grace

Making the most of Mentors: Some brief thoughts on how to have a proper mentoring relationship

Mentoring is 20620796_10212740897253354_8047508259673876878_nextremely important in Christian ministry, but it’s worth is not appreciated as it should be. To have a mentor is to be blessed, and any mentoree (what I call someone who is being mentored) should work diligently to make the mentoring relationship viable. It’s important to handle mentoring relationships properly to get the most out of them and to bring glory to God. Here are some things I think will help…

  1. Listen, listen, listen

There is nothing more important in a mentoring relationship than the mentoree simply closing his mouth and opening his ears. Not listening in a mentoring setting is akin to a car with no tires; it’s pretty much useless.  The objective in a mentoring setting is for the mentoree to learn as much as possible from his mentor, and use what you learn for the glory of God in the ministry God has assigned you to.  But if you talk more than listen, you nor the people you will minister to in the future will profit from years of knowledge and experience of your mentor.

Often mentorees want to impress their mentors with their knowledge.  Don’t let that be you! Let your mentor be a mentor; don’t use him as an ego builder for yourself. Remember, this relationship is not about you, it’s about you being equipped better to make much of Jesus and to point people to him.

If your mentor is equipped to be a mentor, let him do the talking; if he’s not, find another one who is and listen.

  1. If you must talk, ask questions

If you can’t resist the urge to talk, then at least let your talk be in the form of questions.  Ask your mentor questions often and listen intently to his answers. Questions are a wonderful way to find out who people are, where they have been, what they have done, and the why to all the former. Questions get people talking and lets the person know you genuinely care about what they think.

In a ministry mentorship you should ask questions in the following areas:

Call to ministry, Family, Gifts, Theology, The Church, Conflict, Burnout, Humbleness, Etc.…

Asking your mentor questions in these areas is like opening a treasure cove of ministry knowledge… don’t allow it to go untapped. Even if you already know what the answers to your questions will be, it’s incredible discipline to ask and simply listen.

  1. Observe

Observing your mentor in everyday ministry is priceless. You must observe him as he interacts with his family, friends, public, and church family. The wealth of knowledge and insight you will gain from these interactions can save you from a plethora of mistakes and missteps, and help you gain trust with the people you minister to.

Observe him as he deals with an irritated or frustrated church member in a business meeting or someone who drops by his office and asks for money. Observe him as he engages a server as you eat lunch together and as he stops to chat with a group of seniors. Observe him as he kneels down to spend time with a little child to show them they are important.

Again, the lessons you can learn from this observation is beyond priceless and simply cannot be learned in seminary. Never overlook the little things that a mentor does; everything he does is a lesson in how to do ministry.

  1. Respect their years of ministry and life

You may be super duper over the top brilliant and the greatest theological mind since the apostle Paul himself, but that is not the end all.  You must know how to use that knowledge in a manner that brings glory to God, not yourself, and doesn’t make much of yourself but points people to Jesus.

Unfortunately I’ve seen young men in ministry abuse their God given intellect by thinking they’ve got it all figured out and the old guys are just, well…old. While that may be true, every old guy has seen a lot, and often forgotten more than you will ever know. DO NOT BE A “KNOW IT ALL”! Be humble, listen, ask questions, observe, and respect the years of experience that God has providentially blessed your mentor with.

You can learn something from everyone, even if they’re not on the same theological level you are on. A good theological mind is a must in ministry, but do not overlook the experience of someone who has loved God and served Him in the trenches for years.

I have seen this scenario many times in ministry; someone is saved as a teenager; goes to Bible college immediately after high school; then directly to seminary, and begins pastoring a church. Oftentimes they have never had a job that required a lot of physical labor or much of what many church members must face on a daily basis. Then they get frustrated at church members because they simply do not understand what people endure. This is where a good, experienced mentor can help. Most have been around and understand what people bear day in and day out, and if you listen, ask, observe, and respect their ministries it will make things much easier for you and keep you from many ministry calamities!

