Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do Overs - Guest Post by Chris Beltrami

I remember being 12 years old  … in the summer …  in Vermont. Almost every day, the kids would gather at the Barre Auditorium ball fields for some baseball pickup.   We would ‘grip-up’ the bat to see who would get first choice in picking the teams.   On an average day - we’d have:
One broken bat – with a screw holding it together and some black electrical tape
stretched around the gripping area.   
A ball – with missing the leather and seams seasoned away and repaired with the same black electrical tape.
Some gloves – shared by kids who had with those kids who did not.
Home plate, pitchers mound and bases – all “heel-marked’ in the dirt.
Disagreements – with yelling, screaming and fighting.
It was so great!!!
 
55 years later, my wife Pat and I play water volleyball… almost everyday!!!   While the equipment is top notch, the disagreements for us competitive Seniors are similar to when I was 12.   “Out of bounds”?  “Lift”?    “Carry”?   The “Score” ?????????????    Oy!
One guy often says, “What we need in this pool is some adult supervision.!”
 
Our only saving grace for our supposed gained wisdom is what we call a “do-over.”    This happens, when after 30 to 60 seconds of eye rolling, power playing, water splashing, whispered comments, and childish expletiving (that’s not a real word), etc. … someone yells. “Do over!”   That means that the play from the last serve is forgotten.   The current score remains, no one is penalized and the person starts a new serve.
           
I like “Do-overs”.         
            I like them in water volleyball and I like them regarding God’s grace.
            I think God made the days and the nights for me so that, every 24 hours, I could have a new beginning.  A “do-over’.  That means that play from the last day is forgotten.   I am not penalized and I can start a new serve.
 
Romans 8:38-39  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 
 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
I wake each day with thankfulness to Him … that He forgives me and that nothing can separate me from His grace and His love.  Sometimes I feel a bit guilty that I have to ask for so many do-overs, but I remain so very thankful that I can.  
So, think about it - the next time you are anxious about the score, look into His eyes of grace and be thankful that He speaks forth so freely, “Do-over!”

                                                                                                  

                                                                                 - Chris Beltrami - Barre, VT 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Killer Cows!!

1 Corinthians 9:20-22 - To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law.  To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law.  To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.

I grew up in a city in the Midwest. As a teenager I moved to a small city in Virginia. After college I lived in a city in South Carolina. Since I had lived in a city most of my life, I experienced culture shock when I moved to rural Vermont in 1993 to live in a small village with less than 1,000 residents. We moved there as missionaries with the North American Mission Board, serving a rural church with less than 20 members, a church struggling for survival.

It has been my custom for years to walk in the mornings and pray about what God is doing in my life. During that first week of living in a rural area, I struck out walking down the main street, the only paved street in town. I did not get very far before I encountered a cow that had escaped from a pasture and was standing in the middle of the road. Having grown up in the city, I did not know quite what to do, so I froze in my tracks. My life flashed before my eyes. My heart raced with fear. Would this cow charge me? Would it trample me? Would it eat me? Surely this vicious creature was a killer cow!

I do not know how long I stood in the middle of the road looking at that cow, but someone drove by in a pickup truck and asked what I was doing. I replied that a killer cow had gotten loose and I did not know what to do. The driver looked at me, looked at the cow, and then laughed hysterically as he drove away. Eventually I realized that the poor creature was just a harmless old milk cow. I slowly eased past her and went on my way. I was not in the city anymore!

To live successfully in a rural area, I had to adjust to the presence of cows in the middle of the road. I also had to adjust how I did ministry so that it fit my context. I learned to show up at the post office each morning at 9:30 AM when everyone came to get their mail. I could visit half the town in an hour. I learned that I was the pastor for the whole community, not just my 20 church members. As the community pastor, I conducted weddings and funerals, provided personal and marriage counseling, and hospital visits for the entire community, even though many of them had little or no affiliation with our church. I learned how important it was to make a contribution to the annual 8th grade fundraiser. I learned not to wear a tie, as it made people think I was either a Mormon or a bill collector, neither of which was very welcome in that small rural village.

