Interview with Rudy Garcia (author of Forged By Fire)

On this episode of the Ignite the Word Podcast I sit down with my good friend, Rudy Garcia! We talk about his debut novel, Forged By Fire, and unpack some of the biblical principles found throughout the book! Pre-order it now on Amazon! It officially releases on December 5, 2020!

Devotional: You Were Created on Purpose and Not by Accident

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”Jeremiah 1:5 NASB

Before you were ever a thought in your parent’s mind God knew you. What the Bible says of Jeremiah in chapter 1 verse 5: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” can also apply to you and I.

You have purpose.

You were not an accident.

In a world full of critics and heartless individuals who may devalue human life (such as babies in the womb) not one human being who is alive now (whether in the womb or not), in the past, or will be in the future, each has much intrinsic value in the eyes of God. Why? The Bible says we are created in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26-27). And if you are reading this please know today that you are not a mistake. God created you with purpose, with detail, and with much love.

Your worth, identity, and purpose does not come from anything or anyone in this world. We may make poor choices but our choices do not give us our identity. They do only if we allow them. Choose today to believe you were created on purpose and not by accident by a God who loves you and desires a personal relationship with you as His son or daughter.

Book Review: Working the Angles by Eugene Peterson

Pastoral work is no easy task. Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles focuses on three angles—prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction—that are directed toward those who are pastors, whether vocationally or bi-vocationally. Upon reading the book it appears that Peterson’s main purpose in writing Working the Angles is to prepare pastors to not just do the work that the office of a pastor requires but to be effective in that calling to a high level of excellence that brings much glory to God. What Peterson is ultimately addressing in the book is the fact that so many pastors are “abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate.”[1] Many pastors have not physically left their churches but have gone, as Peterson states, “whoring after other gods.”[2] The support Peterson gathers for such statements is likely the amount of broken families, marriages and homes all throughout America. Many that hold the office of a pastor are simply good at wearing the pastor hat and putting on a good act. Peterson aims to address this in Working the Angles, desiring to see pastors who, like centuries past, do pastoral work and not act like they are only to fool themselves and others. They can never fool the Lord.

Peterson reaches a conclusion concerning pastors putting on this facade and he does so by diving into three angles that help shape true pastoral work. As already mentioned they are prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction. These also function as the main ideas or concepts the reader must grasp in order to bring about the resolution to the problem he sees happening with many pastors. From reading Working the Angles it appears that Peterson does not think every pastor has proper training. It appears he understands some have seminary training while others appear to just put on the pastoral hat and learn the lingo to slide by—and unfortunately many churches seem completely content with such behavior. Peterson does not find that sort of behavior to be honoring to the position of the pastoral office.

Peterson argues “pastoral work has no integrity unconnected with the angles of prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction”[3] and throughout the book he delivers his thoughts on these matters from his own life’s work of pastoral work. He also pulls in historical evidence and church tradition, Scripture, and observation of society in order to build his argument.

Peterson argues that if many pastors were polled they would agree prayer is not “the essential act that keeps pastoral work true”[4] but he is not suggesting pastors never pray. Many pastors do indeed pray but if prayer was viewed as essential as Peterson argues the percentage of pastors praying would be pretty high. “How do ministers spend their prayer time? For the average minister, it looks like this: 32 percent in petition/requests, 20 percent in quiet time or listening to God, 18 percent in thanksgiving, 17 percent in praise and 14 percent in confession.”[5] The evidence Peterson presents on prayer being essential, as just one example in the book, provides adequate strength to support his argument. Judging by the percentages given by the Baptist Press, though published in 2005, provides support to the reality that pastors may pray but due to many pastors feeling dissatisfied with their prayer life they perhaps do not view prayer in the same light as Peterson does in Working the Angles.

Peterson is quite clear on his view of the three angles (prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction) being connected to what is considered true pastoral work. As the book unfolds, Peterson is open and honest, diving into experiences taken from his own life that enhance the concepts he is presenting. Peterson states: “climbing a mountain has been a metaphor for the developing life of faith…aware of the danger of the enterprise and my own ignorance of the mountain, I decided that I must have a skilled guide, a spiritual director.”[6] He proceeds to share, after praying it over, how he found a spiritual director.

From his experiences mentioned in the book it is evident he knows what he is talking about in regard to the three angles he presents, which is why Working the Angles is a book that should certainly be read by pastors-to-be, pastors in training, and pastors currently in the pulpit. He is not writing without experience. He is writing from the trenches, from the mountain, and aims to help other pastors navigate the journey.

Peterson’s Working the Angles provides practical advice that will aide any pastor; ensuring the office of the pastor is upheld with much integrity. Due to that very reason this is a book that should be read by all pastors, not just those in seminary or training. Pastors in centuries past have, according to Peterson, understood the importance of prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction. Perhaps the amount of news and distractions that are at pastor’s disposal in the modern world has influenced the abandonment of the posts as Peterson points out in the book’s opening pages. That is all the more reason why pastors today should pick up this book and read it. It will benefit them and those whom they have been given the task of shepherding and leading. The difference Working the Angles will make in a pastor’s life is worth the time it will take to read the book. Drawing from life experience, Peterson delivers a well-thought out approach to the ways of pastoral integrity by delving into prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction as non-negotiables in the call to be a pastor.


Works Cited

Baptist Press. “Most pastors unsatisfied with their personal prayer lives.” Last modified June 6,   2005. https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/most-pastors-unsatisfied-with-their-personal-prayer-lives/.

Peterson, Eugene. Working the Angles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Footnotes:

[1] Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 1.

[2] Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 1.

[3] Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 18.

[4] Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 26.

[5] “Most pastors unsatisfied with their personal prayer lives,” Baptist Press, accessed October 2, 2020, https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/most-pastors-unsatisfied-with-their-personal-prayer-lives/.

[6] Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 168-169.


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We Need to Be Vocal About Injustice

Our country is in trouble if things don’t begin to change. As a pastor I believe Christians need to be more vocal about injustice than anyone else. God’s people must be the voice for change. Silence is warranted sometimes and other times it speaks louder than we might realize. No more silence. Our culture is on a path of great pain. Some thoughts:

Why should Christians be more vocal about injustice than anyone else? The Church should be the place the world looks to for wisdom, to set the example, to give solutions to the cultural and social issues that are plaguing our world. What happened to George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery was injustice. It was wrong. And it breaks my heart things like this continue to happen.

How can we, as followers of Christ, be more vocal? Use the platform, the sphere of influence, the social media accounts, the places where you have a voice to speak out in love and truth against all forms of injustice. Speaking out in hate or condemnation or blame will not resolve anything.

God’s Word is clear of what the Lord requires of us:

…And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 NASB

To do justice we must speak out against injustice.

To love kindness (or mercy) we must show it to others.

To walk in humility before God we must ask God to remove every bit of our pride. The Bible is clear that God opposes the proud (see James 4:6)!

The words of George Floyd haunt me: “I can’t breathe!”

The video of Ahmaud Arbery being murdered breaks me.

And the injustice of so many others brings tears to my eyes. Why? Because they are people made in the image of God just like anyone else. It’s sad that some parents have to teach their kids where to go and not to go because the color of their skin might invite trouble for no reason. Church, we must use our collective voice for change! We must speak out. We must set the example of how to love diverse people, because the God we serve is a God of diversity!

We must stand united that all forms of injustice, regardless of race, must end!

Church, we are all different. But we serve the same God (see Romans 10:12). God loves diversity. Just look at creation at all the different animal life, plant life, and the different people all across the planet. I’ll say it again and as many times as needed: God loves diversity! His creation screams it but yet so many of us hate it. This is a serious problem!

Let’s make a declaration that we will no longer be silent but vocal about injustice. That we, the Church, will not allow culture to influence but rather the Church will influence the culture.

Use your voice right where you are.

To love people.

To do justice.

