November 19, 2014

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When God is Silent

silentgodHave you ever been through a time in your life when it seemed that God was silent? You cried out to Him, but heard no response. You wanted to hear from God, but heard nothing. You waited on God, but He never seemed to show up. You felt forsaken, abandoned, alone, and confused.

How are we to respond when it seems that God is silent?

You can be encouraged by the fact that you are not the only person who has ever felt this way. Many people in the Bible expressed this same feeling. The good news is that much can be learned from how they responded.

One such person is David. In Psalm 22 we see a little of what David is facing in his life. In verses 1-2 David states,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

 So how did David respond when he felt that God was silent?

1- David confirmed God’s holiness

Vs. 3- Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Think about the focus, understanding, and trust in God that David had. He understood that no matter what happens, God never changes. No matter what God allows me to go through, He remains unchanged. His character is always the same. Even when He doesn’t answer my cries, He is holy.

Your situation may be volatile, but who God is isn’t. Your emotions and feelings may be up and down, but God is steady. You can hold on to Him.

2- David remembered God’s past deliverance

 Vs. 4-5- In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

It’s like David stopped and reminded God of the fact that people in the past have cried out to Him and He heard them. “I know you are there. I know you hear me. I know you can deliver. You are a God of deliverance. You are a God of answers. You are a God of love. You are a God of compassion.”

Remember God’s past deliverance.  We can look back throughout our lives and see God’s deliverance. We can talk to other Christians and hear of God’s deliverance. We can look in the pages of Scripture and see God at work. This provides hope.

3- David was honest with God about his situation and his feelings

 Vs. 6-8- But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

David is telling God the seriousness of the situation. He is telling Him what is taking place, and that the mockery is not fun. We can be honest with God about our situation. Pour your heart out to God.

4- David remembered God’s faithfulness

 Vs. 9-10- Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

David is acknowledging the fact that God has been there all along. He recognizes that without God he would not have life. He says God has been his God from his mothers womb. God is faithful. No matter who around you is unfaithful, God is always faithful.

5- David continued to call out to God

Vs. 20-21- Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!

Even after he cried out to God and did not hear anything back, he still turned to God. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up. Keep God as your focus. Still turn to God. Still cry out to Him. Be faithful and continue to call out to Him.

Two Wonderful Truths

Why would David continue to call out to God, even when God had not answered him? There are two things I believe David understood that we need to understand.

God’s silence does not indicate that He is not listening. Just because God is not speaking to you does not mean that He is not listening to you. God hears the prayers of His people.

God’s silence does not indicate inactivity. Just because God is not speaking it does not mean that He is not working. God is always at work. It might not be on your time table or on your schedule, but God is at work.

No matter how silent God is, you must understand that God is listening and that God is working. You can trust Him.

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October 6, 2014

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Young Pastors & Leaders: Why it Works

2.27.TipsYoungLeaders_576240389I enjoy reading about and studying leadership. I had to do a lot of it, as my DMin concentration was Pastoral Leadership. There are many principles that can be learned by looking at the great leaders in the Bible. Much can be gleaned from the plethora of books that have been published on the topic. There is also a lot that can be learned by simply sitting back and observing. As a younger pastor (currently 34), I am always intrigued by situations where young leaders have entered a position that many thought them too young for, but then thrived in that position.

There are plenty of examples of such leaders. In fact, there are an increasing number of examples. Many growing and thriving churches are pastored by younger pastors. Here are a few examples of either younger leaders who are thriving in a position when many may have thought them too young or leaders who started in their ministries when they were younger and have seen God bless. Some of these are well-known; others are not.

  • Albert Mohler- He became president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at the age of 33.
  • David Platt- He become President of the International Mission Board at age 34 after pastoring a church of thousands.
  • Mark Dever- He became the Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church at age 34.
  • Jason Meyer- He was in his 30s when he followed John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
  • Trevin Wax- He is Managing Editor of the Gospel Project and is in his low 30s.
  • Mike Frazier (My Former Pastor)- He took over the Canton Baptist Temple with a membership near 2,000 while in his 30s.
  • Steve Euler (Pastor Friend)- He serves at Grace Baptist Church, and has seen it grow from a handful of people to several hundred, including the establishment of a Christian school. He started while in his 30s.
  • Darwin Blandon (Pastor Friend)- Planted Iglesia Bautista de Chattanooga while in his 20s. It is perhaps the largest Baptist spanish ministry in Chattanooga, TN.
  • David Lemming (Pastor Friend)- Took over Lewis Memorial Baptist Church while in his 20s. They have since built new buildings and run around 1,000.

Certainly there are many others, but these are a few off the top of my head.

Let me pause and say what I am not saying.

  1. I am not saying that a younger pastor/leader has to be successful in a large ministry for his work to matter. God calls us to faithfulness wherever we are.
  2. I am not saying that small ministries are not important. That is certainly not the case.
  3. I am not saying that we should compare ourselves to others.
  4. I am not saying that God has gifted us all in the same way. We all have different talents and abilities.

What I am saying is that perhaps there is something that can be learned by looking at the examples of those who have thrived when many thought they were too young to do so. What did they all have in common? Why did they thrive when others have not? These 5 reasons are based solely on my observation, not on formal research.

1- They prepared themselves as much as possible.

Many of these individuals did all they could to see that they were trained both formally, through education, and/or casually, through mentorship.

2- They had developed a well-rounded group of wise advisors/friends.

Many of these people have other pastors, professors, counselors, business men, and missionaries whom they can call at any time for input and advice.

3- The ministry into which they were stepping provided much support and godly accountability.

