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Ministry Insight: Stay Tethered to the Word of God

In nearly 18 years  of ministry, God has taught me some invaluable lessons.  Of all the lessons, it is easy to select the most important.  Simply stated:  In order to have success in ministry, a minister must be absolutely tethered to the Word of God.  A passion for the Word of God is a must for a minister.  Every aspect of the ministry must flow from the Scripture.  As intuitive as it seems, it is not often easy.  In fact, it can be very difficult for pastors.  How is this possible one might ask?  After all the pastor is constantly preparing to preach or teach.  They get paid to study the Bible.  In order to understand the dilemma that faces a pastor it is helpful to consider the ministry as a pitcher of water.  As a pastor preaches, teaches, or does pastoral ministry he pours out the liquid of the Word from that which is on his heart. If there are no steps taken to replenish that liquid, then eventually the pitcher will run dry.  This leads to ministering out of one’s on strength and ability and from there it is only a short step to exhaustion, burn out, or moral failure.  Thus is it is necessary to stoke the devotional fires of the minister’s heart with a consistent in flow of God’s Word.  Here are three practical ways that you can do that.

  1. Use a Bible reading plan for your devotional reading.  This will keep you moving through various sections of scripture.  Don’t treat this a sermon preparation tool.  A sermon may grow from a reading, but this is to feed and nourish your soul.  Read with an eye towards application (James 1:22-25).    Many plans are available by using a quick search online.  One can also use the YouVersion Bible app and its many plans.
  2. Discipline yourself to memorize scripture (Psalm 119:11).  The verses that I have committed to memory have been the one’s that God has called to mind at precisely the moment that I needed it most, whether as a rebuke, an exhortation, a word of comfort, or encouragement.
  3. Read authors who are thirst inducing.  I have a list of authors whose works I read regularly, not because I always agree with their viewpoints, but because they always drive me back to my Bible.

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Come Monday

Now that I have completed my final degree, I have had a bit more time to reflect upon the things I have learned in my past years in ministry.  I was first called to ministry at the age of 16, I was licensed at 17, and ordained at 22.  I served in my first paid staff position at 21.  For the past 9 years I have pastored two great churches.  All total I have been in ministry or ministry training for the past 18 years.  This past fall I was given the opportunity as a guest lecturer at the local Baptist College in the area of pastoral ministry and preaching.  In the pastoral ministry class I reflected upon insights I gained through those years.  Starting on Monday, and admittedly the timing is probably lousy, with the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention, I will begin a blog series expanding on each of the items that I discussed during that class period.  Here is hoping that my reflection upon those insights will benefit you as it has benefited me.

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Friday Buffet

Today’s menu includes of list of articles that I have found intriguing and interesting through the week.  Bon Apetit!

The Summer Reading list is here!  I eagerly anticipate Dr. Albert Mohler’s summer reading list every year.  I have purchased many of the volumes from his recommendations and to this point, I have never been disappointed.  Which reminds me, I need to surf over to Amazon today!

I never pass up a good read on Abraham Lincoln.  Here is post from one of my favorite bloggers about a book that sits upon my shelf, eager to be read!  So many books, so little time!

I always encourage my church members to tip well.  Here is a good article that backs up all of those exhortations.

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Wednesday word from the Word

In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge.  Proverbs 14:26 HCSB 

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Book Review: Know the New Testament by S.H. Mathews

Now that graduate school appears to be in my rear view, I have had more time to read and beyond what was required for my dissertation.  I hope to write a few reviews here and increase the volume of posting that has fallen so precipitously since this blogs beginnings. My hope is two fold–one to increase my knowledge base as a lifelong learner, but also to encourage those who read this blog to continue learning and reading themselves.    My first review will a review of the book Know the New Testament:  A Concise Introduction to the New Testament by S.H. Mathews.

Dr. Mathews begins his New Testament overview with the statement, “The Bible is truly the Book of books.”  I can wholeheartedly affirm the opening sentence of this small book.  With that said, I’d like to give you a few snaptshots of the strengths and weaknesses of the book in my estimation.

