The Pastor’s Family (A Review)

I really enjoyed reading The Pastor’s Family* by Brian and Cara Croft. I am a pastor and my dad was a pastor/ church planter growing up. I really appreciate all the resources that Brian Croft and his team at Practical Shepharding have brought to the table (they really fill a niche that was missing when I entered into ministry). This book was especially impactful and I am very grateful to Brian and Cara for spending the time to write it.

New pastors and their wives often don’t know just how challenging ministry can be on a marriage and family. It only appears that ministry will grow even more challenging in the days ahead as the culture shifts and unreal expectations and demands are placed on pastors (by other or themeslves). I really appreciate the balance that Brian and Cara offer providing both pastor and spouse comment on the issues. I admire their candor and ability to share from their mistakes. I was especially intreagued by Brian’s appeal to both good and bad examples of famous pastors from history who did a fantastic or regretful job of shepherding their own families.

Overall I walked away from the book challenged and inspired. It didn’t share alot of informaiton that I didn’t already know, but it provided something even more valuable, motivation. I want to be sure that I don’t lose my first ministy, my family, while ministering to others. I also want to be sure that I don’t idolize my family and forsake real opportunies to minister. Brian and Cara set forth a very practical way forward to balancing the demands of ministy and ministering to your family that don’t pit those two against one another.

If you are a pastor looking for a very helpful and encouraging read on shepherding your family, this book is for you. I reccomend it to pastors, seminary students, individuals and spouses of those preparing for ministry. It’s a helpful read for those who are already married and have children, but I can see how valuable it would have been to have read this before I was married and had children.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase any items through Christianbook.com I will recieve an affiliate commission. (It helps me earn money for more books!) Reguardless, I only recommend products / services I use personally use and believe will add value to my readers.

Letter from a hospital bed to my children on the eve of open heart surgery

I had open heart surgery a few years ago to fix a leaky mitral valve that was damaged by a serious infection in my heart. I had already experienced a very small stroke and was in congestive heart failure when they discovered the root issue. I went in for a test to try and figure out why I was so sick and ended up being admitted to the hospital facing serious heart surgery. All this before I had ever turned 40.

I was warned that there was a very slight risk of complications that my surgery could end in a catastrophic stroke and or death. This really struck a nerve because my dad has a stroke in his early 40’s and it had really impacted me in a negative way. I was anxious that something could happen and that it would have a negative impact on my children.

I wrote each of my kids a letter, and I wrote this as a journal article for them to read as they grew older (I’ve edited it slightly to help it read better):

“Today I sit down to acquaint myself with all the things that could go wrong. To be honest, “wrong” on this is just my perspective. I really want to avoid hurt and pain, but they are at my doorstep knocking.They won’t let up until they enter my life like never before.

I write this now so you know my state of mind as I open the door.
There may be consequences for you that I never intended. Should things go “wrong,” it will be grief that comes knocking on your door.

Our scariest moments are the ones where we recognize we have no control. We either run to God or we run away from Him. We either call Him Evil, or we call Him Good. In those moments, there is no middle ground to practice a modified religion.

I didn’t choose this road. But it is the road that is set before me. In a thousand lifetimes I would not pick this pain. But I firmly believe that God has chosen me to endure it and so I will walk it, and you must know that I do not walk alone.

You must know that it is because of suffering that I cling to Him now, more than ever. I find that even in the darkness, and in the quiet, He remains true. So while this is not that path I would have chosen. It is the path that has led me closest to Him and for that I am grateful.

So I have to confess that when I ponder, “what might go ‘wrong’?” I say with confidence, that in some way, whatever happens, it will have also gone “right.” God is still in control.

It can be hard to imagine God is in control when we feel so out of control. I imagine the disciples were completely unnerved at the crucifixion of Jesus. Perhaps they thought all was lost. But three days later he rose from the dead! And the most tragic day in all of history became the greatest day in all of history. The resurrection changed everything. And this is where I place my hope that after whatever darkness may come we will experience the Light of God’s amazing grace.

This trial brought me closer to the Lord and that was a purpose greater than my own personal comfort could have ever been. I pray you press into the Lord no matter what comes your way. He has a way of taking the hardest circumstances and using them for his glory. It took me decades, but looking back and see how he used my dad’s stroke to work in my life. You may not see it or feel it now, but never lose the hope and true optimism that comes with trusting in the promises of God. – DAD”

I am grateful that my kids didn’t need to read that letter/journal entry. But I’m glad I wrote it for them. It helped me process some of my own feelings about my dad’s stroke (for the curious, he survived and I’ve written more about it elsewhere). I swore I’d never go into the ministry because of his stroke and the surrounding story, but as I look back, I’m probably in ministry because of it.

