5 Practical Ways to Balance Family & Ministry

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In case you missed it, here is my guest blog over at The Middle Years Ministry.  Check it out!

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Are You a Real Pastor?

Check out my new article at Youth Specialties.

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Book Review: Growing Young

Book Review:  Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin

The Good:

REAL Solution.  I don’t know about you, but I am tired of books, articles, and social media posts that just surmise an issue with this current generation and the church.  I’m tired of reading about the problems, and I was refreshed to read in this book – REAL and REACHABLE solutions to the issues of growing young.  A heartfelt thank you to the all the work the writers put into this.

Dedicated Research.  This was hard work to put this together.  It was a clear dedication of the writers and research team to not leave a stone unturned.  They went to the small churches to the megas, and found answers to the growing young question.  That is something the reader will appreciate.

REAL Testimonies.  These aren’t just ideas.  These are real people who have been affected by churches that have intentionally reached out to this generation in their church.  The testimonies were not just glossed-over stories from pastors, but from people inside the church who have benefited and lived out the ministry changes and direction.

The Bad:

Nope, nope, nope.  There was one quote that made me quote Petrie on Land Before Time and say “Oh, no no no no”.  “We wonder if sermon preparation and preaching is an area in which some leaders could invest less time”.  While they did give this quote with the caveat of holding God’s Word at the “highest value”, it still is a dangerous statement.

The Random Boxes.  This is a minor complaint, but it seemed to break the flow of the chapter when a box of random information was placed in the middle of a chapter.  Suggest maybe placing this in the context of the chapter or at the end.

The Grade:  A.  I tell ya what this book did.  Honestly, it gave me great encouragement that my philosophy of ministry was on the right track with this generation.  On the flip side, it challenged me immensely in the weakness of my own ministry in reaching this generation.  That is what this book will do to you, encourage and challenge you and your ministry.

 

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Book Review: How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team

Book Review:  How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team by Charles Stanley

The Good:

Been there, done that.  Charles Stanley had both the view of the counselor and the parent when he brought personal illustrations to play.  The counseling situations were enlightening and eye-opening, and the family illustrations brought a personal touch.  Each produced a break for the mind and allowed for smooth reading.

Homework?  With each chapter, I walked away with homework.  There were parenting skills that needed sharpened, conversations that needed to take place, and changes that needed to happen.  I have a long ways to go, but there were measurable steps I could take in improving my parenting.

This Quote – “The only hope they have is to undergo a transforming experience by Christ in their live and thus gain an understanding of who they really are in Jesus Christ.”

Handing Down Your Faith.  The chapter on this very subject was priceless.  My favorite part of the book and made the whole read worthwhile.  Such an important concept and I’m indebted to the author for the wisdom that was shared.

The Bad:

Not too sure.  There were a couple specific parenting situations that I disagreed with the take of the author.  Nothing sinful or even anything wrong, but a stance I probably wouldn’t take.  I am still learning on the job, so maybe my view may change as my kids get older.  Seems most of my disagreements had to do with discipline that was at times on the weak side.

Not One Mention of SnapChat.  It’s no fault of the author, but the book is outdated in the area of technology.  Writing in the mid-80’s, there is no mention of the constant battle of cell phones, gaming, and technology that this generation of parents face.  (Disclaimer:  Looks like an updated version was written in 1996, but would still lag behind in some technological issues.)

The Grade:  A.  Any parenting book that teaches you practical ways of improving your relationship with your children and your role as a parent gets an A from me.  This book provides valuable insight in parenting, while providing personal ways of improving the day-to-day grind of parenting a child.  Written over 30 years ago, it just goes to show, Biblical parenting does not go out of style.

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You Just Got Asked to Do a Funeral…Now What?

Your heart sinks to your stomach, you feel a little light-headed, sweaty, clammy…nope, it’s not the flu.  You have just been asked to officiate your very first funeral.  Are there some guidelines to work from?  What are some do’s & don’ts so you don’t embarrass yourself?  Don’t worry, I got you covered.  With the help and guidance of my senior pastor, here are some protocols that will help ease your mind.

