Honduras In Review (Lexi)

Recently I went to Honduras with a group of our high school students. I have been using my site as a place for them to write about their experience. If you missed the previous three posts in this series be sure to go back and read them. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Lexi Gray.

20158027_1929662380381150_6825769665715468304_o“Purpose. When our missions trip group went to Honduras, we stayed at a place called La Providencia. La Providencia is an organization that wants to give the orphans and widows the best, not the leftovers. Our team got to be apart of helping these people for the week. I really wanted to go on this trip to build my relationship with God, my team, and the kids in Honduras. God has allowed me to do all three of these things.

Prayer. Prayer played a very important part during the week. Before our team would start on our worksite each day, we would pray. Also after every water break our groups would come together to pray. This taught me that I can pray in any situation at anytime.

Effort. Extra effort was required in order to accomplish what God had already prepared for us to do. Our team gave 110% to everything we did. Also we encouraged one another and stayed positive throughout the highs and lows of the trip. This has shown me that I need to give all of my effort and energy to everything I do because it is all for God. In addition, God has shown me that I need to complain less because this is God’s plan for my life, and he is in control.

Connect. I connected really well with the kids at the VBS we set up. One girl specifically stood out to me, her name was Alma. Alma loved making bracelets with me during the free time at VBS. Also she could speak a lot of English, so it was easier to communicate with her. One time I asked Alma who her best friend was. She said that I was. This showed me how much our group meant to each of these Kids and how much they loved us. Another thing that stood out to me was how happy and grateful these kids were for all the things they had. Several kids would come up to me to say thank you for the VBS. This has helped me to understand how much more thankful I need to be, because these kids do not have much.

Protection. God showed how much he really protects me while I was on this trip. One specific time was when I got extremely sick on the bus ride home from our adventure day. Once I began throwing up, I started to hyperventilate. I can’t move my hands or my feet, and the rest of my body gets tingly. I get stuck breathing in short breaths. But during the whole time God helped me to remember that he is always with me. Also God has given me an amazing brother to be right by my side. I am so thankful for a brother to be there when I need him, and to help calm me down. Also God has blessed me with Crystal McCann to help take care of me and help me know that everything is going to be ok. God has showed me how much he loves me and help me know that he will not give me anymore than I can handle.”

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Book Review: Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney

8104GWcgTOLRecently I read Donald Whitney’s newest book Praying the Bible. In this book Whitney explains why praying the Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, is so important and helpful for Christians. Whitney says that many Christians don’t neglect prayer because they don’t care about it or they don’t love God, but instead they are bored with prayer because they tend to “say the same old things about the same old things” (page 11). He also says “the method of most Christians in prayer is to say the same old things about the same old things” (page 15). Whitney argues the solution to this problem is simple – “When you pray, pray through a passage of Scripture, particularly a Psalm” (page 27).

Throughout this book Whitney helps his readers understand that method a little better. He spends multiple chapters walking readers through how to pray through a Psalm as well as things to remember when doing this. He doesn’t limit this practice to the Psalm. He encourages Christians to also use other parts of Scripture for prayer. There is also a chapter that gives examples of people (including Jesus and the early Christians) who practiced this idea of praying through Scripture.

One helpful addition to this book is the “Psalm of the Day” chart that Whitney provides as an appendix. He explains how to use this chart earlier in the book but it serves as a great help to anyone who wants to use this method of prayer.

When it comes to the topic of prayer this is one of the best books I have read. It serves a great reminder of why prayer should be guided by and saturated with Scripture. Not only does it remind us of that great truth, but it guides us in how to do that well.

Books I’ve Read Recently

jesus-continued-cover-largeJesus Continued by J.D. Greear. I have read a lot of books recently and this one was by far one of may favorites. I’ve always enjoyed reading J.D.’s books and they have played a big part in shaping my faith and ministry. In this book J.D. deals with the topic of the Holy Spirit and how believers have the advantage of not having Jesus beside them (like the disciples in the Gospels) but instead, through the Spirit, they have Jesus presence inside them. Not only that, but J.D. helps believers understand how they can experience the Holy Spirit in their relationship with God. J.D. says, “The Holy Spirit tends to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. Most Christians know he’s there, but they are unclear about exactly what he does of how to interact with him-or if that’s even possible. Yet something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told his disciples it was to their advantage that he go away-if his departure meant the Spirit came. The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them” (page 13). This is one of the most insightful and practical books on the subject of the Holy Spirit that I have ever read. It has a great balance of theological content (which is very much needed in the discussion of the Holy Spirit) and practical application (which is just as much needed in this topic) in regards to the Holy Spirit and how Christians can experience the Spirit’s ministry in their life. J.D. does a great job in this book building a foundation of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and explaining how believers can experience and seek the Holy Spirit. This is a great book I would recommend to anyone who wants to understand the Holy Spirit better and how they can experience him more in their relationship with God.

51VrdA14sfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Prayer by Tim Keller. Prayer is an area of my Christian life where I struggle the most. I go through seasons where I feel like I’m a “strong prayer,” but many times I feel like I am coming up very short in this area. This is one of the reasons I wanted to read this book. Also, I haven’t read many books devoted entirely to prayer so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. Keller has managed to put together one of, if not the most, thorough books on the topic of prayer. This book really does serve as a modern day handbook for what prayer is and how does one go about practicing prayer. The first part of the book is very academic and philosophical. Keller does a great job as painting the landscape of how people and religious groups view prayer. But this isn’t where Keller spends most of his time in this book. Once Keller helps the reader establish a definition and view of what Biblical prayer is in the Christian life he quickly moves towards helping them see how Christians can practice prayer. The rest of the book, and majority of it then, is a practical guide on how to practice prayer. Keller explores the prayer habits of early church fathers as well as walking through many Scripture passages on prayer. He also offers many practical tips on how Christians can practice prayer in their daily lives. If you want to grow in your understanding of prayer and how to practice it, read this book.

6a00d83452063969e20162fef31dc1970dThe Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. I haven’t read many marriage books (even though there are many out there right now I want to read), but out of the ones I have read this was has been my favorite. I read this book along with a few other men in a men’s group I am a part of at my church. I really enjoyed this book because of Keller’s approach to the topic of marriage and how to do marriage well. He quickly admits and helps the reader see that marriage is impossible to do well apart from God. Throughout the book Keller keeps the Gospel at the center as he shares how marriage is only possible through having a personal relationship with God through the Gospel that helps you truly love and serve your spouse. Keller spends a great amount of time explaining and applying the main Scripture passages on marriage. I also enjoyed how his wife wrote parts of the book and brought another persecutive to this topic. I believe this is a book everyone who is married (or one day hopes to married) should read. It’s practical but always keeps God and the Gospel at the center, which is the only way to do marriage well.

I am currently reading What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung and 30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I plan to review those when I am done reading them.

Books I’ve Recently Read

51c69HfZihL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs. My campus pastor had me read this book to better understand his philosophy and style of ministry. Because I have been on staff under my campus pastor for a little over two years now I had a decent idea of where this book was going. However, it was great to read a book like this that I know had shaped my campus pastor’s view of how he does ministry. I was glad he had me read it because it was a book that challenged some of my views on how to speak to and reach the unbelievers in the world around me. As the title suggest, Tim Downs goal in this book “is about the crucial job of finding common ground between the Christian and the secular worlds, two vast continents that are rapidly drifting apart” (page 12). As Christians, we are not called to remove ourselves from the culture and to create a “sub-culture” of Christianity but instead we are called to engage and be salt and light in our culture. In this book Down helps the reader understand the importance of sowing the Gospel. That means taking the times and means necessary to connect with unbelievers, understand them, and helping create an atmosphere that when the time is right the soil of their hearts will be ready for the Gospel. Throughout this book Down gives the reader tons of principles, ideas, and practical information to help Christians connect with unbelievers in their culture. Two chapters in this book really challenged me. First, was chapter 4 called “The Sower’s Art.” In this chapter Down talks about how the communication contains both science and art. Science being what is said, the raw content, and art being how the content is being shared and presented, the style of of the communication. Christians are guilty of putting a lot of emphasis on the science of connecting with unbelievers and sharing the Gospel. We focus on getting all the facts right and make during our theology and doctrine is perfectly lined up. These are not bad things. In fact, we need to be practicing good science in our communication to unbelievers. However, Down says, “Christians don’t tend to see the value of art. In this area, we are thirty years behind the rest of our culture” (page 54). In this chapter Down helps Christians understand how we can take the Gospel and Biblical beliefs and package them in a way that is understandable and effective for the unbeliever. Down says, “We must begin to encourage all Christians that spiritual growth requires developing goths science and art. Every Christian must grow in his knowledge of Scripture and theology, but equally in his ability to communicate it persuasively and attractively, whether through rioting or teaching or interpersonal communication” (page 59). The other chapter that really challenged me was chapter 11 called “Planting Part 2 – Materials.” In this chapter Downs challenged Christians to really evaluate the type of materials we give unbelievers that informs them about our faith. We should use resources that are relevant, speak the cultures language, raise good questions, and other things. I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to effectively connect and reach unbelievers in the culture around them.

new-detox-coverSexual Detox by Tim Challies. I have read many books on the topic of sexual sin. Some have been great while others have not been so great. This book was one of the best books on the topic of sexual sin that I have ever read. In this book Challies writes to men who are sick of porn and the negative effects of sexual sin. Challies tackles issues such as the reality of pornography and sexual sin, masturbation, the gift of sex, and how men can go through a “sexual detox” in their soul as well as in the bedroom with their wife (or future wife). Challies deals with the reality of issues surrounding sexual sin but offers Gospel-centered principles on how men can be victorious over these sins. This is an incredible book that every man should take the time to read. It will convict and get to the heart of porn, lust, and sexual sin while offering practical advice on how to honor God and your wife in this area.

Two books I have recently read that I chose not to review here are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and The True Measure of a Man by Richard Simmons. I am currently reading Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear and plan to read Prayer by Tim Keller next.

Suicide Prevention for Pastors

depressionToo many pastors commit suicide. Most recent is Isaac Hunter who founded the a megachurch called Summit Church in FL. It seems like every few weeks you hear about another pastor taking his own life. Suicide is always shocking, but many people seemed extra shocked when they hear that a pastor committed suicide. Honestly it doesn’t shock me. Being in a pastoral position myself, I understand the frustrations and demands pastors face. However, most people don’t understand what pastors go through on a daily basis. My friend Blake Appleby posted this on Facebook: “Ministry can be brutal. Most people have no clue what ministers battle on a daily basis.” Don’t get me wrong, pastoral ministry is a high calling and it’s an honor to serve Jesus in this way, but the job doesn’t come without many frustrations and struggles. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I believe there are a few practical things pastors can do to protect themselves from every going down the road of suicide. Pastors don’t wake up one day and decide to take their life, it’s a struggle that usually starts with something “small” and goes unchecked.

Take a day off. This is simple. Pastors need take a day off. Many pastors work long hours Monday throughout Friday and then work again on Sundays. There only day off tends to be Saturday, but that usually gets eaten up by sermon prep or finishing up something that didn’t get finished Friday. Pastors must learn to take a day off and really take it off. Don’t answer e-mails, phone calls, or work on ministry stuff. Take a day off and get away from work the best you can. I’m grateful to work for a church that allows me to take a day off. Pastor, if you don’t take a day off each week, start doing it now. It’s worth it.

Have a hobby outside of ministry. Not only do pastors need to take a day off, they need a hobby and something to do that’s not ministry related on those days off. Many pastors take a day off, but they always end up still working because they don’t have a hobby. Pastor, find a hobby and do it on your day off!

Spend time with your wife. Not always, but many suicide stories I read about pastors seem to always include some type of marriage problem. It may be an affair or may be a marriage that is falling apart for some reason. Pastors need to spend time with their spouse. Instead of bringing more work home with you, turn your computer off (or just leave it at the office!), ignore your cell phone, and spend time with your wife. Watch a movie with her, take her on a date, or jump in bed and have some fun (yes, I just said that, but hey it’s true). I’d recommend pastors read two books related to this point: Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard and Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley.

Accountability. Too many pastors don’t have regular accountability. This is why I believe you hear of so many pastors having moral failures or committing suicide. The Christian life and pastoral ministry are too hard to do alone. Pastors need someone to come along side them to keep them accountable. Someone to ask them the tough questions and make sure they are on the right path. Pastor, if you don’t have an accountability partner, make it a priority to get one as soon as possible!

Have people praying for you. Pastors need to be ok with asking people to pray for them. In fact, Paul asked people to pray for him all the time (Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Pastor, find someone or a group of people who will commit to praying for you. Swallow your pride and realize your need for prayer.

These are just a few practical ways I believe pastors can protect themselves from going down any road that may lead to suicide. It’s a serious subject and one we cannot take lightly. What are some ways you think pastors can protect themselves from suicide?