How to Always Have Joy – Philippians 4:1-9

So then, in this way, my dearly loved brothers, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. I ask Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you, my faithful friend, to help these women. They served with me in telling the Good News, together with Clement and others who worked with me, whose names are written in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything excellent and worthy of praise, think about these things. Do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.

Paul begins the last chapter of Philippians expressing again his joy. Remember, the entire book is about having joy no matter what! The Philippian church is a great source of joy for Paul. In fact, he tells them they are his greatest possession! They are his “crown.” He does not mean that he “owns” the church. No, the church belongs to Jesus! What he means is that God gave him the charge of growing the church there and equipping it for the Lord’s work. They are “his” in that he is responsible for them and wants to see them become successful, faithful, and to glorify God. In the same way, Pastor Tim and I have great joy to have you as members of this church. We have great joy to be the pastors of this church. We want to see you become mature, successful believers, able to do anything the Lord asks of you! But how can you do this if you do not “stand firm?” To be successful, faithful believers who glorify God, we must stand strong. But how? Paul gives us two ways of doing this.

One way to stand strong is to be in agreement. It is a powerful thing for a church to be in agreement. A church of one mind, as Paul taught us in an earlier chapter of this book, is able to do anything the Lord wants.

Paul gives the example of Euodia and Syntyche. These two women had some kind of disagreement that was bothering the church, and it bothered the church enough that Paul felt he had to say something. Interesting to this is that Paul says both women are faithful Christians who helped him spread the Good News about Jesus. But yet they had a disagreement! The problem seems to be that they allowed their disagreement to upset the church. Perhaps they did not follow Matthew 18:15-20?

Good Christians disagree all the time. This side of heaven it is impossible for us fallen people to agree 100% on everything. What is important is how we handle our disagreements. Matthew 18 teaches us that we are to keep our disagreements private as long as possible, until it is obvious we are unable to settle it between ourselves. If I cannot solve a problem with another Christian by myself, privately, then I am to get trusted brothers or sisters to come with me and try to solve the problem privately again. Only if that fails am I to bring this problem to be settled by the church! It is a sad thing if your church has to step in and solve your personal issues. It is even more sad if you refuse to settle them on your own. We need to reach agreement among ourselves before our disagreements hurt our church the way these women had hurt their church. Stand strong by agreeing in Christ!

The best way to stand strong is to always rejoice in the Lord. Why is this?

  • If you have joy, it is hard to be negative.
  • If you have joy, it is hard to have conflict or drama.
  • If you have joy, it is hard to give in to temptation.
  • If you have joy, it is hard to not love people.
  • If you have joy, it is hard to not love Jesus!

A joyful person is difficult to tear down. Satan wages war against joyful Christians, because he knows their joy in the Lord is infectious! Sometimes Satan will use your circumstances, your family, your friends, your job, your school, etc. to try and steal your joy. How can we have joy in the face of spiritual warfare and physical realities?

Paul gives us several ways to always have joy:

Be “gentle and kind” or “reasonable.”
Be gentle and kind with each other. Some translations use the word “reasonable.” Be fair with one another. It is difficult to be negative, confrontational, and unloving when you are kind to people. Even better, it is difficult for others to be that way to you! Kindness, especially in the face of others wronging you, is the biggest and best “revenge” one could get. Kindness is like burning coals to those who do evil (Romans 12:14-21).

Don’t worry about anything, because Jesus is coming.
Why are we so worried about “stuff?” Why do we worry about our economy so much? Why do we worry so much about our money, jobs, school, families? Jesus is coming! He has and will take care of everything we need! And when he comes, we will no longer want for anything! “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Prayer is so very important in the life of a person who loves God and belongs to Jesus. Oftentimes we do not see God work in our lives because we have not asked him to work in our lives (James 4:2-3). If we are standing strong in Jesus, the Bible promises us that our prayers will be successful. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16) But there are certain things we must be sure to do in contrast with what the world would have us do when we pray.

