Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our First Mission Field

It's weird how the people we love and care about the most, can many times receive the least amount of love and care from us. The people we should be closest to, are instead the people we are the most distant from. The people who should receive our undivided attention, are largely ignored or given distracted conversation.

*Cough cell phone and Netflix cough*

I'm sure just about everyone has given their family or closest friends the back burner at times. We get busy and stuff happens. I get it. But, that doesn't mean it needs to keep happening! We need to open our eyes, be honest with ourselves, and break those cycles.

As a pastor, it's easy for me to get so caught up in the "work of the ministry" and get so busy that my family becomes an afterthought. My family. My wife and son. The two people I love more than anyone else. The two people I enjoy spending time with the most.

These two are usually my first and second round picks when choosing to forget or ignore someone in my life. That's super crappy. That's not how God intended family or ministry to work. (Or for any of our lives and schedules to work for that matter.)

As Christians, our first priority and our first calling in life is to love and serve Jesus. We need to spend QUALITY time and QUANTITY of time with Him. We should WANT to do those things. If we don't do these things first and foremost, then everything else will fall apart.

Secondly, we are called to love and serve our families. My first ministry is to Jesus. My second ministry is to my family. Our home is the first ministry and mission field we are called to!

One of the most important ministries I'm called to is living life with my family and being a loving husband and father.

We do make time for the things that matter most to us. Whether it means getting up earlier, staying up later, or giving up our lunch break. We will find time for the most important things. We will make the time.

We will also make room in our budget for the things that matter to us most. Whether it means getting a second job, skipping a meal, cutting out the extras, or saving up for awhile. We will find money for the most important things to us. We will make it happen.

If we want a true and honest perspective of the priorities in our life, then we don't need to look any further than our calendars and our bank accounts. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.

Last Sunday, like most Sundays, I had a list of a dozen things I needed to do and make sure I remembered before leaving home for our church service that evening. My wife and I live in Detroit Lakes, but we pastor a church in Park Rapids. We currently meet in the town's library basement. The library is a great location and the price is right, but it does make it a little more difficult and challenging to pastor a church when needing to travel 40 miles each way, set up music and sound equipment, and tear down music and sound equipment every Sunday. There are quite a few things going on behind the scenes to make a church service happen. (Thankfully, we have a ton of helpful people and an awesome church family to help us out!)

While I was getting my church to do list taken care of this last Sunday, my son was being a little bit of a pill. He really wanted to play outside, but he didn't understand we REALLY didn't have the time. I was already running a little late and still needed to: get all his diaper bag stuff together, get him dressed, let the dogs out, get the music and sound equipment loaded in the car, get some gas, run to the store and pick something up, etc. You get the picture.

I was running all over the place and then I finally decided to listen to the Lord. I heard God say, "Why don't you think you have time to play with Andrew?" I just shrugged, laughed, and then walked over to my son and pushed him around in his little car he was given by his Aunt Wendy and Uncle Eric.

(Here's a link (click here) to a short video on Instagram of me pushing baby boy around.)

I only spent 3 or 4 minutes of undivided attention playing with him, but it made all of the difference in his demeanor and attitude. And it made all the difference in mine too! We both had a lot of fun, it only took a few minutes, and we still got everything done we needed to do for church.

While I was pushing him around, I thought to myself, "I don't want to be one of those pastors or fathers in ministry whose kid ends up hating church and hating God cause his dad didn't have his priorities straight and was a bad father." That can and does happen at times, but it never should.

Paul actually writes to Timothy about the qualifications of leaders in the church in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and says,
"one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);"

If I'm not doing a good job of ministering to, serving, and loving my family, then I am not qualified to minister to or serve a church family in a position of leadership. If we don't take care of the mission field and ministry opportunities at home, then we aren't deserving of doing them at a larger scale or in a larger setting.

If I can't be trusted to take care of my small family of 3, then why would I ever be trusted to take care of a church family?

We need to prove ourselves trustworthy and be good stewards with what we have before we can be given more. If I can't lead my own family well, then how could I lead a church well?!


Please remember your first mission field, your first ministry. Remember God and your family.

Turn off the tv, the laptop, the tablet, the cell phone, and be with your family. Be consumed and be social with them instead of with media, games and online profiles of people you don't even care about.

- Joel

Friday, October 2, 2015

I'm Thankful the Oregon Shooting Victims Were Christians

I was extremely saddened yesterday when I read there was yet another mass shooting in our country. An evil and cowardly man murdered 9 people and injured another 9 before being wounded by police officers and then shooting himself. A few of the victims are still in critical condition. Please continue to pray for the recovery of those injured.

I can't even begin to imagine the heartache and pain the friends and families of the victims are feeling. I am praying for, and will continue to pray for, the friends and families of the victims, as well as for the students and faculty of Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

The title of this blog post is: 'I'm Thankful The Oregon Shooting Victims Were Christians'. That may seem strange, especially since I'm a Christian and a pastor, but let me explain.

I am not wanting to belittle the loss of the families and friends, or the sacrifice made by Chris Mintz, the heroic Army veteran, who stood up to the shooter and was shot 7 times. But, I do want to give a different perspective on the death of these 9 people.

My thought is this, who better to be murdered (martyred) than people who have an assurance of where they will be going when they die? These courageous people lived out the passage, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)

According to a victim's father interviewed by CNN and numerous others, (click here to watch the interview) the shooter lined the students up and then asked them if they were Christian. If they answered "Yes" to his question they were shot in the head. If they answered "No" to his question or did not answer, they were shot in the torso or leg.

These 9 peoples lives weren't taken. These 9 people had the courage and faith to give up their lives for Jesus. They said "Yes." When everything was on the line, they each said "Yes."

Philippians 1:21 in the New Living Translation says,
"For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better."

And the Voice Bible says it like this,
"Life versus even more life! I can't lose."

These 9 brothers and sisters in Christ lived for Jesus and died for Jesus. Living was nice, but dying was even better. They couldn't lose, and neither can we.

And that's why I'm glad the victims who were killed were Christians. They are in heaven and with Jesus face to face for eternity. Any other person wouldn't be so lucky.

As Christians, we are SUPPOSED to be ready and willing to die EVERY SINGLE DAY. We are supposed to pick up our cross DAILY and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)

These 9 people lived out these passages. If ever faced with a similar situation, I hope myself and my family would be as courageous and wise as they were.

Photo credit:

While holding a news conference following the shooting, President Obama offered his condolences to the victims and said, "Our thoughts and prayers are not enough." Obama is, of course, referring to enforcing stricter gun control laws and not only sending thoughts and prayers their way. He is understandably frustrated and upset with the number and the frequency of mass shootings in our nation. We all are.

I'm not sure if stricter gun laws would help or hurt our chances of having less mass shootings. But one thing is for sure, what we are currently doing is not working. What the President doesn't understand, is that THE ONE THING that can and will make a change is our prayers. Really, THE ONLY thing that will make a difference is if Christians begin to pray. Our prayers are the only thing that will be enough. And when I say 'our' prayers, I mean Christians' prayers.

Prayers to any other god won't make a difference, at least not a positive one.

We Christians need to pray a fervent, heartfelt, and continued prayer. (James 5:16) Prayer will cause change. Prayer will make a difference. Our world needs Christians praying on its behalf.

This shooting reminded me once again of Ephesians 6:12 which says,
"For we are not fighting against flesh- and- blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." (New Living Translation)

We so often forget that our opponent is not other people. Our fight is not Republican vs Democrat, or Liberal vs Conservative, or Black vs White, or even Muslim vs Christian. Our fight is Jesus vs Satan.

We literally can't even see our true enemy. We can see the result of his work. We can see some of the people he works through. But we can't see him, so stop trying to fight the people who are just being used as puppets and pawns by him. They need Jesus just like I need Jesus.

Ephesians 6:12-14 in the Amplified Bible says,
"For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Stand therefore [hold your ground],"

"...Put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Stand therefore [hold your ground],"

This is our assignment. This is our calling.

Resist. Stand your ground. Do everything the crisis demands. Stand firmly in your place. Stand and hold your ground.

Christians, we need to step it up and be who we were made to be and start fighting these spiritual battles! The enemy and the problems our country and our world are facing are much bigger than any single political, social, racial, economic, psychological, moral, or religious problem, etc. All of these 'problems' are the result of the bigger problem, the enemy. We are facing a spiritual enemy that creates the problems we are facing. So we need to begin to fight the enemy in the only way possible, through prayer.

Repent and pray church! Repent for not doing what we were supposed to do sooner. Repent for not being who we are supposed to be sooner. Repent for getting caught up and sucked into the whirlwind of controversy, social activism, and hot topics and begin to actually do something. PRAY!!!

Be world changers! Be like Jesus. He and a small group of people changed the world and the entire course of history in a matter of 3 years. What have you and I done in the last 3 years? Anything of eternal significance?

In the last 3 years I got pretty good at Call of Duty and created a pretty sweet FIFA team on my Xbox. I became a dad and a soccer coach. I got a lot better at cooking. I grew a huge beard. I led a few dozen people to the Lord and prayed with another few dozen.

None of this was enough. Most of it was time wasting and life wasting. I shouldn't be content with that small of an impact, and you shouldn't be either.

I am tired of having a lackadaisical and passive faith. I'm ready to do something. I'm hungry to see God do something.

Pray. Actually pray. Pray a lot. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The time is now. Shake the earth.
- Joel