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Redeeming the Time in Chicago and Everywhere Else

I wrote the following blog post on Friday afternoon, March 23.

A 12-hour train ride. That is what lies ahead of Jackson (my firstborn) and I, as we make our way back from Chicago, IL to Wichita, KS (via Newton, KS). For Jackson’s 13th BD, Annie and decided to give him a trip anywhere in the continental U.S. We let him choose the destination, plan many of the outings, etc.

Before deciding on Chicago, Jackson decided he wanted to visit a large city he had never been to. A very complicated process of choosing that city ensued. Well, basically, it involved the question, “Where could we get the best pizza and ride trains and busses?” That narrowed it down to NYC and Chicago, and since deep dish pizza reigns supreme over all other forms of pizza, Chicago became our choice.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Charles Heck, people smiling, outdoor and waterOur week was as “touristy” as you might expect. We visited museums, ate at popular restaurants, went inside local shops, talked with natives about their city, slept in late, stayed up late, watching the river dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day, etc. And speaking of food, of the 7 days we were gone, Jackson managed to eat pizza 6 of those day!

For me, the highlight wasn’t so much Chicago as it was reflecting on the fact that I have a 13-year old son. In the not too distant future, this son will likely be moving on to college or to begin his new life of independence of total responsibility.

Where has the time gone?

It wasn’t that long ago that I was rocking him back to sleep in the middle of the night, holding him on my chest, generating an incredible amount of body heat between the two of us, and thinking, “Will this ever end?” And, of course, that season ended too soon.

The verse that keeps coming to mind as I think about the growth and aging of children is Ephesians 5:16 – “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Parents, you know that time will fly with your kids. And there is a plethora of conversations and instructions you want to give them before they are “on their own.” Do that as soon as you can.

And don’t wait for someone else to teach your kids what they need to know.

Recently, a friend of mind and I were talking about how to approach the “sex talk” with our children. And I detected a level of hesitancy on his part to do it all, and just let his kids learn that on their own as they get older. I shared them my burden on the issue, “If you don’t teach them, someone else will. And that someone will likely not share your own values and worldview. Paul says that those days that will teach him are evil ones.”

In this chapter of Jackson’s life, there is so much to teach. And there is enough time. It must be seized. Carpe diem!

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Reflections from the 2018 Shepherds’ Conference

Shepherds’ Conference is a unique conference for several reasons:

  1. It takes place on the campus of a church. Most conferences I attend (e.g., T4G, The Gospel Coalition, etc.) are hosted in large arenas or conference centers. Because Shepherds’ Conference takes place on a church campus, you get the opportunity to meet many church attenders and there is an atmosphere of lingering around to talk with others, as you might on a Sunday morning.
  2. Hospitality. There is no other conference – maybe in history – that comes close to the hospitality of Grace Church. If you want to be served or blessed, you could attend Shepherds’ Conference, never attend a session, and just watch the 850+ volunteers from Grace Church minister to the men who come…and be greatly humbled by their service. Many, if not most, of these volunteers gladly take 1 week of vacation time to serve at Shepherds’ Conference.
  3. Books. No other conference will supply you will as much ample reading material for the year as this conference. I came home with approximately 15 books I didn’t pay for, and then another 10 books greatly discounted.

If you have never attended Shepherds’ Conference, you need to.

This year’s theme was “I Will Build My Church,” which is based from Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18. Each plenary session of the conference highlighted different characterizations of the church.

For example, we heard John MacArthur, H.B. Charles Jr., Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Phil Johnson, Steve Lawson, Art Azurdia, Tom Pennington, and Austin Duncan preach on subjects like “The Sanctification of the Church,” “The Power of the Church,” “The Servanthood of the Church,” “The Purity of the Church,” “The Marks of a Healthy Church,” “The Leadership of the Church,” “The Head of the Church,” etc.

I also had the opportunity to attend a few seminars: “Lay Training for the Local Church” (by Nathan Busenitz and Peter Sammons), “On Pastoring” (by H.B. Charles, Jr.), and “Revitalizing Churches” (by Carl Hargrove).

Some of the statements speaks made that I recorded as helpful:

  • “Does your pulpit sound more like a hallmark card than the Apostle Paul?” (Dever)
  • “Jesus guarantees the success of Gospel preaching.” (Lawson)
  • “Pastors are servant leaders and we don’t have the right to determine who deserves our service.” (Charles)
  • “Pastors are to be for the sanctification of God’s people. Don’t be content that people are just there or like your preaching.” (MacArthur)
  • “Sanctification is the process of fighting for full joy and not selling out for a cheap substitute.” (MacArthur)

I could give insights and highlights of every session and seminar with great ease, but I thought I would simply, and briefly, share with you one primary encouragement I took from the conference: pastors should wash the feet of their congregation.

There is a great temptation for pastors to think, “I am their authority. They are to submit to me. I am trained; they are not. They serve me.”

The message that H.B. Charles, Jr. gave on the 1st day was stirring as he helped us better understand the implications of Jesus’ washing the feet of His own disciples (John 13:1-17). Not only are Christians to be foot-washers, but leaders are to emulate foot-washing for their followers. And no leader should decide who he will or won’t serve, because Jesus even washed the feet of Judas.

Because no pastor is better than Jesus, all of us should serve our people like Jesus. The question “Is there anything I can do for you?” should be one of the most common questions pastors ask.

What a week it was! What an opportunity all of us attendees now have to serve our church!

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My 3 Pastors

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

I don’t know who decides these things or the reasons behind it. And I run the risk of sounding prideful for even mentioning it, but allow me to defend the purpose for my blog post. So, read this post in its entirety before assuming I am patting myself on the back.