  • We must pray to God alone. We must not pray to anyone other than the God of the Bible. We do not pray to Allah. We do not pray to the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witnesses god. We do not pray to Buddha. We do not pray to pagan gods and goddesses. And we most certainly do not pray to “saints!” None of these can hear our prayers, least of all “saints.” Only God in heaven can hear our prayers (1 Kings 18:20-40), prayed in the name of Jesus (John 14:12-14) by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).
  • We must pray with urgency and desperation. We must beg God to do something! We must be serious and desperate for him. We must cry out to him in total dependence.
  • We must pray with thanksgiving. We must thank the One who has commanded us to pray to him, that he might bless us. We must thank him for the many blessings he has already given us, for the blessings he is now giving us, and the blessings we are begging him to give us in the future. After all, God does not have to give us anything!

Paul promises that if we will do these things, we will have joy AND peace!

Paul teaches us that another way to have joy is to think on several things. We are to think on what is:

  • True. We need to keep our eyes open for what is true. That is why we listen carefully to everyone and compare them against Scripture. If we are not listening, nor comparing with the Bible, we cannot know if someone is teaching us falsely. Be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11!
  • Honorable. Does this person/thing honor God? Does it acknowledge that God is who he says he is and that he has sent his Son, Jesus? Does it acknowledge Christ as the only way of salvation?
  • Just. Is the thing right? Is the thing fair? Is it right or fair in the same way or similar to the way God is?
  • Pure. Does it mirror God’s purity? Nothing in this fallen state can ever be truly pure, but we can look for examples that echo the purity of Christ.
  • Lovely. Does it reflect the beauty of God? Does it reflect the beauty of Jesus? Does it reflect the beauty of Scripture?
  • Commendable. Does it do a good work? A good job?
  • Excellent or worthy of praise. Does it reflect the excellence of Jesus? Does it make you praise God?

It is very hard not to be joyful when thinking on these things!

Lastly, Paul teaches us that to have joy, we must follow our leaders.

This does not mean that we are to be blindly obedient or to copy everything we do. We are not independent fundamentalists! This means we are to follow the example set by our leaders. How do we do this?

Watch your leaders. Watch how your pastors, teachers, deacons, etc. serve the Lord. Apply their example to yourself. Figure out from watching them what interests you about serving the Lord and what you think you can do or may be called to do.

Listen to your leaders. Pay careful attention to what they teach you. Pay careful attention to their instructions. If they are teachers of the Word, their teaching will be as life and breath.

Learn from your leaders. Don’t just watch and listen, learn! Seek to understand what they have taught you through your observation and listening. Apply it to your life. Let their teaching change you. Let their teaching change how you face life and the world.

Practice what you have learned. Don’t just blandly accept what you see, hear, and learn – PRACTICE IT! You will never have joy if you just agree in your mind, you must actively be joyful! You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to act joyfully whatever circumstance you are faced with. You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to trust what the Bible teaches no matter what your family, friends, school, job, or the world may say about it. You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to believe and trust in Jesus alone for your salvation, no matter what anyone else says. You must put into practice what God would have you learn and know!

And the best part is, God has promised to be with us if we will but do these things!

I want to leave you with some final thoughts about what we’ve talked about today. Let’s compare how the world says to have joy with how the Bible says to have joy.

  • The world says that joy means overcoming circumstances. Instead, the Bible says joy means trusting Jesus because he has ALREADY overcome our circumstances! All of our sins, hurts, struggles, hopes and dreams were overcome on the cross once and for all. We can have joy in Jesus alone!
  • The world says that joy is something you must do. Instead, the Bible says that because Jesus has already done all that is necessary, the only thing we can do is trust and obey God. We must believe in Jesus, trust him with our lives, and obey him until we die or he returns!
  • The world says that joy means having or doing “stuff”. Instead, the Bible says that joy is not found in “stuff,” but in agreement, gentleness, and thinking on what is good. “Stuff” can never satisfy nor bring joy. What it brings is temporary. It only lasts as long as the new car smell. But the joy that Jesus gives is not temporary, but permanent. It is eternal. And it is only for those who belong to him!

Do you have joy? If not, maybe you need to seriously think about what we’ve learned today. Maybe you need to let go of what the world says. Maybe you need to put aside what your family and friends have said. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies Satan has told you about having joy. Start believing today in what God has said is the way to have joy – believe and trust in Jesus alone. Following him is the only way to have true joy no matter what may happen in your life!

Categories: Sermons

Preaching Philippians

This summer I will be preaching through the book of Philippians. I try to preach through at least 1 book every year, and thus far I have preached through 1 John and James. I also preached through the first 2 chapters of Romans before circumstances forced me to end that series. I have also taught several books during our Wednesday night Bible studies. I always enjoy preaching or teaching through a book of the Bible. It settles me and allows me to be more open to what God wants our people to hear week by week. Topical preaching is becoming rather difficult to do as I become more and more expositional in my methodology.

As I’ve seen several others do, I thought it would be nice to share what materials I’m using for study and prep.

Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Philippians by Moises Silva. Silva’s commentary is technical enough to engage those familiar with Greek, but not so much that a layperson cannot access it. Very insightful and a good help.

Philippians: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice. Having read Boice’s books on the 5 Solas and the Doctrines of Grace, I’ve been eager to get into one of his commentaries, each of which is borne out of his own extensive preaching through the book.

The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Philippians by Peter T. O’Brien. This is first and foremost a technical commentary, directly engaging the Greek text of Philippians and is heavily theological in nature. I expect to use this to better understand the text and the theology it communicates.

One commentary I dearly want but cannot find is this:
The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by G. Walter Hansen. The Pillar series has been getting a lot of good press from pastors and seminarians alike, and by many of those whose book recommendations I take seriously. Fairly new to the scene, I used several of the available commentaries during seminary and really liked the ease of use and expositional nature. If I were to collect a commentary set, it would be the Pillar series, without a doubt.

I’m also using my Calvin’s Commentaries and my Matthew Henry Commentary, as well as my MacArthur Bible Commentary. But these are more supplemental as the 3 listed above are my main sources, the go-to books for this series.

I’m not reading any sermons, and I’m not using any devotionals or Bible study guides so as to approach Philippians as freshly as possible with an eye towards our people. I haven’t seen any non-devotional, non-commentary books out there yet, but I’m looking.

Categories: Sermons

Classic Holocron: Condiments of the Christian Religion

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

We regale you today with a Classic Silent Holocron posting from December 2005. I still think this is one of the funniest things I’ve posted on the entire blog. Enjoy!


Well, it all started when Tricia and I went to O’Charley’s for dinner Sunday night. I was in a reflective frame of mind, and I was explaining the doctrine of predestination. Actually, I was trying to explain the doctrine of reprobation, but realized I wasn’t getting anywhere because she didn’t understand predestination. Anyway, I was getting nowhere fast because this is too wordy a discussion for her, I couldn’t keep giving her verbal examples because she was getting lost quickly. And when she gets lost, she gets frustrated. I looked around the table, and in a flash of inspiration, I grabbed all the condiments I could: butter cups (or pats of butter, if you prefer), ketchup, salt, shrimp sauce, and my sweet tea.

Yes, I was a smidgen desperate.

But I successfully explained total depravity, irresistible grace, and predestination to her in one fell swoop, using the condiments as examples. The ketchup, butter, and salt represented humans; the shrimp sauce represented the Holy Spirit, my sweet tea represented Jesus; and I played the role of the Father.

Can you imagine how this conversation went?

Stephen: “Okay, Tricia, now see this stuff? I the high and mighty Balderdash do in my godly power choose the pats of butter, out of all the condiments, to be my people for ever. I send my Son, the Sweet Tea, to die for them that all who believe in me may be saved. I sent the Holy Shrimp Sauce to those whom I have chosen to remove the sin that blocks them from obeying me and doing my will, so that they are now free to choose my Sweet Tea. I send another of my pats of butter who are already saved to witness to them, and because they have been made free because of the sacrifice of the Sweet Tea by the power of the Holy Shrimp Sauce, they can willingly choose to accept the Sweet Tea as their savior and obey and follow me. See that ketchup over there? Because I did not choose him, I am sending him to the unholy garbage pit, where he will rot in a landfill for all eternity. Got it?”