  1. Pray for them/thank God for them

Finally, the greatest thing you can do as a mentoree is to pray for your mentor and thank God for them. I have been immensely blessed with men who have poured  their lives into me and have invested countless hours mentoring me and teaching me about biblical ministry. I am indescribably indebted to them. Anyone who has a mentor is blessed and should show they’re gratefulness by praying for them and thanking God for them.

May God continue to raise up godly mentors, as well as wise mentorees who will use the mentoring relationship for the glory of God and the good of His church.

One generation shall commend your works to another,

    and shall declare your mighty acts.

Psalm 145:4

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Categories: bible, biblical, Christians, cross, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, mentor pastor preach, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heavenly Affections

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

(Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

I’ve grown so weary of bad news.  Day after day thousands of news outlets pour all their efforts into reporting tragic happenings; from images of flag-draped caskets to flooded streets and water rescues.  Video footage from drought stricken countries, war-torn nations, community violence, and school shootings have become commonplace and we’re barely even moved by the reports. It seems as if it never ends and certainly never gets better…especially if you’re a pastor.

Pastors often hear the worst things.  In counseling sessions, people pour out their hearts.  I will say this, nothing surprises me any more…nothing.  In nearly 25 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve learned that people endure horrendous and tumultuous events; and many on a regular basis.  I hear of financial failure, ruined relationships, bizarre addictions, and the list goes on… It never ceases.

Then there’s the video I saw today, of the little boy in Syria whose home was destroyed by a bomb.  He sits in the back of an ambulance, dirty, disoriented, and wiping blood off his forehead.  It was such a sad and sickening sight.

Sin is everywhere, and like a snail that leaves a slimy trial, or a tornado that leaves utter destruction in its path, sin devastates.  I’m sick of the result of sin.  I’m sick of it in my life, the life of my family, the life of the people I shepherd, and it’s far reaching effect throughout the whole of humanity.  In one sense, sin is the mother of disaster; where sin abounds, disaster thrives.  I am simply tired of it all.  The more suffering I see, the more I can be identified with Romans 8:19…

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

In other words, I long to see Jesus.  I long for the day when creation will be restored.  I long for the day that is described in the book of Revelation,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 ESV)

Sure, there’s a lot I want to do, a lot of gospel I want to preach, but the more I see this world, the more I want to see Jesus.  David felt the same many years ago when he wrote,

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

(Psalm 63:1, ESV)

A “dry and weary land” gives you great thirst.  For those who are alive in Christ, he is consistently and perfectly creating a disdain in us for the things of this world and ever increasing our desire for him, to be realized ultimately in his presence.  Come Lord Jesus…

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Categories: bible, biblical, Brother, Christians, cross, Glory, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, king David, sin, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Mist of Life

IMG_0200I remember it like it was yesterday; sitting in the Band room of Hoggard High School on the last day of school in 1980, talking to Mike B.  Mike was a clarinet player and a senior; I was a lowly sophomore.  He had completed all the requirements to graduate High School and he was simply passing time, waiting for the bell to ring, signifying the last day of school was finally over.  On the Band Room wall hung a clock.  It was one of those classic, large, gold rimmed school clocks that had the second hand which made a distinctive “tick” each time it moved from number to number.  Although in the grand scheme of things the second hand was less important than the hour or minute hand, it seemed to make up for its lack of importance with its persistent, metronome like trek around the face of the clock.  As we sat there I directed Mike’s attention to the second hand and sarcastically said, “Mike… You see those seconds ticking by? Just think about it, those are seconds that you can never get back! Your High School years are over, you will never get them back…and those seconds will just keep on ticking by!  Just listen to them…tick…tick…tick…tick…”  As you can imagine, Mike was not amused with my sophomoric shenanigans, and responded with, “Can you possibly be more depressing?!?”

