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Seizing Life for the Glory of God

A Steadfast Heart

O God, my heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory” (Psalm 108:1).

David says, “My heart is steadfast”; it’s like he was saying, “My heart is made up; it won’t move. Trust me; it won’t move. It is resolute.” David was firm and decided and did not waver in his purpose. He was committed to praising God above all else … even his troubles. David was not swayed or moved by the events that had occurred. He did not doubt the justice or the goodness or the mercy of God. He was determined to praise him; his heart was not shaken.

This is not as common as it should be today.

Image result for alexander maclarenThere aren’t many who always praise God no matter the circumstance. People waffle; people flip-flop; people change their convictions as often as they do their preferences.

Alexander Maclaren, a Scottish Baptist minister from the late 1800s, preached in a sermon entitled “The Fixed Heart”,

“For a fixed heart I must have a fixed determination and not a mere fluctuation and soon broken intention. I must have a steadfast affection, and not merely a fluttering love that, like some butterfly, lights now on this, now on that sweet flower, but which has a flight straight as a carrier pigeon to its cot, which shall bear me direct to God. And I must have a continuous realization of my dependence upon God and of God’s sweet sufficiency going with me all through the dusty day. … Ah, brethren! How unlike the broken, interrupted, divergent lines that we draw is our average Christianity fairly represented by such words as these of my text? Do they not rather make us burn with shame when we think that a man who lived in the twilight of God’s revelation, and was weighed upon by distresses such as wrung this psalm out of him, should have poured out this resolve, which we who love in the sunlight and are flooded with blessings find it hard to echo with sincerity and truth? Fixed hearts are rare amongst the Christians of thus day.”

Reflections on 15 Years of Church Ministry

About 15 years ago, right around this time, Andrea and I were on our way to Tulsa, OK to begin working in youth ministry. Today, I am the Teaching Pastor in Wichita, KS. A lifetime of experienced have been gathered in this 15-year span, and here is just a sample of lessons I have gained.

  1. God’s designed the church to be a kaleidoscope not a collection of clones. While we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and are one in the body of Christ (Romans 12:5), there is a variety of maturity levels and areas of giftedness in the local church. Some struggle in the same sins that others have continual victory over. Some people value a particular author that others don’t enjoy. Some grew up a few miles from the church; others moved to the United States just a few years ago. Some are wrestling with questions like, “Where does evil come from” and others are working on the question, “Does God love me”? God loves variety in the local church.
  2. If you preach the Word, it will do what it promises to do. I have learned to live with many things (that are not essentials) in church ministry and seen the Word of God change hearts. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It will soften hearts. It will move people in a specific direction when taught accurately and applied rightly. Trust God’s Word and preach it when people want to hear it and not hear it (II Timothy 4:2).
  3. I am not as dumb or as smart as I think. Just when I think I “nailed it”, I am reminded of how far I need to go. And just when I think I completely bombed, God uses me to bless someone else.
  4. God can and does use me for His pleasure despite my sins, inconsistencies and weaknesses. That is the beauty of God’s sovereignty. He uses us, but doesn’t NEED us. His ways are always perfect; our ways are always flawed. If God can use a talking donkey for His pleasure, He can certainly use this jar of clay (II Corinthians 4:7-9).
  5. Sanctification is a community project. When God saved me, He didn’t save me to myself. He put me into the body of Christ. I need my church to help me become holy. Their encouragements, criticisms, gratitude, “push backs”, praise, invitations, emails, handshakes, etc. all help develop me into the man of God I need to be. I won’t become holy without them (I Corinthians 12).
  6. Senior Christians are undervalued. Too often, and to our shame, we don’t expect our senior saints to contribute to the local body. We encourage them to hit cruise control, lean back in their pew (or chair) in the service, be a spiritual sponge, and keep all their wisdom and spiritual insight to themselves. We need our older Christians if we want to be more faithful in disciple-making (Titus 2:2-8).
  7. Home is my Sabbath rest. I love coming home. Even when I open the door and hear the boys running circles in the living room with their light sabers and see Annie hiding in another room with her ear plugs in – I love coming home. Home is an escape from the pressures and stresses of ministry. Home is where my heart enjoys being and my family rejuvenates me in all kinds of ways to serve the church.
  8. God has never disappointed. Sure, there are times when I have asked him, “Why did you let that elder die when we needed him” or “Why did you allow that church to split?” But I have never been disappointed in His sovereignty. He knows what He is doing (Romans 8:29-30).
  9. Prayer is my fuel. Without prayer, I am apathetic, slow, impatient, harsh, and critical. When I see Paul showing thanks to God for a church like Corinth, I get fired up to pray for others.
  10. The whole counsel of God needs preaching. It’s easy to preach a Gospel or a short book like Philemon or Jude, but there is tremendous value (II Timothy 3:16-17) in preaching a series in the Minor Prophets – which I have yet to do. There needs to be teaching on the book of Deuteronomy – which I have done. There needs to be preaching from the Song of Solomon – which would be an interesting experience. All of it needs to be taught (Acts 20:27).
  11. I read to know that I am not alone. Ministry can be incredibly lonely. Even if you serve with a great team of elders, which I do, ministry is often one-way. There is a lot of shepherding and equipping of others, but few take the time to shepherd and equip you. That’s why I love to read. Some of my shepherds sit on my shelves in my office, and I value their speaking of life to me (II Timothy 4:13).
  12. What I think about God is the most important thing about me. Tozer gave me that thought about 20 years ago when I read The Knowledge of the Holy. My view of God changes everything about me – how I approach each and every one of my own sins, how I husband, how I father, how I preach, how I show hospitality, how I vacation, etc. I want to know more about God today than I did when I first placed by faith in Him (Philippians 3:10).
  13. I am still in the classroom. Just because no professor is overseeing my assignments doesn’t mean that school is over. Church ministry is more of a school than seminary or college ever was. There are tests and quizzes every day. There are questions and answers. There is dialogue and debate. There is non-stop learning.
  14. Criticism is inevitable. Leadership invites a bull’s-eye on your back. When you stand in front of others, you are, at best, a sinful, imperfect leader. I have made unwise decisions; I have said erroneous and foolish things. I will continue to fall short in my communication the rest of my life. On the other hand, I have said what needs to be said. I have preached hard truths. There will always be people in ministry that won’t like how you lead. How I respond to criticism (Ephesians 4:29) says more about me than the fact that I actually receive criticism.
  15. God does not need me. He is all-powerful; I have limitations. He is everywhere; I am in one place. He knows all; I forget stuff every day. He is eternal; I had a beginning. He created the world I live in. He gave me spiritual gifts I didn’t earn or deserve. He softens the hearts I preach to. He gave me words to impart. He is doing just fine without me.

What Is God Up To In Lille, France?

Leroy and Debbie Zumack are missionaries in Lille, France, which is in the northern part of the country not too far from the Belgian border. I first met the Zumack’s in a practice-Skype interview a few years ago for a live Skyping that we planned to do with our church (Wichita Bible Church) the next day during our worship service.

There were four of us from WBC planning to visit the Zumacks that summer and this was our opportunity to talk with the congregation about our upcoming trip.

The Zumacks are a delightful couple serving in a very spiritually cold Europe, and they could use your prayer.

I recently asked Leroy if he would be willing to answer a few questions for my blog as part of a series I am entitled “What God Is Doing Around the World.” Here is that interview.

How did you end up in Lille, France and how long have you been serving the Lord in this place? We had been serving in the Paris area, a city called Eaubonne and we had finished our work there after about 14 years.  Our field leader asked us to consider three options. We visited each in 2003 and ended up going to Lille. The Church there was barely holding on. And they had developed a rhythm of going to the church in Lille one Sunday, and then had their own service the next Sunday. We started out with about 14 people and it dwindled down to 5 so I said let’s stay at the church in Lille. (It was a very complicated situation and too long to explain here.) We have been at the Eau Vive Church since 2004.