Tricia: “I think so. You chose the butter because butter makes everything better, and you didn’t choose the ketchup because ketchup and butter don’t mix well.”

Okay, this wasn’t the real conversation, honest.

Categories: Classic Holocron

Dealing With Busybodies (Preaching at Self Post)

February 16, 2011 15 comments

This is a therapeutic post. I’m sorta preaching at myself right now. Bear with me.

So, I’ve been pushed into a corner today. I was exhausted from a long day of classes without much sleep. Allowed myself to get angry, I did. Wanted to load both chambers and blast away. And I didn’t particularly care what happened to the target. What could possibly have riled me up so much? Politics? No. Religion? No. Could it have been…Kentucky fans??? Nope.

What bothered me so much today was a busybody.

What Is A Busybody?
A busybody is someone who, quite simply, sticks their nose in your business. This sort of person feels as if they need to know everything going on around them, including everyone else’s business. Usually someone with a lot of idle time, the busybody attempts to fill that time by prying into the lives of those around them.

A busybody could be a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, a family member, or some other person who would otherwise be uninterested. If the busybody is a friend or acquaintance, they are likely a gossip looking for goodies to share with others. If a family member, they may be gossips as well, or simply trying to be the one “in control” of the family. These family members are usually someone outside of your immediate family – an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, parent, or parent-in-law. If someone else, such as a neighbor or otherwise uninterested party, likely this busybody is just someone looking to make trouble by exerting false control over the lives of others.

Busybodies are tattletales. That’s why most gossips are also busybodies. More often busybodies are the investigative reporters for the gossips, uncovering the latest dirt on you for the rumor mill. They have to tell someone about whatever it is they saw about you that they did not like. Usually their information is not complete; they did not see the entire situation or conversation they are nosing into, they may not know whatever inside knowledge may be present (inside jokes, slang, behaviors, etc.). And the busybody, quite frankly, doesn’t care. They are quite ready to act upon their incomplete knowledge by exerting the false control they perceive themselves to possess.

You could have a bad day at work, or your kids could be having a bad day and throw a fit in public, or it could even be something as mundane and silly as lingering a couple of days before mowing the yard; these are gold mines for busybodies. They are like peeping toms who sneak around and snoop in your windows.

Busybodies often make you want to punch them squarely in the nose. Often you may find yourself saying things like:

“Don’t you have more important things to do than worry about what I’m doing?”

“I don’t see how it’s any of your concern…”

“Don’t you have enough on your own plate?”

“Butt out!”

Often in my secular employment I would tell those of my employees who would “busybody” their teammates something along these lines: “Why don’t you worry about what you’re supposed to be doing, and let me worry about what they’re supposed to be doing?”

What we lack, obviously, is a God-honoring way to deal with the busybodies in our lives.

What Does Scripture Say?
Scripture says that busybodies are idle people who are neglecting their work and go around looking for negative things in the people around them, often to share with others as gossip or to share with an authority figure to make themselves look better (2 Thess. 3:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:13). Busybodies, whether unknowingly or by character, show themselves to be evil-hearted people (Romans 1:28-31). Quite frankly, to be a busybody is to be in sin.

How do we deal with those who are in sin?

First, we must pray for the busybody above all else. Looking first to prayer directly combats the desire in us to respond in a less than loving way. When your first impulse is to tell them off, make some sort of appropriately snarky comment, or complain to your boss; take a full two minutes to pray. Pray for the busybody, yourself, and the situation. Prayer forces you to calm down. It forces you to breathe. It lowers your blood pressure. It helps you to clear your thoughts. Most importantly, prayer will force you to think Jesus’ thoughts about the busybody. And when you behave like Jesus, you can respond with grace and truth. 1 Peter 2:23 especially speaks to the kind of behavior Jesus exhibited – refusing to repay evil with evil. Praying will force you to do that!

