Like Paul, I Found Joy Amidst Devastating News

Joy From Philippians

One of the greatest types of joy I have in life is being a husband and a dad. I’ve told my wife from the time that I saw our relationship growing deeper that I guess I was the odd teenager growing up. We did not have much as kids but I also never wanted for anything either. So when I looked at what goals I wanted in my life, it was simple. I wanted to be a good husband and a good dad. That’s it. Simple goal but hard to obtain. Anyone can father a child that is a biological process but to be a dad it takes so much more.

That is a saying I have seen and lived. I come from a household where my dad is not my biological father, but he has been there since I was two. My father was an ephemeral figure in my life as a kid. We would spend a night there randomly and once we went on a vacation to Ocean City, MD. It was not until I was older and had my car that I spent significant time with my biological father. I worked at Burger King, and after we closed, I would drive to downtown Baltimore and hang out at the place he worked at as a cook.

Fast forward to today, I am married to an amazing woman who is my soul mate. She drives me to be a better man, a better husband and the best dad that I can be. She had two children from a previous marriage when we met, and now I find myself in the same position my dad was in when he and my mom got together.

This was unintentional on my part, I had given up hope on finding someone and having a family, but God knew better than that. He knew like he had known before I was formed that being a dad was my dream in life. In that moment where I had in my heart decided that if this next date did not pan out, I was done. I would live as a bachelor and just throw myself into my career and tuck away all notions of romance.

God’s Providence

God desires to show His power through your storm, but is your lack of faith keeping Him from doing so? God brings storms into your life to show His strength and to gain glory from His providence.

Paul Chappell

Before I get into the devastating news I had earlier this year, part of which made me unsure of continuing to write here; I want to talk about what we mean by God’s Providence. Providence is a combination of two Latin words; the first is  “pro” which means “forward” or “On behalf of” and “vide” which is Latin for “to see.”

So when we think of Providence, it should mean “to support, or to supply what is needed.” If it is God’s Providence, then we are proclaiming that God has provided support, sustenance or what it is we need for the season we are experiencing. Sometimes that providence is his non-action because of the learning and growth we get from difficult but not impossible trials.

God’s providence in my life starts with Jesus. He’s given the ultimate sacrifice for my reconciliation with him. That providence began with the fall of man in Genesis and does not end, ever. He supplied Israel time and time again in the Old Testament. He supplied the world with unending grace through the bloodshed of his son. We can lose sight of that Providence in the day to day grind of life, but it has never been more clear to me than it has been lately. I would not have a better understanding of this providence were it not for Ryan Huguley, and the time he was at Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory. I’ll get into that in a moment. This next part is me peeling back the armor, exposing my heart to you in a way I have not done before.

Devastating News

We have two amazing kids and were considering a third because we felt our hearts and family could certainly expand to love more. So we began trying and spent time making sure we were doing things at the right time etc. Adult stuff. After 8 or 9 months I decided to go to a urologist and see if there were any issues. What I was told after examinations and several tests is that I have a condition called necrozoospermia. Necrozoo-what? Yeah, me too. What that meant is that my body manufactures sperm, but they are all dead. Their tails don’t wag, and so they can’t swim.

So what is the rate for complete necrozoospermia? 0.2-0.5% of men have it. An almost infinitesimal chance and I hit the lottery in the worst kind of way. I had thought about this many times as an adult and my desire to have a family, would I be able to? The doubt was from an incident when I was playing Little League Baseball, back before kids wearing a jock strap was a thing. My cousin was mad about something I had done and came up to me and kicked me as hard as he could in the genitals with a pair of baseball cleats on. I was taken to the hospital for that, and my whole region was black and blue for weeks.

Back to now, the doctor told me that incident caused primary testicular failure. I can’t have children without assistance. It would cost roughly $15,000 for even a chance to harvest sperm and egg then perform In Vitro Fertilization. We are nowhere near that well off to be able to afford that so my chances of having a child with my wife are zero. I was devastated. I left the urologist and did the ugly cry in the car before I called my wife to tell her something I did not want to talk about.

Paul’s Joy and Content

I cannot express the gratitude I have for Ryan enough. He was the first pastor in a long time that inspired me. When you meet Ryan, you will find a man full of God’s word, Jesus’s love and the compassion that only the Holy Spirit can provide. It is through his preaching that I know the means of finding joy in dire circumstances.

When he was at Harvest, he went through a series titled, ‘Everyday Joy – A Study of Philippians’ you can find it here on Vimeo, Everyday Joy Series. It was and has been my retreat when things look stormy, or I am suddenly in the midst of something that challenges my faith. To suddenly discover that I could not have children was both of those. The whole, testing and waiting and eventually finding out. It was hard to come to terms with it.

Consider Paul’s situation as he writes to the church in Philippi, he has spent almost four years in prison (Philippians 1:12-18). Why? Because he was preaching the truth and following Jesus. Yet, in that time he rejoices and proclaims that even if he is sentenced to death, he will rejoice (Philippians 2:17-18). Why? Because Paul learned to be content with his condition, whatever it may be (Philippians 4:11)

Coming to Terms

I know that I have been given grace beyond measure and certainly something I do not deserve. I try to teach that to my children that humanity is the cause of Christs’ death. If I am given this grace and freedom in Jesus, why am I focusing on not being able to father a child biologically? Am I not an adopted child of God? Yes, yes I am. I did not know that I could never have children, but God knew. That is where his providence comes in and becomes completely humbling.

Is it sad I cannot have children biologically without assistance? Absolutely. Did I feel less a man? Yes, I did. The information I received did not cause me joy it was the exact opposite, but when I take a step back from my immediate emotions, I see something that even as I write this brings water to my eyes.

God knew.

He knew that my life goals were not money or cars or women or drugs. He knew that I would become a man some day and I would want children and provided that in the most spectacular way possible. When I took that view, I became at peace.

It is things like this that leave no doubt that God exists. The cost to have another kid is extraordinary, and there are so many children that need homes. I hope that I can continue to provide a haven, a home that follows Jesus for my children and maybe…just maybe a third that God will put in the path that Bethany and I walk in this life.

This has easily been the most difficult thing I have written to date, but I hope that you can find how God’s providence is present in your life. It is easy to get caught up in the negative emotions that Satan wants us to embrace. That does not mean that you are in a sandpit of despair. God is there, just grab on to him and those trials become contentment because through it all you have Jesus and the salvation he provides.

Steadfast Provider – Rock in the Storm – Faithful Father Series

Steadfast Provider

As a father we provide for our children in many ways. It is east to think, ‘Well they have a roof over their head, food in their belly, and clothes on their bodies. I’m doing alright.’ and to a certain extent that is true but the logic is flawed. We provide more than tangible things for our children and must do so in a steadfast manner. Consider Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus is speaking about how a father would not callously mistreat his children. A child asking for bread would get such, and not a stone in its place! Jesus confronts the iniquity of man directly in Matthew 7:11 where he is speaking to his following including the apostles and calls them evil, he does not mean this harshly but that in comparison to the perfection of the Father, man is evil. Yet he is not berating them but cautioning them out of love. Telling them that even an evil man knows how to do good  for his children because he has the child’s best interest at heart sometimes at least. Finally Jesus compares this action to God and how we should be like him giving in abundance to our children in a loving manner and not one done in anger.

The Christian who is steadfast, unmovable in the Word, goes forward to a discharge of his known duties, no matter what his feelings may be.

C.E. Orr

Jesus showed us that God wants us to be givers, not takers. This is important because a steadfast provider is not one that gives to get something in return. They give freely, with no expectation or reward. Christ laid down his live, giving an ultimate sacrifice so that humanity could take the chance to redeem through salvation and living as Jesus did. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul is writing to Timothy about his ministry at the church in Ephesus and cautions the church about the treatment of their relatives especially household members. Paul states it outright and it is true, to not provide for your relatives, especially members in your home is a blatant denial of the faith you profess. Paul goes on to say that this violation of duty is worse than an unbeliever of Christ, and I agree!

Being a parent is a lot of work. I’ve come to know this over the time that I met my wife and her children. It’s been four years and I have had ups and downs learning to be a father and that the world is not black and white but full of many gray areas. It is our duty to educate our children about these things in life so that they are not easily swayed by duplicitous individuals. The call for steadfastness does go beyond provisions and lessons you actively teach because children are super observant. How many times have you used a bad habit and your children have emulated it? Yeah, me too. It does happen and so it is clear that how you act in times of difficulty also teaches them good and bad behaviors. Living as Christ did is hard and does require a steadfast will to continue on in the face of adversity.

I posted recently about spending a month or more in prayer because I was trying to create a better connection with God. Not because I was afraid that God was not listening or had forgotten about me. It was because I wanted my kids to understand several important things about prayer. First, prayer is nothing you should be embarrassed about. Second, prayer works, it is that simple. Next, prayer can be done any where, any time. Last, and most importantly, it provides a direct communication to God which is so very key to being a Christian. My family has reaped the rewards of that, my children make no fuss about praying at a restaurant and do so loudly…I am sure some patrons would say too loudly but hey, my kids love Jesus and that is what matters. They pray at night and we read stories from the Bible every night.

I don’t always feel like doing those things, praying, reading Bible stories or even reading the Bible on a personal level. That is a flaw of mine and it is because of the same reason others give, I don’t feel like I have enough time to get things done. It is often said Satan’s greatest victory is convincing man he does not exist. I would argue his second greatest victory especially in the modern world, is preying on humanities drive to be greater as a means to disconnect Christians from God for worldly pursuits. The world moves fast and we may feel like we do not have the time but we have to be intentional in creating the time. This behavior, this intenationalist attitude, is the point, being steadfast in spite of my feelings and emotions. My desire to be this way is directly influenced by Jesus, consider, he knew he would be beaten and betrayed, he knew he would be disgraced and he knew that he would be crucified and slain for being a dissident. Yet he was not swayed and carried through with his Father’s design.

Steadfast Providing is more than food and a roof over your families head. It is cultivating a relationship with and teaching about Jesus with your family. Steadfastness is continuing to do these things and intentionally laying out lessons even if life just seems to suck sometimes, it can and it will. Jesus didn’t give up, to live like him means you should not either. Lean on your spouse and support one another. Marriage was designed to be a mutually beneficial connection that is blessed by God, use that grace to your advantage.

This is the last portion of the Faithful Father Series and I hope that it has touched you positively in some way and had encouraged you to a father who is a living example of Christ, that teaches the truth to your children while guarding them and leading them in a manner that raises them to respect authority instead of hate it. All of that has to come with being a compassionate friend to your spouse and children. Fulfilling those duties will go a long way to ensuring you have been a steadfast provider of your family. Times will be difficult but hold fast to the confession of your faith and the rewards you receive would humble any earthly king.

A Month (or More) in Prayer Journaling

I’ve posted about this on my personal Facebook as well as the Just Hold Fast page and it was something that had been on my mind and heart. I don’t pray enough, or didn’t. I don’t know the barometer of what is ‘enough’ because the Bible tells us to never cease praying (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). What I do know is it lingered there, in the back of my mind and I had not considered how to fight it with tools like journaling. I do all the expected praying, I talk to God when I first wake up, at meals, during bed times and if someone asks me to, I pray for them. I do not understand the practice of telling someone you will pray for them and then not doing it. You’re basically lying, even if well meaning and you forget because life has gotten you distracted.

We know prayer is a powerful thing that God wants us to do. How often do we forget to? Journaling can help and God saw that specific need in my life. Like the good Father he is, he provided a way for me to get what I needed to deepen my relationship with him and I want to share that with you.

Consider this, where do you think that distraction has come from? The enemy. He doesn’t want you to pray for anyone. In fact, he will throw up all kinds of roadblocks to prevent you from doing so. I’m guilty of being distracted, that is the reason why I am writing this and the purpose is to give you an idea of what consciously focusing on praying has done for me and my relationship with God. TL;DR, it’s way better than it was!

How it all Started

I’m going to blame this one on Tara over at Story of My Heart for giving me the thing I didn’t know I needed. Lots of folks have heard or seen the movie War Room which shows just how transformational prayer can be. The movie depicts the Jordan family who from the outside have this wonderful marriage but the reality is that at home their marriage is in shambles, it is a war zone. All seems lost and yet, God provides the wife with help from an older and wiser woman who leads the wife to the power of constant prayer and journaling it to show the good it can do. Things change, the family becomes closer and it is all because of God and the practice of talking to him.

I tell you all of this to say Tara gave me a copy of ‘The Battle Plan‘ which is a small book that goes along with the movies concept. The book itself is pretty diminutive in size but what it represents is something so much greater. I am late to the game with this book and the concept itself is not new. What the movie has done is re-envision the prayer journaling is and communicate its purpose. It has been re-envisioned in such a way that it helps Christians who are struggling to keep that prayerful connection.

