Saturday, September 27, 2014

Better Days Are Coming

2 Chronicles 36:23 - This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a temple at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you of His people may go up, and may the Lord his God be with him.

The Old Testament kings of Israel were a mixed group. Though some honored God, most did whatever they wanted to with no regard for how it impacted their relationship with the Lord. Their disregard for the God of their fathers caused tremendous pain not only in their personal lives, but in their nation.

As the story winds down at the end of 2 Chronicles, the entire kingdom collapsed. Jerusalem was destroyed. The people were carried off into exile in distant lands. At first glance, it seemed that all hope was lost and nothing great would ever happen again in Israel. Then we come to the last verse of the story, 2 Chronicles 36:23. In that verse God touched the heart of King Cyrus of Persia, a foreign conqueror who was not a follower of the Jewish faith. King Cyrus passed a decree allowing the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. This story, so filled with disappointment and failure, ends with a promise of hope.

Life is often like that for us when we allow God to be at work in our lives. We may face many failures, hardships, and difficulties, but when we re-focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we find hope in the midst of despair. Godly hope does not disappoint. It leads to amazing things we never thought possible.

The book of Ezra follows Chronicles. It picks up the story of the Jewish people in exile. In the opening verses we learn that not only were the Jews allowed to return home to rebuild their temple, but that the very kingdom that enslaved them was now going to help pay for the repairs. Though some opposition remained, and many hardships still lay ahead, the tide had clearly turned. They were eventually able to rebuild their temple, which remained intact and functioning for hundreds of years.

Many times in our lives God uses the very thing that looked like it would destroy us as an instrument of blessing to us. Ephesians 3:20 (NAS) reminds us that Christ “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” When we are discouraged, we must remember that better days are coming, and they will be more amazing than we could ever imagine.

Lord, when we find ourselves in the midst of despair and our days full of trouble, help us remember that better days are coming. 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, September 26, 2014

Do We Have Too Much Stuff?

Matthew 6:19-21 - Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Nearly 18 months ago my wife and I relocated to Connecticut to plant churches around the urban areas in the state. As part of the preparations for the move, we decided to downsize the amount of stuff we owned. This took a lot of effort because our home in Vermont was an old farmhouse built around 1860. It had large rooms and lots of nooks and crannies to put stuff. We spent countless hours cleaning out closets, garages, attic space, and bookshelves. Every time we thought were done, we found one more corner that we had not sorted yet.

We sold some of the stuff. A lot of it we gave away to people in our church, to the Salvation Army, to a family that had lost their home to a fire, and to a church yard sale that raised money to help needy children. After getting rid of so much, we still had a lot of stuff to move!

Somewhere in the process of cleaning, sorting, packing and distributing all this stuff, it occurred to me again how rich Americans are. Only in America do we have clothes stored in totes and boxes because we cannot wear them all. Only in America do we have a set of dishes that we use only at Christmas and another set we use only when guests come for dinner. Only in America do we have chairs, tables, beds and decorative items that we have not used in months, or even years, which serve no real purpose other than to impress guests a few times a year. Who really needs that many clothes or dishes or beds or chairs or tables?

This effort to downsize our lives gave us opportunity to think through the consumerism that so grips our nation. It helped us consider how we could use our excess to help those around us and expand God’s Kingdom instead of just accumulating it in extra rooms. Perhaps we need to clean more than our physical closets and attics? Perhaps it is time to clean our hearts from the hunger that drives us to want more and more and more. When we clean up our emotional and spiritual closets and attics, the physical ones become much easier to tackle.

Lord, help us to focus on what is really important in life instead of becoming consumed by accumulating stuff. 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:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Contemplating God’s Grace

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 - Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.


An experience I had at our local McDonalds reminded me of God’s grace. My wife and I were having lunch with friends. When I went to fill up my soda, a woman was already at the machine. As she tried to fill her soda cup, her hands were shaking so much that she could barely grip her cup. Just as I was about to offer assistance, she managed to get the cup in the right spot and start the beverage flowing. She seemed very nice and we chatted politely for a few minutes, with her body shaking the entire time.

