Food is Energy (or Learning to Feed Yourself)

healthy-diabetes-diet[1]Have you ever had your body just stop because you had nothing in your stomach it could use as fuel? I have, and it’s a weird feeling.  Most of the time, I push through this feeling but man it can be tough.  During my workout today, I swam 30 minutes at the YMCA and in the middle of it I heard my stomach yell, “feed me!”  The food I had eaten before was all gone.  I had enough energy stored to finish with no problem but last week was a different story.  I had decided to forgo a small snack before heading out for a short 3 mile run.  Right in the middle, my body told me that I was dumb and I could feel my energy slowly dissolving. It was as if I could see the needle on the gear of my body slowing moving to zero.

I’m slowly learning that the more I exercise, the more I need to eat. That’s hard for me because I do not want to regain the weight I’ve lost; it’s always in the back of my mind.  Teresa has told me I need to treat food more like an athlete instead of a dieter. My body needs the fuel to burn as I weigh train, run, bike, and swim.  Having a balanced diet with exercise will keep me healthy and moving.

I can’t rely on the food I ate yesterday to fuel my activities today. It’s the same with Spiritual nourishment. We think that Sunday’s sermon is all we need to be a healthy Christian.  We think that being spoon fed a spoon full of Bible will get us through our week. WRONG!

We need to view Bible studying the same way an athlete views eating enough protein and carbs. It’s about fueling the machine.  The church as a whole has done the members a disservice in recent years by not teaching them to study the Bible on their own along with weekly insights shared by the pastor.  We have way too many malnourished saints who live defeated lives because they have not a clue what the Bible says about how they should live their lives.

We have Christians who have been saved for decades who don’t know how to lead anyone to Christ because they don’t know the scriptures. They only know that they are heading to heaven and that’s good enough. Wrong! The church has traded being a place of learning to being a social club where all you’re “felt needs” are met.  Instead of having 6 steps of how to be debt free, we need a series on what the Bible says about homosexuality, sex before marriage, unmarried couples living together, and so on.  It’s a sad state when a church has to do a 6 week series on why the book and/or movie “The Da Vinci Code” is only a story and is not based on facts because your average Christian is clueless.

It’s time that the church trains its members to be the warriors of Christ instead of being “dumb and dumber.” It’s my passion as a man called to pastor to do what Ephesians 4:11-12 (“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”) has told me to do.  Like the athlete in me that loves sharing the value of exercise and eating right, the pastor in me wants to walk up beside my fellow Christian and make sure they know how to feed themselves the wisdom of God’s word. This blog is part of me walking beside my fellow Christian.

 

A New Commandment: Love Each Other

Bible

John’s gospel is often divided into two major sections. The most common titles used by scholars today are the Book of Signs for John 1 – 12 and the Book of Glory for John 13 – 20. The Book of Glory has four major sections. They are The Introduction in John 13:1-30; The Last Discourse of Jesus in John 13:31-17:26; The Passion Narrative in John 18:1-19:42; and The Resurrection Narrative in chapter 20.

In the Book of Signs, John usually presented a narrative describing an event (preforming a miracle or “sign”) followed by the discourse explaining the deeper meaning of that event. That pattern is impossible in the Book of Glory. The event is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection; his glorification as John would say. It would be quite distracting to insert all the explanation of the meaning into John 18-20. Also, the disciples needed to know the meaning before the cross. Thus the Last Discourse deals with Jesus’ departure to return to the Father.

In literary form, the Last Discourse can be called Jesus’ testament or last words. Another term is farewell speech. This was a common literary form for Judaism. We can see it in the Old Testament. Jacob’s final speech and blessings appear in Genesis 48-49. Joshua’s farewell to the nation is found in Joshua 22-24. David’s final speech appears in 1 Chronicles 28-29. In one sense the whole book of Deuteronomy presents the farewell speech of Moses.

John 13:1-30 deals with the foot washing and the prediction of Judas’ betrayal, the Passion, and the Resurrection is primarily narrative. John 13:31-17:26 is a unique section of the gospel in that it is one long discourse uninterrupted by narrative. It is the longest discourse section in the gospel of John, containing 125 verses. In the middle of this discourse, Jesus tells His disciples to love one another. He calls it a New Commandment.

John 13:31-38 starts this narrative. It starts after Judas leaves the upper room. The departure of Judas, mentioned in verse 30, means that all the disciples, and especially Jesus, are now focused on the will of God that will lead to the cross. The word now and the five occurrences of glorify in verses 31 and 32 point to a new level of intensity. The departure of Judas means a purity in the group that enables Jesus to declare, “Now the son of man is glorified.”

Several things should be noticed with regard to Jesus’ emphasis on glorify in these verses. First, the Greek word for glory means brightness, radiance, and splendor. In stark contrast to the mention of night in verse 30 as the context of Judas. Jesus now is able to express the brightness of his obedience to the Father. Second, there is a note of triumph in verse 31. With Judas departure, Jesus’ statements about being glorified ring out with much more joy and excitement.

In John 13:31-32 Jesus confidently proclaims that glorification has come about (The first three “glorified’s” are past tense in the Greek. The last two are future.). The crucifixion and resurrection are viewed both as completed, but still to come. By Jesus’ death and resurrection God will visibly manifest His (God’s) majesty in acts of power. That is glorification and verse 32 concludes that it is about to happen immediately. The cross looms before Jesus; it is urgent that he give the disciples their final instructions before he goes the way of the cross. Because the time is short Jesus begins in verse 33 with a statement he has already made to the Jews twice in the book of signs, “You will seek me and . . . where I am going you are not able to come.” In John 7:34 Jesus had said this and noted that the Jews would not find him. In John 8:21 he had added that they would remain in their sins. Here, he addresses the disciples and instead of the negative conclusions he had given the Jews, Jesus begins a discourse full of promises and hope. The condition of those promises is the love command of verse 34.

The command to love one another is not new in the sense that it had never been given before. The Greek word for new that is used here does not refer to an innovation – something never before existing. Rather, it refers to renewal and restoration. The love command’s newness comes from the fact that the work of the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit were about to make it possible to really love one another for the first time. The commandment was renewed by the work of Christ that was beginning.

We will never successfully love one another without the work of Christ – the cross and the gift of the Spirit – in our lives. When we find ourselves locked in hatred and paralyzed from loving we need to be crucified to ourselves and raised to the will of God. In fact, the love that flows from that work of Christ in our lives is the only real sign of discipleship. That is Jesus’ message in verse 35.

Any of the spiritual gifts can be and have been imitated by anyone. Any of the external marks of piety that Christians have adopted can be faked. Sustained, on-going love for each other, love modeled after Christ’s love for us cannot be counterfeited. Such love is the true mark of the Christian. Peter’s question in verse 36 seems to change the subject. Being dissatisfied with the command of love, Peter takes up v. 33 in his desire to follow Christ at once. Knowledge and religious experiences are more attractive than obedience.

If Peter is to love the other disciples like Jesus loved them, he realizes that it will mean washing their feet. It is time to change the subject. But his very effort reveals his failure to share the heart of Jesus. Jesus had just told them that they could not follow where he was going. Peter persists, “Where are you going?” The implication is that Peter will be the one to decide whether or not he can follow if he just knows where Jesus is going. Jesus’ response is prophetic. Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow me later. Christian readers who know the tradition of Peter’s crucifixion would immediately see the point. Peter cannot and will not follow Jesus to the cross now, but years later he did.

Peter’s response, “Why can’t I follow you?” sounds like a young child. He refuses to accept Jesus’ distinction between now and later because, down deep, Peter does not acknowledge that the Master is greater than the servant. A disciple cannot follow where the Master has not led. After Jesus has blazed the trail Peter can follow only if he has died to self and been raised to the will of the Father.

John very subtly and ironically reveals Peter’s problem. Though the other gospels contain Peter’s boast to give his life for Christ, John’s choice of words for Peter is very revealing. “I will lay down my life for you.” John makes Peter assume language which is only applicable to Jesus. To lay down one’s life in the sense in which Jesus lays down his means complete obedience to the Father and perfect love for men, neither of which does Peter possess. In fact, the truth is the reverse of what Peter thinks.” Jesus is the one who will lay down his life and it will be for Peter. That great love will be demonstrated in spite of the fact that three times Peter will deny Jesus before the sun rises the next morning.

God the Father gives commands to the Son, and Jesus gives commands to His followers. The Love Command is not a suggestion any more than the Father’s words to Jesus Christ were suggestions. This command to love bears all the weight of the person who uttered it. The command to love was one of John’s foremost concerns. Throughout 1 and 2 John, he refers to it again and again as the hallmark of those in whose lives the presence of God is being reflected.  The love command puts words to the action of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  Jesus said, just as I have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.  In the love command, Jesus is saying that as I have loved you –by taking your sins on myself and going to the cross – you should love one another and putting each other’s needs before your own. The command to love one another follows immediately after the foot washing.

The gospel of John speaks generously of God’s love for the world (John 3:16). Jesus’ mission is to save the world (4:42), to give life (6:33), and light (12:46). The disciples are commanded to go into this world and continue Jesus’ work (17:18 and 20:21). But Jesus has specialized interests in the present setting. Jesus wants His followers to show a quality of love that is unparalleled in the world. Jesus – by giving this new commandment – is telling His followers not that they should love the world less, but they and we are to love each other more. Their and our love for each other ought to be a reflection of our new status as children of God.

 

NOTE: Information shared in this blog was taken from the below resources.

Burge, Gary M.. The NIV Application Commentary of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.

Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Kostenberger J. Andreas. Encountering John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Townes, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Liv

The Holiness and Wrath of God

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We hear that God is holy, but what does that mean. What does holiness really mean? What does the wrath of God mean? In this conclusion post of the Essential Background of the Cross, these questions will be answered.

We have considered the seriousness of sin as rebellion against God, the continuing responsibility of humanity for our actions, and our guilt in God’s sight and the liability to punishment. The essential background to the cross is not only the sin, responsibility, and guilt of man but the just reaction of God to these things-in other words, His holiness and wraith. The idea that God is holy is the foundation of the Bible. So is the knowledge that sin is incompatible with God’s holiness. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor.”

Our sins separate us from God, so that His face is hidden from us and He refuses to hear our prayers. The biblical authors were aware that no human being could set their eyes on God and survive the experience. All those who were granted a glimpse of His glory were unable to endure the sight. Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. When Isaiah had his vision of Yahweh enthroned and exalted, he was overwhelmed by the sense of his uncleanness (Isaiah 1). Job’s reaction when God revealed Himself to him was to despise himself and to repeat in dust and ashes. The list of people who saw just a glimpse of God, all reacted in similar ways. Even the angels around His thrown have a pair of wings to hide their eyes from Him and a pair to hide their feet since His presence is holy.

Closely related to God’s holiness is His wrath which is His holy reaction to evil. We cannot say that God’s wrath was an Old Testament thing and His love a New Testament thing because God’s love is clearly shown in the Old Testament and His wrath can be seen in the New. The biblical concept of the holiness and wrath of God is that He cannot coexist with sin. Sin cannot approach God, and God cannot tolerate sin. There are several metaphors used in the scriptures to illustrate the stubborn fact.

The first is HEIGHT. Psalm 97:9 says, “For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.” His lofty exaltation expresses both His sovereignty over the nations and His inaccessibility to sinners. The high exaltation of God is not literal and was never meant to be taken literally. The biblical writers used height as a symbol of transcendence.

The second picture is that of DISTANCE. God is not only “high above” us but “far away” from us. We dare not approach too close. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, God told Moses not to come any closer. When God gave instruction to building the tabernacle and later the temple, He promised to live among the people but they were not allowed to come into the Holy of Holies except the High Priest and that was only once a year and he had to have the blood of the sacrifice with him. Sinners cannot approach the all-holy God with impurity-Jesus’ blood allows Christians to approach God but that’s because He no longer sees our sins; they are covered by the blood of the Lamb.

The third and fourth pictures of the holy God’s inapproachability to sinners are those of LIGHT and FIRE.

1 john 1:5 says, “. . . God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Hebrews 12:29 says, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Both discourage too close approach. All these metaphors illustrate the utter incompatibility of divine holiness and human sin. HEIGHT, DISTANCE, LIGHT, and FIRE all say that God cannot be in the presence of sin and that if it approaches Him too closely it will be consumed.

The four basic biblical concepts of The Gravity of Sin, Human Moral Responsibility, True and False Guilt, and The Holiness and Wrath of God we just unpacked are needed in order for us to understand the heart of the cross. The truth about God is a foreign notion to modern-day man. The kind of God who appeals to most people today would be the easygoing in His tolerance of our offenses. They see God as an old man with a white beard; almost like a Santa Claus. He would be gentle, kind, accommodating, and would have no violate reactions. That is not the God of the Bible and sadly to say some churches have lost the vision of the majesty of God. All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and humanity.

If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to His, we see no need for a racial salvation, let alone for a racial atonement to secure it. On the other hand, when we glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are-hell-deserving sinners-then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before. The essential background to the cross is a balanced understanding of the gravity of sin and the majesty of God.

 

NOTES: Parts of this post have been taken from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ.”

 

True and False Guilt

pen and paper

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines guilt as the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; the state of one who has committed an offense especially; feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy; and a feeling of deserving blame for offenses (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt). If mankind has sinned (which we have), and if we are responsible for these sins (which we are), then we are guilty before God. Since we are guilty, we should have a sense of guilt; it’s logical.

This is the argument of the early chapters of Romans where Paul divides the human race into three major sections and shows how each knows something of its moral duty but has deliberately suppressed its knowledge in order to pursue its own sinful course. There is nothing more serious than deliberately rejecting the light of truth and goodness. Paul begins with the Roman society; its people have known God’s power and glory from the creation, and His holiness from their conscience, but they have refused to live up to their knowledge. God gave them over to immorality and other forms of anti-social behavior because they worshipped idols according to Romans 1:18-32. Paul moves on to the section of humanity that were self-righteous; whose knowledge of God’s law may be either in the scripture or in their hearts. In either case they do not live up to their knowledge of God, according to Romans 2:1-16. The third section is the Jewish world, whose members pride themselves on the knowledge they have and on the moral instructions they give to others. Yet the very law they teach they also disobey according to Romans 2:17-38.

Paul’s conclusion is in Romans 3:9, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” The Old Testament scripture confirms this verdict. We are all without excuse. Every protest is silenced, and the whole world is guilty and accountable to God. Paul writes further in Romans 3:19-20;

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the           Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;

20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Christians have often been criticized for continually harping on sin; for trying to induce in others a sense of their guilt. The philosopher Nietzsche bitterly complained that “Christianity needs sickness . . . Making sick is the true hidden objective of Christianity-one must be sufficiently sick for it.” Nietzsche was partly right; Christianity is medicine for the sin-sick.

Jesus defended his concentration on tax collectors and sinners by saying, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).” We do not make people sick in order to convert them; we just simply make people aware of their sickness so they will turn to the Great Physician for healing. The Bible takes sin seriously because it takes humanity seriously. Every person is responsible for the sins they commit. To say that somebody is not responsible for their actions is to demean them as a human being. It is part of the glory of being human that we are held responsible for our actions. After we accept the responsibility for our actions, acknowledging our sin and guilt, we receive God’s forgiveness, enter into the joy of His salvation, and become more completely human and healthy.

NOTES: Parts of this post have been taken from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ.”

The Gravity of Sin

targetIn my last post, I wrote about why we need forgiveness for our sin. Some people don’t understand why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins. They don’t understand the need for Jesus to pay the sin debt for mankind. In this week’s post, I want to cover what the Bible says about sin and the seriousness of it and how it affects our relationship with God. Sin is man trying to improve him (or her) self without God.

The very word “SIN” has in recent years been dropped from most people’s vocabulary. When the word “SIN” is mentioned, it is most likely misunderstood. What is meant when we say sin? The New Testament uses 5 main Greek words for sin, which together portray its various aspects, both passive and active. The most common is hamartia (hä-mär-tē-ə) which depicts sin as missing of a target, the failure to attain a goal. Adikia (ad-ee-kee’-ah) is unrighteousness or iniquity. Poneria (pon-ay-ree’-ah) is evil of a degenerate kind. Parabasis (par-ab’-as-is) a transgression or stepping over a known boundary. Anomia (an-om-ee’-ah) is lawlessness the disregard or violation of a known law.

Whenever one of these Greek words are used in scripture, a standard is failed to be reached or a line deliberately crossed. It is assumed throughout scripture that the law was established by God. It is His moral law that expresses his righteous character. Sin is in itself self-centeredness. Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God. Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” Sin is defiance, arrogance, the desire to be equal with God; the assertion of human independence over against God. When we sin, we are making ourselves god in the situation.

Once we have seen that every sin we commit is an expression of this spirit of revolt against God, we are able to accept David’s confession in Psalm 51:4;

Against You, You only, I have sinned

And done what is evil in Your sight,

So that You are justified when You speak

And blameless when You judge.

Perhaps it’s a deep-seated reluctance to face up to the gravity of sin that our society is omitting it from our vocabulary. In the book “Whatever Became of Sin,” Karl Menninger (a psychiatrist) shares his thoughts on how society has removed the word sin from our vocabulary. In describing the indefinite feeling of western society, its general mood of gloom and doom, Karl Menninger adds that “one misses any mention of ‘sin.’” Enquiring into the cases of sin’s disappearance, Menninger notes first that “many former sins have become crimes, “ so that responsibility for dealing with them has passed from church to state, from priest to policeman, while others have dissipated into sicknesses, or at least into symptoms of sickness, so that in their cases punishment has been replaced by treatment. A third convenient device called “collective irresponsibility” has enabled us to transfer the blame for some of our deviant behavior from ourselves as individuals to society as a whole or to one of its many groupings.”

Sin cannot be dismissed as merely a cultural taboo or social blunder. For sin is a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity – an act of rebellion.

 

NOTES: Parts of this post have been taken from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ.”

 

The Need for Forgiveness

thecross[2]

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at a local church. My topic was the Essence of Christmas. I used John 1:1-5 to show that God’s point of view of the Christmas story wasn’t about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in a stable surrounded by animals and shepherds. The essence of Christmas is that the God of the universe came to earth to be a man. He came to reconcile His creation (mankind) back to Himself.

Christmas wasn’t a simple birth; it was an invasion. Mankind was trapped on Earth while God was in heaven. We were separated by our enemy Satan, by our own sin, and the darkness of our lack of understanding. We were trapped behind enemy lines. So God invaded that territory to save us. The star that the magi followed that led them to Jesus was the burst of the first artillery shell. On a spiritual level this was God sending in the Marines, but His army had only one person. This invasion force was God Himself. The battle raged for 33 years and in the end His entire army was killed, but He won, and because of that we are free. Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross so he could reconcile mankind back to God.

God could have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and die in our sins; that’s what we deserve. But He did not. Because of He loved us. He came after us. He pursued us even to the painful anguish of the cross, where He bore our sin, guilt, judgment, and death. It’s on this point that some people have a hard time with; “Why did Jesus have to die at all for us to be forgiven of our sins?” Why doesn’t God simply forgive us without the necessity of the cross?

In a 1955 article of “Christian Faith Today,” a cynic is quoted in saying “If we sin against one another, we are required to forgive one another. We are even warned of dire consequences if we refuse. Why can’t God practice what He preaches and be equally generous? Nobody’s death is necessary before we forgive each other. Why then does God make so much fuss about forgiving us and even declare it impossible without His Son’s sacrifice for sin? It sounds like a primitive superstition that modern people should long since have discarded.”

People who wonder why God can’t just forgive sin without Jesus needing to die on the cross have not considered the seriousness of sin and haven’t considered the majesty of God. The fact is that the comparison between our forgiveness and God’s is far from being exact. Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:12, 14-15;

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

In this passage, Jesus was teaching the impossibility of the unforgiving being forgiven, and so the obligation of the forgiven to forgive. To further this point of forgiveness, Jesus gives parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. In both passages, Jesus was not drawing any parallel between God and us in relation to the basis of forgiveness. If we try to argue we forgive each other unconditionally, let God do the same thing. This reasoning is shallow, since it overlooks the elementary fact that we are not God.

We are private individuals and other people’s misdemeanors are personal injuries. God is not a private individual nor is sin just a personal injury. On the contrary, God is Himself the maker of the laws we break, and sin is rebellion against Him. The problem of forgiveness is the collision between divine perfection and human rebellion; between God as He is and us as we are. The obstacle to forgiveness is neither our sin alone nor our guilt alone, but the divine reaction in love and wrath toward guilty sinners.

At the cross in holy love God through Jesus Christ paid the full penalty of our disobedience Himself. He bore the judgment we deserve in order to bring us the forgiveness we do not deserve. On the cross divine mercy and justice were equally expressed and eternally reconciled. God’s holy love was satisfied.

The reason so many people have issue with the idea of us needing to be forgiven by God and that Jesus had to die on the cross and we need to accept this fact is that they don’t consider the seriousness of sin nor do they consider the majesty of God. In the next few weeks, I will review four basic biblical concepts to help us understand our need. The concepts are The Gravity of Sin, Human Moral Responsibility, True and False Guilt, and The Holiness and Wrath of God.

NOTES: Parts of this post have been taken from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ.”

Family First

The biggest challenge for all of us is to set boundaries and establish priorities. I have thomassonseen too many families destroyed because parents set other things above the family as being more important (i.e. career, hobbies, friends, etc.). We need to understand that when we are on our deathbed we will not wish we spent more time in the office, but wish we spent more time with the family. Cats Stevens songs “Cats in the Cradle” is a haunting reminding that time passes so quickly that we need to cherish our time with not only our children but with our spouses. My mom told me when I was a teenager that I should enjoy my teen years because “you blink and you are 16; blink again and your 18; blink again and you are 21; blink again and you are 30 . . .” James 4:14 says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Ripley, my daughter, turns 8 years old on Thursday, 11/23 (yes Thanksgiving’s Day). I cherish every moment I have with her. FaceBook likes to remind me of memories (pictures and videos) I have posted. I see her little face at a year old or hear her 3 year old voice in a video where she is singing a song; it melts my heart. The time is flying by so fast. I can’t stop or slow time, but I can make sure I set the proper boundaries where I’ll be with her and Teresa (my wife) during the important events.

I’ve seen over the years, men in ministry set their church work (ministry) above their families. The result of this are children who leave the church hating it for taking their dad away from them, or them having an unhealthy relationship with their father. I know a man that almost rob himself of an opportunity to be a father because he wasn’t sure if he could be a good one because his father (a pastor) was never around. With the help and love of his wife, he agreed to have children and now he is an awesome dad to his 17 year old son. I can see the hurt is still there but he is working to get past it. Ministry workers (be us pastors, evangelists, lay ministers, deacons, etc.) need to understand that family should take priority over church work; not priority over God, but the busy work of ministry.

My childhood pastor taught me the importance of family by his example. Some 25-30 years ago, most churches used Tuesday nights to visit people. If one of his children’s schools had a PTA meeting or presentation, he was there. Most schools did these on Tuesday nights so he missed visitation and was present with his children. That has left an impression on me and has influenced me in my ministry. I set a priority that if I can help it, I will be at Ripley’s events and there whenever Teresa needs me to be with her. Teresa and I have discussed this and she is aware that sometimes I’m not able to be present so she makes sure to let Ripley know the reasons if I can’t be present. In the (almost) 8 years of her life, I missed only 1 event she was in and that was in the middle of a school day and I couldn’t get away from the office. I actually felt really bad about it, but Ripley (who has a huge and tender heart) told me she understood.

We pastors must understand that our calling is to serve others as we preach and share God’s Word. Serving our families first and then others is the right way of working in ministry. In my personal life, my priorities are set in this orders; God, Teresa, Ripley, family, other people, myself and ministry. Setting myself before ministry will allow me to keep myself healthy (both physically and mentally) in order to be 100% when serving in ministry. Let me encourage you to set your families over all other work and people; only God is set above family.

I hope you have happy and safe Thanksgiving’s Day. God bless!