Summer Schedule!

July 2 

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus on Trial (John 18:12-32)

9 a.m. – Church wide breakfast!


July 9

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Peter’s Failure (John 18:12-32)

9:15 a.m. – Missionary visit (Ron & Sharon Hartwig)

6:00 p.m. – Is Genesis History? (video & discussion)


July 16

8 & 10:30 a.m. – What is Truth? (John 18:28-38)

9:15 a.m. – Mormonism (video & discussion)

6:00 p.m. – Is Genesis History? (video & discussion)


July 23

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus Rejected (John 18:38-19:16)

9:15 a.m. – Buddhism, Hinduism & the New Age (video & discussion)

6:00 p.m. – Is Genesis History? (video & discussion)


July 30

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus Crucified (John 19:17-30)

9:15 a.m. – Islam (video & discussion)

6:00 p.m. – Is Genesis History? (video & discussion)


August 6

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus Buried (John 19:31-42)

9:15 a.m. – Living Victoriously in Difficult Times (Pam Olsen)

6:00 p.m. – Cancelled


August 13

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus’ Resurrection (John 20:1-18)

9:15 a.m. – Living Victoriously in Difficult Times (Pam Olsen)

5:00 p.m. – Fall Fundraiser and Fish Fry!


August 20

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus Appears to the Disciples (John 20:19-31)

9:15 a.m. – Mission Presentation

6:00 p.m. – 4 Views on the End Times: The Goal of God’s Plan


August 27

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Jesus at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-14)

9:15 a.m. – Living Victoriously in Difficult Times (Pam Olsen)

6:00 p.m. – 4 Views on the End Times: Four Ways to End the Word


September 3

8 & 10:30 a.m. – Peter’s Restoration (John 21:15-25)

9:15 a.m. – Living Victoriously in Difficult Times (Pam Olsen)

6:00 p.m. – 4 Views on the End Times: Amillennialism

Post Easter Sermon Schedule

Sermon Schedule

April 5             Easter!

April 12           “Our Hearts Have Found Their Home” (Psalm 84:1-4)

April 19           “Making it Through the Hard Times” (Psalm 84:5-8)

April 26           Guest Speaker

May 3              “Having a Right Perspective” (Psalm 84:9-12)

 Mother’s – Father’s Day

May 10            “Being a Woman of Character” (Exodus 1:15-2:10)

May 17            “Living a Life of Purity” (Ephesians 5:3-14)

May 24            “Walking in Wisdom” (Ephesians 5:15-21)

May 31            “Having a Wise Marriage” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

June 7              “Being Wise Parents and Children” (Ephesians 6:1-4)

June 14            “Being Wise at Work” (Ephesians 6:5-9)

June 21            “Being a Man of Character” (Psalm 112:1-10)

Pastoral distress…

I came across this journal entry from John Piper that he wrote six years into his ministry at Bethlehem. I think that it’s significant that he didn’t “publish” his journal until after he retired!

“Am I under attack by Satan to abandon my post at Bethlehem? Or is this the stirring of God to cause me to consider another ministry? Or is this God’s way of answering so many prayers recently that we must go a different way at BBC than building? I simply loathe the thought of leading the church through a building program. For two years I have met for hundreds of hours on committees. I have never written a poem about it. It is deadening to my soul. I am a thinker. A writer. A preacher. A poet and songwriter. At least these are the avenues of love and service where my heart flourishes. . . .

Can I be the pastor of a church moving through a building program? Yes, by dint of massive will power and some clear indications from God that this is the path of greatest joy in him long term. But now I feel very much without those indications. The last two years (the long range planning committee was started in August 1984) have left me feeling very empty.

The church is looking for a vision for the future—and I do not have it. The one vision that the staff zeroed in on during our retreat Monday and Tuesday of this week (namely, building a sanctuary) is so unattractive to me today that I do not see how I could provide the leadership and inspiration for it.

Does this mean that my time at BBC is over? Does it mean that there is a radical alternative unforeseen? Does it mean that I am simply in the pits today and unable to feel the beauty and power and joy and fruitfulness of an expanded facility and ministry?

O Lord, have mercy on me. I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand, even when I know that most of my people are for me. I am so blind to the future of the church. O Father, am I blind because it is not my future? Perhaps I shall not even live out the year, and you are sparing the church the added burden of a future I had made and could not complete? I do not doubt for a moment your goodness of power or omnipotence in my life or in the life of the church. I confess that the problem is mine. The weakness is in me. The blindness is in my eyes. The sin—O reveal to me my hidden faults!—is mine and mine the blame. Have mercy, Father. Have mercy on me. I must preach on Sunday, and I can scarcely lift my head.”

It’s amazing how many things cause a pastor distress and discouragement.  Here are a few current statistics about the state of pastoral ministry:

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
  • 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

Please pray for me.  Please pray for your pastor.  There are a lot of obstacles out there, both seen and unseen, expected and unexpected!

The Seven People Americans Now Trust More Than Their Pastor (2013)

Views on clergy honesty and ethics hit record low. However, Gallup still finds clergy rank No. 7 out of 22 professions.

Makes you wonder if Hebrews 13:17 matters anymore: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

Reflections on Job (the book!)

I just finished going through Job in my daily Bible reading, and I thought that it would be appropriate to post some comments on it.  Perhaps what is happening in our community is influencing me, since I know of a young teenager who is currently struggling with cancer.

Some people draw the conclusion that Job doesn’t really get an answer from God as to why he is suffering.  We’re the ones who are let in on the secret through the prologue — that Job is an object lesson of sorts to Satan.  The challenge is whether or not Job will remain faithful even through difficult times.  Job does, but he suffers, whines, and cries out to God throughout his suffering.  There are several lessons that are taught by pastors from this book.  One is that we can cry out to God in suffering — it’s expected and He can handle it!  Another lesson is that we don’t always know why we are suffering, but we should still trust in God.  Neither one of these lessons is wrong, but I sometimes wonder if we’ve missed the point.

During his suffering, Job wants to have an audience with God.  He wants to be able to lay out his complaint face to face.  He wants an audience with the Almighty.  While he wait, he pours out his anger and his despair.  I wish I was dead!  I wish that I had never been born!  I don’t understand!  This is unfair!  Answer me!

Job gets his wish.  He gets an audience with the Almighty.  During that encounter Job says two things:  “I lay my hand over my mouth,” and, “I…repent in dust and ashes.”  That’s the sum total of his argument.  After railing and crying and demanding, Job doesn’t even defend himself!  Why?  Because, when Job finally got a vision of God in all His glory, it was enough.  He didn’t need any more answers.  He was content.  And this is the lesson for us today as well.

Regardless of what is going on in our lives, or how tough or unfair that we think it is, if we have a proper understanding of the glory and majesty of God, who He is and what He has done, then we can make it through even the hardest times.  Listen to what Job says in 42:1-6: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.  You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  Listen please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.  Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

We know that God is almighty.  We know that He is glorious.  We know that He is holy.  We also know that He is merciful, and compassionate, and loving.  Whenever we have a problem in our lives, we should remember that God is there, that He is in control, and that He has promised us a glorious future and home with Him because of what Jesus Christ did when He died on the cross for our sins.  When we know Jesus, we have that glorious vision of God that helps us to trust Him even in the hard times.  Even when we don’t understand.  Even when life seems unfair and unjust.  That vision of God’s glory helps us to make it.

The Cringing Pastor…

All right, I admit it.  The blog post a week hasn’t been happening, but that will change, simply because some people have asked to have access to my sermon outlines so that they can fill them in while they are listening to the sermons online!  So now I’ll have at least a blog post a week, but before we get to that I do have some thoughts to share…

It happened a few weeks ago.  I was passing by someone in the church hallway on Sunday morning, and they called me “Pastor.”  Not an uncommon occurrence, since so many people call me “Pastor Mark.”  However, this time there was that note of reverence, respect, and awe that, quite simply, made me incredibly uncomfortable.

Now, I understand why this happens.  Scripture tells us to “Obey your leaders and submit to them” (Hebrews 13:17), and “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).  I suppose that it’s not a bad thing that the teaching pastor of a church receive some respect!  But other Scripture passages come to my mind as well.  Passages like Matthew 23:8-12:

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

There are plenty of passages that are similar to this one, but there is one that pertains to church leadership that is a sober reminder as well. 1 Peter 5:1-4 is one of my theme verses for ministry, and it states:

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

I guess that the bottom line is that, regardless of how people respond to me, I need to be humble.  The apostle Paul knew how to do that.  He was able to say: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Pride is the constant enemy of the Christian, especially those who serve in leadership positions.  And we all have to be careful, or we’ll be chastised like the church in Laodicea: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” (Revelation 3:16-17).

Reflections on Mission

As I get ready to head out for the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Baptist Conference, I find myself thinking about the upcoming vote that we’re going to take.  The vote concerns the new emphasis of the conference and how it is going to impact the ongoing relationship between the conference and the churches.  I find the conference (and Converge Worldwide) placing an extremely high emphasis on mission (singular)  and evangelism, which can be good.  Unfortunately it can also be a problem, because a stilted emphasis on evangelism can cause other aspects of ministry to be neglected or discarded.

I have been a part of three Baptist organizations now, and the ongoing trend seems to be this:  Existing church = worthless; Church plant = Godly.  The rationale behind this thought process is that existing churches simply do not or cannot reach people the way that church plants do.  That idea is born out statistically, and existing churches do need to place a priority on reaching people.  However, it is also a serious problem when a church or an organization makes evangelism the sole focus of its ministry.

Although I have some issues with “The Purpose Driven Church,” it does provide us with a decent framework for what a church is supposed to do Biblically:  fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry, and evangelism.  You may be familiar with the concept from reading “The Purpose Driven Life” (which I also have some methodological issues with).  Here is the point: evangelism is not the only aspect of a churches ministry, and to judge a church solely by that criteria is unBiblical.

A blog post got me thinking about this issue recently.  It is by a church planter who is successful, and feels like he has neglected some aspects of church life and ministry along the way.  His post is entitled Church Planters and Missionalotry.

Reflections on the last few weeks…

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

What a month!  It all stated with what I thought was severe gout, but actually turned out to be a foot infection.  That, coupled with a sinus infection and some severe migraines kept me feeling pretty bad for a couple of weeks.  In fact, for the first time I actually had to preach while “under the influence” — I had to take some migraine medication to get through Sunday morning.  Unbelievably, that morning was also the morning of our “thrice annual business meeting!”

Then, in what will be likely remembered for a generation, was “the storm.”  Wind gusts up to 69 miles an hour.  Trees down.  Power outages that lasted for serveral days for many people.  But it gave us a chance to minister!  We fed and warmed about 35 church related and 15 non-churched people that weekend.

Another church meeting, a call to fill in at a Bridges event, changes to our Youth program, filling in at Sunday School…I’m waiting for that after summer slow down!  Maybe in January!

We never know what the future may bring.  We can have it in our heads that one thing will happen a particular way, and it may end up being entirely different!  That’s why I try to remember the above passage, as well as what it says in Acts 16:6-7: Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

How often are our schedules rearranged by God Himself so that we can accomplish something or something more for His kingdom?  Do we really believe that God allows things to happen to us because of something we have to do or to learn?  How frequently do we get aggrevated by our circumstances when they are God ordained and we need to pay attention to His leading?

It seems trite, but we should always remember that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  I know that it’s a lesson that I need to keep reminding myself of…

…especially since the pace of our lives continues to go at breakneck speed.  This weekend we have Fall Fest and we are helping Val’s parents with their basket booth.  Upcoming minstry events include the GLBC annual meeting, a working vacation (where I officiate at my nephew’s wedding), the possibility of some new ministries starting, two church wide dinners…whew!  We’ll see what lessons and surprises God may have in store for us in the weeks ahead.

Thoughts and Links

A few weeks ago I talked about doubt and depression.  Last Saturday night I was reading from Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” devotional and came across a neat thought.  I’ve included it below.

I also read two articles recently that I found interesting regarding pastoral ministry and preaching.  First, a tongue-in-cheek article on “How to Get Rid of Your Pastor.”   The second article answers the age old question, “Why should I go to church this morning?”  ( How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching)

“Evening wolves.”
Habakkuk 1:8

While preparing the present volume, this particular expression recurred to me so frequently, that in order to be rid of its constant importunity I determined to give a page to it. The evening wolf, infuriated by a day of hunger, was fiercer and more ravenous than he would have been in the morning. May not the furious creature represent our doubts and fears after a day of distraction of mind, losses in business, and perhaps ungenerous tauntings from our fellow men? How our thoughts howl in our ears, “Where is now thy God?” How voracious and greedy they are, swallowing up all suggestions of comfort, and remaining as hungry as before. Great Shepherd, slay these evening wolves, and bid thy sheep lie down in green pastures, undisturbed by insatiable unbelief. How like are the fiends of hell to evening wolves, for when the flock of Christ are in a cloudy and dark day, and their sun seems going down, they hasten to tear and to devour. They will scarcely attack the Christian in the daylight of faith, but in the gloom of soul conflict they fall upon him. O thou who hast laid down thy life for the sheep, preserve them from the fangs of the wolf.