Church News

18
May
the pastors perspective

Lessons from Asia

I’ve been privileged to lead a number of short-term international mission trips over the years, but our trip to Asia over the last couple of weeks was perhaps the most challenging trip I’ve had the opportunity to lead. On top of changing plans, I, and others, struggled with a pretty nasty stomach virus. However, in spite of the challenges, God taught me much about Himself during our time away.

Our first week in Asia was great. We had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of church leaders who gave four days of their time to be taught the doctrine of the Trinity. These church leaders live in a rural area, and they are not highly educated. However, they are daily giving their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and they desire to lead their churches well.

After four days of training, our plan was to go further north and conduct training in an area that was even more rural. However, at the advice of the church leaders we were working with, we chose not to make the trip of north. Since we were in a country where Christianity is heavily persecuted, these church leaders were concerned for our safety. They felt as if the location we were traveling to was unsafe and would put us as well as the believers in that community in danger. After much prayer, we made the decision not to go. It just didn’t seem wise.

We had about a week left in Asia, and we had no group to train. The group we trained the previous week invited us to return and give them more training. However, that’s when the virus hit. The virus hit me and several in the village making it unwise to return to the village to train those church leaders. We lodged in the city close to the rural village, and we obviously did not want to waste our second week in Asia. We wanted to do what we came to Asia to do: train and disciple church leaders. Our translator, who was from the city we were lodging in, began to make phone calls, and within a couple of hours he had us meeting with a local school teacher and her family. They wanted us to come to their home and teach the Bible to them and several of their friends. This teacher is a church leader who feels inadequate in her Bible knowledge and in her ability to lead. She wanted her and her family along with a few other believers to learn the Book of Ephesians, so for the remainder of our trip we worked with this handful of believers.

To be honest, my first reaction was that this was a waste. After all, the week prior we trained around twenty church leaders, and now we were spending the rest of our time in Asia training one leader and a handful of believers. It didn’t seem like a good use of our time. Last year when we were in Asia, we had the opportunity to train over 200 church leaders. Now, we sat in a home with about seven people discussing the Word of God. While I certainly enjoy discussing the Word of God regardless of the size of the group, it sure seemed like a long way to travel to have a small group Bible study.

God had to remind me that His plans are higher than my plans (Isaiah 55:8-9). Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” What a reminder! I can make plans all I want, but God knows exactly what He is doing. While our trip didn’t work out the way that we might have planned, I have the full assurance that God established our steps. He knew exactly where He wanted us to be, and He knew exactly why He wanted us to be in the home of a school teacher walking her, her family, and her friends through the Book of Ephesians. I learned several important lessons about God during our Asia trip.

God is not wasteful.

To me, our time in the home of this lady and her family at first seemed as a waste. We went to Asia to train as many church leaders as we could, not just one. While it may have seemed as a waste to me, it wasn’t a waste to God. God doesn’t waste anything. He doesn’t waste time, He doesn’t waste resources, and He doesn’t waste His people who make themselves available to His mission. Our team had made themselves completely available to the mission of God while we were in Asia, and in His providence, God used us exactly as He wanted to use us. He did not waste our time, and He did not waste our resources. In His sovereign design, He wanted us in the home of this family, and He wanted us to teach the Book of Ephesians. We may never know why God wanted us in Asia in the home of this particular church leader, but God knows exactly why


God is not inefficient.

To me, sitting in the home of one family seemed like an inefficient way to affect this Asian country. It seemed much more efficient to train lots of church leaders at one time rather than to simply focus on one church leader. However, God is not inefficient at all. He is extremely efficient. He knows exactly how He is going to accomplish His plan in Asia. He knows who He is going to use, and He knows how He is going to use the people in this Asian country to expand His Kingdom. This family that we ministered to has much influence in their city. The wife is a high school teacher, and the husband is a manager at the rail station. They come in contact with many people on a daily basis. Only God knows how He is going to use this family, and for whatever reason, God knew that the best and most efficient use of our time in Asia was to be directly involved with this family and their friends.


God is not unwise.

My perspective is limited, but God’s perspective is unlimited. He sees the totality of His plan while I only see what He chooses to reveal to me. Since God sees the totality of His plan, He knows perfectly how to bring His plan to fruition in the lives of His people. He is all-wise. He sees all, and He knows all. He has never made a bad or wrong decision. And, He didn’t make a bad decision in sending three of us from Big Stevens Creek to a distant land to sit in the home of a family and teach the Word of God. God’s decision was perfect, and His decision to send us will accomplish exactly what He wants to accomplish. He is wise. God knows what He is doing.
I’m still reflecting on what God taught me about Himself as I was in Asia. However, these lessons that God has taught me about Himself has already reminded me of a couple of changes I need to make in my own life.

I need to trust God fully.

When my plans fall apart, I panic and worry. When my plans fall apart, I begin to question God and what He’s up to. Sometimes when my plans fall apart I get depressed. However, if God is not wasteful, and if He is not inefficient, and if He is not unwise, why should I worry? Why should I panic? Why should I get depressed? Instead, it would make much more sense for me (and for you) to trust God fully even when our plans fall apart. “…but the Lord establishes his steps.” I need to constantly remind myself that if I am making myself available to God and His mission, He will establish my steps according to His perfect will.


I need to be at perfect peace.

I found myself questioning God a lot while we were in the home of this Asian family last week. I asked questions like, “Are we in the right place?” And, “Isn’t there a better way to spend our time?” My constant questioning caused me to not enjoy fully the assignment that God had given me that second week of our trip. My constant questioning caused me to not have peace. In God’s design, I was exactly where He wanted me. And if I am exactly where God wants me to be, I can have perfect peace. I don’t need to worry or question. Instead, I can simply enjoy what God is doing in me and through me.

Every time I engage in God’s mission I learn so much. I am so thankful for the opportunity that Big Stevens Creek gives me and others to leave our normal responsibilities and engage in the mission of God in foreign cultures. I appreciate your prayers and support while our team was gone, and I hope that these lessons that I have learned will be lessons that you will learn as well. Let us continue to be confident in the greatness of our God, and may His greatness lead us to trust Him and experience perfect peace.

I am praying for you!

20
Apr
the pastors perspective

The Value of Short-Term International Mission Trips

Here we go again. In just a little over a week our church will be sending a team to a difficult country in Asia to train local pastors in theology and practical ministry. This will be my third time laboring in this particular country, and while I will miss being home with my family, I’m so looking forward to this trip. If I’m counting correctly, during my time as pastor at Big Stevens Creek, we’ve sent maybe ten teams to different parts of the world. Why do we put so much emphasis on international missions in our church; especially when there are so many people in the North Augusta area who are far from Christ? As we prepare to send a team across the world in a week and a half, let me give you a few reasons why we continue to send mission teams across the world.

It’s a command; not an option.

Are there plenty of people to reach in North Augusta? Absolutely. In fact, I am becoming more and more convicted of my own shortcomings in being a Gospel witness in my own city. God has been working on my heart and making me more aware of the needs around me. I’m praying that God will help me and our church make more of a Gospel impact in the city of North Augusta. God has placed our church in this area for a specific purpose, and I do not want to miss the purpose that God has for us.

However, while our church certainly needs to focus on sharing the Gospel in the North Augusta area, that doesn’t exempt us from looking beyond North Augusta. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus told His disciples that His mission would take them far beyond their hometown. And today, God’s mission continues to take us far beyond our hometown. It’s not that a local church gets to choose whether we do international or local missions. Rather, if the local church is a healthy church it will focus on local and international missions. It’s both/and; not either/or.

Our missionaries need our support and help.

I’m thankful that our church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a church participating in the SBC, we partner with thousands of other churches to make Christ known around the world. We support what is called the Cooperative Program. We, like many other Baptist churches, give ten percent of all of our income to the Cooperative Program. The money given to the Cooperative Program funds the International Mission Board. The International Mission Board is the largest missionary agency in the world. Over 3,000 missionaries and their families are able to serve vocationally on the mission field because of the generous giving of churches like ours.

However, the missionaries that we financially support need more than our money. They need our prayers, and they need us to serve alongside of them. In Asia, God is doing a remarkable work. Thousands of people are coming to faith in Christ, and in the region we will be serving in, well over 500 new churches have been planted. With so many new believers, discipleship can be a huge problem. The reality is that local pastors in that area do not have the theological education needed to be able to help these new converts understand and live out God’s Word. Our missionaries have been able to help local churches in this part of the world by providing theological training for local pastors. However, if people from our churches who are theologically sound do not go and provide theological education, then our missionaries simply cannot provide the training. Our missionaries need more than our money and prayers. They need our help.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ need our encouragement and help.

Lord willing, in a couple of months we will send a team to Russia. We have been sending teams to Russia since I began my ministry at Big Stevens Creek. While religious freedom exists in Russia, it is still a difficult place to be a believer. In fact, many Russians confuse Russian Baptists with a cult. The believers we minister alongside of are often ostracized by their communities, and in many of the communities we visit, only a handful of believers exist. There simply isn’t a church on every corner. We have been in towns of around 30,000 people where there were only a dozen believers in that town. Our brothers and sisters in Russia need our encouragement.

When we visit with them and minister alongside of them in their communities, a couple of things happen. First, our brothers and sisters are reassured by our presence that they are not alone. They are reminded, and so are we, that they are a part of the worldwide family of God. Second, our ministry alongside of our brothers and sisters in Russia gives their work credibility. If a group of Americans shows up and helps local believers build a playground for the community or some other type of ministry project all of a sudden the residents of that town begin to look at those Russian believers a bit differently.

I need to be reminded of the lostness that pervades the world.

The majority of the people in this world will spend eternity in hell. The reality is that at this moment 1.6 billion people in the world have no access to the Gospel, and unless the church goes to these hard to reach places, these 1.6 billion people will die having never heard the good news of the Gospel. Every time I am in Asia or Russia I am reminded of how lost this world is. If you’ve been on a short-term mission trip, you know that for that time you are the field you are more focused on lostness than you are at home. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the reality. When I return from a short-term mission trip, I always return with more acute spiritual eyesight. I am able to see lostness more clearly in my city after I’ve spent time in another context.

I need to be encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

Every trip I go on I meet people who amaze me. I meet believers who live passionately for their Lord in spite of difficult circumstances and persecution, and every person I meet encourages me in my walk with the Lord. On every trip I am reminded that I am blessed to live in a country where I can still openly practice my faith, and every trip reminds of how much I take my blessed life for granted. Many of the people I have met overseas I continue to have contact with, and I continue to be encouraged by their amazing faith.

It’s amazing what God has done in my life through short-term international mission trips. Years ago, international missions wasn’t really on my radar. However, now I look forward to serving internationally whenever God gives me the opportunity.

I’m thankful to be a part of a church that sees the importance of making Christ known locally and internationally. I know that some of you are not able to travel internationally for a variety of reasons. However, let me encourage you not to give God any excuses. If you are physically able, tell God that you are available to go wherever He wants you to go. Why not consider committing to God that over the next few years, if He presents you with the opportunity, you’ll spend time in a foreign context serving Him wholeheartedly? I promise you won’t regret it.

Praying for you!

Pastor Tommy

13
Apr
the pastors perspective

It’s Time to Forgive and Move On

What has amazed me the most in over a decade of being a pastor is how much Christians struggle to forgive each other. After all, a forgiving heart should be one of the hallmark characteristics of every follower of Christ. Since we have been forgiven much, we should forgive much. Jesus talks quite a bit about forgiveness, but perhaps Matthew 6:14-15 is His most biting statement regarding His expectation for us to forgive others. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Now, those are some hard words but think about what Jesus means. If you are not willing to forgive others, if you are not willing to let past hurts go, if you are constantly holding on to bitterness, and if you are easily angered and easily lose your temper, then there is a good chance that you either do not understand or have not experienced the forgiveness of Jesus.

The forgiveness of Jesus is so great and so overwhelming that it changes everything about you. The forgiveness you have received in Christ should compel you to forgive others. I understand that someone may have hurt you badly, and I understand that it is difficult to forgive people who have done so much emotional damage to you. However, with the help of the Spirit of God, you can forgive. You can let go of the bitterness, the anger, and the hurt and experience the joy and freedom that comes with forgiving those who have hurt you. Let me offer you some practical steps that I think will help you to extend forgiveness to people who have hurt you.

Pray for humility and the ability to see people as Jesus sees people.

To forgive you need humility. Perhaps the greatest stumbling block to forgiveness is pride. Pride says, “I will never allow myself to be treated like that. I deserve better.” Where humility says, “If you wrong me, I’ll turn the other cheek.” Humility doesn’t come easy, but it’s what Jesus practiced. He was treated as a criminal, but in humility, He went to the cross, and in His dying breaths He said to the Father, “Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” In humility, Jesus extended grace and forgiveness. Jesus saw us not as people who needed to be crushed or who needed to pay for our rebellion against a Holy God. Rather, He saw us as sheep without a shepherd. He saw us as people who needed a second chance, who needed love, mercy, pardon, and forgiveness. If you want to cultivate a heart of forgiveness, it starts with asking Jesus to humble you so you might see people in the same way that He does.

Ask God to develop the fruit of the Spirit within you.

