Thursday, November 20, 2014

Church Bullies

It's been a little while since I've posted a blog. No excuses--just been busy!

I've been preaching through the book of Nehemiah looking at some of his experiences/responses that we can apply towards rebuilding our lives/rebuilding our churches. This past weekend, we spent some time talking about the bullies that Nehemiah was dealing with in rebuilding the wall (focusing on Nehemiah 6).  Among a number of applications, I mentioned dealing with bullies in churches.

We all have seen bullies in the church (maybe some of us have even been a bully!). Bullies are those who give ultimatums: "There will be trouble if ____________ doesn't change!"  or  "I will withhold my giving if _____________"  or  "I'm going to leave if ______________".   Pastors often have to deal with real or implied threats if people don't get their way.  This is a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to intimidate (i.e., bully) the pastor or other leadership into getting their way.

But there is another type of bullying that is even more common and more insidious to the unity of the church: rumors/gossip (which, by the way, Nehemiah was dealing with also).  We don't often think of this as bullying but consider some of the characteristics of rumors/gossip:

1. The source is rarely quoted. [I heard that...]

2. Exaggeration and inaccuracy are involved.

3. They are designed to hurt rather than build up.

4.  Almost never shared in the proper setting (i.e., face-to-face with the involved party).

So how to deal with church bullies who spread rumors/gossip:

1.  Understand the real enemy behind this. It is not the gossiper/rumor spreader--it is Satan himself (John 10:10).  This is spiritual warfare--and must be approached as such.

2.  Practice loving rebuke (Eph. 4:29).  Refuse to listen or participate. Lovingly rebuking someone at the point of gossip/rumor is the most loving thing you can do for the gossiper (allows the Holy Spirit to do a work of conviction) and for those being gossiped about.

3.  Make a choice to not yield to temptation. Yielding to listening to gossip/rumors or responding to them in the flesh (e.g., anxiety, frustration, depression, anger, desire for revenge) all play right into the enemy's hands.

4.  Persist and experience God's strength. If one is in the middle of God's will, keep on doing and being what you have been. The power to harm and to divert you is stripped away from those who gossip and spread rumors.

God has already given us a road map for dealing with the sin of bullying (see Matt. 18:15-20).  Let God deal with the bully--He will always be much more effective than you could ever be!

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in audio format can be found at


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Experiencing A Different Kind of Marriage

This past weekend, I got married again--sort of.  The church I am pastoring voted to merge with another church--creating a brand new church, The Bridge Baptist Church. I will have the privilege of being the pastor for this new endeavor as the pastor of the other church is retiring.

As a pastor, I have seen my fair share of unhealthy relationships and unhealthy people (spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, physically) during my life.  One truism that almost always holds: unhealthy relationships can only breed additional unhealthy relationships (i.e., an unhealthy person cannot easily pass 'health' on to another person). The Bible refers to this dynamic as generational sin. What is true of people is also true of churches.

In this day and age, far too many new churches are born out of church fights, splits, disagreements, and general disgruntlement.  Unfortunately, these unhealthy births have a tendency to breed unhealthy churches.  And unhealthy churches breed more unhealthy churches.

Too often, Christians enter church relationships with the same mindset that the world has towards regular marriages--"If it doesn't work out, we'll just get a divorce." But just as a Christian who desires to honor God enters a marriage relationship with the mindset that divorce is not an option, believers should enter into relationship with one another with a mindset that this relationship cannot be easily walked away from.

Yes, God permits divorce in a regular marriage when there is a gross violation of that covenant relationship (i.e., adultery), but His heart is still on reconciliation. For Christians, our covenant relationship with fellow Christians in a church should be taken seriously as well--short of a gross covenant violation (e.g., heresy), divorce (i.e., walking away) should never be an option kept on the table as a possibility. Rather, God's heart is for reconciliation and restoration.

As we begin this new journey of a post-merger church (i.e., a new marriage), our desire is to live out the hope of a God who can bring restoration and renewal even from the brokenness of the past.  Bucking the trend and uniting rather than sub-dividing is something I hope we see more and more of in the Kingdom in the future.

Christians setting aside their differences and opinions. Christians willing to give preference to others over themselves. Christians holding on to heritage and traditions loosely--willing to let go when God moves. Christians stepping out into the unknown because God told them to.

