Sunday, November 2, 2014

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. As you sit in your comfortable churches today, I hope you will think of those who are experiencing the edge of the sword at the hands of evil men. Please visit The Voice of the Martyrs website for more information about those who suffer persecutions today because they are following Jesus.

And take a few minutes to watch Liena's Prayer as she describes what it is like to be a Christian in Syria. This is powerful. 

Would you pray this prayer? 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Marriage Book by Francis Chan

Francis Chan just released a new book on marriage called "You and Me Forever." I wouldn't mind reading it soon as I'm always in need of more help on my role in marriage and I have enjoyed most of what Chan has written.

But there is one thing about this book being released that is unique. What would you do in order to publicize your books? How committed would you be that people know about your book? Would you completely sell out by making a music video? That's what Francis and Lisa Chan have done. Apparently, they wrote and performed this video together. Not bad.

If you are looking for a good laugh today, check it out. And then maybe check out the book as well. I know this video worked in getting me to order the book. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Psalm 145 by Shane and Shane

Its been a while since I have posted here on the blog. But tonight as I was studying and going over my sermon for tomorrow, I was listening to the Psalms album by Shane & Shane. The lyrics to the song, Psalm 145, moved me and I wanted to share it tonight. Listen to the words closely and follow along with your Bible. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Last week, I read Mitch Albom's bestseller, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It is a book that tells the story of a man by the name of Eddie who dies, goes to heaven and meets five people who explain his life to him. [A full review is coming as soon as my son reads the book & does his summer reading assignment; I'm not going to make it easy for him to copy my thoughts, if you know what I mean.] But there is one thing I wanted to mention now about the book that particularly struck me. 

Throughout the book while Eddie is in heaven, there are flashbacks to his time on earth. In one of them, Albom pulls the curtain back to see some of the true feelings of Eddy. We witness what's really going on in his mind and heart. One is when he wakes from a dream when he is 33 years old.
"And then he wakes up. Sweating. Panting. Always the same. The worst part is not the sleeplessness. The worst part is the general darkness the dream leaves over him, a gray film that clouds the day. Even his happy moments feel encased, like holes jabbed in a hard sheet of ice. 
He dresses quietly and goes down the stairs. The taxi is parked by the corner, its usual spot, and Eddie wipes the moisture from its windshield. He never speaks about the darkness to Marguerite. She strokes his hair and says,' What's wrong?' and he says, 'Nothing, I'm just beat,' and leaves it at that. How can he explain such sadness when she is supposed to make him happy? The truth is he cannot explain it himself. All he knows it that something stepped in front of him, blocking his way, until in time he gave up on things, he gave up studying engineering, and he gave up on the idea of traveling. He sat down in his life. And there he remained" (118).
The part that struck me is the part I underlined above. He never speaks about the darkness with his wife. She asks what's wrong and he says that nothing is wrong. He puts up a mask disguising the real issue going on in his heart. 

I wonder how many people really do this. How many people think its too dangerous to be vulnerable. How many people think its too risky to pull back the curtain of their life to allow someone to see inside.  When asked what is wrong, how many people will deflect the real issues and point to something simple . . . "I'm just tired." Why do so many people do this? Why do we do this? Why do I do this?

Vulnerability isn't easy. It is risky. It can be painful. But it is necessary if you are going to successfully deal with anything significant in your life. I've been thinking about this topic a lot recently and will continue to think about it. But until then . . .

Why do you think people avoid the risk and pain of vulnerability?

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Life: My Birth Story

The other day, I shared a short review of Jerry Bridges new book, God Took Me by the Hand. One of the things I took away from that book is the need to tell life stories. I'm not pretending to be Jerry Bridges or that anyone would want to hear my life story. But I thought if I do not write these things down (at least for my kids), I'll forget about them. They may not hear them. And so today I'm starting a series of stories that I'm going to write to show how God has been active in my life throughout my life. I'm writing these stories for my children, you just get to look through the window of our storytime (if you want). 

I thought I would start with my birth story. I know I was there, but do not remember much about it. Several years ago, I asked my mom to write down some of the details of my birth so I would have them. These are her words as she recalls the events of the beginning of my life.
"On October 31, 1973, I went to the hospital, trusting to have a baby that night because our insurance ran out that day. When I had not given birth by the next morning, the doctor took an x-ray to see how many babies I was carrying: 'One big one' was the report. (There were no ultrasounds back then.) Labor was induced and at 4:44 that afternoon, Thad was born. Then on Saturday night, November 3, as we were celebrating with my sister the birth of our 9 pound 1 ounce baby boy, the doctor entered our room and said, 'Mr. and Mrs. Bergmeier, you have a very sick son.' 
He then proceeded to tell how Thad had a blood infection, which caused him to be very lethargic and to run a temperature, was jaundice, had a collapsed lung, and had an enlarged heart, which probably meant a congenital heart disease. Thad had already been put under the lights for the jaundice, and a heart specialist had been called in. At first I thought God was punishing me because I really did not want two babies so close together. That night God showed me again Romans 8:28-29. I studied it and read it over and over again. All this was to be for God's glory. Later that night a young nurse started to witness to me. God had everything lined up just the way He designed it to be. The next day, Sunday, I went home without my baby. 
Because we lived about thirty minutes from the hospital and I had a child not quite a year old at home, I did not get to see Thad everyday. On Monday we talked to the heart specialist. He said that he would call us back the next day because he was running all kinds of tests on Thad and would not have the results until the next afternoon. Tuesday afternoon he called and asked us to meet him that night outside the nursery so he could talk to us about Thad. We went, expecting to hear how we were going to have to deal with an invalid. The doctor then said that if he had not personally examined Thad Saturday night, he would have thought that someone had switched babies. Thad's blood infection was clear, he was no longer lethargic, and he did not have a fever. His lung was working properly. His heart was still large but probably just to fill his large chest cavity. (Several doctors had told us that Thad had the broadest shoulders and largest chest cavity they had ever seen.) The doctor referred to Thad as the miracle baby. We verbally gave God the credit. When the doctor asked if we had any questions, Gary had one: 'Will he be able to play sports?' 
'Will he be able to play football?' 
'With the size of those shoulders and chest cavity, he better.' 
Since there had been so many things wrong with Thad, the doctor wanted to keep him in the hospital until the next Sunday, just for observation. Finally, when he was ten days old, we brought home a healthy baby boy, knowing that God had something very special planned for him."
I never played football, but I did play futbol. Maybe my dad just mispronounced it back in the day.

I would ask my mom to tell me this story often as a child. She would always end the story the same way: "God has something special for you someday." I don't know why I used to ask her to tell the story. Maybe it was simply that I longed to be considered special. Maybe it was because there was something inside of me that was curious as to what that "something special" was that God would have for me someday.

I used to love having my mom tell that story. I don't share it much these days. I don't know why. I don't know why I was born so sick and then healed so quickly. I don't know why me and not the countless other children who are born with illnesses. Maybe I don't share it so much today because of fear that I won't live up to that "God's got something special for you" feeling. That can be a lot of pressure.

One thing is for sure. God began to take me by the hand (to borrow Bridge's verbage) while I was still in the womb. He began to work in my heart back then (physically and spiritually). And for that I'm thankful. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper

I have been on vacation the past two weeks and have taken the opportunity to do a lot of reading. One of the books I read early on in the vacation was Barnabas Piper's new book, The Pastor's Kid. You might have guessed from his name, Barnabas is the son of the well-known pastor, John Piper. And so when I saw that he was coming out with a book on what it is like growing up as a pastor's kid, I wanted to read it for three reasons. 

First, I am a pastor. Second, I have children. Third, I love them dearly and want to do everything I can to help them avoid any stereotypical or extraordinary demands placed on them because I am a pastor. I was happy to find out that my third reason is the main reason Barnabas wrote this book. He seeks to correct wrong thinking of expectations placed upon the children of pastors.

In the beginning of the book, he calls for pastors, and churches in general, to back off of an undue expectation of the Pastor's Kid (PK) to be someone different than every other kid in the church. He shows how it is unfair for the PK and creates a wrongful expectation of perfection that is impossible to bear. He shares how he felt everyone expected him to be perfect because his dad was the pastor. That is not only unfair, it is impossible. He talks about living in the fishbowl, where everyone hears and knows things about you . . . but they don't know you. That's painful for the PK. He shares, 
"PK's want to be known, not just known of. We want to be in relationships that cut through the facades and fronts and unearth the insecurities and needs. We long for those friends and mentors who will willfully set aside all they think they know of us as PKs and get to know us as people. These friends will engage our passions, our interests, our fears, our confusions . . . PKs struggle, and if all we have are people around us who know of us, we bottle those struggles inside and the pressure builds. Being known is a release, a way to pour out our problems and be helped, supported, corrected, taught, and simply known" (37). 
I was really drawn to my children through reading this book. It made me want to do a better job shepherding them in this area. I have had many conversations with my oldest son, who is now 14, about this issue. I often ask him if he feels any pressure from anyone because I'm the pastor of the church. So far, he says he doesn't. Only he knows if he is being honest with me. I hope so. I consistently reaffirm to him that if he ever feels that, he needs to let me know. I want him to feel freedom to be real; to struggle, to grow, to develop his own relationship with Jesus.

Barnabas offers several solutions to these problems faced by the PK. For one, he says what the PK needs more than anything else is grace. Of course, doesn't everyone? But what he means by this is that the PK needs to see grace from his parents (specifically dad) more than hear about grace. He shares one way this happens . . .
"What the PK needs is parents who not only admit to being sinners but actually admit to sins. It is far more powerful for a child to see his parents admitting, apologizing for, and working to correct real, actual sins. When a father refers to himself as a sinner and says he needs grace but doesn't make a habit out of admitting and apologizing for specific failings, he mixes up his kids. PKs see the lost tempers, the harsh words, the overwork, the pride, the gossip. We know what sins our dad commits, but if he doesn't admit to them, we can lose respect for him. We also fail to learn to recognize sins in our own lives, and even if we do see them, we won't admit them. Why should we? Dad doesn't" (79). 
My guess is that this is good parenting advice, not just specifically for pastors.

But he also says the church needs to show grace. He consistently begs that the church treat the PK as they would treat any other child in the church. In the appendix of the book, Piper offers Seven Rules For When You Meet a PK (pg. 145-147). These are helpful and could be expanded upon in depth. But they are things that are helpful for those in the church to think through.
  1. Do not ask us 'What is it like to be the son or daughter of . . .
  2. Do not quote our dads to us.
  3. Do not ask us anything personal you would not ask of anyone else.
  4. Do not ask us anything about our dads' position on anything.
  5. Do not assume you can gain audience with the pastor through us.
  6. Do not assume that we agree with all the utterances of our fathers.
  7. Get to know us.
I feel our church does a good job of this. But it is one thing I will continue to keep an eye on in the future.

While I assume my children are having a different experience growing up in a church being my children than Barnabas did being John Piper's son (size of church, breadth of ministry, popularity, etc...), he makes many great points I need to pay careful attention to. No matter if you are a pastor, pastor's wife, or a congregant, I hope you will give some thought as to how you can care for the children of pastors. After all, as one PK was quoted as saying in the book . . .
"Where is there a safe place to go with your struggles? Who can you talk to? Not even the pastor . . ."
That touches me deeply.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A True Spiritual Community?

Do you want great relationships with people? Do you desire to live as God created you to live? Do you hope that you could have friendships that speak into your life and you into theirs without hesitation or pretense? Then think deeply about this thought . . . 
"A spiritual community consists of people who have the integrity to come clean. It is comprised of those who own their shortcomings and failures because they hate them more than they hate the shortcomings and failures of others, who therefore discover that a well of pure water flows beneath they most fetid corruption . . . Integrity is the first step: We must admit to our community, to a spiritual friend or a spiritual director, who we are at our worst. We must tell our stories to someone without consciously leaving out a chapter" (Larry Crabb, Becoming a True Spiritual Community, 30-31).
A few questions to think about . . .
  • Is this possible?
  • Why or why not?
  • How badly do we want spiritual community?
  • What could we do to lead the way towards this sort of community?
  • What are we afraid of?
  • Are you afraid to share or afraid to hear what others share?