To love kindness (or mercy).

To walk humbly with God.

When we do that, I believe the Church can actually be the catalyst for change. We must begin on our knees repenting of any prejudice and racism, ask the Lord to reveal the true condition of our hearts about these issues, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, and allow Him to use us to influence our culture!

Together, our voices will be heard. After all, as followers of Jesus, we are all part of the same family. Begin today using your voice right where you are to tell others about the only solution to end all forms of injustice: the love of Christ, the Gospel!


FYI: Hateful comments will not be posted.

6 Confessions of a Pastor

This article was picked up by The Christian Post here.

Let me tell you upfront: I’m not confessing some horrendous sin or moral failure. What I am doing is confessing or “sharing” the struggles I, Aaron Joseph Hall, face and I know other pastors likely face as well. Especially in the current circumstance that we are all facing.


Being a pastor is hard. I have heard it said that if you don’t feel God is calling you to the ministry go and do something else. Ministry isn’t glamorous. It isn’t all fun and games. Many times when people hear that I’m a youth pastor they either A) think I’m not a “real” pastor or B) think youth ministry is just having fun with students. Both couldn’t be further from the truth.

Ministry is hard regardless if you are a senior pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor, or small group leader, etc. Ministry is hard because people are messy. That’s not an indictment on you. I’m messy too. I have my failures and shortcoming just like anyone else. If you are a human being you are messy. There, I said it. But in some ways that alleviates the burden, because that means I’m not alone. You’re not alone.

I’m sharing these confessions with the hope that people can see it’s not easy being a pastor. Pandemic or not, it’s hard. It’s exhausting. But at the same time, it’s worth it. It’s fulfilling. Why? Though it can be challenging, people matter to pastors (well those pastors who are genuinely serving with a heart for people and not for selfish gain or motivation). So, without further ado, here are six “confessions” as a pastor.

1. I don’t have all the answers

No pastor has all the answers. But if you are a Christian then you know the One who does. I know that might sound like one of those cheesy Christian lines, but it’s true. As believers, we know the One who has all the answers. We serve the God who created everything, knows everything, and understands everything.

Too often pastors are expected to know the answers to every situation. We are human. Sometimes all we can do is pray and ask the Lord to intervene. Sometimes all we can do is hug you, pray for you, and open the Bible. I’m the type of person that will tell you upfront if I don’t know the answer to something. I’ve been asked Bible questions that I can’t answer. That’s okay.

Pastors, if you are reading this and wrestle with not knowing the answers, it’s okay. A degree doesn’t define whether you are a pastor or whether God has called you (though degrees are great and very helpful). Don’t let your lack of education make you feel like a lousy pastor. The Holy Spirit is the best teacher. Lean into Him. And trust Him for the answers. That goes for any believer, pastor or not!  None of us may have all the answers but thankfully God sees and knows everything. “No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13 CSB).

2. I struggle with wanting to read my Bible too

Pastors aren’t super-spiritual Christians who wake up every day before sunrise and spend a few hours reading their Bible and praying. Some do wake up early to read and pray. And some do it daily. I do sometimes as well, but not every day (I wish I could say I do). It’s wrong to think every pastor is an early riser. Again, we are human. And if I’m going to be honest, there are days I struggle with wanting to read my Bible.

Some pastors can’t admit that because of the fear of being judged or condemned. That’s because some pastors are held to a standard no one can meet. Pastors wrestle with dry seasons. Pastors battle those days where it’s hard to press into the Lord’s presence. Pastors fight those days where they feel spiritually drained and unqualified.

Though I struggle to read at times I cling to the truth of Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Those moments I find myself struggling and not wanting to read are the moments where I need to read the most. And so I do, because His Word is a lamp and a light.

3. Sometimes it’s hard for me to pray

I wish I could admit prayer was always easy for me. But it’s not. There are moments where the sheer weight of pastoring wearies me, drains me, and makes it physically hard for me to pray. There are times I find myself, like Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, struggling to pray.

Have you ever felt this way? Spiritually you want to pray. You really do. I know I really desire to pray but there are moments where I’m physically so weak it’s hard. When I find myself in this condition I hear Jesus’ words He spoke to the disciples that fateful night, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (CSB).

I am beyond thankful Jesus doesn’t leave me in these moments. He’s with me. I’m also thankful the Holy Spirit is in me to strengthen me at all times. So when I am struggling to pray and my strength is failing it’s a good reminder of how I must rely on the Lord’s strength 24/7, because my flesh will fail but His Spirit won’t. I truly believe that moment in the Garden of Gethsemane is in the Bible to encourage us. Even the chosen disciples of Jesus struggled. They are human just like us. And if God could use them – despite moments of shortcomings – He can surely use us!

4. I have moments of faithlessness.

Pastors should always have faith, right? Well, this pastor has moments of faithlessness. Not in the sense that I don’t believe in Jesus, but in the sense that I fall into the type of thinking that God isn’t going to help me. That God won’t breakthrough.

What is really hard about this struggle is I’ve seen God do miracles and yet there are moments where my flesh gives in and I fall short. God healed my firstborn, Oliver, when he was born. God answered our prayers for a second child and literally our second son was prayed into the world. God heard and God answered. God was faithful. In every moment of every second. I wish I could say I’m faithful to God every moment of every second.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (CSB). That includes every pastor (and every human) on planet earth. I’m beyond thankful Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless! 2 Timothy 2:13 reminds us of God’s constant faithfulness: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (CSB). Faithfulness is part of who God is and the Bible is clear “for he cannot deny himself.” Praise God for His faithfulness!

5. I wrestle with balancing ministry with family life

Pastoring isn’t some glamorous 9 to 5 job like some believe. Pastoring is hard work. It’s not just preaching sermons. Pastors work. Hard. A lot. Sometimes forty, fifty, sixty-plus hours a week. Pastors aren’t working just on Sunday mornings or during the midweek service. And because of the nature of ministry, sometimes ministry happens after the church offices are closed. And it is here I sometimes wrestle with balancing ministry with family life. What I mean by that is there must be times where I have to say “no” so I can love and minister to my first ministry, which is always my family.

That’s everyone’s first ministry: their family! And this struggle can be especially hard for pastors given that we can’t open the doors to our church buildings. Working from home and being home can be hard during this season (and other seasons). When I find myself falling into this trap, I cling to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, because it reminds me there are seasons for everything. And this season too shall pass. Verse 1 says: “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven” (CSB). And for me, that means there must be times where I say no to everything else and focus on just my family or, as verse 7 says in Ecclesiastes 3, “a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak” (CSB).

6. I want to be liked by everyone

In 2017, I wrote an article titled “We Need to Be Praying for Trump Rather Than Constantly Criticizing Him” for the Christian Post. Recently, I was made aware of some of the comments the article has generated within the last few months. As a friend of mine said concerning some of the comments “they are venomous.”

I admit I want to be liked by everyone. At first, I took some of these comments personally. But right away, the Lord reminded me they aren’t a personal attack on me … it’s their own heart issues. Honestly, I now find these comments somewhat humorous because I am blown away by the audacity of some so-called “Christians” who can post these types of remarks on a Christian website.

Deep down, I desire to be liked by everyone. But don’t we all? That’s why at first those comments were like a knife to the heart. I’ve come to learn that there will always be someone who doesn’t like me. There will always be people who don’t like you too. At the end of the day, I’m called to love and serve people regardless of who they are and what they think of me. Ultimately, I want to make much of Jesus and I pray and hope my life does just that!

I share these “confessions” for the purpose of asking you to pray for me. But more importantly, to pray for your pastor because every pastor has struggles of some kind. Especially, during this season where many churches find themselves in new territory because of the coronavirus pandemic.

We are human. We make mistakes. We have struggles. I know, for me at least, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else than pastoring. I love God and I love people, no matter how messy, because I know how messy I can be. We all need Jesus. Let’s run this race together.

I love you, Church.