Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ten Joy Stealers in Ministry (And How to Get It Back)

I had the opportunity to meet Thom Rainer in his office a couple of years ago and came away very impressed.  I'd obviously previously read some of his books/writings, but because I'm not SBC his influence on me had been mostly limited to "Simple Church" (one of the best ministry books in my opinion).  That brief meeting impressed me enough to spur me to start reading more of what he wrote, including on his blog.  Today he shared this following gem.

Ten Joy Stealers in Ministry (And How to Get It Back)
In this post, I share ten of the most common reasons pastors and other church staff members lose their joy in ministry. But I don’t want to just dwell on the negative. Next to each reason, I offer suggestions to counter these joy stealers. Indeed, I have learned both the reasons for joy stealers and the reasons joy returns largely from you readers. Over the past few years, you have been my teachers in many ways. I am so grateful for you.
What are the joy stealers? Even more importantly, what are pastors and other church staff doing to recapture their joy? Here are ten common responses.
  1. Seeing the underbelly of Christian ministry. Christian ministry means working with sinners just like you and me. It’s often not a pretty sight to see what we see in local churches. And while we don’t condone sin, let’s learn to demonstrate grace and love like Jesus did and does.
  2. Constant criticisms (“death by a thousand cuts”). I received my first criticism as a pastor on my third day of ministry. I was crushed. May we be men and women who seek to please God instead of people. And may He give us the strength to be godly and gracious when we do receive criticisms.
  3. Fighting among Christians. A non-Christian recently told me that he has been observing Christians on blogs and social media the past several months. He said: “You Christians are some of the meanest people I’ve ever known.” Ouch. We will know Christlike joy when we act like Him, and not like the world.
  4. Busyness that turns to prayerlessness. We will always lose our joy when we neglect our time in prayer. When we pray, we are connected to the Source of all joy. If we are too busy to pray, we are too busy.
  5. Unreasonable work hours. Many in Christian ministry become workaholics to the detriment of their families and themselves. It is ultimately our choice and our responsibility to have a balanced life. When we don’t, the joy goes away.
  6. Attacks on our family. This is an especially difficult joy stealer because we sometimes feel powerless when it happens. Be even more diligent in prayer to seek His wisdom. Let your family know they come first. Confront the perpetrator if necessary. But do this all in a spirit of prayer and love.
  7. Sour staff relations. Anecdotally, I believe this joy stealer is present in over half of our churches. It is your responsibility to be gracious, to be a reconciler, and to be a peacemaker. If relationships are still sour, you have done all you can. Your joy comes from the Lord, not the other church staff.
  8. Inwardly focused church. A church that focuses most ministries and activities on the members and not those beyond the church becomes stale and self-serving. You must get your joy in the Lord by reaching out to others regardless of what others in the church do.
  9. Lack of respect in the community and culture. Up until about 1990, most ministers were respected, if not revered, in their communities. That reality is shifting dramatically in most communities today. Remember again, your joy does not come from the approval of men and women in the community.
  10. Entitlement mentality among some church members. A number of church members view the church as a country club where they pay dues to get what they want. You responsibility as a minister in the church is to serve all people in the name of Christ. In doing so, you will find His joy. But that does not mean you have to yield to the demands of selfish whiners.
There are definitely two common themes in this article. First, ministry in the church is not easy. It’s been that way for 2,000 years. Second, if we focus on these joy-stealers, they will indeed take away our joy. But if we keep our focus on Christ, our joy can never be taken away.
Let me hear from you. What are some joy stealers you have encountered in ministry? How did you get your joy back?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

50 Shades of Grey - It's NOT a matter of conscience

I'm not a culture warrior generally.  As a Christian, I want to be known more for what I'm for (Jesus, grace, love, service, etc.) than for what I'm against.

But from time to time there are things we must speak out about and stand up against vocally.  50 Shades of Grey is one of those things in my pastoral opinion.

Below comes from Plugged In Online - a very appropriate response to this upcoming movie.  Politely put, Christians - don't go.  There are things of conscience and personal freedom where the Bible allows for us to exercise discretion.   Porn that glorifies the abuse women is not among them.

Plugged In says this:

It's notable that Fifty Shades of Grey actress Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) told Today that the film's sex scenes are so extreme she doesn't want her "parents to see it." That's a sentiment endorsed for everyone by American and Canadian domestic abuse and anti-pornography groups that have teamed up to launch a campaign dubbed 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades, encouraging women to take the $50 they would have spent on a night out seeing the film and give it to any organization advocating for abused women. The effort's Facebook page says, "The money you would have spent on movie tickets and a babysitter or movie tickets, popcorn and drinks will go towards serving victims of abusiverelationships like the one glamorized in the 50 Shades series. Hollywood doesn't need your money, abused women do." 

The British Board of Film Classification has given the film its most restrictive rating, forbidding anyone under the age of 18 from seeing it. And Malaysia has announced an all-out ban, announcing, "The board made a decision in view of the film containing scenes that are not of natural sexual content. [The film] is more pornography than a movie." 

Christian authors Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh, meanwhile, are offering to give women a copy of their new book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's Heart, in exchange for used copies of E L James' Fifty Shades of Grey
. They want to teach women that they're mistaken if they believe erotic fiction could spice up their real-life relationships. "There are two dangers in seeking sexual arousal in this way," she says. "First of all, erotica/porn teach you to be sexually aroused by looking away from your partner, not toward him. You may be engaging your body with him, but your imagination is with some fictional character. That's not intimacy. Secondly, erotica and porn impact your brain in a manner that breeds tolerance. What was sexually arousing a few months ago will no longer be enough to produce the same sexual high. This is how men and women get drawn into increasingly hard-core porn and/or sexually acting out what they have seen or read." [, 2/5/15;, 2/5/15;, 2/4/15;, 2/2/15;, 2/5/15;, 2/6/15;, 2/4/15]

Monday, February 09, 2015

Alton Brown's Chocolate Bread Pudding

Alton Brown could cook a wooden spoon in swamp water and probably make it taste good.  But thankfully he focuses his gifts on far more suitable fare like the following amazing recipe.  Me personally I'd leave out the espresso due to my distaste for coffee and might find a hazelnut flavor or something to sub in.

Serves 8
  1. 2 large whole eggs
  2. 3 egg yolks
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup hot chocolate mix
  5. 3 cup half and half
  6. 1 cup whole milk
  7. 2 ounces espresso, slightly cooled
  8. 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  9. 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and divided
  10. 18 ounces stale challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  11. 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-inch pieces
  1. Place the eggs and yolks in the carafe of a blender and combine on lowest speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add the sugar, over 30 seconds, add the hot chocolate mix, and blend until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the half and half, milk, espresso and vanilla and blend until well combined, about 30 seconds.
  2. Butter a 9 x 13 metal pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter and place the cubed bread in the pan. Spread the chocolate on top of the bread and slowly pour in the custard. Press down on mixture with a spatula or back of a spoon to thoroughly saturate. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
  3. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches at least 170 degrees F. Set the oven to the high broil setting with the oven door ajar. Remove the bread pudding from the oven.
  5. Pour the melted butter into a spray bottle and spritz the top of the bread pudding. Return to the middle rack and broil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bacon is meat candy, especially this bacon!

Alton Brown gets me.  His food is dreamy.

Lacquered Bacon

1 pound thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon black pepper, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, preferably muscovado or demerara
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you’re up to it)
1. Set the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
2. Lay the bacon in a single layer so that there’s little or no space between the pieces on a cooling rack set in a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan.
3. Liberally sprinkle one side of the bacon slices with the black pepper, sugar and red pepper flakes.
4. Set the sheet pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove the pan and use the back of a spoon, spread the dissolved sugar/pepper mixture evenly across the slices of bacon.
5. Flip the bacon over and liberally sprinkle the other side of the bacon with black pepper and remaining sugar.
5. Return the sheet pan to the oven and roast until desired doneness: 15 minutes for chewy, 18 minutes for crisp. Cool completely before devouring.

Monday, January 19, 2015

South Dakota Corncob-Smoked Ribs

South Dakota Corncob-Smoked Ribs
From Cook's Country | June/July 2012

Why this recipe works:

Corncobs may seem like an odd choice for smoking meat, but they impart a sweet, subtle smokiness that more assertive hardwood can’t offer. Cornmeal gives these ribs an initial blast of smoky flavor, while the fresh cobs offer long-lasting smoke and a nutty aroma. Starting with a bed of unlit coals and topping them with lit coals gives us a constant heat source without the hassle of reloading the grill.

Serves 4 to 6

A gas grill can't do these corncob ribs justice, so please use charcoal. The test kitchen's favorite ketchup is Heinz Organic.


  • cup ketchup
  • cup water
  • tablespoon pepper
  • tablespoon onion powder
  • tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • tablespoon light corn syrup
  • tablespoon granulated garlic
  • teaspoons celery seeds
  • teaspoon liquid smoke
  • tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon pepper
  • racks (2 1/2- to 3-pounds each) pork baby back ribs, trimmed and membrane removed
  • cup cornmeal
  • corncobs, kernels removed and reserved for another use


  1. 1. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in medium bowl to combine; set aside.
    2. FOR THE RIBS: Combine sugar, salt, and pepper in bowl. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and rub with sugar mixture; set aside. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap cornmeal in foil packet and cut several vent holes in top.
    3. Open bottom vents of charcoal grill halfway. Place 13 by 9-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan on 1 side of grill and fill pan with 2 quarts water. Arrange 3 quarts unlit charcoal briquettes on opposite side of grill. Place cobs on top of unlit briquettes. Light large chimney starter filled halfway with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). When top coals are covered with ash, pour over cobs and unlit coals. Place cornmeal packet on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and cornmeal is smoking, about 5 minutes.
    4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place ribs, meat side up, on cool part of grill opposite coals. Cover, positioning lid vent over ribs, and cook until ribs are deep red and tender, 3½ to 4 hours, rotating ribs and switching positions every hour. (Do not flip ribs.) During last 30 minutes of cooking, baste ribs every 10 minutes, rotating and switching ribs each time. Transfer ribs to carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut ribs in between bones and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Layering the Fire

In South Dakota, they smoke their ribs on huge custom barbecue rigs using dried corncobs as the sole fuel. It makes sense—corn is what's around, after all. To adapt the method to a backyard kettle grill, we had to figure out how to configure the fire to get four hours of steady, corn-tinged smoke. Here's what we did:
1 cup of cornmeal in a foil packet
3 quarts lit charcoal
6 corncobs, husks and kernels removed
3 quarts unlit charcoal
Ribs on cool side of the grill
2 quarts water in a disposable aluminum pan

Failed Corncob Tests

In South Dakota, bushels of dried, stripped corncobs impart a special flavor to ribs. To replicate it, we left no kernel unturned. It was A for effort, but these attempts were a bust. 
SOOTY: Unhusked ears of corn.
SOOTY: Husked ears with the corn intact.
TOO MUCH WORK: Husked, stripped, and oven-dried. 
BURNT TASTE: Popped popcorn.