Twenty minutes later, just as we were finishing our meal, we observed a similar situation. A man in a wheelchair was eating at a table near us. He was also physically challenged. He kept coughing and also had a lot of tremors. My heart went out to him as I watched him struggle to eat. At one point he coughed so badly that his false teeth flew across the room. His friend jumped up to retrieve them, as if it were a normal occurrence. Watching his dentures fly across the room might have been a somewhat humorous scene, had my heart not already been stirred as I watched him struggle to eat his cheeseburger.

The lady at the soda fountain seemed like a kind person. She was well dressed. Yet her body shook constantly with whatever physical ailment she had. The man in the wheelchair had carried on an engaging conversation with his friend. He seemed like he had a good quality of life. Yet having his teeth fly across the room was just part of a normal day for him.

As I reflect upon my own life and the good health God has blessed me with, my mind is filled with thoughts about the grace of God. By God’s grace, I have overcome what should have been a fatal car crash, with only minimal lasting results. By God’s grace, I have survived cancer, which could have easily ended with a very different outcome. Why has God given me good health while others struggle with simple tasks like filling up soda cups or eating cheeseburgers?

Those of us who are in good health must remember that we are no better than those who live with chronic illness or disability. God does not love us more than He loves them. We have no more value to the world than they do. We must be mindful of the fact that since the curse of sin came into the world, there has been pain and difficulty. Some people are born with physical challenges, and others are not. Some people experience great sickness during their lives; others do not. None of us are better than the other. These situations are simply part of the curse of sin that has fallen on this world. Thankfully, one day that curse will be lifted. Until that day, each of us should spend some time contemplating God's grace in our lives.

Lord, thank You for giving us good health. Help us be a blessing to those around us who face physical challenges. 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:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don’t Judge Me-I’ve Had a Rough Life

Romans 6:1-4 - What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.

My friend shared a story on Facebook of something she had done that was in poor judgment. When people began to post comments about how unwise her actions were, she responded with “Do not judge me because you do not know what I have been through.” We have all seen comments on Facebook like that. When folks post such a comment, it is often because they have done something questionable that they think people will judge them negatively for. Since they do not want to be judged, they appeal to the pain of their past as an excuse for their current questionable behavior.

This is a faulty line of reasoning. While some people have had more pain than others, we all have something in our past that caused us pain. If we allow the pain of our past to be an acceptable excuse for poor behavior, then we can justify almost any action.

Even if appealing to the pain of our past is an acceptable excuse in our current “do whatever we want” culture, it does not actually help us overcome our struggles. Instead, those who engage in unwise behavior, while using past pain as an excuse, only feel even worse about themselves because deep inside they know their behavior is wrong. Even those who are not believers have the law of God written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). Though we may not want to admit it outwardly, inwardly we sense we deserve the very judgment we despise.

We may not have been able to control what happened to us in the past, but we can control how we act today. Instead of playing the pain card, we should begin to address the pain of our past and learn to deal with it in positive ways. Countless people who have gone through horrific experiences in life have chosen to become better instead of bitter. Such overcomers choose to use the pain of the past as a motivation to be a comforting voice to others. They choose to be victors instead of victims. We all have a history, but our history should motivate us to engage in self-improvement, not in self-justification of poor behavior.

Lord, help us move beyond the pain of our past and live lives worthy of our calling as followers of Christ. 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:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Personal Preferences or the Word of God

Matthew 23:1-4 - Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.



The Facebook discussion began with an honest question from an innovative church planter serving in a more traditional part of the country. He asked for the pros and cons of having his primary worship service on a day and time other than Sunday morning. Some responders were very traditional in their thinking, suggesting Sunday morning was the only legitimate option. Others focused more on whatever option would be the most effective evangelistically. What was insightful was that many participants, on both sides of the issue, seemed to think that their personal preferences were the same as God’s Word.