 

  • Prior to Funeral
    • Attend calling hours – be kind, ask how to help/service requests (leave after short visit)
    • Print off Obituary online
    • Review with family what needs to be included in service
    • Order of Service – give to Fun. Dir., Musicians/Participants & Head of Family Prep.
      • Leave preacher’s thoughts LAST; all other parts of ceremony early (allow appropriate special music at end if needed)
    • Arrive 30 minutes prior to funeral
    • Speak with Funeral Director prior to service
      • Ask if anything different in service (poem, music, military, etc) needs added to schedule
      • (If Out of Area) – Ask for any special/local customs
    • Service
      • 15 minute message
      • Finish with prayer and pay respects & stand by coffin
      • Start compiling list of funeral passages and remarks now, so you have a resource for when unexpected happens
    • Gravesite
      • Follow the lead car, do not agree to leading the group
      • Order: Preface Scripture, Read Scripture, Short Recap, Close in Prayer (5 minutes or so
        • Shortened service– depends on weather, quick reading of Scripture only & prayer
      • After prayer, pause for Funeral Director, go and greet family & stand to side
      • As family begins to leaves, depart
    • After Service Meal
      • Call church on way back from Gravesite – ladies with food set-up/prep.
      • If invited & schedule is clear – stay with family & eat; dismiss yourself when appropriate

Hope this helps.  What are some tips that you might have for the novice funeral officiant?  Bottom line, make sure those who hear your message know how their story will end.  Give a clear Gospel and invite the audience to make a choice in their lives before it is too late.  All while giving a personal tribute to the deceased.  You got this.  Depend on the Lord and prayer, and to God be the glory.

 

 

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Good Friday

Let’s say – You have an appointment with the doctor.  You’re feeling fine, no symptoms, just a checkup.  The doctor comes in with the lab reports and says you are going to need surgery, right away.

What do you think?  Do you just sign on the dotted line and ask where those drafty blue gowns are?  NOOOO!  You ask to see the result of the tests, the x-rays, the blood tests…show me the chart that says I have a problem.

Everyone in this room tonight is at that appointment.  All of you have the problem.  It’s called sin.  No matter what tests you have done – it’s ALL going to come back positive.

And there is only one cure – you need surgery.  That sin that is part of your life needs to be removed, and the only way it can be removed:  JESUS CHRIST.

Don’t be the patient and just stare at the lab results and toss them away…Don’t be like those at the cross and just be like the crowd that walks away.  You want to be able to call this day good?

You want to have victory in your life?  Trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, have him forgive your sins and give you new life.  There is only ONE WAY.  Pray in your heart to Jesus and you will be able to see what many already see…how good, how oh so good – Good Friday is.

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Book Review: What Did You Expect?

Book Review:  What Did You Expect? By Paul Tripp

The Good: 

Goal of Marriage.  It won’t take you long before you realize this isn’t just a marriage tips book.  If you want that, check out the grocery magazine stand or peruse the self-help books at Barnes & Noble.  Here, you find a spiritual awakening to your marriage.  You get a theological education of where God wants to take your marriage, and where God wants to take YOU in your marriage.  That’s what makes this a worthwhile read.

A Mirror to Your Soul.  If you are not ready to dive deep into your heart, then you better not click “Add to cart” on Amazon.  But, if you are ready to get to the heart of the problem, issue, or struggles of your marriage, then buckle up…this book will take you there.  I’ve never thought I had a bad marriage, but is that what I want?  “Not a bad marriage”.  For a great marriage, I MUST work at my marriage, and even more so, work on MYSELF in my relationship with God.

Can you give me an example?  I love a good story.  And when the stories of real marriage examples weave in and out of the chapter contents, it makes for a much more enjoyable read.  If the whole book was principles and practical tips, it still would be a valuable book.  But, with the real life examples of marital difficulty and victory, the reader gets the best of both worlds.

The Bad:

Verbose.  This was a BOOK.  Nearly 300 pages worth made it for a very long, but important read.  While all the material is valuable, I typically feel like it can be condensed when it gets to that thickness.  If I drop the book on my foot and it hurts, it’s too much and time to sum up.

The Grade:  B+

The length was the only downside to the book.  Tripp is one of my favorites.  Man, he is able to take theological concepts and apply them to everyday life-like no other.  Challenging principles from Scripture that get to the heart of the husband and wife, rather than surface marriage tips that only gloss over the real problems and issues.  If the self-help books are a band-aid, this here book is major heart surgery.  And if I’m your marriage doctor, I would be prescribing you this book to read 2 chapters and call me in the morning.

 

 

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Book Review: 10 Who Changed the World

Book Review:  10 Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin

The Good: 

The Stars.  The stars of this book were the missionaries.  Men and women that I admire greatly.  Incredible stories of dedicated faith through hardship, persecution, and even martyrdom.  Missionaries who took the Gospel where it needed to go.

They Said It.  The author went to great lengths to provide quotes from the missionaries themselves.  From personal letters, journal entries, and other documents were used to give the reader actual missionary quotes.  Powerful does not even describe the words.  As some quotes were taken just moments before the missionaries were killed.

Biblical.  While the biographies of these missionaries were remarkable, the Biblical basis for their legacy was what held the book together.  Each missionary story was assigned a passage of Scripture that weaved through their life story.  This was a perfect touch by the author to make sure the glory is given where glory is due.

