A Pastor’s Wife on Pastor Appreciation Month

You should know I count my dear wife, Margi, as the greatest gift God ever gave me besides salvation. Brave, strong, kind, true, generous, never quitting, dedicated, hard-working, smart, fun, funny, and beautiful. She asked me to share this with you… Please use the share buttons below if you’d like to encourage the pastors and ministers in your life.

October is pastor appreciation month. I am a pastor’s wife. I grew up in church. I came to hear the sermon, which sometimes I loved, sometimes I criticized and sometimes I daydreamed through. I came selfishly to hear what I needed to hear to carry me through the week. I actually never once gave a thought about what the person delivering the sermon had faced that week, that month or that year. Until I married a pastor.

I now know that my husband has to deliver his sermon extolling God’s goodness and grace, His provision, His love and kindness – no matter what.

  • When there is financial pressure and he wonders how he will ever retire, he still needs to preach that God will provide.
  • When there is bad news from the doctor for him or those he loves, he still needs to speak of God’s great love.
  • When illness hits and there seems to be no relief and no response to prayer, he still needs to teach God is the Great Healer, Jehovah Rapha.
  • When his wife cries and wonders why God doesn’t seemingly answer prayers, and his heart breaks watching her struggle with this, he still needs to preach that God answers prayers.
  • When he is sad, he must still declare the joy of the Lord.
  • When his children are hurt or wounded, he continues to preach that God loves the little children, even though it would be easy to not find love.
  • When unspeakable loss is suffered, he still proclaims that God will restore.
  • When it seems that God is taking forever to answer a prayer and he becomes impatient, he must still utter words declaring patience and longsuffering.
  • When he wants to be angry and bitter in spirit, he must reflect God’s kindness and caring.
  • When he has been hurt so deeply by someone, especially someone close to him or someone in his congregation, he must set aside pettiness and preach that vengeance is God’s and forgiveness is needed.
  • When his heart’s prayers for mercy seem to find no answer, he must still trumpet amazing grace.

Dear churchgoer, stop and take a moment to consider the person that feeds you from God’s Word. He is not a super human. He is human. He suffers the same losses, fears, sadness, uncertainties, questions that you face. He does not have a “you are godly” shield accorded to him so that the ills of life bounce off him or his family. He is not immune from the trials of life. Indeed, Satan would love nothing better than to see an effective leader stumble and fail.

In truth, I have learned that the man of God that stands before you week after week is a sensitive human being who silently faces the battles of life and bows his head and prostates himself on the mercies of God because sometimes he can no longer function under his own power. He is not immune from the battles of life that scar the soul and wrench the heart. He just needs to get up week after week and summon the Holy Spirit to speak through him to encourage, educate, challenge, mobilize, and yes, sometimes even amuse you.

This October please take a moment to thank your pastor for the incredible calling he/she answered. It is a calling that requires more than most of us would ever really give thought. It is an honor, and yet an incredible challenge. Pray for those men and women who serve God’s call. Show your love and care. Who knows? Maybe that person that has served you for years desperately needs to be encouraged and uplifted in prayer. Satan is a mighty adversary. Maybe that the man or woman that is called to meet your needs now needs your hand to lift him up and your shoulder to lean on.

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13, NKJV).

~ by Margi Giovannetti, Facebook.com/Margaret.Giovannetti

October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month and the 2nd Sunday of each October is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Encourage those who encourage you. Sharing is appreciated.


Happy Father’s Day

brenda2Again, I’m happy to present guest blogger Brenda Aman. I’m honored to work along side her at Neighborhood Church. She possesses rare combinations of wisdom, maturity, compassion, and no-nonsense work ethic. She shared this Father’s Day devotional with our staff, and with her permission, I share it with you. 


I’m grateful to announce that Secrets to a Happy Life has just broken into the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon’s Inspirational list. It’s at #96, but that’s something! Thank you for your help in spreading the word!


Father’s Day 2013

This weekend the world celebrates Father’s Day. In our busy lives, it is good that we are forced to take a moment and recognize our dads, grandfathers and spiritual dads. I have been blessed by four incredible men who have poured into my life. I had a wonderful father who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, and he taught me about unconditional love and nurturing that I carry with me.  My grandfather modeled and taught me work ethic. Mr. French, my Sunday school and spiritual teacher, taught me about Jesus. Dan Kruse, my spiritual mentor, taught me the wisdom to listen quickly and speak slowly. It has been their love and nurturing in my life that helped build the woman I am today. Continue reading

First Mother

brenda2I’m happy to welcome guest blogger today, Brenda Aman. As Lead Director of Operations, Brenda shares the second-highest leadership role at Neighborhood Church with Todd Skinner. She is one of the best leaders I have ever met, with a passion for health in the church. She is also a wise mentor, and just a lot of fun to be around. Brenda shared this devotional with our staff on Thursday, and with her permission, I am excited to share it with you.

