This and That 11-7-15

Three Ways The Church Can Better Serve Special Needs Families – However, while disability affects one family member it impacts the whole family. There is mother and father who may not have been out on a date for some time because they do not know who to entrust with the care of their child. There may be a sibling whose adolescent apprehensions also include concerns for a brother or sister with a disability. Perhaps they even find themselves as the designated caregiver at times when they simply what to hang out with their own friends. An accessible church will consider how they can address the needs of the family as well as the needs of the disabled individual. – Chris Hulshof

You Only Live Forever – But Jesus’ message was decidedly for the world. The prophetic oracle isn’t just about surviving biological death, but also about peace with God and with one another about a just society. Implicit in Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue was the message he would preach everywhere else later, to seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. Kingdom first does not mean kingdom only. Since the kingdom is a kingdom of justice and righteousness, seeking the kingdom means that we come to know what to care about in he first place. – Russell Moore

Thank God for the Protestant Reformation – As you observe and participate in our worship today, you will hear the Word of God read in the language of the people. You will receive the preached Word of God in light of a clear doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Roman Catholic church teaches grace, faith, and Christ, yet does not teach grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, under the authority of the Word of God alone. You will hear the congregation corporately confess sins directly to God, not to me or some human priest. You will lift your voice with the voice of the people around you, as with one accord we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. That, my friends is the heritage of the Protestant Reformation. As we read, sing, pray, and preach this morning let’s do it with a heart of gratitude to God for the Reformers who courageously risked their lives so that we can worship to the glory of God alone. – Joshua Pegram

Why Jesus’s Warning “Judge Not That You Be Not Judged” Is So Popular – But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should! – Chris Bruans

Pastor Appreciation Month Day 27 – Pastor Joshua Pegram

Pastor Joshua Pegram is the pastor of Morning Star Church in Rockford, IL and has the distinction of 10393679_10153632722563082_2231092455392279560_nbeing my current pastor.  Since we’ve added two boys into our family, he’s the only pastor our family has ever known together.

Joshua officially became our pastor a little over a year ago, but he’s been there during one of the toughest trials and greatest joys of my life – the arrival of my two foster sons (soon to be adopted sons).  His first week on the job my wife and I received what was then our two year old and then two months later we took in his brother, a seven year old.  This was intense to say the least!  As many have told us, we went from 0-60 in just a few seconds.  As an elder in the church, I needed a pastor who would show some understanding.  Thankfully that was just what the Lord provided.  He was understanding when making an emergency drop by the house in the late hours of the evening.  He was understanding when his newly commissioned elder had to step down.

Joshua is certainly gifted in the area of sympathy.  He has a genuine desire to understand the pain of others and walk alongside them in that pain.  He wants to “get it” even when he doesn’t “get it.”  He is refreshingly honest about that.  He is sensitive to the hurt and pain of others.  He has stood bedside my family as we struggling to figure out our roles and lives during this difficult year and he stood bedside us as our little child was in the hospital struggling to breathe.  He has been there.

It’s been exciting to see Joshua grow in his ability to handle the Word.  Preaching every week is a challenge, and Joshua is beginning to come into his own.  He has a great ability to breakdown complicated passages in a way that is understandable, relatable and even memorable, things many preachers struggle with.  When you walk away from one of Joshua’s messages, you walk away knowing exactly was his point was and how to apply it.

Joshua, thank you for being there and thank you for the kindness and understanding you have shown my family.  Thank you for showing me what it means to care for others and shepherd the flock of God.  I look forward to what the future has for your ministry at Morning Star Church.

One final note.  As I look back all of the pastors God has used in my life, I recognize Joshua holds a special place.  He’s my pastor now.  It’s easy to look back and see how I have grown in grace but it’s also easy to look at all that growth and feel as though I have arrived.  I now know it all.  But that’s exactly the attitude I have to fight against.  I pray that God will use the ministry of Joshua Pegram to further shape me into his image.  That means I’m going to have to humbly submit to the leader God Himself has placed into my life.

So, Joshua, I urge you not to allow me to plateau.  Continue to confront my sin and challenge me in my walk with the Lord.  Urge me to be a better member of Christ’s church and to serve His flock even if it’s not through a leadership position or from a pulpit.   I commit to praying for you and supporting you in any way that I am able.  I commit to being the church member you and my other brothers and sisters need me to be.  Make sure I keep that commitment!