The Bad:

Read with a little excitement (audio book only).  Ok, confession time…I didn’t actually read the book.  I listened to it on audio book.  Obviously, the reader was a professional and there was never any mistakes, pauses, or interruptions.  However, there was little enthusiasm.  As a pastor, if I would have read some of these pages, I could not help but raise my voice.

The Grade:  A-

Wow.  It was a word that I would say out loud as I listened to these powerful stories of legendary missionaries of yesterday.  If you want a book that will inspire you to share the Gospel, you can start here.  I could not wait to get in my car for more stories of missionaries being faithful to their call.  What is amazing, the missionaries were often quoted as what they did as no big deal.  They each saw it as the calling of any Christian, to follow where God leads and share his precious gift of salvation with others.  To them, it was a privilege to give their life to such a call.

 

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Can Jesus Really Sympathize With Me?

Jesus.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Savior of the World.  The Messiah.

Could the Son of God truly sympathize with me?  Did he really have the same struggles that I have today?  Hebrews 4:15 says it is so.  But to what degree?  What are some examples of how Jesus knows exactly how you feel?  Off the top of my head, here are few…

  1. Fatigue – Jesus’ ministry schedule was pretty packed (3 years to start a revolution) – he understands the fatigue of young mothers with little sleep, he understands the student after a long work week, and he understands the elderly weary from battling their health
  2. Health – would be naïve to think Jesus didn’t go through flu season, have a cold, or a headache from all the hammering in his father’s shop
  3. Physical pain – Sure there was the indescribable pain on the cross, but what about growing pains, hitting his thumb with a hammer or falling down on his 1st camel ride
  4. Temptations – Jesus was at times treated like a rock star (not what He intended). But as the crowds grew, I’m sure there were women who desired his power, businessmen who say $ signs, and an enemy who would tempt him in every possible way.  You think your temptations are intense – how hard do you think Satan tried with Jesus who held the keys to his eternal future in the lake of fire.
  5. Job Demotion – Wait, when was this? Hello?  From heaven, to take a form of a servant…talk about a job loss!  Still 100% God, but took the form of man.
  6. Financial struggle – Jesus was rarely home in his ministry days, often did not have much financially as he traveled, and his treasurer skimming off the top of his ministry funds!
  7. Sorrow – He wept over his friend Lazarus. Had to be alone when he heard of John the Baptist’s execution.  And several times recorded his cries over the city of Jerusalem.

I’m sure there is more.  But you get the idea.  Christ is not just our Savior, he is our sympathetic high priest who was tempted in every way we were, suffered every possible ailment we experience…yet He did not sin.  Yet, He does not fail to give us sympathy in our struggles.  No, we have a high priest that cares, suffers with us, and even intercedes on our behalf.  Oh, what a Savior!

Listen to the entire sermon here – http://mbconline.org/sermons/current-year – 2/25/18 Sermon

 

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Book Review: Date Your Wife

Book Review:  Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

The Good: 

Younger Author.  No offense to the many marriage book authors I’ve read in the past, but they were typically old dudes.  While I certainly am not discounting the wisdom that comes with age & experience, I appreciated a marriage book by someone who was in the same life stage as myself.  Someone with young kids and a younger marriage.  As a result, I was glued to the author’s words as I was often living out similar experiences, trials, and victories.

Let’s Chat.  Easily was the best conversationally friendly book I had read on marriage.  There were great talking points throughout the book.  While some chapters lacked some depth, it made up for it immediately with the practicality and ability to transition the material into a conversation with your wife.

Short Chapters.  For a slow reader like myself who sneaks in a few pages here and there, the chapter length was a blessing.  It actually encouraged me to read more as I felt like I was progressing.  Sometimes the 30 page chapters are intimidating can be like trying to swallow the whole pizza, rather than having small chapters to take many small bites or slices.

The Bad:

Mr. Repeat.  The author tends to repeat himself.  The author tends to repeat himself.  Ok, I’ll stop.  It was a little annoying at the beginning, but it seemed there was purpose to the repetition.  When I was about halfway through the book, I was able to share with my wife all I had learned, and the concepts and lessons came-a-flowing out of my mouth.  Why?  Could be because of the repetition.

The Grade:  A-

There was a considerable amount of lessons and insight to appreciate from this book.  The application of Adam & Eve to current marriage was especially appreciated.  Justin Buzzard is tremendously creative in his pursuit of his wife, and the creativity spills out onto the pages.  I’m more excited about the days ahead of my marriage than I was before the book.  Even after finishing the book, I feel like the journey has just begun with the principles and ideas I gained from reading “Date Your Wife”.  A read I would put on every husband’s shelf.

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