family, Personal

What it’s Like to be Married to the Perfect Man


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Because my husband is the pastor sometimes women ask me what it’s like to be married to the perfect man.   A man who never gets angry, a man who helps with all the household chores, a man who effortlessly assists the kids with their homework, a man who takes care of the widows and orphans and who reads the Bible and prays for several hours every day.  I guess I would have to say it’s a lot like being married to the perfect woman; however, Brent and I don’t know either of those people.  So, I’ll have to tell you what it’s like to have a blessed marriage between a normal man and woman.

Brent and I have a great marriage and believe me, it is not because either of us are anything special.  It is great because we both love Jesus.  Yes, that’s right.  If you love Jesus and try to honor Him it will spill over into your marriage.  We work very hard to live by 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (the love chapter).  We are kind and patient with each other! We don’t get angry about every little thing.  We are all human and make mistakes.  We don’t bring up the past.  We work out our problems and then let them go just like God does for us.  We tell the truth even if it’s painful and we protect one another because we’re on the same team.  This is not any easier for us than it is for you. Sometimes we fail miserably, but we forgive and get right back to the work.  We try hard and never give up.  I fight with selfish, sinful Dianne every single day because she is a grouchy, control freak who is not very nice sometimes.  The only way I can win the fight with her is by staying in scripture and committing to living it.  Brent, equally has to put the same effort into our marriage.

Now I know that some of you do not have a believing spouse, so how do you have a blessed marriage when only one of you is trying?  You do it the exact same way.  Your spouse may not recognize how hard you are trying and they may never acknowledge anything you do, but stay the course.  God will bless you, your children will see Jesus in you and scripture tells us in 1 Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over.’’  My mom has been a Christian as long as I can remember, but my dad has not.  He started coming to church about 14 years ago.  That was after 30 years of marriage.  I love both of my parents very much, but my dad will admit he was not always respectful, kind or patient with my mom even though she stayed home, took care of the kids and was a very good wife. She didn’t nag or fight with him about church.  She just went and took us kids with her.  She served Jesus and the fruit spilled over into his life and mine.  I’m sure there were times she wanted to quit, but she didn’t and you shouldn’t either.  God will bless your obedience.

The world is looking to see if we are really any different from them.  Our marriages are one of the first things they see, so let yours be a testament to the whole world about what God can do and let it be a gift to the spouse He gave you.  Let it be an example to your kids.  They will replicate what they see in their home. And if you are not married yet please take your time.  Prayerfully consider who you are letting into your life.  Choose a person who loves Jesus more than anything else.  Don’t ever date a person who is not a believer.  NEVER open that door.  You think you won’t fall in love, but you will. And you cannot make good decisions when you are head over heels. You will never regret waiting for the right person.  Aside from salvation, your marriage is the most important decision you will ever make.  Choose wisely, because a great marriage is the best thing this life has to offer.

The Cross

God is For You


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Doubt
Life is filled with uncertainty and pain. Today, we are faced with the realities of a harsh world. Tomorrow is unknown. It’s easy to sink beneath the weight of troubles, some of which we bring upon ourselves. Greasy haired, wide smiling, prosperity preachers promise us that we will experience our best life now. We know better.  We know that life is difficult. We know that the Christian life, too, is filled with pain. Salvation, the new life lived under the reign of the Lord Jesus, does not promise a cozy journey. All around, for the Christian and non Christian alike there is significant pain.

In an effort to distance ourselves from the false prosperity gospel, we can overreact. The prosperity gospel makes God out to be our greatest admirer, the great wish granter whose goal is to make us as successful and happy and wealthy as possible. Overreaction  distorts God’s character by over emphasizing his wrath, justice and holiness. As a result, sometimes we think that God is waiting for us to mess up so that he can punish us. In the mire of it all, its easy to slip off a rock of unrelenting surety: God loves you and he is for you. For the elect, God’s chosen children, the Bible makes an amazing claim:

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)

The Cross 
Though the verse is meant to bring comfort, it can be initially troubling. We are told that God is for us, and that he gave His Son up for us. But how does that bring comfort? God gave up his Son for me. How am I’m supposed to trust that? What kind of Father would give up his son to die for others?  We are being told to trust someone who had his own Son killed.  If the Father was willing to allow his own Son’s death, what implications does that have for you and me? How could you trust someone that planned the death of his Son?

The cross while initially offensive to our sensibilities (1 Cor. 1:20-25) it is the clearest evidence that we can trust that God is for us. While it might be troubling to consider that the Father gave up his Jesus, that’s only one part of the beauty of the cross. The Father gave up Christ (Isa. 53:10) and Christ willingly gave himself up (John 10:18).  The Father planned for the great exchange. Christ, the Son, took my place. He paid the blood price for my sins. The Triune God acted in full uniformity in a grand plan of redemption. God as Father gave the greatest gift possible, his one and only Son, for you and me. The Holy Spirit empowered the Son to live the human life here on earth. He ministered to Him and strengthened him so that way he through perfect keeping of the law, he would earn righteousness, for you and me. The Son willingly laid down his life for his enemies, enduring the horror of crucifixion and separation from the Father, for you and me.

Two thousand years before we were around, Jesus Christ made atonement on a cross. The cross stands as the great display of God’s love for all (John 3:16).  The cross stands as the demonstration of God’s love for even his enemies. Christ died for the very men that plotted against him. he died for the men that spit on him. He died for the men that tore out his beard and shredded his back with a whip. As He hung naked on the cross, mocked by onlookers, He asked God to forgive them (Luke 23:34).

Paul, the self proclaimed chief sinner (1 Tim. 1:15), wrote an incredible affirmation of the cross:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

Paul said that God “shows his love for us.” Presently, right now, the cross still stands as the demonstration of God’s love for all of us. Tim Chester observes, “If God gave his Son for you when you were at your worst, what circumstances could ever make him stop loving you? If he loved us when we were his enemies, then he’ll always love us. Nothing will be able to separate us from that love.” [1]

We can and should have hope in God as being for us. He is. He gave the greatest gift imaginable: himself. God is for us. He will always be for us. He does not change (Num. 23:19). The cross is the greatest possible proof of his being for us. The great, marvelous, wonderful cross shows us the unchanging, amazing love of God.

God is for us. He loves us. The proof is the cross. The cross is a reality we can plant our feet on, the base to stand on so we can soak in the rays of God’s love.

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.
My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.
~Charles Wesley

______________

[1] Tim Chester, Ordinary Hero: Living the Cross and Resurrection in Everyday Life (New Maiden, Surrey, U.K.: The Good Book Company, 2013), 17.

family, Ministry

Shaming


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Perhaps it’s because I’m finishing up the busiest week of my working year or the fact I’m taking three kids to the office because it’s summertime, but I feel like I’m losing this parenting battle.  Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I catch myself subconsciously comparing the behavior of my children with the other families in which we come in contact.  I see so many areas where we, as a family, can improve and I “parent shame” myself making a list of all the areas where I think I’m falling short.  Some of it is on me, such as the fact my children literally bathe once a week (EEW) and my children constantly have some mystery substance dried to their faces or snow cone dyed clothing.   There are also the completely absurd standards, for example, I rarely read them bedtime stories, therefore my 4-year old does not have a third-grade reading level.  Some of these expectations are ridiculous, I know. But none the less, I find ways to scrutinize my God given amazing job of loving His children.

I’ve been re-reading Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony, (which I highly recommend by the way) and I had a big “aha” moment last week. I had to give out consequences to a child I watch on a weekly basis.  I was stern, but never raised my voice. There was full eye contact.   I made sure she knew how much I loved her, but she needed to know my rules were to be followed.  I RARELY am that loving when I discipline my own children.  My eyes were open to the fact that punish my children, not discipline them. Discipline is training the heart of my child, taking the time to teach through shortcomings.  Punishment is usually a consequence of some sort.  A consequence that may not really train the heart!  I need to shift my thinking about punishment and discipline. Yes, I want the bad or annoying behavior to cease, but it should be so much more than that.  I want to impact my children’s hearts, but with my classic parenting style, I fear sometimes I am just punishing them for fear that their behavior will be a reflection of me and my skills at parenting, or worse, an embarrassment to me.  This should not be the reason I want them to behave. IT WILL NOT BE THE REASON STARTING TODAY. I want them to behave because the only thing they are focused on is the desire to follow Christ.  “I want to put them in proximity to God, so that they fall in love with Jesus, the Holy Spirit will then be the one who makes their actions congruent with their belief…So often we are tempted as parents to spend all of our time and energy striving to fix their behavior.” [1] That is not at all what God wants.  As I compare my children to other children around me, I need to remember that for many families we only see them on Sunday, on their best “public” behavior.  I need to remember this is not an accurate glimpse into the life of the family.  I don’t see the everyday struggles of children I deem “perfect.” I must celebrate that all families are different. We need to be living life together, gleaning parenting wins and loses together.  Can I use other families as a guide or adapt some of the Godly characteristics they display?!  YOU BET! But my children aren’t going to be perfect.  And that is okay.  I’m not perfect and that is okay.

This is also a reflection of the Body of Christ. I often look around at other women of the church, and think, “why didn’t I take a meal to the family with a new baby.  Jessica did.”  Or, “why didn’t it cross my mind to buy snacks for the toddler room.  Kati did.”  “Lisa is so good at remembering to pray before our meetings, but I just get so busy!” But here’s the deal:  The Body of Christ doesn’t need four arms, eight legs, and one eye.  I don’t have to feel bad that someone noticed a need before I did.  But the next time that same need comes around I need to act!  I can step out of my comfort zone and serve where I am needed not just where I want to serve.   What I need to embrace is that my family WILL be different than those around me. My service in God’s Kingdom WILL look different.  I need to get over my “acts of service shaming” and my “parent shaming” and make sure I’m doing what God has laid on my heart.  I must act on the needs God lets me see and assist my church family when they act on a need God reveals to them.   I can’t do everything, but I will do something.

If I am in constant communication with my Creator, when we converse so regularly that I can recognize His voice, then He can lead me.  Lead me in loving my children properly and lead me in loving Him properly.

_______________

[1] Michelle Anthony, Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening For Today’s Families (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), 24.

Interview, Ministry, Personal

Q&A: Joshua Valdez


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Where and how did you grow up?8b56bf0b-f1f9-4f2c-8b8f-67a363ff16ae
I am a product of northwestern New Mexico in about every way. My dad is Spanish and my mom is Navajo. My dad has worked in the oil and gas industry for 30 years. His dad, my grandpa, Juan worked on a drilling rig for 31 years. My mom was raised by her grandma on the reservation. I was born in Shiprock, spent my elementary years in Bloomfield, and now live in Farmington.

I grew up in a Christian home. My mom was saved as a teenager at a Christian school. My dad wasn’t saved until he was in his 20s. For the Valdez family, church was a priority. Sunday morning we were there for Sunday school and the worship service. Sunday night we’d be back for the evening service. Wednesday night was AWANA (when I was a kid), and then youth group when I was teen. In middle and high school I attended the church’s Christian school, for which I continue to be grateful. During my formative years, my life revolved around the church. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I attended college and seminary at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. It was an incredible 8 years. I grew immensely there and have many fond memories.

What are your hobbies and interests?
I’m very interested in history, particularly church history. I love reading about the Protestant Reformation—in particular, the English Reformation. There is so much intrigue, drama, and compelling story lines in the English Reformation that would rival any show or movie today. Thomas Cranmer is the man! If I’m not nerding over a book, I’m usually nerding over Star Trek. I love the Dallas Cowboys. Sometimes, I bust out my saxophone. That doesn’t happen too frequently, though, because people can only stand hearing so much of “Careless Whisper” on the sax.

I love reading, writing, and spending time with those I love. What I enjoy most, though, is spending time with people I care about, whether its having a cup of coffee, eating a meal, watching a movie, or just hanging out. Spending quality time with my family and closest friends is something I cherish. My picture of a perfect evening is a cup of New Mexico Piñon Coffee, compelling conversation, and the company of a friend.

What has being involved in ministry taught you about God and yourself?
At Bob Jones University, I was often told that ministry is the overflow of God’s working in my own life to others. I have found this to be true in my experience in ministry. If I am not engaged with Bible reading and prayer—if I am not having a relationship with God, then I cannot minister effectively to others. I just can’t. It terrifies me to know that If I’m not right with God, it will spill over into my ministry and can hurt the church. The pastor’s ability to feed others is contingent upon his being fed. The good news is if my walk with God is healthy, that too will spill over to the church. This is why Paul told Timothy “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

The danger of pastoral ministry is the same danger faced in seminary. It’s very easy to allow the work of Bible study replace the delight of Bible reading and prayer for personal growth. As a pastor, its crucial that I have a healthy relationship with God. If my walk with God isn’t right, nothing else in my life will be.

What are some books that have a shaped you and your philosophy of ministry?
Erasmus is said to have said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” I’m with him, I absolutely love books! There are so many books that have shaped me, my theology, and ministry philosophy. I’ll try to limit the titles I talk about!

On a personal level, there are three books that have been foundational for me and my thinking. A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy helped me see how majestic God is and helped me celebrate his perfections. Good theology always leads to worship. I read John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus as a teenager when I was in the thick of doubt about my salvation. It helped solidify for me the nature of saving faith. John Piper’s Desiring God showed me that satisfaction and true joy can only be found through delight in Christ. To these, I would add Ronald Horton’s Mood Tides and C.S. Lewis’s masterpieces Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. Because I’m under the reformed umbrella (broadly speaking), I have also benefited from the Puritans, particularly Richard Baxter and John Owen. Currently, I’m reading and praying through the collection of Puritan prayers, The Valley of Vision.

Regarding ministry books that have been helpful for me, there are several. John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching implanted deep within me the conviction of magnifying God and his word in preaching. Preaching is not entertainment. Preaching is not good advice. Preaching is not about me. Preaching is the unfolding of a biblical text in a way that magnifies God in the hearts of his people. Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church has simply and clearly given me attainable, goals for what biblical church ministry looks like. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ Total Church helped me to understand that the church should not be cluttered with programs, nor should it be seen as another responsibility to juggle. Church should be oriented around the gospel and Christian community—its a provocative, biblical book that clarified the nature of the church to me. Finally, John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel is a powerful call to not allow worldliness and pragmatism infiltrate my ministry philosophy. To this list of ministry works, I would also add Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander’s The Deliberate Church, Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership, and the four volumes that make up The John MacArthur Pastor’s Library: Pastoral Ministry, Preaching, Counseling, Evangelism.

What is your favorite aspect of ministry?
Preaching and teaching really are a blast and I enjoy both very much. My favorite aspect of ministry, however, is spending several hours with DHC Youth every week. I love my teens. They are a fun, smart group that is interested in learning about God and his word. Tuesday nights are a high point in the week for me. I looked up to my youth pastor, Dave Deets, and he played a big role in shaping me. He preached at my ordination service and laid his hand on my shoulder to pray over me at the commissioning part of the service. It was a powerful moment. To this day, if I need ministry advice I talk to him. I hope to be that kind of mentor to my teens.

The most rewarding part of being in ministry is seeing people grow. There is in the heart of a pastor, a deep desire to see the people God has entrusted to him to grow in their relationship with him (1 Pet. 5:2-3). The novelty of life as a pastor hasn’t worn off on me. Often, I still can’t believe I get paid to do this. It’s a privilege to be in ministry. It’s an expression of God’s mercy to me that he would allow me this honor (2 Cor. 4:1). It’s not something I take lightly or for granted.

What do you hope to accomplish in ministry?
My heart is for Desert Heights Church. I love how serious the Bible is taken here. I’m excited about where we are going and what the future holds for us. I love our people. If God wills, I hope to plant my roots deep and spend many decades at DHC. I want to share God’s truth and remain faithful to God’s word (1 Cor. 4:2). My sincere hope is that one day when I stand before God, I will hear him say “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).

 

Ministry, The Church

10 Things I Want My Kids to Know Before They Leave Home


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My son started elk hunting several years ago.  That first year we spent quite a bit of time sitting and waiting, hunkered down behind trees and rocks, watching for elk to pass through a canyon or come to a watering hole within shooting distance.  It was not a successful hunt in the sense of bringing home some meat, but it was successful in the sense that we had a great experience and I had time to think.

My son was fourteen.  He was growing up faster than I had realized he would. The reality of him being in my home for only four more years, give or take, was unsettling.  While he was intent on hunting, I was distracted with this new found and startling reality.  I sat on the ground behind some rocks asking myself, “Have I equipped him to leave my home and be independent?  Have I given him a foundation to build on for the rest of his life?”  When he was born, I had big plans of being a great dad, now he’s about to leave my home and I’m not sure I have finished my job!  What happened to fourteen years?  Why didn’t I prioritize earlier? I’m not ready for this!

So, I sat there and made a list.  It’s a list every parent needs to make sooner rather than later.

  1. Jesus as Lord and Savior

This is by far the most important on the list.  This is the only bit of knowledge that I can pass along to my children that has eternal value.  And, if they know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, all the other things will fall into place.  My children are growing up in an ever-changing world that is calling into question the validity of Christianity.  I want my children to know that their dad put all his faith in Jesus. They learn this by watching how I live, not so much by the words I say.

  1. Both their parents love them more than the can understand

My capacity to love has grown exponentially since I had children.  Children do not inherently understand the depth of love parents feel for their children and unfortunately, fathers are sometimes not great at communicating that love.  It is a set up for failure on both sides.  It’s no one person’s fault.  We must be intentional about consistently communicating and demonstrating our love for our children.  I listen to them every chance they are willing to talk.  My family goes on my calendar first and then other activities.  Early on my wife and I stopped having “a day off”.  It became our “family day”.

  1. Home is safe and open to them. 

No matter how bad my children may fail, I want them to know that they can come to their mom and me.  Don’t misunderstand, they will not be allowed to abuse the resources of home, but they can always come home.  We’ll love them. We’ll be kind to them.  We’ll give them Biblical guidance.  We’ll pray with them and for them.  And we’ll send them out to try again!

  1. How to manage money

Money, or the lack of money, causes problems for many people.  It seems the possession of money has recently been deemed a moral bad.  Money is neither evil or good.  It is simply a tool.  If you manage it well, life tends to be better.  If you manage it poorly, life tends to get complicated.  Learning to be content with what you have is a large part of a right attitude toward money.  Learning to share and bless others is the icing on the cake!

  1. Basic leadership

There is a growing need for people who are willing and able to get out in front, say, “This is the direction we need to go,” and “I can lead you there.”  All of us are the leader at some point in time in our lives.  The sooner my children know how to lead, the better.

  1. A love to learn

No problem is insurmountable and life is always interesting when you love to learn. When children are predisposed to an attitude of “I can figure this out,” there are few things in life that they can’t figure out and do. When their attitude is, “I can’t figure this out,” they will forever be handicapped. We have spent many hours searching the internet for all kinds of things, from “How do I skin a raccoon?” to “How do I solve quadratic equations?”  The love to learn propels children toward conquering anything they desire to conquer!

  1. How to be a man/woman of God

Wow!  Society is moving toward being gender neutral while God has put a premium on men being manly and women being . . . well, womanly.  God has a design for men that is different from His design for women.  I desire my son to grow up and be powerful and kind, to dream big, conquer and be considerate of others.  I want my daughter to grow up to be beautiful, smart, strong, kindhearted and compassionate towards others.  I want my children to be loving servants to their fellow man and shine a little light wherever they go.

  1. How to be a lady / How to treat a lady

This is very much my dad’s influence on me.  He often told my sisters, “Act like a lady.”  And he told my brother and I, “Always treat a woman like a lady.”  Ladies respect themselves, their bodies, and others.  Ladies should be treated with respect and consideration. On a few occasions my dad would explain, “Not every woman is lady, but you still treat her like a lady.”  I want my daughter to know that she is valuable and respectable and should be treated with respect.  Likewise, I want my son to treat all women with respect and consideration no matter how little they respect themselves.

  1. How to build healthy relationships

I did not grow up close to extended family, but my wife did.  We have raised our kids with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and even great grandparents.  We have learned to enjoy new babies and old adults.  We have learned to get along with those we agree with and those we don’t.  Family is a great laboratory for relationships.  When my children leave home I want them to be equipped and have experienced building relationships with a variety of people, not just people like them.

  1.  How to raise their children to honor God. 

The way I raise my children is very likely going to be the way they will raise their children.  The best way I can teach my children to raise their children to honor God is for me to honor God every chance I get.  I must do more than just talk about honoring God.  I must make sure that my children see me honor God in my relationship with them, my relationship with my wife, and my relationship with God.

 

In retrospect, had I made this list when my son was born, I am not so sure this is the list I would have made.  It took an unsuccessful elk hunt for me to realize that the priority is not the hunt, but the people you go with, the time you spend together and the values that you pass along.

These are the runner’s up that didn’t make the top 10.  I hope you’ll make your own list!

  • How they can honor their parents later in life.
  • To be givers more than takers
  • To succeed as God’s child is the most important success.
  • Always try your best.
  • Be aware what you are good and bad at.

 

 

Ministry

When Friends Move On


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Because I’m a pastor’s wife and administrator I will be writing from a different perspective than our staff pastors.  I want to share with you what it’s like to be in full time ministry as a wife, mother and employee.  I want to be transparent about the highs, the lows, the successes, the failures and how I deal with it all.  On my heart and mind most recently is dealing with constant change in the church.  In ministry our foundation is solid and unchanging, but the body of Christ is fluid and always varying.

In the last 20 years many people have come into our lives, some permanently and others for just a brief time.  I have struggled with friends leaving our fellowship.  We have invested so much time, energy and intimacy into these relationships.  These people were our confidants and accountability partners and then for various reasons they moved. For a person like me it was devastating.  I’m friendly, but I do not make friends easily.  It’s work and takes time.  It does not happen quickly or easily.  Then when the friendship is finally forged I do not want to let it go. So, you can imagine the pain I have endured every time someone from our faith family moved away.

For a time I decided that I just wouldn’t have any close relationships, but you can only live that way for a while. God did not create us to live life alone.  It’s not natural or healthy.  So, what did I do? I made friends again. And what did I do when they left?  I cried, I mourned and slowly I moved on.  This is our example in scripture. In 2nd Kings Chapter 2, Elisha’s long time mentor and friend, Elijah, is taken away in a whirlwind by a chariot of fire.  One moment they were walking and talking and the next moment Elijah was gone.   Elisha was hurting deeply, so he tore his robe.  He mourned, he was upset, but then he went back to work.    God had a new purpose for both of them.  Elijah’s ministry was finished and Elijah’s was just beginning.  That couldn’t have happen if things had stayed the same.

Much in the same way Jesus was taken from his 12 closest friends.  They had spent three years as constant companions.  Learning from Him and growing.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to venture out on their own, but they did. They had the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort them, and so do we.  So now when our friends move on it is with overwhelming gratitude, joy and a full heart that I thank God for being given the opportunity to share any part of our lives together.  These friendships are not lost, just different.  We have to work a little harder to stay connected, but it can and should be done, after all we’re not just friends we’re family.

Ministry, The Church, Theology

What to Look for in a Church


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Finding a church can be difficult. It’s difficult because we have romanticized ideas of what a church should be like. In a consumer driven culture, it’s easy to fall into the temptation to evaluate churches the same way you would evaluate a restaurant, store or some entertainment venue. What, then, should we look for in a church? Below are seven things you should consider when evaluating a church.

Theology
All churches practice ministry from their theology—even if they claim to not be a “theological church.” That position, ironically, is itself an expression of a theological position. Theology simply means the study of God. Everyone is a theologian because everyone has thoughts about God. What a church believes theologically is a monumental consideration. Maybe it is even the consideration. It is no secondary issue. When a church doesn’t post their doctrinal statement on their website, or cover it with those new to the church,  that says something about them. A church’s theology is its foundation. What the church believes about God, His Word, and His church will effect every area of their practice. How outreach is done, how the service is structured, how much time is devoted to preaching, the kind of preaching, even what songs are sung—all have their root in theology. A church’s theology will determine and drive its ministry practice.

Community
The first time a visitor goes to a church, it’s awkward. He feels vulnerable because he’s in an environment he isn’t familiar with—he doesn’t know the building and he doesn’t know the people. Someone showing interest in him makes all the difference. Often, a person’s expression of love in conversation or a pastor’s gentle, welcoming hug means more to people than what is being said in the pulpit. Lived life is usually always a stronger testimony than mere spoken word.

Is the pastor welcoming or is he aloof? The pastor sets the tone and usually the church will imitate its pastor. If the pastor is not meeting people, taking them to lunch, or having people in his home, it is likely that the congregation will follow that example. People stay in churches because of people. Christian community drenched in love is what Jesus attributes to powerful witness—real identification with Him (John 13:35). The community of Christ, if loving, is essential to a church’s health and should be something you’re looking for.

Missionional Mindset
Part of shepherding is guiding the sheep. A pastor should be leading his congregation towards a destination or a goal.  A church that has no defined purpose and no objectives for mission will plateau before slowly withering away.

A church should have a vision for its community. If a pastor or church body complains about their place of service or makes degrading remarks about its local people and culture, serious doubt about that church’s missional heart is warranted. We’re supposed to reach our community (Matt. 28:18-20) not ridicule it. Churches should have a missional mindset, actively seeking ways to share the Gospel and make life long disciples of Jesus.

At Desert Heights our mission statement is “Desert Heights Church exists to reach people with the life giving message of Jesus that they might become fully devoted followers of Christ.” Clear. Succinct. Missional. It nicely communicates our purpose as a local expression of Christ’s body. The mission statement is on the wall in the lobby and we recite it every week during the worship service. It is essential to remind the church why we do what we do.

Church Discipline
A church that disciplines its unrepentant members is a church that takes the Bible seriously. It speaks volumes about the church’s integrity and view of the Bible’s authority. They are willing to do the unpopular because that’s what the Bible commands. Corporate discipline is a mandate implemented by Jesus Himself:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

This concept of discipline is carried even further by Paul. He describes incidents calling for discipline and its process throughout his letters: 1 Corinthians 5:1-11; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Titus 3:9-11. A church that disciplines its members who are living in blatant sin and refusing to repent is a healthy church. Discipline is not comfortable or even desirable, but it is thoroughly biblical. It should be the practice of the church.

Plurality of Leadership 
Although a case can be made for a pastor-deacon governmental structure, I believe the plurality of leadership found in elders is most faithful to the biblical texts. The early church pattern was a plurality of leadership (Acts 14:23, 20:17). Paul instructed Titus to appoint multiple elders in Crete (Titus 1:5). The writer of Hebrews instructed his readers to “obey your leaders and submit to them” (Heb. 13:17). After surveying the biblical data, theologian Wayne Grudem writes:

Two significant conclusions may be drawn from this survey of the New Testament evidence. First, no passage suggests that any church, no matter how small, had only one elder. The consistent New Testament pattern is a plurality of elders “in every church” (Acts 14:23) and “in every town” (Titus 1:15). Second, we do not see a diversity of forms of government in the New Testament church, but a unified and consistent pattern in every church had elders governing it and keeping watch over it (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2-3). [1]

Feeding the flock through preaching, practicing care, and managing business are responsibilities that are just too much for one person. A one man show pastor is an exhausted pastor. Plurality of leadership allows for the elder/s teaching the time necessary to devote to himself/themselves to “prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Plurality of leadership safeguards the congregation from one man’s weaknesses because it is filtered through the grid of a group of leaders. It allows for variation of opinion in the shepherding of the local body. Plurality of leadership allows for gifted men in the church to exercise their corporate gifts to the body—teaching and preaching among them. When one man teaches exclusively, it robs gifted men of their opportunity to edify the body through their gifts.  Eldership is both biblical and practical.

Mark Dever recollects:

Probably the single most useful thing for me in my pastoral ministry has been the recognition of a group of men in our church as elders. Knowing that these are men that the congregation has recognized as gifted and godly has helped me immensely in my pastoral work. We meet and pray and talk over matters and, by so doing, they greatly supplement my wisdom. So my own experience attests to the usefulness of following the New Testament practice of having, where possible, more elders in a local church than simply a lone pastor—and of their being people rooted in the congregation, not simply church staff hired from outside. [2]

Expository Preaching
One of the most discouraging things I discovered while visiting churches a few years ago was the prevailing lack of serious, careful explanation of biblical passages.  I heard an entire sermon about being God’s friend from James 2:23. The entire surrounding context of works proving genuine faith was completely ignored. I was shocked. Sustained, solid exposition of Scripture was replaced by superficial life coaching. Missing was the power of God’s Word.

The danger of topical preaching is that both the topic and proof texts are chosen by the pastor. The messages, then, will reflect his strengths (what he’s passionate about) but it will also showcase his weaknesses (soapboxes and oversights). While topical preaching can be done well and it is sometimes necessary, it shouldn’t be the normal practice of a church. It will lead to a malnourished congregation.

Expository preaching should be the preaching philosophy implemented in the regular, weekly unfolding of a text or book. What amazing riches are gleaned in sermons that begin at the beginning of a book and weekly unpacks the text word by word, paragraph by paragraph! This kind of preaching demonstrates to the congregation that the Bible is a cohesive whole. It is not all like Proverbs 10-29 where mostly unconnected verses are placed next to each other.  In expository preaching the pastor submits himself to the lordship of Christ. He is only a messenger delivering the herald of the King. The congregation needs this kind of meaty preaching.

A Place to Serve
Finally, when considering a church and weighing all of the different factors above, it is essential not to approach the situation with a consumer mentality. Churches are not places to only take, but to give as well. Both giving and taking are involved in body relationship. In worship—in song and sermon—we give God praise and eat the rich feast doing so provides. We give and we take. The two are not mutually exclusive. While looking for a church you should be looking for a place to serve.
___________________

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 913.

[2] Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013),241-242.

Interview, Ministry

Q&A: Brent Heddin


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What is the history of Desert Heights Church?25fe8690-1eb7-4b31-9da2-0de769d5c833
In college, for a project, I had to interview a person who had been in ministry for more than 40 years.  The person I interviewed had led nine church plants.  I just thought that was amazing.  When the pastor of the church I was on staff resigned I knew that I was going to have to find another place of ministry.  Dianne and I began the typical church search.  We contacted our denomination’s district office.  They gave us names of churches looking for a pastor and we gave them a resume to pass along to churches.  We interviewed a couple of potential places, but never felt like those were the places God wanted us.  After one very positive weekend at a church in St. George, Utah, Dianne and I came to the conclusion that God had brought us to Farmington–it was unreasonable for us to leave just because we’d left another church in the community.

We began seriously assessing the needs of the greater Farmington area.  What were churches doing that was successful and not successful?  Was there another church in Farmington that could use us?  Did Farmington need another church?  Our conclusion was that Farmington needed about 100 more churches!  So we began putting on paper what this new church needed to look like.  It needed to be a Bible teaching church.  It needed to not be grandma’s church.  There were no churches teaching Scripture that were reaching younger families.  It had to have an accessible nursery.  It needed to be comfortable for unchurched people. March of 2003 we held our first service at the Marriott.  I planned on preaching a series of sermons leading up to Easter.  The title of the series was, “Why Jesus?”  We advertised in the newspaper and told everyone we knew that was not already tied into another church.  About twenty-three people came, mostly family.  We met in the motel for almost six months.  We found a warehouse and offices to be a permanent location.  The building required several changes to bring it up to current building code.  At every turn we saw God work things out for the benefit of the church.  A major plumbing project ended up being small.  The landlord had traded a bunch of carpet for rent previous to us.  It was just enough for us to carpet the warehouse floor for our auditorium.  An architect volunteered his work to help us.  God blessed us over and over.

The church grew in numbers and in maturity.  We needed to relocate again.  We called on a building that we’d checked on four years previous.  The owner had not wanted a church in his building.  It had previously been a bar.  However, this time he was happy to have us.  He was asking much less for rent and he let us remodel the entire building.  In June of 2014 we moved to a location with twice as many square feet and a more visible location.  We are already having to manage space carefully.

What did church planting teach you about God, ministry and yourself?
FAITH.  When we first began, we’d take our offering box home and dump it out on the kitchen table to see if there was enough money to pay for our rooms at the motel.  Often there was not enough.  So on the way to pay the bill on Monday a.m. we’d go by the post office box.  A number of times there would be a check from someone who had heard we were trying to plant a church.  God would lead.  We would follow.  There was always a gap.  There was some sort of unmet need, a space between where we were and where God had told us to go.  And every single time God would provide.  I learned that God is faithful.  I learned that I am weak and often scared. I learned that bringing others along on a faith filled adventure with God is ministry!

What are some books that have really shaped you and your theology?
Knowing God by J.I. Packer,  Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges and Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslov Volf.

Why should a pastor commit to expository preaching?
Simple, we are mere men.  What in the world would we have to say that can compare to the eternal word of God?  Preaching God’s Word equips people with spiritual wisdom for spiritual living.  I’m still learning these principles.  There is no way I could bring spiritual truth to others by my own words, experience or knowledge.

How important is mentoring in ministry?
I remember growing up in a preacher’s home and seeing evangelists come through and preach.  Wow, they were so cool.  Everyone was enamored by their charismatic sermons.  That’s want I wanted to do.  Then in college, actually through the study of business leadership, I learned that in order to have a significant impact on a person you have to commit to a long term relationship.  Business leaders who worked through problems, pastors who stayed through difficulties in the church were the ones who had the greatest influence on people.  Some ministry does happen in short bursts, but lasting ministry happens when we walk together and experience God together over time.

What is your favorite aspect of ministry?
Preaching is instant gratification, but my greatest joy comes from seeing evidence of people’s spiritual growth.  When people read their Bible and God speaks to them personally and then they come and tell me that they, “Get it!”–I don’t think there is a greater thrill than getting to lead others to a growing relationship with God.

What is SOAP? How has it changed Desert Heights?
SOAP is simply a systematic plan for daily devotions.  There is a reading plan that guides the person through the OT once and the NT twice in a calendar year.  SOAP is an acronym that outlines the devotional time.  First, you read the prescribed passage.  Second, you choose a Scripture.  Third, you write down an Observation.  Then you write out what the Application of this verse is to your life.  And finally, you write out a Prayer.

Imagine 200 hungry babies who are all waiting for you to feed them.  Now imagine 200 people who have eaten well and are wanting to help others learn to feed themselves.  That is what SOAP has done for us.  When people meet with God on a regular basis for the purpose of hearing from Him, they tend to show up to church already fed and on their way to spiritual maturity.   It makes pastoring so much easier!

What’s your vision for Farmington/San Juan County?
Well, there are approximately 53,000 people without a church home in the greater Farmington area.  God is patiently waiting for them to come to right relationship with Him.  Our responsibility is to be a healthy church, shine the light of Jesus, make disciples and teach them to obey Jesus’ teachings.  As far as my strategy, I think that church plants are the most effective way of reaching and training followers of Christ.  I hope to plant churches like DHC in our community, but keep them all closely connected.  Basically, a group of small churches that share the infrastructure, resources and leadership of a big church.

What words of wisdom would give to guys studying for the ministry or just starting in ministry?
Ministry can easily distract you from your own personal relationship with God.  There is a principle at work in real ministry.  You cannot give what you do not posses.  If God is not present in your life, you cannot share God with others.  It is absolute.   Ministry happens out of the overflow of the presence of God in us.  Your relationship with God is your highest priority.

Ministry

Increasing Our Voice


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What is DHC Devoted?

DHC Devoted is the collected musings of the leadership team and staff of Desert Heights Church. DHC Devoted exists to help make fully devoted followers of Christ by Proclaiming the Gospel, Admonishing Spiritual Growth, Teaching Biblical Principles, Presenting Mature Believers.

What Topics Will Be Addressed?

There are an assortment of topics that the church staff respond to that are not communicated in a Sunday morning sermon, class or small group, but are valuable to the spiritual development of the individuals in the church community.  Some topics may be deeply theological and require technical explanation. Other topics may be more along the lines of practical Christian living and relationships within the family, church and community.  The diversity of the staff will bring a variety of ideas and topics, but will always be rooted in scripture.

When Will There Be New Posts?

Look for new posts every Tuesday morning.

Why Did the DHC Staff Decide to Blog?

The internet is a powerful platform where ideas and beliefs are quickly communicated to over two billion people. Many of these ideas and beliefs are contrary to the Christian worldview. There are many competent speakers and writers who do all they can to use the internet to spread the Gospel.  DHC Devoted is not at all about making our mark on the internet.  It is about increasing our voice to the world so that the life-giving message of Jesus can be heard more broadly.  The blog is available for you to use to reach people in your network. 

Our hope is that you will read, comment, and share!