Strengths

Mathews, as per the purpose of the series does a masterful job capturing with brevity the contents, themes, and distinctive features of each New Testament book.  That conciseness (it is only 166 pages on my Kindle) makes this book accessible to anyone with an interest in reading a particular book of the Bible.  It gives them a small amount of supplemental background material to aid in understanding that section of Scripture.

One of my favorite portions of each chapter are the paragraphs noting the distinctive features of each book.

Weaknesses

I was somewhat disappointed with the sparseness of the outlines contained in each chapter.  Admittedly, this is keeping with the philosophy behind the book, but as a preacher, I always enjoy studying how others have outlined a particular book, so that I can compare that with my own personal study and outlining of that same book.

A second area that was disappointing to me was the combined treatment of several of the New Testament books.  The author treated Luke with Acts, the Corinthian letters together, Colossians and Philemon together, the Thessalonian epistles in one chapter, the Pastoral epistles together, the Petrine epistles,  and the epistles of John together.  I think I understand the reasoning for including them in the same chapters, but I would have enjoyed each book having its own subheading to and book specific discussion rather than cramming them all together for the reader to sort out on his own.

A third deficiency was a lack of a section that included resources for further reading.  The print edition may have included a bibliography, but the e-version ended with the endnotes.  Obviously one could gather the same information from that list, but it would have been nice to have a list at the end of each chapter with those resources listed together for an individual desiring to study further in a particular Bible book.

The final weaknesses worthy of mention here is admittedly a personal preference.  I find the debate and discussion of the authorship of Hebrews to be fascinating.  I have written a master’s level paper on it and done some outside reading on the subject as well.  It might have been nice to mention the possible identities of the authors, but no possibility is mentioned outside of the similarities of some of the theology to that of Paul.  Alas, the authorship is as Mathews says at the beginning of chapter 14,  “a mystery.”

Concluding thoughts and recommendations

Overall, I’d give this book 3 1/2 highlighters*.  I would most definitely recommend it to both laity and church staff members as a “concise” reference guide to use before they begin their personal study of any of the New Testament books.

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*This is my review designation.  Its a play on how much I underlined, highlighted, discovered material I could use later (illustrations, etc.), or just generally enjoyed the book.

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December 2, 1941

I am currently reading December 1941 by Craig Shirley. (Among other things). It is to this point a fascinating account of the American consciousness during the days leading up to and immediately following the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. His accounts are taken from various newspaper articles extant from those days. It is amazing how things change. It is amazing how some things never do. In an article discussing the lack of literacy among the young people “today,” a professor from the university of South Carolina, Dr. Reed Smith wrote,

“The old principle … that you can’t sharpen an axe on a velvet grindstone has given place to the view that if pupils don’t like it, they shouldn’t be required to do it…the underlying assumption seems to be…that students will write clearly and correctly by some sort of blessed intuition if only the teacher does not depress them with such inconvenient and unprofitable matters as spelling, paragraphing, punctuation sentence structure, grammar and the choice of and order of words.”

One can only imagine what he would think of today’s students who are often made to live up to low expectations and are trained in the art of communication with text abbreviations and social media.

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Thanksgiving Heartbreak

This Thanksgiving Holiday was a wonderful one for my family.  We had the opportunity to visit on various occasions with almost all of our family.  I am thankful for my family.

The saddest moment of Thanksgiving occurred on the drive home on Thursday night from dinner.  The kids were quiet (it was the movie, not the Turkey induced coma, which came later).  The route that I travel home is mostly rural, and mostly without street lights, so it was difficult to miss the flashing arrow sign pointing to a local “beer joint” in the middle of nowhere.  As bad as it bothers me that such a place exists, what was on the sign bothered me even more.  The message on the sign read, “Thanksgiving Potluck, 11/27/14.”  I was almost moved to tears.  My thoughts immediately turned to the body of Christ.

How far have we fallen, that those who are down and out, those who are hopeless and alone must find their sense of community and belonging underneath a neon sign rather than in the homes of those who name the name of “Christ”?  I was broken-hearted and convicted.  It is my prayer that the body of Christ(including myself) will do a better job of being the hands and feet of Christ in the coming months and years of offering God’s hope, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to everyone.  That way they will find their comfort, home and community in the the Gospel, and not the bottle.

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