Thinking back on that moment over 35 years ago, what was meant to be silly teasing on my part, turned out to be a very true testimonial which plays out in everyone’s life! Since that day in 198o, if it had functioned properly, that second hand on that clock in the Band Room would have ticked between 1,103,760,000 and 1,106,764,000 times!  When I think about that fact, I am nothing short of amazed that so much time has gone by in what seems to be the blink of an eye. Over a billion seconds in the blink of an eye?!? As the saying goes, “That’s life!”

Yes, life flies by so quickly.  This is what the biblical writer, James was relaying when he said, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”, (James 4:14, ESV).  In the grand scheme of things, our lives are like a mist that appears vibrant for a period, but then, seemingly before we realize it, is over, never to be recaptured. Just like those billions of seconds that seemed like they would last forever…tick…tick…tick…tick…gone.  Far too often we live as if our earthly lives will never end.  James tells us that our lives are very short and that Jesus should be the center of our lives. Let’s not waste even one of those seconds.  Live the precious seconds, those grace seconds, centered in Christ, for His glory and our good.  May that little “dash” between our birth year and death year on our Tombstone represent a life that wasn’t wasted.  May it represent a life that was surrendered to Jesus.

  A short, “mist” of a life surrendered to Christ translates into an eternity in His presence.

Categories: bible, biblical, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, mercy | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

God is Greater than our Messes

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I have several close friends who pastor churches much like the one I pastor.  We all love what we do and contribute an incredible amount of time, energy, and passion into it.  One of the major aspects of pastoring is what is called “preaching”.  Preaching, at least in the way my friends and I understand it and describe it simply means that we proclaim what the Bible says to the church when they gather together.  To each of us, this is a huge responsibility and an awe-inspiring task because we are telling people what God is saying and we are ultimately responsible to God for how we handle His Word!  Indeed, preaching the Word of God is a weighty thing.

Because of the weightiness of it, each of us want to do the best we can with the content of the sermon as well as the delivery, so we pour all we have into it every time we preach.  If you approach preaching the way we do, it takes a lot out of you.  It’s been said that preaching a 30 minute sermon as it should be equates to working an 8 hour physical job.  Now I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, but I’ve done both and by in large that’s been my experience.  So when you couple the importance of preaching with the mental and physical aspect of it, the final result can make for some high powered Sunday night and Monday morning preacher talk!

Case in point… every Sunday evening or Monday morning my preacher friends and I take to Facebook Messenger and discuss how our preaching went.  We discuss whether or not our sermon content was true to the text; if our delivery was suitable, etc… Recently it seems we all, at least in our estimation, “failed miserably!”  Normally there’s a couple of us that seemed to do at least “ok”, but that particular Sunday appeared to have been an across the board disaster!  Some of the words and/or phrases we used to describe our sermons were, “I laid an egg…”; “I preached a clunker…”; “It was a real dud…”; “a downright debacle”; and even, “A deluge of garbage!”  One of my friends even threatened to do what I have thought about doing several times in the past, “I’m calling all my church members and apologizing for that sermon!”  It seemed like the loathing of ourselves and our sermons went on for hours.  Maybe it was a case of “misery loves company”; regardless, it was a genuine loser fest for sure!

In one sense, we all felt as if we had let our people down, but more so the very One who had assigned us to the task of preaching, God Himself.  We commiserated with each other for longer than we should have, then we moved on, looking forward to an opportunity to “redeem” ourselves the next Sunday.  It was at that point of our pity party that one of my preacher friends said something that we all knew, but were too busy wallowing in our ineptitude to realize, “I’m thankful that our God is a God that redeems messes.”  It was a sobering moment and a magnificent reminder as well.  It reminded me that God doesn’t need me!  On the other hand, He has chosen me for the task of preaching and privileged me to partake in His mission of redemption.  He will accomplish His will with or without me, but He has highly blessed me in giving me the privilege of proclaiming the “unsearchable riches of Christ” through preaching. It’s certainly not because of my ability, but in spite of my inability.  That’s a wonderful truth in any task we attempt for God!

The apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Corinthian church, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV).

So there you have it; “God redeems our messes” and uses our inabilities and even our flaws for His glory!  So the next time you attempt to serve God but fail because of your inabilities, learn from it, endeavor in the power of the Holy Spirit to improve, and leave it to God.  He will indeed redeem our messes and make diamonds out of coal.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Categories: bible, God, grace, hampstead, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, mercy, messes, preaching exposition exaltation exultation church, sin | Leave a comment

Brokenness

“Brokenness”.  When most hear that word, negative images and thoughts are typically conjured up.  Images and thoughts about things that were once intact but now are cracked, even shattered, lying on the floor, unusable, unattractive, and worthless.  Most of us have accidently knocked a glass, vase, or other fragile object off of a table and watched as it shattered to pieces on the floor.  More times than not our first reaction is to fetch the broom and dust pan and try to sweep up all the broken pieces and dump them in the garbage can, acknowledging it’s complete and utter uselessness.  But on rare occasions we may attempt to pick up the pieces and glue them back together, restoring the object to usefulness.  Of course, the easy thing to do is to simply sweep up the pieces and toss them away, never thinking of the object again. But that’s far too simplistic in many ways, mainly because of the potential worth that still remains in the broken object.

A broken and repaired object can be of infinite usefulness if the break was not too severe and if the repair is completed properly.  This is even true with a broken bone in the human body.  Some say, at least for a period of time, the bone is stronger where it had been broken.  So there’s a sense of restored and even renewed strength after being broken.

Not only is there a sense of restored and renewed strength, but there’s the beauty trait.  There’s something beautiful about scars!  That may sound strange to some, but think about it, how often we look at an old vase, wrought with discoloration, a warped and distorted body, cracks throughout, and think, “What an incredible and lovely piece!”  It’s almost as if the more scars it has, the more attractive it is to us!  If you think as I do when observing a piece like this, you begin to imagine all the things the vase has been exposed to, all the things it has seen, heard, participated in, etc… You think about the changes it has seen and experienced, and how wise it would be if it were an animate being and able to speak aloud of its experiences. 

So brokenness, even in inanimate objects can be a beautiful, strengthening, and all around incredible thing.  If this is true with inanimate objects, it’s much truer with living creatures; more specifically Christians, or those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord.  Brokenness, as difficult as it may be to endure, can have tremendously positive results when understood and tolerated properly.

You see, there’s a need for brokenness as humans.  We all have areas in our lives that are not surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, and that’s not healthy for anyone, especially ourselves.  Any area of our lives that are self-centered and not surrendered to Jesus only brings disappointment, strife, a lack of peace to us, and steals God’s glory.  We all, even as Christians, deal with this because of sin. John said in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” It is that which causes us to take our eyes off of Jesus and fix our desires and passions on ourselves in one way or the other.  Again, no one benefits from that, and it’s a slippery slope that could ultimately devastate us.  So God will see to it that the things that separate us from Him are severed from us; but please understand that the severing process is indeed a difficult process.  This is more than an assumption on my part, for I have been broken, and it is indeed difficult!

Whether its money, pleasure, power, fame, or relationships that steal God’s rightful place in our lives, they all can be severed.  The fact is, Jesus is everything, and our lives will not be what they should be until we acknowledge and practice that.  When all is said and done, He’s all we need!  Yes, he has created friendship, for His glory, but when we focus on the friendship rather than our relationship with Jesus, He will break us.  I’ve often said God will arrange for even your most trusted friends to let you down, so your dependence will be in Him, not man.

Whether its friends that you depend on more than God, or something else, God will break us of it.  He knows exactly what each of us are bent toward and He knows how to break us of that bend…and He will break us of that bend. And that’s a good thing.  There’s nothing greater than for God, in Christ to be our sufficiency!  That’s the greatest joy known to man, and God will see fit that we ultimately find our joy in Him.  John Piper puts it this way, “God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him”.  So all of this is for God’s glory and our good.

When the breaking process has been done, God graciously puts us back together.  He gently glues the pieces back together through the blood of Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit.  He restores us to a right relationship with Him, and the result is more than amazing.  Just like the vase that has fallen, shattered, and put back together, we will have scars; but those scars are constant reminders of God’s grace toward us and His love for us.  People see the scars and know that we have been through something significant, something that has helped make us who we are.  It’s a beautiful thing to see.  And just like the broken bone in the human body, once we are properly put back together, we are stronger than ever!

There’s much more to say regarding the issue of brokenness and I have only scratched the surface, but know this, when you are in the breaking process, God is working in your life to make you into something that is strong and beautiful; and while it is extremely difficult in the midst of it, when it’s over you will most certainly look back at it and rejoice, and say with David in Psalm 51:17,“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”


soli deo gloria
Categories: bible, brokenness, grace, Jesus, king David, Psalm 51, surrender | Leave a comment

Proper remembering of sin

“And Saul approved of his execution…” From Acts 8:1, speaking of the stoning of one of the first deacons and the first martyr, Stephen… Can you imagine how the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) must have struggled with the fact that he was responsible for the torture, imprisonment, and even death of Christians!  No doubt those words, “And Saul approved of his execution…” must have haunted him and lived in the forefront of Paul’s mind consistently.  If Paul was like most of us, the thought of his former self, his former sin, probably consumed his thoughts and brought him much agony.  But we must remember that this was before God breathed spiritual life into him, made his heart of stone a heart of flesh, forgave his sins, and imputed the righteousness of Christ upon him!  Let that sink in for a moment… This was the same man whose life seemed to be devoted to extinguishing Christianity and anything to do with it!

If you read a bit farther into the Acts 8 you will find these words, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (ESV).  Say what you want, but this is a clear case of human depravity manifesting itself.  This was a self-righteous human doing what self-righteous humans do… Saul, in one sense was the worst of the worst; the epitome of ungodliness; a picture of evil!  He hated the thought of Jesus and Christianity; so much so that he practiced what could be called an inverse Holocaust.  Saul simply wanted to rid the world of what was known as “The Way”, or what we know as Christianity, and he was passionate and good at it! He continued that endeavor until God rocked his world!!

There he was, on his way to Damascus, no doubt thinking he was in control and would soon put an end to this nonsense they call Christianity; when Jesus appeared to him, blinded him with his glory, and breathed life into his wretchedly dead self!  This is when the Christian killer Saul became the Christ exalting Paul and his purpose and desire in life was to bring glory to Christ and to take the gospel of Jesus to the entire world!!

So what’s my point?  My point is God’s grace is more amazing than any human can fathom and, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, can cover the most wretched of sins.  A.W. Pink described Grace like this,

“…grace is something more than “unmerited favor.” To feed a tramp who calls on me is “unmerited favor,” but it is scarcely grace. But suppose that after robbing me I should feed this starving tramp—that would be “grace.” Grace, then, is favor shown where there is positive de-merit in the one receiving it.”

This definition describes the apostle Paul perfectly.  It also describes the remainder of humanity!  All of humanity has sinned against the Holy God, not only in our actions but with our nature as well.  Our sin is sickening to the holy God and He has every right to pour out his wrath on the whole of us!  But for those who have been redeemed, bought with and by the blood of Christ, that sin is a thing of the past, never to be held against us!  The amazingly gracious God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)!  In other words, there’s no sin so large that the sacrifice of the righteous Jesus can’t cover!

If we say our sins are too large or horrible to be forgiven, we are doing nothing less than cheapening the sacrifice of Christ, watering down God’s grace, and making a mockery of the gospel. So, as a Christian, when we think about our sin before Jesus made us alive; when we have those, “And Saul approved of his execution…” moments; remember that we have been redeemed from that sin and that the remembrance of them should only be used to remind of of God’s grace, mercy, love, and glory!! 

Rest in God’s grace…
Categories: grace, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, remember, sin, the apostle paul, wrath | Leave a comment

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