Wow--will that make God smile!

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in audio format can be found at


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Making Unpopular Decisions

This past week, I buried my mother-in-law who died suddenly. Not only are my wife and I dealing with the grief, we are also dealing with trying to take care of my father-in-law long-distance (Florida). They both were adverse to lawyers, writing things down, etc. Not only is there no will but my wife is having to deal with a father who has dementia (combative, forgetful, belligerent, etc.).  The financial affairs are a mess and my wife is having to make decisions that are extremely unpopular with her father.  But decisions have to be made by my wife that have his best interests in mind--even if he doesn't see or accept it.

I am reminded that this is often what spiritual leadership is about: making decisions that are not always popular and accepted.

Many years ago, I played on a worship team that had a motto of "Playing for an audience of One." We even had t-shirts made with that saying.  When it comes to making decisions, we are to have the same focus--"What is God's desire/will?"  Nothing else matters.

Henry Blackaby defines spiritual leadership as leading people to where God wants them to be, not where they want to go.  Without true spiritual leadership, Moses would never have led the Israelites to the Promised Land because they kept whining about wanting to return to Egypt. Without true spiritual leadership, Jesus would never have gone to the cross because His followers wanted to crown Him the political king.  Without true spiritual leadership, Paul would never have confronted the carnal Corinthian church because the people seemed quite content to wallow in the mud of their fleshly pursuits.

Spiritual leadership with backbone can come from two sources: (a) a stubborn, prideful spirit, or, (b) a resolve born out of a conviction that this is what God wants.  Guess which option glorifies God?

Does your work seek to please God and God alone, or is it to satisfy some innate need to achieve results that others will approve of?  We are to serve for an audience of One.  We are to lead for an audience of One. 

Our only desire should be to hear Him say to us: "Well done good and faithful servant."

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Prayer of Pastors for Your Community

Last week, a group of pastors from the Elko area gathered to pray for ourselves, our churches, and our community.  We spent half a day together and hardly scratched the surface of what we were praying for.  I thought I would share with you some of what we prayed and discussed, realizing that our prayer points are universal for churches in virtually every community.

Our first prayer point surrounded the following passage:

"Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.
But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from My hand: You will lie down in torment." (Isaiah 50:10-11)

Sometimes, God doesn't show us the future, intending that we learn to wait on Him to show us the next step.  We recognized that we (pastors, church leaders, congregations) often take matters into our own hands (i.e., make our own fire) and operate on the basis of our strategic plans, good ideas, the latest 'must-do', etc. God has said He will let us go the way of "our own fires"--but it will be without His blessing.  God forgive us.

Our second prayer point focused in on us not taking seriously enough our ministry and message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19). We identified some problem areas that we as a Church needed to pray into (1 Cor.):
1. (1 Cor. 3:5 ) Dividing into camps based on personalities.
2. (1 Cor. 6:7) Emphasizing individual rights/desires more than the reputation of Jesus.
3.  (1 Cor. 6:7) Fighting with each other over non-salvation concerns--distracting from the gospel of truth.
4.  (1 Cor. 9:19-22) Not willing to do whatever it takes (short of sin) to reach the lost.
5.  (1 Cor. 9:23) We fail to see people as God sees them.
6. (1 Cor. 13) We have forgotten what it truly means to agape love one another.
7. (1 Cor. 10:31)  We are more interested in hearing the praises (or avoiding the criticisms) of congregants, boards, etc.
Jesus said: "On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."  (Matt. 16:18)  How have we as pastors and churches engaged in "making our own fire" or not taking our ministry and message of reconciliation seriously enough? Could this be the reason we fail to take enemy territory--causing a dilution (or even withdrawal) of God's full blessing?  God help us!

As pastors, we know that we often spend a lot of time building "our kingdom" that we fail to build His Kingdom.  We will be meeting again for a prayer retreat in September for God to continue to do His work in us.

Take this list and commit to praying for your pastor and church leaders regularly regarding these prayer points. [By the way, pray these same items for yourself also.]  Let Jesus build His Church!

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Uncommon Knowledge

Mark McCormack, in his leadership book The 110% Solution, states that leaders need to lead from a position of uncommon knowledge.  In other words, plans and strategies shouldn't just be based upon information available to anyone (i.e., 'common knowledge'), but that which is out of the normal, the expected, the routine.

