I spent three days recently at a cabin with five other pastors, holding what we call a roundtable.
I’m from California. We met in Illinois, where there was a blizzard one day and the temperature hit minus 7 degrees one night. I didn’t care. What we were doing was so important, we didn’t need to go outside. We do this every year. We plan to continue doing it until our last days of ministry.
Here’s why I’m involved in a roundtable:
1. These guys inspire me. They’re my friends, all are pastors, and seeing how they live out their commitment to God inspires me. There aren’t too many people who do what we do. One of the guys lost his wife and best friend to cancer in the same year. Another adopted and is raising four high-risk children. A third runs triathlons. All of them are devoted to their wives and to walking in close quarters with Christ. During dark seasons in my ministry, I think of them and it boosts my determination to keep going.
In marriage counseling, it’s common to find spouses playing the part of attorneys—stating their case why the other spouse is to blame for the problems at hand.
A husband blames his wife for his neglect because she’s not physically affectionate enough. A wife blames her husband for her critical nature because he’s not emotionally intimate enough. As a counselor, it’s easy to slip into the role of a judge trying to decide who “wins.”
The wiser approach is to hold spouses responsible for their own actions and words. The apostle Paul clearly describes this principle of personal responsibility in Galatians 6:7-8, saying that a man (or woman) “reaps what he sows.” Consider the following steps to counseling couples away from the name-and-blame game and toward a “harvest” of a better marriage.
Even with the best of intentions, things have a way of going south.
When we launched our outreach ministry (at Mariners Church in Orange County, Calif.), the first thing we thought to do was meet the basic needs of the people we were serving. Sounds reasonable, right? They need groceries; we’ll give them a bag of food. They need winter coats? Got it. School supplies? Check. Then we’ll teach them about Jesus and they’ll pray the prayer and bam! We’re all good.
If we really believe in an irresistible Savior whose love is the most powerful force on earth, why is it we cling to manipulative tools, gimmicks and cheap material resources to all but bribe someone into the kingdom of heaven?
What an ancient mystery means to America’s future—and your ministry
What could an ancient mystery more than 2,500 years old mean to the future of your ministry? To understand its relevance for today, let me set the stage and go back to the last days of ancient Israel.
Before Israel’s destruction as a nation, nine harbingers appeared—nine warnings of destruction in a biblical template of national judgment. These same nine harbingers of judgment are now reappearing in modern America in specific detail. Some have appeared in New York City, some in Washington D.C., some have involved the highest leaders of the land, even the president of the United States. The manifestations of the harbingers involve such things as the Stone of Judgment, the Sign of the Sycamore, the Tower, the Utterance, the Prophecy and more.
The pattern begins with a national wake-up call: The nation’s hedge of protection is breached in some way. Years before the judgment, an enemy is allowed to strike the land. In the case of ancient Israel, that assault took place in 732 B.C. with the Assyrian invasion. In America, it happened on Sept. 11, 2001. After Assyria’s attack, Israel did not repent or turn back to the Lord. Neither has America. In fact, both nations descended deeper into apostasy. And in both cases, the first strike led to further shakings. In America, we saw the second strike as the U.S. economy collapsed. Behind this modern-day collapse was a stream of ancient mysteries, some of which actually identified and ordained the very dates, days and hours of the greatest economic crashes in American history.
We can create relevant environments and put our leaders in the best possible position to start relationships, but it’s imperative to remember that for all our children and many of our teenagers, it’s the parent who brings them to church.
Here are 10 ways to affirm parents who attend your church each week: