humble leaders

It is easy to be humble when standing at the base of a mountain or the edge of the sea. However, when standing over another person it is a struggle to remain humble.

Humility is not the most desirable characteristic, especially for leaders. However, according to God humility is true greatness.  Humility is viewing yourself in the light of God’s holiness and your limitedness.

Humility according to God starts with those in leadership. Elders and pastors are to be examples of humility. According to Peter, leaders are to show humility in three ways:

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:1-5

Humility is seen as you serve in plurality.

Shared leadership keeps a leaders pride in check. God designed leadership to be done together with other leaders who pass onto one another character.  We see this best in the life of Christ and his disciples (v.1).

Humility is expressed best as leaders shepherd their flock.

The job of a leader is to care for those he leads by teaching and protecting (vs.2-3). Many leaders in the Bible start out as shepherds like Moses and David. Shepherding sheep is a humbling job, but is great preparation for shepherding people. Jesus himself was called the Chief Shepherd. He is ultimately your highest elder. All other elders work for him and do as he did.

Humility seek their reward is the eyes of God not men.

You may not see many humble leaders listed on Forbes 500. The reward for humble shepherding is not the praise of men, but the prize of the unfading crown of glory from God himself (v.4).

Humility in younger leaders is demonstrated in their submission to older leaders.

Those who are younger struggle the most to submit to authority. The younger you are the greater your struggle with pride, but often the older you are the more humble you become because you realize your limitations (v.5).

Peter knows the struggle of submitting to leadership and humbling leading. Early in his life he struggled with pride. He challenged and denied the authority of Christ. However, as he observed the sufferings and humility of Christ it left a mark on him that would forever change him. Christ would restore and call him to love sheep like he did. As we see from his letter, he became a tender shepherd leader.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is or isn’t humility? Why is humility an important character of a leader?
  • What do you know about Peter’s own struggle with humility, especially earlier in his life? How had he grown in humility?
  • What is the motivation for shepherding the flock? How can these motives become distorted? What are the common temptations of leaders?
  • What is to be the response of the flock towards elders? How does also express humility? Toward whom is your humility ultimately pointed? What does it look like to submit to leaders over you?
  • How do elders join in the suffering of Christ? When have you seen God’s grace to the humble or his opposition to the proud?
  • What are the consequences of pride? What is the prize of humility?
  • How can you clothe yourself in humility toward one another?
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How to Respond to Evil Authorities

How do you respond to injustice? There is within everyone a yearning to speak up, to take action, to retaliate, and to seek justice. However, when taking justice into our own hands the injustice, violence, and troubles only prolongate. Jesus provides the example and inspiration for enduring injustice and hardship.

Here we learn a lot about Peter’s audience. Some are servants working for mean, hurtful, and unjust bosses simply because they are worshiping Jesus (v.18). They are enduring much sorrow, suffering unjustly (v.19), and being sinned against for no good reason. So Peter explains how they as Christians are to live with authorities, even evil ones. Peter knows what it was like to live under a corrupt, power-heavy, god-complex emperor and his underlings. He too faced persecution and hardships from their hands, yet he says the way you respond can have a good affect on the way they rule.

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” – 1 Peter 2:18-25, ESV

You will be rewarded by God for endurance and silence. We shouldn’t stop being Christian when someone is being mean or unjust by seeking revenge or resorting to violence in return. Praise God for groups like International Justice Mission and Slavery No More who are doing great work to help those who can’t help themselves. Yet, at the end of the day, it is God who sees injustice and judges the unjust (v.20).

You are a servant of Jesus above all. The bottom line is that enduring injustice is equal to following Christ. You should expect the world to applaud that you are a Christian, in fact, most Christians around the world are suffering persecution for following Jesus. It is through that persecution that the church grows in faith and numbers and the world sees the example of Christ in you (vs.21-24a).

You are safe with Jesus. He is your example and sin-bearing Savior. He was falsely accused, harassed by an evil regime, faced extreme injustice, yet through it all he did not sin.  Through Jesus suffering on the cross we see a great mercy. It was your sin that nailed him to the cross, yet Jesus willingly died in your place so that by his wounds you can be healed (v.24). Miraculously, you are dead to sin and alive to Christ. Jesus is our Shepherd in times of distress (v.25). Run to him. You are safe with him.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How do you normally respond to injustice? How does injustice often breed more injustice and violence in response? How does Jesus respond to injustice done to him? How is his response often different than yours? Why did he respond this way?
  • What do you learn about Peter’s audience from this passage? Where in your life are you subject to unjust authorities? What does it look like to entrust yourself to God in the midst of injustice?
  • What does it mean for a Christian to endure? What are some things you want to give up on or quit over because they are difficult? What can you do to endure better?
  • Is it okay to be sad or sorrowful over injustice and suffering? How did Jesus express sorrow? How is it a comfort to you to know that Jesus in “a Man of sorrows”? (cf. Isaiah 53:4; John 11:35)
  • What is the difference between suffering unjustly and suffering for sins we commit? Why does God call some to suffer unjustly? How did Jesus suffer unjustly? How did he treat those who made him suffer? How did Jesus injustice bring about justice?
  • How has Jesus healed you by his wounds? How is Jesus your Shepherd and Overseer? Read Psalm 23. Where in your life do you need to entrust your life to Jesus and die to sin?

How to Respond to Civil Authorities

How do you talk about political leaders with your friends? On breaks do you bash your boss with other employees? Do you pick apart your pastor after the church service? Your answers may reveal that you have issues authority.

When it comes down to it, God created authority. It is part of his design. He himself is the ultimate authority and in charge of everyone and everything. All authority comes from God, established by God, and used by God for his purposes (vs. 13-15a; cf. Romans 13:1-7). God puts people in authority over us to help us to learn and grow. The way we respond to authority can have a good affect on those ruling over us (v.15b).

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV

While we may not agree with our president, police, pastor, or parents, we have a obligation to submit to their authority and live as servants. Servants differ from slaves in that they are free and do what they do out of humility. When we buck against earthly authority we really also buck against God’s authority. We have a higher calling to live as servants of God under his authority (vs.16-18). When we humble ourselves to God we will also honor other authorities trusting God is working through them even if they are disrespectful, unlikable, abusive, unfair or ungodly.

Our obedience to earthly authority ought to reflect our obedience to Jesus. We do not seek to get away with as much as we can with Jesus—we seek to do all that He wants and commands—even when those commands run against the grain of our comfort or abilities. An important characteristic of a follower of Jesus is submission to authority. First, to God, then to others.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How is God the ultimate authority? How does this help us to think about other authorities, even evil ones?
  • What human authorities has God put in authority over you? What is your attitude towards them?
  • What is the place for government and civil authority in the story of God? What expectations do you have for governing authorities? How are God’s people to live with our civil authorities?
  • Why is it important to guard the way we talk to or about authorities? What does this teach to people around us when we can graciously disagree and humbly submit? How does submission silence ignorance and foolishness? What is the result of doing good and submitting to authorities? When is it okay to disobey authorities?
  • How does our response to authority reflect on our faith? (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Proverbs 21:1) How does Peter’s challenge to submit to authorities challenge you?
  • How is God the ultimate authority? How does this text show that God is over rulers, authorities, even emperors?
  • Why is the example of a servant a fitting example of submission? How is Jesus a great example of a servant? (see Mark 10:42-45; Phil. 2:5-11) How are servants free? What are Christians free from or free to? How are you expected to use your freedom? How does God want you to serve?

walking in obedience

What emotions stir up within you when you hear the words obedience, submission, and leadership? For many these words conger up anger, skepticism, disappointment, even rebellion. We live in a culture that bucks against authority, challenges leadership, and grumbles against submission.

Yet can you imagine a world without leadership? Homes without parents leading their children. Businesses without managers overseeing production. Nations without government protecting people. Churches without pastors caring for their flock. It may be delightful for a moment, but in the end it would be chaos.

On the flip-side, leadership can be a lonely responsibility because you have to do hard things, deal with difficult people, and lead by example. A leader has a great responsibility. Leadership is not a position with special perks and privileges. In the words of Scripture, a leader “watches over your soul.” (v.17a)

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.” – Hebrews 13:17-19, ESV

The shepherd terminology in this text is crucial to understanding leadership. The Bible often calls Christians sheep. Sheep are prone to wander. Jesus was known as the Great Shepherd knows all his sheep by name and brings them to himself (John 10:1-18). Jesus even cares to bring the one lost sheep home (Luke 15:1-7).

Pastors and leaders are essentially under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd. They, like Jesus, have the job of watching and protecting their flocks from harm. It is a job they will give an account to God (v.17b). So leaders submit to Jesus as Jesus submits to his Father. By obeying our leaders and submitting to them we are helping them to do their job with joy (v.17c). For a joyful follower makes a joyful leader.

The author of Hebrews gets personal. As a leader himself he asks prayer for a clear mind and honorable life (v.18). He feels the weight of his responsibility. He knows his weaknesses. He is is okay being vulnerable. He wishes he could be on the other end of the letter with the recipients, which shows his shepherd-heartedness (v.19).

It is wonderful when leaders seek the prayer of people they lead. Prayer is a huge ministry to leaders—entrusting them to God. This is the first step of walking in obedience.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Why are leaders often under a lot of scrutiny and criticism? Why is our culture so anti-authority or submission? What is your response to leadership?
  • Why are leaders necessary for the church? How can you encourage the spiritual leaders in your life? How can you pray for your leaders?
  • How is the term shepherd a fitting term for a leader? How is the term flock a fitting term for the church? How do shepherds watch over your soul?

walking purely

I remember like it yesterday. The doors in the back of the church swung open wide and there walked in my bride. She was bright eyed and blazing in her white gown. It was, is and will be one of the most beautiful and purest images in my mind. There is no wonder God refers to the church as his bride.

Purity in the Church—the Bride of Christ—is just as important as purity for the individual. Continuing in the thread of Hebrews 13:1-3 the authors shares four rapid-fire characteristics for believers and the church to walk purely.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.” – Hebrews 13:3-9, ESV

First, honor your marriage (Hebrews 13:4). Today less than 50% of couples get married and the majority of couples are cohabiting rather than marrying. It is more common to test-driving marriage than to actually marry. This has led to a lower level of relational commitment and a greater distancing from moral purity. Yet this is just one aspect of purity. As purity is not just an idea before marriage but within marriage too. God expects the marriage bed to be pure from any form of casual or illicit immorality. In the mind of God, marriage pictures something big—Jesus’ love for the church. When marriages disintegrate so does the testimony of the church, but when marriages fight hard for purity so flourishes the church.

Second, love not money (v.5a). The only sure way to keep your heart pure from a love of money is by being content with what you have, especially in seasons of uncertainty (v.6). Why? Attached to this call for contentment is a mammoth promise—God will never abandon you (v.5b). Allow that truth penetrate your soul deeply. If you divorce yourself from this truth it lead to a lust for money, possessions, and discontentment. Ultimately everything, including money, career, health, security, comes from God.

Third, remember your spiritual leaders (v.7; cf. vs.17, 24). Leaders are to live pure and exemplary lives, and we are to imitate their faith and study their way of life. An issue can arises when we put too much faith in a spiritual leader to meet our spiritual needs. When a spiritual leader has failure or falls we can become disappointed and disillusioned. A good leader will point people to Jesus who never fails and will forever remain (v.8).

Fourth, guard your heart from strange teachings (v.9). Our hearts are easily distracted towards teachings what tickle our ears or stroke our ego. In the process we can commit adultery of the mind as we align ourselves with unbiblical teachings. It is important to weight all teachings against the Word and walk away from teachings contrary to it. If we build on this sturdy and stable ground we will walk purely.

Purity may seem old fashion, yet modern people would not think twice about drinking pure water, eating pure foods, or breathing pure air. When purity in marriage, money, spiritual leadership, or biblical teachings are abandoned the results are as grave on the soul as breathing smog, drinking poison and eating toxins. While purity is a gift from God that we cannot get back once given, it can be forgiven and made anew again.

Are you committed to walking purely? Then “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:9-10) No matter where you are start today by walking in the light.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is the biblical picture of marriage? How does the word tarnish and diminish this image? How does Jesus and the church redeem the image? How can we help one another keep marriage pure?
  • What is something that you don’t have that you wish you did have? Are you content without it? What makes us want what we want when we want it? How is money a huge culprit to a lack of contentment?
  • How does God’s never abandoning promise encourage you? How is God your Helper? What are things we want God to help us with that he doesn’t promise to help with?
  • Who is a spiritual leader you look up to? How do they mimic Christ? How can you follow their lead?
  • What kind of teachings tickle peoples ears and stroke their egos? Why is it good to weigh all words you hear in church against the Word of God? How can you do this without being extremely critical of teachers and pastors?
  • Is there an area of impurity in marriage, finances, leadership or teaching that you need to ask God’s forgiveness? Which area of purity is your greatest struggle? How will you allow the church to help or encourage you?

2 Corinthians Study: Boast in Weakness

What does God want me to do with my money? How should I respond to someone who has wronged me? What is the purpose of suffering and hardships? Can’t I boast a little bit? These are some of the questions you will discover as you read through 2 Corinthians.

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church has a different flavor than the first. It is more personal and pastoral. You see Paul roll up his sleeves and wear his emotions on them. Paul loves the church and so should we. How can we love the church despite all its people problems? Paul gives us practical insights. There is something for everyone. Just take a look at this 2 Corinthians Study: Boast in Weakness

Click to download 2 Corithians Study

opulence, philanthropy, and giving

Image from Forbes.com

In the photo above you have a gathering of $126 billion dollars. It is probably the single richest gather in modern history. These men and women have given money and time to make the world a better place. These peoples lives are marked by giving rather than receiving.

It is indeed honorable what these billionaires have done with their pocket books. You truly see what one values by the way they spend their money and time. These billionaires have set a high standard for those of us who have less to consider.

As I pursued Forbes 400 Summit articles a few questions teetered in mind: Is he who give the most always the most honored? What about the little old lady who lives below the poverty line that gives kisses and cookies to cheer children? Is giving money the most helpful solution to the worlds issues? What does money buy? What is the definition of “better” in making the world a better place?

When I consider the most opulent Giver of all time, he was not rich with monetary wealth, he did not own a large corporate empire, he was not well liked even by religious persons. Rather, he lived a frugal life, the son of two teenage parents. His hands were calloused from carpentry. He did draw crowds and heal many sick. He did make outrageous claims, like, being God and the universe was his inheritance. He was considered a criminal and blasphemer. Ultimately he sacrificed his life, ending it in public humiliation, giving it up for the sake of the name and glory of His Father’s.

His name: Jesus. Without his divinely foreordained gift to humanity, no one in the world would have enough brains, bucks or brawn to conger up a better solution to the problems created by sin. His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation is free for all who believe. It won’t cost you 99% of your accumulated wealth, but it might just cost you to die to yourself.

I am not sure I’d ever see Jesus picture or name mentioned in Forbes, but I will surely hear and see Him worshiped throughout eternity.

thumb licks [6.7.12]

Best graduation speeches.

What do introverts think of church?

How much do you owe mom since your birth?

Is Mormonism a cult? What about a Mormon president?

10 things you have to do if you want the next generation to listen.

It Is What It Is, But It Is Not What It Shall Be.

Why Bible study doesn’t transform us?

The Real Avenger.

The gospel for those who’ve grown up in church.

Muslim Unreached People Groups.

I need a job

Q: My job offers are falling through. So I might have to move my wife and kids in order to get a job. What should I do?

Here is my encouragement to you as the man, husband, and father of your home:

First, lead your family to a season of fasting and prayer. Maybe set aside a meal, a day, a game-time, a TV show or movie, or evening to do nothing but seek God’s face. Preferably together. Nothing pulls a family closer together and close to God than prayer.

God wants you more than He wants you in a career or a better place.

Second, make a career choice and own it. Even if you or your wife do not like it at the moment. Live by the principle: love God and do what you want. [Emphasis is on loving God first. I can explain that in detail more if you would like.] There are probably a half-dozen excellent choices for you to pursue. Pick one and own it. If it’s not working pick something else and own it too.

God wants you serving for His namesake and you can do that anywhere whether plumbing or preaching.

Third, put your marriage and family above personal ambitions. Even when you don’t have a job you got them. They need you. Your kids need a God-fearing dad. And your wife needs a Jesus-styled-husband. Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice your family at the altar of personal ambitions.

God wants you to pour yourself into your most important job, your woman and your chitlins.

Fourth, when you get a job, praise God and work your keaster off as if God is your boss. In reality, He’s your undercover boss. Thank God for His grace and goodness. Worship Him. He is the giver of all good gifts, even your work. In turn as an act of worship work hard for Him. And know that as you work for Him you will shine.

God wants you not to work to please man, but Himself, which takes a lot of stress out of the job.

I don’t feel relevant

I was in a conversation with a middle-aged lay youth leader last week. He has been serving in his church with his wife for years. He has teenagers himself. He really cares for the teenagers and goes out of his way to love them and connect them with Christ, but he still appeared a bit discouraged that he himself was not connecting with them. Moments later he said, “I am too old to be a youth leader. I do not feel relevant.”

What is relevant?

Relevant is a word that is often overused and hard to define. It’s a buzz word. It is a word that gets tossed in the air but quickly evaporates into cultural jargon. Relevant supposedly has connotations towards how one generation relates to another, but is seemingly out of style or touch.

I like Webster’s definition of the word relevant, “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” Could older Christians be more relevant according to this definition than they get credit? I want to encourage all the older people serving in churches among teens, children’s Sunday school classes, young adults, and the man I met this week struggling to be relevant to today’s generation.

Am I relevant?

You might be old, but your faith is still refreshingly youthful. I think it is great when parents of teens serve their own teens in their church. My favorite servants as a youth leader were the old ladies in the church that would pray for and write cards to the teenagers. They loved it and the teens loved getting real mail. Faith does not have a sell-by-date expiration. Nothing stirs the faith of a church more than multi-generational ministry.

Youth are the same today as they were when you were a youth. I would also add, youth are the same today as when Jesus was a youth. Teens are sinners. When you were a teen you were a sinner too. Each generation of young people have the same temptations just disguised in new clothing: pride, lust, and issues with authority. Even though a decade or generation may have passed since you were a teen, as a sinner you have something in common, and together you can help each other look to Christ to fight your temptations.

The struggle to be relevant is one of the great lie of our ministry-age. To think about the amount of ministry that has been missed or messed up because elder believers did not feel relevant enough to minister to younger believers. This is a tragedy. Satan’s strategy is to deceive and the church has bit into the fruit of the tree of relevance. Young and old need to stop believing the lie that they are not relevant enough.

The gospel message is always relevant. It has been for 2000 years and it will be for 2000 more. It never goes out of date. Sinners need a Savior. Stick to this truth. Stop trying to be so relevant. Teach about Jesus and seek to live like Jesus. What could be more appropriate or connected to the matter at hand than the good news of Jesus?

Now I might sound like an old codger myself, but I’m an advocate of being relevant and change for the sake of change. However, while being relevant I do not want to forsake the gospel or compromise biblical truth. I am encouraged that for more than two millennia Jesus and His message has been relevant enough to transform lives and communities. It will for two millennia more! In my opinion, working in youth ministry the past 8-years, being relevant has less to do with you and more to do with your message. I’ll stick with Jesus.

secrets of success

I have only been married two-and-a-half years, but whenever Sarah and I have to spend a night apart it is a hard nights rest. I want to be with her. I do not like being alone. God has made people to need other people. People are designed for community, fellowship, and relationship with one another. I also have a God who desires to have communion, fellowship and relationship with His creation.

Joseph was the 11th of 12 brothers. He was his daddy’s favorite. A colorful coat was his award. He was hate by his brothers. They threw him into the pit until they could think of the cleaver idea of selling him into slavery like a cheap trinket. Jacob thought his son died by mauling. Instead, he was on his way to Egypt—a foreign country where he did not know the language, did not have any more clothes than the ones on his back, and at only 17 years old he had no idea how long he would be away from the family that disowned him. He was a stranger in a strange land with a strange new master that gave him commands and he has no choice but to obey. Joseph is alone. Have you ever felt alone?

YOU ARE NEVER ALONE [Genesis 39:1-6]

Joseph began working for Potiphar who was the right-hand man to Pharaoh of Egypt.[1] Once a country bumpkin is now has moved onto the block of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Joseph’s job is a servant. Not the greatest job, but he’s a faithful guy. He doesn’t complain to the other employees, he doesn’t waste time playing computer games, he doesn’t call in sick when he’s feeling fine, and he doesn’t steal from his boss. It doesn’t take long for him to get promoted as manager of Potiphar’s entire household. As the new executive assistant he has access to Potiphar’s keys and credit cards. The only item he was not delegated was deciding what’s for dinner. Potiphar kept that one! What is the secret to Joseph’s success? Good looks? No. Brilliance? No. Good work ethic? Nope. God? You got it!

Although God is silent and never speaks to Joseph like He did to his ancestors, He is making it clear that He rules over every event of Joseph’s life even the tough parts by being “with him” [vs.2].[2] It goes back to the covenant promises given to Abraham [cf. Genesis 12:1-3]. Those in Christ God also benefit from these covenantal promises.

First, God is always with you [vs.2-3a]. The promise of God’s presence is a precious promise from God. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you…” [James 4:8] “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” [Hebrews 13:5b] Joseph may never get married, be a father, make a good living, but God is still with him. Joseph realized it and Potiphar realized it. God’s presence is the key to his success and the theme to his life. Do you realize God is with you? Do others see that God is with you?

Second, God prospers all those who follow Him [vs.3b-6a]. What does it mean that Joseph prospered (or become successful)? How can a slave prosper? Joseph did not choose became a servant in Potiphar’s house, God choose it for Joseph. Whatever Joseph touch turned to gold. Potiphar’s bank account, business, and family flourished. The success was not Joseph, but it was Joseph’s God. In God’s eyes the greatest success story in not making millions of dollars, curing cancer, or being the most popular philanthropist. Success in God’s eyes is a man who faithfully follows Him and doesn’t worry about what others think.

Third, God is always using you. Even when you think know one is watching. Integrity leads to opportunity. Especially, when you “stand out’ rather than “fit in.” Joseph was a rose among thorns. When other servants might have been fighting for attention or the praise of man, Joseph was patiently plodding along and faithfully serving his master and Master. God was using him. Potiphar recognized it was God that was causing Joseph to succeed.

You will experience times of difficulty. Like Joseph, have you ever felt as though you’re living in a foreign country? That you don’t quite “fit in”? The question is not “Why the difficult is happening?” or “Why I don’t fit in?” but “How am I to respond to this divinely ordained difficulty?” Those who prosper in life don’t do so because they have it all together. They prosper because the Lord is with them and He who gives them strength to endure. God is preparing Joseph through difficulty because he is going to need strength to endure, which leads us his big test.

STAND STRONG THROUGH THE TESTS [Genesis 39:7-9]

Joseph was handsome hunk. Like his mother Rachel [cf. 29:17], he was easy on the eyes. Potiphar’s wife was infatuated with him. So much so that she sought to seduce him. She was an Egyptian desperate housewife who was hot for the lawn boy [cf. Proverbs 7]. But, unlike his brother Judah, father Jacob, or great grandfather Abraham, Joseph remained a pure one-woman-man like his grandfather Isaac. With no one around, no accountability, no friends, no parents, Joseph rejected the woman’s relentless advances. He was so bold as to say to her that he would never sin against his master or his God with such an evil and dirty act. He rebuked her, as to say, “How dare you?”

How would you respond if you were in similar situation? What if know one found out? Imagine for a moment. What would be the consequences of Joseph’s future if he gave into the onslaught of sexual temptation? She could have become pregnant that would have been hard to hide. To cover-up he might have been as wickedly creative as David when he had an affair with Bathsheba. They could have been caught in the act and lose his life. Joseph is in a pickle. He cannot call his boss and claim sexual harassment on the owner’s wife. He cannot quit his job, as slave. He has no choice but to stay and stand strong.

How do I stand strong under pressures, in the heat of the moment? First, determine to trust God. God does not tempt, but He does allow you to be tempted. Know that you do not face temptations alone. God is with you always. Second, determine to remain pure [v.8a “…he refused”]. He didn’t negotiate or flirt with the edge. Joseph decided what to do in the heat of the moment. He realized that to give in would not only be sin against his boss, but an offense to God. Joseph protects his boss’s wife [“You are his wife”] and protects his purity and loyalty to God [“How could I do this great evil and sin against God?”]. May the story of Joseph come to our mind and be heeded it in the heat of the moment.