You’re probably familiar with the fruit of the Spirit. Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The fruit of the Spirit is simply the evidence that you are walking with the Lord. When you walk closely with Jesus, you can expect these different characteristics to be evident in your life. If you are not walking with Jesus, you can expect your life to be full of enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy (Galatians 5:20-21). To cultivate a heart that is willing to forgive you must walk with the Lord. If you are not walking with the Lord, your tendency will always be to withhold forgiveness.

Surrender your right to be angry.

This is huge, because when someone hurts you or offends you, you have a tendency to say something like, “I have a right to be angry! You do not understand how bad I was hurt.” No, I don’t know how bad you have been hurt, but I do know that as a follower of Christ you gave up all of your rights in full surrender to Jesus Christ. The only rights you have are the rights that Jesus gives you, and Jesus has given you the right to forgive. Remember what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Your life no longer belongs to you. It belongs to Jesus, and Jesus has told you not to hold on to anger but to forgive every time you are offended (Matthew 18:22).

Seek to forgive quickly.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times. “I’m just not ready to forgive.” I really do understand that. Confronting someone who has wronged you, explaining to him how he hurt you, and then offering him forgiveness is difficult. Sometimes it is a whole lot easier to cut people off than to try and put a relationship back together, but here’s the problem. The longer you wait to forgive someone the more it affects you. Withholding forgiveness is sinful, so therefore, when you withhold forgiveness it not only affects your relationship with the person you are withholding forgiveness from, it also affects your relationship with the Lord. You know what it’s like. You’re angry at someone, you grow bitter and cold towards that person, you gossip about him behind his back about how he hurt you, and before you know it, you have a hard time praying, reading God’s Word, and serving the Lord. Over my years as a pastor, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen completely walk away from their relationship with the Lord and His church simply because they were unwilling to forgive someone. So, the longer you wait, the more damage it’s going to do to the relationship you have with the person you need to forgive and to your relationship with the Lord. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Confront the person who has offended you with love and grace.

When someone offends you, let that person know. What typically happens is that when someone hurts you, you let everyone else know how that person hurt you and offended you, but you don’t let the actual person know how she hurt you or offended you. Often, the person who hurt you is completely left in the dark and wonders why you no longer want to interact with her. That’s simply not right. Ask God for the courage to have an honest and loving conversation with the person who hurt you. That conversation is not a time to accuse or try to hurt the person who hurt you with your words. That conversation needs to be a time where you gently let the person know how she hurt you, and then you simply extend forgiveness. Quit talking about the person who hurt you and start talking to the person who hurt you.

Once you forgive someone, forget about the past and focus on the future.

You’ve probably heard someone make this statement, or perhaps you’ve even made this statement before: “I forgive you, but I’ll never forgive how you hurt me.” Newsflash: that’s not biblical forgiveness, and that certainly isn’t how God treats you. The psalmist writes, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12). Isn’t that good news? God is omniscient, and He never suffers from amnesia. He doesn’t forget anything. It’s not possible for Him to forget anything, but when He chooses to forgive you and me of our sins, He also chooses to treat us as if we have never sinned against Him. That’s biblical forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness is not saying the words, “I forgive you,” and then choosing to still hold on to the anger and bitterness that someone caused you. Biblical forgiveness is saying the words, “I forgive you,” and letting go of the anger and bitterness. Biblical forgiveness is treating the person who hurt you as if that person has never sinned against you. I know it is impossible to forget what someone has done to you, but with the help of the Spirit, you can begin to treat that person as if he or she has never sinned against you.

I know forgiveness is difficult, and I know some of you are struggling with the pain that someone caused you. I also know that life is messy, and because people are hurtful and even abusive, you can’t put yourself in a position where you might be abused or taken advantage of. Those kinds of situations are difficult and require much prayer and counsel. However, for most of us, those are not the kinds of situations we are in. For most of us, we’re simply prideful and would rather hold on to bitterness and anger than be obedient to the Lord. We’d rather have our way than deal with our relationships God’s way. That, my friends, has to stop. Because of our unforgiving, bitter hearts we are doing much damage to our relationships, to God’s church, and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Right now, if you are struggling to forgive someone, for the sake of your relationship with the Lord, and for the sake of the Gospel, ask God to help you to overcome your pride and begin the process of putting broken relationships back together. I promise you, you’ll find joy and freedom in reconciliation!

I’m praying for you!

Pastor Tommy

07
Apr
the pastors perspective

The Best Use of Time

“I don’t have time!” Have you ever said that? If you’re like me, you probably make that complaint several times a day. However, the reality is that every single day you have been given all the time you need to accomplish exactly what God wants you to accomplish. God has given you twenty-four hours a day, and in those twenty-four hours you have all the time you need to spend time with Him, earn a living, spend time with your family, and make a difference for His Kingdom. You and I don’t lack having enough time, what we lack is knowing how to use our time effectively. So, how do you use the time you have been given more effectively for His Kingdom? Let me give you a couple of truths you need to realize about time that I think will help you to use the time God has given you more effectively.

  1. Realize that time is not yours to spend. 

Here’s a newsflash for you: time does not belong to you. You say things like, “I have the time,” or “I don’t have the time,” as if time is something that you are in control of. You’re not in control of time. When you view time as something that belongs to you, you have a tendency to make plans and map out your life as if you are the one who is in charge of your destiny. James writes about this in James 4:13-17. He writes about a group of Christian businessmen who planned to take a year of their lives and leave their families and churches behind to move to the coastal cities of the Mediterranean that were experiencing an economic boom. These men wanted to get in on the action. James calls this foolish. He writes, “…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance.” (James 4:14-16) Do you want to know a real waste of your time? A real waste of your time is to lay out your plans for your life without any regard to what God wants for your life. That’s what these businessmen were doing. They laid out their plans without any regard to God’s plan for their lives. You must understand this basic truth: time is not yours to spend. All time belongs to God, and if all time belongs to God, then you should be asking God how to use the time that He has allotted you each day to accomplish His will rather than using time to accomplish your will.

Just as an aside, do you know what happens when you take control of your time as if it belongs to you rather than understanding that time is not yours to spend? You become enslaved to busyness. When you view time as belonging to you rather than belonging to God, you have a tendency to spend time trying to get what you want out of life. Life becomes an endless rat race as you spend 60 hours a week at work trying to gain wealth. Then you spend your non-working hours running your kids from activity to activity in an attempt to give them a well-rounded life. Then you spend your Saturdays trying to get to the lake so you can have some peace and quiet, but then you have to run back home to get housework and yardwork done before a new work-week begins. You spend so much of your time trying to get the most out of life or trying to accomplish your goals, and all you get in exchange is a really busy and really exhausting life. All of your busyness is not fulfilling you, and you know it! If you are overly busy, it’s likely that you do not have a time-management problem. Rather, you probably have a heart problem. Your priorities are out of whack because you view time as yours to spend rather than a gift from God to accomplish His will. There is a better way to use the time God has given you!