In reflection, this is how Jesus led and functioned.
- The common knowledge: One boy's bag lunch is enough to feed one boy. The uncommon knowledge: With God, one boy's bag lunch could feed a multitude.
- Common: The young girl was dead.   Uncommon: Her death was turned into 'just asleep' by Jesus.
- Common: Lazarus in the tomb for four days, "Lord, he stinketh!"   Uncommon: He's ready to bound out of there.
- Common: With the crucifixion--the Jesus movement was dead.   Uncommon: With the resurrection--WOW!

You see this in numerous examples elsewhere in the Bible:
- Common: Egypt was a great power.   Uncommon: Egypt will be brought to its knees by seven years of famine--but God will work in and through Joseph to accomplish His plans.
- Common: A young shepherd boy has no business going to battle with a Philistine giant.   Uncommon: David has to slingshot only one stone and God will guide it to kill Goliath.
- Common: Gideon going to battle with 300 men against an army of 132,000--CRAZY!   Uncommon: The battle had already been won.
God's Word is full of uncommon knowledge.

But one thing I'm struck with is that uncommon knowledge does not mean unknowable knowledge.
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) 
"Call to Me and I will answer and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:3)
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) 

The faith walk is not a walk based on what we see and already know--the common. It is based on the world of the unseen, the spiritual, the supernatural--the uncommon.

God wants us to follow Him (and lead others) out of the relationship of knowable Truth.  And knowable Truth always reveals uncommon knowledge. And uncommon knowledge takes us to the place God wants us to be--and there is no better place to be!

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Despise Not the Small Things

I have been traveling to West Wendover, NV once a week on Wednesday nights for the past 4 months or so to assist a small church there.  The trip is about 2 hours each way--which provides for plenty of reflection time.

This church has struggled over the years and become a church of 5 members with a smattering of other people who consider it their church home.  Why in the world would I consider investing my time in such an isolated rural community?  The likelihood of 'success' (i.e., more numbers) is questionable--the lack of recognition and 'glory' is all but certain.  This church, this community certainly qualifies as 'a small thing.'

In Zechariah 4:10, we read, "Who despises the small things?"  Some thought the work on rebuilding the second temple was insignificant--especially when compared to the glory of the first temple.  But we are reminded in Zechariah that God is in the rebuilding business--and His idea of 'significance and success' is much different than the world's.

I began a new sermon series last week in which I mentioned that God's desire is to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) that meets the deepest God-placed longings of our heart.  One of those longings is the desire for true success--a success that matters for eternity.  A success that is often found in the 'small things' found in life.

Jesus did not despise the little things. He invested in the lives of only a few rather than trying to build a mega-congregation.  He didn't spend His time writing books that could sell millions--but hurried to see a sick little girl.  Small things...

- A small boy's lunch that displayed the wonderment and awe of God's power. 

- An interruption of His schedule to personally minister to a woman who had a debilitating issuance of blood for twelve years. 

- Breaking every standard of conduct and custom by asking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman.

- Making sure His mother would be taken care of even as He was hanging on the cross.

I have been called to pastor a relatively small congregation in Elko, NV.  I am ministering to a much smaller congregation in West Wendover. Small things that will never make the cover story of Christianity Today.  Small things that Jesus cares about.  Small things that matter for eternity.

Do you have any small things in your life that you despise?  Small things that God desperately desires to reveal His power and glory in and through?  Small things that are really not small at all?

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at




Friday, June 6, 2014

The Kingdom and 'D-Day + 70'

Today marks the 70th anniversary of that remarkable event called D-Day.  Those whom we have affectionately called 'The Greatest Generation' were willing to sacrifice all for the next generation, and the next, and the next. They waded into enemy territory, willing to put aside all of their desires, hopes, dreams--for those not even born yet--to achieve that which they may never experience the benefits of.

Isn't that what having a kingdom perspective is also about? Being willing to put aside ourselves, our comfort, our wants--to build into the next generation of followers of Christ? 

We've all heard it said that 'Christianity is only one generation from extinction.'  Yet, I have to question myself as to how diligent I really am in preparing and building the church with the next generation in mind.

Virtually every church I've ever been involved with had leadership that had been leading for many years, even decades. Leaders that became involved when they were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are still the same leaders 10 or 20 years later (or longer!).  In other words, the dedicated folks who were a part of providing momentum in earlier years by diligent service are still the same people doing it decades later.  No wonder churches naturally get older and grayer.

You see this happening in virtually every area of ministry: children, youth, praise teams, ushers, deacons, Sunday school teachers...the list goes on and on.  Often, there are good reasons (or at least they're good in our minds) why we allow this to happen: 'We can't find as dedicated of people as we are.' 'This is my ministry--I enjoy it too much to let it go.'  'Not using all of our experience and what we've learned is a waste.'

As we are slowly implementing a discipleship approach in our church which looks at every individual growing into becoming a 'spiritual parent' of others, our responsibility in making disciple-making disciples (i.e., fulfilling the Great Commission) will force us to confront this tendency to 'age-in-place' in church.

I recently read a challenge for pastors to compare the average age in their church to the average age of their community. The wider the disparity, the farther down the road is the gentrification of their church. And this means that the church is that much closer to being a 'dying church.'

We need a new 'greatest generation' made up of those who are especially in their 50s and older. This generation needs to ask the question: "What will it take to reach our children and grandchildren?"  What programs, ministries, traditions and practices that worked at one time, but no longer seem to be effective, need to change?

Can we become the next 'Kingdom Greatest Generation'--willing to sacrifice all for the next generation, and the next, and the next? Ones not afraid to wade into enemy territory, willing to put aside all of our desires, hopes, dreams--for those maybe not even born yet--to achieve that which we may never experience the benefits of?  May it be done all done for the glory of God and God alone.

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at




Friday, May 23, 2014

The Fear of Failure

How many people can honestly say that they love to fail? No one in their right mind!

Yet a paradox of life is that we usually learn so much more through our failures than through our successes. So why are we so afraid of going to a place that may mean that we don't see the results we want or expect to see (in other words, 'failure')?

The life of faith is a call to walk to places in a way that very possibly takes us where we don't want to go, don't expect to go, or requiring change that we don't want to do. And this call may very well be a call to 'fail' (at least by our usual definition of failure).

Yet the Apostle Paul reminds us,

"I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands. For God did not give us a spirit of fear (timidity), but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."                    (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

Instead of worrying about the 'what-ifs', we are to stir up the fire of Jesus. What counts as 'success' is your passion for Jesus--not a new program, a strategy, or busyness. If we are smack dab in the middle of God's will, we have nothing to fear--including the fear of failure!  The only thing that can quench this fire is sin or self-sufficiency.

I was meeting with our church leadership team last night and we were discussing an opportunity that God seemed to be orchestrating for our church to get involved in. A few of us (including myself) shared how this undertaking would be easier to handle if we only had a few more resources.  In other words--WE MIGHT FAIL!

How easy it is to slip into that self-sufficiency mind-set--quenching the spirit of God--and inviting in a spirit of fear.  'Heart check' time!

Paul reminds us that it is about heart position--not "results." Walking in obedience to God is always a 'win' in His eyes. And that is all that really counts in the end!

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at


Friday, May 2, 2014

Shepherding vs. Discipleship

Over the past three months, I've been involved with both the church I pastor here in Elko, NV and with another church in W. Wendover, NV in understanding what it means to disciple. As part of this process, I've discovered that people often confuse shepherding a flock versus discipling a flock. In fact, at one of our sessions in W. Wendover, we spent a part of one evening discussing this difference.

Even though I don't remember all of the specifics of the discussion, I thought it would be helpful to bring forth a few of the highlights. Since this part of the country has a heritage that includes sheep herding (Basque) as well as ranching, many individuals could speak intelligently to this subject. I asked the group to list some of the responsibilities that a sheep herder or rancher has. Some of their responses:

- Protect the flock/herd from predators
- Ensure that they are fed and watered
- Inoculate from diseases
- Lead them to adequate pastures
- Keep track of the total number and look for those that are missing
- For shepherds, they usually live with their flock
- For shepherds, discipline immature sheep (lambs) that keep wandering off (i.e., 'break their leg' with the staff and carry them on one's shoulder)
- Eat them!  OK, this one probably doesn't belong in this list.

These responsibilities correspond with how Jesus spoke about how we are to protect and provide for those entrusted to our care.  Scripture is replete with references to sheep and shepherds and clearly teaches that the above responsibilities are for anyone brought into the fold.  Some are even called into this special responsibility of a shepherd.

