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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Something Has To Be Done

Contemporary pastors are caught in frightening spiritual and social tornadoes which are now raging through home, church, community, and culture. No one knows where the next twister might touch down or what values the storms will destroy. As a result, pastors ask themselves, "Does pastoral ministry make any difference in morally turbulent times?"

Society cannot flourish without godly pastors. how alarming for the Christian cause when men and women of God feel forced to brood about the future o fministry as they watch their work get harder and their world grow more corrupt.

Something has to be done. Ministry hazards are choking the hope out of pastors' souls. They feel disenchanted, discouraged, and often even outraged. They question why they should be expected to squander energy on trivial matters when evil threatens to wreck the human race. Fatigue shows in their eyes. Worry slows their stride. And vagueness dulls their preaching.

The church faces a perilous future when pastors find it so tough to survive emotionally and economically. Many flounder for meaning and mission as traditional morality keeps buckling under brutal unrelenting assualts from secular society. For good reason, pastors dread what will be next as the moral richter scale shoots up to a shocking six most days and sometimes tops ten. Some pastors consider their lives to be shadows of what they dreamed they would be, because many old formulas for ministry no longer work.

Something has to be done. Overwork, low pay, and desperation take a terrible toll as pastors struggle to make sense of crammed calendars, dectic homes, splintered dreams, starved intimacy, and shriveled purpose. Some quit in utter hopelessness to sell used cars, hawk Amway, or peddle water softeners. Others lapse into passivity like holy robots. And many of the remaining stouthearted hold on by their fingernails, hoping to find a hidden spring to refresh their weary spirits and scrambled thoughts. No aspect of pastors' lives has been spared, neither personal nor professional.

Something has to be done. Just when they are most needed, pastors are going haywire. It is obvious that nothing but vital faith will revive our times and culture. Now more than ever, a disintegrating society needs the spiritual salt that pastors provide.

Something has to be done. Pastors are at risk. The risks they face demand an all-out corrective action by the church. All this squandered devotion and wasted talent must be stopped so ministry can be restored to equilibrium and usefulness. Surely God intends pastors to be whole persons, flesh-n-blood examples of how the Gospel works in this kind of a world.

Something pastors can do. To enjoy a fulfilling future ministry that can transform our culture for Christ, pastors must intentionally move their focus away from trivia to singnificance. In the process, pastors will be reawakened spiritually and challenged professionally. God always enriches the worker busied with his work.

Effective pastors for the new century must be whole persons who deliberately balance being and doing, family and church, person and profession, worship and work. That means wounded healers must allow themselves to be healed through the same Gospel they use to bring recovery and wellness to others. The results: those now victimized by high demands of ministry will become triumphant victors (Pastors at Risk - H.B London, JR and Neil B Wiseman - pp. 11-13).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Introduction

This is the introduction to my online book on bivocational ministry entitled: The Journey of a Bivocational Pastor.

In Sept of 2002, I started a journey of as a bi-vocational pastor and 8 years later I’m still a bi-vocational pastor. Without a doubt, I have dreams of being in full-time ministry but only God knows what lies ahead.

I don’t regret my decision to enter along this journey of bi-vocation ministry. As with most journeys, there is (and will always be) bumps in the road as well as speed limits changing, crazy drivers on the road, signal lights, stop signs, directional signs, freeway traffic, and detours. I will admit that I never thought it would be this difficult juggling work, family, church, and my own personal needs (spiritual/emotional/physical/ministerial/etc).

It is the challenges of bivocational ministry that has burdened my heart to write on the issue and offer what I believe to be helpful advice and suggestions to such a difficult task for many of us. I’ve searched the internet for resources, conventions, or whatever I could find to assist me along my journey. What did I find? Not much and the information I did find was so general that it was not helpful. The only convention I find offering some helpful information is the Southern Baptist Convention on the website http://www.lifeway.com/. I’ve found who has now become a favorite writer of mine, Pastor Dennis Bickers who’s been a bivocational pastor for over 20 years. I’ve found that his blog page http://www.bivocationalministry.blogspot.com/ has been extremely helpful as well as his book entitled: “The Bivocational Pastor – Two Jobs, One Ministry” and “The “Work of a Bivocational Pastor” both provides valuable information. Other than that, there isn’t much information that can and will assist those in dual ministry.

