How to Pray for Your Pastor

In the book of Malachi a scathing indictment is issued against priests who cut corners and received less than acceptable sacrifices from the people.  The priests were called to a special office of mediation between the people and God which made the charge against their office even more significant.  In Malachi 2:5-7  God reminds the priests about the covenant he had established with them through their fathers.

My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
(Mal 2:5-7)

Pastors are not priests.  The pastoral ministry is significantly different than the ministry of Old Testament Priests especially considering the work of Christ.   Christ offered himself as the perfect sacrifice and now stands as the mediator between God and men (I Tim. 2:5, Hebrews 9:15, 12:24).   (This is one reason why many protestants stand so staunchly against the Roman Catholic notion of priest as mediators and mass as a perpetual offering of sacrifice.)

4 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor

Though Pastors are not priests, there are aspects of their ministry that parallel the duties of the priests in Malachi’s day.  Pastors are responsible to teach and oversee the body of the church. (Piper does a fantastic job of fleshing this out so I won’t belabor the point.)  It is from examining Malachi in this light that I have pulled application from the failure of the priest in Malachi into four ways to pray for pastors.

. . . . . . .

So here is how I pray for myself and the other pastors I know:

  1. To stand in fear and awe of God’s name
  2. True instruction to be found on his lips
  3. To walk with the Lord in peace and uprightness
  4. To turn people away from iniquity

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The 2nd Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me!

Six years ago today I was running around a church as nervous as I could possibly be.  My family and friends had driven from all over the Southeast to visit with me that day.  I wish I could say that I remember all the people who were there, the truth is their names and faces were all blurred behind the radiant beauty of my soon-to-be wife.  It was a great day in the history of great days.

We stood in front of a crowd and took our vows.  The pastor pronounced us husband and wife and let me kiss my beautiful bride for the first time.  We ran out the front doors and then came back into the sanctuary for a few last-minute pictures.  At the reception I learned about just what all came with marrying such a wonderful woman.  Her relatives pinned money on us and her grandmother engaged me in an awkward dance of avoidance as she zeroed in for a kiss on my lips. unfortunately she won.

We headed out the door, where we were pelted with birdseed and were well on our way to our honeymoon.

As beautiful as that day was and as wonderful as it is to retell the story, it was just a day.  You see the second best thing that ever happened to me wasn’t a wedding, but our marriage. And marriage is one of those things that you don’t just look back on, you live it.  Everyday growing, learning, loving, giving, forgiving, holding, sharing, caring, hearing and walking together. Some days better than others, but always together.  And that’s the point.  Always together, through thick and thin, an ever-loving, never giving up, kind of bond that holds husband and wife together.  Its one of the most awesome things I have ever experienced on this earth.

Today we are celebrating 6 great years of marriage and looking forward with anticipation to God’s plan for our life together.

What’s the best thing that ever happened to me you ask? It’s the day that I learned that God really loved me like that.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians  5:25-27, ESV)

How I Courted My Wife

Dads, Daughters and Date Days

Right around 5-years ago I became a dad.  The nurse handed me this precious little baby girl and I knew that it would all be different from that day forward.  My life had changed and all the sudden I felt the pressure to not to drop the ball.

Now She is almost 5-years-old and smarter than I ever imagined a 5-year-old being.  She knows me well.  To be honest, sometimes its uncomfortable.  She doesn’t come with a filter.  In fact that’s what a lot of parenting is… introducing a filter.

Just being gut level honest… It’s not easy to introduce a filter and help your kids process life.  Most of the time the easy thing to do is to go cut the grass (because its over due and you wonder what your neighbors are thinking about your un-kept yard), or read a book (because you need some quiet time after they have tugged on our arm and said, “Dad” a million times in a row just to get you to look at their newest drawing and act like its the best thing since Michael Angelo), or Watch TV while your kid takes an hour long bath and shrivels up like a prune (because you’ve had a long day dealing with other peoples problems… not to mention your own).  Its actually quite easy to just show up, give out a hug, maybe play a token game or two with your kid, talk to your wife, go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow without ever really parenting.

To be completely honest.  I don’t always succeed at taking advantage of all the “dad” moments that I could.  But I know I need to.  I know that I love my kids (no matter how many times they say “dad” in a row while I’m trying to figure out the algebra problems I’ve created  in the check book). I know that they need me.  I know that I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now living with regrets on how I wasted these formable years because someone else said, “that’s normal” or “that really never messed up my kid.” (After all they aren’t accountable for how I raise my kids).

So we have set some things in place in my family in order to capitalize on these younger years with my daughter.  I tuck her in bed most nights and read 1 or 2 stories to her from her Jesus Story Book Bible .  We also pray together.

On some Sunday afternoons we are more intentional.  We have this 105 picture set of pictures describing events in the Bible.  She picks out several pictures and I walk her through the story and how it relates to Jesus and obedience to God.  She looks forward to our time on Sundays and its often in this context that we process how the stories tell us about who God is and how we can relate to Him through our decisions.

My favorite part of the week is taking her out for breakfast once a week before school, we call it a Father-Daughter date.  The regular scheduled time gives me a solid hour of quality time with her.  We do everything from eating pancakes, talking about our her week, sharing ideas on how to color a picture, reading books, to picking up a small gift or surprise for my wife and her mom.  Its often in the context of this date that I get opportunities to share about Jesus with folks we meet there.

Its the date days that I really think my daughter gets to see the fullest picture of her dad.  There is no topic off limits and she often brings up some great questions.  We process life together and I intentionally help unmask the world around her through the lens of scripture. Sometimes we talk to people, sometimes we pray with people, and sometimes we just enjoy pancakes and a good story.

You see, here is what I know.  My daughter reads my actions better than my intentions. So it makes sense that I would be intentional about my actions.  I say that church is a family event, yet when we get there I am pulled a million different places (as I should be) because I’m on staff at the church.  So we arrive together and leave together on purpose (even though it would be more convenient not to).  I say I love her, so I am intentional about spending quality and quantity one-on-one time despite having a hectic and busy schedule.  I say I love Jesus, so I intentionally help her process her world through the lens of scripture.

I want her to know me.  I want her to know that I love her.  I want her to know that I am proud of her.  I want her to know that as a father I will do what is best for her.  Its really not about my good intentions, its about intentionally being a dad. I hope one day she looks back on her childhood and treasures the times we talked over pancakes as much as I do.

What about you?  What are some of the things that you are intentional about with your children?

 

3 Things You Should Know About My Mom

I haven’t always been the best son.  I have a better mom than I deserve.  She has been and continues to be a great mom.  I’m all grown up now, but I will never miss a chance to get one of her hugs.  Next to my dad she has had more influence on my life than anyone else.  There are 3 things she does with her influence that radically shapes my life.

1. She Prays for Me

Growing up I remember that she prayed for me in family devotional time.  I also remember passing by my parents room and hearing my parents pray for all of us children.  I remember as a teenager coming home drunk one night and passing by her room and hearing her call out to God on my behalf.  One time she got with some ladies and asked God to birth a desire in me and provide a way for me to go back to school (and He did). I wasn’t there, but I’m sure my mom prayed for me before I was born (maybe even before I was conceived).  I believe God answers prayers, I’ve seen Him answer my mothers time and time again.  I am thankful for a mother who asked God for me and clung to promises when I was in the midst of rebellion.  I haven’t always been the best son.

2. She leads me to love the Bible

I remember a kids devotional book with a raccoon on the front (I don’t have a clue why a raccoon was on a kids devotional book).  My mom made sure that in addition to our family devotional time that I began to develop a daily time in Gods word through the aide of this little book.  Later it would be the purchase of an “encounter” teen bible complete with devotionals in the back.  It was in this Bible that I would first document that I thought God might be calling me into ministry.

Beyond equiping me, she was in God’s word every morning too.  Often getting up early to read the bible and do her woman’s devotionals.  I remember several mornings waking up to use the bathroom and find my mom in the living room spending time reading her bible.  I knew she wanted me to get in the habit of reading God’s Word because she was in the habit.  I have a better mom than I deserve.

3. She speaks truth

Several times my mother has spoken with a prophet’s voice in my life.  The time I remember the most was the 16 hour car ride down to college.  She knew I was going into student ministry and took a moment to challenge me.  She said, “Jon, there are a lot of student ministries that are built around games and just hanging out, don’t lead one of those student ministries.  You teach the word.  Love people enough to tell them about Jesus.”  I really took her advice and a study of God’s word is what ultimately brought me to my own true conversion and trust in Christ.

I can imagine that there were countless times as I was growing up that my mom was biting her lip wondering If I would get it.  If I would really listen.  If I would receive the blessings she was giving me.  I am sure there were times that she felt like she was defeated.  I was a very strong willed child.  But she has always had the last say.  Her words even now hang in the air and influence me long after she has said them.  She has been and continues to be a great mom.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: (Proverbs 31:26-28 ESV)

What a Father says to His Daughter on Valentines Day

I have a pretty amazing little girl.  She turns five soon.  I am anxious, yet hopeful as she grows older and approaches womanhood.  I have a huge responsibility in demonstrating the way real men are to treat women.

valentines day

I take her out for pancakes once a week.  She looks forward to it every week.  Sometimes she goes to sporting events with me, just the two of us.  We call these daddy-daughter dates. Every day she asks if its her day to have breakfast with daddy.  She loves me in a crazy four-year-old way and I love her like any father should.

So here is what I’m saying to my little girl this valentines day and will probably say almost every day of her life.

1. I love you.

Love is not an emotion, it is an act of the will.  I chose to love you and I will never stop.  I love you enough to tell you the truth, to act against your will sometimes, and to do what is best for you even when you disagree.  I love you when you cry over broken toys, scraped knees, and hurt feelings.  I love you when the world is pressing in and you need a place of refuge and strength.  I love you when you have disobeyed the rules I gave you that were to protect you from harm.  I love you when you dance and sing like they do on TV.  I love you when you dress up like a princes and we dance.   I even love you when you are mad because you didn’t get your way, when you are angry with the kid who stole your toy, and when you don’t want to share. I hope you know by now that I love you and that will not change.

2. You are Beautiful

You are beautiful.  You are beautiful not only in princess gowns, play make-up, and jewelry… your  beauty is beyond skin deep.  I am inspired by your beauty when you are kind to your brother.  Your beauty shines when you help your mom.  Your beauty is evident when you bring your bibles in for me to read.  You are beautiful when you challenge me to dance.  You are beautiful.

3. I am Proud of You

I am Proud of you for so many things.  I am proud of you for letting people know when they have hugged you for too long.  I am proud of you when you take the initiative to help others in need.  I am proud of you when you think of me or someone else and you draw them a thank you card.  I am proud of you for picking up your toys with a good attitude.  I am proud of you for wanting to teach your brother what few lessons you have already learned in life.  I am proud of you when you trust me simply because I’m your dad.  I am proud of you when you ask questions (and you ask great questions).  I am proud of you.

To Dads:

We are often good about telling our daughters about when they misbehave or things they could do better.  Somehow it is easier to notice what we don’t like or don’t value than it is to affirm the good that our children do.  It is important that we cheer them on and provide a positive aim as well. Valentines day (or any day for that matter) is a great opportunity to let your daughter know that you love her and affirm the good things you see in her character.  These 3 words of affirmation are something that all daughters need to hear from their daddy no matter what their age.

7 Benefits to Blogging

I started blogging a little over a year ago.  At first my attempt was just to develop a habit of keeping people informed.  God’s done some really cool things in my life and I thought that blogging would be a great way to share.  Since then I have discovered many other benefits to blogging.  Below is my list.

1. To share about what God has done and is doing in my life

2. To provide a place to share resources I have found along the way

3. To record my thoughts on a particular topic (like forgiveness)

4. To become better at reading and writing

5. To get free books and share my thoughts (like books from publishing companies)

6. To give away free books (because they were free for me)

7. To share my response to Movies and Cultural Events

That is me.  What about you?  If you have a blog, what benefits do you get (or hope to get) from blogging?  I would love to know.  Weigh in.  Leave a comment.

3 Annoying Things I’m Glad My Parents Did When I Was a Teenager.

So its been a while since I’ve been a teenager.  I was a teenager in the boring decade of the 90’s.  Long before Text Messaging, Facebook, YouTube, Ipods and  really cool video games (I grew up with Mario brothers and Contra on the original Nintendo) .  While lots of things have changed around the teenage world since then, there are somethings that just won’t change.  One of those things is how important it is for parents to be involved in the lives of their teenagers.

Here is a look back at 3 things that were really annoying to me as a teenager that I now look back and am thankful for.  I guess at the time my parents were more concerned with being a good mom and dad, than in winning my one vote popularity contest.  I thought they were clueless… It turns out they had way more common sense than I thought.

1. They Insisted on Regular Weekly Family Time.

As a teenager I often had “more important” places to be or things to do.  It usually involved hanging out with my friends or talking on the phone to the girl I really liked (again, this was before texting and facebook).  My parents didn’t mind these activities, but they set some pretty stiff boundaries around our family time that often conflicted with my desires.  I can still remember to this day my dad telling me I had 5 minutes to get off the phone or I had to be back by 7 because of family time.  Our family time most often existed of sharing prayer concerns, reading scripture, and praying… At the time I thought it was boring.  I now look back at this time as the center (the one place we could all come back to) that kept our family together during some rough times.

2. They Set a Reasonable Hour for Curfew.

My parents would ask about what I was up to.  At the time I just thought they were being a little overbearing and didn’t really have a life of their own so they had to make mine difficult.   I now realize they just really cared and wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing something stupid. I would tell them about the activity… A movie, ball game, etc. and they would tell me a reasonable time to be home.  Sometimes my curfew was midnight, sometimes it was 7PM.  It mattered to them where I was and what I was doing.  I could call and renegotiate if plans changed and you got invited to someones house or wanted to stop by McDonalds with your friends  (back then you had to use a pay phone or someone’s home phone).

I remember one night I stayed out hours after curfew because I was explaining to a friend about how to become a Christian.  I thought for sure my dad would be overjoyed and understand the “rule breaking.”  But when I got home.  He was awake and waiting on me.  I shared with him what happened and he was genuinely happy.  Then he told me I was grounded because I could have called.  At the time I thought he was a jerk.  Now I realize that he expected me to be responsible.  He expected more out of me than I was expecting out of myself.

3. They Stated the Obvious.

When I was 18 years old and about to head off for college I made my parents sweat by dating a girl that already had a daughter.  My mom sat me down and shared the obvious.  Jon, “She has a kid.” (I told her that was a little obvious).  Then she said, “God may call you to marry someone who already has children one day, but do you really think you are ready to be a father?”  She was looking beyond my interest to the interest of the young woman and said, “She is no longer looking out for just herself.  She is looking for someone to be a father to her daughter and fill a role her life.  You were just telling me about going to college in another state.  You are going down two different paths.  You won’t be able to go to college and stay connected with this family.  You don’t need to lead her on.”

I guess I knew all that, but it took my mom stating the obvious as she had done so many times before.  And it wasn’t just over making bad decisions like investing 2 weeks of my life in a relationship that wasn’t meant to be.  I remember my parents telling me I did the right thing and affirming me over and over through my teen years.  Their stating of the obvious facts in an authentically loving way made all the difference in the world.  Sometimes I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, but part of me knew they were wiser than I gave them credit for.

I am thankful to God for good parents who stood on some unpopular issues when I was a teenager.  My response wasn’t always joyful, but I knew deep down that my parents cared about me.  I look back now at the boundaries that my parents set up around me.  I pressed against them quite a few times, but mostly to know that they were there.  During the times when life was chaotic and stressful in our family the boundaries were one way that I knew I was loved.