However, discipleship is different.  All of us are called to be disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). But not all are willing. What is a disciple? Very simply, from Matthew 4:19:

(Jesus) "Come and follow Me..." - a person who makes a decision of the will to know and follow Christ.
"...and I will make you..." - a person who is being transformed and changed on a daily basis to become more like Christ.
"...fishers of men." - a person who is committed to the mission of Christ.
A person has to choose to become obedient to the mission of Christ. Disciples are called to grow in Christ and lead other disciples who will grow in Christ who lead other disciples who will grow in Christ who will...well, you get the picture.

We shepherd everyone. We disciple those willing to be discipled (i.e., those that are available, faithful, and teachable).  Are you only a sheep or a sheep who is a disciple?

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at


Friday, April 11, 2014

Pssst...I Have Something to Tell You!

"I'm concerned for _____________ because..."
"I'm having a problem with ______________ because of such and such. What do you think?"
"We need to pray for ________________ because they've ..."
"I heard 'such and such' about _______________. Do you know if it's true?"

Each of these statements I've said innumerable times over my life. Most of the time, I felt justified in saying what I said. I  usually had 'valid' reasons and could defend my reasons. Almost always, I felt there was a higher good that I was trying to achieve. Or, I was so emotionally upset about something that this became my automatic response.

But a friend of mine shared with me a definition of gossip that is probably one of the clearest I've ever heard:
Gossip is to speak (behind someone's back) in a way
which raises questions or doubts about another person or their character.
This definition strips away all aspects of whether what you are saying is true, what your motives for saying it are, and what 'greater good' you may think you are achieving.

It is gossip. And the Bible has a lot to say about gossip. The bottom line: it is sin. There is no sugar coating, no 'ends justifies the means', no wrapping the action in words like compassion or concern. It is sin--and sin destroys.

Sin destroys your character. Sin destroys relationships. Sin destroys the koinonia of a church (see my 10/30/13 blog posting). Sin destroys the unity of a church. Sin destroys a church.

Is this kind of talk ever appropriate.  Yes--but only when done by individuals engaged in a Matthew 18 church discipline process.  Other than that--all other instances are sin. Period.

I think back on my own life and realize how easily I succumbed to this sin. Many years ago, I was part of a church where many of the leaders actively engaged in regularly 'skewering the pastor' with their friends, in 'parking lot meetings', etc.  It is to my own shame that I became part of this--whether through active participation or non-confrontation of other's sin.  This became such a regular part of church life that the church eventually split.  [Note: Many years later, I asked forgiveness of this pastor for being a part of this.]

In our New Member's Class in our church, we stress that, according to Romans 14:19, we should put the maximum effort into peace and unity in the church (but not at the expense of truth and purity).  This means that ANY attitude that causes disunity—is sin.  If any attitude or action destroys the fellowship, it destroys the church.  There are plenty of verses to back this up. [1 Cor. 1:10; 14:33; 2 Tim. 2:14, 23; Ps. 133:1; Prov. 17:14; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 1:27; 2:1-3; 4:2; Col. 2:2; 3:13-15; 1 Pet. 3:8; John 13:34-35; Rom. 12:16-18; 15:5-6]

My encouragement to you is to rethink every word you speak about others. I think you will be surprised as to how much of it is really gossip! I know I am when I look at my own behavior!

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph. 4:29)

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The New Tolerance or The Old Intolerance?

Note: We have apparently had some academic bullying at our local college by some science teachers against Christians that has been personal and vitriolic in nature. Quite a bit of discussion has occurred in the newspaper's editorial section on this. The person who brought this to light (Pastor DuSoliel) has been both vilified and applauded by his stance. Below is my letter to the Editor to try to weigh in on this issue on a less emotional level and more of a philosophical level:

Mr. DuSoleil's recent letter concerning 'Atheistic Bullies in Academia', specifically noting certain issues at GBC, highlights a greater issue that is reflected in society. The word tolerance has subtly shifted meaning from "accepting the existence of different views" to "acceptance of different views." In other words, our society has found it more and more acceptable to move from a place of recognizing other people's rights to have different beliefs or practices to a place that the only acceptable practice is accepting the differing views of other people and no longer opposing them.

To put it another way, we have moved from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the position that all opinions are of equal value and worth (as well as truth). Thus, any opinion that makes any sort of exclusive claim is then widely viewed as intolerant.  This especially becomes evident in a subject such as the origin of the universe/life discussion. One position that states there is intelligent design (thus, an intelligent Creator) and another position that attempts to explain away through natural mechanisms and causes any need for such a Creator are at odds because they are mutually exclusive positions.

Under the older view of tolerance, a person is likely to still be considered tolerant even if that person believed strongly in their views and they insisted others had the right to hold a dissenting view. The newer view of tolerance has now become the belief that you must accept my view on something (or at least accept that it has the same validity)--failure to do so automatically labels you as intolerant.

The problem with the new tolerance is that it becomes intolerant of views that don't match their own. The denigrating and devaluing of those that hold views inconsistent with the new tolerance (which is really the old intolerance) have thus become guilty of hypocrisy at the most base level--truth is defined as to what they state truth is.

But not all truth is found in a Petri dish. Is it possible that there may be other sources of truth out there? As a Pastor, I certainly think so.  To automatically dismiss an opposing view (as apparently is happening with some in academia at GBC) because one disagrees, is unable to 'prove scientifically', etc. is academically dishonest because one is now behaving as if they believe that they are the holders of all truth. To deny the right of a person to believe something different and devaluing that person is the ultimate in intolerance.

John Schmidt
Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Struggle to 'Go'

Jesus' marching orders to every Christian and to every church is found in what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The primary command is to make disciples--and we are to do this by going, baptizing, and teaching others to obey God's commands.

Jesus commands us to 'go'--but I find it real easy to justify and rationalize something quite different. After all, I worked hard on the sermon this week--they should come to hear it.  Or, I have too much to do on my 'to-do-list'. Or, if I'm really honest with myself--I don't love others enough to get out of my routine and comfort zone. Ouch!

Excuses are nothing new. When Jesus called out people to follow Him and be His disciple...
 - Some insisted that they needed to care for their elderly parents first (Luke 9:59-60).
 - Some insisted that other matters needed to be put in order first (Luke 9:61-62).
 - Some were willing to follow but not until they knew all the details (Luke 9:57-58).
Sadly, it's the same today.

We fail to 'go' insisting that our priority is at home. Or we are comfortable where we are. Or we have a fear of failure or rejection. Or we are so busy in doing other 'good' things that we fail to obey the most basic of commands given to us (and then wonder why so much of what we do is lacking in spiritual power!).

Henry Blackaby points out that often, we look at the success we're experiencing doing what we're doing (whether it is church-related or work-related) and use that as an excuse to not 'go.'  But Jesus often called His followers elsewhere even in the midst of success. Peter had just pulled in the greatest fishing haul of his career--when Jesus called Him to leave it and follow Him (Luke 5:1-11). Philip was experiencing great success as an evangelist when God called him out to the desert (Acts 8:25-40).

Our own priorities, fears, and successes can all be a hindrance to going where Jesus wants us to go. How willing are you to 'go' and make a disciple?

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why Jesus Can Meet Our Every Need

Last Sunday, I preached on the story of the raising of Lazarus (the brother of Mary and Martha) from the dead (John 11).  One of the fascinating aspects of this story is understanding why Jesus responded differently to Martha and to Mary even though they both came to Jesus and said, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Martha came to Jesus first and made this statement. Jesus' response to her was a mini-sermon (vv. 23-26).  But when Mary came to Jesus and made the exact same statement, Jesus was almost speechless and His response was: "Jesus wept" (v. 35).  Why the disparity in what Jesus said?

Apparently the hearts of Martha and Mary were in two completely different places. Martha seemed to be falling into a pit of 'woe is me'. Jesus needed to reach down and pull her from that pit by splashing cold water on her face: "Martha, I am more than someone who has access to power to raise Lazarus--I am the power! Get a grip on eternal truth and who I am."  This is re-enforced in verse 40 when Jesus has to once more mildly rebuke her.

But for Mary, her grief was based on the profound sadness of death taking her brother. Instead of 'preaching' at her, Jesus recognized her greatest need was not spoken truth, but participating in her emotional loss. "Jesus wept."

These two responses are astonishing because in one short narrative, we see Jesus reiterating His claim to be 100% God ('I am the power--the giver of life') while He is also 100% man ('Jesus wept').  He is not 50/50 God and man--but 100/100.

We may not fully understand this, but Jesus is qualified to meet our every need.

- Because He is 100% God, He has the power to meet every need. And because of that--He sometimes has to 'shake us by the shoulders' to get our attention and remind us who He is.

- Because He is 100% man, He understands and know exactly how you feel. And because of that--He can walk with us, hold us in His arms, and comfort us like no one else can.

My wife pointed out that Mary had the proper perspective of Jesus and circumstances in life because she spent time at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) while Martha was constantly distracted by the cares and concerns of the world. Martha seemed to struggle with spending time and attention on 'good things' while Mary focused on the 'best thing.' 

And when the heartache and tribulations of life happened--Martha had difficulty coping while Mary was able to turn to the only source that mattered: Him who was Life!

Do you have an emotional, or physical, or relational, or spiritual, or psychological need?  Fall at and embrace the feet of Truth, Jesus--He who is 100% God and 100% man.  Be a Mary--not a Martha.

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A One-Word Sermon

I recently saw the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". [I know, I know--it is a couple of years old and can be considered a 'chick flick'! What can I say?]

In the hotel, the young man who is the manager of the hotel excuses the way things currently are by saying: "It'll be alright in the end.  If it's not alright, it's not the end yet."  We pastors have a saying--"That'll preach!"

For my first sermon this year, I introduced a word for 2014: "Yet."  The Apostle Paul uses this little word in Romans 8:25 (NLT): "But if we look forward to something we don't have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently."

'I have not received an answer to my prayer' is a statement of current fact.
'I have not received an answer to my prayer yet' brings God into the picture.

That little word 'yet' is a word of hope and anticipation and expectation.  It recognizes that God is always at work.  It changes our outlook completely on our current circumstances.

We can have hope which is that settled confidence that looks to the future.  And that means today we can have patience--that willingness to walk in faith in the present because of our hope in the future.

What is it that you have been praying for (maybe for years) that you have not seen an answer--yet?  An unbelieving spouse or child? A turnaround in finances? A healing of some kind?  A relationship breakthrough?

As a pastor, I can be easily discouraged and frustrated seeing lack of spiritual growth amongst some in a congregation who should know better (at least intellectually).  It is tempting to give up, to stop praying, to begin to 'play Holy Spirit.'  But by employing that one little word, a different mindset is established: "They have not changed--YET!"

I can continue to pray in confidence. To persevere despite the lack of tangible results.  To guard against emotions of anger, bitterness, frustration, discouragement, anxiety, etc.  To recognize that God has not finished His work: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9)

What a great God when we can say: 'It'll be alright in the end.  If it's not alright, it's not the end yet.'

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Living Life After the 'But'

Be honest--the title caught your attention. I want to quickly point out that 'but' only has one 't', not two. But read on please--you won't be disappointed.

Last year, I preached out of the book of Jonah and zeroed in on one word in Jonah's prayer while he was in the belly of the big fish.  It was the word 'but' (Jonah 2:6b).  To sum up Jonah's prayer: "Things are terrible right now, but You brought my life up from the pit."

This became one of those little words that became a common phrase in our church during 2013: "But God..."

The truth is that people always live life after the 'but.' Don't believe me? Here are two options:

     Option #1: Circumstances are terrible, but God will see me through.

     Option #2:  God said He would see me through, but circumstances are terrible.

Guess which option one will find hope, peace, the sufficiency of God?  The person who lives in option 2 may have the head knowledge about God but they have failed to translate that into their life--and the result is worry, anxiety, discouragement, frustration, etc.  Jonah prayed under option #1--because He understood the principle of living life after the 'but.'

Joseph, in speaking to his brothers, understood this: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”  (Gen. 50:20)

Paul understood this: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:7-9)

Jesus understood this in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39)

Are you struggling with something in your life right now?  Do you have worry, anxiety, etc.?  Are circumstances beyond your control (which, by the way, most are!)?  We spend too much time focusing on hoping that circumstances will change--rather than focusing on He who lives above and outside those circumstances.

Don’t focus on changing the circumstances, or wondering why circumstances don't change---because we can’t change the ‘but’.  We can only change…what side we put God on.

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at