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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Patience and Disney World

For my birthday this year, Whitney purchased Numbers Rule Your World : The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do, by Kaiser Fung. In Numbers, Fung looks at the way we understand and apply probabilities and statistics in everyday life. Knowing me as she does, Whitney guessed—with a 95% confidence that she would be right—that I would enjoy the book and she was 100% correct.
There are a lot of gems in the book but let me highlight just one for you amusement park enthusiasts and try to make a spiritual application.

What is the least enjoyable part of a trip to the park? For me, it is the long lines when the park is crowded. Fung offers the following assessment of long lines at Walt Disney World:
Queues happen when demand exceeds capacity. Most large rides can accommodate 1,000 to 2,000 guests per hour; lines form if patrons arrive at a higher rate. If Disney accurately anticipated demand, could it not build sufficient capacity? Did the appearance of long lines reflect negligent design? Surprisingly, the answer to both questions is no. The real culprit is not bad design but variability. Disney constructs each theme park to satisfy the “design day,” typically up to the ninetieth-percentile level of demand, which means, in theory, on nine out of ten days, the park should have leftover capacity. In reality, patrons report long lines pretty much any day of the year.
Worse, statisticians are certain that queues would persist even if Disney had designed for the busiest day of the year (8).
The problem is not capacity but variability. A ride can handle 2,000 guests in an hour. The problem is that in a fifteen minute period, 3,000 guests may suddenly decide they want to visit that attraction.

There’s no way to account for this variability—or is there?
To try and combat the problem of variability, Disney introduced “FastPass.” FastPass allows someone to visit a ride, receive a voucher to arrive at an attraction at a given time, and enter a different, shorter line. Variability is removed because the patron arrives at a certain time. Thus, from the moment they receive the voucher to the time they ride the ride the total wait time would be longer than if they simply stood in line but it feels like a shorter wait!

And guests—for the most part—love the system. Fung juxtaposes complaints of patrons who hate waiting in line with the praises of those who love the FastPass. Even though those with the FastPass are technically waiting longer to ride the ride they love the system.
What does our Biblical understanding of life tell us about waiting in line?

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about minimizing the time spent waiting in line. There’s nothing evil about finding things to do to allow us to feel more productive.
If our heart attitudes are not right, however, things like FastPass are merely a placebo. They allow us to feel better while not really having our hearts change. I haven’t increased my ability to practice patience. I’m just not feeling the discomfort like I was before.

Patience is a fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22), indicating that my heart is growing more like Christ. As James says in James 5:7-11:
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Be careful not to confuse a change of circumstances with growth in sanctification.

By His Grace,


Friday, September 21, 2012

Average Pastors

Missionary Update by Dave Beakley

In America, “average” is considered to be failure.  Parents try desperately to get their children to enroll and excel in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school so that they can accelerate their entrance into University or even better, to be accepted at the “top” universities.  Children as young as 4 and 5 years old begin training for gymnastics, baseball, and other sports and often have various “skill” coaches.  Piano lessons begin at 5 with recitals soon to follow.  No sir—my child will not be “average.”

With that said, this mindset is also in the ministry.  Every pastor sees himself as a “man of God” who can speak with authority and employ the wisdom of Solomon in shepherding.  Students strive to sit under the “Gamaliels” of the current Evangelical preachers so that they can be “excellent.”  No one sees himself as an “average” pastor.

Christ Seminary (CS) in Polokwane, South Africa has been training African men for the pastorate since 1997.  At the beginning, the goal was to provide a basic theological education meant for men who came from a previously disadvantaged background and a rural context.  Pastors in rural churches were few, and those men had a meager grasp of Scripture and a low view of God.  The people had a great need, and were happy to have men who could now explain Scripture while living in their context.

Over the next sixteen years, God has blessed CS with over 120 graduates, and year after year the group has increased in their educational background and keen grasp of theology.  The faculty here has been excited about how we have been able to increase the level of teaching to more advanced concepts.  Perhaps the time has come now that the Lord will bless us with “above average” men to really make a difference.  After years of “average” rural pastors, maybe the Lord was now going to provide men with more advanced education and the ability to rise above the fray so that we could graduate men who could make an impact.

Enter Joseph Hlongwane.  Joseph interviewed with the faculty of CS in Oct 2009.  His background was ultra-charismatic and was looking forward to learning more about how to grasp the power of the word-faith movement.  Joseph came to us because of a 2008 graduate named Obed.  Both Obed and Joseph joined the ministry together in the 2000-2001 timeframe, and were both ultra-charismats.  As Obed began his studies at CS, Joseph began to see a change.  Initially, Obed’s change in preaching was strange, and seemed void of the Holy Spirit.  Even though Joseph began to mock and criticize Obed, the preaching came and seemed to increase in power.  As Obed began to experience severe suffering with the untimely deaths of his first two newborn babies, and the discovery of a debilitating sickness, his preaching seemed to gain in power and weightiness.  All Joseph could think of was, “how can I have what this man has?”  Thus, the interview.