I remember being in high school art class with a beautiful girl. There were times when she sat at my table over a class period. She would ask me tempting questions about my faith and sexuality. I stood strong through the tests. It became so much an issue that I asked to have my class switched so that I would not have to face the temptation.

You see, the pressure to compromise never occurs quickly; it takes its jolly time to sway you to lower your standard. It is wise to have a proactive plan before the opportunity to compromise arises or you are bound to fail and fall into sin sooner than later.

PROACTIVELY GUARD YOUR HEART [Genesis 39:10-12]

Keeping guard of your heart is especially difficult when you see more than 3000 images each day. Our society glamorizes sex, but the consequences are often ignored. We are over exposure to sexual and immoral content. Most of us have a virtual Potiphar’s wife in our living rooms, laptops, and smart phones hounding our attentions and affects each day.

How much do you pay attention to the Viewer Discretion is Advised blurb before TV shows? Today’s teenager’s watch over 28 hours of TV per week (4hrs/day), and the main TV set in the home is turned on over 50 hours per week (7 hrs/day). The TV gets more focus than the family pet. By the time you are 70 years old you will have watched 10 uninterrupted years of TV. AND THAT’S JUST TV, it does not include your movies, iPod, Internet, phone, magazines, and other forms of communication you pour yourself into each day.

Joseph’s temptations wouldn’t leave; Potiphar’s wife hunted him down “day after day.” One particular day when Joseph was alone in the house Potiphar’s wife again tried to seduce him. Joseph made a profound decision that would have implication on the rest of his life, he RAN LIKE CRAZY out of there. However, the woman had is tunic in her hands while he ran off butt-naked. Obviously offended he turned her down, out of revenge she set him up for ruin.

She crafts a detailed story, has the evidence in her hands, and convicts Joseph of a crime he did not commit. I can only imagine Potiphar’s blood pressure rising, looking for the gun to kill the man he entrusted everything. It doesn’t matter if he’s only heard one side of the story and coming from his wife it is enough. Proverbs says, “The first to present his case seems right until the other evidence is weighed.” That’s why some who are guilty talk first trying to get their story out first to define the case before the truth can be made known. Potiphar should have questioned his wife more diligently. Potiphar plan is reactive, but Joseph plan was proactive.

What does a proactive plan look life for Joseph? First, never be alone [v.11 “none of the men of the house was there inside”] Why is it never good to be alone with someone of the opposite sex? No one knows what’s really happening, and even if nothing is happening the appearance of evil is evident. When you are with someone with the opposite sex whether married or single it is wise to be visible to other people. Go out in groups. Be accountable to someone of the same sex like a parent, pastor, or friend. No matter how old, how strong, or how committed you are to your spouse it is wise to never be alone with another person of the opposite sex unless you have a good plan to protect yourself.

Second, run like hell [v.12 “he left his garments…FLED…and went outside”]. Maintaining integrity may require you to “run away naked”. Run like hell, means you boogie so fast out of there because you know the devil has his trap set and you don’t dare take the bait. It is a good battle plan to rehearse Scripture, pray, look away, seek accountability, think about glorifying God, and buy computer software. However, these can often happen in the moment and be reactive. Plan on being proactive.

WAIT ON THE LORD [Genesis 39:13-23]

Joseph is put into jail on false rape charges. This is the second time he is thrown into the pit unfairly. Where’s the justice? Where’s the idea that if I love God everything will go my way? At times, to be a Christian is to get treated like Christ—injustice, false accusation, betrayal, and hardship. Joseph’s faith doesn’t skip a beat. He remains pure, full of integrity, and waits upon God to prove his innocence. God is still with him.

As a follower of Christ, others will try to bring you down [vs.13-14]. Joseph’s brother hated him, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him but didn’t succeed. When you live unapologetically for God others will try to take revenge out on you, try to falsely accuse, try to get you to compromise your faith.

Also, what may seem like a curse can actually turn outs to be a blessing [vs.15-20]. God is merciful. Joseph could have been killed by Potiphar, but was spared. Although everyone had abused and abandoned Joseph, God remained with him, blessed him, and caused him to prosper according to His covenant promises. Joseph served the prison warden with humble godliness and was promoted to key-keeper. Don’t be weakened by your situation. Don’t be deceived by the false accusations. Don’t be persuaded by your fears. Believe that the God who is with you will use this for your good and His glory.

Wait for God to move, but keep active [vs.21-23]. Are you willing to endure the accusation to wait for Gods guidance in your life?  You’ll always have occasions for waiting.[3] Your attitude matters while waiting.[4] And your activities matter while waiting.[5] Waiting is confident expectation on God’s promises. It is not twiddling thumbs for time to pass and hope things will work out themselves.

This episode in the life of Joseph is an interesting turn of perspective in the book of Genesis. Until this point in the book each generation from Adam to the flood, from Noah to Babel, and from Abraham to Judah has seemingly become increasingly more godless. The faithfulness of God has triumphed, but man’s faithfulness has depleted. In Joseph we see the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob finally passed on to the fourth generation. God says, “You’re mine. I’m with you. I’m not ignoring or rejecting you. You will be better because of this accusation against you. I am at work within you. I am not through preparing you yet.” [Is.55:8-9] If God is with us, even when we lose, we win.

Joseph is a great pre-incarnate picture of Jesus Christ.

Like Joseph, Jesus was sold out by His brothers and unjustly afflicted for the sake of His people.

Like Joseph, Jesus was successful in His mission because God was with Him.

Like Joseph, Jesus’ good deeds called attention to God.

Like Joseph, Jesus was given authority over everything because of His character.

Like Joseph, Jesus’ mere presence brings blessing wherever He goes.

Like Joseph, Jesus was tempted repeatedly to sin, but passed the test every time.

Like Joseph, Jesus was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned but because of the steadfast love of the Lord, He was ultimately vindicated.

And Just like God was with Joseph, Jesus promises to be with His followers until the end of time.[6] The whole paradox of your faith is that no one is really alive until you’ve mastered the art of dying. Die to all your ambitions. Die to all your selfish perversions. Die to all your provisions of the flesh. And just ask the question: What would honor Christ? Faithfulness. Faithfulness is rewarded with God’s favor. Jesus himself illustrated this in the parable of the talents [Matthew 25]. Those who are faithful in little things are blessed with greater responsibilities.

On this side of earth, He does not promise riches, happiness, success, but if you treasure God more than anything or anyone else, you will be satisfied because you have the one thing that you could not get on your own. And He will never leave you. And He will never forsake you. He is with you always.


[1] Pharaoh is ruler of Egypt. He is the most powerful man in the world at his time. He is a guy who thinks he is god. Ever worked for a boss like that?

[2] The news that God was with Joseph is repeated eight times in chapter 39 [2, 3, 21, 23].

[3] Cf. Psalm 25:5, 21; 33:20; 145:14-16

[4] Cf. Psalm 25:3; 37:7; 39:7; 52:9

[5] Cf. Psalm 37:34; 69:3; 130:5; Lamentations 3:25

[6] Matthew 28:20, cf. Numbers 6:24-26; Genesis 28:13-15; 26:3

honor your pastor

I love the great teaching and godly leadership of Pastor Kenny Loehe. Those who know Kenny also know he proclaims the Word of God with boldness. He is not an ear tickler. He does not hold back out of fear of man or a desire to please people. He faithfully and meticulously exegetes the Word of God and delivers meat that I am forced to gnaw on. Steak is hard to swallow sometimes, but I’d rather chew on steak than suck blended spiritual food out of a straw or suck from a baby bottle.

Kenny, you have expanded my vocabulary. In my Bible, I have a list of words that I still need to go to the dictionary for a definition. I have learned how to use the words “flagellation” and “ghastly” without sounding boyish. You are like a Readers Digest Word Power personified.

You have also expanded my love for the church and the the Word of God.  You have showed me a living faith. I have had the privilege of seeing you work from behind closed doors. I have seen you wrestle through sermon preparation trying to apply the truth to your life, your family, and your church family. I have watched you suffer with your people, weep for them, pray over them, losing sleep because of them, and unconditionally loving them [even the difficult ones].

Kenny, I miss you. You are my pastor. You have been just the pastor I’ve needed. You have shepherded my heart.

