Perhaps some people do not like the minister reading about stocks. On the other hand, these same people might not like providing for a minister in retirement because he is broke. Unlike some corporations, the minister is often left to handle his retirement choices on his own. So about each year, I try to read a text about money management. This book is a little deeper than the average text that I read on the topic. The author is a well known commentator on TV. The book deals with following major trends for stock picking. He does a good job of highlighting some of his favorite CEO's, and does a good job of highlighting major trends in the market place. The book goes into a lot of detail, and there is a section on reading charts. This section I did not understand that well. But it was helpful in understanding the idea of a 200 day moving average and a 50 day moving average. A lot of the investing books are mostly concerning buying mutual funds, but I wanted some added research on the topic, so I wanted to read a little deeper. The book was interesting and well written. It might not be for every preacher, but it could help you in understanding the market place, and perhaps how to provide for yourself into retirement.
A little eight year old girl is laying in the coffin as her grandfather screams, “God why did you do this!” This was a tragic moment in time. The response was to defend God from this accusation at the time, but now it seems appropriate that someone would express these bitter feelings toward the merciful Lord. This lament was not the first in history, nor will it be the last. The prophet Jeremiah also lamented to the Lord through chapters 11-20. In these chapters Jeremiah expressed his seething anguish towards God for his personal plight (Jeremiah. 11:18-12:6; 15:1-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-13, 14-18). A lament is a prayer. But a lament is not a typical prayer of thanksgiving or rejoicing; a lament prayer is one of complaining, whining, and even berating God in order to keep the relationship alive. A lament follows a general pattern. The speaker calls out to God to complain to the Lord and then the speaker will petition God for help. Sometimes a lament will add words of assurance with the ending of the lament, vowing to praise God because the speaker is confident that the Lord will answer the request. The lament prayer is one of grasping for faith and a clinging to God despite overwhelming discontent with God’s treatment of the world. Jeremiah in these verses expresses his agony over his feelings of injustice. As Jeremiah battles with God in his personal life, he mirrors the nation’s doubt over the gentle care of the Lord. The suffering of Jeremiah is the embodiment of the suffering of the nation. During the general timeframe of Jeremiah’s words in the sixth century B.C.E, the nation of Judah went through horrendous circumstances. Heathen nations invaded, deported, and occupied the promise land. At this time the kingdom promised to the house of David is in ruin, the Jerusalem temple where God promised to dwell with them forever is in a heap of ruins, the priestly leadership has been deported, the supposed prophets are speaking lying words, and God’s chosen people have failed to defeat Judah. Many of these conditions are present or are predicted by Jeremiah. No wonder the people are struggling to heal a broken faith. Jeremiah models the act of restoring faith through prayers of lament. Lament healing through responsibility. In Jeremiah’s laments he sees his suffering coming from the actions of the Judean community. God is not ultimately responsible for the suffering that they will endure because God desired for the people to serve Him, but the people rejected the Lord. God tried to prevent the coming disaster because the Lord tried to bring the nation back to an obedient relationship. But the people refused to serve the Lord. It is not God who has failed them, but the people who have failed God. Jeremiah 15:4-7: “‘And I shall make them an object of horror among all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem. Indeed, who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem, or who will mourn for you, Or who will turn aside to ask about your welfare? ‘You who have forsaken Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘You keep going backward. So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am tired of relenting! And I will winnow them with a winnowing fork at the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy My people; They did not repent of their ways (NASV).’” God is present through this suffering, but the responsibility for the suffering is on the people. This focus on human responsibility may seem overly simplistic in the face of tragic suffering, but an understanding of responsibility gives hope to a community in the depths of pain. In this world of unexplainable suffering, it seems healthy sometimes to understand accountability in suffering because of the hope that is given. Even though in some circumstances the suffering is completely independent from the sufferer, but in accepting some level of responsibility the sufferer feels that there is an element of control that he or she can still wield. It provides an explanation for disaster in a terrifying world. Instead of being a passive spectator to the catastrophes of life, the individual is empowered to improve the future. The person is not defenseless in suffering but can be an active agent for reestablishing tranquility. Lament healing through accessibility. In these prayers, Jeremiah gives voice to the people. He shows the people how to emerge from victimization, to express their experience, and give meaning to the suffering. Jeremiah’s torrent of charges against God seems incredibly sacrilegious. He accuses God of being unjust in the management of the world. “Righteous art Thou, O LORD, that I would plead my case with Thee; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with Thee: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?” Jeremiah is angry with God. He charges God with being a traitor, a false friend who has forsaken him. He releases his vehement emotions with this analogy. “Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Wilt Thou indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable? (Jer. 15:18). Jeremiah says that God has been like a wadi, which was a stream that would vanish during the dry season but would later become a flooding river sweeping away anything in its path during the rainy season. These laments of Jeremiah express the anger of the people over the suffering of the present day. They are the embodiment of a nation’s desire to stay connected to the Lord. Even though the tones of the laments are fiercely bitter, it seems that God would rather have man express his anger before Him than to be silent in prayer. Even in anger, Jeremiah proves faithful to the Lord because he continues to pray to the Lord. Jeremiah keeps communication alive in the midst of destruction and despair. Even in the suffering, God is always accessible. God would rather have the sufferer screaming at Him than to have the sufferer give Him the silent treatment. Jeremiah provides the examples of the lament of responsibility and the lament of accessibility as a model for sufferers for all time to help overcome the pain of dark days. The lament of responsibility, though seemingly unfair, does provide hope for the future, while the lament of accessibility provides grace in prayer for the angry petitioner. This process of dealing with suffering seems to be successful as Jeremiah ends this lament section with praise for God. “Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one From the hand of evildoers” (Jer. 20:18). Jeremiah is far from healed from this suffering, but he remains faithful to the Lord in the face of these difficult times.
A lot of people might not have heard of Adam Smith. Those who have heard of this famous man are familiar with his work on the Economy. He wrote a famous book called “The Wealth of Nations.” But this book is not the only material he produced. He also wrote an excellent book called “The Theory of Moral Sentiment.” This book is an excellent look into the makeup of humanity. Here are some insights on the process of self-deception that Smith provides for us today. “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”
“Not surprisingly, we find it much easier to see the moral imperfections in others than our own shortcomings.”
“Once you’ve noticed this strange logical inversion— what seems good for me is actually good for you!—… We do what’s best for ourselves but convince ourselves that our motivation is for others.”
“Smith reminds us that it’s hard to be objective when you have a horse in the race— your own self-interest. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing when you’re merely doing what benefits yourself.”
“If you have water in your basement and ask a waterproofer for an assessment of the problem, he’s likely to recommend spending $ 30,000 to dig a trench around your house and reset the piers that support your foundation. The guy who sells sump pumps will recommend a sump pump. The gutter guy will tell you need to replace your gutters, and the landscaper will want to construct a berm to direct water away from the house. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
These quotes come from a book called “How Can Adam Smith Change Your Life.” Adam Smith was an attuned observer of humanity. The best way to overcome self-deception is to be part of a community of accountability, and maintain a strong spiritual life.
Perhaps no one has ever found the perfect church. Even in the first century, the church was far from perfect. There were ego issues, false doctrine, political issues, misplaced priorities, and racism. Throughout the centuries, the church has been far from perfect. The average person will find themselves in a church that is considered far from perfect, and perhaps even a little below average. So how do you deal with the discontent that comes from church membership?
You are unlovable too. Sometimes people that are the harshest critics of the church are the biggest hypocrites. People can excel in highlighting the weaknesses of a congregation, and fail at understanding one’s own issues. Sometimes instead of noting all of the issues like poor preaching, poor children’s programing, poor leadership, the person could realize that one could charge them with poor giving, poor involvement, and poor grace giving. Too often we can see the faults in others, but not ourselves. Loving a church is an exercise in humility. People who start to struggle with love for the church will degrade it. Within this process, there is a hint of superiority. The church is not good enough for them. Whenever we turn church into a beauty contest, we are moving away from Christlikeness. Jesus judges the heart, not one’s status.
You have missed the mark. A while ago, we were on vacation visiting a smaller local congregation of the Lord’s people. It was a great time of fellowship. What I enjoyed most was the teaching opportunity for my children. There were very few people there. It was a chance to tell my children about faithfulness. I told them that someday they might be in an area in which the church might be very small. The congregation might not be what they are use to, but this was no excuse to be unfaithful. Instead of being disappointed it is an opportunity to step up and show your faithfulness to the Lord. It is not about the quality of the congregation as much as it is about your commitment level to the Lord.
Perhaps loving an unlovable church is a step in Christian maturity. Matthew 5:46 is applicable in this situation. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
This was going to be beach running, but the book Team of Rivals was very long. So this book was put off. The book is called "The Innovators" and is concerning the technological revolution that happened in America. It talks about various famous and not so famous individuals that influenced the development of computers and the Web. The book is well written, in fact, so well written that for someone like me that is interested on a nominal level, I finished the text. The book tells the story of the major players, and some of those who have been forgotten through history of their impact on the development of key technology. The book has some interesting facts concerning how the term "debugging" came into existence, and talks about some of the political fights, and philosophies that people had in this age. There are some major themes in the book like the mindset of cooperation, and those who sued one another over patents. But often the movement of the future happened because of good think tanks. It happened in areas in which people from various disciplines interacted to make a better future. The idea of the lone ranger inventor is debunked. Of course, people can come up with ideas, but often those who are most successful have access to those with other skill sets. The book is good, but you have to have a deep interest in the topic, and I mostly read the book because I try to read widely to expand my horizons.
Well, I am taking a little break from sermon preparation for the day. This is the week that I am developing and planning the year's worth of sermons. I try to hid away, and spend countless hours in the word and in prayer. After that process, I rise up to develop sermon series, and specific sermon ideas for the next year for the Castle Rock congregation.
A month or so ago, I provided a survey to the congregation concerning my preaching. In this process, I was looking for suggestions, feedback, critique, and praise on what is going well in the sermons and what is going poorly. I ask various questions like what to wear, my biggest areas for improvement, and what areas do we need to address more. All of this feedback is super helpful to me. Each year, I want to get better and serve my congregation more effectively. One of the major areas of feedback was preaching on marriage, and last year I mostly avoided the topic, but this year, we are planning of really making an effort to improve the marriages in the congregation. A lot of the feedback was really positive too, which makes you feel great. People are so encouraging at Castle Rock.
After gaining some insight from the congregation, I talk with the elders. The elders and I have developed a year of focuses within the congregation. We highlighted major themes that we want to address like marriage, becoming Christlike, 5 to 1, Family Camp, and H2H. This year, is year two of the three year cycle of the 3 B's which are Belong, Become, and Bless. So the lessons will focus on becoming more like Christ. But we are not preaching through the gospel accounts, in fact, the theme books for the year are Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. So we will spend the majority of time focusing on these texts. But instead of preaching through a book, we do not do that at Castle Rock much, we do preach expository sermons, but everything is done through a FCF process. This means we look at the "Fallen Condition Focus." Mostly, how can we connect the text with present life.
In this process, it is amazing the richness that is found in these books. I have been brainstorming this afternoon, and I must admit, I am excited. I am excited for the best year ever at Castle Rock. I said that last year, but I feel it is going to be this year too, and there will be a good chance, I will feel the same thing next year. I feel that through this process, I can really focus on feeding the people through the word.
As a minister, it really feels great to have an eldership that empowers me in this way. You feel that you are making a huge impact for good because you are part of this creative process. Having a team approve to ministry is great. The eldership sets direction, and I set specifics for sermons.
So can you do me a favorite. Pray. If you are a member of Castle Rock, be praying for me this week. The series that I develop are going to make a serious impact on the congregation. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for my leadership team. Pray for God to guide me. Pray for my heart. Pray for the CR congregation. We have no desire to sit around, we desire to make a legacy in the kingdom. Pray for growth and impact. Thank you everyone who is praying for us this week. Satan hates this week! But God loves it, and he has overcome Satan. And we will too through the power of the Lord.
One of the tactics that Satan uses against Christians is to engage them in pointless fights. There are times that Christians must stand for the truth. Some issues must never be compromised. Overlooking error concerning the divinity of Christ or the inspiration and authority of the Word of God is not practicing tolerance; rather this action is being disobedient to the faith. But there are other times that Christians engage in spiritual warfare that instead of defending the faith, these actions divert the attention of Christians away from the essential elements of Christianity. Christians that become entangled in pointless conflict are unfaithful to the call of God. In Paul’s writings to Timothy, he warns the young minister to avoid pointless disputes. First Timothy 4:6-7 states “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.” In this context, Timothy is to focus on good doctrine and the words of faith. He is to avoid irreverent and silly myths. Sometimes people will spend entirely too much time on religious disputes that do not advance the Kingdom of God. This is not just a poor use of time; this is a matter of poor stewardship. Christians only have a limited time on earth. A Christian that is devoting all of his or her time on side matters is pulling attention and time away from the most important matters of the faith. Instead of being evangelistic, the Christian is entangling people in small skirmishes over pointless land grabs. There is always some personal preference or some obscure doctrinal view that can be contested. But everyone has to ask the question of why he or she is pressing the issue? Is this truth essential to the faith? Is this doctrine core to the Gospel? Or is this behavior pride produced? Is this about being right or about proving someone else wrong? Pointless fights are about more than side issues, they are about poor stewardship of the time the Lord has given us to accomplish his work.
The Gospel of John focuses the love commandment on the community within Christ (13:34-35), while the other gospel accounts exhort disciples to love their neighbors and even their enemies (Mark 12:28-32, Matt. 22:34-40, and Luke 10:25-28). But John speaks of in house love, calling Christians to love one another. We could assume that this is the easier command. But before dismissing the ethical seriousness of loving one another, one should quickly survey the history of churches. Sometimes it could be easier to love one’s enemy that to love those with whom one loves, works, and worships day after day after day. The intensity of the conflict can increase with the added exposure. In contrast to the common Christian wisdom of loving the world to prove to be disciples, John’s gospel focuses on the public witness that Christians can have through loving one another. The world is not likely to be impressed by Christian love for outsiders, however expansive, if those who claim to be Christians have hatred for one another. All of the love for the world is useless without first having a genuine love for each other. The quality of the life together is the most convincing witness to the truth and power of the gospel. John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The most persuasive way for Christians to invalidate the message of the Gospel is to practice dislike and hatred toward one another. The essential element in creating love for one another is not through feelings or similarity, but rather through mutual discipleship. Unlike some other writers in the New Testament, John uses the Greek word for friendship love and divine love interchangeably. He makes no distinction between the two. When Jesus calls his disciples friends he is literally saying “one who is loved.” The commonality that holds Christians together in love is practicing discipleship with one another. John 15:14-15 “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.” Without the bond of discipleship, love is too easily diluted through feelings and commonality.
Everyone is looking for the key areas to help a congregation grow. We are looking for the holy grail of effectiveness. You can travel over the country attending seminars to discover this one truth. But the more I reflect on this, the more I am convinced that this is the number one area that will help your congregation to grow. What is it? You ask. Marriage! I believe it is this simple. Listen to my reasoning.
First of all, when I travel around the country talking to Christian leaders, I am hearing a beat that is repeated over and over again. Great leaders are dropping out because of marriage failures. Deacons are resigning, elders are preoccupied, and members are side tracked because of marriage struggles. Some of the best leaders within our churches are dropping out because of failed marriages. Sometime we do not reason the impact that this dynamic is making. If Satan can destroy the foundation of ministry, he can circumvent years of successful work in the kingdom. Often when a marriage falls apart, one or two of the parties will leave the church. Often after a marriage is destroyed, people feel uncomfortable attending still. Solving the marriage dilemma will help solve growth decline.
Second of all, churches should be in the business of helping solve the problem of human suffering. Often when we think of this, we think of social justice, and providing for the poor, but I believe that human suffering is being seen within the home first and foremost. An unfulfilling marriage can be the root of much destruction. This is a basic relationship, and if left unfulfilled will lead to seeking fulfillment in other areas of life. Those congregations that are in suburban areas, this could be the most destructive force going. You see people turning to substitute fulfillment to feel whole.
Third of all, we are losing the battle, and rarely start the war until it is too late. Sometimes marriage are so broken that by the time we engage in fighting for them, most of the territory has already been lost. By the time we engage in the fight, there has been so many causalities that it is difficult to overcome the suffering. Sadly, the fight goes unnoticed even longer for those within leadership. In the church, we have created a dynamic that leadership should be perfect, so those in those positions hide the truth until it is too late many times.
Fourth of all, this year at Castle Rock, we are creating a yearly attack plan to fight against the suffering of broken marriages. As a congregation, I recommend having someone could in to do a seminar. Do not just leave it there, create an accountability group, provide counseling for those who are in serious need. A few of the people I recommend are Wayne Roberts, Trey Morgan, and Dale Sadler. All of these men will do an excellent job.
Well, I had a longer review, but last it. So this is round two. This is a good book, but for different reasons. I was hoping that the book would deal with the hiring process and the process of looking for the right process. At Castle Rock, we are continuing to grow, and we needed to add staffing. We found the right guy, but before that process, I wanted to educated myself a little more on the process of hiring correctly. This book is great for understanding the roles of some staff people. Too often staff members will end up tilling the same soil. This rarely creates value in a congregation. The book does a great job in outlining what each staff member should be doing to help a congregation growth. The book is excellent in dealing with staff functioning in various sizes of a church. If you are looking for a book to tell you how to hire, this is not the one, but it is great in defining the purposes of the people. It also deals with other elements of staffing like creating a different perspective how what to hire for. The book is more of a leadership text, with strong missonal elements. It would be just as good for a church to read it that is trying to define the roles of a staff than just to read it before a hire.
Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity and two precious children named Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master’s of Arts in Biblical Studies, and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master’s of Divinity degree, and Harding School of Theology with his Doctorate of Ministry degree. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, the Gospel Advocate; and the Rocky Mountain Christian.