When Joseph arrived at CS in his first year, his performance was as expected.  Full of energy and high expectations the first day followed by despair, giving up, and wanting to quit after the first couple of weeks—and that was just after English and working on Bible memory!  But, Joseph was resilient.  After the first semester, Joseph’s preaching started to change.  By the midst of his second semester, his preaching had changed so much that his word-faith church threatened to fire him unless he changed back to the old way, and his wife threatened to put him out unless he started preaching prosperity.

After a partial blindness set in during his second semester, Joseph dropped out.  I thought Joseph—one of the “average” guys—was now out of the picture.  Not to be deterred, Joseph returned to start anew in 2010.  Naturally, Joseph now did very well in English and Bible Memory.  As the year was winding down, then the bottom dropped out.  Joseph’s newborn baby just died (that happens often here in Africa).  The knowledge of God’s sovereignty and goodness were anchors for Joseph, along with his remembering of his friend Obed and how he took a stand for the Lord during tribulations.  Joseph pressed on. 

In 2011, Joseph tried hard with Greek and passed with a 50% (this is the pass mark in South Africa).  While he struggled, he passed, yet we were still hoping for the Lord to bring men who could demonstrate academic excellence and become “above average.”  This past year, Joseph tried his hand in Hebrew along with Historical Theology, Systematic Theology and a whole host of advanced subjects.  I wasn’t sure that this “average” guy could make it.  After all, not everyone is called to the ministry.  Then, the Lord showed me that my grading system was skewed.

In April, during the middle of the semester, I noticed that Joseph arrived in class late.  Four days late!  When he was called to my office, we began the “tough” conversation.  I expected to hear about money problems, taxi problems, family problems—all kinds of problems so that he would avoid Hebrew.  What followed was a lesson from the Lord about “average.”

With his head hung down, Joseph began to recall his circumstance.  He said, “Pastor Dave, I really wanted to be here on Tuesday, but I really couldn’t.”  I stared into Joseph’s eyes with the compassion of a TMS Dean.  Joseph continued.  He explained that a young man from his church had met with him the previous week and confessed that he had taken a young girl out to a restaurant and gave her a “date rape” drug and then took her back to his place and slept with her.  The young man was obviously expecting to hear how this was the work of Satan and demons, and that he was forgiven.  Joseph said the unthinkable (in Africa, the biggest sin is to break community with someone—no Christian is a sinner).  Joseph said, “You have one choice.  You need to confess your sin and repent to the Lord, and go to the police before she does.” 

Needless to say, the young man was devastated.  After much debate over sin, guilt, confession, repentance, and demons, the young man left and took an entire bottle of sleeping pills.  He went into a coma and was on the edge of death.  The next day, various pastors from the area called Joseph and rebuked him for giving “very bad counsel.”  They said that demons are the cause of sin, and he should not have told this young man that he was at fault.  They said that Joseph sinned.  Joseph vigorously debated with them using Scripture as his authority.  The Bible calls this sin and commands us to repent was the continuous reply with verse after verse as his reasoning.

Then, the day before he was to come to seminary, there was a knock on Joseph’s door.  When Joseph opened the door, he saw the young man’s father.  The older man looked at Joseph and said, “You gave my son very bad counsel, and now he is busy dying.  You are the cause of this.  If he dies, you die.”  At this point, Joseph then looked at me and said, “Pastor, if I were to leave and come to Seminary for my classes, this man [and the entire community] would say that I was running away from this problem.  They would say I was running in fear because I sinned.  I couldn’t leave until I knew if the young man would live or die.  After a few days, he pulled through, and when I knew that he would make it, I felt I could come to Seminary without damaging my testimony for Christ and the ministry.

At this point, I was extremely blessed by “average!”  And then, to top it off, Joseph looked at me and said, “Pastor Dave, one more thing:  my wife saw my grades in Greek and she wasn’t happy.  She said with these grades you don’t really know Greek, and if you don’t know Greek then you can’t properly teach me the Bible.  I want you to re-take these Greek classes.  So, I want to re-take these second year classes even though it will delay my graduation.”

The Bible is filled with “average.”  There is even a prominent book on the market titled, “Twelve Ordinary Men” describing probably the most influential men on the planet in the past 2,000 years other than Jesus Christ.  We forget that some plant, some water, but it is always God who provides the increase.  We often place great importance on speaking and writing, but the Bible indicates that perhaps the most important thing that we can do is “stand.”  We take a stand and then God swirls the circumstances of life around us so that all those around without a doubt can see the majesty of God.

At the end of the day, our task is easy, but somehow eludes our grasp.  We focus on preparation, study, argumentation, and basic “spirituality.”  While these are good things, it is not the main thing.  We can actually be excellent in these areas, but fail in the most important area.  One can struggle in these areas, but when they succeed in the most important area, I will no longer see them as “average.”  In fact, I think I will just strive to be “average” like Joseph.

Ephesians 6:13 (NAS) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Joseph Hlongwane at the Beakley’s “House of Wonders"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dad's God-Centered Update on Cancer

September 10, 2012 marked five years since my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He celebrated the anniversary with an excellent article, "A Very Meaningful Anniversary". I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. In it, I think you see a godly contentment and God-glorifying perspective on illness.

My dad writes: "At the outset, I realized that the cancer was no random occurrence in the universe, but came to me from the hand of a heavenly Father whose love for me goes far beyond my ability to comprehend."

He's exactly right and his commitment to that theological truth has helped him to continue to fulfill his purpose to glorify our God through this illness. Go read his article here:

By His Grace,


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pastors Who Don't Believe

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more tragic website than

The Clergy Project, according to the website, “is a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.” In other words, it’s a community for pastors who no longer believe in God.

On the website, you can find testimonials from pastors who have abandoned the faith but not had the courage to admit it. You can discover a network of pastors who share your beliefs—or, if you prefer, your unbeliefs. You can even receive financial assistance as you transfer out of the community of faith.

As I looked through the website, several “feelings” struck me.

First, I feel pain for those who are struggling in their faith. There are genuine believers who wrestle with difficult questions regarding God and His character. Sometimes our questions are legitimate questions—faith seeking understanding. At other times our questions are borne not from a heart of love for God but from a heart that struggles with the sin of unbelief.

In either case, as we come alongside brothers and sisters who are doubting, our responsibility is clear. We are to aid those who are weak. As the writer of Hebrews says:

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed (Heb 12:12-13).

Second, I feel sorrow that this website is the resource to which many of those who are doubting turn. It is clearly antagonistic to the gospel of Christ. It encourages pastors to “move beyond faith.” The website preys upon pastors at their weakest moments.

When a pastor comes to a severe crisis of faith it is time for him to leave the ministry. He no longer meets the requirement of an elder. Pastors can struggle with doubts at times and labor over tough questions. But when a pastor persists in doubts or comes to conclusions that are contrary to the faith he no longer can be said to be “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Third, I feel concern for the flocks at which these pastors minister. While some pastors are struggling with their faith, others have abandoned it yet continue to minister for financial or other reasons. There are those in the church who know they have no business being there. They are those who “have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly person who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

The existence of this website should be a sobering reminder for all of us. Pray for the church of Jesus Christ. Pray for her pastors. Pray for her flock. Pray for a faith that perseveres until His return.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Confessing Our Sins

On our recent road trip to visit my son in Colorado Springs, we encountered hundreds of bugs that splashed themselves upon our windshield.  Their suicidal assault upon my car did not damage the glass windshield, but their shmushed bodies made visibility difficult at night.  The more bugs smashed, the more blur spread across my field of vision.  At the next gas station, we stopped and rubbed those matted insects off the glass.  What a difference!  I once was blurred, but now I see!


Sometimes people ask, “If God forgives me of my past, present and future sins, why do I need to confess my sins to Him?”  For the believer, sin indeed is a defeated foe.  We never need to fear condemnation once we are in Christ.   God’s love for us does not diminish or expand with our spiritual performance.   Our adoption by God will never be renegotiated.  God elected us before we were born unto salvation and will not be frustrated in His eternal plan to rescue us from the condemnation that our sin merits.  But sin is still an enemy to our lives.  Sin still severely damages our soul and sours our fellowship with God.  One of the reasons that confession of specific sin is so necessary in a believer's life is that sin acts like bugs splashing themselves upon the windshield of a car.  Our sins blur our vision of God’s goodness, faithfulness and glory.  Jesus revealed, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  (Matthew 5:8)  The book of Hebrews teaches us, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”  (Hebrews 12:14)  Blindness to God is one of sin's most grievous affects and seeing God is one of salvation's greatest joys!  The joy of our salvation is tied to our seeing and savoring our LORD.  We are redeemed to know Him and to love Him.  We rejoice to sing, 

"Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light."

If practical purity is essential to seeing God, we are right to ask, "How do we restore practical holiness to our lives after we sin?"  The Bible teaches us that we begin with confession of our sin to God.  We confess our sins to God, not to earn back His love, but to enjoy His love.  Jesus urges daily confession as He teaches us to pray, “Father, . . . Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  Jesus intends for us to make confession of sin a central part of our daily conversation with our Heavenly Father.   

Our flesh often responds one of two ways to sin in our lives:  1.  We brush it off as inconsequential.  2.  We despair over it as an unremovable stain.  Friends, let us not ignore our sin and allow the bugs to build up upon the windshield of their soul thinking that we can see “well enough.”  Nor let us despair over our sin, living in hopeless guilt thinking that no remedy exists for our blurred vision of God.  Instead let us make a daily practice of confessing our sins to the God who delights to clean the windows of our soul so that we can glimpse a clear view of His glory!

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Some ask, “Is this verse for believers or unbelievers?”  The answer is, “Yes.”  This verse calls the unbeliever to faith in Jesus as the justifier of those who are guilty before God.  And this verse calls the believer to acknowledge before God those sins that grieve the Lord and that dirty our soul.  This verse helps the unredeemed to enter into God’s love and this verse helps the redeemed to enjoy God’s love.

Ritch Boerckel