I have slowed down the blogging this year, and significantly cut down on Twitter. Facebook is where I spend most of my social media time. That said, I thought it would be good for me to give a mid-year update here on my blog.
First, I am using a new Bible reading plan this year. It is a simple read through the Bible in one year schedule from Ligonier Ministries. This particular plan divides the Bible into six Old Testament and six New Testament readings per week (M-F and one Weekend reading assignment). I like how this approach gives you one day per week for catch up, because no matter how disciplined a person is, life has a way of causing you to miss a day here and there. The one weekend reading is a little longer than those during the weekdays, especially in the Old Testament.
Second, I wrote earlier this year about how 2016 was the first year in which I reached my goal of reading an average of one book per week. This year I’m a little behind schedule in accomplishing that, but I am not so far behind as to make the goal unreachable. The genre in which I have been reading the most is fiction, and more specifically, westerns. I have been reading an excellent series by Elmer Kelton on the Texas Rangers. His fictional stories are considered to be very accurate when it comes to the history of the western frontier.
One ministry book that I am currently reading that is outstanding is Daniel Henderson’s Old Paths, New Power. Henderson believes that more than anything, churches need to have pastors and leaders who spend much time in the Word and in prayer, based on Acts 6:4. I agree. The challenge is keeping this priority front and center.
Third, I have been doing more traveling than I have done in years. This April my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the third time in her life. I’m basically visiting her (both driving up and flying up) about once every four to six weeks. Add to that our summer vacation with my in-laws at the beach in South Carolina in June and this has turned into the summer of travel!
Returning from one of our visits to Nonna in May, we were able to take a little side trip to Stone Mountain where we made the 40 minute hike to the top. Above is a picture from the summit.
I was saddened this week to read about a young man getting killed in an accident at a coal mine in my home county back in southern Illinois. It brought back memories for me. When most people think about coal mines, they usually think about West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. I’ve learned that many people don’t realize that southern Illinois has one of the richest coal mining veins in the United States.
I can remember as a young boy going to spend the night at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house and Grandpa coming home from finishing the 2nd shift. He’d wake me up so I could join him for a midnight snack in the kitchen: Pringles and a bottle of cold Mountain Dew.
I also remember in grade school getting news of a classmate’s Dad being killed in the mine. One of my Dad’s best buddies had his face crushed in mine accident. Several surgeries were required to reconstruct his face. One of my best friends spent several weeks in a hospital recuperating after nearly dying in a coal mining accident.
I am very thankful that I serve a forgiving God, who forgives all my sins and provides me with eternal life. I am also very thankful that I serve a forgiving congregation who forgives my many sins and deficiencies and tolerates my many mistakes and shortcomings.
For example, this morning, in the first worship service, I made a mistake. I got confused as to where I was in the Bible and attributed a quote by John the Baptist to the Lord Jesus Christ. Although I realized my error later on and corrected myself in the 2nd worship service, I still owe a significant portion of our congregation a big apology.
Here is the truth… It was John the Baptist, not Jesus Christ, who said to the self-righteous religious leaders of the day… ““You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7)
That said, I still stick by my statement that in a very real sense ALL the words of the Bible are the words of Jesus! So my mistake did not invalidate my main point in that portion of the message: the doctrine of the wrath of God is taught throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, Gospels and Epistles.
This is the 18th time I am able to proudly say that the beautiful lady standing beside me is my Valentine. In the summer of 1994 I was home from graduate school, visiting my parents in southern Illinois. After a week of vacation, I said goodbye to my parents and pulled out of the driveway in my little blue Honda CRX for the lonely twelve hour drive back to Fort Worth, Texas. As I drove away my prayer warrior mother cried out in her heart, “Lord, it’s time!” You might be thinking, time for what? Time for her son to meet “the one.” In a matter of weeks her prayers (plural because she had been praying for my future wife for several years) were answered.
Here’s how it happened. The last weekend of August I got a call from a buddy of mine who wanted me to go with him to a singles fellowship that evening at Southwayside Baptist Church. I didn’t really want to go. But Tim was persistent, saying, “Oh, come on man, who knows…you might even meet your future wife there tonight!” Who could walk away from an offer like that! I truly didn’t expect that to happen.
I am in the process of concluding a mini-sabbatical (3 1/2 weeks) and am grateful for the time I’ve had away to rest and refresh myself spiritually. More congregations need to demand that their pastors take these types of breaks to protect themselves against the pitfalls of ministry. And yes, there are many pitfalls.
The North American Mission Board recently published some alarming statistics gathered by my old friend Darrin Patrick:
God provided a new friend for me today. In God’s kind providence I was privileged to meet, via internet and telephone, a pastor from North Carolina named Jonathan. I am excited about this friendship for what we have in common. We both have a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus.
Barrett’s is found mostly among sufferers of GERD (acid reflux disease), like Jonathan and myself. More importantly, and frighteningly, Barrett’s is a high risk condition for Esophageal Cancer, which is not exactly the best cancer to have.