One person said she attended a church for a while that had a Saturday night service, but it was not convenient for her. That person concluded that since Sunday morning was the most convenient time for her, Sunday morning was the only biblical option. Other people gave the very same reason, convenience, for why worship services should be held at times other than Sunday morning. After a lengthy comment thread, people on both sides of the question concluded that what was convenient for them was what God wanted everyone to do.

One individual felt empowered to speak for non-believers. However, in supporting the supposed views of non-believers, he only offered his own preference as a committed believer. It was a bit difficult following his logic, but he concluded that “If non-believers want to come to church, they need to get with the program and not expect believers to make it easy for them.” It sounded a lot like the attitude of the Pharisees in the New Testament who seemed determined to make faith difficult for as many people as possible.

Regardless of what we may feel about the issue of when we should worship, those of us who have grown up in traditional Christian settings need to acknowledge that we frequently substitute our own preferences for God’s Word. We tend to make selective use of a scripture or two in the effort to prove our viewpoint is right without looking at the whole canon of scripture. Without realizing it, we have fallen into the deception of thinking our preferences are actually God’s Word.

If we expect revival to come, we are going to have to give up our personal preferences and stop assuming that our opinion is God’s opinion. We will have to remember what Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.” We must hold firmly to scripture, but be willing to give up our own personal preferences for the sake of the Kingdom. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference, but if we pray, and study the Word of God with an open mind, the Holy Spirit will give us discernment, and we will be able to follow biblical principles even if it means we must abandon our personal preferences.

Lord, help us to diligently study Your Word and be willing to abandon our own personal preferences for Your glory. 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, September 19, 2014

The Power of Self-Deception

Jeremiah 17:9-10 - The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable, who can understand it? I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.


Once I was following a Facebook conversation between two people I have known for many years. Both are classic spend-a-holics. If they have a ten dollar bill in their pockets, they are going to spend it. They often spend their ten dollars in advance, causing them constantly to be indebted to others. As the Facebook conversation unfolded, both prided themselves on how well they handled money. They went on to talk about how they enjoy lots of free or inexpensive activities in the community. Having known them for many years, the words “free” and “inexpensive” do not come to mind when I think of the types of activities they like to engage in. They are both good people. But they enjoy spending money, almost to the point of being obsessed with material possessions and expensive activities. Yet, in their own minds, they are thrifty and excel at living frugally. They are self-deceived.

All of us have met diet experts who told us how to eat healthy. Far too often these experts weighed more than we did. Experts only in their own minds!

It is fascinating that we can have such an amazing capacity for self-deception. Another time I recall a long email I got from a person filled with gossip about various people in her church. She wanted me to come preach at her church and fix all these people. Near the end of the email the person said that she knew she was not perfect but at least she was not a gossip. I wanted to print the email off, underline the boast about not being a gossip and then number each item of gossip in the email and send it back to her. I did not have the courage to do that so I just replied that I was praying for her and her church.

When we live in a world of our own delusional thinking, we become trapped in a negative cycle repeating the same mistakes over and over again. We repeat those mistakes because we do not acknowledge that they exist. We must be willing to open our minds and hearts to the constructive criticism of others so that we can see our own faults and begin to address them. The ability to honestly assess our own lives and self-correct is essential for healthy living.

In my own life, I find a daily quiet time with the Lord essential in this process. As I read the scripture and pray, the Lord points out things in my life that need work. I do not always like what the Lord points out to me. But when I listen and respond, He helps me have a more authentic view of myself.

Lord, help us see ourselves as we really are and make the changes needed for a healthy and happy life. 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:



Thursday, September 18, 2014

When Cravings Collide

James 4:1-3 - What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

I started in ministry when I was only 18 years old. I have served as a children’s minister in a large church, a youth minister in a medium sized church, and as pastor of both small and medium sized congregations. In my many years in these various capacities, I have seen many families that were torn apart by internal struggles. Though they loved each other, they just could not overcome their negative feelings toward one another. Some families broke apart completely, and no longer have any connections. Other families remain connected, but tension lies just under the surface, ready to erupt at any moment. I have often wondered why people who love each other have so many struggles with each other.

James 4:1 answers the question of why we have struggles and conflict with other people in our lives. This verse identifies the root of these conflicts as the cravings that are inside all of us.

What do we crave? We crave acceptance. We crave love. We crave control. We crave power. We crave recognition. We crave security. We crave both connection and independence, which makes us feel conflicted internally. Some of these cravings are normal and may not lead to conflict with others. But some of these cravings will cause conflict because the other people in our lives crave different things, or sometimes the same things but in different ways.

While there should always be enough love to go around for all members of the family, it is impossible for everyone in the family to be in control. While every member of the family should be accepted for who they are, not everyone in the family will have equal power or independence. When we forget this important truth and our cravings collide with the cravings of others, the result is always conflict.

What is the solution? For non-Christian families, I am not sure there is a great solution. They will just have to negotiate the situation the best they can and hope it works out. But for Christian families, the solution is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew16:24-27). As Christians, our goal should not be our own power, our own control, or our own agenda. Our goal should be to lift up Jesus in every area of our lives. That can be hard in the midst of a heated discussion with those we love. But it is the only path to lasting happiness and peace. Any other path will lead to constant conflict with those we love.

The next time our cravings begin to collide with the cravings of someone else, we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves what response would glorify the Lord. Then, as hard as it may be, we should choose that response. Though it might not result in instant gratification, it will produce long term healthy results. After all, we will be part of our family for the rest of our lives. A future without constant conflict sure sounds better than one with constant conflict.

Lord, help us not to create conflict with others because we allow our own sinful desires to rule us. 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:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

House Built on Sand

Matthew 7:24-27
Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!

I saw him staggering across the sand as I packed up our chairs at the end of a great day at the beach. Soon the young man was not just staggering; he was vomiting onto the sand dune. He slowly made his way over the walkway through the sand dunes, stopping to relieve his lurching stomach every few steps. He finally sat down on the steps to the boardwalk and continued to discharge the contents of his stomach off to the side, in full view of others passing by. The young man’s father finally found him and tried to move him over to a more discreet place where he could finish emptying himself of the alcohol he had consumed. The very tense conversation between father and son was hard not to overhear. The son did not seem to understand that his father was trying to help him. The whole scene was sad to watch.

After my family passed by, I said to my own adult son, who was about the same age as the other young man, "I hope we never have a conversation like that." He assured me that we would never have such a conversation because our family was built on a solid foundation. We saw that young man several other times during our vacation at the beach, and it became painfully obvious that excessive alcohol drinking was only one of his issues.

One afternoon, after making a giant sand sculpture with my sons, we watched as the waves crashed in and destroyed our creation. In that moment, I thought about the young man we had seen throughout the week and how his life mirrored Matthew 7:24-27. That passage illustrates in a powerful way that if we build our lives on the Rock of Christ, when difficulties come, we will find the strength to endure. But if we build our lives on the shifting sands of our own selfish desires, doing whatever feels good in the moment, then when difficulties come, life falls apart. That young man, though barely launched into adulthood, was living a life that was already falling apart. This challenges those of us who know Jesus to build our lives on His Word, empowered by His Spirit, in a way that molds us to His image.

Lord, help us build our lives on the eternal Rock of Christ! Amen.

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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:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is Hypocricy a Legitimate Reason to Avoid Church? - Guest Post by David Wesley Gould

It is not uncommon for people to say that they don't go to church because of the hypocrites.
But how many know what an actual hypocrite is? This is a key element to the discussion. It can also help us have a better understanding of the state of the Church, and why people don't join with us in becoming all God designed us to be. One may think the church must be overrun with hypocrites. But is that true? And are hypocrites keeping people away from the church?

Some people accuse church people of acting one way at church, and another way when they are other places. That is probably true to a great degree. Yet, I would say that these accusers also act differently when they visit a church than when they are at the local bar. Hmmm.

Most Christians will admit to not being perfect. They will claim that by the grace of God, they aren't who they once were, but they also are not who they will become. They sometimes miss the mark when following Jesus. They have trusted Christ for salvation, but their actions don't always measure up. So while they claim one thing, you may at some point in the day catch them doing something else.
Let me just say, that is not being a hypocrite. If that person keeps you from church, you don't really understand what it means to be a Christian.

Now, there are people who claim to be Christians, but are only faking it, and using the name to gain an advantage. They do what Christian people do, but there is no true relationship with God, and they are only play-acting in order to fool people. In fact, that is the basic meaning of the word we translate ‘hypocrite’. The Bible speaks of hypocrites.

Υποκριτής [hupokritēs] - Greek - an actor under an assumed character (stage player)  - hypocrite.
Back in the day, an actor would hold up various masks to portray different characters. So to be a villain, he would place one mask over his face. To portray a hero, he would hold up a different mask. One person could be multiple characters. That is literally a hypocrite. And it is from this idea that we get our word ‘hypocrite’… one who wears a mask.

In the church, no one is an accidental hypocrite. A hypocrite is a person who is intentionally trying to deceive. They exist, but most people who are accused of being a hypocrite are not trying to mislead others.

The problem is, in the church, a hypocrite sometimes looks more like a real Christian than does a true growing Christian who happens to be struggling. So when you see a person once or twice, there is basically no way for you to know if they are a hypocrite, or a genuine Christian who is simply a stumbling disciple. That is one reason I don't buy into the "I don't go to church because of the hypocrites” objection.

Frankly, God wants to save hypocrites just like he wants to save prostitutes, druggies, liars, and gossips. The same people who complain because of the hypocrites in churches also complain when there are no others who need God. Wait… What?!?

So while there are certainly hypocrites who go to church, there aren't enough to legitimately keep you away. A person isn't a hypocrite just because they struggle and are tripped up in their Christian walk. The last thing that person needs is an outside spectator calling them a hypocrite.
God has a way of weeding out hypocrites. He also has a way of saving them. It is through the church. Don't let the enemy trick you out of God's gift of the Church.


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David W. Gould is ordained in the Wesleyan Church. He has pastored an inner city church in Nashville, TN and also served in various capacities at the District level. He currently writes and speaks on church and culture issues, and preaches in revival settings. David is also very involved in compassion-based ministries and has spent much of the last decade working with ministries to the homeless and poor.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Advantages of Being Bivocational

This past weekend I traveled to Michigan to take part in a Christian leadership conference. I was one of several presenters who led workshops for hundreds of leaders from around the state. The workshops I led were for pastors and leaders leaders in bivocational churches. I met some very dedicated servants of God who are determined to help their churches be as effective as possible, despite the challenges that bivocational ministry brings. In one candid moment of honesty two pastors shared with me that they really did NOT want to be bivocational. It was hard. It was challenging. It was exhausting. It was frustrating.

I can certainly understand their frustration. After all, they had invested a significant amount of time taking classes through various Bible schools in order to gain a solid theological education. In any other field, such an investment of time and money in education would result in promotions and raises that would lead to a nice job in the corner office. But for those called to bivocational ministry, the corner office means a folding table in the corner of the family room and successful careers are counted in souls won to Christ one at a time, not in bonuses or raises.

Balancing two jobs and a family is a challenge. Pastoral burn-out among bivocational pastors is notoriously high. Whether we like it or not, bivocational ministry is a reality that is not going away anytime soon. Both the current economic situation in the nation, as well as the giving trends of younger generations, indicate that churches will continue to struggle to fully-fund pastoral positions.

However, just because there are challenges to bivocational ministry does not mean that such situations should be viewed in a negative light. There are actually a number of advantages that bivocational pastors have over their fully-funded counterparts. Before dismissing bivocational ministry, pastors should consider these advantages:

1. Bivocational pastors are not as dependent on the church for their financial support as fully-funded pastors. This relieves them of the stress of what might happen to their families if they were dismissed from the churches they serve. In some situations, bivocational pastors actually have more personal resources than fully-funded pastors because they have two sources of income.

2. Bivocational pastors often find more opportunities to witness to the lost than fully-funded pastors because they spend more time with non-Christians through their secular employment.

3. Bivocational pastors seldom live in a “pious bubble” that only church people inhabit. Their secular employment requires them to interact with and understand better the needs of non-Christians. Therefore, they frequently feel they relate to the people in their congregations better than fully-funded pastors because they “work” just like the laypeople do. These frequent interactions and the increased sense of relating to laypeople often help bivocational pastors have more realistic sermon illustrations and greater credibility in the pulpit.

4. Bivocational pastors have the ability to serve a larger number of churches because they can serve churches that cannot fully-fund pastors. They also get to experience the joy of allowing churches to fund other needed ministries instead of so much of the churches’ funding going to support their own salaries.

5. Bivocational pastors feel they are better able to encourage the churches they serve to create a culture of the laity using their gifts and the laity devoting more time for ministry since there were no fully-funded pastors “paid” to do “everything” for congregations. Most bivocational pastors feel this creates healthy churches over the long term, though it sometimes creates more stress in the short term.

6. Bivocational pastors often feel it is easier to teach about financial stewardship and/or to solicit contributions from church members. This is because so little of the churches’ funds are spent on the pastors’ salaries that the pastors asking for money is not perceived as being “self-serving.”

7. Bivocational pastors frequently express that they feel more dependent on the Holy Spirit in their sermon preparation and less dependent on their formal theological training or on their elocution or research skills. This greater sense of dependence on the Spirit is perceived as a positive thing by most bivocational pastors. It is interesting to note that the bivocational pastors who expressed this the most strongly had often previously served larger churches in which they had been fully-funded.

8. Bivocational pastors sometimes say that being bivocational gives them valid excuses not to attend denominational meetings that they perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting, and/or promoting things that are not helpful to their own ministry. This does not mean they never attend meetings, but that their bivocational status makes them feel more comfortable attending only the meetings that they perceive as being more applicable to their situation. If those same pastors had been fully-funded, they would have felt a greater obligation to attend meetings that they did not think would be beneficial anyway.

While bivocational ministry has many challenges, it also has many advantages. Learning what the advantages are can help bivocational pastors, or those considering bivocational ministry, feel better about their ministry. When bivocational pastors feel more confident about their roles, they tend to be more effective in their ministries. Churches and denominational leaders need to look for ways to help bivocational pastors celebrate the advantages of bivocational ministries since it is a growing reality in North American church life.

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Terry Dorsett is a church planter in New England and the author of several books, including Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Misunderstanding God's Emails

Isaiah 30:18 - Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy.


I still remember the painful lesson I learned many years ago when email first became a popular communication tool. Another person and I had a disagreement about something and exchanged a series of emails back and forth about it. Though most of the emails were cordial, toward the end of the exchange, as our frustration level increased, the emails got curt, tense and a bit mean. If someone read the entire exchange of emails, he or she would have understood the flow of conversation and clearly see the effort made by both parties to correct the situation. But the last couple of emails, read out of context, made us both look mean-spirited.

Regretfully, my friend chose to share my last email with a number of other people. Since he did not share the rest of the conversation, it made me look bad. Though we eventually got it all worked out, it took a long time to repair the relationship. I learned a valuable lesson in that experience about how easy it is to take something out of context if one does not understand the entire conversation.

This seems to be the case when many people read certain sections of the Old Testament. A young man in our church asked me a question about an Old Testament passage that described a particular judgment God exercised on a group of people. Like many of the episodes of God’s wrath in the Old Testament, the example seemed harsh when lifted out of the context of the entire Old Testament narrative.

I reminded the young man that the Old Testament narrative covers a historical period of nearly 4000 years. During that time a compassionate and gracious God revealed Himself again and again to a people that often ignored His overtures of love. God never sent judgment without first sending a warning – oftentimes, repeated warnings. He sent prophets, priests, and kings to lead the people in the right direction. God used miracles, both small and large, to demonstrate that He was real and could be trusted.

In the Old Testament, God was long-suffering in His efforts to draw people to Himself. Yet, at certain points during that time period, God judged evil behavior. If we only focus on those moments of judgment, the God of the Old Testament seems harsh, perhaps even evil. But if we read the entire conversation, we see a love story between God and a people He was trying to draw to Himself.

Much like the email conversation I had with my friend so many years ago, if one reads only the last email, one may get a skewed picture of the author. But if people read the entire conversation, the final email makes more sense. If we approach our study of the Old Testament the same way, we will find far more nuggets of unfailing, faithful love than we realized in those ancient texts.

Lord, help me be diligent to read Your entire conversation with Your people so I can more fully understand Your goodness. 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:


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mentoring the Next Generation

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.


The P & H Truck Stop in Wells River, Vermont, is famous for its maple cream pie and their broasted chicken. My family has eaten there often with friends. One Sunday after church, a group of ten of us went for lunch. Four of us in the group were middle-aged. The other six were young adults, ages 17-20.

Lunch that day still stands out in my mind because of what I witnessed in the lives of those young adults. They laughed a lot. They talked about school, teachers, music, movies and other things that are critically important to young adult happiness. They occasionally whispered to each other about things my middle-aged ears could not quite catch. A game room at the truck stop had a crane game in it. Somehow our group managed to win one stuffed animal after another from that machine. After lunch, the young adults went swimming at a local watering hole before eventually returning to our house to watch a movie.

What is so remarkable about a day like that? Many people think that young adults can only have fun if they are having wild parties that feature drugs, alcohol, and sex. I am not naive. I know that plenty of young adults engage in those activities. I know that sometimes even Christian young adults make bad choices. But that particular day as I watched that group, I was reminded that there are many Christian young adults who are trying to live a life of purity before God. The group that day had a lot of fun without all the negative influences of the world. No one in the group had to wake up the next morning and wonder where he or she had spent the night, or had to rush to the bathroom to throw up from drinking too much. It was a wonderful day with a great group of young adults, only one of many such days we celebrated with that group of young adults.

If Christians would like to see more groups of young adults make right choices, we need to offer ourselves as mentors to them. Young adults need mature Christians to offer them a safe place to laugh, a living room in a drug and alcohol free home where they can hang out, and the influence of some mature Christians who know how to be present but not overbearing. If more young people had such an environment, they would not need drugs and alcohol in their lives. They would have all the joy and happiness they needed. Those of us who are more mature must be willing to be mentors and provide safe space, thus allowing us to pass on our faith to the next generation in a natural way.

Lord, help us be the mentors in both faith and daily life that young people need. 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:


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Whole Lives in the Front Yard

Matthew 10:29-31 - Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.


In 2012 Vermont was hit hard by the effects of Hurricane Irene. Southern Vermont was devastated and many towns were forever altered. Northfield and Waterbury, both in Central Vermont, were also badly hit. At the time, I was the Director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. In that role I was involved in a whirlwind of activity helping coordinate disaster relief efforts.

One evening I drove through a small village looking at ruined possessions strewn in font yards. Clothes, furniture, kitchen appliances, books and all manner of personal possessions were in pile after pile. A few days before, these villagers had no idea that their personal possessions would soon lie in ruins on their front lawns because of flood waters. The flood waters had ruined these items. Though they had once held great value to the owners, now they were simply waiting to be loaded into a dumpster and thrown away. At first glance, it would seem that people's whole lives were in their front yards.

But our lives are not just the accumulation of possessions. As bad as the floods were across our state, only a handful of people lost their lives. The vast majority of people only lost their belongings. While I do not mean to make light of the loss of one's possessions, I would suspect that if we interviewed any of those flood victims, they would all agree that having their family safe was far more important than having those piles of possessions back. As long as we have one another, we will have our most important possessions.

Lord, help us appreciate the people in our lives and not focus so much on our possessions. 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: