Lessons from Belize

I just returned from leading a missions trip in Belize. 18 of us were serving in a village near Orange Walk (which is in Northern Belize), partnering with a church there to lead services, serve the children in the village, and do home visits. It was a very meaningful experience in my life – something of a milestone in my ministry here, and very spiritually and relationally rewarding for me personally. Some of the things I learned: 1) I learned a lot about leadership and perseverance on this trip. The first night we were there was, to be quite honest,…

The Power of Calling

I’m in the process of being ordained, and its gotten me thinking a lot about the notion of calling, since ordination is essentially an affirmation of a calling to ministry. In my experience, calling is to my ministry what justification is to my salvation. It is where I must constantly turn to find stability and hope and perspective; it is the north compass by which to evaluate everything else, without which I’d be lost at sea. I’ve learned that I need to ground myself in my calling when I receive feedback from people about my ministry, whether the feedback is…

Being Cheerful in the Valley

I don’t particularly enjoy planning trips. Its not why I went into ministry. But its important, and I’ve gotten better at it. Last week, before a significant trip, at a time when I needed a reminder of God’s protective, attentive care, I read Psalm 121 and found it so helpful. Its a beautiful Psalm about God’s protective care for believers as they journey through life. My ESV Study Bible notes that it may describe a believer’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but also concerns the course of their entire life. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my…

Busyness

I am consistently amazed at how easy it is for me to drift from intimacy with God, not because of sin or neglect or hardness of heart, but from sheer busyness. Sometime I get so focused on what I am supposed to be accomplishing that I simply forget to abide in Christ in the midst of it all. It gets crowded out of my mind because of everything else I am trying to get done. This even happens, ironically, in ministry! But of course, what am I really accomplishing if I’m not abiding in Christ? Jesus said, “Abide in me, and…

Elijah and the Whisper of God

In my ministry to high school and college students, guys often confess to me when they are struggling with sexual sin. I’m sure I’ve said a lot that hasn’t helped at all. But one thing I often say that I think has been helpful to a few guys is that temptation is less about how strong your sex drive is, and more about the state of your heart. I encourage guys to look underneath to the emotions that are making the temptation particularly strong at that moment, and then trying to engage those emotions with the gospel, and in other…

Pastors are Part of the Body of Christ

I’m reading through with a friend Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Crossway 2012). I would describe it as a sober and yet grace-filled critique of pastoral culture in our setting. Its helping me see and feel afresh the importance of keeping my heart soft before the Lord in the midst of the ups and downs and busyness of ministry. Here is an especially powerful quote. I think Tripp is right on in his concern here: “Does it seem right and healthy that in many churches the functional reality is that no one gets less…

Repentance versus Defensiveness

It seems to me that we tend to respond to accurate criticism in one of two ways: repentance or defensiveness. These two reactions are as different as heaven and hell. A defensive heart says, “but look at what I did right!” (diversion). A repentant heart says, “here specifically is what I did wrong” (honesty). A defensive heart says, “but look at what was done to me!” (distraction). A repentant heart says, “here is how I contributed to the conflict” (ownership). A defensive heart says, “it wasn’t that bad” (downplaying). A repentant heart says, “it was a big deal” (admission). Our default mode…

Being Objective about Grumpiness

I think about as good a test of our sanctification as any is whether or not we are able to be objective about our grumpiness, and our negative emotions in general. It might sound silly, but I think its a huge part of wisdom. “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (Proverbs 29:11). “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge” (Proverbs 17:27). “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 29:20). When we are grumpy or upset, it seems to me that…

Being a Father

My son Isaiah was born last week. He’s been in the NICU until (hopefully) today or (possibly) tomorrow, which has been hard and sad. But the whole experience of having a baby has been far more joyful than I could have anticipated. I can’t describe the love that I feel when I am holding him. Its like taking a step into a new world. We’ve been praying Isaiah 26:3 over him every day, asking God to shield him from all evil and grow him into a man of peace whose mind is stayed on God – already at a young…

Running out of Things to Say

This morning I read Paul’s third account of his conversion in the book of Acts, before King Agrippa in chapter 26, and I noticed that it includes Christ’s commission to Paul (which is not recorded in the first two). It reads as follows: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the…