My Sabbatical Goals…


My family and I will be on Sabbatical, in Kansas City, for the month of June. We are incredibly grateful to you, the Prairie Flower Baptist Church family, for giving to us this wonderful opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, and recalibrate. Indeed, would you pray for us during the month of June? It is our desire to steward our Sabbatical well to the point that we come back to you reset and ready for more and better ministry. To that end, here are my personal goals for while I’m away on Sabbatical…

  1. Focus on my relationship with my Lord by means of reading through the Pastoral Epistles.
  2. Focus on my relationship with my Wife by means of learning how to cook from her.
  3. Focus on my relationship with my Kids by means of daily playing and connecting with them.
  4. Pray over my long-term goals at Prairie Flower Baptist Church.
  5. Pray over my long-term vision at Prairie Flower Baptist Church.
  6. Pray over my long-term tenure at Prairie Flower Baptist Church.
  7. Improve my physical health by means of jogging five times a week and doing some weight lifting four times a week.
  8. Improve my mental and emotional health by means of getting rid of technology (i.e. no phone, text messaging, email, or social media of any kind while on Sabbatical) and instead read four good books.
  9. Improve my spiritual health by means of plugging into a good, but different type of church in the Kansas City area.
  10. Begin a dream I’ve always had and start writing a Novel.

Bottom Line: I want to rest, rejuvenate, and recalibrate my life around that which really matters (i.e. God, His Word, and my family), coming back to PFBC a better leader and pastor. Indeed, I want to come back to PFBC with a renewed commitment to pastoral ministry, a better perspective on the difficult events of my recent past, and a greater vision for the future. Please pray with me to that end…

P.S. This will be the last blog I write till my return in July. Thank you!

“How to Help Those Who are Suffering” By Ben Hartwig



During a recent Faith Pulpit Day on the campus of Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Pastor Ben Hartwig (Calvary Baptist Church in Greene, Iowa) outlined how to help people who are going through intense suffering. I found his thoughts helpful and practical. Here’s what he had to say…

Things that do not help:

  1. Comparing their suffering or minimizing suffering.
    • Regardless of the severity of the suffering that someone may be experiencing, it is very real to them. When we minimize their suffering by saying that it is no big deal, we are not helping them to work through it Biblically.
  2. Play God and say this is why this is happening. “You must have committed some sin.”
    • We don’t know all things. We cannot say with certainty why something is happening. God may have multiple reasons for something. We can instead ask others to consider, “What do you think God wants to teach you through this?”
  3. Address the natural and not the spiritual.
    • Do not just ask about the treatment plan, about the medical stuff, about what they need to take care of. Lots of other people will do that. Do not offer unsolicited medical advice. There may be a time and a place to share ideas, depending upon your relationship with the person. However, as a fellow believer, we are to address the spiritual. What does God want to teach them through this time of suffering? What do they need to remember about God?  “We waste our cancer if we spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.” John Piper Don’t Waste Your Cancer
  4. Offering help but then not following through with it.
    • Sometimes people consider the source before they really believe that someone will do what they say that they will do. However, it adds hurt to people when someone offers to do something and doesn’t follow through. It is one thing if you cannot do it –tell them! But fading away without responding hurts. Do not offer to help if you don’t really intend to do so, and don’t overcommit.

Things that help:

  1. Show up.
    • Sometimes in our uncertainty of not knowing how to help someone who is suffering, we keep at a distance. One important things for us to do is to show up -to be there for them during their time of difficulties. Call them. Text them. Visit them. Send them a card. Let them know that you are praying for them. Call and leave a message. Don’t expect a response. (It can be a lot keeping up with correspondence, even for those who really do try!) By reaching out to them in their time of hurt, you show love and care for them as a person. In a world of loneliness and shallow relationships, people need others to show up and care.
  2. Give people time and space to talk. Listen.
    • When Job’s friends first arrived, they sat there in silence (Job 2:11-13). They listened. They grieved with him. We need to be careful of trying to provide answers and help when we just need to listen to someone. We need to recognize that for most people, it is not a lack of knowledge of the truth, but an emotional problem as they try to come to terms with what they are going through. People who are suffering often don’t need answers, but someone to love them by listening to them.
  3. Offer more specific help than: “Let me know what I can do for you.”
    • People mean well when they say this. Many times, the offer is legitimate and people would do a lot for those who are hurting. But when people say that, what they have done is placed more responsibility upon those who are hurting, to contact people for help and hope that they follow through with what they promised. Instead, put forth an idea of how you can help and then present it to them in such a way that they can say no if it doesn’t work. You don’t want to push yourself at others, but you also want to provide practical help. Often times there are needs and ways that others can help, but it is awkward to ask for help. Offer services that you excel at: Cleaning, childcare, mechanics, lawn, etc.
  4. Purpose to support those in your church who are going through an ongoing suffering.
    • You can’t support and encourage everyone you know that is going through an extended period of suffering. You shouldn’t. But if there is someone in your church, or someone God has specifically laid on your heart, be there for them along the whole journey. Most people will contact someone who is hurting once. Send one card, a phone call, a gift, one meal. That’s normal, that’s natural. They often will pray for a longer period of time, but only will contact once. But those who are suffering need some people to continue along with them the entire journey. This should take place through their local church, that they stand behind them the entire journey.
  5. Help Financially.
    • People often have many increased expenses during times of suffering. “Do you have financial needs?” One lady asked me that at one point on our journey, and I gave her a glimpse of where we were at financially. Later she talked to me and apologized, saying, “that’s not how you give a gift.” “Do you need this gift?” If you are led to give a gift –give it! I thought that her perspective was good because it shows the mindset that people should have toward giving. Sure there is a time to ask for specific needs. However, don’t just give because someone may be scraping by. Give because you feel led to give, because you want to give. Seek to be a blessing to those who are suffering. Sometimes it may be that they have nothing else. Other times, you may be blessing them above and beyond.
  6. Remember the rest of the family.
    • The whole family is affected, not just the patient. Seek to encourage the rest of the family (siblings, spouse, parents) through the time of suffering. Use your creativity and be a blessing.
  7. Invite us.
    • People who suffer are often busy. Their schedules change, and they are not able to do the things that they used to do. In response, people can begin to assume that they are too busy to come, so they stop inviting them to hang out, or to come to events or activities. Maybe they are too busy, but if they stop getting asked to do things with their friends or church, they can feel that loss of relationships. Let the person decide if they are too busy. Don’t assume that for them. Invite them to do things like you normally would. Give them the freedom to back out, even last minute if things come up. Maybe they will never come, but it still is nice to be asked. Something might actually work out!
  8. Share truth appropriately.
    • Not casually, or flippantly, but appropriately. “Just remember Romans 8:28-30,” is usually not a helpful thing to say casually. Or, “God is really going to use this in your life. God is using this in the lives of others.” Those things are true, but can be hard to grasp at the time. Sometimes all that those who are suffering can think about is this:  “I don’t care how God is going to use this –I just want to get through this.”  Yet, you must share truth. Just like there are times to listen, there are times when we must share truth. Share it appropriately. The truth is what will guide believers to walking with the Lord through times of suffering. Take time to pray and think about what you will say.
  9. Encourage active involvement in your local church.
    • When people suffer, they naturally want to withdraw from others. It is hard to talk about the things that hurt. Sometimes it is hard to talk appropriately about those hurts. It is easier most of the time to avoid facing people. Yet it is people whom we need. We need the body of Christ. In line with this also, is that by serving others, it helps the person who is suffering. Sometimes what those who are suffering really need is to help others, for it gets their eyes off their own struggles and helps them remember that others are hurting as well and that God’s grace is sufficient to meet all needs.
  10. Choose to be thankful.
    • With Christ, there is always something to be thankful for. However, it is a choice. We need to take time to express our thankfulness to the Lord. Gifting a journal or notebook is really helpful in this for people to record blessings or things that they are thankful for along the way.

Seven Words That Will Change Your Life…


“I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” Seven words and two sentences (one a declarative sentence and one an interrogative sentence) that will change your life and your relationships for the better. Here’s a challenge question for you: How often do you use the above two sentences? Only you can answer this question (and perhaps someone who really, really knows you). So, here’s perhaps a better question: How often should you use the above two sentences? Answer: As often as is needed. Seriously. That’s the answer…it’s as simple as that.

Ok, so why should you use the above two sentences? Answer: Because relationships matter and maintaining healthy relationships demand this posture of humility and love. Makes sense, right? I mean, here’s a fact: You’re going to mess up in the plethora of relationships that you have; and if you want to get these relationships back on track, and maintain these important relationships, you’re simply going to have to admit when (not if) you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. Ok…but what are the practical benefits of using these statements? I mean, no one wants to admit when they are wrong. Indeed, as frail human beings, we have the innate desire to always be right and to be recognized as always being right. Well, I believe there are three remarkable benefits to uttering these seven life changing words:

  1. Joy – Doing the right thing always releases the blessing of joy. This is simply a point of fact…just search the Scriptures to see that obedience always leads to joy! When God grants to us the grace of courage to admit when we are wrong and then gives to us the grace of humility to ask for forgiveness, true joy ensues. Harboring an attitude of pride and arrogance tends to squelch true joy. Humility and love tend to release true joy.
  2. Peace – There is truly a sense of peace and calming that washes over your very soul the moment you admit to another human being that you’ve been wrong and need their forgiveness. Yes, it’s humbling, and potentially embarrassing, to admit when you’re wrong, but the long-lasting peace that results when you do this far outweigh the momentary sensations of embarrassment. I truly believe that so many people experience unneeded stress and friction in their relationships, simply because they refuse to admit when they are wrong and refuse to ask for their much needed forgiveness.
  3. Credibility – I have personally experienced this amazing benefit to uttering the words, “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” It tends to totally disarm an individual and (simultaneously) build your credibility towards them. If you are genuinely wrong on an issue or an action, and then go so far as to maintain that faulty position, well, that tends to destroy your integrity and credibility. Simply uttering these seven words rebuilds your credibility and repairs your relationship.

In the end, doing the right thing always has positive benefits, but doing the right thing should not be done for the benefits, but simply because it’s always the right thing to do the right thing. Sound like utter nonsense? Maybe. But that’s the God-honoring, Christ-exalting way to live.

The War and The Need For Discipline

Spiritual Warfare.jpg

I have been the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church for nearly 5 years. My voyage into the choppy waters of pastoral ministry has been marked by incredible suffering and overwhelming joy. It continues to amaze me that one can experience so much evil and so much good at the exact same time and in the exact same place. Pastoral ministry is truly the frontlines of combat in the spiritual war that is being waged every single day.

Indeed, we all are in a war…A war waged by Sin, Satan, and Death for the souls of men and women. If you don’t believe me, just hang out with me or my Associate Pastor for a week or two, and you’ll see that this war is very real. Drugs want your body. Fear wants your mind. The mistress wants your marriage. Suicide wants your life. The war is relentless, and our enemy is so very determined.

As a local church pastor, I have witnessed the brutality and devastation of this spiritual war. Yes, I have also witnessed the beauty and courage of individuals fighting this war with me and achieving spiritual victories in their own lives, hearts, and marriages. Indeed, pastoral ministry may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring! Every day I have the privilege to wake up, mount up, and wrestle with some demons. My marching orders come straight out of Ephesians 6:11-12, which states, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In this fight of faith, many things are necessary, to include discipline. Indeed, discipline is one of the essential ingredients to effective Christian living and vital to successful combat operations in the spiritual war that we wage. Let me briefly explain at least two types of disciplines required in the life of a believer…

Personal Discipline – Here I am describing the Christian fighter’s mandate to live a life that honors the Lord in and through the power and presence of the Spirit of God. Philippians 2:12-13 states, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” This working out your own salvation requires a God-supplied, God-fueled discipline (implied in the verses above) that results in the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-24).

Corporate Discipline – Here I am describing the process of accountability and restoration that is described in Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1-2. Matthew declares, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Also, Paul in Galatians declares, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

The four-step process outlined in Matthew 18 (i.e. corporate/church discipline) and further explained in Galatians 6 is absolutely essential in the life of a local church for the purity and joy of the individual Christian, as well as the health and overall vitality of the church as they engage in the spiritual war described in Ephesians 6. Yes, even though the concept of corporate discipline might seem mean, or outdated, or unloving, it doesn’t negate the truth and relevancy of this process. Fred Greco states, “Church discipline exists to uphold the glory of Christ and His truth and also to protect the people of God from error and its consequences.”

And remember, we’re in a war. As a local church pastor and an Iraq War veteran, I can personally attest to the fact that wars (physical and spiritual) are always fought imperfectly, but the imperfections of performance should never prevent us from participating in the process of warfare. In other words, in our individual lives and corporate lives, we will practice discipline imperfectly, but it doesn’t mean that discipline is inappropriate or should be discarded. Indeed, when mistakes in the discipline process are made, one should acknowledge such mistakes, repent, and move forward. Bottom line, the war does demand discipline…and better to have imperfect discipline than no discipline at all.