Pastor Appreciation Month Day 26 – Pastor Bob Bixby

101Bob Bixby is the pastor of Redeemer Church in Fremont, CA.  Previous to this he served as the pastor of Morning Star Church in Rockford, IL where we came into contact.

When my wife and I moved out to the Midwest we were tired and a bit confused.  Our last ministry had left us burnt-out.  We were just looking for a place to rest and figure things out.  We needed some healing.  Little did we know that’s exactly why God led us to Morning Star.

I still remember the first words Bob Bixby ever said to me.  “You have a Bible, you must have some Christian background.”  Christian background?  I had been an Assistant Pastor and Youth Pastor with a Bible college degree.  I’d been in church since I could remember.  Christian background?  From the very beginning God would use Morning Star and Bob Bixby to tear down this arrogant preacher and begin to work in some badly needed humility.

From the very first sermon I heard Bob preach, I was hooked.  Here was someone who had done his homework and displayed an in-depth knowledge of the Word.  I knew right there and then this would be our new church home.

To be honest, at first I found Bob to be quite intimidating.  He was somewhat well-known in the theological circles I once traveled in and his ability to dig deep in the Word was something that caught me off guard.  I thought I was quite advanced in my theological knowledge.   After all, among a group of isolated fundamentalists, a guy who read MacArthur, Sproul and Piper was hard to come by.  I thought this gave me a little leg up on those around me.  Little did I know just how ignorant I was.  In fact, that’s one of the first lessons I learned from Bob.  Know what you don’t know.  Realize in which areas you are ignorant and strive to learn more.  Soon I began to pick up on some of these things.  Listening to Bob week in and week out I was exposed to a level of preaching and theology that few churches have the privilege of knowing.  I was humbling and thrilling all at the same time.

What struck me most about Bob was his transparency.  I knew pastors were sinners too, but not really.  No pastor I knew was so open and honest about their sin, even though they all were guilty as well!  Bob would talk about specific sins, from the pulpit!  He once even confessed of having trouble in his marriage.  Pastors just don’t do that!  But he did.  That’s what grace does to you.  Morning Star had become for my wife and I, a City of Refuge church.  We could be the sinners we were and therefore get the help that we needed.  The burden of putting on a show for others each week had now been lifted. We didn’t have it altogether, and at Morning Star, we didn’t have to.  We felt loved and accepted – and always challenged!

After a while, Bob I had worked up the courage to ask Bob to mentor me.  He didn’t say yes, right away.  He let me suffer a little bit as he told me about how Tom Brady hired someone just to yell at him and get on his case.  I was trying to scare me, and it worked.  But, finally he said he thought investing time in me was worth the effort.  He kept his promise, by the way.  He got on my case quite a bit and never missed an opportunity to get in my face about something.  Yet, he also was my biggest cheerleader as well.  I always knew I had his support.

Meeting with Bob was a thrill for me.  Each week we would meet, usually at Starbucks, and I’d soak up his words of wisdom.  He had me reading books and articles I never would have chosen for myself.  He pushed me to think deeper and read broadly.  He actually took the time to teach me how to read a book to get the most from it, the number one thing that helped me get through seminary.  He changed the way I viewed the gospel.  He stepped into what was once a struggling marriage and spoke words of truth pointing us to each other and to the cross.

There was one such meeting that stands out above all the others.  His wife had been struggling with a health issue which led to Bob handling most of the household tasks.  He was tired and exhausted but still kept our regular meeting.  When I arrived at his house, I could tell he had no energy.  He had me read the book of Titus to him.  As I read, he occasionally made a few exegetical comments but I could tell this was more for his benefit than mine.  In his time of distress, he desired the Word.  It was Scripture that he needed the most.  This spoke volumes to me.

Bob invested his life into mine in a way no one else has ever done.  By the time he left Morning Star he was no longer just my pastor.  He was no longer just my mentor.  Bob Bixby had become one my most trusted and precious friends.  The man that once intimidated me now brought joy to my soul.  During the most difficult moments in my life, he was right there standing with me.  Even now, having moved half-way across the country, his texts, e-mails and sykpe calls have brought much-needed encouragement.  He gets me and constantly reminds me of the gospel promises I so need to hear.  I don’t know what I would have done had God not brought Bob into my life.

Bob, I’m not even sure how to say thanks for all the ways God has used you to help me.  But, here’s a shot.  Thank you for tolerating my shallow-thinking, but not allowing me to continue to wallow in it.  Thank you for getting in my face but always having my back.  Thank you for displaying to me the power of the gospel and the role of a shepherd.

Pastor Appreciation Month Day 25: Pastor Bim Rowley

I don’t have much time to write tonight, but after reviewing last night’s post, I can’t help but spent1929556_12031063081_4263_n a few minutes writing about Bim Rowley.  Pastor Bim Rowley is the pastor of the Truth Baptist Church in Wast Hartford, CT.

I met Pastor Rowley at Galilean Baptist Church Camp as he served as a counselor there.  I fondly recall many in-depth and quite long theological conversations by the fireside each night.  During one of those chats I recall one kid going on about how bad the public school system was.  he then asked Pastor Rowley for his thoughts.  He turned and looked at me and replied, “I don’t know.  But I don’t know that this guy goes to a public school and has kept up with us all night long.”  That meant a great deal to an insecure kid like me.

It seemed like I was a frequent visitor in the Rowley home, and each time I usually walked away with a book or two under my arm.  It became a tradition to spend New Year’s Eve at Truth Baptist.  A few times I even got the chance to preach during that all-night service.  My favorite memory during one of those nights was a family devotion time the next morning.  I don’r remember the exact passage, but we were studying Proverbs.  We went around the room to share our thoughts about it.  I don’t know what I said, but Pastor Rowley had the audacity to say I was wrong.  His wife tried to say me by suggesting I meant something else, but he wasn’t buying it.  he called me out in front of everyone!  But I wasn’t embarrassed, I knew this guy cared about me and wanted the very best from me.  He corrected my thinking and I’m a better Christian because of it.

He often challenged me to think deeper and to actually study the Word of God.  He loved to show me what his latest version of Logos Bible software could do.  He introduced me to new ideas and a more in-depth theology that went far beyond just fighting about which Bible version to use.  He was a mentor and a friend.  He became a close confidant and a member of the circle of counselors I consulted when major decisions came my way.

Thank you, Pastor Rowley for not allowing me to settle in mediocrity.  Thank you for challenging my thinking and investing in my life.  Thank you for caring so much about this public school kid…

Pastor Appreciation Day 24 – Ed Jesanis

196431_5069788081_710_nMany years ago I remember being bummed out that I couldn’t go with my youth group to the Wilds for camp that year.  My family just couldn’t afford it.  Then my friend Steve invited me to a different Christian camp.  It was much more affordable, only $35 and a can of vegetables (which would be used in a hobo stew that to this day gives me nightmares).  Little did I know that camp would change my life forever.  The people I met there would turn into life-long friends and mentors.  I cannot begin to tell you how God used that little camp in my life.  I started off as a camper, but would one day become the camp director.

So, it was there at Galilean Baptist Church Camp that I met a young Ed Jesanis would about to become the pastor of Galilean Baptist Church.  At that point my friend Steve and I had become councilors known for running skits during the evening chapel service.  One Pastor Bernard Whitney had stepped down, I found myself working with him.

If there is one thing to know about Ed is, he is organized.  If there are two things to know about Ed is, he is a hard worker.  I think we hit things off pretty well.  I think he saw in me someone he could train and disciple.  We formed a friendship mostly over matters pertaining to camp, but it grew to be much more than that.  After leaving North Baptist Church during that transition year, Ed was willing to give me a shot at a pastoral role.  Ed hired me as a his youth pastor.

The two years I spent at Galilean Baptist Church proved to be incredibly formative years.  Yet, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure how things would turn out.  There we were, Ed and I, working side by side in a little church in a little town.  But, we got off to a rocky start.  Though I truly believed we had a good working relationship coming into it, it soon became clear we had two different set of expectations.  Communication was difficult and led to disappointment and miscommunication.  It was rough.

However, Ed was not willing to give up one me.  Though he was certainly frustrated with me, he dug and was determined to break through our issues and serve Christ’s church effectively.  Instead assuming things about me, he began instructing and mentoring me.  For one example, I knew very little about any sort of outdoor, manual labor.  I was city boy who had never even been asked to do chores around the house or mow the lawn.  Ed began to teach me little by little how to do these things.  He became not just a mentor, but a father-figure.  Not only was I inexperienced, I was lazy.  Ed wasn’t afraid to call me out on this and push me to limits I didn’t know possible.  I began to learn simple life skills that would stay with me even today.   As a young Timothy, he was my Paul.  We soon began to overcome our earlier difficulties and rekindle that friendship.

Ed was also a great encourager.  He rode me pretty hard but also gave praise liberally.  Any progress I made was noted and appreciated.   in the midst of discouragement, he was a listening ear and a great fountain of practical wisdom and advice. Ed just had a way of making things happen, even when I didn’t think it possible.  I think we made a good team in that respect.  I had these crazy ideas and he had the wisdom to know how to make them happen, and even more importantly, if to make them happen. He also always spoke well of my preaching and gave me plenty of opportunities to get behind the pulpit.  He was truly equipping me for the work of the ministry.

The memory that will forever live in my mind involved my first birthday away from home.  There I was living in the church parsonage, feeling incredibly lonely.  It was my birthday, and no one had remembered (this was before facebook).  No card in the mail.  No phone calls.  No one at work even had a clue.  I just felt depressed.  What  made it worse was that I was sure I did something stupid and would soon get in trouble with Pastor Jesanis.  I left work early that day and ran into Ed.  He was surprised to see (thinking I would be a work) and told me to stick around the house later.  He needed to talk.  I naturally assumed I forgot to do something he had told me to do earlier (unfortunately, that would not have been abnormal…).  So I felt like a prisoner in solitary confinement awaiting my sentencing.  Finally the doorbell rang.  There, waiting for me at the door, was the entire Jesanis family singing happy birthday with cake in hand.  They then took me out for ice cream.  By far, it was the greatest birthday I ever had.  He cared about me.

So, Ed, I thank you.  I thank you for the years of effort you put into my life.  I thank you for not giving up on me when I’m sure it was a very tempting idea.  I thank you for making me a better servant for Christ.  Thank you for everything.

Pastor Appreciation Month Day 23 – Joe Jacobs

Joe Jacobs is a Christian school teacher out in the far away land of Tennessee.  When I first met Joe1910183_23522623081_8500_n he was the principal at South Shore Christian School in Brockton, MA and about to become the interim pastor of North Baptist Church.

Fresh out of Bible college, I had a head full of knowledge, but very little actual ministry experience.  My home church was in West Bridgewater, MA literally just down the road from North Baptist which I knew very little about.  But, what I did know about them was that they ran a small Christian school and I was looking for a job.  I knew something was up after the first interview when the pastor was not involved at all.  Later I would be told that the pastor has been involved in some indiscretions that would force him out of the ministry.  Because of this unfortunate incident, the church shrunk and the school was about ready to close.  I was hired not for my skills (I had no teaching degree) or my experience (I had none at all).  I was hired because they were desperate and I was available.

So, I found myself teaching grades 4-6 alone in the basement of the church.  It was quite the experience.  I doubt I was ready for it, but there I was.  As I mentioned before, Joe would find himself as the interim pastor as the church needed someone as the pulpit committee began their search.  I doubt he was ready for it, but there he was.

I still can’t believe we survived the year.  We ran a k-6 Christian school with only three teachers.  We held a church together through a moral crisis and a pastoral transition.   Joe simply dug in and did what needed to be done.  He was a teacher, principal and still managed to be a pastor.  He fought against some divisive deacons, and dwindling budget, weekly sermon prep and the difficulties of shepherding a young family.  I don’t know if he ever slept that year.

The greatest thing I am thankful for was the opportunity Joe handed to me shortly after my arrival.  He handed over the midweek service to me.  I had what every young man in ministry dreamt of, a weekly preaching gig.  It was during this time that I was able to hone my preaching skills and begin to understand what it meant to study and preach to not merely an audience, but a congregation.  Joe not only gave me an opportunity to serve, but to lead as well.

Joe, I’m convinced that we made a lot of mistakes that year.  But, what was not a mistake was God placing you at that church at that time.  Partly due to your leadership and service, over twelve years later there is still a North Baptist Church in Brockton, MA.  Joe, from you I learned what it meant to be co-laborer.  We worked side-by-side.  You took me in and treated me as an equal, yet still took the time to teach and train me when the occasion called for it.  In your service I saw what it meant to be “ready in season and out of season.”  (II Timothy 4:2)