During your time in Lille, how have you seen God working? Well several good things happened the past 13 years.  The Eau Vive Church had bought a building and needed work teams to refurbish it. Our mission had a ministry that organized the work teams so over about 5 years we saw 6 work teams come through our mission and 6 other teams were from within Europe. A ministry for students came to Lille in 2010. There are 115,000 students in Lille and almost no ministry was reaching out to them. The evangelical Churches began to work together and coordinate church planting. I started prison ministry in 2007.

What have been some of the larger challenges (e.g., physical, spiritual, doctrinal) in recent years? I have had some physical challenges due to eczema, and that is an ongoing challenge. Debbie has an eye condition with a slowly growing shadow over her right eye. I cannot think of any doctrinal challenges that we faced. The first two years I wondered why God had brought me there. The church in Wattignies that closed eventually kept losing members, and I had no ministry in the Lille Church yet so I proposed to do visitation which they gladly accepted.

Do you ever wish you could move to another country or city? Currently I sometimes want to move to the south where it is warmer. it would be better for my eczema.

How can the readers of this blog be praying for you? To seek my pleasure in the Lord (Psalm37:4), not in ministry. Ministry is serving God, but I need to love Him, and abide in Him and obey Him. Pray for Debbie’s eye and my eczema that we are patient with these temporal, earthly matters.

The 3 Moms In My Life

In Proverbs 31:10, the writer (maybe Solomon?), asked, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” These kinds of women are rare. You won’t find them in every home or church building. The writer, if it was Solomon, had about 1,000 women in his palace (300 concubines and 700 wives) and he didn’t see the virtues of a godly woman often.

So, it makes sense that when you find such a woman, that you honor her. This isn’t just a Mother’s Day kind of thing, but it’s a Proverbs 31:28, 31 kind of thing – “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her…A women who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”

In the spirit of those verses, I want to give honor to the three mothers in my life. I can answer the question of Proverbs 31:10 because there are women of great virtue in my life.

First, there is my mother, Susan Heck. My mom possesses the faith of anyone listed in Hebrews 11 and the energy of the Apostle Paul. She is either on the move to disciple someone or in her home pouring herself into memorizing or studying God’s word. She is not idle. In fact, we joke about the turntables you put in a kitchen table called the “lazy Susan,” because that is most certainly not my mom. She continually shows us kids and grandkids commitment to God’s Word, love for mentoring others, and a dedication to dispensing wisdom when God allows, and I love her for it.

Second, there is my mother-in-law Kathy Greene. When I married Annie, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when it came to joining Annie’s family. I knew her mother a bit, but not near as much as I do now. What Kathy possesses that is rare in other women I see is discernment. She can process conversations, news reports, passages in books she is reading, and immediately get to the heart of the issue. Perhaps, that is why she is such an effective and often-sought-after biblical counselor. She loves helping people solve their problems and has deep empathy for people in her life, and I love her for it.

Third, there is my own wife Annie (short for Andrea). I get to see her “up close and personal” every day as she mothers our 3 boys. And it blows me away with the kind of intentionality she has with our kids that I have never seen in anyone else. She shepherds them in the way that Psalm 23 describes. In fact, I have often thought that if God allowed women to be pastors (and that’s another subject for another time), that Annie would be a far better pastor in the church than me, because she has a natural bent towards taking people where they need to go and inspiring people to love God and His Word, and I love her for it.

I am blessed with these 3 women. I have found the virtuous woman…threefold.

Image result for happy mothers day

Just In Case You Missed It – May 8-13, 2017

  1. Why 144,000 Means 144,000” by Clint Archer (Cripplegate).  DeYoung is de-bunked by a fellow TMS alum. Good stuff!
  2. Engraver of the Reformation” by Stephen Nichols (5 Minutes in Church History).  I had forgotten all about Albrecht Durer.
  3. The Internet Is Not a Library” by Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition).  An ode to books!

 

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