Denominational work, minister’s conferences, preaching seminars, leadership development, etc are held during the day and those of us who are in dual roles cannot attend. So we miss out on valuable information, networking, and fellowship with local pastors in our area that can assist us in building the kingdom of God.

Over these past 8 years, I’ve had questions about bivocational ministry challenges and began doing my own biblical research to help me understand bivocational ministry from a biblical perspective. I am under the belief that when we as Christians approach anything in life we should look to the bible for answers. So, I’ve approached my writing looking to Scripture for understanding, meaning, and purpose.

Not only do I want to write from a biblical perspective but I want to write using real life issues that are challenging to bivocational pastors. These real life issues are not limited to just bivocational pastors but I believe will be helpful to all pastors, ministers, and lay leaders who’s serious about ministry work in both full-time or in dual ministry.

I have a series of questions that I believe I’ve answers for in regards to bivocational ministry. Questions like:

Is Bivocational ministry a biblical practice?
Is Bivocational ministry for everybody?
How does a bivocational pastor manage his time?
Does our secular career supersede our calling?
What is the relationship between bivocational pastors and the church?
How does a bivocational pastor prepare for weekly sermons and lessons without consistently cheating?
Should a bivocational pastor forsake his own spiritual development?
How does a bivocational pastor handle sermon droughts?
Is there a balance for pastoral ministry in the work place?
How should we handle family life?
Should we compromise our biblical convictions to keep a job?
Does a church with a full-time pastor grow faster than bivocational ministries?

Many of these questions will be combined as I write and new ones will no doubt be explored.

Bottom-line: ministry, in general, rather full time or bivocational, is very a fulfilling ministry.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey Ya'll

I've been a away for a minute, it's been extremely busy over the past few weeks. As a brief catch up on things:

Everything at the church is going well. We still have our challenges but God has been gracious and kind to us. We've seen some new guest at least every other week which is good. Our church implemented, Membership Partners which is the care ministry of our church. Each member in the church is assigned a fellow member who has not been to church in a while to call on, pray for, chat with, and build a relationship. So on mother's day, they asked they're partners to come to church which had a positive result. We celebrated their presence by giving them small tokens as well as Tracy gave away baskets by drawing names. It was a good day!

I've been struggling for past few weeks with me sermon series in James. I love the letter of James but there has been so many interruptions in my study time that I've been getting started too late in the week which is bad for me. I don't think that quick like I used to. But our study has been very helpful to the church. I will continue to press through.

Yesterday, Rev Larry Harold of the California Southern Baptist came to worship with us. I've been considering becoming a part convention work and doing some research on conventions in the area. Thank you. Rev Harold for joining us on yesterday. Our attendance was of because of some stupid carnival that had our street blocked off all weekend. I don't get involved in political stuff but I think I will to keep the carnival from happening next year. Too much hassle this year in more ways than I care to discuss. Giving back to the community is not what its designed to do.

Saturday, we held a movie screening at the church of which I played a role as Pastor Evans in a short film entitled: "Heads or Tails" written/produced by Raenelle Jones. The attendance was off due to the carnival but it was positive feedback about the film and the actor's chemistry. DVDs are available for $10. Contact our church office for your copy.

Well, gotta go but will talk to you soon. Peace.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Believers Response to Deception

As we have seen, James writes about very practical problems and needs of the Christian life. Although he writes in very practical “how to” kinds of principles, he does not always organize his material into specific paragraphs.

For example, verse 16 is a transitional verse and poses a challenge of understanding for me. Between his teaching on the important subject of trials and temptations and his specific consideration of the goodness of God[1], is a short discussion on deception. Pay close attention to the proceeding verses as well as the next verse:

- v. 13-15: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

- v. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren

- v. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Verses 13-15 deals with sin; verse 16 deception; and sandwich in between is deception. How’s does verse 16 flow into this discussion of sin, deception, and blessings?

The important teaching of verse 16 could be included at the close of the previous verses (v.13-15) or at the start of the next verse (v. 16). I’ve decided to look at the verse by itself.

Understand that the evidence of spiritual maturity will be evident in how we respond to deception. Deception will effect our ability to live practical Christian lives. Therefore, your response to deception will determine your outlook of life’s challenges (v. 1-15) and the blessings of God (v. 17-18).

This verse helps us to recognize and how to respond to deception by presenting three (3) present realities of the attack of deception:

I. Recognize the SOURCE of Deception

Deception is an attack of the enemy. We saw/see his attack in the beginning of creation in Genesis chapter 3 in the story of the fall of Edam and Eve. We discuss the act of their sin but not much of the attack. Often times we tend to overlook the deceptive conversation between the serpent and Eve. God tells Adam and Eve not to touch the tree of knowledge or they will die. The serpent in deception says: “You will not die but adds “surely, you will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." With this deceptive assurance, Adam and Eve ate off the tree that God told them not to. After the act of sin, God calls Adam and Eve, knowing what they have done asked them “what have you down?” Eve explains: “The serpent deceived me and I ate”. Let’s give Eve a break here, Eve has done what many of us struggle with on a daily basis, she didn’t recognize that she was being tricked by the servant. The enemy preys on our vulnerability, weakness, struggles, stresses, and ignorance to the command of God. And the struggle is that many of us mature and immature believers don’t and can’t recognize the attack of the enemy through deception.

From that day forward, the enemy has used (and is using) deception as an instrument to pull the worse out of us.

Deception means craftiness, trickery, cunning, cleverness, shrewdness, evil design. It means a person will do anything and use any means to get what they want.

So what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden happens to us everyday. The devil attacks us with deception to pull us away from God.

Not only did we see deception in the Garden of Eden but we also see deception in the birth of Jesus Christ in Matthew 2 when Herod calls the wise men in hanger to go search for baby Jesus that he might worship Him. Herod had no intentions on worship the young child. Herod wanted to kill Jesus. But Herod’s intentions was flipped because when the wise men saw Jesus they began to worship Jesus and in a dream God warns to not go back to Herod and instead they left their own country.

Adam and Eve yielded to deception but the wise men were protected from deception that no harm would come to them or the Jesus.

Sin is deceptive, and Satan is always seeking to deceive us.[3]

Peter was right when he warned us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).[4]

In contrast, God never deceives. He always deals with truth. Jesus came declaring, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus said if we would know Him we would know the truth, “and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He proceeded to call the devil “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

And so the wise counsel of James is that we should not be deceived. And, since this verse is the transition between two important paragraphs of truth, it is appropriate for us to apply both truths to the teaching of this verse. First, we should not be deceived regarding the source of evil—that is Satan. He is the one who would tempt us to do evil and who would delight in leading us to sin and death.

Then, we should not be deceived concerning the One who is the source of all good—that is God. He is not only the source of good, but He is the One who is committed to making all things work together for good for His children, those who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).


II. Be Aware of Self Deception

Luke chapter 18:9-14 record the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. Luke 18:10-14 (Msg)

"Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. [11] The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'
"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.' "
Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."

The bible warns us against being more than we think we are.

- Spiritual ignorance is self deception: 1 Cor. 3:18 - Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

- Spiritual Arrogance is self deception: Galatians 6:3 - For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 1 John 1:8 says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

- Hypocrisy is self deception: 2 Tim. 3:13 – “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived”. And James 1:22 says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”.

- Religious practices is self deception: James 1:26 - If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.

Practical Christian living is not lying about where we are as Christians but admitting we are sinners trying to be all we can for God.


III. Be On Guard for Scriptural Deception

One of the most prominent deceptions taken place in our day and time is the false teaching of scripture. Many pulpits around the nation are being filled with lies on scripture. People are being deceived about the truth of Scripture. The sad indictment is that many believers are not able to recognize scriptural falsehood. So they go with anything that sounds good but everything that sounds good is not necessarily good in sound.

2 Timothy 2:17-18 says: “And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some”.

What’s the remedy for guarding against scriptural deception? 2 Timothy 2:15 says; “Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”.