GOOD FRIDAY IRONY

If Pagan Mortal Enemies Can Make Peace, Why Can’t You?

old crosses of stone to the backlight

How many times have I read a familiar portion of Scripture only to react: “I’ve never seen that before.”?

In the final moments leading up to his passion, Jesus goes to trial before Pilate (Luke 23:1-5). Pilate, evading the hot seat temporarily, ships Jesus off to Herod, the fox (Luke 13:32).

Herod and company delight to abuse the Son of God, ultimately transferring him back to Pilate’s jurisdiction in a game of political Ping-Pong (Luke 23:6-11). What fun.

Verse 12, Luke’s editorial comment on the turn of events, stopped me dead in my tracks.

“And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other (emphasis added).”

The word for “enmity” appears in Romans 8:7 as “hostile” to characterize the dilemma of the mind set on the flesh in relationship to a holy God. These infamous characters on history’s Good Friday stage did not care for each other in the least. And still their contempt for Jesus Christ wound up reconciling them as friends. Talk about major league irony!

Octavius Winslow’s comments, in his work Morning Thoughts, brought this insight to light for me:

How striking and solemn the instruction conveyed in this incident! Pilate and Herod, standing in the attitude of the deadliest hate to each other, are now made friends! And what strange but mighty power has thus suddenly subdued their animosity, and turned their hatred into love? What mystic chain has drawn and bound together these hostile rulers? Their mutual and deep enmity against Jesus! Believers in Christ! are the enemies of our glorious Redeemer, inspired by a natural and kindred feeling of hatred, induced to forget their private quarrels, and merge their differences in one common confederation to crush the Son of God, the object of their mutual hostility; and shall not the friends of the Redeemer, constrained by that divine principle of love which dwells in the hearts of all who are born of God, quench their heart-burnings, bury their antipathies, and draw more closely together in one holy, vigorous, and determined alliance to exalt the Son of God, the glorious and precious Object of their mutual affection? Oh, if Jesus is the bond of union to those who hate Him, how much more should He be the bond of union to those who love Him! Beneath His cross how should all unholy jealousy and bitterness, and wrath and anger, and clamor and all uncharitableness, be mourned over, confessed, abhorred, and renounced by the children of the one family; and how should all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity be unhesitatingly and cordially recognized as such, thus “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“If Jesus is the bond of union to those who hate Him, how much more should He be the bond of union to those who love Him!” 

Indeed. Please allow me to challenge you this Good Friday.

Are you at enmity with some brother or sister somewhere in the body of Christ?

If Pilate and Herod can reconcile, cannot you at least take the first step (Rom. 12:18) toward your “enemy” for which Christ died and seek to be made friends?

 

 

MY PLEDGE TO GOD’S PEOPLE AT TRBC

Eight Covenant Commitments I Promise To Keep as Pastor

lamb in the arms of the good shepherd

When Jan and I moved to Idaho last year, we knew about the need at Trinity Reformed Baptist Church. The two-year old church plant had been praying quite some time for the Lord to send them their first staff pastor. What we did not know was whether I would be the answer to that prayer.

Over the last six months we have seen clearly the Lord’s hand in bringing us to this rural community of some thirty people to serve their pastoral needs. This Sunday, Lord willing, the elders will lay hands upon me. I will be installed as their first vocational elder/staff pastor.

With a humble heart and great awe at God’s kindness in entrusting yet another pastoral stewardship to me, I pledge to live out the following commitments with the Spirit’s help however long it will please Jesus for me to serve the sheep of this pasture:

  1.  I will not neglect to pray for your welfare in every way (1 Sam. 12:23; Acts 6:4; 3 John 2).
  2. I will study diligently in order to preach and teach the word faithfully from our pulpit (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
  3.  I will guard the deposit of sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:20) and constantly point you to the sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9) and the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:3-5).
  4.  In partnership with my fellow elders, I will exercise spiritual authority as a caring shepherd among you (Acts 20:28)–not as a tyrant (3 John 9), but as a servant (Matt. 20:25-28)–striving to be an example to the flock (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:3).
  5.  I will do my absolute best as a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9) to safeguard the unity of TRBC with all humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in love (Eph. 4:1-3; Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14).
  6.  I will seek to help equip you as believer-priests (1 Pet. 2:5) for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) in accordance with your spiritual gifts.
  7.  I will invest spiritually in other men so as to disciple them into greater depths of spiritual growth, with a view to raising up future generations of leadership (2 Tim. 2:2).
  8. In all things I will gladly spend and be spent for your souls (2 Cor. 12:15), laboring always for your joy (2 Cor. 1:24) not in my own strength, but by the grace of God I trust and pray will always be with me (1 Cor. 15:10).

Pray for me (1 Thess. 5:25), please, for these are no small things to promise and I fear I am so often inadequate for the task.

Praise the One who makes us competent as ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:4-6)!

Question: What one thing might you do soon to encourage your pastor as he labors to keep his commitments at your church?

WHEN RELATIONSHIPS RUPTURE (2)

How To Navigate Sharp Disagreements Which End in Separation

A single mountain road splits in two different directions. It's an autumnal cloudy day.

The magisterial reformer Martin Luther once offered this candid self-admission:

“I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether war-like, fighting against innumerable monsters and devils. I am born for the removing of stumps and stones, cutting away thistles and thorns, and clearing wild forests.”

Even history’s giants of the faith suffered their share of personal issues. Sometimes their difficult natures resulted in relational train wrecks. My last post zeroed in on one of the Bible’s most infamous examples in Acts 15:36-41.

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Sad but true, not all attempts at peacemaking end well. Breakups do happen among the best of us. What principles can we apply in those unfortunate circumstances to ease the pain and gain perspective?

In part one, I suggested three: accept reality, examine self, and understand interests. In part two, let’s consider four more helps for navigating sharp disagreements.

One, stay calm.

No matter who was right about John Mark, both Paul and Barnabas failed miserably in the way they conducted themselves. R. Kent Hughes notes in his commentary on Acts that the word paroxysm translated “sharp disagreement” denotes “violent action or emotion. This was not a mild gentleman’s disagreement but an intense and passionate conflict.”

Outbursts of anger shatter peace and multiply transgressions (Prov. 29:22). Determine to remain filled with the Spirit at all times (Gal. 5:22-23).

Two, seek help.

Did they? We don’t know. I want to hope these brothers attempted to climb up the slippery slope of peacemaking by enlisting mediators in the church at Antioch to work through their dispute (Phil. 4:2-3). To keep your conscience clear, make your own choices at every turn in sharp disagreements with a Four G’s ethic –no matter how the conflict ends up.

Three, trust God.

The worst of conflicts do not erase Romans 8:28 from the Bible. The Lord is always working to accomplish His purposes. Our frailties never thwart His ultimate plan (Phil. 1:12). As painful as their separation must have been, no doubt both men took comfort that one missionary team multiplied into two in God’s providence.

Four, allow time.

Let’s hope Paul and Barnabas, though parted, first reconciled with a conciliatory agree-to-disagree spirit. Always make this your goal, even if a dispute leads to dissolution of a partnership.

The sting of this breakup lessened eventually with a softening of Paul toward John Mark (2 Tim. 4:11). I imagine that put a smile on the Son of Encouragement’s face! God can and often does a lot of healing over time. Pray to that end.

Do you find yourself embroiled in a paroxysm-like conflict? These seven principles may help you survive the outcome in a First G kind of way (1 Cor. 10:31).

Question: What else has helped you do peacemaking in sharp disagreements?

WHEN RELATIONSHIPS RUPTURE (1)

How To Navigate Sharp Disagreements Which End in Separation

fight, a confrontation between two white rhino

While in Orlando last month, I heard some excellent feedback about my book. “I wish you had included a chapter on handling irreconcilable conflicts in a peaceable way.”

My friend made a good point. Even our best efforts at preserving unity and pursuing reconciliation can end in a parting of ways. I wrote of two such painful episodes in recent experience in my 2018 review.

The New Testament records an account of just such a relational collapse between two missionaries in Acts 15:36-41.

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Both men shared the same worthy aim: revisit the places and people they reached in their first missionary journey to see how things were (Acts 13 & 14). However, they butted heads fast over the choice of an assistant.

Barnabas wanted John Mark along; Paul said, “No way!” The verb forms in vv. 37 & 38 suggest the debate persisted for some time. Eventually things deteriorated into “a sharp disagreement.” It’s one word in v. 39 in the Greek text. We get our word paroxysm from it. It means to provoke to anger (Acts 17:16; 1 Cor. 13:5). Things got hot–really hot.

Luke doesn’t include much detail about the dispute given his purpose within the book of Acts. He leaves us to wonder and speculate about some things. So with that disclaimer up front, here are the first three of seven insights for navigating sharp disagreements.

One, accept reality. This kind of thing does happen. Try as we might to prevent it, some conflicts don’t end happily–even between the best of individuals. This is Paul the apostle (Rom. 1:1) and Barnabas the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36) we’ve got here!

Two, examine self. Both men may have been right–though only Paul and Silas got sent off with Antioch’s commendation (40). Barnabas would have done well to question his motives potentially on three fronts: (1) family favoritism (Col. 4:10)–cousins–(2) prideful jealousy (Acts 13:2)–Barnabas and Saul had become Paul and Barnabas–(3) people pleasing (Gal. 2:13)–gospel hypocrisy.  These giants of the faith admitted their frailty (Acts 14:15). We do well to remember and suspect ours as well.

Three, understand interests. This is a strategic part of the PAUSE Principle of biblical negotiation. Identify others’ concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears. The differing positions about John Mark stemmed from his abandoning ship on the previous mission (Acts 13:13). Perhaps Barnabas the encourager insisted on John Mark believing that grace warranted second chances. Paul may well have worried that it was too risky to entrust at that point such an important role to the young man (Prov. 25:19). Looking out for others’ interests (Phil. 2:3-4) goes a long way on the road to satisfactory compromise and relational rescue.

There’s a lot involved in traveling these tricky waters–too much for one article. In my next post I will cover the remaining four insights for navigating sharp disagreements which lead to a parting of ways.

Question: What questions might you have about this particular challenge? You can post your comment below.

BLOGGING BREAK ENDS NOW

Where I’ve Been & Why I’m Back

Golden Compass Concept

I can hardly believe my last post came 44 days ago. That’s way too long an absence from the blogosphere. But it couldn’t be helped. I lived out of a suitcase for over a month. We arrived home to Idaho just last week. Time to restore schedule order!

Where I’ve Been

As reported back on February 6, I needed to return to Orlando for repairs on my teeth. It took two visits to my dentist but we got things squared away. The bridge has been perfect ever since. So glad to have that in the rearview mirror!

As Jan and I suspected, the Lord planned much more for me in terms of serving others while visiting the tropics. Every day saw appointments of all kinds–several of which involved placing copies of my book in the hands of even some surprising folks.

les-and-book.jpg

My good buddy Les and I got together for lunch. We first met in our neighborhood book club. We share a love for reading. Les makes no bones about being an atheist. I take the opposite stance as a Christian theist.  We couldn’t be further apart in our world views, but we maintain a robust friendship for which I am most grateful. When he asked for a copy of my book, I was thrilled to gift him a copy!

Upon returning from Florida to Idaho, I gathered up Jan the next day to head for Los Angeles. Our new Idaho church offered to take me to John MacArthur’s 50th anniversary celebration at this year’s Shepherds’ Conference. Jan and I tacked on a trip to friends who still attend the first church I pastored fresh out of seminary.

grace-ev-free.jpg

We thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent in Dave and Sheri’s home. Our visit to Grace Evangelical Free Church gave my bride of almost two years another peek into my history. I was greatly encouraged by memories shared with friends at the church of how they felt God used my brief time there from 1982-85.

Why I’m Back

Online I mean. I want to resume my quest for helping believers champion unity in their churches by excelling in peacemaking. I want to help more folks like this brother.

JK Peacemaker

It gave me a huge thrill to find my book at the Baker Publishing team section of the Shepherds’ Conference resource tent. I encountered John, a Southern California church planter, on the floor with my book among the stack he planned to purchase. I introduced myself and shared my delight to see him with a copy. He smiled and said, “I buy everything on this subject I can get my hands on.” To which I replied, “May your tribe increase!”

John gets the message of The Peacemaking Church from Ephesians 4:1-3. If we’ve been transformed by grace through the gospel of Jesus, then we will be eager, do-our-best preservers of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I look forward to adding to this cause in future posts as the Lord leads!

TEETH TROUBLE TIMES

Orlando Here I Come for a Dental Redo

horse-laughing-funny-animal-meme-image-of-a-horse-neighing-picture-id918525024

What else is new, right?

Ever since 2015 my choppers have given me pretty much nothing but grief.

The latest episode unfolded in the dentist’s chair at the end of my book launch trip last November. After an hour of trying to dislodge the bridge from the implants, my persevering doctor concluded:

What we have here is a failure in design. It’s time to start over from scratch. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to come back after the first of the year.

In fairness to Dr. P, last August he attempted to equip me with a span of teeth which could remain in my mouth permanently–requiring removal for cleaning only every couple of years. It proved to be problematic in multiple ways.

Worst of all the heads on the screws securing the teeth to the four implants have stripped. He’ll have to destroy the bridge WHILE STILL IN MY MOUTH in order to get at the screws a different way. Really looking forward to that. Then he will start to install Design B.

The good doctor has spent the better part of January going back and forth with the labs and consulting with various other doctors about the best way forward. Every pro says the same thing: Never seen anything like my case. Terrific!

But a new approach awaits next week. Visit number one is scheduled in Sanford for February 12 at 10 AM. Additional treatments–not sure how many–will be required to get things right. I’ve booked a return flight for February 25 to give plenty of time for any necessary adjustments. Hopefully the end result will far exceed the look of My Friend Flicka above.

Jan will remain in Idaho to hold down the fort at our home. Please pray for her during this time apart from each other and for the success of this latest twist in my RoboJaw Journey.

I will have considerable non-dentist time while in Central Florida. We’re praying about the personal and ministry connections the Lord would have me make. Some appointments are on the calendar already.

If you have a need or desire for some time, ministry, or fellowship for any reason, please reach out and we’ll see what we can make happen.

Thanks for praying!

THE SCARIEST REQUEST IN THE LORD’S PRAYER

Four Ways To Guard Against the Threat of Unforgiveness

Relationship difficulties

It’s no contest. Of the six petitions in Jesus’ model prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), the most frightening is the fifth: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Why? The appendix in v. 14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Martyn-Lloyd Jones explains:

The proof that you and I are forgiven is that we forgive others. If we think that our sins are forgiven by God and we refuse to forgive somebody else, we are making a mistake; we have never been forgiven. The man who knows he has been forgiven, only in and through the blood of Christ, is a man who must forgive others. He cannot help himself. If we really know Christ as our Saviour our hearts are broken and cannot be hard, and we cannot refuse forgiveness. If you are refusing forgiveness to anybody I suggest that you have never been forgiven.

John Piper adds:

God’s forgiveness is underneath ours and creates it and supports it. So that if we don’t give it to others—if we go on in an unforgiving spirit—what we show is that God is not there in our lives. We are not trusting him. And not trusting him will keep us out of heaven. And cause us to be handed over to the tormentors.

According to Jesus, the right way to pray takes into account the eternity-hangs-in-the-balance importance of a forgiving nature toward others.

Helps for Guarding Against Unforgiveness

One, remember God’s forgiveness. Focus often on just how much God has forgiven you. Beware of taking for granted God’s mercy to you while withholding it from others. Others’ sins against us are not more serious than our sins against God (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-13).

Two, practice the virtue of overlooking. Prov. 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” The more we practice #1 above the more likely we are to forgive unilaterally. Of course, that is not always possible. In that case . . .

Three, distinguish between the two stages of forgiveness. Ideally forgiveness is granted to a confession and repentance for an offense (Luke 17:3-4). But that doesn’t always happen right away and sometimes never happens in this lifetime. While you wait, rely on God’s strength to practice a disposition of forgiveness. This is an attitude that stands ready to transact forgiveness upon repentance with a Jesus’ like on the cross “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” kind of grace and mercy (Luke 23:34).

Four, claim Romans 8:28—God working for your good. Even the wrongs others do to us have a plan in God’s sovereignty. Ken Sande, from whom I’ve largely drawn these helps in his book The Peacemaker, writes:

When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.

We followers of Jesus are the most forgiven people in the world. We should therefore be the most forgiving people in the world through Christ and the hope of His glorious gospel.

There is no right praying without that.

Question: What has helped you cultivate a forgiving spirit?

PASTORS MUST NOT BE MACHO MEN

Seven Guidelines for Peaceable Spiritual Leaders

Fireman in fire sparks and smoke.

A colleague of mine in ministry calls himself “a conflict magnet.” I can relate. When I reflect on my thirty-year tenure in pastoral work, I wince over more relational battles than I care to remember.

My 2018 Journey post included disappointment in the way I navigated two particularly painful meetings. I suspect most pastors identify with the challenges which come with inevitable church conflict.

The apostle Paul prepped young pastor Timothy for handling opposition in a God-honoring way:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Paul addresses the way pastors must engage people in conflict. In terms of what not to do, he commands only this: do not be quarrelsome.

The Greek word for quarrelsome comes from the root mache from where we get our English word macho. In Acts 7:26 it’s used for an actual physical fight. Pastors are not to be fighters, combatants–tackling conflict in a belligerent, contentious manner. That pattern disqualifies elders from office (1 Tim. 3:3). It reveals heart idols and passions yet to be conquered (James 4:1-2). There is a better way!

Seven Guidelines for Staying Peaceable in Conflict

One, faithfully embrace your identity. Pastors are first and foremost servants. Paul may have in mind the prophet’s Suffering Servant (Isa. 42:1-3). We must take our cue from Jesus who did not quarrel (Matt. 12:19).

Two, kindly engage your world. Pastors must show love (1 Cor. 13:4) by being kind to all without exception. If every believer must avoid quarreling but be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:2), how much more should God’s shepherds.

Three, diligently use your skills. Able to teach. Elders serve because God has equipped them to instruct others in godly living (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Guide opponents into passages which address issues at hand. Let the Word of God do its powerful work (Heb. 4:12).

Handsome man reading and praying over Bible in a dark room over gray texture

Four, patiently endure your offenses. Opponents will do you evil at times though undeserved. Plan on it. I’ve been called names. I’ve had my motives misjudged. What to do when attacked? Bear up under the evil with the Lord’s help (1 Pet. 2:21-24).

Five, gently correct your opponents. Whether for false teaching, immoral behavior, or other wrongs, people will need admonishment (1 Thess. 5:12). Do it gently (Gal. 6:1). Picture the way a mother cares for her children and a father exhorts the same (1 Thess. 2:7-12).

Six, humbly trust your God. No other truth in this text will help more to keep you from turning macho in a conflict. Pastors don’t make anybody change direction; God is the one who gives the gift of repentance leading back to the truth. Rest in that. He has to work and is always working (John 5:17).

Seventh, prayerfully fight your real enemy. Paul ends by reminding that Satan ultimately ensnares someone taken captive by sin. Never forget the true nature of the fight–spiritual warfare. Put on the whole armor of God and pray at all times for all the saints (Eph. 6:10-20).

Helps for Growing as Peaceable Pastors in Conflict

There are three resources that have helped me immensely toward a peaceable path as a pastor. A recent post featured Alexander Strauch’s book, Leading with Love. I commend it again. Alfred Poirier’s book The Peacemaking Pastor is another must read for pursuing peaceable ways in ministry.

Another terrific help is Ken Sande’s ministry RW360. Last year I worked through his online training in relational wisdom to great advantage. Check it out.

Pastors, let us be peaceable, non-macho servants of our gentle, lowly-in-heart Master (Matt. 11:29)!

Question: What is a lesson you’ve learned about spiritual leadership which is peaceable with others in conflict?

A DAGGER OF ICE

Death’s Grief Still Great, God’s Grace Still Greater

The icicles melts in the sunlight

Four years ago today I heard the worst three words of my life: “Josh is dead.” Heart failure took our first born at the tender age of 35. In a millisecond, death struck with a dagger of ice.

That word picture penned by Dr. Robert Dabney (1820-1898) to describe his grief after the loss of his two sons within the span of a month, captured the intensity of this father’s pain.

James W. Bruce III, who himself along with wife Joni suffered the loss of infant son John Cameron, tells Dabney’s story in his book From Grief to Glory: A Book of Comfort for Grieving Parents.

Robert Lewis Dabney was an American Christian theologian, Southern Presbyterian pastor, Confederate States Army chaplain, and architect. He was also chief of staff and biographer to Stonewall Jackson.

Clearly he was no stranger to egregious loss. I’ve said it time and again: No one should have to bury a child. And yet, many have. The world is not the way it should be. Maranatha.

I didn’t know Dabney’s story until reading Bruce’s priceless work (I use the adjective purposefully–if you have lost a child, read this book). From Grief to Glory chronicles accounts of numerous Christians from history enrolled in this unenviable fraternity.

Of all the testimonies included in this splendid book, Bruce credits Dabney’s for most touching his heart.

Dabney died an old man, infirm and blind. His life and ministry, Bruce observes, “are all but forgotten today” (81). Though grief stricken, he lived and died well.

Blank Headstone

Bruce notes that Dabney’s wife placed his grave monument bearing this epitaph:

In unshaken loyalty of devotion to his friends, his country, and his religion, firm in misfortune, ever active in earnest endeavor, he labored all his life for what he loved, with a faith in good causes, that was ever one with his faith in God (81).

Should my bride outlive me, I can only hope she might inscribe something of the same sentiments over my remains. If so, only one explanation will account for the tribute: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Four years later.

Grief is still great; grace is still greater.

My resolve per Dabney for year five and beyond?

“Follow God fully without turning aside” (81).

Thank you for reading and weeping with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).

MY 2018 JOURNEY

The Highlights, The Lowlights, and the Takeaways for Growth

annual review word cloud on napkin

Last year brought massive change in my life and ministry! That, along with the encouragement to post an annual review by my writing coach, Chad Allen,  prompted this summary of milestone events and learning experiences.

The Highlights This Year

Led the way to a peaceful pastoral succession. After fifteen years of service as the lead pastor at Orlando Grace Church, I passed the shepherding baton to Jim Davis. From the moment I accepted the ministry challenge at OGC, I determined to gift the church a seamless transition in leadership when that time came. Nothing matches this milestone for significance and delight for me in 2018.

Launched my book, The Peacemaking Church. This highlight comes in a close second! The three-year writing project finally reached completion with publication in November. Jan and I were thrilled to return to Central Florida for a signing event hosted by Orlando Grace. The number of folks who joined us that night to celebrate the accomplishment of a lifelong goal fueled our hope for how the Lord might use the book to promote church unity elsewhere.

book signing

 

Travelled to East Asia. For security purposes I regret that I cannot say much about our experience overseas. This survey trip to encourage M workers in a challenging environment proved to be the privilege of a lifetime for this pastor and his wife. We witnessed just how much God is working in a difficult place. It was our joy to speak about peacemaking on multiple occasions for the benefit of precious servants laboring in the field.

Relocated to my beloved Idaho. With succession came the challenge of what to do and where to go next. After much prayer, the Lord led us to our five-acre spot in the Clearwater valley. A major component of that decision involved the recent planting of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church just twenty minutes from our home. Their need has brought us here to explore what the Lord may have for us in providing part-time pastoral ministry help. At the same time, He has faithfully met our needs in amazing and practical ways.

Idaho View

The Lowlights This Year

Struggled to lead well in crucial meetings. On two particular occasions before exiting OGC, I failed to execute the kind of courage necessary to love others well in conflict (Eph. 4:15). My weaknesses disappointed and hurt brothers and sisters for whom I care deeply. I will always regret the taste my shortcomings have left in some mouths in an otherwise savory final year in Orlando.

Lost partnerships with gifted servants. Closely related to lowlight one, number two involved sharp disagreements (Acts 15:36-41) leading to parting of ministry ways. While I believe these relationships are reconciled, the difficulties in navigating the conflicts resulted in lost opportunities for future ministry collaboration.

Mediocre performance in peacemaking training. I participated in a two-day advanced conflict coaching and mediation course in St. Louis. My mentor’s first question in evaluation says it all. “Have you done much of this kind of thing?” Actually, I have, but apparently still have some way to go.

Robojaw woes continued. I endured a final surgery in jaw reconstruction and subsequent multiple attempts in both Orlando and Boise to place correctly an eight-teeth sized bridge in my mouth. A proper fit to the appliance still eludes my longsuffering dentist. A trip to Orlando is right around the corner to take another shot at getting things right.

Man adjusting a rearview mirror

Takeaways for Growth

God is not done with me yet. He has opened doors for me to continue preaching and help others with their conflict. I am passionate about these things and want to continue serving others as He gives me grace to do so!

Two are better than one in doing the Lord’s work (Ecc. 4:9-12). I knew this before but time and again the Lord shows me how priceless a treasure I possess in my wife as we partner together in this new season.

My “fear of man” sins must continually be put to death with the Spirit’s help (Col. 3:5). I cannot afford to let my guard down on this perpetual threat. Too much is at stake.

Peacemaking skills require constant improvement. St. Louis was a wakeup call for me. I’m not as skilled at the mediation thing as I thought I was. I want to find ways in 2019 to get better at helping others this way.

Writing is something I can do reasonably well. Or so I’ve been told in various reviews! I want to explore additional projects the Lord might have for me in the future.

Thanks for hanging in with me for a longer post than usual. As you review your own 2018 journey and anticipate 2019, I offer these words of encouragement from January 3rd’s entry in Morning Thoughts:

Living in a world of imperfection and change, we must expect nothing perfect, nothing stable, in what we are, in what we do, or in what we enjoy. But amid the dissolving views of the world that “passes away,” let us take firm hold of the unchangeableness of God. The wheels may revolve, but the axle on which they turn is immoveable. Such is our covenant God. Events may vary- providences may change- friends may die- feelings may fluctuate- but God in Christ will know “no variableness, neither the shadow of a turning.”

Question: What’s one highlight from your 2018 journey?