Busy, Busy, Busy!

March 27th, 2013 

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." Socrates

Is it possible to be "too busy"? Short and sweet, yes, but not necessarily. When you consider a verse like Ephesians 5:16,“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” And Our Saviours words in John 9:4 “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” You have to conclude that we are admonished to be busy doing the right things.

This is a real busy week in most churches around the world. It is “Holy Week” right (The Week Between Palm Sunday And Easter Sunday)? But in a Bible believing, New Testament church like Grace Baptist every week is pedal to the metal because we treat every week as “Holy Week” and every Sunday as a very special time of ministry to others. Obviously, there are those like myself who are busy with practically everything, ministry, church, college, school, preaching, counseling, administrating, soul winning, planning, writing, family, friends, etc.

Some may perceive that such a host of activities could lead to barrenness or a loss in one's sense of purpose or direction when all directions seem to be crisscrossing one over the next. I do share this perception in my own experience, though, because I strive to complete each action on my list with as much first class effort as humanly possible. I pray with purpose, I preach and teach with purpose, I counsel with purpose, I lead with purpose, I write with purpose, I have fun with purpose. Nothing is done haphazardly, but rather everything is done according to a set procedure that has been well considered and confidently prepared. A busy schedule inside a busy life can bring about hopelessness, despair, or pain when the life cannot be sorted and when organization crumbles. One must live in the moment and forget for the time being about the busyness that lay behind and again that lies ahead. Even Christ hands us this advice as he teaches, "
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:34).

Barrenness is born when a person lacks passion for the busy life that he or she leads. Barrenness pops up when enthusiasm is stifled. Barrenness succeeds when actions consume us instead of we ourselves rising to meet our actions. I cannot imagine my life without the seemingly countless items on my daily to-do list. Some items are for but a brief moment, but others call for my deep attention and bring about joy when I dedicate myself fully to them. When the toll of life does begin to push me over, I have the support of a precious wife, the joy of a great family, the cheerful attitudes of a great team who serve with me here in our ministries, and the comforting concern of my church family. I have my firm footing of faith in God who will never leave me nor forsake me. Trusting in God's promises prevents the busy nature of life from ever succumbing to infertility—life will continue to be fruitful when connected to the true vine, Christ, the Son of God. When my branch happens to bear much fruit through the myriad of tasks I undertake, I should do nothing but praise God for using my life as a vessel. I rejoice in the busyness of my life, for this is the sphere in which I learn most about who I am, what I am called to be, and how I am drowning in God's abundant grace.

Passion Week?

March 20th, 2013

The religious world has referred to thetime from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday) as the Passion Week(Also Known As Holy Week). Religious historians tell us that Passion Week is so named because of thePassion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew 21-27; Mark 11-15; Luke 19-23; and John 12-19. Jesus Christ truly revealed His Passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. History tells us that this terminology, Passion Week, was largely given to us by Roman Catholicism.

The Moravian Church was started by John Hus in the late fourteenth century. The church was established by Hus who wanted to return the church to the "purer" practices of early Christianity. The Moravians were some of the most dedicated and committed Christians in church history. The Moravian Church was everything but Catholic. John Hus was a former Catholic priest. I tell you this because even the Moravians used the name "Passion Week" for Holy Week.

I have always been reluctant to refer to this week, the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday, as the Passion Week because of its Catholic connotation. My discomfort with the religiosity of this terminology and this week is the hypocrisy often associated with Easter in most non-Biblical and liberal Christian circles. But it really is not a problem for me to hear this sacred week referred to as the Passion Week. For truly our Saviour did reveal His Passion for us on the cross.

My challenge to you this Easter season is not to rebuke folks for referring to the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday as the Passion Week. My challenge to you is to be just as Passionate for Jesus the other 51 weeks of the year as you are during the Easter season.

People who are Passionate about serving Jesus Christ are a thrill to be around. I recently came across a message by a well know youth Pastor who had this to say about his Passion. He said, “I love fighting for teenagers, working with them, serving them, walking with them, and showing them what it means to know Christ’s love and walk with Him. I love getting together with youth pastors because we have so much in common, even if we’ve never met. Nothing needs to be said, we give it all for teens. And I love youth ministry because, unfortunately, we are sometimes the last line of defense for teenagers. If there is nobody else praying for the teens in our communities, we won’t give up. We’ll keep praying, keep loving, and keep serving, and we do it all in Jesus’ name.” When I read that I could feel his Passion.

I have observed that the majority of successful youth workers would admit that they made their way into youth ministry because they’ve been transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ and are Passionate to see teenagers experience a similar transformation. They see the potential that lies within teenagers when Jesus Christ gets a hold of their heart and mind. They see their gifts and abilities and know they can make a significant contribution in the Body of Christ and in the world. Seeing all of this is what fuels their Passion.

Are you Passionate about the things of God or are you simply observing Passion Week?

1. When People Are Passionate They Focus On Their Passion. For example, many people are Passionate about a hobby. I am not scolding you for that but are you just as Passionate about church, Bible study, prayer, serving God and bringing others to Jesus Christ?

2. When People Are Passionate They Are Committed To Their Passion Even When No One Is Looking. Passionatepeople work hard and improve continually and don’t do it for an audience. They are committed to learning and improving in their area of Passion.

3. When People Are Passionate They Serve Out Of Joy. Passionate Christians last longer in ministry. Joyful people take less time to get recharged and refreshed. Everyone needs down time, but Passionate believers require less rest because they’re being fueled and not drained by their Passion.

4. When People Are Passionate They Attract Other People Who Are Passionate. People love being around Passionate people, they are contagious. Everyone is looking, and longing, to be connected to someone’s Passion. Passionate people understand that serving God out of your Passion is the better way to live.

Spectacular Spectacular!
March 11th, 2013

It is early Monday morning, and I am still feeling the glow in my soul from the 26th annual Winter Teenage Spectacular. Once again, the God of Heaven visited us at our annual teen conference and blessed us with an incredible three days of His divine touch. I am certain I heard 50 or more people say as they were leaving Saturday afternoon that this was the best Teenspec they could remember. It truly was a Spectacular Spectacular!

From the opening service on Thursday afternoon, Pastor Charlie Clark challenged the young people to “Honor Their Parents.” Over the three days we heard 9 powerful messages from Pastor Charlie Clark, Pastor Tony Shirley, Pastor Randy Dignon, Evangelist Chris Dallas and our college Vice President, Dr. Derek Hagland and our youth pastor, Pastor Bill Ramos. The preaching was rock solid and the music was truly anointed. The crowds were tremendous, with 28 salvation decisions and delegates from 14 states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa, Texas) God was so good! Bro. Ramos and the entire Teenspec staff put on an incredible conference.
You have to see a YouTube video produced by the Grace Baptist College Graphics Department called God Made A Preacher. In just the past 36 hours it has already been seen by several thousand people. You can access it by visiting our college Facebook page or by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOezNkcP3Hs. You can order the entire conference on flash drive at www.teenspec.com.

Handling Rebuke!
March 5th, 2013
Almost 30 years in the ministry has taught me a lot of things, but one lesson I am still trying to learn is how to properly give a rebuke and even more seriously how to properly receive a rebuke. The Apostle Paul gives his young preacher friend some sobering counsel about this in (I Timothy 5:1), “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.” This strong advice is followed up by even stronger counsel in (verse 20), “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Paul obviously practiced this according to (Galatians 2:11), “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” He told Timothy in (II Timothy 4:2), “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

According to the apostle Paul’s admonition in (Titus 1:13) sometimes we are forced to, “…. rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” But my experience is that it is far more difficult to receive a rebuke than it is to give a rebuke. The Book of Proverbs deals with this in three ways. It speaks about listening to instruction, receiving correction and embracing rebuke. Now if you are really a true disciple of Jesus, then you’re going to need instruction and correction and, at times, rebuke. But the problem we all have is that a rebuke has an edge to it. But it is precisely that edge that cuts into the place where that word needs to go. The book of Proverbs draws a straight line between embracing rebuke and gaining wisdom. The one who wants to be wise will listen to instruction, accept correction and embrace rebuke as one would hug a friend. Rebuke is never easy. Any serious disciple has to realize that if your objective is to become like Jesus, and you are fairly certain you’re not there yet, then don’t resist rebuke, even if it’s a little painful. Listen, weigh it and take it in, because there is no growth in Christ without it.

Oscar Wilde once said, “A true friend stabs you in the front.” (Proverbs 27:6) says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

1. Listen Earnestly

I have discovered that listening defuses much. Show genuine interest in the other person. Relax and listen actively and carefully to what the other person is saying. Hear the meaning of their words. Let the other person have their say, to finish, to finally run down. Try to coax out their deepest concerns and interests. This is the first step in handling a rebuke. This will help the other person know that you have really heard what they have said. It indicates that you value their opinion, and reduces their hostility and fear. You can start with something like, “I value your opinion, and I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Your point is that….”

2. Evaluate Honestly

This step in handling rebuke involves deciding whether the rebuke is fair or unfair, accurate or inaccurate. Don’t become stubborn, dig in your heels, and refuse to consider the other’s opinion. The criticism might be correct. Sometimes our critics are our best friends, and can see our blind spots where we cannot. If the accusation is unfair or inaccurate, clarify what is inaccurate. I don’t mean for you to become defensive, but to honestly get all the facts on the table as they are – not as you or the other person wants them to be.

3. Control Emotionally

Do not attack the other person, tell them they are wrong, and seek to destroy them. Let them know they have brought up an important point, and that you value your relationship with them. Stick to issues, don’t assail the other person. Handling criticism is not about winning a war, but to arrive at the truth and resolving differences of opinion. It is about strengthening relationships, trust, respect, and loyalties.  Keep emotions in check. Sometimes it is best to take a time out and address the issue after everyone has calmed down.

4. Clarify Sincerely

In handling a rebuke, clarify foggy accusations. Sometimes people cannot explain their position well. Strong emotions may be clogging up their brain. An example of a somewhat vague or unclear accusation is, “You are cold with people.” Probe and ask what they mean by “cold.” Ask for specific examples, but ask in an attitude of seeking to understand – not to prove them wrong.

5. Ask Genuinely

Remember that when rebuked, the other person might be right. We may have to swallow our pride and make adjustments. If the rebuke is valid, then ask for specific alternatives on how to behave or handle the situation differently. When you are wrong, quickly admit it, and change course. Avoid making Excuses. This is a killer in handling rebuke. It will only make matters worse if you offer up excuses, blame others, or deny, minimize or cover up mistakes. Avoid trading insult for insult and “getting even” (Romans 12:17, 18). Don’t hold grudges, but forgive.

6. Prayer Immediately

Jesus said to, “….Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). It is very effective in a disagreement to stop and bring God into the conversation. It tends to change people’s attitude when they realize God is present.