First Mother

“And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” Genesis 3:20 

There are people all over the world, past and present, who have wanted to be the first at something; first to reach a mountain top or the first man in space. There are many “firsts,” but one first I do not think I would want was to be the first mother. I’m glad Eve had that first for all women. Continue reading

The Virtue of Imbalance

One of my friends told us about his daughter’s basketball coach. The coach kept the girls busy morning and night, even over the holidays. The coach told the kids, “You have to balance sports, school, church, and sleep.”

He omitted family.

Even so, are sports, school, church, sleep, and family equals to be balanced? I’ve been told to balance life’s demands, balance work and family, balance my emotions, and balance my checkbook.

Today, I say… Forget about it. Balance is not your friend.  I hereby set you free from balancing life’s demands. You’ll be trapped.

What did Jesus mean when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV)?

By his word FIRST, Jesus delivered us from the blandness of balance. Life is to be about IMBALANCE. We tilt toward God first, family second. Everything else comes down the line. Instead of thinking balance, think priorities — a predetermined imbalance.

1. A predetermined imbalance puts God in his rightful place. The idea of holding God in balance with any other person or priority is just plain silly. He is above all.

  • Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9, 10, NKJV).
  • For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, NKJV). Amen (especially the first part).

2. A predetermined imbalance gives you permission to say no, even to legitimate and pressing needs. Jesus said no when he turned his back on a clamoring crowd that he might spend time alone with God (Matt 1:35-37). It was a holy imbalance that made the Twelve summon the multitude and say, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” (Acts 6:2, NKJV). Their NO grew out of a God-ordained imbalance toward the calling of God on their lives. Others might have resented it, but God was pleased.

We live in a culture in which people can’t take no for an answer without stomping off in a drama-queenly snit. So good luck with that. Trying to please everybody is the death of a thousand cuts.

No is a complete sentence. Practice saying it: No.

3. A predetermined imbalance helps you put first things first and keep them there. Hobbies, sports, entertainment, socializing, worship, service, Scripture, prayer, leisure, marriage, dating, parenting, caring for elderly family members, ministry involvement, keeping the home, car repairs, sleep, fitness, exercise, shopping, cooking, stewardship, education, training, margin… These things are not equals. Some are essential, some are luxuries, some are desires, some are optional. A mature person differentiates.

There is no way, holy or otherwise, to  balance the hordes of life’s demands. We shouldn’t try. Tilt toward the big stuff. Husbands love your wives, and wives respect your husbands. Do not provoke your children to wrath. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8, NKJV). First things first. Squeeze in the rest.

Have you ever felt like a plate-spinner in a circus? Watch the video and see what balance feels like:

I hereby give you permission to let a few plates fall. It’s okay. Honest. Life will go on. Devote your energy to the important plates, and let the other ones go. God knows. He’s got plans you’re not aware of.

Priorities, not balance, is the message of Scripture.

Life is like filling a dishwasher: put the big things in first, and then squeeze in everything else.

Grace’s Gold Standard

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked goes something like this:  I know I’m supposed to show grace, but my teenage son just broke some rules in a major way; am I just supposed to let it slide?

Or… a teacher might hear this one:  I’m sorry I didn’t finish the assignment, but I ran out of time. Will you show me some grace and give me an extra day?

An employer might hear: Yeah, I’m late again, and I missed my sales goals again, but things aren’t going so well at home, so can you cut me some slack?

Or, from your alcoholic, mooching brother-in-law who wants to live in your spare bedroom: You talk about God’s love all the time, why won’t you show me some and let me move in?

The root question is this: what does grace look like in relationships when the other person blows it? Does grace-living require me to always let the other person off the hook?  How can I show grace when someone else acts irresponsibly, dangerously, or unprofessionally?

It’s not an easy question. There are competing values at stake. On one hand, we want to show the love, forgiveness, and grace of Christ. On the other hand, we want to maintain standards, excellence, and integrity in our family, classroom, or workplace.  How do we fit these values together?

