvation and the faith are both the gift Of God. ‘And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.’ That salvation is God’s gift is evident. ‘The gift of God is eternal life through Christ.’ The free gift, The gift of grace, The gift of righteousness—these phrases determine the fact that salvation is itself a Divine present to man. ‘Salvation,’ cried C. H. Spurgeon in the great congregation, ‘is everything for nothing! Christ free!—Pardon free!—Heaven free!’ Thanks be to God for a gratuitous salvation!”

 

A Call to Biblical Literacy

I am concerned.

My concern stems from the growing trend of Biblical Illiteracy within the confines of the Christian Church. Permit me to clarify and debunk the notion that all Christians should be seminary-trained, academically-astute and emotionally-reserved. I am convinced that there is a distinction between being educated and trained over against being a student and steward of God’s Word. A seminarian who has no knowledge or desire to delve deeply into God’s Word beyond the textbook is merely an “educated fool.” In contrast, however, I strongly believe that the growing trend of simply not knowing what the Bible means by what it says is flooding the church and Christian community more than ever before.

In a world where Christians have access now to rapid informational technology through a smartphone, shouldn’t we know more? We have the ability to surf the net and download sermons and sermon helps and illustrations; where YouTube and Streaming technology has given us the ability to listen to sermons and studies from start to completion. My father used to tell his preaching comrades, “In a world with all of this technology, a preacher has no excuse for not preaching.” He was not attempting to lower the standard of sound and consistent study; but simply reminding us that the tools and information is readily available and there for the asking.

Tragically, we are doing a poor job; and it shows.
– It shows in the church community through our quotes, concepts and ideologies.
– It shows in ‘gospel’ music.
– It shows in how we misquote the scriptures.

It starts with the preacher! With age should come maturity. I’ll be a little older in a few weeks. And one of my goals going forward is to make God’s Word as clear as I possibly can; and communicate what He means in the clearest manner I can, consistent with sound doctrine, biblical truth and a God-centered Christology.
How can we possibly approach such a tall feat?

1. Spend time with God in prayer.
Nothing of eternal significance can happen without prayer. Prayer is the channel to which we turn in order to establish a connection and frequency with God that diminishes all of the strange noises we keep hearing in our worldly ears. I encourage myself and everyone to take time and learn the art of Kneeology. Of course, there is always the temptation to miss our time with God, in lieu of schedules, jobs, people and responsibilities. But God is merciful and gracious. As soon as we finish all of that, He is still waiting to hear from us and talk to us.

2. Spend time in the scripture.
It is important to read the scriptures devotionally. It is also important to read the scriptures systematically. When one reads the scripture systematically, one should spend quality time asking God to speak to them. After all, it is His book; and He knows the exact meaning of what He wrote, what He said or why He allowed it to be a part of the historical canon.

3. Spend time studying the scripture.
One can spend time in the scripture, and even plan a great outline of sermon ideas and scheduling. But reading the scriptures and studying them are two sides of the same coin. One should ask several questions when studying the scriptures (these are just my views, in the moment. I’m sure there may be others I fail to spotlight):

1. What is God saying in this text?
2. What is God saying to the recipients in this text?
3. What does it MEAN to the recipients in this text?
4. What does this mean to God in the text?
5. What are the major doctrines and themes in this text?
6. What does the scripture say that affirms this text?
7. What is the tension in the text?
8. Who is the antagonist, subject, protagonist, etc. in this text?
9. Where am I (and the human race) in this text?
10. How am I to live out the principles, message and truth communicated in this text?

4. Spend time reflecting and living the scriptures you’ve read.
The greatest sermon many will ever preach will require no words. Much of theology is biography and autobiography. As a preacher of God’s Word, I should be trying to live right, even if I fail to hit the mark every time. Others are watching me; but most importantly, GOD is watching me; and He will honor the one who seeks to follow His Word.

5. Spend time integrating the scriptures into the overall arena of your world.
Every Christian should have a way they see and view the world. I wear glasses because I don’t have perfect vision. The Bible, for the Christian, is our spectacle, because we have worldly views with our imperfect eyes. We should view every hot topic, crisis, issue, problem, disagreement, controversy through the lens of God’s Word.
When we do this, I believe it will lead others around us to build on the firm foundation of God’s Word; and we can empower and equip others and ourselves in becoming strong couriers of God’s truth. This, in turn and result, will lead to a Biblically Literate people who aren’t intimidated or phased by any wind of doctrine.

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