  1. Realize that time belongs to God, and you are just a steward of time. 

Time is a gift from God for you to manage for His Kingdom. Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) What is the best use of your time? The best use of your time is to give it away for the sake of God’s Kingdom. In other words, it is far better to use your time to make investments that return eternal dividends rather than investing your time in your temporal happiness or in an attempt to get the most out of life. I think if you will give away your time in the following three areas your life will be purposeful and rich instead of unnecessarily busy:

  • Give time to grow in your walk with the Lord. You will never regret any time that you spend investing in your walk with the Lord. As a follower of Christ you will never say, “You know, I think I spent too much time with the Lord today. I should have given Him less of my attention.” Nor will you ever say, “I regret that I spent so much time gathering with other believers to encourage them in their walk with the Lord and to be encouraged in my own walk with the Lord.” Do you see? Giving time to your spiritual growth always reaps eternal dividends. How are you doing in your investment in your walk with the Lord? Are you giving sufficient time to prayer? To Bible study? To gathering with fellow believers?
  • Give time to your family. Deuteronomy 6:3-7 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” How I wish you and I would let these verses sink deep into our hearts and minds. You might not struggle spending time with your family, but you may struggle with helping your kids to know Christ and walk with Him. You will never regret eternally investing in your children. You will never regret teaching them the truth about who God is and how they should live in light of who He is. You will never regret spending time encouraging your spouse to be who God has created him or her to be. How are you doing when it comes to investing the truth of who God is into the lives of your children? How are you doing when it comes to encouraging your spouse in his or her walk with the Lord?
  • Give time to the expansion of the Kingdom. You get one lifetime to make the most of Jesus and lead other to know Jesus. This is your day in history to make Christ known. God has placed you exactly where He wants you to make an impact for His Kingdom. He has placed you in the exact job He wants you to have, He has placed you in the exact community where He wants you to live, and He has placed you in the exact circle of friends that He wants you to influence. God has placed you in your present circumstances to use you for the expansion of His Kingdom. He hasn’t placed you where He has you so you might live your best life now or so you might accomplish all your goals and live out your dreams. He has placed you where He wants you to live for His mission and to expand His Kingdom on earth. If you are not living according to His plan and purpose for your life, you are wasting your time. And ultimately, you will regret every second you have wasted on this earth pursuing your own desires rather than pursuing His desires. Do you see? Time does not belong to you. It belongs to God, and according to His will, He has given you every second of the day to use to bring Him honor in your work, in your play, and in your family. Don’t waste your time!

 

Whenever I think about how busy I am or how I need to use my time, I remember Jesus. Jesus used His time perfectly. When Christ was on this earth, all He had was twenty-four hours in a day, but He made every moment count. In 33 short years, Jesus accomplished everything the Father had for Him. He invested in His relationship with the Father, invested in those who were closest to Him, and completely gave His life away so that every person might have the opportunity to have forgiveness of sins and new life. Jesus knew that the greatest way He could use His time was to give it away for your sake and mine. I pray that you and I will follow His example and live our lives to give away the time God has given us for the sake of Jesus and His mission.

I’m thankful for the time God has given me to be your pastor!

30
Mar
the pastors perspective

The Power of Encouragement

You can never get enough encouragement. It’s probably safe to assume that you don’t lay your head on your pillow at night and think, “I was encouraged way too much today. I wish I had received less encouragement.” The reality is that you crave encouragement, and you never get enough. You want to hear, “You can do it” or, “I believe in you.” You want a friend to encourage you by pointing out to you what she sees Christ doing in your life. You can never get enough encouragement, and you can never give enough encouragement. Have you ever noticed how we are greedy for encouragement but stingy when it comes to giving encouragement? In fact, some of us are far better at discouraging others than we are at encouraging others. We’re quick to complain about someone, to say something negative, to cut someone down, to gossip, or to treat someone rudely. Within the body of Christ there should be no room for discouragement. How great would it be if our churches eliminated all of the discouragement and intentionally sought to fill our churches with constant encouragement?

Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just are you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) How are you doing when it comes to encouraging others? Are you stingy in giving encouragement? Let me give you a couple of reasons why we need encouragement.

Encouragement helps people to endure.
The reality is that you most need encouragement when you are grinding through difficult and challenging seasons of life. I like to run, and on Friday mornings I run with a few guys. Our goal on Fridays is to run a long distance. We typically run a minimum of eight miles, and sometimes we run up to twelve or thirteen miles. If I were to run those long runs by myself, I would not run as fast, and I would even be tempted to give up around mile seven or so. However, when I run with my friends, their presence and encouragement keeps me focused on the run. They help me to endure. How many times have you been in a challenging situation where you were tempted to give up, but someone came along and encouraged you to keep going? If you’re like me, that little bit of encouragement helped you to refocus and endure the challenge or difficulty. Don’t underestimate the power of encouragement. Your encouraging words can keep someone from giving up by giving that person a renewed sense of purpose.

Encouragement helps people to stay focused on the mission.
As a Christians, you know your calling. We are called by God to be salt and light on this earth. The best way you can live is to live your life to make Christ known. The problem is that life gets in the way of the mission that God has placed you here for. If you are like me, you’re typically so focused on just getting through the day that you fail to stop and think about how God wants to use you to minister to those around you on any given day. Or, you get so focused on your problems that you forget that sometimes your best opportunities to share Christ come when you are in the midst of your struggles. This is why encouragement is so necessary. Whatever I am going through, I need the reminder from other believers that God is sovereign over the entirety of my life. Nothing is out of His control, and nothing takes Him by surprise. I need the reminder that my struggles are not an excuse for me to neglect the mission that He has called me to. Encouragement not only helps you to endure hard times. Encouragement also helps you to keep you focused on the mission of God while you navigate difficult times.

So, how can you be a better encourager? Let me give you a few ways:

Be present
The writer of Hebrews writes, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) We should be thinking regularly about how we can encourage other people to endure and keep their eyes focused on the mission of Christ, but to be an effective encourager you have to be present in the lives of the people God has placed around you. You can’t encourage someone effectively and continually if you are not intimately involved in his or her life. That’s why the writer of Hebrews encourages the church to not neglect to meet together. If you neglect your privilege to gather with a local church on a regular basis, you are missing out on building Christ-centered relationships, and you are missing out on the opportunity to receive Christ-centered encouragement and to give Christ-centered encouragement. Are you present in the life of your local church? Are you present in the lives of those that God has placed around you?