After praying, you may actually find that you have no need to give the busybody any further time and energy. This is absolutely fantastic – all you needed to do was pray!

Second, process what the busybody is saying to you or to others. Have you given the busybody a legitimate reason to butt in? For example, perhaps in the past you had been careless, overlooked something, were ignorant of something, ignored something, or were simply unaware of something. The busybody may simply be harping on a past mistake in hopes you will repeat it or get angry with them, thus giving them the chance to exert their false control. Or perhaps you have continued the observed behavior without realizing it, which gave the busybody ample opportunity to glean the “dirt” they need in order to survive. In this case, thank God for the busybody drawing the item to your attention – the busybody was God’s means of pushing you towards greater sanctification. But what if, after processing, you can think of no legitimate reason for the busybody’s unwanted attentions?

Lovingly confront
Third, lovingly confront the busybody. You should do this even with an unbeliever, no matter how much you may think the unbelieving busybody needs to be smacked upside the head with a 2 x 4! Follow the principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 scrupulously. First go to the busybody privately and explain to them you do not appreciate what they are doing. Explain to them (yes, use Scripture!) that what they are doing is sin and affects everyone around them. Explain to them how it makes the home, workplace, extended family, etc. an unhealthy place for everyone involved as long as this behavior continues. Ask them point blank to stop.

If the busybody continues to get up in your business, find a couple of trusted neighbors, friends, family, or co-workers and together confront the busybody. If even then the behavior continues, you have a couple of options.

If the busybody is a co-worker, you will then need to discuss the problem with your immediate supervisor. Often a word from management can stop the behavior in its tracks. If your boss does nothing or refuses to address the problem, follow the appropriate steps your work has put into place for dealing with workplace harassment.

If the busybody is a family member, you may need to speak with the person’s parents or spouse about the behavior. Tell them you need your help resolving an issue with the person. A good parent will correct the behavior, and a good spouse will lead their husband or wife to be better people. If they are unmarried, or out of their parents’ home, go to the family member that holds the most influence over the busybody and ask them for help.

If the busybody is a believer, does he/she attend your church? If so, ask your pastor or pertinent pastoral staff member for help. They should help you follow through on the remainder of Matthew 18.

Doesn’t attend your church? Be careful here. It would be best to still go to your pastoral staff for help, as often pastors in a community know each other and are working together in some ways for the good of the community. Initially, do not tell your pastor who the busybody is out of respect for a fellow believer and the other body of Christ involved. If your pastor and the other pastor decide a meeting is needed, then you are free to identify the busybody.

What if the busybody is not a believer? If you have followed the steps outlined above, follow up with the Gospel. A busybody’s greatest need is not to stop their gossipy meddling, but to be transformed by Christ that their minds may be renewed by the Holy Spirit. Remember also that in dealing with one who professes to be a believer, failure to repent and change is a sign that the person is not saved. Our duty then is no longer edifying the body of Christ, but sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Only regeneration and sanctification will change a busybody!

What if there is NO change?
If, after all this, the busybody refuses to change their ways, then I have a hard question to ask of you. Are you willing to suffer at the hands of the busybody that God may sanctify you (Romans 5:3-5, 8:16-26; Phil. 1:29; Heb. 2:10, 10:32-36)? Are you willing to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:3)?”

Finally, heed the wise words of 1 Peter 5:10 – “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Patiently endure the busybody, that you might receive a greater benefit from God himself.

I said this was a “therapeutic” post, that I was effectively preaching to self here. It really was therapeutic. It reminded me of the high calling to which I have been called, and my Scriptural need to be above thinking like the world. Instead, I need to be transformed in my mind (Romans 12:2) that I may present Christ clearly to the busybody through my words and actions.

I’m now far calmer than I was when I began writing this post. I’m more clearheaded. And I’m actually at the point where I simply don’t care anymore. That, my friends, is exactly what God wants from me – to care more about HIS nosiness than that of the WORLD!

Categories: Commentary

2011 Fiction Reading List

Everybody’s doing their reading lists, so I felt compelled to join. This list, however, is not a list of “spiritual” reading (i.e. theological, devotional, etc.) but what I like to call “mindless” reading. This sort of reading, to me, is so very important. It allows you to “mind-dump” your brain. It’s a good way to just dump the heavy, serious reading you’ve been doing and refresh your mind. Yes, even if you’ve been heavily reading Scripture! Sometimes we just need to suspend belief, check out, and daydream; and fiction is one of the best ways to do this! I find doing this often helps the heavy reading I’ve been doing to “settle in” and lock into place the different concepts my mind has been grappling with.

Maybe later this week I’ll compile a serious list, but right now I just don’t care. So with no further ado and in random order, the list (titles in italics followed by author):

The Bookman Lavie Tidhar
Clockwork Angel Cassandra Clare
The Buntline Special Mike Resnick
Dreadnought Cherie Priest
Clementine Cherie Priest
The Affinity Bridge George Mann
The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi
Steampunk Prime Mike Ashley

Sent Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Orc King R. A. Salvatore
Wizard Squared K. E. Mills
The Warlock Michael Scott

Morpheus Road: The Black D. J. MacHale
The Walking Dead Robert Kirkman
Drood Dan Simmons

The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas (I’ve decided to tackle this again)
The Time Machine H. G. Wells
The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer

Of course, this list could expand or contract (more likely to expand!) as new books come out or as I finish the list. This would be a good reader for yourself or your young person!

Categories: Books & Book Reviews

A Long Overdue Update

December 20, 2010 1 comment

Family Photo

Yes, I know. It has been forever. Sue me.

I have not blogged much this year because, quite frankly, the blogging bug has long since ceased to have much influence. I have not even read many blogs unless they were linked to me through social networking (that is, Twitter and Facebook). Much of my time and energy has been taken up by several concerns, some of which I will briefly update you on today.

My number one duty, above and beyond being a pastor, is my role as a husband and father. This past year has been one of great change for us. As many of you know, last August 2009 we welcomed a new addition in Cassandra Elaine, and in January our oldest, Grace Elizabeth, turned 2! Much of our time has been taken up in handling two fast-growing little girls and trying our best to keep our marriage centered on God and on each other. It is difficult when one works 3rd shift to do all of these things!

Grace is now exercising her large vocabulary regularly, whereas before she was very quiet and reticent about speaking up. She is still very shy and will not speak in the presence of strangers, and still will not repeat things back to us very much. Grace is a very sensitive soul and still does not like to be the center of attention. She loves sporty things and is always trying to toss a ball or wrestle with me! I’m positive she will be an athlete. She has enough appreciation for girly things that she likes clothes and purses and “playing mommy.” She is a very rambunctious 2 year old and will be 3 in January.

Cassie is the love bug in our family! She turned 1 this August, and is the girly girl. Every time we go out, she is so taken with girly things like clothes and jewelry, more so than Grace is. She began walking this summer and is getting into everything now. In contrast to Grace, she wants every eye on her! I’m convinced she will be the diva of the family!

Tricia and I will have been married 5 years next June. We are hoping to finally be able to celebrate our anniversary with a solo trip, but we will see what circumstances dictate. We have much growing to do together as we continue to deepen our commitment to each other. I cannot imagine being with anyone else, nor would I want to be. I understand today what Adam meant by “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”

As of right now, there are no immediate plans to have more children. We are leaving this up to the Lord and His timing. We would like to have a boy or two (to balance out the estrogen in our house), so I can tell you there will definitely be more children at some point. We would like to wait a bit and let our girls grow up a little bit, so that way we are not raising a baby with other babies, but instead have two sets of helping hands in Grace and Cassie. So the earliest we might plan to have children again would be next fall (Cassie will be 2). But we are depending on God’s timing and not ours to determine our next child. God willing, we will have several of our own, and at some point in the future we would like to adopt a Deaf child!

I decided last winter that I was fed up with where I was in the job department. 3rd shift has left me quite cranky most days and some days I have to remind myself not to be short with my wife and children. In addition, being bi-vocational is not financially beneficial for most Deaf pastors. I work part-time for our church and part time for UPS, and honestly our finances are not where they need to be. The majority of Deaf churches, ours included, are unable to pay a full-time salary; and while UPS is basically paying our bills, it is still not enough that we are not stretching every paycheck. I believe that wisdom requires me, as a husband and father, to put myself in the best position possible to provide financially, emotionally, and spiritually for my family. This means I need full-time secular or ministry work.

I began looking for promotion from front-line management (a part-time position) at UPS two years ago, and the majority of full-time positions open to me were for those who have a business related degree, which I do not have. So with the counsel of my superiors at UPS and lots of prayer, I decided to return to college to procure a business degree. I have just completed my first semester at the University of Louisville and will be looking to formally transfer into the business school there this spring. The goal is to either receive a promotion to a full-time position at UPS or be able to leave UPS for a full-time position elsewhere. That will allow me to provide for my family and remove reliance on my income as a pastor at Louisville Baptist Deaf Church.

Why not look for full-time ministry work? Partly because there are few full-time Deaf ministry jobs out there. None that I personally know of. As I mentioned, the majority of Deaf churches (I’d wager 99%) are unable to provide a full-time salary for their pastors, and most Deaf pastors I know are bi-vocational. If I were to leave our church, I would have to know for certain that there was another job available for me wherever we went. As it is, I believe in long-term commitment to one’s place of service, and I am committed to LBDC, not seeking to leave, until such time as the Lord makes it clear I am to leave. Further, I am in a place where I am learning from one of the foremost Deaf pastors in America (30+ years of experience), and you can’t beat that!

I have now been at Louisville Baptist Deaf Church as Associate Pastor for 6 years, and involved in the ministry of the church for 10. In that time we have attempted a Deaf church plant, weathered many assaults by Satan on the church generally and on the pastors personally (including very hurtful attacks on me which God used to grow me as a pastor and mature me), moved to a new location at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and begun the process of church revitalization. I have learned so much from our senior pastor Tim Bender and look forward to learning more over the next few years, Lord willing. It is truly a blessing to be able to serve with and learn from a pastor with such a long career of faithfulness to God and His church!

I have been networking quite furiously over the past two years, with the advent of Twitter and popularity of Facebook. I have been able to keep up with many seminary friends and make new ministry friends through these avenues. We have learned much from each other and grown together, and I have been privileged to meet many of these contacts and make new friends through events such as Together for the Gospel and the Southern Baptist Convention. It has been my stated goal to bring awareness of Deaf ministry to the hearing ministry world, and I believe the Lord has opened many doors through this networking experience. I do believe I need to learn to better utilize Twitter and Facebook towards these ends, as the temptation quickly arises to use them for personal entertainment. Not that this is a bad thing, but it can become the be-all and end-all, personal entertainment!

This coming March, I will be attending the 9 Marks Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. I have told people I will be doing some consulting while there as well as taking the opportunity to get a fantastic learning experience in an intense training weekend. I will have the opportunity to talk with people about Deaf ministry, and I will be using the things I learn at the Weekender and attempting to apply them to a Deaf context. I am also hoping, time permitting, to be able to make contacts at Gallaudet University while I am in Washington. I would like to ask you to pray for this opportunity.

In 2011, I will have the opportunity to preach 5 months out of the year as Pastor Tim and I have worked out our preaching schedule. I will be preaching January, June through August, and November. I am currently praying about what to study for preaching. I am for certain going to preach through one or two books of Scripture, likely an epistle, and spend one or both of the single months preaching on an issue. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to lead me to the Scriptures and issues our church needs addressed.

This preaching schedule will allow Tim to focus on missions work during those months, as he is an officer in the World Congress of Deaf Baptists; and our church along with the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf supports a Deaf Bible School and church in the Ukraine, and Tim works personally with the pastor and is taking at least two trips a year there. I have been invited to go this year (2011) but do not yet know if I will be able to go.

I am also enjoying my final year as president of Kentucky Baptist Conference of the Deaf. First elected in 2009, I was re-elected this year. It has been a learning experience, as many of our officers (including me) were first time officers and we have had to learn and grow together. It has been encouraging to me to see 2 new Deaf works begin in Kentucky. I am hopeful for the future of Deaf work in this state and in the nation. I will not be president nor in any officer position next year, but I am confident in those Deaf people in leadership today. Perhaps in the future the Lord will allow me to be in leadership again.

As I mentioned, I have just completed my first semester at the University of Louisville. I am taking classes to allow myself to enter the business school there. I finished my first semester with a 3.01 GPA that really should have been higher (3.3 to be exact), but I took an Economics class with a very tough professor with a strange grading system I have never seen before. With a conventional grading system I would have had a B- in the class, but under this odd system instead I got a C, which brought my tally to 2 As, an A-, and the C. As it is, this is enough to transfer into the business school (it requires 3.0), so I will be meeting with an advisor this spring semester to see what I need to do.

This spring I will be taking a full-time load at 14 hours. Now that I have gotten my brain back into a student mode, I anticipate being able to do well in every class. I am using sign language interpreters for the first time ever, and I can tell you that given some of the class sizes I am thankful I opted to have interpreters this time around. I’m used to having small classes where I can sit right in front of the profs, the profs know me, and I’m able to get everything I need. But at Louisville you can have over 100 people in a class, you sit in an auditorium, and you can’t catch everything the professor says! I can’t express enough how much I love interpreters after this semester!

We will be moving this June when our lease is up. We moved last year after receiving notice that our rent was going up, and putting it a little out of our budget. We had little notice of this – our lease was to be up one month after receiving notice, so we had little time in which to find another apartment and move. This move turned out to be a bad one – our new apartment was smaller than we thought it was going to be, we have had lots of problems with pests, maintenance, and parking, and the move actually cost us more money long-term than moving was supposed to save us. We should have stayed where we were and reworked our budget.

But we have decided not to stay in this place any longer than necessary, so beginning in January we will begin looking for either a house or 3-bedroom apartment to rent, preferably a house. With our girls getting bigger and more active, they need to be able to go outside to play instead of being inside most of the time. This will also allow us to stay home instead of taking the girls out to get them out of the house, saving us gas money! We are hoping that the Lord will provide us with a place that is within our budget and make the move financially possible. Please pray for this.

I will be praying for the Lord’s direction regarding my employment. I would like to remain at UPS, but I am praying for doors to open for a different placement. Perhaps moving to a different department, especially as I do more coursework in the business school. Perhaps a full-time opportunity will come along. Perhaps God will offer me a change of scenery and lead me away from UPS. Perhaps God will even provide full-time ministry work! I am content to remain where I am and work the plans I have before me until God shows me His will.

I will be praying as well for the direction of our church. With our move we have seen immediate benefit. Our attendance has grown. We are hoping our members’ commitment, discipleship, and evangelism will grow as well. Our girls are now excited to go to church since there are other children at Bethlehem Baptist. Grace gets mad if we don’t take her to church every Sunday and Wednesday! I mentioned before that we are in the process of church revitalization – we will be praying over this process as well. We developed a new church mission statement and voted to keep our name instead of renaming LBDC. We are working on discipleship and changing our culture from passive to active. I also need to change my mindset to one that is active instead of reactive in order to model this to our people. Please be in prayer for the presence and leadership of the Holy Spirit as we do this.

Well, that is the update in 2500 words. I pray this finds you enjoying your holiday!

Categories: Uncategorized

Hallelujah! All I Have Is Christ!

April 23, 2010 1 comment

This song is the one enduring memory of Together for the Gospel 2010 that likely brought home the entire week’s worth of Gospel exhortation. I’ve included a video of a live performance from the Na Band and lyrics below. The music is also available on iTunes. Enjoy and exult in the glory of Christ!

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Categories: Conferences, Songs & Poetry Tags: ,