I rarely (obviously) post things here, and it is always a copy of content from my primary blog at http://mrclm.com

I have also recently created http://WasecaVBS.org for the best Vacation Bible School in Waseca, MN – at First Congregational Church in Waseca, MN.

And my sermon video and audio is posted on our church web site at http://WasecaChurch.org.

If that isn’t enough content for you, I guess I can’t keep up with your needs.


Many Christians suffer with unnecessary fears about sharing their faith. Once they finally get a conversation turned to the subject of the Gospel, however, most believers find that they’re able to manage quite well. Much of the time the biggest problem is simply moving a conversation from small talk to “big” talk, the biggest subject of all—the Gospel. Here’s a list of questions that can help. Some of them aren’t original with me, though I don’t recall where years ago I first heard the ones I’ve borrowed. I’ve found that the last one opens more doors for the Gospel in the widest variety of situations.

  1. When you die, if God says to you, “Why should I let you into Heaven?”, what would you say? Are you interested in what the Bible says about your answer?
  2. If you were to die tonight, where do you think you would spend eternity? Why? Are you interested in what the Bible says about this?
  3. Do you think much about spiritual things?
  4. How is God involved in your life?
  5. How important is your faith to you?
  6. What has been your most meaningful spiritual experience?
  7. Do you find that your religious heritage answers your questions about life?
  8. Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs? If what you believe were not true, would you want to know it? Well, the Bible says . . . .
  9. To you, who is Jesus?
  10. I often like to pray for people I meet; how can I pray for you?

(HT: Don Whitney)

The White House web site got an overhaul and was recently moved onto open-source software called Drupal. Fast Company has an interesting article about the change.  My only thought is that there is too much content on the front page, but I like the look and the simple color scheme.

Originally posted at http://mrclm.blogspot.com – which is where I do 95% of my posting.

I post this not as a pandering to my congregation (seriously!). I have some wonderful people who take great care of me! My church has been especially generous to us in light of our having recently had a child. (THANKS again everyone!) But this is a reminder to others outside my church to take great care of your pastor!

This comes from Focus on the Family BTW.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month

Why Honor Pastors?

Why is it appropriate to set aside a special time each year to give recognition and affirmation to our clergy and their families? How are their needs and circumstances different from those of carpenters, grocers or dentists?

One distinction lies in the nature of the service these leaders provide. God has entrusted to them one of the most precious of assignments—the spiritual well-being of His flock. When a pastor becomes ineffective, the very souls of his or her parishioners are endangered. When eternity is in the balance, we should all be concerned.

Another problem lies in the expectations placed on pastors. Numerous surveys have found that a very high percentage of pastors feel pressure to be the ideal role model of a Christian family—which is impossible, of course. As a result, four out of five pastors feel their families are negatively impacted by unrealistic expectations—whether self-imposed or congregation-imposed—and that ministry is an outright hazard to the health of their families. Indeed, the “pedestal” is not all it’s cracked up to be.

As pastors and their families try to please the God who called them to ministry while also trying to meet the expectations of their congregations, one result is dangerous stress. In fact, 75 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

Then, of course, there is the “fishbowl” aspect of ministry, whereby the entire lives of pastoral families seem to be on public display. Every private family situation quickly seems to become a congregational or community issue. This anxiety can only be heightened when financial pressures also come to bear, which is common since pastors typically make substantially less each year than their own board members and deacons. Nearly 70 percent of pastoral spouses work outside the home, most often due to financial need.

No one would choose to live life under these conditions unless they felt obliged to a higher, divine directive. Unfortunately, all too often, these are exactly the conditions under which pastoral families serve.

The good news is that we can make a difference! Clergy Appreciation Month is an attempt to counter the negative erosion in the lives of our spiritual leaders with positive affirmation.

As your congregation prepares for Clergy Appreciation Month (CAM), the following guidelines will help you in planning a creative, memorable celebration.

1. Select a CAM planning committee to oversee preparations for this event.
Ideally, the committee should be representative of all members of the congregation
(i.e., age, race, gender, church activity), but should remain small enough to be effective and efficient.

2. Plan the details. Your goal is to express appreciation to your entire pastoral staff and their families. List the specific activities you want to undertake to achieve this goal.

3. Delegate the responsibilities. Assign the responsibility for each activity on your list to one person. This person may need to enlist the assistance of others in the congregation, but making one person accountable will improve your results. Also, be sure to involve those under the direct ministry of staff pastors, such as calling on youth group members to help honor a youth pastor.

4. Communicate your plans to those in your congregation and community.
Carefully determine the best means to promote your activities and encourage participation.

5. Monitor your progress. Be sure that each responsible person on your planning
team reports his or her progress at regular intervals. Avoid a surprise resulting from a
last-minute crisis.

6. Thank the participants. Make sure that each person who helped plan, prepare,
decorate, serve, lead, entertain, speak, clean up, etc., knows how significant his or her
contribution was to the success of your celebration activities.

In all of your activities, remember that Clergy Appreciation Month is not about glorifying a man or a woman. It is a biblically consistent opportunity to recognize and encourage those whom God has called to proclaim His message and lead His people (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

It is a time when the entire congregation can become unified in celebration of what God is doing in its midst. Perhaps some of the following ideas may work for your congregation or may inspire you to create your own.

Some ideas listed – and you need to know your pastor if these would be a blessing or not, some I would certainly not be comfortable with.

• Determine an appropriate level of involvement for your church.
For example, a full-scale plan of recognition might include a banquet, a special
ceremony during a worship service, special guests or speakers, a church family reunion of present and former members, gifts, plaques, flowers or an open letter of appreciation in the local newspaper. A more casual approach might simply involve a moment of recognition during a morning service.
• Team with your local Christian bookstore(s) or radio station(s) to recognize
and honor your pastoral families through activities appropriate to your community.
• Host a card shower at which members and friends present either purchased or
homemade greeting cards to each pastor’s family. Or, distribute blank thank-you notes among the congregation to be used for expressing appreciation. Encourage those participating in these types of events to be as specific as possible in their praise,
revisiting favorite sermons or moments when the pastor’s ministry made a difference.
• Hold a people-pleasin’ pizza party. Plan an informal time of sharing and caring
around lots and lots of pizza and pop. If your pastoral families love pizza, give them
certificates to a local pizza parlor to last throughout the year.
• Plan a special appreciation service during your normal worship time(s) on the second weekend of the month. During this service, use a variety of means to honor your pastor(s). Work closely with your worship leader to make the celebration a very special one. Sing songs of commitment, read Scriptures of dedication and exhortation and include a time of tribute for your pastor(s) that includes representatives of your denomination, your community, your church leadership and others in the congregation. (See the sample order of worship that follows.) This would also be a wonderful opportunity to call those in attendance to a renewed commitment to the church mission and vision. Then ask the pastor(s) to share their dreams and vision for the future of the church, concluding with a laying-on-of-hands ceremony or other time of personal dedication.
• Plan an evening bonfire celebration with the theme of church unity. Share the
joys and sorrows you have experienced together, especially identifying the role your
pastor and his family have played. Make it a time of recommitment and bonding for
your entire church family.
• Provide a testimony time during a worship service for those involved in the church’s various ministries to share the joy they experience in serving the church. Have them emphasize the satisfaction one receives in using God-given gifts for the benefit of the body. Subsequently, offer training courses on identifying and using spiritual gifts, then encourage members to sign up for the various ministries and service needs that currently exist and that match their gifts, abilities and interests.
• Submit an open letter to your local newspaper to announce to the community your genuine appreciation for your pastoral staff and their families.
• Plan a special banquet in honor of your pastor(s). Have guest speakers and an entertaining program that highlight the accomplishments of the church under the pastor(s)’ leadership. Prepare a “This Is Your Life” show or celebrity roast. If such an event is not possible, arrange for several members of the congregation to take the
pastoral staff and their families to lunch or dinner.
• Invite local dignitaries to participate in the various appreciation events. Ask them to say a word of gratitude for your pastor and the influence of your church in the community. Invite denominational leaders who oversee your area or district to attend and participate. (You may impress them with the high regard in which you hold your pastor(s).)
• Present your pastoral family with a significant gift, including a card signed by as many people as possible. The cost of such a gift may be covered through your
church budget or by asking for special donations. Consider simple gifts (a gift certificate to a local bookstore, restaurant or car wash; a magazine subscription), personal gifts (a new pair of shoes, a new suit or dress, a new set of tires), generous gifts (an all-expense-paid trip to a resort, bed and breakfast or overnight railway trip) or even practical gifts (a personal digital assistant (PDA), a conference or seminar for pastors).
• Urge the Sunday school and other children’s groups to make creative appreciation messages for the staff using construction paper and bright colors. Have the pastor(s) visit them for their own ceremonies of gratitude. Then decorate staff offices with the children’s artwork.
• Plant a tree or some shrubs in honor of your pastoral staff. These can make long-lasting tributes to your clergy, past and present, and can form the basis for
future conversations as you talk to your children and grandchildren about the value of their spiritual leaders.
• Send a letter to members of the congregation explaining Clergy Appreciation Month and include offering envelopes for a special love offering.
• Plan a church picnic, circus or other festive event to celebrate the day.
• Invite the extended family of your pastor to visit and assist them by underwriting the cost. Schedule a family portrait sitting or other similar activities.
• Play taped audio or video greetings from special friends, children, fellow ministers and district officials of your pastoral staff at a special service.
• Invite a guest speaker to conduct worship and give your pastor(s) an extra paid day off.
• Schedule special prayer sessions to pray specifically for your pastors and their
families. Make this a yearlong commitment, and assign special categories to each
month, such as good health for the pastor’s family, financial stability, courage and
freedom to dream, and the pastor’s marriage.
• Present each of your pastors with a packet of personal service coupons. Have members of the congregation pledge to provide services for your pastoral families, such as lawn service, child care, car repairs or catered dinners. You might even pledge to assist with projects around the church campus, such as fixing a sign, repainting the parking lot stripes or teaching the pastor’s class one Sunday. And don’t forget spiritual tasks, such as a commitment to pray each day for every member of your pastoral families.
• Provide paid time off and travel funds for your pastoral families to visit their relatives. Getting away for special holidays or family events can be a memorable time of respite and relaxation.
• Give your pastor(s) a cell phone (for personal use only) and pay for the first year of charges. Or give your pastor a phone card for prepaid long-distance calling.
• Provide your pastor’s family with upgraded hardware equipment or a software package for their home computer.
• Name something after your pastor(s), such as a room or banquet hall in the church, a scholarship fund or an annual church picnic.
• Improve your pastor’s working environment by upgrading or expanding his office or study, adding bookcases and file cabinets, or replacing out-of-date office equipment and furniture.
• Create a pastors’ hall of fame in your church with photos and memorabilia of your present and past ministers.
• Plan theme dinners throughout the month at individual homes, assigning all participating non-host adult members of the congregation to the host homes (along with pastoral staff and their spouses). Each adult couple/individual should bring part of the meal. Plan an intimate time of sharing with the pastoral staff couple, including how each member has been blessed by their ministries.
• Give tickets to activities especially enjoyed by your pastoral staff, such as sporting events, the symphony, a play or dinner theater, a rodeo, a home show or gardening show, an antique auction or antique car show, etc.

Long-Term Care of your Pastor

It is virtuous, invigorating and biblical to set aside time each year to honor your pastoral staff and their families. It can be one of the most enjoyable and unifying times your congregation will experience. But it is also imperative that your appreciation of your pastor(s) not be confined to just one weekend or one month. It needs to occur throughout the entire year. In fact, it needs to be present throughout their entire ministry with your church.

There are a number of long-term ways your congregation can show its love and appreciation for your pastor(s) and demonstrate its respect for their divine calling among you. Here are a few very important things your church can do to provide the ongoing care God expects from you:

1. Establish a pastoral care team. Select a handful of people from your congregation who will be charged with overseeing the welfare of your pastor and family. They will be their advocates. As such, they will regularly monitor their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being; offer suggestions to congregational leaders that would improve their living conditions; represent the pastor’s interests in any discussions on such matters; and ensure that the following entitlements are properly available.

2. Provide fair and adequate salary, compensation and retirement benefits. The Bible says, “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7, NIV). A pastor should be compensated on a par with the people being served and other ministers in the same community. Leadership in every church should be more concerned about the physical and fiscal well-being of the pastor than nearly any other area. The quality of such care is a reflection upon you as a congregation and a witness to your community of Christ’s love in action. Recognize your pastor as a uniquely trained professional with related education loans to repay, family-raising needs and expenses similar to your own, and a right to a comfortable retirement. Make this support a priority. Review it and adjust it regularly. Give your pastor the freedom to minister instead of worry.

3. Allow time off for professional development. Encourage your pastor to continually challenge and improve himself/herself by underwriting his/her participation in spiritual retreats, conferences, denominational functions and continuing education each year. Every church will be better served if its leader is filled with new insights and motivation.

4. Allow time off for relaxation and restoration. All pastors need time away with their families, as well as time alone with God. Give your pastor at least one or two days off each week, and respect his or her privacy during those days. Set boundaries and make sure the members of the congregation respect them. Grant your pastor adequate vacation days, based on the total number of years in full-time ministry, not tenure at your church. Also, give time off (replacement days) for holidays worked, and allow guilt-free time away for personal matters or bereavement.

5. Give freedom to dream and permission to lead. Be open to new ideas.
Your pastor has access to resources and new concepts from the world’s greatest
religious leaders. That means he/she will probably come to you with ideas and
dreams for your congregation that may at first seem a bit grandiose or unrealistic.
But stay open. Dreams are fragile. Work to keep your pastor dreaming and alive.
Don’t be afraid to let him/her fail occasionally. Follow his/her leadership rather than
presenting constant opposition. Allow and expect him/her to speak out honestly
against sin and injustice. Let the Holy Spirit work.

6. Be willing to participate enthusiastically in shared ministry. The most
exhilarating moment a pastor can experience is to have a layperson say, “Pastor, I
really want to make a difference in my world for Christ. I want to put on the whole
armor of God and enter the fray. Will you help me? Will you train me? Will you pray
for me?” Join your pastor in God’s ministry.

7. Support your pastor with regular prayer, love and encouragement.
These are the most important things a church member can provide for a pastor. Prayer empowers pastors to be the people God called them to be. It is difficult to pray for someone and be critical at the same time. Love your pastor(s) as Jesus loves them,
and show it through regular, tangible acts of encouragement (such as simple cards or
notes) all year long.

8. Create an atmosphere that minimizes ministry stress and unrealistic
expectations. Cherish your minister’s Christlike character as a priceless asset for your church. Avoid grumbling, poisonous humor or a negative spirit. Be loyal. Come alongside him or her to facilitate personal renewal and restoration. Keep him/her accountable in avoiding an excessive schedule and maintaining healthy priorities.

9. Care for your pastor’s family. Don’t expect pastoral families to be any more
perfect than your own. Recognize that every family is unique and eliminate unrealistic expectations. Encourage your pastor to make family a priority (even above ministry to you) and to give it the time, energy and effort required to keep it healthy. Recognize the tremendous sacrifices he/she makes on your behalf and offer massive affection and affirmation. Provide for their comfort, needs and preferences. Don’t cut corners.

I took an interesting test on Personality Patterns at Psych Central and it tells me I am Centered, Assertive and Competent.  So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice (Caddyshack reference for those who don’t know).

You often feel balanced and on top of things, even when those around you are freaking out. You’re in a pretty good state all the time, and not subject to drastic mood swings.

You don’t usually react before you think; you’re not ruled by your emotions.

You behave in a confident and forceful manner, take charge of the situation, raise your hand in class, stand up for what you think is right, and lead others. Among those who have a high score on the “assertive” trait, many have jobs in which they are valued for their organizational skills as well as their talent for supervising others.

You are not interested in fading into the woodwork, leaving everything to fate, taking more time than necessary to accomplish a task, or avoiding confrontation.

You strive to master everything you undertake. You tend to learn quickly and do not shy away from challenges.

You are not a “que sera sera” type of person, nor do you go easy on yourself when attempting to master a new skill or get a job done.

You like your own company; you’re a very interesting person. Tracking your own mental processes, knowing what you’re thinking and why you do what you do, is important to you. Often, what’s going on in your mind is more compelling than what’s going on outside. For the most part, those with a high score on the “introspective” trait enjoy reading, taking long walks, learning new things, and other solitary activities.

You are not someone who is constantly looking to be among a group of friends; you never feel bored when you are by yourself.

You bounce back quickly from adversity. For you, all setbacks are temporary. You don’t dwell on bad news, bad luck, or criticism; you regroup and focus on solving the problem, whatever it may be.

You almost never feel that there’s too much on your plate, that you don’t have the strength to deal with the bad hand you’ve been dealt, or that you’re going to lose it if you have to deal with one more problem.

You are a “glass half-full” kind of person, always on the lookout for the silver lining. Your happiness is contagious, which is why others like to be around you.

You do not feel that the world is an intrinsically depressing place; you are not the kind of “realist” who thinks that only fools find joy in life.

You have a knack for knowing what’s going on in the hearts and minds of those around you, without their having to tell you explicitly. People tend to turn to you with their problems because they know you care, and that you will likely offer good advice and a helping hand.

You do not feel that people with sad stories are just looking for attention, or have brought their problems upon themselves.

You tend to feel at home wherever you find yourself, even in unfamiliar settings, with new people. It takes a lot to rattle you, and when rattled you recover quickly and gracefully.

You are usually not self-conscious or nervous when you’re in an unfamiliar environment or with people you don’t know.

You feel it’s important to work according to a plan and finish every task, to do things correctly and thoroughly.

You are not the kind of person who abandons a project before finishing it, or slacks off when you’ve lost interest.

You know how to lock in on what’s important. You quickly prepare yourself for a task, you don’t procrastinate, and you don’t let up until the job is done to your satisfaction.

You are the opposite of scattered. You don’t procrastinate before starting a task, and you almost never lose track of what you’re doing.

Written by Mark Kelly

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Most American parents believe things are going well with their families – except when it comes to finances. And a large majority highly values their children having a relationship with God – except when it comes to taking them to worship.

A nationwide LifeWay Research survey of 1,077 American adults with children under 18 living at home found 87 percent feel they have strong marriages. A full 74 percent strongly believe they will remain married for life, and 64 percent strongly agree that if they had it to do over again, they would still marry their spouses. As parents, 76 percent agree they give enough of their time to their children, but only 56 percent agree their families enjoy enough relaxing times together.

Blacks, women and born-again Christians believe most strongly that they give their kids enough time, the study revealed. Parents with evangelical or born-again beliefs and people who attend religious worship services regularly are considerably more likely to report having strong marriages.

When it comes to finances, however, barely half – 52 percent – agree their households bring in enough income to support their lifestyles. Asked what level of income would be needed to make them “financially comfortable” (not wealthy), 14 percent say they would need $10,000 more a year, and 47 percent say they need at least another $20,000. Only a tiny fraction – 4 percent – say they could be financially comfortable on an income lower than what they now make.

Saving money regularly is a crucial element to financial security, but only 28 percent of parents agree their families puts enough into savings each month. More than two-thirds – 69 percent – express concern that their families can never seem to get ahead financially. Half of parents agree they want to give their children more materially than they already have, and almost three-fourths – 72 percent – want their children to have more than they themselves had growing up.

The desire to give their children more than they had growing up was strongest among Hispanic and younger parents who, ironically, came of age during one of America’s wealthiest eras.

For the rest of the article, read on HERE.

(from FotF’s Pastor’s Weekly Briefing)

A new survey released from The Barna Group indicates that Hispanics are assimilating the faith of the Caucasian population faster than anyone would have predicted, essentially mirroring the faith of the nation’s white population. A few years ago the Hispanic population passed the African-American population as the largest ethnic group in the U.S.

An overview of the faith practices and beliefs of Hispanics and the total adult population shows that there are few significant differences between the two groups. The Barna study found that these segments have nearly identical profiles on the following, among others:

* Belief that their faith is very important in their life
* Perceived accuracy of the principles taught in the Bible
* A personal sense of responsibility to share their faith with others
* Perception about the existence of Satan
* Perception about the holiness of Jesus Christ
* Understanding of the nature of God

When Barna separated out the born again Hispanics and compared them to the nation’s born again population at-large, relatively few differences were identified between the two groups. The differences that were statistically significant included the fact that Hispanic born again Christians were more likely to believe that — even though their salvation was based on confessing their sins and accepting Christ as their savior — it was also possible for a person to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Hispanic born agains were also more likely than all born again Americans to contend that they have been greatly transformed by their faith (85% versus 78%); less likely than all born again adults in the U.S. to claim to be absolutely committed to Christianity (63% versus 74%), and were twice as likely as all born again adults to be aligned with the Catholic Church (35% versus 17%).

When Barna compared the faith of Hispanics today to their faith profile of 15 years ago, the assessment showed that Hispanics have been rapidly moving toward adopting the mainstream beliefs and practices of all Americans. The study discovered 11 faith dimensions on which there has been substantial change. A few of those areas of change include alignment with the Catholic Church (down by 25 percentage points); being a born again Christian (up by 17 percentage points); having made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today (up by 15 percentage points), and church attendance (up 10 percentage points in an average week).

For the complete report, visit Barna.org.

John Ortberg wrote the following on the Monvee blog:

Where this vision is lacking, we can try to push people into all kinds of methods of spiritual growth. We can flood them with classes and bible studies and small groups and services, but it is like pushing noodles up Mt Everest.

We might think of four quadrants:

  • Where people have methods but no correct vision, there is legalism.
  • Where people have vision but no wise methods, there is frustration.
  • Where people have neither vision nor methods, there is apathy.
  • Where people have right vision and effective methods—there is growth.

So I find myself thinking a lot about spiritual vision these days. It poses two questions:

Am I teaching this vision? I’m constantly trying to find ways to teach so that people understand that what Jesus offers really is the only way to what they want the most, in their best selves.

Am I living this life? There is no talk in the world captivating enough to speak louder than my life. It was Jesus’ life that made people want so desperately to hear Jesus’ message.

Here’s a piece from MSNBC that lists the worst and best states for getting speeding and other driving-related tickets.

The state ranked the worst based on 17 factors, including:

  • Speed limits.
  • The use of red-light or speed cameras.
  • Laws banning cell phone use while driving.
  • Whether speeders are allowed jury trials.
  • The number of speed traps (weighted by population).

The worst five:

1. New Jersey
2. Ohio
3. Maryland
4. Louisiana
5. New York

The best five:

50. Wyoming
49. Idaho
48. Montana
47. Nebraska
46. Kentucky

My home state of South Dakota is #42 and my current state of Minnesota is #44.  The only speeding ticket I have received in my 18 years of driving was in South Dakota (1998).  I think my wife must be seeking out the police in Minnesota!  ;-)


From USA Today:

Teens whose parents let them stay up after
midnight on weeknights have a much higher chance of being depressed or
suicidal than teens whose parents enforce an earlier bedtime, says
research being presented today at a national sleep conference.

The findings are the first to examine bedtimes’
effects on kids’ mental health — and the results are noteworthy.
Middle- and high-schoolers whose parents don’t require them to be in
bed before midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be
depressed than teens whose parents require a 10 p.m. or earlier
bedtime. And teens who are allowed to stay up late are 30% more likely
to have had suicidal thoughts in the past year.

The differences are smaller but still
significant — 25% and 20%, respectively — after controlling for age,
sex, race and ethnicity.

A team led by Columbia University Medical Center
researcher James Gangwisch examined surveys from 15,659 teens and their
parents who took part in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of
adolescent health. Previous research has established a firm connection
between teens getting less sleep and feeling depressed or suicidal.

The NIH survey found that kids whose parents
called for a 9-10 p.m. bedtime said they were in bed, on average, by
10:04 p.m. They slept for 8 hours and 10 minutes on average, compared
with 7½ hours for kids allowed to stay up past midnight.

The lesson for parents is simple, Gangwisch
says: Try as much as possible to sell teenagers on the importance of
getting enough sleep — even if it seems that they don’t need as much as
younger children (actually, they need as much — about nine hours — but
usually get only 7½ hours or so, according to the NIH).

“We feel like we can just eat into our sleep time,” he says, “but we pay for it in many different ways.”

The new data come from analyses of NIH surveys
from 1994 to 1996, but Gangwisch believes the disparities between teens
with and without prescribed bedtimes are even greater today, given
greater distractions in their lives. In 1996, for instance, teens
couldn’t stay up late texting friends and checking Facebook pages.

“I would guess that there are more kids getting less sleep,” he says.

Gangwisch is presenting the findings in Seattle
at SLEEP 2009, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep

READERS: Does your teen have a bedtime? Did you? How can you enforce it? Would you like to see school start times pushed back?

Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Fellowship has some wisdom for new and young pastors about preaching.  I’m totally feeling him on the time limit, as that is one I try to keep in mind (usually).  This Fireproof series has killed my time limit, but I intend to keep my messages more compact for the rest of the summer.  It is clear when I run over and loose my audience.  Some of that is me, some of that is the culture of our church, but either way I have to keep it in mind as I prepare my sermon for the week.  And he’s right, preaching is definately learning via trial by fire, and thankfully my church has been quite gracious with me.

Pastor MacDonald writes:

One of my greatest joys these days is working with young preachers
trying to ‘fast track’ them through some of the lessons I have learned
through almost three decades of preaching. I was blessed to attend some
great schools, but truthfully most of the bit I have learned about
preaching came from painful Sunday afternoons of lamenting the ‘getting
it wrong’ and determining to do it better next time. I am humbled and
blessed by the thought that my lessons learned through much travail can
be given to hungry young preachers just starting out.

Ok so here’s some of the mistakes I made and observe:

The following serves as the confession of faith for both The Gospel Coalition as well as for the ReTrain wing of Resurgence ministries out of Mars Hill Church and Acts29 in Seattle.  It is a very clear and concise document that reflect very well my own personal beliefs.  Credit to these men for writing it, and I am adopting it personally.


As part of the founding council of The Gospel Coalition, Pastor Mark Driscoll was honored to participate in
the authoring of the following confession of faith along with men such as Don Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper,
Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, CJ Mahaney, Joshua Harris, and James MacDonald. This confession serves as the
doctrinal statement for Re:Train.

The Triune God
We believe in one God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. This one true and living God is infinitely perfect both in his
love and in his holiness. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and is therefore worthy to receive
all glory and adoration. Immortal and eternal, he perfectly and exhaustively knows the end from the beginning,
sustains and sovereignly rules over all things, and providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to
redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.

God has graciously disclosed his existence and power in the created order, and has supremely revealed himself
to fallen human beings in the person of his Son, the incarnate Word. Moreover, this God is a speaking God
who by his Spirit has graciously disclosed himself in human words: we believe that God has inspired the
words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are both record
and means of his saving work in the world. These writings alone constitute the verbally inspired Word of God,
which is utterly authoritative and without error in the original writings, complete in its revelation of his will for
salvation, sufficient for all that God requires us to believe and do, and final in its authority over every domain
of knowledge to which it speaks. We confess that both our finitude and our sinfulness preclude the possibility
of knowing God’s truth exhaustively, but we affirm that, enlightened by the Spirit of God, we can know God’s
revealed truth truly. The Bible is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed, as God’s
command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. As God’s people hear,
believe, and do the Word, they are equipped as disciples of Christ and witnesses to the gospel.

Creation of Humanity
We believe that God created human beings, male and female, in his own image. Adam and Eve belonged to
the created order that God himself declared to be very good, serving as God’s agents to care for, manage,
and govern creation, living in holy and devoted fellowship with their Maker. Men and women, equally made
in the image of God, enjoy equal access to God by faith in Christ Jesus and are both called to move beyond
passive self-indulgence to significant private and public engagement in family, church, and civic life. Adam
and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern
of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between
Christ and his church. In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather
they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which
reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that
displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models
the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged
to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God.
The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and
redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

The Fall
We believe that Adam, made in the image of God, distorted that image and forfeited his original blessedness—
for himself and all his progeny—by falling into sin through Satan’s temptation. As a result, all human beings
are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally,
emotionally, spiritually) and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious
intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy
wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can
rescue us and restore us to himself.

The Plan of God
We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every
tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them. We believe that
God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that he will one day glorify them—all
to the praise of his glorious grace. In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe,
having set his saving love on those he has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer.

The Gospel
We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even
though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the
cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has
not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is Christ died for our sins . .
. [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures),
theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not
happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic
(the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events),
and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

The Redemption of Christ
We believe that, moved by love and in obedience to his Father, the eternal Son became human: the Word
became flesh, fully God and fully human being, one Person in two natures. The man Jesus, the promised
Messiah of Israel, was conceived through the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the
virgin Mary. He perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father, lived a sinless life, performed miraculous signs, was
crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. As
the mediatorial King, he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, exercising in heaven and on earth all
of God’s sovereignty, and is our High Priest and righteous Advocate. We believe that by his incarnation, life,
death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute. He did this so
that in him we might become the righteousness of God: on the cross he canceled sin, propitiated God, and,
by bearing the full penalty of our sins, reconciled to God all those who believe. By his resurrection Christ
Jesus was vindicated by his Father, broke the power of death and defeated Satan who once had power over
it, and brought everlasting life to all his people; by his ascension he has been forever exalted as Lord and has
prepared a place for us to be with him. We believe that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other
name given under heaven by which we must be saved. Because God chose the lowly things of this world, the
despised things, the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, no human being can ever boast before
him—Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.

The Justification of Siners
We believe that Christ, by his obedience and death, fully discharged the debt of all those who are justified.
By his sacrifice, he bore in our stead the punishment due us for our sins, making a proper, real, and full
satisfaction to God’s justice on our behalf. By his perfect obedience he satisfied the just demands of God
on our behalf, since by faith alone that perfect obedience is credited to all who trust in Christ alone for their
acceptance with God. Inasmuch as Christ was given by the Father for us, and his obedience and punishment
were accepted in place of our own, freely and not for anything in us, this justification is solely of free grace, in
order that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. We
believe that a zeal for personal and public obedience flows from this free justification.

The Power of the Holy Spirit
We believe that this salvation, attested in all Scripture and secured by Jesus Christ, is applied to his people
by the Holy Spirit. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, and, as the
other Paraclete, is present with and in believers. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment,
and by his powerful and mysterious work regenerates spiritually dead sinners, awakening them to repentance
and faith, baptizing them into union with the Lord Jesus, such that they are justified before God by grace
alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. By the Spirit’s agency, believers are renewed, sanctified, and
adopted into God’s family; they participate in the divine nature and receive his sovereignly distributed gifts.
The Holy Spirit is himself the down payment of the promised inheritance, and in this age indwells, guides,
instructs, equips, revives, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.

The Kingdom of God
We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through
regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant:
the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and
the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace.
Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw
into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for
all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order
this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good
to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not
fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation.
The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates
through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably
establishes a new community of human life together under God.

God’s New People
We believe that God’s new covenant people have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already
seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This universal church is manifest in local churches of which Christ is
the only Head; thus each local church” is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the
living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye,
graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever. The church is distinguished by her gospel
message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by
her members’ love for one another and for the world. Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and
corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only
brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself
one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the
cross, by which he put to death their hostility. The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its
members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the
corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world.

Baptism and the Lord’s Super
We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordained by the Lord Jesus himself. The former is
connected with entrance into the new covenant community, the latter with ongoing covenant renewal. Together
they are simultaneously God’s pledge to us, divinely ordained means of grace, our public vows of submission to
the once crucified and now resurrected Christ, and anticipations of his return and of the consummation of all

The Restoration of All Things
We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when
he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily
resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell,
as our Lord himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne
and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. On that day the church
will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its
wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of
his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.

(This version was taken from the ReTrain Catalog)