The Bible teaches that a church is to be led by a plurality of elders (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4; 21:18; I Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14). In short, when a church is able, there should be biblically qualified men (plural) who rule and shepherd the church (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9).

While there can be and usually is a leader among those equals, the biblical model for church government is a plurality of elders.

Now, what this means in a tangible way, or what it should mean, is that no elder (or pastor) should be without another pastor. In a church with a plurality of elders, the elders are pastors and those pastors have pastors to shepherd them.

At Wichita Bible Church (WBC), where I have the privilege of serving, there are 4 elders. Other than myself, their names are Mark, Warren and Grady.

When someone asks, “Are you the pastor of WBC?” I respond, “I am one of them.” I do not believe biblically that shepherding a church should ever be left to one man, and I am thankful to have a team of shepherds (elders) that I co-labor with.

Now, back to Pastor Appreciation Month.

As I pastor, I am also a sheep in need of shepherding. I need pastoring. And I have 3 of them in my life. I want to show my appreciation to them in this blog post by sharing why I appreciate their friendship and leadership.

Warren, Mark and Grady are humble. One of the 1st things I noticed about these men when I started candidating at WBC in 2013 was their humility. They were quick to admit their shortcomings and failures in leadership. They were not ashamed to speak about their need to grow and mature in a variety of areas.

Warren, Mark and Grady love the Bible. They are governed by its instructions, direction and mission. When we jokingly say that “Bible” is our middle name at WBC, we mean it. It starts from the top down. These men are regularly evaluating the ministry of WBC by what the Bible says. They hold me accountable to preach accurately the Bible to our people.

Warren, Mark and Grady are friends. We meet once a week on Monday nights, see other on Sundays, and minister together in other venues. We go on retreats at least once a year. We attend conferences together. We have dinners and lunches and breakfasts with one another. These men are dear friends. They have earned the right – by their godliness and their wisdom – to speak into my life whenever they want to.

Warren, Mark and Grady are teachable. Perhaps this is just an example of humility, but I love that these men are always wanting book recommendations or to have doctrinal summits together (all day meetings where we study a doctrinal issue together). They are men who are not content to remain in one place in their understanding of Scripture or their relationship with God. They want more.

If I were writing Epistles today, like Paul, I would quickly mention each of these men at the end of my letters, like Paul did with his co-laborers and ministers of the Gospel (Romans 16:21; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 4:7-13).

I could not serve as Teaching Pastor at WBC without them.

I love Warren, Mark and Grady. And for Pastor Appreciation Month, you need to know these men – who are my pastors – are worthy of our commendation.

 

Some Free Seminary Training from The Master’s Seminary

Did you know that you can take seminary-level classes online for free from The Master’s Seminary, where John MacArthur is the President?

For preaching, you can view the course “Expository Preaching in the Psalms” by Dr. Steven Lawson.

For New Testament studies, you can view the course “New Testament Survey” by Dr. Keith H. Essex.

For Old Testament studies, you can view the courses

For pastoral ministries, you can view the courses

For theology, you can view the courses:

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A Prayer For My Boys On Their First Day of School

Father in Heaven,

Thank you for always being faithful. There has never been a moment where You broke a promise, changed your mind or deviated from Your Word. Your faithfulness is one of the many reasons we come you in prayer for our needs.

I thank you for your faithfulness to my family. You have always been a Good Father to my children. Despite my sins and foolishness, You have preserved them and blessed them in more ways than I am capable.

On this day, Father, I ask for Your grace.

As my boys return to school, I ask that You preserve their mind. I ask as they hear anything that challenges the sufficiency of Your Word, that You would protect them from being deceived.

I pray as they interact with boys and girls that their integrity would not falter.

I pray that you would encourage and bless their teachers with wisdom, quick-thinking, fairness, and strength.

Father, please use this school year to be a period of growth in my boys. Help them progress towards a deeper knowledge of You.

Father, you can use anything as an instrument of accomplishing Your will. And as my boys travel back to schools they have grown to know, I pray You would use those institutions – in ways only You can achieve – to learn to love you more.

Please help Annie and I to be intentional in our conversations with them about their school day. Help us to ask the right questions about their day and their interactions. Help us to be good listeners as they express their victories and defeats.

Thank you. Father, for education. Thank you for giving all of us – parents, grandparents, our church, our schools – the responsibility of teaching.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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Happy 40th BD to Andrea Heck

Happy 40th birthday to my bride, my best friend, my sister in Christ, and my companion in life. In honor of her on this occasion, here are 40 things I love about being married to Andrea.

  1. Her smile that greets me throughout the day
  2. Ability to ask perceptive questions
  3. Patience with my sins and shortcomings
  4. Consistent nurturing of our 3 boys
  5. Love for reading books that challenge her
  6. Quick to listen
  7. Flexibility and willingness to adjust to my unpredictable schedule
  8. Eagerness to trust God
  9. Brutal honesty
  10. Outward beauty from head to toe
  11. Hearing her sing
  12. Communicates clearly and often
  13. Absence of gossip and complaining
  14. Follows her conscience rigorously
  15. Content in all circumstances
  16. Excels in counseling others
  17. Creativity and excellence in preparing meals
  18. Servant-driven
  19. Sober-minded
  20. Possesses discernment
  21. Committed to teaching younger women
  22. Honoring of those older than her
  23. Genuinely friendly
  24. Better skier than I
  25. Faithfully submissive
  26. Forgiving
  27. Wise with money
  28. Habitually sacrificial towards others
  29. Integrity
  30. Seldom idle
  31. Not a friend of ignorance
  32. Keep the world at arm’s length
  33. Deep thinker
  34. Pragmatic
  35. Example of modesty
  36. Hard working
  37. Careful with her tongue
  38. Immovable in her convictions
  39. Absence of trivial things in her life
  40. Being married to her for 16 years