To this day we don’t know the cause of the infection in my heart. We probably won’t ever know. I’ve had to make peace that some things in life aren’t meant for us to understand on this side of eternity.

Family Discipleship (A Review)

I really liked Family Discipleship* by Matt Chandler and Adam Clark! It was a great read! The book is written on a level that is easy to access and is helpful to anyone who is new to figuring out how to disciple their children. It provides a much needed shot in the arm of encouragement for men to lead their family well.

Chandler and Griffin both have excellent perspectives on leading a family and Family Discipleship* is full of both biblical and practical insights. For example, one of the authors talks about reading through a journaling bible for each child and writing thoughts/ prayers for that child as they read through. They also discuss godly habits, disciplines, and rythms of life as well as planning special events, mile markers, and milestones for their children’s journey through life.

All in all it is a great book! I reccomend it to anyone trying to figure out how to lead your family well. It’s best recieved by new parents or parents of todlers, but its never too late to start the journey of discipleship and this book reflects that with insight for older children as well. Certainly there were many insights that I gleaned from it and I’ve got kids in three different stages of development!

If your looking for a basic “how to” for family discipleship, this is a good book to get you started.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase any items through Christianbook.com I will recieve an affiliate commission. (It helps me earn money for more books!) Reguardless, I only recommend products / services I use personally use and believe will add value to my readers.

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy (A Review)

Sometimes we hurt. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are depressed. Our cluture often doesn’t want to take time to express and feel the negative. In American Christianity there can be a strong pull to pass over the negative in favor of the positive side of things. Certainly there is a lot of optimism to our faith (Jesus defeated the grave!) but there is also room for lament (Jesus went to the grave). We all go through pain, loss and unexpected challenges. Sometimes we feel the sharp edges of our broken world. It can be unbarable to somehow talk as if rainbows exist without rain clouds or as if the resurection happened without the crusafixion. We need to grieve and lament in a broken world.

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy* was a really fantastic read and very helpful in understanding a fuller picture of God’s sovereignty in our suffering. Written from a place of his own lament, Mark Vroegop, candidly shares how to pray through the laments found in scripture. As pastor he has been instrumental in helping individuals and groups process their own lament in a biblical way.

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy* is both exposition of some of the key texts of scripture (like Lametations, some of the Psalms, etc.) and exposition of the heart in lament. Vroegop writes in an intelligent but open style that allows the reader to enguage in the language of lament. I found the book extremely helpful in my own life and it’s one that I will probably pass on to others.

From a pastoral perspective, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy*, is a fantastic resource to begin figuring out how to lament and lead people through a lamenting process. There are a few really goood resouces in the index. Should another edition be published, I’d like to see more information on leading a group prayer time and other aspects of corporate lament that were shared in the book. The tools are there, but in a rough form.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase any items through Christianbook.com I will recieve an affiliate commission. (It helps me earn money for more books!) Reguardless, I only recommend products / services I use personally use and believe will add value to my readers.

Honoring Our Heroes

Tuesday Morning, September 11, 2001 many of us saw the best and worst of humanity play out in real life down the street and on our television screens. America had been attacked! Real fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends, people… real people, ordinary people, were viciously attacked by a radical Islamic terrorists. We didn’t see it coming!

At first we wondered if it was planned? We had a hard time believing that someone would plan such a vicious attack on civilians. We watched the second plane hit, learned about the Pentegon attack, and heard of the other plane that was crashed into a field on American soil. Many of us sat glued to the television praying, not even knowing what to say, because we didn’t know what was happening.

While many stood still in fear, shock, or wonder, there was another group of men and women who quickly mobalized and went running into the fray. They were our first responders. They were just as surprised as the rest of us, but they had a duty that day. Many were off work, but they still geared up and ran into those buildings. Some who were in the building that day been trained as volunteers and instinctively started to lead people to safety. Many entered into the fray never to make it back home.

We gained a new appreciation for our first responders that day. It has become a day to remember and honor our heroes. We had always known that if we were in danger and we called, the fire truck would come, the ambulance would get there, the police would arrive. We always knew that there was a cost, but on that day we saw that cost paid over and over by incredible men and women who went to help.

In the years since, we have had time to reflect and notice that we have alway had heroes in our midst! They enter our lives at our scariest moments (when we face a health crisis, a fire, or are the victim of a crime) and walk us through them. They bring us peace when our world is anything but peaceful.

It always comes with a cost. Sometimes the cost is relatively low and its just an inconvenience. Sometimes the cost is emotional, knowing you did everything right, but still wondering and feeling like you lost or it’s the heart break of the broken situations they enter that seem so broken they will never heal. Sometimes the cost is high, too high, when our friends and heroes don’t come back.