In honor of Pastor Kenny I would like to encourage those who love their pastor to let them know, even give them a special gift. If you are short on ideas, here are a few…

TOP TEN GIFTS FOR YOUR PASTOR [by Brad Whitt]

October is  Pastor Appreciation month. This is the month when many churches will take some time to show their appreciation to their pastor for his love and ministry over the past year. Some churches will take up a love offering for their pastor. Many will put a basket in the vestibule for members to place cards in with kind sentiments they want to share with their pastor. A few churches may even have a dinner or a reception, a nice time to get together, to express  their feelings for their pastor.

All of these things are nice and good. In fact, I believe that it is a great idea for a church to take one month out of the year to do  something special to show just how much they appreciate the time and effort, love and concern that their pastor has for them.

1. Your  prayers. This is the greatest gift you can give your pastor. If you don’t love him like you should, begin to pray for him and you will. Of course, if you already love him, then you’ll naturally want to pray for him. I’ve had several of our senior adults tell me when I call just to check in on them how they pray for me every day. That’s fuel for more ministry!

2. Your love. A pastor who really shepherds his people will expend a great amount of love. His heart will be stretched  and often broken. Next to your prayers, the greatest thing you can give your pastor is your love. By the way, if you love him, let him know it. Despite what some people think, I don’t know of any pastor who has the ability to read minds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a card expressing a member’s love and prayers just when I thought nobody in the church liked me, must less loved me.

3. Your unconditional support. Dr. Jim Henry told our deacons just last  week that researchers say that other than being the President of the United States, the most stressful “job” is that of being the pastor of a local church. I remember years  ago when one of our associate pastors was preaching, he made a statement that at first made me think that he was going to have to make a trip to the pastor’s office. He said, “The pastor is not always perfect…” I knew that. Everybody knows that. I just didn’t think that somebody would say it from the pulpit. Then he added, “But he is always the pastor.”

4. A little grace. I’m amazed at how often people get their feelings hurt in church. Often it is because of something somebody did or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say. Sometimes that somebody is the pastor. The next time you start to get upset with your pastor, take just a minute, breathe and consider the possibility that he might just be human too. Maybe, like you, he actually has good days and bad days. You never know what burden he might be carrying, what issue he’s having to deal with. It might be something at church or at home. So, give a little grace  and cut him some slack. You would want him to  do the same for you.

5. A “good word” to your pastor. Everybody likes to hear when they’ve done something right or been a blessing to somebody. Maybe the sermon spoke to you. Perhaps the service blessed you. Maybe you appreciated his call or visit or you just like his tie. In a given week the average pastor hears a lot of things that he’s done wrong. Take a moment and share something that he’s done right.

6. A “good word” for  your pastor. If your pastor is a gifted Bible preacher, a visionary leader, or a caring pastor, tell your friends. Invite them to come hear him preach, spend time with him. Brag on him. Make sure everybody knows just how great you think your pastor is. This will get out and back and will be a great gift of encouragement.

7. Your faithfulness. Recently I had lunch with a pastor friend of mine who’s served the same church for nearly twenty years and he told me that instead of large receptions or lots  of money, he’d rather just have his people be faithful. I completely agree. Money or cards don’t begin to say what a family’s faithfulness does. Your faithfulness to the ministry of your church says volumes about how much you really love and appreciate your pastor. Don’t just say it or give it, show it.

8. Time with his family. He won’t be any good to your family if he’s not any good to his family. If you have a need that’s not an emergency, leave a message and tell him that there’s no hurry. Or, send an email or a direct message. No pastor minds  taking a call or making a visit  if there is a real need, but make sure it is a real need before your call in the evening or on the weekend when he’s with his family. Another good idea is to insist, and if funds are available, make sure that the pastor and his family can have at least one week to get away on a vacation. In a day where most “faithful” church members miss at least one Sunday a month and take multiple trips or vacations a year, it’s not asking too much to make sure that he and his family have at least one.

9. Time by himself. The demands of being a pastor today are exponentially greater than they were just 25 or 30 years  ago. The pressure of meeting all the needs and living up to the expectations can get to the point  that it just becomes too much to bear. This explains why so many pastors are burning out and quitting – often to never darken the door of a church with their families again. Let your pastor get away to a good conference where he can refreshed. Send him on a hunting or fishing or golf trip. Whatever he likes to do. Allow him to recharge his batteries so that he can come back energized for the ministry the Lord has for him there. If your pastor is always available he won’t be worth anything when he is available.

10. A financial gift. There is a reason why this is last – because it’s last. For most pastors that I know and have talked to, a love offering is way down at the bottom of a list of things they would like to receive from their church. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t those pastors who are more like used car salesmen who are always out to get an extra buck or two. I’m also not saying that there are not pastors who may have a financial need that the church doesn’t know about and a gift right now would help them maintain their self-respect or help them get ahead a just little bit. I’m just saying that most pastors don’t become pastors to get rich or have a lot of money. They do it because of the call of God on their life. So, consider giving a gift card for a nice meal. Or, even better, a little extra money to do whatever they want to do with it. Express your appreciation for the long hours of ministry and love that he gives, not just during the month of October, but the rest of the year as well.

These are just a few thoughts of a pastor who was raised in the home of a pastor and loves pastors. What gift will you give to your pastor today? Everyday?

thumb licks [9.18.11]

10 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking. Great for leaders and anybody for that matter.

Without the Gospel, It’s Not Missions.

Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk About Sin? A good question with good insight.

Who is Responsible for a Child’s Education? Is it the parent or the school?

Lonely Me: A Pastoral Perspective

Is Patience Dangerous?

why I love my church

This is the first day I step off the pastoral staff of Battle Ground Bible Church, but it is also the first day I step onto your mission outreach team. Although the role of my family will change within BGBC, we will still be an outreach arm linked to this church in North Africa.

For the last 6-months I have been thinking about this day. I am reminded of Paul the Apostle’s third missionary journey when he gave his farewell message to the elders at Ephesus [Acts 20:17-38]. I can feel what he feels. I can understand his heart for the church. If I could I would make this my farewell address to my church too.

Paul had little time left to talk to the elders of the church in Ephesus [vs.16-17].

                  I only have one hour left with you.

Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus, which is longer than he spent in anyone place [vs.18,31].

I have spent almost 8 year with you [began September 21, 2003].

Paul wears his emotions on his sleeve. He cares for this church as a shepherd who suffers with his sheep [vs.19,31].

                  I wouldn’t consider myself a stiff board.

Paul was bold in his preaching. He did not hold back [vs.20-21].

                  I did not shrink back either.

Paul leaves Ephesus under the conviction of the Holy Spirit [v.22].

                  I take my family to North Africa by the call of God. Our family is gripped by the glory of God.

Paul anticipates the journey ahead to be difficult and full of trials, but worth the risk [vs.22-23].

                  I know it will not be easy in the desert among the unreached peoples.

Paul views himself as nothing and Christ as everything. Even his ministry is of Christ and for Christ [v.24].

                  I am humbled by the ministry of Christ and ministering for His namesake.

Paul encourages the church to preach the gospel with boldness [vs.25-31].

                  I have sought to protect this church and uphold the doctrine on which it stands.

Paul has worked hard, earned his keep, and challenged the church to give to the mission of Christ [vs.32-35].

                  I have labored hard for you because Christ is my boss.

Paul, not knowing if he would see them again, was sorrowful because he loved their faces [vs.36-38].

                  I know I might not see you soon, but we will see each other again if we are eternal friends!

In summary, Paul is saying to the church in Acts 20, FAITHFULNESS IS WAY BETTER THAN LIFE [vs. 24-25]. As missionary Bill Bentley to Mexico said, “I don’t want make a living, I want to make a [faithful] life.” Faithfulness to my call is far more important than whether I live—whether I live at all or live comfortably. Faithfulness is better than life because the rewards are literally out of this world and God is gracious.

I am grateful that I am not leaving BGBC because of disgruntlement, conflict, joylessness, tiredness, or unfaithfulness. I am leaving BGBC with joyful sorrow because I will severely miss the immediateness fellowship, worship and mutual ministry of this Body of Christ. I have not viewed being a pastor at BGBC as being a job, but a joy. I love my church.

Why I love the church?

1. Jesus sacrificially loves it. [Ephesians 5:25] He built it, established it, died for it, and is still the Head over it.

2. God is glorified through it. [1 Timothy 3:15] He is working out His eternal plan through it.

3. I am a member called to it. [Hebrews 10:24-25] It is the most precious reality on earth [and a glimpse of heaven].

When I first arrived at Battle Ground Bible Church I was 23 years old. I was green. I had just graduated from Bible College. I spent the year before serving in South Africa as a church planting apprenticeship and then served at Montrose Bible Conference for a summer leading evangelism workshops. While at Montrose I had a conversation over lunch with a missionary from Bangladesh named Sam Smoker. We were exchanging funny names churches we had attended. In the course of that conversation he mentioned the name Battle Ground Bible Church. That week I found BGBC’s name on a pastoral search placement list and the rest is history.

Why I love my church?

1. I love the way you have stirred my growth in Christ.

I have grown exponentially since coming to BGBC. Not only have I grown facial hair and a little belly, but also more importantly I have grown up in my faith. That didn’t just happen. Growth doesn’t happen in isolation. It happens in a community of likeminded Jesus followers. God designed growth to happen in togetherness. As a church you have stirred me, shaken me, encouraged me, matured me, prepared me, and helped me to want to be more like Jesus Christ.

You have prayed for me. Bore patiently with me. You have prodded me to continue to dig deep into the Word. You have sent me to pastor conferences for spiritual encouragement. You sent me to seminary to continue my education. And now, you are ready to send me oversees as a light for Christ. Thank you for not holding back in stirring my growth. “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]

Your pastors need to be stirred. Thank you for stirring this one!

2. I love your fellowship and deep friendships.

God has used many of you to stir me to love and good works. Like Paul, you have helped guard my heart from carelessness [v.31], shallowness [v.32], covetousness [v.33], laziness [v.34], and selfishness [v.35].

I have been spiritually and physically refreshed from bike rides with Steve “Z”. I have enjoyed friend chicken and birthday cakes with Edith. I look forward to Sunday hugs from motherly Karen O’Leary. Every Tuesday I hunger lunchtime talks with Brent Childs. I will miss slugging bats with Rollie and praying with the sweaty men on my softball team. I will miss random calls and quirky questions from Sheila Norton. I will miss having a secretary like Joyce [aka: boss]. I will miss the ministry of music played by the fingers of Greg and Alana.

I have cherished prayerful cards from Linda Wheat, Arnetta Berenda, and the Turpin’s. I am grateful for the roof top talks with Steve Fry while hammering shingles onto my home. I will miss praying with Granny Dee Marion [and watching how she did not waste her illness]. I have learned how to suffer graciously by watching Charlie Haines. I am blessed by the visual expression of the Zinn’s and Miller’s when the Word of God is preached. And I could go on and on listing VIP’s [Very Important Partners] in this church.

Fellowship is partnership. Partnership is more than just a liking of a sports team, talking about the weather, or ranting about the warts of our church. Fellowship is having a common partnership is what matters the most—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 1:3-6]

3. I love the great teaching and godly leadership of Pastor Kenny Loehe.

Those who know Kenny know he proclaims the Word of God with boldness. He is not an ear tickler. He does not hold back out of fear of man or a desire to please people. He faithfully and meticulously exegetes the Word of God, and delivers meat that I am forced to gnaw on. Steak is hard to swallow sometimes, but I’d rather chew on steak than suck blended spiritual food out of a straw of baby bottle.

You have expanded my vocabulary. In my Bible I have a list of words that I still need to go to the dictionary for a definition. I have learned how to use the word flagellation and ghastly without sounding boyish. I suppose I will now need to subscribe to Readers Digest and enrich myself with Word Power.

You have also expanded my love for the church, the Word of God, and living a real faith. I have had the privilege of seeing you work from behind closed doors. I have seen you wrestle through sermon preparation trying to apply the truth to your life, your family, and your church family. I have watched you suffer with your people, weep for them, pray over them, losing sleep because of them, and unconditionally loving them [even the difficult ones].

Kenny, I will miss you. You are my pastor. You have been just the pastor I’ve needed. You have shepherded my heart.

4. I love your gracious generosity.

As a pastor, it is humbling to know that the money I have to buy groceries comes from the generosity of faithful givers. You have given above and beyond.

When I first arrived at BGBC, as a single guy, I had nothing to my name other than a few books, a folding chair, and an extra pair of glasses. The church had a pantry party and afterwards I literally had enough boxes of Mac & Cheese to last me through a famine. A few Christmas’ ago an unknown group of people bought me a new wardrobe, a suit coat, neckties, and really sweet Super Man PJ’s. The gifts were individually wrapped with encouraging verses and letters. Each day in December I was able to open a new gift. When Sarah and went to North Africa earlier this year we got news that Emma Lawson was having a bake sale to support our vision trip. We were so blessed that the kids of our church get ministry and Christ’s mission.

The first Sunday Sarah came to visit our church you lovingly encouraged our blossoming relationship. When I asked for her hand in marriage you came alongside us with generous support. When you learned that we were having our first child you showered us with baby clothing, diapers, wet wipes, and other baby goodies. I think we are still working through all the diapers and we have only bought Justus one original outfit.

Your generosity over the years has been overwhelming, but an incredible blessing. I challenge you to continue to be a blessing to the next assistant pastor and his family. As you have blessed me, I would hope you would also bless him. I have bragged about you to Pastor Jeremy and Jen. I am excited to see how you will come alongside them in the days ahead. A generous church is a Jesus-centered church.

5. I love the young people of this church.

Young people keep you real. You cannot hide or fake your spiritual walk around them. I have enjoyed ministering to and being ministered by the teens of our church. Though sometimes they make me want to pull out my hair I have enjoyed praying with many of them through difficult times, discipling them through a critical life stage, and learning the great privilege of partnering with their parents to serve the whole family. It truly takes a church to raise a child!

The student leaders have been a source a spiritual growth for me. Hannah Starrett, Betsy Goodale, Amy Stratton, Brittany Ristau [Scheiner], Debbie Hill [Fights], Greg O’Leary, Andrew Ristau, Emily Ristau, Levi Starrett, Kyle Miller, and Wonho Rhee are just a handful of student leaders that have challenged me to live more like Jesus, love Jesus, and model servant leadership like Jesus. Many of these youth have been a source of spiritual conviction to many adults because of their love for Christ and willingness to serve Him.

The youth leadership team is a family to me. Many of you have served together with me for years. Some since the day I started [i.e. Starrett’s and Norton’s]. You have struggled and suffered alongside the youth teaching, modeling, and discipling them in the truth of the Bible and reaching out to them the gospel. I am incredibly proud of our young people and I know the students and youth leaders will be a blessing to our new assistant pastor.

I love how the church supports and spiritually invests in the youth. I am grateful for the slew of older ladies who faithfully pray over the youth. We never have a shortage of scholarships for retreats or camps. We never have a shortage of homes will to host events or fellowships. We never have a shortage of volunteers willing to pour themselves into the lives of the young people of this church. We never have a shortage of opportunities for our young people to serve in the church [1 Timothy 4:12]. Thank you for loving the youth who are the younger generation of this church. Keep it up and our church will live long into the future.

6. I love your mission-mindedness.

Missions and gospel outreach is in the DNA of BGBC. You love what God is doing globally and are willing to invest locally. You have encouraged and supported the youth of the church to consider short-term missions, which has spurred some to go out or be sent out. Bethany has gone to Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Hannah has a heart to do linguistics work where people have no Word of God. And you have fueled my passion for global gospel outreach. Continue to go, sent, pray to the Lord of the harvest!

7. I love my small group.

The people in our small group are so different, but yet we so much the same. We are all a work in progress that is willing to work hard to help each other be more like Christ. Anand David has blessed me through his passion for Christ and longing to live for him. He asks me hard questions that keep me sharp and vulnerable. I have learned a lot about perseverance from him as he has waited for a godly bride.

It has been a joy to see Brad Kerns and Pete and Brittany Ristau own their faith and explode spiritually as young adults. Both Pete and Brad have move from being boys to being men! Austin & Hannah Mattern have become great new friends. Even though I know little about farming and country living their passion for Jesus has brought life to our group.

Janel Haines has been a rock to both Sarah and me. There is not one person in this church that does more behind the scenes in this church than her. She has her hands in almost every ministry it [i.e. youth ministry, children’s ministry, Children’s church, gardening, VBS, writing cards, prayer support, counseling, and more] and she obviously loves it. Her growth in Christ has been nuclear and the radiation from her spiritual walk has leaked into the lives of many in our church including the Hutts!

8. I love our spiritual leaders [deacons].

I remember the first time I met the leaders of Battle Ground Bible Church. I was sitting across the dinner table with them at The Hour Time. Immediately I had a respect for these men who dedicated themselves to the church. These men absolutely love this church, and they sincerely care about one another. These men have been used by God to trim my young, rough, and thorny branches.

These men have held me accountable through some spiritually challenging days. They have held the frontlines with me—a man who sometimes lacks confidence—helping me gain a backbone. I have appreciated it when they have confronted sin, rebuking at times, and challenging my vision to make sure it meshes with the Word of God and the spiritual direction of the church. These men have certainly stirred me to godliness.

I love meeting with Mike Fights over a tasty breakfast. He is my David and I am his Jonathan. His wear-it-on-your-sleeve kind of love for the Word and God is contagious. Cort Starrett is a software engineer for a living, but he has been used of God to do some hardware engineering on my heart. Cort intimidated me for a long time, until realized he is wired as one who likes to get to the point of matters. Now I want to be like him. I enjoy Phil Kerkoff’s generosity and knack for the practical. Dave Criswell is simply a rock and prayer champion. Gary Elliott and Todd Rice are full of wise insights and keep our long meetings sane. Deacons meetings—though long—have never been a drudge but a delight.

Together, us leaders have walked through some difficult minefields casting vision for the church, while upholding the doctrinal and theological integrity of the church. We have made some decisions that have met opposition. Yet these men would rather stand before God and give an account to him than please man.

I will miss praying over and pouring over Christ’s church with them men. I will miss caring for and coaching our church to be more like Christ with these men. I will miss the bond of brotherhood with these men. By the way these men lead this church they have reminded me that FAITHFULNESS IS BETTER THAN LIFE.

“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem [North Africa], bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all you among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom will see my face no more.” [Acts 20:22-25]

a brief guide to biblical manhood

Happy Father’s Day! Today’s message is a manly message. It’s for fathers, future fathers, and for men of all ages. Women, don’t tune out or take this Sunday off, this message is for you too. It’s for women [daughters, wife’s, future wives, singles, etc.] who love to support the men in their life. God takes pleasure in talking to men in the Bible. First He created Adam to be the leader and lover of his wife. When Eve took the temptation, God came to Adam. Later God established patriarchs to lead their homes, teach their children, and be responsible for peoples and nations. Also God’s Spirit spoke through inspired men who penned our Scripture. It is not that God has a low view of women or is sexist-ogre as some would like to believe. He desires men to be godly-leaders.

Two years ago my gramps passed away from cancer. Before he passed he said to me, “Justin, I am looking forward to being with my Savior!” then gave me two imperatives, “Take care of your beautiful wife. Keep following your God.” Those are two things I will never forget. Last words are important. Today we will look as some last word in the first letter to the church at Corinth.

Let’s do a short Corinthians Quiz: First, who wrote 1 Corinthians? Paul wrote with his own hand [16:21]. Second, what do you know about the church at Corinth? Most would say it was divided, had disunities, and was quite dysfunctional. All true. What church isn’t? Third, why did Paul write this church? Paul, like a father bending his boy over his knee sought to correct the congregation. The first 14 chapters of Paul’s letter to Corinth were a rebuke towards errant behaviors—even beloved chapter 13 was a rebuke towards lovelessness—and chapter 15 was a rebuke towards errant theology. Paul [a man] rebukes out of deep love for this church; just like Jesus’ [the God-Man] love for His church [cf. Hebrews 12:6].

Paul ends his letter with a list of five short, succinct, to-the-point imperatives. They are not simple suggestions; rather it’s as if he’s saying, “Do this, enough said!” Each imperative is a review of Paul’s entire letter to the Corinthians. As a pastor, like Paul, I will prod the men of our church to own these five imperatives of biblical manhood. My outline should be easy for the men in our audience, since each point is plagiarized from the two verses we will pick apart today, [start: 16:10] “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” [1 Corinthians 16:13-14]

If you haven’t noticed Paul likes to talk in military terms. It helps his men-hearers understand. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 is a charge to the troops! Like 1 Kings 1:2-3, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God.” [cf. Joshua 1:6-7] Women, I know us pastors give a lot of male illustrations from sports, hunting, or warfare. It’s because we are men. We do not intend to leave out the ladies, but we have a hard time relating to tea parties, dolling-up, or other things ladies like. It’s good to embrace and encourage the ruggedness of your men and their love for guns or getting dirty [that’s the reason why my wife loves my big beard!]. Okay, here are five imperatives you are best to encourage in your men…

1. “Be on the alert.”

Like a commander calling to his men he says, “Attention! Stay alert. Eyes open. Watch out. Keep awake.” You get the picture of a castle tower guard scanning the scene for enemies anticipating an ambush or attack. The Corinthian’s needed an awakening. They were Christians in a moral and spiritual stupor. They had fallen asleep on duty. They substituted God’s Word with their wisdom [1:18-2:16], they were divisive [1:10-17; 3:9], they were immoral [5:1-13], they confused and perverted marriage, divorce, and singleness [7], they were self-serving [10], they misused their spiritual gifts [12-14], and they were unloving [13]. They were not alert at all. Instead they were off duty and were teaming up with the enemy.

I am a man who loves sports. On Tuesday’s some of the men of our church play slow pitch softball. It’s a fun sport. This week I played centerfield. Usually it’s a position with a lot of running, however that night nothing was even hit near my domain. I said to some of the guys, “It sure is a lazy day in the outfield.” Sure enough with a 7-run lead I let my guard down and became the lazy outfielder smelling the clovers and swatting mosquitoes. When the final inning came around it was our game to lose. Would you know it, the other team started cranking balls my way. It wasn’t pretty, but we did pull away with a W!

The phrase “be alert” or “be watchful” appears 22 times in the NT. Jesus uses the phrase when to remind His followers to be on alert for His Second Coming, since He could come back any moment.[1] However, there are four more ways the phrase is used in the NT. What are we to watch out for?

First, be alert against Satan. “Be sober-minded, be on the alert, your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith.” [1 Peter 5:8-9] Satan is not all knowing, like God, he only knows your weakness by watching you. Like a sneaky lion he waits to pounce on an unsuspecting foe. His plan is to exploit and devour you, period [cf. 1 John 2:16]. See his fiery arrows coming before they see you!

Second, be alert against temptation. Jesus said, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation.” [Mark 14:38]  Have you noticed the temptations ramp up when you are tired, exhausted, or coming off a rough week? When our spiritual eyes are sleepy or shut, it is easy to fall into temptation. You know where you are most vulnerable. It could be your pride, your purity, or your priorities. When you are tired it is easy to put down the guard, when you are traveling it is easy to justify giving in since you are outside your realm of accountability, and when you are under trial the pull is to find an easy way out.

I have 5 moral fences I put up to guard my heart: 1) never drive alone with another woman other than my wife, 2) never counsel a women alone or in a closed office, 3) when I travel I try to bring my wife or a friend with me, 4) I speak openly, often and affectionately of my wife, and 5) when with other women I seek to compliment their character not their appearance. I also seek to keep evenings open for my family and take my wife out for a date once a month. When single I committed not to be alone with a woman unless someone knew. What kind of moral fences have you built to protect your heart from falling into sin?

Third, be alert against apathy. To be apathetic means you chose to ignore what once fired you up. Jesus says to the church at Sardis, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die…therefore, what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” [Revelation 3:2-3] An attitude of repentance and brokenness is the antidote for apathy.

Fourth, be alert against false teachers. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” [2 Timothy 4:3-5; cf. 2 Peter 2:1]

Men, be alert. Be aware of the condition of your heart, your life, your family, and your church. Everyday you are being hunted by your adversary and your temptations are nagging for absolute attention and affection. Men, be alert.

2. “Stand firm in the faith.”

When I hear this phrase I think of the movie, Braveheart or The Patriot. Men are holding the frontline and their leader yells out, “Hold! Don’t waver! Never retreat!” To be firm means you stand with confidence, heads up, fists ready, and body anticipating the blows. Paul is calling men to plant their feet firm in the faith.

Be firm in your spiritual and moral convictions. Be firm in what is true and theological [cf. 15:1 “Now I would remind you, brother, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand”].[2] No one can take your saving faith away from you, but they can trounce on the contents of your faith [1:18-21; 3:18-19; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15]. You can be influenced to believe that human wisdom and reasoning are more reasonable than the Word of God. Christians today are too easily swayed by the opinions of others rather than standing firm in their faith. Too many men wilt under pressure.

Before you got married you might had the conviction, “I’m going to be sexually pure, I’m going to wait until the day I get married, I will to treat my woman with dignity and respect, and I’m going keep my hands to myself. I will stand firm.” Then the world says, “Come on? Why wait? It’s okay trying things out to see if you compatible.” Foolish! Relationships are not like going to the used car lot. Honor Christ, get married, love that woman with your whole life and be faithful to her, serve her, and be like Jesus to her. People will make fun of you for that because faithfulness is not popular. What if I am not marriage yet? Finish your degree, pursue your career, pay your bills and taxes, love the Word of God, and be committed to His church. If you meet a nice gal who loves Jesus, go after her. Some of you guys are like, “I don’t know if she knows I exist or will like a guy like me.” There is only one way to find out!? Make the first move.

Many Christians have a hard time standing firm because they are weak in the Word, they are not secure in their understanding of the Word, and they ignore what training or studying they have done. God wrote a book, read it. Use the Word of God as your grid for truth and understanding. If you know the Bible, and you know what is true, and you know what is good, and you know what is right, and you know what the Father in Heaven expects of his sons, “stand firm in the faith.”

3. “Act like men.”

This is the phrase that smacks men right in the keester. It’s a bar mitzvah, coming-of-age statement. It’s like saying, “Grow up. Be mature. Take responsibility. Don’t be like a kid or coward. Stop the silliness.” Paul is not saying “Man up!” like our culture would say [Insert grunt noises here]. Nor is he saying, “You da’ man!” He is saying, “If you’re a Christian man, then act like it!”

Paul says, “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I act like a child, I spoke like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” [cf. 14:20; 3:1-2] Maybe today is it good day for you to go from childhood to adulthood. How does a man grow strong spiritual bones and muscles? He daily eating God’s Word, chews it, digesting it, and exercises it [1 Peter 2:2-3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17]. How do you exercise the Word? Live it! Speaks it! Own it!

Men we are called to act like men. Sure you might be a boy at heart, but sooner or later you got to grow up and be a man. I know some men who are 40-50-60 years old—even in the faith—who still act like spiritually immature boys. We need older men, like Paul, who will have the boyhood to manhood talk with younger men [likewise older women with younger women]. Paul encouraged Titus to cultivate this in his church, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness…urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” [Titus 2:2-8]

I remember being asked to lunch by an older man who was very godly. I was in my early 20’s. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Justin, you have incredible potential for God. Yet you act like young man. You waste a lot of time playing games, chasing girls, and joking around. It is time you grow up and begin acting like a man. The time is now to follow Christ.” I never forgot that conversation. He still pours wisdom into my life. Like Paul training young Timothy we need men training men.

Fathers and future fathers, get your children ready to engage the forces of evil, temptations, and sinful struggles of adulthood before they thrown out to learn on their own without any theological framework to guide their practice. Give your children opportunities to fail under your roof so that they are ready to fight for truth under their own roof. Teach your boys about sexual temptations at a young age, and encourage your girls to be modest for the right motivations. Talk about what God is doing in your life. That’s what it means to “raise up your children in discipline and instruction of the LORD.” [cf. Ephesians 6:1-4]. Life is like the Roman Coliseum and it chews up Christians for breakfast. Men, act like men. Women, empower your men to be men.

4. “Be strong.”

We live in a culture that denigrates men and weakens masculinity. Watch a prime-time sitcom. The average sitcom husband is an idiot. He messes everything up. He’s the butt of every joke. He’s the big, fat, lazy idiot that everybody laughs at. You watch the average kid’s cartoon. The cartoon kid is a genius, his crazy-little-monkey-alien-friend can reason and teach the kid, but his dad is pictured as an incompetent imbecile. Our society sees men as everything but strong.

The verb strong (Grk. krataioo) means to “be strengthened.” Strength is not inherent to humans. The point is: strength only comes from God, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” [Isaiah 40:28-31]. When I read that my response is, “I need God because He is my strength.”[3]

From a young age men want to be strong. That’s why boys love superheroes, stuntmen, and sports stars. However, the strongest guys are often pictured as bullies, thugs, and jerks. And to that we say, “I don’t want to be strong. Those guys are mean.” Truth is we need men to be stronger than those dudes. Somebody’s got to stand up to them. You’ve got to be strong enough when you see a guy—even in this church—if he’s not being nice to his wife or his kids; he’s not working hard; he’s not being honorable; you need to have courage, you need to have strength, you need to have boldness. You need to be able to put your finger in that guy’s chest and say, “Listen. You’re a Christian. You go to Battle Ground Bible Church. You’re a man. You don’t treat your wife like that. You don’t treat your kids like that. You don’t work your job like that. That’s not how we do things. That’s not how God’s men are.”

At our church we believe that God made male and female, very good, equal in the image of God, distinct in roles, for the glory of God. We believe that both men and women are to be respected, and instructed, and exhorted toward holiness. I know some men did not grow up knowing Jesus. Some of you did not have a dad. Some have a dad that was not a godly or good man or a man you wouldn’t want to be like. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul says something very important. He says men are the glory of what? God. Men are image and glory of God. Let’s lift up our men. Empower our men with God’s strength [i.e. Stephanas, 16:12-18]. God encourages godly leadership.

5. “Let all you do be done in love.”

You can do all the above without love [watch, firm, act, strong], but without love it is meaningless [cf. 16:22-24; love chapter 13; 1:9-10]. The absence of love would mean that these are just duties without delight. Love is not just the attitude of a follower of Christ it is the atmosphere of a followers life. The most attractive and effective element of your manliness is your love.

Men are to be gentlemen, not angry men; not violent men; not rude men; not crusty men; but bold men; courageous men; loving men like Jesus. Jesus—the conquering King—had a humble, gentle, loving strength that wove through the fabric of everything He did and said [John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1].

My daughter is only 7-months old. I love that little girl. But I tell you what, parenting is so sanctifying. I cannot imagine what it will be like 13 or 16 years from now!? Pray for me, all right. Children teach parents a lot about God. I remember holding my newborn girl who was crying unstoppably in the middle of the night. As frustrated as I was it reminded me of how utterly dependent she is on us, and how utterly dependent I am on God. Today my love for her and her mama is soaring.

In conclusion, in this brief guide to biblical manhood, I have a few applications for everyone to take home. First, to fathers when you struggle to live these five imperatives, look to Jesus because each are seen in His life and ministry, even on the cross. Second, to single men, God’s strategy is for men is to act rather than react. Plan now to put into practice these imperative before you have a woman or kiddos. This is part of biblical leadership. Third, to women married or single, encourage and empower your men to adhere to these imperatives. Pray for them, respect them; treat them as the glory of God. Fourth, to our church, what our church is looking for is a few good men who will walk with Christ, stand with Christ, and lead like Christ!

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” [1 Corinthians 16:13-14]

Father God, we thank you for being our Father. Lord Jesus, we thank you for being our Savior. Holy Spirit, we thank you for indwelling us, instructing us, convicting us, leading us, guiding us, empowering us and transforming us. I thank you for inspiring Paul’s last words about loving like Jesus. I pray that you would convict men to follow Jesus and lead others toward Him. I pray that our men would be like Jesus committing to His church, reading the Bible about Jesus, confessing sins to Jesus, imitating Jesus, worshiping Jesus until one day, we get to see you Lord Jesus!


[1] Cf. Matthew 24:42ff; 25:13; Mark 13:34ff; 2 Peter 3:10-12

[2] Cf. Jude 3; 1 Timothy 6:12; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 4:12

[3] cf. 2:3-5; 3:6-7, 18; 4:10; 10:12; 2 Corinthians 12:4, 7, 9; Ephesians 3:16; 6:10; Philippians 4:13; 1 Timothy 1:12; Psalm 27:14

free books for dudes [dads]

We all love free books. Happy fathers day, dudes! Enjoy these free books compliments of some great ministries. Just click on the pictures to download your free books:

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