This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Thank You for Our Sabbatical

My sabbatical begins April 20…and I’m pretty excited. 

And nervous.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about our sabbatical and I thought I’d use this last pre-sabbatical blog post to share a couple of thoughts.

First, I want to say “thank  you” for letting me and my family take this time. Someone approached me last week and said he was happy I was taking a sabbatical. He believed I needed it and it would be beneficial for both me and the church. At the same time, he wished he could take a sabbatical as well. He believed it would benefit him and his life as well.

I agree.

It is a very gracious thing the church allows me to do. I wish everyone had the opportunity to step away from their daily routine and think “big picture” about their job(s) for several weeks.

Often when talking about the sabbatical, I've tried to justify taking this time away from the church. I try to talk about what I’ll be doing and how the church will benefit from my time away. I think those things are true, but there's still no way I "deserve" this time. I think the best thing to do is to simply say, “I don’t deserve this. It’s a gift. Thank you.”

So… thank you.

Second, I want to ask you to pray for me and our church during the eight weeks I'll be gone. Pray I would use the time wisely. Pray things at church would go smoothly during this time. Pray for the elders and other leaders who will have to shoulder extra responsibilities. Pray for my family's joy as we spend time together. Pray I would grow in my understanding of God and passion for Him

Third, I wanted to share with you what I plan on doing. I don’t want to get too specific because I know I won’t be able to get everything done. Eight weeks is a long time, but it’s not an eternity!

Here are some broad brush strokes of what I hope to be doing during this time…

Time with Family

There are several goals I have for my family. I want to spend time with each of them, listening to them and thinking through ways I can care for them in the next phase of their life. My kids are at fun ages (14, 12, 9, and 8). This is perhaps the only sabbatical we’ll have with everyone living under the same roof. 

We hope to finish reading through the Bible together as a family, a journey we began in 2008. We also plan on reading through the book Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo. We’re looking at some fun books to read together as a family.

We’re taking a vacation week as a part of the sabbatical and will be visiting Universal Studios and, of course, Lego Land in Orlando, Florida. We're also going to spend time swimming in pools, playing games, and goofing around on the beach.

Biblical Languages

In terms of personal development, one goal is to spend some time studying the Biblical languages. There are some DVD’s I plan on watching to help refresh aspects of my Greek and a workbook to help me relearn/learn some elements of Hebrew. I purchased some new Bible software that I want to learn how to use in my studies. I’d like to do at least a little translation work in the mornings.

Bethany Community Church and the Next Seven Years

I hope to spend a lot of time just thinking through the next seven years of ministry at Bethany Community Church. I don't want to presume upon His grace, but if the Lord doesn't return and I am granted good health there are things I want to accomplish for His glory over the next few years of ministry. 

Some areas I’ll think through are development of lay leaders and strengthening our development of future pastors. I plan on visiting other church that are a little “ahead” of us in some areas and seeing if there are things we can learn from them.

I’d also like to interview other senior pastors to find out how they do their jobs. I hope to learn how I can improve my ministry. There are lots of questions I'd like to ask them about how they spend their time and prioritize the different ministries in which they engage. I also want to look at how other churches have engaged in church planting, a ministry for which I believe God is preparing our church. 

Personal and Ministerial Development

There is a long list of books I want to read. Sadly, I know I won’t get a fraction of them read. Some are books that I think will help me think through ministry at Bethany Community Church, such as The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, by Jonathan Leeman. Others are for personal development, like Systematic Theology, by  John Frame. Some are just books for fun, like Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., by Ron Chernow.

I'm Going to Miss You

Thanks again for this opportunity. I’m excited about what God is going to teach me while I’m gone. I’m excited about the people who are going to be ministering in the pulpit while I’m gone. I've asked them to preach good…but not too good. 

Actually, my prayer would be that the Lord Jesus Christ is highly exalted and lifted up! I plan on watching the sermons on YouTube...there are some wonderful men filling the pulpit in my absence.

Looking forward to growing in grace with you!

Pastor Daniel

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Worship, not pity

For quite some time now, I have resisted calls to preach "medical messages" about the cross, that is, to preach about the fairly well documented details of what a body experiences while being crucified.  My resistance is not because such information is wrong to pursue or because we should avoid gruesome facts.  Rather, my resistance is because the New Testament writers are also sparse in their details of Jesus' crucifixion.  I fear that if we dwell on the physical aspects of crucifixion, we might end up pitying Jesus rather than worshiping Him.

My father told me something when I was a boy that I have not forgotten.  He said that it is well likely that other human beings have suffered physically as much as or more than our Savior, but none suffered as sin bearer.  The sparse testimony of the New Testament on the details of crucifixion and its long record of detail on the nature of Jesus Christ's atonement incline me to believe that my father was right.  So, you won't hear much from me about blood loss, subcutaneous tissue, hematidrosis,  respiration, hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia, etc.  But you will hear things like this, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."(Isa. 53:5) and "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24) and "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Here is the sparse way in which each Gospel writer describes the crucifixion:

Matt. 27:32 When they had crucified him,
Mark 15:34 And they crucified him.
Luke 23:33 they crucified him there
John 19:18 There they crucified him

Worshiping our Savior,