For me, it has worked. What does around 3 months in prayer look like? It will be different for everyone, I’ve prayed daily and logged prayer requests that have both been asked for and simply me finding out about some event that someone would need prayer about. I was not perfect in this endeavor because I would often forget my journal after a week of work and I would try to rememeber who and what I prayed for so that on Monday I could fill it out. So what does that look like?

Prayer Journaling
Prayer Journaling

Why Journaling Matters

The whole purpose of journaling is not to give you ammo to feel like you are praying more than others, it is not there to make you boastful. I would argue instead that it does more important things like reminding you how powerful prayer can be. James 4:2 tells us that, “You do not have because you do not ask.” and when we turn away from Gods’ invitation to communicate with him directly we neglect the fact that this whole spinning ball and all that it entails exists because He simply spoke it in to being.

Journaling serves other purposes as well. When you journal and you see how God responds to your constant prayer it humbles you to see how much of an impact your work for His good will be in peoples lives. Journaling serves as a reminder to pray until it becomes a habit and then it keeps you on track.

Even with all of that I think that journaling about your prayer and connection to God does something infinitely more important, it dispels doubt. Christians and non-Christians alike doubt God. I struggle with that in times of high stress when I see no way out on my own and that is the key thing for me. I know that intuitively it is just doubt that is strangling me but my desire to operate on my own, outside of the influence of God. Journaling has helped center me and remove that issue from my life. It had tempered my need to control and allowed me to prayerfully serve others, regardless of their knowledge that someone out there, even a stranger, prayed for them.

Conclusion

I did not write this to boast or brag about my relationship with God. Instead I want to encourage you, with all of my heart, to pray more. Let me pray for you. Regardless of the circumstance and our desired outcome, God has a plan and when we embrace that, commune with him and serve others great things will happen. It is not something you do in the hopes of gaining ground with God because that is not how it works. We do not act and follow Jesus with the hope of Heaven as a reward. We follow his simple invitation to live as he has so that we live the way God intended us to. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus there is no Christianity. Jesus prayed constantly to God and he is perfect. We, flawed humans need a little help and I believe journaling is one of the most effective ways that we can continue to pray and keep a strong relationship with God.

Compassionate Friendship – Benevolent Bonding – Faithful Father Series

Compassion = Benevolent

Bonding with our children is so important that the Bible made sure we understood the need to provide benevolent bonding for our children. Proverbs 22:6 tells us what that bonding can lead to.

I consider my home an institution and I think that men should look at their own home that way as well. Consider the children you are raising and that they learn from you and your wife. Together you are forming who they are, what they value and how they interact with the world more than any other persons God has put in their life. This foundation, this institution, should be a benevolent one that aims to guide our children in God first. Way easier said then done man.

You have to be intentional about it, this whole series is built on the hope that as someone comes across me sharing my life, they find inspiration that is the catalyst for improving their relationship with God, wife, children, family, and friends. On one hand you have authority and discipline but you must also be compassionate with those same people. Especially your wife and children, I mean, you don’t have them except by God’s grace. That is the way we need to approach this series. We are not seeking to judge how lucky those are around us but the reverse. How lucky are we to be surrounded by those we love because God placed their paths and our paths together?

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

George Washington Carver

Compassion is Not a Weakness

We live in a world that views aggressiveness as strength and compassion as a weakness but I tell you it is not. The expression of either of those traits is entirely situational and my belief that compassion is a strength almost always comes from a singular Biblical reference. In Psalms 103:13 fathers are called to show compassion to their children just as God does to those who fear Him. There is a reason why God uses compassion so often in the Bible. Even when Jesus gave the Pharisees a good tongue lashing over their lofty perch in Matthew 23 he wept for Jerusalem in the last three verses of the same chapter (Matthew 23:37-39).

Compassion is an inspirational emotion that can drive us towards goals. It can help us recover from being distraught and it makes us better people. Francis Schaeffer said, ‘Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.’ He is completely justified in that statement, there are groups that exist, specifically the Westboro Baptist Church who we are just going to call a hate group, use the Bible to treat people as if they were so far from God’s forgiveness that they have no hope and will burn in Hell. Now does that sound like Jesus? The man sat with whores and outcasts throughout His ministry. He was compassionate in all things he did and that is part of why the disciples followed Him. He was strong and meek, authoritative and compassionate.

Compassion = Benevolent Bonding

We cannot spend all of our time critiquing and correcting our children. They are kids who will make mistakes just like adults do. I lose sight of that sometimes on days I feel like they are testing all the barriers at once. At 5 and 7 that can seem like it is every day but I know that is not true, we just have a tendency to focus on the short intense spurts instead of viewing the overall picture.

Bonding with your children is an intentional activity and not something you can assume will happen because you are a parent of that child. We are always so busy, doing what? Work? Personal interest? Just not wanting to do anything because we just need a break. I’m guilty of this, and trying to change it but how often has your child wanted you to do something and you make an excuse? It’s so easy to say later or anything that puts it off until they forget or give up.

Sometimes the things our kids want us to do are just plain boring. Sometimes it is messy (a lot of times at our house!). We are missing out on a critical time with our children when we do this. They thrive and learn and grow every single time we set aside other things and make intentional bonding experiences with them. You’re going to make memories that to you may seem small but to them it will be profound. That reminder you get from them when they say “Hey Daddy, remember when…” is humbling and something we overlook in our daily parenting routines. We sabotage our change for benevolent bonding.

Parent and Friend

We can be our child’s parent and we can be their friend. We may not be their best friend but we have a compassionate friendship and a benevolent bond that even their very best friend has. We just need to continually pour in to our children the love Christ has shown us. The poor outlook of a parent being a friend to their child comes from the parent enabling irresponsibility. You’re 50, you don’t need to go to the club so you can watch women twerk.You also shouldn’t be operating on the premise that your child is going to be drinking or smoking weed so why not do it with them when you can control it. That control is illusory, a powerful tool of the enemy. All you are doing is saying those behaviors are okay.

If we want long-term healthy relationships with our children it spring from intentional time spent with them each, intentional time spent with the family. It does not come from giving them gifts and condoning their poor behavior. As a father my goal is to teach, love, sometimes discipline but mostly love. We wear many hats as parents. Sometimes we even have to wear birthday hats on your forehead and pretend to be a unicorn.

New Year 2018 – Reflection and Goals

2018 Reflection and Plans

Just as I have for several years now I look back on 2017 and reflect then turn to 2018 with hope, with dreams and goals for my relationship with God, my family and with myself. This is inspired directly from the Bible since we are often hung up on the old in a detrimental way and I was determined to change that.

Reflection of 2017

What I found was that God had already put that path in place for all of us. He knows that we dwell on things and need a reminder, that is why 1 Chronicles 16:11-12 exists! We are told specifically to remember the wonders God has done. My wife calls me a planner, and I am, I like to take the long term view over instant gratification so this speaks to my heart so much. I get hung up on stuff just like anyone else and I think we humans have the ability to slip down that slope of negative thinking so easily because it seems justified to us. Even if it were something small we allow it to eat at us and become a monster within our souls.

When I look back on 2017 I see a year that was everything good and bad in life. No major deaths in my family, but one of our dogs was put to rest. Successful school semesters and my wife has even gone back to pursue her ADN to BSN. We all turned a year older and even welcomed a new puppy to our home, and he chews on everything…literally anything.

All of those things are great days of our lives moments but it has also been a year marked by unexpected challenges of faith. The sudden departure of a loved man of God who is now planting a church in Salt Lake City, Utah called Ridgeline. It is easy to get distracted by that event because leaders, Godly men like that are a rarity in the Bible Belt so when you experience that you tend to latch on. I am completely stoked for what he and his family will do in SLC and you should go to their site and check out their journey! God has moved so that the churches expenses are already covered for a whole year. It is one of those things that shows why faith leads to God’s grace. If you know someone in the area, or are in the SLC area yourself, go and see what Ridgeline is all about!

Goals of 2018

I don’t like the term resolution, it has negative connotations around this time of year. It makes me think of things people promise themselves and abandon on week two of the new year. I don’t make goals until the middle of January because I want to make sure I can meet those goals and only after I look at where I need to improve from 2017.

I have three goals and the first is the most important one because it involves more than just me but my wife and children.

Goal 1 – Pray More

I don’t mean just making sure I dot the ‘i’ or cross my ‘t’ when it comes to grace and before bed. I mean intentional, important, God I need you, someone else I know needs you type of praying. It is something that was running around in my head and something I had mentioned to my wife two weeks before Christmas. This is the cool part, God had already laid the path. I received a copy of ‘The Battle Plan’ a prayer journal inspired from War Room. This gift came by way of my wife’s sister Tara who along with Melissa run Story of My Heart. That coupled with being asked to be a part of the Prayer Team for Reboot Combat Recovery by Melissa is just more proof that this specific goal is vital to my year.

The other half of this goal is my family. Until now we have allowed the kids to say grace using words they memorized in day care. It is sweet and cute and makes my heart swell but with them being 7 and 5 I want them to see more than just something they repeat every day. I want them to see how a conversation with God can be, to be comfortable talking to God about anything and can be done any where. It is my hope that I can communicate and how them that God is there for whatever mess you have fallen in to or placed yourself in (Romans 12:12). That faith in He will be victory in them even if the outcome is not what they expect.

Goal 2 – Read More

I’m not going to tell you I know the Bible forward and backwards or that I read it daily, I do not. I want to change that and will, but that is not what I mean by reading more. I mean to read more from great men of God to learn from their insight. This will be a tough challenge for me, I read enough in school so I fear burnout but, I want to learn more about their lives and how God moved in it. My goal is to read one book a month, and hopefully report back on it here! That would be awesome to accomplish but I cannot promise it I can only pray and try my best to do it.

Goal 3 – Practice Patience

Lord help me on this one, it will be difficult. As my kids have grown my patience has lessened because I can see the wheels spinning as they devise uncounted means of torture for the parental units of the home. They are testing their boundaries and on most days I am solid, handle it well. On other days I feel like that is all I have done that day, fuss at my kids. I do not enjoy that feeling one bit. I need more Ephesians 4:2 in my soul brothers, pray for that for me, please.

The Real Goal

All of those those goals really come together under one thing. Establishing a stronger relationship with God. I want my entire family to be bedrock in God. It is a great work, a life’s work of a husband to guide his family there. That is a burden made light by Christ, if we seek Him relentlessly. Jesus is the man we should be molding ourselves to be like, who we teach our sons to be like. If I bring Christ closer, I can lead my family to being closer to him and fulfill my life’s work.

A Challenge

Going in to 2018 I have set myself a challenge. I want you to solicit prayer requests for me at the Contact page and I will pray for you. I will log that prayer in the book provided by Tara. I want to fill that book up by the end of 2018 and know that I prayed heavily for those who I may or may not know. Regardless of the outcome I can look back and show my kids that prayer is unrestricted, available to friend, foe and stranger. It will be a difficult journey but if I Just Hold Fast, I can do it.

Respected Authority – Discipline and Honor – Faithful Father Series

God's Authority

When we speak of authority as Christians we must consider the differing levels of authority in the home. These are easy to delineate but I can guarantee that I, like others struggle with them. The first and absolute authority is God. If you are a Christian and you believe that you are the final authority in your home, you are wrong. I’m not a finger pointer though because I do it too and it is a pride thing for me. I work hard for my family, for the things we have and enjoy but all of that is God’s providence. There is no splitting hairs in that statement, your life, my life exists because he created humanity. Without that, there is nothing. Yet we lose perspective of that daily in life.

Authority of God

God has authority over all things but what is authority and who has it? Authority is the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. There are several types of authority we are completely under the influence of in our life and they all come as a gift from God. The Government as we see in Romans 13:1, The legal system (Judges) as seen in Romans 13:2, authority of the church (Titus 5:1) and Family/Parental authority in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. These are clear and undeniable, it is plainly stated in each of those verses. The authority of God is unequivocal and He has delegated authority (Daniel 4:17) to some institutions on earth. While church, the government and the legal system are topics we may cover another day we are in the Faithful Father series so parental authority is the topic of the day.

Define Parental Authority

I can think of no more important passage in the Bible for defining parental authority and obligation to your children than Deuteronomy 11:1-19. In this passage we are commanded to love and serve the Lord by keeping the rules and commandments given to us. Deuteronomy 11:2 specifically charges us with teaching our children these things. Then Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us when and how we should teach God’s word. The short answer, always. Our authority is only through God’s power and our children will not understand or respect that authority unless they are taught about where the authority stems from.

One of the ways I have been trying to help my children understand the chain of command on a spiritual level is by posing several questions when they have done something they probably should not have. The biggest one right now is lying. Our conversation goes something like this;

Child commits some act.

Me: Did you do this?

Them: No (They are lying, I know, I witnessed the problem.)

Me: What is the thing I dislike the most?

Them: Lying

Me: When you lie, who do you lie to?

Now at this point they know the answer, I have explained to them that every time they commit some act of disobedience they are breaking a commandment. They know that by lying to me they are not just displeasing me, but more importantly, God.

Them: God, Jesus, You, Momma

Me: That’s right, so i will ask again and remember, I am not going to get angry but I am going to be disappointed that you would lie to me and by lying to me you are displeasing God.

Usually after that they tell the truth, we talk, they still lose something they like doing because I am a firm believer in cause and effect. My goal is to first follow God’s command that I bring my children up under His instruction and discipline (Ephesians 6:1, 4). Parental Authority is the distribution of God’s will through the husband and wife. It is not a place of superiority and it is not about having a specific position in the home.

Culpability

The parents position in a home is not one of merciless dictator, husbands are to love and sacrifice for the wife as Christ did for the church. A wife is to help her husband in all things. They raise children under God’s will. These are symbiotic relationships and not one-way streets. We often see that position as a perk and forget that it carries responsibility.  In all places where God has given this power of authority there is also a requirement that individuals in that position will come to account for their actions.

Society is kept safe with laws, this practice was in place from Creation when God gave a single law and man failed to obey. Laws serve multiple purposes, they protect individuals and they protect society as a whole. Society creates laws when it believes an action or set of actions are causing a significant amount of harm to individuals and to society. Those with authority must understand that they have a duty of care to those under their influence and any abuse of that position answers to God. God rewards those who use that position to protect and bless those under their influence (Luke 12:42-48; 20:9-16).

Husbands, seek to not be spiritually passive. Engage with the Bible and with God daily. Engage in discussions with your wife about God, daily. Consider this, if your wife has more knowledge and is more spiritually mature than you, you will have to answer God’s questions of why you were not leading your family spiritually. This does not mean to just step back and defer to your wife in all things connected to God. Instead it is a call for you to dig in and do what God made you for. Loving Him, protecting what is His (your wife and children) and leading them to Him, through His word.

Applying Authority to Yourself

The authority, as a husband or father, you are given has nothing to do with your position in your family but has everything to do with your character as a person, as a Christian. The greatest leaders are servants. Jesus made the case for that in Mark 10:42-45 and we see this in the most successful businesses as well. There are two types of leaders, those who focus on supervision, organizing and performance. These are transactional leaders, they may be efficient but not effective. The other type of leader who works with people to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of a group. These are transformational leaders.

A servant leader is both of these things and a husband should strive to be both of these things. There are times where supervision of your children is essential but more often than not you need to inspire them to be better, not just command them to. The best way to do that is to show them how, by committing yourself to doing the things you want them to do. Give them a vision of what God wants from His earthly followers and then drive towards that goal.

Wrapping Up

I am not perfect, I just share my thoughts on the Bible and what God is telling me needs to be communicated. Ask these questions of yourself to make sure what you are doing is based on servant leadership and not narcissism;

  • Have I given it all to God? Am I the slave of Christ? There is no room for partial obedience in God’s heart.
  • If I am in a position to exert authority am I abusing it? Or am I using it under the weight of knowledge that God will call me to answer for how I am treating those under my authority?
  • Am I serving those I am over? Am I practicing the humbleness that Christ displayed while he was persecuted and slain?
  • What is my character saying about how I use that authority? Am I leading my family by obeying God’s word first?

Authority is not a fickle subject. It is something that God has clearly defined in the Bible and has given us direction about. Authority done in a manner befitting Christ brings discipline from those subject to it. If a leader, a husband, is doing this he will have honored God’s desire for the position he has been placed it. It can be difficult to remember that desire when we are angry but we have to hold fast to our confessions of God’s love and use them for good and not the crushing of another’s spirit.

Loving and Leading – A Compassionate Leader – Faithful Father Series

Leading and Prayer

Leadership is a subjective skill because the base definition of it leaves it as an open-ended trait. Men can posses the ability to lead people in different ways. God has a way of raising up people to lead that others simply never expected. Every married man has a command from God to be leading his family spiritually. We must love them well and show them compassion. We are to be a vicar of Christ and we can see how the parent-child relationship is simply summed up in Ephesians 6:1-2.

To summarize it children honor their parents through obedience and fathers are called to rear their children in the Lord and to not provoke them to anger. Anger does not inspire obedience so the onus is on you, me, us to teach children how God wants us to live, to act and react to life and it’s trials.

Loving and leading means we should not set out to antagonize our children and frustrate them. I’ll be honest, sometimes I find this hard. These little humans find the best ways to get at our nerves and sometimes we retaliate in an ineffective and selfishly satisfying manner. Mimicking your child in a fussy type voice after they’ve done everything but what you asked of them serves no purpose but I’m fairly certain I did it on a whim a few nights ago with Ella. It is literally arguing with a smaller version of yourself.

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.

John Stott

Jesus did not do that with his disciples when they disobeyed. He reacted in love, chastised in patience and commanded them in kindness. Those three parts are what makes up a person that is leading their family in love.

Leading in Love

Let’s count the ways that Jesus could lead us out of anger, can you? I can’t. Humanity has done some terrible things from the disobedience in the garden, killing God’s son and the atrocities we see play out in history over things from skin color to a certain toy that our children want for Christmas. It is easy to forget that behavior like that is learned behavior. Anger, rage, hate and other negative emotions are all things we have learned and passed on to our children via our actions, the things they see and hear and how we respond to their questions about those things. Each time we allow that to continue we are saying that those emotions while unavoidable are completely okay to express in negative behavior.

Instead we should be teaching them that emotions are uncontrollable parts of ourselves but how we express those emotions we have complete control over. That starts with us controlling our own reactions and we should not look to a child for authentication that our parenting of behaviors is working if our own behavior does not emulate how we want them to react.

Chastise in Patience

Discipline is something that must be proportionate to an offense. Discipline out of anger is in fact not discipline at all but abuse. How that discipline occurs is completely up to the parents. Some parents spank their children among other methods of discipline and some do not. The Bible does not say it is required or that it is a sin. Please do not use Proverbs 13:24 as a reason to relentlessly wail on your children in the misguided attempt to say corporal punishment is okay. The ‘Rod’ referred to is discipline in general and a warning that without firm and decisive discipline a child will become accustom to getting their way. This can lead to behavior related issues that in common speech today equates to a child being referred to as a “spoiled brat.”

Consider Jesus’ reaction when Peter walked on water with him and faltered (Matthew 14:29). What was Jesus response? A rebuke made in love. Peter should have had faith in Christ and when the wind distracted him and he took his eye off of Jesus he began to waver. When he cried out for saving Jesus did so. He surely could have let Peter drown or angrily demanded his obedience and belittled him but he did not.

It is really easy to just retaliate in a physical manner when you have a stubborn child but there are non-corporal means of discipline. These non-physical methods take more time, more commitment and more patience than a swift whack on the rear end but they are effective. We should devote time to understanding which is best and when/if we should use one or the other. Jesus did not need save humanity. He did not need to be beaten and murdered and yet he offered himself up as a permanent sacrifice for our sinful nature. He bore ridicule with integrity and was leading his disciples in love. When they stumbled he chastised them in patience and when the time came his commands to spread the gospel were done in kindness.

Command in Kindness

Our children have natural feelings for us such as love and fear. They love us because of all the goodness we pour in to them and there is fear for the wrath they drum up when disobedient. That fear does not need to be paralyzing and in fact it shouldn’t. They are our children, even when they know they are in trouble we want them to have comfort in the fact that our commands, our discipline, or reactions are done out of love for them.

When you discipline do you take the time to tell them why it was wrong? Do you explain better was of going about things? These talks are important because they allow our children to know that they are loved and being cared for. It allows them to understand that a goal can be accomplished in many ways and very likely within the confines of what is acceptable. When you take the time to show them these things you are leading them in a positive way without fear but with kindness.

The greatest leaders are the most humble. You can get things done through sheer will and brute force but we have to consider the effects of those kind of actions. You have to consider the legacy you leave. Will your children think that dad was a hard man or will they think that even though I did lots of stuff he was patient and loved me and supported me. I fall somewhere in the middle, we are a work in progress as long as we want to be. What I want is my children to know that I love them, I expect them to behave in a manner consistent with the Bible and that my dreams are that their dreams become a reality.

Integrity Required

All of the stuff we have talked about today cannot happen unless we are men of integrity. Integrity is the living of your internal life and external life in parity with one another. It is easy to put on a Christian front and pretend you are leading a righteous family for God. Living that life at home, away from the eyes of the public is the harder of the two. If you can manage to do that you can lead your family in love, you will be capable of chastising your children in patience and commanding your family in kindness. Stay focused on God, what He is and the work Christ commanded of you. The moment you do not your leadership falters like Peter on the water. Hold fast the confessions of your faith and make disciples through that faith.

Racism: Religion and Science Agree, It’s Wrong

Racism

This is a bit of an armchair article so you are welcome to take it with a grain of salt, or a mountain. I can not in good conscience write for a site that believes 100% in God and all he is then ignore the injustice that has occurred in Charlottesville. I’ll approach this from a Biblical point of view and from a scientific one. I think that addressing both is important because there are people in the world that base their racism on religion and those that do so with science.

Defining Race

The best way to define race is to look at a dictionary isn’t it? The dictionary breaks the word ‘race’ in to different parts since it is a word that has multiple uses. Race from an anthropological standpoint is a socially constructed category of identification based on physical characteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture:

Defining Racism

The word racism is a two-part word. The first is race as listed above and then an ‘ism’ which is a distinctive philosophy. To practice racism is to have a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

Religion and Racism

God hates racism. Why? It is a sin and God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Let’s address something up front because I’ve read and saw videos of racial supremacists using the Bible as a means to justify racism. There is a belief that Jews in the Bible were placed above other groups of people by God and that God has then created racism so that means racism is righteous. So how did that belief get started? Glad you asked.

In the Bible the line of Seth can be traced entirely from Adam to Seth to Noah (Genesis 5:1-32) and then from Noah to Abraham (Genesis 11:1-32). We know that God had saved Noah to save humanity. Then Abraham was to be the father of nations (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham was the father of Jacob who God called Israel (Genesis 32:38). The nation of Israel were from the sons of Jacob which numbered 12. Whew!

I know that is a lot of ancestry condensed but at this point God declares the nation of Israel as his chosen nation. So if God has chosen ‘us’ it must mean we are ‘better’ than others right? They couldn’t be more wrong. God’s selection of Israel was a call to evangelize the world. To take a nation of faithful people and place them in service to the world. To bring that world closer to God. God did not elevate Jews above Gentiles, instead they were called in to his service so that Gentiles could find redemption with God.

It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.

Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve said it before, man really knows how to choke on important things. Over and over we are given great gifts by God and we have a tendency to pervert it. Over time the nation of Israel became elitist and instead of spreading God’s word it began to harbor it. So God did something incredibly selfless and sent Jesus, his Son to spread the truth of his desire for humanity. In Acts 17:26 there is no clearer statement than “He made from one man every nation of mankind” to signify God’s view that race classification is a man-made mechanism to deny others equality.

Jesus came to speak to the heart of the Jews and show them that God wanted every person to be part of his kingdom. Not just the descendants of the twelve tribes but all the people that spread across the world regardless of their language, skin color or other physical traits. That was the message Christ gave to his apostles, it was the great commission, and you know what? Humanity understood it more, not perfectly obviously but it took the death of Christ to get the point across.

You cannot call yourself a Christian and oppress people because they are darker or lighter than you, or if they have almond-shaped eyes versus round. It literally goes against what Jesus says Christianity is about. Racism is wrong from a non-secular standpoint. What does science say?

Science and Racism

The science part I will keep brief if only because we are still exploring our genetic heritage through the Human Genome Project but we have made some headway in to what makes us who we are on a micro-level. We know from school that humans have 46 chromosomes which is 23 from each parent. How many of those chromosomes are different between each race? None. Not a single one.

Guess how much of those 46 chromosomes make up your outward appearance? It’s about .01 or 1% of your makeup. That’s right. We fight about 1% of who we are.

Race is a social concept, not a scientific one

Dr.J. Craig Venter, head of the Celera Genomics Corporation

Race is such a terrible means to classify humans that on a geneticists level they don’t use it. They did at one time because we did not understand genetics the way we do now. It’s just like the belief that certain parts of our tongue can only taste different things. For a long time this was taught in schools in fact the image below shows exactly what I am describing. What we found out is we were wrong and that the tongue tastes all types in all parts of it. There are no hot spots for taste and textbooks changed. Kids are educated based on new knowledge and adults find out their world has been altered.

Taste

The difference is that we can see the things we classify as racial traits such as high cheekbones in Native Americans, Wide noses in Aboriginals, Almond shaped eyes in Asians and so on. That 1% that we can visualize matters to us so much we are willing to incite rage, kill, burn and loot clusters of people who share the same heritage. Yet science has proven we are all the same race, human. Where we come from doesn’t matter. We are all still human.

Conclusion

I think we slayed two dangerous dragons here today or at least made a good foundation to help others combat it. Racism is not Biblical. In fact it is the complete opposite. God created man and from him, man has grown and spread across the world. Man caused the idea of elevation of one people over another because their heritage was different. Society created a label called ‘race’ to categorize this belief that there was a difference between these groups of people.

Science has done the ‘evidence’ part of our equation and provided us concrete evidence that genetically we are 99% the same. If we can accept the world is round, the tongue is all one taster and that the Baltimore Ravens are the best football team ever (okay maybe not the last one) I wholeheartedly feel we can do away with the term race and start appreciating others for their heritage.

So you know who I am? I’m God’s child. I’m human. I’m a mutt and happy to be one. I am content to serve humanity and share what God does want and that is everyone. Hold Fast Christian and weather the storms that small groups claiming our faith cause. Ignore the slights and instead purposefully seek to help anyone in need of God’s love.

The Watchman – Faithful Father Series

Swords for the Watchman

When you look at the feature image what do you see? A bible, a sword? Perhaps like me you see two swords. One to symbolize the combat faced in the world physically and one to combat the world spiritually. These are the tools of a watchman. These are the tools of a Christian. They are the tools of a faithful father who must guard his family against intrusion from enemies in both a physical world and the spiritual world. They are the tools he can and should use to educate his family for the now and for eternity.

“Be Watchful.” the Bible shows us in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 and when I attended Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory I had a chance to gain a deeper understanding of these verses. This monthly seminar that culminated in a retreat (I could not attend unfortunately) was a 6 Sunday study base don James McDonald’s ‘Act Like Men‘ book. It’s also something I think is important to touch upon in our Faithful Father Series as we are charged with protecting our family.

Did you know that one of the first sins man committed was not being watchful? In Genesis 2:15 God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and Adam’s duty was to work it and keep it. Naturally, we assume the plants and animals but this includes all things in the garden. Including Adam himself and his helper, Eve. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Adam’s duty was to protect God’s creation and yet he failed. He allowed Eve to eat the only fruit God had forbade them to eat. Not only did he allow but he participated. He was watchful but certainly not in the way God intended. He was not vigilant in his duty.

Being watchful is an exercise in God’s command to be vigilant against the enemy. In the first epistle of Peter we are told frankly (and people say the Bible is a mystery!) that we need to be watchful of the devil and what happens if we do not (1 Peter 5:8-10). Yet it also tells us the rewards we will receive if we are.

Act Like Men

Watchman and Education

Part of being a faithful father is teaching our children about the Trinity and the importance it has in our lives. The reality is that our children are never one hundred percent under our watch. It is our duty to prepare them for this world in more than just education. Painting a rainbows and butterflies picture of the world sets a child up for failure. We have to find a balance between allowing them to experience life and protecting them from harm.  One of the hardest things to do is allow your child to fail but it is also a chance to teach them that failure is an event that happens to everyone except God. It is an event that does not mean the end but is a chance to learn, implement new methods and to try again.

The Bible is full of great failures and then those who failed are given a chance to rebound. Often times when they have put their faith in God, they do. Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and more. All men we consider great examples of sinners turned to God who did great works. All men who, had they given up would be but a vague mentioning and an almost forgotten memory.

Moses was a watchman of God’s chosen, the Israelite’s. He was charged with keeping them safe and turned to God during the exodus from Egypt. When they faltered God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to give them an understanding of God’s desire for them. David, Jonah and Peter were all men who God wanted to use as watchmen who would protect his people or warn them. Each stumbled and each also ran. They also found out that you cannot hide from God. They ran out of fear of the wrath God could have laid on them. What they really found was that God is forgiving in ways man can not even imagine.

That is something we should be teaching our children isn’t it? Unexpected grace. It is not something we just have in us, it is something learned. Even now I have to remind myself that how my children perceive life is so innocent and that when they do wrong it usually is not out of maleficent desire. They fear disappointing us but when we use it as a chance to show them that even in anger we can find compassion to let that anger flow away we show them that a response of fighting fire with fire is not the sole solution to their problems.

The Watchman has Long Term Goals

We can cover physical protection another day and we will, however the protection of the soul takes precedence. Our bodies are husks when we die and while we will do our best to preserve them until that time comes we need to cement our eternity more. We should teach our children to embrace God in a way that does not invoke fear of Him. The image of a Catholic nun going ham on a kid with a stick comes to mind. That is what we do not want to do.

I can’t give you a 10 step to salvation plan because I’m not God. I’m not even a pastor. I’m a guy who loves God, loves people, and wants men to embrace their heavenly father; then use that to empower their families for long term growth under God’s love and righteousness. My wife often calls me crazy for my long term planning and maybe she is right but one thing I know she appreciates is the time I take to talk to the kids about God and how our faith affects us long term.

Planning is Biblical (Proverbs 19:2, Luke 14:28) and it requires time, thought, patience and desire. The time I take to talk about the Bible with our children is being invested in who they are. It helps me plant long term growth in their lives and prepare them in ways that the world doesn’t teach. We have to teach our household to seek the Lord in all things and especially in times of weakness.

We should not just pour the word of God in to our children and friends but the most important vessel in our home, our wife. If she is the crown of our household then the care we take for our children, the desire to share God with our children, the exercises in devotion to her should be ten-fold that. Children are an amazing blessing from God but the relationship with our spouse is paramount to anything this world offers. A family, like a bridge, is only as strong as its supports and the parents together make a formidable pillar (Luke 11:17).

Prevent Rust

God has given us the tools to protect our family in all the ways that we need to. Becoming lazy and allowing your swords to rust does not just affect you. It affects all of the souls under your roof. Every person you love suffers when you do not provide direction or leadership in your home. Sometimes it will feel like a never ending loop when your children are tattling on one another but loving them in those difficult times is how you make progress in mindfulness. It is a chance to teach them why they won’t become more favorable because of ratting out one another.

Proverbs 27:17 is an often quoted verse about accountability among men. It is a fantastic and simple direction God has given us. It is also hard to follow because in the eight words of that verse we are to open ourselves up to others. Not in just a friendly manner but to reveal our heart, our dreams and our sin. That last bit is what men struggle with. It’s what every person who knows God or wants to know God struggles with. Recrimination is a terrible thing and it is not for a Christian to ridicule a person who has come to them and shared their sins. Instead we seek to help and prevent the continuation of the sin.

Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.

Charles Spurgeon

Iron sharpening iron means we seek men to help build one another together. This is why Just Hold Fast exists and why I open myself up every time I write here. I want to help, I want to be helped. A rusty blade is more dangerous than a sharp one because it is unwieldy and causes unintended damage. A sharp blade is an instrument of surgical precision allowing the warrior to defend what is his by God’s grace.

We need to be watchful that our walls are not broken and when that happens, because it will, we seek to mend them quickly and then fortify them to prevent it from occurring in the same manner.

It’s OK to Leave a Church…Sometimes

Leave a Church

This is a bit on the nose for my family and I at the moment since we are going through this decision to leave the church we have attended faithfully for 15 months. It is not something that we have taken lightly or out of anger (James 1:19-20). It is something that has lingered in our minds for months and has been discussed over and over with by my wife and I. It is OK to leave a church, you are not trapped and it isn’t always something that is going to burden you with sin. I write this for those seeking an answer to a touchy question but I also write this for myself and the ones I walk through life with that have angst right now as much as I have.

[Leaving] graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.

Ray Pritchard

Why are you leaving?

This is the most crucial question that must be answered because parting ways with a church is a serious event for any Christian. We are not meant to be in isolation. We should be seeking community (Ephesians 4:11-16). The answer isn’t a simple one and even after we determine why we feel we need to leave we need to ask ourselves if it is righteous.

Leaving because someone hurt your feelings is a great example of why you should not leave a church. We are fallible and a lot of times we are going to capitalize on that ability to fail. Even if we had no intention of doing so. This is part of being human and if a few people hurt your feelings at the church and you leave, it will likely happen again at your next church. Instead of running off you should give forgiveness and seek to reconcile the confrontation.

We should be seeking unity as Christians so pull yourself up by the bootstraps and seek reconciliation. If the door is closed by the other parties and they are unwilling to even discuss what happened that still doesn’t mean run. Instead, serve. Serve in spite of their behavior and do so graciously.

Reasons people leave

There is a loss regardless of whether we determine the reason as “good” or “bad” when someone stops attending a church or seeks another church. Some of the reasons below apply to why we decided to leave and some do not. Some are good reasons in my opinion and some are bad. I’d love to discuss this with others so please feel free to reach out. People have been known to leave a church because;

“Good Reasons”

  • Moving too far away
  • Long-term Missionary Work
  • Escaping false teaching
  • Openly committed and unaddressed sin
  • Power-drunk Leadership
  • and more

“Bad Reasons”

  • Church Size
  • Hurt Feelings
  • Lack of ways to Serve
  • The Church is changing
  • The Church refuses to change
  • You’re leaving/giving up Church entirely

This is a big topic, isn’t it? I hope you weren’t expecting a snack for today, it’s a banquet. There are a lot of reasons and way too many for me to cover because I can’t even think of them all. I just know these are things I have personally used before as reasons, justified or not. Reasons I have come to reconcile with their validity or whether I was just needing a scapegoat.

Don’t Give Up and Leave God

Of all the bad reasons giving up on church entirely is the most dangerous of them. God created us, Jesus commanded us to be a community and leaving that community opens a Christian up to the enemies power. It is open season on a soul.

Change can be positive or negative. How the church handles it really can affect how you are going to feel about whatever that change may be. There are still churches today that believe wholeheartedly that a woman’s place is at home, rearing kids and in a kitchen. If you’ve been at a church for over a month and that wasn’t evident to you. Please open your eyes. They will likely refuse to change that and if you are uncomfortable with that it is even more imperative that you move on.

Leadership

Leadership is hard and changes to leadership are even harder. The morale of a congregation can be shaken when a pastor who has their heart turned so fiercely to God leaves suddenly that people become hurt, angry, afraid and betrayed. Questions are asked, people are shouting, and fiefdoms can form because of it. This is when leadership must step up their game and be honest , opening their heart to those who attend their church. Non-answers to tough questions force your people to question things even more than they already do.

We cannot forget the Pastor who may be leaving the church. As an outgoing authority they are called to gracious exiting. God’s work takes providence over their personal feelings. This is not some cop out but is in fact extremely self-sacrificing because they could stay and fight. They could blast the leadership out of the water over Pharisee-like polity and power mongering. They could. Yet, a man going through God’s great work of sanctification seeks to live as Christ. And that alone is why a Pastor won’t.

Jesus could have lay waste to those who persecuted him. Effortlessly, they could have been gone, nothing, a bookmark in God’s work. Yet he submitted not out of fear but because his mission was of peace and love and forgiveness.

By God’s design, leadership in the church is a position of humility and selflessness. Church oversight is ministry, not management. Those whom God designates as spiritual shepherds are called not to be governing monarchs or slick celebrities, but humble slaves. In submission to Christ, they must exemplify sacrifice, devotion, submission, and lowliness.

John MacArthur

I have struggled with that realization of peace-seeking because of the affection I hold for a Pastor who affected me deeply. The messages that God allowed him to share with us always left me convicted. I never walked out of church feeling like I had heard the same thing by someone else just said marginally different. I am in no way putting a man on a pedestal because he is too humble for that.

What God did do is show me what a Pastor is. Something I’ve sought for over fifteen years. Something I lost and did not know how to find again. I am forever thankful and changed because of that season in my families life.

Leaving Ain’t Easy

When we choose to leave a church we are choosing to leave a portion of the body of Christ. That’s big. Leaving is a lot like a relationship coming to an end. It sure feels like it doesn’t it? There are two perspectives I want to address this final part through. That is the member and non-member of a church but one who attends regularly.

Non-members go through phases just like relationships. New church and it is so exciting! I want to be involved. What can I do to make this greater than great?! It is a lot like you meeting someone on a date you like and decide to continue dating. You start building your life on this and thinking how to show commitment to it. You start serving and getting involved, it’s a lot like you are now engaged. And that is where non-membership ends.

You could leave at any time. Whether it is a righteous reason or something that eventually proves out to be petty. While you committed yourself to the church in many ways, it was not like a membership. I am not placing non-membership in a serving role as less than a member but only highlighting there is a certain level of commitment that is missing from a non-member.

Members of a church have gone through the same steps of excitement, engagement and increased commitment but they took that last leap. They’ve married their desire to serve to that particular body. The church has poured in to them knowledge and trust that their lives meet the church’s barometer for membership.

Members parting should seek leadership and talk about it. Let them know why and pray they seek God’s authority in their leadership and not their own. When you part, do so graciously. Don’t burn bridges and cause a disturbance out of anger. There are people staying there after you are gone.

It’s Not Always Running

If you’ve come to that heart rending decision to part a church and you’ve prayed, given the decision due diligence, prayed some more, discussed it with the leadership, prayed with them. They will need your prayer and if Christ can pray for those murdering him, we surely can swallow our unjust pride and pray for them as well as the situation in general.

Leaving a church for a “good reason” is not running or “going out with a whimper” it is a walk by faith and not by sight.

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