Be mindful
You have your struggles, but you are not the only person who struggles. Everyone struggles. Peter writes, “…knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:9) Don’t live in such a way that you are so overly mindful of yourself that you ignore the struggles of people around you. Learn to be sensitive. For me, I’m having to learn how to not be so sarcastic. While my sarcasm is intended in fun, I don’t often realize that my snide remarks can sometimes do real damage to someone who is already hurting. Are you sensitive to the struggles of people that God has placed around you, and do you encourage them or ignore them?

Be consistent
Telling a person that you are praying for him is very encouraging. It is even more encouraging to actually take the time to pray with him and not just tell him you are going to pray for him. And, it is far more encouraging when you call that person you prayed with and for a week later to let him know that you are still praying for him. The best encouragement is consistent encouragement. It’s one thing to tell a person, “I believe in you.” It’s another to drop that same person a handwritten note in the mail the next week telling that person why you believe in her. Consistent encouragement is much more effective than fly-by encouragement. Fly-by encouragement is that encouraging word you give in the moment that is certainly helpful, but it’s even more helpful when you intentionally invest in someone’s life with consistent encouragement.

Learn from Jesus
Jesus was the greatest encourager to ever live. Think about how He said to people, “Go, your faith has made you well.” That’s encouraging! Or, think about how He told the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” That’s encouraging! It gets no more encouraging than what Jesus said in His last breaths on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” In His darkest moments, when He was experiencing the punishment for our sins, Jesus chose to bless and encourage us. You’re going to suffer in this life. You’re going to have hard days, but don’t use your hard days as an excuse to not bless someone else. Learn from Jesus. Bless and encourage even when it hurts.

If you have a tendency to be overly critical, negative, divisive, or a complainer; repent. If you are a discourager rather than an encourager, you are not being used as a tool of Christ. Rather, you are being used as a tool of Satan. Repent of your discouraging ways and ask God to help you live as an encourager this week.

I’m thankful that you are an encouragement to me!

Pastor Tommy

26
Mar

Defeat Gossip Before Gossip Defeats You

Coke Zero is so bad for me, but it tastes so good. I love the stuff. I try to limit myself to one can a day, and if I don’t have my daily can of Coke Zero I get really grumpy. I love the carbonation. I love the taste. I love the caffeine. It’s amazing how that little can of Coke Zero can make my whole day a little bit better. However, I know Coke Zero is bad for me. I know it’s full of aspartame, artificial sweeteners, and a host of other chemicals that I cannot pronounce. Plus, I have a history of kidney stones, so I know that every time I drink a Coke Zero I am increasing my chances of growing a nasty stone in my kidney that will ultimately cause me to double over in pain. My biggest fear is I’ll be on a ten-hour flight when a kidney stone attacks. Talk about misery! However, knowing the pain is coming is not enough incentive for me to put down my precious Coke Zero. It’s just so delicious.

Solomon says that gossip is much like Coke Zero. Actually, he says gossip is like a delicious morsel. He says, “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 26:22). Gossip tastes so good. It’s delicious. Who doesn’t like to hear a juicy secret about someone else? Who doesn’t like to get the dirt on someone? But, gossip is like Coke Zero. As savory as it might be, it certainly is not good for you. It can ultimately cause you and those you gossip about a whole lot of pain. So, let me briefly answer a few questions about gossip in an attempt to help us put this terrible sin to death.

  1. What is gossip?

In his book, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War Against the Wagging Tongue, Matthew Mitchell says, “Gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” Let me break that down for you.

  • Gossip is bad news. Whenever you gossip, you’re not telling good news; you’re telling bad news. The goal of gossip is not to praise someone but to shame someone or tear someone down. That bad news you spread about someone else can be in the form of a lie or a half-truth. But, gossip is not always a lie about someone. Sometimes gossip is truthful information about someone that you use in an attempt to bring shame on the person you’re talking about. You’ve probably heard someone say something like “Did you hear what so and so did?” That question is usually followed by something that may be true, but it’s framed in a way to paint someone in a negative light. The bottom line is that gossip is an attempt to tell bad news about someone; not good news.
  • Gossip is behind the back. Simply put, if the person you are talking about with someone else was present you wouldn’t share that juicy information, or at the very least you would completely change the way you deliver the information. A gossiper doesn’t want the person he is talking about to know he is spreading shameful and damaging information. Here are four questions that are helpful to think through before you talk about someone else behind their back:
    • Would I say this if the person I am talking about was present?
    • Does what I am saying about the person hurt his reputation?
    • Would I be embarrassed or feel shameful if the person I am talking about found out that I was talking about him behind his back?
    • Would I want someone else to talk this way about me if I were not present?

If you think through these questions before you open your mouth, you’d probably open your mouth a lot less.

  1. Why do we gossip?

Think about the last part of Mitchell’s definition of gossip. Mitchell says that gossip is out of a bad heart. Do you want to know why we gossip? We gossip because we have very sick hearts. Think about this: when you gossip you are trying to find satisfaction and joy in defaming someone’s character rather than finding satisfaction and joy in Jesus Christ. That’s sick! Consider some of the following sinful or sick heart motivations that lead us to gossip:

  • We gossip because we are jealous.
  • We gossip because we are prideful. In other words, if we can cast someone else in a negative light, it makes us look a lot better by comparison.
  • We gossip because we are hateful.
  • We gossip because we are vengeful. Gospel is an easy way to get back at people who hurt us.
  • We gossip because we are bored. In 1 Timothy 5:13 Paul warns Timothy about women who gossip because they are idle. In other words, for some gossip is simply a form of entertainment to overcome boredom.

Do you see? The root of gossip is a heart that is stained with sinful thoughts and sinful motivations, and the only remedy for a sinful heart is Jesus Himself! He went to the cross, died in your place, and rose again so that through the power of His Spirit you can put to death the sinful heart motivations that lead to gossip.

  1. How do we defeat gossip?

Paul writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). I love that verse, but it is so difficult to live out. How can you and I put Ephesians 4:29 into practice on a daily basis so that we defeat our gossiping ways? Let me give you some practical ways you can begin to put off the habit of gossiping:

  • Ask for help. If gossip is the result of a sick heart, the ultimate cure for a sick heart is Jesus. You need His help to overcome your gossiping ways. Ask Him to help you. Plead with Him to heal your heart and change the way you speak. He wants to help you, but do you want His help? Are you willing to daily, and even hourly, ask him to help you use your words in a way that build others up and glorify Him?
  • Speak less. I love Proverbs 21:23: “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” It’s hard to gossip about someone when you keep your mouth shut.
  • Say something good. Every person on the face of the planet is made in the image of God. If that’s true, then in every person there is something to affirm. Look for ways to affirm people even when it’s difficult. Use the Golden Rule of speech: Speak of others in the same way you would want them to speak of you.
  • Talk to and about the Lord. It’s difficult to gossip when we focus our conversations on what God is doing in our lives. It’s also hard to gossip when we intentionally pray with other people. If we keep Christ at the center of our conversations, we’ll have plenty to talk about and no need to gossip.
  • Avoid gossips. Proverbs 20:19 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.” If you are prone to gossip, simply stay away from people who tempt you to gossip. Make friends with people who know how to use their words in a way that edifies. If you can’t avoid a gossip, or if you live with a gossiper, at least intentionally change the conversation when gossip begins to slip into the conversation.
  • Confront gossips. If you are a follower of Christ you have the responsibility to gently help your brothers and sisters see their sin so they might be led to repentance. Many times when we are around a gossip we let them talk while we choose to say nothing. Don’t say nothing! In love and humility, confront the gossiper so she may be brought to a place of repentance.

So what about you? Are you a gossiper? For the sake of your own spiritual health, and for the sake of the body of Christ, stop it! Ask God today to help you begin to put gossip to death so that you might use your words to glorify Him and build others up.

Praying for you!

Pastor Tommy

 

16
Mar

Stop and Think Before You Criticize

I tend to be critical of two things: preaching and piano playing. I have a Ph.D. in preaching, so in seminary I was taught all of the different methods and philosophies of preaching. I was also taught how to teach preachers. When I hear another preacher I have a tendency to be critical. Was the preacher faithful to the Bible? Did he connect his sermon to Christ? Was his delivery engaging? Was his application consistent with the Bible? If I’m not careful, I can be overly critical. I can listen to a sermon just to critique it rather than to be fed by it.

I’m also pretty critical of piano playing. I’ve been playing all of my life, and I think I can tell the difference between good piano playing and bad piano playing. It’s not uncommon for me to hear someone playing the piano and lean over to Staci and say something like, “That guy stinks. His technique is awful.” When I make that kind of criticism I am essentially saying, “I am the ultimate judge of what is good piano playing and what is bad piano playing. If you want to know what piano playing ought to be, just ask me.”

The problem is that I am not the ultimate judge of anything, so therefore I have no right to be overly critical or negative in the way I deliver criticism. Neither do you. Criticism in and of itself isn’t a bad think. Criticism is necessary. We all need to receive criticism, and at times we all need to give criticism. Criticism can be helpful, but if we’re not careful in the way we deliver criticism, it can be very harmful and destructive. In fact, some of your relationships might have been ruined because of negative criticism. I’m afraid many of us, myself included, are overly critical or negative in the way we criticize far too often. I’m afraid that many of us have used critical words and critical attitudes to tear people down rather than build them up. So, the next time you have the urge to criticize, stop and think through these three challenges:

Before you criticize check your motivation.

Why do you think it is necessary to offer that word of criticism that you are about to let come out of your mouth? Are you offering criticism just because you want to make sure your opinion is heard? Are you offering criticism because you want to show people that you know what is best? That you are the smartest or most talented person in the room? Are you offering criticism because you are angry or bitter and you want to hurt someone with your words?

We often criticize people we love, especially family members, out of anger or out of a desire to get our own way. Sometimes we criticize people we love because they aren’t living up to our expectations or our standard. Think about how damaging it is when you say to your son after he has failed a test at school, “How could you make a grade like that? You’ll never amount to anything.” That is not helpful criticism. That is hurtful criticism that is probably motivated by a heart of anger because your son didn’t live up to your expectation.

Before you criticize simply check your motivation. Are you criticizing out of a sincere desire to help someone, or are you criticizing to hurt someone? If you are criticizing to hurt someone, you are in sin, and you are doing damage to a relationship that might take years to repair. Think before you speak


Before you criticize examine your own heart.

Perhaps the most quoted Scripture in all of God’s Word is Matthew 7:1. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Sometimes judging is inevitable. For example, if someone mugs you in the parking lot of Walmart you can probably safely assume that person is a crook who deserves to be in prison. That’s a judgment. However, Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus is saying that before you criticize someone else, take a good look at yourself. The truth is that you are just as flawed as the person you are criticizing. I promise you that if you spent more time dealing with your own flaws rather than fixing the flaws of others you would criticize people far less than you do.


Before you criticize establish the right goal.

There should only be one goal when it comes to criticism: to help the person you are criticizing become all that God wants him or her to be. I’m thankful for critics God has placed in my life. I’m thankful for teachers who have been patient with me and have helped me to see how to improve in so many areas of my life. Most of all, I’m thankful for godly men and women who have wanted to see me grow in my walk with Christ and have helped me to see my own sins and failures so I could take those sins and failure before the Lord and seek His grace. I’ve endured my share of negative criticism as well, and while I have learned things from even the most negative of critics, it hasn’t come without unnecessary pain. I definitely respond much better to helpful criticism than negative criticism, and so do you!

God may want to use you in the life of someone else to help that person see their sins or see where they can improve in some area of life. However, just make sure the goal you have before you begin to criticize anyone is to truly help that person. If your goal is to help that person you are going to be humble and gracious in the way you speak to that person. You are going to be kind and gentle. You are going to be forgiving. You are going to be like Christ.

My biggest critic is Jesus Christ. He knows everything about me. He knows my sins and failures. He knows how my life has offended Him. He knows the areas I need to grow in, and praise God that through His Spirit He is constantly pointing out those areas in my life that need to be brought under His control. However, when Jesus criticizes me it is never with condemnation. In other words, Jesus never desires to tear me down and destroy me. He always desires to restore me and deepen my fellowship with Him. Let me encourage you to model Jesus in the way you interact people. Relationships are too precious to destroy with your negative criticism. If you are an overly critical person, or if you are negative in the way that you criticize others, repent and ask God to help you build others up. I pray that you will live by Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Praying for you this week!

09
Mar

Stop Complaining and Start Thanking

I complain way too much. For the last couple of months, I’ve been complaining about the weather. I hate winter. I hate being cold. However, in a couple of months I’ll likely be complaining about the heat and wishing for some cooler weather. I complain about politics. I complain about sports. I complain when the waitress gets my order wrong when I’m out to eat. I’m really good at complaining, and if you are honest, you’re really good at complaining as well. Philippians 2:14 should hit us right between the eyes.  “Do everything without complaining and arguing…” (NLT) Is that even possible? Let me give you a few reasons why complaining is so dangerous.

  1. Complaining is evidence of an ungrateful heart.

When you complain do you know what you are really saying? You’re essentially saying with every complaint, “I deserve better.” “I deserve for the weather to be just like I want it. I deserve for the waitress to get my order exactly right. I deserve to have my favorite team win every Sunday. I deserve for that driver in front of me to drive the speed limit I want him to drive.” Really? Who made you the center of the universe? The reality is that the only thing you deserve is eternal separation from God because of your sin. Therefore, anything good you receive is a result of God’s grace. The warm sunshine that’s brightening your day today is a gift of God’s grace. That job that you complain about all the time that helps you to provide for your family is a gift of God’s grace. Every good thing you enjoy in this life is a gracious gift of God that you do not deserve. Ultimately, God has given us the greatest gift of all; forgiveness of our sins and eternity with Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. You’ve been given much more than you deserve, and you really have no reason to complain about anything. Think about this: complaining accomplishes nothing of eternal value and only shows how ungrateful you are for all that God has given you.

  1. Complaining hinders the mission of God.

As Christ-followers we believe that Jesus and Jesus alone satisfies our every need. How is a lost world going to believe that Jesus alone satisfies when we as Christians complain so much? When you and I complain we are showing other people through our complaining that God does not satisfy us. We are showing other people that the only thing that satisfies us is when we get everything we want whenever we want it. Can you see how that might hinder the mission of God? If anyone had a right to complain it was Jesus. He was treated unfairly, abandoned by His disciples, and subjected to a death that He did not deserve. Yet, from the cross, He didn’t look down and say, “Where are my disciples? What a bunch of losers.” Nor did He cry out to the Father and say, “Father, I don’t deserve this. What are you thinking?” You see, if Jesus had complained on His way to the cross He would have died begrudgingly and not willingly. If He would have complained we would be left to wonder if He really loves us. For the sake of the mission of the Father, He didn’t complain one time, and in perfect humility He went to the cross so that we could be saved from our sins.

Now, if the One who had every right to complain did not complain, do you think you have the right to complain about anything? Think of it this way. Complaining is one of the most selfish things you can do. Complaining is not life giving. Rather, complaining sucks the life out of people. Complaining really does hinder the mission of God because complaining puts the focus on your selfish agenda rather than on the expansion of God’s Kingdom.

  1. Complaining stunts your spiritual growth.

We all want to grow spiritually. At least we say we do. Complaining is not the way to spiritual growth. Complaining is the way to spiritual regression. The more you complain the more you are giving evidence of a spirit of pride and selfishness. The more you complain the more you are demonstrating that you desire to be on the throne of your life calling the shots rather than desiring God to be on the throne of your life. You simply cannot grow in Christ when your life is focused on what you think you deserve. As long as you have a complaining and critical spirit you’ll be stuck in spiritual immaturity.

So, here’s the question. How can you overcome your tendency to complain?

  1. Repent. Repentance is the only place to start. Ask God to forgive you of thinking you deserve anything more than what He determines to give you. Ask God to forgive you of a sorry, self-centered, self-serving attitude.
  2. Use much restraint. I love Proverbs 17:27. “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” I’m learning that in most situations it is usually best to keep my mouth shut – even in those situations when I am wronged it is often best for me to simply stay silent because the less I speak the less likely I am to sin with my mouth. This is probably why James said in James 1:19, “Let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak.”
  3. Count your blessings. I don’t care how bad your life is, you are blessed. If you have the ability to read these words right now, you are blessed. If you have breath in your lungs you are blessed. How would your life be different if you focused on all the good God has done in your life rather than all the negativity you tend to focus on?
  4. Realize that your way is not the best way. You often complain because you don’t get your way, and your way is the best way, right? Nope. Your way is not the best way, and as much as this might shock you, life would not necessarily be better if everyone did everything the way you wanted them to do it. Ultimately, only God knows what is best. In every situation you can trust that He knows what He is doing.
  5. Learn to praise God for His creativity. You often complain because people are different than you. “I don’t like him because he doesn’t do things the way I would do them.” Or, “I don’t like the pastor because he doesn’t tell enough jokes.” The list goes on and on. Thankfully, God didn’t make everyone like you. Instead, He made every person in His own image for His own purpose. Instead of complaining when people don’t do things the way you want them to, learn to praise God for His creativity. Praise God that He made us different and He uses our unique personalities and abilities to accomplish His purpose.

 

I really don’t want to complain as much as I do. I’m intentionally asking God to help me to put my complaining to rest. Will you join me in asking God to help you to get your complaining under control? I’m praying for you, and I am praying that our church will be the most life-giving, encouraging, Spirit-filled church around!

Pastor Tommy

02
Mar

Feeling Discouraged? Read This.

You’ve been there. Maybe you’re there right now, and maybe it is overwhelming. I’m talking about discouragement. We live in a world where things do not always work out the way we want them to, and it’s easy to get discouraged. If you are feeling discouraged, know that you are in good company. Think of people in the Bible like David, Elijah, Moses, Abraham, and a host of others who struggled with discouragement on a regular basis.

 

There may be a host of things that are causing you to be discouraged. Your discouragement could be career or school related. It could be family related. Maybe your inability to get ahead financially is causing you to be discouraged. Maybe you’re discouraged because you simply cannot figure out where God is at in the midst of what you are going through right now. I don’t know what is causing your discouragement, but I do know that your discouragement is only temporary. So, what do you do to overcome the discouragement that you are experiencing?

 

