If you are new to our blog, we encourage you to read some of our first posts (from October/November 2009) so that you will understand the
beginning of our journey.


Friday, January 29, 2010

A Ministry of Proclamation

I’ve been preaching and teaching for many years, but these roles never have been the primary focus of my ministry. As noted in a prior post (“Rediscovering Myself”), God has made it clear that this is going to change, so I’m now prayerfully searching for a church that would like me to serve as their primary pulpit teacher.

I’ve been pondering the privilege and responsibility that comes with such a role, and it seemed appropriate to lay down some principles that will guide me as I serve. So here are my personal “Principles of Biblical Proclamation”.

1. I believe the Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

2. The only wisdom I have to offer a church community is based on, and flows from, the eternal truth contained in the Bible.

3. Biblical proclamation - preaching, teaching, speaking, writing - requires me to diligently study and prepare, so that God’s truth can be faithfully passed on to His people (to the best of my finite ability).

4. The purpose of my study and proclamation is not simply to acquire and dispense knowledge. I must allow God’s Spirit to engage my mind and my heart, so that He can begin His transforming work within me. I then must share His truth in a way that engages the minds and hearts of the congregation, so that God can begin His transforming work within each person.

5. I preach and teach with the assumption that God’s purposes always will be accomplished when His Word is proclaimed. Therefore, people may be gripped by a particular point within a message in ways beyond what I can conceive. This serves as a humble reminder that ultimately He is the one who crafts the message and uses it to touch people’s lives.

6. Biblical proclamation is, at root, based on the good news that Jesus Christ gave His life for undeserving sinners and that faith in Him is the only way of salvation. Therefore, I must incorporate this truth implicitly – if not explicitly – into every message.

7. As I proclaim God’s Word, I must regularly share my own spiritual journey with the church. People will respond more effectively if they know that I am a “fellow traveler” in the life of faith, with my own set of successes, failures, questions, and struggles.

8. Effective proclamation must, over time, offer the church a balanced spiritual diet. This means I must proclaim God’s revelation under the Old Covenant and explain how it was completed and fulfilled through the New Covenant. I must call people to repentance and confession, and offer words of both encouragement and exhortation. In the area of application, I must address beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. And I must guide followers of Jesus in the delicate balancing act between “being” (life with Christ) and “doing” (our service for Christ).

9. The best way for me to fulfill #8 is to immerse myself in God’s Word and prayerfully seek His counsel on behalf of the church. I must be committed to preaching through all of the Bible - even the difficult and controversial passages - so that we will have the opportunity to hear all that God wants to say to us.

My prayer is that I can faithfully follow these principles to (a) help bring new people into the community of faith, and (b) help followers of Jesus experience an ever-deeper life with Him.


Bruce

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Abundant Life….Life-Giving!

I have always believed that God desires us to have a full life…an abundant life (John 10:10). A life filled with all the good things that He offers, such as joy and peace and contentment. But during this last year, I was jolted when I realized that I was teaching this to others, but was no longer experiencing it myself. I felt stressed, tired, depleted (emotionally and even spiritually). I started to wonder, “Where is this abundant life that Jesus offers? How and where did I lose it?”

I’ve been reflecting on this topic for about six months now, and I think God is starting to give me His answer: I lost my sense of God’s abundant life because I stopped including “life-giving activities” in my regular routine.

I became caught up in the “ have to’s” and the “should’s” and the “musts”…and then felt like I never could do enough to keep up. I became too embroiled in tasks that demanded attention, but did not feed my heart and my soul. I became consumed by administrative tasks which steered me away from people and kept me chained to my desk and my computer. All of this pressed me down…and the result was too many days that were “life-robbing” instead of “life-giving.” 

So I missed opportunities to be creative, to soak in beauty, to laugh, to spend time in meaningful ways with others, and even just to rest – truly rest – from my labor. I allowed my heart to be trapped, and along the way... little by little…I lost a sense of the abundant life. It happened slowly, over time, so I did not fully realize how depleted I was. But now, thankfully, I can feel myself changing; I can feel myself grasping for the fun, the excitement, and the awesome mystery that Christ offers as we live life with Him.

So instead of being controlled by the tyranny of the urgent, I’m savoring each moment. I’m receiving each day as a special gift from the Father, and I try to show appreciation for His gift by looking for fresh ways to engage in life-giving activities. Most of all, I’m deeply grateful that God has given me this opportunity to recapture the abundant life.

- Julie

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rediscovering Myself

Gaining new insights into myself has been one of the great blessings of our sabbatical. I have to admit, though, that some of these insights can be painful to accept.

Sadly, I’ve realized that I am a “people pleaser”. This caught me a bit by surprise, because I certainly do not fit the typical profile of this kind of person. I have strong opinions. I’m often willing to take unpopular stands, or swim against the tide in order to do what is right. But...in my relationships…I hate to disappoint people. I don’t like confrontation. And particularly within the church, I want to be perceived as loyal. The result? I wind up saying “yes” to too many things. I wind up taking on jobs and roles that are not part of my primary calling.

When God called me out of the business world and into ministry back in 1990, it was clear that my ministry was to primarily focus on the proclamation of His Word. And for the first few years, that is what I did. But somewhere along the way, I lost sight of this ministry priority. Why? Because God has given me an above average ability to organize people and programs and events. So the church – while affirming my teaching gifts – kept asking me to take on more and more operational tasks. And for the reasons noted above, I kept saying “yes”.

I know that I accomplished a lot of good, and I know that I helped the church. But I now recognize that this was, to a certain extent, a betrayal of my calling.

God has used this season to remind me of my primary purpose: to preach and teach His Word. This is so crystal clear that I feel as if I have rediscovered myself.

This clarity is vital as I begin to look for work, because it gives me deep confidence to say “no” to ministry opportunities that do not line up with God’s plan. When you’re out of work, it’s tempting to accept the first decent job that comes along. I’ve already had people ask me to take on various administrative, organizational, and operational roles. In each case, I’ve said “no”. I’ve said it with confidence, and I’ve said it with peace in my soul. Because as I’ve rediscovered myself, I’ve recaptured the essence of what God is calling me to do.

- Bruce

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Making the Most of a Gift

This season of sabbatical truly has been transformational, because I am recalibrating my life in significant ways. I am making more time for the things that truly count, and I am learning how to say “no” to tasks and responsibilities that logically belong to others.

Now that 2010 has arrived, I’m starting to look for a new ministry position. This process probably will not move forward quickly, so our sabbatical will continue for at least a few more months. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to invest in my personal growth and development.

Having the time to do this vital work truly is a gift, and this morning I felt some chagrin that I did not seize the moment earlier in my life. And then I realized that this gift comes at a cost…and I had to reach a certain point of desperation before I was willing to count the cost.

Julie and I are not high wage earners…we’re not sitting on pots of excess money…so quitting our jobs was not as easy decision. We do not want to live on debt, so we decided to pay our bills by using assets that were earmarked for “the future”. Needless to say, there is a certain amount of risk involved in this. Ministers typically don’t get cushy pensions, so we have to rely on ourselves for our retirement years. It’s hard to decide to deliberately shrink the nest egg you’ve been trying to build. But as we wrestled with this decision, I sensed God saying to us, “Are you going to rely on me, or are you going to rely on yourselves?” (Luke 12:16-21).

So while choosing not to work for a season was a big step of faith, the decision about how to fund our sabbatical also was a big step of faith. But without these risks, Julie and I would not be enjoying the gift of our sabbatical. Without these risks, we would not be drawing closer to God and to each other. Without these risks, I would not be able to so clearly discern God’s “next steps” for my life. (I’ll have more to say about that last comment in a future post).

All of this is a huge lesson for me; a reminder that to enjoy God’s gifts I must pursue them. I must claim them. At times, I must take risks to enjoy them and experience them. But when I step out in faith, I get to enjoy His presence and His touch in ever new ways. And that is the greatest gift of all.


- Bruce

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

De-Cluttering

The past couple of months I have been de-cluttering our home. I began to feel like my clutter (the collection of “stuff” that I had accumulated over the years) was creating an overwhelming burden to clean, maintain, think about, and store. Just as my mind has been cluttered with too many things to think about, my home has become cluttered with too many things to take care of. There are things that don’t reflect who we are or that we simply do not need at this season in our lives.

I am feeling good about the process. It will take awhile to arrive at the level of simplicity I’m looking for, but I am seeing daily progress. So we’ve given away some family items to our kids; I’ve given some children’s books and other special items to friends, and we’ve donated many things to Goodwill.

Because our shelves are less packed, I am actually being able to find books that were old friends and read them, instead of searching because I couldn’t figure out where they were on the shelf. I can actually find my way through the tablecloth drawer, because it only contains those I actually use. I’ve streamlined my tea cup collection just a little, so I can see what I have and enjoy looking at those I’ve kept and really intend to use. Going from room- to-room and shelf- to-shelf takes time. But it feels so freeing to be less encumbered by stuff…and to have my home filled only with the things I need in this season of life.

Our home is not just looking less cluttered; it also feels more restful. And I actually feel a difference inside me as I de-clutter not just my home…but my mind and my life.


- Julie