The Golden Rule offers a perfect guideline: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).  And, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31, NKJV).

The Golden Rule presumes that we want others to treat us well. We have an innate desire (when we’re sane) that those who deal with us will act in our best interests — especially in our best long term interests. If that’s the standard we wish others would express toward us, then it’s the standard we should express toward others. Always act in the best long-term interests of others, as best as you can figure it out.

So, that son who broke your rule; what consequence will be in his best long term interests? That employee who misses meetings or deadlines or targets: is there a true alignment between their skills and their position’s needs? That student who chronically turns in papers late: will letting them slide do them any favors? Does it help them improve in the long run?

Some years ago in Chicago, I walked a difficult journey alongside a friend whose wife was about to leave him for another man. My friend was friends with “the other man”, and felt torn between anger and, as he put it, “grace.”

I said, Can’t grace be angry? Can’t grace enforce righteous, personal boundaries? If you were messing up, wouldn’t you want someone to confront you and speak the truth in love? Then apply the Golden Rule. It is acting in love and grace when you exercise your parental, or employer, or teacher, or leadership role to design or speak-forth consequences that are in the other person’s best long term interests. Showing grace isn’t for wimps. Tough-love is not an oxymoron. (Happily, that man and his wife reconciled and are now missionaries in Asia.)

How many times did Jesus get in his disciples’ face and call them out for fear, lack of faith, and general sissy-hood?  It’s a mistake to think that grace is always soft, that grace is always nice, or that grace always lets people get away with junk. Not so. Jesus, full of grace and truth, nailed his friends to the wall when they blew it. Not always; sometimes he let it go. But he saw no contradiction between acting in grace and chewing out stupidity in people who knew better. He loved his friends too much to let them wreck their lives making self-destructive or self-indulgent choices. He would not stand by silently. He would not subsidize their self-destruction or failure.

Love does not coddle people into a life of mediocrity.

Love acts in the other person’s interests even when you have to play hardball.  Yes, there are plenty of times for the soft-touch, the gentle spirit, and the hand of help or forgiveness. Most Christians know that. What they need to hear is that grace has muscle, too.

The tricky part is deciding what’s called for. When a street-person asks for money, what’s in his or her best long term interest? Healing. Deliverance. Probably the local mission or shelter.  BUT… sometimes, what’s in their best long term interest is a gift right then and there. Sometimes, they need food, or hope, or a loving touch immediately.

So what should you do?

Prayerfully follow your gut instinct, trusting God to guide you. You can’t tell the future, so sometimes you will give; other times you won’t. Sometimes you’ll give your son back the car keys, other times, you won’t. Sometimes, you’ll let your salesperson come in late a few times, other times, you’ll have to draw a line.  It’s nuanced. It’s not cut and dried. It’s heartfelt. You have to lean on the Lord.

But it’s always doing for others what you (on your best days) would hope they would do for you: show respect and love, even if it has to be tough love.

Grace has muscle. Grace is tender and tough. Here’s loves bottom line: are people who want to better their lives (and not everyone does) better off long-term because of their relationship with you?

Dear Anne Rice

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” (From Anne Rice’s Facebook page)

Dear Ms Rice,

One of the qualities I love about you is your transparency. I’ve enjoyed a couple of your novels. Your testimony of conversion to Christ is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. Thank you for leading with your heart, and not hiding your truth.

I understand the temptation to call it quits on the church — the collected people of God. As a Dad with two kids, I understand the feeling of utter exasperation at their squabbles. God’s people have been at each other for two thousand years.

It’s frustrating.

But as your brother in Christ, I’d like to respectfully ask you to reconsider. I’d like to invite you to chalk up your “I quit” remarks to a person having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day… learn from it, and move on.  Much like an alienated daughter returning cautiously to Thanksgiving dinner with the dysfunctional family.

Please consider two central reasons to stay in community with the living, tarnished saints:

1. Jesus hasn’t quit being our Savior.

In your conversion story, you write, “I believe in what we celebrate this week: the scandal of the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection. My belief is total.” That scandalous cross wiped clean the spotty record of every child of God, both of us included. He erased our sins, once for all, and sat down at the right hand of God.

Anne, when you quit on Christians, don’t you a little bit quit on Christ? Don’t you spotlight sins he has forgiven? …sins heaven has forgotten?  Yes, they are all too real to us. But hasn’t God revealed his limitless forgiveness?

  • As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:12, NKJV).
  • Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. (Micah 7:18, NKJV).
  • He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19, NKJV).

When Jesus hung on that cross, he effected humankind’s reconciliation with God. He did this through an atonement so deep, that the Infinite Mind of God has chosen to Forget his children’s sins.  And not through a legal fiction, but through the full payment of the ransom price via the precious blood of Christ. That humankind can fellowship with God is a mystery of love and grace we’ll never fathom.

He saved us. By that salvation, Jesus created something that never existed before: a UNITED FAMILY OF GOD.

  • There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6, NKJV).

The unity is true. Jesus died to create it. It is our core identity. Our truth. Our ontological reality. Our adoption papers in heaven prove it.

  • There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28, NKJV).

Anne, as long as Jesus remains Savior, the church remains one, no matter how much we squabble. The reconciliation he effected is not only vertical, but horizontal. Person to person. Family to family. Tribe to tribe.

As Savior he made us one. That’s the first basis for my invitation to stay in the family. Here’s my second:

2. Because he hasn’t stopped being our Sanctifier, either.

As Savior he made us one. As Sanctifier he makes us united.

Jesus prayed…

  • “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: (John 17:22, NKJV).

He prayed for our oneness to be brought into reality. He prayed for the actualization of our reality. Every Christ-follower who pulls away from that oneness only postpones the answer to Christ’s prayer. Yet one more cat to be herded back to the flock.

Anne, you might follow the steps of countless others who’ve given up on the institutional church. I get it. I’m a pastor, and I’ve been pulled that way a thousand times. I live and breath church people. I see the dark side daily. But I can’t get past this:

The unity of the church is Christ’s own creation. It is his gift to the world. We who have embraced him as Savior share the same last name. We don’t act like it all the time, but it’s true. Jesus loves the church. Please don’t hate what Jesus loves. Please don’t pull away from what Jesus is calling you into.

The church contains the mystery of Christ in us (Col. 1:27). He lives in us to sanctify us — to make us into what he says we are. This is his work, his effort, his grace. He never stops. When Christ moved within, he didn’t come with an off-switch. He always lives to sanctify us — to baby-step us closer and closer to his own radiant image. We display his likeness to the world, not only as individuals, but as a close-knit body, in community. Christ, our sanctifier.

Sanctification is a process. In a sense, we build on our spiritual ancestors, but in a deeper sense, each generation starts over. We grow toward Christ-likeness, and we grow together… and when we die, it’s the next generation’s turn to model this in the world. Let’s hand down the most united church we possibly can.

Anne, doesn’t your decision echo that of the servant who received the cancellation of a debt from his master but wouldn’t cancel fellow debtor’s (much smaller) debt (Matt 18:23-35)?

To pull away from the community of believers — I don’t care what kind of community you prefer, no matter how loosely or tightly organized — is to pull away from the primary means by which Jesus delivers his love, grace, and truth into the world. I hope you stay connected. I hope you find a church, a house church, a fellowship, or a Bible study and prayer group… any group that incarnates the love of Christ, and the truth of Scripture and delivers the gospel of grace to the world.

Anne, I personally apologize to you for my contribution to the disputatiousness of the church. I’m sorry for our “deserved infamy.” I felt bad when I read your Facebook posts. I’m sorry.

Making sausage is ugly, but something delicious happens when it’s done, this I believe.

Anne, please, stay. I’d like to invite you to our imperfect community in Redding. But you really don’t need to come here. God has his outposts in every place… please don’t give up looking.

I miss you.

Your Brother,

Bill Giovannetti

The Love Chapter Revisited (Again)

Today’s post is part two. For part one, scroll down. Thanks.

So, we’re trying to solve the mystery of 1 Corinthians 13:8… what does Paul mean by “that which is perfect”? The answer to that question will give us an INDISPENSABLE CLUE ABOUT LOVE.

10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:10, NKJV).
One good way to decode a biblical word is to examine the other ways the same book (or author or section of Scripture) uses the same word. Fortunately, we have some examples in Corinthians. I’ll underline the English word that translates the Greek word teleion (perfect, complete).
  • 6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.(1 Corinthians 2:6, NKJV).
  • 20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20, NKJV).

In many contexts, teleion means mature. Spiritually mature. A follower of Jesus who has sunk down deep roots into Jesus through Scripture and prayer and a faithful walk with the Master. Someone who has graduated from spiritual elementary school and is living the adult life of the follower of Christ. A teleion-Christian is no longer a baby, tossed around by life’s storms, but a steady, strong, capable example of Jesus living through you.

We should be mature Christ-followers, don’t you think?

Let’s substitute the word “maturity” for “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:8:

10 But when SPIRITUAL MATURITY has come, then SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:10, NKJV).

True enough. Our next test is to see if “maturity” works in the IMMEDIATE CONTEXT.

WAIT! Wait! Wait! Wait! Let’s remember what we’re talking about. We are talking about LOVE! Love is the ultimate goal life, for the follower of Jesus. Didn’t Jesus distill the whole Scripture into love for God and love for others? Love is the goal.

But what kind of love?


That’s my interpretation of this passage. 1 Cor 13 isn’t just the love chapter, it’s mostly THE MATURITY chapter. Watch this: here’s verse 8 with verse 9 added on. Ask yourself if “maturity” doesn’t make the most sense as a translation for teleion:

10 But when [SPIRITUAL MATURITY] has come, then [SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY] will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:10, 11, NKJV).

C’mon! Who can argue? True love MUST put away childish things. In Christ, an immature person’s love is flaky, fickle, and dysfunctional. Only a mature person’s love never fails.  When you speak as a child, you speak selfishness and impulse. When you understand as a child, you understand from your own shoes only; you cannot put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you cannot deeply love. When you think as a child, you don’t get the difficulties of life, you don’t fathom the forces of the heart, and you don’t rise above the passion of the moment, or the offense of your spouse, to CHOOSE a love that endures.

Childish love is flaky. It is the opposite of Christ-like love.

If you want to display the love of Christ, you have to grow mature in Christ FIRST.  That is the argument of 1 Corinthians 13. I am saying that the correct interpretation of 1 Cor 13:8, and the only one that makes sense of the context, is that “the perfect” should be translated “maturity.”

But it gets deeper, and we’ll save that for the next blog.  Thanks for stopping by. If you thought this was helpful, would you please give me a mention on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog or website?  Thanks.

The Love Chapter Revisited

Jesus distilled the essence of life with him into one word: LOVE. All the teaching, ministry, service, relationships, and worship of the church is a means to an end: love. Love for God, love for people, love for the world for whom Christ died.

I thought it would be fun to jump into the middle of the Love Chapter in the Bible (1 Cor 13), and decode one of its most enigmatic statements. Are you with me?

But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:10, NKJV).

This verse, tucked into the middle of the Love Chapter, makes for great debate. The question is: what does Paul mean by “that which is perfect”?

The Greek word [to teleion, from telos (w/the definite article)] appears here as a neuter singular, “the perfect thing” or “that which is perfect.” When the “perfect thing comes” then the partial thing will be done away. So what’s the perfect thing? Let’s test drive two major options…


When Christ comes, then the spiritual gifts mentioned in vv. 8,9  go away… so we might paraphrase:

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when [JESUS COMES AGAIN], then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, NKJV).

This doesn’t really fit the context. Plus, why would Paul use the neuter gender instead of the masculine to refer to the coming of Christ? Option one doesn’t work for me, though you’re welcome to adopt it and we can still be friends.


The “perfect thing” is the completed canon of Scripture. This is the interpretation I was taught as an impossibly cute little Italian boy. It basically says that all the “partial gifts” like prophecies and speaking in tongues will cease when the Bible is finished. Now that Revelation is complete, there is no room for any so-called “sign gifts.”  They ceased. So, let’s paraphrase again:

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when THE COMPLETED CANON OF SCRIPTURE HAS COME, then THE PARTIAL REVELATORY GIFTS WILL BE done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, NKJV).

A theological position called dispensationalism (and its nephew, ultradispensationalism) favors this interpretation. It creates a viewpoint called “cessationism” in which certain spiritual gifts have ceased. God no longer gives gifts of tongues, prophecy, or words of knowledge.

I’m not gonna get into this fight, except to say that it’s pressing the bounds of good interpretation to think that Paul had the completed canon of Scripture in mind when he wrote “the perfect thing.” It doesn’t fit the context, and it’s an odd debate to pop into the middle of the love chapter.

So, still no answer. What is the “perfect thing” that does away with the “partial things”?

Let’s save that for tomorrow…


Here’s a sermon on making a spiritual comeback and renewing your dream from God. Open your Bible to Joshua 8 and follow along…

Click here to download a sermon transcript (.pdf) so you can follow along.