Challenging believers in Jesus to think and act based on Bible truth.

On My Mind #52: I Am NOT a Professional

Just last week I attended the Desiring God Pastors Conference in Minneapolis. It was a fantastic three days, with lots of great messages and good fellowship.

From all of it, one thing stands out: I am NOT a PROFESSIONAL.

Much of what a pastor does looks professional. Salary, dress, skill set, expectations — all of these can make it look like a pastor holds a regular, professional gig. But that is exactly what the conference theme looked to debunk. Pastors are NOT professionals. That is because spiritual leadership isn’t professional. Instead, it’s reliant, spirit-led, hopefully spirit-filled.

Some personal applications:
-I want to debunk any notion that I am a professional.
-I want to rely on God in all ways.
-May every single aspect of my responsibilities be brought under the weighty glory of the Almighty God I serve.
-May every temptation (from subtle to blatant) to lead a church according to worldly ways be revealed for what it is.
-I pray for the wisdom and discernment to see with spiritual eyes.

I pray that the unimaginable and mind-blowing love of God through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the very thing that fuels my life.

A quote from John Piper’s book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals echoes in my mind, and serves well to end this post:

“Banish professionalism from our midst, O God, and in it’s place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unrelenting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. In Jesus’ great and powerful name. Amen.”

On My Mind #51: Here is a practical, direct way to help the Newtown community.

On December 14 the way we speak of tragedy changed with the unspeakable shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Following that, I got pretty disgusted that a lot of people (Christians included) used the tragedy as a sounding board for their agenda or idea.  You can read that post here.

The bottom line is that I think too many people run their mouth without ever doing anything. So, in a case of “Kevin, you should live up to your own words,” I did something.  And as a result, I’d like to share an opportunity with you.

I wasn’t sure what to do in response to this tragedy, and as I prayed about it I remembered reading an article in World Magazine about the shootings.  They had interviewed a pastor at a local church which was responding to the tragedy.  One thing led to another and I simply sent an e-mail to the church, letting them know I’d seen the article and communicating my desire to pray for them.

I never expected a reply, let alone a personal one.  But, I got a personal reply from one of the staff pastors at Walnut Hill Community Church, about 5 miles from the Newtown area.  And the pastor’s reply included a link to a fund that is being spearheaded to help with ongoing counseling for the area.  The fund is going to be overseen by its own board.  Mental health professionals are telling them that ten years of counseling will be necessary following a tragedy of this nature. So, they’re trying to raise $300,000, and you can donate by clicking here:

http://www.walnuthillcc.org/home/news/0000/00-00/reaching-out-to-sandy-hook-community

I plan to donate at some point in the near future and I encourage you to do the same.  Don’t have much money? Please commit to pray, or send a letter to this church, or another in the area.  From the pastor who responded to me there was genuine gratitude for the prayers and encouragement of outsiders.

1 Cor 12:26: …If  one part suffers, every part suffers with it…

On My Mind #50: Reflecting on 2012

I know we’re more than two weeks into 2013, but I wanted to make note of some serious highlights of 2012.

1. It truly was a year of spiritual growth.

I know a LOT of people who grew spiritually in 2012. Several became believers, several got baptized (our daughter’s baptism in 2012 will be something we remember for a long time), and several took big leaps in their spiritual commitment. I traveled to Haiti with some amazing people and had experiences I’ll never forget. Honestly, if we don’t see this, let’s call it a day and do something else!

2. Wow. We adopted a child. Wow.

It’s truly hard to believe that God brought this about in our lives. October 29 will never be the same day on our calendar!! We are still very thankful to so many people who prayed for us and supported us leading up to Jocelyn’s adoption into our family.

3. I ran 50 miles and raised $1500 for IJM.

Running 50 miles was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My body is just now feeling back to 100% after a long season of training and recovery which involved a lot of sacrificed time and sleep. I still feel like it was a reflection of the intentional choices we must make to grow spiritually. Wow.

4. There was a lot of death in 2012.

It was a hard year as a lot of people I know and love went to be with Jesus. Families I know and love buried loved ones, bringing seasons of grief and pain. But, Christians grieve with hope. And, I’ve been encouraged by the hopefulness of believers grieving loved ones.

5. Our family had a lot going on!

My mother moved out of our childhood home, my brother moved to Australia, we vacationed in NC this summer, and I got to have some great experiences with the kids — my first concert with Lexi and my first Yankees game with David. To top it off, we had a room built on our house, so we had plenty of things filling up our time!

Those are just a few of the highlights. What a year it was!

On my mind #49: Tragedy is not a platform: My thoughts on responding to national tragedies.

I’m not sure I’m calmed down enough to write this.  I’ve not been calm in several of the discussions I’ve been in, and that’s simply because I think a bunch of people are wrong.

Well, I’m sure that sounds arrogant, but I’ll do my best to explain.

Tragedy is not a platform.

The unspeakable tragedy and its consequences that have unfolded over the past week in Newtown are first and foremost that, a tragedy.  But many, even people I love to read and usually agree with, have turned this tragedy into a platform.

The mass loss of life (especially the lives of children) is NO OCCASION to rant about agendas.  I’m foremost against those who have been having discussions about gun control in the past week.  I’m also really against those who fill the airwaves with discussions about how this can be stopped and the never-ending focus on the shooter.  For crying out loud all of the the dead are not buried yet!  These platforms, in my view, are a complete waste of breath, and I’ve paid little attention.

Tragedy is tragedy – think about reality.

Think about the reality of what happened.  The blood of children (children!) was spilled all over an elementary school.  The lives of heroic teachers and administrators were cut short.  Children are without friends and siblings.  Parents face the stark reality that their children will NEVER grow up, and all they have remaining now are pictures and memories.  Christmas trees in Newtown have gifts under them that will never be opened.

Newtown, Connecticut will always be associated with one evil man.  Real human beings went into the school and carried out the bodies of twenty children who were shot – many of them multiple times according to reports.  Real human beings will endure those experiences over and over in their minds.  Real human beings heard gunshots and protected the children who survived.  Real human beings responded and heard the bullet that took the cowardly gunman’s life.  Tragedy is tragedy – and because of that, the lives of those in Newtown are utterly re-shaped beyond the imagination of anyone who wasn’t there.

President Obama did a good job, but . . . 

I think our president has natural gifts of displaying compassion.  His speech Sunday night to those grieving in an auditorium was full of love for hurting people.  I’ll never be in that specific spot, but I do wish he simply would have called the nation into mourning.  Instead of even hinting at policy change, I think he should have challenged the American people to hurt – together.  We should have been challenged to cancel activities, wear black, gather as communities, pray, and mourn, at least for a week so we could focus together on the burial of the dead.  He should have asked those already yapping about political issues to stop out of respect for the dead.  At the very least I wish he would have put the focus solely on the victims (both dead and living), and how those attempting to move on need our support in grief.

And so we’re divided, and narcissistic.

My biggest concerns are not about gun control, mental health, Adam Lanza, arming educators, video game violence, or other things people are flapping their jaws about in regards to why this happened.  My concern is that we are narcissistic.  My concern is that we will take to social media to prove a point or promote an agenda – and trample both on the grief of the living and the honor of the dead while climbing the steps to our platform.  And that concern is spiritual.

The only conversation that really matters . . . 

is the gospel conversation.  The gospel — you remember that, right?  The good news? That Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners?  The only hope of man in difficult in dark times?  The only hope of Newtown?  The gospel is ultimately others centered.  That was the ultimate thrust of Jesus’ life.  And so, the narcissism of promoting our agenda in the immediate wake of tragedy is completely me centered.

If you’re a Christian, how much have you prayed for the spiritual healing of Newtown, the churches and leaders performing these funerals, and the eternal destiny of grieving parents?  If you’re a Christian, how much have you searched Scripture for truth that informs, or sought out Christian blogs and articles that help you think about Christ, the gospel, and the presence of evil? If the answer to these questions is: “not as much as I’ve watched the news, listened to gun control debates, and fed my mind with secular solutions to evil”, then I strongly encourage you to divorce your politics from your faith and learn how to put humanity first.

We should . . . 

Continue to grieve.  We should continue to pray diligently for those affected by this massive local and national loss.  We should be careful talking about policy moving forward.  If prompted, we should find a way to send a care package, a letter, a card, or some way to encourage the families in Newtown.  And then we should do it again 3 months and 6 months from now.  We should commit to pray for weeks, months, years. When this event leaves the news, it will barely be beginning to sink into the hearts and minds of those affected.  The road of grief for these families is not measured in terms of length of media coverage.  It will likely be until they go to their own graves.

We should pray as churches, smaller fellowships, families, and individuals.  We should cry.  We should cry privately, and we should cry out to God in the absence of answers.  We should ask that God will help us show an ability to trust in His sovereignty and knowledge, and that from shore to shore His grace and truth would fill this land in effective displays of compassion, unity, and concern for the loss of life experienced one week ago.

On My Mind #48: Eight Ways I Fight Against Being Depressed

Well, this could totally fail, or this could be helpful.  As usual, let me clear up a few things I’m not doing.

  1. I’m not writing a clinical directory for handling depression.
  2. I’m not writing in judgment of anyone who struggles with depression.
  3. I’m not telling you that what works for me will automatically work for you (see the title).

What is going on here is that I am simply sharing some encouragement.  I am willing to fight when I am depressed.  Here are some things I do when those seasons come.

1. I remember God’s truth.

When I am down, it is usually because I am struggling to understand why things are happening, or because a lot of things are going wrong at once.  In these situations, I am focused on my view of things.  When this happens, I must focus on God’s version of things.  The unknown is not for me to figure out – it is for me to trust.  I cannot let the weight of trying to understand why everything is happening consume me, so I do my best to spend extra time in prayer.

2. I focus on Scripture.

This is especially true in the times when I’m up at night and can’t sleep.  I recently went through a stretch where I was awake most of about 5 nights in a week.  Certain Scriptural passages (the sermon on the mount, Psalms) really help to re-orient my thinking to trust in God.  These passages are full of truth which help keep my mind sharp and reveal to me the lie that worrying can fix things.

3. I pray a lot.

This seems really silly to say, but let me explain.  I pray specifically about the situations that have me stressed.  I pray specifically for anyone I’m having a hard time communicating with.  I pray specifically about the unknown and I ask God to help me understand this season.  And, yes, I tell God I’m struggling with being down and I pray for specific encouragement.

4. I give thanks for trials.

I believe the enemy gives us trials to destroy us.  I cannot stand for this.  The Bible gives us a totally different view on struggle and trial.  The Bible says trials can deepen our joy, bring about greater resolve, build character, and ultimately hope.  The first portion of Romans 5 is an excellent place to grasp this truth, as is James 1.  It’s no fun to ask God to bring something good out of your trial.  Honestly, it’s more fun to pout, throw a pity party, sulk, complain, whine, .  . . can you tell I’ve had practice?  But those things do not lead to my growth.  I encourage a little release of frustration – God is ready to hear our frustration, as the Psalm writers indicate by pouring out their frustration from time to time.  But extending this only breeds a bitterness that just isn’t necessary.  I encourage you to let your trials bring trust.

5. I give praise when He shows specific encouragement.

Without fail, there are specifically encouraging things that happen.  Conflict is resolved.  A door to communication is open. You realize you’re growing because His kindness leads you to repent of ways you’ve sinned and failed.  These are all precious results of trusting God through difficult times.  It’s never fast, never simple, but neither is life.  Don’t expect immediate results like you expect the Crunchwrap Supreme to be made in minutes.

6. I force myself to stick with the routine.

It is my tendency to withdraw when I’m frustrated.  So, when I have that temptation, I do my best to fight it.  I show up where I usually show up.  I spend time with people I normally spend time with.  This reminds me the depression is not winning.

7. I treat myself – a little.

When I’m struggling, I might get one more meal of fast food, or have an extra can of pop – just as a little boost.  Hey, it’s probably an American thing, but it’s true.  It’s something that helps me cope and is in no way some false tool to mask the difficulty.  It’s not like I’m putting away 8 Big Bufords in a week and going through a case of Sierra Mist (although that really does sound fun to try sometime!).

8. I only talk about it with people I trust – and I only do so in person or via phone.

For me, it’s tempting to let seasons of struggle be the theme of every conversation I have.  I may get on the wrong side of this, but I really only try to share the struggle with people who will give meaningful encouragement and genuinely pray for me.  This rules out the desperate Facebook posts or the “look at me, I’m really struggling” type of conversations that are so tempting to me.  I think they really only bring false security.

In closing . . .

I hope you have found this encouraging and can use any or all of this.  I’m not qualified to speak to longer seasons of depression, because I haven’t experienced them.  I’ve known several who have struggled longer term and eventually emerged from those seasons, so don’t be discouraged if you’re in a longer season. No matter the struggle, lean on God and then turn to trusted friends.  He is the shepherd, capable of leading and guiding.  I hope He will bring good things out of any struggle you may be facing! Feel free to write my e-mail at burkholder.kevin@gmail.com with any specific questions or prayer requests you may have.