Friday, October 10, 2014

Respect, Honor, Appreciate, and Obey... your pastors/elders!!!

Its part of the human condition.

We love to manufacture any reason we can in order to honor ourselves. To be perfectly candid, that is my struggle every October. Posted across every email or direct mail I receive from ministry website/businesses is this banner "Pastor Appreciation Month." If I say anything to others (whether in person or via social media), am I fishing for complements or a handout? For all the above and whatever else I may have overlooked in this cursory examination concerning motives for "Pastor Appreciation..." I am approaching the issue head on by seeking to honor those whom God has placed in authority over me.

In this post you will find pictures, both digital and written, which will seek to provide; encouragement for those disillusioned by "the church," honor for those God has given the gift of leadership to, some practical suggestions as to how we appreciate our pastors/elders, and most importantly...obedience to Scripture.  

I Peter 5:5 "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.""


Galatians 6:6 "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches."


I Thess. 5:12-13 "We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work."

Harnessing the wealth of maturity that each of these men possess into a few scant sentences and then relating how it has personally impacted me is not exactly a simple task. With that said, here goes:

Don Blair - Don is patient, methodical and discerning. Every other Monday we meet to pray for one another and the church as a whole. In these meetings, time and again, his discernment add to my own maturity. I see things as they are and want to move on something too quickly. Don's patient and discerning ways have greatly impacted me - teaching me that the Lord is patient with me. I am learning to be a better shepherd because of Don! Thank you Don for being patient, methodical and discerning, just like Jesus for me and for NCF!

Steve Meyer - Steve's personality and the way he relates to people are genuine and very unassuming. he can make anyone I know feel welcomed, cared for and important. However, the thing that strikes me most of all about what the Lord has used Steve to teach me is simply his laser-like focus on the mission. We are always and ever to be people who live out our gospel-identity making disciples. As a pastor he looks me square in the eye and asks the hard questions of my leadership that grow me. Thank you Steve for being an unassuming leader who is genuine and laser focused on the mission of God, just like Jesus for me and for NCF!

Matt Miller - Matt is decisive, protecting, and servant minded! A few months back I brought Jada in to the office for a few hours and asked her to help our secretary fold bulletins. I was writing a sermon and came out about 45 minutes later to get a drink. Matt is sitting on the floor, folding bulletins having a discussion with Jada. That story typifies Matt. If there is a need, its going to be filled. If someone feels vulnerable, Matt steps in to ensure the safety and well-being of that individual. This has been a real challenge to me, for I love to be served. Thank you Matt for being decisive when others aren't, protecting the flock that God has called you to serve, and serving SO humbly, just like Jesus for me and for NCF!

Dale Stuber - Dale is easily one of the most compassionate and humble men I know. Week after week when we discuss issues in the church where sin has run its course and relationships are broken - Dale is moved to tears. He LOVES the body he shepherds. What a tremendous example for a guy like me who can be harsh at times. Dale will patiently work with people, even at great cost to himself, his sleep or his profit margin at work. This love is not just for the church. Catch Dale any day of the week and ask him about his wife, boys or daughter and you will see him warm up as he describes recent breakthroughs OR be brought to tears as he recounts his own failures. Constantly drawing from the deep and endless well of grace that God so richly provides is Dale! Thank you Dale for being compassionate and humble in your dealings with your family and the church you shepherd, just like Jesus for me and for NCF.

Bill Teater - Bill has a gift to reason the scriptures with anyone. I watch, time and again, how a situation that looks hopeless is brought back in the realm of redemption where it ought to have been the entire time. This would also indicate that Bill has great faith. His soothing and calm nature have quelled many a tense moment and show me what it means to be a humble leader. I will look at history, patterns, and many other things as I consider things. Bill begins with the heart and continues to trust the ability of God to redeem. I love how his words and demeanor challenge me indirectly to consider, "Do you actually believe the Bible you preach and the God you affirm?" Thank you Bill for being someone who reasons gently from the Scriptures and shows God's authority through them, just like Jesus for me and for NCF!

Dave Wolfe - Dave's fidelity to the Word of God and mission of God, along with his transparency have shown me what all pastors should be about! God's word (as well as His Son Jesus Christ) is His most complete revelation to us and Dave never ... and I mean NEVER... gives anything or anyone else a place on the stage of God's Glory. Most people may not know that every message that Dave or I preach is fully discussed together. I have grown in my preaching and teaching ministry more because of Dave than nearly any other man. On a regular basis Dave reminds me of who I am in Jesus and how every sin I commit either confirms or rejects the identity conferred to me by Christ! Thank you Dave for being SO COMMITTED to the Word of God and mission of God that one cannot help but be challenged to grow when with you, just like Jesus for me and for NCF!

Don and Lori Blair
Steve and Diana Meyer family
Matt and Paula Miller family

Dale and Dana Stuber family

Bill and Debbie Teater family

Dave and Jessica Wolfe family

Practically speaking, I encourage you to consider one of the following:

  • PRAY for your pastors/elders regularly. Our humble recognition in prayer promotes a heart of gratitude and not consumerism. 
  • Encourage personally or through note (email or written) the pastor/elder who has exercised oversight in a Godly way over you.
  • Obey their leadership for they must give an account before God for how they have shepherded the Church commended to their charge.
  • Consider gift card for a 'date-nite' they can have with their spouse. Realizing that their spouses often feel the weight of "sharing" their husbands with the Church. 
  • Offer to watch their children as a favor giving them time to run errands or go out on a date. 
  • Offer to have them and their family over for dinner, dessert, games or just to hang out.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Jessica Marie

Here's to and for my lovely wife: Jessica Marie!!!

I woke this morning early. I watched as the snow came down, sipping on some coffee, talking to God about how His word brings me life. I would not have known this love had He not taken the initiative in His Son. I began to contemplate the parallels of such love, especially as they relate to marriage.

Marriage is that great enterprise that begs for two things simultaneously: love and death. I John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Marriage demands this ‘kind’ of love from each partner. But this love is not natural nor is it attainable without the indwelling Spirit of God. His Spirit given to men after the death of His Son! So, to love rightly, is to love sacrificially… unto death (Eph 5:25). Marriage is great practice for the exercise of sacrificial love ~ love by death. Death to self; by, through and IN Christ!

In these past weeks/months I’ve relished watching you be moved by the Spirit to a deeper sense of mission and that is of inestimable worth to me! Until death brings our separation I deeply desire to be a couple that makes every moment count for the kingdom. With you as my spouse (and the Spirit’s power), I have NO CONCERN that this desire won’t be a reality. Thank you for pushing me (by your own actions) to be a more mission-minded husband. Additionally, the way you bear with me patiently has to be one of the most endearing things about you. Here’s to MANY more v-days to come! I love you.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Kindness and Severity of God

These, make no mistake, are unbelievably difficult times. Grief is no respecter of hearts. So it is that when Jess, Jada and myself went to say "farewell" to Cora Peters God began a process in my own heart - that can only be worked out by writing. 

On January 4th at 6:00 in the evening, hundreds gathered to celebrate the life and passing of Cora Peters. Having lost my own brother to an untimely death when he was just seventeen, I often struggle with how to articulate what God teaches OR offers us in the middle of the storm as it were. 

I'm no good at being formal or polished, so this may be a little raw or lengthy. Bear with me, however, because I believe it will exalt God, honor Cora Peter's memory, and give comfort to her family and anyone else grieving her loss. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes (Solomon) provides insight as to why we attend a funeral in chapter 7:2, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

Really, "sorrow is better than laughter?" Who is this deranged fool hanging out with? "By sadness... the heart is made glad." A little too formulaic for my liking. If you want to stand you have to sit, if you to run you must walk...that sort of thing. How does that line of thinking serve our grieving hearts? 

However, I have been known to be wrong before. Besides, maybe Solomon was on to something...

This passage is perhaps one of the most poignant in all the Bible in helping us to understand that when life is spent on ourselves it is meaningless and vain. However, by joining with God's story through faith in His Son Jesus the result will be lasting joy, real hope and eternal life.  
Cora and Jada

With God's word as our guide my aim is to take us on a journey out of despair and into HOPE EVERLASTING!" This passage helps us understand a few things about death, and its critical we grasp them:
  1. (v2) It's good that we are thinking about her loss. Not one of us will escape this moment. Everyone reading this is "…laying it to heart…" In fact, you are reading this because of your connection (in some way) to Cora.
  2. (v3) There is an innate goodness that comes by way of sorrow - an introspection occurs that otherwise would not. A self-exam. The apostle Paul in II Cor. puts it this way: 
II Corinthians 7:10 "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

More than anything in ALL THE WORLD the Peters want each one reading this to KNOW "…salvation without regret…" But how - how?

First things first, God created you, each one of you. and HE LOVES YOU DEEPLY. His original created order DID NOT INCLUDE THIS (death) - that is why we are so deeply distressed. Death is the result of sin. Sin had to be overcome, and it was. But HOW does one appropriate that victory for themselves? How can you have "salvation without regret?"

The Apostle Paul picks up where God's created order was marred, describing the state of someone who is not yet a believer in Christ: Titus 3:3 "Once we, too, we're foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other." Sounds like a horrible existence if you ask me.

The word "Gospel" means "good news." If Paul would have stopped after verse 3 he would have done humanity a HUGE disservice. Much to my eternal joy he did not cease there. Listen to the rest of the discourse:4 But - When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of His grace He declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life."

  • What we were (v3)...

3 "Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other".
One must understand that his sinful state leaves him utterly helpless. 

  • Who He Is (v4)...

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love...”
Ever since the creation of the world God has been communicating His love of mankind. In fact, Romans 2:4 says that it is “...His kindness that leads us to repentance...” 

  • What He did (vv 5-6)...

5 "he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior."
What he has accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, was a change at the core of who we are. An identity swap... Leading to new affections! 

  • Who we are NOW (v7)...

7 "Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

Having believed in our heart and confessed with our mouth that Jesus is LORD we are JUSTIFIED (in right relationship with God). 

I could go on but I fear I may have already lost a good bit of you for lack of ear-tickling prose and gentle realities. 
The Kindness of God lay in the fact that any of us has confidence of eternal life through the forgiveness of sin. The Severity of God is found on this winding, unpredictable and sometimes downright ferocious path called grief. It hurts, yes. Just ask Karen or David and their family. 

However, their hurt is tethered to hope

Friday, January 3, 2014

10 things I learned in 10 years from the woman of my dreams by the hand of God

at our wedding

celebrating our 10th
Milestone - an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. 
Milestones are things that keep us grounded and certain we are headed in the right direction. We have physical milestones, social milestones, intellectual milestones, emotional milestones and even spiritual milestones. As human beings we are often lost without reference to a particular milestone. We speak of when we graduated college, started a career or how long it has been since a loved one passed away. We love milestones because they provide for us a frame of reference; giving meaning and purpose to our lives… Which at times may seem to be driven by the endless minutia of wake, work, school, bills, diapers, grocery shopping and all of their various kin. 
BUT a milestone is so much more than minutia! A milestone raises its fist in protest against the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”, and it states emphatically, “This means something! This day, this hour, this minute, this second, it means something. Persevere, have faith, take courage, I (says the Lord) have not saved you for nothing. Look ahead, there’s your goal, don’t give up!” 
Everything is NOT more meaningless minutia! In the seemingly endless nature of your life: dishes, laundry, runny noses, muddy floors, sleepless nights, school activities, my meetings, discipline of the children, visits to the Dr. for your limes disease treatment, and the list goes on…You may be at risk of tripping on the milestone and deeming it an insignificant bump in your road. I frame it in this way because it's my stubborn heart that took weeks of reflection and the grace of the Spirit to even begin to comprehend all God has done. 
T-E-N years! We have been married happily by the grace of our Lord Jesus, for TEN years! These last few weeks as our tenth approached I began to list TEN things I have learned. They are in no particular order, but the culmination of their message - - - well, I hope it's the milestone you were needing to be encouraged with today.
God is faithful. I had no earthly idea that in ten years we’d move six times, have three different jobs, three kids, walk through childhood cancer or see you diagnosed with lyme disease. Through all this, the smile of God’s favor rests heavily on us and for that I am grateful - because there were days when it seemed too hard. 
Our vows mean more to me now than ten years ago. You and I loved each other as we stood in front of hundreds and said those vows. Take me back ten years with the knowledge and experience I have now and I still wouldn't trade a thing. I’ll take you in sickness and in health, in wealth and in poverty…I’ll take you, because Christ has taken me. 
I loved living in North Carolina. Far and away there were times in that first year of marriage when Krispy Kreme donuts and a diet Coke typified our experience in the south (inside joke). The beach was close and God grew our love as we both would learn to leave and cleave.
I know the depth of your commitment to me. When we took off the gloves for the first time in our house in NC and got into an argument, I was terrified that you would second guess marrying me. Your words were a balm to my nervous heart, “I’m not going anywhere honey, I’m just ticked off at you right now.” 
Children are blessing and heritage from the Lord. Though you cried like a baby at the sight of our first pregnancy test because we both weren’t prepared. The words of the Psalmist (127:3) ring true: “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”
Childhood cancer taught me that our kids are not our own. While children are a blessing and heritage from the Lord, they are ultimately FROM THE LORD. This helps me to love them more freely - though on some days I need your reminding to be more tender and appreciative of God’s gifts to us. 
Jada at a community fundraiser
to bless our family
I wouldn't want to be on a mission or in the trenches with anyone else before you! Each day as we wake and we engage our kids, each other, and our neighbors with the Gospel we are making disciples; the very mission God has called to. I can’t imagine rolling up my sleeves or getting dirty in this way with anyone but you. 
I still love your laugh! From across a crowded room, or in the car seat next to me, I love that sound. So deep, so genuine, so inviting! 
If these first ten years are ANYTHING, they are a trailer to the next best years of my life (and hopefully yours)! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is only due to the mutual foundation of Christ in us.
 You are still breathtakingly beautiful to me! Song of Songs 2:2 echoes the sentiment of my heart, “As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.” Whether its in your jammies or all dressed up for a date night, your beauty is more than skin deep, it issues forth “…from a gentle and quiet spirit - which is precious in the sight of God…” (I borrowed those words from 1 Pet. 3:4).

I love you and I pray this anniversary be a special “milestone” for you as it has already been for me! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Revealed and Protected

Ordinarily when one considers "glory" they may think of one or more of the following: accolades, brightness, eternal bliss, that little known Civil War movie from the late 1980s, God, or any of a number of other adjectives.

This Christmas season I propose we look at "glory" in a twofold manner: revelation and protection. The prophet Isaiah, some several hundred years before Jesus seemed to grasp this vital reality. In Isaiah 60:1-3 this is what he says “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance." Though I won't take the time to paste all the verses from this incredible passage here, I challenge you to read them. Here's why...

The GLORY of God is a protection as much as it is a revelation. Our hearts were innately designed to worship (ascribe and assign glory to something or someone) and the ADVENT of Jesus secures for all of us the rightful final destination of our worship. The writer of Hebrews says it this way, "The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven." 

The choice is now yours. When you hear the word "glory" what will immediately come to mind?... "Man, what a great movie." 


"God thank you for sending You own Son, at infinite cost to Yourself, in order to reveal GLORY provoking my heart to worship Y-O-U! The one and only true God. Thank you that I'm not relegated to dig through the dumps of my own personal fancies to fashion a god that cannot save or be worthy of anything. You, God, have revealed to protect. And that's just kind, anyway I slice it."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"I have long feared..."

Cora, this is for you - so I hope you're reading it (or having it read to you)...

There's a movie that Mel Gibson stars in called "The Patriot". The setting of this particular movie is the American Revolution in the late 1700s. The main character, Benjamin Watson, can be heard at the beginning of the film narrating... he states, "I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear..."

Yesterday my wife, our daughter, and I went to visit a dear friend and her family in the hospital. This sweet family is staring a reality in the eyes which no one has a playbook for - "I'm sorry ____________ the treatment is not working and you only have __________ left to live." I want you to, for a moment, picture a Dr. telling you this.
How do you respond? How do you pick up the pieces of your broken heart after such news... if not for Christ?

My desire here is to briefly provide for you such hope that even these circumstances can be met with strength and grace - the way I saw them greeted just yesterday by Cora and her family!

How does one KNOW for certain that they are indeed spending eternity in the unending presence of God? This question is SO pressing for those who have a perspective that the window is soon closing. It starts all the way back at creation.

The Bible tells the story of an almighty Being who created everything. God, who is holy and perfect without any sin, had as His crowning work in creation, humans in His own image. God’s archenemy, Satan, deceived the man and woman into rebellion against His clear command. This resulted in expulsion from His presence and certain death, both physical and spiritual. God then enacted His rescue plan through his own Son. His Son would pay the penalty for sin once and for all – thereby securing eternal life for all who placed their trust in Him. The atoning work of Christ must be accepted by grace through faith in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a guide, constant companion, and manifested in various gifts He displays through the believer. Eternal life is now secured with the object of the believer’s salvation and affections.

This is the Story found in the Bible, God's word to us. In His Word (I John 5:13), He makes clear that it was given to us for the following reason: "I write these things to you who  believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."

I sat, in tears yesterday with a young woman who has recognized that her sin separates her from God (Rom. 3:23). She realizes that God created her because of His great love for her and that He so desires to be in relationship with her that He gave what was most precious to Him, His one and Only Son as a sacrifice for her sin (John 3:16, I John 4:9-10). Now, by grace and through faith she KNOWS this love that God provides simply by confessing with her mouth and believing in her heart that He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do (Ephesians 2:8-9, Rom. 10:9-10). Eternal life for Cora started the moment she confessed with her mouth that Jesus was Lord and believed in her heart - and this eternal life will go on, unbroken - - - FOREVER!
You know in all my life I have known joy - but to sit in the room with Cora yesterday and remind her that this is what awaits her was joy that knows no adequate earthly description. I echo the words of the Apostle Peter (I Peter 1:8), "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory..." You see, just like The Patriot's main character feared that his sins would return to visit him and he'd be impotent in that moment, unable to handle the weight of what they represent - Cora was wondering about her salvation. Not ANYMORE!

I say this with the utmost confidence: Cora wants this for you if you are reading the blog and don't know Christ as your personal Lord (Master) and Savior (rescuer)! Please - leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as humanly possible...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pathway to productivity...

How do you measure your daily productivity?

It is a question many of us have to wrestle down because we are fatefully tied (sometimes even identified by) our HIGH productivity or our low productivity. But the question remains, at the end of the day, what makes me feel accomplished or productive?

Lets break that down a bit:

A professional or goal based productivity - here there are deadlines, meetings and an expected output. An office executive cannot expect to sit in his chair and do nothing. He must interact with the people of the company, churn out reports, burn the midnight oil in meetings and make adjustments (among a myriad of other tasks) which reflect in a larger profit margin or he will cease to be employed.

Or... how about a mom who works part time and still cares for the home? How is she to define productivity? Is it in the amount of laundry done and folded, the cleanliness of the house, the orderliness of her children, the absence of chaos? (all this in addition to the hours she "works.")

"...Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive..." Titus 3:14

Paul, in his letter to the Colossian believers, gives us the answer ...

Often times when "urgent" needs present themselves, if I am being TOTALLY transparent, I am inconvenienced. I feel as though my list (how I measure my productivity) will be immediately compromised.

But this is EXACTLY what it means for God to be God. He can interrupt my schedule (and I would argue, yours) WHENEVER he wants. And here is a newsflash - he often does. Do I see it as a pathway to accomplishing something meaningful for the Sake of the Gospel or do I fight it?

It has never been about me (or you for that matter), but others for the sake of the Gospel and the Glory of God! So, this week, as God interrupts your schedule and throws a wrench in your supposed productivity - remember these doors - they lead to something far greater and more fulfilling than you could ever manufacture by all that you will "get done" today!