Most of these people were not lone-rangers looking to run the show alone. They had a group of people around them inside their new ministry who encouraged them, promoted them, believed in them, supported them, helped them, prayed for them, and served as their counselors and partners in ministry.

4- They knew what needed to be done and were not deterred.

These people had a plan and they stuck to it. They were not sidetracked.

5- They did not let their age become a setback.

They stayed faithful and believed that if God had called them to their current place of ministry, then He would enable them to serve Him well there, regardless of their age.

These are just a few personal observations that I believe can benefit anyone, regardless of age or size of ministry. It is also a reminder that age is not the determining factor in whom God can use or where God can use them. Young or old, God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. Let’s stay faithful to Him wherever He has placed us, being sure to learn from the lessons mentioned above.

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September 24, 2014

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What Christian Millennials Want In A Church

07_21_14_Make_room_746012140I have been informally studying the millennial generation for quite a while. I have read many articles by many authors such as Thom Rainer on Millennials and worship styles  and  Meredith Flynn on her perspective of Capitol Hill Baptist Church—a church that averages over 1,000 in weekly attendance with 700-800 of those being under the age of 35-40. I have had dozens of conversations with those in this age bracket about what is important to them as well as read many books on the topic. I am certainly no expert, but I feel confident in sharing my thoughts on what committed Christian Millennials want in a church.

I am going to assume that we agree that the church worship service is for Christians, not a tool to attract the lost. Good! Now that we have that settled, we can focus our attention on the millennial generation—those born between 1980 and the early 2000’s.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what Christian Millennials want in a church. Some (mostly the older generations) think this age group is just interested in hanging out. Others think this age group is shallow, wishy-washy, and ungrounded. For the record, these caricatures are generally untrue.

So what does resonate with committed Christian Millennials?

1- Genuineness

Many Millennials grew up witnessing the lack of genuineness that was prevalent in their parents’ churches. They want to see leaders live what they teach. They are tired of seeing people simply go through the motions.

2- Less Extra Stuff

Productions such as Easter plays and choral productions that were so common a generation ago are being abandoned. The quality usually isn’t that great, it requires a ton of time that simply isn’t there, and they are focused on entertainment – and that simply isn’t a draw to many Millennials. Likewise, special music such as solos, quartets, and the like are not much of a focus either. Even choirs are becoming less common, and the ones that still remain are usually filled with those in older age brackets.

3- Rich Content…..in the Sermons and in Songs

Sermons filled with fluff and music with no meaning won’t cut it. That rich content may come in different forms depending on the context. The music styles may vary, and the Millennials are okay with that—they are not tied to any one style as long as there is rich content.

4. Quality in All Things

Simply throwing things together at the last minute won’t cut it. People are used to professionalism in all things…at the daycare where they leave their children, at their work place, everywhere. If the church lacks quality it will be a turnoff to those in this generation.

5. Authentic Community

Millennials do want to hang out, but there’s more to it than that. They want authentic community. They want to do life with other believers. They want the Christian life to be more than attendance at a church service. This is the reason they thrive in small groups.

6. Intentionality in Decision-Making

Doing something solely because it has always been done serves as Millennial repellant. If a church will not ensure that everything they are doing is accomplishing a designated purpose, then what’s the point?

7. A Community Focus

The Millennials want to make a difference in the community. They view this as an important part of the Church’s work. They want more than to simply hold events on the church’s property; they want the church to get out into the community.

8. A Church that Answers Their Questions

For far too long Millennials were simply told what to believe, but not why. As a result, many of them have questions, and they will not attend a church where they are discouraged from asking questions or where they do not get honest, accurate, thoughtful answers.

9. Committed to Simplicity

People are busier than ever. This reality cannot be avoided. In an attempt to be appealing to a consumer generation the church has tried to offer a plethora of programs at a plethora of times in an effort to be appealing to everyone. It hasn’t worked. In fact, the complexities of a program-driven church drives people away. The Millennials are looking for simplicity. They want to be committed to a church that understands this.

Do these characteristics define every Christian millennial? Absolutely not. But they do characterize many of them…at least many of the committed Christian millennials I know. If churches are going to reach the millennial generation, they must be aware of these realities.

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August 19, 2014

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This is Discipleship

I always enjoy seeing this video.

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July 9, 2014

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Components of Hypocrisy

Screen-shot-2012-10-15-at-10.23.20-AMI was reading through Matthew 23:5-7; 13-32 where Jesus deals with the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. As I was reading the above verses, I wrote down the characteristics of hypocrisy that are mentioned.

  1. Hypocrites do what they do so they will be seen by others.- vs. 5
  2. Hypocrites love the place of prominence.- vs. 6
  3. Hypocrites love titles.- vs. 7
  4. Hypocrites hinder others from truly being saved.- vs. 13
  5. Hypocrites are greedy.- vs. 14
  6. Hypocrites are overly concerned with numbers.- vs. 15
  7. Hypocrites are deceptive and dishonest.- vs. 16-22
  8. Hypocrites major on the minor.- vs. 23-24
  9. Hypocrites are focused on traditional rituals.- vs. 25-26
  10. Hypocrites are focused on appearance.- vs. 27-28
  11. Hypocrites compare themselves to others.- vs. 29-32

Hypocrisy is the result of a focus on religion instead of a focus on a relationship with Christ. It comes from caring more what people think than what God thinks. It is rooted in pride. It hinders our testimony, hurts the reputation of the church, and is self-deceptive (those who are controlled by hypocrisy rarely notice it).

We should do all we can to fight against it, be on guard for it, and be willing to confess it.

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