  1. Ask the right questions. I know for me that when I am discouraged I throw my hands in the air and ask, “Why God? Why am I suffering like this?” I’ve come to learn that “Why?” is probably not the best question to ask in seasons of discouragement. A better question to ask is “What?” “God what do you want to teach me as I walk through this season of discouragement? What do you want me to do for the sake of your Kingdom as I walk through this discouraging season?” Another great question to ask when going through a discouraging season is “Who?” “God, who do you want me to bless even while I am discouraged? Who do you want me to minister to?” “What?” and “Who?” are powerful questions because they take the focus off of you and put the focus on God’s Kingdom and His mission. What I have to remind myself when I am discouraged is that my discouragement doesn’t for one second change the calling of God on my life to live on mission for Him. So, I have to make myself ask the right questions. “Why?” is a self-serving question, where “What?” and “How?” are kingdom focused questions. When you’re discouraged, ask the right questions.
  2. Get some rest. Sometimes when you are discouraged, you just need some time to rest. Maybe the rest you need is physical. A day off or a weekend away can be just what you need to renew your body and mind. Maybe the rest you need is spiritual. Mini-spiritual retreats can do wonders for giving you a renewed perspective on the struggles you are experiencing. Can you carve a few hours out on a Saturday to have some uninterrupted time to pray and think? I love the promise of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Make time to rest in Christ. He desires to minister to you in your seasons of discouragement.
  3. Stop believing the lies. When you are going through discouraging times, you will tell yourself all kinds of things that simply aren’t true. You’ll tell yourself things like, “Life will never get any better.” Or, “God has forgotten all about me.” Or, “No one has ever had it as bad as I have it.” Or, “I’ll never be happy. Nothing will ever change.” The list could go on and on. These are all lies! The truth is, you are not alone. Even on your worst days, God is with you. As hard as it is to believe, and as trite as it may sound, God has a purpose for you even in the midst of your suffering. When I’m discouraged it really helps me to remember that I am where I am by God’s appointment, and when God wants me out of my struggles, He’ll move me. But, in the meantime, God is with me in my struggles. If God is good, then He doesn’t mean me any harm to me in my discouraging days. Rather, He means my discouraging days for my good so I’m going to trust Him. When you’re discouraged, don’t believe the lies that you tell yourself. Believe what you know to be true about the God who loves you.
  4. Get back to work. When we are discouraged we have a tendency to wallow in our own self-pity and tell people how miserable we are. Stop it. Pick your head up, put your big boy or big girl pants on and get back to work. Again, God’s mission for your life does not change when you’re discouraged. Keep doing what you know God wants you to do. Worship Him. Spend time with Him. Love your family and friends. Look for opportunities to share the Gospel. Stay involved in your local church. Be the best employee you can be. Use your words to encourage and lift others up rather than to share your miseries. Even when you are discouraged, do what you know God wants you to do. When you get back to work you’ll find the discouragement lifting, and you’ll discover a renewed sense of purpose and mission.

Discouragement is tough, but you don’t have to live in discouragement forever. Today, you can take God-oriented steps to begin to overcome discouragement. If you’re in a season of discouragement, don’t take your eyes off of Him. Don’t give up, and don’t for a minute think you are alone. He will see you through as you trust in Him.

 

Praying for you!
Pastor Tommy

22
Feb

Avoiding Ministry Burnout

You’ve probably noticed like I have that if you get involved in a local church it can consume much of your time, especially if you are a member at Big Stevens Creek. We are a busy church! However, having your time consumed by a local church is not necessarily a bad thing. Think about it. The church is involved in the most important work on the face of the planet. Joining God on mission to make Christ known to our community and our world is time consuming! However, what can be bad is the tendency we have to get burned out. If you’re like me, you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve coached an Upward season every season since we started Upward. Maybe you have taught a small group or worked in the nursery for years. Maybe you have served faithfully on the grounds crew or as a deacon. Maybe it seems like the church is always demanding more from you; more of your time and more of your efforts. And, maybe you are at a point where you’ve had enough. You’re tired. You need a break. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people take breaks from serving in the church who have never returned to serving. They had intentions to, but they lost their passion for serving the Lord. So, here’s the question. How do you avoid ministry burnout? How do you avoid getting to a place where you want to walk away from serving the Lord through His church? Let me give you some suggestions to help you stay energized in the work that God has called you to.

 

  1. Think God’s glory, not you glory.

This is the biggest motivator to keep you passionate about serving the Lord even when you get tired. Whenever you are tempted to throw in the towel remember that God is worthy of your service. He is worthy of you giving your time, talents, and treasures for His Kingdom purpose. Sometimes we’re tempted to quit serving the church because we’re not getting the recognition we think we deserve. No one is patting us on the back, or no one notices all of the hours we have put in so we get discouraged. Ministry is not about you! Rather, it’s about seeing Christ lifted up and people drawn to Him. Whenever you are serving, keep in mind who you are ultimately ministering to – Christ Himself!

 

  1. Think giftedness, not obligation.

Serving the Lord through the local church should be the most energizing, not draining, thing you can do. We’ve talked about it so many times before. God has spiritually gifted you to serve Him through the local church, and the body of Christ works best when you are using your spiritual giftedness. (See 1 Corinthians 12.) Perhaps the reason why many of us get burned out with ministry is because we are not operating out of our spiritual giftedness. Rather, we are operating out of obligation. We fulfill tasks in the church because we feel guilty because no one else will volunteer to take those tasks on. While I appreciate the willingness of faithful people to do the tasks no one wants to do, think how great our church would be if people served out of their giftedness and not out of a sense of obligation or guilt. I think about my own spiritual gifting. God has gifted me to preach and teach, and while it can be tiring to prepare week after week and preach sermon after sermon, it never grows old. Preaching tires me, but at the same time it energizes me as I know I am doing what God has called me to do within His local church. What about you? Are you serving out of your giftedness or simply out of obligation?

 

  1. Think people, not tasks.

Ministry is about people, not tasks. I believe that God is far more interested in the people you influence than He is the things you knock off of your to-do list. However, the reality is that within the church there are a lot of tasks that need to be done. For example, there’s upkeep to the building that has to be seen to. There’s grass that needs to be cut. There are meals to prepare, events to organize, and the list goes on and on. While those tasks need to be done, we can’t forget that the reason why we do the tasks is to ultimately influence people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, when you are doing a task, keep in mind that you aren’t doing a task for a task’s sake. You are doing that task so that ultimately people might have an opportunity to experience Christ. So, as you are performing a task, pray for the people who will benefit from the work that you are doing. Or, better yet, bring along another brother or sister in Christ to perform the task with you. Some of the best Christ-centered conversations can happen while we are serving together and completing tasks together. Tasks are necessary, but let’s strive to keep our focus on people even when we are knocking things off of the church’s to-do list.

 

  1. Think humbly, not comparatively.

Maybe one of the most discouraging things in a local church is when you are giving your all but the people around you are not. Maybe you’ve heard a pastor say before that in a local church 20% of the people do 90% of the work, while 80% do 10% of the work. Unfortunately, in many churches that is the case. When you are serving your heart out and see others refusing to serve it can cause you to become bitter and resentful towards other people in the congregation. If you’re not careful, you can also become really prideful. You can look at another brother or sister in Christ and say, “I must be a better Christian than he is because I do so much more for the Lord than he does.” That kind of comparing is sinful. Remember this: you will stand before God and give an account for your service to Him. You will not give an account for that person who always comes and sits and never participates. So, focus on fulfilling your calling instead of focusing on others who may not be fulfilling their calling. You can’t control what other people do not do. However, you can control what you do, and you can control how you respond to people who aren’t doing what you think they should do. Instead of casting judgment, pray and encourage, and ultimately, leave it to God.

I’m so thankful for Big Stevens Creek, and I’m thankful that we have so many people in our congregation who faithfully serve in so many ways. Let’s continue to keep our eyes on the mission, and let’s continue to serve Him with passion and joy.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday!

Pastor Tommy