During the eight years I served that church, I learned a great many things about how to minister in a rural village. However, I never had to change the Gospel itself. The Gospel is always relevant to all cultures in all time periods and to all people groups. There is no other Gospel but the one found in the New Testament that begins with the sinfulness of mankind and ends with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But methods and programs used to communicate the Gospel are constantly changing. One generation might use flannelgraph and chalkboards; another generation might use video projectors and smart boards, but the message of the Gospel remains the same.

Since my fateful encounter with that killer cow so many years ago, I have learned to communicate the Gospel in a variety of ways as I have started churches and led evangelistic activities across New England. Each town is a little different, but in each one God has called a group of people to Himself. My ministry is to join God in His work and communicate His Gospel in a way that the called can hear and respond. When that happens, the Gospel goes forth and God is glorified, and His people rejoice, even if it looks different than what we are used to.

Lord, help us learn to share the Gospel in ways those around us can understand. Amen.




This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Finding the Right Direction

Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

I was on the way to visit an acquaintance who was interested in being involved in ministry. He gave me the address where I was to meet him, but when I arrived, I could not find the house number. There were houses with numbers higher and lower, but that house number was missing. After driving up and down the road a couple of times, I called him on his cell. We realized I had gone to Stevens Street, when I was actually looking for Stephens Street. The streets are pronounced the same way, but have a slightly different spelling. They are on opposite sides of town. I would have never found the address on the first street, because that address does not exist. We had a good laugh about it when I finally got to the right place. What a difference those letters made!

That experience made me think about how important it is to make sure we get our facts right before striking off on some task, journey, or course of action. If we have a faulty premise, it will lead us in the wrong direction, and we may never find what we are looking for. Even if the underlying mistake is minor, our faulty premise will take us the wrong direction, causing great frustration as we come so close to what we were trying to do, and yet cannot quite accomplish it.

For example, when considering marriage, if we start out thinking that if it does not work out, we can just get a divorce, that will impact how we handle conflict in our relationship. Such thinking leads us to a much different conclusion than we would come to if we went into it thinking we were going to stick with the marriage no matter what, and trust God to make the relationship what it should be.
In thinking about what college to go to, if we start out thinking which school has the best recreational activities, we will end up in a much different place than if we ask ourselves which school will best help us gain the training we need to achieve our career goals.

Examples are numerous, but the point is clear. We need to start off with right information and correct reasoning so we can head in the right direction in life. How do we find the right information? Do some research. Discuss the issue with people who have already been there. Ask lots of questions. Most importantly, read the Bible and pray for guidance. The Bible is still relevant for today and God’s advice is always right. As we learn to trust in the Lord’s advice, we will head in the right direction in life.

Lord, help us listen to Your advice and follow Your directions. Amen.

This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Use a Sermon Series?

While some scripture texts and topics can be adequately dealt with in a “stand-alone” sermon, other texts and issues are better suited for a sermon series. A sermon series allows you to delve deeper into a text or subject than a stand-alone sermon. A sermon series is best used when the material is simply too much to be covered in a single sermon.

A series can be as short as three sermons or as long as eight. Less than three is just not enough to make a real series. More than eight is probably too long for people to connect all the parts to the whole.

A series should have an overall theme. Each sermon in the series should address some aspect of that theme. For maximum effectiveness, some sort of review will be necessary during each sermon to connect the individual sermons to the whole series. Handouts tend to help the series be more effective because it provides a written summary of the entire series after it is completed. If the series would interest the community, it can be used as an outreach tool.

Creating a strong series of sermons is a lot of work. It is easy to question the validity of all that work once the series is over, especially if there were no immediate results from the series. However, a sermon series can continue to be useful long after all the sermons have been preached.

Ways to use a sermon series after it is complete:

1. Use CDs/DVDs of the series to give to church visitors as a welcome gift. This is especially helpful if it is a series that explains what the church believes.

2. Use CDs/DVDs of the series as an outreach tool to the community. This is especially helpful if it covers some topic that might be of interest to the greater community, such as how to be an effective parent, or how to have a happy marriage or how to manage personal finances.

3. Use CDs/DVDs to build a “library” of the church’s teaching on a particular subject. This is especially helpful if the church has a lending library so that people can check the series out.

4. Distribute CDs/DVDs to those who have become home bound temporarily or are residents at a nursing home. This allows them to keep up with what is being taught at church.

5. Use the series to provide theological training to others. This is especially helpful if others in the church want to become pastors or lay ministers.

6. Convert the sermon series into a weekend seminar or week long revival so it can be used again.

7. Publish the series on YouTube so that the general public can have access to the information as well.

8. Convert the notes from the sermon series into a booklet that can be mass produced and distributed widely.

Though creating a strong series of sermons can be a lot of work, by using the series in other ways besides the original intent, it can be well worth the effort.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He has written a book about the spirit of offense that prevails in our current society. You can find all of his books at:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Spiritual Aspects of Financial Security

Ever feel like no matter how hard you work, you still have little to show for it? Some people try and try and try to make personal finances work out but still hit a brick wall at the end of the month. When we feel like that, we might consider reading some of the passages from the Old Testament books of Haggai and Malachi. These books are not the most popular in the Bible, but they do have some powerful things to say about how to have greater financial security.

Consider was the prophet says:

Haggai 1:6-7 “You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to become drunk. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it. The LORD of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways.”

Does that describe how we feel sometimes? We plant and plant but harvest little. We put our wages in a "bag" but it seems like the bag has a hole in it. Wow, that just sounds like real life to me!

Why does all this happen to us financially? Consider another prophets words:

Malachi 3:9-11 “You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full 10 percent tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way, says the LORD of Hosts. See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your ground, and your vine in your field will not be barren, says the LORD of Hosts.” (For a complete study on Malachi, see: "Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity.)

These are sobering thoughts. We don't like to think about robbing God, yet many of us have done exactly that when we have failed to honor God with our tithes.

The scripture is clear that if we do not tithe to the storehouse (the local church) then we cannot be blessed by God in our finances. If our financial situation has been not as prosperous as we had hoped, we should consider our commitment to tithing. Once we begin to tithe faithfully, then we can watch the miracles that God does in our lives.

It is important that our commitment to tithing does not come from a heart that wants to gain something in return, but from a heart that simply wants to walk in obedience to the Lord. God looks on our hearts and knows our true motives. Even though receiving back from God may not be our motive, God has said that He will indeed bless us for giving. What a great God we serve.

We may think that we cannot afford to tithe, but we need to read those verses over again. They indicate that we cannot afford NOT to tithe. God protects us from financial harm when we tithe with a right heart attitude. God keeps the devourer away. When we fail to tithe, then we suffer the devastating effects of real life without the blessing of God to protect us.

When thinking about tithing, it is important to remember that the church’s expenses continue whether we happen to be present on a particular Sunday or not. Even if our schedule keeps us away for a couple of weeks, the church's electric bill still has to be paid. The pastor's salary still has to be paid. The benevolence programs for the poor and the outreach programs to the community are an ongoing need, even if we happen to miss church from time to time. Learning to tithe is also about learning to be faithful. God cannot bless unfaithfulness. We must learn to tithe consistently. The reality is that if we want the church to be there for us when we need it, we must be faithful to tithe even when we are not there.

Statistics tell us that senior adults are the most likely to tithe and many have done so for most of their adult lives. Statistics also tell us that only 1% of young adults under the age of 25 tithe. If we do not turn this trend around, many churches will not exist when young adults need them. Let each of us examine our own hearts and lives on this issue and respond in obedience to the Lord.



Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He has written a book about the spirit of offense that prevails in our current society. You can find all of his books at:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Considering Vocational Ministry

The Facebook message was from a young friend of mine who was in college. I had known him since he was a pre-teen, having watched him come to faith and then grow to maturity in his faith. The question he asked in his message was one I’ve been asked dozens of times over the years. He was considering a call to vocational ministry and wanted to be sure it was the right direction for him. I think he was hoping for an easy answer, what I gave him was more of a “process” to work through than a quick answer. But it did help him walk  through that journey and, in my opinion, he followed the right path that God had for him.

Anyone considering a ministry vocation should think through these things:


1. Ask God to clarify if there has been a special calling to vocational ministry.
God calls every Christian to minister using the spiritual gifts He has given them. Therefore every Christian ought to be involved in some type of ministry in whatever church they attend. But God has also called some people to the special role of serving in ministry as their profession. That is what it means when we talk about "vocational ministry." A vocation refers to the job that allows a person to make a living. While every Christian ought to be serving the Lord in some way, some Christians will feel led to completely immerse themselves in service to the Lord by serving as a pastor, missionary, music minister, chaplain, Christian school teacher, youth worker, seminary professor, church planter, or some other vocational ministry role. The first step in determining if a person has a vocational call to ministry is to pray and seek confirmation from the Lord if this is what the person should be doing as their vocation.

2. Seek wisdom on what type of call God may be issuing.
As mentioned above, there are a variety of different ways a person can serve the Lord in vocational ministry. Often the Lord calls a person to serve in a particular role because of their personality or talents. Sometimes that calling even shifts some as a person moves through life. They may start as a youth worker in a church but eventually become the pastor. Or they may start as a teacher in a Christian school and later be led to become a missionary. There are many ways in which to serve and a person must ask God to show them which one is right for them at that particular stage in their life. Then they must be willing to obey whatever God leads them to do, even if it was not what the person had in mind when they first felt called to vocational ministry. Far too many young people are trying to be “pastors” when their calling is to a role other than pastor. Pastoring is hard work and should only be engaged in by those with that specific calling.

3. Seek advice from a trusted minister.
A great help in determining both the calling to vocational ministry and which type of ministry a person might be called to is talking to a person who is already serving in vocational ministry. Ask what it is like to serve in that particular ministry as a profession. Discuss the many different types of ministry careers that are available. Discuss what type of training might be required for different types of ministry. Ask the person to pray with you and help you walk through this exciting time of decision in life.

4. Develop personal spirituality.
If a person wants to be in successful in ministry, they are going to have to be a spiritual person and live a righteous life. Reading the Bible, having a strong prayer life, and eliminating unholy habits are important. No one is perfect, but it is important to start living a holy life as soon as a person thinks he or she may be called to ministry. God can use anyone, no matter what their background, but obviously it is more difficult for people who lacked personal holiness in the past and are carrying a lot of baggage around with them to serve as effectively in ministry as a person who has been focused on a living a holy life for a long time. As soon as a person thinks they might be called to vocational ministry, they should  focus on being a spiritual person, a righteous person, a holy person. Even aspiring ministers will make mistakes, but if personal spirituality remains the focus, it is possible to avoid making any mistakes that would significantly hamper future ministry. If at some point we realize that God is not calling us to vocational ministry, we will have still developed a holy life, which is never a wasted effort.

5. Prepare for ministry through training.
Don't just read the Bible, start studying the Bible intently. Invest in some good commentaries and other Bible study aids that will aid in explaining the Bible in order to teach others. Attend programs, classes or conferences aimed at improving ministry skills. If possible, enroll in a Bible college or seminary for professional training. God does use people who have not been to Bible college or seminary, but most ministers affirm that what they learned in Bible college or seminary was a significant help to them in ministry. Therefore it is good for a person who feels called to ministry to plan to attend an accredited school for ministry training if at all possible.

6. Ask the local church to examine your calling.
Every church has different methods of helping a person confirm their calling to ministry. Find out how your church does it and then start the process. If a person is really called by God to ministry, then the church will recognize that calling and affirm it. If the church is unwilling to affirm that calling, it is important to examine our hearts and make sure we have heard from God correctly about our calling. In some ministry roles a person needs to be licensed or ordained. There is normally a process that needs to be worked through in order to receive those credentials. Take the time to work through that process as the church requires. It will be worth it in the end.

7. Begin looking for ways to serve now while preparing for the future.
When a person first begins to feel a call to vocational ministry, they should look for ways to serve in volunteer ministry. It may be several years before the person has received enough training and been through whatever processes are required to actually serve in a vocational way. But that person should immediately look for smaller ways to serve. If a person cannot teach Sunday School faithfully, how will they ever be able to preach regularly? If a person cannot lead music once a month in church, how will they ever become a music minister? If a person cannot teach for one week in the summer Vacation Bible School, how will they ever be able to teach daily in a Christian school? The reality is that the quality of service a person does for the Lord right now is a reflection on the quality of ministry they will do in the future. And if a person is not serving the Lord right now as a volunteer, it is unlikely that person will be able to serve Him in the future in any vocational way.

Like any other profession, ministry has its challenges. But serving the Lord is very fulfilling. Helping people find peace, hope and joy in their lives is a wonderful thing. Helping people find faith in Christ and security for eternal life is the most rewarding of all. Those who are called to vocational ministry will have a challenging, but extremely rewarding, life.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He has written a book about the spirit of offense that prevails in our current society. You can find all of his books at:


Thursday, January 14, 2016

We Need to be In Relationship With Others

My wife and I once watched a movie about a young man who decided to move to Alaska and live all by himself in an old bus in the middle of nowhere. The movie portrayed a number of relationships that others tried to build with the young man but in each case he walked away from those relationships. He walked away because he had been hurt by a close relationship he had in his childhood. That made him afraid to allow other people inside his walls. The movie ended rather sadly. He made a mistake in reading a book on plant life and accidentally ate a poisonous plant. Regretfully, that led to his death a few days later. He died as he had lived, isolated and alone. The movie was based on a true story that was portrayed in a popular book written by the young man’s family after his body was found several weeks later by hunters.

As I have reflected on that movie it occurs to me that it is a picture of the lives of far too many people in our broken society. Many have been hurt in various relationships and that hurt has caused them to emotionally isolate themselves from those around them. They think they can make it all on their own without other people. This is flawed thinking. We need relationships with others. Even though we can be hurt by relationships, we really cannot live without them. Knowing this, God designed us to desire friends, look for a mate, enjoy family, and seek out a faith community. When we ignore those urges, we are less happy than we could be.

Had that young man in the movie had some other people with him, they might have noticed when he mistook a poisonous plant for an edible one. Or perhaps they would have been able to help him hike back to town and seek medical help. Even if he felt he really needed some time alone, had he been willing to share his life with others, they would have known where he was and could have come looking for him when he did not return. Unfortunately since he told no one where he had gone, no one could come rescue him. The story had a sad ending, but what made it even sadder was that it did not have to end that way. He did not have to die alone and isolated far from home in an abandoned school bus. But he was not willing to open himself up to other people and trust them. His determination to do break off all relationships with other people ultimately resulted in his untimely and tragic death.

We must do all that we can so that others do not follow the same depressing path with its sad ending. We must learn to trust again. We must encourage others to trust again. We be willing to open ourselves up to having deep and meaningful relationships. Even though we may have been hurt in the past, and there is a chance we may be hurt in the future, the reality is, we cannot live happy productive lives without relationships. Relationships are a risk, but we must realize that relationships are a risk worth taking.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He has written a book about the spirit of offense that prevails in our current society. You can find all of his books at: