A Seminary Professor Finds Peace

In his book, They Found the Secret (Zondervan), former Chancellor of Wheaton College, Dr. V. Raymond Edmond, noticed a pattern in the lives of 20 Christian leaders. After their wholehearted commitment to God (Romans 12:1,2), their came a season of weariness– an awareness of their inability to live victoriously. Then there was a grace awakening related to their union with Christ that gave them increased peace, joy, and fruitfulness.

Dr. John Best, had a similar breakthrough while teaching New Testament Greek at Dallas Seminary. He recounts his spiritual journey in this video. His testimony and others are in the book, Exchanged Lives! (available on Amazon Kindle as an ebook).

The Risk of Ministry Burnout

The Risk of Ministry Burnout: How to Survive and Thrive by God’s Grace

was the topic of a recent webinar hosted by Grace Fellowship International.

Pastor Bob Galasso testified of how he and his wife, Joan, experienced burnout, but also went through a process of rest, discovery, renewal. This opened the door for a new season of encouraging others through Alive in Christ Ministries. Bob is the author of ‘Stones Of Remembrance’, and ‘A Leap of Faith’ (available on Amazon.com). He can be reached at delightedbyjoy@yahoo.com

The Greatest Thanksgiving

by Dr. Lewis Gregory

America the Beautiful, we have much for which to be thankful. Truly “God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea!” Therefore, let your thanksgiving include all we are and have as a nation, by virtue of God’s abundant mercy and grace. “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:8-9).

But the greatest thanksgiving this Thanksgiving Day should be “For the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:14–15). The greatest occasion to give thanks is for the grace that God has bestowed upon us all through Jesus Christ. God’s grace is freely available to all mankind because of Christ’s death upon the cross. Grace is the activity of God on our behalf, as mediated by Jesus Christ. It is the gift of God! Grace is a reality to be experienced with thanksgiving! God’s grace is so far beyond the grasp of our finite minds that it truly defies description. While most people may be at a loss for words when it comes to grace, there is one thing that everybody can say, “Thank You, God!” So, this Thanksgiving, as well as every day, remember to thank God for the indescribably amazing grace that is now yours in Christ…

Read the full article here:
https://mailchi.mp/1fe7ef39b706/tgim-this-is-living-642158?e=8f7f3f3f4c

The Life of a Jesus Follower

“Does Christianity ever seem like a burden to you? Why is something that came so naturally to Jesus so difficult for us? We have complicated and over-programmed the simple way that Jesus showed us to love God and others.

Jesus’ life on earth revolved around three relationships. First, He walked in an intimate love relationship with the Father. Second, He lived His life in fellowship with His disciples—doing life with others was the outflow of His relationship with the Father. And third, He lived His life engaging and cultivating relationships with people who didn’t know God at all.

These relationships define the essence of the life of a Jesus follower. And when we follow Jesus’ model of relationship, we will sink into the freedom He offers. We will stop working so hard, bound by the exhausting and burdensome rules of religion. Instead, we will allow His life to take over our own.”

The Life of a Jesus Follower Bible Study book by pastor Vance Pitman includes printed content for eight small group sessions, personal study between meetings, applicable Scripture, “How to Use This Study,” tips for leading a group, and a leader guide. Published as a book and church resource package by Lifeway.com

Listen to the interview of this author on Ed Stetzer’s radio program as reported here.

What Constitutes a “Good Pastor”?

by Jim Fowler

What constitutes a “good preacher/pastor?” When Jesus was called a “good teacher,” He explained that “no one is good apart from God” (Lk. 18:18). A good pastor-teacher is one who knows God, not just theology about God, but has a genuine personal and intimate knowing- relationship with God through the indwelling presence and union with the Spirit of Christ, and allows his life and ministry to be empowered by the dynamic of the Holy Spirit.

The objective of a pastor/ preacher is to preach the living Jesus he personally knows. “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord” (ll Cor. 4:5). “We preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23]. If the preacher’s message does not assist the congregation to understand how the risen and living Lord Jesus relates to their daily lives, then it is not Christian preaching. The purpose of preaching is not merely the recitation of historical details of scripture, nor is it theological explanations of factual data. I recall hearing a sermon that did not mention the name of Jesus even once until the obligatory closing prayer ended, “in Jesus name.”

Preachers, pastors, ministers must be humble enough to recognize that they are just human beings like everyone else. They are not celebrities to be revered. Though expected to be models of spiritual maturity, and sometimes occupying an elevated pulpit that looks down on the “laity,” the preacher must be honest and transparent. Admission of personal faults, failures and weaknesses, allows the people to identify with their shepherd. Warned not to “lord it over” the flock (1 Pet. 5:3), pastors must avoid “pastoral authority” and attempts to dictate, intimidate or manipulate. The objective is simply to share JESUS in one’s proclamation and life.

Jim Fowler, Focusing ion Jesus: Daily Christ-centered Thoughts (CIY Publishing). Copyrighted, 2019; used with permission. www.Christinyou.net

Finding Relationship in Christ

The audio podcast “Ed Stetzer Live “helps you live out the truth of the gospel in a rapidly changing world.” His January 4, 2020 broadcast featured an interview about personal and church renewal based on the Abiding Life. “As believers, we try hard to live the Christian life, doing good works, sharing the gospel and maintaining a moral code. But sometimes the list of do’s and don’ts can feel exhausting and overwhelming. In examining Jesus’ life in the gospels, Las Vegas Pastor Vance Pitman says he’s found some spiritual truths that have set him free from some of his burdens… and helped him rediscover the joy of the love relationship that Jesus provides.”

A recurring theme in the interview is our Lord’s invitation for grace-based salvation and discipleship: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

This Moody Radio episode as available on Apple Podcasts and online here:
Finding Relationship in Christ
https://www.moodyradio.org/programs/ed-stetzer-live/2020/01/finding-relationship-in-christ/

Charles Stanley: Crucified with Christ

The January 20, 2020 broadcast of In Touch Radio featured an excellent message by Dr. Charles Stanley on the Galatians 2:20 theme: “Crucified with Christ.”  This is a clear and motivational exposition of Romans 6; it’s the essential message for personal revitalization. Dr. Solomon (Grace Fellowship) and Dr. and Mrs. Gillham (Lifetime Guarantee) taught these profound truths in their conferences at First Baptist Atlanta in the early ’80’s and has been central to their pastoral and lay counseling ministry over the decades. (Check out GFI podcast interviews with Dr. Al Scardino about this.) This message can be downloaded and shared via In Touch here: www.intouch.org/listen/featured/crucified-with-christ

Another Pastor Finds Relief

Here is part of the spiritual journey testimony of Mark McKeehan who serves as Senior pastor of Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN


My journey to the cross of total surrender was hard; in May of 2003, I was in Sherman, Texas, for Passion One-Day, which is a Christian conference designed for College students… That day as I finished praying, I could hear the song from Chris Tomlin called “Enough.” Part of the lyrics say, “All of you, is more than enough for all of me.” I realized Jesus is enough! He is enough when times are good and when times are not. That day, I began to understand and learn about total surrender. It was also the time I began to live open-handed. If I own nothing, then nothing can be taken from me!

I moved back to Knoxville, TN in April of 2006. For three years I was the Student Pastor at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church. After three years, I was asked to transition to Lead Pastor. During the transition from student pastor to lead pastor I became close with a man named Blaine Anderson. Blaine quickly became a spiritual father to me, and he began using a term I had never heard before. The term was “spiritual world.” Blaine began to disciple me in the works of Holy Spirit and my spiritual eyes and ears were awakened even more. Finally, I had found someone who could explain to me what I wanted to learn so many years earlier. I began to meet with Blaine to talk about Holy Spirit and what he called the Spirit World. For the first time in my life, Holy Spirit became less of a mystery and I began to interact with Him as a person, as God.

Yet, about five years ago I was on the edge of burnout. The ministry at the church wasn’t bad, but the finances, people, ministry, staff and all the counseling sessions became too much for me. I felt like I was drowning with no lifeline. I wanted to quit, but I knew that would not honor nor glorify the name of Jesus. My identity was focused in temporal and wrong things. I would come in on Mondays and if our offering was good then I thought I was a good pastor. However, if the offerings were bad then I was a bad pastor. I also began to evaluate myself through the way I preached. If people responded, I thought I was doing well but if they didn’t then I thought I was failing. My identity was wrong, so therefore I was “feeling” things and thinking they were true when in fact they were just “feelings.”

I asked the deacons first, then the church, if I could take a one-month sabbatical. During my sabbatical I was introduced to GFI. I had heard of them before, but honestly, I never took the time to really listen. Now, feeling I was at the bottom, I started to listen to [the Church’s Discipleship Counselor] Hans Haun who had tried so many times before to reach out to me… After my sabbatical, I realized I needed boundaries or what I call “guardrails” in my life. One of those guardrails was to meet regularly with Hans.

At our first meeting, my life was changed! I sat in my office as I watched Hans draw out the wheel and line diagrams. As he explained the “Exchanged Life” to me I sat there thinking, “This is why I do what I do. This is why I react in emotion and I feel like a failure!” My identity is wrong, and self is leading my life. That day I began praying the “selfers” prayer of total surrender. I began to ponder Dr. Solomon’s statement, “We learn to be in experience who we already are in position.” I am seated with Christ in heavenly places. My identity is no longer in offerings or sermons. In Christ, I am chosen, I am called, I am beloved, and I am complete.

Now, I reckon myself dead unto sin and alive unto God (Romans 6). I understand that one of my greatest enemies is my flesh and daily I need to reckon that, in Christ, my flesh has been crucified with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). My identity isn’t in what I do, what I fail at, or even how I feel. My identity isn’t in what others think or say about me; good or bad. My identity is in Christ and I am who He says I am. He called and chose me before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4), which means He chose me before I could do anything to earn it or to do anything that would disqualify me from receiving it. He loves me not because of who I am, but because of who He is! I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10) and this means I lack nothing. I am deficient in nothing. I can no longer say, “If I had more grace or mercy then I would be a better pastor.” I have all of the grace and mercy I need because I have Holy Spirit in me. The power that has raised the dead, (Romans 8), is in me. Christ in me is the key that changes everything. So, Galatians 2:20 isn’t just a verse to memorize; it is my life. I died, I was buried, but I was also raised to walk in newness of life! My goal is to live surrendered to Jesus, walking with and being led by Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). As I abide in Christ, then He can work through me and the works He does are perfect, just and good!…