As I was praying for some of our local first responders today and reflecting on 9/11, I came accross this verse:

He who follows righteousness and mercy Finds life, righteousness, and honor. – Proverbs 21:21

I am grateful for our first responders, especially those who I know in our own community. I count it a privildege to be a friend and pray for many by name. I know them to be men and women of character who enter into difficult situations and are genuine peacemakers. I have found them to be men and women of honor.

Typically at this time of year, our church sponsors a breakfast for the first responders in our community! I genuinely enjoy being able to celebrate and honor these men and women. This year, for the first time, we have had to alter our plans (Due to the virus) but I look forward to celebrating our local heroes in the days ahead, because I believe them to be men and women worthy of honor. I am grateful to God for thier service in our community and the thousands upon thousands like them around the nation and globe who step in to help when help is needed most.

Thy Kingdom Come

Jesus teaches us to petition God with is that HIS kingdom would come. To understand this we first have to grasp “His kingdom.” The kingdom of God is anywhere the King reigns. It is a physical place and a spiritual reality.

Remember that we live in a seized state. Men and women are separated from God by their sins. Satan, the Prince of the power of the air, has a rule and dominion over the earth. We are the resistance clamoring for the rightful King to return.

It is an election year. We have narrowed the field for president. It’s important to vote. You might have a candidate that you want to win the election. Maybe they fit your ideals. Maybe they promised you something better than the other guy. Maybe you’re just scared of what will happen if the other guy gets elected. So you anticipate and hope that so and so get’s elected or doesn’t get elected.

This supersedes that! This is not just a desire for the right candidate in the right office, but that all the people of the land will recognize Jesus as king. When you pray, “Your kingdom come,” you are talking about your house and you are talking about your neighbor’s house.  You see what’s most relevant isn’t the changes that take place or don’t take place in the White House, what is most relevant is what changes are taking place in your house! Is Jesus LORD or do you still run the show?

Day 78: 1 Peter 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Peter 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

How are you different now that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? That question is worth considering. The Apostle Peter deals with personal holiness (living lives that are more like Jesus than who we used to be) in the first few chapters of 1 Peter.  Christians are to be holy because we serve a holy God and if He is in us, then we should be becoming more like Him(1:15-16). We don’t become holy in order to get saved, we are saved by the blood of Jesus and made to be holy (1:18-21). Similarly we are not kept in holiness by our own power and strength, we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to move forward in our personal holiness (1:22-23).

Sometimes the way we treat other people hinders our ability to prayer or the effectiveness of our prayers. That’s at least what Peter says about how husbands ought to treat their wives (3:7). Our relationship to others really does matter when it comes to the business of prayer. How is your relationship with those closest to you right now? Have you been a good husband, father, mother, wife, son, daughter, etc. Are you honoring God in your relationships or do you sin quite often and still expect to go to God with grace and ease in your prayer life.

Sometimes the most effective thing we can do to increase our prayer life is to repent of our sin to those we have offended and seek healthy relationships (kind of like James 5)… Then our burdens flow freely to the Lord.

FATHER, Thank you for the cross and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. I pray that we are conforming to your image and that we see holiness develop in our lives. I pray that we would keep short accounts with one another and be quick to confess our sins that our prayers may not be hindered. Thank you for the strength to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 75: Hebrews 9-10 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 9-10 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We have a greater sacrifice. That is in essence what Hebrews chapter 9 and 10 remind us. That Jesus offered himself on our behalf, a perfect, spotless, once and for all  sacrifice.  The outward function of sacrifices, the temple, and priests all point us forward to Jesus as the coming fulfillment of the Old Testament.  How can anyone be saved if they leave the substance to embrace the shadow? Those who are in Christ have the substance of everything that was hoped for and are secure in their salvation.

Why then should we worry at what the world around us does? We have atonement for our sins, peace with God. The Hebrews were suffering the plundering of their property. They were seeing their stuff taken and perhaps even members of their fellowship thrown in jail. But what they couldn’t see was the once and for all peace with God that had been established on their behalf by Jesus. Peace with God was far more costly than what they were losing to a world that persecuted them.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God has done far more for us in Jesus than we often give him credit for. The plundering of property seems like a small things compared to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

FATHER, Thank you for the forgiveness of sins and salvation found in Jesus Christ! We rejoice to know our savior. I pray that our confidence would be in you today, no matter what goes on in our world. Give us grace to minister to one another in the midst of chaos. Thank you for the grace to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 14: Matthew 19-21 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 19-21 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We cover a lot of ground in these few chapters. The topics of divorce and celibacy are mentioned as well as the story of the Rich Young Ruler. However, what really jumps out at me are the parables that exhibit God’s grace. It seems as though there will be some surprise characters in the kingdom of Heaven. There will be some who come to faith in the 11th hour (20:6) and there will be some who begin their life in rebellion to God, but end in faithfulness (21:28-32).

These parables stand in stark contrast with Jesus’ second cleansing the temple (21:12-17) and his more specific Parable or the Wicked Vine Dressers (21:33-46). It helps to know that the national symbol for Israel was a grape vine and Jesus spells out exactly what he means by this parable (21:43). There is a clear rejection of the religious establishment and an emphasis that the gospel is intended to go to the whole world.

Chapter twenty-one also emphasizes that the religious leaders had rejected the authority of Jesus… But to sure, the rejection of the leaders doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is the authority. When you reject God’s authority, all you end up doing is hurting yourself (21:44). There was a saying that went around back in Jesus’ day that when to the effect of, “when a clay pot falls on a rock, the pot breaks… and when a rock falls on a clay pot, the pot breaks.”  One way or the other the only real reaction of a collision between a clay pot and a rock is for the pot to break.

Funny thing about the authority of God. When you submit to him, you have greater potential than when you rebel.  The cornerstone was the one by which the whole building was pieced together. It became the model and foundation for all the other stone work on a building. When we build our lives upon the authority of Jesus Christ, we become conformed to his image and are an extension of his kingdom at work in humanity.

Here is how I am praying today:

LORD, I thank you that you can wonderfully save individuals from their sins in the eleventh hour and that you radically save some individuals who begin their life in rebellion. Help me to never give up on others, assuming that it is too late or that someone is too set in their ways. I pray that you would grant me opportunity to share your gospel today. I pray that we would line our lives up on the corner stone of Christ Jesus. I pray for comfort, hope, and a sense of your presence for those who are grieving. I pray for strength for those who feel week and discernment for those making decisions today. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 13: Matthew 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 16–18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Chapter sixteen we are forced to contemplate the identity of Jesus. Peter makes the first assertion that Jesus is, “the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Towards the end of the chapter Jesus promises that some of his disciples will see Him coming in His kingdom before they die! At the beginning of the very next chapter they do exactly that as they see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. This spiritually high event is followed by a low as the disciples are unable to heal a boy by casting out a demon. Jesus challenges their faith and tells them this kind only come out only by prayer and fasting. There is no presumption in casting out of demons, it is an utter and complete dependence on God. 

Chapter eighteen centers on the topic of forgiveness.   Often it is easier to see the sins of our brother than it is to see our own sin and so we condemn them and write them off as being purely evil… while we enjoy the pleasures and benefits of being God’s servant.

However, Jesus says you can’t live that way. You can’t write someone off for their sin against you.  He didn’t write you off.  He went to the cross for you and so for the sake of forgiveness and reconciliation the least you can do is walk across the room and lovingly confront the wrong (notice I said lovingly).

It’s easy to hate someone in their wrong doing.  You can count the tears, the lives affected, and try to put a value on the pain… but then again Jesus didn’t chose the to go to the cross for you when you were lovable. Don’t pretend like your sins don’t cost too.

You see we don’t forgive because we are commanded to and that is the end of the story.  We forgive because we are forgiven. When you realize your debt before God and what lengths he went to to absorb your debt against Him… well then that bit of unforgiveness in your heart just looks plain silly.

The power to forgive isn’t in you… The power to forgive comes from God alone. You see all sin is ultimately gets paid for… Either in your soul for ever in Hell, or Jesus on the cross.  At the end of the day all of us answer to God.  He is the only one who judges our hearts right.

Matthew eighteen also addresses church discipline. Church discipline is always done in love and in the hope of restoration. Lot’s of folks often quote Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered there I am also” in prayer gatherings. While it is true that Jesus is where his people are, this verse is in reference to church discipline. It can be such a tough matter to put someone out of the church that it helps to know that when great steps have been taken to restore and individual and they are still unrepentant, that Jesus is there. Trust me, if you have ever had to walk through the heart breaking steps of seeking restoration only to be met with a hardened heart over and over, It is comforting to know that Jesus is in your midst.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD,  Thank you that you have made yourself known to us and that we can know you! I pray for my friends who don’t know you yet, and I pray that they would come to know you and trust you soon. I pray that I would continue to trust and depend on you. I thank you for disciplines like prayer and fasting that lead us closer. I pray that whenever sin enters into our relationships that we would seek forgiveness. I pray that I would be quick to repent when I have sinned and quick to forgive those who have sinned against me. I pray for those who are sinning and unrepentant. I pray for families who are being torn apart by sin. I pray for your church to love those who are falling away. Thank you for the calling you have placed on my life to shepherd your people. I pray that I would be faithful to you and accountable to others in every area of my life. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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